Nine things you can do with that press release during a busy news cycle

By Jeannette Bitz

9-things-you-can-do-with-that-press-releaseAs the summer season quickly winds down, it’s the time of year when marketing and PR professionals plan for their final 2016 PR and marketing push. The last four months of the year are often the busiest and most critical period for a company and thus for public relations professionals. Companies that have held back or limited issuing press news during the summers months quickly ramp up come September (after the Labor Day holiday in the U.S.). They start issuing a steady clip of news ahead of big trade shows, industry events or even big customer meetings because it’s important that they gain some visibility and validation for their products and services, and highlight company momentum. In addition, many companies start to plan for one of or all of the major trade shows that take place in Q1, starting with the Computer Electronic Show (CES), Mobile World Congress and the RSA Conference.

Not surprisingly, every company ramps up its press release schedule now, putting pressure on their public relation firms to get that big hit or massive coverage. The problem with this approach is that you’re not the only one doing this. Large brands historically debut their latest and greatest in September; see Apple’s press conference scheduled for September 7. Leading up to this event and after, most of the media world is speculating, critiquing and providing their own unique analysis on why the latest iPhone will either be the success or demise of Apple. Apple is not alone in making a major announcement in the fall. Thousands of other tech companies are implementing the exact approach that you are. To make it even harder to stand out, there are simply far more companies and PR people than there are journalists who cover the news.

While I realize the importance of issuing press releases to communicate critical information to your audience (not just the media), here’s what you can do if you want to drive broader awareness of your press release.

  1. Make sure your release is really newsworthy (outside of your company). The simple truth is that while your press release is news to your company and maybe your customers, that doesn’t mean it will be viewed as news by a major media outlet. Some milestones are better suited for blog posts, or if a story has an interesting technical angle, for an exclusive in one of the trade outlets. Be smart and strategic about your release strategy.
  2. Be clear on what the headline is, with limited jargon and technical specifications. Clearly articulate how your news is a first or unique for the industry or your target customers. This one should be obvious, but we often find that clients spend so much time weaving in their messaging and technical jargon that the release has limited news value. Reporters are bombarded with releases and only pick up those that are interesting, well written and not self-serving.
  3. Get the release in front of the right reporters before it crosses the wire. Sometimes reporters will be willing to speak with you under embargo, which gives them more time to write their article and will ultimately result in stronger coverage that will help amplify your story.
  4. Customers are a big draw. Ask customers to provide quotes in your release and if possible talk to reporters, if you want to get the attention of the media. Customers will help you articulate the business benefit of your offering and will bring more credibility to your story.
  5. Include interesting data and customer perspective that support your announcement. Bulletized points are easy to ‘lift’ for an article. Customer surveys and industry analyst reports bring more credibility to your announcement and give reporters other resources that will help them write a broader story. If the data does come from an analyst firm, be sure to source what analyst and firm the data came from.
  6. Anticipate and research dates for upcoming major news events, especially events by major tech or consumer brands such as Apple, and don’t issue your big announcement on those days. If you truly have a unique point of view or qualified data that will support a reporter’s efforts to write a story on this major news event, then you may be the exception to this rule. If not, hold off your press release to a later date. We’re telling Engage PR’s clients that they should not issue news during the week leading up to and on the day that Apple is expected to announce its next iPhone.
  7. Consider the timeliness of your announcement. For example, if you have great data about sales of mobile devices during a holiday season, know that your insight has a short shelf life, two to three weeks, maximum. If you issue your release after that season, don’t be surprised if the media decides it’s no longer newsworthy or relevant.
  8. Avoid the trade-show barrage. While companies want to use trade shows to attract media and analysts to their booths, the shows are also the busiest time for them because larger companies are usually issuing their own news. Your news will get lost in the noise.
  9. Last but not least: Leverage social media channels to provide teasers leading up to your announcement, and afterward continue to talk about the importance of what you’ve announced in social media. Don’t make the content too marketing specific but instead focus on your product’s or service’s business benefits. Most importantly, engage with other influencers, including the media and analysts who wrote about your news. Thank them in social media and help promote their stories.

