Journalistic Integrity Has Never Been More Important Than Now…

July 31, 2009

In the past year, Mommy Bloggers have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. The group of micro-bloggers have proved to be an influential army that have halted media campaigns (just ask Motrin), has become the target of consumer PR campaigns worldwide, and most recently launched a Content Integrity Organization. Interesting.

While some bloggers (and, I’m not trying to single out the MBs) are intent are maintaining the same journalist integrity as the traditional breed of journos, some are standing by their right to snag free swag. See Ad Age’s recent article “Don’t Hate Mommy Bloggers for Their Swag”. It’s an interesting read that likens the group of bloggers to the long-standing practices of of lifestyle, women and parenting magazines and basically says, there’s nothing wrong with with accepting free product and endorsing them outright via social media outlets.

As a PR professional, I don’t entirely disagree as the practice has forever existed and will undoubtedly continue. However, a bloggers voice is not hidden in the pages of Vogue or Maxim, it IS your brand. Isn’t your voice, and its credibility, worth protecting? Regardless if your readership is audited or not, I think so.

Here at Caster, we and our client’s maintain a tried and true policy for review units. The majority of traditional journalists and gear/tech bloggers we send product to are extremely professional; signing loan agreements, reviewing and returning product, and slating the review for editorial coverage. They practice full disclosure to their readership by positioning the review as just that and identifying positives (and negatives, sometimes to our client’s dismay) of the product(s). Even though we sometimes have the opportunity to respond and work through snags, these writers maintain complete professional integrity which their readership, and we, value. While social media continues to govern the future of our respective professionals, I believe that journalist integrity will only become more important. In the absence of today’s publications (as we know them), consumers will look for credible resources through the weeds of the internet’s informational over-load. Your voice could be just that.

So, to mommy bloggers simply looking for an outlet to share their voice, I say go for the free swag and enjoy! To mommy bloggers who are vying to become a reputable, knowledgeable resource, whether it be for friends, manufacturers, marketing professionals, or other consumers, I would be a bit more cautious to avoid a stigma attached to your name.

Posted by: Katie | follow me on Twitter

URC’s MX-5000 Delivers the Giddiness

July 30, 2009
At Universal Remote Control‘s National Sales Meeting earlier this month, I observed numerous of URC’s highly seasoned independent sales reps—guys who have been around the block so many times that they’ve seen several Starbucks open and close on said block—getting their first up-close look at URC’s new MX-5000 remote control. What I saw were quite a few middle-aged men who were instantly transformed into delighted eight-year-olds on Christmas morning opening cool, unexpected gifts.
URC raises the bar yet again on the remote control category with the MX-5000.

URC raises the bar yet again on the remote control category with the MX-5000.

They’re excited to sell this device, and it’s easy to see why. The MX-5000 is a wand-style, two-way touchscreen remote control that is the first remote to offer haptic technology. When you press a menu selection on the touchscreen, you get vibrational feedback, so it feels more like pushing a hard button. Beyond this first-of-its-kind feature, the MX-5000’s color touchscreen is sweet, and the overall form factor is way sleek and way thin, not bulky as you might expect. A professional dealer can make this thing positively sing for any lucky home entertainment connoisseur.

CrunchGear was one of many blogs whose antennae perked up when the MX-5000 was announced, so we recently sent CrunchGear’s Matt Burns a review sample. We’re still waiting on Matt’s full review (he just got it) but it speaks to the MX-5000’s allure that he wrote a post just about his unboxing of the MX-5000! We’re looking forward to his impressions of the product.

URC’s ready to rock CEDIA EXPO in September with another noteworthy product announcement or two… stay tuned!

Posted by Joe Paone

Comprehensive Resource Guide and Recommendations for A/V Brands

July 29, 2009

Respected McClatchy-Tribune News Service reporter and blogger Don Lindich recently created a listing of A/V brand websites with personal recommendations for the brands he prefers and uses. Mr. Lindich is as knowledgeable about audio and video technology as anyone in the Milky Way and his recommendations can be trusted if you are considering a purchase.

