Maria Perez

    • Member Type(s): Content Publisher
      Communications Professional
      Media - Freelancer
      Media - Broadcast
      Media - Print Journalist
      Media - Student Journalist
      Media - Web-only/Blogger
      Media - Other
    • Title:Director, Audience Content
    • Organization:ProfNet
    • Area of Expertise:ProfNet

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    Journalist Spotlight: Alaina Levine, Freelance Journalist and Author

    Monday, January 23, 2017, 10:06 AM [General]
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    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 Alaina Levine, a freelance science journalist, career consultant, professional speaker, corporate comedian, and award-winning entrepreneur.

    Levine is a career columnist for Physics Today and the American Physical Society’s APS News, and a regular contributor to Her first book, “Networking for Nerds” (Wiley, July 2015) was named one of the Top 5 Books of 2015 by Physics Today magazine.

    A prolific speaker and writer on career development and professional advancement, Levine has delivered more than 700 speeches for clients in the U.S., Europe, Mexico, and Canada, and has written more than 350 articles in international publications such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, National Geographic News Watch and others.

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

    I am a huge nerd and I write about nerds, their impact, and their careers. Specifically, I am a science journalist and a STEM careers writer, so I cover issues pertaining to STEM research and innovations, and career development for scientists, engineers, and tech gods and goddesses. I write profiles of scientists and engineers, as I love to share the hidden and unusual careers that STEM-educated pros are able to craft for themselves. Moreover, I write career advice columns for a number of different publications. My clients include Science, Nature, Physics Today, Physics World (UK), APS News (of the American Physical Society), and Mechanical Engineering Magazine. I have previously written for Scientific American, National Geographic News Watch, Smithsonian, IEEE Spectrum, COSMOS (Australia), and many other pubs.

    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?

    I so appreciate PR pros. I would not be able to do my job effectively and find the coolest stories and sources if it were not for proactive, talented PR Pros. And I truly value these relationships, which I see as long-lasting, win-win alliances. So the PR pros who are the most savvy are the ones who want to build a long-term partnership with me. ProfNet is especially helpful for this purpose. There have been many times when I submit a query on ProfNet, and a PR pro reaches out to me with a source, and we make magic. And because we worked so well together, we then start exploring other story ideas that could be pitched to other publications. The alliance lasts years and results in multiple articles and placements about their clients.

    So what are PR pros doing right? They are understanding my needs, they are aiming for a long-term, mutually beneficial alliance, they are looking for new avenues for collaboration, and they are staying in touch.  

    What PR pros could do better: Please, after we first make contact, don't bombard me with press releases about topics I am not interested in. Don't put me on your media list unless I ask to be put there. When I query for X on ProfNet, don't reply with the following statement "I don't have any sources for X, but I have an even better story for you about Y." Also, I have no problem with PR pros who need to sit in on interviews; however, please let me know in advance that you need to do this, and if I am doing a phone interview, please let me know you are in the room (I have had a few phone interviews where I found out later in the call that the PR staff were sitting in and they didn't say anything about this).

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

    Respond promptly. Give me a few sentences as to why your client would be a good source. I only need a little bit of info, not a dissertation. If you want to build a partnership with me, let me know who your clients are and what you (and them) are working on now. You can even suggest what publications this might be a good fit for.

    And stay in touch! Email me every now and then, even if you don't have a story idea, I welcome you reaching out to me to say "Hey, Alaina, what are you working on now? Is there anything I can help you with?" We all know that timing is everything, and you never know -- I might need a source that day, or I might be planning an article and by reaching out, you just gave me an idea of an angle I can pursue with you and your client. I have met many PR pros through ProfNet who touch base with me about once a quarter and, in doing so, they stay in the forefront of my mind. As such, I often work with those same PR pros again and again, and look forward to them emailing me, because I know they are interested in helping me and will always have something valuable to share.

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

    Absolutely! I prefer cold emails. I love bullet points, so give me the highlights of your story idea or unusual source. I am also very open to exploratory conversations with PR pros, where I can share what I am looking for in stories and the pubs for which I write, and you can suggest different stories, angles, and ideas. 

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

    I use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to find sources, connect with PR pros, and promote my articles. I try to use tags to ensure that PR pros see the articles in which their clients are included, as well as hashtags to get the attention of PR pros in certain industries. I appreciate when people share, cross-post, and forward my announcements. PR pros who tweet me or tag me in a LinkedIn or Facebook post certainly get my attention!

