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

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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

Premium Business Advice from the Founder of Buzzfeed

By Michelle McIntyre

Earlier this week I heard a talk by Jonah Peretti, CEO and founder of entertainment and news website Buzzfeed, which has 200 million unique visitors monthly.

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To put this in perspective, Business Insider, which is no slouch, has 15.9 million and Time.com has 8.9 million.

A graduate of MIT Media Lab, Peretti lives in Brooklyn, NY, and was interviewed on stage by investor Chris Dixon at a Commonwealth Club INFORUM meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

As if he didn’t already have enough cool things to put on his LinkedIn profile, Peretti also co-founded Huffington Post.

Buzzfeed is known for its list format stories like The 40 Greatest Dog GIFs of All Time and quizzes like “Which 90s Toy Are You?” Its staff of 800 includes serious journalists who cover a variety of news from global terrorist threats to politics.

Because its stories are regularly shared millions of times, founder Jonah Peretti is fast becoming known as the master of virality.

Although Buzzfeed is sometimes criticized by more traditional people for its “fluffy” journalism (no pun intended), the business model works.

Here are some of Jonah Peretti’s more interesting comments and pieces of advice from the event in the areas of content marketing and entrepreneurship.

1. We optimize for content shares at Buzzfeed. You won’t click on a story to find out it is a trick. Another site might imply in the headline that two celebrities are dating, but when you click through to the story, you find out it’s not true.

2. We don’t look down on the business and advertising side of things. While the groups here are independent, they also respect one another.

3. When it comes to creating ads, we embrace innovation.

4. Regarding the popularity of video, he joked, “We are headed back to a preliterate society where soon no one will use words.”

5. Sometimes you have to be indifferent to business to serve the consumer.

6. When determining what content to run, we ask, will it change lives? Will it change laws? On a human level, we ask, does this have meaning?

7. One of the hardest and most important things is to build a great team. Startups need people with shared values and who also want to go after something big.

8. How do I attract talent? I let people do their best work and be more productive than they would be somewhere else.

9. Set up small groups of people each with a lot of autonomy. Let them build things inside of a company.

Jonah Peretti was asked what he thought of the Buzzfeed parodies, for example on Click-hole. “If it’s a parody and funny, I love it. At Buzzfeed we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

[The photo of Jonah Peretti on stage in San Francisco, Calif., was taken by Michelle McIntyre.]

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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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Two Simple Tricks to Increase your Retweets

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By Michelle McIntyre

Twitter’s usage facts are impressive. According to the company, there are 255 million active users monthly and 500 million Tweets are sent a day.

Twitter is an important tool used by companies in conducting social business. According to Gartner, businesses leverage social media to drive growth, improve business processes and drive innovation. Marketers use it to gain valuable insight from customers and prospects.
Let’s face it. Twitter is important so community managers want more followers and tweet shares.

Retweets are definitely sweeter than being ‘favorited,’ especially if the retweeter has more followers than you, or at least a list of followers strategic to your business. Sometimes 50 strategic followers are better than 5k random ones.

I’m proud to say that when I Tweet about entrepreneurship or tech trends, I have been retweeted more than once by @SVForum, the top Silicon Valley organization for tech startups and their investors. My client prospects follow SVForum on Twitter. This is a good thing.
I noticed I am more likely to be retweeted if I do these two simple things.

1. AIM FOR 100 CHARACTERS OR LESS. People are more likely to retweet a shorter Tweet. Twitter rules say your tweet needs to be 140 characters or less, but Twitter users actually like 100 characters or less.
Use these free and easy services to shorten your URL links: TinyURL.com and Bitly.com. To use the services, copy paste your long link and make a short one. You should not have to register, sign in or pay for either service.

2. USE TWO HASHTAGS INSTEAD OF ONE. When I am managing the Twitter handle for @SVIABC, I like #communications and #pr since the organization promotes quality in the communications field. Sometimes I add #social, #socialmedia or what the social studs use, #SoMe. What a hashtag does is it includes your tweet in the ongoing group conversation on that topic. Many more people can then see your tweet even if they are not follow you. Pretty cool, huh?

What other tips do you have to increase retweets?
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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC high tech PR. @FromMichelle on Twitter

 

Do You Charge for an e-Book?

By Michelle McIntyre

Oakland-based business coach for midlife entrepreneurs, Dina Eisenberg recently spoke to my Women in Consulting (WIC) group in Los Gatos last week about how to kick start an information product or “infoproduct” business.

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An information product is any product or service that you can sell to people to provide them with information. It includes e-books, books, audios, CDs, DVDs, seminars, videos, tele-seminars and more.

Because the event description mentioned her law degree and creating a “passive income,” I was expecting tips on self-employed (S.E.) IRAs and 401Ks. I had just set up a S.E. 401K so I figured it will probably be redundant to what I already just learned after spending hours with a Fidelity representative to set up my own plan. I went to the meeting anyway for the networking. 

 I was pleasantly surprised when Eisenberg started talking though.  

What it was really about was creating sustainable income to make, what Eisenberg calls “a cushion for life’s bumps.”  Consultants and entrepreneurs who are typically actively involved in delivering their service benefit from creating passive income streams that work, even when they cannot.

A self-proclaimed “information product junkie,” Eisenberg has also produced a range of products from online courses to retreats and subscription programs.

She said she it all started when her husband, whom she considers a successful entrepreneur just like herself, went on disability for two years due to a medical issue that has since mostly gone away. He was her fiancé at the time.

She shared her tactics with the consultants, many of whom had created their own infoproducts. Several consultants had their products on hand and the talk turned into a brainstorm and information share of sorts instead of just a presentation.

Two of her messages stuck in my mind.

First, start charging!  Yes, the internet is awash in free material however, people will pay for the exact right product that solves their specific problem at that time. Don’t assume you have to start with free.

Second, ask first.  The difference between a profitable infoproduct and one that flops is research.  Search Linkedin threads and comments for a wealth of topic ideas for your information product.

To learn more about Dina Eisenberg, visit her website at http://infoproductdoctor.com/.

Here are related Twitter handles.

WIC: @WIConsult

Dina Eisenberg: @DinaEisenberg

The author of this post: @FromMichelle


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Michelle McIntyre is a blogger and high tech PR consultant based in Saratoga, Calif. She’s also the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA.

 

15 Tips to Become a more Effective Entrepreneur

by Michelle McIntyre

 

Late last year, my Silicon Valley entrepreneur meet-up group gathered for a breakfast networking session. During the event, participants shared answers to two questions posed by Host Sean Murphy.

 

 

 

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He asked, “What have you learned in 2013 that will make you more effective as an entrepreneur in 2014?” He added, “What will you stop doing to make time for it?”

 

There was a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in the room and I found the 15 tips quite valuable. Here they are.

 

1. Be more patient.
2. Fail faster.
3. Focus early on value proposition, less on technical implementation.
4. Drop less important details.
5. Hire more carefully. Fire faster.
6. Stop coding so much. Spend more time on sales. (Several attendees were software developers.)
7. Delegate more and more effectively.
8. Always build a simpler product than you first dreamed of.
9. Network more. Listen more.
10. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
11. Plan more. It’s really hard to recover wasted hours.
12. Take more time to listen.
13. More focus on time management and effective action.
14. Concentrate on one line of business. Focus for effect.
15. Build on strengths.

 

Thank you, Sean Murphy, for sharing your meeting notes with me for this article.

 

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Michelle McIntyre, a high tech press relations consultant in Saratoga, Calif., is on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCA and the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators.