SRI's Marc Hornbostel wows conference goers with his carbon sequestration tech. Photo: Michael Belfiore

SRI’s Marc Hornbostel wows conference goers with his carbon sequestration tech. Photo: Michael Belfiore

Earlier this week I had a conversation with the founder of a new company doing something innovative with a new technology.

I’d already pitched a story on his product to one of my editors, and gotten shot down. But I knew that there was more to the product than could be taken in at a glance. I had a pretty good idea that if I dug a little deeper that I could put together a stronger pitch.

So I got on the phone with the founder, and bingo, got the info I needed. Armed with the new data, I pushed harder on the editor. In effect, I said, “this thing is different, and these are the specific reasons why we need to do a story on it.” I also countered the editor’s objections, one by one. I was nice about it, but I was insistent. I even threw  in quotes from the founder, because, you know, no one tells the story of a new technology better than those who originated it.

And guess, what? This time I landed the story.

As a founder or manager of a technology company, this is what you want to happen when you engage reporters. You want advocates who will go to bat for you with editors and producers. Someone motivated to do the work of overcoming the inevitable objections, to push hard to make your case for you. Someone who is almost as excited about your offerings as you are.

Chances are it’s not a PR pro who’s going to be able to do that for you (although they can do a lot of other things ). It’s more likely a writer or editor or producer who isn’t paid by you, who has independently come to the conclusion that what you have to offer is a pretty cool idea, who can convince skeptical colleagues that the world needs to know more about it.

Sounds great, right? But how do you find someone like that?

By cultivating the right relationships with the right media professionals.

I made my new connection just this week, but I have relationships like these spanning more than a decade. I’ve written many stories for many different outlets on many of their companies. I’ve even followed founders from one company to another because, even more than I believe in their offerings, I believe in them.

To get the word about your work, you need to cultivate relationships. Again, these are not people you pay or bribe in some way. I once sent a CEO a $15 check because I forgot my wallet and he had to pay for me after we chatted over lunch. You (and I as a journalist) don’t want money to muddy up the waters. You to find want people who are independently, intrinsically motivated to get the word out about what you do, and you don’t want them questioning their own motives for advocating for you.

Here’s how to do it.

Find the right advocates

Look for bylines in the magazines and journals that you want to get mentioned in, and then seek out the contact information for those folks, and drop them a line. Compliment them on a recent story and mention your product or service as something they might be interested in. You can actually outsource some or all of this work, but make sure you the folks you or your colleagues reach out to know they’ve been singled out.

Follow up

Keep in touch, even if you don’t hear back. Maybe your first email got lost in the shuffle. Maybe your contact is on deadline that week. Follow up and keep following up on a regular schedule. It’s up to you how long to keep at it with a non-responsive contact, but give it at least two or three times spread out over a few weeks. If you’ve done your homework, chances are you’ll get through, eventually.

Let them in on your vision

My new contact on the phone this week told me about his vision for the future of products like his. It was glorious, and it gave me the big picture perspective that I needed to win over my editor. Don’t be shy here. If you’re thinking ahead three (or four or five) iterations beyond the current offering, let your prospective advocates know what the world will look like when the vision is realized.

Who’s going to be your advocate in the media?

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