Monday, December 14, 2009

Tiger Woods - Fire Your Publicist

Dear Tiger -

What a mess this is. I read today about how you'd lost Accenture, which I'm sure is a hefty endorsement deal. Who the heck is handling your public relations? You should dump them and find someone else who knows what they are doing.

Remember David Lederman and how he was accused of having sex with female staff members? That's long over. What about Elliott Spitzer who rumor has it is considering another run for political office? That's over. Hugh Grant and his infamous hooker pick-up on Hollywood Boulevard? Who cares.

There are others including President Clinton who screwed it up too - then slowly made his way back. More than I can remember - why? Because they dealt with it.

Hiding behind lawyers and whoever else you are trying to duck behind is dumb. You are the top golfer in the world and have the admiration of millions of people. So you've got a weakness for - models, porn stars, hookers - and now it's public. You won't be the first and you won't be the last. Address it - go back to the game - and make it go away.

Instead, you are hiding like a scared little boy behind a web of bad advice hoping it will blow over. That makes you look weak and foolish. It will eventually blow over but unless you deal with it now you won't be free of it. It seems like every day the media finds another woman who cashes in on your fame. Think about your kids. Think about your career. Think about how many women there are out there who can keep this going.

It's not rocket science Tiger. Apologize. Americans love to forgive and forget. Go on the talk show circuit and say you're sorry. Hold a news conference that is about as humble as you can get. But please don't force your angry, glaring wife who looks like she wants to chop your head off to stand by her man. That's just cruel and it upsets women - well it upsets me anyway.

I'd much rather see her deck you. If your wife wants too she can release a statement - I'm sure she will consider it because without those endorsement deals she'll lose a lot if she divorces you.

Start with: "I've done some things I'm not proud of and I've hurt my family, my friends, my fans, my fellow golfers, my business partners and whoever else matters. I'm very sorry to have let all of them down. I've made some big mistakes and I take full responsibility for them. And I'm going to spend some time making it up to all of them."

The next part puts your money where your mouth is. "As part of this effort I'm going to donate gobs of money to some cause (sick kids always works). I'm also going to take the next few months and donate time to help one or several (again kids') charities further their work."

You only need to apologize once and don't do it for the Europeans or Japanese because they are laughing their butts off. I can almost hear their voices saying "Those ridiculous Americans, what does having affairs have to do with playing golf?"

Finish with the "And I hope you will all learn to trust me again."

You're done. Then get back to golf.


A Big Fan

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gossip Girl, OK Woman, At the PR Holiday Party Scene

I've been attending media, marketing and advertising holiday parties to network and also to check out what the business climate is like this year.

First off - everyone is scaling back. The status quo for many seems to be plan a happy hour, pick the venue, don't charge, and let everyone who comes pay cash for food and drinks. With the exception of the Independent Public Relations Association feast - the parties that did supply food so far skimped so much the pricing seemed really out of whack for what you got.

As for the photos - they are stock and the woman on the beach is what I picture in my mind as I sit here with a broken heating system. One can dream.

The One Party

Who: Ad Club DC, American Marketing Association and a few others.

Where: Eye Bar - Nice place, room a bit narrow

Crowd: A lot of vendors, ages mixed, older than I expected. Not many prospective clients.

Sponsor Gimmick: One of the vendors had a great idea - everyone who came in got to pick a card choosing from five endangered species. I was an owl. I had to get five other owls to sign my card (great icebreaker) and then submit it with my contact info to win an IPod Touch. There were a few other sponsors who had tabletop displays but some company presidents didn't even show. What's the point?

Cost: $50 ahead, $60 at door

Food and Drink: Open bar - three drinks came with it mixed and wine. Rack liquor. The invitation said the party included heavy appetizers. They were heavy alright - no one touched them. Sushi at the beginning and then they left the empty tray on the bar to make the rest of us feel bad. Food was scary - goo encrusted meatballs, some sort of fried Mexican meat in taco sauce that I could have gotten frozen at the market, vegetables and two different kinds of scary looking chicken wings.

Strategy: Think it may have been to get everyone to drink and then not feed them - 3rd drink impossible without food.

Anecdote: Left my car in a law firm lot a few blocks away after finding a parking lot attendant who asked for a bribe and put me in a Reserved Space. He explained in Spanish how to get out of the garage but I must have missed something because I couldn't figure it out. Couldn't go back up without a pass key. Got stuck down there until one of the lawyers saved me.

Time Spent: Lasted an hour - could have skipped it.

Washington Networking Group Holiday Party

Who: As listed above - no cool name

Where: Guarapo Nena in Arlington - private room

Crowd: Mixed vendors, I was late so didn't see much of it. The DC Networking Group has a very diverse group of people - this one had tech, communications, marketing, international and government people.

Food and Drink: Cash everything - the martinis were cheaper than in DC

Sponsor Gimmick: Why do vendors not have stuff - they just show up and run around and talk to people.

Time Spent: Was worth the trip even though it was a long metro ride. Someone came running out the door after me to invite me to another party. So stunned I gave him my card - he never got in touch. Alot of men - fewer women.

IPRA Holiday Lunch

Who: Independent Public Relations Society of America

Where: Maggianos at Tyson's Corner - and I found it - yeah

Crowd: The room was full - a mix of PR, printers, and other vendors. Draw was the food which was course after course of Yum and that wine came with the meal.

