About Michelle McIntyre

Award-winning tech public relations consultant and blogger based in the Silicon Valley

Thou Shalt Follow These 10 PR Commandments

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A commandment is defined as a divine rule. If you want to be a devout public relations professional, follow these 10 PR commandments in 2020.

Thou shalt spell check PR materials. Let pitch notes, press releases, client reports, blog stories, speeches, video scripts and so on sit overnight. Proofread it again in the morning or have someone else look at it. Sometimes editors will share an error-filled pitch or press release over social media to showcase poor communication that they have received.

Thou shalt keep thy PR message brief. Pitches more than 250 words might be hard for a top tier writer to comprehend. Some writers receive 400+ email pitches a day. Get to your point concisely.

Thou shalt surprise thy journalist. When you write a press release, ask yourself, did you include something new, interesting or surprising? Did you explain how it would improve someone’s life or improve a business process?

Thou shalt have a PR coverage goal. When you set out to garner attention for a company, concept or product, set a success bar. How much attention is considered successful? For example, your goal could be one feature print story, two TV news spots and five million impressions.  A tool like Meltwater could help.

Thou shalt not annoy an editor with too much follow up. Too many follow up messages might get you blacklisted by a writer. Use logic when following up. Instead of asking, did you receive the pitch note, ask something else like, are you back from holiday? Or, how was the trade show?

Thou shalt not abuse a mobile phone number. When a writer gives you their mobile phone number, don’t call it unless the situation is urgent. Typically people now can receive an email or direct social media message pretty quickly.

Thou shalt read a recent story by the writer before pitching. Read a recent story by the journalist before reaching out. If you don’t see any stories published in the past couple of years, they may not be worth your time. Maybe they took a job in PR, which is common these days. The exception is someone who edits but doesn’t have bylines. But lately it seems that editors publish as well.

Thou shalt not pitch via public Twitter profile. Journalists like scoops. They are not likely to discuss a solid story idea over their Twitter account for the competition to see. Some read direct messages but to send them a message they have to be following you. So it helps to have a quality Twitter profile and messages.

Thou shalt listen to what the writer wants. If a writer wants to only talk to customers and not the CEO, don’t keep offering interviews with the CEO.

Thou shalt say, “no” and add “try this instead.” When the lead marketing executive demands that you issue a press release on a drab, me-too, follow-on product, don’t be a yes man or woman. Offer a better idea like production of a video featuring a happy customer of the first product. Or write a pitch featuring a happy customer and success story: offer the customer as an interview source to a favorite writer. Mention the new product briefly as an aside.

Save the in-depth new product description for direct communications with customers and prospects and/or the right social media channels.

Boy praying photo:  Shutterstock

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Michelle McIntyre, an award-winning IBM vet and blogger is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a tech PR consulting firm in the Silicon Valley. McIntyre has served on several  nonprofit boards and was named VLAB Volunteer of the Year in 2017 for her marketing and blogging efforts. @FromMichelle on Twitter

 

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Succeed In 2020 With These 9 PR Tips

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To succeed in public relations and marketing communications you must stay on top of the trends. Here are 9 timely tips from the experts designed to help startup founders be successful in 2020. They cover keeping it personal, conveying timely messages, using visuals that pop, how to stick with a writing goal, the importance of content marketing and  teaming with other PR professionals.

Here are my favorite PR tips for 2020 and the expert associated with each:

1) Use easy-to-understand visuals that pop when storytelling.

Who’s the expert? @LouHoffman of @Daily Brew aka #IshmaelsCorner blog

The first tip comes from Lou Hoffman, head of Hoffman Communications. Hoffman loves incorporating visuals when conveying a message. More specifically he advises, “Dress up the company timeline as a storytelling vehicle.” And do this in an easy to understand attractive way. I particularly liked his advice to not make infographics too busy or overly complicated. A company timeline could become a bear image if not managed right, for example, don’t make someone tilt their head sideways to read a timeline. Hoffman has done a decent job establishing his agency as a top one in the Silicon Valley with a very strong presence globally especially in Asia. He’s also a really good speaker.

2) Be timely in your PR messages. 

