Platform: Why there is no recipe for PR in an instant - PR agencies are too willing to exaggerate technical knowledge to meet the hi-tech industry’s need for instant PR, says Bill Penn

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.

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


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