Friday Rant: When Will PR People Get It?

Last week, a communications manager at a highly reputable solutions provider reached out to me to announce a new offering. The offering itself was rather unremarkable. Interesting, yes. Worthy of coverage, probably. But the way he pitched me in on it virtually doomed any chance I'd even look at it other than a passing observation that day (and I did, in fact, pass on it at the time). And that's because he pitched me like a traditional journalist who he expected would take his bait hook, line and sinker without doing due diligence.

Even more egregious was the fact that he provided three analysts as references for me to talk to, two of whom mentioned, don't have a frigging clue in my book about how our sector works (and, in fact, they missed briefing a fourth analyst whom I do respect). In other words, said "blogger" or "columnist", whatever you want to call me, was expected to chomp on the hook based on the fact that "experts had been briefed on the subject" and were standing by to talk to me about it. What malarkey!

This type of experience shows me that even in today's world, without a doubt, the way most people get their information is from traditional trade journalists writing about stories with no depth of knowledge to confirm their research (or the drive to go out and do serious journalism). The fundamental problem is they often base their angle and analysis on supposedly expert opinion provided, for the most part, by industry observers who don't have a clue what they're really talking about (at least a good portion of the time). I hope this alarms everyone else as much as it alarms me. It's the blind leading the blind without Braille, folks. Wake up!

As to the conclusion of this story, I suggested to the affable PR manager that next time, it would behoove him to pre-brief me first along with the analysts as well as provide references that I might speak to. Then, I'd be more inclined to not only write about the news, but to also recommend their solution through other channels if the references stood behind their investment decision. But as for suggesting to me that I call up analysts at firms like IDC who know as much about a niche area of Spend Management as I knew about the network and systems management industry -- the first market I covered as an analyst at age 22 -- when I was a stupid kid, I think I'll take a pass.

Jason Busch

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