By now I’m sure you have been anxiously awaiting the second part to my speaking tips and tricks post. Well, the wait is finally over! Below are a few tips for writing your proposal and what to do post submission.
- Get to the Point – Ok, you have done your research and are ready to write your abstract! Remember, abstracts are typically around 200 words, so you need to get the readers attention right off the bat. Make sure the abstract is the 3 C’s (clear, concise and catchy) and that it avoids marketing language. I’ve found abstracts that include instructive and replicable ideas tend to have the best success.
- Butts in Seats – The end goal of any submission is to have your company in front of an attentive audience – and the abstract can help get conference attendees to pick your session over concurrent ones. Attendees are there to learn (or at least they should be) and want to know what they will walk away with from attending your session. Since many abstracts are later used in conference guides, be sure to clearly outline what attendees will gain from spending 45 minutes of their day listening to you speak.
- The bio – This may seem like the easiest part of the submission – surely you have a bio already on hand. However, most likely, your bio outlines your job experience – not your speaking experience. Taking the time to craft a tailored bio that highlights past speaking experience and why you are an authority or expert on the proposed topic can give you an edge against the competition. Conferences want to feel confident that the speakers they choose can perform up to the task, and proving past experience or expertise can ease their minds on taking a chance on you.
- Follow up game – So you have submitted your abstract and can now relax until your letter of acceptance/rejection comes, right? Wrong. Submitting an email or online form is rarely enough, particularly if this is the first time submitting for an event. Following up with the conference to express your interest can go a long way. Smaller conferences may even be open to an introductory call where you can highlight your expertise and show the conference that you are articulate and could handle being put on their stage.
- Rejection – You’ve received a notice declining your proposal, so now the process is finally over, right? Wrong again. Rejections are a great learning experience (cliché, I know, but it’s true!) Follow up with the conference to see if they are able to provide feedback as to why you were not selected. While some conferences won’t give any info other than the canned “we had a record number of applicants for only XX sessions,” some conferences will provide a breakdown of your scoring so you can see exactly where you went wrong. Knowing how to make your submission stronger will not only help when you submit to the same conference the following year, but will help you with submissions across the board.
There you have it, all of my best advice for getting your proposal accepted. Good luck this speaking season!
It is a myth to say that the Federal government doesn't utilize social media tools; in fact, in the age of transparency, social media has exploded within government agencies. With that said, the tools can be very effective within the government contracting space, as long as you know how to use them to your advantage. Interested to know which agencies are utilizing these tools, and how?
SECAF, the Small and Emerging Contractor Advisory Forum, has asked SpeakerBox to come in and deliver a program on how to specifically manage these powerful social media channels when engaging with government agencies as well as the contracting industry.
We will be sharing tips and tricks for leveraging LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., to share your voice and enrich professional relationships.
SECAF members are invited to join us on August 24, 2012 at The Tower Club in Tysons Corner for breakfast, 7:30-9:00 am, for an opportunity to understand how to connect and engage using these powerful communications vehicles.
If you're not a SECAF member and you are a government contractor, it's easy to join: $200 for contractors which covers everyone in your company.
-- Why social media? What are the tools?
-- How can you leverage social media to network and expand business into government agencies and to other teaming partners?
-- How do your find your audience? Who's listening?
-- What are the tips and tricks for getting the most of of your social media efforts?
Hope to see you there!
--Elizabeth Shea, SpeakerBox, @eliz2shea
July and August may seem like a slow time for companies, but speaking season is in full swing! While there currently may not be many events to attend, now is the time to submit to call for papers for many of the late fall/winter conferences.
Getting a speaking proposal accepted is becoming an increasingly difficult task –conferences like RSA are touting only 16% acceptance rates! So in the spirit of speaking season, here are a few tips and tricks for getting your speaking abstract to the front of the pack.
- Do you research – Before even beginning to draft an abstract you should know as much as possible about the conference and what type of sessions they are looking for. A few questions to keep in mind include: Did your company speak at the event last year? If so, who spoke and on what topic? What is the overall theme for the conference? Does the conference look for high-level sessions or very technical ones?
- Think outside of the typical submission – While your company probably has a cloud or mobile story, so do many of the companies you will be competing against for a speaking slot. Look at the conference tracks to see if your company could speak towards a track that might not be as popular for submissions. If you are going to submit for a competitive track, think long and hard about what your company has to offer that will be unique and different from others submitting.
- Think about the presentation (not just the proposal) – Keep in mind that whatever you promise in the proposal needs to be delivered in the presentation. While going for shock value might help you be selected, it’s a sure-fire way to not get invited back the next year if you can’t follow through with your promises during the actual speaking session.
Okay, you have done your research, you know your topic and it’s time to put pen to paper…
Tune in for part two of this post for tips and tricks for writing and post submission follow up!
