If hi-tech PR was a product I’d be offering it on draught,
off-the-peg or perhaps in big value twin packs to attract some of
today’s busy, cost-conscious marketing managers.
Happily our clients still like the hand-made version that we provide,
but we are missing out on a growing demand for plug and play, PR in the
telecoms and computer industries.
These are the clients who want an instant PR service, the sort who say:
’You’ve got the job. Start Monday’. They don’t want to muck around
briefing you on their marketing plans, giving the account team anything
as sissy as product training nor do they want to waste time introducing
you to any of their colleagues. They just want loadsa PR quick as you
It wouldn’t be so bad if these characters were confined to the small and
spivvy end of the hi-tech industry. But they’re everywhere, even in some
of the most respected IT companies in the world. So be warned they
operate under the name of marketing managers, speak fluent cliche and
think Max Clifford is great. If you see one, run.
But where have they all come from? And where on earth have they got this
idea that hi-tech PR has gone instant? Well, they’ve always been around
in one form or another, but the way they view and use PR is new and the
PR industry itself is partly responsible for this.
The hi-tech sector has become scorchingly competitive. Yes, the market
has grown but a huge number of new agencies have sprung up too. Many
promise the earth and deliver a small corner of the Isle of Wight;
others charge rates that dustmen would sniff at; and, worst of all, some
claim knowledge and experience that they simply don’t have. It’s so easy
to rehearse industry issues, to rattle off names of relevant journalists
from the IT Journalists and Media Guide and to sound off about any
technology so long as you have a few choice clippings within cribbing
Discounted PR and over-promising are as old as the hills, so we know how
to deal with them. But when faced with agencies making false claims
about their technical knowledge what do you do? You cannot very well
tell prospective clients that these people are lying. In these
circumstances it is very tempting to lather up your own experience. And
there are certainly those that do.
This signals to the marketing manager that you know more than you
It tells him that he needn’t bother with the product training, with the
induction programme and all those briefing sessions. From his point of
view, this is marvellous. Saves time. Saves money. Instant public
relations with no effort or input from him: just what he always wanted.
Then, after three months or so, everything falls apart.
Not that long ago clients in the hi-tech industry and their
newly-appointed agencies recognised that it takes a mutual investment of
time and resources to make the most of the relationship. All new account
teams need proper training; they should be introduced to all the
appropriate people; they should be briefed on the marketing plan and be
given the inside track on the company’s goals.
For their own sakes, agencies should be honest about their technical
knowledge. For their part, clients should accept that ’plug and play’ PR
does not exist.
Bill Penn is chairman of hi-tech and business-to-business agency Spec