“Surprise Me”

High Technology, Opinions, Public Relations Posted Apr 16, 2014 by chenpr

Team CHEN PR shared conversation with veteran tech scribe Evan Schuman this morning. Out of respect for Evan I won’t divulge the number of decades he has been toiling as a journalist, but in his own words it’s been long enough that he’s been able to do “every kind of journalism that won’t get you arrested.”

Evan remains a prolific writer. His byline can be found in a host of respected publications and portals these days, including Computerworld, CIO, Fierce Retail, TechTarget, and a many more. He’s spent enough time in the trenches dealing with flacks both good and bad to have an opinion on what works and what doesn’t, and that’s why we were eager to talk with him.

Listening to Evan share his thoughts and experiences about what he values from public relations professionals, one message came through loud and clear: “surprise me.”

Digging deeper, Evan explains that he hears from far too many PR pros who pitch him “me too” stories on yesterday’s news, or try to merely convince him that their client knows a lot about a trending topic.

“I want an opinion and an interesting perspective,” he says. “Surprise me. Give me something that is germane to my reader; give me something my reader doesn’t know; give me something that is non-intuitive and that challenges expectations.”

For the PR pro attempting to broker the conversation between journalist and source, that means having more than a cursory understanding of the topic—a rare commodity in Evan’s experience.

“Too many PR folks are determined to tell me what they want to tell me rather than take the time to understand and meet my need,” he says. “That’s a waste of everyone’s time.”

When the pitch is effective, however, the reaction is a much more satisfying, “Whoa! I need to know that!”

Over time, Evan says he has come to trust certain PR sources to deliver the goods—and remembers those that deliver garbage. But even those he has learned to trust must still give him what he, and his readers, need.

“If I like the idea, I still need data and details to support the story. And I need them immediately,” he says.