Obviously, we’ve seen more and more coverage recently around how people are consuming media and content in new (and increasingly mobile) ways. As Pete said last week, most online news rarely consists of straightforward stories centered around facts anymore. With the rise of blogs, we’ve begun to digest news online from sites that are geared towards our interests – it only makes sense that we follow blogs and writers who play to what we like, no matter how ‘researched’ their stories may be.
This “nichefying” of media outlets plays a very important role when it comes to elections and political coverage. This week Google put out an infographic (see larger here) that shows how people consume news relating directly to the election.
While we here at SBX aren’t in the business of political fundraising or posturing for one candidate over another, it is an important reminder that we should all be thinking of our markets like this and developing plans to get in front of people in the most influential or effective way.
Also, it’s really interesting to see that the “tried and true” method of political ads, running in prime time, isn’t necessarily so tried and true anymore. Folks are turning to the Internet and mobile devices instead to get their news.
Last election Obama reached voters in a way no presidential candidate had before – he connected with his supporters online and via text to create a very mobile grassroots following. I’m interested to see how this information guides outreach during this current campaign and what new tricks the candidates have up their sleeves.
- Ali Robinson
The GSA is back in the headlines for excessive event spending. This time, it’s for a one-day awards ceremony in November 2010 costing more than $268,000. Among other things, the GSA is being criticized for spending more than $20,000 on drumsticks (for a drumming exercise, not the chicken) and $28,000 for electronic picture frames for the 4,000 event attendees. Acting administrator, Dan Tangherlini, recently reported the event to the Inspector General.
This news comes on the heels of a GSA scandal that originally erupted in April 2012 after news broke of a lavish Las Vegas event coincidentally also in 2010 costing more than $800,000. Several GSA executives lost their jobs, including GSA administrator Martha Johnson.
The impact of these two events is far-reaching. In Tangherlini’s testimony before Congress on April 16, he described the formation of the Office of Administrative Services within GSA that will approve all planned conferences, events and budgets moving forward. In addition, Tangherlini mentioned that he had cancelled 35 GSA events scheduled for 2012, saving almost $1,000,000.
Though a list of cancelled events has not been published, we’ve assembled a partial list for industry watchers.
- Small business conferences in several cities including Honolulu, Phoenix and Oakland, CA.
- Earlier this month, GSA called off GovEnergy, planned for August 19 in St. Louis. GovEnergy is one of the largest alternative energy conferences in the U.S. Conference organizers had reserved thousands of hotel rooms in ten hotels for the conference. St. Louis is estimating that 1,500 hotel employees will be negatively impacted by the cancellation.
- The DoD has also cancelled at least two events that may be related to the GSA scandal. The Air Force Information Technology Conference, held annually in Montgomery, AL, was planned for the end of August. The event was cancelled due to the high cost of travel for government attendees.
Not surprisingly, the travel and meetings industry is reeling from all the cancellations.
- The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) cancelled the National Travel Forum, a 3-day June event in Phoenix. GBTA officials said, “Although we at the GBTA firmly believe that there is no more appropriate time for government travel professionals to learn cost-cutting strategies from top corporate travel managers... and reinforce ethical behavior standards, we cannot hold this important forum without GSA’s participation.”
- The Travel Market Report reported that many government events of more than 500 people have been cancelled or postponed; the National Conference Center in Arlington, VA has experienced more than $1.4M in government meeting cancellations just in April and May – and Marriott alone has reported more than $4 million in cancellations of government events.
With increased government scrutiny in an election year, many meetings professionals are expecting the slowdown and cancellations to continue.
If you’re aware of other cancellations, please let us know and we’ll add to the list.
- Katie Hanusik
So, I know I recently wrote a post about the Olympics and social media, primarily Facebook, but after reading a recent Mashable article about 10 Pinterest Accounts That Celebrate the Olympic Sprit I couldn’t resist diving back in (like Cassidy Krug on the 3-meter). Especially, since two of my favorite things – Pinterest and the Olympics – are so perfect for one another.
Pinterest is all about engaging users through the use of compelling images, and the Olympics generates tons of visually compelling moments – photo finishes, emotional athletes, the beautiful scenery and architecture of London. So, it is no wonder that most of the accounts mentioned in the Mashable article are spearheaded by NBC. Such accounts include “NBC Olympics,” “TODAY Olympics” and “Shop NBC Olympics,” and are a perfect example of a business effectively utilizing Pinterest.
It is important for businesses to understand that their presence on Pinterest can’t be limited to shoving their brand onto people’s boards, it just isn’t the avenue for that. It’s for sharing visually engaging images that spark conversation and engagement. Brands on Pinterest need to humanize themselves by following other relevant users, repinning their content and commenting when it makes sense.
