To phone or email? That is the dilemma. Our junior Hiwot Wolde-Senbet shares her learning experiences on pitching journalists.
When you work in public relations your relationship with the media is crucial to your performance. You can be as creative as you like but if you don’t generate coverage for your clients, it is pointless.
Having spent the best part of a year agency hopping, I have had to do my fair share of pitching, using phone and email. Therefore I have learnt that every agency has its own attitude towards phone pitching. Some ask for phone pitching experience and put a massive emphasis on one’s ability to pick up the phone and sell in. On the other hand, others, particularly those with journalism experience understand the pressure journalists face and wouldn’t dream of bombarding them with calls. And then there is me. I dread the silence you get from email pitches!
At the beginning of my career, as an intern, I spent hours after hours calling journalists, who I didn’t know from four pages of media lists, downloaded from Gorkana. Believe me, I am surprised how this experience hasn’t left me scarred for life, particularly when the phone is picked up by a weary and aggressive journalist. The whole process often made my heart race.
However, once in a while, there was ‘the match’, that resulted in a decent coverage making the whole experience bearable.
Specialising in fintech PR, we talk to the same people all the time and that gives us the advantage of knowing the stories they are interested in, so selling in doesn’t feel like cold calling – but exchange of services. However, even within this niche sector most journalists claim they don’t want to be bothered on the phone.
Taking that on board, I learned to be careful who I am calling, I had more success in placing an article if I knew the journalist and had researched and learnedall about the journalist than just hoping for the best.
So who and when do you call?
Taking my own experience and other PR pros that contributed to Sam’s debate on CIPR’s LinkedIn group discussion, I have compiled some steps that can help you establish that ‘phone relationship’ with your journalist.
- Understand journalists are always on a deadline and get to know their deadline. Better yet, plan in advance and look at their editorial calendar for the year ahead.
- What is your story? Does it match their criteria? Nothing annoys journalists more than PRs that pitch the wrong stories. Preparing a few points in advance helps with staying on track!
- Be polite! Ask if they have time to talk to you and keep it brief, just enough for you to be able to gage their interest. If they show interest, you can follow up if not, be respectful and don’t bother them again.
- Never ever waffle! I learned this the hard way! Know your story, and exactly what you want to say and why you are calling them and not other journalist.
- Have an email pitch ready to send as soon as you come off the phone. Email will always fill in the details you missed out.
Having said that, it is important to know everyone is different and should be treated accordingly so keep notes and follow through.
Throughout her career, Sam Howard has always maintained that providing PR for fintech companies isn’t rocket science, however it is a bit tricky.
Not only are you, the PR, the only person in the brain-chain without a PhD or three, which can leave you feeling perma-insecure; but also ‘tis hard to tell good stories if there are no good stories to tell.
Actually no news isn’t good news – but owing to the nature of the deals, it is not unusual for a small or a start-up fintech company to have just a few client signing announcements a year and those signings usually fall into three categories:
- The no comment: you may not mention the bank in anyway shape or form – great thank you sooo much for that one.
- The vanilla bean: you can prepare something but the details are to be so vanilla and that the quote so bland that it’s barely worth the effort.
- The never never: You get the go ahead on the Friday night, write it on a Saturday, it gets signed off by your team on the Sunday and it’s with the bank for approval first thing Monday morning. And there it will stay, stuck in the corporate food chain awaiting sign off forever more, never to be seen again.
Five tips for getting a bank to sign off a press release
Over the years, working for a fintech start-up, then a fintech multi-national and then a fintech PR agency, these are the tactics I have seen work. It’s a bit of a team effort:
- Incentivize your sales people to negotiate press as part of the contract. Cash bonuses for press releases and double again for a case study, seems to work well enough
- Incentivize your bank by giving them a discount in the contract if they agree to do press, get dates.
- During the sales process and the implementation, stay close to your champion in the bank and work directly with them on the story, using them as the spokesperson, and making sure your story shows your champion as the pioneer they truly are.
- Have the release written and ready to go so that it can be slipped under the nose of your happy, happy client the day everything goes live ahead of schedule and under budget.
