5 Tips for Startup Founders Like Be Nice and Work with Friendly People

Here are five premium pieces of advice offered by the speaker at my tech startup founders Meetup this morning. Alastair Hood, Ph.D., CEO, the founder of utilities analytics startup Verdafero had a unique angle to share. Founded in 2009, the company is web-based software that helps businesses more smartly manage their utility usage. 

What was unique was that Mr. Hood often peppered in comments about being nice and working with friendly people. I liked the tone of that and believe that I was hired several times as a PR consultant because I simply got along well with the marketing or PR leads or founders. 

Here were five key takeaways:

  1. Don’t take money from investors if you can help it. Their vision might not be yours. I’ve heard this time and time again. But my two cents is to scale big time after you gain a bunch of customers, you may need to take money from a trusted source.
  2. Always be nice to people, especially when bootstrapping. You may need a favor from them later. He shared that he ran into Mark Zuckerberg once.
  3. Don’t fall for the Silicon Valley bullsh– story. I believe what he meant was don’t think that starting a company is all glamour and big payouts. You have to work hard, meet with many customers and prospects and take risks.
  4. Look for other avenues to generate revenue while you are developing your solution. Perhaps a customer prospect would be interested in your consulting services while your software as a service or saas software product is being finalized.
  5. Work with people you like. You will spend a lot of time with them. Along the same theme, he added, hire a friendly attorney. I asked if all lawyers who work with startups require a major retainer and the response was, no.

It was seriously refreshing to hear about the importance of collaborating with nice and friendly folks. 

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Michelle McIntyre is the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, an IBM vet and Silicon Valley PR diva. She loves to garner big attention for large and small companies including VC firms and has achieved 11 awards for outstanding results. @FromMichelle on Twitter

Worried About Ageism? Here are 2 Job Hunting Tips from PR Experts

Fifty year public relations industry Vet Gerry Corbett hosted a PRSA-SV talk today called “Ageism in the Workplace is Getting Old” with guest speakers and PR Practitioners Patti Temple Rocks and Scott Monty. 

Patti Temple Rocks is the author of “I’m Not Done. It’s Time to Talk about Ageism in the Workplace.”

Here are stats and advice that was shared: It mostly revolved around applying for jobs.

Ageism is Worse During the Pandemic

Ms. Rocks says that ageism is worse now because companies are cutting budgets during the pandemic; one way to do that is to get rid of the highest paid most experienced people. She added that ageism is rampant in tech and at PR agencies.

The following statistics which come from the website Builtin.com were shared by the moderator. Only 10 percent of people ages 65-69 work. Half of people 55-64 are employed, and half notice ageism when they enter their fifties. 

How can seasoned professionals rise above being viewed as too old?

First, when you look for a job utilize your network. Cold calling a company probably won’t work. In fact one speaker believed that sometimes artificial intelligence algorithms weed out older workers’ applications automatically. If you contact people who know and like you, you’ll have a way better chance. Another speaker commented that even young people get ignored because they didn’t use a friend at the company to get an interview.

Secondly, tailor your resume for each opportunity. This makes sense because if you have been working 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years you have done a whole heck of a lot. Instead of listing everything, choose things that showcase activity and results that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. It’s hard work figuring out what to say and not say but it pays off. And you don’t have to list things chronologically. 

The speakers agreed that ageism at the workplace is common but there are ways around it. Be smart when you reach out to companies for work.

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Michelle McIntyre, the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications, is a seasoned PR industry pro who helps tech companies and their VCs get attention. She has worked at IBM and three PR agencies including WE for Microsoft. @FromMichelle @PRSASV on Twitter

What’s Important To People During This Time of Uncertainty? Community, Gaming, and More

Many people who took a recent survey say a sense of tribe or community is important right now.

Andrea “Andy” Coville, CEO of public relations firm Brodeur Partners, author, and the guest speaker on today’s PRSA-SV Friday Forum, conveyed findings from a survey of around 2,500 U.S. citizens from Gen Z to Boomers about what’s important to them. 

She offered a few summaries like be authentic and a trusted source of information.