As for NBC and their Olympic involvement on Pinterest, this type of interaction on the social site will feel like part of their conversation, which will lead to increased brand loyalty. Ultimately, it will leave Pinners interested in seeing more of London, more of the games and more of the action by tuning in to NBC for the event.
Here’s the full list of Olympic Pinterest accounts from Stephanie Buck’s Mashable article – check them out!
1. NBC Olympic Coverage
3. 2012 Olympic Games
4. Shop NBC Olympics
5. General Interest
6. Olympic Spirit
7. Olympic Design
8. Action Shots
10. Olympic History
I saw a status update this morning from a friend on Facebook and in the comments someone linked to what I personally think is an amazing website.
While I have my occasional struggles with grammar and using the right word at the right time, and I have written about this before, I thought it was a topic worth revisiting.
As John points out here and here and Ali points out here, content is incredibly important. But, the quality of that content is equally important. Whether you are writing an authored article, giving a presentation or working on closing a sales lead, using the right word or phrase at the right time is of the utmost importance.
Below are a few of my favorite slip-ups, and a link to explain the correct usage better than I could. (It also comes in book form so if you know someone who is a real word nerd consider adding this to your holiday shopping list – it’s never too early to get started!).
And while not on the list of Common Errors in English Usage, here are two of my other favorites:
Inconceivable and Plethora.
So which words/phrases do you mix up?
Sometimes, PR campaigns just fail – maybe the timing wasn’t right (pitching developer news against Google I/O) or the hook just wasn’t strong enough. Whatever the reason, it happens, and we as PR professionals have to come to grips with it. Our clients, however, are rarely so forgiving.
“Sorry, we tried” just doesn’t cut it with client contacts that have to reconcile the hit to their budget, so it’s up to the agency to turn a stalled campaign into something successful or, at the very least, something measurable outside of lost marketing dollars.
So what can you do with a stalled PR campaign?
I probably sound like a broken record babbling about content constantly, but it’s true – busted PR campaigns make for excellent content opportunities. No reporters willing to interview your client? Then interview him or her yourself for an article, or better yet, have the client write the piece with the campaign theme in mind. If it turns out well, try to use it as a contributed article – more and more publications are accepting authored, vendor-neutral and well-written content to supplement existing reporting, so what once looked like a failure could easily turn into a solid placement.
Even if the authored article falls through, content is still content – while the article may not make it into a lofty publication, your client can still leverage the piece for marketing. A company can never have enough well-written content, whether it’s a whitepaper, use case or an FAQ, so put it to good use driving sales leads in the door.
Create the Cause
Maybe your client isn’t keen on turning the campaign into a whitepaper just yet. No problem – if no one wants to listen to what you have to say, make them listen. Take the campaign social and use it to build out a Twitter, Facebook and blogging strategy and drive traffic back to your client’s website for additional resources.
In truth, PR campaigns never die – they just evolve. What once was nothing more than an emailed pitch can swiftly transform into a powerful authored article, a lead-driving whitepaper or a conversation-starting social media effort.
What do you think? Any success stories in transforming dead campaigns into successful content?
I serve as the chair for the Technology Marketing Alliance, a members-only, local technology group for senior marketers in the region. Every quarter we bring in amazing speakers to share best practices with our members, and we've heard from the likes of David Meerman Scott, Pragmatic Marketing, Alan Kelly, Joe Pulizzi, and more.
Last week's event didn't disappoint, as we invited Jason Jue, CMO for Vocus to share his experience as a power user of LinkedIn for not only growing his own professional network, but also for driving leads and sales opportunities in his current company, Vocus, and previous company, Rackspace.
Some key takeaways:
Accuracy of data: An obvious point, but not always appreciated: LinkedIn is the best repository for accessing accurate names, titles, roles and contact information for prospects. If you leverage the information in LinkedIn and manage your connections and the connections of those in your company, you have a powerful tool to drive leads.
Invest your time: Smart sales people know how to monitor their prospects and reach out when the time is right. The best sales reps in his companies are spending up to 70% of their time in LinkedIn. Jason noted that he didn’t update his profile on LinkedIn right away when he changed companies. But the minute he did, he found he got an influx of telemarketing calls.
Drive testimonials: He suggests leveraging the “recommendations” section as a way to showcase customer testimonials without having to go through a possibly painful process of getting approvals through legal. Suggest to customers to write a recommendation for the company, which will follow that person wherever they may go.
Use LinkedIn to Qualify: we talked a lot about “scoring” and qualifying leads: one member explained how they triangulate within LinkedIn and other company members to determine who the decision maker truly is. If he got an inbound lead from IT, for example, the technical decision maker, he was able to figure out who the business decision maker was and reach out to engage at the same time.
Alignment with sales and marketing: Jason believes its marketing’s job to help identify prospects, triangulate who the key people are within those prospects, score them, and ensure that sales people are trained on how to leverage this powerful tool. By working together, they can better identify, tag and score accounts to make the most of targeting enterprise businesses.
