After the acquisition of Tidal Software where I was working by Cisco and the teams moved toward cloud automation as a major area of focus, I decided to jump into blogging. A close colleague, Rodrigo Flores, suggested that it was critical that I figure out my blogging voice. Of course my Cisco blog was not one of those “thoughts are my own” but one designed for thought leadership in the new area of software and automation for data centers with an unabashed goal to help Cisco out. My first blog was a lot of marketing, and the second blog began my journey towards my thought leadership voice, a folksy pragmatic approach to automating and managing IT operations.
Too Much Thought Leadership Perhaps?
The first section of my Cisco blogs at this link were thought leadership pieces. I had a lot of them and I really enjoyed doing those pieces. I received a lot of feedback offline from both Cisco employees and others that they really appreciated the pragmatic point of view. The product management and marketing teams were in overdrive trying to build awareness and thought leadership for a new product category and our new Business Unit. This was a land grab for the private cloud, where companies took their existing infrastructure servers and made them cloudy, enabling self-service for employees to get computer servers and applications in minutes and not weeks. Some of my best and most loved blogs had great titles, some seem really cool, others make me cringe today:
In this time of land grab there were many BUs vying for thought leadership, budget and fame. This was indeed a race for which group could have a large impact, whether it was revenue, thought leadership or relevance to the long-term strategy. There were many individuals throughout the company who were building up their chops and know-how around private and public clouds. Being able to truly understand the customers’ usage patterns and needs through telling a story was the key skill I learned in this era. Being given the privilege
to attend about 3 executive briefings at Cisco’s Briefing Center
with customers every week was a godsend in really understanding the customer needs, from the dudes who were IT Admins to world famous CIOs. My biggest realization outside of the customer engagement was that one of the two primary audiences for the blogs (the first being customers) was the internal Cisco system or sales engineers. Whether they were specific to a product line or the type of system engineer who is a generalist, they diligently read these blogs and use the messages and stories to a) decide whether to risk their client relationship with a new technology or release and b) incorporate these messages into their own presentation mojo. Prior to the age of blogging at big companies the only way you could get your message out was through a press release and that was
very hard to get approved by corporate marketing. With the advent of the corporate blogging war, now with very little governance or control, a Product Manager or Marketing Lead could get their message out in real time. It was an opportunity to fight the good fight in the streets.
Social Media and the Product Manager
Blogging and Twitter were the new and faster models for getting thought leadership. Who cared about webinars anymore? It was a time to experiment and get the word out. My biggest recommendation for those in product management and marketing is to get going with either a corporate blog or your own personal blog and get your story out. Relying on the product marketing team to do all the work in this space is a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, by design I have very close relationships with the product marketing team, but PMs need to step up and get the “core DNA” of their product right. Way before you get to the data sheet, you need to get the core value proposition, key personas, product positioning and competitive and market set up correctly. This can often be done with a few slides in a presentation. I call this being honest with yourself as the product leader. Once you have this you can use social media and customer stories and visits to tell the story of your product’s core DNA. Working with the product marketing folks to get the official word out, your role in social media is to tell the story of why your product will change your users’ world.