Furthermore when you are posting to social media, Coville added, convey information that people tend to agree upon. For example, no one will complain about a picture of your dog. She also said that sustainability is a smart topic to discuss.

I’ll add that there’s no doubt that a quality PR professional can advise in this regard. By the way I worked with Brodeur when I was in a corporate PR department.

Here are 13 points I found most interesting:

  1. A sense of community is very important. Feeling part of a tribe or community is key.
  2. It’s harder to change people’s perceptions right now.
  3. Society overall cares a lot about kindness, honesty and optimism.
  4. Many are discussing new career directions. It looks like Boomers are the least likely to have done this in 2020 though. People are questioning their values right now.
  5. If you are at a nonprofit and asking people for money, keep in mind that people are preoccupied with saving right now. They are giving, e.g. to colleges, which was the fourth top area of giving.
  6. Mentoring is a good gift to give. People will give you a lot of time right now, e.g. as opposed to 2014.
  7. Reliable information is hard to obtain.
  8. Gen Z folks, e.g. a 20 year old, share opinions and news partially to show that they align with a certain group.
  9. Millennials and Gen Xers share information more as a way to call someone out on a bad opinion.
  10. “Food and drink” is the top consumer category that people are loyal to right now.
  11. People tend to hang out with those who share their views. Why join a tribe or group? Friendship was cited as the top reason by 51%.
  12. Attitudes towards and at businesses have changed. This is happening in a bigger way in government, healthcare, branding and diversity and inclusion.
  13. There’s a rise in gaming among millennials, especially females. This was mentioned several times.

Andy Coville summarized her presentation by saying she looks forward to seeing a return to fun in branding. So do I, Andy. So do I.

Andrea Coville photo: WE Magazine

Community photo credit: Canva

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Michelle McIntyre who authored this story is a global technology PR consultant, IBM vet and the volunteer media relations lead for the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America which now includes females: They recently celebrated their first female Eagle Scouts. @FromMichelle on Twitter Also follow @prsasv 

7 Online Event Tips for Marketing and PR Professionals

Here are seven easy to follow video meeting best practices designed to massively improve your next online event. This will also boost the quality of your everyday remote work. The first one will take you “back to the future.”

Ethernet Wire Internet Connection — I first heard of using an Ethernet wire instead of wireless during my son’s freshman year at University of California Berkeley in the dorms. Amazingly, this was just last year. Ethernet is from the 1990s! This Back to the Future-type trick leads to faster and more reliable internet. Then I heard it again from a VLAB volunteer. VLAB has brought their emerging tech panels from in-person to online.

Back to the Future film photo credit: Alamy via BBC

Headset for Audio — Headsets or earbuds bring a microphone closer to the participants mouth. Make sure a headset is charged before an event. 

If Video Quality Fades Switch to All Audio or Phone — Immediately switch to all audio or turn off the online chat and dial in by phone if there is video disruption. Thanks Cisco Webex for this tip.

Shift Your Schedule — Join a video meeting five minutes early. This may mean setting your last meeting to end 15 minutes before the hour.

In Your Face Light Source — Webcams work best with a lot of light. It’s important that it not come from behind the participant like via a window. If there is a window there, close the curtain or shade. A lamp behind a laptop will help brighten a face evenly.

Focus on Eyeline — Placing your webcam at eye level looks best to viewers. Stack books underneath your laptop. This brings the camera more directly in front of the eyes as opposed to below. 

Work Outside the VPN — Turn your virtual private network or VPN off for higher quality online meeting or event service. I found this tip on the Webex website. They are known for security among other things so I’ll take their word for it.

Good luck with your next online meeting. I encourage you to share your tips with others. Thanks go to VLAB Volunteer Ms. Avery Hudson and Cisco’s Webex Collaboration website for these tips. 

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Michelle McIntyre is a Silicon Valley tech PR diva, IBM vet, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, and a long time community volunteer. She’s the media relations lead for the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America and has served on several executive boards including district PTA. 

5 Ways To Stay Motivated as an Entrepreneur

Here are five tips to stay motivated from a Meetup called Bootstrappers Breakfast, a group that fosters early morning entrepreneur discussions. There were ten of us in the Zoom chat the other day: We all participated equally with the discussion led by Sean Murphy.

