Naughty or Nice? State of Tech Brand and PR Implications

Posted by on August 10, 2015 with 0 Comments

Is the tech industry a land of opportunity, a growth engine of our economy; a place where GoodEvilcoders garner huge salaries and entrepreneurs achieve the American Dream?

Or is it is a hyper-aggressive frat party, where arrogant Masters of the Universe throw mad money around and Kool Aid drinkers build stupid things?

Perhaps it is a little of both. Sadly, the second narrative is the one that seems to have taken hold in media coverage these days, especially regarding Silicon Valley.

Those who actually work in the field know that it isn’t so simple. Sure, you have the offenders – we have all heard the stories about bad behavior. But some say that businesses, including tech companies, are doing their best to step up and make a real difference when politicians can’t or won’t (see Frank Bruni’s excellent NY Times op ed The Sunny Side of Greed).

Reputation and brand can be funny things, and very resilient. E.g. Amazon is often portrayed as the enemy of publishers, but this has not seemed to hurt it too badly. Similarly, institutions ranging from the NFL to the American auto industry have had their reputation issues, but still hold a special place in our hearts.

For all the dings to tech, it continues to have an allure; and it is hard to argue against its importance to our economy and the careers of many. Moreover it is growing, as how we define the industry changes.

The Times wrote that As Tech Booms, Workers Turn to Coding for Career Change. I said on this blog that there is Gold in them Thar Apps, and App Developers. David Kirkpatrick of Forbes famously wrote Now, Every Company is a Software Company.

More and more companies are rushing to adopt the tech label, according to another recent NY Times piece. Apparently, businesses and investors see an upside to the being associated with the field.

One thing is for certain. When it comes to image problems, the PR industry is here to help. And if every company is a software and tech company – well, the future looks pretty good for tech PR, I’d say.

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Filed Under: PR, Public Relations, Tech PR, Technology

Posted by on July 30, 2015 with 0 Comments
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One Thing you CAN’T Measure in PR

Posted by on June 22, 2015 with 0 Comments

PR measurement has evolved, with the addition of solutions such as SeeDepth and AirPR.tape-measure-145397_640

The migration of people and content online makes it easier to connect the dots between PR effort and results. And international initiatives such as the Barcelona Principles aim to take a fresh look and improve the craft (see this Cision blog post).

Yet there is one thing that is impossible to measure – and is ignored at our own peril.

There is no technology that can look into the brains of people and know what they are thinking. That might be obvious, but why is it important? Don’t we just care about coverage, website traffic/conversions, i.e. things that can be measured? Should we consider every announcement or pitch that does not produce immediate results a flop?

Direct marketers understand the importance of repetition. They know that you often need to present your message with prospects several times before anything happens.

The recipient may see your ad or email pitch, or direct mailer, once, twice, three times – and not respond. But there is a cumulative effect of these impressions – each one may barely register, but eventually they bubble up from the subconscious into recognition, a sense of familiarity and perhaps even a response or order.

Similarly you may get no reaction to that pitch, that piece of minor news, that big idea.

But then, they bite on the next pitch… or call you… or, you get them on the phone for the first time after all these pitches and they are warm and friendly, like they were expecting the call.

So I tell clients, “Sure we’ll pitch or send that minor news. Don’t expect coverage, but do hope we are gaining mind share that will pay off in the long term.”

This is also the reason why one shot PR programs and pay for performance seem short sighted.

You can’t measure this kind of impression.

(Please note, and this is VERY IMPORTANT – I am not recommending that you carpet bomb reporters, AKA spam them, with the hope that brute force persistence and repetition will pay off.  You will create negative impressions and do the program more harm than good. Always respect their pitch preferences and make sure the info is relevant to their coverage areas.  Moderation and balance are important).

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Filed Under: PR, Uncategorized

Does Intel have a major advantage in tablets?

Posted by on June 3, 2015 with 0 Comments

computerworld.comSo far the tablet market has been pretty much driven by the ARM processor camp, which power the vast majority of devices (including iPads, which have their own derivative). Intel is definitely coming from behind when it comes to mobile as it tries to muscle its way into the market. But it’s made some significant strides over the past year with some big wins including Dell Venue, Asus ZenPhones, rumors of Samsung devices, etc. Many have speculated that Intel doesn’t have a chance when it comes to mobility, but is this in fact the case?

 

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Social Tools Summit Wrap

Posted by on May 15, 2015 with 0 Comments

I attended and really enjoyed the Social Tools Summit in Boston earlier this week. Neal STSummitSchaffer and Brian Mahony produced a great event; kudos to both, and thanks again for inviting me to speak there.

The day was chock full of discussions and helpful information about the many aspects of social media marketing – it covered challenges, best practices, and yes – tools.  If you like social media and tech, as I do, it was like being a kid in a candy store.

An added bonus was that I got the chance to hang out with (and in some cases, meet for the first time) people I knew from my days writing for Maximize Social Business – like Joe Ruiz, Debbie Miller, and of course Neal.

I also met many very nice new people, including Frog’s Leap Winery social wiz Natalie Barnard, who was kind enough to share this photo of the session I moderated.

Although some complain that there are too many tools, and it is hard to understand and navigate all the options, that is exactly why I found the day to be so useful. I learned about new ones, and was able to kick the tires of some that I was curious about during the speed demo portion of the event.

I also jotted down notes of tools that were recommended by speakers.  I list below a few that struck my interest (a more complete list can be found in Alan Belniak’s List.ly post).

  • AhaBooks, AhaAmplifier – Mitchell Levy of THINKAha (and fellow MSB alum) was on my panel; they offer social-media enabled ebooks, and tools to amplify thought leadership.
  • TraackrKatie Paterson was on my panel too, their service is the go-to option when it comes to social influencer relationship management.
  • Oktopost – I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the founder and CEO, Daniel Kushner – Oktopost is a great option for comprehensive B2B social media marketing and management – many of our clients could benefit.
  • SimplyMeasured – Great system for cross-channel analytics; they took one of the top awards there.
  • Here’s a cool hack / feature someone mentioned; you can use Commun.it with Buffer (which I use and love) to curate content and tweet to multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Other tools mentioned in the session:
    • Trendspottr Signal, platform for social listening and curation; I use and love Trendspottr
    • Cyfe – I use this social dashboard, one of the panelists mentioned that it can be used to create content calendars.
    • Meddle.IT enables each employee be a content creator
    • In a similar vein, EveryoneSocial gives your team social media advocacy tools
    • Ditto – Deep learning, discovery of image content
    • Visual content and design tools including Canva, PicMonkey and PostCreator
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Getting in with the New In Crowd: Developers

Posted by on April 23, 2015 with 0 Comments

Many PR and marketing teams target the usual suspects. They launch campaigns to get InCrowdcustomers, recruit employees and channel partners, and cozy up to investors and local communities.

But if you are in tech, there is an increasingly important audience that may be getting short shrift.

The software developer is becoming the linchpin in more and more business plans. Once a minor influencer and cog in IT procurement, they have emerged as a major force that can hold the keys to your market, further adoption of new tech and products and even make or break companies.

Why is the developer suddenly so important? And how can you court this coveted group?

In this series I will try to answer these questions. This first post will discuss the developer imperative, describe some of the challenges, and set the stage for a discussion of the tactics that can help you achieve success.

The Rise of the Software Developer

Perhaps you want to foster adoption of your software and drive grassroots growth in the enterprise. Maybe you want ISVs to add compatible solutions and functionality; this makes yours more useful and the vaunted network effect can be the key to becoming a standard. Or, it could simply be that your product is geared to programmers, and you want to sell to them.

Of course, let’s not forget a primary motivator: recruitment. Many want to promote their companies and technologies as cool for programmers.

In any of these scenarios you will want to find a way to get through and win them over.

Their rising importance can be tied directly to the growing role of software for consumers and businesses. Our lives and work are increasingly organized by apps. The rise of software-driven architectures has played a role.

Open source is growing, lowering costs and promoting standards. Apps, SaaS and the cloud bring code within reach of everyone. SDKs and APIs make it easier to extend functionality and integrate solutions.

In a world in which every business is becoming a software company, software is increasingly the Lingua Franca, and the developer, a hero (see my post: There’s Gold in them Apps – and App Developers).

So What, Really, is New Here?

Of course, marketing to developers is not new. If you’ve worked in tech, you have no doubt heard about the trend – just check out the following headlines:

It is a fair bet that the major vendors have big war chests and teams dedicated to winning over this coveted group. But smaller companies and startups might not know where to start.

With the growing importance of this group, you do need a plan if you don’t have one already.

What Does the Developer Want?

If the rationale is clear, the path to winning their hearts, minds and commitment can be anything but.

Developers are not some monolithic group that you can influence with top down marketing. They can be fiercely independent, or belong to tribes. Many value their affiliations and credentials, and wear their certifications like military stripes and skills like battle scars. They can be mired in legacy tech or early adopters.

Having said that, there are some common threads, and ways to communicate that can help you achieve your goals.

Before you begin, ask the following questions:

  • What types of developers are important?
    • Where do they meet in person and online?
    • Where do they get information?
    • Are there similar adjacent communities?
  • What are their hot buttons? Relevant trends?
  • How can you interest /incentivize them?
    • Why should they care about your company/technology?
  • How can you work with developers to further your goals?

My next post will explore PR campaigns designed to build visibility and reputation with software developers.

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3 Surefire Open Spaces Marketing Tactics

Posted by on March 4, 2015 with 0 Comments

Last month I explained the Open Spaces Marketing concept.  Basically, it is background-21717_1280about getting your customer’s attention by avoiding noise and going where competitors aren’t.

I also shared a tip that should be especially effective for those who work in the tech sector.  It is about communicating clearly and powerfully.  Here is an excerpt:

“… impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.  How can you fill the space? Replace [jargon] with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences…

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.”

In this post, I list two additional tactics.  See below, and visit this page if you’d like to register to learn more about open spaces marketing.

Time your Communications

When considering the timing for a campaign, most seek to avoid bigger noise and find the times when people are more likely to tune in. For example, conventional wisdom says not to issue press releases on a Monday or Friday, unless you are trying to bury your news. Attention tends to trail off on days surrounding the weekend or holidays. Don’t announce your tech product when others (especially Apple) might be stealing thunder with their big news.

The latest technology and research opens the door to a more nuanced approach. Dan Zarrella, an authority on data-driven marketing, has written extensively on this topic. In his book Hierarchy of Contagiousness, he writes about “contra-competitive timing”, essentially an open spaces approach to social media. Zarrella’s research reveals non-intuitive findings such as:

  • Friday at 4pm is the most retweetable time
  • Weekend stories get shared more
  • Blog early for links, on the weekend for comments

There are also tools that claim to help identify the best time to tweet, e.g. see this features list for SocialBro.

Content types and Networks

Good marketers like to tap the latest methods for reaching customers. These days, this often involves using social media, and tempting buyers with informative and entertaining content.

But the most popular social networks can be crowded and noisy places. There’s a herd mentality in marketing, and if something works well, you can be sure that others will quickly jump in. Take visual content, which has become popular in the last few years. Infographics used to be a novel idea; now they are passé; there are so many, and most are not that impressive, making them easier to ignore.

Open spaces marketing means zigging when others zag. It also means keeping your eyes on emerging vehicles, getting good at picking the likely winners, jumping on board and mastering them before the competition does.

This works especially well for brands that want to be edgy, and are interested in early adopters (whether it’s the youth crowd in consumer or business buyers). Newer social networks and content types might not have the mass appeal or audience as the mainstream – but you will be among the first to stake a claim and build audience – one that can grow as the network grows.

What other networks and communications vehicles are emerging?  There’s been some buzz about Ello, an ad-free social network that has a minimalist design and promises not to sell personal data.  The New York Times recently wrote about the rise of messaging apps.

To read about great examples of innovation in content marketing, see the Moz blog.

There you have it – the same idea applied to disparate areas of timing, language and networks. Open spaces marketing can be a versatile and powerful approach – do you have thoughts on other applications?

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Find and Fill Open Spaces to Connect with Customers

Posted by on February 4, 2015 with 0 Comments

While watching my kids play soccer years ago, I often heard the coach yell “Open Spaces! Pass to space!”openspaces

The instructions might not make sense, but on the playing field they were obvious: the coach was imploring the team to pass the ball to an area that was unoccupied by defenders.

Marketers of today can learn a thing or two from this philosophy. For as long as I can remember, companies have been told that they need to find ways to “break through the clutter” and “rise above the noise.” This generally involved brute force – “talking” louder, or more persistently – ideally in combination with clever campaigns.

But today’s hyper-noisy world demands new metaphors and strategies. In a crowded field, it is much better to find an area where there are no defenders. Said another way, instead of trying to compete with the din, and punch your way through, why not find and fill an open space?

There are many practical ways to market to open spaces. The beauty is that you can use these tactics individually, or combine them for even better results.

Please see below for the first tip, and I will share others in my next post.

Communicate Clearly when others are Confusing

Most industries have their own language. Using the acronyms, buzzwords and slang identifies you as a member of the club, an insider who is smart about the business.  It can serve as shorthand and streamline communications. However, jargon run amuck – when used by marketers, who have no actual experience with the product or industry – can be confusing.

For example, the tech world is famous for geek-speak. Just try reading press releases in B2B and IT tech and you will see what I mean – it can be tough to understand what the products actually do, and who benefits, even if you are a techie. This dense landscape of impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.

How can you fill the space? Replace all those “purpose builts”, “scale outs”, “seamlesses” and “end-to-ends” with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences.

It may sound easy but it isn’t – doing this right means knowing what you’re talking about, either from first-hand experience, or by tapping the knowledge of someone who is close to a space and ideally has been a user or implementer of similar solutions.

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.

To learn more about how you can market to open spaces, please visit this page.

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Filed Under: Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media, Technology

Secret to Creativity? Ditch the Phone! Get Bored!

Posted by on January 28, 2015 with 0 Comments

Cell phones have been blamed for everything from frying our brains, to shortening attention spans and making us stupid. But brain-on-mobilenew research shows that the biggest threat may be to our creativity.  It should especially be of interest to people in creative and info-driven fields like marketing, journalism and PR.

The NY Times Op Ed Smartphones Don’t Make us Dumb challenges conventional wisdom:

“…there’s little evidence that attention spans are shrinking…  a significant deterioration would require a retrofitting of other cognitive functions. Mental reorganization at that scale happens over evolutionary time, not because you got a smartphone.”

However, that doesn’t mean the devices can’t pose other challenges – here’s another excerpt:

“Over the last decade, neuroscientists distinguished two systems of attention and associated thought. One is directed outward, as when you scroll through your email or play Candy Crush. The other is directed inward, as when you daydream, plan what you’ll do tomorrow, or reflect on the past. Clearly, most digital activities call for outwardly directed attention. These two modes of attention work like a toggle switch; when one is on, the other is off.”

The article notes the important role of daydreaming in creativity (although there can be downsides, like negative thoughts and distraction).

Similar ground is now being covered in WNYC’s Bored and Brilliant project.  The station’s New Tech City podcaster Manoush Zomorodi began her January 12th show, The Case for Boredom, by pondering:

“Since 2008, when I first got a smartphone – I have never had to be bored. The phone has invaded every moment of my life.  Am I missing out on something by not being bored anymore?”

