Back during my newsroom days, I drove a very nice comms manager at a hot Silicon Valley startup absolutely crazy.
Her CEO had come up with a killer idea how to make good use of some of the unused network infrastructure left over from the pre-dotcom crash era. It was clear to me – as well as to anyone who had covered the technology business for any length of time – that this particular company was destined to disrupt the status quo.
Just one problem: This was an enterprise story and the publication I worked for had dropped most coverage of enterprise tools and services. Only a handful of readers ever visited our site to read those kinds of stories. Besides, the hot stories were taking place in the consumer market – or at least those were the ones that got clicks.
So, we tailored our coverage to satisfy the attention of a new generation of readers addicted to stories about goofy apps with goofier names. And Apple, of course. Lots of Apple. When I was pressed why we were ignoring the “serious side of computing,” I could only shrug and mumble an unconvincing excuse.
“You’re not serious?” she said.
“Afraid I am.”
Over the next couple of years, we’d have many similar exchanges. Sometimes, she really made me feel guilty, and we’d do a small story on her company’s announcement. But even then, the news rarely got more than minor mention.
She ultimately had the last laugh; her company went on to capture lightning in a bottle, the stock soared into the stratosphere and she retired at age 40. Meanwhile, yours truly was left to deliver the same lame explanations to other comms people who ran into a concrete wall of indifference.
The Right Narrative
Fast-forward to the present and the enterprise market is Ground Zero for the significant innovation in tech as companies transform their organizations, incorporating advances in cloud computing, mobile and the Internet of Things into their operations. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easier getting someone to pay attention when you come knocking with a new product pitch. With fewer publications and fewer reporters covering technology than a decade ago, publications are as choosy as ever.
So, weave a compelling narrative.
Fit your product into the bigger picture. This may seem blindingly obvious to you but summarize the importance of the announcement and explain the larger news trends in this particular market segment. The product introduction isn’t very interesting as a one-off event. It takes place within a broader business and technology context.
By itself, a product introduction is not likely to be remembered as a world-changing event. That’s OK as long as it’s still part of an interesting story. What pain points do users face and how might this introduction make their working lives better? It’s your responsibility to connect the dots so the reporter can return to her editor with a story that has real meat to it.
Don’t give into your inner Mickey Spillane. The pitch shouldn’t turn into a novella. Keep it brief and don’t waste time with empty superlatives and annoying jargon. Just get to the point so the recipient quickly grasps the significance.
Not all companies are created equal. The fact is that a company like Apple will get tons of coverage each time that Tim Cook scratches his nose. You’re less likely to trigger Defcon 1 mobilization with a single product introduction. So it goes. What you can do instead is think hard and find an interesting or – better yet – a counter-intuitive angle that the reporter can flesh out as part of a bigger trend piece explaining the future direction of this market vertical.
Anything you can do to help the reporter look smart is all to the good. In the end, all she’s looking for is a good story.