This episode of Coffee with a Journalist is joined by Heather Somerville of The Wall…
On this episode of Coffee with a Journalist, CMSWire’s Dom Nicastro joins host, Beck Bamberger, talk about his role, beats, and journalism takes. Dom is a senior reporter for both CMSWire and it’s sibling outlet, Reworked, and covers digital marketing, customer experience technology, strategies for the digital workplace, and more. Listen in to hear his takes on the best pitch line he’s ever gotten, how to find value in a story, and who he sees as the future of journalists.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
Beck Bamberger: Well, let’s start first with your inbox, of course. How crazy does it get with pitches from publicists in there, if at all? I don’t know.
Dom Nicastro: Yeah. It could be a full-time job, if I were to see my duties as checking my e-mail. That’s how many pitches I get. It’s hard to quantify day-by-day, but it’s massive. One thing I stopped doing was we took a two-week break over the holidays.
Basically, I stopped catching up in my inbox, because it’s just too much. I said, ‘You know something, Dom, if something important enough is going to come to your e-mail, that’s going to resurface in the new year.'”
BB: Did you do a mass delete? What did you do?
DN: No. Actually, I’m really, really bad. I don’t clean up my inbox.
BB: Oh, you’re one of the let it roll. Let it roll.
DN: Oh, yeah. It’s for people with obsessive compulsions that they would hate my inbox. They would have nightmares over it. I don’t really group things like, “Ooh, this is in the area of marketing. Let me throw that into that folder.” Nope. Again, Beck, I mean, the thing is it’d be a full-time job if I did that.
BB: Yes. It’s interesting, some people who are on here, they code, they flag. Then there are the total opposite, 57,000 e-mails, letting it ride. There’s the mass deleters. They just delete every single thing that comes in. I mean, it’s quite the spectrum. For the pitches you do get, because you said there’s a lot, what makes you respond to one?
DN: Well, you have to know the audience. I mean, you have to know what we’re going for.
His Thoughts on Pitches
DN: Yeah. Your original question was for public relations folks, the bottom line is you’re going to be representing a company most of the time, a brand, a vendor, some company that employed you to get their name out there. That’s the last thing I’m interested in is promoting a company. I want to have content that makes customer experience, folks that makes digital marketers, CMOs stop and say, “Hey, maybe I can try that way to do my job better.”
BB: Yeah, the incentives are disaligned sometimes with publicists and journalists. It’s the good publicists who can get those incentives to align, which is okay, this is a really great story, which by the way helps my client.
DN: Exactly. Yeah.
If you can connect me with people, not companies, but people who are experienced in an area that my website cares about, it’s that easy.”
I got a guy that I’m representing his company and he just has so many thoughts on how CMO should work with CIOs. I see that you’ve done that story before. Are you planning to refresh that story, because he or she would be a great source? That would win me over. You know, the best line I’ve ever heard from a PR professional one, was –
DN: Dom, can I source any of your stories?
BB: Oh, that is brilliant.
DN: That’s it. You know what? She did. I’ve had this professional, her name was Elizabeth Fairleigh. She’s awesome. I’ve had her sourced multiple stories from that point, because I said, “Actually, yeah. I’m sure to source here. This one I’m working on, I’m sure to source here. Who do you got?” Yeah, of course I’ll look into them. I don’t want to have just any source on any story. I mean, they got to make sense, but that’s it. I put a LinkedIn post about her comment. I’m like, “Hey, PR professionals. I love you to death, but this is the best one I’ve ever gotten. How can I help you source any stories?”
BB: That is great. Then from there, just so we’re clear, you responded and said, “Yeah, okay. I got these six stories. What do you got?” What’s so great about that is now, I’m taking off work from your plate.
BB: Which hopefully helps my client. Now, see the double incentive thing here.
DN: Yeah. I just sit back and let the PR rep work her magic and find me a good source. Now of course, it’s a risk. She might not find the greatest source. Like, “Ah, this one’s kinda –” If that source doesn’t deliver, the PR person’s right in the middle. Because a lot of times, these sources aren’t well-coached enough by the PR professional to not do any product promotions, not any indirect product promotions in their commentary. We get that all the time. Like, “Yeah, you really should use automation, because automation’s so cool, said the automation vendor.”
BB: That’s great. Wonderful insight. By the way, you shouted out somebody. Who was that woman again, so we could just give her a little praise?
