December 08, 2006

PR Interview: How to Get Your 15 Minutes of Fame With The New York Times’ Stuart Elliott

SUMMARY: \"All the News That's Fit to Print.\" That's the motto of The New York Times. But how do you go about pitching longtime advertising columnist Stuart Elliott?

In this exclusive interview, Elliott shares his secrets about how to get your story some ink (or airtime on his podcast) and avoid it going straight to the trash.

Contact information:
Stuart Elliott
The New York Times
229 W. 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: 212-556-1227
Email: stuarte(at)nytimes(dot)com

2006 Circulation:
Daily: 1.14 million (Audit Bureau of Circulations, March 2006)
Sunday: 1.68 million (ABC, March 2006)

Since The New York Times went digital in 1995, they’ve ranked as the No. 1 newspaper site, with 11.6 million unique visitors as of March 2006. The Web site offers free articles for a week. After that, users must pay a subscription fee. Readers have household incomes and college degrees at roughly twice the national average.

Stuart Elliott has been in charge of the advertising and marketing beat for the Times since 1991.

Elliott’s background:
After getting his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism at Northwestern University, Elliott worked for the Detroit Free Press, served as New York Deputy Bureau Chief at Advertising Age and covered advertising and marketing for USA Today.

Current editorial coverage:
Elliott writes about advertising, marketing, media, popular culture, creative trends, business aspects, accounts moving around and the deals people make. “[We] get to write about the Super Bowl, the Olympics -- all sorts of things. Advertising runs through so much of business and culture and the economy."

Elliott also has a podcast spotlighting advertising that is updated Tuesdays.

Elliott’s beat is made even more difficult because he's not limited to the New York region. "This is a national newspaper. I take a very broad look across the country and around the world and will continue to do so."

What Elliott looks for in a story pitch:
Stories that speak to the larger trends that are remaking the advertising, marketing and media worlds are particularly relevant. Anything that is indicative of the ways major marketers are changing and reaching out to consumers interests Elliott. Also, he enjoys the dichotomy between new media (social networking, plogs, video on demand, email marketing) and traditional media. Elliott sees these opportunities as “grist for my mill.”

Three factors can make a substantial difference between your pitch getting noticed … or tossed in the trash:

1. Read the Times. Get to know what Elliott has already covered and his typical story angle and the topics that are likely to catch his attention. Then, craft your pitch accordingly.

2. Email your pitch to him. "It's easier to just print it out and look at it, than try to listen to a meandering description over the phone,” he says. Rather than sending a press release as an attachment, make sure you include it in the body of your email. Make it as easy as possible for him and for his staff to read your news.

3. Offer an exclusive. The Internet and the competition has made this more important than ever for Elliott. (When we asked him how a PR pro should choose which major media to give a hot exclusive to, he replied, "Everything is right for us. We're the most read, most closely followed thing. Anybody who pitches something to anyone else is … foolish.")

Aside from these rules of thumb, the types of stories that are most likely to get picked up are about either well-known brand names or cutting-edge trends. Most importantly, distinguish your pitch from the pack.

"People are too narrowly focused on their own glory. They don't realize there are 100 other people pitching the same things,” Elliott says. “Try to figure out why you are worthy of coverage. It's not just because you want us to cover it."

Elliott is on a daily deadline. He usually finishes his column at 5 p.m., but notes that if something "super-duper important" happens afterward, he can change it. "I've gone out at 5:40 with a whole different one."

How to contact Elliott:
Although Elliott attends major events, don't try to pitch him during a function. "I think that's inappropriate to pitch me while I'm standing there. I think that's rude."

Instead, your best bet is to invite him to breakfast. "I do breakfast with people every morning. Send me an email and we'll think about it. I can only do five breakfasts a week, so the more advanced notice you can give me the better."

Elliott's favorite business publications:
"I don't have one. I read everything. I read all the trades. I visit Web sites. I read five newspapers every day. I have to cast a wide net."

A few don’ts:
- Don’t bother sending gifts because The Times doesn't allow employees to accept anything with cash value.
- Don’t ask Elliott to lunch because he's caught up in the process of creating the column by then.
- Don’t offer to pay for his breakfast. The Times doesn't allow it.
- Don’t submit pre-written contributions or ask to become a regular columnist. It’s a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” situation.
- Don’t misspell his name in your communications with him. It’s Stuart Elliott. "So many people misspell it. It annoys me intensely."

Note: Interested in reaching another editor at the Times? Email web-editor(at)nytimes(dot)com and someone will get back to you if a follow-up is necessary.

If you want to contact someone specific at The New York Times or, send a blank message to staff(at)nytimes(dot)com for an automated response containing the e-mail addresses of New York Times staffers available to the public.

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