5 Questions for Lynn Fox, Newly Named Managing Director in WCG’s Tech Practice
W2O Group announced today that it has acquired Fox Communications, a boutique communications firm based in San Francisco. Fox Communications Founder Lynn Fox, widely considered to be among the top communications practitioners in Silicon Valley, will now lead media and engagement as a managing director in the technology practice of WCG, a W2O Group company.
Speaking on behalf of WCG’s tech practice and the agency overall, we are thrilled to have Lynn join the firm. She is a tremendous talent and wonderful collaborator. I sat down with her recently over dinner in San Francisco to ask her some truly penetrating questions about her new gig, how we found her, tech PR, tech press, lessons she’s learned and her advice for tech CEOs.
Q: When I first approached you earlier this year, you told me you weren’t interested. You were very polite about it, but the message was clear. What changed you mind? (I mean…besides my wit and personal charm.)
A: And I was serious too. I was extremely happy with my clients, my work and my lifestyle — I was a really good boss to myself! What changed? Over the period of time when you first started stalking, errr….courting me, I was getting schooled by the tumultuous changes in media. Simply put, while companies in this tech bubble are demanding more press stories than ever before, the bar for landing a great feature story — or even a decent funding announcement write-up — is far higher, because journalists are spreading less time over more tech beats.
Because of that, I have changed religions. I went from being that PR snob who makes career-limiting demands to report to the CEO, to the “marketing ecosystem” snob who wants to bring the religion of data-driven PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned) media strategy into tech culture.
Q: We talk a lot about WCG’s analytics capabilities and how we use them to identify influencers that matter most to tech clients. We, naturally, employed a similar method to find you. Specifically, we analyzed the online engagement between our fellow tech PR practitioners and WCG’s ranked list of the 50 most influential reporters/bloggers in tech. The data told the story of just how connected you are with top tech media (congrats again on your incredibly high ranking). Did our method creep you out?
A: I was creeped out and intrigued, all at once. At first, I thought you were using a marketing gimmick on me, and I was a little put off. But when you explained exactly what you did, and how it worked, I was kind of floored, because on the PR side of things, we had given up on using analytics. I’ve never engaged analytics in a way that really made a difference in PR. Now that I have seen what is under the covers, I am blown away and want to bring that approach to tech.
Q: You clearly have incredibly strong relationships with press. How did you accomplish this and how do you maintain it?
A: Relationships with people are the most cherished part of my life, and that absolutely includes my friends in the tech community — reporters, PR people, marketers, biz dev people, engineers, VCs and everything in between. I absolutely adore the people I get to interact with every day, and I think that comes through.
But that isn’t a very useful or scalable answer to your question. I think tech journalists still pick up my calls and answer my emails because I only bug them if I really think I have a story they want to tell their audience. I value these people’s time, and want to bring them something they really want, even if they don’t know they want it until we talk.
Q: You’ve worked with some of the biggest brands in tech and some legendary CEOs. What are three things you learned along the way that were true moments of clarity for you?
A: I should preface by saying that I’ve learned all of these things the hard way:
- Success is not permanent and failure is not fatal. This is not a new concept, but one that has proven to come true over, and over, and over again.
- Never take anything personally. Full stop.
- Be respectful to every single person you meet. They will either be your boss or your customer some day.
Q: How has Tech PR changed over the past 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?
A: Tech PR as a field has been pretty constant. What has changed is who we engage with, how we engage with them, and how our success is measured. Ten years ago, a feature story in the New York Times had at least a one-day shelf life, and you could track the timing of a business surge with that placement. Today, the same New York Times story has a 15-minute shelf life that will only be extended through social engagement. To surround the right audience with the right message at scale, it takes a much more integrated effort that is supported with analytics that help us get even better over time.
Bonus Q: What advice would you give tech CEOs when it comes to media relations?
A: As soon as possible, learn the difference between a marketing message and news, and you will go very far.