Tag: silly


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.



Is a torrent of BS an effective communications strategy?

Stating what would seem obvious, but evidently is not, your choice of words in your media material reflects how your company conducts business. So if your communications material is a torrent of BS, your credibility is in question before you even get to the starting line with customers.

Consider the release this morning from an unnamed company …

<Blank> Media, the premier source for <blank> advertising, is pleased to introduce yet another dimension to its growing portfolio of media assets: state-of-the-art digital advertising monitors.

Through <Blank> Media, distinguished brand partners now have an exclusive platform – of commercial broadcast quality – to showcase TV advertisements and video footage, as well as multiple static ads, to ultra-affluent consumers in a select, non-competitive environment.

Luxury brands will enjoy exclusivity of message provided by <Blank> Media’s sleek, 46-inch Samsung digital monitors, which are positioned as the focal point in each <venue>. No other brand will share the monitor.

State-of-the-art digital advertising is available to premium brands through <Blank> Media Media in highly-trafficked <venues> across the United States including Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas, Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago.

To learn more about how to broadcast your advertising message to Ultra-high Net Worth …

And so it goes.

State of the art is a meaningless term, particularly when it comes to some as pedestrian as flat panel monitors that millions of people now have in their homes. Laying on the sleek, luxurious, ultra this and that may impress a few people, but will just put others off.

Assuming the target readership for this kind of release is agencies and media planners, the simple message this company should be conveying is that it has a new means to effectively reach the attractive demographic it already delivers at these venues, presumably through posters. Then it should relay some information in terms these readers would actually care about, like age and household income ranges, how they index in interests and buying patterns, how long in the venue, frequency and so on and so on.

To gush out a release like a new opener to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous is a largely wasted effort. Think less about impressing people with empty phrases and more about providing information the target readers can actually use. As it stands, most people won’t read past the state of the art cliche.



DS PR 101: All but squealing with delight at the news

First a mea culpa: I believe I have been guilty of this, because it was what the client wanted and it was too much work to talk them out of it.

Press release after press release has giddy quotes from VPs and CEOs saying they are pleased, excited, delighted – everything short of “we wet our pants!” or “our nipples exploded!” – with mundane arrangements like partnerships and agreements.

You can stroke each other’s egos on your own time, but for the purpose of PR, it adds nothing to the story and is therefore silly and counter-productive. Editors who do more than copy and paste releases are rolling their eyes when they read such lines. They are also  nimbly hacking those quotes out of the piece or skipping right on by the release.

They’re happy that you’re happy … kinda, sorta. But mostly they could care less.

If you want to achieve something more than headline awareness that some deal was done, make your quotes real and contextual.

Instead of “We’re just delighted to be working with such fine fellows …” – and I am not really jesting here with that line – try something more like, “This agreement is critical to our company, because we’ll be adding new capability for our customers, and getting a clear competitive advantage.”

From that, all the readers will make the great leap in logic that you are happy about it.


PR 101 – Remember, they’re not stupid

Strangely, some of the worst work in press releases comes from companies that should have the money and experience to be really good.

Consider this work of art from ABC’s Family broadcast network:

ABC Family advertising sales executives Laura Kuhn and Mark Rejtig have both received increased responsibilities at the network, effective immediately. The announcement was made today by Laura Nathanson, Executive Vice President, Advertising Sales, to whom Ms. Kuhn and Mr. Rejtig report.

Laura Kuhn has been promoted to the newly created position of Senior Vice President, Strategic Sales Insights. She now oversees the revenue planning, sales research and sales marketing teams. Ms. Kuhn previously had served as Vice President, Sales Marketing and Promotions, ABC Family, since 2007.

Mark Rejtig has expanded his current role as Senior Vice President, National Sales Manager. The direct marketing group now reports to him, bringing all ABC Family line sales teams under his direct management. Mr. Rejtig has been a Senior Vice President at ABC Family since 2001.