Participation in groups: He was able to offer incentives, links to good content, etc., through appropriate LinkedIn Groups for his business, assuming they weren’t too salesy. It has to be authentic and offer value, but it’s still a great way to connect.
Research and listening tool: Jason talked about the huge advantage for marketers to use LinkedIn as a listening source and as a place to conduct research on what trends are important, what “words” are people using to describe their problem. He believes it’s overlooked as a premier listening tool. He believes it may actually be too late to start a group of your own, but still, great information can come from joining other groups.
Be creative: Jason talked about how he used a avatar of sorts, to connect his team together so it would increase the access of the marketing and sales teams to potential prospects. All employees connect into FanatiGuy, and then it is easier to see who’s connected to whom when doing sales qualification or lead prospecting.
Lead conversion through advertising: Jason, alongside a couple of members, talked about the success rates of advertising against certain keywords in profiles and company names. For example, if your target customer is a CISO-level person, anyone with that title in their profile could be served the ad, directing them to an appropriate landing page that you’ve designed. It can be regionally-based, and as specific as you want it. The members who had invested in this B2B advertising method talked about higher cost of acquisition, but experienced significantly higher conversion.
In the end, he noted that while it is suited well for larger companies given the reach the internal employees can have and leverage, it does also place smaller companies on a level playing field since they can have access to all the same information. It’s mostly about mining it correctly, being diligent about participating and engaging, and getting ahead of the curve.
Thanks Jason for your contribution!
--Elizabeth Shea, CEO SpeakerBox
Move over mood rings, a Ferris wheel is going to judge the attitude at the London Olympics.
The London Eye, which is a tourist-favorite Ferris wheel that apparently has drawn over 39 million visitors since its debut in 2000, will broadcast to the world Twitter sentiment about the summer games. A team of analysts have been brought on board to study Tweets that mention phrases and hashtags related to the Olympics, such as “Olympics,” “Torch Relay,” “London 2012” and “#energy2012″ (EDF Energy is the official electricity supplier of the Olympics, and the name behind the London Eye) and translate those messages into colors to reflect both positive and negative emotions. During a nightly light show at the Olympics, the Ferris wheel will light up yellow (positive), green (neutral) and purple (negative) to reflect what people around the word are talking about on Twitter and their attitude towards the day’s events.
I think the idea itself is pretty interesting, and integrates social media well for those who will be following along via Twitter, and yet simultaneously won’t be so in-your-face to those who won’t. I guess I just can’t help but wonder if light show watchers will understand the meaning behind the colors, or will they just simply “ooh” and “ahh” at them? I can only assume that somehow the sentiments will be spelled out, or at least explained so that attendees and/or viewers at home can connect the dots and be encouraged to participate and contribute messages. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to follow along.
So if you’re chatting about the Olympics, don’t forget to incorporate some of the keywords mentioned above so that you can contribute to the light shows. Here’s to hoping we see a lot of yellow!
- Mary Evans
Remember the old days – say, the early to mid-2000’s – when most online news consisted of straightforward stories centered around facts? These stories were typically pretty cut-and-dried, providing information on new products, corporate earnings, the latest executive scandal, etc. All done with minimal to no commentary and, most certainly, no trace of any particular passion either way. For the most part, the online world was still reporting news from the perspective of the newspaper that used to be called the Old Gray Lady.
At some point over the past few years, however, that all started to change. It began with the rise in popularity of blogs, which allowed people to expound on any number of subjects and articulate their own opinions. Eventually, many of these sites morphed into something that sort of resembles a news site, but more accurately can be termed “enthusiast sites.”
Enthusiast sites are designed to provide information to fans -- sometimes of the rabid variety -- of a particular line of products or specific topic. They’re different from blogs in that they’re typically maintained by more than a single person and report news just as much as opinion. In fact, they often have editorial mastheads, much like a traditional news outlet, and much of their content consists of company and product news, reviews, forum discussions, editorial commentary and more. The big difference is that enthusiast sites tend to slant their information much more positively toward the products or services they focus on.
They’re also a PR manager’s dream because they cater to a very vocal, active, targeted and engaged audience. Visitors to enthusiast sites typically have a very high interest in a specific product or service. They also spend a lot of time on these sites looking for the latest and greatest news. A site like iMore, which caters to the iPhone and iPad crowds, is a perfect example. There’s a ton of information there, much of it being shared amongst the very active forum members. If you have an iOS app that you’re trying to get reviewed, or a new iPad accessory you’ve just rolled out, this site should be at the top of your hit list.
iMore is just one of many. What’s great is that there are literally hundreds of these types of sites devoted to various aspects of the tech world, with more popping up every day. Sure, some have more readership than others, but even the smallest ones offer a great opportunity to get in front of the people you want to know about what you have to offer.
