Thoughts from the Executive Office

Maestro PR Blog: Barbara in Geriatric Land

My Southwest flight from San Jose to Detroit Metro stopped at Chicago Midway and picked up the usual suspects attending the Convergence Auto Show.  I say ‘suspects’ because I don’t know for sure that everyone was going to the show, as I was. But they appeared to be attendees from their dress:  Visualize passengers loaded down with the usual paraphernalia associated with show attendees:  Dress jackets already crumpled from sitting in the airport worn over equally crumpled Dockers.  Human beasts of burden trying to convey last-minute messages on their phones while hauling carry-on luggage and backpacks with laptop computers, Blackberries ® , iPhones®, earphones, and presentations – all with the sense of urgency that accompanies any departure from the office. It was a classic travel scene.  Watching it shows how well technology has allowed us to carry our office on our backs.  (Is that a good thing?)

 

Returning home, however, my flight took me from Detroit to San Jose via Phoenix.   It was if I had stepped out of the reality of the electronics Convergence show and, like Alice in Wonderland, had fallen down some hole into another world.  I somehow happened to have a ticket on the “Snow Bird” flight:  For those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon, this is the flight that carries seniors to warm locations for the winter months.  Evidently, winter starts in Michigan in October, because this flight was filled with escapees from the coming bitter cold months.

 

I had checked in early on the Southwest site and had gotten an “A” boarding pass, but it wasn’t an advantage.  There must have been a fleet of 10 wheelchairs or so loading the passengers. Consequently, my A-24 card meant nothing.  Boarding the flight, I searched for a space between all the canes and small, light carry-ons so I could stow my bag in the overhead compartment.  A quick scan of the open bins reassured me that, in event of a terrorist attack, I would be able to choose from any of about 50 canes in all shapes, sizes and materials to deter the evildoers.  Meanwhile, people like me are having our water bottles, embroidery scissors and metal nail files confiscated by security agents as potential weapons.

 

Finally ensconced next to an elderly couple with matching hearing aids and he with dark glasses to protect his fragile eyesight,  the attendant launched into the usual instructions about clicking seatbelts, water landings, oxygen masks, etc.  People were straining to hear her through their hearing aids. Of course, the hearing aids cannot reliably discern one voice amidst all ambient noises and  ranges on a plane, so the entire exercise was futile.  

 

The attendant fairly shouted, "Now there are two buttons above your seats.  One button has a person on it. DO NOT push this button. It is for service.  Do not push this button. The other button shows a light bulb. This button will give you a light over your seat. The button has a light bulb on it.  Push this button. DO NOT  - I repeat - DO NOT -- push the button with the person on it."

 

Instantly, about 30 fingers shot up and service bells chimed as people pushed the button with the person on it. 

 

After the service bells were punched into silence, the attendants ran up and down the aisles seeking the cell phones that were ringing tunes from the ‘40’s. (Yes, that would be the 1940s.)  Just as the attendant would reach the bag carrying the offending cell phone, the ringing would stop.  I watched one attendant jog up and down the aisle three times before the complacent Snow Bird finally realized that, yes, it was her phone that was ringing and, no, Maud, she could not talk to you now.

 

As the weary attendants finally got everyone settled in for the 3-hour-46-minute flight, the couple next to me offered to sell me their 5,000-sq ft home in Sun City.  They could sell it at a great price.  I looked them both in the eyes and saw the keen anticipation usually reserved for hawks spotting a fat mouse after hours of futile searching.  Okay, both were about 85 years old. Both wore hearing aids, and the man had eye problems. But the sharp minds gleamed through their new corneal transplants.  Why are these people living in 5,000 sq ft of house, let alone selling it?  Well, gee, it's because their home in Detroit is too small.    Evidently, they like to wander around their Sun City house, but it's getting too big for the jaunt.  Huh??  I felt like Alice in Geriatric Wonderland.  Heaven help the world -- and me -- when I turn 85.

 

P.S.  My father is 93 and still fit and sound and (sigh) driving, so my respect for “the greatest generation” has no bounds.  Rather, this blog is a glimpse of a future that even the best of road warriors may draw a lesson from.

 

PPS.  The attendants on Southwest Airlines have tremendous patience and spirit.  I wouldn’t want their job for anything.

 

Barbara Kalkis

Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Maestro PR Blog: Dogged Determination at Auto Convergence Show in Detroit

The taxi ride from Detroit Metro Airport to the GM Renaissance Center in mid-town took less time than usual:  The sinking economy had already taken a shark-bite out of the number of working commuters.  Still, a GM billboard voiced optimism for the future.  The graphic showed a car with the simple headline:  “Chevy Volt. Coming 2010.”

