Archive for April, 2010

Enough Leverage Already!

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I had the opportunity recently to be a co-presenter in a media training session.  One of the tips we always give prospective spokespeople is to avoid the use of jargon and meaningless tech words.

We have a solid list of offenders:

  • Leading
  • Enhanced
  • Unique
  • Significant
  • Solution
  • Integrated
  • Innovative
  • Advanced
  • Sophisticated
  • E-anything
  • Best-in-Class

And, last but not least, the word I’ve found most bothersome of late: Leverage.

Most of the time PR, marketing and sales folks are leveraging leverage to such a degree that it’s meaningless.  Whether as a verb, noun, adjective, it’s been misused, overused and tweaked to the point where all relevance and impact is gone. There probably hasn’t been an enterprise hardware or software press release issued in the last 20 years without some leverage, somewhere.

It’s especially popular in headlines:

Oracle Service Architecture Leveraging Tuxedo

IBM reveals Long Term File System (LTFS) to leverage LTO-5

Webinar: Leverage Microsoft SharePoint in your Online Marketing

Leverage Your Existing EMC Centera Investment with OnBase

RIM’s New MVS 5 Leverages Cisco Unified Communications Manager

Maybe somebody knows what it means to leverage LTO-5 with a long-term file system, but you’ve got me with that one. The point of putting out a press release, for instance, is to communicate information so that it can be understood, not to leave people scratching their heads in confusion.  Most of time when I see the word leverage, it’s unclear what going on.  Or, maybe the author didn’t know either.

 If you’re a TV watcher, you know that leverage even has it owns series on TNT starring Timothy Hutton.  The series is well done, and the use of the word leverage here almost forgivable.  As names for undercover spy-like thrillers with a twist go, it’s impossible to top Mission Impossible. But Leverage perhaps isn’t horrible, as used in this trailer:

So if you’re producing a hit TV series, I’ll let you off the hook. For everyone else, take a minute and look at your copy or slide deck. How many times are you leveraging something? Three? Five? Ten? Do yourself and your readers a favor and cut that number in half. Or, if you’re truly committed to reform, delete them all.  You just don’t need any more leverage.

Look in Your Rearview Mirror…Old and Stodgy Might Be Gaining on You

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

When you hear the names Proctor & Gamble and BlueCross BlueShield what images come to mind? Conservative? Old school? Bureaucratic? I think it’s safe to say that these two companies, fairly or unfairly, aren’t exactly known for being progressive or nimble. Yet both of these well-known American brands have recently implemented programs that might surprise you.

laptop P&G is letting several hundred of its workers use their own laptops as part of a workplace experiment.

This pilot program is based on a simple idea: many of P&G’s younger employees would rather use their own laptops than corporate-issued systems.

Blue Cross Logo BlueCross BlueShield plans to introduce online care this year, a service that allows patients to connect with a physician on-demand 24 hours a day using webcams for video links, or secure text messages or telephone conversations.

Toyota Badge I find that the word “brand” is thrown around quite loosely nowadays. Establishing brand takes careful planning, time and smart execution. Yet all the hard work in the world can be thrown by the wayside by a simple misstep – think Toyota could have handled that little gas pedal/floor mat issue any better?

If someone were to ask me what companies come to mind when I hear the words progressive, nimble, risk taking, I don’t think of P&G or BlueCross BlueShield. Yet both of these companies, albeit for different reasons, have adopted new technologies and policies which have helped to strengthen their already strong brands. By implementing these two new programs I believe that both companies are doing a good job of reinforcing their already strong brands by leveraging technology to adapt with the times.

Vision signBy using new technologies and new methods of communicating with their employees and customers, both P&G and BlueCross BlueShield have shown that they have the guts (in a rough economy) to evolve their own brand strategies and take chances.

Are there other conservative, old school companies out there that are showing a willingness to adapt to the modern times?

