by Paul J.F. Bowman, Editor, Business Wire Minneapolis
On May 27th, Business Wire Minneapolis hosted a Meet the Media breakfast at the Graves 601 Hotel, across the street from our Minneapolis office. Attendees included Business Wire clients and cohorts of all backgrounds.
Our panel included employees from a wide variety of local media points, including print, online, TV and radio. The panel, which offered many tips on pitching to local writers and reaffirmed the necessity of announcing company news in an effective manner, included:
- Brad Allen, MinnPost.com
- Dirk DeYoung, The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal
- Marty Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR)
- Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV
- Ann Harrington, St. Paul Pioneer Press
One of the panel’s hot suggested topics/trends is company volunteerism (i.e. companies offering paid employee time for volunteering during the 40-hour work week). On the other hand, one editor’s staff is “greened-out.” To them, corporate social responsibility articles are cliché and overused in today’s media.
Another major trend is the vanishing of embargoed copy. The press agreed that it is very difficult to sit on a hot lead for a story; another journalist might be willing to forego the embargo just to claim the scoop. The only exception is study or research: reporters appreciate receiving this copy in advance so there is time to analyze and interpret the data.
Some key points about media in general:
- Most general rules about media still apply regarding pitching, targeting, and writing.
- Print newspapers are not all dying; some have maintained their growth despite advances of Internet media.
- Details, details! The more specifics you are able to provide, the better the story. For example:
- quotes from those involved to help lengthen and “flesh out” the article
- full names and titles of those involved (businesses/contractors, architects, lawyers)
- specific locations (headquarters, where contract was signed, new facilities)
- use experts for analysis within the content—make sure you provide titles, applicable degrees, etc.
- Make sure your contacts on the release:
- are primary experts on the release content.
- are available 24 hours a day. If only one is, specify who is the after-hours contact.
- are prepared to serve as ambassadors between the company and the public.
- Media wants to surprise people, hence “scoops.” The more shocking/exclusive a piece of news is, the more likely that it will hit a media point’s front page.
- Send directly to writers within your scope if you’re hoping for a feature. “Buy-in” is more likely if the writers feel the story was sent to them exclusively.
- If sending to more than one writer, CC others within the same newspaper (do not BCC). Transparency to a media point will only help your pick-up.
- E-mail is the best way to reach reporters directly. Pitching on phone or social media (Twitter, Facebook) is okay, but does not guarantee it will be received by the writer/editor in a timely fashion. Essentially, direct e-mail greatly improves the speed of pickup.
- Don’t repeat your headline as the lead sentence. The headline is always part of the content read by the editor/writer.
- Think before you attach.
- Large files crash e-mail servers and programs.
- If you have items for the media, it is best to let them know via your text (i.e. photos/multimedia available at: ) and just offer a link to the items. They can then retrieve/view them as they see necessary.
- Videos will very rarely be viewed by TV media unless:
- they are from exclusive locations (i.e. places media are not allowed access).
- you are only using it to pitch a story. TV is willing to watch videos pitching a story.
- Bottom line: your video will rarely end up shown on the news.
- TV exposure, though impressive, is short and limited; online exposure is forever.
- TV news writers increasingly write both a broadcast and Web version of their stories.
- TV news may be watched by up to a third of local residents at once.
- Large files crash e-mail servers and programs.
Specific points about targeting press releases:
- Know the coverage of the press/writer you are pitching to!
- If writing for people in your business community, use technical and industry terms.
- If you are trying to promote for the general public or other markets, leave out complex language/jargon.
- Make it directly relevant to the market/media you would like the most coverage from.
- If your goal is local pickup:
- Make sure you are not just using a dateline of the metro area closest to you. This may actually reduce your pickup; local papers often make features out of smaller markets.
- The more area-focused the news is, the more likely pickup will be. Nationally/globally focused releases are almost always deleted by smaller media points.
- Target your release toward a specific local market/trend.
- If your goal is national pickup:
- If there is one, have the dateline reflect a close metro area–chances are national media does not know where specific small cities/towns are.
- Target your release toward a national market/trend.
- Do you want photo pickup?
- The higher the resolution, the higher the likeliness it will be printed.
- Exclusive locations (i.e. places media are not allowed access) on video/photo are valued greatly.
- Is your story focused enough?
- Can it be placed in a Twitter space (140 characters=short URL link + story description)? If not, your pitch/release probably needs more focus.
- Can you envision your story as a TV news lead-in or ramp? Can the news be summarized in 10 seconds or less of spoken language?
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