More music, more excitement, more #inbound12! Day 3 and no signs that this team is slowing down. As Darmesh very excitedly shouted, "a few years from now we will say 'remember when Inbound was only 2800 people!'" So to keep it concise- things are moving fast and it's awesome to be on this train.
There's a massive transformation about how we input into the world, now we have an accelerated pace! In the same note, there's a shift in the pattern of shopping and learning and we have to transform to match human behavior. People are getting better and better at blocking out the traditional marketing format.
We used to use the phone and marketers could find us… now we have caller id and can screen! We ignore mail, let it pile up because we know it's nothing important. Email, we can now prioritze our inboxes and send messages to spam and use Ad Blocker to block ads.
We need to create marketing people love! This means we create remarkable content and then use that content to pull people in (stop interrupting people with emails and blasts and let them come to you!)
2. Where's inbound marketing going, what does the next 6 years look like? And how does 1+1=3?
Simply put: We use content to pull them in, and context to pull them through!
The key to context is making magic and making your tools work together in completely new ways. Based off an Amazon example we can all understand, Darmesh and Brian call this magic making effect the 1+1=3! You know how when you go to Amazon.com it's like your best friend recommending a book. For instance, they suggest books on tennis, dogs, and marketing to me... perfect, my three favorite things! The more presonalized it gets, the more we want to use it... this is the context engine in action and the next generation of marketing!
3. What HubSpot is doing to power the next phase
HubSpot3, the biggest release in HubSpot history, is revolutionizing the way our contacts, leads, landing pages, blog posts and social media all can work TOGETHER to get us results. And I, for one, am excited to use it!
Closed Loop Social with HootSuite and HubSpot - Craig Ryomoto @craigryomoto Director, Pro User Growth & revenue HootSuite
Now that we have social media, how do you prove ROI from social media? This is called closing the social loop. Without getting into the details too much, the basics include:
1. Listen to your customers, competitors, and influencers
2. Engage with your audience in their platform of choice
3. Analyze and understand the results and engineer better outcomes
How to create eBooks and Webinars Your Prospects Will Love - Maggie Georgieva, Inbound Marketing Manager, HubSpot
Maggie is an Inbound Ninja and shared some great tips on creating remarkable content:
ase your content decisions on DATA
Look at blog analytics, which posts get the most views?
Look at page performance, which page is doing the best?
Landing page analytics, which people are visiting the page and thought it was compelling enough to fill out the form
Email marketing analytics, look at the names that resonate with people
Look at which format gets you the most return, if it is eBooks do a ton more!
What if you don't have much data? Check other sources of data (Google news and enter an industry keyword, see what's recent and newsworthy and being published)
When to publish? The more social media updates, landing pages, web pages etc… the more leads you get
31-40 landing pages gets you 7x more than 5-6 pages --> PUBLISH MORE
Prefect is the enemy of good, Voltaire… just get good content and stop trying to make it perfect--> PUBLISH OFTEN
Publish more and often:
Repackage the content: Expand a blog and make it longer, reduce an eBook to a blog. Repurposing the content to publish it more.
Combine 20 how-to blog posts into an eBook or guide
Curated Content- re-packaging content! Go to LinkedIn and find a conversation or ask people what they think about a specific topic and gather the quotes and information etc.
101 awesome marketing quotes, 54 pearls of marketing wisdom, learning LinkedIn from the experts (use numbers and images)
Is your offer compelling enough?
Did you target the right audience, did you send it to the right people?
Are you not sending enough traffic to it?
Key steps for suceeeding with marketing offers
Don't optimize before you build strong foundations. Use real data to drive your content strategy. Publish often & iterate later do more of what's working
There were three other great discussions today that covered Increasing Facebook ROI, Introverts in Marketing, and an amazing guide to Making Content Work for You in A Sales Pitch! Stay tuned tomorrow for more marketing magic from #Inbound12!
As of August 8, Great Britain has seen an overwhelming amount of support on Twitter and Facebook, securing more than 3,000,000 mentions over the past 30 days. Even weeks before the Olympics started, #TeamGB was tweeted thousands of times daily. The public using the hashtag #TeamGB or #TeamGreatBritain included remarks about being proud of their country or would also include the hashtag #OurGreatestCountry. Specifically, there was a lot of support for Jessica Ennis, Tom Daley and Mo Farah on social media.
Even with the gold medal for country spirit, Great Britain is behind USA and China in total medals. But, USA and China spirit on Twitter has been a little short. The USA spirit peaked around the swimming events and then started to die down after Phelps, which makes me question: in the USA, are we more ‘TeamUSA’ or ‘TeamPhelps’?
Conversation around Michael Phelps dominated the social discussion in the Olympics, doubling the total number of mentions for #TeamUSA, and Phelps saw over 500,000 more Twitter mentions than Great Britain’s prideful spirit. Below, you’ll find the top 10 countries with the highest social media discussion.
More and more brands are flocking to Twitter to connect with customers, engage in dialogue and spread their promotions. But recently there seems to be a spate of tweets that can be called clueless at best, and offensive at worst.
Just this weekend, I was exposed to the latest example of clueless marketing on Twitter. In this case it was someone using the horrible incident in Aurora, Colo. to promote their clothing brand.
(Note: I cut their name out so as not to give them any more free publicity).
If this were an isolated incident, I would just shake my head and move on. But it appears we have reached an inflection point where more and more clueless marketers are thinking that any trending hashtag is something to glom onto.
The now infamous Cairo shoes tweet:
There is also the less popular, but shocking Tsunami alerts are good for business. This one comes from a marketer in Thailand who must have forgotten that 8,000+ people were killed by a Tsunami in Thailand in 2004.
“Let's hurry home and follow the earthquake news. And don't forget to order your favorite [XXX] menu”
Then there is the less well known but still shocking tweet sent out by one coffee chain in the republic of Ireland:
What is my advice to marketers, communicators and public relations professionals on using Twitter hashtags?
Twitter is a great place for sharing news, observations and having two way conversations
Using #hashtags is a great way to label your content and bring it to the attention of those engaged in topical conversations
#hashtags are not a good way to interject your totally off topic or even tangential promotion or brand message into an ongoing debate, tragedy, revolution or social movement.
Never tweet alone. Before sharing a tweet using a trending #hashtag, ask a colleague or better yet three colleagues what they think of your brilliant and creative idea.
If you can think of any way that your planned tweet could be considered offensive…step away from the keyboard, iPad or touchscreen. If you don’t – do not blame me when you are pilloried by the Twitterverse
Do you have any other advice or horror stories to share? If so, leave a comment.
Amid all the coverage of this week's Surface tablet launch, it struck me that Microsoft didn't appear to give much thought to addressing an important question - what will MSFT's traditional hardware partners think of this move?
A Reuters story indicates that partners were kept in the dark about Redmond's plans. For a variety of reasons, that makes sense. But not having a standard reply ready for the launch is odd, to say the least.
One item that really stuck out was a New York Times report that Windows head Steven Sinofsky, when asked if Surface would damage ties with partners, "gently pushed a reporter in the direction of a stand of Surface tablets and said, 'Go learn something.'" Hopefully this incident was taken out of context. It had to be, right?! It's hard to believe that this issue wasn't anticipated during the enormous planning process leading to the launch.
Regardless of a company's size, one of the cardinal rules of messaging is to anticipate difficult questions. Think of it as a chess match - what challening questions might reporters, analysts, employees, customers, channel partners and prospects ask? And how will you respond to these moves? Consider your options and take the time to craft thoughtful and credible responses.
The answer doesn't have to be long and full of details. In fact, often the best answers are quick, confident and matter-of-fact. But for goodness sakes, be prepared!
Today, we discussed the challenges of BYOD expense management policies. In the video, Philippe also shares a prediction on how corporate BYOD policies will change in the near future. For more information, download the Enterprise Mobility Forum’s free mobility policy guidebook.
In our ongoing series on mobile and wireless trends, we spoke with the Managing Director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, Philippe Winthrop. Philippe shared his thoughts on the widespread adoption of mobile across businesses and enterprise IT management. He also discussed the future of corporate teleworking policies.
Bob Brown, executive news editor of Network World, a coveted trade publication for technology companies, visited Schwartz MSL Boston offices recently. Bob works with Network World reporters to shape the weekly news coverage. With CTIA fast approaching, we sat down with him to learn about the key mobile and wireless trends that are going to make the headlines at the show this year. Bob also shared some useful tips on what kind of news the reporters are interested in covering and how companies can get featured in the publication.
In our continuing series of interviews with mobile influencers leading up to CTIA and Interop, Rob Skinner sat down with Craig Mathias, one of the most respected voices in wireless and enterprise mobile strategy. In a wide-ranging conversation, Craig discussed the hot-button issues in mobile, from carrier strategies around consumer data consumption to the landscape for mobile unified communications in the enterprise. We hope you enjoy his insights.
In our ongoing series on mobile and wireless trends, we spoke with the Managing Director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation (EMF), Philippe Winthrop. The EMF is an independent think tank providing thought leadership through the Enterprise Mobility Forum, the largest social network exclusively dedicated to enterprise mobility.
Philippe joined us at our studio to share his predictions on the future of the iPad, iPhone, Amazon Kindle Fire and other consumer devices in the enterprise.
With wireless and mobile trends likely to dominate the discussions at CTIA 2012, the show promises to be a great venue for organizations to network and learn more about this critical market. Vendors have many wonderful opportunities at the show to meet with influential journalists, analysts and other industry experts as the show ‘unofficially’ kicks off a busy year in marketing, sales and public relations for many companies. Being practical and creative is the best way to make an impact at the show.
To learn more about opportunities at CTIA 2012, Schwartz MSL has created a Road to CTIA 2012 Planning Guide to help you navigate the PR and marketing opportunities at the show, and give you useful advice on strategy, as well as a timeline to help you plan ahead and even some tips on other fun things to do in New Orleans.
For further advice or information on how Schwartz MSL can partner with you, download Road to CTIA 2012 Planning Guide.
Today was my last full day at SxSW and it was once again filled with great discussions. For once I decided to forgo payments panels, and spent more of my time in panels that discussed B2B social media as well as a panel on brand journalism, and yes, one on the future of money.
The brand journalism panel and B2B panels were filled with a lot of insight and tips that will be of interest to our B2B clients and to B2B communications professionals.
First, it is clear that B2B companies are embracing content marketing. According to a survey from Marketing Profs, 49% of companies plan to increase their content marketing spending in the next 12 months. The two biggest content challenges these companies face are: 41% their content is not engaging enough and 20% have trouble producing enough content. As trusted advisors, communications professionals need to find ways to help our clients overcome both of these challenges.
This brand journalism panel, and a solo presentation from Tim Washer, Cisco’s Senior Manager of Social Media, hit on a key issue: B2B companies need to remember to talk to people in a human way.
B2B purchasing decisions are made both on facts and emotions. If you sell on just speeds and feeds in a competitive market, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Communicators need to keep this in mind and call out the human elements inherent in any story.
Following are four other key insights it took from the panels today:
Gamification is everywhere and is starting to be used to drive B2B engagement. When people hear about gamification they tend to think of consumer brands, Foursquare badges or Scvngr. But Cisco has added badges to at least some of its blogs. Now visitors can receive badges for visiting the blogs, leaving their first comment, leaving 10 comments, Tweeting the blog post, etc. This is a great step. It is an easy and focused incentive to drive the business outcomes a company desires (engagement and awareness). IBM and Xerox also spoke about how they are using gamification, with IBM using it internally to drive activity and identify those most passionate about social media.
Re-examine how you gather registration information. Cisco and other B2B companies are using Facebook and OpenID to enable social login. Why does this matter? Since Cisco implemented it, they have seen a 40 percent reduction in cost and 20 percent increase in registration.
B2B Needs to embrace video – If your B2B company is not yet using video as part of its communications strategy you are missing great opportunities. Here is a great video from Cisco about how it is helping in Africa. It does a great job humanizing the story and moving it beyond the basics.
Look at humor. This one is near and dear to my heart as I do standup comedy in my spare time, and understand the power of humor in business. Humor in B2B can engage your prospects and customers. It is a positive emotion, humanizes the brand, builds goodwill and cuts through the noise. If you don’t have the budget, go to a film school and ask the professor for his best seniors. Offer them an internship and $1000 if you end up using their final product. One example of humor in action comes from this Cisco Valentine’s video. It has almost 200,000 views and drove coverage in the New York Times, Network World, Light Reading and other outlets. See it here.
If B2B communicators start doing just one of these things that they may not be doing today, they will help their brand prosper and their communications programs deliver greater ROI.
The five most quotable observations from Monday at SxSW:
Content is the new black
Your B2B story may not be good enough for TV, but it is good enough for YouTube, your clients and prospects
Information without analysis in the information age is as valuable as stone in the stone age
We make things complex because frequently we are too insecure to be simple. But look at Apple. Simplicity sells.
Question conventional wisdom. For Trulia, blogs about sports figures drove 3x the traffic as those about celebrities
In a guest post last week, Kitty Weldon, principal analyst for Enterprise Mobility Services at Current Analysis, offered her predictions on the iPad and BYOD. In the second part of our series, Kitty now shares her insight on mobile apps and telecom expense management.
While smartphones and tablets are becoming “must haves” for all mobile workers, how will enterprises keep telecom expenses in check as remote workers rack up increasing data and voice bills?
Telecom Expense Management (TEM) solutions have been available from platform vendors and their service provider partners for a long time to help optimize voice and data plans and show usage patterns. There were indications in 2011 that WiFi and “FMC” solutions, which can route mobile calls over wireline networks or WLANs, are finally gaining traction. Companies such as iPass and initiatives such as HotSpot 2.0 are making the WiFi experience more consistent and readily available, so that roaming employees can save money (on both voice and data) without the hassle of finding and paying separately for access to public WiFi hotspots.
AT&T just announced that there were a billion connections over its US and global hotspots in 2011, with a 350% increase in connections from the previous year. Even though the EU is mandating caps for voice and data roaming charges, there is more work to be done in 2012 (including the continuation of global partnerships such as the Freemove Alliance) to ensure that international travel does not negatively affect mobile budgets.
Mobile apps are all the rage for consumers, and often of great value to businesspeople as well. We asked Kitty for her thoughts on HTML5 Web apps, vs. native apps vs. hybrid apps; enterprise-developed apps vs. outsourced development vs. mobile application platforms/MEAPs.
When you compare approaches to app development, the lower development costs, larger target market and easier accessibility of HTML5 web apps are often contrasted to the potential for deeper integration with native enablers and other applications on a particular device platform. This debate will only get hotter in 2012, as mobile apps for the business sector become a focus of hungry developers looking for the next “new” market and hungry service providers looking to further monetize mobility services.
Once apps are developed using these approaches, they still have to be delivered and managed on an ongoing basis. Now that everything can be delivered from the cloud, there are choices to be made between enterprise server-based and hosted mobile application services that may leverage Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms (MEAPs).
The rise of the enterprise app store was also a big theme in 2011. A number of MDM providers are making basic app store enablement part of their platforms, but service providers are also developing (or accruing through partnerships) sets of horizontal and vertical applications (generally offered as a service) that may only require slight customization. This enterprise app store evolution will continue in a big way in 2012.
Read more about Kitty’s outlook for apps and TEM in her report, “Enterprise Mobility Services: Top Ten Trends for 2012,” available from Current Analysis. Next in part three: Kitty shares her predictions on Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications.
Today was a great day at SxSW. I had the pleasure of attending three different sessions on payments and mobile wallets, one on the future of retail and a most inspiring session that looked at updating classic iconic ads for today’s technology.
I was prepared to write a very payments-focused post. But as I was thinking about today, I realize the key lessons for PR and business professionals transcend the payments market. Every presenter today, in their own way, was talking about convergence.
What do I mean?
Too often communications, marketing and business professionals think about communications and sales channels. Despite our best efforts we silo our thoughts. What does mobile allow us to do for payments, what business use can we get from mobile devices, what is the future of digital video?
While that thinking is important, it can also be limiting. It was expressed in different ways on the different panels, but it came down to a few observations.
Mobile payments isn’t about payments. If all you think about is taking a contactless card and putting it on a smartphone, you are missing the bigger opportunity and the market won’t grow. Isis is taking it a step further and realizing that for mobile to succeed it needs to be better, faster and cheaper. As I discussed yesterday, they are betting on loyalty, security and a better shopping experience to be the growth drivers.
But the discussion at the FutureShop panel made me realize there is more to it than what even Isis is saying. We need convergence and to see how all the channels can work best together. The retailers on this panel were nowhere near as optimistic about NFC as the payments players in other sessions. But they saw an even bigger picture. Convenience and loyalty offers are great. But that is just looking at one side of the opportunity. When retailers configure their stores to take advantage of mobile technology, it will prosper. The speakers gave examples of one company that had a scavenger hunt like game that lead people through the store to daily specials. These retailers see the iPhone turning into the helpful sales clerk of years gone by.
Seth Priebatsch of Scvngr challenged the status quo, but he added another piece to the puzzle. With loyalty blending with analytics businesses and communicators can adjust consumer shopping habits using game theory. In Philadelphia they ran a 45-day test that showed rainy days correlated to significantly less restaurant revenue. So they designed dynamic deals to encourage people to visit a restaurant on rainy days and saw a significant business lift.
It is only by putting the wallet vision of ISIS together with the bricks and mortar innovations of Future Shop and some of Scvngr’s futuristic ideas that we truly can see the shape of the future of mobile payments come together. Without all three perspectives, without the gestalt of the different perspectives the success will not be complete.
This transcends payments. This is a lesson that communications professionals should take to heart. We need to make sure we are not narrowing our vision to influencer channels, social media strategy or analyst relations. Sure those can drive results. But we need to look not just at how they work together and challenge ourselves to find at new ways in which they can work together.
Google and Coke did just that with projectrebrief.com (along with other brands). The project updated four iconic ads for today’s mediums.
The premise was powerful, yet simple. We don’t want to do social media campaign. We want to do a campaign that is social. What Coke did is amazing. They made it possible for someone to actually send the world a Coke. Consumers could record a video on the site, and send a free Coke to a number of machines around the world. Someone would receive your message in less than 90 seconds (after it was reviewed for content) and could then thank you. You would receive that video a minute later.
It is powerful. It is social and it harnesses physical, digital and social channels to create a result much greater than the sum of the individual parts. More communicators need to think like that. If we do so, our programs will be much more compelling, we will gain better understanding of consumers and drive greater business results.
So join me in always looking for ways to advance convergence. We won’t regret it.
It was so popular yesterday, I decided to end with it again today. The five most quotable observations from Sunday at SxSW:
Pharma is not bad. Pharma is probably going to save your life
Security is not a selling point for consumers. Criminals will find ways, and consumers think the phone is less secure even if it is more secure.
We are on the precipice of shopper 3.0 – The combination of Wed, brick & mortar, and mobile.
Tools today are an extension of our mental, not physical self. The shape of technology tools has changed dramatically over time, this is not the case with many physical tools.
If you want to drive consumer engagement, get people to look forward, not back.
If you have any questions in this post, leave a comment or tweet me at @mcclennan to meet up at SxSWi.
Saturday at SxSW was much more interesting than Friday. I had the pleasure of attending a very wide range of panels. The topics included strategic communications, Dad bloggers, enterprise social media, the future of mobile wallets, a comedian/activist keynote, and a look inside Joss Whedon’s head. The panels were a mix of both aspirational visions and cautionary tales.
The sessions were all great learning experiences, but they present something of a challenge. How do you blend parenting lessons from Leviticus with social analytics and loyalty programs? While many of these sessions merit their own posts (and will likely get them in the future), I wanted to focus on overarching themes that I noticed.
I would say there were two key takeaways from these sessions.
Destroy the labels
Know who you are
From the Mmbile wallet to NFC Chips to Dad bloggers, people and companies are too often failing to reach their full potential because they are succumbing to easy labelization. Don’t get me wrong, there is immense power in the study of groups and flocking, but if you too quickly group someone, you may come to the wrong conclusion or miss opportunities. I saw that time and time again today.
This is particularly insidious when it comes to Mom bloggers. Mom bloggers are too often defined by who they are rather than who they write about. Very few “Dad” and “Mom” bloggers blog about parenting. They are parents who blog. A mom blogger who writes about beer or food, should not be lumped in the same category as one who writes about technology or parenting. I personally have seen too many companies make this mistake. The lists created by influencer tools may serve as a good start, but influencers are not Oreos. Each is unique and needs to be understood and communicated with in context.
The same lesson applies to the mobile wallet. First of all, there is a blurring between mobile wallet and P2P payments and this line needs to be clearly understood. It also applies to enterprise social media when “employees” are lumped together as one audience as companies roll out solutions. Some of the best advice from IBM today was to understand what your corporate culture is like and what tools employees use to work and to communicate, and enhance those existing tools rather than make everyone conform to new tools. If you try to force people to do something they do not want to do, you will end up with an empty wiki, upset employees and wasted budget.
The second point is to know who you are. If you have a niche, carve it out. Just don’t let others put you in that niche.
Isis in the digital wallet space seems to clearly know this. They understand that in order to convince people to move away from contactless cards and Mag Stripe they need to offer more to retailers and merchants. They are betting their success on the premise that bringing loyalty cards and coupons into an integrated whole to provide consumers savings and convenience; and providing retailers a chance to impact consumer purchasing behavior before a transaction will push them over the edge. (That and retailers being penalized by the issuers if they do not adopt NFC by 2015).
I am not sure I agree with them completely, and I know not everyone in the audience did. Consumers have shown amazing willingness to stay with what works. As one panelist pointed out, 10 years ago the cover of Card Transactions was “Mobile Commerce is Ready for Takeoff” and we are still discussing its pending rise today. Additionally, consumers have shown a willingness to have multiple loyalty cards and apps, and there are other alternatives to impact pre-shopping behavior today (such as eGiftcards – technology from a client of mine - and location based deals).
The audience definitely did not all agree about the easy path of NFC. My most popular tweet of the day was “NFC being positioned as the Borg. Do not resist. You will be assimilated.”
Knowing who you are also helped many companies in the first panel I attended of the day. The reaction to Zappos’ data breach was much less negative than most breaches of its type. That was because Zappos quickly communicated in a way that was appropriate for its customers.
This post is getting long, so I want to wrap it up with the five most quotable observations of the day:
Before you make a critical business decision, ask yourself – what would John Stewart say about it?
Great ideas are not always great and not always well received.
Bloggers have more influence over purchasing decisions than traditional celebrity endorsers do
48% of B2B CEOs say social media helped generate qualified leads
Voice of customer research is not for validation, it is for discovery
If today’s registration line is any indication, SxSW Interactive is going to be more popular than ever. Despite coming at an off time, registration still took more than 90 minutes – more than I ever had to wait at CES or COMDEX in its prime.
True to SxSWi though, the time was not wasted. While in line, I had great conversations about the future of interactive marketing, the rise of mobile payments, better uses of technology to aid elections and those suffering in Africa, and the five major design flaws found in most socks today (who knew?).
Based on my (admittedly small) sampling from the first day of the show two of the most prominent themes already at the conference are:
1) The transformative rise of mobile payments 2) The evolution of content
Financial services technology has always had a strong, but limited presence at the show in previous years. But between Isis’ prominent sponsorship to the 13 scheduled sessions looking at mobile wallets or mobile payments, financial technology discussions are becoming much more mainstream. It’s interesting to look at the dichotomy of the sessions’ focus. They range from “The Payment Revolution is Coming” to “How the wallet was won.” There is a very divergent set of perspectives on this topic. Personally, I disagree with both. The payments revolution has been underway for some time and the wallet is most assuredly not won. Expect me to blog more about it in the coming days.
Theme two: Content. This goes beyond Content is King. People are discussing new ways of using content to engage. I had a great 60 minute conversation with a USA Today executive about their new iPad app and new ways they are looking to leverage and use content. There were a few interesting debates on the form of content (video was the most discussed, followed by a debate on how not to lose the richness of language and its ability to subtly shift perceptions as we move to microbite creation and consumption).
All in all, a good first day at the show.
Like anyone, I realize my impressions at SxSW are shaped by the relatively small number of people I had the pleasure of speaking with. I thought it might make sense to take a step back and look at what the overall conversation trends were today:
Over the past day there were more than 140,000 tweets and blog posts about SxSW (98% were tweets). To put this in perspective, the social media volume around SxSW far exceeds that of the recent Mobile World Congress or RSA:
The discussion is relatively fragmented. The only tech brand to break into the top discussion word cloud is Nokia, thanks to its foursquare badge. Most of the discussion is what you would expect, with people surprisingly upbeat despite the rain.
What new technologies and philosophies will dominate mobile-minded IT leaders this year and at the upcoming CTIA show? We asked Kitty Weldon, principal analyst for Enterprise Mobility Services at Current Analysis, to share her insight. In a three-part series, Kitty will forecast what we can expect to see in topics ranging from mobile apps to M2M.
In this post, Kitty discusses the rapid adoption of tablets in the enterprise. 2011 is often referred to as “the year of the tablet.” In Kitty’s report, “Enterprise Mobility Services: Top Ten Trends for 2012,” she notes that it was perhaps more accurately the year of the iPad. In fact, her #1 prediction for 2012 is the further expansion of tablets into the enterprise. We asked, “How will tablets play a bigger role in business, and which devices are likely to challenge the iPad’s dominance?”
While the iPad 2 became a popular business accessory (with a number of notable duds among Apple competitors), tablets have been driving mobile business applications, especially in retail and health care verticals. While smartphone applications are also improving, the bigger screen makes a tablet a better computing device, empowering sales and marketing efforts and allowing a much more effective display of all kinds of information, including charts, medical images, and product demos. Tablets are now being used in some cases as laptop replacements. There are also specialized MDM and security software and services offered by software vendors and mobile operators to protect enterprises from threats and data loss.
Another big market for tablets is education. Apple just introduced iBooks textbooks, which can be kept up-to-date automatically and offer interactive elements and unique navigation and study aids. 2012 may be the make-or-break year for Android tablets to finally emerge as desirable platforms, and for Microsoft/Nokia to meaningfully re-enter the mobile device fray with Windows 8 tablets (and Windows Phone smartphones). Right now, the tablets that are selling well are tied to broader ecosystems of content (iTunes and Amazon) or tablet-specific apps (Apple’s App Store).
Ultrabooks have also emerged as a major new category. They’re designed for mobility, while providing a full size keyboard and a reasonably powerful processor. The success of the Amazon Kindle Fire in the consumer market may also bring it into the business market as BYOD continues as a trend.
BYOD has become one of the hottest terms in IT. However, your research shows that not all enterprises have yet endorsed the practice. Will MDM platforms, dual-persona solutions and employee demand turn the tide for these enterprises?
Current Analysis research on BYOD usage was mixed (not every company is endorsing it; in fact, companies are simultaneously buying more tablets and smartphones for many employees). Service providers and MDM platform vendors focused strongly on “solving” the BYOD “problem” in 2011, with solutions ranging from secure containers, to rules and role-based device management offered as a service, to trials of dual-persona solutions to separate business and personal identities.
2012 will see the maturation of some of these promising solutions and their integration with existing MDM services from service providers. What makes dual persona solutions unique is that they focus as much on empowering the employee with the freedom to use his/her device the way they want, as on the company’s perspective of locking down sensitive data stores from unwarranted reach.
BYOD concerns also spawned an awakening about the importance of mobile security in 2011. While security software vendors are clearly excited about this, wireless operators and IT service providers are also planning a big role in 2012 by rolling out network-based solutions that can provide a range of functionality, including authentication, identity management, AV/firewall/anti-spam, loss and theft protection, VPNs, and on-device encryption. 2012 will see the maturation of some of these promising solutions and their integration with existing MDM services from service providers.
Next in part two of the series: Kitty shares her predictions on telecom expense management and mobile apps.
For the second year in a row, the Schwartz MSL Research Group worked with Business Wire to determine how many PR professionals are optimizing their news release headlines for SEO. There was slight improvement compared to last year, but there is still a long, long way to go.
The two most important elements for optimizing a news release headline are keyword inclusion and brevity. In terms of brevity, a full release headline must be 65 characters or fewer to be fully displayed in Google.
Many search engine optimization (SEO) experts, including our experts here at Schwartz MSL, advise that companies try to keep the characters in the headline under 70 characters. Anything beyond that will be less effective in supporting a company’s SEO.
This year, the Schwartz MSL Research Group, with invaluable help from Business Wire, analyzed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31 day period (July 26, 2011 to August 25, 2011). This is the same period we examined last year. Since Schwartz MSL cannot know the keywords that thousands of companies are hoping to use to optimize their content and releases, the Schwartz Research Group focused on headline length as a success factor.
Most PR professionals are not fully optimizing their headlines. (I am sure Schwartz MSL is guilty of that as well from time to time.) Our analysis showed that only 19.5% of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer, a one percent increase over last year. When we look at 70 characters are less, the total is 23.7%, an increase of less than one percent.
While the majority of releases are under 150 characters, we did see some examples that were much longer than the recommended length. The most egregious cases were the 2% of releases with headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,800 characters. The shortest headline we found was 21 characters, which is also probably not ideal for SEO as it’s unlikely that enough of the company’s keywords were included. Overall, the analysis found the average headline length to be 123 characters, unchanged from 2010.
The Schwartz MSL Research Group has written a Research Brief that takes a more in-depth look at this topic. If you would like additional analysis, including buzzword usage, and the geographic headline faceoff, you can download it here
This May, the wireless industry will gather for one of its biggest events, CTIA Wireless. In addition to the trade show packed with vendor booths, the event will offer a variety of educational sessions. This presents an excellent opportunity for executives at forward-thinking wireless and mobile companies to position themselves as thought leaders at one of the industry’s most significant events. CTIA is currently accepting proposals for potential panelists and presenters at the event. This is an excellent way to build a reputation as a leader in wireless. Here are some of the tips we offer to our clients seeking speaking positions.
• Develop your proposal around a hot topic. The mobile industry is innovating quickly in a number of areas, from mobile payments to mobile device management, machine-to-machine communications and dozens of other areas that impact both consumers and businesses. These sweeping trends are catching the attention of CTIA attendees – your buyers. The speaking organizers at CTIA have assembled an agenda that helps explain emerging trends to attendees. In your proposal, focus on the emerging and broad trends where you can offer expertise.
• Struggling to find a topic that’s best for you? Engage in discussion with analysts in your market space and ask them what they’re hearing from the industry. Your investors can also be useful in providing a bird’s-eye view. Also comb through magazines and blogs for the hot topics that are most relevant to the industry.
• Develop relationships with decision-makers at CTIA. On a daily basis, CTIA staff and executives communicate with the industry’s leaders. Meet with influential leaders at CTIA team to share your opinions about industry trends from the front lines. You may then find yourself invited to speak on a panel.
• Propose a full panel, not an individual speaker. Executives from the leading companies in the mobile industry are chosen as keynote speakers and panelists. However, if you’re with a smaller company, you’ll need to get strategic. Think of the relationships you’ve built and leverage them. Is there a well-regarded analyst that shares your views? Do you have a customer that can provide real-world insight into your topic? How about a key partner from a highly visible wireless organization? Assemble a panel with all of these experts and offer an irresistible proposal to CTIA.
• If you are invited to speak at CTIA, pull out all the stops to make sure you ace the assignment. The CTIA staff closely monitor the success of individual speakers and panels. If your session attendees rate you highly, you have a greater chance of being invited back.
Make sure to get your speaking submission in by the deadline of January 15th. The competition for speaking opportunities is high, but the time spent in crafting a successful abstract is well worth the effort.
Need guidance in preparing a speaking submission? For further insight contact Schwartz MSL Boston at (781) 684-0770. The agency’s wireless practice represents some of the leading companies in mobile, and we can help you, too.
Mitt Romney, presidential candidate and former governor of my home state of Massachusetts, was mocked a few weeks ago when he said that "corporations are people." It doesn't matter that it's not literally true, of course. It was his way of expressing the thought that every business, no matter how large, is comprised of individuals.
That's precisely the reason that B2B marketers struggle with use of social platforms such as Facebook. It's not devoted to supporting people's business personas, as LinkedIn is, and there's scant indication that anyone goes onto Facebook looking for information on B2B products. However, it's impossible to set aside the knowledge that Facebook is more frequently visited in the U.S. than Google and all those B2B buyers with their complex decision-making processes are, after all, individuals who more likely than not use it. Fortunately for those companies looking to interact with customers and potential customers on this platform, there are Facebook Pages.
Other B2B marketers are on the fence about use of Facebook. Conveniently, they haven't yet had to worry about another major social platform, Google+. Google made the decision about participation for them--it deletes profiles set up by brands--and today's announcement of nine new Google+ features doesn't include support for business profiles.
Such support is expected to be added, though, and I'd argue that business marketers shouldn't delay getting to know Google+'s features. Why? Three main reasons come to mind:
1. Most B2Bs care about search and Google+ profiles seem to top search results. My profile does, at any rate, and so do those of all of my colleagues. Check out the following chart from a 2011 Optify report (The Changing Face of SERPs: Organic Click-Through Rate). It shows how many more clicks the top search result receives than even positions two and three.
I don't think the need to understand Google+ and to potentially benefit from its favorable placement in search results can get much clearer, unless Google will force companies' Google+ profiles down in search results in a way that it's not currently doing with those of individuals. (For more on how Google+ is bringing search and social media together, check out this Brafton post.)
2. Google+ seems to be pushing other social platforms to adjust their own feature sets. I'd suggest that knowing what's up with Google+ may help marketers better understand how they can use Facebook, for example. Or, more importantly, understand how their "fans" may expect them to use Facebook.
3. Google+ circles, which allow users to present content to friends that's different from what they share with relatives, for instance, may eventually be of use to B2B marketers looking to create a different experience for customers using different product mixes, or individuals at different stages of the buying process.
Do you think Google+ is worth keeping an eye on? Or is it not worth the time if marketers are already reaching people on other social platforms?
I want to share some really exciting news about Schwartz Communications. After 20 years of independence, we’ve become part of MSLGROUP---one of the world’s largest public relations and engagement agencies.
