Mike Brezonick is the publisher of COMPRESSORTECH2, a magazine/website/e-newsletter that covers gas compression technology and applications. He oversees the editorial teams and salespeople for that publication. He is also a senior editor for Diesel Progress and New Power Progress, the newest publication and website that covers alternative power technologies.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
For Diesel Progress, it’s how and when a number of new technologies, such as electrification and vehicle/machine autonomous systems, might make their way into the marketplace. In some cases, it’s being driven by regulatory pressures – large cities in Europe, India and Asia have legislated internal combustion “no fly zones,” some of which will take effect in the middle of the next decade. A lot of trucks, buses, refuse vehicles and even construction and access equipment are used in large metro areas — how capable, ready and reliable will vehicles and equipment using these technologies be when it’s time to go to work? At this point, nobody knows, but everyone is looking hard for answers.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
The December issue of Diesel Progress includes the annual Innovative Uses of Horsepower Report, where we try to find some of the oddest, one-off examples of how people have applied engine power to do something. While there have been some memorable ones — a diesel-powered dinosaur, a buffalo squeezer, an engine-powered duck plucker — my favorite might be about a jet-powered commercial mower. The person who built it ran a major turf equipment company, but he liked to do things to get people’s attention, so he built a commercial mower powered by a compact gas turbine typically used in military helicopters. He ended up giving me one of my all-time favorite quotes: “It’ll probably go about 80, but it doesn’t cut worth a damn much above 50.”
What story or stories are you most proud of?
I’ve done a number of interviews with leaders in the engine, powertrain and equipment industries and I enjoy being able to show the personalities and smarts of the individuals who run these companies. These people tend to have something special about them that enabled them to make it to the top. I like to provide a glimpse of that “secret sauce” to the reader.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
I think it’s important that every story tell the reader a few things they didn’t know. Obviously when writing about new products and technologies, that’s fairly straightforward. But even when it’s about an issue or trend, I try to help the reader see different angles and perspectives than they might normally consider.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
Journalism has been about the only thing I’ve ever done. I started working at a local newspaper when I was 14, worked part-time at newspapers all through college and then after graduating, worked nearly 15 years in daily newspapers before moving to the trades. I had more exposure to engines and machines than the average person when I started at Diesel Progress — my dad was a heavy equipment mechanic and operator — but the learning curve still seemed very daunting until I realized that it was just like getting a new beat on a newspaper. Do your job, talk to people and do a lot of listening and it’s amazing how much you can learn.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
Walking my hounds with my wife, spoiling my grandsons, riding my motorcycle, trying to play golf.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Please have some idea of my publications and my readerships before you make contact. I once had to explain why Diesel Progress wasn’t interested in a story about a new search engine and the agency person was quite upset with me because somewhere he saw that we covered “engines” and didn’t understand why we didn’t want the story. Look at our website or an issue of our magazines and get a feel for what we do. Perhaps look at a BPA statement and see who makes up the readership – what would be important or interesting to them? Then craft your pitch and toss it over. When in doubt, call and ask about it.
Also it would be helpful if you have something specific in mind in terms of a story that would work for my publication. There have been several instances when I’ve gotten a note saying that some high executive at Company X “is available for an interview.” And that’s essentially the entire pitch – no background, no suggestion of what the subject of the interview might be. I once took someone up on that kind of vague proposal and spent 20 minutes on the phone with a senior VP trying to figure out if there was any kind of story there. Ultimately, we both ended up realizing that he didn’t have anything that would be especially germane to my readers. He wasn’t happy about having wasted his time, and even though his time was more valuable than mine, neither was I.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
How much time do you have? Just kidding.
First, see the previous question. Second, please don’t make me have to do all of the work. I routinely get press releases that have very little actual detail (other than the company is “world class,” the subject matter is “industry leading” and of course, “revolutionary”) to the point where I can’t tell if the information is suitable for my audience or not. In a perfect world, I can look at the release and know in seconds whether or not it’s something I can use. It is definitely not a perfect world.
Also, if you put a contact name from the company prompting me to get more specific information from that person, please make sure that person knows that and is responsive. More times than I can count, I’ve reached out to the company contact for more information and just end up hearing crickets.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
I’ve been very lucky – happily married to the same woman for nearly 40 years, always employed by good companies that have allowed me to do what I love. Outside of work, family and friends, I participate in golf, archery, hunting, reading and just enjoying life. A recent health issue has given all the everyday things it’s so easy to take for granted a whole new luster. I’ve had a great ride so far and hope it continues for a while.
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