Markets May Be Conversations, But Weird Ones

By | February 19, 2006

My conversations with some quite senior PR people are often somewhat bizarre: stilted, me trying not to sound like I’m the ghost in their machine, the castle-wall destroyer, them so defensive about their product and brand they could easily be replaced by robots. Cluetrain Manifesto should be required reading for these guys. Or at least Micropersuasion.

Recently, inspired by Kate Fox’s observations about the role of SMS in her book Watching the English and recalling Motorola’s sponsorship of research a few years back of Sadie Plant (PDF only) I approached a major handset manufacturer to see whether they had anything similar on how people used SMS and whether it differed from country to country.
No, that sort of thing would be kept secret.
– So there is research but I can’t see it?
– I’m not sure. But this kind of thing would be important marketing information. Commercially sensitive.
– (Audible sigh admitted by columnist).
I see. (Thinks: There goes their chance to seem like a company bigger than merely the next dollar.)

Actually I knew I was in trouble when I complained earlier to this PR person about their company’s desktop software, which I’d found almost impossible to install on three different computers. I found myself being talked to as if I were a small child (which I am, but I was upset at being found out) and told that “focus groups and users have actually found it very easy to install. Maybe you’re doing something wrong.” Yes, believing that the 104th version of your software was going to be easier to work with that all the previous versions, I thought to myself, but didn’t say out loud. At least I don’t think I did.

Now I know we journalists have thin skin, but I’m not sure this is the best way to go about engaging in a meaningful dialog with someone who is about to review your product.

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