Highwire’s Internship Program helps college graduates build the foundation for a long-term career in PR. This internship provides opportunities to work directly with client teams and to gain relevant hands-on experience. Across our four offices, our interns help create content to help tell our client’s stories and develop a strong foundation of skills for a career in PR. Learn about a few of our current Highwire interns below!
This year, Highwire is celebrating 10 years as an agency. Tapping into our inquisitive nature as communications professionals, we took this opportunity to invite esteemed journalists and PR peers through our doors to discuss the evolution of “The Story.” The tech and media world has changed tremendously, from the rise of the gig economy to the decline of print, but one thing has remained the same — a good story is a good story. While publication and readership may change what the core of that story contains, one goal remains: create and amplify a powerful narrative.
We sat down with Associated Press’ Michael Liedtke, Fast Company’s Harry McCracken, Reuters’ Stephen Nellis, and The Information’s Sarah Kuranda to hear what intrigues them about the technology industry today, and to get their thoughts on the evolving PR/media relationship.
Trends of Interest:
- Technology’s Influence on Society and Culture
This seemed to be the hottest topic on the minds of these journalists. Michael Liedtke noted how they are “creepily interested in the surveillance society that we seem to be complacently creating for ourselves whether we know it or not.” As our world advances, journalists will be watching to see how society adapts to its dependence on an imperfect system.
- AI and the Future of Work
Liedtke also noted his interest in the future of work as it relates to AI. While AI is enhancing life in so many ways, creating efficiencies and increasing productivity, it’s also establishing tensions among workers. For those of us living in a Silicon-Valley bubble, it’s also critical to share illustrative examples with the general public so they can grasp the true impacts of AI from real-life accounts.
- Beyond the Valley
Reaching beyond Silicon Valley was another point made by Stephen Nellis. He discussed his desire to tap into Reuters’ global network and work with international correspondents to develop a worldwide view for his pieces.
Cultivating Relationships to Separate the Experts from the Phonies
Sources are the glue that holds PR professionals and journalists together. PR professionals serve an important role as gatekeepers to the experts and thought leaders that journalists engage with for compelling stories. It’s essential that we treat that responsibility with care. As Sarah Kuranda emphasized, journalists have to weed through an abundance of “experts,” and therefore establishing relationships with genuine sources is a gift. A great source has first-hand experience, and fun stories to tell. If you have a great source, encourage them to build those relationships with media. Offer journalists a coffee or drink meeting and you’ll stay off the “B.S. list.”
The Under-Appreciated Element
Harry McCracken urged PR professionals to recognize the previous context in our pitches. It may seem like technology companies are entering a brand new world, but if you do your research, you’ll find essential historical context that is invaluable for stories. Silicon Valley is evolving rapidly, but nearly everything that is “new” has been tried before. Showing that your company or client has learned from others is a testament to the company’s product and end goal.
Working Together As Storytellers
The relationship between journalists and PR professionals is a delicate one. Each one represents a different side of the same narrative, but both seek to peak the interest of the audience. While we are always walking that thin line, discussions like these bring us a little bit closer to our ultimate goal – telling the story.
Mastering byline development takes time, practice, creativity and patience — all things that require a level of mental energy that we don’t always have. This is not a mindless activity, but one that’s truly engaging. Although it can be daunting, there’s actually a very clear structure that, when followed, can break byline writing up into much more manageable pieces. Writing a byline is like making cookies: it should be based on a recipe but can only be special if you add in your own secret sauce.
Let’s first start with the ingredients – every byline should contain these simple pieces.
First ask yourself, who is the audience here? Who will be eating your cookies? Just like you wouldn’t make snickerdoodle cookies for a chocoholic, you wouldn’t write a technical piece for business managers. You can’t please everyone every time, so don’t try to — keep it focused.
Next, gather your basics. Each byline needs to have the three fundamental ingredients:
- Key messaging
- Editorial guidelines
Finally, determine the secret ingredients. A byline needs something special — a reason to keep reading. We only have 7 seconds to grab a reader’s attention, so make sure that you don’t wait too long before throwing in your creativity, thought-provoking statistics, or outside sources.
