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Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Someone once said to me that technology is what you call something that doesn’t quite work properly yet. Many of products we now take for granted were once referred to as technology in their infancy – fridges, showers, cars, planes – are now simply called by their monikers. Presumably a chair was once considered technology but maybe that is pushing the argument too far!

Outside the bosses in the technology-oriented industries, do the c-suites buy ‘technology’? Or do they wait until it is in such common usage amongst their peers that it is no longer perceived as risky in any way? Moreover, how can suppliers of technology products and services accelerate this process?

Many of the companies we talk to stress the importance of reaching the c-suite but it is an extremely hard task to accomplish. A few years back we held a seminar where the Deputy Chairman of Goldman Sachs, who dealt with CEOs every day, came to talk to us and our clients about the key c-suite issues. Technology hardly rated a mention in his view! Although we now have a generation of CEOs who started work with a PC on their desk and who use technology everyday so one would guess this is rapidly changing.

The best way to accelerate the transition from ‘early adopter’ to ‘majority’ is to get as many existing customers as possible to talk about their usage of the product and its benefits. There isn’t a company around that wouldn’t buy that statement but it is far too rare that they really focus on this requirement.  The Brands2Life client that, in my view, did this best in recent years, in my view, had a dedicated customer relationship manager within the marketing team who managed the key clients day-to-day from a PR perspective and ran an annual customer excellence awards scheme that culminated in the winning customers receiving their award from a member of the English Rugby World Cup team at the Natural History Museum. Needless to say these customers were always available to endorse the company!

I reckon that, far too often, the request to get customers involved in PR comes from the sales manager at the end of the meeting as a throwaway comment. The customer contact probably recoils in horror at the prospect of their name in lights proclaiming huge investment and/or cost-cutting and the subject is quickly dropped. It doesn’t have to be that way.

So here are some key tips on how to maximise your chances of getting customers to participate in PR:

  • Get the CEO to champion the programme, ideally get customer endorsements into their KPIs
  • If possible get a member of the marketing or PR team to have some dedicated (and ring-fenced) time to focus solely on clients
  • Brief the sales team properly on the process and the benefits – show them how other companies have implemented these programmes to their financial benefit
  • Pick the customers that have a corporate goal to communicate their innovation, collaboration or operational excellence – and map your proposal to that goal and language – this can often be found in the Chairman’s Statement in the Annual Report or in the Year-End Analyst presentation
  • Pick the individuals within those customers, who want to raise their profile for some reason – we had great success with the procurement team of a large bank once who needed to promote their role in a successful post-acquisition integration and were being ignored by their in-house PR team
  • Make sure that the customer understand their potential role in the PR process in its entirety – we have a document we use with clients for this and it invariably helps to avoid mis-understandings
  • If resources allow, allocate a PR person to look after each client and hand-hold them through the process. This will avoid any doubts entering their minds and de-railing the process
  • Make sure that any resulting coverage and/or results are quickly fed back with accompanying information on the audience – this will help them to position their role in a positive light before anyone else in their organisation sees it
  • If at all possible get the CEO of the vendor to thank the customer personally for their involvement by phone, email or letter

It is a substantial investment to put all these things in place but, if the money and resource can be made available, I think it will make a considerable impact on the speed of the journey from Moore’s early adopter to ‘majority’.

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My four-year-old’s latest parlour trick is to turn on the PC, open up a browser window, find the Cbeebies home page, and play away.  She can manage this completely unsupervised.  Unchecked, she can be playing away for several hours at a time.  To our embarrassment, she often pulls the same stunt on the computers of any friends or relatives we happen to visit – no matter the hardware or operating system.

This got me thinking.  my daughter”s only four now but in twenty odd years she’ll probably be a business IT user, and her expectations of what she’ll expect her company’s IT to deliver will have been shaped by her experiences as a youngster:

  • Immediate access to applications regardless of the hardware you happen to be using
  • Questions like “can I run this on my machine?” are irrelevant
  • Any delay in accessing / retrieving information is unacceptable
  • All IT and communications hardware is connected to the Internet without restriction
  • The physical limitations of the hardware you’re using shouldn’t get in the way of productivity

No major new insights here – but it is fascinating to think that a whole generation of youngsters are growing up taking things like networking, broadband access and cross-platform compatibility completely for granted.  Their expectations of what IT can deliver are entirely different.

