Posts Tagged 'Q&A'

Media Q&A with Real Simple’s Amy Bleier Long

Over the last few weeks, the brilliant Tumblr blog, “99 Problems But A Pitch Ain’t One,” has captivated us, entertained us, and yes, sometimes gotten us through the day. Some of the best posts are humorous observations of the relationship between PR professionals and media – refer to exhibits a, b, and c. Of course, in real life, no one wants to be an angry elf mid-meltdown, even though he gets to rock a sweet fur collar (see exhibit a). So, to help us avoid making any of Tumblr’s “PR vs. media” scenarios a reality, I asked one of our editor friends to provide some insight on how she likes to work with PR folks, and what we should keep in mind throughout the pitch process, from initial outreach to final fact check.

SHIFT’s team has had the good fortune to work closely with Amy Bleier Long, assistant market editor at Real Simple, on several occasions this year. She is sadly leaving the publication this Friday, but the thoughts she’s shared below are fantastic reminders about how to build mutually beneficial media relationships. After all, if we’ve learned anything from Dwight Schrute, you never know when you could get shunned. Hopefully, these insights will help you avoid it.

As an editor at a women’s lifestyle glossy, what is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to the PR community?

I am going to offer two pet peeves, if I can. First is lack of communication. Sometimes we ask a PR person to help us secure a product or get more information for us and we don’t hear from them for a long time. Then, too late for a meeting or run-through, we hear from them with either no explanation for the delay or they tell us they were waiting for their client to respond. I worked (briefly) in PR so I know that a lot of times, it’s a matter of getting information from your client. But we appreciate when you let us know that, let us know that you know we’re on a deadline but you are on it and haven’t forgotten. Or if you find out a product we’ve requested is unavailable, we appreciate you going the extra mile and looking for an alternative, but let us know you’re doing that – because otherwise we might think we’re getting something we need, when we’re really not. And, if you’re the only person that works on an account and you’re going to be unreachable – please put an out of office message up so we know!

Second to that is probably when someone gives the impression (or flat out states) that we can have a product by a certain time for a shoot and then right before the shoot all of a sudden cannot come up with the product. We go through several layers of approval on products to shoot, and when a PR person tells me something is available and that we can have it in time for a shoot, we start counting on that item, and sometimes base other items around it. So if, at the last minute, we can’t get that item anymore, it really throws off our planning. At best, it means we have to scramble to replace that item; at worst, it could ruin a planned shot.

Do you have many or few relationships with PR folks – i.e. people you go to again and again for product ideas or story angles? How were those relationships established?  

I would say I have built many strong relationships with PR people that I go back to again and again for products or information, or to pick their brains on a story I might be working on. Mainly those relationships have been developed by working with these people over the last several years and having the experience always be pleasant. The people I work with the most are quick, responsive, and come through with products 90% of the time or more, even with very short notice. It helps, of course, when their products are really well-designed and match our magazine’s aesthetic. And also, no matter how many times I’ve worked with certain companies, they always remain grateful for the support, which isn’t a requirement, but it is really nice to know that they appreciate our relationship, too.

What do you find is the best way to get to know about the topics you write about each month? Outreach to friends in PR? Individual research? What can PR people do to make the research process easier?

I don’t write much, I mostly do the market work, but every once in a while I will reach out to my PR contacts to see if they know someone else in the industry who might be a good person (in terms of expertise on a specific topic) to talk to about ideas, inspiration, or a specific story topic.

A lot of media contacts dislike phone calls from PR reps (vs. receiving email inquires). At glossies, would you say that’s the general sentiment? If so, what should PR folks keep in mind when writing email pitches to increase our odds of getting a response?

I feel similarly in that I prefer email to the phone, though some things just need to be done on the phone. One reason I prefer email is because it gives me a written record of products requested, status, and any pricing or details so later, if I’m told something different, I can go back and question/confirm it. I hope this doesn’t sound terrible – I think the main reason editors seem to prefer email is that people get to the point quicker. Everyone is so busy and I think with email, people just get right down to it, which frankly, I prefer. When pitching, please be sure you’re targeting me appropriately. Take two seconds to confirm what department I work in. I know my title can be vague, and when I started at Real Simple, I think some of the listing companies put me on the wrong pitch lists (i.e. fashion or food), but I get an enormous number of emails that are not for my area at all. And also, if you’ve sent me an email about a product or story idea, please, please do not call me literally 5 minutes later to see if I got the email. I probably did but am either in the middle of something or it doesn’t apply. If I see something that is right for the magazine, I will definitely respond, or I will tell you which department to contact if I’m not the right person.


