Journalists become news at White Bull

It’s time for the people at the White Bull conference to talk about journalists and, er,  how to make best use of us.

On the dais were Amy Garcia, Hotwire PR; Jane Gideon, Incendio PR; Mindy Hull, Mercury Global Partners; Stewart Townsend, Oracle; and Anouk Jacob, Ballou PR. [Oops, corrected from Balfour after Ms Jacob beat me up.]

The PRs say that they have to dig deep into the companies they represent and understand the brand and the culture from top to bottom. Amy Garcia said it’s important to find an expert on the company to talk to us hacks.  Mindy Hull said that you also have to find the right kind of journalist for the story PRs want covered.

Stewart Townsend said the PR mechanism at Sun was to get snippets by telling journos about deals and the like.

Anouk Jacob said that targeting journalists varies from country to country in Europe. France, she said, can be quite difficult while the UK is easier. Jane Gideon said it’s much harder to build credibility now than it was before the credit crunch. She said that the press are in general more sceptical about stories about funding now.

Ashley Ward, the moderator of the panel and from European Leaders, asked what grabs the journalists. Townsend said that getting customers to talk about installing data centres and the like is practically impossible. It’s easier to get coverage on a blog than it is in the printed media.

A company representative, said Gideon, should be a senior person in the company,and quite often that should be the CEO. The CEO should have the vision and it goes back to credibility, she said. The person who is running the ship should have trust. One of her first clients was Bill Gates – then he was the original geek and you often had to remind him to put shoes on and comb  his hair. But his geekness trumped everything else. Most dull CEOs are trying to be someone else. Gates didn’t fit the norm of what a person should be, but John Scully, ex Apple CEO, was plain dull. You have to dig to find the pieces that can be made to shine and that involves a Martini and a conversation.

Even with a startup you have to come out with a personality, but, she said, if he’s a sexist asshole you have to tone that down. Townsend said startups need to show passion and to be very brave.

And if CEOs are going to tweet, or defacebook or whatever, the guys in companies need to be interesting and not always just talking about themselves or their products and the like.

The nice thing is that the PRs do think it’s important to have relationships with journalists – heck we guess they want to keep their jobs as well as us.