Friday, 14 December 2012

So this is Christmas…

As is the case most years, by the time you reach mid-December many people’s minds are on the big ‘C’ and whether you like it or not, it’s a major event for most of us (especially as it’s often grouped together with New Year). It’s a good chance to take a well-deserved break, to enjoy a little down-time and to perhaps reflect on the past year and look forward to the challenges and rewards of the new one.  Judging by the amount of ’Out of Office’ replies we have seen this week a lot of people are already getting well into the festive spirit! Putting the festivities aside for just a moment (there are still two weekends to go!) it’s also an ideal time to start thinking about how your Marketing and PR campaign for the new year can drive forward your business’ profile, reacquainting customers and potential customers with just how good you are and helping to make sure you create your own ‘luck’ in 2013! There is no harm in hitting the ground running in the new year…..

Levels of English literacy have long be debated (probably as long as the language has existed!) but in a new twist, as reported in the BBC News website this week, it would seem that the English language as a whole is being shaped by Internet usage. Whilst English is predicted to be the dominant online language within the next 10 years (with the majority, by percentage, being in Chinese at the moment) there is the fact that many people using it will be second language speakers. It’s interesting to see how the globalisation of technology can directly affect the way we communicate, potentially even the way we speak! If you’re wondering what the cultural flipside might be of not having a vast Internet to explore, why not take a look at North Korea’s far more ‘selective’ scope at the state-controlled Naenara website, which shows what its people can see if they manage to be in the small ‘Elite’ minority that has access to this.
Back to the wider Internet, there are some Christmas favourites re-emerging again at the moment – such as festive cards and videos (featuring yours or any friends/family/pets faces you might choose!) at JibJab or even the Santa Tracking from the nice people at NORAD! It’s all a reminder that you can find all human interest on the Internet (and a reminder that your business should be getting its fair share of coverage!)
All the team at MCC International wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! (or Happy Holidays if that’s more appropriate to you!!)

Friday, 30 November 2012

The New Black!

 © Washington Post

If you ever needed a reminder of how big an economic influence the US is on us in the UK, then Black Friday and Cyber Monday which took place this week is a great example. Designed to entice consumers to relinquish their hard-earned cash after the Thanksgiving public holiday, the events have now become big news in the UK too (even though we don’t share the holiday part!) with big name retailers, such as Amazon and Apple joining in and shoppers snapping up pre-Christmas bargains.  At first glance the idea of pre-Christmas Sales seems an odd one, but actually it recognises that customers and potential sales are more important than ever and big names have been advertising their aggressive sales ploys using all mediums, from print media to broadcast and especially online. The emergence of Cyber Monday further demonstrates that the IT sector is just as keen to publicise its wares as anyone else and shows the direct impact an exciting marketing drive can have on sales figures.

The BBC News website this week reported that South Korean pop phenomenon, Psy, and his hit song ‘Gangnam Style’ have become YouTube’s most watched video of all time. To the uninitiated, the song takes a rather tongue-in-cheek sideswipe at the heavy consumerism of one of the more upmarket areas of Seoul and its affluent residents. The fact that the commercial version became the first ever UK number one single by a Korean artist suggests that the performer has managed to, ahem, strike a chord with the international music buying public. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, it would seem it is largely due to its exposure on YouTube. Even 10-15 years ago such a feat would have seemed most unlikely and love it or hate it, ‘Gangnam Style’ is proof of the potential a worldwide Internet audience (and therefore potential worldwide market) can provide to the right product or service.  

This week MCC Agency Director Graham Thatcher has been mulling over the myriad of business-to-business media that we are, and have been involved with over the years. Here he takes an affectionate look at its often evolving line-up:

And your specialist subject is…..
Whenever I am sat with friends at the weekend and we dissect our working week, they are always amazed that I can name a publication for just about any topic that they can imagine. Sometimes you forget that everyone else doesn’t appreciate that there is a whole world of business-to-business media that extends beyond the shelves of the newsagent and supermarket! They are even surprised to hear that PR itself has its own magazine!

