Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WebInno, the PR Panel, Recap and Some Thoughts

Glad I could make it to the Web Innovation Forum last night. Couple of interesting companies presenting as main dishes - missed most of BatchBook, but found Epernicus and Book of Odds quite fascinating (Book of Odds is sill under private beta, but those who attended the webinno, we got a special access code - sorry, can't share it, was asked not to).

The PR panel was hosted by Mike Troiano (who I am thrilled to have as one of the panel experts at the MIT Forum concept clinic I am organizing on October 15 - hope to see you there!) and had Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe, Wade Roush from Xconomy, Peter Kafka from AllThingsD, and Bob Brown of Network World. All in all, the panel agreed PR agencies are overrated. Kafka, sounding a lot like Joe Wilson, said a few times that if PR people tell you this, they lie.

Best way to get journalists' attention? Seek and get a personal referral - otherwise whether you do it or your agency does it for you, your pitch will go unnoticed. Then try and meet these journalists in person and tell them your story. Got the impression that journalists are looking for the raw material, that more often than not, they avoid media-trained people. Because they are after the juicy details, the things people don't tell you - so the more authentic, first-hand info they can get, the better the chance that they will listen to your story.

Biggest take-aways:
1. There are no rules on how to do pr anymore - whether you do it yourself or hire an agency to do it for you. Each reporter is different - Peter Kafka said that if you have big news, don't give him embargoes, exclusives, sneak previews - just publish it on your blog and get all the media to get the news at the same time. That may work for Peter, but does not work for 99% of the journalists out there.

2. PR is not a wholesale game - it is a retail game, to quote Scott. You have to pick a handful of media outlets that you find important and work with them. Newswire services like PR Newswire were frowned upon. I say use them when you have exhausted your top 3-5 media list - posting on Newswire services helps you with second and third-tier publications, which, if nothing else, boosts your SEO ranking. And btw, reporters do use them to do background research. So don't take anything one reporter tells you for granted.

3. Don't try to be smart - don't tell reporters you have no competition, that you are the first, the best, the leader - these are labels that remain in the domain of good, investigative journalism. Reporters won't take words for granted anyway - they will call their VC contacts, and they will get the scoop on who's doing what, who's doing well and who's floundering. Avoid using embargoes, exclusives, if you don't know the reporter well - Peter Kafka was proud he tweeted a press release yesterday that was sent to him under embargo. I guess he can afford to do that. Most of us would do (almost) anything to be in AllThingsD - I am jealous he can afford it, really.

When asked if they use HARO, none of the panelists raised their hands. Well, as an entrepreneur, you should. Even if some of the top guns in the business are not using it, there are plenty of reporters who use services like HARO to get their stories, information, and the expertise they need this way.

One final piece of advice from the panel - if you want a reporter to cover you, read their stories. And comment on them. Evidently all good reporters read and respond to readers' comments. Good luck with it - it turns out, you the entrepreneur, do need a 48 day, 8-10 hours of which dedicated to reading the press, commenting, and telling them your won story.

To follow the panel on Twitter, @pkafka, @scottkirsner, @wroush @miketrap (did not catch Bob's handle)
Yours on scratching on the subject of good pr,
Scratch

42 comments:

  1. Lora, sorry I wasn't clear about my policy re: embargoes. Let me try to clarify: I don't like them and generally don't accept them. If I do, I'll honor them, of course. But if someone sends me an "embargoed" press release that I haven't agreed to accept in advance, then it's not an embargo - it's just a press release. It happens all the time, and I generally ignore it, but yesterday I published one in the hopes of making my point clearer.
    Thanks, pk

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