The start of 2013 caused many tech executives, reporters and bloggers to speculate about the biggest trends of the year. The related buzzwords aren’t going away as we reach the second half of 2013. Here’s how to separate the hype from the reality.
Hype: Does the amount of talk about the need for companies to hire data scientists, deploy new tools or learn how to wrangle big data match up to actual demand?
Reality: Companies that understand how to collect, interpret and apply data can improve their marketing initiatives, customer relationships and business practices. However, just because the data scientist career has been moving up the most-desired list, not every company or every industry truly needs a data scientist, so be sure to evaluate carefully.
Hype: With the availability of big data comes the advent of personalization, but consumers are wary of Big Brother behavior.
Reality: People want more relevant, targeted search results. But, they don’t want to feel like they’re being tracked. Brands need to focus on relevancy, personalization efforts that benefit consumers, and tracking behaviors versus tracking people.
Hype: Facebook’s much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO) – and subsequent flop – was the talk of 2012 and spurred much analysis of the IPO market.
Reality: The IPO market has drastically changed since the early 2000s. With economic and regulatory shifts, companies take an average of more than 10 years to IPO versus less than five years before the dot-com bubble burst. As this GigaOM article discusses, our economy depends on successful IPOs for job growth, and the slower rate of companies reaching the IPO stage is hindering such growth.
Hype: It seems like everyone’s in the cloud or plans to be there. Lately, this sentiment has flowed over to the enterprise side.
Reality: The reality is that many businesses still do not rely on the cloud, particularly enterprises that house sensitive data on premise. End users care more about the delivery method of solutions rather than actually being in the cloud, so hesitant enterprises can instead create cloud-style architecture to please end users and keep data on site.
Hype: Social media appears to be overdone, but many businesses still debate whether they should have a social media presence and if it shows true business value.
Reality: Social media is not overdone and it’s not finished. Those that engrain social media in daily business practices from marketing to customer service and more are rewarded with leads and platforms with which to engage customers and prospects in real time.
The author, kicking back at the office with a good book
In my last post, I discussed the essence of an entrepreneur according to Jeffrey Bussgang in his book “Mastering the VC Game.” However, understanding an entrepreneur is only part of the puzzle; realizing what makes a venture capitalist tick can piece the puzzle together.
We often work with entrepreneurs and start-ups that are seeking funding, so learning about the venture capital club can be immensely helpful. Bussgang reveals some interesting characteristics of venture capitalists, including:
1. Venture capitalists are intelligent, competitive, curious and driven to succeed. At first glance, this list of characteristics might seem similar to that of entrepreneurs, but the difference lies in their emotional attachments and goals. An entrepreneur uses his intelligence, competiveness and curiosity to create and lead his company, while a venture capitalist uses similar characteristics to be an enabler or facilitator.
2. A venture capitalist’s mind is going in many different directions – so much so that a venture capitalist will often get bored working on one company at a time. That is why he is not as emotionally invested in the company as the entrepreneur. Bussgang explains that a venture capitalist is the backer of a movie in which he never stars, and he likes it that way.
3. The venture capital club is an exclusive bunch; it consists of fewer than 6,000 members in less than 1,000 firms. According to the National Venture Capital Associations, there were 790 firms as of 2010.
So what can VC firms provide to entrepreneurs and startups? Most importantly, a venture capitalist participates in the management and development of the business. He will often sit on the board of the company and have some knowledge of the industry in which the startup plays.
The next question is how does a startup company get noticed by a VC? Typically, the startup should have a revolutionary idea that can change the industry. The entrepreneur should also want the expertise and participation of the venture capitalist. Equipped with this venture capitalism knowledge, PR pros can peek inside the venture capital club and better position their companies to grab the attention of venture capitalists.
Want to learn more about startups and venture capital? Check out our resource center here.
When it comes to issuing press releases, “quality, not quantity” is a good lesson to live by. We love it when companies are enthusiastic about their announcements, but not all are necessarily newsworthy. And, unless you are a Fortune 500 company, there are only so many times you can cry “NEWS!” before a reporter stops taking you seriously. Instead of being considered as a valuable resource for information, you’ll just be viewed as a spammer.
