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The Paradigm Shift of Public Relations

by: Jerry Liao

THE INTERNET has changed the way people communicate and interact with each other, be it personal or professional. Under the old rules, press releases can only be published if it was picked up by the media. With the Internet, companies have turned themselves into publishers — by creating their own corporate websites and doing their own publishing using their own press releases.

The popular Spiderman phrase “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” can be applied with the newfound power brought about by the Internet. Companies should put more emphasis on Transparency, Honesty, Integrity, Reputation and Dignity (THIRD) in delivering their news. They cannot just publish any information they want – users nowadays are more informed and more knowledgeable and they are also given the same power that is provided corporations. Users can easily set up their own blogs and publish their own stories about certain products as well.

Take this for example: A PR company along with its client (an ICT company) has been providing this columnist with their products for review. I make it a point to write what I really think about the product. Since most of their products are good, of course the articles that are coming out are good as well. This PR firm and the ICT company will make it a point to invite me in all their events and press conferences. And as they say, some good things never last.

One day, this PR firm provided me a product of this ICT company which I must say is one of the worst products in the market. As per my principle, I will write a review based on what I really think about the product — my loyalty is with my readers and no one else To cut the story short, the PR firm and ICT company didn’t like my article about their product. From that day on — they’ve stopped sending me their products for review and I was no longer invited to any of their events. Worst, it has been two years and this PR firm and ICT company are still acting like kids — never realizing that I was only doing my job.

The reason why I am relating this story to you is because when you visit the company’s website, the product I reviewed came with all praises. But if you visit other websites that make reviews and user blogs, most if not all had something not so nice to say about the product — both local and international websites. The product simply sucks.

Now if you have a corporate website saying their product is good, and you have hundreds of sites all over saying the product sucks — who do you think users would believe? Not only will the reviews spell the downfall of the product but users will also wonder and question the goal of such companies — are they out to provide quality products and services to their customers, or are they simply out there to make a sale. This is the great responsibility that comes with great power we are talking about. Remember THIRD — Transparency, Honesty, Integrity, Reputation and Dignity.

How about the actions of this PR firm and the ICT company? Well it seems they are friends only with the members of the media who they can control and manipulate and be enemies to those who go against their will in the name of truth. I am glad that we are on the other side of the fence doing what we are tasked to do: To educate and provide factual information to our readers.

In the next edition of TechAdvisor, we will continue discussing the paradigm shift of public relations and this time we will be focusing on public relations companies and how to develop content that will drive action for you.

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Ad Networks – How Does it Work?

Creating or having your own website is all about sharing your information, products and services to the world. For corporate websites, online storefront generates a different source of revenue for them – mostly targetting the global market. For personal or services websites, there could be other sources of revenues but the most popular is what we call “Ad Networks”.

An advertising network (also called an online advertising network or ad network) serve advertising on your website and share advertiser revenue for qualified clicks each time your site visitors clicks on ads. Treat these companies as advertising agents wherein they will have online advertising inventory. They will invite companies to advertise online and unless it’s specified by the advertiser where they want their ads to be placed, advertising agents will be the ones to help advertisers place their ads online – sites that are most relevant to the advertiser’s campaign.

Online advertising inventory can be found on websites, in RSS feeds, on blogs, in instant messaging applications, in adware, in e-mails, and on other sources.

Online advertising is no longer limited to banner ads, it now includes: rich media, text links, and e-mails. Some of the larger networks include AdBrite, Casale Media, Google’s AdSense, Pulse 360, Right Media’s Remix Media Network, RealTechNetwork, Tribal Fusion, ValueClick, FeedBurner’s Ad Network (FAN) and Yahoo! Search Marketing.

There are two types of advertising networks: first-tier and second-tier networks. First-tier advertising networks have a large number of their own advertisers and publishers, they have high quality traffic, and they serve ads and traffic to second-tier networks. Examples of first-tier networks include the major search engines like Google Adsense and Yahoo.

