Off to the Social Tools Summit

I am very much looking forward to attending the Social Tools Summit (#SocialTools15) in Boston next STSummitTuesday, where I will be moderating a session on content marketing.

Neal Schaffer invited me to participate awhile back, and I jumped at the opportunity as I new that he and his team would put together a great event.  There are some really informative sessions, an awesome list of sponsors, and excellent speakers on the agenda; it is a can’t miss conference, if you work with social media, and are trying to get your arms around the state-of-the-technology.

The panel I will be moderating has experts that come from an interesting mix of tech vendors and the user side:

If you haven’t registered, it isn’t too late.  I can offer readers of this blog a discount code; just send me a note or put in a request via comments below.

Thanks! Hope to see you in Boston.



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Trick or Tweet? The Damage of TMI

So, does information really want to be free?ifItellYou

Yes, it does, according to technology activists (and Steward Brand, who coined the phrase; see Wikipedia).

It does if you are an insider trading apologist or fair disclosure objector.  As I wrote on this blog, research has shown that Regulation FD can be harmful.

But others may not agree.

It is an interesting area to study, the tensions that exist at the borders of information: what forces want to keep it bottled up, what is our right to know, how do you reconcile the two?

Journalists may be of two minds. On the one hand, they want to report news, whenever they want, period. But what has our sense of entitlement to free, immediate and ubiquitous information done to their business models?

PR people (I am one) and corporations like to manage and control the release of information. Of course, this is getting harder to do.

Twitter is perhaps the poster child for leaky information. You’d guess that their executives just love how the platform has become famous for scooping the media. Yet, the company ironically fell victim earlier this week when poor financial results got out early, via Twitter; their stock tanked.

And what about the Average Joe consumer? You’d think they love free access to information, right? Not necessarily. The NY Times reported that football fans don’t like spoilers when it comes to the NFL draft.

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Getting in with the New In Crowd: Developers

Many PR and marketing teams target the usual suspects. They launch campaigns to get InCrowdcustomers, recruit employees and channel partners, and cozy up to investors and local communities.

But if you are in tech, there is an increasingly important audience that may be getting short shrift.

The software developer is becoming the linchpin in more and more business plans. Once a minor influencer and cog in IT procurement, they have emerged as a major force that can hold the keys to your market, further adoption of new tech and products and even make or break companies.

Why is the developer suddenly so important? And how can you court this coveted group?

In this series I will try to answer these questions. This first post will discuss the developer imperative, describe some of the challenges, and set the stage for a discussion of the tactics that can help you achieve success.

The Rise of the Software Developer

Perhaps you want to foster adoption of your software and drive grassroots growth in the enterprise. Maybe you want ISVs to add compatible solutions and functionality; this makes yours more useful and the vaunted network effect can be the key to becoming a standard. Or, it could simply be that your product is geared to programmers, and you want to sell to them.

Of course, let’s not forget a primary motivator: recruitment. Many want to promote their companies and technologies as cool for programmers.

In any of these scenarios you will want to find a way to get through and win them over.

Their rising importance can be tied directly to the growing role of software for consumers and businesses. Our lives and work are increasingly organized by apps. The rise of software-driven architectures has played a role.

Open source is growing, lowering costs and promoting standards. Apps, SaaS and the cloud bring code within reach of everyone. SDKs and APIs make it easier to extend functionality and integrate solutions.

In a world in which every business is becoming a software company, software is increasingly the Lingua Franca, and the developer, a hero (see my post: There’s Gold in them Apps – and App Developers).

So What, Really, is New Here?

Of course, marketing to developers is not new. If you’ve worked in tech, you have no doubt heard about the trend – just check out the following headlines:

It is a fair bet that the major vendors have big war chests and teams dedicated to winning over this coveted group. But smaller companies and startups might not know where to start.

With the growing importance of this group, you do need a plan if you don’t have one already.

What Does the Developer Want?