It takes something special to change two decades of independence. And we’ve found it in an amazing organization with talented employees, terrific clients, and a shared passion for storytelling in all its mediums. Our unique and shared strengths mesh very well.
As Schwartz MSL, we’ll continue our focus on “innovation companies of all sizes” and the technologies, treatments and services that transform business, save lives and conserve our natural resources. But as part of an outstanding industry leader, we now have a new assortment of engagement and marketing services, and a network of thousands of additional experts in more than 80 MSLGROUP offices worldwide.
We’ve moved to a truly global stage, and Schwartz MSL will continue to lead the way in delivering the reach, influence and creative service offerings our clients need to create new markets or transform existing ones. We hope you’ll enjoy our next act, which you can follow here in our blogs and on Twitter at @schwartzmsl.
With the Mobile World Congress call for papers closing on Thursday, it is now time to turn your attention to the Global Mobile Awards which are now open for entry. The annual awards, now in its 17th year, will be presented at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday 28th February 2012.
Global Mobile Awards for 2012 will be presented in the following categories:
Apps of the Year
Best Mobile Handsets and Devices
Mobile Marketing and Advertising
Social and Economic Development
Best Mobile Services
Outstanding Achievement Awards
A full list of awards categories can be found here.
This year, 18 new awards have been introduced for a total of 32 awards across the eight categories. Other noteable changes to this years’ awards include:
'Apps of the Year’: the GSMA has consolidated the awards in the ‘Apps of the Year’ category. In that category, the GSMA has introduced three new awards, two of which will be based on statistical evidence of global downloads and usage, and one, the ‘Most Innovative Mobile App’ award, which is open for entry to all. This category will also include a ‘Judges’ Choice - Best Overall Mobile App’ award which will be determined by an independent panel of experts.
‘Best Mobile Handsets and Devices’: the 2012 awards will expand this category with specific awards for ‘Best Smartphone’, ‘Best Feature Phone’ and a new ‘Best Mobile Tablet’ award. In addition, a panel of judges will search for and select the best and most promising ‘Best New Mobile Handset, Device or Tablet’ on show at the Mobile World Congress 2012 event.
'Mobile Innovation’: focused on the convergence of mobile in the vertical sectors such as health, transport, automotive and utilities and education, this category will now also include specific awards aimed at expansion in mobile publishing and mobile money services.
Additional notable developments are included within the ‘Mobile Marketing and Advertising’ category to elevate and recognise innovation and creativity within this rapidly emerging sector.
New categories have also been introduced within the ‘Best Technology’ and ‘Social and Economic Development’ categories, with additions such as ‘Best Use of Mobile in Emergency or Humanitarian Situations’ and the ‘mWomen - Best Product or Service for Women in Emerging Markets’.
The Global Mobile Awards 2012 can be entered online and nominations close on Wednesday 30th November 2011.
For more advice on making the most of PR and marketing opportunities at Mobile World Congress 2012, download our free ebook, Blueprint for Barcelona.
This year’s conference programme will focus on topics that demonstrate the power of mobile in the 21st century and what this power can enable. Competition for a spot on the agenda is fierce, with more than 2000 submissions expected this year. The GSMA's research team will review nominations with a critical eye, asking: "mobile is re-defining how we connect with people, places and information. How are you contributing to this transformation?"
The research team has identified 22 areas on which they'll focus for the 2012 Congress but also welcomes submitting companies to suggest their own topics for inclusion. The full list and descriptions of key themes can be found here.
For more advice about public relations and marketing at Mobile World Congress, download our free ebook, the Blueprint for Barcelona.
The Call for Papers opens today for GSMA Mobile World Congress 2012 and ends at 23:59 GMT on 25 August 2011. The theme for the upcoming MWC is Redefining Mobile. This theme reflects a shift in the industry - mobile is no longer limited to communications, it is a force transforming our world in an unprecedented way.
Building on this theme, the conference programme will include topics that demonstrate the diversity of mobile. This year, MWC will feature four full days of conference programming with track sessions added throughout the week. Areas of focus for this year's programme include:
Advanced Services for Developing Markets
Operating Systems and Alternative Development Platforms
Beginning with a shortlist of more than 150 topics, the GSMA will narrow the focus down to 20 - 30 key topics after the Call for Papers, with all members of the wireless value chain invited to contribute in-depth insight and the latest examples of best practice from around the world. The team looks for topics that are thought-provoking and offer a fresh take or a forward-looking message.
While it can often feel as though network operators and handset manufacturers dominate the keynote schedule, smaller players who can offer presentations on innovative technologies or disruptive business models, backed by customer references and case studies, can often secure a speakership on this prestigious conference agenda.
To level the playing field, the GSMA is introducing a new step in the application process this year called Research Open Days. These meetings, which take place throughout the summer, provide companies with an opportunity to meet the GSMA’s research team and present a topic for consideration.
For a more complete guide to all of the PR and marketing opportunities available before and during Mobile World Congress, download our free ebook Blueprint for Barcelona.
CareerGuide recently published a list of the "10 Most Stressful Jobs of 2010" and stuck PR officer at number two, behind commercial airline pilot. Obviously, this is hilarious. PR can be stressful, but normally no one dies or is maimed. ("Bruised ego" and "thick skin" don't count as injuries.)
No matter--we're told it's rough to be in PR today. At least we can take consolation in the fact that our industry is growing far faster than most, according to The New York Times.
What's the problem with PR, you ask? Professional communicators love to talk, but maybe we don't want to reveal much about the stress inherent in our profession because we can't stop worrying about image. Never let them see you sweat, right? Or perhaps we know that much of the worry comes from the people who we need the most. Clients, reporters, analysts, physicians, bloggers, etc. are generally a pleasure, but isn't there always one that's a handful?
I for one think we're in control of much of our own angst. To that end, I wanted to offer 10 suggestions to my fellow PR pros.
Media relations: Tell a great story
1. Unless we're representing Pfizer, IBM or the like, reporters are not obligated to cover our clients. Giving them a reason to want to is our job, but we need to set aside our indignation at being left out of stories if we didn't contact reporters in the first place. We ought not to accept it when we hear grumbles like, "they have to pay attention to us or they're bad journalists." Feel your blood pressure return to normal when you accept responsibility and refuse to be angry.
2. The opposite is also true: the fact that a reporter covered a topic doesn't mean she will do so again. Nothing is more thankless than going to a reporter essentially to ask her to rewrite the story she just filed. When we're asked to contact a journalist with a loser of a message like "we do that, too," we should work to develop a more thoughtful response that will make us feel confident in our contribution and present clients in a more favorable light.
3. Take guidelines on how to work with reporters with a grain of salt. When journalists describe how they want to be approached, the real message is often "accept the status quo" because many would like to be left to cover the same big companies repeatedly. They say they track the whole industry and they'll call us if they want to talk with our ankle-biter. Sorry, but no--we need to package our client's story and take it to reporters. So no delusional statements like "he'll keep the information on file."
4. Kissing up to reporters is bad for our self-esteem and with a few exceptions, unproductive. Most of them have shown time and again that they want insight into trends, information that's not obvious or intuitive, news that's really news, and so on. They don't need vacuous comments like "great post" from us on their blogs.
Client relations: Be honest
5. Is anything more stressful than overpromising and, as a result, underdelivering? We owe it to clients to tell them in clear terms what we think is achievable for their budget or situation. When they're excited to talk with us about a big media tour that their VP of sales suggested and we know those haven't worked for at least five years, let's not tell them we're going to fill the day and then go back to our desks and stress.
6. Remember that companies hire agencies to gain outside perspective. It's tough not to buy into groupthink, but clients are working with us and not just internal staff because they want to benefit from the agency's collective experience. They'll be disappointed, not pleased, if all we do is validate ideas they've already considered.
7. If you're trying something new, say so. Much of PR today is an experiment, so even if you've been working in this industry for years, you're probably giving new ideas a go. If you don't know whether something will work, that's okay. But don't relay a false sense of confidence.
8. Help clients gauge how media, analysts and others really respond to what they're hearing. We hurt ourselves when we imply excitement that isn't there because we're setting our clients up to be let down. A reporter hearing us out doesn't translate into "they're interested." They took a briefing doesn't mean "they're excited about the news." We should have the confidence to not manufacture emotion.
Don't doubt your own knowledge
9. We shouldn't let the fact that we've done this 500 times keep us from trying new things. It's not so much that we'll become obsolete, because we're all aware of that threat. It's more, I'd suggest, that we'll render ourselves irrelevant if we fail to appreciate that sometimes just jumping on an idea and quickly executing is what it takes to show results. It might even be fun.
10. We can do math. PR people undercut ourselves all the time by saying we don't get numbers. Is that supposed to be impressive? We all know that metrics are critical in PR. If we haven't figured out a way to quantify results, we need to take the time to learn about the topic. If we can't read earnings statements, we need to take a class on investor relations basics for PR people.
What do you think--can we aim to make PR number three on that list next year?
Schwartz friends and family might recall our December 2010 content marketing event with MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley and HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. We received great feedback on the talk and were happy to see the room packed, but guess it's to be expected--content is very much on marketers' minds, particularly as they consider social media and lead generation.
Yesterday my colleagues John Moran, Matt Duffy, Ross Levanto and I got to meet up with Ann again to chat about topics ranging from the importance of setting content marketing goals (and why "we want a Twitter strategy" is absolutely not an appropriate goal), to how content marketing and PR can work together, to the relative importance of optimizing all that content.
The real question, however, was whether it's acceptable to order and eat two entrees at a business lunch. (Answer: It's absolutely fine, and is best accompanied by your story about the time you vacuumed up 14 Krispy Kremes without getting sick.)
Fortunately, we left time to talk about Ann's new book with co-author C.C. Chapman, Content Rules. The book has become required reading for Schwartzers, not only because we offer content marketing alongside our public relations, social media and public affairs programs, but because its suggestions are valuable across industry segments, I'd argue, and for companies of all sizes.
Most authors and speakers assume that all marketers and communicators find value in hearing about big-budget case studies from major brands, but honestly, I check email when someone starts talking about what car and candy companies accomplished with high six-figure budgets. Content Rules shows you how to work with the story, money and time that you've got.
Check it out if you haven't already to see how content and content marketing might work for your business. I know we'll be pulling the book's recommendations into many of our own programs.
I've been considering a post I read last week from Joshua Benton on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog. I wouldn't say that I missed the point that Mr. Benton is making in "Decline, plateau, decline: New data on The Daily suggests a social media decline and a tough road ahead." He's talking about the early success, or maybe lack thereof, of The Daily, a news brand launched two months ago for the iPad. As I read his post, however, I thought about some general implications for how companies measure the effectiveness of PR programs.
In the post, Mr. Benton describes how he's extrapolating information about the size of the paid readership of The Daily. He has to resort to an educated guess because "[n]o one outside of News Corp. and Apple has a reliable way of knowing how often people read The Daily." Contrast this to data available about most websites and web-based publications, which can sort of be measured using tools like Alexa.com and Compete.com.
As a surrogate for those tools, Mr. Benton looks at stats about the volume of Daily articles that paid subscribers share via Twitter. Basically, more tweets probably indicate more readers. He knows that this is an imperfect measure, but it's what he's got. Using it, he's suggesting that the "general direction" for the publication is down.
That's probably interesting to the many people who are trying to figure out whether the iPad and other readers will help news publishers make more money. But for me, as a PR person, the take-away message is that as more content is consumed on iPads or other readers, it may become even tougher to measure the number of people a publication reaches. This makes the accuracy of one of the easiest PR metrics to gather--impressions--even more suspect.
But if publishers choose not to report their iPad or other reader figures, where does that leave PR people who tally results based on number of impressions? Making bigger and bigger guesses over time, it seems. To me, this argues for marketers making more of an effort to keep our collective eye on what really matters, which is action taken by people who read those articles. More website traffic? Shortened sales cycles? Improved reputation? These sorts of things can be tough or expensive to measure, so many companies pass them up in favor of what they can put their finger on.
Maybe Apple will become the new Cision and start selling data about how many people actually buy magazine and newspaper apps. In the meantime, I took Mr. Benton's post as a reminder to pay attention to evaluating what matters--action undertaken because of PR--and not to simply collect figures that are readily available.
Today, Salesforce announced its plan to acquire Radian6 for ~$326 million in cash and stock. Radian6 is one of the main social media monitoring and engagement tools we use at Schwartz Communications. This is good news for Radian6 employees, but what are the takeaways for the industry?
To my mind, it all boils down to another company betting that even more companies will realize the power of listening, and as a corollary, the power of engaging. Salesforce.com is one of the top sales and CRM solutions.
This is enhanced when you add inbound marketing companies, such as Hubspot, that can help sales and marketing nurture the most valuable customers and promising prospects. That is one reason Hubspot makes such a big deal of their Salesforce integration.
The social listening (and to a lesser extent engagement) offerings provided by Radian 6 are another piece in the customer engagement puzzle.
Good PR has always strived to understand the needs and desires of the customer and other key stakeholders. Only by understanding them can we give the most effective counsel to the organizations we represent. The future tie-in of sales/crm, social listening and nurturing should help companies develop deeper, more meaningful and effective relationships with their customers.
I am intrigued by the possibilities of this acquisition, but it will be interesting to see how it proceeds.
Some of Radian6’s greatest weaknesses are Salesforce's strengths. But I can also see the volume of data that Radian6 regularly captures overwhelming the needs and desires of many users and too much less than useful information being integrated into the Salesforce contact stream. As my wife often tells me, just because you hear what I am saying, doesn’t mean you are listening. The data is only good if it is processed and acted upon.
I don’t think this is the final piece of the puzzle. Integrating capabilities such as Rapleaf into the new Salesforce/Radian6 would create some very targeted and meaningful monitoring and lead to even greater success.
No matter how this acquisition proceeds, the winners will be the companies that increasingly engage with their customers through tailored, proactive communications.
Google has launched a magazine, Think Quarterly, and mailed the limited number of copies (they printed only 1,500) to advertising partners in the UK. The magazine, Google's first, was created and published in the UK and is also available online.
Since we, as lovers of technology PR, of course pay attention to Google and pitch editors of magazines (although it's not at all clear to me that Think Quarterly is pitchable), I thought the debut was worth noting. You may have caught the news yesterday on Mashable.
This issue is almost 70 pages long and is all about data, how people are trying to wade through it and find value ("data obesity and how to treat it"), how basing business on facts can be beneficial, etc. There are also several topics of interest to advertisers (e.g., "how to maximize return on search advertising").
Click on the image above if you like to check out the full issue.
Schwartz Clients Use Mobile PR to Get Word Out at CTIA
Schwartz clients made waves at the International CTIA Wireless 2011 conference on both the speakers' podium and with award-winning offerings–a testament to the impact of mobile and technology public relations at the show. While we can all but guarantee that AT&T and T-Mobile had very successful PR activities around the event, this post focuses on five Schwartz clients.
KORE Telematics, MicroStrategy, Fiberlink and WellDoc all used PR to help drive success at the show. Each demonstrated that an effective PR strategy goes beyond issuing press releases. Technology PR is all about creative storytelling via social and professional media to power marketing programs during conferences and beyond them, across industries and geographies.
The following is a quick summary of how PR helped lead to a successful CTIA Wireless 2011 for these Schwartz clients.
• When KORE Telematics first began working with Schwartz five years ago, the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications market that it helped pioneer was only known in a few wireless industry circles. Now, the major wireless carriers discuss M2M on a regular basis. At CTIA Wireless 2011, Schwartz arranged nearly 20 media and analyst meetings for KORE, including the Wall Street Journal and Gartner. At the show, KORE announced the industry’s first global M2M network and its president spoke on two panels—Smart Energy and the Connected Car. In addition, KORE won the M2M category of MobileTrax’s 2011 Mobility Awards.
• Recently MicroStrategy announced a new telecom industry application—The Telecommunications Channel App, which helps telecommunications companies improve customer retention and allows users to analyze and compare the success of multiple customer revenue channels and touchpoints (e.g., web, in-store, call centers) from an iPhone or iPad.
• For the first time at the International CTIA Wireless conference, a Schwartz client was selected as a finalist for the prestigious CTIA Emerging Technology Awards. WellDoc®, a clinically proven mHealth solutions company, was awarded second place in the “Mobile Applications: Health, Wellness & Fitness” category. For the past five years, the CTIA E-Tech Awards have promoted some of the most innovative wireless products and services in the areas of consumer, enterprise and network technology.
Shweta Agarwal and Joe Palladino of Schwartz contributed to this post.
Well it has been a week since the end of SxSW Interactive 2011. By this time, most of the attendees have recovered from the five days of non-stop seminars, parties, meet-ups and informal hallway networking. What did it all mean?
There are a few key takeaways from Schwartz’s discussions at SxSW that I thought would make sense to share with our readers.
Group Communications Overload – The “hot” market is definitely group messaging and communications. Between Foursquare, Gowalla, Scvngr, Whrrl, Hurricane Party, and others, there are more networks than ever before. To be honest, I see significant hurdles for most of these apps. The benefits of the new services are at most incremental over Foursquare and Gowalla, and do not give a reason to move. Hurricane Party impressed with its focus on parties, and is something I will check out at other industry events. But beyond that nice, I did not see market disruptors. We are seeing dot revs, not new products. The true innovators will need to be even more creative to stick out from the group communications babble.
Microblogging back channels are thriving – Every panelist faced competition – the Twitterstream. Between 20-40 people (including me) were using HootSuite or another tool to comment on what was being said, ask questions and be snarky. Those panelists that integrated the Twitterstream into their presentations had much more dynamic sessions. A few panelists even had other folks at their company monitoring the stream and providing real time feedback and commentary so they could focus on the talk, but also capitalize on the back channel discussion.
Uniform Optimism – Aside from the ubiquitous “SxSW isn’t what it used to be,” the people I spoke with at SxSW were uniformly optimistic. It didn’t matter if they were engineers, C-level, PR pros or venture capitalists. The attendees are all preparing for a coming innovation explosion. Most see it around mobile and connectivity, and I find it hard to disagree. This is no just limited to B2C, but B2B financial services markets are seeing the mobile possibilities.
This is just the beginning – Underlying the optimism was another undercurrent. Priebatsch from Scvngr talked about a coming layer (the game layer) that will go on top of the current social layer. I do not agree with all of his ideas, but it does show that there is still significant innovation to come. We are just at the infancy of the group communications. With the explosion of smartphones and apps, more sophisticated data modeling and group communications, what we see today will likely bear little resemblance to what we see in five years. And here at Schwartz we find that to be extremely invigorating.
Today begins the much anticipated International CTIA Wireless 2011 show in Orlando, Florida. The buzz of exhibitors and keynote speakers is high, as the show brings together wireless and converged communications, wireless broadband and mobile web.
One hot topic that is undoubtedly keeping the adrenaline pumping is the prestigious CTIA Emerging Technology Awards. For the past five years, the CTIA E-Tech Awards have celebrated and promoted some of the most innovative wireless products and services in the areas of consumer, enterprise and network technology.
For the first time, a Schwartz’s client, WellDoc®, has been selected as a finalist in the “Mobile Applications: Health, Wellness & Fitness” category!
The CTIA E-Tech submissions were judged on innovation, functionality, technological importance or impact, implementation and overall “wow” factor. First, second and third place winners of each of the 14 categories will be announced at an awards ceremony on March 23 during the show.
So why was WellDoc selected as a finalist? What makes them innovative and gives them the “wow” factor?
WellDoc is at the convergence of major trends in the mobile health (mHealth) space. WellDoc’s solution utilizes mobile phones and the Internet to help patients and healthcare providers coordinate diabetes care for adult patients with type 2 diabetes. The flagship product, DiabetesManager System®, is the first mHealth solution cleared by the FDA to offer automated coaching and behavioral algorithms by real-time patient data. Patients can track daily routines, including medications, exercise and nutrition.
WellDoc then recommends real-time lifestyle adjustments to keep patients on track with their care plan. Physicians can access patient data using WellDoc, analyze it, tap into the WellDoc expert system for care guidelines and make adjustments in their patients’ care.
The media has loved WellDoc’s mHealth solution, as it has been featured with top industry influencers such as New York Times, Forbes, The Economist and MobiHealthNews. BusinessWeek featured the DiabetesManager System as one of the mHealth products to watch in 2011; and Forbes featured WellDoc in an article with the headline, “WellDoc Could Become A Much-Needed Tool In The Fight Against Diabetes.” In December 2010, WellDoc’s DiabetesManager was selected by PC World as one of their “15 Mobile Apps That Will Matter in 2011.”
As industry peers are able to vote online and via text during the three-day show, finalists also have a chance to win “Best Online Pick” and “Best in Show,” for the most online and text votes, respectively.
We’re excited to see who wins. Join us on March 23 at 2 p.m. EST, at the Exhibit Innovations Stage booth 4295 at CTIA.
The last day of SxSWi 2011, I decided to take a brief foray into crisis management, specifically looking at how brands respond to Facebook attacks. The dynamic session was highlighted by Dell and Intel discussing how they handled the issue of brand attacks.
Ekaterina Walter, Intel’s social media strategist and Laura Thomas, a senior consultant at Dell who oversaw its Facebook presence consolidation, provided a few helpful tips that I thought made sense to share with our readers. While many of these are common sense, they shared some good data:
Facebook interaction changes perception—Over the past year, Dell interacted with more than 5,000 customers on Facebook. A set of them had 98% negative view/comment of Dell. After the Facebook interaction, 36% of the 5,000 publicly expressed satisfaction.
Social media crisis response still requires planning—Organizations need to have the right policies and procedures in place, but they also need to test them. Ekaterina from Intel shared an example where Intel had the listening tools in place, and the listeners alerted one department, but not her. This showed they needed to have more practice drills. Companies should plan a few social media crisis drills/year.
Explain your actions—If you are turning comments off, not responding to certain posts, or deleting certain posts, clearly explain why. Laura @Dell emphasized “Make sure you set up at the very beginning what you will/won't allow and enforce it.” For example, Dell allows negative comments but not R-rated language. They will highlight that a response was deleted due to profanity.
Another example that was shared by the panel: A Mayo clinic radiologist had allegedly made some racist comments. Protesters went in and posted the comments on Mayo’s Facebook wall. Mayo allowed the negative comments to run for 2-3 days, then created a discussion tab and thread there, and they posted to the wall, they had moved the discussion there, and if people continue to post on the wall, those posts will be deleted.
Volume (both positive and negative) matters—According to panelists, just 0.02% of posts on Facebook make it into people’s “Top News” feeds. This means a lot of Wall discussion is only seen if you visit the site. If you want to be visible, you need to encourage conversation on the Wall, not on discussion boards. Or as I like to say it: “Links are Google Juice, Wall Posts are Facebook Juice.”
For me, Sunday at SxSW could best have been described as analytics day. They decided to have all the research and measurement die-hards make the trek out to the AT&T Executive Conference center. The surroundings were plusher, the seats much more comfortable and the data was fascinating.
There were two interesting panels on measurement and analytics and the most exciting part is none of the speakers were from vendors. Shawn Brown from MIT’s Sloan Management Review and Chris Traganos at Harvard spoke about how they measured Web success and worked to increase traffic; while Elizabeth Winkler from the University of Texas - Austin, discussed how she and her colleagues developed a model that showed how Twitter chatter accurately predicted movie revenues.
Harvard was doing some very interesting things and relies primarily on five social media tools:
These are tools most of our readers know, but it shows that tools like these, used intelligently and backed by great content can deliver very good results. A few practical tips on how they grew traffic included advice such as:
Lots of tags are your friend: every story they push has 30 tags that are fed into blog aggregators
If you aren’t using Facebook’s OpenGraph and you create content, you need to start doing so. Instead of the share button, use the like button. Despite the power of the tool, you should check URL Linter to see what Facebook is getting and not getting.
Chartbeat is a perfect complement to Google Analytics. I haven’t used it on my sites, but I plan to check it out. It gives you real time analytics in a way Google does not.
Probably the biggest “huh” in the session was the tidbit that the smaller the URL, the less dense the QR code is, so it works faster. Keep using those URL shorteners, and make sure they point to a site that is optimized for mobile.
These are great practical tips for growing and analyzing site traffic.
This was a great primer for the next session that looked at how Twitter chatter could be used to tell how good a movie will do on a weekend. Elizabeth Winker and her team used a set of 20 servers to gather and aggregate tweets on movies and store than in a database for further analysis.
They first eliminated the false positives (which was very tricky for the movie “The Hangover”) and broke the results down by positive, negative and neutral using an automated system they built themselves. By then analyzing how many people said they planned to go to the movies and the reaction and buzz afterwards, they showed how positive Twitter chatter mapped nicely to box office sales for the 60 movies they analyzed.
One area Winker touched on briefly, but I think is worthy of further consideration is the power of Twitter and geolocation. They could map the Tweets on a certain movie to the subset of those that have enabled geolocation on their phones and break out the analysis and prediction on a regional level. This could help allocate ad and marketing spends to the areas where it is most needed. One Winkler didn’t explore that I would love to see is if there is greater correlation based on the chatter that is made immediately after a movie (which a movie company should be able to do by mapping the tweets to theatre locations). This also has implications for CPG and consumer technology companies.
The panels weren’t earth shattering, but they gave good practical advice and a glimpse into the future of quick, high-volume analytics.
Within SxSW there is a small group of die hard people that are involved in the financial services and banking industry that meet to discuss the role technology will play in the evolution of this market. Since I work with many companies in the financial services and payments industry, I always make it a point to check out the sessions.
The two most intriguing sessions of the second day of SxSW day both dealt with innovation. The first claimed to look at changes in the way lending happens thanks to new ways of looking at data. It really ended up being an excoriation of payday loans and an examination of new types of lending - from community based business loans to modified payday loans that are designed to focus solely on people paying their bills.
Payday loans and serving the underbanked are two issues that the industry has grappled with for a number of years. While I learned about some new technologies, a key takeaway is one that translates into the second session as well, clearly communicating your deals and offerings is a great way to build loyalty. And if you have a new service people need, they are likely to try it out.
The second panel of the day had a very unassuming name, "Banks, innovate or die!" it ended up being one of the most contentious and interesting panels I have been to in a while. A former Citibank employee, Lendingclub executive, SmartyPig and others were discussing the future of innovation in the banking industry.
The comments were cutting and included such gems as:
Citi is your bank, not your mother! It's not our job to remind you to pay your bills
Customer service is easy when you have just a few thousand customers
The key takeaways from this session were things that I have heard quite a few times in the past but are worth repeating:
People expect greater transparency from their financial institutions. To me though this is not necessarily how they are using your money, but helping customers better understand how their finances are being used as well as what fees they are being charged and what services are available. (full disclosure, Schwartz represents companies that provide services and products for banks and credit unions.)
Customer service is another challenge. Some called it a way to innovate, I see it more as a way to differentiate. It is important to note that the baseline customer service expectations continues to grow, so FIs that aren't using it as a way to get closer to the customer are missing opportunities and giving start ups and credit unions a chance to take their customers.
The most interesting point was made at the end of the session. The next battle for banks will not be against startups but likely against Google and Apple and others.
While the companies differed when discussing competitive threats, there was almost universal in identifying where they expect to see innovation over the next few years - mobile banking and payments. This is a shift even bigger than the introduction of the ATM, particularly as the younger generation that has their mobile phone as their main communications device begins to graduate college and enter the workforce. The moderator stated that by 2015 mobile will be the primary banking channel. The other area for innovation that many identified was in P2P loans.
The only other area of universal agreement was the need to revise FINRA rules to allow for greater social media engagement. Overall though the hours of discussion drove home two points:
The industry is experiencing a significant increase in the pace of innovation which will likely accelerate with mobile.
It is an exciting time to be working with companies in the financial services industry.
SxSW is alternately described as a tech party a la COMDEX in the mid 90s, Spring Break for techies, DEMO for those trying to reach young, hip, consumers and a conference that has jumped the shark. To me it is a great event and a great way to make connections, hear great speakers and have thought provoking conversations.To get myself in the right frame of mind, I listened to Alice's Restaurant on the plane flight to Austin.
For my first session at SxSW I went to hear industry pundit Brian Reich discuss how social media is like an asteroid approaching the earth. Basically his premise was that we need to fundamentally change the way we think about things, and nowhere is this more important than with those issues that transcend business (hunger, oppression, disaster relief). He believes that the way we address serious issues is no longer working.
We are not capitalizing on the power of the connected society. I agree with him in that the "networked" society is still in its infancy, and despite all our activities over the past 15 years, the true impact is still just now being felt.
What really stuck me was that many of the transcendent issues are the issues that businesses have been struggling with since the dawn of social media, and frankly, since communications became a strategic discipline.
How do we impact change?
Are we measuring the right things?
Raising awareness is a great and necessary first step, but it is not enough.
Don't get me wrong, there were great ideas that came out of the session (the crying need for more transparency in how donations are distributed, how giving people choices on how their money will be used will encourage more donations, etc.,)
I disagreed with some of the points being made. People that just gave money were being called lazy. I spoke up at that and pointed out there is a full spectrum of engagement. Business realize not everyone will be an evangelist for their product or spend hours on the messageboards answering questions. You need to treasure those folks, but you need to respect all stakeholders, regardless of their activity level. To do otherwise jeopardizes what you are trying to accomplish.
Another telling point to me is many of the people in the audience were from NGOs and were starting to realize the way they should measure needs to change. (I felt like I was at an IPR meeting). How many people tweeted about your cause is just a measure of activity. It's like the old days of PR measurement when hits were the only thing that mattered.
Even how much money you raise (while still vitally important) is just a measure of activity. The true way to impact change is to have NGOs and charitable organizations report on the tangible results. What did the money do?
In the end, the session was thought provoking and a great start to SxSW. It reminds us as communicators and interested parties that if we keep doing the same thing and just use new channels, we will have same challenges in new channels. We need to think differently and make sure we are solving causes, not just serving them.
Some obvious, and some not so obvious trends that we’ll likely see in Orlando
In less than two weeks, CTIA Wireless 2011 (@CTIAshow; #CTIAW11) will bring together 40,000 members of the North American wireless community, from carriers to device manufacturers to app providers to the technical widget makers that make wireless work.
As a PR industry executive that has followed, pitched, attended, applauded and even cursed CTIA Wireless for the past eight years, I feel partially qualified to make a predictions blog post (from a marketing/news-driven point of view). What better way to write a predictions blog than with a couple top three lists?
Let’s begin with the obvious predictions…
1) Tablet Obsession—Sorry smartphones, but tablets will take the device lead at CTIA. Manufactures like Samsung, RIM and Apple will all be pushing new tablets and their “first, best only” features, wicked fast operating systems and vertical applications, from healthcare to utilities to the boardroom.
2) 4G/LTE—We can’t talk about tablets and smartphones without mentioning the network. 4G and LTE certainly aren’t new topics, but the reality of these high-speed networks finally rolling out is sure to drive a number of discussions from the keynotes to show floor chatter. Look for data package debates to fall under this category. Side note: I frankly can’t hear “4G!” and not think about the Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber Super Bowl commercial.
3) Apps—Like a Chinese menu, there are apps for everyone and nearly every conceivable problem. Tablet applications are becoming more popular and Android and Microsoft apps are available in iPhone like numbers. In fact, MSFT recently announced that it’s adding 100 new mobile phone applications a day. My personal favorite app remains Shazam. I’ll be on the lookout for its replacement at CTIA Wireless 2011.
I conducted a little research before listing my not so obvious predictions. The following word cloud is the result of a Radian6 social media search on “CTIA Wireless” over the past 14 days. While nothing jaw-dropping presented itself, I think we can pull out a few conclusions.
Here’s the not so obvious list…
1) CTIA Goes Global—While the prominence of “international” in the word cloud is likely the direct result of the conference name, what caught my attention was “world” in the lower left portion of the cloud. While Mobile World Congress is still the king of international wireless shows, CTIA is gaining ground.
2) Innovation Driven by Smaller Players—Sure the carriers (see keynote) and the major device manufacturers will garner most of the media fanfare at CTIA, but if you look a little deeper, it is the emerging growth startups and app developers that drive the true innovation. Just check out this year’s Emerging Technology Award nominees…not many household names on the list. We are proud that Schwartz client WellDoc is on the list.
3) Marriage of Wireless and Retail—I’m not talking about retail stores for purchasing new devices, but more along the lines of retail communities adopting wireless as a marketing and selling tool. Expect a significant amount of news around retail-focused apps designed to help companies reach/influence more consumers on a regular basis to sell more stuff.
Marketing and PR people across the country are already attaching their company to larger trends with storylines and product news (both real and manufactured) to get on the crowded radar screens of the hundreds of media and bloggers attending CTIA Wireless 2011. It is a proven technique for getting smaller companies heard above the CTIA noise. So what trend are you riding to CTIA glory?
One of the mobile industry’s most important shows, CTIA Wireless, is just around the corner. This three-day event, running March 22-24, includes a trade show and a number of educational panel discussions. Widely attended by analysts and media, it’s an excellent opportunity to schedule face time with key influencers.
If you’re just starting your PR planning, you’ve got only two weeks to pull off a successful CTIA campaign. Begin by determining the top news item(s) that can be announced at the show. Although more than 1,100 press and analyst contacts are expected, there’s a great deal of competition for their time from hundreds of exhibitors, including some of the biggest companies in the wireless industry.
You’ll need a strong news hook to garner appointments with reporters, so figure out the best buzz-generating announcement for the show. If the news involves a partnership with a major carrier, remember to get their approval in advance. The top tier wireless providers are selective about announcing partnerships with smaller companies.
After you’ve drafted your press release and pitch, you’ll need to start thinking about social media opportunities. Write three blogs in advance, and post one on each day of the show. Also compose tweets about your company's participation in CTIA, company news, and comments on trends and news in the wireless industry. Prepare nine tweets, releasing three on each day of the show. You can also load your press release into PitchEngine, a social media release platform, in advance. On the day of the announcement, just flip the switch on the console, and your release, along with images and tags, will go live instantly. You can also tweet live from the show as it unfolds, and re-tweet breaking news that’s relevant to your company.
