Build relationships, offer exclusives and study the media outlets you are pitching.
Those were the takeaways from a recent meeting with The Boston Globe led by Sacha Pfeiffer, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and a veteran of All Things Considered who covers non-profits and philanthropy, and Larry Edelman, the business editor who came back to The Globe after stints with Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal and a corporate gig with John Hancock.
When The Globe editors say exclusive they mean exclusive. Previous publication by a local TV program or, say, Boston Business Journal are verboten. The editors called for members of the Boston Chapter of PRSA to nurture and preserve their relationships with Globe journalists. Nothing rankles a reporter more than to have supported a local startup company with editorial coverage for years only to have that company offer the really big story exclusively to The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times when a breakthrough, such as an acquisition or venture financing, comes through.
Tip: When offering exclusives, carefully identify which part of the story is exclusive. A PR representative of a prominent organization or individual can offer an exclusive about a specific development and or angle, but cannot give one media outlet exclusive access to all news about that company or individual over an indefinite period. And, of course, one cannot violate simultaneous release requirements governing publicly held companies.
Know the media outlets
Edelman explained that The Globe, like most daily newspapers, has had to grapple with the Web, finding new ways to remain relevant in our online news world. In terms of content, The Globe increasingly emphasizes the local angle of every story it publishes and how the news will impact local readers. As Edelman puts it, The Globe provides, “a sense of community.”
Pfeiffer, who knows her way around Boston’s wealthiest, pointed out that the community has changed substantially. Instead of covering elderly folks, who will their fortunes to local nonprofits, Boston’s digital economy has given rise to a cadre of young wealthy people who actively engage in philanthropy now.
Reporters at the session, organized by local PR guru Dan Dent, agreed that while they don’t have time for idle chitchat, they do like to receive phone calls with helpful information. Andrew Caffrey, assistant business editor, said that when you call, “Do your homework. Know where we are [editorially]. It’s obvious when I get a cold call that the person has, or has not done, their homework.”
While it’s tough to get a reporter on the phone, much less out for lunch, Twitter has emerged as a valuable media relations tool. The editors advised PR pros to follow the reporters on Twitter and re-tweet their postings with comments. Doing so contributes to keeping ones name and client relationships in front of the journalists—a big advantage when pitching a story or when a reporter is looking for a source.
The biggest turn off? Emails with computer generated salutations.
The media landscape
To thrive in an environment with so much easy access to national and international news online and through 24/7 cable TV, The Globe is banking on its local community focus.
When it comes to actually delivering the news, The Boston Globe has developed a twofold online strategy. It initially produced the free news site “boston.com,” formatted like a website. It has now added a paid online subscription wwww.thebostonglobe.com that looks and feels like the print edition and duplicates its content. The Globe allows visitors to sample a few articles a month for free.
As part of the evolution, boston.com was given a separate editorial team, is still free and has become Globe lite. “There are a lot of pictures of Tom and Giselle,” quipped Pfeiffer, referring to star New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel wife Giselle Bündchen.
Will the thunk of a daily newspaper tossed on your doorstep become a quaint bit of nostalgia? Even though we increasingly rely on the Web for news where coverage has the benefit of remaining available nearly forever, corporate chiefs still want to be seen in the print edition, and “page one” still counts.
Edelman emphasized, however, “The distinction between print and online is becoming increasingly irrelevant.”
Even though Google has made it possible to do all ones research online, Edelman said he urges reporters to get up from their desks and go out and meet sources. Excellent advice for PR people who need to think more like journalists. Get away from your computer, go out to the client, visit their factories, talk to everyone on staff. Sniff out the news that the CEO doesn’t tell you about. Those are often the best stories.