I recently had a briefing from a vendor looking to stage a comeback in an important product area. (The examples below are disguised to protect the guilty.) This was a great opportunity to position themselves as thought leaders, but they blew it by forgetting some of the basics of good media relations. These include:
Have a one or two sentence answer to any question — even if it’s the wrong question. I often start by asking a vendor how they define a product space, especially if the market is ill-defined and full of hype. This vendor responded with a long, rambling discussion of why my question was off base as it didn’t fit his product positioning. He could have instead set me straight with a short, quotable sound bite. "Well, Bob, asking how we define a service oriented architecture is the wrong question, because we believe an SOA is a process, not just a set of products. However, the three things you need for an SOA are a highly flexible IT infrastructure, strict adherence to Web services standards and a business-oriented development processes — all of which we deliver."
Tell me what your product is, not what it isn’t. When I questioned the name of a product because it struck me as misleading, the vendor delivered a long explanation of what the product isn’t. Instead he should have briefly dismissed my objection, then explained his product and and why it’s superior to everything else. "This may not fit the classical description of an application server, Bob, but it provides the crucial capabilities of an application server in spades: Scalability, reliability, security and sophisticated transaction processing."
Say the product names slowly and describe them. This spokesperson sped through the details of their announcement mumbling the model names, model numbers and their descriptions. To avoid confusion, speak slowly so the reporter gets the names right and hand them (or supply through e-mail) a product sheet with the full name, specifications and description of each one.
Running through these basics before your next press tour will make a better impression on the reporter and editor, and make it easier for them to give you the coverage you deserve.
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