Archive for the ‘Silicon Valley’ Category

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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 agency for the IT industry.

Our security client Fortinet asked us to compose a bylined thought-leadership piece on why cybercrime continues to be big business.  Appearing in Forbes , the article takes an unflinching look at why cybercrime is growing in  magnitude and sophistication.  The two driving factors are the consumerization of crimeware and the adoption of best business practices by crime syndicates worldwide.

Perhaps most alarming is the fact that crime syndicates are using an “enterprise-class” approach to growing their business.  The structure of these syndicates, in many respects, mirrors the hierarchies of big organizations right down to the executive suite, middle management and the rank and file.

When you couple the growing organizational sophistication of crime syndicates with the explosion in cloud computing, social networking, BYOD and mobile communications, cybercriminals have an unprecedented smorgasbord of attack vectors to choose from.

And like most well managed for-profit enterprises, crime syndicates maintain extensive R&D organizations.  Custom-order code to produce private botnets, fake anti-virus software and previously unseen deployment systems are just a handful of new schemes being developed in off-the-grid labs.

But the similarities syndicates share with the corporate world don’t end there.  Taking a page out of Wall Street, crime syndicates are actively engaging in mergers and acquisitions to grow their botnets through the use of another organization’s best practices.

Blurring the lines of best practices even further, we’re now seeing creative profit-sharing flair as crime syndicates grow sophisticated, pay-per-click/install/purchase affiliate programs.  Up and coming cybercriminal affiliates are now being rewarded on a performance-based pay scale.

So what’s to be done about all of this?  Clearly, working groups and task forces are essential to stem the tide.  But despite some high profile take-downs, these efforts are a drop in the bucket.

The bottom line is that global participation is a necessity.  International bodies that can mediate disputes and dispatch resources to share information about cybercrime trends are mandatory.  In addition, the Achilles heel of cybercrime needs to be attacked — and that means going after the cash flow.  Affiliate programs need to be targeted because they’re the cash cows that pay out commissions and rewards to the “infantry” that carry out malicious attacks.  Dry up the well and the rest of food chain withers.

Of course, there is no practical substitute for implementing a highly layered security strategy, assessing potential security flaws on a regular basis, and educating users about security best practices while having incident response plans and enforceable policy mechanisms in place.

What do you think? Can cybercrime ever be contained? What needs to happen to enable a lower incidence of “incidents”? What can the private and public sectors do, separately and in tandem, to make it harder for bad guys to ply their trade?

When he’s not ranting on this site, you can read Stan DeVaughn and his comrade-in-communications, Peter Davé, on The Write Stuff

 

It used to really fry my first boss, an award-winning copywriter, to hear some bozo say “how fun it must be to just sit around and write all day.” Yes, there were people who actually said this. Anyone who’s ever written for a living can relate to the irritation. Good writing, or creating good content, or whatever you want to call it, is damned hard work. There’s just no other way to put it. Especially for those who take the craft seriously and seek to commit acts of literature even when it is “just website content”. The quotations are used advisedly because website content that compels busy, distracted people to take the action you want them to take involves thoughtful insights expressed in appealing ways. No easy task. Ask the people whose words got you to click on those call-to-action buttons once you got there.

Words and images that prompt the desired action is the essence of marketing: you must pinpoint your target market, understand the needs of the right buyer and package a deliverable product or service at the right time. All of this implies deep knowledge of your buyer, customer or user. It’s the offshoot of clear thinking.

Muddy writing is the product of muddy thinking. You have only to read the techno-speak and gobbledygook blathered and written, often in emails, in the typical corporate office today, even by those who should know better, in companies of all shapes and sizes: the acronyms, the language inflation and the use of nouns as verbs and verbs as nouns, as in, “We have to watch our spend this quarter”. (Presumably, you’re also paying attention to expenses.) Or, “We need to effort this, immediately”.  (Whatever “this” may be, let’s hope we do it, too.) And don’t even get me started on sports-speak. When I hear people who don’t know a left hook from a right cross talk about “punching above our weight” I want to punch them. Or when they allude to the “two-minute play” when they probably mean “two-minute offense”.

Full disclosure: If I’d had more time, I’d have written a shorter post.

 When he’s not ranting on this site, you can read Stan DeVaughn and his comrade-in-communications, Peter Davé, on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle, Silicon Valley’s premiere writing and content-creation agency for the I.T. industry.

