Journalists on PR: Rebecca Day

Rebecca Day

Rebecca Day

In today’s installment of Journalists on PR, we’re honored to interview Rebecca Day, one of the consumer electronics industry’s most respected and prolific freelance writers.

Rebecca has written about CE for more than 20 years, and for the last 18 years as a freelancer. Her articles have appeared in a wide variety of consumer and trade publications, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Electronic House, Custom Home, Architectural Record, Family Circle, Rolling Stone, Home Theater, Ty Pennington at Home, Robb Report and more.

Rebecca is one of the journalistic mainstays of the electronics industry, omnipresent at key industry events and highly regarded by manufacturers, colleagues and readers alike. Editors particularly view her as their go-to person for features, reviews and installation stories, and in those areas, she is virtually peerless.

Rebecca’s warm-but-sharp, incisive and to-the-point interviewing style has left more than one of my clients in post-interview awe of her prowess. She asks probing questions, but she is fair, and that’s one of the highest compliments you can pay a journalist.

We’re thrilled that Rebecca took some time to talk with us about a freelancer’s particular needs from PR professionals.

Word association: I say “PR”. You say?

Puerto Rico (I don’t have an all-encompassing feeling toward PR).

As a freelancer, you have different needs than an editorial staff member of a magazine, newspaper or blog has. Can you give PR people some pointers on how to best approach and serve freelancers? What do you need from PR people?

I had a great pitch from a PR person a couple of months ago, identifying a trend involving his company’s products. It sparked an article idea. Solid information with real-world solutions are great pitches. PR people should be working with clients to talk about company direction and new strategies and then pitching those trends to journalists.

And by pitch, I mean email. I need time to digest an idea and I’ll never commit to anything by phone. I’ve actually had people call me and ask what I’m working on, which is one of the worst things a PR person can do. One, it interrupts my work, and two, it’s annoying. An alternative is to send an email to journalists reminding them of what their clients are up to and suggesting where a particular product or interview might fit with an upcoming article.

Also, have spokespeople ready to contribute useful information if you make a pitch. A trend idea with no supporting information doesn’t do anyone any good. 

You’ve been writing professionally for some time. Has the quality of PR increased or decreased over time?

I haven’t noticed an overall trend, really. There have always been good PR people who go the extra mile and others who just send out information. Honest, straightforward interactions encourage long-term respect.

What’s your take on social media… Facebook, Twitter, the whole Web 2.0 thing? Does it benefit you professionally? Can (and do) any PR people use it effectively?

Just as there are good and bad things about the Web, there are good and bad aspects to social networking. If I post a Facebook status item about an article I’m working on and that can spur a reaction from a PR person who has relevant information regarding the article, that’s good. But I think those sites are in danger of becoming too crowded with personal marketing, and then the whole genre runs the risk of being a cacophony of self-promotion. I start blocking out people who are all about their own work messaging.

What are some of the tendencies of PR people that annoy you most? And any real PR horror stories?

I can’t stand the presumed relationship tactic. A PR person I barely know will pretend we go back years. That automatically makes me mistrust what they’re pitching.

Don’t oversell me. If I’m not interested, you’re not going to change my mind by selling more. Stand back and present with perspective. The woman the next booth over was just talking to me about Bluetooth devices. Your XIY.761 home security system is a whole different concept. Present your product within the context of being a solution for a need. Avoid the jargon. Slow down. Speaking faster doesn’t sell an idea better.

What characterizes a good interaction for you with a PR person?

When the idea the PR person is pitching meshes with publications I write for. It’s pretty simple, and when it becomes more complicated than that–when I feel pushed, peppered with irrelevant information–it becomes a negative interaction.

Any other thoughts that you’d like to express to the PR community?

Email has made it far too easy to spam journalists with ideas. That works against a PR company because we start adding their company to the junk mail list. If your company does PR for barbeque tools, semiconductors and home theater systems, filter your list.

And don’t call in December before CES. I don’t answer the phone. Email instead.

All great points that will be very helpful for our readers, Rebecca! Thank you again for your time and insight!

And thank you for reading! Stay tuned for the next installment of Journalists on PR

Posted by Joe Paone

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