I review many press releases, websites, slide decks, and complete marketing strategies. Inevitably, there are certain marketing communications tips I keep repeating. Some of them are:
- Pitch at a suitable level of detail.
- Treat your top influencers as individuals.
- For every news item, ask yourself — who cares?
- Don’t pigeonhole your company or product.
- Use a proofreader or copy editor.
- Use short(er) sentences.
I shall explain.
1. Marketing pitches can be on at least three levels:
- Industry/sector. “There’s something big going on, and I’m here to tell you about it.” Such pitches sometimes work well in webinars and other lead-generation events. But they usually fail in PR.
- Company. “We’re an awesomely well-suited company to do X.” These pitches have their place, for example:
- Product. This is usually the right way to go.
A common error is to make your product pitch in such general terms that it’s really a sector pitch in disguise.
2. There are many kinds of influencer, who often need to be handled in different ways. Some of the differences can be handled just by asking how they like to work (for example, I have a whole how to pitch me post). Beyond that, the right person to lead an important relationship is:
- Usually somebody who can truly speak for your company, and specifically:
- Has the knowledge and ability to respond to pushback.
- Knows the influencer well enough to argue back in turn.
- Occasionally an in-house press or analyst relations staffer.
- Almost never an outside PR person.
As one tech journalist put it:
If you are a small startup with innovative technology, put as little as possible between your own people who can talk with passion about the stuff, and whoever you’re trying to get coverage from.
1 of my top 20 vendor relationships — Teradata — is led by an in-house “relations” specialist. 0 of them are led by outside PR.
3. Enhancing your product is good. But if all you’re doing is playing catch-up in areas that you lag competitors, you have two main choices for marketing the enhancements:
- Assume nobody other than your current users cares.
- Emphasize your leading features, and only then add “Now with fewer drawbacks!”
And nobody — except perhaps in the affected regions — cares that you opened a sales office in Lake Wobegon, added a distributor in Grand Fenwick, or have a CEO named Elbonian Entrepreneur of the Year.
4. Focus is good. But if you claim extreme focus, there will still be a record of those claims when you later want to branch out, which can and will be used against you in sales and marketing situations.
5. A significant fraction of all marketing collateral is written by committees, by non-native English speakers, by engineers, or in a hurry. In all those cases, outside proofreading or even copy editing could be useful.
Lack of budget is no excuse; such services can be amazingly cheap.
6. In particular, sentence bloat is endemic, which is why my comments on press release drafts often say “Sentence from hell!” As I write this:
- The first sentence of the top press release on IBM.com contains 54 words; the first 3 combined contain 131.
- The analogous figures for Kognitio are 40 and 128.
Strunk and White weep.
7. Every vendor should have a blog. Period. There are no exceptions to that rule, because blogs serve one universal need — saying things that are inconvenient to express in other formats. Examples of things easier to do in a blog than elsewhere include:
- Tell customer success stories when you aren’t allowed to say the name of the customer(s).
- Explain specific technical points.
- Answer commonly raised sales objections. (But don’t be defensive when you do!)
Vendor blog dos and don’ts include:
- Do have multiple blog authors. One person never keeps up; besides, different posts should likely be written with different emphases.
- Don’t worry about frequency. Write when you have something to say.
- Don’t worry about driving/building traffic. If everybody who reads a post is somebody to whom you personally emailed a link, the blog is still extremely worthwhile.
- Don’t worry much about look and feel. A fairly generic WordPress blog is fine.
- Do include a link back to your main website. It’s amazing how many vendors forget to do that.
- Our overview of marcom essentials
- Our comprehensive post on PR theory and tips
- Our IT vendor strategy and execution worksheets
- Tips (and a rant) on your initial meeting with a PR target