Top Tech and Gadget Journalists Offer Advice for Pitching

May 30, 2012
by Shawnee Cohn, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/NY
MRT

Shawnee Cohn

With the current proliferation of digital devices available to consumers, the news media has certainly ramped up their coverage of the tech industry. As a result, PR pros have increased opportunities to get their tech clients in the limelight. But what is the best way to grasp the attention of reporters dedicated to this beat?

Recently the New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) held a Meet the Media panel covering best practices for reaching technology and gadget journalists. Moderated by Stephen Snart of Ketchum Public Relations, the panel featured:

  • Kevin Hall, Editor-in-Chief, DVICE
  • Seth Porges, Freelance Technology Journalist
  • Joanna Stern, Technology Editor, ABC News
  • Tim Stevens, Editor in Chief, Engadget
  • Matt Tuthill, Senior Editor, Men’s Fitness

Following are some highlights from questions addressed to the panel, along with tips for pitching each media outlet/reporter.

Will you accept pitches via social media? The panelists were in agreement that social media pitches look like spam, with Porges adding that direct messages on Facebook or Twitter feel “intrusive.” Men’s Fitness uses social media sites primarily for the purpose of interacting with their readers, so any pitches sent out via these platforms are likely to be ignored. If you send a note on Twitter similar to “Hey! Check out my site” with a link following, it seems as though you are asking the journalist to write the pitch for you, says Hall.

How important is it for a PR pro to know about their product? Even if you do not fully understand the technical aspects of the product, you should know where or from whom to get that information. Porges advises that the PR person should act as an efficient middle-man and “facilitate the gathering of info,” if they do not have that knowledge themselves. Stern noted that it is rare to come across an agency rep with a strong comprehension of the product, so she makes it a priority to go to the company directly when looking for complex information.

Are tradeshows still valuable? The journalists concurred that larger shows, particularly CES, are still very important, as most dedicated readers will look forward to coverage of the event. Stern remarked that she also finds value in international trade shows, but noted that private company events come in handy as they allow her to get to know that particular company on its own. Freelancer Seth Porges finds that even if he does not end up writing an article(s) covering a particular tradeshow, he still learns a lot as a journalist by attending.

How to Pitch:

ABC News: Joanna Stern is more interested in straight news stories, rather than features. Offering B-roll will give your pitch a major leg-up, because she is always on the lookout for video for ABC’s website. Currently, she is focusing on showing readers how they can get more out of the gadgets that they already bought. When you are explaining your tech/gadget news, do not try to “dumb down” the pitch; Stern wants to be the expert on the topic, and she’ll be the one to figure out how to make it clear to the reader.

Freelancer Seth Porges: There is no need to try to frame your story when pitching Porges; he will know if & why it appeals to his reader better than anyone else. It is also critical to avoid hyperbole in your message, which serves as an instant red flag. “If something claims to be revolutionary, it’s probably not,” he said.

Engadget: This web magazine is not interested in guess posts, so any subject line alluding to such will automatically be deleted. Right now Engadget’s readers are very interested in the “struggles between the teams,” or how one major tech company is doing versus another. Editor-in-chief Stevens will rarely cover apps and is highly selective when he does, because Engadget mostly focuses on hardware news.

DVICE: This website, part of the SyFy network, is likely to ignore a pitch about a particular app considering there is such a plethora of apps available. If you are interested in the editorial team reviewing your product, try to send a pitch a week in advance, as the staff likes to hold the product for a fair amount of time.

Men’s Fitness: Tuthill regularly covers gadgets for this fitness publication and warned PR pros to be cautious when it comes to the quality of their pitches; Men’s Fitness will often compile round-ups of the worst products in addition to the best. He also observed that the education of their readership has changed; the stories now need to pass muster with those who are very familiar with the topic of interest. Consequently, there is no need to “dumb-down” your pitch, as the editorial staff will be holding it to a high intellectual standard.

For more information on the PRSA New York Chapter , visit http://prsany.org. You can also get the latest technology and consumer electronics news by registering at www.businesswire.com.


Covering Your Bases on The Big Issues This Election Season

May 25, 2012

by Danny Selnick, VP, Public Policy Services

by Danny Selnick, Vice President of Public Policy Services, Business Wire DC

The upcoming presidential election and national political conventions are looking to be a contentious time.  No doubt this will be an interesting election cycle where also the entire House of Representatives is up for grabs, as is nearly one-third the Senate.

So will the president (incumbent or newly elected) have a Congressional majority that can push along and support legislation that’s near and dear to him? Or will the country have a divided Congress that will keep it in political gridlock? The stakes are huge with political and economic and even global ramifications. Not even the pundits can agree. But one thing’s for sure, professional communicators with some interest in the outcomes will need to get the word out. The question is, with what strategy?

