An open letter to future CES PR people

Another year, another CES in the rear view mirror. This year’s was especially infuriating in a number of ways—none of them bad enough to get me to reconsider coming again, but enough to delay my writing more than usual.

So in the interest of future harmony, my recommendations to all PR people at future CES shows (which if I’m feeling saucy, I might put into my email signature next year).

For the love of God, bring USB sticks

Wifi at some hotels in Vegas is capped at 1 Mbit, and some of the “fast” ones are 10 Mbit. The most depressing possible answer to “do you have a press kit?” is “yes, it’s on our website.” This is especially the case if the big blue button to download it all at once includes a folder with a gigabyte of videos. That’s over two hours on wifi. If I tether to my phone, 25 minutes and $10 on Google Fi.

I’m on deadline and I have 200 booths in my bag. I’m only going to bother downloading yours if you’re very interesting. Don’t you want my attention if you’re just moderately interesting, so I can read your press kit to see if you make the cut?

You’re spending at least $25,000 to be at CES, sometimes much more. A USB stick costs fifty cents. Bring five hundred.

At least have a decent website for the purpose

If you must send me to your website, have a link on your home page that says “Press” or “Media,” and when I click on it, show me a link that says “CES press kit.” Include digital-only pictures and press releases, and put it all in a zip so I don’t have to go rabbit hunting on your site to see what I’ll need. Far faster for me to do that on my own drive. Make your TIFFs and videos a separate download. Yes, I know you spent a ton of money on your video, your aunt thinks it looks great, and maybe your boss gets a cameo. If video isn’t required to demo your product (almost no products meet this criterion), we don’t care.

(And what is up with people posting WebP images this year? I can’t do anything with those. JPEG or PNG.)

I don’t see why you love QR codes. My phone can understand those, but I don’t want your materials on my phone. I don’t know if my Mac can deal with them because I don’t wave random objects in front of my camera.

If you don’t have a decent website, be available 24/7

I just cut two companies from my story because the press reps didn’t get back to me in the four hours I was writing it. At 1 AM Eastern Sunday. Who’s more annoyed that I wrote a paragraph and had to delete it because I couldn’t find a price or release date? Me, or the company that paid thousands for that paragraph? The answer to this, of course, is to have a decent press section on your website. If all you have is “feel free to email us,” well, don’t sleep much during or soon after CES.

If you’re offering a review unit, do it in advance

I don’t want to get to your booth and hear, “We have review units, but we ran out.” Offer me one in advance by email, and then hold it for me. Review stories are in addition to my immediate news coverage; I get paid more to write them. A review unit will get me to stop by your booth if it’s likely to generate a story, especially if you’re innovating in a category of products I already know.

Don’t ask me to guarantee anything

No, I’m not going to promise to write about you. I’m especially not going to promise that if you give me a unit to review. Taking your review unit means, “I have an intent to review this, and a reasonable expectation my editor will buy the story.”

If I do write about you, it might be to mock you. This is not a reflection on you, it’s a reflection on your product or company. 90% of the time I don’t write about you, either I’ve decided you didn’t fit my audience (whatever my personal interest), or I did write about you and my editor cut it.

If you say one word that makes me think you’re intending a quid pro quo (usually, a valuable gadget for positive coverage), not only will I blackball the company you’re representing, but I’ll find out which PR firm you’re with and blackball all of your colleagues, because now I’m questioning the ethics of the people who hired you.

Don’t ask me to set a meeting unless it’s after-hours

When I arrive at CES, at best I know which days I’ll be at LVCC or the Sands. That’s likely to change on the fly. You have to be a fascinating story to get me to say I’ll be there at 3 PM. But if your executives are available at 8 PM, that’s off hours and you’re not cutting into my floor time. (You will be cutting into my writing time, so this isn’t exactly easy, but it’s easier.) Fancy Venetian suites are nice, but Starbucks is also fine.

Don’t ask me to notify you if I write about you

Google Alerts is your friend. I’ll sometimes do this during the rest of the year, but at CES I’m leaving here with a 5-inch stack of business cards and I’m only going to look yours up if I need you for something.

Make your booth viable for split-second decisions

Yes, booth materials are damned expensive. But if I walk past you and your booth is a table with a stack of flyers and a blank background, I have to fight through the crowd just to figure out who the hell you are. I never do. You want a large enough sign so I can tell from a distance of 10 feet whether to stop.

Make those displays count

Likewise, don’t tell me you’re the “first ever groundbreaking tech product” in the category. There are probably a dozen other people saying the same thing. Don’t use marketing-speak and hype. Don’t make outrageous claims, even if you deserve to. Provide enough specifics so I’m both interested in your product and have some reasonable trust in your company.

