Tech PRose

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.

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March 1, 2010

An Island of Film Mastery: With Shutter Island, Scorsese demonstrates his prowess — again

Filed under: Bob Dirkes,Reviews — techimage @ 4:25 pm

From the moment we see the foreboding land mass that gives director Martin Scorsese’s latest film its title, we know we have not arrived at a good place – not physically, not emotionally, not spiritually. It’s 1954. Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal sent to investigate a disappearance at Ashcliffe, the mental institution planted on craggy Shutter Island in Boston Harbor, knows he has not arrived at a good place either. We know understand this fact immediately, as we first meet Teddy while he vomits into the toilet below decks on the ferry taking him to the island. When Teddy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, finally gathers himself on deck, the ferry captain tells him there is only one dock because the rest of the shore is sheer cliffs – i.e., one way on, and one way off the jagged pile of stone. As Teddy looks up at his destination, blaring bass strings fill our ears as gray-green Shutter Island fills the screen. Fear begins resonating in our bones. 

Shutter Island
 Shutter Island adds more evidence to the argument that Martin Scorsese is perhaps the greatest director of our times. Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane (author of two other stories turned into films: Mystic River and Gone, Baby Gone) Shutter Island could have been a run-of-the-mill movie about ignorance and paranoia in the 1950s, just as The Departed could have been just another cop drama or Goodfellas could have been just another mob flick. But like those other award-winning Scorsese works, Shutter Island transcends its material, as Scorsese introduces us to people we would rather not know and places we would rather not go. The trouble is Scorsese’s visuals are so striking and indelible, and the performances he draws from his veteran cast are so engrossing that, like Teddy, we can’t resist. 

Full disclosure here: I haven’t read the novel. But judging from the movie plot, I surmise that the story covered no new territory – creepy hospital setting, evasive jittery staff, patronizing slippery administrators, distrusting surly guards, plenty of icky psychos, enigmatic absent victims, etc. So, no offense to Mr. Lehane, but it’s Scorsese’s brilliance that makes Shutter Island remarkable. No way could written words have evoked the same mixture of wonder and dread that Scorsese’s visuals give us. Teddy dreams of his dead wife, the victim of a fire just two years before his trip to the island. As he embraces her amidst the vibrant colors of their living room, we see her spine is cinder-laced and glowing like a fireplace log. Soon, ashes lilt around them like snow, until she crumbles to black dust. In another extraordinary scene, Teddy flashes back to the day he helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp. Teddy looks down on the camp commandant, who’s squirming on the floor after a botched suicide attempt. The colors of the commandant’s office are as vivid as Teddy’s dreams of his wife and home before their incineration. Instead of ashes, paperwork floats around Teddy, records of the lives destroyed in the camp. The commandant struggles as files rain upon him, and we suppose Teddy will finish the job the officer bungled. Yet, Teddy remains transfixed by the moment, inseparably terrifying and beautiful. We can’t help feeling the same way. 

On Shutter Island, secrecy abounds. There are fleeting clues flying every which way. Frankly, though, the mystery wasn’t hard to sort out. And that annoyed me not at all. Nearly every scene and performance wrought by Scorsese was so dense with metaphor that my mind was feasting on imagination. If you like Scorsese’s work, you will enjoy this film. If you love Scorsese’s work, as I do, you will be enthralled by this film. But even if you don’t care for Scorsese’s work, you will walk out of Shutter Island impressed.

–Reviewed by Bob Dirkes

January 14, 2010

Double Feature: Crown “Shawshank” and “Mile” the Kings of King’s Flicks

Filed under: Bob Dirkes,Reviews — techimage @ 8:06 pm

I have professed my devotion to Stephen King on this blog in the past. While King is a renowned author of horror novels, as a writer myself I’ve been more impressed by his mastery of storytelling in general – long and short formats. My 13-year-old daughter, Celine, also is an aspiring writer, so one evening not long ago I treated her to a double feature of movies based on King’s work: The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. The first is based on one of King’s short stories (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.) The other is based on a serial novel more akin to King’s epic tomes, such as The Stand or It. In an age when cinema is so driven by special effects (e.g., Avatar, which I have no desire to see for reasons you will surmise from this post) and formulas (e.g., every cop-buddy movie or updating of a 20-year-old t.v. series) I wanted Celine to see examples of films driven by great stories with great characters. 19609

When it comes to rapid, deep characterization, King is a true artist. And Shawshank and Mile are cast perfectly in the spirit of King’s writing. Tim Robbins as Andy, the main character in Shawkshank, strikes a tone of aloof despair with his very first lines. Morgan Freeman executes a similar feat as Red, Andy’s prison mentor, as soon as he begins his narration. In many films, narration is a crutch. In Shawshank, it’s a magnifying glass.

Tom Hanks, one of the most recognizable stars in film, sinks immediately into the persona of Paul, a death-row prison guard and the main character of Mile. So does every actor in turn throughout Mile, whether playing a bit part or a pivotal role. Most impressive perhaps is Michael Clarke Duncan playing the miraculous prisoner, John Coffey. Duncan is a huge man, who too often is given roles tantamount to playing props. (“Hey, we need a gigantic guy. Call that Duncan dude!”) But in Mile, Duncan’s size and subtle delivery strike the perfect paradox.

I could rave about a dozen performances in each film, which is why I wanted Celine to see them. To help her hone her craft, I wanted her to understand that the foundation of great performances in film is great writing. Shawshank and Mile draw virtually all their dialog from King’s text. And the actors seem energized by the richness of the language. Duncan is the best example. From the first moment his character clarifies his surname – “John Coffey. Like the drink, only spellt different.” – we receive an addicting sip of the condemned man’s sweetness and pain.

Green_mile_ver3
Why is King especially good at prison tales? Beats me. But one doesn’t need to be a budding author to dig these flicks, which, in my opinion, are the two best films based on King’s work.

–Reviewed by Bob Dirkes

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