Beyond Email and Phone: Tips for Using Form Fields, LinkedIn, Facebook for Pitching Tech Writers

August 16, 2011

 By Travis Van, Founder, ITDatabase

In the late 90’s, tech PR pros pitched almost exclusively via email and phone. We considered it a big win that the fax was finally phased out as a media relations tool.

Today, tech PR pros still conduct the majority of pitches via email, but phone “follow-up” is in danger of following the fax. Most tech writers these days are bloggers, and most intentionally withhold their phone numbers because they’re not interested in fielding calls. Even tech trades– who formerly supplied direct phone numbers to their writer roster–have a staff of mercenaries who are always in flux. Mastheads are tiny or nonexistent. Where individual phone numbers were once publicly available, today they must be earned through establishing relationships that usually begins with email. Strike out on your outreach to a writer, and you may blow your chance to connect by phone. Chalk it up to years of pushy calls from PR pros.

Increasingly, writers have no public email address but may be contacted exclusively via Twitter, or a form field, or a LinkedIn profile. How do PR pros utilize these various contact methods?

Yesterday I pinged a former tech PR colleague who I respect. He’s done countless outreach over the last 10 years for tons of tech PR startup launches and product announcements. He shared a few insights about his experiences with the spectrum of contact methods that he uses on a daily basis.

Email

“Subject lines need to be short and attention-grabbing. The entire pitch should be no more than one-two short paragraphs, and it’s much better to provide links to more info than paste them into the release. Excessively long pitches will not get read. I find it most effective to reference something that the author has written before and to create a hook that makes them feel that I am respectful of what they are trying to bring to the table for their unique audience, and not just trying to cram some announcement down their throat.”

LinkedIn

“LinkedIn keeps getting better. So many tech authors are on it and actively maintaining their resume there. Sometimes I’ve used InMail to contact those whose email I can’t find elsewhere. It was unclear to me in the beginning whether this was acceptable, or would rub them the wrong way. But I have yet to have anyone complain about it, and it’s worked a number of times.”

Twitter

“There’s a perception that tech PR pros are actively pitching via Twitter Direct Messages. I have not met a single PR pro who is actually doing this as their primary outreach method. First of all, you can’t direct message someone on Twitter unless you are mutual followers (unless you use a work-around, which is not advised). For most of the tech authors that follow me back on Twitter, I usually have their email address and pitch them that way. The best value I get out of Twitter is being able to follow what those tech contacts are saying, reweet their posts to show them we are actively following their content, and to detect when they are jumping into new subject matter.”

Form Fields

“Many PR pros suspect that form field submissions don’t get answered, that their submissions disappear into the ether. But I’ve had equal success with form fields as with email addresses. And when you get a response, you have their email address.”

Facebook

“I still don’t consider Facebook to be a serious tool for media outreach. What, I’m going to friend a writer on Facebook, then contact them that way? I’ve had some great client efforts where a lot of target customers ‘liked’ us and the effort really helped us with audience building. But Facebook never really comes into play in my outreach to actual tech writers.”

Comments

“There are a ton of tech PR pros writing drippy, insincere comments to kowtow to tech authors. I don’t believe that sycophancy is an effective media relations weapon. What has worked for me in the past is if I detect an article that is just dead on with a client’s focus and they have something provocative, I’ll encourage the client to comment with either something inflammatory or a sidebar that genuinely advances the discussion. Sometimes that comment will lead to a connection with the author, or be something that I can reference in a future correspondence to the author.”

Phone

“This is my ultimate goal. My best relationships are writers I can call and give a quick verbal pitch. For others that don’t respond to my email pitch, I will sometimes call them as well. It’s a bit uncomfortable to try to break through to an author via phone, but it’s amazing how many other PR pros you leapfrog, because they were too timid to call.”

Whatever your personal successes / failures with each of these contact methods, keep in mind that the further in advance of your announcement that you recognize available contact options, the more opportunity you have to figure out your best angle. The idea that you’re flying blind unless you know a writer’s “pitching preferences” is a strawman by media directory services trying to sell you their interpretations. Contact preferences are obviously the contact info supplied publicly, and preferred pitches are those that tie directly to what writers are actually writing about and what’s relevant to their readership. There are more breadcrumbs than ever to learn about your targets before engaging them.

Travis Van is the founder of ITDatabase.com, an online media database of technology journalists and Business Wire partner company.

