Tag Archive: Steve Jobs


Damn the Teleprompters!

Planes sometimes land at the wrong airport.

When we were kids we practiced huddling under our desks, if heaven forbid something really unpleasant was happening.

There is a reason every team has a backup quarterback.

And every good organization should have a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C.

Anybody at Samsung ever heard of Murphy’s Law?

baystage1

What can go wrong, will go wrong.

Caca happens from time-to-time. Be prepared to deal with it.

Think of it this way: Prevention is as much a component of effective crisis communications as responding to an actual debacle.

Typing in the name, “Michael Bay” and “CES” into the Google search engine and the result is 21.7 million web mentions devoted to the producer’s viral walkout of the biggest gizmo trade show on the planet, The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, attended by 140,000 techies.

This public relations train wreck has become a metaphor for Samsung’s underwhelming recent financial performance. That is the conclusion of the stately Economist.

Comedian Tina Fey even made fun at Michael Bay and by extension, Samsung, at the Golden Globes.

Let’s face it, life is not perfect. Sometimes airplanes filled with passengers land at the wrong airport. Southwest Airlines is practicing crisis response today.

And to many, that is their definition of crisis communications being cool under fire and following the mantra: Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell it Fast. Move On. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was practicing just that last week. Hopefully, the airline can take steps to ensure that its Boeing 737s always land at their intended destinations and move on.

The point here is that crisis communications is not just an after-the-fact exercise. Good crisis management is to take steps to ensure that what should be a victory does not turn out to be a viral defeat in our digital age.

Repeatedly watching the video of Michael Bay, one is immediately struck by his nervousness. The Transformers director/producer is clearly a guy, who likes to call the shots, to be in total control. He wants to be behind the camera, not in front of the lens.

baystage2

At CES, his performance right from the start was akin to someone walking on a tightrope. He clearly did not want to be there. If that was the case, why was he there? Yes, he fit into the marketing theme for Samsung’s new 105-inch curved ultra-high-definition television. (Personally, I am holding out for the 105-foot curved ultra-high-definition TV).  He may have been paid handsomely for his services.

Was it worth it, Samsung?

Bay was exhibiting all the signs of Glossophobia, combining the Greek words for “tongue” and “dread,” or fear of public speaking. Did Samsung put Bay through presentation training? And if not; why not? And if so, did the company practice what happens if the teleprompter goes down?

Let’s ask another question here: Why a teleprompter? It makes sense when POTUS delivers the nearly one-hour (or more) long State of the Union address. Why does one need a teleprompter to read to an audience? Why not engage in a conversation?

Some disdain PowerPoint or Prezi. Nonetheless Steve Jobs was a master of the format. Wearing his signature black turtleneck, jeans and tennis shoes and strapping on the lavaliere microphone, he confidently used each graphic as a prompt. He was obviously comfortable with the Apple message, after all he pretty much invented the technology (e.g., Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad etc.). The Macworld audiences fed off of his energy. All was good at Apple’s marketing department.

jobskeynote

Having checked out more than a few trade shows and investor conferences, the audience is ultimately looking for and expecting information about a company’s products and how they fit into the corporate business strategy.

Does Michael Bay know any of these facts when it comes to Samsung? Or did Samsung just want him to lend his name and cool reputation and mindlessly read his company produced lines and depart stage left? Well, Bay departed stage left but not in the way that Samsung wanted.

Another question that comes to mind revolves around co-presenting Samsung exec John Stinziano, who had the opportunity to reassure Michael Bay and save the day. He made a feeble attempt to make it all better but in the end just punted the presentation.

Couldn’t Stinziano pick up the ball and make the presentation about the 105-inch curved  TV? In football parlance, the term is next guy up. In this case, the star attraction just left the building. This was no time for the deer in the headlights look.

To use even another metaphor, The Show Must Go On.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4rMy1iA268

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-michael-bay-ces-slips-up-slinks-out-of-samsung-event-20140106,0,2153575.story#axzz2qIb9AJLg

http://www.today.com/tech/michael-bay-flames-out-stage-during-samsung-presentation-ces-2D11869413

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/tina-fey-mocks-michael-bays-ces-bomb-at-the-golden-globes/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy%27s_law

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

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21593488-south-korean-giant-has-lousy-start-new-year-fluffed-lines

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101331658

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

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mayer

According to CNBC.com, the unscientific polling of online respondents runs 60-40 percent in favor of Marissa Ann Mayer’s horizontal glamour photo in the latest edition of Vogue.

