Three Key Takeaways from SATW’s Eastern Chapter Meeting in Sheridan, Wyoming

July 11, 2017

Left to right: Elizabeth Harryman (Travel Editor at Westways magazine), Jana Graber (Managing Travel Editor at Go World Travel Magazin) and Patricia Calhoun (Editor at Westword).

Left to right: Elizabeth Harryman (Travel Editor at Westways magazine), Janna Graber (Managing Travel Editor at Go World Travel Magazine) and Patricia Calhoun (Editor at Westword).

Last week I participated in the Society of American Travel Writers 2017 Eastern Chapter conference in Sheridan, Wyoming. One particular session – a Q&A with several top editors – caught my attention.  Elizabeth Harryman, Travel Editor at Westways magazine, Jana Graber, Managing Travel Editor at Go World Travel Magazine and, Patricia Calhoun, Editor at Westword, shed light on what publicists need to know in order to capture the attention of editors. Here’s what I learned:

1)  Writers don’t differentiate between the terms “press releases” and “pitch.”
Say it isn’t so! Do DMO PR pros really invest countless hours crafting the perfect press release to meet the expectations of their CEO, for it to be deleted unread? It appears so! These editors prefer a few short lines at the top of an email about the story angle and why they should care. If you want to support that “pitch” with a press release – go for it – but they aren’t likely to read it. While press releases might be great for local press in your community to showcase what your DMO is working on – they aren’t effective in generating editorial coverage.

2) Have a clever subject line.
When you get 200 emails a day from PR pros, a clever subject line may be just what it takes to get an editor to open the email. Take some time to think about the subject line and craft one that shows you care. An editor probably won’t use it in the story – but as a publicist, you’ve succeeded in step one – engagement.
3) Build Relationships With An Outlet’s Freelancers:
Only 10 percent of the story ideas that Harryman assigns come from a publicist pitch. She appreciates the “facts” from publicists in an easy to review format. She’ll figure out the angle form there. However, 60-70 percent of the content in the magazine is written by freelancers. Therefore, in addition to knowing the editors well, it’s crucial for publicists to build relationships with an outlet’s freelance contributors if you want to increase your odds of placing a story.

4) Do great work and be great to work with!
As publicists, we often complain about writers who “just don’t get it.” Well guess what? Editors do the same thing with publicists. If you want to establish an enduring relationship with an editor, do unto them as you would like them to do unto you. Harryman summed it up perfectly – “Do great work and be great to work with.” Enough said.

If you were in attendance at the SATW Eastern Chapter Meeting, we’d love to hear your take-aways! Tweet us at @aboutdci.

Written by Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is managing partner of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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