The challenge as stated was how do you motivate yourself to pursue new clients when you are busy serving old ones? It’s like networking for your next job when you are happily employed. That activity often falls by the wayside.

Here’s what participants had to say.

First, to stay motivated stay organized. Make a task list. One person put his in a Trello board. Another swore by his e-calendar and put all to-dos there. 

The second tip had to do with networking goals. Set up a weekly goal each week, e.g five meetings. Additionally aim to keep catch-up chats to 20 minutes. Super busy people will be more likely to say, “Yes” to 20 minutes instead of an hour.

The third piece of advice was to find a work buddy. Set up a Zoom chat and work together with your friend. State what you are trying to get done and they can ask, how is it going? 

The fourth tip is to attend a peer accountability Meetup. The one the Bootstrap Breakfast participant said he goes to regularly is for entrepreneurs. This reminded me of my book writing class at Stanford. We reported our progress to the instructors and classmates each week. I did finish my book draft by the way.

Tip number five is about reading books on developing good habits. The two recommended were Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Atomic Habits by James Clear. If a habit to spend a certain amount of time each week drumming up new business is formed then there is a much higher chance that goal is achieved.

In summary, find your own personal formula for staying motivated to look for new business even when you have clients. Then you’ll have way less downtime as a consultant or entrepreneur.

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Michelle McIntyre who wrote this story is the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC. An award-winning IBM vet and social media microinfluencer, she invites you to follower her on Twitter @FromMichelle

State of Communications 2020: Leaders Report It’s Not Business as Usual

The Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America Silicon Valley chapter held its Friday Forum today with a panel offering timely updates on the state of communications departments and agencies.

In-house and agency pundits commented on the benefits of PR consulting help that’s fully remote, lack of diversity in the communications c-suite, 2021 spending priorities and mental health challenges.

There were varied answers in response to, how has business changed in 2020?

Jocelyn Breeland, Stanford said there have been communications staff cuts and hiring freezes. She has lost administrative support. A+ for transparency, Ms. Breeland.

Scott Thornburg said a PR leader now wears many hats and many plans went on hold. Now it’s time to rebuild.

Shaun Fletcher, PhD summed it up nicely, “We can no longer move forward as business as usual.”

His main concern seemed to be the added mental health challenges of people of color. He asks, can we do a better job as communicators telling those particular challenges and stories?

2021 spending priorities 

Ms. Aarti Shah who has been reporting on the communications industry since 2007 for PRovoke, formerly The Holmes Report discussed survey results released in August about 2021 spending priorities. 

The top five spending areas communications leaders in house will focus on are first corporate reputation, followed by second place public relations. Social media, in particular organic, was third on the list. Content development ranked fourth followed by employee engagement/change management. 

Lack of c-suite diversity

Shah was clearly bothered by the lack of diversity and people of color in the communications c-suite. Others chimed in on that topic. Jazmin Eusebio said when she started at her current communication job, she was shocked to not find anyone who looked like herself: “There were a lot of white faces. But now we have made huge strides.”

Syreeta Mussante seemed the most frank about lack of management diversity. She said that in her experience San Francisco firms have done a better job at employing and promoting nonwhite males than San Jose companies. 

Mussante mentioned that some agency managers clearly frowned upon female workers having children. (I’m pretty sure she was talking about a previous job.)

A representative from Highwire PR mentioned that they were hiring more diverse candidates. 

On remote work

Curtis Sparrer who runs a PR firm that’s been remote from its inception said that right now publicists are more accessible than they ever have been. He added that the high touch fluff activities mostly have gone away: there is more time to focus and be attentive to clients. 

Sparrer seemed the most positive of the bunch maybe because he was already remote, which I can relate to. I’ve been a remote PR professional for well over a decade. When Covid hit, I thought, it’s almost business as usual for me.

Although I’ve been remote a while, I do miss the in-person networking. I fondly remember sipping wine with PR friends at Santana Row pre-Covid.

Besides Fletcher mentioning the special mental health challenges of people of color, most PRSA-SV panel participants did not dive deep into the topic.

To sign up for the next PRSA-SV panel, visit the group’s page on Eventbrite. Go here to join PRSA.

