Tech PRose

February 16, 2011

Online Music Discovery and The Black Keys

Filed under: Lawren Markle,Social Media — techimage @ 2:53 pm

It’s interesting how my music discovery is different now than it was a few years ago.  Most of the “new” music I find is via Pandora.com, and I buy the songs right from the iTunes interface in Pandora.  Recently, I started hearing a lot of Raconteurs music on my Beck station at Pandora, and got pretty interested in Raconteurs (bought it), partly because I like Jack White of the now defunct White Stripes. I started looking for YouTube content on Raconteurs (found a very cool instrumental tune at this link) and along the way noticed some comments below I found from listeners who suggested that The Black Keys rocked pretty hard along the lines of White Stripes. So, I searched for Black Keys on YouTube, found a number of their videos and ended up buying their new album called Brothers.

Brothers is a pretty amazing record – it has an old school Stax/Volt soul flavor and very raw sound, and it feels like you could have stumbled upon the music in an old stack of 45’s.  The Black Keys are a duo, and they record in analog, replete with the natural tube distortion on vocals for a distinctive sound. Very soulful and genuine and they rock pretty hard on some tunes. Black Keys have been making the rounds on late night talk shows so you might have heard a few tunes. They are also featured on tons of TV ads now, so they’ve managed to parlay their unique sound into some, er, commercial success.  If you haven’t already done so, check out their music. They’ve been together for 10 years so there’s a great back-catalog to explore. Also, these guys are very tongue-in-cheek in interviews and it’s great to see a band dedicated to great music while not taking themselves too seriously. Good stuff, and they got a nice pat on the shoulder at the Grammy’s recently, where they picked up two awards.

– By Lawren Markle

Are you diluting your “Likes”?

Filed under: B2B,Tim Boivin — techimage @ 7:30 am

On ClickZ, Christopher Heine takes an interesting look at how companies increasingly are trying to leverage the “Like” button to incentivize people to follow their brands. This brings up the important consideration of whether companies should focus on building their audiences through the “Like” button, or if they would be better served by focusing instead on developing a well thought out Fan page. What’s working best for your company?

– By Tim Boivin

February 15, 2011

McKinsey says information overload not good for creativity, best decision-making

Filed under: Philip Anast,Social Media — techimage @ 8:00 am

“Information overload” is a term that has packed on the pounds, both literally and figuratively, over the years as smart phones and social networking tools have pervaded workplaces in just about every realm of industry.

Management consulting company McKinsey delivers some contrarian, yet scientifically based, recommendations for the use of social networking tools in an article entitled, “Recovering from information overload.”

The article is targeted to executives and their unique requirements and responsibilities; however, I think any person in a management or worker role can benefit from its implications.

Since the article is lengthy, I will summarize its three key points:

  • Multitasking is a terrible coping mechanism, leading to less productivity and poorer decision-making
  • Self-discipline and setting reasonable expectations are the antidotes for information overload
  • Our behavior sets the tone and tenor for people we work with and for the overall productivity of an organization

The writers assert, “In practice, most of us would probably acknowledge that multitasking lets us quickly cross some of the simpler items off our to-do lists. But it rarely helps us solve the toughest problems we’re working on. More often than not, it’s procrastination in disguise.”

Management expert Peter Drucker is invoked and quoted in the article, although he wrote his book “The Effective Executive” at a time where there were few communication tools at one’s disposal:

“’Most of the tasks of the executive require, for minimum effectiveness, a fairly large quantum of time.’ Drucker’s solutions for fragmented executives—reserve large blocks of time on your calendar, don’t answer the phone, and return calls in short bursts once or twice a day—sound remarkably like the ones offered up by today’s time- and information-management experts.”

I think an important takeaway from the article is that Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn, blogs and other social networking mechanisms are tools, and not ends in themselves. At the end of the day, the tasks we perform must lead to greater outcomes and not just a lot of extra stuff or superfluous activity. While the tools play an important role today in communicating with business influencers, partners and customers, we need to keep the big-picture in mind and think through whether what we’re doing benefits ourselves and the organization. Keeping a perspective on the best ways to use tools and their frequency lead to greater fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment based in reality.

