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Parrot, Drones and the Right Way to Handle a Crabby Journalist


Andrew Couts, Digital Trends

As a journalist covering consumer technology, my relationship with the companies I write about is an interesting one. On one hand, it is in my best interest to remain in the good graces of the public relations and marketing teams that serve as a conduit between me and the products, business leaders and other experts in my beat. On the other, it is my job, first and foremost, to serve Digital Trends’ readers—the consumers who rely upon my thorough tests of products to learn about all the pros and cons each device offers. When something is genuinely wrong or troubling with a piece of tech, I need to tell them about it.
 
Such was the case with the AR.Drone 2.0 from Parrot. While testing this overall fantastic and fun product, I noticed a potentially serious flaw: Without warning, the Parrot FreeFlight app, which serves as the user interface for the AR.Drone 2.0, automatically sets the drone’s camera to record, and then uploads the video it captures to the user’s connected YouTube account, for all the world to see. This happened to me and my fiancée, who was appalled when I told her that video of her doing the dishes in her sweatpants, was publically available on the web. So, of course, I wrote about this experience.
 
Just days before CES 2014, I received a friendly but tense email from Jamie Favazza, a PR representative with Airfoil, who works with the Parrot team. The company had seen my critique of the Parrot’s auto-record feature, and would like to speak with me in person at CES. Sure, I told her, I’d be happy to talk with them. In the back of my mind, all I could think was “Yikes!”
 
When I arrived at the Parrot booth in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center for my scheduled 3:00 p.m. meeting, it was swarmed with onlookers gawking at the impressive dancing AR.Drones on display. Jamie found me in the crowd, a smile across her face and quickly introduced me to Parrot’s PR director Vanessa Loury and Nicolas Halftermeyer, the company’s head of marketing. I would not have to tell them my reason for dogging on their product face-to-face.
 
I explained my stance: At the very least, Parrot needs to give users a warning before uploading their videos to the Web. Much to my surprise, Halftermeyer heartily agreed and said the company’s designers were already working on a tweak to the issue. Wow, I thought. That’s is very cool. Not only did they read my article and speak to me about it in person, but they took the criticism to heart and are working on ways to improve their product.
 
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the right way to deal with a disgruntled consumer tech journalist.
 
For the next 40 minutes, Halftermeyer and I discussed a variety of issues with their AR.Drone apps, and browsed the array of products Parrot had on display at this year’s CES. By the end of the meeting, our working relationship had strengthened exponentially. And I am excited to work with Parrot further in the future in ways I never would have been without the ability to simply sit down and chat.
 
In our always-connected world, when having a conversation is as easy as firing off an email or launching a call on Skype, it’s easy to forget the unique value of meeting in person. This opportunity for face-to-face conversations is perhaps the most valuable feature CES offers attendees each year—perhaps more valuable than even the gadgets.

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