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April 12th, 2014

Tech PR viewpoint: IBM Mainframes turn 50!

Tech PR viewpoint: IBM Mainframes turn 50!

Did you know that there are probably people working in the same room as you who were born in the late 1990s? I’ve got documents older than that stored on my laptop. Tell them to ‘change the record’, or try making the ‘call me?’ signal at these bright young things, and they will stare at you blankly through Google Glass and race off on their hoverboards. Or something like that.

I always act like this when a nostalgic technology milestone makes me feel about 100 years old. In last week’s Prompt newsletter we wrote about the Netscape browser’s launch 20 years ago. This week I find out that the IBM mainframe is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Fifty years? Seriously? And later this year the British rival to the System 360 — the ICL 1900 — will also turn 50. How can that possibly be?

Regular readers and personal friends will know that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for ‘proper’ computers like the IBM mainframes. Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC, was the first tech vendor I worked with, and of course everybody knows that I have a PDP in my kitchen. But I might have to start covering it with a tablecloth now, just in case visitors get the wrong idea about the longevity of my career, and start searching for IBM 360s in my spare bedroom.

Those particular mainframes from Big Blue were – unbelievably — launched on 7 April 1964. They were upgradeable, backwards-compatible, future-proof, all-powerful, the size of a small family car, and are still in widespread operation today. Charlie Ewen, CIO at the Met Office, a user of mainframes for 40 years, told the BBC this week: “We don’t see mainframes as legacy technology. They are resilient, robust and are very cost-effective for the work we do.”

Aren’t we all eh, Charlie? Aren’t we all…

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April 7th, 2014

Tech PR viewpoint: Be honest (realistic) about what you do…

Tech PR viewpoint: Be honest (realistic) about what you do…

Hazel’s Tech PR viewpoint

Prompt Tech PR Viewpoint about messaging and truthIn technology, with all its acronyms, blurring of lines and the need for influencers, commentators, buyers and vendors themselves to define new markets, there can easily be overlaps from one technology to another. Yet sometimes vendors overstep those lines and claim spuriously to do what their competitor does.

I’ve seen this a number of times in an enterprise sales situation – a vendor is defensive of a potentially competitive vendor coming into a project so they ‘overstate’ what their own technology can do. It’s not always blatant – in my experience they typically and truly intend – whether through through customization or development – to deliver what they have promised. But often claims are deliberately left hanging out there, to their advantage, and longer-term potential detriment.

In consumer technology there is far more of a ‘does what it says on the tin’ attitude, largely because of the need for simplicity driven by the target market, price-point and competition. Buying something for a few hundred dollars to perform a specific task is much simpler than trying to implement and integrate complex enterprise technology. The inherent complexity of enterprise technologies often makes it difficult for vendors to describe succinctly what they do. But some tech vendors certainly don’t help themselves, either. So if you’re a technology vendor and you’re currently reworking your messaging, please be deliberate, considered and honest.

It’s also important to consider how you categorize your product or service – what do you call it? What do your customers think they’ve bought? I’ve certainly written a number of enterprise case studies where a CIO or IT director describes the product/service they’ve implemented and they really aren’t using the same words as the vendor that sold the solution.

So – take a moment and think about why your company exists, what it does and what you should call it – as honestly and as realistically as possible.

1. Why does your company exist — what is its vision and purpose?
2. What problems do you solve?
3. Who do you solve these problems for?
4. Describe in the simplest terms possible what your technology does for them
5. Do you have customers that are already using this technology to solve such problems?
6. Ask a good proportion of your customers (don’t just ask one or two):
- What is the problem you had before you worked with us?
- Did we solve this problem?
- Can you describe how we solved it?
- How would you describe our technology, product or service — what is it? (and no prompting them with your own self-created market or terminology!)
7. Ask each of your employees, business partners, suppliers, and other people you trust to complete the following statements on paper:
(Your company name) makes/develops /sells _______________ to
_______________ which helps them _______________.
8. Which technology sectors/descriptions are frequently confused with your own technology but do NOT do the same things that you do?
9. And conversely, which technology areas do you overlap with?
10. Want to know more? Email me or send us an email to worksheets@prompt-pr.com and ask for our tech enterprise messaging template.