So for a little fun and to find out how many people could compete with me on my Mastermind specialist subject, here are a few brain teasers, some perhaps obvious, other a little more obscure, for those who have been in the technology PR and publishing world for a little while…

  • What monthly newsstand computing publication was launched in February 1978 and closed in June 2009? 
  •  What publication did Channel 2000 replace? 
  • Which publisher of PC Magazine and IT Week was bought by VNU in 2000? 
  • Who was the Editor of Customer Service News and CRM Magazine 
  • Which trailblazing online publication that launched in 1998 delivered IT news and interviews via video? 
  • Who succeeded Brian McKenna as Editor of Infosecurity Magazine? 
  • Who was Guardian IT expert Ask….? 
  • What were the titles of the two glossy Haymarket publication for marketing professionals?
  •  Name the three security titles published by UBM that became Info4Security? 
  • Which online IT publication bites the hand that feeds IT and has a vulture for a logo?

How did you get on? If you want to know the answer to any of the questions then email me at:

Friday, 9 November 2012

Putting PR in the Pole Position

MCC Director Graham Thatcher attended a very special corporate event this week hosted by NICE Systems and got to spend a day with some of his favourite 'boys toys', as he explains:

There are some days when you don’t want to talk about what went on at work and other days when you are just itching for someone to ask. For me Wednesday fell very much in to the latter of the two.

Jumping in the car first thing in the morning (no ice to scrap off thankfully!) I got on a busy A34 and around one hour later I pulled to the barrier and heard the words “Welcome to Williams F1”. In the world of PR we get invited to, and often attend, many seminars and events, and because our clients know how to impress, the locations are often as appealing as the content. This year I paid my first visit to the Ritz and also Lords Cricket Club, but being a fan of F1 since longer that I care to remember, this was a real treat.

Of course, there was work to be done and my notepad (if you read my blog a few weeks ago you perhaps not be surprised that I am yet to decide what tablet to buy) was filling up rapidly as end users talked about why they had chosen my client's technology and the many benefits it was delivering. This is why it is so important to tag along to these events, as not only does it give you fresh case study material, the questions from the floor and the networking opportunities always provide real insight as to how the market is thinking. It also gives you valuable time with the sales team, to learn from their experiences and share ideas about how PR can help to generate even more leads and win new business.

The challenge with hosting a seminar is firstly attracting delegates and my struggle to find a seat demonstrated that there was no problem here. Once you have them it is about keeping them engaged and minimising the afternoon drop out. No such problems on this occasion as everyone seemed to share my excitement for an exclusive tour of the Williams F1 museum, home to all of the iconic cars since the team started back in 1978 from Rosberg, through to Mansell, Coulthard, Hill and the present team.

So, driving back at the end of a packed day I reflected on an excellently organised event (all credit to NICE Systems), and notepad full of stories to write. In fact, the only downside was discovering that my reactions are not even half that of an F1 driver, although I would challenge any of them to type faster than any of the team here!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Have an Opinion!

In a recent blog entry I spoke about the need to be careful with what you write in Twitter because of its public nature, and the lessons that can be learnt from high profile cases of those in the public eye. The flipside of this is that actually having a strong opinion can also be a very positive thing. The fear of being harshly judged publically can be off-putting for any organisation looking to run a PR campaign, but there is nothing wrong with having a strong point of view (perhaps even a controversial one!) if it is backed up by a strong argument and sensible reasoning. Naturally, the Press love a ‘maverick’ and a badly judged claim can backfire on you, but if you have a ground-breaking product or development idea then why not shout about it? Apple is a good example of a company that dared to be different (bucking the trend for a traditional all-PC market), offering a great alternative that caught the consumer market’s attention. But any excellent idea that goes against the status quo will make editors sit up and take notice (and probably your potential customers and competitors too) and is likely to see your reputation grow as an expert in your field. You just need to find something that fits the bill now!

