Talking Tech in NYC

PR Lessons Learned from New York’s Top Media

 

This week Highwire co-hosted a panel with Norwest Venture Partners and Button featuring some of the top tech reporters in New York City. Moderated by Mike Dudas, co-founder of Button, Alex Konrad at Forbes, Ruth Reader at Fast Company, Polina Marinova at Fortune and Jason Del Rey at Recode shared their thoughts on the tech industry as well as tips and tricks for the PR pros pitching them.

From venting about pet peeves (research what they cover before pitching!) to naming tech’s next hot spot (keep your eyes on LA), they shared great insights for those of us in the tech PR business. Read on for some of the top takeaways:

It’s harder to get coverage as a startup.

A decade ago, unicorn tech startups abounded, investment money flowed freely into emerging businesses, and tech reporters could cover these companies in their early growth stages. Flash forward to today — capital is harder to come by, a few companies like Amazon dominate the industry, and many of those early unicorns have since failed. In the words of Alex Konrad, “the tech industry has been a victim of its own success.” As a result, the media covering this space have grown more skeptical of tech startups’ PR pitches on “innovation” and are more likely to trust and write about well-established businesses — who also guarantee more page clicks.  

ButtonMediaPanel

Make sure your exclusive is meaningful.

For media, an exclusive offer means that the reporter has the one and only chance to cover a story. The offer of an exclusive interview with an executive or VC firm alone is not enticing. Consider how what you’re offering adds a unique perspective or angle to the story. As a litmus test, ask yourself if the exclusive access you’re offering will change the headline. If not, then it’s unlikely to help you get that story.

Keep the meat for the meeting.

Tech reporters are suckers for an interesting back story about a startup founder or exec, but they’re less interested if every other reporter knows that story too. Rather than mention this background in your pitch, save these details and let reporters discover them in a one-on-one meeting with your exec. They’ll be more inclined to cover the story if they’re the only ones who have it.

Don’t ruin a good relationship.

Whether you’re navigating a client controversy or pitching an embargoed announcement, remember that your relationships with reporters are delicate and important. PR agencies are hired for their ability to counsel clients, and in a crisis situation, it’s integral to give a client guidance on how a course of action can damage, or even destroy, a relationship with a reporter. When it comes to embargoed pitching, be aware of the competition between media outlets and make sure that all parties receiving embargoed news have the same embargo information. When one publication gets a jump on the news, other reporters are forced to have tough conversations with their editors. Don’t be the one to burn those bridges, because those reporters won’t forget.

Tech PR can be challenging, but hopefully, these lessons will make navigating the tech media landscape a smoother ride.

For anyone who was able to join us Tuesday evening, we’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways. Feel free to share in the comments section below!

InsightPool vs Traackr: Who Does Influencer Marketing Better?

Highwire Labs reviews the best in social influencer tools

 

In recent months, Highwire has seen increasing interest in influencer marketing and engagement from clients. While we currently use a platform called BuzzSumo to track influencers, we thought it could be time to kick the tires on other similar platforms.

The Highwire Labs team diligently looked into two of the leading influencer marketing solutions: Traackr and InsightPool. Here’s what we found:

Traackr

Traackr was founded in 2009 to serve as search engine for people in PR/marketing to discover influencers for a particular audience. Whether looking for influencers in “Big Data”, “Internet of Things”, “Future of Work” or “Artificial Intelligence”, theoretically, Traackr should be able to identify them in its platform.

Traackr has a stylish UX and looks a little like Tweetdeck on steroids. Agencies can use it for their system of record to track influencer engagement, determine share of voice and easily identify the number of interactions. The service features reach and relevance scores for influencers, and is platform agnostic so one social media platform isn’t prioritized over others.

The major con with Traackr is its price point. This is an extremely pricy piece of software that costs thousands of dollars annually for a subscription — all without so much as a trial period. Additionally, the baseline option allows for only three campaigns. Hard pass from these PR professionals.

