21 Jul 2015
I had an email in my junk folder this week inviting me to sign up to a roundtable led by an ‘expert’ on what journalists want from PR people.
Having been a journalist for 18 years, I think I just about know what journalists want from PR people, and I quipped to the sender that perhaps I could tell them a thing or two about how to deal with journalists.
But whatever industry you are in – knowing your audience/customer is absolutely crucial, or you will quickly create bad feeling.
The problem is now that we all have such vast databases that just aren’t nurtured properly – blanket emails are sent out in the hope that they will be seen by the right people, when in fact someone should take the time to sort that database out, ask questions, and only send an email to the relevant people.
It is something we are working very hard at here at Incisive Media.
If the person who sent me the email about PR had done that, I might not have got so irritated last night.
Not that it takes much you understand. However I get that managing a database is a little like trying to hold Mercury in your hand, it cannot be fully controlled, there is always going to be some that slips from your grip – the trick is to try and keep the majority of it intact. Both people and companies come and go, or are acquired, and their requirements and interests change. And this is a two way thing.
If your customers won’t respond to your communications and actually let you know what interests/is relevant to them, things get even more complicated. It is all too easy to feel that you are talking to yourself when you get no response.
It is a fact that customers are more savvy now than ever before, and are not worried about shaming a company on social media or just taking their business elsewhere if they are not happy.
But for those that go that extra mile to really get to know their customers, and find out what they want/need/are interested in, the effort will be fully rewarded.
As long as those customers also appreciate that they have to do their bit too.
06 Jul 2015
It is very easy to get angry when something beyond your control is not going according to plan.
For example I get ridiculously angry over trains being late, as anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook will agree.
But losing my rag at the train staff is not going to get me to my destination any quicker, and they will not forget my face in a hurry. For all the wrong reasons.
It doesn't matter how angry I am about the trains, it is not the fault of the train staff that a signal has stopped working, or the train has developed a fault.
Treating people with respect is something my parents drummed into me from an early age, one of their favourite sayings being "be careful who you tread on, on your way up, as it is a long way down".
It doesn't matter if you are speaking to an MD or a cleaner, a multi-millionaire or a pauper - we are all human beings at the end of the day and respect costs nothing.
My first job in local papers involved something hideous called a 'death knock'. Which basically was when someone died, you were sent out by your news editor to speak to the family, get a picture of the deceased, and get a story in the paper.
Some journalists had different approaches - some would be quite aggressive, knocking on doors, ringing phones and not leaving until the family had answered. But my approach was to write a polite note expressing my sympathy and leaving my name and number, giving them the option to call me if they wanted a tribute to their loved one in the paper. Nine times out of ten, it worked.
It was a really difficult job, and earning the respect and trust of the family was not easy. And making them talk about something so raw was very draining for both me and them. It required patience, kindness, understanding, and on occasion also having to deal with a very angry news editor demanding to know why my story was not ready to go for that evening's edition.
Why am I bringing this up? I hear you ask.
Nothing in particular, but I wrote a song earlier this year about looking back over your life and wondering if you had actually achieved anything worthwhile. And I found the lyrics lying around this weekend and had another read through.
It is interesting that so much emphasis is put on material wealth when talking about success, when really it should be more about the type of person you are and how you have treated those around you throughout your life.
Another favourite saying of my family is "you come in this world with nothing and go out with nothing". Very true indeed.
22 Jun 2015
Last week I attended the Synaxon 2015 conference in my old stomping ground of Northamptonshire.
One of the main attractions was Olympic legend Kriss Akabusi, who has carved out a career as a motivational speaker, among other things.
Like most people, I am pretty cynical about these kind of things - yes I know there is no 'I' in team, and some of the 'motivational' sayings I'm seeing all over Facebook at the moment are making me want to tear my hair out!
However from the moment he stepped on stage Akabusi had the audience eating out of his hand.
His joke about being born so ugly that the doctor slapped his mother struck me as ridiculously funny for some reason!
Not only is he big physically - I thought he was really short for some reason - but his stage presence is immense!
I remember that 1991 World Championship 400m relay final in Tokyo, where Akabusi beat a world class US athlete in the final leg of the race - but to see it played out again, with Akabusi commenting on it - really was something else.
Not only did he give a fascinating insight into his life - and he did it all, children's home, achieving 9 'No-levels' at school, the army, athletics brilliance - but he managed to weave in a strong message to the channel about business success and having the right attitude to running a business and keeping staff happy and motivated.
He did it without sounding cheesy, and that is quite an achievement.
Even his motivational sayings had me nodding along: "The past is for reference not residence". Very true indeed. Never forget the past, but don't dwell on it or try to live in it, both on a personal and professional level.
I even found myself with a tear in my eye when he described Derek Redmond (another Northampton boy) tearing his hamstring at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. I just watched the video again actually and it really is emotional and a sign of determination, helped along by a doting father. Amazing.
So I'm going to end with one of his own quotes, and one I think really fits in our industry:
"Similarites make us champions, but our differences make us unique".