Cost: I think it was $50 ahead of time if you were not a member.

Bad Part: Way too much thank yous, and kudos to each other. If they hadn't done that I wouldn't have realized most of the people in the room were on the board and needed to be there. Sat next to an older woman who complained how much writers are discounting their fees - if you insist on paying seasoned people very little you won't get much. But maybe in this economy they don't care. On my right was someone starting a DC PR business who wreaked of cigarettes - what a turn-off.

Time: Two hours or so not counting getting there and back.

ASAE Holiday Happy Hour

Who: American Society of Association Executives

Where: Black Finn - Pseudo Sports Bar on I Street, DC

Crowd: Again a lot of vendors, several ASAE people including senior ones, and a mix of marketers. Also there was a bunch of college sports fans in the back watching the Georgetown game and yelling which was very distracting.

Anecdote: Watched a pretty young blonde and her boss who was probably a bit older than I am. Black Finn served a free round of beer shots then took photos of only her drinking it. Made me feel ancient. A business exec slowly moved in on her hanging around for what reason I wasn't sure, dense person that I am, until he could find a way to talk to her. When I left they were chummy at the table. For some reason I've noticed these ASAE happy hours often have lots of cute young women and not so young men who love them.

Charity: Toys for Tots and most people did come with an unwrapped new gift. Thank goodness for the closet of presents never given.

Time Spent: Probably an hour - left to beat the ice storm.

International Association of Business Communicators Holiday Party

Who: IABC DC - this group of communications professionals has some very nice people in it.

Where: Arlington, Hilton in one of their nice but small rooms

Crowd: Not as well attended as some but a good crowd. Talked to a lot of people - someone who just started at a clandestine federal agency - and said she reads its web site sometimes to figure out what's going on. Some guy from Burson showed up, zoned in on the few potential clients in the room, and ducked out. He said they're hiring. Don't understand why IABC doesn't care that only a couple of board members show up at it's major events - shouldn't that be expected?

Cost: $40 but came with a small cheese plate and some passed appetizers that left me starving. Cash bar with mediocre wine and rack liquor. Also a member's band played Christmas music - give them an A+ for Santa Got Run Over By a Reindeer.

Time Spent: Probably 1.5 hours. If it hadn't been freezing and I hadn't lost my car on some side street in Ballston it would have been worth it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Google Gold - Top Search Terms of 2009

Well the first thing I noticed is there's no business list of Google's top tens for 2009 search terms. Maybe that's proprietary? Or maybe celebrities and news don't matter as much anymore. We'd also like the top 100 if Google Zeitgeist would be willing to share.

So I went market by market hoping to learn something. Here's what I found - interpreted by yours truly. The most commonly searched places in a market are:

Local colleges - most of the ones listed
Local television, newspaper, radio - see people are reading news they're just doing it online
Local hospitals
Local museums
Local libraries - this to me was the big surprise.

So if you can mention any of these or partner with them on a news release or mention them in it - you are golden.

Here are the results from five giant metro markets.

Washington, D.C.

1. fcps blackboard
2. national harbor
3. e street cinema
4. nova community college
5. wtop news
6. wmata
7. nationals baseball
8. dc restaurant week
9. washington sports club
10. leesburg outlets

New York, NY

1. cuny portal
2. duane reade locations
3. mta trip planner
4. seamless web
6. hopstop
7. hale and heardy
8. shake shack
9. nyu home
10. queens library

Philadelphia, PA

1. penn blackboard
2. septa strike
5. penn in touch
6. penn portal
7. penn library
8. tumail
9. tuportal
10. wharton spike

San Francisco, CA

1. fox theater oakland
2. bay bridge closure
3. wicked san francisco
4. ilearn
5. sf giants schedule
6. sfusd
8. outside lands
9. bart schedule
10. ccsf

Seattle, WA

1. sounders fc
2. bellevue college
3. seahawks 2009 schedule
4. snoqualmie casino
5. west seattle blog
6. uw libraries
8. wa unemployment
10. snohomish county jail

So what does this tell us? Not much. Looking at all of the cities here's what I learned:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let's Ban Consultant Speak Forever

I hate the way consultants talk. I just read, OK scanned, a white paper by a social media policy/strategy/consulting expert and it was filled with basic marketing, models, charts and quite frankly a lot of crap. Consultant speak.

An old friend of mine who is now in marketing once described it as “They make it look so complicated and academic that the clients don’t know what they are saying, and often they don’t either. But the client is afraid to admit they don’t know what it means because then it makes them look foolish.”

And the cycle continues.

The PR business is filled with consultant speak. People think we wave a magic wand and make publicity happen – that we are like snake charmers. We’re not. If you don’t have a good story - we can’t sell it. If 10 other companies are doing the exact same thing that you are – we can’t sell it.

You need to do something that no one else is doing. You need to add something new to the conversation. If anyone tells you differently, they are just taking your money. Hope you don't mind wasting it.

What kind of phrases comprise consultant speak? Here’s an easy one brought to you from the home page of one of the world’s biggest and most successful PR agencies.

“The modern practice of public relations is about creating, managing and enhancing relationships between a business or an organization and its key stakeholders to drive successful business or organizational outcomes. With the overall erosion of trust in institutions combined with the convergence of technology and media, at no time in the history of our profession has the proactive management of stakeholder relationships been more critical.”

Thank you Edelman. Just reading it gave me a headache.

