Beyond PR

Nov 17, 2010

Reaching Tech Influencers: Insight from NY Tech Heavyweights

The Publicity Club of New York held a panel discussion with the top “New York Tech Influencers” and some great advice was offered by the journalist panel. The influencers at the event were Daniel Sieberg, Host, ABC News Now “Tech This Out” and Contributor, ABC World News Now; Dan Frommer, Deputy Editor, Silicon Alley Insider; Adam Ostrow, Editor-in-chief, Mashable; John Abell, New York Bureau Chief, WIRED; Nick Bilton, Lead Technology Writer, The New York Times Bits Blog Reporter, The New York Times.

The room filled with communications professionals listened intently at the suggestions provided by these prominent and well-respected members of the media. The first to speak was Dan Frommer of Silicon Alley Insider, who says he is bombarded with more email than he can handle and spends more and more time deleting it. He stresses less, but stronger communication. He simply gets too much off-topic material that he will never use. Frommer is responsible for up to six stories per day and has to manage his time effectively. So what does he want to see? If you have information that’s not supposed to be written about, he wants it. He also wants introductions to the executives at the companies he covers like Apple, Google and Facebook. He also looks for people who can provide a good video interview, mainly a CEO. He advises PR pros to not contact him via a twitter direct message and also not to call to follow-up on email because it’s annoying due to the hundreds of pitches he gets everyday. He doesn’t answer calls because he’s too busy and although email is becoming more difficult to manage, it’s still the best way to reach him.

Nick Bilton of The New York Times Bits Blog says to please send “Shorter emails. I look at email and hate it. I can’t navigate the intense amount of information.” He suggests that an email be like a tweet, no more than 140 characters. Bilton says he looks at himself as 70% reporter and 30% sales agent because he’s trying to promote the products about which he writes. He believes that an interesting story is more important than an exclusive, although he does understand how exclusives can work for other media outlets.

There’s a “symbiotic” relationship between PR pros and the media, according to John Abell of WIRED. He also says that the level and means of the communication is important. “What we do is a work in progress by necessity.”  The magazine version of  WIRED is a monthly so they can work on longer stories but John is looking for things that are happening “now.” The dot-com has a video team so he’s also looking for stories that can work there. Abell says, “I don’t answer the phone” and email is still the best way to reach him even if it’s “ridiculous.”

Adam Ostrow of Mashable says the company began five years ago and is now a 30-40 person team in New York City with an office in San Francisco. Coverage has evolved and they write about new technology and things that happen on the web. It definitely covers social media but it’s also more than that. He looks for contacts and information regarding Google, Twitter and Apple. An interesting marketing campaign may also get Ostrow’s attention. They have ten million visitors a month, over 300k fans on Facebook (they have several pages there) and over 2 million followers on Twitter. Ostrow looks for breaking news on big companies, information about companies that do anything in the digital space and they also look for startup companies. They have a “How To” section as well so if there’s something you pitch that doesn’t work for the news sections, it could be sent to another editor and get placed in the “How To” section if appropriate. The New York office is currently building a video studio so Ostrow will also be looking for guests to interview.

Daniel Sieberg of the segment “Tech This Out” is returning to the social media world after a self admitted digital diet. He steered clear from Facebook, Twitter and MySpace for almost an entire year after realizing that he personally needed to improve his social life and get more face time with those closest to him. While he tries to once again reconnect with social media, he’s also looking for new things to cover. Sieberg wants a good trend or personality and the more lead time, the better. Email is the best way to reach him but in a condensed fashion. He likes bullet point-type emails where you say, “This is why it’s timely and why you should care.” if you’re sending him video, tape is useless, you need to send him digital files. Also, accentuate stories. Sieberg says, “If you can furnish video, it helps us create a story.” He also asks for high quality visuals and “stuff no one else is getting.”

The topic came up regarding how journalists rarely respond to acknowledge an emailed pitch. The reason is because they get close to 1,000 emails a day and have to parse through them to find what is actually needed, respond to the sender and actually create the many reports for which they’re responsible. If a journalist is interested in what is being offered, they will reach out, but it’s important for a PR person to understand it’s not a personal thing, but a sincere lack of time and the sheer impossibility of responding to hundreds of people.

No matter the media outlet with whom you work or with whom you’d like to work, make sure to always follow the guidelines offered which can be from the outlet itself or an individual journalist as many work differently with PR professionals. Always know what is covered, deadlines and how the journalists want to be reached.

Authored by Evelyn Tipacti, community manager, ProfNet

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