Why we need to keep media coverage in perspective – and be patient

It’s easy to feel put out if the media ignore your story. Or if a website gets something wrong or apparently misrepresents your business in some way. But when this happens it’s not because they mean you or your business any harm – they will just be trying to do their job.

Thankfully, it does not happen that often. Sometimes, a word or two goes astray or they get a name wrong – and that’s easy enough to correct.

It is important to keep things in perspective with media coverage. Hopefully, most of the coverage you get will be positive or neutral over the months and years. If that’s the case, one story that might be seen as negative won’t ruin you – and there are much worse things happening in the world right now.

The important thing is to have built up a strong reputation. One that can withstand the occasional knock and will help you to ride out any difficult challenges you may come up against. And to keep communicating your underlying message, frequently and consistently.

Building a good reputation takes time. You need to be committed and not in any real hurry. It can take years of regular, consistent communicating and responding, taking your chances to help media when they come, and not being too pushy. You can’t expect to have it all right away and to sustain the same level of coverage at all times. You need to take it slow and steady, continually re-set and manage your expectations, and keep coming up with ideas and communicating relevant stories.

While you should not be shy about saying how great a job you are doing for your partners (as long as you are doing a great job), you also need to be humble, considerate, understanding, and most of all, patient.

If you’d like to talk to us about how to go about getting your profile up with channel media, we’ll be happy to talk to you – with absolutely no obligation. Just email simon@channelstar.co.uk.

 

Where have all the big names gone?

One thing I have noticed recently is how few stories we see in the channel media about big-name vendors. Try it for yourself – have a scan at https://channelstar.co.uk/. (Make sure you scroll all the way down the page.) We currently aggregate 13 feeds (78 stories) and usually there will only be one or two from what I would call ‘big-name’ vendors, such as Apple, AWS, Dell, Google, HPE and HP, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, VMware.

Why are they not getting more coverage? You would think channel media would cover their every move? These are the companies with the biggest partner reach, who generate the most channel business, and will attract the most views.

While some editors might consciously give just as much space to smaller players, I don’t believe that the relatively thin coverage of the big players is to do with journalists choosing to ignore them. It’s more to do with the big names not focusing enough on channel media.

Their marketing focus is more direct. Campaigns are aimed at increasing revenue with existing partners or identifying and signing-up those selling adjacent or competitive technologies and solutions. This is seen as a better way of getting ROI from marketing spend than throwing money at channel advertising and PR.

Presumably, it is working as these companies keep growing. But it’s a shame they don’t put more emphasis on telling the wider channel community what they are doing for partners. And perhaps it’s also a little short-sighted?

Inevitably, a lot of the direct marketing and funding support that sits behind their channel marketing targets big reseller businesses. The largely silent majority or smaller partners are left to scramble around on portals to find what they need. No wonder these businesses often feel neglected and under-appreciated by big vendors.

But today’s small resellers, could be tomorrow’s giants.

In my view, the big players could easily put more effort into communicating channel-specific messages to the whole community through trade media. Without doing that, the big vendors won’t get the coverage their market presence merits. The channel media can’t go chasing them. They simply do not have the bandwidth, i.e. the staff, to hound companies for stories. They are largely reliant on what comes to them.

Big or small, the vendors that do communicate their channel-relevant stories to media are the ones who will get the coverage. It just takes a little bit of time and effort. That’s surely not too much to ask from the industry’s leading players.

 

Should you be entering channel awards schemes?

Are there too many channel awards programmes? Or are they a really useful way of highlighting how good a job your company is doing? I’ve had a couple of discussions with contacts recently about whether or not they ought to enter a particular award scheme or not. This subject comes up all the time now, as almost every title has its own awards. There are at least ten schemes that UK and Ireland channel companies can enter.

The problem for marketing people is they don’t always have available resources to pull a decent entry together – and no-one wants to (certainly no one should) submit an entry that does not give them the best possible chance of winning. There is also the underlying suspicion that the awards programmes are really about selling sponsorship and tables for the big party that comes at the end of most of them. Marketing managers don’t always have that planned in their budget.

It’s certainly true that awards schemes generate much-needed income for the publications / websites that organise them. Advertising revenues are not what they used to be and it’s increasingly difficult to find a business model that really works and generates solid, dependable income. I am certain the industry values the role independent publications play in keeping partners educated and informed, and in giving the channel a voice. Awards schemes are one way in which IT and comms companies can support the media.

Awards do also raise the profile of those companies that enter them. Pulling the entry together is a really useful way of focusing on exactly what you have achieved over the year and what makes your business different. Winning or even being shortlisted can be a real boost to your team and also make a positive impression on customers.

On balance, our advice is that you should enter channel awards schemes – especially if you really are doing a great job and feel that you and your team deserve recognition. But you may want to be selective about the ones you enter.

When you do pull together an entry, you must make a genuine effort. You can’t expect anything if you just cut and paste some marketing material or a case study into the form. You should also manage your expectations, as the competition will usually be strong.

Even if you don’t win or get shortlisted, pulling the entry together will help you focus on the true value you deliver. You will be showing your support for channel media and raising your profile with key journalists and – if you do get through to the final stages – the entire channel community.

