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.


Journalist Networking Secrets from Inside the Wire

March 13, 2012

by Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire/Chicago

The purpose of media relations was beat into my head by my college PR professor — she often said, “The goal is to develop mutually beneficial relationships with the media.”

This definition very closely mirrors the Public Relations Society of America’s new definition of Public Relations. Only she never gave me an exact formula for achieving that goal.

So we decided to share our advice on how Business Wire’s Media Relations Team uses networking events and journalism groups to build relationships with members of the media.  One thing we’ve learned; while starting these relationships may happen in email or social networks, building them will require more face-to-facing and less “Facebooking.”

Luis Guillen

Luis Guillen

Networking Events – The Introduction

Ice breaking is an art form but it is not brain surgery, especially if you do your homework first.  Luis Guillen, our media relations representative for Southern California, says he researches the media people he expects to see at upcoming events beforehand.  “I like sports, so knowing what schools they went to helps me use sports and hometown information to connect.” Luis bonded with several reporters over small hometown familiarities at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Florida this past summer.  This led to new media connections he’s further fostered since returning to Los Angeles.

We’ve been taught to master our elevator pitch, but sometimes you have to take the stairs.  Maryana Bradas, who supervises our entire east coast team of media relations specialists, says:

Maryana Bradas

Engage in casual conversation,” especially when seated at a luncheon table.  “As long as they are relatively talkative your discussion will go all over the place.  Both parties will get a chance to talk about what they do and you can tell if you will have a good fit for further connecting.”

Maryana sits on the Press Club of Cleveland’s Board of Directors and attends the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional and national conventions. “As the conversation winds down you can go for the business card exchange.  That’s a natural progression.”

The Association of Women Journalists – Chicago(AWJ) has only in recent years established an associate level of membership.

Karen Kring

Karen Kring

Karen Kring, past president of the chapter, warns against pitching their members at events:

“Pitching is for when they are on the clock more formally. Turn it around; become the reporter . . . You not only want to know their beat, but what specifically within their beat they are paying most attention to so that you’ll know what kind of information or stories they might be receptive to in the future. If you have a story in mind, ask them if they’d be receptive to your follow up with them later.”

Journalist Groups – Getting in and Standing out

Raschanda Hall

Raschanda Hall

I take an alphabet soup approach to networking.  I’m everywhere, all the time.  NABJ, PCC, SPJ, SABEW, AWJ, ONA etc.  I talk to everybody and give every discussion my properly undivided attention, but to really connect with reporters through journalist organizations you have to put in some work; committee work and chapter board member work.  In these roles your work is selfless, and when done right, you build trust and get more immediate access to editors and reporters who can help you when you need it.  Now, this won’t save you from a front page crisis, but it could get you the heads-up that it’s coming.  An organization I was once involved in turned down sponsorship money from a competitor because they felt the competitor was trying to buy their way into the position I had gained through sweat equity.  In that single act my volunteer efforts paid off.

Dawn Roberts is Managing Partner of KD Communications in Delaware.  She also serves as Associate Member Board Representative

Dawn Roberts

for the National Association of Black JournalistsIt’s a position she is passionate about.  NABJ’s annual convention draws thousands of reporters and hundreds of PR people every year.  Her advice to PR folks: Attend media events so that you have an opportunity to meet journalists in person. And volunteer for a media organization. [It’s] a great way to meet journalists!”


PRSAIcon 2011 Recap: Eight Key Takeaways, From Storytelling to Link Tracking

October 19, 2011

by Amy Yen, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire Los Angeles

Business Wire at PRSAIcon 2011This week, Business Wire was once again a proud sponsor and exhibitor at the 2011 PRSA International Conference, aka #PRSAIcon. Our conference team had a great time meeting so many of our amazing clients in person and learning the latest about the always changing PR industry. We tweeted updates on our @businesswire feed throughout the conference of interesting lessons from many of the keynotes and sessions. Here are eight key takeaways:

