Recently, I discovered a great Quora post: “As a startup, how do you get the most out of the first PR agency that you hire?”
Coming from the agency side, it’s a question I wish I got more often. Here’s what startups need to know when working with PR firms:
1. Give them access. Your PR firm should be asking you for access to your company’s thought leaders. Provide it. Early on, the firm you’re working with should be talking to the movers and shakers at your company—product managers, marketers, customer service representatives, you name it. Without a complete view of your company from the inside out, your PR firm will miss opportunities to insert you into the stories that matter.
2. Don’t silo PR and marketing. The efforts of these two departments will overlap. In the case of a bootstrapped startup, the efforts of these two people will overlap. Give your PR firm visibility into your marketing efforts. If you’re running weekly email campaigns and planning an event blitz, your PR firm needs to be in the loop.
3. Think of your firm as a business partner. And treat it as such. See Nos. 1 and 2.
4. Push your firm for creativity. Then let it push back. If you’re a startup, your PR firm should be bringing you big ideas. It’s OK to say no.
5. Ask for assistance in program strategy. A tactics-first approach only gets you so far. If you’re a startup, it likely doesn’t get you far enough.
6. Defer to their expertise. As a startup, every hire you make is critical. You also need to be confident enough in the hires you make that once they’re up to speed, they can run with what you give them. Without that trust, you can’t scale your business. In this sense, third parties are akin to employees.
7. Check in regularly. Your firm wants to hear from you. No, really, it does.
8. Use your firm as a focus group. By the nature of the profession, PR professionals are plugged in to trends in your industry, and they know what resonates with consumers, businesses, and media. Presumably, they’ve seen many startups succeed and many others fail. If you aren’t actively tapping into that knowledge base, you aren’t getting enough value from your firm.
Facebook Home for Android has surpassed the 500,000-download mark after about a week on Google Play. The number of installs listed on Google Play was between 100,000 and 500,000 on April 19 and switched to between 500,000 and 1 million over the weekend. It has been available for download since April 12. The numbers are decent but certainly not astounding, considering Facebook has about one billion users.
The numbers may indicate that while rabid Facebook members will make use of the app, the majority of the social network’s users do not want to constantly be inundated with Facebook posts. Another factor, of course, is Facebook Home is only compatible with certain devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC One X and HTC One X+.
Facebook Home for Android is not receiving rave reviews either. Home’s average rating sits at 2.2 stars out of five — not exactly a glowing endorsement.
Of the 11,356 reviews on the site as of 9 a.m. today more than half rated the app with one star. Here is the breakdown:
• Five star — 1,862;
• Four star — 908;
• Three star — 1,153;
• Two star — 1,556;
• One star — 5,877.
“So I downloaded the app, and within 10 minutes of downloading, I uninstalled,” writes reviewer Amanda Hiett who downloaded the app to her Samsung Galaxy S3. “Was not impressed by this app at all. Might be nice for some people, but not me.”
Reviewer Matt Higgins, who also downloaded it for his Samsung Galaxy S3, said: “It was cool at first but needs some tweeking to be more user friendly. It takes a lot of different moves and clicks just to get to your main home screen. I installed it last night and uninstalled it this morning.” Hiett gave it two stars and Higgins gave the app just one star.
According to reviewer Alex Blackie, however, the app is “pretty slick” and deserving of a five-star rating. “I was hesitant due to a lot of one-star reviews but if you pay any attention to what you’re getting then it’s not an issue,” he wrote. “Sure you can’t use widgets but I never do anyway and the people that complain about that probably rarely use ’em themselves, akin to DVD players in computers. If you’re someone that appreciates minimalism then you’ll like how clean and intuitive this launcher is. You can still use your phone as you always have, it’s just different.”
Caleb Longoria also gave it five stars.
“Its just exactly what I want,” he wrote. “A simple, smooth, bubbly kind of home launcher. Don’t need widgets.. but I would love to see folders in the future, and maybe custom short cuts on the lock screen. But it does what it says it does, waited for this as soon as I heard about it, and I am definitely one satisfied customer!”
The social network unveiled Facebook Home — which it said turns Android users’ mobile devices into “a great, living, social phone” — April 4 with a special media event. “Home is a completely new experience for your phone,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. “With Home available right out of the box, you’re getting the best quality experience for connecting with your friends.”
Facebook Home is comprised of four apps that become the heart of users’ phones. The collection of apps includes:
Cover feed — a constant, real time stream of photos and updates from a user’s newsfeed — replaces the lock screen and home screen on the user’s Smartphone. Users can swipe through to see more photos and updates, double tap to ‘like’ a post and comment right from cover feed.