Keep in mind that result still represents a healthy percentage, who question the decision of the telegenic blonde ex-Google executive, now President and CEO of the Sunnyvale-based web-portal, search-engine provider, Yahoo!

No one would deny that Mayer, 38, has the discretion to make herself available for the photographers and writers of the renowned fashion magazine Vogue. The questions that come to mind concern the timing and the impact on the Mayer and Yahoo! brands.

Taking a gander at Mayer’s feet slightly above her head Vogue photo spread, one may be reminded of Bill Clinton’s eye-brow raising, open-legs 2000 cover shot for Esquire, rekindling memories of Bill, Monica and Kenneth Starr.

How many other publicly traded company CEOs would be invited by Vogue to pose in a horizontal fashion? What subliminal messages are being sent, particularly in a predominant Silicon Valley engineering culture? Talk about tongues wagging at the water cooler and the inevitable social media chat.

Maybe that is what this gambit is all about?

Let’s face it: The music had stopped playing for Yahoo! Even though Mayer has been able to raise Yahoo’s share price by 74 percent to $27.35, drive market capitalization and acquire Tumblr, the world does not speak of Mayer’s company in the same fashion as it does for Apple, Salesforce, Amazon, LinkedIn, Netflix, Facebook and of course her biggest rival, Google.

Having said that, there is no doubt the tech community is talking about Mayer. For Vogue, the editors are following the tried-and-true axiom: Sex sells. Is Yahoo! about sex or about technology?

And what is the paramount brand: Yahoo! or Mayer?

There is always a danger that is associated with the imperial CEO and the company becoming an interchangeable brand…or worse, the CEO is the brand. Oracle is Larry Ellison. Sun Microsystems was Scott McNealy. Apple was Steve Jobs. Hewlett-Packard for six years became Carly Fiorina.

There was Carly, Carly and still more Carly.

Has $117 million (over five years) Marissa become a more beautiful-and-fashionable version of Carly? Carly and HP became synonymous in that order with disastrous results. To this day, Hewlett-Packard has never recovered from the Carly era complete with the ill-advised and divisive acquisition of Compaq Computer as the PC market was maturing and stalling.

What happens to Yahoo! if something (heaven forbid) happens to Marissa? Do we lose interest in Yahoo!? Who else matters at Yahoo!? Is Marissa grooming a successor and a deep bench? Will she also be invited to pose horizontally in a Michael Kors dress?

In public relations, timing is everything.

Mayer has been on the job for only 13 months. She already delivered her new son, Macallister. She took off two weeks for maternity leave, built a nursery right next to her office and earned the rhetorical slings and arrows treatment usually reserved for Republicans from the always kind-and-considerate, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.

She is just now getting into her groove. Shouldn’t she spend more time driving revenues and promoting profitability at the also-ran, search-engine provider, Yahoo!, before venturing off into the high-fashion world of Vogue? Her main competition is her former employer, Google. What’s worse is Google has become of the few companies that is actually a verb as in “Google this!” or “Google that!”

She is described by CNBC as “successful, strong and beautiful.” Still one must ask: Has she done enough for Yahoo!? Is her star rising faster and higher than Yahoo!? Is there a danger here?

One thing is certain when it comes to the media; the beast is the direct opposite of the U.S. Marine Corps. The folks at Camp Pendleton are renowned for breaking you down and then building you back up. The media specializes in building you up and then quickly bringing you down to earth in an unceremonious fashion.

Carly has first-hand experience when it comes to a Silicon Valley CEO ascending into the stratosphere and then crashing in the desert.

There are many, who will not celebrate Mayer’s celebrity. They will engage in Schadenfreude, when the inevitable bumps in the road ensue for Mayer and her company.

Maybe her company still matters.

And hopefully she didn’t peak to early.

Did the blood rush to her head when she posed with her heels elevated above her?

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100968027

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

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/15083.aspx

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

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/08/16/marissa-mayer-yahoo-ceo-vogue-magazine-profile/2647691/

http://www.yahoo.com/

http://pressroom.yahoo.net/pr/ycorp/marissa-mayer.aspx

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

http://guestofaguest.com/things-we-love/our-favorite-retro-remakes-6-iconic-photo-recreations&slide=5

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/opinion/dowd-get-off-your-cloud.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/20/living/marissa-mayers-vogue-photo-women/

(Almost DailyBrett Note: The following is the text of my Facebook message in which I had the privilege of spending $100 to send it directly into the inbox of Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Elliot Zuckerberg).

