Hail the Superforecasters: Towards Better Predictions in Tech and PR   

I  recently listened to a podcast that radically changed my thinking about forecasts.  In this post I explain the relevance of predictions in technology and PR, and about armchair superforecasters who can do a radically better job than experts.  The cool thing is, apparently the skill can be learned by just about anyone (are you listening, Gartner?)

Predictions in PR, Technology and Society

Tracking the direction of tech is important for our work in PR.  I recently ran an educational session for our team about this.  Some of you may have seen my post about surfing tech trends.

Looking beyond just PR, technology prognostication is big business.  The high priests of IT (e.g., Gartner, Forrester and IDC) get nice fees for their reports and forecasts. 

Yet predictions are often wrong – even those made by the experts.  See this story in The Register which pokes fun at Gartners’ Hype Cycles.  And sometimes we see other articles that point out prediction fails, like this NY Times piece on pundit accountability.

So who cares if predictions in all those articles don’t pan out? Why is it so important to make accurate predictions in tech, and for PR to try to guess correctly too?

Just think about it.  If we all had better crystal balls:

  • PR firms could choose sectors that have growth potential; we could craft better pitches and plans
  • Lawmakers and regulators could use the insight to prevent bad stuff and leverage the good for society
  • Investors and VCs could make better bets
  • Enterprises could invest in the right IT roadmap
  • Vendors could make smarter R&D choices 
  • Gartner and other analysts could avoid snarky articles

The list goes on and on.

But how many times have we heard “this will be the year of_____ (fill in the blank: IoT, AI everywhere, VR)”?  How many times does that ball get punted?  And what about the blowback from poor tech design, policies, data  and security vulnerabilities?

So I was intrigued when I heard the podcast, on the Ezra Klein Show (he is a NY Times writer, and often has superb guests and topics on the podcast).

The Rise of the Superforecasters

The episode description said: “Can we predict the future more accurately? It’s a question we humans have grappled with since the dawn of civilization… It’s also the question that Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-author of ‘Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,’ has dedicated his career to answering.

Guest host Julia Galef interviewed Tetlock as Ezra was on paternity leave.  She has her own podcast, Rationally Speaking, and wrote the book “The Scout Mindset: Why Some People see Things Clearly and Others Don’t.”

The podcast explained that Tetlock pitted his group of amateur prognosticators against academics and career intelligence analysts in a forecasting tournament in 2011.  Tetlock’s team won by such a large margin that the government agency behind the competition decided to study the superforecasters and their methods, to see what they could learn.

He shared with Julia and the podcast audience insight into the mindset and approach of superforecasting.  It doesn’t necessarily take genius or years of experience (remember, it is the so-called experts who can have spotty records at predictions). 

Philip claimed that the skill can be taught to college students in a matter of hours. How is this even possible?  I’ll try to summarize here, but suggest you check out the podcast and read Tetlock’s book to learn more.

In a few words, it gets to being a “flexible fox” vs. an “inflexible hedgehog.”  The latter tend to be constrained by ideology. It also is about trying to be less bombastic, and more accurate – the former works better if you want to be a firebrand or a talking head on TV, vs. someone who calls shots in a less dramatic way.

As Tetlock says, it is important to be “integratively complex and qualify your arguments, howevers and buts and all those, a sign that you recognize the legitimacy of competing perspectives.”

The less successful forecasters dig themselves into a position that they want to defend, perhaps because it is their trademark issue.  The more successful ones are more open and set conditions that might support a counter POV.  Superforecasters use “comparison classes” and adopt “outside views;” they examine benchmarks to see how other similar situations played out.

Most of the podcast focused on big picture global economic and geopolitical topics vs. the world of technology.  But Julia and Philip finished off with an example, about how a superforecaster might approach a question about technology advancement.  Of course, that grabbed me.

The resulting back and forth is fascinating and shines a light on how a superforecaster might approach the question. I copied an excerpt from the episode transcript:

JULIA GALEF: Are we going to get to full self-driving cars by the year 2025? The kind of car where you can really just take a nap and let the car drive you to work through busy city streets… So do you have any thoughts on how a superforecaster might start thinking about that question?

PHIL TETLOCK: The first thing they would do is they would pick holes in it.

JULIA GALEF: In the question?

PHIL TETLOCK: Yeah, they’d pick holes in your question.


PHIL TETLOCK: It would be like you’re talking to a contract lawyer. And they’d say, oh, Julia, my God, this is so underspecified. OK, you mean anywhere in the world?

JULIA GALEF: Yes, yes, I do. Yes.

PHIL TETLOCK: OK, so you have more of a shot of that happening in Singapore because they are pretty far advanced with the infrastructure, and they have a different legal system… technology is never going to be perfect. Given the way the U.S. tort law is set up and given the dynamics of U.S. politics, it would be very difficult to imagine it happening by 2025 in the U.S.

