Our latest Q&A participant should need no introduction as she is a seasoned newspaper veteran who has served as a journalist since 1978, and as a food editor since 1989. As an award winner, cookbook author and James Beard committee member (among many other things), Kathleen Purvis has seen a thing or two in the food world and we were so thankful to be able to sit down with her recently. We talked about food inspiring hard discussions; her latest venture; and her advice for you. Take a look into her world:
Q: Of course, we first must ask, why food?
A: I started out as a hard-news journalist. I was a police reporter, national wire editor, general assignment reporter, and when I arrived in Charlotte in 1985, a page designer. However, coming from a family that cooked a lot, I always found myself intrigued by the food section and I wanted to learn more. At the time, many women were veering away from writing the food section because they didn’t want to get pigeonholed as just a women’s page writer, but I found that there was some good news to be found there. If you write about anything through the lens of food you can tell some really good stories. I started writing those stories, forced my way into the food section and looked at it with a wider lens of news and culture as well.
Q: Your recent article, which used cornbread as a catalyst to talk about race in the south, won an award. What inspires you to dig deep into these stories past just the food?
A: People want to emotionally engage with stories. And often, the ones that engage people are also the ones that start arguments and inspire intense feelings about the subject. To get to those takes a lot more analytical thinking and many times you must write about things other people are afraid to write about.
I was told, “not to go there,” on the cornbread story because it would cause an argument and tension. Yet, I’ve found that if we can start the discussion with something a little less threatening, like putting sugar in cornbread, then it can ease that tension and then we can talk about something deeper and more important. On the surface, writing about the difference in cornbread recipes seems funny but people really have intense feelings about their food. Sharing your food differences and similarities with someone can lead you to become comfortable talking about more profound issues.
Q: What is the latest venture you are working on and what have you learned from it?
A: I’ve been working on a travel/food book focused on touring southern craft distilleries. One of the things I found interesting was that this kind of travel hits Millennials and Baby Boomers, but it doesn’t hit the Gen Xers. The Gen Xers have stuff to do on the weekends – they are settling in, buying a home, having kids and don’t have the time to travel to do new experiences. But the other groups do. However, they go out for completely different reasons. The Millennials want to tell a story on their social media feed to all their followers. The Baby Boomers want an excuse for an experience, to see their friends, to experience something new and fun. I’ve visited 54 distilleries in 15 months and this finding was one I didn’t expect, but have truly enjoyed exploring.
Q: With the rise of social media and digital, what are some of the main changes you have seen?
A: Food sections used to be almost all recipes — that was the backbone. However, not long after I started, people were still interested in recipes, but they wanted to know how to do the more intricate parts of the recipes, not just the ingredients and the amounts. There was a heyday of learning to cook with whole, local ingredients, using specific techniques.
No one goes to the newspapers for recipes anymore. They look to Google, Pinterest and all the other websites. It amazes me that there are still two main players that have strong recipe sections — The New York Times and the Washington post. They grabbed what was left of the recipe coverage niche, did it well and now it really doesn’t exist for the rest of us. We had to follow the audience and change what we wrote about. I became very aware of my audience. For instance, the print readers are going to skew older, while my newsletter (sign up for Stir It Up here!) reaches a much wider audience. This plays into what information goes where.
We have also become more deliberate on how we handle photos, SEO keywords, the delivery, timing and so much more. With information being put out instantaneously, we must be ready at any time to deliver and act on a quick turnaround.
Q: What can chefs, restaurants and PR pros do to help you out?
A: Pictures. I want high-resolution photos (jpeg format) with permission to run them right from the start. Waiting around or having to run out to get a picture can totally blow your lead time on a breaking story, which is so important these days.
Whatever I’m are working on, I’m always ready for a breaking story to come in, to drop everything and get it out. Breaking news is breaking news, but I can’t rely on it, I can’t plan for it, and I never know when it’s coming. I have an idea of what might be coming down the line and I’ve been watching, but I can’t predict when it is going to bloom. I also understand that representatives are very strategic on who they are going to give it to first, whether it is me or another outlet in town. They have to think about who is most likely to use something well, who has the audience for it and which one is likely to pay off for the coverage they want. I never feel like I’m being played, I understand. I just hope that I can continually prove that if you help me out, I can do a good job for you.
I also want them to know that I approach everything like a true journalist. I am very skeptical. If you give me a story I am usually going to follow up with questions and ask you to prove it. My role is always journalism, no restaurant consulting, no pay-for-play and I rarely accept free meals. For me, it always comes down to the basic rules of ethical journalism. We always look at what the readers want, what they need to know and what they are going to get out of me writing about this restaurant or following this story.
