Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Here's a first: A press release for an in-world product

As a reporter for CNET News.com, if there's one thing I get a lot, it's press releases. And since about mid-2006, if there's one major subset of those that I get the most, it's probably something related to Second Life.

But tonight, something entirely new: A press release for an in-world item, in this case a new kind of personal transport vehicle called a cubePOD.

I can report that I actually did go and get one, and it's kind of fun. I may use it a lot, I may not. That's not really the point of this post.

The point is about the strategy of sending a press release to mainstream journalists --who, without saying are better or worse, I would say are a specifically different category of writer than bloggers--about a product that is entirely in-world, aimed at individual residents and seemingly offered by an individual or, at the very least, a small outfit.

I have a chapter in the book on marketing, and this is not something I addressed because, frankly, I hadn't seen it before.

Now I've seen it, and I'm trying to decide what I think about it as a way of getting customers.

On the one hand, it's free. All it costs--like so many other forms of SL marketing--is a little time and ingenuity. You write the press release, and then you send it off to the recipients.

On the other, I'm not sure how many mainstream journalists are likely to (a) buy the product themselves or (b) write about it. I suppose that the maker of the cubePOD is hoping that it will get coverage because he thinks it is a groundbreaking item that will change how SL residents get around. I'm not going to go into whether I think the cubePOD is, in fact, such an innovation; that's for other sites to consider.

My role is to evaluate the efficacy of the marketing method.

And so here's where I come down on the matter.

If a product really is going to change the behavior of a significant number of SL users, then I think it actually could be a smart move to send press releases to not just SL bloggers but to mainstream journalists who cover SL. And since it's free, costing only the time to figure out the email addresses of a few reporters, what have you got to lose.

If your product, however, isn't going to change the (virtual) world, and especially if you know that, then please don't send these kind of press releases to journalists, because you'll come off as amateurish.

But I am intrigued. Definitely. That's why I blogged this. It's a first of a kind, and as a journalist, that's what interests me.

Now we'll let the market decide whether the cubePOD is all that, or not.

I'd definitely be interested in hearing what you all think about this as a way of getting word out about a new product.

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