Sunday, January 27, 2008

Holy Mackerel, The Times They are A-Changing!

Over the past few weeks, I have had a sense that we are living in the middle of a time that will look like a critical transition in modern history, when historians look back on it. It's not just the U.S. Presidential race that prompts me to believe this (though I have to admit the "Change" positioning of one candidate seems to be catching on), but rather a series of events that have been more personal.

I really started thinking about this because, among others, two friends in the press have taken major leaps in their careers because of their focus on things international:

Steve Hamm of BusinessWeek, who is one of the most seasoned, thoughtful technology journalists around -- having written on many topics from chips to software to the business of outsourcing and many others -- with authority over the years, clearly became an important "influencer" because of the publication his book Bangalore Tiger a year or so ago.

And just last week, it was announced that Stephanie Mehta of Fortune, who has covered telecommunications and many other technology subjects with substance and insight for a decade or so was named the "Global Editor" of Fortune.

These are people who are steeped in long success and who have seen that the dynamic and balance of the world is changing pretty fundamentally (and fortunately for them, they are at the front of the curve).But of course, the real point here is not to talk about Presidential Elections or congratulate friends for their successes.

The real message is that even those of us with experience and great track records have to throw off the shackles of "how it's always been done" and see the world in new ways. We like to think about client challenges this way: there is merit to past models; but we now live in a world where new ways work as well. This is, of course, a delicate balance, because the point isn't to say: everything done the established way is bad and everything done the new way is good.

I like to give it a different name: creativity. It's fun to thread the needle in looking at start-up company communications strategies and find ways to accomplish their goals by combining new, old, international, domestic, and other perspectives to find just the right balance that will optimize success.

Here's to our changing times.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Could 2008 be the Year to Return to Substance?

I looked around as New Years Day approached and wondered what to say about trends to expect in 2008. It didn't make sense, after all, to list the same 10 things that everyone else has written about. So, though it may be indulging in a little wishful thinking: Could 2008 be the year that we see a return to substance in technology communications?

What could possibly be the case for this return to substance this year:

-The "cleantech" hype curve has peaked: Lots of people -- no longer just us at Roeder-Johnson -- have started talking about the fact that we have now passed the top of the "hype curve" relating to "cleantech". This means that a "cleantech" company can no longer get attention just because of its mere existence. It actually has to have something special (and by the way, the bar is even a bit higher than that). So could this trend demanding substance leak over to other areas of technology?

-"It's the economy, stupid" (please don't take offense, this is just quoting someone else): You don't need us to tell you that the U.S. economy is under pressure. The gleeful exuberance that any new idea can be successful is likely to be brought into question. And new companies and ideas are going to have to prove themselves quickly in this environment.

-"How do you spell relief: GigaOm": In an earlier post, I cited Om Malik's new, added focus on infrastructure, the underpinnings of technology, and their implications. While maybe this is smoking something, Om's decision to do this is also a sign that substance matters as we move into the new year.

There are undoubtedly more arguments in favor of the hope that we are moving toward substance in technology communications.

But when I shared this idea of a return to substance with my partner, he scoffed. Not because of some clear trend in technology or the economy. He simply said: "How can 2008 be a return to substance? It's a Presidential election year."

I fear my partner might be right -- but maybe we can use his point to build the case for a return to substance: as a response to the fluff and puffery of presidential politics, we will see technology demand more substance and not just hype.

Well, we can always hope. . .

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