I just finished reading Stephen Astle's Op Ed piece in the October 30th issue of PR WEEK. Mr. Astle is SVP and co-chair of the technology practice for Fleishman-Hillard and if I was working in any one of the FH offices in his dept., that article would have knocked the stuffing out of me.
His article entitled "Time for Tech PR Pros Grow up" circles around the notion that technology PR is a lot different today than it was during the bubble years. He contends that it's time to start selling less of the "tech" and more of the business value proposition (I agree, but we've always done that). He even compares technology to dental floss (I hope his clients are reading this).
But his comment that technology would “never be cool again" really bowled me over. I did a double take, read it again and still couldn't believe my eyes. Tech not cool? Surely he jests.
While I agree we approach technology PR a lot differently than we did in the late-nineties, being enamored with technology is a prerequisite for any tech PR pro. Mr. Astle obviously earned his stripes in the tech field and probably had his share of nauseating tech demos, but to even suggest that technology will never be cool, is blasphemous! Not only is technology alive and well as he states, but it has never been more exciting! Tell McNealy, Gates, Ozzie and Jobs that technology isn't cool and you’ll be beaten with a fiber optic stick.
The tech bubble craze ushered in some very innovative technology like the full-on Internet experience, Blackberry, Bluetooth, RFID etc. And yes, perhaps we focused a little too heavily on the speeds and feeds of the story line, but the times dictated that particular kind of "go to market" speak. The Holy Trinity for a PR publicist back then was to espouse Feature, Function and Benefit.
Today, we lead with the socio-economic benefit of our technology clients’ stories blah, blah, blah so does everyone. But it's the features and functions that still turn a tech journalist's crank and ours too (as it should). It's what drives tech PR professionals out of bed. It's the "look what this can do" mentality that keeps us all actively involved in the sector. I love gadgets, gizmos, interoperability of anything, cyclone suction (see Dyson for that!) nano-technology, biometrics and mobile “thingies” .. yes, I am a full-on geek under this designer-wear veneer. For my team and I, it’s about the technology first and always will be.
And to prove my point, journalists will always be in love with the nuances of technology, that's why it's their beat. Just read any tech-media story about RIM’s new Pearl. Those who covered it, wrote reams of editorial on new functionality, form factor and features ... they did not lead in with the business story, it was all gizmo related. Cool, I definitely think so.
I'm really saddened that someone in Mr. Astle's esteemed position cannot find the coolness in today’s technology. Look closer my dear, jaded fellow, it's there and the best is still to come.