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March 10th, 2020

Security grammar: Are you insecure when writing about unsecure technology?

Security grammar: Are you insecure when writing about unsecure technology?

At Prompt we spend a lot of our days writing about technology – big data, data warehousing, BI, CRM, BPM, ERP, API – you name it, we’re ITK. If it’s got an acronym, or a set of acronyms associated with it, then we’ve written opinion pieces, whitepapers, case studies and news releases about it.

One area that’s always hot – whether the underlying topic is mobile, cloud, BYOD, SQL injections, risk or compliance – is security. Which brings us to a very specific grammar question. Do you ever find yourself pausing and asking yourself, the people around, or the grammar gods: “Is it unsecure or insecure?”

At first, this appears a very easy question. ‘Unsecure’ can surely be eliminated – after all the word doesn’t appear in either Merriam-Webster or the Oxford English Dictionary. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a great deal in the constantly changing world of tech speak. In the technology sector, words and phrases are coined and adopted at the drop of a Zune –  just consider the use of the words ‘virtualized’, ‘de-duplication’ or ‘phablets’.  At Prompt we have to stay current with the market and all of its constantly ‘evolving’ terms and phrases (but we don’t have to like ‘em).

The problem with this example is that while insecure can be used in both US and UK English to mean something that is not adequately protected – for example an ‘insecure investment’ – it is more typically used to describe a lack of emotional confidence or certainty. Yes, some dictionaries will go as far to state the example of ‘an insecure computer system’ and there’s a whole Wikipedia page on ‘Computer Insecurity’, while ‘Computer Unsecurity’ clearly does not earn a Wikipedia page at all. But for many of us ‘insecure’ just doesn’t sit very, um, securely in a sentence.

We can’t help think that an insecure computer system sounds a little self-conscious about the size of its processors, or needs a reassuring reboot up the backend. So where to go?

Well, we like to use either of the phrases ‘non-secure’ or ‘unsecured’. Both pass dictionary scrutiny, and each can be used quite literally to mean ‘not made secure’, which we think is a good fit for a computer system that hasn’t been protected with security measures.

Unless you are an absolute stickler for academic grammar (and if you are then tech buzzwords are going to destroy your finely balanced sensibilities in about a picosecond anyway), then you could arguably use any of the terms mentioned in this post to get your point across. The most important thing then, as is generally the case with most copywriting best practices, is that you are consistent. So pick a term, add it to your company style-guide, share it with your team, marketing contacts and agency – and then be secure in your decision.

Follow Hazel on Twitter at @HazelButters

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Posted in Prompt Grammar Tip, Technology | Comments Off on Security grammar: Are you insecure when writing about unsecure technology?

 

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October 28th, 2013

Prompt goes PR (as in Prompt PR)

Prompt goes PR (as in Prompt PR)

Hello from Prompt PR!

Who are we to you? Ideally you already know us as that tenacious team that delivered results for your business across time-zones. Or maybe to date you know us largely through all those great downloads, courses, newsletters, blog posts and social media feeds that we create and share? Perhaps you don’t know us yet – in which case, why not join us to learn Ten Ways to Promote your Technology Product, Service or App?

However you are familiar with us, you probably just know us as ‘Prompt’. Or our more formal – and much longer – name of Prompt Communications. But not any longer. Last week we updated our digital presence to Prompt PR and prompt-pr.com. This doesn’t mean much to many people, especially as the beauty of the internet means that ‘prompt-communications.com’ will continue to persist in our digital timeline, but from this point forward our digital identity and our domain will be prompt-pr.com.

