Michelle Sullivan Communications

Media take-away : breakfast chat with journalists

Robert Melnbardis of Reuters and Martin Vallières of La Presse were on hand at this morning’s CNW breakfast conference and I have to say it was worth hauling my tired carcass downtown at 7:30 this morning to attend.

Some take-away items of particular note :

  • Both Cyberpresse and Reuters are in the process of revamping their web presence. Reuters will unveil something next month, which Cyberpresse will be doing the same in September. La Presse’s Affaires section will become dynamic … I almost wrote more dynamic, but really, that would presume that it was dynamic to start off with. I think Vallières would probably be the first to admit that a nice burst of fresh air will do that online section a world of good.
  • La Presse’s online and traditional newsrooms will be physically moving onto the same floor in La Presse’s St Jacques offices, in order to better work together. A concrete sign of how important online media presence has become.
  • Getting financials out as early as 6:30 am is a practice Melnbardis encourages, as it gives him time to research the companies he’s covering before attending press conferences mid-morning.
  • Melnbardis exhorted financial PR professionals to stop being so provincial : Reuters offices around the world receive our financial releases, so we have to start being very clear as to which currency we’re using right in the top paragraph of our releases. So if your quarterly earnings are in CAD, be sure to say so, because Reuters’ Man in Mumbai wants to know.
  • Reuters also wants to see corporate websites with clarity of presentation and quick links to current and past financials. Melnbardis stopped short of giving concrete examples, which is a shame, because a good model always helps sell a concept to a client à la ‘Well Melnbardis likes this site, so you really need to rethink stubbornly refusing to do the same, Mr. X.’
  • Reuters is also pushing multimedia – it is now accepting photos from citizen journalists, even going so far as to provide ‘civilians’ with cameras – and invites us to follow suit. In fact, both Reuters and La Press were supportive of the concept of social media press releases with hyperlinks and multimedia. Melnbardis confirmed to me after the event that providing a video of press conferences online would be a valuable resource to members of his team unable to physically attend our clients’ events.
  • Surprisingly, both Melnbardis and Vallières seemed at a loss to explain the virtual disappearance of the press conference, saying that they appreciate them as long as they offer added value, such as access to directors and upper management. They definitely don’t want a rehash of the press release. They seemed to come to the conclusion that the press conference is a dying art form because PR professionals want to be sure to control the message. I didn’t have to get out of my seat to defend our profession, as my former employer and colleague Ahmed Galipeau did the honours, stating what I imagine most PR professionals in the room were thinking : we don’t do press conferences because no one comes. Interesting that such a disconnect in perception and cause and effect exists between our two professions. Would be worth exploring further.

A little bio info :

Robert Melnbardis is Editor-in-Charge, Canadian Equities at Reuters News, where he has also been the Montreal-based Quebec bureau chief since 1995, covering business, politics, general news, culture and sports. Mr. Melnbardis manages a team of equities reporters across Canada who report on the country’s publicly traded companies.

Martin Vallières is back in Montréal after spending several years in Toronto as economics, business and finance correspondent for La Presse. He also spent two years at the Washington office. Before joining La Presse, he worked for ten years as journalist and editorial assistant for the business weekly Les Affaires.

On a personal note, I have to say I was silently pleased to note a photo of Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe from my April 21st event at Moisson Montréal being used as stock footage on Cyberpresse and within the pages of La Presse. Vallières had it up during his presentation. No one knew but me, but I have to say I love that feeling you get when you’re the only one in the room with a little secret.

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