Now that we know what we need, let’s talk about the process.
Step One: Choose Your Ingredients
This is the most important step — the information gathering. Without enough meat, the byline can become a chore to write and lack purpose. However, if you do a thorough job with this step, the byline can write itself.
There are several ways to gather your ingredients, some include sourcing calls, research, and/or using existing content. Of these, sourcing calls can lead to the most new and exciting content, but they require that you do your homework, ask the right questions, and think like a reporter.
Step Two: Lay it out.
Take the key points from that sourced content and turn it into an abstract to lead you down the right path. Establish a theme and endgame that you can run with and run towards. Set yourself up for success.
Then, create an outline. Organize your thoughts into something that has a beginning, middle and end. Don’t just throw everything in and hope it comes out okay. Each piece should be divided into 5 sections:
- The hook
- The why
- The body
- The kicker
- The call to action
Step Three: Mix it in.
Take that outline you’ve just created and fill it in. Add all of the information that you’ve gathered and tie it all together. This part should happen naturally, so let it. Don’t multitask, and have fun with it!
Step Four: Taste test your dough.
This is the editing process. Editing should involve multiple parties, not just yourself. Take the time to self-edit and ask yourself questions, but also ask a colleague for a reader’s perspective and your manager/client for feedback. The more thorough this phase is, the less likely it is that you’ll have to repeat step three over and over.
Think creatively here — is there anything you’re missing? How can you take this a step further?
Step Five: Bake the cookies.
Step away for a moment. Let the byline sit just for a bit before you come back to it for a final check. Taking a brief recess will allow you to return to the piece with an open mind. There may be minor tweaks to formatting or areas to add color, but if you’ve successfully completed each step along the way, this should be the easiest part.
Writing a compelling byline requires structure, planning, and a personal touch. There’s no fool-proof way to make it just right, but when you do hit that magical consistency, it’s mouthwatering for both you and your client.
So you’ve landed the big interview. Your team has secured one-on-one time with a journalist, and you have the chance to get your company’s message out to the masses. This is a big opportunity with plenty at stake. A great interview can build authenticity and help to develop strong media relationships. But an interview flop can tarnish your reputation and cause unwanted negative attention. No one wants to go viral for the wrong reasons.
Lucky for you, our agency’s media training experts have been on the other side of the interview. As former broadcast, print and radio journalists, they have a behind-the-scenes view of what it really takes to nail an interview. Here’s a hint: It all hinges on preparation. Here are five tips that can make the difference between a stellar interview and one that leaves you scrambling to do damage control.
Imagine Your Headline…then Say It
When preparing for an interview, start by asking yourself what ideal headlines you’d like to see come out of the interview. They should say something exciting about your company while also answering questions like “why now?” and “who cares?” Then, during the interview, begin your answers with that headline messaging. From there, support your headlines with facts, evidence and anecdotes. This will help you build out a solid foundation of key messaging for the interview.
Know Thy Interviewer
Not all journalists work the same way. It’s important to analyze the interview style of whomever you’re working with. Some journalists take a “good cop” approach. They establish a rapport with their subject by starting out with open-ended questions or asking tough questions in a friendly way to create an atmosphere of closeness. Other “bad cop” reporters take a hard-hitting approach. They skip the small talk and go straight for the tough questions, often in rapid fire. Do your research to figure out where a journalists falls on the good cop/bad cop spectrum so you know what to expect.
Anticipate the Tough Questions
Always expect the questions that you’d rather not be asked, even if you think you’re dealing with a “good cop” interviewer. Hash out what the controversial topics and hot-button issues are ahead of time. Mock interviews can be helpful here in order to prepare for the worst. If you are asked a tough question during an interview, there are a few strategies you can use to handle it. Answer the question if you can, but avoid repeating a negative statement. If the question itself isn’t negative, you can rephrase it as part of your answer and then answer the question with that angle. When in doubt, create a bridge to a key message with a phrase like “That’s a good point, but what we think is important here is…”
Avoid Trash Talk
One hard and fast rule of a good interview is that no one comes out on top by trash-talking their competitors. When it comes to rival companies, it’s best to stay mute. While it’s important to be aware of your competitors, avoid mentioning their names at all during an interview. All you’re doing is giving them free air time. Instead, name your company, your products and your customers as much as possible.