In his post aptly titled, Don’s Huge and Useful Link Page, 301 to start…, Don offers his recommendations and links in a variety of manufacturers covering areas such as: receivers and amplifiers, speakers, televisions and projectors, Bluray, DVD player and DVD Recorder,  video rental, turntables, pho cartridge, phono preamp, record cleaner and accessories, A/V furniture and Speaker stands, cables, connections, speaker wire, headphones, earphones, table radios, portable audio, camcorder, video making, editing and burning software, cameras, digital SLR, digital image editing and more if you can believe it.

Started Monday 7/27, this resource is already one of the most complete compilations of A/V brands on the web and a great resource. He’s open to suggestions to so if you’re a PR flak or manufacturer whose website isn’t included, contact Mr. Lindich here.

Posted by: Nick


The Smart Grid in 2010: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

July 28, 2009

One of the biggest challenges to understanding new technologies can be the lack of centralized and credible information readily available. Such is the problem with the Smart Grid – that buzz word concept being tossed around by cleantech companies in the Bay area to policy analysts in Washington. But what does it mean?

Last week, I stumbled upon a report from David Leeds of GTM Research entitled “The Smart Grid in 2010: Market Segments, Applications and Industry Players.” The report, a cool 145 pages, provides an in depth analysis of the smart grid end-to-end, identifying the key players, the overall technology, the market drivers and barriers to adoption. Being an information junkie like I am, I downloaded it and read almost half over the weekend. Mr. Leeds does an excellent job of providing a type of clarity not often found in research papers and I found it not only extremely readable, but interesting.

Some highlights:

  • About $1.3 billion in venture capital was invested in the Smart Grid sector in the last 4 years and $105 million just in the last 2 quarters of 2009
  • The electric grid remains one of the last networks not transformed by information technology (IT) and is arguably one of the furthest reaching and most extensive networks in existence.
  • The three biggest challenges facing the Smart Grid are: interoperability standards, utility business models that promote energy efficiency and proper development of systems architecture that can support enterprise-wide current and future applications.
  • Without a Smart Grid, renewable technologies will remain niche at best. The hopes for widespread adoption of renewables is non-existent without a smart grid to faciliate and integrate these variable generation sources.
  • The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates that it will cost $165 billion over two decades to complete the evolution to a smart grid worldwide.

The report also details the major players in the various markets within the smart grid industry and includes our client, Control4 as a company to watch in the consumer energy management systems space. Control4 just announced $17.3 million in funding to develop its AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) business.

If you are involved or interested in this new intelligent utility system that promises to be a challenging and revolutionizing new infrastructure, this report is a must read.

Download here – kudos to Mr. Leeds and GTM Research for an excellent piece.

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter

On the Wall, On the Move

July 27, 2009

Power55 Black Lifestyle Hi-ResArlen Schweiger of Electronic House recently published his review of OmniMount’s Power55 in the July/August issue. Several months ago, Bob Bennett and his staff at MHL Security and Sound went out to Arlen’s house to install the mount in his home for the review.

Here are a few snippets of Arlen’s review:

“My home is tiny, so every square foot is precious. My viewing appetite, on the other hand, is so large that our console-mounted 50-inch plasma TV overwhelms the family room. Reviewing OmniMount’s Power55 motorized wall mount – one that tilts, pans and swivels – presented an ideal way to measure its space-saving benefits and other measures.”

“Because the mount tilts, MHL set the left and right horizontal limits as close to the wall without bumping, and they programmed two viewing position presets into the remote. Creating a preset, including that of a ‘home’ position, is as easy as pressing a button down for five seconds. The motion of the mount is slick, but not blazing, about as fast as you’d want something carrying a 110-pound TV to go. It takes just nine seconds to move from centered and sung to fully angled so we can watch from our dining room. Now that’s appetizing.”

“My Hitachi is at the limits of the Power55’s 110-pound weight capacity, but in several months of daily use, there’s been no doubting its sturdiness.”

