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New Jersey Pros Give PR Professionals The Real Story On Pitching News Items

From the March Issue of SPJ Report


By Stephanie Overman
Chapter Secretary

“I just faxed you a press release, when is it going to run?”

“It’s really great. It’s a photo of someone donating a giant check.”

“It’s a passport photo taken 10 years ago, but really, it’s good.”

“Besides talking with the president, also sitting in on the meeting will be the senior VP, executive VP, VP, senior manager, manager and janitor.”

“How much does it cost to get this press release in your publication?”

Anthony Birritteri, senior editor of New Jersey Business, offered these as examples of things PR pros should never say when pitching news people.

Birritteri was one of a dozen news people who spoke at the annual “Meet the Press” luncheon that was held Dec. 12 at the Marriott Hotel in Somerset, N.J. The meeting was co-sponsored by the PRSA and the SPJ New Jersey Pro Chapter.

Here are some more tips offered by the other panelists:

-- Todd McDermott, WCBS-TV anchor: Stations are more likely to consider covering something if publicists can maximize the number of people who will be impacted by the story and if it touches someone emotionally or financially.

Publicists should make sure those recommended as sources are well-prepared for the interview. He recalled an interview with someone who replied to his first question: “Sorry, don’t speak much English.”

-- Marcus Solis, a reporter with WABC-TV in New Jersey: Getting background information from publicists is appreciated.

-- Rose Marie Arden, a field producer for CNN in New York, said: PR pros will find an easier sell on the weekend when news tends to be slow.

Since fewer news staffers are at work, getting advance notice on a weekend story is helpful.

-- Brenda Blackmon, a reporter for WWOR-TV in Secaucus, said: Starting times are important. Don’t expect TV crews to be two hours ahead of time for interviews.

-- Doug Boyle, news director for WBGO-FM in Newark, said, “We like sounds.”

-- Bruce Johnson, news director, WCTC-AM, in East Brunswick, said it’s important to break down large events so a radio reporter can talk one-on-one with key participants.
Speaker phones do not work very well on the radio, he said, and publicists should avoid trying to make personal contact with him on busy news days or while he is on deadline.

-- Julie Busby, editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s New Jersey edition, had these tips: Publicists should develop a list of reporters and assignment editors, not top editors, to call; become a source for good stories; make yourself credible; be accessible by leaving phone numbers; and create efficient press kits.

-- Joel Whitaker, editor and publisher of Whitaker’s Newsletters in Fanwood, said PR pros should do their homework, particularly in the case of newsletters, because they are specialized and require a careful reading to understand their audiences.

-- Caren Lissner, managing editor of The Hudson Reporter in Hoboken, said: All of the stories in the paper are local. Find a local angle.

-- Larry Moniz of Business News New Jersey only wants news about N.J.-based companies or companies with a significant presence in the state.

-- James Greiff, assignment editor at Bloomberg News, said: It’s a waste of time to send information to Bloomberg if it is not about a publicly traded company.

-- Raju Narisetti, technology editor for The Wall Street Journal, said: It’s a sign PR people have not done their homework when they send him photos.


Share news about your chapter’s programming and other activities with other chapters nationwide! To submit chapter briefs or column suggestions for SPJ Report, contact:

Sarah A. Shrode
Director of Marketing & Communications
317/927-8000 ext. 213

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