Beyond Email: 9 Tips for Pitching on Twitter, the Phone and at Events

These days, most pitching, the backbone of public relations, starts with an email. You spend hours fine-tuning a pitch with your team, before sending it off to a reporter with your fingers crossed. Often it’s a hit, but sometimes it falls flat.

No responses to your initial email doesn’t necessarily mean that you made a bad pitch or that your announcement isn’t newsworthy. Whether you get a response or not often depends on factors that are out of your hands: a crowded inbox, a misread subject line, poor timing, etc.

Clearly, you can’t solely rely on email, because it isn’t a perfect communication tool. You have to reach the reporters where they are (always keeping in mind that some reporters prefer email-only interaction).

Below, are some strategies from Highwire Walkers on how they like to get in front of reporters, and what to do when you get ahold of them:

Phone Pitching — Andrea Torres, SAE

Public relations and sales have one thing in common – phone calls. Just like salespeople, PR people need to be friendly and get to the point quickly to do our jobs well. When pitching reporters, keep the following in mind:

Do your research: Have you taken the time to dig into your contacts? Have you read or at least skimmed recent stories? If not, stop what you are doing – you are not ready to pick up the phone. Before dialing, spend the time to know whom you are calling and what they are writing about. This step will make sure you make a good first impression and that you are prepared should you have to think of news angles on the fly.

Have a plan: Researching your targets beforehand is one thing, but it won’t get you very far if you haven’t gotten your thoughts and key conversation points organized. This might mean creating an outline to guide you or writing out an entire script. The takeaway is here is to set yourself up for success so to that you can get your point across.

Get to the point: If you want to lock in that briefing, don’t waste a journalist’s time; make your point quickly and concisely. This step is easier if you’ve followed step 1 and 2.

Be Nice: PR is all about relationships, so be nice. When talking to journalists on the phone, ask about their day and smile. It might seem odd, but smiling helps you relax and sound more pleasant.

Twitter Pitching — Ben Noble, AE

Twitter is a high-risk/high-reward platform that can help quickly catch a journalist outside their busy inbox. Journalists who frequently use Twitter are likely to engage in conversation and/or acknowledge posts from their followers. I recommend grabbing the journalist’s attention online with an eye-catching message and then shifting the conversation to email.

Don’t jump headfirst into a pitch: Nobody wants unsolicited pitches clogging up their timeline. Instead, offer insight into an article or post presented on the journalist’s feed. Share your perspective, ask them for their thoughts and offer counterpoints to topics of discussion. Building Twitter relationships starts with a courting process. Once you have a proper cadence of back and forth, indicate that you may have someone who can further address the topic (your client) and offer to send an email.

Avoid pitching several reporters at once. Twitter is an open forum and your tweets are public. Spamming journalists will be noticed and frowned upon.

Follow up – but not the same way as you would through email. If a journalist doesn’t reply to your first attempt at conversation, don’t be dissuaded. Feel free to follow up by prompting another discussion. Don’t remind the journalist of your initial post. Instead, start a new conversation to show that you are legitimately interested in the journalist’s perspective. Again, Twitter relationships involve courting. Prove that you are a committed follower rather than a one-off attention seeker.

Pitching In-Person — Lauren Kido, SAE

For PR pros, seeing reporters in-person is like a celebrity sighting: you usually know so much about them, have the perfect conversation scripted out in your head and are a little hesitant to approach them at first. But, whether the sighting happens at a networking event, conference, tradeshow or at your local coffee shop, here are a few things to keep in mind when pitching reporters in-person:

Make it a conversation: Meeting in-person is an excellent way to build relationships for your client, but it shouldn’t all be business. Strike up a conversation about non-work related topics, and if you’re following a reporter on social media, now’s your chance to ask about the new puppy or how relaxing that beach vacation was (just be sure first to note that you saw their tweet).

Ask questions: You’ve emailed, called and tweeted and now you’re chatting face-to-face! Use this valuable time to get a better sense of what the reporter is working on by asking what they’re interested in covering, tired of hearing about and what thoughts they have on industry trends. It’s also helpful to understand how they might like to be pitched in the future so you can pass this information along to the rest of your team.

Have business cards handy: Business cards should always be kept on hand at any networking event. Make sure to write your client names and websites on your business cards so reporters can easily jog their memory when they are sorting through cards at the end of a long night.

Pitching on Twitter, in-person, on the phone — it can all be daunting. But, with some practice, you get the hang of it, and the coverage will start coming in.

Happy pitching!


Written by Ben Levine, an Account Associate in San Francisco, with help from Lauren Kido, Ben Noble and Andrea Torres

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.

