December 30, 2011

4 Parts Thought Leadership: 1 Part Company/Product Message

A few years ago, I was working with a new spokesperson. The company he worked for was very good at identifying industry trends and a new one was in his sight. We sat down to discuss the impact the trend would have on the industry and what type of content we would need to convince journalists that this was a story they would want to cover. I asked him to describe the situation and he launched into a passionate, detailed discussion on the technical features in the company’s products and the value to customers.

When he was done and looking rather satisfied, I said, “Now tell me again without mentioning your product or company.” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an executive look so confused and I had to laugh. What I was asking of him was so completely counter-intuitive to what he thought the purpose of the interview would be. Why shouldn’t he discuss the product, isn’t that why companies do media interviews – to create another sales channel? Oh, how misguided!
Photo Credit: STT
I'm not saying that your company and its solutions should never be mentioned. But I am saying that solely focusing on them provides little value to a journalist and their readers. Instead, focus on thought leadership – the ability to discuss industry trends, issues and news in a manner that shares your expert counsel. If you focus on this, you will build a better relationship with the media and the coverage you generate will position you as a valued resource for your customers.

December 29, 2011

I Wish I Had Access to Everyone's Calendar

Well it’s back to the grind – which is actually a nice, quiet, snowy afternoon in Toronto. This stretch between Christmas and the New Year is a nice time to get some writing done and make sure things are ready to go in January.
One of the things I’m doing is coordinating an interview. While I’m super pumped to have successfully secured an interview, I wish there was an easier way to pin down a date and time. I always get an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach if the exchange regarding schedules goes beyond three emails. I know journalists are busy people, I know that my spokespeople are running a company; this is the one time being the middleman can be tough. I know this isn’t isolated to media relations. Anyone in business experiences this when coordinating meetings. What is the record number of emails exchanged to coordinate an interview?
My New Year’s resolution – I'll take this as a life lesson and try not to reschedule meetings!

December 23, 2011

To Call or Not to Call

Ah, the follow-up. It’s like after a date – just how soon is too soon to call? If you call right away, you risk turning the person off. If you call too late, they may have moved on to other things. We PR people know that if we only relied on email our success rate wouldn’t be very high. Emails are easy to miss, delete, or get distracted from.

For me, the phone call after the email tends to be a gut-feel based on my relationship with a reporter. Here’s my rule of thumb: make sure that your call provides added value. If the only thing you have to say is, “Did you see my news?” You shouldn’t be making the call. Give yourself enough credit that you wrote a great pitch, that your news is in fact newsworthy, and that the journalists you work with know how to recognize a good story! It's like dating, if they're interested, they'll let you know!

Mass Distributions or Massive Mess?

The biggest complaint I hear from journalists is when they are spammed by PR people. As someone who used to get a thousand emails a week, I can appreciate where they’re coming from. Sifting through email can be a distracting chore from meaningful work. So, I can only imagine how irritating it is to receive un-targeted, sales-y pitches that don’t even meet editorial requirements and to top it off, these pitches are sent with the expectation of the journalists responding to it. Ugh!
Let me be honest though. It isn’t always possible to send out a customized email to each journalist I work with. Particularly when we're talking news releases. I have attempted this in the past and well, it takes me an entire day to get the news out and leaves me little time to do anything else and doesn't meet anyone's news cycle. So in the interest of transparency, when it comes to mass media distributions, I use Vocus. Vocus is a SaaS-based CRM-like solution for managing your media relationships. I LOVE VOCUS. Vocus lets me manage my relationships by tracking conversations, monitoring upcoming editorial calendar opportunities, and sending out news and pitches. It also gives journalists the ability to opt-out of my emails (heaven forbid!).
So, when trying to get the news out in a timely fashion, I rely on my media lists. Even though our industry is relatively small, I have 16 different lists to help ensure that I only send relevant information to the right journalists. I scrub these regularly trying to avoid sending something to a reporter who has changed beats or is no longer with the publication. While I know this isn’t the ideal personal email, it is an efficient and more respectful way to distribute news than blasting it off with no consideration for who's on the other end.

