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Don't be a "Time Bandit"

By Mark LaVigne, APR

Scott White, a 26-year veteran of the Canadian Press (CP) advises the public relations community to not be a "time bandit" when it comes to interfacing with his extremely busy journalists.

White, Editor-in-Chief of Canada's "wholesale" news agency that is co-operatively owned by the country's 100 or so daily newspapers, notes "the primary job for CP is to cover the day's spot news developments, preparing material for a national audience. So what might be appealing to the morning jocks of an FM radio station probably won't be of much interest to CP."

Following up new product stories, and pitching to multiple editors within CP not only aggravates these journalists unnecessarily, but actually steals valuable time from this news operation that runs on minute-to-minute deadlines 24/7. Hence, White's term "time bandit." "We receive literally hundreds of communications from PR professionals each day. Some of our editors, especially those in Business and Health-Lifestyles, can barely keep up with the flood of information. What is most maddening from an editor's perspective is a call about something that our organization would have absolutely no interest in covering, such as new product news."

Many of us in the media relations trenches know that getting one of our client's stories into the Canadian Press is often the 'holy grail' of our 'beat.' Pick-up by the Canadian Press and the 600 news media that subscribe to CP and its broadcast wing Broadcast News (BN) literally means at least 10-million impressions when all is said and done!

White's best advice to the 65-plus PR gathered at a CPRS Toronto/Canadian Press panel at the Albany Club in Toronto in late March is to anticipate, anticipate, anticipate. "We need to deal with PR people who not only react quickly when we need quick reaction, but actually anticipate that we'll need reaction before the event happens. This works when PR professionals know the day's scheduled news events and can offer up comment or information as quickly as possible."

Monitoring the Canadian Press through the daily newspapers and directly real-time via its media monitoring service Command News will certainly help PR understand what CP is interested in and to know when our clients can add to the steady flow of news from CP's Toronto headquarters and seven bureaus. CP's Director of Business Development, Dwayne Desaulniers, told the audience that CP is now even available on PDA's such as Blackberry through the major service providers. For busy PR, receiving a CP news feed wirelessly is a very good way to stay on top of what interests CP and what news it carries and enables practitioners to react quickly to news developments.

Knowing when to call and pitch is also very important. General News Director Mike Omelus, a 21 year veteran at BN, will take calls from PR he knows brings "newsworthy information" to the table the one or two times a year that they reach out to him. "PR is essential in helping the news media get the job done. It's an important relationship. But knowing our needs, and those of other news organizations will help you as PR understand what we and other outlets will consider newsworthy."

The Canadian Press is affiliated with the largest news agency in the world, the Associated Press (AP). CP delivers real-time text, audio, photos, graphics and online services to newspapers, broadcasters, publishers, Web sites, wireless carriers, cable companies, and even elevator and subway information kiosks.

CP also offers PR several invaluable tools, such as the Canadian Press Stylebook, Broadcast News NewsTalk, and Caps and Spelling - all crucial in helping PR write acceptable copy for news media consumption.

Commercial services that help fund the non-profit news side of CP include its paid wire service PR Direct, media monitoring service Command News, and paid photography service CPimages.

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Mark LaVigne, APR, is immediate Past President of the Canadian Public Relations Society (Toronto) and sits on the national CPRS board. He runs a media relations and media coaching firm based in Aurora, Ontario where he can be reached at (905) 841-2017 or