Whether you work in B2B tech or consumer public relations, most would agree that the advent of Profnet and HARO as online “connectors” of reporters and good stories has been a boon to the industry. While the goal is to get a reporter to include your company or product in a story, sometimes you get lucky and the reporter turns into more than a business contact.
We feel that way about George Jones, digital producer with the Raycom corporate news hub, which provides multimedia content for the websites of about 60 TV stationsthat Raycom Media owns and partners with throughout the country. A working journalist since high school with experience in broadcast, print and digital, George is a terrific reporter and not just because he sums up his personality this way — Likes: Dark chocolate, baseball. Dislikes: Pokemon Go.
We asked George to answer three questions, the answers to which provide insight into the mind of a busy journalist, sifting through myriad PR inquiries searching for the next great story.
What trends are you seeing in the news business that the PR industry ought to know about? Two years ago, our analytics told us people were on their local TV stations’ websites at the same time they were watching the news broadcasts. Now, they’re not even bothering to turn on the TV. If you don’t have a strong digital presence (doesn’t matter if you’re a PR pro or a roofing contractor) it’s going to be difficult for people to take you seriously. And don’t forget the cat videos! Haha! That’s my code name for any story that doesn’t require too much brain power. It’s cool that you’re pitching me a product that’s going to save the world, but don’t be afraid to put something whimsical in the pipeline. Our audience eats it up, and it’s a good mental break from the stuff I normally cover. People are visual. That’s always been true, but the way we’re able to present visual storytelling (which we have explored in previous posts) is much better. With that great idea pitch, think about something I can use to supplement my story, preferably data
How can people grab your attention in an email? As long as the subject line isn’t bludgeoning grammar and there’s some reference to an issue that interests me, I’ll take a look. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of someone’s ability to phrase it. Having said that, more people should do their homework. A simple search of someone’s name plus the company they work for provides a pretty accurate snapshot of the things they cover. Also, most journalists post their interests on social media. Some of the best pitches I’ve received have had keywords from the headline of a story I’ve written with the idea of, “Hey, maybe another angle to consider” — automatic hook! I know you’re probably not going to waste my time because you’ve already invested some time of your own. Plus, I don’t know everything, so suggestions on advancing my story or rounding out my coverage are appreciated.
What mistakes should PR professionals avoid? One of the biggest mistakes PR people make is thinking their sense of urgency is the same as mine. A good number of pitches I get are for stories that are not time-sensitive from a news standpoint, so telling me I have to jump on this right now sends me into shutdown mode. Be prepared to hear “no” a lot. Matter of fact, be prepared for no response at all. The follow-up contact is important to me, specifically the way they follow up. If someone I don’t have an established relationship with follows an email with another email, I’m thinking, “Yeah, this may be kind of weak.” But, sometimes try phoning! The phone is becoming the dodo bird, and I don’t like that.