It seems that taking time for creative reflection and the processing of information around us can make for more thoughtful decision-making. Those activities certainly inspired some of the greatest literature in the world – from Homer’s Iliad to Shakespeare’s classics – without the benefit of a laptop or a tweet.  We should do no less for the betterment of our organizations and the constituencies we serve. 

– By Philip Anast

February 14, 2011

Deadly Sins of the Tech Industry: Will the Mini iPhone Become the Rainbow?

Filed under: Christine Rojewski,Technology Industry — techimage @ 7:42 am

As I was reading InfoWorld last week, Bill Snyder’s blog post, “Deadly Sins the Tech Industry Can’t Seem to Shake” caught my attention. In this post, Bill remembers the late Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corp, and the great things accomplished and the not so great things that have seemed to plague the tech industry.

Snyder remembers when Olsen stated “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home,” before he tried to jump into the game too late and release the Rainbow PC, which of course flopped. This eventually led to the downward spiral of Digital Equipment Corp. and the boot Olsen received from serving for the company, even though that too, was too late, much like what Sun has faced with co-founder Scott McNealy.

But what I found ironic in this blog was Snyder mentioning that almost no one remembers the Rainbow. I couldn’t help but think of the other news released the same day of Snyder’s blog post- the talk of a mini iPhone.

Call me superstitious, but I think both articles hitting me on the same day means this mini iPhone will also be a flop that no one remembers- assuming it even sees a market release. Why? While I believe Apple has released some great products (I’m a huge fan of my iPhone and of the iPad, though I think that sees room for major improvement like a USB jack), this seems like overkill.

According to Bloomberg, the phone will cost less than its predecessor at $200 to keep ahead of Droid competitors. However, it will be one-third smaller than the iPhone 4 and it won’t offer a home button. To me, smaller isn’t always better and I’d feel like I was talking on my iPod. And I might be wrong, but isn’t the home button on the iPhone a huge plus? Taking away a home button will create more unnecessary steps that need to be taken for the user to achieve the goal of getting back to the page, and might be taking consumers to the Droid if they’re worried about cost (which at $200 doesn’t seem so cheap), and don’t want to splurge on the iPhone4 or a two-year carrier contract.

Even more ironic, is to think about how Sun and Digital Equipment Corp. were late to the game, thus spelling the demise of the companies. While I don’t by any means think this potential mini iPhone will be a fatal move for Apple, I do think Apple is late to the game if the development is just to keep the iPhone ahead of the Droid. The Droid models already gaining huge popularity, models far outweigh the iPhone and cost less so it seems like Jobs is a little late on this big idea.

Nonetheless it will be interesting to see what pans out. What are your thoughts on a mini iPhone? Must or Bust?

– Reviewed by Christine Rojewski

February 10, 2011

You are Who You Say You Are – Especially if Someone Else Important Agrees

Filed under: B2B,Bob Dirkes,Success Stories — techimage @ 11:15 am

PR is all about projecting a presence into a target market – whether physical (like a region or city) or virtual (such as horizontal ones like Small to Mid-Size Businesses or vertical ones like Data Management Software) – in order to sell products and/or services.  Of course, that was just a boring, esoteric way of saying, as my colleague Ken Krause might put it: “You wanna sell something? Put it out there as often as possible.”

