Three Mistakes You’re Making with Holiday Gift Guide Pitching

Summer is here and most are packing bathing suits for summer getaways. But for consumer PR pros, July means one thing: time to start pitching gift guides. That’s right — it’s Christmas in July. However, when it comes to gift guide pitching, there are three common mistakes that result in coal under the tree (and unhappy clients):

Mistake 1: Starting Late (And Quitting Too Soon)

Though we’re still wearing sandals, long lead pitching for holiday gift guides starts in the July/August timeframe. Continue pitching long lead throughout the fall and pick up short lead outreach in September. Most importantly, keep pitching throughout the rest of the year. There are plenty of last-minute gift guides in December, plus your product can be featured in New Year, New You roundups in January.

Mistake 2: Forgetting the Basics

Try multiple angles for each product. This is a great opportunity to create relationships with reporters outside your friendly list. For example, if your product is inexpensive, try pitching deals and steals editors for 50 under $50 roundups. When you reach out to media, make sure to give them everything and the kitchen sink upfront. Include links to product, images and sample offers in your initial outreach. Reporters don’t want to have to ask for follow up; it’s our job to make their lives as easy as possible so we can land ink.

Mistake 3: Not Measuring the Results

All your work is for naught if you don’t measure the results. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to directly tie PR efforts to sales results by using UTM codes or Google Analytics. Don’t just use the data to measure this year’s result; use it to strategize for next year, too. Did any of your placements drive an especially high amount of traffic? Consider paid options in that publication for next year. Any hits that didn’t move the needle? Move that publication down on your hit list for 2019.

Trying to avoid these mistakes? Start pitching early, try multiple angles, and have trackings in place to measure the results. Looking for more ideas on how you can uplevel your gift guide pitching? Get in touch with Highwire consumer team at

A Day in the Life of: Ben Liwanag, Account Associate

As news breaks and we work to tell our clients’ stories, my days are always different. In fact, the only constant in my work week seems to be a morning cup of coffee, Taylor Swift on repeat and a delayed L train packed full of antsy commuters.

At Highwire I’ve had the opportunity to consistently level up and take on more strategic and advanced tasks, all thanks to the help of team members willing to mentor and guide me through the process. But for those interested in my day-to-day responsibilities, fret not. Every campaign, proactive pitch and rapid response release have their similarities.

I would break my role as an intern and now account associate into three different categories: content, media relations and being the team’s media maven in the making. These three main roles allow me to help the team stay  #AlwaysWired and #AlwaysWinning. So, mom, I’ve decided to answer your questions about my job for the future Highwire Walkers and curious cats on the web.

“You read the news a lot. What’s going on in the world?”

Fortunately for my coworkers, I stay up-to-date on more than just Taylor Swift news. A core component of my job is to constantly read the news and understand what reporters are writing about and broad trends that affect our clients. I have to be the first to catch breaking news.

There are a few different things that this news monitoring results in, the main action being news scans that ranging from daily to bi-weekly and weekly. I’m responsible for compiling anything relevant to our client, whether it is a new product launch from a competitor or new industry data. These news scans are shared internally and directly with our clients, and give us a broader look at the news cycle and what actions we need to take from a media standpoint. Besides being a client deliverable, it’s an important task that gives me an extra edge in the core component of my job, media relations.

“What does pitching mean?”

Brilliant songwriting is at the heart of any Taylor Swift song, just as media relations is the heart of my day-to-day role. Broadly speaking, I’d narrow this down to three core components that I particularly work on; creating media lists, drafting pitches (story ideas) and pitching (sharing with reporters).  

The key to any successful media campaign is finding the right reporters to tell your stories, and that is where media lists come into play. Whether it be curating old lists, incorporating reporters from news scans or identifying a reporter for an exclusive, spending time on media lists is critical to the success of any media campaign.

Additionally, spending time talking to reporters and sharing our news is another integral part of my role. Reporters will always say “tell me why.” Pitch writing is how we answer that question. Because we never want to copy and paste, either a teammate or myself will then draft a pitch outline with “the meat” of the narrative in it.

