Thursday, March 27, 2014

When the media affects your livelihood.

Most of the time the 'media' is a useful tool for sales professionals, that can be used to keep up on recent trends and activities in your industry, keep track of your competitors or research new prospects.

Sometimes however, the media can have a negative impact on your ability to make a living.  From general bad economic news to specific bad news about your company, it all can be used by prospects to justify a delay or a complete cancellation of their planned purchase with you.  If you're looking for work, a negative news item in your industry can reduce headcount or delay, if not cancel entirely, a planned new hire or your company's entry into a complete new line of business.  

In short, bad press is bad for business.

Historically, the best a sales professional could do, to counter bad press, would be to collect a bigger pile of favorable press pieces or customer references.   But that was then, and this is now.  Thanks to social media, most press pieces and opinion columns also include areas for comments or feedback.

Leverage the opportunity to post an opposing viewpoint.  Failing that, you could always leverage your blog, facebook page or LinkedIn account to express a contrary position to the offending piece.  Keep it short, keep it professional and keep it cordial.   Never make it personal or stoop to question the author's credibility or abilities as a writer.  No matter how different your opinion, don't forget that these folks are people too.  A professional writer is just as likely to have an off, or even a bad day every once in a while like anyone else. 

Recently I ran across an article that I completely disagree with, written by a high tech author I've been reading since the eighties, John C Dvorak.  The article's title?  'Big Data Is Just a Scam.'  John's original article can be read here: 

For simplicity's sake, I'll include my response below.  Curious if you think my response was polite, professional and yet pointed enough?    

Bottom line?   If you want to engage with your customers through social media, you may need to engage with those framing the discussion and conceptual frameworks of your industry online.  

Good luck.



I've been an avid reader of yours for decades now, and I would have to say this is the first time I'd ever have to disagree you.

Yes, Big Data has big PR problems when it comes to personal privacy. But to focus on just one small portion of the big picture isn't doing anyone any justice. Big Data isn't living up to the hype in targeted advertising? I would agree with you that right now it would appear that way; but I would also have to challenge you that perhaps the experiences you site in your article do not have Big Data implemented correctly, if implemented at all.

The media, in general, seems to have developed quite the negative myopic perspective lately when it comes to Big Data. It seems to be the cat that everyone loves to kick when they come home at night after another sluggish day in the technology industry. Which is quite comical, when in reality, the media itself could be blamed for setting unrealistic expectations for big data in the minds of the general public to begin with.

In business, big data itself is just a pile of data that you so correctly pointed out. But when analytics are properly applied, outliers, or results outside the ordinary, in performance, can be readily identified.

Why are outliers important?

Simple really. Negative outliers, could represent branch offices, retail outlets, product lines, hospitals, or even doctors that are performing below standards. Corrective measures or investigations can occur that can bring these results into line with historical norms or expectations.

Positive outliers, I would even argue, are more important for business. They represent levels of performance which are possible, yet not expected. Identify precisely what differs between the positive outlier and the norm, and you can replicate that formula at other retail locations, branch offices or hospitals for better results across the entire organization.

When these same outlier concepts are applied to, rather than by, big government, the results can be even more spectacular. Fraudulent health claims, financial transactions or suspicious or repetitive border crossings can be tracked, traced, investigated and eliminated to ensure the legitimacy and improve the accuracy of government programs. Government infrastructure projects, thanks to further analysis provided by Big Data, can also be validated, optimized and prioritized before any tax dollars are wasted on pork barrel or white elephant projects.

And I'm just getting started. For those of you who are skeptical or bitterly negative towards Big Data, I would simply ask that you go to the library or even buy a copy of Rick Smolan's book, "The Human Face of Big Data." You'll get a much better idea of how the proper implementation of Big Data (plus analytics) can lead to a more promising future for everyone.

Yes, there are Big Data scams out there, but remember there were also snake oil salesman present when the United States developed and explored the Western Frontier years ago. It would be a great tragedy if the United States failed to fully explore the vast economic potential and societal benefits of the Big Data frontier, just because they ran into a few snake oil salesmen along the way.

I hope you reconsider your position John. You are a very influential guru within the high tech industry. 

Back when the United States' Western frontier was developing and being explored and before the law caught up with it, local sheriffs were required to maintain order. Today with Big Data, as both society and our legal systems struggle to come to terms with its potential, technically savvy pundits are required to properly frame the discussion and eventual adoption of these new technologies into mainstream America. 

To that end John, I'd ask that you holster your 'scam' hyperbole. We still need you out there on main street battling those hucksters and charlatans who would lead the path of Big Data adoption astray. John, when it comes to Big Data, we need you as a positive, rather than a negative outlier.

James Gingerich

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