Thursday, September 29th, 2011
As PR people we are consistently trying to get the attention of media. Most of the time we’re successful, but there are those times where our ‘big news’ is met with a radio silence that leaves us baffled. What went wrong? Was it not newsy enough? Did our subject line shove us into the junk mail box? That’s why we’re embarking on a journey of learning from media about what they are looking for and the tips we might employ for increasing our success in getting them to cover our client’s news.
To kick if off, we’re interviewing Seattle-based food reporter, blogger and new author of the cookbook, “Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker”, Jess Thomson.
What is the number one reason you’ll read an email from a PR person?
I’ll read the email if I trust them.
Does no response always mean no interest?
No, not always. I’d say half the time it means I’m not interested. Half the time it means I haven’t decided if I’m interested, or I’m interested but will only give it my time if/when it becomes applicable to my work, or I simply fail to respond.
How important is the subject line?
The subject line is crucial. Same with the lead-in sentence. Regardless of the topic, there are a few no-brainers: Spell everything right, especially my name. Never ask me if you can peak my interest instead of pique it, or if a chef can show me there interesting new dish instead of their interesting new dish. Back to PR boot camp for you. I think PR folks are blissfully unaware, in general, of how many mistakes they make (no offense).
Can you share a couple of tips for the best way to get results from a reporter?
First, the press release must be applicable to the writer or reporter in question and be familiar with his/her media outlets. If someone sends me a plea to include a product review on my blog, they’ve clearly never read my blog; I don’t do product reviews. If they ask me today to write up a holiday event for Sunset Magazine, they clearly aren’t aware that the December issue has already gone to press, and that my December deadlines passed 2 months ago. PR folks get best results if they customize a press release to a writer and to the topics they cover, and to send it in a timely fashion.
Example: If you want me to write up a great new dish for Sunset Magazine, do your reading first, so you know that a) Sunset doesn’t feature specific chef recipes and b) I only write travel pieces and upfront pieces for them. (But kudos to you for realizing I haven’t written for Seattle Weekly for 3 years.)
What’s the rule of thumb about offering free experiences and items?
It’s important to be sensitive to the fact that while some writers take free items/experiences, others don’t. Don’t push. If you have them to offer, offer them as an option.