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PR Companies Struggle With Tech PR, More Product Than Brand

Tech PR is a multimillion-dollar industry in Australia and unlike some categories it is constantly changing making it extremly appealing to PR Companies and those who ‘think’ they can make a quick few dollars from this category.

Today tech is on the evening TV news, radio and in print and digital publications. It’s one of the hottest categories out there.

However, tech PR is a tough gig, it’s complex, fast moving and above all calls for a high degree of knowledge by the account manager managing a tech account.

For example, a Samsung top end smartphone is as much a business tool that can be hooked into an enterprise network as it is a consumer device for watching video’s accessing Facebook or simply taking a call.

Both media markets are radically different, and I suspect that the bulk of account managers especially the ones I have to deal with on a daily basis wouldn’t have a clue about enterprise computing or how many of the products that they are spruiking actually work.

The PR industry in Australia has got some seriously questionable consultants working on tech accounts these are people who don’t have a clue that to get media eyeballs you need to be able to deliver a relevant focused well written story or that tech PR is not a case of one release that suites all tech media.

I also believe that most PR Companies and their consultants don’t have a clue as to the go to market strategies of the tech companies they represent.

Retail is a radically different go, to market model than selling via solution providers and retail is as much mass consumer as it is specialist channel which is where the bulk of top end gaming machines are being sold.

ChannelNews, ARN and CRN are all about business stories affecting the tech Channel, but most tech PR is consumer or B2b based.

Last week I had one consultant who phoned me with a pitch claiming that she had sent me a press release and wanted to check when “I would be running the story” in SmartHouse.

When I checked my Outlook, I found the release in the delete folder for the simple reason it was a large enterprise story from a large enterprise client.

PR Companies who try to pitch a story that is a million miles away from the target audience we reach is frightening when you think that brands are paying up to $250 an hour in some cases for a so called “experienced” consultant to work on their account.

This is an industry that needs experienced people, but what the PR is dishing up to clients is fluff merchants to work on their account who think that social media, Facebook and Google are the way to go.

One day they are flogging perfume the next a highly technical PC gaming machine or even enterprise computing and cloud-based services.

Then there are the practises who make money taking the date and time off an overseas press release, add an Australian city and date and local pricing and block send it to as many people as they can in the hope that they get a bite.

Many consultants don’t even know the difference between trade PR and consumer or the difference between a tech business release and a straight-out product announcement.

For some tech PR is all about sending out press releases that are more bits and bytes and product specs than spruiking the brand.

Do consumers buy Apple or Samsung products or do they go after the latest processor or RAM configuration.

Today brand and brand PR marketing is critical, yet the bulk of press releases sent out by PR Companies relate to product specs and features.

Missing is brand pedigree marketing and any form of rationalisation as to why consumers should buy one brand of products over another.

Is a Bauhn TV sold at Aldi less credible than a TCL or Sony TV? Are house brand appliance products as good as branded products that in most cases are significantly more expensive than the branded products when in a lot of cases they are coming off the same Chinese production lines? What constitutes brand value?

As Apple, BMW and Samsung will tell you brand credibility is far more important that yet another new product release, but most PR Companies in Australia fail time and time again to deliver brand PR. As Samsung found out when their Galaxy Smart phone had a fire problem, it was brand credibility not the product that helped them overcome a massive negative campaign by several media organisations.

Take the WPP owned Pulse, they were given the job of getting PR for the fact that KitchenAid is 100 years old, this was a perfect opportunity to deliver a seriously strong brand campaign.

Last week I attended a function for the 100-year-old celebration organised by Pulse, and what caught my eye were posters promoting the fact that Whirlpool had a rich pedigree. The first in home dishwasher from 1949, the fact that in 1955 Kitchen Aid were already ahead of the fashion curve with three mixers in petal pink, Sunny Yellow and Green Satin.

Having run the third largest PR Company in Australia there is one thing that I have learnt and that is credible content that allows one to link the past with the future is gold when it comes to spruiking a brand.

As for KitchenAid, there is research that reveals that millennials might be known for having a penchant for trendy, new companies — whether it’s a buzzy new app or streaming service — but the results of a recent survey found that one of the most relevant brands to millennials is in fact the 100-year-old KitchenAid.

Global consultancy firm Prophet recently released its fourth annual Brand Relevance Index, in which it surveyed 12,694 consumers about 299 brands in 37 industries.

Consumers were asked to measure the brands on four key principles: customer obsession (brands you can’t live without), ruthless pragmatism (brands you can depend on), pervasive innovation (brands that consistently innovate) and distinctive inspiration (brands that inspire you).

KitchenAid snagged the third spot, beating out the likes of Apple (which ranked fourth) and Google (which ranked fifth), the two ahead of them were Netflix and Amazon, Samsung came in 7th.

As for Pulse none of this research information was communicated to Australian media, instead they delivered a press release on a new Blue KitchenAid mixer designed to celebrate 100 years.

This is not surprising as Pulse are part of the world’s biggest media Companies WPP who also own Hill & Knowlton Strategies who act for LG Electronics. This Company don’t even bother to build out relevant media profiles resulting in key media being missed even when they have a relevant story. (See separate story here).

Today Tech PR is one big churn, the same press releases going out to the same media day in day out.

For struggling media Companies this is great, because it’s free content to fill HTML pages online for several tech media publications.

At ChannelNews we prefer stories that our competition don’t have. The more unique the better chance of getting a run.

What PR Companies need to do today is get closer to media Companies and that means picking up the phone or even better organising one on one meetings twice a year.

I used to do this with brands such as Shell, AAMI, Dulux and BMW and the end result was excellent brand PR.

PR Companies also need to think outside the obvious. We did this years ago when we launched a cheap but powerful Sanyo vacuum cleaner. Instead of talking about the vacuum cleaner we talked about bed bugs and the bugs inside carpets that the new Sanyo Vacuum cleaner could suck up. Every TV station ran the story and we got wall to wall radio and print media exposure.

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