Maria Perez

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    • Title:Director, Audience Content
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    Expert Spotlight: Jonathan Jordan, Fitness and Nutrition Expert

    Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 10:09 AM [Expert Spotlight]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    In our Expert Spotlight series, we feature an expert from the ProfNet network that we think journalists will find interesting and timely.

    In this edition, we catch up with Jonathan Jordan, an award-winning personal trainer, nutrition coach, group fitness instructor and fitness blogger.

    Formerly a partner at a large consulting firm, Jonathan understands the physical and mental challenges that busy professionals experience daily, and takes each client’s unique lifestyle demands into consideration when creating his fitness programs. He also offers practical, effective, and free videos, advice and tips each week through his blog and Instagram account.

    Jonathan, what led you to become a personal trainer?

    For more than 10 years, I was a very successful -- and extremely stressed out -- public relations executive and partner at a large consulting firm. I was miserable. I had plenty of money, awards and the respect of my peers, but my body and my spirit were slowly dying. I used food and alcohol to cope with the stress.

    During this time, I worked with an amazing personal trainer. The only time I was truly happy was when I was in the gym. After years of struggling with addiction, I got sober. And when I realized I had to pick my sobriety and my life over the stress of my corporate job, I made the decision, with the help of my personal trainer, to make the switch. I walked into Equinox, where I was a member, and told the general manager I was going to be his next personal trainer. That was four years ago. And after a lot of hard work and dedication, I’m proud to say I’m a top trainer at that same Equinox, and have helped hundreds of clients, students and other trainers find their own paths toward health and balance.

    What’s the best part of your job?

    Hands down, the best part of my job is coaching clients who are miserable with their bodies and their lifestyles into balanced people who actually enjoy exercise, eating healthy (most of the time) and taking care of themselves.

    Oftentimes, when people start working with a trainer, they think it’s going to be all about kicking their butts and me being a drill sergeant. There is a little of that (as needed), but it’s mostly about building them up, making them strong and helping them make small, incremental changes in their daily lives (exercise, nutrition, rest/recovery) so they become healthier, more productive at work and better connected with their loves ones.

    It’s part physical, part psychological, and sometimes part spiritual. It’s beautiful to see the change happen in them and know I’ve played a small part in it.

    Most of my friends are really into fitness trackers. Are you seeing this with your clients as well? What do you think about them?

    We are a data-driven society, for sure. I use my Fitbit all the time too. Having data is important because, without measurement, we typically will overestimate our physical activity and caloric burn and underestimate our caloric intake.

    So, I’m a fan of fitness trackers, as well as occasional food journaling (like with MyFitnessPal) -- as long as the data is actionable. For instance, I have a deal with some of my clients that if they don’t hit their goals, they will take their dogs for an extra walk or go for a walk at lunch the next day to make up for missed activity. However, like with all things, it can become unhealthy and actually become an obstacle to progress. I see some clients get really stressed out and upset when their trackers aren’t working or if they miss a goal. They literally won’t exercise “if it doesn’t count” and will waste time during a session fidgeting with the darn things. And they have mini panic attacks over it. We want to be healthy and balanced, not obsessed and stressed out.

    What are some of the biggest fitness trends you’re seeing?

    Posture is the big focus these days. As a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and massage therapist for Equinox in downtown San Francisco, I’ve worked with hundreds of clients. Nearly all of them come to me with health issues related to chronic sitting, texting/typing, traveling and commuting in poor posture.

    When we sit, even with good posture, the glutes are lengthened, so they become weak. Weak glutes force the back muscles to work harder, which leads to pain, misalignment and herniation. Most people don’t engage their core when they sit, so the problems get even worse. Typing on computers and cellphones force the shoulders into internal rotation which tightens the pec muscles and weakens the upper back. Eventually we get pulled into this Quasimodo position and can’t lift our shoulders or retract our shoulder blades. It’s petrifying.

    Beyond the poor posture, this setup actually makes us stressed out and stupid. When we sit slumped over a desk, we compress our lung cavity. This prohibits proper breathing through the diaphragm and we end up breathing from our secondary respiratory muscles in the chest. This increases stress hormones, causing anxiety, weight gain and poor productivity.

    A huge part of my work is helping clients recover from the effects of all this and then mitigate against future problems through mobility and strength training and lifestyle changes at work and at home.

    You also blog about fitness. Please tell us about your blog and what kind of topics you cover.

    My blog, JJ Fit 24/7, and my Instagram offer practical, effective, and free videos, advice and tips each week, including exercise demos, stretches, recipes, supplement spotlights, fitness products, interviews with health professionals, sleep and stress management.

    To set up an interview with Jonathan, contact him via email at jondjordan@gmail.com or through his website: www.jj-fit.com/contact/

    With a network of hundreds of thousands of experts and communicators, ProfNet connects journalists with sources on virtually any topic imaginable. Need a source? Submit a query – it’s easy and free: www.profnet.com

    Journalist Spotlight: Lin Grensing-Pophal, Freelance Writer and Author

    Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 9:45 AM [Journalist Spotlight]
    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    In our Journalist Spotlight Q&A series, PR Newswire for Journalists and ProfNet users share their insight and advice on how PR professionals and experts can improve communication and increase their chances of being featured in their publications.

    In this edition, we catch up with Lin Grensing-Pophal, a freelance writer who has written on everything from health and wellness to relationships, careers, HR-related topics, marketing communications and social media. (She doesn’t write about history or geography, and doesn’t write résumés -- except, on rare occasion, for a close friend or relative.)

    Grensing-Pophal has written numerous books, articles, white papers, reports, newsletters, e-letters, brochures, websites and blogs.

    Innately curious and passionate about learning new things, she enjoys the challenge of a new assignment and the excitement of uncovering interesting facts, opinions, and statistics from a variety of sources and weaving them into copy that resonates with a specific target audience.

    In her "day job," Lin -- whose "real name" is Linda Pophal -- owns and manages a communication firm, Strategic Communications, LLC.

    For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about the topics you cover?

    I cover a wide range of business topics, including HR/employee relations, small-business management and marketing communication/digital marketing topics.

    You’ve used ProfNet for a long time, so I’m sure you've gotten a lot of replies to your queries over the years. What are PR pros doing right – and what are they getting wrong?

    Over the years, I've had the opportunity to work with some great PR people, and I rely on them frequently for input and sources. Those that are doing things right generally do the following:

    • Only respond to queries that they can really address through relevant sources or information.
    • Send responses that are very detailed and thorough, allowing me to determine whether their source would be right for the piece. These days, many of the most detailed responses negate the need for a phone interview, which provides benefits for both reporters and sources (sources can be more assured that their input will be incorporated accurately compared to doing phone interviews).
    • Avoid being overly promotional, and focus on providing relevant and valuable information for the target audience.
    • Respond promptly and meet deadlines.

