Friday, February 5, 2010

M&As Expected to Increase in 2010

As the credit markets begin to ease, mergers and acquisitions will likely accelerate this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a leading global auditing firm.

M&A activity in 2010 will be driven by strategic buyers who have both the funding and the vision necessary to capitalize on acquisition targets that offer opportunities for revenue growth and enhanced productivity. The most attractive sectors for these “mergers of productivity” include:

• Consumer products
• Technology
• Energy
• Financial services
• Automotive
• Healthcare
• Entertainment and media

PwC sees financing as the key stumbling block impeding M&A activity next year, increasing the pressure on middle market deals.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

High-Tech Device Makes You Part of the Matrix

Where body modification intersects with technology, you find the intriguing new product concept developed by Jim Mielke: a Bluetooth tattoo.

Made of silicon and silicone, it’s a thin, flexible high-tech device implanted between the skin and muscle. The top surface can be accessed through the skin. Instead of ink, the display uses minute “smart” spheres that are tattooed over the device. Tiny tubes attach it to an artery and a vein. Blood flows to a small fuel cell (which converts glucose and oxygen to electricity) and flows out again through the vein.

The new high-tech tattoo can communicate wirelessly with other Bluetooth devices, both in the outside world and — perhaps even more importantly — inside the body! Can a healthcare application be far behind? Could this high-tech tattoo be useful, for instance, in diabetes management?

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Moral Is: Don’t Be a Technology Snob

It’s sometimes easy to forget in today’s high-tech world that there is still an important place for “low-tech” media. A tip of the hat to JWT Tokyo, which recently won an award for a breakthrough campaign — designed to market the Nestlé Kit Kat candy bar — that centered on a 4,000-year-old technology: snail mail.

The ad agency was struck by the Japanese translation of Kit Kat (“Kitto Katso” means “surely win”) and the tradition of sending good luck wishes to students before important exams. So they collaborated with Japan Post to create Kit Kat Mail, a new postcard-like, good luck charm that could be purchased only at the post office … the equivalent of 20,000 entirely new, competitor-free retail outlets for Nestle’s.

According to Advertising Age, the campaign generated the $11 million in ad equivalency and Kit Kat Mail has become a permanent part of Japanese pop culture. Even in one of the world’s most technology-driven countries, it’s clear that there are plenty of opportunities to be had, if you just slow down and look around.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Back to the [High-Tech] Future

claims — with good reason, it appears — to be the world’s oldest telecommunications company. Even before it became British Telecom, as the General Post Office (GPO), it was envisioning a future that included an array of sophisticated technologies, foreshadowing VoIP phones, Google maps, videoconferences and telecommuting.

Very cool and surprisingly prescient, this video appears to have been produced in the late 1960s/early 1970s, imagining leading-edge technology in the 1990s.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Geek Chic

Okay. I confess it. I’m a technophiliac. I’m a sucker for high-tech-gadgets gadgets … no matter how expensive or unnecessary they may be. Even defunct technology exerts a strange power over me. So I was delighted to find a great little gallery on Boing Boing: “Ten Beautiful Computers.” Featuring examples of some of the most whiz-bang technologies of all times, the list (compiled by Rob Beschizza) includes the:

• ZX Spectrum
• Cray 2
• PDP-10
• Antikythera Mechanism
• Sinclair ZX80
• Macintosh G4 Cube
• Ingraham
• CPC-464
• Difference Engine
• D-Wave Quantum Computer

My personal favorite: the Antikythera mechanism (seen in the image above, before reconstruction). Dating to about 150 BC, this gem of the collection is the oldest known complex mechanical computer.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Productivity Linked to WILB

Technology has blessed us with many benefits. It has made a world of information available to us, enhanced collaboration, made research easier and replaced voicemail with the infinitely less odious email. In fact, I like my high-tech distractions so much, that I’ve started to feel a bit guilty. Should I be “wasting” this much time idly tooling around the internet?

Good news. According to a recent University of Melbourne study, individuals who WILB — in other words, people who surf the Internet for fun at work — are about 9% more productive than those who don’t. It appears that taking short breaks in your routine, including a quick bit of WILB, enables the mind to rest itself, restoring your ability to concentrate.

