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Mar 12, 2004

PR Interview: How to Get in American Demographics Magazine

SUMMARY: 22,000 senior-level marketing and advertising execs pay for subscriptions to American Demographics magazine -- so you know they take it seriously. Want to be featured in a story? Check out our exclusive interview with Editor-in-Chief John McManus who reveals, among other things, his PR pet peeves...
John McManus
American Demographics
249 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011

-> Reach
22,000 paid subscribers, mainly senior-level marketing strategists

-> McManus' background

McManus has a passion for information and hard-to-get insights, as well as stories and storytelling. That combination makes his current job a pleasure. "That's what I love, telling stories based on information that's difficult to acquire."

He also loves his big chocolate Lab named Murphy.

As an advertising and marketing trade journalist, McManus has worked for Advertising Age and Brandweek, among others. "Before that, newspapers," he says.

-> Current editorial coverage

The monthly magazine is all about consumer trends -- population patterns (statistical or psychographic), attitudes, values, consumer buying behavior -- and how those trends shape marketing.

"We're looking always to be predictive, to look at the futures of whatever the stories are versus whatever's going on at the moment," McManus says. "From time to time, we also look at marketing strategies and tactics as they relate to where consumer trends are heading."

-> What he looks for in a story pitch

Current trends and future trends are "very much in the sweet spot of what we do," McManus says.

But when it comes to the specific type of pitch he's looking for, it's difficult to pin down. "The magazine has this wonderful, diverse and eclectic palette, and it can focus on social issues, more traditional business issues, culture and pop culture. There are so many dimensions to what's appropriate," he explains.

One thing that can help you find your angle is to remember that his mission is to help people use marketing resources or communications resources smarter.

-> The best way to pitch McManus and his staff

First, understand that there's no beat structure to the magazine.

"People call and say, Who's your writer on electronics? Well, we don't have a writer on technology. That betrays a lack of knowledge. You can see from the masthead, there's three people on staff and their names appear on the stories."

After you've done your homework and made sure you understand what types of stories the magazine covers, send McManus an email with your idea. If you include the following three characteristics, you're more likely to get his interest:

#1. Mention a previous story in his publication. You might say, "I saw you covered such-and-such a story." Then tell why that story made you think your pitch would be of interest to him.

#2. Give him an exclusive. "One of the highest priorities I have is delivering information [readers] can't get anywhere else," McManus says. You may note that it's an exclusive in the subject line of your email.

But be aware that an exclusive means that you can't break the story anywhere else before he publishes, which could be three months from now. Offering him a story now and then releasing it to the general media next week does him no good.

If you want to pitch the story elsewhere but you're waiting on McManus, let him know by what date you need to hear back from him.

#3. Explain how your story idea will feature an insight into consumer behavior. "There's nothing out of bounds as long as there's a strong insight into consumers that's associated with it."

Think about what you'd want if you were a reader of American Demographics. "Would you want the latest story on egg packaging?" he asks flippantly. No.

Then he reconsiders: "If there is insight into how consumers are changing their buying behavior based on what new packaging is, then yeah, but you'd really have to know what the magazine is about to make that connection."

-> Pet peeves

#1. Blasted emails: "99% of pitches I get that I know are blasted out or sent to even a targeted group of editors in my segment, I would disregard, because I don't feel it would be of value to my readers."

#2. Cold calls, when it's obvious someone is just going through a list. "It's not going to do anyone any good to make that call unless they're just doing it for their boss to have a certain number of people they've called. It bugs me that people take my time doing that when there are valid people who might be calling. It's a lose for everybody."

#3. Dishonesty: Don't claim you're giving him an exclusive if you've actually pitched other magazines. If he sees through it, "That's a negative thing," he says.

-> What he looks for in printed press materials

"Electronic ones are more useful these days."

-> Deadlines

He needs to hear of a story at least eight weeks prior to actual publication date.

-> Where you can meet McManus

Is he open to personal meetings with people? "I try, I try," he says. "There's really not enough time. I have probably five or six meetings with people a month, maybe more than that, but it's not enough. Mostly it's via phone."

Your success in setting up a meeting depends on the level of the person you're pitching. "If it's somebody that's tooting their own horn about a business type of thing that you can hear from any number of people, I'd be less interested," he says. "But if Jack Welch was going to be in town and would like to spend an hour with me, we could make time for that."

-> Favorite professional publication

There's a load of them. Among others, he reads Advertising Age, Adweek, Variety, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and Business Week.
See Also:

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