Most start-up founders and leaders are anxious to earn their first real mention in the press. Sure, you understand that focusing on your business itself is your top priority, but there’s also that part of you that daydreams about nabbing a big feature story. In order to get there, you need to do two things: 1) understand how the media works, and 2) learn to present the right type of pitch to the right journalist. Wouldn’t it help to get some insight into these areas from someone who truly “gets it” from the inside? Luckily, I know just the person to give you some tips.
Hayley Ringle is a highly respected reporter with the Phoenix Business Journal, and has been covering news in Arizona for many years. I’ve worked with her on behalf of numerous clients and have always been impressed by her professionalism and ability to thoroughly report on news, despite facing incredibly tight deadlines. Whether you’re based in Phoenix or not, you can learn a lot by reading the perspective she offers below. Plus, there are business journals in cities all across America so your city will likely have a similar, if not related, publication.
Hayley covers start-ups and technology, so she is the perfect person to answer your questions about media relations – and she graciously agreed to do so! Without further ado, here’s what an industry pro had to say about interacting with the press and doing your part to secure great coverage.
You’re an experienced reporter with a notable career history. Without naming names, have any tactics stood out to you in your career as a really great PR move or a really bad misstep?
We like exclusive news on funding, unique new products, hiring, new leadership and new offices. Bad missteps include not giving us this information as soon as it’s happening, otherwise it’s not news, and not sending a long email that I don’t have time to read. Just include the who, what, where, when, why, or call me with the info. Tell me why our readers should care. We can’t just write a story about your company. It needs to be predicated on some news, otherwise it’s not news. I get soooo many story ideas. Yours needs to be unique and big news for me to write about it and rise up from the rest. Also, don’t get mad if I can’t tell your story. I write at least two stories a day, so I do what I can, but I can’t work 24 hours a day and I definitely can’t write every story that comes across my desk.
In my book, I teach start-ups that there’s a clear distinction between what they might find exciting within the walls of their company versus what is actually “newsworthy” to a journalist. What’s your take on that? Are there certain topics that you as a reporter are always interested in, or on the flip side, topics that would never merit coverage?
Funding, new product launches, hiring, new CEO and office changes are always interesting, but it must be Phoenix-metro area based. The Phoenix Business Journal only covers Phoenix news, hence our name. I don’t write too many award stories unless it’s Forbes or a big award people are talking about. There are just too many awards out there. If you have new employees, fill out our online People on the Move section. That also runs in our print edition and is the best way to let others know about new staff or board members. I typically only write about new CEOs.
What’s one thing you wish that start-up owners (and/or PR folks, for that matter) knew before sending you a pitch?
I don’t have time to read a big email. Get to the point and tell me what the news is. Include all the who, what, where, when and why on top. If you give me the news first, and before the news has happened, I’m more interested. We want to know about the new office before the grand opening and ribbon cutting. We want to know about the funding news before it’s sent out on the wire. We want to know the news before it’s in a competing publication, or we’re probably not interested.
Do you have any further tips for young companies who want to earn media coverage?
Send emails or calls with great news. Don’t be mad if I can’t write up your news. If you don’t hear from me, send me friendly reminders but don’t call me or bug me every day. Get out there and do good things so I can write about it.
We’re busy, so helping us out fast with an interview, a high resolution photo and a timely story idea is what we love. Our Morning Edition goes out at 7:30 a.m. daily and our Afternoon Edition goes out at 3 p.m. daily. We each have at least one story we have to write for each edition, on top of print-exclusive cover stories, executive profiles and entrepreneur features. We only have five reporters, so we do what we can.
Hayley Ringle has written for Phoenix newspapers since the 6th grade. She has worked at the Daily News-Sun, East Valley Tribune, Arizona Republic and now, Phoenix Business Journal, for the past four years. She covers technology and start-ups, but has covered everything from school boards and city councils, to investigative education stories and community news. Ringle is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is getting married to her boyfriend of 11 years Oct. 29, and the happy couple lives with their senior furry cat, Baby.