Author Archives: Brett Simon

Pitching the Media: It’s not what it used to be

Life was so simple back when I was a reporter all those years ago. A pen, pad and a mic were all I needed to report the news of the day.

There were really only two ways someone could pitch a story idea to me for the television station I worked for.

Calling the newsroom was by far the most popular pitching method. My assignment editor was the gatekeeper of all incoming calls.  Amazing guy. He could juggle the phone lines, monitor the police scanner and fax machine all to the steady hum of news alerts spewing from the AP printer in the background. You had to get pass him before you could get to me.

If you couldn’t get through by phone, PR folks simply dropped their release in the mail.  That’s right, good ole snail mail!  A batch of releases and letters were neatly stacked on a designated corner of my assignment editor’s desk waiting to be weeded through daily.

It’s a lot different today. We have email and social media to thank for that. PR folks have a multitude of new tools they can now use to deliver their message to the media.

But some pitching rules hold fast.

“Know what the reporter is looking for,” says JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC’s Your Business. This is #1 on every journalist’s list I’ve come across as a media relations manager with PR Newswire so let’s start there.

  • Do your research: A journalists can tell right away how much you know about their publication or show. JJ says the tip off for her is when people pitch companies.

“We don’t profile companies or people. We feature lessons in small business. That’s what PR folks should pitch to my show.”  Make a good first impression by learning what the media point specifically covers; who their audience is and the various platforms they report on.

  • Personalize your pitch:  A canned pitch is not an effective pitch. Target your pitch to appeal to the media org’s readers/viewers. Be flexible and willing to change your strategy to fit the needs of the publication you’re pitching. Your objective may be to get coverage of an event, but the publication may be interested in another angle of the story. Be open to switching it up to accommodate the journalist.
  • Keep it simple:  Stay away from industry jargon.  “Journalists are not venture capitalists. Our eyes roll when we hear words like “synergy” or “next-generation” or other management-speak buzzwords,” says Colleen DeBaise, former special projects director of and current digital media director at The Story Exchange.  Colorful words don’t make the story more attractive. In fact, it can be a total turn-off.
  • Be available:  Remember, you are on their time. Though you may not grab their attention at first, they may need you later down the road. And when that happens,  be ready.  When they call, answer. Whatever they need, get it. Believe me, they will be forever grateful that you helped them out at crunch time.

The art of pitching the media is forever evolving and changing depending on the nature of your story and the type of media you’re pitching. This Wednesday, I will be moderating a “Pitch the Media Live” panel at the Woman Entrepreneurs Conference in NY. Attendees will have the opportunity to pitch a panel of journalists on the spot and get their honest feedback.  Here are the conference details, agenda and the place you can register.

Work smarter!  Hone your pitches and streamline your workflow with Agility, the PR Newswire platform that enables you to target, monitor and engage with traditional and social media, all in one place.

Author Brett Savage-Simon is a senior manager of media relations for PR Newswire. 

Why We Say “No” to April Fool’s Prank Press Releases

What PR pranksters look like to professional media. Don't wind up being the fool this April 1st.

Every year about this time, my son starts plotting and planning for April 1. It would give him immense pleasure to pull a fast one on Mom just one time.  But — as much as I’d love to see that little grin on his face gloating as he utters those words “April Fool’s!” — it never works. Why?  Because I can see it a mile away.  Like me, my colleagues at PR Newswire anticipate April Fool’s pranksters too.   Each year, numerous “prank” press releases are submitted. And each year, after enjoying a laugh while reading them (some are really funny!) we have to say no to sending them out over the wire.

The fact is, the repercussions of distributing a false news announcement are far reaching and lasting, and can ultimately tarnish a public relations pro’s relationships with journalists and bloggers, and negatively impact brand reputations.

News releases distributed over PR Newswire are a trusted source material that journalists rely upon to write their stories.  The media that receive PR Newswire know that we vet sources.  In many cases, they act on the press releases they receive from us immediately, not finding it necessary to call the company issuing the news to verify its authenticity.

