Years ago, in the mid-2000s, at the height of the consumer electronics boom, I was a syndicated technology columnist for the Chicago Tribune. My column ran in more than 300 publications around the world.
Because of this, I received “pitches,” or marketing, from thousands of public relations people.
They wanted me to cover their products, so they sent me a never-ending stream of press releases, review requests, and product details. In general, there was a lot of “please, please, please!”
Here was the problem: The products—smartphones, shrinking laptops, tablets, flat-panel TVs—were wonderful. The marketing, however, was atrocious.
It became obvious to me that some of the biggest and best-known companies on the planet succeeded in spite of their marketing, not because of it. World-class products, often with tens of millions of dollars in research behind them, were being marketed impersonally by 23-year-old PR people who didn't know, didn't care, and didn't follow up.
The vast majority of these PR people pitched journalists en masse, by the thousands. They sent us terrible press releases, which compelled or interested nobody, not even them. Their marketing focused on technical specifications, statistics, speeds, and sizes, but never benefits to the customer. Nobody ever talked about how their products improved people's lives, which, of course, these products did in spades.
Among this massive ...