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

    I recently wrote an article for, the careers arm of Science Magazine, entitled "Networking with Dr. God." The piece was a humorous look at how to network with and approach the leaders and stars of your field and industry, which I lovingly call "Dr. God." I interviewed several Dr. Gods and early career professionals to get their opinions about how to go about introducing yourself and why Dr. God wants to network with people who are just starting their careers. The best sources with the best quotes came directly from a relationship I had already nurtured with a PR pro and his team, both at his agency and their client. 

    Anything else you’d like to add?

    ProfNet is an unbelievable invaluable resource for me. I hope more PR pros will continue to take full advantage of it!

    Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015

    Tuesday, December 29, 2015, 12:56 PM [General]
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    It’s my favorite time of year -- time for all the “best of 2015” lists. We had a lot of fantastic content on ProfNet Connect this year, but we know you’ve been busy and might have missed a few posts here and there. So, to recap the year, here are the top 10 blog posts of 2015:

    Pitching to National Morning and Daytime TV Talk Shows.
    The Publicity Club of New York held a fantastic panel luncheon featuring some of the most prominent journalists in daytime television: Debbie Kosofsky, senior producer (food), "Today"; Melissa Lonner, senior talent executive, “The Meredith Vieira Show”; Jesse Rodriguez, senior producer, “Morning Joe”; Carl Leibowitz, booking producer, “Wake Up With Al”; and Sarah Kunin, senior producer, “Good Morning America." Here are some highlights from the luncheon:

    How to Turn a Reporter off With Just Five Words. If you were on Twitter in mid-August, you might have seen tweets with the hashtag #sourcefromhellin5words. The brainchild of Linda Formichelli, co-founder of The Renegade Writer and, the hashtag gave writers the opportunity to share five-word phrases that make them never want to interview a source again. We put together a roundup of some of the top phrases shared by writers:

    Using Social Media to Land Writing Gigs and Make Money. As writers become more familiar with multimedia storytelling, social media has developed into a powerful tool to gather an audience and promote content -- that is, if you know how to use it. At the ASJA Writers Conference, five journalists shared their experiences with social media and how they use it to their advantage:

    A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Google News Lab. Realizing that ways of creating and sharing news changes constantly, Google released News Lab, an online network that aims to connect journalists with programs, data and other resources to aid in their reporting. We sat down with Daniel Sieberg, head of media outreach with Google News Lab, to find out more:

    Pitching to National and Local Morning Talk Shows. The final Publicity Club of New York panel luncheon of 2015 featured some of the top producers in national and local morning talk television: Siobhan Schanda, supervising talent producer, “The Wendy Williams Show"; Jessica Cohen, senior producer, “Good Day New York”; Scott Easton, producer, “Live with Kelly & Michael”; and Marcia Parris, senior producer, “PIX Morning News.” You can read highlights from the luncheon here:

    A Conversation With CNBC’s Kerima Greene. What does it take to get your brand, story or executive on TV? Is it magic, luck or actual hard work, and does it have to be tied to a big trend or news of the day? Today on ProfNet Connect, Elizabeth Yekhtikian of InkHouse shared her conversation with Kerima Greene, Senior Talent & News Producer for CNBC's “Power Lunch”:

    Meet the Media: Medical/Health Reporters. The Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society of Greater New York held a panel discussion with medical/health care reporters and producers from WNYC, Medpage Today, CBS Evening News, Wall Street Journal and more. The panelists discussed the beats they cover, how they choose certain stories, the best ways to work with them, and much more:

    There’s No Place Like Newsrooms for the Holidays. Contrary to popular belief, all the media wants for Christmas is a public relations pitch. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but reporters, editors and producers staffing the newsroom for the holidays generally welcome a good lead on a unique story idea. That's particularly true as hard news often slows to a trickle despite all the hustle and bustle of the season. Here are a few tips for a successful holiday pitch strategy:

    8 Writing Tools for Faster, Professional Content. Today’s content cycle moves at breakneck speed, and a writer’s mind is never at rest. Fortunately, there are tools available that make the writing process easier every step of the way, from jotting down notes and editing, to finding sources and multimedia. Here are some of our favorites:

    Journalist Spotlight. There are a lot of articles out there on what PR professionals should and shouldn't do when pitching the media. Each month, via our Journalist Spotlight series, we find out straight from the journalists themselves. This year, we caught up with Sean Powers of Georgia Public Broadcasting, Mike Fitzgerald of the Belleville News-Democrat, Laurie Mason Schroeder of The Morning Call, Thomson Reuters’ Melissa Sachs, George Putic of Voice of America, and more. Check out all of this year’s Journalist Spotlight posts here:

    Want to see more? Check out the Blogs section of ProfNet Connect to view all of the blog posts from this year, and keep an eye out for some great ones coming in 2015. Happy new year to all!

