Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Like quality, only with people.

Like quality, only with people.

Note: This is a bastardization (and cleanup) of a post I made yesterday to the fedora-marketing-list. I think it’s actually very applicable to EVERYONE in the Fedora project, especially if you deal with users.

It is *absolutely vital* that all of us be on the same page for how to deal with journalists and other media people. Presenting a consistent, positive, and thoughtful message about Fedora is our Number One priority on this team and on this list.

A lot of the message points are already documented on our wiki so there’s no need to rehash them here. Journalists are busy people, just like you and me, and occasionally they make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes go uncorrected and become embedded in the journalist’s mind. It’s up to us to correct them helpfully, with a gentle touch, and to leave the door open for future interaction with them. A single negative interaction can sometimes close a media door to us for good (or at least for a long time), but consistent, positive interactions make it likely that journalists will return to us for good stories.

WE have the ability to make all the difference.

(By the way, if you’re even the least bit geeky, go read this. Now assume in any future interaction with journalists that only you have read this, and it’s up to you to work with that person’s tact filter.)

The #1 guideline that will make everything else below just icing on the cake: GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO BE NICE.

It’s especially important to be concise, careful, and polite if you are talking with a person whose native language is different than yours. Cultural norms differ and you want to make sure that:

  1. your message is clear,
  2. the other person understands it, and
  3. that person goes away feeling that the interaction was helpful and friendly.


This may be the 14,267th person you’ve had to talk to about what Fedora is, or why we do things a certain way, but you may be the FIRST AND ONLY Fedora person that individual has ever met. Make it an experience so great that by the time you’re done, they’ll want to join up themselves. AND their neighbors. ? (And if they want to contribute to FOSS, we’re happy to have them.)

Here are some ideas for how to handle these follow-ups. Please look at these and make comments, since this is certainly a team effort.

  1. For any formal press outlets, if you see something wrong, send a boilerplate letter with an offer to provide more information. Either Cc: or Bcc: the fedora-marketing-list and me. I don’t want all of our ability to get our message out to block on me, but I also want a shot at spinning these offers into interview opportunities.

    (Look at it this way — that’s part of my job, so I get to point to these interviews at the end of the year and say “Didn’t I do a great job? Huh? ahem“… followed by the sound of crickets.)

    And don’t forget, be nice.

  2. For blogs, don’t just put in a comment. Trackback from your own blog, and tag or categorize it so it gets carried on the Fedora Planet feed!

    Wait, you’re not on our Planet feed? Well put this message on hold, go read this, and come back when you’re done following those instructions.

    And don’t forget, be nice. (Wait a minute, maybe I said that before…)

  3. For broadcast, make a note of the show name, the air date/time, and where you heard it, and send something to the list.

Now, I certainly don’t mind at all if people just refer these articles to me, because after all, if only one person is speaking, that makes for a potentially very consistent message. But it’s not a very scalable model going forward. Rather, I’d like to turn these follow-ups into opportunities to speak to media officially.

And if, on top of that, our intrepid Marketing team is following up with a consistent, positive message, especially under the tutelage of Leigh, Kara, and some of the other professional marketing people from Red Hat,
we are going to find ourselves with a very successful press campaign on our hands.