No longer can public affairs communicators rely solely on getting their message out to traditional media. They must also reach out to grass-roots supporters, influentials and voters by using social media — and use it effectively in creating powerful networks and communities. Additionally, communicators must use powerful search engine optimization tools to make sure their news is seen.

Let’s not also forget that the United States Supreme Court will be handing down its decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Should the Court let the Act remain as is, not much will change and the law that was enacted two years ago will continue to be implemented. There will be those organizations and state governments that will remain opposed, but they’ll have to abide by the ruling. However, should the Court rule against the Act, no one really knows what will happen. Dismantling what has already been in effect will not be easy, and the Republican Leadership (including Mr. Romney, as well as those even at the state level) will have to come through on their promise of a better plan.

In sum, public affairs/corporate communicators and government relations professionals should be working on their messaging and thinking about the tactics to reaching all their key audiences. One more very important point to mention is that the American public (and voters) is not homogeneous. Far from it. Communicators need to remember to include messaging to the Hispanic community (that has been growing in numbers, power and importance) as well as to African-American, Asian-American and other groups.

Selnick is Business Wire’s Vice President for Public Policy and LatinoWire Services and developed specialty targeted services that are designed to reach any organization’s key audiences — from the media to decision-makers … to getting your message in front of the public that goes online looking for news.  The Public Policy Wire also includes Issues-Focused Lists that reach beat reporters by personalized email — including Health Care and Presidential Campaign.


Online Newsroom or Investor Center – Your Message Must be Mobile

May 21, 2012
by Ibrey Woodall, VP, Web Communications Services
Ibrey Woodall

Ibrey Woodall, VP, Web Communications Services

I have weekly, often daily, conversations with communicators at Fortune 500 companies. These discussions focus on online newsrooms and investor centers. More and more, I see these top-notch professionals realize that their communications center should be optimized for mobile access.

Whether your message is for investors and analysts or journalists and bloggers, you cannot ignore the fact that your audience is a moving target. And that moving target has a smartphone.

Two years ago, only 18 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers owned a smart phone device. Today, it is 44 percent according to Nielsen. If you need more statistics to convince you of the mobile momentum, the Pew Research Center reports that a third (34%) of all desktop/laptop news consumers also use their smartphone to access news.

So the question isn’t whether you need your online newsroom or investor center optimized for mobile devices, it is how quickly you can make it happen. Other points to consider include which platforms your mobile-optimized online newsroom or investor center will support; how investors, analysts, or journalists will find your mobile site; if your mobile site is legible; if you will be able to view mobile site statistics; and whether you need a mobile application or a mobile website.

Luckily, mobile-optimized sites should be clean and uncomplicated since we are talking about a very small screen. Therefore, the mobile-optimized version of your online newsroom or investor center should take no longer than two weeks to launch. All major platforms (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android) should be supported, and when a member of your target audience visits your online newsroom or investor center, their smartphone should automatically redirect to the mobile version for better viewing.

Simple design is the key to a good user experience when it comes to mobile sites. Shy away from use of graphics that carry a large file size, and keep the code clean. As with any other site, you should have access to analytics so that you will know the number of page views and unique users garnered by your mobile online newsroom or investor center.

Although there are very good reasons to create a mobile application, Business Wire offers the mobile-optimized version. It’s faster and less expensive to provide to communicators with deadline concerns and budget limitations. It’s also searchable via Google so target audiences have a greater chance of finding company news, information and other content types including press kits, stock quotes, and contacts. And, as we’ve seen, web browsers will continue to gain speed, while an individual platform may not necessarily have an indefinite lifespan.

If you have questions concerning NewsHQ Mobile online newsrooms or InvestorHQ Mobile investor centers, contact your local Business Wire representative.


Local Coverage Can Transcend the Community it Serves

May 11, 2012

by Molly Pappas, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire Boston

Last Thursday, over 100 PR and communications professionals attended Business Wire Boston’s media panel breakfast event focused on the ever-changing media landscape.  Panelists from the Boston Business Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Herald, Patch.com and Mass High Tech discussed how news is changing in a digital environment, ways publications measure success and the differing views on paywalls.

Panelists included Frank Quaratiello, Boston Herald’s business editor, George Donnelly, executive editor at Boston Business Journal, Mass High Tech’s newest associate editor, Don Seiffert, associate regional editor of Patch.com, Abby Jordan, and Leigh Montgomery, Christian Science Monitor’s librarian.  Business Wire’s own Sanford Paek, Group Vice President of Eastern U.S. and Canada, served as moderator.

