Why This Pitch Worked, In Six Steps

best practices case studyHaving recently complained about four sins to avoid while pitching stories, it’s only fair to highlight this recent press release that got it right in six important areas.

Here’s the release, along with (in italics) my take on what they did right. (FWIW, neither Sabrina Sanchez of The Ventana Group (who sent this on) or their client, Condusiv Technologies, are or have been clients of mine.

  1. “Hi Bob. As organizations virtualize, they face performance bottlenecks—finding themselves in an expensive business model of reactively buying more flash or spindles to satisfy application performance challenges.” (The pitch quickly gets to the new pain point they’re describing, and makes clear they’re talking specifically about storage so I can tell if it fits in my beat.)
  2. “However, there is another way to address this problem. With software intelligence tailored for virtual environments, organizations can now drive more performance out of the infrastructure they already have—increasing the productivity of applications and people at a fraction of the cost of additional hardware.” (The pitch quickly and clearly describes what they are offering that is new, as well as its technical and business advantages. Makes it easier for me to decide whether to keep reading and follow up.)
  3. “Most organizations already have 3-4 GB of available DRAM per VM. That may not sound like a lot of capacity for caching purposes, but when you’re talking about the fastest storage media possible that is exponentially faster than SSDs and sits closer to the processor than anything else, it’s the perfect place and size to satisfy problematic I/O that dampens overall performance the most – small, random I/O.” (Having set up the problem, they keep me on the hook with a progressively deeper technical set-up for their solution. Seems like they have a story to tell – I’ll keep reading.)
  4. “Condusiv is tackling this problem today with a software only approach leveraging the infrastructure enterprises already have in place.” (Badda-bing, badda-boom – in eleven words, they describe what they offer and why it’s good. I got, and they didn’t force me to read too far to get it.)
  5. “More than 2000 customers are seeing dramatically improved performance in their Tier I applications such as SQL, Oracle, Exchange, VDI, backup, EHR/EMR (like MEDITECH), CRM (Salesforce), web servers, Business Intelligence (BI), backup applications, file servers, and more.” (Ah, my next question answered – “Do you have customers?” Not only is the answer “yes,” but they describe the use cases so I understand the broad impact of their offering, and pick up any fits with other areas (such as CRM or health care) I cover.)
  6. “Would you be available this week or early next week to get an update from Condusiv and their upcoming June 30th I/O Optimization software announcement along with customers that are able to validate the results?” (This isn’t an offer for a vague “company update” but a product announcement whose importance they have explained – along with, again, an offer of customer names.)

If I were covering the virtualization or storage space and needed a good, forward-looking story with a news hook, this would be a great candidate. Looking forward to seeing more great pitches from you all

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Keeping Your Client In the Quote Game

PR tips for placing executive quotes in stories

That WAS thought leadership! What are you, blind?

Today being the Red Sox home opener, my thoughts turn to those infield dramas where the coach and players go toe to toe with the umpire arguing a call.

By the way, has anyone ever won such an argument with an umpire? Probably about as often as a PR person gets a reporter to admit they were wrong to interview their client for a story, and then not quote them.

I know it’s hard for PR pros to get time with busy executives. I know those executives call PR on the carpet when they give up their time and don’t get placement. And, yes, it’s hard to know exactly what a reporter will ask, what the source will say or how well they will say it.

I’d also ask PR folks to understand (and most of them do) that trade press reporters may do as many as 20 interviews for a story, each covering multiple complex and often ill-defined concepts. (Software-defined networks, anyone?) We ourselves often don’t know until very late in the writing process which angles, much less supporting quotes, will make it into our stories.

And no, we’re not under orders to only quote advertisers, at least not in the 20+ years I’ve been doing this.

Prep Your Spokesperson

But I can suggest ways to better prep B2B sources for interviews, and tell them what they need to deliver to get placement in the final story cut.

Be Specific: I recently interviewed an industry association which couldn’t cite some “speeds and feeds” specifications that were central to my story. They instead referred me to their members. That part of the interview, of course, didn’t make my story. Recommendation: Ensure your sources can discuss, for each trend, “When will this reach the market, at what price, and what type of customers will it be best suited for?”

Get Past the Background: Reporters are usually asking about how vendors will solve a problem their readers are facing. Sources often waste the first ten minutes repeating the problem to me. Recommendation: Unless the reporter asked for more details about the scope of the issue at hand, provide new information about how to solve it. Don’t waste time rehashing the story setup.

Make It Actionable: Sometimes, a source makes a good point but I’m left wondering: “What does this mean for the reader?” In one recent interview, several sources mentioned that application vendors are reluctant to share the “metadata” that storage vendors could use to tier information among more or less expensive storage devices. Recommendation: Always include a recommendation or “takeaway” such as “Until app vendors release this metadata, customers must adopt a third party metadata standard to get the best results from tiering.”