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This story is by Silicon Valley PR Consultant Michelle McIntyre. An IBM vet and Eagle Scout mom, Ms. McIntyre serves as the volunteer media relations lead for the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America. @FromMichelle on Twitter

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21 PR Tips For Stunning Results in 2021

Here it is. My annual public relations tips advice story geared towards technology startup founders and public relations practitioners. Times have changed with press interviews and events going online and ongoing industry consolidation. Most of these tips are evergreen so if you are reading them in 2022, the majority will still apply.

  1. Use listacles and other evergreen content marketing tools often. Listacles like “3 ways to Be a Better Boss” and “10 Tried and True Methods for a Smoother Digital Transformation” share better on social media than say a software product update. 
  2. Add product reviews as part of your PR tactic repertoire. My favorite B2C technology media outlet is CNET. I placed a few reviews over the years including one for PumpUp community fitness app. CNET has great reach and the staff members are respectful.
  3. Write exceptional press releases. Don’t make them too long and fight the urge to include meaningless drab quotes. If your CEO is asking you to insert jargon like “mission critical” explain why you should not.
  4. Build new relationships with journalists. Try to find ways to connect a bit on a personal level but in a respectful normal manner. Maybe you ask an authentic question via Twitter. Don’t try this with the cranky ones though. Warning. Most people hate Twitter DMs.
  5. Create a tight smart media list. I was hired as a consultant by a Silicon Valley PR agency that pulled one of those big 100 item lists from Cision. I quickly identified 10 key writers I liked from the big list, and confirmed they were still in their roles via their Twitter profiles. I scheduled an interview that same day. It was with Venturebeat and the story was excellent.
  6. Identify your best story angle. Is the company the first, best or biggest at something? If yes and you use the angle, make sure you have a credible source backing up the claim. 
  7. Pitch the story at the right time of the day. You can sometimes find a comment from a writer online about when they loved to be pitched, e.g. 4 to 5 pm their time. If you have news to release and want to reach the East Coast folks first thing and you are in California, consider working super early morning your time to reach out. 
  8. Keep in mind diversity and inclusion (D&I). Edelman PR which has 95,000 Twitter followers has consistently only spread messages that push “D&I” in the past week. If you are reading this months or years from now, it’s the middle of September 2020.
  9. Read PR news and trends websites at least monthly, e.g. Ragan’s PR Daily is highly regarded. I like Ragan’s different sections like writing. I just figured out The Holmes Report is now PRovoke. A little tricky to say and remember but catchy.
  10. Secure your brand name across all social media platforms. If you are starting out in PR consulting and pick an LLC brand name, e.g. mine is Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC then immediately take “ownership” of the Twitter profile with that name if possible. 
  11. Do proactive PR so your image is built before an image crisis hits. When there is a scandal e.g. employee lawsuit or patent infringement complaint and those are common in tech, if your company already has a good reputation you may do better in court.
  12. Track what’s being said about your company and competitors. Google Alerts is the least expensive way to do this. It’s also very good. If you want to supercharge your efforts, pay some bucks for Meltwater. That system gives you a nice overview of almost real time of how much attention you’ve garnered.
  13. Have a company policy about what your employees can post online. When I was with IBM social business business unit, the company was the first in the industry to set up community posting guidelines. 
  14. Read inspirational writings like books by Guy Kawasaki. I’m a fan of Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global site. She always pushes the unique message that getting enough sleep will make your life much higher quality. My PR friend Libra White at Lam Research always touts business books via audio. She can listen during long drives.
  15. Know how you compare to the competition. Use a spreadsheet if needed. Don’t say, “We have no competitor.” That’s annoying. Does anyone have no competitor? Once you know the competition you can do better PR for your company.
  16. Be present on Twitter and make people can find you there. Build up minimum 100 followers. I recently met with a PR director of a tech company. I could not find him on Twitter. Respect was lost as a result.
  17. Be aware of other major news at the time you are pitching yours. I just read a months old posting by Lumina PR about a webinar that featured speakers like Eric Savitz from Barrons. The topics which were always present at the time were coronavirus, racial unrest and the upcoming presidential election. By the way, now in September it’s still true. Question for tech PR buddies: have you ever done a product launch on Apple Computer announcement day? That’s always “fun.” Tip: pick a different day than Apple news day.
  18. Take a PR-related class every couple of years, e.g. through Coursera, which is free learning. The one I’m looking at now is from Ivy League school University of Pennsylvania. It’s on influencer marketing. Apparently I’m a ranked influencer in future of work, number 89 out of 100 on social media (Onalytica 2018 report: download the report to see my name.). Now I’d like to learn more about doing some influencing for pay beyond what I’ve done with Microsoft’s former agency not too long ago. I blogged on their collaboration website working for 1000Heads. They post my stories with Microsoft Teams adds. They paid me for writing.
  19. Do PR for yourself once in a while. If you are a PR pro working for or consulting for a company, get some press for yourself too. Personal branding is good for your CEO and your own business and/or career. I’ve worked late nights and weekends on my own press and have built up a few nice stories, e.g. I made a list in a Ragan story by Frank Strong. It was on the top underrated PR professionals to follow on Twitter. I was number three out of 50.
  20. Always subscribe to a top business journal; and change up subscriptions once in a while. I like to switch from Wall Street Journal to New York Times, like, one year get NYT and the next subscribe to WSJ. Note that people who work for PR agencies or big corporations with deep pockets can subscribe to many. As a freelancer it’s hard to budget for all of them. I like that Business Insider is online only.
  21. Update your headshot photos. Schedule a new headshot for your CEO and yourself if you haven’t done that in the past five years. Paul Sakuma is a quality Silicon Valley photographer for hire. He used to be the local Associated Press wire photographer in San Jose. Also I’d like to thank Paul Sakuma for donating a bunch of time to nonprofit VLAB a while back. I’m VLAB’s main blogger and he took some awesome executive headshots for us. Mark Hundley is also one of my favorite photographers. 

