Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hear The People Speak 

This is an interesting story of public relations in product development. Software designers start out to improve a popular product only to find that the public doesn't want the improvements. The designers bowed to the public's will, changed course and gave users what they want. It's interesting because the company is Microsoft, not always known for its skills in customer listening.

It is not unusual to get ahead of the public. The key is knowing when one is doing it. It is true especially in PR that new concepts have right times and wrong. On several occasions in my career, I've taken ideas to reporters who dismissed them. A year or two later, the ideas were news. What happened in between was a shift in the marketplace that made the ideas more compelling. The sad part was that the clients involved had seen where the market was going and were ahead of it themselves.

There is no easy solution for this. One can pound away until people listen or give up and adapt. From a business perspective, it is better to adapt with an understanding that one may get to where one wishes to go eventually. The hard part is to know which course to take. Looking at the history of business, one can find plenty of individuals who pounded away and as many who adapted. Both were successful, and both were failures too. In PR, sometimes it takes just one reporter to look at things differently. The key is finding that reporter when mainstream media are looking another way. It may take months of fruitless searching until someone surfaces who doesn't accept the common understanding. And, there are times when there just isn't anyone who is willing to look at a story. Those are the accounts that go away after a year.


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