Dos and Don’ts of Pitching a Features Editor

March 8, 2011
by Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/DC

Business Wire’s Features National circuit and Feature Topic Series can help distribute your press releases, but how do you create an effective story that will appeal to a features editor? I reached out to Katie Aberbach of the Washington Post Express and Katy De Luca of the Washington Examiner to find out the dos and don’ts of pitching a feature editor.

Katie Aberbach

Katie Aberbach is a feature editor for the Washington Post Express‘ Lookout, Weekend Pass and Digs sections. According to Aberbach, a good feature is “a human interest story, something the average reader can relate to.” The best feature stories are when you become invested in what you’re reading or when you can tell that the reporter truly enjoys what he or she is writing about. When it comes to getting ideas for feature stories, “press releases do help out a lot because there is no way you can know everything new that’s coming out,” she said. “Tell me about your new product, television show and book and offer a source to comment on it.”

When it comes to writing your press release, she suggests the following:

  • Do break up the story and summarize key information into bullet points.
  • Do include links to other trend stories and think of what visuals would work for your story.
  • Don’t forget the hook. Even though you’re pitching a feature story, a hard news hook is still valuable. Say why I should care right away. Naming the names is really important.

Katy De Luca

Katy De Luca is the features editor of the Washington Examiner. For De Luca, the best feature stories are ones that appeal to the Examiner audience. “I look at all pitches and think about what will be most interesting to our readers. I think about what they would want to read and what is the best way to get the information to them,” she said. Most of the story ideas come from the writers De Luca works with. She also reads a variety of media and if a topic grabs her attention, she’ll forward the lead to one of her freelancers.

When pitching a feature reporter or editor, De Luca recommends these points:

  • Do include as much information as possible in the subject line and personalize your pitch. Provide all basic details. Simple is better.
  • Do periodically ask the person you are pitching to what sort of things they are looking for. Communication is a key part of the process.
  • Don’t send long-winded e-mails with attachments.

For more suggestions on how to help get your feature news noticed by the media, check out these Features News Tips. You can also contact our features department at features@businesswire.com for additional writing tips and story suggestions.


Mobile Is A Game-Changer

January 20, 2010

Jesse Stanchak wrote recently at SmartBrief’s Smart Blog on Social Media about the growth of the mobile market and what it means to marketers and PR people.  Jesse says that aiming your news at mobile users is less of a small, tactical change to the industry and more a revision of entire strategies, much like the advent of broadcasting changed things in the past.

It makes sense.  Never before have consumers of information been more in charge of when, where and how they get it.  Going forward, successful marketers are going to have to make information available in a format and through channels that reach consumers everywhere.  Not just at home or in the car, and not just on TV or radio, but on game consoles, on phones, on netbooks . . . on pretty much anything.

Take a look at the expected growth of mobile internet devices over the next few years.  The 3G smartphone market alone, which includes iPhones, Blackberries, Droids and other devices, grew 42% from 2008 to 2009.  And as Adam Cahill notes, “We’re talking about a fundamental shift in how people access the Web and, presumably, a corresponding shift in what they do once they get there.”

So while you’re tailoring your strategy for mobile web users, we’ll help you deliver it:  Along with our new mobile-optimized site, we now deliver your news to mobile devices everywhere via multiple channels.  And keep an eye out for more exciting Business Wire Mobile news coming in the next several weeks.


Valentine’s Day Features

January 14, 2010

Valentine's candy

Did you know that Valentine’s Day sections are one of the largest sections the media runs annually, even after Santa returns to the North Pole?  Or that the National Retail Federation estimates the size of the Valentine’s Day market at more than $14 billion?

That, according to Hallmark, 180 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually?  That 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, at a total of $345 million, will be sold in the week before Valentine’s Day?

Now is the best time to help out Cupid and prepare your Valentine’s Day feature . Tell section editors about the latest gifts, trends or expert advice you want to promote and keep consumers in-the-know.

If you have a good story to tell, Business Wire will be sending two Valentine’s Day feature news packages to the media this year. Copy for these topics is due January 15 and January 26th.

Find out more about our Features Topic Series packages at http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/features/.

And if you’re covering Valentine’s Day in your publication, broadcast or blog, be sure to sign up to receive Business Wire’s customizable news feed service via PressPass so you don’t ever miss a story.

(Photo: Denise Cross/Flickr)


Social Media ROI – It’s all about $$$

November 17, 2009

How do you know if your organization’s social media participation is producing a good return on your investment (ROI)?

According to a panel of Cleveland social media experts, it’s all about converting your tweets, Facebook status updates, blog posts, etc. into dollars in the bank.

Panelists at The City Club of Cleveland on November 12 included (in picture below seated from left to right):

Cleveland Social Media Panel

The panelists, moderated by “Tech Czar” Michael DeAloia, LNE Group (at lectern in picture above), explored the definition of ROI as it applies to social media and provided tips to the audience of about 80 guests for getting the most out of their social media participation.

