Industry event review: IoT Evolution Expo West 2016

By: Reno Ybarra

Recently, Engage PR attended IoT Evolution Expo West, TMCnet’s Internet of Things focused conference in Las Vegas celebrating the companies that are driving business innovation through IoT. The conference provided a great opportunity for our clients to meet face-to-face with analysts, media and participate in industry discussions via panel sessions on relevant topics. It also allowed us to host these briefings and interviews, take in keynotes and panel sessions and introduce our clients to various stakeholders, including media, analysts and event organizers – people we consistently work with but rarely get to interact with face-to-face. The value attending an industry event as a PR professional can be enormous and personally, it’s my favorite part of the job.

Horizontal problem
This particular event is relevant to Engage PR as IoT is not only a hot topic everywhere you look, but is where a number of our clients are focused. As such, it’s necessary for our staff to stay involved in the conversations surrounding the various technologies, use cases and markets that IoT vendors and purchasers serve and drive, respectively. At the same time, there are dozens of events just like it and it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate between them in order to make cogent recommendations to our clients. Furthermore, they all have the same problem – the buyers of technology do not attend en masse – which creates a dilemma for vendors looking to generate sales leads and increase visibility for their brands. I’m generalizing a bit with that statement, but my experience and what Engage PR has heard from multiple clients all points to that same conclusion. At IoT Evolution Expo West, there were analysts, media and hundreds of vendor representatives in attendance, but few purchasers of the technology and solutions being discussed throughout the event. As a result, we see clients focusing efforts on vertical shows that focus on industries that are adopting various IoT technologies, and where the actual buyers are almost guaranteed to be present.

Horizontal value
That isn’t to say that horizontal shows don’t hold plenty of value in a relatively nascent market with players coming in to compete in droves, such as IoT. These horizontal shows provide value to companies large and small as you can see with the sponsors of IoT Evolution Expo West inclusive of behemoths like AT&T and newer, smaller companies like Senet. For the big dogs, they get the notoriety that comes with sponsoring the show, having a large booth presence and participating on just about every panel. For the smaller companies including startups, it’s a great way to introduce a new brand to the market and drive visibility through startup competitions and exhibitions. TMCnet’s IoT show is very small compared to say, the CES’s of the world, but smaller shows include the following benefits, while I’m sure there are others:

  1. More facetime with analysts and media – pitching for Mobile World Congress and CES starts nearly six months in advance and is extremely competitive, whereas at smaller shows it is more realistic for small and mid-size B2B companies to sit-down with important influencers. If you’re not sponsoring or exhibiting at a show like this, the awareness gained from sitting on a few panels and mingling with media and analysts is invaluable.
  2. Less distractions to navigate – When exhibiting or announcing news at a smaller show, the likelihood of getting drowned out by the crowd is less as there are fewer competing activities.
  3. Productive mingling happens – With less heads roaming the halls, it’s easier to spot someone you know or would like to introduce yourself to and talk to them. Working with dozens of media and analysts I’ve never met drives a curiosity in me to the point that I memorize pictures of a few targets and seek them out at shows to introduce myself to in the hopes they remember and take my card. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but often, the person will remember the effort and respond a little quicker the next time you contact them.

Event highlights
“You can’t sell ‘it’ without IoT” was the theme of the first panel on the main stage of the show’s biggest room. The panel of IoT focused analysts from the likes of ABI Research, BI Intelligence, Machina and IHS Research discussed the topic of ROI Realities in IoT including what the biggest pain points are among buyers and how vendors should go to market and address them. The two most interesting takeaways of this panel for me were that with over 300 IoT “platforms” this market will continue to flood without consolidation, while mid-sized enterprises with flatter organizational structures will be the first adopters of IoT solutions. Another panel that drove my interest was the Fog/Edge Computing panel in which I learned the wife of a Cisco engineer was the one who invented the term Fog Computing.

The quote of the day came from Bsquare’s Dave McCarthy when he referred to connectivity going down at the edge, “Smart equipment shouldn’t have to lose its brain if the cloud isn’t available…” The Industrial IoT Strategies panel included conversations around what happens when vendors sit down with potential customers. Who is in the room and where does the conversation start? If it’s IT, do they make the purchasing decisions? If it’s a business unit, do they know enough about technology to make a decision? Some very interesting questions came up about bridging the two worlds of IT and OT with Dave McCarthy summing it up in a very succinct way, “I’ve been in rooms where LOB and IT guys from the same company sit down and exchange cards because they’ve never met before…”

Overall, it was a busy and productive week for Engage PR and our clients and despite being in Las Vegas, there weren’t any activities that needed to “stay” there.