Could it happen in certain authoritarian or semi-authoritarian systems that are technocratic, maybe in Dubai or in Singapore or places like that? If that’s the question, now I’m saying, hmm, OK, maybe 25%. But now take a nap — hmm, not so sure. I think even there, the laws would be you have to be conscious, and you probably shouldn’t be drunk. There would still be laws and a sentient observer observing, at least in principle, in charge. But yeah, that’s how they think. They think in very detailed terms. And they think about boundary conditions. And it’s not just the technology, it’s the politics and the law, right?

JULIA GALEF: I guess this is how a lot of forecasters go awry, is they’re thinking of one specific kind of scenario. I was thinking about the U.S., and I was only focused on the technology itself and not on the legal framework surrounding that deployment of the technology, et cetera. And so, I can, a little bit, empathize with the experts in your tournament who, when the question is resolved and they were wrong, they kind of protest, oh, but that’s not what I was thinking of when I said 75% chance yes. The thing I was thinking of was blah, blah, blah. But that is part of the game, is you have to be thinking about all the factors. And I guess that’s what the superforecasters are good at.

The Ezra Klein Show
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Top Tech Words to Banish in 2022

Every year Lake Superior State University publishes a list of words that should be banished because they are so overused.  It’s based on thousands of submissions from around the world. 

As reported in CNN. The 2021 list includes an interesting mix of words, from Gen-Z speak (“Wait, what?”), to work and biz-oriented terms:

“No worries,” “at the end of the day,” “you’re on mute,” and the dreaded “supply chain”: These are the phrases thousands of English speakers have finally heard enough of.


I get it, people are done with these words.  But can we really get by without “you’re on mute?” Or should we find another phrase for “supply chain?”

So, I thought it might be fun to see what the Fusion PR team thinks about overrused words and phrases in tech.  I asked – and got a lot of venting. 

Which is not surprising, as we tend to obsess over words in PR.  We have to deal with jargon coming from many different areas of tech and business, and yes, sometimes regrettably get caught up in the buzzword cycle ourselves (don’t waste your time scouring our blog, website and press releases because yes, you will find some of the very same words reported below. Please, cut us some slack and give us time. Curing the buzzword addiction is a process).

See below for our choices of the word and phrases to be banished in tech PR and media this year (for no extra charge I include lists for other kinds of irritants):

  • Digital transformation
  • Metaverse
  • Unicorn
  • Disrupt
  • Cloud journey
  • Data lake / data swamp
  • Revolutionary
  • AI operationalization
  • Bandwidth
  • NFT

Weird or Irritating Words

  • De-risk: Sounds like solving a vermin problem
  • Headless CMS:  Yikes, that’s gotta hurt
  • Bad actor: We need a Geico commercial about hackers who are bad actors (in the movie sense)
  • On premise, or On Prem: At least “on prem” makes sense as being short for ‘on-premises.’  “On-premise” just makes no sense at all.
  • At scale: So where, exactly is this wonderful, mythical place of “scale?” So many great things happen there, “at scale.”

Not Tech, Still Irritating

  • Cheers (as a sign off, if you’re not Aussie)
  • I’m not going to lie
  • To be honest 
  • Unprecedented times
  • I can’t stand when people say “rock” when they mean “wear” (i.e. she was rocking 10-inch platform heels)

Posted in Fun Stuff, PR, Reading Files | 2 Comments

Your Amazing Succession PR Scene Translator

I am a big fan of Succession, an HBO Max drama about family media empire Waystar Royco, which is run by aging patriarch Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox with snarling intensity).   There’s great writing, a superb cast, and always lots of palace initrigue over who will succeed Logan.

I also like the show because of its strong focus on PR.   There’s lots of talk about optics, crises, and influencing the media, both directly, by messing with the editorial independence of Waystar’s own Fox-like cable network, ATN, and indirectly, via PR.  The media, lawyers, and comms execs are all part of the drama as the main cast members joust for power and seek to sway Wall Street and Main Street.

As Kendall Logan, the heir apparent (until he wasn’t… then was again; ya just have to watch!) said in a recent episode, while preening for a reporter over dinner, “Image is the family business.”

I have spent the better part of my career in PR, and love seeing the field get its 15 minutes of fame. Which is not to say that the show nails it.  E.g. it seems the stereotypical PR handlers, fixers and flunkies are never too far away from the action. But the writers certainly make it entertaining, and PR is well-integrated into almost every episode.

Anatomy of PR Scenes in Succession

To give you a taste, I thought I’d share scenes from the first episode of the current season (season 3), with my commentary, and just enough info to get the gist even if you are not a fan or haven’t seen this show. 

PR featured especially prominently in this epsiode due to the way Season 2 ended: Kendall Roy had turned on his dad during a press conference on national TV, taking a blowtorch to the enterprise over sexual abuse and coverup allegations related to their cruise line business. So there was the need for lots of damage control and maneuvering.

