Hootsuite is the global leader in social media management, trusted by more than 18 million customers in 80% of the Fortune 1000, with over 4,000+ enterprise customers. Hootsuite has the broadest dataset in the marketplace, used in more languages and in more countries than any other social media management platform. Forward thinking businesses and organizations turn to Hootsuite for unparalleled expertise, customer insights and a collaborative ecosystem that helps people and organizations succeed with social media.
Although widely known and used around the world, Hootsuite believed company recognition, thought leadership and brand visibility in the U.S. could be elevated. Hootsuite hired Karbo Communications as the U.S. agency of record in September 2019 based on the team’s strategic counsel, creative approach to PR and proven, successful track record in representing a mixture of B2B tech, social, B2B advertising, and martech companies.
As PR professionals in the high-tech industry know, crafting a compelling story around a product update or opportunistic trend and securing interest from tech and trade publications is a key component in providing top-shelf service to clients across the technology industry.
What becomes a bit more challenging is determining how to tell the story of your enterprise technology client to a business press reporter whose coverage areas tend to be a bit more general. Securing coverage in the business press can provide a B2B or B2C client a level of visibility that they’d often be unable to get otherwise, leading to a number of benefits, including a heightened brand image, a boost in sales and an increase in executive and company awareness across a broader audience.
Here are six ways to develop the perfect press pitch targeted toward a business reporter and ensure that pitch leads to coverage:
Do Your Homework
Before developing your pitch, research your targets thoroughly to ensure they are relevant to your story and make sense to contact. Never rely on their “About” section alone in order to do this. Instead, read through their articles to identify themes and how your pitch would help extend their content further. You should also comb through their Twitter page for an idea of the topics that interest them. Just because two reporters cover the same beat, doesn’t mean they are interchangeable. Only through sufficient time spent researching can you develop a strong, comprehensive list of media targets. The time it takes is worth it! You’ll yield much better results if you don’t have to go back and pitch new people later because your initial targets weren’t a good fit. Reporters will also view you as a more credible and trustworthy source if you pitch them on something they actually care about. Building that trust is essential to fostering mutually productive relationships.
Get Personal and Don’t Forget to Customize
There may be nothing reporters hate more than being sent what appears to be a mass and extremely general pitch. Customizing each and every pitch you send is essential to securing interest from a business press reporter. Utilize the research you’ve already done to inform your introduction and make it clear why you’ve reached out to them specifically with this story idea. Whether it’s due to a recent story they wrote, a topic they discussed on social media or previous experience you have working together (which is always great to mention), it should be clear up front why this pitch makes sense for them.
Develop a Strong Pitch and a Stronger Subject Line
When developing your pitch, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, develop a compelling subject line. Eight words or less is ideal. Try to think about what will make the pitch stand out to a reporter, through the subject alone, when he/she likely gets hundreds of similar emails a day. Don’t be afraid to be say something bold in order to hook them. Subject lines are often underrated but are frequently the key to success, as they are the first thing a reporter sees, and often, what will make them read through the rest of a pitch. For the pitch itself, paint a picture of a bigger problem and how your client will solve it. Use facts and statistics when possible to add credibility. Always focus on differentiation—think about what is the most newsworthy or interesting piece of the story and call that out right away. Try to think about things like, “why will this reporter care?” and “how do I make this something that they can’t say no to?” Keeping these things in mind will force you to focus on what’s most important in your pitch.
Don’t Beat Around the Bush
Whether in the pitch itself or in any type of email/phone follow-up, state the story and the ask upfront and let the business press reporter know exactly what the story is and what the call to action is. A call to action with a solid deadline is necessary and creates a sense of urgency. Try to make it as easy as possible for them to get the information they need in order to determine if they’d like to pursue an interview, follow-up, etc. If you are looking to send them a press release for review or set up a phone briefing with your client’s CEO, make the ask casual and frame it as something you’d like to do in order to help them, and not as if it’s something that will help your client. After all, it’s our intention to help both parties. Don’t beat around the bush and try to butter them up or hide your ask within a mountain of email text. Get to the point fast—let them know what the topic is and why it makes sense for them.