“It’s a window into what’s happening with your friends — friends finishing a bike race, your family sharing a meal or an article about your favorite sports team,” Facebook said in a news release. “These are the beautiful, immersive experiences that you get through Home.”
Chat Heads is a mobile messenger that enables users to take part in conversations while doing other things, such as watching videos or surfing the Internet. “When friends send you messages, a chat head appears with your friend’s face, so you see exactly who you’re chatting with,” Facebook said. “You can move chat heads around and respond to messages. And since SMS is integrated into Facebook Messenger for Android, chat heads include Facebook messages as well as texts.”
Notifications from apps and friends appear on the user’s home screen making it easier to see missed calls or new messages.
“Cover feed is great for seeing everything going on in the world,” the press release said. “But when something happens that’s more important and directed at you, like a friend posting on your timeline, you’ll receive notifications with their profile pictures.” Notifications can be opened with a single tap them or hidden with a swipe.
Users can choose what appears on their app launchers simply by pressing and holding an app to do a drag and drop. “It’s as easy to get to your apps in Home as it is on any other phone. Swipe up to see your favorite apps in the launcher,” Facebook said. “There’s also a screen containing all of your apps, and you can drag your favorite apps to the launcher.”
Google Now may soon be added to Google’s homepage, according to the Google Operating System blog. A page of coding being tested by Google seems to indicate the personal assistant for Google’s Android operating system will be added to Google’s home page, making it accessible to all users, no matter what their device.
“Get started with Google Now. Just the right information at just the right time,” the code reads. “Google Now uses your Home location to show relevant information like weather, traffic conditions, and nearby places.”
Now will also allow users to edit their home location, work location and the current location as well as track their favorite stocks, according to the report. Google Now, along with answering user-initiated queries, predicts what the user will want, based on their search habits. If this feature is integrated with its homepage, it should, in theory, consistently provide users with content they will find relevant and interesting.
It has already been widely reported that Google Now is likely being customized for Chrome desktop browser integration as well as for inclusion in Google’s iOS search app.
We have seen social media play a number of parts, some of which I wrote about here last week, but Twitter and Reddit have been the talking points as the media and social media champions have gone back and forth debating the impact they had in the reporting of the attacks and the subsequent manhunt.
Twitter was where the news broke first, sparking the question once again as to whether it is a news network. As for Reddit, the question was, as Charlie Beckett noted in his piece (well worth a read), that this "might well be the moment when open forums such as Reddit" claim a journalistic role".
The Twitter News Network
In this CNN clip, one of the pundits make the point that there are now six news networks in "CBS NBC, ABC CNN, Fox and Twitter".
Is Twitter a news network? Why are we still even asking this question? In every major news story since the coming down of the US Airways flight in the Hudson in 2009, the "Twitter News Network" question is debated. Each time this happens, the tempo of discussion rises as if in direct correlation to the rising number of social media users and the impact that it has on our world.
Twitter likes to describe itself as "the shortest distance between you and what interests you most". It is all there, but there is rather a lot of news. More than that, it is a place where those big moments are first captured. Barack Obama's "Four more years" tweet perfectly underscores that.
Jeff Jarvis coined the phrase "Twitter News Network" several years ago to sum up what Twitter has become and for me, that phrase works very well as a way of describing a news distribution platform where news breaks first from Abbottabad and Osama bin Laden, through the US presidential election, to the London helicopter crash and now the events in Boston.
More than anything else, before or like it, Twitter has been largely defined by what its users have made it (use of hashtags and bit.ly urls) and the development of the platform has followed that curve by responding in part to what users are doing with it. For example, news media were on Twitter from early on, and so eventually Twitter cards were developed so we could see more of the news and video content within Tweets.
The question for me is long settled: TNN (Twitter News Network) is here and it is the most significant digital news platform out there. There are other things that people are keen to say about this issue (it isn't Reuters or the Press Association), but it is where news breaks first and it is the digital wire service for most of us.
There are, of course, others social media networks available and much happened on Instagram and Facebook during those five days in Boston, but most notably, the Boston story centred on just one other and that was, of course, Reddit. Its name has been writ large on the media landscape and debated fervently.
I've never been a huge fan of Reddit. There's the layout and the look for a start, but mostly, it is the feeling that really it was a huge forum with an overly large interest in cats (ditto for Buzzfeed). That can't be good.
Reddit was involved quite early on in the story in Boston and it has been a whirlwind of a journey. There has been some good, but mostly not a great day out or an ad for Reddit.