Never Go Off the Record
At some point during an interview, a journalist may turn to you and say, “Can I ask you a question off the record?” Don’t do it! Regardless of the great relationship you have with them or how much you trust them, the answer should always be no. At the end of the day, if a journalist gets a juicy soundbite or a hot tip from something you said off the record, they have quite a big incentive to go ahead and publish it. Play it safe and never say anything to a journalist that you wouldn’t want published.
A workplace revolution is underway across most industries, and robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the center of it. Machine learning and automation are becoming deeply integrated across all aspects of the way we live and work. As the promise of AI threatens to replace human drivers, factory workers and cashiers, which industry is next?
There’s been discussion of corporate communications being replaced by automation and robot writers once and for all. I say, no way. Compelling, effective public relations is not possible without emotional intelligence and human trust. Here are four reasons why human communications professionals won’t be replaced by AI anytime soon.
At its core, content is about human relationships.
The best marketing creates and builds relationships between brands, consumers, customers and journalists based on trust and respect. This is increasingly important as journalists and consumers are inundated with information and overloaded with posts and messages on social media. Reporters need sources to deliver truthful, compelling and relevant stories. In a time of skepticism for news, we need to do more to drive trust and empower journalists to work with real, true sources — not AI technologies or robots that can be programmed to manipulate. Emotional intelligence is at the core of strong relationships.
Understanding reporters requires human intelligence.
Reporters and editors are being asked to take on expanded roles and write a greater number of stories in the 24-hour news cycle. They have no time to waste and communications strategies must adapt to meet their needs.
For those on the front lines of companies, the issues we encounter every day are different and require varying approaches. Real relationships with reporters are critical in verifying the truth and getting attention. Companies need to understand what journalists care about, what their readers want and what is new and different.
Indeed, robots could — and technologies exist that do — analyze what a reporter covers to capture key phrases and generate an email. Reporters can see through this and it often creates more noise than value. Developing a unique angle, tying your company news to a bigger industry trend or sharing an unusual statistic requires creativity, context and human intuition. This deeper understanding goes beyond commands and keywords.
Creativity is best done by humans.
Last year, Google financed a new project in Europe called Radar, aimed at automating news writing. There are existing technologies that automate press release writing as well, and that’s a good thing because they are becoming less important. In fact, having a robot create press releases would free more time for humans to develop creative and impactful stories.
The best marketing elicits impact, humor, attention and value. Sweden listed its entire country on Airbnb as a tourism stunt last year. A few years ago, millions of people poured buckets of ice on themselves to raise money for ALS. Robots won’t be pulling off this level of creativity anytime soon and here’s why: In order to make humans care about something, you have to understand the human psyche.
AI can make communications better with humans.
Brands and marketing professionals need not fear automation and AI because these technologies are proving to play important, helpful roles. Numerous tools are available that allow us to connect with audiences. Tools like BuzzSumo, Zignal and TrendKitecreate valuable insights and can measure reach and impact of company messages and direction for future engagements. Hashtag and keyword tracking programs like Keyhole enable monitoring for trends, brands and competitors in real time, so companies can communicate quickly and efficiently. Conversational language companies like Narrative Science use analytics to create data-driven stories about a company or industry. Using AI and automation tools can replace mundane and time-consuming tasks that provide more time to focus on creative and contextualized story angles.
Humans are essential for telling creative stories, developing buzzworthy ideas and communicating effectively. AI and automation play an important role, but those technologies have their limits. At the core, marketing and communications develop important relationships that cannot be replaced or mimicked by technology.