Get and Stay Organized
Especially when pitching a large list of business press reporters, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people alone. Staying organized throughout the pitch process is crucial. Developing a spreadsheet or word document is a great way to keep everything straight and make sure no mistakes are made. This will help you stay on track of who you’ve pitched and how many times, what their response was and why, next steps to be aware of (whether that’s moving forward with an interview, reaching out to a new target at that publication or circling back later), each of which is imperative to successful media outreach campaigns.
Follow-Ups Are Your Friend
Following up persistently and strategically is an aspect of the pitch process that should never be overlooked. Don’t feel tied to one type of outreach. Do what works best for you and mix it up. Starting with email follow-ups can be helpful to reporters, especially since your original message may get lost in the vast number of emails they receive each day. Keep follow-ups brief and to the point and change up what you say in each one, while still capturing the essence of the pitch and what is most important. Try to offer new pieces of information to capture their interest and offer depth to the subject, whether it’s news that just came out that is relevant to the story or a recent article they wrote on a similar topic. If email follow-ups aren’t capturing their attention, moving to a phone call is a natural next step. Keep time of day in mind when calling reporters (avoid first thing in the morning, lunch and end of the day) and be mindful of different time zones. Rather than leaving multiple voicemails, keep calling until you reach them live. Get straight to the point on the phone and be kind and respectful, while remaining assertive. It can be helpful to prepare notes or a cheat sheet ahead of time, but you should try not to sound rehearsed. Twitter is another way to reach reporters, and some even prefer being pitched or followed up with through a direct message. Whatever method you choose, don’t be afraid to be aggressive in your efforts and always try to stay flexible about the way things end up going.
Throughout the business press pitch process, it’s important to stay positive and try not to get discouraged if you don’t get the responses you want right away. Be confident and feel empowered in telling your client’s story. Trusting your skills and abilities will lead to the end result that you want to achieve for your clients while helping to strengthen your long-term relationships with important influencers.
One of the most common questions we get from companies eager to work with Karbo Com is, “What reporters do you have relationships with?” While we have formed strong relationships based on the value we place on working with the press, the question doesn’t get to the heart of what these companies want. The real question should be, “Do you have what it takes to get me the results I need?” We love to answer that question, even though the response is different for every company.
What most companies outside the agency inner circle don’t realize is that while relationships can get a reporter to open your email, the relationship alone won’t garner a great article. A compelling topic or news about something the reporter—and his/her editor and readers—care about is what does it. Yes, we write emails that tend to get the attention of the right editorial staff, but once that door is open and you get someone’s interest, the need for persistence takes over. Benjamin Franklin wrote “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” This month, his wisdom, and our dedication to results, played out yet again for three of our clients. We acquired phenomenal feature stories: A contributed article for eBay Advertising’s data guru in AdWeek and a Q&A with RTI’s CEO, which took up three quarters of the front page of the Mercury News business section. HARO opportunities are notoriously hard to secure, but our TDK team worked over a period of several months to have the client included in an IEEE Insight article about attracting engineering talent—an evergreen goal for the company. This month, we also executed a major launch on behalf of Vineti, a pioneering cell and gene therapy software and analytics company, announcing their Series A funding round and the first software platform to accelerate cancer cure process and delivery. We aggressively pursued the top business and tech press to secure coverage in TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and Fortune.
All four teams had to be tenacious to see their efforts come to fruition.
More often it’s not who you know, but how you get it done.
When I worked as a reporter, my inbox was often bombarded with pitches and press releases that were irrelevant to the kinds of stories I was interested in covering. I remember hearing my former colleagues complaining to each other about PR folks who “just don’t get what is newsworthy.” But then, there were days when the newsroom would sing the praises of a PR person who’d just connected us with a relevant spokesperson for a timely story.
Working in PR now, I’m the one crafting pitches and sharing news under embargo with journalists to get a positive response and secure a story. It didn’t take me long to learn that like journalists, PR professionals have days when they complain to each other about reporters who “just don’t respond to emails.” On the days when a reporter gets back to us with a “Yes, tell me more,” we sing their praises for showing interest in our news. For instance, a reporter I’d long been trying to connect with recently got around to responding to my emails. I knew that his publication and my client could have a mutually-beneficial relationship. Together, we collaborated to connect the reporter with executives at a well-known company, which eventually resulted in an article.
