PR manipulations seems to be flavour of the day among technology vendors, who on one hand want to milk PR exposure from technology publications by offering up reviews and new product launch stories, but when there’s a sniff of a problem they all of a sudden, become PR shy.
This week Hewlett Packard tried to spin the local tech media by not issuing a local press release for the recall of over 20 notebook batteries that could burst into flames.
Announced to the US media on May 14th, some five days ago, HP chose not to make the PR announcement in Australia despite several of the notebooks being on sale in Australia.
Their argument “We thought you would pick it up from the US press release”.
Really, It was only 18 months ago that Guyon Collins a senior marketing manager at HP was complaining to SmartHouse because we dared to feature a product that had been exposed in a US press release before it was launched in Australia.
He also complained that we had featured a product that “may or may not be launched in Australia”.
PR is a wonderful marketing tool, but a right bastard when it goes horribly wrong as Jenny Geddes, the Communication Manager at Sony is now realising.
Geddes, who use to work for Burson Marsteller, who are also HP’s PR advisors, got her knickers in a twist over a story about the kidnapping of the CEO of France by Sony staff and the implementation of Sony security in Australia.
Screaming down the phone she demanded that we remove the story because in her words “It’s not relevant to Australia”. We chose not to. The screaming fit came only 4 weeks after the CEO of Sony Entertainment threatened us with legal action for daring to accuse SCE of price gouging with their overpriced Playstation’s.
Several days later Sony decided to ban 4square from press events and PR information.
Geddes hissy spat, came only days after Sony Australia had sacked 32 people in Australia with a 98 word email to journalists, ironically the sacking press release was was only issued to selective journalists and only because ChannelNews and the Australian newspaper leaked the fact that layoffs were about to be made at Sony Australia.
I, for one, wanted answer’s from Sony and I did not want a PR flack like Geddes, spinning me a positive yarn. I wanted to hear from the same senior Sony management who are always available for a new product launch, the role out of a soccer sponsorship deal or the pumping of numbers when Sony was doing well.
I wanted to know why Sony was sacking 32 people when competitors like Samsung and Panasonic were hiring people to handle growth. I also wanted to know about the performance of the company locally and whether return to Australia of CEO Carl Rose was now having an impact on the business with the introduction of savage cost cutting.
Last week, Sony announced losses of over $2.8 billion dollars and Panasonic losses of $5 billion, the big difference was the availability of Steve Rust the CEO of Panasonic Australia, who not only got his PR advisors to contact me but talked openly about the losses that Panasonic globally were experiencing as well as the performance of the local subsidiary.
Maybe Sony don’t want to talk about their local performance because they are doing poorly. I don’t know. But what I do know is the PR is a two way relationship and that media organisations like SmartHouse or ChannelNews are not here to be manipulated by a PR puppet like Geddes and the other PR hacks at Sony. We are here to work with vendors to impart information to both sellers of technology and the buyers which, in the case of the SmartHouse web site, will be in excess of 3.5 Million unique visitors this year.
Ironically, Sony has four in-house PR staff and several external PR advisors Vs one each for Samsung, LG, and Panasonic.
For the last four years, Sony has spun yarn after yarn, about the so called success, of their Bravia LCD TV’s, Playstation consoles, digital cameras and camcorders but when it was revealed recently that not one of these product categories was making money and had not done so, for many years we started to ask why?
Call after call and email after email, was ignored by Sony in an attempt to shut us up and internally hope that we would go away, or even forget the story.
What most PR practitioners in Australia have not realised is that the Internet has changed game plans. Media outlets want news today not tomorrow. It’s not a case anymore of sacking 32 people today and then maybe if they feel like or after gauging the media response make an executive available for comment days later, which is what I suspect Sony were trying to do with 4Square Media.
Web sites like ChannelNews and SmartHouse are a cross between tabloid journalism and a gladiator competition. Every day we go fishing for eyeballs and a key ingredient is fast breaking stories, which in the case of SmartHouse, attract the attention of the Google search engines.
For example, one Sony story last week got over 100,000 unique visitors 89% came from a search of Google and the insertion of the word Sony into the Google search engine.
The Internet has become the largest media outlet in the world, yet PR Company after PR Company don’t grasp the speed with which a story can break, grab eyeballs on Google and the die because a better, newer story has come along.
We still get print press releases and black and white picture which in the case of SmartHouse go straight in the bin because quite simply we don’t have the time to repurpose text that has already been written once
This massive medium has spawned a new era where press released have to be focused and PR companies act a lot more openly than what the likes of Sony and HP are doing.
Because if they don’t, the blog, the internet and the really pissed off consumer will get them for the whole world to see. And that includes ChannelNews and SmartHouse.