Read this PR tips list every once in a while to refresh your PR game. Despite life’s roller coaster ups and downs right now which include California fires and pandemic office closures, if you work smartly and stay flexible you’ll do quite well in your career. 

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Michelle McIntyre, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC is an IBM vet and award winning Silicon Valley PR diva. She’s the volunteer media relations lead for Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America and ranked 89 out of 100 on Onalytica’s 2018 Future of Recruiting influencers list. She was named 2017 VLAB volunteer of the year. Follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle.

3 Premium Tips to Perfecting the Popular But Perplexing Press Release

How to best write and finalize a stunning press release has challenged a plethora of marketing and media relations folks since the early days of formal public relations. Setting aside things like  the Common Sense pamphlet which stirred up anti-British sentiment before the Boston Tea Party, modern PR actually started in the early 1900s. This is when companies first hired PR practitioners to properly publicize their products and services.

creditstefanscheufelensite

[Photo credit: Musicians and singers pose at the opening of the Operatic Liberty Loan Offices at Aeolian Hall, New York City on June 5, 1917. Edward Bernays, the mustached man on the left originated the first press release. Photo is from Stefan Scheufelen’s blog. ] 

Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays is often called the father of PR.

According to PR textbooks, he said that audiences had to be thoughtfully understood and persuaded to see things from the “client’s perspective.” Well yes, and also, no.

What’s happened in the technology business at both startups and big brand names is the client’s perspective has gone too far. If the media’s perspective was more deeply considered results would improve in a profound fashion.

In tech, the biggest problem seems to be product managers who push the team to publish me too technology updates. A company mentions it has cloud computing solutions but then years later announces its first cloud-based product. This is the type of thing that turns off reporters. Someone who hears this confusing message will roll their eyes and ignore your email pitch. Yes, mention the link to cloud. But maybe the focus should be a problem it can solve, cool analogy, link to a more mainstream trend or a neat beta case study.

Reporters are humans like anyone else. If PR practitioners can make their press releases appeal more to the average person by talking about something truly interesting and timely while linking the theme to hard company news, like a significant new product update or acquisition, there would be way better results.

Here are three other tips to consider:

1) Keep it brief. There are two advantages: there is a higher chance that a writer who receives hundreds press releases a day will actually read it. The second advantage is cost. If you use a service like Cision PR Newswire you can cut the cost in half with a shortened release. eReleases is another cost-effective option by the way.