The fall season is expected to be a busy one, with larger companies generating news. If you want to get the attention of the media, be smart in your approach or your efforts could be wasted.

Is your outreach hitting on all cylinders?

By: Chris Nicoll

Summer is a great time to take a short pause and look at your business to see where things are working and where some things may need realignment. I think this is also true of your outreach programs including public relations, social media and analyst relations. Since market activity picks up rapidly after the summer in preparation for the upcoming industry events such as the Consumer Electronics Show, Mobile World Congress and other smaller events setting goals over the summer ensures you are ready to roll come September.

A coordinated plan based on understanding the strengths of your outreach programs is what will deliver the best business results based on my experience as an analyst, but also as a marketing exec and as someone who has run AR programs. Most companies today are bridging their PR and Social Media (SM) programs successfully. Unfortunately, it is the Analyst Relations (AR) program that is frequently not well integrated. In order to understand where the gaps may be, it helps to define what the role and expectations are for each of these programs. While each has its own individual role in market outreach, at Engage PR we know it is the interplay of the three that generates the most successful communications programs.

Value Role
Public Relations Generate Awareness Identify the company and products, highlight benefits and leadership
Social Media Market Engagement Link buyers and influencers to the company, its brand(s) and community programs
Analyst Relations Market/Solution Validation Third-party validation of the market, product, solution. Influence and provide source materials for other programs.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses in each of these areas helps to identify where your resources are well targeted and where additional focus (or funding) may be needed. One of the most valuable services we offer at Engage PR are our PR, SM and AR audits and these provide a valuable baseline for your communications efforts. These audits offer clients an in-depth look into their own existing programs and offer an analysis of how they compare to top competitors.

Bringing AR into the fold
The ‘relations’ part of ‘analyst relations’ is actually quite different from ‘public relations’. Analyst interactions are more frequent and more involved than media interactions from both a time and effort perspective, requiring the sharing of detailed product and market information, and the exchange of ideas and insights. This is the hallmark of all AR programs. Where we see an opportunity to help drive positive business outcomes is in managing the analyst relationships to benefit both our client and the analyst.

In my previous blog post, I identified five common pitfalls clients may encounter when working with industry analysts. Those must be addressed before being able to leverage analyst insights for your outreach programs. We offer programs to augment in-house AR teams or provide outsourced AR program support.

Once these pitfalls are overcome, we maximize the time, effort and output of each analyst interaction. Every report, conversation or presentation can provide a tweet, quote or useful insight for the press and/or social media. As one corporate AR professional recently commented:

“Interactions with the analysts and the resulting research allow us to tell our story to key, third-party experts who influence the purchasing decisions of our existing and prospective customers. If we have a good story to tell and tell it well enough that could translate into positive reports, blog posts, quotes in the media, tweets, etc. That in turn could bring new customers to us or influence existing customers to buy additional services.”

So what is the key to an effective PR/SM/AR program that drives business results? Analyst insights, market share and size data are all used to support press releases with expert third-party validation, while social media connects these insights to key individuals and communities that are important to the company. With all three bases covered, your company is better prepared to deliver the best business results possible. You should ask yourself, is your PR, social and AR hitting on all cylinders? If not, engage us.

Join me for the free Engage PR webinar on maximizing your outreach spend to be held on September 21.

To receive a description of our Analyst Relations Engagement programs for both in-house and outsourced teams and to reserve your place for our webinar, please visit us HERE.

A Conversation with The New York Times’ Quentin Hardy

By Reno Ybarra and Anne Stanley

The best way to get to know someone is to listen to them. Sounds simple, right? When it comes to the media, it’s not always that easy. At Engage PR we pride ourselves in our ability to build relationships with top media and providing our clients with insight into the likes and dislikes of key journalists. This requires research, which is why we recently attended “A Conversation with Quentin Hardy, New York Times” at the Oracle Convention Center in Redwood City. The PRSA event featured a Q&A-style presentation with Hardy and Oracle’s VP of Marketing Communications Mike Moeller, followed by questions from the audience. Questions ranged from what Hardy thinks about the presidential election, to his predictions for the future of technology and democracy. In this blog we will highlight our top takeaways from the discussion, but first, who is Quentin Hardy?