Just Like the O.J. Van Ride (“This is a Righteous Vehicle”)

Kendall Roy has left the press conference and is being driven somewhere to evade the media scrum.  He is in a limo with Karolina Novotney, Waystar Royco’s Comms Chief, and Greg Hirsch (“cousin Greg”), who holds some important cards and needs to decide which side he is on: Kendall’s or Logan’s. The transcript is provided courtesy of TV Show Transcripts (also, see the video above).

Kendall: This is a company vehicle.

Karolina: What? I mean, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But since you just clearly opened the company up to investigation, lawsuits, I imagine you’re no longer working for the company?

Kendall: Well, no, because I was acting in the best interests of the company.

Karolina: Yeah? Violating your duty of confidentiality? Violating your fiduciary duties as a director?

Kendall: Look. I need a sealed unit here, Karolina. I need a clean jar. So… so… are you in for this f*cking revolution? This is a fork in your life, Karolina. This is the righteous vehicle.

Karolina: It’s just not… It’s not…

Kendall: Okay. Stop the car. Out. Out. Please. I need to make calls.

Karolina: Ken…

Kendall: I can’t have weevils in the f*cking flour sack, okay? Out. Now. Everything you’ve heard today is privileged. Repeat anything and I’ll sue you out of your f*cking ass.

(The limo stops, she gets out)

Kendall: Greg, Greg, if I get taken out on other shit, I might need you to take my cultural temperature.

Greg: Uh-huh. Got it. Okay? As in? Uh, wh… what does that, uh, mean?

Kendall: Like before I get my media monitoring in place I might need you to slide the sociopolitical thermometer up the nation’s ass and take a reading. Okay?

Greg: I’ll get seasick. (Stutters)

Kendall: Just feed me the metadata, anything that’s gonna move the market on me reputationally, yeah? (Phone notification chimes)

Greg: Uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah. Sure. Uh, media monitoring department over here

Analysis:  It was great to see the PR rep be the adult in the room, or car – and not drinking the Kool-Aid.  Karolina, who clearly had no part in Kendall going rogue, is not playing along.  Also, in the same scene, Kendall is spouting some gibberish about media monitoring.

PR Agency Pitch (“F*ck the Weather, we are Changing the Cultural Climate”)

To throw off the press, Kendall then moves the war room to his ex-wife’s apartment; where he and his team hole up to plan next steps.  There he is pitched by PR agency owner Berry Schneider and her sidekick Comfrey.

Kendall: Welcome to my ex-wife’s living room. Sit, sit.

Berry: Can we just say, right off, some jobs are money jobs, some are heart jobs. 

Comfrey We would love to work with you. We love the narrative arc. We love everything you did.

PR Translator: OK, here we go, PR yes-women. “We love the narrative arc.” Give me a break, I have never said this on a pitch.

Kendall: And I would love to work with you, but, uh, if it’s cool, and I know you guys are the best but is it okay if this is still a pitch?

PR Translator: Kendall wants a taste, some free advice before signing them. That is usually fair game in the biz.

Berry: Of course!

Kendall: Great.

Berry: So, we have a lot of thoughts.

Kendall: Yeah.

Berry: Communication planning and positioning thoughts. How we can leverage our relationships with significant writers at major outlets. 

Kendall: Yes. Yes. 

Berry: Prepare to prime and amplify some impressive secondaries. 

PR Translator: They’re going to pursue top tier media friendlies, and second level ones.

Kendall: Great, great. So, shall, shall I talk, or will you? 

Berry: Well, we want to hear your thoughts, of course, but you wanna start off just hearing our five points? 

Kendall: Sure. Sure, you go. 

Berry: Okay. So… 

Kendall: But I think the headline needs to be “f*ck the weather, we’re changing the cultural climate”. But you go. 

PR Translator: The nightmare client – he doesn’t want to hear their thoughts, thinks he knows the best strategy.

Berry: Okay, I mean… 

Kendall: For context, I, I, I’m talking to the Times about an op-ed. Draft an alternative corporate manifesto. Drop a rapid reaction TEDx. sh1t like that.

PR Translator: Again, a micromanaging client that does not know what he’s talking about. “Rapid reaction TEDx?” Fans of the show know that Kendall can get over excited and spout nonsense.

Berry: Well, that’s great.

Kendall: It’s cheesy as f*ck but, you know, I need people to see this was part of a coherent philosophy, not just punching an old guy in the f*cking nose? Yeah? 

Berry: Right. Right. That’s in line with our thoughts. So… 

Kendall: Well, I just, I may as well say, on a dumb level, I’d like my Twitter to be off the hook. This could all get super earnest, so I was thinking of hitting up some BoJack guys. You know? Some, some, some of the Lampoon kids… to just smash that sh1t, make my feed a little powder keg people need to check-in with? 

PR Translator: This is dad-PR talk. Kendall thinks he is being smart, hip. It is also interesting how Twitter and influencer marketing gets mixed in with other strategies. And there actually is a tie-in with this show and BoJack Horseman.

