PR Fish Bowl

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January 20, 2017

A Journalist’s POV: 3 Questions From A PR Agency

Donna KimuraprIn public relations, it’s often said that you’re only as good as your media contacts. We at Crenshaw pride ourselves on nurturing real relationships with journalists, beyond mere constant pitching.

For clients for whom key trade or vertical publications are important, those connections are doubly important. Not only do they help generate targeted media coverage, but they’re often influential for media who cover their sector for key business or general news outlets. As well, exposure in these key verticals often leads to increased conference consideration and other industry event inclusion. Donna Kimura, Deputy Editor at Affordable Housing Finance falls into that category. Donna is also a great communicator, and we’ve had the pleasure to work on several stories together. She was good enough to take some time to answer our three questions from a PR firm.

 Can you cite a few traits of the ideal public relations person?  The best relationships I have with my contacts in PR make it a point to do the following:

• Review my magazine and/or website before making contact
• Personalize a pitch. Mass e-mails beg to be deleted
• Understand that good photos are important
• Recognize that publications often have a “digital first” mindset in addition to thinking about print products. This can translate into, how shareable might this story be? Is it pithy enough to hold the attention of someone impatiently clicking around a website, etc.

How much bylined content does AHF accept and what are some tips to writing for the publication? Affordable Housing Finance does enjoy publishing bylined articles from industry experts. The articles are mostly guest commentaries, and they are about current issues or on technical matters involving affordable housing development and finance. It’s a close-knit industry, so our readers like reading articles by their colleagues who are proven experts in the field.

We avoid general real estate stories and articles that take a broad look at housing affordability issues. From time to time, we will be pitched a story about the lack of affordable housing in the nation or a region, and we have to pass on those articles. Those stories are often great for a newspaper or another magazine, but our audience of affordable housing developers already knows there’s an affordable housing problem. We don’t want stories that are general. We want to drill down to the cover emerging financing trends, critical policy changes, and the latest deal closings that will help developers get their next project done.

AHF has a print magazine, a website, and a digital newsletter. Because space is limited in the print magazine, contributed articles mostly appear on our website and in our digital newsletter.

What are some absolute “never-dos” when it comes to pitching the pub?  My biggest pet peeve and one that I know I share with my colleagues, is sending a mass e-mail, and making it obvious. It shows a lack of knowledge and even etiquette. This faux pas is compounded when the PR rep sends a pitch about a subject that’s not relevant to the editor’s publication. For example, AHF reports on affordable rental housing. I receive e-mails about the opening of a new shopping mall or an office building, and when that happens the sender gets “blocked” so future correspondence from that sender goes straight to my junk-mail folder. Sorry. We say to Donna, no apologies necessary, any knowledgeable PR professional recognizes the importance of demonstrating the relevance of your topic to an editor. Taking the extra step of thoroughly researching an outlet before pitching can be the difference between sweet success and dismal failure.

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