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.