Toronto PodCamp 2011: How to talk to journalists

This past weekend, Canada’s largest gathering of members of the new media community took place. People from all over the industry including writers, producers, photographers, designers, podcasters, developers and bloggers all gathered to discuss new ideas and trends. And what an event it was – 1400 people crammed into a Ryerson building running around from session to session, charging and talking on their iPads and iPhones during recess. It truly felt like everyone was back in school and perhaps that’s another reason for the event’s success.

The only downside of the whole event (if that even counts) was the fact that I could not be in more than one place at the same time. That and the fact that my iPhone had to be charged half way through the camp (I’m giving you cut eye, Apple).

One of my favourite sessions was by Saleem Khan, a journalist, who lead the discussion for “How to talk to journalists”. Valuable subjects were touched upon as the most frequent question asked it seems is:

How do I get a journalist’s attention and convince them to cover my project or people?

Here are a few brief pointers from the session.

When to contact journalists:


Hah! Saleem said it, not me. You see, journalists are busy people with lots on their plate and hate to be disrupted. If you MUST contact a journalist do it before morning news (8-9am), after morning crunch, after lunch (giving them time to actually finish their sandwich) and before end of day.

How to get a journalist to respond:

Know who you’re contacting and follow the “Twitter rule”. Find out who you need to speak to and who covers your specific subject. Also, keep it short. A journalist doesn’t have time to read through pages of press releases or listen to a 5 minute voicemail. Get to the point and you’re more likely to get a response.

Email or Phone:

It depends on the journalist. Most seem to prefer email only because it makes it faster and is instant. You don’t have to listen to a voice mail, or an unwanted pitch. If they’re interested in your story, they’re more likely to call you.

Subject Line:

Make sure your email subject line explains your pitch before the journalist even opens your email. Make their life easier and they will more likely cover your story.

Do your homework:

If you can, do some research on who you’re contacting. What do they have a personal blog? Twitter account? Anything to make your pitch more personalized? Although, make sure you know the fine line between being a personalized approach and plain out stalking.

Secrets of a good interview:

Sorry to disappoint but there are no “secrets” to a good interview. Only common sense. When giving an interview, make sure that your content is relevant and there is a key message. Also, answer what is asked and don’t only circle back to what you want to talk about. Journalists get annoyed too.

How to put yourself at the top of a journalist’s call list

Stay in touch. Update the journalist about relevant news, even if they don’t directly deal with you or your brand. Make friends and long lasting connections.

Until next Podcamp, Toronto.