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technoflak



Retired PR consultant



Updated: 2016-09-23T09:07:59.865-04:00

 



Bringing a single payer healthcare system to DC

2015-07-06T13:40:35.701-04:00

I have retired from PR and have decided to work full time to bring a single payer healthcare system to DC. Under Obama's Affordable Care Act states, including DC, can create their own single payer systems. Such a system would save DC taxpayers millions or dollars in addition to guaranteeing healthcare to every DC resident. It is cheaper for the entire city to self insure itself that pay millions of dollars to private health insurance companies in addition to contracting with providers. It would save residents of DC millions of dollars to pay a reasonable healthcare tax, such as Canadians do, rather than extortionate health insurance premiums. Follow my work at Alice Marshall on Medium. Contact me at marshall@prestovivace.biz if you would like to help.



Visit us at our new address

2013-06-07T12:01:05.474-04:00

Presto Vivace Blog has moved, it is now part of our corporate site.



How Twitter transformed customer service

2013-05-23T14:49:18.602-04:00

Technology support is notorious for its poor quality. Early on in the history of the Internet management decided that customer relations was not a core function of a company and that it could be outsourced. The consequence of this was that customer service was reduced to statistics, how many calls were handled and how quickly were issues resolved. Much hung upon the definition of resolved.

Whether technical support of billing issues, customers were confronted with telephone trees that were as time consuming as they were confusing. Technical support became the subject of bitter humor. Everybody knew it was bad, but since everyone had horrible customer support companies could get away with it.

Until Twitter.

All of a sudden your company's horrible customer service became a public embarrassment. At first PR people where hired to handle customer service issues on Twitter, until companies figured out that Twitter had to be integrated into their customer service response.

But what companies have still failed to comprehend is that customer service is a core function of any company. Customer service is public relations, it is how your company relates to the public and how the public experiences your brand. If customer service is poor your brand suffers.

When your company outsources customer service, and makes clear that customer service is a dead end job for employees with no future in the company, you are saying that customers are not important. The larger implications of Twitter customer service issues have yet to be understood.



Behind the scenes at Metro Connection

2013-05-22T21:13:46.563-04:00

May's NetSquared meeting was a behind the scenes look at WAMU's Metro Connecton. Producer Tara Boyle and host Rebecca Sheir explained how they and their team of freelance reporters put together they show. A theme is chosen and they work up a series of stories connected to that theme.

For sources they use the Public Insight Network, a database of individuals who are available to be sources. Anyone can list themselves. In the past they have used sources like Help A Reporter Out, but found it unwieldy. As a flack, I too have found it unwieldy.

They also spoke about their use of their website and social media. Their website has evolved and continues to do so. They now want it to be a news source as well as hosting a mix of audio, text, and videos. While most of their audience continues to be on the air, they are pleased with the growth of their online audience. They have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. It seems that the Facebook page is more for audience engagement while Twitter is also used for research and identifying possible sources. Sheir described Twitter as more diverse because it is all public. She noted with some displeasure that Facebook wants you to pay just to reach out to your subscribers. I share her displeasure.

Edit -
Joe Logon writes his account of the evening: So That's What They Look Like: Behind the Scenes of WAMU's Metro Connection (NetSquared DC Meetup)

Elijah's blog at NetSquared



To Facebook or not to Facebook

2013-05-16T12:04:40.185-04:00

Judging from the results of my survey every business should be on Facebook. It is by far the largest social network. So why do I continue to stay away from Facebook except for personal use? I just don't think that it is the correct venue. Selling software on Facebook would be a little like selling software at the dog park. The decision makers may all be there, but the atmosphere just is not right.

Not a single respondent named Facebook as a source of tech news, while both Twitter and LinkedIn were. This reflects my own view that business conversations take place on Twitter and LinkedIn, not Facebook.

If you are a politician, celebrity, or non-profit, you do need to be on Facebook. People like to discuss and promote their favorite causes on Facebook. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is a great example of the effective use of Facebook by a non-profit. Gorgeous pictures of wildflowers help promote the use of native species of plants.

The other problem with Facebook is that they want you to pay for access to your subscribers. It is not enough that users subscribe to your feed, Facebook has a weird algorithm that determines what users actually see. In order to get past that algorithm, you have to pay. That might be worth it for a non-profit or politician, but not a technology company. You are better off using Twitter and LinkedIn to push out content.