Michael kicked off the discussion by asking the panel why so many organizations are disappointed in social media the first time they try it.

According to Jason, organizations are often disappointed in the results because they didn’t set clear goals from the beginning. The key to measuring ROI for social media is determining ahead of time what you want to get out of your social media participation and how you’re going to measure it.

John says your goal should be to measure the financial gains that result from your social media participation. Whether you want to generate increased revenue from Twitter followers who buy your products, or decrease costs by managing customer service issues from your blog, the bottom line is that true social media ROI comes in the form of more money for your organization.

Sentiment also comes into play when talking about social media measurement, which can make determining total ROI a bit difficult, says George. Intangibles such as the tone of the comments about your organization posted online contribute to the success of your social media participation but are not as easily quantified.

Dominic advises organizations to monitor what is being said about them online and get involved in the conversations. Responding promptly to both positive and negative feedback can create more positive sentiment toward your organization, which could in turn result in more people willing to do business with you.  All of this social interaction is searchable, so how you engage with people online will affect interactions later on.

Monitoring what is said about your organization online can also give you an idea of where you should concentrate your social media efforts. The people who are talking about you will determine where you will need to be, added Dominic. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time so you can engage the people who are most interested in your organization.

That doesn’t mean you should bombard your social media audience with a sales pitch. The panelists each stressed that social media should be used for building relationships and creating positive sentiment toward your organization online.

“Social media includes the word social for a reason,” said John. It’s important to spend the time to create quality content that will draw people to you and want to engage in conversation with you. Sales pitches will likely turn people off.

George pointed out that you can start to identify “brand ambassadors” online who spread good news about your organization and draw more people in. Your brand ambassadors will soon become your best salespeople. As Jason described it, “social media is word of mouth published.”

Bottom line, before jumping into social media it’s important to set clear goals and to understand that it takes time to build up good relationships with your audience. When you choose to invest the time it takes to engage your audience and connect with them personally, your return on that investment will be significant.

Panelist John Heaney has made video of the entire session available, which you can watch via the embed below or visit http://www.viddler.com/explore/orangeenvelopes/videos/7/.

For more information about social media ROI, the panel recommends that you visit http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com.


Takin’ It To The Streets – Your Brand, That Is

March 19, 2009

As if they anticipated my earlier post on the Pew Project report and its implications for PR and marketing, SmartBlog on Social Media (which is written by our partner SmartBrief), talks about a panel at last week’s SXSWi, in which three Fortune 500 brands discussed their own engagement with social media.  Three companies in three very different business segments have shown major success by leveraging Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other tools. 

These companies — H&R Block, Carnival Cruise Lines and JC Penney — have always been major spenders in television and print advertising.  Now they’re finding new ways to succeed by going straight to consumers.  And as TV and newspaper numbers shrink, and corresponding ad dollars get redirected, that’s what a lot of other companies are going to find themselves doing, too.

(JC Penney’s campaign, I should note, included a traditional press release and a social-media-friendly followup release which resulted in nearly 400 click-throughs to their microsite just from the BusinessWire.com page alone.)


“PR vs. SEO” vs. “PR + SEO” vs. “PR is SEO”

February 26, 2009

There’s an interesting blog conversation going on right now, which grew out of a recent Twitter discussion on the value of PR vs. SEO.  UK PR pro Stuart Bruce kicked things off by trying to define just what PR is for, and how SEO alone can’t accomplish PR’s goals.  The Holistic Search blog responds with discussion of getting PR and SEO teams to work towards a common goal.  Marshall Manson at Edelman Digital then talks about how, ultimately, good PR is good SEO.

Click through and read them all  for valuable discussion and great comments.  I’d like to particularly point out one of Manson’s comments:

My own view is that SEO, literally defined as an effort to improve performance in organic searches for a defined set of key words is far too often nothing more than an organized attempt to trick search engines. Too many SEO firms are selling solutions that involve solutions like paid “link building” and other dubious tactics . . . On the other hand, good online PR is about helping clients connect with audiences on the basis of a shared interest. A key aspect is ensuring that the content of the conversation is real, meaningful, and interesting. Transparency is also vital.

For Business Wire’s part, Manson is right on here.  While we offer a suite of SEO tools, including our Press Release Builder and its keyword analysis and placement functions, all of our tools and advice are in the service of the well-written, properly distributed press release.  All the keywords in the world can’t substitute for good content — if they could, press releases would just consist of a list of keywords and a company name!  (Not that “black hat” SEO/SEM firms haven’t tried things like this.)  Your SEO efforts on press releases need to be part of an engaging story about your company and its news.

And your press releases should be part of an ongoing strategy which includes publishing your news on your own website, properly targeting your news, and building relationships with journalists, bloggers and consumers.  All of these things will help, as one commenter puts it, to make sure your name and your brand are in the right place at the right time when people are looking for them.


