Acting the Part (of Thought Leader and Spokesperson)

I had the great pleasure of meeting Brette Goldstein when my old friend Jeffrey Koeppel introduced us a while back. He’s a Maryland-based corporate, securities, and M&A lawyer who knows Brette from his work in the film business.

Brette is a dynamo, someone who uniquely focuses on helping actors and corporate executives deliver their best performances. Since I work in PR, and also help execs hone their performances (well, media interview skills) we had a lot to talk about when we met.

Flash forward a year-and-a-half and I thought it would be great to have Brette on the podcast, to discuss her special brand of performance coaching.

It’s based on the premise that you can fundamentally improve interview and presentation skills. While the media training we provide at Fusion PR often focuses on story telling, the art of bridging to key messages, and navigating tricky questions, Brette teases out the more personality and stylistic-driven factors that can demonstrate confidence and authority.

She helps execs learn how to channel role models and archetypes, sometimes using famous actors as muses. As Brette says, she can identify anyone’s start qualities, that “comfort food” that get people out of their own way so their charisma emerges.

You can get a high level view in our latest podcast, Episode 11 of PR, Done & Doner. Brette Goldstein shared her advice and insight and explained:

  • The importance of identifying your “special sauce”
  • The importance of archetypes and role models
  • Six questions that can prepare you and help you bring your own voice:
    • What is your objective? (about key takeaways, the call to action)
    • What is your relationship (with your interviewer, and their audience – the “scene partners”)?
    • Setting (where are you in space and time)?
    • How do you want the audience to feel? (It is not just about facts, figures, and informing them)
    • What is the genre (the medium)?
    • Why you (gets to your special sauce)?

Brette Goldstein

Brette Goldstein has cast over 50 films, five TV series, over 300 commercials, countless plays, seven pilot presentations, and various new media projects.  Brette also works with executives at large, well known enterprises, non profits, and tech startups, bringing their authentic voice to the “role” for presentations, interiews, etc.

You can read her full bio and find Brette’s contact details at https://www.brettegoldstein.com/

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Diego Pineda on Why you Need Thought Leadership vs. Content Marketing

I saw a piece of content that drew me in recently.  It was a story on Medium by Solo Thought Leader author Diego Pineda called Content Marketing is Dying; Here’s why you need to Develop Thought Leadership Instead.

My first reaction was, “give me a break! Another XXX is dead (or dying) story! More clickbait fodder.”

So I clicked.  While wondering:

“OK you got me. I am taking a look.  But why is content marketing dying, Diego? And why just focus on thought leadership, you can do both, right?”

I read through the piece and found that it was actually well researched and compelling, about the value of investing in thought leadership vs. content marketing (if you are not already a big player or established brand).  

The article explained a lot, but I still had questions; so I tracked down Diego Pineda and asked if he’d like to come on our podcast, PR, Done & Doner for an interview.  He graciously agreed.

We discussed the topic in detail, and Diego expounded on these areas:

  • How to develop a unique framework and PoV
  • Why it is important to take a stand
  • The need to publish or perish
  • How and where to cutlivate communities
  • Influencers vs. creators vs. thought leaders

See below for Diego’s bio, and listen to the podcast on Spotify and other channels; or watch a video of the interview, above.

Diego Pineda is the author of two novels, 9 non-fiction books, and hundreds of articles and blogs as a science writer, a business writer, and a sales and marketing writer. He started his career as a medical writer while writing fiction on the side.  Diego is also a book coach helping solopreneurs and business leaders write their first book fast so they can become thought leaders in their industries, gain authority and visibility, and make more money.test

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He fired me and Launched my Career in Tech PR

People sometimes wonder how I started out in engineering and wound up in PR.  Something that happened recently really made an impression and brought my career journey full circle, 35 years later.  Read on to learn more, and I hope you enjoy the story!

Geeking out with Audio

I was walking the NAB show aisles at the Javits Center in NYC a few weeks ago, taking in the exhibits and scouting new business when I decided to check out the neighboring AES (audio engineering society) show.

