A PR miracle of disconnect?
Not all companies are learning the subtle art of product placement.
August 1, 2013 1:13 by Muhammad Aldalou
As well-connected journalists in the digital age, we’re no strangers to an inbox full of press releases. For the most part, as long as they’re remotely relevant to our publication, we welcome them. Let’s face it; you can never have enough news articles, particularly during a slow period like Ramadan.
Along the way, we’ve learned that companies looking to promote their products or services in news articles will try and use arguably interesting survey results or studies to capture our attention. As long as the content has substance and the product placement is done in a, dare I say, subtle manner– there’s no reason why journalists wouldn’t pursue it. As long as your content is interesting enough to resonate with readers, you need not necessarily boast about your services within the text. Be true to content and the attention will come.
This brings us to a recent press release sent out by a leading technology company, that in our view, decided to try the alternative. It featured the results of an intriguing (yet slightly obvious) survey; if parents had their way, the UAE would be a nation of engineers. With just more than 150 participants, the study was intended to highlight the professions that the surveyed parents in the country would approve of, and others that were on the decline as far as they were concerned.
Given the choice, over a fifth of the surveyed parents would like their child to become an engineer, while another fifth would opt for their child to become an entrepreneur, the study claimed. The release also revealed that while becoming a doctor or scientist remains popular with parents, other traditional professions, like being a lawyer or journalist, were low on the list of career choices.
So far, it was relatively interesting. However like every press release that we receive, we were waiting for the punch line. Thinking that the promotional message would be cleverly weaved within the text, we carefully scanned through the first few paragraphs again. But, we found nothing.
We were then hit with this blunt old hammer, as the company did not shy away from blatantly promoting its printing solutions:
“Old or new, there is one thing these careers all have in common — a good education is essential to success. Studying and revising are vital to any child and with children needing to print out more and more revision notes and school projects, printing costs can often be a concern for even the most dedicated and high-aspiring parents.”
The statement went on to say that its printing system is the ‘ideal solution’ to this problem, that families can print twice as many pages for the same price, and that their solution would mean that printing costs could no longer stand in the way of children achieving more.
Naturally, with companies in this digital era learning that striking a conversation with your audience is much more effective than shouting at them, we were shocked. We were bewildered by how unsmooth the transition was – from discussing the results of a survey to directly promoting a product.
Of course, we turned to colleagues, friends and social networks (obviously) – where we were told by some that it’s actually a rather creative way for a company to promote themselves, while others have described it as a ‘miracle of disconnect’.
In either case, it did get us talking about them, so perhaps it’s not so bad. What do you think?