What tools do you use? Do you have a different approach? Let me know!

December 22, 2011

"So What?" & "Who Cares?"

There are two common pitches that I write: a general pitch that accompanies a press release to provide additional context; and a targeted pitch that is written for a specific journalist/publication.
In either case, I like to keep my pitches to two paragraphs. Yes, you read that right, two. The first, painting the picture of the industry issue, challenge, or trend; the second proposing a discussion with a spokesperson to discuss the news and/or their perspective on the topic at hand. When possible I try to reference (linking to, not attaching) additional resources such as analyst reports, case studies, video testimonials, relevant product information, or other industry news.
I think all reporters expect at some point a plug for the company and its technology is going to come up in the interview. So while some may disagree with me, unless the pitch is about a new product or you’re working with a new journalist that needs the background info, I prefer to leave it out of the pitch unless it’s specifically relevant to the discussion.
My general rule of thumb: write a pitch reflecting a story that a reporter can immediately see him/herself writing, provide relevant supporting information and context, and forget the sales pitch!

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

There are an awful lot of stories and blog posts about the antagonistic relationship between PR people and journalists. In general, the content focuses on the awful tactics some PR people engage in to try and get the attention of a reporter (spamming, calling five minutes after an email, poorly written pitches …. you get the idea). It's depressing. And in general, good PR people don’t say much because they too have witnessed these bad practices and want to protect their reputation more than they want to engage in a public dogfight defending their profession.
So, instead of waging in on the war, my next few posts will give a little insight (and by little I mean high-level and for general purposes only) into some common PR practices that when done right should keep us in the good books.

December 20, 2011

Are You the Antidote to Lazy Journalism?

Seth Godin, the founder of Squidoo and analyst of all things PR and marketing, makes two good points in today’s post: standing out of the crowd is a journalist’s job and it is increasingly difficult to do.
I appreciate the sentiment that lazy journalism is the incessant repeating of the same news over and over and over, then retweeting the news again and again and again, across multiple channels. Media outlets falling into this category have adopted a 1984 telescreen approach to shouting news at us until we’re sick of the story. If you’ve watched anything on CNN recently, you know what I’m talking about.
Seth’s point, is that unique stories are harder to find and I’d venture will be much more difficult to protect with the intranet enabling content to be replicated (and sometimes blasphemized) in mere seconds. Yes, I get the irony that I am sharing with you his original blog post:
So here’s my original thought: would it be such a terrible thing for PR people to stop worrying about maximizing the number of impressions a news release can generate and the number of articles secured, to instead focus on the quality of that coverage? In my experience, working with a journalist on an exclusive story can work wonders for your relationship and result in an amazing piece of collateral to be shared broadly.  
Photo Credit: Graur Razvan Ionut
Help end the sweep of "lazy journalism" to create meaningful and lasting relationships with your reporters, develop unique and thought-provoking stories, and leverage the amazing results through other marketing channels which will make up for those lost impression numbers.

Tim Mahon and the Training & Simulation Forum (Part One)

Some of you may remember Tim as the European Correspondent for Training & Simulation Journal, for others he’s the Editor of the new Training & Simulation Forum. For all of you, he’s a creative and insightful journalist. The new Forum is quickly evolving with a distinct focus on industry discussion and collaboration. Read on to hear what Tim has to say about the new site and how you can get involved.

Name: Tim Mahon
Title: Grand Poobah, Editor of TSF, industry consultant, and freelance writer

Publication(s): Training & Simulation Forum

Home Base: Cheltenham, United Kingdom

Twitter: @TimMahon1


Pets: Several species of small furry mammals grooving in a cave with a Pict, a (now slightly fading) picture of a long-lost girlfriend – and a Wolpertinger!

