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3′s Plans for the Coming Year

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I spent an interesting and enjoyable couple of hours at mobile operator 3’s UK headquarters in Maidenhead last week in the company of a handful of bloggers and some executives from 3.

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Arranged by Parys Communications, one of 3’s PR agencies, the meeting was an informal get-together to exchange some views and hear 3’s thoughts about their plans for 2008.

I have a connection with 3 as I’m one of the group of bloggers and journalists who are trying out 3’s new Skypephone. The phone’s on free loan for three months courtesy of 3. I’ve already written a bit about the Skypephone and I may well write more in future.

So, to the meeting.

An immersion into a disruptive company’s business thinking, is how I might summarize it. We heard thinking and received detailed information on the types of handsets 3 might be offering during 2008 plus a glimpse into 3’s roadmap ahead.

Adam Davis, 3’s Head of Marketing and Product Management, is a man whom every gadget geek would envy as he pulled from his case prototype phone after phone from Nokia and Sony Ericsson that may end up in 3’s handset lineup.

Much of the talk was about the Skypephone and 3’s plans for it next year.

It’s quite apparent that 3 want this phone to be a big market success. Indeed, they said the greatest attention will be given to improving aspects of the Skypephone such as a better camera, HSDPA connectivity and maybe the ability to make and receive SkypeOut and SkyepeIn calls respectively.

The latter is extremely interesting. I wonder what we’ll see there. If you can make and receive low-cost calls via Skype to and from normal phone numbers, where’s any incentive to use the Skypephone to make regular calls via 3’s cellular network?

While we were talking about the Skypephone, I took the opportunity (somewhat cheekily, I admit) to go on a bit about the very poor coverage of 3’s 3G network where I live, which is the place where I most use the Skypephone.

Not sure what will come from that although Carl Taylor, Director of Network and Application Technologies for 3’s X-Series phones, did ask me questions. Maybe a new cell mast for 3 in my neighbourhood is in the offing :)

Reality, though: the success or otherwise of the Skypephone will rest to a great extent on a user’s ability to just use it. If you can’t get a 3G signal most of the time – my experience, and you need 3G for Skype to log in and synchronize – this phone will not succeed.

Ken Young, a journalist and one of the bloggers who was there and who writes The UK Mobile Report, has an excellent commentary on the meeting, recounting and describing just about every aspect of it, and in some detail.

My overall focus was a bit different to Ken’s and the other bloggers, all of whom are immersed in mobile technology and the telecoms industry.

I was mostly thinking about the meeting, the people involved and what it might mean to 3 from a public relations point of view.

Better still, from a blogger relations point of view.

 

Since I first got to know a bit about 3 and its PR approach from being present at the press launch of the Skypephone at the end of October, two words have stuck in my mind when I think about 3:

  1. Nimble
  2. Disruptive

(I was going to add a few more words – poor 3G network – but that wouldn’t really be fair.)

The way in which the press event was organized, and the way in which invited bloggers like me were treated, was impressive. Professionally organized and run. I even managed to interview John Penberthy-Smith, 3’s Marketing Director, for an FIR podcast.

It is a pleasure to be involved with smart communicators in such a setting, which then sets a good framework for relationship development.

And so it also was with last week’s meeting with 3.

I gather such outreach to bloggers is a bit of a new thing for 3. It’s actually new to a lot of organizations. There’s no manual or handbook yet on how to do it. And it’s quite disruptive.

I’m doing it, too, working with one of my own clients where part of my work is doing that, ie, identifying and reaching out to influencers in the social media space.

As one being reached out to, I’m observing what 3 and their PR agencies are doing which, frankly, is good learning for me as well.

Guy Middleton, 3’s Head of Corporate Communications, and our meeting host, deserves full credit for enabling this outreach. I don’t know whose idea it was – an initiative within 3 or suggested by Parys Communications – but I think 3 will gain measurable benefit in the long term for connecting with individuals who have some influence in their own niche areas.

If this is complementary outreach to traditional outreach including media relations, which I suspect is the case, then 3 are making a good start in gaining ground in a big area of attention – ground where I don’t see much, if any, action from competitors like Vodafone or T-Mobile.

Disruptive is good.

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