Multimedia Upgrades on BusinessWire.com: New Layout, Navigation, and Video Options

February 15, 2008

After discussing our overall website redesign in an earlier post, in this post we’ll focus on our new multimedia features on BusinessWire.com.

If you work in PR, Advertising, Marketing, or any kind of function that has to do with communicating with audiences, you’ve probably noticed already how important online multimedia has become in organizations’ new communications mix. At Business Wire we’ve had front row seats to see how a lot of companies started changing their online multimedia strategies in recent years. As a result we’ve been continuously updating our own offerings to best assist professional communicators and make sure we help them reach the audiences they look for in the best possible ways.

As part of our efforts, earlier this week we announced three new features that make multimedia a lot more visible on our site, allow our various user groups to easily find the kind of multimedia they need, and improve the user experience, sharing options, and measurement around video.

New Multimedia Gallery on the Press Release Page:

The first change we announced is placing the entire multimedia gallery on the press release page. While traditionally in our industry multimedia was often considered a separate part of the press release — placed in specific sections of websites where users needed to navigate to especially — we at Business Wire have shown the first two multimedia assets on the press release page itself, and then linked those to the full multimedia gallery. However, experience has taught us that internet users are busy and overburdened with information. Unless users absolutely need something, they often won’t go out of their way to look for it. Also, when forced to navigate several levels deep on a website, some users may drop out in the process. Therefore we decided to bring multimedia directly to the user and make sure all the multimedia associated with a press release is immediately visible to all, without having to navigate away from the press release page.

New press release page layout with full multimedia gallery

The screenshot above shows how our full multimedia gallery is now an inseparable part of our clients’ press releases. Whether a release goes out with just one or two multimedia assets, or with a full set of photos, videos, audio files, logos, or pdfs, all those assets from now on are immediately visible to anyone looking at our client’s release, from the first moment they land on the page. This leads to much greater exposure to each asset, that ultimately can increase media and blogger pick-up.

New Web2.0-style navigation:

Showing all multimedia was just the first step though: as many of our clients know, Business Wire serves multiple constituents. We serve journalists, who often need high quality multimedia to download and repurpose for their stories. We have increasing usage by bloggers, who want to embed multimedia on their blogs and link to other sites; we have end-users who simply want to see an image or play a video without saving any files; and then there are also analysts, traders, industry executives, and so on.

Our goal at Business Wire is to be able to serve all of these audiences in the right way so they are able to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. So in order to give our users all the variants they need: hi resolution, low resolution, thumbnail, etc. or various video and audio variants, while minimizing the amount of navigation layers on our site, we’ve introduced new web2.0-style navigation menus for multimedia.

So now, when a user hovers on the thumbnail of a multimedia asset, they get all the options in a new menu that opens right there and then, whatever it is they’re looking for. Journalists can easily access high resolution downloadable multimedia files, bloggers can quickly find embeddable and linkable media, and end-users enjoy immediate viewing options. And the best part is that all these options are now only one click away from any press release, improving the user experience, helping drive more traffic to our clients’ multimedia, and once again, increasing the likelihood of gaining more pick-up.

New hover menus on Business Wire's multimedia thumbnails

New Video Player:

Finally, let’s focus on video: for several years Business Wire has been publishing videos using popular download formats such as Quicktime, Windows Media, and Real Media in several file sizes for users who needed to save and repurpose full files. We’ve also made all videos available on sharing sites such as YouTube, MySpace Video, Google Video, and Blip.tv, which is a great consumer-facing benefit, but is still a separate part of our site, and therefore provides a different kind of usage environment, and no unified measurement. So we decided to introduce our own branded video player that quickly and easily plays content from our site to end-users, can be embedded by bloggers on their own sites, and provides our clients with additional measurement in the reports we generate. And of course, we continue to make all videos available on leading video sharing sites. So now any user can easily play content distributed via Business Wire in the destination and format of their choosing, whether it is on YouTube or on BusinessWire.com, and whether by playing directly or downloading for other purposes. And the data from our own video player and downloadable files is easily shown in the measurement reports we provide clients.

So for example, here is where users can find all of Business Wire’s multimedia for a specific press release on our own site.

And here’s is how a You Tube embed would look like from the Business Wire Channel:


 

And finally, here is an example blog showing how the Business Wire embedded player would look like on another blog:

Example blog post with Business Wire Video

With a full multimedia gallery on the press release page, new web2.0 navigation menus offering 1-click access to all multimedia, and our new branded video player, we’re putting multimedia in the forefront so our clients can take full advantage of these benefits. We encourage you to check out the new features, and as always, feel free to let us know what you think. If you have questions on the best ways to utilize multimedia for your next release, don’t hesitate to drop us a line or call your local Business Wire representative.


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