First, a caution: This item will read like a rant, but there is a point.

I recently emailed a PR firm to check the status of a vendor’s product. The only update I needed to finish my story was whether their client’s software had moved from it’s previous alpha (early test) status into beta (customer testing) or into general availability.

The PR person emailed back a list of new features which had recently been added to the software, but said she would have to defer to a company spokesman for more details and asked if I wanted to do a phone briefing.

No, I replied; just tell me whether the software is in alpha, beta or general release. This time she forwarded, verbatim, the vendor’s 52-word answer which talked around, through, under and over the issue without answering it. “Let me know if you have additional questions or if you’d like to schedule a quick phone chat…to clarify the above

info

rmation,” she ended helpfully.

I’m sure the vendor – her client – has excellent reasons for being careful about what they do or don’t call a beta. But if getting an answer to a simple question gets too hard, I’m tempted to drop the vendor from the story – especially if I’m jammed for time, as every editor and reporter is.

Her next email had the answer to my question, and all ended well. But in the interests of your clients, I suggest you remember that when a reporter or editor asks you a “yes or no” question, there are four effective answers: 1) Yes, 2) No, 3) No comment or 4) I’ll check and get back to you. Don’t simply forward a windy, overly technical or nonsensical reply from your client or the reporter may get the story wrong or (worst of all) not mention your client at all.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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