XTC 12/10: The Biggest Tech Stories You Won’t Have to Pitch in 2015 (Part 1)

Our Crystal Ball of Buzzwords predicts equal amounts of innovation and disruption next year. (Thinkstock)
Our Crystal Ball of Buzzwords predicts equal amounts of innovation and disruption next year. (Thinkstock)

‘Tis the season for 2015 trends. Each December we’re treated to a veritable cornucopia of content around hot technologies, spending forecasts, innovative marketing bets, and disruptive business models.

But for those of us in tech PR, one of the most precious commodities in 2015 is time, followed closely by budget. So this year, B&O is proud to share our view on the biggest tech stories of 2015 that will get written whether or not you spend any time or budget on them. For those of us from the old school of PR, this is called “drafting”. For those of us from the new school, I believe the term is “trend-jacking”. And for those of us into Kanye West, you could call this being an “SEO gold-digger”.

Let’s start with a summary of what we already know from the plethora of predictions and prognostication from pontificating pundits and pollsters:

B2B Tech

The B2B tech market is predicted to grow in low single digits in from 2014 to 2015, with the most spending coming from industries facing extreme disruption—those who no longer have a choice and face a mandate to either disrupt or be disrupted.

According to Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015, the biggest areas of disruption fall into three categories: the merging of real and virtual worlds (which includes mobile computing, the Internet of things and 3D printing); intelligence everywhere (which includes data analytics, context-rich systems and smart machines); and the “new IT” (which includes cloud computing, software-defined IT architectures, web-scale IT and security). And interestingly, all of these are technologies that have been around in some form or other for quite some time.

Consumer Tech

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of overlap between the consumer tech predictions and B2B tech predictions this year.

Take, for instance, the Consumer Electronics Association’s 5 Technology Trends to Watch, 2015 Edition. It showcases data analytics, the Internet of things, digital health, immersive entertainment, and the acceleration of business model disruption. Meanwhile, actual device innovation is reported to be reaching a plateau—it’s about services more than gadgets now. Again, many consumer technologies aren’t necessarily new. They’re simply achieving global scale thanks to better pricing, packaging or evolving human behaviors.

The Pattern That’s Emerging

When you look at these trends more closely, a common theme emerges: 2015 is the year we as individuals, businesses and marketers figure out how to use the technologies that already surround us more intelligently.

Think about it. As a species, we’ve seen a dizzying array of technological advancement over the past few years. Mobile tech means what we can do is no longer limited by where we are. Social tech means that we always have the power of the crowd (which is more powerful than the cloud) at our disposal. Analytics means we never have to guess at anything, ever. So being isolated, being alone and being ignorant—some of our most defining human challenges—have basically been erased within the past decade.

That’s a big deal.

Because much of this innovation has outpaced our ability as humans to absorb it all. So the big tech winners of 2015 will be the ones that help people catch up with these innovations and put them to good use. The other big tech winners of 2015 will be those who help prevent us from doing more harm than good with technologies we don’t quite yet understand or know how to control.

This is the central tension that will define the biggest technology stories of 2015—the ones you’ll never have to pitch because they are the technology story for next year.

What exactly do those story lines look like? What are the PR challenges we’ll have to overcome in 2015? And how do we get our signal through the deafening noise of tech innovation PR? Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series … when we come back from the holidays!

1,000,001 Opportunities: Every Story Is a Tech Story

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

If every company is a technology company and every business will be digital, does that mean that every story could be a “technology” story? Nilay Patel at The Verge certainly thinks so. And as Ricardo Bilton at Digiday explains, there are very interesting shifts taking place in the technology publishing world.

Stepping back, the bold claims about every company and business come from the experts over at Gartner. At their last two symposiums, the Gartner team have painstakingly detailed how technology should now be a key part of every company’s DNA. And it’s hard to argue against that as technology continues to transform the way we live.

If technology is now either part of, or soon to be part of, absolutely everything, then wrapping a neat bow around “technology stories” and placing them in an individual “technology section” could be an increasingly futile exercise for publishers. Sure, there still needs to be coverage of the actual technologies themselves (the speeds, the feeds and all the stuff geeks like us love), but more and more, the bigger and more impactful stories about what technology can actually do live within areas that you might not initially expect. Unless of course you already have Vanity Fair, Backchannel and Refinery29 on your list of targets for enterprise tech stories.

