Tag Archive: Microsoft


“Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.” – CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramercramerpigs

Which decision requires more mental gymnastics?

When to buy?

When to sell?

The author of Almost DailyBrett humbly opines that when to sell is the tougher call.

Why?

There are two kinds of remorse: ‘Darn it the stock kept going up after I sold’; and the worse one, ‘I could have sold when the stock was up, but I was a pig … and oh fiddlesticks, now I am selling when the stock is down.’

Yep, there are a lot of potential could-of, would-of, should-of when it comes to selling.

So what should you do in the view of this humble retail investor (read: Charles Schwab account)?

Don’t Fall in Love

“…Sometimes the most obvious question really is the question. In Enron’s case: How do you make money? – Bethany McLean, Fortune Magazine

Preparing to teach Corporate Public Relations/Investor Relations to Central Washington University seniors and a few juniors starting this coming Wednesday, yours truly will pose the same simple question that Fortune’s McLean posed to Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling: “How do you (Enron) make money?”

Communicators need to have elevator pitches at their ready when asked this very same straightforward question about their own employer. The same is true for investors: How does a company make money? If the answer is clear; you like the company; you understand the business strategy; you have done your homework including consulting with your financial advisor, then it may be time to purchase shares of the company stock.bullandbear

This particular company’s stock is now part of your diversified portfolio, which in turn represents a portion of your retirement savings, a child’s college education, that dream vacation etc.

All is good, but when does it make sense to sell?

Buy and hold is a sure loser. Why? At some point, stocks will stop growing. Your invested company certainly will change, and not necessarily for the better. Circumstances may shift and a wave of caca may hit a company or an industry.

Remember the Internet bubble two decades ago? It burst.

Remember the housing bubble a decade ago. It burst.

Don’t fall in love with your securities. Follow your instinct and your plan. When it is time to pull the trigger and unload the stock, then sell the shares.

Have a Plan

“I love the company. I hate the stock.” – Jim Cramer on Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA)

Okay, it’s time to confess: I fell in love with the Elon Musk Ion-Lithium Battery/Electric Car story at Tesla. Yes, I bought the stock and road it up and down (pardon the pun) and eventually got tired of the downward roller coaster.muskcar

Before I weighed selling, I considered at what average price point did I buy the stock and how low would it have to go before I would sell the stock? It hit that point, and it was time to sell.

Maybe at some future time, it will be low enough to once again purchase the stock, but only when one is convinced the company has a realistic plan for long-term profitability.

The same is true when selling a stock that is going up. Social media stock LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) recorded a blow-out quarter and the stock exceeded my prearranged sell price point. As Joseph Kennedy reportedly said: “Never apologize when taking a profit.”

And we should never worry about paying taxes on our profits; profits are taxable.

The point here is to follow your game plan and sell when it’s time. That’s a good thing, really.

What are some other signs that it is time to sell a stock?

  • The Music Stopped: Once upon a time, Intel (e.g., microprocessors), Microsoft (e.g., software operating systems) and Cisco (e.g., Internet routers and switches) were literally rocking and rolling. We couldn’t get enough of these stocks until … the music stopped. The PC is yesterday’s news. The 1990s came and went. It became time to sell and move on.
  • Commoditization: Just like Intel’s microprocessors became a commodity to serve as the brains of social, mobile and cloud, the same is true for all other semiconductors and those that build semiconductor manufacturing equipment and electronic design automation (EDA) software. Intel’s rumored takeover of Altera, similar to Avago’s absorption of LSI Corporation, are more signs of industry consolidation. If you have not sold already, it’s past time.
  • High Volatility: Sometimes an investor can benefit from a highly volatile stock. A perfect example is Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM). Lost track of how many times, yours truly has bought, sold, bought, sold, bought … this stock. As long as the trend line is consistently up, it’s okay to let go of the shares now and then, only to become reacquainted at a later date.
  • New Management: Tim Cook is proving that there is life at Apple following the ultimate demise of Steve Jobs, but that is the exception not the rule. Companies change. Business plans shift. Circumstances change. Markets explode or implode. Almost DailyBrett has always followed the mantra that if the old boss or new boss is a bosshole, it’s time to pass on the stock or sell the stock. Translated: Stay away from Larry Ellison and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL)
  • No Balance Between Fiduciary and Corporate Social Responsibility: The best run publicly traded companies do NOT see “doing well” and “doing good” as being mutually exclusive. Publicly traded companies with their brands under a digital 21st. Century microscope must appreciate their respective brands are trading in the cloud 24/7/365. Worshipping exclusively at the altar of fiduciary responsibility will no longer cut it. If so, it’s time to sell.
  • Caca Happens: Planes land at the wrong airports (e.g., Southwest). Companies name shoes (e.g., Umbro) after the cyanide gas used in Nazi concentration camps. The CEO falls dead in the backseat of a car (e.g., Texas Instruments). Oil wells explode and gush on global video for three months (e.g., BP). Guano hits the fan. This is precisely the reason not to fall in love with any stock.

Sometimes, it is time to say goodbye.

Breaking up is hard to do.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/10292084/1/bulls-bears-make-money-pigs-get-slaughtered.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_P._Kennedy,_Sr.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/what-happens-when-the-music-stops/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/how-does-a-company-make-money-2/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/donate-to-united-way-or-invest-in-tesla/

http://finance.yahoo.com/video/cramers-stop-trading-tesla-motors-135400997.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/farewell-lsi-logic/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that I think might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don’t ask for raises have. Because that’s good karma, that’ll come back.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise. Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.” – Nadella follow-up tweet

satya

The new Microsoft chief hit the wrong button on his PowerPoint clicker …

Or will his dentist find foot prints in his mouth?

Women should not ask for pay raises and just rely on “Karma.”

There is no Namaste at Microsoft today.

