Over the past 20 + years in the PC/CE marketplace we’ve learned and relearned our job 40-50 times. Every time the industry changes, every time the communications avenues shift; life/opportunities change.

Since the Internet and Web came into their own editorial and promotional outlets/targets have shifted…dramatically. We all read the same studies, the same reports — WOM (word of mouth) is the most effective marketing/sales tool available.


Yet PR people – at the cattle prodding of management – constantly target the same reviewers again and again.  You know – PC Mag, PC Wld, MacWld, Max PC, Laptop, WSJnl, NYTimes, WashPost, Dvice, Overclocked, Videomaker, Videography

There are thousands of these reviewers in the Americas and around the globe.  They must be breeding because every week a new publication, new review site, new “tech” blog introduce themselves to us. Like good little PR people we check them out and give them a try.  BAM!!! add another “great review” outlet to the target list. 

Don’t get us wrong…they’re important. But recently we received a review from Tom, a regular guy we’ve gotten to know over the past year who likes to check out the latest and greatest in technology and talk/write about it.

He discusses it on his morning TV show. He writes about it in his Facebook space. Lately he has added a new dimension to his coverage (at our urging). He publishes his review impressions on the open forum customer review sites. When we read his write up it got us thinking how valuable and how credible his discussion, his analysis really were.

Regular People
Professional journalistic reviewers always slip on their techie reviewing cloak when they test/try a product.  They test, retest, analyze and then write their reviews very carefully, very analytically. But our “regular guy” user/reviewer in Atlanta is like a lot of user group folks — there are over 300 Mac and PC user groups across the country, people who come together and pay dues for camaraderie and to learn more about using the constantly changing technology.

We’ve worked with hundreds of them over time to do product reviews with varying degrees of success. We don’t hold them to strict editorial standards because they’re just regular folks. We ask them if they or a member of their group is interested in reviewing the specific product or service. 

If they agree we ask them to:
        – write the review for their newsletter
        – demonstrate the product at their meeting
        – do something extra for us — post the review in one or more of the consumer review sites around the web — Amazon, CNet, Buy, Newegg.com, others

No Review Review
No you don’t ask to review their write-up before it is posted. It’s desirable but unprofessional and unrealistic! Instead you simply cross your fingers and hope for the best possible results (just as with any review).

Tom gave us a 4.5 star rating on one site and 5 stars on another (ok so he didn’t like the length of the USB cord …sheesh!). His review was fun to read.  It was exciting.  It was enthusiastic.  It was technically pretty darned  accurate.  It was credible.   It was real!

We all know that people who are considering buying a product visit these and other sites all of the time. Their goal is to learn first hand what results and comments other real people have about the company, the product, the organization’s service.


They read these real user reviews/comments/reports and make their decision. Then they tell three people.  And they tell three people.


Suddenly the company, the product, the service have real credibility on the street.
We still like the reviews Charlie, Joel, David, Walter, Shawn, Gregg, Gordon, etc., produce. We also like the reviews Tom, Bill, Sandy, Bev, Lorene, Bud, Jerry, and others do.  Add them to your communications opportunities on YouTube, Facebook, blog, community sites and…life is good.

All it takes is getting real people interested, real people involved. Then all the communications/PR people have to do is stand back and take all the credit.

Hey…we finally understand this WOM thing– this buzz stuff — really works.

The events Monday night in Toronto have the media and net buzzing.  (If you haven’t read about it yet, this Toronto Star article will get you started). While facts, opinions, observations, and premature conclusions dribble out in response to seemingly insatiable public curiosity, there is a question few are asking: What would you do?

Incidents like this are complex and journalists have a difficult job. The facts are difficult to ascertain and they must try to make sense of what they can learn. Only one person could have told us, for a fact, exactly what happened on Monday night. Unfortunately he was allegedly intoxicated at the time and died shortly afterward. The other party obviously knows the details of his own involvement, but not the history. And since he’s been charged with a crime it would be silly for him to discuss it with anyone other than his lawyer.

Many Canadians are under false the impression that our criminal justice system is about determining the truth.  It isn’t.  Truth, if found, is a by-product, not the primary objective.  Our criminal justice system considers only the evidence produced in court. The Crown tries to introduce sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, while the individual may or may not introduce evidence in support of their innocence. And in the end, the accused is found either “guilty” or “not guilty”.  The verdict of “innocent” doesn’t exist in our system.