- Make the release hardworking and insightful tell the story of the partnership between your company and the bank. Do not dwell on what was wrong in the first place, be realistic no bank is going to sign off a story that goes, ‘well it was just chaos here till you guys showed up’. And keep the quotes real and relevant not an unadulterated and shameless plug for your company. This will make it easier to get sign off, and more credible with the journalists, on whom you ultimate depend to publish it.
What if you hit an absolute wall and can’t get the bank to talk no way no how?
Rather than issuing a no name press release, which somewhat reeks of desperation, consider going down the analyst relations route where your client can freely talk about the project and its successes to the industry analysts under the comfort of NDA.
PR junior Hiwot Wolde-Senbet shares her learning experiences on managing social media channels in B2B.
Most of us in this game know how to use the main social media platforms; along with some measurement tools such as Sprout and Hootsuit. If your target audience is the average Joe and you are doing social media for B2C, you can share something a bit witty with a fairly attractive photo of your favorite product to generate likes and build up your followers.Growing up as a part of the social media generation, I have seen many of my PR and marketing counterparts adopt different practices. And of course, some are better than others and some are simply laughable. We all know those that send out mass messages to their families and friends on Facebook asking them to like and follow a certain company. Sure, it could work if your company sells milkshake that appeals to everyone. However, in B2B, your friend’s aunt that works at Asda isn’t really going to help you spread the word about the merits of enterprise wide trading systems. In B2B you must know your audience and really understand their issues.
However, I’ve learned that you have to work that bit harder with social media management in B2B. You have to demonstrate understanding of your market and its needs and most importantly – interact with your niche.
Your objectives in B2B must go beyond creating a buzz for your business and need to work towards creating a platform that is credible and attracts the power brokers and the influencers. It is also important to remember, social media is more than a communication platform; it is part of your marketing, PR, customer services, business development and sales. Therefore, managing it in a way that reaches the right people and shares appropriate insights is vital.
Since clients have to find you relevant and interesting to follow and engage, here’s some tips that I have picked up along the way to make sure your social media comms don’t sound like a broken record but resonates with those that will affect your business’s performance.
- Clear messaging: Identify and clarify what you want to say about your company and how you want to say it. This can help promote the services or the products you provide along with your company’s values and mission.
- A targeted audience: Know who your industry’s leaders are, who your current and potential clients are, anybody who is anybody in your industry that is relevant to you and ensure you connect with them.
- Relevant talking points: Identify issues, trends and regulations that impact your audience’s business and share relevant news.
- Platform consistency: Ensure your platforms are up to date and consistent.
- Listen as well as talk: They say the best way to lead is to listen more and talk less, so tune into what your followers are discussing and participate when relevant.
Subsequently, you need to put some performance measurements in place, regularly track your progress and re-evaluate. By following the steps above, you are on a road to growing your B2B social media platforms in an organic and sustainable way and ensuring ROI.
Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead reviews the ‘dos and don’ts’ for getting the best out of the mighty trade show.
|Sibos – comes round quicker than Christmas|
So I’ve just been to a couple of big industry events, and it got me thinking about the preparation exhibitors need to do to make them worthwhile. I am going to use Sibos 2014, this year in Boston, as an example here as I have shed so many tears getting clients Sibos-ready over the years.
Obviously there are many exhibitors who have got Sibos running through their veins and if they had time, could write this post with their eyes shut, but here’s a guide for Sibos newbies, or a useful checklist for the seasoned salts.
What are some of the issues with events like Sibos 2014?
- ROI – if you’re going to exhibit, you want to make sure you recoup your costs and some! It’s a very expensive line item, the return needs to be quantifiable and equally impressive.
- Poor preparation before the event – If you don’t plan your communications and resources properly, you will look amateurish and it will show compared to those companies that have this event down pat.
- Being heard above the white noise – if you don’t know your key message, if it’s not relevant, fresh and exciting, then you won’t get heard.