08 Jun 2015
Now, very occasionally I will post something that is not related to IT, but life in general.
As you may or may not have noticed, I am doing a charity bike ride in under two weeks, a total of 95 MILES in one day!!! I have been training hard, but am still bricking it!
This is to raise money for vital research into two very underfunded cancer types – liver and pancreatic cancer.
I am trying to smash my target of £1,000 and am well on the way – but still need some help.
I’m hoping that the channel will rise to the challenge and help me! I know loads of you already do great charity work and we cover as many of these events as we can, but it doesn't stop me getting my own begging bowl out every now and again!
The generosity I have seen so far from several industry people has bowled me over – so thank you to all of them. You know who you are – I won’t embarrass you!
The money I’m raising goes directly to the medical team at Leicester General Hospital who carry out this vital research, and they have already done some very pioneering treatments, but unlike the London hospitals, don’t really get a chance to shout about it because they are not followed or reported on by the national press as they should be.
This research goes towards treatment that extends to everyone in the UK, not just Leicestershire. The amount of referrals they get from around the country is high. And not a penny of the money raised goes on admin.
I spent yesterday (Sunday) with some of these amazing surgeons and nurses fundraising in Leicester City centre – they all gave up a precious day off to help raise money and awareness of their own unit, standing for hours with collection tins and talking to the general public.
We raised nearly £600 which was amazing. And all of them are involved in the charity bike ride, either as participants or support crew.
These people are the real heroes, not the countless pointless, often talentless ‘celebrities’ who are mainly concerned with lining their own pockets and scoring a photo opp. (Yes there are a few exceptions).
These doctors and nurses spend many unpaid hours of their free time helping to save lives, working above and beyond the call of duty, and put any of us that moan about our 9-5 jobs to shame. They literally are saving lives and making life-changing decisions on a daily basis. I cannot thank them enough.
The fact they have to fundraise for their own unit because it doesn’t get any grants, is ludicrous enough and I won’t get started on that now, but the things I hear about these people and what they do on top of their actual jobs to help cancer sufferers, really is awe-inspiring. And I’m sure they are not the only NHS team in the UK that do this.
It is a shame that the ‘powers that be’ don’t recognise these stars when it comes to handing out national awards or grants a little more.
So please, if you can spare anything to help me hit my target – check out my fundraising page by clicking here. Thank you!
20 May 2015
Now as a rule I have mainly stayed away from the whole ‘women in IT’ arguments because I haven’t agreed with some of the points raised (most of them in fact), and I feel they have not been helpful to women at all.
Even after a certain vendor, (who shall remain nameless because I don’t want to give them any more publicity), posted a picture of a semi-naked woman this week to promote a ‘half price’ sale – I stayed out of it. But look the story up on Channelweb if you haven't already seen it!
This is something that our industry has done for years, and while I don’t like it or agree with it, I accept that some ‘marketing’ and management people in the channel are still living and acting like it is the 1970s.
Luckily the majority of us have moved on and realise that women are actually a vital part of the channel, and we need to encourage more females to consider IT as a career.
Increasingly industry events (such as Infosec) are banning the use of ‘booth babes’ because they are believed to be detrimental to business and send out the wrong message – so mindsets are changing. Which is progress.
The response of said vendor was that the majority of their customers are male between the ages of 18 and 42 and this sort of thing appeals to them. Wrong.
Interestingly it sparked an outcry on Twitter, with the majority of responses from men claiming the image was ‘sexist’ and unnecessary, and stressing that they would never use said product.
Good on them.
And it was for that reason – the absolute outcry that this act prompted on Twitter - that we felt it was a story worth covering, if purely to spark debate. It has been one of our most read stories of the week.
Sadly we didn’t bank on certain people’s inability to have an intelligent debate.
“Ug ug” as the cavemen used to say.
‘Yawn’ said one response. Yes ‘Yawn’ indeed. Yawn for having to put up with ridiculously dressed women splashed across Twitter to sell an IT product that is about as sexy as an infected toe.
‘Poor journalism’ insinuated a couple of others. Really? Poor journalism to point out something that is blatantly outdated in the modern world and that is found distasteful by 50 per cent of the population? Wow. I'll get back in the kitchen then shall I?
I accept that the IT industry is not the only one that does this, and in fact others are far worse – but just because other industries do it – does it make it right?
As my mum used to say to me, “If so-and-so ran under a bus, would you do the same?”
And for the record – I don’t believe scantily-clad men should be used to promote IT products either.
Bring on the ‘debate’. I’m ready for it.
27 Apr 2015
As if flying into New York to spend a week with my Channelnomics.com colleagues was not reward enough, I was lucky enough to meet senior global channel execs from both Dell and HP in the Big Apple last week.
There has never been much love lost between the two firms, and that was before Dell decided to embrace the channel, so it is interesting to see the completely different paths both vendors are taking.
Thomas Jensen, vice president of worldwide channel sales at HP PPS, and Cheryl Cook, vice president global channels and alliances at Dell, were both kind enough to introduce us to one of their partners as well, allowing us to grill both them and their partner on strategy. Both vendors had a fascinating story to tell and actually wished each other luck.
