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There are many differing opinions on the value of citizen journalists, and often they can be negative. But no matter what your own personal opinion may be, I think we all have to agree there is a place for it. The recent Mumbai terrorist attacks, the Hudson plane crash or the events that have unfolded in Tehran are all good examples.  

In an interesting move, TechCrunch has just reported that You Tube launched a new channel called Reporters’ Center  over the weekend. The goal is to educate us on how to be better citizen journalists.  A number of journalists and media experts will share instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting. Media training is a better way of describing it.

So far, 34 videos have been posted including video from CBS News’ Katie Couric and Washington Post’s Bob Woodward. That is a pretty good start.  

It also shows that real journalists DO embrace citizen journalists, which is great to see. I know from comments here in Australia, a lot of journalists have been very negative. Their reasons vary, but largely it’s either because they feel threatened, or they just like to bag the quality of it. On the latter, they often have a case, but really there is no real threat here. There is always a place for quality journalism and I think citizen journalists now provide a new source for stories, with several major events breaking first from video or a tweet.

I think this will be a great training resource, and if it means the quality of citizen journalism will improve, that has to be a good thing right?

I guess there will be some journalist’s that will still trash it, but if they do, at least they now have a chance to improve it. Like Katie and Bob, they can simply jump in front of a camera and share their tips with the rest of us. We shall see.


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Tips on selling technology to the federal government

Tips on selling technology to the federal government

We (Ogilvy PR’s tech practice) often hear from business to business technology marketers and tech PR professionals looking for a better understanding of Government – selling to it, benefiting from stimulus spending, and how the regulatory environment may evolve. I want to share a great piece that our Ogilvy Government Relations team has developed. Having access to thinking like this is one of the things I love about working at a full-service firm that knows tech PR but thinks far beyond. 

For any of you with an interest in marketing products and services to the federal government, please take a look at these tips on how to build a stable and thriving federal sales market. 

Selling to the Federal Market: Complications and Opportunities

With declining commercial sales and an uncertain economic climate, many tech and IT companies are looking to the one certain growth market in today’s economy – the federal government.  Given the growth in federal spending projected over the next four years in every area from healthcare to border security, there is no doubt that federal agencies will continue to procure record amounts of IT services and equipment.

However, selling in this market can often be a frustrating dead end for companies not attune to doing business with the government.  Most adventures in government sales for the uninitiated bear little fruit for many years.  The most frequent refrain from disappointed vendors is that the government could not “see the wisdom or merits of their technology or services.”  

There are ways to build a stable and thriving federal sales market, but it takes commitment, time, money and savvy to realize that goal.  Below are a few tips for those looking to break into the federal market or to significantly expand their presence.

1) Know Your Market and Capabilities – Whether it is health IT, communications, data storage and retrieval, or complex systems integration, you must have active intelligence of federal opportunities before word hits the street.  This task requires active knowledge of agency plans for future budget cycles, agency requirements and Executive Branch and Congressional Initiatives.  Furthermore, you must know whether your technology aligns with that particular need and is either competitive or can represent best value to the government.

2) Be in Your Market – Simply coming to Washington from the home office, armed with minimal intelligence to meet with a government official is totally ineffective.  At best you will get a meeting.  At worst, you will be regarded as an outsider with an unproven track record.  Government purchasers are loathe to trust the untested and unknown.  Without a consistent physical presence in Washington, you will never gain the trust of careerists whose futures depend on making the right decisions.

3) Staff Up – To be successful at both step one and two, a company must have a dedicated federal sales force and a lobbying team to open doors and provide intelligence on an almost daily basis.  In addition, the company must have employees who have experience in the complex world of government contracting and requirements, and relationships with agencies that they have worked for or with in the past.  This is a particular type of expertise that is no different from that of a software engineer or other technician and it can prove invaluable in winning contracts.

4) Team Up – Often the easiest way to win government business is to team with larger corporations or trusted government service providers who already have large, flexible contracts in place with agencies.  Going after large contracts with major players as a sub can get the company in the door and begin building relationships for future opportunities.

5) Brand, Brand, Brand – As noted above, lack of familiarity in Washington breeds contempt.  A company in the federal market must be able to tout not only its name and technology, but its past and present performance as a government contractor.  Again, without the commitment to advertise and use public relations in the federal sales arena, few government purchasers will feel comfortable enough to take a chance on an unknown vendor.

It must be research season. The latest report to hit the streets down under is the annual Grey’s Eye on Australia report, conducted by Sweeney Research. Whilst some of this makes for interesting reading, I think it also states the obvious. Not surprisingly, it focuses on consumer attitudes about the recession and how people are feeling. 

Reassuringly, despite the gloom, almost two-thirds of Aussies are “extremely” or “very” satisfied with life, despite rising unemployment and a greater focus on personal finances. Perhaps the Rudd Government’s decision in February to hand out wads of cash to a large proportion of the Australian population had something to do with that!

Grey director of planning, Simon Rich, said in the company’s press release:  “For most Australians, life is still OK. Interest rates are low, the cost of petrol is declining and unemployment has not yet reached crisis levels. So, we’re positive about today but concerned about what the future may hold and as a result we’re cutting back expenses and holding off on big ticket purchases.”

I don’t know what is happening in other parts of the world; do you all share Simon’s views?

In an effort to save cash, the purchase of luxury items is waning and consumers have returned to home brand goods. This report showed only 9% of consumers do not purchase house brands, and 41% are buying more than they did 12 months ago. Call me a snob, but home brands still lack quality and with three children to feed, there is in my opinion less waste in sticking with what you know, rather than downgrading to products you may not have tried before.

The changing role of women and how they have adapted to the financial downturn is also highlighted in the report, with Grey managing director Jane Emery saying that it shows women are still the backbone of the Australian household. The report says most major household decisions are undertaken solely by women, with 59% in charge of household expenses and 74% take charge of supermarket shopping – compared to 34% of men. Come on fellas, clearly we should be pulling our weight more!!

Other key findings (and my comments):

- 41% Australians feel they live in prosperous times – down from 70% in 2008 (no surprise);

- Unemployment and job security (29%) is seen as the number one issue facing Australians over the next five years (no surprise);

- 28% people know someone who has lost their job as the result of the global financial crisis (no surprise);

- 86% Australians are actively trying to reduce debt (no surprise and don’t we do this anyway recession or not?);

- Only 16% of women feel job opportunities are consistent for both sexes, compared to 49% of men (that is a concern);

- 39% consumers are prepared to pay more for eco-friendly products or services , which is down from 49% last year (so, does this mean we don’t care about the environment, or has the recession led many of us to abandon the priority of being green to save money?).

- 51% rate as the number one concern drought and water issues, which is a major issue in Australia.

- Most respondents (76%) think most companies are still not environmentally conscious and 83% agree companies should tell people what they are doing about the environment.

- Only 31% of consumers are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about the effect of the environment on them personally or their household, compared to 37% in 2008 and 49% in 2007.

Finally, on Internet used (and my comments):

- Browsing the internet is Australians’ number one source of ‘unwinding’ (64%); – Contrary to belief, even 68% of Baby Boomers rate surfing the internet as their primary tactic for unwinding (are we that boring?);

- 74% of respondents subscribe to e-newsletters (boring…!);

- Only 45% of Australians have watched an advertisement online in the past two months (that did surprise me);

- or in an email someone sent to them (49%) – gotta be too much spam;

- 90% of respondents search for information on products or services online before buying (no surprise)

Overall, no real surprises, but some interesting differences. What do think? Are Australian consumers just an optimistic bunch, or is the recession hurting more in other markets? Clearly, the sun and surf may help keep us happy, but I suspect if Gray was to conduct this research again, today, many would not be so positive, with the bottom of the recession forecast to hit in October.

View more presentations from Luca Penati.

Last week I spoke at Santa Clara University about the changes in the media industry and the impact these have on PR. It was my opportunity to speak about Tech PR, Social Media, “Socialized Media”, Visual Storytelling and of course about Content, and the key role it plays – has always played – in everything we do.

Here is a link to a great blog post on the event.

You have to give the Texans credit. They do some things incredibly well.  Take economic development.  Texas has the most Fortune 500 company headquarters in the United States (at 58 HQs).  These guys and gals understand how to build financial structures that attract industry.

And now we see that those savvy Texans are making a land grab (photon grab) for solar manufacturing business in Texas.  The state is expected to soon approve a $500M bill aimed at subsidizing small scale solar users

Texas has executed so much better than some states (like mine, Colorado) at attracting headquarters and fostering development of market segment ecosystems that fuel the local business economy.  If they crack the solar grail, I’ll have to say they’re brilliant.  And I’m a New Englanda.

The business of solar is fascinating to me.  How Germany has leveraged a feed-in tariff system to lead the world.  And how, unlike the semi industry, solar manufacturing jobs are likely to be based where the projects are to be built and customer installed due to the sensitivities of glass and the cost of shipping it.  So what does that mean?   States need to get moving in their legislatures and get attracting those jobs, which means building the financing systems that will incubate the projects and ecosystems.

I’m told that citizens in Germany don’t scoff at the annual fee on their electric bill that underwrites their system as they see it as a direct investment towards clean energy and local clean tech jobs.

Could Texas be at the top of a future list of States With The Largest Share of the U.S. Renewable Energy Industry?  They surely know how to attract businesses.

Crazy like foxes, they are.

There are 32% fewer articles being published by traditional technology publications today then there were just two years ago. How do I know? Well I don’t. Not for certain. But I think I have information that points to this conclusion.

A few weeks ago I was asked if there was some way to articulate the decline in traditional tech media beyond pointing to layoffs and examples of magazines folding or moving online. I thought about it for a while and came to the following conclusions:

  • If the traditional tech media is declining then fewer articles must be appearing.
  • If fewer articles are appearing, then media databases should pick up the change.
  • If this is true then searching several years’ worth of tech trade articles for common, every-day words should provide a reasonably accurate picture.

With these points in mind I decided to count the number of articles in technology trade media from 2004-2008 featuring the most frequently used word in the English language: ‘the’.

I found that from 2006-2008 the number of articles decreased from 135757 to 92021, a decline of 32%. While not perfect, this seems to strongly indicate that there are 32% fewer articles being published by these outlets today then in 2006.

For more info, a fuller explanation and a look at some other words that seem to confirm this analysis, see Difference Engineering, a new blog I’ve started that will explore marketing and communications from a more objective lens.


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.


It’s a pretty dark out there.

The economy has tanked, people aren’t buying and employees are treading on eggshells fearing they’ll be next on the dole line.

Time to dig the foxhole deeper and wait for the economic shrapnel to whizz by, right?

Wrong.

Fact is other smaller companies are eying your market share and thinking that you’ve gone into hibernation waiting for the new economic spring.

I work in Asia-Pacific and it’s here that the next breed of up-and-coming companies will come from to steal market share from today’s incumbents. Many of these companies are extremely successful in their home markets, where they have honed manufacturing and supply chain management into sharp, competitive weapons.

Their weakness is in marketing and understanding cultural, societal & business nuances outside of their core market.

I remember one large Asian IT company trying to engage in channel development and marketing in Australia — unsuccessfully (with similar results and experiences replicated in the US and Europe). Their experience in engaging with third parties and stimulating demand through that channel was rudimentary to say the least. It took a while for them to understand that the the channel itself did not generate demand for itself and that it was the task of the vendor to aggressively brand its products and services for end-user awareness, consideration and hopefully purchase.

They also failed to connect the dots when it came to understanding that because they were foreign, they had no brand equity and their local positioning and messaging was highly undifferentiated in a more highly competitive, open market.

So the company defaulted to winning business on price. After a few years, it realized that it could not sustain its offshore business profitably and that domestic sales were propping up overseas expansion efforts that could not pay for themselves.

No HBR study needed here: the company was on a fast track to a major crash and burn.

So it changed tack: it decided to outsource marketing and communications to Western companies that could help it overcome these challenges and it started to re-engineer its business operations as well as marketing.

It’s now starting to expand more aggressively as a result — despite the economic downturn. And guess what, it’s expanding in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America and then the US last of all. But it’s taking share from US and EU companies in those other geographies, taking significant bites.

With the global credit crunch, US and EU companies have dug their foxholes deeper, but in the meantime they are being surrounded by smaller, more agile, higher efficiency Asian companies.

If you want to take a look at the planet’s next IT powerhouses, a quick scan through the Deloitte Asian Fast 500 is an illuminating read (http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/article/0,1002,cid%253D239357,00.html).

So the message here is that now is not the time to shut up shop, now is the time to reinvigorate your brand, your products, messages and positioning because you’ll be ready to take on all challengers when the market swings back into the black.


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.


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