- Thinking lead generation begins at the event – People come to Sibos to continue conversations, not to start them, Sibos needs to be the culmination of a campaign that results in a face to face meeting.
- Recruitment consultants – not much you can do about this. I remember a consultant at Sibos who told me, at a party, that he had received or processed CVs for about 25 people in the room. The recession is over; it’s a seller’s market.
What should you NOT do before Sibos 2014?
- Panic (!) i.e. wait until it is too late before preparing for the event.
- Keep your head in the sand and ignore industry trends leading up to the event – you need to know what pain delegates are feeling so you know what your products and services best address it.
- Miss the opportunity to try and connect with signed-up delegates before the event (more on this later).
- Prepare conference material that is bland or off topic.
How should you prepare for Sibos 2014?
- First of all, you need a three-month activity timeline with specific actions and deadlines, allocating responsibility for each action. So, with Sibos 2014 in October, you need to start planning now, July.
- If you’re reading this and you haven’t booked your hotels and flights yet, suggest you stop reading right now and get on it 🙂
- To stay ahead of the game, read the Sibos 2013 summary by Aite Group here and other post-event summaries.
- Read Sibos Issues and other news to understand what people will be talking about this year. Don’t repeat the last year’s messages or themes – find something new and relevant to attract attention in the lead up to the event. If you can’t figure out how to articulate your value proposition, get help.
- Think how this event falls into your sales funnel. Identify key prospects from the delegate list, and plan multi-step communications or lead generation activities to get them to want to talk to you at the event. Each step should add value to the relationship, so use content to increase interest. Get delegates to self-select themselves to contact you for a meeting based on the content you have provided BEFORE the event.
- Plan your press and industry analyst engagements now. Influencers don’t have time to speak to everyone so make sure you know how and what to pitch to them. If you don’t know how, get an expert in. Don’t be unprofessional about this and ignore the value of great influencer meetings.
- Focus on meeting influencers you rarely see, rather than those that are down the road from you who you can catch up with any time.
- Go for feature opportunities that get you in the news the week of Sibos, and make sure whatever news announcement you have is actually informative and not simply white noise.
- Contribute or link to pre-event social media communications to help build your profile before the event.
- Plan your post-Sibos steps now – what content or steps will you follow up with and who will be responsible for these steps? What you do after the event is even more important if you want to convert prospects into sales?
What to do at Sibos 2014?
- Make sure you set time and proper spaces aside to speak to delegates you have meetings planned with.
- Document your meetings and make someone responsible for managing follow up actions.
- Plan how each contact will be communicated with after the event and when.
- Get someone to walk the floor to see what other exhibitors are displaying. You need to understand what competitors are saying and how they might be getting their message across.
- Have content that is sharp and precise enough for someone to read in two minutes that would make them want to ask questions.
- Enjoy yourself; ergo no rest for the wicked!
Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead dispels the most common myth about analyst relations – you have to pay them to play with them.
“We have a problem with analysts,” I hear you say. “You have to buy analyst services to have a good relationship with them,” has got to be the most common phrase any analyst relations professional hears from colleagues.
Cynicism reigns when it comes to judging analysts, which reflects the way many of us might feel about the role they, and other influencers, have when recommending IT products or services.
Admittedly some are harder to engage than others if you do not have a subscription, but is that true of all Analyst Houses or is there a middle ground?Seven things worth knowing about analysts
We’ve compiled a quick checklist to help you understand their drivers and so you can better develop great relationships with analyst firms:
1) Good analysts prize their independence. In fact, their reputation hinges on remaining independent while advising their clients.
2) Analysts will NOT ignore you if you have something really good to talk about. Why should they? After all, you might be the trailblazer they identify and, in turn, get the kudos for predicting the disruptive influence you have on your target markets.
3) Analysts are human. They don’t know everything but, crucially, don’t have time to speak to every single vendor.
4) As they are human, you have to understand how they work, what they are working on, the timescales they have and the channels through which they provide advice.
5) To catch their attention, you need to provide really useful information using structured engagements over time to help them with their research, and make sure this fits in with their schedules. One off briefings are useless.
