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April’s Journalist Roundtable
April 14th, 2021
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There are plenty of perks of being part of Press Hook for brands, media professionals, and publicists. Our goal is to be your go-to source for every question you have about our industry, and our blog is a destination to provide important information and advice. Recently, we invited publicists from Press Hook to join a Slack channel discussion about the type of questions that keep them up at night. From press release writing to agency size, we talked to many leading writers to get their insight.

Here, the second installment of the journalist roundtable, featuring the advice of:

What does it take for a brand to get a standalone feature? How often does this happen?

Trae Bodge: I very rarely write a standalone feature. On occasion, I will interview a brand founder or expert for, but I can’t recall the last time I’ve featured one brand or personality for another outlet.

Aly Walansky: Honestly, it rarely happens. But when it does, it has to be there's something unique and interesting they are doing, human interest-wise or innovation-wise.

Lindsay Tigar: In my 15+ year career, it’s only happened maybe twice. I know that brands drool over those huge features in publications, but often, those are paid placements. And if they’re not, it’s a story that probably took four months to write and is written by a staff writer who has the time to dedicate. If you want those types of features, I suggest building relationships with writers or editors who have a history of those. They aren’t as common for most digital journalists who are churning out content and often asked to have multiple sources.

What do you pay the most attention to in a pitch? The founder? The product/service? The timing?

TB: I cover a lot of topics within the smart shopping space, from articles featuring a few experts, to products or deal roundups, so what I’m looking for varies widely. If I were to generalize, I’m intrigued by pitches that are well-written with a concise headline and a well-organized body with bullets. I admit that I don’t find angles that obviously auto-generated very interesting, but I know that PR’s are often under orders to send blasts like that, so I try to look at them even if they say, Dear xx…

AW: The timing and what makes them unique. There's not a lot of things out there that a lot of people aren't also doing. So when something stands out for me and is a good fit for what I'm working on or just feels fresh/different, I'm going to take a second look.

LT: Maybe I’m an outlier here, but for me, it’s genuinely about what matches with my current assignment. Because I write upwards of 60 pieces of content a month, I’m not likely to read it right away if an unrelated pitch comes my way. If it sounds intriguing, I’ll file it. Otherwise, I delete them. I gravitate toward specific angles tied to what I’m working on each month.

What's the best way a PR pro can build a relationship with you?

TB: Send good pitches that speak to what I cover, especially they feel personal in any way. I appreciate it if someone has taken the time to research what I write about, and the pitch is framed in that way. I also like it when people interact with me on social media—not just sliding into my DM’s, but someone who takes a little time to get to know me. I know we’re all time-strapped, but you’d learn a lot about me and what I write about simply by checking out my Instagram every now and again.

AW: Show interest, make it personal. Take a second to look into what I'm working on and what I'm interested in.

LT: Meet my deadline! I can’t count how many times each week a publicist or expert misses my deadline. Or they send a one-sentence response I can never use. Even if you are going to miss a deadline, a head’s up is so helpful, so I can scramble to find someone else. And, since I’m working on so many articles each month, it’s beneficial when publicists wait a few days or a week to follow up. I’m spinning so many plates in the air; I don’t have time to respond to all emails. And, it may seem simple, but a ‘thank you’ email is so nice! It rarely happens, and I always appreciate it when it does!

What is one way a publicist can get sent straight to trash/you'll never reply?

TB: Not following instructions when responding to my regular PR e-blasts. I provide a bulleted list of what I need, and you would be surprised by how often things are missing. Or asking me to update a piece I recently wrote. Basically, that shows total disregard for the care I take to create a well-rounded article, never mind what I’d have to do on my end to add something after an article has been published. If I wrote something that’s a fit for a client, reach out to say you enjoyed it and that you’d like to intro your client to another opp down the road.

Lastly, arguing with me if you’ve missed my deadline (which is clearly stated). Life happens, so it’s totally fine to miss the deadline and ask if there’s flexibility (the answer is usually no, but you never know). Sometimes people are nasty and say things like, ‘I only missed the deadline by an hour, can’t you add my client?’ No, no, I can’t. Deadlines are set so I can wrap things up and move on.

AW: Mass bccs. It feels spammy, and I'm not into it!

LT: Recently, I had a publicist follow up on a product that was sent to me to review. They asked about when it would be included somewhere and were a bit aggressive with their response, and said they ‘purchased’ it for me. In reality, it’s part of the marketing budget—and not a great word choice when trying to build a relationship with a journalist. In general, nothing is guaranteed unless you pay for a paid placement. So being rude or putting on pressure for something that’s ultimately out of my hands (editors make the final call on content), makes me never want to work with them again.

Do you prefer short or long pitches, generally? Why?

TB: I prefer short, but long enough to provide the necessary info. It’s okay to attach a press release if there’s more to say, but I will glaze over it and lose interest if I have to scroll too far.

There are a lot of bad pitches out there. I’ve started working with people—especially small brand owners who are inexperienced—to help them tighten up their pitches. Sending a long, jumbled pitch is such a missed opportunity to create a relationship! It’s been fun to help people put their best foot forward.

AW: Short! I don't want to write a novel to see what you are pitching me and if I'm interested.

LT: Keep it short and simple. Don’t include images. A paragraph with some links is perfectly fine.