So why the change? Well, a number of reasons including:

  • – ‘PR’ is much snappier than ‘communications’. It’s easier to say ‘Prompt PR’ over the phone, quicker to type, simpler for journalists, shorter for social media, easier to fit into forms with restricted address width, and more memorable to shout out at strangers from buses (if so inclined)
  • – PR is what we do. Yes, we also communicate, but we regard PR as our core, our bread and butter. If you want to relate to ‘publics’ of any kind – journalists, prospects, customers – and your business is in any way related to technology, then we’re the team for you (if you want to check us out, why not sign up for our ‘Ten ways to promote your technology product, service or app’ webinar?)
  • – We like alliteration. But don’t worry; we won’t go any further with this and start promoting and proclaiming Prompt PR profusely and prosaically to produce plentiful pizzazz, or anything like that

Clients and friends that we have already spoken to about the change think it makes a whole lot of sense to shorten our email addresses and domain – do please remember to use our new domain when contacting us. Thank you.

www.prompt-pr.com/contact-us
info@prompt-pr.com
hbutters@prompt-pr.com
@PromptBoston
@PromptLondon

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Posted in Hazel Butters: Opinion | Comments Off on Prompt goes PR (as in Prompt PR)

 

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October 23rd, 2013

Then and now – Tips for using iframes in WordPress sites

Then and now – Tips for using iframes in WordPress sites

In order to explain the benefits that iframes will bring to your WordPress website, I’ll need to begin with a brief history lesson. When iframes first emerged ten years ago, there were real problems with the internet. Browsers were far less secure, and it was also much more difficult to get content to display the same way in all browsers. For example, if you wanted to embed an advertisement, video, widget or badge on your page, there were lots of hurdles to jump in order to gain consistency across browsers. One answer was to use the <iframe></iframe> HTML tag to display the content because the iframe very cleverly allowed you to display a whole different webpage within an area of your main page. Furthermore, the content could be pulled from anywhere – any domain at all – and it could contain all of the specific formatting it needed to be seen.

Sounds good? No way. In short, iframes used to be really bad. Can you see the problem?

The iframe became a huge security leak. But as is often the case, the need for usability was greater than the regard for security, and so the iframe never quite went away completely. It almost did, but with the rise in popularity of embedding videos and social plugins – such as Likes and Pins and ‘Tweet This’ – numerous third-party websites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and so on hopped aboard the iframe bandwagon. In order for these sites to adopt iframes successfully, two things needed to happen: firstly, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) needed to improve iframe specifications and secondly, internet browser coders needed to make their browsers better.

Today, the HTML5 specification for <iframe> is much better, having introduced the sandbox attribute to control security. So iframes are back with a vengeance – they are ubiquitous, in fact. Every YouTube, Vimeo, Pin, Like, Twit, Instagummy and so on, resides within its own little iframe. The reason why I’m not a huge fan of this technique is that some of these little buttons demand very large pages that they haul into your page load, as every party bundles each new feature into their little buttons. The fact remains however, that iframes are standard practice now. If you have ever been frustrated by restrictions in your WordPress theme, then why not just use an iframe in your post to include any content you’d like on your page from anywhere on the internet? A very practical use for iframes with WordPress is to display PDF documents in blog posts. For example, many of our clients wish to show visitors an agenda under an event details page. They can publish these as PDFs using iframe.

1) Go to ‘Media’-> ‘Add New’, and drag-and-drop the PDF document you wish to upload (note the full path to the PDF)
2) Navigate to your blog post by clicking ‘Posts’ -> ‘All Posts’ and searching for your draft. Once you’re there, switch to the text editor (sometimes called the HTML editor if you haven’t yet updated your WordPress install) and enter the HTML for your iframe like so:

<iframe src=” http://example.com/wordpress/uploads/my-pdf-file.pdf” style=”width:100%;height:1200px;”>Any alternative content you like here. Typically a simple message to say that this browser does not have a plugin that supports reading PDF content in the browser and a <a href=”http://example.com/wordpress/uploads/my-pdf-file.pdf”>link to the PDF file</a> instead</iframe>

Hint: You will need to experiment with the height:1200px; style attribute. Change this number up or down so that the height of the iframe matches the height of your PDF document when you view it on your site.

One last tip before we leave you to experiment on your own: avoid putting iframes inside of iframes. It will work, but it makes for a very slow page load.

Still wrestling with WordPress? Sign up for to receive our free ‘WordPress Wednesday’ tips delivered each week to your inbox, or register for a more hands-on 60-day online training.