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February 3rd, 2014

Me, DEC and dinosaurs

Me, DEC and dinosaurs

Hazel Butters: Tech PR viewpoint

“It’s hard to accept dinosaurs as a success when they are all dead” – Robert T Bakker, The Dinosaur Heresies

Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC, was the first tech vendor I worked with. Based out of Maynard, Massachusetts it was founded in 1957 by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson, and developed and sold the very first minicomputer, the PDP (sidenote: I have a PDP in my kitchen).

DEC grew quickly and expanded beyond the PDP-series to develop the VAX architecture, networked storage built on Ethernet and clusters, and Alpha-based supercomputers. It became one of the top three computer workstation vendors in the world, created the VAX instruction set behind the VMS OS, and was the fifth company to register a .com domain. DEC competed strongly with IBM chasing ‘Big Blue’ to be the number one IT company in the mid-80s, it employed 140,000 people at its peak, with sales of $14 billion. We now know that the success couldn’t last, and when DEC faltered in 1998 it was bought for $9.6 billion by Compaq (which in turn was bought by HP in 2002 for $25 billion).

All of which brings me to the dinosaurs.

There are many things written and said about DEC including the description ‘dinosaur-like’ – which always seems to be used in a derogatory sense. But dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 130 million years. Humans have barely notched up 100,000 years. So before we start pointing fingers or paws at the failure of Stegosauria, or the decline of Tyrannosaurus rex, we should really think about our current timeline, success – and trajectory.

Tyrannosaurus rexI’m sure DEC is a great case study for MBA students: an MIT-birth, the rise of 32-bit chipsets and the PC twinned with DEC’s reaction to the declining minicomputer market. DEC was the inspiration for ‘disruptive innovation’ studies; and spawned discussions around processes versus innovation in maturing organizations.

Ken Olsen was also responsible for a wonderfully creative culture, revealed amazing foresight, co-founded a 1950s technology company that spanned four decades, and inspired a whole generation of tech entrepreneurs and innovators. I have many friends in Massachusetts and abroad, who grew up going to DEC family days and still fondly remember ‘Mother DEC and Father Ken’.

So call DEC ‘dinosaur-like’ if you will. As long as you mean it was a force to be reckoned with, amazing, diverse, long-lived and (sadly) no longer here to defend itself.

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October 9th, 2013

Ten reasons your technology marketing is pants*

Ten reasons your technology marketing is pants*

*British phrase for ‘not awesome’

1. Lack of clarity: it’s not clear what you sell – or why (i.e. why your business even exists)
2. Too many acronyms and market-created terms (see #1)
3. Tendency to make ‘me too’ claims, (frequently associated with self-constructed vendor charts)
4. A sales-marketing gap: one group is selling one thing while the other is saying another
5. Not enough customer-based content and testimonials
6. Company news/press releases aren’t being pitched to the press (hitting ‘send’ on a wire service isn’t pitching)
7. You don’t have the right sales content to help shorten the sales cycle
8. No engagement with the industry analysts (we don’t mean buying relationships)
9. You need to get some swagger and show (not tell) what is different about your business, your solution and how you work
10. You’re not explaining the solution to a problem, you’re trying to sell something

Want to hear Prompt’s ‘Ten Ways’ and get some ideas of how to create content and campaigns to help technology sales?Join us for a free ‘Ten Ways to Promote your Technology Product, Service or App’ webinar that’s being held on October 10 at 11:30am ET / 4:30pm BT. Register here: http://www.prompt-communications.com/technology-pr-webinar/

Missed it/unable to attend but would like the reply? Email us at ten@prompt-communications.com

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September 10th, 2013

aPriori signs new European PR contract with Prompt

aPriori signs new European PR contract with Prompt

International agency to continue to drive European media relations for PCM innovator

10 September 2013 Prompt has been appointed by enterprise product cost management software specialist aPriori to run targeted 2014 European media campaigns covering Britain, France and DACH (Germany, Switzerland and Austria).

