Posts Tagged ‘journalists’


Media Contact Lists and the Perils of Reckless Pitching

Monday, June 23rd, 2014
Media Contact Lists and the Perils of Reckless Pitching Johna Burke BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas public relations PR Media Contact List Press Clipping Media Monitoring

flickr user A DeVigal uner CC BY license

Media contact databases have long been considered a critical tool in the public relations pro’s arsenal. But such contact lists must be used with discretion, careful targeting, and common sense.

The purpose of a media contact list is to provide PR pros with contact information for relevant journalists, not to provide a recipient list for an impersonal press release blast. This may sound like Public Relations 101, but when journalists receive press releases that aren’t relevant to their beat, location, or publication, they get frustrated, and it gradually erodes the quality of relationships between public relations and journalism:

 

Media lists should be but one small component of our outreach efforts. Especially in 2014, when within minutes we can call up all the articles a journalist has written, take a look at his or her Twitter, and assess whether our information is of interest. Media lists cannot and should not be a substitute for meaningful, personalized connections.

Here are things you must consider for every journalist before sending them a pitch or press release:

  • Does this pitch pertain to their specific geographic area?
  • Does it pertain to the journalist’s specific reporting areas? i.e. an investigative reporter will have no use for the announcement of a new restaurant location opening
  • Does the publication run the types of story you are pitching?
  • Is this really newsworthy? Yes, it’s frustrating when clients demand coverage for something we know isn’t really news, but sending a journalist an irrelevant release just so you can tell the client you sent it will not help your case when you have something of true value in the future

It’s time to stop taking the short view of just sending a press release to say it was sent to X number of people. If it’s not relevant to most of those people, it’s not only the same as not sending it, it’s worse. Think of the long-term implications of repeatedly sending irrelevant press releases: it trains journalists to tune them out. It’s a classic Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf scenario: no one will listen when you finally have something valuable to say.

Though it might not seem like it, journalists and PR pros are fighting the same battle. We’re all fighting to do more work on less time in a saturated medium. So instead of using the challenge as an excuse, use it as a way to better relate to our journalist counterparts. It can only make it better for all of us.

The 2014 AP Stylebook Is Out – Here’s Why PR Pros Should Pay Attention

Thursday, May 29th, 2014


It’s that time of year again: your AP Stylebook is out of date. That’s because yesterday the 2014 Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law made its spiral-bound way into the world. This year’s edition features about 200 new additions and/or revisions, and adds an entire chapter with “more than 200 religion terms.” [Per what may be this year’s most controversial revision, the AP wrote “over 200 terms,” as the title, but it looks like they decided to toe the old-school “more than” line in their press release.]

Over the past few months, they’ve alerted us to the newest revisions: there was the aforementioned “over/more than” debacle; state names should now be spelled out instead of abbreviated in the body of a story; and it is now “Wal-Mart” in all instances.

We’ve written about media styles (and using AP style in the digital age) before, but it’s worth revisiting why the AP Stylebook is so important for public relations professionals.

Following AP style makes you look like you care

When a reporter clicks on your press release, his or her attention is yours to lose, and typos or incorrectly capitalized words make that release easy to ignore. Here’s what Dan Friedman, a journalist and my dad, has to say about that: “I get so many press releases that they’re like sitting ducks; if you make your press release easy to ignore or delete, it makes my day go that much quicker. But the clean, nicely done press releases I get are so compelling that sometimes I can’t say no.”

Following AP style rules (like most journalists do) makes it clear that you care about the English language, which in turn makes you look smart and shows you care about your readers.

Journalists will be more likely to give you a chance

You want to be known in the newsroom, but not as the flack who send press releases that require heavy editing. Sending clean news releases that adhere to AP style makes journalists much more likely to read your release without feeling itchy inside. That will, in turn, make them more amenable to working with you. That doesn’t mean that one AP-style news release will get you a mention, but consistent good writing can only help your cause.

It will improve your writing

Following AP style will improve your writing both in and out of press releases. Referring to the AP Stylebook as you write means you’ll be paying more attention to your writing, which can only improve it. Familiarizing yourself with AP style and adhering to it means you’ll also be on the lookout in your colleagues’ writing, which will also make you a better editor.

It’s true that I have a soft spot for both grammar and AP Stylebook (they don’t call me @ellisredpen for nothing), but I’ve also been a journalist and am the offspring of two of them, so I know of what I speak.  Remember: friends don’t let friends capitalize job titles when they appear after a person’s name.

Inside the Minds of Journalists: Tips and Insights From the Media

Thursday, April 10th, 2014
film screenshot by unknown, in public domain via Wikimedia Commons

film screenshot by unknown, in public domain via Wikimedia Commons

In the modern era of newsrooms, journalists are trying to get out more stories, capture distracted audiences, and work within a number of financial constraints. In working with journalists, public relations practitioners in turn face more competition for coverage, an array of preferred approaches for working with journalists, and the challenge to provide more tailored pitches to reach a wider swath of audiences.

On April 1, PRSA New Jersey held a Meet the Media event on the future of journalism. Our VP of Agency Relations, Colleen Flood, attended the event, which featured a panel of five journalists who answered questions about their decisions, challenges, and relationships with public relations pros.

The panelists were Geoff Mulvihill of the Associated Press; Terrence Dopp of Bloomberg; Michelle LaRoche of The Wall Street Journal; Doug Doyle of WBGO radio; John Ensslin of The Record; and Walt Kane of News 12 New Jersey.

Moderator Ken Hunter, president and chief strategist at The PowerStation and membership chair of PRSA New Jersey, asked one of the most PR-centered questions toward the end of the event: When it comes to relationships with PR pros, what suggestions did the panelists have for PR pros to get to know journalists without being intrusive?

Mulvihill said simply to make sure your expert is truly an expert. Kane elaborated that is important that public relations practitioners know the topics on which he reports, and that the experts he interviews act like experts; what he doesn’t want to hear from people he interviews is “Go to my website” or “Read my book.”

Dopp wants PR pros to give him a strong reason why he should care about your expert, and reiterated Kane’s stance that the PR pro must know what he reports on. Ensslin said that it’s ideal to establish a relationship with the reporter before a breaking story, and Doyle added that the key is to be timely and know how your expert can connect with a story and why the news organization would run topic or expert.

When asked about what reporters feel is lacking on a corporate website, and how often the panelists would visit a corporate website, Kane remarked that media contact information is often difficult to find. Mulvihill added that many websites are also missing headquarters locations, and that information is not always up to date.

Hunter also asked whether it’s important to get a story first or to get it right. All panelists agreed that getting it right is vital. And while they all understand what it feels like to get incorrect information and have to issue a correction, Dopp noted that if the same source repeatedly provides incorrect information, trust is quickly lost, so it’s vital not only to the story, but to your relationship with journalists, to always double-check your facts.

The topic then turned to news cycle, when Hunter asked how a journalist knows a story has run its course. Ensslin looks at whether the story has legs – if every week there’s new information, they need to cover it. Doyle puts himself in the readers’ shoes, and when he selects stories he tries to think about what readers are thinking that day, though if there’s a breaking news story, that all goes out the window. These insights provided a few great takeaways – making sure any pitch is relevant and timely to the publication’s readers, and examining whether you or your expert can provide new information to give a story more legs.

What other methods have you found to be effective for working with journalists? How do you foster balanced relationships with journalists?

The Similar Plights of Newspapers and NCAA Players

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
flickr user danxoneil

flickr user danxoneil

This weekend I heard a lot about the controversy surrounding money and the NCAA big games. The NCAA makes money selling broadcast rights to the game; networks make money from ad sales; schools make money on ticket sales; and coaches make millions. Who’s not making money in this situation? The players.

Professional athlete I am not, but this plight reminded me of a situation I deal with daily, in which the revenue options of publications and publishers are circumvented, while public relations and advertising firms, which rely on those same publications to broadcast their message, continue to thrive. In fact, most PR pros recognize that traditional media is still incredibly influential in building a brand and telling a story, and media relations undisputedly plays a significant role in benchmarking and demonstrating results in the development and success of public relations campaigns.

So if the media is so important, why the misconception that the information that demonstrates results should be cheap or free? It’s not Google’s fault; they’ve already determined that news access is a loss leader to advertising revenue. But if there were no high-quality journalist-produced content to search, Googling would be a whole different ballgame, and the lines would be further blurred between editorial content and advertorial, if there were a line at all.

Apologies for the strained metaphor, but let’s extend the comparison to consider what the implications are in the NCAA version of content and media monitoring:

News alert = big game is televised

Article headline = Quarterback Makes Perfect Throw to Downfield Receiver

Article snippet/link = Receiver doesn’t miss a stride, but two linebackers are on his heels

Paywall = Broadcast signal dies for everyone except those who pay for a premium cable subscription or those with a credit card willing to pay extra to watch on demand.

PR using only alerts = Looking at the final score and using that data point to determine if a “play” was a success or failure.

PR using comprehensive copyright-compliant content = Provides play-by-play analysis, and sets up brand “linebackers” in the same or better position in the future to impact future outcomes.