Q: What is your best advice as we venture into the new year?
A: Be ready for constant change. If I’ve seen anything over my 40 years in the business, it’s that things are always changing. “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
I also encourage you to read widely beyond the area you are focused on for anything to have context.
Kathleen can be found on Twitter @kathleenpurvis, on Instagram @kathleenpurvis and at the The Charlotte Observer.
We recently sat down with Charlotte Business Journal’s (CBJ) newest reporter, Caroline Hudson, who covers banking, finance and technology. We wanted to get to know her a little better and understand how best to work with her. That is our job, right?!
Q: Hi, Caroline! Tell us a bit about yourself! How’s the new gig going? What attracted you to the CBJ?
A: I’m originally from Greensboro but I was in Greenville, N.C., for the past 2.5 years where I did more general assignment work with a daily publication writing about everything and anything. I’m enjoying my time at CBJ where now I can focus and home in on one particular beat.
My predecessor really set the stage for me, and I’m so glad she did. I’m walking into great relationships and have spent a lot of time my first few weeks cultivating those by networking with people and looking for potential sources. I generally do a story or two a day, but I’m so grateful that my bosses gave me that time to really get to know and understand the landscape.
One thing that attracted me to CBJ was the tenure of its reporters, mostly all being there for several years. Tenure really says a lot about an organization and, in particular, a newsroom.
Q: How do you think your time will be spent within your beats?
A: Definitely a focus on banking and financial services, but also touching fintech, technology and startups. There’s so much going on here!
Q: Any tips for PR professionals who would like to work with you?
A: Yes. Don’t be afraid to talk to me. A lot of people in the industry are trained to be on guard around reporters, which I understand and makes sense, but the vast majority of journalists aren’t out to get you or looking for dirt. So, if I ask you a simple question, I’m truly just looking for the answer to that question.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that I receive a lot of quotes that are heavily edited. Readers are smart and know what canned copy looks like. Keep in mind the reader wants to have a conversation (via a quote) without actually having to have a conversation.
Q: How is social media impacting your job?
A: Social is a very important part of what I do. I’m now focusing on building a base on Twitter — and other channels — but social media is a great source for story ideas. It’s such a relaxed and comfortable form of communication. Story pitches from PR professionals still usually come via email. We also break a lot of news on social since it’s in real time.
Q: What’s your mantra on photos?
A: We try to take our own since we have a great photographer on staff, but sometimes the schedule just doesn’t permit so it’s nice when companies do have something on hand, as a backup, to illustrate the story if need be.
A huge thanks to Caroline Hudson. She can be found on Twitter @CBJHudson or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Pivot PR we geek out over public relations (PR) and during this month of Thanksgiving, I am sharing why we are thankful for this stellar segment of marketing. And just so you don’t think we’re absolutely cuckoo, I’ve included some quotes from all-star business folks. They seem pretty thankful for PR too.
Thank-point #1: Lasting Memories
Which sticks out most in your mind? The store-bought pumpkin pie or the time spent with grandma every year making the pumpkin pie? Exactly. Along those same lines, how long does the 30- to 60-second paid advertising spot stick in your brain? Memories can’t be fabricated or paid for. They must be organic and that’s exactly what public relations is. Whether it’s media relations, community relations or influencer relations that’s behind the scenes of the article, event or social media post that creates a lasting memory with you, it’s all thanks to public relations.
As Barbara Corcoran, sharkette on The Shark Tank, stated at an Inc. conference, “If you’re not being quoted in the press, you’re losing market share by losing limelight.”
Thank-point #2: Dinner-Table Conversation
Do you sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table and discuss the banner ad that was served up to you 5x while you were reading an article, or do you talk about the article you saw maybe even just one time? (You might argue that you will poke fun at an ad but how many of you can remember WHICH product the ad is actually marketing?)
Forbes magazine wrote, “Data from influencer marketing platform MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement.” An influencer could be a traditional journalist or perhaps a blogger or average person like you or me who has built an impressive following by covering a topic (e.g., food) as a hobby. Thing is, you believe them, don’t you?! Public relations efforts reach these folks and you pay more attention and believe what they say more than you do ads. Do you believe what paid ads (i.e., a brand) tell you?
And lastly, think about the buyer process with B2C or B2B customers: consumers are savvy these days and start their buying process by researching way before they contact you or step in your store, restaurant, etc. With public relations, you have blogs, media stories, social media content, reviews and more that consumers can consume – and that can tip the scales for them to decide on YOUR company! Not to mention the benefits in Google by way of constant content.
