Top tips to pitch the channel press

By Christine Horton, freelancer writer and editor

While the IT industry is huge, there are many areas that remain a mystery to many. The IT sales channel falls into this category, and as such, it’s difficult to know how to pitch channel journalists correctly.

The channel is a specialist, yet hugely important segment of the industry, yet quite often the publications that cover the channel can be lumped together with general B2B end-user IT press. However, channel journalists don’t write for end-users they write for the people that sell IT products and services to the end user – and it’s a completely different conversation.

Here is a rundown of UK channel publications:

Channel Pro
Launched in 2009 by Dennis Publishing, Channel Pro is an online-only publication that has a strong focus on providing features, opinions, analysis and useful advice to help channel firms of all sizes grow their businesses.

CRN is the most established channel publication. It had a solid reputation in the channel and a strong team that focuses on news. It also hosts a number of successful events like Fight Night (this epitomises everything about the channel) and the CRN awards.

Another staple of the channel press, Microscope is now online only after it stopped publishing its magazine a couple of years ago. It also focuses on a combination of news and features.

Channel Register
An offshoot of The Register, Channel Reg is aggressively focused on breaking news.

So how do you go about pitching channel journalists?

Well, each publication is different of course, and ultimately editorial decisions around deadlines, preferred method of communication, embargoes, etc. are made by individual editors.

As in most other aspects of publishing, the channel press has seen a decline in printed publications in favour of online versions only. This obviously changes how we approach things like deadlines and embargoes.

I can only speak for Channel Pro, which was a small, but perfectly formed, editorial team. Therefore, if there was channel news, we asked for a heads-up as early as possible to guarantee we see it, and potentially come back with questions in time for publication. We always respected embargoes, and I believe this is the case across most channel titles.

We also preferred email as a form of communication with PRs, due to the sheer number of calls we fielded each day.

So what makes a good channel story?

We write about the B2B IT sales channel. I can’t stress this enough: it’s a business conversation. We write about sales, not products. We don’t write about the bells and whistles of the latest technology – instead we want to know:

  • What is the market opportunity for the channel?
  • How can the channel partner grow their business on the back of this technology?
  • How is the vendor supporting its channel?

Very rarely a new technology may well shift the entire market, for example the launch of VMware’s virtualisation technology – these are rare and are the only “product” stories that could break this business conversation focus.

There are a number of key questions I always ask companies:
  • How many channel partners do you have in the UK / EMEA?
  • What percentage of your sales go through the channel? Are there any plans to grow this share?
  • What type of channel partner are you looking to recruit?
  • Do you have a partner programme? If so, what are the key features?
  • How are you funded? (particularly when expanding into Europe for the first time)
  • Which other companies do you go up against in deals?
  • Why should a prospective partner choose to work with you compared to your competitors?
Essentially, the more stats you can provide the better!

For example, you might tell us you have doubled your partner numbers in the UK in 12 months, but if you don’t release how many partners you have in the first place, then there’s no context for the announcement. Also, if you can arrange for us to speak with a channel partner or two, that’s even better.

Ultimately, remember it’s a business or sales conversation, and not about technology feeds and speeds. We write for salespeople, and the content we write should reflect that.

Christine Horton is a freelance writer and editor. She has 20+ years’ experience in B2B publishing, for the most part specialising in telecoms and IT. She has covered the IT channel in depth for the past 10 years, and launched the industry’s first online-only channel publication, Channel Pro, in 2009.

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