“One of the most creative chroniclers of Silicon Valley” – Forbes

When asked to describe his job, Hardy’s response is unique and perhaps unexpected.

“I point at things,” Hardy said. “My job is to point at things and say ‘Isn’t that interesting? No really, look at that, isn’t it weird?’”

Hardy has quite the history of “pointing at things.” Currently the Deputy Technology Editor at The New York Times, Hardy started as a reporter covering banks and markets at The Wall Street Journal in New York before moving to Tokyo where he covered the rise and fall of Japan’s economy. In 1995, he returned to the United States and continued to write for The Journal in San Francisco until 1999. In 2003, he began his tenure at Forbes Magazine as the Silicon Valley Bureau Chief. In 2009 he was promoted to the magazine’s National Editor. Towards the end of 2011, Hardy left Forbes for The New York times where he now covers enterprise tech for the Bits blog, which provides insight and analysis on Silicon Valley and the technology industry. Having recently learned that his grandfather owned a newspaper for a couple of years, Hardy states unequivocally that he was born with journalistic ilk. In addition to his mother’s writing roots, his father’s notable stint as a Life Magazine publisher back when “…it was a cool job” certainly stands out.

In addition to his deep history in traditional print media, Hardy understands the importance of social media in journalism and lists Twitter as one of his main sources for news. He also uses Twitter to provide added commentary on global goings-on (currently the hot topic is the presidential election), and playful banter with other top journalists. If you’re a fan of Hardy’s writing and want a more intimate look at the man behind the news, be sure to follow him.

How to work with Quentin

As you can imagine, a journalist of such caliber as Hardy receives a lot of attention from companies and their PR firms. According to Hardy, he receives approximately 200 email pitches per day. Here are a few tips on how to improve your pitches’ chances of not going straight into the trash folder:

Have Patience
It takes a long time to go through 200 pitches per day. It also takes a long time to go through the other hundred non-pitch emails. Remember that it’s not Hardy’s job to respond to your email right away or give you a play-by- play update on his writing progress. Sending follow-up email after follow-up email and repeatedly asking when a piece is going to publish will not make the process move any faster.

Accept Rejection
No means no. Don’t accuse Hardy of not knowing what he’s doing and definitely don’t berate him with follow-up emails and phone calls after he’s expressed disinterest. If you are unwilling to accept rejection, you may not receive a response at all to your next pitch.

Read What He Writes
Yes, you should know what Hardy has and hasn’t covered before, but keep in mind that just because he recently wrote about a topic doesn’t mean he’s going to write about it again. In fact, if you pitch the same story he’s already written without providing a new angle, you’re wasting his and your time.

Tip: The story is always more important than the product to a journalist. Hardy prefers stories that have real-life connections to everyday people. So instead of sending a pitch that highlights the complicated technical capabilities of your product, consider presenting a real-life use case that has both depth and noticeable impact on the average Joe.

Know Your Material
Hardy said that one of the many reasons he has for not responding to a pitch is that the PR person obviously does not know their client’s technology or how it applies to the story they are trying to tell. If you don’t know your client, then how should Hardy expect you to know if this is a good match? Pitches that read like marketing collateral or that are overly vague can make you sound under-informed and may ruin your chances of landing a meeting.

Quentin’s Insights and Predictions
As the evening began to wrap up, the audience was given a few opportunities to ask that one question Hardy may scoff at or answer with an abundance of insight and enthusiasm. Some of his predictions for the future of tech include the popularity of swarm robotics, 3D printing of buildings (causing skylines to rise and fall before our eyes) and PR folks pushing out more finished content than ever. He also foresees an increase in surveillance given the fact that sensors are popping up in just about everything nowadays.

Tip: Speaking of surveillance, Hardy had a direct response when it comes to security stories: He doesn’t like them. He has an aversion to allowing security vendors to spread fear through his medium in order to sell more units, and thus tends to avoid pitches that focus on security.

Last but not least, Hardy was asked whether or not technology was undermining democracy. He answered in the affirmative. Seeing how there are fewer and fewer meeting places for people of different backgrounds and ideals to mingle and influence each other, there’s been a tremendous increase in pockets of like-minded people. That group mentality is exactly what democracy was designed to prevent and Hardy can’t deny that technology plays a distinct role in that inevitability.

