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Dec 17, 2004
Interview

PR Interview: How to Be Featured in CIO Decisions Magazine

SUMMARY: 50,000 mid-market CIOs and IT execs read Tech Target’s year-old print magazine, ‘CIO Decisions,’ each month. We interviewed Editorial Director Maryfran Johnson to find out how you can be featured in this up-and-coming magazine. CIO Decisions is building out a part of the market that has been ignored by other publications, so act fast to find out how you can join the new midmarket frontier.
-> Contact Information

Maryfran Johnson, VP and Editorial Director, CIO Decisions TechTarget 117 Kendrick Street, Suite 800 Needham, MA 02494 781-657-1000 http://www.techtarget.com/ mjohnson@techtarget.com

-> Media Profile

-CIO Decisions Magazine
-Reach: 50,000 controlled circulation
-Frequency: Monthly
-Demographic: The magazine boasts an extremely targeted market: CIOs and senior IT executives in mid-size or mid-market companies with $50 million to $2 billion in revenue.

-> Johnson's background

Johnson spent 15 years at Computerworld, the last five of those as Editor in Chief. In 2004, she was honored as the first national winner of American Business Media's Timothy White Award, a prestigious new business journalism award for editorial courage and integrity. Most recently, her leadership at CIO Decisions has helped the magazine win a dozen regional and national awards, including the title of “Best New Publication Under 80,000 Circulation” by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE).

Johnson has three dogs, is a "very big-time gardener," and plays classical piano. And to techno-phobic PR folks, she offers these words of comfort: "My background is all in journalism and I'm not at all tech-y."

-> Current editorial coverage

Since its launch a year ago, CIO Decisions has exemplified the idea that focus and understanding your market in great depth is the best direction for a business to business publication. Johnson prides the magazine on its ability to serve the midmarket community. When the magazine launched in April 2005, “nobody had tried to single out CIOs in mid-sized companies—and that is still true—we’re holding the space to ourselves.

With somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 mid-size companies out there, including Krispy Kreme and Restoration Hardware, the magazine fills a real gap, she says. It will cover case studies, industry trend analysis, and a great deal of information on aligning IT strategy with business strategy -- which is a main worry of today's CIO, says Johnson.

Stories will include a column called Vertical Views, drill-down looks at different verticals including retail, manufacturing, distribution, and so on, to mine for the issues that are valid to that specific segment. "The issues going on in healthcare are different than the issues going on in retail," Johnson says.

The content of the magazine is tailored for the audience. For example, the CIO of IT for a utility company in Oregon reflects on his journey choosing the right ERP system in a monthly column. By including stories written by CIOs for CIOs, the magazine provides “real life examples that are beacons of hope to other companies of that size.” Johnson’s big plan is to make the stories, whether they are about a new technology, a career issue, or business process, relevant to companies that are in the Fortune “50,000”—not the Fortune 1000. “What resonates with the readers the most is the fact that they’re reading about themselves, and they’re reading about other companies their size with the same issues to solve.”

-> Best way to pitch Johnson

Johnson is an editor with a guilt complex. "The key is relentlessness," she says. "Email me, and if you don't hear from me, call or pitch again. If I don't respond, I feel really guilty."

By the third email, she feels so bad that she's bound to respond (though, in general, she tries to get back to people more quickly than that).

"PR people just want an answer--yes or no," she says. "I find that almost everybody I talk with or whose email I read, I learn something. And it's all about these connections you make." She laughs. "It could also be that a lot of editors are introverted. I'm the opposite, I'd much rather be out of the office, at a conference, giving a talk, and I think that's a little different."

-> What Johnson looks for in a story pitch

Johnson talks regularly with the companies trying to reach her audience. She is most interested in the way her audience will relate to a product or service, rather than in the technical drilldown of the product itself. “We’re really interested in where a company sits in the grander scheme of things and particularly how they’re tailored to serving a midmarket business.”

Johnson is hoping for customer case stories that are unique and unusual in some way, with tactical information about specific verticals.

"Mid-market information from a CIO's point of view is unexplored terrain. They're all looking for innovative yet frugal ideas," she explains.

Executive summaries of case studies are fine, while "the press release isn't so meaningful, because everybody gets the press release."

5 tips on pitching Johnson:

1. Johnson wants to talk with you, whether or not she uses your particular story immediately. "We're journalistic driven, we want to find our own stories, but it's always nice to know that so-and-so is willing to talk to the press, maybe not for any specific story but for the future. I have a 'more-the-merrier' attitude." She's building a source list, so be in touch.

2. Vendors are great."I have no problem talking to vendors; I always learn a lot," she says. "With smaller vendor companies, I'll spend a half an hour talking to CEOs."

She's particularly interested whether you're a vendor "playing against the big enterprises."

3. Don't send product announcements.

4. Provide exclusivity. "For a monthly feature, if you have a great customer study, I wouldn't want to read about it in Baseline the month before." That's important, she says. In fact, include the words "exclusive pitch" in your subject line and you're halfway there.

5. Include "Midmarket" in the subject line.

"Anything with the word 'midmarket,' I'm opening and reading," says Johnson.

-> Deadlines

"We work three months in advance."

Note: The editorial calendar is not an all-in-one guide. Not everything is listed within the calendar, so "the best idea is for someone to send an idea to myself or Anne McCrory (amccrory@searchcio.com). We'll pass the sources around to all of the editors."

-> Pet peeves

Johnson doesn’t appreciate when someone goes through the same “dog and pony show” pitch that is used for the big enterprise customers or large technology publications. Vendors should be tailoring their pitches to CIO Insight’s audience because, more often than not, the bulk of a vendor’s customer base is actually in the midmarket.

Apart from the PR flacks who don't understand what the publication is about, Johnson also finds herself irritated when people address her as, "Dear Mary."

"My name is Maryfran," she says. One word, small 'f'.

But that's just a little thing. "Mostly, PR people can be a vital link. Generally, I don't get too incensed about any of it."

-> Becoming a regular columnist

“We’re not really soliciting for a regular columnist, but if someone happens to love to write and would just kill to have a column, you just never know. We’re always willing to chat. If they don’t turn into a columnist, maybe they’ll turn into an expert source for us in another story.”

The key is that Johnson feels no contact is ever really wasted. The best way to start is by contacting Johnson or her editor-in-chief, Anne McCrory (amccrory@searchcio.com). If they don’t have room for you in the magazine, they might start you out online.

-> Pre-written contributions

"No, we won’t be accepting any of those."

-> Favorite professional publication

Computerworld, of course, plus the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times

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