Audio has always been a passion and was one of the reasons I wound up in the tech field.  I play keyboard, and liked to consider myself an audiophile back in the day; I attended BAS (Boston Audio Society) meetings while in college in Boston, where luminaries like the Amar Bose of Bose Speakers and the “K” from KLH speakers also hung out.

I had briefly toyed with becoming a sound engineer before my parents convinced me that “real” engineering was a better career choice.  So, I switched majors, transferred schools and pursued an EE degree at B.U. – a move that cost an extra year in my studies, since I got a late start.

That was 35 years ago.  Now I was in NYC at an audio trade show and basking in all the gear.  I had recently decided to buy Avid Pro Tools, set up a home studio and finally figure out this sound engineering stuff – maybe get to compose and record the right way.

Anyone watching would have noted a shit-eating grin on my face.  And then, I saw a large booth for a company whose name I had been trying to recall recently.  I was amazed to see that it was Eventide – a manufacturer of effects processors for professional musicians.

Yes, that was the one! The company that gave me my first job.  They looked like they were doing great – it was an impressive booth, humming with activity.  And standing nearby, holding court among several admirers, was the man who had said: “You’re hired!”

It’s Agnello!!

His name is Tony Agnello.  

After flailing around after college, going on a European tour with my bros, and striking out on the job front for the better part of a year, I had lined up an interview with this man at an audio company in nearby New Jersey. If I wasn’t going to be a sound engineer, I was excited about the chance to work as a design engineer for a cool audio company like Eventide.  

It’s been a long time and I forget all the details.  At one point I made the mistake of calling him “Mr. Angelo.”  He snapped “It’s on-YELL-oh” (it seems the mispronunciation was a sore point).  That slip-up didn’t blow my chances and I was amazed to land what I thought would be my dream job.

So, I went to work at Eventide, which was in a cool office in a place called Little Ferry.  There was a funky vibe there, with much talk of gigs and name dropping of famous musicians who used the gear.

In addition to Tony, Richard Factor was a key exec (and is still there, Tony confirmed).  He was a long-haired, cool, fast-talking dude who was funny.  I once overheard Richard describing Little Ferry as “the most carefully pronounced town in NJ.” I remember there was a great hot dog place nearby, a local institution called Callahan’s.

I was given my first assignments, a station at a drafting board, circuit designs, chips, and testing equipment, and I set to work figuring out this design engineering stuff. But it was not the thrill ride I’d hoped for.  My eyelids would grow heavy as I did my best to figure out the circuits and assignments. No amount of coffee seemed to help.

And now, son of a gun, there he was, big as life, looking good, no worse for the 35-year wear.  OK, a bit grayer but fit and a little like Jerry Garcia in his later years, or Tommy Chong.

Remember Me?

The name on his show badge clearly identified the man; there was no chance I had the wrong guy. I waited for an opportune time and then tapped him on the shoulder.

“You’re never going to remember me?” Tony turned around with a broad smile, looking worried and eager at the same time. He said something like: “Try me!”

Tony Agnello, the Man, the Legend at AES

I told him my name and explained who I was.  He had given me my first job.  It lasted just two weeks. In the second week, I accidentally fried an expensive chip. Tony fired me soon after, telling me (not the exact words) that I had no idea what the fuck I was doing (and he had said that Richard agreed; seemed surprised about my fumbling around with the testing equipment).

Hearing all this 35 years later, Agnello was crestfallen and apologetic. He asked if he’d been mean about it.

“No,” I reassured.  “You were actually very nice and told me what I needed to hear.”  I explained that it really was OK, he had been right.  I was not an engineer.  But I’d gone on to a successful and fulfilling career in PR.

From EE to PR

These days when new business prospects ask how an EE geek wound up in PR. I sometimes talk about my ill-fated experience at Eventide.

From there I moved on to roles with GE, IBM, several startups, to where I am today – at Fusion PR, a tech PR agency that I helped grow from its earliest days. My roles were progressively less hands-on tech, more involving communications and people skills.  The common thread throughout has been working in the tech industry.

