Industrial Automation

Highly-specialized partners wanted!

Often, we are approached to help Germany-based clients with international marketing or communications projects in native-English, but every now and again we are recommended by previous clients or colleagues to support an international technology or engineering business looking for help in Germany, where we are headquartered. We had just such a request last week, that made me realize how completely individual and unique the necessary skillsets for such projects can be.

Differentiation: what’s your sweet spot?

Increasingly, clients seem to be looking for reliable partners with that ‘sweet spot’ overlap in multiple, specialized criteria. First comes functional expertise, such as messaging and storytelling knowhow, media relations skills, or social media capabilities – without this you don’t have ‘table stakes’ to begin a partnership discussion. Second – though often ranked highest in terms of importance to information experts within the client organizations – comes an understanding of the relevant business sector or industry, specific areas of innovation or applications, and the relevant trends that are driving that market currently. This is often where the competitive differentiation lies, and you may not be considered without an Engineering Degree! Third – though often taken completely for granted – is having the right combination of cultural and/or language skills. Let me explain with a current example.

Current project: industrial automation social networking in Germany

My new US-based client knows they need a specialized partner to help the company position its expertise in industrial automation to potential influencers and customers in Germany. If you think you might fit the bill – please get in touch and fill out our Partner Application Form here.

It’s not a massive budget (where is these days!), and they have also had a less than positive experience in the past with larger agencies, so they prefer to work with experienced ‘freelancers.’  The topic and engineering audience mean that a high level of technical understanding – and ability to engage people around industrial automation topics – is essential.

When it comes to culture and language, there is no one-word, simple answer (contrary to frequent expectation). In this case, native-German is essential, while the ability to translate from US-corporate-to-German-engineer (Mittlestand, even) is also desired. In these days of digital transformation and multi-generational workforces, the words, examples, and channels you use – even choosing international English for some German LinkedIn groups – may positively influence success in meeting goals.

Like I say, this is not a simple job description to write – but every project that comes through our door has a similar combination of completely unique client needs! Have you had a similar experience filling difficult to specify roles?

All in the day job

In the meantime, we’ll help the client to specify this project, look at the available budget and which goals or activities they should prioritize accordingly, and help them to develop the brief for this and related projects. Luckily, we’ve had experience of doing this for technology clients in the past! For example, a previous client at the US consumer software company Techsmith said:

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Ronna Porter for many years now. During my time at TechSmith, I worked directly with Ronna as she led the agency team in Germany to great success. Her team spearheaded TechSmith’s PR-led demand generation push in Europe to consolidate established brands in the market – Camtasia Studio and Snagit, while launching new ones including Jing. TechSmith was able to directly link weekly sales figures to coverage, reviews, and giveaways. While managing agencies long distance can be a real challenge, Ronna made this as easy for me as she could through excellent communication skills. I recommend her to other American companies looking for PR or AR help to break into lucrative European markets such as Germany.” If you are looking for this kind of support too, Just Ask!

content-creation

Ensuring your writing is ‘Just Brilliant’ with editing and proofreading

The world is changing. Organisations – from startups and small businesses, to public-sector groups, and even major enterprises – want to retain as much control of their business and their money as possible. They all need a very good justification to bring in external resources at additional cost – especially when budgets are tight. The days of hefty agency retainers just for being at the end of a telephone are long gone!

That start-ups take this approach is clear, as they have no spare cash to splash around. But from recent conversations with charities and public sector organizations including cities, universities, applied research institutes, the act of producing content for social media or news channels is increasingly being expected from the ‘content experts’ themselves. Whether they have the time, motivation, language competence, or other required skills (this is another conversation entirely!), that means many more people are expected to take responsibility communication tasks as part of their day job.

That’s why JustaPR borrowed the ‘as-a-service’ nomenclature from the tech sector. Clients chose when, how much, and what kind of international expertise and support they require. Often you can get 80-90% of a job done in-house using your fixed resources at no additional charge than paying your team’s salaries. While this can be cost-efficient, is it effective?

JustaPR can then quickly and expertly take you up to 100% by providing access to exactly the skills you don’t currently have in-house, for example, native-English proofreading. The importance of this shouldn’t be under-estimated. While team members – even in some cases algorithms, software or automated processes – can do the lion’s share of the work to get you close to your goal, someone with the right know-how should always do the final check. This give you the reassurance that the final result is Just Brilliant! | Adequate to Purpose | No Longer Embarrassing (delete as appropriate). So if you don’t have the necessary skills and experience in-house and available when you need them, cost-effective outsourcing protects your reputation.