    Things that I see some PR reps doing that may hurt their ability to get exposure for their clients are:

    • Sending general responses like: "I've got a great source for you." ProfNet is highly used by many, many PR people and others looking to get exposure so, for any given post, there will likely be dozens and dozens of responses. Reporters will not take the time to check in with you to see how great your source is. You should convey that in your initial email, with background information pertinent to the post and, whenever possible, thorough responses to the initial questions asked. It's highly likely these days that reporters will simply pick up on the detailed responses they receive from sources rather than take the time to set up and conduct interviews.
    • Contacting the reporter again (and sometimes again and again...) just to make sure they got your initial email. They did. If you haven't heard back, it's because other responses were more relevant/pertinent.
    • Making demands, suggestions or requests of reporters. The reporter is your "customer" in these instances. You should focus on serving their needs, not insisting that they meet yours. Again, competition is stiff. There are plenty of good sources to go to; if you make too many demands or make things difficult for the reporter you're unlikely to be called upon for this, or future, stories.

    Is there anything PR reps can do to set themselves apart from other respondents?

    I think the most important thing they can do is to ensure that they're providing good sources and detailed content aligned with the query.

    Are you open to cold calls/pitches? If so, what are your guidelines for those?

    No, it's rare that a cold pitch would align with a story I'm working on. 

    Do you use social media, either to connect with people or to promote your articles?

    Yes, primarily to promote my articles, although I'll sometimes use LinkedIn to find sources for pieces where I'm just not getting the right pitches or finding what I need through other channels. 

    What’s your favorite or most memorable story you’ve written?

    Wow, that's a tough one! I think it would have to be a series of two stories I did a number of years ago for HR Magazine on employee communication. The first one was on best practices for organizations communicating with employees, and the second was on establishing channels and opportunities for two-way communication.

    Not only did I really enjoy the research and gained a lot of great insight from sources that was also helpful to me in my "day job" at the time as a director of corporate communications in the healthcare industry, but the editor, Leon Rubis, sent me a note saying how much he liked the pieces.

    Anything else you’d like to add?

    The only other point I'd make is that, because I also now work with clients on their behalf to help them get media exposure (and do the same for myself), the lessons learned as a writer in terms of what works well and what doesn't have really helped me to do a better job of crafting pitches and getting coverage -- learning what to do and what not to do from the reporter's standpoint.

    For more on Lin Grensing-Pophal, visit her website at www.lingrensingpophal.com.

    Journalist Spotlight: Christian Science Monitor’s Harry Bruinius

    Thursday, April 6, 2017, 9:09 AM [Journalist Spotlight]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    In our Journalist Spotlight Q&A series, PR Newswire for Journalists and ProfNet users share their insight and advice on how PR professionals and experts can improve communications and increase their chances of being featured in their publications.

    In this edition, we catch up with Harry Bruinius, a staff writer and editor for the Christian Science Monitor.

    Originally from Chi-town and now based in Manhattan, Bruinius has been writing for the Monitor since 1999 and covers politics and other regional news.

    His first book, “Better For All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity,” is a narrative history of the eugenics movement in the United States, tracing the lives of the victims of forced sterilization and the men and women who pioneered history’s first program of genetic engineering. The book was a finalist for the 2002 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, placed on Booklist “Editor’s Choice 2006” and named one of New York Public Library’s “25 Books to Remember from 2006.”

    Bruinius also moonlights as an adjunct professor of journalism at Hunter College in NYC, where he also teaches religion. His courses include Journalism as Literature, Religion and Film, and The Problem of Evil.

    For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about the topics you cover?

    I am a political reporter, and I focus primarily on religion, law enforcement and, most recently, immigration. We are a national publication, so our focus is broad. We also tend to focus on analytical stories rather than breaking news, so I take a look at various modes of thought within with various political issues, trying to foster greater understanding between people of varying cultural and political backgrounds. 

    You’ve used ProfNet for a long time, so I’m sure you've gotten a lot of replies to your queries over the years. What are PR pros doing right – and what are they getting wrong?

    It's always helpful when a PR pro includes a brief, quotable blurb from their clients in response to one of my queries. And I appreciate even more a longer, detailed response, which makes me more likely to either contact that person or even quote from the responses they take the time write and send to me. A conversation is always preferred, of course, but sometimes deadline pressures make emailed responses enormously helpful.

    Clear links to bio pages, summaries of qualifications, as well as detailed areas of expertise and past research are also critically helpful in sorting out which experts are most relevant to a given story. I keep a detailed email filing system, organized by topics and subtopics, which include all high-quality responses I get from PR professionals, and I refer to these files whenever I begin a new story.

    Are you open to cold calls/pitches? If so, what are your guidelines for those?

    Generally, no. I get a lot of press releases in my inbox already, and getting more of these would not be helpful per se. But, you never know when or if a particular pitch could lead to a great story.

    Do you use social media, either to connect with people or to promote your articles?

    I do, on both Facebook and Twitter.

    What’s your favorite or most memorable story you’ve written?

    Behind America’s Seismic Shifts on Transgenderism, Loving Parents

    Why People Are Jerks on Social Media – and What Brands Can Do About It

    Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 3:24 PM [General]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    WARNING: This blog post is rated R for mature language. Wink

    It’s almost impossible to interact on social media without seeing nasty arguments or scathing comments between people who, in real life, are probably nice. So why do social networks often breed negativity?

    At a recent Social Media Week panel, Len Kendall and Nicole Rehling of Carrot – The VICE Digital Agency, explored the psychological causes of negative conversations on social media, and what brands, publishers and agencies can do about it.

    To view the full presentation, you can get a digital pass here: SMW Insider. The pass will also let you view other fantastic panels from SMW events in New York, Los Angeles, London and Chicago.

    Here's a quick recap of this panel:

    Why People Act Like Jerks on Social Media

    This video from Key & Peele is a good (and hilarious) example of miscommunication, which is one really simple reason for why people get nasty online:

    Everyone has seen a family member or a friend be kind of a jerk on social media. Maybe you were even that person recently. So let’s dive in and understand why:

    1. The lack of disconnect from societal repercussions.

    “Online conversations are nothing like what we experience in our life,” said Rehling. “We are removed from the impact of our poor judgment or the mistakes we might make.”

    If harsh words are directed at you on social media, you’re literally a couple of clicks away from ceasing that person’s connection to you. As a result, people show less restraint and spew negativity much more often.

    2. The self-esteem paradox.

    On social media, many of us cultivate our networks in such a way that constantly have people telling us how awesome we are – and eventually we begin to believe it. Not only might we start to believe we are better than we are, but we might start to believe we are better than a lot of people around us.