Who’s the expert? Melissa DiMercurio @StantonComm

This tip comes (indirectly) from Stanton Communications a PR firm serving corporations, industry associations and not for profits globally. As I was looking up hot PR trends online I came across a super timely December blog post by Melissa DiMercurio on the Stanton website with the headline, “Iced Holiday Beverage, Peloton Backlash, Baby Yoda and More.” I was impressed they just blogged about very current image related news hitting all of the key words and saying intelligent things. A lot of time people blog about something more evergreen or out of date. They were quick and smart enough to write something that was timely that day and get it published fast. Nice.

3) Add a human element to your PR campaign.

Who’s the expert? @Jalila as quoted in @AdAge

Jalila Levesque of a company called FF said in a recent blog post, “In a world that’s becoming increasingly ruled by algorithms and robots, PR strategy must be driven by emotion and have that human element to be more meaningful and lead to a growing focus on expert, local and enthusiastic micro-influencers, instead of macro-influencers.”

Yes, we keep hearing that PR needs to focus on analyzing results using digital tools and incorporate more AI, yadda yadda yadda and so on. But behind all the digital activity that might include Meltwater, Sprout, Cision or Hootsuite tools, keep the human touch alive.

4) Share knowledge with other PR professionals.

Who’s the expert? Hailey Johnson of @ThreeSixtyEight

Hailey Johnson recently said in a 2020 AdAge trends article, “PR professionals and marketers working together and sharing knowledge is the new trend.” She adds that if a PR pro has a specific capability you don’t have, hire them to help.

I agree. I reviewed all of the ways I got new business since I became a consultant: surprisingly a significant portion came through key PR contacts either via referral or through directly hiring me for a project. Stay in touch with your PR friends by joining @PRSA or inviting people to lunch. It’s also fun hanging around your PR peers.

5) See PR as part of the big marketing campaign.

Who’s the expert? Vicki Ho, Movement Strategy 

Vicki Ho of Movement Strategy a “social-led creative agency” said recently in an AdAge 2020 trends story, “One of the most important trends I’m seeing within public relations on the agency side is the value the industry is placing on our strategic role within a larger marketing campaign, rather than just being valued for the end results.” Her firm has done campaigns for Party City, Netflix, Under Armor and others. I’ll add, think about how you fit into the whole picture and create ideas from that perspective.

6) Use a thesaurus when writing.

Who’s the expert? Laura Hale Brockway via a Ragan @PRDaily quote

Laura Hale Brockway likes to write about writing. In mathematical terms she’s like writing squared. Her recently story caught my eye that listed 50 alternatives to the word “excited.” This is a great headline because marketing and PR people use “excited” as a default in press release quotes, e.g. “Our two awesome companies are excited about collaborating on this project.” Ugh. Don’t do this.

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Hale Brockway says, “A thesaurus can come in handy when crafting a press release, especially when using the same old words. Here is a list to help strengthen your pitching vocabulary.” I agree. Shoot down those overused starting-to-sound-meaningless words in favor of more expressive writing like “eager,” “thrilled” or “animated.” This takes risk so my other advice is to be brave.

7) Content marketing will be the queen bee of 2020.

Who’s the expert? Michelle McIntyre MMC PR @FromMichelle

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Content marketing is going to be the queen bee in 2020. It’s the top way to garner attention for your business. Here are some ideas about how to do it. Blog about advice related to your industry.  Blog about trends in software as a service, AI, quantum computing, future of work, collaboration, printer security, or whatever problem your company helps solve.

The problem is wanna-be bloggers have trouble with headlines and deadlines. Headlines are what you are going to write about. A PR expert can advise you on that. But, how do you achieve deadline goals? We all know it’s smart to write on a regular basis like six or 12 times per year. Simply set up a reward or hammer system. If you write six blog stories over six months reward yourself with a monthly subscription to a new streaming video channel like Hallmark or Hulu.

A hammer is more of a self-punishment. Laura Hale Brockway advises how to achieve writing deadlines via hammers in her Impertinent Remarks blog. She said if you don’t make your writing deadline get creative, for example, force yourself to donate to a political campaign you are against. That’s innovative for sure but on this end I will stick to rewards.

8) Become a thought leader in your industry on something specific.