Translation – You pay us gobs of money and we’ll figure out how to spend it.

I have favorite consultant speak words too – here are a few.

Appropriate – I had a consulting firm client once who used this on everything. Why? Because it doesn’t say anything. It's a lawyer word. If it’s appropriate it fits whatever situation you’re in and whatever way you are using it.

Effective – PR people use this all the time. They use the phrase “Effective Communications.” What other kind is there? Bad? Sucky? Great? Because that’s over promising. Effective promises nothing except we won’t screw it up too much. Isn't Effective kind of like when it's pouring rain on your wedding day and everyone tells the bride it's good luck. What are you supposed to tell the bride - that her outdoor wedding is ruined and it's bad luck? That wouldn't be very effective.

Right-sizing – This one became part of business lingo in the 1980s and has stuck around. It puts a positive spin on the fact that you’re getting fired. We’re fixing something that’s broken. No you’re not. You over hired or screwed up and now you can’t afford to keep some of the people that trusted you to keep them.

Impressions - This is actually the term for a unit of measurement that PR firms use to make you think that a lot of people paid attention to what was written about you. There's some abstract formula from newspapers where you take the circulation and multiply it by three I think, to account for the fact that people pass it to other people, and then you got value for your money.

No you didn't. You got value if the person who read about you picked up the phone and called you and asked you more about your company, or went to your web site and bought something. Impressions in today's world are useless. But someone recently told me that their PR firm got 50 million impressions for them - so it's still being used and it's still nonsense.

Change – Obama won the presidency on this. He borrowed it from Bill Clinton who also won the presidency on this. What does it mean? We don’t like the way things are. Do it differently. But how? Oh we can’t tell you that – it would be too specific. So let’s just throw that word around and people will gravitate towards it and vote for it. Then we don’t deliver – well that’s a whole other blog post.

Why am I allowed to rail against all of this? Because it's my blog. Because I don’t use these words. I tell clients the truth even if it’s ugly. Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker. Maybe it’s because I started as a journalist and my bullshit detector is perpetually set on high.

So what’s the advice in all of this? We live in an age where people have the attention spans of insects. No one is reading any of this stuff. Say what you mean. Use short words that tell me something. Give me real information so I get it right away. That’s the difference between Effective and great PR.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me – Expert Marketing Sites Not so Expert

This is the first in a series of articles on marketing web sites and their customer service and marketing. This site is called I already know it will be two parts.

I started getting the MarketingProfs newsletter “Get to the Point – B2B Marketing,” a little over a week ago. It was free and I was curious. The positioning of the site is great – Marketing Professors – or those smarter about marketing than everyone else are sharing what they know. Cool.

I developed, wrote, reported and edited a marketing newsletter for five years. I wrote about marketing and advertising for Business Week, The New York Times and other publications. I thought I had seen every possible angle. There were a couple of new ones – of course about social media.

The first couple of issues the cover stories of the newsletter were pretty good. I thought this is refreshing – and a couple of issues I actually learned something. Then the articles changed about three days ago – they became your standard web crap, drivel with a marginal headline – one point I already knew and a lot of other ideas I didn’t even bother reading. The of marketing.

So I went on the MarketingProfs web site. I still like this idea so I go to a section called Sponsored Links. Maybe I should advertise? So I fill out a form – I make an ad – well it’s actually two lines but they call it an ad. Then the site asks for $140 for 20,000 impressions and there’s a 7 in there somewhere. I don’t get what this means.

So I call the toll free number and ask what the Sponsored Links are, where they go, what 20,000 impressions means. I get customer service and someone who puts me on hold for 11 minutes and then tells me his supervisor will call me back. Three hours later I have a toll free number that I think is them in my phone – I call back and it’s her, the supervisor. She didn’t leave a message and says something about getting interrupted by another call as she dialed. Right.

I ask about the content. I learn that the free content is not “premium content,” which of course you have to pay for. I do not ask the price and she does not offer one. I ask her if all of their content is for sale? She says something bright and chipper that kind of answers yes.

I get off the phone and figure out that the first content I got for the newsletter must be better and then they started sending the free crap. This probably makes people go to the web site and learn more. Or maybe it just makes me cancel or stop reading it.

So I ask her about the Sponsored Links and she says she can’t help me either but she can find someone who can. I ask if the Sponsored Links are for the web site. She says they are for the newsletters.

An hour later I get a call from an advertising sales rep. He says the sponsored links are self explanatory and he doesn’t sell them. When I persist, he says he’ll walk through the web site with me. He does not know where the Sponsored Links are on the home page. I show them to him. I remind him that he is an advertising sales rep - as nicely as I can while wanting to scream. His dog starts barking in the background.

I ask him the same questions about impressions, reach, etc. and he is impatient and tries to get me off the phone. I picture the dog, big, with a lot of matted hair, barking at the door wanting to be walked or maybe tackling a child or robber.

He sends me a media kit which has no information about sponsored links in it and asks me to send a list of questions and he’ll get me answers. I haven’t done this yet.

Stay tuned for Part II of Learn to Practice What You Preach.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Don't Waste My Time - Six Ways to Improve Your Presentations

Throughout my career as a journalist and communications consultant, I’ve probably been to thousands of presentations. When I wrote a newsletter for marketers my job was to go to conferences around the world then come back and report on what top marketers were saying.