In the meantime, I think I need to set up some password protection and access restrictions back at home!

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Ahoy me hearties. I’ve raised the Jolly Roger and taken over the Chivalry House ship.

I’m late to the party on this, but pirates are back in a big way. For much of last month barely a day went by without another reported attack off the coast of Somalia, then the Pirate Bay founders finally appeared in court (and lost – although an appeal may yet save them). Next was Wolverine, whose famous healing powers were tested when his big budget movie launch was trumped by an early copy popping up online, and then, best of all, Facebook became infinitely more fun and interesting than it has in years with the pirate language option (yes, I am that easily pleased).

The traditional, seabound pirate variety got a lot of traction last month and it was pretty scary stuff. One of the more exciting twists was when the media brought Obama in on the act. What must have been a challenging, yet routine mission to rescue a US captain was reported more like an episode of 24, with the President personally giving the snipers the green light to shoot – almost as if surveying the scene from afar with binoculars before calling in Jack Bauer and giving the order.

I’m more interested, though, in the repercussions of the Pirate Bay trial on movie piracy and online distribution. I won’t deny ever using sites like The Pirate Bay, particularly during my uni days. That was the golden age, if you will, of Internet piracy – broadband was a still relatively new thing and practically every film, CD, software or even book appeared online, often before official release. Agree or disagree, you can see the appeal to a poor student. With less time and more money these days, I don’t go there anymore – but I know many still do.

The challenge for the movie studios now is to adapt and evolve to meet the demands of an 21st century, net-savvy audience. Personally I don’t think Hollywood can ever beat the geeks at their own game. While they may manage to close The Pirate Bay, a hundred more will spring up in its place. There have been some overtures to drag film distribution forward: US Lovefilm-alike NetFlix allows members to stream directly over the web, YouTube has recently announced plans to stream entire films and services like iPlayer and Hulu are improving and growing in popularity all the time.

But as yet, there is no Spotify moment on the horizon. I mention that service specifically because it’s truly a watershed in how music reaches its audience – and all who see it, young and old alike, immediately understand it and get started. I have heard friends say they went home and introduced the service to their mum or dad only to find that they started using it weeks ago – when was the last time that happened!?

The film industry needs to get its act together, and refocus its efforts from prevention and prosecution to finding new methods of online distribution. My personal belief, albeit one that is not shared by many, is that online file-sharing of music and films has only a negligible effect on sales – a viewpoint backed up somewhat by record box-office takings this year and a recent survey on music buying habits. What it demonstrates is that people want a new, convenient, cheap way to access content. Give us that, and although sites like The Pirate Bay will survive, they won’t ever prosper like before.

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At last week’s IOD Convention, there were plenty of gems of business insight being dished out by top leaders, including M&S’s Stuart Rose, the Founder of LinkedIn and the blond buffoon himself, Boris Johnson. Entertaining and enlightening, the speeches struck a balance between addressing the gravity of the current business climate and rousing a spirit of optimism amongst the audience, (although it was a shame Alistair Darling got off so lightly in his tête à tête with the IOD’s Miles Templeman). 

The main highlight for me were the words of Tim Smit, Founder of the Eden Project, who gave a truly inspirational and energetic speech discussing his career, the success of the Eden Project and his thoughts on the growth of social enterprise. So in a Baz Luhrman ‘Wear Sun Screen’ style, here are a few pearls of wisdom from Tim:

1. The buzz word of the future is sharing – social enterprise projects are the way forward

2. Rather than sticking with the same crowd, meet people you aren’t meant to meet by accepting more invitations. It’s the best way to network and cultivate ideas

3. Kill all negative people (in a metaphorical sense)

4. Admitting your ignorance will help you to grow your knowledge

5. Treat people in the business world the same way you treat people within your home, rather than developing a business ‘persona’

6. Don’t be afraid to fail

7. Break bread with friends and friends of friends on July 19th at The Big Lunch

8. Appreciate the times we live in and the opportunities they offer us

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