Our criminal justice system also operates after the fact. Our laws tell us what we must not do, but rarely provide practical guidance. In fact, they are often such a complex mix of statue and precedent that even lawyers don’t agree on what the law actually is. And when the proverbial fertilizer hits the rotary bladed object, nobody is thinking about that anyway.

I’m not going to contribute to the speculation on what happened. Instead, I’m going to ask you to discard whatever preconceptions you have and consider three hypothetical situations:

  1. You’re a police officer called to a minor disturbance. The person who appears to be causing it is somewhat intoxicated and has a bicycle, but hasn’t broken the law, at least not seriously. You determine that he should go home. What would you do?
  2. You’re an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon. The police have told you to go home, you’re riding your bicycle drunk, and you have a minor collision with a guy in a Saab. He’s angry with you and you’re angry with him. You exchange words and he begins to drive away. What would you do?
  3. You and your wife are driving home from an anniversary dinner in a convertible. You’re involved in a minor collision with a cyclist.  He doesn’t appear hurt, just angry. Drunk and angry. He picks up his bike and throws it on the ground and slams his bag on your hood. You decide to drive away to end the confrontation, but he chases after your car and grabs on to the driver’s door. What would you do?

We don’t know for sure what happened on Monday, and before we speculate on whether Michael Bryant should be punished for it, we should be asking not only what happened, but also what we would do in his shoes.

A small group of cyclists in Toronto appear very polarized around this event. They’re trying to turn this into a cyclist vs. motorist issue. Understandably, many cyclists feel that drivers don’t respect their right to be on the road and point to this as an example.  On the other hand, many drivers are frustrated by cyclists who on one hand demand to be treated as equals on the road, yet ignore the rules of the road when it suits them. Then there are those of us who have driven cars, trucks, bicycles and motorcycles – and we’ve literally seen it from all angles.

While the dialog that may ensue about how motorists and bicycles can best share the road might prove productive, that’s not what this case is about. They’re separate issues. This case is about two men who had an encounter that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. One of them, Michael Bryant, stands charged with a crime and at best will be forced to spend a small fortune to defend himself. The other, Darcy Allan Sheppard, is dead.

And the question remains:  What would you do?


This week has been interesting, to say the least. Between countless deadlines, traveling, training, projects, some disappointing news, some exciting news and life in general, the last 7 days have given me my money’s worth — if there was such a thing. And a laugh or three.

Which brings me to my thought for this week: Laugh in freaking everything, including life.

I have many meanings for the word life. This is todays. How many times do we (surely I am not the only one) have something happen and we panic, freak out, forget to breathe, wonder what’s going to happen, or feel overwhelmed.  Perhaps I am the only one that forgets to breathe, but you get the point.
When things come at us a trillion miles a minute, it is easy to lose focus of what is really important. I know for me it is. It is at those times, I need to remember to laugh in freaking everything. Nothing is going to be solved by panicing.
If I can laugh, smile, and plan action steps toward solving the “crisis”, I will be so much better off.  It may be hard to laugh sometimes. But if you and I can both remember that laughter really is the best medicine, I think that your life (and the world) will be a much happier place.

Key word for your day? Laugh. It does YOUR body good:)

By now most of us know that when we delete a file from our computer it isn’t really gone – the space is merely marked as being available for reuse. Unlike in the physical world, where we can easily shred or burn documents we wish to dispose of (and put the others out in the same trash bag as the kitchen waste and used kitty litter) it’s relatively hard to do the same on our PCs.

If our operating systems and applications were designed with privacy in mind, we could simply tell them that we don’t want to retain any browsing history, that our web cache and cookies should be deleted when we close our browser, that we aren’t interested in being presented with a list of our most recently used files, and that the last date/time a file was read isn’t necessary information.  We could also tell it to overwrite disk space when it’s done with it.

The technical reasons behind some of these issues were originally performance related, but given the speed of computers these days, there is no good reason that our computer needs to keep notes on what we’ve been using it for.

Of course when one brings up these issues, there are those who ask, “What do you have to hide?”  Child pornography is an often-quoted example of why computer forensics is a good thing, and I certainly agree that child pornographers should receive an express ticket to jail (or worse).  But I’m not willing to give up fundamental privacy rights and live in digital glass houses in order to make it easier to catch criminals.

I’ve written before about hard drive encryption, and full drive encryption remains the best way to safeguard your privacy.  The enhanced BitLocker functionality in Windows 7 combined with the TPG chip in many new computers are a move in the right direction. The open source TrueCrypt project is great, but they need to quick adapt to new realities in Windows 7.

