“Influencers Who Inspire” – Interview with Rebecca Strong of BostInno

We are excited to resume our “Influencers Who Inspire” interview series, where we highlight industry influencers and leaders in business. Today, we talk with Rebecca Strong of BostInno.  She shares her thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Boston and what she loves about her role at BostInno.

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Strong is currently a staff writer at BostInno, where she’s been covering local tech and startup news since November 2014. Previously, she was a writer and video blog producer for the content marketing agency, Brafton. Since graduating from Emerson College in 2010, she has contributed to a variety of local and national publications, including The Huffington Post, U.S. News University Directory and Elite Daily.

Please tell us a little bit about your beat at BostInno.

I’m in charge of covering anything relating to tech and start ups in and around Boston. That could mean anything from a funding announcement, merger, or acquisition to a profile on an entrepreneur, a first look at an upcoming local app or information about a brand new accelerator, incubator or coworking space. And sometimes I’ll dive into the aspects of startup culture—from style to office beer taps.

With Boston being populated with so many tech startups, how do you personally keep up with all the latest developments and introductions to the market?

It’s next to impossible to stay on top of everything and I’m fortunate in that people are constantly reaching out to me about their newly established startups or other announcements. But personally, I’m always scouring AngelList for interesting early stage companies, keeping an eye on industry folks on Twitter, and continually checking college/university news (MIT, Northeastern, etc). Going to networking events, panels, etc. is also a great way to get a scoop on a startup I might not otherwise have known about.

What do you love about your role at BostInno?

Knowing that I’m shaping the way people understand and view emerging companies so early on in their development. It’s extremely rewarding, too, to see the impact that positive press can have on startups. I’ve gotten emails from founders saying that after my article was published about their company, they were contacted by an interested investor. Or, from accelerators saying that a local expert offered to be a mentor for their program after they read my piece. There’s so much going on in Boston tech that it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. But I like to think that my shining a spotlight on some of these startups that are still getting their footing, and building up some hype around them, can actually make a difference—even a small one—in their being able to generate traction.

What types of companies do you like to cover and why?

It sounds obvious, but my favorites are the ones solving a problem that, to my knowledge, hasn’t yet been addressed. The startup world is saturated, and there are so many people making very similar apps based on basically the same idea. When I come across a company that’s going after an unresolved issue, or innovating in a space that still operates in an archaic way, that’s what excites me. Because in my mind, they’re the startups that have the most potential to turn heads, and to be responsible for significant change.

What has been your most interesting interview thus far?

That’s a tie. Arianna Huffington, and T.J. Miller from the HBO series “Silicon Valley.” Very, very different interviews but both fascinating individuals.

Do PR people help or hinder your storytelling?

I wouldn’t say PR people have ever hindered my storytelling. But not all are as helpful as they could be. The ones I really appreciate are those who get BostInno, who make a point to get me information as quickly as possible—often in advance of any embargo time—and who offer to connect me with the people who matter in any particular story.

If you had to guess, what percent of stories come from ideas a PR person sent to you?

I’d say about 17-18 percent. There are many cases in which a PR person will pitch me something, and I may not take that exact idea, but I’ll pull some other tidbit that I find interesting about the CEO, or the company, and run with that. And in those cases, that PR person still played a crucial role in making the story happen because they originally facilitated it.

What’s one thing you think PR executives could do better?

Know the journalists they’re pitching to. And no, I don’t just mean know that they write on tech, or sports, or food. I get so many irrelevant pitches - if the PR person emailing me had actually taken a glimpse at my coverage, they would know the angles aren’t relevant either to my beat or to BostInno as a whole. It’s equally important to know the publication’s audience when you’re pitching a journalist. BostInno has an edgy tone. Our readers are largely 20-somethings and 30-somethings. So if you’re trying to get me psyched about a tech company based on a super dry concept that’s difficult to comprehend, that’s going to be tough. And if you’re still sure it’s something worth covering, then make sure you do it in a way that very clearly helps me understand why it would pique our readers’ interest.

What do you love about the city of Boston?

The sense of community here. We band together like a small town would, yet we have all the awesome resources and businesses and other perks of living in a major city. The camaraderie here is particularly advantageous for startups. There’s this overall feeling that everyone supports everyone else. I don’t think you get a lot of that in other cities, where it’s more of an “every man for himself” mentality. It’s not just in the tech and startup world, either. The restaurant industry here holds so many events and meetups—everyone knows everyone else and you get the feeling that everyone gets genuinely excited for one another’s successes.