  1. PR is about storytelling. It was only appropriate in Orlando, home to the most magical place on earth, that the unofficial theme of the conference was storytelling. Opening keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien of CNN talked about storytelling being more than a statistic. You have to find the character behind the statistic & tell the story with their passion. The closing keynote speaker, Joe Rohde from Disney, talked about compelling stories coming from the interruptions in expected patterns. “We don’t have time for things we think we already know.”
  2. Video and visuals make for compelling storytelling. YouTube is the number two search engine in the world behind Google. Video makes for great content and is not as expensive as it’s perceived to be. (After all, every phone is a camera.) It’s also a good idea to get your executives on video talking about your brand . . . it helps qualify them as spokespeople for journalists.
  3. Customer service is the new black. Like it or not, part of PR is now customer service. In fact, thanks to social media, PR people are often the first to hear about the problems. There is still a level of awe right now if you just reply when your customers try to talk to you.
  4. Media training is not just a C-suite sport anymore. Keynote speaker Chris Brogan talked about how everyone is on some kind of media these days, so everyone should be trained. Soledad O’Brien discussed media training from a journalist’s perspective, saying passion and emotion can’t be trained. Ultimately, what people relate to is the authenticity and passion behind the messaging points.
  5. You can’t ignore Google+. Chris Brogan pointed out that you have to care about Google+, if only because it’s the only social network currently being indexed on the top two search engines in the world. Every PR professional should at least be conversational about it. Additionally, Google+ profiles can help with personal online presence since it ranks so highly on Google. Optimize your title and introduction and include links to all your other sites and networks, as those appear in your search results.
  6. Empower your employees on social media. If you’re terrified to give control to others in your organization, you will not be successful in social media. Train them and have a social media policy so you can be. Your policy should be short and understandable without legal assistance and should be in every new hire’s packet when they start.
  7. If it can be searched for, it can be optimized. Keyword optimize your blog posts, landing pages, press releases, online newsrooms, multimedia and social content. In press releases, optimize in the headline and subhead, include links and a call-to-action. For photos and other multimedia, optimize the file name of the file you are uploading, include alt text and captions.
  8. We are all fighting for budgets. PR should get credit for the leads it generates. Set goals before your campaign so you can track conversions with tools like Google Analytics. Track traffic with tools like Google URL builder, which tags your URLs so you know where your link clicks are coming from (press release versus AdWords versus Facebook ads, etc).

At the conference, we also announced our new partnership with Critical Mention, which will provide clients with access to Critical Mention’s real-time television and radio monitoring platform. As an introductory promotion, Business Wire clients who subscribe with Critical Mention for 2012 will receive the remainder of 2011 at no charge.

We’d also like to congratulate Elizabeth Rowland at Strat-igence, who was the winner of our iPad Giveaway. And thanks again to PRSA, the speakers and all the attendees for a great conference!


PRSA International Conference Preview: See you in Orlando!

October 14, 2011

by Amy Yen, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire Los Angeles

Heading to the PRSA International Conference this week? So are we! We’re looking forward to meeting PR professionals from across the country and learning about the latest trends and developments in the industry.

Don’t forget to come by and see us at Booth #401/403 for fun giveaways and a chance to win an iPad2.  We’ll have our team of experts on-hand to discuss our entire suite of public relations services, including:

While you’re at the show, take advantage of free one-on-one demonstrations of our dynamic NewsHQ Online Newsroom solution conducted by our online newsroom expert Ibrey Woodall.  You’ll learn how a better online newsroom can benefit your organization. Contact your local account executive or email Conferences2011@businesswire.com to schedule your free consultation.  We have times available all day Sunday and Monday.

Business Wire’s Laura Sturaitis, Executive VP of Media Services & Product Strategy, will be speaking with Greg Jarboe, president of SEO-PR, at a session called “Maximizing Press Release Performance Online” on Tuesday, October 18 at 9:45 a.m. ET in Palazzo Salon E.   You won’t want to miss their presentation of the results of an 18-month study on online press release performance and the strategies and best practices for optimizing press releases to increase traffic and engagement with key landing pages and websites.

Follow live updates from the conference on Twitter @BusinessWire.   Hope to see you there!


Media Relations in the Digital Age Event Recap

July 15, 2010

by Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire DC

Members of the Business Wire/DC team were in attendance at Media Relations in the Digital Age held at the US Navy Memorial & Heritage Center on Wednesday, July 14th.  The event, which was organized by the Professional Development Committee of the PRSA – National Capital Chapter, welcomed four journalists – Ceci Connolly, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, Greg Ip and Jordan Rau – to discuss “how to fearlessly pitch big-league media and get big-time results.”

Ceci Connolly

Ceci Connolly

Ceci Connolly is the national health policy correspondent for the Washington Post.  She has been a staff writer at the Post for over a decade and has covered politics, health care and several major disasters.  Prior to joining the newspaper in 1997, she covered politics for Congressional Quarterly and worked at the Washington bureau of the St. Petersburg Times.

According to Ceci, public relations practitioners need to think strategically about which news organizations they are targeting.  “The more you can be targeted, the more you can be effective,” she said.  Assist reporters by providing factual information with credible sources, understanding deadlines and knowing what beats they cover.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for the Washington bureau of Marketplace.  Previously, she worked as a newscaster for NPR and WAMC in Albany, New York, as well as an anchor at Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Nancy reminded the audience that “the early bird gets the worm.”  Send pitches with plenty of lead time and plan events around days when journalists may not be as busy.  Mondays, Fridays and holidays work best.  Marketplace will generally be seeking out stories during these times.

Greg Ip

Greg Ip

Greg Ip is U.S. Economics Editor for The Economist and also contributes to The Economist’s blog Free Exchange.  Before joining The Economist in 2008, he served as chief economics correspondent of the Wall Street Journal and created the paper’s online blog Real Time Economics.

According to Greg, reporters at The Economist are generally looking for experts with deep knowledge about the subjects they are covering.  He suggests inserting your organization into the context of a story.  “Describe why something affects you in a positive or negative way.  Examples are very valuable,” he said.