Self-encrypting hard drives appear to be a promising technology, but while vendors brag about them, they aren’t readily available and technical information remains marginal at best. If — as a security professional and writer — I can’t get my hands on one to test, I have to conclude that they’re not a viable option at this time.

Then there are software products that perform tasks such as wiping free space and deleting unwanted browser histories.  From a functional security perspective, products like Evidence Eliminator can perform a nice clean-up of your computer, deleting temporary files, browser artefacts, and wiping unused hard drive space to eliminate ‘deleted’ data.  But “Evidence Eliminator” is a really bad idea.

From a security perspective, this product (and to be fair many others in the same category) often creates a bigger problem than it solves:  While they do a good job of removing unwanted data, they also do a fantastic job of creating evidence that you ran “Evidence Eliminator”. It quite amusing to read of people attempting to explain in court that they didn’t delete data pertaining to the matter in front of the court when they ran “Evidence Eliminator”.  By definition, if you’re eliminating evidence, you look guilty.

Ironically, by calling the product “Evidence Eliminator”, the vendor has made performing clean-up tasks that may be quite reasonable in many circumstances look like a criminal act.

Imagine you’re at work and someone you know emails a URL.  You download a file you expect contains something humours and end up with porn on your work computer.  Sure we can discuss why you shouldn’t have downloaded it in the first place, but there are countless scenarios that could result in you having some type of data on your drive that you don’t want.

In the physical world, you could toss it in the shredder bin, take it home and put it in the fireplace, or otherwise dispose of it. We should have the same ability with data.  But it’s just real deletion that we want, not evidence elimination.

On the off chance that enterprising developers are reading, there are two products missing from the market – or at least I can’t find them!

The first is a clean-up product that runs entirely from a USB stick and does not require installation on the PC.  Running it would clean up the hard drive, overwrite browser artefacts, temporary files, wipe free hard drive space, etc. In fact, it would do most of the things that Evidence Eliminator does – except the purpose would be to clean up the computer and protect privacy – not destroy evidence.

The second is an installable package that monitors system use and cleans up after the user automatically.  In short, it would protect privacy by doing what the operating system and applications should offer to do by itself really deleting stuff.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Ideas?

Let’s hear ‘em!

On goals

So, for the month of July I had a little personal goal of running and cycling 1000 miles. Yup you read that right, 1k miles. I knew that it would be tough to get in due to my travel schedule. Over the weekend I realized that I would have to get in 350 miles in 6 days. Totally doable.
However, a little thing called “taper” was going to start. I was starting to feel tired. I really did not want to face the facts swirling in my head. Then I remembered what my coach told me a few months ago, “being an athlete is more then just performance, it is being a smart athlete”.
So with that thought, I made the hard decision to not go after the personal goal. I will be very close to it. But to achieve my primary goal – and do it WELL – I know I made the right call. Be smart, not head strong. This is mainly for me to read. But I hope it helps you as well.
As you know, I am a very focused gal. In fact, sometimes I am so focused on a goal that I don’t want to admit it might not be the right thing to do. It has taken a few years, but I am slowly learning that lesson. While I really want to do the miles this month I know that I will set myself up for injury, tiredness and a mile heavy body.
The lesson that I am still learning is to be smart. Not only in training, but also in life. Sometime we have goals or things we would like to do, but how often are they really the smart thing for us?  Its great to have goals, but as you go about achieving them, make sure you are being wise about them. I know, it’s easier said then done.
That’s where friends, coaches and good, sound, wise counsel come into play. Use it. Do it.  But watch out September, I will again go after the 1000 mile goal. And I know at that time it will be the right and the smart thing to do.

McAfee recently released a comprehensive report on the array of threats facing banks and their customers.  It includes topics such as card skimming, money laundering, the Nigerian 419 fraud, auctions, and online banking.  The report also provides a good overview of current countermeasures.

Highly recommended reading!

The full report is available for download here.

I’ve spent much of the summer on vacation, and overall it’s been quite enjoyable.  But to hear some of my fellow Canadians whine, you’d think it was the end of the world.  Sure it’s been a bit rainy this summer, and yes it was cooler than usual in June and much of July, but it’s still been a pleasant break.  So quit whining and let’s have this conversation again in February, shall we? Then — as my old man used to say — we’ll have a good reason to complain.

In the meantime, I’m back in the Friday slot at TLP, and I’d like to hear from you, our readers, about what makes you cranky.

This weekend you can follow TLP contributor Sarah Stanley live on her 100 mile race — and you don’t even have to leave your favourite chair — although we encourage you to follow her example and get at least some exercise!

Sarah will be running the Lean Hours Ultra in Hot Springs, South Dakota on Saturday August 22 starting at 6am Eastern time.  She’ll be running through the night and expects to finish on Sunday morning.  And she’ll be tweeting as she goes.  Check out the action — simply follow @sarahstanley on Twitter!

Why you ask?  Check out this story in the Hot Spring Star.

VIP Rocks!

Sunday night we went to the AC/Galaxy game. And we had VIP perks. Sweet! While thinking about this VIP status I was reminded that we are all very important people.

Just because our group had special seats — and let’s not forget the food — it didn’t mean that we were better then the people who didn’t have them. Sometimes when we receive the VIP treatment it is easy to act like “we” are in a different class then others. But we are all the same.
Each of us is a very important person. If we would remember that on a daily basis and treat others like that our world would be a very different place. My challenge to me and you is to treat everyone you come into contact with as a very important person. Because you may be the only person to show them you care.
VIP rocks!

The OS Wars

Microsoft Gets its Groove On … Finally!


“’Goodbye my love.’ He doesn’t say it. There’s no room for softness… not in Sparta. No place for weakness. Only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans. Only the hard, only the strong.” – Dilios (300, Warner Bros – 2006)

The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. It just seems to be human nature to want your grass … and theirs! We don’t just want our share of the business that is out there, we want our unfair share.

That’s certainly true of the PC/CE/communications industry. It’s even more fun when you’re tweaking the biggest bear in the forest. Apple has always had fun pulling Microsoft’s tail and then running back to their walled garden. Google had fun poking the lumbering giant because they were part of the hip, free generation (ok, so they follow your every move, record your clicks/visits and sell the info — big deal). But suddenly, the Gates/Ballmer crew got the lumbering giant moving forward.


Figure 2 – Stimulating the Troops – Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer is finally in his element as the rough and ready cheerleader, leader of the worldwide OS/apps/service organization. With every passing day, he sees more things right, more tools the company can deliver to partners and customers. Finally, he looks like he really believes MS is back on the offensive. Source – Microsoft





And the halo-haired general seems to have a battle plan to take on all challengers. Bing is pretty darn good. Good enough to shake up Schmidt’s team. Win 7 looks to be very solid. MS made available a ton of drivers and open source code to the Linux community…gasp!


Figure 3 – MS Knows Clouds – MS has a battle plan that includes channel partners, open solutions folks, other “friendly” HW/SW firms and is ready to seed all of the industry clouds with Microsoft products and service. There’s a lot of air to fill, enough for all of their allies. Source — IDC

Just as cloud computing got sexy (read free), BAM!!! They have solutions for that. It’s like Bill gave Steve a little pep talk when he turned over command…“Come back with your shield, or on it.” OK, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic.

Marching Forward

Every day, we uncover more and more features, benefits, capabilities for computers. Every morning, there’s a new technology, new application opening up new opportunities for the big and small guys.


Figure 4 – More of More – No matter where you turn, even in a struggling economy, hardware/software/service firms are introducing new technology, new products, new applications, new opportunities. Source – IDC/US Govt.

The industry, the world, keeps changing. While the bravest of us are at the innovator and early adopters phases of Geoffrey Moore’s Chasm, the majority of the world are what he classified as laggards, early/late majorities.

Oh sure, our kid can’t wait to jump online with Google’s Chrome; but heck, he never experienced the joy of loading software from a 5.25” or 8” floppy! Then, we asked him what happens if he has a problem with Chrome or some of Google’s “brand spanking new” apps.He couldn’t be bothered when we laid out the facts to him about the major OSs out there.


Figure 5 – 20 Years of Development – Microsoft refined Windows over the past 20+ years. Apple has worked on their OS for almost 20 years. Linux (an outgrowth of Unix) is old. All continue to be works in progress. But Google’s Chrome won’t even be a year old when they’ll throw it out there for folks to grab and use … trouble-free. Source — Gartner

Windows has been around for 20 plus years. But even with legions working to solve problems, they still don’t have it 100 percent right. Apple’s OS? Jobs pounded the difference into a lot of folks’ psyche more than 20 years ago.


Figure 6 – Protect the Fortune – Apple dislikes DRM except for their protective layer and they defend it vigorously at their iTunes and Apps stores. Users don’t complain – too much – but boy, it sure does irk folks they don’t want to let in. Source – Warner Bros.

Take a break right now to use Bing or Google and ask about Mac problems … they’re there! Not that it matters much to Jobs and the Kool-Aid drinkers. They’re just minor inconveniences for having access to all your entertainment “choices” inside Apple’s garden.