BW Gives Back: LA’s Melinda and Jill Rosenzwieg Serve as Butterfly Docents

August 11, 2011

by Melinda Rosenzweig, Marketing Supervisor, Business Wire

My six-year-old daughter, Jill, loves butterflies. In fact, she’s a ‘butterfly expert.’   She knows male from female, how many legs a butterfly has, and what happens when a butterfly undergoes change before becoming an adult.

For the past few months, Jill and I have been learning about the world of butterflies by serving as Butterfly House Docents at the Environmental Nature Center, home to the only native butterfly house in OrangeCounty.  The ‘OC’ is located just 50 miles south of Los Angeles. The ENC provides quality education through hands-on experience with nature.

 

VIDEO: Jill Rosenzweig, age 6, plays with a Red Admiral butterfly at the Environmental Nature Center, home to several butterfly species native to Orange County, CA.

As part of the volunteer program, Jill and I planted 45 host and nectar plants for the native OC butterflies that live within the Butterfly House. The plants have matured, and their leaves provide caterpillars with host food while their flowers offer nectar to mature butterflies. Inside the House is a “nursery” where guests can witness the birth of butterflies as they emerge from their chrysalises.

One of the ways Business Wire is celebrating its 50th anniversary is by giving employees paid time off this year to volunteer with the nonprofit of their choice.   Read more about what other BW employees are doing to give back.

Happy 50th Anniversary Business Wire!


To Register or Not to Register? For Press Release Measurement, a Tough Question

August 9, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist

In a column on ClickZ entitled “5 Traits of the Analytically Empowered Organization,” Neil Mason offers basic guidelines on how to get the most out of measurement and analysis.  Mason addresses website analytics but his guidelines can also apply to interpreting press release measurement data collected in Business Wire’s complimentary Newstrak reports.

“In an ideal world, data is integrated around known users but this may not always be appropriate or possible,” wrote Mason. “Some internal data may be on a customer level, but digital data is often based on cookie level data.”   

In other words, if you know with whom you are dealing (your own customers, or website visitors about whom you have specific information that they provided upon registration) you can record accurate information about those people.  If not, you have to gather information using less direct, and therefore less accurate, methods.

So, although ideally you would like in-depth, accurate data about each visitor to your site, or viewer of your press releases, realistically you might not be able to gather this data without compelling that person to register.  But compulsory registration can cause someone to leave a website.  A recent study found that 75% of consumers take issue with being asked to register on a website and will change their behavior as a result.

The Business Wire site stopped requiring registration as a prerequisite to reading full press releases because we wanted visitors to stay on our site longer and read more of our clients’ releases.  The trade-off is missing visitor-supplied information about their geographic location, industry, job title, and other facts from registration forms. 

We can still report upon each visitor’s “location” but that information actually corresponds to the IP address of the visitor.  Sometimes that’s the same as where the visitor is located.  In other cases, it only reflects where the internet service provider is located. 

We’re not alone in swapping broad access and happy website visitors for information that we have to then find indirectly (or selectively,  from the relative few who don’t mind registering). 

For instance, I’ve seen demos of social media analysis products that have geographic and demographic sections.   When I have pressed the salesperson for how these data were derived, I learned they used IP addresses–exactly as we do–and reported demographics for users who include that information in their profiles.  In other words, indirect, or selective; or even very, very selective, information.

None of this means that their reports, or our reports, are useless.  On the contrary, they can be extremely useful but, as is the case with any statistical report, you must know what you’re viewing.

Here are some tips on how to use statistical reports with these constraints in mind:

  • Don’t accept any numbers at face value.  Understand the context in which they exist and how they fit in with one another as well as with any statistics you might be gathering internally.
  • Make sure you are indeed gathering those internal statistics.  Don’t rely on third party reports to tell you the whole story about what you are trying to measure–the “known users” referred to above are YOUR users, and you can leverage those relationships to gather a lot of information.
  • Especially if you are purchasing a measurement product, don’t be so lulled by the sexiness of the presentation that you fail to ask the vendor, “How do you find this information?”  Prod for  specifics so you’ll know what numbers to rely upon and which should be taken with that proverbial grain of salt.

Business Wire’s Danny Selnick Books Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for National Press Club Event

August 4, 2011

What’s it like to sit on the dais with Minnesota Congresswoman and candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Michele Bachmann?

