One of our favorite parts of working in high tech pr is communicating with our clients' customers and partners to glean trends, raw data and information that we can share beyond the marketing veil.
It's that time of year when we are focusing heavily on discussing and presenting 2011 data center trends. Here's a preview of what we expect in the coming year:
- Aprius expects growing support for convergence over Ethernet, whether through technology enablers like DCB (CEE) enhancements or practical implementations of FCoE, PCIeOE and RoCEE. The company sees growing interest and support for 10GbE and 40GbE as universal fabrics in 2011, with implications for data center architectures and subsequent technologies within storage, networking and servers.
- Correlsense predicts a big increase in the use of transaction management solutions within the enterprise. The company is discussing the link between business and technology and the need for greater IT reliability.
- Embotics notes that mobility between internal and external clouds is too big of a leap for most these days, as it is fraught with complexity that only highly controlled and automated environments can even contemplate. Yes, the external cloud will continue to garner lots of hype, but Embotics foresees that time and money in 2011 will be spent on the nuts and bolts of internal cloud management.
- FalconStor Software wants IT managers to understand why and how data protection is broken and the need for service-level data protection moving into 2011. The company’s interim CEO, Jim McNiel, is discussing the growing need for storage and desktop virtualization and how these trends are breaking the current data protection paradigm.
- VM6 Software says SMBs will continue to face increased challenges when it comes to virtualization and will need to overcome these challenges with simplicity to cut costs.
What data center trend do you think will prevail most in 2011?
Sitting at Children’s Hospital recently while my son underwent a speech evaluation, I was reminded again of the importance of proper, clear and concise communication. As a PR professional, I help companies communicate to broad audiences of investors, customers, partners, media and the general public on a daily basis. Without a clear message for these groups, a company could fade into virtual obscurity. Similarly, those who speak daily with my son can understand his mispronunciations and sound replacements, but to reach broader groups, he needs to adjust the way he communicates. And with a bit of assistance, he’ll succeed in reaching that goal.
Sometimes companies also need help crafting consistent and effective messaging – focusing on key points to hammer home who they are, what they do and how they help customers. We work with clients to drill down into the WHAT and HOW to effectively communicate their value propositions and deliver them to appropriate audiences.
But in today’s age of social media, companies need to deploy more than just the traditional communication vehicles such as press releases, byline articles, investor reports and newsletters. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, SlideShare, podcasts and other methods are essential to effectively communicate to almost any market. Integration of online content, public relations and social media is the key component for companies to consider when delivering their messages.
This is the ideal we pursue at Metis. It is this integrated mix of strategies, tactics and tools within our programs that helps our clients secure new customers and partners, as well as expand market awareness. Similar to finding the right speech therapist and therapy schedule for my son, so must companies find the ideal approach to communications integration.
Ramping up with a new client is always exciting. I enjoy the process of sharing new ideas with new people, seeing how different companies operate, and learning new markets and products. It is a lot of work, but when done well, it sets a solid foundation for a successful relationship. There are even times when it doesn’t feel like work. This has been the case with one of Metis’ newest clients, Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod. In our first week of working with the vineyard, I got to know them real, real well. Lucky me!
Earlier this month, Metis’ very own Melanie LaPlume married Jim Lord in Provincetown and they had their reception at the vineyard. It was beautiful. Rolling hills of vines, the smell of salty air – As I stood there, surrounded by family and friends (including a couple of other Metis Mavericks) I thought “Life is good.” I was so happy to be a part of it for two reasons: As a dear friend of Melanie and Jim’s, it was a special day and a wonderful night. Secondly, as the vineyard’s new PR firm, we were thrilled to see just how smoothly the operation ran. Kristen Roberts, who helps manage the family-owned vineyard, and her team were flawless.
Not a week later, I headed back to the vineyard with my teammate, Peter Gett, to have a kickoff meeting and wine tasting. Both were fantastic. Dave Roberts, Kristen’s father, joined us and suggested we sit outside. It was a stunning morning without a cloud in the sky. In the 15 years I’ve been working with businesses, it was one of my favorite kickoffs. How could I not love sitting in a vineyard on a beautiful day, brainstorming and planning? Dave and Kristen are passionate about what they do and about the quality of their wine. They have a lot of great ideas on how to grow the business, and we are excited to help.
After the kickoff, Peter and I participated in a tasting. The wine is delicious. I had tried some of Truro Vineyard’s wines before at restaurants on the Cape and at events leading up to Melanie and Jim’s wedding. But I had only ever tried a few. To sample most of their portfolio was incredible. Happily, they sent us on our way with a bottle of each of their 13 different wines, so if you swing by the Metis office anytime soon, chances are you can try some, too.