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

Your company’s gracious offer, bestowing upon me (and other mere mortals) the privilege of spending $100 to send a Facebook message to your personal in-box, left me in a serious quandary.

On one hand for the same $100 I could conceivably purchase three shares of Facebook stock for $31.79 a share, leaving me with $4.63 to cover a Grande mocha with no whip cream from Starbucks. The obvious value for me would be three shares of your overhyped and underperforming stock, well below the $38 IPO price, in addition to 330 calories to my waist line.

Or I could spend the same amount with no guarantee that you would actually condescend to read my message, but maybe you will.

zuckerberg

This choice reminds me of Monte Hall’s “Let’s Make a Deal” (e.g., a popular television game show that was way before your time). The three shares of NASDAQ: FB and one mocha would constitute the equivalent of a Volkswagen bug sitting on the stage. My $100 to send a message to you would be the equivalent of the “door.” There may be a brand new Lincoln Town Car behind that door or maybe a donkey.

Okay I will go against a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush admonition, and I will spend $100 to help FB’s top and bottom lines by sending a message directly to your inbox.

As other commentators have noted, one can send a similar message to the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for free, but you (and your crack public relations pros) are deigning to permit the riff-raff to spend $100 (each time) to send a message that will actually pass under your hoodie shrouded eyeballs. I have never felt so special.

My first question: Can you give me an exclusive preview of your mysterious (“Come See What We’re Building”) software or hardware announcement this coming Tuesday? After all, I just paid you three figures…

Oh…You can’t do that. Something about selective disclosure of material information, which would get us both in trouble with the almighty Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Never mind. For your sake, I hope this announcement lives up to the hype.

Another question: Would you consider taking my $100 and heading down to Brooks Brothers (there is one in Santana Row in San Jose and another near Union Square in San Francisco) and actually dress the part of a CEO, particularly when you are trying to raise money from investors?

What’s that? You say that Steve Jobs was able to dazzle the world in a black turtleneck, so why shouldn’t you be able to do the same in a hoodie?

Can I submit to you that Steve had a long-standing track record of success at Apple (e.g., Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad) that slightly exceeds your success at Facebook?  Yes, I know how proud you are of Facebook’s market valuation of $68 billion. Can you even imagine how proud they are at Apple with a $489 billion market cap?

My point is that Steve Jobs earned the right to wear the turtleneck. I don’t see that you have earned a similar level of achievement to adopt the same cavalier attitude toward your stakeholders…that would include little ole me.

What really confounds me is that seemingly no one from your public relations team objected to the idea of charging Facebook subscribers $100 just to write to you. Let’s see your company reported $4.3 billion in annual revenues. Facebook recorded $714 million in net income. And you are personally worth in the neighborhood of $9.4 billion with a “b” and still you want to charge your customers $100 just to send you a line?

Facebook started with the cool idea of connecting people to their friends online. You have 1 billion subscribers or one-out-of-every-seven people on the frickin’ planet. Is it cool or arrogant to charge someone three figures just for the privilege of writing to you? I will leave that to you to decide.

P.S. My check is in the mail…

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100372793

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/the-cost-of-contacting-mark-zuckerberg-steve-jobs-14966751

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2025158/facebook-lets-some-people-email-mark-zuckerberg-for-100.html

http://tvgrapevine.com/articles.html/_/misc/media/facebook-stunned-and-amazed-by-mark-zuckerberg-r2380

http://www.itechpost.com/articles/4910/20130112/facebook-charging-100-send-message-mark-zuckerberg-here-official-clarification.htm

http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000140473&play=1

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

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

Is all the fuss about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s “hoodie” much ado about nothing or does it represent the latest culture clash between those living in God’s time zone and those residing west of the Hudson River…in particular the left coast?

zuckerberghoodie

The tissue rejection between those who actually create value by means of real innovation on the West Coast (e.g., Silicon Valley) and those who basically generate nothing but throw their money around on the east coast is not new.