 

This is an edited version of a post that appeared in The Write Stuff, the blog of Write AngleSilicon Valley’s premiere creators and writers of technology content for the I.T. industry.

We do a lot of work for IT security clients and the numbers they share with us about attacks and monetary losses numb the brain. The money spent by corporate America to maintain some semblance of protection and to fend off cyber attacks is astronomical. If you’re reading this, you know what we mean. Still, the attacks and the cost of defending yourself grow unabated. What’s going on here?

One of these clients who does big work for big brands told us recently that a perception of low return on their security dollar has created a growing, board-level frustration and alarm within these companies.  “They question the ROI on the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in IT defenses and they have every right to be pissed,” he said. Of course, our clients have a vested interest in encouraging the upgrade of aging defenses so easily overcome by wily, super-smart and well-financed cyber-criminals today.

Computer security is a multi-billion industry employing some of the most brilliant technologists in the world.  They labor relentlessly to stay a step ahead of the bad guys who, just like terrorists, only have to be successful once, while techno-sleuths and defenders must succeed 100% of the time.  Yet, even in the breaches that merit the bigget headlines, most of the time the crooks used ridiculously simple methods to break in.  In other words, many organizations are overlooking basic precautions even as their security systems grow more complex and expensive.  Just like street crime,  bad guys preyed on victims of opportunity.

Like muggers, Cyber-attackers scan for companies who may not be properly utilizing the defenses they have or whose passwords fail the tough-to-guess test. To us in the business of marketing some truly amazing preventive technology, this is an eye-opener.  Here’s hoping they can open more corporate-security eyes as well.  The chain around the company’s digital assets is only as strong as the weakest link. And the bad guys go straight to it.

 When Stan DeVaughn is not ranting on this site, you can read him and his comrade-in-communications, Peter Davé, on The Write Stuff.
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Would in-house technology product and marketing teams benefit if they met more often, in person, with the writers/creators of their product marketing content? It’s a given that the writing/creating team would. But to our way of thinking it’s a two-way deal. And let’s face it, face-time’s been a big deal in the news lately.

The more familiar that writers can become with the insights and knowledge residing in the heads of their clients, the more clarity and understanding they can gain. Likewise, when the in-house team living so close to the trees, so to speak, can hear more questions and observations from third parties more frequently, they can’t help but get a better understanding of the forest by seeing it from a new, or at least a different, perspective. They can also gain more understanding of the marketing and sales point of view from the outside in.

It’s hardly an argument that all content utilized in the marketing and selling process must be as compelling and engaging as it is comprehensive. Content that is wooden, formulaic and indistinguishable from competitors’ propaganda falls flat in a short-attention-span marketplace. Conversely, content informed by an outside-in point of view stands a far better chance of standing out from the crowd and building the brand as customer-friendly, customer-centric.

Do your content creators get to mix with your in-house teams on a regular basis or are they limited to the perfunctory “sourcing sessions”? We understand the value of time, of course,  but might an investment in more face-time and F2F interchange pay off, too?  Is it feasible to explore commonality of interest here? How often do your in-house folks shmooze with the outside team?

 When Stan DeVaughn is not ranting on this site, you can read him and his comrade-in-communications, Peter Davé, on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle, Silicon Valley’s premiere writing and content-creation agency for the I.T. industry.

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Three ninety-one San Antonio Road in Mountain View is about as nondescript an edifice as you’ll find in an urban environment not renowned for distinct architecture.  But it was here, more than half-a-century ago that the world changed. Yes, changed — commercially, educationally, scientifically — every which way. It was right here where transistors evolved into semiconductors, innocuous electronic components that would be the progenitor of the personal computer, the smartphone, the Internet and social media. If you can say there was a Big Bang for the digital universe we live in and take for granted today, it was this invention.

The building has had many tenants since the demise of Shockley Laboratory and exodus of engineers and entrepreneurs whose diaspora seeded what would soon evolve into Silicon Valley.  Now its fate is in the bulldozing hands of big property developers looking to exploit the latest building boom in Santa Clara County.  Can’t fault them for that. It’s still “the Valley”, after all. But it’s just not right for Ground Zero of high tech to merit only a generic tombstone of a memorial on the site. It’s described here, several paragraphs into a related story.  In fact, it’s a damn shame. You’d think somebody in the neighborhood could “innovate” a solution, wouldn’t you?