Pros

  • Ability to track engagement and interactions
  • Share of voice metrics
  • Manual influencer profile upload
  • Manipulated search results in order to find the best fit, whether it’s by largest audience or an influencer’s reach

Cons

  • Price point and lack of trial option
  • Not user-friendly or intuitive – requires training
  • Sweet spot is B2B tech although Traackr works with consumer companies

physical web of influencersPhoto credit: Getty Images

 

InsightPool

Claiming to be the world’s largest social influencer database, InsightPool certainly didn’t disappoint in our initial demo. The company analyzes everything from social audiences and email database exports to uncover influencers and brand advocates that are most appropriate for client campaigns. What’s more, the platform allows users to sign up for a free trial before fully committing (Full disclosure: we’ve already signed up for two demos, both of which were able to meet specific goals outlined by our client).

Its user interface is easy to navigate, with cool features including scheduled social interactions, contact uploads and engagement monitoring. Once an influencer engages with you over social, you’ll also receive a notification in which you can schedule strategic responses via Twitter or Instagram. For example, after you receive a follow from a top target, you have the ability to slide into those DMs to personally thank them for being a fan of your content.

InsightPool also provides a unique social ranking system that ensures each and every influencer is right for your campaign. To do so, the platform scores each influencer in its platform using data sciences to determine true influence, including: Reach, Resonance and Relevance.

If we had to give it one critique, it would be its inability to easily compare share of voice among targeted influencers. While its segmentation feature provides analysis on what influencers are talking about, which brands are impacted and how their social network impacts your campaign, it could be presented a lot more clearly.

Pros

  • Influencer segmentation
  • Scheduled social engagements
  • Full-service trial period
  • Simple user interface

Cons

  • No SOV tracking
  • Complex presentation of analysis

Highwire Labs’ Take

If your clients are asking about influencer campaigns, get onboard with InsightPool — The free trial period should be enough to take care of any one-off campaigns. But consider making the investment if influencer marketing is increasingly being requested by clients.

Not only is the platform extremely user-friendly, the smart influence algorithms do a great job segmenting influencers, and its annual cost is significantly lower than that of its competitor. Believe the hype.

WINNER: InsightPool

 

Post co-authored by Haley Rodriguez, Account Associate, San Francisco

Haley Rodriguez is an account associate in Highwire’s San Francisco office primarily supporting consumer technology clients. She graduated from California State University, Chico with a degree in journalism and has experience in social media management, news production and copy editing.

Tech Reporters Talk ‘Off-the-Record’ about Securing Media Coverage

Pitch Advice from Fortune, Forbes, Recode and more

Ever wonder why your company or client’s big announcement didn’t make the news? Highwire NYC is hosting a media panel, Off the Record: Media Talk Tech” in partnership with Norwest Venture Partners and Button next Tuesday, June 20, at Interface NYC — putting some of tech’s most sought after journalists in the hot seat with this and other burning questions. While it’s been anecdotally known that coverage priorities have shifted, you will leave this event with the data and insights on how to best approach the media.

Come join fellow PR, marketing and startup executives to learn what you need to know to compose a compelling pitch. The New York journalists will also be talking about the city’s growing startup scene and which areas of tech are most established and on the rise.

Our panel lineup will include:

  • Forbes / Alex Konrad, Technology Reporter
  • Fortune / Polina Marinova, Associate Editor
  • Recode / Jason Del Rey, Senior Editor
  • Fast Company / Ruth Reader, Reporter
  • Button / Mike Dudas, Co-founder and CRO (moderator)

Tickets cost $10 and all proceeds for the event will be donated to New York on Tech, which works with local schools, students and parents to create pathways for underrepresented students in technology. There is still time to register, just check out the event page here.

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter @HighwirePR and send us your burning questions for the panel!

Highwire Spotlight: Behind the Scenes with Our Training Program

Introducing our training program to ensure success in PR

 

Just as technology, politics and culture change at a rapid pace, so do the skills required to succeed in the business communications landscape.  As PR professionals, we are expected to stay at the top of our game and one of the best ways to do that is by constantly challenging ourselves to learn and try new things.

Through the Highwire Training Program, we aim to not only train the skills required for the job (pitching, messaging, writing, etc.) but also for business. To that end, we bring in improv coaches, productivity experts and management consultants to train us in those areas.