At Metis, we represent a wide range of organizations, each with its own challenges and opportunities. But whether the client is a tech vendor or a consumer company or a non-profit agency, the tenets are the same: know the market, know the customer, know the product. Truro Vineyard’s product just happens to go down particularly easy on a beautiful fall day on Cape Cod. Speaking of which, if you’re cruising to the Cape between now and Thanksgiving, you should swing by the vineyard for a tasting. Drop us a line and we can get you some free passes.
Despite the recent increase in popularity of virtual conferences, our clients collectively have physically attended many a conference in the past 2-3 months. For instance, FalconStor attended SNW Fall 2010 this week. Just two weeks ago, Aprius was at IDF 2010 and Amadesa and SundaySky were attending the Shop.org Summit.
At one point, it was enough for a company to devote budget to sending a few reps to a show: plane tickets, accommodations, exhibition space, and collateral and booth design. Is that enough, though? Can more be done online? Will these physical efforts to be visible on a show floor help you rise above the noise of a conference? While worthwhile, these costs quickly add up, but there are plenty of additional (free) ways to further your dollar during conferences. Let’s use SNW as an example, since most shows offer similar agendas and resources.
- Do your research: Who is attending? Whom should you meet? Where will people congregate? Check out the sponsor page of the conference to get an idea of who will have booths at the show. If your company is sponsoring, you most likely have access to the press list to contact editors and arrange media briefings. (Share the list with your PR firm, if they haven’t already tracked it down.)
- Prioritize the sessions you definitely want to see and make time for booth visits. It will be hard to speak with those reps from companies that are presenting, but reference their session, if possible, in any follow up discussions on the show floor.
- Attend the reception. When the first day is over, everyone is ready to mingle. And if you are at SNW’s reception, you can watch world famous texas armadillo races. Need I say more?
- Submit your product for conference awards. If you win, best-of-show programs are one surefire way to shoot your company and product awareness through the roof (at least for the show).
- Do you have a company blog? Don’t neglect it during the show. Send your followers a reminder that you are there, link to the show, reference sessions and companies and increase your online visibility, linkbacks and SEO.
- Some conferences use directories and communities to get the attendees networking prior to and after the show. Sign up, use, share, engage, make appointments. You’ll thank me later.
- Regardless of the conference’s own user community, you must traverse the social media landscape and engage with prospects before, during and following the conference.
- Twitter: Engage with attendees via RTs and DMs. Follow the conference handle and relevant hashtags (in this example, @SNWUSA, #snwusa, etc.) Use those trending topics and hashtags and include your booth number in all tweets.
- LinkedIn: Join conference groups and track for updates (SNW, Computerworld, etc.). Post comments and discussion threads to these groups, including the company booth number, any relevant photographs, etc.
- Facebook: Post updates to your fan page; let your fans know that you are attending, your booth number, what you hope to learn and talk about, etc. Join relevant groups and conference pages (there is no Facebook page for SNW).
- Flickr: Take pictures. Take pictures of the local scenery if you are traveling out of town. Take pictures of your booth. Take pictures of Armadillos for Pete’s sake, just take pictures. J
- YouTube (and other similar platforms): While you’re at it, take video. Almost all smart phones have a video function now, so you have no excuse. Candid’s can include footage from the trade show floor, demos, etc. Testimonials are great, too! Capture those customer and employee soundbites and share them with the world: company blog, Facebook, and video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo and MetaCafe.
Some companies are choosing to forego attending conferences for the cheaper route: virtual events or simply co-mingling online via social networks. There are pros and cons to both, and we’ll discuss how to maximize your conversations when participating in a virtual conference in a future post. Go forth and confer!
This week, I had the pleasure of attending HUG2010 - HubSpot’s User Group Conference in Boston. The biggest message from the event was one we at Metis Communications have been preaching for a while: content is key, king and everything else almighty.
HubSpot’s customers grumble about time constraints when creating content like blogs, byline articles, whitepapers, podcasts, videos and more. We can relate. Metis is consistently educating clients on the importance of creating meaningful content that speaks directly to customers. However, companies have to find the time for these activities, just as they do for every other business-critical task. In fact, on a HubSpot user panel, Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas could not have put it any better when he said, “Blogging must be a culture. Creating it and other content is like a paycheck for my employees. If the blogs don’t get written, the paychecks do not come.”
