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A new client of ours has an old problem: how to explain a complicated technology in simple terms. On the web. Never a simple job but that’s why we get hired.

The mission: Explain to the IT customer how the client’s network-as-a-service technology worked as way to get this customer to better understand what he was buying and why.

To our way of thinking, the key to an effective description of a product’s inner workings is to keep the ultimate benefit of the product foremost in mind.  Here’s where many tech companies stumble. In our experience, letting the technological features muddy what will actually benefit the customer will confuse the story. To their credit, our client understood this from the outset. They sought to de-complicate, not over-complicate.

So, what to do? We
start by digesting every piece of existing material the client can furnish us, as well as all the industry information.  When this falls short, it’s incumbent upon the content creation agency (that’s us) to articulate how the client’s I.P. or core technology does what it does. Very often, the language simply doesn’t exist. Yet.

Engineers are rightfully proud of their work. Their products can be marvels of creativity and technical know-how. What’s overlooked sometimes, however in the hectic environments of hacking out code at breakneck speed — ever-expanded functionality and getting a new release into beta test — is recognition of the simple need a customer has to experience a benefit.

Keeping this in mind as you dissect and explain what’s going on under the hood of your offering helps create the arc of the story and clarifies how the many strands of technology come together to create the fabric of the benefit.  Engineers weave features. And while many IT customers appreciate an understanding of the technology behind these features, what you want them to do is buy the benefits those features deliver.

When he’s not ranting on this site or directing global branding and communications for FilterMag,  Stan DeVaughn’s observations can be read on The Write Stuff along with those of his agency compatriot Peter Davé.

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Everything you need to know about how to do big-time PR you can learn by studying Apple. Forget what you read in “best practices” uncovered in searches. They’re for drudges.

September 10 is the rumored date for unveiling the next iPhone.  But consider: Apple, for years, has pulled off what might be termed the 4X formula for media-blitz announcements.  Since the early ’80s Apple has earned at least quadruple the exposure that anybody else has. Far in advance of any pending announcement, then right before the announcement, then the announcement itself, and finally during the aftermath analysis and review of the announcement. It’s happening right now, with the latest “big announcement”.

Since the beginning, AAPL flouted every PR principle you read about in the marketing tomes and the bibles of firms like H&K, Burson-Marsteller, Edelman and all the rest. Apple makes nice with the media when it wants something from them. Then ices them when it senses a lack of fealty. And gets away with it. The media reaction? Kinda like the fraternity paddling scene in Animal House : “Thank-you, sir!  May I have another?”

When he’s not ranting on this site or directing global branding and communications for FilterMag,  Stan DeVaughn’s observations can be read on The Write Stuff along with those of his agency compatriot Peter Davé.

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Question: do you need a Michelin-star chef or will a cook do? 

It’s been a week since the mega deal was announced but the merger of Publicis with Omnicom will resonate for years. It’s a sign of the times in which we do business — and the times to come. Putting it mildly the ad biz model is in turmoil today, creative and media.  In Ken Auletta’s Googled, Viacom’s Mel Karmazin tells Sergey Brin that Google was “…fucking with the magic”.  Meaning that the company was taking creative out of advertising and replacing it with algorithms. A more efficient marketplace. Transparency. Auctions. Math.

Here’s the issue: In those corners of business where advertising is basically of the classified variety, straight information is adequate. In others, not so much. Or, as this week’s Economist puts it: “The talent for creating memorable and persuasive ad campaigns will always be in demand, and not all advertisers will be capable of doing it for themselves.” This is the point.

There are cooks and there are chefs. A cook may be adequate for dinner parties and even draw rave reviews.  But who do you want catering your daughter’s wedding?  When stakes are highest, opt for Mad Men over math men.

When he’s not ranting on this site or directing global branding and communications for FilterMag,  Stan DeVaughn’s observations can be read on The Write Stuff along with those of his agency compatriot Peter Davé.

