Wait! What? 6/26: T-Swift and Apple shake off dispute, #LoveWins for brands

This is really, really colorful. (Thinkstock Photos)
This is really, really colorful. (Thinkstock Photos)

While you were recovering from the season finale of Game of Thrones, we were scouring the web for our favorite tech stories of the week. Take a break from your “Jon Snow’s not dead” debate – because it’s time for this week’s Wait! What?

  • Seriously, Taylor, we’re going to let you finish. Taylor Swift stood up to “The Man” so to speak by threatening to withhold her 1989 album from Apple Music…and then giving it back almost immediately when they responded with a very neutral letter. Victorious PR stunt?
  • Safety first, then teamwork. We are fascinated with Samsung’s new safety truck that features a video feed of the road ahead. It’s lane change time, y’all!
  • Speaking of driving, Uber is well on its way to a PR meltdown in France.
  • Even though few people actually own them, media can’t stop talking about smartwatches, because they’re futuristic and cool. So, how can marketers handle the challenge of the smartwatch? Embrace push notifications, be adaptive and create an ownable experience for publishers.
  • And finally, on a serious note, we are absolutely thrilled that the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states! Now check out these awesomely supportive tweets from brands that know what’s up.

That’s all – join us next week for a fresh new batch of news at the heart of PR and technology.

Wait! What? 6/12: Non-Sportsball News of the Week

"Let's take a break from this to discuss the latest technology trends." (Thinkstock)
“Let’s take a break from this to discuss the latest technology trends.” (Thinkstock)

While you were all busy cheering on the Warriors this past week (Cleveland fans, please see yourselves out immediately) and contemplating whether anyone actually looks good in Golden State yellow (the answer is no), we generously took some time out of our rigorous viewing schedules and compiled some top tech newsbites for you:

  • Somewhere, a Target PR intern scheduled their first press release this week. We’re going to assume it was also their last. Whoops.
  • In news that really rocked the tech world this week, Blackberry and Android are contemplating what could potentially be the least consequential business partnership ever.
  • A little blue bird told us that Dick Costolo stepped down as Twitter’s CEO this week, but we’re not really sure since we were too busy checking our Snapchat stories and Instagram feeds to care.
  • Whoever called Mayweather v. Pacquiao the fight of the decade definitely did not anticipate Apple Music v. Spotify. In one corner, Taylor Swift and Drake. In the other, everyone who’s been listening to music since iTunes stopped being a thing in 2011.
  • And in what was legitimately the coolest tech development of the week, Facebook and Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will be in virtual reality thanks to Oculus Rift starting in 2016. We’re brushing up on our Super Smash Bros skills this very moment.

Now, back to sports.

Wait, What?! 5/1: Drones in Nepal; Secret CEO sells his Ferrari

Drones: they're not all evil. (Thinkstock)
Drones: they’re not all evil. (Thinkstock)

Happy Friday and first day of May! As your day filled with Justin Timberlake memes winds to a close, let’s have a look at what you may have missed in the world of tech:

  • Drones are helping the relief effort after the earthquake in Nepal by identifying obstructed roads or damaged infrastructure. (Proving that tech sometimes actually can save the world.)
  • Apple confirmed that the new Apple Watch may not work properly for those with tattoos. Bay Area hipsters everywhere are outraged and canceling their orders en masse over what they’re calling #TattooGate. Just kidding; they probably don’t care.
  • The secret is out! The founder of anonymous/failed social app Secret announced the company is shutting down for good and selling his Ferrari. Ironically, most employees found out on Secret.
  • Are they or aren’t they? Rumor had it this week that Salesforce has hired bankers to field a potential takeover offer…for a discounted price of $44 billion!
  • Microsoft’s machine-learning team built a robot that can guess your gender and age. We tested it out with a rather blurry photo and it guessed age 16. SPOT ON ROBOT, SPOT ON.

Well, there you have it – our favorite tech stories from the week! If that wasn’t enough and you must have MOAR news, visit @BlancandOtus or check back next Friday!

Wait! What? 4/10: Apple diversifies emojis, Sparks fly between Tinder and Bud Light

#InclusiveEmojis, courtesy of Apple.
#InclusiveEmojis, courtesy of Apple.

