Tag: Website


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.


It’s digital signage trade show season: Time for a Message Tune-Up?

This is a press release issued today:

Marketing communications firm pressDOOH has developed a special program intended to help industry firms “tune up” their communications in advance of the many digital signage trade shows and related events scheduled over the next few weeks and months.

The “Message Tune-Up” program is aimed squarely at vendors, service companies and network operators looking to gain some marketing notice before and during such events as ISE, Digital Signage Expo, GlobalShop, NAB, Kioskcom/The Digital Signage Show and ScreenMedia Expo. The program offers quick reviews, recommendations and updates on marketing and press materials for companies heading into the show season, as well as fast turnarounds on newly crafted material.

“I have been going to these events for years, and know at least a couple of things will happen,” said pressDOOH founder Dave Haynes. “Some companies will remember at pretty much the last moment that they need to get out a release or update their hand-outs or mail-outs. So they’ll do it themselves and it will look like it. Others will hire a PR firm and get something cranked out that is polished but utterly pointless, because the PR writer had no idea about the industry or what the audience was actually interested in.”

pressDOOH is temporarily relaxing its minimum engagement policy for clients as a way to help a wider range of clients who don’t need a full communications program for the  shows, but do need two or three hours to get their material reviewed, tweaked and polished up by a fresh, experienced set of eyes. The most effective material for distribution is work that is clear, concise and relevant to the targeted readership.

“I think it would be refreshing change for everybody in the business if the big blitz of press releases and marketing materials that’s about to start was characterized by substance, effective messaging and far less hype,” said Haynes. “This industry is now at a level of maturity that the target audiences are knowledgeable and a little jaded. Their tolerance for BS gets lower every year.”

pressDOOH is a copywriting and marketing strategy firm working specifically in the digital signage and digital out of home sectors. The company was founded in 2009 by industry veteran Dave Haynes, a seasoned print journalist who has spent the past decade doing everything from running pioneering DOOH networks to selling top industry software.  pressDOOH produces press material, white papers, case studies, sales and marketing sheets and Website copy, as well as does overall marketing strategy, for companies in all aspects of the industry, on three continents … and counting.

The company markets itself on the value of having copy developed by a subject matter expert – usually faster and at substantially less cost than mainstream PR firms with high overheads and limited or no in-house expertise in this sector.

The firm was recently cited by heavily-read industry portal DailyDOOH as one of its Best of 2009 companies, products and people.  “ … there is one place that we do throw work and that’s in Burlington, just outside Toronto,” noted DailyDOOH. “That’s the home/work office of David Haynes, who has made writing a press release an art form.  When pressDOOH has written or massaged a press release, the job of journalist is made so much easier. If only more people used his services.”

The Message Tune-Up program – which drops pressDOOH’s normal minimum hours engagement policy – will be available through April, and subject to available time. Company and contact information can be found at www.pressdooh.com


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.


Fine-tuning your message so that prospective customers notice, and care

This post was also recently posted on the Website of the Digital Signage Association ...

How digital signage and digital out of home companies craft their communications on their Websites, handouts and in press releases is critical to their success.

So why is so much of it so bad?

The industry executives I speak with almost uniformly admit they know they could and should do better, but don’t have the time or resources. Coming from technology, ad sales and retail backgrounds, they also haven’t the insight or experience to recognize the good from the bad.

In the interest of helping better shape the message, here are a few tips:

Figure out what makes your company unique, and go hard with it

For whatever reason this is a “me, too” business, with most vendors marketing themselves on the same general range of features and capabilities that their competitors are also trumpeting. It’s hard to stand out from the pack if all you have to half-heartedly report is the written equivalent of, “Yeah, ummm, we do that stuff, too.”

There will be something your firm has developed, or work your team has done with a client, that is at least uncommon and worthy of a little marketing noise. Maybe your company had to figure out a solution that involved GPS and mass transit? That experience and capability is far more intriguing than telling the world your platform does all that stuff everybody else does, too.

Get to the point

Anyone who has been involved in this sector for a while knows how important it is to have good programming that quickly captures the attention of viewers. The same thing applies with a company’s written communications. Between emails, RSS feeds, tweets and texts, people are carpet-bombed all day with marketing messages. That means your message better make its point quickly, or it will be passed by.

Empty phrases that clutter the opening lines of announcements need to be dropped. The point of your communication can’t be buried somewhere in the third paragraph of your e-mailer. You can’t write something that people need to read twice just to figure out, because they won’t .

Put your key messages in context

When you are banging out your key features and benefits messages, and announcements about new gadgets and gizmos, make sure you do the extra work to explain what that means for your prospective customers.

When your company celebrates the release of a new energy efficient combination of PC and display panel in an all-in-one package, don’t stop there. It’s better described as a technology combination capable of dropping energy consumption for a signage deployment by as much as 25%.

Adding 250 more screens and locations doesn’t mean your ad network is now in 600 locations in five states. The message for prospective advertisers, the ones you’re after, is that the addition of 250 sites means your highly-targeted digital out of home media network is now reaching 200,000 affluent consumers every week.