Ask Business Wire’s VP of Public Policy Danny Selnick, who was Bachmann’s lunch partner onstage at a recent National Press Club luncheon.    Selnick serves on the NPC’s Luncheon Speakers’ Committee and booked Congresswoman Bachmann as a speaker.

About 300 attended the Press Club event, hosted by NPC President Mark Hamrick. In addition to the Congresswoman and her guests, some of the most well-known print and broadcast reporters in journalism today–including Christine Amanpour and representatives from Fox News, Time and CNN–were seated at the head table.

Here’s Selnick’s take on the controversial Congresswoman from the vantage point of the head table.

“As the event organizer I sat next to the Congresswoman during the lunch portion of the event and had an opportunity to get to know her a bit. Politics aside, she is an incredibly warm and friendly woman who seemed to take a genuine interest in what I said about my family, job and magic as my hobby.  (I promised to spare her and everyone in the room any tricks).

“Congresswoman Bachmann talked about her values, her campaign platform and  her steadfast opposition to any debt-limit plan that failed to revamp federal spending.

In the end, she thanked me and the National Press Club for the invitation and seemed eager to face the dozens of cameras representing all the news networks, as well as print and radio journalists also in attendance.

“Later on that evening, my wife and two girls watched the webcast and my 10-year old commented how unimpressed she was seeing me up at the head table.  ‘Dad, what did you do, but sit there?’

” But I could tell she really was proud of me when I got a big hug right afterwards.”

Nice work, Danny!


Business Wire Journalist Survey to Monitor Trends in Media Research Tools

August 2, 2011

For nearly 50 years Business Wire has long served two constituencies: those companies and organizations that distribute their press releases over our network; and information recipients, foremost among them members of the media.  Today we are conducting a short survey to look at the news gathering process of today’s journalists.

The term “journalist” has expanded over the years from professional reporters and writers to include more audiences like bloggers, vloggers, etc.  The way the media goes about their everyday news gathering efforts has changed as well.  This quick survey looks at traditional news sources, multimedia, social media, and the usage of these communications tools.

Our Global Media Relations team works with reporters across the world everyday to provide them with free access to our PressPass service and other tools for journalists.  These brief surveys help keep us aware of the changes in work-flow among an audience critical to our business so we can continue to offer solutions to match their needs.

If you’re a member of the media please take a moment — 94 seconds, actually — to take our survey today.


PR Peeps Poll on Mobile Manners: 36% say Bad Cell Phone Manners Win Rudeness Contest

August 2, 2011

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President New Media   

We know it’s a brave, rude world out there, but even us new media hounds were surprised that cell phones were named as the #1 offender when it comes to minding your mobile manners.   We figured “all of the above” would pull the most votes in our PR Peeps Poll asking, “What’s your biggest digital pet peeve?”

Socially unrefined cell phone behaviour jumped a noteworthy 12% since last year’s poll  posed the same set of questions.

Cell phones didn’t win by much.  Of 174 polled, 36% cited “inappropriate cellphone use” as their biggest digital pet peeve, followed by “all of the above” with 35%.  Next most offensive was loud talking Bluetooth users with 12%.   “Profanity and crassness in new media settings” came in fourth with 11% and  “Texting while I’m presenting” finished last with 6%.

Etiquette expert and author Anna Post remarked in our recent webinar on the topic that we  should try harder to control our cell phone antics.  “Any time cell phone use will bother others, turn it off.”  Agreed!

PR Peeps Poll July 2011 What's Your Biggest Digital Pet Peeve?Even poll comments singled out cell phones as the most annoying source of bad manners. Among the complaints:  “texting instead of calling when it’s obviously more appropriate to call,” “taking phone calls in the gym”  and the possibly life-threatening act of “texting/facebooking while crossing the street–in front of traffic!” 

Details below.

63, or 36%         Inappropriate cellphone use
21, or 12%          Bluetooth user who makes me think he’s talking to me
19, or 11%          Profanity and crassness in new media settings
11, or 6%            Texting while I’m presenting
60, or 35%       All of the above

To those who participated, thank you for voting.  Now, will you be able to help us out with our next PR Peeps Poll on the effectiveness of Twitter–now vs. a year ago?  WE hope so.  It’s only three questions. 

 174 respondents via Twitter, email and Business Wire webinar polls. Poll conducted June 10 – July 25, 2011.

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