As we’ve discussed in this space before, the media landscape has changed a lot over the past few years. News is now being reported differently – and thousands of people who share similar interests and a passion about products (imagine that!) are visiting enthusiast sites every day to get their fix. They should definitely be on your PR radar.
- Pete Larmey
Image courtesy Nadham/HP Blog Hub
Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn make it super easy to communicate these days. And I know it can be scary (especially for us techies) venturing out from behind our laptops, tablets and smartphones. But taking a step back from the technology and getting face-to-face with your local industry peeps could be the best thing you can do for your business. Communicating via Facebook and Twitter is necessary, but it is merely a supplement to being an active and visible participant in the community. Why is that, you ask?
- It puts a face with a Twitter handle - Following a company or exec on Twitter is a great way to see what’s going on with the company or in the industry, but I’m much more likely to pay attention to people I have personal connections with. Seek out events and meet-ups that some of the folks you want to be following you on Twitter will be attending and introduce yourself!
- It actually connects you to “people you may know” (real people, not just their profiles) – Social media sites often refer you to people they think you should know – connections of connections. But, wouldn’t it be nice to be promoted via word of mouth, too? Things are a lot easier if you have people seeking you out on your social networks rather than you seeking them. By immersing yourself in the community, you can meet new people and let them do the connecting for you.
- You can find out why they “like” you – Or, get them to “like” you, if they don’t already. Having in-person convos about your company or product gives you the opportunity to dive deeper than you can or should on a social media site. It will allow people to see that you know what you are talking about and are a strong thought leader on the topic.
Having a strong social media presence can surely be beneficial for your company, but if you pair that up with some old-school networking you may be surprised by the outcome. Getting out from behind the technology can put you face-to-face with people who can truly provide invaluable feedback about what is happening in the industry. Not that “likes” and “shares” aren’t important, but, all in all, you can’t beat good old-fashioned communication. Not to mention, it can actually help push people to your social media pages. So get out and enjoy what’s left of summer with some industry meet-ups and communicate with more than just a profile or Twitter handle.
Looking for tech events in the DC area? Check out some of the following for what’s happening:
Multitasking is a must in public relations and marketing – varied clients, work, deadlines, etc., all necessitate the ability to juggle multiple disparate tasks at once. But recently multitasking’s negative effects have been center-stage, not just on work quality and quantity but also to brains in general. And it’s getting worse: with constant Internet access and an increasingly always-online attitude, focus is harder and harder to achieve.
According to a recent study, it seems that multitasking makes us feel more emotionally satisfied with our work, regardless of actual output – which, unfortunately, is often poor. This is most likely because our brain wasn’t designed to multitask – it can’t focus on more than one thing at a time, but is forced to quickly switch between activities without ever singling out a single task.
The fact that we feel better about ourselves when we multitask even though our work suffers brought me back to an article that I shared on Facebook recently. The ‘Busy’ Trap asserts that we live in a culture that thrives on being busy, even if it’s being busy just to be busy.
But, in a working world where we’re managing multiple social media accounts, answering questions from clients, reporters and coworkers, checking email, reading, writing, sending pitches and more – sometimes all at the same time – how are we supposed to go back to single-tasking?
While there are many tricks that can help us focus and cut down on the clutter, here are my top three:
1. Shut off notifications.
I don’t have anything that pops up on my screen while I’m working… not email, Twitter, GChat or anything of that nature. Additionally, I don’t receive many notifications on my phone. While turning off my always-on mentality has been tough, turning off the constant dings that distract from what I’m working on has greatly improved my focus and output.
2. Listen to music.
I’m sure this seems counterintuitive but in an open office environment listening to music through headphones cuts down on the chance that I’ll overhear a conversation that I’ll want to chime in on. And if someone really needs my attention a tap on the shoulder is all it takes!
3. Create to-do lists
At any point in time I have 3-4 to-do lists going, not counting the individual ones I keep for each client. I’m a list maker and I can’t help it. But the lists themselves can get out of control. Before I go home everyday I jot down a short list of things I expect to finish the next day so when I get in to the office in the morning I can start cranking. Generally, I pull my “today” list from things that are on my list for each client and I keep it short so that I can finish it along with the tasks that pop up throughout the day.
So now that I’ve shared some of my stay-sane techniques, what are some of yours?
Tomorrow, the Technology Marketing Alliance will be holding its summer event: “LinkedIn for Business: Maximize your Company’s LinkedIn Presence.”
The featured speaker is Jason Jue, CMO for Vocus.
Jason will be sharing best practices for managing a comprehensive B2B LinkedIn strategy based on his experiences at Rackspace and Vocus. His marketing team has used Linkedin as part of strategic marketing campaigns to drive brand awareness, leads and build networks for sales to find appropriate contacts.