2) Make your headline direct. Tell the news plainly. If you have to dress it up too much, hide the real news, or it’s taking too long to edit properly maybe the message you want to tell would make a better blog story or letter to customers and prospects.

3) Know your ultimate goal. It’s probably not to have the press release reproduced on 100 random websites, although that is a nice SEO boost. Marketing loves exposure even if it’s not the perfect feature story saying your product is the best and your company’s future looks bright. Your goal is to convince a reporter to call you with questions for a story.

Good luck with your next press release and remember, journalists are humans. They like thought-provoking words and storytelling just like anyone else.

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Michelle McIntyre, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC is an award-winning Silicon Valley PR diva and IBM vet known for making B2B tech solutions sexy. @FromMichelle on Twitter

PR Advice for Tech Startup Founders With One of A Kind Products

by Michelle McIntyre

As a seasoned public relations professional, I’ve enjoyed many productive and passionate discussions with genius technologists who want their “one of a kind” startup product covered by the media.

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Here’s a tip for inventors. Quality feature stories are written because something is societally relevant, interesting cocktail conversation fodder or a unique problem solver. Journalists do want to know, how will this change the world?

During an initial consultation with a founder usually I start out by asking what is different about their new product or service.  Sadly 75 percent of the time the answer is, “There is no other product like ours.” And it’s hard to respond without objection because  99 percent of the time that’s not true. Usually I can find an example of several similar products via a simple internet search.

The secret to a company getting coverage is simple. Leave the ego at the door. Quit thinking a product is the only one of its kind and ask others like an experienced PR professional what is really interesting about your story.

One founder I met with was finalizing an app that tracked a child’s to-do list. I searched and found another app that made the exact same claim. They in turn switched to a communications plan that made more sense having to do with showcasing their expertise in productivity instead of touting its uniqueness. It had a beautiful interface by the way.

Another tip is when you share information with the person you have assigned PR to don’t hold back on the good stuff. One founder I worked with waited a few weeks to disclose he was born with a serious medical problem and had several surgeries to correct it. Through diet and exercise he overcame it. His online fitness community he created was partly born because of this rough start in life. As soon as he told me, I told a Business Insider writer. She liked this angle about the founder and wrote a feature about him and his co-founder.

This app was also quite unique though. It weeded out bully comments automatically. That in fact was an impressive feature and resulted in nice coverage in TIME. But when you start with a claim, that a new product is super unique, unless you have a third party expert saying it, it’s usually a turn-off to writers.

To quote Journalist Dean Takahashi via a story he filed on PR tips in Venturebeat a few years ago, “What I love is finding something unique and interesting to write about. I want to find something magical, and I think most journalists, even the most cynical of the bunch, share the joy of discovering something really cool. Sometimes the real story isn’t the game itself. It’s the person who made it.”

I don’t mean to call out a founder who is a hard working, award-winning and an obviously smart inventor. The point is be very careful about telling someone your product is one of a kind. It probably is not.

I worked with a brilliant technologist with an artificial intelligence startup who wrote a celebrated technical paper years before the formation of the company. The technological phenomenon discussed in the paper was “in” iPhone’s Siri. When I pitched a writer I started with that detail, its impact on technology that tens of millions of people use. (Last I checked around 41 million people used the Siri voice assistant.)

This business reporter filed a story soon after. And that story focused on the startup solution, the funding and its venture capitalist. But the hook was the impact of what was in that paper.

In summary, journalists get pummeled with hundreds of pitches and press releases a day. Make sure you leave your ego at the door when talking to them: test your story line or pitch on a friend or family member to see if they say, “That’s interesting.”

Let others decide what’s interesting about your startup story, trust their feedback and go with it. Be careful going down the path of saying it’s a one of a kind product. It likely is not.