Be sure to take advantage of the CTIA publications issued at the event. The print Show Daily will be handled by Wireless Week this year, and the deadline is this Friday, March 11. You can learn more about getting your news placed by visiting this page. Light Reading Mobile and InformationWeek are the official media outlets for electronic CTIA news, and you can learn more about how to pitch these reporters here.
If you have a booth at the show, it’s a good place to schedule your press and analyst meetings. The show floor encompasses more than 300,000 square feet, so traveling from location to location can easily steal 10 minutes from each appointment. It’s also better to keep your spokesperson situated in the booth for logistical reasons. Will this person have a slide slow to offer? Perhaps a handset to demo or some sample devices to display? If so, it’s much easier to have all of these items ready to go in the booth, rather than lugging a laptop and a bag of products across the show floor.
If you aren’t exhibiting or need a quiet place to meet, you can use the show’s press room. Another option for “booth-less” companies is to pay to participate in ShowStoppers. The organizers promise hundreds of media and analysts in the room, and the opportunity to pitch them on the spot.
It’s essential that spokespeople be well prepared for all media and analyst interviews, so your agency or in-house PR team will need to prepare a briefing book for the show. Be sure to include a picture of the journalist or analyst, as well as their mobile number. It’s also wise to share the spokesperson’s cell phone number with the journalist. Trade shows can be hectic – especially major events like CTIA – and people often run late. By helping the two parties recognize each other and connect on the show floor, you’re less likely to miss out on opportunities.
It's not too late to get started on your CTIA campaign. Follow the guidelines above, and have a great show!
It’s official. Charlie Sheen holds the world record for getting to 1 million Twitter followers in the shortest time: just 25 hours, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, as reported in Mashable.
Sheen joined Twitter on March 1, in the middle of a media frenzy over Sheen’s high profile interviews prompted by the cancellation of his popular series, ”Two and a Half Men.” This week, Sheen made the rounds of top media shows, including Good Morning America, CNN, The Today Show, and ABC’s 20/20. If you turned on your TV this week, it was all Charlie Sheen, all the time.
On 20/20 alone, he reached an audience of 9.3 million viewers, making it the highest rated news magazine in two years. Never mind that he came across as slightly unhinged – the point is that he attracted a bigger audience than any other news story this week.
So is it any surprise that his Twitter following skyrocketed? No – and there’s a lesson in it: Media coverage drives social media discussion. A few years ago, when social media reached critical mass, there was a lot of talk about PR being dead because the media were dead. In fact, it turns out that social media acts as an amplifier for traditional media, not an alternative. Social media feeds on real news content.
Another example from show business: the re-invention of Conan “Coco” O’Brien. The February 23 issue of Fortune reports on Conan O’Brien’s transformation from late night talk show host to social media guru in just a few months. It all began with his brief tenure on The Tonight Show back in May 2009. His ratings went through the roof, but Jay Leno’s show at 10 pm bombed. So NBC re-installed Leno in the 11:35 time slot and O’Brien walked, creating a media firestorm. In the midst of the controversy, a graphic artist and fan named Mike Mitchell created a Facebook page emblazoned with the words “I’m with Coco” and a Twitter account. It took off overnight and within a week, it had 700,000 followers. Conan’s people took notice. Conan created his own social media presence that led to a sold-out 30-city tour.
Tech marketers don’t have the media mojo of a Charlie Sheen or Conan O’Brien, but the same principle applies. Coverage in traditional media drives social media buzz. When you have something to say – significant news, for instance, or a great customer deployment – go after traditional media coverage. Then use social media to amplify the message. They are the yin and yang of PR.
I read two good blog entries yesterday about how marketers need to make sure they’re creating content that is engaging. One of them was a piece in PRWeek written by Schwartz president Bryan Scanlon. (I’m sure you’re all shocked I would speak highly of a blog written by my boss.) The other was a blog by Ann Handley of MarketingProfs, of whom I’m a big fan.
Both of them make basically the point that sometimes marketers lose track of the ultimate goal of content – to connect with or engage a community. In other words, yes, it’s important to create A LOT of content, but it’s more important that the content is educational and not overly self-promotional so your audience will come back for more. A marketer could create five eBooks and ten webinars in a year and say to their CEO, “You wanted content marketing, well mission accomplished!” But in reality, it only moves from being content creation to actual content marketingif you can show that you connected with the audience.
So how do you do this? There are many different ways to test whether your content is engaging, but as a start, I thought I’d just provide one thing to think about at each stage of deploying your content:
Before Deploying Content: This has been said before (and probably said best in Ann Handley’s book Content Rules), but before you put any content “out there,” you should make sure it’s solving a problem for your target audience. Ask yourself: “does my content explain a problem and provide a solution or does it only explain how my product/service works?” Ideally you’d present the problem, and help your audience to see many ways to solve it that will eventually lead them to you for help. Start with making it interesting, and hopefully the customers will come to you. This always reminds me of what 1960’s ad executive Howard Luck Gossage said: “People don’t read ads. People read what they’re interested in and sometimes it’s an ad.”
While Content is Being Consumed: Two words: trackable links. This is not at all a new way to measure engagement, but all of your content pieces should contain trackable links within them so you have data on which links were interesting enough for people to click on. It’s ok to say “500 people downloaded my eBook,” but it’s not a real measure of engagement unless you look at what they did once inside the eBook. You can also go way beyond data about clicks when measuring video content engagement using tools from VisibleGains and others. It’s critical to know how long people viewed certain segments and where there was drop off.
After: This may also seem obvious, but the best measure of engagement is what your audience does with the content after it was consumed. Did they forward or share the content with others or tweet about it? Did they come back and consume more content from you later (content that you were, of course, smart enough to push out to them)? Did you check in with them within a week and ask what they thought of the content? I’d rather have 200 people read a piece of content, share it, and return later for more content, than have 500 people read some content and never come back.
If you are interested in getting a marketing message in front of me, here's a quick look at my profile. I am on Facebook. I do use Twitter as well and occasionally will look for something on YouTube. I write as often as I can for this blog as well as my personal blog. I have been in the tech PR business for over 10 years.
What would one surmise from this short little survey? From a B2B perspective, if you are looking to market to a tech PR pro in the Boston area, you probably should develop strategies for social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. And you should evaluate if content I write for a blog has any impact in your lead generation activities. Of course, this assumes that other people in my profession with my length of tenure have the same social media habits that I do.
Unfortunately, there isn't too much research out there on specific social media usage. A recent study by IDG provides some good insight, but it leaves me asking more questions. It would be great to know, for example, if CIOs use Facebook as part of their tech buying decisions. More specifically, it would be great to know if CIOs in a particular market-- say, IT security-- are using the social media tools for this purpose. And those are just some questions I am thinking about today.
Since I get asked (a lot) about appropriate social media usage for B2B marketing, I wrote an eBook outlining some general best practices across all tech markets. Included are some recommendations on social media tools that all B2B tech PR and communication pros should be investigating.
The fact I can't find answers regarding social media usage, in reality, should not be a huge surprise. It's probably due to a couple of things. Even though it's been hyped for a long time, and even though social media programs are a part of every campaign Schwartz's executes for its clients, social media is still a relatively new concept.
However, at the same time, I think many of us marketers can get a bit caught up in the hype. We read about a company that uses Twitter in a major publication and instantly want a Twitter strategy of our own.
In the late fall of 2009, I attended a social media cluster event organized by the Mass Technology Leadership Council (Schwartz is a sponsor of the cluster). I asked the panel how they researched which social media channels their strategic audiences used. The panel universally answered that they didn't conduct research. Social media was a game of trial and error. They tried out a new Twitter handle, or ran a Facebook contest, and if it reached a key audience, they claimed victory.
Fortunately, for those of you out there investigating social media, certain strategies have already proven effective, and you don't need to try them to know they will work. Based on the social media programs we have managed at Schwartz, I offer the guidance in the eBook to the entire B2B tech PR and communications communities. I welcome your feedback.
The first day of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show is over, and according to the exhibitors with whom I spoke, traffic has increased year-over-year and booth staffs are pleased with the type of attendee on the show floor.
While last year was dominated by the introduction of 3-D TVs, this year there are quite a number of sub-themes.
3-D is still strong, with many companies introducing second generation 3-D sets, and others showing off high quality sets that do not require glasses. But it is not only the TVs that are going 3-D. When I was over at the Venetian, talking to a number of the high-end audio manufacturers, 3-D audio was a common buzzword. This goes beyond the surround sound to which we are all used to by now by adding much more discrete segmenting. The old school PR pro in me wants to dub this Surround Sound 2.0, though.
eReaders are out in force this year, with more companies introducing larger, lighter, or higher resolution eReaders. Schwartz client, Hanvon, also showed of its color E Ink (client) based eReader. The technology I saw was impressive, but what was more impressive was the large number of eReaders I saw in the airports on the way to the show. The pricepoints are becoming more attractive, and the content is amazing, and the discussion around ease-of-use has always revolved around business travelers, not the general consumer. Most consumers don’t have to worry about making two trips to Asia a month…
From a PR and marketers point of view, though, this just reinforces the importance of creating content and eBooks for the eReader. The market is out there and it is a great way to communicate your message to a senior-level business audience.
Overall, though, according to other bloggers, tablets are the theme of the show. Dozens are being introduced and companies are betting big on the technology. I love the iPad I use, but it will be interesting to see how things evolve. When I was watching reporter interviews, if they used a mobile device for reporting, it was most frequently and iPhone or other smartphone. When I looked at folks relaxing and browsing the Web at CES, it was primarily via smartphone.
Tablets are definitely on the rise, but for now it is still a mobile world. With 4G and new innovations (LG introduced a dual core processor-powered mobile phone), I expect it to remain that way for some time to come.
It is perhaps human nature to be a bit optimistic to start the year. And early headlines to lead off 2011 are fueling that optimism.
Two days into the new year, The Boston Globe pointed optimistically to the start-up community, noting that it has never been easier to launch a new company, because of efficiencies created by cloud computing and other data center advances. Of note is this sentence, which fittingly stood out as its own paragraph: "It’s also possible today to target potential customers online rather than pay traveling sales forces." No doubt that's a clear reference to content marketing and inbound marketing, two services that Schwartz now provides.
Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal pointed to large companies across a number of industries as having "cleaned up their balance sheets and, flush with cash, appear open to using it in 2011 on factories, stores and even hiring."
Also yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed higher to start the year, and at one point intraday the market was at its highest point since August of 2008.
It would appear there's a lot of good news to go around as we begin 2011.
The Schwartz Communications Research Group decided the best way to look ahead was to look back…specifically to look back at the lifecycle of the tech acronyms and buzzwords we have all grown to love (or hate).
This also gave us a chance to try Google Labs' new Ngram research tool. The search tool lets users examine the content of every book in the Google Books database, from 1800 to 2008, and determine how frequently a word appears. While this is by no means a comprehensive search, the database is large enough to identify some interesting trends.
For example this chart, which looks at some of the popular acronyms of the past few decades such as WYSIWYG and Y2K.
The new 2010 U.S. census data that is starting to be released today will have a profound impact on our economy. From shifting the balance of political power, to insights into changing American demographics, much of the data will take quite some time to digest.
Yet there are some practical concerns that public relations professionals should start incorporating starting today. Most importantly, the base numbers PR pros use when extrapolating from large, random-sample telephone surveys needs to change.
For the past 10 years of so, the more conservative approach has been to use the following data:
Number of Americans (total): 281,421,908 - It's actually the resident population as citizenship is not factored in to the number.
Number of Americans (over 18): 209.1 million
Number of households : 105.5 million
While we have to wait for many of the new numbers to come out, the main number is:
Number of Americans: (total): 308,745,538
Hopefully in February 2011 we will have updated information on how many Americans are over 18 and how many households there are.
While the Schwartz Communications Research Group typically uses the over 18 number for extrapolation, the overall number is important to note. If a survey found 5% of Americans engaged in an activity, this has shifted from 14 million to 15.4 million.
Note: Public relations professionals need to be careful when extrapolating data to be sure that it truly was a random sample, the sample size was large enough and they are following proper survey methodology.
The other element to stand out for me was the budget for the U.S. Census. It was more than $7 billion. (Although they should be applauded for coming in more than $1.8 billion under budget). Now who else would love a research budget like that?
What other information is striking you based on the Census report?
News release headlines are meant to convey information, draw a reader in, and aid SEO. But have public relations pros fallen victim to buzzword abuse in news release headlines?
Thankfully, the answer is no.
Earlier this month the Schwartz Communications’ Research Group released a brief that examined news release headlines and SEO. After analyzing more than 16,000 news release headlines from Business Wire, we found that more than 86% of news release headlines do not contain any of the top 20 buzzwords. Of course, that also means that 14% (or about 2200 releases/month) do contain a top 20 buzzword in the headline.
"Top" was the most overused buzzword, and it was used in only 1.9% of releases. This was followed by "solution" (1.83%). Following is the full chart.
The point here isn’t to say that you must avoid using these buzzwords at all costs, but it’s much more important to use the keywords being used in searches by your company’s target audience.
If you are interested in more information on this or other news release SEO topics, such as
Good writing should convey excitement, without the help of punctuation. A number of editors with whom we have spoken have a simple rule: you are allowed to use no more than three exclamation points in your writing your entire adult life.
While the Schwartz Research Group brief released this week looked at serious issues such as:
What are the most overused words in release headlines?
We also examined a few lighter issues. For example. The Schwartz Research Group analyzed the more than 16,000 releases issued over Business Wire in a 30 day period, and the good news is, only 0.5% of all releases contain “!”s in the headline. (Note, Schwartz excluded Yahoo! from the analysis, for that would skew the data).
Only 10 release headlines contained multiple exclamation points. For those who are curious, the Schwartz Research Group also found that only 0.4% of releases contained a question mark.
If you would like the full whitepaper, you can request it here.
CNN released the results of an "inaugural global research study into the power of news and recommendation." They conducted it by surveying 2,300 people around the world between June and August of this year to help advertisers understand the value of news stories that are shared via social media.
A CNN executive, Didier Mormesse, said in a statement that "the commerciality of the social media space is fast becoming apparent and this study means that for the first time, we are able to substantiate the value of shared news from an advertising perspective."
The results indicate, CNN says, that people who receive news from those they know through social networks are "19% more likely to recommend the brand that advertised around that story to others and 27% more likely to favor that brand themselves."
I bear in mind that CNN was looking at ads that accompany stories, not brands or companies mentioned in the stories themselves. As a PR person, I'd care more about the latter. But the study was still informative because it gives some insight into the most popular shared content (not to mention that it shows how CNN's been able to quantify the value of social media to their business). "Ongoing stories" about international or national news make up 65% of shared material, breaking news is 19% and 16% is stuff people are sharing to kill time or to provide a distraction. "Visually spectacular" stories are most likely to be shared via social media, as are pieces on science or technology.
CNN also notes that "the 80/20 rule applies to the findings. 27% of all sharers account for 87% of all news stories shared."
Adapting these survey results for PR, I think that if I can offer a compelling video or interesting photo to a journalist, it may make the resulting story more likely to be shared. In fact, you could back up a step and make what I think is the reasonable assumption that if you have images or video to offer, you may up your chances of being included in a story in the first place.
Another thing I think PR people can learn from CNN's survey results is that once the story appears, I'd want to make sure to get it to the 20% of people who push out 80% of news that travels via social media. Naturally I'd already need to know who in my industry is a prolific sharer or news and have worked to get them following me. If I can find the news just as soon as it appears and share it with them while it's still fresh and not hours old, I'd think it would up the appeal of my news to the 20%.
The Boston Globe is taking a different tack. On September 30, the Globe announced that they'll create a paid version of the site next year and make much of their content available only to subscribers. The paid approach has worked for WSJ.com, certainly. I'll be curious to see how things pan out for the Globe, although I suspect they won't if they don't offer some pretty differentiated content. (Paul Gillin takes a deeper look at what's up with the Globe with "Milking the Circulation Cow.")
I'd think the Globe will still make that content attractive to people who want to pass it around by allowing shared links to work for a short time.
To my eye, CNN's approach of showing the people who really pay the bills--advertisers--the value of sharing content via social networks, putting some specificity behind the kinds of stories that get shared and the resulting impressions that readers have of those advertisers seems more promising than sequestering content on a paid site.
That's just me, though. Which approach do you think is likely to succeed? Or are both strategies to making money smart given the companies' individual situations?
The two most important elements for optimizing a news release headline are keyword inclusion and brevity. A company’s top keywords should be included in the headline when possible and should be placed early in the headline. In terms of brevity, a full release headline must be 65 characters or fewer to be fully displayed in Google.
Many search engine optimization (SEO) experts, including our experts here at Schwartz, advise that companies try to keep the characters in the headline under 70 characters. Anything beyond that will be less effective in supporting a company’s SEO.
The Schwartz Communications Research Group, with invaluable help from Business Wire, analyzed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31 day period (July 26, 2010 to August 25, 2010). Since Schwartz cannot know the keywords that thousands of companies are hoping to use to optimize their content and releases, the Schwartz Research Group focused on headline length as a success factor . The findings of this analysis were that the vast majority of PR practitioners are still not fully optimizing their headlines. (I am sure Schwartz is guilty of that as well from time to time.) Our analysis showed that only 18.4% of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer.
While the majority of releases are under 150 characters, we did see some examples that were much longer than the recommended length. The most egregious cases were the 2% of releases with headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,000 characters. The shortest headline we found was 18 characters, which is also probably not ideal for SEO as it’s unlikely that enough of the company’s keywords were included. Overall, the analysis found the average headline length to be 123 characters.
This shows that many companies still have room to improve their press releases (even the social media releases).
The Schwartz Communications Research Group has written a Research Brief that takes a more in-depth look at this topic. If you would like additional analysis, including buzzword usage, a geographic analysis of effective headline writing and other headline analysis, you can download it here
The middle of this week, I zoomed off to attend the Digital PR Next Practices Summit put on by PR News. New York is an easy trip, so maybe I shouldn't have packed my "tell me something I don't already know" attitude, but that's how I approach all conferences. If I have to so much as budge from my desk, it needs to be worth it.
PR News didn't disappoint. As I sat and waited in vain for a wireless signal adequate to let me use my computer (let's not talk about why one would hold a tech conference in a building that has an anemic wireless network ... or maybe it's my computer), I scanned the attendee list. About 275 communicators from a range of big companies, including many huge consumer, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and tech brands. Plus universities, non-profits, government agencies and even religious organizations.
I had to resort to tweeting from my BlackBerry, but at that point didn't care because I was excited to be around so many other PR people. They were friendly and you can imagine just how loud a room of nearly 300 professional communicators can get.
The conference turned out to be excellent and well worth the time and money. I won't recap every session, but here are a few of my top observations.
The first panel, "Creating the Digital PR Dream Team," dug into the topic of getting the people and resources together to engage in and measure social media. The three panelists, who were from GM, the Archer Group and Kaiser Permanente, shared very specific info about who's on their social media teams and how they interact with corporate comm's, marcom, legal and so on. They talked about what they collaborate with agencies to achieve and what they prefer to handle internally.
The director of social media and digital communications from GM, Mary Henige, said they create one or two videos a week to share. This reminded me of a fantastic InsideView infographic on social media stats that I'd seen the night before. It says that Fortune 100 companies create an average of 10 videos each month to share online. I don't always think big companies lead the way in PR, but clearly they've got the budgets required to clean up in video.
Lee Mikles, CEO of the Archer Group, urged attendees to "say no to the Twitern," or cheap labor brought on to handle a company's social media interactions.
This resonated with me because I personally can't stand it when companies assume that social is free. I know they want it to be free in the same way that I'd like someone to trim my hair for free. Because darn if it's not expensive and it seems like it should be cheap. But I don't want someone who doesn't listen to me and know what they're doing to take on the job and the same holds true for companies and digital media. Just because someone "grew up online" and uses Foursquare to let the world know every time they enter a Starbucks does not mean they understand your business, your industry or your customers' preferences and problems.
Holly Potter, VP of PR for Kaiser Permanente, answered a question about hiring social media specialists by saying that she didn't find much value in "siloed expertise." Those who claim to be social media gurus almost invariably are not.
I agree that we're all learning and learning quickly and think good sense dictates that one not pretend to be thoroughly knowledgeable about something that's changing as quickly as social media. For a few years now, I've been a very interested observer as individuals or small agencies have pushed a focus on social and claimed that companies can ignore branded media. It's human to have a strong interest in the new thing, but it's shortsighted and shows a basic lack of understanding, however, when companies opt to focus on social alone.
I think the fascination with the new is giving way now and has shifted over the past year to a more balanced perspective. For some companies, it reflects a newfound understanding that digital isn't free and that social and branded media are so thoroughly intertwined that they can't be pulled apart and managed in isolation.
After panels on new social media tools and measuring ROI, I had to take a break to charge my BlackBerry. So I skipped the talk on how VW successfully launched a mobile gaming application. I kind of regret it in that I want to know as much as possible about this stuff, but I think I was also voting with my feet. I'm informed but not always impressed by successful PR campaigns that were accompanied by big budgets.
A thoughtful keynote at lunch by Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy preceded a panel on identifying and engaging "the right" influencers. Then, on to the discussion that contained the most new info I absorbed all day--digital tactics and crisis communications.
Dallas Lawrence, managing director at Burson-Marsteller, made numerous good points, but one that really rose to the top of the pile was that it's too late for companies to get into social media when a crisis arises. (He said that crises can be brought about online by groups attacking your company or brand, by individuals who just don't like you or by external events.)
I suppose this is a bit like one of the basics of reputation management--if you work over time to develop a good reputation, you're better able to recover from crises. You may draw down your reservoir of good will, but at least you had something to draw upon and you're likely going to recover faster if people had a perception of you and it was positive. Perhaps they see the bad thing that happened as an aberration.
Mr. Lawrence noted that you can't adequately respond online if you aren't already part of online communities. Those communities may not be linked (e.g., people "following" you on Facebook aren't necessarily with you on Twitter), so it's not as if you can communicate through just one channel when things go wrong. You can't, for example, expect that if your company gets dragged through the mud in a video, you're going to be able to address the problem by communicating via a press release or corporate blog. You need to already be using the channels that your audiences choose to use in order to get through to them.
In all, I'm glad I stood up from my desk and attended the conference. What social media events have you found most informative lately?
The theme for this fall’s CTIA is finding new ways that unwired devices for consumers can squeeze more productivity and efficiency out of enterprise operations.
In particular, the Tablet PC seems to take top billing as the next great hope. RIM will be showing off its Playbook, billed as the first professional tablet, while the majority of closed door sessions are devoted to development on Tablet platforms. There is a seven-hour session scheduled to focus on building enterprise Tablet apps, as well as a number of boot camps for the Android and Nokia’s Symbian platforms. In fact, developers are said to make up the single largest segment of attendees at the event, at 23 percent of all registrants.
Moreover, non-phone devices are being designed left-and-right to fit very specific application needs. Just a few examples include mobile payment terminals, package tracking scanners, advanced field force management tools and wellness monitoring for a myriad of health conditions. The show really drills down into the latest and greatest mobile devices for business users, corporate initiatives and quality of life.
But it is not all about gadgets; a certain “bolstering of the network” must likewise occur. Because, as we all can attest from experience, the niftiest wireless device is only as good as its connection. Apple has been listening. After months of rumours, they chose this week to announce that iPhone will soon be available on the Verizon network.
It is also intriguing to note up-and-comer Lightsquared’s efforts to pre-empt Verizon in the LTE game, even if it's in words only. Lightsquared made it a point Monday to announce a move to get additional spectrum resources and enhance the capacity of its own 4G network. It will be especially interesting to see if Lightsquared succeeds in becoming a household name, or if its best intentions get swallowed up in the maelstrom. I am skeptical. The last time a “new” Tier 1 wireless operator succeeded was when Bell Atlantic Mobile changed its name to Verizon Wireless.
CTIA’s fall show has taken on new relevance with the focus on what wireless can really “do” for business.
Some of the brightest minds in public relations research and measurement today gathered for the first day of the Institute for Public Relations’ North American Summit on Measurement. They are here to share their best practices on research and measurement, and to discuss the future of PR measurement.
It was great to hear so many research professionals recommending the types of benchmarking that the Schwartz Research Group does as a matter of course our clients.
The summit began with @kdpaine and Dr. Don Stacks reviewing a number of core measurement best practices. Some of the things that jumped out at me were that:
• 66% of time if people say will do something, they will • PR campaigns that address and engage values can make a seismic shift when it comes to behavior • Research without proper analysis is just pretty charts • You must benchmark at the beginning of an engagement to identify if you met your campaign goals and objectives
While much of this was common sense, there were also very engaging discussions on the evolution of online surveys and best practices for increasing response rates and avoiding accidental bias; seven steps to measurement perfection; and new ways of measuring social media engagement.
To me, the highlight of the afternoon was the opportunity for us to speak with Dr. James and Larissa Grunig, two of the deans of PR measurement. I remember learning about Grunig’s two way symmetric communications model more than 20 years ago, and it is great to see how social media is causing the death of other models, and driving more companies to engage in true dialog (what Dr James Grunig has advocated for decades).
Grunig rightly pointed out many of the growing pain social media is going through, but is confident of its continued evolution and ability to drive deeper connections. He made a point that I have been evangelizing for a while – the core principles of good public relations have not been changed by social media. It has made symmetry, strategy, and engagement even more crucial.
One of the key themes that came across during the discussion was the role PR needs to play in corporate social responsibility and sustainability. While CSR has been a core element of public relations for quite a while, Grunig is seeing some of the largest companies internationally start to want to measure not just at the program level, but at the societal level.
Grunig opined that companies need to beware the CSR trap. CSR does not equal publicity for charitable giving. True corporate social responsibility projects align with the needs of the organization and will positively benefit all stakeholders. Some companies Grunig spoke with in Brazil are starting to consider both the environment and the next two generations of humans, animals and plants as stakeholders.
Overall, an excellent start to the summit. Tomorrow will look at global digital communications measurement, measuring influence and other topics.
Follow updates throughout the day at @mcclennan or #iprmeasure.
Our word cloud shows lots of blogging about broadband, spectrum and the FCC, as the Net Neutrality debate continued in high gear. Last week, CTIA provided its comments on net neutrality to the FCC, stating that the rules for the wired Internet don’t apply to the wireless ecosystem. No surprises here. Lowell MacAdam, president and CEO of Verizon, is keynoting at CTIA Wednesday morning, so attendees will likely hear more on this topic, in the vein of Verizon’s joint statement with Google in August.
Bloggers picked up on another piece of news that involved the FCC and CTIA. Researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center studied traffic data from the Fatality Accident Reporting System and texting data from the FCC and CTIA. They reported that accidents caused by texting while driving ended the lives of 16,141 Americans between 2001 and 2007.
This is a sobering statistic. Massachusetts is among 30 states that have clamped down on texting by teen drivers with a ban that goes into effect this month. Boston.com reported on another study last week, which claims that these laws have not yet lowered the accident rates.
RIM shows up prominently in the word cloud, too. Last week RIM made a big spash with its announcement of the Playbook tablet. With a slew of cutting-edge hardware features for business users, the Playbook also boasts one of the world's most robust and flexible operating systems, from our client QNX. The BlackBerry Tablet OS is built on the QNX® Neutrino® microkernel architecture, one of the most reliable, secure and robust operating system architectures in the world, used to support mission-critical applications in everything from planes, trains and automobiles to medical equipment and the largest core routers that run the Internet.
We'll be blogging about the buzz at CTIA all week, so stay tuned.
Recently in the "You're the Boss" blog on NYTimes.com, Jennifer Walzer, CEO of entrepreneurial tech company Backup My Info!, documented her change of heart when it comes to hiring outside public relations help.
To me, a PR person, this post was fascinating and I give Ms. Walzer a lot of credit for sharing her thought process on a topic that many people make a show of dismissing outright. ("You don't need PR! Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." Those people invariably work for companies that I've absolutely never heard of, but that's okay, right? I'm sure they're big in their own worlds.)
Ms. Walzer writes: "You may remember one of my posts from last year in which I talked about not needing a public relations firm because we were getting plenty of media coverage organically. Well, as I looked back on that coverage recently, I realized that it was more focused on me as a business owner than on the company and the team. And right now, I'm so busy building the company, training new employees, and managing my pregnancy that I haven't had time to seek speaking and interview opportunities."
This situation, in which an entrepreneur has had some PR success but needs to devote more time to running the business and to life in general, is a common one for many Schwartz clients. Or maybe something's happened--a competitor is starting to become more visible in the marketplace, the firm is about to achieve a substantial milestone and is ready to talk to a broader audience or industry analysts are telling the company that they're referring it to their own clients, who respond that they've "never heard of them"--and it becomes clear that they need to step it up on the PR front.
Social networking has obviously greased the skids for many smaller companies because it can allow them to attain a decent level of visibility by working through friends, and friends of friends. I've had CEOs tell me that they know it's time to hire a professional because they've tapped out their personal networks.
Have you seen the movie "Finding Nemo"? If so, you'll remember the last scene, in which a group of tropical fish have greatly exerted themselves to get out of their aquarium and make it to the ocean. Each has rolled its way across a busy street protected by a water-filled plastic bag and plopped into the ocean. Nice escape! Yet they're still in their bags, bobbing around. "Now what?" one asks.
The company that's worked hard to handle PR on its own, doing what it can when it can, seeing what's possible and being tantalized by it, but really not knowing what to do next, is a good candidate for hiring an external PR firm.
Ms. Walzer came to the decision that now's the time, but was worried about "shelling out money without any guarantee of performance." If I were her, I'd wonder about results, too--any executive would. In her case, she chose to evaluate the number of speaking engagements or media interviews her agency secured over a relatively short period of time. Some of the people who commented on the Times' blog entry noted that a PR person with a decent amount of experience in the client's industry can simply call in favors or work through established contacts to nail those numbers.
Of course they can. The real value of that project is helping the client get a feel for whether they work well with the PR team. Many companies can achieve a certain set of initial results from any number of firms, but stick around because they feel confident in their team over time--they become "sold" on the people and their ability to answer the "now what?" question, not just schedule a few interviews.
Once the PR team is past that "getting to know you" period and has established some confidence in their skills in generating an initial volley of whatever flavor of results the company is looking for, the question becomes "how extensive is your repertoire?" Just as the entrepreneur worked through her network and then hit a wall, will the PR team stop producing once past those first few months?
PR success over the long term rides on a number of factors and the effort that the PR team puts forth on your company's behalf to hit those initial metrics is only one of them. Here are just a few that come to mind for me:
1. PR team's ability to tell a great story--Running a solid PR program requires that you understand where your company fits against the much broader backdrop of your industry, as well as knowing what stories journalists want to tell. The New York Times did not give a small company an opportunity to talk about data backup; they gave a CEO the chance to explain how she changed her mind about an important business decision. Understanding that those are two totally different stories, but that both lead Times readers to http://www.backupmyinfo.com, is the PR person's job.
2. Willingness of your customers to validate your company's claims--The VP of marketing for a tech company is not, unfortunately, a highly credible media source. But his customers are, so the challenge is to get those customers to tell your company's story for you.
3. Nature of your technology--The tech industry goes through phases, as we're all well aware, and when a technology is hot, the PR team is going to have more tools at its disposal. Without a doubt, it's their job to help mundane technologies seem interesting, but that's a tall order when you're selling something like OEM components. PR success for that OEM is simply going to look different than PR success for other firms. Setting expectations properly is critical.
4. Client's ability to deliver--Even companies with a hot technology and enthusiastic customers can flub PR if they don't respond to their PR team in a timely manner. Any delay--whether it's getting a journalist information they've asked for, delivering products on time, producing a knowledgeable spokesperson for commentary or rising above internal politics and making a decision--causes the program to lose momentum. Many companies fail to appreciate how integral their active participation is to PR success.
5. PR agency's understanding of industry changes--PR, like every profession, evolves. I'd say that we're in the midst of what might, at some point in the future, appear to be a lurch forward brought about by changes in the media world and by the use of social technologies. If you remember your geology or evolutionary biology classes, you know about punctuated equilibrium--the theory that change happens slowly, but then the rate speeds up for a period of time. It's pretty clear that PR is changing quickly right now and your agency's ability to keep up with or lead it can play a part in your success.
What items have you found to be important over the long term when handling PR internally or working with an agency?
My post last week that highlighted the most overused words in a press releases was very well received. Since so many of you liked it, I decided to take it a step further and turn the top 25 buzzwords into Buzzword Bingo cards. I didn’t want to slight anyone, so I created one card based on Sherk’s recent post, and the other card based on David Meerman Scott’s post from last year.
Here they are for your viewing and reading pleasure. May you never complete a bingo!
By Martin Gleissner and Anna Vaverka, Stockholm, Sweden
It is no longer a question of if but rather of how companies will extend their products, their brands and their messages to the digital universe.
One prime example of this is the National Hockey League (NHL), which continually develops digital products and services with which to shorten the distance between the League and its fans.
One of the major trends right now is that of iPhone Apps. What the NHL had already successfully accomplished on the web – delivering the best content, particularly video, to consumers online − it extended to one of the world’s most highly used mobile devices through NHL Ice Time 2010, the League’s official iPhone app. The app makes content from the web readily available on iPhones and is the latest product in NHL’s rapidly expanding digital portfolio, designed to meet the content demands of the most tech-savvy fans in pro sports fans.
NHL Ice Time 2010 gives time-shifted trans-Atlantic fans (NHL games are typically played in North America while Europeans are sleeping) the ability to see live scores and statistics, video clips and highlights.
For the launch of NHL Ice Time 2010, the NHL had a highly specific business goal: to drive downloads of the app among those countries already proven to be the top consumers of NHL hockey (based on NHL.com Web traffic), including Finland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In order to launch NHL Ice Time 2010 in Europe, the NHL turned to Schwartz Communications. From our Stockholm office we rolled out an extensive media outreach in these European hockey hotbeds. Besides traditional media, we paid much attention to bloggers, especially covering sport and mobile technology.