Second-tier advertising networks may have some of their own advertisers and publishers, but their main source of revenue comes from sydincating ads from other advertising networks.

Ad Networks targets both the advertisers and publishers. The advertisers will be the one to pay for their online campaigns, while publishers can join ad networks so that the ads can be displayed on their site and payments can be made based on either CPM or CPC.

CPM is a type of advertising that pays per impression. For instance if the campaign states $10 CPM, you would be making $10.00 USD per thousand impressions, or 1 cent per ad view. CPC stands for cost per click, and payment is based on the number of clicks delivered from your site. Simply put, in CPM campaigns – publishers will be paid once the ads are displayed. On the other hand, in CPC campaigns – publishers will be paid based on the number of ad clicks it generates.

For the publishers, the most important thing for them is the ad rates of course – how much will they get out of the ads that were placed on their ads, and will they be paid on time. Some ad networks will accumulate the publisher’s ad revenue till it reaches $50 to $100, before a payout is done by the ad networks to publishers.

Not all publisher applications are approved, it is therefore a challenge to website owners to come up with websites that adhere to certain standards in as far as content and design is concern. If and when your application is approved, you will be given an administration page wherein you will be able to check your website ad performance, select which ad campaign will you allow to be displayed on your site, payment history and others.

For advertisers, the primary concern is for their online campaign to be delivered correctly and to the right audience, their brands be protected online and the bottomline is of course – for the online campaign to generate revenue for them in the real world. Some of the things advertisers should watch out for in selecting ad network partners are: advertising rates.,
ad types and formats, targeted advertisements capability, percentage of default ads and flexibility of contract.

Advertisers should also look for ad network partners that are capable in providing comparable and complementary audience composition, reach and frequency, with stringent quality controls and the ability to demonstrate measurable lift in key brand metrics. The key is to be able to measure the impact in the efficiency of your overall online brand marketing objectives.

The entire online advertising ecosystem is a win-win situation for every player. Each have their own role, and everyone should be innovative enough to maximize their online intentions.

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The Realities of Outsourcing

A couple of weeks back, a friend of mine who is running a number of businesses here in the Philippines asked me a question — “What is outsourcing?”

I wanted to answer right away but I did not know where to start. Not because I didn’t know the answer but I was a bit surprised that my friend knew the word “outsourcing” but was not aware of what it meant.

I tried to give my friend the simplest answer possible, so I told him: “You know how to drive but you’re asking someone (driver) to drive for you, that’s outsourcing.” Not the best example, I know. I know for a fact that my friend hires an agency to handle their HR needs, so I told him that’s outsourcing. They also hire the services of a firm that handles their deliveries — that is outsourcing. They also hire the services of an accounting firm to handle most of their financial and government transactions — that is again outsourcing. And of course, the most popular and widespread method of outsourcing — call centers — to handle customer needs, queries and complaints.

In other words, outsourcing is the delegation of an internal process to an external entity specializing in the management of that operation. It involves transferring or sharing management, control and/or decision-making of a business function to an outside supplier, which involves a degree of two-way information exchange, coordination and trust between the outsourcer and its client.

Reasons for outsourcing

The top reasons I can think of why majority of the companies are outsourcing their processes are: Cost reduction, focus and access to expertise. Most businesses are outsourcing their payroll, HR, legal, marketing operations so that they will receive a higher level of service quality and expertise without adding too much cost. Other possible reasons why companies decide to go outsourcing: solve worker shortage, speedup time to market cycles, maximizing in-house resources and more.

Now regardless of your reason why you chose to outsource, the next most important thing you should know is how to choose the right outsourcing partner. Who should you work with considering that you’re practically sharing risk and management tasks in a way. First of course is you have to work with an outsourcing company that is reputable. Before you sign any contract, you may want to visit their workplace first for a couple of times and observe their operations. Also, try to look beyond cost-savings. Consider the long-term partnership you will be having with the company — their capability to innovate and grow with your company. For offshore outsourcing companies, you have to consider the culture and the time difference.