DN: Yeah, Elizabeth Farley. She’s an independent PR person and I don’t think she’s part of a big company.
BB: Okay. Well, go Elizabeth.
DN: Yeah, an independent contract who has several clients. She’s such a pleasant, pleasant person to work with.
How He Writes Stories
BB: That goes into the making of a good story. Now you’re of course, talking to a very specific audience, you’re talking about tools for customer experience and CMOs and CTOs, or CIOs, how they interact. There’s a specificity. It’s not that you’re a general reporter like, “Oh, let me just go into the ether.” What I’m asking though is how do you come up with a great story?
DN: Whatever my editors say yes to.
BB: There you go. Okay. Do you sometimes though get these ideas from pitches, get these ideas while you’re walking, get them scanning Twitter? Where do you source those ideas?
DN: A lot of it is listening to reputable sources. When I say reputable sources, I mean, neutral analyst firms. You’re talking about your gardeners, your foresters, Aragon Research, real story group with Tony Byrne. Those for me are folks that are not loyal to vendors, for the most part, and they are putting content out there that they’re talking to customers, they’re talking to real stakeholders, people that use the technology that I care about.
A lot of my story ideas come from those folks when they come out with new fresh reports, like a Gartner magic quadrant, or a Forester wave. A lot of it is just listening to the pulse of social media.”
LinkedIn is really good with knowing what I care about. It serves me up a lot of content about marketers and marketing concerns, the things CMOs is saying. I get served up CMO posts so much. I’m like, “Oh, wow. The CMOs care about this.” Then, I start –
BB: Then you go, “There’s something.”
DN: Yeah. I start reading the comment trail. I’m like, “Oh, my God. Really, a lot of people care about this.” Then I verify it. Yeah, I verify it maybe with a fact, or a data report that oh, this is a broad problem. Let’s write an article that tries to help solve the problem, or talk about the problem.
BB: Got it. Okay. Any ways in which a story that came to be surprised you? Where you’re like, “Wow. That was some random phone call and it just happened to roll into this thing.” Has anything like that happened before?
DN: Oh, sure. All the time. Man, I’ll tell you, pre-pandemic – the pandemic’s had a huge effect on reporting.
BB: The before time. Yes.
DN: Yeah. Before time. Yeah. A lot of those stories that I got would just fall in my lap when I’m at business conferences. I’m not talking about the Adobe keynote, or CES keynote, or open text. I’m talking about the conversations at lunch, the conversations in the cocktail hour, the conversations where me, there’s spying, the sneaky reporter goes up to a person who’s all alone and bothers them and say, “Hey, how are you doing? What are you doing?” Just a random person coming up to you, but this is –
BB: This is organic bumping into you, chatting and then it turns into something.
DN: That’s gold. That’s gold. This has not happened. You do not have that form in the pandemic.
BB: All those serendipitous moments, I’ve missed that a lot, a lot. Because it’s just that 10-minute conversation at the dinner party. It’s that thing that you bump into somebody. God, those lead to so much. Totally get it.
DN: Not that I’m totally not upfront. Well, sometimes. I might not tell them I’m a journalist right away. “Hello, sir or ma’am. I’m looking for a story.” You can’t scare them. I’ll talk. I’ll just talk like I’m in the business like, “Oh, hi. What’s going on with you? Do you use the Adobe software, or what line of work are you in? Are you a customer experience person?” We start talking and everyone at the lunch table starts talking. Then at the end I’m like, “Wait, you know something, I’m working on a story on that. I happen to be a journalist. I would love to use what you said. Maybe you can say that again.” Then I bust up the recorder.
Then some of them, of course, will have concerns of, “Well, geez. My PR team, blah, blah, blah.” That’s the moment where I say, “All right, this was a dud for the story, but I’m going to use it. I’m going to use it somehow.” Everything someone tells you is valuable if you’re a journalist, because you’re going to take that and try to corroborate it from someone else.
BB: That is gold right there too. Everything is usable.
Dom uses social media and reports to stay in the know about the latest trends and evolving stories in his space. Subscribe to our OneSie newsletter to stay up to date on the latest trends, tips, and conversations around all things public relations. Each month, we compile our latest blogs and podcasts straight to your inbox. Also be sure to follow us on Twitter for real-time updates, notifications, and more.