Put Old Wine in New Jars: Sometimes, even often, part of the legitimate “takeaway” for the reader is to do what they already know they should do. For weight watchers, it might be to eat in moderation and exercise more. For security managers, it might be focus on user behavior as well as hardening systems. Recommendation: Put the old insight into a new, or at least, current context. “Today’s data requirements make it more important than ever to understand your storage needs, and applying that understanding to new technology such as solid state drives and clustered file systems.”

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa  

Now, what should we reporters and editors clean up our act? I’d say we need to be more explicit about what we are looking for in interviews, such as in my “Edit Opportunity” newsletter. We might also do PR pros a favor by pushing back harder before granting an interview. That would give PR contact more  ammunition to go back to their sources and ensure they can deliver the goods.

And do we owe a PR professional a call if an interview won’t make the cut? Part of me thinks that would be nice. Another part thinks it’s up to the PR pro and the spokesperson to give it their best shot and that I’m too busy. What do you think? Tell me how you’d like reporters and editors to improve the reporting process  and I’ll pass on your thoughts in a future post.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

When to Repeat a Competitor’s Lies

I hear their beta is buggy as heck...

We all have competitors dishing the dirt on us. One way to fight back: Boldly repeat their lies, only to demolish them point by point.

Maybe they’re saying your growth is unsustainable because you’re giving away product to score reference customers. Maybe they’re claiming customers are ripping out your software a year after installation because it doesn’t scale. Or that you’re in the process of ruining that great technology you acquired from a start-up last year.

Many of my clients tip-toe around the accusations, carefully crafting white papers or mission statements aimed at disproving these claims without ever describing them. By hinting that something might be, or could be wrong, and that you’re fixing it (without saying what it is and what you’re doing) you only make customers more confused and skeptical.

A bolder, clearer and more effective approach is to repeat and even amplify what you consider to be underhanded claptrap, loudly and clearly, and then refute it point by point. It’s a technique you’ve probably heard radio talk shows hosts use. I ran across it while browsing aviation Web sites (yeah, I’m an airplane nut) and seeing a promo for Emirates airlines rebutting charges it gets unfair government subsidies.

Note how Emirates, rather than tiptoeing around the subject with euphemisms like “the proper role of government in supporting the aviation industry” headlined the charges against them, repeating them (and naming those making them) in case the reader hadn’t heard them before.

Identifying the lying so and sos...

 

Then they refuted them, point by point and with pages and pages of statistics and even quotes from oil companies assuring they charge Emirates fair market rates for jet fuel even though the airline is in the middle of the world center of oil production.

 

...refuting them with unnamed sources. Oh, well.

They even defend their record on touchy subjects like the conditions of the many immigrant workers in the Gulf. Taking on risky issues like this that aren’t even central to their business fairly screams that they have nothing to hide. Its part of the sheer mass of facts, figures, numbers and angles they throw at the reader – everything from airport landing fees to whether Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws in the U.S. are, in effect, a form of government subsidy. I’m not sure I buy that argument, but it sure changes the terms of the argument.

And isn’t that what you want to fight unfounded rumors?

This in-your-face approach helps cut though today’s Web-based information overload, telling the audience “We’re so sure these claims are bogus we’ll blast them loud and clear so you can see how ridiculous they are.” This is chutzpa and it works, though I’m not sure I’d use that term resonates in the UAE.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Let’s say – let’s just say – you were a huge oil company, or a government agency, desperately trying to recover from a major blunder.  You’re not sure how bad things are or when you can fix the situation. But do you do know you messed up real bad, didn’t move quickly enough to fix the problem and are desperately trying to calm everyone down while you scramble to undo the damage you’ve caused.

 

Yes, I’m talking about the oil slick the size of Puerto Rico now drifting towards the Gulf Coast. Federal and oil industry officials keep repeating nonsense like “utilizing every available resource” and “mitigating impacts” and wondering why the public doesn’t trust them.

 

What I’m not hearing enough of, in either official briefings or press reports, are details like:

 

75 skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels, as well as dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and offshore drilling platforms are spreading chemicals and booms to keep the oil from reaching sensitive shoreline.

 

They have already put in place more than 275,000 feet of booms l—an increase of nearly 60,000 feet since yesterday – and are preparing to deploy another 316,470 feet.

 

Nearly 2,000 people are working to protect the shoreline and wildlife.

 

Those numbers are real (as of May 1) but I had to read past acres of blather in the transcript of a government briefing to find them. The same is true in a lot of business to business marketing materials. Sellers hide behind the jargon they feel comfortable with, the marketing “buzzwords” they feel they must include and the platitudes they think people want to hear rather than using plain English.

 

Easily understood specifics help the reader or listener understand what you’re doing, and to weigh it against what should be done. The reader (or customer) will eventually learn what a government agency did and didn’t do, and what your product can and can’t do. Why not say it clearly, up-front, so everyone can get on with solving the problem of the day, whether it’s an oil spill or a stalled ERP implementation.

 

Speak English, not platitudes, to me and I’m much more likely to let you keep drilling for oil offshore, or for money in my wallet.

 

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.