This led Reddit yesterday to make a full blown apology for what some have called digital "vigilantism" in the way users of the site named potential bombers and got it wrong.
Others, as Peter Sigrist points out in a very good post on the Wall, have accused the Reddit community of failing in their attempt to determine the facts through crowdsourcing, But as he asks, how have they done this? I agree entirely. Although I don't agree with Peter's conclusions at all.
Yes, it was (as Reddit said in its statement) all started with "noble intentions", and a well-trodden path it is, but it descended into online witch hunts and dangerous speculation ("Is missing student Sunil Tripathi Marathon Bomber #2?"), which spiralled out of control very quickly in the heat and the hunt for information following the blasts.
I don’t know why a forum of lol cat fans was engaged in identifying terrorists, unless I missed the memo where the FBI outsourced investigative duties to some guys sitting in their bedroom in their underwear.
I jest, Reddit does good work and worked well as a way of keeping people informed and as a clearing house of information, but it remains a decentralised and self-organising notice board.
While in some exceptional cases journalists have tracked down killers this is not the work of journalists and nor should it be and ergo it certainly should not be the work of forum fans on Reddit.
Some commentators, including Paid Content, point to the work done on Syria and the verification function carried out in identifying weapons. This is highlighted as an example of how Reddit is becoming a journalistic endeavour, after one unemployed British man watched hundreds of hours of YouTube.
Again, while at times sifting great quantities of data is something journalists have engaged in (Wikileaks and long investigative pieces etc), this is not generally the work of journalists (and again) nor should it be. This is the work of the intelligence services and other government agencies. In Syria I think this point is more about underreporting in general than anything else.
For me, when it comes down to Reddit, news journalism and Boston, it is simple. How can anyone be surprised that a site like Reddit made a mistake? People at this point say "look at CNN" and other professional news organisations that also made mistakes in the confusion after the Boston terrorist attack.
That is also not a surprise. As others have said, in the wake of breaking news, rumour and counter rumour are rife. Mistakes aren't something that as journalists anyone wants to see, but they happen. CNN made them as it rushed to be first. Many others have been there and many others will follow.
If professional journalists are going to make these errors, it is a given that forum users who are not hooked into an array of official sources will certainly do the same. The fact that both Reddit and CNN made mistakes does not excuse Reddit nor does it mean it is suddenly a journalistic site.
That anyone is taking what comes out of these forums seriously is the issue. From Lolz cats to bombers in a single click. One Reddit user put it this way:
"We're not a news organization, we're a cute cat and meme organization that happened to be a good vehicle for incoming raw news data. We never claimed to be press, so we shouldn't be held to those standards."
Well put and what more do you need to know? Reddit will remain used and loved by many. That clearing house role it plays is something that people find useful, but it isn't journalism and it isn't a social media news site. Just lots of lolls.
These days, just about everyone is going on and on about how important content marketing is, but what exactly does that mean? How can you please your human readers and the search engine spiders all at the same time?
Part of it involves some good ol’ fashioned common sense — like publishing content that offers more facts than fluff and staying away from keyword stuffing. Beyond that, here’s what Google really wants from content marketers:
1. Guest posting done the right way
According to a video posted in October 2012, Matt Cutts (the head of Google’s Web spam team) says that submitting guest posts to different websites is a great idea. However, it’s only worthwhile if you’re “someone who writes really well and has something to say.” That means you’ve got to bring your A-game every time and look at guest posting as a way to connect with readers — not just a way to gain links.
And, of course, if you’re thinking about spinning your guest posts or publishing posts on any ol’ site, don’t bother. Those tactics haven’t worked in a long time. Instead, look for authority sites in your niche that are going to surround your posts with other high-quality content. In fact, Cutts says if you’re a good writer, the good blogs should be happy to have you.
2. Web content that people are inspired to share
Really want to know how Google judges content? Here’s a hint — it has at least a little bit to do with social networking. After all, if Google didn’t think that social networking was a big deal, it never would have bothered to create Google+. Luckily, by publishing great content on your own site (or on someone else’s site like we talked about above), you’ll have plenty of people “liking” it, tweeting it, pinning it, and +1ing it.
However, this means that you’ve got to actually build relationships with your readers. If you write content that treats people like nothing more than a money tree, don’t expect them to share it.
3. Websites that are a treasure trove of knowledge
These days, Google’s definition of “Web spam” is sites with low-quality content or those that are simply too thin on content altogether. Remember, it’s up to Google to provide results that offer legitimate answers and solutions for its searchers. So, if your Web content doesn’t do that, don’t expect to find yourself at the top of the search results.