Tomayto/Tomahto: Where US & UK PR Aligns

For the last two weeks I’ve been lucky enough to work on the other side of the Atlantic, in the New York offices of US agency, Highwire. Working in another country, with a different agency and unfamiliar sectors, I was expecting to feel like a doughnut in the big apple cart. What I wasn’t prepared for was quite how easily I’d fit in.NASDAQ

A few hours into my first day and it was already apparent just how many similarities there are between US and UK communications. The journalists and publications may be different, but the way we craft stories and target contacts is exactly the same; the media landscapes are shifting in parallel and clients round the world want similar outcomes.

So shouldn’t this be good news for businesses? After all, if communications can be executed globally, surely this smooths the path to achieving a global presence. And it seems that this is what businesses are looking for in 2015, as more and more organisations – from British retail stalwart M&S, to US streaming site Netflix – declare plans for overseas expansion.

But is there such a thing as cookie-cutter comms? Google “international communications blunders” and you’ll be flooded with eye-watering examples of company messaging gone awry – lost or worse distorted in translation at huge expense and embarrassment to those involved.

So while businesses are looking to operate in a global environment, they shouldn’t underestimate the importance of potayto potahto. Forging a strong, universal identity is one thing, but converting this into sales will be tricky without a dusting of market relevance. While many businesses understand that tailoring their communications is key to achieving this, if my search and the numerous results tell me anything, it’s that there’s room for improvement.IMG_9098

International execution is a challenge comms professionals face every day. While my time in New York may have highlighted superficial similarities, it’s also reinforced my belief that there’s no substitute for local intelligence; knowing your client’s audience in an area and how to communicate to them. It’s why global campaigns can be built centrally but are better executed locally – and are best when flexible enough to accommodate local nuances.

Whether you’re looking at the problem of global roll-out from a business or communications perspective, the solution is essentially the same; know your audience and listen before you speak – because there’s a world of difference between tomayto and tomahto.


Written by Polly Robinson, an account manager at Brands2Life, a London-based Highwire PR partner

Highwire Expands to New York

It’s an exciting time for tech in NYC.

Not only are we celebrating Etsy’s recent IPO, but there are many smaller startups doing exciting things in different areas of tech. One of my favorite areas that is thriving in NYC is fintech. For obvious reasons, NYC is well-suited to be the fintech capital of the US and there are many innovative companies here using technology to solve problems for both the institutional and retail/consumer side of the business. From recent IPOs Virtu and OnDeck to the fledgling startups coming out of the FinTech Innovation Lab, you can find fintech startups at all stages of life in NYC.

The thriving fintech scene is one of the many reasons why Highwire is proud to announce the official opening of our NYC office, located in the WeWork NoMad space, alongside many tech startups. While our office may be new, our presence in NYC is not. We have been building our East Coast client base over the last year, with leaders in fintech, enterprise security and retail technology on our client roster, and have now begun expanding our team here as well.

I am very excited to open the NYC office for Highwire, as it allows me to experience the best of both worlds. I like to say that my background makes me ½ Wall Street and ½ Silicon Valley. For the last 7 years, I worked at a corporate communications firm started by ex-Wall Street analysts, where I helped enterprise technology, financial services, and payments companies manage communications around milestone events, including many IPOs. IPOs are an amazing growth milestone and I am proud to have helped so many CEOs and CFOs successfully manage communications on this important day. Prior to my corporate communications work, I was a Vice President at a Silicon Valley PR firm, spending several years in California and NYC offices, working with early Silicon Valley enterprise technology leaders.

Similarly, Highwire NYC combines the best of NYC and Silicon Valley. While we still call some of the most innovative Valley companies our clients, we are proud to support the NYC and broader East Coast tech scene as well.

Tech in NYC is thriving and Highwire is excited to be a part of the growing scene.

The Top 7 Media Briefing Spots in San Francisco

Congratulations! You’ve secured some awesome in-person meetings for your client in San Francisco. But, you’re located in New York or Los Angeles or Boston and aren’t exactly sure of where to recommend that your client takes those important meetings.

If your client takes a briefing at a less than ideal location, then you could frustrate the reporter, frazzle your client and completely undo all of your hard work.

Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorite spots near a sampling of the publications that you are likely pursuing for your San Francisco media tour:

1. Philz Coffee (201 Berry Street) — If your client has meeting at TechCrunch, they are in for a treat. Right around the corner from TechCrunch’s office is a Philz Coffee, one of the most beloved coffee shops in the Bay Area. The Berry Street Philz has indoor seating, which can get a little noisy, but there are outdoor seats if inside is too noisy or if your spokesperson wants to enjoy the California sunshine during the interview. We recommend ordering Philz’s medium roast.