If the rationale is clear, the path to winning their hearts, minds and commitment can be anything but.

Developers are not some monolithic group that you can influence with top down marketing. They can be fiercely independent, or belong to tribes. Many value their affiliations and credentials, and wear their certifications like military stripes and skills like battle scars. They can be mired in legacy tech or early adopters.

Having said that, there are some common threads, and ways to communicate that can help you achieve your goals.

Before you begin, ask the following questions:

  • What types of developers are important?
    • Where do they meet in person and online?
    • Where do they get information?
    • Are there similar adjacent communities?
  • What are their hot buttons? Relevant trends?
  • How can you interest /incentivize them?
    • Why should they care about your company/technology?
  • How can you work with developers to further your goals?

My next post will explore PR campaigns designed to build visibility and reputation with software developers.

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Belle of the Ball or Lead Balloon? Read this Before Launching at a Show

You have big news coming up, like a major company or product launch.  Should you tryanniversary-157248_1280 to make a splash at the next major show?

The answer depends on a number of factors.

The press swarm around the big tech events, and it seems you can’t escape the related din during show time.  It was hard to get attention for clients in mobile and telecom who were not at Mobile World Congress a couple of weeks ago.

Last week, much attention turned to South by Southwest (SxSW). The NY Times recounted the history of companies that launched big there:

In 2007, Twitter had its “South by” moment, a tipping point for the company in which many people began to use the service more actively.

The same thing happened to Foursquare… In 2009, Dennis Crowley, a co-founder, flipped the switch on Foursquare days before the conference began; it became the breakout app of the conference and was valued at nearly $100 million a little more than a year later.

Whether it is SxSW or another show, it is tempting to think that your company can become the belle of the ball and reach a wider stage. But precious few do so – the same NY Times article mentioned several SxSW darling wannabes that either never got the big buzz, or did, but failed to live up to the hype.

So, why not ditch the Go Big or Go Home bravado, and ask the following questions before betting big on a trade show Hail Mary?

Can your news really stand out? A popular trade show is like a busy news day. It is usually difficult or impossible to know which news might compete with or eclipse yours.

Twitter and FourSquare’s SxSW lofty debuts were not just about clever PR – they were perfect storms, the result of timing, momentum that had already been building, and great synergies with the event vibe and crowd.

Is it the right kind of news for the show? If you do have truly important news and it is a hallmark event for your space, it may still make sense to launch there. Key media and analysts typically attend, and watch closely for just this type of thing.

New product announcements can get attention at a show. Organizers often run award contests for products announced there.

Even if you don’t announce at a show, there are ways to get some PR mileage from the opportunity. It is great to be able to meet with the journalists and analysts who are attending, and take the time to introduce your company or share updates.

You could also share news under embargo (meaning that the journalist agrees to not jump the gun) that will be announced at a later date.

Just remember that reporters usually prefer to cover-show related news.  It is a PR feeding frenzy to get on their dance cards, and hard to spend quality time amidst the noise and chaos of a show.

If you are not investing in a booth, or announcing at a show, set your expectations accordingly.

For more information about considerations in timing your tech news, see my post on the topic.  Visit this page if you’d like to sign up for more information about how to maximize your tech PR launch.

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GigaOm Crash? Houston, We Have a Bigger Problem

GigaOm’s crash and burn this week really hit a nerve. The outpouring on the blogs and group-img-large-1280x720social media showed its key place in the hearts and minds of those in the B2B tech space. The speed of the flameout left many of us grasping for answers.

Over the next day, like a slowly developing Polaroid, tweets and articles from watchers and principals started to fill in the picture.

I share more of what I learned, and offer takeaways for B2B tech PR and marketers below.

Houston, we Have a Problem

I first heard the news Tuesday evening, when one of our AEs sent an email with the subject line:”GigaOm is shutting down!” and the following tweets.

I could not believe my eyes.


