Friday Aug 28, 2009

The Extra Effort

When you want to move into a new career or even grow in your existing job, it's up to you to make the necessary adjustments to make that happen. Just doing what you have been doing all along -- even doing more of it -- simply won't cut it. Don't even waste your time. You'll stagnate and eventually get dumped overboard when you get too old and you'll be left to drown all alone. Now, these days you can get tossed aside through no fault of your own, of course, but the point is that if you want to change you have to change. And even then, there are no guarantees. But if you don't drive your own agenda, then others surely will and you may not like the results. Which means you get screwed, basically. So, you to do whatever it takes -- working late and on weekends and holidays, taking classes, traveling to new areas for conferences, using new technologies, whatever -- to pick up new skills and new contacts. Then, when you get those skills you can sell them in the marketplace.

Part of this process is putting in the extra effort when you get laid off. That's what Melissa Pereira is doing. I worked with Melissa some years back in Sun marketing. She's in New York now, and she found herself in the Wall Street Journal and on Good Morning America (absolutely unbelievable) for her extra effort. She's doing an unpaid internship in the city to retool her skills so she can take advantage of new opportunities. She's not just sitting around waiting for something to happen. She's making it happen. Cool.

Sunday Jul 05, 2009

Talk to Everyone

Interesting piece about PR in the NY Times today -- Spinning the Web: P.R. in Silicon Valley. And it`s running at the top of Techmeme tonight, too, with even more interesting commentary. I wonder why PR gets so much attention in high tech when practitioners in the field are forever trying to justify themselves, or at least quantify their value. I never understood that. The influence of the public relations industry is absolutely everywhere in modern society, and yet even in this NYT piece you see a defensive tone in some places -- mixed in with the pervasive and typical self importance, of course. Whatever. It`s a fascinating field, I must admit. I was in PR for a long time many moons ago, and I`m still interested in how information is delivered through filters using various rhetorical techniques that date back thousands of years. Modern PR grew from the teachings of the American propagandist Eddie Bernays, whose famous work says it all: Propaganda. Read the book. Scary stuff.

Anyway, in the NYT article right up front in the first few paragraphs, you`ll read about a scene in Silicon Valley were a PR pro is advising a client about a launch strategy (who to talk to and such), and someone shoots back about avoiding certain well-known bloggers and news websites. What? Why would you want to avoid a communications channel at your launch? I don`t get it. People who feel passionate about their stuff generally want to talk to anyone who will listen -- and if listeners have megaphones so much the better. I`ve worked with some people like that, and what they taught me is that everyone is important because you just never know -- you never know who is connected to who at any given moment, and you can never know who will be connected to who in the future. And, of course, predicting how a story will spread is difficult at best. Now, I realize the PR strategy in this case was to talk to a select group of high powered people, which is fine since they obviously have deep influence. But why talk to those guys to the exclusion of the others in an age when communities are flattening hierarchies and distributing power?

Talk to everyone. Everyone is important. Especially now with everyone connected in ways you may not even realize. And Robert Scoble is right. Talk to the grassroots first. Community building operations should be implemented first so the marketing guys have something to sell (and participate in as well). Too much of PR is still rolled out the other way around.

Thursday Jan 29, 2009

Japan Social Media Marketers

I joined the Japan Social Media Marketers community recently. I found these guys via the Tokyo2Point0 community. Lance Shields started the group with these words: "So yet another community was born and it bumbled along with mainly myself posting blog entries and the occasional discussion thread that mainly I responded to myself. It was pretty lonely and it was a lot like every blog I started and stopped over the years. Then a really cool ..." And it goes on from there. The point is Lance stuck it out. Those who build things from scratch often find themselves alone and responding to themselves initially. In fact, some of the most successful people in the world started out that way, right? Anyway, I`ll hang out here for a bit and see what`s up. The Japanese international social media community seems fascinating. Stop by if you are around.

Tuesday Jan 06, 2009

Attacks in Politics and Marketing

I see attack politics and attack marketing as pretty much the same thing. Or, a distinction without much of a difference, anyway. Politicians generally attack enemies who threaten their getting elected or getting some policy implemented. If you aren't a threat, though, you are basically ignored in that system. And if you are a little guy trying to attack powerful politicians, you are generally ignored, too. This is why collective protest is a necessary prerequisite for change. Strength comes in numbers. You have to make yourself a threat to even get noticed, and that has to happen well before you have a shot at changing things (whatever your thing is). But from the politicians point of view, since they have the power, it seems the attack principle dictates that they shouldn`t want to give too much exposure to a competitor or group they don`t support, so many politicians actually tend to attack pretty carefully. The rhetorically skilled know this very well. They think out a few moves ahead. Who should do the attacking? What`s the venue of the attack? What will the counter punch look like? Where will it come from? And when? What does it mean when no counter attack comes back at all and instead they are met with silence? And heck, what if the opponent praises in return instead of attacking as expected? The answers to these questions are imprecise at best.

