PR Fish Bowl

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A Journalist’s POV: Questions From A PR Team

iraapfel prHelping to craft an executive’s opinions into a compelling story for publication is a gratifying part of public relations work. The best outcomes come from good relationships with discerning editors, such as Ira Apfel of the highly respected AFP (Association for Financial Professionals) publications, with whom we have had the pleasure of working. Read on for Ira’s insightful answers to our “questions from a PR team.”

What should go into a subject line that will make you open a query? Do you have any good/bad examples to share?  Unless you have a really catchy phrase (fear usually works), a good subject line should simply state what’s in the message. Exclude as much technical jargon as possible and all clichés. Just tell me what I’m about to read. Maybe I’ll read it, maybe I won’t. But if I do read the email and the topic does not live up to the subject line’s promise, or if it makes no sense, or if it is simply boring, then I am less likely to open your next email to me.

Current subject-line trend that I HATE: “Does it make sense to discuss this, Ira?” No, it doesn’t. Go away.

What do you look for in a byline submission and what should interested writers avoid? Avoid talking about your turnkey product solution. I have a theory that every product is a perfect solution to some customer out there. What really makes a difference is customer service, and that includes the vendor’s knowledge about the customer’s business and industry. So when I read byline submissions – and I read every one that comes in assuming I get past the subject line – I want to see if you understand my readers and their challenges and have advice for them. My readers have said in survey after survey that they don’t want a product pitch; they want insights. Here’s the good news: It’s not uncommon for vendors or consultants to write articles for my publication and then be contacted by my readers looking for expert advice – not a perfect turnkey solution.

What are some dos and don’ts for “pitching” you a story for one of your pubs? Take five minutes to poke around my organization’s website to understand what we do and better hone your pitch. Every day I receive email pitches about personal financial planning articles. Problem is, my readers do business financial planning – budgeting and forecasting for companies. So a pitch like this will not only be deleted immediately, it will lower my perception of you and make me less likely to open your next email. If you do believe your pitch is a good one for my readers, tell me so. When I read submissions I always ask, “Why should my readers care? What’s new or different in this article that they’ll want to know?” If your pitch doesn’t answer those basic questions, you need to start over.

“Why should my readers care” – that should always be the first question asked and answered in any media relations outreach.

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