What do you think of Hardy’s predictions for the future of tech and PR? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter at @EngagePR or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Industry event review: IoT Evolution Expo West 2016

By: Reno Ybarra

Recently, Engage PR attended IoT Evolution Expo West, TMCnet’s Internet of Things focused conference in Las Vegas celebrating the companies that are driving business innovation through IoT. The conference provided a great opportunity for our clients to meet face-to-face with analysts, media and participate in industry discussions via panel sessions on relevant topics. It also allowed us to host these briefings and interviews, take in keynotes and panel sessions and introduce our clients to various stakeholders, including media, analysts and event organizers – people we consistently work with but rarely get to interact with face-to-face. The value attending an industry event as a PR professional can be enormous and personally, it’s my favorite part of the job.

Horizontal problem
This particular event is relevant to Engage PR as IoT is not only a hot topic everywhere you look, but is where a number of our clients are focused. As such, it’s necessary for our staff to stay involved in the conversations surrounding the various technologies, use cases and markets that IoT vendors and purchasers serve and drive, respectively. At the same time, there are dozens of events just like it and it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate between them in order to make cogent recommendations to our clients. Furthermore, they all have the same problem – the buyers of technology do not attend en masse – which creates a dilemma for vendors looking to generate sales leads and increase visibility for their brands. I’m generalizing a bit with that statement, but my experience and what Engage PR has heard from multiple clients all points to that same conclusion. At IoT Evolution Expo West, there were analysts, media and hundreds of vendor representatives in attendance, but few purchasers of the technology and solutions being discussed throughout the event. As a result, we see clients focusing efforts on vertical shows that focus on industries that are adopting various IoT technologies, and where the actual buyers are almost guaranteed to be present.

Horizontal value
That isn’t to say that horizontal shows don’t hold plenty of value in a relatively nascent market with players coming in to compete in droves, such as IoT. These horizontal shows provide value to companies large and small as you can see with the sponsors of IoT Evolution Expo West inclusive of behemoths like AT&T and newer, smaller companies like Senet. For the big dogs, they get the notoriety that comes with sponsoring the show, having a large booth presence and participating on just about every panel. For the smaller companies including startups, it’s a great way to introduce a new brand to the market and drive visibility through startup competitions and exhibitions. TMCnet’s IoT show is very small compared to say, the CES’s of the world, but smaller shows include the following benefits, while I’m sure there are others:

  1. More facetime with analysts and media – pitching for Mobile World Congress and CES starts nearly six months in advance and is extremely competitive, whereas at smaller shows it is more realistic for small and mid-size B2B companies to sit-down with important influencers. If you’re not sponsoring or exhibiting at a show like this, the awareness gained from sitting on a few panels and mingling with media and analysts is invaluable.
  2. Less distractions to navigate – When exhibiting or announcing news at a smaller show, the likelihood of getting drowned out by the crowd is less as there are fewer competing activities.
  3. Productive mingling happens – With less heads roaming the halls, it’s easier to spot someone you know or would like to introduce yourself to and talk to them. Working with dozens of media and analysts I’ve never met drives a curiosity in me to the point that I memorize pictures of a few targets and seek them out at shows to introduce myself to in the hopes they remember and take my card. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but often, the person will remember the effort and respond a little quicker the next time you contact them.

Event highlights
“You can’t sell ‘it’ without IoT” was the theme of the first panel on the main stage of the show’s biggest room. The panel of IoT focused analysts from the likes of ABI Research, BI Intelligence, Machina and IHS Research discussed the topic of ROI Realities in IoT including what the biggest pain points are among buyers and how vendors should go to market and address them. The two most interesting takeaways of this panel for me were that with over 300 IoT “platforms” this market will continue to flood without consolidation, while mid-sized enterprises with flatter organizational structures will be the first adopters of IoT solutions. Another panel that drove my interest was the Fog/Edge Computing panel in which I learned the wife of a Cisco engineer was the one who invented the term Fog Computing.

