Since landing a story or mention in The Wall Street Journal qualifies as the major leagues, it requires a pitching approach similar to that used by New York Yankees’ ace reliever Mariano (Mo) Rivera: a combination of tenacity, resourcefulness, integrity and precision. That was our takeaway from a recent panel discussion with a team of seasoned WSJ editors, organized by PRSA NY.
Gabriella Stern, the WSJ’s deputy digital editor, moderated and hosted a behind-the-scenes group tour of WSJ’s state-of-the-art midtown newsroom. She described The Hub as “the nerve center and the heart of the New York news operation”. That’s where print, online and wire editors coordinate their efforts. The Opinion Page functions separately from the news operation.
“We have a sprawling digital operation, and our digital strategy is increasingly mobile”, Stern added. She pointed out areas devoted to social media, mobile, Infographics, design, video, and an on-air digital control room. WSJ hosts about seven live video shows per day.
“As PR professionals, you’re often the keys to information and thought leaders we need to talk to for our stories”, Stern told the group. She offered a wealth of pitching tips, along with her editorial colleagues:
- Jim Pensiero, deputy managing editor (focuses on talent, training, newsroom projects)
- Noelle Knox, editor, CFO Journal (addresses CFO suite)
- Geoff Rogow, editor, Real-Time Finance News (area includes markets and finance)
- George Stahl, corporate news editor, Real-Time Corporate News (handles news put out by companies)
- Kevin Noblet, editor, Wealth Management (covers financial advisors and how they manage their practices and help clients)
We’ve organized the range of pointers like a baseball pitcher, with an outline for pitch selection, windup, delivery and mechanics.
- Put yourself on the other side of the desk to figure out whether your story merits WSJ coverage.
- After reading WSJ’s digital and print editions, see opportunities to be part of the content. It may be an anecdote instead of a feature article about your company.
- Pitches should be custom tailored to the WSJ, and contain information that readers will find relevant, unique or surprising.
- WSJ is largely organized by sector, not geography, and some topics span two areas. Fashion, for example, might be covered by WSJ’s business and fashion sections, so copy both editors or reporters.
- Since the approaches taken by WSJ’s bloggers and reporters have converged to some extent, there’s no need for a different pitching strategy.
- Pitches should target the right editor or writer with the right angle.
- Keep the pitches tight and only include a few key bullet points.
- Once a WSJ story has appeared, the reporter has moved on, so don’t pitch the same idea right away. Do offer up fresh sources. Likewise, pitches should provide new information that hasn’t already surfaced.
- Press releases with hard facts, such as earnings reports, are welcome.
- For wealth management best practices coverage, they want professional sources. In their Voices column, they seek financial advisers to contribute ideas rather than discuss their own firms.
- Pitches should be exclusive, sent first to WSJ, and not be part of mass mailings.
- Provide full disclosure regarding your firm and your clients.
- Don’t label a press release as ‘embargoed’ and assume that request will be followed unless you’ve had a prior conversation with WSJ and they’ve agreed.
- Send all pitch-related information within the email, not in attachments, since documents are harder to download on mobile devices.
If these tips seem tough to master, think about the legendary Rivera. Early on before perfecting his cut fastball, he was sent down to the minor leagues and almost traded. Everyone knows how his pitching story turned out.
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