Turning strategy into the message
Beyond the cool features of the app itself, Schwartz immediately identified and amplified the launch as indicative of how organizations can and must adjust to consumer demand for digital access. And the interest that we generated from media was strong in terms of volume and tone. To reach media outside of the sport and tech area, Schwartz uniquely tailored and told the story of the NHL’s efforts in leveraging digital media as a means of serving the evolving demands of fans, alongside the evolution of digital and mobile media.
The launch was highly successful and already in the first week, the app sailed into the top five most downloaded sports apps on iTunes in Europe. Additionally, the NHL experienced hundreds of thousands of downloads in just eight weeks and the end results included more than 70 media stories in more than 10 countries.
The NHL iPhone campaign is an excellent example of how companies and organizations should integrate emerging technology trends into their product development strategy marketing and communication strategy. Schwartz encourages others to embrace the diverse possibilities of digital media as the ways that we consume information are continually evolving.
We are not saying that each and every new media trend is worth investment. But to ensure that your company is at the forefront of communicating with consumers, one should evaluate which of the tools out there could be the right ones for you.
I remember a time when everything was a robust, scalable, enterprise-wide, mission-critical, client/server, WYSIWYG, CORBA development solution with OLE.
Well, maybe not quite that bad, but there are definitely words that have been overused when it comes to press releases. In some cases, these words have been so overused, their meaning is completely devalued to the point the eye skips over them.
Recently one my clients sent me a link to a great post from Adam Sherk on The Most Overused Buzzwords and Marketing Speak in Press Releases. He did some great analysis of words overused in press releases for the past year. His post also reminded me of a David Meerman Scottpost on the topic from last year.
The lists are useful, but different people learn in different ways.
I decided to take Sherk’s list and turn it into a word cloud of the most overused words in PR. I weighted everything based on the actual frequency of appearance. To me the word cloud really drives home how some words are so overused they lose their meaning completely, even more than a list of the words.
So without further ado, the word cloud of the most overused words in press releases.
In this week’s installment of ‘Approach to VMworld,’ the Schwartz research team was at it again, analyzing topics covered by the tech reporters and bloggers we turn to for the latest, most comprehensive and thoughtful virtualization commentary.
Since the team conducted its last snapshot, we’ve seen a few significant shifts in topics of interest. In addition to highlighting what’s hot, we’re also looking at what’s moving. Many words, such as Security, vSphere and Microsoft, showed huge jumps – indicated by red, orange and yellow. Others, like SaaS, Management and Solutions are getting colder (though still significant) – shown in blues and purple.
‘Security,’ which was already red hot, continues its accelerated growth and ‘Support’ got a bump too. It’s not surprising that security and support continue upward. When InformationWeek Analytics surveyed enterprises to determine cloud computing concerns, the top three were related to security, followed by application and system performance and DR/BC of the provider. Content on the blogs and websites we track is targeted to potential enterprise IT buyers – many who are considering or already in the process of virtualizing their IT environments and moving some or all of that infrastructure to a public, private or hybrid cloud. To ensure that the concerns of the enterprise are addressed, many vendors include security and support messaging in most external communication. The more news announcements, vendor interviews, case studies, trend commentary and so on that we see, the more security and support will grow.
A key take-away from the research: At the end of the day, news is still a primary driver of content and buzz. The movement of trend topics proves it. Take for instance some of the biggest movers this week:
• While VMware maintains its dominant presence, helped by the release of vSphere 4.1, other players have joined the party. Up from last week are both Citrix and Microsoft. Schwartz prepared a tip sheet that offers vendors advice on how to maximize presence at VMworld. You can get more in-depth suggestions by downloading the tip sheet here, but one tip we included was to consider timing news with the event. Making a major announcement prior to the show can increase interest among media and analysts at the show. Though it’s not surprising to see the major players competing for share of voice, I’ll be interested to see presence for other vendors as we get closer to the conference. The one or two weeks before VMworld, expect vendor names to increase in size and prevalence in the word cloud.
• Another example of news as a driver is illustrated by virtual desktop management vendor Unidesk. Though it presence last week is small compared to VMware or Microsoft, the company still made the cloud. We’d attribute this to a few announcements that the company made in late June. With none since, Unidesk’s traction dropped off the radar, though “desktop” remained steady.
• Final proof point – check out the HUGE spike for vSphere around July 14 – fewer than 50 posts to more than 400 the days following the v4.1 announcement. Virtualization vendors: hitch your wagon to significant VMware news by being able to provide commentary and see a similar spike.
More companies are turning to Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels every day for customer service. When it is done well it creates engagement and a deeper bond with a dissatisfied customer. It can also help publicly turn a dissatisfied customer into an advocate. It also saves money compared to call center operations.
These are all good reasons for using social media for customer service. By the key phrase in the above paragraph is “when it is done well.” Too often companies are not following through on their promises or not creating useful feedback. Paul Gillin wrote about it recently here.
I have my own story to share. It is with the Sheraton Hotel and Marina in San Diego and Starwood Hotels. I was at the hotel last week and was grabbing breakfast before a client meeting. The dining room was less than half full. My colleague and I ordered eggs. Thirty minutes later we were still waiting. We really needed to leave then to make the client meeting on time, but we figured if we drove fast, we would still be OK.
We saw the waiter and asked “Excuse me, do you know if our breakfast will be coming soon?” The waiters helpful reply “I don’t know, if you care so much, why don’t you go in the kitchen and ask the chef.”
To say I was displeased with the response (and the service) is an understatement. I tweeted it out, and within an hour had a response from @StarwoodBuzz “@McClennan Sorry to hear about breakfast. If you DM us your stay details, we can follow up with the hotel for you.”
This was a perfect, textbook response and I was quite pleased. I shared the details with Starwood. They respond and asked me to follow them so they can DM back – even though no sensitive information is being shared, and if they lead with @McClennan, likely only I can see it.
The next day, I get a DM response “Thank you. I'm sending off your comments to the hotel so this can be improved 4 future guests. Pls DM if you wish to include your email add.”
There are a number of things wrong with that.
First, in business communications, there is no need to use “4”. We are engaged in a professional discourse. Second, it sounded from the first message that they were going to “follow up with the hotel for me” (i.e. do something about the situation). The personal message basically says, we will let the hotel know there is a complaint. Thanks. Bye.
I don’t need them to do that. I know how to call a manager, tweet and blog myself. Starwood Hotels failed by not providing a meaningful discussion once they engaged. I provided my email as requested, it’s been a week and I have not yet received a response from the hotel.
The end result? 1) A positive social media engagement turned sour and 2) The next time I am in San Diego, I will be staying in a Hilton.
What lessons can marketers, consumer and services public relations professionals take from this?
It is essential to listen to all social media channels, so you can address negative situations.
Listening isn’t enough – If you engage, you need to provide meaningful resolutions or you can do more harm than good.
Use DMs appropriately. Financial institutions and other regulated industries should use DMs. Hotels should not use DMs for form responses.
A cloud is approaching San Francisco, getting ready to pour down IT companies aplenty offering various management tools, platforms, servers, hosting models and so on at VMworld.
Though it might seem like a few hot summer months away, we’re now actually only six weeks out from the conference. Already there's a lot of noise. Any company involved in virtualization and cloud computing needs to develop a PR strategy to make the most of the conference, taking advantage of having nearly all virtual influencers, experts and buyers in the same place at the same time.
In a previous post, Ross Levanto, a VP in Schwartz Communications' data center practice group, noted the proliferation of virtualization and cloud coverage in tech trades, highlighting trending topics such as management, SaaS and desktops. This is an important first step in building out a VMworld PR strategy – determining the topics that will resonate with reporters at the show and thinking about news, messaging or customer deployment stories that might align with trends.
For Schwartz clients that are attending, we’re certainly talking about our plans for the show. But we’d like to help other companies prep for VMworld, too. Check out our tip sheet, “5 Tactics to Help Make VMworld a Visibility Engine,” available for free download from the Schwartz website. The tip sheet outlines PR tactics pre-event and at the conference. As we get closer to August 30, stay tuned for more analysis on trends in the virtualization space and more advice on how to maximize show presence.
Over the weekend, I finished reading Gallipoli by Alan Moorehead. It was an engrossing, powerful read. For those not familiar with Gallipoli, it was a major campaign in World War I involving the British, French, and ANZAC invading a Turkish peninsula. It is a defining moment in Turkish history. In total more than 130,000 people died and there were more than 500,000 casualties. It was also a campaign fraught with missed opportunities.
As I was reading it, I could not help but draw comparisons to some common public relations mistakes that are still being made today. While I know there are perils of adopting military campaigns to business, there are a few lessons that I thought would be good to share.
Don’t be blinded by the new way of doing things—New technology is great, but it rarely completely replaces proven systems. In the case of Gallipoli, some British Generals took the new lessons learned in France and made them the only way to do things, without adapting them to the local setting. They refused to advance without strong artillery (which they didn’t have) even though there were no trenches and few opposing forces. As a result, they gave the Turkish Army time to dig trenches and bring in more forces.
The same can be applied to communications. Social media is empowering. It is an essential component of great communications in the modern communications era. Without it, companies are missing great opportunities and their campaigns won’t be as powerful. But traditional media, influencers, mavens, messaging and listening still apply. Don’t be blinded and only pay attention to the shiny object, or you will miss opportunities. Make sure your communications campaign is designed for your specific needs, and not a cookie-cutter “Social Media Scenario #1.”
If you wait for every “i” to be dotted, you will lose – Careful planning and strategy is essential to any communications campaign (particularly consumer PR), but planning at the expense of decisive action is a recipe for failure. The same applies to communications. Careful research and strategy is essential. But there is always one more question that can be asked. There is the temptation to wait for the perfect opportunity (brand name customer reference, analyst data, etc.,) but those situations are few and far between. You need to find ways to communicate effectively without having everything you need.
Don’t be dissuaded by setbacks and changes– The British were dissuaded a number of times when they could have had decisive victory by a minor setback or something not going exactly to plan. We do not operate in a static world, and plans will change. As communications professionals, we need to adapt to those changes and continue forward. Don’t overreact to minor announcements from competitors or allow them to change your overall strategy. Focus on your goal and keep driving to it. You win by moving forward, not by retreating or moving laterally. The same applies to communications and public relations campaigns.
Trust your people – There were times in the invasion when the senior managers were well removed from the front and couldn’t react to a changing and fluid situation. Even more telling, the junior officers were trained not to move without command from superiors. As a result, there were numerous examples of when the British opened an unopposed new front, but did not advance, because the staff on the ground waited for orders. The opportunities were lost.
The same holds true in communications. Managers need to avoid becoming logjams. Trust your staff and encourage them to seize any opportunity they see. If you train them well, you will avoid the careless mistakes. But if every small decision must be centrally approved, you will miss many great opportunities.
Earlier this week, the Publicity Club of New England recognized the best public relations and social media campaigns and tactics of the past year. The Bell Ringer judges were senior practitioners from Chicago and Boston.
Schwartz is proud that we have continued the tradition of being recognized with more Bell Ringer Awards for work we have done with our clients than any other PR Agency in New England.
Most gratifying to us this year is that we won 10 Gold Bells for our clients, and that Schwartz was recognized for having the two best campaigns of the year, winning both Gold and Silver Bells, for its work in the business-to-business, healthcare and high-tech public relations categories.
When asked by many, how do we continue to win so many awards, we believe it is based on two key elements:
1) As a strategic communications firm, we understand that we don’t succeed by ourselves. Schwartz works closely with our clients to make sure our communications, content and public relations activities help them realize their business objectives. It is this close relationship, senior level involvement and comprehensive approach - including social media, content marketing and inbound marketing services - that help our programs succeed.
2) We don’t expect our clients (or Bell Ringer judges) to measure our work based on the “thud factor”, or in social media Thud 2.0. Our work, and our award entries, are judged on how we helped public relations close the loop with sales, patient recruitment or other business objectives.
For the 2010 Bell Ringer Awards, this ranged from driving qualified leads from trade articles to creating enough demand to crash one client’s servers. It included driving hundreds of patient inquiries to cutting consumer misperceptions in half. It is based on helping drive hundreds of thousands in product sales to opening new channels with key prospects.
We are proud of the work of our employees and our clients. If you have any questions about how we can help your company, let us know.
Today is a big day in the for consumer technology professionals…Steve Jobs’ keynote at the Apple WWDC. It is mostly showing off upcoming technology and putting the stake in the ground for competitors to try to beat. While there were a few hiccups with his demos, the content more than made up for it.
This was one of his best keynotes in years.
I will leave the roundup to the news sites, but there are a few things that were said today that I thought might be interesting quick takes for our clients and consumer technology and mobile developers:
Apple claims that third-party developers have now generated $1 billion in revenue for themselves through the Apps store, even with Apple’s cut. There have been 5 billion total downloads.
Apple shared a Nielsen report that states the iPhone now has 28% market share for mobile devices. RIM is still in the lead with 35%, Windows 19%, Android 9%. I expect the number of software applications developed for the device to continue to explode.
There are more than 15,000 Apps submitted each week. Companies need to keep this in mind. If you build it, they may not come, for they won’t be able to find you. A successful iPhone app launch can be supported by a strong public relations, social media and inbound marketing campaign. By combining these three elements, consumer tech companies can help their apps stand out from the crowd.
Apple has added a gyroscope, which will make the iPhone and even better gaming platform and open up new opportunities for developers
Apple is introducing the iAd platform, which enables developers to embed banner ads and open a new revenue stream. I need more details to see how well received this will be. It is telling that Jobs states it is to help developers keep costs down, but then he only lists the largest brands as signing on to start and no mention of developer controls. He claims there will be $60m in iAds, which will make it a sizeable percentage of the mobile ad market.
It appears the new iPhone will be a significant upgrade and I am excited. Apple’s new Retina Display really caught my eye (no pun intended). At Schwartz we have worked with quote a few online photo and photo-based social networking companies and the crispness that is possible with Retina Display is outstanding. I can see companies in markets ranging from radiology to photo editing really digging in to this potential.
Strong month for the Schwartz team with a SABRE Award in "Research for Publicity" for its work with Javelin Strategy & Research.
The Schwartz team and Javelin combined professional and social media to promote Javelin's annual identity fraud report, increasing media coverage 126 over previous years, and a whopping 97 percent of all articles emphasizing at least two key messages.
In addition to Javelin, some terrific clients were honored with nominations: medical device company Bioness, antivirus and desktop security software provider ESET and boutique healthcare investment services provider Leerink Swann. Although they didn't take home trophies, it's the first time Schwartz has emerged with four finalists in the SABRES and the work remains outstanding.
There's a great case study on Schwartz's work with Bioness, including a campaign that delivered $4M in sales leads. Check it out!
The classic 80s movie “When Harry Met Sally” follows two people through the years, originally stuck together for a Chicago-to-New York drive, then by chance bumping into each other and finally into love and a long relationship.
This is not unlike what we've seen happen with marketing and sales. Anyone with tenure in the business world knows that these two organizations need to be brilliantly in love and joined at the hip, moving together or else stumbling separately.
There was a time where a great “story” got ink and everyone was happy. Pump up the volume. But now, every good business is looking to connect the sales impact of initiatives, in marketing, public relations, everywhere. Many chief marketing officers are now experts in inbound lead generation, in addition to the traditional staple of brand, awareness and visibility. And the real magic is where they intersect, with one driving the other.
Today’s announcement of Schwartz's partnership with HubSpot is another great example of the transformational work we’ve been doing for years: tying storytelling to sales at all turns, and even rejecting stories that may seem to have cool headlines, but don’t move a needle on any measurable front.
Some of the most interesting work Schwartz is doing for its clients today is what we’ve dubbed “closed loop communications” --- being able to execute a strategy that loops directly into inbound marketing efforts. We’re creating content of interest, optimizing and pushing it out with professional and social media relations, search marketing and other services. That in turn is driving awareness, measured in web traffic and leads. Then we're reporting back on exactly what’s working, who’s looking and what’s prompting action in a client’s communities.
At Schwartz, we’ve nailed an outstanding strategy and process for doing this through many different types of approaches, tactics and tools, including inbound web marketing (leveraging HubSpot), digital video content (including some brilliant video marketing solutions from Visible Gains) and other strands. Whether you're in healthcare, technology, cleantech or consumer, we understand your business and the right mix of levers to pull, buttons to push, and people to influence to deliver tremendous impact.
The best meal on the menu is closed loop public relations. Order it.
Late last week I attended a panel discussion in San Francisco entitled, “Can Fairness and Accuracy Survive in a Page-View World.” Participants included Ina Fried from CNET, Eric Knorr from InfoWorld, Owen Thomas, the new executive editor at VentureBeat, and David Patton, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who is now with Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. The panel was moderated by media analyst and former journalist Sam Whitmore.
From left to right: Whitmore, Knorr, Thomas, Fried, Patton
The panel generated an animated discussion about the changing face of the media industry. The panelists paid particular attention to the enormous pressures that journalists and their editors face to quickly post the news of the day, regardless of source verification or fact checking in order to drive page views that can be monetized. Over the course of the event, the panel discussion covered four main areas:
• Page views—It was no surprise to attendees that publishers are measuring page views, especially for online only sites. But as Thomas commented, you need to know your audience and have a clear vision of the audience you want to create. To illustrate the point, Thomas said that since joining VentureBeat as executive editor a month ago, he hasn’t checked the page views yet as he first focuses on refining his vision. See this mediabistro post for his thoughts on this topic.
• Audience creation—Today writers stand on their own, as audiences are no longer built-in like they were with print publications. Most traffic to stories is driven by stand-alone links, not the publication’s homepage. Some publications have a formal policy requiring journalists to tweet, as is the case with InfoWorld. Others like Fried aren’t required to use Twitter but do it automatically; creating an audience is what reporters do.
• Rise of bots—Bots make SEO critical. Knorr said “If you don’t optimize for SEO, you die.” Thomas said “Computers are making humans easier to use,” underscoring the idea that bots can control the exposure to certain thoughts humans put out there. Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera was in the audience and shared tips on how to be at the top of Techmeme:
-Identify the holes in what’s out there. If an article fills a void, it will generate an audience.
-Consider posting more thoughtful, analysis pieces on the weekend to avoid the competition with breaking news. By saving it for a slower time, it may reach more people.
-Titles must be clear to readers so they can scan online headlines and identify what is worth reading to them.
•Competition with newsmakers—The newsmakers today can publish direct and circumvent the news media altogether. Steve Jobs’ recent statement that outlines why the company would no longer offer Flash support is an example of this new competition. As Thomas mentioned, Jobs’ Thoughts on Adobe quickly rose to the top of Techmeme and eclipsed “the news” of the day.
It’s a brave new world. Journalists—like technology executives and technology PR professionals—are learning how to use today’s tools to their advantage in telling important stories, developing their brand and creating audiences. They are sharing best practices at work and helping each other to figure out how to succeed in a dynamic environment. That said, it was clear from the discussion and audience Q&A that followed, the underlying foundation of good journalism remains unchanged. To paraphrase Fried: “a good journalist has to bring something new to the table.”
This is the same advice we give to clients every day who want to raise their exposure in the media: what insight on a particular topic do you have to share that is new, thought provoking and not just a rehash of what’s out there? For journalist and clients alike, there’s always a place for quality content and fresh perspectives.
Google rarely issues press releases; the company that defines the current tech economy to many releases news on its blog. Earlier this month, Google distributed a very short statement directing people to its website to see its most recent earnings news.
The statement by Google is significant. Press releases are a main method public companies use to inform audiences about material events, as companies must simultaneously disclose material news. Press release distribution services, such as Business Wire and PR Newswire, exist to satisfy these requirements. In the case of Google, they decided to merely post their earnings release on a blog and use the distribution service to note that the content is there for all to see.
I am not a lawyer, and decisions about simultaneous disclosure and the material nature of news are to be made by lawyers, but there has been some discussion as to whether blog posts satisfy simultaneous disclosure. The SEC decided a couple years ago that they do satisfy disclosure, but the guidance issued at the time left a lot of gray areas, and many companies, based on my observation, are still relying on press release distribution as a primary means of disclosure. Even Google straddled the line; while their earnings release was online, they used a standard distribution service to tell everyone it was there.
Interpretations of the SEC rules are vital to the future of the press release, one would argue. If lawyers think blog posts satisfy disclosure, it would eliminate one of the primary reasons for press release distribution.
For a long time, PR companies have talked about the end of the press release. The ubiquity of the Internet as a distribution platform puts the spotlight on the good old-fashioned press release, which has had a place in PR since the industry's beginnings. Almost all technology PR and healthcare PR pros will agree the press release is "old school," yet press releases are still requested by every professional journalist we talk to.
While press releases are still a fundamental PR tactic, their role in what we do is changing. Not to mention the fact that press releases themselves are changing.
My industry brethren over at Shift Communications came up with the infamous "social media press release," which they originally defined as a press release that is formatted so as to be easily digestible by the media. More recently, the definition of a social media press released has morphed and forked, with some saying it's a release that can be easily shared or interacted with. Others describe it as a release that incorporates multimedia.
Now, obviously, press releases are read by a far larger number of audiences than just the press. (Even though they are still called press releases.) Anybody with a web browser can read a release on a company's website. Schwartz's teams talk all the time about writing the press releases differently so as to appeal to the strategic audiences of a given piece of news.
Since press releases are published on the web, they are vital for search engine optimization. News distribution services, such as Business Wire or PR Newswire, assist SEO by placing press release content all over the web. Creating a well-written, optimized release and then distributing it with these services can affect your SEO rankings.
The ongoing discussions about the demise of the press release are driven by the ubiquity of the Internet and the fact that a blog post to a company website can reach anyone. Which brings us back to Google, their propensity to issue news via blog posts, and the increasing number of examples of other entities that are following suit.
Take the White House. White House officials post often to the White House's own blog. The New York Times regularly references White House blog postings in its coverage. White House officials often refer reporters to the blog for additional commentary or more information.
We have been actively incorporating blog content into our clients' programs---and we even manage and write blog content for a number of them. Our client ESET has a very active and well-read blog (content by ESET employees) and a very popular podcast series that is produced by the Schwartz team. Across our clients, we tell reporters, analysts and other influencers to read our clients blogs on an ongoing basis. We often brainstorm material that can augment announcements. The supplemental material makes for good blog content; and we use other promotion channels to refer audiences to it.
Are press releases dead or dying? People like to say so, because press releases have been around for ever. In reality, a press release is just one of the many types of content that are a part of a PR program; likewise, standard press release distribution is just one of the many channels a PR program can use to reach a target audience.
A well-run, organized technology PR or healthcare PR program recognizes the value of press releases, blog content and other content, as well as the various channels that reach target audiences. Such a firm is not overly reliant on press releases, nor overly dismissive of them, but rather understands how PR today involves a variety of methods to connect strategic messaging with strategic audiences.
In the bad days of PR measurement, some PR professionals would try to impress clients (or bosses) with the ‘Thud factor’ how big and heavy a clip book could they drop on a desk. It was all about volume, circulation and hits. But as KD Paine says, HITS stands for “How Idiots Track Success.” This lead some to focus on quantity rather than quality and to some inflated circulation and reach figures that didn't tie back in to core business objectives.
At Schwartz, and at many other firms and organizations, we focus on measuring outcomes and results. Impact and Influence are core. What business impact did our PR programs have?
Yes, we use measures such as share of voice and key message penetration. We look at conversion, change in consumer perception, increase in Web traffic, increase in searches and other metrics. These are elements of good PR measurement that have a tie back to business results. Many of these have a direct correlation.
But now I am seeing the poor measurement of yesterday rearing its ugly head in the social media world of today.
I call it Thud 2.0.
Instead of ‘hits’ the new Thud factor is “How many followers/fans” do you have. The bigger the better. People are flexing their social media muscle and getting out the measuring tape.
Of course, they are measuring the wrong thing.
At the Social Media Club Boston meeting Thursday last night, EMC, Vico Software, IDG and other companies showed us how they are measuring the right thing. Most impressive was Holly Allison. She handles public relations and marketing for Vico Software ( a company that makes software for commercial construction). She was showing how her efforts worked throughout the sales funnel and how they translated directly into sales. Yet she seemed apologetic for having such small followers or visits. She is selling to a much smaller B2B universe. The business results were impressive, so it doesn’t matter how big the bicep is…
The SMC session was an interesting contrast to a talk by Paul Gillin with the Mass Technology Leadership Council the day before. He exposed how many B2B executives with whom he speaks are still just looking at the Thud factor when it comes to social media. (Aside from a few that are showing a direct tie to more effective recruiting).
I plan to be writing much more on measurement in the coming months, but I wanted to start it off with a simple call to action. Resist Thud 2.0.
Make sure your social media efforts are tied to business results. Don’t become obsessed with followers. Look at how engaged they are. Do they click through to your Web site? Respond to tweets? Praise you to others? Purchase products?
The goal of social media for business should not be trying to see if you can be the most popular kid in school.
When I have the opportunity to lead internal training sessions here at Schwartz Communications, every one of them begins with three simple words: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. While it may seem like an obvious message, all too often PR practitioners, marketers and even sales people sometimes lose their way, either forgetting who their audience is or not applying the appropriate thought to go along with what they are presenting and to whom. Ultimately, the end result can lead to not closing the deal...in whatever capacity that means to the person "selling". Even worse, a lasting impression can be made that might prevent you or your organization from having future success with those particular people (and wherever the word of mouth spreads).
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a relatively small IT industry conference -- about 250 attendees. For the most part, attendees of this conference were not your average IT professionals, but rather highly advanced and among the best at what they do. At this event, they gather to hear about what their peers are working on and to share experiences. Now that you have a sense for what the predominant attendee profile is like, I will share one of my experiences from the event that ties back to the importance of knowing your audience.
As with any event or form of communication, you typically need that "eye-catching" component that is going to lure the prospect in and serve as the basis for why they should care about what you are selling. For trade shows or related events, often times the keynote speakers work in this capacity. For this particular event, one of the attention grabbers was a very well known C-level executive from a prominent technology vendor. For an event of this size to land a speaker of this cache' was pretty impressive, or so it would have seemed on the surface.
While it was great for this fledgling event to land a big name for one of the showcased sessions, in my opinion the presentation was not only lackluster in the content itself, but also a complete failure by both the presenter and the show's management in terms of knowing their audience and what value would be derived from the session. The presenter used what appeared to be a "corporate-approved" and tremendously wordy slide deck (aka: "Death by PowerPoint"). What's worse, the presentation consistently came off as an advertisement for the speaker’s employer and how the company is structured. Arguably, *some* of this information was of interest to *some* in attendance, but the overall nature of what was presented was a miss for this particularly adept audience.
Based on the role that this organization plays in the IT space, there certainly could have been a far more appropriate and appealing conversation with this crowd of highly intellectual practitioners. Delivered content aside, it is hard to pin this failure on the speaker alone, as someone of this stature, in an organization of this size, likely had little to do with putting the slide deck together. It is even less likely that the presenter had any sense of the audience that was being presented to.
Despite being a relatively small audience, it is my estimation that the presenters organization failed to capitalize on the unique opportunity that they were given to present at this topically-focused industry conference. By either ignoring or failing to understand the audience, the content shared by the speaker was devoid of any meaningful value and largely amounted in wasted time for not only the attendees looking to be educated, but for the speaker and the speaker’s company itself.
Later in the day, one of the event advisors caught up with me for a chat and asked what I had thought of the aforementioned session. When I began to provide some candid feedback, it quickly became evident that he was not expecting to hear this. When we discussed this further, I got the sense that the audience itself was overlooked and that the event’s management was simply very excited about landing the big name speaker.
I'd be willing to bet that had they started with identifying who the audience was and asking what big name people are out there that could provide value for those paying to be educated, they may have still come up with this particular speaker or an industry executive of similar stature, but would have done so under the condition that the presentation material was designed for those in attendance.
This brings me to another area where I believe the conference organizers failed: they never provided an abstract of what this executive’s discussion would be about in their event session guide handout. I thought this was odd, as all of the other sessions being conducted included an abstract. However, for the headliner speakers, all that was included was a bio, which is arguably the least valuable information that can be provided. After all, the folks that were keynoting were presumably the MOST well known at the event. As an attendee, I would prefer that they give me bios of some of the lesser known folks that conducted some truly amazing sessions, so I can get to know them a bit better. I am sure everyone at the event knew the role that this executive serves in and at which organization. Knowing where the speaker matriculated from is, well, about as valuable as the slide deck that was presented.
While "big" names out there might be considered a drawing card for an event, it is equally important to ensure that the content to be delivered speaks to the audience. My advice to this conferences management for next time is to either better leverage the speakers and have them talk to the audience about issues that matter to them or bring in someone that the actual attendees would consider to be a drawing card. If the event’s audience was different, then perhaps this speaker would have been a draw, but my guess is based on the amount of folks in the room at the time of the presentation (with no other competing sessions going on), it clearly wasn't the case.
Whether you are writing a press release, preparing marketing collateral, participating at an event or putting together any communications vehicle where you are seeking to get a message or point across to someone else to best position your organization's products, people or services, always start by knowing your audience. By beginning with this simple step, you will not only find yourself in a better position to create content that helps address why the audience should care what you have to say, but it will also help you avoid the possibility of doing more harm than good and alienating those that you want to influence in a positive way. In this example, the show organizers and the speaker failed to embrace who the audience was and an opportunity was lost for all parties involved.
Last Friday The New York Times ran an illuminating feature on women in the technology world. "Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley" describes a tech and VC community that's perhaps not been overly welcoming to women. An excerpt:
"Tech communities in Silicon Valley and in other hubs -- like New York, Austin, Tex., and Boston ... -- pride themselves on operating as raw meritocracies ready to embrace anyone with a good idea, regardless of education, age or station in life.
"For women, though, that narrative often unfolds differently."
I'll pause right there and note that I almost didn't read this article because I figured I already knew what it would say. It's not that I think the issue must be avoided or that there is, in fact, no issue at all. It's just that I already know that men are well represented in the tech world and I don't need the Times to confirm it for me. I've long felt that I'm here to do a particular job and if I'm doing it for companies comprised mostly of men, marketing to people who are mostly men, so be it.
For example, I've never been one to attend women's networking events or to seek out interaction with people just because they're women. There's always a group of junior coworkers who I'm paying extra attention to at any given time and trying to help in some way, but I know I've not tried to "mentor" more women than men. Call me naive, but I'd rather not get too caught up in whether the person I'm working with is male or female--there's a finite number of hours in the day and I'd prefer to put my focus on the collaboration at hand.
So I don't think I'm particularly obtuse, but I just didn't feel like reading the Times article on women in high tech. I relented only because I felt I should read it simply to be informed, the same way I should be informed about the Google security breach or IBM's earnings. Here's what struck me:
- 35 percent of database administrators ARE women.
- 22 percent of network administrators ARE women.
- 20 percent of programmers and software engineers ARE women.
Those numbers are dismal, you're thinking. And in the grand scheme of things, they are. But to me they were eye-opening because I've had companies that market products to these people--to DBAs, to network or system administrators, to developers--tell me, literally, that these people are essentially all men. (Of course I know they're not all men. But I'd have believed that the numbers would've been similar to the figure below for women in hardware engineering, for example, at about eight percent.)
Acknowledging that a small but still significant percentage of potential customers are women--discontinuing the practice of assuming the prospects are just about all men--seems like a smart move for marketers of business technology.
So what does this mean in practical terms? My most basic observation is that as they move money from traditional advertising toward more personal interactions via social media and social networks, tech marketers have got to be in a better position to reach potential customers, partners and employees who are women. (Advertising from IT companies, when it exists, features images of guys in suits jumping over stuff, guys in suits shaking hands or stoic-looking guys keeping watch over servers, or it makes something of an attempt to be gender-neutral by showing the product or an abstract image.)
When it comes to PR, I think about tactics like arranging for clients speak to local groups of Java developers, for example, or Oracle database administrators. Those meetings have been successful vehicles for clients to make connections with potential customers. But knowing that people who have children are less likely to attend networking events in the evening than people who don't, and understanding that most women with children who work outside the home don't have stay-at-home husbands, one might assume that evening networking events may not draw as many women as, say, mid-day events.
I wonder whether this shift away from one-to-many toward one-to-one allows tech marketers to start targeting a small but still meaningful percentage of their potential customers in a more thoughtful, and successful, manner.
Oracle announced today that it's going to acquire Waltham, Mass.-based Phase Forward. The company makes software that helps pharmaceutical firms manage information associated with clinical trials, and they're Schwartz Communications' immediate neighbor.
Across Route 128 we've got the lovely new Adobe building and Symantec. Up the way, we pass Novell and IBM to get to Autodesk's spiffy outpost. Keep going and smile when we arrive at Oracle, which I swear moved up 128 a few years ago so it could be directly next door to SAP.
Of course the only one of these companies that grew up locally is Phase Forward and now it's being vacuumed up by a Silicon Valley company. Xconomy's Wade Roush notes that this "fits a now-familiar pattern in which Massachusetts high-tech companies grow to the sub-billion-dollar stage, and are then scooped up by West Coast giants with deeper pockets."
When I saw the news, my first reaction wasn't so much "there goes the neighborhood" as "I hope Oracle won't cut jobs at Phase Forward." Job preservation and creation is of course on everyone's mind.
Recently some coworkers and I attended the Mass Technology Leadership Council's annual meeting, where the overriding theme was jobs and, specifically, the organization's goal of supporting the creation of 100,000 IT jobs in Massachusetts over the next 10 years. They note, in a useful presentation that's available here, that IT is the second largest employer in the state with 178,000 workers. What's more, there's a ripple effect and each IT job creates 1.63 "incremental jobs."
At that event, Michael Mandel, editor in chief of Visible Economy and former chief economist for BusinessWeek, talked, in what I found to be a fascinating presentation called "The Road to Optimism," about his belief that communications technologies will lead the next economic boom.
Internet publishing, broadcasting and search; computer systems; and wireless technologies are the areas he sees helping lead the economic recovery. He says it "would be nice to have a boost from the life sciences." (A helpful summary of Mr. Mandel's presentation and his optimism about communications and perhaps biotech is on the Foley Hoag "Emerging Enterprise Center Blog.")
