Peter 5: Tommy Fernandez, Crain’s New York Business

Have you joined my incredibly non-annoying, once-in-a-while email newsletter?

Tommy: Thanks for taking time for Peter 5!

1) Give us a very brief overview of you: What you like to work with, favorite types of stories, what you’re always on the lookout for, and as important, what you can’t stand.

1) I like to work on stories that aren’t obvious, and which turn the conventional wisdom about a subject on its head.  One of my favorite stories was about the Dominican community’s preference for face-to-face dealings with travel agents instead of inhuman web-sites. Who knew? (You probably did, but I sure didn’t)

2) What can a publicist do to make sure he or she helps you out, and increases his or her chances of coverage with you?

2) Please stick to e-mail, seriously.  I cover nine beats for Crain’s NYB: law; accounting; advertising; insurance; employment; automobiles; airlines/airports; Bronx and Queens. I also write features for our newly launched Business Lives section, so I get very aggressively pitched ALL the time, over 100 pitches every day (Bear in mind, I do roughly 100 stories each year): roughly 2 to 3 hours each day is spent answering phone pitches and responding to these e-mails, and I never have enough time to respond to them all. In between those calls, I have to conduct at least 12 30-minute interviews each day to get a clue on some pretty arcane subjects. And my scheduled phone interviewees (managing law firm partners, executives) HATE it when I don’t call on time or cut their interviews short.

3) What can a publicist do to truly piss you off and guarantee you’ll never cover any of their clients ever again?

3) A. Ignoring the e-mail request really makes it hard for me. (“I know you’re really busy and don’t like calls, but I just wanted to exchange thoughts,..on the Secaucus legal industry.”).
    B.  Overworking a request and over-managing (to steal an insight from Dirk Smillie at Forbes) also makes my life very difficult very quickly (“I know you just wanted a 3-minute interview on March auto insurance rates, but I took the liberty of setting up interviews with four executives– starting now — a luncheon, and a joint photo of everyone in the firm. Also, could we read the article today before it runs, for the tone, and could you send us 10 copies?”).
    C. Pushing aggressively for meet-and-greets also makes my life tough. I’m usually booked for face-t-face stuff six-to-eight weeks in advance. (“I know you’re busy, but I wanted you to spend three hours next week with the designers of some brillaint document flow-management software,…”)
    D. Heavily selling an interview with a client who has NOTHING specific or interesting to say also ups my Aspirin usage (“Financial law, Tommy, is very fiscally important,… legally.”)

4) If a publicist wants to pitch you, what should he or she be watching and reading before hand, other than your stuff? What are your favorite things to watch and read outside of your stuff?

4) I read NYT, Wall Street Journal. Novelist Jonathan Safran Froer is a genius, I’ll read anything he writes.

5) When’s the best time to contact you? The worst times? And how?

5) You can contact me all the time – by e-mail. If you call me, odds are you’re interrupting an interview, will make me late for a phone interview, or will interrupt my frenzied efforts to prepare for an interview. Unfortunately, odds are you’ll also probably be the fourth PR person in a row to call me as I race to figure out what exactly the Lanham Act is before my next big lawyer interview-coming in 10 minutes.

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