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The balance of power

By Danny Sullivan

BBC technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, posts an interesting piece on the dot.life blog about the slating of the new BlackBerry Storm by English comedian, Stephen Fry. No, this wasn’t part of a stand-up routine, but rather a series of messages on Twitter, where Fry apparently has a following of thousands.

I note Fry’s comment at the end of the post, essentially stating that he thought one of the results of the Net and social networking has been to make everyone more equal in their influence. But has this truly been the case?

Certainly in Fry’s case it is partially true, but while his newfound influence in the field of gadgets and consumer technology can be attributed in part to the social networking revolution, it is also true that he is a man who had a considerable public profile before the Internet was even considered a medium of any significance.

The web and its associated technologies have certainly given a voice to millions, but in terms of real influence, the masses still invariably turn to those who have commanded attention beyond the four walls of the internet.  Of course there are some exceptions to the rule, but the notion that we all have equal influence is generally only as true online as it is in the world at large.

Top tech PR cliches

By Danny Sullivan

Over on the BBC web site, readers have submitted their personal choices for the most-hated cliches in current circulation. Reading through the article was a painful exercise, and I’m sure most of you will also recognize many of the expressions as appearing frequently in your own day-to-day vocabulary.

The technology sector is rife with such cliches, and I’ve summarized a few of these into a Top 10 list, some of which I must admit I still use “on an ongoing basis”, so to speak.

1: Going forward
2: Leading (as in “a leading provider of…”)
3: At the end of the day
4: Touch base
5: Mission-critical
6: Value-add
7: Downsizing
8: Out-of-the-box
9: Best practices
10: 110%

Got your own “favourites” or, better yet, can you truthfully say you’ve never used any of the above? Let me know.

Getting covered by Tier 1 business media

By Danny Sullivan

So, you want to see your story make the pages of the major business media? Well, if it truly merits that level of attention, then applying the right mix of patience, persistence and PR savvy should pay off… or perhaps you could try a somewhat less orthodox method to guarantee front page attention.

Yesterday’s spoofing of the New York Times by the mysterious Yes Men presents companies with an interesting alternative to traditional PR tactics: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Just think – Company X unveils version 3.8 of Software Application Y - the cover story on BusinessWeek. Although printing a million fake newspapers in support of every news release is probably going to eat into that marketing budget rather quickly.

Ho hum, back to the drawing board.

Sometimes you just never know…

By Danny Sullivan

As a PR practitioner, once in a while something happens to make you scratch your head and revisit the question we all wonder from time to time: what qualifies as newsworthy on any given day?

Of course, there are certain things we know about this question (known knowns, if you will). For example, that size matters – the big news always gets covered first, and that it’s a known fact that survey results invariably make for good content on a slow news day.

But sometimes the rulebook goes out the window. A recent announcement by a client was deemed by all to be a fairly routine affair – certainly a story that was worth distributing, but not one that would generate significant media attention. Or so we thought.

Cue two days of frantic media activity, spawning all kinds of broadcast and print media coverage. No complaints here – delighted to get the response, but did we miss something on this one? Clearly we did, although, looking back, I stand firmly by our original conviction that the story was a relatively minor one!

In retrospect, the response was unexpected, but primarily driven by the media’s willingness to revisit a good story that, while already having played out in the press extensively, has the kind of enduring appeal that means it only takes a fairly minor event to push it back into the limelight.

It’s great when it happens, but confounding nonetheless.

I want PR, but I don’t know why

By Danny Sullivan

It’s not uncommon to sit down with a startup technology company for an initial discussion about a potential PR engagement and have a conversation that goes something like this:

Tech company exec: “I think we need to start doing some PR and I’d like you to present us with some ideas.”

PR agency: “Er, okay, but can you first give us some idea of why it is that you think PR will help your business at this time?”

Exec: “Well, I was hoping that you could tell us that …”

Of course, at this point the conversation typically becomes an exercise that should really have been started before the agency even entered the equation. That is, to explore what are the primary reasons for engaging a PR program, and what it is ultimately supposed to achieve.

Yes, the PR firm brings the expertise needed to plan and execute an effective program, but they are not the experts in your business … you are. Can you really expect a PR agency to sit down at the first meeting and tell you how they can help you achieve your goals or overcome certain challenges, when they have little idea what those goals and challenges are? Of course not. PR is not a cookie-cutter proposition, and its practitioners work best when they can apply their knowledge to a specific scenario, which invariably changes dramatically from company to company.

This doesn’t have to be an extensive exercise, and the information needed to get things rolling is probably common knowledge within your organization. Simply ensure that you have a fairly clear idea of what it is that you expect from doing PR, and then you can expect to have a valuable conversation about what the experts can do to help you.

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