Then, when you do finally have something worth shouting from the rooftops, you run the risk of a reporter skipping over your release, given the reputation that precedes you.
There’s no magic formula for how many announcements are too much, but it’s important to really look at each one critically from an outside perspective. We interact with reporters on a daily basis and have an acute sense of what they deem newsworthy. Given that expertise, we suggest you ask yourself three simple questions before putting out any announcement:
1. Is this going to change the way people in my industry do business?
2. Will it contain any new trend data or research?
3. Does this play to a larger company growth story?
If you don’t see a “yes” among your answers, then there’s a pretty good chance you don’t need to issue a press release. There are more creative ways to go about sharing less urgent news with the audiences who care. Win an industry award? Celebrate with your team by announcing it in a companywide email and on your website. Hire a new batch of non-senior-level employees? Give them a shout out on your blog. You still benefit by having those keywords on your website for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, and you’re not contributing to the news pollution.
Reporters are bombarded by hundreds (if not thousands, depending on their beats) of announcements per day. Don’t add to their frustrations by flooding their inboxes with news you know won’t be of interest to their readers. Think of press releases as if you were writing a book with them: if it’s not going to be a chapter title in your company’s history, then it’s better off being a footnote.
What was your last announcement? Are you guilty of crying "NEWS"?
To all fellow PR practitioners: I am advocating change. No longer should the “P” in PR stand for “public.” I state that hence forth it should stand for “persistence.” Persistent relations is the true nature of what we do – especially when it comes to the media outreach portion of our jobs.
Case in point: Help A Reporter Out (HARO) posted a reporter’s request last month regarding technologies that are transforming the data center. With these HARO opportunities, a reporter could be swamped with dozens if not hundreds of pitches. You must stand out from everyone else if you want to get the reporter’s attention. In this case, we secured the interview. How? Well, the reporter stated it simply at the end of the call. She was overwhelmed by the number of emails she received, but because we had taken the extra step to call her publication and track her down, we netted the interview. It didn’t hurt that we also had a good story and additional resources to offer.
It is this persistence with media outreach that is key to success in our field. Phone pitching and building relationships with reporters is at the core of what we do. The reporter I mentioned above will remember our client because of this persistence. We started a relationship, and that reporter may respond faster or look to us for assistance with future stories.
We must be persistent in our daily tasks, ensuring that we get answers, secure opportunities and pursue consistent, quality media coverage. I implore you all – stand up with me and make that P in PR stand for “persistence.”
In a world as distracting as ours, it’s impressive when any one person, object or event can hold someone’s attention for any period of time. And I do mean any period. When the 30-second commercial before a TV episode on Hulu is too painful to sit through, you know we’ve reached a new low.
A recent article discussing Tumblr’s new monetization move takes the stance that perhaps our reluctance to pay attention isn’t such a bad thing. The Tumblr team is allowing advertisers to display content - a strategy that could make the social media site profitable for the first time in its six-year history. (We’ll have to watch how Yahoo’s recent acquisition of Tumblr affects this plan.) However, there is a significant caveat: no old-school banner ads allowed, or really anything else that might stand out as content that does not belong. Instead, Tumblr is jumping on board the native advertising train and planning to ride it all the way to pay day.
While some feel this new type of content that is oh-so-cleverly embedded within the structure of the site is somehow unfair or deceiving, I tend to fall far to the other end of the spectrum. I would argue most people in the Internet-devouring generations are well aware of how to spot these artfully sponsored articles or tweets, which Tumblr will identify with a dollar sign. Not only that, but I think most of us actually tune out anything that doesn’t blend in. We have become such creatures of habit when it comes to fast-forwarding through commercials or avoiding banner ads; anything that looks even remotely like an ad is now falling on deaf ears.
We have reached a stage of consumerism that will no longer tolerate poorly crafted and mind-numbing ads, and Tumblr’s strategy is perfectly in keeping with our high standards by ensuring companies bring their A-games. After all, this trend toward native advertising is not some crafty scheme from the evil advertising overlords meant to sneak content by undetected. It is something much more impressive: an elaborate ploy to demand content that is worthy of our attention.
