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

work at home lead photo purchased from Canva Aug 14, 2018

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

old fashioned pen - canva purchase

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

 

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

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 Surprising Secret to Achieving Excellent Press Coverage

by Michelle McIntyre

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

Feb. 8, 2018 UPDATE Since this story was filed Mr. Hardy left the NY Times and went to work for a technology vendor.

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.

Artificial Intelligence Systems: Good Citizens Or A Menace To Society?

DRIVERLESSCAR.SourcemichiganautolawGoogle-driverless-car

IBM Watson, Google’s driverless cars and “unbeatable” Atari gaming system, and unusual 3D printing jobs drive the visibility of artificial intelligence or “AI” systems right now.

With billions of dollars of ongoing investment in AI, everyone seems to want a piece of the action.

However, asks Dr. Steve Omohudro at a VLAB event in Menlo Park earlier this month, will AI be an asset or menace to society when it becomes more prevalent?

SteveOmahundroLinkedIn

AI will have a tremendous impact on the future, he says. Also referred to as “deep learning,” it is expected to drive $50 trillion in revenue by 2015.

Furthermore, IBM officials say they invested $1 billion in Watson, which Big Blue defines as a cognitive system enabling a new partnership between people and computers.

Hundreds of start-ups jumped into the AI arena and it’s expected to do no less than “improve the world.” Omohundro cited Google’s self-driving cars as a high profile example of AI. Driverless vehicles are expected to become a $10 trillion industry by 2025; even Apple Computer has invested in them.

Omohundro asked the audience to just imagine the impact that this and other implications of AI will have on society.

“Most cars sit in the parking lot all day not getting used,” says Omohundro. If and when driverless cars replace today’s models, “We’ll only need 1% of the vehicles we use today.”

[Note: Projected revenue figures, with the exception of the Watson figure, cited are from McKinsey and Company reports. The photo of Steve Omohundro came from his LinkedIn page. The photo of the Google car came from the Michigan Auto Law website.]

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This story was written by Michelle McIntyre, president of MMC PR, a member of VLAB’s marketing team, an SV-IABC board member and IBM vet. @FromMichelle

PR LESSONS FROM THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

cotton plant for blog

Despite typically sticking to non-controversial topics on my corporate blog, I decided to do something different today: discuss something sensitive and controversial.

The front page stories about the Confederate flag offer a great lesson for publicists.

Before I list what lessons we PR folks can learn, I will back up a bit and talk about my opinion on the flag situation.

I was moved by the photo of the South Carolina shooter in the Sunday The New York Times. The Times did a smart thing by publishing it.

The Confederate flag is now closely associated with a killer and his hate crime. The idea is simple. If you fly the flag, you support what he did.

Additionally, the San Jose Mercury News just today published a story that says the Confederate flag symbolizes slavery. I don’t see these words too often. Usually reporters tip toe around the topic saying, “Old South” and Southern pride and so on.

I have not been to the South in a few years but I do have relatives and roots there. The South is beautiful. The hospitality there is awesome. I don’t hate the South.

I live in the Silicon Valley but was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I also have detailed lineage records showing that I’m related to Robert E. Lee who was head of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Despite this fact, I still don’t support the Confederate flag.

There are a few reasons why the Confederate flag will likely be removed from all government offices and school campuses in coming months: being associated with a highly publicized hate crime (bad PR); economic boycotts; more diversity in government offices; and lastly people who previously remained quiet are now speaking out.

What can we PR people learn from the flag stories? Two things.

IS IT TIMELY RIGHT NOW?

When you think about what stories to pitch reporters – and by the way, some reporters don’t like or need story ideas – think about two elements: timeliness and surprise.

Is your story pitch surprising in any way?

Is it linked to a topic that is trending, one that people actually care about right now? And by right now, I mean today and this minute? Does your news have people saying, “So what?” or do they raise their eyebrows and say, “Interesting. Tell me more.”

A Bloomberg News TV journalist recently said that the best topics to pitch him should be chosen that day. He said check what is hot in the morning and offer him an expert on that topic. By the way if you are pitching broadcast media, pitch something visual.

THE SURPRISE FACTOR

Regarding the surprise factor, a friend in Ohio commented on Facebook that he was surprised anyone was flying the Confederate flag in the South. How can government folks be glorifying its symbolism in this day and age? The other surprise was how a “clean-cut” young man can walk into a Bible study and just kill nine people.

Wow, and they were awesome people. They were Society’s heroes.

Additionally, killing a pastor after Bible study is surprise. So journalists are all over it.

So the lesson is this. When you think about launching your start-up company or issuing a press release on your new software, what part of your story is timely and a surprise? If you think of your publicity in this way, you will get a lot more attention with a lot less work and expense.

Sometimes the surprise is not that the new software can do x or y but rather an interesting tidbit about the founder that would make an enticing story headline.

As the saying goes, work smarter not harder.

[The cotton plant photo was purchased from Canva.]

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, a Communications and Citizenship in the Community merit badge counselor for Boy Scouts of America, IBM vet, former parliamentarian and vice president communications of the local district PTA, SV-IABC director of marketing communications and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA. She has served 14 mostly software start-ups since launching her business two years ago. Her views are her own and not those of her clients or the non-profits she serves. @FromMichelle on Twitter