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Empty PR Exercises That Make Your Company Look Amateurish

317574838_46f6e65b84_m.jpgDoes your company ever dilute its credibility with these types of (very common) lame-o announcements?
  • Lame Partnership Initiatives -- When Google and IBM announce [even relatively mundane] joint initiatives (like today's announcement that they're partnering to "promote new software development methods" in research and academia), tier-1 business press commonly ensues. Is it really "news" that two major vendors are cultivating talent and relationships in the research / academic world? Of course not -- that same exact story has been going on for decades (and typically with IBM right in the middle of it). So why did the journalist cover the announcement? Uh - I'd wager - because it's Google and IBM. But many (lesser known) vendors look at the news patterns around major vendor partnerships and similarly follow suit with their own 'Barney' partnership announcements that they believe will advance their cause through some sort of 'strength in numbers' voodoo. What they don't realize is that there are thousands of these empty partnership announcements every year, and that when two or more (relatively obscure) vendors partner up to "do something big," there typically is no multiplier effect on the value of the news. If you're partnering up with another vendor for the sole purposes of joint PR, recognize that it's likely going to be a low yield exercise (and may simply make both of you look foolish or desperate).
  • Advisory Boards -- Many start-ups try to ramp up the mystique of their brand by adding some sort of "industry legend" to their advisory board. These announcements are particularly embarrassing when a relatively high percentage of the readers (however few there might be) have never actually heard of the legend. In my opinion, "advisory boards" can also imply that the company has hit some sort of stall that requires outside assistance. Unless you're adding the Vint Cerf or Ray Ozzie caliber of advisor to your arsenal, consider the probability that no one is going to care.
  • Industry Consortia -- "Vendor X Joins Leading Consortium Y." So begins the typical "we joined a consortium, yippee!" announcement. Again, these are a dime a dozen, but what's the benefit to the vendor? The consortium may be getting some attention by virtue of all these members touting their memberships with these lame press releases ... but what are the vendors getting? The one time in the lifespan of an industry consortium where news occurs is typically at the onset of the consortium. This group of vendors got together to solve a common problem. Then, poof ... that's it for the news that's going to happen. But there are always at least a few vendors that try to milk their membership for some long-term PR value, and just look like they're grasping at straws ...
  • Personnel Announcements -- If a new hire has pedigree (notable accomplishments in the field, came from a well-known vendor, etc.), it makes perfect sense to tout that personnel move in an announcement. There are many publications out there with sections dedicated specifically to notable new personnel announcements. This type of event also opens the door for a vendor to re-engage with certain journalists they've worked with in the past to introduce them to this new, key figure, etc. But when a company goes full boar every time there's a new hire (of any stature), with breathless press release quotes about how "excited they are to add such a visionary leader to the e-staff," people roll their eyes. It looks very amateurish.
  • "International Presence" -- Many small fry vendors like to proclaim to the world that they've "expanded their offices to the UK," when in reality they hired one sales person who is telecommuting from a 250 sq ft London apartment. You're not fooling anyone. Major new customers in international markets are newsworthy. The announcements where vendors are hallucinating about their impending worldwide domination are not.
"Grasping at Straws" image courtesy of Froot Smoothie's photostream on flickr.