Posts Tagged ‘journalism’


Ethics, Leadership and Accuracy: Amy Robach on her 20 Years in Journalism

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
Amy Robach PRSA 2014 BurrellesLuce Crystal DeGoede Public Relations PR Software Press Clipping Media Monitoring

Keynote speaker Roback in a 2008 photo via Wikimedia Commons author Gradient drift

Television news journalist Amy Robach kicked off the PRSA 2014 International Conference as keynote speaker at the opening general session. Robach is known for her role as anchor on Good Morning America and has nearly 20 years of journalism experience. Since joining ABC, she has covered a number of high-profile stories from the Oscar Pistorius trial to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia to the birth of Prince George and a live, televised mammogram that diagnosed her breast cancer. I had the pleasure of attending Amy’s keynote and here are some key takeaways for all PR/Journalism pros.

How do practitioners – especially women – set themselves apart as journalists?

By being the first one in and the last one to leave and having unbridled enthusiasm. Never be afraid to work that triple shift; you have to have the right mindset and mentality to do this job.

How do you set your emotions apart from your work?

As a journalist you experience some of the worst and best things that can happen to a country, a family or and individual.

Why do you think there are some few female leaders and how do you think that can be changed?

In so many corporate cultures it is still a men’s club and it’s hard sometimes for women to be taken seriously. We shouldn’t walk into our boss’s office and say “I’m sorry to disturb you” because we need something. We have to teach ourselves as women that we don’t need to apologize for everything.

Journalists are always asked to get the story fast; how do you handle that and make sure it is accurate?

Speed should never affect accuracy. You have to make sure you are responsible and ethical in the information you are providing.

Discuss a time when ethics came into play and how you handled it.

It was actually a time when I was reporting live from SkyFox helicopter here in Washington, D.C. and we were there to give breaking news for all the morning shows. There was a moment when we were flying over a river and we saw a dead body floating and there was a car parked on the bridge and the folks on the station wanted me to report on this story. And I had learned a long time ago that you never report on suicides or bomb scares. So I turned the camera off and put up the color bars so they couldn’t take the shot.

What advice can you offer for achieving a work-life balance?

It is a constant struggle keeping my family life as good as I want it to be while still doing the best at my job. I put the phone away as soon as I get home, but I do have to check it every thirty minutes or so. I make sure I am there to pick the kids up from school and help them with their homework because I am not there in the mornings. You can be a mom and you can be a working mom.

How do you balance the need for speed and accuracy? Do you find that getting ahead as a woman requires working harder and longer?

5 Ways to Improve Your PR Writing With Explanatory Journalism

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

5 Ways to Improve Your Writing with Explanatory Journalism Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasExplanatory journalism is very popular right now, but it isn’t new; explanatory articles like “The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About ___” really jibe with the digital age, but the Pulitzer Prize Committee started awarding prizes for explanatory journalism back in 1985.

Explanatory journalism is, to use Digiday’s definition, a form of reporting that attempts to present nuanced, ongoing news stories in a more accessible manner. Basically, it’s explaining complicated topics in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way.

So how can that help you in your daily PR writing?

Roy Peter Clark at Poynter took a look at many explanatory pieces and determined the most common and effective strategies for good explanatory journalism, strategies you can apply in your press releases, pitches, and general copy to make your information more understandable to journalists and your audience. Here are some of Clark’s most relevant tips:

Envision the general audience

This is basically a rewording of the PR truism “know your audience.”  Envision your reader: what do they want to know, what context do they already have, and what do they care about, then frame your content around that. It’s a good exercise to do for every pitch or press release you send.

Don’t clutter leads

Yes, in a press release we’re “supposed to” include all the relevant information in the first sentence. But (good) sentences are finite; cramming in every single tidbit into one sentence is going to make it confusing and unreadable. Choose the most relevant information – not all the relevant information.

Also, don’t bury the lead in the clutter of extraneous information. Lead with the most salient bit first – don’t let it get lost in the shuffle.

Slow down the pace of information

Picture your pace of information like a gradual incline, not a vertical spike. Given time and space constraints, it’s easy to give into the desire to dump in all your information and run, but that’s a GIGO approach that won’t pay off.

Slowing down the information pace does not mean slowing down your writing; it means introducing facts and concepts one at a time and triaging what’s really necessary. It shouldn’t make your writing longer; it should make it clearer, more succinct, and easier to read and comprehend.

Develop a chronology

Something that can help with pacing is to envision your press release like a chain of events. Just as the groundwork must be laid for an action and its consequences, establish what the reader must learn in the first sentence in order to understand what comes next. This chronology will help your flow and increase the reader’s comprehension.