This is then where I spend most of my time adding the personal touches and some ideas that will most likely pique the specific reporters’ interest. News scans are especially helpful in letting me tailor each pitch to a reporter, because they allow me to really see what reporters are interested in. While this can be challenging, it’s the biggest part of the work I do. It’s also the most rewarding, especially seeing the work I do in the media.

“What’s a byline?”

I define public relations as storytelling. Part of how we tell clients’ stories is through bylines — basically a contributed article on a specific topic. While I’m not an expert in cloud computing or debt consolidation, my clients are. As an account associate, I regularly team up with client executives to help compile their thoughts and expertise into a meaningful story.

On any given day, you can find me researching different topics to help showcase my clients’ expertise, looking at how the team can speak to a given topic to meet business goals or on the phone learning more about how they see a specific topic. From here is where the magic happens, known as byline writing. While the process can be tedious, it’s an exciting aspect of public relations that plays a big role in clients’ communications strategy.

“What’s coming up that you’re working on?”

Well, mom, this is a question I’ll have to save for another time – I can’t give away any spoilers, but what I’m working on now will be in tech news headlines soon. But for the future Highwire Walkers and PR pros, this is just a snapshot of my role at Highwire. Every day is filled with new opportunities, another media list and keeping up with the news. And for those interested in PR, I know places where you can truly be a part of something different.

Boston’s Tech Scene is Thriving: Here’s a Firsthand Look

Despite its long history in technology and innovation, Boston often gets overlooked by those in the startup scene. But a recent event proved that entrepreneurs don’t need to be based in Silicon Valley to be successful. In fact — the local Boston tech scene is thriving.

Boston Tech Jam brought together more than 7,500 techies from different organizations to celebrate the local companies disrupting the technology industry. From niche startups like HarmonicDrive and Lime Bike, to major brands such as Osram, DraftKings, and Liberty Mutual, Boston Tech Jam proved that Boston continues to be a hub for innovation.

Here are a few of Highwire’s top takeaways from the event:

  • Boston continues to lead the way for advancements in robotics, IoT, and artificial intelligence. We saw expertise while the BTJ team rolled out a new area dedicated to robots.
  • Local universities continue to fuel young talent for local companies. This year, Kronos hosted a Battle of the Interns who set out through the city of Boston on a scavenger hunt emphasizing team-building and collaboration.
  • As a whole, we’re still a highly competitive group of people! Just ask the cornhole games, mechanical bull or ski-ball games that had a line all night!

We hope to see you at the next Boston Tech Jam!

Behind the Scenes with Black Hat Comms Lead

Logo of the Black Hat conference

It’s nearly time for Black Hat USA and given RSA was so late in the year, it seems to have snuck up on everyone quicker than ever.

But no fear, Highwire’s Cyber Squad is on top of it—this year, we interviewed Kimberly Samra, PR Manager for Black Hat and lead for UBM’s technology portfolio, to get a pulse on what the hottest trends at the show will be and how attendees and PR practitioners alike can make the most of their time at the conference this year.

See below for information ranging from themes that will attract a lot of attention at the show—including election security, critical infrastructure and privacy—and tips for how to break through to reporters and tell your story. We hope this information helps you make the most of your time at Black Hat. If you’re heading down and want to meet up with the Highwire Cyber Squad, please email us at

Now, back to our scheduled programming to get the inside scoop from Kimberly Samra, PR manager for Black Hat:

Q) How has PR at Black Hat changed?

The PR landscape has certainly expanded with the growth of the security industry. While we still see the usual big-time security reporters covering the event, coverage is shifting across multiple verticals as the industry transitions and becomes such an essential part of our everyday lives. As discussed in Black Hat’s new research report, “Where Cybersecurity Stands” security has quickly become mainstream, touching everything from politics to international relations, commerce, money and human relations—it really has a hand in everything these days.

