Post 27, 2009: What I tweet about

Thanks to Tweetcloud.com, here is a wordcloud of the stuff I tweet about:

Meh

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Post 26a, 2009: Why issue a press release if there’s no news in it?

This is a sequel to my last post, because once I finally got a hold of the folks who issued the press release, I found there was almost no actual news in it.
The release in question detailed two items, namely some new software and a new professional services practice.
The former was straightforward, but anodyne. It’s the kind of thing I ignore every day because it is worth a paragraph or two at best and the outlet for which I was interested in this release does very little news of that sort.
The second point was interesting, as it mentioned a new sub-brand of sorts and said the service had been “introduced.” As I track the industry in question closely, I wanted to know just what had been introduced.
More than 24 hours after the release crossed my desk (which is a FAIL) I was able to interview someone about this. The interviewee told me that nothing, in fact, had been introduced. Instead, existing services had been renamed and a small new service implementing the new software had been introduced.
I was also told that there were probably no new hires, but the interviewee could not tell me if the existing team had even been trained on the new software yet (this was later clarified).
Anyway … the point here is that this release contained almost no information. The vendor’s PR company had no idea about any of it, which makes me wonder just how it adds value other than hitting “send” in Outlook. The vendor’s in-house PR had little knowledge of the release, as evinced by the need for an interview to inform me about the release describing nothing more than a name change.
Along the way, both the agency and in-house PR also consistently referred to my inquiry as being about the product, when all of my correspondence with them contained a quote from the release about the services.
Then the crowning glory of the anti-news in the form of the “introduction” being a rebadging.
Needless to say, the whole experience became a colossal waste of time for all involved. Tempers frayed on all sides. Opinions of participants lowered.
Yet this kind of stuff never stops. Silly releases, ignorant agencies, defensive vendors. It never stops.

Post 26, 2009: Why issue a press release if you aren’t ready to discuss it?

I’m experiencing one of the more regular PR-induced frustrations today, namely an organisation emitting a press release without having spokespeople ready to explain it.

Here’s what happened.

A release arrived in my inbox and piqued my interest.

I contacted the in-house PR person listed as a contact and sent her an email … then received an “out of office” email saying she is unavailable for a further two days.

So I contacted the agency, who called back and told me they have to discover who the spokesperson is for the press release.

This is a big, fat, contemptuous fail for two reasons.

The first is simple logistics: if someone is out for two days, they simply should not be included as a contact for a press release.

The second is the terrible mixed message it sends. Emitting a release, after all, says “we want to discuss this.” When that experience turns into “actually, we are not ready to discuss this” the company involved looks amateurish. The company also looks cynical and disrespectful, because the idea of communicating with media (I have always felt) is to facilitate the free and rapid flow of information so that media can act on it quickly. And quickly is important these days!

When a vendor and agency are unprepared to actually follow through in a timely fashion, I feel like they simply do not get it and are wasting my time and complicating my life.

The chances that I will respect the vendor and its agency decline markedly* and I become less inclined to reach out to these organisations for assistance in future. I am pretty sure those outcomes are not what PR tries to achieve.

* I try, of course, to remain objective. But poor experiences like this mean I am more likely to turn to reliable sources of information and remember this product in light of the poor experience involved in sourcing information about it.

Post 25, 2009: What happens when 30 seconds of research shows a press release is gold-plated bullshit

Okay … so I just got a press release from a company proclaiming that its product has been given a “Gold” award in an independent test.

This is utterly “meh” to begin with.

But then I look up the tests in question and found that this release is actually gold-plated bullshit.

Here’s why.

Firstly, NINE products were given a “Gold” award in the same tests. Two were rated “Platinum ” and one fell over the line for “Silver” status.

So the vendor in question is claiming it is very important for having come somewhere between 3rd and 11th in these tests.

As it turns out, it is actually in 12th place on one of the criteria tested  Рability to detect viruses Рand 3rd on its ability not to fall for false positives.

The product concerned is in a lonely place on the graph demonstrating competence in its field.

It took about 30 seconds of research to come to this conclusion.

This raises some questions, the first of which is: Why on earth would any self-respecting vendor emit a press release that points out how mediocre its products are?

Secondly: What’s happened in the PR agency responsible? This release is dross, pure and simple. Why isn’t the agency doing 30 seconds of research and advising its client not to emit a release that positions them as mediocre?

I’d argue that this release should never have been emitted, because it only takes a journo half a minute to figure out that this vendor is a follower in a very large market. As luck would have it, I was only dimly aware of the vendor’s existence before this crock¬† landed in my Inbox. Now I’ve mentally filed them under “irrelevant clowns.”

Good work everybody!