    “When you have this sense of ego that develops because of all this constant attention and praise, it makes it really easy to criticize other people who you perceive to be less interesting or smart or attractive than you, especially when those people are not getting all the internet praise you are,” said Kendall.

    Internet praise is becoming a sort of social validation, he said: If someone isn’t getting as much as you are, they must be inferior to you.

    3. Mob mentality.

    Before social was really popular, you had a small handful of people who could take your brand down – maybe a journalist or a comedian. If a brand did something stupid, a someone would make a joke about it, and then people would talk about it at a bar, and that was the end of the cycle.

    Today, everyone can react to everything.

    In 2015, KFC posted on Facebook about the new Colonel Sanders. More than 900 people took the time out of their day to comment on whether or not they liked the new Colonel Sanders.

    “It’s silly, but it’s proof that we are being force-fed debates,” said Kendall. “And again, it’s an easy way for us to be right, and sometimes it makes us kind of be jerks.”

    4. Pushing others down lifts some people up.

    “Unfortunately, social media has made it really easy and efficient to be a bully,” said Kendall.

    We watch shows like “Real Housewives” and gossip about coworkers because, a lot of times, we can show ourselves that somebody else is worse off or has a worse life, and it makes us forget about our own problems. But while you might feel better for yourself for a short amount of time, that feeling is temporary. People who get pleasure from this behavior have to do it over and over again.

    5. Broken patterns.

    With platforms like Facebook and Instagram adopting algorithms that serve us content we’re predicted to like, content that falls outside of those norms becomes much more obvious to us, and enables a defense mechanism to react and use negativity as a form of getting our point across faster: “This is not my belief, this is not my opinion, and I want you to know it.”

    Navigating the Waters

    The foundation of any kind of social or PR plan is to make sure you’re studying existing conversations around the content you’re either building or publishing.

    Rehling cited a Carrot project in which they partnered with Cartoon Network to build a Powerpuff Girls avatar generator to commemorate the relaunch of the series.

    “It was widely successful, but as we were discussing the user interface and the user experience, we did some pretty extensive research on other avatar makers that have been built,” said Rehling. “We looked at their response in the social environment and what things were said about them, and paired that with a lot of the conversations that were happening around that time on gender norms and gender stereotypes. We actually provided Cartoon Network with a recommendation to not include a gender selection in the user interface experience.”

    At the time, it felt like a small decision. However, once it launched, the press picked up on the decision and touted Cartoon Network for taking a forward-thinking measure.

    And there’s really no excuse to not do that every time, said Kendall.

    “There are now 10+ years of social data, and anything that you want to put out there, you can pretty much go back in time and find something else that someone created that might be similar to what you want to do. There’s plenty of room to study conversations in the past and learn from what worked and didn’t work.”

    Know When to STFU

    Sometimes, replying to something negative can draw undue attention to it and actually cause the problem to be bigger, said Rehling.

    Brands should also be careful when inserting themselves into trending conversations, added Kendall.

    One example is AT&T. On the anniversary of Sept. 11, the brand decided to post this picture, which they meant to be a commemoration. However, people saw this as opportunistic and inappropriate. AT&T publicly apologized and took the post down.

     

    Sept. 11 is one of those topics that brands don’t really have a place commenting on, said Kendall.

    “AT&T has done a lot of great work, but this is a misstep,” he added. “They shouldn’t have this controversial subject because there was really no way of winning.”

    Looking Into the (Near) Future

    Kendall and Rehling cited three trends that all marketing pros should be looking to in the near future:

    1. A return to one-way conversations.

    With Snapchat and Facebook Live, there is a trend of moving back to broadcast conversations or talking-head scenarios, said Rehling. And while this does discourage trolling and limits people’s ability to provide negative feedback, it also means the content is less discoverable. It’s a one-way conversation.

    2. Closed communities on the rise.

    In terms of more traditional forms of communication, closed communication – like messaging – is growing. For brands, the upside is that people might vent about your brand privately in a messaging platform, as opposed to publicly on Twitter. The downside, of course, is that it’s harder for brands to participate in messaging platforms.

    3. Virtual reality: the unknown frontier.

    Kendall sees VR impacting brands with customer service in particular.

    “It’s really hard to make someone happy when you’re trying to solve their problem over Facebook or Twitter or email,” said Kendall. “There’s so much context that isn’t there. But if you imagine virtual customer-assistance people who are helping you to solve your problem, and you can see them and they can empathize more easily with you, this is actually a really promising thing.”

    Virtual reality, he added, will help brands solve problems more easily and de-escalate any other issues that pop up.

    View more SMW panels with the SMW Digital Pass here: socialmediaweek.org/insider/

    Cracking the Facebook Code: How LittleThings Conquered the World’s Biggest Social Network

    Friday, March 24, 2017, 11:27 AM [Event Recaps]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    In today’s digital culture, Facebook success is something all publishers dream of.

    In a little more than two years, LittleThings has found what works.

    Launched in 2014 with one employee, LittleThings is now the leading lifestyle destination for inspiring, uplifting and engaging content.

    The brand has 10 million social followers and garners more than 280 million video views per month. And with 52.9 million uniques a month, it’s also a top 100 comScore site, beating out the likes of Mashable, Mic, Upworthy and Refinery29.

    Maia McCann, editor-in-chief of LittleThings, chalks the bulk of that success up to two strategies: tapping into a demographic no one else is serving, and listening to your audience so you know what they really want to see.

    “The reason LittleThings has grown so fast is, in part, because we concentrate on an overlooked demographic: women over 35,” says McCann.

    With many brands focusing on millennials, women age 35+ were not getting content targeted to their needs, says McCann. LittleThings recognized that opportunity and targeted their content specifically to that demographic.

    The Editorial Funnel

    “Cracking the Facebook code isn’t a magic formula,” said McCann. “It’s really about listening to your audience and finding out what they like, and then creating content around that.”

    To do that, LittleThings has two editorial teams: one that focuses on curated and licensed content, and another that creates original content, including illustrated galleries, video content and animations.

    Like with traditional media, LittleThings holds editorial pitch meetings every morning. This gives writers an opportunity to pitch ideas they think will be popular with their audience.

    Before pitching an idea, writers look at six criteria:

    Sourcing algorithms: Algorithms like Spike, Twitter lists and RSS feeds allow writers to discover content that’s starting to pick up traffic.

    Trend analytics: Analytics programs such as Google Analytics help writers see what’s trending.

    Performance metrics: Metrics allow writers to see what was successful in the previous week or so, which helps them figure out what’s going to succeed in coming weeks.

