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Specifics Sell. Generalities Don’t.

And People Love to Be Sold. On Tuesday, I flung a pie in the face of Rupert Murdoch’s newest acquistion, The Wall Street Journal, for its cavalier treatment of the trademark fight between the two Hammer Museums. I like Rupert Murdoch. Several times

October 2007 By Denny Hatch
5

In the News

The Phone Rings
Denny Hatch: Hello
PR Valley Girl: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah
Denny Hatch: Could you speak up, I’m having trouble hearing you.
PR Valley Girl: BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.
Denny Hatch: Could you e-mail the information? I’m a see guy, not a hear guy. E-mail me at dennyhatch@yahoo.com.
PR Valley Girl: BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH
Denny Hatch: Thank you. [Hangs up.]
—Any of several phone exchanges, the week prior to the Direct Marketing Association 07 Chicago Conference
I wish PR agencies would not have women with little valley girl voices call me up, read a script about a client whose business model is extremely complicated and ask me to interview the CEO or marketing manager.

First off, I am a reader and writer. I am not a listener and talker. For example, I have had a cell phone for 10 years and have never answered a call on it and do not know the number. I am not comfortable with phones.

When I start hearing techy terms and buzzwords over the phone, my ears glaze over and I insist on an e-mail.

More often than not, the e-mail follow-up from the valley girl has no hook—no silver bullet, no delicious factoids—to make me salivate enough to do this story.

Instead, it’s usually a bunch of generalities couched in PR babble.

“Specifics sell,” wrote Andrew J. Byrne. “Generalities don’t.”

The Valley Girl-Denny Hatch Exchange
[NOTE: All names have been changed; the e-mails are otherwise as sent]

Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2007
From: Valley Girl
To: dennyhatch@yahoo.com


Hi Denny,
Thanks for chatting with me a little bit ago. Per our conversation, I’m contacting you on behalf of Viral Co., a viral marketing company based in Los Angeles, CA. I’d like for you to consider a viral marketing campaign article recently completed with CompanyT, a web-activated VOIP service connecting people between two landlines or mobile phones. Viral Co. was able to quickly create and deploy a series of strategic, socially driven programs, customized for each opportunity and target audience.

Viral Co. was able to provide CompanyT with dramatic program results and benefits from the viral marketing campaign they created including data on conversion rates, percentage of participants and peer-to-peer invitation participation percentages.

Please let me know if you find this story of interest. I’d be happy to provide you with some additional key detail about this campaign and offer for you to speak with someone at Viral Co. . Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best,
Valley Girl
X Public Relations Co.


VOIP?
I recognized the term VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol or using the Internet for phone calls). But red flags went up in my brain. A number of years ago I got a call from SunRocket offering me the opportunity to create a launch mailing. I did not like the smell of it; they were clearly not direct marketers and the premise sounded like a loser. I turned them down. I was right. From my archive:

Takeaway Points to Consider:

*A PR pitch is like a direct mail package. The prospect needs the features (precisely what this thing is) and the benefits (what it will do for my readers—why I should write about it). Not all readers. My readers. I expect exclusivity.

* “Editors are lazy. Give them a story they can use, and they’ll run it rather than going to the trouble of writing something themselves.”
Evelyn Lawson

* “You’ve got to read their publications, figure out who they are talking to and then give them a feature story with an angle of interest to their readers and in the style of the publication.”
—Evelyn Lawson

* “Specifics sell. Generalities don’t.”
Andrew J. Byrne

*I am not going to take your pie-in-the-sky numbers and print them as gospel. Prove them to me or get out of my life.

* “People love to be sold.”
—Franklin Watts

Web Sites Related to Today's Edition:

What is VOIP?
www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/What+is+VOIP

Risks and Rewards of Viral Marketing
http://tinyurl.com/25jxe9
 
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COMMENTS

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Most Recent Comments:
Rod Sider - Posted on November 15, 2007
I have to ask, Denny, did you send Valley Girl a copy of this column? (for her education and enlightenment) Perhaps this lighted candle may illuminate the darkened corners of a PR messenger's mind.
John Friesen - Posted on October 18, 2007
Interestingly (or maybe not), there was a hugely successful viral campaign in the late-90s called Whack-a-Flack that let you turn press releases into paper airplanes to hurl at the flacks. I believe the game's somewhat obscure viral purpose was to showcase the talents of a company that produced viral campaigns. Whack-a-Murdock is clearly a take-off from that.
David Rosen - Posted on October 18, 2007
Regarding specifics vs. generalities, you are (once again) right on the money with an important fundamental. But as far as ?people love to be sold,? it?s really a matter of interpretation ? and frequently misinterpreted by cruder schools of salesmanship.

I once visited an auto dealership where the first thing the salesman said to me was ?What kind of car can I sell you today?? When you can see the dollar signs in the salesperson?s eyes, it tends to cool any ardor about ?being sold.? In our highly commercial culture, in which advertising appeals often seem both ubiquitous and continuous, it?s not surprising that many consumers are constantly on guard against ?being sold a bill of goods?, as that now somewhat antiquated-sounding expression put it

On the other hand, people do clearly love to buy, in both the literal and metaphorical senses, especially when they feel confident and in control of the situation. And that?s where the specifics and skillful salesmanship come in. Great salespeople feed the client/customer specific benefits and features that provide compelling reasons to pull the trigger?and feel good about it afterwards.
Rob Stanton - Posted on October 18, 2007
Another enjoyable read, Denny.

In my mind, the same can be said about those ubiquitous ?top ten tips? that many industry pros submit as articles to various trade publications. Most of these ?articles? contain a heavy dose of everyday common sense wrapped in buzzwords. Useful specifics are rarely included.

I wonder who really has time to struggle through that stuff with so much good writing out there?
Greg Fine - Posted on October 18, 2007
Sell the sizzle. My old man was a copier sales guy and that was his lesson to me. If they can smell the fat frying in the pan, you've got a seat at the table.
Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
Rod Sider - Posted on November 15, 2007
I have to ask, Denny, did you send Valley Girl a copy of this column? (for her education and enlightenment) Perhaps this lighted candle may illuminate the darkened corners of a PR messenger's mind.
John Friesen - Posted on October 18, 2007
Interestingly (or maybe not), there was a hugely successful viral campaign in the late-90s called Whack-a-Flack that let you turn press releases into paper airplanes to hurl at the flacks. I believe the game's somewhat obscure viral purpose was to showcase the talents of a company that produced viral campaigns. Whack-a-Murdock is clearly a take-off from that.
David Rosen - Posted on October 18, 2007
Regarding specifics vs. generalities, you are (once again) right on the money with an important fundamental. But as far as ?people love to be sold,? it?s really a matter of interpretation ? and frequently misinterpreted by cruder schools of salesmanship.

I once visited an auto dealership where the first thing the salesman said to me was ?What kind of car can I sell you today?? When you can see the dollar signs in the salesperson?s eyes, it tends to cool any ardor about ?being sold.? In our highly commercial culture, in which advertising appeals often seem both ubiquitous and continuous, it?s not surprising that many consumers are constantly on guard against ?being sold a bill of goods?, as that now somewhat antiquated-sounding expression put it

On the other hand, people do clearly love to buy, in both the literal and metaphorical senses, especially when they feel confident and in control of the situation. And that?s where the specifics and skillful salesmanship come in. Great salespeople feed the client/customer specific benefits and features that provide compelling reasons to pull the trigger?and feel good about it afterwards.
Rob Stanton - Posted on October 18, 2007
Another enjoyable read, Denny.

In my mind, the same can be said about those ubiquitous ?top ten tips? that many industry pros submit as articles to various trade publications. Most of these ?articles? contain a heavy dose of everyday common sense wrapped in buzzwords. Useful specifics are rarely included.

I wonder who really has time to struggle through that stuff with so much good writing out there?
Greg Fine - Posted on October 18, 2007
Sell the sizzle. My old man was a copier sales guy and that was his lesson to me. If they can smell the fat frying in the pan, you've got a seat at the table.