Beyond Email and Phone: Tips for Using Form Fields, LinkedIn, Facebook for Pitching Tech Writers

August 16, 2011

 By Travis Van, Founder, ITDatabase

In the late 90’s, tech PR pros pitched almost exclusively via email and phone. We considered it a big win that the fax was finally phased out as a media relations tool.

Today, tech PR pros still conduct the majority of pitches via email, but phone “follow-up” is in danger of following the fax. Most tech writers these days are bloggers, and most intentionally withhold their phone numbers because they’re not interested in fielding calls. Even tech trades– who formerly supplied direct phone numbers to their writer roster–have a staff of mercenaries who are always in flux. Mastheads are tiny or nonexistent. Where individual phone numbers were once publicly available, today they must be earned through establishing relationships that usually begins with email. Strike out on your outreach to a writer, and you may blow your chance to connect by phone. Chalk it up to years of pushy calls from PR pros.

Increasingly, writers have no public email address but may be contacted exclusively via Twitter, or a form field, or a LinkedIn profile. How do PR pros utilize these various contact methods?

Yesterday I pinged a former tech PR colleague who I respect. He’s done countless outreach over the last 10 years for tons of tech PR startup launches and product announcements. He shared a few insights about his experiences with the spectrum of contact methods that he uses on a daily basis.


“Subject lines need to be short and attention-grabbing. The entire pitch should be no more than one-two short paragraphs, and it’s much better to provide links to more info than paste them into the release. Excessively long pitches will not get read. I find it most effective to reference something that the author has written before and to create a hook that makes them feel that I am respectful of what they are trying to bring to the table for their unique audience, and not just trying to cram some announcement down their throat.”


“LinkedIn keeps getting better. So many tech authors are on it and actively maintaining their resume there. Sometimes I’ve used InMail to contact those whose email I can’t find elsewhere. It was unclear to me in the beginning whether this was acceptable, or would rub them the wrong way. But I have yet to have anyone complain about it, and it’s worked a number of times.”


“There’s a perception that tech PR pros are actively pitching via Twitter Direct Messages. I have not met a single PR pro who is actually doing this as their primary outreach method. First of all, you can’t direct message someone on Twitter unless you are mutual followers (unless you use a work-around, which is not advised). For most of the tech authors that follow me back on Twitter, I usually have their email address and pitch them that way. The best value I get out of Twitter is being able to follow what those tech contacts are saying, reweet their posts to show them we are actively following their content, and to detect when they are jumping into new subject matter.”

Form Fields

“Many PR pros suspect that form field submissions don’t get answered, that their submissions disappear into the ether. But I’ve had equal success with form fields as with email addresses. And when you get a response, you have their email address.”


“I still don’t consider Facebook to be a serious tool for media outreach. What, I’m going to friend a writer on Facebook, then contact them that way? I’ve had some great client efforts where a lot of target customers ‘liked’ us and the effort really helped us with audience building. But Facebook never really comes into play in my outreach to actual tech writers.”


“There are a ton of tech PR pros writing drippy, insincere comments to kowtow to tech authors. I don’t believe that sycophancy is an effective media relations weapon. What has worked for me in the past is if I detect an article that is just dead on with a client’s focus and they have something provocative, I’ll encourage the client to comment with either something inflammatory or a sidebar that genuinely advances the discussion. Sometimes that comment will lead to a connection with the author, or be something that I can reference in a future correspondence to the author.”


“This is my ultimate goal. My best relationships are writers I can call and give a quick verbal pitch. For others that don’t respond to my email pitch, I will sometimes call them as well. It’s a bit uncomfortable to try to break through to an author via phone, but it’s amazing how many other PR pros you leapfrog, because they were too timid to call.”

Whatever your personal successes / failures with each of these contact methods, keep in mind that the further in advance of your announcement that you recognize available contact options, the more opportunity you have to figure out your best angle. The idea that you’re flying blind unless you know a writer’s “pitching preferences” is a strawman by media directory services trying to sell you their interpretations. Contact preferences are obviously the contact info supplied publicly, and preferred pitches are those that tie directly to what writers are actually writing about and what’s relevant to their readership. There are more breadcrumbs than ever to learn about your targets before engaging them.

Travis Van is the founder of, an online media database of technology journalists and Business Wire partner company.

Business Wire’s Danny Selnick Books Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for National Press Club Event

August 4, 2011

What’s it like to sit on the dais with Minnesota Congresswoman and candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Michele Bachmann?

Ask Business Wire’s VP of Public Policy Danny Selnick, who was Bachmann’s lunch partner onstage at a recent National Press Club luncheon.    Selnick serves on the NPC’s Luncheon Speakers’ Committee and booked Congresswoman Bachmann as a speaker.

About 300 attended the Press Club event, hosted by NPC President Mark Hamrick. In addition to the Congresswoman and her guests, some of the most well-known print and broadcast reporters in journalism today–including Christine Amanpour and representatives from Fox News, Time and CNN–were seated at the head table.

Here’s Selnick’s take on the controversial Congresswoman from the vantage point of the head table.

“As the event organizer I sat next to the Congresswoman during the lunch portion of the event and had an opportunity to get to know her a bit. Politics aside, she is an incredibly warm and friendly woman who seemed to take a genuine interest in what I said about my family, job and magic as my hobby.  (I promised to spare her and everyone in the room any tricks).

“Congresswoman Bachmann talked about her values, her campaign platform and  her steadfast opposition to any debt-limit plan that failed to revamp federal spending.

In the end, she thanked me and the National Press Club for the invitation and seemed eager to face the dozens of cameras representing all the news networks, as well as print and radio journalists also in attendance.

