B2B PR with Rick Polito, Nutrition Business Journal Chief Editor [Podcast]

B2B PR with Rick Polito, Nutrition Business Journal Chief Editor [Podcast]

Leaving the Fast-Paced Newspaper World for the Political Waters of Trade Journalism

Veracity works with a lot of businesses that work with other businesses. This category — which does not speak directly to the consumer —  is called business-to-business or B2B for short. The strategy looks different when attempting to place businesses in front of other businesses instead of the everyday consumer.

Yet we haven’t interviewed many B2B press contacts on PR Talk, simply because of our geographic location. Many of them aren’t located in Portland and we find the energy created from interviewing our subjects in person to be optimal. But I decided to get over my fear of the phone and interview one of our long-distance friends, Rick Polito, Editor in Chief of Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ).

The NBJ is a monthly publication focusing exclusively on the nutrition industry and according to our media database, Cision, it covers the following topics: dietary supplements, herbs, health, pharmaceuticals, natural and organic foods, functional foods and natural personal care products. It’s created by the New Hope Network, which has additional content brands under its umbrella — such as the consumer-facing Delicious Living and Natural Foods Merchandiser — and also produces the following tradeshows: Natural Products Expo West, Natural Products Expo East, Engredea, NEXT and the NBJ Summit.

Before leaping over to the B2B side, Rick spent 21 years as a reporter, columnist and features writer at traditional media outlets like the Arizona Daily Star and California’s Pacific Sun. That’s why he’s the perfect interviewee to talk about the differences between B2B and consumer media work.

Piquing Interest in Stories

Even though he’s been working his way up the editorial chain at the NBJ after enduring a stint as a stay-at-home-dad before joining the publication, Rick distinguishes himself as a “reporter, not an editor.” In all the years I have worked with editors I have never heard one make this distinction before. This mindset allows him to bring a newspaper approach to the NBJ, which he classifies as “confrontational with some edge,” leading him into his first PR tip. “It’s not a good story if you’re not interested in it.” Familiar advice that can be found in both consumer and B2B circles.

An example of how you can “get excited and find different ways of telling the story,” is a recent road trip he took on his way to Expo East in which he stopped to tour different farms along the way for an in-depth article uncovering the upcoming farm bill called The Road to Natural: Back to the Farm, which ran in September’s issue of the NBJ. He embarked on “1,800 miles of driving and 10,000 words of writing in four days.”

Embracing the Dark Side

There are many politics at play in small niche B2B industries and just being a member of the press doesn’t mean you don’t have to play by the rules. Yet Rick “takes off his cheerleader outfit” from time to time in his role at the NBJ, operating like the old-school newspaper journalist he once was.

He took a major risk by launching the “Dark Issue” on behalf of the NBJ. The Dark Issue uncovers what’s been going wrong in the nutritional and supplemental industries. While this does not sound like the kind of placement a PR person wants to land for their client, Rick says that it’s a conversation that must be had and it’s better to have it within industry channels rather than across the front pages of the New York Times again. He reminds us that one major mistake can affect everyone’s reputation across the industry.

Rick was very wary of alienating the close-knit community when launching the Dark Side issue but he still gets pats on the back. All but two naysayers recognize that the Dark Side is helping the industry, rather than hurting it.

Stepping Away from Industry Politics

A major difference between the NBJ and other trade journals is they don’t take advertisements, offering freedom from keeping advertisers happy. If you actually believe there is a solid line between advertising and editorial — think again. While some publications might respect the difference between church and state better than others, many, especially in the B2B industry, do not. Rick points out that you’ll have a tough time finding a negative story about large advertisers like grocery store chains or car dealers in newspapers.

The NBJ makes its income off of a steep subscription price that provides issues chalk-full of data that can help subscribers map out their company’s next steps. According to Rick the data uncovers “who is selling what and where they are selling it.”

Getting Coverage in the NBJ

While we do need to actually think before contacting the NBJ, Rick assures me that they want to hear from PR people! Here are the top four ways you can make a connection with the publication without having to drive 1,800 miles and walk the farmland.