Who’s the expert? @WendyMarx, Author and President of Marx Communications

Wendy Marx says be a thought leader on something specific in your industry to garner attention. She elaborates in a LinkedIn story, “At first, many people make the mistake of claiming expertise in everything. But realistically, it’s just not possible. Especially in the beginning, it’s important to focus on one main area.”

She’s right. From a PR standpoint if you stand for everything and are all over the place no one knows why they should buy your product, hire you or interview you for a feature story. Tell a prospect, “I offer a freemium consumer app that tells you the least expensive parking space available now in San Francisco” instead of “I make busy people’s lives easier.”

9) Public relations are personal relations.

Who’s the expert? Warren H. Cohn, @WarCo1 of @herald_PR via @Forbes Council

Warren H. Cohn who started a couple of communications firms elaborates on keeping communications personal in a recent Forbes Council post: “For PR specialists to thrive, they must research their target audience and deliver personal messages.”

He’s right. Spray and pray PR pitches often fail. In a world where everyone depends on technology to communicate, break down digital walls to keep business personal, and your results will reflect your efforts.”  As a side note, even though Forbes Council stories are paid content, some of the advice is quite good.

I agree with this especially in this age of “automate everything.” Yes, I believe in digital transformation and incorporating tools like artificial intelligence, but not at the expense of developing relationships with people.

In summary, some of the PR trends to utilize for success in 2020 include visual storytelling, hyper personalizing, more content marketing, seeing PR as part of the big picture and being specific in your thought leadership message.

What trends do you see?

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About the author: Michelle McIntyre is founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a seven year old Silicon Valley public relations consulting firm. An IBM PR vet, she holds 11 awards for outstanding results. @fromMichelle on Twitter

Photo credits:

2020 Road image: Shutterstock

Thesaurus image: Canva

Michelle McIntyre image: Michelle McIntyre

 

 

 

The First 3 Steps in A Startup’s PR Journey

Publicity matters to your company because it affects reputation and influence and this might surprise you: it also boosts *SEO.

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Because of this, quality media exposure needs to be at the top of every startup founder’s priority list.

Let’s face it. It’s hard to hire and acquire customers without it. Before prospective employees decide to apply for a job, they look up a company online and check out what others are saying. If a company has had coverage, they are perceived as more important to the world.

So what’s a startup to do? There are many tactics to try. Here are three to start with.

1) MAKE AT LEAST FOUR MEDIA LISTS

Junior PR people usually get put on media list compilation duty when they serve a new client at PR agency. Long time clients usually have their lists compiled and updated already. When I worked at a PR agency in Palo Alto, California, in the early 90s at first I spent about half my time working with a database of about 5,000 journalists for a whole agency. This helped me learn how to build and maintain a quality list.

Early stage startup CEOs and their marketing VPs just beginning their PR journeys usually start with list making. And one just won’t do.

Here the types lists you might need: journalists and analysts attending your next conference. Top five to 10 industry-specific publications and newsletters. Thirdly, your regional list. Is there a local news journal that covers companies like yours? Like here it’s the Silicon Valley Business Journal. If you are in Dallas, it’s the Dallas Business Journal.

Lastly make your stretch list. Which media outlets are your absolute favorites? What is your dream headline and where do you want to see it? Did you always want to be quoted in Fortune? If you know what you want, you have a better chance of getting it.

2) ISSUE NEWS

Keep in mind your news does not have to be in the form of a press release. Write a 300-500 story and publish it on LinkedIn or Medium. Post it on your website. Write a few paragraphs and email it with tailored cover notes to 10 key journalists. Make sure it’s hard news. That means real news with details.  As an aside there are things called feature releases but you have to be experienced at PR to be successful with one of those.

The biggest journalist complaint is lack of details. If you are announcing a new product, say ship date and cost. If you have vaporware consider not issuing news about it. Try not to go “backwards” on this tactic. Don’t say, “We need to make some news. What can we issue a press release on?” Read what the local business journal people are writing about. It may surprise you. For example, a writer may be interested that you doubled your office space. They may not care that IDG gave you a newbie award.

3) INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO KEY JOURNALISTS

There are many ways to do this. But keep in mind that they are busy. A Venturebeat writer who covers tech news told me on average he files five news stories each day. That’s really busy.