Once a release is distributed, it triggers a series of steps taken by the press covering the company, organization, industry or subject that the release is about.  Time is of the essence as today’s journalists produce content for traditional and social media channels.  All it takes is one phony news release to throw a wrench into this process…and make the journalists who worked on the story look, well, foolish.

Fictitious announcements waste the precious time of reporters desperately trying to meet their deadlines. Working in a non-stop news cycle of print, 24-hour broadcast and social media platforms like Twitter, a journalist’s name is forever attached to a bogus story. And a duped journalist never forgets.  After all, their own professional reputations suffer too.

So this April 1st, keep these facts in mind.  Save the funny stuff for a more forgiving audience, such as the small children in your life, and keep those media relationships and brand reputations you’ve worked so hard to cultivate intact.

Author Brett Simon is a national manager of media relations for PR Newswire.

Image courtesy of Flickr user  Foxtongue.

Socializing the News: Old Media Style

It’s been a rocky relationship for social media and traditional news. And who can really blame mainstream journalists for not taking to social media at first?  After all, social was invading reporters’ turf, beating them to the punch breaking news on twitter.  It was the new, unknown kid on the block, trying to change things up and mainstream media didn’t like it. But in just a few years, the new kid on the block has become the coolest kid on the block that everyone wants to know and hang out with.  Now, social media is being integrated into every aspect of major news organizations.  This was clearly evident by the panel of social media editors from CNN, NBC, NY Times, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters assembled for a sold out Publicity Club of NY luncheon during Social Media Week in NY.  The panelists included:

The fact that such esteemed news organizations as these created social media editor positions in their newsrooms speaks volumes about the growing role of social media in the old media world.

So what does a social media editor do these days?  Much of their time is spent teaching journalists how to use social media to promote their work and find leads.

Bloomberg’s Yurow admits they are playing catch up compared to some other news orgs.

“We slept through the blog generation and arrived fashionably late to the Twitter and Facebook party.”  As social media producer, Yurow faces a unique challenge. “We have to work to balance between our wire service and social media so that both can thrive.”

I can see how Bloomberg was tardy to the party.  I’ve found that most of the journalists I come into contact with through my media relations work here at PR Newswire are still reluctant to jump on the social media bandwagon. Or should I say they’ve jumped on, but aren’t sure what to do next.  (Full disclosure: I was one of those old media hold outs who finally gave in to social media a few years ago, but not without a lot of  kicking and screaming).

CNN’s Krakauer recalled Piers Morgan’s aversion for Twitter. That changed after 12,000 followers poured in immediately after his very first tweet shortly before his show launched.  Krakauer says it’s about transferring twitter users to television watchers, which apparently is working for Morgan’s show.

“About 7 minutes before the Charlie Sheen interview, Piers tweeted about it and our average audience tripled.”

Social media editors walk a fine line between training, social strategizing, research and development and what Mandy Jenkins, former social editor for Huffington Post politics, refers to as the “twitter monkey”.  Twitter monkeys are left to manually manage their brands’ twitter accounts, alone, 24-7, with little time for anything else. The term got a strong reaction.

“We don’t consider ourselves twitter monkeys,” said Heron.  She is one of of two SM editors at the NY Times “We’re looking at how to bring social media into newsgathering.  We’re constantly looking at new platforms to see where we fit in,” said Heron,.  She added that at the Times, each desk is responsible for its own social media strategy.

When the panelists were asked if they retweet news from other sources, all agreed that curating is a key part of the job.

“In order to be the place where everyone gets news, you have to be a beacon for all news,”  De Rosa replied. “You make yourself more valuable by curating news.”

Though much of the two hour lunch focused on Twitter, other platforms got honorable mentions. In fact, at one point, the moderator asked “if Twitter didn’t exist, what would you be doing?”

