5 steps to building your own brand newsroom


Just so we’re clear, I absolutely believe that there should be a clear distinction between journalism and advertising.

But as branded content comes back in vogue (the practice has actually been around for quite some time), I think PR and communications teams should think seriously about how they communicate their messages.

If someone is going to advertise to me, I want to be offered something of sustenance, not just a command to buy a product or a lifestyle. And I should know exactly who has paid for that content—slap a big advertorial banner on top of the piece.

With that in mind, here are my five tips for building a brand newsroom:

1. Hire the talent—or mine it

There is an increased demand for information and quality content. In order to generate meaningful stories, you’ve got to have a team of cracking storytellers with a nose for news and a sense of branding.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of hiring a batch of journalists, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give your current PR team a shake-up.

Be bold—create a new role as chief storytelling officer and make that individual responsible for keeping your brand narrative on-track and on-trend.

2. Find your content crossover

Look for the crossover between what your brand wants to say and what interests your audience. All of your successful stories exist in that space.

Look at your area of expertise, find a topic of interest, then own it. Just like mattress start-up Casper launched Van Winkle’s and owned the topic of sleep. What topics does your team knows better than anybody else? Remember, anything can be interesting if you find a way to make a good story out of it.

3. Connect creators with your sales team

Branded content does not necessarily have to create a direct revenue stream, but aim to generate a sale or make some kind of connection with every story your brand newsroom shares.

Your content team should liaise with your sales team throughout the week. See what leads the sales team is trying to attract and generate content that will entice them to your brand.

4. Have a ton of ideas ready to go

At the beginning of each quarter, put together a host of story ideas that reflect your sales target for the period.

The walls of MediaHQ’s newsroom is covered with post-its with clear, concise headline ideas. That way, our team can peel one off the wall and knock out a 300-word post in the half an hour.

5. Look for openings

Don’t underestimate the power of traditional media. Syndication will help generate brand recognition. Write an op-ed on behalf of your company’s CEO and submit it to a Sunday paper. How about offering an insightful listicle to an industry magazine? Why not pitch a package to feature on a radio programme or podcast?

Your brand newsroom should act as a wire service between established media and your organisation. If you can offer them quality content—not god-awful ad copy—they will gladly give you the publicity.

A version of this article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

3 tips for pitching through Twitter

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

There are now more ways than ever to communicate with a journalist—but that doesn’t mean they are more likely to pick up your pitch.

If a particularly influential reporter likes to hang out on Twitter, why not reach out to them there rather than through their overflowing inbox?

Here are three tips for pitching through Twitter:

1. Show some interest

Follow the reporter in advance of tweeting your pitch. That way they will know you are serious about sharing your story idea and aren’t just spamming every journo in sight.

Try to engage with them beforehand as well—like some of their tweets; comment on a couple of posts. Show some genuine interest in their work.

2. Go public

If you tweet ‘.@username’, your pitch will be visible to other Twitter users, so even if this particular journalist isn’t interest, another reporter might spot the tweet and take you up on it.

Equally, remember to do your usual research before reaching out—a journalist might publicly call you out if you tweet them a totally irrelevant story idea.

Check what topics they tend to cover, look at who they are following and scroll through their likes. This should give you a good idea of what they are interested in.

3. Follow-up—but only once

If the journalist doesn’t respond to you within a reasonable time (this depends on the shelf life of your story and how active the reporter is on Twitter), there is no harm in sending a courteous follow-up tweet.

If they don’t respond on Twitter, don’t email them the same pitch with a follow-up email, followed by a pitch via LinkedIn messenger with yet another follow-up.

There’s a reason you chose to contact them through Twitter—if they didn’t get back to there, they won’t respond anywhere else.


5 magazines that prove print ain’t dead

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

With our researchers constantly updating our database of over 7,500 journalists, the MediaHQ team watches Ireland’s media landscape evolve day-by-day—literally.

While there are some people who relish in the demise of print—perhaps a touch of schadenfreude for hacks who scoffed at the rise of online media—we still have a soft spot for good old-fashioned ink on paper.

If you’re looking to brighten up your desk with a stack of mags, check out these five beauties.

1. We Are Dublin

we are dublin, magazines

Popping off the press every three months, We Are Dublin showcases a mixture of long form features, fiction and poetry, coupled with beautiful photography “dedicated to the city”.