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Posted in Technology | Comments Off on Then and now – Tips for using iframes in WordPress sites

 

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October 11th, 2013

‘Ten ways to promote your technology product, service or app’: A free Prompt webinar

‘Ten ways to promote your technology product, service or app’: A free Prompt webinar

Technology marketing specialist shares ideas, opinions and experience on how to communicate technology benefits, differences and features to prospects  

October 11, 2013Prompt, a digital PR consultancy based in Boston and London, is hosting its first webinar in a series on PR, positioning and sales tactics for tech vendors. The webinar: The webinar: Ten ways to promote your technology product, service or app, will be held on Thursday October 17 at 11.30am EDT / 4.30pm BST.

The 45-minute webinar will outline challenges, tactics and opportunities facing technology vendors in communicating, planning and executing marketing and PR plans to drive sales – and offer suggestions to tech entrepreneurs and marketers that want to increase business momentum, drive marketing results and shorten their sales cycles.

The webinar will be hosted by Hazel Butters, a technology marketing specialist with 15 years’ experience of working with tech start-ups, early-stage VC-funded software companies and global technology companies.  It will cover:

  • Messaging and positioning to increase relevance and drive sales
  • How to identify and target key audiences
  • Ways that PR can support technology sales
  • The role of customer testimonials
  • Advice on demonstrating thought leadership
  • How to work with industry analysts

Hazel Butters, CEO of Prompt said: “This webinar is the first of a series of event and will be an introduction of ideas and examples of how to use PR and marketing to effectively communicate the relevance of a technology product or service – regardless of whether it’s high technology, like a high-end storage enterprise application; a consumer-leaning gadget or app; a green technology application or a medical technology device. Whatever the technology type, there’s an underlying need to be able to explain its intricacies, features and benefits to potential users. Meanwhile, buying technology has become a complicated and time-consuming activity: IT prospects are overwhelmed and uncertain. In many cases buyers find themselves inundated with content, and yet short of facts.”

Hazel concluded: “At Prompt we thrive off technology – it has an impact on how we live, communicate, work, and travel. I’m personally thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with global technology leaders, software companies across the globe, and some of the most fun and creatively innovative emerging tech vendors. As marketers our task is to present compelling, appropriate and honest details to relevant audiences to increase the understanding and knowledge, or to motivate a behavior – such as wanting to buy a technology product, service or app. I’m looking forward to sharing our ideas, forging new relationships and hopefully giving attendees some food for thought.”

Attendees will receive a copy of Prompt’s e-book: ‘Ten ways to promote your technology product, service or app.’

To attend ‘Ten ways to promote your technology product, service or app’ on Thursday October 17 at 11.30am EDT / 4.30pm BST, please register here.

For more information about Prompt’s technology PR, social media and copywriting services, please email info@prompt-communications.com

 ###

 About Prompt 

Prompt is a digital PR 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 head offices in London and Boston.  Prompt’s current and former clients include Adeptra, Adobe Systems Incorporated, Aperture, Crimson Hexagon, Dell Compellent, Genesys Telecommunications, GenSight, Grouptree, IBM, Ipswitch File Transfer, jovoto, KANA, NTT Com, Oracle Corporation, Sepaton and Webtide. www.prompt-communications.com

Media contacts: Jackie Fraser | press@prompt-communications.com | Tel: 617 401 2716

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Posted in News, Prompt news | 1 Comment »

 

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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-the-crowd.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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Posted in Hazel Butters: Opinion, PR Practices | Comments Off on Ten reasons your technology marketing is pants*

 

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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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Posted in News, Prompt news, Technology | Comments Off on aPriori signs new European PR contract with Prompt

 

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September 9th, 2013

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #13: Greece

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #13: Greece

Plenty of cheap flights were ready and willing to hop us over to Athens, Greece – the birthplace of democracy as well as pretty much any scientific discipline you’d care to discuss (and we could definitely spend some time doing just that over a cracking moussaka and a bottle or two of Xinomavro…)

Image courtesy of: http://upload.wikimedia.org

Image courtesy of: http://upload.wikimedia.org

A history lesson in Greek innovation really would take some time, but for starters we could certainly attribute the development of gears, screws, mills, metal casting, automatic doors, plumbing, steam power, alarm clocks, and even the Antikythera analogue computer.

