Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wisdom from the Chicago Tribune: Get personal with journalists

Book publicists - heck, all publicists for that matter - walk a hard line. On the one hand, we want to be friends with key media contacts. On the other hand, we don't want to annoy our key media contacts. Why? The more friendly, and simultaneously less annoying we are, the more chance we have of landing solid media coverage for our authors and books. So no better way to start that friendly-but-not-annoying-friendly relationship on the right foot than a cheerful, non-invasive email, right?

WRONG. Let's hear it for the Chicago Tribune (and the Bulldog Reporter, who ran this piece earlier this summer) who eloquently dispels this line of thinking. Publicists: be ye not afraid of the telephone. We're talkers. Let's reach out and touch the media via some phone calls and meetings, shall we? Here's more:

"An email followed by a telephone call really is not the best way to go if you want to get our attention," says Michael A. Lev, business editor at the Chicago Tribune (circ. 957,212). "Instead, I think the way to stand out is to make a call and leave a message first—and then to follow up with your email. I have the same counterintuitive advice for sending materials," he adds. "A press kit followed with a call will be remembered. But an email is just too easy to skip over or delete."

His larger point: "Email or anything on its own isn't strategy—it's a gamble. But tying a phone call to it makes it more than a shot in the dark. A call just makes it more personal"––especially in light of today's spray–and–pray email campaigns. That said, "Journalists want their relationships with PR people to be as concise and focused as possible," Lev stresses. "If you get us on the phone or leave a message, keep it very brief. If you don't hear back, assume it wasn't relevant. We'll get back to you if we're interested." His additional tips:

• Afternoon deadlines are dead—pitch breaking news around the clock. "We are all doing much more with less. We have gone through buyouts—and staffs aren't as big as they used to be. On top of that, we all break news on the web now—at least, we're teaching our reporters to do that. Everybody is trying to develop that new muscle memory—breaking news around the clock," Lev says. "We'll post an alert and it'll just be three graphs on the web. Then we'll follow up with a more in–depth story on the second day." His advice: "Recognize we're on deadline all day—not just in the afternoon anymore. Also, recognize what gets play online and in print—and pitch accordingly. For example, don't pitch the breaking news item for the next day's paper."

To read more tips, including the power of the in-person lunch as well as the power of exclusivity, see the full story.

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Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Very interesting, Tolly! Thanks for posting this.

July 20, 2008 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Tolly M said...

Thanks, Colleen! I'm glad you found it helpful.

July 21, 2008 at 9:43 AM  

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