 

Why you need to take care over this most sensitive of subjects

A handful of stories are now popping up on channel news sites about the ways in which IT companies are supporting Ukraine and its people. Comms Dealer ran a story on how one operator is helping refugees fleeing the conflict, and Techcentral.ie (which covers Ireland) ran one on how an AI company is providing Ukraine’s defence ministry with access to facial recognition software.

While readers are likely to respond positively to this coverage, it is important to make sure that any story you do put out there is entirely sincere. If you are genuinely offering to help, by all means tell the media. At the same time, you must take care that you are not seen to be taking advantage of the circumstances for your own gain.

It’s not always easy to get the balance right in these situations. If increased cyberactivity is expected, security vendors and services providers will be duty-bound to sound the alarm. We have already seen commentary about this in the national and international press, and in the channel media too – see this CRN report, and this one on Microscope, for example.

At the same time, channel companies must not be seen to be exploiting rising concern to boost their profile. Simply saying that customers should take further measures to shore-up their defences is not going to cut it as a story. Any such advice needs to be delivered directly to customers and even then, with the utmost care.

As far as PR and media is concerned, this is one of those scenarios in which you need to wait until you are asked for your viewpoint or advice. You are only going to be approached to do that if you have already built a strong reputation and established a good connection with channel media. Doing that takes time and patience. You certainly cannot and should not do it on the back of a very real and serious crisis.

If you want to discuss any issues or dilemmas you might have on your current media stance, do get in touch. We’ll be happy to offer you impartial advice with no obligation. Email simon@channelstar.co.uk or use the contact form here http://channelstar.co.uk/contact/.

 

Good to see a good-news story getting coverage – but how did it get there?

I was pleased to see Technology Reseller covering the story of Deeside-based support services provider, Pro-Networks, becoming an Employee-Owned-Trust (EOT). This is the business model most famously used by John Lewis, and it could be something more IT businesses will consider in the future.

It’s not often you see such a simple, good-news story being run by channel media sites. But it is certainly worth covering. It will make other channel businesses think about the way they are organised and how they motivate, incentivise, and retain their workers in the long term. The shortage of skilled staff is a big problem for the channel right now.

The Pro-Networks story may have been the result of the company issuing a press release, or it may be that the Technology Reseller team picked up on a Tweet from the company and clicked through to the blog post on its website. The story is also covered on The Business Desk, which covers the north-west, and on Insider Media Wales, both of which are SMB news sites. It’s possible that these sites might have also picked it up from Twitter.

But it is nowhere else to be seen and this suggests to me that it has not been issued as a press release. If that’s the case, I’d suggest Pro-Networks will have missed out on a bit of coverage. Had it landed in their Inbox, channel editors may have used it.

There was a period some years ago when it became fashionable NOT to issue press releases in the belief that news could be spread more effectively via social media. This soon wore off. Channel journalists simply don’t have the time to constantly scan Twitter and LinkedIn for every potentially relevant post, and then click through to assess whether it’s useful or not. Yes, they may well use this as one of their sources, but most prefer stories to drop directly into their Inbox. It’s quicker and easier to read them and assess their newsworthiness that way.

This is why we continue to advocate the use of formal press releases as part of your media activity. Of course, you should still post on LinkedIn and Twitter. But you can’t expect channel media to always pick up on stories that way.

The real trick though is to keep coming up with the relevant stories.

If you’d like to hear our views or discuss channel media communications and relationships, please feel free to get in touch.

 

The questions are coming – are you ready to answer?

Almost as soon as I had posted a piece on why the channel media will have to start looking at the implications of the Ukraine crisis (see below), CRN UK ran an excellent article on how nine vendors have so-far responded to the invasion.

This will be a developing situation, of course, and the position of vendors is likely to change, so we should expect more reports. We can also quite quickly expect end-user customers and channel partners themselves to start asking questions about the involvement of Russian companies within the supply chain.

They may even start asking about materials and other elements used in the production process that were sourced in Russia – although there will be little or nothing that vendors or anyone else can do about product that has already been made or production that is already in progress.

And if customers and partners are asking questions, it won’t be long before the media starts asking them too. All channel businesses need to be ready to provide answers or at least give an indication of the position both they and their key suppliers are taking with respect to the crisis and the supply chain.

You can easily keep track of the latest media coverage by clicking onto our home page – top left of the page.

 

Why the channel media will need to start talking about the Ukraine crisis at some point

It is quite difficult at the moment to concentrate on channel news. The everyday news is too much of a distraction and while business continues here in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, it puts everything into perspective.

There has not been that many references to the Ukraine crisis in the channel media as yet, but there are concerns about the potential for increased cyber-attacks. In a report on CRN’s UK site, Channelweb, Ian Brown of Irish security specialist Integrity360, warned that increased cyberwarfare activity will have a ripple effect and we’ll see more cybercrime.

As long ago as 14 February, a report on MicroScope / TechTarget said that the US The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a “shields up” advisory. The site has also been covering work done by Slovak security vendor ESET to identify new threats being used in the conflict.

