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What does the CBOSS MWC debacle have to teach us about tech PR?

Posted by Alex Perryman on 12th March 2012

Our Managing Director definitely had a glint in his eye during the start of last week’s Monday-morning all-hands catch-up meeting:

“You’ll never guess,’ Richard said, clutching a shiny A5 flyer, “what I saw at MWC.” He then proceded to outline the contents of substance of CBOSS’ now-infamous MWC campaign.

“Hang on,” said one of our Account Executives. “Are you saying that CBOSS was pimping out dancing girls on the show floor?”

CBOSS is known for showering its stand with Russian dancing girls. These girls gyrate every hour on the hour in the interests of educating the world in the finer points of teleco billing software. While CBOSS consistently attract a crowd of salivating, tapas-crazed telco executives, very few come away with a clearer idea of what they actually do.

Definitely none of this to see here

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tom Coates

This year CBOSS went a little further, promising ‘romantic’ dinner appointments with its girls, where patrons could discuss the finer points of OSS and stuff, over a glass of champagne and a plunging neckline. All pains would be taken to set the mood, and “personal preferences of both interviewer and interviewee will be accommodated”.

Unexpectedly the media went nuts. Who knew?

The Twittersphere was quick to denounce CBOSS and the story was picked up by The Register, Telecoms.com, and eventually, The Telegraph, when CBOSS got banned from MWC 2013.

Whatever happened, common sense was clearly out on holiday: In truth the CBOSS debacle doesn’t have anything to teach us about how to conduct tech PR campaigns that any PR company wouldn’t already have known. Whoever was involved, I’m sure somewhere, deep down, they could see the dangers.

Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Genista

Instead CBOSS has simply served us a timely reminder of the importance of the basics: Ensure you know your audience, that you are as assured of a positive reaction as possible, and that you have laid contingencies for any negative press. I suspect this incident also demonstrates the danger of having a single individual, potentially the boss, exert too much power over PR strategy. It’s hard to imagine the PR Pimp technique emerging from committeethink.

We frequently ask interviewees for EML Wildfire positions to talk to us about ‘a PR disaster’. I wonder how long it will be before this rears its head.

However, while CBOSS has suffered in the media sphere, apparently their actual uptake at the show was quite high. It seems apparent that that not everybody has been that bothered by CBOSS’ conduct. And, what’s more, we’re talking about CBOSS now aren’t we? While their reputation may have suffered, CBOSS has gained a wealth of coverage from this incident. Time will show whether their antics prove truly damaging.

Alex Perryman

Alex joined Wildfire in 2007. He is renowned for his ability to pick up complex technologies and new industries extremely quickly.