Quirks/Hobbies: Quirks are too many (and too embarrassing) to enumerate; hobbies include GREAT food and drink (though no longer, sadly, to excess), leading the local church choir, military history and an abiding interest in really fascinating and honest, genuine people, be they politicians, gurus or ‘just’ John and Jane Doe…

Contact Info:
DTP:  Have you decided print is dead Tim? What inspired you to establish an online news site and Forum?
TM: I don’t think print will die in my lifetime. It will, however, continue to change. Outside the daily press – and perhaps weekly – the inability to keep up with the news cycle that the Internet has given birth to – or, at least, the expectation many of us now have of that cycle – means that print media will have to focus on adding value in order to survive and succeed. Individuals of all generations will still need something to read on the train, in the plane, in the bath or in bed. Nothing will quite replace the tactile and physical nature of a print publication, but it will need to focus on providing content and context that is not time-sensitive. I cannot quite imagine reading the National Geographic online and getting the same feeling of satisfaction and personal involvement, somehow. Print publications fuel dreams because they provide a more intimate communion with the subject than a computer screen, I believe – though today I have joined the iPad generation, so I may have a different view in a few weeks or months! I am also fascinated by the fact that many of the sci-fi authors that I read (for sheer escapism), predicting lifestyles in the distant future, frequently contrast the luxury and enduring nature of the printed word while extolling the immediacy and vibrancy of electronic information resources.
As to the inspiration, I would like to claim Deep Thought and Clairvoyant Insight, but the truth is that, like many of the finer things in life, the original idea was a combination of frustration with existing media, a desire to do Something Different and Worthwhile and copious quantities of alcohol. Couple that with a passion for the training and simulation community – at first limited to the military sphere but increasingly focusing on other areas of T&S activity – and, most important of all, perhaps, being fortunate enough to find a business partner with innate faith in the concept and the complementary skills to help me make it all work – and you have a recipe for a business idea that is huge fun to work with, is an intellectual and managerial challenge worthy of addressing and will, I hope, become a worthwhile contribution to raising the level of debate and discussion in an industry poised on the verge of immense opportunities.
DTP: What is TSF all about? Can you tell us why you’ve incorporated a blog, Forum and news feature?
TM: TSF is intended to be an interactive, embracing and engaging Forum for the T&S industry in which members can participate, share, pool, discuss, benefit, research, find inspiration and help their fellow professionals. The industry faces massive challenges as well as considerable opportunity, but we are unlikely to see those challenges resolved or opportunities realized unless we dismantle the barriers of distrust that still exist between supplier and consumer in many areas. The situation has improved in military procurement in recent years, that’s true, but we still have a long way to go, in my not so humble opinion.
The original idea was a Forum. One of the industry gurus, when he first heard the idea, told me “you give us the forum and we’ll populate it; it will go viral.” Building a business model around a forum was, however, tricky to say the least. Without the ability to make the service commercially viable, it wasn’t going to be anything but a pipe dream and – unlike Samuel Coleridge Taylor with Xanadu – I had never been able to produce anything remotely enduring from a pipe dream. So the question was how to provide a value added service that would draw people to something that will work best with their active participation. The answer was simple: it’s the content, stupid!
So before we got the Forum component off the ground (this is being written 24 hours before the launch of the discussion channels) we focused on providing a timely news service, which the print publications serving the community are unable to do, simply by virtue of their publishing schedules, and ensuring that we never, EVER, merely recycle a press release. Our mantra is to add context and value wherever we can and to build an archival resource that will become a treasure trove for new and not-so-new members of the community alike.
That service had to be allied to additional information resources, so we built a directory of the supply side of the industry to begin with and are now working on additional directories and resources that will supplement it: who buys T&S solutions, services and equipment? What is the current scale of issue of T&S equipment in xyz-land? How many Level D-certified full flight simulators are there in the world? The creation of these resources is taking a long time, but they will, I hope, become invaluable to the community as membership of the Forum grows.
Other components are being researched, too; a repository for white papers, conference proceedings and thought leadership; a ‘who’s who’ of the industry and ‘people on the move;’ a contracts and tenders service. The full list is quite long and quite possibly insanely ambitious, but a boy has to dream, doesn’t he?
The blog was an easy add. One of my frustrations in writing for other people was quite often that I had to limit my contributions to relatively sterile and, in my view, ‘also ran’ writing. The blog gives me the freedom to express an opinion, stimulate discussion, raise the level of debate or simply rant about the latest idiocy that has popped over my radar horizon. I haven’t actually succumbed to the temptation to rant yet – and that is one of the great benefits of working with a business partner who keeps me honest!
DTP: Can anyone join in the discussions in the Forum? Any guidance you’d like to offer for those wanting to post?
TM: Anyone can join in. Chief Executives, flag officers, unit training officers, sales engineers, professors, authors and students. If they have something worthwhile to say, be it provocative, innovative, inquiring or simply observational, our simple philosophy is “come one, come all.”
Guidance is perhaps too strong a word. We don’t want to prevent anybody from saying anything that is on their mind, provided it’s relevant to the training and simulation community and abstains from ad hominem attacks or unfocused meandering. This Forum isn’t ours – it’s the community’s, and the community is made up of thousands of individuals with differing experiences, beliefs and aspirations. We want this Forum to give them all a voice and a place in which that voice can be heard.
In order to prevent abuse we have had to decide that we will ask anyone who wants to contribute to sign up as a member. This isn’t a nefarious method of obtaining huge swathes of personal information – and it isn’t a clandestine method of extorting money from anybody; membership of the Forum is free, gratis and entirely risk-free. It’s simply a method of ensuring that anybody who engages in the Forum’s activities does so as a professional individual with a legitimate purpose in engaging with his peers. So do join up – you might even enjoy it!
When I lived in California I would occasionally listen to Garrison Keillor’s radio show “Lake Wobegone Days.” One of his memorable quotes has stayed with me for ten years since I left the land of E Pluribus Unum. “God writes a lot of comedy... the trouble is, he's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny.” You don’t need to be funny to come join the Forum – but we sure don’t want any bad actors.

