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

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Three Trends Driving Demand for PR Now

Multi-ethnic group portrait

I attend a lot of business networking events and talk to a lot of smart, experienced and educated people who are on top of industry trends. I also enjoy talking to people who have just a little work experience. Sometimes the ones who have only a couple of years of work under their belts are more in the know about what’s hot and what’s not. 

The Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America Future of PR round table earlier this year in East Palo Alto was excellent with Facebook, Dell and others on the panel, as was a meeting I recently had with Global Fluency, a marketing communications and strategy firm headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. That firm runs the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.

I used to work at Global Fluency in the early 90s when it was called something else. It was awesome to touch base with Donovan Neale-May who runs both Global Fluency and the CMO Council again after such a long time. The firm seems to be doing just fine and has evolved over the years along with the market.  It was great to see that Executive VP Dave Murray is still there and doing well.

Additionally, I enjoyed the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communications (SV-IABC) event on gamification in Santa Clara in November.

I took notes at all of these gatherings and have put together the top three trends driving for PR now.

1. The new IR is influencer relations. 

There’s a new acronym in town. It’s IR. No, not investor relations. I mean influencer relations. Because so many people blog now, from large corporations executives and industry analysts to consumers posting on Yelp, organizations should be focused on influence and not necessarily “press relations,” “analyst relations,” or “client relations.” Typically the acronym for external relations is public relations but the term is often misused.

 Public relations actually means “changing someone’s mind.” But over the years, most of us in PR mostly came to know it as press relations.

I advise that all communications departments at organizations globally reorganize their staff and put all of their PR and external communications people in a group called influencer relations. Rumor has it that SAP done a bit of this already and if that’s true, good for them. Nice job IBM for calling its PR team “external relations” because that is a nice start in moving in the direction of the trend.

2. Content marketing is white hot. 

In order to gain attention and make noise in a crowded market place, companies must focus on being great content creators and communicators. It’s called content marketing. They need to hire people who can come up with timely and interesting content.  People with a journalism background do great at this task. Kudos to Global Fluency’s Dave Murray for his recent white paper related to this topic. Here’s the link:  http://www.globalfluency.com/news/index.html

3. Digital marketing is top of mind.

CMO Council and a partner firm recently released a survey (http://tinyurl.com/cckvb3e) that said, among other things, that the thing that most marketers are concerned about is digital marketing. Digitizing everything is a “modern” communications task and it’s an interesting change from decades ago when we just had to hire a graphic designer, write some prose, slap them together, get them printed and mail everything to the intended audience.

I believe the CMO Council survey was much more complicated and meaningful than my summary here, but that was still my key take away from it.

Today the communications expert or marketer creates smart and interesting content and then digitizes it so it can be properly socialized.

It’s wild when you think about communications 20 years ago versus today. Back then, you’d fax a press release to your top 10 reporters or mail a hard copy invitation to 100 customers. Today, you’d socialize survey results on Youtube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and use the online invitation tool to get everyone to the party.

The funny thing is, I remember asking someone 20 years ago, “What did we do before faxes?”
My 12-year-old who is now begging me for his own Youtube account just asked me, “What’s a fax?”

If you want to keep up on the latest trends, join me and my other IABC colleagues at our March 21st luncheon at Michael’s at Shoreline in Mountain View, Calif. I’m a director with the SV-IABC and I personally invite you to come.  It’s not free but it’s also not expensive and the networking benefits are priceless.

This month’s speakers will talk about the pros and cons of consulting for a big IT corporation. To register, visit: http://www.sv.iabc.com/

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Top 10 Take Aways from the 2013 Silicon Valley PRSA Future of PR Panel

Last night I attended the Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America’s “Future of PR” networking and panel event at the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto, California.

Panelists and audience members ended up speaking mostly about modern PR, as opposed to the future of the profession.

They highlighted the importance of creating content with entertainment value that is interesting to a more general audience than an organization’s specific industry.

Also, great PR people need to add business value and when driving a campaign, consider the gamut of tools from videos to events.

The panelists were Andy Getsey, Co-Founder & CEO Agency Atomic, Kelly McGinnis, Vice President, Communications at Dell, David Swain, Director of Technical Communications, Facebook and Burghadt Tenderich, Associate Professor of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The panel was moderated by Steve Barrett, Editor-in-chief, PRWeek.

New Silicon Valley PRSA President David McCulloch, a Director at Cisco, also added a few comments.

Here are my 10 top take-aways from the event:

1.  When measuring PR campaign results, showing strategic outcomes is better than showing number of hits, views or clicks. The strategic people are more successful. – Tenderich

2. To be respected and valued, a PR manager needs to have a seat in the board room and add business value.  -McGinnis

3.  Attendees and members were surveyed and understanding influencers is top of mind. –PRSA president

4. Facebook places a lot of emphasize on PR. We have a lot of PR agencies but only one ad agency. -Swain

5. Companies have turned into media companies. I like when someone links to Dell’s news material.  That shows success. Sometimes your news content has nothing to do with your company and that’s fine. -McGinnis

6. The only proper way to measure a PR campaign is pre and post surveys. This is expensive -Tenderich

7. PR people need to be bold and have a seat at the branding table. I like to work on the corporate side because I can stay close to the action. -McGinnis

8. Attitude is more important than skill. You have to have the mind set to stretch beyond in PR. -McGinnis

9. It is sad that we need to show analytics results to prove the worth of PR. -Getsey

10. Facebook’s plan is to hire communications people, empower them and then scale projects. –Swain.

For more information about Silicon Valley PRSA news and events, visit http://www.prsasiliconvalley.org/

Additionally, I’m a director with PRSA’s “sister” organization, the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and for information about our news and upcoming events, visit http://sv.iabc.com/

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