One of the unexpected side effects of running Ubuntu instead of Windows at work is that I'm having to answer my phone. Our voicemail system has a desktop client interface, and that's Microsoft-only — there's a fighting chance that it will work with the Wine Windows-under-Linux layer, and a better one that it'll work with XP in a virtual box, but this week I am mostly playing with PHP and MySQL so such experiments will have to wait.
Which means that I'm fielding PR calls in real time. It's not a particularly edifying experience. My name must be on the wrong list in a directory somewhere, because I'm getting tons of calls about "my client has just sold a CRM system to Bogco, the leading supplier of bathroom fittings" and the like. I've never written a story about someone winning a contract in my life — unless you count the occasional apoplectic rant concerning yet more state funding for rapacious, incompetent consultants — so why Belinda at Frogspawn Marketing and Sandra at Inyerface Interface have suddenly got the idea that I'm in the market is something of a mystery. Asking "Why are you calling me?" seems a little impolite, but that's never stopped me in the past. The next one who calls touting a security solution sold to the leading Slovenian transport logistics company gets it.
It strikes me that in these days of blogs and insta-pundit publishing, there's nothing to stop the PR companies getting together and doing their own rolling press-release-only magazine for this sort of non-story. You don't need journalists to cut and paste, after all. The publication — let's call it Contract Contact – wouldn't need a business plan as such; the thing would justify its existence by making the clients feel happy and billable, and it might even be genuinely useful after a while as a database of what particular companies have been up to. For those peculiar journalistic animals who do feed on contract stories, it would be a godsend — as it would for anyone who enjoys or needs to read about them, assuming such a thing exists.
Such a publication wouldn't be that different to some of the trade press anyway. All you'd need to do is add white papers from marketing managers of various companies, and you'd be there. No adverts, but then there'd be no need for 'em. No pretence at objectivity either, but what's that got to do with a contract story anyway?
And while we're dallying in the land of press releases, here's a lovely little piece of marketing-speak. EMC has had a bumpy time of it recently: it overestimated demand for one product and underestimated that for another. You or I might call that sort of cock-up a mistake. Not EMC: "This issue was a self-induced execution failure on our part. There is no excuse", said chief executive Joe Tucci. I shall treasure that for the next time I'm being carpeted — "I cannot tell a lie," I shall say. "This issue was a self-induced execution failure. Can I go now?"