This is not a "how-to use LinkedIn" conversation, but rather a demonstration of how to build a plan, leverage the powerful tool, and incorporate it into your overall business marketing strategy.
Event details are as follows:
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
7:30 to 9:30 a.m.
The Tower Club - Tyson's Corner
Cost - $50.00
Hope to see you there.
- Katie Hanusik
And just like that, the summer doldrums are upon the public relations world. A veritable Sargasso Sea has engulfed the industry, as colleagues, clients and journalists disappear on well-deserved vacations, all of which are of some indeterminate yet infuriating length.
The summer is a tough time for PR professionals, unless your client list includes Caribbean resorts and swimming pools. But this general lack of interest, particularly on the technology side, is not an insurmountable challenge. It just requires a bit of outside the box thinking to keep driving the conversation, beyond the pitch-and-re-pitch model that is too often the basis of standard public relations campaigns.
So what can be done?
If You Write It, They Will Read
Content is king, whether it’s a below zero winter day or a disgustingly humid summer evening – this is a lesson that PR pros need to hammer into their skulls. Vacation season is the perfect time to start home shopping for the plethora of content that you and your clients have built up. Writers and editors may be on vacation, but media outlets don’t shut down – if you have quality, vendor-neutral content, what better time to get it in front of a publication than when the article load is light?
Swimming In Data
All companies, big and small, sit on a potential PR goldmine when it comes to industry trends – customers. While it might seem trite, a simple customer survey can net big rewards in terms of content and exposure, especially if it can provide clarity on industry trends. For example, if a client is a cloud services provider, perhaps survey customers on what the cloud’s penetration is into their business, and then juxtapose that against company size/employee base. Just like that, the company has a release that talks about the rate of cloud adoption for small business versus enterprise.
All’s quiet on the public relations front, so why not take the time to ramp up the social media program? If you haven’t been listening, start. If you’re already listening, start engaging. Social media is often portrayed as something larger businesses/PR accounts just don’t have time for – well, now’s the time. Nothing else is going on, so get to it – build out the Facebook page, pay attention to the Twitter account and hey, maybe you could even get that corporate blog off the ground.
So take a vacation and get some sun – just don’t shutter your PR campaigns at the same time. Summer presents a very real opportunity for public relations momentum, so seize the moment, Dog Days be damned.
Ideally, your white paper should be a bit more compelling than the one above.
Tech companies have a lot of communications tools at their disposal. In addition to the usual suspects – media relations, advertising, social media, etc. – there are more content-specific vehicles that can be used to show that organizations know of what they speak (or, in this case, write).
One of the more effective of these vehicles is the white paper. Don’t let the bland nomenclature fool you; today’s white paper does not have be the boring, techno jargon laden document that your daddy put together. And although they can be time-consuming, white papers can also offer a huge payoff by driving valuable leads and establishing you as a trusted expert.
Are there rules to writing a white paper? Not necessarily. Perhaps “general guidelines” might be a better term. But what are they? I’ll summarize some of them in a few simple…well…general guidelines.
1. Determine your subject matter and how it ties into your business.
While this should be a no-brainer, it does bear mentioning. Before embarking on any writing project designed to promote your business you need to determine what the subject will be and how it ties into what you have to offer. The tricky thing with white papers is that you have to do so in a way that’s somewhat indirect. Much like an authored article, white papers show your expertise without necessarily pointing directly to a specific product example. The goal here is to gain a potential customers’ trust without using the white paper for a “hard sell.”
2. Keep the tone conversational and engaging.
No one wants to read a dissertation. The white paper should be written just like any other piece of good writing: it should be interesting, engaging, and informative. Lead with a “grabber,” whether a headline (see my colleague Jonathan’s Your Website is Trying to Kill You) or the lead paragraph. And don’t feel beholden to a certain format (i.e., Introduction, Analysis, Conclusion). Go with the flow, as they say. Most importantly, get your readers’ attention, and hold it by…
3. Including valuable information and insights that readers can’t find anywhere else.
Provide readers with a unique perspective on the topic you’re writing about. If possible, support that perspective with real-world statistics or examples and, if even more possible, make them unique to things that your company has worked on. Use creative, informative visuals whenever possible. All of this can help bring your point home and, more importantly, sets you up as the go-to person for a particular industry.
4. Don’t forget the call to action and ensuing promotion.
As informative as they are, white papers exist to sell your company. As such, make sure you include a way to collect leads they might help generate. Make the white paper accessible through an online form that requires the interested party to provide contact information. Include your company’s information in a boilerplate at the end. Always provide a way for an interested prospect to get in touch with you. And after it’s on your website, don’t forget to promote it – through blog posts, Twitter, Facebook, all of your various outlets.
We have some great examples of white papers that SpeakerBoxers have written, including ones on good website design, the development of B2B websites, and more. Be sure to check them out, as they offer some great examples of what today’s white papers can be.