I am grateful for my engineering background; it has served me well in technology communications.  I might not be great at designing circuits, but I know what CPUs are, how a computer works and can explain digital signal processing.

So, I thank Tony and Eventide for giving me my first job and firing me, setting me on this path.

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Top Crypto Reporter offers Tips for PR and Startups

If you work for a crypto or blockchain company and want to improve visibility and marketing results, check out our latest podcast. Fusion PR CEO Jordan Chanofsky interviewed CoinDesk Deputy Business Editor Danny Nelson about the state of the space and implications for media and PR. They discussed:

  • Where is crypto today? Is the market maturing?
  • Terra crash and implications for startups entering the space
  • How to bring more people in the crypto world
  • Pet PR peeves; how to pitch Danny
  • Can early-stage companies get good press?

I include a quote from Danny, below, and some of his tips. To hear more, check out the podcast; you can listen on Spotify and other channles, and watch the interview on YouTube.

The industry right now is at an inflection point… the crypto markets have been bleeding… because of a very important ecosystem player [Terra] failing, there are going to be a lot of hard questions that need to be answered, and that is going to dominate the narrative for a while….
We have left the moment of exuberance

Danny Nelson, CoinDesk

Here are some tips he shared for PR and crypto startups:

  • I enjoy when there’s the message of what a story is, and then facts and figures that flesh out why it matters
  • I get a thousand of these a day, brevity is important
  • [Those seeking coverage should be] truthful in their story and having a good reason why something is new and different and impactful

Thanks for coming on the podcast, Danny, and sharing your insights.

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What’s so Funny about Peace, Hype and Understanding?

Hype has been getting a bad name recently. Trump was under legal scrutiny in NY for variously overhyping or underhyping his assets (depending on the situation). Burger King got sued for inflating their burgers in ads.

And many in the Silicon Valley and tech startup worlds no doubt winced about the guilty verdicts in the Elizabeth Holmes trial a few months ago. It seems that hyping it up to investors and the media is not so funny any more.

The last example hits closest to home, as I work for Fusion PR, an agency that focuses on the tech sector and works with startups. So we arguably are part of the “hype-industrial complex.”

We are not lawyers and our contracts indemnify Fusion from legal jeopardy. Yet it is scary to think that we can be party to spreading harmful hype. I am allergic to such accusations and we work hard at Fusion to intentionally not drink the Kool Aid. We compel our account teams to fact check client claims, avoid getting swept into their FUD wars or veer from spinning to outright lying.

The last is what got Elizabeth Holmes in hot water (well, wire fraud, technically). I am amazed that some were willing to give her a pass, because “everyone does it,” or because she’s a woman, as tech investor Ellen Pao wrote in a NY Times Op Ed. (Times Columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a scathing response: “Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned art of owning it… sexism this ain’t, sisters.”)

In our latest podcast, I had the chance to explore this topic in greater detail with noted legal analyst and commentator Aron Solomon. We also discussed the Sunny Balwani trial, Musk’s play for Twitter, and burgers.

You can see the video, above; and listen on Spotify and other pdocasting channels.

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Frank Strong on the State of PR Tech

I enjoyed speaking with PR blogger Frank Strong (of Sword & the Script fame) about the state of PR tech, for the PR, Done & Doner podcast (here’s a video of the interview).

The PR job of has never been more challenging.  Tech can help, but it is not always easy to know where to invest. Agencies need to decide how much to spend and how to earn ROI from their tech investments. Ideally, it helps them up their game without excessive fee impact. Internal PR teams also rely on PR tech.

So check out the podcast as Frank does a great job of covering a complex and diverse arena in less than 45 minutes. He is an authority, and is often doing reviews, roundups and vendor briefings (see below for some examples).

He speaks in detail on the topics and others:

  • The latest and greatest, from the incumbents and challengers
  • Where to invest for best results
  • How to DIY with free tools
  • The impact of AI and NLP
  • Areas for improvement

Thanks again Frank, for coming on the podcast and sharing your expertise.