As mentioned in an earlier post, Apple announced its iPad Mini this week. Proving it still intends to be a big player in the IT market, Microsoft Chief Steve Ballmer has also suggested it intends to push towards hardware as well as software, as reported by the BBC news website this week. The company is already pushing hard with the launch of Windows 8, which, being touchscreen-based, is also leading Microsoft’s foray into the tablet market with the new Surface product. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft will be able to gather a strong consumer base by offering a third option against Apple and Android – going back to what I spoke about at the beginning of this blog.

Being able to record what you see through the day has been a favourite ‘what if’ for years (well certainly a pub-type discussion anyway!), but it would seem the wonderful world of IT has answered this need, as reported in the Daily Mail this week. The Memoto camera – billed as the ‘Lifelogging camera’ – is a small digital device that clips onto your clothes and effectively takes snapshots of your daily life and automatically uploads them to a webpage. It also tags the location and time – the makers say it goes to an encrypted page that only the user has access to, thus addressing privacy concerns. It makes the mind boggle as to what the device would record – presumably the average office worker would have a fairly similar set of images sat behind their computer all day. And what happens when you need to ‘pay a visit’ for example? Would you actually want all these images? It’s certainly an interesting concept though.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Pleasures of the Press Office

MCC Director Graham Thatcher reflects on a Trip to Brussels for the Information Security Solutions Europe annual conference this week:

 © CAE

For more than ten years MCC International has been running the Press Office at ISSE (Information Security Solutions Europe), an annual conference and exhibition. This week was its 13th year and whilst it may be unlucky for some, for me it was the best yet.

This year we decamped to Brussels along with more than 250 IT security professionals (vendors, users, academics, government representatives and of course media) from over 30 countries, to spend two days discussing the current and emerging trends, the risks and how to mitigate them.

Joining me this year was the crème-de-la-crème of the IT security journalist community from the UK, Belgium, France, Germany and as far afield as Japan. We always receive a positive response when the invites go out in late Summer and one journalist was horrified that he was booked for a conference in Las Vegas and couldn’t make it! He even sent me a note just before the start of ISSE reiterating his disappointment. It was great catching up with familiar faces and meeting new ones. There was certainly a real buzz in the main conference hall and the seminar rooms, and I was delighted that many of the journalists shared my eager enthusiasm for tweeting throughout the sessions.

The Press Office is always a great place to be (not just for the Nespresso machine and indulgent chocolate brownies for breakfast) but talking to people about the sessions they were going to and then, upon their return, hearing their views and watching the frantic typing to try and be the first to file the story. It really made me appreciate the buzz I continue to get working at the coalface. This is why I chose a career in tech PR.

We also spend a lot of time chewing the fat over who is doing what, the state of the media and how important it remains - in an information rich world - that we have journalists who have specific industry expertise, who can help to place everything in context for the rest of us.
There are many people and organisations involved with making ISSE the success it is but I must single out EEMA (celebrating its 25th anniversary) and Revolution Events, as these are the two with whom we at MCC International work with, to give ISSE the exposure it deserves. They make sure that everything runs like clockwork, will always go the extra mile and always do so with a big smile.  But it isn’t all work and no play and dinner courtesy of Revolution Events on the first night was a real highlight, followed the next evening by an exclusive tour of the Magritte Museum. It seems that IT security professionals know their art history almost as well as their threat landscape. 
It was at the museum that I had the delight to see EEMA, Executive Director, Roger Dean, receive (to his great surprise) a lifetime achievement award.  He has been at the forefront of IT security and identity management for his entire career, and it is a little known fact that he introduced the first commercial email system to the UK. He was joined by Kim Cameron from Microsoft and between them they have made a significant contributed to security and identity management.

So, as I a write this story on the Eurostar back to St Pancras I reflect on a great event, shared with some great people and some excellent results, as well as belly full of chocolate and the odd Belgian beer.

I am looking forward to ISSE 2013.