This week, I got a chance to catch up with my Austrian friend, Georg Szalai, the NY Bureau Chief and Business Editor of The Hollywood Reporter (and for the record, he was the first to point out that he has an Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque accent, not me–just don’t ask him to say California 5 times fast!). Georg & I chatted about our respective sides of the Hack (him) versus Flack (me) conundrum – and he gave me some valuable tips on how he likes to develop his story lines.
Alyson Campbell: Tell us what you cover at THR?
Georg Szalai: I mainly cover business and financial news from big media and entertainment companies (Time Warner, News Corp., Viacom, CBS, etc.), satellite TV companies and any other business news and trends in the industry that I may notice. Anyone still awake? (I know friends would prefer I covered celebrities, but I love what I do). Plus, I’ll cover NY conferences, events and news as needed.
AC: So obviously, you deal with publicists in your day-to-day affairs. How many pitches do you get a day?
GS: I probably get 3-10 pitches on an average day and 200-plus other emails.
AC: Do the pitches you receive tend to be on topic?
GS: It’s about 50:50. Sometimes people just throw out pitches with the apparent hope that we may care. But too often they are either glamor-focused (as in: J-Lo wore a dress from xyz at this premiere last night, which doesn’t interest us as a business-to-business publication) or about small companies that don’t have a compelling story and hook (e.g. if a small Web company is helping big media giants sell TV ads, they better have a major success story to tell that we can showcase with numbers. Just saying they are cool and fun and good isn’t enough).
AC: What makes a good pitch in your eyes?
GS: I like email pitches that have a clear story angle and fit thr angle into larger trends and developments (e.g.: here is a company that is growing despite the recession and here is why, or: Obama has promised to push “green” technologies, and here is a film studio that is overhauling its operations to abolish all greenhouse gas output within 3 years.)
AC: What do you love & hate about PR?
GS: I love it when I have worked with PR people for a while and we understand each others’ needs and interests. I hate it when someone new calls me to say they have a great story and they only need 5 minutes to explain why. Hey, I don’t even have 5 minutes to get a coffee, and please, let me decide if a story is great or not (or let me believe I decide).
AC: With the changing landscape of the traditional media, is it part of your job requirement to embrace social media / new media in your day-to-day efforts?
GS: Our readers care about new media more and more, and a growing number of them work in new media. So, I feel I must learn about it, cover it and also use it in our reporting at times.
AC: So what do you use? Facebook?
GS: Yes, I sometimes post questions for THR or freelance stories I am working on in my Facebook status line…in case a friend has a tip or thought.
AC: What about Twitter?
GS: I scoured Twitter as part of our Obama inauguration coverage this week. Otherwise, I will explore it more in the near future. Alyson, you are definitely the one person suggesting the most that I use Twitter more to learn about latest developments that may not be in the offline mainstream yet, so I’ll work on it.
AC: I know, you would think I do PR for Twitter. So, do you mind being approached from a professional standpoint on personal networks? For example, being pitched via a Facebook message?
GS: I prefer email, but am not opposed to a network approach, especially if it’s a sensitive issue someone may not want to discuss via email.
Favorite time of Day? Evening, when I catch up on more email & memos via Blackberry from home or see sources/friends.
Mustard or Ketchup? Ketchup…and lots of it.
If you didn’t live in NYC, where would you live? Berlin or London.
Favorite sport? Rugby. I love the team I play for – the Village Lions RFC.
Fav blog or online pub to read? I love the Wall Street Journal and The Economist – online and offline.
Blackberry or iPhone? Blackberry. Less fancy, more efficient for typing.
Mac or PC? Either way…as long as I get broadband.
Favorite NYC restaurant? I can’t believe Florent closed. I also love Q2, a Thai place in midtown West.
What’s your vice? Lack of sleep – because there always seems to be something interesting or fun going on.
PR: Yay or Nay? I often feel like other journalists I know: Can’t live with PR, can’t live without it.
Thanks to Georg for contributing to this week’s edition of “Meet The Press” and for the delicious pineapple-coconut mojito!
[Alyson Campbell for It's All Very PR]