The Business of an Industry Analyst in PR

By: Chris Nicoll

blog-industry_analystTechnology is an interesting industry with so many different facets and a constantly changing landscape. I’ve seen over the past 30+ years that if you don’t like something in the tech world, just wait 6 months and something new will pop up. These days, I think it is more like 2-3 months but you get the idea.

As an industry analyst for much of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn from a lot of very bright people – both at the companies I’ve worked at including Current Analysis, Yankee Group and most recently Analysys Mason, and companies I’ve worked with including AT&T, BT, Ciena, Cisco, Deutsch Telecom, Ericsson, Huawei, Orange, Nokia (and that includes NSN, Lucent and ALU), Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, Telefonica… the list goes on.

My point is this – as an industry analyst I’ve been able to work with numerous companies across many different technologies in many different markets so that I’ve had my eyes opened to new perspectives, new market challenges, and differing requirements.

Briefings are often targeted to both press and analysts and I’ve had very successful briefings where I have learned a lot, and been able to provide some valuable feedback and insights. I’ve also had forgettable briefings where I was watching the seconds hoping it would all end soon and wondering how such a waste of time and effort got approved by the vendor briefing me.

Across that experience five common pitfalls have remained fairly consistent:

  1. Not understanding what the analyst will do with your briefing. Are you briefing them for input into a report or article they are writing? Is this a feedback exercise for you? Are you hoping to expand the analyst’s knowledge of the space you are in? Why will the analyst want to talk to you is a really good question to ask yourself.
  2. Not looking at your analyst-time as an expense. This goes with not working to maximize your spend. Whether it is executive time, prep time or the expense of analyst subscriptions or reports – plan what you want to get out of your time and effort. Which leads to the next point:
  3. Not challenging your own assumptions. Analysts have a broader view than any vendor, or at least an outside view. Not using your analyst time to challenge and either validate or invalidate your key assumptions is one of the most common mistakes companies make. Analysts are not here to rubber stamp your ivory tower view of the world.
  4. Not asking for the analyst’s opinion. Again, related to my second point, but taking a breath to ask what the analyst thinks on a key point of your briefing is refreshing and could provide some much needed input. A secondary benefit is that it ensures the analyst is paying attention and not multi-tasking with email, or twitter or whatever. And if you want a press reference, you better know what they are going to say.
  5. Not preparing the analyst for the briefing. After you have put hours/days into the PowerPoint deck to be presented, rehearsed the script, done the fine tuning, validated your messages with key stakeholders internally – you expect the analyst to provide deeply insightful feedback and comprehension on the fly as you go through your presentation? Nope. Send the deck a few days before with the key points you expect to make and perhaps even a few questions you hope the analyst can answer for you. Help them help you to have a successful briefing.

This is where I think the joining of an experienced industry analyst and public relations team makes sense. Industry analysts look at the technology, products, messaging and positioning of the companies and markets they cover with a critical eye. PR takes an unabashedly promotional view of the same, but bringing the two together makes for a stronger message that is well supported and hopefully better received and understood by the press, analysts and potential customers.

This blog post has been focused on the AR side of business, but it applies to the PR side as well. If you take ‘analyst’ in the above points and substitute ‘press’ or ‘editor’ well, it does not exactly translate but again, I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Industry analysts and public relations have traditionally been in something of a ‘client-server’ relationship, with the analysts one of the key targets of the PR efforts. Joining Engage PR helps me bring a better understanding of the business and content needs of the analysts we work with on behalf of our clients.

Guiding Clients through the Wild West of IoT

By: Chris Nicoll

blog-iot-wildewest_2Engage PR has supported several companies in the Internet of Things (IoT) market and we’ve gained an understanding of this diverse market based on working with clients that have approached it from different perspectives. These companies include: Golgi, a cloud-based IoT platform provider for developers that automatically creates APIs; Bsquare, which offers a software stack for device connectivity, real-time data monitoring and automation and holistic multidomain analytics; and Covisint, a cloud based platform for building Identity and Internet of Things (IoT) applications that connect global networks of people, processes, systems and things.

A unique feature of this diverse market is that IoT is actually not one market, but several in a very complex ecosystem of consumers, providers, vendors and requirements. Working with clients to generate mindshare and ultimately market share in this area, the IoT market is really the Wild West.

The IoT Media Landscape

Take the media landscape, for example. Whether you look at business media, tech media or IoT trade media, there are no clear influencers as there is little organization to the broad IoT ‘market’ in general even though there are specific segments that have been defined such as eHealth, Connected Car, Smart Home, Smart Grid, etc. In effect, this means that speaking to the IoT ‘market’ actually requires focus and market definition. This is based on our experience pitching media as well as through conversations we’ve had with media and analysts. There are common themes within the different media covering IoT, though.