4. A continuing focus on “the animals”
If you think that algorithm changes like Panda and Penguin are sooo 2012, you’re going to be awfully unhappy in 2013 and beyond.
Panda is still rolling along, getting tweaked and updated every couple of months. As for Penguin, a major update is coming sometime this year. In fact, Cutts said during his panel discussion at SMX West that it will be one of the most talked-about algorithm changes of the year.
Its goal? Cutts has talked about making advancements in Penguin that could enable it to penalize sites that have 50 percent spam. Considering that the older versions of Penguin have only been able to penalize sites that have 80 percent spam, this would be a huge step – and one that would leave lots of site owners scrambling. If you don’t want to be one of them, it’s time to give some serious thought to your content marketing efforts.
Google Now may soon be added to Google’s homepage, according to the Google Operating System blog.
A page of coding being tested by Google seems to indicate the personal assistant for Google’s Android operating system will be added to Google’s home page, making it accessible to all users, no matter what their device.
“Get started with Google Now. Just the right information at just the right time,” the code reads.
“Google Now uses your Home location to show relevant information like weather, traffic conditions, and nearby places.”
Now will also allow users to edit their home location, work location and the current location as well as track their favorite stocks, according to the report.
Google Now, along with answering user-initiated queries, predicts what the user will want, based on their search habits. If this feature is integrated with its homepage, it should, in theory, consistently provide users with content they will find relevant and interesting.
It has already been widely reported that Google Now is likely being customized for Chrome desktop browser integration as well as for inclusion in Google’s iOS search app.
A report from the IDC last week stated that worldwide PC shipments plummeted 14 percent in the first quarter of the year but surprisingly, Microsoft’s Windows Division posted a revenue of $5.70 billion, a 23 percent increase from the same period last year. That number included sales of its Surface tablets. Now the question is, did the Surface tablets really saved Microsoft’s business?
In this morning’s Live NewsDesk Show with Kristin Feledy, SiliconANGLE contributing editor John Casaretto dropped by to give his Breaking Analysis on the Surface’s impact on Microsoft’s business.
Casaretto explains that Microsoft is complex and, though the IDC reports a decline in PC shipments, it should be considered that Microsoft includes all the tablets – its Surface tablets and the tablets sold by its partners.
As for saying that the Surface is Microsoft’s saviour, Casaretto stated that it’s too early to tell.
“I think it’s more of the latter, the wait and see. I think that this has always been about the long-term for Microsoft,” Casaretto stated. “Certainly despite numbers being flat compared to the year before and in face of this precipitous decline that we see in the PC market, this appears to be some good news, some validation that they’re in the right market and things are happening. At the same time, part of that balance in those numbers comes from a large number of corporate buyers that are buying the enterprise edition of Windows 8.”
Support for Windows XP will cease in April of next year and Casaretto sees this fact as a huge bump for the company in the sense that it will help push more people upgrade to more recent versions of Windows such as Windows 7 or Windows 8. It was also noted that enterprises will be upgrading Windows on their computers and Microsoft will be ready to assist them as it offers products and services such as Office 365 and Azure to make the transition easier.
Adding another development to the Windows Azure, Microsoft has updated the platform with support for HTML5/JS client, Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS), PhoneGap, and Windows Phone 7.5. With this enhancement, it is possible for developers to connect both HTML5 web client apps as well as Apache Cordova/PhoneGap apps with their Mobile Services, and use Windows Azure for both data storage and authentication purposes.
This latest version of Windows Azure comes with mobile services web client library that supports Internet Explorer 8, and latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
The Cross Origin Resource Sharing support enables mobile service to accept cross-domain Ajax requests. It also offers the ability to configure a white list of allowed domains from the management dashboard. In addition to above, Microsoft has also provided support for Mercurial (Hg) source control with improved user interface and an ability to deploy site from Dropbox, CodePlex, Bitbucket repositories from the management portal.
On top of these additions, Microsoft has also added the ability to renew the Team Foundation Service certificate for continuous deployment directly from the Windows Azure management portal, so Windows Azure now features an improved UI for easier deployment from source-control.
BellHawk Systems officials announce that it is making VB.Net source code for its BellHawk software accessible to its clients.
"This is in recognition of the fact that most of our industrial clients need their systems customized to meet their specific business needs," said Dr. Peter Green, the President and CTO of BellHawk Systems.
BellHawk is used by a wide-range of manufacturers to track their inventory and production operations in real-time. BellHawk uses technologies such as mobile data collection, barcode printing and scanning to capture data in real-time. This data can then be exported to an ERP or accounting system and used to give managers and other staff 24x7 business intelligence about the status of their operations.