Additional Resources from Sword & the Script

Examples of Frank’s Briefings and Reviews

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Hail the Superforecasters: Towards Better Predictions in Tech and PR   

I  recently listened to a podcast that radically changed my thinking about forecasts.  In this post I explain the relevance of predictions in technology and PR, and about armchair superforecasters who can do a radically better job than experts.  The cool thing is, apparently the skill can be learned by just about anyone (are you listening, Gartner?)

Predictions in PR, Technology and Society

Tracking the direction of tech is important for our work in PR.  I recently ran an educational session for our team about this.  Some of you may have seen my post about surfing tech trends.

Looking beyond just PR, technology prognostication is big business.  The high priests of IT (e.g., Gartner, Forrester and IDC) get nice fees for their reports and forecasts. 

Yet predictions are often wrong – even those made by the experts.  See this story in The Register which pokes fun at Gartners’ Hype Cycles.  And sometimes we see other articles that point out prediction fails, like this NY Times piece on pundit accountability.

So who cares if predictions in all those articles don’t pan out? Why is it so important to make accurate predictions in tech, and for PR to try to guess correctly too?

Just think about it.  If we all had better crystal balls:

  • PR firms could choose sectors that have growth potential; we could craft better pitches and plans
  • Lawmakers and regulators could use the insight to prevent bad stuff and leverage the good for society
  • Investors and VCs could make better bets
  • Enterprises could invest in the right IT roadmap
  • Vendors could make smarter R&D choices 
  • Gartner and other analysts could avoid snarky articles

The list goes on and on.

But how many times have we heard “this will be the year of_____ (fill in the blank: IoT, AI everywhere, VR)”?  How many times does that ball get punted?  And what about the blowback from poor tech design, policies, data  and security vulnerabilities?

So I was intrigued when I heard the podcast, on the Ezra Klein Show (he is a NY Times writer, and often has superb guests and topics on the podcast).

The Rise of the Superforecasters

The episode description said: “Can we predict the future more accurately? It’s a question we humans have grappled with since the dawn of civilization… It’s also the question that Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-author of ‘Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,’ has dedicated his career to answering.

Guest host Julia Galef interviewed Tetlock as Ezra was on paternity leave.  She has her own podcast, Rationally Speaking, and wrote the book “The Scout Mindset: Why Some People see Things Clearly and Others Don’t.”

The podcast explained that Tetlock pitted his group of amateur prognosticators against academics and career intelligence analysts in a forecasting tournament in 2011.  Tetlock’s team won by such a large margin that the government agency behind the competition decided to study the superforecasters and their methods, to see what they could learn.

He shared with Julia and the podcast audience insight into the mindset and approach of superforecasting.  It doesn’t necessarily take genius or years of experience (remember, it is the so-called experts who can have spotty records at predictions). 

Philip claimed that the skill can be taught to college students in a matter of hours. How is this even possible?  I’ll try to summarize here, but suggest you check out the podcast and read Tetlock’s book to learn more.

In a few words, it gets to being a “flexible fox” vs. an “inflexible hedgehog.”  The latter tend to be constrained by ideology. It also is about trying to be less bombastic, and more accurate – the former works better if you want to be a firebrand or a talking head on TV, vs. someone who calls shots in a less dramatic way.

As Tetlock says, it is important to be “integratively complex and qualify your arguments, howevers and buts and all those, a sign that you recognize the legitimacy of competing perspectives.”

The less successful forecasters dig themselves into a position that they want to defend, perhaps because it is their trademark issue.  The more successful ones are more open and set conditions that might support a counter POV.  Superforecasters use “comparison classes” and adopt “outside views;” they examine benchmarks to see how other similar situations played out.

Most of the podcast focused on big picture global economic and geopolitical topics vs. the world of technology.  But Julia and Philip finished off with an example, about how a superforecaster might approach a question about technology advancement.  Of course, that grabbed me.

The resulting back and forth is fascinating and shines a light on how a superforecaster might approach the question. I copied an excerpt from the episode transcript:

JULIA GALEF: Are we going to get to full self-driving cars by the year 2025? The kind of car where you can really just take a nap and let the car drive you to work through busy city streets… So do you have any thoughts on how a superforecaster might start thinking about that question?

