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5 Questions with Business Insider’s Emily Canal

At Hotwire we host a Media Meet & Greet program with tech and business journalists across a variety of industries.  These conversations are a great way to get to know the media — what they like (and don’t like) to cover, trends they’re tracking, tips for connecting, and how we can best work together.

I recently spoke to Emily Canal, a senior reporter at Business Insider covering small business and entrepreneurship.  Read on to hear Emily’s advice for connecting, what she’s looking for in a pitch, the one question she always asks sources, and more.

What’s your best piece of advice for PR/communications pros who want to build relationships with media?

One of the best ways to build a relationship with either myself or another reporter is to get in touch with them, whether that’s email or a phone call or a virtual coffee these days, and get a sense of what types of stories they’re covering, the sources they may be looking for, their themes and beats, and then just try to keep in touch with that person. Sometimes it’s really helpful to get a pitch that says “this kind of falls into X (for me it’s small businesses), but just to stay in touch and see if there are any stories that you can help with and provide sources. I know I’m not alone when I say this – sometimes the type of story you’re reporting can change or your focus can change, depending on what your readers are more interested in, so just keeping in close contact and making sure that you both are on the same page, that way you know you can send clients that are relevant, but at the same time, maybe talk about future opportunities together.

The biggest thing is just knowing that I cover entrepreneurship and small business. I don’t want to be pitched a story about Tesla – unless it relates to a small business. I also just love to hop on a call with someone and talk about my beat. So that is the way to work together – send me a message saying let’s do 15 minutes, I know you’re busy, I want to know what you’re working on and how we can work together. I love that because I think that’s beneficial to everybody and sometimes there’s no good fits and that’s okay.

I’m sure you get a ton of pitches…what makes you open a pitch and respond and what makes you delete one without even opening? Are you open to being pitched through social media?

If the subject line addresses my beat and says small business owner, entrepreneur, etc. enough to show that the person sending it spent some time to look up what I do – I’ll open it. If the subject line just says “business story,” I’m probably not going to click on it. Anything that seems more catered to what I do. Of course, no one probably knows the inner conversations we’re having on the editorial side, but if you talk about small businesses, if you talk about entrepreneurship, then I’ll click on it. I love stories about female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. Also any kind of character-driven aspect – an emotional story is always going to get me to click on it because there’s always a space for wonderful narratives on people who are trying to do something good in the world.

For social, I’m not as active with LinkedIn messages but I do use HARO and Twitter a lot. I opened my DMs recently, so feel free to pitch me on Twitter.

How often does a PR pitch turn into a story and are there certain things you need to see in a pitch to really get you interested?

It varies a lot, because sometimes I’m really hunting for a story and then I’m more open to it. What helps is if in the email there are a couple things that the PR person will tackle, like if the entrepreneur is willing to talk about revenue on the record that’s always good to know. If I’ve opened your pitch, and I see that it points out revenue, that’s great because that’s probably going to be one of my first questions – are they willing to share their revenue or their sales information. I love to know what problem the entrepreneur or small business owner was trying to solve, that helps show they saw this hole in the market, or they were really frustrated they couldn’t find something so they invented it.

Small business is a nebulous term, but as long as it’s still private/ privately held, that’s typically kind of what we go for, but there are always exceptions. The number of the revenue doesn’t even have to be included in the pitch, just knowing that the founder or the owner is open to talking about it. I like to know where the business is located…right now we are more focused on the US, but that could change at any moment. Knowing where they’re based in the US is nice because we want to make sure we’re talking about the business owners that also represent America and that’s not always the New York City or the San Francisco entrepreneurs. If you tell me “I know this great entrepreneur in Arkansas,” I’ll want to hear more. So, where they’re based and are they willing to talk about revenue or finances of some kind. Those are the two things that would really grab me and are probably going to be the two questions my editor is going to ask first.

What are some of the big trends/topics you see driving entrepreneurship coverage in 2021?

Vaccines. Something my colleagues are going to be working on is how businesses are shaping their vaccination policies. So from the staffing point, and also the consumer side, what is the vaccinated world going to look like? I know airlines have batted around an idea of vaccine policies and I think airlines are going to be asking for documentation that you’ve been vaccinated, so I’m thinking about this for small businesses. Are small businesses going to want to see that the customer was vaccinated before they come into an indoor restaurant situation?

I think vaccinations will be big, more federal relief will be big. Anything about repairing the economy and getting businesses open again. Child care, as well, plays a massive role in that and it’s something I’m also looking at – female entrepreneurs and business owners just got disproportionately affected in this pandemic. And then, on top of that, a lot of women tend to take on parenting duties. How are they doing it, how are they holding up, and what do they need? Anything about relief or rebuilding would be probably what I’m looking at in 2021. We do a lot of guides as well, so any kind of constructive criticism we can give on how businesses can bounce back or file taxes this year, and anything that might be coming up for them.

Is there one question you always ask your sources in your interviews?

I’ve been trying to ask – who are some of the small business owners or entrepreneurs I should pay attention to? And also – what are some of the issues really plaguing that entrepreneur in their industry?

Sharon Kane is a senior director of media strategy at Hotwire.  Is there a reporter or outlet you’d like to see profiled in a future Media Meet & Greet? Email or connect with her on Twitter @SharonTully or on LinkedIn

Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCanal and read her latest stories for Business Insider.