Photo Credit: WoW

…. Check out TSF and join in on the conversation! We’ll have more from Tim in January about his interview aspirations, recommendations for PR people, and why the defense industry continues to be a passion.

December 19, 2011

Upcoming Conversations

Photo Credit: Graur Codrin

One of the things I’d like to accomplish with DefTechPR is more awareness for the great journalists and marketing/PR people in the industry – to facilitate knowledge sharing and foster new relationships. As such, one of the things I’ll be attempting is to engage some of these people in conversation so that they can highlight what they work on and share perspectives about the industry as a whole.
Keep an eye out for my conversation with Tim Mahon (Part 1 coming tomorrow) about the new Training & Simulation Forum which is decidedly focused on community and collaboration. If you have any recommendations on people I should profile, let me know!

December 16, 2011

It's not work-life balance

It's just life balance.

Today, I've been hanging with my nephew. He doesn't do much, but a little grin from this three-month-old and suddenly the day has passed. It's a reminder that finding balance is very important and something that can be difficult to obtain when you're connected to your Blackberry 24/7.

I work from home so while many think I have much more time on my hands the opposite is true. Now there are no divisional lines between my work and personal lives. They roll over each other and become a smushed up mess where I can barely tell the difference between the two. I must admit though, that I like what I do, so it's not a negative thing. Instead, it becomes about having a life that works for me. So today, it's about my nephew.

How do you balance life?