The technological prowess of the Ancient Greeks is well known and appreciated – but sadly so is the current economic and industrial malaise of modern Greece. Latest reports from the European Central Bank claim that Greece may need a third bailout – bringing the total level of support to €250 billion since the country’s financial meltdown.

But green shoots of technology now seem to be forcing themselves through all that financial rubble – a necessary but inspiring trend that journalist Alexander Besant attributes to “desperation and 60% youth unemployment”. It’s a small but encouraging movement that could once again transform Greece from a low-tech economy largely reliant on tourism and agriculture, to a renewed hub of creativity and innovation. In the meantime, why not read TechCrunch’s take on the potential rebirth, follow the Microsoft Innovation Center Greece, or check out promising start-ups, such as Bugsense and Pinnatta?

Next time, a voyage to Turkey!

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September 5th, 2013

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #12: Bulgaria

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #12: Bulgaria

Photo courtesy of: http://www.cosmostoursandcruises.co.uk

Photo courtesy of: http://www.cosmostoursandcruises.co.uk

Just a bat’s flit from Bucharest (well, an overnight train) is Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. This ancient city overshadowed by Mount Vitosha is the 15th largest in the EU, with a booming population of more than 1.2 million citizens.

Unsurprisingly Sofia is the business heart of Bulgaria. Following nearly a century of technological advances (Bulgaria was the sixth country in the world with a man in space, and invented the digital watch!) the country experienced a decade of decline in the 1990s, but is now experiencing somewhat of a renaissance in cutting edge technology (it has a national nanotechnology R&D centre, scientists on the ISS, a joint lunar mission with India in the pipeline, and the highest density of certified IT specialists in Europe).

In January 2009, the government approved a 10-year plan for funding scientific development in ‘innovative potential sciences’ (biotechnology, healthcare technology, alternative energy sources, nanotechnology and communications), ‘sustainable development sciences’ and ‘scientific studies for the support of industry’. Scientists from Sofia University and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) operate the most powerful supercomputer in Eastern Europe, an IBM Blue Gene/P, which resides at the State Agency of Information Technology. BAS scientists also have access to a mothballed electrostatic accelerator, research reactor and neutron generator.

Today Sofia is a major outsourcing location for some of the biggest technology companies in the world, including Apple, HP, IBM, SAP and Siemens. But it is also ‘outsourcing’ expertise of its own – CERN now employs more than 90 Bulgarian scientists with 30 participating in Large Hadron Collider experiments, and maintains a permanent Antarctic research base on Alexander Island!

Next stop? The wonders of Greece!

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August 29th, 2013

Prompt feedback on a Prompt project: Institute for Pediatric Innovation

Prompt feedback on a Prompt project: Institute for Pediatric Innovation

Prompt recently completed a web project for the Institute for Pediatric Innovation (IPI), a non-profit healthcare organisation founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts to improve outcomes care for vulnerable babies and children through new paediatric-specific technologies. Our consultants re-coded IPI’s website WordPress theme to improve page layout and allow greater user control of content with extra WordPress widgets and short codes.

Prompt London’s Sinead Gosai asked Ashley Carter, the communications contact we worked with at IPI, to reflect on her time working with Prompt:

Sinead: How was your general experience of working with Prompt?

Ashley: “Working with Prompt Boston was wonderful, even from the first phone call when we didn’t really know exactly what we were looking for.  The Prompt consultants were extremely helpful in pointing us in right direction and working closely with us to figure out the solutions that would best fit IPI’s needs. We greatly appreciate Prompt’s willingness to work with a small, non-profit organisation to help us accomplish our mission, and ensure we stayed within our budget.”