JustaPR takes a ‘PR-as-a-Service’ (PRaaS) approach, giving you access to as much or as little expert international communication, marcom or social media support as you need at a fair price, without having to commit to a retainer or minimum budget.

Just a press release, fine. Just a blog post, no problem. Just a native-English proofread of your business plan, investor pitch or website, when do you need it by?

Contact us at info@justapr.com to let us know what we can help you with today.

 

 

Hilltop view_Zachary Young

International cooperation: how wide are your horizons?

As I write this I am on a train that began its journey in Prague, in the Czech Republic, and will end at Munich, Germany. Within the first five minutes of boarding I’ve heard conversations in Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. While I frequently travel ‘the last bit’ of this route between home and work, the atmosphere today reminds me of the wonderful opportnity I had for international cooperation as a young adult: to InterRail around Europe, and then expand my horizons and earning potential by working ‘abroad.’ And there was much room for expansion, as I grew up on a small island in Scotland without many advantages other than a decent education.

Taking personal responsibility for the team effort

I could, less poetically, grumble that my train is running half an hour late, it’s pretty old rolling stock, or hundred other imperfections in the overall infrastructure. Nothing is perfect in life, after all, and the more moving parts there are in a system, the harder it can be to coordinate all the inputs, processes and outputs. Perhaps I’m just a ‘glass half full’ kind of person. More likely, it’s that I’m realistic about the personal contribution that we all need to make to a team effort to achieve great things. I don’t expect things to be easy, or to be given preferential treatment.

Don’t mention politics!

That’s probably why – like many – I find the ‘debate’ around the US Presidential candidates and the UK referendum so deeply troubling. We have great opportunities that we need to work together to achieve, not to mention massive challenges to overcome. There are enough crazies shooting up American schools and night clubs, do you really want to put one in the White House?

Brits: what is your evidence that the UK will be politically, economically, culturally or socially stronger outside of a united Europe, rather than making an appropriately strong contribution to a united team effort? That The Sun and Boris Johnson say so! Even when it is in direct contrast to hundreds of world leaders, investing businesses, experts & influencers, and British subjects like me who have taken advantage of the benefits and freedoms that membership that the European Union offers. Even if you opt for narrower horizons – which is your choice – would you deny that option to the coming generations?

I’ve already posted my vote to keep Britain as a strong member of the European Union, and I wholeheartedly encourage all Brits to do the same on the June 23.

Choosing the right direction – its easy to go wrong!

Update: Writing this bit on the way back from an unscheduled 4-hour stopover in Domazlice, just across the Czech border. Turns out I caught the train going the wrong way and didn’t notice due to writing blog posts, etc. Let’s hope that the UK and the US – unlike me – will choose the right direction.

bored

If boring, you suck! A salutory tale of bad proofreading

Were it so simple. Imagine if popping a tab of dextrose could make you a more engaging speaker. Then you wouldn’t risk – with sweaty palms and heart racing like a speeding locomotive – reaching the round, red carpet on the TED stage only to fumble on monotone for the allotted 18 minutes. No, this isn’t a post about presentation skills. Dextro Energy alone is, unfortunately, unlikely to stop any of us being a bore in meetings or networking events, or sucking at public speaking! However, some good proofreading might.

Great idea, poorly executed

When we first relocated to Germany in 1999, I took part in a language training course organized by my husband’s company, a well-known German engineering enterprise. Knowing that the days would be long, and the content uninspiring, the front cover of the training folder helpfully included a pack of Dextro Energy and the instruction: If boring, you suck. The intention: give trainees a sugar rush just when they need it. However, this incident would become my initiation into ‘the Grammar Police.’

What it should have said was: If you get bored, try this!

It’s become my role in life to help businesses to find the most effective words that resonate with their target audiences and differentiate them from their competitors. This is already a highly-specialized task when everyone in the team speaks the same language – both literally and metaphorically! Add into the mix a number of different mother-tongues, cultural backgrounds, skill areas, and increasingly complex topics – such as the impacts of digital transformation and the internet of things (IOT) – and the value of clear thinking, an external perspective, careful editing, and a final native proofreading can’t be overstated.

