- When attempting to impress influencers, press and analysts alike, pitch emails are much more important than actual press releases. By that I mean, among other things:
- The old cliché that your first few seconds of impression-making are much more important than all the rest applies in this case.
- Unless the pitch email succeeds, your press release won’t even be looked at.
- Unless the pitch email succeeds, you won’t get to have a verbal conversation with the influencer.
- Pitch emails can, just by themselves, harm somebody’s impression of you, in two overlapping ways:
- They can damage your credibility.
- They can insult the recipient, by giving the impression that you think he’s dumb enough to be fooled.
- Few companies act as if this is true.
My support for these views includes:
- My own reactions as an influencer.
- My conversations with other influencers.
- My knowledge of how PR and AR work get done.
- Common sense.
My top tip for pitch emails is: Approve the pitch emails a PR firm writes before they are sent out!!!! There are two big reasons for this: Read more
Marketing is commonly done to single individuals, influencers and sales prospects alike. A number of my posts reflect that reality. Most comprehensive are probably my 2014 post about presentations to small audiences and my 2008 survey of many kinds of influencer. Relevant bits of other posts include:
You can’t sell effectively without listening. This is one of the basic facts of business, yet shockingly many people forget it. You can’t pitch effectively without understanding how the prospect frames what she hears, and you can’t judge that unless you listen to what she says.
from a 2013 post about “fluency”,
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.
from a 2011 quoted journalist rant,
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.
from a 2012 collection of marketing communications tips, which also makes the point that you should flat-out ask people how they like to work, and a variety of cautionary tales of how one can bungle meetings or other relationship moments.
The above can be summarized as:
- Respect the person you’re trying to impress.
- Treat the person you’re trying to impress as an individual.
- Listen to the person you’re trying to impress.
- Understand and cater to how the person you’re trying to impress thinks.
I could write a whole post on that last bullet point alone.
Here are some further tips for productive single-person marketing and persuasion. Read more
My dislike of slide presentations is vehement and long-standing. Even so, my consulting duties often lead me to critique vendors’ slide decks, hoping to make them a little more tolerable. Most of the precepts I rely on in these exercises can be encapsulated in “C” words:
- All messaging needs to be Clear, Compelling, and Credible.
- Credibility depends upon, among other factors, Consistency.
- All collateral should be Cleanly Copy-edited.
- A presentation should always be tailored for the specific audience and purpose (it’s not a crazy stretch to call that Context).
And at the risk of drowning in excessive Cs, slide decks are a primary venue for a recent post topic: Short lists of Concise Claims.
Let’s talk a bit about that tailoring. Some things are shown only to very specific audiences. For example: Read more
I consult to ever more stealth-mode companies, so perhaps it’s time to pull together some common themes in my advice to them. Here by “stealth mode” I mean the period when new companies — rightly or wrongly — are unwilling to disclose any technological specifics, for fear that their ideas will be preempted by rival vendors’ engineering teams (unlikely) or just by their marketing departments (a more realistic concern).
To some extent, “stealth-mode marketing” is an oxymoron.* Still, there are two genuine stealth-mode marketing tasks:
- Recruit employees.
- Prime the pump for post-stealth marketing.
Further, I’d divide the second task into two parts — messaging and outreach. Let’s talk a bit about both.
*I am reminded of my late friend Richard “Rick” Neustadt, Jr., whose dream job — notwithstanding his father’s famous book on presidential power — was to be a US Senator. So he needed to punch his military duty ticket, and got a billet doing PR for the Coast Guard. (One of his training classmates was Dan Quayle.) His posting was to a classified base, and so his PR duties consisted essentially of media-mention prevention. But I digress …
As I wrote in a collection of marcom tips, the pitch style
“We’re an awesomely well-suited company to do X.”
- In stealth mode, when you don’t have anything else to say …
- … but not at first product launch, when you finally do.
For small start-up companies, this message is most easily communicated through highlights of the founders’ awesome resumes, for example:
Our CTO personally stuffed and dyed the yellow elephant for which the Hadoop project is named.
But that still begs a central question – how do you describe what your stealth-mode company is planning to do? I.e. — in the quote above, what is the “X”?
Some principles of enterprise IT messaging.
0. Decision makers are motivated by two emotions above all — fear and greed. In the case of enterprise IT, that equates roughly to saying they want to buy stuff that:
- Is safe.
- Will confer benefits.
1. For a marketing message to succeed, whatever its goals are, the “confer benefits” part of the story needs to be:
2. The “safe” part needs to be believed too. Rational belief in the safety of doing business with you is good. Blind faith is even better, but usually is enjoyed only by the most established of vendors.
In some cases, that may be the greatest competitive strength they have.
3. To be believed, enterprise IT messaging generally needs to be:
A certain amount of exaggeration is expected, and easily shrugged off. It’s also possible to get away with a certain amount of vagueness, whether in a fear/safety story or when pitching something as new/innovative/exciting. But don’t overdo either.
One common way to overdo your exaggeration — make an obviously false claim of uniqueness.
4. Please note: Deficiencies in the consistency of your messages can undermine credibility and clarity alike.
5. Messaging can become distorted in many ways, both accidental and deliberate. For example: Read more
|Categories: Analyst relations, Layered messaging models, Marketing communications, Marketing theory, Technology marketing||3 Comments|
All marketing communications attempt to cast their subject in a favorable light. I get that. But when your claim is obvious nonsense, you’re just doing yourself harm.
My best example this week (it’s only Tuesday morning) is an email from Vitria, which reads in part:
The world’s first Operational Intelligence (OI) app …
While it seems like everyone is jumping on the big data bandwagon, only OI can claim to be purposely built for tackling big data in motion …
That’s utter nonsense. We’ve had a CEP/stream processing industry for years. We’ve had stock-quote and network-monitoring systems for decades. Maybe Vitria has a good story, but the core claims in their email are obviously false. If you think I’m overreacting, it’s only because so many other companies also pitch blatantly untrue claims.
So do I want to talk with them? Well, their email suggests that if I do, they’re likely to start out by emphatically saying untrue things. Blech. I think most serious reporters, bloggers and analysts would feel much as I do on the matter. Even the ones who do take a briefing are likely to go in with a more negative attitude than they might if the pitch email had been more closely based on reality.
And if I do ever talk with Vitria anyway, they’ll need to start by climbing out of a credibility hole.
|Categories: Analyst relations, Marketing communications, Public relations, Technology marketing||2 Comments|
It seems that my IT vendor strategy worksheet was well-received, by companies at different stages of development, clients and non-clients alike.* So here’s the promised sequel — a similar worksheet with more of an execution orientation. If your answers to these questions don’t dovetail well with your strategy responses, you have some serious rethinking to do.
*Those who’ve worked it through include a multi-billion dollar powerhouse, a two-person lifestyle business, and some pre-revenue start-ups.
For the strategy worksheet, I took the extreme position that every employee of every IT vendor should have at least some idea of the answers. In this case, I won’t go quite that far. But I will say that most IT vendors will find most of these questions to be of great importance. So no matter what your role in the organization, you might find it helpful to see how much of this stuff you actually know.
And if you’re the CEO, you should score 100%.
Once again, for reasons of length, I’ll summarize up top and comment on each question below.
Michael Arrington is in another flap, this time for asserting TechCrunch’s right to blindside companies with news. To disagree with him, you almost have to take the stance that companies have some sort of right to manage news about themselves, which I see as pretty ridiculous.
Recently, I got into a flap with EMC Greenplum. I blindsided them on a story; they retaliated for the story by, among other things, screwing me over business-wise. Why did I blindside them in the first place? Because I believed that if I didn’t, they’d put me under intense pressure not to publicize news I’d obtained. (Given the punishment they dished out for my running it, I imagine my belief was quite correct.)
Meanwhile, here are excerpts from a post I drafted last year, but never ran: Read more
I just blogged about a company pre-launch because the news wasn’t actually embargoed (their website was up) and the press was asking me for comment. Those details are unusual, but I’d guess that the majority of quotes I give to the press are about news I haven’t been briefed on.
When news is minor enough, that’s unavoidable. But in this case and others I would have willingly been briefed (scheduling just got a bit awkward this time). The two lessons here are:
- Brief the people who will be called for quotes before you brief the press, and therefore …
- … know who the press is likely to ask for quotes.
I post from time to time about stupid PR tricks, but last night I had an experience that was a whole different level of appalling, for reasons of ethics and general incompetence alike. Within hours, the vendor’s CEO had emailed me that the offending PR person would be terminated this morning.*
*By the way, that means an intriguing New England startup needs a new PR firm. By tomorrow it should be obvious who I mean.
It started as an ordinary kind of bad pitch. The PR rep emailed offering a briefing with a mystery company. I immediately deduced that the company was one I was in fact set up to talk with today, and had indeed been writing about since 2009. Besides being annoyed that I’d had to scramble to set up my own last-moment briefing with a company I’d led the way in writing about, I also bristled at the fact that the pitch included quotes from a couple of my competitors, whom I shall unimaginatively refer to as Dave and Merv.* So far, no big deal.
*Both personally and professionally, they’re two of my favorites. Even so, I dislike being told that I should use them as authority figures to be copied in my own view formation.
But then it occurred to me that those quotes probably weren’t approved, but instead were just lifted in an unauthorized manner from conversations, and indeed probably didn’t reflect the analysts’ precise views. So I messaged Dave and Merv. Shortly thereafter, the PR rep emailed me:
Neither David or Merv have authorized the quote for publication. It was sent in error to you, as I had believed you had agreed to the sharing of confidential information.
The bulk of my response to that — and the essence of this post — was: Read more
|Categories: Analyst relations, Ethics, Marketing communications, Public relations, Startups, Technology marketing||3 Comments|