It’s important that no more than 20% of the workday be spent in WILB, says Dr. Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne’s Department of Management and Marketing, because internet addiction can have the reverse effect, causing workers who are online to become irritable if they are interrupted.

So, WILB — in moderation — it’s good for you and your business.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Believe Me, It Was High-Tech in Its Time

One of my guilty pleasures is’s “Today in History” feature; and I was pleased to see, at the end of last month, an acknowledgement of the important advance in technology pioneered by Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia. On March 30, 1858, Lipman was issued a patent for his breakthrough concept: attaching a piece of rubber inside one end of a pencil to serve as an eraser.

(Regrettably, 17 years later, the U.S. Supreme Court would revoke the patent, ruling that “a pencil with an eraser is just a pencil with an eraser and not a new invention.” Churlish of them, in my opinion.)

According to the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. is the single largest market for wood-encased pencils today … in part, because it is the instrument-of-choice when it comes to solving Sudoku and crossword puzzles. It’s also immensely useful in all of the communications professions … but especially public relations and journalism. Unlike a pen, a pencil never leaks, surprises you by running out of ink or freezes in cold weather. Despite its many virtues, however, I know people who haven’t written anything with pencil — let alone erased it — for years now.

At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, I have to say that I have nothing but pity for my colleagues who were born into a high-tech universe in which the delete button is sufficient to their needs.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Multiplying the Power of Pharma Research

There’s been an interesting new development in the space where pharmaceutical research and technology intersect. It’s called Sage, and it’s designed to “revolutionize how researchers approach the complexity of human biological information and the treatment of disease” by giving them access to a rich research database and the high-tech tools to collaborate on “evolving, integrated networks of biological data.”

John Wilbanks, a founding director of Sage, writes in his Common Knowledge blog that Merck, the global research-driven pharmaceutical company, has pledge to donate a vast amount of data about the biology of disease to the nonprofit.

Wilbanks writes, “Sage means that we are now on the path to a world in which scientists working on HIV in Brazilian non-profit research institutes (like my mother-in-law) will be able to use the same powerful computational disease biology tools as those inside Merck. I'm very much looking forward to living in that world,” he adds.

So am I. While it will take an estimated three to five years to see the first fruits of this project, it’s exciting to think of the intellectual power that will unleashed by using technology to tap the great global brain.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Is Nothing Private in Today’s High-Tech Environment? Apparently Not.

Crisis management, public relations, investor relations, financial communications and technology consultants, like those in our New York City PR firm, often talk about the ways in which the Internet has opened a window on private lives. There was a perfect example of this phenomenon this week on the Apple website, where Steve Jobs addressed a new flurry of rumors about his health.

In his open letter, Jobs wrote: “… my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been ‘robbing’ me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. … The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. … I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.”

In 2004, the media breathlessly followed Jobs’ successful battle against pancreatic cancer. In June 2008, his gaunt appearance gave rise to new speculation about his health. More questions were raised when Apple announced a few weeks ago that, for the first time ever, Jobs wasn’t planning to deliver the keynote address at Macworld.

While there are clear standards for disclosure of material financial information, disclosure concerning matters of health has typically been left to the discretion of the company’s board of directors. Not any more, apparently. According to Henry Blodget, co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Silicon Alley Insider, “Steve's health is NOT just a ‘private matter.’” He adds, “Steve Jobs is arguably Apple's single most valuable asset. If he's seriously ill, shareholders have every right to know this.”

Technorati Tags: makovsky, Crisis management, public relations, investor relations, technology, Internet, Steve Jobs, Apple, health focus, Silicon Alley Insider, financial communications, business, communications, public relations

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

High Tech: Reporting on the Crisis in Mumbai

First, speaking for everyone at Makovsky + Company, let me say that our hearts break for India and the people of Mumbai, both residents and visitors. Like New York, Mumbai is the financial capital of the nation. Like Mumbai, we in New York are unfortunately all-too-familiar with the consequences of terrorism.

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time channel surfing the news networks on cable TV, trying to get a coherent perspective on the deadly terror attacks, with little luck. Coverage was brief, often contradictory and peppered with commercials. Finally, I turned to the social media, which were rich with raw, up-to-the-minute information and images.

For example, as the mainstream media struggled to catch up with fast-breaking news, the technology-empowered social media, including users of Twitter, were posting real-time accounts of the crisis to their friends and family worldwide. (Twitter is a free micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ brief text-based updates — or “tweets.”)