We Are Dublin has been described as “a new breed of travel magazine”, it explores undiscovered parts of the city—and sheds new light on familiar places like this essay on the M50.

The magazine is available in select stockists around the world or you can buy online.

2. The Gentlewoman

the gentlewoman

A celebration of the modern woman, The Gentlewoman “offers a fresh and intelligent perspective on fashion that’s focused on personal style”.

The biannual magazine has a distinct voice that we just love, which creates a feeling of being part of a welcoming club, with enlightening conversation and inspiration.

A dash of glamour and oodles of edge, The Gentlewoman is a joy to peruse and always dons a striking portrait on the cover (Kirsten Dunst features on the spring/summer 2016 edition) . You can pick up the latest copy here.

3. Zeit Magazin

zeit magazin international

If you somehow manage to get your hands on the English-language version of Zeit Magazin, cherish it. This is not an easy find.

A collection of translated articles originally published in Die Zeit’s weekly supplement, as well as a few exclusives thrown in for good measure, Zeit Magazin offers intelligent content and clever design.

The latest edition celebrates 70 years of Die Zeit newspaper, one of Germany’s most respected broadsheets.

Of course, Zeit Magazin didn’t exist 70 years ago, so the editors decided to imagine what the magazine would have looked like had it been published in 1946.

They went whole-hog on this one—even the crossword are time-relevant. A brave and creative idea, brilliantly executed.

4. Rabble


Okay, so Rabble isn’t a magazine, it’s a newspaper. But there are still lessons to learn from the publication.

With a clear political agenda, Rabble is a bold, raucous and colourful freesheet put together by a community of volunteers.

The paper’s mission is to “create a space for the passionate telling of truth, muck-raking journalism and well aimed pot-shots at illegitimate authority”.

It may not be to everyone’s liking, but it is always refreshing and wonderfully illustrated.

Find back issues here.

5. Delayed Gratification

delayed gratification

Proving not only that print isn’t dead, but also that long form journalism is very much alive, Delayed Gratification—a brilliantly clever title, by the way—completely dismisses the concept of a breaking story.

Revisiting news stories that have disappeared from the mainstream agenda, the slow journalism magazine values “being right above being first”.

You can learn all about Delayed Gratification’s slow journalism movement in editor Rob Orchard’s TED Talk.

What are your favourite magazines? Share them with us—@mediahqnews.

MediaHQ.com is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company, with contact details to more than 7,500 journalists in Ireland listed on our database. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

Mediaflash 24: Storytelling & Unlocking Creativity


On Episode 24 of Mediaflash, we are joined by Sara Bennett of Fighting Words.

Co-founded by Seán Love and Roddy Doyle, Fighting Words is a creative writing centre for children and young people. It also offers programmes to adults with special needs and people who have experienced homelessness or prison.

The aim of Fighting Words is to make creative writing accessible to as many people as possible.

Sara talks us through what makes a compelling story and tells us how to make time for creative writing in our hectic lives.

She explains how the skills taught by Fighting Words can be applied to brand storytelling.

Also on this week’s programme, the award-winning MediaHQ blogging team sits down to reveal some of their blogging secrets and they share the five key ingredients needed to concoct the perfect post.

Listen below and to hear more of our podcasts, click here.

Be your own editor: Smarten up your copy in 5 steps

smarten up copy

Behind every great writer, there is a great editor — someone who ruthlessly hacks away at the text until it is fit for print.

Unfortunately in the the communications game, we don’t always have the luxury of a second pair of eyes to cast over our content.

Never fear. Here are five ways you can smarten up your copy and be your own editor.

1. Use active verbs

Sentences are weakened by passive verbs — see? Wouldn’t it have been clearer if I had said “Passive verbs weaken sentences”?

Sentences written in the active form are usually much snappier and make your copy easier to read.

Remember, if you are issuing a press release, you have to grab the journalist’s attention immediately, so you don’t want them to get bogged down in clunky sentences. Speaking of which…

2. Shorten those sentences

A rule of thumb is to create a new paragraph for each new idea and for quotations.

Broken-up text is much easier to read than text that is presented in long, uninterrupted blocks with excessive use of commas.

If you find a paragraph is running on for more than three sentences, see where you can create a break and turn it into two paragraphs.

3. Pull the plug on extra punctuation

Writing that is littered with punctuation doesn’t flow well and can distract the reader.