Survey Results: What Tech Washington Reads

2013-05-17T11:46:20.427-04:00

Given the small number of responses (fewer than 50), I cannot regard my survey as statistically significant. Having said that, the results are not without interest.Most of the respondents were commercial sector, only one civil servant, a retired civil servant, a writer, a political activist, and two journalists. This is not surprising given that I aimed the survey at small entrepreneurs.By far the most popular source of tech news is corporate web sites. This is in line with previous surveys and is a result that never ceases to amaze me. Clearly it behooves companies to pay attention to their website as people look to it as their preferred source of news. Close behind is the Google News Alert. Clearly everyone is their own executive editor. Subject matter rules, if you have the correct key words in your copy, you will get the traffic. We pay attention to SEO for a reason.The remaining preferred sources of news, in descending order:Federal Computer WeekNew York TimesWall Street JournalGovernment Computer NewsCNETWired MagazineWashington PostUSA TodayGovernment Technology MagazineFederal TimesCIO MagazineGoogle Tech NewsPC MagazineThe EconomistWashington Business JournalFinancial TimesBloomberg'sForbesTimePublic CIODefense NewsMIT Tech ReviewCNN TechInc MagazineThe Pew Internet & American Life ProjectPotomac Tech WireMSNBC.comPC WorldWTOPAmtower Federal DirectDorobek InsiderCorporate Press ReleasesI also asked respondents to volunteer other sources of news which I had not listed and received the following replies:Industry AnalystLinkedInGovLoopThe Verge, Ars Technica, Twitter And:Too many left off the list to specify here. Essentially, the list needs to be upgraded to include many more web-based sources. For me, as a developer, Smashing Magazine would rank high on the list.And finally:None of the above, they are useless for my business. I had to create custom Google Alerts, and even those miss the mark. Creative Cow, Videomaker.com, Redshark News, the NAB show, and newsletters from various sites with products I am interested in.I always find the "other" responses the most useful in my work as a PR practitioner.  No surprises in the section on favorite business and tech blogs, Slashdot and Tech Crunch were the overwhelming favorites. Other favorites in descending order:Ars TechnicaTech DirtBoing BoingRead/Write WebJoel on SoftwareNone - that is don't read blogsCMS WireSchneier on SecurityCoding Horrorand, pleasantly enough, one respondent reads Presto Vivace BlogOther blogs that were mentioned:Bill Salm, Gizmodo, and Hacker News (YC)I just put a space for respondents to lists their favorite business and technology podcasts, as I don't listen to podcasts. Responses included CNN, Paul Castain, and In Beta. One respondent said, "Those related to tutorials for the software that I use, but even those are rare. Podcasts are otherwise a waste of time, since you can't "speed read" and skip the jabber fluff, ads and jingles, or go straight to what you want to know very easily. News podcasts are too long, with too many stories. Each story should be a single file, so we can cut to the chase what we want to know without having to waste with the useless stuff."Most respondents don't like aggregators, None was the most popular response, closely followed by Reddit. Clearly Reddit has arrived. PR practitioners must pay attention to Reddit, but be very careful. I am going to write a post about how to handle Reddit. The other poplar aggregators in descending order:GovloopThe Federal Contractor NetworkTechmemeIn "other", I received the following responses:LinkedInand "More time wasting fluff sites." Facebook is by far the most popular social network. Although, had I included LinkedIn as a choice it might have been the favorite. As it is, it was volunteered by two respondents, and mentioned in the "other" choice throughout this survey. LinkedIn is the community where people talk about their work[...]



What Washington reads, preliminary survey results

2013-05-07T21:33:42.805-04:00

I am still collecting responses to my survey of What Tech Washington Reads; but I thought that one response was worth sharing. I asked which social networks respondents preferred, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus (I foolishly left out LinkedIn). One responded thus:


All the above have been taken over by ads and internet marketers. They are no longer social sites, but anti-social ad networks. Farcebook is the biggest farce of the bunch with impossible clutter to wade through, and Twitter is stuffed with compulsive twits. No thanks!
Clearly it behooves marketers to tread lightly. I am still collecting responses, you can participate here.



What is the best source of tech news?

2013-05-06T14:34:14.782-04:00


Every year Presto Vivace conducts a survey of local technology entrepreneurs about their preferred source of technology news. The results of this survey will be posted on this blog.. This survey is not just helpful to me, but to the entire community in understanding where the technology conversation is taking place.

Here is a link to the survey: What Tech Washington Reads

Thanks for your participation!





How to creat viral content for social media

2013-05-03T16:49:02.037-04:00

Judging from my Facebook feed, the chances of a business creating viral content are not good. People are interested in promoting their causes, political, social, cultural, and religious. They are not interested in promoting brands.

