Last week, Warren Buffett started a national debate by writing an op-ed for the New York Times that made the case for raising taxes on the super-rich. Taxation has been a common topic ever since the recession started, so why did this article cause such a stir (apart from the oddity of someone asking to be taxed more)? It’s because it was written by one of the richest men in the world and one of the greatest investors in history. When Buffett writes something—heck, even when he makes an offhand comment—people listen. In stories about money, the Oracle of Omaha is the ultimate source.
The value of a source cannot be underestimated when it comes to publicity. Journalists know that a great source can make or break a story. They offer insights into a debate, grab the attention of readers and ultimately provide legitimacy to a story. PR pros who take advantage of this will always be a step ahead.
Good sources vary greatly depending on the situation—they could be a celebrity, an expert, a study or just a regular person. It all depends on what the story needs. Looking for lots of placements in a variety of local publications? Do your homework and find sources from each of your target areas. Looking for a big placement in a national publication? Find a high profile source and back them up with statistics that frame the story in a national context. Looking for a fresh approach on a topic that feels a little tired? Find a good human interest source to get the reporter’s attention.
It’s not just a one-time thing, either. Good sources and good information should be a standard, especially when you are pitching the same people consistently. I can tell you as a former editor that I knew which publicists I could turn to for a good source, and I was always more likely to pay attention to their pitches.
The next time you feel your press release or pitch is lacking something, consider the source. While you may be required to supply a quote from a particular executive, you’re never limited to just one source. Maybe you should consider a lower level employee who is a particularly compelling example. Maybe what you need is a revealing statistic from a recent study. As always, consider exactly what your targeted outlet is looking for and supply as much of it as you can. The easier you make the reporter’s job, the more likely they are to consider your pitches.