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.