Archive for May, 2011
Given the journalistic hoopla triggered by Facebook’s PR campaign against Google, one would think national security is at stake.
The Wall Street Journal ran the story on the B section cover above the fold with the headline:
“Facebook Hired Firm to Target Google”
This constitutes a surprise worthy of 30-point type?
Here’s a “news alert.”
Companies strive to deposition their competitors on a daily basis. I suspect when Piggly Wiggly launched its breakthrough concept of a self-serve grocery store, the competition chirped publicly and privately about issues with PW’s concept (think about the germs, now you’ve got to do the work, etc.).
You don’t think Oracle on occasion shares unflattering things about Microsoft and vice versa.
The Mercury News splashed the headline on page one:
“Facebook Waged Stealth PR War on Google”
I don’t think so.
Stealth is Gordon Liddy organizing a band of yahoos to follow Nixon from rally to rally.
Look, the PR agency behind the Facebook campaign, Burson Marsteller, definitely made a mistake by not being transparent and sharing the name of the client.
But here’s the part no one is talking about.
Until Christopher Soghoian posted his exchange with the BM rep on the Internet and Daily Beast blogger Dan Lyons connected the dots, how many journalists used the information from BM to write stories.
Without the context of knowing who was footing the bill for BM’s work.
But I don’t think we’ll be reading stories about irresponsible journalism.
Laziness doesn’t make good copy.
The Agency welcomed Junko Yoshida, editor in chief of EE Times, to our “Lunch Bucket” series last week.
While EE Times has always catered to the engineering community, how the media property serves this audience has changed.
EE Times Confidential delivers the type of analysis and insights associated with a market research firm. As a monthly service, it’s targeted at the executive level as opposed to the bench engineer.
Junko rightfully pointed out that her team has the brainpower and experience to go beyond writing stories. With EE Times Confidential, they now have a forum to share critical thinking not readily available in the public domain.
As a subscriber to the service, the Agency can vouch for it being first-rate.
The cornerstone publication EE Times has also undergone changes.
As Junko explained, the readers of EE Times represent a unique resource in their own right. With this in mind, the publication is striving to harness the smarts of the readership by cultivating a community. This means a story is the beginning, not the end, triggering dialog between the readers and the EE Times editorial team.
And it’s not just two-way dialog; i.e., going back and forth between the readers and the publication.
Call it “mesh dialog,” since the discussion can also be between readers.
The microprocessor wasn’t built overnight and Junko acknowledged this community-building is a marathon. Still, you can see in the chart below that in the second half of last year the concept generated good traction, almost doubling the number of readers who posted comments.
But the hard numbers don’t tell the total story.
Many readers are posting comments that could be bite-size articles in their own right. It’s not TechCrunch where you find more than 50 percent of the posted comments coming from yahoos who are “narrative challenged.”
As a result, it behooves communication professionals to facilitate their companies’/clients’ participation on the site as opposed to solely depending on news releases.
As Junko noted, EE Times depends on a lean editorial team, so they can only cover major announcements:
- Junko Yoshida, EIC
- George Leopold, EIC for EE Times Confidential
- Nic Mokhoff, EIC for Digital-only EE Times Specials
- Dylan McGrath, Editor of www.eetimes.com; Daily Newsletter
- Rick Merritt, Editor at Large, EE Times-branded Conferences
- Mark LaPedus, Semiconductor Editor
- Peter Clarke, European News Director, Owner of Silicon 60
When asked how EE Times determines whether to allocate resources to a news announcement, Junko said the litmus test is simple: Will the news materially impact major players and the industry overall?
Junko addressed a range of topics during the Q&A session. I think it’s fair to say her comment that “the American dream has moved to China” created the greatest stir in the audience. She pointed out that numerous fabless semiconductor companies have sprung up in China with the same entrepreneurial spirit found in the U.S.
The most recent edition of The Economist tackled the broad topic of innovation in China with the kicker:
“Beware of judging China’s innovation engine by the standards of Silicon Valley.”
The story goes on to say that China’s sheer size will protect it from the commodity trap:
“No one can outdo Chinese companies when it comes to adapting advanced technologies to the purses and preferences of 1.3 billion Chinese consumers.”
