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So You Want to Talk to Tech Editors?

Recent Tech Savvy Marketing posts have often advocated getting connected with editors and reporters covering your market as a way of gaining awareness, credibility, and interest. This column discusses the rather simple rules for media engagement and how to become quite effective in gaining a share of editorial interest exposure and creating some publicity for your company. Here are the rules. Break them at your peril:

  • Read the target publication and understand its direction and audience.
  • Know what a specific editor or reporter writes about and don't pitch off-topic, irrelevant info.
  • Respect the journalists' time by engaging them at their convenience, not yours.
  • Have a well-rounded understanding of your market sector and be able to discuss trends and issues affecting it.
  • Have patience when journalists don't understand technology or your products with the same depth as you do. They're generalists, not specialists. Take time to educate them.
  • Don't expect a story or a mention in an article from a journalist just because you spoke with them.
  • Respect their deadlines. Journalists have a lot of them. If you're late, you're out.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Don't lie or even stretch reality very far. Reporters get lied to almost weekly.
  • Don't hype your product and be able to clearly differentiate it from competitors.
  • Read the target publication and understand its direction and audience. (Listed twice for emphasis.)

You don't need to be a PR pro from a big agency to work well with the media. In fact, company managers themselves may often be in a better position to connect with editors than media relations pros. It's top management (CEO, CTO, VP, Director) who should be speaking for their brand, in any case. PR pros can be highly effective brokers and make lots of great things happen but management needs to “get” the rules above as well if they want to connect with their industry's media people.

Some are claiming the media has changed due to the rise of Web publishing. They're right. There are fewer journalists doing a lot more work. The so-called “fragmented media” is now portrayed as overworked, under-staffed, and bombarded with information. This has been the norm for decades. Perhaps today it's just even worse. It's tough, hectic work. I've been there and so have lots of people I know. If someone in professional journalism was ever underworked, had too much help, and wasn't getting more info than he or she could digest, I've never heard of it. Those people must have had great job!

Here's a recent quote from an editor and friend on the key area of misunderstanding. Rule No. 1 above:

    My main gripe comes from people pitching stories on issues and subjects I don't cover. I've received proposals and offers to interview executives on very odd subjects that have nothing to do with what I do, which implies (they haven't) done the necessary homework. I used to respond explaining I don't cover the section, industry, etc., but many times the typical response has been to revise the offer to make it more suitable for my audience. That may seem like a good idea to the person but how do I make a subject on logging, for instance, suitable to the high-tech market?

You're pitching media effectively when you know the publication's audience, writer's areas of interest (editorial focus), what they've recently written, what they like to write about, and when to contact them and how. Don't believe me? Here's the word on pitching stories straight from the horse's (editors') mouth at Information Week, which has probably been pitched by more PR dummies than lots of other media outlets.

Even more convincing are the exceptionally clear and valuable published guidelines from editor John Dix at Network World. (Scroll down to “How do I pitch an idea for an article or story to a Network World editor?” ) This excellent advice is nearly universally applicable across most media, including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, and EBN.

Pitching articles and story ideas to journalists and bloggers is frankly not rocket science. It's mostly about being considerate, reasonably knowledgeable about the publication and your business sector, and not trying to sell ice to Eskimos… Basically: knowing what the heck you're doing.

11 comments on “So You Want to Talk to Tech Editors?

  1. Cryptoman
    April 2, 2012

     

    It is very important to know the audience of the publication before attempting to pitch a product or a technology in that publication. I think the key issue is to realise pitching a product on a specialised publication is very different to using a TV commercial for the same purpose. I get the feeling that most people have the same attitude towards both means of promoting a product and that's where the problem is.

    In a TV commercial, the typical approach is to bombard the audience with product promotions of any shape an size at prime time. This strategy may work for TV as the spectrum of the audience is quite broad and the idea is to make the audience remember the product by means of a catchy sound track or an attractive looking woman or displaying impressive images in a short time. The key point is to reach as many people as possible at a time when they are most likely to be watching television. However, the same strategy will never work with publications mainly because each publication has particular niche and a selective audience. This audience has certain expectations from the publication and the content it offers. Bombarding such a selective audience with irrelevant promotions is guaranteed to backfire.

