Why Do Your Industry Trend Pitches Fall Flat?

pitching industry trend stories

The trend here is that I’m not listening.

If you’re like most PR reps, you struggle with getting trade pubs to understand what’s so intriguing about your clients and give them the proper coverage.

Many of you try to sell client’s success as an “industry trend” story. But how’s that working for ya? My guess: Not very well. Here’s why, from an editor’s perspective, and what you can do about it.

Take This Pitch. Please.

At least once a week, I get an email like this:

I’m reaching out because I thought you would be interested in a piece exploring the evolution of the cloud industry and how ACME CLOUD has become a major player in the space. The company already has over 350,000 customers and offers an industry-leading low-cost monthly price.

Their competitor, Big Cloud Juggernaut, has become known for its terrible customer service and this is where ACME SOLUTIONS has carved out a competitive niche. In addition, ACME SOLUTIONS serves all size customers, while Big Cloud Juggernaut and Universal Solutions focus on larger, enterprise-level companies. This has left hundreds of thousands of small and medium size customers for ACME CLOUD to serve.

Customer service isn’t the only differentiator for ACME SOLUTIONS. Check out this price comparison for ACME SOLUTIONS vs. the major players in the industry. It shows ACME SOLUTIONS can provide the same computing capabilities for as little as one-tenth the cost of major competitors.

I would love to get you on the phone with ACME SOLUTIONS CEO to discuss the state of the industry and how they are able to provide such a cost efficient option…

 One Vendor Does Not a Trend Make  

 The only “story” here is that Acme Cloud claims to have lower prices and better customer service than its competitors. and targets an underserved market If I were on-staff covering the cloud industry and had a responsibility to my readers to report on every new entrant to the industry, profiling this company might make sense.

But that’s what this story is, a single company profile, not an industry trend piece. Trying to sell it as a trend actually hurts your case because the body of the email doesn’t back up the opening premise. As an editor or reporter, that tells me you’re trying to put lipstick on a pig and makes me stop reading.

You only have an industry trend story to pitch if:

  • It involves a new business model, competitive edge or technology. One company claiming lower prices or better customer service than another is as old as the hills.
  • It involves multiple companies, of which your client is a lead example. One company claiming a lead over all others is, by definition, a story about your client, not a trend.
  • If you explain how this trend helps the reader.  You could argue that, if Acme Cloud is so great, learning about it helps readers. But that’s only true to the extent their claims are true, and until someone else catches up to them. Next month, Acme could stumble and a competitor take the lead in pricing or service. A better trend pitch would give customers tips on how to choose a cloud vendor that will have lasting advantage over others.

Deliver What You Promise

If there’s more industry insight and thought leadership here, the PR pro needs to identify it in the pitch, and their spokesperson has to deliver on it in the interview. And he has to be able to point to other players, besides themselves, who can vouch for this new trend.

Yes, that’s a tough challenge. But there’s precious little space in credible publications these days, and you have to earn your way into them.

What client pitches are, and aren’t working with influential trade pubs these days? How do you identify, develop and sell industry trend pitches that work? Send me your best examples and I’ll highlight them in a guest post.= 

Need help developing and executing thought leadership content? Drop me a line and we can brainstorm some ideas.

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.

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.