December 15, 2011

Idea Generation vs. Degenerate Ideas

I like brainstorming. I brainstormed for weeks before launching DefTechPR. I brainstorm all the time. With friends who are trying to amplify their businesses, with my colleagues who are developing new programs – alone or together, I like to hash things out.
This trait wasn’t something that was inherent to me. Quite the opposite in fact, because left to my own devices I am a modifier  - someone who takes what is familiar or proven to be successful and incrementally builds upon it for continued success. Brainstorming was a learned skill, one that was taught to me – and certainly part of the culture – at High Road Communications.
At this PR agency, brainstorming was ingrained into how we developed client strategies, created events, and executed launches. It was formalized through the parent-company Fleishman-Hillard and many of us were fortunate to be formally trained in how to conduct a successful brainstorm. That’s right; it’s not about getting a bunch of people in a room and shouting out random ideas. A successful brainstorm has structure to the development of ideas, productively expands upon concepts, and delivers a pre-defined outcome.
Brainstorming is one of the best ways to incorporate team-building into a business practice. It’s great for cross-functional conversations. And, it’s a perfect way to catalyze concepts with a number of different personality types. I love it when it’s done right.
Do you brainstorm at your office? How many have been productive? Do you know how to get the most out of the brainstorm? Share your experiences with me, I want to hear from you!
After all, we want to expect more than a "few sprinkles" of ideas. Like in this Mad Men episode (sorry, can't embed this one)!

December 14, 2011

In 90 years...

Tomorrow my granny will celebrate her 90th birthday. She’s an amazing woman  - she still lives on her own, drives her car, conducts charitable work, takes pride in her garden and, would you believe it she’s on Facebook! In her 90 years she served in WWII and married my grandfather a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army.
When they served, computer-based-training (CBT) didn’t exist - heck computers barely existed; classroom instruction and hands-on-steel were the way things got done. But at this time, equipment was simpler, mechanical skills were common, and information wasn’t so easily disseminated. To think that since WWII we now have training conducted in virtual worlds so realistic that people experience fear is incredible; that satellite and network technologies are so advanced data is delivered from UAVs to personnel on the ground in nanoseconds; that aircrews around the world can practice missions together. It’s absolutely astounding.
I wonder where we’ll be when we’re 90 and what kind of missions our troops will be facing. What advanced technologies will they be using to complete their missions?

Home-Made Combat Simulator

There's a long established symbiosis between the military and gaming communities - the military invented the original technologies, the gaming industry adopted these technologies for consumer applications, which then grew like gangbusters, which then ultimately cycled back to influence how military simulation and training applications are created and executed.
All I know is that the lines between entertainment and training have certainly been blurred with games like Call of Duty. And that it’s all pretty freakin’ cool if you keep it in perspective and know that sitting on your couch playing a game has nothing to do with what our military forces do.
Check out this video from the UK’s The Gadget Show to see how they build an first-person-shooter simulator for the Battlefield 3 game.  

December 13, 2011

A Jack of All Tactics Won’t Beat Your King

I am a firm believer that content is king and that the vehicles in which you distribute content are your tactics. Yes, that includes you Social Media. You are not a strategy like so many pretend you are; you are a vehicle for dissemination. One of my pet peeves is when the medium becomes the driving force behind what we’re trying to communicate. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider a tool or tactic and brainstorm how it might fit into your programs, what I am saying is that if your message and intent doesn’t drive your overall strategy, you’re going to end up with a lot of tactics cobbled together and your goal ….. well you may reach it if you’re lucky, but you increase the risk that you won’t.

Yesterday I sent out 31 campaigns

And got a response rate of 97 %. Well, that is if you think like SalesForce. 
One thing that I’ve yet to come to grips with is the result of SalesForce’s influence in communication programs. When using the SaaS-based CRM solution, an email distribution is called a campaign. In my world of PR, a campaign is defined period of time in which a key message or intent is communicated using a series of tactics and tools (one of those tactics may be an email distribution in SalesForce) designed to influence an audience. This is nothing more than a language barrier between PR and marketing, but it’s one that can create confusion when discussing programs. My advice, be sure to establish some definitions up front. You may end up talking about to entirely different projects with very different scopes of work!

December 12, 2011

Lost Your Job at RIM? No Problem, Work for DARPA.