But where do you find such a service?

My new business, Justa Public Relations, delivers effective international communication and technology PR expertise for the dawn of digital transformation. It takes a PRaaS (public relations-as-a-service) approach, giving businesses of all sizes access to as much or as little expert international communication, marcom or social media support as they need, without having to commit to a retainer or minimum budget.

Just a press release, fine. Just a blog post, no problem. Just a nativeEnglish check of your website, investor pitch or sales proposal, when do you need it by? We’d love to hear what you need today.

Disclaimer: The training book actually said: If boring, suck this! I edited it both for a stronger headline, and to avoid the implied sexual connotations. If you don’t understand why, then I suggest you investigate native-English proofreading support for your most important English texts!

Wind_Turbines_Anna_Jiménez_Calaf

Smart grid technology gains momentum

Innovation activity in the area of energy storage – and smart grid technology in particular – is gathering momentum, says Withers & Rogers based on patent filings research carried out by UK-based intellectual property firm. A number of sources say this is partly due to the UK government’s decision to step up its search for innovative solutions to help combat climate change.

Doubling of European patents for smart grid technologies

Based on patent-filing data sourced from the European Patent Office (EPO), over 450 patent applications for smart grid technologies were filed in 2012, more than double their number just three years earlier. This sharp, upward trend in filings indicates a surge in innovation activity. (1)

Based on the latest complete data, the top filers for smart grid technologies in Europe are GE, Siemens, SMA Solar Technology, and Toshiba. While it is no surprise that some well known multinationals are represented in this list, there is also a healthy spattering of growing, innovation-led businesses involved in this area of research and development.

Expert commentary:

“There has been a global surge in innovation activity in the area of energy storage and smart grid technologies, with a number of European SMEs now filing a significant number of patents,” says Andrew Thompson, partner and patent attorney at Withers & Rogers.

“The fact that smart grid innovation is gathering momentum means it is well placed to complement other energy storage solutions, such as batteries, and it represents a prime opportunity for clean tech companies in the UK and across Europe,” says Thompson. “By patenting their technologies now, companies have a chance of securing status as part of a new standard for energy storage solutions in the future.”

Relevant research

Energy storage was recently identified in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 report as one of the areas of technology that is set to make the biggest contribution to addressing climate change between now and 2025.

(1) Due to the time it takes for an application to be published and to become public (18–24 months), this research is based on the latest complete data available.

Source: Renewable Energy Focus

Measurement

Measurement: how effective is your international communication?

If something is worth doing, it is worth doing properly. Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell if ‘it’ was done properly unless you invest the necessary resources into finding out. It’s important to try, because you can’t correct missteps, or focus more of your resources on the things you are doing right, if you have no reliable corroboration of what things are effective, and why.

Often, when I have asked the question over the years – how effective is your international communication? – I’ve received too many blank stares, complicated explanations, excuses (usually blaming lack of budget, difficulties caused by language/culture/decentralization), or voicing disbelief that PR can be measured). Essentially answering with a shrug and, “how long is a piece of string?”

The Barcelona Principles of communication measurement

For reasons I won’t bore you with, the communications industry (AKA public relations) as a whole has historically been poor at measuring what it achieves in a valid way. There have always been individuals that have argued for valid measures, and in more recent years a coalition of interested bodies led by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) has established a set of measurement principles, known as the Barcelona Principles, which were recently updated.

I whole-heartedly endorse these principles, which in the past I’ve found extremely useful in helping international technology companies to roll out the ball of string, and think of relevant, yet affordable ways to measure it.

I share the Principles below for those who are interested. Shout out to my friend Mike Daniels who played a valued role as previous AMEC Chairman.

Principle 1: Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and public relations

  • Measurement and evaluation against defined goals and SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) objectives are fundamental to good communication and PR programs. They are critical to any communication program, whether it be a single campaign or an on-going effort where the results are incremental over time.
  • Goals can be quantitative or qualitative yet should address target audience and what about them the communication program is intended to affect, how much of a change represents success, and by when this result should be achieved. This should be based on a clear understanding of the target audience including their current positions and views, as well as the context in which the program is intended.
  • Measurement, evaluation and goal-setting should take a holistic approach, including representative traditional and social media; changes in awareness among key stakeholders, comprehension, attitude, and behavior as applicable; and impact on organizational results. It should be integrated and aligned across paid, earned, shared and owned channels where possible.

