About Michelle McIntyre

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

10 Timely PR Tips To Not Ignore Right Now

[This story by Michelle McIntyre originated in the Huffington Post.]

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Wow, it is hard to get press coverage these days. However, the results I’ve secured for my tech clients have been decent. How did I do it? I’ve had to constantly think hard, be creative and stay on top of things minute by minute to make stories happen.

Strategic outreach resulted in fairly recent stories in Business Insider, Bloomberg, FITNESS, Teen Vogue, TIME, Wired, Network World, Baseline Magazine and a few deep industry outlets like EBNOnline, EdTechDigest and Manufacturing Business Technology.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when doing press outreach in the second half of 2017. These guidelines help me daily.

 

1. Know when the journalist’s big conference or vacation is happening. Are they mostly looking for stories related to a conference they are attending? Conference-related news will be more likely get noticed at that time. I usually see vacation plans on Instagram and trade show comments on Twitter. An interview during your CEO’s West Coast press tour won’t likely be set up during a journalist’s honeymoon in Greece.

 

2. Don’t try to target too many media outlets at once. The best pitch is written for one reporter. Keep in mind that journalists like scoops. Some news campaigns will involve outreach to more people but if it’s not major news, be careful. Tom Foremski of ZDNet and Silicon Valley Watcher infamously says he doesn’t like press releases because they are “anti-scoop.”

 

3. Check the most recent contributed article guidelines before submitting an article. For example, TechCrunch published a story in early 2017 saying it’s now invite-only for new contributed writers. There are three ways to pitch Forbes: send a story to the editor; pitch an already successful blogger as a regular contributor; or pay a sponsorship fee for a monthly spot in “Community Voices.” How did I become a Huffington Post blogger? They invite people sometimes. I signed up during the last window. I also had a lot of blogging experience before signing up. I was syndicated by Business2Community before asking to be a Huffington Post blogger.

 

4. Beware of hiring SEO experts saying they know PR. I read a dozen PR trends stories to find new inspiration for this article; sadly two thirds were by search experts trying to look like PR people. The other third were real press relations experts. One of my favorite PR bloggers is Lou Hoffman. He’s an experienced PR guy who has a decent amount of knowledge about search engine optimization and content marketing. He’s not an SEO person claiming to know PR. A skilled PR person needs to know journalism. If they know about search too, that’s a plus. But many search experts don’t have a clue about journalism.

5. Make sure the spokesperson’s title is appropriate for the outlet or opportunity. There are many top B2B “IT” writers who like to interview CIOs or CEOs but no one else. So don’t pitch them a case study and interview with a controller or market analyst. Here’s a specific example. IDG Contributor Network is accepting bloggers right now; they don’t like writers who do product development or work directly with customers. They prefer CIOs, IT managers, and people who recommend technology. Folks who work at analyst firms or standards bodies would are okay.

 

6. Skip the “unpitchables.” There is a Forbes contributor named Louis Columbus who writes quality stories about analytics and enterprise software trends but is likely unpitchable. Why? His bio says he works for Ingram Cloud. Why would someone from Ingram Cloud accept an interview with most companies they are not targeting from a business standpoint? Note that a “light” note introducing the blogger to a client is not a bad thing in this case. But don’t expect much in return.

 

7. Write like a journalist. Is the pitch falling on deaf ears? Did you leave a message and send a follow up email? Have you not heard back? Did you know that many popular tech writers receive 400 emails per day? Make sure there is something interesting or surprising in the pitch. Continue to improve …

 

For the rest of the tips and the full story please visit Huffington Post at this link.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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This article was written by Michelle McIntyre, founder of MMC PR, executive member of TEDxSanJoseCA, VLAB 2017 Volunteer of the Year, IBM PR vet, and award-winning Silicon Valley technology publicist. Join 5,800 others and follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle

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7 Surefire PR Tactics to Land You on a Journalist’s Blacklist

[This story was first published by Huffington Post.]

CEOs, public relations and marketing executives come to me often claiming they spend a lot of time developing media pitches and issuing news releases but get no coverage at all.