- Pete Larmey
Image courtesy TheContentCocktail.com
Spoiler Alert: Movie ruined by Anne Hathaway/Hugh Jackman musical number
I owe you all some closure:
A couple weeks ago, we were discussing the economics of attention, when the microwave dinged with my Hot Pockets… er… I mean when I realized YOUR attention was too valuable to burden with a double-sized blog post.
So here it is: the hotly anticipated final chapter of the blog -- with special appearances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway (sorry about the Anne Hathaway part).
Now here's what we learned last week:
1. Benjamin Franklin was a pedophile.
2. Attention -- not time -- is what's valuable.
3. People may actually be willing to pay MORE to read LESS.
To this last point, I introduced (but failed to analyze) an opinion piece by Michael Erard associating the future of profit-seeking with the future of attention-seeking. So let's begin there:
From Erard's manifesto:
Making something "free" is obviously an allocation strategy. "Free" attracts attention. Making things brief is an allocation strategy as well. The problem is that free isn't sustainable, and that brief is underpriced.
...I imagine attention-based pricing, in which prices of information commodities are inversely adjusted to the cognitive investment of consuming them. All the candy for the human brain — haiku, ringtones, bumper stickers — would be priced like the luxuries that they are. Things requiring longer attention spans would be cheaper — they might even be free, and the higher fixed costs of producing them would be covered by the higher sales of the short attention span products.
So... Erard is imagining an Amazon.com where the book is free, but the synopsis of the book costs big bucks? And how much does Erard's calculus change when we replace "free" with any other price, for instance $.01?
In the book Free (which ironically costs about 18 dollars), Chris Anderson argues:
From the consumer’s perspective, there is a huge difference between cheap and free. Give a product away, and it can go viral. Charge a single cent for it and you’re in an entirely different business... The truth is that zero is one market and any other price is another.
Interesting thought. Obviously, my attention is far too valuable to spend reading that entire book. So I'll let Malcolm Gladwell summarize it for me:
There are four strands of argument here: a technological claim (digital infrastructure is effectively Free), a psychological claim (consumers love Free), a procedural claim (Free means never having to make a judgment), and a commercial claim (the market created by the technological Free and the psychological Free can make you a lot of money). The only problem is that in the middle of laying out what he sees as the new business model of the digital age Anderson is forced to admit that one of his main case studies, YouTube, “has so far failed to make any money for Google."
Oops. Turns out when you add up all that "free" digital infrastructure, it costs something like 360 million dollars a year to maintain. When all is said and done, Google may lose a half billion dollars on YouTube this year. In other words (as Gladwell notes), if YouTube were a bank, it would be eligible for TARP funds.
So we've got Google here taking an enormous loss in order to keep the YouTube experience free for Bing users. Why?
I suspect the only way to make sense of any of this is to view our attention economy as a zero-sum "opportunity cost" model.
Google is willing to take the loss because it's creating an attention monopoly. Attention spent on YouTube isn't necessarily valuable, but it's attention spent away from competing information sources, which means they lose the potential attention profits (assuming their infrastructure isn't quite so dysfunctional as Google's). So if Google (which can afford the loss) ends up killing its competitors by taking it, it's a net-win.
You could also argue that Google pays for these free consumer services (like maps) to engender good will. But I think that gives consumers too much credit.
We consumers have succeeded in rationalizing to ourselves that (as Anderson puts it) "information wants to be free." In other words, Google isn't a hero for giving us free video archiving. It's simply fulfilling the prophecy of the free Internet.
And in this preposterous world of free Internet, attention is our only currency.
What do you all think?
In case you were wondering about that mysterious red smudge on the Declaration of Independence...
"Time is money" (coined in 1748 by unlikely womanizer Benjamin Franklin) is one of those American aphorisms we accept as gospel without ever actually believing.
Certainly if we did, we wouldn't spend 6 hours in front of Best Buy on Christmas morning waiting for 50 dollar-off DVD specials. Employers wouldn't pay their salaried workers to sit in traffic all morning. And "Minute Rice" would cost something like 600 bucks.
So let's cut to the chase: Benjamin Franklin is an idiot. It's not our time that's valuable. (Americans waste an average of 26.4 hours per day.) What's valuable is our active attention.
Being actively attentive, sometimes referred to as thinking, is incredibly valuable because it's arduous, it's unpleasant, and (generally speaking) we try to do it as little as possible.
So valuable and rare is our attention, that (as we've previously noted here on the Sounding Board) there's some reason to believe the world is moving to a predominantly "attention-based" economy. And that's decidedly good news for advertisers, entertainers, and anyone else who specializes in "life intrusion." (See, I can coin phrases too, Franklin, you three-puffy-roll buying pedophile.)
(Introspective sidebar: Why am I so hostile toward Benjamin Franklin this morning?)