Facebook’s new subscribe button, Linkedin, Google+ are all being utilized by the panelist’s news companies as is Pinterest which they are beginning to experiment with.  They each have their own value.

“Pinterest is sustainable because it appeals to the masses,” says Kannally, the youngest on the panel who joined NBC News three months ago.  He says he uses it regularly but is trying to figure out the best way to use it for news.

“Social media is not new. We have to figure out how to be different and innovative and cut through all the noise.”

Author Brett Simon is a member of PR Newswire’s audience development team, and is one of the voices heard on the @prnewswire Twitter presence.

The PR Game Changer: Social Media [Video]

Social media has permeated every aspect of our private and business lives and no where is this more evident than in public relations. Whether in the promotion of your personal brand or pitching a product or business, social media provides a direct path to your audience.  Recently I sat down with Ken Dowell, vice president of Audience here at PR Newswire to ask him about the impact social media has had on public relations.

Brett’s Beat: Brands & Content

When I joined PR Newswire 15 years ago, it was all about distributing news releases. Helping our clients meet disclosure and getting their release into the hands of thousands of media points with one press of a button.  We still do that, of course. It’s a huge part of our business, but today our customers content includes video, audio, white papers and more.  Unlocking all this content they are sitting on was the topic of a recent sit-down I had with our guy who oversees our Products division, Jason Keller.

Author Brett Simon, manager of media relations, is a member of PR Newswire’s audience development team.

Video: PRNewswire Catches Up with Spike Lee, Ray Romano & others at Peabody Awards

The Peabody Awards returned to the Big Apple last week for its annual awards luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria.  Although not as widely known as the Oscars or the Emmy awards, the Peabody’s are one of the most prestigious awards given in the media industry and draw some big time celebs.  PR Newswire’s Brett Simon and ProfNet Connect’s Evelyn Tipacti — armed with their Flip cams — put their reporting hats back on to cover the event.

Here is a complete list of all of the Peabody winners. Kudos to you all!

Got Twitter Anxiety? 5 Tips to Overcome It

In her last blog post RT Tips from #smwny: The Emerging Skills of Tomorrow’s #Journalists, PR Newswire’s Media Relations Manager Brett Simon talked about the growing use of Twitter by journalists. This is also true on the other side of the media fence where PR, marketing and others in the communications field are being required to use social media in order to better engage with their audiences. But the journey from traditional methods of sharing information to using social media can be bumpy as Brett discovered. For over a year now, she’s been honing her Twitter skills and now today she is part of the @PRNewswire twitter team posting tweets throughout each day. How did she overcome her Twitter anxiety? Watch her video and find out.

RT Tips from #smwnyc The Emerging Skills of Tomorrow’s #Journalists

@jayrosen_nyu @jennydeluxe @withdrake @lauriesegallcnn #JMash

This headline post is what journalism is looking like more and more these days.  Reporters are increasingly relying on Twitter to research stories, find people and distribute their own news,  according to a media panel assembled by Mashable during Social Media Week NYC.

The panel featured Jay Rosen, NYU journalism professor,  NY Times tech reporter Jenna Wortham, CNNMoney’s Laurie Segall, and Drake Martinet of All Things Digital. The moderator was Vadim Lavrusik from Mashable.

Twitter has grown at an incredible speed.  Just a year or two ago, journalists I queried about their use of Twitter yielded responses like “I have a twitter account but I don’t really know what to do with it so it’s just kind of sitting there”.

I myself tried desperately to hold on to my good ole reporter’s notebook, but was urged (and that’s putting it nicely) to start tweeting.  It was like a foreign language that I didn’t want to learn at first.  But I did and now I’m on Twitter everyday.

It’s not enough just to know what Twitter is; you have to know how to use it – hashtags, the @ symbol, DMs and all.     .

“The skills journalists need to prosper are changing very quickly,” said Rosen.  He says media outlets want people who can do more; hence what he teaches has evolved along with the expectations of the industry.

