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How to get the best trade press product reviews

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How to get the best trade press product reviews

  1. 1. How to get the best trade press product reviews STL Product Camp 3/2020 David Strom @dstrom Slides available:
  2. 2. Why am I here? • Long time IT B2B trade press product reviewer • Still test dozens of products every month • Started numerous print and Web pubs along with two computer networking books
  3. 3. What are you doing wrong? Lack of follow up Unprofessional attitude towards press Don’t divulge your pricing strategy Badgering reporters Lack of planning, beta policy and budget
  4. 4. No follow up after initial inquiry
  5. 5. Don’t turn any interested parties down
  6. 6. Be professional in ALL communications
  7. 7. Have a real budget for reviews
  8. 8. Don’t badger the reporter
  9. 9. No beta policy
  10. 10. Things to do right • Know who is reviewing your product • Know the test bed/lab • Have a hotline and get answers quickly • Own your product truth • Know your market position
  11. 11. Know thy reviewer
  12. 12. Understand the test bed
  13. 13. Set up a dedicated hotline
  14. 14. Some other tips • Follow up • Webpage comments • Practice how to do press conference calls
  15. 15. Understand the art of following up
  16. 16. Know what this is? Then USE IT!
  17. 17. More badgering
  18. 18. Don’t pile on the people on your conference call
  19. 19. Conference call tips Minimum number of participants! Make as interactive with reporter as possible Don’t use any slides Keep it short, start on time Make sure all questions are answered or followed up with answers, use that as an opportunity!
  20. 20.
  21. 21. Where you can find me (for clips and blog posts) Twitter: @dstrom 314 277 7832 if you must (for this deck)

Editor's Notes

  • 2/16 revisions
  • This advice is 22 years old!
  • I get press release via email. Send a quick question. No reply. No story. This happens frequently. If you can't follow up, why should I write it?
  • Don't turn away any interested reviewer. When a publication wants to do a comparative review or when someone from outside your targeted list calls, consider this a positive sign and support it wholeheartedly. I can't remember all the vendors who refused to be part of a comparative review or multiple roundup because they feared being shown in a poor light. Or the times I had to prove to a brain-dead marcom person that I really wasn't calling to get some free product and yes, did do reviews for one publication or another. Sure, some of my colleagues want the freebies, but most are buried under more product than they know what to do with. And by the way, don't hound reviewers to get product back. I've often done reviews of products that I've had on the shelf for several months. Consider it a cost of doing business
  • our unpleasant experience with Peter Isza, founder of a startup, mobilECG (open source electrocardiography device). One of our editors thanked him for sending us his proposal and wrote,"If this device is still in development, please let us know when it has been produced and used and we would be interested in a story about what it is, who it's for, why open source, and more." (We generally don't cover products in funding or prototype modes.) 

    He responded: "Fuck you!“ ...and followed up a few hours later with: "The project is self-founded, we have been working on it without salary, we are giving a great thing to humanity, all we need is publicity. We'll do that without"
  • HP Software had an entire two-day briefing with no pricing divulged. I almost walked out mid-way.
  • This is Skyroam’s pricing page, it is very confusing with about 4 degrees of freedom.
  • Set up and manage a real program with budget, staff and collaterals for trade magazine reviews. Don't try to compete with your actual customers for getting product to the reviewers: set aside a line-item in your marketing budget to purchase your own product for reviewers and maintain your own inventory. It makes a difference: The best companies have dedicated staff and budget for review machines that they can send out quickly.
    Remember the Skyroam unit – factory reset before sending out press eval unit!
  • There is simply no excuse for this. Or for sending frequent IM's too. And these emails were also sent to a second account too! And how about mis-addressed emails or group cc’s
  • Understand how each reviewer views beta products. Some publications want betas to get the scoop on their competitors, others steer clear of them. Figure out the policy and work it into your overall program. Some vendors are loathe to send betas as they feel it will set an impression or expectations later on: it depends on how good your beta products are. All software has bugs, it is a fact of life. However, a bug that locks up a machine entirely is a different kind of bug from one that disables a particular feature.
  • Pick your targets carefully and know your reviewer. Focus on the major publications in your market and get to know the actual reviewer by reading his or her prior work and visiting the lab where they do the actual testing. I still get calls from vendors of monitors and mice these days -- even though I don't handle those types of products anymore.
  • Do the same tests the publications do ahead of time. Get into their mindset and understand how they interpret the results. Often the reviewers test very little of a product's features and form their opinions on one or two simple metrics. I do a lot of these simulated tests for my consulting clients who find it very useful to see ahead of time how the trades will react to their products, and their competitors'.

    Make sure your developers have the right setups to expose the product's weaknesses. Nothing fixes product deficiencies faster. When I was at PC Week, we found that Novell's drivers for token ring cards were slower than for Ethernet. Our reviews made a big deal out of this. Novell replaced the Ethernet boards in their developer's machines with token ring products and got the developers to write better drivers.
  • Set up a dedicated support line for reviewers and make it work. While some publications like Infoworld want to call in to the regular support queues to test the typical customer experience, most reviewers just don't have the time to wait on hold. And staff this with your best people who can return the calls quickly and give solid advice. I've often gotten support that has turned my opinion of a product around completely because of uncovering some hidden feature.
  • Understand what your own engineers are telling you and make sure it is the truth. Often times they will gloss over deficiencies or soft-sell benefits. Get your own house in order before you go on the road to demonstrate the product or write the press kit.
  • Make sure you can articulate a product's uniqueness and understand how to present its competitive position to the reviewer. Some reviewers make a policy of not asking ahead of time, others want to know before they start the review. I've seen plenty of vendor demos that didn't do this and turned off the reviewers pretty quickly.
  • Understand how to follow up after the review is printed. Some reviewers welcome contact, others have moved on to another product and can't be bothered. Here is your chance to maintain a relationship with the reviewer. A short email message asking how someone arrived at a particular conclusion, or an "attaboy" saying thanks for uncovering a product weakness, goes a long way here. Some vendors have better corporate culture for dealing with this than others, or have too many management layers to deal with follow up.
  • Use the comments field and discussion forums to add your client's POV to an article about your competitor. Really, it is ok. We all like to see more comments, esp. thoughtful ones.
  • don't hound reviewers to get product back. I've often done reviews of products that I've had on the shelf for several months. Consider it a cost of doing business
  • Any number more than three (you, me, and the client) is too many.
  • I wrote this article back in Dec 2011 for ReadWrite and most of it is still relevant today:

    If you want me to do an embargo, play fair with all of my competitors. And be specific about times and dates. Yes, I can get confused sometimes. Put the expiration date information on each piece of correspondence, because sometimes I forget. Better yet, forget embargoes entirely.
  • It isn’t 1990 – press releases are different, no one has real beats, briefings are more targeted, thought leadership counts
  • Insist on making it slide-by-slide through the entire 57 slide PPT deck. Three slides should be enough. Or none at all. The less scripted your presentation, the more I will actually listen. Calls shouldn't last more than 20 minutes. (The graphic is from Marilyn Snyder's site
  • So please stop building stupid bullshit. Build companies that solve serious problems and are exciting to cover. Build products that are interesting, innovative, and that matter. If nothing else, you’ll have a much easier time getting coverage.

    This is from a former Venture Beat reporter,