“Later on that evening, my wife and two girls watched the webcast and my 10-year old commented how unimpressed she was seeing me up at the head table.  ‘Dad, what did you do, but sit there?’

” But I could tell she really was proud of me when I got a big hug right afterwards.”

Nice work, Danny!

Friday Fast Links for April 1: Why consumers use SM, defining marketing, and more

April 1, 2011

Media Pitching Tips from Top Business Magazines

March 28, 2011
by Nikelle Feimster, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/NY
NIkelle Feimster

Nikelle Feimster

The Publicity Club of New York (PCNY) recently held a business media briefing at 3 West Club in New York City. The event, moderated by Peter Himler, Founder and Principal of Flatiron Communications LL, included a panel of guests from top business magazines. The speakers were: Michael Santoli, Senior Editor & “Streetwise” Columnist, Barron’s; Jeff Chu, Articles Editor, Fast Company; Steve Bertoni, Reporter, Forbes; Nadine Heintz, Senior Editor, Inc. Magazine; Russell Pearlman, Senior Markets Editor, SmartMoney Magazine.

Here are a few techniques offered by the panelists on how PR professionals can increase their chances of getting media coverage:

 Make your pitch challenging. According to Steve Bertoni, Forbes is always known as the “drama critics of capitalism”. He said that for the magazine, stories need to have challenge or conflict so be sure there is drama or a lesson in your pitch.

Take time to build relationships. Russell Pearlman of SmartMoney Magazine advised PR pros to invest in long term relationships with journalists. He is willing to contact companies for information, but only after he has developed a relationship with them first. It’s also helpful to provide him with a client list that explains what each client can talk about.

Make sure your pitch fits the publication. According to Nadine Heintz of Inc. Magazine, you should know and read the magazine. “Show that you understand it and how your story would be a good fit,” she said.  When pitching Fast Company, Jeff Chu said to check out the magazine issue covering the world’s most fifty innovative companies to get a good sense of the companies they cover.

 Small companies, small industry you can still get big coverage. Inc. Magazine only covers privately held companies. Heintz will focus on how people start their own business and what makes them successful. Also, Barron’s writers are not bound by a beat assignment so “everything is pretty much fair game,” said Michael Santoli.

The panelists provided additional tips for pitching, like:

  • Don’t continue to call without leaving a voice message.
  • Spell the writer’s name correctly.
  • Stay away from jargon.
  • Put the news in the headline and subhead of the email.

PCNY has monthly “Meet the Media” luncheons that include a panel of guests from leading print, broadcast and online news organizations. For more information on upcoming events, visit

Friday Fast Links: March Madness, Wire Service SEO and More

March 18, 2011

What do you know about your wire service’s SEO practices?

How big are the opportunities for brands and social media during March Madness? (A Google search for “March Madness” + “social media” returns nearly 2 million results.)

On the off chance you missed Rebecca Black blowing up the internet this week, you missed a great lesson on how to turn bad PR into good PR.

Eight tips for writing press releases that journalists will read. I think they’re just about in the right order, too.

The Canadian Investor Relations Institute reinforces the widely disseminated press release as the anchor of successful IR. Are they ahead of the US in setting standards?

If you need help building your online newsroom, register for our free webinar.

Do you or your company have a blog? A recent Minnesota court case has some interesting free speech implications for bloggers.

There are a lot of ways to sell jeans. Is this one of them? Takes edgy ads to a whole new level.

Have a great weekend!

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 for additional writing tips and story suggestions.

Boston PR Groups Suggest Social Media Strategies for Success

February 17, 2011
by Liz Koch, Media Relations Representative, Business Wire/Boston

Liz Koch

Social Media Club Boston and Publicity Club of New England co-presented an evening panel discussion on social media campaign successes using Facebook, Twitter and blogging. The Social Media Club Boston chapter hosts programs that promote and educate anyone interested in learning more about social media literacy and best practices for social networking. The Publicity Club of New England promotes and encourages the profession of public relations by holding monthly educational programs, maintaining a job bank, and hosting the annual Bell Ringer Awards.

The discussion, hosted by Constant Contact, was shaped by a dynamic panel of speakers and led by moderator Julie Hall (@juliehall) of Schneider Associates (of the Tweet Me Sweethearts campaign). Panelists included Amy Kenly of Kalypso (thought leadership and “thoughtware”), Tyson Goodridge of Dialogue, Evan Falchuk of Best Doctors, Josh Mendelsohn of Constant Contact, Joselin Mane of 451 Marketing (and @BostonTweetUp founder) and Mike Proulx of Hill Holliday.

Photo credit: Todd Van Hoosear (@vanhoosear on Twitter)

Some of the practical social media strategies shared included:

  • The quantity of fans/followers your organization has is less important than how effective that same group is in promoting you to others. You have to be sure you are giving them the right tools to market for you. For example, if offering a discount for checking in with FourSquare at a restaurant garners 10 new patrons for a lunch special, this is more valuable than 100 followers who don’t ever visit the restaurant. Joselin Mane used Turner Fisheries as an example: The restaurant went from not being open for lunch to serving 40 plates regularly.
  • Visitors to your website or brick/mortar business that came from an existing social network were more than three times as likely to share your message than those who happened upon it. For example, Mike Proulx of Hill Holliday described a campaign for which Marshall’s engaged in producing “haul videos,” a social media format which already had credibility with teen shoppers.
  • Don’t get hung up on “the next big thing” – this adds extra distance to the social media learning curve. Instead, utilize the current available networking strategies!
  • Use a URL shortener (in your tweets, press releases, etc.) that provides analytic data like clicks, traffic, and sources. offers free analytics for any link as well as a host of other tools.

For additional insights from the program check out related tweets under the event hashtags #PubClubofNE and #SMCBoston.


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