The next day, there were many tweets and articles that sought to explain what happened, such as these stories on Digiday and TNW. Colleagues and coworkers compared notes and shared info – my good friend Judy Gombita sent this exit interview of Matthew Ingram, from Columbia Journalism Review.

Some blamed GigaOm’s troubles on VC, and the pressures of trying to grow too quickly. Search engine guru Danny Sullivan wrote a great piece on Medium about the benefits of bootstrapping a tech media operation.  He described the success of Third Door Media,  and lamented the lack of attention they and others get compared to VC-backed high fliers.

A PR Week story, also shared by Judy, tried to gauge the reaction from the PR community.  The headline said it all: Tech Media Landscape Unruffled… Says PR Pros.  The reason? In essence, there are many other tech blogs where GigaOm came from, and many other places to get your tech news covered.

I disagree. First, GigaOm was not just another tech media operation. They had a unique talent for covering enterprise tech.

Noted SiliconValleyWatcher blogger Tom Foremski also took exception – he said, in the following tweet (also, please check out his take on the GigaOm shutdown):

“…The headline doesn’t match the story… Fewer news orgs is not good for PR pros”

Another issue with the PR Week story – it would seem to imply that PR is just about getting media coverage.  Aren’t our clients and employers expecting the investment (which increasingly also covers social media and content marketing) to deliver business results?

Houston, we Have a Bigger Problem

Let me try to further explain by sharing the details of a conversation I just had with a good friend Joe, an IT consultant.  He is a project manager, and has worked with some of the largest banks in the areas of fraud prevention and anti-money laundering tech.

I was trying to better understand where IT decision-makers get their info on behalf of a client that offers solutions in this area.  They were looking for ways to get through to buyers.

Through an email exchange, I asked my questions and Joe shot back “Gartner is what immediately jumps to mind.  Financial services firms worship them.  Then the 2nd tier analysts… Forrester, etc.”

I pressed him further, and he responded with the trade shows and industry associations.

Of course, I was fishing for the names of blogs and publications that the decision-makers frequent.  Not getting this, I responded in frustration: “I guess no one reads any more :(”

Joe replied: “People out of school now only know the word magazine in the context of playing Call of Duty.” Ba dum.

The explosion of tech media choices – and uncertainty about how many people actually go to news sites and blogs to read the full articles – poses existential questions for the fields of tech PR and marketing.

There are no easy answers.  I do say more on the topic in my series of posts – see Find and Fill Open Spaces to Connect with Customers, and the follow-up story.

Also, IBM had a post yesterday about their research into how millennials are changing B2B tech marketing and buying.





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March NY Tech Meetup

People flocked to the March NY Tech Meetup on Tuesday, despite the snowy weather. Peloton-BikeSkirball Hall at NYU was packed to capacity, as it tends to be for these events.

All seemed excited and ready to see the evening’s demos.  The night had a real feel-good, do good vibe, as it showed off the diversity of NY tech, and the hack of the night was for a social cause.

The following is a recap of the demos:


Kids from Camp Interactive in the Bronx showed Know Your Neighbor (KYN, pronounced “kin”), which helps apartment dwellers do just that – and report problems.


A group from Coalition for Queens showed My Translator. It is an app that helps you  connect with translators.


This service for B2B marketers serves up personalized ads, to boost website conversions.


The best known of the night, Lyft helps you get (and offer) car rides.

Digital Natives

Their Whisper service solves the communication rift for K-12 schools. It is like the school paper come alive and online, and provides a Web destination and messaging hub for each school’s news and bulletins.


This was the hack of the night. Eric Schles showed his program, which uses semantic tech to mine online ads, and detect and report sex trafficking.


Like a StubHub for short term apartment rentals in NYC.


The presenters revealed the startling fact that many air travelers are entitled to monetary compensation for being inconvenienced when flights are delayed or canceled. Their program mines your email for such instances, handles the claim, and gets you your refunds.

