Special interview with Leo D’Angelo Fisher – Journalist & Columnist, BRW
You often receive media releases from PR people and directly from business owners. How many pitches would you get on a typical day and how do you feel about receiving them?
I receive 50-75 media releases, pitches and follow-up calls/emails a day; when I was a section editor (Business End) that would be around 150-200 a day. I don’t mind receiving them; I would rather receive them than not. It’s one avenue of knowing about the issues, personalities and nonsense management fads that are swirling around out there. I give each a quick scan – the heading, subject matter and opening paragraph – and unless they make an instant impression I go straight for the ‘delete’ button. About 8 out of 10 get deleted. Also you need them as a lo-res images for the email you send out to the media. If they are interested in using it, they will ask you to send them a hi-res version.
Is there something people pitching to you do that really annoys you? What are your pet hates?
Pet hates are when a totally irrelevant story is pitched to me. First and foremost, I expect PRs to know who I am and what I write about; secondly, I expect them to have a solid understanding of the stories that are of interest to BRW.
I’m happy to discuss an informed pitch with a PR, even if the story is not of particular interest to me; I don’t mind being the first port of a call for a story that may be of interest to BRW, but I would generally expect a business PR to accurately target a pitch.
I don’t appreciate being an anonymous name on a media distribution list; nor do I appreciate having a story proposed for BRW when the PR clearly has little or no familiarity with the magazine.
Describe your perfect pitch or one that really stands out.
A pitch that is relevant, considered, which understands how it fits within BRW’s mandate, interests and readership; which features an interesting personality, business and/or issue; which presents us with an opportunity to provide our readers with compelling, informative and beneficial content.
A good pitch does not always result in a story – or in an immediate story; but in the case of an individual or business I am not familiar with, it will provide me with a contact for future reference.
How do you feel about receiving unsolicited samples in the mail?
Happy to receive unsolicited samples.
After you have run a story or feature, do you usually receive thanks from the people or businesses featured? Do you receive gifts?
As a general rule, the exception is to receive thanks. It always strikes me as odd that a PR who is very attentive in the lead up to a story, “just checking on the progress of the story”, “…whether there’s anything else I can do for you”, “…how the interview went”, etc, etc – plainly to make sure that I’m still likely to write about the PR’s client … and then when the story appears not a peep.
I don’t expect thanks, but it’s always nice and appreciated when I do receive them.
I occasionally receive gifts by way of thanks, but it is not common, nor necessary, and certainly not expected.
How do you feel about follow up? What is your reaction when follow up is done via phone calls? How soon should someone follow up, if at all?
I don’t like follow-ups (“Did you receive my press release?” or “Just wondering if my press release is of any interest to you?”). All things being equal, I’m happy to take a call, but if I’m meeting a deadline, in the middle of an involved story, between interviews or not in a particularly good mood, it can be a major irritant.
It’s especially annoying when the call comes not from the PR who sent the release, but some poor kid working her way through a list of journalists, who knows neither me nor the original release from a bar of soap. And it’s doubly annoying when this hapless junior can’t answer any basic questions I might have.
As annoying as follows-ups can be, every now and then a release or pitch that I have misplaced, or forgotten about, or which might be of interest on further consideration, is brought to my attention. If the follow-up is made by phone by a PR with whom I have a working relationship, I’m happy to take the call; but in general, if a PR must follow up, an email will suffice.
How important is a supporting bio or backgrounder to pitches you receive? Are you glad for the extra info or are you annoyed at the clogging of your inbox?
Happy to receive the information, but prefer on single document. What I really cannot abide is the “boilerplate” at the end of a release that sheds absolutely no light on what the company concerned actually does or anything of use about its history or background. Whereas as once these boilerplates or notes- to-editor were taken seriously as an opportunity to provide an objective, direct summary about the company, they are now treated as a “free ad”, replete with impenetrable jargon, slogans and key messages.
On occasions when I have called the PR to complain about the fact that the boilerplate (and very often the press release itself) tells me nothing about the company, the PR is unable to shed any light on the matter either – other than to read the boilerplate back at me. It’s a worry when I have to ask, “Yes, but what does the company actually do?”
While I welcome bios, I do wish they were written straight – “just the facts, ma’am” – rather than lionising the subject as a hero of our times.
Do you expect the pitch to be exclusive to you and your publication?
How do you feel if you read the story elsewhere or someone else in your organisation also received it?
If a story is pitched to me I don’t expect to see it anywhere else while I’m working on it. Sometimes a PR will consider “exclusive” to mean that BRW is the first to receive it before it is sent elsewhere (often by a matter of one day, which given our lead times is neither here nor there), or that we are the only magazine to receive it.
I would certainly prefer to have the first bite as an exclusive, but occasionally I will say to the PR that given the subject matter, or the fact that I don’t know when I will be able to turn my attention to the story, I do not mind if the release is made public.
I find it extremely annoying when a release is sent to several of us at BRW – without there being any indication that that is the case. I’m especially angry when the personalised covering letter with the release gives every indication that I am the only one at BRW to receive it, only to discover that others have received it (and the very same personalised note).
My view is that the PR should target the release to one of us at BRW. If there is a good reason to send it to multiple journalists on staff, that should be indicated on the covering note.
What is the best time of the week/day to contact you? Are pitches more likely to be successful with you if sent on a particular day of the week?
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are best; pitches are not necessarily likely to be more successful on those days, but you will probably get a better hearing from me.
Does offering an expert to interview on the topic help get the story across the line? Or do you prefer to find your own?
I prefer to find my own.
Want to make a pitch to Leo now you know the inside secrets? You can find him on our Business Media List