Maria Perez

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    • Member Type(s): Content Publisher
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      Communications Professional
      Media - Freelancer
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    • Title:Director, Audience Content
    • Organization:ProfNet
    • Area of Expertise:ProfNet
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    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

    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.

    Journalist Spotlight: Myrna Haskell, Feature Writer, Columnist and Author

    Thursday, February 9, 2017, 11:35 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 Myrna Haskell, an author, columnist, feature writer and speaker.

    Haskell’s features have appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, American Fitness, and many other publications across the United States and internationally. She is also a columnist for several regional publications, and is the author of “LIONS and TIGERS and TEENS: Expert advice and support for the conscientious parent just like you(Unlimited Publishing, LLC).

    In addition, Haskell is co-founder and managing editor of Sanctuary, an online women’s magazine with a focus on women in the arts, women humanitarians and women’s health. She has also been a keynote speaker for nonprofit conferences supporting parents and education, discussing issues such as leadership, volunteerism and parent involvement in community schools.

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

    For my freelance work, I write columns and feature-length pieces on the following topics: children's health and development, parenting, parenting teens, special needs, education, women's issues, women's health, etc. For Sanctuary, the magazine I co-founded and am managing editor for, I cover the following topics: interviews with humanitarians and community leaders, women's health and artist profiles.

    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 usually receive quick responses -- within 1-3 days. This is great, since I am often up against a quick deadline. I've had pretty good luck. Occasionally, I might be told that there is someone, only to find out later that this person is no longer available. This is rare, though. I like to work with folks who deliver. I have an impeccable reputation with experts, and I always follow up with links to the articles. I expect the same professionalism in return, and I usually get it. ProfNet has been very valuable.

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

    Rapid response time is key. However, I can tell if someone hasn't spent enough time understanding the specifics in a query. If the match is spot-on, you know that they really thought about what you were looking for. Again, I have had really good luck here. I've found that most PR reps are very good at what they do.

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

    I don't mind an email pitch. However, I've got a full plate, so I have to be selective. I have used material/sources from PR folks that send emails to me on occasion and when something fits with upcoming editorial needs. So, if I say I'll keep the information on file, I mean it. You might hear from me a month or two later when I can utilize the topic/expert.

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

    Yes. I use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for both personal accounts (for my freelancing work) and accounts for Sanctuary. They are definitely great networking tools. We also just started an Instagram account for Sanctuary.

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

    I don't have one specific favorite. Some of my Lions and Tigers and Teens column series pieces were really fun to write. I often drew from personal experience with my own teens, but I also had hundreds of other parents writing in with tips. This was a very popular column. I think that some of the articles I wrote for special-needs parents were also important. I've interviewed some phenomenal women for Sanctuary as well.

    Any other advice?

    The relationships you build with editors and industry experts are so integral to your career. Over time, you build a reputation and people share your name and your articles. When you are not on staff with a publication, this is so very important. Editors want to build trust with their contributing writers. I love both sides of the industry -- writing and editing. I think it's important to have an understanding of both an editor's perspective and a writer's perspective. After all, you are a team.


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