Tag: definition


Six clues to getting better technology press coverage

Across the pond and along the Thames, Adrian has a rant up on DailyDOOHabout the sorry state of press releases he gets all day, every day, from companies looking to get some love and attention in that blog.

He kindly mentions that when he gets press from pressDOOH, it’s actually useful and ready to go.

I am in this very weird position of being someone who develops press material for companies (among a buncha things), but also gets pretty much the same gush of PR material as DailyDOOH, as companies look to get a mention on Sixteen:Nine.

Adrian nicely covers off the formatting and ease of access issues, so I thought I would add to his rant by mentioning the other area – content quality – that plagues a lot of the press stuff that gets sent my way.

1 – Not getting to the point. In newspaper parlance, it’s called burying the lede. If I have to wade through seemingly endless blabber about “leading global provider” and “state of the art” before I finally start to build a picture of why this was sent to me, it’s either going to get ignored or – if your timing is bad and I am cranky – the press you get may not be what was hoped for, at all.

2 – Teeing up useless quotes. I completely ignore quotes that start with “We’re pleased …” or “We’re delighted/excited/thrilled/emptying our bladders …” I also ignore quotes that sound about as natural as something in the mission statement of the Maine Society of Retired Actuaries. Most press release quotes are invented, so there’s no reason why they cannot be natural sounding and enhance a story. Quotes are a great tool to reinforce the context of something, like, “In the testing we’ve done so far, this has improved performance by ….”

3 – Plenty of jargon, no context. You may have noticed a lot of Sixteen:Nine posts have some spin in them that amounts to my expressing why the people reading the thing should care. Software companies are particularly notorious for issuing releases that spew out lists of new bells and whistles and enhancements that mean something to the developers, but to few others. Too few companies issue releases that clearly state how adding this feature will reduce time or costs to do something by “X” or open up the ability to do “Y”.

4 – Lacking in credibility. It’s not a rampant problem, but there are definitely companies out there that send out stuff that either stretches the truth or carefully leaves out important details. If I don’t believe the release, I’ll tend to hit the delete button, or go the opposite way and call the company out. It usually takes very little searching to unearth the truth.

5 – Using filters and gatekeepers. If, as is too often the case, a news release doesn’t properly anticipate follow-up questions, someone should be ready on the other end of the phone or email to answer questions … within the hour of the release. If the only contact person is from a third party public relations firm, I don’t even bother. I don’t want to be handled. I don’t want to be scheduled. And I definitely don’t want to be monitored during a phone interview by a PR person “just sitting in” on the call. I want to be able to send a note to the CEO and get an answer kicked back directly from the person in the know.

6 – Assumptions of an editor. For decades, press releases were purely mechanisms to stimulate awareness and coverage by the mainstream or business press. The internet changed all that. What most people who generate press releases have failed to understand (and this is baffling) is that a lot of people read press releases straight off PR news wires or off the returns of search results. Even when there is a familiar media organization in the header of a “story” it is quite possibly just an automated feed from a PR service. So this notion that editors will “touch” releases and turn them into interesting, highly readable features is mostly wishful thinking.

There are opinion pieces out all the time trying to make the case that the press release is dead. It’s not. Press releases are terrific marketing and communications tools. The problem is that the formula and process that was used 10-15 years ago doesn’t now work, and too few people realize it. Good press releases tell stories that are complete and credible, and get you interested from the first words.



When IT people do marketing …

BLANK, the software house that develops the BLANK platform for digital signage, becomes officially a “Front Runner” and announces the release and immediate availability of its solution for Windows Azure.

BLANK is the first digital signage software platform in the world available for Microsoft’s Cloud Web Signage is the first digital signage software platform in the world available for Microsoft’s Cloud.

The solution consists of web based management application delivered as a service and a player software managing the multimedia content playback on digital signage displays. BLANK Player has successfully passed compatibility tests conducted by Microsoft for the 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 7.

“We are particularly proud of having achieved first, in the software for digital signage arena, this important compatibility goal,” said the CEO, “that will allow us to further shorten the release and development times and increase both scalability and performance, thanks to the great flexibility offered by the Windows Azure platform.

The compatibility with Microsoft’s cloud services of the Windows Azure platform, strengthens the offer towards the international markets: both software and infrastructure will be available as a service supplied through the Microsoft data centers spread throughout the world. Web Signage is always supplied by the nearest Windows Azure datacenter to ensure the highest performances.

Also, thanks to the evolution from SaaS to IaaS, a set of more flexible distribution and resale agreement, including OEM and co-brand formulas will be available to partners.

Nice. Awesome. Now apart from the handful of non-IT people who know what the Azure platform is all about, how many will know what any of this means?

Even if the only people a software company ever sells to are in the IT departments, this sort of release is still missing a critical component:  Why prospective customers should care.

