On the Record: The theme of this blog series is to help inform the PR industry and ensure that we are forming productive relationships with the media.
For this week’s On The Record, the BOCA team had the opportunity to speak with Bruce Rogers, senior contributor to Forbes. Bruce is a managing director of CXO research at the Revenue Enablement Institute. This follows spending most of his career at Forbes as Chief Brand Officer, Chief Insights Officer and founder of Forbes Insights and the Forbes CMO Practice. He is the co-author of “Profitable Brilliance: How Professional Services Firms Become Thought Leaders” which is available on Amazon. He attended Rutgers University and is based in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.
For Bruce’s column, he primarily focuses on:
- The founding idea
- How it came about
- Where the business is today
- Our business model
- Hopes and dreams for what the company can be in the future
- Personal journey to becoming an entrepreneur
To kick things off, can you start with a breakdown of your key audience for your column
So in some respects, what I feel is my main audience are other entrepreneurs. I get a lot of feedback from entrepreneurs who appreciate the stories, both struggles and successes, and read the stories for a sense of inspiration. Of course, the Forbes readership is global, broad and large so it’s much larger than that. We usually get viewership from investors and those in the VC community, as well as the tech community at large.
Great! Can you provide a quick rundown of any tips that you might have for PR people, this could be anything from best practices, including length of pitch, preference of time for pitching, follow up best practices, etc.
Great question because I literally get hundreds of pitches a month and I don’t know if I will be able to get to all of them. I try my best to respond to each one if only to say no. Given that, shorter is better. There’s a core idea that is probably expressed in the first three sentences that interests me.
I write about the intersection of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. I have some general rules, except I break those rules all the time. There is a tremendous amount of entrepreneurs out there that are building businesses all over the world who maybe don’t really have anything to do with technology. With that in mind, I probably am not going to be interested in non-technology focused topics such as fashion or beauty. You would be amazed with how many pitches I get for these topics. I also don’t want to be TechCrunch and focus strictly on startups that just announced a seed round. To me, there isn’t an arch to that story yet as there isn’t a beginning and an end. That’s a news story and isn’t something that I focus on.
I try to focus on the mid-stage companies that have demonstrated traction in the market, most likely a Series B company but then again, that is not a hard rule that I must follow. The story is the most important thing to me. Recently, I wrote a story about a company called Luminous Computing who is focused on photonic computing which could completely change the game. I wanted to hear what they were doing and they let me know that they were 20 months or so from launching. This was unusual for me but I just found it fascinating and wanted to learn more about it. I figured if I find it fascinating, maybe my readers would also find this to be fascinating. So again, I am looking for that range of companies that have demonstrated some level of success.
One last tip, I will not cover a founder that has a Forbes Tech Council account as that is against editorial policy.
One follow up to that. Given that you focus on the founders of these companies, do you feel like having the additional background of the person and the types of activities that they do separate from their business is a factor in how you choose entrepreneurs?
The company doesn’t have to be well known but it should have some kind of demonstrated market traction. Prior to accepting an interview, I do my own research about the entrepreneur. What’s important to me is the personal journey story and what makes them human, what makes them do what they do. I find this completely fascinating in the entrepreneurs that I interview, which are well over 600 founding CEOs. They have all come from different walks of life and from everywhere in the world, but they have some points of commonality.
How do you use social media in terms of finding stories or working with PR people?
Social media is really important to me because it is my primary outreach. Forbes is a great platform in and of itself, but social and search are how everyone comes to Forbes. Everyone finds my stories by coming through social or search, even though they read it on Forbes. It’s really important to me as a distribution platform and as a way to get additional traction for my readership.
Do you still find Twitter to be helpful? We have seen some reporters jump ship and move to other social media platforms.
I am a huge fan of Twitter and have been using the platform since its inception. I think it’s an incredibly useful platform and I know it’s going through some challenging times but I don’t believe Twitter is going anywhere. It will continue to be one of the planet’s most powerful points and ways to connect with other people.
Can you give us examples of a recent pitch that you thought was really helpful and interested in?
One of the most interesting pitches that I ever got had a subject line “How does this former Rabbi find a passion for cybersecurity?” I had to pause and look into this story. It turned out to be a crazy story! He founded a cybersecurity company and never went to college. Only Rabbinical school and English wasn’t his first language. His journey was fascinating to me just as much as his cybersecurity company.
Can you walk us through any trends or topics that you see perform the best on your Forbes column? For example, do AI or security executives garner more attention than healthcare executives?
Think of topics that would be interesting to a general business reader, technologies such as AI have been trending as a topic. I have been writing about AI for probably five years and what I found is there was a lot of AI talk, but now it’s for real. Microsoft is going to buy ChatGPT for however much and it’s going to change the world. Cybersecurity is insatiable because people live it every day and despite my better judgment, I still write about cybersecurity companies because I think cybersecurity is an oxymoron. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, these companies will always have business and will always grow.
I am looking for ideas and themes that potentially are game changing or improving people’s lives. I have written about data companies and how they are improving the efficiency of companies and therefore improving people’s lives. It could be a biotech company that is literally changing people’s lives or has the potential to do so.
I generally try to stay away from ad tech as I don’t believe they are adding anything to humanity, in fact, just the reverse.
Do you have any preference on founders that are more technical in nature? Do you notice any difference in performance between CEO and CTO interviews?
I have done a lot of both but it seems that CEO stories tend to perform better. I would say this though, sometimes there’s a CTO that has a community relative to their technology and I have seen traction from those types of stories.
Has there ever been a scenario where a PR professional approached you with the idea of interviewing an executive that was also tied to embargoed news? If so, do those stories typically perform well?
Those types of stories do perform well, especially if there is a funding announcement but this isn’t as important to me in my decision making. I don’t like to write to embargoes, especially when I am working on 10 stories at any given time. I am not going to drop those stories to focus on your embargoed news and will likely pass.
There are those occasions where they say, “No, we will hold off on publishing our news until you can complete your story,” and those stories perform well so I can work with that. This is especially interesting when the news can show that there is development at this company, that there’s something happening.
I do have a lot on my plate so it will take some time to be able to get to your story. In one scenario, we may schedule an interview one month out, then it may take me roughly one month before I can review my notes and begin to work on the story, then another month before I actually have the chance to publish the story. That’s just the reality of my writing cycle and I would rather be upfront about it with people.
Where do you go to look for resources or executives to interview for a story? For example, do you look at the listicles of top companies from awards that are published by Forbes?
I tend not to look at the listicles on Forbes but the 30 under 30 is of particular interest because I am always looking for new faces that are diverse. I am not going to write about a diverse person because they are diverse but that will interest me a bit more.
Great, this has been amazing! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us Bruce! These conversations help ensure that we as an agency are putting our best foot forward and have a better understanding of the types of items that are and aren’t of interest to your writing!
To stay in the loop for all future stories, be sure to follow Bruce via LinkedIn and Twitter.
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