Principle 2: Measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs

  • Outcomes include shifts in awareness, comprehension, attitude, behavior and advocacy related to purchase, donations, brand equity, corporate reputation, employee engagement, public policy, investment decisions, and other shifts in stakeholders regarding a company, NGO, government or other type of organization.
  • Practices for measuring the effect on outcomes should be tailored to the objectives of the communication program. Both quantitative and qualitative methods should be used as appropriate.
  • Standard best practices in target audience research including sample design, question wording and order, and analysis should be applied.

Principle 3: The effect on organizational performance can and should be measured where possible

  • To measure results from communication for an organization, models that determine the effects of the quantity and quality of communication outputs on organizational metrics, while accounting for other variables, are a preferred choice. Related points are:
    • Demand for models to evaluate the impact on target audiences of PR and communication activities in an integrated environment is significant and increasing.
    • Practitioners need to understand the value and implications of integrated marketing and communication models for accurate evaluation of each channel including PR. There exists an ongoing need to develop PR measures that can provide reliable input into integrated marketing and communication models.
    • Survey research can also be used to isolate the change in purchasing, purchase preference, engagement, recommendation or attitude shift resulting from exposure to communication initiatives versus other channels.

Principle 4: Measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods

  • Tracking surveys can do a good job in measuring quantitative change in outcomes. Qualitative methods can often add a needed dimension to better explain the quantitative, and may in some cases be preferable to measuring overall results.
  • Specific to the measurement of media resulting from public relations programs, overall clip counts and general impressions are generally meaningless. Instead, media measurement, whether in traditional or online channels, should account for:
    • Impressions among the stakeholder or target audience
    • Quality of the media coverage including, but not limited to:
    • Tone
    • Credibility and Relevance of the Medium to the Stakeholder or Audience
    • Message Delivery
    • Inclusion of a third party or company spokesperson
    • Prominence as Relevant to the Medium
  • Quality can be negative, positive, or neutral; the assumption should never be made that the results of a communication or public relations campaign or program are always positive or successful. Good measurement and evaluation allows for the possibility of negative or poor results from a campaign or program.

Principle 5: AVEs are not the value of communication

  • Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) do not measure the value of PR and do not inform future activity; they measure the cost of media space or time and are rejected as a concept to value communication, media content, earned media, public relations, etc.
  • Where a comparison has to be made between the cost of space or time from earned versus paid media, validated metrics should be used, stated for what they are, and reflect:
    • Negotiated advertising rates relevant to the client, as available;
    • Quality of the coverage (see Principle 4), including negative results; and
    • Physical space or time of the coverage related to the portion of the coverage that is relevant.
  • Multipliers intended to reflect a greater media cost for earned versus paid media should never be applied unless proven to exist in the specific case. This also applies to ‘pass-along values.’

Principle 6: Social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels

  • Organizations need clearly defined goals and outcomes for social media.
  • Media content analysis should be supplemented by web and search analytics, sales and CRM data, survey data and other methods.
  • Evaluating quality and quantity is critical, just as it is with conventional media.
  • Measurement must focus on engagement, ‘conversation’ and ‘communities’ not just ‘coverage’ or vanity metrics such as ‘likes’.

Principle 7: Measurement and evaluation should be transparent, consistent and valid

  • All measurement should use valid methods and be reliable and replicable in the case of quantitative methods and trustworthy in the case of qualitative methods.
  • The concepts of integrity, honesty, openness and ethics are critical to this Principle. There are a number of organizations that have set relevant standards. These include, but are not limited to nor intended to be a complete list:
    • Media Measurement:
      • Source of the content (print, broadcast, internet, consumer generated media) along with criteria used for collection.
      • Analysis methodology – for example, whether human or automated, tone scale, reach to target, content analysis parameters.
    • Primary Research:
      • Methodology –sampling frame and size, response rates margin of error, probability or non-probability, screening criteria.
      • Questions – all should be released as asked (wording and order).
      • Statistical methodology – how specific metrics are calculated.
      • Identification of any potential biasing effects in the research itself or taking place in the broader societal context.