2. Two Embarcadero (2 Embarcadero Center)– Next up is the Wall Street Journal up on California Street. Nearby are the Embarcadero Center towers. Connecting them is a raised walkway, which has some grass and benches. Upstairs from the Banana Republic on Embarcadero Two are tables and benches ideal for a discussion of the Internet of Things.

embarcadero two

3. Transamerica Redwood Park (Between Clay St. and Washington St.)– Close by, in the shadow of the TransAmerica Pyramid is the New York Times’ office. On the other side of the Pyramid is a quiet park called “Transamerica Redwood Park.” The park is a slim piece of real estate with trees, a fountain and a sculpture of children playing. Around lunchtime, the park becomes full of Financial District workers, but in off-peak hours it’s rarely crowded.

redwood park






4. Heyday (180 Spear Street) — Bloomberg’s San Francisco office is located in SOMA, a section of the city that is booming particularly due to the tech sector flourishing. Next door to the business publication’s offices is Heydey, a stylish café with an organic menu (so San Francisco). There is ample seating inside the café, but in case of crowds, there is the Spear Street Plaza outside.








5. InterContinental (888 Howard Street) — If your next stop is the San Francisco Chronicle, the InterContinental is across the street. If you and Benny Evangelista are in the need of a place to chat, try the chic lobby or bar.







6. District (216 Townsend Street) — Wired’s offices, which are new and must be kept clean, are down the street from The Chron. Coffee is great, but it can get kind of boring. If you’re in San Francisco, you should probably get some of the fine wine from the Bay Area.






7. Credo (360 Pine Street) – Near the offices that contain The Verge (and SBNation, Curbed, Eater, Racked and Vox), is a great Italian restaurant: Credo (“I believe” in Italian). The décor is very cool — on the wall are famous quotes related to beliefs” – and the food is great.








8. The Station (596 Pacific Avenue) – Here’s a bonus one – the beloved Station down the street from the Highwire offices. While you’re in the neighborhood, give us a shout!

the station





Where do you like to hold briefings in your city?


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:


Gender and Entrepreneurship at SXSW

Among thousands of people, marketing activations, BBQs and cocktail hours, SXSW 2015 helped promote key discussions on the future of work dynamics and the issue of gender in entrepreneurship. These topics were the subject of thought-provoking conversations throughout sessions and keynotes, one of which – UpGlobal’s panel on Women in Entrepreneurship at Old School on 6th Street – I had the honor of being a part of.

IMG_0001 2

Joined by my fellow panelists Anjali Kundra (VP and co-founder of Partender), Amy Millman (President, Springboard Enterprises), Kate Shillo (Director, Galvanize Ventures), and moderated by Lisa Brooks (Turnstone), our group had a dynamic discussion in front of an audience of male and female entrepreneurs alike about how to scale a venture while taking gender into consideration. The group was composed of investors, an entrepreneur and marketers. A few key themes emerged:

From keynotes by Jack Welch and Gary Vaynerchuk to our Startup Oasis panel, the questions of who serves as professional mentors and why continued to come up. For Jack Welch, he finds mentors from every part of his business life. He mentioned Jeff Bezos, Gary Vaynerchuk and others as people to whom he looks for advice. RZA, of the Wu-Tang Clan, counts Jim Jaramusch and Quentin Tarantino as mentors who taught him about becoming a filmmaker. For many of the women on our UpGlobal panel ¬– including myself – mentors of both genders were found through previous job experiences. Though our backgrounds and mentors differed, one thing on which we all agreed was that it’s the responsibility of the mentee to make mentorship happen. If we want to learn from someone, it’s up to us to ask for advice and forge the relationship.

Is HR The Answer To Address Gender Imbalance At Startups?
HR was a hot-button issue that came up in many sessions and conversations. It was clear that enacting company policies and taking over the duty to ensure a workplace that’s equal for both men and women falls upon an HR person. But when and how this hire is made is subject to broadly differing views. For some, HR should be one of the first hires at a startup, while others think HR is an expensive, non-revenue driving investment. This is particularly true for companies at a critical stage where every contributor makes or breaks the growth trajectory of a company. It’s unclear if there’s a “right” answer to this conundrum, as I’ve seen companies try both ways with success. What is clear is that there is no foolproof way to solve for gender imbalance.

Advice For Female Startup Entrepreneurs
During our panel, Lisa asked each of us the one piece of advice we’d give to other female entrepreneurs. We all noted that conviction and confidence are imperative when we’re presenting our ideas and trying to sell a vision to investors, clients or internal staff. Whether male or female, conviction and confidence are ways to keep ahead in the ultra-competitive startup environment in which we work.

Lastly, kudos to UpGlobal for hosting a rich conversation and event at the Startup Oasis; it helped to bring together entrepreneurs from around the world to have an important discussion on the future of gender in the workplace. Now it will be interesting to see if progress happens, or if we’ll still be having the same conversation on this topic at SXSW 2016.


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