— by Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/DC
If you’re interested in politics, you may recognize the following names: Aaron Blake, Keith Koffler, Erin McPike and Shira Toeplitz. These four reporters have worked for some of the top political media outlets in the country including POLITICO, National Journal, Roll Call and The Hill.
Despite covering one of the most fast-paced beats in journalism, Aaron, Keith, Erin and Shira took the time to share their views on public relations practices and provide helpful tips on how to pitch political media.
Keith Koffler is a veteran White House reporter who writes WhiteHouseDossier.com, an independent blog focusing on President Obama and his administration. In addition to his experience covering the White House, he has also reported on Congress and Washington’s lobbyists at CongressDaily, the National Journal magazine and Roll Call.
When it comes to writing a release, don’t overlook the headline. “The headline is important because it grabs your attention,” Keith said. “Pump up your headline. Make it new, unique or clever.” In general, don’t be afraid to have a sense of humor. Avoid using uniform templates and write a release that is enjoyable to read.
Aaron Blake is a political blogger for The Washington Post’s PostPolitics.com, which launched back in April. Prior to joining the Post, he covered campaigns at The Hill newspaper and the Washington bureau of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Aaron talked about the importance of using the inverted pyramid method when writing a press release. “Get to the point and show why I should care, but don’t provide too much information right away,” he said. Draw the reader in with a short first paragraph with the most newsworthy information at the top of the release. Continue to provide material in order of diminishing importance.
Shira Toeplitz is a national political reporter with POLITICO, the nation’s premiere online news outlet for politics. Prior to her work at POLITICO, she covered campaigns for Roll Call, as well as presidential and state campaigns for National Journal’s “The Hotline,” a political tip sheet for Capitol insiders.
Shira added to Aaron’s point advising public relations practitioners to “put all of the relevant public figures as high as possible in the release.” She also recommends writing a release that is relevant to the news of the hour as political journalism is extremely fast paced. “If your issue is a hot topic currently on the campaign trail or on Capitol Hill, I will be more inclined to cover it in the context of the story I am writing,” she said.
Erin McPike covers Senate and House races at CongressDaily. She also served as National Journal’s lead reporter for “Conventional Nightly” in 2008. Before joining CongressDaily in 2008, she covered Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign on the road for NBC News.
Erin also talked about how to create content that would appeal to political reporters. The release does not necessarily have to be about political issues, but can also discuss a constituency that is important to political figures — for example, a specific demographic group that politicians are trying to appeal to. “Something that will move a coalition of people in one direction or the other may be of interest since politicians make maneuvers based on what their base is doing,” she said. “The best releases also have good numbers, measurable information and concrete facts.” This content is more likely than a lengthy quote to get picked up in a story.