It is far more realistic to use your social channels, Facebook, YouTube, etc., as a way to strengthen existing relationships and give prospects a low pressure way to get to know you. You want your social media campaign to help with customer retention and lead generation. If you achieve these goals you have succeeded.

However, if you are determined to see your content on the front page of the Intenet as it were, there are ways to increase the possibility of that happening; go cute, go for humor, or go for inspiration.

 Adopting a cute mascot is a great way to gain attention, the Linux Penguin is an excellent example of this. Stay away from the obscure and difficult to pronounce. Free software's Gnu has never had the same box office appeal.

Humor is an excellent way to get attention, if you remember the golden rule of humor: good humor invites people in. It is good to laugh at yourself; it is never acceptable to laugh at others. Leave that to comedians and cartoonists. The classic Joe Izuzu commercial poked fun at the exaggerated claims of car salesmen while at the same time communicating that Izuzu offers excellent value for the price.

Inspiration is a great approach if you can get it right. Avoid empty inspirational proverbs that can make you look presumptuous and ridiculous. The recent Dove real beauty ad is an excellent example of appealing to inspiration. The commercial says that women are more beautiful than they give themselves credit for, which is a wonderful message. This commercial has over two million views on YouTube, an outstanding success.

It is better to set realistic goals for your social media campaign to build community and generate leads. But it is possible to create a viral campaign.



You can't manufacture back links

2013-05-03T13:20:42.973-04:00

Recently, this blogger has received requests to run guest posts. Clearly, marketers have read all the SEO literature, attended the webinars, gone to the conferences, and are ready to manufacture back links. I don't think this is possible.

None of the blogs I read, and I read a great many, have guest posts. This indicates to me that bloggers are not interested in running guest posts. There are online publications that consist entirely of marketer's donated work. I am not enthusiastic about these. I am also concerned that Google's new algorithm will punish promiscuous back links.

When SEO advice contradicts your experience of the web, trust your experience.

There is a way to drive traffic to your site, buy it. You can purchase online advertising at the news publication  your prospects read. If you don't know what they read, ask them. Send out a survey. A survey is a great way to learn more about your customers and prospects. People like it when you ask for their opinion.

You could purchase a sponsored link on the homepage of their user group or trade association. That way you could get their attention in a way that builds community.

Or if cash flow is a problem, you could purchase a sponsored link at Reddit for as little as $20.

Advertising is SEO neutral, but it drives traffic to your site and generates leads, and that was the object wasn't it?



Twitter is the new RSS

2013-05-02T14:54:52.239-04:00

Gone are the days when we eagerly read each others blogs. People, at least tech people in the Potomac area, seem more focused in their reading. Twitter appears to be where engagement is taking place.

Subscribing to someone's twitter feed is such a tiny commitment that people are more likely to make it. Therefore, a Twitter account becomes a crucial tool for engaging prospects and building community. Use your Twitter account to promote your blog posts and other content.

Twitter is the online version of the pre-meeting social. It is a chance to meet people in a relaxed setting. Your Twitter content should mirror your pre-meeting chatter; it is OK to complain about the traffic, but you want to maintain a professional tone.

I like agricultural metaphors, and if you think of blog posts as seeds, then Twitter is the watering can.



Media relations in hard times

2013-05-01T12:02:19.341-04:00

Rob Pegoraro has heard about a disturbing trend:
I learned a few things, none more disturbing than this: That some journalists--mostly tech freelancers, I was told--now regularly ask publicists to tweet out links to their work, noting that they get paid by how much traffic their stories generate.
Not a proud moment for the reporter, but as Pegoraro suggests, perfectly predictable. For the record, no one has asked me to do this.

A healthy news industry is in the interest of flacks. Therefore, we would be well advised to promote links to reporters in our respective fields whether or not they have written favorably about our clients. At a time when more and more positions are being cut, it is in our interest to demonstrate the news value of our practice area by driving up traffic to those stories.

And let us be realistic, reporters and editors are human. They are far more likely to open the email from someone who consistently promotes their work.

However, the practice of paying reporters based on page views is a poisonous one. It is not simply that the skills of reporting a story are different from the skills of promotion. It is only a question of time before some PR firm writes a bot that will artificially boost page views. It would work like a slow motion denial of service attack, boosting pages views without crashing the server. Measuring reporters by page views is simply asking for trouble.



Wrong channel miscommunications

2013-04-30T14:10:26.036-04:00

By now we are all familiar with the unfortunate person on Twitter who accidentally uses the company account when they meant to use their personal account to say something. To reduce the chance of this happening I always use a different browser for client work, that way you are clear in your mind on what you are working on.

Just one of those tips that makes online life easier.



