My name is Merredith. I’m pretty straightforward. If you don’t believe me, ask my kids — who will tell you that I rarely flattered them unduly, just so they’d know that if I did give them a compliment, it wasn’t because I was their mother.
I have the same philosophy for all communications, including work. If one of my clients says something’s HUGE news — well, it may be and it may not be. I will try to find something interesting so that I don’t have to lie; but I’m not going to call a reporter friend and say, “OMG! You must get excited about Version 3.04.2 of this free widget (available only in selected markets)!”
Because… why? No one would ever listen to me again.
So in my work as — get this — “Mass Media Director” of The Hoffman Agency, I run across all kinds of technology: some of it easy to understand, uber-cool consumer electronics stuff, like Bluetooth headsets; some of it a little more random like the mashup of travel and social media that is Groople; and then some that is scientific and bleeding edge, like wireless mesh sensor networks.
And much more.
And what my clients need, ultimately, is to tell their stories in a way that is not just understandable, but fun to understand.
That’s what I do: help figure out how to find the intersection between what they want to say, and what the media and the public would care about. Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward (which is less interesting); other times, it takes work and thought.
They eventually show up in places like BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb (if they’re really lucky), CNET, CNN— or maybe even Newsweek or Oprah, or increasingly, on Twitter, or in any of a thousand really interesting and cool blogs.
I’ve been doing this for a long time. I was trained in journalism, and have basically been doing this in some form or another — for research hospitals, breweries, airlines… and then for Hoffman — for close to 20 years. Oh, and in there I was a freelance writer, and wrote and produced for The Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel. (Just in case you think I’m cool for writing for Discovery? No. I was writing for Discovery and TLC before they were cool. If I’d been a show, it would have been, While You Were A Little Geeky About Education.) I was definitely doing the Discovery thing before they caught on, pre-While You Were Out and World’s Deadliest Catch.
This blog was originally intended to focus on what to do and not do, if you want to have integrity and also be successful in tech PR. But it’s also bigger than that — it’s about that part in the Venn diagram where things overlap, where science and technology and even parenting share the same lessons.
It’s about a little clarity in communication.
But since I do get asked about media relations and PR, as if there were some kind of secret code – here’s the basics:
It really comes down to a couple of simple things.
Crediblity. As in — never EVER lie. I don’t care what you’ve heard about “spin”. If you need to “spin,” you probably haven’t figured out the right story.
And humanizing technology — that can mean a lot of things. It can be about voice — as in, not saying something is a “customer-centric solution,” to start with (excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little).
Finally, I should point out that this is not a Hoffman Agency blog. Nope. I have to give Hoffman credit, though. They’re some brilliant and thoughtful people. They don’t buy media lists. They don’t blast emails. They don’t do any of those ridiculous shortcuts that give PR people a bad name.
You will also find me linking to articles that interest me, and I cast a very wide net: “social media” (although Dennis Howlett will tell you that even the term “social media” hurts his feelings, it’s just that stupid); new technologies; weird breakthroughs; Silicon Valley gossip — especially if it has to do with the intersection between old and new media, literary articles… ah yes, and occasionally parenting teenagers. Just because OMG I have been through pretty much every drama from children’s meningitis and RSV to cutting to regular teen drama, and have lived to tell the tale.