Then there was The Wall Street Journal's piece yesterday, "Tech Sector in Hiring Drive." It doesn't talk about geographic hot spots, but instead highlights things like growth of social media when it comes to IT job creation.
Consulting the job growth barometer nearest to me--the Schwartz HR department--I know the agency is hiring. Perhaps Massachusetts tech companies really are, after a year and a half of a tough economy, gearing up for growth.
Today in advance of its Chirp Conference, stories appeared about how Twitter was going to start offering promoted tweets in 2010. People are commenting - What does this mean? Has Twitter flown the coop? Will fan backlash cause it to soon be singing in the Choir Invisible?
I for one am glad to see at least one way in which Twitter is monetizing its service. Despite what some companies have done, you can only go so far without positive cash flow. What does this mean to the average user?
Probably not that much.
A random, I mean highly targeted, Tweet will be inserted into a user's Twitter stream (not sure what that will do to my multiple TweetDeck stream). Initially they will only appear as a result of Twitter search. Ads/sponsored tweets will be removed if they don’t generate much engagement.
For those that follow a lot of people (like I do), that sponsored tweet may fly right by. For those that follow a few folks (which appears to be the majority of people not in marketing, PR or social media) it might be an unexpected interruption. But people will gloss over it quickly.
Reports have it that only one ad will appear at a time. This may make it difficult for the niche marketers. While I have a passion for personal financial management software, I also love soda and coffee, and expect Starbucks to trump any PFM vendor in terms of volume and response, relegating the PFM ads, I mean sponsored tweets, to much less frequent appearance.
What are some key takeaways for consumer technology, green and B2B marketers and PR professionals.
This is a new and intriguing way to leverage the Twitter channel to drive some short-term engagement and customer response.
Sponsored tweets are not a replacement for authentic, two-way conversations. They may help attract a new audience in a flock, but the audience will not necessarily be loyal, remain engaged or start to follow you. The only way to do that is through interaction and providing value beyond a deal of the day.
The sponsored tweets could be a good complement to existing initiatives and crisis communications campaigns. (I can foresee a day when Toyota uses a sponsored Tweet in the future to spread the word about its response to customer concerns).
This will benefit the brands that have an established Twitter presence. Do not think of this as a solution for building a long-term, loyal, base. You need to reach out to folks to do that, not expect them to reach out to you.
Oh the pressure of the big show. CES. RSA. NAB. Interop. These are major venues for many tech vendors, including countless clients. The pressure to announce big news - even if the time isn't right - presents problems for many clients. Some struggle with the ethical and business dilemma of announcing products that are still evolving day-to-day with no foreseeable ship date or corresponding revenue.
It begs the question, is pre-launch the equivalent of vaporware, and how do you make the most of the opportunity a trade show provides?
Vaporware defined Wikipedia describes vaporware as “a product, usually software, that has been announced by a developer during or before its development, if there is significant doubt whether the product will actually be released.” The term dates back to the 1980s and there’s even a running list of known vaporware on Wikipedia.
One long-awaited product that evaded the vaporware watch list was CrunchPad, now called the JooJoo tablet, with recent reports in Engadget, PC Magazine and elsewhere that it is finally shipping—just as the iPad is also coming to market. Both JooJoo and iPad were pre-announced long before development was completed and the products were on the road to eager consumers.
Pre-launch without getting burned When clients ask about how to pre-launch visionary technologies at their most important event, the first question we ask is, What are your goals?
If generating reams of news articles is your top priority, you might want to reset expectations or reconsider. With fewer beat reporters going to trade shows, competition for media exposure is steep. Most hard news reporting from the show floor focuses on major industry developments and commentary from industry luminaries.
Don’t mislead a reporter about a new product and damage an important relationship in the process. It’s okay to discuss future technologies but call it what it is – Alpha or even pre-Alpha, a prototype or skunkworks project if it’s unclear whether it will ever come to market. By respecting reporters and not wasting their time if you don’t have anything concrete or truly time-sensitive to discuss at an event, you’ll win in the long run.
On the other hand, if the main goal is showcasing prototypes of next-gen products to engage customers and prospects, and further define your long-term technology roadmap as well as that of an evolving market category, a trade show could be the ideal venue. Industry events provide a captive audience of target customers and enable companies to get feedback from user communities and industry analysts. Customers drive innovation as much as vendors do. A request for major new features, a redesign or companion technology from a major customer can push vendors into rapid development, often without a clear sense of the final outcome and product delivery dates.
Identify goals—Determine what is most important - press coverage, customer engagement or general buzz at the booth – and if a major venue is the best option.
Be clear—When previewing next-gen technology, call it what it is, a prototype or a skunkworks project that is being tested for viability and for general customer and end- user feedback.
Contextualize it—Explain how it fits within the technology roadmap and existing product ecosystem, and the broader story your company is trying to communicate.
Make it tangible—Show a prototype or visual schematic to illustrate the merits of the product under development and what sets it apart; provide initial test results if available.
Don’t lie—Don’t promise to deliver product by a date that’s virtually impossible to meet.
Keep market updated—After the initial announcement, update relevant constituents about the status of the product.
While it might be harder than ever for small companies and start ups to secure news coverage at big events that feature billion dollar global enterprises, it’s not impossible.
One Schwartz client previewed a prototype of new mobile networking software at Macworld. The company exhibited at the show to network with developers who might want to use its SDK to embed the new software into their products. Our client had spent six months on R&D, had a working prototype, and field test results to share with customers and reporters. From all counts it was a success and the client was pleased with the experience, both as exhibitor and from the resulting news coverage.
Help PR succeed If you’ve decided to pre-launch at an event, below are top ways to help your communications team succeed:
Prepare early—Give PR enough time to get ready by educating them on the new development and the impact it will have on the market.
Pre-brief reporters—Share the news before the chaos of the event to increase the odds of getting your product announcement included in show daily reports.
Share data—Reporters like hard data; when possible, incorporate proprietary industry research, preliminary test results to make the product real.
Enlist customer support—Connect reporters with customers who can address the need for the new product. Customers can convert a background meeting into coverage.
With trade show season is in full swing, stress about the big event is palpable for many tech executives and their PR counterparts. But careful prep work and clarity on goals will ensure everyone gets the most out of the event.
The intersection of PR and SEO for B2B tech and healthcare companies is My Current Obsession. Naturally, then, I'm fascinated by how Google works. We all know it's a Google world, right, but I care in particular about Google's treatment of news releases and content generated by the media.
I was interested, then, in last week's BusinessWire post on "Why Your Release Might Not Make it Into Google News." Not often, but every now and again a client doesn't find their release on Google News and they wonder what happened. Sometimes they ask us to "call Google and fix it." Tragically, we can't do that, so it's going to be easier to write the release in the first place to maximize its chances of getting picked up by Google News.
In the BusinessWire blog entry, Joseph Miller lists four reasons that releases may not be indexed by Google News: the release is too short (fewer than 125 words), too large (e.g., an earnings release with huge associated tables), appears to be fragmented into unrelated bullet points and, most important, the title is too long. Specifically, Mr. Miller says, a news release headline shouldn't exceed 22 words.
Really long press release titles should be avoided because they're clumsy, of course. Beyond that basic guideline, we've understood for some time the importance of prominently including keywords in press release headlines to improve SEO--they should appear toward the beginning of titles. It's useful to also know now that verbose headlines not only don't help SEO, they likely hurt it by causing releases to be tossed out by Google News altogether.
As the International CTIA WIRELESS 2010 conference comes to a close, I can’t help but to be in awe at how much the show, and the technology, has progressed. What started with a 5 lb. leather case that plugged into my car’s cigarette lighter has evolved to a touch screen that lets me watch live TV. Oh, and it’s still a phone too.
Consider this statistic: there were 1.5 trillion text messages sent in 2009 (according to CTIA). That’s at least 220 text messages for everyone on the planet, and the last time I checked, everyone on the planet does not have a cell phone...though we’re getting there. It makes you wonder what’s going to be the next mainstream “application” for the wireless industry.
I have to think it will grow out of the 4G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. Most of us are impatient, so no matter how cool an application is, if we have to wait for it, we lose interest quickly. These high-bandwidth networks promise to change all that.
I’m betting on applications that relate to higher quality videos/images, iPad and Kindle-based applications and gaming. I picked these three categories because there are already large markets for the “wired” versions. Uploading an image, downloading a new book or magazine and beating your best friend at Madden Football are already popular. The ability to duplicate these activities anywhere via a mobile device will surely create a number of new market winners. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the buzz at next year’s show.
I started my day at CTIA yesterday at the IDC breakfast where we heard from several analysts with updates on semiconductor trends for mobile devices, sustainable practices in the mobile industry, and user interface trends.
On the semiconductor front, 4G won't bring in significant revenues for chip vendors until 2013 according to IDG. The big six vendors who control the lion's share of the market are offering platform and vertically integrated solutions to capture BOM and create stickiiness. More market consolidation is expected.
With corporate responsibility becoming a big part of branding and PR, the mobile phone industry has started to embrace sustainable practices. The first step is reducing packaging, which has an environmental impact (reduced landfill, lower emissions) as well as driving down costs of shipping and packaging manufacuring. Mobile vendors are also looking at hazardous waste reduction and handset recycling. Stephen Drake ranked Nokia highest in his green comparison of mobile vendors, with Sony Erickson and Apple in the numbers 2 and 3 spots.
William Stofega looked at the various user interface approaches on mobile devices. He mentioned a few innovations worth checking out. Eye gaze technologies use gaze control for gaming. Synaptics in collaboration with TAT Design debuted a squeezable mobile device, the Fuse, late last year. Approaches that give the user a feeling of texture are on the horizon. He also predicted that patent wars over touch technology could decide which vendors win over the hearts and wallets of consumers.
I'm off to the show floor for the last day of CTIA 2010.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the PR News Measurement Summit in Washington D.C. It was a gathering of a few hundred PR professionals interested in advancing PR measurement and sharing best practices for tying public relations to business results. The topics would be of interest to anyone in consumer, technology or cleantech public relations.
There were a half-dozen sessions, but there were a few themes that ran throughout them.
1) The Fallacy of AVE. Last year, the IPR and other professional PR organizations condemned ad value equivalency as a faulty measure of public relations success (and I cheered them on). It was a handy crutch in the past, but not something that measured the right results and did not have a good correlation to an organization's business results. I swear the room was never more energized than when people were criticizing this flawed metric that uses one industry's benchmarks to try to justify something completely different.
One of the presenters at the conference introduced a relatively new metric "Weighted Media Costs" I applaud the work the creators of this metric have done, but I still see it as AVE wearing a tuxedo. I have yet to be convinced otherwise. Anytime you use ad space cost, but remove the dollar signs so as to differentiate yourself from AVE, you are already starting down a very slippery slope.
2) Social media has permeated B2B, B2C and the government. Almost every presentation showcased how companies were engaging and measuring social media. From a personal point of view, it also validated the approach we take at Schwartz. The focus on tying PR to business results was used by all presenters- from the largest agencies to large multinationals. While there was some discussion of tactics and tools (Legistalker, Socialmention and Twiangulate seemed to be the most popular free tools) the focus was on getting meaningful measurement without breaking the bank.
3) Government and public affairs have embraced social media. While many of us know that at some level, and it was definitely proven in the latest Massachusetts Senate race, some of the metrics are telling:
64% of Congressional staff say “blogs are more useful than mainstream media for identifying future national political problems and debates.” (PR Week)
Congress has embraced multiple platforms:
96% have Facebook pages 79% have YouTube channels 41% have Twitter accounts
The key takeaway from the whole conference? One I have been championing for years. For public relations to continue to grow and be an essential element of an organization's business strategy, PR professionals need to relate their activities to business results.
By guest blogger Joe Palladino, Senior Account Executive
With the International CTIA WIRELESS 2010 show in full swing, the floor is buzzing with new uses for wireless technologies and the need for increased bandwidth. Wireless technology has become a component in virtually every industry, and we can clearly see that CTIA is embracing the many verticals finding its new capabilities, efficiencies and revenue streams. Now we just need the bandwidth to handle it all.
CTIA Chairman Ralph de la Vega, also the president and CEO of AT&T’s mobile division, addressed mobile broadband, next-generation networks and the need to increase wireless bandwidth. In his keynote speech, de la Vega noted that the FCC is working to increase frequency spectrum, but predicted that we’ll outstrip even the capabilities of the new frequencies in short time. Carriers will need to redouble their efforts to get next-generation networks in place to meet increasing needs as virtually every industry moves toward wireless solutions.
By guest blogger Avi Dines, Director, Accounts & Digital Content
I’m sitting 1,300 miles away from VoiceCon Orlando, but feel as connected as ever. The news deluge from the event, including articles, blogs and tweets, along with live TV feeds from conference keynotes provides a good flavor for the conference activities. Keeping track of Schwartz clients as well as other industry players has never been easier. Here is a sampling.
Schwartz client Digium continues to turn heads and impress with its Voice over IP Unified Communications solution Switchvox. ChannelWeb highlights Switchvox SMB 4.5 here. The company also announced the winner of its Extreme Phone Makeover, awarding a new Switchvox Unified Communications system and Polycom® SoundPoint® IP phones, valued up to $10,000, to Boys and Girls Club of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Empirix OneSight also made ChannelWeb’s Top 25 products to see at VoiceCon. The company set the stage for the conference, kicking off with President, Strategic Networks Group, Lisa Pierce's panel on SIP Trunking, and by all accounts it was a lively session discussing the various bugaboos that arise from trying to recreate the consistency of TDM in SIP trunk environments.
Siemens Enterprise Communications has made two announcements at VoiceCon so far. The first is OpenScape UC Server 2010, unified communications (UC) optimized for the data center and virtualized environments. The company also announced a partnership with VMware for virtualized real-time communications deployment. Siemens Enterprise Communications also made a splash with a keynote from Senior Vice President, Voice & Applications Solutions Mark C. Straton, which can be seen – on demand – through VoiceCon TV. Along with informative content about the company and current state of UC, the presentation dazzled with a customer guest, lasers, a video and 3D presentation for attendees.
Kudos to VoiceCon, attendee bloggers and myriad news sources for keeping us up-to-speed with the action on the ground.
By guest blogger Rob Skinner, Senior Media Strategist
Based on the day one buzz, a primary theme at this year’s CTIA WIRELESS 2010 (running today through Thursday, March 25) centers on putting wireless networks to work for more than just voice. For the carriers, this means pushing into device categories beyond handsets, including e-books, net books and tablets.
What’s more interesting to me, however, is extending this theme beyond the consumer. Accenture, for example, is leading a panel on the smarter use of energy, and this year’s show marks the debut of a Telehealth pavilion, where vendors show how wireless can improve patients’ quality of life—arguably far more meaningful areas of the economy than the latest iPhone app or gaming device.
On a personal level, I often ask myself how “wireless” can become synonymous with “sustainability” when my mobile provider sees fit to charge an extra fee for the millisecond bursts that text messages require, even as my family stays well below the allotted minutes on our voice plan each month. Can’t they just count that text as a minute used against our voice plan? What’s so special about it?
But this is the way carriers are set up, to maximize ARPU by any means available. And who can blame them?
Contrast the consumer’s experience with the aims of Schwartz client KORE Telematics, an MVNO that is entirely dedicated to making wireless data connectivity work for many of the applications noted above. As company President and COO Alex Brisbourne eloquently puts it, “We realized in 2003 that application providers simply cannot operate profitably under traditional plan-based pricing, and introduced the industry’s first ‘pay for what you use’ model at that time.”
KORE is now pushing this concept one level further with a new rate model for wireless data that self-adjusts according to the customer’s usage patterns. They call it IntelliRate, and KORE believes that bringing the price point of wireless data services more closely in step with commercial bottom lines allows wireless innovation to move more doggedly toward fostering sustainable businesses. The strategy is sound, and I look forward to seeing how it takes hold in the market.
There was a lot that went on today at SxSW, but it all seemed to revolve around Twitter. From @Ev’s keynote introducing @anywhere to panels, hallway discussions and hordes of techies tweeting while dancing and singing at TechKaraoke.
Twitter does a good job of explaining the new service, but basically it allows any site to tag content to Twitter that let’ people follow feeds from the site (or people mentioned on the site) without leaving the site. It looks cool, but it did not blow the audience away. I see any savvy consumer technology or B2B public relations professional who is creating content making use of it eventually in the content they create for their brands.
The panel after the keynote was moderated by Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) and had a number of opinionated, passionate and interesting social media personalities, including @scobleizer and @pistachio.
They basically highlighted their favorite Twitter tools. I thought some of them might be of interest to our readers, so I wanted to highlight a few.
Oneforty.com – Basically, @pistachio’s Twitter App Store, complete with rankings and reviews. Spend time there if you haven’t already.
The most interesting panel of the entire show (for me at least) happened at 5:00 p.m. in a remote hotel. During the 90 minutes, Citibank revealed the process and procedures they used to secure approval for social media engagement in a heavily regulated environment. I will write more on it later, for it is worth a blog post on its own.
Today was my last day at SxSW. It lived up to the promise. Great sessions, good people and thought provoking ideas. The dominant themes of the conference were mobility, connectivity and crowdsourcing (with a very focused financial services minor). Over the next few weeks I will share additional insights on this blog. There is a lot that I didn’t cover, but hopefully the snapshots over the past few days will give our readers some useful insight. I will be digesting what I learned at the show in the weeks to come.
The day started off with a great Social Media Breakfast Austin/SxSW where I had a chance to hang out with a few hundred other social media professionals. I saw some old friends and met a few new people with some really interesting companies. I ended up reconnecting with many of them at the Microsoft party later in the evening.
Compared to the first two days of the SxSW, the panels were interesting, but not as strong.
The first panel I attended took a look at the use of applications for extending the brand. The main takeaways were the iPhone is now the dominant brand platform, eclipsing Facebook (for the company has more control). The general consensus from the audience and panel ties into the theme I raised yesterday in my banking recap: The future is mobile. They also emphasized the brand needs to take a backseat in the application or consumers won’t stay engaged.
One if the most interesting points in the session was the debate over the use of apps for engaging consumers. The general consensus is one most consumer technology marketing people have heard for years “The days of brands doing traditional marketing are gone. They need to engage customers in social dialogue and provide utility, or they won’t have lasting relationship.”
A strong counterargument that was advanced speaks for itself “I like toothpaste, but don’t want to have a two way conversation with it.”
That being said, what Charmin has done with mothers rating bathrooms shows the type of discussions one can have for common household items.
The second panel I attended was hosted by Scott Kirsner and dealt with effective ways to build a cult (or Facebook and Twitter followers…your choice). While there was little earth-shattering about the discussion, it reinforced that building a community usually takes time, it requires constantly refreshed new content and it has to *be* a community. Talking to customers does not draw a crowd. Talking *with* customers draws a crowd. The filmmaker he interviewed advocated letting fans be part of the process. Engage them. They them use your content, have fun with it and create new things. They will help promote your movie (or software) much more if they feel a sense of some ownership. The final important point was that if your content isn’t embeddable, it’s like you are leaving on a roadtrip without any gas.
Finally I attended a session with Peter Molyneux, one of the most influential game designers of the past 30 years. I went both because I have worked with many game companies and because the topic intrigued me – How can videogames speak to the heart? I thought there are lessons that could be applied to public relations and marketing. To my surprise, I think I was the only non-filmmaker or game designer in the room.
The first thing Molyneux said tied back to the first panel on mobile apps and the theme that emerged today. Movies can never engage like games. Movies want flaccid robots. Think about that in terms of traditional public relations or marketing, and now how PR has evolved. By making consumers’ voices heard, knowing they have a stake in your brand, companies can create an emotional connection they could never create through shouting.
So the question is, how are we as public relations professionals working to create that connection every day?
Were there other panels I missed? Let me know what you think about SxSW.
SxSW today for me was all about something near and dear to my heart (and many of my clients) banking and payments. I managed to carve out enough time to attend three banking sessions. The sessions ran the gamut from tips for personal finance to the future of banking and the role of geeks in finance.
There a few lessons any financial services technology company should carve in stone, but these rules also apply to consumer technology and other markets.
Consumers are dead. (or at least dying). They are evolving into active participants. They don’t want to pick from a menu, or be given one choice, they want to be empowered. Smart banks and financial technology companies are empowering consumers and giving them actionable advice and data.
Financial services UI (user interfaces) need a revamp. I know Mint.com has done it, as has my client Fiserv. Both are putting great emphasis on this. I see it as another variation on death by PowerPoint. Having tons of data can be great, but you need quick, actionable intelligence to make the right decision.
At first the second session was being bit too anti-bank. Banks serve a role, and all agree banks are essential. The challenge is many FIs are risking being disintermediated by third-party developers that don’t work with the bank. That’s what all the panelists in the second session we championing, so banks should pay attention and work on innovation within their services and offerings.
Mint.com has been very successful to date, and its executives were featured on two panels. There were a few key points I thought were of interest:
Mint.com built its following by hanging out where the consumers are, rather than creating their own community. They find it more effective. I believe both have their place, but it ties back into the fundamental premise of successful social media engagement – strategy before social.
Mint also does not buy PPC, they have found creating short videos and making them widely available to be most effective. Their consumers prefer that type of activity, and it lets them provide a richer (no pun intended), more detailed experience.
The consensus in multiple panels was the future of banking is mobile. But mobile information is just the first step, financial institutions need to focus on transactional capabilities, as well as advice and counsel. Getting tailored advice on your cell phone is much more valuable. That’s a message every good marketer knows – tailored, relevant and useful information engenders more loyalty.
Consumers need to pay attention as well. According to the speaker in the first session, Ramit Sethi, consumers are fundamentally delusional when it comes to money: 20% of people polled think they will get rich via the lottery and 3% though an insurance settlement.
While yesterday was all about the human network, Day 2 of SxSW was about the evolving financial network. There are a lot of interesting things on the horizon. As a final note, if you haven’t checked out CreditKarma yet, you should. A very interesting site that brings a lot of value to helping consumers improve their credit score.
It’s a good thing I am a morning person and registered early, as this line demonstrates. Many of the folks in the line missed the first sessions. (This is the line to get into the exhibit hall to register)
The first session at SxSW dealt with social media marketing, and while it covered many thing I already knew, there were a number of interesting insights to take from it. One of the points the speakers (Chris Winfield and Tony Adam) made is one I have been making for years – Web 1.0 (forums) still matter. The power of niche social media sites and networks can trump the power of Digg, Facebook and others. You eliminate much of the chaff and keep just the wheat.
Two key things I was reminded of in the session that I thought might be of interest to technology public relations pros:
When trying to find the most popular niche boards, http://rankings.big-boards.com/ is a good place to start.
Being engaged (without spamming) on Yahoo! Answers can also advance thought leadership campaigns.
The second session, with Brian Solis talking about the themes in his new book, Engage, was a great session packed with good advice. A lot of it was a positive reaffirmation of what many companies engaging in social media are already doing, but there were some new ways of thinking about things that he drove home. He seems to have taken the Tipping Point categories and expanded on them to identify the types of people that you tend to interact with on social networks, and how you can impact their hearts and minds. This has some intriguing implications and is with thinking about much more than most people do.
He also reinforced a point from the first session. The networks don’t matter, the channels will change, it’s the human network that we are all a part of that is truly driving and advancing the social media change and the impact it is having on business. Companies that enter the network in the right way can have a significant impact. Those that do not, may do OK, but will never excel.
He also drove home a point Schwartz’s president, Bryan Scanlon, has been making quite a bit recently - listening and talking aren’t enough. You need content to drive the discussion. Every company is now its own CNN, and they need to promote what they do, listen, and interact. They can’t rely on the media to give them pre-made programs (articles) anymore. There is much more to the channel than their ever was and technology, consumer, green, and healthcare PR pros need to pay attention.
Some other elements on which I will expound in more detail in later posts include:
Most social networks are matriarchies
The social compass is a good guide to developing a coherent and effective social media strategy
Social media engagement fails if there is not a human in some way associated with the brand
B2B Tech companies were the first to adopt social media with developer forums. There are benefits many B2B tech companies are overlooking.
Banks and other location based venues should look at foursquare. Now 1500 venues are giving rewards to their mayors and driving traffic and deeper relationships.
Check back tomorrow for more highlights from SxSW.
If you are reading this and at the conference, what were some of the best lessons you learned today?
SxSW starts today, and there will be five days full of panels, discussions and debates of interest to technology and consumer technology companies, social media and public relations professionals. I checked in this morning, and found out SxSW is not really a morning crowd...
I will be live tweeting and blogging regularly from some of the most interesting panels and sessions. What struck me as I was perusing the program is the amount of attention being given to online banking and the future of finance. There are about a half dozen programs on the topic.
So check in at the Crossroads throughout the weekend for my updates and thoughts on this dynamic gathering.
This week's issue of PRWeek describes a holiday Twitter campaign that Schwartz designed and executed for Australian client RetailMeNot.com.
RetailMeNot is an online discount and coupon site. They're a current Schwartz client, but this article focuses on a push made around the 2009 holiday shopping season to reach RetailMeNot's target demographic of women between the ages of 18 and 39 with messages about new merchants, discounts and other offers to help drive website traffic.
Check out PRWeek for a description of Twitter tactics. The result was a 70 percent increase in referral traffic to RetailMeNot.com and continued strong traffic after the conclusion of this particular campaign. Pretty nice for a campaign that lasted just over a month.
He describes how the agency, which serves established and entrepreneurial businesses in industries that include healthcare, technology, cleantech and professional services, performed over the past year and notes that our diversification across industries, lack of reliance of a handful of big clients for revenue, and ability to span social and traditional media at a time when many agencies push one over the other were sources of strength in 2009.
Bryan also answers questions about agency and client PR workloads in 2010 and notes that the recession has forced both ends of the PR team to focus on the highest value activities--those that help bring sales leads, drive website visits and close sales.
Macworld is in full swing and going strong this week in San Francisco (Note: Schwartz does PR for the event, but I am not on the team). It was interesting to see the transformation of Macworld over the years. iPhone apps and mobile technology seemed to be the hottest apps at the show and drew some of the greatest buzz.
In speaking with exhibitors and attendees they report attendance appears to be up this year and the quality was high. About all you can ask for in a trade show.
To me, what really stood out were the range of iPhone apps and the ways in which to improve them. One company I spoke with claimed to have put $500 of IP into a $0.99 iPhone app. This shows that more sophisticated tools are constantly coming to the iPhone. The Hypermac folks were drawing some of the biggest crowds at the show with their batteries that help significantly prolong the life of iPhones, iPods and Macbooks. People were primarily talking about the iPhone. I heard very little about the iPad, but that may well have been the company I kept.
Macworld continues to have a much different vibe than CES. For one thing, you can actually see all the exhibitors. For another, the Macworld exhibitors were quite willing to get into discussions and debates with the Mac faithful. I know I took part in a few debates on topics ranging from PR measurement to open source. It was a vibrant and energized crowd.
The session that intrigued me the most featured Scott Kurtz, the author of one of my favorite Web comics (PVPOnline). He had two of the most telling comments of the show, both of which I paraphrase just a bit below.
1) Keep an open mind for retail channels. By giving away his Webcomics for free, he creates merchandise slaves (my words). It's not always about ad revenue, once you have the eyeballs and engagement, revenue opportunities open up. Just keep looking for them.
2) If newspapers die we are all in trouble - Basically, there will always be a need for hyperlocal coverage and the newspapers for non-urban areas still provide excellent value. He also decried the type of stories the reporters cover today, but that is a different post.
Overall, it was an enjoyable show, with some real diamonds of undiscovered technology. What did you think of the show?
Most technology innovators are eager for positive, on-message media coverage to build their brands, drive sales leads or support other business goals. But unless you're already a tech industry behemoth, getting consistent, repeated media coverage across a variety of publications and channels takes some creativity, a fair amount of knowledge of what makes a good story and a ton of persistence.
When a technology company has before it an opportunity to work with a journalist, blogger or other influential individual, they're going to want to make that interaction as perfect as possible. Right?
You'd think so, but technology companies torpedo their chances of securing media coverage by doing, or by failing to do, some pretty elemental things. These mistakes have nothing to do with faulty communications strategy or going to the wrong journalist with the wrong story. They're more basic and they're pervasive in some companies' PR programs. Maybe the belief that the problems are small makes some people underappreciate their impact, but they kill coverage all the time.
The good news, then, is that they're fully within the tech company's control and doing this stuff right can make a huge difference in PR results. If the PR team detects these problems as they're occurring, they're remiss if they don't point them out, but ultimately only the tech company can fully correct these media relations errors.
1. Fail to provide a spokesperson. Your PR person has possibly just walked through walls to get a journalist to agree to talk with your company's expert. That reporter wants to hear from one of your smart people and if your industry is driven by breaking news, he needs to hear from that person minutes from now. In some cases, we may have the luxury of a couple of hours or days to provide an expert source. In either case, any small to mid-sized tech firm should be able to get an informed spokesperson on the phone quickly.
2. Neglect to prepare for the conversation. Your PR team will give you information about the blogger or journalist before your interview and tell you what she's been covering lately. You want to look at this information before, not during, the conversation. And there's no substitute for spending a little time reading the reporter's recent articles yourself. You'll feel more confident during the interview and be in a good position to give the journalist information that she'll find useful.
3. Miss scheduled briefings. Everyone's busy. Everyone also has a mobile device that allows them to contact their PR team before missing a briefing. Journalists are as stretched as anyone and we have to respect their time. Along those lines, we need to plan ahead to conduct the interview from an area with a decent cell connection and low background noise. Anything else will guarantee that the reporter will get off the phone with us at the earliest possible moment.
4. Respond on your own timetable. Media relations success is largely about being in the right place at the right time. A big part of that is understanding that reporters work on deadlines that are anything but leisurely; we have to conform to deadlines or forfeit coverage. It's hard for everyone involved, but if options are "I'm in the story" and "my competitor is in the story," priorities become a little clearer.
5. Decline to provide photos or graphics. Technology media are increasingly interested in telling stories that have a visual component. Your PR team should work with you to anticipate these needs, but when requests come for something we don't have on hand, know that providing it can mean the difference between coverage and exclusion from the story. Particularly when all that's required is a photo of the new executive, there's no reason for not being able to quickly provide one. Grab your camera and get it done.
6. Refuse to discuss pricing. Everyone who works in the B2B technology industry understands that there's no set price for anything and that stuff tends to be pretty expensive. And you didn't invent volume discounts--journalists understand the concept. So we need to have an answer to the elemental question, "how much does this cost?" Some journalists can't or won't cover our story without being able to say "pricing starts at ...."
7. Talk about confidential material and then ask the reporter not to use it. The #1 rule of media relations is "don't say anything you don't want to see in print." It's unfair to journalists to give them information that you later ask them not to use. They generally don't want to see you get into trouble, but you, in turn, should understand that it's a problem for them to not use material that they consider interesting. Don't put them or yourself into this painful position--if your PR team has asked you not to talk about how that big customer is using your product and about to toss the big vendor out on his ear, don't do it.
8. Decline to discuss competitors. Maybe we truly don't have any, but most tech companies do. We don't need to offer up information about competitors, but if asked, we do need a coherent answer. Your PR team will work with you to think through how to answer this question, but flat-out refusing to address it makes it hard for the reporter to cover you because he needs to be able to place your company, particularly if it's small, into some larger context. Really, we should view questions about competitors as opportunities to talk about who we're challenging.
9. Ask to review the article prior to publication. Some journalists will allow you to take a peek at quotes, but most will not. And protests about having been misquoted in the past aren't that convincing, so the key here is to work with your PR team before the interview to think critically about the messages you want to convey and then take care not to go off on a tangent. Normally if we prepare for conversations and stay focused, we will come out of interviews feeling comfortable, not worried about what we said and how it might have been interpreted.
10. Speak in PowerPoint. Reporters and bloggers don't want a canned presentation--they want information that's tailored for them. Your PR people should tell you that using a PPT for media briefings is generally discouraged. Nothing says "I've had this conversation with all your competitors" like reliance on canned information.
11. Be boring, ramble, speak in monotone or otherwise fail to sell. Your PR team will help you understand what the journalist wants to learn about, how much time she has and what messages you need to deliver. It's then on the spokesperson to seal the deal by offering informed and timely conversation. Spokespeople from most companies should adopt the mindset, because it's nearly always true, that they need the journalist more than the journalist needs them and that the interview is not going to be an intellectual give and take. The spokesperson's job is to inform or educate the journalist and to convince her that this subject is worth her time. Make it interesting or expect to hear from your PR team that the reporter will "keep the information on file."
12. Assume the relationship is personal. Journalists value connections to people at tech companies if and only if those connections yield useful information. Perhaps they included us in an article or two, and that's great, but the challenge is to keep coming back with fresh info. If we cease to provide that, we should expect to be left off the short list of companies to include in stories going forward.
Your PR team, whether they're inside your company or with an agency, should be working to keep you on the straight and narrow in all these areas. You can help your technology company eke out every last bit of media coverage if you understand that these little mistakes can have a significant impact on your coverage.
When it comes to CES in 2010, I am already noticing a dominant theme start to emerge in consumer technology at the show this year. This year isn’t about smaller devices and form factors- it’s all about if you are fat or thin. Size doesn’t seem to matter as much as width.
Fat is beautiful (or in this case metaphorical depth) The hottest tech (by far) the first day of CES was 3D television. Navigating through the Central Hall today was a matter of threading your way through a jam packed crowd hoping to see the TVs in action. A number of consumer technology companies were displaying 3D TVs, but Samsung’s were the most accessible. Seeing sports on them is definitely an interesting (and great) experience. And the glasses look nothing like the ones I wore as a kid…
I was speaking with one of my colleagues (Dara Sklar) about this technology and she believes the true barrier that will potentially slow adoption of the 3D television is going to be the content. The TV manufacturers need to convince the filmmakers and production companies to invest in the new filming and editing equipment. But this is a challenge developers have faced many times before and I am convinced they will address this issue in the coming year.
