Countdown to Channel Awards entry deadline

13 Jun 2014

Tables of guests and industry luminaries at the 2011 CRN Channel Awards

As the 80s song goes - It's the Final Countdown!

Well not quite, but there ARE JUST DAYS until the Channel Awards deadline runs out and I really don't want anyone to miss out this year.

Now in their 21st year, the CRN Channel Awards is a firm fixture in the industry diary and an excuse for a good knees up, as well as reward and celebrate success from the past 12 months.

We have 24 categories to choose from, so there really will be something there to suit everyone whether they are a reseller, distributor or vendor.

All I would stress is to read the criteria and entry top tips carefully ( they can be found here) and when writing an entry, bear in mind that the judges will be reading thousands of words in each category, and to be in with a shortlist chance, the entry has to really stand out.

Wow them with facts, figures, testimonials; and if you are a vendor, make the entry relevant to the UK market - the judges do not want to read generic entries that have no relevance to CRN's audience.

I would also advise sticking to the word count - we really are cracking down hard on entries that go way over this year - it is not fair to those companies that do play by the rules. We will ONLY read up to 1,200 words of each entry, all the rest will be ignored.

For those entering the 'big three'  - Vendor, Reseller and Distributor of the year - be prepared if shortlisted to travel to London for the second Judging Day in October to present your case face-to-face in front of the judges.  Again, you MUST be prepared to come in on the day, or there is little point in entering.

I am always amazed when people act surprised that they have to come in on the day - it has been this way now for four years so it is nothing new.

Apart from that, lecture over! Best of luck with your entries and I look forward to reading them!

To find out more about the awards, categories and criteria - click here.

 

 

 

 

Ukuleles coming to a workplace near you?

20 May 2014

Ukuleles

Those of you in the industry who know me, know how passionate I am about the ukulele.

I've endured the laughs, the p*** taking and the bemused expressions, but it could be that I actually will have the last laugh.

I have been playing for about 19 months now and it literally has taken over my life - the ukulele community is fantastic and is growing at a rate of knots with events all over the country. It is a really social little instrument, and great fun.

The thing that annoys me the most is when you mention a ukulele someone always mentions George Formby and cleaning windows - aarrgh! I have to restrain myself sometimes to not punch them in the eye.

I am in a local ukulele band and we have an absolute blast. And there is not a Formby song in sight. We turn up at local guitar open mic nights and by the end of it have converted a few more people to the magic of the uke! Plus the bookings are starting to trickle in so we must be doing something right.

Non-ukulele people would be surprised to hear the songs that can be played on the humble uke - in fact it can pretty much play anything. And above all else it is FUN. And that fun is contagious.

Thanks to Ant and Dec playing the instruments on one of their Saturday night shows recently, the ukulele teacher who taught them a few chords, has popped up with an idea to bring the ukulele to the corporate environment in teambuilding 'workshops' through her company Musivate.

Her theory is that people who make music together will get on - and that is absolutely true. You cannot argue when you are jamming - apart from over the song that you want to play next.

I know another group of ukulele fanatics that go around schools all over the UK teaching the kids to play the ukulele too and it is very popular.

I'm not sure how I would feel though if I were at an IT conference either in the UK or abroad, and saw industry people in suits all strumming away on ukuleles - it would be a bit of a surreal experience with two worlds colliding, and probably not in a good way!

But how can I argue with anything that promotes the ukulele and its general brilliance?

Manic months

06 May 2014

A bottle of champagne being opened

There has been so much going on behind the scenes at CRN which I cannot tell you yet, but soon!

It may (or may not) have been noticeable that I've not been the most visible person in the editorial team over the past couple of months, but that is because I've been frantically writing reports, crunching figures, judging awards and my newest venture, creating PowerPoint presentations!

And in typical CRN fashion, everything I'm working towards is happening in May. No such thing as spreading the load - why would you?

My first venture into the world of PowerPoint will be this Thursday at the CRN Channel conference on mobility.

We have conducted research of both end users and VARs to find out the appetite for mobility solutions and how firms are allocating budgets to invest in the technology.

If you have a desire to see me nervously doing my thing on the stage, please come along on Thursday in central London. More information can be found here.

I have to warn you, my presentations may differ slightly from the ones you are used to! Or they may not!

My manic month ends with CRN Fight Night on 22 May, and I will definitely be celebrating with a gin or two!

So if you have been trying to get hold of me, or need to speak to me about something, please do bear with me, it will be normal service again soon!

Alanis Morissette missed an irony

09 Apr 2014

A sheet of paper reading blah blah blah

Teenagers of the 90s will recall the famous 'Ironic' song by Alanis Morissette, where some of the points made in the song were not ironic at all.

However, I've been spending the past few days at Ingram Micro's global Cloud Summit and i cannot hold back anymore.

It has been a great event for me - plenty of networking with genuine VARs without any PR people breathing down my neck and making sure I didn't talk to anyone without their say so. Absolute bliss.

