In Tech PR, The Medium Is (Part of) The Message

I want to be seen as a thought leader,” said the tech company CEO to the PR professional.

We’ve all heard it. And it’s an encouraging sign for PR that CEOs at companies ranging from Fortune 500 businesses to startups are asking about it. They understand the value of building a personal brand and cultivating ownership of relevant issues.  And many technology businesses have a deep reservoir of talent and intellectual assets. They just need help to package and communicate those assets.

First, you need the thought capital. Innovative, differentiated points of view, coupled with insights that can move the conversation forward in your sector. That’s how you become a top voice—by having something interesting to say. Marc Benioff and Fred Wilson are great examples of thought leaders who got there not just by building successful businesses, but by having something to say.

But thoughts don’t translate into leadership unless they are shared and heard by the right people. There’s such a staggering amount of content available –  on the web, at conferences, and through direct sharing – that packaging and marketing those thoughts can feel like putting a message in a bottle.  You send it out and hope that it will find a receptive audience.

Great ideas need virality. They need legs. How to make sure they are shared?

Before you decide on tools to market your insight, consider this — in many technology sectors, the medium is also the message. Particularly in tech, the platform you use should have value beyond functionality. If it’s a cool, emerging medium, that in itself can help differentiate your brand.

That’s why services like Medium, Quora, SlideShare, Svbtle and Tumblr have weight.  Sharing content on platforms like these can infer a knowledge of technology and familiarity with hot platforms. It speaks to your interest in the space itself.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this Gawker article. If you emailed a reporter with an AOL email address, according to Gawker, you’re “an old person, stuck in the mid-90s.” It’s a “digital AARP card,” they say. So yes, the tools and platforms you use matters.

This is where PR always helps—in creating or advising on content, but also on packaging. It can sound shallow, and there are exceptions that prove the rule, but the bottle that contains the message can say a lot about the sender.

In my next post, I’ll explore some of the newest and most interesting tools for sharing content.

PR Move of the Week: Hillary Clinton (Hillz)

Hillary has become cool.

That’s right, the Hillary Clinton who struggled through grueling Democratic primaries in 2008, only lose the ultimate prize to the maddeningly unruffled new guy, seems to be having the last laugh. And we thought Obama was the cool one.

It started when two Hillary fans, PR specialists Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith, created the Tumblr page “Texts from Hillary.” Inspired by an iconic photo of Clinton taken by Time photographer Diana Walker, the blog extends the photo’s faintly badass aura of quiet power. It features fictitious texts between Mrs. Clinton and her colleagues and frenemies where she calmly shows her dominance (or as the blog puts it, that she’s the HBIC.) There’s even a “meme meets meme” exchange between her and Internet darling Ryan Gosling in which he texts,”hey, girl,” and she snaps, “It’s Madam Secretary.”

“Texts from Hillary” was already interesting, but what tipped it into mass consciousness in only a few days was Secretary Clinton’s own reaction. Rather than ignoring it, laughing it off privately, or trying to shut it down, she whipped out some texts of her own. On Tuesday she was photographed with Lambe and Smith at the State Department.

The real-faux text from the Secretary read: “Sup Adam. Nice Selfie Stace:-)” (a reference to Lambe’s smartphone pic) and ended with, “ROFL @ ur tumblr! G2g-Scrunchie time. Ttyl?”

Okay, so maybe she had help from her staff, but the response is pretty unexpected from the pantsuit-clad, scrunchie-wearing Clinton that we take for granted. In fact, my favorite touch is the scrunchie mention, which pokes fun at recent criticisms of Clinton’s unfashionable hair ties. But the whole thing is hil-arious, and it makes a nice contrast between Secretary Clinton and her onetime rival President Obama as the dismal and depressing 2012 presidential campaign gains steam.

The Hillz meme has been so successful, in fact, that it’s revived rumors about a Clinton presidential run in 2016. But as Mrs. Clinton (and her staff) have undoubtedly learned, America most loves and admires her when she plays hard to get. So, I’m betting Madam Secretary keeps on running the world from behind her big shades and her mobile, keeping her own counsel and staying cool.

A Blog About Nothing

It had to happen. With so many ways of sharing content, from blogs and feeds, to social networks, from pings to posts to tweets, someone had to do it.

Finally, a site for people who have a million ways to share content, but nothing much to say.  At least, that’s how Plinky bills itself. “Inspiration, delivered daily,” it promises.  (Actually, I prefer the earlier, gentler tag line, “Because sometimes you need a push.”) It’s been called “the answer to blogger’s block.” When I first ran across Plinky on, I didn’t think much about it, possibly because I had yet to experience a deficit of topics that interest me.  When I came across it again recently, in Rob Walker’s popular “Consumed” column in The New York Times Magazine, I instantly wanted to blog about it. There’s an irresistible meta quality to the whole thing…a blog about nothing to blog about.  What could be better?

It turns out Plinky could be a lot better, at least for me. The promise is appealing, but the execution seems muddled.  Plinky offers “prompts” that pose queries, some of which are pretty random (“Who would win in a fight between a wolverine and a Tasmanian Devil?), while others are more intuitive, but bland (“What movies could you watch over and over again?”)  The idea seems to be to offer varied bits of content, and to start a conversation, and you can export your “plinks” to your Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or other platforms.

Nice idea, but one problem is that neither the prompts nor the responses I read were interesting, let alone blogworthy.  You can create your own prompt, but that seems to defeat the purpose, and unless you start a real brushfire, what’s the point?

Plinky is part social network, part Internet parlor game, part blog tool, but it ends up being none of the above.  There are other sites, like the question site Fluther, and the content-sharing site ThisMoment, that foster the interaction in a more entertaining and effortless way.  Neither is a publishing tool, however.

So, even after my experiment with Plinky, I still have nothing to blog about today. Nothing.