People – The Forgotten Element of Technology

“People are the forgotten element of technology.” – Ina Fried

At Tuesday’s PRSA In The Newsroom: AllThingsD event hosted at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, mobile reporter Ina Fried reminded us PR folk in the audience that people are still the most important, and overlooked, aspect of the technological bubble that surrounds us.

My colleague Jordan and I at PRSA’s In the Newsroom: AllThingsD event

As professionals in a tech-focused public relations agency, we are constantly surrounded by news about all things digital — from the behemoths of Silicon Valley to the start-ups hoping to get an inch in, to apps, websites, and products all competing for a bit of recognition from the most influential journalists in the media. We must always keep ourselves up to date on trends in the industry, so we Tweet, blog, post on Facebook, create infographics and more, but we forget that the most important aspect bringing all of these new tools together is a simple, yet complex one: people.

Without people, we wouldn’t have a reason to be pitching stories. Without people, we wouldn’t have the products to pitch stories about in the first place.

The members of the AllThingsD team presented this simple fact: stories without people aren’t good stories. In fact, according to Liz Gannes, the worst type of story is one in which the only person made happy is the PR person who pitched it.

So what makes a good story? How do we look for ways to engage the people around us? What kinds of stories should we pitch?

In short, a good story has these key storytelling elements:

  • It is more complex than can be summed up in a tweet.

Though we appreciate the microblogging platform that Twitter affords us and its ability to keep news short, sweet, and to the point, the truth of the matter is that few stories can be summed up well in under 140 characters. If it can, then it’s probably not a good story. We like Twitter for its demanding nature of attention-grabbing headlines and creative copy. It’s a fast, real-time provider of trends and news reaching over 500 million people daily. Tweets with snarky, witty comments are shown to get the most traction. Link to your story, and you’ve got a winner. But if your story — from start to finish — can fit into that 140-character box, it’s probably nothing worth pitching, and most definitely not something a good journalist will think worth writing.

  • It has a progression.

A good story flows well and keeps a reader involved from start to finish. If I can learn everything about an article within the first paragraph, I’m not going to read past the fold. Keep me wondering and want me to get to the end of that story. Give me the answer to my, “So what?

  • It has details, details, details about people.

The AllThingsD journalists stressed the fact that people and details about people are what make a story good. A personal touch can easily turn a blah story into a story a reporter wants to write. It’s the small details about the developer who once burnt his toast and was inspired to make an app by it, or how he found his graphic designer at the 24-hour diner down the street. Those little details draw writers and readers in and color stories with little facts that make another app article a little more relatable.

  • It includes something interesting that makes you think and learn.

A good story — a story that a reporter wants to write — contains a fact that makes you think, “Huh!” when you’re reading it. It makes you want to tweet it out to your followers and share it with your friends. Ultimately, reporters are inherently curious. Spark their curiosity and give them something to talk about. You, your client, and the reporters, will be glad you did.

In the end, journalists are people too, and a relationship with a reporter is just like a relationship with any other person. Even among all the new tools, apps, and social media platforms that consume our lives, don’t forget about the people in the process. They are why we do what we do.

Kallie Bullock can be reached at kbullock@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @kallieswaggg.