So before I launch into my latest tirade, thanks to Ingram UK for including me in proceedings like a normal human being, rather than a journalist who is going to just distort the truth and put words into people's mouths.

It is nice to feel trusted.

However, part of being able to mingle with the attendees from all over the US and Europe is the fact that I get real feedback and it affirms exactly what I make of things too.

My main gripe, is that at events like these, and ideed at CRN's own events, people get up on stage and tell channel partners that they must adapt to the to certain models (in this case the cloud) or die, change the way they do business, completely reevaluate their company structure and culture and think about their customers' needs more.

Indeed a report I wrote for CRN recently - The IT Buyers Guide - says the same thing (bar adapting the cloud model or die). Customers are more savvy and are not interested in sales people pitching products in technical speak, or trying to impress them with accreditations. They want to know how they can use IT to better their business and how much it is going to save them.

It is all about knowing your customers and treating them like human beings.

Fair play to the partners in the room, they always take it all in their stride, make notes and nod accordingly. 

However the irony starts when vendors get on stage.

It doesn't matter who the vendor is, in most instances they just go into a massive pitch for their latest product offerings and how wonderful they are and how such and such a partner is making bazillions by selling this product etc etc. Pitch, pitch, pitch.

No explanation of why this product will help partners, how it will benefit their business, what it actually means for them in terms of investment and time spent getting to know the product - just slides and slides of figures and words that don't mean much at all.

It drives me mad.

In fact I would say this shows a disrespect for partners actually. Because the same vendor that has been lecturing partners to change their business models, is actually unprepared to change their own and actually think about how they can promote their messaging to their partners in a way that actually engages them and helps them.

I don't know who is to blame for this. Over-zealous marketing teams that think nothing is more important than the company mantra, or badly informed PR decisions. 

Either way it needs addressing. And quickly.

Because the more I see this happening, the more obvious it becomes that perhaps many vendors really don't understand their own channel partners very much at all.

Now, isn't that Ironic?

OK, I've been to a women in IT thing....

07 Apr 2014

An angry man shouting at a laptop

I knew there was a reason I didn't attend any 'Women in' sessions in the UK.

So perhaps the US wasn't the best place to actually start as they tend to be a little more emotional than us Brits.

I actually had to leave the session - entitled 'Women of the Cloud', because I couldn't take any more.

I still believe that by drawing attention to the fact that you are in a 'minority' group within an industry - you stand out for the wrong reasons.

It is a fact that women were just not that interested in IT 20 years ago - so it is no wonder that they are not that prevalent in top positions in the present day.

It is changing. Slowly but surely as the younger generations begin to take more of an interest. It is not something that will happen overnight.

Then we come to some of the things that were said.

One person said women were jealous of other women in power. That is absolutely not the case in any situation I've been in.

Others said women supress their personality in the workplace, because they feel they will be penalised for it.

Only if you are an annoying idiot that everyone wants to slap should you supress your personality - in fact I can think of a few people I've met down the years that really should supress themselves more.That goes for men as well as women.

Another likened the way women in IT are treated and made to feel about progressing their career to a women in an abusive relationship. "It takes seven attempts to leave an abusive marriage, and the same amount of times to leave a job you are unhappy in."

Apparently.

Then we were advised to mentor a woman and help them progress in their careers. Well, if they are capable and good at their jobs, of course people are going to help them progress their careers. If you are male or female and crap at your job, nobody is going to want you around. It really doesn't matter what gender you are. 

I went in there, really hoping that my mind would be changed about this whole subject, when in fact my biggest fears were reaffirmed.

Women are not doing themselves any favours by having these closed sessions.....

I just don't want to attend one again.

 

 

Women of the Cloud

31 Mar 2014

Cloud with word struck through

I am due to fly out to Miami next week to attend Ingram Micro's global Cloud Summit.

This is a first for me and I am looking forward to seeing the event in action.

But one of the sessions I've been invited to is entitled: "Women of the Cloud".

It is intended to discuss the topics most affecting women where the cloud is concerned - what are the opportunities, what are the issues most concerning them, how does the industry attract more women to the cloud.....that sort of thing.

But I have to be honest. Whenever I see anything like this talking about 'Women in IT' or that sort of thing, it makes my heart sink.

Why do women need to be singled out where the cloud is concerned?  Can we do something that men cannot?

Will there soon be a discussion about 'Men in the Cloud'?

I've been thinking of writing this blog since the invite was sent out - but have ummed and ahhed for too long!

Also 'Women of the Cloud' sounds like a whole new breed of females that actually comes from the cloud - I'm thinking Dr Who or some Sci-Fi film.

Every six months or so I receive press releases about women in IT or something similar and the subject does actually intrigue me.

Am I insulting the 'sisterhood' by being so scathing? Or do most women working in our industry feel the same?

There is a definite camaraderie between women in this industry because there are so many men, but do they feel the need to be singled out in this way?

I'm genuinely interested in hearing what people say at this event next week, and be assured I will report back with my honest feedback as well.

