How PR kills consumer electronics

Each year billions are spent developing and marketing new consumer electronics.

Each year billions are spent developing and marketing new consumer electronics.

And each year, PR departments and agencies kill or slow down the mainstream acceptance of countless of these products.

While there are several unfortunate industry truths responsible for this, one is inexcusable: as an industry, consumer electronics language and messaging is still inexcusably high-tech, unemotional, and difficult to understand.

I've found one of the biggest reasons to be that PR departments and agencies are too far removed from the product development and marketing departments. The communications flow is one-way, downstream, and PR is many miles away from the engineers who create the products and marketers who decide (usually ineffectively) how to talk about them. This corporate structure all but guarantees that by the time your messaging gets to consumers it's muddled at best, and incomprehensible at worst.

The problem is that although PR is actually trained in effective communication, you have very little to do with the creation product communication. Your engineers have never been accused of having a way with words, yet most product messaging begins with them before it even gets to the product managers and marketers. Then it's given to you, talking points shrink-wrapped for distribution.

At the recent CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment trade show in San Diego, a PR staffer at a major memory maker told me that, "We let marketing create the language, and we just communicate it."

This, of course, is all wrong.

PR needs to be involved much earlier—preferably in the strategic planning stages of the communications development process. You actually have insight into what excites the media. Further, consumers must be involved in your messaging. If the goal is to excite consumers about new technology, why not ask them how they think and talk about your devices? Listen to the words they use. That is how to talk about your products. I've worked on this with some of the largest consumer electronics makers in the world. The most successful ones have insight into how their consumers think about their products. But the vast majority—including, in all likelihood, your company—have little clue about consumer thinking.

There are other issues: media communications people are too young, too overworked and too undertrained, and communications to the media are embarrassingly bad.

But for now, think about how much more effective your messaging can be if you — and your customers – were involved in creating it.

Alex Goldfayn runs a consultancy as the Technology Tailor, helping leading manufacturers create consumer electronics evangelists.

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