Ask the Editor: Q&A with Wesley Charnock, Insider
If you have a business story you’d like to pitch to a leading B2B news outlet, read this Q&A first. Wesley Charnock is the Digital Editor of Insider, a leading business site which has over 720,000 website views a month, and over 140,000 email subscribers ranging from board members and directors to entrepreneurs.
Wesley offers his insight into what stories work for Insider, and the difference between pitching for a spot online, compared with a feature in its regional magazines. Wesley also shared the basic PR fails that will hinder your chances of coverage.
Who is the core audience of Insider Media?
Company owners, directors and senior professionals. That ranges from the owners of multinationals to entrepreneurs.
As an editor, what stories do you look out for? What makes the cut?
We always consider whether the story has significance for the region’s business community, and specifically company owners. So M&A activity, flotations, property transactions, administrations, etc. will always be of interest to our readers. We always ask the question: if you don’t work in that field, why would you care? We don’t write for consumers, so we’re not interested in businesses launching new products; but we would be interested in the impact those new products could have on the company itself.
We deal with some fantastic PR professionals who have a great understanding of the B2B news sphere, but we also work with many who don’t understand that just because a story is about a business, it doesn’t make it a business story. If Company X in a niche field has been awarded an ISO accreditation, I’m sure that’s great news for them. But given the tiny fraction of our readers who work in that field, it will very rarely have the universal resonance we need to engage our readership.
How does Insider Media online vary from the Insider print publications, i.e. do you cover stories in a different way online than in print?
Our website users are all busy professionals and directors, so it is very much about breaking news. Short, punchy stories that enable the reader, in the few minutes they can spare you, to digest the story fully. This is very different from our magazine, which offers more intelligence and insight into issues; how best to sell a business, or the best upcoming export locations, for example.
How closely does Insider Media online work with the regional Insider publications? Should you be approached separately for a digital story from a region, even if it’s been pitched to the regional editor?
The digital division at Insider is a separate entity from the magazine teams. Of course we re-purpose content from our magazines and events, and are always delighted when our magazine editors can chip in stories, but the structure is separate.
The magazine editors are often tied up with events and work to a monthly schedule, whereas the digital writers are driven by daily deadlines. It’s therefore essential that PRs ensure any releases don’t just go to our magazine editors, otherwise they may end up being missed.
What is the most interesting story you’ve covered?
As the editor, sadly, I actually write the news very rarely. I do get to pitch in on Budget day, or anything other time when it’s all hands to the pumps, and despite the obvious time pressures it reminds me of how much fun being a journalist can be.
What is the preferred way to contact you with a story? Do you prefer pitches by phone or email?
By email is always best. I receive somewhere in the region of 100 press releases a day, and I don’t even write the newsletters! If we like a story, we’ll use it. There’s very rarely an occasion that a PR has managed to convince us on the phone to run a story we’ve passed over.
What are the biggest PR fails? Or the worst thing a company can do when trying to place a story?
There’s nothing that irks a journalist more than a lack of understanding of the product a PR is pitching to, or a lack of respect for your publication. A few examples are:
- Embargoes for after our deadline – we’re the same time daily, you should be able to work it out
- Selling in after you sent it to our rival first – really, just don’t
- Huge images – it kills our inboxes
- Not knowing what we do at all – I’ve had PRs email me saying they’re thinking about getting coverage in the region but would like us to tell them about our audience before they decide whether they’ll send it to us!
I’m not petty enough to ignore a story when a PR sends a press release to Miss Wesley Charrock, or tells me it was “great to talk to me just now” when I haven’t spoken to anybody. However, it does happen all the time and makes me think seriously about the competence level of people employed by that agency.
The worst mistake a company can make when trying to place a well-timed, solid story with us is send a fluffy press release. We produce more than 100 stories a day and we need to be very efficient. On the rare occasions we do miss a story in something we’re sent because the business angle – the numbers and facts of the release – are buried under 200 words of fluff.
Same goes for the phone. I feel rude when this happens, but when PRs call us for the first time we really don’t have the time to tell them how our days is going or how the weather is in Manchester. Give us a call and say ‘I have a potential story for you’ and we’ll listen. And if we tell you it’s not one for us, arguing the point for five minutes is rarely going to convince us. I’m always happy to give feedback and help PRs understand our requirements, but if they seem unwilling to take that feedback on board, then my desire to be helpful diminishes greatly.
Aside from pitching, how else can a business be featured on Insider Media?
We really do pretty much everything. Aside from the magazines and website, we run awards dinners, round tables, breakfast events and conferences; if you’re successfully operating in your sphere or have a story to tell, there will probably be a place for you in Insider. If it’s not a breaking new story the best port of call is our regional editors; give them a buzz and they’ll be happy to talk to you.