Half-baked Public Relations leaves a bad taste….

“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”  
Leonardo da Vinci   

One of the problems for Public Relations practitioners (and Marketers) is that everyone thinks they can do your job.  This is certainly a very prevalent theme in the technology business.

The obvious intellectual barriers to entry are sufficiently low to the uneducated and as we all know, everyone loves to give their advice on how you could improve your programs and your results.  Sometimes this advice can spark great ideas, but often it’s just part of the drudgery of everyday Public Relations.

One of the results of these perceptions is that often pressure is put upon PR practitioners to “get things done” regardless of whether it is the right course of action, regardless of whether the program is ready or if the timing is right. Often in our desperate need to please management we allow our better judgement to be over-ruled by such interference. But as we become more experienced we push back.

I consider myself a pragmatist when it comes to Public Relations.  I won’t rush a half-baked program or announcement, while at the same time I won’t wait for a program to arrive fresh from the ivory tower. I believe that both approaches as wrong.  Going with a program too soon means you are unprepared and will most likely be unable to sustain it in the medium term.  Waiting too long runs the risk of missing the opportunity.

Understanding the happy middle ground is something you learn over time.

By way of illustration, allow me to recount a conversation I had in the past week with a former colleague of mine. She was approached by a software start-up who were looking for a PR expert.

My former colleague was perfectly qualified and in my opinion would have done a fantastic job for them. However, in their first meeting, the enterpreneur informed her that he had previous experience of PR at other companies and that he wanted a US media and analyst tour planned and executed in less than three weeks and XX number of stories placed in the same time period.

He assured her he had “contacts” in the analyst firms that would smooth the process. His company however had no messaging, no materials, no previous media exposure and no infrastructure to support a PR program such as customers etc. My former colleague tried to explain that whilst such activities could be attempted it would be wiser to delay a little while to make sure proper preparation was made.

He hired another practitioner who agreed with his timeline. I await the results with interest.

As you know, Public Relations is not about one-off meetings or one-off news stories. It is about building relationships and communicating effectively. You get one chance to make a first impression and you better make sure that it’s a good impression. Setting up a meeting and then not delivering is worse than doing nothing at all. IMHO.

The start-up’s perception that all that was needed was a press and analyst tour (and a press release) is a common misconception. What if the tour was successful and the company created some interest from the media or analyst community, would they be able to service that interest? Would they be able to build momentum? I doubt it.

Pragmatism tells me that you should hit the green button once you’ve all the major pieces in place. But it also tells me that you shouldn’t go before you’re ready.

This rambling observation was prompted by my former colleague’s experiences and an editorial in Communications Convergence magazine this month.

Editor-in-Chief, Rick Luhman writes:

“Anyway. Food for thought, vendors.  Initial press contact is fine and dandy in almost any and all formats; just make sure you can dish it out after you’veworked so hard to jerk us around to your company.” 


Whisper it… the IT market is improving..

Another indicator that things in the technology world are recovering is research just released from IDC which finds that the application deployment software market, which includes applications and middleware grew by 4.4% last year to just over $7 Billion.

“IDC believes that in 2004 the overall application deployment platform software market will grow almost 4% from 2003. This forecast is based on interviews with over 1200 IT managers conducted in North America in October/November 2003.”


Thanks to Alice Marshall for the link.

The press release on the research findings is here.

Don't forget your RSS…

The recent deluge of content being generated about every conceivable aspect of blogging (is anyone getting bored yet?) has been pushing poor RSS into the background.  Anyone who reads PR Opinions regularly will know my penchant for RSS, which in many ways can be more useful than blogs for every day research.

One of the particular things I’ve noticed is that the choice of an RSS reader is incredibly personal and subjective. 

While many (Windows) people swear by Newsgator which adds RSS feeds to Outlook, I wouldn’t use it in a fit.  Outlook is busy enough already with 1,000 spams a day thank you.

Some people prefer reading their RSS feeds in their browser or online reader and others prefer a desktop based reader such as FeedReader. If you’re interested in RSS feeds I recommend you try a whole range of readers and see which type you prefer.

One example of an online version is the Rocket RSS Reader. It’s relatively new, free and is worth a look if you like reading RSS online.

