Interview with Marianne Cusato: HuffPo blogger shares pitching pet peeves, tips

Originally published on rbb Digital Park, hereThis story was co-written by Sasha Blaney.


Social media may have changed the way people consume news, but it is bloggers who continue to have an increasingly significant impact on the journalism world today. In fact, 6.7 million bloggers produce 58.7 million new posts each month and successfully reach 77 percent of all Internet users.

With such a vast audience consuming that many blog posts each month, it is imperative for PR pros to educate themselves on the best practices for pitching these media giants.

The role of blogs today has expanded beyond simply serving as an outlet for personal expression; oftentimes, major blogs become established brands that resonate with readers. In a recent study, 84 percent of readers said they make purchase decisions based on blog content they have read.

Above all, bloggers’ greatest strength is eliciting trust from their readers through honest and opinionated posts or media appearances as subject matter experts.

 Recently, we attended a PRSA Miami New Professionals Event focusing on blogger outreach and its importance to PR today. The discussion was led by Marianne Cusato, a Huffington Post blogger, author of The Just Right Home and Get Your House Right, and freelance writer whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, USA Today and Wall Street Journal.

Following the event, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Marianne and asking her our top burning questions about pitching etiquette, her personal pet peeves and how social media has changed media relations.

rbb: What is your preferred method of pitching? What’s your feeling on pitching via social media?

Marianne: Personally, I prefer email. This allows me to respond, or not, on my terms. Blogging is a secondary part of what I do, and it is disruptive to be pitched by phone while I’m trying to do my real work. Everyone will be different and for people whose full time job is journalism, phone might be totally fine.

Pitching via social media is definitely a good thing for many. It’s not the best way to reach me, but I might be one of the only dinosaurs left!

The key is to understand who you are reaching out to. Someone that blogs as a hobby will be very different that an active journalist. Many active journalists, of all ages, are being encouraged to engage with their audience on social media. For those people, pitching via social media is a great idea.

rbb: PR Pros get a bad rep for “stalking media.” How can PR pros follow up without badgering you?

Marianne: It is a delicate balance and everyone is different. If you know I’m working on your story, you might follow up with additional thoughts or with info that might be helpful. Always ask the deadline; this will let you know how to pace your follow up.

rbb: What’s your biggest pitching pet peeve?

Marianne: Being pitched about things I would never cover. The best way to get my attention is to look me up and see what I cover and my belief system. Bloggers are more editorial (opinions) than conventional journalism (someone reporting the facts). Bloggers will very often have strong opinions about the topics they cover; you want to be on their good side! For me, don’t pitch McMansions or sprawl.

rbb: What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’d give to a novice PR pro?

Marianne: Think about the reader of the article as your real client. What do they want to read and how does your story matter to them? It is often easy for PR to slide into feeling like an advertisement; guard against this by thinking of the reader first. You will have a better hit/miss ratio.

by Paige Rosenthal


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Red Carpet Etiquette for Newbies

Red Carpet How-To Template

 - Reposted from:

From celebrity sightings to best and worst dressed, the 2015 award season has been an exciting one thus far. But it’s not over. There are more red carpet opportunities to come in the months ahead, including the BET Awards on June 28.

Covering a red carpet event can be an exhilarating and exhausting endeavor all wrapped in to one. And today, it’s common to see bloggers and social media personalities covering these events alongside traditional, more experienced reporters. But for those who’ve never worked at established media companies, these top-notch events can quickly turn in to a stress-ridden occasion.

Recently, PRSA Miami held a panel discussion with industry experts to address the do’s and don’ts of red carpet coverage titled,  “Best Practices in Organizing Celebrity Red Carpet Events and Top Advice for Publicists Working the Red Carpet.”

The panel included:

  • Claudia Santa Cruz and Paola Marin, both from Santa Cruz Communications
  • Carole Moore, Getty Images
  • Antoni Belchi, EFE News Agency

There is a lot of planning that goes into organizing and attending a red carpet event, say the panelists.  Organizers use math equations to determine the total media capacity a red carpet can accommodate. They must also scout out the area and determine the best location for television media, security personnel, and provide journalists with easy access to refreshments and portable restrooms.

Then, there are the unwritten red carpet rules of etiquette according to the panelists:

  • Get there early.  Arrive at the event with enough time to allow for traffic, parking and credential verification.  If you arrive late, it’s likely that most of the good spots will already be taken and squeezing yourself in between veteran reporters is disruptive.
  • No Selfies.  Taking a selfie either with a celebrity or at the red carpet should be avoided at all costs.  This was a top pet peeve of all three panelists.
  • Avoid taking photos with your cell phone.  Moore stressed that their photographers have thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and it was frustrating each time someone stuck their arm out to take a cell phone photo and got in the way of an important shot.
  • Respect everyone’s personal space.  Belchi mentioned that it’s important to have a good environment and enough space to work in. So, be aware of your surroundings and mindful in particular of TV reporters who may be filming. Wait your turn patiently. Avoid interrupting with your questions until you are positive that that interview is over.
  • Limit loud conversations.  Although red carpets are noisy in general, avoid talking when other reporters are conducting interviews.  Print journalists use recording devices that can pick up a lot of background noise. The last thing they need is to have to filter out your conversation when transcribing their interview.
  • Choose your questions wisely.  Santa Cruz, who organizes the Billboard Latino awards, among other red carpet events, mentioned that when celebrities walk the red carpet, publicists usually allow a three-question maximum for each reporter.  It’s important to keep that limit in mind and choose which questions you need answered to prevent taking up more time than allowed.

Following the above rules can make all the difference when it comes to securing a press pass for future red carpet events.  Not adhering to red carpet protocol could anger more experienced reporters and cause the publicists to deny future access.

Did you know that you can create a customized PR Newswire newsfeed of entertainment news?  It’s easy. Sign up for PRNJ today and don’t miss out on that next celebrity red carpet.

Jessica Alas is Multicultural Audience Director at PR Newswire. Follow her at @alasjessica.

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