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Local journalists share trade secrets with public relations group

By ThisIsReno

By Bethany Drysdale

What’s the best time to host a press conference? Are news releases still useful? Where do reporters get their story ideas?

These questions were just a few of the queries posed to local journalists at an annual media panel hosted by the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in Reno Wednesday.

Ed Pearce of KOLO-TV, Brandon Rittiman of KUNR and Kelly Ann Scott of the Reno Gazette Journal joined PRSA members to discuss the best way to work with media and ensure coverage of events and news. Despite representing three different media types (TV, radio and print, respectively), the three panelists largely agreed on how to best “pitch” stories to them.

All three agreed that mid-morning, around 11 a.m., is the best time for a press conference. And all three agreed that deadlines rule the newsroom; no matter how great a story is, it doesn’t matter if it’s pitched after deadline.

While Pearce said he doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook like his fellow panelists, he does scan news headlines on his computer every morning to get a feel for what “they” are talking about. Scott said she does the same, however, she has also received story ideas from Facebook posts, adding that it’s a great way to see what is important to the local audience. If a Facebook post about an event generates many comments and much discussion, she can see that it’s important to readers and perhaps something she needs to pay attention to.

Much of the morning’s discussion was spent on social media. Rittiman said “social media” news releases that include links, photos and videos can be overwhelming.

“The beauty of social is its simplicity,” he said, cautioning PR practitioners to not overload their releases with too many links.

Rittiman also quipped that news releases are a great way to get into the datebook section, but nothing beats personalized pitches. The three panelists agreed that personal relationships still go a long way in getting stories into the media; send an e-mail, pick up the phone or, in Scott’s case, post something on Facebook. But don’t abuse the personal contact.

The advice continued with what types of stories are most likely to catch the reporters’ eyes. There was no debate on this one: “people stories” reign supreme. Readers want to identify with characters in a story, and stories with a human element are almost always most interesting.

The three panelists addressed the downsizing of newsrooms and lack of sufficient staff to cover all the stories they’d like to cover. They all have to be pickier about the stories they cover. However, the mix of online with print or broadcast media allows them to tailor their coverage. Some stories that may not make it on the 5 p.m. news or in the Sunday paper can be posted online. Scott pointed out that Burning Man is a huge online event for the Reno newspaper, but it won’t get much coverage in print.

The annual media panel was one of PRSA’s monthly breakfast meetings, and the next meeting will focus on public relations ethics. For more information, go to www.prsareno.org.

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