  1. Provide Sources—They are always looking for experts and are in need of “sources just as much as ideas.” Examine the experts you have at your disposal and provide the NBJ with a roster detailing backgrounds and proposed subject matter. While the NBJ wants to hear about today’s ideas, they also want to know who they can access in the future.
  1. Tradeshow Meetings—A good place to catch Rick is at one of the many nutrition trade shows. Attempt to get on his calendar three weeks before the show. If you have a source to put in front of him, even better. He rattled off some of the shows he attends:
  1. Editorial Calendar—Time and theme pitches according to their editorial calendar, which is currently being compiled for 2018. Upcoming issues include: sports nutrition, a first-time millennial issue, and B2B supply chain trust. What could your company bring to the table in relation to topics listed in the NBJ calendar?
  1. Respectfully Nudge — Rick mentioned a few times that we shouldn’t be afraid to nudge him, saying they work about six weeks ahead, so if you send your information too early you’ll need to nudge him again around the six-week mark. Nudging him wouldn’t be spammy if you truly have a fit.

The best contacts for PR people at the NBJ are Rick himself and senior editor, Bill Giebler.

Differences Between Consumer and B2B Press

Rick admits to facing a much higher learning curve when jumping over to the B2B side. The “longer view” approach to B2B reporting — which tends to focus more on commentary, bypassing the daily grind — was unique to Rick. He’s also been surprised by the politics that the small industry community brings to the work.

When asked what PR should know about the differences between working with each type of medium, Rick says that promoting our staff expertise matters more to him now. “We want to get more voices into the stories. It’s sometimes harder to find the expert than the ideas,” he says. Homework is key in the B2B arena too. Just like in the consumer arena, researching before pitching is imperative.

And finally Rick leaves us with a good old-fashioned piece of advice that you’ll understand if you’ve been around for awhile:

“Flattery gets you everywhere with a reporter.”

 

About the guest: Rick Polito

As Nutrition Business Journal‘s editor-in-chief, Rick Polito writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.

Connect and follow Rick on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by dapulse

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. dapulse is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at dapulse.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing dapulse for their project management needs.

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Unlock the Mysteries of the Building & Construction Industry with Nick Bjork, Daily Journal of Commerce [Podcast]

Unlock the Mysteries of the Building & Construction Industry with Nick Bjork, Daily Journal of Commerce [Podcast]

Celebrate with us at the DJC’s TopProjects party on May 18th. PR ChalkTalk subscribers get 15% off tickets with discount code: DJC.

For the real estate professionals, marketers or building enthusiasts reading this post, understand one thing: Nick Bjork is one of us. Currently the publisher of the Daily Journal of Commerce Oregon (DJC), Nick is responsible for the publication’s overall management, but he didn’t always work behind the scenes. His diverse background started on the Oregon coast, watching his father run a marine construction company. With the love of construction and public work instilled in him, Nick began his professional career as a reporter, including a stint at the DJC. Nick then transitioned into to selling residential real estate — he and Amy had fun reminiscing about their mutual real estate days. An advertising sales position brought Nick back to the DJC and he then took over as publisher in 2015.

Nick’s experience on both “sides” of the paper, as well as someone in the trenches and working in the industry, gives him unique insight. Nick points out that in real estate — especially residential, but commercial as well — decisions aren’t made exclusively on financial sense. Exterior factors like weather, mood, wall colors and relationships often play a larger role.

The Pitch Opportunity:

If you want to reach anyone associated with the building and construction industry, the DJC is a great way to get in front of them. Its entire purpose is providing leads to the building industry.

To help narrow your focus, the paper has three main sections:

  1. Land use policy and new development — what’s coming up in the distant future.
  2. Architecture and Engineering — trends, what’s new, what’s happening, projects that companies are getting.
  3. Construction and Transportation — trends, watchdog reporting, contracting and permitting. Nick states this focus is really the “voice of the contractors.”

Reach out to the reporters directly based on their specific beat (more on this below).

About the DJC:

As the official paper of the City of Portland, the Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) is the premier source for public notices, bid information and reporting specifically for the building and construction industry, also known as architectural, engineering and construction (A|E|C).

This largest public notice paper in the nation has been operating in Portland for 145 years. More often than not, when the government has to notify the public, they’ll run a notice in the DJC. They include things like: death notices for next of kin, foreclosures, auctions, government procurement for professional services, supplies or construction services above a certain dollar amount and notices of public bidding opportunities.

In addition to publishing three times each week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), providing the printed content and additional features online and adding value through email newsletters, the DJC organizes several events. The largest, TopProjects, is coming up soon — May 18 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Celebrate the area’s best building and construction projects during the DJC’s TopProjects event on May 18th. PR ChalkTalk subscribers get 15% off tickets with discount code: DJC.

