Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Get PR: Don't forget freelancers like Dan Tynan

Representing a technology that IT folks care about? Then it would be a big career flub to ignore the vast and growing number of highly influential freelance journalists.

Dan Tynan is among the tech industry’s most in-demand freelancers, and he seems to be everywhere. Let me paint a picture:

Dan is contributing editor at InfoWorld and PCWorld, writes a blog on privacy and social media for ITworld, and is a regular contributor to Mashable and Family Circle magazine. He writes a 3X a week blog for InfoWorld under a famous pseudonym (you’ll have to guess which one).

Dan’s personal blog is called Tynanwrites; he is also co-founder of eSarcasm, a geek humor blog, and one targeting the role of dads in their teenagers lives called And that’s just where he can regularly be found – I’ve seen him show up in my Parade Magazine on Sunday mornings, sometimes.

Dan Tynan has been writing and editing stories about technology and its discontents since Steve Ballmer had hair (his words, not mine, Steve). He has been an editor in chief and an executive editor for national magazines, written for more than 70 publications, and taken home a closet full of awards. So – now Dan’s on your target list, right? Well…

If you want Dan to write about your company/product/service, the email pitch better be about:

  1. Issues surrounding how to manage IT people … not products… if you want him to cover you in InfoWorld. And be clever about it. Some of his recent features include a series on the dirtiest jobs in IT and 10 hard truths IT must learn to accept.
  2. Tech gadgets… especially but not exclusively for dads. Along with his lovely and talented wife, Christina Tynan-Wood, Tynan co-authors bi-annual Family Circle Gadget Guides, as well as other stories about how technology and parenting intersect.
  3. A cool privacy tool or social media service that he can cover in his ITworld blog, Thank You For Not Sharing.
  4. Or… something he’s reached out to you about for an upcoming assignment. He is constantly on the hunt for smart experts to quote and pithy anecdotes to share.
Just don’t cold call him, because Dan’s a busy guy (and gets cranky quickly). He gets “thousands” of email pitches and hundreds of phone calls each week, so his first goal with any in-bound communication is to find a good reason to ignore it. Obviously, your first job is to figure out how to make it pass the mass delete…

Seriously. All those short cuts PR pros take to make ‘our’ jobs easier tend to make the journalists’ jobs more complicated. Mass emailing a press release? Think twice – he’s got a great memory so he’ll know that the last spam –er, note — you sent was about diapers or air freshener instead of a technology that could ever appear in a digital parenting piece. (He also keeps a mental short list of the PR folks who have really ticked him off over the years; better hope you’re not on it).

Like any journalist, Dan appreciates it when a PR practitioner invests the time to know what he writes about. That can be complicated, because as a freelancer he does get some assignments that might take him off of his normal interests. But you can always count on getting some attention if you follow a few key rules:
  • Email. Always email. What’s a “great email” if you’re Dan?
    • Subject line: use nouns and verbs. Dan’s not big on flowery or cutesy subject lines. Just tell him what you’re pitching and leave the adjective and adverbs for the body.
  • What kind of company are you representing? The name is less important –he’d prefer to know if you are a startup with a Windows Phone App. Or a company that makes e-Readers. Help him categorize so that he can find you when he has an assignment. And if you can describe it in seven words or less, even better.
  • Bring him to your facility. One of the benefits of working with freelancers is that, unlike journalists employed full time at most publications, trips are a definite possibility. If you have a new technology that lets dads teach their sons to parallel park more efficiently, bring him in to demonstrate it. He then can pitch that to a plethora of publications and blogs… and maybe you’ll get several stories instead of just one.
  • Send him the product – but only if he asks for it first. The UPS guy stops by Dan’s office at least once a day to either pick up items Dan’s returning to their owners or, if it’s a good day, dropping off products for Dan to test. Just be aware that:
    • It should be a unique product, not the 27th version/copy of an existing one
    • It should be relevant to parents and not too expensive
    • It should be relatively new (i.e., don’t send him releases for stuff that came out 18 months ago)
    • It should arrive in plenty of time for him to look at it, especially for Family Circle, which still has lead times of up to 6 months for some issues
    • It should come with a return shipping label
    • It may not end up being covered, for any number of reasons – including by not only because it is not a good product!
There are other rules, of course. But you get the picture. Target. Be concise. Email. Dan’s rules are really just the rules of good PR!

Now go pitch freelance journalists (maybe Tynan).

Post is authored by Ann Revell-Pechar, president and founder of A.Revell Communications, who has been integrally involved in the introduction of more than 130 innovative technology products. Original post appeared on her communicating innovations blog under the title "Practical PR: Don't forget freelance technology journalists"

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