The research agency DARPA is soliciting the help of smartphone developers to come up with new applications for UAV ISR platforms.  What’s the connection you ask? The convergence of networks, processing power, storage, and other functions now well-known and explored in consumer devices could potentially be applied to UAV platforms. The example given is the desire to fly a “swarm of small deployed UAVs to be controlled as a single unit.”
It’s funny to me that the speed at which smartphone developers are able to bring things to market is also one of the appealing attributes. Currently, ISR apps take 3-8 years to develop. I think DARPA’s got the right idea by creating a Think Tank scenario to get as many ideas through the door as possible and then to narrow it down rather than hire a team of developers right off the bat and limit their options. It’s very Apple in approach and hopefully it’ll work out for them.  If you’re a developer, this could be a pretty cool project. To find out more on how to submit a proposal check out

Sharing Experiences in Afghanistan via Social Media

Michael Yon’s blog is one of my go-to reads. Michael is a reporter that has most recently been writing about events in Afghanistan. Invited to observe missions and take photos, Michael’s accounts of events provide a unique and poignant view that mainstream media often can’t and/or won’t deliver. His writing reminds us that we can’t detach ourselves from the efforts of our forces and must remember that there are many who won’t be home for some time. As Michael wrote on November 28, “there is a high probability that as you read this, someone is bleeding and in the process of extraction from the battlefield.”  
Michael has quite an impressive resume – the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, CNN and others have published his work. He has written two books and his blog is well-followed. For all of this, I actually found Michael on Facebook. He has more than 48,000 people following his daily accounts – and these people actively engage him in conversation through the social networking site. In fact, on any given day thousands of people are “talking about” Michael and his posts on Facebook. While I might have stumbled into Michael’s blog eventually, the power of Facebook certainly accelerated it. My advice? Whether you want to be on Facebook or not, if your target audience is there (and let’s face it with more than 800-million active users they likely are), you will want them to find you.
Check out Michael’s page, Twitter profile, and website – what other best practices can you apply to your social strategy?

December 9, 2011

Those Editorial Calendars Are Just So Handy!

I spent most of today hunting down editorial calendars and media kits. I’m doing this a bit later than I would normally like, but the holiday season tends to be a quieter time when I can settle into planning and administrative work. Yes, collecting ed cals to create my MASTER LIST is an ideal Friday activity accompanied by a cup of President’s Choice Mulled Apple Herbal Tea (shameless plug … I suggest you try it!).
Not only do editorial calendars help me determine what opportunities are going to be relevant to my company and where we might add value, it also helps me to suss out what the media industry is going to be focused on as a whole. Even more important it lets me determine what they’re NOT going to be writing about. By evaluating the media landscape from a birds-eye-view, I can figure out what will be of most value to the editorial team and what trends and issues they may be interested in but aren’t scheduling into the magazine.
This is where the real opportunity is – cultivating a unique and compelling story that you can pitch to one or two publications to provide added value and help them to differentiate from the competition. Publishing is a fierce business and I’d like to think that smart PR people can help to make a difference here by offering up stories that help reporters stand out from the crowd. Can you propose a sidebar about a related topic to a commonly discussed theme? Is there another issue that isn’t commonly addressed that would be of interest to the audience? Getting creative here and pulling resources together not only helps you, but the reporter and publication stand out.
If we don’t think strategically about this, then we can’t complain when publications disappear. Yes, the editorial calendar which is so simple in its concept can really be a game-changer if you think about them in new light. What trends are you seeing this year? Any gaps your company can fill?

December 8, 2011

I Heart Army Social Media

If you're on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn there is no way you haven't noticed the unbelievable presence that the United States military has in social media. The US is taking social media seriously - more so than many other countries from what I can tell – and it’s a full-time investment. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just check out the Facebook pages for the US Army and Marine Corps. Through social networks the military is able to engage recruits, those enlisted, and veterans as well as their family and friends in a dialogue about the inspiring work and heroic challenges that servicemen endure. 

I find these pages a great resource of news and photos; they provide access to speakers and events I might otherwise be completely unaware of. Yes, the US has certainly embraced social media in a big way and it seems to be paying off. 

