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Media Monday: An Interview with Bill Shaikin

Baseball Staff Writer at Los Angeles Times

On Friday night, I had dinner and drinks with Bill Shaikin, baseball staff writer at Los Angeles Times. We started the night at my favorite Italian restaurant in West Los Angeles, Guido’s, and continued on to a local, upscale bar in Brentwood – Bruhaus. The funniest part of our friendship, also known as every time we try not to talk shop, is the fact we inevitably always start talking sports and baseball.

This particular night, we ate at the bar and had all of the patrons completely engaged and mesmerized in our conversation, to the point that a few of them came over to us and said we needed our own radio show because our banter exchange was brilliant. To that, I thank my Pops for teaching me to school most boys with stats on almost every team.

Bill has become a very dear friend of mine over the years, and when we decided to meet for dinner, I told him about the great Media Monday program we participate in at The Hoyt Organization. He was more than willing to pitch (get it?!) in and be interviewed, after the hype surrounding the Dodgers’ run at the World Series was over of course.

Of course, our conversation was side-barred and I had to email him for his input. The first question I asked him was, “What was the best pitch you’ve ever received?” Of course, he responded with, “The first one I got from you LOL.” Flattery will get him everywhere!

Next, I asked Bill what have been the worst pitches he’s received. Here’s some worldly advice from journalist to anyone who wants to be a public relations practitioner.:

  • Don’t use the word “revolutionary.” Everything is revolutionary. We see that word and think “overhype.”
  • Know how to use punctuation and grammar properly – “Punctuation before quotation!”
  • Don’t send any pitches that are essentially asking for contributions to Kickstarter campaigns (no matter how “revolutionary” the product).
  • Don’t blindly buy an email list or use an old one. Take the time to do a Google search and make sure the targets of your pitch actually cover the appropriate subject areas. I can’t tell you how many pitches I’ve gotten for non-sports stuff – or, curiously enough, for events outside the Los Angeles area. If I remember your name for an inappropriate pitch, I might delete the appropriate one before I read it, if I see your name or agency.
  • If you’re essentially asking for an advertisement, please gently advise your client to buy an ad, or come up with a different strategy. I get pitches all the time from auction companies, who basically want stories about how the companies are selling this or that item. The news value is dubious, at best. One PR rep sent three emails and finally said, “If you’re not the right contact in your organization, could you forward this to the right contact?” It was all I could do not to send him a link to “How to place an ad in the LA Times.”
  • What has the best chance to succeed is if you have taken the time to see what I write about and who my audience is. I could be wrong, and maybe PR companies have done studies about this, but I’d bet 100 closely targeted emails deliver better results than 1,000 widely sent emails.
  • PLEASE don’t send three e-mails following up to see if I’ve had the chance to review. We’re all overworked – you are, I am, we all are. If we didn’t respond, we’re not interested.
  • Read relevant industry information and stay informed. I find this quite useful and a good read: “Journalists’ Advice on How to Write Press Releases They’ll Actually Read”
  • And finally, although Mindi’s Yankees went well into the playoffs unexpectedly and lost, and my Dodgers lost in Game 7 of the World Series, we both came out winners as the New York Yankees Aaron Judge won AL Rookie of the Year and the Los Angeles Dodgers Cody Bellinger won NL Rookie of the Year – so I guess, we can all get along!