It was every PR professional’s dream come true, a chance to turn the tables and question the reporters.  Southwest Florida’s local “news hounds” were up to the task on June 21, as they let a packed crowd in on the secrets of making headlines at the Annual Media Breakfast.  The event was at the Holiday Inn – Gulf Coast Town Center.  
The panel included:
  • Steve McQuilkin with the News-Press
  • Phil Borchman with Gulfshore Business
  • Lauren Stillwell with NBC-2 and ABC-7
  • Penny Moore with Naples Daily News
Here are some of the questions and answers from morning:
What is one of the most frustrating things the media encounters with PR Professionals?
  • Steve says burying the lead is frustrating sometimes.  State what the news with the story is and then give the background.  Also, limit follow up calls and emails.
  • Phil says he can tell when someone calls that has not read the magazine.  If you read the magazine you can see how the stories are done and what not to ask for.
  • Lauren says calling is not the best, they prefer it to be in an email and sent to them for review.  It has a better chance of getting on the schedule when submitted in writing.  Try to also have great visuals to go with the story since they are video based.
  • Penny also agrees that email is best.  Try to include the details in the email in case attachments do not open and make sure the contact is listed.
How to reach them?
  • Steve says it is best to use one of the general emails that gets sent to multiple contacts in case your one contact is out.  Like
  • Phil says you can call him or email him.
  • Lauren says that they use a ‘beat’ system with reporters covering different topics – it is best to use the general news tips email sometimes, so they can get the lead to the right person.
  • Penny says you can use the ‘participate’ site or use which is monitored at all times and forwarded to the right person.
How do PR Professionals handle reporters who are trying to do stories without doing homework or background on the organization?
  • Steve says a lot of their business reporters have been around a long time.  Be patient with them and maybe send backgrounders with the story.  Steve will store any provided backgrounders for 6 months when he gets one and he can share with it reporters working on related stories.
  • Phil says some writers are better than others.  He would want to hear about any problems we ever come across so he can make sure they take care of it in the future.
  • Lauren says they have a young staff that turns over every couple of years.  Let them know when that happens and they can educate them and try to keep one reporter with that organization so that they know the background and the story.
  • Penny says to be patient, but if it happens more than one time to let her know.  They want to make sure the reporters know what they are reporting.
Social media – How are they using it?
  • Steve says people are responding through social media and they are using it more.  Reporters are able to show their personalities more using Social Media.
  • Phil says they use it as a resource, but make limited use of it. 
  • Lauren says social media has become a new type of website.  They tweet and use Facebook a lot.   Followers are offering tips and leads on Facebook.  They are starting to use the Pinterest platform too.  They try not to post too much on Facebook, so they have rules and guidelines in place for stories to be posted on Facebook.  They can instigate conversations and then use those on the live news.  It helps them to know what impacts their audience and keep on top of what people want to know.
  • Penny says all reporters have Facebook and Twitter handles so that they can be reached and connected with their audience.  Sometimes news topics hit Twitter faster than they get the news so they use them a lot to see what it going on in the community.
What the best way to get our story on the website?
  • Steve says just about everything makes their website.  Stories with ‘people’ impacts are great stories.  Make sure to note what the impact is for our area, and usually those stories get a better chance for exposure.
  • Phil says that they work off different themes each month and it is best to try and figure out where your story may fit.  It helps to get you on the web or in the publication if you fit into one of the themes.
  • Lauren says getting it on the community calendar or posting your photos on the interactive section of the site.
  • Penny says to use the ‘participate’ site,  Getting into print is harder.  You have to have a ‘hook’ or a timely story.  State what the news hook is.  If it gets in print then it will be on the website too.
What is the best time of day for news releases?
  • Steve likes them to be early if possible.  If they get a good release at 4pm or 5pm it is hard to get the story in to the print issue the next day. He doesn’t mind follow up emails, but prefers emails to phone calls.  It is best to email the releases early and if you want to check on it, to check early as well. 
  • Phil says anytime before 2pm, because that is when he starts to compile the Gulfshore Business Daily
  • Lauren says between 10am and 2pm during the day is best.  Later in the day will make it harder to get it on the news because they are finishing up stories that they have been working on all day.  Also, any breaking news trumps all stories.
  • Penny says early is best because they have their editorial meeting at 10:30am.  They plan the next day’s paper at 4pm.  And get events to them a week or 2 in advance.  You can follow up with email as well.   But the farther in advance you can supply events or releases, the better.
How do you feel about news conferences and ribbon cuttings?
  • Steve says they don’t really cover ribbon cuttings, but if you can make it a bigger story, like the business will bring in lots of jobs, that would help it to be picked up.  Really sell the bigger stuff, but if just a ribbon cutting, not always covered.
  • Phil says they don’t cover live events, but they welcome follow up and photos afterwards.
  • Lauren says they come if it has a big story to it.  They like tours or being able to interview and walk through places.  They also like to interview people behind the ground breaking and putting them in their element for interviews.
  • Penny says they don’t cover those either unless there is a big lead to it or big story behind it.  They need a ‘people’ element for ribbon cuttings.
If there is a celebrity coming to an event what is the best way to coordinate coverage?
  • Steve says celebrities want to be treated special.  The News-Press prefers to treat all their stories and interviews equal.  They try to coordinate interviews with them if possible. They would prefer to get some lead time so they can arrange a decent amount of time for interviews.
  • Phil has not done a lot with celebrity coverage unless there is a business connection.  But they like to interview them and cover features if there is a connection.  Other than that they don’t cover them much.
  • Lauren would like to have more than 10 minutes and get a wireless mic on them so that they can get with natural sounds as the celebrity moves around in their environment.  Also the more visuals they get the better.  When it comes down to time of day for interviews, the worst is 4pm or 5pm in the afternoon.  During the day is better.  Earlier is better.
  • Penny says to send the information to  Don’t just send it to one person though, copy other reporters.  They would like to have a private interview if possible to ask their own questions and get their own visuals.
With shows in town, do you want a lot of info and B-roll?
  • Steve says more is better.  Send everything you can and they will try to use it.
  • Phil agrees with Steve, the more the better.
  • Lauren says the more the better.  They try to get their own video because of FCC rules.  B-roll is helpful, but they like to shoot their own.  B-roll has to list where it came from with a courtesy note.
  • Penny says the more the better
Events – How to promote them early, especially if there is a deadline to sign up?
  • Steve says to submit events to the calendar feature on their website and if it is important to you maybe send something to the community news email as well.
  • Phil says they have a calendar function on their website that helps to keep track of events down the road.
  • Lauren said if there are visuals that would help.
  • Penny says to put any deadlines in bold and note if it is far out

How do you build stronger community partnerships/relationships?
  • Steve works partnerships several ways.  They use their editorial voice to get the word out about things and get exposure.  They try to find out what readers are looking for in the community and figure out best way to approach it.
  • Phil says they are always open to ideas and to connect with him and talk with him.
  • Lauren says the same as Phil.  She has a slew of anchor talent that would love to MC or come out to events; they like to participate in community activities.
  • Penny says to contact their marketing department and talk with them about it.