“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Richard Branson
Thank-point #3: Big Things Come in Small Packages
With gift-buying holidays around the corner, let’s use that as our analogy here. Sure; you could spend thousands of dollars on a gift but will it have meaning? Will it be memorable? Will it make the recipient happy and feel loved? Or could you make something uber thoughtful from scratch or spend half the cost of the super expensive gift but tailor it to the recipient’s interests and have it be the gift that they never forget? Advertising costs can be through the roof and to point #2, will it even achieve your objectives? Don’t get me wrong; advertising has its place and is important to the paid-earned-owned triangle but you can’t rely ONLY on advertising (especially not on old-school, traditional advertising). On the other hand, consider a public relations tactic like blogging. According to InsideView, B2B businesses that blog achieve 67% more monthly leads than those that do not. Bottom line: PR is the big thing that comes with an extremely small price tag.
“If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I’d spend it on PR!” – Bill Gates
We’re counting our blessings for more than just PR of course, including our family, friends, clients and fellow marketers and business owners in town. I’m also thankful you got to the end of this blog. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
We recently caught up with Ashley Mahoney, multimedia journalist for The Charlotte Post. She shared with us her thoughts on what sets the Post apart, how she turned a family tragedy into a way to help others, and the importance of knowing who you are pitching to.
What is unique about The Charlotte Post? What sets you apart from other outlets in Charlotte?
We are unique because we are covering almost exclusively what is going on in Charlotte. There is a lot going on outside of Charlotte, but we aren’t the Washington Post or the Seattle Post; we are the Charlotte Post. For example, in sports, you are not going to find the scores from every NFL game that happened that weekend, but you will find stories about most of the area teams. We have also started covering futbol (soccer, Queen City Football Chronicle) more extensively, which is unique.
We like to provide news from the perspective of those who historically haven’t been acknowledged by many of the major outlets; we have been “The Voice of the Black Community Since 1906.”
How do you reach people outside of the weekly paper?
We have recently started two podcasts; Sports Charlotte is all about Charlotte sports and the other is more political, called The Stump. It’s been a great way to reach more people who want to be informed about what is going on, but may not pick up a paper or go to an event. For example, with our recent interviews with the mayoral candidates, people didn’t have to buy a ticket or show up at a specific time to hear from them. They could tune in any time, while they were driving, while they were walking their dog and trust us to ask the questions they wanted the answers to.
Are there any big projects you are currently working on?
Yes! My mom died of cancer in August. We started a cancer awareness series called Racing Against Cancer. We wanted to raise awareness about cancer, while providing support and information. We have discussed what cancer is, what the treatment options are, how it impacts you financially, different ways to deal with the news and more. It is targeted at not just the patient, but also all those people who are fighting alongside them and who need to be educated.
We have been able to disseminate the information in a way people can more easily digest on their own time, when they are not terrified sitting in a doctor’s office. I am not a doctor, I am not on the Fortune 500 list, I am just a journalist in Charlotte. However, I can write about these things and help make it easier for people going through it.
What is your best advice for PR firms looking to reach you?
The relationship is key. As cliché as that sounds, it really is about the individual and their knowledge of who we are at the Post. You can tell when someone sends you the exact same email that’s been sent to hundreds of other people. When the sender knows who we are, what our mission is, what I write about, it makes it a lot easier. After I develop that relationship, I also begin to go back to that person, call them up and ask what’s going on or if they have anything I would be interested in.
Any big don’ts that turn you off?
Some big don’ts would be people asking me to print a press release directly. Nope, cardinal sin number one. Also, asking to see a story before it goes to print or changing a direct quote when we have it recorded. This is what you’ve signed up for and you must trust us to do our jobs. Of course, if there is a true issue we will go back and fix it.
Thanks to Ashley for giving us a glimpse into her life at The Charlotte Post.
You may or you may not be familiar with Charlotte Center City Partners (CCCP). Because we are a public relations (PR) agency with clients in Uptown, it’s crucial for us to have relationships with people like Steven Cole, Director of Communications. So, we caught up with him recently to hear what he had to say about CCCP and best practices for PR and communications professionals.
For those who aren’t familiar, tell us a little about CCCP.
We are a 501(c)(4) that collaborates with and convenes organizations, government and non-profits to make center city and South End a more livable, workable and playable place. Creating one central hub of employment and culture is great for the city because the infrastructure is already in place. We perform functions ranging from economic development, strategic planning and quite a few events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade and Charlotte City festivals. We also manage the 7th Street Market and Charlotte B-cycle.
Is your background in communications?