6) If you say ‘we are the world leading vendor providing modular, scalable solutions…blah, blah, blah’, just STOP. This means nothing. Tell analysts about specific and real problems you are addressing and let them tell people you are a leader.
7) They need to eat, pay mortgages and go for the occasional holiday. Separating how they make money and learning about various vendors so they can then advise their clients is something they all do – the best ones give disclaimers so you know exactly who their clients are.
So, what are analyst subscriptions all about?
Sometimes, you just need help with your lead generation and market positioning. Analysts who track various vendors in a specific market will know the ones that are doing well. Sometimes it is simply the technology or services that competitors provide which simply rock. Most of the time, they just have a good story that resonates better with clients than yours does.
Analyst subscriptions are, therefore, useful to help you position yourself better using the resources, advice and specific feedback opportunities you have available with individual analysts.
If you think it means analysts will say you are the best thing since sliced bread was invented, forget it. No analyst worth their salt will destroy their reputation doing so. Yes, you might get the Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves, but these follow strict guidelines to maintain analyst independence (whether you agree with them or not).
Why don’t analysts want to talk to me then?
Just maybe, you don’t have anything relevant to add! Or maybe what you have to say is not relevant to their speciality.
There are too many vendors to track and a lot of output they need to plan for and deliver. Follow the steps above. Make sure you have a really good update or case studies to follow up with (even better if end users can talk to the analysts directly).
Will analysts stop talking to me if I don’t pay them?
No. They would ideally like to have you as a client (if they take on vendors as clients), but if you’re making waves in your market they still want to give advice to others that will help them make good purchase decisions.
So, be relevant but realistic about what analysts are looking for. They need information to help them build thought leadership positions. You can help them if you engage properly with them. They can also help you if you are honest enough to recognise you need advice to position yourselves better against your competitors. That is when analyst subscriptions come into play.
If you found this interesting you may also to peruse our analyst relations whitepaper which can be downloaded here.
If your’re a software compnay thinking of doing PR, this one is for you:
Possibly I have been spending too much time with children this festive season, but I got to thinking if I could have one super power what it be? I ponderd several fabulous skills but came down to, The power to be in several places at once. As a single parent and freelance PR, multi-tasking is more of an adrenalin sport than an art form.
And it’s not just about prioritizing. Recently a client has a PR crisis, the day the dog got bitten by a snake, the day of my son’s school play, the day I had a hot date and just for once wanted more than seven minutes to get ready. It was all important. In the event, sorted out client on the fly, ignored the dog in a fingers-crossed kind of way, missed only a bit of the play, looked crap for hot date but picked somewhere dark and dog survived to tell the tale.
But even the none-emergencies fight for space along the time continuum:
· Get in a regular swim to stay healthy v update blog lest it looks like I’ve died altogether.
· Pick up all the apples off the lawn v source all the coverage for my client – if only less was more.
· Do my Sunday book-keeping v take child to the movies, he’s even offering to buy the popcorn.
Bereft as I am of super powers here’s my top three multi-tasking tips for us fraught and overwrought mere mortals.
- You need a list but you need a multi-tasking list as life does not proceed in a linear fashion. Think of it as a grid not a list. And you need to be selective about what even makes it onto that week’s grid and give equal weighting to all the varying pull factors that particular week. So that by the time you cross everything off you have moved forward several of the most pressing projects in your life and so have some sense (however deluded) that you are in control of your life. To sustain the plate spinning analogy indefinitely, make sure the grid strikes a balance between the good, the bad and the accountant, make time for exercise, for a big walk with the dog, for meeting up with mates. I aim to complete 30 things off my grid each week.
- Unlike a world leader, you can’t get by on four hours sleep as, unlike a world leader, you can’t get away with shouting at people who really don’t deserve it. If you need to work at optimum performance, all day every day and be civil – you need to sleep the sleep of a hibernating hedgehog on Tamazipam. Go to bed with your children, train them to sleep in late.