PHIL TETLOCK: The first thing they would do is they would pick holes in it.

JULIA GALEF: In the question?

PHIL TETLOCK: Yeah, they’d pick holes in your question.

JULIA GALEF: OK.

PHIL TETLOCK: It would be like you’re talking to a contract lawyer. And they’d say, oh, Julia, my God, this is so underspecified. OK, you mean anywhere in the world?

JULIA GALEF: Yes, yes, I do. Yes.

PHIL TETLOCK: OK, so you have more of a shot of that happening in Singapore because they are pretty far advanced with the infrastructure, and they have a different legal system… technology is never going to be perfect. Given the way the U.S. tort law is set up and given the dynamics of U.S. politics, it would be very difficult to imagine it happening by 2025 in the U.S.

Could it happen in certain authoritarian or semi-authoritarian systems that are technocratic, maybe in Dubai or in Singapore or places like that? If that’s the question, now I’m saying, hmm, OK, maybe 25%. But now take a nap — hmm, not so sure. I think even there, the laws would be you have to be conscious, and you probably shouldn’t be drunk. There would still be laws and a sentient observer observing, at least in principle, in charge. But yeah, that’s how they think. They think in very detailed terms. And they think about boundary conditions. And it’s not just the technology, it’s the politics and the law, right?

JULIA GALEF: I guess this is how a lot of forecasters go awry, is they’re thinking of one specific kind of scenario. I was thinking about the U.S., and I was only focused on the technology itself and not on the legal framework surrounding that deployment of the technology, et cetera. And so, I can, a little bit, empathize with the experts in your tournament who, when the question is resolved and they were wrong, they kind of protest, oh, but that’s not what I was thinking of when I said 75% chance yes. The thing I was thinking of was blah, blah, blah. But that is part of the game, is you have to be thinking about all the factors. And I guess that’s what the superforecasters are good at.

The Ezra Klein Show
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Top Tech Words to Banish in 2022

Every year Lake Superior State University publishes a list of words that should be banished because they are so overused.  It’s based on thousands of submissions from around the world. 

As reported in CNN. The 2021 list includes an interesting mix of words, from Gen-Z speak (“Wait, what?”), to work and biz-oriented terms:

“No worries,” “at the end of the day,” “you’re on mute,” and the dreaded “supply chain”: These are the phrases thousands of English speakers have finally heard enough of.

CNN

I get it, people are done with these words.  But can we really get by without “you’re on mute?” Or should we find another phrase for “supply chain?”

So, I thought it might be fun to see what the Fusion PR team thinks about overrused words and phrases in tech.  I asked – and got a lot of venting. 

Which is not surprising, as we tend to obsess over words in PR.  We have to deal with jargon coming from many different areas of tech and business, and yes, sometimes regrettably get caught up in the buzzword cycle ourselves (don’t waste your time scouring our blog, website and press releases because yes, you will find some of the very same words reported below. Please, cut us some slack and give us time. Curing the buzzword addiction is a process).

See below for our choices of the word and phrases to be banished in tech PR and media this year (for no extra charge I include lists for other kinds of irritants):

  • Digital transformation
  • Metaverse
  • Unicorn
  • Disrupt
  • Cloud journey
  • Data lake / data swamp
  • Revolutionary
  • AI operationalization
  • Bandwidth
  • NFT

Weird or Irritating Words

  • De-risk: Sounds like solving a vermin problem
  • Headless CMS:  Yikes, that’s gotta hurt
  • Bad actor: We need a Geico commercial about hackers who are bad actors (in the movie sense)
  • On premise, or On Prem: At least “on prem” makes sense as being short for ‘on-premises.’  “On-premise” just makes no sense at all.
  • At scale: So where, exactly is this wonderful, mythical place of “scale?” So many great things happen there, “at scale.”

