Public Relations -- The Hidden A/V Connection

By Bryan Stanton


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Public Relations is the hidden interface between Audio/Video companies and the editors and writers who explain everything about them and their products to millions of enthusiasts. Yet PR pros are largely invisible to everyone outside the A/V community, and to many within it. To the extent PR work is known, it's often little understood -- by the readers of A/V magazines and websites, consumers, even A/V manufacturers.

Press releases are just the tip of the iceberg. Consumers see only PR's result, which ideally leads to accurate, informative depictions of clients' products & technologies. But our work involves more than getting product reviews, magazine covers and the like. PR people also help shape information about a manufacturer's unique perspective, history, products, technologies, etc. We help educate the market via the media. [In a sense, our "client" is the media.]

It's important for PR pros to increase clients' visibility and reputation in "Outer-Market" media, whose affluent readers don't see enthusiast publications like Home Theater Review, Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, and The Audio Beat. We also work with music venues and other places audiences gather. For example, we have developed client promotions with Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and even putting gear into NYC's Museum of Modern Art's Permanent Design Collection.

It's in a PR person's interest to represent the more innovative clients, as they're likeliest to have the new products and technologies that will attract the attention of editors and readers.

A/V manufacturers (a.k.a. Clients) are deeply involved in all aspects of their companies -- the R&D, manufacturing, sales and marketing -- and can't usually also spare time to work with the media. Or even keep editors regularly informed of what may seem obvious to manufacturers, but is actually news to the industry.

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One always-interesting part of the job is working with the key person behind a Brand Name, and introducing them to the media: editors and reviewers love to pick their brains! Some favorites: KEF's Raymond Cooke, B&W's John Bowers, Dolby Labs' Ray Dolby, Meridian's Bob Stuart, PSB Speakers' Paul Barton, Pass Labs' Nelson Pass, and B.M.C. Audio's Carlos Candeias.

Once, I was crossing the show floor at CEDIA with the design chief of a loudspeaker manufacturer. We met two reviewers, one after the other. Each started complaining about his problems measuring a speaker under review. The designer quickly rattled off a solution to each, and they weren't even his speakers. Sharing knowledge this way is great, and one reason the A/V industry is one of "personalities".

It is not in a PR pro's best interest to make something out of what isn't -- or more than it really is. I cannot say PR people never do this, but media, reviewers and consumers are smart -- and doing so eventually burns a bridge, destroying the trust and credibility PR people need to be effective.

Our work with the media is based 100 percent on trust. As a former A/V magazine editor, I know editors are extremely busy, facing frequent deadlines, and juggling a myriad of requirements at any one time. A busy editor may not always see or understand particular aspects of a company, its products or technologies. PR professionals, especially former editors, understand from their own experience individual media's differing needs, deadlines, and constraints -- and can serve as a valuable editorial resource.

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Most A/V reviewers have full-time jobs that pay the rent. They do their reviewing on top of these jobs, making it hard to keep up with the copious A/V changes always underway. In addition, it's in their readers' interests that reviewers pass along useful information not only about the actual product, but also the companies behind the products, their technologies, and how they help consumers. Again, this is where we come in, educating the reviewers to what their readers would find important.

PR's underlying goal is to provide clients -- some, in our case, going back three decades -- pro-active Brand-Building in the marketplace. Products come and go, but Brands and reputations last forever in consumers' memories, and knowing and applying this is paramount.

 

Bryan Stanton is founder and President of J. B. Stanton Communications, which have specialized in Public Relations, Brand-Building and Marketing for Audio/Video manufacturers, technologies and trade associations since 1977. It has introduced and established dozens of now-prominent Brand Names in the A/V industry.

 

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