I am never surprised. The landscape is rough and the mistakes people make are rampant. Some journalists like those at Business Insider receive 400 emailed pitches per day. You have to be really smart and think about how to approach them to get any attention at all.

credit_ Canva

Most have been blacklisted by media outlets for making common public relations (PR) mistakes. It is sad that businesses with big agencies and budgets also sometimes make these mistakes. Spending a lot of money or hiring a large PR agency is not always the answer, especially if a junior PR representative is assigned to your account.

 

Journalists will give a little more attention to PR people they know and trust. However, if you have been making mistakes with them for a long time, you may find yourself blacklisted. This could take many forms. They could delete your email without opening it or literally tell their staff not to cover you at all.

 

Sometimes knowing what not to do helps you do the right thing and then get the attention your client or company deserve. Here are seven things to not do.

 

1. Share inside baseball press releases with general news reporters: Pitching something (no pun intended) too “inside baseball” to a general news reporter could get you blacklisted. Something an industry insider newsletter publisher and analyst is interested in is not something The Wall Street Journal may put on its pages. If you want the journal, pitch them something else.

 

2. Ask THE #1 dreaded question: It’s the question we seasoned PR folk know never to ask; however, the new kids on the block make this mistake a lot. Don’t ever ask, “Did you get my email?” If you think it’s important they see it, say something else when you follow up, like, are there any other stories we can help you with, or what is the best way to work with you? They hate getting notes asking if something is in their inbox.

 

Visit this link for the rest of the tips. The link takes you to Huffington Post.

 

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Michelle McIntyre is an award winning Silicon Valley tech publicist and blogger who was named 2017 VLAB Volunteer of the Year in 2017. Join 5,800+ others and follow her on Twitter! @FromMichelle  [Newspaper photo credit: Canva]

Serial Entrepreneur Advises Scrappy Startup Founders to Be in Constant Listening Mode

by Michelle McIntyre

free man on ledge photo from Canva

“Entrepreneurs are cool. I frickin’ love working with them,” said David Saxby, a Los Gatos, Calif., serial entrepreneur who advises startups in the internet of things (IoT) space. He has dabbled in investing and has started seven-plus tech companies himself, most winners, others not so much. He is also an IBM vet, like me.

He was today’s speaker at the Bootstrappers Breakfast Meetup today at a coffee shop in Sunnyvale, CA.

dave Saxby formal

Even though my startup consulting firm is three years old, the key takeaway to me was listen closely at the beginning. Listen to what the market needs are. This will help you get customers.

(He’s right. Let’s face it. Customers are God.)

Here are his eight questions.

1) Is the timing right? Is there a need now for your offering? Timing is everything. He added that when he started a voice recognition company in 1982, the timing was definitely off.

2) You need to have something special. What is it? Knowledge, expertise or both?

3) Who are your customers? This is where things get real. Talk to as many people as you can. Be in constant listening mode.

4) Why did you start a company? What drove you? One attendee said maybe the best motivation is not hating your boss. That comment resulted in a few chuckles from the founders there.

5) How will you let your customers know who you are and what you do? This especially applies to technical founders. Then, when there is interest, what do I do with it?

The group’s organizer SKMurphy Founder Sean Murphy added some gentle sarcasm when he said, the real problem is, how do you handle the huge influx of customers after your product launch? He added the disclaimer that actually most launches meet dead silence.

6) How big and profitable will this company become? Have some objectives and attach them to your “to do’s.” Think about the market size. What are the characteristics of the businesses financials?

7) What other talent do you need to make things happen? The big problem in the Silicon Valley is attracting software people.

8) Think about money. How will you fund your new business? For example, why bootstrap over other choices? Have you been saving up for 20 years?

For more information about Bootstrappers Breakfast visit Meetup.com.

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Michelle McIntyre is an award winning Silicon Valley PR consultant and blogger. @FromMichelle

The Shocking Secret to Make Your PR Dreams Come True

by Michelle McIntyre

crying woman

The secret to landing media coverage in a top tier news outlet may surprise you. It could be as easy as picking out the right company spokesperson to do an interview.

Last night, The New York Times Deputy Technology Editor Quentin Hardy was interviewed on stage by Oracle’s Mike Moeller at a Public Relations (PR) Society of America Silicon Valley event in Redwood City, Calif.

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Here are Hardy’s words of wisdom for PR pros who want their companies covered. This seasoned tech journalist receives 200 story pitches daily so pay attention.