Not Tech, Still Irritating

  • Cheers (as a sign off, if you’re not Aussie)
  • I’m not going to lie
  • To be honest 
  • Unprecedented times
  • I can’t stand when people say “rock” when they mean “wear” (i.e. she was rocking 10-inch platform heels)

Posted in Fun Stuff, PR, Reading Files | 2 Comments

Your Amazing Succession PR Scene Translator


I am a big fan of Succession, an HBO Max drama about family media empire Waystar Royco, which is run by aging patriarch Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox with snarling intensity).   There’s great writing, a superb cast, and always lots of palace initrigue over who will succeed Logan.

I also like the show because of its strong focus on PR.   There’s lots of talk about optics, crises, and influencing the media, both directly, by messing with the editorial independence of Waystar’s own Fox-like cable network, ATN, and indirectly, via PR.  The media, lawyers, and comms execs are all part of the drama as the main cast members joust for power and seek to sway Wall Street and Main Street.

As Kendall Logan, the heir apparent (until he wasn’t… then was again; ya just have to watch!) said in a recent episode, while preening for a reporter over dinner, “Image is the family business.”

I have spent the better part of my career in PR, and love seeing the field get its 15 minutes of fame. Which is not to say that the show nails it.  E.g. it seems the stereotypical PR handlers, fixers and flunkies are never too far away from the action. But the writers certainly make it entertaining, and PR is well-integrated into almost every episode.

Anatomy of PR Scenes in Succession

To give you a taste, I thought I’d share scenes from the first episode of the current season (season 3), with my commentary, and just enough info to get the gist even if you are not a fan or haven’t seen this show. 

PR featured especially prominently in this epsiode due to the way Season 2 ended: Kendall Roy had turned on his dad during a press conference on national TV, taking a blowtorch to the enterprise over sexual abuse and coverup allegations related to their cruise line business. So there was the need for lots of damage control and maneuvering.

Just Like the O.J. Van Ride (“This is a Righteous Vehicle”)

Kendall Roy has left the press conference and is being driven somewhere to evade the media scrum.  He is in a limo with Karolina Novotney, Waystar Royco’s Comms Chief, and Greg Hirsch (“cousin Greg”), who holds some important cards and needs to decide which side he is on: Kendall’s or Logan’s. The transcript is provided courtesy of TV Show Transcripts (also, see the video above).

Kendall: This is a company vehicle.

Karolina: What? I mean, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But since you just clearly opened the company up to investigation, lawsuits, I imagine you’re no longer working for the company?

Kendall: Well, no, because I was acting in the best interests of the company.

Karolina: Yeah? Violating your duty of confidentiality? Violating your fiduciary duties as a director?

Kendall: Look. I need a sealed unit here, Karolina. I need a clean jar. So… so… are you in for this f*cking revolution? This is a fork in your life, Karolina. This is the righteous vehicle.

Karolina: It’s just not… It’s not…

Kendall: Okay. Stop the car. Out. Out. Please. I need to make calls.

Karolina: Ken…

Kendall: I can’t have weevils in the f*cking flour sack, okay? Out. Now. Everything you’ve heard today is privileged. Repeat anything and I’ll sue you out of your f*cking ass.

(The limo stops, she gets out)

Kendall: Greg, Greg, if I get taken out on other shit, I might need you to take my cultural temperature.

Greg: Uh-huh. Got it. Okay? As in? Uh, wh… what does that, uh, mean?

Kendall: Like before I get my media monitoring in place I might need you to slide the sociopolitical thermometer up the nation’s ass and take a reading. Okay?

Greg: I’ll get seasick. (Stutters)

Kendall: Just feed me the metadata, anything that’s gonna move the market on me reputationally, yeah? (Phone notification chimes)

Greg: Uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah. Sure. Uh, media monitoring department over here

Analysis:  It was great to see the PR rep be the adult in the room, or car – and not drinking the Kool-Aid.  Karolina, who clearly had no part in Kendall going rogue, is not playing along.  Also, in the same scene, Kendall is spouting some gibberish about media monitoring.

PR Agency Pitch (“F*ck the Weather, we are Changing the Cultural Climate”)

To throw off the press, Kendall then moves the war room to his ex-wife’s apartment; where he and his team hole up to plan next steps.  There he is pitched by PR agency owner Berry Schneider and her sidekick Comfrey.

Kendall: Welcome to my ex-wife’s living room. Sit, sit.

Berry: Can we just say, right off, some jobs are money jobs, some are heart jobs. 

Comfrey We would love to work with you. We love the narrative arc. We love everything you did.

PR Translator: OK, here we go, PR yes-women. “We love the narrative arc.” Give me a break, I have never said this on a pitch.

Kendall: And I would love to work with you, but, uh, if it’s cool, and I know you guys are the best but is it okay if this is still a pitch?

PR Translator: Kendall wants a taste, some free advice before signing them. That is usually fair game in the biz.

Berry: Of course!

Kendall: Great.

Berry: So, we have a lot of thoughts.

Kendall: Yeah.

Berry: Communication planning and positioning thoughts. How we can leverage our relationships with significant writers at major outlets. 

Kendall: Yes. Yes. 

Berry: Prepare to prime and amplify some impressive secondaries. 

PR Translator: They’re going to pursue top tier media friendlies, and second level ones.

Kendall: Great, great. So, shall, shall I talk, or will you? 

Berry: Well, we want to hear your thoughts, of course, but you wanna start off just hearing our five points? 

Kendall: Sure. Sure, you go. 

Berry: Okay. So… 

Kendall: But I think the headline needs to be “f*ck the weather, we’re changing the cultural climate”. But you go. 

PR Translator: The nightmare client – he doesn’t want to hear their thoughts, thinks he knows the best strategy.

Berry: Okay, I mean… 

Kendall: For context, I, I, I’m talking to the Times about an op-ed. Draft an alternative corporate manifesto. Drop a rapid reaction TEDx. sh1t like that.

PR Translator: Again, a micromanaging client that does not know what he’s talking about. “Rapid reaction TEDx?” Fans of the show know that Kendall can get over excited and spout nonsense.

Berry: Well, that’s great.

Kendall: It’s cheesy as f*ck but, you know, I need people to see this was part of a coherent philosophy, not just punching an old guy in the f*cking nose? Yeah? 

Berry: Right. Right. That’s in line with our thoughts. So… 

Kendall: Well, I just, I may as well say, on a dumb level, I’d like my Twitter to be off the hook. This could all get super earnest, so I was thinking of hitting up some BoJack guys. You know? Some, some, some of the Lampoon kids… to just smash that sh1t, make my feed a little powder keg people need to check-in with? 

PR Translator: This is dad-PR talk. Kendall thinks he is being smart, hip. It is also interesting how Twitter and influencer marketing gets mixed in with other strategies. And there actually is a tie-in with this show and BoJack Horseman.

Berry: Like cool tweets that position you? 

Yeah, that would be the… straight-leg chino way of putting it. “Cool tweets”.

Berry and Kendall: F*ck you (laughs)

Kendall: No, it’s… I’m kidding. I know you guys are the best. Okay, sorry. I want to work with you if you can… if you can work with me? 

Berry: Sure. Well, we think you’re going to win this and we like winners! 

PR Translator: They’ll take any job.

Kendall: Hell yeah!

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What’s your Hype Cycle Time?

How to Surf the Tech Trends without Going Under

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Everyone is familiar with tastemakers in fashion, music, and popular culture. They indicate what is hot and what is not, with words and actions. Those who want to stay ahead of trends pay close attention.

But what about enterprise tech?

The general idea is the same.  There too, you have influencers, like industry analysts.  But the dynamics are much different. Users and decision-makers aren’t generally surfing TikTok or watching Kylie’s Instagram to see what the next big thing will be.

So what do you do, if you are in enterprise tech or some gorpy B2B space?  How do you track where things are, where they are going, and leverage this insight for PR?

What’s your Silicon Valley Time?

An article I saw a while back inspired this topic. The story, about the tyranny of “Silicon Valley Time,” was widely read and shared. Aaron Zamost’s Medium post rang eerily true for those in the tech marketing, journalism and PR worlds. His subtitle said it all: The tech press moves like clockwork, fitting company narratives into a predictable arc. Here’s how pros deal with it.

He describes the expectations set when a company is founded (“12:00 SVT; Birth – No one really cares”) and circles the clock on to Shiny New Toy, Up and Comer, and Industry Disrupter (3 SVT) and beyond. The idea being, if you are in PR, you should heed this timetable and try to beat the clock in your storytelling and execution.

But the focus here is on another schedule that impacts media coverage. It is the one that follows the inexorable march of technology evolution and disruption.  This one too, is about promise, expectations, triumph and sometimes flameouts.

Here, the clock turns not for an individual company – but for categories (true, one company might be the driving force in a new “bucket,” but there will inevitably be competitors). 

These segments are important because they help the media and their audiences understand what kind of tech you have, and where it fits in the scheme of things. Each category has a narrative, a story arc that starts with invention and ends with obsolescence. It has its innovators, leaders and followers.

How long it takes for a category to emerge and go big relates to many factors: is there a real market for this new kind of thing, is it affordable, does it work as promised?  All these questions dictate the likelihood that the tech will jump from development, get used by early adopters and eventually reach a mainstream market.

Geoffrey Moore wrote about the dynamics of technology adoption in his classic text, Crossing the Chasm (the “chasm” refers to the gap separating innovation and mass adoption). Gartner Group famously maps the trajectories of enterprise tech segments in their Hype Cycle reports, charting them along a curve like the one below. Here’s a link to their Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2021.

Wikimedia Commons

Leveraging Tech Evolution for PR

Media appetite and coverage of vendor news and stories vary significantly depending on the stage of the space.  This presents challenges and opportunities for those in the mix.  The savvy tech marketer  adjusts tactics accordingly.

Where does your tech and company fit in the category story arc? And what can you do with this understanding?

Let’s play spin the clock with some examples.

Think desktop PCs, big a million years ago; yeah, still incredibly important – but does anyone really think about them or care much today? Especially media, they don’t necessarily want to cover older stuff AKA “legacy tech.”

Or “big data” – hot or not?  This blog asked that very question five years ago – after NY VC and tech influencer Matt Turck said that big data sounded “increasingly three years ago,”  folowing Gartner’s jettisonong of the phrase from their 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

Back then I did an analysis that showed big data was still much buzzed about, despite the second guessing. But today?

Quantum Solace

On the other hand, Most would agree that quantum computing (a segment that Fusion PR works in) is at an early stage. Depending on who you listen to, we could be 5-10 years away from mainstream adoption.

The Register had a funny piece that skewered Gartner Hype Cycles: Where on Gartner’s Hype Cycle is Gartner’s Hype Cycle? That’s the way uh-huh uh-huh, I hype it Rupert Goodwins writes: “…quantum computing seems to crop up about one year in two. Bless.” (But c’mon, Rupert, doesn’t media play a role in perpetuating hype? Yeah, PR too, obviously. We are all part of the hype-o-system).

Quantum computing is a frothy space – there is much excitement about its potential and eagerness for its arrival. Press interest and coverage reflect this – every minor advancement, things that would go unnoticed in a late adoption stage, get covered here (PoCs, papers, etc.). Hard news rules the day. But the definition of hard news is much more lax.

Surfing the Cycle

Press interest and coverage can vary based on the stage of your technology in the Gartner Hype Cycle. The following is a grab bag of tips and observations accordingly:

  • In the earlys stages – “Technology Trigger” through “Peak of Inflated Expectaions” – new shows, awards, publications and influencers emerge – the savvy PR team does triage on these.
  • It’s a horse race to determine winners and losers, the leaders and followers as the category climbs that slope. There’s a lot of noise. You need to decide whether you want to play the hype game or be more conservative (but there are no awards for playing it low key).
  • The press can get negative as the tech traverses the peak and descends the “Trough of Disillusionment.” If you’re a company that competes in the space, be ready for this.
  • Technologies that are in the later stages of adoption – they are mainstream, widely used, with little fuss – get less media attention. You need to work harder to get that media love.
  • For those, feature articles and bylines about best practices are good options.
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