Headquartered in Concord, Massachusetts, aPriori develops and markets enterprise product cost management software to reduce the costs of products both post- and pre-production. aPriori Product Cost Management software platform is the first solution of its kind that allows companies to maximize savings throughout the development and manufacturing stages. The software provides real-time product cost assessments, enabling discrete manufacturers and product companies to make informed decisions to drive down product costs. aPriori helps world class manufacturing corporations stay on budget and reduce excess spending. The company recently announced $6 million in additional funding on the back of a record financial year which included annual revenue growth of 84% and a 62% increase in customers alongside a fifth year of 90% customer renewals.

Rick Burke, VP of Marketing for aPriori, said: “In Prompt we feel we have found a public relations company that matches our own personality. Together we are goal focused and strategic, targeting relevant media audiences in key territories, and concentrating on very specific markets. Prompt has understood our ambitions to produce some excellent and metric-based results to date including opinion pieces, interviews and coverage in core automobile, aerospace and manufacturing press. We now look forward to continuing our momentum, press coverage and sales-focused PR activities in 2014.”

Prompt is a PR consultancy that has gained significant experience in the technology industry with PR, copywriting and marketing clients from early stage technology companies to global organisations such as Dell and Oracle Corporation. The company also offers early stage companies an introduction to PR with packaged services called ‘First Byte’ with sales-focused, ‘no surprises’ PR, thought leadership, media coverage and sales-related content.

Hazel Butters, CEO, Prompt said: “aPriori is a unique company that provides a high quality product with huge value for any businesses looking for an innovative way to make more informed manufacturing and sourcing decisions that drive significant cost out of products. Rick and his team are great to work with – and they’re incredibly focused, providing our team with the goals and objectives essential for effective, results-driven PR. We very much look forward to continuing our work with aPriori into 2014.”

About aPriori
aPriori software and services generate hard-dollar product cost savings for discrete manufacturing and product innovation companies. Using aPriori’s real-time product cost assessments, employees in engineering, sourcing and manufacturing make more-informed decisions that drive costs out of products pre- and post-production. With aPriori, manufacturers launch products at cost targets, maximize savings in re-work projects and never overpay for sourced parts.
www.apriori.com

About Prompt Communications

Founded in January 2002, Prompt Communications is a communications agency with European offices in London and US offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California. Prompt Communications offers expertise across all marketing disciplines, teaming its consultants’ extensive knowledge of start-ups, technology market with experience of pan-European and American media, analyst and marketing campaigns. Using highly targeted marketing, PR, analyst relations, social media and corporate copywriting initiatives, Prompt helps its clients gain the visibility they need to achieve their business objectives, from increasing sales to enhancing reputation with stakeholders.
www.prompt-communications.com

Media Contact:
Jackie Fraser | Prompt
Tel: +44 845 053 9121 | +1 617 401 2717
press@prompt-communications.com

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August 29th, 2013

Prompt launches flexible ‘First Byte’ PR packages for tech start-ups

Prompt launches flexible ‘First Byte’ PR packages for tech start-ups

Customizable service bundles also offer ‘add-on’ options for rapid response to market opportunities

Boston, MA – August 28, 2013 – Prompt Boston has launched a range of PR, marketing, content creation and social media service packages designed specifically to benefit technology start-ups. Prompt’s ‘First Byte’ packages support key business activities that promote thought leadership, media relations and content creation. Nicknamed ‘Megabyte’,‘Gigabyte’,‘Terabyte’ and ‘Petabyte’, each scale of package also offers add-on options through a ‘Byte Size’ menu, enabling companies to respond easily to sales and growth-related opportunities, or swiftly trigger specific activities when most benefit can be gained. These optional add-ons include analyst relations, customer case studies, media training, event support and even award programs.

