Tag Archive: Thomas Friedman


After nearly three decades in the political, association, corporate and agency trenches of professional public relations, and the last four years intensely studying an increasingly complex industry from academic settings, Almost DailyBrett is ready to take a stab at the 17 essential qualities of the consummate PR practitioner.

Please note the list is not meant to be exhaustive and undoubtedly some vital characteristics will be missing. If that is the case, please let this humble blog know your thoughts. For better or for worse, here are the Top 17 attributes of the super-star public relations professionals in alphabetical order:

1. Attuned to the World 

Even though it is impossible to capture everything that is happening on this quickly changing planet, the best PR professionals are well versed even in cases in which their knowledge is one-mile wide and one-inch deep. They don’t know everything; they are not afraid and their ego will allow them to simply state: “I don’t know.” Having said that, they are good at getting to the bottom of an issue quickly, and then presenting the answer in the best interest of their employer/client. 

atlas2.“Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry”

The famous John Wooden quote definitely applies to super PR practitioners. Sometimes it is best to buy time. You may suspect you have the right answer, but your instinct guides you to seek out more. This is especially true in crisis situations. A great PR pro is quick, but never hasty. She or he instinctively knows that a rushed answer or editing of a vital document may result in a wrong response. The best counsel may be to quietly recite: “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,” before offering a response. That little extra time can make all the difference in the world. 

3. Communications Choreography 

Similar to a producer or director of a Broadway play, the 21st Century PR star knows how to ensure that all the dancers, actors, actresses are in the right place, the lines are perfectly delivered and the music is on key. In the case of public relations, the research has been completed; the messages are composed; the communications are ready to be delivered, and the follow-up evaluation is set to be undertaken. It is without a doubt: Message-Candidate-Campaign in that order.

4. Confident Presentation Skills 

Glossophobia (e.g., fear of public speaking) is not in the vocabulary of the effective public relations professional. She or he responds with a smile, while deep down inside sneering at reportedly the number one fear of most people, public speaking. The great pro doesn’t seek out the stage, but doesn’t shy away for it either. Once there, the message is confidently delivered and questions are coolly answered.

janis

5. Constructive Listening 

Two of the most effective public relations professionals the author of Almost DailyBrett ever had the privilege to meet, are two of the best when it comes to constructive listening: Janis MacKenzie of MacKenzie Communications in San Francisco, and Bruce Entin of Silicon Valley Communication Partners. For both of them, the issues and concerns of you the client or you the subordinate are the only topics on their minds, even though in reality there are always many competing demands for their mental bandwidth. The point is they made time for you. They care. They are ready to help.

Entin

6. Cool Under Pressure

Did someone mention the word, “cool?” We are not talking about being smooth. Instead, we are focusing on a skilled communicator that stays composed when others are losing their heads. Is the company stock down five points? Does a product need to be recalled? Is the CEO being terminated? At least the Bay Bridge is not in the water (remember being told, just that). The sun will come up in the morning. The birds will chirp. The bees will buzz. Life will go on. 

7. Doberman, Not A Cocker Spaniel 

A Cocker Spaniel PR practitioner is simply proficient in providing necessary information to the conventional and digital media. A Doberman PR pro is just as knowledgeable, but even more to the point is also an impassioned advocate and will fiercely guard and protect the reputation and brand of the client/employer. If getting into a fight with a reporter/editor/analyst is deemed necessary, then that is what the job requires. The cheap-shot stops here.

8. Expansive Vocabulary 

A winning public relations professional is a well-read/versed professional. This practitioner is skilled in the use of English, the lingua franca of international business. Knowledge of a second or third language is highly desirable in our digitally flattened global village. It is not just a matter of knowing the words and the meanings behind them, but the right words at the right time in the right settings.

9. Fiduciary Responsibility & CSR 

It has become de rigueur for a public relations professional to advocate corporate social responsibility (CSR) or “doing good.” The best PR practitioners balance CSR with fiduciary responsibility or “doing well.” Fiduciary Responsibility and CSR are not mutually exclusive. PR pros, who understand this undeniable truth, have a better chance of being invited to sit at the boardroom table.

