Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an event held by real estate listing service Trulia for public relations professionals, called Journos and PR Pros: Friends or Foes. This event had a panel of four well-known journalists: Kara Swisher (AllThingsD), Doug MacMillan (Bloomberg/BusinessWeek), Scott Budman (NBC News and Host of Tech Now!), and Shayndi Raice (Wall Street Journal). Each of them had their brains picked about their pet peeves working with PR professionals, tips on the best way to pitch a story, and what PR professionals should do to get their attention.
Pet Peeves with PR Professionals: Each member of the panel mentioned how much they hated spam pitches that weren’t targeted specifically to them, especially since they get about 200 emails in their inbox when turning on their computer in the morning. Think about it-spam pitches are like the infamous Nigerian spam email, promising the receiver money if a fee was sent to them.
Embargoes on information were another pet peeve, Kara Swisher emphasizing that embargoes could go to trash box heaven. Shayndi Raice on embargoes, “Once I see them, I stop reading. Wall Street Journal has a policy that if we can’t use all the information, we won’t use any of it.” Embargoes are like someone whispering, “I’ve got a secret but you can’t tell Person X.” If you can’t relay certain information, don’t bother including it at all.
Best Ways To Pitch A Story: In order to capture attention from a major publication like Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg BusinessWeek, be sure to 1) have a unique, interesting subject line, 2) name drop, if possible, in the subject line, 3) wrap the company news/pitch in a trend, and 4) know what the outlet you’re pitching covers.
According to Doug, the key to emailing him is: if he knows you he’ll prioritize you. Second priority would be if you had an interesting subject line. A newsworthy subject line that said “Mark Zuckerberg leaves Facebook for new start-up in Silicon Valley” would be sure to draw his attention. You definitely want the person you’re emailing to click on your email-you can do that by inserting good keywords and making sure that one sentence/phrase in the subject line would be of interest to them.
Shayndi Raice from WSJ strongly emphasized the importance of wrapping company news in a trend. None of them were interested in company news alone, but if that company were part of a trend affecting a region, they would be able to pitch that story.
If you represent a tech startup like Square, you could mention that Bay Area entrepreneurs and small business owners are turning to mobile credit card solutions like Square and Intuit, that make it possible to run their companies efficiently, with low overhead.
Major publications such as WSJ and BusinessWeek are more likely to publish trend news, but smaller publications such as tech or business blogs may be more likely to publish your company news. So know what the outlet you’re pitching covers, and who their demographic of readers are.
What PR Professionals Should Do To Get Their Attention: Journalists are as unique as URL addresses. Sometimes other mediums of communication are better than just email at capturing their attention. Kara Swisher said she’s more responsive via Twitter than with email. Shayndi Raice is open to quick phone calls. Doug MacMillan actually likes meeting his sources first. If you’re a start-up, he’s interested in meeting the CEO or any other high-ups before writing about the company.
Main takeaways: 1) Research the publication and journalist-find out what the publication covers and best ways to get a hold of the journalist, 2) Be unique in your subject line-don’t waste time and space on something generic and spam-like, and 3) Looking at the big picture and seeing your company is involved in a trend is more likely to get picked up than just company news alone, 4) Make friends with journalists-have a great sense of humor and be honest!
If you want to watch a video of the event, catch it here. Thanks to Trulia for hosting and organizing, and of course, the journalists for their candid thoughts.
By Courtney Lee