April 21, 2018
Larry Edelman, The Boston Globe deputy managing editor, told independent PR agency heads that, while declining print subscriptions portend an all-digital newspaper, building good old-fashioned relationships still counts when it comes to news coverage in New England’s biggest newspaper.
At a recent meeting organized by the Boston Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, Edelman told some 30 small PR agency owners, “We have 95,000 paid digital subscribers, the highest among regional papers,” which is fast approaching half the total subscribers as “print subscriptions slowly decline.”
With classified advertising for autos, employment and real estate no longer able to support the operation, The Globe has had to increase the cost to the readers for providing them with information. “When we’re charging a lot for the product it really has to be good, and when readers log on they want to get the highest-quality journalism. The paper has to be sold on the merits of quality,” Edelman added.
Given changes in the way people access information, especially international and national news, The Globe has reduced its commitment to staffing bureaus in Washington, DC and overseas. “Our motto is to provide journalism you can’t get anywhere but The Globe.” For media relations pros, that means offering its reporters exclusive, newsworthy information about local businesses and organizations and their impact on the community.
At the meeting, run by public relations consultants Hank Shafran, Edelman emphasized, “It comes down to building individual relationships” for both PR pros and reporters as well. “Even though information is available online, reporters still have to get out of the office to cover stories in person and PR folks have to build relationships with reporters. News is a relationship business – a good batting average though is worse than a major league baseball player,” in terms of successful placements.
Edelman urged PR professionals to look beyond your own client for broader stories with greater impact. He pointed out, “A hotel company that was building properties in the outlaying parts of the city such as Allston and Brighten pitched a story about the business.” Rather than publishing a story about this one company, “The Globe did it as a trend piece, which made it a stronger and more interesting article.” Everybody won.
When asked about whom to contact, he recommended sending email pitches directly to reporters since they know more about the topic and editors have too many additional responsibilities to focus on content, though alerting both the reporters and their editors is acceptable.
Joshua Milne, who focuses on sports promotions and media relations, asked whether editorial visits during which company executives visit the editorial staff in the newsroom to provide background information, with no expectation of coverage are still viable.
Veteran business reporter Jon Chesto is known for taking a lot of editorial meetings. “He meets more people in a day than I meet in a month,” quipped Edelman. Notwithstanding, when publicists pitch stories they need to know the topic. Bray said, “It’s disrespectful to call a reporter and not know what your product is or what it does and then fill the void by using terms like ‘best-in-breed’ or ‘disruptive technology.’”
Bray chided PR people who call at 5 o’clock to pitch stories, and for trying to be creative, “Don’t write a story like ‘Once upon a time,’ just the facts please.”
Other changes at The Globe include The Express Desk, which was started last year and is staffed with 25 reporters and editors to deliver breaking news – “immediate news drives a lot of subscriptions,” Edelman said adding that Express Desk tracks readership and revises headlines if an interesting story isn’t drawing readership.
In addition to the Spotlight Team, the famous investigative reporting unit featured in the eponymous Oscar winning movie about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, Edelman, noted, “We created a subset of the Spotlight Team that, instead of spending months on a story is poised for quick investigations that might take only a week or two. One of its latest accomplishments was an investigative report on a recent Massachusetts State Police scandal over no-show traffic details.
Despite the modern newsroom in the heart of the financial district, the absence of the monster Web press, and a hugely successful formula for a digital newspaper of the future, Edelman said some things in Boston remain constant: “Who’s driving the most subscriptions? It’s still sports.”
Dick Pirozzolo, APR of Pirozzolo Company Public Relations is a Boston communication consultant whose credentials as a professional journalist include membership in The Society of Professional Journalists, The Foreign Press Association of New York and the National Press Club of Washington, DC.
January 4, 2018In IPN on
If you’re an independent PR practitioner, you should be in the PRSA Boston Independent Practitioners Network.
It’s fun, informative, and FREE as part of your chapter membership. Sole proprietors and owners of agencies with fewer than five employees are eligible.
We hold regular lunchtime meetings with topnotch speakers at convenient locations. The topics are specially chosen to help independents be more effective.
And networking and just getting to know one another are big benefits.
If you’re not a member—or aren’t sure—just drop us a line at IPN@PRSABoston.org. It’s that easy!
At our next meeting, on Jan. 17, Julie Dennehy will cover top tech tools for PR.
April 14, 2017In IPN on
Where does a professional communicator fit In a world of “alternative facts” and high profile corporate biographies? Recently, PRSA Boston hosted a workshop for its Independent Practitioners Network (IPN) in the Boston area on “Squeezing Your Creative Juice” – specifically, penning a novel, either fiction or nonfiction. Led by PR practitioner Dick Pirozzolo, author of “Escape from Saigon” (Skyhorse), Pirozzolo talked about his own experience as an Air Force information officer who was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Saigon in the early 70s, and how he parlayed his experience into a work of fiction about the draft, the last month of the war, the fear and the loneliness of a Vietnam veteran coming home.
To get us started, the workshop opened with an exercise inspired by Ernest Hemingway. Using photos for inspiration, attendees were encouraged to pen a six-word short story in an homage to “Papa Hemingway” and his bite-sized tale: “For sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.”
“Leadership is taught through real events,” said Pirozzolo, and gave examples of Jobs, Wozniak and Ben & Jerry’s as leaders who are also master corporate storytellers. Tension, romance, a story arc and great characters all make our corporate storytelling more interesting and force us to look at the characteristics of the individuals we represent so we are seeing them through a different and more captivating lens. Pirozzolo advised: “As communicators, we need to sell the story, and not just the product.”
Think about the basics of storytelling when it comes to telling your clients’ stories:
- Character: what makes a person interesting?
- Story arc: how does the story build and show continuity?
- Conflict: find the tension in your story to make it more compelling. “All art is the resolution of conflict, and with conflict comes suspense and surprise. That’s what sucks us in ’till the end.”
- Relationships. Love is a universal emotion: find the love story even in a corporate story.
- Closing: How does your story end? Who solved the problem? Make it real.
- Props: The products drive the story and reveal characters and their development. “How do you set the stage for your CEO’s press exposure?”
- And of course, write for a visually-oriented generation. Be descriptive and creative in your descriptions.
“If you don’t think ‘story’ and great narrative do not matter, remember: without story, ‘Casablanca’ would be but a pushpin on a map and Ben & Jerry’s would be just another ice cream stand.” — Dick Pirozzolo
Many thanks to all the engaged attendees of this fascinating workshop for reminding us that the core of what we do is simple: good storytelling.
By Julie Dennehy, APR, Dennehy Public Relations, via Curious and Clever.
A Special Interest Section founded in Boston, the Independent Practitioners Network was formed as a collaborative of seasoned PR professionals operating as consultants or as small firms in and around eastern Massachusetts. We facilitate partnerships to win or service business; share best practices across our many specialization areas; provide each other with client service or practice management support; and foster community and collaborations among the independent PR people who belong to PRSA Boston. @PRSABoston #PRSABos