Attention comment spammers

2013-04-26T15:26:05.916-04:00

You can buy a sponsored link on Reddit for as little as $20. Or you could buy some paid search at your friendly neighborhood search engine. Or you could advertise on Twitter. There are many legitimate things you could do to drive traffic to your site. Unlike comment spam, these techniques would actually work.



New to me local tech blogs

2013-06-10T14:41:51.563-04:00

GSA News Blog from the Government Development Center

Seville Government Consulting Blog

Small Government Contractors, Legal news and notes for small government contractors Published by Steven Koprince

Hattie's Hammer

Public Contracting Institute

GaggleAMP Blog

The Digital Influence Mapping Project with John Bell

Supply Chain Nation, The Supply Chain blog from JDA

The View from Landmark, Trends and issues in personal computing from Bud Stolker, a long-time PC consultant. The View from Landmark features tips and techniques to make time spent with your computer more productive and rewarding, commentary on new personal computer policies and trends, plain-English explanations of new hardware, software, and network designs and their relevance to you, and answers to common questions. There may be personal material interspersed if Bud believes it is of general interest.

Madwolf Technologies, a managed services company

Latista

CDW Solutions blog

Claraview Blog

Cranium Softworks

Dataprise – CEO Blog, Dataprise CEO David E Eisner's Personal Blog

Electroblog

Mediabarn

Expert Choice

Jinfonet



Media relations for technology companies

2013-04-24T14:23:23.663-04:00

First of all social media is a subset of media. Certainly special considerations apply to social media, but it should be treated as an aspect to your overall media relations effort.

Start by identifying the reporters who cover your field. While it may sound counter intuitive, you should define your business as narrowly as possibly, at least for internal purposes. Your chances of placing a story will be greatly enhanced by sending it to the reporters who cover that precise beat.

Get familiar with the reporters before you send them a pitch. If you don't have time to do that and run your business, hire a professional. Getting familiar with reporters is easier than ever. Almost all technology reporters are on Twitter, follow them. Even if you are not inclined to Twitter, you should have an account for listening purposes.

If you are a small company, your chances of placing a story are more difficult that ever, With publishers cutting positions, the competition for remaining space is tougher than ever. On the other hand, you can just use a press release service to put your story out and at least it will be on the web to be picked up by search engines. You should also put it on your website, in html. For small news announcements, a blog post should suffice.

Blog posts should occur regularly, not necessarily often, but predictably. Refreshing content gives people a reason to return to your site. Again, if you don't have time to blog regularly, hire a professional.

Now the big question, to Facebook or not to Facebook, that is the question. At this time I would say not if you don't want to. For software companies Facebook is still optional. If you are selling directly to consumers, I encourage you to set up a Facebook page and regularly update its content. If you don't have time, or are not inclined, hire a professional.



NIEM 3.0 Public Review

2013-04-23T12:57:19.927-04:00

The National Information Exchange Model (the data model used by law enforcement and first responders) has made NIEM 3.0 available for public review from today until May 6, 2013. NIEM is looking for both technical and non-technical comments. If you have an opinion about this now is the time to comment



The limits of keyword libraries

2013-04-18T12:58:55.233-04:00

George Hulme explains it brilliantly:

it's the holistic optimized way to a solutions approach to communication utilization
For paid search a proper keyword library is absolutely essential. However, using it for blogging and other online copy writing will produce the sort of copy that only a search engine bot could love..



Who is your audience?

2013-04-16T20:03:59.241-04:00

Do you know the names of the reporters who cover your industry? If you are a flack you do; but if you are a business owner you might not. You might know who your favorite reporters are, but not everyone who covers your industry. You should know them (or hire someone who does know them). If those reporters are on Twitter, you need to follow them.

You should follow your customers, your competitors, your employees (not to check up on them, but to learn from them, have some faith in your hiring process), industry analysts, and anyone prominent in your industry. 

Social media is your virtual store front window. It gives prospects and reporters a chance to view your business in a very low pressure manner. It gives them a preview of what to expect.

Social media is the online version of the social hour before a business meeting. It is an occasion to exchange gossip and get to know people personally. In other words, social media is a chance to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. That is why too much attention to SEO and search engines is so destructive. It diverts your attention from where it needs to be, on your human audience.