Those PR pros who work diligently to secure placements for their organizations are the NCAA coaches. These PR pros are high-value with honed expertise; in fact, PR pros are doing so well, the 5WPR recently reported that they “achieved record-high financial revenues” in 2013. Such success warrants an increase in fees and retainers. But if the field is empty (i.e. high-quality editorial content further erodes), and there’s no way to broadcast a message, monitor its progress, and continually reposition, it’s like coaching an empty field, and suddenly, that value is gone.

So why is traditional media perceived as no longer having value? Because the digital age made some things free – or seem so. But the truth is, we’ve been paying for traditional media content since its inception. We paid for newspaper subscriptions for decades, so why is it no longer “worth it?”

With more access to metrics and our social habits, we should be leveraging all of the information to make our brands smarter; have a world-class offensive plan. Instead, too many people are taking shortcuts (like looking only at headlines instead of the full content) and sacrificing quality for quantity. If trends continue similar to those in this 2012 report, public relations’ value will continue to grow. But if you’re not working to curate information strategically or seeing everything included in your media content, it’s like watching every sports game simultaneously on a 20-inch screen. Sure, you can see there are games – many of them, all the size of postage stamps – but in the bid to see “everything,” you sacrifice really seeing anything at all.

How to Engage Journalists and Influencers on Social Media

Friday, December 13th, 2013

flickr user Rosaura Ochoa

flickr user Rosaura Ochoa

by Alfred Cox*

Yesterday I attended the PRNews Media Relations Next Practices Conference in Washington, D.C., at which BurrellesLuce was also a sponsor. Some of the most persistent questions in media relations center on reaching out to journalists in the most efficient and effective manner.  I attended the session “Find and Engage With the Right Journalists and Influencers on Social Media,” which addressed these issues and more.

The sessions guest speakers were Kathy Grannis, senior director of media relations at National Retail Federation; David Ringer, director of media relations at National Audubon Society; and David Wescott, director of digital strategy at APCO Worldwide.

Grannis started out with her suggestions, and emphasized the importance of building relationships with journalists and influencers; she recommended keeping in touch through Twitter, to reach out and congratulate a journalist when they move organizations and positions. Such communication not only sustains a relationship but helps you stay on top-of-mind. Of course, communicating is key, but Grannis stressed that learning how to communicate correctly requires full-time dedication.

When it comes to relevant conversations on social platforms, Grannis recommends contributing transparently, positioning your brand as an expert on the subject matter. But Twitter is also about more than your message; Grannis point out you should be using Twitter to keep up with your competitors and what they’re tweeting, as well as what they’re publishing on other social media sites.

Finally, she advocated blogging. Content marketing has become integral to marketing, PR, and media relations strategies, but Grannis also pointed out that blogs are a tremendous source for getting your statement out there, and even stated getting your message out in your blog is just as important as getting your statement in The New York Times.

Ringer offered his insights next, and pointed out that too much email is boring. He said that Twitter is the best tool to interact with journalists, and that it’s important to find and engage with the right journalists and influencers on social media platforms. He strongly suggested following new journalists right away, and thinking of Twitter not as your personal account, but as your new Rolodex. The list-making function is a great organizational tool to make that happen.

Ringer suggested that once you’ve selected those key journalists and influencers, you should care about what they care about, even their more personal tweets, and interacting with those more personal tweets, and retweeting their tweets, helps build a relationship. But he also pointed out that everyone likes a name check on Twitter, so be sure to credit people for their work by @ing them.  And don’t limit yourself to interacting with well-known, established media figures; befriend those bright new media stars, too.

Wescott followed with his observations, saying that Twitter is the best tool for PR people, and that they must have a presence. Something else that enhances your presence is having Twitter public conversations as well as private conversations, which also helps build relationships that will get new business.

Wescott advised that Twitter and blogging are excellent tools for presenting yourself as a thought leader and a bridge builder between PR pros. He also advocated for citing sources with @s, as well as using hashtags for context and engagement. Wescott recommended finding journalists not just on Twitter, but also on sites like LinkedIn and Muck Rack.

What other social media strategies do you have for engaging journalists and influencers?

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Bio: Alfred Cox is a rare commodity of a performer who combines a relentless drive to succeed with the ability to provide “first-person” touch to his clients, creating loyalty and repeat business. He has a hard-nosed work ethic in a results- driven environment and he is often called the “Network King.” Alfred has been in the PR industry for the past 18+ years and joined the BurrellesLuce team in 2011. Connect with him on Twitter: @shantikcox Facebook: BurrellesLuce LinkedIn: Alfred Cox