Why it’s worth making the effort to enter channel awards – and you should already be thinking about your 2023 entries

A channel-focused vendor we have done some work for this year recently won an award. It was great to see how thrilled they were as a result of getting independent recognition for the hard work that they have put in, and the success they’ve had with partners. It’s clearly had a positive effect on everyone in the business and enhanced their visibility and credibility.

We gave them some advice on how to go about putting together and presenting an entry. However, there is no question that it is their success – and no-one else deserves to take anything more than a passing mention. All we did was encourage them to have confidence in their own candidacy and point them in the right direction.

That’s usually all that’s required. While no business can enter an awards scheme expecting to win – every business that enters should make the best possible effort and give a good account of themselves. Just doing that can be extremely motivating and even making it onto the shortlist is an encouragement.

But one thing that’s certain is that you can’t win unless you enter. There are a dozen awards schemes that UK channel focused businesses can enter. Although it takes some effort to pull together a decent entry, if you have some success, it can have a very positive effect on your business.

We are now well and truly into the ‘awards season’ when most awards ceremonies take place and winners are announced. But before you know it, the entry deadlines for the 2023 programmes will be looming – the first will come in January. It’s good to start planning for those now. If you’d like any guidance or advice, let us know – email simon@channelstar.co.uk.



Do you have good news that you can share?

It was interesting to see CRN cover the possible impact that the change of Prime Minister might have on the tech industry earlier this week. It’s not covered that much but, obviously, events in the wider economic and political sphere do have an impact on our sector.

Currently, rising inflation and energy prices and the squeeze on household spending and on business costs that may result are a real worry. The new PM proclaimed that Britain can ‘weather the storm’ and I’m sure it can. But how long will the storm last and will every business be able to hold out?

While this particular storm rages, channel partners will need each other more than ever and end user customers will need their IT supplier partners even more. But with resources stretched, no-one can do it all. This is why sharing knowledge, sharing skills, people and resources – and helping to finance business activity are all becoming more important.

If you have any of these capabilities, it’s a good time to highlight them to channel media. This needs to be done with some sensitivity. It must not be seen as an attempt to profit from the difficulties that many businesses and people face. But if you do it in the right way, you can send out an optimistic and hopeful message and at the present time, a little bit of good news will be welcomed.

There may also be other positive messages you can share. Your business successes, what you are doing to help your customers and your own people, or that action you are taking on sustainability and DEI, for example. It does not have to be set in the context of potentially challenging economic conditions, but we should not ignore what’s happening in the wider world and how that impacts the industry either.

If you are unsure about what you might be able to say, or how to communicate your messages to IT trade media, feel free to get in touch. Just email simon@channelstar.co.uk.


How to make a channel editor’s life easier

I had a conversation with the editor of one of the top independent channel news websites earlier this week. We had a lot of catching up to do. Having followed similar careers paths, this individual has ended up editing a channel website while I am now working largely on what is sometimes called ‘the dark side’. Even so, we share a lot of views and have a genuine desire to help each other.

During our discussion, the editor made two points that really stood out for me and reaffirmed my own view of how channel-facing businesses need to approach trade media today. First, that press releases should be written and delivered in a form that makes it as easy as possible to publish. Ideally, it should be a simple ‘cut-and-paste” job. The more news value and the less corporate fluff, the better.

Most channel sites have an editorial team of only two or three. They don’t have time to chase down and research many stories. It’s far better for them if a story arrives more or less ready to run. That means it has to be written like a news story.

Secondly, when we were discussing an upcoming plan for a regular item that the website is planning to launch later this year, it was noted that – again, due to the lack of writers and/or freelance budgets – they do not have time to research and write longer, more in-depth articles. This is why the format of these planned pieces will be fairly straight-forward. Indeed, on most channel sites now, the ‘features’ content mostly consists of short video interviews and relatively short, Q&A type written pieces.

Channel companies looking to get coverage in the trade media need to remember that editors and journalists are right up against it in terms of their time and resources. The easier you can make their life, the better.


How you can help channel media by taking a position

What are the key themes for channel media now? Sustainability and DE&I are certainly on the agenda – CRN has an entire section of its website devoted to sustainability, called Tech Impact and is also running a Tech Impact Awards programme. Elsewhere, PCR is currently asking for contributions to its DE&I roundtable discussion.

But channel players need to take a careful approach to these subjects. You need to have something solid in place before you actively promote your activities and get involved in the debate.

Managed services, security and the cloud all continue to be areas of focus, but it’s getting harder to find a new angle on these subjects. The skills gap – or ‘great resignation’ as it’s being called, is also a big theme right now.

Underlying all of this is the general theme of a potential slowdown in economic activity, but that’s not something channel media will focus on too much. It’s not really in their interests to talk the market down.

What then should you focus on if you want to get the attention of channel media? Well, whatever you think is interesting to your reseller partners right now should also be of interest to the media. Look at the messages you are communicating to them and think about how they could be turned into some kind of meaningful and relevant story.

Another way of drawing out stories is to listen to partners and what they are animated or concerned about right now. If you notice a particular trend, the media might be very interested in hearing about it. But before you communicate that information, make sure you have a position on the subject. If resellers don’t know what to do about addressing their carbon emissions or how to act on De&I, for example, or if they are struggling with the skills shortage, what are you and / or your industry partners doing to help them address those challenges?

When there is a lack of hard-edged news, the views, opinions and ideas of people in the channel can become stories for channel media. You just need to think about what matters right now and take a position.


Why preparation and perspective are key to managing your expectations with channel media

An article on Channel  Partner Insight caught my eye earlier this week. One reason was the headline, which read: “Atea CEO: ‘I don’t think hyperscalers will take over the world’”. While he’s not really saying anything wildly controversial here, this is certainly an eye-catching statement and a good example of how a simple comment in the middle of an interview can become the main draw for the story.

By the way, in my view, this is a good article, The interviewee – Steinar Sønsteby, CEO of Nordics reseller business, Atea – comes across well. But playing down the global domination ambitions of the hyperscalers wasn’t the only point he made.

What he said in full on that was: “I don’t think the cloud, the public cloud, the hyperscalers will take over the world. I think they’ll be a very good addition to how you can get to resources. For some the hybrid world is more of a perfect fit, and for others the public cloud is not for them at all.”

That’s a more measured statement than the extracted section used in the headline, which implied in a subtle way that world domination is the goal for the hyperscalers. You won’t find that phrase in any of their mission statements, that’s for sure.

But it does make for a good headline – and that’s the whole point. It gets your attention and increases the chance that you’ll click on the story. In this respect, it’s good both for the website and for the company being covered – more people are likely to see and read the article.

Sometimes a headline won’t make the person who was interviewed happy because, in their view, it does not focus on the right part of the story or discussion. This can be frustrating, but it’s important to understand that you are not in control. Once you have done the interview, it’s over to the journalists who write the stories and the headlines. If something is completely wrong or misleading, of course, you can ask for it to be changed. But otherwise, it’s not your call.

There are two key takeaways here. First of all, make sure you prepare before doing an interview. Think about and rehearse your messages. Make sure you deliver them clearly. Use colleagues with media experience and anyone else you can as a sounding board. Second, keep it in perspective. The headline might not focus on the main point you wanted to make, but it will be designed to attract as many readers as possible and in the end, that’s what both you and the media want.

If you want to discuss this, or any other question you might have over relationships with channel media, feel free to get in touch.


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 https://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.