This is not a post about leaping on the bandwagon.
Technology PR, and especially B2B technology PR is thankfully not that fluffy. We have few reasons to link product X to the Olympics and, even if we did, engineers can detect tenuous marketing links from a hundred paces. Good journalists can do this from a mile off.
That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. I’ve definitely had my fair share of late nights, forced into a board room with the company’s other 15 people all trying to come up with ideas to promote a company and (barely) holding back contempt when someone suggests that we use the next Bond film (this has genuinely happened) or the World Cup without actually saying how this could be done without spending millions on advertising, or why this would even be appropriate for the client.
We all saw the negative coverage Coke, McDonald’s and other “junk food brands” got when they sponsored last year’s Olympics – my favourites were the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges calling for these companies to be banned from the games and the London Assembly tabling a motion to impose tighter health restrictions on Games advertisers.
But there are ways to use events well if you follow two simple rules.
1) Realise that PR is not advertising
Just because you put company X and James Bond in a press release or hold an event that somehow ties these together doesn’t mean it will get coverage in anywhere other than www.paste-a-turgid-tired-release.com.
Therefore choose your event wisely. Pick an event that is actually related to the customer’s business. Find examples – not just from your own company – that highlight an interesting trend relating to it. And do the hard work for a journalist… find other experts that can add to a story.
For technology PR, and especially for electronics PR where the general public is less interested in components than they are the iPhone itself, this is essential.
Anniversaries work well and
2) Figure out how the message you want to give relates to the event
If we look back to the Olympics, one quote from Robert Lustic, a professor of paediatrics based in San Francisco, summed it up perfectly “If you’re an athlete and you consume a Coca-Cola, your liver will convert it into glycogen, and you’ll get some energy for the next bout or race… So can people get energy repletion from a Coca-Cola? Yes, but they’re not advertising to those people. They’re advertising to fat people, and fat people are going to drink a Coca-Cola, and it’s going to turn into liver fat.”
The event doesn’t always have to be an anniversary. One of my favourite examples comes from April Fools day and a video that chip supplier Qualcomm created to highlight the level of wireless convergence on their chips.
In 2009 the company opened the doors to their R&D facility and demonstrated a way to boost coverage in rural and urban areas – put base stations on pigeons. But, since these were vulnerable to predators and the cold they spliced the pigeon’s genes with a wolf. And, because the resulting wolfpigeon could be dangerous, created a natural predator, the sharkfalcon.
The video is ingenious, it talks about Qualcomm being innovative. It says they work in convergence. It says they’re about delivering a better signal. And it makes me (and several journalists with equally childish senses of humour) giggle / write about it.