Three team members collaborating on a work projectThe Highwire Training Program consists of five complementary pillars:

  • PR Skills: Based on skill level, we offer two tracks: Fundamentals and Advanced
  • Writing/Editing/Pitching: Featuring our writing coach Lauren Edwards from WriteCulture, who conducts monthly level-specific writing, editing and pitching sessions and is available year-round for 1:1 consultations
  • Mid-Management Training: Specifically guides Senior Account Executives through the transition to the Account Manager role
  • Reporter Lunch & Learn: Reporters and editors give us the lowdown on how they work and how we can work best together  
  • Monthly Sessions: A catch-all for the larger skill areas such as productivity and time management, business development, management skills and improv

The old adage goes, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Nowhere is that more relevant than in communications, where you’re only as good as your last article or tweet. Maintaining a solid training program with regular input from all levels is one of the keys to achieve relevancy and proficiency.

 

Keep an eye out for upcoming posts where we share our knowledge about what we’ve learned in training. And learn on!

Three Tips for Effective Industry Analyst Relations

While communications strategies have changed dramatically over the years, industry analysts remain an important part of a technology company’s marketing mix. Analysts provide a third-party view of a company’s innovation and approach to their respective market. Since they are close to technology buyers, they understand how vendor marketing messages will resonate with buyers. Highwire PR offers advice on the very latest technology analyst relations best practices, based on our work for clients and a conversation with Beth Hespe, Corporate Communications Manager at Ixia, a seasoned pro with her hands in both AR and PR.

Consider the Full Analyst World

When the topic of analyst relations comes up in conversations, the first names mentioned are always Gartner and Forrester. Both of these firms can be considered industry behemoths as they undoubtedly have the greatest mindshare across nearly every vertical. Businesses end-user organizations leverage these firms for their unmatched industry visibility and deep-rooted strategic market understanding. Gartner analysts alone take up to 250,000 client inquiries every year.

A contract buys you direct feedback on customer pain points and product needs and have an analyst as your advocate to recommend your product to potential buyers. As it relates to overall market understanding, Gartner’s annual Magic Quadrant Report and Forrester’s annual Wave Report are touted as industry gold standards. Finding your way into the correct quadrant of one of these reports can do wonders for your business.

At the same time, while Gartner and IDC both can provide a significant amount of value to organizations, they should only be part of a company’s analyst relations mix. Before solidifying marketing budgets, startups and established companies alike should consider additional firms, many with specific industry expertise, that can help guide their marketing efforts.

IDC is unique in providing market sizing data. 451 Group and Enterprise Strategy Group are known for investigating the intersection of different emerging technology areas. Within security, market-specific firms such as Securosis have their pulse on the specific needs of IT security buyers. Seemingly obvious but often forgotten, the benefits of smaller firms are more direct access to the analysts for inquiry calls, and — what we consider to be the biggest value add — media influencer and PR support. Analysts are often willing to provide a quote for a press release or speak to the media about the benefits of your new product release. It’s not uncommon to see them quoted in trade press.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Beth Hespe at Ixia notes a few important best practices for ongoing analyst relations programs:

  • Planning & Coordination – Build in the time to target and secure your analysts, brief them and work with them. And make sure they’re available – nothing is worse than having your analyst on vacation during your launch and unavailable for interviews.
  • Leverage Your Efficiencies – Leverage efficiencies by scheduling campaigns in conjunction with a high profile industry event when target media, analysts and potential customers are in one place and at one time.
  • Consider Providing Customer Access – Consider customers and whether they’re available. Getting your customers together with your analysts and then as press references can provide extra validation that your campaign needs.

Marry AR, PR and Marketing

Hespe also notes how an analyst relations program can impact PR and marketing, and she challenges herself to find ways to integrate the efforts, leveraging analysts for more than just their traditionally thought of services. She uses them for quotes, supporting documents like white papers and blogs, events such as webinars and roundtables, large-scale surveys, and social support such as Twitter Q&A’s or videos. While some of these can be a substantial investment, you can leverage one analyst or firm to bundle your packages and ultimately save money.

At most organizations, those managing analyst relations and public relations often find themselves working under the same larger marketing umbrella; however, there are instances when these two teams operate in silos, with little contact. As the media landscape evolves, journalists’ and analysts’ roles increasingly meld together and the need for PR and AR to work in tandem becomes imperative. Especially as analysts roles morph into what can be considered “journ-analysts”(a type of influencer) who share their own opinions over Twitter or contribute articles to media outlets on a regular basis.

A truly successful marketing and communications program will bring forth strategic elements from both traditional PR and AR initiatives. If you’re not sure where to start, your PR firm often has insight and past experience to guide you.

How to Give Your Employees Real Benefits, Not Just Cheap Perks

Fancy perks don’t solve the work-life balance problem.