The best way to clear out any excessive punctuation is by ending a sentence or starting a new one.

4. Bye-bye big words

One of the golden rules from Strunk and White: Omit unnecessary words. Three words that good communicators should live by.

Jargon and big words don’t make you sound smarter. They make it sound as if you don’t know what you are talking about and you are deliberately trying to confuse the reader.

See how the media chastises politicians for polluting their debates with jargon.

If you want to make your point clearer, use familiar words and find shorter words in a thesaurus.

5. Show redundancies the door

Don’t say the same thing with two words: “[Brand] new”, “[very] unique”, “could [possibly]”, “plan [ahead]”.

Cut them out or separate them with an “and”. Keep your sentences smart.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

MediaHQ.com is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

5 things to quit in your PR pitch

quit in pitch

As the media evolves, so does the pitching process.

Shrinking newsrooms at traditional media outlets mean reporters are now busier than ever. That’s why it is important for savvy PR pros to smarten up their pitching techniques if they want to sell their stories to influential journalists.

Here are five bad habits to kick if you want to become pitch perfect:

1. Making your story too complicated

Journalists are likely under pressure for time, so you’ll have to really grab their attention. The most effective way to do that is to keep your pitch clean, simple and powerful.

Make your message snappy and include only what is necessary.

If you are pitching a complex topic through email, break the story down to its simplest form and use bullet points.

Avoid jargon because it is awkward and a journalist will dismiss it as marketing-speak.

2. Not researching a reporter

If you are pitching an exclusive to an individual reporter, make sure you know about their past articles and specialist areas. There is no point pitching an education story to a health correspondent (unless it is somehow relevant, of course).

Also, check that they haven’t already covered stories on your competitors and look into the media outlet they contribute to.

This will help smarten up your pitch and make it easier to establish a repertoire with the journalist if you already have some context about their career.

3. Not personalising a pitch

Rather than putting someone at the butt end of a mass email, personalise your pitch with references to past articles and connect with them through social media.

It’s possible to personalise media releases on MediaHQ’s system. You can learn more about that here.

4. Weak subject lines

If you are emailing a pitch, a snappy subject line is crucial.

Keep it short and write in vivid, simple language. Write it in the active verb form, and use the present or future tense.

Remember, the subject line is supposed to attract the reader and capture the essence of your story in a single sentence.

5. Being a nuisance caller

If a journalist doesn’t respond to your email or your Tweet, they certainly won’t respond to your call.

And if they have ignored your story idea, don’t hunt down their co-workers as well.

If you want to learn more about pitching story ideas, come along to our Pitch Perfect training course on March 8. MediaHQ.com’s managing director Jack Murray, an expert on pitching ideas, will teach you how to connect with journalists, build media lists and get your story heard.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

MediaHQ.com is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company, with contacts to more than 7,000 journalists on our database. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

Inbox etiquette: How to write a snappy subject line

write snappy subject

PR pros have to compete with hundreds of other emailers if they want to grab a journalist’s attention when they mail a pitch or media release.

That’s why it is important to have a snappy subject line that jumps out of the inbox — and won’t get marked as spam.

Here’s how to create the perfect subject line:

Lead with your hook

Journalists receive story ideas and media releases all day, every day. Think about what makes your story stand out and lead with the angle.

Tackle inbox obstacles head-on and avoid the guillotine

If your subject line runs over 50 characters, chances are the journalist’s inbox will chop off the end. It’s like the trap door opening mid sentence.

Aim for five to seven words. Like a good headline, write it in the active verb tense or future tense to create a sense of immediacy. It will also make it easier for your reader to understand if they are quickly scrolling through their inbox.

Don’t be mistaken for spam

Subject lines that are written in all caps or include multiple exclamation points (two stylistic sins) will increase the chances of your message getting lost in the spam box sin bin.

Pose a question – or chance a joke

An interesting (and relevant) question will focus your reader’s attention and entice them to look for the answer.

Depending on your organisation’s voice, a pun here or some wordplay there is good way to get your message noticed.

Politely command them to open your email

Sometimes a straightforward command — “Join us on this date”, for example — is the best way to make your subject line stand out.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

MediaHQ.com is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company, with contacts to more than 7,000 journalists on our database. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

Ireland’s most social savvy politicians

social savvy, social media, general election, ge16, Gerry Adams

Who is getting down with the kids during the #ge16 campaign?