Over fifteen minutes, she interviews researchers in fields of mind wandering and boredom (who knew there were such specialties?!!). One said “creativity and daydreaming are peas in a pod,” and another complained that the phone is “like an annoying detachable limb.”

The WNYC project challenges us to rethink the relationship with our phones and get more creative.  You can participate by signing up here, and downloading an app that helps you track the time you spend on your phone.

 

 

 

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Fusion’s Favorite Mobile Apps of 2014

Posted by on January 8, 2015 with 0 Comments

We surveyed our team about their mobile app use, asking everyone to pick their top three (intentionally excludingphone_apps400 client apps from consideration).

It was a fun exercise, as there was much variety in the answers (no one picked the same ones, in fact there was very little overlap) and I learned about a few new apps in the process.

I also learned about new uses for existing apps, and more about the interests of some of our team members. Some were surprising – I did not know that Nicole is a sports nut, Annie loves podcasts, and Mark wakes up with a different ring tone every day!

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Several listed WhatsApp
  • Unsurprisingly, some of the L.A. team’s choices relate to auto navigation (Waze, Google Maps)
  • Other apps were for navigating issues in daily life, e.g. a restaurant/bar tab splitter, food delivery app and Bible verses
  • Quite a few related to media: e.g. Flipboard, Spotify (who knew that you can use it to learn a new language?), Zedge, SoundHound, and Shazam.
  • Many of the apps were for communications, social media and food/entertainment/travel

Please see below for the responses from some of the team members:

Annie

  • Waze is my lifeline for getting through tricky L.A. traffic during rush hour
  • Stitcher has all of my favorite podcasts to keep me entertained (and sane) while maneuvering through LA traffic
  • Postmates, a great food delivery app

Sara

  • Flipboard is my go-to news source
  • Tab is a great to help with splitting the bill between friends
  • Spotify stores my favorite albums, artists and songs plus you can learn a new language or choose a playlist depending on your mood.

Mark

  • Zedge lets me download a ton of ringtones so I can wake up to a different song every day
  • Timehop shows me what I posted on Facebook on this date for the past five years. It’s fun to revisit my recent past
  • Soundhound and Shazam – when I hear a song that interests me, I open one of these apps and hold my phone up in the air… ten seconds later, I know what song it is, who it’s by – and sometimes even how bad the lyrics are.

Fehmida

  • Google Maps: Probably the one and only app I would be completely lost without
  • Snapchat: a fun and easy way for me to stay in touch with friends and family… it also helps perfect my caption and finger drawing skills.
  • WhatsApp: I use this app exclusively for group conversations; it is a great platform when making plans.

Nicole

  • The Bible app provides a daily verse, it is a great, positive way to start my day and gets some motivation going
  • Bleacher Report notifies me whenever there’s news about all the sports teams I follow and my favorite players… it incorporates social media buzz about topics related to these teams and players as well.
  • Echofon is a lot better than the Twitter app for Droid… It syncs with the Echofon app for Mac

Laura

  • Waze: I’m not sure I could handle Los Angeles driving without this app that I use at least twice a day every single day.
  • Yelp: Since I moved to a new city, I haven’t had a bad meal or service experience, and it’s all because of this app!
  • Mobile Banking Apps: I can deposit checks, transfer money, and pay my bills from wherever I am

Bob

  • Facebook, Twitter and then a tie between LinkedIn and Evernote (the latter for note taking).
  • Buffer App for scheduling Tweets

Chris

  • Google Wallet
  • White Noise – Perfect for travelers
  • Google Voice

Ross

  • Spotify
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Fantasy Football (5 months out of the year)

Nirav

  • Instagram
  • Newsstand – WSJ App
  • WhatsApp
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Filed Under: Fusion Culture