5 tips for working with trade press

As a freelance journalist for the pro AV industry, I have a unique vantage point when it comes to marketing and PR campaigns. I get to cover the major trends and technology in our industry. But there is a down side to having my name and email floating around out there, and that comes in the form of an endless stream of press releases.

Ahhh, press releases…. the tip of the spear for most PR people and the total bane of my existence as a writer. Now, not to get too down on the PR folks. Prior to joining the AV industry, I spent years working in agency PR pumping out those same press releases. But that was over a decade ago and we’re in a new marketing age; one that requires more adept skills than “leading edge, best-of-breed solutions provider” as a descriptor for a client.

So, if you want to get the attention of writers and editors in this industry, take a look at the following tips:

1) Make a personal connection
Per my above sentence, I receive a constant stream of press releases. Many of the people who send me these releases have never reached out to me in any other way than a press release. How can they know I am remotely interested in their client? So, want to know what happens to those releases? They get dumped into a subfolder in my email client, a folder I revisit infrequently.

Want to know how to get top of mind? Ask me. Get to know what I’m working on and what kind of technology interests me. To put it simply, talk to me (or at least email me or contact me via Twitter.) It’s not the end of the world if your client or your company doesn’t fit with my current scope of work. That means that there is someone like me who does cover your tech and you should go find them.

2) Clean up your copy because it kind of sucks
Okay, I admit that I have borrowed this tip from the good folks at the PR Breakfast Club. They recently posted their press release mad lib and it is genius. I can’t tell you how many releases I have received that fit exactly into this mold.

If your releases read like this mad lib, stop writing *now*. Writers and editors need context and information, not a bunch of mumbo jumbo that makes no sense. Providing context will get you coverage more often than not.

3) Don’t spam me with your newsletters
The second stream that is constantly flowing through my inbox is company newsletters that I didn’t sign up for. I can always tell when a new article of mine has hit because I get a flurry of new newsletters from marketing folks who have snagged my email address. This may seem like a good idea, but it’s not. Why? Because I take the time to unsubscribe from each and every one, and you will never get me back as a reader.

Want to stop that from happening? Then see Tip #1: Talk to me. Or at least email me and ask me first. It’s a common courtesy that seems forgotten in this age of instant access to contact info via Google.

4) Help me do my job
AV industry writers and editors are among the hardest working group of people I have ever met. There’s a lot to cover and not many of us to do it. Please, help me by giving me information that is relevant (and put some context around that information while you’re at it.)

For example, here’s a typical pitch that needs improvement:
“Hi, Linda. Our company just installed a huge AV system at XYZ Company. Are you interested in writing about it?”

And here’s an example of a pitch that a writer would respond to:
“Hi, Linda. Our company just installed an AV system at XYZ Company. They recently secured a military contract and needed a security upgrade to their boardroom’s AV and IT systems. Our president, Paul Smith, can speak to you about the process of choosing equipment and which AV manufacturers worked best for this specialized environment. I have also included a web link to photos of the install. Let me know if this story lead fits with any of your current editorial needs.”

5) Stop the self-promotion machine, please!
Tools like Facebook and Twitter has unleashed a monster, if I may say so. Yes, they are viable tools for communication, but too often they serve as a platform for self-titled gurus, ninjas, and wizards who don’t have much to offer.

Like it or not, trade industry editors and writers talk to one another. In addition to asking each other for source experts, we also build our own stable of sources whom we know (1) give a good interview, and (2) are really experts in their field. Expertise is built over a long period of time with a large body of work in that area of expertise, not by a self-inflated title.

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