Very often, almost the first thing that we as technology PR specialists are asked to do for a new client is think about the channel. Why? Because you as dealers are critically important in making a PR programme work.
Before you turn rapidly to Channel Talk for a little light relief, read on for a moment.
PR has a mixed reputation. It is too often thought of as publicity activity which doesn't really benefit anyone but the vendor. However, in a product's journey from manufacturer to customer, there is a rather important stage known as the channel. It may surprise you, but any technology PR person worth their salt understands this situation better than you might think.
PR is a mature marketing discipline and the people working in it are a far cry from the gin and tonic party brigade of earlier decades. Today, technology PR is a key strategic part of most major generalist networks, and the forte of many expert boutiques and independent firms.
The technology PR people you encounter have a number of aims. First, to stimulate and support growing momentum for their clients in terms of public awareness and desire for the product. Second, to generate firm understanding of product benefits among those for whom the product is designed. And third, to make the lines of communication work, without mixed messages or areas of misunderstanding. All this is to give clients confidence that their products will sell smoothly, rapidly, to the right people, through the right channels.
With your help, we can make sure this channel of communication is clear and a unified message is conveyed to customers so they remember the product/service and where to buy it.
In negotiating your contracts, joining partnership schemes and Var programmes, leads are a common bone of contention. You want a clear explanation of how leads will come to you and where else they might be going.
Another thing you talk about is how far the vendor will put marketing pounds behind stimulating product interest. And rightly so - this is your business and you need a clear business reason to resell.
One of the most common reasons for a call from PR is about case studies.
This is because of another important factor in the game - customers have to see from other users, with whom they share business and technical needs, just how a product can benefit them.
It is important that the PR consultancy works in tandem with dealerships in the same way as with the client company. When we approach companies regarding a case study, however, the reaction in this competitive world is a reluctance to pass on contact details. In reality, by providing us with this contact you are enhancing your marketing possibilities. When we call, there is an opportunity to reinforce your profile as well as develop the relationship you have with your vendors.
Participating in case studies can be useful to gain public awareness and win points with your customers, who will be pleased that their custom is important to you and that they have a PR opportunity.
The case study provides a neat endorsement of your success, and copies of the coverage gained can be used as company promotional leaflets, newsletters or mailshots to your customers.
The demands on your time can be minimal. All you need is a satisfied customer and a contact number and we will do the rest. Why not enquire about your vendors' PR contact and call them with a potential case study immediately?
With the PR machine in place, the flow of information should be automatic and PRs will be able to beaver away on your behalf while you reap the benefit of having a good public reputation and see those essential sales leads come in. You can also use the PR contact as another channel of communication to your vendor.
Using this established communications network need not involve a great deal of effort. Conversations can be brief and information can be sent and received almost effortlessly via email.
So when you receive a request for information, don't switch off. There's gold at the end of the rainbow, and partnership and communication are the means to getting it.
Sue Rizello is director of business and technology at Edelman PR Worldwide.
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