Outsourcing results take time before they show, so don’t be too much in a hurry. You should also plan carefully which process or jobs you will outsource. Whether you like it or not, there will be jobs that are better done internally than given externally. Also do your computation. Cost does not only involve money but also time — will it be faster and more effective if you do it within the company?

The next challenge is how to measure the outsourcing arrangement success. Your Return of Investment (ROI) will be one determinant. Before you even start outsourcing, you need to establish your goals and define metrics for calculating project progress. It won’t be easy but it’s important to develop this method of measuring success, at the beginning of the process. Give a lot of attention with your Service Level Agreements (SLA), it doesn’t have to be complicated or over-specific but make sure it requires meeting certain obligations and/or project time frames. Review your SLA from time to time during the project to ensure that you’re meeting your goals. When outsourcing’s value is accurately measured, it makes future project fund allocation easier to obtain and justifies the means to its end. Do it right and you’ll be sure to reap the rewards.

Just remember, not because most companies are into outsourcing means you should also join the bandwagon. Assess your needs before you decide to engage yourself into outsourcing services. If you think your company is doing fine without going into outsourcing, then stay that way. The bottomline is whether it’s done internally or externally, you have to be effective and efficient.

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Education as a Campaign Promise

“Yes, if I win in this coming elections, I will do this and I will do that.”

Promises are all over as the campaign period goes into full swing for the coming May elections. But the two most prominent areas of concern are poverty and education. You will always hear candidates who are running in the May elections that they will address poverty by generating more jobs for the poor and controlling price increases for basic commodities — a promise that has been made over and over but has yet to produce results.

Now comes education. I was surprised to hear from the current candidates the promise of providing better education to our children. They want every child of this nation to be given the proper education and equal opportunity. According to the candidates, our children are the future of this nation. I will not contest that statement nor do I have any qualms about it. I only have one question: How do these candidates intend to make their promises a reality?

Providing quality education to our children will entail a lot of work and money. The candidates should understand that quality education encompasses formal schooling in elementary school, high school and college, as well as job training and technical assistance. Quality education is not just about providing new schools, new tables and chairs and new books — quality education is a process and a continuing process at that.

Now I will not dwell on the entire process but would just like to focus on one thing — the technical aspect of education. These include providing the right equipment, the right courseware and the right peopleware.

If they get elected, how much of their salary or countrywide development fund (pork-barrel) will be given to buy computer hardware? Software? Training the teachers? How much and how soon? Before the next elections in 2010, can we be assured that all public schools will have their own computer laboratories equipped with the latest applications that should be closely tied with the overall quality education curriculum?

In case you’re wondering why I am putting so much focus on computer literacy, the reason is simple — computer skills are no longer a choice but a must nowadays Computer skills are a basic fact of life for everyone. Even if you don’t work with computers in order to complete your primary work duties, it is likely that you will run into them from time to time. In fact, most jobs, from cashiering to management, require basic computer knowledge. And more and more jobs are demanding that workers become increasingly knowledgeable with and comfortable using computers.

Everyone should note that having the right computer skills can help you engage in a greater number of tasks at your current job, complete tasks more quickly and accurately, become a candidate for a wider-range of job opportunities, help you access additional resources and information and upgrade your education more easily. More important, you develop better earning potential.

For our readers who would want to know which computer skills are appropriate for them, here’s a simple tip to guide you. Computer skills fall in four types of tasks, namely administration, sales and marketing, web and media design and computer programming and development. For administration, you would need to learn office productivity tools like Microsoft Word and Excel or OpenOffice Write and Math among others. For sales and marketing, learning Powerpoint, Impress, Photoshop and others will be an advantage. For web and media design, learn Dreamweaver, Frontpage and other web media design tools. And lastly, for computer programming and development, take courses that involve Java, PHP, .Net, and others.

