I regularly have PR and marketing people getting grumpy with me because I said something not-nice about their client. This post is so I can put my thoughts on this situation, and my response to it, in one place that I can point people at, instead of explaining the same thing one-on-one.
Contrary to what you might think if you’ve been on the receiving end of one of my not-nice pieces (or some keynote snark on Twitter), I do write positive pieces. Fairly often. I’ll have to run some sentiment analysis over my work some day to get some hard numbers on it, but here are some discrete examples of positive pieces chosen more-or-less at random and spanning several years.
- Scale Computing In The Goldilocks Zone
- VFD4 Prep: Dell
- Why NetApp Snapshots Are Awesome
- SNIA Blogfest 2010: IBM
- Pure Storage FlashArray//m
How do you, marketing person or Press/Analyst relations person, get me to write positive things about your company or client? It’s all about whether you made me happy or sad, which is mostly about managing my expectations.
Happy, or Sad?
I want to love your company and its products. If you make this hard to do, that makes me sad, and then I write about why it made me sad. If you make it easy, then it makes me happy, and then I write about why it made me happy. It’s a pretty simple formula.
Ah, so what makes me happy? I’m a nerd. I like science, and technology, and maths. I have other interests as well, but I genuinely like the kinds of things your company/client makes and sells. I like to find things out, and enjoy understanding how things work; I’m naturally inquisitive. You already have a head start with me.
I also work in this industry, and have done for many years. I know how a lot of stuff works, and I’ve read some history, so I can remember the ways things were done in the past, and not just from personal experience. You can skip a lot of “scene setting” and get to the important stuff quickly. I’ll ask questions if I’m confused.
But mostly, what I want to hear about is you. What makes you different? Why are you special? If you spend a lot of time talking about competitors, particularly about how you’re ‘better’, then that makes me sad. I don’t want to hear about them, I want to hear about you. If I want to talk to your competitors, I’ll ring them up. I probably spoke to them last week, or will next week.
‘Better’ is terribly subjective, and you’re not well placed to make that assessment. That’s my job, and the job of every customer who considers whether to buy from you or not. ‘Better’ can mean different things to different people at different times.
Instead, focus on the basic marketing positioning statement:
For [target segment] that need [problem you solve] we offer [your product/service] which unlike [next best alternative] our thing provides these benefits [quantified benefits] by doing [how you do it] as demonstrated by [proof].
Check out my next post Positioning Well and Poorly for more detail on what I like to see.
What makes me sad is when you don’t have a clear idea of what goes into any of those brackets. If you have an overly broad target segment, then I struggle to figure out who you’re trying to talk to, and that’s frustrating, which makes me sad.
If the problem you solve isn’t clear, or it’s already being solved by 946 other companies and all you apparently do differently is “it’s cheaper”, that makes me sad. Making the price 1c lower than yours is super easy to do (possibly not sustainable, but hey!) so ‘cheaper’ is boring. Being bored makes me sad.
The same goes for ‘faster’. In technology, I wait three months and someone else will have put the latest chip in their version of your thing and get better benchmark stats than you. And a month after that they’ll get overtaken by someone else. Speeds and feeds are boring unless it’s an order of magnitude difference at least. Incremental improvements are expected, not revolutionary or ‘game-changing’ or *shudder* ‘disruptive’.
If you do have a clear idea of what goes into the brackets, and you can clearly, and succinctly, communicate what they are, then we’ll get along just fine. Then I get to happily dig into the specifics of how your thing does this stuff and generally geek out, which is just fun. And then I write about how happy I am.