    Keywords and ideas: The team looks at keywords and ideas that have worked in the past. For example, one keyword that has worked well for their food content is funfetti. “If there’s a way to add rainbow sprinkles to a recipe and create a food video around it, we’ve done it,” said McCann.

    “Wow” factor: “There’s a video that was brought to us in a pitch meeting as an idea. It was about why we wear our wedding rings on our left fingers. This is an old wives’ tale, and we turned it into an original video. It’s a really great example of the ‘wow’ factor,” said McCann.

    Brand-safe: The idea of brand-safe means that they want readers to come to the site and know it’s not going to something that’s upsetting to them, like child abduction or negative news.

    “People know that when they see our little happy cloud logo, they’re going to click on something and be safe going there,” said McCann.” We don’t run any negative news. You’re not going to come to our site and see something that’s going viral. Anything related to ISIS or politics does not surface on LittleThings. That helps us differentiate ourselves from all of our competitors.”

    Facebook Live

    McCann said everyone should use Facebook Live for one main reason: It’s a great way to get to know your audience.

    “We can literally interact with our audience in real time,” she explained. “We talk to them. They tell us where they live. We found out about areas that we didn’t know people were living in that are enjoying our content.”

    Broadcasts last about 30 minutes at a time, and they take questions from the audience and answer them live.

    One example is a broadcast they did on a rescue kitten, Mac N’ Cheez, who lost the use of his back legs. The woman who took him in built him a wheelchair using Lego pieces. During the broadcast, they saw a comment from a viewer who said he would take Mac in but already had 17 other cats, and they mentioned the comment in real-time.

    “One of the beautiful things about Facebook Live is hearing from your audience as you’re discussing something in real time,” added McCann. “It’s been a really powerful tool for us to get to know our audience even better.

    Just Say No to Clickbait

    One thing that is really important to cracking the Facebook code is listening to Facebook itself.

    “About a year and a half ago, Facebook really started to kill clickbait,” said McCann.

    McCann defines clickbait is deliberately misleading someone to get them to click on something, and then giving them a negative user experience.

    “One of the things that’s so important to LittleThings is giving someone a positive user experience on the site, so we don’t want to mislead them with content that they weren’t expecting to see.”

    Because LittleThings focuses so much on making their readers so happy, one in four readers return to the site every day, half of the audience returns once a week, which shows they’re not purely getting one-off clicks from Facebook.

    This has resulted in LittleThings having the #1 rate of engagement per post.

    Testing 1 … 2 … 3 …

    Every piece of content on LittleThings goes through a proprietary testing algorithm, a regression analysis that factors in 20,000 pieces of content. Some of the inputs include clickthrough rate, cost per click, likes, shares, engagement, and time on site. The end result is 10x higher engagement on site than industry average.

    “There are a lot of people out there who are just looking at clickthrough rate, particularly advertisers,” said McCann. “We’re looking at the clickthrough rate and the engagement rate. We’re looking at the audience reactions, like the shares and likes on a post. And those are valued almost equally.

    They also do AB testing and, often, ABCD testing to figure out what’s the best way to wrap the content.

    “Doing a small test on an individual piece of content can prove a point and make that content be twice as viral,” she added. “We only serve our audience the very best of what we write, so while we don’t take things down from our site if they don’t test tell, we don’t run them on our Facebook pages.”

    Sharing is Caring: Six Tips for Creating Viral Content

    Thursday, March 16, 2017, 12:32 PM [Event Recaps]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    We all know the feeling: You see something on Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat that you just can’t wait to share with your friends.

    But what if you’re on the other side of the coin and you need to figure out how to make the content people will want to share? How do you make something your readers will want to put on their timelines?

    Start With Good Storytelling

    When you’re up against Kardashian photos and Trump tweets, it can be hard to gain traction for your news. But if you have a good story, you can find interesting ways to present it for your audience.

    “It has to start with a good story,” says Sarah Frank, editor of NowThis, a new company “for young people, by young people.”

    “Good storytellers can find a way to put the story in a way your audience wants it,” she adds.

    For every story, think WWYS: What would you share?

    “If it’s not something you would share, if it’s not something you would be interested in, why are you making it?” asks Frank.

    If you can’t make a story in a way that would make you want to talk about it at brunch or coffee, if you wouldn’t text your friend about the story, you need to rethink your approach.

    That’s something that traditional media needs to do better, says Frank.

    “Across the board, traditional media needs to find better ways to reach out to young people. They need to find ways to have conversations with young people, who are their future customers. I don’t know that I’ve noticed a lot of outreach, particularly for young people, from any of the traditional publications other than ‘We’re on Snapchat.’”

    Stand out From the Crowd

    Unfortunately, having a good story doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll get an audience. To do that, you’ll have to stand out from the crowd.

    Find a place where you can do something different from what other people are doing. Sites like NowThis and Vox have found success with new angles of reporting and new ways to optimizing content for a platform where there’s a real hunger for it.

    They also show their brand’s personality and point of view with every piece of content they share.

    Take NowThis. When Facebook Autoplay video started, NowThis really started to take off.

    “At the time, we had a website no one was visiting on a regular basis,” says Frank. “Most of our audience was from syndication partners like MSN, AOL, Yahoo.”

    But when Facebook Autoplay took off, Frank immediately realized that they had to put some personality and perspective behind their stories.

    “It’s not the medium, it’s the personality. It’s the point of view. For us, that means stories that are important to young people -- whether that be news or larger issues in the world -- and really having that unique point of view. Anyone can put text on screen.”

    Pick the Right Platform

    Not all platforms are right for everyone. You have to “pick where you can win,” advises Choire Sicha, executive director of partner development for Vox.

    In his role, Sicha works across eight Vox Media brands, including Vox.com, The Verge, Recode and SB Nation. He deals with relationships with publishing partners like Facebook and Google. He also runs the brands’ Snapchat Studio and a group called the Storytelling Studio, which does high-impact journalism.

    Sicha suggests narrowing your focus to platforms where you know you can do well, and cites Racked as a company that has done that successfully.

    “If you look at Racked.com, which is a site about shopping, they publish a newsletter and they publish Facebook video – and that’s it. They’ve narrowed down their focus to two places, and it’s working phenomenally well. Their newsletter is gorgeous. It’s spectacular and successful.”

    Also, think about how your content fits the platform you’ve chosen. Are you forcing news and information there, or does the platform fit the content you’re sharing?

    “While we try to always try to come back to the story, there are definitely certain stories that might work a little bit more on one platform than another,” says Frank.

    Know Your Audience

    To find the right platform, you have to find what your audience is passionate about. What are the things your audience cares about? What are the stories they’re most passionate about? And, more importantly, what are people doing on a specific platform? Is it a platform where they’re dipping in for five, 10, 15 seconds, or are they going to be there a little longer?

