All hail mindless surveys. Or why you should be dubious about PR pitches

I must get 100 pitches from PR firms a week. Sometimes, however, I come across one which is just so bad that I need to call it out.


First a bit of perspective. Being a PR person is hard. Your clients expect you to be able to deliver them articles in every single broadsheet at the drop of a hat. Very few clients can even start to comprehend that your hiring of a new janitor for your Series A funded startup isn't a cause for Time magazine to feature you on the cover of their next issue. PR folks have to take a lot of flack -- on the one hand, they have grumpy press and analysts mouthing off at the slightest provocation while on the other they need to balance telling their clients the truth, while still massaging some big egos.

All of which means that sometimes PR agencies need to pitch a story that, frankly, isn't really a story. That happens all of the time and a good journalist (or, frankly, any journalist) will happily click the "archive" button in Gmail to nicely dispose of such releases or pitches.

But every now and then, one comes through the door that simply makes my jaw drop and, depending on my relative grumpiness at the time, or the amount of work I need to do that day, might just get written up into a rant. Since today (the day I'm writing this post, rather than the day you're reading it), is a Sunday, and I have a couple of hours to kill, I thought I'd expose one fantastic example of press release numbskullery.

Recently I got a pitch from an agency, the name of which I'll not share so as to avoid any public embarrassment. Said agency works for a company that is involved in the security space. Now, anyone watching the tech industry will know that the security space is white hot and pretty much anyone coming out of Israel's crack 8200 cyber warfare division can pick up some venture funding for their idea. What this means is that there is an over-supply of security startups, all trying to find an angle to justify their claim to competitive differentiation.

This company has decided that containers are their angle and, as such, they've decided to claim to be the only security company focusing on containers (which neglects to recognize the other 125 also doing so, but no matter). Said company arranged for a survey, the results of which were being pitched to me by the agency.

"86% of IT Decision Makers Say They Use Containers or Will Deploy Them Within One Year," thundered the press release, closely followed by the factoid that "91% Are Concerned About Container Security."

Where to start. I spend lots of time talking to traditional enterprise IT people. Not those in Silicon Valley trying to sell the latest, greatest thing, but those in the banking, airline, manufacturing and shipping industries all of who are doing their best to deliver outcomes to their workers. These are the IT folks who manage workloads sitting on mainframes, who are still delivering software to end users sporting Windows XP, and to whom the cloud is some term they've yet to get their heads around.

The only thing that containers mean to these folks is some relationship to a chain of homeware stores that sell nifty little plastic kitchen aids. There is, technically speaking, a snowball's chance in hell likelihood that 86% of IT decision makers have heard of containers, let alone being ready to deploy them. As for the suggestion that 35% of said organizations are already broadly deploying containers across their networks... not a chance.

This sort of pitch does nothing for agency or vendor credibility, all it does is make lots of people look stupid. Please don't waste my time, your time or your client's money even thinking about pitching me such a load of baloney.

Rant over.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
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