Easier to say than it is to do, especially when the clients you aim to help sell complex technology.  Nevertheless, simplicity always should rule.  Take, for example, what Ken and I helped former client Initiate do.  The overall objective of the Initiate PR program was to showcase the company’s leadership in the realm of Master Data Management.  We did it in many ways – pitched continuing Initiate business success stories, helped write & place thought leadership articles, reached out to editors & analysts on a regular basis for briefings – and one of the most fruitful efforts was pitching Initiate for industry awards.  A few notable pieces of recognition we helped Initiate land were Product of the Year designations multiple times from SearchDataManagement and CEO of the Year honors from the Illinois Technology Association for its chief executive, Bill Conroy.  But the one we enjoyed most was perhaps helping Initiate thinkers Scott Schumacher and Scott Ellard win TechAmerica’s Innovator of Year distinction in 2009.  The Scotts, as we called them, are truly brilliant technologists who achieved something that helps save lives, catch bad guys and improve services for consumers of all kinds.  The Scotts figured out how make information processing infrastructure and mathematical algorithms work together to elevate data searching & matching from a scale of thousands of records per minute to millions per minute.

I oversimplified the issue just now for this blog.  And that’s the challenge with all tech PR – oversimplifying in an understandable way.  The art of tech PR is oversimplifying it in a relatable way, too.  What Ken and I did when we pitched the Scotts was compare their work to the popular film “Pirates of the Caribbean” in an nomination entitled “Pirates of Probabilistic Search.”  Read more about it here – http://www.techamerica.org/innovatorawards-innovators . Search for “Pirates” on the page.

While clever analogies are fun to execute, we never lost sight of the strategy.  Initiate needed to put examples of its technology leadership “out there” as often as possible>  Now, through typical channels, such as sales calls and Web pages, the folks at Initiate spent plenty of time telling prospects in the healthcare, government and large enterprise markets about the grand work of the Scotts and their innovation. But they also understood their message would fly farther with the winds of someone else’s credibility under its wings.

–by Bob Dirkes

PR is all about projecting a presence into a target market – whether physical (like a region or city) or virtual (such as horizontal ones like Small to Mid-Size Businesses or vertical ones like Data Management Software) – in order to sell products and/or services.  Of course, that was just a boring, esoteric way of saying, as my colleague Ken Krause might put it: “You wanna sell something? Put it out there as often as possible.”

Easier to say than it is to do, especially when the clients you aim to help sell complex technology.  Nevertheless, simplicity always should rule.  Take, for example, what Ken and I helped former client Initiate do.  The overall objective of the Initiate PR program was to showcase the company’s leadership in the realm of Master Data Management.  We did it in many ways – pitched continuing Initiate business success stories, helped write & place thought leadership articles, reached out to editors & analysts on a regular basis for briefings – and one of the most fruitful efforts was pitching Initiate for industry awards.  A few notable pieces of recognition we helped Initiate land were Product of the Year designations multiple times from SearchDataManagement and CEO of the Year honors from the Illinois Technology Association for its chief executive, Bill Conroy.  But the one we enjoyed most was perhaps helping Initiate thinkers Scott Schumacher and Scott Ellard win TechAmerica’s Innovator of Year distinction in 2009.  The Scotts, as we called them, are truly brilliant technologists who achieved something that helps save lives, catch bad guys and improve services for consumers of all kinds.  The Scotts figured out how make information processing infrastructure and mathematical algorithms work together to elevate data searching & matching from a scale of thousands of records per minute to millions per minute.

I oversimplified the issue just now for this blog.  And that’s the challenge with all tech PR – oversimplifying in an understandable way.  The art of tech PR is oversimplifying it in a relatable way, too.  What Ken and I did when we pitched the Scotts was compare their work to the popular film “Pirates of the Caribbean” in an nomination entitled “Pirates of Probabilistic Search.”  Read more about it here – http://www.techamerica.org/innovatorawards-innovators . Search for “Pirates” on the page.

While clever analogies are fun to execute, we never lost sight of the strategy.  Initiate needed to put examples of its technology leadership “out there” as often as possible>  Now, through typical channels, such as sales calls and Web pages, the folks at Initiate spent plenty of time telling prospects in the healthcare, government and large enterprise markets about the grand work of the Scotts and their innovation. But they also understood their message would fly farther with the winds of someone else’s credibility under its wings.