“Laura Kuhn and Mark Rejtig each have done a tremendous job in bringing our advertisers top value from ABC Family, one of the most popular networks among millennials and viewers 18-49,” Ms. Nathanson said. “We look forward to Laura’s and Mark’s continuing accomplishments as they now widen their advertising sales responsibilities.”

OK, so first, it’s all about Laura Nathanson. Immediately, you can’t help but think this is someone you don;t want to meet, right or wrong. She could be Mary Poppins for all we know, but she comes across as Cruella de Vil.

The second and third paragraphs are just fine – who they are and what they do.

Next paragraph has the dreaded manufactured quote – in which people are quoted in a way about as far removed from conversational, and therefore believable, as could be imagined.

Finally, in the 5th paragraph, we get the nut of the story:

The expanded roles of Ms. Kuhn and Mr. Rejtig follow the decision by Joe Gallagher, former Senior Vice President, Sales Strategy and Planning, to leave the network to pursue other business opportunities.

So Joe got bingo’d and these two are filling his shoes. Aha!

When something happens, just report it. Don’t bury and hope no one notices. Pursue other business opportunities is code for he was punted. Everyone knows it. People are not that stupid. And don’t frame it up in a way that makes the protagonist look bad.


The faces of the staff have been obscured to protect them from something, I guess

The photo is a slice of a larger one that graces the first page of a case study/news piece from an unnamed software company about the work they are doing with a partner for a retail furniture chain.

The piece itself is fine. Looks very polished. Has good information. But it all goes kablooey because there was obviously some issue with permissions for showing the faces of the two women that were part of the photo. Either they refused. The store refused. Or the work to get the permission wasn’t worth the bother.

My only other conclusions are that the two are in a witness protection program, or are really terrible at applying makeup.

My point – that little bit of Photoshop work to “hide” the identities completely kills the polish of the piece, and sets the wrong tone. Instead of wondering what this piece is all about, you’re left wondering what’s going on here???

You either use the photo as planned, or get another. This was a bad compromise.


DS PR 101: Don’t invite people people to drop by, and then lock the marketing door

On Twitter this morning, a European software company breathlessly hyped how something big was coming, and then two hours later released the exciting news that a “preview” version of its Website was now live!!!

So please come by and please pass the excitement along …

Dutifully, I clicked through because I had not heard of this company before, and was therefore curious. Website has nice, simple layout. Good. Vague value statements and silly statements like “Simplified by geniuses.” Not so good. Links from main page briefs to “Learn More” that go to a contact form. Dumb. And annoying.

Two things here:

1 – When companies finish their Websites they tend to be far more excited about that than the people who visit the sites. Announcing a sneak preview of a corporate Website is just nutty. Turn your new Website on when it is really ready to be seen and provides value. Even Apple, in its preview of the iPad, has extensive information about the coming product on its preview pages. You don’t get to do teaser campaigns when there are roughly 300 companies who have the same product you think people will be excited about.

2 – The old saying about only having one chance to make a good first impression applies here. Asking people to come visit your company’s Website, and then giving them nothing but a handful of empty marketing phrases and a frustrating call to action to fill out a form, is a fabulous way to ensure those people won’t return.

Don’t ask people over, and then lock the door, turn off the lights and sit in the kitchen oblivious to the irritated people who are ringing the doorbell.


DS PR 101: Don’t pretend something didn’t happen

I don’t write about companies to embarrass them, so I almost never actually run the company name in the post. Most people will know who this is anyway, but here goes:

BLANK, a premier provider of digital signage and networked media solutions, today announced the addition of team members in the roles of business development, sales, and solutions management.

A GUY joins BLANK as President and will focus on business development and driving further growth and adoption of BLANK’S solutions in the market. Blah blah blah, and furthermore, blah …

The release this week goes on to talk about some other people who have been hired and how excited everyone is. Yippee!!!

What the release doesn’t say, anywhere, is A GUY is replacing DIFFERENT GUY who has been the president and highly visible face of the company for many years. This is the guy who all the company’s clients and business partners know. There’s nothing in the release about the departure, nothing about his choosing to pursue new opportunities. Mutual agreement. Just nothing.