10. Great Student/Lifelong Learner 

What is the next killer app? What is the next “destructive technology?” How is social, mobile and cloud driving technology? What is the next driving mantra in global communications (e.g., radical transparency)? How can we best show (e.g., infographics) as well as speak and write? These are all questions that are constantly pondered by the student, lifelong-learner, PR pro.

11. Honest, Ethical, Reliable 

The first two of PRSA’s core values are “responsible advocacy” and “honesty.” Public relations practitioners are not Switzerland. They are not neutral. They are advocates. Some contend that PR pros cannot be persuasive advocates, advancing a well-researched set of arguments, and maintaining the highest standards of integrity at the same time.

Au contraire!

12. Offensive Without Being Offensive 

Being able to passionately debate crucial points and not make it personal with those who differ is a vital skill, not in great supply. Can you be offensive without being offensive? The best PR pros know, the most important public relations are personal public relations, and that includes interactions with work colleagues and teammates.

13. Qualitative and Quantitative

In our increasingly complex digital world, we cannot escape numbers and statistics. As Chris Roush of the University of North Carolina wrote in his Show Me the Money, behind every number is a story. The superb PR pro, particularly those in corporate public relations and investor relations, can build relationships (qualitative skills) with those closely following publicly traded corporations (e.g., investors, analysts, employees, suppliers, distributors). They are just as adept in reading income statements, balance sheets, cash-flow statements and interpreting the psychology of global markets (quantitative skills).

hoar

14. Refined Sense of Humor

One of the legendary public relations professionals in Silicon Valley history (i.e., Apple, Fairchild, Miller/Shandwick Technologies) was also one of the funniest, the late Fred Hoar. As he was fond of telling anybody and everybody, “that’s Fred, spelled F-R-E-D.” Every year, he served as the master of ceremonies for the SIA (Semiconductor Industry Association) Forecast and Award Dinner, and brought down the house each time with his “hick and stick.” Yours truly was charged with determining whether Fred’s humor met the standards for mixed company in a business setting. Guess you win some and lose some. Regardless, Fred was a crack-up and delightful to know.

15. Superior Judgment

The best PR pros instinctively know the difference between being “bright” and being “smart.” They are not the same. The latter is much more valuable than the former. Sometimes rocket scientists are best being left on the launching pad or maybe just at their workstations. Some are good at stakeholder relationships; some are not. That is why smart PR pros, who can provide sage counsel to those of infinite wisdom, are the best and the brightest in our profession.

16. Tech Savvy 

The 21st Century public relations practitioner is digital, not analog. As Thomas Friedman wrote in The World is Flat, the planet has been made measures of magnitude smaller by the ones-and-zeroes of binary code. All brands and reputations are in 24/7/365 play as a result of instantaneous digital publishing. The Genie is not going back into the lantern. Forward-looking PR professionals embrace new technology communications tools, and are always looking to the horizon for the next destructive technology force. During the course of my career, no PR pro was better in studying engineering and technology than Howard High of Intel, now with life sciences company, Fluidigm Corporation.howardhigh

17. Thought Leader 

Not only do the best PR pros advocate thought leadership by clients, who have proved standing on critical issues of public interest, they also use digital (i.e., blogging, social media, infographics) and conventional tools (i.e., presentations, commentaries, contributed articles etc.). They are always learning and as a result, they have wisdom to share and sage counsel to provide … particularly as it applies to instantaneous world of communications.

Editor’s Note: As the former SIA director of Communications, Janis and her firm served as our PR counselor. Fred was everyone’s friend, and the “Valley” is not the same without him. Howard was the chair of the SIA Communications Committee and provided invaluable counsel as the industry was finally able to open the Japan market. Bruce was my first superior during my decade at LSI Logic. He was the best boss in my career, and now is an even better friend. Naturally these are not the only PR super-stars on the planet, but they are fine examples of the species.

http://www.prsa.org/aboutprsa/ethics/codeenglish/#.VI4DuZU5BCo

http://www.mackenziesf.com/about/janis-mackenzie/

http://siliconvalleycom.com/Bruce_Entin.html

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Frederick-Hoar-Silicon-Valley-master-of-PR-2831416.php

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/howard-high/12/aa6/b06

The words, “Public Relations Pros” and “Journalists” would be labeled by many in the Fourth Estate as either an oxymoron or an obscene contradiction of terms.

