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Holiday gift guide for PR pros

By Jill Pyle

Over the last few months I’ve had a lot of fun pitching gift ideas to daily news media on behalf of our friends at Help Lesotho. Now that Ottawa is covered in a blanket of fresh snow, I can’t help but feel festive. In the spirit of the fast-approaching holiday season, I’ve decided to pull together a gift guide to help anyone who has a public relations professional to buy for this holiday season.

Eats Shoots LeavesCP Caps and SpellingStudents studying PR, young PR professionals and veterans alike should always have a style guide on hand. Some of our favourites include The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling, Eats Shoots and Leaves and Globe and Mail Style Book. If the PR professional in your life doesn’t have one of these or similar titles, you should be able to cross them off your list by visiting a well-stocked local bookstore. Books about grammar fundamentals may not be very exciting but they certainly are useful. Dictionaries are also great to have on hand. For the terminology-saturated person working in technology PR, try Chambers Dictionary of Science and Technology. If you think flipping pages is too low-tech, a subscription to the online edition of the Chicago Manual of Style may do the trick.

For PR pros who frequently travel, there are a wealth of gadgets you can buy to help them stay plugged in. While an iPhone or iTouch may be a bit pricey,Amazon kindle consider springing for a country-specific SIM card or a gift certificate to a phone-unlocking specialist like Warlox Wireless. After reading about the positive experience Francis had with his unlocked GSM smart phone loaded with a pay-as-you-go SIM, I don’t think you can go wrong. Skype credits aren’t a bad idea either. For the earth-conscious gadget lover on your list, Amazon Kindle, a souped-up e-book reader that allows for wireless e-book downloads, would make a great gift.

PR gifts

For social media-savvy PR folks, a bottle of Stormhoek‘s Blue Monster is guaranteed to win smiles. Thanks to Hugh Mcleod, this wine is well known amongst those who frequent geek dinners. Other great gift ideas include flickr pro accounts, tickets to popular conferences like SXSW or cool t-shirts from the likes of Threadless. Grammar gurus are bound to appreciate the They’re, Their, There shirt.

That’s our list. Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section. You can also check out Chris’s gift guide for marketers, which Seth’s Blog pointed me to.

How may my technology help you?

By Francis Moran

Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, is airing a special series on its national radio news programs called, “How may I help you?” I caught the first in-depth piece yesterday evening and I so badly wanted to call in immediately and share my endless stack of customer service horror stories. Many fellow listeners obviously felt the same way; as of late this morning, fully 279 (!) individual stories of lament had been posted to CBC’s web site.

The issue put me in mind of an article, authored by Graham Technology’s Frank Kirwan, that we secured in Customer Management magazine earlier this year.

As I was listening to the radio piece last evening and reading some of the horror stories posted online this morning, the key point that kept coming back to me from Kirwan’s article “Dissatisfaction is a greater driver of (customer) defection than satisfaction is of retention,” he said. And judging from the number of CBC listeners who wrote that they would never again do business with that bank, telephone company, travel agency or whatever, clearly it takes just a single outrageous example of lousy customer service to trigger that defection.It really doesn’t have to be that way.

Because we have been working with Graham Technology for about a year and a half now, and with other companies like PIKA Technologies and Vocantas whose products and services can help companies sharpen their customer service, we know that the effective deployment of the appropriate technology solution can dramatically improve what seems to be a near-universally dismal record. The irony is that technology implementations are often cited by customers as the most egregious part of the problem. (Bell Canada’s voice avatar Emily surely would be hung in effigy from city to city across Canada if she was anything more corporeal than the ultimate in service-preventing disembodied interactive voice response (IVR) systems!)

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Engaging technology analysts as part of a PR program

By Jill Pyle

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to work with several clients whose PR programs have an analyst relations component. It’s been a great experience getting to know the ins and outs of analyst relations and learning about the many ways it can create value for a client.

We reach out to technology analysts for the same reason we reach out to media: what they say and do has the potential to move markets and engaging with them can have a positive impact on our clients’ business objectives. Many purchasing decision-makers read the research reports issued by large analyst firms like Gartner, Forrester and IDC that put the companies that are included in these reports at top of mind when it comes time to buy.

Like purchasing decision-makers, the media are also known for approaching analysts to source expert opinions. Quotes from technology analysts often appear in the media. Some analysts also write byline articles, columns or blogs. It’s also common for analysts to give presentations and provide counsel to large organizations. In order to stay on top of advancements in their area of expertise, analysts regularly participate in briefings with technology vendors.

Typically, our clients’ first engagement with an analyst firm is an introductory phone briefing, where they have the opportunity to share information about their business, market, market drivers, technology solution and its applications. Introductory briefings can range from 30 to 60 minutes, usually starting with a presentation or demo and finishing up with some questions and answers.

Because we provide company and technology background information in advance of introductory briefings, our clients are often able to have high-value conversations with technology analysts and receive feedback on their value proposition, as well as an authoritative perspective on trends affecting their market. These are the kinds of briefings our clients really enjoy. Unfortunately, some briefings are void of feedback and end with a sales pitch to sponsor a research report.

Our objective when engaging with technology analysts is to seek out opportunities for our clients to be included in research reports that do not require sponsorship and articles that are published in outlets that reach their target customers. It is through engaging with a healthy mix of big-name and boutique analyst firms that we are able to find these kinds of opportunities for our clients.

Business intelligence pain points

Baseline Nov

By inmedia

The November issue of Baseline features a large piece on business intelligence, “Getting Smarter, But Still Learning.” In the article, Darrell Dun writes about the growing adoption of BI, as well as the obstacles that are keeping it from reaching its full potential. The article includes a list of pain points identified by CIO Insight’s October survey on BI. Here’s a snapshot of what respondents using BI identify as their biggest pain points:

-64% say integration and interoperability with other systems such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning pose a problem.

-57% say poor data quality significantly diminishes the value of their BI initiatives.

-67% say spreadsheets are still their most widely used BI tool.

-58% say most users misunderstand or ignore data produced by BI tools because they don’t know how to analyze it.

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Making the most of events

By Linda Forrest

A lot of our clients include conferences and trade shows as part of their market-facing activities. In fact, the last few weeks have been filled with such events for our clients across an array of sectors, including BioPartnering Europe, ECOC, Call Centre Expo, Consumer Healthcare Informatics Summit, the 2007 Financial Services Technology Forum and Fall VON.

These events provide various promotional opportunities that range from hosting a booth on the trade show floor to presenting a case study or participating in a panel discussion. Conferences and trade shows are a good way to collect leads and to gain some competitive intelligence but often vendors are not aware of, and so not taking advantage of, the best opportunities to promote themselves to the media and analysts who are in attendance.

If your company is participating in a conference, it is inferred that you have done the complex cost-benefit analysis and established objectives to allow you to assess your return on investment and return on objectives. Experts like Cummings Mitchell can provide you with the tips and tools to help make the most of your trade show investment. We feel that in order to truly maximize return on your trade show investment, it is important to pursue all promotional opportunities, including PR.

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