 

It was the kind of dogged determination behind that succinct message that seemed to permeate the biennial Convergence Show (www.ctea.org) earlier this week.  Despite swirling rumors and snippets about Chrysler’s takeover woes, GM’s own shaky status, and the very survival of the US automotive industry, exhibitors forged ahead with their own vision of the future.  Suffice it to say that innovative technologies will not only power cars but will make driving a luxury  -- if the USA automakers can survive that long.

 

Attendees got glimpses of innovative technologies to make driving an experience rather than a simple means of transportation or a task.  Think of your car’s interior as a cabin instead of front and back seats, and you’ll get the picture.  Ambience, ease, simplicity, safety, security – these were the themes running through the demos and displays.  And they are all enabled by technology from our industry.

 

Although some small percentage of companies failed to occupy their booths, the semiconductor industry was well represented among the 140 or so exhibitors.  Altera,

ARM, Atmel, Austriamicrosystems, Epson Electronics, Freescale, Infineon, Maxim, Mentor Graphics, National Semi, Rohm, ST Microelectronics, Xilinx, and ZMD all had booths.   This gave attendees a glimpse at every stage of the technology, from the design software to the semiconductor devices, to the components, right to the point where the driver’s fingers met the control panel.  It was like living the saying, “where the rubber meets the road”.

 

While programmable vehicle interior lighting was demonstrated in a number of booths, the brightest light came from the Convergence Education Foundation’s (www.cef-trek.org) Innovative Vehicle Design contest for high-schoolers.  Ten schools competed in the Innovative Vehicle Design competition sponsored by the CTEA.  The veteran teams (Huron ISD, Pontiac Northern, University High School, and William D. Ford Car-Tech) built cars from the ground up with parts donated by sponsor companies.  Rookie teams (Belleville, Dearborn-Berry, Glenbrook South, Mecosta-Osceola, Regina, and Southfield) chose to get kit cars and incorporate innovative technologies.  The teams tackled real-life problems, like teens dying because they don’t wear seatbelts, and used their engineering skills to provide solutions that real automakers can incorporate.

 

I asked one team what they would get if they won first prize.  Scholarships?  Money?  Internships?  The group looked at me as if I had just stepped out of a spaceship from Jupiter.  “Huh??” the team captain said.  “No.  We’ll get a TROPHY!!”  He pointed to the display of huge golden awards by the show entrance. 

 

A trophy.  Think of it.  These students had dedicated their spare time to a project that would gain a trophy.  Not money. Not fame.  Not a slot at the university of their choice. But an award that was its own reward.  When was the last time you heard of someone doing something for the reward of a job well done?

 

As I spoke to the teams, their enthusiasm, knowledge and poise burned more brightly than any electric light in Cobo Hall.  If these kids are the future of the automotive engineering industry in the USA, there’s hope for us yet.

 

Barbara Kalkis

Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Hearst Business Media Editors’ Day Shows Marketing Savvy

Repeating the successful Editors’ Day of the past two years, Bill Barron, VP and Publishing Director of the Hearst Electronics Group, once again trekked his editorial team from their Uniondale, NY, offices to the Silicon Valley suburb of Foster City. The purpose was to present an overview of new services and features of the flagship magazine, Electronic Products (www.electronicproducts.com) and to present the editorial/publicity opportunities for the 2009 calendar year.  But this event delivers much more than an editorial kit.

 

For starters, the attendees represent the heavy-hitters and star marketing companies across the semiconductor industry spectrum.  These are players who think and act strategically to build their company’s brand and market position, and who can boast of successful communications programs.  In short, they’re the companies that capture our collective attention. The ones you see in advertising, exhibiting at trade shows, and having a seeming omni-presence at events – like this one.

 

The noise level at the beginning of the event is not just about greeting old friends, colleagues and competitors, it’s also about the business/networking potential and making the mental checklist of who is there and who is not – and what the ‘not’ means.

 

The Hearst Electronics team is a veritable A-list of industry journalists.  From editor-in-chief Murray Slovick to a senior editorial staff consisting of Richard Comerford, Brian DeLuca, Jim Harrison, Christina Nickolas, Paul O’Shea, Ralph Raiola, and Marty Gold representing Hearst’s Semi-Apps (www.semiapps.com) site, this is a group known across the industry.  Adding the commentaries on EEM,  IC Master and iSuppli,  the group touched on every aspect of publishing and publicity matters a marketer could wish for.

 

In terms of expertise, there are many other industry journalists with the credentials, savvy, insight and sharp talent of this group.  The difference is that Bill Barron – and Hearst – have built a goodwill relationship between the journalists and public relations professionals that fosters the kinds of collaboration other companies want but struggle to develop. 