And mind you, we are just talking about computer skills here, we should be reminded that there are other skills that we should also develop in order to become successful like communication and interpersonal skills and more.

So to these candidates who are using education as a campaign pitch to get elected, I really hope that you’re sincere with your promise that you will provide quality education to all the children of this nation, and I mean ALL. If you’re saying that our children are the future of this nation, then let me tell you that quality education is our children’s future. Keep that in mind will you?

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Application Development Process

Application Development Process

To some, application development or software development is as easy as asking a developer to create a program for their business and that’s it. The client will simply tell the developer what they need and what they want to happen and leave the other parts to the developer. More often than not, the technology appreciation of the client does not meet with the
business appreciation of the developer. So the end result – an unfinished project, a frustrated client and an unpaid developer.

Although project success is something that cannot be guaranteed, there are some standard and proven steps to follow to ensure a higher rate of successful system
deployment. Before we go to these steps, let me tell you the factors that often contributes to a failed application development project:

1. Lack of business planning.
2. Lack of top and senior management support.
3. Lack of design specifications.
4. Lack of functional specifications.
5. Lack of communication, coordination and
cooperation from various departments within the company.

Now as a general rule, a project always starts from a need or as an idea that requires a solution. Normally, this stems from meetings and brainstorming sessions. When this happens, make sure to include all parties involved – business division managers, technical team, senior management and others. Everyone who will be impacted by the project should be involved and represented. Leave one of them and problem will surely occur. So here are the steps that you should follow to ensure a higher application development project success:

1. Business Requirements
It is very important that you list down what your company needs, and write it down in a very
user-friendly format and language, avoid technical jargons. This will serve as your guide to ensure that all aspects are covered. This document will also help you determine the process, identify your hardware and software specifications and others.

2. Design Specifications
To explain this in its simplest form, let’s go back to the basic. Treat this as determining your input, process, output. Determine where the data will be coming from; what will the system do with the data, and how will it be reported or stored.

3. Database Design
This is one of the more important aspect of the development process, designing what and how your data should be stored. Each fields should be identified: name, type, and length. A well-defined database structure will bring ease to the development process.

4. User Interface Design
What the user will see and how it would interact with the system should also be carefully design. Ease of use should be given the highest importance, next is design flexibility for future changes.

5. Review Description
Before going to the next level, have everything reviewed. To make sure that every thing was
considered and included.

6. Functional Design
This is where you will create a reference manual that will contain everything that you have planned and designed. This will be used as a reference by your technical team that will be in-charge of development, integrate, test and released the completed application. This is where you also need to decide which software tool to use, hardware, performance, security requirements, policies, error-handling and system limitations if any. After achieving this
stage, you will have a more accurate timeline that will lead to the completion of the project. The timeline should be followed and a regular reporting should be done as well.

7. Development
Actual development begins. Everything that was planned will now be put into action. Each completed steps or modules should be reported to the entire team, so as any changes from what was planned.

8. Testing
Every module should be tested properly and the entire system should also tested as a whole. It is recommended that a parallel implementation with a manual or an old system should be done rather than a shot-gun implementation.

9. Debugging
Changes or improvements should be done if needed. Never rollout a half-baked system. Keep testing the system until it is almost near error free. If the desired result has been achieved then the system can now be introduced to the company.

10. Training
Training the users on how to use the new system is also important. You can assign division heads and assistants to learn the new system and they’ll be the ones to train their sbordinates. A regular meeting should be done with each division to assure a smooth
implementation of the system. Any complains or concerns should be addressed the soonest time possible.

The most important and critical ingredient of a successful project is communication and involvement. From the top level executives, senior managers, business unit managers and technical team – all of them should be inform of any developments and changes. Problems and obstacles will definitely arise which may lead to loss of momentum and support from the
members. That is why a cohesive team should always be maintained to avoid such from happening.

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