Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Journalists Speak

With the buzz about social media and its applications for brand building, thought leadership, employee relations and (yes!) lead generation, the tried-and-true practice of media relations often gets overlooked. At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), cultivating relationships with influential journalists continues to be a staple of our integrated communications work on behalf of clients.

This past week my colleague Karen Miller participated in a teleseminar titled “How to Pitch Reporters.” It featured writers from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Associated Press who shared best practices, as well as cautionary tales.

Beyond the typical gripes about PR practitioners (i.e. please read the publication before pitching us), the journalists shared some good insights about how they are also tapping into social media to identify stories and manage the reporting process.

With Karen’s permission, I have included below her notes from the teleseminar.


-Lisa Belkin, Contributing Writer for the New York Times Magazine, and author of "Life's Work, Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom"

-Shelly Banjo, personal finance reporter for The Wall Street Journal Sunday. She also writes two columns related to Gen-Y, called "Starting Out" and the Journal Women's "Fast Track."

-Abby Ellin, Former NYT columnist, frequent NYT contributor, author of "Teenage Waistland: A Former Fat Kid Weighs in on Living Large, Losing Weight and How Parents Can (and Can't) Help."

-Megan Scott, Reporter for the Associated Press

-Good to send email with no pitch and just list clients you have that may be on interest to them at some point as a way to establish a relationship

-Don’t want to be contacted via Facebook or Twitter

-Facebook is creepy, don’t want to be your friend on Facebook, it’s a business relationship, difficult to respond to Facebook messages from a Blackberry

-Right to the point in pitches in the first sentence is best

-From a pitch want to know something they don’t already know

-Point out if others are doing what you’re pitching, need multiple sources

-Recent profiles in competitors make most reporters not want to talk to you for awhile (“I want virgins”)

-Contacting multiple reporters at one time: prefer to get exclusive offers, if ccing the world make sure not to include everyone’s name in the TO: field

-Subject line best practices: idea – put reporter’s name in subject line or at least topic of email

-Best pitches: specificity of how it could be a story

-They do check Junk Folder, if don’t respond means it is not a good pitch, bugging a reporter with follow-up is not good

-If don’t hear back in a week, move on

-AP & NYT: only go to event if covering them, wining and dining doesn’t work, not allowed to let publicists by a cup of coffee or dinner

-Physical press kits: electronic is preferred

-Pdf or in body of email: either is fine, some wanted both, a lot is being read on Blackberrys or iPhones

-Don’t send pictures unless requested

-Press releases don’t work well for these reporters, can’t remember last time they did a story based on a press release

-Don’t like cheesy mailers, waste of money is painful

-Get a lot of ideas from blogs

-SEO is money well spent, first thing reporters do is a Google search, important to come up high on the page

-Blogs are very important right now, the reporters are big fish eating the small fish, but over time reporters will become the bloggers

-Reporters do pass pitches to other reporters when they think it’s relevant, but get irritated when you just pitch everyone within one paper

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