Tech PR Tips – How to Interview Tech Clients for Stories

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Whether you’ve been working in tech PR for years, months or days, you’re bound to have that conversation with a client – you know, the one where they want to tell you all about a new piece of technology they’ve built or are using, which they think is newsworthy. Therein lies the challenge: How can you grasp this potentially new technology you know nothing about in a mere thirty minutes? 

These tips should help you decipher what they’re talking about and whether there’s a story:

Research is key

Sometimes this isn’t possible – sometimes there’s a story that hits the news and you need to call your client immediately to get a comment to send to press. But if it’s a planned call to discuss a piece of tech you must do your research before the call – what’s going on in the market? What are competitors doing? What are relevant publications already saying on the matter?

There are no stupid questions

👏 If 👏 You 👏 Don’t 👏 Understand 👏 Don’t 👏 Keep 👏 Quiet 👏 

If you don’t have a clue about what’s being said, others might not either. How can you decipher that tech into simple terms the wider public can understand if you don’t get it? Simple answer – you can’t. Don’t feel stupid about asking more questions – if you need to know it, ask it. Even if you don’t need to know it but are perhaps curious about a use case for that tech, also ask it. Great stories come from content that is often only delivered after first asking the right questions.

Get comfortable with not knowing

Let’s imagine you’re told that to build a fancy piece of AI a client did a “conda install keras instead of a pip install because tensorflow kept dumping on my CPU which doesn’t have AVX” (thanks Quora). Before you implode, take a step back – do you need to know what a conda install keras is? Will the general public need to know? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s OK not to know – you’re not the tech expert, they are. Working in tech PR, you need to get comfortable asking clients to explain what they mean and from there you can decide if it’s imperative to the story you’re building. This goes both ways too – they might ask you a question about your PR plan that currently doesn’t exist as you’re only just finding out about the product. You don’t have to give a solid and definite answer right there and then, so long as you let them know you will once you’ve digested all the information.

TMI I CBA 

We all use jargon in our everyday language – you’re hardly going to say Application Programming Interface every time you’re talking about APIs. But, dare I say it, Trump proved the simpler your language the wider the audience. If you want mass awareness – dumb it down or ‘Trump it’. While some acronyms are fine, especially if you’re targeting peers, too many in a sentence and nobody’s going to know WTF you’re trying to say.

Are you interested?

This is something we say to clients when trying to determine if something is newsworthy or not – are a lot of people talking about it? When you’re on the other side of that conversation, asking your client about their tech, it’s still a good approach to have. Would you click on an article about it? Does it pique your interest? If so, it’s likely newsworthy.

This isn’t a foolproof guide for tech PR’s to create a story about technology – it’s the building blocks that will help you understand what a story might look like. The more you read, the more you’ll understand about what publications are interested in, which will help you craft those all-important questions that deliver a story. 

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