Berry: Like cool tweets that position you? 

Yeah, that would be the… straight-leg chino way of putting it. “Cool tweets”.

Berry and Kendall: F*ck you (laughs)

Kendall: No, it’s… I’m kidding. I know you guys are the best. Okay, sorry. I want to work with you if you can… if you can work with me? 

Berry: Sure. Well, we think you’re going to win this and we like winners! 

PR Translator: They’ll take any job.

Kendall: Hell yeah!

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What’s your Hype Cycle Time?

How to Surf the Tech Trends without Going Under

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Everyone is familiar with tastemakers in fashion, music, and popular culture. They indicate what is hot and what is not, with words and actions. Those who want to stay ahead of trends pay close attention.

But what about enterprise tech?

The general idea is the same.  There too, you have influencers, like industry analysts.  But the dynamics are much different. Users and decision-makers aren’t generally surfing TikTok or watching Kylie’s Instagram to see what the next big thing will be.

So what do you do, if you are in enterprise tech or some gorpy B2B space?  How do you track where things are, where they are going, and leverage this insight for PR?

What’s your Silicon Valley Time?

An article I saw a while back inspired this topic. The story, about the tyranny of “Silicon Valley Time,” was widely read and shared. Aaron Zamost’s Medium post rang eerily true for those in the tech marketing, journalism and PR worlds. His subtitle said it all: The tech press moves like clockwork, fitting company narratives into a predictable arc. Here’s how pros deal with it.

He describes the expectations set when a company is founded (“12:00 SVT; Birth – No one really cares”) and circles the clock on to Shiny New Toy, Up and Comer, and Industry Disrupter (3 SVT) and beyond. The idea being, if you are in PR, you should heed this timetable and try to beat the clock in your storytelling and execution.

But the focus here is on another schedule that impacts media coverage. It is the one that follows the inexorable march of technology evolution and disruption.  This one too, is about promise, expectations, triumph and sometimes flameouts.

Here, the clock turns not for an individual company – but for categories (true, one company might be the driving force in a new “bucket,” but there will inevitably be competitors). 

These segments are important because they help the media and their audiences understand what kind of tech you have, and where it fits in the scheme of things. Each category has a narrative, a story arc that starts with invention and ends with obsolescence. It has its innovators, leaders and followers.

How long it takes for a category to emerge and go big relates to many factors: is there a real market for this new kind of thing, is it affordable, does it work as promised?  All these questions dictate the likelihood that the tech will jump from development, get used by early adopters and eventually reach a mainstream market.

Geoffrey Moore wrote about the dynamics of technology adoption in his classic text, Crossing the Chasm (the “chasm” refers to the gap separating innovation and mass adoption). Gartner Group famously maps the trajectories of enterprise tech segments in their Hype Cycle reports, charting them along a curve like the one below. Here’s a link to their Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2021.

Wikimedia Commons

Leveraging Tech Evolution for PR

Media appetite and coverage of vendor news and stories vary significantly depending on the stage of the space.  This presents challenges and opportunities for those in the mix.  The savvy tech marketer  adjusts tactics accordingly.

Where does your tech and company fit in the category story arc? And what can you do with this understanding?

Let’s play spin the clock with some examples.

Think desktop PCs, big a million years ago; yeah, still incredibly important – but does anyone really think about them or care much today? Especially media, they don’t necessarily want to cover older stuff AKA “legacy tech.”

Or “big data” – hot or not?  This blog asked that very question five years ago – after NY VC and tech influencer Matt Turck said that big data sounded “increasingly three years ago,”  folowing Gartner’s jettisonong of the phrase from their 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

Back then I did an analysis that showed big data was still much buzzed about, despite the second guessing. But today?

Quantum Solace

On the other hand, Most would agree that quantum computing (a segment that Fusion PR works in) is at an early stage. Depending on who you listen to, we could be 5-10 years away from mainstream adoption.

The Register had a funny piece that skewered Gartner Hype Cycles: Where on Gartner’s Hype Cycle is Gartner’s Hype Cycle? That’s the way uh-huh uh-huh, I hype it Rupert Goodwins writes: “…quantum computing seems to crop up about one year in two. Bless.” (But c’mon, Rupert, doesn’t media play a role in perpetuating hype? Yeah, PR too, obviously. We are all part of the hype-o-system).

Quantum computing is a frothy space – there is much excitement about its potential and eagerness for its arrival. Press interest and coverage reflect this – every minor advancement, things that would go unnoticed in a late adoption stage, get covered here (PoCs, papers, etc.). Hard news rules the day. But the definition of hard news is much more lax.