I definitely see 3D TV as the future, but I am not yet convinced it is as transformative as HDTV was. When you first saw HDTV, the reaction was “Holy Cow!” The crispness was something a consumer had never seen before. Watching a football game in HDTV on a 60” TV makes you cry when you go home to a 32” regular TV. I don’t get that same feeling when I watch 3D TV. People have seen 3D movies before. It is amazing technology, but it is not quite as transformative as HDTV was in my humble opinion. For the end consumer though – it’s all good news.
Thin is in – The other key thing I am seeing is people going for ever thinner TVs, displays, with LG announcing one just 7 mm thick. Other manufacturers are also showcasing their thin formfactor, I love the technology – but as an end consumer, the sharpness, contrast and color depth and the Quad Pixel technology are more compelling features for me.
The other theme I noticed today was the explosion of safe driving technologies. Most focused on hands free technology, but approached the issue from different angles. Some looked at it from a business/fleet owner perspective, while others added parental controls for teenage drivers. All in all, I expect speech technology to become an integral part of car audio systems in the next few years. The most exciting technology I saw was a company that has the technology that enables you to speak and hear text messages (I know that sounds ironic) but I plan to try it out in the next few weeks.
Traffic was down (except in the Central Hall), but many of the exhibitors indicated that quality and the number of meetings they had were up.
What trends did you see? Do you agree with the relative impact of HDTV vs. 3D TV?
Next week the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place in Las Vegas, the venue which vendors debut the latest in the technology gadgets of the future. With so many new products entering the market, inevitably products that utilize older technology slowly reach end-of-life status. Along those lines Smartmoney.com has issued a list of "10 Things Not to Buy" with their predictions for the products where innovation will cease in 2010 and consumers should avoid purchasing in these categories. Next week on the CES show floor I will be very curious to see how vendors with these technologies are positioning (or repositioning) products that fall under these umbrellas.
Given some of Schwartz Communications' work in our growing Green PR practice, a couple of the items from the list that drew my attention include Gas-guzzling cars and Energy inefficient homes. As a consumer PR professional, number 6 on the list, newspaper subscriptions as an obsolete purchase, is disheartening, as I have always felt that sitting down with a cup of coffee and a newspaper is the best way to be thoughtful about the news we read.
Click here to view the full list, see you in Vegas!
While the trade show landscape has changed many times over the decades, with the pendulum swinging from big shows to focused, niche gatherings, there have always been a few shows that remind one of COMDEX in the mid 90s (and have the same unbearably long cab lines).
One of these is CES - the premier consumer technology tradeshow. Schwartz and our clients will be there in force this year. At the end of each day, we plan to highlight some of the most exciting and innovative technologies we encounter on the show floor. If you don't want to wait for the end of the day, we will be tweeting key updates at www.twitter.com/mcclennan.
Xconomy.com, the online publication covering the innovation economy, is hosting a cloud computing forum on Thursday, December 10. Called "Cloud Cubed: Cloud Computing Goes Exponential," the event is at the Microsoft New England R&D Center at 1 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
For full disclosure, Schwartz Communications is an underwriter of the event, and with good reason. Schwartz has helped to raise the profiles of several of the most successful business software and data center software companies.
As a preview to December's event, I made a phone call to Wade Roush, chief correspondent at Xconomy.com. We chatted about the cloud computing "phenomenon" and the strong line up of speakers at the forum. A partial transcript is below, and you can listen to the entire interview by using the audio widget at the very end of this post.
Ross: Wade, I don’t know, obviously through your history in journalism you’ve seen a lot of phenomena in technology. Have you ever seen a phenomenon like cloud computing that has attracted so much attention over the last several months, you know at the same time it seems like no one really knows exactly what it is?
Wade: It is a lot like these other waves of jargon that periodically crash over the IT world, definitely. I mean I think it’s a legitimate question for people to say “Hey wait a minute, is there anything really new here or is this just sort of the latest version of what people were calling, you know ASP, Application Service Providers, in the past.” There have been other words around this idea of outsourcing your computing power and your computing needs to off premises equipment. You know the idea of having somebody else pay for or buy the actual equipment that you need and the storage that you need, rather than having to invest in those things yourself has been around throughout this whole decade. I think the term cloud computing is one that only kind of came together maybe two years ago, 2 and a half years ago, so I think it’s legitimate to ask how real it is and how much hype there is to it and how much substance there is to it. But when you get a bunch of people together all in the same room talking about it the way we’re going to doing in December and they all agree there’s something to this, that it’s more than just hype, that the term actually has some real meaning to it and cloud computing most importantly is really different in some ways from everything that’s gone before. You know I think that’s a sign that people really do need to pay attention and entrepreneurs need to know what cloud computing is really about in order to stay competitive and take advantage of the great capabilities that it does offer.
Ross: What I really like about cloud computing is it’s really a kind of level-headed or common sense approach to IT. What I mean by that is really it is fundamentally about doing more with what you have, maximizing IT resources. The concept is based, to some extent, on virtualization. Do we see this as an approach that is catching on a lot of extent because people are constantly looking to do more with less? Is that a fair assessment?
Wade: Absolutely, obviously in this economy to use those famous words “in this economy” everyone’s looking for ways to reduce their capital expenditures and get more work done with less and virtualization is wonderful because it lets you make full use of the hardware you did invest in rather than buying one server to run one program all day long. You know you’re actually soaking up the excess processing capacity by loading many different programs that might even be running on different operating systems onto the same server. Or you’re yoking servers together so they can act in concert. You really are using your resources to the fullest extent and cloud computing centers, where the actual processing is happening are definitely heavily virtualized, so that’s where the technology comes together with cloud computing.
But what I think what’s great about the cloud is that its not just making better use of you local resources, it’s really about being able to get jobs done without having any local resources at all. You really can off load, depending on what kind of business you’re running, you can off load practically everything you do, to Google or Amazon Web services or one of these other providers. And there are going to be panelists attending the Cubed event, talking about how they do exactly that. One that comes to mind is Pixily, for example, a local company that is in the business of digitizing people’s paper documents and putting them online so that you can basically get all of your tax records, or all of your receipts or all of your medical records together in one place online and throw away the paper versions so that you don’t have to have files and folders and boxes full of stuff anymore. And the only part they do locally is scanning the documents. Everything else happens on the cloud and as such they were able to scale up without having to buy a single space of big iron, which is just amazing if you think about it.
Ross: Right, let’s talk a little bit more about the actual panel itself because I know you were instrumental just in terms of the areas that you cover for Xconomy for identifying a lot of the panelists that comprise the event itself. It looks like there’s a nice mixture of the venture capital community in terms of folks that are monitoring some of the trends as well as some of the cloud services themselves, and also some other technologies that are important for cloud computing to happen in the right way. Maybe just walk us through some of the headliners that are at the event.
Wade: Sure, absolutely. So one of the cool things about, just to brag a little bit about Xconomy in the way that we do business. We are both a media company and an events company and the two things turned out to be very synergistic. As a personal side, I’m one of these people who loves to just report and write and be just heads down, and when I joined Xconomy I was a little bit skeptical about this hybrid model where we do events and write stories was really going to work, but it turns out that the two things are extremely complementary because the stories I’ve been writing about cloud computing or whatever the subject may be, are the stories that bring me in contact with some of the smartest people around town, and then I’m able to reach out and invite those same people to our events.
Every time we have an event I meet more people who I eventually end up writing about. So it’s a virtuous circle here and we are going to be featuring quite a few people at the Cloud Cubed event who have already turned up in the pages of Xconomy in one way or another, so there are folks from the sort of startup end of things, people who are building companies that either provide some variety of cloud service or cloud add-on or companies that are making use of the Web, sorry you said the cloud, like Pixily for the infrastructure of their business. And we’ve got people who represent the really big enterprise end of things. We’ve got companies like Akamai and Microsoft, and of course, given the strength of the Boston area and venture technology investing, we’ve definitely have some folks from that world as well and other parts of the ecosystem so its going to be a great day; a lot of different types of people on one hand debating what the cloud really is. And most importantly what are sort of the nuts and bolts, what’s the situation right now in this day and age with the options available to entrepreneurs who are thinking about how to get on the cloud, what market niches are open to entrepreneurs who are thinking about new cloud services.
Ross: This certainly should make for a great event. Wade Roush, the chief correspondent at Xconomy.com, thanks so much for joining us today.
Wade: My pleasure Ross, thanks so much.
Ross: And the event is called "Cloud Cubed: Cloud Computing Goes Exponential." It’s being hosted and managed by Xconomy.com and it will be at the Microsoft New England R&D Center, 1 Memorial Drive, in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Thursday, December 10 starting at 8:30 in the morning and running till just after noon, 12:30. Thank you all for joining.
To listen to the audio interview, use the widget below:
Last week analyst Sean Corcoran of Forrester Research led off a social media roundtable hosted by Schwartz Communications in our Boston office and moderated by agency vice president John Moran. The roundtable also included three marketers from high tech and healthcare companies who shared their real world experiences implementing social media techniques integrated with their PR programs.
Social media is very real and marketers need to pay attention to it. According to Corcoran, four out of five online Americans now participate in social media each month. While marketers are optimistic about social media, Forrester found that it’s still only a fraction of budgets, with three-quarters of marketers budgeting $100,000 or less to social media marketing annually.
Having said all this, Corcoran cautioned against “Shiny Object Syndrome” when thinking about social media. If you’ve told your agency, “We need a social media program,” without knowing exactly how social media will help you meet your marketing goals, you’ve been infected with Shiny Object Syndrome – the pursuit of social media because it’s the latest marketing buzzword.
Corcoran advised that marketers resist Shiny Object Syndrome and instead assess their needs so they can adopt social media approaches that make sense. He recommended an approach he calls POST:
People – Assess your customers’ social activities
Objectives – Decide what you want to accomplish
Strategy – Plan for how relationships with customers will change as you engage in social media
Technology – Decide which social technologies to use
He also advised that marketers start small with social media and get some successes under their belts before expanding into new areas. At the same time, recognize that social media is a long-term strategy, not a campaign that you can turn on and off.
Andrew Levitt, founder and CEO of HealthTalker, recommended that marketers start with a strategy, not a social media strategy. Set specific goals and objectives. If a community exists where you can join the conversation, then join in, but if not, create your own.
Mary Pietrowski, director of consumer & e-marketing for Hologic, another Schwartz client, showed a great example of building community. Hologic created Voices of Mammosite to educate women about the advantages of partial breast irradiation as a treatment for breast cancer. The videos on the site profile women who’ve survived breast cancer, speaking directly to other women about their experiences. It’s a fascinating site and an award-winning social media program.
Matt Hines, marketing communications manager at CoreSecurity, brought a B2B perspective to the round table. Blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn are all key technologies that have helped CoreSecurity engage with customers and prospects. For instance, he noted that blogs are a great medium when you want to comment about major news in your market, like the acquisition of a competitor, without formally issuing a release.
Click here to download a PDF file of the presentations given by our speakers. Browse through the Schwartz blogs for more ideas about how to use social media in your PR program at www.schwartz-pr.com/blogs.
Let me start out by saying there's no question that social media has a place in technology PR and any company should look to their tech PR agency for social media expertise. We advise all of our clients about social media. Depending on the audience they are trying to reach and the message they would like to promote, we incorporate appropriate social media tactics into our efforts.
A side project I have been working on is to determine how social media PR can stand on its own---What results can one expect from purely social media tactics?
One premise I can investigate fairly easily---but that is not immediately apparent in conversations I have with colleagues---is that social media is driven in a major way by coverage that is written by professional journalists. Consider the launch of Microsoft Windows 7. Not sure what day Microsoft actually made the announcement? One way to find out is to evaluate social media coverage of Microsoft over the past month.
I created the chart below using Radian6, a social media monitoring tool that Schwartz is now using quite regularly. The red line charts, on an ongoing basis, social media coverage of "Microsoft" and "7." Can you guess, based on this chart, when Microsoft issued the press release announcing Windows 7, and saw the corresponding wave of coverage about the new O/S?
The blue line represents social media coverage that included a link, meaning the coverage was inspired by something else that was written. I am making a big assumption that most of those links refer to media coverage. Don't worry, my research is just starting, and I plan to investigate this more thoroughly.
A few things strike me about this graph. The social media coverage that refers to something (presumably coverage by professional journalists) tracks nearly identical to the overall social media coverage for Microsoft. This would suggest a direct link between coverage by journalists and social media placements. Also, you will notice that there was no uptick in social media activity after the Windows 7 launch. Social media coverage continued to track to coverage by journalists. And, in fact, you will see that social media activity has recently significantly tailed off.
If social media is an animal to itself, why didn't social media coverage continue to rise after the news came out? Where's the viral effect?
Again, there's no question social media is important to tech PR. There are campaigns Schwartz has led where social media proved highly effective in creating visibility while contacting journalists proved futile. It depends on what a company is trying to promote and the audience they are trying to reach. At the same time, the process of contacting reporters and getting them to cover news is a fundamental element to any social media program.
This week at the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo, analysts offered some hope to high tech marketers whose budgets have been trimmed during the recession. According to Gartner, the IT market hit bottom in 2009 and will start to slowly climb out of the trough in 2010 with a 3.3% increase in IT spending. However, IT spending won't rebound quickly. Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's global head of research, predicts that the market will not recover to 2008 levels until 2012. Technologies at the top of IT's agenda include cloud services, business intelligence, virtualization and social media.
This is good news for tech marketers caught in the budget squeeze mandated by investors and corporate boards when the recession accelerated. The challenge for marketers now is to position their companies to charge out of the recession in a stronger, more competitive position.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the bottom of the market is the right time to rev up your PR and digital marketing. Why? Because your competitors are also constrained by tight marketing budgets. The company that bets on growth and invests in marketing now will get more attention while the competition is quiet.
Right now PR and digital marketing are all about smart, creative approaches. Here are a few tips:
- Tap into relevant communities rather than investing in building your own. Use tools like Technorati and Radian6 to track social media conversations and figure out where you need to participate.
- Think like a reporter, not a sales person, when you create content for your blog. Attract prospects with useful information that draws inbound links and traffic. Use lots of photos and video, even for technical products.
- Expand your social media circles through blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Turn employees into ambassadors for your company by guiding them to reinforce the corporate brand. Microsoft's advice to thousands of employees who blog about the company: Be smart.
- Recognize the value of "conventional" media. According to the First Amendment Center, traditional media is still the primary news source for 72% of Americans. Traditional media coverage gets widely circulated on social media like Twitter, blogs, even email. It has a huge impact and credibility.
For some interesting examples of investing in marketing during a recession, check out this article by Andrew Razeghi at the Kellogg School of Management: http://tinyurl.com/6562pf.
On Thursday, October 8, Mark W. McClennan, APR, a vice president here at Schwartz, will be speaking at the PRSA Northeast District Conference in Rochester, New York. The session looks at "What Social Media Lessons Can You Learn From Fruitcake, Caves, Coupons, Viruses, Death and Pregnancy?"
One of the interesting divides that is occurring in the social media world is between those that can discuss the theory, and those that have actually researched, developed and executed campaigns. This presentation will showcase some of the campaigns that Schwartz has helped develop and successfully execute for our technology and healthcare clients.
It's not too late to register to attend Mark's session (and 19 other great sessions) by going to www.prsarochester.org. If you are interested in learning more, contact us.
Conventional wisdom is that there is no such thing as overhyping your product, particularly when you are competing against a marketing juggernaut like Apple. Palm definitely followed the CW with the launch of the Palm Pre. The Pre was positioned as the next killer mobile device in the run up to its launch at CES as it was Palm’s first big innovation in the market in years (which I know well as a formerly loyal user of the Treo dinosaur). The marketing hyperbole was almost iPhonian in its fervor and length. You had Roger NcNamee of Elevation Partners, one of the company’s investors, predicting the Pre would cause the death of the iPhone and columnists fawning over the device six months before they even got to try it. The overriding sentiment from this full court launch; it was going to turn around the fortunes of not just one company but two (Palm and its exclusive carrier Sprint).
A funny thing happened on the way to commercial success. The Pre launched, and it is a great device. However, it hasn’t quite been an incredible success or disaster. It has basically been like a typical Cal football season – not a wipeout like Washington (or Motorola) but not legendary like USC (Apple). Unfortunately, everyone expected a Rose Bowl appearance. The marketing machine built expectations so high that the actual results have been labeled a relative failure. With no information forthcoming from Palm on initial Pre sales, a number of analysts have created their own methodologies for measuring volume and claim they are disappointing.
Palm seems to have learned a lesson for their second act with last week’s launch of the Palm Pixi. The Pixi is aimed at a younger more hip crown that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles of the Pre. Rather than rev up the full marketing machine like they did for the Pre, Palm relatively buried the Pixi announcement, putting it out the day before Apple announced to its usual fanfare the latest upgrade to the iPod line. Despite the toned down Pixi launch, it got almost the same tone of coverage as the Pre but the stories lacked a lot of the snarky undertones from the initial batch.
Hyperbole and hype don’t always constitute key cornerstones in a launch. Sometimes pragmatism works well too, even when constructing mobile device launches. Or healthcare reform.
Tomorrow night (9/16), Schwartz will be hosting a NETSEA Event, "Social Media for Social Creatures: How Do Successful Salespeople Use Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook And More To Make Their Numbers."
The focus isn't on public relations, but rather on how sales can use social media to get closer to their customers and prospects and establish deeper, two-way relationships. It will also point out the things sales executives should *not* do.
While most of our readers are in public relations or marketing, if you think this event will be of interest, sign up. If you know a sales executive who might be interested, let them know.
Here at Schwartz, we've been talking quite a bit lately about measuring results of social media programs. Not just programs we've designed for clients, but those of people who we meet at conferences or with whom we're just chatting.
Without a doubt, many companies are thrilled with their involvement in social media. They love the outlet that participating in blogs or forums gives them, they're able to talk with people on Twitter whom they'd likely otherwise miss and they're connecting with patient communities on Facebook. (One client, Digium, gives us a tour of their use of social networking technologies here to gain "customer feedback, suggestions, highly qualified sales leads" and to talk with people in their industry.)
Some, though, are a little disappointed in social media. When I hear that, my first question is always "what did you hope to gain that you're not seeing?" I often wonder whether they're measuring success based on number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans--today's corporate version of a teenage popularity contest. This would be unfortunate because such metrics are nearly irrelevant for many B2B companies.
PR people need to keep in mind the Cheshire Cat's words of wisdom to Alice: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." It's our job to help clients think through exactly what they're trying to achieve and to recommend use of social platforms because they make sense, not because they exist and are free.
Last week I attended a Mass Technology Leadership Council discussion on social media and lead generation. Mark Roberge, HubSpot's VP of sales, led the talk. Toward the end, he turned the group's attention to measuring social media ROI--certainly a topic of interest to a number of people today. (Some great reads are here, here and here.)
Mr. Roberge talked about website visitors and sales leads--reasonably straightforward things to quantify and important metrics for any B2B company. He also talked about "SEO assets" such as inbound links and improved performance in organic search results. Those things take time to build--perhaps a problem is that some companies look for an immediate impact in this department when it may be more reasonable to expect a change in six months' time.
Just guessing, but I bet some of the letdown that a few companies feel stems from their desire to get something for next to nothing--a measurable impact from use of free technology. Certainly using social technologies is free, but so is calling up The Wall Street Journal or "Good Morning America." Anyone can do it--the question in every case is whether you've got anything interesting to say and can articulate it in something like a compelling manner. In any case, it's your PR person's job to figure it out.
Altogether, these things are a great reminder to me that B2B companies using social media--and their PR people--need to be clear in setting objectives and in understanding the likely timeframe for success.
I have had a couple of interesting conversations lately about the word "start-up."
When I first started in Boston high-tech PR at Schwartz, every company I worked with wanted to be a start-up. There was a romantic allure to being two guys in a garage (in fact I once helped a company with a name that was an acronym for "Guys in a Garage"). It represented an innovative spirit related to cultivating an idea and getting it to market.
The dot-com collapse in the late 1990's spoiled the idea of being a start-up. Suddenly the conventional wisdom made a start-up a risky bet. Many clients opted to be called "growing" or "emerging," rather than a start-up. There was just too much negative connotation around the concept.
Based on recent conversations I have had, however, there is building momentum for a re-emergence of the "start-up." Given the attention to new innovations, the entire entrepreneurial community is pointing to the start-up culture as a good thing. This is especially true within the clean tech market, and also within new data center technologies that focus on efficiencies.
I noticed more start-ups-- young and growing companies-- on the trade show floor at VMworld last week.
What has been clear to me from my years in PR and marketing is that there is always room for new ideas that lead to good companies. Whether you call yourself a start-up or something else, in reality, probably is not the point.
Marketers and PR professionals have to be living under a rock if they have not heard about Twitter and its power to connect companies, consumers and anyone that wants to share. It is a way for companies to connect with their customers, it is free business intelligence, it is a brand-building complement, it is a low cost focus group, it is what you make of it.
One of the currencies of Twitter is “Retweeting.” Basically, if you see something you like, agree with, find insightful or interesting, many people pass it along with a RT: (and then the original tweet).
Most of the time this can be good. Although there is such a thing as retweet overload. Sometimes, though it can go a bit too far.
For example, last week, I was a victim of Retweet gone horribly wrong.
Like most disasters it started out simply enough.
I was flying cross country on American Airlines and found out they had in-flight wireless. I immediately purchased it and started doing emails and work for as long as my laptop battery would last. In flight wireless let me get some time sensitive things done and to say I was psyched would be an understatement. This has convinced me to give priority to carriers like American, Virgin America, etc., that offer the service.
A few minutes later I see the following tweet: @GogoInflight And we <3 you too! RT @McClennan: I love gogo inflight internet from American Airlines
Disclosure: GogoInflight and American Airlines are not Schwartz clients, and after this may not be in the future. (Even though I do applaud them for being engaged).
Communications lesson #1: I may be a minority among business travelers, but seeing <3 (heart) struck me as odd and inappropriate. Responding to your customers is great, but make sure you use the same language they do. Emoticons are not part of my daily business vocabulary.
If that was it, this would be an interesting conversation point about the appropriate use of <3s and other emoticons. But, wait, there’s more….
A few minutes later, @AAirwaves (the official twitter channel of American Airlines) retweets @Gogoinflight’s tweet. Spreading the strange emoticon heart-love to its more than 11,000 followers.
Right after that I see another 7-10 retweets from those affiliated with the airline industry (and one golf event). I am sure all their followers were just dying to know that I loved GoGo Inflight. One of them was so moved, they retweeted it four times. Think of how happy their followers were. I bet it filled the cockles of their <3s.
Communication lesson #2: Use your retweet capital wisely. You should share things of interest, but if you share too much, you will drown out your valuable content with meaningless noise. Basically ask yourself – is this retweet adding value?
I assure you, while I value my opinion, if my post influenced anyone in the aviation industry’s purchasing decision, there is a problem there.
My counsel would have been to consider:
1) Direct messaging me to let me know you appreciate my feedback 2) If GoGo wanted to be public, aggregate the “Tweets of Praise” it receives each day and say something along the lines of “75 more people shared how much they like the new service, (custom URL).” If someone very influential does tweet about you, sure, consider a one off “thanks. Glad you like our service.”
Instead, 14,000+ people now received a tweet (or 10) letting them know I love the service.
Communications lesson #3: Doing it right: For an example of an organization that did it right, I can point to PBS. I blogged about it earlier here. In a nutshell, I complained about some of their coverage. They responded with a personalized response “@mcClennan sorry for the delay in replying, but what was your wife unhappy about?” and I have been singing their praises ever since.
In all seriousness, I appreciate the retweet and the response. I am just charging companies to drive for even more strategic communications.
The mobile industry is in a conundrum. Companies from Apple to Blackberry to Nokia to Qualcomm are all pushing to make the mobile phone the ubiquitous computing device, wherever ever you are, whatever you are doing. With the growth of data-capable phones doubling since 2005 and now representing 88% of phones on the market in the US according to CTIA, they are succeeding. We are addicted to Crackberries and forbidden fruit.
But is it healthy? Recent Federal studies have demonstrated that driving while texting is bad for you and anyone near your car. It is even worse than drinking and driving; at least you are trying to concentrate when you are drunk. Excessive texting is even changing the political makeup of State legislatures. New York billionaire and wanna be Governor Tom Golisano threw a fit when New York State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith spent a meeting with Golisano playing with his Blackberry. Golisano consequently convinced several Democratic representatives to switch to the Republican Party. And GigaOM just published a story that warns of the harms to relationships and overall health from being too connected.
Given this growing backlash, how can mobile companies market their products and services without perpetuating the problems of the 24 X 7 man? Do iPods and Blackberries now have to come with labels like cigarettes that warn that too much usage could cause harm? Should phone companies invest in medical and psychological research to convince the public that they understand that further evidence is needed to understand the issues? Are we far from a book called “Thanks for texting?”
In an ultracompetitive industry of huge gizmo launches and Tweets that chronicle the minutia of daily life, the marketing pros in the mobile industry have to figure out how to promote the value and cool factor of their devices. They can’t be seen as driving destructive behavior that is no longer funny or annoying but can kill. Otherwise the cute songs in the iPod ads could go the way of Joe Camel.
While some claim the summer months are a time when business slows down, anyone involved in retailing and consumer PR knows that it is when holiday planning swings into high-gear.
To help companies maximize their social media efforts (particularly around the holiday shopping season), the team at Schwartz Communications will be hosting a Webinar on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. ET.
The Webinar: "Groups, Handles and Widgets—Social Media Best Practices and Case Studies for Online Retailers," will explore how companies can leverage the latest online tools, measurement practices and social networks to maximize their communications impact.
Led by Mark W. McClennan, APR (BillMeLater, CheckFree) and Jason Morris (RetailMeNot, BeatMyPrice), vice presidents in Schwartz’s Consumer Practice Group, attendees will learn social media best practices and be presented with case studies of award-winning social media campaigns that drove business results.
I recently received a news brief from Jane's Defense in my email inbox. The headline intrigued me: "USJFCOM explores network-free warfighting."
I read some more and the tease - “US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) has conducted a comprehensive wargame that, among other things, evaluated the military's ability to fight without networks” - reminded me of something important:
As communications professionals, we are living in an ever increasingly-networked world. Laptops, e-mail, IM, Twitter, IP phones and the Web have replaced the typewriter, letters, faxes, delivery services and press conferences. But what happens if we experience disruption? Blackouts, solar flares, or other events can shut us down for hours or weeks. But most likely the world outside continues moving.
While our challenges would never be as severe as those faced by the U.S. military, we can take lessons from the foresight the military is showing. Many of my financial services clients and I have these discussion as part of our crisis planning during any engagement.
I remember doing a lot of this a decade ago as the Y2K crisis approached. I was one of many communications professions for which New Year’s Eve 2000 was a day of work, not a night of celebration.
Following are three tips to keep in mind.
1) Plan for the worst – You do not need to be a manufacturer, an airline or a healthcare company to have a crisis. Part of your communications planning process should be spent thinking about what are the challenges you may face, and how will you respond to them? You won’t get them all, but if you identify the five most likely issues, you won’t be scrambling to make up responses on the fly.
2) Rehearse – The USJFCOM didn’t just think about these issues. They practiced them. Companies should have crisis drills where they practice their response. This year’s Best of Silver Anvil Award winner, Northern Illinois University, received the Anvil for the work they did during a crisis. They credit the skills of their response to the drills they ran.
3) Make sure “everyone gets the word.” Crisis planning should not be limited to just the communications and public relations department. Give guidelines to everyone and make sure people know where the plans are in case you are unavailable. It’s the little things. How are you going to get the message out, monitor the discussion, change the Web site and keep the company informed?
Schwartz Communications recently sponsored XSITE 2009, which was held last week at Boston University. As an employee at a Boston PR firm and a BU grad, it was great to see a New England-based event focused so squarely on innovation.
Of interest, the show gave equal time to healthcare, cleantech and tech developments within the region. Presenters came from pharmatech, wind and solar energy companies, cloud computing and other technology start-ups, and from the venture capital community.
From my perspective, it was notable that many of the more promising areas are in markets where the United States government is investing. An IBM executive in attendance noted that he's spent almost all of his time over the past few weeks working on proposals for money from the government's stimulus package. Another cleantech executive proclaimed that unless stimulus-related money was approved, her company might no longer be based in the U.S. Given the realities of the venture capital community, the government's money is vital to the emerging growth economy.
One of the most entertaining parts of the day was a keynote address from the well-known inventor Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research & Development Corporation. Kamen delivered a strong message about how innovation is not fostered within our young. His project US First strives to cultivate excitement in technology within young individuals.
Kamen is clever in relating his competition to athletics. To quote Coach Winters in the early 90s movie "The Program": "Yeah, but when was the last time 80,000 people showed up to watch a kid do a ... chemistry experiment?" Kamen challenges that notion. And in recent years he's filled the Georgia Dome for his competitions.
Optimism filled the room. It's somewhat of a cliche around Boston that the enthusiasm found in the steady stream of ideas ultimately propels the region in times of economic uncertainty. The cliche was a reality during XSITE 2009. And it was great to experience it.
Fast Company Founding Editor Bill Taylor is among the exceptional list of presenters and moderators at next week's XSITE 2009 event, which is being held June 24, 2009, at Boston University's School of Management. Schwartz Communications is sponsoring the event, which will focus on innovation happening in New England.
As a preview to XSITE 2009, I interviewed Mr. Taylor to get his thoughts on the local economy and the spirit of innovation in the region. He's a great interview subject, which is not surprising given his many years covering growing companies. Mr. Taylor is also the co-author of Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win.
A partial transcript of the interview is below. You can listen to the entire conversation by using the widget imbedded after the transcription. And if you really like the interview, you should listen to other Schwartz podcast recordings, and you can subscribe to Schwartz's ongoing podcast series.
Ross Levanto: Bill, we’ve been talking in the month of June about the concept of innovation, and in some ways we’re calling this an innovation month. I think it’s kind of interesting that we do this in New England, which has been a pretty good setting throughout the years for innovation, and this continues to be so even during the current economic slump, would you agree with that?
Bill Taylor: Oh, absolutely! What is really important now is less macroeconomic indicators and the innovators' mindset, and for me, we heard a lot about it during the campaign, the mantra of the moment right now is this quip by the great Stanford economist Paul Romer, who famously said, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Basically, we’re all struggling right now to make sense of the economic crisis, to learn lessons that will guide us as we go forward. One of my big worries in general, although I think it’s one of the strong suits of the New England economy, is that there are a lot of people out there learning the wrong lessons. They’re becoming more conservative, more risk averse, they’re choosing to resist innovation rather than embrace it; to me that is a huge mistake. It’s a huge opportunity for innovators, because, as the business environment get’s tougher, meaner, more unforgiving, customers are going to become more selective about who they do business with.
So now more than ever, start ups or companies of any size have to offer a positive alternative to a demoralizing status quo. I think in some sense in terms of the natural optimism and raw animal spirits of innovators, as tough as it is in the big picture, if you can project a presence to the world both in terms of the substance of what you’re doing and the spirit of what you’re doing, this can be a good time to start something new or widen the gap between you and the competition.
Ross Levanto: You know, one thing that we hear a lot about, and certainly I’ve heard a lot about, in my years in this business, and I’m sure you hear it much more often than I do, to the point of it being almost cliché, is the concept of the entrepreneur spirit, and you alluded to it in your answer there; the fact that entrepreneurs certainly are very optimistic about the future, no matter the mountains that face them. The questions for you though, in terms of what you see, in terms of the broader New England economy, are there any bright spots that you’re spotting or watching in terms of the broader economy?
Bill Taylor: Well, I’m not sure in terms of technology sectors, I could do a better job than anyone else in terms of saying, “hey, it’s bioinformatics over here, or new materials over there.” What I do think is the virtue of the New England economy, we sometimes think of it as a weakness, but ultimately is a virtue, is that there is a blend here of both timeless tradition and long standing excellence and that’s the legacy of Harvard, MIT, BU, and all these institutions, with also the start-up entrepreneurial spirit. I think we’ve all as entrepreneurs and as a business culture, gotten tired of the boom and bust cycles that seem to have driven the economy over the last 20 years.
You know, when we had the internet crash back in 2000, there was that funny bumper sticker on the cars driving around Silicon Valley, “Please God, just one more bubble.” Well, I think we’re all kind of tired of sitting around waiting for one more bubble and to some degree being able to blend, and I think New England is a little bit unique in this, being able to blend absolute start-up and innovation fervor with being literally the oldest part of America. In the sense of history and the long time frame, as a business culture I think that may in fact serve us well. We sometimes beat ourselves up, why aren’t we as about hip and crazy and wild Silicon Valley? Maybe this new sensibility, blending the best of the long term with the start-up fervor is the right way to go.
I’m hoping the unique New England entrepreneurial culture will serve us well going forward.
Listen to the entire interview by using this widget:
Last weekend I spent a few days with 140 colleagues and competitors at the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference. From there I went to the Silver Anvil Awards. It was a great time and I learned a number of new things. Most of the topics would bore our loyal readers, but there were a few items that I thought might be of interest.
You can listen to my thoughts on why now is the time to ramp up the PR and marketing investment; how measurement drives results; and learn about a free research and analysis tool by clicking here.
Last weekend I spent a few days with 140 colleagues and competitors at the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference. From there I went to the Silver Anvil Awards. It was a great time and I learned a number of new things. Most of the topics would bore our loyal readers, but there were a few items that I thought might be of interest.
You can listen to my thoughts on why now is the time to ramp up the PR and marketing investment; how measurement drives results; and learn about a free research and analysis tool by clicking here.
With all the headlines saying negative things about the economy, sometimes we forget that innovation is still happening. Schwartz is sponsoring XSITE 2009, an event planned for late June at Boston University.
I interviewed Bob Buderi, editor and founder of Xconomy.com, an online publication that is organizing XSITE 2009. I have posted excerpts from the interview below, and you can listen to the entire interview by using the embedded audio feed at the end of this post.