 

Yesterday’s event was an intense 3.5-hour nonstop string of presentations covering every aspect of Electronic Products and its sister publications.  Each journalist discussed trends in their areas of coverage and outlined opportunities for 2009 editorial coverage.  The array of opportunities ranges from new-product coverage and contributed articles to blogs, discussions, commentaries, and – my personal favorite – 3-minute video contributions.

 

With an eye on the international scene, Quingchun (Chuck) Guo of Electronic Products’ 21IC (www.21IC.com) group based in Beijing, gave the audience a look at China’s young engineering professionals.  With an average age of 30, versus an average age of 46 in the USA, Chuck noted that Chinese engineers took their information from the web as easily from print.

 

I like this event for many personal and professional reasons. The personal reasons are about the people I get to see at this important event.  With a 30-year history in the industry, I view many of the attendees and journalists as  friends.  They’re creative, energetic, and smart.  They make excellent conversation and great company.

 

The professional reasons stretch from the basic to the abstract.  The Editors’ Day helps me produce better plans for my clients and reminds me of opportunities that may start fresh at the beginning of the year but get buried under a mound of tactical activities as the year wears on.  It’s good to give things a fresh look when laying the foundation for the next year’s marketing strategy and activities.

 

At an abstract level, this event offers a look at the culture and personality of the publication.  We all want to do business with people we like and respect.  This event is a reminder of the professionalism and talent of the journalists and executives on the Hearst Electronics team.  Again, there is rich talent elsewhere, but under the pressure of day-to-day tactics the big picture can be easily submerged.

 

Perhaps most important is the reminder that our industry journalists are experts that give us a broader look at our business.  Their knowledge, credibility, dedication and insight are tangible advantages over the anonymous web editor posting every news release issued for the day.  Each presentation showed that professional journalists are thinking about their sectors, looking for trends and shaping opportunities that will give engineers and other readers value, as well as valuable information.  There’s a thought process behind the professional industry journalist that cannot be gotten through posting of news without interpretation.

 

I’d like to see all the industry publishers copy this event.   Our industry is blessed with the one of the most talented groups of journalists I know of.  Talent displayed is talent remembered by the audience.

 

In the meantime, I recommend that you take a look at the site next week to view this week’s presentations.  You’ll get a look at trends and opportunities that you may not have considered for your company.  Go to www.HearstAdvantage.com for a good read.  Or if you don’t want to wait for the posting, contact Lisa DeVine, Hearst Electronics Group Marketing Manager, at ldevine@hearst.com and say I told you to get in touch with her.

 

Barbara Kalkis

Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

   

 

     

Music, Muscles & the Future: Tomorrow’s Leaders are at Interlochen & Beijing Today

Parents, if you weary of nagging, begging, threatening, cajoling and otherwise negotiating with your child to study, practice, or stick to a hobby, take heart and don’t give up!  Your role as mentor and coach are the foundation of the future.

 

If you have any doubts about your role, take a look at the Olympics this week.  Or take a trip to Interlochen, Michigan to watch a play and listen to a symphony. 

 

This summer I’ve had two opportunities to glimpse the future.  I spent two weeks at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan (http://www.interlochen.org/), attending a variety of musical programs.  Founded in 1928, this nonprofit organization has a student body from all 50 states and 40 countries.  Along with its year-long academy, high school and junior-high students attend summer classes in music, theatre arts, writing, cinema and radio.

 

Every day and evening, it’s possible to watch students practice, rehearse and present programs.  If you have any doubt about the future of the arts in America (or any other place), journey to Interlochen.  You can immerse yourself in the serene wooded campus where the arts are not only nurtured, they are pursued with the intensity of any athlete.  Interlochen is a gem in the US educational jewel box and a model for what schools can and should be.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been watching the 2008 Olympic Games (http://www.nbcolympics.com/index.html)  in Beijing.  Every athlete from every country has shown dedication to perfection, determination to excel, and an intensity to focus on a goal.  It’s a combination that one rarely sees in professional sports.  The overlay of professionalism that these young athletes bring to the Olympic Games is another characteristic missing in many amateur competitions.

 

As athletes lined up at the pool’s edge, at the starting line, or along the gymnastics ring, the camera’s roving eye magnified the looks of concentration, self-talk and, above all, competitive awareness.  The grace under pressure and in defeat was amazing and admirable.

 

If you’re not watching the Games, tune into it for these last few days.  You will see people that have the skills and strength to try, falter, fail or win and move on to the next event or accept the fact that the experience was worth the effort.  The web videos and photos simply do not capture the emotions of the moment in the same way. 

 

The experience of Interlochen and the thrill of the Olympic Games make me feel positive about the future.  After all, they’re just a miniscule percentage of the world’s youth.  Everywhere, young people are striving to improve.   If high tech industries can lure even a small percentage of such excellent people, we will all be better for it.  And it will all be because a parent somewhere is nurturing the desire to excel.