The vast majority of the presentations I saw were incredibly boring. But if I listened there was always something buried inside that I learned something from. Forty five minutes of hell to get one good idea? How many people whose job it wasn’t to sit there would stay in the room?

In all those years I probably saw half a dozen presentations that I’d sit through again. Here’s why:

1. British humor. Martin Sorrell, the former head of the WPP Group, one of the largest advertising and marketing conglomerates in the word, came to talk to the first year Harvard Business School marketing class. He opened with “Our research shows within the first couple of minutes during a lecture most people drift off into sexual fantasy. So here’s to enjoying where you go with that.” Be outrageous. It’s unexpected and incredibly compelling. And you bet we listened to him too.

2. A good schtick. Yiddish says it better than English – they had a gimmick. And they were entertaining. People like Stephen Covey and Tom Peters captivated the room. I felt better about myself listening to their common sense advice confirming much of which I already knew. They packaged it well and told a good story. Trouble was when I went back to my notebook afterwards I couldn’t find anything to write about.

3. No PowerPoint. Whoever invented PowerPoint made a lot of money. But they ruined business presentations. What happens when you use slides? People read them and stop listening to you. And these days you look dated and foolish. The Internet generation has no attention span. That’s the point a Generation Y consultant made at a presentation I saw recently. She showed up in jeans and just talked about why she didn’t listen to the grown-ups. I listened to the whole thing.

4. Got me in the gut. Something has to resonate with the majority of your audience, help me see myself in what you are saying and figure out how this could apply to my business or life right now. Jason Alba of Jib Jab wins this one. He talked about how to build a marketing program around your blog by explaining how he did it with his company. Still haven’t done everything he suggested but took small suggestions and did them right away. And it really helped.

5. Entertaining. Why do you think comedians make the best talk show hosts? Because they can be spontaneously endearing, funny and in the best cases, really smart. They make something we know is ridiculous look more ridiculous. Be Stephen Colbert. His parody of a right wing talk show host is so engaging we can't stop watching. Of course in business you’re supposed to be professional and serious. But you can also let some personality shine through. You’re on stage – work it or I start reaching for my Blackberry.

6. Keep it Simple. What do you want me to walk out of the room remembering? My brain can only hold so much information as I go from session to session. And I may be smarter than a fifth grader, but I don't always remember what they taught me in fifth grade about writing. A refresher: Tell me what you are writing about, give me information to support that, and tell me again. You can call it messaging, or many other buzz word like terms, but it's as simple as that.

6. Know when to shut up. I saw this in a new business presentation recently. The tenor of the room wasn't good because the prospective client was late and rushed. We had a long presentation and didn't communicate well and adapt it to the moment. The meeting just didn't go well because there was too much of us showing work and too little of her engaging with us. We should have shut up and engaged her by offering potential solutions to her challenges but instead we talked about ourselves. She just stopped listening. Yes even smart people screw up sometimes.

So what's your takeaway? If you don't know I'll be the one napping during your next presentation or texting my way through it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 for Scientists and Schools?

This is not a story about dating. Six weeks before October of 2009, the DC Coalition on Public Understanding of Science, a loosely knit group of science cheerleaders from associations, federal agencies, local schools and businesses decided to hold a Meet the Scientist program in October.

We’d been kicking the idea around for months and hoping someone would volunteer to make it happen and that person ended up being me. Why? Because for five years of elementary school I saw almost no science taught to my son. Because I’ve been working in public understanding of science for the last eight years in the DC metro area and we needed it.

Because I love challenges – except in dating. How’s that for an intro?

Ed Rock of the National Science Teachers’ Association is a tech guy and one of our COPUS volunteers. He built two databases for us – one for scientists and the other for schools. The scientists told us what area of science they specialized in, how comfortable they were talking to students and at what level, how to find them and when they were available.

The science teachers (some were schools but most were individual teachers) told us what type of science they were looking for, which class they wanted scientists for, and what their expectations were.

DC COPUS – which has a small core group of about six people – and then a network of maybe 100 more – sent out the request for scientists to everyone it knew. Our best response came from the National Institutes of Health and we don’t really know why. A couple of federal agencies got cold feet and didn’t help but some of their people signed up anyway.

Since we had no budget – a local news release distributed by PR Newswire was out of the question. So I created a local media list and sent out a release that didn’t really go anywhere. I also posted on a free site called Impact Wire which got us some attention.

What worked? Facebook. I posted notifications for teachers and scientists on every page I could find where scientists and science teachers gathered – particularly young ones. I posted on the college and grad school pages of those nearby. AAAS sent out notifications to its Facebook Science Careers’ fans in the Washington, DC area (you can segment your audiences now with the last redesign).

I called some of the bigger scientific organizations in DC and got help from some – the neuroscientists in particular.

For the schools I tried two tactics – in Arlington, VA I went to the science supervisor for the district and she sent it to her entire list of science teachers. In Montgomery County, I randomly selected schools off its web site (it was the only local district that had all its people information on line) and sent to their science leads. In the end, the Arlington administrator worked better. Now we know.

Then Ed the tech guy matched the scientists with the schools. One of our big concerns was we didn’t want to get in the middle of schools talking to scientists because we didn’t have enough people to manage it (there were three of us) and we didn’t want to be responsible for what happened.

