Deconstructing a Businessweek Story ...


Talk about a mismatch in supply and demand.

Thousands of companies strive for feature stories in business publications like Businessweek, Fortune and The Economist.

Supply can probably accommodate 1 percent of demand (at the most).

So how do you help your company or client be that one in a hundred?

Create a pitch that aligns with how journalists from business titles construct their stories. Too often, satisfying internal stakeholders derails a pitch before it has a fighting chance.



Reverse-engineering a recent story in Businessweek, “China Snaps Up America’s Cheap Robot Labor,” reveals the type of assets that collectively win over business journalists.

Before diving into the specifics — at the core, this is a story about a robot company called Softwear Automation with its customer, Tianyuan Garments, cast in the role of the hero. What’s a little odd is the hero doesn’t have a speaking part. Apparently, Tianyuan wanted nothing to do with the story. Softwear still landed the Businessweek feature by shaping a contrarian narrative.

Everyone knows that cheap labor bootstrapped the China economy to powerhouse status, and here you have a Chinese company forsaking its home turf to build a factory in the U.S. to reduce labor costs.

The lead riffs on this angle:

“Made in America” will soon grace the labels of T-shirts produced by a Chinese company in Little Rock.

Shocking that we haven’t heard President Trump share with the American public how his refusal to take no for an answer made this deal happen.

But I digress —

Even though the hero isn’t talking, the Softwear CEO delivers the payoff from this arrangement: the cost per T-shirt will be 33 cents. I suspect Tianyuan Garments wasn’t thrilled with this detail slipping into the public domain. Doing some back-of-the-envelope math, if the T-shirt retails for five bucks, that’s still a 1,500 percent markup. Not bad.

Next, I’ve captured the quantification in the feature:

  • $20M to build the factory
  • 330 robots in the factory
  • Create 400 new jobs
  • $1.8M grant from the Pentagon-funded Softwear
  • $3.2M in state and county incentives
  • 65 percent reduction in property tax
  • Annual value of China’s garment exports, $170B

Numbers matter.

And note another contrarian vignette as automation creates 400 new jobs.

To fill the void from our hero losing its voice, Jae-Hee Chang, a researcher at the International Labour Organization, and Xu Yingxin, from the China National Textile and Apparel Council, offer perspectives.

Last, check out some of the anecdotal content that glues the narrative together:

  • Developing a robot that can match the dexterity of a human hand is expensive.
  • Stitching a dress shirt with a pocket requires about 78 separate steps.
  • First sewbot made bathmats and towels.




I don’t know if Softwear proactively pitched the story or not.

Regardless, the deconstruction of the story still shows the type of content PR should be putting together in pitching the business media.




  • Daily PR Brief - Mon 10/30/17 - ITK Blog

    […] Your Influencer Marketing Strategy Should Revolve Around PR (Forbes – October 30, 2017) Deconstructing a Businessweek Story on a T-shirt Factory for PR Lessons (Ishmael’s Corner &#8… Content Ideas That Work For Your Entire Business (Not Just A Department) (SHIFT […]


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