How are you incorporating content strategy into your marketing campaigns?
To speak in dating terms, Flickr and I have been on a long break. Sure, things were good between us at first. But, after a while, I found it wasn’t meeting my needs. By that time, alternative options had appeared – younger, flashier, smarter and more social options. While I was out getting to know the other fish in the sea, Flickr seemed to disappear off to sulk. I thought I had seen the last of it.
Wrong. Fellow 90s kids: remember that scene in the movie “She’s All That” when Rachael Leigh Cook’s character takes down her pony tail, switches to contact lenses and is suddenly gorgeous and cool? That’s what Flickr just did. So, do I pull a Freddie Prinze Jr. and come crawling back after the makeover?
In cases like these, it’s wise to get a second opinion. Here’s what people are saying about The New Flickr:
VentureBeat: “Why the 'New Flickr' still falls short” Guest poster Cap Watkins of Etsy says that Flickr doesn’t seem to know its customer and the new design feels disjointed. Additionally, photos don’t load smoothly or quickly.
Los Angeles Times: “A return to the new Flickr” LA Times staff reporter Robert Lachman notes that Flickr makes it easy to upload and share lots photographs, with an emphasis on organizing them into sets and collections. It also makes it simple to join groups, critique photos, make comments and interact with others.
CNET: “Flickr users: We hate the new site” Columnist Lance Whitney reports that commenters on Flickr's forum say they don't like the new site format and want an option to revert to the old layout.
The Verge: “Yahoo unveils the new Flickr with one terabyte of free space” Reporter Nathan Ingraham notes that the big news is the free space Flickr is offering.
TechHive: “Flickr's new interface emphasizes social media, but will anger long-time users” A longtime Flickr user, Senior Editor Jackie Dove sees both pros and cons.
What do you think of the new Flickr?
My family has been on a big health kick this year; we’re avoiding processed foods and opting for locally grown, organic produce. However, we’ve quickly discovered that it’s not cheap to eat this way, and it can be difficult to find verified-organic items in the local grocery store. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve started our own veggie garden. We just built two raised beds where spinach, kale and carrots are all in progress. We’ve also planted starter trays of beans and tomatoes (five different heirloom varieties!) that will soon be ready for transplanting.
In the beginning, we had no idea what we were doing and weren’t even sure where to begin. We just knew we wanted to grow stuff. That’s why we consulted with a local agricultural expert who pointed us in the right direction. It’s the same scenario for companies that want to kick off a media relations campaign: if you run into it willy-nilly with just an idea and no plan, the end result will probably be a big pile of organic fertilizer with no fruit.
Here are some rules of thumb for both gardening and a PR campaign:
1. Do your research. Did you know that spinach and kale do best in colder weather, but onions, peppers and melons need warmer temperatures to thrive? Neither did we, until we visited the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension website, where we found tons of useful information. A great PR campaign must start the same way, with research on your audience, appropriate messaging, a call to action and the best timing for announcements and briefings.
2. There’s no such thing as being over-prepared. Some people might say we went a bit overboard with our verification that we were using heirloom seeds and completely organic soil. But we wanted the best possible yield with no chemicals. That kind of effort and attention to detail is no different when preparing for a media interview or an analyst briefing: a run-through of messaging, paired with learning as much as possible about the reporter, will improve the quality of the briefing.
3. Make time for care and feeding. Just like watering and fertilizing your little crops, remember that interactions with reporters and editors are not one-off transactions – instead, you should take the time to give each relationship a little TLC with every e-mail or phone conversation. These are living beings, not robots, and should be treated as such.
4. Once you see growth, your job is far from over. So you’ve built the raised beds, added the compost, soil and mulch, and planted the seeds. You’ve watered and pulled weeds, and now your adorable little seedlings are popping up out of the ground. This is certainly not the time to rest on your laurels. The same can be said for a successful media campaign: landing the coverage doesn’t mean it’s break time. Instead, you should follow up with reporters to find out what they’re working on next – and how you can help them.