Best example of this: a pain relief booth in 2018 gave enough detail in their 10-feet materials that I stopped. When I asked my first question, “do you have peer-reviewed studies?”, the guy pulled out a three-inch binder of papers that said on the cover “#1 of 3.” He then asked, “do you also need the other two?” When I saw their booth again in 2019, I asked what was new.

If your booth isn’t on a grid, tell me how to find you

No one does this, and it would make so much difference. When I go to find your booth, I have a booth number, and I can look up and see that I’m on the 31300 aisle, or whatever. If I’m at booth 31324 and you’re at booth 31354, but there’s a multi-aisle booth between us, I have to hunt for you. Also sometimes the case if your booth is bisected from the main aisle by a diagonal path. You’ll have maps with the major booths in advance of the show. Tell me you’re “booth 31354, just past the BigCo booth in the direction away from the hall entrance.”

Have printed materials, and enough of them

Few people make this mistake, so when they do it’s galling. I can skim a flyer in 15 seconds, at which point you’re still clearing your throat. That gives me the salient points of what you’re pushing. If I’m interested, I’m going to want to take it with me (with a USB stick), because that piece of paper is another mnemonic. Have enough to last until Day 4 closing.

Bonus points: print on matte, not glossy paper. I might want to take pictures of your papers to scan them, and glossy paper will reflect the light and white out part of your page. Use a light background so I can scribble in the margins.

Small gifts are nice but won’t do you any good—usually

That giant bowl of Hershey’s Kisses isn’t interesting to me. It’s Vegas. I have all the desserts I want. At the moment you see me, I’ve walked 5 miles in a convention center where the coffee is $5. Give me a bottle of water or a fruit bar and I’m a happy camper. No, this won’t affect whether I write about you—but I will stop for 60 more seconds to chat, out of basic human decency, and that’s 60 more seconds you’ll have to get my attention. (Note: a cup of coffee takes at least five minutes to drink before I can walk without spilling it.)

Don’t hustle the aisles

My great-grandfather ran a haberdashery shop, and he used to stand on the sidewalk yelling at passersby, “You look awful. I can help with that.” Don’t do this. By the time I’ve registered you’re speaking to me, I’ve glanced at your booth and made the split-second yes/no decision. If it’s a no, you’re just going to force me to ignore you like a Salvation Army Santa Claus in August.

Don’t call me by my frickin’ name

Yes, I know, we’re all wearing nametags. You can say, “hey, Jeff!”, and I’ll glance in your direction. When I discover I don’t know you, I’ll be annoyed. I’ll be exceedingly annoyed if this is in combination with hustling the aisles.

Note: annoying me very much can demote your product from “reasonably interesting” to “hell no.” Happens at least once a year. This year a company who reliably gets my coverage was dropped because the PR rep blew me off before I knew their new stuff.

Know my publication and I’ll remember you, too

I don’t write for a marquee site—we’re extremely well-known in the Apple community, but not at CES, and we have a small but dedicated audience. If you’ve put in the legwork to know my writing or what the site generally covers, your preparation instantly puts you in the top 3% of people I’ve spoken to.

Listen to me

If I tell you I’m uninterested, it because my readers won’t care about you. Save your breath and go find a qualified prospect. When I say, “give me a minute to read your flyer,” don’t talk at me while I do that. I’m deciding if you’re interesting, I can’t listen and read at the same time, and I’ve decided I need more data more efficiently than your talking speed. Answer my subsequent questions and then let me get the hell out of your booth. I have more to see and you have more people to talk to. You don’t have to finish your patter, and my leaving early might mean that I’ve already decided to write about you unless you’re about to talk me out of it. (This has happened.)

Don’t tell me “the PR person has left the booth”

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of products I’ve seen in 12 years where I was willing to wait to talk to someone. Again, you’re spending five figures to be here. Have at least two people on hand, with one available during all show hours. (Exception: if you have only one person who can authorize a review unit or answer technical questions, that’s fine. Give me their card and preferably their cell number, and I’ll call them while walking to the next booth.)

For the love of God, bring USB sticks

Hell, bring a thousand. There are 4,500 journalists here. You might hit a home run.

Worst story ideas ever, part 4

I have to read headline pitches. It’s boring. I mock the worst ones.

