Archive for April, 2013

No-Jargon

This post appeared April26 in The Write Stuff, the jargon-free blog of Write Angle — Silicon Valley’s premiere technology writing and content agency for the IT industry.

Now in our third decade of technology marketing in Silicon Valley, we’ve been exposed to our unfair share of linguistically challenged content and mind numbing jargon. So you’d think we’d be de-sensitized by now. But a recent email containing some truly cringe-worthy terminology, even by Valley standards, really gagged us. It read like a Saturday Night Live lampoon of techies.

No matter how many times we call it out, tortured business language continues to pollute even the simplest communications.  Like ivy and acronyms, it keeps coming back.

Must have been the use of “onboarding” that set us off.  Not exactly a new term but does the English language we really need another ham-handed concept to convey “a systematic and comprehensive approach to orienting a new employee to help them ‘get on board’”?  What happened to “hiring” or “orientation”?

We’re comforted in the knowledge that we are not alone in our disdain for “jargon-slingers”.  And props to Christopher Steiner for coining that term.  Steiner authored  The Most Annoying Business Jargon , an astute and witty article that takes the business world to task for “cutting its anchors to the English language.” Recommended reading.

We’ve all heard this lingo in meetings and winced. We read it on websites, press releases, and been helplessly subjected to it in conference presentations. But accept it? No way. At least not at Write Angle.

To quote Steiner, “Let the jargon slinger know that you know who they are:  a vapid, message-clouding, English-avoiding, communications nightmare.” We couldn’t have said it better.

What SV-speak do you hear around your cubes or watering holes these days that cause you to cringe? What do you do to stamp it out?

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn blogs on The Write Stuff with his agency partner, Peter Davé.

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This post appeared yesterday on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle Silicon Valley’s premiere writing and content creation agency for the IT industry.

It’s an interesting question we were asked to address in developing a recent white paper on behalf of our client AppSense .

While first-generation solutions to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) problem have focused on locking down personal and corporate-owned devices, it’s become increasingly clear that IT departments have been mostly unprepared for the explosion of mobile computing and the avalanche of apps coinciding with the mobile revolution.

Recent studies estimate that 200 million workers are using mobile apps for business today. This strongly suggests that the consumer mobile experience has paved the way for the mobile workforce not only to expect, but demand access to data and apps from anywhere.

What does this mean in the grand scheme of things?  Forward-looking organizations are moving from a lock-down approach to providing users access to apps and data they demand and require, anytime and anywhere.

AppSense dubs this new approach “BYOX” –  providing security and control anywhere they’re needed, regardless of device, without adversely affecting the user experience.

Check out our “nine big ideas” that will be instrumental in driving the next generation of mobility management solutions.

When he’s not ranting here, Stan DeVaughn contributes to The Write Stuff, along with his partner in communication, 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 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.
Keep It Simple Blue Paper Clips

 

This post first appeared in The Write Stuff, the blog of Write AngleSilicon Valley’s premiere creators and writers of technology content for the I.T. industry.

1. Focusing on selling, not telling. The brands that do kick-ass marketing always describe how they help the buyer reach a goal. The emphasis is on the buyer and their problem(s).

2. Complicating the message.  One of those brands referenced above, Apple, has a a one-sentence description — or vision — for every product it brings to market. Incredibly, every single piece of written content, in all marketing material, revolves around this one, simple sentence.  Study after study shows that people think in “chunks” and remember no more than three (or four, max) characteristics of anything.  That’s why the best content contains no more than three, core leave-behinds.  Your website visitors are busier and more distracted than ever. Make it easy for them.  Think about the most effective content you’ve read.  Chances are, the writer kept it pretty simple.  It’s why you remember it.  Simplicity is, indeed, the ultimate sophistication.

3. Failing to stay on message. Begin with a clear expression — the single sentence — of what your content must convey.  Then think of it in three parts and sketch an outline of the “sum” of the parts: What? So what? And now what?  In other words, consistent with the core sentence, describe the problem being experienced by the customer/reader, (2) all the dimensions of why this is a significant issue at this moment and (3) what needs to happen for resolution of the issue (solution to the problem).

4.  Ignoring (boring) the reader. If you’re not energized to the point of passion about your subject matter, don’t expect your reader to take up the slack.   Look at what you’re writing through the reader’s eyes. To what would you favorably respond?  Studies show that readers favor a graphic presentation of complex data, thus the popularity and more frequent use of infographics. What would make you keep reading? In your experience, which styles of content convey the most information most forcefully and memorably? Most important, what would make you want to learn  more about what the vendor has for solutions?

What does your team do to optimize the readability and simplicity of your written content — including those white papers?

 When Stan DeVaughn is not ranting on this site, you can read him and his comrade-in-communications, Peter Davé, on The Write Stuff.