L-R: Sanford Paek, Frank Quaratiello, George Donnelly, Abby Jordan, Leigh Montgomery, Don Seiffert

Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:

News changing in a digital environment:

  • Digital formatting has changed the way in which the media address their audience.  In terms of storytelling, the visual experience online can be interesting.  Donnelly says the Boston Business Journal runs two to three slideshows a week.
  • The Boston Herald has played around with its homepage and moved the video player there, and has since seen a dramatic increase on time spent on the site.  Videos bring in about 180,000 views.
  • Digital environments have brought about a different world of immediacy to Jordan and her Patch.com team.  They do not wait for an end-of-the-day deadline like print publications; instead, they are continually updating their sites, usually five to seven times a day.  “The site is not just for people to consume, but to interact with,” says Jordan.  For example, people can upload their own events on the site for display.
  • “We need to put aside old media/new media; it’s just media,” says Montgomery.  In 2009, the Christian Science Monitor was the first international publication to drop its daily print and move to a Web daily only.  They still adhere to a publishing schedule, but she says they have more flexibility to publish throughout the day online (usually 30 stories per day).
  • Seiffert has found that the length of stories and deadlines are affected by the digital environment.  “There are losses to the digital age.  You lose the ability to report longer, more well-crafted stories,” he says.

Measuring success:

  • Patch.com is unique in that it does not have a print subscription number to base its success on.  “We are the new kids on the block.  We measure success on the number of unique visitors on the site, the number of comments on a story, how our readers interact with the site,” Jordan says.
  • For Quaratiello and the Boston Herald, circulation of print product is an obvious measure of success.  But it’s also about the visitors online, who are building a community and using the Herald as a “meeting place” of sorts.  The Herald has helped create a forum, engaging the paper and its readers.
  • As an online publication, the Christian Science Monitor can draw on a lot of online usage data, such as quizzes, to monitor success.  The core, however, is solution seeking, Montgomery says.  When a story is being discussed and you hear and see it in conversation, that is considered a measure of success.
  • While the Boston Business Journal has really embraced analytics, they try not to allow it to be the sole decision maker on the news they cover and publish.  “We want to give people as much as we can in an interesting way,” says Donnelly.
  • For Seiffert, there is a constant struggle between balancing context and ‘hits.’  “We measure success on Tweets, join/follows on Facebook, the most read and most emailed articles.  But there is a danger of losing the personal connection,” he says.

Paid content vs. free:

  • “Readers aren’t tired of free news, the newspapers are tired of giving out free news,” says Seiffert.
  • “I do not think paid online subscriptions will be successful.  It’s just not going to pay the bills,” says Quaratiello.  Donnelly, however, disagrees.  He sees the tide turning in the other direction, and believes that it’s necessary. “Newspapers are realizing that readers need to subsidize revenue.  Newspapers are dispersing news worth paying for.  Valuable news shouldn’t be free,” he argues.
  • Patch.com has not looked at a paywall.  They use metrics to get advertisers, thus bring in revenue.
  • Because of the Christian Science Monitor’s multiplatform model (Internet first and paid print subscriptions), Montgomery believes the publication will be self-sustaining by 2017 because of the revenue they bring in.

The panelists ended the event with a few quick pointers on how they like to be pitched:

  • Seiffert always likes to talk to someone directly.  However, if that isn’t possible, provide links or pointers to other primary sources he can contact.
  • “When we get information, our day begins.  It’s frustrating and annoying when someone sends in a release at 5, then leaves and we can’t get them on the phone,” Quaratiello says.
  • Both Jordan and Donnelly are happy to accept photos, but he advises that they be no more than 1 megabyte.  Editors and reporters are weary of opening photo attachments because they can cause computers to freeze or shut down.

For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit our events page or follow Business Wire events on Twitter, hashtag #bwchat.


Local Bureau, National Media: Four Major Outlets Tell PR Professionals How to Get Their Attention

May 9, 2012

by Andrea Gillespie, Account Executive, Business Wire Chicago

With Chicago being the third largest media market in the US, many national media contacts call The Windy City home. Whether their beat is the entire Midwest or specific industry groups, knowing who’s who in the Chicago national media scene can earn you more placements. In April, Business Wire hosted some of these national news gatekeepers to learn what types of pitches stand out and how to get national attention for your company or client.

Cheryl Corley, National Desk Correspondent, NPR

Based in NPR’s Chicago Bureau, Cheryl Corley travels primarily throughout the Midwest, covering issues and events from Ohio to South Dakota as a National Desk reporter.