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. The best part? It’s easy and free! Send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR professionals in the ProfNet network.

    How to Pitch and Perform on Network News

    Monday, December 7, 2015, 12:47 PM [General]
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    Becoming a panelist on TV is not easy, but there are strategies you can use to increase your chances of reaching the right producers – and to showcase your skills and be featured again.

    Here are eight quick tips for getting on TV, courtesy of Stephanie Tsoflias Siegel, founder of Reel Media Group:

    1) “Don’t suck!” Having a good on-camera presence doesn’t come naturally to everyone and you have one shot, says Tsoflias Siegel. Practice your skills and learn as much as you can about what producers are looking for.

    2) Set up a Google Alerts using keywords that will show up in stories you can speak to. For example, if you’re a pain specialist, set up an alert with words like “pain,” “medicine,” and “chronic.” This way, you’ll get an alert when relevant stories pop up in Google News and you can pitch yourself in a timely fashion.

    3) Have knowledge to talk about timely, topical stories. Make sure you stay on top of the news and what is going on in your industry.

    4) Embrace the power of social media. Most, if not all, producers are on social media. If you haven’t yet embraced the most popular platforms, now is the time to start.

    5) Know the balance of fact and opinion, and utilize both on-air.

    6) Make friends with TV folks. Attend industry networking events. Connections go a long way.

    7) Learn how to speak in powerful soundbites, and know when to pause for follow-up questions.

    8) Give producers the problem and a solution.

    Tsoflias Siegel will join other panelists -- including producers from CBS, political pundits, media bookers, and more -- at a workshop being hosted by the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Jan. 8, on “How to Pitch and Perform on Network News.” The panel of industry influencers will share do’s and don’ts on pitching story ideas, performing on TV, and how to reach them. After the panel discussion, participants will answer mock interview questions and will shoot a two-minute demo tape.

    ProfNet users are being offered a registration discount of $75. Just use “ProfNet” as your coupon code when registering. Full event info here:

    Whether you are an expert who wants to be featured as a guest, or a TV producer (or other media professional) looking for guests, ProfNet can help you. Find out more at or send a request for experts here: Send a query.

    Expert Roundup: 2016 Presidential Election (Continued)

    Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 1:23 PM [General]
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    Following area additional experts who are available to discuss various election-related issues. You can view the original roundup here:

    You can also submit a query to the hundreds of thousands of experts in our network – it’s easy and free! Just fill out the query form to get started:

    Will McInnes
    “It’s no secret that social is changing almost every landscape, including politics. It’s also not surprising that, traditionally, presidential candidates might not know how to draft a tweet, yet they do understand the power social yields and surround themselves with people proficient at creating and sustaining social campaigns. For 2016, social will be critical for reaching various demographics – just take a look at how each candidate chose to announce their candidacy and it’s clear that the battleground for the popular vote in the 2016 presidential race will take place largely via social. This week’s first GOP debate is the first indicator of who’s leading the race – on social.”
    McInnes can speak to trends in the industry that will impact the race. Brandwatch has up-to-the-minute data on which candidates are winning in the battle for buzz and which topics are getting the most social traction.
    Contact: Marissa Toselli,

    Matthew Gerber, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Communication
    Director of Glenn R. Capp Debate Forum
    Baylor University
    “A good public debater should have strong presence. Presence is a little hard to define, but it entails confidence and the ability to communicate one’s expertise and qualifications to the audience. It is often not the candidate with the most political experience that ultimately wins the election. It is the candidate who has the ability to persuade the audience that they he or she is the most qualified for the job, even if he or she lacks significant political experience. At least part of that persuasive ability rests in the candidate’s presence and rhetorical skill.”
    Gerber, who directs Baylor University’s nationally recognized debate program, is a seasoned debate coach and judge who can provide expert commentary on the U.S. presidential debates. As a college debater, he qualified for the National Debate Tournament three times. He’s judged hundreds of college, high school and public debates during his career. His research areas include argumentation and debate, rhetorical criticism and, specifically, the rhetoric of American foreign policy. Baylor’s debate program has been represented at the National Debate Tournament more than 50 times since 1947, including three national championships and nine Final Four appearances.
    Contact: Eric Eckert,