We had just over 100 scientists sign up and 50 plus schools. I could have gotten far more schools but I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough scientists. In the end, Ed was able to give each school two choices of scientists and the suggestion that they could have them come in as a team. Emails were sent to scientists and schools telling them what they needed to know. We will do a follow-up survey to see what they thought of it.

One issue is that many scientists don't really know how to talk with kids. But since we had no time for training, we posted information from organizations who do public understanding of science on the COPUS web site and hoped they'd use it.

I promoted the first Meet the Scientist event at Takoma Park Middle School and got the local paper to cover it as well as the district. A second event held by Johns Hopkins a few days later got the Washington Post.

October is almost over and it’s working. Yippee. Can we duplicate it somewhere else and do it the same way? I’m not sure but I’m going to try.

Some links that will be helpful:

Press Release for Meet the Scientist

COPUS DC Facebook Page

Before Scientists Go to Schools - Resources

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ninety Two Year-old Aunt Helen Vs. The Web Developers

Web sites have come a long way in the past five years, which became evident at two presentations I saw yesterday before one of the communications groups I belong too. Twenty six dollars for browning roast beef, honey mustard dressing, and the salad greens I buy at the market and scoop out with tongs.

The space was nice but the Topaz Hotel should be ashamed of itself. My local deli would have done a much better job.

First of all these were old presentations. The world is changing way too fast to do presentations pretty much on anything that was developed more than a year ago. You used to be able to get away with 3-5 years when there was a computer and only the beginnings of the Internet.

I designed my web site two years ago and I’m embarrassed at how dated it is. And it’s much better than these.

What was wrong with these sites? Let’s start with the one for senior citizens, whose presenter's lessons learned after four years of research and development on a plain HTML site were:

• Nothing should be more than two clicks away.
• Don’t clutter up the page.
• Use the same headings on every page for consistency.
• Organize your content organized clearly and simply.

Duh - isn't that Web 1.0? Did I miss a decade or something.

Maybe these were Big Ideas to the federal government web designers, the ones who make sites that have so much stuff on them you can never find what you are looking for. The search engine was Boolean, which basically means it was created by developers who know how to look things up on the sites they build.

There was not a word said about any of the things that matter right now - SEO, integration with other forms of media, branding, whether or not anyone uses them, what they think? They are working on a redesign of the site.

Somewhere in there was one piece of information I could use. It had a button that would help make the font bigger. Yipee.

To be fair, at the time this site was designed elderly people were just learning to turn on a computer. Now I’d match 92 year-old great aunt Helen with any teenager I know.

Part two of the worst web site presentations ever tomorrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Happens in Vegas. . . Can Be Shared A Little

Went to a panel discussion on branding your organization through social media the other day - one of the better ones I've been too. Learned a few things too. Here are some highlights:

Google Wave - Haven't had a chance to look at it yet but hear it is the next best thing out there and will give other social media sites a run for their money. Check it out.

Social Media Policy - A smart one. On office time if you go on Facebook you are a representative of your company. Don't post anything you wouldn't say to your mother at a family dinner. After hours you can be a little more risque but remember it can come back to haunt you.

Should You Keep Work and Life Separate on Facebook? - This question always comes up. Facebook now has enough privacy settings that you can literally segment your groups into different sets of fans and only let one group see certain posts while others can see posts more applicable to them.

Branding in the Social Space - Every company and individual has the opportunity to develop a personality on line that is uniquely yours. That's how you brand. Figure out who you are and what you want to be and make sure you emphasize that. If you don't have a personality (seen this a lot on blind dates) then it's going to be pretty tough to make a social media one.

Facebook Advertising - One participant had a lot of success with this by spending very little money. His ROI was fantastic. Again though what are you trying to accomplish with advertising? The Facebook words you can use for SEO on your ads can be pretty limiting. But they're getting better.

Cross Promotion - I tweet, blog, Facebook, Plaxo, YouTube and cross promote my business and products on all of them. How much you toot your own horn is up to you and your audience. How much will they tolerate? Best bet is to connect all of them and then figure it out.

Lawyers Online - The loss of control freaks them out - totally. How can you protect yourself if it's up there for everyone to see? They're still trying to figure it out.

Many Companies and Associations Still Not Using Social Media - NOOOOO - REALLY - they're not. And they're still in business, thank you very much. You have to start with your customer base. Are they on there? How are they using social media? Are you trying to reach young professionals - then you'd better be there. Is your client base white men over the age of 55 - social not so much. Know your audience. That's pretty basic.

There's more but it's my birthday and I'm blogging. Done for the day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wild Wild West of Internet About to End

Today was a win for PR people, reputable journalists and those with ethics. I cannot count how many bloggers out there refuse to cover the clients I pitch (even when they really are different and useful).

Why - because they live by "pay to play" a form of marketing that fools the masses into believing that the products they are covering - and what they say about them - is an honest opinion. But the truth is these blogs and their writers are for sale. If you pay them, they will write about you. If not, well shrug, shrug, shrug.

Reputable journalists hate this because they are bound by ethics and rules. They can't take gifts. They can't take money. And most important, they try not to be sleazy.

Recently I realized just how bad it had gotten when I got an email from a personal finance blogger who just flat out said, “Tell your client to spend some of the marketing budget they are spending on you here on my blog and I’ll write about him.” WOW.

Sorry bloggers but your reign of ethics free writing is taking a big hit. According to an article in today’s New York Times, the F.T.C. said that beginning on Dec. 1st, 2009:

Bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, particularly if they are paid for placement.

