Skype Wake Up Call III: The Commentary

This is the third of three posts discussing Skype’s PR management with the aim of improving the PR relationships associated with the launch of new Skype software and associated services. In the first post I outlined the problem; in the second post I proposed a proven solution; in this third post I want to review the recent Skype beta releases (3.0 for WIndows, 2.5 for Mac) and Skype’s 3 Group partnering activity with respect to the proposed solution.

If the work of the city is the remaking or translating of man into a more suitable form than his nomadic ancestors achieved, then might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness? …. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man, 1964

One primary objective of public relations is to leverage media reporters, including bloggers, to provide an outside perspective on the subject matter of press releases, product announcements and corporate presentations at, say, industry events and to propagate corporate awareness through corporate interviews. In turn, media reporters want to feel both sufficiently informed and experienced to have the background for providing objective, accurate and complete coverage while making assessments of the impact of a story.

Personally I prefer to report based on exposure to a product, not just a press release. I have also found interviews with senior executives (usually the CEO, one of whose roles is to be the Chief Company Salesperson) an opportunity to flesh out details that can make a more viable and credible story. I have also had a couple of executives point out that I have brought to their attention issues that they subsequently realized should be addressed in their public announcement.

Over the past two weeks we have seen four major press releases involving Skype: Skype 3.0 for Windows Beta Launch, Skype for Windows – Business version, Skype for Mac 2.5 beta launch and Skype’s participation in 3Groups’ new X-Series program. The result has left behind a very mixed image of what Skype is offering and the direction it is taking. The first post in this series exposes some of this confusion; the second post proposes a cost effective solution that can help narrow, or even avoid, the confusion..

Skype’s primary message really came out in Niklas’ interview for the 3 X-Series launch: “we have always delighted our users by innovating new ways of communicating”. Each of these announcement builds on this theme:

  • With the Skype 3.0 beta, users are providing feedback on how to fine tune new features such as Public Chats based on actual use experience in social contexts.. Skype’s release effectively takes the approach that this is a new release for all users with new features.The reality is that it is still a Beta release; on the website they actually state that “it’s only recommended for experienced users to download”. Crossed messages here.
  • While I now have some issue with how truly mobile the 3 X-Series makes Skype — it definitely does not have all the feature set of Skype Mobile for Windows — it does provide an initial market experience where users can use Skype without worrying about the cost of a “pay-per-byte” data plan.
  • The Skype for Business is actually having the roughest ride: two posts here expose difficulties: Ken Camp’s “Skype for Business? Whose Business?” and Martin’s “Opinion//Chinese Whispers”. Jan Geinart has done a more complete summary of posts related to Skype for Business.
  • And the Skype for Mac 2.5 beta release has gone virtually unnoticed.

.Memo to Skype Executive Management: Skype’s public relations messaging is out of control. Mixed messages resulting in mixed impressions — and audience confusion. And it’s not because Skype’s PR agencies are not trying; they are professionals. I have an excellent reference, for instance, on SparkPR from one of their early clients.

Skype has a keen, enthusiastic following who wants to see Skype succeed. As I stated in a comment to Alec Saunders “Whither Google Talk”, there is a reason Skype is “sticky”. Over 8 million people are online as I write this; I can reach my static set of six Google Talk contacts via Skype where I have access to a much larger and more dynamic set of both contacts and innovative ways of communication. Developers are waiting to provide Plug-Ins to enhance the feature set; they are willing to risk their business for Skype. These are priceless assets that can disappear as quickly as they arose if not nurtured through continuous dialogue at several levels. As I implied in one of my previous posts in this series — been there, done that – not pretty.

As Robert Scoble and Shel Israel have so well documented in their book, “Naked Conversations”, blogs as a business communications tool are here to stay. They provide an opportunity to dialogue interactively with your customers, your suppliers and your partners. Perhaps the greatest criticism of blogs is their tendency to have questionable credibility. But following the proposals made in the previous post in this series, especially dialoging proactively with the VoIP blogging community via executive interviews and, where practical, trial software, Skype will find its coverage much more focused and supportive while reducing the potential for erroneous statements and audience confusion.

Somehow I sense Andy Abramson at VoIP Watch is looking forward to receiving the first invitation for an executive blogger interview when a future series of announcements of the nature we have seen over the past two weeks is forthcoming. And the outcome will be a true blogger discussion of the social and economic impact of “innovative new ways of communicating” rather than reporting on attempts to figure what features are really there.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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