Just when you think youve seen and heard it all, something comes along that leaves you awestruck, stunned, amazed, shocked or just plain flummoxed.
No, Im not talking about some new blockbuster technology product or service. What caught me by surprise was a question posed at a recent press conference. It was a question I had never heard askedand a darn good question at that. The question was not asked by the media in attendance; rather it was directed at us scribes and scriveners who cover the industry from a technology perspective.
An executive for a technology company wanted to know why certain technology stories get covered in the media, while othersjudged by their purveyors to be major newsare ignored. I always had thought the reasons were fairly obvious, but as I began to reflect more deeply, I realized that there are lots of reasons and that any one or a combination of them might explain why some stories get attention, while other items dont.
Sometimes the answers are simple: a message not sent, a phone call not made, an e-mail or fax not received or read, too many stories coming in at once, someone on vacation, poorly executed PR efforts. These everyday possibilities aside, however, just what is it that determines which stories run and which dont? In the end, it is the reporters or editors judgment.
While that might seem obvious enough, theres a lot that goes into making such judgments. On the practical side, one might consider the amount of exposure a company has gotten lately. For example, if a company gets covered in three successive issues of a publication, chances for a fourth appearance in the next issue may be slim.
In a related vein, some companies are fond of making multiple announcements at the same time, little realizing that editors will most likely choose just one for coverage and ignore the rest. Lesson: Dont throw everything at the wall and hope that something sticks. Seeing so many messages from the same vendor at the same time tends to desensitize editors when it comes to reading the one or two important ones hiding in the crowd.
When I worked in advertising (yes, I was once on the dark side), we learned that the average driver has no more than 7 seconds to read a billboard message. The same type of time limitation applies to press releases, e-mails and other communications that pass by the eyes of editors. Lesson: Be brief and get the good stuff up front (preferably in a headline). I get 200 to 400 e-mail messages alone each day; I dont have time to read poetic meanderings and smarmy sales prose.