I was fortunate enough to host a Tweet chat with Greg Avery, Reporter at the Denver Business Journal on 'Tips for Pitching Journalists at Local Daily/Weekly Publications'. And Greg should know. He’s been reporting for Colorado daily/weekly publications since 1995. He was first a reporter at the Louisville Times and then the Longmont Daily Times-Call and after that at the Boulder Daily Camera. In 2007, Greg started working as a reporter for the Denver Business Journal and has been covering technology and telecom companies in Colorado ever since.
Anyone could join in or ask questions of Greg (via @GregAveryDenBiz) or me (via @becderrington) or just follow the discussion using #PR. But for those of you who couldn’t do any of the above, I’ve distilled the most important parts of the chat, which I’ve outlined below:
Q1: What do you look for in a pitch?
Outside of breaking news, what we look for are stories. Can you spin a tale that’s informative or compelling?
Q2: When are the best days/times to pitch you?
Generally, business hours and weekdays, of course. Wednesday’s not the best; that's when we edit the print edition, so it gets all the focus.
Breaking news tends to go online at the Denver Business Journal, which is updated all day every day... nights, too, if the news is big enough.
Analysis/Trend pieces go in weekly print, where it’s exclusives/scoops, but less breaking news. For those in PR who’ve come from daily paper newsrooms, it’s like the web is the daily edition and print is the Sunday edition.
Wherever a story runs, we look for items that give something new and that matters to readers. Rarely is that new products.
Q3: Everyone has their preferences, so how do you prefer to be pitched - email, phone, Twitter, LinkedIn?
Email and phone for me. Twitter/LinkedIn move too fast to ensure I see it.
Q4: And following on from that, in what contexts (urgent news vs. breaking news)?
PR pitches rarely have to do with breaking news, or at least the ones that work don't. Not for us.
Consider when pitching business journalists, are jobs being created? Is new funding be landed? How does X change the business climate?
The Denver Business Journal coverage means being relevant to metro-Denver somehow. Piggybacking on national news fails without a local connection.
And don’t fake it. Nothing sours reporters on you faster than wasting time with interviews, etc. and getting no story.
Q5: What kinds of subject headers grab your attention?
Short ones. Company name, telling me it's local, actions like funding, expansion, jobs. Not buzzwords.
Q6: How do you determine what you’re going to write about?
Outside of breaking news, ideas sort of present themselves, but their order depends on what information can be had and who's available for an interview.
While pitches don't often trigger a story, they can alert me to a company or person with insight into something I'm interested in.
Q7: Do you prefer to hear directly from executives or do you mind hearing from marketing/PR reps?
I'll hear from anyone. But interviews must be an executive, or at least a relevant point person. Our readership is made up of executives/entrepreneurs/managers (or people aspiring to be) and they want information from their peers.
Q8: Brevity vs. detailed information in a pitch?
Brevity is best. Details can be included in a follow up.
Q9: What do you wish every PR person knew about working with journalists?
I most frequently wish PR reps understood the difference between publicity and news.I get bombarded with pitches that can be distilled as, "Look, this company/product exists!" What good is that for readers?
There are too many new products/companies to profile all of them. Companies have to be hiring, winning financing. Something. Our job isn’t to help companies get exposure. It’s to tell readers new stuff that helps them understand what’s going on.
And a pet peeve: A good pitch comes in and the client company isn't willing to have an executive interviewed or to disclose any numbers. That happens more often than you might guess.
Q10: If you issue a press release over a wire, should a PR person send you the release via email too, or is that redundant?
No, it's not redundant. Between social media, wires, email, fax (yes, I still get some!) it’s hard to track them all.
Q11: Best way for PR's to follow up with you, or do you follow up with them if you’re interested?
Phone, if I'm interested. It’s still the fastest way to make arrangements. Email's like a first date; I’m still deciding my interest.
Either way, be persistent, but understand reporters are likely working on a dozen other things when the call/email comes in.
Great food for thought. What do you think? Do you agree with Greg?