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So if graduation is “commencement”, as in a beginning, here’s my “cessation of vacation” address for your kids returning to classes later this month. Or entering as frosh. Because I like multi-purpose remarks, these tips are useful for moms and dads as well:
1. Ambition and determination trump talent. This is not to say that talent is not important. Of course it’s important. The point is that there are a lot of talented people out there who are failures. Why? Mostly because they lacked the determination and ambition to reach their goals. Another way of saying this is that ambition and determination will take limited talent much further than a lot of talent can travel with limited ambition and determination.
2. Never lower your expectations. Aim high and don’t settle. Ignore the defeatism of people who want to drag you down to their own limits. Misery loves company and these people want to recruit you.
3. Learn to reinvent yourself as need be, when circumstances call for it. Changing with the times is never easy and never convenient. But superior people have always had a knack for it. Which leads to the fourth and final point:
4. Reserve the right to be smarter tomorrow than you are today. Don’t fall in love with your view of the world. Boardrooms and C-suites are full of people who haven’t had a new thought in 30 years. Stay agile enough to make course corrections on your path to your dreams and goals. The wider your scope, the better your decisions. Silicon Valley is littered with the remains of companies so enchanted by their strategy, products, and technology that they failed to notice the icebergs dead ahead. The ones that weren’t supposed to be there.

Be nice to others. And have fun.

When he’s not ranting on this site or directing global branding and communications for FilterMag,  Stan DeVaughn’s observations can be read on The Write Stuff along with those of agency compatriot Peter Davé.

This post appeared today in The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle — Silicon Valley’s premiere writing and content creation agency serving the IT industry and high technology brands since 2011.

If you market and sell to IT buyers or do marketing and PR for an IT brand, you should know about Spiceworks.

Why? It’s an online community of two-million information-technology professionals who share views on their industry, technology and vendors just like you. Think of it as the Yammer, Yelp or TripAdvisor for the IT crowd. In other words, what HR.com and GlassDoor have become for the human-resources profession, Spiceworks is for IT.

Think “product reviews” in this context and you realize the implications for IT marketing and public relations.  According to , who visited the site’s reviews section recently, it’s not a pretty picture. Few vendors draw raves. And few brands bother to weigh-in or even know about it. How ironic that such a resource, whose existence owes to technology, exists in a blind-spot for so many technology marketers.

The same crowdsource forces
at work in today’s consumer markets like Amazon Reviews are coming into their own in the B2B world, too. Industrial brands late to this party are paying the price in missed opportunities. Our rule of thumb is simple: whenever there is a discussion underway online about your company or product, you need to be in the middle of it. Not to dominate the conversation but to share your point of view — and understand the issues being raised. It’s just good business.

Truth be told, as ubiquitous and commonplace as social media is today it remains a question mark in B2B C-suites and boardrooms. Even in the face of the U.S. government’s approbation of crowd-sourced reviews (see saferproducts.gov). In Gillin’s view, there’s validity in what many senior managers believe about manipulation of online reviews and polls.  But this is irrelevant. The genie is out of the bottle. Ongoing engagement with customers and commentators online, is now currency of the B2B realm.

How does your brand engage with online opinion-sharing? Do you have a “crisis” plan or have one in the works?  What’s been your experience?

When he’s not ranting on this site or directing global branding and communications for FilterMag,  Stan DeVaughn’s observations can be read on The Write Stuff along with those of agency compatriot Peter Davé.

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 This post appeared today on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle – Silicon Valley’s premiere writing and content creation service for IT and high-technology industry.
“Content” is a perishable.  Blame those pesky algorithms.

We live in content-marketing world. And at Write Angle we counsel clients to be wary. Why? Because marketers live in a part of this world characterized by the cat-and-mouse of search practitioners vs.search algorithms — and the creative tension it causes between SEO gurus and content writers. Just throwing “content” out there isn’t enough. It has to be be right stuff at the right time.  Above all, it must stay fresh.

