Best of: There is such a thing as bad publicity

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This is the next entry in our “Best of” series, in which we venture deep into the vault to replay blog opinion and insight that has withstood the test of time. Today’s post hails from September 2011. We welcome your feedback.

By Linda ForrestCubes - 207 - BEST OF

There’s a famous adage in our industry that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I beg to differ. Your PR resources are doing you a disservice if they fall into any of the following five categories.

1. They’re poor writers

We’ve actually had prospects tell us that their PR agency can’t write. Superior writing skills are essential to good publicity, especially in the technology realm. Technology is complicated and if you don’t clearly articulate what it is your technology actually does, your market won’t know its value and you’re subsequently hampering your market opportunity. Those media targets on your list who are interested in and write about hardware, for instance, may not give a fig about the software components of your offering. Speaking from experience, I’ve visited websites, read press releases and other marketing materials that fail to communicate the value proposition of whatever’s being written about. The death knell for your communications effort is sending out materials that leave the reader scratching their head, no clearer about what it is your company actually does, who for, at what price, why, and where they can learn more about it. The five Ws (and two Hs: how and how much) are essential to communicating effectively with your marketplace. Your PR resources must be able to articulate the important details of your offering, no matter how technical. If the technology is not well understood by your PR team, then they will be unable to write about it effectively.

Bad grammar and spelling are simply unacceptable.

2. They’re bad at pitching

The Bad Pitch Blog offers readers hours and hours worth of (equal parts funny and cringe-worthy) examples of what not to do. But what constitutes a bad pitch? One that’s poorly written, off target (no, the telecom writer does not want to cover your biotech product; no, the spray-and-pray media list that you bought is not up-to-date), too longin poor taste, has attachments (determine interest first and then send what’s needed), is disrespectful (unless you’re friends with a contact or they’ve indicated it’s okay to call them by a nickname or short form of their name, don’t start off an email to Michael with Mikey), or demanding (badgering the media to give your news a top billing when its not warranted will win you no favours.)

Your PR resources need to understand that the best opportunities lie at the intersection of what their clients have to offer and what the reporter is interested in. These opportunities are rarely published in advance in a public forum like an editorial calendar, rather they come from a good understanding of the media target’s area of interest and coverage and a persistent, ongoing information gathering and sharing so that a) your PR team recognizes what opportunities are available to pitch into, b) what the reporter needs in order to cover your company and c) timely and comprehensive provision of the necessary materials, scheduling of interviews and so on. Not every opportunity for coverage comes from outbound news from a company. Knowing how to generate coverage in a program that is not driven by news releases is essential to harvesting the full coverage potential of your company’s story.

3. You’re missing opportunities for coverage

Your PR team should be continually monitoring its media targets’ output to see if there are natural opportunities for your company executive to comment on larger issues that impact the marketplace, have your offering included in roundups of products in your space, and other opportunities that aren’t as straightforward as send news release A, expect coverage B. PR resources should examine the full spectrum of opportunities and know how – and why – your company should be covered there.

4. Your PR resources are all about tactical implementation without strategy

It’s easy to do a lot of PR stuff. Write up a press release for every time your company sneezes, put it on the wire, repeat. But PR stuff, unmeasured, with no strategy underpinning the activity, will not garner your company the coverage it deserves. In fact it could damage your reputation with your media marketplace, which is kind of the opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve with your PR program, no? PR resources need to have the audacity to counter their clients with questioning as to why they want to put out the news their pushing for. Without sound reasoning as to the potential ROI for doing so and a solid strategy, bombarding the market with your news will not get you the results you desire. The thud factor (thud being the sound that the many rebroadcasts of your announcement make when printed out and dropped onto the desk of the client) matters little when it comes to actually moving your market; the benefits of rebroadcast reside mainly with your SEO and organic search results boosting your position with Google.

5. Your PR resources are all strategy without implementation

Coming up with a brilliant plan that you don’t execute against is no better than loads of PR stuff with no strategy. Know how and why you’re doing what you’re doing on the PR front, and select the tactics that make the most sense and deliver the best return on investment if executed properly. Going round in circles generating report after report about what could be done and what should be done will no doubt lead to missed opportunities.

Good PR is not rocket science, and the internet is loaded with useful information about how to do it well – much of this content posted is by reporters and editors who are sick of dealing with bad publicity – so, PR practitioners, shape up and technology companies, make sure that your PR team, whether internal or external, is doing good by you. Or suffer the consequences. It’s up to you.

Image: Houston Press


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