OPINION: Circuses and science fiction

Enterprise tech isn't about solutions and MOUs and pictures of executives. (Credit: Tashatuvango/iStockPhoto)

The art of the press release is dying. You might think my email inbox would brim with announcements of customer-wins, case-studies of how a client saved time/money with a deployment of the vendor's product, or results of a survey conducted by a vendor-neutral firm showing a specific technology trend. The sort of thing that would lead to editorial coverage—after all, it's says “editor” on my business card, and Computerworld Hong Kong has a 33-year track record of bringing tech news to Hong Kong readers.

Those meaty press releases do manifest, but they're scarce of late. Instead, I'm told a new product is available and a marketing executive is available for interviews. I'm invited to events all over the globe (I won't be attending). Increasingly, I'm breathlessly informed that Company X or Y is committed to “AI” or “machine learning” and this will...well I don't know what the pitch is as I delete the email.

I get invites to events that feature yoga and “latte art.” More available executives. PR reps who can't be bothered to insert the text into the email body, so they slap on a PDF attachment. <DELETE>.

I get emails addressed to employees who left the company long ago. Emails postulating that Spielberg's new feature film will spur the lackluster market for VR gear. Emails howling at me that I only have 24 hours left to book a discount ticket for some event in Las Vegas or Abu Dhabi. The plethora of cryptocurrency hype has dwindled since the various whatevercoins started tanking, but I still get some of those.

My email inbox has gone mad.

It's event-tastic!

I understand why people pitch events—traditional publishing models have irrevocably broken down, and events now rule our calendars. As a niche publication, we're able to pull off targeted high-value events, and the same is true of titles across the Questex group. We prioritize our own events.

But that doesn't stop PRs and media-liaison people from requesting, begging, pleading, even demanding we attend THEIR events or meet with their executives. We feel their pain, but sometimes, it's just not possible for us. Too often, the executives' schedule is paramount and cannot change, even when it guarantees that journalists won't be available to meet with them.

None of this helps to meet our goal of quality editorial. What do we consider a good story? Have a look at this one: Tsinghua University to establish joint lab with Alibaba. Newsworthy. Here's another: Citi teams up with HKTVmall to offer Pay with Points service.

Notice the local relevance, including a quote from HKTVmall's Ricky Wong.

We can and do commit acts of journalism. Now, what do these stories have to do with VR hype or marketing executive interviews?

Nothing.

Press releases: content, please

This is the sort of content we seek. A content-free press release stuffed full of sci-fi promises or other circus acts gives us no hook for our readers. What does? Customer-oriented stories. We're in the storytelling business, so why not pitch us a story?

A Hong Kong company easing its pain points by replacing a legacy system with a new implementation, that gets our interest. How a Hong Kong firm (large-scale or SME, doesn't matter to us) uses tech to improve their business processes. Bonus points for metrics and quotes from the customer.

Vendors love to talk about their “solutions” but every time I hear that word, I think: “What's the problem that requires a solution?” It's the customer that supplies the problem. There's never a shortage of tech problems, but they're not always solved by sexy, buzzword-centric tech. You don't throw AI or cryptocurrency at most tech problems, you sit down with the customer, listen to their problem, and suggest a solution that suits them.

Sounds dull? Not to us. We most to hear about Hong Kong firms and their tech pain-points, what systems they outgrew, how they replaced them, what it was like and what it's like now. Greater China? Yes, OK. Asia-Pacific? If it's insight on a technology in the region that's worth noting, let us know about it.

Specifics

You know we want to cover Hong Kong, but what about topics? AI, VR/AR and cryptocurrency already clog my inbox—how many Hong Kong companies use bitcoin for daily e-commerce transactions? Got one?

OK, how about esports? Here's something we published on an event held in Macau. And here's an op-ed piece by Andrew Pearson on how Hong Kong must promote esports. Pearson writes: “Telcos like Hong Kong’s 3 and Macau’s CTM recognize the branding opportunities inherent in the space.” Editorially, we feel this type of entertainment has growth potential and will help drive demonstrations of AR and VR in a competitive environment.

Data privacy, anyone? As the EU gets closer to implementing GDPR, who's looking at Hong Kong's PDPO and making sure Hong Kong firms are in compliance? How do local firms ensure protection from the likes of Cambridge Analytica and Equifax? Who in Hong Kong might be trying to mine our personal data?

We hear a lot about “digital transformation” but we don't hear any case studies from Hong Kong firms who've successfully accomplished digital transformation: what happened, what benefits they now enjoy, the difficulties encountered during the transformation, etc. Are the stories out there?

Does any of this resonate?? If so, look for the common thread: the HUMAN factor. Enterprise tech isn't about solutions and MOUs and pictures of executives. It's about some CIO—let's call him Mr Chan—who's got a problem and needs to address it. He decides to go with Vendor A, the implementation takes time and has some surprises but ultimately is successful. Mr Chan tells the story, with some input from the vendor. It's written into a press release and emailed to me and/or the editorial staff of CWHK.

Now that's a story!

I hope this helps, feel free to email me with any questions. Thanks for reading.

Read more on