Anyway, I'm sometimes nostalgic for the golden days of "life intrusion," when door to door encyclopedia salesmen would literally stick their feet inside your door hinge to prevent you from returning to your mildly racist radio dramas.
You can't really do that anymore (thanks a lot Nancy Pelosi and the crackdown on forced-entry homicides), so we've had to get creative.
Today's "life intruders" mostly use the Internet. And the tone has changed. We have to pretend to be respectful of your time these days. We have to give you options (like picking between two different ads to watch, or paying $2.99 for an ads-free experience).
And we have to be a little less deceptive (thanks a lot Nancy Pelosi and the crackdown on timeshare-based prostitution rings). No longer can we say things like "This'll only take five minutes," as we're furiously plugging quarters into the parking meter. In fact, Edward Nawotka of Publishing Perspectives wonders if we ought to be telling people (in advance) just how much attention we'll be asking for.
From his article:
[There's] the Delay App, which asks readers to indicated [sic] the amount of time they would like to read and, in turn, the app offers them selections that can be read during that period. It’s an intriguing premise, one that assumes all people read at the same pace. That said, it’s not entirely new. Several websites have experimented over the years with indicating at the top of an article how long it might take to read. Longreads, in particular, maintains the practice.
But Nawotka is skeptical, and he's quick to add:
I suspect it might put readers off. In my previous experience with the web sites indicating the amount of time it would take to read an article, I found myself clicking away if the article was of only marginal interest (which is about 90% of what I read online) and looked to be too long. Books — if they told you that, provided an average reading pace of a page every two minutes — would likely take you ten hours for a 300-page book, it might just be enough to put you off reading it.
I take Nawotka's point. But I'm concerned he's conflating two separate content types: the online article (which is presumably free) and the 300-page book (which is presumably paid for).
If he's right in this conflation, and we're truly willing to pay more currency for less content, that's quite a departure from the old economic model -- which paid Charles Dickens by the word. Instead of paying a premium for the creation of content we deem worthy of our valuable attention, we'd be paying that premium for the streamlining of said content, so as to take as little of our attention as possible.
Along these lines, the Observatory's Michael Erard offers his own take on the emerging economics of attention. And I'm anxious to delve deeper into his perspective, as well as my own thoughts on the wisdom of using "free" as an attention strategy.
However, being respectful of your valuable time (and in an effort to grab more page views), I'd better make this blog a two-parter...
As I write this I am closing in on 84 hours without power at my house. In case you don't live in the greater DC area you may not be aware that incredibly strong storms - what one of my favorite bloggers referred to as a land hurricane - came through and wiped out power to close to 2 million people on Friday night. As of this morning, there are still more than 86,000 of us without power in Northern Virginia.
Am I frustrated that I've had to throw away the contents of my fridge and freezer? Yup. Am I dismayed each time I return home to check on my cats and see that the temperature in my baby girl's room is climbing higher and higher (93 degrees last night!)? Absolutely. Am I mad at the power company that provides me with my electricity for not getting me back online sooner? Nope, not at all. I know they are working hard. Additionally, I think that they - Dominion Virginia Power - have done a tremendous job of keeping their customers notified and informed of what's going on. They may not always be able to provide you with the answer you want to hear (which is that your power will be restored in five minutes and never will it ever go out again) but by communicating during this "crisis" they may have managed to save their reputation.
From almost the minute the power went out on Friday night Dominion Virginia Power has been incredibly active on social media. I don't know what their social media presence was before the storms hit and I don't know how many people they have running their social media channels but I do know that they have been all over Facebook and Twitter. And, to me, here's the best part - they aren't just putting information out, they are responding to what others are posting and it's the responding that makes a difference. People want to feel like they are being heard and not ignored.
Ask them a question on Twitter about what's going on and you'll likely get a response. Post on their Facebook page and you'll get a response. They've been cognizant of how Twitter operates and have done all they can to respond to their followers without going overboard so they don't get locked out - and they tell you that's what they are doing - apologizing for not responding to every single tweet directed at them.
Every morning they put out a list of where their work crews will be that day and immediately they post it to Facebook and Twitter. Wondering if they'll be working through the July 4th holiday? One look at their Facebook page and I'm reassured that yes, they will be working around the clock until the last person has power (which is good since I'm starting to think I might be that last person).
So many people are frustrated and angry and feel that Dominion should be doing more but almost everyone following them on Facebook and Twitter has been thanking them for being forthcoming with what little information they do have and keeping those of us without power in the loop.
People may not always like the answers they are getting, and as the days pass people are becoming increasingly frustrated, but by harnessing the power of social media Dominion Virginia Power has done an excellent job of listening to their customers and keeping them informed. At a time when customer service seems to be lacking (see Pete's post from last week) it's nice to see that a few companies still value their customers enough to listen to them.