by Debbie Friez*
Your pitch needs to be a great relevant headline in the subject of your email. (“Yes, I know,” I think as I listen to yet another media panel. But, do I always follow this advice?) So, I continue to listen to the panel of six journalists for this combined Minnesota PRSA, NIRI Twin Cities and Business Wire event. The 2014 edition of this annual event turned out to be one of the best media panels I’ve attended.
Let’s get it out there. Do I call, email, tweet, Facebook, Google Plus message or text a journalist? They all agreed, email is the best option. Duchesne Drew, managing editor for operations, Star Tribune, reminded the audience you can usually find reporter’s emails on the publication’s website, and getting to the right reporter will make all the difference.
The follow-up call to see if they received the press release, on the other hand, is usually annoying. (And all PR folks hate that call!) But, several panelists agreed, they are extremely busy with very full email boxes, so reaching out via different means (even a phone call) is not a bad idea if you don’t get a response in a few days. Andy Putz, executive editor at MinnPost, says you can call him, but avoid calling him in the morning. Julio Ojeda-Zapata, a technology writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is actually quite active on Google Plus, and, if you follow him on Twitter, he’ll follow you back, so you can direct message, if needed. Other panelists said it is OK to find them on social media and text (yes, text!) them if you have a relationship and their cell phone number.
As young PR novices, we learned we should take reporters out for an informational coffee to develop a relationship for future stories. It seems the practice is still worthwhile for most reporters working a beat. Jim Hammerand, digital editor at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, says his day is very busy, so he finds breakfasts or happy hours work better for him.
Embargoed releases are fine, if the reporter has agreed to it ahead of time. (Wow! I’m thinking about all the times I’ve seen these go out blindly!) But Ojeda-Zapata says he doesn’t have a problem with embargoes.
The sportscaster of the group, Dave Scwartz, KARE-TV, doesn’t usually use bloggers for sources. In the sports world, he finds most are just big fans. He also assured us that sports guys do wear pants. (I’m not sure we found that information relevant?)
The actual hard deadline is less relevant in the 24/7 newsroom, although some still exist. Hammerand commented on the need to fill the Business Journal’s 3 p.m. daily email and the paper edition needs information one to one-and-a-half weeks in advance. Nancy Lebens, editor for Minnesota Public Radio News, has about 30 newscasts to fill, so she is always looking for stories at all times of the day.
Reminders from the panel for your own organization’s website media room:
- Include complete contact information (not the generic firstname.lastname@example.org) on their organization’s website.
- If you don’t want your mobile number on your website, be sure to have it in your voice-mail.
- Remember to post press releases as you send them out, so they can confirm information.
- If your company has a product, post easy-to-find and downloadable images and background information.
- Don’t make your media room password protected, where the reporter is required to sign-in. They may not do it.
Even in this digital age, reporters and PR folks still need each other, and we can continue to learn from each other. Happy pitching!
Debbie Friez serves as tech editor for the Capitol Communicator and is also a consultant. Previously, she worked as Vice President, Major Accounts for BurrellesLuce. She originally joined BurrellesLuce at their Minnesota Clipping Service affiliate.
Friez was a senior account director for West Glen Communications, a broadcast PR services company. While at West Glen Communications, she was a frequent contributor to the DC Communicator newsletter.
She has a broad understanding of the technologies that are transforming the marketing and communications profession. She serves on the advisory board for the Capitol Communicator, the membership committee for the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the national marketing committee for the Association of Women in Communications, and is a member and past president of Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR).