Business Technology brands take note…Brevity Rules OK

Technology journalists spend their day explaining how the next generation of technology will shape our lives, but how has it changed theirs? Their roles have been changed by the rise of web publishing, mobile data access, web analytics and huge journalist databases. Do personal relationships matter, do social media pitches work, and is a conference call as good as a face-to-face briefing?

We brought together Sophie Curtis, technology reporter at the Daily Telegraph, Stuart Lauchlan, co-founder of diginomica, and Duncan MacRae, editor-in-chief at TechWeek Europe and an audience of 30,  to find out the answers to these and other questions at our ‘Meet the Press’ event last week.

Key points raised were:

  • Relationships are important, social is no substitute for talking directly

Don’t go down the scripted ‘telesales PR’ route –  get to know the people you’re pitching to, form real relationships. In a world where socialising increasingly takes a back seat in favour of looming deadlines, forming proper relationships with media is still valuable. Journalists want to hear from people they trust. Social media is no substitute for being social.

  • Brevity and context are key

Our panel reported having as many as 21,000 unread emails. Obviously, in that context, you need a killer subject line. Even so pitches can get lost, so a concise follow up pitch by phone can be vital. Keep phone pitches brief, use them to provide context to emailed information. Introduce people, literally, and as context, interesting quotes and human angles make for some of the best stories.

  • SEO matters, but has not yet taken over

Web analytics are increasingly used by journalists to measure the influence of their online work, there are now live hit count leader boards in some news rooms. Yet there is recognition that analytics can be misleading – mention the iPhone or a celebrity and inbound traffic will soar.  But our panel recognised that clickbait headlines and SEO led content don’t offer reader value.  Good stories have longtail value.

  • Control freaks are back

Each of our panel had experienced heavy handed PR teams who tried to influence the stories through cutting off access to news and spokespeople – leading to unintended consequences. They had also been called to have, ‘sorts of angles they should think about’ emphasised. The feedback was clear, journalists decide the story not the brand, and decent journalism still means being objective and independent.

  • Finally… the press release isn’t dead

Our panellists believe that the press release still has a role; to present the facts that open a discussion about a story. A good release is concise, includes links and is accompanied by a short summary introduction email, with context, which helps time-poor journalists to skim-read and prioritise those 1000’s of emails!

So despite constant change, the pressure to create more content in more formats and analysis of the value and reach of each story, some old rules of great communications apply. Journalists shape the news, not the brand, but they will work with you, if you invest the time to let them know who you are, what you stand for, if you will share knowledge and are available to talk.

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