Check out this presentation from the Department of Defense about optimizing online engagement in the Army. There are some good best practices outlined and you’ll get a sense of just how much the military wants to engage everyone in this conversation.  

Wrapping Up

(No I haven’t given up on this blog already)
It’s that time of year – time to write your program wrap report. “Ugh!” That’s all I have to say and I’m sure many of you share the sentiment. The accurate capture and analysis of PR efforts can be a difficult thing to do – let alone communicate in a meaningful way. Easy things to tabulate include:
·         Number of press releases distributed
·         Number of interviews/briefings conducted
·         Number of features, briefs, mentions, posts
o   How many were positive/negative/neutral
·         Increase in Twitter/Facebook followers
·         Number of YouTube views
These are all tangible things your company will be able to set benchmarks around. But, what about the intangible things that public relations pros contribute to? If I provided a laundry list of the number of times I tweaked messaging and briefing notes based on industry news and journalist/analyst feedback, we’d be here for weeks and my report would be incredibly boring. Naming each report or partnership agreement that was reviewed for brand standards and the “PR perspective” would make anyone weep. I still think the risk analyses provided to senior executives is some of my best writing, but would anyone else care?
As a result, I like to keep things pretty high-level focused on measurable tactics, and bring anecdotes to the table. I focus on tangible items that my team and company at large will identify with – the announcement about a major customer win that involved a great team effort, the article that a customer read and brought to a meeting, the shout-out on Twitter from the daughter of one of our video spokespeople.
If you’re lucky enough to have an entire team of people monitoring and analyzing your communications programs, news, industry perceptions, and reputation, a wrap report becomes a nice-to-have but not always necessary because your finger is on the pulse every minute of every day. But, if you’re like most people I know, you’re a one-man-show carving out a bit of time to complete your annual wrap report and set benchmarks for next year. I suggest you put a little color in it people! It’s the festive holiday season after all. Even if all you have is plain, brown paper to work with the least we can do is put a bow on it right?!

December 7, 2011

Times They R A Changin!

I came into PR when online news, blogs and forums were dramatically changing how journalists approached their writing. Newspapers were marching online, columnists turned into bloggers, and bloggers were now churning out three to four stories a day. Before I joined the aerospace and defense community, it was rare that I pitched print journalists. In fact, it was often considered a bonus if an editor told me that the online article would be included in the upcoming print magazine. This move to the Web created a few challenges for me: 
1.       Securing Day-Of-Coverage: With a noisy news environment and the need to write several articles a day, first-day coverage was imperative – otherwise you quickly became old news. Forget getting covered a week after a press release went out.
2.       Press Releases Postings: From a search-engine-optimization standpoint, press release postings are a big help. But, when you’re looking for third-party validation (a big reason companies work with PR people….that journalists provide validation to news and you can achieve this without advertising) the drive to cover everything online can leave the analysis lacking.
3.       Did They Read It?:  There’s something to be said for getting a magazine or newspaper delivered to your door. Thumbing through the pages, revisiting stories. When online, it is so much easier to gloss past articles without notice - and I don’t know about you, but I rarely re-read any of them. I always found it difficult to be convinced that people actually read the article and let’s face it circulation and impression numbers are still a far cry from accurate measurement.
One of the reasons I fell in love with the modeling and simulation community was that it still loved, revered, and was holding on with two fists to print. At that time many of the key publications didn’t have an online component, or it was quite basic and corporate in approach. Reporters were dedicated to a craft that had been honed before the internet, stories had multiple sources, competitors were asked to comment, there was time to engage a customer in the discussion, and the resulting article was a lengthy, insightful, and impressive read. I still get chills when I break the spine of a magazine and see the glossy pages that include my company and our spokespeople, that bring forward an emerging trends, or profile an inspiring leader in our community. These features give me a barometer on how we’re shaping the industry.
This is changing however. Even though I am kicking and screaming on the inside. Over the last couple of years we have seen a big push to move our news online. Halldale has come up with a really nice balance to eliminate my #2 concern by summarizing press releases and highlighting news in their MS&T newsletter. Canadian Defence Review is progressively moving online but working to maintain its subscription-based model with a user login required so that the value of its feature article remains known. Military Technology has started a dedicated blog to give news an immediate acknowledgement – if you knew this team’s travel schedule it’s going to be awesome to get updates from the road.  
I have great hopes that the quality of reporting and industry analysis will remain as high as it is now. But, the thing is, these changes are going to influence journalists in their decision to include your news in a press release posting, a news brief, a blog post, or in a feature print story. They may just Tweet it (more on that later). We need to be ready for it. We have to embrace it. And we need to adjust how we value the end result. It’s going to take new conversations with our executive teams on the results that a news pipeline will generate. It’s going to force us to adjust how we write news and distribute it. It's going to change the conversations we have with our fave media gurus. 
Ultimately, it’s going to change how we view the printed word. 