Rosen runs NYU’s Studio 20 graduate program that focuses on “innovation and adapting journalism to the web”.  It’s all about challenging student journalists to find new approaches to journalism.  A necessary change from when I was a graduate student at NYU’s j-school back in the early ‘90’s.

“I’m trying to deliver to the world of journalism people who are capable of inventing its future and that is a completely different kind of education.”

Both Wortham and Segall skipped J-school and took a more hands on approach.

“You have to be a hard worker, be egoless, don’t complain and use social media,” said Segall who figured out how to use Facebook early one as a freelancer.

“I used Facebook to find people who had the Swine Flu,” said Segall. “Now I can look at Twitter and within five minutes I can be up to date with all the news.”

As a tech reporter for the Times, Wortham reports on and uses all the social media and tech tools out there but she says nothing beats good storytelling.

“We don’t have the luxury of focusing on one area,” she told the room full of mostly aspiring journalists.  “The more you know, the better you can craft your story so that readers will return and follow your work during the length of the story.”

All Things Digital’s Martinet was a speechwriter for many years before earning a Master’s in Journalism from Stanford.  Now he works on making ATD more social-media friendly in addition to blogging about start-ups.

“There’s a ton of software out there that I use but the single thing that has helped me deal with information overload and aggregation and then quieting myself down enough to take it all in is I’ve started using a writer’s app on the iPad.”

And there are other tools out there that the panelists mentioned:

But perhaps the most valuable reporting resource has been there all along.

“People are my biggest tool.”  Rosen says you have to know how/where to find the one person with the expertise you need.  Hmmm, I happen to know an excellent experts service that helps you do just that!

Authored by Brett Simon, manager, media relations, PR Newswire.

Twitter TV Style

In all the years that I’ve worked for PR Newswire, I’ve attended countless conferences yet, I had the jitters going into SABEW’s most recent conference in New York.  This one was different.  I would have to tweet live from the conference – something I’d never done before.

Kevin Noblet, deputy managing editor at Dow Jones Newswires; Rob Maruster, COO JetBlue and Vasant Prabhu, vice chairman Starwood Hotels on a panel at SABEW

Tweeting only recently became part of my daily PR Newswire duties. At first, I just didn’t get the Twitter thing.  The posts looked like someone had just randomly run their fingers over the computer keys and hit enter.  It made no sense.

So, I spent the past year learning about hash tags, hootsuite and how to squeeze my thoughts into 140 characters. Thankfully, I had a great Twitter mentor in Vicky Harres, PRN’s director of Audience Development and @prnewswire team leader.

In time, I pretty much mastered the art of tweeting (because I do believe it is truly an art).  Now, when I start my day, one of the first things I do is log on to Hootsuite and start tweeting. Still, the idea of tweeting LIVE from a conference scared the heck out of me.  How would I listen and tweet without missing something as well as retweet what others at the conference might be tweeting about?!?

Armed with survival tips from my team, I approached my task with both excitement and trepidation.  Much to my surprise, what I discovered was that LIVE tweeting is a lot like live TV reporting.  That adrenaline rush I used to feel when I was sent to the scene of a breaking news story came flooding back.  The players were a bit different but the objective was the same — get the facts, listen for compelling soundbites and tell the story in a quick and concise manner.

So as I sat there listening to the various SABEW panelists from the executives of Starwoods and JetBlue to award-winning business columnists from the NY Times and Bloomberg, my television reporting instincts instantly kicked in.  Rather than a microphone and a reporter’s notebook, my laptop and a wifi connection were my tools to tell the story on @prnewswire.  Once that “ah ha” moment hit me, tweeting from the conference was a breeze.

Reporting Live from Twitter, I’m Brett Simon

Media relations manager Brett Simon contributes regularly to the @PRNewswire presence on Twitter, and also tweets under the handle @savsimon