February 9, 2011

2011 IT: The Year of the Woman?

Filed under: Dan Green,Technology Industry — techimage @ 11:47 am

Last week, the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) Educational Foundation announced the formation of the Women in Information Technology Council.

In its press release, CompTIA included some interesting (and troubling) stats from the National Center for Women & IT:

  • Only 25 percent of IT-related jobs were filled by women in 2009 – a decrease from 36 percent in 1991.
  • In 2008, only 18 percent of computer and information science degrees were awarded to women – down from 37 percent in 1985.

Before seeing this data, I knew the industry had low representation among women, based on my work with the Society for Information Management, which organized SIM Women a few years ago to help women advance their careers in IT. What surprised me was that the number of women in the industry had declined so dramatically over the past 25 years.

The CompTIA Educational Foundation helps underserved portions of the population to start careers in IT – including military veterans, the disabled, youth at risk and dislocated workers, and the new council will help women in these demographic segments by providing an opportunity to obtain free education and training.

It’s a great move by the association to help attract more women to the male-dominated industry, and an important one. Baby boomers are starting to retire from the workforce, and the overall number of students pursuing IT degrees has declined significantly since the tech bust in the early 2000s. In the coming years there will be literally millions of job openings in the IT industry, and by welcoming more women into the IT work force, we can keep those jobs in the U.S.

Women interested in starting a career in IT can find more information from CompTIA’s Educational Foundation at www.comptia-ef.org. For women who are already in IT who want to advance their careers, check out SIM Women at http://www.simnet.org/?page=SIM_Women.

– By Dan Green

February 8, 2011

21st Century PR Firm?

Filed under: B2B,Dennis Collins,Marketing & Public Relations — techimage @ 9:55 am

When something truly different comes along, it is typically compared to the current status quo – i.e., the conventional wisdom.  Back in the early 1980’s I was involved in launching many of the first personal computers (think Radio  Shack, Commodore, Atari , Apple).  The conventional wisdom was to say that these devices could balance your checkbook (replacing your calculator) or function like a typewriter, only better.  Back then, I often heard people deride PCs as overpriced toys that were only doing what could be done with a paper, pen or slide rule.  They were missing the point, but it bears repeating in this day and age – What’s important to note is not the Shiny Object, it’s the Trend.  And we can’t ignore trends just because we don’t agree with them or don’t like them – they exist independent of our wishes.

The dramatic rise of blogging along with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn has brought many to declare the end of the print publishing industry.  Magazine subscriptions are down, and online versions are struggling.  Publishers look to the music industry’s meltdown as a glimpse of their future, and are trying to figure out how to stop it.  Meanwhile, the film and video industry is watching both and worrying that their time is next.

So in the hopes of finding the middle ground, I raise this observation.  Social media is here to stay – The Trend is immediacy, transparency and interactive dialog among people, combining facts with opinions more freely than ever.  In a business setting, this means the audience can determine the appropriate level of each for their own comfort when making a buying decision.  Like it or not, it is what it is.  So, how we leverage this to our advantage should be the key issue, not which tool to use. The one thing I can say with utmost confidence is that focusing on the Shiny Object is the wrong approach.  Remember AOL, CompuServe and Netscape?  They are sideline memories today – yet they were instrumental in building the foundation for today’s Internet and were touted as the next generation of business leaders in their (short) time.

As members of a co-dependent industry to all of this, marketing communications professionals are also wary.  There is much debate about the efficacy of online or offline advertising and the dwindling base of editors that make up PR’s output.  And the issues around social media continue to clutter our email inboxes:  Should corporations have Facebook profiles? What about blogging and tweeting? Do I really have to keep track of it all?

