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In the early part of my career, I was an engineer or an engineering manager. Then, I moved into operational management and marketing, which meant I spent a fair bit of my time talking to journalists. Without really planning it, when I found myself without a job in the 2008 downturn, I started writing the EDAgraffiti blog as an experiment, and to give myself something to do with my time since there were exactly 0 companies hiring or wanting any consulting services. So I became a journalist/blogger.
Having been on both sides of the table, I am well-placed to give you some advice on how to pitch journalists. I've both done it a lot, and had it done to me.
If you were at Joe Costello's DAC keynote about ten years ago, you will never forget him lying on the keynote stage pretending to be a fish, to illustrate that to catch lots of fish you need to think like a fish. The same advice works for pitching journalists, you have to put yourself in the journalist's shoes and think about what they want from you.
From that keynote, another of Joe's rules was to write the press release first. In the case of pitching a journalist, you probably have literally written the press release already. But it is a useless document for a journalist, I'm afraid. There is not enough color in a typical press release, and journalists have zero interest in the quotes. Many of them have been on the PR side too, and they know how the sausage was prepared.
There are, roughly, two types of journalists:
You might think that you should treat these two types of journalists very differently, but mostly you should not. The second type, the engineer-turned-journalist, have the knowledge to go into a lot more depth but generally, you should not give them too much detail. You want them to write a piece that gets your message out, not one that goes down into the weeds and mostly shows how smart the journalist is.
I said that you need to put yourself in the journalist's shoes. The best way to do this is to write the story you want written, the equivalent of writing the press release first. I'm not sure you need to go as far as actually writing it down, but you should think about how you want it to appear. In any story, there is only scope for one main message and a couple of subsidiary messages, no more. So think about what you want them to be.
There is a reason that even technical journalists' pieces are often called "stories"—they should tell a story. So write the story, at least in your head.
Now, with a clear idea of what you want the journalist to write, it is time to construct the Powerpoint that is going to make it easy for them. There is sometimes scope for story where you set up a big problem, and then, ta-dah, you reveal the solution that you are announcing. But I think a better rule is that your presentation should work wherever it gets cut off. If the journalist only sees one slide, that should be the heart of the story. There is a phrase in journalism, "burying the lede", meaning that if a reader only gets a few paragraphs into the story, they still haven't got to the main point. Don't bury the lede in your Powerpoint, put the most important stuff up-front.
I think that the first slide should convey as much as possible of the story. If the journalist reads nothing else, then the story should be correct, even though lacking some detail. The next couple of slides should add a bit more of the story.
Those first few slides should convey the meat of what you are announcing, and what you want the journalist to write about. The rest of the presentation can add a bit more color, such as an example of something that the tool was used for. This is especially good if it is a famous company. A brand-name customer using something in a well-known product is great; some company the journalist has never heard of, using some tool that the journalist is just hearing about in the briefing, to do something that you can't talk about in detail, not so much (and they won't put it in their piece either).
As a rule, there is little reason for your last slide not to be a repeat of the first slide. If you feel it needs to be different, then your first slide left out something important.
I would say that most presentations I see when I get briefed are too long. Generally, I am writing a (roughly) 1000-word blog post. I like to add some of my own color, so it doesn't look like I just repurposed a press release, which means that maybe 7-800 words are about the announcement. That means that typically I write it from just 3 or 4 slides out of however many there are. Think about whether the others are superfluous. Even if you decide they are not, when you give the briefing, spend most of your time on the important ones.
Most publications and blogs need images. At the very least, images make the piece look more appealing and break up the "wall of text" effect that you get with longer pieces. Every Breakfast Bytes post ever has had a few images in it. That means you need to provide images to the journalist. This can either be explicit, in the sense of providing a portfolio of a few images (don't forget print publications—I'm not sure there are any in the US any more, but there are in the rest of the world—require much higher resolution than online publications).
The other repository for potential images is the Powerpoint presentation. So make sure that there are some good images there, not just slide after slide of bullet points which are not visually appealing.
While pitching, don't get deflected by journalists' questions. You don't have to go as far as many politicians and say "that's a good question" and then answer a completely different one. If it is a misunderstanding, then fix it quickly, but if it is off-topic, then say something like "let's come back to that later". I once worked for a CEO who, as I put it, "had never seen a rathole he didn't want to go down." He would waste 5 minutes of our 20 minutes pitching a VC to invest on answering some question that the VC had asked which was completely irrelevant to being funded. Don't be like that with your 20 minutes with a journalist.
I forget who it was who gave me this advice, but it has been invaluable. When you meet with journalists (or financial and industry analysts) they will often ask you about futures of one form or another. This can present you with a problem: you don't want to pre-announce anything, but on the other hand, you don't want to come across as rude. Here's what you say:
We have no other announcements to make at this time.
We have no other announcements to make at this time.
It gets you out of accidentally leaking something, it is clear that you are not going to be responding to further questions in the area, and it is polite.
It is like another bit of advice, how to get rid of people who have overstayed their welcome when doing booth duty at a show like DAC: you shake their hand and say "thank you for visiting." Again, it is polite, which is important, since today's grad students are tomorrow's vice-presidents. We were all students once, with no EDA budget (and probably very limited budget for just living!), but people will not forget if you treat them poorly.
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