Yes, Zuckerberg is originally an East Coast creature (Exeter Academy in N.H. and Kirkland House, H-33 at Harvard), but his social media company is located on the west side of Silicon Valley, not the upper west side. Zuckerberg is definitely seen as left coast…particularly to the investment banker types dreaming of their summer holidays in the Hamptons.

And yet those on both sides of the great divide with the forgotten flyover states in-between definitely need each other whether they are prepared to admit it or not. There were the days when the Silicon Valley types could virtually ignore New York unless and until they decided to take their enterprises public. And who needed Washington, D.C., which was seen as more trouble than it was worth.

That all ended when Japan Inc. decided to wage a different war against America, not with carrier-based Mitsubishi dive bombers, but instead with predatory pricing (e.g., dumping). First, the American color TV industry bit the dust. And then the US chip industry was in Japan’s crosshairs.

Silicon Valley needed to be introduced to Washington, D.C. in a big way. With the assistance of the denizens within the Beltway, the Japan threat eased and eventually evaporated in a recessionary spin. Silicon Valley lived on, but the clash of West Coast and East Coast cultures continued.

It was that region with Stanford University on the west and Cal Berkeley to the east that gave the world, “casual Friday.” And with it came the angst associated with what exactly do you wear on a casual Friday. It was simply lame to get it wrong. To many in the east, did it mean not wearing the Hermes’ tie to work or maybe ditching the pinstripe vest?

Steve Jobs was the next incarnation of Silicon Valley’s total disdain for the Brooks Brothers types in the East. He wore Issey Miyate black turtlenecks and jeans. He eschewed the podium, pinned on the lavaliere mike and held a conversation with Apple’s enthralled Kool-Aid drinkers with PowerPoint presentations serving as his teleprompter.

jobswithipad

And now there is 28-year-old Zuckerberg with his hoodie. Horrors, he wore it to meetings with investment bankers as Facebook management was making the rounds in advance of the company’s March 18 IPO. Who is this guy to wear a hoodie? Is he taunting the monied interests? Does he show no respect?

The questions that come to mind are whether Zuckerberg doesn’t get it or do the investment bankers not get it? Is one right and one wrong, and if so which one?

On one hand Zuckerberg et al. are seeking capital to compete against Google and whatever competitors arise over the years. On the other hand, Zuckerberg controls 55 percent of Facebook stock. This is his company. And maybe, just maybe, it is the buttoned-up investment bankers that need to lighten up and get with the program.

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) wants to be cool and took a substantial risk to its coolness by joining the more than 5,000 companies that are listed on either the NYSE or the NASDAQ. Now his firm has to file quarterly earnings reports, issue annual reports and even hold shareholder meetings. Are these cool?

Maybe in the end analysis the hoodie projects an image, even if it doesn’t meet the approval of the fashion snobs. Many post-market pundits seem to be engaged in Schadenfreude, snickering that the actual Facebook launch (garnered $104 billion in market capitalization in the face of a down market) was less than stellar. And yet the NASDAQ computers were tied up for hours trying to process all the buy orders for Facebook. Seems like a contraction, doesn’t it?

Or as Yogi Berra said about why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s in St. Louis: “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304371504577406142515388550.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/beyond-hoodie-zuckerberg-post-ipo-172345560.html

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/11/why-is-everyone-focused-on-zuckerbergs-hoodie/

http://gawker.com/5848754

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/historic-facebook-debut-falls-flat-005334494.html

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

Believe it or not chief executive officers are human, even CEOs that have attained rock-star status.

From Lee Iacocca of Chrysler, Jack Welch of GE and Steve Jobs of Apple, these names became dangerously synonymous with their company brands. Investors, media, analysts, customers, suppliers, partners and employees couldn’t get enough of them.

But what happens when these rock stars demonstrate their inevitable mortality? What happens when nature runs its course and the meeting with the grim reaper gets closer-and-closer…or actually occurs?

Is it proper to plan for the CEOs demise when she or he is successfully running the ship? It would be foolish not to.