Sinead: We’re proud of the way that we work as a close team here – we believe that we can do a good job for our clients and be fun to work with! Would you agree

Ashley: “Yes, absolutely – Prompt’s PHP/HTML5 consultants were technically knowledgeable, friendly, patient and humorous! They worked step-by-step with us, explaining things such as page layout technology and browser compatibility, and then taking each of our edits and suggestions into consideration. As well as overhauling our new website, the Prompt team was committed to providing hands-on training for our employees, so that we can take on the task of maintaining and updating our website in the future. This will be instrumental in helping the site grow as our organisation develops, allowing us to continue representing our mission and our brand with a strong web presence.”

Sinead: Finally, how do you feel about the completed project?

Ashley: “We are thrilled! It’s met our online web goals and gives our organisation the update we needed. Thank you!”

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August 9th, 2013

Why crisis PR can improve more than just your company’s reputation

Why crisis PR can improve more than just your company’s reputation

Crisis PR is often associated with one thing – a major screw up and a subsequent clean up. And as many of us have learned, the best crisis PR can actually land the company that screwed up in a better position than it was beforehand (the Tylenol crisis of 1982, anyone?).

Well, now it seems crisis PR must live up to another standard: increasing revenue. And the recent announcement of Apple’s trade-in program, targeted at customers using third party or counterfeit iPhone, iPad and iPod chargers, may be doing just that.

An Apple charger, courtesy of Apple.com

An Apple charger, courtesy of Apple.com

The program, which was launched in response to the electrocution and coma of two individuals in China, allows all Apple customers to trade in their existing USB power adapters for an Apple-certified adapter for only $10 (or local currency equivalent) – almost 50 percent less than the adapter’s regular retail cost. The usually mum tech company said in a statement: “Recent reports have suggested that some counterfeit and third party adapters may not be designed properly and could result in safety issues. While not all third party adapters have issues, we are announcing a USB Power Adapter Takeback Program to enable customers to acquire properly designed adapters…”

But how will this increase revenue you may ask, if Apple is discounting its product? The program requires that the trade-ins must be made at an Apple store or an authorized Apple provider, and as Adam Pasick from Quartz points out, the take-back program is bound to generate some extra foot traffic – meaning the $57.60 in revenue that Apple pockets per store visit is looking pretty good.

So while Apple saves its reputation and racks in more cash, weigh in – what do you think of Apple’s crisis PR? Brilliant or just rotten? We look forward to hearing from you!

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August 8th, 2013

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #11: Romania

Technology PR travels: Around the technology world in 80 days – Day #11: Romania

Following our technology PR trawl through Budapest, we set out for the  ancient land of Romania,  sailing a boat gently down the Danube to Bucharest, Romania’s capital city.  The Danube forms much of Romania’s southern border and was given its name by Greek historian Herodotus, who dubbed it ‘The King of the European Rivers’.  Just as we were marveling at the architecture of the Drobeta Bridge and exploring the Topolnita caves, we found ourselves in Giurgiu; a hop, skip and a jump later and we had finally arrived in Bucharest.

Photo courtesy of: www.romaniatourism.com

Photo courtesy of: www.romaniatourism.com

Famed for its somewhat spooky history and once home to Vlad the Impaler (or Count Dracula as he is more commonly known) Romania is much more than a setting for many a horror film.  With its rich history of old world lore, it may not seem  an obvious choice for modern-day innovation, but Romania has contributed much to science and technology.For example,  in May 1981, Astronaut Dumitru Prunariu gave Romania a firm footing in the stratosphere when Romania became the 11th country in the world to put an astronaut in space. Incidentally, Prunariu is now the president of the Romanian Space Agency.

As well as space success, Romania is also reported to have one of the highest levels of computer programmers in the world.  Biologists are also a big deal in Bucharest; bacteriologist Victor Babes discovered more than 50 different types of germs, making significant inroads into the study of infectious diseases, including rabies, leprosy and diphtheria.  Physiologist Nicolae Paulescue discovered insulin, and George Emil Palade won the Nobel Prize in 1974 for his contributions to cell biology.

