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Thursday, March 22, 2007

PR tips from the professionals

I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Michael Taylor, editor of the NW Business Insider and Tony McDonough, deputy business editor of the Liverpool Daily Post. Lisa Miles of NW Business Insider also joined Michael to lend her support to the event and fielded a couple of questions.

It was an open session on some insider tips to supply better and more effective PR for journalists, with particular reference to their publications.

Tony kicked off with a clarification of a journalists' role. It is not about "promoting business," in this case Liverpool's, it is about reporting the triumphs and the disasters of business in his city.

A very good question, put forward by one of the audience, was "does size matter?"

Michael claimed it did not. In fact, the story was what mattered. If the story is strong, he would choose it against a big company and a poor story.

Michael stated he wanted new faces for his magazine. And he wanted stories that other business could relate to. So seeing the same old big companies went against his aims, unless they had something to say.

Mike Perls, managing director of MC2, asked what the pet hates of both journalists are.

Michael said it was PRs not understanding the magazine. He is particularly irked by London PRs trying to sell in stories that are not based in the region.

For Tony it was the lack of clarity of a story. He urged PRs to get the story expressed clearly in the headline and opening of the e-mail, not the attachment. He said he spends 5 seconds on each e-mail with a release and so he had to make a decision whether to read further or delete within that short time frame.

A couple of more tips of note were:

Tony - stressing the importance of images to sell stories; papers are never too overwhelmed by a lot of brilliant images for the next issue.

Michael - building relationships. He wanted companies to meet him "half way." In good and bad times there should be a dialogue, not when it just suits the company.

Michael said, "he always tries to be fair with companies," emphasising relationship building is essential.

I asked about digital media and its affect on their industry. Michael welcomed the democratisation of the media resulting from digital media journalists and bloggers. Both believed that newspapers will survive because people prefer brands and they trust their paper based media. Tony pointed out that the brand experience is about opening the paper on the train, that is part of the enjoyment.

Many thanks to MC2 for organising the event, which was conducted with a high level of professionalism from their offices - the site of the Boardwalk - and to the speakers for giving up their time.


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