The surefire way to prosper in this world is to create and publish material that earns you a consistent place in search rankings. Today, this means the top three-to-five.  Easy to say, tough to do.  And this is where we come in because organic search is the baseline tactic for the written content of marketing campaigns.

New research from Chitika
, according to Danny Flamberg of Booster Rocket, based on 300 million search impressions last May, “indicates that winning and losing at natural search is clear; you either win big or die quickly. If you don’t place among the top 3–5 positions on the search engine results page you get none of the benefits of your investment. It’s win big or go home”. (Download the complete report here.)

Boiling down the findings: you get 33% of the traffic if Google ranks you number one. Come in second and you get about half of that. Third place earns you about half again (11%). This, BTW, is the response rate of old-time direct mail!

In other words, if you don’t make page one (92% of all traffic) the maximum access you can hope to achieve is about 8% of  total search-driven traffic.

“For most marketers, rankings drive traffic; that’s the payoff,” Flamberg says. “There’s not much value in bragging rights to a position that doesn’t pay off in site traffic…it doesn’t pay to be number two.”

As content-driven rankings are key to brand awareness and lead generation, you need to put your brand’s best foot forward with refreshed content — the kind that’s regularly adjusted to changing algorithms.

Is your content driving the traffic you want? Do you keep it fresh?  Is it the right stuff at the right time?

 

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth on The Write Stuff along with Write Angle co-hort Peter Davé.

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This post appeared today in The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle — Silicon Valley’s premiere writing and content creation agency serving the IT industry and high technology brands since 2011.

Hey, don’t take our word for it. Consider what the folks at Pike Research (now called Navigant Research) had to say in their latest study.  Bottom line: It suggests that a dirt cheap smartphone app could wirelessly communicate with a targeted command-and-control computer system — one that utilities rely upon — to cause unimaginable havoc.

What kind of catastrophe are we talking about?  Some U.S. officials foresee cyber-attacks that could take down a utility servicing millions of people and render them powerless. For months.

The way PG&E’s Chief Information Security Officer James Sample, sees it, “We will see catastrophic outages.  We are dealing with a very intelligent adversary.”

But despite the doomsday warnings, have utility companies stepped up their security measures?  Not according to many security specialists.

Why not? Looking at the issue from a purely monetary standpoint, some estimates for upgrading utility security could cost upwards of $14 billion. But from a preparedness standpoint, are utilities in a serious state of denial about the realities and potential impact of cyber-terrorism?

Some vocal critics say yes. Consider what Dale Peterson, CEO of Digital Bond, a firm that evaluates the security posture of utilities and other companies, told the San Jose Mercury News: “[Utilities] just want to kind of pretend the problem doesn’t exist.  So it might take some really tragic thing with some huge disruption of peoples’ lives before something gets done.”

So how many wake-up calls are needed to compel utilities to step up their security act?  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already reported infiltrations of oil and natural gas pipelines and electric power organizations.  Out of 198 cyber-incidents reported, 41% targeted energy companies, 15% were aimed at water-related firms and six included the “nuclear sector”.  Yes, it is that scary.

The California Public Utilities Commission warns that utilities are increasingly vulnerable by way of smart meters and the smart grid.  The same CPUC study reports: “(Eighty) to 90 percent or more of the electric infrastructure currently does not fall under any required standards and that cyber-security practices of the utilities are not monitored.”

If this doesn’t scare the hell out of you, consider the sobering findings from a survey conducted by risk management specialists nCircle who asked 104 energy security professionals if their smart meter installations were adequately protected from hackers, 61% said, “No.”

As content specialists in security, Write Angle would like to hear why security companies aren’t making more noise about the vulnerability of utilities.  We’d love to hear from you.

When he’s not ranting on this site or directing global branding and communications for FilterMag,  Stan DeVaughn’s observations can be read on The Write Stuff along with those of agency compatriot Peter Davé.