Interview with Al Dean – Part 2

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Deelip: Recently US CAD vendors have started asking the CAD press and bloggers to disclose the benefits they have received from them when posting reviews of their products? Is that necessary? Why or why not?

Al: Honestly? I couldn’t give two shits about it. It’s a US government diktat and  probably a precursor to ensuring that they can tax people on income or income in the form of other benefits from blogging, something that would be near impossible to track otherwise. Does it effect people’s judgement? No. If it does, it its bloody obvious in the content, the audience switches off, they don’t get the benefits and the cycles completes itself. End of story.

Deelip: What is your take on “young punks” like me and other bloggers who don’t know the rules of the game and have no interest in playing by them either?

Al: Best thing that’s happened in years. Simply that. I’ve never been particularly good at doing what I’m told and you guys aren’t either. That’s why I hire the good ones as writers. But aside from that, there’s a hell of a lot of good content out there that can actually help people, help them solve an issue or find a new solution to a problem or bottleneck. More people writing about this technology the better. The whole blogger vs. press argument is redundant, completely and utterly. Does, what you’re reading, give you value, did you learn something, did you find something to think about, something you can put into practice? If it’s yes, then good. If not, don’t read it again.

Deelip: If a press release and a blog post on the same topic show up at the same time, which one would you read first and why?

Al: Here’s the odd thing. I don’t get sent press releases – maybe two or three a day of much interest. Most of those are from a PR agency sending out something completely random. Thing is that we’re usually way ahead of the game before the press release comes out, we’ve been doing it long enough that we’re under NDA for most things and ready to go, so the press release is secondary to that. Blogs I tend to read as RSS feeds, so I tend to read them first.

Deelip: What is your take on PR people? Do you think they come in the way of communicating with the people that matter in top management or engineering? Do you try and by pass them? How often do you get replies from PR people that you did not expect?

Al: PR people get a tough rap. Particularly from some quarters. When you’re dealing with press, it’s a tough job. Many editors can be incredibly rude and incredibly arrogant. I’ve seen people in the press work with the same PR person for 10 years and still they get their name wrong. But let’s separate something out here. There’s the idea of PR as a concept and the actual delivery.

As someone that’s generating content and often managing others that do the same, PR is vital. It keeps us up to date with things and can facilitate answers and requests for information – simple as that. Send questions, get answers, send more questions, get more answers. It’s also about wrangling. The vendors in this space can be difficult to get hold of and to engage with (rightly so, they’re busy doing other things) and trying to set up demos, trying to get answers from executives is a tough job – not one I would relish at all. PR enables that.

But the other thing is that I’ve found is that it’s often about the person on the other end of the email, the phone line, that makes the difference. It’s not about which fancy agency you use, it’s about the actual account rep. Some are excellent – I mean, truly excellent, responsive, communicative and pro-active – both internal in some vendors and some externally. You want examples, look at the work that Edelman do for Autodesk Manufacturing as how an external agency can truly assist a huge vendor spread the word – that’s down to the team there. If you want an internal PR example, look at what Nancy does at SolidWorks. And there’s countless others. I’d be up shit creek without a paddle without them if I’m honest.

Conversely, some are lazy, ineffective and very very old school in their approach. But that’s life and I’m glad to say that the latter is in the distinct minority.

Part 3 >>

  • Deelip – regarding your first question, yes it is necessary. The United States Federal Trade Commission says so, as of December 1 2009.

  • Apart from being necessary by law in the US, I cannot see the reason why someone would not want to disclose. Unless they have a good reason to hide.