Now that we’re well into this century, it’s time to reflect on how technology has really changed marketing communications.  I feel that the 21st Century PR firm needs to adapt to the new channels of open communication if it is to remain relevant.  Providing value to clients is always the primary goal, but the value metrics are shifting. We’ve always been focused on connecting a client with an influencer who represents an audience.  Nothing has changed except the tools – we have a wider pool of influencers to address through more channels than ever.  That’s good news!  But it means that the role we play, the value we provide, and the way we get compensated are in a state of flux.  I have some thoughts as to how to address it, which I will elaborate on later.  But I’d like to hear from others, in agencies and corporations.

What are you doing to modify your value proposition?

What are you being asked to do by your bosses/clients?

Has your daily routine shifted – and are you happy with it?

Let me hear your thoughts.

— by Dennis Collins

February 4, 2011

A Crash Course in Dog Food and Mobile Retailing

Filed under: B2B,Kristen Rose Miller,Reviews,Social Media,Technology Industry — techimage @ 11:05 am

I recently attended the NRF’s Retail BIG Show in NYC and no surprise, everybody was talking mobile. From social media to shopping on smartphones to swiping smartphones to pay for purchases, the message was clear: “Hey Retailers, amp your mobile functionality or consumers will leave you in the dust.”

The topic of mobile retailing is also finding a home in mainstream media. A recent article by the Wall Street Journal’s Miguel Bustillo and Ann Zimmerman titled “Phone Wielding Shoppers Strike Fear Into Retailers” posed the threat that instant price transparency via smartphones was changing the game of retailing.

As a smartphone-touting consumer, specifically a Droid 2, do I pose a threat to retailers? Is Target or Macy’s shaking in their boots trying to win my business? Not likely; however, the article did mention a specific app, TheFind, that prompts a smartphone camera to scan a product barcode and display matching products at various merchants at varying prices. Thereby, at a glance, allowing a shopper to determine the lowest price.

So, I downloaded the free app and gave it a shot…see below for my test subject (no, not the animal itself…)

Figure A                                                                                                                      Figure B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Percy. Figure A represents Percy as a baby Rottweiler. Figure B illustrates how all 80-lbs of Percy looks today. In order to get from Figure A to Figure B, it took a lot of dog food. Specifically, Iams Smart Puppy Large Breed Dog Food.  I purchase 17.5 lb bags at Target where typical retail price is $18.99. During my last Target visit, I used TheFind app to scan the product barcode. Within seconds, the app was displaying varying prices of the exact dog food available at other merchants. I was relieved to see that other retailers such as Walmart and pet supply stores were $1-$3 dollars higher. Only one store, Meijer, offered the food cheaper ($17.99) but since there isn’t a Meijer close to my home, my purchasing at Target was reaffirmed.

Case in point, consumers willing to embrace emerging retail technologies put themselves in the driver’s seat. Gone are the days of making siloed purchase decisions on product OR price. Being committed to a specific product no longer means you’re a slave to a standard price. Do your research. Be informed. Retailers, more than ever, are willing to compete and work for your every dollar. Enjoy your newfound power (while stimulating the economy.)

— By Kristen Rose Miller

January 31, 2011

Bears QB injury shows the ugly side of Twitter

Filed under: Ken Krause,Marketing & Public Relations,Reviews,Social Media — techimage @ 5:05 pm

Technology marketers who continue to believe that what happens on social media outlets such as Twitter doesn’t matter can learn a lesson from Jay Cutler. The Chicago Bears quarterback injured his knee late in the second quarter of the NFC title game against the Green Bay Packers. He returned to the field briefly at the start of the third quarter, then sat out the rest of the game.

The event itself wasn’t particularly unusual. Football is a violent, brutal game, and nowhere is it more violent and brutal than the NFL. Players are hurt and sit the rest of the game out all the time.
What was unusual was the instant reaction that followed. Ordinary fans, former players and even current players began bashing Cutler for being a wimp almost immediately. They wondered how he could abandon his teammates in the midst of a title game, questioned his motives, his courage and his very manhood. Before you knew it – and before any of us knew the actual extent of his injury – there was a huge firestorm of popular sentiment on the Internet, most of it decidedly anti-Cutler.