They say that they are proud to be hated by the leading airlines.


This website helps you find affordable art that matches your tastes. It uses a network of art advisers, and provides recommendations.

Peloton Cycle (show above)

A real cool hardware-based startup. They invented an indoor exercise bike that is truly wired,  a miracle of cycle engineering and computer tech. It brings boutique fitness into the home, literally – live and recorded classes are streamed to the touchscreen to aid your workout. The display shows all kinds of data to help you track and meet your workout goals.

It is really tough to pick favorites, as so many cool and truly useful demos were shown. I think AirHelp is my top pick for “need to have and try this immediately.”  I would love to have the Peloton bike, even though my workout is usually running, not biking (my birthday is coming up in two weeks, hint hint).

ListenLoop was the outlier as it is about B2B marketing tech; but we do lots of work in the space, and I could readily appreciate its benefits.

My girlfriend, who is an art nut (hi Sine!), will want to check out Kollecto.

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3 Surefire Open Spaces Marketing Tactics

Last month I explained the Open Spaces Marketing concept.  Basically, it is background-21717_1280about getting your customer’s attention by avoiding noise and going where competitors aren’t.

I also shared a tip that should be especially effective for those who work in the tech sector.  It is about communicating clearly and powerfully.  Here is an excerpt:

“… impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.  How can you fill the space? Replace [jargon] with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences…

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.”

In this post, I list two additional tactics.  See below, and visit this page if you’d like to register to learn more about open spaces marketing.

Time your Communications

When considering the timing for a campaign, most seek to avoid bigger noise and find the times when people are more likely to tune in. For example, conventional wisdom says not to issue press releases on a Monday or Friday, unless you are trying to bury your news. Attention tends to trail off on days surrounding the weekend or holidays. Don’t announce your tech product when others (especially Apple) might be stealing thunder with their big news.

The latest technology and research opens the door to a more nuanced approach. Dan Zarrella, an authority on data-driven marketing, has written extensively on this topic. In his book Hierarchy of Contagiousness, he writes about “contra-competitive timing”, essentially an open spaces approach to social media. Zarrella’s research reveals non-intuitive findings such as:

  • Friday at 4pm is the most retweetable time
  • Weekend stories get shared more
  • Blog early for links, on the weekend for comments

There are also tools that claim to help identify the best time to tweet, e.g. see this features list for SocialBro.

Content types and Networks

Good marketers like to tap the latest methods for reaching customers. These days, this often involves using social media, and tempting buyers with informative and entertaining content.

But the most popular social networks can be crowded and noisy places. There’s a herd mentality in marketing, and if something works well, you can be sure that others will quickly jump in. Take visual content, which has become popular in the last few years. Infographics used to be a novel idea; now they are passé; there are so many, and most are not that impressive, making them easier to ignore.

Open spaces marketing means zigging when others zag. It also means keeping your eyes on emerging vehicles, getting good at picking the likely winners, jumping on board and mastering them before the competition does.

This works especially well for brands that want to be edgy, and are interested in early adopters (whether it’s the youth crowd in consumer or business buyers). Newer social networks and content types might not have the mass appeal or audience as the mainstream – but you will be among the first to stake a claim and build audience – one that can grow as the network grows.

What other networks and communications vehicles are emerging?  There’s been some buzz about Ello, an ad-free social network that has a minimalist design and promises not to sell personal data.  The New York Times recently wrote about the rise of messaging apps.

To read about great examples of innovation in content marketing, see the Moz blog.

There you have it – the same idea applied to disparate areas of timing, language and networks. Open spaces marketing can be a versatile and powerful approach – do you have thoughts on other applications?

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Better Call Saul the PR Hound

I really loved the AMC show Breaking Bad.  It seems like only yesterday that my girlfriend sauland I binged on it, getting through all the seasons in a couple of months.

This time I wanted to get an early start with the new spin off Better Call Saul and try something new – like watching it in real time, instead of having to go back and binge.