Ireland’s political parties have accumulated 142,000 likes on Facebook.

Research by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics found that that 88pc of declared candidates in General Election 2016 have a Twitter account, but who is making the most of the social presence?

Ducky ár lá

Sinn Féin is the undisputed star of social media in Ireland with over 78,000 likes on Facebook and 40,900 followers on Twitter. That’s a massive leap from where they were five years ago, when they didn’t even have a Facebook page.

Party leader Gerry Adams has attracted 99,300 Twitter followers, thanks to his famously cryptic messages about his rubber ducky, while second in command Mary Lou McDonald is the most ‘liked’ TD on Facebook.

FG on FB

Enda Kenny is the second most-followed TD on Twitter with over 42,000 followers. His party has attracted 14,371 likes on Facebook — that number has more than quadrupled since 2011, when it had 2,700 likes.

Labour, meanwhile, has been strategic with its videos, attract a respectable 28,000 Twitter followers and 14,456 likes on Facebook.

Joan Burton has 14,700 followers on Twitter, way behind her coalition partner.

Fianna Favourite

Fianna Fáil is just behind FG with 19,000 followers on Twitter and 13,824 likes. Party leader Micheál Martin has 15,800 twitter followers.

Each party has employed a digital team to design graphics and create “behind-the-scenes” videos to bump up its PR strategy.

All parties have taken courses on social media management so they can better interact with the electorate. God be with the days when people would just knock on the door.

Here are the top 5 most followed TDs on Twitter:

  1. Gerry Adams – @GerryAdamsSF, 99.4k followers
  2. Enda Kenny – @EndaKennyTD, 42.4k followers
  3. Shane Ross – @Shane_RossTD, 35.8k followers
  4. Leo Varadkar – @Campaignforleo, 29.9k followers
  5. Mary Lou McDonald – @MaryLouMcDonald. 24.9k followers

Here’s who we’ll be following during #ge16. Who is on your Twitter radar? Tweet us – @mediahqnews.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

General Election jargon – busted!

general election jargon, #ge16

With the election campaign in full swing, we take a swing at the spin and bust the jargon that has been thrown into the public ring.

Here are three terms you should get to grips with during #ge16:

Fiscal flip flop

No, this doesn’t refer to a tax consultant at the beach.

It’s what Sinn Féin has persistently accused Fine Gael of — fiscal flip flopping. It certainly sounds good in a soundbite.

The term refers to ambitious economic promises that contradict the outgoing government’s fiscal strategy.

Rainy day fund

Remember Charlie McCreevy’s National Pension Reserve Fund? Nope? That’s because it was raided after the banking collapse to help meet the government’s budget commitments during the height of the crisis.

The NPRF was basically a rainy day fund — reserved money that is used to deal with budget shortfalls when revenues don’t match expenditures. Money we can use to help balance the books.

A rainy day fund might help prevent us from getting into the kind of trouble we were in eight years ago. But where does the money come from? A tax levy of course.

Fiscal space

The final frontier? The meaning of ‘fiscal space’ has certainly become otherworldly as Michael Noonan blindly throws it around with his trademark sense of cool persuasiveness.

It is basically code for “money”, as Arthur Beesley explains in today’s Irish Times.

It is the money that the government has available for tax cuts or spending increases — of course, the vast majority of politicians are going to promise both.

The IMF defines it as “room in a government´s budget that allows it to provide resources for a desired purposes without jeopardizing the sustainability of its financial position or the stability of the economy”. What a mouthful!

Basically, fiscal space is the money that must be (carefully) created if extra resources are to be made available for government spending.

It’s a handy little term for campaigning politicians because it sounds serious and allows them to make generous promises without anybody fully realising.

We prefer Henrietta McKervey’s definition: She suggests that “fiscal space” should be used to describe “the area between two opposing politicians’ posters on a lamppost”.

What political jargon would you like to see busted in #ge16? Tweet us – @mediahqnews.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

3 key takeaways from MediaHQ’s Story Bootcamp

Story bootcamp

Here at MediaHQ.com, we love good story telling.

We host a number of training courses that are designed to help PR pros connect with the media and share their stories.

Below are three key points that cropped up in our latest Story Bootcamp workshop. Find out about our upcoming courses here.

Continue reading “3 key takeaways from MediaHQ’s Story Bootcamp”