Provocative Quips and Pitch Tips from Journalist Rockstars Reigned at PRSA Media Predicts
Hundreds of mostly Bay Area public relations professionals gathered Tuesday night at the San Mateo Marriott for the first time since 2019 for the 15th Annual Public Relations Society of America Silicon Valley (PRSA SV) Media Predicts gala.
At the start, President Vanessa Yanez was recognized with the inaugural PRSA SV award for her contributions like helping start the Friday Forum online video meetings; these were effective and well attended because they were free and welcoming to members and non-members alike, highly promoted, and high quality content-wise. The vivacious Yanez served as the host of several online sessions throughout the pandemic, keeping people in the profession connected.
PRSA Silicon Valley President Elect Meghan Fintland presents the 2022 Visionary Leadership Award to chapter President Vanessa Yanez. (Photo credit: Paul Sakuma)
This year’s PRSA SV Media Predicts panelists were Sara Bloomberg of SF Business Times, Biz Carson of Protocol, Martine Paris of Bloomberg, Scott Budman from NBC Bay Area, and Jon Swartz of Dow Jones.
Khosla Ventures operating partner and CMO Shernaz Daver moderates the 2022 Media Predicts panel on December 6, 2022. (Photo credit: Paul Sakuma)
PR folks tend to hang on to every word of pitch advice like a tip from Sara Bloomberg – whom as a reminder, does not work for Bloomberg – that stood out to Hoffman Agency founder, CEO and President Lou Hoffman: “Sobering to hear the journalists on the panel once again lamenting that the PR function continues to mass blast pitches instead of doing their homework on each journalist to customize each pitch. This takes away from those PR practitioners who know how to serve their clients or company as well as the journalist.”
Emily Horn stood up and asked the burning question, “What do you think about exclusives these days?”
Biz Carson complained about offers of exclusive CEO quotes and PR folks telling her she can break a story “five minutes early.” She advised sternly, if you offer an exclusive, give the whole package.
Others said that they appreciated exclusives and encouraged them.
The reporters reiterated what some of us have heard many times: They are not there to write stories all about your clients. They are there to cover several companies and viewpoints. A friend at my table agreed, saying when developing campaigns it would be wise for us PR pros to focus on what’s happening in the world instead of just conveying company news. (Shout out to Table 8!)
‘Rags to riches to rags’, Elizabeth Holmes and AI ethics hot topics of 2022
When asked about their favorite stories of the year, Scott Budman called the Elizabeth Holmes’ trial a soap opera. Sara Bloomberg brought up AI ethics and misinformation. Jon Swartz mentioned a few ‘rags to riches to rags’ leader stories, and how founders were built up and then torn down, like Elizabeth Holmes and Jack Dorsey.
Martine Paris said one of the most surprising stories of the year was “World’s Richest Man Considers Bankruptcy for Twitter.” Biz Carson mentioned a few warning signs about Elizabeth Holmes like, “She had no Silicon Valley investors” and a story by Kate Kaye re: Eric Schmidt and the AI cold war with China.
The prediction that stood out to me was Scott Budman’s. He predicted that since Sheryl Sandberg’s Meta stock is down, she will need to take a job (I think he meant because she needs the money now), and then take a leadership role at Twitter.
Lou Hoffman commented on this provocative prediction, and the general tone of the panel: “I have heard journalists at other Media Predicts dinners talk in a somewhat guarded fashion. I know everyone in the room this year appreciated the unfiltered honesty from the panel. With that said, I’m not ready to bet on Sheryl Sandberg coming to Elon Musk’s rescue and running Twitter.”
Martine Paris said one trend that might take off is the gamification of high yield savings accounts for Gen Z. Sara Bloomberg thinks misinformation will reign in 2023. Swartz mentioned construction tech and the Midwest, and Biz Carson brought up Tik Tok as a big source of news next year.
A feeling of warmth and liveliness
I’ve attended several of Media Predicts events over the past decade-plus and my observation was that attendees seemed friendlier, more pumped, and just plain happier to be in the same room with other people.
As a freelancer, I enjoyed mingling and meeting a variety of people whom I had seen on the Friday virtual meetings several times, even if they work for ‘the competition.’ The PR community came together as one to uplift the profession at this venue.
Volunteer PRSA Silicon Valley board members and event producers at Media Predicts 2022. (Photo credit: Paul Sakuma)
PR firms were well represented including several with dedicated tables, like Edelman, the Hoffman Agency, Hotwire Global, BOCA, Aircover Communications, and Lumina. Zelle stood out as a corporate ‘in-house PR’ sponsor.
“Aircover was thrilled to sponsor Media Predicts this year. The core of our business is earned media relations and we work with reporters every day. It’s always compelling to bring Silicon Valley media together to chat about tech industry trends and predictions for the coming year. We believe it’s important to support both our local PR and media communities to help foster networking, business opportunities, and thrive. To do so at such a fun and informative event is our pleasure,” said Mike Moeller, founder and CEO Aircover Communications.
Jeannie Entin chaired the event with a large hard working team. The panel was moderated by Ms. Shernaz Daver, Khosla Ventures CMO. With a ton of personality and smarts, Daver was an ideal pick.
I met three impressive San Jose State Univ. students among several sponsored to participate in the gala. Heads up to people hiring: At least two of them are looking for summer jobs!
San Jose State University PRSSA and Marketing Association students: Andrew de la Cruz, Kayla Kordill, Jeremiah Lineberger, Caylee Tompkins, and Angelica Cornejo. (Photo credit: Paul Sakuma)
Thank you to the generous people who sponsored students, in addition to myself: Alannah McDermott, Jocelyn Breeland, Emily Horn, and Marika Krause!
Michelle McIntyre is a PRSA SV member and PR consultant. Her new Twitter handle is @fromMcIntyre.
Thank you PR agency founders Lou Hoffman and Mike Moeller for offering detailed and fast feedback for this story.