 

Barbara Kalkis

Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

 

Exxon-Mobil Talks Technology & Innovation at the 2008 Olympic Games

Ever since the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled its load of oil into Alaska’s pristine Prince William Sound back in 1989, I’ve found other places to purchase gas and have increased financial donations to local and regional groups dedicated to wilderness protection.  Now, after 19 years later, the company may have finally started to redeem itself with me.  And all because of its newest commercial series.

 

During the 2008 Olympic Games coverage (http://www.nbcolympics.com/index.html), Exxon-Mobil has aired a series of commercials talking about the need for math and science education as the basis for innovation and technological breakthrough.  The timing is impeccable.  It’s during these two weeks that we focus on achievement and maximum effort to be the best.

 

The commercials (http://www.media.exxonmobil.com/media/microsite/index1.html?) focus on one message;  “Math and science are the foundation on which technological breakthroughs are built, so we need a highly skilled and educated workforce.”

 

Talking conversationally to viewers in straightforward camera shots, Exxon-Mobil engineers and scientists put the need for their professions at a personal level.  Using the sparse approach of face-to-face discussion – versus the action, color, and lightning-fast visuals – the commercials highlight a topic that the semiconductor industry has talked about for several years.  How will the United States continue to be a leader in technology and innovation without engineers and scientists in our workforce?

 

The semiconductor industry has created many initiatives to foster interest in technology and engineering.  I think one of the most notable advocacy efforts is SEMI’s high-tech U initiative (http://wps2a.semi.org/wps/portal/_pagr/113/_pa.113/272?dFormat=application/msword&docName=P042584). Nevertheless, these efforts have tended to be localized.  Not in a geographical sense, the SEMI High Tech U program is international.  Rather, the efforts seem to be localized in reaching the eyes, ears and minds of those within the industry or within high-tech areas.  I have not seen a semiconductor industry  --  or any other high-tech industry -- program reach out to  the general public on the scale and scope of the Exxon-Mobil commercial series. 

 

It is refreshing to see a thoughtful commercial series that talks openly about education as the key to technology breakthroughs and innovation.  If you’ve skipped the commercials, try to catch them on the air or on your laptop.

  

Barbara Kalkis

Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Tha Man Without a News Release

The Man Without a News Release.

  

As companies were putting the finishing touches to their exhibits before the opening of Semicon West 2008, I wandered in to the press room to do some final tasks and say hello to the good folks from SEMI and their PR rep.  It was late afternoon on Monday, and the rumble of booth construction and last-minute scrambles for extra cables, lights and outlets had subsided, leaving only the hum of building sounds and stragglers to disturb the quiet.

 

Sun filtered into the mezzanine windows of Moscone South, warming everything in a golden glow that was several degrees above the real outdoor temperature. Everything was in readiness for the opening of another show, and those of us left in the hall were really just probably over-worrying details or looking to get a chat in before the rush of first-day activities.

 

Suddenly, a man dashed up to the press room doorway, skidding to a stop in front of the registration desk.  The frantic entrance captured our attention, and I waited expectantly for a major announcement – like, maybe, the building was on fire???

 

No, nothing demanding such immediate action – at least for us.  The man was an exhibitor who needed a news release.  Well, okay, nothing earthshaking there.  Or so I thought. 

 

The man’s company needed to issue a news release, either on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.  Since it was already Monday afternoon, his timing was off by a rather large margin.  Similar to placing a bet after the horses have left the gate.  But I digress.

 

  Needed:  A News Release.  When?  Now. 

This exhibitor had not yet written the release.  He did not know how to write a release.  He did not know what a release should ‘look’ like.  He did not know how to take the written word to distribution.  He did not have a distribution list, or agency, or service.  Worse, he wasn’t even carrying the news-release writing engine.  (No, not a pen -- a laptop.)   He needed someone to help him write the release and tell him the process of getting it out to the world – whoever that was. 

 

Now, some people believe that any PR is good PR. And some PR people believe that some PR business is better than no PR business.  I would disagree.   Some companies have a knack of creating and inflicting anxiety, spinning out webs of unproductive tasks like a hyper-active spider, and creating endless circles of futile activities that make you feel as if you’ve had too many twirls on the carnival Ferris wheel.  In short – unproductive whirlwinds that aren’t about public relations, publicity, marketing, sales, or even the good of the company – but rather exercises in desperation.  Sensing what I will call the formation of such a situation – because PR people try to avoid words like ‘problem’, ‘fiasco’ and ‘mess’ --  I made a hasty exit back to the sane world of completed preparations and evening receptions.

