By Mia Olea Garza
As PR professionals, we’re constantly working to send information to media outlets in the most clear and concise manner so they will not only read it, but hopefully, cover our story idea/news pitch. Even though we follow best practices, it’s challenging to know the preferences of all editors and reporters. I went straight to the source to learn how PR professionals can send the best possible pitch by interviewing Austin American-Statesman photo editor, Nell Carroll. As a 20-plus-year industry veteran, I wanted to get her insight into exactly what newspaper photo editors are looking for from PR professionals, any pet peeves, and what makes a pitch stand out
Q: Tell us a little about what you do as a photo editor.
I assign photographers to cover events in our coverage area that the community will want to know about or find interesting. When the photographer returns and turns out selects from the event, I choose which images best tell the story of the event or which photographs look the most interesting.
Q: What is something you wish that PR professionals considered more when contacting you?
We really don’t find press conferences or set up events visual interesting for still photography. They might be fine for TV but our medium is different.
We’d like all the information of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY in an easy to read fashion and not hidden in 2 paragraphs of a well written press release.
We’d like contact information that will help us at the scene of the event should we need more information or get lost.
Sometimes we get releases for awards given for something that was much more visually appealing than an awards ceremony. Our community finds real live events more interesting that an awards ceremony after the fact.
Q: What’s your pet peeve when receiving pitches?
Releases that are hard to understand. We have to search for the time and date.
Press releases than have more than two colors or fonts. I don’t take those seriously because they look like they are coming from a disturbed individual.
Q: How do you prefer to receive photos? Dropbox? Google Drive? Attached to the email?
Google Drive or emailed.
Q: How would you describe your personal photography style?
Tough question. REAL. I like to capture the moments that are interesting, visually and mentally. I was educated as a photojournalist so “do-overs” and “set up shots” are like poison to me.
Q: What catches your eye when you are receiving tons of emails? What makes a pitch stand out?
I read them all. If the event involves people other than city leaders or the regular activists, I am more inclined to consider it for coverage. Any pitch on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday has a better chance because we are slower during the week. Weekend events have to be pretty special like “Coats for Kids” or a local marching band getting new trumpets from a famous musician.
Q: Anything else you wish PR professionals knew when sending you pitches?
I will turn down most every press conference, check passing, or ground breaking. We had a groundbreaking today because it involved a beloved park and it was a slow day. There are exceptions if there is major news behind those events or if the person speaking has not been seen in the public for 10 years.
A week’s notice is perfect for most everything unless it is during SXSW or October (a super busy month). Day of releases may not work because I schedule staff the day before. Releases that are too early may get lost in the shuffle.
One phone call reminder or email is fine. Email reminders are better. I am not at my desk very often but usually have my laptop or phone with me. Occasionally a text is fine too (my cell is on the bottom of my emails).
Sometimes we welcome handout photos from an event if we can’t get there. For those we need to know who, what, where, why and when, including names of people in the photograph. These are great for our community pages.
I am sure there are things I am forgetting but these are at the top of my list. We love to photograph real events that involve the community, especially when they benefit the community.
Thank you, Nell!
You can find Nell and some of her images @fotonell on Instagram.