My experience working with him has been good. He’s a careful fact-checker and intelligent question asker.  He does his homework so the spokesperson needs to know the topic backwards and forwards.

My key take-away was that you can’t teach someone how to give a heartfelt interview. Top tier media outlets need quality stories that often evoke emotion.   (Think about great TED talks.)

Technology executives pay me to media train them and I have successfully done that many times. However, there is only so far you can go with this. Some people are naturally better at interviews than others.  Quentin Hardy needs a quality interviewee and interesting facts to mention a company.

Here are some other things Hardy said during the fireside chat.

  1. He likes to add value to a story.
  2. Accept rejection.
  3. He wants to explore how things we are doing here in the Silicon Valley or in tech affect other regions. For example, what is it like being a football coach in Texas when everything is being recorded?
  4. Tell him how “big tech” affects everyday life and make it heartfelt and interesting. Database technology helps at the ATM but that’s not interesting.
  5. Be patient. It was okay that a PR guy pitched Hardy a meeting with an artificial intelligence (AI) spokesman after he wrote about it. He didn’t meet with the expert right away though.
  6. He’s interested in cloud computing, AI, mobile, driverless cars, and drones. Here’s a recent Quentin Hardy story, “Reasons to Believe the AI Boom is Real,” (July 18, 2016)
  7. He doesn’t find security that exciting because companies won’t talk about problems.
  8. When he receives a story pitch, he asks himself, have I worked with the person before? He considers circles of trust and knowledge. For example, he says, people trust The New York Times.
  9. Here’s an example of how he researched a story. The topic was how cloud computing is affecting everyday people. He first researched AWS Meetups finding interesting ones in Omaha and Texas. He didn’t want to use a California example because that is not as interesting. He found that Hudl, a technology used by thousands of sports teams to review and improve play was popular. “No one had heard of Hudl” but they were used by 12,000 of the 14,000 high school football schools. The example he used was a team near San Antonio, TX, that regularly enjoyed 15,000 people in the stands.
  10. When he covered drones he used an example related to farming in the Midwest.
  11. Quentin Hardy follows Twitter, and regularly reads the Financial Times and The Economist. He added he does not read The Wall Street Journal as much as he should.
  12. He finds it amazing how much news is taken in via mobile devices.
  13. Event attendees asked him about the future of tech. He says he has no clue what life will be like in five years because change happens so fast.
  14. He was asked about the presidential election. He said he finds it interesting that the economy is doing fairly well but people love to say how broken everything is, especially on social media.
  15. He owns 3,000 books.
  16. He has enjoyed watching some of the Valley’s top executives and companies evolve. In 1999 Steve Jobs called him right after an earnings call asking if he had questions. As a result, the earnings story grew from three to five inches. (Hardy was at the WSJ at the time.) He remembers meeting with Google’s co-founder when the company was just a vision.

In summary, when pitching Quentin Hardy, it helps to say something about how technology is affecting everyday life.  If he needs an interview, make sure the person is able to story tell and connect, and not just robotically convey facts and company messages.

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The writer of this story, Michelle McIntyre is @FromMichelle on Twitter. She took the PRSASV event photo. The emotional woman photo is from Canva.

Also follow @qhardy @newyorktimes @newyorktimesbusiness and @prsasv

WHY JOURNALISTS IGNORE YOUR START-UP: 17 TIPS FOR PR COVERAGE

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Nine out of 10 start-ups fail. One cause is that founders are misunderstood when describing their companies and trends affecting their businesses.

Bad “messages” mean prospective clients, investors and employees won’t bite.
Therefore, the key to a start-up’s success is crafting a story in a way that is clear and interesting.

stack of newspapers

My theory, which I share with my start-up clients, is if your story is interesting to a reporter, it will be of interest to anyone. Why? Reporters are a hard sell.

Furthermore, media coverage provides many benefits. It boosts trust and awareness, improves your search rankings, and differentiates from competitors.

c.tip#intro.differentiate you from competitors
Here are 17 tips on how to gain a journalist’s attention and story space.

1) INCLUDE AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE IN YOUR STORY.

tip#1element ofsurprise
If there is no ah-ha moment, don’t expect it to get much attention.

