“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs
Yet vendors need a good dosing of PR education.
A big challenge for PR people is how well they surf a news wave. Like the waves crashing off Rincon, Puerto Rico, news cycles break suddenly and dissipate gradually.
Tidal-wave news is easy to spot: Michael Jackson, BP oil rupture, Japan’s tsunami, bin Laden, Sony and Michael’s data breach… all tidal waves easy to spot. (I wanted to add the Royal Wedding to this list but we all saw that one coming ashore miles away.)
And here is where the savvy PR person can show his/her surfing talent. It begins with recognition. Real work begins once you spot the sustaining power of certain news stories. Preparing for these in advance of their occurrence correlates to another kind of preparedness: crisis communications.
But really now, most companies have no need for CC. My small tech clients don’t build nuclear plants or food or pills that can actually kill people. Tidal-wave stories need another kind of preparedness: educating your vendor/client to the PR pitch process.
Preparing for the big news cycle is this: the savvy PR person will know that there is always a Day 2.
We cannot predict the Day 1, when front headlines cry for attention. The opportunity is realizing that reporters will be more desperate on Day 2 to find new angles and expert sources; they’ll be most receptive to your pitch.
And the almighty pitch is where it’s at. How can you link your vendor-client into the big picture? What new analysis or opinion or conclusion can be drawn from yesterday’s headline story?
I bring up CC because it has a lesson to teach. Your client spokespeople should be ready to go for Day 2 of tidal waves. They need to be told that daily reporters demand immediate action and response. Press deadlines are yesterday.
And vendors should give their PR people direct access to key spokespeople with no ‘pre-approval’ delay by gatekeepers. Trust is a factor, of course. The vendor needs to respect the PR process and trust the PR person. (Of course PR people must first earn that trust.)
A sense of urgency has to prevail, and PR people must prevail upon the expert source. It starts with education, trust, and some media training.
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Recently while attending a “meet the press” event for PR pros, someone asked, what is the biggest peeve journalists have about PR people? (Of course there are many.) The answer was surprising and ridiculous. The answer was that PR people are hard to find on vendor websites. That something so easy to mend can be so high on the list of annoyances is a real kill joy. But visit most vendor sites and you’ll see how the PR contact is nowhere to be found.
The first place I tend to look is at a company’s press release. When these are distributed via a wire service, the contact is always there, but for some reason a lot of vendors delete it once it gets posted. Why, I don’t know.
About the best example I’ve seen among vendors for addressing the big peeve is Enterworks (not a client). I’ve never seen a vendor care so much about ‘servicing’ a press query. And service is what it’s all about. They write, “We welcome media and analyst inquiries. We respect the value of your limited time, and will prove it with quick, concise, and substantive responses.”
Now that’s the service model to follow.
Can the same thing be said of Press Releases? Yes, but their fate is worse because PRels cannot be sold the day after. Old news is just that. So given that PRels have less value the day after, why should companies, even old stalwarts like MS that typically send out from 3 to 5 missives every day, bother to put out a PRel?
Many reasons, all of them obvious. One less apparent reason for sending out PRels may be one of the best, if not the least considered.
Press releases serve as a running commentary on your company, marking milestones, shedding light on the past, creating a historical portrait into a collective whole that gives coherence to the present. We can look back and marvel at what transpired over the past year (or years). There certainly is value in an archive of press releases, so keep putting them out.
I am kicking myself for not being more insistent – I am never insistent with clients: I make my case and if Mr. Client doesn’t accept my case (what do I know, after all, after doing this for 20 years?) then I let the case drop. But in this case I wish I had had more nerve. The client was invited to speak at a conference. His first. A big deal for a small company. Always issue a PRel if your exec is invited to speak publicly. If you want to consider yourself expert, then you must show the world you are an expert. And one needs to keep proving to the world that you are indeed an expert. Repetition is good.
Here are my new rules on this topic:
1) PRels are not sacred cows. Treat them like Kleenex. Use many, then toss aside.
2) Find ways to leave the Company out of the picture; make it secondary.
3) Say something that is Not about Yourself
4) Take a survey and publish its findings
5) Boldly announce a position. To have a position you got to take a position.
For example: Websense did a brilliant PRel this month when it issued one with the headline: “Five Security Predictions for 2011.” The media world responded, showering it with attention. Bravo.
Nice to see old-school PR still works. By old school I mean coverage in national print media, or what’s left of it. Radio Flyer is dear to my childhood. I remember scratching my shins riding and falling off my beat-up RF wagon.
Imagine my surprise when I saw this company, making wagons since 1917, have their CEO Robert Pasin, grandson of the founder, be featured in “The Boss” column of the Sunday New York Times (7/25/10)*.
Old school does not mean resistant to change. Chicago-based Radio Flyer saw competitors roll in with plastic-molded alternatives. They didn’t take it sitting down. Well, they did. They sat in people’s living rooms and listened “very closely” to customers: “…sometimes what they say they want and what they really want are different,” said Pasin. They rolled out a loser before rolling out a competitive winner: a plastic version with ATV wheels and two folding seats. I’ve seen these. They’re nice, but call me old fashion for liking the Real McCoy steel wagons that make such a noisy clanging racket when pulled down concrete sidewalks in the city of Detroit where I was happy enough to survive. * “The Wagons Keep Rolling” http://twitterurl.net//duu5
Channel marketing combined with PR is your best channel to profit. This should be a no-brainer. But I’ve known CEOs who think otherwise. They believe a direct sales model is the only way to go. When it comes to selling software or services, this is a narrow strategy akin to tying your sneakers together and running a marathon. You are never going to win; or meet ambitious sales quotas.
You are hurting for sales, who isn’t? Having a direct sales setup severely limits your ability to go national and beyond. Smiling & dialing can only go so far. What you need, if you are an IT software or services vendor, is feet on the street. You need to cultivate a reseller channel. You need an army of arms & legs that will do the lion’s share of selling, training and deploying of your IT solution. The big boys have thousands of channel partners spread worldwide. They get the picture. They know they can’t go it alone. Yes, you give up profit margin but you make it up in volume in return.
Why more vendors don’t go this route beats me.
PR needs to be an active player in any channel partner program. PR must reach out to the many pub outlets that cater to this association-rich world of service providers, VARs, MSPs, and MSSPs. But most vendors fail to do the minimum with respect to PR and partners. They forget to publicly announce their multi-tiered partner programs, or cite margins and support options. Partners will jump through rings of fire to get publicity for themselves. Partners give vendors credibility. I believe in exploiting partners, and treat them like reference customers. The better they do, the better your company will fare.
This image, contrasting “traditional” marketing with social media marketing says it all in one tiny square box. Copyright and kudos to Shama Kabani, president of The Marketing Zen Group of Dallas, who said, “Social media is not a marketer’s platform. It belongs to consumers.” http://bit.ly/bdUkgM