Consider the Stuttgart, Germany sales call made by Texas Instruments chief executive officer Jerry R. Junkins on the morning of May 29, 1996. Junkins suffered a major heart attack and immediately died. There were no prior indications of heart issues with Junkins…and 58 is way too young to pass away.

junkins

The sudden passing of Junkins – maybe not a rock star, but certainly beloved by all who knew him at Texas Instruments – required a middle-of-the-night, all-hands-on-deck fire drill. The TI Board of Directors held an immediate conference call, designated Vice Chairman William “Pat” Weber as the interim CEO and started the process of searching for a new chief executive. The Investor Relations Department contacted the NYSE and asked for trading on the company stock (NYSE:TXN) to be halted until the Street had proper time to digest the news. They also made the necessary 8K filings (material event) with the SEC. And of course, the PR Department prepared the necessary news release and conducted media briefings announcing to the world Junkins’ passing, the selection of Pat Weber as the interim CEO and the upcoming search process.

Eventually Texas Instruments started trading again. Weber and the TI team picked up as best as it could for Junkins. And the board eventually selected a permanent CEO Tom Engibous. The key was that TI had a deep bench and a plan for succession…and that plan has been a classic example of successful crisis communications.

Many have wondered if the same would apply to Apple with its rock star CEO Steve Jobs when as the Economist headline stated, “The minister of magic steps down?” The answer so far is favorable to Apple…at least judging by the performance of the company stock (NASDAQ: AAPL)

The stock closed last Wednesday at $376.18 just before the company announced at the close of market that Jobs was going to permanently step down because of health concerns. AAPL opened at $365.08 on Thursday and closed at $373.72. The equity finished the week at $383.58 or $355.6 billion in market cap, actually higher than before the announcement of Jobs’ stepping down as CEO. Why was that?

One reason may be attributed to the fact that Jobs’ health concerns are not new to the Street and his eventual demise may have already been baked into the stock. He has taken medical leave three times, once for pancreatic cancer surgery and another time for a liver transplant. In his stead, Apple’s chief operating officer Tim Cook has assumed the leadership role three times and the Apple board is impressed as The Economist describes with his “remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.” Jobs remains as chairman.

jobskeynote

So obviously Texas Instruments performed well in a fire-drill, aided by advance planning. Likewise, Apple (so far) has not been negatively impacted by the still-shocking-news that Jobs has relinquished the day-to-day responsibilities of running Apple.

Taking these two examples of well-executed CEO succession and others that come immediately to mind, what are some public relations/branding strategies to plan for an effective transition, thus preserving the company reputation and continuing to enhance brand equity?

Repeatedly Contemplate Succession. Even though “succession” is a very touchy subject in most companies, particularly for long-time CEOs nearing retirement and who detest the R-word, you still need to think about this inevitable day. The board of directors will make the call, but you need to cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses of all of the company’s executives. There is a good chance that one of these will serve as the chief executive at least in an interim capacity.

Put Your Bench Players Into The Game. Think of your CEO as the team head coach and the key executives as the assistant coaches. CEO time is valuable. Does the CEO have to be made available for every media interview or every financial conference? It makes perfect sense to show off your upcoming Wunderkindern. This technique also gives you an opportunity to assess who are your best performers before media, analysts, employees etc. in telling the company story. There may also be cases in which the CEO is not available or the EVP or VP may have deeper insights into a particular facet of the company’s business.

Have Your Facts Straight in Advance. Always have a complete bio and background materials at your ready disposal just in case the CEO suddenly passes away or steps down. Maintain a similar repository of information about the other key executives, particularly if one of them is selected as the interim chief executive. Be familiar with the workings of your board of directors and HR Department and understand how they make decisions.  Be ready to learn as much as possible as fast as possible, if the Board of Directors goes outside the family to select a new chief executive.

Never Say Never.  At LSI Logic, we maintained a policy of never engaging in a public discussion of the internal working of the company’s Board of Directors. We made one exception. When it came time in 2005 for Chairman/CEO Wilf Corrigan to step down at 67, we wanted everyone to know that he had been working with the board on his succession for two years. Our strategy was to head off at the pass, any speculation that his retirement as CEO was anything but an orderly process involving both Wilf and the board.

Second-Person Plural, Not First-Person Singular. The best chief executives never use the first-person singular in their internal or external communications (Me, Myself, I). Instead, they employ the second-person-singular (We, Us, Our) to emphasize the team that makes the company’s success possible. The same applies to company chief lieutenants as well. If there is more of a team culture, rather than a cult of personality, it makes it just that much easier to eventually continue business as usual when the time comes for a CEO to move on or the Grim Reaper comes-a-calling.

