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Earlier this week I contacted Hewlett-Packard’s New Zealand PR company.

Make that HP’s erstwhile PR company.

HP no longer has a New Zealand PR company.

Here’s the official company statement explaining the change. The fact that the statement is written in the worst kind of corporate-speak imaginable complete with the now-obligatory phrase “going forward” should have warned me about what was to come:

HP has transitioned to a central public relations hub to facilitate enquiries in some markets in Asia Pacific and Japan, including NZ. Going forward, you may submit your HP enquiries via email to APJMediaRelations@hp.com or via a phone call to +65 6671 4718. When contacting the regional hub, please specify your deadline.

It’s bad enough when a technology company is clueless enough to attempt running New Zealand PR out of Australia, but the phone number here has a Singaporean code. At more than 8000km from New Zealand that’s about halfway to the other side of the world and in a totally different culture.

That’s not encouraging. But so long as our questions get answered, we get access to people, information and products, journalists can live with that. We’re flexible.

Or can we live with it? When I phoned the number it was clear the public relations hub doesn’t work New Zealand hours – no-one in the office during our early afternoon.

So I sent an email to the address. Two days later, no reply.

This could be a one-off. However experience tells me otherwise. When this has happened in the past with other companies communications stops being a two-way street. I’m sure we’ll get sent lots of crap press releases written in the dreary prose demonstrated above, but answers to questions?

Before you dismiss this as just a whinge about my problems as a journalist, consider this: I’ve been covering technology in New Zealand and Australia for more than 25 years. In that time I’ve noticed whenever a company stops talking to the media, sales drop, activity stalls, people get laid off.

Cutting media contact isn’t the illness, it’s a symptom of an underlying disease.

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