Biotech Reporters’ Top Pet Peeves — And How You Can Be Part of the Solution

So, you have a great biotech story idea that you want to see in print? To grab the attention of a reporter or editor, and convince them to write about your idea, you’ve got to play by the rules. And the first rule is an important one: Don’t be a pest!

CanaleComm recently organized two panels featuring award-winning biotech journalists who provided a glimpse into their busy day-to-day lives, with discussion moderated by Carin Canale-Theakston. They divulged their pet peeves and shared valuable insights into the best ways to work together with biotech companies and PR professionals. In the interest of helping you step up your media game, here are their top 7 annoyances…along with advice on how to steer clear of these common mistakes.

  1. Not knowing the reporter’s interests. Before reaching out to reporters, read their articles, get to know them as people and make an effort to understand how to best work together. Bruce Bigelow, editor of Xconomy San Diego, said it best: “Pitching is more an art than a science. You have to know a reporter’s beat, personal interests and their bandwidth.” We couldn’t agree more.
  2. Using complicated jargon. Keep in mind the audience of the publication you’re approaching. While you may have a Ph.D. in neuroscience, a reporter may not—and same goes for his or her readers. A good pitch is highly customized to what readers will find to be most interesting. You have to make your topic understandable to a general audience; jargon interferes with readability.
  3. Calling reporters…especially if they’re on deadline. All reporters agreed on this one: email first! Reporter didn’t respond? Email again. And please, if you must call, ask first if they are on deadline. Don’t just jump into a pitch.
  4. Pitching a story idea on Twitter. Just don’t do it.
  5. Instant follow-up calls. In addition to time travel and teleportation, the ability for reporters to instantly understand and analyze press releases is on our list of things we’d love. Until then, give reporters enough time to process your email.
  6. Embargoing everything. If you are following rule No. 1, you’ll know which news items will or will not be of interest to each reporter. Embargo accordingly.
  7. Generic pitches. Two reporters on our panel received emails stating, “Dear Reporter” and “Hello First Name.” That’s two too many if you ask us. Sending out mass emails to reporters is an easy way to ensure your pitch will quickly found its way to the trash bin.

Interested in learning more? Tune in to the full media panel discussion. Videos of the San Francisco and San Diego events will provide even more takeaways on how to get your story told in the press.

Finally, CanaleComm would like to give a big thanks to the reporters who took time out of their very busy days to participate on our panels:

  • Bruce Bigelow, editor of Xconomy San Diego
  • Mandy Jackson, west coast editor of Scrip Intelligence
  • Brittany Meiling, biotech reporter for the San Diego Business Journal
  • Michael Fitzhugh, staff writer, BioWorld Today
  • Ron Leuty, biotech reporter, San Francisco Business Times
  • Susan Schaeffer, editor, BioCentury