Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the PRSA-NJ panel discussion on Tools of the Trade: Effective Online News sponsored by BurrellesLuce. The event was held at the beautiful Monmouth University campus and had a great turnout of emerging journalists and up-and-coming publicists.
The panel had one consistent message across the board for students and professionals in attendance:
- Know who you are pitching.
- Know your news hook.
- Be relevant, specific and succinct.
Judith Feeney — digital editor for NJ Press Media, Asbury Park Press (app.com), Daily Record (dailyrecord.com), the Home News Tribune, and the Courier News — started the discussion by reminding us there are a vast number of new tools and a lot less time to get the job done. She suggested that PR and media relations professionals need to become familiar with all of the tools out there. Know who you are pitching and don’t blanket your pitch to multiple people. Look at the type of material the publication and journalist produces and tailor your pitch accordingly.
Christopher Sheldon, the Long Branch editor of Patch.com, a hyperlocal publication, said to make sure to include the who, what, where, when and why in the first paragraph. If it’s not local to his area, he cannot write about it. His audience is looking for community news.
Christy Potter Kass, assistant editor of The Alternative Press, agreed with Chris and said her publication is also hyperlocal and stories must tie into the values and interests of local readers. She emphasized not to confuse hyperlocal publications with national publications. When asked the definition of “hyperlocal,” Christy said the more local the story the better. News must be about something going on in town or have a connection to the community.
Joan Bosisio, group vice president of Stern & Associates said that (with all the recent layoffs) PR people have an opportunity to help journalists, who are working on stories, do their jobs. Journalists are now doing more than one job and by presenting them with not only the story, but the materials to help them write the story (e.g., video, spokespeople and social media) you make their job easier.
Kristine Brown oversees PR for St. Barnabas Health, the state’s largest hospital system. She gave us some real life examples of crisis communications and advised that essential PR skills have not changed with all the new online tools available. Kristine said you still need to know your audience, know your story, cultivate relationships with the media (this has helped her in time of crisis) and move at the same pace the news is moving.
As for journalists and PR professionals alike, essential skills include: spelling, grammar, and attention to detail. The ability to take your own photos, as a journalist, will also help prospective media professionals stand out.
How are you using online tools to help you connect with journalists and the media? As a member of the media, what other ways can PR and communications professionals work with you to get their stories out? Please leave your comments below on BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.
*Bio: Colleen Flood has been a sales consultant with BurrellesLuce for over 12 years and is eager to become a more integrated part of the social-public relations community. She primarily handles agency relations in the New York and New Jersey metro-area. She is not only passionate about work, but also about family, friends, and the Jersey Shore. Twitter: @cgflood LinkedIn: Colleen Flood Facebook: BurrellesLuce