Five questions

It’s always interesting to get hints and tips for pitching to media direct from the journos themselves. We asked Fairfax Media’s small business editor, Ali Cain, for some insights on how she likes to work with PRs.

1)      What are your deadlines and what is the best time to contact you with a potential story?

As the small business editor for Fairfax, I start work at 4.30am and publish my first two articles on the Herald/The Age by 6.00am. I don’t really have deadlines as such – I just have to make sure I publish two articles a day on the homepage, on my page and also on the business home page.

So there’s no best time to contact me – but I literally don’t have the capacity to answer my phone to PR people. I must get about five calls an hour and that’s not exaggerating! If I answered them all I would not get my work done. So send me an email and if it’s interesting I’ll respond. I try to tell PRs ‘thanks but no thanks’ if I don’t want a story, but just like the phone calls it really is impossible for me to get to every email.

2)      How do you prefer to be contacted (i.e. email, phone, text message, Twitter)?

See above.

3)      What are your three pet peeves about PRs?

People who pitch me ideas totally outside my area of interest, people who ask me if I have received a media release – yes, amazingly email does work fine – and people who offer me an exclusive when the story has already run elsewhere.

4)      What would the perfect story pitch be for you? And what’s the best PR pitch you have ever had?

Something that has popular appeal, in a business context, involving pictures of shirtless men I can publish because those stories generate the most hits. Sad but true. I ran a story recently on a guy who is a junior gambling mogul and may well be the ‘the next James Packer’. The story did really well for me. I knew as soon as I’d spoken to him that I needed to publish ASAP to make sure I had the story first. I did the interview and the story was up within an hour.

5)      How important is it for PRs to approach you with a fully-packaged story (i.e. case studies, spokespeople, images) rather than just a media release/headline?

I generally won’t publish stories based on media releases because I know the story has been shopped all over town. These days pics are really important. But we’re not in the business of publishing advertorial, so I prefer my journalists to find their own case studies, mostly.