Do have an internal code of conduct for yourself or your firm? Is it public? I think it’s a good idea. Especially since most of these principles are already Pro PR Tips!
Author Archives: Rafe
Is there a new PR outreach service that people are using to automatically follow up on boring and mis-targeted press releases exactly 24 hours after they were first mis-sent to me to skip over?
Seriously, I’m getting several of these a day now, and they’re infuriating. Now I have to ignore them twice.
Also, using the Yahoo email indicates that you don’t know where I’m working. That’s ok, I’ve moved frequently in the last few years. But it would be a bonus if you knew I am at Maker Media now.
If your business is all about keeping promises — say something like insurance, or perhaps Web site hosting — you really want to make sure that when the chips are down, you can actually make good on those promises.
This comes up because today I visited Luke Rehmann’s password-checking site, from a link in a BGR story we ran about a big password hack. Rehmann’s site is getting hammered as I write this (my analytics show that the story about the hack is one of the biggest we’ve run in months) and it has buckled under the load.
The site is apparently using CloudFlare, which claims to provide robust, distributed Web hosting. But when I went to the site, I got this message:
Click to zoom, or just trust me that it says, “This page is currently offline. However, because the site uses CloudFlare’s Always Online technology, you can continue to surf a snapshot of the site…”
Needless to say, if the site is a database lookup service, then a snapshot of it does not count as “online.”
Now, to be fair, CloudFlare does not actually claim to be running Rehmann’s entire site. The CloudFlare service caches the Web front-end to the site, but the database that the site hits is, likely, not part of the system. So the site can give you the cached version of the site, but it can’t do anything about the database, which appears to be swamped. That’s not CloudFlare’s fault.
But the messaging is all wrong. CloudFlare’s banner at the top of the site seems to say, “Use CloudFlare and your site will never go down,” when, in fact, CloudFlare can’t make that promise — because it’s not designed to do what’s necessary to keep a database site online.
If the whole point of your product, as spelled out in its brand, is to do a thing, then your product should do that thing. If it doesn’t, sending out self-contradictory messages will just confuse people, and probably annoy the crap out of your customers.
The upshot: optimize for convenience. Recognize you’re competing with not just a million other announcements for coverage, but interminable Las Vegas taxi lines as well.
At TechCrunch Disrupt, during a quick stand-up meeting with one of the “demo pit” companies, the startup CEO I was talking with tried to stick a big logo sticker onto the page of the notebook I was writing in. As you can imagine, I didn’t take kindly to this action. But after a moment of reflection, it came to me: Notepad stickers are a great idea. If you do them right.
Here’s what I mean by doing it right: Get some stickers printed up. Logo, company name, your name, email, phone. A small sticker, with small black type and a transparent background. When you’re talking to a reporter, give them the sticker to put onto their notes. So convenient! (And if they later scan their notes into Evernote, as I do, it will OCR the key data so much better than trying to read handwriting.)
Just remember to not try to put the sticker on their notes for them. Eww.
If you do this, let me know how it goes over.
I love PR stunts. Especially when they go wrong. It’s like… justice.
What’s a PR stunt? It’s an event or made-up news item that’s about itself, not a product and not a company. Sometimes PR stunts can go incredibly well, especially when they’re attached to a well-loved brand. If they are awesome unto themselves, they can actually make the brand stronger. I’m looking at you, Red Bull Flugtag.
Or sometimes they can go horribly wrong. Like today’s study in PR stunt flops: Skittles. To go along with the candy’s new Skittle Cloud ad campaign, Wrigley (which makes Skittles), created a remote-controlled Skittles Cloud robot and thought they’d trot it out to reporters to reinforce the ads.
My team in New York loves Skittles. They accepted the request to host the Skittles robot, and thought they’d get a nice, harmless, feel-good story about a magical robot that feeds them candy.
But what arrived in our New York office was a remote-controlled robot that, in everyone’s opinion, pooped Skittles.
During the robot demo, the PR rep must have known things were going amiss. After the meeting, but before our story ran, our writer got an email from the PR rep pleading,
Could you leave out any mention of pooping Skittles?
I had to make the call on this one. And I had to come down on the side of accuracy. Which is to say, the robot that visited looked like it pooped Skittles. That was its strongest impression, so that’s what went in the headline. To say anything else would have been inaccurate and a capitulation to PR. We were expecting to have fun with the Skittles bot, not make fun of it, but ultimately, how could we not?
Read the story here: Skittles Made a Candy-Pooping Robot, and It Visited Our Office.
USA Today had a similar take: A candy-filled cloud? Skittles unveils new ad campaign
That’s the way it goes. If yout stunt crashes, that will be the story, and there won’t be a thing you can do about it.
Tip #206: Sound it out
Understanding jargon is a big part of covering technology. But no one reporter knows all the buzzwords. So saying that “everyone is talking about” acronyms you can be sure that most people have never heard before (except the geeks in your particular industry subset) is a waste of an opportunity to connect.
Everyone is talking about SDN and NFV. But at Mobile World Congress 2014, [[company]] will go beyond the buzzwords and conduct the first public live demo of its Distributed NFV (D-NFV) solution.
On the other hand, you don’t want to talk down to people, either. Because then I’ll do another Pro PR Tip that’s the exact opposite of this one. So you can’t win.
Unless you know who you’re pitching.