  

While I can’t provide a definitive end to the story of the man without a news release, it is easy to guess what happened because, sadly, this situation was not unique.

 

The bottom line was that his company had news that they wanted to announce to the industry, but they had no knowledge of how to get the job done.   Based on the man’s frenzied arrival in the press room and his initial comments, my guess is that the company had not thought about what to say, how to say it, or even messaging for the announcement.

  What Went Wrong? 

Since show exhibitors know well before an event that they are exhibiting, planning begins up to a year before opening day.   For late registrants, there should still be some weeks before an event to do some planning.  But again, some companies do not plan, and continue to torture themselves for the lack of forethought.   What went wrong?

 

1)      The  company did not think past their booth in preparing for the show.  Some companies buy a 10’x10’ pop-up, add a display, fill a fish bowl with candy, and believe the orders will roll in, roll in.

 

2)      The company did not determine if they had news to announce before the event.  Of course, thinking everything is worth a news release is also a bad attribute, but that’s a topic for another time.  Small and new companies often under-estimate what is news is and what unique capabilities they have.  Only when they see a competitor offering a similar, but not-as-good product, do they realize what they have.  Sometimes, they still don’t realize what they have until they walk the aisles and see that they have something that’s nowhere else on the show floor.

 

3)      The company did not consult their marketing department, so they didn’t think about how to promote themselves beyond their exhibit.  Worse, maybe the company doesn’t even have a marketing expert.

 

4)      The company did not consult their marketing communications or PR representative.  Worse, maybe ….well, you know.  If not, see number 3.

 

5)      The company has no idea how to talk about itself.  If it did, it would have a boilerplate and a previous news release to use as a writing sample.

 

6)      The company did not think about what to say or how to say it. 

 

7)      The company has no infrastructure to deal with news.  It may be great at engineering and manufacturing products.  But, if a company doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to provide customers with information, can it survive? 

 

Think of your favorite business partners, suppliers, clients. Even your personal favorite stores.  They all have things in common. And one commonality is that they provide not just the things you need, but the services and things you want to make your life easier.

   

Preparing a News Release

 

This is a blog, not a class, but here are some basics for preparing a news release:

 

1)      Determine what is new.  It can be a product, technology, capability, service, or significant milestone. 

 

2)      Describe your news in a factual way. Skip the adjectives and self-promotion.  Be objective. 

 

3)      Write a headline that states the news clearly.  Keep it short and be sure to include your company name in the headline.

 

4)      Provide significant data and more facts to support your claim.

 

5)      End the release with a short summary statement – about 35 words – about who your company is, what it does, and how it benefits your industry. 

 

6)      Add full company coordinates of name, address, phone, and website.

 

7)      Try to keep the full release to under 400 words.

 

8)      Have the executive team review the release for accuracy, completeness, and positioning.

 

As for distribution, hire an outside wire service or a public relations agent, or develop your own database if you have the time.

  Timing is Everything. 

Your company may issue a news release on the first day of a trade show.  But if you haven’t prepared the release well ahead of the issue date, you run the risk of ruining your best marketing opportunity.  In the case of the man without a news release, desperation makes a poor motivating force.  Staking a company’s success on an announcement that has had no consideration of corporate goals, marketing positioning and messaging, sales objectives, or content development is just risky business.

  

Barbara Kalkis

Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Semicon West, Solar and Innovation

Maestro PR Blog

July 2008

 

Semicon West

 

Semicon West ended this week with a bang, whimper or sigh of relief -- depending on your booth location, product offering and élan that makes certain companies alluring no matter where they are on the show floor.

 

Like every event, Semicon West had its share of kaleidoscopic images that become part of the industry memory book (we don’t use the term ‘scrap’ book in this industry).  But the most vivid images this year seemed to cluster around and in West Hall.  Yes, there was the jazz band, the blues singer oozing out a rendition of “Summertime” that deserved a better audience than the early-morning strollers on Thursday; the young woman dancing on roller blades advertising a company booth but creating too much interest in herself to get anyone to move inside; the accordion player suffering pokes, prods and jests as he tried to work up enthusiasm for the German-style beer garden in West Hall.  But, no, these images are not the stuff of memories.

 

Solar

 

The real images that shaped the show took place inside:  the continuous march of bodies snaking their way up to the third floor to see, hear and learn about all things solar. The packed sessions relating to solar.  The constant flow of traffic through booths featuring solar panels.  The conversations about market growth and potential.

 

 It wasn’t just a buzz.  It was a mantra. Every conversation in the halls, shops, and bars lining Howard Street and stretching up Third and Fourth Streets started or interrupted itself to mention solar.  It seemed as if the semiconductor industry had found itself a new wave to ride into the sunset of big revenues. After all, the market is growing.  Governments everywhere are under pressure to find new energy sources.  Incentives for implementing solar energy at the consumer level are available or may be.  Politicos eager for re-election want to prove that they are on the ‘green’ wagon of environmental consciousness.  And, of course, the semiconductor industry needs a new source of revenues.

