Posted tagged ‘Tech PR’

What Happens in Vegas…

February 2, 2011

As we turn the calendar from one year to another, what does it make you think about? New Year’s Resolutions? Back-To-School? The Super Bowl?

Well, if you’re like me and employed in the world of tech PR, it means one thing…the annual “Super Bowl” of consumer electronics events, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

If you’ve ever attended CES then you know that the show has grown exponentially since its early days. There’s nothing quite like getting more than 140,000+ of your closest friends together in Las Vegas for 4 days of the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos from some of the largest consumer electronics companies in the world. Each year, months of hype lead up to the show. Who’s going to be there? What are they going to be demonstrating? What’s the big, new “it” product? And this year was no different.

Quite a few major technology trends emerged from this year’s show floor that are sure to keep me busy throughout 2011. Some of the significant topics of discussion included the launch of dozens of new tablet devices, wireless 4G LTE and enhanced connected television technologies.

And if you thought that CES had lost its luster and prestige…think again! Last year was a major down year in terms of attendance for CES. But, it was the large crowd at this year’s show that caught the attention of many in the media:

“I must’ve gotten the following question fifty times in the past few days: what’s the coolest thing you saw at CES? Every time, I’ve given the same answer: the crowd…It’s what the size of the 2011 CES signifies about the consumer electronics industry, and about the cultural centrality of a set of devices and issues that used to be the sole province of geeks.” Jon Stokes, Ars Technica

“CES 2011 is back to normal. It was packed with vendors and attendees. The overall tone was extremely up beat… It was fun to walk the floor and see what was on display.” Bill Wong, Electronic Design

There was no shortage of big names at CES. Amongst those speaking in Las Vegas this year were Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, Rupert Stadler of AUDI AG, Boo-Keun Yoon of Samsung, Alan Mulally of Ford and Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon. Each gave a Keynote presentation and Mulally used his presentation to unveil the company’s first electric vehicle, the Ford Focus Electric. Did you miss any of the Keynote presentations? Don’t worry…in this day and age you can easily go back and watch all of them online on the CES website anytime you like.

We talked trends coming out of the show earlier, and in 2011, there was no shortage of hot button topics that everyone wanted to talk about. Here’s what members of the media had to say about what they saw on the show floor:

“From the very first press conference, the main theme from the show emerged: your next smartphone will likely connect to a 4G network. For business use, 4G on your smartphone or tablet means easier Internet back-ups, smooth video chats, and snappier Web viewing.” John Brandon, Inc. Magazine

“This year, the show was all about Android. We ushered in the era of dual-core Androids with LG and Motorola, we celebrated the 4G revolution with LG, Motorola, and Samsung, and we even got a glimpse at how Android works when screen resolution is bumped beyond the all-too-common WVGA, thanks to Motorola. Oh, and a little thing called Android 3.0 Honeycomb is going to transform the way we think about not only tablets, but smartphones too.” Brandon Miniman, PocketNow.com

Larger crowds, 4G and gadgets galore! These were some of the highlights of CES this year. I think we can safely say that the recession appears to be over and if CES is any barometer for the state of the industry, then we’re in for a big 2011!

Did you go to CES this year? What was your biggest takeaway? What was your most memorable moment (at the event…not in Vegas)?

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TechCrunch Hands PR Embargoes a Death Sentence

December 17, 2008

As a PR professional in the Silicon Valley, I found this post on TechCrunch very interesting and the discussion which follows in the comments section is well worth reading.

It seems that Michael Arrington and TechCrunch will no longer be accepting embargoes from PR firms. In this post, Arrington discusses the relationship between the media, bloggers and the PR industry and explains to his readers that PR firms are out of control and he plans to fight the chaos.

I’ve seen this from both sides. I’ve been the PR person pitching the story, but I’ve also been the blogger who has received the pitch. Lucky for me, on the blog side, I have never really broken news. I leave that up to the professional journalists and bloggers who do this for a living on a daily basis.

I’ve always thought that since this is a hobby of mine, I will just bring the news that’s out there to readers who may find it interesting at well. If I find it interesting, there must be someone else out there who would share in my interest, right?

You can find a bit of the post below but check out the site for the entire string of comments.

From TechCrunch:

Today we are taking a radical step towards fighting the chaos. From this point on we will break every embargo we agree to.

Tech companies are desperate for press and hammering their PR firms for coverage on blogs and major media sites. That in turn means that PR firms hammer us to get us to write about their clients. Gone are the days of polite pitches and actual relationship building. Today, PR firms email a story to us as many as 20 times, and call every TechCrunch writer on their cell phones repeatedly. If we say we won’t write a story (which is most of the time), things often turn nasty (check out Lois Whitman at HWH PR/New Media for a fine example).

For the most part we’ve dealt with the problem quietly over the last couple of years, other than the occasional lashing out on Twitter. Others, like Wired Magazine’s Editor In Chief Chris Anderson, have been more public with their frustration.

But now a new problem has emerged that we won’t ignore.

A portion of the stories we write are “embargoed” news items. They aren’t stories that we’ve dug up ourselves. Instead, PR firms have pre-briefed us on the news and have asked us to write, if we choose to, no earlier than a set time.

A lot of this news is good stuff that our readers want to know about. And we have the benefit of taking some time during the pre-briefing to think about the story, do research, and write it properly. When embargoes go right, we get to write a thoughtful story which benefits the company and our readers.

But there’s a problem. All this stress on the PR firms put on them by desperate clients means they send out the embargoed news to literally everyone who writes tech news stories. Any blog or major media site, no matter how small or new, gets the email. It didn’t used to be this way, but it’s becoming more and more of a problem. As the economy turns south, PR firms are under increasing pressure to perform and justify their monthly retainers which range from $10,000 to $30,000 or more. In short, they have to spam the tech world to get coverage, or lose their jobs.

One annoying thing for us is when an embargo is broken. That means that a news site goes early with the news despite the fact that they’ve promised not to. The benefits are clear – sites like Google News and TechMeme prioritize them first as having broken the story. Traffic and links flow in to whoever breaks an embargo first.

That means it’s a race to the bottom by new sites, who are increasingly stressed themselves with a competitive marketplace and decreasing advertising sales.

A year ago embargo breaks were rare, once-a-month things. Today, nearly every embargo is broken, sometimes by a few minutes, sometimes by half a day or more.

We can’t continue to operate under these rules.

Our New Policy

The reason this is becoming a larger problem is because there is no downside to breaking embargoes. The PR firm gets upset but they don’t stop working with the offending publication or writer. You get a slap on the wrist, and you break another embargo later that day.

There are a few (very few) exceptions. One is Waggener Edstrom, who handles PR for Microsoft. Their embargoes don’t break because they’d unleash hell on the offender. Another is Google. The few times they’ve had problems they’ve chosen the nuclear option and banned the offender for as much as a year. As you can imagine, Google and Microsoft embargoed news doesn’t break early.

We’ve never broken an embargo at TechCrunch. Not once. Today that ends. From now our new policy is to break every embargo. We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that. We may break an embargo by one minute or three days. We’ll choose at random.

I’ll also be publishing a blacklist on TechCrunch listing every firm, company, publication and individual writer involved whenever an embargo is broken. Of course, given our new policy, I’ll be putting us at the top of that list.