The Shocking Secret to Make Your PR Dreams Come True

by Michelle McIntyre

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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

Two Surprising Facts to Boost Your Media Coverage by Michelle McIntyre

Here are two facts about journalists and public relations (PR) that might surprise you.

Press InterviewThe first might make some experienced PR folks angry.

These facts come from a quarter of a century of media relations experience that included a decade stint at a $100 billion corporation, working with 13 start-ups and 10 awards.

#1 Journalists don’t owe you anything.

The first surprising fact is that reporters don’t owe you anything. Did you set up a one hour interview with your startup’s CEO? Did she rearrange her schedule to be there? Did you buy them a $300 dinner with the best wine at the hottest restaurant in New York? It doesn’t mean a thing. What matters is that the founder actually says something that can be quoted or made into an angle. If your company is hot right now, the reporter may have come armed with an angle already though. It is rare that you would be working for a “hot” company though. Most start-ups are unknowns.
#2 The boss doesn’t always know what a great press release looks like.
Great PR pros are not “yes” men and women. Are you a PR manager supervised by the vice president of marketing or founder of a start-up? Have you ever heard, “We need a press release on software upgrade x” or ,“We need a press conference on new product y.” Have you ever just written the press release because the boss demanded it? And what happened when the journalists ignored it, or did an interview to be nice. . . but didn’t write? There was no coverage and you wished you would have strategically said, “No.”

The key to great PR is to work hard to figure out what is interesting about your company, founder or solution. Then say the right thing at the right time to right reporter.

Doing the first thing the boss requests may not be the best route to PR career success.

And don’t believe that any reporter owes you anything. They don’t.

[The photograph above was purchased from Canva.]
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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, an IBM vet, and on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCa. @FromMichelle on Twitter

15 Premium Tips to get Media Coverage in 2015

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By Michelle McIntyre

The reason it’s hard for your start-up to get media coverage is because of noise.

Take the app market. As of June 2014, there were 1.2 million apps in iTunes.

Imagine if just a quarter of them contacted a reporter on the same day as you. That’s several hundred thousand companies!

In fact, your email to Alyson Shontell of Business Insider about your new app feature is probably sitting unopened next to 299 others just like it in her inbox that she received that day.

So in order to get some attention, you need to intelligently contact the media.

Here are 15 timely tips to help your start-up get journalists’ attention in 2015. They come from my experiences with Bloomberg, Business Insider, Buzzfeed, KQED, Mashable, TechCrunch, San Francisco Chronicle, Thomson-Reuters, Wired, Wall Street Journal and others.

1. MAKE YOUR KEY POINT FIRST.

In a note to a reporter, don’t bury the lead. When you land a media interview, say your main point first. Don’t plan to show a 45-page presentation.

2. KEEP IT SHORT.

A reporter receives 100 to 300 e-mailed pitches a day. Their voice mail boxes fill up fast. A short email might get read fully. To add detail, include a link. My Stanford media relations instructor and former San Francisco Chronicle Writer Marshall Wilson said a sentence should be no longer than 27 words. Key messages should take no longer than nine seconds to say.

3. READ THEIR STORIES FIRST.

Before Pam Edstrom attended her first media event with Bill Gates back when both their companies were just getting started, she read all of the industry magazines first. She then had intelligent talks with the journalists there. She is co-founder of public relations firm Waggener Edstrom.

4. PITCH THE COMPETITION.

KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler spoke in my Stanford post-graduate media relations class. He said he’s not likely to cover a story twice. Don’t call him and say, “I see you covered topic x. My company is a fit for that.” Instead pitch someone who hasn’t done the story yet, like a reporter at a competitive outlet.

5. OFFER SOMETHING SPECIAL BUT NOT TO EVERYONE.

TechCrunch takes contributed stories but they won’t run something unless it offers a unique viewpoint.

6. BOUNCE BACK AFTER FAILURE.

Great media relations folks don’t let rejection get them down. The timing could be off. It might take a year of relationship-building to land a shopping app in Good Housekeeping, for example, as was the case with one of my clients.

7. CONTACT THE RIGHT REPORTER.

If your story relates to new B2B social marketing software, contact the Huffington Post social business writer not the Elite Daily political blogger. Check Twitter profiles for updated job details. Some change jobs a lot.

8. PRETEND YOU’RE TALKING TO YOUR GRANDMA.

Skip the jargon like “mission critical” and just say what it is or does. If it’s a storage device that stores 500 movies just say that. Pretend you’re talking to your grandmother.

9. GO PLACES.

To increase your chances of meeting journalists, go out and get noticed. Give a talk at an industry conference or at a Meetup. Travel to a city where reporters are based. I set up a meeting with Issie Lapowsky of Wired and a Silicon-Valley based client recently and a cool story resulted.

10. TELL A COMPLETE STORY.

Compelling stories have a beginning, middle, end and hero. Include one when you are talking to a reporter. Overcome the fact that company founders do not like to highlight client problems. The story surrounding Sony’s movie “The Interview” features a big problem.

11. TELL A STORY THAT TUGS AT THE HEART STRINGS.

An app client tested a new nearby deals app feature before issuing an announcement. The story highlighted in communications was about a mom struggling to makes ends meet who was able to afford Christmas presents for her kids. It got attention. Another client’s story was about how he had three open heart surgeries by age 19. Staying healthy was the inspiration for co-founding his fitness app company while still in school.

12. ANNOUNCE NEWS BUT MAKE IT TIMELY.

Your campaign needs to fit in with what’s happening in the world. Right now it seems to be Sony movie “The Interview,” holiday shopping or New Year’s resolutions. A week ago it was Bill Cosby. Soon it will be losing weight, fitness, Super Bowl 2015 and Valentine’s Day. In August it will be back to school.

13. USE THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE.

Snapchat, the “disappearing message” app got a life time worth of publicity by rejecting Facebook’s acquisition offer of $3 billion+. This was a surprise just due to the sheer amount. After that, everyone knew who they were. Reporters love to be surprised.

14. MAKE IT VISUAL.

Always have a photo of the founder, app screen shots and other graphics handy. Infographics and videos are popular. For social media posts, use a free graphics tool like Canva. Hire a news-smart photographer like Silicon Valley’s Mark Hundley or Paul Sakuma for your PR photography.

15. WRITE IT YOURSELF.

Some outlets like Buzzfeed, TechCrunch, and Wired accept contributed material. My blog is syndicated on a popular website. If your article is good, it will be promoted to home page. Venture Capital Firm General Catalyst Partners is known to be awesome at getting its own material published. It’s because the vice president of marketing communicates like a journalist.

In any case, if you try these tips and are still having a hard time, hire someone with media experience to help. [Photo credit: Newspapers and glasses photo was purchased through Canva.]

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