Emerging from Journalism school back in the desultory late-1970s, the author of Almost DailyBrett would have surely agreed. Walter Cronkite never flacked for anyone. Woodward and Bernstein might be interested in selling books, but they would never stoop to representing a mere politician or corporation. Analytical Thomas Friedman would never risk his reputation for impartiality by serving as anyone’s advocate.

woodwardbernstein

Yes, the perception is that journalists are reporters, editors, correspondents, columnists, anchors, news directors and managing editors. This thinking is oh-so-analog.

Let’s pose this question: Are digital bloggers for TechCrunch, Gizmodo, The Huffington Post, Politico and many other influential weblogs, journalists? Don’t think so?

Think of it this way: They have an obligation to get their facts right. They may not always write, complying with AP Style or using the inverted pyramid – heck many of their posts are feature “thumb suckers” – but they still must have a sense of what is newsworthy and what is not. Why? Because a blog is the most discretionary of all reads. No one requires you to read her or his blog.

Bloggers need to include in their posts the essential facts or the five W’s and the one H… What, When, Who, Where, Why and How…and one more: Who the hell cares? If these questions are not answered quickly, the reader will turn elsewhere. Isn’t that what a traditional analog journalist does?

Is Jon Stewart, a journalist?

Heck no you say? He is a comedian. Right? Or Left? Yes, he is…but in many respects he is a journalist.

stewartcramer

His 21-minute public undressing of CNBC’s Jim Cramer was masterful, and it went viral (more than 83,000 page-views). Harvard-trained “Mad Money” Cramer is a virtual encyclopedia of all things, Wall Street. If you are skeptical, just check out his evening “Lightning Round” or read his latest tome, “Get Rich Carefully.”

And yet Stewart nailed him with his careful research, facts and figures to skillfully argue that CNBC was essentially in bed with institutional Wall Street, and was not doing enough to protect the average retail investor, who relies on the market to grow nest eggs for future dreams through IRAs and 401k’s.

Another question immediately comes to mind.

Is the above-average Jane or Jack with a cell-phone camera and an internet connection, a journalist?

Your immediate reaction would be to the negative…and in most instances you’re right…but not in all cases.

Train Station Shooting

A cell phone camera turned BART’s world (Bay Area Rapid Transit) literally upside down when the fatal 2009 early New Year’s morning shooting of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale station went viral. A passenger taking photos through a subway car window “covered” the story, providing many of the five W’s and the one H, prompting the mainstream Bay Area media to follow and putting the BART public relations operation into damage control. The “Who Cares” question was already answered.

Just as the binary code of ones-and-zeroes has forever changed the business models of analog media types (e.g., those still using a later generation of 1439 Gutenberg’s printing press), the definition of who is and who is not a journalist is changing as well.

Rarely does Almost DailyBrett speak ex-cathedra, but it will in this case: The public relations industry grasped digital communication – blogging, microsites, digital handhelds – much faster than the majority of conventional journalists, some of which are still kicking and screaming.

Naturally, traditional journalists and the newly minted digital journalists (e.g., bloggers) are skeptical of public relations pros. Why? Flacks are advocates. They have a point of view. They present the truth and tell the story in the best interest of their respective clients.

This advocacy position puts them in a synergistic relationship with the reporter-editor-analyst crowd, and in many cases these recipients of PR industry information are antagonistic to the provider. In the final analysis and there is no denying this point: They need each other. Reporters need public relations pros because they provide information. In turn, public relations pros need access to their target audiences.

And what about this information? It has to be researched. It has to be accurate. It should always be presented professionally (e.g., AP Style). It has to be newsworthy (or a credible newsworthiness argument has to be advanced). It has to include all the salient facts, including those five W’s and one H. And it must conclusively respond to the skeptical, bordering on cynical, who cares question.

Some have suggested that public relations should be taught in business schools rather than journalism schools. The reason is that the majority of agency and all corporate public relations professionals are working on behalf of business. That’s true.