Think through the whole communications chain

How many times have you read a press release, or the news story that spilled out of it, that was effective enough to send you to the company Website to find out more, only to find there was no “more” to be found?

Marketing and media communications have to be carried through the whole chain. If there’s an announcement, it needs to already be up on the Website and easy to find. The sales people need to be briefed on what it is about so that they can respond knowledgeably and not feel like doofuses. They also need material, ready to go, they can send out as follow-ups to calls, and it shouldn’t be just the same thing the prospects just read.

Meanwhile, existing clients need and expect to get early word of new goodies from their vendor, and to first learn of it on some blog.

Choose your words with care

There are powerful phrases, and there are empty phrases. Good writers choose their words carefully, and think about things like the rhythm and emotion of the message. Most of the people writing copy for Websites, email updates and press releases are doing so not because they like writing, but because they have to … so even if takes forever to prepare, those people spend little time actually thinking about the message.

That’s how the industry has ended up with a vast sea of empty phrases and buzzwords about leading, turnkey solutions and revolutionary, state of the art development. If someone only has to write copy every now and then, there’s a natural tendency to look around and borrow on what other companies are doing. They read three press releases starting off with “leading provider” and figure they better get that in there, too. They see Websites that talk “turnkey” and figure that needs to get in there. The result, every day and everywhere, is yet more of the same blabber.

Whether it’s Website copy, email blasts or press releases, whoever gets charged with doing the writing should ignore what else is out there, forget they ever read phrases like “best of breed” and “taken to the next level”, and think through the messages that would actually resonate with prospective customers and partners.

It’s an after-thought for a lot of companies, but developing the right message that helps drive product awareness, build credibility and boost sales needs the same attention to detail as product and market development. You can have a kickass product, a fabulous network footprint, or do amazing creative, but if you do a bad job of getting the word out, few people will know.


How to write a digital signage press release: Step 5 – Footer

Readers will go to this information if they have made it all the way through the release, because you have done enough to intrigue them. So take it just as seriously as the rest of the piece.

The footer is a distinct, and in some mechanical way, separated paragraph summary of your company. This is where you must, for one last time, not surrender to temptation and rattle off something about Brand X being a leading global provider of groundbreaking, state of the art software thingdoodles. You are restating your credibility, and are far better off stating Brand X is a profitable, 12-year-old subsidiary of Agent 9, one of the world’s largest suppliers of Y. Or something, anything, that honestly tells readers that you are real and not a bunch of knuckleheads who could disappear off the radar as quickly as you came on.

This is also the place where you provide contact information. Ideally, it is for someone who can be reached directly and will be able to speak knowledgeably when asked questions.  You may want to include a specific phone number or e-mail contact, or you may not. You may want to filter inquiries through a main email drop and phone number, and in some cases, even use a third-party like a publicist. This keeps the nuisance factor down, but also means you will get less direct press action because writers in this sector are waaaay too busy feeding the beast to waste time negotiating interviews with a hired go-between.

The bottom line about contact information is to ensure you don’t make it hard work. The day you do the release, if you expect action, don’t have your key person out of town or booked in meetings.

If you really do want journalists to write or call, encourage it with some sort of invitation to call for more details.

If you have a real Website, include it. If you have a Web page with an animated Under Construction graphic, don’t. If you know there will be technical questions, attach an FAQ, or figure out some why to make that FAQ easily available.

Next – Distribution


DS PR 101: It's a visual medium, so why are you just sending out text?

It is remarkable how much press material is sent out without visuals, in a business that blabbers on and on about content being everything.

I was just reading a release about a European software company and its new DOOH client, describing in considerable detail what’s on the screen and how the screens are located in the venues.

But there were no embedded images, and no attached image files, associated with the PR. Worse, in this case, there was  no link even to the client Website where a blogger or trade mag or portal editor might dig up visuals to juice up the story they might do.

It is so easy to shoot photos and even video these days, and post them online, that it is almost baffling that companies looking to generate attention about what they are doing don’t leverage the basic technology that’s easily available to them.  Even marginal quality video, posted to Youtube, is better than nothing.

Most of the bloggers and trade publishers you are targeting for attention with these releases have skeletal resources and crank out a lot of stuff in a day. You have a far better chance of getting attention if you make it easy for them by providing things like photos, logos, Website URLs and links to video they can embed, if they want.


10 digital signage buzzwords and phrases that need to get shelved … now!

Robin Wauters at TechCrunch did a great piece recently about words he would love to see banned from press releases. It is very Silicon Valley-focused, but much of what he had to write could be applied to this sector.

I thought I would use that for inspiration for my own, DS-centric list. The hype in this space is crazy, and there are entire press releases that don’t say much at all, but have lotsa words and phrases we all read way too often, and that need to go away.

We’ve all read this press release:

Dynamic HyperDigital LLC, a leading global provider of best-in-breed, scalable and cost-effective digital signage solutions, announces the release of its next-generation software platform, ScreenMax 5.2, which revolutionizes the way businesses can manage their screen networks.

A pioneer in digital signage solutions since 2007, Dynamic HyperDigital develops leading-edge … blah, blah, blah

Mere mortals have at this point given up, and still have no idea why they should be interested.