From a technology storytelling standpoint, this is kind of cool. It challenges us to rethink how we tell stories so that they can be understood by people who don’t understand, or don’t really want to understand, how technology actually works – and these simple, digestible stories often resonate the best with readers. With major technology publishers continuing to face tough times, taking a broader approach that focuses on the human and cultural aspects of technology opens up many more opportunities for hacks and flacks.

To mix things up further on the PR side, the way we actually tell said stories also needs new forms of content. A recent study of 500 top publishers by Frac.tl. showed the challenge of being heard, with writers at sites like nytimes.com, TheGuardian.com and CNN.com saying they receive about 26,000 emails a year from people trying to get press coverage. The study was also another PR blow for the press release, with only 7 percent of digital publishers asking for more. By contrast, the most requested items were articles (19 percent), infographics (12 percent) and mix-media pieces (13 percent). And forget stalking people down on the phone (only 5 percent want you to call) and those lengthy pitches – 45 percent of writers want them to be fewer than 100 words. Or to put it another way, you have fewer words than I used in the last four sentences to get your story across.

So opportunities abound, but they are not on a silver plate and they do require a rethink. Which is exactly what we are doing everyday at Blanc & Otus. It’s fun. It keeps things different. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Analyst Relations: How to Get the Most Out of Gartner Symposium

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Thinkstock

Every year Gartner runs its Symposium event in Orlando. Symposium is the key event in the Analyst Relations calendar, due to the sheer number of analysts, vendors and high-level speakers attending. It’s also a great chance to hear Gartner brief the AR community on its latest research methodologies, changes and AR best practices. If you are new to the Symposium experience, here are some topline recommendations on how to get the most out of your time there:

  • Maximize the value of 1:1s – Ensure any 1:1 meetings with analysts are a genuinely good fit with your area of focus or the problem you are looking to solve. There’s nothing worse for either party than a discussion that is light on relevance. Be sure to give them opening context on what you’re hoping to get out of the conversation, especially if they’re not familiar with you, or your challenges. Often analysts are meeting attendees for the first time, so context is king.
  • Plan sessions carefully – As the venue is large and spread across multiple campuses, travel time can be a factor in attending sessions. Be sure to plan enough time between sessions for travel (especially if you’re new to the Symposium experience).  Gartner’s handy agenda builder will help you plan ahead.
  • Talk with CIOs for their reaction to analyst and vendor presentations  It’s one thing to hear what analysts and competitors have to say about tech trends. It’s quite another to observe how CIOs are reacting to those messages. When are they most engaged? When are they rolling their eyes in disbelief? This event provides a rare opportunity for message testing and trying out new angles. It also gives you a glimpse into where Gartner is – and isn’t – hitting its mark with the tech-buying crowd. Take advantage of it!
  • Seek out the unusual – Gartner Symposium sessions cover a wide range of topics. Often there will be novel presentations that look at the tech industry through a fresh lens – Gartner’s Maverick research notes are a great example of out of the box thinking. Gartner is particularly good at approaching topics from a high level, especially when it touches on the intersection of technology and decision maker politics and behaviors.

One great example from last year’s event was Tina Nunno’s session on CIO’s finding their inner Wolf (by learning the lessons of Machiavelli) in order to succeed politically in an organization. It was an excellent example of the political and emotional context of technology decision making. As well as being insightful, it was also very funny, and clearly resonated with the CIOs in attendance.

This year, Gartner’s introducing ‘Espresso’ sessions – quick fire presentations that are deliberately designed to be edgy and provocative. Examples of topics include: ‘Digital Ethics, or How Not to Mess Up With Technology’ and ‘The Next Digital Disruption Will Be the Human Brain: Is Your Organization Ready for Neurobusiness?’ I’m sure they will spur on a good deal of debate among attendees.

  • Intelligent networking – No, I’m not referencing some kind of new IT network delivery system, but Symposium is a great place to network with lots of smart AR folks. The Gartner Analyst Relations Forum is always well worth attending and is a must for anyone who has AR as part of their responsibilities. It provides a great macro update of Gartner’s latest plans, with many AR pros swapping anecdotes and comparing notes over drinks afterwards.

If you have any questions on getting the most out of Symposium, or how to best approach analyst events in general, please do get in touch with me at tclark@blancandotus.com.