Here’s where Almost DailyBrett disagrees. Public relations is telling the story on behalf of a newsworthy client. Even though PR pros are advocating, they still must research the story and get it right. They must present this information professionally (e.g., inverted pyramid, AP Style) and it must be newsworthy for news disseminators in order to reach target audiences. That requires the journalism taught in J-Schools.

invertedpyramid

Even if public relations pros are bypassing or not exclusively using conventional and digital media outlets, and strictly utilizing self-publishing instead, they still need to practice solid journalism and ensure the story is told accurately.

And what did Joseph Pulitzer write on the walls of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch? “Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy”?

This sage advice applies to public relations practitioners as well, particularly in our fast-moving digital age.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-pt–1

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-pt–2

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Blame-in-Oscar-Grant-BART-death-may-shift-4713100.php

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

http://www.apstylebook.com/

http://www.onlineconcepts.com/pulitzer/endow.htm

“What happens in Vegas…will probably end up on YouTube.”

Since the onset of truly interactive computer-mediated communication more than a decade ago (Web 2.0), pundit questions mainly revolved around whether digital social media could ever be effectively monetized.

Wall Street finally responded last May 19 with enthusiastic institutional and retail investor response to the initial public offering (IPO) of LinkedIn.com. Securities for the business networking oriented social media outlet were offered on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: LNKD) and the results that day constituted the biggest IPO since search engine Google Inc. debuted in 2004. LinkedIn was initially priced at $45, but opened at $83 up 84%. The stock eventually peaked at $122.70 before closing at $94.25, a 109% gain for the day, representing $8.9 billion in market capitalization.

linkedin_logo_11

Despite the impressive results for the initial offering of publicly traded securities for LinkedIn and the fact that there are no longer questions about whether social media has authentic monetary value, the IPO was widely seen by financial and market analysts as preliminary at best.

LinkedIn capitalized on being the “first mover” among social media companies, prompting many to ask what will happen when Twitter, Groupon and most of all, Facebook with its 600 million subscribers, (any or all) decide to take their respective shares to the public marketplace. Will they trigger a second Internet bubble?

Underneath all of the euphoria (irrational exuberance?) about digital interactive media, the use of ones-and-zeroes, transmitted in packets across switches and routers or wirelessly via the satellite, are troubling questions about this relatively new means of communication.

There are publicly traded and privately held companies with products to sell, non-profits with missions to fulfill, governments with essential services to provide, and politicians with electoral messages to deliver. Most are using digital publishing in an attempt to reach their target audiences, but at the same time (and maybe truly for the first time) these very same audiences, some with competing agendas, have unprecedented capability to target the messengers. Instead of “vertical” one-communicating-to-many, it is increasingly “horizontal” with the “audience” participating in the conversation. The game has changed and the rules are still being developed.

Today, we can look back upon a growing litany of examples of how ease-of-use interactive publishing and related conversations are upsetting the best-laid public relations and marketing plans of those charged with reputations to protect and brands to manage.

Consider that one blogger ultimately prompted the recall of Intel’s vaunted Pentium processor; bloggers repudiated a “60 Minutes” story extremely critical of former President George W. Bush, leading to the “resignation” of Dan Rather; a BART passenger video-taped and posted footage of the 2009 New Year’s evening shooting of Oscar Grant, leading to a conviction of the officer in question and setting off civil disturbances in Oakland; undercover cameras and super-sensitive microphones discredited ACORN and NPR;  Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) was pressured into resigning in the wake of his Tweeting of his “junk” to selected females across the fruited plain. Train Station Shooting

What, where, when and who will be next to experience the loss of reputation and branding control to interactive media? Has the digital playing field been leveled to an unprecedented effect? Is this an unintended consequence of Web 2.0?

Think of it this way, reputations and brands are now traded commodities in the marketplace of public opinion. And just like securities, reputations and brand equities can rise with “shareholder” approval or they can crash under pressure from this same audience.