The quote of the day came from Bsquare’s Dave McCarthy when he referred to connectivity going down at the edge, “Smart equipment shouldn’t have to lose its brain if the cloud isn’t available…” The Industrial IoT Strategies panel included conversations around what happens when vendors sit down with potential customers. Who is in the room and where does the conversation start? If it’s IT, do they make the purchasing decisions? If it’s a business unit, do they know enough about technology to make a decision? Some very interesting questions came up about bridging the two worlds of IT and OT with Dave McCarthy summing it up in a very succinct way, “I’ve been in rooms where LOB and IT guys from the same company sit down and exchange cards because they’ve never met before…”

Overall, it was a busy and productive week for Engage PR and our clients and despite being in Las Vegas, there weren’t any activities that needed to “stay” there.

The Business of an Industry Analyst in PR

By: Chris Nicoll

blog-industry_analystTechnology is an interesting industry with so many different facets and a constantly changing landscape. I’ve seen over the past 30+ years that if you don’t like something in the tech world, just wait 6 months and something new will pop up. These days, I think it is more like 2-3 months but you get the idea.

As an industry analyst for much of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn from a lot of very bright people – both at the companies I’ve worked at including Current Analysis, Yankee Group and most recently Analysys Mason, and companies I’ve worked with including AT&T, BT, Ciena, Cisco, Deutsch Telecom, Ericsson, Huawei, Orange, Nokia (and that includes NSN, Lucent and ALU), Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, Telefonica… the list goes on.

My point is this – as an industry analyst I’ve been able to work with numerous companies across many different technologies in many different markets so that I’ve had my eyes opened to new perspectives, new market challenges, and differing requirements.

Briefings are often targeted to both press and analysts and I’ve had very successful briefings where I have learned a lot, and been able to provide some valuable feedback and insights. I’ve also had forgettable briefings where I was watching the seconds hoping it would all end soon and wondering how such a waste of time and effort got approved by the vendor briefing me.

Across that experience five common pitfalls have remained fairly consistent:

  1. Not understanding what the analyst will do with your briefing. Are you briefing them for input into a report or article they are writing? Is this a feedback exercise for you? Are you hoping to expand the analyst’s knowledge of the space you are in? Why will the analyst want to talk to you is a really good question to ask yourself.
  2. Not looking at your analyst-time as an expense. This goes with not working to maximize your spend. Whether it is executive time, prep time or the expense of analyst subscriptions or reports – plan what you want to get out of your time and effort. Which leads to the next point:
  3. Not challenging your own assumptions. Analysts have a broader view than any vendor, or at least an outside view. Not using your analyst time to challenge and either validate or invalidate your key assumptions is one of the most common mistakes companies make. Analysts are not here to rubber stamp your ivory tower view of the world.
  4. Not asking for the analyst’s opinion. Again, related to my second point, but taking a breath to ask what the analyst thinks on a key point of your briefing is refreshing and could provide some much needed input. A secondary benefit is that it ensures the analyst is paying attention and not multi-tasking with email, or twitter or whatever. And if you want a press reference, you better know what they are going to say.
  5. Not preparing the analyst for the briefing. After you have put hours/days into the PowerPoint deck to be presented, rehearsed the script, done the fine tuning, validated your messages with key stakeholders internally – you expect the analyst to provide deeply insightful feedback and comprehension on the fly as you go through your presentation? Nope. Send the deck a few days before with the key points you expect to make and perhaps even a few questions you hope the analyst can answer for you. Help them help you to have a successful briefing.

This is where I think the joining of an experienced industry analyst and public relations team makes sense. Industry analysts look at the technology, products, messaging and positioning of the companies and markets they cover with a critical eye. PR takes an unabashedly promotional view of the same, but bringing the two together makes for a stronger message that is well supported and hopefully better received and understood by the press, analysts and potential customers.

This blog post has been focused on the AR side of business, but it applies to the PR side as well. If you take ‘analyst’ in the above points and substitute ‘press’ or ‘editor’ well, it does not exactly translate but again, I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Industry analysts and public relations have traditionally been in something of a ‘client-server’ relationship, with the analysts one of the key targets of the PR efforts. Joining Engage PR helps me bring a better understanding of the business and content needs of the analysts we work with on behalf of our clients.