Jordan Rau

Jordan Rau

Jordan Rau is a reporter for Kaiser Health News.  His KHN stories have been featured in publications such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as news sites including NPR.org and MSNBC.com.  Prior to joining Kaiser Health News, he covered government and health care politics for the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Concord Monitor.

When it comes to public relations, Jordan recommends focusing on “people, data and dish.”  Find people who are affected by the issue your organization is concerned about and truly illustrate the story.  Provide quantifiable data which can easily be used in a story.  Finally, don’t be afraid to dish out information about your competitors.  “Some of the most successful people in public relations are the experts in opposition research,” he said.  Pitches that suggest conflict with competitors often get more attention than stories that highlight your organization’s own products, services or success.


Press Release Battle Groups: Lessons Learned from the USS Midway

November 9, 2009

The PRSA’s International Conference held its opening ceremonies on the deck of the USS Midway last night.

From 1945 to 1992, the USS Midway patrolled the world’s oceans with an entourage of support vessels. Destroyers, submarines, shipsanti-aircraft & anti-sub ships, tankers, and supply ships were all part of a battle group designed to support the success and well-being of the Midway and her crew.

In today’s PR world, social media is an unavoidable reality. But it must be viewed as one of many tools that work in concert to satisfy an overall communications plan.

Imagine a press release playing the part of the USS Midway. The Midway has gone through many overhauls to bring it up to speed with emerging technology and to satisfy the demands of modern warfare.

Press releases have also evolved (they are NOT dead, contrary to the beliefs of many). They have moved away from being plain-jane text documents and have literally become mini-web pages that can, with creative and audience appropriate formatting & layouts, provide readers with a visual & interactive entity designed to satisfy the needs of modern information consumption..

As the “carrier” of content, the press release alone is a powerful tool. But in today’s ever changing communications world it is not enough.

Enter the press release battle group – Twitter, Digg, Facebook, etc. All have vital roles to play in today’s b2b and b2c corporate communications environment. They support the success & well-being of the release by expanding the reach, stickiness, and visibility of the content.

As formidable as they are, aircraft carriers need their battle group to maximize their full potential. Social media offers up similar support for the press release.

What do you think?

-Malcolm Atherton, Account Executive/New Media Specialist, Business Wire Phoenix

Follow Malcolm at PRSA 09 on Twitter: @businesswire


Value – Public Relations Style

November 6, 2009

It’s fitting given the economic mess of 2009 that the theme of this years International PRSA conference is “delivering value”.

Public relations practitioners have not only fought lowered budgets, slow business development, and shrinking client/prospect pools, but they have also had to do battle with social/emerging media and an entirely new way of doing business.

2009 – in no other terms – has been challenging. However, in this writers opinion there has never been a better time for companies to harness the power of trained PR professionals – pay quality people in the worst of times to do what they do best to get results.

This will be my 2nd PRSA conference and I can attest that these events offer all comers opportunities to leave San Diego with the ability to so their job better than before.

Business Wire will be there, and like the educational sessions occurring throughout the conference, we also can provide you with tools and knowledge to help you enhance your performance. From release distribution to social media trends to release optimization input and tips, we’ve got the means and the know-how to help.

It is fitting that the opening ceremonies took place on an aircraft carrier – just as it has defended the US and provided support for those in need, it now offers PR pros with a location to regroup and attack their jobs with newly learned skills and confidence.

-Malcolm Atherton, Account Executive/New Media Specialist, Business Wire Phoenix

Follow Malcolm at PRSA 09 on Twitter: @businesswire


Business Wire at PRSA

November 3, 2009

The PRSA 2009 International Conference begins this Saturday, Nov. 7 in San Diego, and as always, Business Wire will be there, showing you our latest innovations in press release delivery and demonstrating how our high-tech platform beats the competitors with simultaneous delivery, integrated multimedia, superior social media capabilities and more.  Here are some of the highlights of our participation in PRSA:

  • Laura Sturaitis, SVP, Media Services and Product Strategy, will once again join forces with Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR to update their popular “What’s the ROI of Your Press Release?” session to be presented on Tuesday, Nov 10th. “Greg and I are going to share  some of the new trends we are seeing in global search, social media engagement and using multimedia to tell your story and how you can determine what is working for you,” says Laura.
  • Malcolm Atherton, account executive from our Phoenix office, will be handling our Twitter duties live from PRSA — make sure to follow @BusinessWire to get on-the-ground reports from our booth, sessions, workshops and more.  Malcolm, who is heavily involved in the PR and social media communities in Arizona, has his own very informative Twitter feed as well; get to know him before the show at @MalcolmAtherton.
  • We’ll be at Booth #73 with our “Business Wire is HD” presentation, showing you that distributing your press release over Business Wire is, well, just better.  A more attractive press release with embedded hyperlinks, optimized keywords, wider earnings tables, easily downloadable video and pictures, social media sharing . . . come see for yourself why Business Wire is the one to use.  While you’re there, enter your name in a daily drawing for a chance to win a Blu-Ray player, and pick up a special gift, too!
We look forward to seeing you all in San Diego!

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