Ten things PRs do that really annoy journalists – part six

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14th, 2010 by admin

Five more to go in this series. Just to recap for anyone joining late, this is a list of ten things that PRs do that really annoy journalists. It’s not meant to be an attack on individual PR professionals, or on the industry as a whole. (I’m not the sort of journalist who posts lists of PRs’ e-mail addresses saying he never wants to hear from them ever again – http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/columnists/article6977065.ece?openComment=true. Ouch.) I am though the sort of journalist who puts a lot of effort into building mutually beneficial relationships with others in the industry, and this is part of that effort.

So, with those caveats in place, here’s what I have so far:

1) Expect journalists to operate as an unpaid media montoring service
2) Going oddly silent/AWOL
3) Sending irrelevant press releases
4) Writing like a PR, not a real person
5) Pitching like they’re selling timeshare properties

Number 6 is fairly straightforward but is a perennial bugbear of mine, and of many other journalists. It is arranging conference call interviews.

They just don’t work. I’m not just talking about the practicalities. True, sometimes the technology doesn’t work. I particularly remember an interview with the VP of Sales of a US-based teleconferencing company; for about five minutes we had terrible interference on the line, but we’d spent a long time trying to arrange it and I really needed her quotes, so I persisted, asking her several times to restate the point she’d just made. She gamely struggled on, getting louder and louder, until finally I could just make it out above the crackling din – “I WAS SAYING THAT OUR SYSTEM SUFFERS FROM VERY LITTLE INTERFERENCE!” Very similar to a flat I once viewed above a busy road. The estate said something. I couldn’t hear so moved closer and asked her to repeat it. She said it again. Again it was drowned out by the rush of cars below. On the third attempt she shouted: “I WAS SAYING THAT THIS IS A VERY QUIET FLAT.” I could only reply sheepishly: “It’s not really though, is it?” “YES IT IS! VERY QUIET!” She wasn’t having it at all. I think the incessant sound of passing traffic might have driven her a little mad. But anyway, I digress, and to be fair on conference call technology, almost all of the time it works fine.

No, the real problem is that it ruins the dynamics of the conversation. Interviews work when there’s a journalist asking questions and an interviewee answering them. You can develop a rapport, progress the conversation in directions you both find interesting, really get to the crux of whatever it is you’re discussing. It takes a bit of time to get beyond the formal introductions and the wariness that most interviewees feel, but if you’re a half-decent interviewer you reach that point, past where people are trotting out safe truisms, where they’re really delving deep into their expertise and coming up with something fresh. And that’s where you find the really interesting material for your articles.

The problem with conference calls is that you never get beyond the formality, the wariness, and the truisms. The interviewees spend too much time thinking about the other participants on the call and not enough time thinking about the issue in hand. They’re wondering who’s best placed to deal with a particular question. They’re worrying about saying something off message. They’re trying to impress their colleagues. I don’t blame them – it’s just how people tend to behave in a group.

I do though blame the PR executive who allowed it to happen.

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Marketing in the 2010s

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6th, 2010 by admin

A new decade dawns and the airwaves are filled with retrospectives on the last ten years and tentative predictions for what lies ahead. I don’t normally go in for this sort of crystal ball gazing, but I’m here going to give you my view on what I think is a tectonic change taking place right now in the world of marketing.

A lot of people are on top of this change, but even more haven’t even realised it’s happening. They’re carrying on as if it was still 2007, and as 2010 rolls into 2011 I think they’re in serious danger of missing one of the most important changes to the marketing industry that will take place in our professional lifetimes.

Quite simply, it’s the shift from push to pull marketing.

With every month that passes I’m seeing more and more marketers downscaling their investment in traditional broadcast marketing techniques in favour of pull techniques. They’re cutting their spending on ads, on direct marketing, even e-mail marketing, and instead they’re directing their resources to developing online and offline content, experiences and offers that potential customers value. They’re making increasing use of online social media to spread the word, but primarily they’re relying on the power of online search to pull prospects in.

So far this principle has been adopted most vigorously by smaller B2B companies, but I believe that over the next year or two larger consumer brands are going to be looking at it more and more closely. To a large extent this shift has been driven by the drop in budgets precipitated by the recession, but I believe it will outlast the recession.

It is indeed a tectonic shift in how marketers act, and it requires those who work in marketing to look closely at what they offer and ensure it is still relevant. What is particularly notable about this change is just how rapidly it’s taking place. It is proving a stern test of how closely we watch our marketplace and how rapidly we are able to react and adapt.

What do you think?
Am I right – is this change happening and is it as momentous as I think?
Are many marketers missing it or are most coping with it fairly comfortably?
How are you changing what you do to adapt – what do you expect to change over the next year or two?

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