Q & A with Brian Hutchins: pet, animal health and green industries writer and editor

photo-150x150This week, we’re starting a new feature on the Paws PR Blog and bringing you the inside scoop on the inner workings of the media world. We’re excited to introduce you to Brian Hutchins, a California-based writer and editor who specializes in pet, animal health and green industries.  We’ve had the pleasure of working with Brian over the years in his various positions with Bowtie Inc., publishers of publications including Pet Product News and Veterinary Practice News. Brian is now a freelance writer and editor and author of the blog, hutchinsonpets.blogspot.com

What’s the one piece of advice you would offer to a manufacturer of a new pet product who wants to be featured in the press?

The most important thing for any company seeking press is to tell the press what it is doing, whether through a formal press release or informal means (phone call, etc.). With the trade press, it really should be as simple as that–the best trade publications will take seriously their responsibility to inform their readers of as much as what is happening in their industries as resources allow. Of course, traditional publications are facing increasingly constrained resources in general, which does not bode well for the industries these publications serve. Other types of media (enthusiast publications, general interest, local papers, bloggers, etc.) will be more selective, but a company still has to let them know what it is doing if it wants coverage.

E-mail, Snail-mail, Fax, Phone or Tweet? What’s the most effective way to reach reporters and editors today?

For me, e-mail are the most effective way, even though I averaged more than 200 relevant emails per day. E-mail is an ideal way to provide a journalist information. They are quicker to deliver than snail mail, less time consuming and reliable than phone, and more comprehensive and reliable than Twitter. Fax strikes me as largely obsolete. The phone and Twitter (provided journalist uses it properly), however, can be useful ways to nudge journalists to make sure they received and read the email after a reasonable time.

What’s your biggest pet peeve in working with publicists?

Aside from a follow up call a minute after they send an original email, my biggest peeve about publicists is when they don’t understand the journalist’s role. If a publicist sends out a press release, they should expect to answer questions about it and they should not expect media to just reprint the press release as is. Unfortunately, some media do just that. But reputable media will take source information as an invitation to learn more about a particular news development. They will call for additional and clarifying information. They will eliminate hype and question claims. Worst possible answer to give: “It’s all there in the press release.” If a company wants its press release reprinted verbatim, they should buy ad space and run their press release as an advertisement.

Here’s a question our readers want to know! What makes something “newsworthy”?

The key to understanding newsworthiness is “new.” As long as information discusses something new or different (a new hire, a new program, recent changes in strategy, etc.), the information is newsworthy. If nothing is new, it is unlikely that it is newsworthy. I am fortunate enough to live in the San Diego area. “Weather Still Nice in San Diego” is not usually newsworthy.

A second factor to newsworthiness, however, is the context of competing news. Within a given publication’s news cycle. On a busy news day, significant developments can be overlooked or minimized. Conversely, on a slow news day, something insignificant might get major play just because nothing else is going on that day.

What websites and blogs do you go to for your daily dose of pet and animal news?

The source I go to daily is my Twitter account, checking to see if anyone I’ve followed has posted anything interesting. I also receive several industry newsletters, etc. This is a haphazard way to gather news, but it reflects changing information norms. We are depending more on the wisdom of the crowd to draw our attention to significant news as traditional media becomes increasingly ineffectual under existing business models.

Have a question for Brian?
Tweet him @BrianHutchins82

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