When you are preparing marketing material like releases, always remember to think about what matters to and will intrigue the target audience. Does this make doing things easier? Faster? Better? Cheaper? More reliable? Anything???


Differentiate or perish

It is really interesting to spend many years in this industry, pitching sets of pots and pans and trying to win over prospective customers … and then stepping back from the contest and realizing what’s going on.

Damn near everyone is using the same sales pitch.

I am talking suppliers. And I am talking operators.

When you manage to escape from the bubble that is your company, or the larger bubble that is your general technology or media proposition, you start to realize the sales and marketing pitch – those bullet points that people use to excite prospects – is pretty much the same one the next guys are using. And the next guys. And the next guys.

Everyone is the industry leader. What they do is the next generation. They’re the best in class. The audience is premium. Their medium is highly targeted.

My work now gives me the blissful perspective of looking from the outside in at the industry, functioning as a smarty-pants consultant and communications specialist. I get asked now to help companies pull together their marketing copy and strategy, and enable them to stand out from the many other companies that offer variations on essentially the same products, services or audience.

The problem is … most companies are so busy getting everything else done — to organize, launch and run a technology or media company — that the actual time spent developing a compelling set of marketing messages is minimal. It’s one of those, “Oh crap, we need a sell sheet and some stuff for the Website!” situations, that usually involves someone who shouldn’t be doing marketing pulling together a few points during spare moments.

I have done a couple of competitive analyses for technology companies lately, and what really struck me was how similar the value propositions are between technology companies. Go through 15 company sites and you will find most of them highlighting the things that everybody else is highlighting, like flexibility and scalability and support for most media formats.

Ad network operators are not as bad, but the same issues apply.

Volkswagen markets itself on statements like “The art of rocket science.” It does not plaster signs on its windows reading, “Tires on our cars are filled with air!”

So why, when I go to many Websites for vendors, do I read excited bullet points about Day-part scheduling!!!

Well, woohoo! Peddling features and benefits that just about all your prospective customers already assume you have is not the path to glory.

There are clear indications much of what gets written and trumpeted is a variation on what a competitor has on its site. Chances are, that copy was ‘inspired’ by another competitor’s copy. And so on. Companies need to spend more time thinking about how they set themselves apart from the mob, and far less worrying about how their competitors market themselves.

What is it that you guys do, or have, that makes you different? Are you particularly strong in a vertical market? Does your technology have some whiz-bang component that’s rare or unique? Is there something you are doing that others can’t touch?

There are companies I won’t name who market themselves on technology offers that aren’t even unique, but they’ve nonetheless made that gadgetry their own. They’re the guys who do (insert not terribly unique thing here) and they let people know. Compare that to what most companies go out with, which is essentially: “We’re one of countless industry leaders and we offer the same dynamic, flexible and cost-effective stuff for digital signage networks that you’ll find on the next 14 sites you browse and sell sheets you read!!!”

Try this exercise: Print off your main Web pages and sell sheets and grab some Hi-Liter pens. Underline in yellow those phrases and features you’ll admit are common across many companies, and in another colour highlight those features that are unique or more compelling than common. If there’s a lot of yellow, you need to get to work.

There are many, many reasons why a company might prosper or fail, but a really strong predictor for failure is a company that can’t put into words how it is different and why that matters. The same disciplined work that goes into product development, budgets and staffing needs to also go into how your company goes to market and sets itself apart.

If you can’t differentiate, you perish.


Has the term broadcast quality reached its expiry date?

I had a marketing email blast sent to me by one of the industry portals today, the vendor going with the line: “Broadcast-quality digital signage: Why Settle for Less?”

I perceive something tagged as broadcast-quality to be of high quality, and not some shaky, grainy piece of crap video that might come off an old camcorder. The guys issuing the piece definitely have a product that delivers high-quality motion graphics, as it is their whole background. So they are in no way stretching the truth.

But as I was reading  the piece, I was immediately thinking “broadcast-quality” is a fairly empty assertion.

With the exception of some little flash card-driven sneakernet appliances that can only do standard definition video, just about any PC or even media appliance will push out 720P or higher video and motion graphics that are probably better than the supposed HD signals we pay for from our cablecos. I have definitely seen some platforms that push crappy signals, but the vast majority of solutions out there will push out a broadcast-quality signal.

It’s certainly not wrong to celebrate the high quality of your product, but it’s hardly a unique selling point. I’m thinking “broadcast-quality” is one of those heavily traded phrases that has reached or is getting really close to its expiry date.


DS PR 101: You don't have a premiere digital signage network unless you show first-run movies on it

So really, no big deal. We get the idea that you mean premier. Except premier means first to occur or first in status. Neither premiere, an event that you wear a tux or gown to, or premier applies in the press release that showed up this afternoon.

Premier/premiere is also a variant of one of our buzzwords that must die: leading. Sorry, I meant Leading!!!

Maybe just state what your company does instead?