The programs also cover PR, media relations and copywriting in the UK, France and DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), enabling American-headquartered companies to easily extend their marketing activities to new territories and to maximize the return on their marketing dollars.

Hazel Butters, CEO of Prompt Boston, said: “With the fast-paced nature of today’s technology industry, many companies, particularly start-ups, need PR programs that are flexible, scalable and economical. Increasingly we find ourselves working with start-ups and tech companies that have previously been scared away from PR by hefty six-figure fees and teams that seem to consist of a cast of thousands.  Prompt’s ‘First Byte’ packages help our clients to build impactful, results-driven PR programs which remain focused, manageable and affordable.”

Prompt’s ‘First Byte’ PR packaged activities are delivered with full transparency to ensure clear visibility of progress and results. Through this certain and honest approach, Prompt’s specialist teams work as true extensions of clients’ internal PR and marketing teams.

Hazel concluded: “PR is an important component of any business plan or strategy. With Prompt’s packages, companies can reap valuable results and predictable returns on their investments. It’s all too easy for start-ups to regard PR as just another cost, because they aren’t made plainly aware of the tangible benefits PR brings. Others may understand the advantages of PR but feel that hidden costs make it prohibitive for them to adopt. Our start-up packages are exclusively designed for early stage companies; they contain no nasty surprise costs, and are created specifically to help smaller teams harness the power of PR as part of a viable and sustainable business strategy.”

Tammy Kahn Fennell, CEO of MarketMeSuite, a user-friendly social media platform trusted by 30,000 users to organize, prioritize and engage smarter on social media, said: “As a growing software company with commitments in engineering, new product development, customer service, partner strategy and sales, it can be challenging to free up budget and dedicate time for specific media activities. We worked with Prompt when we needed set-price media work because the team could commit to a predictable fee that helped us to plan financially, while prioritizing activities that complemented our immediate sales and growth strategy.”

To learn more about Prompt’s ‘First Byte’ PR packages, visit the website. To receive more information on pricing and package details, please fill out Prompt’s form here.

About Prompt
Prompt is a communications agency that enables marketers and entrepreneurs to increase sales and marketing effectiveness. Specializing in innovative markets including technology, green tech and sustainability, Prompt helps its clients communicate effectively and authentically with core audiences online and offline through PR, media relations, copywriting, webinars, market and industry analysis, social media, video content and customer reference programs. Prompt Communications has offices and consultants spanning in London, Massachusetts and California. Prompt’s current and former clients include Adeptra, Adobe Systems Incorporated, Aperture, Corizon, Dell Compellent, Foviance, Genesys Telecommunications, GenSight, Grouptree, IBM, jovoto, KANA, Oracle Corporation, smartFOCUS and Webtide.
www.prompt-communications.com

Media contacts:
Hazel Butters or Jackie Fraser
1 (617) 401-2717
press@prompt-communications.com

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August 7th, 2013

Prompt Boston launches free weekly technology PR workshops

Prompt Boston launches free weekly technology PR workshops

 Advice and insights for New England companies with practical technology PR courses in Kendall Square 

Boston, MA – Prompt Boston, the East Coast office of Prompt Communications, a technology specialist public relations and digital communications agency, has launched free weekly ‘PR and Pizza’ workshop series for New England technology companies, at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC).

The workshops offer free ideas and advice to technology marketing professionals and entrepreneurs in start-ups and early-stage ventures to enterprise companies. Workshop topics include messaging, news creation, news distribution and pitching, media and analyst training, social media, PR measurement and ROI.

Each workshop is run by Prompt Boston’s PR, copywriting and social media consultants.

Caroline Egan, social media and content strategist, 360Chestnut said: “As a technology company that is focused on educating consumers on energy-efficient and cost-effective solutions for their homes, we understand the benefits of PR. Being able to join Prompt’s workshops has given us the opportunity to hear about fresh strategies and tactics, and discuss ideas to help us to promote our own services as efficiently as possible.”