Cyber Security Framework Workshop, April 3, 2013

2013-04-10T10:55:20.077-04:00

The April 3 workshop was mobbed, the Department of Commerce auditorium was filled to capicity. I assumed that it would be thinly attended like the meetings of the Federal XML work group; but there must have been something like 500 people there. Clearly people are interested and are planning on following the process very closely. I hope that means that we will build a better standard that gains broad compliance.This workshop was designed to gain industry's perspective. The first panel had Russell Schrader of VISA, Terry Rice of Merck, Michael Paypay of Northrop Grumman, and Reid Stephan of St. Lukes Health System.Russell Schrader of VISA described the Executive Order as sensible, and was pleased with the request for private sector feedback. He also expressed the need for international cooperation, and that there is so much more to be done.Schrader described security as being core to VISA's brand promise. He reminded that audience that VISA as one of the founding members of the Payment Card Industry Council, and suggested that PCI offers a template for cyber security coopoeration. He described the PCI system as scalable from the small merchant to the large.Schrader described cyber security as a continuing process, that there is no box to be checked. He described VISA's approach as Prevent, Protect, and Respond, saying that, "we try to stop trouble before it begins."Schrader called on NIST to build on what already exists and aim for global scalability. He was especially concerned that NIST not create contradictory procedures.He stressed the need for information sharing, and that it was necessary to create a legal framework for law enforcement. (I assume that he meant over and above the work of NEIM.)Michael Paypay, Chief Information Security Officer for Northrup Grumman, described his work as "where the rubber meets the road". He said that it was extremely important to Northrup protect the information that the government has entrusted to them.Paypay described the defense industry as having a collaborative approach, going on to describe himself as "representing all my aerospace brothers." He said that cyber security not an area where aerospace competes, but rather they cooperate.Paypay observed that there is no common lexicon of roles and responsibilities in cyber security. He also said that bench-marking against other people can be a problem. He described government "best practices" as very helpful, in particular NIST 800-53.He said that it was important to identify what is appropriate for your business, going on to say that you cannot simply protect protect your perimeter; but that it was necessary to build a layered defense, and go through each layer in order to identify risk.Reid Stephan said that it had been an eye opening experience to join health care industry, we are catching up to other industries. He said that the National Health ISAC looks to existing standards such as the 800-30 guide to risk assessment. He suggested that it was better to integrate existing standards and best practices rather than building something from scratch. Stephan pointed out that cyber security risk management had to be balanced with business risk management, going on to say a risk based approach rather the control based approach would be more practical.Stephan lamented the lack of robust intra and inter industry collaboration, and that the framework needs to address this sort of collaboration. He went on to observe that the cyber security framework will will never be finished, but become a dynami[...]



We provide solutions for our customers' culinary needs

2013-04-09T20:53:15.406-04:00


So what is the business? Is it a pizza delivery service? A Chinese restaurant? Or is it a grocery store? It could be any of the above.

No Pizza place, Chinese restaurant, nor grocery store would describe itself in such a manner; but this is common in technology. Every other industry describes itself in clear terms with an eye to catching the eye of its prospective customers.

I don't know why technology marketers embrace such vague copy. I thought that SEO would change this. After all, if you are a Cloud Computing company, it is in your SEO interest to say so on your homepage. Your company has a better chance of floating to the top of search results if you describe your services in the clearest possible terms. But for whatever reason, technology continues to embrace the sales killing rhetoric of IT market speak.



We offer solutions to help customers achieve business objectives

2013-03-28T16:16:13.918-04:00

It is sad how many IT companies, especially government contractors employ such language to describe their business. Look at the website of almost any IT company and you will be hard pressed to work out what they actually do. I cannot work out why marketers are so obtuse about this.

Are you a cloud computing provider? System integrator? Web services consultant? Software tools developer? Web designer and content management company? Just say so.

Do you develop software for the financial services sector? Data visualization to the military? Records management for the legal market? Just say so. 

I have never understood IT's aversion to direct communication.



The power of the free sample

2013-03-26T22:37:22.347-04:00

Brite Technologies offers free instructions for virus removal to highly skilled computer users. What a brilliant idea.



New to me local blogs

2013-04-22T17:17:05.570-04:00

Security Debrief, Security Debrief is a blog dedicated to homeland security, terrorism and counter-terrorism, intelligence and law enforcement that provides context to the debates, policies and politics that are playing out in Washington, D.C. ...

... Security Debrief is produced by Adfero Group and The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute.

ECC IT Solutions

ThinkTech Blog, the blog of FedSolutions

Cloud Market Views, the blog of Virtustream

Straight Tech, the TMI blog, from Technology Management, Inc.

Turtle Wings blog, a blog about recycling electronic waste.

Managing Technology, the blog of Visular

The Interactive Files: Squash Errors, not Bugs!, From Wellfire Interactive

Whitehorse Technology Solutions

Accelera Solutions

Salient Federal Solutions

AETEA Information Technology