    For example, while brands creating Facebook Live content are doing it mostly between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., that’s not necessarily when most of their audience is available to watch it. Keep in mind how – and when – your audience is consuming your content.

    Also, be open to feedback from your audience.

    “It’s not just about the view number,” says NowThis’ Frank. “We also look at the share number. We try to read what people are saying in the comments, because sometimes they are either saying explicitly or just hinting to us that they want more or less of something.”

    And sometimes the audience might not necessarily be huge, but they will be engaged.

    “There are a handful of things, particularly on Facebook Live, that we do because we have a small but engaged audience around it,” says Frank. “We have a show called ‘Trumped Up,’ where we take a deeper dive on things that Trump has done. It is a basic ‘person in front of the camera engaging with the audience’ thing, but she’s taking questions in real time and breaking things down, which is something that young people, especially, don’t get. They don’t get this moment to ask, ‘Can you break this down for me? Can you explain this thing to me? What’s this thing I saw five minutes ago vs. three days ago? How are they connected?’”

    If the young demographic is important to you, be careful not to dumb down topics. Instead, lower the “barrier to entry” slightly, says Frank.

    “Don’t assume your audience has been following these stories for 5, 10, 15 years. It doesn’t have the same context as for people in your newsroom. Just open the door a little bit because that’s where people really start to feel a connection. They’ll think, ‘This place made me feel smarter. I saw something here, I repeated it, and my friends thought I was cool and interesting and smart and knew what I was talking about. It made me feel good.”

    That creates a connection that will stay with the user.

    Snapchat in a Snapshot

    Snapchat is the new kid on the block of sorts. It’s fun, it’s hip – but it’s also challenging.

    “The most challenging part about Snapchat is it’s like a newspaper,” said Frank, a former print reporter. “It comes out seven times a week at 7 in the morning.”

    And while NowThis has a 12-person Snapchat team, there’s still a lot of content that needs to be created.

    “That’s been the main challenge,” says Frank, especially coming from Facebook, where her team would post things as they were ready, or on Twitter, where they would pop up for breaking news and then pop down when it was a little quieter.

    Sicha agrees: “We did a daily channel as well, which was grueling. You cannot have a team big enough to survive it. We did daily for almost nine months and it was tough.”

    Sicha’s team has now transitioned to doing specials, explaining that it works out financially for them.

    “Only a top few really successful Snapchat publishers make money on it,” he said. “It’s a very tough business -- but it’s also really rewarding. I have so much love for Snapchat because it’s cool and weird and unexpected and enormous and wild.”

    And while creating so much Snapchat content can been a challenge, it also provides a lot more room to play.

    “We were originally a top Snap only, and predominantly video,” says Frank. “Now we’ve expanded into more swipe-ups with some text. It’s been really exciting to see our audience gravitate to that. We’re playing with inline video and GIFs and really beginning to think about ourselves as a video publisher that can also do some text-based content.”

    Henry Goldman, head of video for BuzzFeed News, agrees.

    “It’s been fun to try and learn how to tell stories on these platforms and learn how to optimize your team to think about them and expand on them,” he says.

    Snapchat has also unlocked interesting new user behavior.

    “The platform created a whole new media consumption behavior when it launched Stories,” says Goldman. “The idea of sharing something with the knowledge that it will go away in 24 hours works a different muscle in your brain that releases different performative endorphins when you share it, and that’s not going away.”

    Find the Right People

    Of course, everyone wants a team with awesome, smart people, but hiring the right people goes beyond that. To really be successful on social media, you want a team made up of people who are versatile and have a thirst for learning.

    Goldman calls the ideal person the social version of an MMA fighter: “What I ultimately want on the video team -- and throughout the news organization -- is people who can be MMA artists. I look for folks who know how to box, and then they learn jujitsu, and then they learn kickboxing. And then, when a new fighting style comes up, they go in and learn that new fighting style.”

    For Frank, the ideal person is fearless. At NowThis, the newsroom is predominantly people under age 27 who live on their phones.

    “They’re the types of people in your friends group who always share the best stuff on Facebook -- the story that you don’t know how they found it,” says Frank. “They’re not just headline retweeters. They’re people who want to learn new skills.”

    They’re also not afraid of the constant creative changes and constraints that come along with the job. In fact, they’re people that tend to work really well with creative constraints. They like the creative challenge. They’re constantly reaching for new skills, whether that’s journalism skills, video skills or professional development skills. They’re constantly learning.

    And, of course, they’re good storytellers.

    View more SMW panels with the SMW Digital Pass here: socialmediaweek.org/insider/

    The Secret Sauce: 9 Tips for a Successful Social Media Strategy

    Friday, March 10, 2017, 9:52 AM [General]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    How do you satisfy your core audience while still giving them a variety of what’s trending or relevant?

    That was the question posed to a panel of social media experts representing three Hearst titles -- Esquire, Marie Claire, and Elle – during a Social Media Week New York panel earlier this month.

    The panel, titled “How Hearst’s Prestige Brands Are “Doing the Internet,” featured:

    • Ben Boskovich, social media editor, Esquire
    • Elizabeth Brady, associate director of social strategy, Hearst Digital Media
    • Rosa Heyman, social media editor, Marie Claire
    • Gena Kaufman, social media director, Elle
    • Kate Lewis, VP of content operations and editorial director, Hearst Digital

    To view the full presentation, you can get a digital pass here: SMW Insider. The pass will also let you view other fantastic panels from SMW events in New York, Los Angeles, London and Chicago.

    Here's a quick recap of nine strategies mentioned during this panel to help you achieve social media success for your brand:

    Social Strategy Teams

    There are 22 brands at Hearst, each with a dedicated site team, and each of those teams has a dedicated social editor. There is also a brand-agnostic Social Strategy team that counsels the social editors, helping them manage their relationships with the social networks.

    The Social Strategy team is a centralized resource that helps make adaptation a little easier for the editors. Adaptation is crucial because social changes every 3-6 months, if not more frequently.

    “It’s such an accelerated evolution cycle for a social editor to grapple with and succeed in,” said Brady, “especially when they’re the ones in the weeds doing the day-to-day posting, pushing content out, and then also paying attention to everything that’s going on in the ecosystem.”

    The Social Strategy team has developed a suite of reports they share with the teams to teach them about their audiences. Editors get alerts every day so they know which stories are getting viral traction and which ones aren’t. They also have other centralized resources, like a social media Wiki for the entire staff.

    Through these reports and resources, teams are kept up-to-date on when Facebook rolls out a new algorithm update, or when Instagram announces a new feature, like multi-photo posts. If a site has a video that’s going viral on Facebook, everyone knows about it immediately and can discuss how to capitalize on it.

