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Jun 12 2009

HSS’s faltering embrace of Web 2.0

Being a blogger in the architecture, engineering and construction market means I get occasional emails from companies (or their PR/marketing agencies) wanting me to publicise their latest products and services. If I was simply in the business of regurgitating other people’s content, this wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m not, and it can be a bit irritating.

If people bothered to look closely at my main blogs, they would know that ExtranetEvolution focuses on construction collaboration technologies and related debates, covering things like CAD, building information modelling, e-tendering, file-sharing and document management. This blog is more about my core professional interests: PR, marketing and social media, and the integrated application of all three in the construction and property sectors. Note, I didn’t mention ‘toolhire’.

Poorly targeted PR

I was recently approached by someone at an e-commerce and online marketing consultancy acting for tool and equipment hire business HSS (a company that I have occasionally patronised). I was told:

“HSS is pioneering new technologies and services in their industry and is looking to build relationships with bloggers and online communities who would be willing to publish press related content. HSS deals with customers ranging from the occasional DIY user to the largest national construction companies, so I’m sure HSS and tool hire news would be very relevant and beneficial to your readership.”

So far as I know, few readers come to my blogs because they are relevant and beneficial to their interests in toolhire. Any way, the email gushed on….

“HSS is launching a new blog within their website, so there is a strong chance back links to your blog could be provided from this high authority domain. It would be great to hear your thoughts and to see whether HSS and tool hire in general is a topic you would be interested in posting about. I’m sure both HSS and your blog could benefit by forming a relationship.”

The email included a link to HSS’s press page and a YouTube demonstration video for HSS LiveHire (basically a bland corporate video about the new website), and signed off:

“Any feedback on press related info would be gratefully received. It would be great if you could let us know if the information we have sent you is relevant to your website.”

OK, let’s have a look at that blog, I thought. Only I couldn’t find one – my correspondent was clearly telling me about a forthcoming landmark in HSS’s history. And he also failed to send me the relevant news release (no attachment to the second email, Harry). Frankly, I was puzzled, irritated and none the wiser until I read this press release posted on the econsultancy site about HSS’s launch of LiveHire. Presumably this what Harry felt was relevant: the new LiveHire website is essentially an extranet that allows large customers to hire equipment, control asset registers and generally manage their HSS accounts in one online location.

HSS: some Web 2.0 opportunities

But, for the purposes of this blog, I wonder if – excepting HSS’s imminent blog (and the fairly naked request for links to help boost search engine optimisation) – HSS might also do more to embrace social media and to drive traffic to its hire site?

  • An RSS feed of HSS news releases would be useful to those bloggers that are interested in toolhire.
  • What about creating a wiki to help HSS customers identify the right tools for the job and then undertake it efficiently? Small builders, painters, etc, could use this to help display their expertise – perhaps with photos (Flickr) or video….
  • … What about YouTube videos showing correct tool selection and safe execution of particular DIY, construction, gardening or other challenges? Each short item could finish with a link to the relevant section of the HSS site.
  • Or maybe online community incorporating discussion forums – perhaps grouped in line with HSS’s equipment categories – where people could read or seek advice from HSS and from other customers and end-users?
  • Maybe customers could associate themselves with their local HSS branch so that if others living locally were doing the same task, they could jointly hire HSS equipment? Twice, my local HSS didn’t have the item I needed to undertake a short task – for example, drilling a wide diameter hole through brickwork for a sink waste pipe – as someone else had hired the same kit to do a similar, short duration job. HSS would still get its hire fees but would satisfy two customers for the price of one.
  • Maybe a Twitter feed(s) from local branches (@HSS_Greenwich, maybe) to local customers with late special offers, or a @HSSguru customer service advising on Tweeted DIY dilemmas?

3 comments

  1. MikeC

    I’ve been getting hassled by a PR company this week to publicise new software for an accreditation scheme.

    It started off with an email (normal) but, clearly not satisfied that I hadn’t written anything, they stepped it up and began calling me; not once, but some 10-odd times (and will probably continue on Monday if they ignore my forthcoming email).

    They just don’t get it.

    Thing is, this company’s antics is now begining to colour my view of the accred scheme concerned, which I have no problem with whatsoever.

    In general, I can’t stand what PR companies do, although I have an easy relationship with one who does tend to get it. This one, in particular, however, embodies all that I hate about the industry.

    Oh, and it never ceases to amaze me how much power the clients they work for give them.

  2. Su Butcher

    Hi Paul,
    I hope you’ve let HSS know about all the free PR advice you’re offering here!

    1. Paul

      Maybe I have some even better advice up my sleeve if they come calling/paying? 🙂 Sprat to catch a mackrell and all that!

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