I used to do competitive marketing, and I went through this exact same process. However, I always told my clients that attacks are best done by third parties and only in response to a precipitating attack. In other words, you don`t attack first. It`s not worth the headline. Instead, you be the one responding. Here`s why: those who attack first generally give away at least some of their position, and that gives you much more flexibility to respond. Unskilled politicians and marketers make this mistake all the time when they shoot their mouths off, but the concept holds up pretty well over time. I`ve said before that I think people attack for basically two reasons: (1) they are afraid that someone smaller than them may grow up and kick their butt, or (2) they are small themselves and want to pick a fight with a big guy to get attention. Either way, if you study your attacker you can learn a lot.

It's a game, granted. And everyone in it knows this. Most attacks can be quite easily turned around with some basic facts and logic. But rationality is irrelevant in the arena of delivering really good emotional propaganda for the purpose of influencing behavior. That's why attacks can work in some cases if they generate a strong reaction from the attacked. Attacks spread fear. And many times that fear shapes how people think if it`s not characterized properly. In fact, the term used to describe this process is sometimes called FUD -- fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It`s a silly sounding term, but it should be taken seriously because the best propagandists out there can be rather dangerous people if they have a power base and resources supporting them (a country, a company, an interest group, a foundation, a university, a union, whatever). In other cases, however, attacks and fear mongering backfire badly, and we saw this in the recent political campaign in the U.S. where pols on both sides took some things too far and the people (remember the people?) called them out on it.

So, what should you do if you are attacked in the marketplace? First, stop. Think. Don`t react immediately with the first counter attack you can think of in the first publication you can find. You`ve been attacked so you now have the upper hand for a period of time (not forever, though). What is the attack telling you about your attacker? Is he or she responding go your attack? If so, you deserve the counter attack so enjoy your stupid little fight. If not, though, something else is going on and you may be in a much better position than you think. It means that you got someone`s attention for some reason. You may have not even intended to get this attention, but that`s what the attack may mean and that`s valuable competitive intelligence if you can confirm it. Remember, if you were really irrelevant, chances are you`d be ignored. So, dig right there before responding and respond to defend and deflect not to attack back. And if you can praise the attacker (or his product or community or company or whatever) so much the better. Attackers are generally simple minded and angry and unable to deal with praise as a response. Alternatively, your attacker could just be engaging in bad marketing or politicking. Consider that too. Either way, you have the upper hand if you do the responding, not the attacking.

Tags: propaganda attacks

Tuesday Apr 08, 2008

The Ubuntu Brand

Interesting branding story shaping up in the Linux community -- Is Ubuntu becoming the generic Linux distro? Could the market be deciding that Ubuntu is Linux? I'm an Ubuntu user, and I surely don't see Ubuntu as the only Linux, but it's surely the only Linux I'd use.

Saturday Feb 23, 2008

Rapid Response Counterattack

McCain turns tables on Times. An interesting read about how the McCain forces jumped all over the Times the other day. This is standard procedure, of course, but it really depends on how well you execute (and that execution always makes interesting reading) and if your enemy responds in kind. Politicians know that in terms of public perception you can absolutely influence by going negative, hitting hard, using overwhelming force, and yelling with extreme language. The purpose is to intimidate. If the other side counters, well, then you have a brawl. If they hesitate, though, you've got them. That's the critical part that comes through in this article. The Times found itself responding to its own article and responding late. Now, this is politics so truth is not really that important, and I have no opinion about the substance of the article or the counter attack (nor do I particularly care about either). What I find fascinating, though, is the dynamic of influence and how large organizations of people can be rapidly moved to action. What are the techniques? What foundational work is necessary beforehand so a message resonates? Anyway, the LA Times talks about some of this, too: McCain story proves incendiary among journalists, conservatives

Monday Feb 11, 2008

Everyone Marketing

Forget the A-List After All: "Evangelism is not about sucking up to only people who are famous and self-important. To wit, few Fortune 500 CIOs helped make Macintosh successful. It was unknown artists, designers, hobbyists, and user-group members who made Macintosh successful, and we could have not identified them in advance." -- Guy Kawasaki, commenting on Clive Thompson's in FastCompany article, "Is the Tipping Point Toast?"

That FastCompany article is great. If you are at all interested in marketing or communications or community building I highly recommend it. The article outlines research from Duncan Watts that basically says we all have influence, not just the special people, and some much of what happens is random. Thompson says, "Influentials don't govern person-to-person communication. We all do." A little democracy in marketing? Cool.

