PR professionals love collecting knowledge. Especially when we find those “best kept secrets” that allow us to do our jobs better, like knowing which reporters may be headed to SXSW (before the 2023 list comes out!), which tech podcasts are pitchable, who the contributed content gatekeepers are and more. That’s why we’ve worked with Sam Whitmore for years.
Founded in 1998, Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey (SWMS) produces research and analysis that helps tech PR pros pitch more effectively. The reporter interviews, earned media research and pitching strategies published on the site help us better understand what’s happening across a broad range of outlets and enable us to build stronger, long-term relationships with key reporters for our clients.
Sam recently spent a virtual hour with our team talking through some of his latest findings on what topics are trending and what reporters today are looking for. Here are some of the takeaways from our discussion:
Whether you find AI exciting or frightening, it’ll remain a big media focus this year. Sam reminded us that reporters love to write about “horse races” (i.e., which companies are pulling ahead in the game) – so trendsetting companies like OpenAI’s ChatGPT are making a lot of headlines. If you’re pitching an AI story to a reporter, he advises that you communicate how it enhances something that already exists or enables the world to do something new that hasn’t been done before. Of course, reporters prefer the latter.
You need to establish a real relationship with a reporter just like you'd make a connection IRL. Follow their work and offer unique perspectives or astute observations. This shows them that you deeply understand their audience and beat. Sam recommends that you wait to formally pitch them until you’ve built rapport or helped them in some way.
Think of data like wallpaper. Sam put it like this, “[Data] is almost never the story itself, but it’s back up for why the story is being written in the first place.” One way to stand out is to offer a raw data set to the reporter or influencer instead of the final, polished company report. That way, they can analyze and dig into the findings depending on what’s important to their readers. And if access to the raw data isn’t possible, make sure the report is timely to increase your chances of earning media coverage.
Reporters are making decisions based on what’s more likely to perform. Sam knows reporters who’ve turned down pitches — even ones they like — because they can tell which stories won’t get high page views.
“Can you get your startup execs to talk about what they know regarding business management and profit?” Sam says that’s the ticket to getting attention from VentureBeat and TechCrunch because they want to educate readers and show the pathways to success.
Publications like HBR and MIT Technology Review have a unique vantage point. Think of these outlets as ‘antennas’ seeking exciting, new academic ideas that business professors can build into their curriculums. If the target audience is ultimately professors, PR professionals should ask themselves what content will resonate with those readers.
As an industry, we are always standing on shifting sand – what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today. What’s more, we’re heading into an election year which changes how newsrooms (particularly broadcast) are thinking about tech overall. As we navigate the road ahead, we’ll be staying in close touch with Sam and focusing on the core elements of good PR: crafting strategic narratives, generating new ideas and building long-lasting relationships.
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Rachel has a decade of experience across both B2B and B2C technology. She spearheads diverse communications programs for clients ranging from emerging venture-backed startups to post-IPO companies with the same mentality: transparency, teamwork and never backing down from a challenge. She works with some of Inkhouse’s most innovative, fast-growing clients.