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The Friday Five: Tips on Getting Covered in Innovation Economy

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 11, 2009 07:15 AM

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Each Friday, I put together a five-item list called the Friday Five.

This week, it's tips on getting covered in my Innovation Economy column on Sundays and on this blog.

Just a note of context first: my goal with both the column and blog is to tell the most interesting stories about what's new in New England — and those stories can originate from a tiny start-up firm in someone's basement, an academic lab, or a giant publicly-traded company.

On to the advice...

• My favorite columns capture something that is changing about the local innovation scene, for better or worse... useful lessons from the front lines for entrepreneurs...a trend that people are just starting to talk about, a new industry cluster emerging, an important new area of research...or an incredible story about success or failure. I also really enjoy the chance to see brand-new technologies being deployed in the real world, or to test-drive them myself.

• I'm very easy to reach, and I like to receive e-mails from actual human beings who have actually read the column or blog, and have a great tip or story idea (as opposed to impersonal mass e-mails shotgunned to every journalist on the planet.) E-mail is best (just click my name in the right hand column, where it says "About the blogger"), and Twitter is OK, too (I'm @ScottKirsner.) I tend not to like taking phone calls if you haven't e-mailed first, unless it's something incredibly sensitive or urgent. When you call my cell phone to ask if I've seen your press release announcing version 4.3 of your company's expense accounting software, that probably won't be the happiest phone call of your life. If you're pitching a story that has a newsy element to it (like a funding announcement taking place on a specific day), a week or more of advance warning is great; I usually have my Sunday Globe column figured out six days ahead, on Monday afternoon. This blog can be more reactive, obviously.

• It's great that you were just written about in another local business/technology publication or Web site. Congratulations on that. Let's talk in a few months when there's more news. My goal is to cover stories of interest to New England readers before they're covered elsewhere. And I think the advantage of being written about here and in the print edition of the Globe is that it's an effective way to get on the radar screens of potential customers, employees, and maybe even some investors (whereas many niche publications will just get you the attention of those last two groups.) I appreciate honesty when entrepreneurs are working with multiple media outlets at the same time, aiming to get covered in several places at once. (I tend to avoid those situations — but will write something if I feel I can present a different take on the company.) In 2012, the Sunday edition of the Globe had about 365,000 readers, and had about 5 million unique visitors each month, making it the most-trafficked news site in New England.

• Probably 90 percent or more of my columns come from talking directly to entrepreneurs, investors, and executives — not from public relations firms. I don't have anything against PR people, but most of the e-mails I get from them are peddling the same story to multiple different outlets, or trying to call attention to something that has already happened (like a press release that has just gone over the wire, or a product that has just been released.) I never touch that stuff.

• I find it very hard to write about enterprise technology and infrastructure either on this blog or in my Sunday Globe column. I know there's some interesting work being done in online transaction processing, data warehousing, and wireless security, but unless there's an interesting impact on readers (or an amazing "people" story about the founder/CEO, or an eye-popping amount of funding), I tend to steer clear. I am always looking for opportunities to write about biotech, pharma, medical devices, and diagnostics in a way that readers can relate to.

Your comments and questions are welcome, below... as are gripes about what a pain I am to work with.

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6 comments so far...
  1. Scott,
    1. You forgot to add a warning for those who want you to look at their story: you have no qualms about pointing out weaknesses of the person/startup/product/service. There is also an absolute guarantee your article will not be full of praises (like most PR people want).
    2. You are very easy to find, since you are present at most entrepreneur networking events. You may have 20-second attention span and chance of eye contact is even shorter (hey, you can dish it out, you can take it too), but I am sure that window of attention expands if you smell a good story.

    Keep on writing those articles and ruffling those feathers. Something good is bound to come out of that.

    Posted by Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius | September 11, 09 11:51 AM
  1. Agree w/ Apollo, it's always nice to see someone being logically and informatively provocative keeping everyone on their toes.

    And from a student entrepreneur's perspective, Scott's endeavors to campaign for the merits of staying in New England, driving a lot of grass-roots initiatives to get student involved and excited about starting companies in the region is also really notable - i.e. student reach out to Scott, and he'll be surprisingly receptive. (Just no one tell him that I'm in San Fran this week.)

    Posted by Fan Bi September 11, 09 02:51 PM
  1. Scott, very good "usage/access" piece. On the subject of the previous post and 20 second attention span, I have coached some clients on the fact that everyone's 15 minutes of fame has been truncated and have put them through the exercise of reducing their "elevator pitch" to 140 characters. You should see these sales-types and pr types squirm in the process, but most DO end up with a decent "twit" pitch. Full disclosure: my backround is media sales, primarily radio and some contract work at the Globe. Tim Stansky .

    Posted by Tim Stansky September 11, 09 02:54 PM
  1. Scott has become Boston's modern-day Paul Revere, sounding the call that the future is coming -- and we'd better be ready. "A cry of defiance, and not of fear"

    Posted by Al September 11, 09 07:23 PM
  1. Good points and these types of posts make it so much easier for PR folks. Perhaps it will cut down the spam? One request/suggestion -- is there a way to embed this post as a link in your bio so it's more easily found in the future?

    Posted by Kaek September 13, 09 08:44 AM
  1. God Bless You Scott! As a PR person, I love sharing the actual "words from your mouth" not mine on what is and isn't ok when pitching reporters.

    Posted by Mara Stefan September 17, 09 10:51 AM


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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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More from Scott


March 3: Web Innovators Group
Demos, drinks, and schmoozing at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.

March 7-8: MassDigi Game Challenge
Competition for aspiring game developers... plus panels and keynotes related to the business of play.

April 3-4: Mass Biotech Annual Meeting
Issues facing the region's life sciences community.