Adam Lashinsky is a reporter for Fortune magazine. He has the high-tech beat in Silicon Valley. As such, he works with some of the best known (as well as the most full-of-shitake) companies and PR firms in the world. His perspective on working with the press is valuable for every marketing person. You can read one of his latest articles covering the Demo conference.
Q. How do you pick what to cover?
A. I have two basic kinds of assignments: What I want to cover and what they want me to cover–“they” being my editors. I follow what’s going on in the tech world, think about what interests me, and follow my nose. Then, of course, when New York wants something, I hop to it. What I really like is variety. I also like to connect the dots. My Murdoch story last year led to my Facebook story which led to my Craigslist story. That was fun continuity.
Q. When does it make sense for a company–if ever–to hold a press conference?
A. It makes sense for a significant product launch, some major embarrassing news, or the introduction of a new CEO. If it’s important to show something or someone, a group grope helps. Otherwise, don’t bother because most journalists don’t like showing up for press conferences that are just staged events with no real news.
Q. How many companies or their PR firms pitch you per day?
A. Two or three.
Q. What’s the most common mistake that companies and their PR firms make when they pitch you?
A. The most common mistake is not having a knowledge of Fortune. You’ve got to know what I’m interested in and cold calling to ask me isn’t the way to find out. You would think that these companies and PR frimes would at least read my last few articles. Is that too much to ask?
Q. By contrast, how would you describe the perfect pitch?
A. The perfect pitch would involve a major corporation with a great, tension-filled story with the offer of an exclusive opportunity to interview all the relevant people at the corporation. Short of this, a pitch that would work would involve high-level access and a story line that is relevant to my readers, not just the PR firm’s client.
Q. Does schwag and suckups (cookies, tshirts, flowers, invites to swanky parties) matter at all to you?
A. I throw nearly everything away. If I’m not being good about my diet, I sometimes eat the food, and I often take home the t-shirts for running or rags. That’s about it. I go to parties based more on who’ll be there than the quality of the venue.
Q. What is the dumbest thing a company or its PR firm has ever done to get your attention?
A. Outcast PR on behalf of Salesforce.com stands out for sending every imaginable piece of crap under the stars. It’s become a joke in the journalism world. You can walk around the offices of Fortune and see footballs and other paraphernalia, and you say, “Yeah, I got that too.”
Q. Has the growth of online readership made you change your reporting style?
A. No, not really. It has changed the notion of instant gratification. I know that companies will see what I write almost as soon as I write it.
Q. If a company receives negative press, what should it do?
A. Stay focused, be a good company, and don’t stop talking to the press. Bad press doesn’t make for bad products. It’s the other way around.
Q. How would you rank the PR expertise (from best to worst) of the following organizations: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Bush Administration, and the PLO?
A. I’m not going to touch that one. I have to work with these people all the time–well, except the Bush Administration and the PLO. Sometimes people tell me things that are not for publication. Well, it’s same thing here: I’d be happy to share this with you but not your readers!
Looks like you’re becoming a journalist now. Interesting interview and article, for sure.
Thanks. I just wanted to show that this blog is more than recycled books. :-)
PR can help anyone, blog, company, good or bad. I work for a biotech startup company and find that the more press we get from even local newsies starts a buzz and it just piles from there.
Great to hear from one of the tops.
“You’ve got to know what I’m interested in…”
That’s arrogant. Find out what your readers are interested in, Adam, and deliver.
Firms, go beyond the press and pitch direct to the public with every social media tool at your disposal. If your product is good enough you’ll catch the press on the way back.
Stop wasting money on free t-shirts and toys for journalists. Figures show public trust in old media has eroded, anyway. Consumers trust each other more so give them a chance to talk about your product, generate organic buzz.
Yes, newspaper coverage is still a great idea but don’t be a slave to it.
Nothing wrong with content from your old books since you usually do provide additions and some extra insight, which is always great. However, original content is nice. Good work!
I have hust started blogging
prosperity wth peace.
I would love to learn how to market myself and my business
Hope we can keep in touch
I love your interview of Adam who is usually the one interviewing.
Adam, great article on DEMO and thanks for talking to us.
Guy, good stuff !!
Great interview…and a blogging ‘best practice’ for sure.
To Neil: I’ve got all sorts of way of finding out what my readers are interested in. The purpose of this interview was how PR people should approach me because they want to get their clients (or companies) into Fortune Magazine. Therefore, they are wasting my time and theirs if they don’t know what Fortune Magazine is and is not interested in. Howzat?
Valuable PR Advice from a Fortune Insider
Even if you are starting up a tiny one-person consulting firm or selling a simple product, you should establish yourself as an expert in the eyes of the media. Suzanne Falter Barnes drummed this into my head as I partook
Obvious tips to remember when dealing with the media
Ive seen so many companies make so many stupid mistakes when dealing with the press that its not even funny. Youd think that brilliant management teams that can leap all buildings in a single bound would use that same IQ to apply …
Arrogance? I’ve worked both sides of the PR equation, and nothing smacks of arrogance more than a flak telling me what I should be writing. PR people should spend two years as a freelance writer and learn what it’s like having to sell stories for a living; they’d be much more successful if they thought about their craft in terms of “if I don’t sell this idea, I don’t eat tonight.”
I’m a flak now, and I do understand the pressure to make the client happy and the compromise that often comes with that, but I also recognize that I owe it to myself and my client to approach the business of generating their buzz smartly.
And remember, even if your client has a connection to a story worthy of Fortune (or whatever the book you want to see the client’s name in), the people inside the company have to be ready to make good on their part of the exchange by being honest, candid, and willing to take a risk.
Thanks Guy & Adam. I’m always better for hearing from the people who rap keys for a living.
Pitching to Reporters (via Email)
A couple of days ago we posted a link to Guy Kawasaki’s blog, where he interviewed Adam Lashinsky (senior writer for Fortune magazine) about how to pitch story ideas to reporters.
It’s a good interview, but it didn’t cover emailing pitches to reporter…
Pitching business media? Required reading…
Sorry that I didn’t post this sooner (thanks for flagging it, Rich!) — Guy Kawasaki’s blog links to a great interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky. Lashinsky’s a good reporter, and does a nice job of describing the do’s and don’ts…