The Bleeding Edge: Highwire’s Disruptive Buzzword Hacks

Hi Mike,

I wanted to connect with you on a game-changing big data company that is disrupting the stack. Led by a team of visionary entrepreneurs, they have been killing it with over two consecutive quarters of double-digit growth, and are ready to shake up the global SaaS market.

Millennials, for better or worse, have catalyzed a paradigm shift in how we work, leveraging revolutionary tech to consumerize workflows and move the needle on mission-critical tasks. As the tech giants battle to control untapped markets, and VCs chase the next unicorn, we are doubling down on scaling cloud-based solutions that will enable the internet of things, connected homes, self driving cars, and beyond.

Our founders’ mission is to be the Uber for making the world a better place, and I’d love to connect you with one of their thought leaders for a discussion on the emerging future of this hot start-up.

Let me know if you have a few minutes to chat.

We can all agree that those three paragraphs are absolute nonsense, right? OK good, now let’s talk about why I just assaulted your thinkspace with that fluff.

Every industry has its own jargon. PR can catch flack for perpetuating buzzwords that may have little substance, and at times that’s a valid critique. As a young professional I quickly learned how easy it was to pepper my copy with whatever vague, buzzy phrase was in vogue at the time. Most often, I did so with the hope that it would make me sound as though I knew what I was talking about, while the result was actually a lame, robotic correspondence.

That’s not to say all popular ideas are inherently bad. At times buzzwords are an effective way to simplify and communicate a complex idea. I could tell you that my company ‘reduces wasted resources by enabling virtual instances to share a single host operating system and relevant binaries, libraries or drivers.’ Or I could simply say it ‘uses containerization to maximize resources.’ Not sure which word to use? There’s a dictionary for that.

New ideas grow to become trends, trends gain popularity and soon become clichés, which die out, only to emerge again with a new spin. It’s understandable that PR would be closely tied to this – it’s our job to talk about what’s going on in a given industry.

Just don’t get carried away. You don’t want to sound like a character in an episode of Silicon Valley. Direct, honest conversation is a key to success in internal, client-facing, or media relations. Keep that in mind next time you start talking “leveraging synergy” with a straight face. And, if gamification helps you stay honest, try playing Buzzword Bingo the next time you write or sit through a meeting.

Get to the Point: Media Training Basics

When you first begin building your brand, your story is everything. It’s how you appeal to customers, build new relationships and get across your company’s key messages. But you alone can only spread the word so far, and that’s where sharing your story with the right media can be a huge help.

speech-bubbles-310399_640Media interviews span subjects from a new product to a company launch or a round of funding, and are also conducted in a variety of ways—from a telephone call to a broadcast interview. While an interview can seem intimidating, it’s important not to think of it as an inquisition, but rather a conversation. It is a bit of a shift in perception, but with some simple preparation you can be as comfortable in any interview situation as you would be catching up with a friend over a cup of coffee.

How to prepare?

It’s simple. Prepare with expected key questions and write down notes to create a “briefing page” with the core points for your interview. For example:

Ask Yourself Why. Why are you doing this interview? What is the larger goal of the interview—will it help you educate a new audience or gain customers?

Think about the Audience. Hint, it’s not the reporter.  Ask yourself who is this reporter’s key audience? Make sure your talking points address the audience at hand. If you have an enterprise startup but you’re talking to a general business publication, relate your story to overall business issues felt across the industry. It will make your story compelling to both the reporter and the publication’s readers, establishing trust and authenticity.

Know Your Story. And let’s not forget the most important question: what are the main points of the interview? Key messages are essential and contribute to the larger goal of the interview, such as new customer inquiries, buzz before a big announcement or investor interest as a result of the published article. As a reporter would look at it, they are the who, what, where, why and how of your story. You need a simple description of what your company does, how it’s different and why it matters.

Be Memorable. Remember not be boring in the process. People remember narratives and stories, make sure you use them to illustrate your points or showcase how something works. Challenge yourself to use a minimum of two “for examples” during the course of your interview.

Sound out Your Sound Bites. What are three key messages or easy-to-quote messages that describes the main idea of your content or expertise? Reporters can help you tell your story, but it’s up to you to give them that winning sound bite.

Do Your Research. Finally, don’t be afraid to cyber-stalk. Know as much as you can about the reporter. What school did they go to? Do you have mutual LinkedIn connections? What have they tweeted about recently? It helps to connect on a personal level to build your relationship, and sprinkling a personal twist could make your story interesting to them and their readers.

Now that you are prepared, nail the interview. 

Reporters are the gatekeepers to your key audiences, so get it right.