    The Social Strategy team also provides granular statistics for the brands.

    “Elle might come to us with a question on what types of beauty content are doing the best on Facebook and which types might not be worth posting,” said Brady. “We’ll dive into the data and we’ll say, ‘Food videos are working for you, but really only if they have cheese.’ Other times, it’s a little bit of detective work. We’ll notice an old post is getting a lot of engagement on Chartbeat, so we’ll investigate where that’s coming from and spread the intel from there. It helps teams understand how to prioritize things and benchmark.”

    The ‘Secret Sauce’

    Hearst has 126 million followers across social networks, up 39% from last year. In 2016, there were more than 50 million engagements on Facebook posts, and Facebook shares increased by 33%.

    The “secret sauce” to this impressive following is that Hearst social editors spend their time using social as a tool for listening, which Boskovich calls the backbone of the social editor’s job.

    “As social editors, we have a huge benefit in living and breathing in each of the social networks every single day, and that helps us bring information back to our editors,” explained Boskovich. “We know, for instance, that our Twitter audience has a more elevated, probably more educated, interest, so they’re going to want more tweets about the 10,000-word features that we’re writing. The Facebook audience, on the other hand, is more interested in snackable news and videos. I learned that just by it being a part of my life 24/7. I tell my editors, ‘Hey, that’s probably not going to go on Facebook, but I’ll send out four tweets about it because it’ll even out in the long run.”

    Kaufman agrees that this is an integral part of their strategy: “We do that every day, and especially when a big event is coming up, like the Oscars. I’ll look at last year and put together a report on what our top social content was, and send that around to all the editors and say, ‘Hey, this is a way to cover this event that works.’”

    Brady also does a lot of reporting on live events and can attest to the importance of listening to your audience.

    “On social, it’s best practice to be speedy, to be creative, to be authentic, but there is another pillar: Just pay attention. Listen, have that observational attitude with your followers, and dig in, because there’s always something new to uncover – like a weird fandom – that your audience will be interested in. You can really tap into that and replicate successes.”

    Of course, she adds, you always have to be ready to do something different in a month, “because it’s not going to last.”

    Ditch the Clickbait

    While using clickbait headlines might seem like an easy way to get readers to click through to articles, it doesn’t always translate into engagement.

    The Elle team was originally reluctant to ditch the clickbait, worrying that if they shared too much information in their Facebook posts, readers wouldn’t be driven to the website. However, Brady and her Social Strategy team pushed Kaufman’s team to focus less on posts that drive clicks and more on engagement, posting photos and videos that will drive comments, likes and shares. They also tried to package their stories to be more shareable and less clickbait-y.

    “We were hesitant to do that because you don’t see an immediate result,” said Kaufman, “but now that we’ve focused on doing that, not only has our engagement grown, but so has our social traffic.”

    Social networks’ algorithms also make a case for ditching the clickbait.

    With networks increasingly controlled by algorithms that might not necessarily reflect what is happening, shares – not clicks – are more important than ever.

    “If you don’t have people sharing and interacting with your content, there’s a pretty good chance no one is going to see it at all,” explained Brady. “We have to be much more strategic about what we’re putting up because we need it to get surfaced, whether it’s on Facebook or Instagram. We’re always looking for a higher threshold of engagement.”

    To do this, the teams basically give the story away on their social networks.

    “We’re totally fine with the social editors giving it all away, whether it’s a photo or a link. If somebody just had a crazy makeover or there’s a new photo of someone, show it in the thumbnail, tell us what happened. It’s not about gaming the algorithm or nuancing something to try to trick someone to clicking in. Make it its own entity. Make it shareable so your audience is going to help you distribute it throughout. You’re almost deputizing your audience to be ambassadors for you.”

    “Which is why clickbait just doesn’t work,” added Heyman, “because who’s going to share that?”

    Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

    The teams work really closely together at Hearst, and while there’s a healthy dose of competition, there’s also a lot of sharing between the teams.

    “When one brand finds something that works, we can all borrow it,” said Heyman. “Elle was seeing a lot of success boosting their engagement on Facebook by commenting on posts that were already doing well with additional reading links. Let’s say Selena Gomez and The Weeknd are dating and they posted about each other on Instagram. Elle has a timeline of their relationship, and by posting the timeline link in the comments section and engaging with the readers in a conversation that’s already ongoing, it can help boost engagement.”

    Kaufman agreed, adding that the related-links strategy – also called “swarming” -- is something she learned from another Hearst brand, Cosmo.

    “Cosmo is a brand at Hearst that does it really well,” said Kaufman. “When there’s a big topic, everyone rushes to cover the first news story. Since everyone does it, the traffic gets split among them. What we really try to do now is think, ‘We already did the quick news story. What can we do in the next hour? What’s the additional story we can do tomorrow? What’s the story we can do next week?’ We’re really taking one topic that’s working and finding different ways to keep the coverage going that feels more specific to Elle and our audience, rather than just announcing news.”

    Esquire’s Boskovich shared another strategy he’s learned from the women’s brands at Hearst: Facebook Live.

    “We’ve been doing a ton of Facebook Live videos,” he said. “On the videos, we talk about and reference stories. For example, every Thursday we have style lessons with myself and our senior style editor, Jonathan Evans. We talk about celebrity style and teach readers lessons from mistakes or accomplishments these men have made with their clothing. So while we referenced articles we’ve written during the broadcast, we weren’t posting them in the comments so our readers could click on it as they’re watching, so we started doing that. It’s a way for Facebook Live to generate some traffic.”

    Embrace Native Content

    Social best practices change quickly. What worked last year doesn’t necessarily work now. For example, native content – videos, photos or some other type of asset that is put on social first -- has become much bigger than it was.

    “In years past, if a video or photo took off, it might have been a little more serendipitous,” said Brady. “Now it’s really strategic. We’re thinking more and more. For most of our brands, 30-50% or more of their daily Facebook inventory is native content, which is a huge pivot compared to a year or two ago.”

    “There’s something freeing about that as an editor,” added Lewis, “because if you’re a content creator, what you really want is to make someone read your content. The advantage now is you begin to see social platforms just as a place for consumption vs. a place where you’re trying to ‘game the system’ to get something to happen.”

    Use Social to Drive Traffic

    One strategy Boskovich has found successful in driving website clicks from social is to take the traditional path of social-to-site and flip it backwards:

    “We have our political commentary via Charles P. Pierce, who is a powerhouse, but also this enigma on the internet. Most of his traffic was coming directly from people who not only bookmark his blog but sit on it all day and refresh it and wait for a new post to come up, which is super-primitive. So when it came time to amplify his social presence, we took a backwards approach and took the comments off of his blog and at the end of the post, we started directing people to a new Facebook page we had built for him.”

