Yes, I do get excited about SNW. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend nine of the last 12 ‘SNWs and it has grown to be a part of my annual plan.
Almost without saying, it has been interesting to be a part of this conference as it has evolved over the last six years. Not long ago press conferences were the daily norm, vendor news was flying across the wires, on- and off-site parties, dinners and comedy shows (it was only about 4 years ago that Sinbad was the evening entertainment – yes, that Sinbad) were all just ‘the norm’ for SNW.
This Spring the shift I’m starting to hear and feel is that social media is starting to take hold at the conference. This feels a bit overdue, and rightfully so, as social media has been engrained in almost every large event for the last two years or longer. Truth be told, there is so much great information created and shared at this conference, it will be interesting to see how much of it will be shared outside of the confines of the Rosen Shingle Creek.
Here are some interesting developments and new additions to this years’ SNW conference that may help you keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening at the conference this spring:
So, cheers to another SNW and lets hope the social media buzz around the event avoids “Storage Smackdown” status from Byte & Switch.
Feel free to follow me around during the show as I’ll be posting live updates whenever something interesting comes my way…@dlarusso15.
At a recent PRSA Tech Talk panel, New York Times technology writers Brad Stone, Claire Cain Miller and editor Damon Darlin had a chance to put on their psychic hats and discuss key technology trends for 2009. If anyone should know, (they do get >150 PR technology pitches per day!) it’s them.
Technology Trends in 2009
1. Proliferation of light-weight applications on social networks and smart phones has created a new wave of creativity from the developers community
2. Migration to cheaper or free substitutes in technology due to the current economic climate, e.g. the popularity of inexpensive netbooks and cloud services
3. New delivery mechanisms of movies to classic (cable) and new technology devices (digital)
4. Overlap of technology into health care and education – especially given the Obama administration’s strong focus on open access
5. Green technology will continue to gain exposure in 2009
6. The news appetite for new Web sites is down unless they are real-world revenue-generating Web sites
What do you think about these trends? Are they obvious? Ground-breaking? Let’s get your thoughts.
I recently listened in on a panel discussion at a PRSA Tech Talk event with New York Times staffers. Tech editor Damon Darlin, Internet reporter Brad Stone and venture capital reporter Claire Cain Miller sat on the panel and discussed their take on the Times’ tech coverage.
Tech coverage at the New York Times has evolved in the last few years, according to Damon. First, there’s no such thing as a 6 p.m. deadline anymore. When a story is edited, it’s ready to be posted. Thus as digital media evolves – getting faster and more crowded – so do journalists’ approach to story gathering. Secondly, readers have come to expect fresh content that still has some depth. If they don’t find it on their favorite news site, you better be sure they’ll go someplace else.
Still, the Times isn’t entirely focused on being the first to publish; albeit reporters will absolutely consider exclusives provided that they’re genuinely exclusives. Brad Stone had an interesting perspective on the paper’s changing role: People are probably going to get their breaking news about a new iPhone app from someplace other than the New York Times, maybe even a wire service or Gizmodo. The Times may use the news as a peg, but only for setting the context for a larger, in-depth story. “Even though The New York Times covers breaking news, we’re becoming more like a magazine in our story-telling style,” Brad said. This is a good thing for us PR folks as we’re looking to secure seminal-type stories for our tech clients.
Funny enough, even these seasoned “techsters” said they have a hard time maintaining the rate of digital consumption that is demanded of them – which makes me feel almost entirely less guilty! Keeping up with Twitter, Techmeme, Facebook, MySpace, RSS feeds, MyYahoo! and so on comes with a heavy time burden. As a result, these reporters say they’re staying in the office more and more, and forgoing out-of-the-office briefings. The opportunity for PR pros is simple: if they won’t come to you, bring a high-level exec to them! According to Damon, they love when a CEO comes to the office to talk about industry trends, and not just their most recent product release.
By the numbers
What? New reporters to pitch?
The New York Times has added four new writers to their technology section over the past year demonstrating its resilience to a shrinking media landscape. Examples include Ashlee Vance’s joining the publication from The Register giving the Times someone who has an aptitude for, and will write about, B2B / enterprise hardware and software stories. Claire Cain Miller’s joining the NY Times last summer from Forbes now gives the publication someone who is dedicated to the venture capital beat, which they’ve not had previously. Jenna Wortham, the most recent addition to the tech team, came from Wired’s Underwire and covers Internet business and lifestyle – namely how people are using the Internet to change the way we live.
Does anyone have experience with these or other New York Times tech reporters that they’d like to share?
If you’re a Sheryl Crow fan like me, you’ll recognize the lyrics from Maybe Angels. But in this economy, B2B marketers and Tech PR pros are dying to believe that IT decision-makers are out there ‘angels of the technology economy’ that they are – ready to be engaged.
And Forrester Research says they are out there. Forrester’s just released study The Social Technographics Of B2B Buyers by Laura Ramos and Oliver Young looks to be a fantastic study on what buyers of technology products are doing with social media. We knew they were out there, I swear. But its been difficult to determine who they are (still is), and what exactly they’ve been doing with social media as it relates to their jobs (now we’ve got the first look). The good news is they are on the whole (77%) engaging with social media, though predominantly as what Forrester calls ‘spectators’. Which is fine. That’s what we do in PR; reach out to target audiences (active or spectator) to foster positive engagements.
Take a look. Laura Ramos gives a nice overview of the study on her blog. Our B2B technology PR clients have done some effective initial forays into social media. Now with greater data to prove the right targets will be there, there’s no time to lose to jump in with both feet.
Some time ago on a blog not so far away there was a posting about the role that borders play in digital influence. The conclusion that I drew was that borders have an extremely limited role to play when undertaking online campaigns.
An outlet’s reach is only as far as it can sustain continuous profitable distribution. In terms of heritage media, it was as far as they could truck newspapers overnight, or as far as a radio or television signal could be broadcast.
The result of this is that the only people that would have access to an outlet is those within its distribution network. This generally meant, within the same city, state or country.
It follows then, that what their audiences wanted to see and hear was what was happening in their communities.
Which lead to the local, state, national and world approach to news that we see today.
Who can blame us? It just makes sense. We work in geographical teams handing off work to in-country teams because they have better knowledge of their publics.
I said knowledge of their publics not knowledge of their geos or regions. Although in the old world these two aligned, in the world of Internet, your publics could be anyone, anywhere, the only commonality is they may want to hear your message.
Widget Company XYZ sells computer widgets globally. It’s customer base is truly global. The company is well regarded and its music playing widgets are popular the world over.
Due to its popularity there are a legion of bloggers, and tweeple that talk about its products the world over.
When customers have questions, they go to the internet and search for a solution and try to look for other people who have the same problem. Do you think they’re only going to try to find bloggers in Australia?
Well it’s not rocket science and I’m no rocket scientist. I think the answer actually lies in creating content aligned, not geography aligned teams. The teams may be geographically dispersed to aid in cultural differences but these virtual teams can be anywhere in the world.
If you are running a campaign to assist a product launch or educate your publics, you should be looking at any and every influencer not just those that are in your geo. Your publics won’t be that limited.
But really, was adapting to a mobile workforce easy when we first started trying to 10 years ago? We start by counselling ourselves, talking to our teams and get the conversation going. We then talk to our clients and get them thinking about these issues. It won’t change overnight because people won’t change overnight, but we have to start talking now.
Tech PR in 2009 and beyond.
A new year. A new American President. A bad recession. There are many reasons why I have been thinking about the future of Tech PR, not just through 2009 but beyond. What is the role PR agencies play in this new world? I am an optimist by nature, and cautious by experience.
What can we expect to see, in the short term and the long? Is PR going to suffer as an industry?
I see seven major trends:
1. Smart companies continue to invest in PR during recessions because this is the time to gain market share, differentiate yourself from your competition, build your brand and protect your reputation. I like the way Craig Barrett put it “You can’t save your way out of recession – you have to invest your way out.”
2. PR agencies who can provide a seamless, integrated approach to tech companies will survive better than tech specialists. This is the time where you need to provide your clients with counsel on different issues, so you need to have a team of people with different backgrounds that you can pull from. Corporate reputation, crisis and issue management, consumer marketing, public affairs, government, and vertical expertise…the list goes on. The agency who can deliver a seamless, holistic mix has a huge competitive advantage (and will prove most useful to clients.)
3. Tech companies need to learn how to better integrate PR and marketing. In a media world that is becoming more complex, fractured; where the difference between earned and paid media is blurry, companies that will develop a strategic, integrated marketing approach (we call it 360) will go beyond mere survival. It’s not about channels; it’s about how you engage with your stakeholders. The Obama campaign is an excellent example. Agencies that can deliver on that will hugely benefit from it (and so will their clients.)
4. Social media is not killing PR agencies; on the contrary. It’s giving us more opportunities. We all read posts about social media killing PR… well, anyone who thinks PR is just calling media doesn’t have a clue about what we actually do. As I mentioned above, the complexity of the environment is only adding square feet (and toys) to our already really fun sand box.
5. Chief Content Officer. Content creation is key. With the media shrinking (every day we hear of layoffs at very prestigious media outlets) creating your own content and distributing it through different channels is critical to the success of building a powerful brand. Is it time for a new position? Chief Content Officer, anyone?
6. The world is flat, yes. But it is also hot and crowded as Thomas Friedman pointed out. Two trends here. Global and Green. Let’s start with global. Clients need PR agencies to work with them on a global basis, but it’s not about “Think Globally, Act Locally” anymore. It’s about idea creation and sharing those ideas globally, efficiently. It’s about understanding the sensibilities of different markets and cultures.
7. Green. As I wrote in my post the opportunity for working with green tech companies is huge. But the skill set needs to go beyond pure tech PR. You need to combine b2b tech with experience in public affairs, energy, government relations and corporate reputation.
PR is here to stay. Paraphrasing Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” song, PR can never die, there’s more to the picture.
my my, hey hey
rock and roll is here to stay
it’s better to burn out
than to fade away
my my, hey hey
hey hey, my my
rock and roll can never die
there’s more to the picture
than meets the eye
hey hey, my my
Here is to a new era of responsibility.
If you haven’t been following this Australian story, it’s a stark reminder on why you cannot deceive people through social media campaigns. And if you get caught telling fibs, please admit it.
Naked recorded a video of an actress who claimed to be trying to find the man of her dreams who had left his jacket in a cafe, and put it on YouTube. It quickly became the most talked about stunt, but for all the wrong reasons. It suffered a backlash from social media commentators who opposed the deception involved in the campaign. Then a second video was produced, and so it went on. The hole was getting bigger by the day. It would only be a matter of time before someone fell in that hole, and that person was Naked’s CEO in Australia, Mat Baxter, who quit last week.
There entire saga moved at such a fast pace and there were plenty of twists along the way – first denials, then admissions, then defence of the stunt and finally more finger pointing. Naked said it was all fun and harmless, but the bottom line is that people don’t enjoy being lied too.
The last straw was when The Australian’s Wish magazine published a full page advertisement from Naked for Witchery naming the journalists and media that had been fooled into writing about the stunt. Ouch! As you can imagine, this didn’t please those journalists.
Whilst the CEO has now moved on, can Witchery recover from this mess? If you check the company’s web site, it’s still trying to turn this situation into a positive (if that is at all possible?), offering customers the opportunity to meet the ‘famous’ model from the YouTube video. Perhaps the named journalists will turn up looking for revenge!