Celebrities will need to disclose any ties to companies, should they promote products on a talk show or on Twitter.

Advertisers are losing the ability to gush about results that differ from what is typical — for instance, from a weight loss supplement.

The important thing is that the government is beginning to impose rules on the Internet, similar to the same sorts of regulations that other forms of media, like television or print must live by. They must have some powerful lobbyists out there.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marketing with No Money

Jason Alba of Jibber Jabber an online executive recruiting firm, gave the best talk I’ve ever seen on social media marketing. He was fired from his job a couple of years ago and launched this company, authored the book I’m on LinkedIn – Now What? and is finishing a second book on Facebook.

Despite his rambling, self-deprecating style Alba is very smart. He lives in Utah and built a nationally known company by sitting behind his computer.

And he did it without spending any money on marketing. Bravo Jason.

Here are four ways that Jason marketed his business without spending a dime:

1. Built His Network

As an executive recruiter network building and relationship management is Alba's specialty. He says the idea behind social media marketing is to create a network of evangelists – people who love you – people who will recommend you – people who will say great things about you.

Research says people have to see your brand at least 7X before they recognize it. So the strategy should be based on getting it in front of them in the most ways possible.

Alba's social media network includes Multiple Blogs – LinkedIn – Company Newsletter – Facebook – Communities/Groups – Twitter – Books - Articles

Your network should be built carefully and nurtured. It’s the guts of your business.

Alba recommends using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to track all of your contacts, many of whom are in different parts of the social networking sphere.

Segment your contacts and send information out to them regularly both by putting it in their in-box and having them come to you.

2. Used Email as a Branding Tool

You want buzz – people talking about you so you should generate interest in every way you connect with people. One place people forget to pitch their brand is in their email signature which should be used as a billboard for your company.

Figure out what message you are sending with it now (Do you have one?) and if not add one that distills your sales message into a sentence. Mine is now “Sharing health and science with everyone.” It’s not perfect but at least it says what I do.

Remember you can also paste your email signature into messages to communities, your LinkedIn, Facebook and other networks, and other places where you answer questions or participate in the discussion.

3. Got His Name Out There All the Time

Brag – Make a video, PowerPoint or slide show about your business. The presentation can go up on your LinkedIn page, your web site, and on other venues like Facebook. It will humanize your business and let everyone quickly get what you do and what your edge is.

Join groups – Alba says he’s found Yahoo Groups most active. The community groups are better because they are centered around a specific topic. The PR value of having someone post a positive experience with your business is priceless.

You can also give webinars that will make you sound smart and help others understand how smart you are.

Alba says at last count he had 7 blogs – some of which are written by others. He’s a devotee of blogging every day so people see your name in front of them every day. I have three blogs and strive for once a week. There’s only so much a busy entrepreneur can do.

He also regularly leaves comments on other's blogs and has built a network of links from his blogs to others.

3. Focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Alba’s growth strategy is blogging to build links and traffic to his site, other blogs, pages, etc. He started by developing a network of bloggers he could have relationships with – those who would link him, mention him or write an entire post about him. He always makes them aware of new and enticing posts. A recent one that got major attention: Depression in the Job Search.

Of course it’s great to be covered by the mega bloggers but getting their attention can be very hard. So start by building a large network of people who each have tiny audiences or you can start your own community and invite others to join.

(This is from me - many industries that I work with have online lists of the top 100 or 200 blogs in their area of expertise. The lists include names, contact information, etc. It's a great way to find out who's talking about your client's business - what they are saying - how they position themselves - and get a free up-to-date media list).

Twitter is also a great way to promote your blog - you have to strike a balance between too much tweeting your own horn and what works but once you find it - it's a great way to build readership.

You have to give your blog readers the ability to sign up and receive your blog via email – it gets your message in front of them if they don’t come to you.

4. Lead the Conversation

Alba says if you want to build your company then write a book. These days anyone can author a book and e-publish it. If you write a book about what you do, with a compelling title and smart advice people can learn from and it will help your business a lot.

Why? One reason is that most media programs – TV in particular – like authors. They can hold the book up in front of their audience. It makes them look smart to have read your book. And everyone sells more books.

If you write an e-book use online video, web sites, blogs, news programs, etc. that will link back to your book. An e-book can really help your clients understand what you do and how you do it well, as can white papers.

Should you charge for the e-book? Probaby not for the first one.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't Let FAQ Writers Design Your Web Site

I love calling a company when I'm on its web site and telling whoever I get on the phone that I can't figure out how to find what I need on it. Then comes the polite little chuckle of agreement and an explanation of how to go five layers deep to still not find what I asked for.

Is that how you want your employees to think of your web site - as an embarrassing little joke?

Ever waited on line at a retail store and watched how slowly the line moved. Think of your web site like that. If people have to click more than two times or wait more than a few seconds for something to load they're done and gone. Bye, bye.

I conduct research for a living - then write about and market what I learn. And I can tell you most web sites suck. Far too many are on par with the owners' manuals of technology products - they were designed by people who don't need to read the manual or use the FAQs or find something on your web site. And we wonder why our bounce rates are so high.

Now we know more about site design and have more cool bells and whistles. But how do you get your web site to brand you - to help others find you - to create satisfied happy customers?

Seth Godin, who is one of the smartest marketers out there, put out a list of questions on his blog that you should ask and answer before redesigning your site. I've deleted and added a few and organized them differently - but here's his list. Hope it helps.

