Avoid the E-mail Bomb & Other Tips for Working with the Richmond Media

If you think that you receive a lot of e-mail, consider the digital deluge of electronic mail pinging reporters and editors.

At a media panel hosted by Business Wire in Richmond, on March 15, four well-known media figures said they routinely receive several hundred e-mails a day — up to 400 in a 24-hour period.

“I love getting a phone call and getting to know you face-to-face,” said Susan Winiecki, editor-in-chief and associate publisher, Richmond Magazine, RHome and Rbride.

JoiningWiniecki on the panel were:

  • Scott Bass, news editor, Style Weekly
  • Rachel DePompa, Richmond reporter, WWBT-TV NBC12
  • Greg Gilligan, business editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch

During the hour-long panel discussion moderated byJon Newman of The Hodges Partnership, these seasoned journalists shared insights and perspectives on their likes, dislikes and the shifting media industry.

Their comments were refreshingly honest and candid. Like corporate communicators and PR professionals, these journalists also are trying to determine what’s next for their businesses.

The print folks are doing video. The TV folks are tweeting. It seems like everyone is on the Facebook train.

They’re all in the information and content-delivery business regardless of the communication channel.

Eight takeaways to make your media relations more effective

Below are eight takeaways shared by Winiecki, Bass, DePompa and Gilligan.

  1. Traditional news releases and news conferences are a relic of the past (unless you are a publicly traded company and need to meet regulatory compliance). In fact, seeing “For Immediate Release” admittedly shuts down Style Weekly’s Bass. Journalists may still pull facts from a news release, but they want to do their own reporting and talk with their own sources.
  2. The media is doing more with fewer resources than ever before. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has one business editor and four reporters (down from four editors and about 10 reporters) just a few years ago. Yet, the paper recently expanded its business news coverage after pulling back in 2006.
  3. The local news media remains competitive. Everyone wants the big story first.
  4. The telephone still works, but know when to call. Reporters and editors still appreciate the occasional phone call, but not on deadline. Be brief. Always ask if it is a good time. Gilligan with the Times-Dispatch said, “You wouldn’t call a chef at lunch time.” Understand their busy times and avoid them unless you’ve seen Warren Buffett in town or Bill Gates just invested in your company (i.e., breaking news).
  5. Avoid the e-mail bomb. This is a term from Channel 12’s DePompa. In other words don't try to cram too much into one e-mail. When communicating with the media think back to the inverted news pyramid.
  6. Simplify. Format. And prioritize to make it easier for time-strapped media types to get to the core of the story. Remember, journalists are used to scanning and skimming for typically 140 characters at a time on Twitter.
  7. Understand your media. Their quirks, their interests and their reporting styles. Never pitch a reporter if you don't read their stories or watch their clips. Understand the outlet, where their audience is and what they cover. For example, Style Weekly’s Bass, said, “We don’t cover events.”
  8. Always remember editorial and advertising are separate (or should be). Don’t remind a reporter or editor that you advertise in or on their outlet. Ethically, that should have no bearing on the newsworthiness of your pitch or idea. Keep them separate. True journalists are objective.
  9. Technology is changing everything. Winiecki, who said she doesn’t use wire services, did quote Glenn Durene, the senior technology editor at Hearst's Popular Mechanics, who reportedly said at a recent tech event, "If you are a media company in the 21st century, whether you know it or not, you are a tech company."
  10. Richmond Magazine and others continue to look at new content platforms, like the iPad. In fact, the Times-Dispatch soon will be charging for some content as part of a pilot, according to Gilligan.

Still want more details

Want more insights from the Richmond Media panel presented by Business Wire? Review a recap of the tweets from the event via Storify. This free technology pulls together tweets with a particular hashtag.

Jonathan Rhudy has been working in public relations since 1995 with his first job as a Hotdogger for Oscar Mayer Foods, driving a 27-foot-long Wienermobile. With his bulky fax machine in a suitcase and a bag mobile phone the size of a DVD player, Jonathan began pitching media around the country. He has helped dozens of Richmond-area organizations with media outreach including Ukrop’s Super Markets and First Market Bank.