Sunday, April 04, 2004

The Dull Topic 

There are companies, products and services that are so dull one is hard pressed to say anything about them.

There is the component maker who builds a commodity product that is buried in another product and is never seen or understood. There is the company that provides a service buried in another larger entity and never isolated or talked about separately. Early in my career, there was a company that provided an obscure insurance product to a niche of American business in which no one, even the company that sold the insurance, seemed to have much interest. I never could figure out what to say, and I was a failure in promoting it. From these humiliating experiences I concluded there are some products and services that should not be publicized. They just are. If you want to advertise them, fine, but don't try to get the media interested in what is a dull topic.

On the other hand, when these companies need awareness and cannot afford large advertising budgets, what is one to do? The first and best way is to dig deeper. Try to understand why this product and service exists and what would happen if it didn't. Sometimes that is enough to find an angle one can pursue. If that doesn't help, use trade shows, seminars, direct mailers -- something, anything -- to gain attention.

On the other hand, some products and services have such a small market their customer list can be counted on one hand. For example some auto component makers have at most 50 customers. Why do they need to tell the world about what they do? They are fine with unmarked plants in small towns away from media attention. In fact, some like it that way. All they need is to keep 50 customers happy.

I have had my share of dull topics. I've concluded that dull topics prove one's skill, not topics that sell themselves. I admire more the PR person who can make life insurance seem exciting than the PR person who promotes a hot sports car. The PR person with the sports car beats reporters away. The person with the insurance product creates many avenues to find one that half-works.

Let the PR person with the flashy product or service reap personal headlines. Good practitioners know the difference.


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