Farts, Zombies & E-sports: Takeaways from the Tech Writers’ Panel at Austin Startup Week

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If you attended PR over Coffee’s 2nd Tech Writers’ Panel last week – graciously hosted by TechStars in their sweetly remodeled space at 412 Congress here in the ATX – then you know how lively it got once the writers started riffing on questions from the audience.

Sorry, no F-bombs to report but there were copious references to other tech culture touchstones like zombies, gamers, tacos and, well, farts. (More on that last item later.)

I decided to compile the main takeaways from PR over Coffee’s in case you didn’t have the good fortune of being there.

But first, here is a list of the panelists:

Tom Cheredar: VentureBeat
Omar Gallaga: Austin American Statesman (contributor to CNN, MSNBC, NPR)
Jared Wynne: The Daily Dot
Laura Lorek: Silicon Hills News

Warning: I tried my best but forgive me if I don’t get the zing and zip of every point made as it was an information-packed jam session between some very astute observers of the tech trade.

Zombies: Tom’s true passion. If you hear of an outbreak, let him know immediately.

Farts: Omar is frankly not interested in receiving daily updates from your tech venture no matter how interesting you think you are – this includes farts.

Spray-and-pray: if you’re a PR firm and you subscribe to the more-is-more philosophy, you won’t get far with these writers. Impersonal emails sent in bulk really piss them off.

Douchebag syndrome: when pitching these writers, don’t be a conceited idiot who thinks he just invented the next Facebook or she’s a tech diva worthy of immediate attention.

Wanna grab coffee?: it’s non-starter for most of the panelists as they’re plenty busy reviewing new pitches and writing stories with tight deadlines.

PR gimmick: by and large gimmicks don’t work. BUT, if you’re going to use a gimmick to get their attention, you better make sure you have a good story to pitch or you’ll blow your chance.

Press releases: not necessary but have one handy just in case they want more information.

Brevity is the soul of a pitch: keep you email pitch short, sweet and to the point. Don’t drone on and on in long paragraphs or they will hit delete without finishing your magnum opus.

Facebook? Forget about it!: don’t even go there. In other words, they don’t want their family and friends seeing pitches from random tech startups.

Email: the preferred mode of communication for all of them. Get your point across in the subject line to set the hook.

Funding: most would be interested if your startup received north of $200k in funding but that’s not a guarantee they will cover you as the story still needs to fit in with what they typically cover. As Tom pointed out, funding means something interesting is happening, to the point somebody is willing to open up the checkbook.

Omar is not a tech reporter: contrary to popular belief, while Omar writes about technology he’s not really a tech reporter. He covers the intersection of culture and tech, not tech startups from a business perspective.

Women in tech: it’s way underrepresented in the media (just as it is in the tech world at large) but each writer is interested in covering more women in tech. Still, none say they go out of their way to cover women-in-tech stories unless they pass the normal smell test for a good story. In July, Omar wrote about women in tech in the form of a plethora of new women-in-tech groups that are popping up around Austin.

Good content wins every time: it’s easier said than done but these writers always appreciate a good story idea and your ability to craft one that fits their specific news beat will vastly improve your chance of getting picked up.

E-Sports: Jared singled this out as a particularly hot trend he’s interested in following. He said there’s more money in E-Sports than PGA golf now, and some of the winners are becoming celebrities in their own right.

Silicon Hills News: covers all things tech here in ATX and on down I-35 to San Antonio. Didn’t think San Antonio had much tech? Does Rackspace ring a bell?

Torchy’s Tacos: okay, maybe this is not really about tech or how to get into a popular tech publication, but those tasty breakfast tacos from Torchy’s – about 125 in all – never stood a chance and were consumed in a silent, furious, finger-lickin free-for-all before we even got started.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer is one of the only agencies in the country specializing in technology, healthcare and energy PR to provide blended performance-based pricing. To contact Dave directly, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

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