Tip #209: Type abuse

Let your words tell your story. That’s what they’re for. Using multiple emphasis styles in your writing is not clever, and it looks like spam…

Rafe, Remember [[a company I don’t remember]] whom you wrote about for CNET? Thanks by the way – you’re on our Buzz Page:

The social enterprise “workhorse” for business, offering more than social chit-chat – is changing the process and pace of work of 5,000 largely deadline-driven companies, getting products to market, meeting news deadlines and delivering campaigns – fast. One customer summed it up, “I’ll never again work in a company that only relies on email.”

Fast Adoption & Sustained Usage Bypasses E-Mail
A customer’s employee user adoption spiked to more than 75% of the office after just 20 days of deployment; employees consistently collaborate with between 500 to over 1,000 daily posts during the typical work week.

Mobile adoption is already outpacing desktop usage, making it critical for the mobile app to work as hard and as well as the desktop. On April 24, [[Company]] will launch a new mobile app (40% faster) with all of the robust capabilities for work on the go. New, industry-leading advisors formerly at YouSendIt, TechCrunch and Yammer have joined the team and also will be announced.

Please let me know if you are interested in a briefing and/or reporting on this story …

 

In the example above, fully 67% of the words are emphasized with bold, italic, or underlining. It’s counter-productive. As any designer will tell you, when everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized.

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Tips #208 to 217: Class is in session

This one started with one ill-advised tweet and spiraled in from there. Thank you, Ziklag Systems!

The tweet that launched a two hands' worth of tips.

The tweet that launched a thousand Pro PR tips.

Each of the following crimes against the media could be its own Pro PR Tip. Many already are. It’s also true that some of these flops are more important than others. But since this one tweet led to so many great PR lessons, I thought a list here would be educational.

Crime #1
Contact via Twitter. Unnecessary and annoying. (I also got an email).

Crime #2
In all caps.

Crime #3
From a new account whose only purpose, so far, has been to send the same spam tweet to journalists.

Crime #4
Say What Systems? This company is new to me, and it’d be nice to know what it does. The tweet didn’t help. That’s too bad. It could have.

But since you have managed to get my attention, I might as well check out your main Web site. Which leads to more lessons…

Continue reading

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Filed under Bad ideas, Common sense, Twitter

Tip #207: How far will you go?

Elyse TKTK, CEO of Tealet.

Elyse Peterson, CEO of… what was that again?

You have a startup? Fascinating. Everyone has a startup.

Your challenge: Get noticed, and get remembered. It’s highly advised to appear at work events with some form of your logo on your clothing, but apparently that’s not enough these days. Witness this photo of Elyse Peterson, the CEO of Tealet, a grower-to-consumer tea distributor. She’s pitching at the 500 Startups event I am at. She looks ridiculous. And those peacock features must snag on things as she walks around.

But of all the companies about to pitch here, I’m pretty sure Tealet will be one that everybody remembers. How far will you go to be remembered?

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Tip #206: Sound it out

Seriously?

Seriously?

This is a promo postcard I picked up at MacWorld. I think it means App Store Optimization, Limited Edition. But for most people spying this out of the corner of their eyes, I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Filed under Common sense

Tip #205: Yay for lazy writers!

After years of working in the mainstream tech press, most recently at CNET, I now find myself removed from the grind of traditional journalism, working at Evernote on the platform team. I’m still writing about startups, in a column called Opportunity Notes, but since my goal with this column (and my Evernote job overall) is to actually and tangibly help entrepreneurs, and not just generate pageviews for a media company, my perspective on journalism is different. As a writer, I can relax.

Except, no, not really. I’ve been covering technology for over 20 years, and I have old-fashioned standards that transcend the company I’m working for. When I write about a product or a business, even if it’s for our corporate blog, I won’t write what I don’t believe or understand, and if the story can be made better by actually talking to someone involved in the product I’m interested in, then by God I’m going to make a call. I worked that way at CNET, at Red Herring and Byte and InfoWorld before that, and I work that way now.

You’d think that’s what all journalists and bloggers do. Especially in such a competitive media environment. But they don’t. Not anymore. The drive to be first on a media company-run site means that some writers post some stories without doing journalism. I know this because I am now advising entrepreneurs on how to work with the media, and more than once, when I have given the standard advice — form a relationship, craft your pitch, be prepared to answer questions — the response I’ve gotten has been an incredulous look and a question like, “Shouldn’t I just write the story for them?”

