Public relations professionals, and especially newer practitioners, can glean valuable information talking directly with editors regarding story ideas. Editors are always open to queries, but time is limited. What if you could spend several moments with editors in person?
That was the case yesterday during the PRSA luncheon. In lieu of a standard presentation, chapter staff lined up approximately 10 reps from Milwaukee-area media organizations.
Both traditional media (newspaper, magazine, radio and television), along with online platforms were represented. Editors spent five minutes at each table fielding questions and dispensing advice. Here are some takeaways from that event.
Thomas Mitchell, Jr., editor of The Milwaukee Community Journal.
Because his newspaper is devoted to the African American community, Mitchell looks for topics important to black readers. They run personal profiles and announcements about promotions, as well as articles about products and services relevant to readers.
The paper, with a circulation of 20,000, is distributed throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are devoted to publishing the weekly, so Mitchell prefers contacts during other days. News releases should be emailed (with images) initially; it’s OK to follow up by phone call.
Sean Ryan, reporter for Milwaukee Business Journal
Ryan’s focus is on real estate and construction. He looks for businesses whose activities are “outside the usual”: expanding offices, hiring more than 10 people at a time, involved with a regional project, and so on.
The paper concentrates on the seven counties in southeastern Wisconsin. But as noted, they feature businesses involved in projects outside the metro area. He recommends using email for story ideas, but will take calls for urgent items. OK to start with him or other editor if unsure who to contact. Typical deadline is one week prior.
Steve Jagler, Business Editor, Journal Sentinel, Inc.
Jagler’s column, “C-Level,” runs in the Business section every Sunday. Each week he profiles a local business owner or executive. “How they do what they do and why they do what they do,” as he puts it. Jagler welcomes suggestions, looking for “particularly dynamic leadership.”
As for regular story ideas, Jagler’s first suggestion is to study the business publication or section so you know which reporter to contact. “Great story ideas come from reporters on up,” he says, “rather than editors on down.” Respectfully approach the reporter directly, he advises. You’re more likely to see your story in print.
Tony Aria, Senior Assignment Editor, WTMJ-TV
Aria prefers a synopsis of the event (“no 2-page release”). “Give me the facts,” he says.
He welcomes a phone call to see if the station will send a crew to the event. If not, he suggests sending images or video afterward. They might be able to include that on their website. Make sure you provide contact information in the release, including phone number(s) for after hours.
Daniel Simmons, Managing Editor, Milwaukee Magazine
They like “great human stories” with some connection to Milwaukee. He admits that the magazine is “pretty city-centric,” but that they are trying to cover the suburbs better. Stories should showcase how products and programs interact with people’s lives.
In addition to the monthly issues, they publish two special issues each year: one each on Health and Weddings. He says those always need content. “The more fresh and uncovered/ unexplained, the better.”
Deadline is three months prior. If the article does not run in a magazine, it may be considered for their website.
Andy Tarnoff, OnMilwaukee.com
One of two websites devoted to news and entertainment in Milwaukee (the other being UrbanMilwaukee.com), this site boasts 700,000 unique hits daily. Tarnoff encourages PR professionals to contact him with ideas. “Help us figure out the great stories,” he says.
A “daily magazine,” its staff includes seven “passionate story-tellers” to help you think beyond the typical story. Because using social media is so important, Tarnoff says his staff will also identify the message and channel to use for the targeted demographic.
In addition to regular articles, clients can take advantage of sponsored content. You can reach Tarnoff via email or the form on their website.
One thing that really impressed me is how approachable these media people were. They were truly interested in reaching out to PR professionals. They key is to treat editors with respect. Understand what they are looking for in story material, and how best to contact them. Stay on good terms with editors, and you’re more likely to see coverage of your story ideas.
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