Giving a journalist exclusivity on a story can be the key to getting top-tier coverage AND building great media relationships. It makes sense – journalists don’t want to write the same stories as their peers (in the words of Malcolm Moore, editor of FT Edit: “If an organisation wants to be quoted in the FT, the relevant expert should build a relationship with the relevant journalist. We don’t use stuff that gets emailed all around, because that would make us the same as all the other newspapers…”), and getting exclusive scoops makes them look good. But it’s also a risk – what if you offer exclusivity and it doesn’t run, or a bigger story comes in, and then your story times out?

Offering exclusivity usually comes down to timing. If you want to offer a journalist exclusivity, you need to build in time for things to go wrong so that you can still take your story elsewhere.

Our friends and colleagues at Schwa are good examples of this. We worked with them on two stories – one on ChatGPT and one on financial literacy. We went down the exclusivity route for one but not the other. Read on to see why we chose different strategies for each.

The ChatGPT story

Schwa founder and all-around clever clogs Neil Taylor noticed the buzz around ChatGPT while recruiting for maternity leave cover. He had an idea: ask ChatGPT to answer the initial screening question required for the role and secretly put it in the pile for consideration. Crucially, he came to us as soon as he had this idea to see if it would work as a story and, if so, when it should go out.

We decided to wait to see if ChatGPT got to the interview stage (spoiler: it did) to ensure the story had a beginning, middle and end. Once it did, Neil wrote it up and handed it over to our media relations team.

We needed to strike while the iron was hot – ChatGPT was everywhere. We considered offering exclusivity but quickly realised that time was of the essence and that the story had broad appeal. We were confident the story had everything needed to get going and knew Neil was around for further questions. So, we pitched it immediately, approaching some of our regular tech contacts and those who had covered ChatGPT a couple of weeks prior.

Coverage included an interview and writeup in Sky News, an interview on the Evening Standard podcast, Business Insider, The Next Web, Fortune and more.

Pitching news far and wide comes with risks – some journalists told us they’d have needed it exclusively to run it as it was. But, overall, the payoff was worth it – and the coverage continued to roll in.

The financial language story

Talks started early in the year at Definition Group HQ about the pending FCA Consumer Duty, which will force any company providing a financial service to ensure customers easily understand it. The aforementioned clever clogs Neil, alongside his equally clever pal Amy Graham at Brand Vista, decide to create an FCA Consumer Duty product for clients wanting to ensure they abided by the new rules. With plenty of time to go until the deadline, Neil and Amy sat down with our media relations team to brainstorm a story around financial literacy. And, because there was enough time in between said brainstorm and the deadline, we were able to contact FTAdviser, who are all over the Consumer Duty. We did this before the research went to the field, meaning the questions were designed with the FTAdviser audience in mind.

The result? A thorough article with the data, Neil and Amy’s insights, reaching the exact target audience it was intended for, AND an ‘In Focus’ FTAdviser video interview with Neil.

So, there you have it – both yielded excellent results, but the timeline allowed for exclusivity on the latter, more specific story, which had a niche target audience. A great media relations team will advise you on the best way to pitch each story, the format it should take, and the assets required, to make it fly.

Written by Katie Chodosh, media relations director at Definition.