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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

I don’t need it. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I’m confident that all my communications, entertainment and computing needs are currently met, perfectly happily. If anything, I have a surplus of communications and entertainment tools and media. Too many ways to get in touch. Too many ways to watch TV, film, see photos, listen to music, read books, email, call, Skype etc., on the move.

But damnit, I’ll bet that whatever Apple release tomorrow I’ll want. Because smug and self-satisfied as Mr Jobs is, his company is awesome at design and fantastic at getting us to ‘need’ things for no reason other than they’re beautiful and elegant. I’m not a Mac, though… that’s one thing I’ve managed to hold firm to.

Cross posted at Division6.

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Every once in a while I come across a piece of writing that I really connect with. Cold Mountain, Hound Dog, the Red Riding Quartet, Chuck Norris facts – all pieces of writing that have resonated with me.

To this list I can now add Dave 2.0b2, a short story by Michael Marshall Smith.  I stumbled across it the other day, and I immediately got it on a number of different levels:

  1. The genre – I’m a big fan of short stories, they’re a very efficient way to get a hit of good story telling
  2. The protagonist – It’s about a man, and I’m a man – how can I not relate to that?
  3. The format – It’s a review of a man, by all the people that know him, as if he were the product of a developer. Having worked in Tech PR for over two years, I’m well versed on the issues developers of all kinds have with their applications.

Basically, it brightened my day considerably when I read it. It’s short, to the point, and easy to dip in and out of if you’re really, really pressed for time. I urge you to read it.

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I can’t help but be slightly disappointed by the lack of Windows 7 promotional tie-ins here in the UK. Microsoft has truly outdone itself this time around with a number of bizarre link-ups that put most other software launches to shame.

For example, the US gets an advertising free episode of Family Guy featuring show favourites Brian and Stewie installing the new OS (an episode which incidentally may never see the light of day here due to product placement regulations):

Japan takes things one step further with this incredible Burger King promotion – the seven (yes, seven) burger Windows 7 Whopper:

Windows Whopper

Meanwhile, here in the UK we have to make do with a PC World trade-in offer. Come on Microsoft, if you want me to upgrade you’ll have to convince me harder than that.

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The study I trailed yesterday on my personal blog has been published and reported on today. The full Broadband Quality Study from Cisco (my client) and the Oxford University Said Business School is available here.

The reason I care so much about this topic is that I truly believe that for societal and economic development, quality broadband connectivity is essential. The things you can do – from the simple act of being more connected to friends and family on Twitter and Facebook, to high-resolution video calling, photo & video uploads, & (in the future) interactive engagement in virtual environments (I still don’t quite believe in Second Life, but I do believe in what it and services like it will become) – dramatically change relationships, the way you learn, the way you interact, the way public services are delivered and much more.

I’m pleased that there’s so much development globally in terms of policy and infrastructure investment, particularly in the UK obviously. Keen to see wireless infrastructure development move on apace so we can bridge the urban/rural divide and get fibre-like broadband quality out to more people, more cost effectively (and get to a point with pervasive broadband connectivity across devices). I’d love to see more fibre too, but can’t help but feel that the days of multi-billion pound massively government subsidized infrastructure investment might be behind us for the time being… but we’ll see!

Cisco’s study looks at how broadband quality varies internationally – quality rather than pure speed as latency, the other factor weighted in when considering quality, effects the usefulness of a broadband connection in delivering certain services – e.g. realtime video communications, as opposed to video downloads, the former of which requires low latency (delay), the latter of which is a little more tolerant. The UK ranks in at number 25, which isn’t too bad when you consider that most of our telecommunications infrastructure was built out in the middle of the 20th century and we have aggressive targets for improvement in the future thanks to the recent Digital Britain commitments. We also do well for broadband penetration thanks to our universal service mandate, which bodes well for my eventual move to the countryside…

Have a read, let me know what you think.

Crossposted at Division6.

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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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Tech support

Having the occasionally dubious honour of being ‘Deputy CIO’ I get quite a lot of queries about how to do things with computers – so today’s XKCD resonated very well.

If you couple that with the ‘turn it off then turn it on again‘ maxim and dip into the instructions occasionally, most IT problems go away…  Miraculous!

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My always insightful brother, wearing his hat as MD of Slingshot Studios, home of such films as the upcoming Infidel starring Omid Djalili, was asked for his advice on what it took to start innovative companies by Richard Wray of the Guardian… Here’s some of what he said:

Advice when starting an innovative company: work out what the points of industry and consumer resistance to your proposed innovation will be (i.e. vested interests, legacy technology or organisational structures, consumer behaviour etc). Assume they will be uncompromisingly disinterested or actively opposed to change.  Work out a SPECIFIC and TESTED plan as to how you will overcome that opposition. Put as much time into that as you do into the innovation itself.

A lot of the people with great ideas you see (on Dragon’s Den and elsewhere) only get as far as the innovation itself. Overcoming cultural change or the perception that things need to be done in a certain way is a massive challenge in all contexts, whether raising money for a startup or deploying a new process or technology within a business. Throw off the status quo, rebel against the man, man.

More on the Slingshot blog and perhaps in the Guardian this weekend. Keeping eyes peeled for brotherly fame.

Cross posted at Division6.

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