Surfing the Cycle

Press interest and coverage can vary based on the stage of your technology in the Gartner Hype Cycle. The following is a grab bag of tips and observations accordingly:

  • In the earlys stages – “Technology Trigger” through “Peak of Inflated Expectaions” – new shows, awards, publications and influencers emerge – the savvy PR team does triage on these.
  • It’s a horse race to determine winners and losers, the leaders and followers as the category climbs that slope. There’s a lot of noise. You need to decide whether you want to play the hype game or be more conservative (but there are no awards for playing it low key).
  • The press can get negative as the tech traverses the peak and descends the “Trough of Disillusionment.” If you’re a company that competes in the space, be ready for this.
  • Technologies that are in the later stages of adoption – they are mainstream, widely used, with little fuss – get less media attention. You need to work harder to get that media love.
  • For those, feature articles and bylines about best practices are good options.
Posted in Campaign Analysis, Marketing, Public Relations, Tech PR | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Check out our New Podcast: PR, Done & Doner

I realized that I have been making a lot of noise on the Fusion PR website about PR, Done & Doner – but have said nothing here. Three great episodes in, I guess it is about time.

The podcast was conceived to equip tech PR and marketing with the info needed to get the best possible results, in an informative and easily digestible format. (As you can probably guess by the title and art, it’s intended to be a fun, provocative, irreverent affair. Hopefully not too dumb; or overdone).

We publish via Anchor.fm – you can download audio-only versions there, and from all popular podcasting platforms. To check out videos, head over to Fusion’s YouTube channel.

We publish once a month, and so far, have covered:

Episode 1: I interviewed Robin Schaffer, an industry analyst relations expert.  Her company Schaffer AR helps B2B tech companies maximize results with analysts and get top placement in their reports. Robin countered myths and misperceptions about analysts, and answered the most common questions asked by PR teams, such as:

  • When is the right time to hire an analyst firm?
  • What to invest and when?
  • Hire a big or boutique firm?
  • Is it pay-for-play?
  • They are miscategorizing us (or there is no category) – what to do?

Episode 2: Kevin Maney, co-founder of strategy consulting firm Category Design Advisors, joined me to discuss how tech companies can achieve market leadership.

It’s a noisy and competitive word in technology. How to stand apart? It gets down to creating and owning a category. Kevin offered learnings based on his many years working as a consultant, top journalist and co-author of Play Bigger.

We also got into PR tactics, explored what tech marketing can learn from infomercials, and how to reinvent the press release.

In Episode 3, which just dropped this week, guest Mark Traphagen,  VP of Product Marketing and Training for SEOclarity, joined me to discuss the state of SEO and relevance for PR. Search continues to drive most website traffic, yet many in the PR field are unsure of how to leverage it for the best content and earned media results. Mark is an award-winning veteran of Internet and search marketing. He sheds light on the following questions and topics:

  • The latest updates to Google’s search algorithm
  • Blogging and website content for improved SEO and PR
  • Can startups displace the giants in search results?
  • Why good UX is so important
  • How to combine SEO and PR for the best results

We welcome suggestions for topics and speakers – so hope you enjoy it, and please chime in!

Posted in Agency news, Interviews, PR, Public Relations | Comments Off on Check out our New Podcast: PR, Done & Doner

No, PR’s Not Dead Yet. Doing Just Fine Thanks! But Try Again Next Year

Many wish to continue to write off public relations and kick it to the curb – by coldly saying that the profession and/or its trappings are dead. First it was gripes about the press release, and in the latest example, a report that tech PR is dead, which I just read in Inc.

Yeah, I know, it makes for captivating clickbait. These kinds of “XXXX is Dead” hit jobs are perennial, evergreen stories that keep on cropping up, as sure as the calendar turns, not just about PR of course, but that is my peeve, so allow me to vent.

This slight may seem trivial compared to real life and death situations, but PR is my livelihood, and puts bread on the table for my family and 275K other people in the  industry  across the US, according to the BLS (2019 numbers; expected to grow by 7% annually through 2029, more on average than other professions). I’ve witnessed time and time again how a strategic and well-thought out PR program can bring real value to a business. 

So why have a blog with “revenge” in the name if I can’t get me some?  Or at least blog a strongly worded rebuttal.

Is the Press Release Truly Dead?

I was already in a crusty mood when I saw the Inc. piece because I had heard from a colleague that her journalist friend said the press release is dead. She wanted my thoughts, and is probably sorry that she asked, because I chided her and gave reading assignments from my blog (like this post and this one).

I wasn’t trying to shoot the messenger, after all, a reporter said those words.  But that does not impress me.  I mean, what journalist would admit to liking press releases, or relying on them, generally? Who’s going to rise to defend our industry’s punching bag, documents that seem cookie cutter, useless, all too often written poorly with trite, overly cheerful quotes and obscure buzz words?


Because just as soon as we have news without a press release, you’ll have a journalist who doesn’t think it’s real news if there’s no release.  You’ll have investors pining for potentially stock-moving PR news. You’ll have industry analysts wondering what’s been announced.  You’ll have end users searching in vain for the latest product news. 

And last I heard, the newswire business is doing well thank you, still a hearty institution supported by an ecosystem that generates, distributes and consumes the “news.”

