Given today’s brutal competition for scoring ink, airtime or pixels in the most influential business outlets—plus the shrinking business news market—it helps to have an inside track on placement in top media. To that end, here are a few tips from PR University panelists past and present for turning heads and earning headlines at A-list business media outlets:
1. DM pitches via Twitter to stand out—but confirm it’s OK first. While many traditional reporters still say they prefer fielding PR ideas via email, we’ve noticed a sharp uptick in business and consumer tech journalists who not only appreciate Twitter DMs from PR pros, but who prefer to receive pitches that way. The takeaway, of course, is not to send unsolicited DMs. Check with your beat reporter first and ask if Twitter is a preferred channel for PR-to-press exchanges.
Karl Henkel, a business reporter at the Detroit News, is one of them.“Most pitches fail because not of content, but due to delivery mechanism,” he said in a recent PR University call. “Some 85% come in via email—and that’s where they die. But if I get a Tweet, it grabs my attention and sets a pitch apart. I get 500 emails a day but only five DMs.” For example, a story broke a few weeks ago about Ford dropping Microsoft as in-car software, he illustrated. “That came from a source who DM’d me,” says Henkel. “We ran it within 24 hours and it became our highest-read story for two days.”
Jennifer Chang, social media editor at Success magazine, agreed. “I definitely pay more attention to pitches on Twitter than email,” she said. “Prior to covering SXSW this year, the email got to be overwhelming—with so many [businesses launching apps or hosting lunches and so on]. But those who are already following me on Twitter were guaranteed a response because they stood out.”
2. Be a trendspotter—tie to trends using tools like these. Hot topics on any given beat fluctuate wildly week-to-week, but those fluctuations are even more pronounced in business coverage, thanks to market dynamics, quarterly reports and more. Consequently, editors we speak with suggest PR pros track what’s trending before reaching out to business reporters—and also tie their announcements to a wider trend whenever possible. That’s what reporters do in their editorial meetings, after all.
For example, Chang recently said that wearable technology was a big topic at SXSW, and will continue to be covered in the month ahead—at Success and other leading business media alike. Wearable technology was also recently pinpointed as an editorial hot button by PR University’s consumer tech media panel, which included editors from Re/code, TechCrunch, Chip Chick, Wired and PCMag.com.
Henkel adds this perspective: “At our paper, for example, we’re always looking for a local angle on the bigger trend story—so when pitching, tie your development to a larger trend. Think about the bigger context.” The reason: “Reach and impact are two things we’re always looking for when determining stories and story placement,” he explains. It’s all about the number of people your idea affects—and a trend is a smart way to broaden the scope of any idea your pitching. Here are a few favorite resources for staying on top of what’s trending online at any given moment:
3. Send more multimedia—and provide embed codes when possible. Most journalists these days do double-duty—filing both online and in print, and in serving as reporters and their image editors. “There really is no divide between print and digital,” says Chang. “We have people who work for the print magazine who also blog for us. So the takeaway for PR people is to offer content that works online and speaks to digital natives, as well as to print readers.”
In addition, “Website content is more open to PR pitches because it’s more instantaneous and there is a [greater volume of it],” she says. “So provide multimedia—that’s a good way to get our attention. We all want more video. It’s a good way to demonstrate the product.” Similarly, “infographics are also important to us. We like to embed those. But if you’re sending a video or infographic, do so using embed code. Don’t attach files.”
Stephen Trousdale, business editor of the Bay Area News Group (which publishes The Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News and other papers), called out these additional newsroom changes that PR pros should keep in mind when pitching business media:
- More video in telling stories online.
- Journalists are also bloggers/vloggers.
- Images are also a necessity.
- Social media is part of engaging readers.
- Social media is part of reportage (finding stories).