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What the Detroit Free Press Taught Me about Pitching Media
By: Don McLean
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Last week I was able to sit in the morning meeting with Detroit Free Press executive editor Robert Huschka and his staff as part of the NewCo Detroit Festival. After we learned about what they talk about, how they talk about it, and the real-time metrics they review, it turned to the question-and-answer session.

I had no intention of asking them about how best to pitch them, but many other festival attendees did. While I expected some of the answers, there were some things that made me step back and think.   

No phone
“Freep” staffers seemed in consensus that they prefer to read a quick email rather than receive a phone call. This immediately threw me off because every seasoned PR pro will say that phone makes the difference.

Subject line is everything
One editor said he had 39,000 emails in his inbox. “No thanks” is the only thing I could think in my head. He went on to say that if your subject line sucks, your email will get deleted. We wouldn’t want any of those, right? So, how do you get enough of the pitch into your subject line? I’ll bet you’re already looking for time to brainstorm this on your current pitches with your team.

Make your point
Keep the introduction short and give them enough information to make a decision. In other words, no fluff. You don’t need to throw out the whole story. Give the who, what, where, when, and why; then, let them decide. 

Give them something to photograph
The Freep’s photography department sifts through 4,000 to 6,000 photographs per day. This is how important the visual image is. Hushka said that “Facebook is the new doorstep,” when it comes to newspapers. By this, he meant that every story needs to be optimized for social sharing. Pictures and video make the largest impact here. In addition, if you have a big project coming up, consider speaking to a photographer to get pictures of the process, not just the final product. That process is part of the story and is important to media.
The Detroit Free Press considers itself a startup, radically changing and constantly improving. They and other publications need experts to contribute to help tell the right stories. It’s up to you to respect every reporter’s time and give them the right level of detail when and how they want it.  

Read tweets from my morning at the Detroit Free Press and other NewCo Detroit events here.


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About the Author
Don McLean, MBA is an account supervisor at Airfoil Group, an independent marketing and public relations firm serving tech companies and innovation-centric brands with offices in Detroit, New York and Silicon Valley. Follow Don on twitter at@mclean_don.  
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