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Feb 22, 2008

PR Interview: Pitch Magilla Marketing’s Ken Magill: 10 Tips

SUMMARY: Ken Magill is a popular email marketing columnist who tells it like he sees it in Magilla Marketing, a weekly newsletter that bills itself as the “blunt truth on everything email,” and Don’t Get Him Started, his monthly column on the email industry. Magill writes his columns as Editor-at-Large for Direct and Multichannel Merchant. We had a heart-to-heart with the man himself to find out how to pitch him.
Contact Information
Ken Magill
Direct, Multichannel Merchant
249 West 17th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10011

Magill joined Direct magazine in 2005. Previous to that, he was Business Editor at The New York Sun. He also worked at DM News and iMarketing News. Before beginning his journalism career, Magill co-owned Cigars-in-Stock Supermailer, a DM co-op. He graduated from Buffalo State College with a journalism degree.

Circulation & Readership
Direct: total qualified circulation for the 6-month period ended December 2006: 46,739
Multichannel Merchant: total qualified circulation for the 6-month period ended June 2007: 32,408
Source: BPA

Top four reader categories for Direct:
- Retailer/cataloger/wholesale distributor (23.4%)
- Manufacturer (18.7%)
- Banking/insurance/real estate financial (17.6%)
- Advertising/sales/promotion/direct marketing agency/consultant (17.2%)

Magill’s Angle
Magill is known in the industry for having fairly outspoken opinions on marketing. He says he practices advocacy journalism and stands up for non-spamming marketers when they are being unfairly attacked. As a former direct marketer, he knows “what turns them on and what annoys them.”

Magilla Marketing and Don’t Get Him Started reflect his admiration for the way direct marketers operate. He enjoys covering their analytical tactics and respects their belief that truth is in the results. However, that esteem doesn’t mean that he won’t reprimand them when they use less-than-responsible practices. “This month, I attack a marketer who pollutes the marketplace and wrecks things for everyone else.”

Magill focuses on email marketing, with a preference for opinion pieces on policy issues and “idiotic laws.”

How to Pitch Magilla Marketing

#1. When pitching a story idea, stick to Magilla Marketing.
‘Don’t Get Him Started’ should not be your target, he says: “You likely don’t want to be in my column -- marketers read it to make sure they’re not in there.” Check the editorial calendar. Remind him what’s on the calendar and suggest a pitch that matches an upcoming topic. “If you can plan something two months out and you have an expert, you stand a chance.”

Magill says he reports on technological improvements, new service offerings, company acquisitions and high-level executive changes.

#2. Ideal query
A perfect pitch to Magill is a tip on something newsworthy that arrives in his mailbox along with the contact information of an expert who’s willing to be quoted. If you provide that, “you’ll get ink.” He offers a specific example: Let’s say you tested the placement and color of the email registration box and discovered some unexpected results which you don’t mind sharing. That type of sound guidance that isn’t overtly self-serving really appeals to Magill.

#3. What not to send
Steer clear of sales pitches and self-promotion. What does not interest him are new-client queries from vendors, such as emails about ways so-and-so improved results X% by switching XYZ service provider. Magill also doesn’t write fawning profiles. “I know all these providers and they know me. It’s a way to keep everybody honest.” He favors content that is “expert advice on something tactical and topical.”

#4. Magill’s dislikes
Like most journalists, Magill has some pet peeves. He has great respect for PR people who can be of tremendous assistance to journalists, but he resents when they don’t take the time to figure out how to be relevant. The worst thing they can do is “send me stuff that has nothing to do with email and online marketing, or stuff that’s very client-driven.”

#5. The slower your pace is, the faster you’ll get there
Magill suggests that you “stop thinking in terms of hitting a home run and getting a huge cover story.” Instead, concentrate on small ball: “hit singles … keep working it until you win the game.” Ask yourself: “How can I be useful to that trade reporter?”

#6. Friday, he’s not in love with you
One way to get on Magill’s good side is by meeting his deadlines. Magilla Marketing comes out Tuesday morning, so don’t even think of pitching him that day unless you wait until the afternoon. Monday is when it starts “getting rough,” but is probably the best day of the week to “hit [him] with a really good pitch.” Magill might scrap the piece he was going with in favor of your meatier bit. Wednesdays are “cool”; Thursdays are when panic starts to set in; Fridays, he’s “freaking out.”

#7. Don’t be shy
Magill likes companies that accomplish their purpose “civilly but vocally.” If you are a PR person and have a client of that sort, he invites you to be a source and an expert. You are welcome to talk to him “off the record.” Magill doesn’t care if the story has an agenda. His philosophy: the juicier, the better. His readers love “tabloid-y” material, something Magill understands since “trade press should not be homework; it should be entertaining.” If you’re “squeamish” or have an “uptight CEO,” don’t come near him. Magill’s blunt tone is neither “fluffy” nor “nice.”

#8. Pick up the phone
If you have a relevant pitch, follow up your email with a telephone call. Magill won’t waste your time; he will tell you straight away if he’s interested. He realizes how draining it is to hear “no” all day and promises to be polite and considerate.

#9. Trust him
Magill prefers exclusives, but he will work under embargo if the news is big enough. Don’t be afraid to send him your sensitive information.

#10. Do send press kits
Magill values press kits. It’s a huge plus if you include coverage from big-name publications, such as BusinessWeek. It saves him time since he can just read the article to get a good idea about the company he’s dealing with.

Contribute to Direct and Multichannel Merchant
* Magill suggests you send pitches for Direct Newsline, a “very straight” email newsletter that goes out every morning to an audience of traditional direct marketers. Check it out here:

* Magill recently compiled “The Magilla Marketing List of Top 40 Fastest-Growing (and some not-so-fast-growing) E-mail Marketing Related Companies that Came to Mind Randomly while Swilling Vodka Martinis.” When his readers sent some companies he neglected to mention, he added those; he’s open to more suggestions. So, don’t be afraid to send him your proposals. He enjoys interaction with readers and welcomes disagreements, which he thinks make for a fun read.

* Magill says he serves “as a gatekeeper for overworked editors” at Direct and Multichannel Merchant. Send him letters to consider your pitches.

Meet Magill
Magill usually attends DMA’s annual conference each fall and online marketing shows that are in New York. You can book an appointment to meet him at his office. Check out Multichannel Merchant and Direct’s events here:

See Also:

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