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=AAPL

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/30/us/jerry-r-junkins-58-dies-headed-texas-instruments.html

http://www.ti.com/corp/docs/company/history/timeline/key/1990/docs/1996junkinsdies.htm

http://www.ti.com/corp/docs/company/history/junkins.shtml

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

http://www.businessweek.com/1998/23/b3581001.htm

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 New Hampshire. 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/

“…At a funeral, most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give the eulogy.” – Comedian Jerry Seinfeld

Let’s shelve the cure for Gymnophobia for another day. That subject is simply unbareable.david

nervousspeaker

Besides since Almost DailyBrett is more oriented toward strategic communications, a focus on the fear of public speaking, Glossophobia, is more in keeping with this family oriented blog.

First there is an admission that I need to make. I used to have a pretty serious stutter or stammer, if you wish. Yep, the kind that wins you an Academy Award for Best Picture as in The King’s Speech. While there has been tremendous attention on George VI’s affliction, only those closest to me knew that I was fighting off this personal demon slowly but surely.

My mind always seemed to be running faster than my mouth. For some reason, there were all these words that wanted to get out and my motor functions just were not up to the task. The result was a log jam, and the more it happened the more it caused anxiety.

The remedy was slow and hard to come by (occasionally the stammer makes a brief return visit requiring me to simply calm down). It took maturity, patience and practice. It required slowing down, listening rather than always talking (or trying to talk), picking when I needed to say something as opposed to when it would be nice to say something. As Lou Holtz once said: “If you can’t add value to silence, then shut up.” Amen.

Fast forward to the present day, I have worked in public relations for nearly three decades where verbal skills are critical for success. Just last week, I lectured nearly 160 students for almost an hour about cover letters and resumes. Earlier this week, I presented another lecture on communicating with Wall Street. And I have at least two more scheduled lectures before the spring quarter is over.

Even though I had to confront my stammer and subsequently overcome it, for some reason I was never scared of public speaking…but so many people are petrified about the prospect. What are some techniques that would-be public speakers should consider, even those who would rather be in the coffin than actually delivering the eulogy:

● Practice makes perfect (or at least it makes you better). Seriously, consider joining a group such as Toastmasters International that affords opportunities to improve your public speaking with colleagues who are confronting many of the same issues. You can’t get better unless you try.

speechpractice

● Speak on subjects that you know something about, or actually more than just something. Personally, I have given talks on politics, technology, government, strategic communications, social media, cover letters and resumes. Why? Because I have more than a basic understanding of these subjects. Please don’t ask me to speak on mathematics, science, fashion, art, classical music. I would get blown out on Jeopardy on these topics and many others.

● Research your audience. Who are you speaking to? What is the topic? What are their particular interests? How can you engage them? How can you challenge them? How can you inspire them? What are their potential questions? What do you want them to take away from your talk?

● Formulate a related PowerPoint or PDF presentation and use each graphic as a prompt. Think about two minutes per graphic, which is a good way to keep you on time and most of all, stay on message.

● Forget the podium (if you can). Some people need something to hold onto, and if that is the only technique that works, then go for it. Otherwise, wear a lavaliere microphone and just like Mick Jagger, use all of the stage. If possible utilize a floor monitor so you can see your PowerPoint graphics without having to repeatedly turn your back to the audience. Which brings me to my next point…

jobswithipad

● Avoid reading your presentation. Nothing bores an audience quicker than being read to. Personally, I can’t stand it when a telemarketer calls and starts reading from a script to me. Life is too friggin short. Audiences start squirming when someone reads page after page. The same applies to reading the graphics of your PowerPoint. The audience can read the graphics themselves. Instead, emphasize and amplify on the most important points of your presentation. This approach takes practice, but it is really effective. If you don’t believe me; just ask Steve Jobs.

● Find two friendly faces in two distinct sections of the audience and rotate your attention back and forth between the two. Instead of thinking of 160 people in the room, visualize speaking to two of your closest friends with a few others listening in for their own enjoyment and information. This approach really helps control the butterflies in the stomach.

● Develop an instinctive sense of when your audience has reached its mental potential. A good performer knows when to leave the stage, satisfying them and then departing with them wanting just a little bit more (they can always visit with you after the speech). Put yourself in the seat of each audience participant…if you think your tushy would be getting soar, then you can be assured that is the case for them as well.

Speaking of tushies, let’s address Gymnophobia…ah …another time.

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

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

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King’s_Speech

http://www.toastmasters.org/

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