    That Facebook page is now one of the fastest-growing “toddler” pages (aka subpages or satellite pages) at Hearst Digital Media.

    “It was a way to capitalize on an already super-loyal captive audience and send them backwards to social,” explained Boskovich. “And now we have a huge social audience on his Facebook page that are loyal and go back to the site.”

    Brady said Hearst has experimented quite a bit with toddler pages at Hearst, but shared two caveats for those considering using them:

    First, you need to have a lot of native content – video, etc. -- to help spike growth of the page. If you don’t have the content, “you’re really going to be struggling,” said Brady. “It can’t just be a links page.”

    You also want to make sure you’re attracting new people who might not already be connected with the flagship.

    “If you’re going to be funneling a lot of effort into this secondary page, you really want to make sure those people aren’t likely to already be liking your main page, or you might as well put that effort on your main page and grow that one,” explained Brady. “You really want the audiences to be different, but tracing back to your same source.”

    Standing out With Video

    Video is another strategy at Elle that has paid off.

    “Video was a really small portion of my job when we started, and now it’s everything,” said Kaufman, whose team has increased their Facebook video views by 2,000% in the last year.

    To achieve that impressive increase, they’ve diversified their sources – and adjusted their thinking:

    “We have a video team that shoots and produces original video, which really helped grow one of our toddler pages. We do as much video as we can. We even turned our Street Style photographer into a videographer, instead of just having snaps of people at Fashion Week in their outfits. He’s putting a GoPro on his camera so that we can get these videos of what it’s like to be on the Street Style scene at Fashion Week, which has been a really cool new way to cover that and another source of more video all the time.”

    At first, it was hard for the teams, who were used to thinking of stories in words and pictures, to embrace video.

    “There’s a real temptation for us to structure videos exactly the way we do stories: here’s what happened, beginning, middle and end,” said Kaufman. “We still do that with news stories that turn into videos, and that works, but we’re really trying to think about videos as telling their own story in their own way or supplementing stories on the website.”

    One thing the Elle team has done successfully is to use short Getty video clips to push traffic to their articles.

    “The Oscars just happened, so say we want to do a story on Emma Stone. We’ll grab a little video of her and post it on FB with a caption that describes what the story is,” explained Kaufman. “So in a sea of identical headlines, the video stands out and ultimately gets more people to click into your story than just having the same photo everyone else has.”

    Esquire’s Boskovich has also experimented with video to great results. Esquire editors were originally opposed to seeing their 1,000-word story become a one-and-a-half-minute video, but they saw how it helped give readers a snackable version of the story, which translated into more eyeballs on the article.

    Another benefit of using videos on social is that it can be a good way to experiment with and test out new topics:

    “We posted a video for Justin Trudeau’s birthday on ‘15 times Justin Trudeau made you fall in love with him,’ and it took off,” said Heyman. “It was crazy. We’ve never covered Justin Trudeau before and our audience was obsessed with him.”

    The response to the video led Marie Claire to start covering Justin Trudeau more.

    “Now we cover his every single move,” said Heyman,” and it does really well for us. It was cool to see that. It wasn’t something that we planned on devoting resources to or writing a story about.”

    Battle of the Brands

    One of the challenges of a company like Hearst that has various brands under its umbrella is how to differentiate the brands for their audiences. It’s especially tricky with women’s brands, whose audiences are largely interested in the same topics.

    “There are so many great women’s brands at Hearst, and the audiences are largely interested in the same topics, but I do think they have really distinct voices and distinct audiences, so we try to think of it as covering the same topics in a more specific way,” said Kaufman.

    For example, the Harper’s Bazaar reader is a little more artsy and high end than the Elle reader. So if Harper’s is doing a story on “10 investment bags to buy” that the Elle reader would not necessarily be able to afford, Elle might cover it as: “This is the cheapest place you can buy a Louis Vuitton bag right now.”

    “We try to cover it in a way that it’s the same topic, but a slightly different angle,” said Kaufman.

    Boskovich agreed, adding that readers go to specific brands for their voice: “Our competitors are writing the same things as we are. If we don’t give them a reason to care about what Esquire has to say and why that’s unique, they can go anywhere and get that.”

    Figure out what the audience is interested in and how to talk about it so readers feel like they’ve been given something special and that emotionally connects to them in some way.

    Let the Platform Lead You

    When it comes to growing, Brady suggests letting the platforms lead you a little bit.

    With new features emerging every day, be ready to experiment and dive in and try new things, like 360 video and vertical video. People will pay attention to you and will be really excited to see you offering something fresh, new and visually compelling.

    Pitch Perfect: Pitching PetGuide.com

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017, 12:56 PM [Freelance Focus]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    We’ve gone to the dogs -- and that’s OK by us.

    At the recent Dog Writers Association of America, Amy Tokic, editor of PetGuide.com, shared her insight and tips for freelance writers on how they can best pitch the website to get assignments.

    PetGuide.com, flagship site to more than 75 different pet communities, is dedicated to offering pet parents informative articles to ensure their pet lives a long, healthy and happy life. From dog illness symptoms to helpful how-to articles, uber-cute dog fashions and breaking dog news stories, PetGuide.com goes in-depth to get to what matters to pet parents.

    As editor, Tokic -- a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross -- writes about her adventures in pet ownership, and tirelessly researches products, news and health-related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts.

    Tokic’s career has spanned the media spectrum. She has worked at radio stations across Ontario before moving into the print and magazine industry, and finally to online publications. She has been called upon to offer her pet expertise in numerous interviews for outlets including PopSugar, The Toronto Star, Honest Kitchen, Vegas Rock Dog Radio, the World Pet Association, Consumer Reports, and Redbook.

    Tokic offered these tips for article queries, which can really apply generally when pitching editors in any industry:

    Personalize your pitch. Start your pitch with “Dear Amy” so she sees it’s not a pitch you’re sending to multiple people. Make it unique and tailored to her and the website.

    Show you’ve read the website. Mention you read the site, e.g., “I read your article on dog dental health and it resonated with me because my dog had to have teeth removed recently.”

    Don’t pitch something that’s already been covered. If you are pitching a story on the pros and cons of Prozac for dogs, for example, make sure the article hasn’t already been published on the site. Otherwise, it shows you are not familiar with the site.

    Keep it short. An ideal pitch should be no longer than 2-3 paragraphs.

    Build a relationship before pitching. Tokic said she usually doesn’t take pitches from people she doesn’t know. If you have a mutual “friend,” ask for an introduction. If not, all hope is not lost – just introduce yourself and tell her how you have read her work. Again, it’s all about building a relationship.

    Ask her to lunch. Tokic is open to being invited for coffee or lunch: “Who doesn’t like free food?”

