How to Get on a Reporter’s Good Side in One Sentence or Less

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By Bill Greenwood and Laurie Jakobsen

Every month, we at Jaybird promote the NY Tech Meetup’s (NYTM) tech demo nights at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. To support this, we prepare a one-sheet for our press guests with contact information for every demoing company along with a one-sentence description describing their product. The companies provide their own descriptions for this sheet, and most of them do an excellent job. However, some people find it very challenging to distill their startup into one sentence, and so we reached out to several journalists who have attended past NYTMs to get their tips on how to craft a concise company description that catches the eye and scores some coverage.

1.) What do you provide and who do you serve?

First of all, make sure you identify exactly what you do and whom you do it for. According to Sean Captain of TechNewsDaily, the most important question he asks when reading a company description is “is it relevant or not?” In other words, does it fall under the areas he covers. If the answer to this question isn’t readily apparent, journalists are likely to skip to the next company on the list, leaving you in the lurch. So, make sure you clearly identify your industry vertical and the audience you serve. Here’s an example from our own business: Jaybird Communications is a PR company that works primarily with music and technology startups.

2.) Use proper grammar and expressive but concise language.

Make sure you write in the active voice, eliminate jargon, and avoid unnecessary adjectives. When you prepare communications, you always need to think of your audience first, and here your audience is the Fourth Estate. Journalists work with words every minute of the day, and they appreciate it when companies take the time to craft a well-worded description. Make sure there is no clutter and that you are expressing your ideas in a clear, concise way. In addition, put some real thought into your verb choices. One journalist said he was inspired to write about one company because of its use of the verb “democratize” in its company description. It’s expressive, concrete, and novel, giving readers a strong idea of what the company does without becoming unwieldy. However, keep the language simple – as David Brancaccio of Marketplace Tech Report says, this is not a proposal for the United Nations.

3.) Tell journalists how to describe your company.

When writing about your company, journalists need an easy way to describe you. That’s where your description comes in. Are you a company? A firm? A collective? Let them know! Journalists are under tight deadlines and need to get stories out as fast as possible. They’re also very concerned with accuracy, and the combination means they are likely to more or less cut and paste your one-sentence description into their article when explaining what you do. However, they’re also under tight space constraints, so if you throw in too much information, they’re likely to cut it down to fit or rewrite your description entirely. This is bad for companies for two reasons. One, it’s more work for the journalist, which lowers your chances of getting covered. Two, you may not like what they come up with. So think Twitter-post length.

4.) Be ready to cut your description down to a ‘parenthetical.’

Also, be prepared to hone your single-sentence description down to a “parenthetical.” For a humorous example: Zucchini, a summer vegetable. You might even be so bold as to throw in “popular” before “summer,” but you’d need to back that up with statistics later in the press materials.

A succinct description of your company will not only improve your press coverage, but will also show potential customers and investors that you have a clear understanding of your business, its strengths, and where it fits into the larger picture. According to Captain, it’s good to imagine that you’re explaining your business to someone at a costume party. Don’t worry about putting every bell and whistle into your basic description, as that will simply bore them to death. However, if you craft it well, people will want to find out more about your company, and that’s the job of your website and other communications materials. More on that in a future post!

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