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You can meet writers at a trade show by walking up and saying, “Hello.” You can go on a multi-city press tour: meet two journalists in four cities and tell them about your company.  You can send a personalized note to a handful of key reporters in your industry as well as a couple of regional ones. Ask, would you like to have a cup of coffee over a 10 minute get-to-know conversation? Say you are new to reaching out to the press and wanted to start out on the right foot.

Note that it’s easier to set up a meeting if you have a high title like CEO, are in a super interesting industry or have some hard news to discuss. Do not send a mass email though. That’s tacky and journalists can tell that when it’s happening.

An infographic in a 2019 Wendy Marx @WendyMarx blog post says mass email blasts are the sixth most offensive act a PR person can commit against a journalist. 

That’s about the gist of it. If you are starting out on your publicity journey do three things: make your lists, issue your news and then introduce yourself.

And if you don’t have time, hire a PR consultant or agency to help.

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*SEO is search engine optimization. When people search for what solution you provide you want your company name to come up high in the search. According to a January 24, 2018 blog post by Dorothy Crenshaw @dorocren “7 Reasons Why PR Matters,” “Established publications that link to a brand will boost search listings due to the sheer power of their digital domains.”

This PR tips article was written by Silicon Valley PR Consultant and President of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC Michelle McIntyre. She’s an IBM PR vet and was recognized as #3 top PR pro to follow on Twitter in November of 2018 (Ragan.com). @FromMichelle Business2community syndicates her PR blog.  The two images used for this story were purchased from Shutterstock.

Two PR Trends Percolating Right Now; PR Industry Growth Holds Steady at 5%

In case you missed it The Holmes Report reported in April that public relations industry growth held steady at about 5%. Here’s an excerpt from their story on this followed by two warm PR trends I see driving demand.

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“The research reveals that the Top 250 PR firms reported fee income of around $12.3bn in 2018, compared to $11.7bn for last year’s Top 250 ranking. That growth was underpinned by a rebound from the world’s Top 10 PR firms, which improved their toplines by 4.9% on a constant currency basis, compared to +3.3% in 2017, led by strong performances from BlueFocus (up 10.8% in constant currency terms), Brunswick (+7.7%), Ogilvy (+9.6%), FleishmanHillard (+6%) and Weber Shandwick (+5%).” (The Holmes Report, April 29, 2019)

That’s steady growth. But not remarkable.

Taking the what-is-happening-in-PR conversation further, here are two warm PR developments driving this growth. I’ll explain: either CMOs are hiring agencies and consultants to run campaigns focusing on these things, or the agency folks are recommending them to clients. I say “warm” not “hot” because these trends have been percolating for a while now.

Two warm PR trends right now:

  • THE RISE OF THE MICRO-INFLUENCER: PR professionals and their marketing counterparts are more aware of and paying more quality attention to those social media folks who have tens of thousands of followers. Companies like Tom’s of Maine and Banana Republic have especially been paying attention to this new frontier of marketing according to PR Daily. I like this definition from PR Daily:

Micro-influencers have more followers than most people—typically in the 1,000 to 100,000 range—but fewer than celebrities and established luminaries in fashion, entertainment or sports. They tend to have a very engaged, loyal fanbase in niche B2B or consumer categories, and they are affordable even for small organizations. Superstars might have more reach, but they have less time to engage with fans.  -(PR Daily, The Rise of Micro-Influencer Marketing, 2017)

  • GENDER EQUALITY AS A KEY FOCUS: With the Me Too movement being so prominent in most of our business lives — every day and sometimes hourly it seems — it’s not surprising that communications campaigns focus on treating women with respect. There are many aspects to this: paying them what men make, hiring more women and putting more on an executive board.

Here’s an example: Intel constantly mentions its focus on the importance of hiring more women. I see press articles quoting them saying this, for example, “Intel’s New Diversity Chief On the Secrets to Hiring and Retaining,” (San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 29, 2018) and friends have told me that Intel hiring managers have told them this.

In fact one male friend told me, “I talked to Intel about working there but the hiring guy said, unless you are a female, forget it. You won’t get hired.” Well that’s a little extreme and I’m not sure those were the words verbatim but as a women I’m generally okay with the idea. By the way, my friend got a job with an Intel competitor.

