Bosses/clients who think they get it

Last week I listened to a prominent tech investor praise what we call newsjacking to three of his peers. But he literally thinks his PR people don’t know how to do this.

He was talking about a political outsider who is getting more than his share of attention. Of him, the VC said:

When an issue is going viral, he jumps in. It’s very important that he’s doing it so quickly because … if you wait ‘til the next day, and the news cycle moves on, you missed it, right? There’s only one way to do it, which is not to have surrogates, not to have a process.

Then he contrasted this newly realized “correct” way to manage a news cycle with how his PR teams over the years have operated.

…Our portfolio companies, they run it through all these PR people and a PR agency, and it gets reviewed. By the time it goes through its tenth draft, it’s too late. It doesn’t go viral.

Hearing the other three VCs agree made me smile. I gotta believe that their PR teams have BEGGED for quicker decisions to capitalize on timely news.

Now, in a different context, these business leaders think they’ve “discovered” this. Amazing.

This convo comes from a podcast called “All In,” where four friends and investors, all successful tech execs, give their often conflicting opinions. (The newsjacking discussion starts about 1:54:20.)

I share this not to vilify or mock. Those guys have forgotten more than I’ll ever know about running a company, and newsjacking was obviously really low on their priority list.

It’s clear: Executives think way differently than we PR folks. So differently that our assumptions about what they actually understand about our work can be way off.

It’s our responsibility to understand how they see the world, and make our case in their context and perspective. Not the other way around, as frustrating as that may seem.

Seek out podcast interviews with executives whom yours admire. Find some to follow on social media, but only if they actually post for themselves. Even if – ESPECIALLY if – they demonstrate opinions or attitudes you disagree with. They’re giving you a free window into how YOUR bosses and clients tick.

Just because I listen to a podcast episode doesn’t mean I endorse the podcasters’ takes. In fact, some of these “All In” guys promote ideas I heartily oppose. Don’t get distracted by the political setting of this example.

The takeaway is purely non-partisan: It’s surprising how little your execs and clients understand about your work, even though they may think they totally get it.

Thoughts on using ChatGPT to help with this piece

After last week’s newsletter, plenty of readers thanked me for including some of the prompts I used to ask ChatGPT to help me edit it. So here’s more of the same.

This edition didn’t flow as easily for me as the three or four before it. I had the concept and outline imprinted in my brain as soon as I heard the podcast. But in sitting down to write, the verbiage didn’t sing for me. I pounded it out to about 550 words, then edited it once myself. I then fed that second draft into ChatGPT with this prompt:

Here's an email newsletter item targeted to PR professionals, who are often frustrated that their executives and clients don't understand their work. I want this to be written in a very factual yet conversational tone. Clear, concise, and concrete, yet with my own distinct voice. Please suggest 10 edits to improve the piece. Don't make the changes yourself – instead point out the weak segment and suggest a better way for each. Here's the piece:

All 10 suggested changes were too monotonous. So I then prompted:

Those changes are too formal. I'm not asking you to make this more professional. It's already the right tone and style. I'm just looking to make it more concise and more clear. Suggest 10 changes that reduce word count without losing any meaning.

That did the trick. I used three of the 10 suggested edits, and somehow doing those helped me see other tweaks I could make on my own. Got the word count down to about 450. Then I gave it this copy editing prompt:

Here's the new piece. Please copy edit it – point out any typos or grammar errors, or any other copy edits.

I can’t be totally confident in the results, because it preserved the “10 suggestions” format of the previous prompts, and only two of the suggestions were actually objective copy errors. The rest were more clarity-driven that I didn’t implement. I thought, maybe that’s because those were actually the only two copy errors? And then Samantha, my foolproof IRL copyeditor, reviewed the piece, and she found and fixed two more.

This article was originally published on August 10, 2023

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