The BellHawk software runs on Windows Server computers and is accessible through any device with a web-browser interface. It can be run on a server in a local plant or used in the Cloud through the BellHawk-on-Line software-as-a-service. BellHawk can also track operations in multiple geographically dispersed plants, warehouses, and other facilities.
According to Dr. Green, "Up to now, customizations needed to be made for our clients by our technical staff, now we are taking a quasi-open-source approach to enable our clients to do the customizations themselves, if they want to. The foundation-level libraries in BellHawk, in which all the licensing checks are embedded, are issued as binary code. But all the code that clients need to modify, such as reports, data exchange interfaces with other systems, and the user interfaces can be modified by VB.Net developers."
The BellHawk software is modular. A perpetual license for a base inventory or production tracking system with two scanning devices costs as little as $5,000. Then clients can add other modules and more scanning devices as their needs grow. Alternately clients can use the same software through BellHawk-on-Line for as little as $250/month.
The BellHawk software is capable of tracking inventory and work-in-process from the receiving dock, through production and warehousing, to the shipping dock. It can also track labor and machines and use the collected data to accurately cost jobs and products. BellHawk also collects electronic materials traceability records.
An important function of BellHawk is to deliver real-time point-of-action warnings when employees are about to make mistakes. This includes delivering alerts by Email or text messages to managers' smart phones when an event occurs that they need to pay attention to.
The BellHawk software works with popular makes of barcode equipment such as Zebra, Motorola, Honeywell, Intermec and Unitech.
Enterprises and individual developers alike are heavily leveraging API-based access to data and services, especially for mobile and cloud apps. And they're getting an increasing palette of technologies to choose from for managing all those API processes. "A lot of our customers are exposing their services through APIs," says Apigee spokesman Bala Kasiviswanathan.
For example, the NCR consumer transaction company processes 300 million transactions a day and ran into a challenge where customers were looking to connect different services from different lines of businesses, said Eli Rosner, vice president of global software engineering. "Integration and orchestration became a very strategic need." Part of the answer was to bring API management capabilities into its MuleSoft enterprise service bus to orchestrate transaction-routing workflows in modern mobile and cloud applications, not just in its traditional back-office systems.
Companies such as Apigee, CA's just-acquired Layer 7 Technologies, MuleSoft, Temboo, and WSO2 are tackling the API management need. Some secure API access, some provide an API exchange, and some provide cloud-based conduits to APIs:
- Apigee's API exchange platform is geared to the telecom industry, but the company plans to expand it to include health care and financial services.
- Layer 7's API management suite offers back-end data and application integration, mobile capabilities, cloud orchestration, and developer management.
- MuleSoft's AnyPoint platform connects applications, APIs, and data sources across on-premise and cloud systems.
- Temboo offers a library of common-access APIs, with links to systems such as Facebook.
- WSO2's API Manager enables publishing of APIs, managing a developer community, and routing API traffic.
Forrester says it has fielded an increasing number of inquiries about whether and how companies should expose Web APIs directly to third-party development organizations to create and unlock the value of business data: "Sometimes, an API provider's data gains value only when combined with data from other sources; for example, mashing up maps with transit data, payment data with retail [point-of-sale] systems, or sports scores with Open Graph information."
In some ways, API management is a follow-up to service-oriented architecture (SOA) an approach to modular, orchestrated software delivery that was the "it" enterprise technology in the mid-2000s but later fell out of favor as too academic and abstract for businesses paying the software architecture bills. Nonetheless, SOA's principles remain as valid as ever and have continued to be used -- especially in cloud offerings -- even as few vendors and developers dare speak the term.
Today, "API management is what SOA should have been eight to 10 years ago," says Chris Haddad, vice president of technology evangelism at WSO2. API management overcomes the limitations of SOA in areas such as security and quality of service, Haddad says.
Rival API management vendor Layer 7 also views API management as the SOA successor, with SOA now geared to behind-the-firewall operations and API management to exposing data over the Internet to mobile applications and cloud services, says Layer 7 co-founder Dimitri Sirota. In a recent report, Forrester Research agrees that SOA strategies mostly target internal users while open Web APIs target mostly external partners. API management requires developer portals, key management, and metering and billing facilities that SOA management never provided, Forrester says.
Because of the proliferation of API-enabled data access from corporate applications via mobile devices, lighter-weight REST-based APIs are gaining prominence over more-complex SOAP APIs, says Forrester. API management vendors such as WSO2 and Layer 7 have thus added REST support in their tools.