I do hope Intel actually did hire more women. I haven’t looked up their actual progress in that respect. I did read that they made huge progress in gender pay equality.

As an aside and while keeping with the theme of respecting women, oddly the PR industry still has a long way to go in pay equality. A 2016 PRWeek survey says that a male executive makes $125,000 while a female makes $45,000 less at $80,000. To quote Austin Powers, “Crikey!”

Oh and if it’s a PR pro in the Silicon Valley or San Francisco Bay Area, expect all of those numbers to be a lot higher. Everything costs more here and usually people get paid accordingly. To me $80,000 is more of a junior PR person’s salary. Managers and directors in the Bay Area should be paid over $120,000. Nonprofit publicists make a lot less of course; some work pro bono.

There are many other PR industry developments that go along with this steady growth reported by the fine folks at The Holmes Report. I will be writing about those in coming weeks.

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, a 6-year old Silicon Valley PR consulting firm. She’s an IBM vet with more than 10 awards for outstanding PR results, most in B2B tech, and a closetful more for community service. She’s considered a #collaboration and #futureofwork micro-influencer; as part of this she blogs for the Microsoft website from time to time. Follow her at @FromMichelle

The Holmes Report on the growth of the PR industry story, April 2019, is here.

PRWeek 2016 salary survey is here.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

My 7 Absolute Favorite PR Trends for 2019

I zealously perused several impressive 2019 public relations trend articles and tips today. Here are my seven favorite tips. Most of them list who said it and an associated Twitter handle.

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Some of them are evergreen; others are more timely.  Happy reading!

1) Create your own news.

“Creating news that promotes thoughtful discussion of your brand is possible by commenting or riding on the waves of current news.”

Source: Critical Mention Blog

Follow @criticalmention

2) Artificial intelligence will continue to be a theme.

“AI will continue to be a theme in the new year, as we get a clearer idea of the role it will play and how it can help enhance what PR pros do.”

Who said it: Michelle Garrett

Source: Meltwater Blog

Follow @Meltwater and @PRisUS

3) The micro-influencer finally gets some respect in PR.

“I’m thinking that 2019 will be the year that the micro-influencer finally gets some respect in PR, particularly for those who toil in the B2B sphere.”

Who said it: Lou Hoffman, CEO, Hoffman Agency

Source: Meltwater Blog

Follow @LouHoffman

4) The lines between marketing, PR and fake news blur.

“Another big challenge is how to produce effective storytelling as the lines between marketing and PR blur and fake news and fact continue to battle it out.”

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Who said it: Melissa Hoffmann, Editor, PR News

Source: B2B PR Sense blog

Follow @WendyMarx

5) You can’t wield influence with freebies.

“We all know you can’t wield influence with cookies or taco lunches. You’re not buying a journalist’s favor by doing what most business folks do on a daily basis. But don’t shower journalists with freebies. It’s awkward, so it’s best not to place you or your client in that kind of position.”

Who said it: Ms. Kyle Niederpruem

Source: PRSA blog

Follow @PRSA

6) Make Siri and Alexa your friends.

“PR pros must become knowledgeable in how their clients can use AI for online chat and when their clients should not use it. We’ll be relied upon to help guide the flow of the text being used and when the chatbots should pass the conversation over to human employees.”

Who said it: Ebony Grimsley-Vaz of Above Promotions quoted by Michelle Kane

Source: Ragan Communications blog

Follow @RaganComms

7) Content will always be mobile first.

“The average American looks at their smartphone 52 times per day, according to Deloitte research, and more than a third admit to using their smartphones for work purposes ‘very/fairly often’ when they’re not officially ‘on the clock.’ More screen time means more opportunities for you to reach your (audience). But smartphone screens and mobile experiences are vastly different than what buyers get with a desktop or laptop.

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B2B marketers, in turn, are going to be rethinking the way they approach content experience and design.”

Who said it: Alicia Esposito, Content Strategist

Source B2B Marketing Zone

Follow @content4demand

8) Press relations alone won’t cut it in 2019.