And the country also keeps current, forging the way for innovation. Teenager Ionut Budisteanu recently scooped the top prize at the International Science and Engineering fair – the largest high school science research competition in the world – for his creative research into a self-driving car. Ionut’s idea uses processing webcam imagery and artificial intelligence technology. Eliminating the use of a high-end 3D radar to achieve this goal makes the car more affordable.

Check back in next time as we head to Bulgaria – and get to grips with the Cyrillic alphabet!

The Rasnov Fortress in Romania (image courtesy of romaniatourism.com)

The Rasnov Fortress in Romania (image courtesy of romaniatourism.com)

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August 7th, 2013

Astroturfing: What it is and why tech vendors need to stay far, far away

Astroturfing: What it is and why tech vendors need to stay far, far away

Astroturfing is about a different type of fake grass — when vendors or any organization or body tries to deceptively engage with users at a ‘grass roots’ level and influence public opinion.

Astroturfing is about a different type of fake grass — when vendors or any organization or body tries to deceptively engage with users at a ‘grass roots’ level and influence public opinion.

Ah, the last week has seen news about ‘astroturfing’.

Not familiar with astroturfing? Well you’ve probably seen it in action. Though the term was coined way back in 1985 by US Senator Lloyd Bentsen, the practice is still very much with us today.

It’s got nothing to do with synthetic indoor soccer playing surfaces. Astroturfing is about a different type of fake grass — when vendors or any organization or body tries to deceptively engage with users at a ‘grass roots’ level and influence public opinion.

For example, writing and posting your own reviews online would be considered a type of astroturfing. Considering it’s such a potentially, well, to use a British phrase — dodgy — thing to do, it seems to occur with wearying frequency.

While it may be at the forefront in technology circles, astroturfing is certainly not new nor something dreamt up by the tech industry. For example, take the creation of the National Smokers’ Alliance in 1995 — which was purported to be funded by Philip Morris and launched by its well-oiled (and I’m guessing well-paid) PR machine. There’s an amazing(ly shocking) array of examples of astroturfing across geographies, industries and company types.

In the digital world, accusations of astroturfing include a marketing agency working for Apple that was posting fake reviews and a letter-writing initiative from a seemingly grass roots organization that was linked back to Microsoft, trying to wrestle out of its 2010 anti-trust woes.

The most recent case that has everyone blogging and commenting and shouting is the unfortunate case of Samsung, with the Samsung Smart App Challenge 2013 being tarred and feathered with astroturfing allegations. Allegedly it offered developers $500 to ask the developer community four “casual” and “organic” questions on Stackoverflow, a friendly and  accessible developer community for professional and amateur programmers.

A developer that was approached flagged the activity to Stackexhange, the organization behind Stackoverflow, which alerted Samsung and the activity has halted. But the damage has been done. Whatever happens next, we’re at the juncture where this:

–        Smacks of desperation

–        Got the hackles up in open communities like Stackoverflow and made members weary about vendors / marketers / us PR folks

–        Made Samsung look like it doesn’t understand its own target community — developers — and how they want to be approached. The original blogger who called it out, Delyan Kratunov, even stated: “Had they approached me to ask that I promote the competition legitimately, I would’ve been happy to do it out of goodwill.” To me, that says it all.

Samsung said it didn’t know about the activity. In my experience, vendors that say: “Here’s a sack of money, go and do whatever you think is right with it,” are rare. Albino unicorn-rare. [Sidenote: Any tech vendors that are unsure of what their marketing budget is being spent on, come and work with us. We’ll even let you know what we’re doing before we do it. It’s under the cunning codename “plan”].

Furthermore, as a consultancy, you are compensated for your ideas, creativity — and ability to execute programs that are in line with the company’s objectives, and their values. I’m pretty sure that “being known for astroturfing” isn’t on any company’s PR objectives.

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Posted in Communications consultancy opinion, Hazel Butters: Opinion, PR Practices | Comments Off on Astroturfing: What it is and why tech vendors need to stay far, far away