Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A PR Rant

It seems that, if possible, I'm getting more and more PR mail that, if not quite spam, certainly is starting to get in the neighborhood. I'm speaking of the press releases and PR missives that concern trivial announcements or events associated with trivial companies that are typically not even associated with anything I cover.

Let me give you a case in point. I'm not naming names because this is, unfortunately, but one random example among countless and I have no interest in embarrassing any specific individuals. (With the aid of Google, you can probably figure out the guilty party but I'm not going to.)

So let's start with the subject line.
ACME Recognized for Application Acceleration Innovation
Seeing that this is going to be about some sort of "recognition" or award has already started started my finger rapidly moving towards the delete key. Other leading candidates include CEO speeches, sales office openings, new Board of Directors members, random conferences, and new white papers on the company Web site.
I wanted to provide you with an update on ACME, a leading provider of solutions that accelerate dynamic web applications. Over the last week ACME has been recognized by three leading organizations for its innovations in the application acceleration space.

I don't especially care about accelerating dynamic web applications and I'm not sure what I've written or what it says in my bio that would make you think I do. But, then, it's hard to vet your list that carefully when this is doubtless going to thousands of your closest friends.

Most significantly, ACME received the Red Herring 100 Award given to the 100 most innovative private technology companies in North America by Red Herring magazine. Red Herring's annual list of top companies has traditionally identified new and innovative technologies and the companies responsible for them.

And this is the most significant? You see "magazine" isn't quite the operative word here because, well, there is no Red Herring magazine any longer. That went down last year. (In all fairness, because I am nothing if not fair, there is still an online edition but it's hardly the touchstone of high-tech journalism that it once was.)

In addition, ACME's BIT SCRAMBLER was named a finalist for the Best of TechEd 2008 IT Professional Award. The Best of Tech-Ed 2008 Awards recognize companies who offer innovative products in the industry. Winners will be selected by Window IT Pro and SQL Server magazines and announced at TechEd in June.

More magazine awards. Nothing personal, but I find most of these pretty bogus. I've even been involved in judging a few "Best of the Year" type things and I've found it all horribly arbitrary once you get away from products that have actually been hands-on comparison-tested. Oh, and I see they're just a finalist--which for all I know means they just entered themselves for the award.

Finally, the British Colombia [sic] Technology Industry Association (BCTIA) selected ACME as a finalist for the Most Promising Start-Up and Excellence in Product Innovation categories in its annual Technology Impact Awards, the premier awards program devoted to promoting and celebrating innovation and high-tech excellence in the province of British Columbia, Canada. Winners will be announced at the BCTIA's awards gala in June.

British Columbia is a very nice place. Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler--great destinations all. But with all due respect to my friends from British Columbia, now we're really starting to stretch. I'm sure the BCTIA awards gala is an affair not to be missed and all that, but--how do I put this nicely--did ACME really have to survive insurmountable odds to become, again, a finalist for this particular award?

I feel better now.

(Again. I have no desire to pile on this particular company. They're probably nice people, are kind to dogs, and may even make an interesting product. But this kind of email does not raise my estimation of them.)

[Update: And BTW. Unless our allies across the sea have invaded a certain South American country, I believe that the proper spelling for BC is "Columbia."]


BFrench said...

I hear you. In your case, it seems like it could be due to AR putting you on lists as well. Interesting that you see it largely as a PR issue.

To the great wide world, Googling "application acceleration"+"gordon haff" does get more than 50 results. Mostly due to advertorials and other content on the same pages where you are quoted.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon - it's sad to see this is still happening. Chris Anderson, WIRED's editor, also wrote up a similar piece some months back that actually named names of PR people who had send him junk, and whom he had blacklisted from further mailings. There were some quite surprising names and agencies on that list.

Gordon Haff said...


I flag it as a PR problem more than AR because it's mostly coming from small companies that probably don't even have an AR function. There are a few larger companies that are guilty of press release diarrhea as well, but they're a small part of the total problem. I also suspect that part of the increased traffic may be that my CNET Blog Network blog has caused me to get on lists of journalists where I wasn't previously.

BFrench said...

I don't know about you Gerry, but I don't see much of an upside to the naming-names shame game. Unless the journalist or analyst is sincerely trying to get PRs fired. This could be my vendor corp comm roots talking. Or, my CYA as a directory publisher.

I never thought about these kinds of implications of analysts being a columnist/blogger at top 10 tech media sites. Ouch. Talk about the dark side.