“Influencers Who Inspire” – Interview with Jessica Bartlett, Boston Business Journal

We continue our “Influencers Who Inspire” series with Jessica Bartlett, Health Care Reporter for Boston Business Journal. Jessica shares what types of stories she is on the lookout for, her favorite book and more.

 

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Tell us a little bit about your role at BBJ?

I’m the health care reporter at the Boston Business Journal, which has me covering everything from hospitals to digital health companies to promising research to policy makers to insurers to startups to the occasional biotech and pharmaceutical story. We have digital newsletters we put out throughout the weekday and a weekly print product as well, so my time is split writing content for these products.

You are very passionate about writing and publishing. What is your favorite book or author?

My favorite book is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The writing is beautiful, and the character development is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It is a talent to write characters a reader can hate but still understand.

As a child, what did you envision yourself doing? Favorite subject in school?

As a child, I wanted to be on broadway! It was a career I had in my mind through high school, with decades of dance lessons and dozens of plays under my belt. But I wanted a job that would give me health insurance (irony, now that I cover health care), and the reality of always looking for work seemed overly stressful. I’ve always loved to write, and English was always my favorite subject in school. I decided journalism was the best way to do something artistic while still making a living, and came out of picking classes during orientation at the University of Vermont and declared to my mother that I’d be a journalist.

How did your education prepare you for your role today as a journalist?

My preparation for journalism truly happened outside the classroom — I worked for the school newspaper at the University of Vermont and learned how to write for a newspaper there. During an internship at the Patriot Ledger, I learned what professional newspaper writing should look like and be. I don’t have a degree in journalism (I majored in English and Studio Art with a focus in photography), but my education offered me a love of writing and reading, and a general curiosity about a variety of subjects — perhaps the most helpful part of my education. As a journalist, you never know what you’ll be covering, and curiosity and a desire to learn has always been my biggest asset.

As managing editor of your collegiate newspaper, what was the most interesting part of your role? Most challenging?

The most interesting part of being managing editor was being able to have a broader view of what we were doing as a paper, and all the people who worked within it. I read every article before it went to print, had meetings with editors to come up with ways they could better manage their writing staff — it afforded me a great view of a paper’s entire operations, and allowed me to have a more meaningful impact. Most challenging was perhaps running a newspaper filled with my peers, none of whom were paid to be there. But I learned a lot about leadership and people, that you have to manage personalities, hold people to high standards, but appreciate that they showed up.

As a reporter covering healthcare, what types of stories are you always on the look out for?

I’m looking for health stories that haven’t already been covered, and are things people will want to read — whether it’s why Medicaid insurers are losing millions, a breakthrough diabetes treatment or the new app that could change how people interact with their health. Because of our readership, I’m also looking for news that has a direct tie to Massachusetts and has a tie to business, even if it’s that the discovery could one day lead to an industry partnership or drug.

Do you feel PR folks are helpful and if so, in what way?

A helpful PR person is like a waiter, in that he or she is friendly, brings me what I ask for in a timely manner, recommends things I might truly like and is cognizant of my time. An unhelpful PR person is like a bouncer, in that he or she stands between me and what I’m looking for, bars me access to exciting things, and makes me jump through lengthy and exhausting hoops to gain entry. I have many valuable relationships with PR people that I talk to frequently, I also receive many pitches from others who seem to be pushing me content from a client, rather than thinking through news I might be interested in receiving. It truly is a mix.

What is next for you for the remainder of 2015?

The Boston Business Journal has some exciting events to look forward to, including our 40 Under 40 event and Power 50. I’m also working on a number of exciting stories that I’m eager to share with readers. On a more personal note, I’m getting married in September!

Persuasive Picks – Week of August 3, 2015

“Less Than 10% Of Companies Are Using Marketing Automation, Here’s Why”, authored by Forbes contributor, Mike Templeman, discusses the important topic of marketing automation. This technology has been around for half a decade, but companies aren’t utilizing it due to an upfront time consuming implementation process.

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Entrepreneur contributor, Rocco Baldassarre, reports on 5 online marketing tips for entrepreneurs. These tips include social media, testing new advertising channels, upselling and more. The article called “5 Online Marketing Basics Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know” also recommends utilizing tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook advertising.

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Burson-Marsteller tops the list of PR firms in PRNewser’s “PR Agency Report Card (Part 1)”. This annual ranking of PR firms highlights the champions of communications in the PR world.

“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.

Persuasive Picks – Week of June 15, 2015

Forbes contributor, John Rampton, shares 10 SEO Tips For Marketing Your Startup in 2015. Check out his ideas on how to keep it simple and focus on target key words and upfront research. According to Rampton, the new face of the Internet requires a fresh strategy when it comes to developing SEO that works to keep your business relevant in search engine results.

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Recent research by Wayin finds that real-time marketers are funneling more money toward such tactics (RTM), and they’re reaping the benefits. This emarketer article called As Real-Time Marketing ROI Increases, Spending Follows evidences that Real-time marketers are in it for the relationships, event promotion.

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Rounding out the week with a little humor, PR veteran pens an opinion piece for PRWeek called In praise of the PR chaos, which pokes fun at the industry. Author Lottë Jones explains the glamorous life of PR to college students.

 

10 Things PR People Should Do Every Workday

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In keeping with the spirit of the New Year/new leaf theme for January,
we’ve been trying to harness the burst of resolution motivation to establish
habits that lead to better efficiency, productivity and effectiveness, both
personally and collectively, this year. And one source of inspiration was J.T.
O’Donnell’s article on LinkedIn about her approach to the “how do I get it
all done” conundrum.

As the time-pressed CEO of Careerealism Media, O’Donnell suggests that we limit our daily to-do list to 10 things, which includes a mix of job tasks, social chores and developmental goals. Now, before you ask – yes, she does more than these 10 items every day, but these, she says, are the 10 she chooses to do with consistency because they’ve proven the best way for her to grow her career and business over the years.

This, of course got us thinking, “What would the list look like for PR professionals?” Again, these aren’t the only things we think you should be doing each day, but rather a list of suggestions to help promote growth over the next 12 months. So see below for our ideas, and feel free to add your own two cents in the comments!

1. Scan the news. Take 10-15 minutes every morning to do this — and not only the top national news, but also the news in your company’s or clients’ industries. It’s a good way to stay on top of industry and competitive developments, not to mention it’s a necessity for identifying news jacking opportunities.

2. Make a to-do list. As every PR pro knows, ours is a reactive business, which means planned activities can get pushed aside easily. Stay organized and on track with daily task lists that keep you accountable to the proactive and maintenance items that often get overlooked in the heat of the (inevitable) times of crisis.

3. Contribute to the conversation. We’re talkin’ social media here, but the key is to keep it meaningful – not mindless. Find a handful of valuable articles, blog posts, infographics, etc. that pertain to your clients and their industries, the PR profession, or even just business in general, and share with your network.

4. Learn about a new tool or technology. This means not only familiarizing yourself with your clients’ products and services, but their competitors, as well. Got an interest in a particular area? Bone up on a new site, app, tool or technique, and teach your colleague so you can all be knowledgeable about what’s out there.

5. Connect…offline. Step away from the computer. Yes, cut the digital umbilical cord, and go grab a cup of coffee with a client, invite a reporter to happy hour, attend a local conference or try out a new network event. After all, business is about relationships, and you can’t keep connections as strong behind a keyboard.

6. Write. It’s probably the task that gets pushed off to the last minute because there are emails to answer, calls to make, and just about any other task seems more appealing than staring at a blank page with a blinking cursor. But flex the writing muscle, and it WILL get stronger.

7. Get momentum with media. Keep goals focused, actionable and realistic – then chip away at them each day. Start with a short list of six to eight media outlets that are a good match for your client, research contacts, get to know them, read their content, get creative with your pitches and connect with them accordingly.

8. Engage your clients. Ask questions that will help you understand their situation better. Make time to regularly check in with them to get to know how they think and feel, and encourage them to share observations regarding the progress of the project and your performance so you can course correct before it’s too late.

9. Make it measurable. Force yourself to develop and adhere to a method for tracking metrics. Not only does it allow you to create a benchmark for progress, but it also provides a means with which you can communicate those intangible successes to your clients. Just keep the process seamless, simple and straightforward.

10. Do stuff that inspires you. It sounds fluffy, but it’s arguably the most important: Allow yourself the space to get creative, let your mind wander and explore your imagination. It feels contrary to marching toward those business objectives, but granting yourself permission to dream is really when the best work happens.

 

Photo/Image by David Carpenter