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Apr 29, 2005

PR Interview: How to Get Your Story Into Design News (Reach 170,000 Design Engineers)

SUMMARY: Design News' chief editor told us the key to getting more coverage in the magazine is to focus on getting your customers interviewed. Design engineers like to read stories about their direct peers who, in the course of the story, might mention fave tools and suppliers' names. More PR details here.
Karen Auguston Field, Chief Editor Design News 225 Wyman St. Waltham, MA 02451 781-734-8183

-> Reach

170,000 print circulation - design engineers

-> Field's background

Field has been with Reed Business Information for the last 17 years, with eight of those at Design News. "I'm not a trained journalist, I have an engineering background," she explains.

Her engineering background works well for Field, as the magazine covers anything that involves technology, "and that's pretty much everything today," she says. "What I really love about Design News is that it is really a cool, fun magazine. I've written about everything from ice cream scoops to the Joint Strike Fighter."

-> Current editorial coverage

About three years ago, Design News hired someone from Men's Health to do a redesign, and as a result, the magazine now has a "consumer look and feel, but a reader's voice," explains Field. "We go beyond the basic press release to get more information on how [readers] actually use products."

Content is geared toward design engineers involved in developing everything from planes to trains to automobiles. Opinion pieces, trends, product roundups, how-to stories, and case studies are all included.

"We've been experimenting with new ways of presenting editorial, trying something that looks like it's been ripped from the pages of a consumer magazine," says Field.

In the same way a consumer mag might show six must-have pink sweaters for the fall, Design News now includes a page of products in a single product category (axis accelerometers, for example) or functionality category (items that help improve accuracy) that readers simply must know about.

While this is done in a "quick hit" way, "we're not sacrificing the technical content. Our readers would never forgive us for that," Field says. "They look to us to make sense out of chaos."

-> Best way to pitch Field and her staff

"Email is great," Field says. The best tactic is to contact the specific beat editor (not all of them), as follows:

--Joe Ogando (, materials and fastenings

--Chuck Murray (, electronics

--Karen Field (, hardware/software

--John Titus (, test and measurement

Field also uses a number of freelancers with unique specialties, so if your topic doesn't fit neatly into one of the above categories, contact her directly and she'll get you in touch with the right person.

-> What Field looks for in a story pitch

Send case studies, press releases, or simply a summary of a story idea.

"What we look for from vendor companies is not just product information, but to get us in contact with the customer community," Field says.

Case studies can come from vendors, either already written or in outline form. Or they can be written directly from the customer's point of view.

"If a vendor has a motivated customer who wants to get their name out there and is willing to work with Design News, and if the client can capture [the experience], it can be a fabulous experience and great PR," she says.

The case study pitch should include: customer contact, description of the application, and the major engineering challenge -- make it unique. It's difficult for writers to see every angle of every pitch, Field says, so make it easy for them: explain what makes the case study so interesting.

You might say, "I have an unusual application in a cake decorating factory," says Field. That would get her attention by "the sheer weirdness of it."

Make sure you include technical specifications -- not just that it worked well, but that "it moved this much mass in this amount of time with this positioning accuracy," she explains. "Quantify it in a way that every reader can understand. Not every reader works in a cake decorating factory, but every reader can understand specs that tell what it's really about."

More hints on sending pitches:

o Bullet points: Field is a fan of brief, bulleted lists.

o Give access to engineers: "If they're talking about a new motor, it's really essential that we can talk about basic operating principles, and many companies seem reluctant to let us get too deep into what the product really is."

o Nothing replaces a personal relationship: It's tough to wade through thousands of press releases. "If they feel the magazine is important to them, we want to work with them to have a relationship," she says.

o Help her navigate big companies: "We're seeing fewer people being responsible for PR and marketing in a way that really helps us," says Field. "In a company like Texas Instruments, they're huge. Help us navigate. And we're totally willing to help educate you on what we're doing."

o Flattery: "There's nothing more powerful than someone calling and saying, 'I have this great story and I want it to run in Design News,'" she says. "People underestimate how much we love to hear that people know something about us, that they were on our Web site, that they love our magazine."

o Exclusives: "Like every editor, we love exclusives."

-> Pet peeves

Follow-ups on press releases that weren't targeted to the right publication in the first place. Also, undated press releases that are just re-announcing products that may be six months old.

-> Prewritten contributions

Check out author guidelines here:

Field asks that contributors contact her before sending in a completed article. "It's less wasted effort if people contact us up front, so we can help shape the story."

She's looking for highly technical content that can help engineers understand how to apply technology or solve a problem, not a story about how their product pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

Vendor and client-side stories are both okay -- but on the vendor side, "We're looking for an application engineer rather than a marketer."

-> Becoming a regular columnist

Contribute to the Op-Ed page if you've got "edgy, thought-provoking opinions, not just saying, 'Mothering and apple pie are good.' You might actually be saying they're bad," says Field.

"We're also constantly looking for someone from the industry who can help us evaluate things. I'm always looking for new ways to talk about technology."

-> Where you can meet Field

She and her editors attend many of the major engineering-oriented shows, but as the publication is broad, "it's hard to get to everything."

On the other hand, Field travels quite a bit on vendor visits. Let her know if you want to meet with her; remember, she's all about relationships.

-> Favorite professional publications

Folio, BtoB, Advertising Age

See Also:

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