Any thoughts, please do let me know.

Have you got what it takes to win a CRN SMA award?

24 Feb 2014

CRN Sales and Marketing Awards 2012

Positivity is certainly oozing from many channel pores at the moment and long may it continue.

Having recently won 'Brand of the Year' at our internal Incisive Media awards, we  at CRN all know how nice it is to have your name called out as a winner and receiving a reward for all your hard work.

From what I am hearing at the moment there are a lot of companies that also deserve some sort of accolade for their achievements.

The CRN Sales and Marketing Awards are aimed at rewarding individuals and teams within the channel for their sterling work over the past year.

They differ from the Channel Awards because these focus more on company achievements.

Now in their third year, we are hoping the awards will be bigger and better than ever.

There really is something for everyone, with categories aimed at vendors, distributors and resellers.

For vendors there is a chance to shout about your partner programme, your partner website and your partner-facing events, along with plenty more team-based categories - it looks like the competition is going to get heated already. 

For distributors there is a chance to reward the manager of the year, support team of the year, or website of the year, along with many others - we hear of the great things distributors are doing all the time, but now is your chance to really shout about it.

And finally for resellers, if you have recently invested in your website, why not enter it into our 'Website of the Year' category? Or if you are particularly proud of how you treat your staff - there is a category there for you too.  Or if your sales and/or marketing teams have executed a particularly brilliant campaign - why not give them a chance to bask in the much deserved glory of a CRN SMA award?

The closing date for entries is 21 March - so please don't leave it too late to get involved.

If you are shortlisted, you will be able to battle it out on the night of 3 July at the Brewery in central London, and enjoy a great night out as well.

What is there to lose? 

To find the full list of categories and submit an entry - click here.

Controlling the Press

20 Feb 2014

Dog reading newspaper depicting top five most read stories

OK, first up, I'm delighted to have the excuse to use a picture of a dog reading a newspaper!

But on a more serious note, the PR debacle involving one now red-faced firm called House PR, left a lot of us old-school hacks shuddering in horror.

A journalist from The Telegraph - Tim Walker - released an email to The Press Gazette apparently sent from said PR firm, in relation to his accreditation for The Brit Awards ceremony at the 02.

It started off quite nicely, saying that a car would be picking up him and a colleague to take them to the venue.

But after that it got a bit more worrying, outlining the kind of coverage they were EXPECTING from the event in return for a ticket and even worse than that telling him exactly what he should be tweeting from both his brand and PERSONAL Twitter accounts.  Giving helpful templates to cut and paste into Twitter.

Perhaps in the school of PR that the boss of this firm went to, this kind of expectation is the norm.

But where I come from, after nearly 17 years of journalism, this is probably one of the most worrying developments I have seen, and I fear for the future.

I will say before I launch into my rant, that for every handful of terrible PR firms there is at least one decent one that understands how the media works.

Naturally, if you are invited to an event as a journalist, you will find a way to cover the most interesting news/announcements, and in the era of social media, of course you are going to mention where you are and the key points arising. And use some sort of hashtag relating to said event.

IN YOUR OWN OPINION/WORDS AS A MEMBER OF THE FREE PRESS

For an awards ceremony such as the Brits, there will be guaranteed copy to follow, regardless of the angle, and most journalists would have tweeted the goings on to their followers anyway. But telling a member of the press what to write and how to phrase things on social media?  Really, House PR?

This of course resulted in the requested hashtag #PricelessSurprises being put to very good use by a range of Tweeters, but not exactly how the PR firm wanted.

Now to relate this to my own experience in our industry.  I am seeing the rise of the controlling PR/marketing agency to a similar degree. What worries me is the amount of titles that are selling out for an easy life, particularly where advertisers are concerned.

I have always had firms come to me expecting coverage in CRN because they bought an advert in 1819, or because they are the sponsor of such and such event.

I tell them the same thing. Regardless of who they are, what they do and what they spend, if their news is worthy of coverage, they will get it.

But we will find our own angle and cover it how we see fit. It is as simple as that.

If it is unadulterated tosh that is of no value to our readers, we will not cover it.

Similarly all those PR agencies trying to crush news and control when something is covered - I am saying now on the record - if we find something out, that is true and has been verified by several trusted sources, we will run the story. We will not wait until a more convenient time for the marketing machine to kick into life.

The idea of a free press is exactly that. Free.

It is a fine line to tread, and I acknowledge we as the modern media are all having to accommodate changes to how publishing works and respect the companies that support us, but there is a way of doing it that keeps independence in tact and respect on both sides. It is certainly not to be dictated to by some PR firm that is after the maximum recharge potential from their clients.

I worry that the next generation of journalists, (and so-called bloggers who think they are journalists) are somehow being conditioned to think this is the norm and that PR firms are the ones holding the reins. Indeed this is happening more and more in the US.

Hopefully there are still enough of us senior journalists out there that can stop this rot before it really gets hold and make sure the younger ones understand how it really works.

 

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.

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