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.


Seeing the Big Picture: How PR Pros Can Use Infographics to Tell a Story

April 17, 2012
by Shawnee Cohn, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/NY
MRT

Shawnee Cohn

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about a thousand hits? Defined as “graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge,” infographics are more likely to be shared via social media than your standard text article. Therefore, both journalists and PR professionals are taking notice of this visual phenomenon. (Need some examples? Take a look at this slideshow from Mashable).

Here at Business Wire, we encourage clients to create infographics and include them as Smart News release assets in their press releases. For example, Kaplan Test Prep recently utilized an infographic to summarize their annual survey results. Convio also offered a visual look at the data included within their press release about online giving, and Mashable later republished that same infographic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So if you’re a PR professional embarking on the infographic challenge, what do you need to know beforehand? The Publicity Club of New York recently hosted a discussion about these popular visual representations of data. The panel included:

Here are some highlights offered by the experts:

Infographics help us cope with information overload: With the abundance of raw data that is available to consumers today, the average person’s “attention span is declining,” and infographics are an effective way to spark a reader’s interest, says Spurlock. Pachal agreed, stating that infographics are “more clickable” than other multimedia, such as video, which may turn a reader off since it usually requires sound, as well as investing more time to watch. Consequently, including the word ‘Infographic’ in your press release headline is a great tactic to increase your number of hits.

Not all infographics are created equal: If you’re compiling numbers into a graphic, yet those numbers do not relate, the purpose of the infographic is lost, notes Spurlock. Bergmann agreed, suggesting that PR pros evaluate the usefulness of an infographic on a “story-to-story basis.” At the Associated Press, staffers are very interested in interactive graphics as well as animations. However, Neesa pointed out that “not every story renders well into a visual,” and PR pros should be cautious of jumping to the assumption that every poll translates into a legitimate news story. The panelists agreed that pitching an infographic that blatantly promotes your brand is a major faux pas. If your visual looks the least bit like propaganda, any legitimate news organization will be reluctant to post it, as it could hurt their brand value, says Bergmann.

Be clear and concise; editors and readers will thank you: One of the main advantages of creating an infographic is that it allows you to “mold and present information in a way that’s clear to the reader,” commented Bergmann. If you cram too much information into your graphic, you’re defeating its original purpose. Pachal mentioned that your infographic should easily translate to Pinterest, which drives much of the online traffic today. Whether you’re pitching an idea for an infographic or an actual infographic itself, make sure you are presenting “tabulated, nugget-style information,” suggests Neesa. Focus on how you can break the product/idea up; if your information is already organized for the visual staff at a news outlet, this makes their job that must easier. Lastly, stick to the facts, and facts only. The editorial team will vet and research the data you present before they post or link to your infographic, so you must be absolutely sure that your methodology and sampling are valid beforehand.

For more information on the Publicity Club of NY, visit www.publicityclub.org. You can get the latest news with photos/multimedia by registering at www.businesswire.com.


Tweeting the Campaign: Three Ways Social Media is Changing the Way Reporters Cover the Election

March 5, 2012
by Shawnee Cohn, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/New York
MRT

Shawnee Cohn

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently proposed that 2012 is going to be the year of the “Twitter Election,” referring to the power that the social network offers presidential candidates to engage with voters.

Not only are candidates contributing to the Twitter conversation, but the media is also breaking important campaign news in 140 characters or less. Here at Business Wire, we offer all of our Public Policy and Election news at the Twitter handle @BW_PublicPolicy.

In response to this trend in news distribution, Twitter recently created an official account, @TwitterForNews, which offers tips for journalists on how to cover the 2012 election most effectively.

As part of Social Media Week, The New York Times hosted a panel discussion which delved deeper into the topic of how social media impacts political coverage. The panel featured:

The panelists offered compelling evidence for the argument that social media is critical when sending out your election-related news. Here are some highlights of how journalists utilize Twitter and other social networks:

To monitor breaking news: Stevenson stated that “every political reporter uses Twitter as a news feed all day long.” Smith agreed, admitting that he now heavily relies on Twitter traffic, in addition to some RSS news feeds, to get the day’s headlines. Instead of tuning in to watch the debates on television, one could simply scan all of the highlights by solely reading relevant tweets, noted Hamby. However, both Hamby and Stevenson advised that it is important to occasionally detach yourself from Twitter. Taking a step outside the Twitter realm helps journalists to avoid snap judgments and observe the opinions of those who are not as involved with the social network. Being that reporters rely on various mediums to get their news, it is important to send out your message on multiple platforms, such as a news wire, Twitter, mobile alerts, etc.

To accurately relay readers’ real concerns: Michel discussed how social media offers journalists the capacity to “systematically engage people” and therefore “find stories that you wouldn’t otherwise.” Smith also uses Twitter as a “place to find questions” from the public, rather than answers. Social networks allow the media to get a feel for what people are wondering about, and to consequently be more responsible to their audience, said Stevenson. For example, in the recent cases of the Komen/Planned Parenthood decision and the SOPA bill, journalists monitored the negative reactions to the policy choices on social networks and chose to report on the backlash in depth. The Washington Post places importance on reflecting “what’s happening socially,” and incorporating the “conversation around things” into their reports, says Zamora.

To interact with other political reporters:  Stevenson explained there is a “clubhouse effect” when it comes to political reporters; they tend to engage in discussion with one another and this can sometimes lead to a closed feedback loop. This creates a sort of “virtual spin room” that plays out in real-time. You can watch and learn from this ongoing conversation by following multiple political journalists (you must follow both users on Twitter to be able to see @ messages). It is also critical to establish yourself as a credible source if you are trying to gain the attention of any number of these reporters. CNN and other major media will not report anything on Twitter that they would not report on any other platform – a valid source is always essential.

For more information on Social Media Week, visit socialmediaweek.org.You can find the latest election/campaign news by registering at www.businesswire.com, or by following @BWPolitics and @BW_PublicPolicy.


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