As media budgets are tightening and new social media sites are popping up left and right, they are varying the ways we can connect with reporters. We as PR professionals are constantly changing our media relations strategy. Tuesday night, three members of our public relations team here at 451 Marketing, attended a panel hosted by the Pub Club of New England, where several members of the Boston media unraveled a part of that equation and lent some insights from “the other side”, about how we can improve our pitching content and strategy such as how to get that elusive product coverage. On the panel were Jim Finkle (@techwriterjim),technology and cyber security reporter for Reuters; Katie Johnston (@ktkjohnston), business reporter for the Boston Globe; Erin Kutz (@erkutz), associate editor for Xconomy.com; Lisa van der Pool (@lvanderpool), CBS Boston contributor and reporter for the Boston Business Journal and Joe Roche (@BostonNewsGuy), news assignment manager for WCVB-TV.
- Deadline Awareness: All the panelists emphasized how important it is for PR professionals to be aware of publication deadlines. While PR professionals are always eager to get news out to media ASAP, even non-breaking news, it’s beneficial to do your homework and be aware of the recipients’ schedules – which can vary based on their type of media.Joe noted that while early morning is the best time to reach him with news for broadcast, the worst times are when he first gets into the office (7 a.m.) and right before they go on air. As for the print dailies, late morning or early afternoon is the best time to capture their attention. Lisa pointed out that the Boston Business Journal’s deadline day is Wednesday, so it’s best to avoid pitching on that day. Katie recommended not contacting the Globe at 3 or 4 p.m. While we always double check the time before sending out a pitch, this is a good reminder to make sure we do that every time!
- Product News Pitching –One attendee brought up a good inquiry – since a popular announcement for clients is new product news, what is the best way to entice the media to cover them? The panelists confirmed something we’ve heard many times: they will rarely cover straight product news. However, there are a few ways to make the information interesting to the media:Tie the news into company strategy. Does the new product reflect a recent shift in what the company is doing as a whole?Explore other angles related to the company. Is there an interesting story about the CEO or a non-profit initiative the company is doing?
- Going beyond your client list when pitching trends – When asked what makes a really strong pitch, Katie made a great point that a lot of us lose sight of when writing trend pitches. According to her, using examples in your pitch from companies or brands that aren’t your clients not only shows a reporter that you’ve done your research and know the industry, but establishes your pitch as an actual trend; rather than merely news from your client. As PR professionals, we are constantly getting pressure from clients to get media coverage and it’s easy to put our blinders on and only focus on using their examples. Katie’s advice is a great reminder that looking at the bigger picture and staying on top of industry news pays off and gives you a better shot at your pitch becoming a story.
- “On Background” versus “Off the Record” – One question that came up at the event was whether or not to advise clients to say things as “off the record.” As PR practitioner, our general rule of thumb is that nothing is ever off the record; however the panel seemed to be much more laid back about that question (or maybe we just had an especially lovely handful of journalists at this event!). Katie then explained to the audience the difference between “on background” and “off the record.” “On background” means that your client can offer information; however, saying upfront that it’s on background means that the journalist won’t attribute them as the source for the information. Depending on the journalist, they’ll either find a different source for the information or leave it as anonymous. When advising our clients, however, we think we’ll still stick with our “nothing is off the record” mantra and play it safe.
- Twitter Pitching versus Email Pitching – More often than not, the subject of how social media affects journalism comes up at these types of events. Internally at agencies, Twitter seems to be the “next big thing” when connecting with journalists, and Laura had even been to “Twitter Pitching” seminars. However, we were so glad a member of the audience asked the panelists if they like to be pitched via Twitter because the resounding answer was “no!” They urged PR pros to stick with “old fashioned” email and phone. That’s not to say that they aren’t on Twitter, though – they are there and they are listening. Most panelists use Twitter as a news source and say it’s an especially useful tool for following influencers in their beat’s space. So, note to fellow PR folks, get those execs on Twitter and talkin’!
We would like to thank Katie, Lisa, Jim, Joe and Erin for sharing their insights and helping us to improve the way we reach out to and connect with them and to the Pub Club for organizing such a great panel!
Were there any takeaways that surprised you? If you are on the receiving end of PR pitches, do you have any tips to add? Check out the event with #pubclubofne hashtag and tweet us at @451heat.