How to Pitch a Business Reporter

Stock-Market-DropI recently caught up with Jennifer Nycz-Conner, a features reporter for the Washington Business Journal here in DC. She shared with me her pitching preferences and for the Business Journal; and what makes her love or hate a publicist.  The Washington Business Journal is owned by the American City Business Journals, which also owns 41 other papers. If you’re in business or representing someone who is, you’ll want to take note of these pitching preferences.

wbj_logoName: Jennifer Nycz-Conner
News Org: Washington Business Journal
I cover our Business Smarts section, which is a feature section on how to better manage your career and business. I also put together our Back Page, which is our people/events page (yes, I am the post-college version of Party Pix). I also write for our Web site and our Focus sections.

Mopwater: What kind of stories/people/companies are you most interested in covering, and in what context? JNC: I love entrepreneurial stories – the kinds that examine what people are pursuing, what they’re passionate about, and how they’re making it happen. I also love how-to stories – the kinds of things where a reader finishes the article with tips they’re inspired to move on right away.

What’s your idea of a great pitch?
JNC:Short e-mail pitching a company, why it’s interesting, and why our readers would care. No release – just simple facts, why it’s interesting, and not looking for anything more than to share information.

Mopwater: What’s the worst pitch you’ve gotten recently and why? JNC: Looooong releases. Oh, no, worse – I received an e-mail pitching a story on cosmetic surgery procedures. In New York. Not about business. Not local.  Please, please, please read our paper before pitching us. If I have any strong pieces of advice, that’s one of the best I have.

Mopwater: What’s the easiest way to get ignored by you when pitching?
JNC: To send me too many things, particularly long releases that are off-target, which then causes me to be less likely to tune into your e-mail messages. Or starting your e-mail message subject line with NEWS RELEASE. Or telling me that you were recently written up by [insert competitor here].

Mopwater: What’s your preferred method of contact? Phone, email, your web site, your twitter account, your Facebook?
JNC: Any methods work, but please don’t use all of them at once (you’d be amazed how many people do…).

Mopwater: How much follow up can you stand from a publicist after their initial pitch and in what form?
JNC: Depends on the pitch and the publicist. :) Follow up is a good thing, particularly if it’s a good pitch that has fallen off my radar. I never have issues with the reminder phone calls. But if I do say I can’t use it, please respect that, and don’t spend the next 10 minutes telling me why I’m wrong (again, you’d be amazed).

Mopwater: How much follow-up can you stand from a publicist after you’ve written about their company/client? Do you expect a “thank you” email/call? Is a follow-up email okay? What about a follow-up call?
JNC: I never expect follow up – my job is to get our readers the best pieces of information and the most interesting relevant stories to them. When I write stories, I’m just doing my job. No thanks are required.Sources and publicists are always quick to let us know when we’ve gotten something wrong. By all means, please do that – not just for the sake of correcting it, but also so that we don’t make that mistake again. But also feel free to let us know when we got something right (only when this is appropriate, of course). I had one source say that to me about a story I wrote about his industry, that I explained both sides accurately and fairly, that I got it right. It’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.

Mopwater: Do unsolicited phone calls annoy you?
JNC: Truthfully? Sometimes. Particularly if it’s clear that the person has no clue what we do here, or if it’s someone reading off a script that they’re reading to 18 other reporters.  Also, I know PR folks have a job to do, and respect that. But remember that we do too – prepare your clients well, then let us just talk to them, and them to us. Trust them, and trust us. Trying to control how and when we connect with people will only make us crazy, and does not serve to create the kind of trust that exists in the best reporter-source relationships.

Describe a scenario when you mentally black-listed a source/publicist. What did they do to make you hit the delete key whenever you see a their name in your inbox?
JNC: I once had someone who had pitched a person for a profile-ish feature, which we liked and wanted to do something with. But he didn’t like where we were planning to place it (in a different section than the person had hoped for). He listed his priority of where he would like the story to go. It was basically telling me that if a prettier girl didn’t ask him to the prom, I’d do. Really. I don’t delete everything, but I still get mad when I think about it.

Mopwater: Do you ever meet publicists for coffee/lunch to discuss a story idea? Would you open to it if a publicist or source suggested it?
JNC: Coffee more than lunch. And generally, not out of the blue. If you’re someone I’ve worked with or met before, coffee is a good next “date.” :)

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