Getting Through the Gatekeeper: Tips for Garnering Attention for Your News Story

Every day news producers, general assignment managers and reporters drown in hundreds of emails as they actively seek the hottest stories to cover. To manage all these incoming stories, media outlets use a process known as editorial gatekeeping, where one person (known as a gatekeeper) is in charge of deeming a story worthy of news coverage. Getting past the dreaded gatekeeper of any media outlet can be difficult considering your news story is one of hundreds – or even thousands – that a news producer or editor will see.

At a breakfast panel hosted by the Public Relations Society of America – Los Angeles, top news producers, planning editors and writers from Los Angeles’ top broadcast and print outlets gathered to offer insight on how to win over editorial gatekeepers.

How do you ensure your story can shine amidst a sea of catchy subject lines? Below are a few tips to getting your news story seen in order to garner media coverage.

  • Keep it short. Most gatekeepers have the attention span of a gnat, which means your release or email will get about 3-5 seconds to sparkle.
  • Avoid attachments. You spent hours drafting a press release; don’t eliminate every chance of it being read by attaching it to your email. Paste the copy directly into the body and make the gatekeeper happy by saving his or her time.
  • Subject lines. Though we all think our story is pressing and must be seen, don’t put “Urgent” in the subject line unless it is, in fact, urgent. Doing so will only annoy the gatekeeper. Get straight to the point and be specific.
  • Tailor your message. By tailoring your story to the needs of the publication or station’s audience, you will save the gatekeeper from wondering why on earth the story was sent in the first place. Rather, show them how valuable it will be to their audience and ratings.
  • General assignment address. The panelists unanimously agreed that submitting your story via email is the best way to be seen. For broadcast stations you can nearly guarantee your email will be read if sent to the general assignment address, found on most online contact pages.
  • Follow up? The key to following up is to do so gently. Though a call is suitable for reporters at newspapers, a call is likely unnecessary for broadcast stations. Most gatekeepers will get back to you if interested, so remember to always include your name, email and phone number in the body of your email.

Follow these steps and, above all, keep in mind what you would want to see if you were a gatekeeper.

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