Sexism is Alive and Well

As Almost DailyBrett has previously commented sexism still lurks, even in women-dominated professions, including public relations.

Working at Edelman Public Relations five years ago, our Silicon Valley office was 134 kind souls, 110 with XX chromosomes. There was no line at the men’s room, simply because representatives of the knuckle-dragging gender were in short supply. Nonetheless, we male folk were well compensated.

Looking around my public relations and integrated marketing communication classrooms at Central Washington University, approximately three-out-of-every-four students is female. A comparable trend exists at the University of Oregon and conceivably other universities teaching public relations and communications around the nation.

And despite the undeniable numerical superiority for women practitioners, there is a pervasive, stubborn and resolute pay gap between men and women in public relations. According to a San Diego State School of Journalism & Media Studies quantitative study of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) members, published in Public Relations Journal, male public relations practitioners earn on the average $84,368, compared to women at $76,063. That amounts to an $8,305 difference in annual salary between the two genders. At first glance, that figure sounds relatively close.

However, the magnitude of the different pay for equal work comes into play when you multiply the $8,305 delta over the course of a 40-year career, bringing the total to a staggering $332,200 loss of earning power for women practitioners, their children and their families.

Microsoft’s Nadella is undoubtedly one bright dude, but he made comments Thursday that are not smart. Weren’t blacks told to chill out, have faith and wait out inequality? That seems to be the message that Nadella extolled about pay inequity in the workplace. Nadella upon reflection (and probably a kick in his nether region by Microsoft’s PR department) fired off the obligatory apology tweet … but the damage was done.

karma

“Rounding Error”

One of my former students was being offered an entry-level job by a West Coast public relations agency. She was thrilled by the prospect of a $33,000 annual salary and believe it or not: Three weeks of annual vacation (try taking off 15 working days at any major agency).

When it was suggested that she not take the first offer, and to ask for $2,000 more per year (essentially a rounding error for the finance department of a multi-million-dollar agency), she initially balked. Eventually she diplomatically said she needed a $35,000 salary, and the hiring manager didn’t even blink.

Upon reflection, she said (her words, not mine) that women are not good in negotiations and asking for what they want. Almost DailyBrett has no empirical data to confirm or deny that assertion, but she was convinced it was true.

What Must Be Done

Do public relations, marketing, social media and investor relations professors and instructors have a role to play in closing the communications salary pay gap between men and women? The answer is affirmative particularly when it comes to mentoring.

What jobs pay more? Technicians or managers? Let’s face it, technicians will always be paid in the five-figure range, the only variable is what is the first number. Some women may prefer working behind the scenes and being an integral part of a team. That’s fine, but these jobs most likely will never lead to six-figures.

Why not encourage more women students to be leaders of teams and to train for management in public relations, marcom, investor relations or social media? When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton said “that’s where the money is.”

There is also a major difference in pay rates within communications segments: Investor relations, financial communications and corporate public relations pay very well, non-profit and community relations not so much.

The average pay for practitioners in investor relations/financial communications is $117,233 … ka-ching. For corporate public relations, professionals are earning on an average, $88,827 … conceivably with managers, directors and vice presidents making above the median.

Conversely, community relations jobs pay $63,437 and non-profit positions, $62,275. Think of it this way, it is a big leap from the median to the six-figure mark for those working in community relations and/or non-profit.

Should women students be encouraged to seriously consider managerial positions, particularly those in high-paying investor relations, financial communications and corporate public relations disciplines? The answer seems obvious.

Ultimately, the choice will be made by the graduating student as she embarks into the wide-ranging field of public relations, marcom, investor relations and social media. Her decision and those made by literally thousands of her colleagues may play a pivotal role in closing the public relations gender pay gap once and for all.

http://mashable.com/2014/10/09/microsoft-ceo-women-karma-raises/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link

http://techcrunch.com/2014/10/09/microsoft-ceo-opens-mouth-inserts-foot-on-gender-pay-gap/?ncid=rss

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/addressing-the-gender-pay-gap-in-public-relations/

 

 

Or is it Outsourcing to Insourcing?

Did I just buy a computer that was made in (gasp) Communist China?

Is this unpatriotic? Or is it patriotic?

Did Chairman Mao just turn over in his grave?

mao

These questions seem to suggest not only how much yours truly has changed, but how the world has shifted its attitudes and business practices in the past four decades.

One suspects that Henry Kissinger knew that his secret trip to China in 1971 had the potential to change the geopolitical balance of affairs, but the question is how much? And it is clear that Deng Xiaoping altered China for the better by coming to the obvious conclusion that Capitalism even with its well-documented flaws is still light years better than Cultural Revolutions and collective farms.

Having said that, it is Big Leap Forward from Kissinger’s sub-rosa journey and Deng’s landmark reforms to the significance of my purchase of a Lenovo Ideapad laptop for $600 (Best Buy) powered by an Intel Core i5 microprocessor (Santa Clara, CA) and controlled by Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system (Redmond, WA).

And now good ole boys and girls in Whitsett, North Carolina are hard at work producing more PCs, hybrid PCs/tablets (e.g, Lenovo Yoga) and servers for a company that was started in 1984 by a $25,000 state (Chinese Academy of Sciences) investment…the state that brought a chilling new meaning to the words, Tiananmen Square.

Yep, I bought a laptop from a company that was created by an investment made by Communist China and held its first meetings in a guard shack.

Back in days of the Evil Empire, I made my first trip overseas…and not to a place in which most post-college bachelors go for vacation: Russia. It was the 1981 Soviet Union of that fun-loving guy, Leonid Brezhnev.

Upon returning my maternal grandfather told me there were two places he never wanted to go to: One was hell; the other…you guessed it.