Certainly, this perspective could be applied to the fabless chip companies in China that Junko referenced.
One final tidbit revealed by Junko -
The EE Times editorial team is not above “bitching about the weather,” with Junko using the following photo to make the point.
Needless to say, we enjoyed both Junko’s insights and sense of humor.
Steve Farnsworth and I tag-teamed on discussing social media and storytelling at an IABC lunch last month.
Thanks go to Meta Mehling for putting together the talk.
It would be presumptuous of me to say a good time was had by all.
But I can say both Steve and I enjoyed what proved to be a very interactive session.
Christina Grenier from IABC conducted a post-lunch interview with the two of us, which you can see in the videos in below.
P.S. Now I understand why our broadcast media guru Sheri Baer spends time coaching clients to keep their eyes in one place. I learned the hard way that shifty eyes is not a good look.
Last week’s Lunch Bucket featured EE Times EIC Junko Yoshida.
It was a terrific session with Junko sharing insights on the internal workings of the media property, her team, and the tech sector in general.
I’ll post a write-up on Junko’s talk on Wednesday.
In the meantime, thanks to the photography from Carlos Mangandy, here’s a photo version of what took place. (Think they call this visual storytelling.)
EE Times has embraced a business model that features free access to www.eetimes.com and a subscription-based service called EE Times Confidential.
I can’t confirm this with 100 percent accuracy, but Junko bringing her hands together could have been the point in the presentation when she said, “The American dream has moved to China.” She went on to explain that a number of fabless companies have set up shop in China with their collective impact yet to come (still building product).
We had a range of Silicon Valley stalwarts represented at the session including Xilinx, Altera, Rambus, Synopsys, Novellus, IDT, Rambus and MIPS, as well as SuVolta (still in stealth so can’t share more), other consultancies and social media guru Steven Farnsworth.
The timing of the session coincided with Cinco de Mayo, so lunch fit the occasion. The chicken enchiladas were a hit. A couple attendees grumbled that there were no margaritas, but it seemed a bit early in the day for tequila.
More to come on Wednesday.
Cracking The New York Times, The Washington Post or a like target with an op-ed is not for the squeamish.
Your storytelling must be crisp, clever and ideally contrarian with a clear point of view (my high school English teacher would be pleased that I was paying attention to the alliteration lesson).
And after articulating the issue, the close must answer the question, “So what can be done?”
An op-ed titled “An Old Scourge Needs a Modern Solution” in The New York Times/IHT last year provides a good roadmap on what it takes to craft a winning op-ed.
Let’s start with the subject matter.
It’s tough to go wrong with a pirate story – just look at Johnny Depp and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise – particularly one that posits crime does pay.
Storytelling techniques bring the problem to life:
How do scruffy vagabonds as young as 16 overpower freighters and defy patrolling warships? And how, even when captured, do these modern pirates get away with their crimes?
Often, the author or the internal review process muddies the clarity of an op-ed by trying to cram too much information into the frame.
The author of the NYT op-ed, Peter Chalk at Rand Corporation, was kind enough to explain how he decided what content made the final cut:
I thought the most relevant (and interesting) information for the reader would be to explain how pirates get away with what they are doing. To many, the fact that this sort of thing goes on at all is a mystery. I just wanted to highlight that engaging in crime at sea is not that difficult and reflects the general unregulated and amorphous nature of the high seas.
At the 10K-foot level, here’s how Peter’s op-ed flowed:
Illustrate the pirate problem
Support the problem with contrarian anecdote
Deeper look at prosecuting pirates
Ship owners play the odds
Call for actions to solve the problem
Drilling down another level, this op-ed showcases the right content.
It tackled a broad topic with national or global relevance, packaging it as a problem.
The piece hangs off a compelling hook; i.e., piracy goes back hundreds of years but needs to be addressed by modern society (“crime pays” should not be a mantra anywhere in the world).
All is explained with vivid language and a close that articulates a specific call for action.
In fact, the closing paragraph shows how active language and understatement make for a more entertaining read:
Piracy is a crime at sea, but it starts on land. To thwart the Somali piracy career path, the world community should put funds toward protecting local fishing grounds and building a national coast guard capability in Somalia. Then its young pirates might take a different course.
Op-eds address issues, not companies.