Dear PR People: All I want for Christmas is no lying

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<img SRC="http://old.crunchgear.com/wp-content/pbucket/Festivus, CES, and MacWorld. This is a dead period and tech is trying desperately to pull out all its clinkers just to get a little ink before checks and bonuses are cut at the end of the year. I've been getting email after email describing red-hot new devices from iPod docks to iPod cases to iPod stickers to things you put on your iPod to make the iPod look bigger, kind of like an iPod banana hammock. Add in the printers, monitors, and janky PCs and you've got one full inbox and an angry writer. I can only imagine what the TC crew are getting right now ("Goatcards.org – Greeting Cards Featuring Social Networking Goats!" and "Exclusive: RED HOT SOCIAL NETWORKING PRINTER SYSTEM LETS YOU PRINT WHAT YOUR FRIENDS PRINT" are two possibles), but I'm sure it's the same. So for Christmas, PR people, here's what I want.

1. Emails with an image, a spec sheet, and a link. I don’t need you to write a little story at me. If you know me, feel free to be off the cuff. Otherwise, keep it direct and to the point. Want to know what I hate? The press release as it stands. Guess what happens to press releases you send? Garbage. As an aside, take a gander at my inbox. This is a good day and I have 1376 unread messages. I have my Skype and AIM info in my email footers. If you want to contact me, ping me. What you see here is an example of a good, albeit useless, pitch and a bad, bad, bad pitch. I know I’m getting all meta here, dear readers, and you’re seeing how the sausage is made, but understand that as cool as it seems to have Wankertron Inc. emailing you every day, we’re still doing our jobs here and we’re trying to be as efficient as possible.

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This is a BAD email. Notice it is a press release. It sucks and the sender, in turn, sucks.

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Damn, homeslice must have bought an HTML Email for Dummies book, worked with a designer, and took some good, usable pictures. He can have my babies.

2. If you call me and your story lasts longer than 2 minutes, expect to be hung up on. Seriously. Don’t send junior level boiler-room kids to tell me about your great new product, the iPod case with iPod written on it. If it’s important, AIM me.

3. Don’t lie. Send me a spec sheet with all the details. Don’t say it holds 10,000,000 songs if it can hold a 4GB SD card, not included. Don’t say it’s popular with the teens and that the CEO would like to talk to me about teen trends when he’s really just flogging a flower that dances to music.

4. Don’t waste my time. I’ve been trying to take lots of calls with company heads just to see if we can maybe possibly do a podcast series. Instead, I get Joe Wang out in Scranton who knew the guy who designed the carrying case for the product that showed up before the latest one and he basically feeds me canned bullshit for an hour. Make sure your people know what we write about and are ready to talk about real world stuff, like why yours isn’t just another MP3 player. Double this advice in face-to-face meetings. If I have to haul ass to see your head of marketing show me a mocked-up laptop, I’m wasting a few hours of writing time. Tell me what you have, don’t try to surprise me with your hot product, and let me make an educated decision about whether I should take the train into town or ask for a spec sheet and image.

5. Know who we are. It’s 2007, going on 2008. I’ve been blogging for three years and in those three years I’ve seen the medium improve immensely and become an honest and reliable news source on a number of important topics. To hear companies and PR folks tell it, though, blogs are hotbeds of virulent anti-company slander and the print mags with lead times of four months who can offer a one line blurb under a picture of a shiny phone are the real catch. A link on any one of the big two — Giz and Eng — and any number of links from my site and others like it are gold. Do a search for your product. Chances are XXL’s extensive gadget coverage didn’t catch it but JoesiPodCaseBlogforPeopleWhoLikeiPodCases.blogspot.com has it and Giz, me, and everyone else in the free world picked it up. Look at the Technorati 100. Those are your top-tier sites. Then look at the sites those sites link to: PhoneScoop, SlashGear, BGR. All those sites are churning up interest in ways no one thought possible.

One thing NOT to do? Don’t do a Google news search for your topic of interest and send out a blind email. Last week I mentioned on TC that we were doing a Holiday Guide. We hadn’t done one, we were planning it. So I get an email from some choad saying “I read your holiday guide and I think my product, the Choadinator 2000, is a great late addition.” I have to read all your crap, can’t you read mine?

6. Know we have a 10 second lead time. Send out your press releases in a timely manner and bitch to your clients, not us, if someone posts the news before the release. Embargoes do not work anymore and exclusives, as silly as that word is now that every story is taken and run with immediately upon posting, are failing. Exclusives these days are not controlled by you — they come from the wellspring of informants we have in your companies.

7. Hire someone to coddle us and love us and don’t hamstring them. A PR company hired a friend of mine and excellent lead blogger to head up something they were calling “customer relations.” His job was to introduce himself on the Interwebs and answer questions about basic things. Unfortunately, this kid has more connections than all of the flaks he was working with combined and he was soon stepping on toes left and right. He quit because he didn’t like it and they’re out the opportunity of a lifetime. This kid was always available on AIM, he knew the players, and he knew how to filter bullshit. He could be counted on as a trusted source while the PR folks were twiddling their thumbs prepping a red hot press release for distribution at close of business while the news was breaking from here to Taiwan all morning. Hire someone who knows the space and can talk to us like humans. Give them boundaries but don’t force them to kow-tow to old-line PR folks. Let them be a real human voice. Then watch how far and how accurately your message is spread.

Don’t think of this as a rant and please don’t take offense. Think of this as a free $10,000 seminar on talking to bloggers. I know you guys hire consultants to help you “leverage your online experiential marketing” and hit the “low-teen-tween market of web savvy meta-consumers.” These guys won’t be able to help you.

All of us are trying to do our job. Fortunately, my job is more fun than yours: I get to share cool products with cool people. You, on the other hand, have to face down bitchy clients and pushy reporters at the same time. In some ways, maybe your middleman position is becoming extinct and maybe you need to rethink your strategies. Maybe companies should put info releases into their product timelines, bypassing the big PR houses completely. I’d subscribe to an HTC RSS feed if I knew it featured phones, phones, and more phones without all the extraneous noise. Merry Christmas, and to the PR guy who asked me a few months back during a Bulldog Reporter session if I knew that “embargoes are really there to mess with us,” bite me. Hopefully you get a pink slip in your stocking and let others with considerably more savvy take your place.

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