Ask any journalist, writer or editor what they hate most about their job and the answer will probably be press releases/media alerts – the new age junk mail. I’m talking about the endless stream of ‘codswallop’ emanating from mindless life forms that use a well-worn template to make pronouncements that they hope will stimulate attention. I have bad news for these daleks of the written word – you and your templates need to be ‘exterminated’.
For those uninitiated to the clandestine world of PR speak almost all correspondence starts like this:
“Company X, the world’s leading company specializing in Y, have just announced they have managed to do Z.” Woopdedoo! That, or a derivation of that is what they all say! And the strange part is that Company X pays these dimwits to pump them out, week after week. Any eight year old with access to a computing device could do the same, maybe even better.
Last week’s classic came from Subex Ltd, “a leading global provider of Business Support Systems (BSS) for Communications Service Providers (CSPs).” Now, I’m not picking on Subex in particular, in fact I respect the company and its people very much, but they happen to be a big player in our industry sector but their PR machine excels at doing them no favours at all.
I can’t count how many releases I have had from them trumpeting winning deals with a ‘leading operator in Asia, or Europe or any other continent’. That means nothing to most people and is hardly newsworthy. If you can’t name the customers, then why bother to announce deals? This is an especially irritating aspect of the PR process that is made worse by vague, inexpert descriptions of a project that has been awarded.
Readers want to know who the customer is, what they bought, how big the deal was, etc. so they can refer to them if they are planning to buy products themselves. Surely there is a need to hang stories on ‘why is it important’ or ‘what it means’ – otherwise it is pointless. Maybe it’s just a clever ploy to get journalists and customers to call and find out more – but I doubt it.
Just yesterday came the ‘coupe de grace’ of Subex releases stating triumphantly “that leading analyst firm Gartner has ranked Subex as the market leader in the Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management for the third year in succession, based on revenue.” The document made no reference to Subex results that were pretty good, but you had to go and look for them somewhere else. It basically referred to an out of date 16 page Gartner report Subex had mentioned in previous correspondence. If you wanted to confirm that you would have to pay $1,295 dollars to read. At $800 a page I think I’ll pass and just take Subex’ word for it.
But honestly, is that the message Subex really wanted to convey to its customers and prospects? ‘We are the number one RA company based on revenue that we got out of our customers.’ Frankly, prioritizing to the world and your customers that you are proud of how much money you have made out of them is borderline rude. Wouldn’t it be better to quote a report that says it is number one based on customer surveys and feedback, or number one based on technology leadership or even number of customers?
I guess you have to pay extra for those reports. Of course, you could quote your position in one of Gartner’s many seemingly customizable ‘magic quadrants.’ However, after Ed Finegold’s excellent exposé of those, they could be better dubbed ‘magic wedgies’.
Come on Subex, and all you other fine upstanding business systems exponents. Let’s set a precedent for the rest of the industry and send out some really worthwhile news about ourselves. If you can give editors a real story written by a real professional that isn’t full of marketing BS, they will print it! Really, truly, honestly. All they want is stuff that is newsworthy and if you give them that they will love you.
So, simple advice – spend less money on reports and PR that people have trouble believing and more on real people who can research, write and tell a great story. You’ll be doing us all a big favour!