Phoenix PRSA with Phoenix Business Journal #AllAboutBusiness Brunch Delivers

Crisis Communications – Responding vs Reacting
March 10, 2016
#MediaMonday – Erik Merkow
March 14, 2016

Phoenix Business Journal and Rachel Brockway PRSA Phoenix The @PRSAPhoenix, @PhxBixJournal #AllAboutBusiness Media Brunch Delivers

Did you miss the amazing PRSA Phoenix media brunch featuring all things Phoenix Business Journal? So busy tweeting away about the great content while at the brunch that you didn’t get to take notes?

Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!

First, some love to the organizers – this event was the first for the new PRSA Phoenix Media Breakfast committee, which is headed up by HMA’s own Rachel Brockway and Ideas Collide’s Claudia Kunkel. I think everyone who went can agree – they knocked it out of the park!

I especially loved how they started the event – rather than read formal bios for each of the panelists, Rachel and Claudia treated us to a trivia game!

It was too good – and funny – not to share:

Trivia Teaser One: This reporter is an Arizona native who grew up in North Scottsdale and graduated from Desert Mountain High School and later from Arizona State University. This reporter taught English in Peru and was a Spanish-language preschool teacher and in her (or HIS) free time is a hard core comic book fan. Who is it?

Answer: Steven Totten, who handles the retail, small business, restaurant, tourism, hospitality and nonprofit beats.

Additional fun facts about Steven – his favorite stories are those he finds himself, though he is growing to find several PR people in town are helpful too! He is absolutely fine with you tagging him on social media if YOU see a story he should cover, be it for your brand/client or not. He remembers the people that try to help him get information. A great example – Sam Fox broke the news about his new restaurant endeavor himself on social media. Feel free to tag Steven in those posts when you see them so he can get the scoop!

Trivia Teaser Two: This reporter grew up in west Phoenix and graduated from Trevor Browne High School and later from Arizona State University. When this reporter is not working you can find him/her at Crescent Ballroom, the Phoenix Art Museum or watching a movie! This reporter’s favorite record shop is Stinkweeds and he (or she) also plays on a co-ed soccer team. Who is it?

Answer: Hayley Ringle, who handles the technology, solar and entrepreneur beats.

Additional fun facts about Hayley – she is a social media maven. Don’t be afraid to reach out to her there or give her a follow. Her favorite stories to break or report on during her time at the paper have been some of my favorites too – Amy's Baking Company saga and Grumpy Cat (which she turned into a tech story, BTW!).

Trivia Teaser Three: This reporter is a native of Pennsylvania, but for work has lived in Chicago, California, Oregon, Nevada and Utah and since 1975 – Arizona! This reporter is an avid camper and can often be found exploring with a chocolate lab named Hershey. This reporter is also an avid road and trail cyclist and has a daughter who is a professional chef. Who is it?

Answer: Eric Jay Toll, who handles the economic development, banking, transportation, manufacturing and utility beats.

Additional fun facts about Eric – don’t focus on pitching Eric anywhere else but in a solid email that gets to the point with the 5 Ws in three sentences or less. But yes, you can call him to follow-up – just not within five minutes of sending the email! His favorite story to report on during his time at the paper was covering two major business that recently chose NOT to move, expand into the Valley and why. All too often, we hear about all the reasons folks DO choose to work in Arizona, not always the real truth as to how we need to be a better business climate.

Trivia Teaser Four: This Word with Friends aficionado’s career began with the Phoenix Business Journal more than 20 years ago and has held nearly every position imaginable. Though this person has been in Arizona since 1989, he (or she) is a proud Chicagoan at heart. If you are ever having a hard time getting this editors attention – try barking! A dog parent to Harley and avid animal lover, this editor spends her free time volunteering on the board for Gabriel’s Angels, which delivers pet healing therapy to at-risk children. Who is it?

Answer: Editor-in-Chief Ilana Lowery

Additional (not so fun) fact about Ilana – she took the job as editor of the paper about two weeks before September 11, 2001. On the more positive side, one of her favorite stories to cover back when she was a reporter was getting started on the airline beat in the 1990s – and not knowing really anything about it yet – just as America West was announcing bankruptcy. Talk about a lightning fast learning curve!

Trivia Teaser Five: This BIG UofA fan graduated from that “other” school with a degree in Journalism. In April he will have been working at the Phoenix Business Journal for eight years. He likes checking out (and perhaps tasting) craft beer spots around the state and you just might see him at the Arizona Craft Beer Relay this weekend! He is planning on attending the 2016 Phoenix Comicon and has also been known to play a game of kickball or two. Who is it?

