Thursday, October 29, 2009


When I first sat down to write a blog about SUPERCOMM 2009, I started writing about all the things that went wrong this year that made the show…lackluster. To be fair, we had several clients tell us that while they had fewer meetings than they would have liked the quality of the meetings they had were good. The press and analyst community seemed pretty bored though with the meetings they had and the general quality of the news released at the show.

Part of this is a result of firms like ours that cautioned our clients about SUPERCOMM 2009’s viability as an industry news cycle and our counsel to make announcements prior to the show instead of at the show itself. After viewing several versions of the press list, and talking with editors and analysts about their attendance, we were concerned who from the press community was going to actually show up.

But instead of focusing on the past and bemoan what could have been, I wanted to provide my top ten ideas that can make SUPERCOMM relevant again.

Top Ten Ideas to Make SUPERCOMM 2010 Relevant Again!

1. Focus on a segment of the market and do it better than anyone else. Wireless, mobile and Ethernet are well covered with other events and the time when SUPERCOMM could be the “one” show are over. Applications and services are options for focus that will keep the content fresh as the market evolves. The equipment vendors need to rethink how they approach the show to align what their technology does with what the service providers want to offer.

2. Release the Service Provider Hounds! The US Telecom Association needs to do a better job promoting the show, and the benefits of attending, to its entire member base instead of focusing on AT&T and Verizon. As Carol Wilson of Light Reading points out in her blog "How to Save SUPERCOMM" neither AT&T nor Verizon need SUPERCOMM but other service providers certainly the equipment vendors would benefit from a more dense service provider presence.

3. Less focus on pleasing the gorillas. More focus on innovation and standards would help level the playing field with SUPERCOMM instead of focusing on the standard topics that appeal to the industry’s big vendors. In the past, SUPERCOMM did a fantastic job getting industry groups to run live interop and service demos. These programs allow smaller vendors to expand their presence and enables service providers to see combinations they might not have otherwise.

4. Start marketing now, I mean yesterday. I know there were some changes with show management but I didn’t receive any pre-show conference information until four weeks before the show and I’ve gone for the last nine years. The conference programming under Jason Meyers was strong and could have been used more effectively.

5. Show the love to those that came. SUPERCOMM could, and should, offer incentives to companies that helped make this year happen. Moving the show from June to October on short notice, changing the date structure to end on a Friday, was not popular. Folks that stuck by SUPERCOMM should get something, for you know, the effort.

6. Challenge Keynotes/Vendors to be Provocative. SUPERCOMM used to be a show where big news happened, the kind of stuff that got everyone buzzing. That was missing this year. SUPERCOMM should start working with key players to help them understand what it will do to ensure it a powerful industry news cycle next year.

7. Be honest. The SUPERCOMM 2009 website states “SUPERCOMM 2009 was a hit!” Sure, a base hit, but people want the show to be a home run. Trying to make this year out to be anything other than a small success is disingenuous and will do little to help people understand that SUPERCOMM understands the work ahead and what it needs to do to rebuild the brand.

8. Get the Press Back. Nothing creates buzz about an event than stories run on trusted industry news sites that starts with “Today at SUPERCOMM…..” SUPERCOMM needs to get the press and analyst community back to the show. While all the major publication had people there, no one had folks there in force.

9. Go Social. SUPERCOMM should set up its own new aggregation site and tap into the various social networks to drive awareness and promote the show, its participants and the conference programming. Many of the companies that exhibited and/or spoke have a presence on one or more social networks. To be fair, SUPERCOMM was on Twitter and Facebook but with only 125 Facebook fans, they are clearly not connecting.

10. Get regular input. SUPERCOMM needs to conduct a brand audit to understand what its brand identity is today and then develop an integrated marketing and messaging program that helps them become what they want to be. Without a concerted effort, based a realistic understanding of where they stand today in the minds of the industry’s decision makers with two key groups – the marketing folks that commit the spend and the operations and engineering folks that are looking to buy – SUPERCOMM is in danger of becoming SUPERGONE.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What You See is What You Get?

Over the last couple of months there have been stories in the New York Times and CNN focusing on the ethical relationship between advertisers and bloggers. First, the National Advertising Review Council called out two different blogger sites for their so-called product reviews and not mentioning the fact that these products were actually owned by the company running the site. More recently, the Federal Trade Commission announced blogger rules as part of revisions to the agency's Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising to address this specific issue.

Why is this important? When the line between journalistic blogger and advertiser is clearly being blurred, it is important for the organizations policing these types of activities to step up and do something about it for both the integrity of the site and for fair disclosure to the reader. Bias is what taints the blogger community in any industry and readers need to understand where a blogger’s bias lays. Readers can dig a little deeper and uncover the other relationships a blogger has that might impact their objectivity in their writing. This is something we did this summer when Connect2 called out a technology blogger for his rants against press releases and the way they are written. When we dug a little deeper we found that this blogger was also a marketing director for a company and was guilty of doing exactly what he was ranting against. In this case, the digging showed the irony of the situation, but it also highlighted his bias.

One of the ways Connect2 Communications has always measured the credibility of bloggers is by looking at the other ways they are credentialed in the industry. For example, they are a journalist writing for an industry publication or an analyst who writes his own personal blog in addition to the research work his does for his firm or the conference organizer sharing her thoughts on the industry as a whole. We believe when a blogger has another identity in the industry it lends more credibility to their work and you know that you are working with a more legitimate resource.

Bloggers are still a relatively new phenomenon in the world of press relations, but they are becoming a much stronger voice and relevant player within many industries. As a marketing manager looking for advocates within the industry, you need to be careful who you work with so you can be assured that what you see is really what you get.