Photo: Shutterstock

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a seven year old tech PR consulting firm. She’s the recipient of 11 awards for outstanding results mostly from IBM. She’s held numerous nonprofit executive board positions focused on enhancing the lives of children. @frommichelle on Twitter

 

3 Ways to Stink at PR And How To Improve

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Some people just stink at PR for example by offering boring spokespersons. As background, PR stands for “public relations” which typically means getting press coverage. It’s coming up with messages and then passing those on to the press. If you went to PR school like me you learn that what PR really means is changing someone’s mind about something. But the modern definition is media relations.

Great PR is about knowing journalists’ wants, needs and deadlines and actually doing what they ask. It’s so simple: learn what they want and give it to them. For example the IDG media will tell you they value CIO/chief information officer viewpoints on timely trends as well as customer case studies that are interesting and relevant. Henry Norr, formerly with the San Francisco Chronicle said something that stuck with me: “Your client is the media. It’s not the company that pays you. Make the media happy and you will do well in PR.”

Back to not giving reporters what they want. How many times have I seen a PR manager or director try to put a triangular peg into a round hole? The journalist wants a story: they want to discuss a problem and a solution relating to something timely. They want eyeballs on their story. Make sure what you pitch them falls within their beat. If they need to interview a venture capitalist by 4 pm about hot collaboration startups then by golly, get them that exact thing or keep quiet.

What is too common is bad PR people announce a third generation me-too beta product via long press release just to get some news out. It fills up journalists’ inboxes. It gets ignored. It makes it far less likely that they will open an email from that PR person again.

I watch some people crash and burn in their PR jobs by never innovating on what the marketing lead wants which is typically product advertising and churning out press release after press release of garbage.

What are the three main problems contributing to bad PR, and how can you avoid them?

1) Spokespersons cannot tell a story. I have 30 years of PR experience and a boat load of awards for results mostly from IBM. I can lead a horse to water but brothers and sisters, I cannot make them drink. If you are insisting on a boring spokesperson who cannot story-tell or your only key message is boring, you will not get a story. I repeat. An interview does not mean a story. A spokesperson can easily kill a story. I’m very good at securing interviews. If you blow it, I can’t save you. How to fix it: do better media training or use a different spokesperson. When I was working with a large company often I’d “hand pick” my own spokesperson even if they were the non obvious choice. Once in a while the obvious choice was the best one though. (I love when that happens. There was a sales VP in a software division who could story-tell like Burl Ives. He was my favorite.)

2) A boring press release. Issuing a news release with boring non-news will get you blacklisted by some writers. They will open one blah press release and probably ignore your next email. Another route to take: If you need to get something out there so your company gets attention, try a feature press release instead of saying you are on your fourth product version, or “Here’s our beta product.”  Make it an interesting story: tie to something happening in the world that is conversation-worthy. Test the story on a family member. Teens will give you candid advice. I can make a commodity technology product interesting by discussing something interesting related to it. The writer then has a real headline and angle. Did you really expect them to write a story saying, “So and so company announces a second generation beta product with no new technology that is not shipping yet”? If they wrote the truth you’d probably be pretty angry. Unfortunately those types of details are often hidden in press releases. The writer finds this out in an interview and then they drop the idea of doing a story.

3) Re-announcing something. Years ago as a consultant I was asked to pitch a story about a new division of a large Asian company opening  up in the Silicon Valley. I placed a nice story within 30 minutes which made everyone happy. However, I found out a little while later that this was the second time they announced this exact news. Now I did  place that story, a win, but the reporter took my word for it and filed fast. After she found out it had been issued previously she was a bit put off. No one else filed a story. Now I know to do an internet search for that news before I pitch it. If I see an old press release on the same news, I change up the way I talk about it. Perhaps it’s a news pitch, “A look at where this new division is six months later.” The way to prevent this: search the news online before taking someone’s word for it that it is news. If  it’s not change your pitch strategy and tactic.

 

 

So if you aren’t getting press coverage, ask yourself, am I giving journalists what they really want? And review your press release schedule and choice of spokesmen. Tell an interesting story or discuss a trend. Pick the non obvious person to tell it if necessary.

Making a simple change might save your PR program and your job.

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Michelle McIntyre gets attention for companies mostly in the technology space through creative press relations and content marketing. An IBM vet, she’s a micro-influencer on Twitter in the area of future of work and recipient of more than 10 awards for outstanding results. Follow her @FromMichelle