Just as if it was yesterday, I remember after a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet standing on the edge of Red Square with the onion-dome masterpiece, flood-lit St. Basil’s, on the opposite end…Ground Zero of the Cold War. Deep down inside I was hoping that this would be neither the time nor the place for a thermonuclear confrontation, particularly at that exact time.

Reflecting back on my visit to the country of 11 time zones, which is a must for any student of modern history and politics, I can see the average people packed like sardines into trolley cars, while the most equal-of-the-equals zipped on by in special lanes for their Zil limos. The USSR even took Diner’s Club, Carte Blanche along with Visa and American Express. When were the Reds coming back?

I didn’t like Communism before I made this trip. I liked it even less after my visit.

If you asked me at the time, if I would ever buy any product made by a communist country that treats its people as if they were sheep, the answer would be an emphatic, “nyet” or “het” in Cyrillic.

lenovoideapad

Serving as a director of corporate public relations for a Silicon Valley hardware innovator and later as a vice president for an international public relations agency, I wore out at least three IBM Think Pad laptops.

“What’s this blue screen?” I would ask one of our all-knowing IT managers. “Ah, did you back up your files?” I was asked. “What if I didn’t? I replied. Welcome to the “Blue Screen of Death.”

Little did I appreciate was that IBM (e.g., Itty Bitty Machines) was outsourcing a portion of its ThinkPad business to China’s Lenovo, and then Big Blue outright sold the its corporate PC business to Lenovo in 2005. I have been using a Chinese laptop for the better part of a decade, and last year I doubled downed on this bet.

Reading about Lenovo, I discovered that English is the $30 billion company’s official business language. It maintains two headquarters, one predictably in Beijing, and the other at IBM’s former PC hub in Morristown, NC. And just this year, Lenovo started manufacturing in the aforementioned Whitsett in the Tar heel State.

Let’s see…IBM outsourced a portion of its PC business to China, taking advantage of lower Chinese manufacturing costs and giving the company greater access to the world’s largest market. Eventually IBM (which invented the PC in 1981) sold the business to Lenovo. And now global market share leader Lenovo is outsourcing a portion of its PC business to the United States or insourcing the business in North Carolina, if you prefer that point of view.

Topping it off, China is becoming a more expensive place to manufacture with each passing day and the US is getting cheaper as demand for skilled Chinese labor is going up. The Pacific Ocean is just as big as ever and shipping costs are a major factor. Cost parity is expected in two years.  Lenovo is outsourcing PC production to the United States, bringing it closer to US customers and key suppliers including Intel and Microsoft.

Does this mean that buying a Chinese computer is patriotic? That seems like a stretch, particularly for a guy who saw the Evil Empire up close and personal.

If you agree that buying a Chinese computer is actually patriotic, then financing the nation’s $17.4 billion debt through China occasions playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

So why are we upset about outsourcing?

And what is the true meaning of outsourcing anyway?

Or is it actually insourcing?

Who the heck knows?

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21569572-after-decades-sending-work-across-world-companies-are-rethinking-their-offshoring

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21569398-how-did-lenovo-become-worlds-biggest-computer-company-guard-shack-global-giant

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/05/focus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenovo

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100651692

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deng_Xiaoping

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonid_Brezhnev

http://news.lenovo.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1635

Suppose an industry staged an annual forecast and awards dinner (e.g., SIA on November 29), and virtually no one gave a particle?

Considering that I worked directly for the Semiconductor Industry Association for two years, and later for a company run by one of its founders for a decade, it is difficult for me to say this, but I must: Semiconductors are now (and maybe forever) a taken-for-granted commodity.

sleepingaudience1

Would you like some salsa with your chips?

Yes, they power every digital and the remaining analog gadget under the sun just like ground beef, chicken or carnitas are essential for making tacos, burritos and enchiladas. Everyone knows this.

So what else is new?

The semiconductor industry is going to be flat this year at $300 billion. It seems like the industry is always at $300 billion. I wrote a speech in 1996 projecting a $300 billion industry in 2000 or 12 years ago for those of you scoring at home.

One company, Wal-Mart alone at $464 billion in revenues (and growing) is larger than the entire chip industry. This is not news.

Earlier this month, the stately Economist published a cover piece “The Survival of the biggest; The internet’s warring giants” about Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google with peripheral mention of Microsoft.

What happened to Intel, let alone AMD?  They didn’t even make the cutting-room floor.

What happened to the wonders of (Gordon) Moore’s Law (intellectual property content doubling on the same-sized piece of silicon real estate every 18-24 months)? Anyone want to hear that story for the umpthteen time?

What happened to the epic tales of the fight against the evil predatory-pricing, two-headed monster in the form of Japan’s “Business is War” government/industry?

All these stories are now contained in a coffee table book coming to a deep-discount rack near you.

The “Mass Intelligence” Economist references the great technology fights of yesteryear: IBM and Apple in the 1980s in PCs, and Microsoft and Netscape in the 1990s in web browsing. The U.K. popular “newspaper” displays a map, vaguely similar to England, Normandy, Bavaria, Prussia und Dänemark.

England is the “Empire of Microsofts.” Normandy is “Appleachia.” Bavaria is “Google Earth.” Prussia is “Fortress Facebook.”  Dänemark is “Amazonia.” There are small islands occupied by RIMM (Research in Motion) and Nokia, and a nest dedicated for microblogging, “Eyrie of Twitter.” The lowly chip is nowhere to be seen on this map or in the expansive article. Intel is not even afforded a shrinking iceberg.

Some may want to dismiss my musings contending that I am only focusing on one article in one magazine, albeit an incredibly influential publication. They will say the article can be seen as a mere anecdote. These critics could be correct. However, in this case I humbly opine the anecdote represents a trend. For the metaphor types: It is the sick canary inside the mine.