Until We Meet Again I/ITSEC

Ah, I/ITSEC. I have been told I am sick in the head for loving this training and simulation show so much. And while that may be true, I know there are others out there who look forward to this annual event in Orlando as much as I do. To an outsider, the promise of warm weather would make sense, but as the last two years have been COLD, it really isn’t that. For me, it’s a time to catch up with your colleagues, partners, media and friends. It’s a time to put a stake in the ground and claim your territory both in booth space and from your competitors. It’s a time to be brazen about advances in technology and viewpoints on trends for the coming year. For me it's the Disneyland of PR opportunities.
I could write an entire blog just dedicated to I/ITSEC (so don’t be surprised if this topic comes up … a lot). My team starts to hear me chant I/ITSEC, I/ITSEC, I/ITSEC by June at the latest and it is never far from my thoughts throughout the year. What will we showcase, what will we announce, what will be relevant and valuable to our journalist friends, how will we be differentiated? The list goes on.
One thing that I have noticed is that the show is becoming more PR friendly. People are taking notice of the top-tier journalists who attend this show – people like Tim Mahon from his newly launched Training & Simulation Forum, Kristin Quinn who is heading up Training & Simulation Journal (now being rolled under the Defense News umbrella), the entire Halldale team who are out in full force, and Brian O’Shea at MT2 (there are many more…and believe me, they’ll all come up here at some point).  The news environment is becoming more crowded, forcing many of us to get creative - press events, roundtables, online discussions, private customer events. Nothing like a little friendly competition to keep the blood pumping.
The dialogue between industry and media seems to be much more free-flowing than in years past …. Yes, the savvy are creating a two-way conversation! YAY!  The old-school approach of “selling a story” is just not the kind of PR I want to practice and it seems that the industry is moving in that direction as a whole. It’s about the relationship, understanding where you can add value, and how to support our reporters in a way that doesn’t burden their already incredible workload. The ability to contribute to their profession in a meaningful way is what drives me to do better, create better content, and do it first.

What did you do at I/ITSEC to push the needle?

December 6, 2011

Welcome to DefTechPR (or my little brain)!

Welcome to my DefTechPR. You’ve likely stumbled upon this site or been inclined to read it because you have some relation to me. In either case, I hope you find it interesting and a good resource.
I have worked in public relations for some time and thanks to the life of agency, I had the good fortune to work with technology companies providing innovative solutions to the defense industry. Companies that developed laser cameras for NASA, offered end-to-end modeling and simulation tools, as well as secured networks for police and security forces. I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I currently work for NGRAIN. NGRAIN develops simulations that are used around the world for equipment maintenance training and operational support. Yes, I will write about NGRAIN and my former clients on occasion. I have witnessed such passion at these companies that it would be impossible to avoid it. But, DefTechPR won’t really be about them, no, it will be about my perspectives on public relations, the cool technology in our industry, and the defense community as a whole.
So, enjoy the ramblings about stuff that is “seriously cool” from someone that is a self-professed nerd.