The question is not whether there are unintended loss-of-control consequences of Web 2.0, but instead what are the strategies to safeguard reputations and brands, and how they should be implemented? The birth of micro-blogging/content sharing sites: LinkedIn in 2003, MySpace in 2003, Facebook in 2004, Flickr in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and the 140-character-per-message Twitter in 2006, rapidly accelerated the growth to a staggering number of Web 2.0 subscribers.

The power of each of these social media sites and the ones that will inevitably follow (e.g. Google+) is magnified by the number of friends, connections, contacts that can be reached with a short message and a few key strokes. Will publicly traded and privately held companies, non-profits, governmental entities, appointed and elected officials ever regain hegemony over their cherished reputations and hard-fought brands or must they learn to live with a permanent loss of total control?

The answer is undoubtedly the latter. If this is indeed the case, then what are reasonable techniques and strategies that can be employed in this Web 2.0 era of digital self publishing with ease-of-use software tools? Here are five reputation-and-brand protection strategic recommendations for consideration by public relations practitioners, marketing/brand management professionals and social media evangelists.

1.)   Quality Products; Credible Messaging

The keys to success will be the specific relevance of the message, and the effectiveness of the delivery of the message or program in the time and space where the potential customers want to receive it, not where the marketers want to shout it out,” Irene Dickey and William F. Lewis. 

The point being made by academics Dickey and Lewis is the best way to defend a reputation or a brand is to deliver credible messages in a timely and effective way to customers. Doing the right thing at the right time deserves to be rewarded regardless of the unprecedented speed of global communications. Is a good offense the best defense?

Take Zappos.com as an example. The $1 billion online shoe seller has a distinct philosophy of under-promising and over-performing for its customer base. The company’s leadership is constantly exploring way to sustaining the high quality experience it is known for – to deliver “wow” to its customers, suppliers and partners. The targeted result: Positive and consistent word-of-mouth advertising. Said Alfred Lin, Zappos chairman, CFO and COO: “…Word of mouth works a lot faster on the Internet than it does person-to-person because you can just e-mail out a bunch of your friends and say ‘hey I just had this amazing experience.’ That was one of the reasons that we wanted to keep upgrading shipping.”

lin Erik Qualman in his Socialnomics cited a study by the Strategic Planning Institute that 96 percent dissatisfied customers don’t bother to complain, and 63 percent of these silent dissatisfied customers will never buy from the vendor again. Through networked customer feedback, it is much easier for a company to respond and make things right. Douglas Rushkoff offered very simple advice: “Marketers need to learn that the easiest way to sell stuff in the digital age is make good stuff.” 

2.)   Treating Reputations and Brands As Tradable Equities 

“More young people will learn about IBM from Wikipedia in coming years than from IBM itself,” New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman 

Qualman was just as direct as Friedman when he stated that if you maintain a large, well-known brand you can rest assured (or not rest assured) that there are online conversations, pages and applications being constantly developed around a brand. He cited an August 2008 Facebook search for lawn-care equipment provider, “John Deere,” and discovered 500 groups dedicated to John Deere; more than 10,000 users total in the top-10 groups. Chief competitor, Caterpillar, also maintained a page in John Deere’s top-10 listings and one simply called “John Deere Sucks!!!” also made the top-10 list on the social media site. Along with the ascent of interactive social media has been a corresponding decline of consumer trust in brands.

According to advertising agency, Y&R, consumer trust in brands dropped from 52 percent in 1997 (generally agreed upon birth year of Web 2.0) to only 22 percent in 2008. It should also be noted that the worldwide recession began in 2008, but that does not alone explain the 30 percent drop in brand trust.

Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell wrote that Facebook and other social media sites are extremely effective at building networks, which he said “are the opposite, in structure and character, of hierarchies. Unlike hierarchies, with their rules and procedures, networks aren’t controlled by a single central authority. Decisions are made through consensus.”

3.)    24/7/365 Monitoring and Response

“The digital bazaar is a many-to-many conversation among people acting in one or more of their many cultural roles. It is too turbulent to be directed or dominated,” Author and columnist Douglas Rushkoff. 

What is the direct effect of Rushkoff’s assertion about the turbulent seas of social media with its many-to-many discussants in the conversation? For those charged with protecting a reputation and safeguarding a brand, it means that the most carefully laid marketing and public relations plans can be shattered in record time.