Certainly, there are 250,000 Americans employed in semiconductor innovation and (some) manufacturing. With all due respect to the engineering types in particular, they are mere role players. They are throwing the screens and opening up holes in the line for the superstars: Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google.

The chip is essential, but so is the sun. They are everywhere. The sun is there. What is commanding attention are mobile platforms and the software that makes them do what they do. Algorithms über alles!

algorithms

Rarely did a day go by in the 1990s and the post-Bubble era when the San Jose Mercury, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times (not suggesting equivalency of influence) would write another gushing, fawning piece about “The Chip Giant,” Intel. No one could accuse the media of shorting the stock.

Today, Intel is trading at $20.52 with a market cap of $101 billion. Ten years ago on this date, the company’s stock traded at $17.58…sounds like a good stock to avoid. Even with all angst, Sturm und Drang about Facebook’s IPO FUBAR, the company still commands a $28.24 stock price and $60 billion in market capitalization. All things considered, this is not bad for a company publicly traded only since May 18 and which was founded in a Harvard dorm room less than one decade ago. If only Intel could grow this fast.

Don McLean in American Pie asked: If the music would ever play again? For the chip industry, the band could start playing if the industry starts growing again; if it comes up with a new way of making chips (e.g., nanotechnology); if it spearheads a new revolution. Incremental changes won’t cut it. And staying stuck in neutral at $300 billion will elicit the same yawns but only 10 years down the road.

Silicon Valley is called “Silicon Valley” for a particular reason that was germane decades ago. Let’s just hope no one seriously suggests changing the name to “Algorithm Valley.”

http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4374705/SIA-expects-flat-chip-sales-in-2012-

http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/WMT

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21567355-concern-about-clout-internet-giants-growing-antitrust-watchdogs-should-tread

http://www.economist.com/news/21567361-google-apple-facebook-and-amazon-are-each-others-throats-all-sorts-ways-another-game

http://www.sia-online.org/events/2012/11/29/public-event/35th-annual-sia-award-dinner/

http://www.lyrics007.com/Don%20McLean%20Lyrics/American%20Pie%20Lyrics.html

It had to happen. Highly compensated marketing and advertising pros take one overused public relations buzzword and simply jam it together with another overused public relations buzzword. In one particular case, wouldn’t you expect a little bit more creativity from a $40 billion global company with 290,000 employees?

And yet FedEx has adopted the tag “Sustainable Solutions” to tell its green story, even with a tantalizing one-minute animated television spot. The tale with cute animal tails (see link below) depicts how FedEx trucks and planes are doing good for the planet, while burning fossil fuels to ship a package from point A to FedEx’s mega-package distribution center in Memphis, Tennessee before sending it on to point B, which actually may be closer to point A in the first place…if you follow me.

When I was living in Pleasanton, CA, located in the East Bay, I was selling two tickets via StubHub for the September 2009 Oregon vs. California football game in Eugene, OR. Not surprisingly a buyer from Berkeley wanted the tickets. StubHub provided me with the shipping label to fedex (corporate verb) the tickets from my Pleasanton house in Alameda County to the buyer’s Berkeley house 34 miles to the west in Alameda County.

eddickson

I was provided with a tracking number and followed the trail of my two Oregon seats for sale. Did they go from FedEx in Pleasanton over the 580 freeway and then to 880 to Berkeley, a trip that takes about 40 minutes in traffic? You guessed it. They were transported by FedEx in one of its sustainable trucks to a sustainable plane 2,061 miles across two-time zones to Memphis, offloaded at the Memphis Airport, processed, reloaded and then reshipped 2,061 miles in a sustainable plane back across the same two-time zones to the Bay Area and then driven in a sustainable truck to the final destination about 34 miles from my house.

How’s that for a sustainable solution? For a 34-mile trip, my package traveled 4,156 miles. Sorry, I still don’t get it.

In fairness to FedEx, my two tickets, placed and sealed in a recycled package, were transported by FedEx in one of its electric trucks to a low-emission plane 2,061 miles across two-time zones to Memphis, offloaded at the Memphis Airport, processed, reloaded and then reshipped 2,061 miles in a low-emission plane back across the same two-time zones to the Bay Area and then driven in a low-emission truck to the final destination about 34 miles from my house.

The FedEx “Sustainable Solutions” story is grounded in electric trucks, recycled materials and low-emission planes, which should help the “shipping giant” dodge a “greenwashing” charge. However, the question needs to be asked: Is it really green if all roads and flight plans lead to Memphis IT processing regardless of the destination of the package? Maybe there is a logical explanation, but FedEx will have a hard time explaining the environmental benefits of shipping my tickets first to Memphis in order to ship them back to Berkeley.

To top it off, FedEx with its new marketing tag may be infringing on or borrowing from the plethora of firms that call themselves (drum roll): “Sustainable Solutions.” There is Sustainable Solutions International as in building products http://www.sustainablesolutions.com/. And there is Sustainable Solutions Unlimited as in solar products http://solutions21st.com/. And yes, there is Sustainable Solutions Corporation that educates clients about sustainable solutions http://www.sustainablesolutionscorporation.com/. And not to be outdone, there is Sustainable Solutions LLC, a natural resource consulting company in the citadel of infinite wisdom, Washington, DC http://www.sustainablesolutionsllc.net/. Overall, there are almost 10 million Google search results for “Sustainable Solutions.”

Almost one year ago, Almost DailyBrett commented on how the public relations industry was pounding certain buzzwords, reducing them to cliché status as a result of their reflexive overuse and overhyping. The words (and phrases) include: Brand, Cloud, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Organic, Solutions, Sustainable, Thinking Out of the Box and Thought Leadership. And all of them can be incorporated, as Almost DailyBrett demonstrated, into one mega run-on sentence courtesy of the PR industry:

“Today we are thinking out of the box in leveraging a portfolio of organic, sustainable cloud computing solutions that enhance your company brand, while demonstrating thought leadership and exemplifying your dedication to corporate social responsibility.”

