Give us a brief history of your career so far.
I graduated with a BA in in English Education in 1978, going on to work as a purchasing manager and technical writer for an industrial equipment manufacturer between 1979 and 1983. I took an MA in Creative Writing in 1985 and then worked for a Chicago-area PR firm until 1991, when I became a freelance writer, advertising consultant and PR pro. I’ve been doing that ever since!
How did you begin your career in public relations?
I was hired as an account executive for a mid-sized agency in 1986. I left as an account supervisor in 1991 to move to the Pacific Northwest and pursue a freelance career.
What are your time-tested strategies for pitching stories?
Content must be fact-filled and demonstrate expert knowledge, with minimal promotional language. Editors are looking for information that will benefit their readers, without overt commercialism. Having advertising responsibilities is helpful in my communications with editors, however, as their publications need that revenue in order to thrive. PR professionals must recognize that it’s a two-way street, even with magazines that publish strictly on merit.
You must have written your fair share of press releases over the years. What are your tips for creating engaging content on niche and technical subjects?
News releases must have content that goes beyond marketing client products/services, and they must communicate the key takeaways quickly and clearly.
How do you see the balance shifting between traditional print media and online media within the industrial trade press space?
Online media has been gaining in popularity for several years, which has had its effect on print publications; I doubt however whether print will disappear altogether, at least not in the near future. But print publishers are developing new vehicles to reach their audiences, which helps broaden their reach and maintain readership.
What opportunities has new media forms – websites, blogs, social media – created for companies in the heavy industrial space?
These are all opportunities for industrial companies to communicate with a wider range of prospects – and the most successful firms don’t rely too heavily on any one of them. The key is a broad range of communication tactics that reach users across print and digital audiences.
Do you have a favourite story or campaign that you have helped develop?
After 30+ years in the business, I’ve written hundreds of feature articles and worked on dozens of marketing campaigns. I don’t have a particular favourite, but I really enjoy working with engineers, as they have so much to teach us. So tutorial articles have always been interesting and educational for me. But I also take great pleasure in researching and writing success story articles, in which customer companies have used my clients’ products/services to resolve vexing industry problems. These firms often have little exposure to industrial PR and they invariably love seeing their companies featured in the media.
In a rapidly evolving media landscape in which companies are increasingly their own publishers – via websites, blogs and social media etc. – are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the trade press?
The trade media delivers valuable information across a wide range of topics, helping to inform and educate readers. It also serves B2B companies by developing brand recognition and enhancing reputation. Although it’s likely to continue evolving over time as technology and reader preferences change, I’m optimistic that it will remain an important resource for manufacturers, service firms and their customers.
Based in Bend, Oregon, Rick Felde is the owner of FelCom LLC. He has over three decades of experience in the industrial marketing and PR sector.