Sunday, March 2, 2008

May I Have Your Attention Please?

E-Week panel discusses media attention, the CEO profile, and why the product is most important

The business of business journalism has been described as a three-legged stool: a platform created by journalists, business insiders and public relations professionals.

On Tuesday February 26, Stanford Journalism Professor Ann Grimes joined members of all three groups for an E-Week panel discussion about what entrepreneur need to know endeavors how to get -- and when to avoid -- media coverage.

"Our guests approach [the media process] from different angles," Grimes said. "That's an important dynamic for you moguls in the making to understand as you embark on launching your new ventures."

The panel was featured journalist Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief of Forbes Magazine, analyst Charlene Li, vice president and principal analyst for Forrester Research, and PR agent Margit Wennmachers, co-founder of OutCast Communications.

"The company you work for has a character is the world, it has a narrative.

The group touched on a variety of topics, and discussed how companies can manage their public image. Using local start-ups like Facebook and Google, they talked about how to get the media spotlight and what to do when it gets too hot.

"The company you start or work for has a kind of character in the world," Hardy told the audience in Bishop Auditorium. "The CEO often embodies the character of the company."

"I'm sorry about that," he joked.

As an example of the CEO profile, the group discussed a recent 60 minutes piece on Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Panelists Li and Wennmachers were both involved in the project -- with the former appearing in front of the camera and the latter working behind it.

They talked about how the process is a dynamic one, with interests and input varying among participants.

"Months earlier, 60 minutes wouldn't have made any sense," Wennmachers said. "Who's watching 60 minutes? That's where there's growth happening -- that wasn't true six months or a year before."

The panelists stressed that while communication skills are important for pitching a product to consumers, having a good product worth consuming is still the bottom line.

"It's really hard -- without any case studies and any customers -- to say why we need to pay attention to you," said Li.

Although it was evident that the panelists shared differing perspectives about business media and entrepreneurship coverage, they were collegial about any discrepancies.

"There's a famous love-hate relationship," Wennmachers said. "But there's codependency."

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