Almost DailyBrett paid special recognition to Microsoft for taking two buzz words and incorporating them into the same ad: “Most Comprehensive Solutions for the Cloud on Earth” or “Cloud Power.” This year, FedEx is dispensing with all the additional words and just jamming “Sustainable” and “Solutions” together.

fedex1

Maybe FedEx could get more bang for their green marketing buck by combining three overused PR buzzwords instead of just two. How about: “Organic Sustainable Solutions?” Surely, FedEx’s electric trucks, recycled materials and low-emission planes can be certified by some organization as “organic.” If “Sustainable Solutions” assists FedEx in telling its Corporate Social Responsibility story, then “Organic Sustainable Solutions” would be even better from a CSR standpoint and maybe even when it comes to Thought Leadership as well.

Now how can FedEx work the “Cloud” into the “Organic Sustainable Solutions Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) campaign? Certainly clouds are organic and Darwin knows they are sustainable.

The real issue is the word, “Sustainable.” The word is everywhere, and it seems to be used by everyone. Heck, I am taking “Sustainable Business” right now. And if “Sustainable” is used everywhere by everyone when does it start becoming noise? And if “Sustainable” becomes the equivalent of verbal elevator music, then does it eventually lose its currency with the general public? And if this currency is spent, then who is responsible? Are PR and marketing pros guilty of literally loving buzz words and phrases to death? That’s not sustainable.

http://www.commercialsihate.com/fedex-sustainable-solutions–video_topic11750.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/pounding-pr-buzz-words-to-death/

Whatever happened to Scott McNealy?

We know what happened to his company; Sun Microsystems was swallowed up by Oracle.

And Steve Ballmer? Well, he is the chief executive officer of Softwaremeister Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) with a market capitalization in excess of $200 billion.

And what about “Butthead?” Not MTV’s Beavis and Butthead, but the object of McNealy’s snide quip…His name is Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet and a philanthropist. You may have heard of him.

ballmergates

Sometimes reporters, editors, bloggers, analysts, investors bestow rock-star status on C-level executives. And in return, some of these very same executives earn their stripes in part by resorting to let’s say “provocative” activities or tactics. Are these antics, including old-fashioned name calling, in the best interest of shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and partners…the very same people for whom they have taken a vow of fiduciary responsibility?

“Ballmer and Butthead” is like catnip to the Fourth Estate Crowd, but is it really that funny when the company’s stock is in single digits and heading further south? How about concentrating on your business…a business that is now a part of Silicon Valley’s history.

Why even bring this matter up when Nasdaq: SUNW does not even exist anymore? That’s just the point. As difficult as it may be, C-level executives should be discouraged from engaging in sophomoric behavior and statements by their public relations counsel. The very people who you are denigrating today, you may be facing across a negotiating table tomorrow. Sun ultimately accepted $2 billion from Microsoft to end the protracted litigation between the companies. And Sun was desperate for the cash.

Certainly Scott is not the only former or present executive guilty of bombastic rhetoric, but boardroom deportment is even more important in these days in which literally trillions of dollars of aggregate personal wealth is being erased in just a matter of days, if not hours.

Personally, I would never offer investment advice to anyone and you would wise to not accept Wall Street counsel from me, except for one point: I never invest in companies in which I do not condone the behavior of the CEO. I am also very wary of companies in which the CEO and the company are synonymous terms…Hello Steve Jobs. What’s your blood pressure today?

There is no denying that McNealy is super bright with an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a MBA from Stanford…after all, Sun stands for Stanford University Network. Having said that, there is a difference between bright and smart: “Ballmer and Butthead” in hindsight was barely clever and not smart.

mcnealy

I stayed away from investing in Hewlett-Packard during the imperial reign of Carly Fiorina. Her efforts to bludgeon the HP culture into acquiring Compaq left permanent scars. Her fights with the media, particularly the San Jose Mercury News, were undertaken without the prospect of an upside. She was forced to resign three years later as HP’s CEO. Last year, she ran and lost in her attempt to wrest a Senate seat away from Barbara Boxer in California. And today… (she just won’t simply go away), she is working with the GOP Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Another stock that had the effect of a crucifix to a vampire for me was Advanced Micro Devices or AMD under the notorious direction of Jerry Sanders. Brash and colorful, Jerry was the ultimate loose cannon beyond any kind of reasonable control by his PR handlers (probably too strong of a word). Jerry was going to say what Jerry was going to say.

There was the night that he concluded an annual Semiconductor Industry Association dinner with “We have come a long way since the days we were fighting the Japs (over trade access).” He is (mis)credited for inventing the term that “Real men have fabs,” prompting semiconductor makers without their own factories…or fabs…to establish their own trade association, the Fabless Semiconductor Association, now the Global Semiconductor Alliance.

And of course my all time favorite from Jerry: “Money is life’s report card.” Guess that means Mother Teresa really sucked at life.

When it comes to corporate excess, no one does it better than Larry Ellison of Oracle…The planes, the yachts, the mansions, the divorces…And how many people are unemployed in this country? How many are underwater on their mortgages? How many are afraid to open up their investment portfolios? Larry doesn’t need my money, but I have made a vow to never invest in Oracle regardless of the company’s financial results as long as Larry is in charge.

The bottom line is that C-Level behavior does matter. Some are willing to look the other way just as long as the company is doing well. And what happens when the sun starts sinking against the horizon and the stock heads south? The “Ballmer and Butthead” quotes aren’t so funny. As John Madden once said: “When you are winning no one can hurt you; when you are losing, no one can help you.”

http://www.edn.com/article/479110-Ballmer_Butthead_and_McNealy.php

http://www.cbronline.com/blogs/technology/best_mcnealy_qu

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_McNealy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Microsystems

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2011/07/carly-fiorina-senate-republican-campaign-committee-nrsc/1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Sanders_(businessman)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Ellison

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAAirNeKWxQ

http://www.motherteresa.org/

“Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of, well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days.” Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days.

glorydays

Remember the PC/Internet connectivity era?