Tell it to “Mom” (or “Dad”)

You may think that your topic speaks for itself, but that is often not the case. What can seem straightforward and obvious to you will not seem that way to a lot of other people. So pretend your mom or dad is going to be reading your press release or pitch; would they understand your main points? Would they actually understand what the product is for or what you’re announcing? This is also a good exercise in slowing the pace of your information.

Finally, remember this gem from Clark: “When writers face and master the challenge of meeting the reader’s needs, they practice one of the truest and purest forms of journalism.”

Print Is Dead, Print Isn’t Dead: The “Chinatown” Scenario of a Shifting Media Model

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Print Is Dead, Print Isn’t Dead: The “Chinatown” Scenario of a Shifting Media Model  Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasIf you happened to be searching for information on the state of print media, you’d encounter a classic Chinatown (spoiler alert) contradiction: Print is dying, it’s not dying, it’s dying, it’s not dying, it’s dying and it’s not dying!

Every morning, BurrellesLuce creates and distributes a daily briefing culling articles about the industry, and nearly every day there is an article extolling print’s comeback, and the next day, one about its continued decline. Time Inc. is laying off workers, but The Washington Post is expanding. Newspaper The Los Angeles Register will debut in print, but do print magazines have a future? Fashion magazines are posting growth in ad pages, but ad dollars are getting stretched thin by all the new website offshoots.

Newspaper publishers are losing money, CNN laid off 40 senior journalists, and many newspapers are now going without photojournalists and instead relying on citizens with smartphones. And yet, California newspapers will be carrying a new Sunday print magazine, and Net-a-Porter just launched its own print magazine. Sales of hardcover books were up last year, while sales of ebooks were down.

With print’s evolution of both expansion and contraction, perhaps the death proclamations are due not to the actual dying of traditional print media, but due instead to the fact that we call it “traditional” and “print.” In using the “traditional” label, we condemn print to a stuffy, rigid, outdated image when that emerging print publications are being integrated into online publications’ business models.

In talking about “print” and its death, perhaps what we’re referring to is not wholly the paper medium itself, but edited, high-quality journalistic content. It’s not a dead art form, but it is being overshadowed – and dominated – by online media powerhouses that have ushered in a new era of image-heavy, conversational, meme-focused free digital content.

This isn’t to say that modern online journalism is lesser than the content that preceded it, as many exclusively online sites provide insightful reporting alongside fun, sharable content. But the nature of crowd-sourced content creation, varying editorial standards, and prevalence of misinformation make online content as a whole a much more volatile medium.

It’s not just the “traditional” “print” media that’s suffering; publications are trying new strategies like native advertising, hiring more reporters and focusing on hyper-local news, and even those dynamic online outlets are scrambling to get by –  The Huffington Post has yet to post a profit and may even enact a paywall, and now digital magazine Slate will introduce a paid membership plan.

So perhaps what we’re talking about is more than a Chinatown scenario: it’s a shift in writing and reporting styles that’s tough to define, and a desire for free content that makes it tough for any online or paper medium to get by.

What’s your take on this shifting media model?

Smart Tactics for Media Pitching Success

Monday, November 11th, 2013
by Flickr user Keith Allison

by Flickr user Keith Allison

We’re all pretty familiar with the changes the digital age has wrought on media, but successfully pitching stories to journalists and reporters is still seemingly a fraught game of luck. At the PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia last month, I attend the session “New Secrets of Media Pitching Success” presented by Michael Smart. Smart offered concrete tips to reduce pitching-related anxiety and frustration.

He admits that it’s harder than ever to reach media influencers, but on an encouraging note, says it’s easier than ever to land big coverage once you break through. Here are some of Smart’s tips for effective pitching.

Create newsworthy angles: Tie your pitch into the media’s agenda – what current event, holiday, season, or fad does it relate to? [Avoid, however, tying your product into National (insert item here) Day. Smart says the only National ___ Day that ever gets coverage is National Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19).]

He offers the example of a dull scientific paper about satiation from sensory stimulation. On it’s own, didn’t sound newsworthy, but it was spun into the extensively-covered story, Instagram will ruin your dinner, linking it to a hot social media trend as well as the ever-trending subject of health and weight loss.

Link to a trend: Or even better, alert the journalist to the presence of a new trend. Smart’s real-life example: In a pitch to a journalist, a PR rep for Sweet Leaf Iced Tea linked their raspberry iced tea with the trend of raspberry ketones, which supposedly aid in burning fat and spurring weight loss. The PR pro made sure to include other raspberry products (even those she didn’t rep) and plenty of information about ketones, effectively “writing everything but the byline,” says Smart.

Seek great visuals: Smart’s example was about a student who won a small state competition building nanotubes 20 atoms wide, a microscopic size and unenticing visual, and therefore tough to publicize. But by creating the world’s smallest Cupid just in time for Valentine’s Day and circulating an image, the school was able to publicize the student and garner worldwide coverage.