While we love our west coast headquarters, we have a special place in our heart for the East Coast and especially for our two offices here in NYC and Boston. Both cities have a lot to offer tech companies — whether they are startups or big, established companies.
New York – Amazing Diversity & Potential
One of the coolest things about the NYC is the diversity of people and industries here. From fashion, to finance, media and commercial real estate and technology, NYC has it all. Tech especially has been growing like gangbusters. According to a Crain’s New York Business report, New York is now the second most active tech ecosystem in the United States on all key metrics.
What do entrepreneurs say they 💜NYC?
Isaac Oates, the CEO of Justworks, the easy-to-use payroll, benefits and HR support solution for businesses and a Manhattan-based company, is a big advocate of NYC, as he explained to The New York Business Journal: “The people that live here are the people that are attracted to New York City. There is an energy and enthusiasm that you get out of New Yorkers that you really can’t find anywhere else in the country. It’s an aspirational place to be and you can feel that when you walk down the street.”
The Big Apple is also becoming an enclave for digital health companies according to Buzzfeed’s senior technology reporter and expert on all things digital health, Stephanie Lee.
The reason? Cities like New York have emerged as a major hub for healthcare technology companies because they can take advantage of the area’s medical centers as investors and testing grounds, according to a report from the Center for an Urban Future.
Boston – The Hub of Fresh Minds
As the largest city in New England, Boston is known as the unofficial capital of New England for its reputation as both an intellectual and medical center with talent from more than 100 colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area.
Boston has also been growing rapidly in a number of different industries including finance, healthcare, education and manufacturing.
According to Deloitte research, “Data from January 2013 through August 2017 shows that Boston is within the top four U.S. regions for each of these four industries when it comes to the number of startups they have produced.”
For industries on the rise, why leave the Greater Boston area? This is probably why one of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest regrets as a CEO was leaving the city. He said this back in 2011 at Y Combinator’s Startup School in a candid interview with Y Combinator Partner Jessica Livingston.
Unlike Zuckerberg, Akamai, a leading cloud delivery and security services provider and one of Highwire’s clients, is proud to have started and stayed in this city, especially since it is home to offices of some of the biggest and best tech giants (think Microsoft and Google).
Akamai’s CEO, Tom Leighton, wrote a column for the Boston Globe about how the company commercialized its technology in Leighton’s Boston office at MIT to incubator space in Cambridge’s Kendall Square. He said: “Our small team of mostly young whiz kids didn’t have much experience in business. But we certainly had big dreams. And after two decades of hard work, our business has grown into the world’s largest and most trusted cloud delivery platform, upon which many of the world’s best-known brands and enterprises build their digital experiences.”
Make Giant Waves in Your Respective Fields
Both the West Coast and East Coast offer different cultures and communities to those seeking out new opportunities, and this remains true for their respective tech landscapes. However, more entrepreneurs and CEOs of startups are choosing to settle down on the East Coast for the tech scene, number of resources and the diversity and talent of the people to propel their businesses ahead of their competition.
And now with several East Coast cities including Boston, New York, Newark, NJ, Northern Virginia, Montgomery County Maryland and Washington, DC on Amazon’s shortlist for a second headquarters, there are even more good things to come!
HW Labs Test PR CRM/Media Engagement Platform that Aims to Automate Intern Tasks
Earlier this year, we kicked the tires on PitchFriendly – a PR-focused CRM system for managing media outreach, tracking relationships and reporting on progress. While we haven’t signed up for the platform (…yet), the company is making some huge improvements to the largely non-existent infrastructure PR teams use to manage media outreach and relationships.
Pros: What we love about PitchFriendly
1. Pitch Status Overview
First, the data. The ability for an account manager to see who has got their pitches out and what’s been the outcome. Have the pitches been read, has anyone committed to a briefing or to write, and who has declined? These are all questions frequently asked by clients and account team leadership after a pitch goes out. PitchFriendly puts all this useful status information into a single pane dashboard which makes it easier to report back the current opportunities in play and media feedback. The platform uses pixel tracking (similar to services like Mixmax and Streak) to enable PR pros to see if their email has been read before picking up the phone.
