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Friday, June 25, 2010

Cluelessness seems to be a global epidemic

What do BP, the French national soccer team and General Stanley McChrystal have in common? Answer -- an almost unbelievable lack of awareness about the power of the press. To sum up this week's blunders:
  • a General was fired, or should I say resigned after he and his aides were quoted talking smack about their colleagues and higher-ups in the chain of command;
  • the French Minister for Sports said the national soccer team, "tarnished the image of France" following their their first-round exit from the World Cup. During the tournament the media reported on much more than their poor play -- Nicolas Anelka, the striker, made headlines by cussing out the coach. He was kicked off the team which was followed by his teammates boycotting practice and the team captain almost coming to blows with a trainer -- all while the cameras were rolling.
  • BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, went sailing while his company's offshore well continued to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Cluelessness seems to be a global phenomenon with an American General, a French soccer team and a British CEO all providing fodder for the news media. Haven't any of these folks had any media training? It certainly wouldn't seem so. If General McChrystal had, he would have known that his comments would wind up in print. If the French team had, they would have known that letting intra-team disputes become public they would all look like spoiled brats. If Tony Hayward had, he would have known that going off sailing during his company's biggest ever crisis was not a savvy PR move. When the rich and powerful do unbelievably stupid things, it makes us mad. And, with social media we can easily share the stories that made us mad and soon, the story is everywhere. This often results in action being taken -- a general resigning, sponsors abandoning French football players and a CEO... well I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cloud Printing

For more years than I often care to admit, I was the global account leader for the Hewlett-Packard DeskJet and LaserJet businesses while I was working for a large public relations agency. During my tenure with HP, I was fortunate enough to work with some very smart people, ranging from visionary executives, brilliant scientists, creative product development and marketing teams, as well as some very strategic communications professionals.

Together with that team, I had the opportunity to help bring to market some of the most innovative technology products of the past 20 years, including the industry's first color inkjet printer, and later the first color laser printer, as well as the first all-in-one product (printer, copier, fax and scanner). I was part of the team when HP made its foray into the digital imaging market with a line of digital cameras, printers and scanners.

So I wasn't surprised earlier this month when I learned that HP was again breaking new ground on the printing frontier. Just a couple of weeks back, HP announced a new initiative, and a number of new products, that enable people to print from any device to a web-enabled printer using email.

Called HP ePrint, this new technology allows the printer's owner, and anyone they designate (such as family members, friends, work colleagues, softball teammates, etc.) to print from it via their smartphones, tablets, or any other device that allows it.

HP's ePrint builds off of Google's Cloud Print project announced a few months back. The new HP printers connect directly to Google Cloud using a touchscreen on the printer and enable people to print Google Docs without having to use a desktop computer. They can also scan documents from the printer directly to their Google Docs account, again, without the need of a PC.

Not only does ePrint make life simpler for people wanting to print documents, it opens new doors for publishers. MSNBC has signed a deal with HP whereby people can use the new ePrint technology to have customized "newspapers" printed for them each morning, for example, to read on the train during their morning commute into the city.

Application developers are also eyeing ePrint for new opportunities. HP already has entered deals with Facebook and MapQuest, as well as Crayola Crayons and PBS for coloring pages and educational materials for kids.

As we've discussed numerous times on the blog, the Cloud is changing the way people interact with technology, and with one another. HP and Google, and their partners, are now tapping into the power of the Cloud to make printing faster, easier, and more convenient.

Keep your eye out for other printer manufacturers -- from Canon to Lexmark to Kodak -- to look to the Cloud as a way to expand their market position and take advantage of the myriad of new Cloud-based applications.

No, I was not surprised to see HP view the Cloud as its next big opportunity. After all, they've been defining printing for longer than anyone else in the business. And they're willing to admit it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Joining the Lists Parade: 5 Reasons Why A Company Should Hire a PR Agency

"4 Reasons Why PR Agencies are Failing in Social Media"

..and last but not least...

By now, I hope you get the point that the average information junkie -- if there is such a creature -- is fascinated and perhaps addicted to lists.  We see such lists on nearly all social media sites, on sites dedicated to communications and media professionals, and especially on Twitter as links to blogs promoting the "Top 5 Things..."

David Letterman has been doing his "TOP 10" bit since 1985 and every night it's what his audience eagerly waits for.

It's probably because I'm a communications professional and an information junkie (in therapy), and by definition like many of you, I live on line, that I'm seeing a spike lately in the number of posts of the "lists genre" about public relations agencies.

Why a company needs one. ... Or doesn't need one. ... Why a  PR agency should handle a company's social media or should it be done in-house. ... Why you need a social media agency and a PR agency and why they should never meet. ...

I'm sure you have seen many of the same headlines.

The good news for the public relations industry is that it's at the center of these debates.  PR is prominently featured on list after list because PR (or PR 2.0) firms are winning their share of business vs. social media specialists agencies and advertising agencies who may also have a PR practice.  

The public relations industry is racing fast to stay ahead of the changes, brought on largely due to the development and broad acceptance of social media channels, that have transformed the profession.  As such, the PR industry earns its stripes and relevance everyday by putting enormous pressure on other types of agencies -- and subsequently, finds its way to the top of these lists.

So if you can't fight them, you might as well join them.  Thus, here's my contribution to the list mania that is sweeping across the communications world:

5 Reasons Why A Company Needs a  PR Agency

  1. PR agency people who work on communications and social media programs are deeply passionate and knowledgeable about these environments. Because they typically work on multiple accounts, they are exposed to a broad range of campaigns and have greater knowledge about the field which they will deploy on a client's behalf.
  2. When a company hires an agency, it's hiring a team -- not an individual.  This means the client enjoys the benefit of the vast network of influencer relationships that the account team, vs. what an individual, can bring to the client table.  Agency professionals build relationships with journalists and bloggers with two key purposes in mind: to assist the influencer in doing their job and to leverage these relationships on behalf of their clients.
  3. A good agency doesn't let its staffers drink the client's Kool-Aid.  We will tell you if your stories are stale and will uncover new ones in your organization.  We will tell you if your new product is an also-ran and will help find ways to position it in a positive light without overstating the benefits.  A good agency staffer will tell a client when they're wrong, and how to make it right.  
  4. Good agencies become true extensions of a company's internal team.  Once the agency team establishes strong, trusting relationship with the client, products and audiences -- aka, the brand -- they will deliver the same levels of authenticity and passion as do in-house team members and will do so without the distraction of in-house corporate politics.
  5. A good PR agency person is a content creator at heart.  Agency people create client stories like it was their own to tell, and messages that cut through the B.S.  Also, agency staffers create blogs, podcasts, videos, photos, presentations and eBooks and last but not least, news releases.
So there you have my five reasons why a company needs a PR agency.  Please share your own reasons here on Beyond the Arc.  I know you're itching to make a contribution.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Has the Traditional ISV Model PaaS-ed On?

The cloud changes everything is a phrase we encounter a lot -- sometimes in present tense, but more often in the future tense, as in "the cloud will change everything."   That word will is potent because it automatically invokes the blinding transparency imposed by its cousin, when?  Answer that definitively and you are accountable and measurable.  Thus your powers of prediction, which seem to have a dramatic impact on one's potential to reach genuine guruhood, are either hailed or ridiculed.  

This form of risk avoidance leads to a stratification in the industry. There are companies that talk about services and the cloud, companies that embrace services related to the cloud and companies that straddle the fence.  One company that seems to get it is Intuit.  

It doesn't seem like that long ago that founder Scott Cook was peddling his wonderfully simple $9.95 electronic checkbook to anyone who would buy it. The blinding focus of technology on what once appeared to be a narrow but pressing need created a company that has remained Apple-like in its ability to build increasingly powerful solutions around simple accounting and tax preparation requirements of consumers and small-to-medium businesses.  For years, the sheer force of Intuit's forward momentum and speed shook off would be competitors like Microsoft Money  and others the way Adrian Peterson shakes off tacklers. Intuit was a poster child, then adolescent in the market space of ISVs. 

In recent years, a new breed of web-based competitors changed the game to try to level the playing field. Intuit responded in the way great competitors always respond -- they didn't just match what other were doing; they raised the bar with a range of web services appealing to their core target audience.  This included offering turnkey website design and hosting coupled with simple SEO.  All this in addition to QuickBooks, Payroll, Point of Sale solutions, Online Banking and a range of other online and offline services kept Intuit at the forefront of the market it created and dominated for years.

But what struck us most this week was a rather simple, easy to overlook statement in a blog in The DataCenter Journal.  In a reference to Intuit, the blog by Rakesh Dogra stated, "The company has grown from being a software manufacturer to a PaaS and web-services delivery firm."  The comment was nearly lost in the larger article on Intuit's recent cloud power outage, but it was striking never the less. Intuit is not a software company any longer but a PaaS and web-services delivery firm.  Now this comes as no surprise to Inuit, which has been touting PaaS for quite some time now.  But seeing it there in black white, written simply and definitively -- literally  as a matter of fact -- was as striking as if I read that Brett Farve was becoming a head coach.  There is logic to it and a natural migration path, but it takes a minute to digest the magnitude of the change.

PaaS changes the way software vendors do business. It creates an affordable infrastructure that simplifies the development and delivery of potentially disruptive point solutions from hundreds of vendors who would never have made it to market under the old, traditional processes and cost structures of product development.  So, it makes perfect sense.  But it is not an avenue available to every ISV, and we have to wonder who else might be able to make the transition and who seems destined to fall by the wayside as the shift accelerates.