By Simon Ogus, Business Wire
As a technology reporter in the digital age, life has become pretty crazy. You are expected to be an early adapter to the new tech toys, be an early adapter and work non-stop in today’s 24/7 news cycle.
Hoping to bridge the gap between the reporter and the PR professional, Business Wire Washington, DC hosted a “Meet the Technology” media panel on focusing on the latest trends in the world of technology reporting. The panel consisted of five established names in the Washington, DC technology reporting industry and the topics discussed included how reporters utilize social media professionallyhow to effectively organize a pitch and the best ways to get a reporter’s attention in today’s non-stop news cycle.
Paul Sherman, Editor and Publisher of Potomac Tech Wire – @PaulRSherman
Kasra Kangarloo, Reporter, Washington Business Journal – @TechFlashWBJ
Rob Pegoraro – Columnist, Yahoo! Tech – @RobPegoraro
Joseph Marks – Reporter, Politico – @Joseph_Marks_
Hayley Tsuyakama – Reporter, Washington Post – @htsuka
How Reporters Prefer to Be Pitched
The panel began with how reporters can ideally and most efficiently be pitched in the current times. The near unanimous sentiment was that pitching by e-mail was preferred over phone and social media. Paul Sherman flatly said that “phone pitching, while not dead is much rarer these days”. Every panelists agreed. Phone calls with pitches often will fall through the cracks as the reporter might not be at their desk or lose track of the phone call or message throughout their busy day.
Photo by Jennifer Dunn
Hayley Tsuyakama noted that she liked receiving emails from PR pros “because those pitches can be saved if I am busy, flagged if I want to make sure I see them later and easily searchable through modern e-mail capabilities.” This illustrates a strong point about email, even if they aren’t used immediately, they can be found easily via keyword searches of the e-mail text, subject or sender’s contact information.
But email is not the only way to reach reporters. When the conversation turned to the role of newswires in the news gathering process, each of the panelists agreed that newswires offer a wide range of benefits over releases pitched directly by the individual company. Sherman said he “uses Business Wire as a source every day.” In addition, the speakers noted that newswires are both convenient and a good source of accurate information.
What to include in your pitch
Knowing how to pitch a reporter also immensely aided by knowing where the reporter gathers news ideas and what kinds of topics and trends they find important. Ultimately a public relations professional may love their own story or find it extremely important, but it is up to the reporter to determine if they want to cover it. So what is a pitch that will catch a reporter’s eye? Rob Pegoraro said “If I can learn something myself and teach my readers at the same time, then I have found a great story to cover.” Reporters are busier than ever trying to uncover impactful story ideas. As Sherman said “competitors are not just other outlets, but social media as well. Anyone is a source now with smartphones, the job is much more competitive in 2015.” So how does this affect the PR professional? Reporter’s time is now more valuable than ever, so getting your message across takes additional strategy and tactics. While the content of your story will be what gets you covered, the panelists did provide a few other ways to catch their attention.
Provide an Expert Marks said “Being able to provide an expert to your pitch is very important, it is great to learn stuff from a pitch that you don’t already know. If your spokesperson has great credentials, feel free to pitch anytime, not just when a breach happens in my cybersecurity reporting.” This is a strong message for all communicators always try to have an expert at your disposal for technical pitches as they will help to catch the eye of the reporter trying to explain complex content matter.
Be Easy to Find
Additionally Kasra Kangarloo said being active on Twitter is important for communications skills. “It’s easier to find a @twitter profile than an email address, so I may reach out by tweet instead of email.” As well all know Twitter is the main hub of spontaneous communication, so having an active presence could get you that dialogue going with a reporter that could eventually lead to coverage for your client.
Leverage Partners (and don’t forget to include financial data)
The conversation shifted to Kangarloo’s coverage of technology startups and what he looks for in a good new startup to cover for the Business Journal. He had some great advice for anyone trying to get media coverage for a newer startup. He said “Get your name out there, I want to hear you from someone else. Not from yourself, anyone can talk about themselves. Hearing about your startup from someone else will pique my interest.” He also reminded the audience that data such as revenue is key for securing coverage, especially for today’s startups.
Read Your Pitch, First (on a mobile device)
While the subject matter of the news release is always paramount, the panel did mention some tips on best practices to get them interested in a story. Pegoraro Reminded the audience that most reporters work off mobile devices and suggested PR professionals read their pitch on their own mobile device to ensure the most salient points appear at the top of the device.
As the discussion came to a close there was an interesting question from the audience about what defines journalistic success in 2015. Lots of outlets strictly look at click-rates which often times leads to stories that perhaps aren’t the most informed content on the web. The reporters responded honestly and the majority said they were very aware of their analytics for their stories and that plays a major role in how their performance has been, but there is more to the process. Pegoraro said “making readers smart is a focus of journalistic success in additional to analytics.” This tweet from the event also goes on to say what additional words were said on the topic.
Journalism today has changed. Reporters are expected to do more, in less time. Crafting interesting pitches, tailored to each media outlet’s needs and utilizing smart distribution methods will help you increase your coverage and overall visibility. For additional commentary on this discussion please check out the hashtag #bwchat.