The one that ended about a decade ago?

Remember when investing in Intel (NASDAQ: INTC); Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT); Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) was close to automatic profits on Wall Street?

Of course, you wanted to invest in these stocks and so did everyone else…but over time the world changed: Pentium processors became a commodity, just like all other semiconductors.

Microsoft operating system announcements became less-anticipated and the results less than stellar…most of all they were being used for ubiquitous PCs.

Cisco makes switches and routers. They work. The Internet works. Thank you very much…and just this week the company laid off 6,500 workers.

And Dell? Well, Dell produced a great model for inventory…How about big-time results?

If you are engaged in public relations, marketing, employee communications and social media for these four companies, you are probably singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” if you are singing anything at all.

So what is the connection between music and technology public relations?

Two days ago CNBC after-market anchors were hyperventilating about another blow-out quarter for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), they really had nothing negative that they could say about the company as the stock reached $400 a share for the first time. Reportedly, the company sold every iPad that it made.

And then one of the talking heads asked the rhetorical question: “What happens when the music stops?”

For companies such as Apple, search engine Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), social media Facebook, cloud computing Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) and social media LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD), it is downright heresy to suggest that the music will stop someday…but based upon history it will because in virtually all cases it has to.

Ten years ago, Apple was trading at $9.07 per share. Today, Apple is listed at $387.90. Anybody remember Gil Amelio? Hint, he was the guy running the show before the resurrection of Steve Jobs. Remember all the hoopla about Blackberry’s and Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM)? The music stopped.

Ten years ago, Google didn’t exist. All the search discussion focused on Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO)…but the music stopped for Yahoo as Google went public in 2004 at $101 per share. Today the Google is trading at $606.78: Yahoo at $13.61. And just this month, the company introduced Google+, taking dead aim at its chief competitor, Facebook.

Facebook didn’t exist 10 years ago. Its eventual founder Mark Zuckerberg was a secondary school student attending Phillips Exeter Academy in Massachusetts. He was still a couple of years away from that famous dorm room at Harvard University.

Ten years ago, Salesforce.com was privately held and still going through the growing pains of a two-year old company. The company went public in 2004 at $15 per share. Today Salesforce.com trades on the big board at $149.16.

LinkedIn.com was the first social media company to go public, debuting two months ago at $45 per share and today trading at $101.02 per share. The biggest question is whether the shadow of Facebook will stomp on little ole LinkedIn, if Zuckerberg et al decide to take Facebook public.

The music is playing fast and furious for Apple, Google, Facebook, Salesforce.com and LinkedIn. Times are good. Reporters/editors/analysts/investors can’t get enough of Jobs, Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and to a lesser extent Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn.

Now imagine for comparison reasons if you were managing public relations/marketing/employee communications/social media for Intel, Microsoft, Cisco and Dell. These used to be hot jobs; not as much today…Keep in mind that a job is a job in this economy.

Ten years ago, Intel traded at $29.97; today, $22.69.

Microsoft was priced at $33.60; today $27.10.

Cisco was a $20.61 stock 10 years ago; today $16.39.

Dell traded at $27.61 a decade ago; today, $17.46.

dell

Anyone want to hear another story about Moore’s Law? How about the genius of Bill Gates and Paul Allen? Bet ya it’s a whole lot easier to get an interview with John Chambers of Cisco, but does he really want to talk about layoffs? And how many Silicon Valley-based reporters are accumulating frequent flyer miles to spend time with Michael Dell in Austin?

The point of this Almost DailyBrett exercise is to remind PR types that nothing lasts forever. If things are going great, don’t get giddy. If things are heading south, keep your wits about you. And if you have stock options in a high-flying company, start selling in increments as the stock moves upward. There are two kinds of remorse when it comes to options; the one that you sold too early…and then there is the other one.

And never lose hope. Apple was a dead company before Steve Jobs came back. But also don’t be guilty of drinking your own bath water. In most cases as Don McLean once wrote in “American Pie” there comes a day “when the music died.”

DISCLOSURE TIME: The author of Almost DailyBrett presently owns shares of Salesforce.com and LinkedIn. Decisions regarding the impartiality of my rhetorical ramblings are left to the discretion of the reader.

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/07/19Apple-Reports-Third-Quarter-Results.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salesforce.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkedin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_Exeter_Academy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gil_Amelio

Sixty-eight years ago Adolf Hitler and his propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels boasted about “Fortress Europa” and the “Atlantic Wall,” a series of supposedly impregnable defenses against the coming Allied invasion of France.

The guy actually in charge of these defenses, legendary Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, privately described his Führer’s vision this way: “He’s in cloud-cuckoo land.” (Wolkenkuckucksheim)

Nordafrika, Generaloberst Erwin Rommel

Considering everyone in the technology space seems to be getting their collective knickers-in-a-twist (or bowels-in-an-uproar, if you wish) about cloud computing, one is tempted to label this period of time as Cloud Cuckoo Land 2.0.

Almost DailyBrett in February commented on how PR/marketing/social media practitioners have this irritating habit of falling in love with certain terms and phrases, such as “organic,” “sustainable,” “solutions” etc., and then pounding them to death, reducing them to cliché status. “Cloud computing” was listed as one of those overworked buzz phrases. Almost DailyBrett even attempted to take all of these buzz words and phrases and work them into one massive run-on sentence. https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/pounding-pr-buzz-words-to-death/

Since that time the quest for the cloud has actually accelerated, raising the obvious question as whether 15-yard penalties should be given for piling on. Google “cloud computing” and 120 million results come rushing at you, the ultimate contest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are so many “clouds” out there that you would have to conclude that the weather is just downright overcast.

