Q&A with Ellie Burns, editor of CBR

Kewal By Kewal

We recently caught up with Ellie Burns, editor of CBR, to find out more about where the site is going and to get her thoughts on how she likes to work with PRs.

You took on the editor role earlier in the year – congratulations! Could you tell us who’s who at CBR these days and maybe a little about their beats? Sure, I now head up a team with James Nunns now my trusted #2 in his deputy editor role. Tom Ball covers all things fintech and cybersecurity. We recently hired April Slattery who will be taking charge of the new CBR Government site and writing on all things public sector.

What’s all this I hear about CBR Government? Well we saw a little bit of a gap in the market and believed that we could breathe some fresh life into the public sector IT space. The new site will cover all things government – from local councils and national security, to policy and transport. We will be replicating the success of the main CBR site, publishing a mix of latest news, opinion pieces, analysis and interviews.

Any advice for PRs out there that want to pitch stories to CBR? I think it helps a lot when the PR himself/herself is actually enthused about what they are pitching. We can tell when we are your 100th pitch, with the monotone repetitive sell creeping in. Don’t read verbatim from the press release – you are going to send it to me anyway – so tell me something interesting, read between the lines. Hell, even reverse the roles and ask me questions to get me excited about the story you are trying to sell.

Do you find press events and press trips useful? Some are more useful than others. If you are dedicating significant travel and personal time to an event, you expect some fresh news to run or to be put in front of some top people.

Is there any advice you’d give to PRs and vendors on improving how they’d run press trips? Or any horror stories you think people could learn from? I think one of the big issues is that some events are run with no time for the journalists to actually write – you need to give us some space to do our job. Cramming sessions, demos, keynotes, interviews and turns around the show floor into two to three days is all good and well, but you have to remember the reason why we are actually there – it is to write and report. You have us there to give you coverage, so give us time to do that.

What is your biggest frustration with the PR community? I think it’s the old-fashioned press release pitch – reading out the first paragraph of the press release to me before you inevitably send it via email. This is followed closely by follow-up calls to ask if I received an email – yes, email has not mysteriously shut down, I will get back to you if I’m interested.

What is your ideal pitch from a PR? All the good pitches I receive come from PRs who have taken the time to forge a relationship with me, who I can talk about my weekend with or update me with personal news etc. etc. It makes a real difference to have that sort of relationship and I am more likely to action or give feedback to whatever I am pitched.

Do you find that PRs know enough about the tech they are pitching or the issues impacting your audience? Like every industry I suppose, you have some good and some bad. The majority of PRs have a good understanding of what they are pitching, but there are some that need a little more briefing.

Could you tell us a little about the CBR Dining Club? The CBR Dining Club is a chance for senior execs in IT to come together for an off-the-record dinner hosted by a top vendor or organisation. Usually hosted at places like the Savoy and the Dorchester, people get to enjoy a three-course meal while listening and participating in a discussion on a topical IT issue – be it GDPR, cybersecurity or hyperconvergence.