In this post, I detail some of the fundamental tactics and knowledge from Public Relations about how big news rooms work, so you can significantly increase your ability to get those strong links from news websites.
There are two factors that determine whether you get an awesome link from a newspaper: what the story is and who (and when) you pitch the story.
Too often I see a disproportionate amount of time and consideration going into the details of a story or a pitch, and not as much into determining who to pitch a story to and when.
This is odd because when you sell in a press release, timing is paramount. And as PR and SEO get closer to each other, this becomes true for SEOs who are trying to get links from high-quality sites. It is imperative to get your information seen by the right people at the right time.
Does it really make any difference which day and what time of day you publish a press release or blog post?
You will get as many different answers to this question as people you ask. Timing all depends on when your link targets or publications go to press. However, the way newsrooms at big publications function is pretty standard, and knowing this will allow you to pitch you news to them at the right time.
Newspapers: the basics
- Firstly, newspapers plan a day ahead, i.e., they plan Tuesday’s newspaper content on Monday morning.
- Between 6.30am – 9.30am, News Editors and Assistant News Editors compile the top 12 – 15 stories of that day. This compilation is known as the news list. Calling and emailing around this time will significantly increase your chances of being included on this list!
- Generally around 10am – 11.30am, when the the news list is complete, stories are presented to the Editor during what they call “conference”. Most of the stories which have been mentioned by the News Editors in conference will be set as page leads – the main story on a page.
- By 1pm, there is very little point in sending anything over unless it is pretty spectacular. If you contact a news desk this late in the day, even with a good story, you are unlikely to get a lot of coverage and even less likely to get a link. At best, late-filed stories tend to be given smaller ‘shows’, which is not great for SEO. Although size is not important from an SEO perspective (you might think: who cares how big the piece is if you get a link?), the fact is that the smaller your piece is in the paper, the less inclined the Editor will be to listen and respond to your requests for a link.
Getting a link from a Newspaper
- If you want to get a link from a newspaper, make your client the piece. That is to say, make your client as integral to the story as possible. Even better if there is fundamental information about this story on your website. This information can include data sets, quotes and biographies of the company big-wigs.
- When asking about the link, try to speak to someone at a newspaper, and see if it is possible to credit the source (i.e., your client) with a followed link. And make sure you say followed. Don’t forget that the greater exposure you get in one place, the more likely others are to write about it, too.
- Don’t push it if they say no: it won’t help! It’s always worth asking why they won’t run with a story or give you a link, so you can learn going forward, but being overly persistent will only make you more annoying to the Editor.
Who else is ringing news desks at this time in the morning?
- Reporters will be ringing in with the best stories, and their lists can often have ten or more stories on.
- News agencies are calling in to notify the desks of stories they are covering on that particular day.
- Then there are the punters with ‘tips’ on stories as well as people with queries about products, stories or adverts.
This is what you are competing with! Compiling a news list is tough: there is very little time and the phone is ringing constantly. So you may receive abrupt response. Just keep that in mind when and if you get cut off.
If you call to let a publication know several days in advance that you will have news coming out on a particular day, their response to your story will be significantly warmer.
If you are giving a publication few weeks’ notice, remember to keep them up-to-date, or else they will forget about it.
Once you’ve got through to the newsdesk:
- Remember to keep your pitch short and concise.
- Don’t over-sell it.
- Ask how they’d like to receive the information.
If you successfully pitch your story directly to a reporter, they will pitch it to the editors for you.
Make sure you ask whoever you speak with to put a followed link in the piece.
Make sure you have relevant links in several key parts of whatever copy you send out.
Email ASAP to request a link if it is not in the published article.
Talking on the phone
As an SEO, you may not be the most confident telephone speaker. This is okay; no one expects you to be. But good organisation can make up for this. Make sure you have all the information in front of you before you call, so you can be clear and concise. If you’re still worried about talking on the phone, find someone in the office who is more confident.
So now you know some basic tips and information to help you pitch your stories to the right people at the right times. So go ahead and get some of those excellent high-quality links. Good luck!