Just last week, Apple became the latest to be late in embracing the cloud. Steve Jobs led the charge, with the company’s “iCloud” announcement in San Francisco. The “technology” even comes with a nifty little tag line, “It just works,” which sent the 5,000 gear-heads in the audience into spontaneous simultaneous orgasm.

After working in technology for 15 years (10 with LSI Logic, two with the Semiconductor Industry Association and three with Edelman), let me assure you that no marketeer wants to be seen as falling behind the competition. It is far better to copy, borrow, pilfer, steal someone else’s idea and add your own particular bits, bytes, bells, whistles and spin than to explain why you were beaten.

What is particularly fascinating about cloud euphoria is that even the targets of this approach, namely Microsoft and Oracle, are appearing to embrace this cloudy concept (kicking and screaming?)…whether they want to or not.

New York Times columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman in his The World is Flat (2005) provided an excellent explanation of cloud computing or the downloading of software from the Internet (the cloud) via a web browser: “Software becomes something you rent, instead of something you own. Somebody else takes care of the upgrading and maintenance.”

This concept was a direct attack on the proprietary software of Microsoft, Oracle and SAP by Salesforce.com and some others. As Saleforce.com chief Marc Benioff said: “Microsoft wants you to buy more software. We want to see the end of software.” And if you visit Salesforce.com’s website there is the word “software,” sitting on its own little cloud with the diagonal line striking it out.

cloudcomputing

Microsoft certainly knows a trend when it sees one, and instead of countering Salesforce’s creativity, it extols the virtues of “cloud power” even including a tagline of completely overused buzz words and phrases imploring perspective customers to: “Find out more about our cloud-based platform solutions.” Let’s see: “Cloud,” “Platform” and (my favorite) “Solutions” in just four words.

Salesforce.com deserves credit for creativity. Whether Benioff et al are the actual creators of cloud computing or Software as a Service (SaaS) or not, they have assumed a first-mover position. As we used to say in my Sacramento days, “When in doubt; declare victory.” Benioff certainly has claimed victory.

Everyone else is taking turns spraying the fire hydrant. Consider IBM which has taken SaaS and devised its own acronyms, Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Wonder where they came up with those ideas? Will someone follow with PiiS?

Supposedly, Silicon Valley is the cradle of innovation. Alas, when it comes to public relations, marketing and social media, the usual practice is not creativity and cleverness. Instead it’s follow the leader (and pretend that is not what you are doing), trying to make it appear that you have something different when in reality you are copying someone else’s idea and you are late as well. Many PR offensives — targeting editors, bloggers, analysts, reporters — have been based on these shaky premises.

Communications innovation, creativity, choreography and cleverness are certainly easier said than done, it helps to have a real killer app. In the case of the cloud, it does not appear that anyone has really tried. All they did is let a few create while the rest surrendered en masse. Not even Erwin Rommel can save them.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/plain/F8984900?thread=4935057

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Rommel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

http://www.salesforce.com/cloudcomputing/

http://www.ibm.com/cloud-computing/us/en/

http://content.dell.com/us/en/enterprise/cloud-computing.aspx

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud/default.aspx?fbid=XN-13jrEZdF

http://www.oracle.com/us/products/applications/fusion/hcm/index.html

http://www.apple.com/icloud/

What does an engineering student ask?

How can I build it?

What does a pre-med student ask?

How can I cure it?

What does a business student ask?

How can I finance it?

What a liberal arts student ask?

Would you like fries with that hamburger?

There are many variations of this particular joke, but as your mom taught you: Much truth is often spoken in jest.

Today was the last day of the spring term and the end of my first year of Graduate School. During the past 10 weeks, I took Strategic Management and was surrounded by (soon-to-be) MBA types.

What impressed me was their unrepentant, unrestrained and unabashed celebration of capitalism. How can we drive revenues? How can we promote growth? Is gross margin expanding or contracting? Should we be investing in this business or that business? How can we promote sustained profitability…Notice the question was not about the promotion of “sustainable” profitability.

And by the way, they think it is cool to make a profit.

adamsmith

The spirit of the father of modern economics and capitalism – Mr. Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith permeates the dialogue. This is exciting. It is a reflection that entrepreneurs, free markets, capitalism produce the products that we need; provide jobs; and make global societies better.

Golly gee, just call me old-fashioned. And how do you finance that?

And then for my other classes I walked about 100 yards or a long LaMichael James touchdown run into another world, the world of redistribution and social justice. Adam Smith would not be welcome here, but a lecture by Che Guevara would be packed to the rafters.

In this organic, sustainable, free-trade, shade-grown environment I found out that Communism didn’t work in Russia, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China, North Korea and even Guevara’s Cuba because they were/are dictatorial governments. Otherwise, the system is just swell.

For some reason, virtually every class needs to ponder the works and deeds of Karl Marx. I miss him; oh I miss him so…

che

I learned from my classmates that Internet access is a basic human right, and should be provided free of charge to the proletariat regardless of the R&D and all other up-front costs incurred by those who had the courage and foresight to build the system. Semiconductors, software, connectivity devices, fiber optic lines…who cares? Intellectual property? Smitellectual Schroperty!

KFC? Boo hiss. Microsoft? Grrrr. Monsanto? Ugh. Wal-Mart? Arrgh. Starbucks? Smash their windows…And the list goes on and on and on. Have you ever met a happy activist?

It took about two quarters, but I was eventually labeled by a few as the class Republican. In fact, over adult beverages I was asked in the context of my party registration and annoying voting patterns, if I was an angry person…What? The answer is no and besides unlike so many of my colleagues, my biggest moment in life did not involve being arrested or fondly dreaming of some form of civil disobedience.

