Peering Through the Looking Glass

By Chris Nicoll

I’ve been writing about how coordinating your communication programs is just smart business (See: Is your outreach hitting on all cylinders). Each of these programs, AR, PR and Social Media, takes money, time and effort to run, not to mention significant executive mindshare. Each has its unique benefits and the maximum benefit is gained when each supports and builds upon the other. What also helps is stepping back and taking another perspective to gain unique views and insight.

My colleague at Engage PR wrote a blog post about her insights from the Inside the Newsroom series event with WIRED magazine. Leslie Johnson’s post underscored a key issue that I think many people are missing today: Secondary Story Angles are Key. To expand on her point briefly – with topics such as IoT and 5G dominating much of the press attention these days it can help your company, product or solution get noticed if you can link what you are doing to these hot topics.

Let’s take 5G as an example: With 5G talking about gigabit speeds using mmWave and cmWave spectrum, the impact is on everything from the processors to handle that much throughput, to graphics displays for 4K and VR services not to mention battery life and that is just on the device. Backhaul and latency are problems with today’s networks – 5G makes these issues bigger. With Always-On and billions of devices that also makes security a nightmare. So without even discussing radios and spectrum we’ve identified a wide range of story ideas that directly link to 5G. Where do you fit in? Knowing how to tailor your message to the press and analysts will increase your visibility and gain momentum for your company.

Engage PR will be hosting a webinar on October 3, 1 pm ET where I’ll talk about how to effectively maximize and integrate your programs, changes in the analyst business that may be impacting your AR program’s effectiveness and some examples on linking your business to key trends.

Introduction to “the New WIRED”

By Leslie Johnson

blog-media-new_wired_2WIRED magazine has been around since 1993. With its futuristic design, the hard copy of the magazine has stood the test of time in an evolving media landscape. Last week, I was introduced to “the new WIRED,” and uncovered story opportunities for some of my clients.

I attended an Inside the Newsroom Series event with WIRED sponsored by the Silicon Valley Chapter of PRSA and HP. The panel discussion included WIRED’s Senior Associate Editor Alex Davies, Video Producer Paula Chowles and Senior Writer David Pierce and was moderated by a member of HP’s PR team.

What’s New?

Transportation stories are cool. The emergence of self-driving cars, drones and transportation-related industries being transformed by the Internet of Things and other technologies such as aviation is fueling the success of many companies, including some of Engage PR’s clients. I was pleased to hear that WIRED had recently launched a Transportation vertical, and am excited to dig in and work with my clients to develop compelling story angles for it.

In attracting new viewers to WIRED.com, Paula Chowles produces videos to accompany stories. Her goal is to drive a connection with viewers through engagement including shares and comments. In addition to producing their own videos, WIRED accepts video footage from companies that they will edit to tell a story.

Besides learning about what’s new with WIRED, I came away from last week’s event with reminders about how best to pitch stories to WIRED. Here are a few tips:

Secondary Story Angles are Key

WIRED is not a news-driven magazine. As such, there are no “blackout dates” with editors when Apple introduces a new product; they are approachable on other stories.

Editors really want to understand from pitches what the broader trend is that a company’s news fits into and how the world will change or be a better place because of it. Another example of a secondary angle that would interest WIRED is the journey of how a unique product was created instead of focusing on the features of the new product.

Characters Tell a Compelling Story

In pitching a story to WIRED, focus on the people behind the technology. For example, Alex Davies went to a car show, but was not just interested in what the cars looked like. He was fascinated by the people involved, what drove their passion for their cars and the process of how they had transformed them.

Startups Fuel Bigger Stories

A member of the audience asked about story opportunities for startup companies in WIRED. David Pierce explained that startups indicate emerging trends and typically become “pegs” for bigger stories. Keep that in mind when pitching and set expectations with your executives accordingly.

Do you think your company is WIRED worthy? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter at @EngagePR or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

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.