    Therefore, it is critical to do the homework and 'knowing your target publication' before talking to the editor. One thing that is worse than 'not being known' is 'being known with a bad reputation' and there is a fine line between the two.

  2. Ford Kanzler
    April 2, 2012

    Cryptoman – Our topic is focused on EBN readers in the B2B tech sector with interest in engaging editorial people covering the EOEM market. Certainly there are vast differences between the two kinds of promotional communications (advertising and PR) as well as enormous differences between developing product publicity among tech trade media and advertising a (consumer) product on television. Use of TV by a B2B marketer would very likely be an utterly wasted investment. Promoting into the EOEM sector requies effective media selection. TV definitely isn't a good B2B choice.  

  3. Cryptoman
    April 2, 2012

    Sure Ford. I understand that. The reason why I mentioned TV advertising was to provide a reference for the “approach and the attitude” in promoting a product. Even though TV is not a suitable medium for B2B tech sector, not exploring a particular publication in terms of focus, audience and content prior to promoting a product is similar to how some product advertisements are placed on TV regardless of their relevance in terms of audience and the advertisement timeslots.

    My intention was to highlight the fact that asessing the relevance of a product for a particular medium is the key. Maybe choosing TV commercials as an example was a bit confusing in that respect.

  4. _hm
    April 2, 2012

    For good magazine, tech editor should take lead to talk to new and novel products. These are really good and more authentic reports and will get more attention from potential user. 

  5. Ford Kanzler
    April 2, 2012

    Agreed! Knowing who views or reads your message and where is primary. Selecting where your story or information appears must match up with the desired audience.

    Returning to the original point, effective preparation for and understanding of who you're planning on talking to about your business story or products are essential to media relations successes. Further, building relationships with the people who control appropriate media should be at the heart of the program, not just periodically firing promotional info at them with the hope or expectation that they'll publish it to your brand's benefit.

  6. Barbara Jorgensen
    April 2, 2012

    Well said, Ford! I wouldn't dream of calling a company without checking its Website and doing some homework on the type of company they are. That's true for companies I know as well as cold calling. Why should PR/marketing be any different?

    And I also agree that executives can be the most effective spokespeople out there, especially at small companies. They know the business better than anyone, and with a little preparation, they should be able to handle editors just fine. Mutual respect for time and professionalism works both ways and means a lot.

  7. Ford Kanzler
    April 2, 2012

    I'll add that part of preparing for media contact is having something significant to say and a clear perspective on your particular industry segment and market niche. Fairly and knowledgeably discussing the competitive landscape demostrates your market vision to editorial people. Being controversial or offering fresh perspectives can make your story interesting enough to gain coverage. Executive spokespersons should always be ready to go well beyond talking just about their company's products. Conversely, they should also know the limits of what they should be talking about, particularly when they represent companies that are publicly traded.

  8. FLYINGSCOT
    April 3, 2012

    Thanks for the tips.  I wish more companies would adhere to these simple points and also train their management in how best to deal with PR related items.  The message any company gives out should always be clear and common from all its main execs.  

  9. Daniel
    April 4, 2012

    “Pitching articles and story ideas to journalists and bloggers is frankly not rocket science”

    Ford, you are right. Even if you simply look around you, you can have an n number of ideas for writing. Or even if you have some reading habits, online medias can provide excellent threads for writing. I know some of my colleagues are preparing articles for presentation by simply doing a statical analysis and with the help of a final comparative study.

  10. Barbara Jorgensen
    April 4, 2012

    Ford: I'd add another caveat to your advice on deadline: try to respond as quickly as possible. In this online age, people focus on what they are working on and move on. A week later, you'll get a reply to something and you will have totally forgotten what you were working on “back then.” If you really want to be user-friendly, respond immediately and put off the actual interview if necessary, but get on the editor's calendar. It goes a long way toward good will and may make you the first choice the next time and editor needs some input.

  11. Ford Kanzler
    April 5, 2012

    Barbara – Creating good will among a business' key media people should be along side of gaining consistent media coverage. At the core of creating good will is respecting a person's schedule as well as being a friendly, informative interviewee. We're now discussing very basic media relations regardless of what industry or business you're in. Passing tips or relevant facts to a writer or editor that's of interest, even when its NOT about your business but relates to the reporter's area, is a strong way of building good will. How often has that happened to you?

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