The current state of wood pulp in food

your diet is too high in fiber

Why Humans Feel Connected to Dolphins and Whales

we are increasingly overweight and incomprehensible

Fortnite Coach wanted to tell all

especially why your job exists

CEO’s looking to Public Speak (book)

cause good speak make big image, and exposure to illiterate writers is always good

What documents do you need for a business loan?

mostly green ones, approximately six by two inches

Will B2B Sales Ever Pass The Turing Test?

your question doesn’t

How Does Cooking Help Mental Health?

burns and cuts temporarily distract from existential despair

If your partner is a lot older or younger, please share how you make your relationship work

large estates to bequeath

Bathroom Habits That Can Add Years To Your Life

stop holding it for weeks at a time

What’s the single most effective way for organizations to track high-value assets?

call the A-Team, they can find anybody

Looking for cannabis entrepreneurs

check outside the 7-11, man

What have you done to get a deal?

flew to Helsinki and Singapore and met with monsters, but then I forgot to ask for anything in return

Worst story ideas ever, part 3

I have to read headline pitches. It’s boring. I mock the worst ones.

Is “summer penis” real? ISO doctors/urologist

no, mine vanishes from solstice to solstice

The Downside of Monogamy and the Upside of Adultery

not sure why you need experts to tell you this

Seeking Thought Leaders in Artificial Intelligence

wait, do you mean the human ones?

What’s the future for women entrepreneurs?

about half

Future customer experience trends: 2019

will continue to hate airlines and Comcast

Tempest fighter jet: Has data power replaced air power?

wtf no

Cat massage

there are two things this can mean and both are creepy

How do you give a tall daughter confidence?

point and laugh at short girls

Back to School Gift Guide (my blog has over 1 million page views per month)

Irrelevant Non Sequitur (I won 2nd place in a 1984 science fair)

Worst story ideas ever, part 2

I have to read headline pitches. It’s boring. I mock the worst ones.

Seeking health professionals to discuss the negative health effects of wearing an ill fitting bra

because apparently “it hurts like hell” isn’t a good enough reason

How To Overcome Writer’s Block

get a phone call from your agent, “you have to finish or give the money back” (hypothetically, so I hear)

Seeking Christian (Women Who Rock with Success)

seeking writers who (understand punctuation)

The Health Benefits Of Waking Up Before Sunrise

wait so paleo diet is good because it’s paleo but “be awake when it’s light out” is somehow bad now

How to Talk to Your Partner About Your Sexual Frequency

there are four different ways to interpret this and I’m going with electromagnetic wavelengths

Coconut Oil for Horses (Anonymous)

you should at least tell us what country you’re in so we can leave it

How to reheat a baked potato

ask the guy who didn’t know how to microwave a sweet potato yesterday

Budgeting as Part of the Sandwich Generation

set up a gofundme to raise money from the pepsi generation

Do women like beards?

if your editor wants a story longer than one word, you may want to rethink

Seeking dancers and scientist on why some people truly have no rhythm?

the profession you want is “anthropologist” because rhythm is culturally defined

Bilingual AI Expert/Programmer Needed

and must love dogs

Global Hotspots 2030: Where The Smart Money Will Go Next

obviously, anywhere but the places you print in the story

Redeem United Miles

fly somewhere

Still looking for bingeable Netflix Original Series!

still don’t understand how this could possibly require an expert to interview!

Ways for retirees to enjoy Labor Day for free

no, it’s every other day they enjoy, sitting on their lawns pointing and laughing at people going to work

How to turn a bedroom into a flex room

drive rifts in your family such that they can’t stand to be around you half the time

The Best Apps for Small Business of All Time

try something more specific, like “best apps for people with opposable thumbs”

If you’re a perfectionist, use these ways to keep your cool with a boss who is not

or perhaps tell your readers that their boss is right and they may need therapy

Things That Make You Look Old

being old

Worst story ideas ever, part 1

I recently signed up with a news service in order to promote my book. They send me headlines of stories that journalists want to write, I reply if someone is writing a story I’m expert on.

This is very boring as I have to read 100 headlines for every one I reply to. And some of these are ridiculous. Therefore, I will mock them.

Signs The Universe Is Trying To Hook You Up With “The One”

you become spaghettified as you pass the event horizon of a black hole

tips to make sure you and your employees aren’t breaking the law

discard the business model of robbing banks

Strategies to Increase Your Organization’s Market Share

sell more things

How sleep can help your skin look better

avoids needing to use meth to stay awake

The Health Benefits Of Sleeping With Your Dog

people with germs tend to avoid people who practice bestiality

Looking for sources for a story about pet sharks

the longer you wait, the harder they are to find

How to microwave sweet potatoes

if this is unclear, a kitchen contains sharp objects and you should not be near them

Ways to Use Canned Sardines in Cooking

getting your in-laws to leave early

Bonding with horses

you should talk to that guy with the dog

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