Category Archives: Reporting

Tip #215: Stickers for notes

At TechCrunch Disrupt, during a quick stand-up meeting with one of the “demo pit” companies, the startup CEO I was talking with tried to stick a big logo sticker onto the page of the notebook I was writing in. As you can imagine, I didn’t take kindly to this action. But after a moment of reflection, it came to me: Notepad stickers are a great idea. If you do them right.

Here’s what I mean by doing it right: Get some stickers printed up. Logo, company name, your name, email, phone. A small sticker, with small black type and a  transparent background. When you’re talking to a reporter, give them the sticker to put onto their notes. So convenient! (And if they later scan their notes into Evernote, as I do, it will OCR the key data so much better than trying to read handwriting.)

Just remember to not try to put the sticker on their notes for them. Eww.

If you do this, let me know how it goes over.

See also:
Pro PR Tip #103: Agency, Shmagency.
Pro PR Tip #24: No, I will not sticker my laptop

Reminder: Since January, I’ve been the editor of Yahoo Tech. We cover consumer technology. Pitch me.

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Filed under Common sense, Reporting

Tip #205: Yay for lazy writers!

After years of working in the mainstream tech press, most recently at CNET, I now find myself removed from the grind of traditional journalism, working at Evernote on the platform team. I’m still writing about startups, in a column called Opportunity Notes, but since my goal with this column (and my Evernote job overall) is to actually and tangibly help entrepreneurs, and not just generate pageviews for a media company, my perspective on journalism is different. As a writer, I can relax.

Except, no, not really. I’ve been covering technology for over 20 years, and I have old-fashioned standards that transcend the company I’m working for. When I write about a product or a business, even if it’s for our corporate blog, I won’t write what I don’t believe or understand, and if the story can be made better by actually talking to someone involved in the product I’m interested in, then by God I’m going to make a call. I worked that way at CNET, at Red Herring and Byte and InfoWorld before that, and I work that way now.

You’d think that’s what all journalists and bloggers do. Especially in such a competitive media environment. But they don’t. Not anymore. The drive to be first on a media company-run site means that some writers post some stories without doing journalism. I know this because I am now advising entrepreneurs on how to work with the media, and more than once, when I have given the standard advice — form a relationship, craft your pitch, be prepared to answer questions — the response I’ve gotten has been an incredulous look and a question like, “Shouldn’t I just write the story for them?”

“Oh no,” I say. “Writers hate that.”

But unfortunately, some (not all, but enough), do not. Entrepreneurs are telling me that they are being asked, by writers, to send them more pre-digested stories.

I’m getting this intelligence from another angle, too: I find companies to cover, often, by reading about them in other sources. To prepare my own stories, I call the entrepreneurs running these companies. In too many cases (two in the last two weeks), these entrepreneurs have told me that I’m the first writer who has actually contacted them before writing.

And I’m not even working for a news site anymore.

Cue the indignation. Feels good.

But let’s move beyond that. Because this is actually a great thing for you PR people!

Now all you have to do to get your story out is write it yourself and plant it in the hands of the right writer. The PR tip for today is this: Learn how to write the story you want to read about your company or product. Basically, that means writing a press release that sounds like a news story. There’s a fighting chance that that is exactly the story that will run — and least the first story.

And hey, if you’re working with a startup or anyone doing a new technology, drop me a line, too. Just a line. Not the whole story. Save that for the poor schlub who lives by the pageview, and has to churn out six stories a day.

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Tip #166: I don’t do quickies

There’s no way to get a good, rich, nuanced story from a rushed interview, so an invitation to just “drop by for five minutes to chat,” really doesn’t play.

See, the idea of good reporting is to have more information on the story topic than you need to write it up, and to cherry-pick from all that knowledge things to put into the story. Sometimes people write articles with less information than they need to paint a complete picture. It shows.

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