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Tips for PR Pros

As executive editor for InfoWorld, Galen covers a wide variey of topics for InfoWorld, with a focus on mobile computing. Please contact Galen regarding InfoWorld stories at galen_gruman@infoworld.com. He welcomes input and customer referrals from PR people, whether they represent user enterprises, consultants, analysts, or vendors. Please review the following FAQ to understand how Galen works with PR people and how to best shape your pitches and interactions. The basic principle is understanding that Galen needs to meet the needs of his clients, just as you do, so the most successful approach is to see where those needs overlap.

Q: What topics do you cover?
A: I cover a variety of topics, but my current focus is on mobile computing, changes in the CIO role, and emerging technologies likely to affect how IT delivers technology.What is central to my coverage is a focus on the issues that IT executives and implementers -- as well as tech-savvy businesspeople -- at enterprises (companies, government agencies, and academic institutions) face. You can see my actual stories and what they cover using the Explore links at the top of this page.

Q: What information should I send you?
A: Very little. I do not cover products or industry anouncements such as new hires or partnership deals. Note that repeated sending of such announcements will cause me to flag your e-mail address as spam, which might also affect your colleagues' messages to me.
   The stories I work on are typically based on trends, technology issues, or business issues, so research reports, nonproduct white papers, and simple FYIs on how customers are using various technologies to solve business problems are all welcome.
   Please do not call me to confirm that I got your press release. If it didn't bounce, I got it.

Q: When I have customer references, what should I keep in mind?
A: Typically speaking, they can be in almost any industry. The key exception is that I rarely will interview tech providers as customers, as their role as vendors to our readers makes readers distrust them as how-to examples. I usually interview customers in the U.S. and Canada because that's where my publications' audiences usually are, but I'll consider contacts in other countries such as in Europe and the Caribbean if they speak English and if their business challenges are similar to those in North America.
    The key is that the customers wlll talk about their strategy, goals, results, and experience. It's fine if they plug the vendor who helped them, but note that none of these stories are promotional pieces, and if the customer crosses the line into cheerleading, you can expect the story will omit any such information. The vendor will typically be cited as the customer's provider, so readers will know who helped.
    Keep in mind that I work in the Pacific time zone. When calling, keep that in mind. And when proposing interview times, please be sure to specify the time zone you mean — after all, we may not be in the same time zone and thus be talking inadvertantly about different proposed times.
    It doesn't matter to me whether I call the customer, the customer calls me, or you set up a conference line. I'm also fine if a PR person from the vendor and/or customer is on the line, but please do not jump in and "manage" the client or add product pitches; that just shuts down the conversation and usually makes the interview worthless. Obviously, correct any misstatements.
   Note that the deadlines I post for stories are real. I generally have two to four weeks to report for any feature story, though usually just two. For my Mobile Edge blog, I might have just a day or two. So timing matters. And proposing interviews for the last day of the deadline is risky, because I schedule interviews on a first-come, first-served basis. If you found someone at the last minute, chances are others have already booked my time. Feel free to ask, but understand that there are just so many hours in the day, and the later the trigger is pulled, the greater the chances are that I can't make it happen. If it helps, give your clients an earlier deadline.

Q: How can I get you to talk to the vendor I represent?
A: It depends on the story. Generally speaking, InfoWorld features are more hands-on in terms of product and technology, so they involve a mix of vendor, user, consultant, and analyst sources .Our blogs are more trends-oriented, so vendor interviews that would appeal to me for the blog are usually about the broader technology issues, not product details. If your client wants to show his or her thought leadership mettle, not pitch a product, that's the right kind of proposed interview.
    Do note that vendors who use interviews to read off marketing presentations or focus on selling their products are wasting my and their time; anything that makes it into the story will be based on what readers care about, which is not another sales pitch. Vendor clients should thus be prepared to discuss real customer needs, how the technologies work in practice (including limits of applicability), and so on. Vendors who can talk credibly about underlying technology issues and needs are the ones who get quoted, because they are bringing real value to the readers.
    Note that I almost never do vendor meetings outside of a specfic story (and even then it's infrequent), since my focus is on what users do and face. Vendor conversations understandably evolve around their product or service, no matter how characterized at the outset, so they should have those conversations with reporters who focus on products and industry issues.

Q: How should I pitch you?
A: Because I work primarily on technology trends and technology management issues, your pitch should be aligned to one of these story types. And that means truly aligned — I get a lot of pitches that claim to be in reponse to a story I am working on but are near-naked product pitches that have a tenuous connection at best. Let's not waste each other's time with off-target pitches.
    For features and my blog, I talk to analysts as a way of getting a broad picture of what user needs, issues, and approaches are. When I do speak with consultants, I look for those who can tell me about their customer deployments, as opposed to the services they offer.
    I try hard to respond to all pitches within a few days, though I do not respond to those that are clearly off the wall or way off target. Please do not call me to confirm that I got your pitch. If it didn't bounce, I got it.

Q: What's the best way to contact you?
A: E-mail me. I can sort, store, and otherwise manage e-mail correspondence much more easily than phone calls. For example, an e-mail idea that isn't useful for a current story might be useful for a later one, and by having it in my e-mail folder I can follow up when the time is right; I can't easily do that from phone-call notes. I'm happy to discuss specifics by phone, such as explaining the story focus in more depth, but not to handle basic communications.
    If you do call me, call my InfoWorld phone number, (415) 978-3200.