Enterprise Software Blogging in Full Swing

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

For longer than I care to admit, I have been marketing a variety of software products to enterprise IT professionals and managers, from cloud-based start-ups to SAP.  What appeals to about this space is the technical nature of the products and the challenges of differentiating a client’s products from their competitors.  It’s also gratifying to hear about the customer successes and how a client’s technology is making a very real difference.

Over the years, the marketing approach we’ve used has involved more or less the same set of tools.  To launch a new product release, for instance, you first get everyone together and figure out a press release and some messaging, tie into a trade show, update the web site, put together a slide deck for sales and follow up with telemarketing.

And while all that still holds true, what’s changed is the growing influence of blogging. Over the last couple of years, blogging about enterprise software has expanded by leaps and bounds. The list of bloggers on the SAP Community Network or over at Oracle is truly extensive and growing steadily. Moreover, there are dozens upon dozens of consultants and managers all with a story to tell and blogging regularly.

It only makes sense that enterprise software would be a fertile ground for blogs. This stuff is complex and changes constantly. And no piece of enterprise software ever dies.  It simply isn’t possible for a general IT publication to even do a passable of job of delivering on information needs across all the little niches and cubbyholes. Enterprise software bloggers play a critical role in keeping specialized audiences informed and educated.

You might think the IT managers are all business and no fun, but having tied one on at a few SAPPHIREs, I can safely say that this can be a lively community.  It follows that Facebook is a popular gathering place for various IT communities. For instance, the SAPPHIRENOW 2010 (not sure about that name) Facebook page has nearly 2,000 fans, sharing critical information such as this photo of Shaun White with an SAP airport sign:

Shaun White SAP Sign

With blogging and social media on the upswing in the enterprise IT space, it follows that as marketers and IT professionals, we need to be there too. No longer is it enough to just do the press release, the trade show circuit and webinars. You need to be blogging (or podcasting and videocasting), you need to be on Facebook.  You need to be active and participating in the forums. You need to build communities of your own.

The rise of social media changes what we do in marketing and PR. Instead of focusing on finely tuned brochures and trade show booths, we spend time encouraging content owners and technical experts to keep blogging and looking for ways to syndicate content across blogs and various social media channels.  An example of how this works is a blog post by Deb Lavoy of Open Text (a McKenzie Worldwide client) that ended up on the AIIM Facebook page. AIIM is a large enterprise content management professional association.

If you’re an enterprise marketer, it would be great to hear how you see blogging and social media changing your approach. What’s working? What’s not? What are some of the best ways to take full advantage of this channel? I plan on delving deeper into this subject in future posts. Let’s talk.

The Virtual Office – We’ve Come A Long Way Baby!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It’s interesting to see how the idea of the virtual office has evolved and mirrored the advancement of the technologies available.  When I heard that Inc. Magazine had produced an entire issue virtually, I was intrigued.  One of Inc. Magazine’s staff writers came up with the notion of making an article idea about working remotely, “The Case and the Plan for the Virtual Company,” more personal by implementing a virtual office for the entire magazine staff for a month.  You can read and listen to the results for yourself but the net of it is that they were able to put this issue out without any of the staff members working in the main office.

Virtual Office

One of the more surprising aspects of this story is that the entire staff was able to continue to do their jobs remotely without buying any new technology, software or equipment.  Ten years ago, when people were just starting to talk about the possibilities of working remotely, the argument often raised was the complication and expense of setting up a home office.  At the time there were naysayers who also questioned whether or not effective communication could still take place.  Now with just about every home having a computer, or better yet a laptop, and free technologies such as Skype it appears that many of these objections are no longer issues.

Many people working from home have experienced a significant increase in productivity. In the NPR podcast, “Magazine Staff Produces Entire Issue from Home,” Jane Berenston, Editor of Inc. Magazine, substantiates that point saying that staff writers found they were much more productive when they were working at  home and often lost track of time while they finished a story.  Berenston also reported that her staff was able to utilize the time they would have spent commuting by getting more work done. Talk about a “Green” work lifestyle!

All in all, a great article and podcast.

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