Recently, our team at PRNEWS decided to revive a series for our readers: "Ask a Reporter." With logistical changes in the workforce, as well as a news cycle that just won't quit, PR and media need to work more harmoniously than ever to get the public the information it needs. During Ask a Reporter we will interview a fellow journalist, finding out what works best for them when it comes to media relations.
For this edition, we caught up with Hillary Maglin, assistant digital editor at Travel + Leisure. COVID-19 certainly has caused some slowdown for the travel industry overall, allowing for greater innovation and creativity when it comes to content for travel media. Maglin’s duties include everything from pitching and writing travel and ecommerce pieces for digital, to editing submissions from freelancers and overseeing multiple sections of daily newsletters and social media posts.
PRNEWS: How has COVID affected your work with PR professionals?
Hillary Maglin: While working from Travel + Leisure’s Manhattan offices, developing relationships with PR professionals was easy — meeting with different brand reps for a deskside was a once-a-week occurrence (at least!) before COVID. Getting that in-person facetime made it so much easier for PR professionals and me to understand each other’s jobs and goals. Now, it’s more difficult to add a personal element to those professional relationships. While virtual desksides via Zoom are an option, PR professionals take advantage of them less often than one might think. Simply put, COVID has made it more of a challenge to form the same level of personal connections with PR professionals.
PRNEWS: What is the best way for PR practitioners to approach you?
Maglin: I’m much more likely to respond to a pitch that reads like it was personally crafted for my needs as a travel/ecommerce editor. When I get a pitch that is essentially just a press release pasted into an email, I feel like the PR person who sent it is more just sharing it as an FYI, and doesn’t really care for a response.
PRNEWS: What is the most annoying thing a PR person can do?
Maglin: Receiving the same pitches over and over from a PR person after I’ve already explained the pitch isn’t a great fit is frustrating. Sometimes it’s clearly just an accident on the PR person’s part, and while still a bit annoying, it’s forgivable. But when PR pros repeatedly pitch the same idea because they think they’ll eventually change my mind? That’s not as forgivable.
PRNEWS: What is the best thing a PR person can do?
Maglin: I love when I feel heard by my PR contacts. As an ecommerce editor, sometimes PR pros email me asking specifically what I’ll be covering in the coming weeks. After we discuss what I have in the works, it’s super helpful when they reply with a list of relevant pitches and products that might fit into an upcoming piece. It really feels like we’re working together to make each other’s lives easier.
PRNEWS: What is the best example of an interaction you have had with a PR practitioner?
Maglin: One of my PR contacts, who is more of a friend at this point, is an expert pitcher. Before I moved over to T+L, I worked at Rachael Ray Every Day magazine, and while there, he regularly pitched me the perfect food-related story ideas, interviews and products. When I landed at T+L, I didn’t expect to stay in touch with many of my food contacts, but he surprised me by continuing to pitch the perfect stories and products—this time with a travel angle. Obviously not every PR pro works with clients that are relevant to every publication, but when PR reps meet us halfway by brainstorming ways to connect with journalists, it’s not only impressive and helpful, but it strengthens our relationship for future collaborations as well.
PRNEWS: What is the worst?
Maglin: I recently had a PR person reach out to me about a new collaboration their client had done with several celebrities. In their message, they explained all of the partnering celebs would be available for interviews. I asked for interviews with a few of the names on the list, only for my PR contact to eventually tell me, one by one, that none of the celebrities I asked about would be doing interviews after all. I never ended up doing the story because the company could not come through with any interviews. While this very well could’ve been the fault of the celebrities, I felt like there was some major miscommunication and disorganization on the part of the PR professionals.
PRNEWS: How can PR pros improve on their pitches/media relations?
Maglin: I think the length of pitches is key. I totally understand PR people wanting to include as many details as possible in an email, but because most journalists’ inboxes are already overflowing, we’re more likely to reply to a pitch that is short and sweet. If we want more details, we won’t hesitate to ask!
For the previous Q&A in this series, click here.
Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal