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.
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.
There’s never any shortage of articles on the troubles facing the newspaper industry, but the New Year has brought a handful of thought-provoking pieces that are well worth reading.
I can’t predict the future of media (and the PR industry) any better than anyone else, but I do think some answers can be found in these pieces. The articles also remind me of a recent conversation I had with a recently laid off tech journalist. He (I’ll leave him anonymous), believes PR firms will increasingly look like custom publishing houses. Given the trends and developments outlined in these (and other) articles, I tend to agree.
One final thought before the links: If Clay Shirky is right (see #3) and the last print pub left standing is Brides Magazine, what will we say to all those clients who insist on print coverage?
“End Times”, Michael Hirschorn, The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200901/new-york-times
“Why the New York Times Won’t Cease Printing”, Felix Salmon, Conde Nast Portfolio: http://www.portfolio.com/views/blogs/market-movers/2009/01/07/why-the-new-york-times-wont-cease-printing?tid=true
“The Shape of things to come”, Tom Teodorczuk/Clay Shirky, The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jan/05/clay-shirky-future-newspapers-digital-media
“Let’s Invent an iTunes for News”, David Carr, New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/business/media/12carr.html?em
“The Future of News”, Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Weekly: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/?inc=article&id=984&x=the-future-of-news&_c=news
“The New Journalism: Goosing the Grey Lady”, Emily Nussbaum, New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/news/features/all-new/53344/
I met with Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, at the Ogilvy PR offices in San Francisco. He shared with me his thoughts about what’s new in the blogosphere in 2009.
According to a new book released by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, journalists face “two years of carnage”.
Titled “A report, Life in the Clickstream: The Future of Journalism”, the book also revealed it’s very possible that the biggest media companies in the US will come crashing down due to cost-cutting and reduced quality, while five in 11 newspapers will vanish in Britain. After all, more than 12,000 journalists around the world lost their jobs this year.
Media Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren said that usually, journalism has traditionally “thrived on the emergence of disruptive technologies even as economic models have changed”. The Australian newspaper spoke to Christopher and filed a story yesterday.
In the article Warren says: “Like all crises, the challenges journalism faces are rewriting everything we thought we knew about the news media and causing us to question the basis on which the industry has survived and flourished.” Whilst journalists are using technology to find new and progressive ways to keep the public informed, in the report 70 per cent revealed they’re now experiencing increased workloads due to a shrinking of the workforce.
As to the future, 19 per cent said they were excited about the future of journalism, but 35 per cent said they were pessimistic about their prospects.
Just like the PR industry has to modify the rule book in terms of how it uses social media and the Internet to help its clients participate in conversations and reach new influencers outside heritage media; by the same token journalists and publishers face even tougher challenges to retain relevance, especially as audiences continue to fragment the world over and chose multiple sources for information. Add to this the financial crisis now sweeping the world and further cost pressures will only amplify the speed of change.
The Australian article looks at what might evolve if mainstream news organisations collapse, citing research from the City University of New York. That says an organic news organisation could evolve - based on bloggers, video shooters and photographers, it would be augmented by community managers, program developers artists and run by just a handful of editors, all on an annual budget of $2.1 million.
On a brighter note, and to update on my last post about PC Magazine’s decision to cull its print title, Roy Morgan has just released circulation figures in Australia for the last 12 months. The good news is that PC magazines did remarkably well. PC User’s readership climbed from 281,000 to 313,000 while APC went up from 275,000 to 280,000. PC Authority went up from 154,000 to 158,000, and PC Powerplay up from 111,000 to 115,000. Netguide was the only tech title to record a fall, dipping from 106,000 to 99,000. For even more analysis, check out last year’s results to compare.
Some good news to end on.
Whilst there is a lot of attention and focus right now on the recession and how it will impact IT spending, I am sure the Wednesday’s news that PC Magazine will close its print edition to go 100 per cent online did not go unnoticed. I would imagine this decision will have many asking themselves the question “if PC Magazine can’t sustain itself, who can?”
It is a trend that we have seen in Australia with PC World doing the same thing some months back.
So, is this a shock or simply a result of market forces?
Having spent nine good years myself at Yellow Pages through the late 80s to the mid 90s, there was a belief then that the print directory would disappear. It didn’t happen and the book is still going strong and has a place in most homes sitting underneath the phone. But of course, online consumption is powering ahead and at some stage I am sure it will all go online.
But in light of PC Magazine’s decision, is this going to be a watershed moment for the PC and technology magazine industry?
Arguably, PC Magazine has been the world’s number one PC publication for much of its history, so this decision will make many other publishers take note and consider their strategies.
Personally, I think online is not a problem and in fact opens new opportunities for us and our clients: deadline cycles change, faster news cycles, more opportunity for video, for reader comments and so on. Also, much easier to track and monitor stories. Bring it on.
