Some years ago, I was an editor at a New York-based magazine focusing on business IT solutions. Now that I have switched allegiances to the public relations side of the tech sector (some journalists might call it the “dark side”), I see matters from a fresh perspective.

But whether you’re a reporter covering the tech industry or a PR specialist pitching tech stories to the media, one thing remains unchanged: the importance of securing on-the-record quotes from actual users of  the technology.

At my old magazine, when we determined which leads and pitches we would pursue for a story, we generally followed an unwritten code. It was essentially a “hierarchy of newsworthiness,” if you will. And here is that hierarchy, from most desirable story to least:

  1. The company using the tech solution is willing to speak openly and on the record about it, and share key metrics or details related to its implementation. This would potentially be a cover story at my old magazine.
  2. The company using the tech solution is willing to speak on the record, but only anonymously (not for attribution). This could  easily be one of our featured news articles, provided we could at least reveal which industry sector the business operates in, and assuming the company will share at least a few valuable insights.
  3. We can name the company using the tech solution in the story. But only the solution provider and outside experts are willing to go on the record with details. There is no comment from the corporate user other than maybe a quote in a press release (which is probably written by the vendor’s PR firm).  This might be acceptable for a small news item.
  4.  Basic vendor product announcement—no mention of a specific client’s implementation. At my old magazine, we would almost NEVER pursue this kind of story.

This isn’t to say all publications operate the same way, but I think this neatly demonstrates how as PR specialists we need to lean on our tech clients to, in turn, lean on their business clients to openly participate in media interviews. Being able to not only name, but actually talk to a product vendor’s clients, is a big win to a lot of journalists—enough to be the difference between a story and a non-starter. After all, that’s how it worked for me.