- Guess what? You can’t have it all and the only price to pay is a slightly tousled hairdo. Know your limits. My social calendar as well as my fridge operate on a need to know basis. The first time my son and I watched The Great British Bake Off, he thought it was a Sci-Fi series. I catered an entire party over Christmas with all the food coming from the local petrol station (admittedly it had an M&S nestled in the forecourt). Friends obligingly text me what, where and when I’m set to enjoy their company, calls only get returned when I’m walking the dog, texts on the train, while holidays are agreed without even clicking on the links. My advice – avoid organising anything for anybody – you’ll only cock it up or shout at people in the process.
This post is based on an artcile for Parenting Solo Magazine profiling lone parents in business.
Tips for entering Tech Awards
Last week, BJSS, a CommsCrowd client, won the TechWorld Award for Best Public Sector project. It’s a genuinely cool project, re-engineering a very big data warehouse, bringing it in house, fully automating it and helping the NHS to save on human resource and money – both scarce commodities in the public sector these days.
|if you had to guess which one of us was not an
award-winning software engineer, who would you pick?
The awards themselves were also impressive, in a transparently objective kind of way, projects were free to enter, award ceremony free to attend and they even gave an award to a company that couldn’t make it – in all my days I’ve never seen that before – fair play.
So I am very pleased for my client, it’s a huge validation of the great work they are doing and I’m pretty pleased for us too. I didn’t write the award-winning software but I did have a hand in writing the award-winning entry.
Here’s some tips for drafting those perfect 1,000 words:
- Get buy in – you can’t do these on your own, work as close as you can with the client ping pong the entry back and forth until it’s perfect.
- Allow enough time – we think it takes about a day and a half on average to draft and edit a standard 1.000 word award entry and that’s assuming you already know the story.
- Start early – it at least three weeks before – get information from source, ie the people that worked on the project.
- Answer the question – every award has a bias so be sure to answer the questions exactly as asked.
- Word count – keep it tight and don’t waffle.
- Before and after stats demonstrating ROI – without these don’t bother to enter.
- Have a heart – think of the poor judges and how many submission they have to read, do make an effort to tell a darn good yarn, keep the narrative sparkly and fluid.
Post Script: other award winning entries include:
- 15/04/2013 Caplin wins Best Web Implemntation at the Sell Side Technology Awards
- 02/12/2013 BJSS wins Best Big Data Project at the Tech Success Awards.
- 15/04/2014 Caplin wins Best Web Development Platform at the Sell Side Technology Awards.
- 14/06/2014 BJSS wins Best Information Technology at the Best Business Awards
- 14/07/2014 BJSS ranked fourth for International Growth in Sunday Times Tech Track 200
- 15/07/2014 Caplin wins Best Trading Technology Vendor at the FX Week Awards
|Gonna need a bigger banner|
Because B2B commercial copy is for intelligent business consumption, it’s tempting to make it sound grand, but this inevitably makes consumption so much more painful.
Here’s my top tips for edible copy:
- Who are you writing for? Write for one person. Assess their motivation for reading your copy. Will it enlighten, inform, entertain, motivate them to act? Think what’s in it for them. Assess the time they have to read it, their knowledge level.
- Get the knowledge: Sounds obvious, but you need to know/understand at least as much as your reader. If you don’t have the knowledge go and get it. Research it, ask questions, find an expert, get them to draft it if necessary.
- Get it all out: If you find yourself staring at a blank screen then just write anything and everything down to do with what you are trying to say, from this you can create structure, and extract key facts.
- Ask questions which can provide the structure: Ask yourself some basic questions like, Who, Why, When, Where, What and answer them in bullet format. Leave the questions as subheads for now. Arrange the questions into a structure that will form the basis of your logical/persuasive argument.
- Does it serve your purpose as well as theirs? Your copy must add value to the reader but does it also support your company messages, make sure your copy always underlines a key value proposition. If it doesn’t why are you writing it?
- So what? Then read it through, anything missing? Ask yourself, ‘Why do I care?’, ‘So what?’ and, ‘What’s so exciting about that?’ If you’re bored by your own copy, imagine how everyone else feels. (At this stage this might be the longest your copy gets, from here on in we are cutting it back).