Pressing the Press: Meet Andrea Salisbury, GateHouse News Media New England

By Matt Trocchio (@Trochman)

Although communication strategies for clients continue to evolve with the growth of social media and online publications, there is one area of news that continues to remain constant for audiences: the local news.  Are you treating these outlets like the key targets they are or as secondary thoughts?  Despite the fact that many consumers still turn to their daily papers and broadcast news for their updates, we in PR sometimes forget the power they wield.

The problem with this is that people sometimes don’t respect these outlets in their outreach efforts and the result can be sloppy pitches or poor relationship building.  As part of our ongoing “Pressing the Press” series we speak with GateHouse News Media New England’s Andrea Salisbury who is the Editor of the Dedham Transcript and the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.  Andrea shares with us her journey to focus on local New England news and how PR professionals can best work with her and other local outlets to give their clients some “home town love.”

How did you get started in journalism? 

That is a loaded question. The easy answer is I fell into journalism. My freshman year of college a professor encouraged me to “get published,” so I signed up for the newspaper and basically never left. After I abandoned the idea I would become a movie critic, I learned the true power of the press and how the written word informs and can change a community. After college I attended graduate school and, again, stumbled into a job on the copy desk of a daily newspaper designing sports pages. Five years later, my company decided I would make a good newspaper editor and gave me two papers to manage.

What drew you to the local news scene?

Community news is, in my opinion, where newspapers thrive. Everyone wants to read about their kid’s Little League game, school play or what’s happening in town government. Local news reporters hold town officials accountable and help to inform the public as to what is going on in their own backyard. As I said before, I fell into the local news scene, but I’ve fallen in love with it. I am there writing stories about breast cancer survivors, and crying along with them as they share intimate details. The local paper is there when the town celebrates the vote to build a new school. These moments that define a town are what attracts me to local news.

As editor of The Dedham Transcript, what are your main responsibilities?

Newspapers are a changing industry. In the two years that I’ve been the editor of the Dedham Transcript my role has shifted. I assign and edit stories for print and online, manage the daily Wicked Local website, design and proof the weekly print edition, take pictures, edit video and write stories. As a side note, I do this for two papers. I recently became the editor of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

How does it work to be a part of GateHouse News Media New England? Do you operate as a separate entity, or do you share information and act as one large outlet?

A little bit of both. GateHouse News Media is huge, there are hundreds of papers across the country, in my newsroom alone there are over 15 weekly papers printed. Editors tend to work within geographical regions when planning stories or assigning reporters to events. Basically, I work right next to editors of surrounding towns.

Can you tell me about one of your favorite stories that you had an opportunity to work on?         

This is an easy one, the Goosebusters. My assistant editor couldn’t get a photographer to accompany him on this story, so I got to tag along as the shooter for the day. Somehow he tracked down this family that had a very strange occupation, they were professional Goosebusters. Basically, the husband and wife team, along with their three border collies went from public parks to private businesses chasing away Canada geese. They have contracts with towns (including the Boston Common) and businesses to make the area uncomfortable for the geese. Twice a day this guy drives around with his dogs looking for geese. So, on this assignment, the family (including their two children), the dogs, my assistant editor and myself piled into the minivan and drove around looking for geese. It took 5 hours. But in the end, we had a fantastic local story, a fun video and hundreds of photos. This was perhaps one of the best days I’ve had “working.”

What do you look for in a good pitch from PR?

A good PR pitch is a local PR pitch. I get a call with a local family, a locally owned business, a local student and I am game for covering that story. On the other hand, if I get a call about a chain business doing something in my town with people from four towns away, I never pursue the story.

What are your main “pet peeves” when working with PR people?

I hate it when a PR person doesn’t know the newspaper they are calling. I get calls pitching a “local” story only to find out by local, they mean happening within a 30 mile radius. The best PR people do their homework, they know the town they are contacting and its deadlines. Calls on deadline days are almost never returned. The last pet peeve, press releases written in all caps, press releases not in Associated Press Style and press release photos that are too small for print, are just extra work on our end.

Anything else that you’d like PR peeps to know?

Keep it local. Newspaper editors are hungry for stories, we want to fill the paper, so make it easy for us. When you call a paper, make sure you know the community and make sure you have contact information right there.