Saturday Dec 22, 2007

Focus on Profitability, not Market Share and Competitors

The 'Myth of Market Share': Can Focusing Too Much on the Competition Harm Profitability? -- "We're not saying companies shouldn't pay attention to their competitors; they might be doing reasonable things that you may also want to do. What we're saying is that the objective should not be to try to beat your competitor. The objective should be profitability. In view of all the damage that occurs by focusing on market share, companies would be better off not measuring it." -- J. Scott Armstrong, Wharton marketing professor.

And interesting examples of this concept cited in the article include Japan's Toyota and Canon.

Sunday Nov 18, 2007

Smart Marketing, Competitive Marketing

Sun has run aggressive, very pointed marketing campaigns promoting the benefits of its system over Dell, HP and others. But today in a follow-up media briefing, Schwartz said, "The stupidest thing we could do is say 'You blew it, you made a mistake'" buying Dell. Schwartz said such hardball marketing is a thing of the past for Sun. He even went so far as to suggest customers could use the $5,000 they might save adopting Sun's free Solaris and xVM software "to buy a brand-new Dell server." -- David Needle, internetnews.com

Well, that must have been an interesting press conference, eh? My goodness. Very cool.

I'm happy to see these changes in Sun's external communications to customers. It's far smarter than the bulldog public attack tactics we used to do. When I was in marketing (before I joined the OpenSolaris engineering team) I wasted several years of my career doing that stuff around standards and open source and Java. Heck, I even won an award for it! Embarrassing. Based on that experience, though, and four years of working in the OpenSolaris Community (where such nonsense is not tolerated), I can see clearly that those activities were counterproductive. It made Sun less competitive and less respected and less credible. But even if this so-called "hardball" marketing is going away, it doesn't mean we are any less competitive in the marketplace. In fact, Sun's product portfolio is probably more competitive today than it has ever been, and we are cutting interesting deals and moving faster than anyone even realizes.

Are we still making mistakes? Sure. But we are people, so you can expect that. And although our communications to the market is improving, I think we as a company still have to improve our communications to the various developer communities we are involved with. As our engineering opens, so too must our communications. The two functions are directly related, and right now too much of both lives inside of the firewall. We'll get there, though. It's a fine line to balance corporate interests with community interests, and there's no rulebook for doing this on the scale we are attempting. In fact, I can't think of a multi-national corporation that has done as much in this area. Can you?

Friday Oct 05, 2007

Mark's Musings

Very cool to see my buddy Mark Herring out there blogging -- Mark's Musings. Mark is one of the very best marketers at Sun, and his blog could be very hot very soon.

Thursday Aug 02, 2007

Eco Poll

This is cool. Sun sponsored a poll on environmental responsibility at work -- New Poll Reveals 73 Percent of U.S. Workers Want Employers To Be Environmentally Responsible But Lag In Own Efforts To Help: "By Leaving Eco-friendly Habits at Home, U.S. Workers Waste An Estimated $4.3 Billion in Energy Costs Per Year Resulting in 32 Million Tons of CO2 Emissions"

That's a lot of CO2. Turn off the lights, everyone. And your computers, too. I never understood why desktop machines had to run all nite long, all weekend long, all vacation long. Makes no sense.

Anyway, we had a little chit-chat on opensolaris-discuss about how Sun does marketing, and one community member is not happy about Sun's advertising efforts. He's wrong, of course, and I explained why, but then I gave up after a while because he was just flaming at that point. But this poll is an innovative way to engage the market in a conversation, eh? Generate some news. Create some real data. Use the data in ads, press releases, sales engagements, etc. Change a little behavior and save some money along the way and help build a market for our energy-saving servers and all that. Works for me.

Friday Jul 20, 2007

Pressure Questions

Michael Dell tries to reboot Dell Computer: "During the interview, Fortune editor Andy Serwer asked Dell if he's been approached by any private equity firms about a potential buyout. Dell went quiet, smiled, looked to his PR person, looked back, and said, 'I'm not sure how to answer that.' And so, he didn't answer." -- Jia Lynn Yang, Fortune.

Pretty funny. But a good lesson for anyone dealing with the press and analysts. Even extremely experienced executives used to pressure interviews get caught off guard from time to time. It's actually nothing to laugh at. These guys have to choose their words carefully and for good reason. Even in this so-called age of open conversations, interviews are rarely conversations. Especially if you are in Dell's position right now. Also, unless you've been in a stressful media spotlight, it's difficult to judge those who are.

