Last Friday I attended the Washington Women in PR Annual Media Roundtable, which featured a panel of area media answering burning audience questions. Speakers included Amanda Terkel, Senior Political Reporter and Politics Managing Editor of The Huffington Post, Melissa Romero, Staff Writer for Washingtonian, Molly Walker, Editor for trade publication FierceMarkets’ Enterprise IT group and Amy Harder, Energy and Environmental Correspondent for the National Journal.
While some of what was discussed should hopefully be old news to PR pros, (know the reporter you are pitching’s beat, the publication audience, etc.) it's always good to get a reminder and many of the questions were new info for me. Here’s a recap of some of the key points.
Q: How important is the exclusive?
A: Across the board the answer was a resounding, “love exclusives.” Not only did the reporters say they were more likely to cover the story if they knew their competitors were not, they also mentioned they would spend more time on it. Additionally, in today’s 24-hour news cycle, having exclusive content helps a publication stand out against the masses and it also helps with relationship building. If you are able to give the reporter a great exclusive, chances are they will pay attention to your emails in the future.
Keep in mind though – as the panel also pointed out – just because it is exclusive, does not mean it is newsworthy.
Q: How do you liked to be pitched?
A: Like the first question – the reporters were relatively in sync with their likes and dislikes when it came to being pitched. A pet peeve of most of the panel was calling right after you send a press release or calling in general, unless you were absolutely sure the story was a fit (it always comes back to knowing what the reporter covers).
Knowing when to email is also a key factor in getting your pitch read. While most PR people know mornings are better for pitching so not to catch a reporter on deadline, that is not the only factor in play. If the reporter you are pitching covers legislation – don’t pitch them on days when congress is in session. Get to know the reporter and figure out when your email is most likely to be paid attention to.
Additionally, the reporters want to see the bigger picture – don’t just send a new product announcement – show how it can be a story, how it relates to what else is in the news, etc.
Q: What are you feelings towards PR professionals?
A: Luckily, the feedback was relatively positive (granted the reporters were in a room filled with PR people), but overall they agreed that they would not have time to do their job without PR professionals. And while it can be overwhelming because of the amount of off-beat pitches they receive, PR continues to play an essential role when it is done in an effective way.
A later question asked how many of their articles are their own ideas vs. assignments vs. ideas from public relations and the average response was that 10-20% were taken from PR pitches. That is a relatively small window - so making your pitches as targeted as possible can help you (and your client) fit into that precentage.
Q: Do you like being pitched via social media?
A: While a reporter may be active on social media it does not mean they will be responsive on social media. The reporters on this panel all agreed the social media was not a place for pitching but a place for relationship building. If you tweet interesting or imformative facts to the reporter - they will remember you - and therefore pay more attention to your emails. So feel free to connect with them and share information or reactions to an article they may have written. However, all agreed that it was not the right forum for a pitch.
All in all it was a great event and a more than anything a great reminder that the best pitches are the ones that are targeted specifically for the reporter, publication and audience.
I was proud to serve as a judge in this year's WWPR Woman of the Year event
, where three honorees were recognized for outstanding leadership and contribution to the PR profession.The event was held yesterday at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, with Dee Dee Myers
delivering a powerful keynote address
. Debra Silimeo
, Senior Vice President for Hager Sharp, was awarded the prestigious 2010 Woman of the Year award and delivered a passionate speech about the team at Hager Sharp and how its culture has shaped who she has become.
Two other very impressive women were also recognized as honorees: Donna Vincent Roa,
PhD, ABC, CSR-P, Managing Partner & Chief Strategist, Vincent Roa Group LLC; and Johanna Schneider
, Executive Director-External Relations, Business Roundtable. They both presented their own unique remarks about their journey, their life lessons and inspirations.
WWPR consistently raises the bar with its Woman of the Year award program, and it's the one event I haven't missed in nearly ten years! A raffle was held to benefit WWPRs pro bono client, the Childrenʹs Law Center,
the largest legal services organization in the District and the only organization that provides comprehensive free legal representation specifically for children who have been abused and neglected, have special education or health care needs.
One of my personal highlights was to meet and spend 20 minutes talking to Dee Dee Myers. She served as White House Press Secretary for two years under the Clinton administration and holds the title as the first woman and second youngest to hold that position.
She graduated from my alma mater, Santa Clara University
, a quiet liberal arts school in the heart of Silicon Valley, so I've followed her career for years. Her first book, Why Women Should Rule the World
went on to become a New York Times
bestseller and her remarks mirrored her perspectives shared in the book. Her mantra isn't really about why women should take over the world, but rather, how women should assert themselves alongside men to make the world a better place. Her delivery is sharp, funny, and interjected with dry humor.
She was the inspiration for the character C.J. Cregg
, press secretary on West Wing
played by Allison Janney. She consulted for much of the show as a contributing writer. She joked in her remarks that she enjoyed incorporating true examples of her experiences, but in the show she could take liberties to change the ending. Hilarious.
Afterward, a couple of board members and I spent time talking to Myers, so I had to snap a photo!
|Dee Dee Myers and Elizabeth Shea|
If you think you have a PR professional in mind who is a candidate for the 2011 Woman of the Year, mark your calendars! Look for nomination opportunities next summer.- Elizabeth Shea (@eliz2shea)