  

Innovation

 

Is reaching for the sun the way to get it?  I believe the semiconductor industry is one of the most sophisticated in terms of its development of standards; its manufacturing efficiencies, cleanliness, and throughput; the reliability of its products; its constant dedication to and drive for innovation.

 

While the materials industry and device makers with 200mm wafer fabs can benefit from the turn to solar, the industry must also dedicate resources to innovation in creating new markets.

 

Innovation created the classic computing, communications and consumer electronics industries and made them larger than the existing semiconductor industry, allowing new companies to form and prosper. 

 

The core of innovation is the ability to take current technologies, blend them in a new way, and create something different.  Not all the pieces of innovative technology are available at the product introduction. But that’s what makes innovation exciting.  One innovation spurs another and another in a domino effect.

  

Who Are the Innovators?

 

Semiconductor companies no longer have the vibrant R&D departments of 20 years ago, yet they need the revenues that innovation delivers.  More importantly, the world needs innovative technologies today more than ever: to deliver food, manage medical needs, care for the environment, provide power and energy, and improve quality of life.

 

Who’s going to do this?  It’s fine to leverage current technology for the solar industry.  But the semiconductor industry needs innovation to survive and thrive.  It’s not just about the revenue.  It’s about doing something greater than ourselves for everyone.  There’s no speedy answer, but one that deserves as much conversation and attention as the solar industry got this week.

  

Elan Isn’t Just a Corporate Thing

 

One last comment about Semicon West.  As I left the South Hall on Thursday, I met a sales representative from a company called EAG.  He introduced himself with a smile that was genuine, a tone that was sincere and friendly, and an energy that was hard to find by the end of the show.  As he offered me his card, he said that he and his company would be glad to be of service.  This is what élan is all about.  It’s the personality that an individual or a company exudes that makes you want to do business with them because they are winners.

  

Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR

  

Being Green, Blue and Smart About Reaching Customers

Being ‘green’ (or ‘blue’ if you’re in Germany) isn’t just about dollars, it’s about marketing sense.   Based on the industry catalogs I’m getting ready to dump in the recycle bin, companies are wasting valuable natural resources, staff time and money in direct-marketing tools reaching the wrong people.  The latest issue of your favorite trade magazine sitting on your desk or in your email in-box isn’t just about news.  It’s the source of some of the best market data and intelligence you can tap into at one of the best returns on your investment.  

 

When it comes to reaching your real customer, technology publishers do it better than anyone else. 

 

For companies, being ‘green’ means making web and print marketing tools efficient.  But instead of tailoring collateral for specific customers, companies are churning out print brochures and catalogs and sending them across database lists that have not been reviewed or tailored to the target customers. 

 

 

 

 Waste Across the Value Chain 

The result is that nine pounds of high-quality paper sit on my desk, awaiting a trip to the San Jose recycling center.   The paper mound  --  which represents at least $20 in postage and over two reams  -- or 1,000 sheets – of paper isn’t junk mail.  It’s a collection of product catalogs from very large, well-known high-tech companies.  

 

Each book sports a 4-color cover in a classic Ogilvy Advertising style combining compelling photos and simple text, corporate name and logo.  The covers are heavyweight cover stock, and the thick catalog pages carry quality product photos, diagrams and enough data to educate any engineer or purchasing agent. 

 

The company names and content tell me that my mailing information was derived from conferences that I attended with clients this year.  (The clincher piece of evidence was an email-blast invitation to attend a technical conference at the Hotel Sputnik in the Ukraine.  I recognized the company as an exhibitor at one of the conferences.)

 

In each case, the expensive mailers clearly carry my company name,  Maestro Marketing & Public Relations”, on the mailing labels.  Why, then, would companies selling single-board computers/motherboards/industrial PC peripherals, opto-electronics production equipment, foundry supplies, and high-end semiconductors include me on their list? 

 

None of these companies got my business card.  The likely answer is that they got my name by renting the attendee list from the conference organizer. 

 

Now, list rental is an excellent foundation for a direct marketing program, but it requires some marketing intelligence behind it.  Simply assuming that every name on a rental list is legitimate is not only not smart, it’s an expensive waste of money and time for the sender and recipient  -- and keeps our landfills getting fuller and our natural resources getting scarcer.

 

The responsibility for the quality of a rented list still falls on the customer.  After all, it is their money and image that are on the line with the mailing.

 

Based on the stack on my desk,  marketers at some sophisticated corporations did not bother to cull companies  like mine that have no use for the excellent content that clearly took months of hard labor by many people to create.  Think of the staff time wasted to reach the wrong people. 