I don’t know what went down, but the guy is highly respected and was front and center at the company’s booth at the industry’s biggest trade show only two weeks ago. By issuing press that ignores the big orange polka-dotted elephant in the room, the company is creating the perception that the departure was unpleasant and that it is no one else’s damn business.

My guess is that’s not really the case at all, and it was more like differences in opinion and direction that weren’t going to get resolved.

When something big happens, that your industry and your clients are going to notice and talk about, don’t try some silly misdirection by celebrating one part of the story and forcing people to draw their own conclusions about the other, more interesting half.

Be open and direct, and the response will be, “Oh! Interesting …” Be evasive or pretend it didn’t even happen, and you create a nice big, dark cloud over your company.

In such a crazily competitive, hard to differentiate industry like this, you need to carefully manage perceptions.


Are minor hires worth announcing? Probably not.

A company in the sector just put out a press release about its hiring of four people.

On one hand I am happy to read people are hiring again, as there is no shortage of people looking for work and that’s not going to change for a while. On the other hand, big whoop.

Press releases by software development companies that are well-established in the space are warranted when a big name is attracted and hired in. Someone who makes readers think, “Oh, well look at that …” It is warranted when a senior or thoroughly strategic position is filled.

It is not, however, warranted when the hires are support staff and back-office folks who do good work, but will provoke no more than a shrug from the industry or clients. Press releases like that, inadvertently, make people wonder if there is much really shaking around the place, if that’s the only thing they’ve got for making some hay.

If it ain’t news, it ain’t news, and some bot news portals picking it up verbatim doesn’t make it anymore so.


DS PR 101: Contain your ego

A press release this morning from a guy who was leaving his gig and going out on his own as … something … (it was far less than clear) … started with the guy proclaiming himself a luminary.

Don’t. Just don’t.

It’s meaningless to most people, but all the wrong people will jump all over it and make all the wrong hay with it.


Think, write it out, then think again, then think again, and only then click on Publish

I just sent a note off to an unnamed company.

They are unnamed because I like their product and their general approach, and as noted in the past, this blog was not created as some weird writing hall of shame.

Someone, in this case, has been given the keys to the corporate blog, and instead of driving the blog by the cool kids and showing off, the kid with the keys is going up on the sidewalk trying to run the cool kids over.

Not a great idea.

Without going into detail, the company’s blogger is making seriously odd assertions and slapping around the industry as a whole by suggesting pretty much everybody – except his company – has it all wrong.

Well, there’s a slight chance he’s right. But only slight.

His saving grace may be that few people actually read company blogs, because most of those kinds of blogs in this industry have precious little to say other than, “We’re swell!” and “We just released some more stuff that makes us even sweller!!!” These blogs have a role, but are not reliably updated and therefore have no substantive audience.

There are some very notable exceptions to that rule, of course.

A company blog can be a useful mechanism to help existing clients and enlighten potential customers, but’s it’s rare when one bubbles up that’s actually good and not just an exercise in Tarzan chest beating. In this case, the blogger is banging stuff out without, I gather, really thinking through what happens after he posts the piece.

This is a small industry still. Stuff gets around quickly. Twitter can get all kinds of people suddenly reading a post the writer might have thought few would see. The low road is rarely the right road. And your company will be spotted on it. An industry friend note about these guys: “Maybe they should accomplish something before they declare victory.”

As someone writing for your company blog, consider these steps:

Think about what you want to write. Then write it out. Read it again. Think about how the audience will react and what that means. Then think it through some more.

Then, if you are comfy that the benefits outweigh the negatives, hit the Publish button.

If you have any sense your post may stir up some shit you didn’t want stirred, save it as a draft and sleep on it. Even if your blog readership is minuscule, search engines pick up just about everything. So unless you really want to “own” your statements, and are ready to defend them inside and outside your company walls. think carefully about where your opinions might be read, and what goes down as a result.