So far it is great.  The program has the same writing team as Breaking Bad, and some of the same actors.

Yesterday, in Episode 4, PR played a starring role.  But it was not the most flattering context.

In one scene, two lawyers were discussing their client, a couple who’d embezzled and were about to play a starring role in the news. the junior partner asked “should we get them a PR firm?”

The last act of yesterday’s episode (spoiler alert) included a publicity stunt that Jim McGill (who eventually became Saul Goodman – as in s’all good, man!) engineered to drum up business while defending his budding practice from a much larger law firm.

The stunt involved a large billboard and dangling worker.  It is explained further in the latest NY Times wrap:

His goal, we soon learn, is to create a highway billboard ad for his law practice… And here comes the payoff: Jimmy has arranged for the man taking down the ad to feign a near-death experience, by “accidentally” falling off a landing and dangling from a rope 65 feet in the air. With a hired film crew capturing every moment, Jimmy rushes to the rescue, ensuring TV and newspaper coverage for a great story: Solo practitioner bullied by big law firm saves workingman’s life.

Law and PR, not such strange bedfellows. You often see lawyers acting as spokespeople – yet, looking at it from the PR side, we instruct clients not to be too legalistic in how they approach the media and public.Glue

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Sushi for PR Champions

You’ve heard about Sushi for Beginners. This post is about Sushi for PR Champions. It was inspired by the movie Jiro Dreams ofsushi-296521_1280 Sushi, a documentary about the man behind a modest Sushi bar in Japan. Jiro Ono’s uncompromising approach earned his shop an unprecedented 3 Michelin star rating (which means it is worth a special trip to the country just to eat at the place).

I think the movie offers valuable lessons about how to reach for perfection and provide a quality product or service.

So I decided to write this post, which connects the ideas with the world of PR. Read on only if you really are interested in being the best. Jiro’s approach may seem severe. You may flinch as you read it and think they are impossible standards. But you don’t get to be the best by slacking.

To really appreciate these lessons watch the movie; here are my quick observations, interspersed with quotes from the movie in italics:

Love your work, and take it seriously

The words below could apply to PR, or any field, really.

Once you decide
on your occupation…
you must immerse yourself
in your work.
You have to fall in love
with your work.
Never complain about your job.
You must dedicate your life
to mastering your skill.
That’s the secret of success…

Be a perfectionist, sweat every detail

It’s essential to check every detail.
I make the sushi different sizes
depending on the customer’s gender.
If I made everybody’s the same size.
It would disrupt the pace of the meal.
So, I make the sushi a little smaller
for the ladies.
The first thing we do is memorize
the seating arrangement.
If Jiro notices a guest
using his left hand…
the next piece of sushi
will be placed on the left side.
So, you adjust accordingly
to that guest.

Whether you are writing a press release, approaching the media or executing a campaign, sweat every detail. E.g., here at Fusion, I tell the team “there’s no such thing as a draft – get it right, really nail it, the first time.”

This passage also speaks to the importance of tailoring your offering, or pitch.

Work hard, practice, repeat

We’re not trying
to be exclusive or elite.
It’s just about making an effort
and repeating the same thing every day.

[Jiro] sets the standard
for self-discipline.
He is always looking ahead.
He’s never satisfied with his work.
He’s always trying to find ways
to make the sushi better,
or to improve his skills.
Even now, that’s what he thinks
about all day, every day.

It is not about flash; Jiro has the discipline and focus of a Tibetan monk. Similarly, in PR it is important to hone and apply best practices through repetition (another good source on the topic is the book The Power of Habit).

Repetition, practice, and applying proven formulas does not need to be dull or formulaic… see the last point below.

Of course, you need talent

In this line of business…
if you take it seriously,
you’ll become skilled.
But if you want to make a mark
in the world, you have to have talent.

There are some
who are born with a natural gift.

The rest is how hard you work.

