Deconstructing the press release: how tagging will change journalistic workflow

One of the big debates in PR over the last couple of years in has been whether the press release is in the last throes of death, or still healthy and thriving for years to come. Tom Foremski, formerly of the Financial Times and now publisher of SiliconValleyWatcher, has no doubt on the matter, and wants the press release to be terminated with prejudice, writing a blog post titled Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!

However rather than leaving a gaping hole in how organizations communicate to the media, Tom has a specific proposal to succeed the press release. In summary:

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Creating the Future of Advertising – looking back to look forward

The other day I was chatting with a top executive from one of the advertising conglomerates about the current pressing topics in the advertising industry. Executives’ top-of-mind issues center on clients’ perception of value creation by agencies, which has continue to erode over the last years. Specific symptoms include pricing pressures from a procurement mentality, increasing competition from adjacent industries such as the new digital media companies and strategy consulting firms, and a drive to the commoditization of advertising creative within the array of services offered by the advertising and marketing communities.

I recalled that in 2000 I had written an article on the future of advertising for BOSS magazine which discussed all of these issues. It is often instructive to look back at the state of the industry to gain a better understanding of where it is today and where it’s going. Here’s the article, originally published in the July 2000 issue of the Australian Financial Review BOSS magazine. What it covers seems to be just as relevant and topical today as it was seven years ago.

Chasing the Play

If a potential client goes to London advertising agency St. Lukes and asks them to go away and create an advertising campaign, they refuse. Yet last year their billings increased 64%, more than twice as much as any of the other top-20 UK agencies. “We only co-create with our clients,” says St. Lukes chairman Andy Law. St. Lukes as a matter of course works closely with its clients to result in campaigns that have been created by the joint efforts of both parties.

The global advertising industry is in the midst of a dramatic transformation, and St. Lukes is one of the agencies at the vanguard of these deep shifts. Through the 90s traditional advertising agencies were squeezed hard both by new competitors and by clients, who often saw them as providers of commoditised services. Now the dramatic explosion of media and communications driven by digital technology is resulting in massive opportunities for agencies. However only those firms that adopt new ways of working with their clients and develop new skills will be able to take advantage of these opportunities, while the less dynamic firms will struggle at best.

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Microsoft, Facebook, and the shift of the platform to social networks

I was just interviewed on ABC Radio about Microsoft’s mooted acquisition of 3-5% of Facebook for US$500 million or so, as written about by the Wall Street Journal today. I’m severely jetlagged and it’s well past my bedtime, but I thought I’d make a few quick notes on points I raised in the interview that are relevant to this story.

Value is increasingly seen as shifting to social networks. When News Corp bought MySpace 2 ½ years ago for $580 million, I pointed out that what it was buying was the positioning at the interstices of people’s relationships. Media – as in the flow of information – is increasingly between people rather than in a hub and spoke arrangement, which makes social networking platforms central to value creation.

Social networking platforms have figured out what works. Since 2000 when sixdegrees.com made the first bold attempt to create a system to create value from linking people and subsequently failed, social networks have gradually improved to the point where they are drawing in a massive number of participants. MySpace was the first true success story, and in absolute numbers is still far larger than Facebook. However Facebook has translated MySpace’s success to a professional and arguably more diverse demographic, through different positioning and features. Social networks are rapidly becoming central to people’s interaction with the online world.

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Working out of the US for a while

I’m going to be spending the next few weeks based out of New York, around some stints in Silicon Valley, LA, and a day in Boston. My primary base is Sydney. When I used to be based in Tokyo and London and spend a lot of time on planes, I thought that if I were going to be travelling lots, I’d like my home base to be somewhere I loved. In other words Sydney, my very favorite city in the world out of the many that I have lived in and visited. However the nature of my work is that I have to work all over the place. A few years I go was speaking and working all over, part of the period when I racked up keynote speaking engagements on six continents. However I knew that wasn’t sustainable, and so I decided to focus on the US and Australia. I set up a subsidiary of Advanced Human Technologies in the US and got a US work visa, and have since largely split my work between Australia and the US, with just a few projects pulling me briefly to Asia and South Africa.

Now that I am married to the wonderful Victoria Buckley and my gorgeous daughter Leda recently turned one, when I travel I endeavor to be back within a few days or so, leading to some pretty intense itineraries. On one occasion last year when things were rather hectic, I flew over 40 hours to hop to Miami for 20 hours to do a keynote and get back home for the weekend. So it’s fantastic when we can all travel together, leading to a more leisurely approach. This means that with the whole family I’ll be able to work with the US as home base for a while. It’s tough to be based in more than one country, but if we can regularly all get over here for a bit, it’s an ideal situation. Victoria is also moving towards getting the right distribution setup for her jewellery in the US, so that fits perfectly.

I’m organizing a Living Networks lunch in Boston on October 3 – drop me a line if you’re interested in joining a few die-hard network enthusiasts. I might organize a casual catch-up in New York too – if so I’ll blog about it. Maybe see you en-route!

Will all newspapers be free? Moving beyond the traditional boundaries of news

With the New York Times recently dropping all charges for its online content and now Rupert Murdoch openly discussing making the Wall Street Journal Online free, it seems that the days are likely numbered for paid subscriptions to online newspapers.

It is also useful to remember that there are now 169 free daily print newspapers around the world with a total circulation of 27.9 million, according to the World Association of Newspapers. In Spain 51% of print newspaper circulation is free, and in Denmark it’s 32%. The trend to free print newspapers is strong, with new free newspapers springing up all over the globe after the business success evident across Europe.