I have followed their developments with interest over the last 15 years, but the two companies could not be coming at things from a more different angle, yet both are claiming the same thing.
HP is set to split in two by November, dividing the company into HP Inc (covering PCs and printers) and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, covering enterprise hardware and services.
Jensen explained to us at the time that the split will make things much easier for partners, as the two sides of the business will become more nimble and able to act a lot more quickly on pressing matters.
Partners will know exactly who they need to talk to, and the whole process of doing business with HP will become even simpler, he said.
However Dell is a different story. The vendor has been busy buying companies such as Quest, SonicWall, Compellent (to name but a few) to build out its overall offering, as well as its well-publicised battle to go private, and has now positioned itself as a complete ‘end-to-end’ solution provider.
This, explained Cook, means it is far easier for channel partners to do business with it because they can get everything they need from one place, without having to deal with more people/teams and add any layers of complexity into the mix for their customers.
In my humble opinion there are still some minor holes (eg networking, and this is based on a couple of things said to me by partners), but it is very clear what Dell is trying to do and why it is trying to do it.
The other point Cook made, and I guess it is a valid one, is that because Dell's channel model is relatively new compared to some, they don't have all the legacy stuff to worry about. Instead their strategy is relatively fresh, rather than dotted with changes and new strategy launches like most of the more established channel vendors.
Being totally neutral, I can see the benefits of both models, and in the real world, how many partners/end users get absolutely all their IT kit from the same vendor? Could this be the way things go in the future?
With both vendors claiming their model is the best and easiest way for their partners to do business, I genuinely do want to know from our readers – which way is best?
Can they both be right?
10 Apr 2015
Now, the subject of women in business, be it IT or other industries is a difficult one to approach without winding someone up the wrong way.
And that is usually just me.
Some of the stories/pieces of research/opinions I read/receive are wrong, some are patronising, and a small handful are spot on.
But I was led via the medium of Twitter to an article by one of my least favourite rags (and I have a few) loosely based on some 'research' by the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and Columbia Business School, on the fact that women who claw their way to the top of the corporate ladder, are the least likely to promote other women. I wish I hadn't clicked on it. What a load of utter tripe.
See the article here - I struggle to call it an article actually, and the author is obviously standing behind their convictions because they haven't put their name to it.
"If you're a woman looking to get to the top of your profession, try to avoid having a female boss..." is the article opener.
It then goes on to basically imply that most women who manage to fight their way past the men to get to a top position, then proceed to block any other womens' attempts to get promotion to a managerial position.
What a sweeping generalisation!
I have had many bosses (I have to be careful here!) over the years, and I have come across good and bad ones of both sexes.
The worst ones I ever had were when I worked in retail before training to be a journalist, and there was one of each at the same place - both were equally terrible to work for, but not because they wanted to stop anyone being promoted - they were just plain nasty and basically bullies.
Speaking as someone who has managed men and women, promotions are given on merit, not what gender they are. It doesn't even come into the equation. If someone deserves a promotion, they will get it as soon as I can possibly get it signed off.
I was talking to someone just this week about the importance of having a balanced workforce of both men and women, and how both bring something different to the table.
But with articles like this, it just knocks everything back to square one, painting women execs as nasty, bitter and jealous, who will stop at nothing to prevent other women progressing, and will surround themselves with male colleagues like some sort of Queen Bee. Seriously?
Of course there will be some people out there like that - but this is not exclusive to women by any stretch of the imagination - again I have worked with some men that bring a new meaning to the word catty (Disclaimer: definitely not anyone I have worked with in the last 12 years!)
The comments below the article are also very telling and I had to check the date to make sure we had not been transported back to the 1950s.
Blood is well and truly boiled!
23 Mar 2015
Considering you spend the majority of your adult life working with people with whom you have been thrown together by circumstance, many underestimate how important it is to actually get on with those people and trust each other.
Of course given the choice, most people would love to win the lottery and spend the rest of their lives sunning it up in first-class luxury on an island somewhere - but considering that is an absolute pipe dream - it is important to make the best of what you do have.
Now I am set to celebrate 15 years - Yep - 15 YEARS with CRN in August - and the one thing that has been pretty consistent over the years is a top set of people who will help each other out at the drop of a hat.
Quite often companies will pay lip service to the oft-used adage that 'People are a company's best investment' - but those that don't really believe it, actually don't deserve good people working there in the first place.
We are facing a challenging couple of weeks with very short deadlines, loads going on and a lot of pressure; and I don't often use this blog to mention my workmates; but they never cease to impress me with their willingness to take on more work, hit difficult deadlines, and quite often, achieve the impossible.
Team CRN/Channelnomics, I am very proud to work with you all and thank you all for being just brilliant!
Views - both channel related and everyday life observations - from CRN Editor Sara Yirrell. If you have any gossip that you would like to share with me please do get in touch and also we would love to see your comments at the end of the blog.