Take notes: advice, tips and lessons

A few weeks ago, Gorkana invited Californian PR professionals to a panel discussion with members of The Wall Street Journal’s technology and finance team. “Heart on the Street” co-editor Liam Denning, deputy technology editor Scott Austin and technology reporter Rolfe Winkler gathered at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco to share their insights on the world of tech journalism (and this is, of course, quite relevant for the tech PR professionals).

Here are the four most memorable tips to consider before hitting “send” on your email pitch to the WSJ.

1. “Get your people in front of us before something happens. Anticipate the story.”

So you think your pitch has a bigger chance to stand out when it’s timely? Think again. Winkler takes it one step further and encourages PR firms to try to anticipate news before it happens. True, anticipation is often unfeasible, but PR pros can still successfully pitch after the news has happened by offering a different viewpoint from a relevant expert. In the end all journalists want to bring more meat to the story and media relations can be a huge opportunity.

2. “We’re in the business of relationships. Our currency is information.”

Even when you’re on friendly terms with a journalist, getting a startup on their radar can be a struggle. Austin offered a promising solution to this problem: “Figure out how the startup’s executives can be helpful.” An executive that previously worked at another big player in the industry could voluntarily contribute relevant expertise. Although this might not pay off in the short run, journalists will keep this favor in mind, especially in times of funding rounds. Unfortunately, this theory excludes the little players who do not (yet) have the necessary career credentials to back up their story.

3. “Hit me at 4 p.m., when everyone else is at happy hour.”

Austin and Winkler, both based out of California, run three hours behind on the East Coast, so there should be no surprise that they delete most of the more than 100 pitches they see in their inbox when they wake up. On the contrary, Denning said he pays full attention to pitches when sipping his coffee at 5 a.m. As is common in the PR services world, there is no clear-cut direction here, but these two tips can give you a head start:

  1. Always check time zones before pitching
  2. Keep track of the timing of favorable responses and preferences of every journalist.

4. “Startups should share their revenue and clients, and show us how good they’re doing.”

Startups that can demonstrate with specific numbers and facts how they are disruptive greatly increase their chances of being covered.

To conclude with the wise words of Liam Denning who wraps up all his advice for PR rockstars into one simple sentence:

“Go off script and trust it will happen.”


This post was first published by Patricia de Groot on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.