But people have been saying press releases have been dead for years, since the advent of social media.  Since Silicon Valley Watcher reporter Tom Foremski wrote Die, Press Release, Die in 2008

People, the press release is just a conduit, a capsule.  In addition to that, it is a helpful tool for many journalists who really are asking for more information than a simple, pithy email pitch provides. Granted, there are other ways to share your update in today’s media landscape. But press releases still happen, and yes, they can be written well and tell great stories.

Is Tech PR Really Dead?

Then, I got my own unwelcome bit of non-press release news, via an Inc. piece that says Tech PR is Dead.  That really hits close to home.

People I know who work in this area would find that statement laughable.  Speaking for Fusion PR, we are in growth mode (and hiring, please spread the word!).  It is not just us. There is no shortage of competitors on our new business pitches, and other tech PR shops are doing quite well thank you, best I can gather.

So why even respond, and draw more attention to the article?  Well, it is Inc.  And there are enough truisms and smart sounding but inaccurate statements that could convince a casual reader.

The writer builds her argument by restating things that have been widely known for years, if not many years (there are shrinking newsrooms, fewer journalists, news cycles that are dominated by big news and brands, and increasing industry noise). She throws in a gratuitous “because of COVID.” These realities make it harder to earn media coverage.  

But the same trends can be applied to so many other industries. So, how to account for the bullish growth numbers for public relations more generally?

I submit that the tech PR field is growing too, due to the expansion of tech in every aspect of our lives and business. There’s an ongoing march of tech startups.  Some say that every company is a software or tech company

Indeed, Joan Westerberg writes:

“The demand for technology news is bigger than ever. There are more tech companies, more startups, and more VCs than ever before. The appetite is there. But it’s not a journalist’s job to create content for you; their job is to report on and cover the news.”

The last bit is insulting, I’m sorry, it just is.  Yes, it’s harder to rise above the noise, and interest journalists who cover tech – that is why you need professional help. But no one I know thinks that it is the journalist’s job to write puff pieces for clients.

Westerberg continues:

Your brand is not likely to cut through anymore… You don’t need to go broke on unnoticed PR campaigns when you can tell a captivating story online — and share your news with the press only when it’s news.”

The prescription? She advises to “tell better stories using owned and shared channels, like your website and social media… Make those channels shine. Appeal to more minor writers and content creators and partner with them.”

This sounds like warmed over content marketing advice from about five years ago. 

Her conclusion that the tech PR model is broken seems based on an outdated view of PR as simply media relations.  Since the latter is broken, tech PR is dead, the argument goes.

First, there is no monolithic “tech PR” model. Different shops offer different services. I don’t know of any agency that just does media relations, tech or otherwise. The arsenal has evolved to a service mix spanning content, strategy, digital, and others – some of the very things Westerberg advocates. 

It is true: the media still are front and center in PR (see this Muckrack survey).  However, the better PR shops are finding ways to deal with today’s challenges. I wrote about the enduring importance of media in the PR mix three years ago. It was true then and it is still true today.

Posted in In the News, Tech PR, Technology | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Introducing PR, Done and Doner!

We are proud to introduce PR: Done and Doner, a podcast that equips tech PR and marketing pros with the info needed to get the best possible results.

It is not just about mastering the changing world of earned media, although that is key part (and not getting any easier, most agree). We take a more expansive view, and understand that modern PR goes well beyond scoring press hits. To help companies succeed, the tech comms pro of today must have many more arrows in the quiver.

So, expect to see episodes that cover earned and paid media, content, messaging, reputation, positioning, branding, SEO, digital, analyst and influencer relations, and more – in an informative and easily digestible format with video and audio. (As you can probably guess by the title and art, it’s intended to be a fun, provocative, irreverent affair. Hopefully not too dumb; or overdone).

The show is hosted by Fusion PR principals (and tech PR veterans) Bob Geller and Jordan Chanofsky.  We’ll interview guest who are experts – renowned authors and practitioners who can shed light on the latest strategies, tactics and best practices.

You have PR questions?  We have answers: done! (And doner).

Episode 1: Maximizing Analyst Relations, with Robin Schaffer

In this episode, Bob Geller interviews Robin Schaffer, an industry analyst relations expert.  Her company Schaffer AR helps B2B tech companies maximize results with analysts and get top placement in their reports.  Here, Robin counters myths and misperceptions about analysts, and answers the most common questions asked by PR teams, such as:

  • When is the right time to hire an analyst firm?
  • What to invest and when?
  • Hire a big or boutique firm?
  • Is it pay for play?
  • They are miscategorizing us (or there is no category) – what to do?

PR, Done and Doner is available on Anchor, Spotify and other popular podcasting channels.

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Osaka Episode puts Media, Sports and Celebrity on Trial

By now you have likely heard of the biggest news from the first days of the French Open this past weekend.  It was actually about no news, or rather the refusal of one of the shining stars to engage in press activities surrounding the event.

