Peak Communicators
February 19, 2014

Science and Tech PR: How to Find Your Story

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Science can be difficult to understand — at least that’s what people often think.

Though many of the world’s most groundbreaking changes come from the fields of science and technology, these stories can be the most challenging to tell. If you’re trying to generate media coverage for your science or tech company, you’re going to have to get over that hurdle.

Make sure you can answer these questions about your company’s news:

Will your product/discovery save lives or make a difference in the way people live? Is it funny or moving? Find the right hook, and you’re in.

Case in point: the recent “twerking spider” news. Papers about animal behaviour are published every day, but the savvy folks behind this one made a hilarious connection with a current trend, and got tons of coverage as a result.

The essence of your story is NOT a list of the technical details of your product/discovery. Those are merely your supporting points.

Journalists will want to talk to an expert or two who can speak with scientific authority about the significance of the product/discovery. Offer media the chance to talk to a member of your team, e.g. the COO or lead researcher, who can talk about the essence of the story and their role in it, and answer questions on the technical details, if asked.

Bonus points if your expert can give personal anecdotes around the product/discovery. Who are the makers/designers/discoverers and why are they passionate about what they do? Was the product/discovery an accident? Or the result of many years of trial and error? Where did the idea come from? Does the product/discovery have a fun social backstory? A friendship? A romance? These are the stories journalists want to tell.

Journalists will want to support their stories with hard facts and numbers that are derived from reliable sources. Be able to offer a brief summary of one to three of the most salient, including references.

A cool photo or video of your team/product/discovery in action might just cinch the deal for media. Groups of people doing things, cool microscope images, your team racing their robot, one of your successful patients playing with her kids. IBM got everyone’s attention with their recent short film, A Boy and His Atom, a visual that’s equal-parts adorable and stunning that was made using the company’s cutting-edge technologies.

If at all possible, offer visuals of something more than your expert in a lab coat beside a machine. Please.

A little later on in your pitch you’ll need to give some background on how the product was developed or how the research was done. Distill this technical information into less than five sentences. That’s plenty for most journalists. If they need more, they can talk to your expert spokesperson, take a look at your fact sheet, see your website or Google it. If you give too much detail off the bat, you risk losing the story in it.

If you don’t give journalists context, they may not understand just how important your product/discovery is. Give them background information as necessary, again referencing reliable and accessible sources. Make sure you give a short, factual overview that will be equally useful for generalist reporters and journalists that specialize in your field.


Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, lead your pitch with the essence of your story, and support it with human stories, your expert, stats, visuals and background information. Twerking reference optional.

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January 31, 2014

Getting Your Company Message Right

Peak Communicators was recently engaged by a well-established successful Canadian-based company selling internationally. The management group was in a quandary: they no longer knew who they were and where they fit in the marketplace.

The capable managers felt the company’s culture had gone flat, its messages were out of date and they were drifting.

They didn’t know who they were, who they wanted to be, where they were going and why they made a difference.

There was a strong feeling that the thousand plus employees had lost the fire in the belly to forge ahead in a changing marketplace and sales environment. Some new conquests were needed.

In short, they no longer knew what their story was or how to tell it. They wanted a motivational story to provoke change.

A story is a narrative describing an event or series events. It’s not a sales pitch for a product or service.

What is your story?

To resonate, a story must have three strong elements: emotion – information – call to action.

Peak facilitated a strategic brainstorming session with senior managers to unlock information. We developed the topics to be communicated and then filled those buckets with messages. Working with the managers, messages were refined into three key messages per topic.

Change is making somebody or something different. For this company, it had to be positive change toward a clear vision and direction. And it had to be exciting. They wanted a new story to lead the process for change.

Questions asked included:

  • How do you see yourselves? Your products?
  • Why do you do this?
  • How do customers see you? Your products?
  • What is your ultimate product or value proposition?
  • What does change look like to you?
  • Where do you see yourself in one year? Two years? Five years?
  • What would success look like?

A remarkable amount of information tumbled forth during the half-day session. It was an opportunity to re-evaluate, redefine and set a new direction.

The new course should be established by analyzing the data established by the topics and defined by the key messages.

These topics and key messages became the guideposts for all communications: internal for employees, contractors and suppliers – external for customers, prospects and key influencers.