- Show not tell: De fluff: Use objective observation and facts to show. Not subjective adjectives and opinion to tell. You are not penning a love letter, but presenting the facts in a compelling fashion. Imagine the building is on fire and you cannot leave the office until you have shouted the story from the window. This exercise will ensure you only use the words you need, to say what has to be said and no more. When it comes to strong copy, a couple of carefully crafted sentences are more effective than a whole paragraph of jumbled thoughts.
- Every time you review it, cut it: Aim to reduce word count every time you review the copy (3- 5 times) with decent breaks in between sessions to allow the creative brain to mull over the project, find the right phrase, the most perfect word.
- Don’t force it: Could you sneak your copy into conversation, would it sound natural, or would people think you had gone crazy/swallowed a dictionary/been indoctrinated by brand Y. Be kind to your reader, make your copy easy to read!
- Read final draft out loud: Now print off the copy and read it out loud. This really helps spot the ‘silly’ mistakes that your eyes haven’t seen but your tongue will trip over. It will also help you with punctuation.
You can download these tips in a handy pdf if you like to keep on your desk and front of mind.
Sam Howard advises on how tech companies can give better interviews.
Media training – that’s a terrible phrase isn’t it? Makes you think of all those awful politicians that enunciate every syllable emphatically, use all their fingers to underline each phrase and talk at you as if you were Jeremy Paxman. So let’s not go there. But there is still much you can do to make sure your conversations with journalists go well. Key, is to remember the journalist has very little time to create a very good story, and it’s your job to help them with that.
Some sensible tips for sensible interviews:
1) The Press as a whole are more concerned with business arguments than technology methodologies so the WHY needs to be answered way before the HOW and this is where many tech companies need to lift up their heads. The WHO is pretty interesting too, so whatever you do, don’t tone down your colourful characters.
2) The old truism,’ no-one is that interested in you’ is – erm – true. They are interested in issues though, so if you can help solve them, then that’s the angle to go in on.
3) Journalists are very busy people, so PLEASE get to the point. Work out how your issue-based messages can be delivered top down, so if you’ve struck a chord you can drill down with more insight or leave it as a one liner if it gets no traction.
4) It sounds obvious, but actively listen to the question and genuinely try to answer it.You need to answer questions as best you can and weave in your messaging where appropriate and leave it out where it isn’t. It’s critical to be seen as someone who understands the market and how it ticks. This is more important than getting all your messages across in each and every interview, euch! You may manage it the first time, but I doubt if anyone will want to talk to you a second time. However if you can establish yourself as a credible and trusted source, then the journalist is more likely to make time to talk to you when you do have relevant news.
5) The journalist is looking to create a compelling story from a mixture of background information, intelligent argument and quotes, so if you want to be quoted you need to have a view and be incisive; otherwise you find most of your effort gets swallowed up in unattributed body copy or as background information. Answers can be your own thoughts based on experience or theory, statistically or anecdotally-based or ideally a mixture of the lot.
6) Spokespeople should be reading a weekly digest of relevant hot stories, remember head up!
7) It should go without saying but follow the publication and the journalists you are hoping to meet, so you can assess what messaging will resonate best for that particular journalist.
8) Be courteous, Allow time for the journalist to finish their note taking and prepare their next question, do not dictate or just talk into the silence. Offer sustenance, and DO NOT look at your phones.
9) Remember this is a two way conversation, ask what the journalist is seeing and hearing in the market and future story ideas he is working on.
10) Every interview is different but you should be able to answer the following fundamental questions:
. In these cash strapped times, where are your customers spending their IT budget in your sector?
. What are the drivers behind this (i.e. sticks and carrots)?
. So where do you fit in?
. Other companies do what you do why are you better?
. What tech Holy Grail are you customers chasing right now?
. What’s preventing organisations from achieving it?
. What are the key trends in your technology sector right now?
. What’s your sector going to look like in five years’ time?
You can download these tips in a handy pdf if you like to keep on your desk and front of mind.