So as PR folks ramp up for the event, they should tailor their outreach strategies thinking beyond items specific to security and ensure their pitches demonstrate how people and consumers are affected on a grander scale.

Q) Have you seen a shift in Black Hat audience? More CIOs and technology buyers?

As the event grows we definitely see a wider range of professionals attending. While the Briefings program is at the core of what we offer to our audience, we’ve seen our Business Hall expand to welcome top vendors in the industry interested in sharing their latest and greatest tools and how they’re pushing security innovation forward through advanced research. Our Black Hat CISO Summit has also grown as more executives are making security a top priority.

Black Hat as a whole really brings together every aspect of the industry and is a hub for all things security. It’s the must-attend security event of the year and we’re happy to continue adding to our offerings and the content media is exposed to so they can report critical insights to the public.

Q) What are the top trends you expect to see at the show this year?

Of course we always see a lot of attention around big-name vendors, mobile, IoT, payment systems, critical infrastructure, etc. However, not surprisingly, we’ve seen a lot of buzz around voting technology and privacy. As folks look toward the upcoming elections and draw from all the controversy around the 2016 U.S. presidential race, they’re looking to security experts to answer questions about how vulnerabilities found in voting technology could affect outcomes and any other potential issues that could unknowingly change the course of political history.  

Privacy on the other hand is a vast issue that remains top of mind for people on many levels—from those working in government, the enterprise level and everyday citizens. We’ve all seen headlines pertaining to the Facebook investigation, the global effects of GDPR, and continued reports of security breaches. It’s no secret that people are questioning their privacy and how their data is being used. It’s a widespread topic and the research being done within the security industry is pertinent to learning more and making moves toward protection.

Q) Is there anything new happening at the show?

Yes! We’re really excited about a number of new offerings this year, specifically the expansion of our community programs. Black Hat has taken strategic steps over the years to ensure our program expands and continues to welcome and serve a wider audience. A few years back we began work around inclusivity through dedicated diversity programs. We’re proud that these programs have continued to grow and that we’re now able tap into programming specific to the needs of the community on a much larger scale.

On the Briefings side, we’ll see content coming from the new Community Track, which was developed to provide a forum for discussion on relevant issues currently impacting the InfoSec community. These talks will dive into important topics including careers, legal issues, inclusion, diversity, attribution, substance abuse, mental health, burnout, security awareness, work-life balance and more. We’ll also be holding Community Workshops which have been made to encourage collaboration among the Black Hat community; attendees will be exposed to everything from personal digital resilience to mentorship and career-building strategies.

And of course, we’ll see the return of our scholarship program and our work with non-profit partners, two items we’re really passionate about as we engage with and encourage the next generation of security professionals and give back to the community we service.

Q) What advice can you offer for companies looking to prepare to pitch reporters at Black Hat?

Companies should keep in mind the scale of Black Hat as well as the happenings throughout the week—remember, it’s called “Hacker Summer Camp” for a reason. Do your homework and tailor what you’re trying to pitch specifically to the reporter you’re reaching out to—a pitch that’s only specific to a security product announcement won’t always do the trick.

Questions you should ask yourself: Are you familiar with the headlines out there right now? Does your content pertain to big topics like privacy, critical infrastructure or maybe companies a certain journalist regularly writes about? Think of yourself as a valuable source rather than someone trying to simply sell a reporter on a story.

Also, make it easy on them! There is so much going on leading up to the event and especially onsite, you don’t want your news to get swept up in the hustle bustle especially if press have to decipher your message and how it applies to a potential big story. Take a step back, focus on what the big takeaway is, and figure out the headline—if you were a reporter, how would you envision the story? It’s like delivering a ready-made gift.

And start now! Don’t wait to get your news out to registered media. Remember, their schedules are packed onsite so you need to get on their radars now so they can make time for you.

See here for an interview with Black Hat communications director from 2016 for a look back at trends over the years.