 

As any entrepreneur will attest, perhaps the most difficult tasks in running a business are attracting, retaining and supporting a strong workforce.

Common solutions to this problem come in the form of sweet perks, designed to showcase a company’s commitment to work-life balance. But, does providing unlimited vacation time, free meals and remote work options truly address your employees’ needs?

Point blank: No, perks alone do not do the job. Furthermore, balance is just a fairy tale. Work-life balance is an illusion and practically impossible to reach. Whatever work-life balance may be is subjective to individuals, making it virtually impossible to pin down universal perks, which can make work-life balance a reality for every employee. Consider how long the issue of work-life balance has been around, despite thousands of articles circulated around the topic.

Clearly, perks matter, but it doesn’t solve the issue of work-life balance.

Employers should aim for personalized fulfillment, based on the flexibility of giving each employee the work environment he or she needs. It’s about providing a challenging and engaging environment in which employees are empowered to take matters into their own hands. The feeling of balance, if reachable, is about granting employees control over how they work.

The faults of startup perks

Although perks are abundant in startups – especially in Silicon Valley — perks’ underlying nature is what actually keeps workers from being fulfilled and comfortable at work.

For one, the perks are presented as extras and not as normal aspects of a person’s job, erring on the side of work and not life. For example, free, daily lunch actually prevents people from leaving the office, getting fresh air and supporting local businesses.

Unlimited vacation time or work-from-home days have long been favored by many as an opportunity to achieve work-life balance, but often its subjection to manager discretion makes employees hesitant to take full advantage of this perk.

Ask anyone who has had the perk of unlimited time off, and they will tell you they actually take less time off and have no pay-out if they leave the company. Furthermore, don’t forget about the employee guilt involved in flexibility.

Working from home, in fact, leads to longer hours for most employees, when compared to those who don’t – usually because they feel like they could work more or that they slacked off.

Yes, it can be a great option for workers, who need to be at home more often, such as parents or people with long commutes. But just as many employees likely prefer to come into the office everyday due to roommate situations, lack of infrastructure or just a desire to be with the team.

Additionally, perks – like sleeping pods, on-premise dry cleaning and massages — are a guise for keeping employees at work longer. It undermines the feeling of fulfillment and the very idea of work-life balance because it all becomes part of the job.

Putting the power in their hands

Since the founding of Highwire Public Relations, I have placed a premium on making it a place in which all of our employees feel happy and fulfilled.

While balance is a goal for some people, I’ve personally felt most fulfilled at points when I’ve been extremely unbalanced.

While that pace may not be sustainable or desirable, the revelation is that balance is not something that can be scripted by day or week, team or office. Balance is highly personal and changes with tenure, life stage and opportunity.

We began by offering perks, like work-from-home days, summer Fridays, catered food and offsite events. But as I described above, universally applied perks alone couldn’t provide what we needed. So we pivoted and started asking our employees what they wanted – individually, not by office or department.

Unsurprisingly, it ranged from happy hours to more paid time off (PTO) days. And that’s when it clicked. Everyone has their own idea of work-life balance, and management would never be able to guess or fulfill them all. So instead, we focus on empowerment, and now, we ask employees to take happiness into their own hands. Ask for what you need; open your minds and hearts to new possibilities; support your colleagues; and trust them to do the same for you.

It’s worked. But don’t take my word for it, a recent paper published in American Sociological Review had a similar conclusion after examining the effect of Situation, Task, Actions, and Results (STAR), an organizational intervention designed to promote greater employee control over work time and greater supervisor support for workers’ personal lives.

According to the American Sociological Review, STAR reduced burnout, perceived stress and psychological distress, and increased job satisfaction.

The key is in allowing employees to work how they work best and the results speak for themselves. This isn’t a laissez-faire scenario, but employees should feel empowered to ask for what they want when they want it. Moreover, asking about employees’ lives outside of work provides a comfort and sense of belonging that sterile company perks, designed to keep you at the office, cannot.

In all, work-life balance is unachievable in the way most businesses approach it today. No matter how convenient or fun you make work, it’s still work. Organizations should instead opt to provide the agency for employees to work comfortably, and recognize that needs and desires change over time. It’s about giving up just the right amount of control because long hours do not equal better work. Happy employees do.

 

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur on May 28, 2017.