Decoding the Media: National Journalists Divulge Best Way to Build Relationships

November 12, 2013

By Meghann Johnson, Sales Manager, Business Wire Chicago

What does it take to land a signature placement? You know, the media placement that positions your company as an industry-leader with the smartest executive team and best products? According to speakers on PRSA Chicago’s recent panel, a heck of a lot more than it used to.

Business Wire team members recently attended “National Media in Chicago: Who’s Here and What Do They Cover?” featuring journalists from top national media outlets including:

  • Diane Eastabrook, Correspondent, Al Jazeera America (@AJAM)
  • Jason Dean, Chicago Bureau Chief, Wall Street Journal (@JasonRDean)
  • Flynn McRoberts, Chicago Bureau Chief and Editor-at-Large, Bloomberg News (@FlynnMcRoberts)
  • Neil Munshi, Chicago and Midwest Correspondent, Financial Times (@NeilMunshi)

During this discussion the speakers divulged best pitch practices for PR professionals. In each case, each journalist reiterated the exact same advice – all good PR professionals must do their research before reaching out. This, they told us, is the number one way to create strong relationships and build trust in your company.

In this case, research does not mean referencing their latest article, post or tweet. In PR, researching the reporter means understanding both what they write about and who their audience is.  In today’s world, general pitches only slightly on target with the reporter’s beat and readership are unacceptable. It is better to write highly targeted press releases, with a highly specific audience. Not only will this support your internal business goals, you will provide better content to your beat  reporters.

A few other themes were addressed to give insight into their news process:

Newsrooms embrace social media…to an extent.

In April 2013 Bloomberg News introduced corporate and CEO Twitter feeds to their terminals, a huge step for highly-regulated industries that may not have access to social news at work

  • Business Wire Tip: If you delete a tweet archived in the Bloomberg terminal, you must call Bloomberg to have them manually remove it.  These tweets are not automatically deleted.

While social media is expanding, many journalists are still cautious.  Financial Times’ Neil Munshi was quick to point out that when a big story hits he shuts off Twitter so he can focus on uncovering facts vs. reading potentially false reports.

  • Business Wire Tip: For any communications, especially in times of crisis, it is important for companies to be transparent and provide as much information about the situation as possible in order to control the conversation.  Considering issuing a press release or utilizing your corporate blog to ensure the words used to describe your news are your own.

Content other than photos are rarely re-purposed verbatim; however these elements have huge value in showcasing the larger story to the reporter and brand fans.

In the age of videos and infographics, companies should include content elements that tell the brand’s larger story.  Video works well as it provides a face to the story, while images drive deeper emotional connections.

  • Business Wire Tip: Content marketing and distribution is an effective way to gain attention and influence key constituents; however, it’s important to ensure the story is relevant and timely to drive conversations. Check out on our recent post on this topic.

Press releases remain relevant to news gatherers.

The resounding feedback from speakers is “press releases are alive and well.” According to Jason Dean of the Wall Street Journal press releases remain one of the best ways share company news as it provides reporters accurate information, with links to supporting information, making it easier to do their jobs.

  • Business Wire Tip: If you’re looking to spice up the traditional release think about adding bullets highlighting “Just the Facts” and “Key Quotes,” which may catch the viewers’ attention. Consider adding a Click to Tweet in your sub-headline like this PRSA Austin story.  Or take it one step further like this Amazon release entirely comprised of Tweets each crafted with a different audience in mind.

These are just a few of the tips from leading journalists, but we have many more. Keep following the BusinessWired blog or contact us directly to learn more.


Journalists Offer Pitching Tips at SoCal Media Breakfast

August 6, 2012
by Kathy Tomasino, Client Services Representative, Business Wire/Newport Beach
Kathy Tomasino

Kathy Tomasino

It was a full house last month when Executives and PR professionals from Southern California attended Business Wire Newport Beach’s Meet the Media event in Costa Mesa.

The event was moderated by Daniel Rhodes, VP Public Relations at Global Results Communications, and our panel of experts included Tom Berg from the Orange County Register, Chris Casacchia from the Orange County Business Journal and Kyle Ellicott from TechZulu.

The event was focused on how to best pitch your company’s story to both local and national press and how reporters are now using social media sites such as Twitter for story leads.

Below are a few tips captured from the event:

  • Make introductions with a reporter before you pitch your story idea.
  • Reporters use social media sites such as Twitter to find story leads.
  • Email is the preferred way to pitch over a phone call.
  • Have a story and be genuine about how you present it.
  • Find a way in – use “nuggets” to grab reporters’ attention.

Although Twitter is a great resource for story ideas, Casacchia advised our audience to only tease their story ideas on such sites and to also use a wire service such as Business Wire for the full press release. (Business Wire does automatically tweet press release headlines via dozens of industry-specific feeds.)  Casacchia also recommended that you know your audience when delving into social media.  Although social sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are great outlets to promote your story ideas, you must only use the outlets that fit your company style and business as not all may work for a bank or law firm, for example.

Ellicott mentioned that mobile ads have a huge potential especially since more and more people are using their mobile phones for news and all other things.  Luckily for our clients, all Business Wire press releases automatically feed into the AP Mobile app and other mobile applications.

Berg is a great storyteller and uses sites such as Twitter for story ideas.  He recommended our audience use social media to get the buzz going about a story, although the wire is still the first place he will look for news directly from the source.

All of our speakers may be followed via Twitter at @OCStoryteller (Tom Berg); @ccasacchia (Chris Casacchia); @kyleellicott (Kyle Ellicott) and @GlobalResults (Daniel Rhodes).

