by Shawnee Cohn, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/NY
With the current proliferation of digital devices available to consumers, the news media has certainly ramped up their coverage of the tech industry. As a result, PR pros have increased opportunities to get their tech clients in the limelight. But what is the best way to grasp the attention of reporters dedicated to this beat?
Recently the New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) held a Meet the Media panel covering best practices for reaching technology and gadget journalists. Moderated by Stephen Snart of Ketchum Public Relations, the panel featured:
- Kevin Hall, Editor-in-Chief, DVICE
- Seth Porges, Freelance Technology Journalist
- Joanna Stern, Technology Editor, ABC News
- Tim Stevens, Editor in Chief, Engadget
- Matt Tuthill, Senior Editor, Men’s Fitness
Following are some highlights from questions addressed to the panel, along with tips for pitching each media outlet/reporter.
Will you accept pitches via social media? The panelists were in agreement that social media pitches look like spam, with Porges adding that direct messages on Facebook or Twitter feel “intrusive.” Men’s Fitness uses social media sites primarily for the purpose of interacting with their readers, so any pitches sent out via these platforms are likely to be ignored. If you send a note on Twitter similar to “Hey! Check out my site” with a link following, it seems as though you are asking the journalist to write the pitch for you, says Hall.
How important is it for a PR pro to know about their product? Even if you do not fully understand the technical aspects of the product, you should know where or from whom to get that information. Porges advises that the PR person should act as an efficient middle-man and “facilitate the gathering of info,” if they do not have that knowledge themselves. Stern noted that it is rare to come across an agency rep with a strong comprehension of the product, so she makes it a priority to go to the company directly when looking for complex information.
Are tradeshows still valuable? The journalists concurred that larger shows, particularly CES, are still very important, as most dedicated readers will look forward to coverage of the event. Stern remarked that she also finds value in international trade shows, but noted that private company events come in handy as they allow her to get to know that particular company on its own. Freelancer Seth Porges finds that even if he does not end up writing an article(s) covering a particular tradeshow, he still learns a lot as a journalist by attending.
How to Pitch:
ABC News: Joanna Stern is more interested in straight news stories, rather than features. Offering B-roll will give your pitch a major leg-up, because she is always on the lookout for video for ABC’s website. Currently, she is focusing on showing readers how they can get more out of the gadgets that they already bought. When you are explaining your tech/gadget news, do not try to “dumb down” the pitch; Stern wants to be the expert on the topic, and she’ll be the one to figure out how to make it clear to the reader.
Freelancer Seth Porges: There is no need to try to frame your story when pitching Porges; he will know if & why it appeals to his reader better than anyone else. It is also critical to avoid hyperbole in your message, which serves as an instant red flag. “If something claims to be revolutionary, it’s probably not,” he said.
Engadget: This web magazine is not interested in guess posts, so any subject line alluding to such will automatically be deleted. Right now Engadget’s readers are very interested in the “struggles between the teams,” or how one major tech company is doing versus another. Editor-in-chief Stevens will rarely cover apps and is highly selective when he does, because Engadget mostly focuses on hardware news.
DVICE: This website, part of the SyFy network, is likely to ignore a pitch about a particular app considering there is such a plethora of apps available. If you are interested in the editorial team reviewing your product, try to send a pitch a week in advance, as the staff likes to hold the product for a fair amount of time.
Men’s Fitness: Tuthill regularly covers gadgets for this fitness publication and warned PR pros to be cautious when it comes to the quality of their pitches; Men’s Fitness will often compile round-ups of the worst products in addition to the best. He also observed that the education of their readership has changed; the stories now need to pass muster with those who are very familiar with the topic of interest. Consequently, there is no need to “dumb-down” your pitch, as the editorial staff will be holding it to a high intellectual standard.