What’s interesting, of course, is that the trauma of him sitting out the second half completely overshadowed the fact that he was completely ineffective the first half when he was playing, missing wide-open receivers and generally not looking like a quarterback who was going to lead his team to the Super Bowl. There wasn’t much being said about that, and certainly the media didn’t pick up on what may have been said. But sit out with an injury? That’s national news.

That’s the way it goes in these days of the groundswell. One relatively minor event suddenly blows up and before you know it your company is distracted trying to defend itself from all sorts of wild accusations.

You don’t have to worry much about an MCL sprain to your CEO. But you should be concerned with a frustrated customer who can’t reach anyone in customer service, or doesn’t feel he got a straight answer when he did. A Tweet here, a YouTube video there, and suddenly you could be facing a maelstrom of your own.

Just ask the people at United Airlines. A search on their name on YouTube produces this video as the #1 result, which is not exactly how they want you to think of them. It goes a long way toward undoing millions, maybe even billions, of dollars of advertising and public relations.
Now that the social media genie is out of the bottle there’s no putting him back. Smart companies realize that and prepare for it. They monitor what’s being said about them all the time, and they respond quickly – in many cases even thanking the person who brought the problem to their attention.

That’s where the Bears really fell down. While the speculation about Cutler’s toughness was running wild, there was nothing from the Bears camp to quell it. The word from the sidelines was that Cutler’s knee was “hurt.” What they should’ve said was “it appears to be a sprain, and maybe even torn. We won’t know for sure until the MRI tomorrow.” Instead, they played it close to the vest and let him twist in the wind.

Technology marketers need to learn from that. In this day of instant communication, be honest and transparent. If there is a problem, admit it and say what steps you’re taking to remedy it. If you’re not sure of the cause, say you’re not sure, but you’re aware and have the right people working on it.
Whatever you do, don’t let the masses run amok. In reality the damage to Cutler is temporary – a couple of good wins and it’s all forgotten. But for your company it could have much longer-lasting effects.

Know what conversations are happening around your company and your industry, and be a part of them. Because they’re going to happen whether you’re a part of them or not.

— by Ken Krause

January 28, 2011

TEDx Caltech Rocked!

Filed under: Lawren Markle,Technology Industry — techimage @ 10:34 am

I had the pleasure of attending TEDx at Caltech on January 14th to hear thirty science and technology presentations — on the big stage at Beckman Auditorium on Caltech’s campus here in Pasadena.  Some of the talks were pretty heavy science, and I don’t have any quantum physics under my belt, but I was able to come away with an understanding of the concepts anyway.

I registered with the hope that I’d hear things to lead me in new directions and explore new technologies, and the presentations didn’t disappoint.  Some of the most interesting talks were about engineering DNA codes — to treat cancer (Mark Davis), create bacteria that make carbon nanotube batteries (Angela Belcher), or even create new life forms (Craig Venter).  It appears we are at the edge of a wave of breakthroughs now that we’ve cracked the genome.  People are starting to apply that knowledge to new treatments and new solutions.  Craig Venter’s talk was very interesting – especially at the 16:00 mark onward, where he describes applications for synthetic genomics – from targeted treatments for HIV, to creating new algae that will eat carbon dioxide and create fuels we can use at the pump.  It’s a little scary, but wow.

The talk about The Worldwide Telescope was pretty cool if you haven’t seen it.  It’s a 3D interactive tour of the universe.  I think 3D interfaces are going to proliferate.  Pamela Bjorkman talked about visualizing and engineering new anti-HIV agents.  Overall, it was a pretty cool event, and Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau pulled off a triumph hosting this at the school.  The theme was remembering Richard Feynman, a physicist and professor who was able to make physics entertaining and approachable.  Microsoft has put Feynman’s lectures online recently.

I think all of the talks will be posted at www.caltech.edu in a few months.  I hope these scientists have good funding and good PR because they are poised to change everything.

-By Lawren Markle

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