Example: I shared a story with business reporters about a venture capital arm of a company that doesn’t actually invest money in start-ups. Reporters constantly responded, “A VC that doesn’t invest? Tell me more!” It was short, surprising and resulted in a lot of get-to-know interviews and several quality feature stories including Associated Press, C/Net and The Wall Street Journal.
2) DO A HALF HOUR OF HOMEWORK BEFORE REACHING OUT.

Yes, that means it is not as simple as querying a media database service like Gorkana or Cision for a list of 100 journalists and then picking up the phone to call the first one a minute later.

Example: Every time I query one of those databases for a media list, typically 30% of the reporter information is out of date. The most typical change these days tends to be a reporter leaving journalism to go into content marketing or public relations which pays more. I worked with Mike Cassidy formerly of the San Jose Mercury News on a large feature that included a nice photo of my European client who was in town for a while. I went back to pitch him something else a few short weeks later and he had left journalism, after 2o+ years.

3) KNOW THAT REPORTERS SWITCH JOBS. A LOT.

tip#3Use Twitter to check if a reporter switched jobs.

One of the best ways to check if the reporter is still on the beat is to check Twitter. It seems to be the first thing they update.

Example: I wrote a pitch note tailored for one person: the widely read Chrissy Farr. I had worked with her on a story not long before, however, right before I hit “send” I checked her Twitter to make sure she hadn’t switched jobs. Sure enough, she had! And just the day prior! I was so glad I checked. Had I not, the pitch efforts would have gone to waste.

Sure enough, she just switched again according to Twitter. She’s with Fast Company now.

4) LET AN EMAIL PITCH SIT FOR A DAY BEFORE YOU USE IT.
Example: The last four times I pitched Venturebeat, they filed a story within two hours of my email. One story was about a huge global telecom that was opening a Silicon Valley office to partner with local start-ups. Had there been a mistake in the pitch, it would have gone right into the story. They work fast! That’s not to say Venturebeat won’t agree to an embargo of the news. Full disclosure: there was a tiny error in the story but a. it wasn’t from my pitch and b. Venturebeat corrected it really fast.

An embargo is when a skilled PR pro asks a trusted writer to hold a story until an agreed upon date. It is tricky business and not for beginners.

5) FOLLOW A PHONE SCRIPT SO YOU STAY PUNCHY.
But feel free to stray from it if needed.

Most reporters hate phone calls but sometimes they are necessary. If you have a white hot story, reporters at big websites or media outlets get upset when you don’t call them.

Example: While at a PR agency, I was pitching a story about a chocolate company’s business success a few weeks before Valentine’s Day. Because I had written a script with the two most unique facts about my story idea, I “nailed” the story every time. I placed stories in Businessweek, Wall Street Journal, and other quality outlets.
6) MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE WITH RUDE REPORTERS.

tip#6.17tips.positive attitude

Realize they are overworked, over pitched and way underpaid.

Writers get paid a third as much as PR people. Don’t let their bad attitudes hurt your feelings. Things will likely go better next time.

Example: A local technology business writer asked to talk to a sales executive at my company about a competitors’ new product versus ours. The writer asked the executive to compare the product prices. Prior to the meeting, I advised the executive to not discuss the competitors’ product’s pricing. I said, “Let them talk about that.” The reporter flew off the handle when we wouldn’t quote competitive pricing, saying the spokesperson didn’t have a clue. She later apologized. We were quoted in the story and future correspondence went fine. I’m Facebook friends with the writer who is highly respected; she has been nice since then.
7) LISTEN CAREFULLY TO REPORTERS’ FEEDBACK.
When a reporter does answer you or you get them on the phone and they reject your idea, learn what stories they like or dislike so you can pitch them something more appropriate next time.
Example: A USA Today writer recently told me she hears too many survey pitches from PR folks. If you pitch her one, she added, it had better have shocking findings. This was good to know. I passed it onto my start-up client. I like working with USA Today reporters because they are smart and good fact-checkers but they are never rude.

Once in a while I place a story with them. They are definitely in the “over pitched” category.
8) SOMETIMES A SOFT SELL WORKS BEST.

tip#8soft sell works best
If you know your company has a complicated B2B service or product and the CEO is not an interesting spokesperson, sometimes asking a reporter to have coffee to find out what stories they are interested in is the best approach.
Example: This worked with a Forbes writer. I invited the writer who is now with New York Times to a coffee chat to learn about what stories he was interested in at the time. Despite a huge rainstorm on our meeting day, he didn’t cancel. The writer later interviewed three of my employers’ customers and an inventor and published a high quality feature with no errors. (In this case, I didn’t have a boring story to tell. He just wasn’t receptive to a cold story pitch.)

THE PERFECT INTERVIEW

9) DON’T ASSUME THE REPORTER KNOWS THE SUBJECT.

Carry background information or have a way to look it up fast.

Example: Once a reporter said something incorrect and negative about my company during an interview. It appeared to be made up by the competition. I was not worried because I knew that the meeting meant the opportunity to set the record straight. I had the correct information and its source at my fingertips. The story came out correct.

10) RELAX, EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE EVERY ANSWER HANDY.

tip#10relax

If you do not have the answer, just say so, or offer to get back to them later.

Example: While doing a PR campaign about a world record technology research breakthrough, I once got back to the reporter after an interview with my vice president of technology and simply said, “I can’t divulge that information for competitive reasons.” He was fine with that. The story by John Markoff in The New York Times was high quality and fact-filled anyway. By the way, he’s one of the top 30 “most read by other U.S. tech reporters” according to a recent LinkedIn Pulse story.

11) NEVER SAY, “NO COMMENT.” IT MEANS “YES.”

You could just say, “I don’t have the information in front of me in order to answer that properly at this time.”

Example: When I worked for a $100 billion corporation, I was constantly pummeled with questions about rumored acquisitions. One San Francisco Chronicle writer — who has switched jobs three times since then — once joked, “Michelle, you never say, ‘no comment.’ Makes sense because that would be like a ‘Yes’ which would be the answer.” That company acquired at least 50 other companies while I was in PR there.

12) KNOW AT LEAST SOME MEDIA LAW.

One example is if you are being interviewed by phone, the reporter is required by law to tell you when you are being recorded. If you’re not certain, you should ask.

Example: The vast majority of feature story interviews I’m involved with are recorded. I have often just told the interviewee expect it to be recorded. I position it as a good thing. It means they would be more likely getting quotes correct. Once in a great while an interviewee has a problem with it. It’s usually the newbies who are nervous they might say something wrong.

13) KEEP IT JARGON-FREE. Explain jargon if you must use it.

Example: I was on the East Coast at a Computer Reseller News office for an interview with the new storage beat reporter. The executive with me kept calling hard drives, “HDDs.” After 15 minutes the reporter says, “What’s an HTT?” She had no clue.
So he carefully started over and said the whole name, “hard disk drive.” We had wasted those first few minutes because of a confusing acronym. They last reporter did know, “HDD” but she was new.

14) KEEP RECORDED MATERIAL SOUND BYTES BRIEF.

Video or radio stories may use only a half-minute cut. The shorter your comments, the less likely they are to be edited. Reporters love snappy quotes.

Examples: Out of the 100+ “broadcast” interviews I have set up and helped with the vast majority have resulted in valuable brand exposure for my employer or client. Most did well after my advice to think of a few short sound-bytes ahead of time. My favorite interview happened when I escorted the inventor of “CTRL ALT DELETE” through the airport on the way to an event. It was the anniversary of this concept. Sure enough a camera crew from NBC showed up and asked him what it was like to see that CTRL ALT DELETE had become so popular. He answered, “I may have invented CTRL ALT DELETE but Microsoft made it famous!” Of course that was the line that made the evening and morning news casts.

THE EXPERT FOLLOW-UP

15) DON’T ANNOY THE REPORTER DURING FACT CHECKS.

tip#15.Don'tannoythe reporter
Example: I pitched and then helped a local newspaper reporter with a story about a community service project on that involved interviews with five people. I had arranged all of them. I mostly cared about only the one interview but a story of that proportion needed various points of view. I emailed the writer a couple of times a day for a few days but she became dead quiet. I think that was overkill. However, I was pleased to open the newspaper to see a frame-worthy story that was fully fact checked.