What are you passionate about outside of your journalism career?

Singing. Fitness. And, if I’m being honest, eating.

What is one goal you’d like to accomplish before the end of 2015?

In relation to my job, I’ve been asked several times to be on the judging panel at a startup pitch event and it hasn’t worked out with my schedule, so that’s something I’d like to do.

Outside of my job, my new goal is to get a basil plant, grow it, and make a mean batch of homemade pesto.

Our Ode To KNOWvember

This month, we thought a lot about what we as a team are thankful for when it comes to our careers in digital marketing and PR. We are, of course, always thankful for our clients, industry colleagues and teammates. But we thought we’d also share what we’re grateful to have learned during our years in the industry – thus, what we know and what we know to say no to as marketers. Click on the infographic to read the details.

Happy KNOWvember!


10 Grammar & Spelling No-No’s for PR Pros

proofreadingIf the number one thing on which PR people are judged is our reporter rolodex, grammar and spelling savvy ranks a close second. Make sure you don’t fall prey to some of these common mistakes:

No. 1: Your & You’re
“Your” is possessive, as in “your client” or “your press release,” when “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.” A handy tip: When in doubt, insert that phrase (you are) into the sentence, and use it if it still makes sense.

No. 2: Its & It’s
Same idea here – “its” is possessive, as in “the early bird got its worm,” whereas “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.” Try the same swap in a sentence – you wouldn’t say, “the early bird got ‘it is’ worm,” right?

No. 3: Numbers
According to AP Style, numbers one through nine should be written out, and figures should be used for 10 and above. (Bonus: When writing percentages, always use numerals with the word “percent,” not “%.”)

No. 4: Fewer & Less, More Than & Over
Use “fewer” with things you can quantify (e.g. fewer than 10 pieces of coverage), whereas “less” is used with hypothetical quantities (e.g. Their launch was less successful than ours). Along those same lines, “more than” is used with numbers, where “over” generally refers to spatial elements (e.g. She sent more than 25 tweets; I positioned the logo over the text in the document).

No. 5: Complement & Compliment
To “complement” something is to add to or supplement it (e.g. That color really complements your complexion), whereas a “compliment” is an expression of praise or admiration (e.g. That color looks great on you!).

No. 6: Into & In To
The word “into” answers the question, “where?” – although it doesn’t necessarily need to be a physical place (e.g. I walked into my office). The words remain separate when they happen to show up next to one another in a sentence (e.g. My boss came in to see me).

No. 7: E.g. & I.e.
The abbreviation e.g. is Latin for “exempli gratia,” meaning “for example.” The abbreviation i.e., on the other hand, stands for the Latin “id est,” meaning “that is to say.” Here’s an example: “We like social media—e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.” Or you might write, “We like social media—i.e., we’ve made a point of connecting with others.”

No. 8: That & Who
Always use “who” when referring to people. Otherwise, if you say something like, “employees that are present today in the office,” you’re referring to them as objects.

No. 9: Affect & Effect
“Affect” means “to influence” (e.g. This heat is affecting my ability to concentrate), whereas “effect” is a result (e.g. The heat has had an effect on productivity levels in the office).

No. 10: Alot & A Lot
Trick question! “Alot” is not a real word, so always be sure you separate the two. And, when in doubt, try to replace it altogether with a number or something like “many” or “ample” to sound more professional.

The Perfect Pitch In PR – Not So Different Than Baseball?

With headquarters in Boston, the PerkettPR team is naturally composed of many sports fans. As we gear up to watch the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, keep an eye on the Red Sox and their unique manner of winning, and listen to the controversy over the New England Patriots‘ most recent player acquisition, we can’t help but think about how PR is often a lot like sports. It takes a team to win, but each player must be at their best and support each other. You’ve got to keep an eye on the ball, practice a lot, and analyze your plays in order to stay ahead of the competition. If your pitches aren’t quite right, you’ve got to recalibrate or sometimes pull the player. You’ve also got to deal with tough management decisions and sometimes you have to rebuild after a bad season where things didn’t quite work out the way you had planned.

In particular, we liken PR to baseball – how could we not with all those PR “pitches” – in the graphic below. What do you think – did we score?


It’s All About the Details

Details have been on my mind lately – you know, the nuances in life that make life, well – interesting. I thought this topic would be a personal blog post, because the details that have stood out to me recently have been pretty personal. One of our three dogs passed away recently – a sad first for our family – and while the event itself was huge, it’s the little things that stand out the most in regards to his absence. The way my youngest son still pushes his plate back from the edge of the table because the dog used to steal his food, the empty chair in our bedroom where we’d find him every morning, the fact that I can put bird seed in my bird feeders again and not have to worry that the dog will eat it. These and many other little details are what remind me every day of the bigger loss.

So how does this post end up here, on our agency’s blog? Because it has occurred to me that it’s the details that matter in business, too. The big events are certainly the most memorable – winning new clients, watching the first sale come through, unveiling your new brand or opening a new store. But it’s the little details in between all these larger situations that really matter – and the little details that help you not only to keep your business up and running, but to beat the competition.

Are you thinking about the little details? Once you win a customer or a client, are you welcoming them and thanking them for their business? Does your website make an interaction with your company pleasant and easy, or are you making prospects work too hard to become a customer? Can they easily find what they are looking for? Do you have a waiting room that’s comfortable or stark? Do you think about simple yet “nice touches” that would make a prospect want to do business with you over a similar competitor?

Once you win a customer or a client, are you communicating with them regularly – but not more than they want? Do you know how your customers prefer to be contacted and how often? Have you asked? When you’re following up with a prospect, do you make them feel personally wanted as a customer? Just this week, a company followed up with me based on an interaction at a trade show (good) but I was turned off by the method (bad) of follow up and it made me not want to do business with them. I understand that companies need to maximize time – that sales leads have to be captured and plopped into databases (we’ve worked with enough sales and marketing software clients – Landslide, Salesnet, RightNow, Genius, etc. – to understand how it works and why). And maybe I’m naive, or expecting too much – but as technology gets better, it seems to me it could also help companies to at least appear to be more personable in sales. When I receive a sales email that’s claiming to understand my business, and want my business, but is clearly a generated “next step” email from a sales automation software solution, I feel insulted – not really wanted as a customer. When they use my login name as the lead – which appears as “christine” because I rarely capitalize when I’m signing up for something online – it’s obvious. It’s a little, tiny detail, right? But to me – it’s a detail that turned me off from doing business with this company. A little detail that turned into a lost sale.

On the flip side, we’ve got a client who – even as they’ve grown from startup to public company – calls each prospect when they trial a product. I remember the first time I tried Constant Contact – the call startled me – it literally happened within minutes of me entering my information online. I didn’t need help but you know what? Knowing that if I did – especially in this day and age of electronic communication – I could get a human on the phone, was a nice touch. It stood out – the call was brief, to the point and not intrusive. I was impressed – and that was before they were a client.

An experience that falls somewhere in between these two is a recent interaction with our bank. They recently upgraded some services for us and assigned a personal Account Manager (great!). He emailed and called me to introduce himself, which was good, but the little details that were missing, some that I felt could have made me a happier customer (and not feeling like a call was wasting my time), were some suggestions or thoughtful interaction. The introduction, in my opinion, could have included something more along the lines of, “We noticed you often do this, and we think this change will make your life easier – do you want to learn more?” It didn’t need to be anything complicated, but just something that showed a personal touch about my business and my banking habits that demonstrate you care about me specifically as a customer.

In PR, one of the biggest complaints reporters have always had is that they receive off-topic, automated emails from PR executives. PR teams do this – using software to automate email blasts – because time is money in our business, literally. Not only can you move faster and thus work on more clients and charge more hours, but the more pitches you get out, the longer a “We Pitched” list you can give to a client, right? Well, I guess that may be true – but the little details, taking the time to pitch a reporter with a custom email or call, mentioning personal details that remind them you know them or you at least know their work and read what they write – are more likely to yield big results. Would a client rather have a long list of “We pitched 100 reporters” – but no coverage results – or a shorter list of “We pitched 10 key publications and here’s the result – 10 quality feature articles”? I’m guessing the latter.

So take time to think about the details today. Whether it’s how you sell, how you service or how you build your business – branding, HR, promotion, etc. – caring about the little details can make a big difference.

How do you incorporate the little details in your daily business?