The aftermath of 2016’s presidential election put the spotlight on the mass media in a very negative sense. With President Trump deeming many credible news outlets and reporters as sources of “fake news” and “the most dishonest human beings on earth,” it’s crucial for journalists and PR professionals to fight for the freedom of the independent press. After all, an attack on journalism is an attack on the truth.
Many of us who chose to join the journalism and/or PR world did so because of a shared passion. We are storytellers. We are truth-seekers. We are informers. Both sides work very long, hard hours to meet tight deadlines just to give others a voice and to raise awareness. Trump’s presidency and his attacks on the press should motivate us even more to preserve the media industry. Putting our differences aside, let’s remember that at the end of the day, we – PR professional and journalists – really are on the same team. We collaborate to do good work, and we must continue doing so to ensure the public remains well-informed and educated about the things affecting their lives.
As the Queen of soul Aretha Franklin sang 47 years ago, R-E-S-P-E-C-T is at the core of every successful relationship. From the way we treat those we care about to those we aggressively compete against, and even those we dislike, the respect that we demonstrate communicates volumes about us. The respect we expect from others is an important bellwether of how we feel about ourselves. There is no greater reflection of our personal character and that of our companies.
Respect can and should manifest itself throughout everything we do as business people. Joel Peterson, the Chairman of JetBlue Airways calls respect “the currency of trust” because of the way it is “…exchanged and circulated among people. It’s any easy concept to pay lip service to, but like any facet of behavior and attitude, respect requires focus, awareness, and practice.” (Joel Peterson, JetBlue, 2014). I agree. In working with thousands of people at all levels during my career in high tech marketing I’ve witnessed the bounties of riches that respect can reap, as well as the severe damage a dearth of respect can inflict.
Perhaps because of its relative nascence, the tech market is a little like the Wild West—adventurers are drawn to a frontier that can deliver an exciting new way of life for not only those that explore and settle it, but those outside the circle of those direct participants. Yet like the early pioneers, there can be a desire to eschew tradition and structure. Sometimes this can be a good thing. Some traditions should be tossed, like the dress tie has been in Silicon Valley. But others are evergreen and should be ingrained in everything we do. Respect falls into this class.
How should respect be manifested in your relationships with members of the press?
Like any relationship, our relationships with members of the press can be interesting, exciting, and fulfilling. And as with our other relationships, they should be based on mutual respect.
In the previous blog, Ten Commandments of Media Interviews-Part I, we explored the meaning of the first five “don’ts” of media interviews. Today, we’ll expand on the latter five.
6) You shall not respond to questions with a mere “yes” or “no.”
7) You shall not tell a reporter, “No comment.”
8) You shall not expect the reporter to be an expert on your business or industry.
9) You shall not tell a reporter, “That’s not important.”
10) You shall not expect to see a story in advance.
Commandment Six: In J-school, reporters learn the difference between questions that are open-ended versus closed (i.e., questions answered with “yes” or “no”). As a media-trained source, you can view closed questions as opportunities to repeat a key message, when and if appropriate. Let’s put this into practice. If you’re asked, “Is your product sold through the channel?” you might answer, “Yes, the channel represents the lion’s share of our go-to-market strategy, and we have strong relationships with channel partners on four continents.” Or, if you’re asked, “Will this be available to consumers during the holiday shopping season?” you might answer, “Yes, and we’ve made extra technical preparations, to handle the higher volumes of Internet traffic we expect from consumers coming to our site during holiday e-shopping.”
In both answer examples, you‘ve provided the reporter with additional background on the “what” in the first case of the first closed question, and the “why” in the second case.
Commandment Seven: There are many ways to answer “unanswerable” questions. “No comment” is a red flag that you may be hiding something, even when you’re not! Consider why you feel uncomfortable answering the question. Are you being asked for information you don’t currently know, but could potentially answer if you could refer to a report you read recently? Then tell the reporter you’ll be glad to check into an answer and follow up. Are you being asked for information your company has rules about not disclosing? Then tell the reporter you don’t disclose this information publicly. Are you being asked for information outside your area of expertise? Then be honest, but not defensive, and offer to ask one of your colleagues with the appropriate expertise to respond to the reporter.