Business media tend to cover the largest players, they like security angles, write about industry consolidation and favor consumer IoT topics. But, what if your company isn’t one of the big players, doesn’t have a security angle and is focused on the Industrial market? Your PR department and/or agency need to get strategic and creative, such as figuring out how to bring value to reporters through unique insights and data.

Within the tech media, reporters cover vendor product news, but they typically require customers or use cases for ongoing vendor coverage. If your company doesn’t have referenceable customers, there are ways to get around this issue, especially as more tech media are offering opportunities to contribute content.

In the IoT media, some outlets cover product news while others do not. Most welcome contributed content from vendors. However, the window for true thought leadership in IoT publications may be quickly coming to a close. Based on what Engage PR is seeing, some outlets are moving to a paid model, which will favor larger companies with big budgets.

PR Program Imperatives

Guiding clients on their PR programs through the Wild West of IoT takes a combination of keeping our pulse on the industry, strong focus, a strategic mindset and creativity. Getting positioning and messaging right is critical for companies in this market. Industry analysts like to classify IoT vendors by what type of platform they offer. But, your customers may not think of their technology need as a platform. In many industries, customers don’t even talk about IoT solutions; they talk about what business problem they need to solve with technology and their entry point is often analytics. Should a company change their positioning to be a platform just to ensure industry analysts can easily categorize their offering? In many cases, the answer is yes as industry analysts provide validation for vendors and enterprises consider analyst rankings when making purchasing decisions.

Another aspect companies should think about is how much money to invest in IoT tradeshows. There are many IoT conferences with new ones popping up all the time. Which ones, if any, are critical for companies to participate in or simply attend? While the answer often depends upon a company’s target audience, we’re hearing that companies are getting IoT show fatigue from going to conferences that are too general and not seeing the value of sitting next to someone who is approaching IoT from a completely different perspective.

Understanding the challenges of the IoT market is important. For companies just entering the market, external communications can be confusing. The definition of IoT can be different depending upon who you talk to since some in the industry believe that M2M is IoT.

Engage PR knows how to help companies navigate these challenges. We also have an industry analyst on staff named Chris Nicoll with expertise in IoT. Chris is focused on providing strategy for clients in this fast moving market. Give us a call. We would be happy to provide a quick assessment on your position in the IoT market.

4 Tips to Maximizing Your In-Person Analyst Briefing

By Elise Vue

Your PR firm just secured a meeting with a key industry analyst you’ve been trying to meet with for months, now what? Here are four tips and other industry advice to not only get the most out of your meeting but to begin to build a long-standing, mutual relationship.

TIP #1: Have a purpose to the briefing
An analyst briefing is a unique opportunity for you to introduce or update an analyst on a new product, service, business strategy, partnership, merger or acquisition and especially garner feedback from relevant analysts within those coverage areas.

Analysts also use these briefings as a research tool to inform them about the trends in the marketplace and specific offerings. Therefore, it is important that you align your business objectives with your messaging and competitive differentiator to provide the best briefing.

TIP #2: Preparation
Have a basic understanding of the analyst’s background and any relevant reports they are working on. This will help inform the two or three key takeaways you prepare for the analyst for the best return on your effort. Numbers are also favorable, so have some results on hand including ROI gains, cost reductions, productivity improvements, etc.

Are you looking for feedback on your message?  Prepare to check-in with the analyst at several points during the briefing not just to verify understanding, but to gauge the analyst’s agreement or disagreement. Maximize the value of the briefing and build into the presentation script when to ask for the analyst’s opinion.

TIP#3: Share visuals
Create a presentation specifically for analysts and send a day in advance for the analyst to peruse ahead of the briefing and ideally generate some questions for the briefing. If you choose to use a web conference, share your presentation in advance to avoid connectivity issues. This will help maximize everyone’s time and avoid any downtime.

TIP#4: Be personable
Remember that no matter what part of the industry you are in, this is still a people-business and analysts are people. Treat them as you would a customer or prospect: respect their time (be punctual and don’t run over on your allotted time), be prepared, be polite.

Tips 1-4 are based on client experience including insight from Chris Nicoll, VP of Strategy at Engage PR, for a successful analyst briefing.

Interview from the field:
Peter Jarich is the Vice President for Current Analysis Consumer and Infrastructure services. He and his team are focused on Consumer Services and Devices, Digital Media, Fixed Access, IP Services, Mobile Access, and Transport and Routing Infrastructure, Telecom Vendor Services, and overall coverage of the Mobile Ecosystem.