Instead of facing the media – and submitting to threats and fines – Naomi Osaka withdrew, citing depression, anxiety and fear of public speaking. She also said she did not want to become a distraction (and promptly became the main story).

The episode raises all kinds of questions.  What is an athlete’s obligation to the sport that helped make her a star (she’s the world’s highest paid female in sports)?  Should there be an exception to the rule that you must play the game (not tennis but the game of getting grilled by the press)? Do the media have an inalienable right to put athletes up against the wall at the pleasure of sports fans?

Like a bad movie, no one comes away looking good.  Many observers expressed sympathy, but as the New York Times reported:

Few of Ms. Osaka’s colleagues have shown unequivocal support for her stance.“Press and players and the tournaments comes hand in hand,” Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, said. “I think it’s very important in developing our sport, in promoting our sport.” She added that there were moments when the media did need to be more compassionate…

“Above all, it’s just really sad: for her, for the tournament, for the sport,” said Martina Navratilova, a former No. 1 who has seen plenty of tennis turmoil in her 50 years in the game. “She tried to sidestep or lessen a problem for herself and instead she just made it much bigger than it was in the first place.”

New York Times

I agree it is hard not to sympathize, Naomi Osaka is still young and is obviously suffering from some issues.

The sympathy is tempered by the fact that, while it seems she is taking a stand at great personal expense, others might not so easily be able to afford to do this.  Plus it seems a bit disingenuous to shun some media Q & A about the game, yet embrace brand endorsement deals that add to her public profile.  The Times wrote that she became a favored spokesmodel who doesn’t shy from using her platform for activism.

Another wrinkle: the newspaper reported that poor communications played a role. An agreement could have been negotiated quietly rather than the whole thing becoming a spectacle where a young champ felt as if she had no option but to unceremoniously leave the event.

Perhaps the one positive takeaway is the attention brought to mental health issues (especially in a COVID era) and the stresses that athletes face beyond competition.

What do you think? I asked the Fusion PR team. Here were some of their responses (their views and mine don’t necessarily reflect the agency’s).

I don’t think she should have to face the press.  She’s an athlete, not a public speaker.  It’s ridiculous. Plenty of athletes crave the media attention; let THEM speak to the press.


At this stage of professional sports – being a public figure comes with the turf.  She wouldn’t have had a chance at the endorsement deals without the pro career behind her – at this point though she can set the terms of her media engagements.  She’s become bigger than any one tournament.  That said, it’s probably a balancing act and she couldn’t go completely dark for too long. 

It’s like Elon Musk: there’s no shortage of press interest around him and he makes his own rules ; media won’t stop being interested.


My personal thoughts on this are that, while it does come with the territory of being a pro athlete, she is suffering. Most athletes are not like pop stars, or companies trying to build an audience. They are talented individuals who usually get thrust into the limelight and do not know how to handle it. I cannot imagine what it is like to go to work, do physical labor for hours depending on the match, and then having to get in front of a completely different audience and answer questions about your every move. It must be exhausting! I don’t think any athlete should have to speak to the press after a game. Let the ones who want to speak do so, but it should not be an obligation. 


This whole thing reminds me of Marshawn Lynch (NFL running back, currently retired). As an NFL player, you are contractually obligated to speak to the media (or should I say “be available”). Lynch’s antics in this regard are well known…as there have been numerous times, even during the super bowl, that he would show up for press conferences only to just sit there for the minimum required amount of time and not answer any questions. The league made a lot of money fining him for this.

Brandon Marshall, another NFL player, is an advocate for mental health as he had his own issues with bi-polar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety.

Posted in Branding, Current Affairs, In the News, PR | Comments Off on Osaka Episode puts Media, Sports and Celebrity on Trial

Another PR Rabbit Hole to Avoid: Obscure Analyst Reports

From Pixabay

I had blogged a while back about all those time wasters we sometimes run into; e.g. the deluge of pay-to-play offers you get right after releasing news over a wire. There’s another that has been bugging me and my teams: obscure analyst reports.

Luckily, our friend Robin Schaffer, of her namesake analsyt relations firm SchafferAR, helped us better understand the situation and avoid spinning wheels. See the Q & A below, from recent email exchange:

We track various segments our clients compete in, and want to know of and get into the right reports. But a challenge is wading through Google alerts triggered by report mills, like (I’m assuming) this one (in the area of quantum computing).

Some sites seem to just aggregate, syndicate, resell reports – but are there real analysts and research behind these?  Is it worth it to wade through and find out if it is real research?


Nope.  These are crap and not relevant.  AR folks ignore them.  Very tempting because they provide insights on every possible market.But I have no idea where they get their data.   You have to go to the reputable analyst houses to identify the real research.A slog, but you need to.


Thanks, Robin!

Please check out my interview with her about maximizing analyst relations. Also, I am pleased to report that she’ll be one of the first guests on our upcoming video podcast series.