 

 

 

 


Putting Makeup on Your News Release: Tips for Getting Your News on Television

June 4, 2012
by Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor
Matt Allinson

Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor

I recently had the good fortune of making my way to the Rose City (Portland, Oregon) for a media event put on by the Public Relations Society of America’s Greater Portland chapter and featuring a variety of news presenters and news producers with KATU (Channel 2 – ABC affiliate), one of the city’s fine news stations.

Discussing what it takes to get a story on the morning news show “AMNW” at KATU were morning show co-anchors Carl Click and Natali Marmion;  morning show executive producer Karen VanVleck; assignment manager Nick Bradshaw; and photographer Bob Foster.

Morning news co-anchor Carl Click discusses his use of social media.

The quintet discussed a myriad of topics from crowdsourcing, to pitching, to finding experts, to the ever-present impact of social media on television news.

Click, who has worked in the Portland television market for 29 years, marveled at the meteoric rise of social media and its impact on traditional media.  Click says that he and his co-anchor Marmion realize that a lot of their audience check their Facebook and Twitter feeds first thing in the morning so it’s important they reach out to their viewership in new ways.   “Social media has overtaken us the last two years,” he said.  “Natalie and I are now very active with Facebook and Twitter on set.”

Bradshaw, the Assignment Manager at the station since 2009, said he’s willing to take pitches via Twitter, noting that the medium and other social networking sites have become so popular that it’s impossible to ignore them.  “We have so many eyes on Twitter now,” Bradshaw said.  “Two years ago, not so much – but now, we have to pay attention to Facebook and Twitter.”

But Bradshaw mentioned that while KATU closely monitors Twitter, they’re also less likely to pay attention to those who tweet too much (aka “Twitter polluters”).

No matter how you choose to pitch KATU (or other television stations) your news, there are some important things to remember according to Bradshaw and VanVleck: 1) Keep it short; 2) Pack it full of information; and 3) Include either pictures or video (this is of the utmost importance).  TV stations won’t do much with your news if there are no visuals according to the people most responsible for putting news on air.

Another tip the group offered that is always easier said than done:  make sure your news is interesting and will provide good content for the TV station.  “We don’t repeat news, unless it’s breaking news, if we don’t have to,” VanVleck deadpanned.  She also noted that TV stations love it if they can be pointed toward the people who will be impacted by the news you are putting out.  Like any news pitch, the more homework that is done and the more that is provided only increases the likelihood of a story being picked up.

And if your aim is to weave your announcement into the morning news show, at least at KATU, you’ll want to get it to them at least three or four days in advance.  If they want to make a story of your news, they’ll need to time to do it right.  Lastly, if they do run your story, make sure to be accessible for follow-up afterward.  Too often, says Bradshaw, the station will need to follow up only have the point of contact not be reachable.  Not only does this hurt the current story, but it can hurt confidence in using that source in the future.

Happy pitching. Throw fastballs . . . no curves.


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.


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.

Email

“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

“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.”

Twitter

“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.”

Facebook

“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.”

Comments

“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.”

Phone

“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 ITDatabase.com, an online media database of technology journalists and Business Wire partner company.

Los Angeles Tech Reporters Offer Tips for Pitching Tech Media

April 6, 2011

by Amy Yen, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire Los Angeles

Last week, Business Wire LA hosted “LA-Area Technology Journalists Discuss Reporting Trends and How to Pitch Tech Media,” a media breakfast and panel discussion with technology journalists discussing what makes a good story and best practices for pitching tech media.

Sallie Olmsted (far right), Executive Vice President of Convergence at Rogers & Cowan, moderated the panel, which included (left to right):

  • Brian Deagon, Business and Technology Journalist, Investor’s Business Daily
  • David Sarno, Staff Writer, The Los Angeles Times
  • Natalie Jarvey, Reporter (Technology), Los Angeles Business Journal

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Journalists are extremely busy and have little time to look at each pitch they receive. Be succinct and get to the point immediately.  Don’t try to set up the story. In a press release, the point of the pitch needs to be in the headline or first paragraph; in an email pitch, it needs to be in the subject line. David Sarno says to think of the headline and first paragraph of a press release as the entirety of your release, because most people don’t read past that.
  • In pitches, press releases and all corporate literature, journalists value clarity and authenticity over flowery language.
  • Stories are rarely just about one product. They usually have more to do with a trend or how people are doing things differently. Think about that as context for your pitches.
  • Reporters still like face-to-face meetings, demos, visits and webinars, but just don’t have much time. Trade shows are one place where you can meet face-to-face, particularly for tech companies. Get in touch with reporters who are attending in advance.  If you’re doing a demo or webinar, make an archive available so reporters don’t feel like they only have one chance to see it. Transcripts are also helpful and should be provided promptly.
  • Although many reporters are on Twitter and Facebook, pitching by email is still generally more reliable.
  • If you are pitching over the phone, make sure you know what you’re talking about and are able to answer questions! This is especially applicable for low-level PR professionals and interns who are asked to pitch.
  • Quotes in press release do get used, especially if the reporter doesn’t have time to get a quote on their own. However, to get used, the quote must give insight and not just be a generic “this is great” type quote.
  • Most reporters will honor an embargo, but the panelists say they don’t see it as an indicator that something is important. Embargoed items get treated like any other news item.
  • If your company uses a general media inquiries mailbox (such as a press@abccompany.com type address on your website), make sure it’s monitored regularly.   If a reporter sends an inquiry to that address, it should be responded to promptly. Better yet, list your media relations person.
  • Great tech/business news sites: TechMeme, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Bloomberg.

For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/business-wire-events.

Follow Business Wire events on Twitter! Hashtag #bwevents


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 http://www.publicityclub.org.


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