Want to learn more about building a successful PR campaign? Check out our free eBook on Customer PR 101.
JC Penney (JCP) found itself in a bit of hot water last week when a user on the social news website Reddit uploaded a photo of the brand’s latest teapot design, calling into question its eerie similarity to Adolf Hitler. Before you could say “wienerschnitzel,” the floodgates were open and JCP execs had a viral mess on their hands. They quickly took to Twitter to set the record straight. But instead, they opted to reply directly to each person tweeting about the ill-designed teapot, never once making an official statement. Now, with any PR crisis, it’s important to act fast before it gets worse. But don’t let the speed of the response get in the way of creating a thoughtful one.
What’s scary for a brand facing an unwanted viral phenomenon is the lack of control. The desperation to seize control back can sometimes lead to further headaches. Case in point: reporters and bloggers talking about how you mishandled a crisis via social media rather than fixed it. JCP should have taken more time to think through its strategy on this one, as this is exactly the kind of short attention span distraction that makes a huge splash, but leaves few waves. Does anybody out there actually think JCP intended to design its teapot to look like everyone’s least favorite 1930s dictator? Of course not.
This is not to say that the company should have remained silent. Surely, when your brand is thrust into the spotlight, good or bad, it deserves acknowledgement. And when social media meltdowns are commanding more real estate in the news cycle (see: Amy’s Baking Company), people are tuning in to see how companies respond. What you don’t want people to see on your brand’s Twitter page is a long list of replies that all say pretty much the same thing. (Deleting them afterward doesn’t look good either, since Twitter is ripe for screenshots.) There is a time and a place for that kind of a personal touch, but a response to a viral photo is not one of them. Instead, JCP could have made a simple, re-tweetable statement apologizing for the unintentional controversy and offering a solution. But don’t expect the company to take the item off the shelves any time soon. According to a tweet reply to actor Patton Oswalt, the teapots have already sold out online.
The tech PR blitz
of the year is well underway after the recent announcement of Yahoo’s $1.1 billion acquisition of the popular microblogging platform and social networking website, Tumblr. Now, the pressure is on for Yahoo and its fierce female CEO Marisa Mayer to deliver results. In the past, Yahoo famously paid large sums of money for acquisitions that never quite panned out. Mayer is well aware of these mistakes, and she vows in Yahoo's official announcement
to not screw up the relationship. However, journalists, bloggers and influencers in the tech world are reacting with strong opinions on Yahoo’s recent move, so we’ve recapped some of our favorite articles about the news below.
Is the Yahoo and Tumblr acquisition a match made in digital heaven or a $1 billion mistake? Share your opinions with us below or on our Facebook page
I know each of you will agree that social media revolutionized the way we communicate, and most importantly for PR pros, it changed how we interact with the media. At a recent Business Wire panel, Boston’s top journalists and bloggers shared their insights and social media experiences. The panel was moderated by Shane O’Neill, assistant managing editor of CIO.com, and included Angela Nelson, news editor of Boston.com; Jamie Wallace, editor-in-chief of Fans of Being a Mom blog; Paul Roberts, editor-in-chief and founder of The Security Ledger; Tiffany Campbell, managing editor of Digital WBUR; and Galen Moore, Web editor of the Boston Business Journal.
According to the panelists, Twitter is overall the No. 1 influential platform for the media. Each panelist agreed that Twitter offers immediacy and story leads. However, there is a downfall to the connectivity of social media, which Moore stated succinctly when he noted that dealing with Twitter is like having kids; you have to account for an extra five to 10 minutes tacked onto everything you do.
The panelists also talked about the importance of visuals for an article. As Wallace pointed out, visual content plays better on the smaller screen of mobile devices, and it can’t be an afterthought of the story, but has to be part of the entire story concept. Nelson added that video is also a huge initiative for Boston.com.
Regardless of Twitter opening up another communication channel, relationships still remain key for each reporter – whether it be engaging and building that relationship with the reader or PR pro over Twitter or email. Successful PR still comes down to knowing the reporter’s preferences, the news, the publication, and the information that is of interest to readers.
How has social media changed how you communicate and interact with reporters?