Figure 7 – Shattering the Establishment – Apple’s 1984 ad set the company’s systems apart from the warlords. The followers, who are vehemently loyal, had a tough time adjusting to Intel inside and Windows sharing their system, but they’re “rising above it all” now because … well, just because. Source — Apple

Linux? If you’re on the right side (really techie) it’s great, but for ordinary folks getting support is a little scary.

Chrome? So, what are the chances of Schmidt’s team making it work 100 percent when it’s released in a year and a half? They’ve even said that when it’s released you will see “the end of malware!”

Disregarding kids who love a challenge, Google like Xerxes has said, “I will erase even the memory of Sparta from the histories! Every piece of Greek parchment shall be burned. Every Greek historian, and every scribe shall have their eyes pulled out, and their tongues cut from their mouths. Why, uttering the very name of Sparta, or Leonidas, will be punishable by death! The world will never know you existed at all!” Somehow, we just think that’s gonna work.

Do you think people who really count on their systems are going to flip over knowing that Google already had two flaws in their Chrome browser app?

Partner Rally

At Microsoft’s WPC (Worldwide Partner Conference), the burly general stood before his troops, laid out a ton of plans, programs and activities that showed the company was finally moving in the right direction (and yes, just in time).

He gesticulated (we had to look it up too!) and repeated Dilios’ words… “The enemy outnumber us a paltry three to one, good odds for any Greek. This day we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny and usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine.”

They don’t have to do everything … just the ones that count.For example, Windows is the backbone – the underpinnings – of SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems used around the globe. You know, that’s the stuff governments, utility grids rely on.

Financial institutions and companies that simply don’t want to be bothered by little things like malware probably bet their fortunes on it as well. Ballmer’s team and partners are far from being over confident about the battles ahead. But they have made it clear they aren’t going to bow down to the web click counter.

Like King Leonidas, Ballmer said, “But the, uh, the idea of kneeling, it’s – You see, slaughtering all those men of yours has, uh, well it’s left a nasty cramp in my leg, so kneeling will be hard for me.” Despite the cost difference discussions on the air, Apple’s lawyers have been heard to repeat King Leonidas, “There’s no reason we can’t be civil, is there?”


Figure 8 – Friends, Allies – OK, so maybe Microsoft and Apple aren’t bosom-buddy friends, but they are certainly allies of convenience. Sure, Apple’s lawyers may not like the cool series of MS ads but cripes, it’s been years since Gates and Ballmer had any solid marketing they could be proud about. Then too, there’s Google. Apple has determined the Redmond folks are maybe less evil than the guys in the neighboring town. Note – they only hold hands for pictures. Source — Apple

Oh sure, MS still has Zune; but real people still shop at iTunes. MS will soon have their practical stores “close to” the Apple stores and more folks are wondering if they’re hip enough for a Mac. But Apple still sells enough of their $1,000+ systems to tick off Dell, HP, Acer and others.

Secretly, Ballmer likes what the sybaritic Apple folks do, but there’s the technological leadership of the world to command. He just wishes he could get in licks like Jobs did – change Schmidt’s status on his board of directors, just say no to Google calls on his iPhone.

Sometimes you just need a reluctant ally!!!

More Good than Bad


Figure 9 – Target Practice – Ballmer and his troops have taken nearly all the fun out of throwing lances and shooting arrows at Microsoft. They just finally seem to be marching to the same drummer and everyone is in step. Looks like it is just in time! Source – Warner Bros.

Hey, it’s been so easy to take shots at MS all these years so it’s kinda’ tough to admit that they are finally doing more things right than wrong:

  • Windows 7 is pretty darn solid
  • Office 2010 looks really good
  • Bing is the second most mentioned search engine where bunches of them exist (so Yahoo! signed the MS enlistment papers)
  • They’ve made “peace” with the EU
  • They’re allying with the open source community
  • Azure is looking better and better as a cloud computing platform
  • Their BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) makes sense to a lot of partners and users
  • They’ve got a sharpy from Wal-Mart to run the store operation

Ballmer seems to relish a good fight and loves to remind folks, “You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did.” And those MS legions remind the competition they’re not just Greeks bearing gifts when they respond…“HA-OOH! HA-OOH! HA-OOH!”

As a security professional, I spend a lot of my time contemplating how to manage security risk in the corporate and government space.  But there is another challenge that greatly interests me:  Protecting the average user.

