Our purpose with this series is to educate readers on how to more effectively pitch reporters and garner media hits. We hope you find this series useful. Please leave any comments or questions below!
In this edition of the HLS, we interviewed Colleen Sheehy Orme, a freelance reporter.
1. What beats/topics do you normally write about? Why do these particular subjects interest you?
I have written a business column in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area for the past two years. I write extremely varied features, profiles of interesting or well-known individuals and human interest essays. I have been published in The Washingtonian Magazine, Northern Virginia Magazine, Viva Tyson’s Magazine, various newspapers and my work will be in national publications in the coming months. I am also a source as a marketing consultant and have been quoted in various national publications. Samples of my work can be found at www.colleensheehyorme.com. What interests me the most is simply a great story, regardless of topic, but I am especially devoted to motivational pieces and that’s why I love human interest essays.
2. What is your favorite part of your job?
It would honestly be the people that I get the opportunity to interview. The great thing about writing is that you are not only providing a value to the reader and the topic or person being covered, but continually learning something new yourself. Whether I am interviewing someone as notable as Fox News Correspondent, Shannon Bream, or a local business person, I have been fortunate to learn stories of extremely inspiring people.
3. What is your least favorite part about your job?
Okay, what journalist wouldn’t be lying if we didn’t answer with “deadlines.” No matter how much I love to write, at times I am like a college co-ed scrambling to finish because I may have had a little too much fun the day before.
4. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge for me has been that I adore connecting people. If I can help someone out then I do. I probably do more of this because I work both as a freelance journalist and also do marketing consulting and PR, so I am very conscious of the dilemmas presented for both sides. The problem for me is that I can get carried away and end up doing what I call the “volunteer version of working.” Braces and The University of Georgia now dictate that I have to work more and volunteer less.
5. How has the journalism field changed since you first started writing and what are you doing to adapt?
I started writing years ago and I also worked for an NBC affiliate for a while. The bad news is media has changed greatly, but the good news is that there are other ways the changes have created opportunities. In some ways the field has become more competitive and in other ways new breaks because there are now so many media outlets. I am adapting by trying to focus on the “new” opportunities this changing medium has presented and trying to keep abreast of what may be ahead.
6. When did you first learn of HARO and how has it changed your job?
I first learned of HARO about four years ago. The most obvious positive aspects of HARO are that the service has created this uniquely specialized community, created opportunities, solved an industry problem and provided many long lasting friendships. What is less obvious and one of the most important wonders of HARO for me is that it has established a “respect” that when pitching before had to be fought for. That’s what I dig most about the service. For me, the HARO editions are like Christmas morning three times a day. I love not knowing what’s in the email before I open it and if it’s going to be a yummy opportunity for me or someone I represent on either side of my business.
7. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to PR professionals pitching you a story?
I sometimes find myself feeling that if all this person did is send me a simple press release then they really aren’t working to sell me on their story. There is a marketing theory called “99 lives.” The idea behind the theory is that we are watching television, our laptop in tow, with our smartphones beside us. This means there is very little time to grab someone’s attention, therefore extra effort should be put into any and every pitch.
8.What tips or pointers would you offer to PR professionals looking to pitch you a story?
1. Don’t just send a press release. Include a short, compelling query in the email. Also, do not make the press release long and wordy.
2. The subject line is VERY important. If the subject line or the query does not get my attention, I don’t always read the rest of the email or the press release.
3. Be careful not to hound a journalist. There aren’t enough hours in the day for writers to get all of their work done most of the time. Be conscious of this and respect journalist’s time.
9. Does social media play a role in your job? If so, how big of a role?
Yes, every day I am utilizing social media to expand my world in a bigger and better way.
10. Where can people find you in the social media universe? Do you welcome people pitching you via social media?
Yes, I do welcome people pitching me via social media. I am on LinkedIn primarily at Colleen Sheehy Orme. I am on Twitter, but honestly it has not been an outlet that I have grown or used as much as LinkedIn. You can find me on Twitter @colleenorme— I will probably focus on expanding my Twitter presence this year. I do not like Facebook for any business or pitches. From a marketing perspective, my feeling is that unless a Facebook Page is a business Facebook page it should not be used for general pitching.
11. What advice would you give someone who is looking to get started in the journalism field?
Do not let one person define you. Writing is subjective. It’s no different than looking at two great works of art. There will be a different taker for a contemporary piece and an impressionist piece. If you are a truly great writer and have a passion that will not escape you, then don’t ever quit. Rejection is a staple in the industry. You have to navigate it and accept it as part of the process.