Media training: does the journalist have an angle?

Can you trust a journalist or blogger to tell your story or will they just stick with whatever angle they or their outlet has picked? Last week an argument flared up in an online group for journalists of which I’m a member. A public relations person had called one of us and asked what his angle was for a piece. The writer was pretty angry. There was no angle, he said. He was doing proper, straightforward reporting.

Rubbish.

There is always an angle. It is impossible to write an article without an angle. No, literally impossible.

Writing for an audience

Take this very blog. My angle is to get to an explanation of how the press works so that people reach an understanding and perform better in interviews and other press engagements. I’m aiming squarely at people who need to do so and the PR community. Nobody else has any reason to find it at all relevant. That’s a pretty tight angle.

It was the same when I was working in the trade press a quarter of a century ago. The paper was called “MicroScope” and we served the computer dealer community. So our angle was always “This new system is available, what’s in it for the dealer?” We’d be thinking trade discounts, joint promotion budget and soforth. There was nothing sinister in this. Our readership didn’t care how shiny the new PC might be, they wanted to know how it would help them earn a living.

The guy in the online argument said he didn’t have an angle, he was writing something straightforward and factual. Except “straightforward and factual” is in and of itself an angle and it will have a target audience. If I’m writing about a new phone and just write about its features (battery life, camera etc.) then presumably I’m aiming that piece at the consumer rather than the trade and putting forward a factual summary with no opinion in it. “Consumer piece, opinion-free” is an angle in its own right.

Watch your wording?

Nonetheless, this guy reacted badly when asked about the “angle” because he perceived it as an allegation of bias. When you’re talking to a journalist or blogger, either for prepping your client or for doing an interview yourself, you might therefore want to ask about the “focus” rather than the angle. Also ask about the readership. Then you’ll get to the angle, whatever the writer calls it, and you’ll be able to formulate your messages and comments to address that angle and serve you best.

Do you or your clients need help with practice interviews and media training or coaching? I can help. Email me by clicking here and we’ll talk.

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