The trend to free online newspapers has sparked a major debate on whether online content should be free. Most recently an article in the Wall Street Journal itself titled Murdoch’s Choice: Paid or Free for WSJ.com discusses the issue. It includes the following chart to illustrate its key point that growth in online advertising is far from matching print newspaper advertising revenues (see comments on the chart later in this post).

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Defining information boundaries provides a fundamental platform for organizational strategy

A little while ago I was interviewed for an article in CIO magazine titled Remote Control, which looked at the issues in having employees work remotely. The article quoted me as follows:

While companies tend to think of telecommuting and remote access as something to support domestic employees, business strategist Ross Dawson believes it will be increasingly important to offer access to employees and collaborators working overseas. He believes companies should strategically review their information holdings and identify what information they would benefit from sharing with trusted partners and clients, and then establish an information infrastructure to support that.

Dawson says a first important step for companies that want to create a collaborative environment is to perform a strategic information audit. “An organization can categorize its information three ways: information which is openly available, information which it is happy to share with trusted partners and information which it does not share. Once you have worked out which information sits where, then you put in place the supporting technology and business processes. So far very few organizations have looked at this from a business process and technology view,” Dawson says.

For a long time in my workshops and client work I’ve used the three core categories of organizational information, as illustrated in the diagram below, as a basis for strategy and organizational design.

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Interview on building powerful relationships in a global economy

When I was in Singapore last week to do a keynote for a client I was interviewed by Yiep Siew Joo on 938LIVE, the largest English-language news radio station, for its Bottomline business program.

Click here to go directly to audio of the radio interview, and here for the Bottomline Podpage where the article is described and featured.

Some of the issues we covered in the 4-minute interview were the role knowledge and relationships in the economy today, why the Chinese concept of guanxi is different from knowledge-based relationships, how commoditization is driving relationships in a global economy, and what the world’s largest multinational corporations are doing to improve their client relationships.

Hitting the front page of del.icio.us: Studying the power of influencers and amplifiers

Last weekend my blog had the most hits ever in one day by a factor of seven, as my blog post on Eight steps to thriving on information overload was featured first on Lifehacker, and in turn appeared on a variety of prominent sites, including del.icio.us popular, popurls, and then the front page of del.icio.us. It also received a good number of diggs, though it didn’t hit the front page of Digg.com.

It’s instructive to unpack how this happened. The first element was clearly content that hit a hot button for people, and was useful. A large part of my job is throwing at executives wild, provocative, and instructive insights from across everything that’s happening in technology and business, and helping them to make sense of it and take useful action. One of the most common responses, especially recently, has been to ask how I manage to keep on top of so much in a world run amok. Everyone is experiencing increasing pressure to keep up, and feeling they are not succeeding. Interestingly, my blog post was a repost of a magazine article I wrote ten years ago on this topic, showing the issue is a perennial. It’s only going to become more acute as years go by.

After I posted the article on August 27, there were a few blog posts about it, most notably by Jack Vinson, who excerpted the article on his blog two days later, and then mentioned it again a week after that. Jack has good, influential readership, especially in the knowledge management community.

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Six Trends that are transforming Living Online: Presentation at Influence conference

Tomorrow I’m going to the Influence conference organized by Phil Sim and Mediaconnect, an invitation-only event held in the heart of the Hunter Valley wine region. Originally the event was only for technology journalists and the tech companies that wanted to reach them, but it has now been extended to the all most powerful influencers in the technology community, whether they are journalists, analysts, or bloggers.

Last year I spoke on the Web 2.0 panel, where I described what User Filtered Content is, and why it is such an important foundation to Web 2.0. This year I will be speaking on the Living Online panel, which is devoted to looking at where life online is going for consumers. In my brief introductory talk I will touch on six trends that will transform living online over the next years.

1. Pervasive connectivity

The trend underlying all the others is that we will be far more connected, wherever we are. Broadband speeds, while still disappointing in most countries, will continue to increase. A good way to think about it is to consider when the majority of consumers will have 100Mbps in the home. In Australia, probably not by 2010, but I would certainly hope by 2014. Gradually WiFi will become pervasive – and hopefully free – in metropolitan areas. WiMax has the potential to offer high speed roaming Internet access over large areas. As importantly, 3G mobile technologies that require less power and thus can be used for extended periods by handheld devices will enable access to the Internet by anyone anywhere. The critical enabler here will be reasonable pricing of mobile data. In Australia it is in most cases obscenely expensive, so big price falls will be required to make access pervasive. A key indicator of pervasive access is when car radios become IP-based, as this will indicate there is always good access to the internet, and all radio stations simulcast over IP.

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Innovation in professional services: the case of DDB and Keith Reinhard

On Thursday I was in Singapore to give a keynote speech on The Future of Professional Services for clients and prospects of Epicor, a mid-tier enterprise software firm that has developed a substantial global market for its professional services software suite.

Some of the issues I covered were the Seven MegaTrends of Professional Services, building knowledge-based relationships, organizational networks, and professional services strategy.

One of anecdotes I told was about how Keith Reinhard, now Chairman Emeritus of advertising giant DDB Worldwide, has been a consistent innovator in advertising and professional services. Below is the case study on DDB Worldwide which is in Chapter 11 (on value-based pricing) of my book Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, followed by an excerpt from Chapter 6 (which can be downloaded in full from here) on Keith’s ideas on relationship agreements.

The image below refers to the delightful story at the end of the case study. This range of flavored drinking water for cats was created by DDB and is licensed to provide an ongoing revenue stream.

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