With that buzzword blizzard laid out, here’s the must-go list, in no real order:


“At XYZ Creative Studios we believe content is king …” Click. Gone. Not reading that thing anymore. The phrase is so old and tired it’s slipped into a coma. Stop! Just stop.

This stuff really is all about what’s on that screen, but the people who STILL drag that phrase out instantly kill their credibility. There are many ways to write or state the same thing.


I did a very casual survey once and even built a little word cloud to visually represent ALL the leaders – the industy leaders, the leading providers, the global leaders – in the digital signage sector. There was a PILE of them. As TechCrunch notes, just because everyone else writes that, it doesn’t mean you are breaking some rule by skipping it. When everyone says they are the leader or at least a leader, the term becomes meaningless.

Variants: recognized leader; leading global provider; worldwide leader; world-leading


That’s one big, loaded term, and it gets used by companies saying their new bits or baubles will revolutionalize digital out of home media. Or whatever. Revolutionary technology comes along only ever so often, and when it does, everyone knows. The iPhone was revolutionary. Same with the Blackberry. Not so much with the Palm Pre. Use the term with care, otherwise you look goofy.

Variants: revolutionized; groundbreaking; game-changer; disruptive


What does that mean anymore??? New???

Variants: Cutting edge; Taking it to the next level (eeesh)


Also noted in TechCrunch, a seriously overused nonsense phrase. It gets used to express the notion that the stuff coming down the pipe is new and cool. Does next-gen mean something 20 years ahead of its time? Or does it mean upgrade?


“So and so, a pioneer in the something or other.”

Honestly, there are a few people who have been banging away at this digital signage thing for 15 years or more. Unless you were around before it was even possible to buy a flat panel, or needed $10K to get one, you’re not an industry pioneer. Nor is your company. Exceptions go to companies that are bringing newer technologies into the space, though pioneer is still a pretty tired handle.

Veteran is OK. It expresses you’ve been around the block and made some mistakes, and learned some stuff.

Variant: “the first!”


The term is now so liberally used it is impossible to sort out what might really be a turnkey solution. A turnkey solution, properly defined, is one in which “a product or service can be implemented or utilized with no additional work required by the buyer.” So, good luck with that! Most of the guys peddling a turnkey solution aren’t even close to being able to say, “Here ya go buddy, network’s done. Here’s your keys!”

The other problem is the risk of typos. Ask BroadSign, which a few months ago saw a plug for a turnkey solution turn up as a turkey solution.

End-to-end is a a variant, and still a bit of a cliche. But at least it conveys more accurately a sense that a company can work with a client from the start of a project through to inception.


Now scalable is meant to convey that a particular technology or service can grow with a client, from 10 to 10,000 if need be. Scalability is indeed important. If you do it right and the platform really is built to scale up, then you should be able to operate a very large network with only a relatively small increases in resources needed. Invest in a platform that’s good for 50 sites but can’t handle 500 connections, and you are for in a world of pain. Problem is, everybody now uses that term, and scalability has lost its meaning. Plain language – just flat saying what your doodad can manage – will do just fine.


This is code for affordable, or justifiable. But when just about every solution out there describes itself as cost-effective, it’s no longer a phrase that’s going to resonate. If you’re selling on price, just point out you have a low-cost solution. People get that.


Says who? There are no real objective, thorough ratings or reviews in this space, certainly not for the software platforms, so how does a company get to be at the top of the heap? By self-declaration, of course.

So the phrase is empty, and prospective buyers know that. What makes a company top of class is how much business it does and how many clients stay with that client year after year, not to mention how the company behaves.

Variant: Best of breed; best in breed; best in show (OK, never seen that in this context, but it will happen)


DS PR 101: Don't invite people over, confuse them, and make them do work

A company from India recently put out some PR that made it to my Google Alert trap because of the keywords “digital signage” and because of the release premise – an embedded system for DS – I was interested.

When I first tried the Website was down. Not good, but it happens.

When I gave it a crack today the site was up, but it took me probably 40-45 seconds of poking around to find the stuff I was interested in. Mere mortals probably wouldn’t have stuck with it that long, so there’s lost opportunity Number One. If you issue a press release, it will almost certainly be seen digitally by most people, so include a link in the release that goes RIGHT to the page with your product information.

Problem Number 2. Once I found the page, all it contained was the same information as the release. Want to learn more? Download this brochure! Well, OK, but now I am a little irritated. I don’t need yet more PDFs on my hard disk.

But wait, before you do that, put in your name and email so we we can start carpet-bombing you with email spam. THEN we’ll let you look at what we’ve got.

No. No. No.

Common sense guys. Let people find out about the product first, and then if they are truly intrigued, they will reach out by email, or   maybe agree to getting on some email list. By insisting on registration first, you have to know a pile of people abandoned the page, the site, and your company. You have to provide real value to get most people to agree to register, and a product brochure probably doesn’t qualify.

The process of sending out a press release is somewhere in the middle of the marketing communications process, but too many people seem to to think it’s the last bit. It has to be thought all the way through, INCLUDING what happens when people read it and are hopefully intrigued.

Not so.