I practiced PR in the army for 8 years. I spent time with the Honor Guard doing media relations in Afghanistan and working jointly with the international agency, Fleishman Hilliard. Some of my most recent work was in Los Angeles in the film and TV industry where I did some fun and interesting things like product placement and brand management with entertainment media.
What skills and experiences have you taken from the army and applied to your role at CCCP?
Time management, which I know most PR/marketing pros can appreciate! Also, something that’s more similar than I thought is the importance of organizational thinking — always relying on and reminding yourself of the organization’s mission to help keep you on track.
You have a newsletter, right? What’s its purpose and how can marketing folks work with you?
Absolutely; it’s weekly, and you can sign up through charlottecentercity.org or our Facebook page here. The format can differ slightly depending on what’s going on but we typically have a feature article written by someone on staff, then we’ll also repost articles from other sources highlighting different events and economic development interests. I encourage anyone within our constituency to send me relevant story ideas or events for consideration. You can email me at email@example.com.
What’s your biggest PR pet peeve?
I guess I wouldn’t call it a pet peeve, but people often think all you need is a relationship with a journalist to get quality coverage. Relationships are great, but you must have quality content first.
Any advice for PR folks in Charlotte?
Build a diverse team of subject matter experts. That way, you’re not relying on one individual for all interviews and/or content.
Tell us about your position as digital editor at QC Exclusive and how it is different from being a writer. What is your day to day like?
I do a little bit of everything now! QC Exclusive is really small. There are seven of us who are full-time and only part of that is editorial. The rest is sales. Magazines are a little different than any other media form because they take longer to come out. We curate articles for the magazine
As an editor, even though the official title is digital editor, I do a lot of the print stuff too: writing, editing, curating, helping with scheduling and then also assisting on photo shoots, as well as the website and all of the social media. I mean we all kind of have our hands in everything to a certain extent. When I was writing I was just writing and now it is a little bit of everything. And I still do the writing process too: setting up interviews, doing the interviews, transcribing the interviews, writing the piece — which is awesome, it’s all really fun. Our owner and editor is like an artist and is very passionate about the magazine. He does the layout. I think you can tell when you look at the magazine that the form and pictures matter to him a lot.
How does QC Exclusive balance what goes in print and what goes online?
Magazines are a little different than any other media form because they take longer to come out. We curate articles for the magazine that we know will look really good in print visually and that are a good story. But then it also must be something that isn’t super timely, because if it is and we miss it, then it doesn’t make sense to put it in the magazine. So, something that’s very timely we will put online.
Sometimes there is a really cool story or something super popular in Charlotte, but there just isn’t a good way to photograph it. So many times, those work better for the website as well. And then everything that is in print, we stagger on the website about a week after the magazine comes out.
Looking at what goes in the magazine and online, what does the split look like between earned and paid opportunities?
Well, it depends. We have advertisers who, for example, will get editorial if it makes sense for the magazine. But we also don’t take advertisers who we would never put in the magazine to begin with. We are definitely picky.
And that’s one of the challenges with print right now; a lot of people don’t want just an ad anymore, understandably. I always tell people, ads are great for your brand but that’s not what is interesting about your business. We do stories on clients, but we don’t sell those (except for an advertorial section, which we just started doing again in the last couple months). The end of the magazine is a sponsored content section. But other that, story-wise, it is pretty much true editorial.
As for you, what do you look for in your stories? What attracts you personally?
I really like people stories. A lot of times, even if that’s not the focus of the piece, say it is a restaurant opening and the focus may be more the actual restaurant itself, I enjoy getting to hear about the person who opened it. I really like that side of it. Sometimes it’s the main angle in an article and sometimes it isn’t, but I like digging that out either way. I’ve been in Charlotte for under 2 ½ years so pretty much everything going on in this city is still interesting to me. A lot of it is stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of or done, which makes it fun for me personally.
I also love writing for a magazine and have always been more drawn to that than newspaper-style journalism. The form is a little more restrictive in terms of the type of writing you can do and more creative at the same time.
What is your advice for those reaching out to you for a story?
I think if someone addresses you personally where you can tell that it’s not spam, that’s awesome. We just get so many emails; sometimes when it’s a mass one, it’s not that I won’t read it, I just won’t read it first. And then I would say anybody who clearly understands the brand. For example, you were pitching a person and their story and that made sense for what we do. When you get e-mails where the person either doesn’t understand or didn’t take the time to figure out what we would put in the magazine or online, then the only real answer is “we don’t do that.”
However, Charlotte is a small enough city that when you can work with a circle of people, it’s very useful. You all might know something that we just don’t know about yet and that’s awesome for us!