Being able to see the pitches that have been sent by team members also enables senior staff to provide feedback on outreach and help junior staff tweak pitches and improve their success rate.
2. Media CRM
The ability to see who recently engaged a reporter gives PR teams the ability to gain insight from others within the agency, or delegate a pitch to someone who already has an open line of communication with the reporter. The platform gives team members the ability to add notes on a reporter to keep the rest of the team informed about a change in beat or something that might impact communication with the reporter.
3. Templates and Mail Merge
The platform enables customizable pitch templates to be created so team members are all aligned on messaging, while having the freedom to personalize outreach for their specific targets. This prep work can be done in advance and then the entire batch of emails can be sent at a scheduled time. Mail merges can be tricky, and the archives of Twitter are littered with angry journalist tweets about PR mail merges gone wrong. However, the PitchFriendly system previews the email so you can see what it will look like for each reporter and provides checks in the process to limit the likelihood of a #PRfail.
4. The UI
It’s clean and simple, and easy to navigate. The PitchFriendly team have done a great job creating a modern user interface.
5. The Vision – AI and Machine Learning Replacing Intern Work
Founder Joel Andren has a strong vision for how PR engagement and outreach can be improved through technology and it’s exciting to hear him talk about the company’s plans to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning to be able to review a pitch and automatically assign relevant reporters based on the system’s rich pool of data.
The Cons: What didn’t work so well?
1. Importing Media Lists
After working with collaboration tools like Google Docs and Atlassian Confluence, which enable real-time updates to messaging and media lists, switching to a system that requires building and finalizing a media list, and then importing it into the system was a challenge and an added step that slowed teams down. There is a learning curve, which might be tough to get by for a fast moving agency.
2. Adding Another Communication Interface
PitchFriendly does enable you to follow up with media using Gmail, as you normally would. But the initial pitch has to be sent in the PitchFriendly application. This adds another destination and another communications app in an already cluttered desktop. In follow up conversations, Joel and I discussed taking all the good stuff above – the reporting and the media CRM – and adding these as a Gmail extension (similar to Mixmax) so users can continue working in a familiar interface, and one that is being used for other work outside of pitching, while being able to track success and media conversations from email outreach.
Highwire Labs’ Take
PitchFriendly shows a lot of promise and Joel Andren’s vision for smarter media outreach is a compelling prospect. The platform isn’t perfect and there are further refinements needed, but it is the best example of PR-specific CRM system on the market, and the pitch status reporting and team management capabilities are worth checking out.
The company offers a free trial so you can try it out before committing to an on-going spend. We’re continuing to watch this space with interest.
As PR professionals, it’s imperative to periodically check in with the media to gain a better understanding of the stories they’re looking for and how we can work together to tell those stories.
That’s why last week we, along with the Silicon Valley and San Francisco chapters of PRSA, hosted Jason Wilson of VentureBeat, David Pierce of Wired and Sean Captain of Fast Company at our office to share their thoughts on topics ranging from the state of media to how publications are handling the convergence of technology and politics.
Panelists also touched on what they’re looking for from a source. The number one thing? They have to understand the publication’s audience, said Jason Wilson.
On Story Characters
David Pierce added that he has become good at knowing when people are giving him a speech and he’s more interested in finding the character of the story and hearing their experience firsthand.
When asked how politics have impacted the newsroom over the past year, the panelists agreed it varies for each publication.
“You think about the role Facebook played in the election, and you realize this is just our world now, and we have to deal with it,” said Pierce. “But we have to ask ourselves where it makes sense for us to get involved and why our readers would care about it.”
For Sean Captain, it’s all about how you approach the story. “Everyone wants to jump into the conversation, but you have to find the angle that works for your readership,” he said.
Check out the highlight video below, and take a look at the Highwire and PRSA social channels for videos, quotes and more from the panel!
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
Photo credit: Getty Images
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.
- Influencer segmentation
- Scheduled social engagements
- Full-service trial period
- Simple user interface
- 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.
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.
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!