America, land of the free, home of the brave and the workplace of journalists we sometimes struggle to understand!
We PRs work hard to understand how the press operates, getting to grips with how journalists manage their workload. But when it comes to setting our sights overseas, the lens we analyse the news through becomes slightly skewed.
Being able to communicate with anyone around the world, has brought around some amazing opportunities for us to immerse ourselves in different cultures. But, whilst us Brits might share a language with Americans, the way we communicate couldn’t be more different.
So when you come up with an amazing campaign idea, or you gain a client that happens to be based in one of the fifty states, or is targeting the US market, how do you begin your approach to what can be an incredibly confusing news system?
At Bednar Comms, we’ve launched many campaigns across the states. Along the way, we’ve picked up some helpful hints and tips that will help you on your way successfully outreaching to the US.
Everyone knows that British journalists are overworked. They receive more emails than the rest of us combined and have a sleep schedule that life coaches would faint at. So, when we pitch our latest campaign to a British journo, we know that we have to hit the ground running. Our efforts can be sent straight to the recycling bin if our facts and top lines aren’t centre stage.
But how well does this technique work with American journalists?
It’s fair to say that American journalists have experienced their fair share of criticism and struggles in the last few years, but that hasn’t stopped them from producing interesting journalism.
However, compared to the British news cycle, the US news cycle appears to operate at a much slower pace. This gives us PRs a unique opportunity, creating more in depth campaigns with intricate copy and releases that allow us to present our data in more lengthy formats. This is a huge contrast to the way we must approach British journos; with some reporters even wanting a release to be a ready-to-go article.
A slower news cycle means longer wait times on coverage. Of course, we’re used to British journos churning out upwards of several articles a day, so don’t fret if your American release isn’t being picked up straight away. We’ve found that it can take up to two weeks for coverage to begin popping up across the US press, so if you’re working to a deadline, get prepping early.
The media landscape in the US is a rocky place to be right now, with local news lacking funding, furloughs due to the pandemic and paywalls in front of consistently changing styles of coverage. It’s certainly not an easy bunch of journalists to break into, but if there’s anything we’ve learned over the last year, is that they’re happy to read through complex reports in order to get the best story for their readers; Something we can all agree on!
Us Brits might love a bright and happy story, but it couldn’t be any more different in the US. Right now, your subject lines probably focus on the positives rather than the negatives. It’s time to ditch your glass half full perspective when outreaching for the US.
You’re more likely to gain a journalist’s attention when you are focusing on the negative aspects of your data. Whether it’s more unemployment, fewer businesses being launched or the state’s sports team lost another game. It might feel strange, but being the bearer of bad news might just translate into more links for your client… Every cloud has a silver lining!
What’s wrong with a bit of healthy competition? We’ve noticed that our emails also get a higher open rate when we put a state by state comparison in the subject line. So it’s time to familiarise yourself with the state rivalries and play them to your advantage.
Of course, this is very similar to the British press, (think “Happiest Place to Live.”) But remember, this is on a much larger scale, so make sure you research carefully.
Much like the UK, hyper local news publications won’t accept any stories that don’t apply directly to them. But, this becomes a bit more complicated when you’re dealing with a country forty times the size of your own.
Getting the most out of your data is key. We’ve found that when delving into datasets, finding the most narrowed down information is key. Of course, this is something us PRs are accustomed to doing every day! But, it’s certainly not something you want to forget.
You wouldn’t pitch a Manchester story to a Liverpool publication, so apply the same outlook to your American outreach. Some local journalists won’t even accept state wide data as a story suitable for their publication.
The same goes when comparing countries, the British press might love it, but the US press, not so much. When sending out surveys and data requests, make sure you get as much detail as possible. Then get ready to start digging into that data!
Events and timezones
The events across the US calendar are often quite similar to our own. Getting yourself well acquainted with the important differences is very handy. The US has several key celebratory dates such as Thanksgiving, President’s Day and the Fourth of July. These events dominate the press just as much as Christmas would. So getting ahead and knowing when to pitch certain stories has been key for us.
With so many time zones in the US, it’s important to know the best time to send your pitch! So, to avoid sending our emails outside of working hours for each state, we follow this easy to use map!
Whilst the US press is different to British press, the process of ideation to pitching a story remains the same. But when it comes to creating your media list, there’s a few handy tricks that are good to know.
Having a VPN active on your computer means you can set your location to wherever you’re looking to pitch to. This filters out any of the UK news that usually pops up on your Google search. It makes it much easier to find those hyper local sites that would usually slip through the net.
With 50 states, and over 4,500 cities, there is a huge scope for outreach opportunities, but that can get overwhelming. We recommend creating a database of each state’s key cities and their major publications across the main sectors. This makes it a more manageable task when it comes to searching for relevant journalists for your campaigns. Think of it as your cheat sheet of publications!
We’ve had to switch off our British manners for American outreach at Bednar Comms.
We’ve kept hold of our “please”, “thank you” and even our “I hope you’re doing well?” Often swept off their feet, British journalists have never ending to-do lists. But whilst American journalists might have more time, they sometimes need an extra nudge. So do not forget your follow ups.
So there you have it, our quick and easy guide to cracking the code that is American Journalism. It can be an intimidating prospect, but with a few tweaks to your usual approach, you’ll have coverage and links popping up all over the place!
And don’t forget to change your emails to American english.
The question is, what country are you setting your sights on next?