What Do Editors Look For?

It pays to do some research <I>before</I> you send out that press release.

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By Al Lautenslager • Jul 7, 2006 Originally published Jan 1, 2003

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

A:I've had the opportunity lately to find out exactly what theeditors at four well-known publications look for in what theyreceive in the way of PR. These editors were more involved intechnical articles, but some of the information is general for anytype of PR. For purposes of this article, the publications (and theeditors I talked to) will go nameless, as the advice given hereapplies to any situation in which you are submitting PR materialsto 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 oneeditor put it, "We want leads about people who are flyingbeneath the radar and doing something quite remarkable. Your bestbet is to offer a story very grounded in best practices. Give us acompany that no one has really heard about before or a new effortfrom a fascinating company that is trying somethingdifferent."
  • Some magazines prefer to examine case studies, though theirwriters do them in their own way. Most importantly, know themagazine. Although editors admit it's not something that can beeasily explained, all too often they receive irrelevant pitchesthat don't relate to the publication. If, for instance, youwanted to pitch an idea for a technology article, use the pressrelease to tell the editor that you're pitching a provenexample of something. And get their attention in two paragraphs orless.
  • Magazines love it when a company approaches them with realexamples of how it differs from the competition. It's also nota bad idea to give a clear definition of what segment of the marketyou are playing into. Keep in mind, though, editors don't likecompanies 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 noone has written about. And if it's a new campaign, it has to bedifferent and relevant.
  • If you're trying to get PR for your new product, make sureyour press release communicates to editors exactly what makes theproduct unique, be it pricing or a cool technical aspect. Aboveall, know their audience.

What is the best way to contact editors?

  • Most editors are too busy to field phone calls. Voice mail isunreliable because it tends to clog up really fast. Postal mail iseven worse; most of it gets discarded by editors. So use e-mailinstead. To make it work for you, don't say "pressrelease" in the subject line. And, most importantly, get tothe point early. Tell editors quickly why your story is soimportant 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 andinstead go to conferences that feature new ideas, intriguing casestudies and fresh thinking.
  • There are certain big events that attract the attention of themedia. Examples include worldwide broadband conferences, Comdex,CES and so on.
  • It's rare, but some magazine editors will take time tovisit individual companies, but something in the trip must make itworthwhile for them to travel. And if you've got a great storyand you're in the local area, some newspaper editors just mightbe receptive to meeting you.
  • Newspaper editors try to attend any local ad and mediaconferences. Sometimes they attend the big media conferences in NewYork City.

What about deadlines?

  • Monthly magazine editors plan ideas all the time, sothere's no magic window of opportunity. It's best to justtake your shot. But before you do, contact the marketingdepartment. They should have a good sense of what is coming up onthe editorial calendar. The calendar is proprietary, so you'llneed to go through them to get it.
  • Newspaper editors, on the other hand, are on deadline every dayof the workweek, but they will do their best to respond in a timelymanner. 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 4p.m. Unless it really is breaking news, try to reach them early inthe day.

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

The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

Al Lautenslager

Author, Speaker, and Consultant

Al Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing expert, bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur. He is the principal of Market For Profits, a Midwestern-based marketing consulting firm; former president and owner of The Ink Well, a direct marketing, printing, and a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach.

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