    Have a platform: Have your own website, not just social media profiles. And make sure you list your portfolio on your website. Editors should have a good sense of who you are and what your writing is like through your website.

    Make your pitch a good one: According to Tokic, a good pitch:

    • is creative
    • is well-researched
    • is customized for the editor
    • covers a good topic
    • brings something new to the table – it’s not the same old, same old
    • is 2-3 paragraphs long

    A bad pitch, on the other hand:

    • is too short
    • has no personality
    • includes random links (you should only include one link – your website)

    You can find PetGuide.com on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

    Journalist Spotlight: Timothy Gower, Freelance Writer

    Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 9:15 AM [Journalist Spotlight]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    In our Journalist Spotlight Q&A series, PR Newswire for Journalists and ProfNet users share their insight and advice on how PR professionals and experts can improve communications and increase their chances of being featured in their publications.

    In this edition, we catch up with Timothy Gower, an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in more than two dozen major magazines and newspapers, including Prevention, Reader’s Digest, Esquire, Men’s Health, and the New York Times. He is also the author or co-author of a dozen books.

    Timothy, for those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about the topics you cover?

    I primarily write about health and medicine, though in the last few years I have done a fair amount of work in personal finance -- which is interesting, since I can’t balance a checkbook.

    What are PR pros doing right – and what are they getting wrong – when they reply to your queries?

    I deal with a lot of media representatives at hospitals and medical schools, and on the whole, they are wonderful -- responsive and accommodating, and usually able to put me on the phone with the doctors and scientists I need to interview within a reasonable amount of time. Every now and then, a PR person will promise more than he or she can deliver -- that is, “I’ll get someone from rheumatology for you to interview by Tuesday,” then they just disappear. If I’m counting on that interview and it doesn’t materialize, I’m in trouble. And I may not trust your promises in the future.

    Also, please don’t give me the same doctor every time I call for a comment, since I can’t quote the same person over and over, from one story to the next. (You might be surprised how often this happens.)

    This is a little thing, but sending email queries with a subject line written to give the appearance that I have already responded -- that is, it reads “re: new therapy…” or whatever -- is silly and fools no one. Journalists joke about how desperate that seems.

    Is there anything PR reps can do to set themselves apart from other respondents?

    Know what kinds of topics I cover and send appropriate pitches. I believe a lot of PR agencies use very outdated materials to determine a journalist’s area of coverage. Years ago, I did a tiny bit of food writing, but that didn’t last long. Yet I still get pitches about hot new products. I guess I checked a box on a form once saying I write about food. But that was many years ago. I know there are clearinghouses that collect and sell this information about journalists. They contact me for updates on occasion, which I’m happy to provide.

    Also, when you send out a story pitch, proofread it first. Typos and poor grammar are distracting and sap the power of your message.

    Are you open to cold calls/pitches? If so, what are your guidelines for those?

    By email, yes. By phone, no. If I wrote for a daily or weekly publication, I might be more amenable to phone pitches, but I tend to have very long deadlines, so I don’t need a steady stream of story ideas to rely on. Furthermore, most of the story topics I end up writing about are either generated in-house at the magazines I contribute to regularly, or they come from my own research.

    Do you use social media, either to connect with people or to promote your articles?

    I post links to my stories on Facebook and Twitter. And I have had modest success using both to find interviewees.

    What’s your favorite or most memorable story you’ve written?

    I guess you could say the first and last. The first major feature I wrote as a freelancer came about when I was trying to break in at the Boston Phoenix, the dearly departed alternative weekly, back in my 20s. I called Sy Sperling of the Hair Club for Men -- which advertised relentlessly on TV at the time -- and said I wanted to interview him. He said sure and gave me a wonderful 45-minute interview. I turned that into a query and the Phoenix assigned a 3000-word feature about the Hair Club phenomenon, by far longer than anything I had done to date. That story got me hired by the Phoenix. I eventually left to freelance and have written thousands of stories since.

    The last major feature I wrote was about the first penis transplant performed in the United States. Yes, that one was memorable, too, for many reasons.

    Anything else you’d like to add?

    I value and appreciate the work that PR professionals do. The only thing I’ll add is that one of the biggest challenges I face is finding “real people” to tell their stories when I write about a medical condition. I highly value media reps who can help me in that regard. Get me a patient and I’ll quote your doctor.

    Journalist Spotlight: Gregory Freeman, Freelance Writer

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 1:07 PM [Journalist Spotlight]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    In our Journalist Spotlight Q&A series, PR Newswire for Journalists and ProfNet users share their insight and advice on how PR professionals and experts can improve communications and increase their chances of being featured in their publications.

    In this edition, we catch up with Gregory Freeman, who focuses on writing for the healthcare industry and writing narrative nonfiction books. Freeman earned his degree from the University of Georgia before working for The Associated Press. He was also executive editor at a publisher in Atlanta before transitioning to freelance writing.

    Greg, for those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about the topics you cover?

    I’m a freelance writer focusing mostly on healthcare administration. Some topics I commonly cover are risk management, malpractice, patient safety, peer review, quality improvement, and health insurance plans. I also am the author of seven books, all narrative nonfiction.

    You’ve used ProfNet for a long time, so I’m sure you've gotten a lot of replies to your queries over the years. What are PR pros doing right – and what are they getting wrong?

    This is selfish but it’s true: the best thing you can do is to make my job easier. Send the information I need to determine if your source meets my needs, be responsive, and do most of the legwork for setting up phone interviews and obtaining documents.

    As for getting it wrong, that’s usually sending me responses that are very thinly veiled pitches for a company or product. I write mostly for subscription-only, no-advertising publications that cost hundreds of dollars a year, so I can’t do puff pieces and promotional stories for a product or company. But if you give me content I can use, like how one of your clients achieved something measurable or advice on a topic from your CEO, I probably can work in a discreet mention of the company or product. It won’t be anything overtly promotional, but I’ll still get your name in front of a very targeted audience. If you as the PR pro understand this, please make sure your client does too -- before I start interviewing him and get only promotional talk.

    Is there anything PR reps can do to set themselves apart from other respondents?

    Be quick to respond, understand the query before responding, and try to minimize email back-and-forth as much as possible.

    Are you open to cold calls/pitches? If so, what are your guidelines for those?

    I don’t mind receiving as many pitches by email as you want to send, but please don’t call with a pitch.

    Do you use social media, either to connect with people or to promote your articles?

    No. The publishers do, but I don’t.

    What’s your favorite or most memorable story you’ve written?

    That’s hard to say, but I’ve done some investigative pieces I was proud of and which won awards. One was about shady people casing hospitals and asking questions about security, apparently looking for weak spots to hit with or during a terrorist attack.


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