“Oh no,” I say. “Writers hate that.”

But unfortunately, some (not all, but enough), do not. Entrepreneurs are telling me that they are being asked, by writers, to send them more pre-digested stories.

I’m getting this intelligence from another angle, too: I find companies to cover, often, by reading about them in other sources. To prepare my own stories, I call the entrepreneurs running these companies. In too many cases (two in the last two weeks), these entrepreneurs have told me that I’m the first writer who has actually contacted them before writing.

And I’m not even working for a news site anymore.

Cue the indignation. Feels good.

But let’s move beyond that. Because this is actually a great thing for you PR people!

Now all you have to do to get your story out is write it yourself and plant it in the hands of the right writer. The PR tip for today is this: Learn how to write the story you want to read about your company or product. Basically, that means writing a press release that sounds like a news story. There’s a fighting chance that that is exactly the story that will run — and least the first story.

And hey, if you’re working with a startup or anyone doing a new technology, drop me a line, too. Just a line. Not the whole story. Save that for the poor schlub who lives by the pageview, and has to churn out six stories a day.

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Filed under Reporting

Tip #204: It’s a press release, not a graduate thesis

While there’s something perversely beautiful about a press release that’s aimed way over the heads of the reporters who are likely to get it, please remember that the generally-accepted protocol is to at least hint at what you’re talking about in plain English, so the clueless journo who receives it can figure it out if he or she knows anyone who possesses the knowledge to decipher it. Then it can be forwarded. Opaque releases get dumped.

Happy Holidays! Thought I’d update you on LexisNexis Big Data as we roll out new use cases in the upcoming year!

HPCC and Hadoop are both open source projects released under an Apache 2.0 license, are free to use, with both leveraging commodity hardware and local storage interconnected through IP networks. Both allow for parallel data processing and/or querying across architecture. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that certain HPCC operations don’t use a scatter and gather model (equivalent to Map and Reduce), but HPCC was designed under a different paradigm and provides a comprehensive and consistent high-level and concise declarative dataflow oriented programming model.

One limitation of the strict MapReduce model is that internode communication is left to the Shuffle phase. This makes iterative algorithms that require frequent internode data exchange hard to code and slow to execute (as they need to go through multiple phases of Map, Shuffle and Reduce, ea representing a barrier operation that forces serialization of the long tails of execution). HPCC provides for direct inter-node communication at all times and is leveraged by many of the high level ECL primitives.

Another disadvantage for Hadoop is the use of Java for the entire platform, including the HDFS distributed filesystem — adding overhead from the JVM; in contrast, HPCC and ECL are compiled into C++, which executes natively on top of the OS. This leads to more predictable latencies and overall faster execution — we have seen anywhere between 3 & 10 X faster execution on HPCC when compared to Hadoop on the exact same hardware.

Would love to explain more — any chance to set up a meeting or call on this?

Best,

[Professor Incomprehensible]

When I was a tech magazine editor, my general rule was to make 10% of the stories in each issue over the head of the majority of the audience. I wanted to give readers something to shoot for, and to show them what was beyond the horizons of their knowledge.

But I do not think this is a good guideline for press releases.

Hat tip: Pat Houston.

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Filed under Compassion, Email

Tip #203: Business in the front, party in the back

Thinking about printing something on the back of your business cards, as is the rage right now? Here’s a tip: Don’t put anything on the back that should be on the front. In other words, don’t put your company name, your name, and email on the front, and your Web address on the back. Don’t put your Twitter handle and email address and company name on the front, and your name on the back. Don’t put your name, Twitter ID, and Web address on the front and relegate your company name, in big bold logo colors, to the back.

I’ve seen all of these things, and they infuriate me. Why make extra work for people? Worse, why make extra work for people who use scanners or business card capture apps like CardMunch or Evernote Hello? (Disclosure: I now work at Evernote.)

Look, I get it, that white space on the back of those cards beckons. Blank looks cheap. So use the real estate for your logo, or a coupon, a photo, or something fun. But don’t forget that all the standard contact information — all of it — should be on the same side of the card. Please.

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Filed under Common sense