 

In each case, I called the companies to delete my name from their list.  Two companies told me that it would take ‘a while’ for them to update their lists.  That means I’ll be getting more useless paper until someone updates that database. 

 

Direct Mail Works

 

If your company is trying to build awareness, strengthen your brand name, create product preference, find new prospects, sell directly to customers, etc., then direct mail and direct email programs are an excellent marketing practice.  But it has to be done properly.   And that means finding a smart partner to work with you.

 

Industry Publishers Know How

 

The best way to reach your exact marketing target is to work with industry publishers.  These experts can shape a list to your exact requirements. 

 

With an industry publisher, you can hone your database to reach  the perfect prospect by company, annual sales, headcount, location, job title, job function, buying authority, products recommended/specified/purchased, programming languages, and a host of other attributes and combinations.

 

Do you know the company you want to reach but not the right division?  Publishers can get that for you.

 

Know the size of company you want to reach but don’t have a name? Publishers do.

 

Need email addresses for a web-based campaign?  Publishers have them.

 

Want to know if the direct marketing effort is working?  The marketing experts at your industry publisher can do the research for you and can test your collateral’s effectiveness.

 

Need help writing the perfect text to spur some action?  Hey, publishers are all about good journalism.  They can critique your text and recommend what works.

 

Think your print message will convert nicely to web marketing?  It won’t.  But publishers do know what does work on the web.

 

In fact, industry publishers know your customers better than you do.  You may love to read BusinessWeek and Forbes, or check the MSN and Google Alerts for news on the web, but the reality is that these consumer-level sites don’t know tech the way tech publishers do.  For them, tech is a sector. For technology publishers, tech is their lifeblood.

 

You don’t need to be an advertiser to tap into the intelligence and analytics that industry publishers gather and refine continually.  Just call them and tell them what you need and let them guide you.  You’ll get some of the best advice, information, and results you could ever ask for.  Best of all, you’ll be green – or blue – while you’re doing your job better.

 

Publishing Contacts

 

It’s not possible to list every publisher who can help your company with print or email blasts, but here are some companies and sample publications that I do business with:

 

Advantage Business Media (ECN, Medical Device Technology)

http://www.mdtmag.com/scripts/adinfo.asp

 

CMP Media (EETimes, TechOnline)

http://cmp.meritdirect.com/postal-and-email-lists/publications/electronics.htm

 

Hearst Publishing (Electronic Products, Semi Apps, IC Master)

www.hearstadvantage.com <http://www.hearstadvantage.com/>  

 

Open-Systems Publishing (Industrial Embedded Systems)

http://www.opensystems-publishing.com/publications/eletters/

 

Pennwell Publishing (Solid State Technology, Advanced Packaging)

http://www.statlistics.com/penn/pennmenu.html

 

Reed Business Communications (EDN, Semiconductor International)

http://lists.dm2decisionmaker.com/market?page=research/datacard&id=92057

 

RTC Group (Portable Design, RTC)

http://www.rtcgroup.com/whatwedo/listservices/

  And on a final note:  Kudos to Germany for being the first country to launch a national initiative to make companies environmentally competent.  The Blauer-Engel (Blue Angel) was the first eco-labeling program for documenting environmental qualities.  See <http://www.blauer-engel.de/englisch/navigation/body_blauer_engel.htm>.  

Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

 

Smart Thieves Use Technology to Defeat Technolgy

Just how safe is that high-tech lock on your car?  A European journalist told me that the TomTom ® navigation system built into his new car’s dashboard was stolen.  The journalist had driven his car to the parking garage, locked it with a push of the button on his key chain and walked away. Thieves broke into the car, removed the dashboard cover and made off the TomTom.

 

The journalist asked the police how the car’s security system was compromised since there was no sign of forced entry.  The police said that thieves now carry sophisticated systems that can read the codes for automatic locking systems by capturing the radio signal.  Once obtained, it’s easy to use the code to look like the car-owner and open the doors without a suspicious sound or action.

 

The police officer’s recommendation for future anti-theft:  Use the car key to manually lock the car if your model doesn’t have automatic locking systems in place. 

 

Barbara Kalkis

Maestro Marketing & PR

VideoGenics: If you don’t have what it takes to talk tech on video, learn now.

Videogenics is not a real word.  I’ve made it up, but it’s a concept that every technologist needs to understand and incorporate into his persona before it’s too late.  Essentially, videogenics is the ability to discuss highly technical content on video for web broadcast.  This format frees companies of all sizes to talk to potential customers around the world in virtual face-to-face discussions.  (People say they understand the web is international, but you’d be amazed at how many of them say, “We only issued this announcement in Timbuktu. How did it get read in New York?) 