Posted in Networking, PR Tech, Public Relations | Comments Off on Another PR Rabbit Hole to Avoid: Obscure Analyst Reports

You’re out of your Bleeping PR Head – or Should be

Working in PR seems the reverse of the old quote:

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

Groucho Marx

The club, or field of PR, can disdain those who want to join; particularly people so entrenched that they lack little “real world” experience.

For example  I started interviewing for PR gigs in my late thirties, after taking a circuitous route through  various sales, marketing and IT consulting roles.  When all was said and done PR seemed to be my thing, so I set out to interview for client-side and agency gigs while picking up some freelancing business.

I had no idea what kind of opportunities awaited for someone with my eclectic background.  But the comments were mostly positive.  “Refreshing!” “We like to see other kinds of experience, not just PR.”  One in particular, the owner of a boutique tech PR agency was thrilled that I was an electrical engineer and former IBM-er like him.  Fusion CEO Jordan Chanofsky made me an offer over 20 years ago – and I am still here today. (The funny thing was, that soon after I joined, I felt out of my element, due to lack of experience working for an agency).

All these years later I can safely say that, if you want to work in PR, sure, it is great to have related experience.  But thinking outside the PR box can make you better at your job, as I find many myopically see every situation as a PR challenge that demands a PR solution.

What does this mean, and why should we think out of our  “bleeping PR heads?”  Which other POVs can be valuable?

The Gatekeeper

One of the most obvious POVs to consider is the gatekeeper, or journalist. Yet too many PR people don’t do this well.

Why? Thinking like a good journalist is critical for PR; it’s important to be inquisitive, a good storyteller, and yes, often skeptical.

Why is it a challenge? It is much easier to mass blast a pitch than take the time to read their stuff and personalize the approach. Also, we like to be optimistic and not focus on the long odds. That said, sending and praying, optimistically, is not good; or is falling in love with your own ideas and pitches.

How to do better? Read their articles. Follow them on social media.  Be as skeptical as they are.  Realize you have to be smart and creative, and work hard to earn their attention.  Dig for something press-worthy. Get to know them, this makes it easier to understand their story appetites and sourcing criteria.

Results: Pitches that hit home, better PR outcomes, stronger journalist relationships.

The Buyer and User Audiences

Unsplash, Martino Pietropoli

It can help to see things from the perspective of the audiences we target: the personas who use the company’s product or service, and those who influence the purchasing decision. We reach them directly on social media or through gatekeepers. 

Why? If the news and content we promote does not resonate, our PR efforts will fall on deaf ears. And, guess what: aligning with the hot topics and pain points of end users can be key to journalist buy-in, because ideally you are targetting those who write for these audiences.

Why a Challenge? Most PR people don’t have hands-on experience with the often esoteric technologies. We’re not steeped in the lives, routines and perceptions of users, CIOs and other decision-makers. 

Even if you work on the client/industry side, it’s a fair bet that you suffer from the isolation of the marketing department. The result is an overreliance on jargon and copy-and-paste writing, a challenge that I described in Finding the Words that Work in Tech PR:

There’s a trap I think some of my tech PR  colleagues fall into.  In an effort to sound savvy and speak in the language of the targeted audience… they rely on recycled, empty (but “safe”) prose that may have originated in the marketing department…  Add to this that internal marketing staff and the agency may well not have the technical knowledge or familiarity of the markets they are serving to pick the words that resonate with customers and prospective customers. 

How to See it from their PoV: Try to understand the worlds they inhabit.  Bounce ideas off of friends who work in the field.  Try out the tech, if you can. Take in demos, attend conferences. Avoid gobbledy gook puke, use words and tell stories that are more meangful and impactful.

Results: Better stories and business outcomes.

The Strategist

Our PR programs are part of the larger marketing and business picture for our clients. Our clients and employers compete in the larger world.  So if you don’t heed the bigger picture, your counsel and programs will be less effective. It is important to think like a CMO or military strategist – to be aware of tools in the arsenal, the playing field and plan accordingly.

Why a challenge?

From Pixabay

It takes research and effort to stay up-to-date, with the competition and other marketing tools and strategies. And, let’s face it, most of us do not have the POV that comes with working as a CMO or military strategist.

How to do better

Get smart about other marketing tools, tech and tactics. Understand how PR interplays with others in the mix. Research the market, follow the plays of the competition.

Read the classic and trendy books in marketing, the ones that marketers and CEOs wave around. There are so many good ones. Some of my faves include Marketing Warfare, by Ries and Trout; Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore; Play Bigger, by Ramadan, Peterson, Lochhead and Maney; and Blue Ocean Strategy, by Kim and Mauborgne.

Results: Better counsel and marketing integration, and more impactful storytelling.

Posted in Branding, Campaign Analysis, Marketing, PR, Tech PR | Comments Off on You’re out of your Bleeping PR Head – or Should be