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What Do Editors Look For?

It pays to do some research before you send out that press release.

Q: What are the preferences of some of the well-known publications as far as submitting PR-related material?

A: I've had the opportunity lately to find out exactly what the editors at four well-known publications look for in what they receive in the way of PR. These editors were more involved in technical articles, but some of the information is general for any type of PR. For purposes of this article, the publications (and the editors I talked to) will go nameless, as the advice given here applies to any situation in which you are submitting PR materials to the press. This is Part I.

What do magazines and newspapers look for in a story pitch?

  • Not all magazines are looking for news stories. Instead, as one editor put it, "We want leads about people who are flying beneath the radar and doing something quite remarkable. Your best bet is to offer a story very grounded in best practices. Give us a company that no one has really heard about before or a new effort from a fascinating company that is trying something different."
  • Some magazines prefer to examine case studies, though their writers do them in their own way. Most importantly, know the magazine. Although editors admit it's not something that can be easily explained, all too often they receive irrelevant pitches that don't relate to the publication. If, for instance, you wanted to pitch an idea for a technology article, use the press release to tell the editor that you're pitching a proven example of something. And get their attention in two paragraphs or less.
  • Magazines love it when a company approaches them with real examples of how it differs from the competition. It's also not a bad idea to give a clear definition of what segment of the market you are playing into. Keep in mind, though, editors don't like companies that come off as boastful in their press releases.
  • Before you pitch a newspaper in a major city, heed this advice: Read previously published articles. Make sure your story is one no one has written about. And if it's a new campaign, it has to be different and relevant.
  • If you're trying to get PR for your new product, make sure your press release communicates to editors exactly what makes the product unique, be it pricing or a cool technical aspect. Above all, know their audience.

What is the best way to contact editors?

  • Most editors are too busy to field phone calls. Voice mail is unreliable because it tends to clog up really fast. Postal mail is even worse; most of it gets discarded by editors. So use e-mail instead. To make it work for you, don't say "press release" in the subject line. And, most importantly, get to the point early. Tell editors quickly why your story is so important to their readers.

Where can you go to meet the publication staff?

  • Magazine editors attend a variety of conferences each year. Most tend to shy away from the standard issue trade shows and instead go to conferences that feature new ideas, intriguing case studies and fresh thinking.
  • There are certain big events that attract the attention of the media. Examples include worldwide broadband conferences, Comdex, CES and so on.
  • It's rare, but some magazine editors will take time to visit individual companies, but something in the trip must make it worthwhile for them to travel. And if you've got a great story and you're in the local area, some newspaper editors just might be receptive to meeting you.
  • Newspaper editors try to attend any local ad and media conferences. Sometimes they attend the big media conferences in New York City.

What about deadlines?

  • Monthly magazine editors plan ideas all the time, so there's no magic window of opportunity. It's best to just take your shot. But before you do, contact the marketing department. They should have a good sense of what is coming up on the editorial calendar. The calendar is proprietary, so you'll need to go through them to get it.
  • Newspaper editors, on the other hand, are on deadline every day of the workweek, but they will do their best to respond in a timely manner. Frequently, articles will go to print at around 6:30 p.m. in the city where the publication is based, but days are set by 4 p.m. Unless it really is breaking news, try to reach them early in the day.

Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle of marketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at http://www.market-for-profits.com and http://www.1-800-inkwell.com, or e-mail him at al@market-for-profits.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

Al Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant and direct-mail promotion specialist. He's also the principle of Market For Profits, a Chicago-based marketing consulting firm. His two latest books, Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days and The Ultimate Guide to Direct Marketing are available at www.entrepreneurpress.com.

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