When Stan DeVaughn is not ranting on this site, you can read him and his comrade-in-communications, Peter Davé, on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle–Silicon Valley’s premiere technology writing and content creation agency for the I.T. industry.

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This post first appeared in The Write Stuff – the blog of Write Angle, Silicon Valley’s premiere content creation and writing agency for the I.T. industry.

Whenever we’re assigned to write clients’ web pages we follow best practices, same as we do for all content.  What “best practices” call for on websites is not so different from other forms but the web does force the writer and editor to become a little more brutal.  Actually, it’s the audience that’s the force at work.

Customers are not interested in your product (or service), they’re interested in their problem.  They don’t care about you so much as the need they’re trying to fill or the hard facts they’re trying to gather as the basis of filling that need.  And this tells you two things:

1.  To the extent that your product or service is too much in the face of the site visitor, you increase your chances of a quicker “bounce”, or departure of this visitor.

2.  Ditto above if your content is jargon-heavy with with acronyms or industry-speak.

Except for those pages or links that are specifically tailored for existing customers, or prospects who are well down the path to a decision, you want your web content to widen the top of the funnel.  So, you’re going to score points to the degree you show an interest and expertise in the problems they have, not the fixes you offer.  Not yet, anyway.  With this in mind, product-focused content should be avoided.  Your ‘welcoming lobby’ should be a pressure-free zone to introduce the visitor to your business, same as your social-media strategy should be at all times.  It’s where you start to build trust.

Use only those words and expressions that you are certain your prospects use.  Search engines use signals throughout social media for ranking search  results.  This means that your web site is only incidental to the wider territory your prospects cover every day and in which they interact with other prospects online.  Be sure to use the words and phrases they are looking for, not the flavor-of-the-month terminology you think is cool.

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth along with comrade-in-communications Peter Davé on The Write Stuff.

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I’ve never met Marissa Mayer and I don’t know a single soul at her company (YHOO) or her former one (GOOG).  But if you ask me, she must be doing something right as the new CEO to have caused this much dust to mushroom upwards from the corporate cubes and meeting rooms. Now, evidently, it’s  because of the hoops she’s making hiring managers and others jump through in the recruiting/vetting process. My experience shapes my POV on all the fuss:

I assume that Mayer knows exactly what she’s doing. One of those things is sending the message that the company will only be as good as the people it brings in; so it makes perfect sense that she’s anal about the process and the paper trail right now. Where many a company in The Valley start to decline is the point at which they get complacent about  their entrance requirements and start to settle on more and more ordinary folks. Yes, God must have loved them because he created so many but this is not how you build an extraordinary enterprise. She seems to be re-establishing exactly who a “Yahoo” is and insisting that recruits fit the profile.

Employees can tend to forget that recruiting and hiring are the two most important things you do. “Always be recruiting” might sound cheesy and conjure images of Glengarry Glen Ross, but as far as a corporate mantra you could do a lot worse. You must go the extra mile and make the extra effort — which appears to be precisely what she’s doing. The culture shock it’s creating is due to the forced change she’s putting the culture through. Which is clearly called for given the mediocrity of the brand.

Mayer is the product of Stanford and Google, a couple of highly selective environments. What’s not to like about either as models?  Here’s hoping she succeeds.

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth along with comrade-in-communication Peter Davé on The Write Stuff, the blog of Silicon Valley’s premiere technology content-creation agency Write Angle, where IT vendors go for written content that drives revenue.

 

Hard to believe it’s been nine years and a few months since Fred Hoar died. 

For newbies in the tech biz, during the formative years of Silicon Valley Fred was the dean of All Things Marketing.  The Toastmaster of High-Tech. And he wore this mantle like a suit of shining armor almost from the time he migrated here during the Vietnam ’60s to be the voice of Fairchild Semiconductor, the seminal force in just about All Things Silicon.  Prior to this he’d worked in mid-town Manhattan during the Mad Men ’50s and early ’60s, applying advertising and PR to RCA (that’s the Radio Corporation of America, for you Millennials — um, look it up) overlooking Rock Center.

I had the honor of delivering remarks at his memorial service, to an SRO crowd in a large church in Palo Alto on a sunny but sad winter’s afternoon.  While the end had not come suddenly, the kick-in-gut news was still a shock, especially for the many of us who’d worked for him at one of his many stops along a glittering career path in Santa Clara County, from Fairchild’s tilt-up in Mountain View to his lectern at Santa Clara University where he regaled eager graduate students right to the end.