Ross Levanto: Bob, you know, a lot of folks who have been in the industry for a while, including myself, we look to some of the local organizations including Xconomy.com as kind of like a bright spot, especially given the economic uncertainty and the economic downturn that we’re all kind of struggling through. What do you see, just explain to me a little bit about, what you see just in terms of the role of this event, is it really to serve as kind of this spot of optimism given the economic uncertainty?
Bob Buderi: Absolutely, I mean a spot of optimism and basically to say, you know, people are already working on issues that will bring us out of this mess we’re in. They’re going to make our health better, our, you know, access to information better, our energy use better, all kinds of aspects of our lives and our businesses are going to be improving based on innovations that we want to bring, so we’ve just lined up an incredible array of speakers and companies who are going to come talk about all these sectors. Some of them hidden, relatively hidden, and unknown here in Massachusetts that are driving growth in the economy or that will drive growth.
Ross Levanto: And also giving a chance for some startups that at this point have been in stealth mode to actually launch themselves.
Bob Buderi: We’re going to have a few stealth companies that unveil themselves, and I think we’re going to have a few other surprises or announcements that are made, companies will take the occasion of the event to make about exciting knew things that they’re doing. And of course, kicking it all off, because this is in partnership with Boston University. BU’s president Bob Brown will be delivering the welcome address too.
Ross Levanto: You know, something interesting that we’re doing with those attendees that are signing up by visiting xsite2009.com, we’re asking them their thoughts about the local economy. There was a study that came out last week from the New England Economic Partnership that talked about the fact that it’s quite possible the recession here in Massachusetts is going to outlast the national recession. It certainly brings up thoughts from a lot of folks. Given your editorial role, Bob, from an Xconomy.com perspective, what are your thoughts in general on the Massachusetts economy and ways that we already are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?
Bob Buderi: I don’t have a good sense of comparing it to the recession across the United States. I would be surprised if we lagged the United States. I would be unsuprised if we came out in advance of it. We all felt the tremendous depth of this recession and swiftness with which it fell upon us. I think the pace of innovation is faster now than ever, and I think the recovery will also be faster. I don’t think we’re going to go to full blown dot-com bubble kind of mode or anything like that.
Ross Levanto: It’s probably of a good thing.
Bob Buderi: Yeah, but I think we’re going to see certainly in the next nine months to a year the real fruits of what’s going on and what’s been going on for the last several years and what’s going on now at an accelerated pace with all these companies, to help us recover.
From the embedded application below, you can listen to the entire interview:
Not sure if I am supposed to give props to a competing agency on this space, but the Social Media Press Release (SMPR) invented by Shift Communications a few years back was a novel idea.
Today, the SMPR means different things to different people:
-- Originally, an SMPR meant content organized online so that it is easily digested by the media. Features are presented in bullets; it's easy to click from content to supporting quotes; and graphics and other content are easy to find to support a story.
-- Some services today describe an SMPR as a press release that is formatted and presented so it is easy to share. A newer example is Pitch Engine, where one finds readily available tools for sharing a release on Facebook, posting a release on Twitter, or using other social media platforms.
-- Certain news distribution services, such as PR Newswire or Business Wire, describe a SMPR as a release that is augmented by multimedia content, including videos or pictures, and a release that includes hyperlinks within the body of the release.
-- Some describe an SMPR as any combination of the above.
The reality is that press releases serve a far greater audience than just the press. Anyone who visits the web can end up reading a press release. Furthermore, since press releases are syndicated by distribution services and are often modified slightly and presented on news web sites, they can have significant SEO value.
The topic of the SMPR was front and center this week, mainly because of a webcast produced by Hubspot that noted how old fashioned press releases, without fancy graphics and presented as just plain text-- are more likely to be syndicated than any form of a SMPR. In addition, Hubspot postulated that the old fashioned releases were better for SEO, since links were more likely carried in the syndicated releases.
The report prompted some debate since Hubspot tried to find away to measure an instrument used in PR-- a marketing function that itself is very hard to measure.
Internally here at Schwartz, we have been debating SMPRs, press release distribution services and the role of a press release for some time. Here are a few points related to the conventional wisdom internally and the discussions this week:
-- Adding visuals or videos to a press release makes the press release more attractive to media and any other audience that views it,
-- For companies especially interested in SEO or web traffic, it's a better course to host visuals, video, graphics, etc. on the company's website, and then link back to the website from the press release,
-- Making the release easier to share is important, and the best press rooms today are those that incorporate tools for sharing content right in the press room,
There is no clear-cut guidance on this issue, and we're experimenting with a number of press release distribution options and press release formats here at Schwartz. If you are interested, keep reading this blog or drop me a line (email@example.com).
Newsweek just completed a live interview of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on its Facebook page. In the PR world, we spend a lot of time thinking about the convergence of social and traditional media. This interview marks one of the boldest moves to date by traditional media to bridge these worlds.
This interview also exemplifies the continuing march of consumer technology into the news making process. We’ve all heard about the Twitter reports that were the first wave of “news” from the Mumbai bombings and “Miracle on the Hudson” flight. The iReports from CNN have given virtual media credentials to thousands of citizen journalists and their video phones. Companies post their own news in via YouTube videos and iTunes downloads.
What’s interesting to watch is the way these technologies have moved from the periphery to the epicenter of the news process. It began when new technologies started giving voice to viewers, listeners and readers. Soon a wave of simple consumer friendly applications began turning people into self publishers able to share the news and events that matter to them. Reporters and publications have increasingly adopted such tools to spread the reach of their coverage and to nurture contacts and find ideas for future stories. Newsweek is taking that next step in this process, co-opting a third-party consumer channel for its own news reporting.
Media companies are in innovation mode, trying to come up with new content and attract new audiences while managing costs and headcount. If Newsweek, with its readership of over 2.7 million, can find new readers to engage with via Facebook, then the floodgates will open and consumer technology will move one degree deeper into the inner sanctum of news making.
While Digital Hollywood attendees were the usual thirty-something mix of suits, anecdotes of mobile addicted tweens and toddlers frequently invited laughter and nodding heads throughout numerous panel discussions. The promise of an insatiable appetite for new applications and content led tech vendors and marketers to describe the desires and habits of the newest generation of consumers.
Move over pacifiers, parents are using mobile devices to distract their children. Katharine Linke, director of multi-platform programming at Disney said the channel was surprised at the popularity of its pre-school programming after parents said that they wouldn’t let toddlers play with their $400 phones. Well, they are! Mickey Mouse ClubHouse was watched as much as Hannah Montana on mobile phones and one panelist confessed to using the SpongeBob Tickler for iPhone application to keep his infant happy in the car.
Mobile has been deemed “the 3rd screen”, but it’s the primary and most-loved screen of adolescents. One panelist said his fifteen year-old daughter sends and receives 1,600-2,000 texts a month. Also, unlike the average mobile viewer who watches 25 minutes a day according to FloTV, pre-teens are watching long form content, like movies, on their phones too.
While adolescents might not think twice about downloading a bootleg song or movie, they are also creating an entire new economy by embracing virtual goods. They see value in buying an icon, like an image of a birthday cake, and are happy to pay $1.99 for applications like putting a friends’ photo in a Jonas Brothers’ music video.
Next-gen consumers are less concerned with “owning” content as much as anytime/anywhere access across their many devices. New business models will focus on usage-based activity with clear implications for cloud computing, access control, usage analytics and targeted marketing opportunities.
We like what the XSITE Event represents. Despite the current economic situation, the entrepreneurial spirit in New England lives on. The Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship will spotlight positive developments in the local economy, with speakers representing green technology, biopharma and Web 2.0 markets, academia and goverment.
The Summit’s intimate setting will provide a backdrop for high-impact presentations and unique, interactive sessions. In true entrepreneurial form, XSITE will unveil several stealth-mode companies.
In the coming days, Schwartz will be supporting a number of initiatives to raise visibility for the event, including activity on Twitter--you can follow event developments at @XconomyXSITE (hash tag #xsite09)--and Q&A's with event insiders through this blog.
We agree with the tag line for the event, "The Recovery Starts Here." It is true that the entrepreneurs within the "innovation economy" will play a key role stimulating economic growth and driving it well into the future.
On a more personal note, I am enthused by the venue for the event (Boston University's School of Management). There are many Terriers working at Schwartz Communications.
Creating compelling content for smart consumers was top of mind as Digital Hollywood kicked off with packed sessions, prestigious speakers and conversations that often returned to how to best engage online consumer audiences who are spread out across many, many sites. Everyone agreed that the entertainment industry maxim "content is king" is critical to reaching today’s empowered consumers who pick and choose what they read and watch and for the most part bypass advertisements.
As the role of marketing and public relations increasingly becomes that of content creator, buzz builders can learn from the playbooks of Hollywood marketers. Monday’s session "Strategizing the Campaign; Selling Movies, TV and Video on the Web" revealed tips from top brass at Comcast /Fandango, Microsoft, Fox, Paramount who have kept box office ticket thriving this spring through their creativity, tenacity and innovation
Know your target audience so that you can personalize the online experience to their individual tastes. Survey your customers to determine their interests. You may find some surprising results that can become a part of your online brand experience.
Be experimental, but integrate too. Online allows marketers to try something new and get immediate feedback. Develop your digital marketing strategy in tandem with traditional marketing to create a single multi-faceted campaign.
Budget time and money for "clever" content. Don’t let content be an after thought. Consumers expect free, unique compelling content that intelligently starts a conversation that they can participate in.
Provide depth for online audiences to dig deeper into content, get involved and be "in the know." Make your biggest fans feel special with exclusive content (like WATCHMENS’ multiple trailers and WOLVERINE’s contest for the red carpet premiere) or prizes (swag, anyone?)
iPhone apps are hot - but then you knew that. Fandango had a WAP platform for years, but had little traction until it launched an iPhone app 6 weeks ago with basic functionality to buy tickets on-the-go. Half a million downloads later, consumers are now watching mobile trailers too.
Listen to consumers, and respond - Fast! The beauty of instant online feedback is also a responsibility. Consumer’s told Fandago they wanted to be able to log into their accounts on their iPhones rather than enter credit card info to buy tickets. Fandango listened and built in the functionality within 2 weeks.
Enlist Viral Armies - Every marketing campaign should include an "Alpha Fan Strategy" to engage a Digital Street Team to be your online ambassadors. First you need to get to know your #1 fanboys -- the 10-15% of your audience that wants more than to consume or share content. Give them the tools to create a mash-up, design a T-shirt, build an add-on widget to extend your brand experience.
Don’t Stop the Feed - Keep evaluating engagement measurements to determine what’s working, what’s not and what to do next. Most importantly, keep giving fans more of what they loved, but with innovations. You’ve got their attention - now you need to keep it by getting even more creative.
RSA, one of the biggest IT security shows on the planet, takes place this week in San Francisco.
Given the size of Schwartz Communications' security practice, we are involved in several aspects of the show, and you can follow along through the Security PR blog.
-- Schwartz will have a big Twitter presence. Check out all our Tweets on a special page on the Schwartz home page.
-- Mike Farber, Jen Spark and I will be blogging, plus Jen will be recording interviews from the show floor with industry luminaries. So navigate over to the Schwartz podcasting page for more information.
-- Director John Moran will be hard at work behind the scenes, editing podcast content and posting the interviews so they get out to our subscribers.
Given the temperatures in San Francisco right now are unusually warm, I could say something like "RSA is already heating up." Whether you are at the Moscone Center or following along elsewhere, enjoy the show!
Congratulations to Schwartz and its long-time client partner CheckFree (now Fiserv). We are a finalist in this year’s PRSA Silver Anvil awards, which are pretty much one of the most prestigious awards in the PR industry. The nomination, in the "Marketing Consumer Services Technology" category, highlights our work promoting green living and fighting fraud with online bill payment. This is a testiment to a great client who is committed to research and creative campaigns, and a close, long-term working relationship.
Schwartz and CheckFree (Fiserv) secured more than 1,500 articles and on average the majority of articles contained at least two key messages and/or statistics. Green coverage for the campaigns ranged from key blogs and regional papers to the Sierra Club magazine. Working closely with CheckFree, partner banks and the industry, the company offered various promotions, including an offer to plant a tree for each E-bill activated. This generated more than 125,000 new users and planted that many trees. If you are interested in finding out more, visit ebillplace.
The identity fraud campaign was just as successful, and generated more than 1,000 total articles, blog posts and TV stories. More than 60% of the articles contained at least two of the top messages including paying bills online is safer than mailing them.
A client for ten years, the CheckFree (now Fiserv) and the Schwartz team partnership is no stranger to awards. It's the fourth time in seven years that the CheckFree/Schwartz team is a finalist---and we took home the gold for two of those.
I wonder if we have a Meryl Streep thing going here?
For those of you who may not know Merv, he has been a significant figure in the technology analyst community for many years, first with Giga, and then later Forrester. I first met him when we represented Austin-based Pervasive Software for a number of years shortly after its IPO in the 90s. (Ron Harris was CEO and Rob Adams was the VP of Marketing.) Merv really got our story and had no problems setting us straight on the things we didn't get as we waged war with Oracle and Sybase---both of which were trying to move down into the embedded database market.
Like the best analysts, he never knee-jerked his judgement, and pushed in all the places that hurt with great suggestions for repair.
Anyway, enough memory lane. I encourage you to RSS to Merv's blog and reach out to him. He has a fantastic mind and terrific experience.
And this just in: Merv's BeyeNETWORK channel hits in a week. Stay tuned!
Social networking threats are among the security trends we're expecting to hear more about at Infosec. Once the domain of university students and rock bands, social networks are now unquestionably mainstream (my parents recently joined Facebook; I grimaced at the update that they are now "married"). Today, in many industries, we rely on social networks to DO our jobs rather than AVOID our jobs.
A study done by Trend Micro back in July found nearly one in five employees have visited social networking sites on corporate networks (I'd venture to say its actually a lot higher), making companies vulnerable to a wide variety of cybercrimes, from phishing and spam to virus attacks and identity theft. But as social networks become increasingly valuable productivity tools, many companies are hesitant to go so far as to block them.
The answer is not only a robust security solution that arms a company against cyberattacks, but also an alignment between HR and the CIO that supports policies to require employees to get permission before downloading third-party apps and education that warns them to be careful where they click.
Find us on the show floor at Infosec to talk more about social networking threats!
Creating content can be a daunting task. Blogs, contributed articles and commentary, direct marketing communications to prospects and clients – all of these items can be challenging and time-consuming to create.
A growing number of our security PR clients are finding that the fastest path to generating content on pressing topics is to begin with a podcast. A fifteen minute call with a client executive, a customer company, or a partner can quickly yield the necessary content to fuel multiple areas of the security PR mix, with far less effort than was previously necessary.
A good example of this process in action can be seen in eIQnetworks, a Schwartz client with a deep bench of security and compliance experts. eIQnetworks and the Schwartz PR team have worked together to build a process that maximizes the value of the expert interview. These interviews are conducted as discussions of industry trends, emerging regulations like the HITECH Act or commentary on relevant breaking security news, such as the April 1st trigger date for the Conficker worm.
The process is fast – studios and complex editing suites are no longer necessary to produce polished commentary segments. With minimal time investment from company spokespeople, phone interviews are recorded and then edited by Schwartz to create podcasts segments that can be posted in company blog entries and shared through e-mail marketing pieces. These segments are also rich content resource that can be mined to create contributed articles or commentary.
So next time you have a pressing issue that you’re looking to quickly turn into media coverage and marketing activity, let us be your first interviewer – we’ll use it to generate results across multiple high-impact areas of your security PR program. We look forward to discussing this topic more with you at RSA in a few weeks, as well as Infosecurity Europe.
New Media Age today reports on the imminent launch of Twitter Partners – a new consultancy aiming to "help brands, media companies, and celebrities harness the power of the Twitter ecosystem".
Set up by angel investor and serial entrepreneur Peter Read, and backed by a stellar cast of advisors,the company intends to first offer consultancy services to brands, before rolling out a product set designed to analyse Twitter buzz and help companies engage in conversations.
Twitter Partners is already boasting a roster of big name launch clients, including several major labels and studios, quadplay provider Virgin Media, the Knitting Factory music venue chain, and virtual pop band Gorillaz.
While plenty of PR, marketing and social media agencies are already offering consultancy services to brands wishing to dabble with Twitter, the most important element of the Twitter Partners launch is that Twitter itself has endorsed the company by taking an equity stake.
Indeed, Read tells New Media Age that Twitter is more than happy to refer brands on to his new venture, as the majority of its 30-strong staff is engineering and unable to cope with the current volume of commercial interest.
This endorsement must also give us a hint at Twitter’s future business model. Much speculation so far has pointed to monetisation through banner ads or premium accounts for corporate users, but Twitter Partners suggests that selling metrics and analytics around the service is a much more compelling offering.
As my colleague Ross Levanto pointed out last month, many Twitter users are sceptical about following corporate accounts, so their value to brands is minimal. By learning lessons from much-hyped predecessors Second Life and Facebook, where user experience was quickly compromised by brand saturation, Twitter must realise that quietly tapping into the word-of-mouth aspects of the service will be the key to commercialisation, not thrusting logos upon happy users.
If Twitter Partners can, as it promises, offer the first service to comprehensively monitor Twitter chatter and enable brands to use the service as a viable tool for CRM, focus groups or audience profiling, then it may well be the first to turn a profit from the microblogging explosion.
One of the issues we're expecting to hear a lot about at Infosecurity Europe 2009, Europe's largest security industry trade show, is mobile security. Giving employees the option to work from home is becoming increasingly attractive from both a financial and an environmental perspective, and is often seen as a perk at a time when pay rises and bonuses aren't possible. Furthermore, an estimated 4.5 million new requests for flexible working could flood UK firms today, Computing reported, as new legislation goes into effect that extends the right to request flexible working to all parents with children under the age of 16.
Without taking the necessary security precautions, mobile working could open up a can of worms. A complete mobile security strategy must include the same level of protection that exists in the office, with special consideration given to the increased risk of loss or theft. Full-data encryption to guard against data leakage, a VPN for secure connectivity, a proactive patch management solution and a network access control application are all key technologies businesses must have in palce to secure mobile workers.
Workers' attitudes can also expose businesses to security threats. A study released by Vodafone UK recently and reported on in ComputerWeekly found that nearly half of employees regard their work laptops or mobile devices as their own property once away from the office. Half (49.6%) of employees used their own mobile broadband connection and 29.6% used Wi-Fi with their company mobile device when at home, leaving businesses vulnerable.
At Schwartz London, we're looking forward to seeing what new mobile security solutions companies will be talking about at Infosec.
This morning, I read an interesting post from Glenbrook Partners on innovation in payments. You can read it here.
I agree with the underlying premise, that risk tolerance is a key factor in innovation success. Or as I would put it more simply:
Fortes fortuna adiuvat - Fortune favors the bold
He who dares wins
Schwartz has had the pleasure of representing a number of payments innovators, including Peppercoin, Bill Me Later (now a part of eBay) and CheckFree (now Fiserv) - and the willingness to take risks tempered by experience has always been a part of their corporate culture. These companies deal in conservative industries, yet they show that people with a vision, a solid plan and a willingness to take risks can help shape markets and create new markets.
We are seeing this same kind of daring in many markets today - particularly in green tech and healthcare IT. While I am throwing quotes around - let me share another - the perfect is the enemy of the good.
In public relations and in innovation, risks need to be an integral part of what we do. If companies wait for every nut and bolt to be in place - and never question the processes- they will not move rapidly (if at all) and will miss many great opportunities.
Innovation is the center of creating new market opportunities. Forrester Research is very bullish on New Tech innovations in the coming few years and predict that will be the tech area with the greatest growth. I am lucky to work with innovators every day, both at Schwartz and with my clients. With the state of the economy today - investing time and resources in innovation, regardless of your industry, is still one of the best ways to disrupt markets and drive growth.
Some were disappointed last week when Apple's major iPhone announcement was its 3.0 operating system, which bandaged missing features like copy and paste. However, a closer look revealed an OS that was opened up for developers with 1,000 new APIs, making it much easier for third party developers to create iPhone applications.
Every major blog covered the launch with a nice round-up from Ars Technica here.
The 3.0 OS will result in thousands of new free and pay-for iPhone applications making one of the world's most entertaining devices even more entertaining. No, they won't all be as good as Shazaam or the lightsaber app (my sons love it), but there will be a lot of creative, innovative iPhone add ons for folks to download.
What does this have to do with PR? Well, you can bet that most major corporations will use the iPhone like they use Facebook, launching new applications to market their wares. That means beginning later this year, we will see a major new iPhone application launch per week which will make the world of apps, widgets, plug-ins and toolbars that much noisier.
Last year, to critical acclaim, we conducted the first ever NCAA Social Media College Basketball Bracket Analysis. As a PR firm that deals with high-tech, healthcare and services companies, we live social media every day and have a love of metrics. Therefore, we asked ourselves what if the schools in the Big Dance had to compete based on their social media prowess, not their hoop skills? I mean, forget guard play, or how the Orangemen may have exhausted themselves with an outstanding Big East Tourney, including a 6OT win.
We carefully evaluated the field of 64 and had the teams face off solely on social media skills and came up with a power ranking for each school. We kept the NCAA seeds and let them face off.
You may question - does this really work? Well last year, the NCAA Social Media Power Rankings were one of the few to predict Davidson's tremendous run deep in the tourney - so mock it at your peril.
How was the power ranking determined? It was determined by (# of facebook users in the School network or fan page (whichever was larger)/number of students at school according to Wikipedia). Note: Yes that includes alumni, but they count as fans in the stands cheering on the team. And if the students didn't join their schools network or the groups were hard to find...we considered that they didn't show up for the game. I recorded it all in a handy notebook and used the Microsoft calculator app to do the math.
Is it mathematically perfect? No. But wait to you see our plans for next year! Do we encourage wagering on games or any other activity which may take this as anything other than entertainment - no.
But now on with the results.
The Final Four: Ohio State vs. Memphis and Tennessee vs. University of Michigan
The Final: Ohio State vs. Tennessee
The Champion: Ohio State. (OH-IO)
Surprising upsets: A #1 seed goes down for the first time in the first round with the socially network-active UT-Chattanooga Mocs upsetting the UConn Huskies (As a loyal son of Orange I am happy with this)
Deep in the Dance: For the second year in a row Cornell goes deep in the social media dance, making it to the Sweet Sixteen before being knocked off by Memphis.
Cleveland State also makes it to the Round of 16, until they are eliminated by the Buckeye Buzzsaw.
Other Cinderellas? - The A&M Aggies get to the Elite 8 (more folks active there than at UT) and Michigan makes it to the Final Four as a 10 seed (the first time that has ever happened).
Tags: ncaa, social media
Twenty years ago today, (Sir) Tim Berners-Lee authored "Information Management: A proposal" and set the technology world on fire. Charlie Cooper at c/net has an interesting post on this today.
There are so many cliched ways to discuss this, so I just wanted to make a few points.
This has been one of the most fundamentally transformative innovations in human interaction and in technology in the past 100 years. Retail and communications have changed. Hundreds of thousands of new jobs and new industries were created because of his paper and subsequent work. It wasn't always pretty (I remember Gopher and Mosaic), but that is part of the development cycle.
In the services industry the shifts have been staggering. For financial services, the Web took the ATM revolution and put it into high gear. Fewer consumers than ever visit their banks or speak with their brokers in person. Online banking and bill pay (note: I have a client that offers this service) is now the dominant way consumers interact with their financial institutions. This level of functionality would not have been possible with my 300 baud modem and a dial-up connection 20 years ago.
For consulting companies and other services businesses it has changed the way companies interact with customers, cut down on flights, and most importantly, made the process much more collaborative, shortened cycles and reduced costs. Research, which is the essential underpinning of any strategic consulting assignment (or PR campaign), is more readily available and cheaper than ever before.
Architects, Construction design and management companies and coffee shops have all changed the way they work. We now have a coffee shop in Texas CoffeeGroundz Cafe (@coffeegroundz) that is using Twitter to take orders. As a result, business has doubled.
In the information and technology economy, this type of innovation is occurring all the time. Today I am sure there is something under development that has the potential to be just as transformative. The challenge is finding it and having a mind open enough to apply it to our daily lives and our businesses.
What technologies do you think we will be talking about in 20 years?
This morning CNN.com reported that the credit card industry, a part of the financial services landscape, was going to have a difficult year (like most industries). Charge off rates exceeded 7.7% in December.
The story quotes Bank of America's CEO stating "Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis warned lawmakers at a high-profile Congressional hearing on the government's $700 billion rescue plan that he had no doubts 2009 would be an "awful year" for the credit card industry."
While this is definitely a serious concern for issuing banks and the payments industry, it is also an opportunity. Customer service and clear communications can play a more strategic role in this economic climate and can help the issuers differentiate themselves and capture a competitive advantage.
The media is going to focus on the negatives. The late fees, the rising interest rates and how they negatively impact consumers. Companies have two options.
1) Let those stories appear, realize they will most likely be criticizing the industry as a whole, take the lumps and move on with business as usual - focusing on mitigating risk while still attracting the high-value customer.
2) The other option, and the one I recommend, is to be more aggressive and clear when it comes to consumer education and customer service. Take the long term view and realize in this climate, if you are shown to work well with customers, the ones you have will remain loyal when the market rebounds, and you will attract valuable new users who are frustrated with competitors' policies.
Make sure the media outlets and bloggers have tips from your company on what consumers can do to mitigate late fees and bring interest rates down. Launch a consumer education campaign. Highlight how you are working with consumers to help them pay off their debts. While some consumers will still be negative - the positive comments will also be out there and will spread. Thanks to the longevity of comments and Google search - both will last for years. You want the good ones out there when the economy rebounds.
This lesson can be applied to more than just services companies. By remembering the customer is the brand ambassador and working with them to build a relationship grounded on clear, positive communications - companies will reap the rewards now and the future, regardless of the business climate.
Moderator Josh Martin from Yankee Group asked the speakers to address: How open will wireless and broadband systems be in the future? How will open networks affect digital media, wireless applications and networking companies?
The discussion coalesced around a few major themes: the momentum behind openness, the primacy of the consumer experience and the challenges of developing strong business models. Rich Miner from Google noted that the industry is moving toward openness—the trend has started, putting pressure on all the service providers to jump in--and toward an “all you can eat” approach to bandwidth for consumers. The move to open platforms has created a good opportunity for both entrepreneurs who can develop more innovative applications and for the consumers who use those applications.
Now companies have to figure out how to monetize and embrace openness. The carriers could have opened up their platforms to integrate location but they missed that opportunity. The next opportunity is billing via mobile, said Rich, with the phone as an easy way to put transactions on carrier bills. While the openness genie is out of the bottle, panelists noted that standards may still be the industry’s Achilles heel. With multiple platforms, the challenge for developers continues to be reaching scale that can support a strong business model. Will competitors standardize? Android could fragment like UNIX or come together as a major platform.
The panelists discussed how the industry needs to enable a food chain so that everyone makes money from new applications and evolving business models. Rich Miner noted that Google aims to share revenues from applications with carriers. Jon Phenix from Nokia commented that publishers like ESPN and The New York Times are starting to design properties around mobile. They’re looking to monetize their off deck traffic by integrating mobile into online ad buys, but are not driving substantial revenues yet.
Sarah Fay from Aegis compared the state of mobile advertising to the early day of Internet advertising with those annoying pop-up ads. Marketers need to overcome the feeling that ads are an intrusion and recognize that they can be a pleasing experience for consumers. Rich Miner cautioned that navigating to an ad is a challenge on most mobile phones and you are constrained on what you can display.
Panelists often came back to the theme of addressing consumer needs. “The mobile phone is the most personal device we carry,” said Steve Krom from AT&T. Service providers need to understand consumer needs, provide many choices and develop the right business models.
Back in the 1970’s the owners of Manhattan’s Studio 54 described how they chose their evening’s mix of patrons as “tossing the perfect salad.” In that case the salad consisted of hedonists, disco divas, jet setters, moguls and the occasional lucky resident of an outlying borough. Most were left languishing outside the velvet ropes.
This week's Web Innovators Group gathering at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge was a much more democratic affair. In this case, the salad was tossed with a mix of some 1,000 web and mobile entrepreneurs, VCs, Harvard and M.I.T. B-school students, job seekers, reporters and industry analysts.
Hosted by Venrock’s David Beisel, WebInno provides early-stage startups in the Boston area an opportunity to present to their peers and exchange ideas. The evening was divided into three “Main Dish” DEMO-style presentations in the packed Grand Ballroom. Audience members vote in real time for their favorite presentation via their mobile phones.
Meanwhile, the audience could check out six informal “Side Dish” tabletop presentations in the adjoining suites. The evening also included an interactive session on “Raising Angel Financing 101,” led by James Geshwiler, Managing Director of the CommonAngels.
The dominant theme was collaboration, content and social networking for smart phones like the Apple iPhone and BlackBerry. Here’s a rundown of the main presenters:
TripChill™ – A nifty “mobile travel concierge platform” for the iPhone and other mobile devices from the founders of Skyward Innovations, Inc.. TripChill delivers flight status/gate notifications, and, if your flight is cancelled, offers a range of alternate itineraries. If you are stranded, TripChill delivers local hotel and car service choices within set budget parameters. When you land, TripChill delivers an e-mail welcoming you to your destination, indicating baggage claim logistics and even where you parked your car. Release in beta on the Web in August, coming soon to the iPhone App Store.
Local Motors– The winner of the audience’s popular vote, Local Motors answers the questions: What if…We built the car of your dreams? ... It was green? ...We made it in your town? ...We listened? Founder John B. Rogers, Jr. described his vision of building “really sexy cars that people will want to buy” and clicked on a futuristic vehicle that resembled a snub-nosed Batmobile, complete with De Lorean-style gull-wing doors. Did I mention these are fuel-efficient, “green” vehicles?
Crimson Hexagon –The company name comes from “The Library of Babel,” a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. Based on the work of Harvard Professor Gary King, Crimson Hexagon looks at blogs, Twitter feeds, online communities and identifies, qualifies and quantifies opinions being expressed. It looks especially useful for tracking the success of marketing campaigns, political campaigns and monitoring consumer brands (“buzz tracking”).
CEO Candace Fleming demoed the solution by using Sarah Palin as an example. There in easy-to-read graphs were the peaks of concern about the VP candidates’ “policy knowledge” that tracked directly to her prime time network interviews. Wade Roush at Xconomy recently wrote a good piece on Crimson Hexagon, worth checking out.
The “Side Dish” Presentations ranged from InfoMedMD – a personalized, Health 2.0 medical symptoms checker created by Dr. Joseph Bentivegna – to Pixability, an online service that promises to turn your shaky video footage into a high-quality, Hollywood-style production. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from these companies and am certainly looking forward to the next WebInno meeting in March.
The organization also has started a LinkedIn group, which is worth joining if you haven't already.
Retailing exists for no other reason than to fulfill our holiday wish lists. While the stores are open year round, they only start making money at the start of the holiday shopping season, hence the name “Black Friday.”
So the start of the 2008 holiday shopping season seems as good a time as any to examine where the mobile retailing market is headed.
While the mobile web has received quite a bit of attention over the last year, and will continue to be on the forefront for the foreseeable future, not many people use their mobile phones for ecommerce.
My client Mark Watson, CEO of Volantis, recently pointed out to me that people use their handsets for communicating and social networking, but you don’t often see people shopping on eBay through their mobile phones. That makes sense as eBay is more of a browsing environment and people tend not to browse on their on the small handheld screens.
The handsets are, however, making inroads in the retail sector. Volantis, for one, operates Ubik.com, which enables any business to create a mobile website. That means even the local bookstore or coffee shop can have a site that works on your little LG flip phone as well as on that sleek new iPhone you asked Santa to bring this year.
Mobile Monday was filled with players looking to take retailing and retail advertising to the mobile phone.
Drync, which has its primary purpose as helping people use their mobile device to remember and research wines, has an added benefit of allowing people to purchase wines right then and there. So if you think about a person who is out and tries a wine, they can find out more information then order a few bottles delivered to their home before ever leaving the restaurant.
Ordering products through the mobile phone is great, but imagine getting the same information in the store as you do online. It’s one thing to walk into the Home Depot and pick up a cordless drill. It’s quite another to pick up that drill and then be able to see customer reviews.
Mobegic is working with retailers to help them match their mobile sites with the depth of their fixed Internet sites. The idea is to make it so people can access the same information on their mobile phones as they have at their computer screens. In the store people have more information to use to shop while other shoppers can make purchases even when they are neither in the store nor at their computers. This starts to blend the world of online and offline commerce in a way that has never been possible.
A major advantage of shopping online is the ability to quickly and easily comparison shop. If you think back to the days before the online world we would comparison shop by going from store to store. That worked for expensive items like cameras, cars and furniture, but when it came to smaller items we usually just followed our instinct. Now we can comparison shop for everything, even a gallon of gas.
But what happens if you come across an item in a store and just don’t know if this is a good price? Pongr answers that problem by letting you take a picture of the item and then search for it based on image recognition. Not only can you find the best prices but you can also look for more information on that particular product.
In many ways all of these companies are aimed at the same goal: leveling the retail playing field. They put information into the hands of consumers and let them make the choice as to where, when and how to buy.
What the consumers and retailers do with this new-found freedom and power is what we should be watching for with the next holiday season.
The digital divide has plagued Web 2.0 from the start. Web 2.0 is only possible with two elements: a relatively powerful computer and consistent broadband Internet access. Both cost money, quite a bit for someone struggling to get by and in many cases broadband access may not even be available.
So when the digerati trade pictures on Flickr or log onto Facebook and MySpace to share with friends, they are doing something that entire segments of the population can’t. This gets worse as you move out of the US, where people not only can’t afford a computer, but don’t have an easy way to access the online world.
These populations do, however, have cell phones. Not fancy cell phones with Web access and email, but simple phones that may or may not have a camera, but can certainly handle text messaging.
Which is why I was heartened by companies like SCVNGR and Assured Labor, which focus on delivering information to these devices as well. In fact, Assured Labor CEO David Reich said that the company is specifically aimed at reaching out to people who do not have access to the fixed Web. In a sense, text messaging technology is the key to crossing the digital divide.
