The best way to get to know someone is to listen to them. Sounds simple, right? When it comes to the media, it’s not always that easy. At Engage PR we pride ourselves in our ability to build relationships with top media and providing our clients with insight into the likes and dislikes of key journalists. This requires research, which is why we recently attended “A Conversation with Quentin Hardy, New York Times” at the Oracle Convention Center in Redwood City.
The PRSA event featured a Q&A-style presentation with Hardy and Oracle’s VP of Marketing Communications Mike Moeller, followed by questions from the audience. Questions ranged from what Hardy thinks about the presidential election, to his predictions for the future of technology and democracy. In this blog we will highlight our top takeaways from the discussion, but first, who is Quentin Hardy?
When asked to describe his job, Hardy’s response is unique and perhaps unexpected. “I point at things,” Hardy said. “My job is to point at things and say ‘Isn’t that interesting? No really, look at that, isn’t it weird?’”
Hardy has quite the history of “pointing at things.” Currently the Deputy Technology Editor at The New York Times, Hardy started as a reporter covering banks and markets at The Wall Street Journal in New York before moving to Tokyo where he covered the rise and fall of Japan’s economy. In 1995, he returned to the United States and continued to write for The Journal in San Francisco until 1999. In 2003, he began his tenure at Forbes Magazine as the Silicon Valley Bureau Chief. In 2009 he was promoted to the magazine’s National Editor. Towards the end of 2011, Hardy left Forbes for The New York times where he now covers enterprise tech for the Bits blog, which provides insight and analysis on Silicon Valley and the technology industry. Having recently learned that his grandfather owned a newspaper for a couple of years, Hardy states unequivocally that he was born with journalistic ilk. In addition to his mother’s writing roots, his father’s notable stint as a Life Magazine publisher back when “…it was a cool job” certainly stands out.
In addition to his deep history in traditional print media, Hardy understands the importance of social media in journalism and lists Twitter as one of his main sources for news. He also uses Twitter to provide added commentary on global goings-on (currently the hot topic is the presidential election), and playful banter with other top journalists. If you’re a fan of Hardy’s writing and want a more intimate look at the man behind the news, be sure tofollow him.
How to work with Quentin
As you can imagine, a journalist of such caliber as Hardy receives a lot of attention from companies and their PR firms. According to Hardy, he receives approximately 200 email pitches per day. Here are a few tips on how to improve your pitches’ chances of not going straight into the trash folder:
It takes a long time to go through 200 pitches per day. It also takes a long time to go through the other hundred non-pitch emails. Remember that it’s not Hardy’s job to respond to your email right away or give you a play-by- play update on his writing progress. Sending follow-up email after follow-up email and repeatedly asking when a piece is going to publish will not make the process move any faster.
No means no. Don’t accuse Hardy of not knowing what he’s doing and definitely don’t berate him with follow-up emails and phone calls after he’s expressed disinterest. If you are unwilling to accept rejection, you may not receive a response at all to your next pitch.
Read What He Writes
Yes, you should know what Hardy has and hasn’t covered before, but keep in mind that just because he recently wrote about a topic doesn’t mean he’s going to write about it again. In fact, if you pitch the same story he’s already written without providing a new angle, you’re wasting his and your time.
Tip: The story is always more important than the product to a journalist. Hardy prefers stories that have real-life connections to everyday people. So instead of sending a pitch that highlights the complicated technical capabilities of your product, consider presenting a real-life use case that has both depth and noticeable impact on the average Joe.
Know Your Material
Hardy said that one of the many reasons he has for not responding to a pitch is that the PR person obviously does not know their client’s technology or how it applies to the story they are trying to tell. If you don’t know your client, then how should Hardy expect you to know if this is a good match? Pitches that read like marketing collateral or that are overly vague can make you sound under-informed and may ruin your chances of landing a meeting.
Quentin’s Insights and Predictions
As the evening began to wrap up, the audience was given a few opportunities to ask that one question Hardy may scoff at or answer with an abundance of insight and enthusiasm. Some of his predictions for the future of tech include the popularity of swarm robotics, 3D printing of buildings (causing skylines to rise and fall before our eyes) and PR folks pushing out more finished content than ever. He also foresees an increase in surveillance given the fact that sensors are popping up in just about everything nowadays.
Tip: Speaking of surveillance, Hardy had a direct response when it comes to security stories: He doesn’t like them. He has an aversion to allowing security vendors to spread fear through his medium in order to sell more units, and thus tends to avoid pitches that focus on security.
Last but not least, Hardy was asked whether or not technology was undermining democracy. He answered in the affirmative. Seeing how there are fewer and fewer meeting places for people of different backgrounds and ideals to mingle and influence each other, there’s been a tremendous increase in pockets of like-minded people. That group mentality is exactly what democracy was designed to prevent and Hardy can’t deny that technology plays a distinct role in that inevitability.