While it’s true that there were lots of rumors and false reports on Twitter, bloggers like Amy Gahran, a self-employed media consultant, worked hard to separate the facts from the hokum by checking out rumors.

We’re all citizen journalists today. I just wish we didn’t have to be combat journalists.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

High-Tech Temptation: Leaving the Laptop Behind

For most public relations professionals, technology is not just a helpful tool; it’s a driver of our business. So, as a PR person, I was initially surprised when I read the headline of a recent Wall Street Journal blog by Nick Wingfield: “Time to Leave the Laptop Behind”.

Wingfield explains: “For years, mobile workers have been ditching their desktop computers for laptops that they can take wherever they go. Now road warriors are starting to realize that they can get even more portability — and lots of computing punch — from smart phones.”

Wingfield cites a recent survey by market research firm In-Stat which revealed that more than half (52%) of technology users said they could envision using a high-tech smart phone in the future as their sole computing device … provided that manufacturers could improve keyboards, screens and applications so that they work like those that come with a PC.

We’re not there yet —Chiclet keyboards and teeny-weeny screens can be mighty frustrating for PR consultants like me who are copious note-takers — but we can see the High-Tech Promised Land that lies just ahead.

Whether smart phones get bigger or laptops get smaller makes no nevermind to me. I just want the technology in place that will let me have my office with me wherever I go!

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Very High Tech: Sky-High Tech, to Be Exact

In his Personal Technology column in the Wall Street Journal, Walter Mossberg reports that inflight WiFi is on the way. A new system called Gogo will make it possible for any passenger with a WiFi-enabled laptop, PDA or cell phone to surf the Web, use email or IM texting and download files, including streaming audio and video, once the aircraft has reached 10,000 feet. A data-only system, Gogo will not enable phone calls and will block all services involving voice communications.

The new service — priced at $12.95 for flights of three hours or longer and $9.95 for shorter trips — is already available on a trial basis on select American Airlines flights between New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. It will shortly be available also on Virgin America.

It’s a mixed blessing, this new technology. We’re either going to be more connected and productive public relations professionals, or we’ll lose one of the last opportunities left to sit quietly for a few hours and just … think.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Environmental Claims Meet with Consumer Doubts

It seems that everybody these days is leaping on the “green” (or clean technology) bandwagon. I’ve seen press releases and ads taking the moral — i.e., green — high ground from companies in virtually every industry, from financial services and professional services to pharmaceutical and technology.

It’s no surprise to find that the blogosphere is exploding with talk about environmental issues. According to Nielsen Online, sustainability buzz more than doubled between September 2006, when blogger messages on the topic totaled 83,000, and December 2007, when they had skyrocketed to 172,000.

Unfortunately, one of the most popular blog topics is corporate hypocrisy — also known as “greenwashing” — where companies misrepresent their commitment to sustainability with aggressive PR campaigns. Greenwashing was the topic in 25% of all sustainability discussions on the web in 2007, according to Nielsen.

Confirming consumer skepticism, a recent web survey by Burst Media, an online media and technology company, found that while 70% of respondents recalled seeing green ads at least occasionally, more than 20% said they never believe the claims. Two-thirds say they only believe the claims sometimes.

Before you risk overstating your company’s use of clean technology, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims. Issued by the FTC in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they can help ensure that your company’s green claims don't run afoul of the law.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Microsoft + Yahoo: Another Perspective

There’s been lots of coverage in the mainstream media about Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Yahoo. Those in favor say that the merger could strengthen both companies and create more shareholder value than each company could create on its own. Those against it say that Microsoft’s offer substantially underestimates Yahoo’s worth.

If you believe that the success of any merger depends to a significant extent on the willingness of employees to embrace it, then Microsoft has some problems ahead of it.

On his “Tech Your Universe” blog, Yahoo employee Nick writes, “I estimate that 1 in 10 Yahoos will refuse to work for Microsoft.” After giving three reasons why the idea of working for Microsoft is “awful,” Nick goes on to say, “I’d be embarrassed to admit that I worked for Microsoft, and having it on my resume would be detrimental to my career.”

Apparently he’s not alone in his sentiments.

This is a public relations battle that is likely to be fought in the boardroom, the courtroom and the vastness of cyberspace.

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