PR Niblets

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Slow Down and Edit!

There’s nothing worse in the PR world than misinformation. The slightest variation of a word, a decimal point, or emphasis can make the difference between a positive message and a negative one. But in this age of rapid-fire email and real-time communications, the simple act of spending some time editing written communications could mean a tremendous difference and increase its effectiveness exponentially.

Here’s a recent example. We were facilitating a series of interviews for a client with an influential trade publication. In providing the reporter background information, we included a White Paper that had been developed for the client to explain its technology and the general benefits of its use. I received an email from the reporter with several questions, one of which had to do with a mathematical figure that was designed to demonstrate the efficiency and power of the technology. But when he quoted me the figure, he felt it didn’t quite jibe with the messaging.

We wound up going back to the original authors of the paper only to discover that the way they expressed the technology’s energy efficiency was inaccurate. A decimal point too many places to the right and utilizing the wrong metric measurement made it seem pretty useless because the way it was written made it seem like it used one third of the energy that it was supposed to have produced. Fortunately, catching the error demonstrated that our client’s technology was much more viable than it would have appeared had the editorial mistake not been caught. But this was a White Paper that was being delivered as promotional material to prove the company’s concept!

And how embarrassing that the analysts who developed the piece didn’t realize the mistake, and it took several years and a member of the media to uncover it?

Of course there are other examples, one of which I’m told is Henry’s favorite. It almost sounds like a joke, but here goes: apparently there was a PR firm that didn’t do a very good job of editing their own press releases, as it seemed they provided one particular client pubic relations counsel.

The moral of these stories? Even in this fast-paced, real-time, supercharged environment in which we find ourselves, taking the extra five minutes, three seconds even, to edit what we say and how we say it, can make all the difference in the world – and make us all seem a lot smarter.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh Analysts, How I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

Reason #1,486 why I love working with industry analysts – they tell it like it is! What other third-party resource knows your client’s industry inside and out? They know who the competition is and what they are doing and they are NOT afraid to tell you the honest to goodness truth.As a strategic PR firm, we always recommend an industry analyst program as part of our ongoing PR efforts for most (if not all) of our clients. Industry analysts are the eyes and ears of many industries (from advertising/media to energy, and of course tech) and, unlike journalists these days, they LOVE a good background meeting. With shrinking newsrooms and continuous deadlines, most reporters aren’t interested in spending an hour (or a half hour for that matter) listening to your client babble on about themselves. But an analyst will! They are patient and engaged and most importantly, they always ask the right questions.

Just the other day on the phone with IDC, a tier-one industry analyst group that we pitched and coordinated a briefing with, the analyst and my client went on for more than an hour discussing the market and the future of the telecommunications industry. Suffice it to say, the analyst and my client are now “buddy-buddy” and I know she’ll be coming to us with more questions and requests for background info in the future.

But besides the feel-good stuff that analysts do by providing an ear to bend, they write reports (read by our clients’ customers), they talk to the press constantly, they speak at many large venues with key target audiences, they tweet, they blog, they publish books, they adopt puppies… I’m not entirely sure about the last one, but I wouldn’t be surprised!

The only thing that you must be aware of is that industry analyst programs do NOT produce instant results. Like most PR programs, you need to invest time and effort by following up with the analysts and keeping them up to speed on the latest news and product releases from your client. Like some media outlets, they also like to know about things in advance, which might mean letting them “see behind the curtain” to a new product or service that is not quite fully baked yet. This can be difficult (or very easy) depending on the client. But in the long run, these types of programs do pay off. So if you aren’t incorporating an industry analyst program into your public relations campaign, I hope this has, at least, helped you to consider it.

(Photo Credit:  Mike Arauz)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


(Acronyms Are Taking Over The World)

Every so often, something will set off my Women’s soccer team (plug warning: the amazing NY Smoking Aces) to have an extensively long, usually hilarious, email chain. The last one was counted at more than 80 emails. There are 18 of us on the team, so I’m sure that doesn’t help. Especially when the reply all button is so easy to use. But I digress. Towards the end of the last massive email chain, one of the girls used FTW in a sentence. This perpetuated the emails further as apparently very few knew what that stood for. For those of you reading this that don’t either, it’s For The Win. This prompted another girl to email and ask us to decipher ILYVM&WYWH, which her mother had sent her in an email. The solution to this riddle as answered by another teammate was “I Love You Very Much & Wish You Were Here.” No clue how she figured that one out!

The point of all this, besides the hilarity of the responses between my teammates, is that I’ve noticed the use of acronyms has gone beyond email and text exchanges amongst friends and is being used more widely in business correspondence. In fact, that same day I received an email from a reporter filled with acronyms. It took me a few reads to completely understand what he was saying. A couple of months ago, I received an email response from an analyst informing me he was working on a report on LBS. After checking with my co-worker, I had to write back and ask what that meant! Location Based Services it turned out, like Foursquare he politely explained. We even use acronyms in the office to shorten client’s names – LWM, IAI, MBO, TLB etc.

Acronyms have been used for a long time, but it occurred to me after the email exchange with my soccer team how the usage of acronyms has become more common when physically speaking to others and in business. This made me question why acronyms have become so prevalent. Does it have to do with the wider use of Facebook and Twitter for branding purposes. Twitter does only allow 140 characters, making acronyms the best solution. Or, have we become lazy? Or, does it make us feel cool? A special, secret code that only the cool, smart kids can figure out and are aware of?

No matter the question, the answer is an interesting one to contemplate. What effect will this have on the English language? You hear/see in the news how Gen Y is less literate than older generations. Will acronyms contribute and perpetuate to our country's illiteracy rates? O,WWASTTIC&SLR? (Or, will we all start to talk in code and sound like robots?) As someone who deals with writing and reading on a daily basis as the main part of my job, and loves it, it’s very interesting to think about the consequences.

Just consider how many phrases and slang words have become a main part of our vocabulary. “Yea” instead of “yes.” “Rad,” “That’s Hot” (my personal favorite), “props,” “lame,” “gonna,” "sweet," “yeah right.” These have definitely changed our vocabulary and flow into business and even reporters writing (depending upon the publication). While change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s still change.

The ultimate question then is, will acronyms have a big impact on our vocabulary? Or, will it just be a fad that fades out, much like the hairstyles of the 80’s? It will certainly be interesting to see. If we’re not careful, pretty soon we’ll have acronym dictionaries replacing Webster’s (there are a few that already exist online). Personally, while it made for a hilarious email exchange with my teammates, I hope the acronym fad doesn’t take over the PR or media world.

OAO (Over and Out)

(Photo Credit: Random Jess' Blog)