Wednesday Jul 04, 2007

Reading the Markets

Sun puts "Sparc" into Web 2.0 -- "I think Sun is reading the market correctly." -- Ephraim Schwartz

Sunday Jun 24, 2007

Pitching

The Future of PR is Participation, Not Pitching -- "To thrive in this new distributed environment, the PR community must step out in front of the curtain, become a bit more technically adept and participate transparently as individuals in online communities." -- Steve Rubel

Tuesday Apr 10, 2007

(Open) OpenSolaris Marketing

A few days ago, Marc Hamilton blogged about his new position as VP of Solaris Marketing, which includes OpenSolaris Marketing, of course. But he's now gone out and introduced himself to the OpenSolaris Community right on the community's main discuss list as well. This is very interesting to me. There are many Sun executives who blog -- probably more than any big company out there, actually -- but now we are seeing a new trend of open communications where executives are jumping right into the main community conversations as well. Blogging is one thing, but participating on open lists is another thing altogether. Wild.

So, first Ian and Dan and now Marc. Seems there's a lot going on in Solaris and OpenSolaris marketing at Sun these days. It will be good to see the marketing community grow with this new activity.

Friday Feb 16, 2007

Leaks

Robert Scoble on leaks -- "Remember when I posted Steve Ballmer’s email to all employees? I actually had permission to do so from the PR team. Sometimes "leaks" aren't leaks at all. They are press events designed to get the company’s point of view out to the world." This is a good distinction, I think, because real leaks are bad and are generally done by people who have no idea what they are doing. Also, if your company participates in open communities, there's no reason to leak since, presumably, a great deal of your operations are already occurring in the open.

Thursday Feb 15, 2007

Toyota Story: Unsecured Report Used as Source

Fascinating article here -- Toyota fears U.S. backlash over gains. Nothing in the article is out of the ordinary, really. Apparently, Toyota is concerned about public opinion in the U.S. because the company is doing very well there, and its American competitors are not. Not a big deal.

But what fascinated me was this part right here in the 7th paragraph: "In the briefing to other Toyota managers, Sudo cited political and social risks. The report, left unsecured on computers at the company's Georgetown, Ky., complex, said Toyota could come under fire for: ..." and then there's a list of items. And "Sudo" is Seiichi Sudo, president of Toyota Engineering & Manufacturing in North America. Ok, so what's up with the bit about "the report, left unsecured on computers at the company's Georgetown, Ky., complex" doing in there? Did the reporter hop on to the president's computer right there in his office and hack around while everyone else was chatting out in the hall or something? Or was the preso left on the computer right there in full view for all to see as the interview was taking place? Was it leaked to the reporter and therefore deemed "unsecured" in that respect? Did the reporter whip out a cell phone and take a quick picture of the screen while the others were ducking down to pick up a pencil from the floor? I'm dying to know. How did this happen?

Judging from the amount of information from that so-called "unsecured report" used in the article and how that source material is characterized, I can just imagine the reporter sitting there in front of the computer taking notes. All alone. For a long time. My goodness.

Tuesday Dec 26, 2006

Participatory Mobs on the Internet

The Blog Mob is one of the funniest articles attacking bloggers I've read in a long time. It's not a credible criticism of blogs or bloggers because the language is too extreme to be taken seriously, but it's worth a read because it demonstrates how far some writers are from understanding the Internet. There are many humorous bits in there, too. I found this sentence especially delicious: "The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior." Wild, eh? Oh, there's more. A lot more. Enjoy ...

Monday Nov 27, 2006

Burn, Baby, Burn

Nice quote here from Matt Asay -- "You have to burn the boats" (BusinessWeek on business model innovation):

This is why I have hope for companies like Sun. No company has responded more aggressively to the open source challenge. Sun has been open sourcing its software and hardware on the expectation that the shift will bear fruit. Time will tell, but by burning its boats, all it needs to worry about is the future. As it turns out, this is a great prescription for success.

Sometimes you have to read right to the very end to find the best stuff. Which is where you'll find this paragraph. I was hooked all the way through, though.

Sunday Nov 26, 2006

The Rich and Brands

Fascinating piece in the NY Times about brands -- What We Talk About When We Talk About Brands. It seems that we regular people talk a lot about brands. Those busy little marketers can prove it, and they are finding new and innovative ways of listening in on our conversations to get at this intelligence. It's interesting how all these "word of mouth" marketeers are always trying to eavesdrop on their customers but they are much less inclined to actually get involved with their customers. Obnoxious. Anyway, that's not why I liked the article (though I did find that part as amusing as usual). What got me hooked was way at the end. Go down to the last paragraph and you'll find this little gem -- "It turned out that people with high incomes were not talking about the brand, but people who made less money were talking about it a lot." Fascinating. So, what do the rich people know that we don't?
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