Geoff Mamlet, managing director, Cambridge Innovation Center said: “As one of the largest communities of early-stage ventures, start-ups, innovators and entrepreneurs in the world, we welcome community members such as Prompt that are keen to share information and ideas. Knowledge-sharing plays an important role in innovation.”

The one-hour workshops take place each Friday in Kendall Square. Workshops can be reserved on Prompt Boston’s Eventbrite page.

Prompt’s CEO, Hazel Butters, said: “Prompt Boston enjoys being part of this vibrant local community. This series of free workshops helps us to share our knowledge with the community. We want to help technology companies that may lack financial resources, as well as established vendors that are keen to sharpen the marketing and promotion of technology products, services or apps.”

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Prompt Communications:
Prompt is a communications agency that enables marketers and entrepreneurs to increase their sales and marketing effectiveness. Specializing in innovative markets, Prompt helps its clients communicate effectively and authentically with core audiences online and offline through PR, media relations, copywriting, webinars, market and industry analysis, social media, video content and customer reference programs. Founded in 2002, Prompt Communications has offices in London and US offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California. www.prompt-communications.com

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October 25th, 2012

LinkedIn vs. Pinterest

LinkedIn vs. Pinterest

Prompt Poll:

As a high tech PR, copywriting and social media agency, we’re naturally fascinated with how people use social media – and recently wrote about the changes that LinkedIn and Pinterest underwent.  But, given the choice, which do people prefer?….

Which social media site do you prefer?
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March 27th, 2012

Read all about it: why tech PRs must be avid readers

Read all about it: why tech PRs must be avid readers

I have a pet peeve (well, more than one actually, but there’ll be other days and other posts.)

As a communications, content and PR consultancy, we spend our time advising clients on how they need to target certain audiences, understand their challenges, opportunities and pressures, discover how they think, work, live and process buying decisions, and finally how they act on those decisions. What we, our clients and their customers read, clearly plays an important part in making sense of all of that.

So I am amazed when anyone who works in any role that is vaguely related to tech PR doesn’t have a desk swarming with newspapers, magazines and trade journals. Yes, there are online news channels, digital publications, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google alerts, blogs and the whole social media alphabet from Badoo to Yammer. But surely if you’re targeting storage managers, data centre specialists, IT directors, venture capitalists, business owners and other senior decision makers, then you really need to have a desk that is covered with relevant content – much of which is still in print.

This is where I come to my pet peeve: magazines that aren’t taken out of their wrappers and just sit in piles. If you’re not interested in the publications that your target audiences are reading then you’re simply not interested in the press or the audiences that read them, and you can’t provide knowledgeable advice to clients if you’re blind to the content swaying the buying decisions of their target audiences. Not interested in Datacentre Solutions? Completely unmoved by Computing’s analysis? Really don’t care what the charming Jason Stamper has to say in the latest Computer Business Review? Well then, go and work in an industry you are interested in.

If you work in tech marketing or PR it’s not good enough simply to subscribe to the relevant press and following them on all possible social media outlets. You need to rip open that cellophane wrapper and get reading. Your job – and your reputation across the tech PR industry – may just depend on it.

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March 15th, 2012

Tech PR Viewpoint: Starting with a niche is more logical than original

Tech PR Viewpoint: Starting with a niche is more logical than original

Somebody has to say it. Facebook was not the first, or only, company to begin life in a niche. Yes, it did benefit from incubation at the founders’ college (Harvard), but a few times over the past month I’ve heard people highlight the fact that Facebook started in a niche as if it was the only company ever to have done so. Facebook started where its founders happened to be – Harvard – which was a very logical place. It then broadened out to Columbia, Stanford, and Yale (again, logical), then to other Ivy League colleges (still making a lot of sense to me), and on to Boston University, MIT and New York University (ditto), before fast-forwarding to global domination and 845 million users.