It means that just as global equities are traded virtually every day of the year as the sun moves over the Nikkei in Japan, the Hang Sang in Hong Kong, the DAX in Germany to the FTSE in London to then to the NYSE and NASDAQ in New York, the same is true for brands. The sun never sets on global markets and brands; in fact brands are being traded on a 24/7/365 basis in the digital interactive marketplace of public opinion.

Consider the infamous sucker punch by Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount against Boise State’s Bryon Hout immediately following their game in 2009, and captured in all of its intensity by ESPN’s cameras. Today, there are 17,400 search engine optimization (SEO) results on Google for the keystrokes, “LeGarrette Blount sucker punch.”

blountpunch

For the University of Oregon Athletic Department and its carefully crafted image, the damage from Blount’s actions was swiftly demonstrated in cyberspace with an immediate YouTube video, Wikipedia post and literally thousands of comments on Twitter and Facebook. A reputation and brand can come under pressure at any time of day or night, requiring constant vigilance and assigning individuals specifically charged and authorized to respond on behalf of a company, governmental entity, appointed or elected official or an educational institution.

4.)   Fiduciary and Corporate Social Responsibility

“Can companies do well by doing good? Yes – sometimes.” Aneel Karnani.

Publicly traded and privately held companies and by extension the public relations and business development firms that counsel them must worship at the altar of fiduciary responsibility. Karnani in his 2010 Wall Street Journal piece stated the global movement for better corporate governance dictates that executives must seek the best return possible for their investors. He said that managers who sacrifice profit for the common good also are in effect imposing a tax on their shareholders and arbitrarily deciding how that money should be spent. If push comes to shove between fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility, the former will usually prevail…but still there are benefits for society.

Wrote Karnani: “Consider the market for healthier food. Fast-food outlets have profited by expanding their offerings to include salads and other options designed to appeal to health-conscious consumers. Other companies have found new sources of revenue in low-fat, whole-grain and other types of foods that have grown in popularity. Social welfare is improved. Everyone wins.”

Should companies spread this fiduciary responsibility (and by extension improving society) message via social media tools? The risk is being accused of “green washing” or something worse by detractors of the brand. Companies do not have a choice about participating in this on-line discussion. The question is how well they do it.

In particular, publicly traded companies have a fiduciary responsibility to generate the best return for their investors – in many cases their own employees – and why shouldn’t they triumph their activities on behalf of shareholder value? If communities, workers and the environment benefit from healthier foods, less-power hungry devices, more fuel-efficient cars, while at the same time related companies are producing returns for investors, then let there be a race to use social media tools for the gratification of the companies as well as their detractors. Truth should be the defense against “greenwashing” charges. Let the conversation commence.

kfc

5.)   Honesty, Openness and Transparency

Companies don’t have a choice on whether they do social media; they have a choice in how well they do it,” Erik Qualman, Socialnomics, 2009

In the case of social media, someone is always watching YouTube videos, posting JPEGs on Flickr, sending Tweets via Twitter, inviting connections on LinkedIn or friending or unfriending on Facebook. There are frankly millions of netizens and they are always on, around the clock and around the world. And the rate of innovation is accelerating at a pace never seen before in human history. It took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million users;  television 13 years; the Internet, four years; iPod, three years; Facebook added its first 100 million subscribers in just nine months.

Publicly traded and privately held companies, non-profits, governmental entities, educational institutions and appointed and elected representatives live in a fish-bowl world. The rules of the game have changed, and yet there are still rules of engagement. Ghostwriting of executive blogs should to be publicly disclosed. Companies need to focus on quality products, under-promise and over-deliver.

Statements need to be credible and respectful or as John Madden once said: “I will never say in private what I wouldn’t say in public.” The Web 2.0 digital world is demanding accountability, honesty and transparency. If these simple rules are followed the consequences associated with the loss of control should be benign. However, if the conduct is not becoming of a reputation that has been hard-earned and brand equity that has been built, both of these can come tumbling down in just a matter of mouse clicks.

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/

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