16) UNLESS THE STORY WAS SET UP AS “BACKGROUND” IT’S OKAY TO POLITELY ASK WHEN IT WILL RUN.

If the reporter agreed to talk on background, then that means it’s not for a story.

So asking when the story would run would bug the writer. However background interviews sometimes turn into stories later. You typically find out it is a story when they start fact checking.

Example: My start-up client and I were helping a Business Insider reporter collect information about his unique background. He was born with a heart defect and survived several open heart surgeries before starting his social fitness app business in college. She never said it was a story until the last couple of fact checks. When she set up the interview, she said she just wanted to learn more. Once the fact checks started, I asked when it would run and she answered, “This afternoon.”It ran and received tens of thousands of views.

17) DON’T BE OFFENDED WHEN A REPORTER WON’T GIVE YOU STATUS.

Sometimes they are concerned about a competitor scooping them so they can’t let anyone know their story plans.

Example: I pitched, set up an interview with and helped fact check a story with a popular Silicon Valley-based Fortune magazine reporter who interviewed my company’s CIO. She wouldn’t give me the publish date, headline or confirm that a story would run. But all of her fact checks gave me all of the clues about what was happening. The story was well done.

To summarize, to garner a reporter’s attention, you need to have a thick skin, be patient and excel at storytelling and sales.

You also need to do your homework, for example, on Twitter before reaching out.

Once you’ve mastered the press pitch you will start seeing more success in communicating and selling to your other audiences.

z.INTROtip1.17tips.85% of your financial success is due to your ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.
Lastly, feel free to reach out to your local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) affiliates to find a publicist or story teller to help.

[Thank you to the University of Michigan website for some of these tips. However, as an Ohio University E.W. Scripps Journalism school grad, I’m not affiliated with the school. See more tips here.]

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Michelle McIntyre, the president of Silicon Valley-based PR Consultancy MMC PR, has executive roles with SV-IABC and TEDxSanJoseCa and blogs for VLAB MIT Enterprise Forum. She’s also an IBM and PR agency vet with 10 awards for PR campaign results. @FromMichelle on Twitter

13 Cool Things Forbes 30 Under 30 Have In Common

San Francisco Cable Carby Michelle McIntyre

It’s always an exciting time when the “Forbes 30 Under 30” list comes out. Today is no exception.

Each year when the story goes live, young start-up founders wake up early to check the Forbes website to see if they have won. When they find their names, they message their investor, mom or significant other and start planning their big trek to the uber fun celebration dinner and party. (Yes, someone from Uber is on the list.)

Some also thank their publicists. No doubt that the publicists help build the relationships with Forbes, finesse the messages and fill out the forms on time but the winners are typically of substance to begin with.

There are a whopping 600 winners this year. Wow, that’s a lot.

It’s brilliant marketing on Forbes’ part because all of them will be socializing the story and giving the media outlet a ton of attention which attracts advertisers.

Check out the list here.

It includes tech entrepreneurs, marketing folks, actors, and even pro athletes like Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.

I found this list of their 13 common traits below interesting. A whopping 84% are single and they love their iPhone’s. The most winners come from New York City and San Francisco.

StanfodUnivCreditStanfordedu

The most popular undergrad schools are not surprisingly Stanford which is #1 (and pictured above), followed by U. Penn and Cornell.

Their top dream mentors are Elon Musk and Sheryl Sandberg who reside in the Silicon Valley.

Here are the 13 things the winners have in common.

“The Class of 2016 By The Numbers*:

15,000+: Nominations

600: Winners

64%: Want to ‘Change the world’

50%: Define success as ‘Liking myself and what I do’

5 top cities of residence (in order): New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago

3 most popular undergrad schools (in order): Stanford, U. Penn, Cornell

69%: Earned college degrees

50%: Have zero college debt

63%: Identify as growing up middle class

36%: Immigrants or first-generation Americans

84%: Single

No. 1 and 2 dream mentors: Elon Musk and Sheryl Sandberg

No. 1 can’t-live-without gadget: iPhone”

[Source: Forbes website 1/11/16.]

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Michelle McIntyre runs MMC PR, a Silicon Valley consulting firm for tech start-ups. @FromMichelle on  Twitter

Photo credits: The trolley car photo was purchased from Canva and the Stanford image is from Stanford’s website.