Commandment Eight: Over the last several decades, trade publications have shuttered operations and let go of knowledgeable beat reporters as the media profession has grappled with how to conduct its business profitably in the new reality of information available from a plethora of sources. Remaining publications have skeletal editorial staffs, with reporters covering multiple beats that by-and-large don’t afford them opportunities to develop in-depth expertise. For these reasons, it’s more important than ever to help reporters “connect the dots” by sharing your market expertise, including putting into context news and answering questions that may sound obvious to you in a way that’s informative, not condescending.
Commandment Nine: A companion to commandment eight, this commandment reminds media-trained sources to take a question about a seemingly irrelevant topic, and possibly reframe it to conform to an answer you consider to be newsworthy or important. For example, if you’re asked, “What does the recent acquisition of Company XYZ mean to your business?” you might respond: “While that acquisition doesn’t directly impact our business, our industry is going through an overall consolidation that’s impacting us in ways that may not be obvious…” and then share examples of the less-obvious impacts.
Commandment Ten: However tempting, it’s best not to expect or to ask to see a story in advance. I’ve seen one exception to this rule over my 25 years’ experience: in highly technical industries (in my case, the semiconductor equipment industry), trade journal reporters occasionally offered to send stories prior to publication, for fact-checking of scientific terms known only to PhD’s in physics or chemistry. If a reporter offers to send you a story in advance, consider yourself one step closer to reaching your ultimate goal of developing the level of trust required for a long-term relationship. Support that trust by checking for technical accuracy only, and resist the temptation to change what you’ve been quoted as saying to sound “prettier”!
By obeying the Ten Commandments of Media Interviews, you’re proactively establishing yourself as a credible expert in the eyes of reporters, and delivering newsworthy information in a way that’s mutually beneficial because the reporter has the content he or she needs to attract more viewers/visitors/readers, and your news will be broadcast to a targeted audience. The results should lead to long-term relationships and better balanced stories about your company and products.
Media training for executives facing interviews is one of the services provided by full-service PR agencies. As a K/F Communications’ media trainer and former newspaper reporter, I share insights into common reporting techniques and motivations to help technology executives better deliver the kinds of newsworthy information reporters need from their story sources, in a way that’s mutually beneficial for all interview participants.
In today’s Ten Commandments of Media Interviews-Part I, I’ll explore the first of five “don’ts” of media interviews. In an upcoming Ten Commandments of Media Interviews-Part II, I’ll expand on the latter five “don’ts” of interviews.
1) You shall not stray from the truth.
2) You shall not make unsubstantiated claims.
3) You shall not interrupt.
4) Remember never to argue.
5) Honor your own reputation by not trashing your competitors’.
Commandment One: In interviews, as in life, tell the truth. Quite simply, you never know what a reporter already knows! As a reporter, I typically asked at least one question I knew the answer to, as a gauge of the source’s credibility—especially when meeting the person for the first time. If a source lied about little stuff, how could he or she be trusted to tell the truth when asked more important questions? Carried to extremes, the lie becomes the story.
Commandment Two: While exaggeration is useful in storytelling, it has no place in non-fiction, including interviews with reporters. This also applies to making up statistics, whether on the fly (politicians have perfected this, as seen in this year’s Presidential debates), or because you’ve forgotten the actual figure. If it’s a case of the latter, tell the reporter you’ll look it up and follow up with him. If you’re a busy executive with back-to-back meetings, your PR professional should get back to the reporter on your behalf.
Commandment Three: While some investigative reporters interrupt to throw interviewees “off balance,” you shouldn’t respond in kind. Even less aggressive reporters may start a question going in one direction, but veer off in another by the question’s end. Listening to the entire question enables you to determine what’s really being asked, putting you in the best position to answer appropriately.
Commandment Four: Argument is sometimes used as a journalistic technique for pushing a source to the boiling point, where he or she bursts forth with information—typically confidential–simply to prove the reporter wrong. Learn to take a deep breath if confronted. You gain the upper hand by adopting the perspective that this is a “teaching moment.” If baited with half-truths or falsehoods, correct these with the facts in a calm, neutral, impersonal manner.