Listen to Marcus. Creating content is essential, and it doesn’t have to be burdensome. Here are the top things to consider when creating and distributing content, both of which can be done in just 30 minutes per day:
- Produce quality content – When we say quality, we mean quality. This isn’t an advertisement of your product, business or service. This is an expert testimonial to show your prospective customers and the industry that you know your stuff, and that they should come to you and trust you. Worry less about the format and think about the topic and what you’re really trying to get across to the reader. If you don’t have time to write, buy a Flip for $150 and create a video instead. The search engines love video.
- Include keywords – Do you know what people are searching for when they’re looking for products or services like yours? If not, you better find out FAST. These words enable Internet searchers to find you. HubSpot has a great keyword grader that can help.
- Give your content wings and roots – Like Ann Handley of MarketingProfs (@MarketingProfs) said at HUG2010, “Produce content, but give it wings and roots – distribute it and let it soar!” It’s just not enough to create this material. You need to summarize and share your key points on forums, communities, and other blogs in your space, as well as share it through key distribution sites like delicious, digg and StumbleUpon to name a few. Get out there and get social! You never know where your customers are searching or looking for your solutions or services. Make thoughtful comments (again, not advertisements) on industry blogs and forums that have a high readership and link back to a quality, insightful blog on your site.
- Use social media – The very first comment you post makes you anxious. We know. But when you get over that phobia, using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can help you summarize the content you’ve already produced and use snippets of it to engage with others. This will help you establish relationships and create a persona to which a user can relate, rather than spouting the marketing jargon people see every day.
Wow! That sounded like a lot of work, right? Wrong! Once you create two to three pieces of thoughtful content, you can repurpose that in different ways throughout various outlets. So, grab that morning cup of coffee (or tea, in my case), check your e-mail and then distribute some content for 30 minutes a day.
If you stick with it, you’ll see the benefits.
It seems like only yester-decade that both academia and the “real world” frowned upon casual Internet use and social media tools. These were the days when our only form of online interaction was AIM, which had to suffice as our party-planning, gossip-slinging, awkward-flirting one-stop shop. Now, on the random occasion when I sign into my AIM account (Rebigulator360, named for The Simpsons’ Professor Frink and his most famous theoretical invention), I feel like I’m peering through the windows of a boarded up house in which my friends and I used to party every weekend. My buddy list depressingly tells me that only three out of my 148 friends are online, and those three are either AIM bots or stubborn acquaintances who won’t get with the times.
Then Facebook was introduced. At the time, you still needed a “.edu” e-mail address to register, and the access was limited to a few hundred universities around the country. It was even called Thefacebook, which goes to show your sweet, out-of-touch grandmother who always asks, “You’re not on the Facebook, are you?” is factually correct, in her own senile sort of way.
You win this round, Grandma.
The number of users on Facebook exploded quickly at my beloved Roger Williams University, and within a few weeks of its introduction, most -- if not all -- of my friends were on it. We were quickly uploading all of our stupid pictures and making groups or planning events for the weekend. (I remember I once invited a lady friend to an event titled “Pants Party… A Party in the Pants.” Anchorman was big at the time. I won’t apologize).
The students’ love of Facebook quickly got the attention of the administration and announcements were made about not using it on school computers and making sure it didn’t detract from our studies. We could tell the teachers and the administration hated Facebook and everything for which it stood. I even had a teacher foolishly tell me it was nothing more than a fad that would surely be forgotten soon. In hindsight, I must say she was mistaken.
Nowadays, any university that doesn’t have at least one Facebook page is considered just as out of touch as your grandmother, who now asks why everyone keeps talking about The Twitter. Most schools have different Facebook pages for each of their majors. All of a sudden, any social media movement that gains traction amongst students and young professionals perks up the ears of business leaders and universities around the world. Twitter, which used to be considered a less useful, lamer version of LiveJournal, is now an invaluable resource for breaking news, celebrity gossip and growing trends. It helped that early-adopting hipsters ran out of ways to express their angst in 140 characters or less, paving the way for thought leaders to leverage Twitter as a platform for large-scale information dissemination.
The point of all of this is that whereas once society would scoff at anything in which the 18-24-year-old demographic showed interest, now we (sadly, I am a dinosaur at 26) pick up any trend we can get our old, arthritic hands on as long as those damn kids are into it. Now more than ever, young people influence how the professional world conducts business. Hell, even Tom Brady changed his haircut to look more like Justin Bieber. (Note, I only added that name to this post so I would show up on 95 percent of Google searches. Also, Lady Gaga, Glee, Katy Perry. Take that, SEO!). Frankly I’m just excited to see what the next 10 years will bring for social media platforms. Whatever happens, I’ll try my best not to angrily shake my cane in the air as I mutter about the good old days when men were men and Thefacebook wasn’t full of Farmville requests.