Another tribute to his force-of-nature personality and charm: how often so many of us recall his homilies and observations. And what more could a teacher/mentor hope for than to have his apprentices so fondly remember the advice, insights and admonitions of the Master?

Thought of him again recently at this year’s RSA show.  Fred liked these bustling events and made no bones about it, unlike many of us who pretend to dread them even as we sign off on the purchase orders that seem to grow chubbier every year, in any economy. Sometimes I think everything I learned about how to survive and prosper in the Valley I absorbed from my Apple years under Fred — and listening to him for years thereafter.  And what I’m reminded of at an event like RSA, is that that the more things change in this business the more they stay the same. Of course, the techniques of “global communications” may be radically different than Fred’s day — the prominence of social marketing comes quickly to mind — but the basics of value propositions and holding peoples’ interest remain the same. The most obvious differences are superficial: people don’t line up for phones anymore they continually stare into the ones in their hands. Far fewer coats and ties, way more denim. And women’s fashion has, thankfully, lost the shoulder pads. The booths are sleeker and convey more at-a-glance information (necessary for the ADD that’s a universal in business today).  But those marketers who rise above the pack still practice what Fred preached: keep it simple, memorable and worth peoples’ time.  No one was ever bored into buying anything. People never pay real attention to “marketing”, they’ll always pay attention to “interesting”.  Thanks, Freddy.

 

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth along with comrade-in-communication Peter Davé on The Write Stuff, the blog of Silicon Valley’s premiere technology content-creation agency Write Angle, where IT vendors go for written content that drives revenue.

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This post appeared today in The Write Stuff, the blog of Silicon Valley’s premiere technology writing service Write Angle.

Communicating what makes you different in the Big Data analytics market has never been more important than right now. The sheer number of exhibitors staking a claim in the Big Data bonanza at the Strata Conference underscores how quickly competition is emerging in this market.

 This week’s conference showcased a veritable Who’s Who in the industry today, including one of our clients, Glassbeam.  Distinguishing itself among the throng of Big Data players, Glassbeam develops big data applications that help companies improve their business and IT operations by intelligently extracting strategic and tactical insights from huge amounts of multi-structured machine data by way of pre-packaged applications.

 To communicate this market position, we helped Glassbeam by preparing fresh web content, creating a product-management solutions brief, a white paper on multi-structured data and a strategic case study featuring Aruba Networks.

 As the competitive landscape become further cluttered with more vendors, claims and counterclaims, credible content  that sets a vendor apart from the crowd will only grow in importance.

 

(When Stan DeVaughn isn’t ranting in this blog, he’s collaborating with Write Angle agency partner Peter Davé in a never-ending quest to purge Silicon Valley of lame marketing content. He approved this message.)

 


If lame marketing content is such a serious disadvantage why is there so much of it on so many high-tech websites? No early-stage company thinks of itself as a sub-par marketer.  But this is what’s conveyed by many high-tech websites with vague or overblown claims and unclear messages indistinguishable from the competition.

And it makes no difference if it’s a mature brand or an upstart in an established category or an early-stage outfit struggling to establish leadership in a new one. In each case, content that clearly communicates who you are and why you’re significant does three things, all of them good:

  • It sets you apart from those who are less articulate and creates an air of accessibility.
  • It facilitates understanding of your industry, especially a new one.
  • In a new space it cements your standing as a leading exponent of the “new, new thing” whatever that happens to be.  Industry watchers and sales prospects will naturally gravitate towards you.

We were again reminded of the dearth of writing that sells in this post by New York Times best-selling author Dave Kerpen ( Likeable Business and Likeable Social Media). Self-evident and relevant as his principles may be, especially to B2B brands in technology, they are no less elusive. Clear and compelling written content will positively differentiate your messages and give you a leg up. People who write well are taken seriously more readily, he says.  Likewise for young companies striving to seriously impress prospects and opinion leaders.

In mercurial marketplaces, expressing your brand with precision and speed can represent a key competitive advantage — but only for those marketers who can see the writing on the wall. What’s your written content saying about you?

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn can be found holding forth on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle, Silicon Valley’s premiere content creation and writing agency for I.T. and other technology categories.