BusinessWire Media Roundtable

Rosalind Brazel / October 25, 2013

Former Puget Sound Business Journal Editor George Erb gets 500 emails a day. Yes, 500! So, how do you make your pitch standout and get the media to cover your story? That was the question many of public relations professionals had as we gathered at BusinessWire’s annual social media roundtable to meet nine of the area’s prominent journalists. The event was done speed dating style. Participants selected a table (and journalist) and had twelve minutes, along with the table’s other guests, to ask questions of each media guest. They included

Lynn Jacobson, Seattle Times Features Editor

David Nelson, Kitsap Sun Editor

Tracy Record, West Seattle Blog Editor

Amy Rolph, MSN Now Managing Editor

Berit Anderson, Crosscut Editor

Chris Daniels, KING 5 Reporter

George Erb, former PSBJ Editor

Mai Hoang, Yakima Herald Republic

It was great to meet them all and hear their preference for pitching and other tips to set ourselves as PR professionals apart. Some of the most useful tips I heard include:

  1. Consider what’s going on in the area, i.e. current affairs and breaking news and relate the context of your pitch to that news.
  2. Always consider the question, “Why should this editor/reporter care about this story.”
  3. Include an emotional connection. Instead of just listing the facts and inserting a press release, give the story behind the story. How does the topic of your pitch affect the “little people?”
  4. Consider more than just each outlet as your topic, dig deeper into their distribution of topic-specific newsletters and blogs. The Daily Journal of Commerce has a Green Building Blog and the PSBJ has a healthcare newsletter that reaches 7,400 people.
  5. When pitching a small-town outlet, consider finding a way to relate your pitch to local constituents. For example, if you’re pitching an event, find someone from that area who is participating and relate the pitch through their involvement.

Of course, the big question asked at nearly every table; How do you like to be pitched? If the answer were that simple, public relations would be that much easier. The actual answer is: every journalist is different. George Erb (the one who gets 500 emails) says it’s nice to get a follow up call after a pitch. It helps him weed through is ever crowded inbox. Chris Daniels says he doesn’t answer phone calls, but he’ll read emails and he loves the Twitter follow up best of all. Berit Anderson says she is the best kept secret at Crosscut (or was). Because Crosscut uses so many freelance journalists, it’s best to send pitches to an editor, unless you have a personal connection with one of the journalists on their staff. Amy Rolph, formerly of the Seattle PI who now monitors trends that influence story assignments at MSN Now, doesn’t even have a phone at her desk and rarely checks email. Social media is the best way to reach her to bring your client to her attention.

The key learning is, get to know each journalists. Media roundtables are a great method. The more you know about the style and interests of media contacts, the better you will be able to tailor a story that fits what they’re looking for.