    Harlan Ullman
    The Killowen Group
    “Not one candidate at the Republican debate had specific plans for how to repair a government that was badly broken along party lines -- only the belief it could be done. And many were simply ill informed or not informed on basic facts. Some of the biggest whoppers, for example, concerning only the Iranian nuclear deal were: abrogate the agreement on taking office irrespective of whether it was working or not; deny Iran all nuclear capacity even though the non-proliferation treaty guarantees nuclear power for peaceful purposes; re-station missile defense in Europe to protect against a nuclear Iran even though, over the next few years, the process is underway to deploy such systems. Equally blunt critique could be liberally applied to the other topics. That is not to say Democrats are any better. Perhaps because that field is a quarter of the size, their debates will be less entertaining. But the Democrats have one big advantage Republicans ignore at their peril: to win the presidency, the magic number is 270 electoral and no popular votes. Arguably, the Democratic candidate most likely over 200 electoral votes virtually assured. Demographics for women and minorities are also skewed in their favor, especially as the Republicans in the debate had little to say to change that dynamic. And Mr. Trump's answer to a question of why he has described women as "pigs" and worse did little to gain the female vote. If Republicans are truly serious about winning the White House, they need to come to their electoral senses. First, facts matter. Words are cheap. Basic understanding of reality, rather than fantasy or whim, must underwrite policy prescriptions. Second, women and minorities most likely will determine the next president. Third, politics in Washington and internationally are far tougher, more complex and complicated. The naiveté shown by many of the candidates will not survive prime time. Will their prescriptions improve? One hopes, but hope may be the only possibility.”
    Washington, D.C.-based Ullman is a former naval officer with combat commands in the Vietnam War and later in the Persian Gulf. He chairs The Killowen Group, which advises leaders of government and business at the highest levels, including presidential candidates here and abroad, through a brains-based approach to strategic thinking. Since the 1980s, he has developed a reputation as a strategic thought leader and thinker in the public and private sectors. He is known for the doctrine of shock and awe and sits on advisory boards for the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander US Forces Europe. Currently a senior adviser to the Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security, he was a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the National Defense University and professor of military strategy at the National War College. A student and practitioner of global economies, he writes often on the financial crises in UPI and other media, and sits on the boards of both private and public companies in the high-technology and financial services sectors. His latest book is “A Handful of Bullets -- How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace.”
    Contact: Ryan McCormick,

    How to Turn off a Reporter With Just Five Words

    Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 11:27 AM [General]
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    If you were on Twitter yesterday, you may have seen tweets with the hashtag #sourcefromhellin5words.

    The brainchild of Linda Formichelli, co-founder of The Renegade Writer and, the hashtag gave writers the opportunity to share five-word phrases that make them never want to interview a source again.

    Here is a roundup of some of the top phrases shared by writers:

    • “Can I review before publishing?” (@joyfc)
    • “I must approve final draft.” (@write4income)
    • “Oh, don’t use my name.” (@seanfdriscoll)
    • “It’s all off the record.” (@lisarab)
    • “Don’t quote me on that.” (@Steph_Steinberg)
    • “Hey don’t use this, but…” (@josephcurrency)
    • “Don’t use any of this.” (@seancolahan)
    • “Has this been published yet?” (@urbanmusewriter)
    • “Make me sound good, okay?” (@sheehanwriting)
    • “Just quote from my book.” (@gwenmoran)
    • “Read Chapter 7 of my book.” (@urbanmusewriter)
    • “Answers are in my book.” (@caroleenoury)
    • “It’s all on my website.” (@anngol)
    • “Just get quotes from my website.” (@write4income)
    • “Can’t you just email me?” (@urbanmusewriter)
    • “Just email me the questions.” (@clarionev)
    • “Totally forgot about our interview.” (@savvysuburban)
    • “My idea’s better than yours.” (@cassiemccorvey)
    • “My lawyer has to approve.” (@mariannevill714)
    • “We’re creating a new paradigm.” (@lformichelli)
    • “That publication isn’t big enough.” (@willieshamorris)
    • And, my favorite (albeit more than five words): “Write the story, let me read it, and then I’ll decide if I want to be interviewed.” (@annielogue)

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here: Send a query.

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