Between its print version and website, Forbes offers PR pros many possibilities. But while the means of approaching may vary, Matthew Arnold finds familiarity and persistence are constant pitch necessities.
Forbes enjoys a somewhat fearsome reputation in the PR industry.
Its oftentimes acerbic tone is no accident, as the biweekly magazine's editors drive reporters to take an unsparingly critical approach to the topic at hand. But given the title's gravitas with business leaders, a well-honed pitch could prove very rewarding to a client.
Forbes has a paid circulation of 920,673,a worldwide readership of 4.5 million, and boasts a wealth of decision makers and opinion leaders among them. Nearly half of its readers are chief officers at their companies, and 67% are in top management positions. And Forbes readers have purchasing power, with an average income of $214,000, an average net worth of more than $2 million, and 79% making technology purchasing decisions at their companies.
The magazine falls into five sections. Out Front looks at business trends, companies, and people in the news. The Technology section explores next-generation tech products and issues facing the industry. Entrepreneurs features tales of entrepreneurial derring-do. Money and Investing looks at stocks, bonds, mutual funds, along with which markets and sectors are hot, and which are not. Finally, Life offers leisure tips and advice on spending those bonuses.
Kim Kraeuter, manager of editorial information at Forbes, suggests that PR pros bypass editors and take their pitches directly to staff writers.
"Whatever the topic, just look at who has written most recently on it," she says.
"The key is to understand that most Forbes writers don't have beats, so you must read and know the magazine, says Pat Gallagher, an SVP at Cleveland's Edward Howard & Co. who has pitched Forbes successfully in the past. "Don't stop at the first 'no.' I once pitched four different writers before I got a response from senior editor Phyllis Berman, who passed it onto associate editor Bernard Condon, who ended up doing a great profile on my client."
With upwards of 100 reporters on the magazine, building relationships with individual reporters is crucial, and tena-city pays off. Dan Album of Sterling PR successfully pitched an early trend story on fixed wireless featuring client Iospan Wireless to associate editor Scott Woolley. Seeing that Woolley had written on the wireless industry, Album called him and followed up with regular briefings over the next few months before he was rewarded with a piece in which Iospan Wireless was the only company quoted.
"We do work in a very unconventional way, as editors have control of writer pools as much as they do space in the magazine, says Paul Maidment, executive editor on the magazine and editor of Forbes.com, which boasts a dedicated staff of 40. "On the website, we're much more beat-oriented, and you can pick out who writes what."
Mark Lewis is the senior editor on telecommunications at Forbes.com, Lisa DiCarlo heads technology, Penelope Patsuris directs media industry coverage, Ari Weinberg covers financial services, Matthew Herper heads bio-tech and healthcare, Arik Hesseldal edits the Ten O'Clock Tech product reviews section, and Charles Dubow leads the lifestyle reporting team.
While the magazine covers privately-owned businesses, Forbes.com hews closely to publicly-traded companies, so pitches involving private companies should be sent to the print edition.
The magazine is closed two weeks before publication, though longer features are often decided on months ahead of time. An editorial calendar can be found at forbesmedia.com.
Although Forbes doesn't see itself as a primary news source for its readers, the magazine prizes exclusivity in its reportage. "So if you have a really strong story, pitch it as early and exclusively as you can, says Maidment.
Gallagher says PR pros shouldn't let Forbes' hard-nosed reputation scare them away, but cautions that they may want to peer around for skeletons in a client's closet before approaching the magazine. "Forbes editors require their reporters to have an opinion, to take a point of view," says Gallagher. "Here is where the PR person needs to put his or her reporter's hat on, and take an honest assessment of whether there are enough potential issues to tip the balance to the negative. If they do not have the savvy to make that distinction, they should stay away from Forbes."
"Our reporters reflect our readership, says Maidment. "Our readers are C-level executives or entrepreneurs. They're always questioning. They never settle, and they're somewhat ornery. They want to know why some companies succeed, why others fail, and what lessons they can draw from them."
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