Pitch tips:
  • Cheryl is interested in stories that have a national or at least a broad Midwestern scope.  If a story is too focused on one specific state or city, she will refer the person to the local station.
  • Because of the radio format, she is not as interested in video. Adding still photography is helpful to create interest in your pitch, but no attachments.
  • The librarians for NPR are frequently called upon by NPR correspondents to do research for stories, so they are good contacts to have. They regularly scour and post queries to social media sites for experts.
Jason Dean, Chicago Bureau Chief, The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires

Jason Dean oversees coverage of subjects including economic, political and cultural developments in the Midwest; national education issues; the agriculture and foods business; the airline and aerospace industries; and key financial exchanges.

Pitch tips:
  • Jason prefers personal pitches – just plugging his name into an email that went to a large group of people doesn’t fool him.
  • He also suggests doing research to identify which WSJ/Dow Jones reporter covers your industry. The Chicago Bureau does not cover all Chicago companies. For example, Chicago tech companies are covered by the San Francisco bureau.
  • Pitch visuals. With every story they cover, they consider what type of video component can be added to it. While they prefer to shoot their own video, it’s helpful to include a link to b-roll or your spokesperson in action in your pitch. He requests links only – no attachments.

Andy Fies, Producer, ABC News

Great crowd at the BW Chicago event!

Andy Fies is one of two producers based in ABC’s Midwest Bureau covering stories for World News with Diane Sawyer,Good Morning America, Nightline and ABCNews.com. His primary area of responsibility is news of national interest from the nation’s heartland.
Pitch tips:
  • Andy is interested in covering stories from all Midwestern companies, but he is mostly drawn to those that show how people on the street are being affected. They want to put a personal view into every story they cover.
  • As ABC recently merged with Yahoo! News, consider the digital version of your story. This means photos and visuals of your story are necessary.
Greg Stricharchuk, Editor, Sunday Business Section, The Chicago Tribune

As an editor in the business news section, Greg Stricharchuk works with reporters and helps conceptualize and edit their stories. He’s also specifically responsible for the Sunday business section.

Pitch tips:
  • While you can copy Greg on your pitches to reporters, it’s best to read the paper and know who writes about your topic. Pitch them directly first.
  • Greg is mainly interested in publicly held companies – not so much private companies or organizations, unless they are starting an industry trend or obtaining significant funding.
  • Don’t pitch experts 2-3 days after a story breaks. Oftentimes, stories are starting to form days before the actual news breaks. Get your expert pitches to the appropriate editor before that happens.
  • Remember that the Tribune is comprised of six newspapers, online sites and TV stations. Pitches that show how the story can cross all mediums are typically well-received.
Thanks again to all of our clients and the communications professionals who were able to join us.
For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit our events page or follow Business Wire events on Twitter, hashtag #bwchat.

It’s All About Marketing and PR Convergence with Our New Smart Marketing Page

May 8, 2012
For professional communicators today, there is a growing understanding that PR and marketing efforts must work in unison to be most effective.  For example, the cost of the keywords that marketing bids on in their advertising outreach can be reduced when PR successfully gets those same keywords embedded and issued/posted/shared in their audience engagement efforts.

With press releases, we know that multimedia enhances click-thru rates and improves audience engagement.  When public relations leverages existing marketing assets, it reinforces brand messaging and helps marketing achieve the multiple touch points needed for audiences to act.  Both marketing and PR ultimately engage many of the same audiences by the very nature of how content is found and shared online.

For PR practitioners, this provides an opportunity to show how they can cost-effectively and measurably complement and boost the overall marketing impact.  As you build your next press release, work with marketing to develop and use common campaign keywords, add SEO-relevant, measurable touch points such as links from press release content deep into the organizations website, include “buy this” buttons and add multimedia visuals and videos, all driving measurable traffic, revenue and engagement tied to shared campaign objectives.

The launch of our new Smart Marketing Page provides a tremendously cost-effective new platform to achieve marketing/PR message unity that is measurable.  It helps PR grab a larger share of the marketing voice by pushing out press release and multimedia content via the powerful Business Wire news network to media and online audiences across the country, deep into your industry and around the web.  It also posts to our EON: Enhanced Online News platform, all designed to provide easy audience engagement and SEO-boosting exposure.

The Smart Marketing Page gives marketers a branded platform that is SEO friendly with assets that are easy to share, allowing for the inclusion of polls, multimedia galleries and custom branding.  It provides both with valuable multimedia tools and measurement metrics to evaluate and adjust campaigns against marketing objectives.