To some companies are just evil. I worked for 10 years for custom semiconductor innovator LSI Logic. It was founded by a guy who came to America with zero money. He had a dream. He grew this dream into a company with $1.8 billion in revenues, employing more than 4,000 highly skilled people and providing the key microchip for the first two generations of the Sony PlayStation. Is that evil? Should he give his hard-earned millions to someone who has never built a billion-dollar-plus business from the ground up? Is that fairness? Is that justice?

So…if the majority of jobs come from the private sector which group of people is going to be more in demand by employers? Those who know how to read a financial statement from the top line to the bottom line or those who wouldn’t know fiduciary responsibility if it bit them on the backside?

Today, we learned that the number of jobs barely grew in May and that unemployment jumped back to 9.1 percent nationally. I really hope there is a job market out there for those demanding redistributive social justice. Maybe it will be the expanding nanny state or maybe it will be a place that offers both onion rings as well as pommes frites.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Smith

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx

http://www.cnbc.com/id/43265008/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/43267992

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LSI_Corporation

Pounding PR Buzz Words to Death

To be successful in communications choreography you must be skillful in planning and implementing a multi-faceted communications campaign . . . A little ADD doesn’t hurt.

Included in this campaign is message development, formulation of timelines, preparation of deliverables, composing Q&As and briefing papers, crafting contributed articles, training spokespersons, pitching media and analysts, monitoring interviews, writing blogs, recording podcasts, twittering tweets, reviewing media reports and eventually accessing what went right and what went wrong.

As any communications professional knows there are always going to be challenges associated in choreographing a winning PR campaign from start to finish, namely because you are dealing at every turn with people…and people have issues and “concerns.” Keep in mind that Newton never would have found gravity, Edison would never have invented the light bulb, the Wright Brothers never would have learned to fly and Al Gore would have never invented the Internet, if they were overly concerned with “concerns.”

Having said all that, I do have a concern that must be addressed. Why do we insist upon hammering the same buzz words over and over again to the point that they have become cliché?

It has almost reached the point that if we do not use certain words in the presence of those who pay the bills (e.g. our clients) that we are not providing them with our best thinking . . .  But are we really providing them with our best thinking if we just merely recite the same PR-speak over and over again? It’s reminds one of  Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day or Yogi Berra when he said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

groundhogday

So what are these offending buzz words that we as a public relations community are literally loving to death? Here is a sampling in alphabetical order. Please feel free to mentally add your favorites:

Brand: Probably the most tired word in the PR professional’s dictionary, particular those hailing from the integrated marketing side of the industry. They talk about “building brand,” “safeguarding brand,” “brand management,” “enhancing brand,” “establishing brand awareness” and on and on and on. It’s reached the point that corporate sales VPs are checking off how many times a marketer can repeat the same word. Maybe we should brand that?

Cloud: When Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) invented “cloud computing” allowing customers to download software capability off the web it was a novel idea and an alternative to the purchase-the-entire-package from Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM…Now everyone in the overly hyped software space is embracing the cloud, even Microsoft is running ads for the “Most Comprehensive Solutions for the Cloud on Earth” or “Cloud Power.” But wait…SpotCloud, “The Cloud Capacity Clearinghouse & Marketplace” is offering to trade clouds, just like Enron endeavored to trade bandwidth and eventually, the weather.

CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility, which could very well be an oxymoron. PR agency executive types are fond of lecturing the captains of industry on how they need to build trust by doing good deeds. Here’s a hint as long as there is this thing called fiduciary responsibility, corporate chieftains are going to be more interested in delivering shareholder value in the form of rising top and bottom lines and expanding gross margin. Oh by the way, a large percentage of employees are shareholders as well.

organic

Organic. This is a counterculture word that has been successfully marketed to derive higher prices from essentially the same product. There are regular apples and “organic” apples. There are regular oranges and “organic” oranges. There are regular spears of broccoli and “organic” spears of broccoli. Guess which are more expensive?

Solutions. Probably the buzz word that raises my blood pressure the fastest. Please note the word has already been used in this blog in the Microsoft cloud ad…That’s right, Microsoft managed to incorporate “solutions” and “cloud” in the same tag line. Where is the creativity? At LSI Logic, one of our marketers breathlessly came into my domain with a proposed corporate tag line: “LSI Logic, The Solutions Company.” Ah…No!

Sustainable. Lately, I have been contemplating labeling myself as a “sustainable capitalist.” Yes, I am vitally interested in sustaining capitalism. This is one word that has already morphed into a cliché. It is probably the one and only word that has made more Eugene (and other “progressive” enclave) elitists more proud of themselves. They adore stating that they are dedicated to sustainable living including maintaining a sustainable garden with sustainable vegetables originating from sustainable seeds that came from…

Thinking Out of the Box. As General George S. Patton said, “If we are all thinking the same, then no one is thinking.” Different kinds of thinking is to be encouraged and celebrated, but using the same almost mundane phrase over and over and over again completely erodes its effectiveness. Come on Silicon Valley, let’s come up with a new “Thinking Out of the Box.”

Thought Leadership. Wonder how many PR agency execs have used the words, “brand,” “CSR,” “cloud” and “thought leadership” in the same meeting with company executives? Let’s see if we can put all of them into the same sentence. When it comes to run-on sentences, no one does them better than the PR industry.

(Turning on the projector to run the 64-graphic PowerPoint presentation): “Today we are thinking out of the box in leveraging a portfolio of organic, sustainable cloud computing solutions that enhance your company brand, while demonstrating thought leadership and exemplifying your dedication to corporate social responsibility.” Pass the popcorn please.

http://www.spotcloud.com/

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud/default.aspx#tab2-small

http://www.salesforce.com/

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