Focus First: Be comfortable. You don’t want any distractions and make sure your simple key messages are bulleted and in front of you. Read up on current news before beginning – you don’t want to be a deer in the headlights if they bring up recent news that affects your industry. And at the start of the interview, take the lead and offer to give an introduction to your background and why you are talking to them today. This isn’t just about you— show that you’re excited about their audience and hope you can be a resource for both this reporter and their readers.

Make it a Conversation: Avoid industry jargon and don’t assume the reporter knows just as much about the industry as you do—always offer to explain and ask for feedback. When closing the interview, determine what are next steps. Have you summarized the key points for the reporter? Do you need to send over additional information for their story, such as a headshot or FAQ sheet?

Go the Extra Mile: Take notes on what the reporter found interesting throughout the conversation or on details they revealed to you. These notes will be useful in any follow-up conversations.

A Word of Caution: You are always on-the-record unless otherwise indicated. Don’t mislead a reporter, ever, or offer up “between you and me” sensitive information. The point is to tell your story and get to know the media, but don’t try to build a relationship by spilling insider secrets.

Take the opportunity to get to know the reporter across the table, on the other end of the phone or through the camera, as a person. Be considerate of their time, learn what they’re passionate about and always get to the point quickly.

Originally appeared on Creator:


TIL How to Use Reddit for PR

Most have heard of but probably haven’t ventured much into the world of Reddit. A website with over a 174 million users and hundreds of thousands of communities called subreddits, Reddit is a nexus for social sharing, creativity and fun. And it could also be a great tool to leverage for a PR pro.

The self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet” has in the last couple of years picked up steam and has stepped into the arena of mainstream media. And if not in its own right, it’s done so via websites and blogs like Buzzfeed, Gawker and Huffington Post. In fact, it was such a good source that controversy arose from how often stories were being pulled from the boards of Reddit without proper accreditation. It got so far that Huffington Post was actually banned from Reddit late last year for sourcing its news from the site without giving proper attribution. And if not in the form of original content, users regularly post trending pieces of news and current events.
Reddit’s notorious user base, often thought of as cynical and merciless towards overly self-promotional content, has also drawn its fair share of attention in the public eye. Take Nissan, who earlier this year failed miserably to gain the response it sought from Redditors through a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), an open thread for users to “ask anything” to high-profile celebrities, personalities, or companies. Instead of positive recognition, Nissan only gained the accusations of Reddit regulars for dodged questions as well as convenient questions asked by suspiciously new accounts. Fortunately, Reddit did not ultimately see any foul play, but the backlash was bad news enough.

It’s seems daunting but Reddit can be a great place to reach your clients’ audiences if leveraged correctly. To avoid having what happened to HuffPost or Nissan to you or your client, here are some guidelines on using Reddit the right way:

Rule #1: Follow the rules. It’s simple and can save you a lot of trouble. Take a deep dive into the site and explore several subreddits; users don’t care for misplaced content. Try to understand how each community works and how Reddit as a whole choses to interact among itself. What leads to more upvotes? What material is okay for what subreddit? Who are influencers within the community? What will get you booted? If you don’t know the rules, you could end up off Reddit, just like Huffington Post.

Rule #2: Do an AMA. It might not sound appealing considering what happened to Nissan, or the likes of Morgan Freemen and Woody Harrelson for that matter (considered two of the worst AMAs of all time). But appropriately leveraging an AMA can be a huge win for any business or person trying to gain exposure on the Web. The key is to understand that Reddit users can smell a sham from a mile away, so it pays to be genuine. Remember, people are interested in people, and not always what’s being sold to them.

Rule #3: Tap into the ultimate focus group. Social media and trending news on the Web can often make one feel awash in a downpour of information, but Reddit’s vastly diverse user base makes it a tool that can help your client stay afloat and tuned in to the right conversations. Instantly, you can have access to top tier professionals and experts in every field from astrophysics to gaming. In some cases, it’s appropriate to establish your own subreddit, much like Highwire’s social virtual reality client AltspaceVR did. Imagine having the biggest and most diverse focus group on every subject on the Internet only a click away – that’s what Reddit is. More than a place to gain exposure, Reddit is a place to see how people are reacting and discussing anything from shower thoughts to world news. Gain insight and participate in a discussion that can help you and your client down the road.

Rule #4: Be a real person. It’s often hard to take our PR hats off, as we swim through a sea of buzzwords and industry jargon. But Reddit is place where a clever handle and a subreddit can lead you down a rabbit hole of jokes and heartwarming stories that can get you all teary-eyed. Be real. It’s plain and simple. Don’t push a product or unprompted information onto others unless they can genuinely benefit from it. If not, be ready because if Morgan Freeman can garner Reddit’s contempt, what makes you special?

Written by Erik Martinez, Content Associate in San Francisco