The Inside Scoop: Media Interview with Freelance Reporter Jess Thomson

Posted Sep 29, 2011 by shauna

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.

Social Media and the Law

Posted Sep 19, 2011 by shauna

We recently attended the BlogWell event, hosted by It featured several interesting social media case studies by big companies like Boeing, Quaker Oats, and REI, and also addressed a very important topic that often gets pushed to the wayside…the laws that apply to social media.

As of December 2009, the FTC has been monitoring Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other online spaces. Combining our own advice with what we learned at BlogWell, here are our tips for staying out of trouble in the social media realm.

What does the FTC ask us to do?

Broken down for easy comprehension by’s CEO, Andy Sernovitz:

  • Require full disclosure and honesty in social media outreach.
  • Monitor conversations in social media and correct misstatements.
  • Create social media policies and training programs. So, teach numbers 1 and 2 to employees and clients.

These all apply to blogger outreach, where transparency is key. We know some bloggers require compensation for their time, but if there is ever an exchange of money, you need to be blatantly obvious on who is getting paid for what – i.e. disclosure needs to be posted in the blog entry, not buried somewhere in the blogger’s ‘about me’ section. Remember, disclosure is a federal law. It’s not debatable.

Another place we can run into legal issues are Facebook contests, which are usually governed by sweepstakes law. It is imperative to be aware of the promotions guidelines, which state you must use an app to administer contests. Liking the brand or checking into a place cannot be a mechanism for voting. Check out one of our favorite apps for running contests – Offerpop. Easy to use and relatively inexpensive!

The bottom line is that you must be aware of these regulations to follow them. If you’re caught breaking a rule, an “I’m sorry we didn’t know!” won’t cut it.

Here are a few resources we’ve found helpful:

3 Important Legal Considerations for Bloggers
Social Media and the FTC: What Businesses Need to Know
5 Legal considerations for Your Social Media Campaign
Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit