Breaking the Rules

8 Apr

The latest issue of Wired features the Apple logo bound by barbed wire under the headline “Evil/Genius.”  The article’s thesis:  Steve Jobs’ Apple succeeds despite breaking about every rule of conventional business wisdom in vogue today — instead of collaboration, Apple builds walls; instead of openness, Apple gets buzz from secrecy.  And on and on. 

The story reminded me of one of the ‘teaching points’ I liked to make with account executives awhile back at the Big Agency. We used MediaMap and then Bacons Cision to make media lists, and the team would be highly scrupulous about following the contact rules set down by editors and reporters — “email only,” “never call to follow up on a news release;” “in fact, don’t call Tuesday through Friday because I’m on deadline and only between the hours of 7:00 – 8:00 am on Mondays before I get into the office.”  “Never leave voicemails.”

I finally became convinced that reporters submitted these notes to the friendly folks at now-called-Cision to weed out the amateurs.  And lo and behold, our team gained some of its best media hits by picking up the phone on a Wednesday to follow up on a news release. 

The real rules are these:

  • Know your audience — and if you want someone else to write about you, know their audience, too. 
  • Have a great story — and believe in that story.  Your audience can usually tell.
  • Tell that story well — know the core what makes it great — and have lots of ideas of where to go with it.
  • Timing is everything — and you can use it to build an sense of excitement, or match the right story with the right hot topic…or just get lucky.  

Works pretty well for Apple, too.  

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