Happy Friday and first weekend of Coachella! Maybe you’re mentally/physically preparing for a weekend at the happiest and most branded place on the planet, or maybe you’re just ready to kick back and enjoy a drink or two (you deserve it) in a more relaxing setting. Either way, here’s the tech news of the week you need to know:

  • iOS 8.3 is here and Apple pleasantly surprises us with hundreds of new emojis to reflect various races of people across the globe. All goes well until Clorox gets involved on Twitter…
  • Speaking of Twitter, they’re just killin’ it with the new tweet within a tweet. This feature allows people to share and comment on tweets without having to shorten the original tweet, thus preserving meaning and context. We’re into it.
  • Want to take a trip to Whatever, USA? Bud Light introduces native videos to Tinder, tempting users to swipe right for Bud Light for a chance to win. If you’re #UpForWhatever, at least that’s one match that can offer some potential.
  • Hulu has provided users a catalog of GIFs from its TV shows, which in theory sounds thrilling. But branded with a Hulu hashtag, accompanied by a disclaimer, and created with a choppy frame-rate, we just can’t recognize these as the GIFs we know and love.
  • Brands have been flocking to the baby of Siri and promoted tweets, otherwise known as ads on Kik. The app lets consumers get cozy and engage with brands through messaging. Are these conversations more engaging than your Tinder ones? Hard to say.

And that concludes this week’s #WaitWhat. If nothing else I hope we have at least inspired you to take your dating app game to the next level this weekend. See you next Friday!

Wait! What? 3/30: HBO woos tech, Facebook woos media, Comcast … yeah.

gifSometimes Monday morning rolls around and you think, “Wait, I did not read enough news about corporations last week.” So, here you go:

  • HBO treated the SF tech scene to a star-studded Game of Thrones season premiere party. Was it a PR stunt? Yes.
  • In response to a request for comment, a YouTube spokesperson simply sent back an animated GIF to the reporter. It’s inspiring, really.
  • Very Official News: Facebook is in talks with several media companies, The New York Times and BuzzFeed included, to host articles directly on its website. But will the deal ultimately help or hurt media brands? It doesn’t matter. They must obey.
  • Apple is developing smart packaging that allows customers to set up devices before they’re unboxed. Because, like, why would I take my iPad out of the box?
  • Remember that time Comcast customer service was the worst? To avoid future PR nightmares, the rarely beloved cable company just tripled its social media staff. I personally won’t follow up on this development – just ping me if anything hilarious happens.

I’m sorry that four out of those five bullets contain rhetorical questions; the advent of GIFs and listicles has destroyed my ability to form original sentences. Catch us again at our usual time this Friday for another tech-filled #WaitWhat!

Wait! What? 3/13: This Friday the 13th brings the death of the Internet, a new tech frontier and more

The end is nigh... (Thinkstock)
The end is nigh… (Thinkstock)

What was going on in the tech world this week while you were caught up in all things Apple Watch? From the expected to the unexpected, we have this week’s top stories:

  • Dom Pérignon at the touch of a button…is this a dream? Nope. A new startup brings luxury to IoT!
  • From positive to negative, the Internet is abuzz with all things Apple Watch. But will Apple’s latest innovation mean the death of the Web?
  • Welcome to the billionaires club! Snapchat’s cofounders are each worth $1.5 billion. Not too shabby for a couple of twenty-somethings.
  • Hello Nebraska! From Silicon Valley to Silicon Prairie? Entrepreneurs are fleeing tech hotspots for greener pastures, but why?!
  • RIP. This week we had to say goodbye to one of the truly iconic tech blogs. Farewell, Gigaom…you will be missed (sigh).

Those were our favorite tech bites from this week – what were yours? Tweet us @BlancandOtus and let us know!

Wait! What? 3/6: Deep space branding and Vince Vaughn’s stock photo debut

It's really not that different from other stock photos. (Getty/Fox)
It’s really not that different from other stock photos. (Getty/Fox)

Thousands flocked to Barcelona this week for sunshine and sangria – er ahem – Mobile World Congress, meaning we’ve seen a ton of posts about cool new gadgets and cutting edge tech. Aside from this delightfully weird smart pocket watch, here’s what made the headlines this week:

  • Apple will bump AT&T off the Dow Jones Industrial Index at the end of March, providing more evidence of technology’s dominance in the U.S. economy.
  • Twitter plans to give advertisers access to 1,000+ target audiences who have expressed “purchase intent.” We clearly didn’t already have enough ads in our streams.
  • Vince Vaughn and his co-stars posed for ridiculous (and free) stock photos ahead of the release of their newest movie “Unfinished Business.” A great example of how PR stunts can bring joy to the Internet, which can always rally around ridiculing stock photos.
  • Speaking of PR stunts, or rather, missteps, the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s year-long use of private email for government business, is a good example of what not to do when it comes to email security at work.
  • Finally, in case you were wondering about the universe, it turns out innovative technology for deep space missions also needs social media for branding. Just ask NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs.