Celebrate the area’s best building and construction projects during the DJC’s TopProjects event on May 18th. PR ChalkTalk subscribers get 15% off tickets with discount code: DJC.

TopProjects

Coined “the Oscars for the building industry,” the 600 person event will recognize 95 finalists at the annual networking event celebrating the top industry projects of the year. Hurry before tickets sell out! The public is welcome to buy a ticket ($95) to join in a celebration that gets larger every year.

PR Tips:

Don’t just send a press release

We’re noticing a theme when asking our media friends for PR tips. They’re universally advising against just sending press releases. Nick did not sway from this sentiment, stating that their editorial content must live up to the DJC’s high subscription cost ($230/year). Meaning they won’t just run your press release. Sure, they’ll garner ideas and information from press releases, but 90 percent of their stories are sourced.

Ask them to coffee

Are DJC reporters really willing to take the time to sit down with PR pros? They’re game — as long as you take the time to understand their audience and research their stories. Ask them to coffee and see what amazing ideas can come out of a 15-minute conversation. But please keep it cool and don’t turn it into a pitch session.

“These guys are hungry for stories. They have to produce a lot of content a week.” — Nick Bjork

Be a thought leader

Bring them a timely story idea or industry trend along with an example of someone who is involved, who may just happen to be an executive in your company or your client. Show them how you’re doing something unique and/or being a thought leader in the industry.

Nick also notes that their multi-source journalistic style always examines all sides of an issue. The DJC doesn’t necessarily require breaking news, rather stories about how relationships or projects came together.

Become a contributor

There are opportunities to be a guest contributor to the DJC. Providing an opinion on a trend or column about the industry is a good way to reach DJC readers. Industry insider and relevant peripheral contributors are desired. Nick mentions accountants and lawyers as great examples of people that directly work with their readers, but also provides an example of an interview coach who isn’t specific to the building industry, but speaks directly to the bid interview process which many DJC readers are interested in.

In fact, they like to develop quarterly or even monthly relationships for editorial contributions…maybe something to approach during that coffee meeting you set up?

Where, when, who?

Where do they get their stories from? Besides those press releases that do occasionally lead to story ideas, DJC reporters attend lots of meetings (land use reviews, neighborhood associations) and permit requests/notices.

When is the best time to pitch them? Since they print three times a week, there are no specific days that are off limits or better than other times. Each reporter is responsible for writing one lead story (1,500 words) each week, so certain reporters may be harder to reach depending on the day. DJC reporters also tend to work a little further out since they don’t focus on breaking news. Also, like all media these days (see the clip from John Oliver below), their reporters are responsible for more than just their print articles — something else to keep in mind.

 

Who to pitch? As mentioned above, do your research and pitch the appropriate reporter. Here is the current focus and contact info for DJC reporters:

Chuck Slothower

Chuck Slothower

Development & Real Estate

Kent Hohlfeld

Kent Hohlfeld

Architecture & Engineering

Garrett Andrews

Garrett Andrews

Construction, Transportation & Building Technology

PR Pet Peeves:

Nick’s experience as a former reporter, turned publisher, gives him unique answers to our question about PR pet peeves. His tips include:

  • Don’t just tell us how great your company is. Tell us what you are doing that is interesting and unique. Or provide value with insight into industry trends.
  • Your sources don’t always have to be the president or spokesperson of the company. The DJC loves a hands-on perspective from experts in the field (e.g. an engineer that actually works on projects) that can provide a unique point-of-view.
  • Don’t try and pitch a story just about the company, but about a topic as an expert.
  • No more anonymous sources. Don’t bring it if you can’t be a source.
  • Exclusives and embargoes are annoying. Don’t bring them a story they can’t run!

 

Portland’s Daily Journal of Commerce is a direct route to the construction, building, architectural and engineering industries. If you pay attention to what their readers want, bring new angles and fresh perspectives, you can get your message across to a highly targeted audience.

About the guest: Nick Bjork

Nick Bjork is the publisher of the Daily Journal of Commerce. He oversees the day-to-day operations of the trade publication dedicated to the building industry in Oregon and Southwest Washington, and the company’s data product, DJC Project Center. Nick has spent the majority of his professional career at the DJC, starting out as a real estate development and land use beat reporter, followed by several years developing and selling new advertising products for the media company.

Connect and follow Nick on social media:

DJC Publisher Nick Bjork