Great public relations professionals will need to understand a myriad of modern communications techniques and adapt accordingly in 2019, if they haven’t already. These include blogging, quality social media engagement, thinking about online communications as “mobile first” and a hyper focus on images and videos. Yes, this means that a PR practitioner without a social media profile head shot or a private Twitter account should be sent to marketing jail.

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Who said it: Michelle McIntyre of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC

Source: Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC blog

Follow @FromMichelle

(C’est moi!)

By the way, it is “who said it” and not “whom said it.” The trick for figuring out which word to use is to replace “who” with “she” and “whom” for “her.” Then ask, which one sounds better? Since “she said it” sounds better, I went with “who said it.”

Have a phenomenal 2019.

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Michelle McIntyre, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, is an IBM PR vet. A 2018 Ragan.com article says she’s one of the Top 50 PR professionals to follow on Twitter. @FromMichelle

Photo credits: The top three representing chatbots, storytelling and mobile images are from Canva and the bottom one is mine.

Are You One of the 52 Million People Who Work At Home? Do It Right With These 3 Tips

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According to the State of the American Workplace Report, more than 40% of Americans say they spend at least part of their time working remotely, a 4% increase from 2012 to 2017.  Since a whopping 52 million* people work from home it makes sense to learn how to do it right. This article provides three tips on maximizing your remote work including one that may surprise you.

Why are there so many remote workers? Remote work means more flexibility and happier employees. It also saves time and money in areas like dry cleaning, gasoline, and day care. I know these benefits well: I worked at home for IBM for a decade and for the last five years for my own PR firm.

IBM’s old rule was that you were assigned a traditional office if you could be in it at least three days per week. My managers and closest coworkers were often in Boston and New York so this Californian usually was sent home to get her work done. That was a win-win. It saved Big Blue a lot of office rent money and I scored a bunch of awards for results. All that extra sleep due to not having to drive two hours a day to and from the office paid off in more energy and awards for results.

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Times, however, they are a changin’. Sadly IBM Corporate reversed their position on working at home. Luckily I left the company before this happened. I still “bleed blue” by the way; I don’t regret building my career there.

The good news is that many companies are still encouraging workers to stay at home. Some  established startups I’ve worked with are are mostly home-based. Executives tell me it makes it a lot easier to recruit. Worker retention is probably higher because employees don’t want to leave to change to an in-office role.

Here are three tactics I’ve used to be more productive and happier at my at-home job.

  1. Wake up early and take a shower. Don’t work dirty! You feel peppy and professional when you are dressed and feeling your best even if the only person who will see you that day is the FedEx delivery guy or gal. man showering purchased from Canva
  2. Decorate a teleconference wall. Make sure the wall behind you and above your head has attractive decor and the nice lighting. Test what it looks like before a video call with a client or prospect. One test I like is a laptop selfie. I learned this video conference tip from two under 30 CEOs, one in Austin and another Toronto, who had decorated their in-office walls. I thought, people at home should do that too!Home office bedroom wall decor photo purchased from Canva
  3. Get outside every day. Take a walk, run, swim or hike mid-day. Exercise during the work day even if it’s packed with urgent tasks. Remote workers who take on a lot of desk work have the challenge of getting a little lonely. Get outside for a shot of Vitamin D and energy and mood-boosting exercise. Additionally, attend networking groups a minimum of two times a month and invite your favorite client to coffee. When you have a lot of work and you aren’t pitching you clients this tends to happen. When you are wooing new clients it usually doesn’t happen. walk during a work break purchased from canva

In summary, if you are starting a company, don’t be afraid to encourage your workers to stay at home more. They’ll be happier. If you want the benefits of working at home like not having to sit in hellish traffic every day, consider moving to a stay-at-home job.

*How did I get this number? An August 2018 Statistica report said there were 130.64 full time U.S. workers in July. Forty percent of this is 52 million. Therefore around 52 million of us in the U.S. work at home either all or part of the time.

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Michelle McIntyre, an award winning Silicon Valley publicist runs Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC. She blogs for VLAB which brings together startups, established companies, VCs and members of academia to promote emerging tech like artificial intelligence. Follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle. Image credit: All are from Canva.

