3 Things To Know While Pitching Journalists Before the Holidays

Welcome to December in the journalism world.

 

This little PR pro is pitching Santa to write about his client’s iPhone case; Photo by @MikeArney

 

Our sources are prepping their out-of-office replies, stories still have to be filed and we’re all just trying to hang on until the company holiday party (with a cash bar). It’s a special time of unrequited phone calls and frustration, with a pinch of lower standards at times.

With all this in mind, how can you successfully pitch journalists before — and during — the holiday lull?

We’re a little more accepting during the holidays

The stories we’re really chasing are likely about to go into a holding pattern, as government officials and CEOs get the luxury of taking long vacations around this time. Even the ones that stick around until a few days before Christmas Eve don’t really want to deal with the hassle of a journalist.

We’ve still got to post something to our websites and fill those column inches somehow. The closer we get to New Year’s Eve, the more we tire of hearing, “Hi, you’ve reached…” when we call someone.

This can be a great time to pitch stories that might be more on the fringe of our coverage base. If you’re responsive, can deliver your sources and have a relevant story wrapped up like a present … we’ll be more likely to put you on the nice list at this time.

Our readership is still hungry for content in December, so writers might be a little more flexible when you pitch.

With that said…

Don’t think we’re desperate

Just because our sources may be unavailable in December and we’re scrambling to get stuff posted, it doesn’t mean that you can dust off an old pitch, add a holiday keyword or two and expect us to publish.

If it’s something that we’re not going to be interested in at all in September, our feelings probably haven’t changed since then. While we acknowledge your plight — clients still want placement, no matter what — we know what our editor and readers will think if we submit something with only a flimsy connection to our beat or location.

As always, the more time you give us, the better. While we likely have more time to answer your email, DM or phone call, that also means we’re reading your pitch more closely. There are plenty of ways to refresh a story idea for the holidays, but it might take some digging and ingenuity.

You can look back at stories a website or publication has done around this time last year to get a better sense of what flies with the readership. A lot of the holiday content has been planned for weeks, if not months, so your best bet would be figuring out ways that your story could be complementary (or even unique) to what we’ve already got planned.

Get a jump on 2019

A bedrock of content around this time: predictions about the new year.

These are quick, easy and digestible pieces to which readers often respond well. If you’re scrambling to get your client one last placement before the ball drops, think about offering a listicle guest post or an interview where an expert from your client shines a light on the future of their industry.

This helps out in a few ways. It’s easy content to publish and it makes your client look innovative and forward-thinking. Some writers can even gain story ideas from these lists and want to follow up with your client’s CEO or expert at a future date.

December is a great time to pitch evergreen story ideas that we can work on now and post in early January.

You can also take this time to plant seeds for January and early spring. As we discussed before, the holidays can be a slow period for writers. If you were too late with pitching a holiday-related story, this could be a perfect opportunity to work together on something that helps us start the new year strong.  

By Justin Lafferty

Good Job, Media! The 4 Best Articles We Read This Week

It’s been a while since we’ve done a roundup of the best articles that we’ve been reading. It’s not because we haven’t been reading great articles – on the contrary, the more a certain president lambasts the media, the more the media rises to the occasion – it’s mostly due to a certain amount of media fatigue. But we’re back and without further ado, here are the 4 best articles that we read this week:

PHEW! Did you hear that collective sigh of relief this morning? We sure did.

Today’s New York Times recap of 45’s failed health care reform bill is classic Grey Lady: Concise distillation of a complex issue, no sparkly prose or flowery language needed – just the facts, ma’am, with a couple of underhanded digs thrown in for good measure. Love it.

 

The term “National treasure” sure does get thrown out there a lot, and oftentimes the recipient is undeserving. But we’ll be damned if Rebecca Solnit isn’t a bona fide candidate for National Treasure. We’re lucky enough to be in the same city that Solnit calls home, and our local alternative paper, the SF Weekly, was nice enough to feature Ms. National Treasure on their cover. Read the excellent feature and see if you agree with us. And if you’re in SF, stop by the wonderful Green Arcade bookstore, owned and operated by yet another national treasure – Patrick Marks. There we go again, throwing that term out there!

Bonus props since this was editor/writer Pete Kane‘s first issue as the new Editor-in-Chief. Congrats, Pete!

 

 

Jia Tolentino‘s superb takedown of the perils of the “gig economy” is a fantastically written piece on a fantastically depressing sentiment that our country seems to praise: that of working oneself to death. Calling to mind the hilarious old “In Living Color” sketches where having one job was the pinnacle of laziness, the idea of hard-working Americans stringing together gig after gig to barely make a living should be the poster children for why our economy needs fixing, and not why the gig economy is “working.” Read the article while you’re waiting for your Lyft ride. It’ll make you think twice.