Technologists once had the luxury of pontificating about manufacturing materials, processes and technologies in research papers or standing in the confines of conference rooms filled with peers.  No longer.  The web’s insatiable appetite is slowly but relentlessly relegating the closed domain of paper and even electronic print to history.  Thanks to the popularity of consumer sites such as YouTube (R) and MySpace(R), video is quickly from your teenager's bedroom studio to the show floor, the conference lobby, or your office - and anywhere in between. 

While not a mainstream form of communications in high-tehcnology media – yet -  semiconductor industry publications are using video to capture the conversations and buzz at key industry events. For the past 2.5 years, Pennwell Publishing's Solid State Technology Magazine and Wafer News, routinely sends journalist Debra Vogler to Semicon West and SPIE to ask technologists about possible showstoppers in CMOS, silicon, materials or 32nm.  SPIE had its own cameras and video interviews at the conference in February.  CMP Media interviews technologists to explore the details of reported breakthroughs and new chips.  Reed Business Semiconductor International reporters interview spokespeople and then record highlights of the talk for their audio interviews.  Later, these topics become the fodder for their extensive webcast schedule.   

On the product front, editors from Hearst’s Electronic Products Magazine, asks that executives no longer make press tours a time to speak with a single editor. Instead, they’ve alerted companies that spokespeople need to be ready to present their discussion on video. And those are just a few examples of how video has invaded industry media.  OpenSystems Media is posting e-flash videos. Smart companies are promoting their companies in video while the industry is young and they can learn the medium while broadcasting their messages in this new format. 

Even the international wire services are adopting video.  Associated Press, Bloomberg, MarketWatch, and Reuters want video announcements.  Like Electronic Products, AP has informed companies that a trip to the San Francisco office for a press pitch will likely result in a video interview – if the information is worthwhile, of course.( If it isn’t you’ll be shown the door.  No change there.  I didn’t really have to tell you that, did I?) 

Video in the tech sector makes perfect sense.  Here are just three reasons why. While attendance at all the vertical tech conferences I’ve attended since December (IEDM, SPIE Photonics West, ISSCC, SPIE Advanced Litho) have touted larger-than-ever attendance, the wealth of verbal information communicated at these events is lost to the broader industry.   

High-tech video picks up where the proceedings leave off, capturing the Q&A of sessions, the birds-of-a-feather evening panels where the heart-to-heart off-line discussions take place, and most importantly, synthesizing the threads of consensus that emerge from the hallway and lunchtime conversations. 

Video is a current technology. It takes time to write an article. Even twittering and blogging is time-consuming.  Writers constantly toss out favorite comments and clever factoids to meet a deadline, so do technologists writing a paper or filing a trip report. 

Video captures the top-of-mind comments just as they are being discussed. For publicly-held companies and those with hopes of going public, video brings technology to investors on Wall Street and your street. 

More and more, financing is coming from private investors looking to place their bets directly instead of through the proverbial middle-man. 

For those of you still reading this (thank you), consider how stretched we are to read, assimilate and act on the info showered on us each day.  Even my 93-year-old father interrupts conversations with, “Get to the point!  I don’t have long to live!”  

Just as the TV show “Sesame Street” successfully taught the current generation of technologists to recognize the number “3” in 15 seconds when the technologists were aged 3, so we all want to understand highlights of a topic in the same amount of time so we can move on to other things on our daily checklist. 

So, here’s the scenario:If you are walking the floor of a conference, or sipping coffee in the booth while you wait for a marker to return from his customer lunch at the resort hotel not covered on your own per-diem, you may come face-to-face with a reporter brandishing a microphone and being trailed by a videographer.  In 20 nanoseconds that you wish you’d followed the marketing track at work so you could be at lunch,too, the reporter will put the microphone and camera  in your face and ask what your booth message is. And, by the way, what trends are you seeing at the show this year?   Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.

What can you do?

1)     Identify the top activities of your job, your department and your organization.  Practice writing and stating these in short statements, called elevator pitches.  If you can’t state what you do, what your organization does in 12 seconds – or the time it would take an elevator to go a few floors, you’re doing too much talking.

2)     Work with your PR department to understand how to state the significance of your research, paper, department objectives in ways that are aligned to the corporate messaging.

3)     Learn the corporate messaging and practice saying it.

4)     Get video training, especially if you are presenting outside the company.  Just as Californians never know when the next ‘big one’ will rock the state, so do you never know when the camera’s eye will turn to you.

Significant technology trends, breakthroughs, findings, and general news are now all the realm of web video.  And those web video sites are not just the property of consumer companies you never deal with. They are the future of the high-tech industry press.  If you’re part of the future, it’s time to prepare for it.

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