Comms Dealer has run a story on how major European telcos are rolling out measures to try and help Ukrainians. It has also covered a statement made by Steve Osler, CEO of VoIP provider Wildix, in support of its teams based in Odessa.

Outside the channel media sphere there have been reports that the conflict could have an impact on technology product manufacturing and prices. There is a story on how the supply chain might be affected on ComputerWorld, and another on Wired. You don’t have to search too far to find more.

It’s understandable that most channel news sites are, for now, steering away from the subject. And channel companies are rightly being hyper-sensitive about the position they take publicly. But if the conflict does trigger more cyber-attacks, product supply constraints and price increases, it is hard to see how the channel media can avoid it. While these effects are nothing compared to what those directly involved in the conflict are experiencing – and any coverage must always be set within that context – they will potentially affect us all.

 

Why it’s still important to put a real face to a name with channel media

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been much the same for channel media as it has for everyone else. It’s meant staying away from the office and the close contract with colleagues, which can be a real drawback for journalists, as they are constantly exchanging information and contacts across the desk and listening in on other interviews and conversations.

On the other hand, it’s meant that, like most office-based workers, they have not had to endure the toil of commuting in and out of the office each day. Their work-life balance will have improved, and they won’t want to give that up.

Picking up on the vibe
Like other businesses, publishers are also likely to now adopt a hybrid approach to working practices, allowing reporters and editors to work at home much of the time. But they will still want two or three days in the office to benefit from that cross-talk and the vibe that you get when you are part of a news gathering team.

Another upside that media has shared with industry in general is the increased use of simple video conferencing. They have done more interviews on Zoom and Teams, and that’s likely to continue. This is a good thing for everyone. The conversation can be much more personable on a video conference. You can get to know each other a little better. It’s more relaxed and considered and you can see how the other person is responding to what you are saying.

Building relationships is important
That said, meeting them in person will continue to be something that you should do when you get the chance. In the end, it is all about relationships and to maximise your chances of coverage, you need to build positive and mutually respectful relationships with journalists.

Media have missed face-to-face interaction as much as everyone else in the industry and can’t wait to get back to live events. For this reason, we’d advise you to participate in as many industry – and media-backed events as you can – and while you are there, take the trouble to seek out members of the channel media that you’ve engaged with over the last 18 months, even if it is just to say ‘hello’ and put a real face to a name. It can make all the difference.

 

If you are going jump on the bandwagon, do it with a bit of style and creativity

There was a piece by Nick Booth in MicroScope this week taking a slightly askance perspective of ‘zero trust’ and what it really means.

It’s good to see a piece that takes a different approach and walks a line between being entertaining and informative. Let’s face it, at times, our subject matter can be pretty dry. And while cybersecurity is a serious matter, if we can do anything to make it more interesting for everyone, that’s got to be good.

‘Zero trust’ is one of those terms that has been jumped on by everyone and quickly become almost meaningless. That’s why – if you do use it – you have to be a little bit more creative and interesting. That’s what Nick has done here. He cleverly gets the people he interviews to come up with their own interpretation.

One uses a Laurel and Hardy metaphor; another describes it as ‘a bad day on the tennis court’. There is a hotel check-in analogy and one that compares security to the construction of a ship. Others re-cast the term as ‘minimum trust’, as ‘never trust, always verify’, and as ‘rational trust’.

This keeps it interesting and, hopefully, keeps the reader scrolling. Nick’s done a great job and I can imagine everyone who contributed is pleased with the result. It deserves to get plenty of views and shares.

It is great to see a bit of creativity in channel coverage. While Nick has done the hard work here, it’s always worth thinking of how you can approach a subject from a different and more interesting angle.

 

Why you will need to be as good as your word on sustainability this year

A recent article in CRN warned IT resellers that they will face exile from public sector deals unless they make a net zero plan. It’s a good piece and it echoes a recurring theme in discussions amongst channel companies at the moment.

The view within the channel now is it that if you don’t have a net zero and/or decarbonisation plan, you won’t get a look-in on commercial contracts either. And you may have to have a more ambitious date by which you intend to achieve net zero carbon than 2050 – which is the notional deadline that companies bidding for government contracts are supposed to have set.

The problem here might be that it is all very well stating that you have such a goal, but who is going to monitor your progress towards it? Saying it is one thing; doing it is another.

‘Sustainability’ is a term we are going to hear a lot over the next year. But while channel journalists will pick up on anything that looks like genuine and meaningful progress in terms of advancing sustainability and net zero goals by partners, distributors and vendors, they are likely to become quite thick-skinned on the subject fairly quickly.

Everyone will be adopting ‘sustainability’ as one of their PR themes for the year. But to be convincing, they will need really solid, hard-baked evidence that they are doing something meaningful and have a clear and public commitment to making a genuine difference.

Whether you are believed will come down to the sincerity with which you communicate your actions on the subject and the amount of detail and evidence of progress you can provide.

At the same time, channel journalists won’t have time to make in-depth checks on what you tell them (most UK websites have only two or three journalists), so it may come down to whether they really believe you or not. That may depend on how much of a track record you have and how well they know and trust you and your PR people.

Keep up to date with what’s being said in the channel media – visit and bookmark our page at channelstar.co.uk/.