These things are no great revelation, but Jiro also talks about the importance of intrinsic motivation – something I addressed in my post on the PR Conversations blog.

It also takes years of training

When you work for Jiro
… you have to endure
ten years of training.
If you persevere for ten years…
You will acquire the skills
to be recognized as a first rate chef.

Ten years! To prepare raw fish! How long should it take to to learn all these things that the typical PR person is expected to handle?

Don’t be too quick to rush freshly minted PR strivers to the front lines; if you are just joining the profession, take the time to learn the craft before even thinking of the next rung.

Keep things simple

All of the sushi is simple.
It’s completely minimal.
Master chefs from around the world
eat at Jiro’s and say…
How can something so simple
have so much depth in flavor?”
If you were to sum up Jiro’s sushi
in a nutshell…
Ultimate simplicity leads to purity.

Jiro takes a Zen-like approach to simplicity. Similarly, the best PR ideas and stories are compelling, powerful and simple – they are easy to tell and understand.

Have great taste

In order to make delicious food,
you must eat delicious food….
you need to develop a palate capable
of discerning good and bad.
Without good taste,
you can’t make good food.
If your sense of taste is lower than
that of the customers,
how will you impress them?

How can you be good at PR if you don’t read or pay close attention to news? The best PR people have great taste – they develop a reporter’s instinct for a great story.

Know when to strike

Each ingredient has an ideal moment
of deliciousness.
Mastering the timing
of sushi is difficult.
It takes years of experience
to develop you intuition.
The sushi must be eaten immediately
after it is served.

Effective campaigns are not just about great stories but timing, too. Here again, it helps to have a reporters’ nose for a hot topic.

Dream big, innovate

The masters said that the history
of sushi is so long…
that nothing new could be invented.
They may have mastered their craft…
but there’s always room for improvement.
I created sushi dishes
that never existed back then.
I would make sushi in my dreams.
I would jump out of bed at night
My mind was bursting with ideas

The PR advice here is clear. Break out of the formula and find ways to innovate – on each campaign, and in the ways that you practice and apply PR. Care so much about these things that you dream about them.



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Find and Fill Open Spaces to Connect with Customers

While watching my kids play soccer years ago, I often heard the coach yell “Open Spaces! Pass to space!”openspaces

The instructions might not make sense, but on the playing field they were obvious: the coach was imploring the team to pass the ball to an area that was unoccupied by defenders.

Marketers of today can learn a thing or two from this philosophy. For as long as I can remember, companies have been told that they need to find ways to “break through the clutter” and “rise above the noise.” This generally involved brute force – “talking” louder, or more persistently – ideally in combination with clever campaigns.

But today’s hyper-noisy world demands new metaphors and strategies. In a crowded field, it is much better to find an area where there are no defenders. Said another way, instead of trying to compete with the din, and punch your way through, why not find and fill an open space?

There are many practical ways to market to open spaces. The beauty is that you can use these tactics individually, or combine them for even better results.

Please see below for the first tip, and I will share others in my next post.

Communicate Clearly when others are Confusing

Most industries have their own language. Using the acronyms, buzzwords and slang identifies you as a member of the club, an insider who is smart about the business.  It can serve as shorthand and streamline communications. However, jargon run amuck – when used by marketers, who have no actual experience with the product or industry – can be confusing.

For example, the tech world is famous for geek-speak. Just try reading press releases in B2B and IT tech and you will see what I mean – it can be tough to understand what the products actually do, and who benefits, even if you are a techie. This dense landscape of impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.

How can you fill the space? Replace all those “purpose builts”, “scale outs”, “seamlesses” and “end-to-ends” with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences.

It may sound easy but it isn’t – doing this right means knowing what you’re talking about, either from first-hand experience, or by tapping the knowledge of someone who is close to a space and ideally has been a user or implementer of similar solutions.

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.

To learn more about how you can market to open spaces, please visit this page.

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