Consumer Tech Reporter Jennifer Jolly On No Bullsh*t Pitches And All Things Techish: A Q&A

Feb 21, 2017 admin

Continuing our series of conversations with journalists, I recently spoke with Jennifer Jolly, the Emmy Award-winning consumer tech journalist who contributes to The New York Times, USA Today and makes regular appearances on the Today Show, CNN, and The Dr. Oz Show - to name just a few. If, like me, you’re a PR professional with a focus on consumer tech, then you’ve probably stalked pitched her on multiple occasions and, if you’re lucky, worked with her to score some major publicity. Jennifer recently launched a new consumer lifestyle digital magazine called Techish to help people get the most out of everyday tech and gadgets. Here are some  highlights from our conversation.

Pitching 101

Q: You must get pitched a LOT. How can we break through the noise and grab your attention?

A: I get anywhere from 1,000+ emails every single day. It's overwhelming to say the least. The key to pitching me is a headline-grabbing subject line. Let me go through just a few emails from today - here’s one: ”Don’t f*ck up your mobile video.” OK, I do not want to f*ck up my video, so I’m going to read that. Here’s another: “Digital chaos is real. How do you find your way out of it?” Not bad. But then show and tell me the way out of it with new information that I haven't heard before. “The key to good valentine’s day sex?” OK, that one I’m going to make fun of. How is that consumer tech related? I have to admit though, I will read it now because I'm curious. And here’s a great example of a subject line that guarantees I won’t be opening up your email: “Security connected MCUs with OmniShelf.” What? I don’t know what an MCU is and I don’t care (OK, I know what an MCU is, but c’mon!) No jargon, no b-s, pitch me a real story.

Q: Biggest PR pet peeve(s)?

A: Cold calls. I hate being called out of the blue for a pitch. I do have to answer my phone a lot from numbers I don't recognize because producers and editors are calling me on deadline. But there's never a good time to just catch me out of the blue. I've never been so busy in my whole entire life (we're talking all-nighters worse than the college days or right after my daughter was born...). I think that's the case with most modern journalists. We're doing more with less, all the time. So - don't call. Not now, not ever. The one exception? You're handing me the story of my life. Then, I'll forgive you. Still, email me first though.

If you’re sure you’ve got the right story for me and I haven’t gotten back to your email, send me a text. But don’t abuse the text. It really has to be the right story for me. If you're not hearing back - it's because I'm slammed. Buried. Drowning. I do try to respond - so be patient (and nice) and I'll almost always get back to you.

I work with a lot of agencies, PR peeps, and love working with news-minded publicists who are first and foremost upfront with me. I like brainstorming with smart people who can help me come up with a good angle and story that speaks to me and my audience. I’d rather you help me come up with the right story than send me a long email full of links about a product, company or CEO.

Q: Any dos and don’ts for working with you?

A: Don't: pitch me one client/one-product/one CEO, etc., unless it's truly a "today" story. Examples would be the newest Apple phone coming out, or a new flying car, and you're giving me first access to it. Seriously. For me to do a whole story on just one gadget, it has to be headline news everywhere or have a super interesting/compelling human hook to is (see the story I did this week on eSight glasses that allow the blind to see). Do: think of an interesting hook/angle/round-up style story that my readers/viewers will love. What problem will it solve? Why do we need to cover it right now? What's in it for me (my audience) and why should anyone care? The more solid you can deliver on those questions, the better.

All things Techish

Q: Why did you start Techish?

A: There's a ton of tech news sites for early adopters, digital natives, and gearheads. Most of those sites are a bit overwhelming for regular folks who just want to know which device to buy, or how to get the most out of the gadgets we already own. Just the sheer amount of clickbait tech news a day (super interesting headline - but no "there" there in the article - or when tech writers just post a story straight from a press release - for a gadget that's not out yet and/or doesn't do what the company says it will) is overwhelming. It's like someone's using a firehose to blow out a candle in the volume of tech news alone. I say all the time, "I cover all things gadget-y and techish," versus "I'm a tech news reporter." There's a difference there. Tech for real people.

So - after all these years as a reporter, I still haven't come across one single tech news site that speaks to ME, my mom, the parents from my daughter's class, etc. Technology today is supposed to make our lives simpler, more sane, a little more savvy...but more often than not - it does the opposite. Now, I'm trying to create the site that I've always wanted to have at my own fingertips. Our goal is to summarize the top consumer tech stories every day and help people fix one common consumer tech problem every single day too. Examples: Here’s how to spot fake news on social media. Tips and tricks for retaining your smartphone's battery life. That’s the kind of stuff I care about. Tech is supposed to make your life easier and most of the time it doesn’t, so I want to help people figure it out simply and easily. We're brand new and just getting started - and I'm funding all of this out of my own pocket - but that's the dream.

Q: Will you still continue freelancing or focus just on creating content for Techish?

A: I will absolutely keep writing/doing video work for USA Today, Gannett, New York Times, Today Show and more. In fact, one of my primary goals within the next few months is to grow media partnerships and share our original Techish content with several other media outlets as well. The more outlets that run our stuff, the better, and just about all of them want this kind of credible (free) content. So the site gives me a place to showcase all the work that I - and my team - are doing. It also gives potential business partners and sponsors a place to work with me, too.

Tech Trends

Q: Let’s talk a little about tech trends. Everyone’s talking about autonomous cars and virtual reality.

A: Self-driving cars is an important trend and has the ability to finally make us stop looking at our phone while we’re driving. Carnival Cruise is coming out with a wearable so you don’t have to carry money or your passport on you. That’s huge and that’s the future. A virtual personal assistant is another big one, with Alexa coming to cars. Smart home integration that’s simple and intuitive. VR is definitely becoming a thing but adoption is going to be slower and there’s still a lot of kinks that will need to be worked out. No headphone jack and no headphone cords is the closest next big thing, and everyone is going to copy that, but simple solutions to everyday headaches is always a trend to me. Smartphone battery life has got to get better!

Q: You live and breathe gadgets. Do you find you need to take regular tech breaks?

A: I absolutely take tech breaks, and to that point, I see a big trend in taming tech. Over the next five years or so, I think’s going to be less about having it all and being connected all the time but more of finding a tech life balance.

Q: We need a gadget that helps us use less gadgets.

A: Only apps can help you do that right now, but how cool would it be if you could give a safe word to Alexa to shut off all the gadgets and electronics in the house? I’m writing that down.

Q: Ok, last question: Should I get an Alexa? (Editor’s note: it’s officially called the Amazon Echo.)

JJ: Yes, absolutely - get one for every room!

Follow Jennifer on Twitter and make sure to check out her new site  

Topics: Media Relations, Journalism, InkHouse Journalist Corner

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