Check out the Business Wire SMP and see for yourself why we’re so excited about this new platform. Then contact your local BW account executive to get started.


Journalists Tweet Their PR Pet Peeves

May 2, 2012
compiled by Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire/Chicago
Recently @muckrack asked journalists to share some of their pitching pet peeves in a #muckedup chat. I’ve compiled my favorites for your learning pleasure.
  1. Share
    “@muckrack I automatically delete any pitch that begins, “Dear Sir/Madam”
    Wed, May 02 2012 10:41:11
  2. Share
    “@muckrack Don’t start emails with “how are you?” when we’ve never met #muckedup
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:52:25
  3. Share
    “@muckrack pet pitch peeve: “since you just wrote about ______, thought you’d be interested in _____.” No, I just wrote about it.
    Wed, May 02 2012 10:36:17
  4. Share
    “.@muckrack pitch peeve: leading w/ “I just read your AMAZING story about X, and..” Flattery has gotten better PRs than you nowhere, dear.
    Wed, May 02 2012 10:54:54
  5. Share
  6. Share
    “@muckrack PR peeve: pitches for “story ideas” (no, that’s my job) or for “free articles” (seriously?!)
    Wed, May 02 2012 10:50:53
  7. Share
    “Pet #PR peeves: (1) no photos or links to photos; (2) UK releases that arrive the day after the US release; (3) PR not around. cc @muckrack
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:54:07
  8. Share
    “@muckrack Mistaking me for a .com writer when I write for a monthly mag. Don’t pitch me tax tip stories when we’re working on July #muckedup
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:50:24
  9. Share
    @muckrack asking for questions ahead of time only to later give prepared and safe answers. #muckedup boring!!
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:56:39
  10. Share
    “@muckrack “Our CEO is in town this week, it would be useful for you to meet him!” Translated: “Oh crap, we need to look like a good PR team”
    Wed, May 02 2012 10:54:52
  11. Share
    “@muckrack Pitching a source 2 days after a story was in the headlines. You are late and wasting my time.
    Wed, May 02 2012 10:45:08
  12. Share
    (Unsolicited) PR email of the day: ‘Please let me know you agree to the below embargo so I can send you a press release.’ (@muckrack)
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:02:46
  13. Share
    “@muckrack Being asked by a PR to send a link to them *when* we write up the story. File under: ‘Dumb as a brick’. #muckedup
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:53:58
  14. Oh, and then the tides turned: PR pros were asked to share their journalist pet peeves.

  15. Share
    “.@muckrack when 300 reporters email you at once during a crisis & then write “X couldn’t be reached for comment.” #muckedup
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:34:35
  16. Share
    “@muckrack Journos that never respond. A simple “not the right fit, send it to this colleague” helps me better target my pitch next time.
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:42:40
  17. Share
    “.@muckrack Reporters who agree to briefings, then go MIA when it comes time to schedule #muckedup
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:04:33
  18. Share
    “@muckrack What used to annoy me was reporters assigned to cover high-tech who knew nothing about the topic
    Wed, May 02 2012 10:57:46
  19. Share
    “@muckrack main bugbear is rudeness (although i’d be tetchy if i was bombarded all day too i guess). we’re human too, we’re not punchbags
    Wed, May 02 2012 10:59:18
  20. Share
    “@muckrack ordering sample cakes for a “product review” aka the editor’s daughter’s 4th birthday. No product review appears #havingalaugh
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:03:38
  21. And yet another turn of events; Journalists decided to balance it out and offer some praise for PR done well.

  22. Share
    “@muckrack @jenwieczner I like “how are you”! Makes the pitch seem more human, less automated. #muckedup
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:58:12
  23. Share
    “Exactly, @muckrack. Gotta be balanced, dont want to trash only. One more GREAT PR Move? Offering me an exclusive!!!! #muckedup
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:29:06
  24. Share
    “RT @muckrack: RT @CassVinograd GOOD PR moves that make me happy: a quick call to verify I’m the right person to speak to, then emailed release #muckedup
    Wed, May 02 2012 11:30:25
  25. Share
    “The relaxed post-interview chatty time? That’s when we get some of our greatest quotes @CaroPRinLA #oldschool @muckrack
    Wed, May 02 2012 12:19:38
  26. Cant’ get enough of the PR vs Journalist battle to build better working relationships?  Be sure to check out the Muck Rack Blog where they’ll be posting recaps of the ongoing conversation or catch up on the blog post that started the whole discussion.You can also check out the posts from Business Wire’s media relations team where we share tips directly from journalists across the world on how they like to be pitched and what catches their attention.

A lengthier post was originally storiifed by Raschanda Hall on May 2nd.


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