Unless you have an IT guy or gal in the family, it can be hard to get the right information.  And there are definitely challenges.  For example, check out Justin Foster’s blog post on Keeping Granny Safe.

One of the great tidbits in it is the link to Secuna’s free vulnerability scannersfor home users.  They offer both a web-based and a downloadable package.  I installed the latter on my notebook and it quickly identified a few products on my computer that needed updating.

Up until last year, when things really got tough (fiscally and image wise), it was commonly felt that companies went through two types of management–one that could carry them through the tough start-up period and another that could run a successful enterprise.The same group of people seldom managed the company through both phases of growth.

This past year, the line between the two management styles has become muddied. Especially with the added scourge of senior management dipping too deeply into the corporate well for their own good.

The survival mode of operation is forcing management to conserve their most precious resource: Talented people.


By cutting back to a core group of talented and motivated people, management not only finds they can run “leaner, meaner and better,” but it is also a better organization overall, as a result of the changes.

Re-Assessing Positions, Priorities

Management has to assess what they are doing internally versus what they should be doing internally. Then they can determine what they should outsource.

Today, few manufacturers in the industry do much – or any – of their own production in-house. In fact, many of them are essentially technology developers and marketers.

They buy cases from specialists; have boards and packages produced and stuffed by specialists; and purchase a complete range of components from specialists. Many like Dell, HP and Cisco never even take possession of the product. Instead it is shipped direct to the channel partner or consumer. This permits management to adapt more rapidly to sudden industry/marketplace changes. Technology and manufacturing can be changed almost overnight.

Management realizes that it takes almost no time at all to reverse-engineer even the most advanced technology, thus nullifying their perceived advantage. In addition, the company doesn’t need to be tied down to heavy investments in production equipment which has to be prematurely written-off and replaced. More importantly, they don’t have to deal with the problem and expense of hiring, firing, training, retraining and retaining personnel.

Fixed assets not only lock companies into specific technology, they are quickly outdated. Outsourcing permits maximum flexibility. It preserves capital and can often produce dramatic savings. In addition, it frees management to focus its energy on more pressing areas of concern … like marketing and staying ahead of the competition to garner more customers.

Marketing Mind-Set Changes

In addition to examining their manufacturing functions, management has to look at their marketing communications activities. Companies have been cutting their internal communications (ad/PR) staffs instead of expanding them. At the same time, the need for solid communications programs has grown.

Management is finding that a good agency can do more than simply provide advertising and/or public relations services. They are turning to them for total marketing and communications efforts.

The trend is a solid move toward creating marketing partnerships between the agency and the company rather than simply having the agency create ads, pump out news releases and compile mailing lists.

Partnership Key

Because of the fiercely competitive and rapidly changing environment, management is not only more cost-conscious; they are also more market-driven. To take advantage of as much of an agency’s expertise as possible, management has found that they are sharing more of their strategic marketing plans with their agency so that they will be better and more effective partners.

Companies are finding that one of the key benefits of a partnership relationship is objectivity. The agency has to continually stress that customers buy products and services because they offer benefits greater than the cost of the goods and services. In addition, they buy from people, not companies. Few people buy solely on the basis of advanced technology.

Companies and agencies that have combined the efforts point out that while there are differences in the two disciplines, the purpose in either case is to communicate something to someone.

Communication, whether it is advertising or public relations, assists the company in selling something to someone … hopefully a lot of something to a lot of someones. The difference is that PR coverage has to be earned while advertising exposure must be paid for.

In addition, the new demands on the agency forces them to work harder for their fees. Agencies are offering new services because they know that a total communications plan is important to a company’s overall marketing effort. In addition, a totally involved agency enables the company to stay flexible and within budget.

While the partnership role provides greater opportunities for the agency, it also places more responsibility on them. If the agency is more involved with the client, they are also more accountable. The agency must serve as a facilitator in helping the company organize its thoughts. They make suggestions and recommendations on decisions that can have a major impact on the company’s success.

To provide this level of support and improve the partnership relationship, firms involve the agency in sales calls, sales meetings, distributor meetings and trade shows. The result of these additional activities is better-focused communications programs, activities and results.

While the debate continues to rage, firms that use their agencies for more simple publicity find that a single agency – a strong agency — doing more for the firm is not only worthwhile, but also very cost-effective.

Both parties invest a lot of time and effort in the relationship. The partnership commits the agency to the client’s success. The partnership gives the client optimum freedom to change direction almost overnight. In a partnership, all of the parties concerned are familiar with and committed to the companies’ success and position in a highly volatile marketplace.