 

The Perfect Press Release: A Guide for Startups, a 4-Minute Read

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Here are some quick press release tips for small businesses and startups. I’m proud to say that I’ve had some phenomenal endorsements for my press release writing and issuing skills. A writer from the San Francisco Chronicle once told me that my press releases, which were actually IBM’s not “mine” were the best he had ever read. Yes, the best. At that time I was mostly publicizing breaking technology records, large amount money deals that were linked to big strategy changes and customer implementations that had mainstream and human interest appeal. I recall that one press release that was quite successful discussed a services contract with a government entity that was trying to fix the technology system that went after deadbeat parents for not paying child support. Who doesn’t care about that topic? The release resulted in wide wire service and other coverage.

Granted the compliment about my PR skills happened a few years ago, and the editor has since left the Chronicle, but I never forgot it. Since then I have written fewer press releases; my clients and employers have changed and I have often advised many to do something else besides a press release. I mostly work for small and medium businesses and/or their VCs. Press releases are way too common right now and companies shouldn’t issue them unless they are written like news stories and truly represent press release-worthy news.

Here are three key questions to ask to help your team write the perfect press release.

Question 1: Does it have such big appeal that more than one media outlet would truly write about it? If yes, write the release. If, no, just post it on a blog or write a letter directly to customers and/or employees.

Note that being a “yes man” to the president who constantly wants press releases does not make you look good. It’s better to strategically advice, in a polite but firm manner, about what communication vehicles to use.

Be aware that some PR firms will say “yes” to all press release requests to make money. That will drive up hours and money they  make. But when a startup pays a PR firm to issue many press releases and sees little to no coverage, they almost always fire the firm. Shameless plug: that’s when they hire me; I “value bill.” I find ways to garner quality coverage that don’t drain the marketing budget. I want to see stories, not a massive flow of documents getting emailed to my contacts.

Question 2: Would the press release pass what I call The Teen Test? Would a person not at your workplace find the news interesting?  Would your son, niece or grandma understand the implications?

An experienced and awesome PR pro, Laura Taylor, who used to be at one of IBM’s PR agencies I had hired on retainer once told me, PR is basically logic. That stuck with me and I repeat it to new and existing clients often. Does your story or news release hold such simple appeal that a wide audience would understand its implications? If you explained your news to your child, perhaps a teen or even a 10 year old, would they say, “That’s interesting.” If not, think about just direct communications instead. Email the news out to clients and analysts. Announce it to employees directly. If it’s on a complicated technology or product, can you include a cool analogy that everyone would understand? Chris Preimesberger from eWeek once told me that he really likes good analogies and that they could make bland tech news more appealing to his audience.

To use an IBM example again, during the Think 2018 conference they announced the world’s smallest computer, tinier than a grain of sand, that could detect something wrong in a supply chain. It was well done and the media coverage was very good. (Although I don’t remember a press release on that. IBM, a huge company with a lot of blog followers, issued a story on this milestone from the head of IBM Research. But a small company would have issued a release on that. IBM had enough website followers to not need a press release.)

Another way to make your news interesting is to talk about application. How can it be used and do people care about that use?  For example, is the technology helping fight homelessness or save rescue animals? One press release I issued discussed how collaboration technology helped run an automobile manufacturer better; they reduced emissions and the rates of asthma in that city went down. How did I figure that out? I spent 30 minutes on the phone with the customer who offered those stats when I asked for results. Awesome, right?

Question 3: Does it relate to the hottest topic in your industry? If not, will your key top tier reporters care about it? Some are tasked with only writing about certain hot topics.

Right now in tech, that has to do with Facebook ads, privacy, artificial intelligence, machine learning, future of work, IoT, and cryptocurrencies. There are probably 20 tech topics that are hot but the world seems to be revolving around AI. If you can link to AI in a meaningful non contrived way you have a better chance at getting attention.

Good luck with your press release projects and just be aware that burning a bunch of time and money issuing bland press release after bland press release may be hurting your company’s reputation with journalists. Truly think about issuing a press release only once or twice a year and only when the news is mainstream enough to warrant it. Other times consider a blog post or direct communications.

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Michelle McIntyre who wrote this story is president and founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC. She’s an IBM PR vet and was named 2017 VLAB MIT Enterprise Forum (now just “VLAB”) Volunteer of the Year. @FromMichelle on Twitter