New PR blog and some PR blog tips

I should say from the outset that although the last few week’s postings may suggest otherwise, PR Opinions is not a blog about blogs but rather a blog about Public Relations. It just so happens that the avalanche of blog-related content seems to be taking over the world at the moment.

It’s a little like a blog bubble, though hopefully when it bursts we all won’t return to hand coding web pages….

 The UK Guardian had a story last week on the Terrifying power of bloggers*. It makes for interesting reading.

Fortunately in most other sections of the media, attitudes towards blogging – and online journalism in general – couldn’t be more different. Not only are major news organisations rolling out blogs of their own, but in the past 12 months the influence of bloggers over their print, television and radio counterparts has grown massively.”

 A new blog on Tech PR has joined the growing ranks. Matthew Podboy, a colleague of Mike Manuel has started a blog called Active Voice.

 Meanwhile, Beaupre & Co. provide five tips to get blogging into your PR programs.

“Blogs equipped with RSS (real simple syndication) feeds provide a great alternative channel for distributing corporate information out into the world. RSS, sometimes called a �webfeed,� is an easy, low-cost mechanism for publishing snippets of content which people can subscribe to.”


Thanks to Philip Young for the link to the Guardian story

Thanks to Trevor Cook, Steve Rubel and Mike Manuel for the other links.

* The Guardian now requires free online registration, however I’ve included it because I believe that if you’re reading content online then you should sign up for free registrations to the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and the Guardian at the very least! 

A beginners guide to what PR is actually about…

When I was studying marketing, the last practice area I wanted to work in was Public Relations. 

The image of Absolutely Fabulous, glitzy parties and widespread “air kissing” was too much to bear. How I ended up in PR is a longer story but suffice to say my ignorance was a barrier to entry.

Richard Bailey has posted a short essay explaining what Public Relations is about, written by one of his first year students Katherine Shenton. 

I wish I had known about this all those years ago…

“As I mentioned earlier, PR is not always sexy. You may find yourself working in a political PR agency or working within a pork pie factory’s in-house PR department; you�ve just got to focus on what you want to do and be determined. PR is a difficult industry to enter so you�ll need to be enthusiastic and confident. People don�t understand all the work that goes into organising a trade show but I hope you do now.”

PR Opinions Blog Announces Blog Post on Blogs…

Hurrah it’s been a full week since I posted anything about blogs.  Fantastic. My neck has nearly recovered from the awful cramp I got from all that navel gazing :-).

But now my neck has recovered sufficiently for me to dip back into the navel (so to speak).

Mike ManuelElizabeth Albrycht and Jeneana Sessum are debating whether you should “announce” your blog with a press release.

Now first of all let me say up front that I don’t buy all the anti-press release sentiment that is around today.  I think press releases serve a specific purpose and continue to have some value – even if it’s only that it provides a standard format for communicating news – regardless of how sloppy it is.

But I don’t think press releasing a new corporate weblog is a great idea and here’s why.

The whole point of a weblog is to provide an informative source of first person information that hopefully offers a human face to your organization.  It should try and engage your audience, inform them, promote debate with them and in general communicate with them.

A blog, IMHO should be launched organically.  You should absolutely promote it on your website (ideally by pointing to some interesting posts), use the content from the blog to provoke discussion in your newsletter(s).  Engage other bloggers in your sphere of influence, target journalists with relevant postings.

But there’s a clear disconnect between those activites and a press release.

If you build it (think a lot about it, write honestly, add real value and get involved in open debate) they will come…. really they will.

Gmail.. a case study in creating consumer advocates…

Tom Hespos over at MediaPost takes a look at the very effective marketing campaign Google have executed around their Gmail beta program.

“At first, I didn’t want one (a Gmail account). After all, I need another email account like I need a hole in the head. But simple curiosity, as well as the prestige that had become a part of the Gmail brand, forced me to succumb….Of course, given the Gmail prestige, I immediately sent a couple invitations out, thus becoming a Gmail advocate.”

Google really has demonstrated amazing innovation in building their business and it’s not just marketing.  They have built useful technology that lives up to your expectations.  The combination creates a powerful market presence.