 Arlen gave a great depiction of the strengths of the Power55 in his full review, and we appreciate him taking the time to do the review. During the installation, we sent our own Katie Short to video document the whole thing. Below is the video from the installation of the Power55.

Check out the photogallery of the install on OmniMount’s Facebook page.

Posted by: Lauren

Can the face of your company make or break you?

July 24, 2009

 Should a face or voice be assigned to a brand? Who should the spokesperson(s) be? Will this help or hurt the company, your reputation, or the brand? It is an interesting topic that Entrepreneur Magazine investigated recently and a topic that hits close to home here at Caster as the successes of more than a few clients were built upon this very premise.

Should You Be the Face of Your Business” does a great job highlighting the pros and cons of building and marketing a brand via personal branding.

  • Pros: Dynamic and genuine personalities draw interest and support; charisma and passion cannot be learned and is memorable; and in the age of social networking, there is an accessible and relatable brand expert/guru.
  • Cons: That person is then also culpable for company missteps; personal challenges can impede upon corporate success; and, when the figure-head is removed, what is left of the brand?

A company’s election to build a brand alongside the owner is a strategy that should be well-processed and planned; it is certainly is not for everyone. However, from where I stand, capitalizing on the natural charisma, know-how, and dynamism of company executives to establish a voice for a brand, should be a no brainer.

Just as products are measured by innovation, quality, and consistency, so is your company’s messaging evaluated by the public. When addressing the public, consumers or press, via more formal PR activities (press interviews, conferences, speaking engagements) or employing more viral methods (social networking, blogs), it is imperative that company establishes consistency and taps intelligible, passionate spokesperson(s) to positively and accurately communicate the brand, its products and services. That individual, or select group of spokespeople, will be tasked with winning over the public with their innate charisma and persona, one that is not forced, likeable, and will help the company stand out over the competition merely by ensuring proper communication.

Done well, a brand can make the most of its investment in marketing and public relations. Done poorly, you risk cannibalizing the company/brand, despite the great product/services you know you offer.

Posted by: Katie | follow me on Twitter

What Is Multi-Room Audio? What Is Whole Home Audio?

July 23, 2009

When I tell people I represent NuVo Technologies, a lot of them ask what NuVo does. I tell them NuVo does whole home audio.

And then I ask if they’ve ever heard of whole home audio, or multi-room audio for that matter (NuVo and I prefer the more inviting term “whole home” as opposed to the more clinical “multi-room”, although they both mean the same thing).

Usually, the response I get is to the effect of, “Of course I know what whole-home audio is!”

But I press: “So what is it?”

The frequent response is something like: “You can hear your stereo through speakers in different rooms in the house.”

Well, that’s partially correct but it only scratches the surface of what a whole home audio system like NuVo’s can do.

A more descriptive but far more wonky term for what NuVo does would be multi-source, multi-zone audio.

Yikes… what’s that? Quite simple and quite cool: You have multiple sources of audio that go to multiple zones (rooms or outdoor areas) of a house. You either have user controls mounted on the wall in each zone, or you can use a wireless device or web browser for user control. You also have speakers in each zone.

Wait, you might ask: What are multiple sources of audio? Think AM/FM and satellite radio, think internet radio and services like Pandora, think iPods in network-connected docks, think all of your iTunes and Windows Media Audio content residing on your PCs and servers, think even old-school devices like CD players. That’s enough variety and choice to keep you entertained for a while, I’d say.

In each zone, the user can select any of these sources instantly through his or her on-wall or wireless user control, and enjoy that selected source immediately. The cool thing is, other users in other rooms have that same option, meaning that numerous different sources can be played in different zones at the same time. This setup is perfect for families where, for example, Dad likes sports talk on AM, mom likes 80s music on XM, the son likes Pandora and the daughter likes her iTunes.

Once installed by a professional, a whole home audio system like NuVo’s is easy to use. You won’t need boomboxes in every room anymore, for starters.

I’ll have more to share about this pretty exciting product category going forward. Thanks for reading!

Posted by Joe Paone