Stupid PR Tricks

“I saw your article on the [ …] and wanted to clarify some confusion in the article around pricing,” began an exchange with one PR person last week about something that I wrote in my first week as Business Channels editor at ReadWriteWeb. For those of you that missed that memo, I have taken on a new job there running four different enterprise IT-related sites for them. To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, tech PR is the place where the pitches all seem strong, the products all claim to be good looking and the reps are all still below average.

So it seems my real job is that of PR educator or trainer, or at least getting folks to give me correct information. My article, one of 20 that I posted last week on the site (not that I am trying to brag, but still), had the wrong pricing info for the product. Okay, simple enough, I thought. “Please give me a couple of examples of what typical enterprise pricing would be, thanks,” I replied. Moments later came the reply: “Enterprise pricing varies from one enterprise to the next because it’s based on the number of subscribers. There is no ‘typical’ pricing for enterprises.”

Okay, how about if I sign up a 25 person company for this service, what would that cost? Seems like a straightforward question, right? Nope. “We don’t break out pricing publicly that way.” In the end I really never got an answer, and had to replace specific but incorrect information with vague but accurate statements. Was my reader served by this? Not one bit.

Oh, now I remember why I went out and worked for myself: I hate this kind of PR dumbing-down. Sigh.

So for those of you that plan on pitching me story ideas, here is a guide to help.

First off, before you send anything, read my clips! Figure out what I write about. Then take a deep breath and send your pitch to my RWW email address. If you can’t find it inside of one click from our home page, then stop right now and figure out something else to do with your career. This is not quantum mechanics.

The one exception to this is if I wrote about category of web widgets and your client has a really great one that I should have covered. Save us both a lot of time and add a comment to the article, making it clear that you represent the client. Maybe I will return to the topic in a few months and pick up some news on your client. Maybe not. But I am not inclined to write another widget article anytime soon.

Second, if you don’t have a story with something Web-based for enterprise IT workers, you can save both of us a lot of time. That is what I cover. A new printer? If it does have some interesting Web interface, it is a stretch but maybe. A new database engine for Web apps? Most certainly. There will be some other stories that I will write about, but probably not because you pitch me but because I think our readers will find them interesting.

Third, I love demos. Or better yet, access to a working version of a product that I can try out. (Please, no 30 day timebombs, because I guarantee you that on the 29th day is when I end up actually beginning my tests.) I want to see the actual product or service that my reader is going to be using in the same kind of context.

This means no slide decks, no long 30 minute conference calls where your CEO has to go over in detail how each round of capital was raised and how many of his or her cronies came from formerly fabulous places to round out the dream team. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. If you must use slides, send me a deck with three of them that I can review beforehand.

And yes, please put some kind of pricing in there. Readers are shoppers and shoppers need to know what something costs before they can honestly consider what they should do.

Finally, be responsive and get back to me soon. Real soon. This is the Interwebs, people. Our deadlines are measured in minutes sometimes, and if I have to hold a story overnight, it may never see the dawn’s early light, or even be posted. Sometimes I get two of the same email pitches, spaced a few days apart: yes, my email is actually working and the servers dutifully deliver the messages right to my little computer pretty much all day long. There is no need to follow up with a duplicate message checking to see if systems are AOK. Or worse yet, a phone call to confirm that the email was delivered. If you are so worried about it, learn to use encrypted email with delivery and read receipts.

Some of this may be old school to some of you, and you know who you are – I am happy to say that not everyone is below average. But based on my not-so-random sampling of my first week at RWW, I am not so sure.

4 thoughts on “Stupid PR Tricks

  1. Actually, you may be slinging arrows at the wrong person. Most good PR folks get it — even when you do call us flacks😉 But because ‘high tech PR’ is next to pond scum on the tree of technology corporate life, the folks in these positions don’t generally have much say in establishing policy. You can slam the PR person all you want for stuff like this, but they’re often ‘talking to the hand’ back in the office. And that hand is generally attached to the person at the rudder. You want clear pricing, then you and the PR person need to pry it out of the CEO or VP of sales. They are generally the roadblock. Oops. Have I mixed my metaphors? Sorry. I’m just a flack…

    PS – Congrats on the new post. Hope you stay out of range of the tornadoes…

  2. David — how do you feel about receiving attachments along with pitches? Some people love them, some people hate them. How do you feel?

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