Pitching to the media will always be an art form, particularly in this changing media landscape, but Boston Globe business columnist Shirley Leung and Globe business editor Mark Pothier recently provided PRSA Boston pros with some insights, tips, and “don’t do its” to successfully navigate this shifting environment.
Pothier kicked things off at the informative lunch with about 25 public relations professionals held last week at The Boston Globe. “Pitch us,” he said. “We know it’s your job, but keep a few things in mind.” Be transparent about who your client is. Don’t pitch multiple departments and journalists at once. Go directly to reporters – “they are supposed to cultivate their sources, and that includes you” – but feel free to copy Pothier and other business editors on pitches that don’t have a natural home. Be succinct and use bullets. Try pitching online, where photos and shorter stories play well. Send infographics with back-up data.
“Keep in mind, too, that we’re in flux at the Globe,” he said. “We have a new owner (John Henry), a new editor (Brian McGrory), a growing online presence at BostonGlobe.com, but a smaller staff whose beats are changing.” For instance, Deirdre Fernandes will continue to cover banking and insurance, but now with a more consumer angle. Similarly, McGrory’s new business beats reflect a tilt toward readers’ life moments. There’s the Big Ticket beat, which is about paying for a house, college, retirement, and other financial milestones, and another new beat on income inequality.
Becoming a Columnist
Leung worked as a reporter at The Wall Street Journal and as a business editor at The Boston Globe before signing on as a columnist. As she retells the story, “I was given a budget to hire a columnist, a task Brian and I talked about for several months before I went on maternity leave. When I came back he suggested I take the job, but first he asked, ‘Can you write?’
Since then, Leung has churned out numerous columns, proving she can write and generate lots of followers and comments, although she says, “I find writing really, really difficult.” She describes her style as a mix of former Globe business columnists Steve Syer and Steve Bailey with a healthy dose of Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex in the City.” She plans to cover emerging business issues like medical marijuana, casinos, transportation, the gubernatorial race, and the consumer side of health care like the Minute Clinics. Also in her scope, are her so-called “girl” columns about the lack of women in boardrooms, breastfeeding at work, and stay-at-home husbands.
“I want my column to bring the perspective of a modern working woman to the business pages,” Leung said. “As a columnist, I talk to a lot of people, so feel free to pitch me even if it’s on background.” Or, as one of the PRSA members at the lunch advised his colleagues, learn to be a “column whisperer.”
Q&A With Shirley Leung and Mark Pothier
Q: Is there room for small business stories?
A: Sure, but be open to pitching the online or geographically zoned editions, where it might fit better.
Q: How about founders’ stories, like the company that started in a garage?
A: Maybe. We like to cover the industries that drive the local economy and employ a lot of people, like financial services, biotech, and technology. So, the small company with the latest app doesn’t always fit.
Q: Are awards and personnel appointments worth pitching?
A: Rarely alone, but we’re trying to get more people stories into the business pages. Be creative. Frame the news as part of a trend.
Q: What else is good to keep in mind about the Globe’s business section?
A: The Hot Seat has evolved to 7 Things You Didn’t Know About. Embargoes and exclusives still matter, but they need to be negotiated with us. Self-reporting is an option so we invite you to upload photos to BostonGlobe.com.