Experts predict that even with the current market conditions, smartphone sales will continue to increase this year, as those with the means will make picking up an iPhone or a BlackBerry Storm a necessity.
However, sales of traditional handsets are expected to fall. And it’s not because smart phone sales will cannibalize cheaper handset sales, but because many will simply put off upgrading their phones. In a way this will exacerbate the digital divide, with the “haves” gaining access to the mobile Web while the “have nots” will only have text messaging and maybe some limited, and expensive, browsing.
That’s why I’m heartened to see so many companies including the text-only capabilities as part of their growth strategies.
Last night, I went to the Mass Technology Leadership Council's "Tech Tuesday: Gadgets & Gathering" event. There were 30-40 people there, and what struck me the most was everyone's optimism.
I had great conversations with a number of entrepreneurs who were starting their own companies or looking to expand. The VC I met from WilmerHale was very bullish, particularly when it came to clean tech potential in Massachusetts. The healthcare IT company founders were identifying new needs and are getting a solid reception from hospital networks.
The talk wasn't about "surviving the downturn," layoffs or how tough it is. It was about opportunity, possibility and what is needed to go to the next level.
That's what I believe people need to keep in mind. There are growth opportunities in every market. Let others retrench--if you maintain your optimism, seek out new opportunities and aren't afraid to take risks, opportunities abound. Tech companies know this better than anyone. Don't take counsel of your fears. Be aware of them. Then step past them and move full speed ahead.
Last night I attended my first Mobile Monday. For the uninitiated, Mobile Mondays are held around the world and are opportunities for people working in the mobile industry in any given city to meet with peers, face-to-face. Last night’s meetup focused on showing 10 local startups.
I came away with two overall impressions:
There is a lot of optimism and hope in this industry. Yes, everyone is talking about the recession and tough times ahead, but they’re eagerly developing the next generation of technology.
Apparently the whole world uses the iPhone. Yeah, I know, it’s not true. But the iPhone App. Store has given developers an immediate outlet for their work. Several companies noted proudly that their core application was already being sold there, while it was still under development for other devices. BlackBerry will have an application store too, so hopefully that will help even things out.
The young engineers and business folks showing their best stuff have done some wonderful creative thinking with the existing and emerging mobile infrastructure.
Cadio, for example, is marrying location-based information with contextual targeting to create a solid understanding of movement patterns. The purpose is to create targeted ads that aren’t a nuisance, but actually fit in with people’s lives. Cadio took 2nd place in the mobile category in the MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition last year as Social Sense.
Pongr lets people take pictures of products in a store, then use that picture to find the same items around the web, do research and even find out if the price they’re getting is a good one. This potentially can put a lot of power into the hands of the shopper.
Drync also uses a camera phone, but then goes beyond giving wine enthusiasts a way to save their favorite wines, find out reviews and even buy them on the spot.
SCVNGR is among the most interesting companies I saw, giving companies an platform for developing scavenger hunts. The applications of this are pretty amazing. Colleges and universities area already using this as part of their orientation programs to help students learn their way around campus and to meet other people. Trade shows use it to move people around and drive traffic to certain booths, and the MFA used it for their Assyrian exhibit to engage younger visitors.
Assured Labor also uses location technology, but this matches workers with people who have work to give. What’s interesting here is that it’s based on text messaging, thereby targeting the non-tech savvy portion of the population who use cell phones but may not have PC or Mac-based Web access.
In all I left the meeting pumped and excited to see what other companies are coming down the road.
A recession may be the time we start to see some true innovation in the New England mobile world, if you believe the panelists at the recent New England Mobile Summit.
I attended the summit this past month during Mobile Internet World in Boston. The event was organized by Mark Lowenstein, managing director of Mobile Ecosystem, a former Yankee Group vice president and analyst, and previously vice president of Strategy at Verizon Wireless.
It was interesting to view the mobile marketplace from a regional perspective, and the panelists shared plenty of good news. The New England business ecosystem that supports mobile companies is strong. According to Mark, the region supports about 150 companies in wireless and 170 in related areas, and VCs put more than $1B into Massachusetts companies since 2002.
Plenty of M&A activity has taken place with companies like Nuance making acquisitions. Also, big players like Microsoft, Google and Nokia have opened Boston area offices. Not to mention the successful companies that have spawned startups, like the former Comverse employees who started JumpTap and Airwide Solutions.
That's the history, but what about looking ahead? I was struck by the optimism of the panelists. If you believe them, a recession is the right time to innovate and start a new venture. Randy Battat commented that Airvana was founded and funded during the high tech recession of 2001. Gennady Sirota noted that Starent was formed in the summer of 2001. Large carriers bet on startups during that recession and invested in innovation. Today Airvana generates more than $200M in revenues and Starent employs about 700 people.
The megatrends that speakers pointed to included:
A sea change in the ability to deliver applications and services for mobile phones-The mobile web is growing 500% per month as devices become more capable and carrier plans become more flexible. Devices like the Apple iPhone and Google Android are providing the full web experience. Meanwhile, open source development for mobile handsets will deliver a better end user experience.
Access to faster Internet and video-Seventy percent of consumers don't have access to 3G video connections and the vast majority gain access to the web from simple, low-cost devices. According to CEO Jim Ricotta of Azuki Systems, content providers need to repurpose "glanceable" content that works on low and high quality phones.
Architecture Changes-4G doesn't just mean faster, better and stronger. It also means that the architecture and economics are changing.
FemToCells are hot-Randy Battat commented that data traffic over cellular networks is growing 60-100% per year, in a trend that should continue strongly through the recession. Tatara Systems Chairman E.Y Snowden described FemToCells as "game changing" in their ability to broadly deliver bandwidth to homes, where 70% of mobile services are consumed.
Untapped opportunities? Panelists cited the ability to access contact databases and location
information from mobile web applications. Another opportunity: cloud services like Google Maps that bridge the desktop and mobile worlds.
A few other interesting insights: One panelist cited TeleAtlas as an example of a company that invites consumer feedback to keep its street atlas information up to date. There were also interesting conversations about global differences. For instance, in India, carriers are sharing their networks to reduce costs in a region where $4/month is the typical mobile phone bill. Getting into regional markets requires adapting business and pricing models.
Who will suffer in the recession? With global carrier consolidation, the infrastructure companies are under enormous pressure in spite of $50B in carrier spending. Nortel and Samsung are showing signs of the strain while Erickson, Nokia and Siemens remain stable. Look to see the infrastructure provider landscape redrawn in coming months.
To see some of the interesting comments by panelists during New England Mobile Summit, check out this video on bnetTV.com.
During her recent visit to Schwartz's San Francisco office, noted entrepreneur Sramana Mitra sat down for a fascinating conversation with Miranda Coykendall - check it out here. Sramana shares her thoughts on why VCs are nervous and the industries that are desparate for innovation. She also talks about Om Malik's influence on her decision to become a writer.
In addition to maintaining a popular blog and a regular column in Forbes, Sramana has just published "Entrepreneur Journeys" - the first in a series of books that will explore the world of today's entrepreneur.
I just returned from the Web 2.0 Expo in New York and my head is spinning with all the things I learned and the ideas I'm dying to try out. But what struck me most was Tim O'Reilly's keynote, one he's delivered before, in which he called on the best and brightest working in technology to cast aside silly little viral Facebook applications and focus instead on something important.
He ran through a list, including climate change, income inequity, slavery, energy, etc. and everyone smiled and nodded. Then we all went back to our jobs trying to push viral Facebook applications to test our friends on their knowledge of 80s movies. I did quite well on that quiz, by the way.
“I’ve got to be honest with you,” Christopher Gruber, a vice president who oversees admissions at Davidson College, told me. “I’m not spending a ton of time navigating those student-driven sites. It’s too much to manage. My sense is that the traditional big players, like Princeton Review, are the major sources for online information too, in part because those are the names that parents still recognize. Those are the names that are going to have greater panache, and so those are probably the ones that will be turned to. The ones that we supply information to are the ones that we spend the most time on, filling out surveys for them to make sure that that information is accurate.”
Then, as the story reports, we find out that about 1/8th of the Davidson student population has already submitted content to the site. Good luck Mr. Gruber.
In any case, the reporter eventually asks how this can be a "grass roots" kind of thing when it's lining the pockets of major investors. This is commerce, pure and simple, masquerading as social change.
A week from today, I will be the featured speaker on a national PRSA Teleseminar "Winning Over the Executive Suite: A practical guide to social media campaigns" on September 9 at 3:00 p.m. ET.
I will address how to convince the C-level suite to surrender some control and begin to engage social media. This teleseminar will provide concrete recommendations and case studies highlighting practical initiatives any company can implement to begin to engage social media and secure executive buy-in.
Participants will learn:
Seven tips for securing buy-in from senior management. (Note: I actually give more)
The five most common pitfalls companies make when first starting to engage social media.
Suggestions and recommendations for effective, quantifiable ways to begin conversational public relations.
Real world examples of the good, the bad and the ugly.
There is still time to register here. I have been told my presentation is a must listen event. Even if you can't make it to the call, PRSA is keeping it archived for two weeks.
I will also be speaking on September 11 at the PRSA Northeast District Conference on the topic of Social Media ethics. If you are near Buffalo, it is shaping up to be a great full-day conference, and I hope to see many people there.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending an event featuring Gary Vaynerchuck -- a smart businessman who is changing the wine industry and leveraging social media to do so. He has daily videos where he tastes and evaluates wine, and regularly interacts with fans through every social medium available ... check out his daily videos here.
He has built a strong following -- with people coming to see him from around New England. He managed to pack a room with 200 people and keep us entertained for 90 minutes (and it could have gone longer).
Out of the entire discussion last week, there are three thoughts that I wanted to share with everyone. Specifically, a few of his comments can be applied to social media and public relations in general. I do not think Gary will mind too much, since I am taking the seeds he planted in my mind and growing them into full blown, PR-specific thoughts for you all to taste and evaluate ....
1) The only way to improve your wine palate is to taste wine -- You can read the magazines, watch the movies, read books and visit vineyards; but in the end, what gives you a true appreciation for wine is actually tasting it. The same applies to PR and social media. Theory is essential. You need to have a grounding in the fundamentals ... but in the end you need to execute. You need to practice what you preach. If you aren't engaged -- why not? This leads me to my next point ....
2) The only way to appreciate wine is to stay out of a rut -- try new things. Most people find a few wines and stick to them. They have wine racks full of Yellowtail, Conundrum, Cakebread Chardonnay and Parallel 44. (This gives you an inkling of my tastes). That's great, but it is limiting. Try a new wine frequently. The same applies to PR. It's why a good PR pros are constantly looking for the next new channel, a new approach to doing things. It's a mantra we preach here at Schwartz.
3) Wine is a living thing -- unlike my beloved single malt Scotch, wine can change dramatically from year to year. A wine that was great one year may be horrible (or as Gary says "utter crap") the next year. This holds true for even the best, most proven and time tested wines. Ask any wine connoisseur about 2007 Bordeaux. Too often companies and PR people fall into that trap. It worked last time, we should do it again. As we all know from the financial services commercials -- past performance is not an indicator of future results. Always re-evaluate ... is this likely to work this time? Is there something better I should try? I know my teams ask me that constantly, and as PR pros, we need to be aware of this at all times.
Remember the 80s? I do. Yes, I wore a jacket with the sleeves rolled up and Topsider shoes with no socks. I even had a poster of Max Headroom on my wall (I also had the Coke give-away Max Headroom watch and matching wall clock).
It all seemed so cool then. In fact, there were those people who looked down on you if you didn’t have the latest clothes or listened to the coolest tunes. Now it just seems as silly and frivolous as music with lots of synthesizers (take that Gary Numan!).
That’s the kind of frivolity that I sometimes feel pervades Silicon Valley. They’re always chasing the next trend, looking for the next big thing, riding the wave and thumbing their nose at anyone who doesn’t “get it.”
I keep hearing that the Valley understands Web 2.0 while Boston VCs don’t “get it” and are missing out on some great opportunities. Everyone knows Facebook was founded in a Harvard dorm but ended up in the Valley. I keep hearing a number of companies getting pressure from their VCs to move from Boston to the Valley in order to truly make it.
Yes, Web 2.0 is all the rage now and yes, I do think that a lot of elements from Web 2.0 will change the world. After all, my business cards say “New Media Strategist” on them and I’ve been singing the praises of “user-generated content” and “social networking” for years. But that doesn’t mean that Facebook is the be-all and end-all of the social networking world. In this environment another company can come up and eat its users as fast as it overtook MySpace and as fast as MySpace overtook Friendster.
Honestly, I’m not all that convinced that the value of Web 2.0 lies in the consumer world. Yes, there are a lot of great things you can do as a consumer, but as a company, can you really make money by giving just about everything away for free?
Here in New England, where we tend to favor navy and black, polo shirts and sweaters that can come out of the closet year after year without fear of going out of style, the VCs tend to focus on more stable, if less sexy investments. No, securing a database isn’t sexy, but it is necessary, especially in the enterprise. And you know what? Companies are actually willing to pay money, real money, to have their database secured. Wow, imagine that, a revenue model! Yes, real opportunity is in the enterprise.
The main problem with Web 2.0 is that it takes full advantage of the desktop and Web browsers. Why is that a problem? Because usage is shifting to cell phones and mobile devices. Yes, the iPhone has made it possible to have a small computer in your pocket, but most Web 2.0 companies still look at the desktop as a final destination. In Boston a lot of companies are looking well beyond the desktop. Take Schwartz client Vaultus, which specializes in making enterprise applications work on mobile devices. Or even look at LocaModa, which focuses on display technologies that bring the Web off the desktop.
These companies are well ahead of the curve and focus on the not-so-sexy world of back end technology. No, they’re not on the cover of BusinessWeek yet, but they’ll be written about on the inside pages where it really counts. They’re the companies that are actually leading the way.
I’m sure you’ll hear about similar companies in a few years, when the Valley starts to think they’re sexy and drops millions of dollars into them. Of course, that’s when hearing the name “Facebook” may elicit the same snickers as “Max Headroom.”
One of Schwartz's core competencies is helping entrepreneurial companies use public relations to take on larger competitors and win. Earlier this week, at the Sabre Awards in New York City, the Holmes Report recognized Schwartz for not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.
There is no way to write this without coming across as bragging, but in reality I want to call out the great work of my team and our client.
The Sabre Awards are one of the most prestigious awards in public relations. Winners are selected based their strategic approach to public relations campaigns and measureable results.
This week, Schwartz received a Gold Sabre Award for its work on behalf of Digication, an eight-person technology company that set out to change the way teachers teach and students learn and showcase their portfolios. Using a combination of trade media relations and social media campaigns, in less than a year, Schwartz helped Digication grow from a base of about 10 schools to more than 1,000 schools nationwide.
Digication has a great product and visionary founders (both of which help quite a bit), but it faced a challenge many start-up companies face - it had to take on entrenched competition and win. Working together, Schwartz and Digication did just that.
The same held true at the Sabres. Digication and Schwartz were in a category with Hitachi, Rubbermaid and New York Life -- all much larger companies and well-known brands. Yet in the end, Digication triumphed.
Congratulations to a great company -- Digication -- and a great team for showing that with aggressiveness, focus and a commitment to excellence, public relations can have a quantifiable business impact -- and proving once again the revolutionary power of entrepreneurial companies no matter their size.
I chose to live in Boston, the city didn’t choose me. That is, I wasn’t born here, I have no family ties here, but instead my wife and I moved here out of love for the location, though not for the weather.
The interesting part of this debate is why geography matters at all. Don’t most Web 2.0 companies exist on the premise that geography doesn’t matter? That you can continue to stay in touch with someone on the other side of the world as easily as you can with someone down the street? Sarah's point is that starting a business is difficult and it's better to be surrounded by peolple going through the same experience. If it's easier to start something in the Valley, why not do it?
The Boston Globe's Scott Kirsner has been tackling this question for quite a while, including his very interesting article examining why Facebook went west when it should, by all rights, be a Cambridge-based company.
Facebook went west because East Coast VCs wanted to see an income model and at the time Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t show them one. West Coast VCs were willing to take the chance based only on the energy and the possibilities.
A former client of mine who moved to the Valley in order to take over a consumer-oriented company once commented that Boston is great for the intellectual companies, those that will sell to the government or other enterprises. The brainpower at MIT, Harvard, BU, Brandeis (had to throw my alma mater in that list) and other Boston-area schools makes this a hotbed of intellectual talent.
However, The Hub lacks the energy of the Valley and for those consumer-focused brands that feed on that energy, the Valley is the only place to be.
Who is right? Today it looks like those in the Valley are brilliant. But when I was a kid Wang, Digital Equipment Corp. and Polaroid were at the top of the heap. Today the Wang Towers house a number of small companies, DEC’s offices belong to HP and Polaroid’s Waltham headquarters is about to become condos.
I don’t believe Boston is dead, I believe it’s just in the shadows for a while. These things run in cycles and right now consumer-facing technologies are hot, so the money flows there. Then again, it also takes a lot more money to get a consumer brand off the grounds. Eventually VCs will swing back toward the more conservative investments and Boston will thrive again.
Perhaps the tech economy will truly become global and the geography won’t matter much, but the fact is, innovation will continue.
Peter Shankman gave a wonderful talk at Schwartz this week and he had a lot of interesting things to say about networking, technology and communications, but two pieces caught my attention.
First was an initial concept that everything we predict and know is bulls***. That is, social networking just comprises tools that allow us to do what we should already be doing: meeting, talking and connecting with people. He’s right, of course. But part of that is the concept that prediction is almost impossible. He pointed to Back to the Future Part II as an example, in which everyone in the future (which is closer to today) had a fax machine in every room. Today faxes are passé and inefficient, but in 1985 they were new, exciting and efficient ways to communicate, so it was good comedy to have a future with one even in the bathroom.
Of course, that same movie featured flying cars. So take it for what it is.
His second concept was a future in which everything in our house has an IP address and connects to everything else. Hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and it triggers information that starts a chain reaction. Your coffee maker starts, your news downloads, your kids are awoken by gentle singing of angels….
Frankly, this sounds a lot like the digital version of Doc Brown’s Rube Goldberg-like machine at the beginning of the original Back to the Future that fed the dog and made eggs, but I digress.
He goes on, of course, to the point that getting a plane ticket triggers a Twitter (or twitter-like) note to your friends that you’re about to head to another city, then when you arrive your phone registers your location and tells you about local restaurants you may like as well as people who you may want to meet and where they’re dining.
This utopian ideal sounds great, except I’ve heard it before and we’re supposed to be there by now. I remember hearing about connected refrigerators that read the RFID chips on the food you purchase to tell you when you need more milk or even allow you to run recipes based on what you already have.
You can buy a fridge that is connected, of course, but it’ll cost you a lot more than a very nice not-so-connected fridge just so you can have a built in TV. And besides, the technology isn’t there to tell you that the foil-wrapped leftover chicken has started to grow something usually reserved for the college chemistry lab.
But my real problem with this concept is the digital divide. Having an IP address on every electronic item in your house means you have a house-wide network, probably a wireless network. Connecting with people through electronic devices means these people also have electronic devices and are as connected as you. So basically it restricts you to people of similar socio-economic backgrounds. The digital divide is real, municipal wifi networks have failed to take off, so this kind of technology is not available to everyone. We are isolated enough in how we live our lives, I’m not sure that connecting only with people who have similar technological access is the best way to go.
If we’re going to focus our development efforts anywhere it should be on making sure that those with little or no connectivity get it. Verizon has been great about bringing FIOS to my affluent suburb, but what about less affluent areas? How long will it take for them to get their piece of fiber? Then how long will it take for those people to get on Facebook, Twitter and other communications concepts that may not even exist yet?
It’s great if I can meet and network with people who can move my business forward, but it’s also great to learn from people who have a very different view on life.
This also raises the question about the blurring line between social applications for personal and professional use. I Twitter, I Facebook and I Link In, all for both profesional and personal reasons. Does this mean that these are all legitimate applications for professional use and should not be monitored by security and IT? Or does it mean that companies should restrict access using web filtering technology and other security/resource management measures to ensure no lines are crossed?
I for one think that the business value outweighs the risk in most instances---especially in a relationship-driven profession like PR--but not all companies will agree with that. They will be concerned that the sheer volume of new social applications and the integration and mash up of them, will eventually result in a major privacy or security breach that internal IT cannot manage.
It also raises the question of with whom does the responsibility lie? Should Facebook, Twitter and others provide some baseline security measures to fight phishing or should it be the corporation's repsonsibility to police their people and a consumer's to protect themselves? Is Facebook a public pond (swim at your own risk)? Where is the legal liability?
Thankfully, I feel as though we are still in the early adopter phase of Twitter, Facebook and other Web 2.0 sites and resources, so many of the users have some level of technical/security savvy. Maybe the near-term return on phishes for identity thieves, deviants and hackers will be so low, that they will continue focusing on traditional email phishing and botnets. In any event, this is great fodder for next week's RSA conference where experts like ScanSafe, 8e6, Breach Security, Qualys, CORE Security, Cloudmark and others will gather to tackle the topic of web applications and security.
Want to meet with me at RSA or find out what I'll be doing there? Check out my status on Facebook or Twitter. But if it says I am asking you for personal or profile information, don't believe it for a second.
I pass a sad sight each time I get on 128 South from our Waltham offices: the all-but empty headquarters of the once-proud Massachusetts institution, Polaroid. The sign covering the windows of the large, empty cafeteria proclaim "Polaroid Now," but Polaroid is mostly in the past. When the company announced recently that it would soon stop making its eponymous film, many cried while many others said "they still make that stuff? Why?"
While my title here at Schwartz includes the line "New Media Strategist," I'm a big fan of older technologies. My camera collection includes a number of film cameras including a 1950s era Kodak Retina IIIc and a medium format twin lens reflex with technology dating back to the 1960s.
Each has its own personality and quirks that makes it worth keeping and using. I pulled out my Colorpack II and loaded it with Fuji instant film to take the shot in this post. Yes, Fuji makes instant film and frankly, it's a lot better than the stuff Polaroid was putting out. In fact, the guys at my favorite camera store believe Fuji will probably pick up the rights to the rest of the Polaroid line.
People peg Polaroid's demise to the digital revolution, but it really began with one-hour photo machines. While Polaroid offered a single instant picture, you could take your standard roll of 12, 24 or 36 picture 35mm film into the local Walgreens, get prints back in an hour and still be able to make copies later. A Polaroid offers only one image.
That said, my kids usually want to see their pictures on the back of my digital camera, but they are amazed by the tactile aspect of the Polaroid. The idea of holding a picture in their hands 2 minutes after taking it blows them away. Also, the uniqueness of that image contrasts with the quick-copy culture that digital provides.
Everyone looks to new technology to supercede the old, but that doesn't mean the old is worthless. One morning while drivng to work I heard a WBUR-FM story about a local shop that repairs and sells manual typewriters (I have a few of these around my house as well). The owner was saying how he gets a lot of teens coming in to buy machines that were once on the cutting edge but are now considered stodgy. As a person whose first professional writing job involved pounding on a manual typewriters, there is something nice about hitting keys that make a *WHAP* sound and have a bit of a reaction. Just as with film, when you type on paper you take more care in your work, since you can't erase by just hitting the "backspace" button.
Paul Gillin has been covering the tech industry for over 25 years, leading prominent organizations such as Computerworld and TechTarget. These days he's consulting and maintaining a couple of blogs - one on his own; the other, Tech PR War Stories, is co-hosted with David Strom. Paul is also author of the widely acclaimed book "The New Influencers." Check out this podcast - Paul offers a number of important suggestions on how companies can leverage social media. Here are a few notes:
- There's a giant global conversation going on - and it's likely someone is talking about you - get in the conversation.
- Identify the critical influencers in your market and figure out how to engage them.
- It is possible to measure what's happening - pick a small number of metrics important to you (e.g., comments, links, subscribers).
- Don't be shy - bloggers are likely to write positively about your company.
- The new model of journalism - experts can speak freely and community standards will help screen out and regulate errors.
- PR professionals should be publishers as well as a channel to reach publishers.
- Most importantly, don't be overwhelmed - take it one step at a time - learn something new every day.
Many clients turn to us when they are about to engage with their first analyst firm and ask for recommendations. The questions we in turn ask: "What are you looking for from your firm? Market sizing data for the next round of funding? Lead generation? Feedback on messaging and market strategy?"
Most of the discussion heads down that path about which firm is the perfect fit based on focus, cost, support and what the competition is doing. Is it Gartner? IDC? Burton?
Unfortunately, this where the client vetting process often stops. Companies often assume that all analysts at a firm are the same and that they, the client, will get the same level of service, expertise and support from every analyst at that firm. This is a bad, bad assumption.
Most of the time when we meet with a prospective client, they request a follow-up meeting with the entire proposed team. Why? Because most savvy marketing people realize that a firm's reputation is important, but that in a services business it is all of the people doing work on the team that matter. That is why repeatability is the single most important element in a successful services business. The comfort of knowing that whenever you go to that restaurant or hotel, fly that airline or work with that law firm, that you can expect a close facsimile of good service that you have experienced in the past.
This extends to analyst firms. The best analyst firms have a repeatable service model and have built a solid reputation by servicing a large percentage of their clients well. That said, I am sure that every company has worked with an analyst in the past who didn't meet the standard of the firm's reputation. This is not an indictment of big firms or brand-name firms, but of poor analysts at any size firm. So what do you do?
Every company should ask their PR firm to arrange a briefing request with the analyst that covers their space. During that initial conversation, the company should actually interview the analyst about their professional experience, past coverage areas, planned research for the coming year, how they support their clients and what they consider to be a successful analyst firm/client relationship. During the conversation or (preferably) in-person meeting, they should also get a feel for the personality and work style of the analyst. Is this someone who will be open to our view of the market? That's important. Are they willing to challenge our views at the risk of offending a prospective client? Even more important. "Yes man" analysts lose their credibility quick and with it, any return you may have gotten from that relationship.
At the end of the day, you have to be confident that you will get a return on investment from that relationship because you work hard to get that budget. The firm name and reputation are important, but a dead weight analyst is dead weight no matter which firm they work for and it can seriously impact ROI.
Bottom line? Find what you want in an analyst and then focus on the firm. Weigh firm name and influence as one of many factors in the decision.
The evolution of social media and technology is constantly causing companies and people to try new approaches and tactics to take advantage of and react to technology advancements.
Sometimes this can cause people to head down some very strange and impractical paths. This isn't unusual. It has happened throughout human history.
For example, I am reading a great book on naval warfare in WWI (Castles of Steel by Robert K. Massie). To deal with the new submarine threat, the British Admiralty tried a number of initiatives.
One that has caused me great amusement was allegedly proposed by Admiral Sir Frederick Inglefield. He not only proposed the idea - he received authorization for it.
The idea was to train seagulls to block the lenses of German periscopes with seagull droppings. (Google it if you don't believe me). Eventually the program was dumped. The admiralty tried a number of ideas before they settled on something more practical...depth charges.
There are a number of lessons to be learned here. The most important one for us as PR and marketing practitioners is to keep our eye on the end goal and not get distracted and pursue something tangential.
We need to embrace and respond to changing technologies. Social media is changing the dynamic just as much as submarines did in World War I. But don't panic over new developments. That will only cause you to react in sub-optimal ways. You don't need to use and react to every social media tool that is created.
Clearly define your goals and then figure out the best way to achieve them. Ask yourself about the desired outcome. Determine the level of engagement and ask if it is sustainable in the long run. Otherwise, you may just end up training seagulls.
Every good PR person is an advocate for their client. As I work with clients, I inevitably find that I am caught up in the excitement of bringing their innovation to market. I'm infected by the enthusiasm and determination of my clients. And when my clients run into business reversals, I share their disappointment.
So when I saw a recent article by Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal, I felt compelled to write to him. This article was not about the latest cool gadget. He wrote about the domination of the wireless carriers here in the U.S. and their impact on innovation. He said:
A shortsighted and often just plain stupid federal government has allowed itself to be bullied and fooled by a handful of big wireless phone operators for decades now. And the result has been a mobile phone system that is the direct opposite of the PC model. It severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cellphone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer.
His words struck a chord. I remembered Wildfire Communications, whose technology was one of the very first speech recognition interfaces, launched in 1994. It behaved like a human assistant by forwarding calls, announcing callers and all sorts of nifty and intuitive features for busy people. Guess which major carrier in the U.S. ended up buying that company? Nope, it was Orange, the innovative European provider. And my mobile phone's speech recognition is still less sophisticated than my Wildfire "assistant."
Seven years ago, a client who offers location technology articulated an exciting vision of services like this one. Imagine walking past your favorite store in your local mall and getting a message on your mobile phone telling you they're having a big sale and you get an additional 15 percent off every purchase. As a dedicated sales hound, I'd love to get a message like that (at no charge of course), but I don't get them now. My client had a software platform that would make it happen. So why don't we get messages like this on our phones now? Ask your service provider and I'll ask mine.
In Europe and Asia, consumers use their mobile phones to pay for various goods and services. Not here in the U.S. The list of innovative services that are not available to U.S. consumers is long, although the innovative technology to support them has already been created.
I've been involved in the wireless and telecom market for about 20 years now. I've worked with many clients here at the agency who've come up with fascinating innovations. Too many of those entrepreneurs did not succeed because the U.S. mobile providers have lagged so far behind the rest of the world in adopting innovation. Mossberg is right, it's time the industry changed its ways and opened itself up to true innovation.
It used to puzzle me that periodically the crisis communications part of the job would hit a furious pace around the same time every year. It seemed every few months or so, we would learn of a TV news segment that would question the viability of a technology or cite warnings around the safety of a product. Thankfully, in markets like security, our largest technology practice group, sensationalist, "sky is falling" stories tend to focus on the need for security and not shortcomings of the products.
That aside, I finally put two and two together recently and realized that there is a major driver of crisis communications during these periods. It is commonly known as "Sweeps" and it is the time every year when newscasts jockey for top billing in the Nielsen Ratings System. What does that mean? It means that real news stories about events that are actually happening get replaced by stories about the "Deadly threat of tape dispensers, what you and your family should know and what Scotch is not telling you!"
What is the recipe for a Sweeps month newscast? Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, combined with a dash of sensationalism, a tablespoon of alarmist and a cup of fatalism. Chances are the products covered in Sweeps newscasts pose no new threat or it takes a perfect storm of circumstances for them to pose any danger, but it makes for great TV.
How should companies approach these segments? It depends. Most times you won't be asked for commentary because they are angles that are easy to refute. Journalists are often looking for alarmist sources, not voices of reason. The best thing to do is to have a comment ready for incoming requests from other media outlets and something to offer alarmed customers in the event you get incoming calls. Only in the rarest of circumstances is a company statement or release warranted, which tends to validate story angles as much as refute them.
Of course the most important thing, in any crisis, is to tell the truth. If the story angle is accurate and requires a comment, the most basic recommendation any PR practitioner will provide is to comment in a way that is truthful and gives an accurate impression that the company or industry as a whole is working on the problem.
Sweeps starts November 1. Let the "world is ending" segments begin.
In school, my mother always cautioned me to be responsible and study hard or any infractions would go on my "permanent record." I had visions of a metal vault in a big building where files on everything I did, from getting in a fight with my best friend to my less than stellar performance in Mr. Corr's Spanish class, would dog me through college, my job search and the rest of my life.
The truth is, there now really is a permanent record, and every company and individual has one. What's worse, these records aren't written on paper and stored in a musty vault--they're graven in digital bits and available for everyone to see.
We talked about this at PodCamp 2 - Boston this past weekend. It was a gathering of hundreds of social media experts, public relations practitioners, bloggers, podcasters and videographers to discuss the future of communications and marketing.
The term that was used was a person's (or company's) "digital footprint." It's important to remember that everything we do is recorded, tracked and accessible. Everything anyone says about your company--be it an employee, a competitor, a happy customer or a disgruntled customer--becomes part of the footprint. And unlike footprints in the sand, these digital footprints will not be washed away. They may become fainter, but they are always there for people to see.
I am writing to remind people about this and provide a few steps they can take.
1) Keep track of your footprint. Just like you monitor your bank account and credit report, monitor what is being said about you and your competitors. If you do not have Google Alerts set up for every term of interest to you, set them up today. They are easy to use and free. Don't let others define you.
2) Provide employees with blogging and commenting guidelines. You do not want employees saying something on behalf of the company, or that gets associated with the company, that will dog you for years.
3) Think before you post. The line between personal life and professional is more blurred than ever before and will get even blurrier. Eventually Google Image search will get Facebook photos. Everything you write and post online impacts your personal brand. Be smart.
4) Make your digital footprint work for you. Just like the first day of college, you have a chance to remake yourself in whatever image you want. If you want to be an expert on a topic, start commenting on it. You can build and shape your footprint.
In conclusion, your mother was right. There really is a permanent record on you and your company. Take control of it.
As Schwartz's first (and heaviest) Twitter, I wanted to post briefly on the numbers and what they mean to companies.
To be honest, for the sake of this discussion, it doesn't matter if the numbers are accurate. What matters is there are vibrant and growing networks that are providing new and easy way for the average person to communicate with others.
Twitter is a great tool for PR pros. Using Twitter I have found out
About stories reporters are planning to write
What matters to reporters so I give them the information that really care about
New reporters and mavens
What is being said about my clients by consumers
This is powerful stuff, particularly the last point. This technology directly impacts the consumer and changes the way we interact. With Twitter's search functionality it is easy for people to find and join all kinds of conversations
As a PR practitioner or company, should you tweet on Twitter? Perhaps. You need to make the call yourself (although I am happy to share my opinions). But you must monitor Twitter and the other applications like it (Jaiku, etc).
You don't need to become a power user and active on every social network and communications tool out there. But you should be engaged and you need to monitor them.
It is relatively painless, requires minimal investment (The tools are free, it just takes time) and provides you with potentially valuable insight. These conversations have always been going on. Now there are just more of them and they can have quicker impact.
We need to use every appropriate tool in your repertoire. Your competitors are.