Not quite best practice and further reinforcement that you need specialist advice to play in the social media space.
I have found that corporate communications briefs for technology companies tend to have one thing in common. “Make people see the amazing innovation we have here” they say. Sometimes that innovation is easy to find, sometimes not. The motivation for wanting that innovation brand association however can be murky but often has an undercurrent of ‘we want our brand to be more respected, valued, get us out of commodity positioning’.
So when real commitment to market- and economy-moving innovation comes along, you have to applaud it.
In this economy, you need to scream your sincere appreciation for it, because it shows a commitment to be stronger tomorrow than you are today.
Example: Intel announcing this week a $7B investment over the next two years as they upgrade their facilities for 32nm technology used for the production of new faster, smaller, energy efficient chips. (Note: Intel is a client).
Intel CEO Paul Otellini said it so well this week on NPR. http://tiny.cc/4FLW7 “New technology is what pulls companies in technology out of recession,” he said.
And when asked what feedback he gave President Obama on the stimulus package, he did not hesitate to support plans to spend on much needed infrastructure investments, with the National Science Foundation, quality of classroom infrastructure, and tackling long-overdue problems that technology can solve, like electronic medical records. “My God,” Otellini said. “How long have we talked about that (Health IT)”?
How long indeed.
And just how long have we applauded brands for ‘innovation’ when there was little substance beyond an island in second life?
Intel has set a bar. And the best thing about that bar is if you really listen to what they are saying, they want more companies to meet and beat that bar. A rising tide raises all ships.
Lets not get amnesia about that bar on innovation when things get better, OK? Who else do you see raising the bar? I’d love to applaud them.
It seems Amazon is launching the second version of the Kindle today at 10am. See here for information and watch this link for live blogging at Engadget. I find the Kindle fascinating from a consumer perspective (I’ve been a proud owner for about 2 months now).
It is also, however, a great case study for marketers. Think of how it was launched: rumors, secrecy and hints for months, and then a splashy launch with distinguished authors lining up to endorse. Amazon followed the initial introduction with only the most fleeting and oblique referrences to the product’s success, thereby encouraging speculation as to sales figures, devices shipped, etc.
I also find it interesting that in it’s top-line messaging Amazon refers to the Kindle as a ‘wireless reading device’, not an eBook reader. It sounds both more technically advanced and more user friendly at the same time. It seems this time around Amazon is taking a page from Apple and including an exclusive work from Steven King. It will be interesting to see what else they have in store for us . . .
Over at his Influential Marketing Blog Rohit has posts on what PR people should know about journalists, and vice versa. The information is good and worth reading, but most publicists won’t find any surprises.
But if most publicists know this information, why does it seem as though it’s rarely put into practice? There are, after all, countless posts from publicists offering similar advice, frequent cases of journalists complaining about publicists and even a blog dedicated to exposing the industry’s most thoughtless pitches.
Rohit’s readers offer some explanations, and I encourage everyone to read the comment threads. While I see many culprits (the economic model of PR firms, client pressure and so forth) the first cause is surely this: PR is an industry with absolutely no barrier to entry. Qualifications and training are not a prerequisite for any aspect of the work that we do, nor are they required by (most) clients.
So where do we go from here? PR is still a relatively young industry. It seems likely that, with experience, clients will become increasingly sophisticated in how they provision and evaluate firms. Evolution, however, takes time.
In the short term maybe PR people should get to know something else about journalists: they are exposed to constant feedback. This feedback exposes flaws, raises new ideas, angles and topics to be explored and – when necessary – punishes the most egregious cases of journalistic misconduct. Ultimately feedback refines journalism, making it more dynamic and vital.
Today, publicists are exposed to only a small amount of feedback from journalists. Perhaps it’s time we took a page out the old media playbook and invited more. A few years ago the New York Times created a ‘Public Editor’ or ombudsmen to investigate reader concerns and report their findings; perhaps it’s time PR firms did the same.