Sometimes content is the story: Smart tells of Brigham Young University, which had the top math student in the country, but faced the challenge of getting the greater public to care about math. So instead of pitching a tough-to-sell math story, the school developed their own story by creating a new piece of content: a rap about mathletes, which now has over 100,000 views on YouTube.

Grab the reporter’s attention in the first 10 seconds: That’s how long you have, so construct your pitch to draw them in immediately. Smart suggests referencing the journalist’s previous work in the beginning of the pitch, but cautions that so many PR reps now use this tactic that journalists are cynical about receiving strategically-doled praise for their most recent headline. To mitigate this, keep your references to their past work specific and sincere.

Follow up without being annoying: Smart advocates following up when you know you’ve got the right journalist or producer, when you’re sure it’s relevant, know you have a good story, or the journalist/producer already expressed initial interest. He suggests this pattern: Send the initial pitch, email again, and if you don’t hear back within a reasonable amount of time, pick up the phone and call.

Whatever you do, don’t ask if they got your email – producers will think that if they didn’t respond, it wasn’t worth the time. Instead, just pitch them again like they never saw the email. Acknowledge  their time pressure and end on the softest of soft sells.

When to pitch: Smart suggests finding out when story meetings are for key outlets and pitching right before that meeting. While conventional wisdom has all but forbidden pitching on Fridays and the week between Christmas and New Year’s, Smart recounts hearing that people who are brave enough to pitch during these times are seeing a lot of success. Remember, the media need topics even on Fridays and holidays.

Finally, he recommends calling TV stations during the first weeks of each semester, as interns there haven’t been trained on how to be rude yet, and will tell you the names of segment producers.

Smart’s tips seem reasonable, useful, and real-world applicable. He suggests that with time, pitching gets easier and more successful, and that successful pitching has positive consequences that reverberate through work and personal life.

Do you use any of these tactics? How do you successfully pitch to producers or journalists?

PR Tips for Dealing With Digital Journalism from Community Service Public Relations Council

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Flickr Image: atriumIn St. Louis, three web managers/editors from local TV, radio and print media outlets discussed how to create web- and social-friendly content. At this Community Service Public Relations Council (CSPRC) luncheon, the media panelists explained what kind of information they sought for their websites, how they integrated social media, and how nonprofits (and others) could best work with them.

The panelists were:

  • Kelsey Proud, web producer, St. Louis Public Radio, 90.7 KWMU, University of Missouri St. Louis
  • Jill Hampton, web producer, My Neighborhood St. Louis, Fox2now.com, KPLR11.com, STLMoms.com
  • Greg Jonsson, breaking news editor at StLToday.com / the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

After a brief introduction, the panelists talked about how journalism has changed in this digital world, and how public relations professionals could help make their jobs easier.

In the early digital days, there was insistence (in broadcast media) that they must break the news on-air first. That notion is gone. Today, breaking news happens online, followed by a more in-depth vetted story on-air. 

The biggest change of all is that content is now shared across the various platforms. Radio is no longer just audio, TV is no longer just video and, of course, newspapers / magazines are no longer just print.  I like the line one TV station GM used a while back about no longer being a TV station “but rather we are a local news organization that is platform agnostic.”

Some of the panelists’ tips that I found noteworthy for PR pros:

  • Everything needs to be interactive to get the best user experience.
  • Every journalist is now a ‘one-man-band.” For example, radio reporters are learning how to utilize images and/or video to get better exposure.
  • Press releases are still the number one way to share a story with them. Kelsey says, “No matter how much we complain, we ARE grateful for press releases.”
  • Even though they just stated that content is cross-platform shared, a good TV story still needs to be very visual.  Even for radio, online is visual so include image(s).
  • Your press release should point to the organization’s online newsroom for background information and additional details. NOTE:  Keep the online newsroom up-to-date! Jill said her pet peeve is “getting a release, going to the website only to find the last press release was posted over a year ago.”
  • Include links to organization, event, social media profiles, and images.
  • Do NOT include cute graphics, or attach Word documents or hi-res images.  Most won’t open them, and sometimes their email system strips them out so they’ll never see them anyway.  Instead, provide links to your online photo gallery—low res images are just fine for the web. 
  • Keep the information straight-forward. Greg says they have no time for “flowery language.”
  • Finally, yes, it’s okay to alert a journalist to a story via Twitter—just not incessantly.

While none of this advice is revolutionary, I believe it’s important to periodically hear it “from the horse’s mouth.”

PR pros, please share any feedback you’ve received from members of the media. Or, if you are a journalist, please share how your job has changed in the digital era, and what we, as PR pros, can do to make it easier.