 

 

 

While it’s not an article but an NPR interview, the Fresh Air segment with writer/author Jane Mayer on the Mercer family is eye-opening and more than a little frightening. Hold on to your latte when you hear the story about the scientist that the Mercers are funding, a man who thinks that nuclear wars benefit humanity (!). It’s chilling stuff. The Mercers want to stay out of the limelight and it’s journalists like Mayer who are shining a needed spotlight onto who these people are and more importantly, what their motives are. You can run but you can’t hide from good journalism.

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook

 

 

How PR Pros Can Support Journalism In Trump Era

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In the new Trump era, it is more important than ever for PR professionals to support journalists and a free media.

As PR professionals, it’s in our self-interest to ensure that we have a free and democratic media. As U.S. citizens and members of this nation, it is in our self-interest to ensure that we have a free and democratic media.

Anti-media rhetoric is filling the mouths of talking heads – these so-called “surrogates,” many of whom are inexplicably and rather ironically paid by news outlets to spew rhetoric – and our very own president-elect. The public has grown increasingly hostile toward media. The media themselves don’t often help their cause. But don’t be fooled – the media is never more critical than during regimes like the president-elect’s.

Media absolutely must be held accountable when they make missteps and many of them treat ethics loose and fast. With a lack of training combined with the dangerously alarming speed that reporters must churn out non-fact checked articles, journalism itself has lost a lot of credibility. Despite that, it is not only unfair to malign all of media but detrimental to America’s health as a democracy to do so.

But this isn’t a post about the value of media – we don’t need to emphasize their importance. This is a call to arms to fellow PR professionals to ensure that we’re helping, not harming, the progress of this country. There are many things that PR professionals can do to contribute to a better media landscape, including:

Don’t work with dictators, liars, deceivers and corporations that do very bad things. It’s easy, just say no. You don’t need the business, it should be more important for you to sleep at night. Representing violators of human rights, dictators, oppressive government regimes and outright criminals is bad for business and bad for life. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Educate your clients on why it’s important to be transparent and honest, and why it’s better business. The public values honesty. Brands that have made mistakes that they’ve owned up to have often been forgiven. It’s the brands that continue to lie and obfuscate who never regain the public’s trust.

Fact check your own statements and reports that clients provide to you. Yes, you work for your client, but you also have a set of ethics. If something doesn’t sound right, take the time to research something to make sure you’re not disseminating lies. 

Support journalists by not lying or deceiving them. Share positive articles and don’t normalize behavior like threatening to kick journalists out of news conferences because they’re doing their job.

Ensure that you’re promoting factual news and striking down propaganda and click-bait. Work to ensure that platforms like Facebook and Twitter not populate these fake news links, and debunk any false reports and articles that do arise. As PR pros, media monitoring is an integral part of our job. We see the news before many others, so make sure you’re not spreading unverified stories and let others be aware of ones that are.

Give back and provide pro bono resources for organizations. Like Meryl Streep implored, the Committee to Protect Journalists is one that deserves your support. The Center for Investigative Reporting has also been doing standout work. Pick your passion and go.

Above all, we need to work with journalists to make sure that all of our voices are heard – every citizen, not just those who pay the most money. As public relations professionals, our obligation is to the public, first and foremost. We have a civic duty to use our skills to disseminate stories that are honest, truthful and provide value to the public that we all serve as citizens of this great nation.

By Katy L.

Truth In PR

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Recently, brain game company Lumosity was slapped with a hefty $2M fine by the FTC. The reason? FTC claimed that Lumosity’s brain training ads are misleading and false advertising. The language used in Lumosity’s ads were the clear culprit. Specifically, touting medical/health benefits without backing up the claims with science and data naturally irked the FTC.

Other companies have faced similar accusations of glitzy marketing glossing over faulty science, including Hampton Creek, Theranos and even shoe brand Sketchers. The case against Lumosity highlights truth in advertising and PR.

Often, PR language imitates marketing/advertising language (for brand consistency). When we repeat these claims that turn out to be false and/or exaggerated, we’re perpetuating bad practices. Food and health brands have to be particularly sensitive to the language being used, but this scrutiny should be applied across all markets.

Many PR pros see little to no problem with repeating misleading claims in email pitches to reporters. However, making grandiose claims to a journalist in an email pitch is just as harmful as splashing said claim across a gigantic billboard. Journalists pick the language up, potentially repeat it, or more importantly, they call you out on it (something more reporters should do, frankly).

If you’re using PR language like “first to market,” “only one of its kind,” and more critically, “improves your brain memory,” you better have the data and/or science to back these claims up. Using this language in PR is just as dangerous as using it across advertising channels. There might not be an FTC oversight but you’ll create more harm for your client or brand than you will interest. And it’s just frankly wrong.