Learn more about Highwire’s security practice here or reach out to us at to continue the conversation. We’ll be at the conference, so we’re looking forward to meeting you on the show floor to hear your story!

Tech Storytellers Gather to Discuss the “Evolution of the Story” in NYC

Highwire has been exploring “the story” throughout 2018 as we celebrate our 10th anniversary. While headlines, platforms and trends have changed significantly over the past 10 years, the unified goal of PR and the media has remained the same: to tell a compelling story. However, the ever-changing media, political and technology landscapes all have a large impact on what that story is and how best to tell it.

To dig into this concept further, Highwire invited some of the sharpest tech storytellers to discuss how the story has evolved and what the next 10 years will bring for PR and journalism. The media panel took place on June 27 at Work-Bench and was moderated by Highwire Account Director Ken Bruno. Panelists included Kerry Flynn, Marketing Reporter at Digiday; Polina Marinova, Associate Editor at Fortune; Anthony Ha, Senior Writer at TechCrunch; and Sean Ludwig, Communications and Marketing Director at Tech:NYC.

Over the course of the panel, these storytellers shared their insights into what trends are having the biggest impact on journalism and how PR pros can work successfully with the media.

The State of Journalism

We’re seeing the disruption of traditional media, with business model changes and restructuring at many of the largest media organizations. Meanwhile, smaller online outlets are delivering high-caliber reporting that is capturing the attention of many young readers.

The move toward subscription-based content and paywalls is really having an impact, noted Marinova. What these outlets are after is more quality journalism, but she expressed doubt that people will pay for more than just The New York Times and The Washington Post. Despite these concerns, Marinova was optimistic that quality journalism will still have value for readers.

“We’re all trying to figure out how we’re going to make money in the next five years,” said Anthony Ha of TechCrunch. The industry is still finding this path, and it will be a bumpy one, but Ha said there are still great opportunities for high-quality work. “Clickbait still exists, but most publications who want to be respected are interested in more than just chasing traffic.”

The Changing Reader/Reporter Relationship

In the era of social media, fake news and citizen journalism, the relationship between a reporter and their readers is increasingly complex.

“Social media has knocked all of those barriers down — and maybe that’s okay,” said Ludwig. Instead of receiving an angry email a few days after you publish a story, now journalists are called out instantly on social media when they make a mistake. This has created a very public and instant accountability for the media.

“Journalists have become more accessible than ever, which means that sometimes we are going to put our foot in our mouth,” said Flynn. She has been especially interested in seeing how major news personalities are responding to criticism online in real-time.

The Impact of Diminishing Trust in Social Media

Some industry pundits believe that social media is at an all-time low, which is impacting both the tech and publishing world in tandem. The publishing market will have to navigate the lasting impacts of social media backlash and we may see media organizations adjusting their publishing strategies.

“I hope publishers have learned their lesson about relying too much on social media for content distribution,” said Flynn. “Hindsight is 20/20, but I have faith that the younger generation gets it and will do their research when getting news from social media sites.”

Ludwig said that educators have a responsibility to teach the younger generation how to use social media in a healthy way and how to separate real news vs fake news online.

Tips for PR Pros

Panelists agreed that while new mediums continue to change how journalists and PR professionals communicate, the most important thing will remain the same: it’s up to PR pros to know what is the right fit for a publication and its audience. Do your research and know exactly what a reporter covers before pitching them.

“Journalists are humans, and every one of us is different,” said Flynn. Don’t be afraid to stalk reporters online to get to know their coverage and what will be most valuable to them.

“Keep your emails short and to the point,” said Marinova. “A quick ‘hey do you cover this’ is fine, and then we can have a longer conversation if it’s a good fit.”

Stay Tuned for More 10th Anniversary Updates

Keep an eye out on the blog as we continue to delve into what the next 10 years may hold for tech sectors like security, enterprise and AI. We’ll be publishing a series of blogs from Highwire’s subject matter experts as we continue to celebrate our 10th year.