I have to admit I am getting a little worked up here. I know it’s really no big deal, but there are a few serious points I’d like to put out there:

1 – If you’re a start-up, you must logically start wherever it is easiest for you to reach your shiny new customers. If you start selling a service and have a crowd of, oh, let’s say Harvard students, all around you, then it makes more than perfect sense to start selling your idea to those students. Finding other relevant audiences that are going to leap at your idea and adopt it is just the next logical step. As my grandmother would have said: “That’s just ruddy common sense.”

2 – Hearing people say that “Facebook started in a niche” as if such a thing had never been thought of before just makes me feel old. When I first worked in tech communications the shining example of a company that exploited a niche was PeopleSoft (waaay before it was purchased by Oracle in 2005). PeopleSoft already had the whole client/server thing going on when so when it released PeopleSoft HMRS then ‘client/server + HR software = a niche’

3 – It’s just good practice to have well-defined distinct audiences. Unless you happen to have a whoppingly huge marketing budget that allows you to communicate your company’s products, services and mission in life to every Tom, Dick and Harry in the English-speaking world (or whichever region you want to conquer), then you must have a considered and methodical approach to audiences you want to target with messages that are relevant to their lives – personal or professional

4 – The use of the word niche can mean so many different things to different people. To me niche doesn’t indicate a narrow market, it means a well-defined audience. And I think any company selling anything should have a well-defined audience for each of its products or services, whether it’s a start-up selling just one thing to a set audience, or an established company with several different business lines targeting distinct audiences with different demographics, reasons to buy and price points. Call them niches if you enjoy saying the word. (I don’t like saying it, mainly due to the very different pronunciation between UK and American English. ‘Audience’ however, sounds the same on each side of the Atlantic).

Of course the flip-side of targeting a well-defined audience can be equally as frustrating as reinventing the niche. When asked about their target audiences, clients will sometimes say: “We’re going to target all verticals” or “We don’t have a specific job title or role to target with this product because it’s relevant to everyone” or “There’s no specific demographic that we’re targeting with this service.” As frustrated marketers are known to say (while banging their heads repeatedly into their keyboards), targeting everyone is as good as targeting no-one. You need to start somewhere.

So pick an audience. Target them. Be relevant to them. Understand their needs, challenges, opportunities, price points and the things that keep them awake at 2am. Clearly define a distinct audience. Just like PeopleSoft did with client-based HR software…

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December 9th, 2011

Voltage: Flavors to inspire the tastebuds (and press release writing)

Voltage: Flavors to inspire the tastebuds (and press release writing)

Voltage coffee shop: Ideal place to write press releases There are many reasons why Prompt Boston loves being at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square: hundreds of innovators and early stage companies working in close proximity; the opportunity to host free tech marketing workshops and attend industry events; easy access to institutions such as MIT and NERD. As a high tech and green tech PR, copywriting and content strategy firm, there’s a wealth of ideas, things to do, and people to meet.

But there’s another reason: Voltage, a coffee shop with a difference. At first Voltage looks unassuming: white walls showcasing art pieces, wooden chairs, concrete floors. But the coffee, especially the flavored lattes, are nothing short of spectacular. Our current favorites are the ‘Paper Plane’ (cardamom and rosewater), and the ‘Atticus Finch’ (burnt sugar and vanilla). Though this morning’s fix was another hit – ‘Beyond the Sea’ – it’s made with homemade caramel and salt. The mixture of caffeine, fabulous flavors and a calming environment makes it an ideal location to write – whether it’s a press release on enterprise storage, an article on software testing or a newsletter article on iPhone games.

We’re also fans of Voltage’s background – it’s independent, founded by artist and businesswoman Lucy Valena, who secured a loan from Sam Adam’s ‘Brewing the American Dream’ fund. Coffee funded by beer – two of our favorite things working in harmony.

You don’t have to take our word for how great Voltage is – earlier this year Boston magazine named it Boston’s best coffee shop.

If you’re in the Kendall Square neighborhood and looking for a caffeine-adventure for your taste buds, we couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Look around – one of us may be near you, writing a news release whilst trying a new flavor.

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