Guest Blog: Katie Jacobs – How to get coverage in the trade press.

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a guest blog from someone who I personally find to be hugely inspirational and exceptionally knowledgeable and talented in her field. Katie Jacobs, Editor of Supply Management magazine, published by Haymarket Media Group. You may also recognise her from her previous role as editor of HR magazine.

Guest Blog: Katie Jacobs – How to get coverage in the trade press

I am, for my sins, a business writer and editor. I have for the past decade or so written about professions in the trade press. There exists a snobbiness in certain quarters about B2B magazines but the good ones play an important role in highlighting the innovative and inspirational things people are doing in organisations, business and society, as well as pushing whole professions to up their game.

If you’re a professional looking to raise your profile, the trade press is a great place to start. Stories are sometimes picked up more widely in the media and business writers often work for nationals and consumer media as well. But where to start? Here is one (slightly cynical) editor’s view.

Do your homework

Before you make the approach, do your homework and make sure it’s to the right person. I used to edit HR Magazine and still love all things HR, but six months ago I moved to a different area (procurement and supply chain). All my profiles have been updated, and my email address has changed. Yet I still get several emails a day about HR-related stories…

It’s not hard to research journalists – we tend to have public profiles. So, pick the titles you are most interested in and work out which person on the brand would be most appropriate to approach. Different journalists have different beats (subject areas). Are you more interested in getting fast news coverage (making a news editor or reporter the best bet) or being involved in thought-leadership, features and larger projects (in general features editor, deputy editor or editor)?

Build relationships

Business is done by people. Every journalist receives A LOT of unsolicited and irrelevant emails (recent highlights in my inbox include ‘World’s leading Muslim lifestyle event returns for third successive year’ and ‘British workers spend over 100 hours a year making tea’). For the sake of time and sanity, we answer very few of them. While being spammed with unpersonalised garbage is irritating, if someone gets in touch wanting to know how I like to work and what areas I am interested in, I will usually reply. If they want to pop into my office for 20 minutes or get a coffee sometime, even better. I find it a lot harder to ignore someone I’ve had a human-to-human conversation with. If their pitch is unsuitable, I’ll at least go back and tell them why, something I simply I haven’t got the time to do with every unsuitable/terrible pitch I receive.

Why you?

Before you approach a journalist, you need to work out your USP. What makes you worth talking to? What compelling story can you tell – and why does it need to be you telling it? Well-networked trade journalists spend lots of time with the professions we cover, so it sometimes feels like we’ve heard it all before. You need to figure out why you’re different. It doesn’t necessarily need to be that you’re doing something totally unique and amazing (although that helps), it could be that you have a fresh perspective, that you are up for sharing a provocative view on a newsworthy subject, or even that you can give us a quote quickly. It might sound glib, but someone you know will pick up the phone and speak to you RIGHT NOW when you’re on a deadline….well, those are the real heroes.

Don’t become a rent-a-gob

That said, don’t become a rent-a-quote. You don’t want to be known as that person who will give a view about anything, even something they really don’t know anything about. The journalist might thank you for it at the time, but externally it’s not going to do much for your credibility – and eventually their editor is going to tell them to stop relying on the same source. I have been known to ban people from being quoted for a few months if they’ve been appearing too regularly.

Raise your online profile

The dream? To have the journalist come to you because you are so impressive and insightful and definitely the person they need to speak to to make this story sing! Aside from building a relationship, having an easy-to-find online presence helps. When we are researching a story idea, we will search for people who have already expressed a view on it, perhaps via a blog or on LinkedIn or Twitter, or who have spoken about it at an event. Just knowing someone is open enough to share their opinions will encourage us to get in touch. Lots of us post shout-outs for sources on social media. Twitter is the most popular. Use #journorequest to see what we’re looking for.

Engage with your comms team

Journalists like to joke about how much we hate PRs – until we sell out and become one. But a good PR is worth their weight in gold. If you’re in a larger organisation with a great comms team, talk to them about how they can help you raise your profile externally. They can hook you up with the right writers and work with you to shape a compelling message. It’s also their job to answer journalist queries, so if we can’t get hold of you, knowing there is a great (read: tenacious) PR person we can get to hound you on our behalf can be helpful.

Don’t ask for copy approval

Just don’t. You can’t have it. (This will be on my gravestone.)

Thanks Katie and I promise I won’t EVER ask for copy approval!

Katie Jacobs is editor of Supply Management magazine, published by Haymarket Media Group. Until recently, she was editor of HR magazine.

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