Answer: Managing Editor Patrick O’Grady

Additional fun facts about Patrick – he is a secret baller! Okay, maybe not, but each year he loves publishing the story on all of the richest zip codes in the Valley. Why, you ask? He lives in one of them (he claims strictly by accident). For those wondering, it’s 85383, one of the two zip codes that makes the list from the West Valley.

Now, onto all the nuggets of wisdom we learned…

First, try to never – ever – pitch reporter Steven before 9:30 a.m. (a fellow PM Powerhouse – YES!). He gets into the office right around 9:30 a.m., so that is a perfect time to catch him while he is actually looking at emails, rather than when he is in a meeting or conducting interviews/writing stories. If not then, reaching out around 1:30 p.m. right after lunch when he is doing another round of email catch-up also works. If you send it before 9:30 a.m. – or late in the evening – chances are your email could be trapped along with the other 100 or so he gets that pile up.

On the other hand, if you are an AM All Star like Abbie, Scott or Rachel, you will love that Eric, is all about being pitched early…as in 5:30am!  Seriously – if you want your pitch read, send it well before 8 a.m. to him.

No matter when you send it, we learned that if it is simply a news release – think before hitting send to any of the reporters or editors. Strategic pitches that clearly state the business angle in the first three lines (or even in the subject line) are always the better bet. A news release is fine for background, but it isn’t often a story pitch on its own.

How to best tailor it, you ask?

First, send it to the right person. Hayley notes that with social media, it is nearly impossible NOT to figure out whom to send the story to within like five minutes of research. If you bulk send it to ALL the reporters in the newsroom – so NOT cool. Oh, and if you don’t hear back from a reporter within a few hours and go over their heads to Patrick or Ilana – so, so, so NOT COOL! They get about 200 emails and pitches a day from across the globe – pick up the phone and call them if it is an emergency!

But what if you story honestly doesn’t fit into any of the specific beats, you ask? Then feel free to send it to Ilana or Patrick – and specifically ask which reporter they feel would be the best for the story. Then…send it to that reporter. Don’t assume Ilana or Patrick will do all the work for you.

Beyond tailoring a story pitch to one beat, and re-working a news release to fit a business lens, Patrick notes that several of the pages in the paper are regular sections – with one beat reporter assigned to their own section most weeks. Look at the regular columns – and note right in your subject line this pitch is for THAT section by name. Or…stop focusing on the print product altogether. What about the digital platform, which is among the highest-read elements of the Business Journal on any given day. Tailor a pitch for the online product, and train your clients and brand to respect this platform – it isn’t always just about getting a few inches in the print product.

Doing all of this and still not scoring the interview? How is your timing?

Eric noted that he often gets pitches or releases for a ground breaking or ribbon cutting – that is too late for him to do squat. Pitch a story at its inception– when permits are being filed; before the last brick is laid; as the partnership is being developed (or dissolved). Also, if offering an exclusive – know if you really are or not. Just making it the “first” or re-working a pitch that is going elsewhere IS NOT an exclusive.

Okay, so once you score the story – did you know that all too often clients or the company spokesperson can hurt your reputation? Ilana notes that it is critical to train spokespeople to talk about the financial and other elements of a story – especially if you pitched the story using those elements as the news peg. If your spokesperson doesn’t provide information that was promised or pitched, it reflects on you. Plus, these are reporters you are dealing with – they will find that information (especially public records and financial data) somewhere. Let it be from your team. Be the resource, not the restrictor.

What about once you score the story – and the client is asking for another one?

Welcome to life as a PR person!

To continue to secure stories on a particular client, certainly always pitch them as expert sources in bigger picture stories, but be sure to submit them for nominations, pitch them as panelists at the publication’s many events, arrange sit-downs once or twice a year between the client and the beat reporter to talk in person (with you there, too, taking notes!). And – of course – pitch them for the Entrepreneur and/or Executive Profile pages. But for goodness sakes – tell the story of how they got to where they are, don’t just pitch them with a list of what they are doing now. Seek out the story – the juicy details, the backstory, the adversity.

Oh, and please pitch them all women and people of color if you have some amazing spokespeople or clients that fit these categories. They want to be as diverse as possible, when possible.

Other things to know:

And if you want even more information from the event – just search #AllAboutBusiness on Twitter to see the nearly 100 tweets with information from the session!

Finally, never claim you don’t know a beat reporter or have their information ever again – see below.

Phoenix Business Journal Directory

Oh, and one last bonus nugget – event director Haley Metcalf snuck into the event with an amazing handout on all the great nominations and events coming up that might be a fit for your brand, company or client. View it here.

Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio

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