But with the global financial crisis and such a Goliath dropping its print edition, it’s hard not to imagine it won’t have some kind of knock-on effect. Let’s hope not. Long live technology magazines, if not in print, online.
PRWeek is turning 10 in the US and I was asked to write a brief post for their blog. You can find it here. Below the ”longer”, original version.
Happy birthday, PRWeek!
I first arrived at Silicon Valley 10 years ago, almost to the day. Most people were still using Altavista and Netscape. The word “social” was rarely used, and never before “media” or “networks”. But at every Starbucks - from Santa Cruz to Pleasanton — everyone was talking about the next big thing. Everybody had a business plan. Everyone was able to “get funding.” Companies were changing their names, often adding a .com to the brand so their valuations could go up. Apple was launching the iMacs, then the iPod. It was “boom” time. Things were crazy. I had just arrived from Italy and my country had never seen such madness, at least not since the Renaissance! (we would a few years later, with the World Cup in 2006.)
Most of the PR professionals I knew left their “boring” corporate or agency jobs to join a dotcom. The mirage, the hollow promise of becoming an instant millionaire was just too tempting to turn down. I was new to this market, loved my job, and was not interested in putting it at risk. And then, the bubble burst. And were in the middle of it. People who a few months earlier had left to get rich were calling me to get their jobs back.
What did we all learn? The strategic importance of PR during a downturn. It can help companies gain market share and end up much stronger than before. From an agency perspective, obsessive client service and compulsive focus on your talent base - all these things helped us get through that difficult time. And they’ll help us again.
And at every Starbucks now, I still hear about innovation, about the next big thing. The difference is that now I’ll tweet about it before draining my coffee cup.
With much uncertainty and chatter on how the economic crisis will impact the technology sector in 2009, I thought now would be a good time to share some thoughts and seek other’s opinions.
In Australia, the panic button has not been hit, but keen to get a sense from our global friends on the mood elsewhere.
If history is a measure on what may happen, those hardest hit in times like this have tended to be the hardware and software vendors, especially the consumer sector. But on the flip side, other segments like the IT services industry have done ok and continue to enjoy growth with cost conscious CIOs keen to outsource to third parties to save on their dwindling budgets.
Gartner has just released its top 10 strategic technologies for 2009 (not sure if this list was produced before the latest melt down), but nonetheless it would indicate that for some software categories it may not all be doom and gloom. If there is direct business value and associated cost savings that bodes well. If there isn’t, then trouble looms. But that should be the case at any time regardless of a recession.
Personally, I still think some of these technologies may still be a low priority if the funds start to dry up. What do you think?
For ease of use here is Gartner’s 2009 crystal ball:
Incredibly, Green IT was number one last year. At a time when the environment needs all the protection it can get, this forecast is a tad disappointing. Other technologies that have dropped back in priority include unified communications, which was number two last year.
However, an analyst here in Australia, Bruce McCabe, at S2 Intelligence disagrees with Gartner. In an interview with ZDNet Australia he says everyone is still very focused on power consumption in IT hardware and there is no question that green IT has continued to move up the list of priorities.
With much commentary to come on just how the technology sector will weather the economic downturn, many of our clients will be adjusting their tactics and strategies for 2009 and into 2010.
Is there going to be a major slowdown in technology spending, or will organisations still take advantage of the benefits that technology can and does represent?
Enterprise technology PR professionals, stop your whining and start your engines. So you think the media and blogging worlds are only interested in your brand story if it is centered around a CE gadget running on 3G, delivering cloud applications and fueled by solar cells. Not so!
The b2b tech PR community breathed a palpable sigh of relief this morning (over coffee) in seeing William M. Bulkeley’s half page WSJ print (yes that medium) story on Cutting Tech’s Energy Bill; Computer Makers See Profits in Retooling Clients’ Data Centers.
Just what should we take from this? A perfect storm of questions more business journalists should be asking like:
a. Where is enterprise IT growth coming from? Data centers, Virtualization, Storage – you betcha, and more.
b. How is the corporate world impacted by energy costs and how will pain on the bottom line drive adoption of power-savings technologies?
c. Should more corporations be publicly reporting on their plans to curb electricity consumption?
Clearly, interest in speaking to ‘green for dollars-sake’ has not ebbed. As b2b tech PR professionals, it’s our job more than ever to think broadly about the constituencies who have an interest in these issues. Listen to them and engage with them as appropriate.
What do you see as the great untold b2b stories today? What companies are doing a good job in your view of making their enterprise technology stories relevant to broader social, environmental and economic trends? We want to hear from you!
Disclaimer: Ogilvy advertising works with IBM.
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR