The Golden Ticket: How to Land a Speaker Slot at Mobile World Congress 2015

Credit: Joseph Francis
Credit: Joseph Francis

Mobile World Congress: It’s the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, which we all know now covers everything from wearable technologies to cars and the future of computing. In fact, the event draws more than 85,000 visitors from 201 countries to Barcelona for four days of flashy product launches, executive presentations and networking after parties. Or put another way, it’s up there with CES as the kind of event that almost every technology company in the world wants to present at.

To help you land a much coveted speaking role at Mobile World Congress 2015 (March 2-5, 2015), we wanted to share the really helpful guidance that the content team at GSMA (the group that puts on MWC) has put together:

1.    Think Bigger than a Speaker Abstract

What: The MWC team doesn’t just rely on speaker abstracts and instead is hosting a series of Research Open DaysThis allows the content team to meet one-on-one with industry executives to get a sense of what is happening, changing, exciting, or scary in the market that will drive the mobile industry over the next year.

Why: If your company has never participated at MWC, this is your chance to get on the content team’s radar and get feedback on your MWC speaking submission (call for papers is June 26 – September 12). They will also gauge what the executive would be like on stage, so consider this a rehearsal for American Idol and you are going in the right direction.

How: They schedule a total of 60 briefings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in July and August, with three slots per day – 10:00 – 11:00, 2:00 – 3:00 & 4:00 – 5:00 [London time]. Register your interest here and you’ll be notified between May 22 and June 5 if you’re selected for a Research Open Day.

2.    Take 360 Degree Approach

What: A regional conference series that takes place in six countries between September and December. It’s highly focused on thought leadership and networking and does not include exhibitions like MWC. The North American event will take place September 22-23 in Atlanta and will focus on connected living and mobile commerce.

Why: Participate in this event to improve your chances of being selected for MWC 2015 and to give the content team a sneak peek at what your exec is like on stage.

How: Submit an idea during call for papers, June 9 – July 25.

3.    Think Beyond the Smartphone

What: There have been two major audience shifts at Mobile World Congress:

  1. As “digital” seeps well beyond telecom into industries like media, advertising, automotive and many others, thought leaders from these industries are increasingly attending MWC.
  2. The conference is attracting a more senior audience (50% C-level) who already know how mobile technology works, but want to know how to integrate it with their business.

Why: To cater for this expanding audience, GSMA is now including more cross-ecosystem participants in the speaking circuit.

How: There’s no one way to skin a cat here and instead, the key thing is to think creatively about how you can tell the most compelling story:

–       Offer a fresh format. One year someone brought robotic dancing bears – they want more of this. Suggest an on stage interview, fireside chat, panel discussion or demonstration.

–       Include an operator as co-speaker if your client is a software, hardware or IT company. This helps the content team better fit you in the program.

–       Focus on answering questions like:

  • How do you build X into financing?
  • How do you integrate X with legacy?
  • What are product strategies going forward for big vendors?

–      Submit multiple executives and multiple ideas. This is encouraged. But cap it at 3.

Want help building your story or securing coveted speaker slots at events like Mobile World Congress? Let us know and we’d be happy to discuss how we can help.

Facebook Goes Myth Busting

Credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab
Credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab

BusinessWire, PR Newswire, PR Web and Facebook—one of these seems oddly out of place. But the social media network, which now has more members than India has people, has launched FB Newswire. In a marriage of old and new media, Facebook has partnered with News Corp-owned Storyful to try and make it easier for journalists to find, share and embed newsworthy content from Facebook. The idea being that Storyful will help Facebook verify news and thus debunk false stories, or as News Corp eloquently puts it, separate the “substantial from the superficial and the real from the fake.”

This is certainly a huge step in the right direction. Social media allows news to spread faster than ever before, but that speed often comes at the expense of fact-checking. And in many cases, it often seems that the bigger the story, the greater the desire people have to be first on their soapbox. The Boston Marathon tragedy and Super Storm Sandy are perfect examples of how social media can quickly spread misinformation.

The announcement comes at an interesting time. The recently published 2014 Pew Research State of the News Media survey provided a fascinating summary of the intersection between social media and news, which among other nuggets highlighted that about 30% of U.S. adults get some news from Facebook. That dwarfs the numbers from any other social media site – YouTube (10%), Twitter (8%), Google + (4%), LinkedIn (3%) – and means that if Facebook can in fact bust myths before they start, it could significantly reduce the spread of false news across the Internet.

And when looking at Facebook from a PR and marketing viewpoint, this partnership adds to an interesting couple of months. There was the small matter of a $16 billion acquisition and then a lot of talk about the end of the Free Lunch when Facebook tweaked its algorithm to reduce the reach of organic posts by brands. Then of course Facebook blew out Wall Street’s expectations, showing it is clearly adapting to the mobile world and using a combination of existing and new brands to engage an even broader audience. And now we have a move to make news more reliable and trustworthy on social networks.

There’s a lot to Like about where Facebook is going. We’ll be sure to watch out for what’s next at tomorrow’s f8 Developer Conference.

XTC—Examining the Change: Changing the Relationship with Risk

Credit: Cole Patrick
Credit: Cole Patrick

In our previous two posts we’ve explored the dynamic of ingenuity over innovation, and ways to activate customers as influencers. But one of the more prevalent trends in tech marketing and PR this year is the extent to which tech marketers are targeting specific vertical markets.

What’s interesting is that many of these verticals are traditionally risk-averse, such as health careautomotive, and manufacturing. It’s usually because they  find themselves caught between opposing mandates such as regulatory concerns, public safety, security and financial risk on the one hand, and the need to deal with massive disruptions from new business models and competitors on the other. And if these traditionally conservative industries don’t embrace the risks that technology represents, they’re in trouble.

Gartner calls this “Digital Business Advantage,” and in a recent report, they make some fairly startling predictions. By 2017 …

  • 20% of all market leaders will lose their dominant position to a company founded after the year 2000 because of a lack of digital business advantage
  • 25% of all companies will lose significant market share because of “digital business incompetence”
  • Corporate strategists will begin conducting daily competitive scans because of a loss of sustainable competitive advantage

In other words, embracing technology risk is no longer a luxury. Fast followers have to become fast evolvers, or else they risk extinction.

But what if these organizations could change their relationship with risk? What if they could apply that same calculating conservatism they usually apply to examining technology ROI and instead calculate a different cost—the cost of doing nothingCertainly, it’s often difficult to predict the hard ROI from deploying a relatively new and unproven technology. But it’s much easier to predict the impact of not changing course when new competitors are emerging and already starting to eat away at your market position.

And what if companies began to count their organizational learning curve as a corporate asset, as well? That’s the other untold story in technology today—the fact that in many cases, we are still learning the appropriate use of these new technologies. But it takes time to figure out the best possible uses for a new technology, and all too often companies and industries assume that the first few uses are the only uses. And this leads to a gross undervaluing of ROI. But in a world where change is the only constant, it’s the fastest learning curve that wins. Where’s the ROI equation for that?

That’s why today many progressive companies are re-examining their relationship with risk. CIOs and CTOs are beginning to accept that the downside of innovation is nothing in comparison to the downside of not evolving. And progressive tech marketers are beginning to engage customers in co-creating value propositions. Because a great technology in the hands of an ingenious customer probably has applications far beyond what the vendor ever had in mind.

Next week, we’ll look at engineering for expectations, and embracing human assumptions as a core design principle for your tech PR campaign.

XTC—Examining the Change: Customers Are the New Influencers

L-R: Myself, Altimeter Group’s Charlene Li, and LinkedIn’s Mike Weir take a break before rocking a customer Q&A.
L-R: Myself, Altimeter Group’s Charlene Li, and LinkedIn’s Mike Weir take a break before rocking a customer Q&A.

Continuing in our 2014 Tech Marketers Playbook series, this week we look at treating customers as influencers.

It’s no secret word of mouth among customers influences consumer and B2B tech sales. A Fall 2012 survey of 813 B2B tech purchase decision-makers revealed that word of mouth from peers is the top driver of vendor short lists and deal closure. Industry analysts came in only a few points higher for influence. And the impact of word of mouth has only grown with the expansion of mobile and social platforms.

But what does this mean for tech PR? Where’s the customer influence playbook?

Fortunately, there’s a model from which we can borrow for how to activate customers as influencers: analyst relations. Here are five essential AR techniques that work just as well to turn customers into sales drivers:

  1. Ask viral questions. Our Fall 2012 study, revealed what motivates customers to contribute opinions online. The top answer—pose a thought-provoking question around a timely topic. The number two answer—focus on an interesting challenge they’re facing. Help your customers look smart by inviting them to answer provocative, open-ended questions, much as you would with analysts.
  2. Lean into criticism. When an analyst critiques a tech vendor, it’s a sign of affection (sort of). The analyst is trying to help the vendor by illuminating a blind spot and finding something to improve. Customer complaints hold the same potential. Tech companies who engage customer complaints with an earnest attempt to understand them—and act on them—often end up with a strong advocate in their corner.
  3. Ask for comparisons. Like analysts, customers have a broader field of vision than vendors. Even the most thorough competitive intelligence program can’t kick the tires on competitive offerings like customers can—and customers know exactly what they’re looking for. There are even online platforms to help them. Ask customers to tell you how you stack up, capture their feedback, and find ways to reward them for their critique.
  4. Keep them updated.  Nothing irks an analyst more than being caught off guard by a vendor announcing they’ve upgraded, discontinued or launched an offering. It makes them feel left out. The same is true of customers. If you value the relationship, make sure you’re giving them not only information about changes in your solutions portfolio, but rationales, as well. And then ask them those viral questions around how they will take advantage of the improvements.
  5. Get them talking with each other.  Once you’ve got a few customer champions in your corner, turn them into social media rock stars the same way you would showcase that special analyst who “just gets you.” Feature them in webinars. Promote them in trade press. Support them on LinkedIn. Invite them to your advisory board. Perhaps even invite them to host an opinion column on your own web site. Chances are you’ll not only cement the relationship, you’ll also learn something valuable along the way.

Up next week in XTC: changing your relationship with risk.