I recently sat down with Bruce Horovitz, a media training specialist and national journalist, who was the marketing reporter for USA TODAY for 20 years and formerly wrote the Marketing Column for the LOS ANGELES TIMES for 10 years. Please feel free to contact Bruce directly about a media training seminar for your company at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone him at 571-236-3209.
Tell us more about your day-to-day as a journalist.
The single biggest challenge day-to-day is finding enough compelling story ideas. Today, in newsrooms of reasonable sizes, you are expected to churn out an enormous amount of content. Journalists are expected to come up with a handful of stories and every one of them should be compelling, accurate, interesting and have what I call a Gee Whiz factor!
What are some of your daily challenges in developing a story?
Time – time to be able to pull the story together quickly within a circumstance where it has to be accurate and, as a journalist, you feel that you have done your due diligence – you talked to the people you needed to talk to, you have gathered data to prove the point you are trying to make, etc. It’s a relentless task because as soon as it ends you are on to the next story.
What information is essential for you to consider a ‘pitch’ from a PR professional?
I think the most successful pitches are those that are individualized; the mass pitch is doomed. I think it is critical to have a sense of who the writer is, what they like and their overall style. Once you have a good sense of the writer, you will be more successful with your pitch. A pitch should never tell all too much – it’s nice to leave someone hanging a little bit to make them respond. There is a lot to be said about the attitude behind the pitch – if you, as a PR person, do not feel good about the brand or pitch than you shouldn’t do it. You are wasting everyone’s time. Never sell or pitch wearing a salesperson’s hat; sell as a human being from one person to another. There needs to be a stroke of humanity and friendliness in your pitching efforts – it will be much more acceptable.
Has the era of fake news changed how you approach a story?
Fake news is a term that the media likes to write about; it’s not at the top of my list when I am pitched stories. That said, if something smells fishy from the start, there is less likelihood now that I will invest the time seeking it out in a fake news era. Generally, I like to be the one to place the call to a source rather than receive a call from a source.
How important is a pitch topic including real data from a PR professional?
The simple most important thing in an email pitch is a subject line that makes me open your email; if you fail at this, then nothing else matters. You must spend the time and effort to create a great subject line. Once I click on it, then you must have done your due diligence, not just hype me, but supply compelling data and information that sells me on the story. Sharing the source of this data will also save me time. Data often draws the nut graph of a story and can very well be the essence of story.
What other assets can a PR professional provide to help with your story?
We’ve talked about great story ideas and data, but just as important, a PR professional can help me make my story look pretty. In the new digital newsroom, the visual products (both photos and videos) can make or break a story. If you can supply me with visual assets of products in use and a good selection of visuals, including enough to perhaps put a gallery together, then, guess what? It could possibly lead to a photo gallery, plus the potential for an ad to be built around it. This is something that journalists think about every day in the new digital age. Freelancers are paid by images so more is always better!
In your opinion, what can PR professionals do better?
Give me more good Gee Whiz stories!