What is the goal of the site?

Are we trying to close sales?

Are we telling a story?

Are we driving people to take an action – what is it?

Are we earning permission to follow up?

Are we hoping that people will watch or learn?

How can we best manage this project?

Who are we trying to please?

Do we have to please the boss?

Is impressing a certain kind of person important? Which kind?

How many people do you need – what will they do?

Who needs to update this site? How often?

How often can we afford to overhaul this site?

How do we connect with our target audiences?

Who are we trying to reach? Is it everyone? Our customers? A certain kind of prospect?

What are the sites that this group has demonstrated they enjoy interacting with?

How many times a month would we like people to come by? For how long?

How do we spread the word about our site?

Do we need people to spread the word using various social media tools?

What are the best ways to continue connection with our audiences?

Do we want people to call us?

How many times a month would we like people to come by? For how long?

How can we make it easier for people to find what they need on our site?

Do you track the information that people go to your web site to find?

Do you analyze the questions that people ask when they call in and are trying to find info on your site? What do they tell you?

Have you asked your web site visitors how easy it is to find information they need or make a transaction?

Have you brought them in, sat them in front of you and watched the process by which they search your site?

Do they get what they need in a couple of clicks? Do they get frustrated? Have you looked for ways to address this?

Do we make it easy for customers to contact us and get answers?

Do real people answer customer questions that come in through your web site?

Do you add questions that come in from site visitors to your list of FAQs on a regular basis?

Do you send canned answers to all of your customers who write to you?

Do you revisit these answers on a regular basis and see if they address what people are asking?

Do you track what people who go to your forums for answers to questions they cannot get on your web site ask?

Is there a way customers can follow up with a real person if they need to?

How do we maximize our web site for SEO?

Are there ongoing news and updates that need to be presented to people?

Is the site part of a larger suite of places online where people can find out about us, or is this our one sign post?

Is that information high in bandwidth or just little bits of data?

Does showing up in the search engines matter? If so, for what terms? At what cost?

Will we be willing to compromise any of the things above in order to achieve this goal?

Will the site need to be universally accessible? Do issues of disability or language or browser come into it?

What's the best way to keep our budget in line?

How do we best prioritize our options?

How much money do we have to spend? How much time?

What's our time line?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Soldiers Go Social

Welcome to the military on Facebook, Twitter and some other social media sites. Probably our largest, most bureaucratic organization – the transformation into social hasn’t been easy for those in uniform. Think about it though – what a great way for soldiers to communicate and to find new recruits.

At the Adweek DC Conference this week, Colonel Mike Jones, of the Army National Guard Strength Command, told stories about his experiences leading social media efforts in his branch for the last two years. He opened with a story.

Some of the generals love Twitter but they don't necessarily know how to use it. So recently I had to tell a four star, 'Sir you don’t have to tweet it every morning when you arrive at the Pentagon.'"”

Jones tales of helping the military enter the social media world are laced with humor. There’s something we can all learn from them. Here are some highlights:

Learning to let go

It was a big leap for us, Jones said, because we always have goals and metrics and a plan. We do have the ability to engage with our product and deliver it remotely. But to let soldiers tell their stories in an unfiltered way was a big change for us. It meant providing a deeper sense of connectivity but it also meant giving up a lot of control.

Tossing out the formats

We looked at our competitors, other branches of the military, and they were trying to make their social media sites look just like their web sites. They have all this gorgeous art and they want to use it. But that’s not what social media is. My goal was to make our site look like a friend’s site. It’s not very attractive, and kind of plain. You have to look like the media you are in.

Changing the rules

Many of our people love Twitter. They will hear a buzzword and say, "I’m going to go tweet about this." The generals see words like hell or damn and they want you to take them down immediately then question why we're up there in the first place. You have to explain to them that social media is different and make sure they get it. Because if they don’t buy into the concept, they won’t support you, and then you’re done."

A social army

We have 300,000 soldiers who bought into and live our product. When we started in social media a couple of years ago, there were already 700 power users in the Guard on Facebook. We decided to let them help us. They wanted to volunteer and be involved. So we use them as moderators – and their passion is conveyed to this community.


We want to be the best in class in our industry. We use social media for leads, enlistments, to talk about engagements and build traffic to our web sites. But it's been a real learning experience. We thought once we got out there everyone would come. But it wasn’t that simple – we overshot and were disappointed. Now it’s a slower more natural build.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Embrace Your Inner Bitch and Use it For Good PR

That's what Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue did to save her job recently. Of course, she was already labeled as a super monster in the film "Devil Wears Prada," so it's not like the fact that she is a haute couture bitch is a stunner.

But how many times have women heard that successful women are bitches and successful men are smart. Female PR people and marketers who aren't afraid to tell the truth and be pushy are shot down by men all the time. I worked in a company like that once. My boss would sit there nodding as I spoke, his eyes glazing over and then finally responded with a "Good Point," when I was done talking. Then he'd ignore everything I'd said.

His comments were always followed by a number two who would repeat what my boss just said, adjusting it just enough so it sounded like it was her idea. Then a love fest of the highest order would erupt. The rest of the smart women in the room just wanted to crawl under the table and die. Number two was a bitch but never, ever in front of anyone male or who mattered. Why? Because she grew up in corporate America and had sucked up her whole life. She didn't know how to do it any other way.