Peter’s views:

  1. What are your thoughts on presentation decks? 
    Offer to send any. If you know you’re meeting a specific analyst, consider putting their name (company name) on the title slide. Makes you seem like you’ve got your act together.

    One-on- ones are not the time to go all Apple. You should be digging into details and not just selling a vision with one-picture- per-slide decks.

  2. Are you interested in a Media/Analyst Kit?
    I rarely look at them. I know that if I want them, I can ask. If you’ve spent a lot of time on this, provide a USB key – don’t hand out handouts.
  3. What would you recommend vendors to say and not say?
    Be honest. I really enjoy when a company talks openly about their competitors. I also like it when they talk open about their weaknesses.

    Best to start by asking the analyst what they want to talk about. That said, give the 5 minute intro unless you really know the analyst well (don’t make them admit they don’t know what you do).

    At some point, ask the analyst for their opinion. You might get good insights. You might not. Most analysts, however, want to convey their thoughts and insights.

Inside ReadWrite: A Brave New (connected) World

By Anne Stanley

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You may be familiar with ReadWrite as a source for industry news, reviews, and analysis on Web 2.0 and Web technology, as well as blog posts addressing the cultural aspects of startups. In 2015, Forbes even named ReadWrite one of the top 100 websites for entrepreneurs. Recently, however, the editorial staff at ReadWrite made the drastic decision to move away from covering general technology and reorganized to become “the only media platform tailored for the world of IoT.” We met up with ReadWrite’s Editor-in-Chief Christopher Caen and Associate Editor Trevor Curwin at our monthly Wine Wednesday event to get the inside scoop on what’s in store for the publication-become-platform and how brands can take advantage of its new model.

Business-To-Ecosystem
The decision to change ReadWrite started with the identification of a problem. Business leaders are being asked to make important decisions on IoT implementation with little to no context or community to support them. Once the need for such a resource was identified, ReadWrite made the move to fill the gap. Caen and Curwin soon realized that in order to address all of the various complexities of IoT, they would need to move beyond the silos of B2B or B2C technology. Instead, they identified that the best way to fully address IoT was to view it as an ecosystem, rather than a technology or product. ReadWrite defines the IoT ecosystem as being comprised of developers, partners, technology, and customers. With a new Business-To-Ecosystem (B2E) model in mind, all aspects of ReadWrite have been built expressly to address and connect each of these touchpoints to create a more holistic view of this emerging technology.

Sponsorship Model
Working with brands such as Qualcomm, Alcatel Lucent, Samsung, Intel, and Microsoft (to name a few), ReadWrite provides audiences with well-informed and targeted editorial content that deliver the stories of entrepreneurs and enterprises alike. While the old ReadWrite was comprised of relatively ambiguous content sections with titles such as Code, Build, Structure, Connect, Lead, Find, Operate and Grow, the new ReadWrite is built to drive industry and innovation through tailored content sections that span the breadth of the quickly evolving IoT landscape. Section heads are now titled Devices, Health, Transport, Data/Security, Industrial, Cities, and Platforms, which cover the main verticals of the IoT ecosystem. Brands now have the opportunity to sponsor these verticals to more effectively reach the audiences that matter most to them and build their reputation as front-runners in their preferred vertical. Content contributed by enterprises and thought leaders is meant to both inform business leaders on the intricacies of IoT, and drive the adoption of connected technologies. The result of this innovative sponsorship model is the creation of an online resource that provides deep expertise to business leaders who can then make informed decisions when it comes to developing their IoT strategy.

The Future of ReadWrite
So what’s next for ReadWrite? Caen’s goal is to continue building out the publication’s community of partners and remain a resource for business leaders and enterprises looking to move forward with incorporating an IoT strategy into their infrastructure. “Our content lives at the intersection of entrepreneurs and enterprise, the birthplace of these new technologies that will impact every industry they touch,” says Caen. With this change, ReadWrite’s audience has shifted from programmers and developers, to executives and mid-level employees who are making decisions on products, services and revenue. In addition to the publication’s shift in editorial focus, ReadWrite plans on being more involved in IoT-focused events (the publication recently owned a stage at Internet of Things World in Santa Clara), and even owning its own panels. A video series and additional multimedia content is also said to be on the horizon.

What do you think of ReadWrite’s new model? Do you think other tech publications will follow suit? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter at @EngagePR or leave a comment on our Facebook page. If you’re interested in attending one of our monthly Wine Wednesday events as a media or analyst guest, please email our office manager here.