Wall Street Journal

When pitching top-tier business press, think ecosystem, not profile

By Lauren Edwards

  • To get business press, emphasize who will make money from what’s about to happen.
  • To get trade press, emphasize how it works.
  • To get mainstream press, emphasize quirkiness or relevance to daily lives of readers.

Better still, to each of these questions, add “What’s surprising about …” That is, what’s surprising about who will make money, what’s surprising about how it works, and what’s surprising about how it affects readers.

To get all three types of media within the same outreach effort, try giving each group one phrase each in the lead of your pitch or press release, and save elaboration on each for lower.

It’s harder to get business press than trade press. Why?

It takes more and different analysis.

You need to emphasize *relationships* among multiple companies within a business ecosystem. This is a broader sweep, a higher-altitude view, and it requires almost as much knowledge of your client/company’s competitors and collaborators as of your own.

The answer to the question “Who will make money from it?” needs to be in flux. Markets in flux leave people with questions and a sense of being unprepared. Journalists want to be of service to readers and are attracted to flux as a source of story ideas.

If you write about your company alone — in a vacuum — you won’t attract top-tier business media. Journalists are looking for reactions and interactions among multiple companies. Think of falling Dominoes — watching just one tip over is no big deal, but watching a chain reaction is compelling. We can’t look away.

Think of business reporting as pre-game baseball analysis or coverage of a horse race. Who will win? Who’s neck-and-neck? Who’s pulling ahead? Who’s the dark horse, the champ, the come-back kid? Who’s pitching tonight? Who got traded? What’s his batting average? What play turned the game around? What’s at stake? If X loses to Y, then Z will make the playoffs. And so on.

A good example is at the bottom here — an oldie but goody from John Markoff of the New York Times. (Yes, this example is from my archives, but it makes a still-very-valid point. I stumbled on this example while working this week on a new workshop.)

Please ignore the outdated technology references and notice the dynamics among the companies in the story.

Notice that Markoff uses AMD’s shipping announcement as a news peg or time element. It’s the reason for telling the story on this particular day, but it’s not the story. The story is about the horse race among AMD, IBM and Intel. The finish line is a successful 90-nanometer manufacturing process. (News elements here include conflict, names, timeliness, impact, discovery.)

How this applies to small companies

One way to get a small client/company into a “horse race” story in a big pub like the NYT is to make it emblematic of a force that is influencing the performances of the bigger players — like if it represents a new approach to manufacturing, and the offering validates a particular research effort.

Or if it represents a future direction that could turn out to be a spoiler in other companies’ efforts — in other words, that it’s the wild card or anomaly or creative spurt that turns out to be right or that sheds light on the industry’s overall path.

In that respect, the client/company is a peek at future potential or anecdotal evidence of a new wrinkle in the larger trend.

Sell the analysis, not your client/company

If you’ve worked with me already, you might know that I call this the “poster child” approach. Make your client/company the poster child, so to speak, for a dynamic that’s introducing flux to a larger market. The reactions and interactions within the business ecosystem are the story, not your client/company’s offering. But your client/company’s offering gets to “go along for the ride” because it’s part of the background or context for your client/company’s role in the story. Sell the business analysis, not the client/company. It works!

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Old NYT story:

Advanced Micro Narrows Gap in Race for New Chip

By JOHN MARKOFF

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 16 — Hoping to catch up with Intel and I.B.M. in an advanced chip-making technology, the semiconductor maker Advanced Micro Devices plans to announce Tuesday that it has begun to ship chips based on an advanced manufacturing process that is being used to build the next generation of processors.

A.M.D., based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is trailing those two rivals in making the shift to the new 90-nanometer manufacturing process, which makes it possible to put more transistors on a single chip or shrink the size of existing chips, effectively increasing performance while lowering prices. But industry analysts gave A.M.D. high marks for its recent manufacturing and design advances.

Both Intel and I.B.M. have stumbled during the transition to the 90-nanometer process, struggling with performance, heat and manufacturing issues. On Monday, Intel said it would delay a projection television chip that was to have been based on the new technology.

Although A.M.D. is about nine months behind Intel in making the switch, the company has not lost significant ground, according to several industry analysts. Moreover, A.M.D. surprised Intel with the success of its shift to 64-bit chips, forcing Intel, the market leader, to shift its strategy.

 

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