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 Christopher Elliott, an award-winning author, journalist, and consumer advocate.
Christopher has appeared on virtually every major TV network and has written commentaries for every major national daily, including The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. He has also written for or been cited as an expert in a variety of magazines, including Fortune, National Geographic, Outside, and U.S. News & World Report.
Currently, Christopher writes columns for various newspapers across the country:
- USA Today’s On Travel, which helps travelers understand the inner workings of the travel industry and how to make the most of their next trip
- The Travel Troubleshooter, syndicated by King Features, appears in newspapers ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Boston Globe
- The Washington Post's The Navigator, which focuses on being a smarter, more informed travel, with an emphasis on transportation policy
- Problem Solved, also syndicated by King Features, which helps readers resolve everyday conflicts with companies and organizations
We sat down with Christopher to find out more about what he does and how you can better connect with him to get your experts featured:
Christopher, for those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about the topics you cover?
I write about customer service, with an emphasis on transportation and technology. I'm also a travel writer. I cover mostly North American family travel destinations.
You’ve used ProfNet for many years. What are PR pros doing right – and what are they getting wrong?
I really like the fact that your members respond so quickly. Sometimes, I get an email within minutes of sending a ProfNet query. Unfortunately, some PR pros don't carefully read the instructions. For example, I list all the questions for my story in the query and note that I prefer to start the conversation by email, yet I still get responses from members that offer to "connect" me with their source through a phone interview.
Is there anything PR reps can do to set themselves apart from other respondents?
Yes, if you have an amazing story to tell or a unique insight to share, it will always rise to the top. I read every response carefully and I answer each one. I actually have created a special response for ProfNet queries that explains my process and helps PR pros understand what they can expect. I have information about timing, placement and the editing process that they tell me they find helpful.
Are you open to cold calls/pitches? If so, what are your guidelines for those?
Yes, absolutely. I love email because it allows me to review pitches and carefully consider them. Phone doesn't really work as well unless it's a breaking story. I list my number in my email signature, on my site and in my queries.
Do you use social media, either to connect with people or to promote your articles?
What’s your favorite or most memorable story you’ve written?
I was an intern at the Los Angeles Times in 1991. It was an incredible experience. I worked out of the Times' San Francisco bureau and basically had all of Northern California as my beat for about six months. I remember writing this story about a fox infestation on the runways at San Jose International airport. I love quirky stories like that. I don't get to write that many anymore, but maybe one day I will again…