Those were our favorite stories of the week; hope you enjoy! Otherwise, you’re free to continue debating whether Jarod Leto’s or Kim Kardashian’s big blonde reveal was better.

Wait! What? 7/25: Christmas in July: giant hamster wheels and space balloons

Hot-air space balloons? Yes please. (Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc.)
Hot-air space balloons? Yes please. (Credit: World View Enterprises, Inc.)

It’s the heart of summer vacation season, and on your travels you may very well be feeling disconnected from what’s going on. Well, time to check what the really hard-hitting tech news was this week:

Did we miss something really juicy? We’d love to hear about it in the comments, or @BlancandOtus!

Wait! What? 5/9: Techie kids ditch Mathletes to become (very) junior consultants, Virgin Airlines kicks travel into hyper-speed

It's never too early to become a research statistic. Credit: Henriksent, Flickr
It’s never too early to become a research statistic. Credit: Henriksent, Flickr

With TechCrunch Disrupt and Apple’s latest big purchase dominating this week’s tech headlines, we wanted to a a few gems you may have overlooked:

These are the stories that caught our eye this week. We want to know, what got your attention? Tweet us at @BlancandOtus!

Engineering for Expectations: Human Response as the Central Design Principle

Credit: Blake Patterson
Credit: Blake Patterson

This week, XTC continues our PR Playbook discussion with a look at engineering for expectations—how human reaction ought to be the driving force behind how we design and market new technologies.

Human behavior has always been the biggest barrier to technology adoption. Before the iPhone, Apple launched the Apple Newton in 1992, aptly named because Newtonian physics were easier to understand. In addition to being too bulky to be pocket-sized, it required people to learn a frustratingly fickle technological cuneiform. Apple came out with iPod 10 years later, and iPhone 15 years later. The difference was summed up in one word from reviewers: intuitive.

Today, B2C and B2B tech companies alike have learned the power of being intuitive. But more than easy to use, technology must be easy to love, and that emotional bond must shine through in the narrative. Here are some storytelling components to showcase that “je ne sais quoi” of your own technology:

Understand the hype. People’s expectations for new technology tend to map to the adoption curve described by Gartner’s Hype Cycle, and those expectations are excellent guides for the tone and content of our tech PR. Are we enamored with novelty and unexplored potential? If so, clarify what’s most likely to be disrupted. Is the technology over-hyped and we’re promised it does everything, “It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping”? Level-set expectations and challenge the hype. Are we frustrated with results and running into this technology’s shortcomings? Illustrate how to recoup the ROI from existing technology investments. Understanding hype is a prerequisite to effective technology thought leadership.

Make room for surprise. Marketers already know the power of customer delight, and in storytelling parlance the plot twist has always been key. But even more important than delight is surprise. When people encounter an expected joy, they feel good. When people encounter an unexpected joy, the feeling is even more potent and forms a stronger bond. This is what the serendipitous discovery and semantic web discussion was about. This is what compels us to return to CES annually. And it is essential in our storytelling that we not habitually spoil the surprise by dictating the benefit statements to our audience. Instead, leave some room to serendipitously discover new benefits in our offerings. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t tell the world how to use Facebook. He provided a (mostly) blank canvas and let users define this new social utility.

Showcase the human impact. Technologies are easier to love when the world has a reason to want to see them succeed. Showcasing the human impact of mobile, social, cloud and big data technologies shifts the burden of proof from “how can this possibly work?” to “why wouldn’t we want to see this work!” IBM speaks to the problems that impact society most in their Smarter Planet campaign. McKesson speaks to creating a vision for better health. LinkedIn speaks to economic impact and cultural leadership. Polycom speaks to the importance of human collaboration. Nobody can be the hero of their own narrative unless they are in service of something bigger than themselves. That’s the definition of a hero. There’s a lot of power in articulating why the world needs you.

This is how we can put that human expectation of a better life at the center of our communications strategies and make sure technologies continue to serve the human agenda … and not the other way around.

Next week: the rise of small data over big data.