Commandment Five: Recognize that even with the best G2, your information about competitors may still be outdated. This may have unintended consequences if the reporter knows more about your competitors than you apparently do. Acknowledge your competitors, name them when asked directly, but don’t give them more credit than they deserve.
The flipside—and equally one to avoid–is to claim you don’t have competitors. Unfortunately, this implies that the market opportunity isn’t big enough to have attracted more companies vying for customers and their dollars.
This commandment doesn’t prohibit naming your products’ features that are unmatched by competitive offerings. The point isn’t to “trash” the competitive products, but to use them to better position your products’ strengths!
Summary: Obey these first five commandments to navigate to a better balanced story about your company and technology, establish yourself as a credible expert, and take steps toward developing solid relationships with reporters, which should be the long-term goal.
TIBCO came to Karbo Com because they wanted a more aggressive and strategic PR partner that would help them increase brand awareness and leadership in an increasingly competitive market. Founded in 1997, TIBCO has innovated new ways to fuel business in the digital era by providing solutions that enable better business decisions and faster, smarter action. Customers around the world rely on TIBCO to augment their intelligence through the company’s Connected Intelligence Cloud platform, real-time analytics, and visualization tools. In this way, TIBCO helps build compelling experiences, energize operations, and propel its customers towards market leadership.
Karbo Communications conducted a comprehensive media audit to serve as a baseline for PR efforts going forward. The agency found that many industry press, analysts and influencers lacked an up-to-date understanding of TIBCO and its product suite. Some of the most influential enterprise and IT reporters assumed that TIBCO was still a BPM company. TIBCO was struggling to be recognized for its relevancy in the current market and for its relevancy and innovation in the intelligence and cloud-focused arena of the analytics and integration tool market. Despite being a successful multi-billion dollar company, TIBCO lacked market awareness of its industry leading solutions—particularly in key vertical markets.
TIBCO chose Karbo Communications over a number of PR agencies based on the team’s highly strategic approach, track record of success building brand awareness, content development skills and proven ability to secure impactful media.
The world is buzzing about smart devices that connect everything from our home security systems to our fitness monitors. However, it’s the underlying connectivity in smart machines that is truly changing the world as we know it, connecting real-world systems such as the sensors in our cars that automatically brake when we approach an obstacle, submarine defense systems that detect incoming missiles and respond in milliseconds, and hospital patient monitoring systems that detect the smallest changes in a patient’s condition and alert the the doctor miles away. RTI provides the software framework for these smart machines and real-world systems, enabling hundreds of applications to securely share information in real time and work as one integrated system.
RTI came to Karbo Communications with the objectives of growing brand awareness, expanding the business pipeline, and communicating their unique brand story. The agency saw an opportunity to educate the market on the importance of RTI’s technology and ensure it reached decision makers across all of RTI’s key vertical markets including healthcare, energy, transportation, automotive and aerospace and defense. They were looking for a communications partner who could help drive lead generation and sales through an integrated PR approach, refine the corporate narrative by clearly articulating RTI’s differentiation, and accelerate growth and adoption of RTI products through high impact brand communications.
Consumers are inundated with messages on and offline and consume hours of content each day across social, video, news, entertainment, eCommerce, ads, and more. The online world is a treasure trove of information, but can also be cluttered, noisy and algorithm-driven, preventing important material from reaching its intended audience. The way consumers interact with and share content is also changing. The pendulum is swinging away from public posting to favoring more intimate social sharing, either one-on-one or with smaller community groups.
Subtext was founded in 2019 to cut through the clutter of social media, din of email newsletters and distraction of online advertising, to help subscribers to connect with the personalities and subject matter they care most about in the same intimate way they would with friends or family: through text messaging. By creating a text chat experience, Subtext content creators and subscribers can forge deeper and more fruitful connections, and benefit from direct access to the insights and information they want to share with one another. Subtext is the fourth product from Alpha Group, the in-house tech and media incubator for Advance Local.
Subtext hired Karbo Communications in 2019 to launch the company and platform from stealth, educate the market and drive high impact brand communications that accelerated business growth.