A Peek Behind the ...


Four of our account professionals attended “Inside the Newsroom with Business Insider” organized by PRSA Silicon Valley earlier this month.

It gave folks the opportunity to hear from two of Business Insider’s tech reporters,  Jillian D’Onfro and Matt Weinberger as well as Technology Section Editor and San Francisco Bureau Chief Matt Rosoff.

I’m pleased to report that BI did not request that what was discussed during the session be “off the record” (oh, the irony).

Emily Scher, one of our attending account folks, was good enough to capture the high points from the session which follow:

How do I measure my own success?

As a reporter, I have to overcome several obstacles before I feel accomplished and satisfied with the end result. The simplest way to measure my success is meeting my quota, which typically means I’m knocking out five or six stories and two or three interviews per day. The next level of success is seeing traffic to my article and the BI website, and also seeing people talk about my piece.

But the true sign of success as a reporter? When another reporter calls me an “idiot” in their article. It shows that they’re at least reading my stuff and think it’s worth responding to!

The general rule of thumb here at BI is that it doesn’t matter how many articles have been written on a certain topic — the best story always wins. Oh, and that nobody’s happy unless your editor is happy!

− Jillian and Matt W.

What’s the best way to get noticed?

The first thing I see in the morning is my inbox flooded with PR pitches. First off, let me establish upfront that you won’t catch my eye if you’re pitching me via Twitter. End of story. However, I will always read an email if I have an existing relationship with you or if I follow your company on Twitter.

I love the enthusiasm PR pros show for their clients, but they need to show me the human angle and how the story relates to the bigger ecosystem. Don’t just introduce your startup client and leave it at that.

The cold hard truth is that I receive countless pitches that are irrelevant to my beat. Note: These pitches should be sent to the alias! While PR people might think aliases are an abysmal black hole, someone at BI is bound to at least read each subject line that comes through.

Another day, another email full of photos, video and contributed content. Thanks for trying, PR people, but at BI we generate most of this stuff on our own.

Comment: This is true of all major media properties, that they “generate most of this stuff on their own.” What defines most? 60 percent, 70 percent, or 80 percent of editorial content? Regardless, there’s room for intelligent pitching.

− Jillian and Matt W.

What do public relations and online dating have in common?

I like to relate pitching to online dating. Think about it this way — no one wants a blind date calling them first thing in the morning about a message that wasn’t responded to!

Let’s be honest, if you wouldn’t do or say it to someone while online dating, DON’T do it to a reporter.

− Matt W.

Do I have time to make it to that event?

With the number of event invitations I receive, you would think that I was the President. Perhaps I can fit one or two events in per week, but they will definitely have to be after work hours (bonus points if it’s at one of my favorite restaurants!). But you won’t catch me hanging around the bigger events. I’ll – maybe – pencil in two smaller, off-the-record events to meet some faces I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

When it comes to conferences, I might have time to attend the keynote. I can’t stay long though, as my editor won’t want me spending more than two hours at this thing … and work just piles up.

− Matt R. and Matt W.

What’s trending on Twitter?

The day is almost over, and I need to do a quick scan through my email again. Anything that has to do with the Internet of Things, wearables or Kickstarter campaigns is likely getting a “delete” — these trends are overrated and overdone.

But wait, what’s this new thing everyone is talking about on Twitter? I’ll loop you in on a secret — once a trend makes the leap out of my inbox into the Twitter conversation, that’s when I KNOW it’s time to find a story on it.

− Everyone


One recurring theme during the session —

Journalists want genuine conversations like normal human beings have.

This touches on one of my favorite soapbox topics.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with creating messages. Unfortunately, what starts as a prudent exercise often takes on an obsessive quality that borders on worshiping the message. When the No. 1 objective going into a press interview is to regurgitate the messages, you’re not going to have a genuine conversation.

Note:  If you enjoyed this post, you might want to check out “What a Surprise. Journalist Prefers to Interview Executives Minus PR.”

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