They are also the outline for THE story or stories that everyone can tell.

A communications plan should be a next step to guide communicating the exciting new messages that will give new purpose to employees and renewed motivation for business development and growth.

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January 11, 2013

Making Life Easier On Our Journalist Friends

Journalists are busy people. They have hundreds of pitches flying at them from PRs daily and often have little support or resources. As a result, media pitches have to be authentic, newsworthy and to the point to get noticed. To help them further, it can be beneficial to package pitches up that offer various experts who are able to give different perspectives on the topic in question. This can save a reporter valuable time having to source a third party opinion themselves. Offering to draft an initial article can also go a long way with time-strapped media.

This is what we did to secure a recent hit in the Financial Post. Peak strategically selected several senior client spokespeople and asked them to share the best advice they’d ever received. To make the piece timely, we pitched it in late December so that it could be published in early January to kick off national mentoring month.

Here’s the end result.




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December 21, 2011

PR Predictions for 2012

As another New Year begins, it’s time to consider how PR will change in 2012.

PR is one of the fastest-paced – and fastest changing – industries in the world. The evolving role of the Internet, social networks and new technology affects how people digest news. PR professionals need to respond to this change to ensure clients’ messages reach their intended audience.

So what will happen next year? Here are our predictions:

Content: As the saying goes, ‘Content is King’. This will remain true in 2012. Brands, PRs and journalists alike will strive to source or create unique and compelling content that can be shared, ‘liked’, or re-tweeted via social networks.

Exclusives: Given that breaking news is posted instantaneously online, we expect an increased demand for ‘exclusives’ from print publications. Holding a story until the morning is becoming ever-more important for newspapers.

Print won’t die: There has been much speculation about ‘the death of the newspaper’. This won’t happen in 2012, if ever. People love flicking through a newspaper on a Sunday; the experience cannot be replicated online.

Online content may come at a cost: The Wall Street Journal and The Times are trialling ‘paid-for’ only access to their online content. Given the current dependency on advertising and the looming double-dip recession, we may see Canadian newspapers follow suit to increase their cash flow.

Consumer power: Consumers now have a platform to quickly and collectively lobby companies via social networks; expect to see them capitalize on this opportunity with increasing frequency.

Crises: With the increasing speed of information dissemination, the number and pace of crises will intensify. Companies that do not respond immediately will be criticized.

ROI: The need to demonstrate ROI will increase with the uncertainty of the economy; budgets will tighten and C-suite executives will want clear evidence of ROI before investing further in PR. New tools for measurement may be developed as a consequence.

Pitching: Expect to pitch to journalists more regularly via Twitter and Google Plus; it’s an easy way to get journalists’ attention.

Gadgets: Tablets, particularly the iPad, are changing the way people read news. More magazines will develop apps where readers can interact with the content (e.g. clicking on a revolving image to get a 360 degree perspective).

Government regulations: Expect greater transparency in lobbying activity, particularly in British Columbia. This follows a public education campaign by the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists raising awareness of the hefty fines lobbyists face for not registering their undertakings.

Do you have other predictions to add?

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September 7, 2011

How to Pitch Yourself

In my role as office manager, I review requests for internship opportunities and employment. People want to work at Peak because they are outgoing, influential, great communicators, have an eye for detail, have had experience in media relations – all the things we’re looking for. Surprisingly the majority of applications we receive are sent by email with short cover notes. Very few candidates contact us directly.

As PR professionals, we pitch ideas and stories to media. We also promote and sell our services to clients. We are the best at it because we talk to people and persuade them to cover our story or give us their business. We never just send an email.

If you seek a career with a top public relations firm, pitch yourself. Demonstrate the skills you’ve put on your resume. Sell us.

Strong research skills: prove it

Spend time on the company website; know who you’re applying to, the key players.

Attention to detail: prove it

Proofread your resume for spelling, grammatical or formatting error. Don’t have your resume stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Strong communication skills: prove it

Putting together an impressive resume and cover letter is a good start. List only the experience that is relevant to working with us, or reword your past experience so that it’s clear it will transfer to the new role. Write an impressive cover letter. Call to arrange an informational interview or better yet a meeting with someone in the firm who makes the hiring decisions.

The interview, well that’s a topic for another day.

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