Well guess what? According to Tina Brown, founder of The Daily Beast and former editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, bitchiness can be creative, smart and attention-getting. Wintour was about to get replaced with a younger, hotter, more malleable version of herself. So she struck a deal with documentary film producer R.J. Cutler to film her life. She did something it must be really hard for her to do, gave away creative control. She combined the documentary's release with a special Fashion Week event that was a roaring success, and now she's back on top.

So what's the lesson here for PR people and marketers? Most PR people are scared. They put out fires not start them. They tell clients what they want to hear. They are terrified they'll get fired if their client gets negative publicity. They won't go out on a limb and tell a client what they really think - or perhaps they don't even know what would work better. They water down everything to the point where it says absolutely nothing. And then when they can't sell the story they put a bunch of 22 year-olds on the phone and make them sell it.

Anyone who reads my blog knows I have issues with talking points. What sells is something that makes me care, that is genuine. Bitchy people are interesting. They have character. They make mistakes. They fix them. The get in trouble. They figure out how to get out of it.

The best way to get a reporter to write about your client is to let them follow them around for a couple of days and write about what goes on behind the scenes - the decisions that are made. So what if it might be a little negative. I subscribe to the belief that all press is good press. A negative story gets a lot of attention - these days more than ever.

Years ago I wrote an article for Manhattan, Inc. magazine that was immensely popular called "Jerry Della Femina's Fast Pitch". It was the inside story of how a gutsy Madison Avenue ad agency went after new work. Jerry got it - he knew it would help him and it did. And I reported on some of the struggles in pulling the pitch together, but for the most part it was a positive story. And it helped him cement his place on top.

Here's the polar opposite of that. A woman I know vaguely through business has built hers around writing and speaking about Gen X and Gen Y - teaching the grown-ups how to manage their kids in the workplace. She has this whole spiel about the conflict between the generations, how the millenials are different, etc. The Washington Post came to one of her talks and covered it.

You could almost hear the 20-something reporter gnashing her teeth as you read the story. The writer pointed out that the material presented was irrelevant, dated and a combination of what a lot of other people had said about the same topic over the years. She questioned why baby boomers paid for the talk.

Quite frankly, the reporter had a point. The talk is entertaining, but it's all in the delivery. I've seen this presentation by others and it fails to address the realities of today's marketplace. The sense of entitlement in the millenial generation raised when everyone won a trophy at soccer and was coddled, is gone. They are getting fired. They can't get jobs. And none of these "generational consultants" address that in their talk. They're still saying the same things they were five years ago about people who don't exist anymore.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from the woman who felt offended by her Post coverage. The email explained how she'd received all this hate mail after the article appeared and how "hate should be addressed with knowledge." It was defensive and kind of creepy.

Was she wrong to let the Washington Post reporter in? Absolutely not. The press she got was pretty good actually - it was a long feature with photos and an overview of what she does. Though the reporter was skeptical, she noted the audience was happy. I would have let it go and been happy with the coverage. But people can't take it when others criticize them. They get offended by bitchiness of others. And they feel like they have to fight back.

So good for Anna Wintour - who wasn't afraid to be exactly who she is. As Tina Brown put it "Anna’s appeal is that she has no interest in pretending to be human. . . She showed her inner vampire."

Another woman waiting to catch a glimpse of Anna Wintour on the street at a Fashion Week event put said it even better. "Everyone loves a bitch."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Read All About It - Yachters May Save the Day

There is an old saying that you can't get something for nothing. Well newspapers have disregarded that over the last few years by putting much of their content on the Web for free then watching their print circulation die.

Online advertising never became the draw newspaper ad execs thought it would, and as a result many are bleeding money.

But The Newport Daily News (Rhode Island's wealthy boating enclave daily) took a bold marketing step recently, according to an article on Newsweek's online version. It started charging for online content in an effort to strengthen its print market.

What happened? Readers started buying the newspaper again. Since NDN started charging for its online reading, the 13,000 circulation publication has seen daily print sales jump by 200 per day.

Can a publication devoted to yachting and the high life get the attention of an industry stuck in a time warp? It is starting too.

Since the experiment worked - other newspapers are looking into copying the marketing strategy. And well they should, it's about time somebody in that business got smarter about marketing that will save print.

Read the full story at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We are So Over Facebook Mom

I will NOT FRIEND MY MOM. That was my 13 year-old son’s rallying cry until it became a condition of him having what he called then “A Facebook.” In the past year, he’s de-friended me once – because he was supposed to be doing his homework and he was posting on Facebook which I of course had to comment on.

But a conniving babysitter found his password and had him re-friend me while he wasn’t looking. Tough break.

The Brits saw it first. The Guardian reports that just 50-percent of 15-to-24-year-olds in the United Kingdom had a profile on a social networking site in 2009, compared to 55 percent in 2008. This is the first time that number has dropped since the Facebook and MySpace boom a few years ago.

But the tail-end of the Generation Xers and their younger siblings still want Facebook. The number of 25-to-34-year-olds that use these sites grew from 40-46% last year.

Will the United States be next? Will social networking become uncool? Will we 30-50 somethings become the next generation of Facebook users mocked by our teens?

Listen up advertisers. If you work with or have teenage kids – two out of two for me – you know that if their parents do it they will stop. It’s kind of like the New York adage – “Once the bridge and tunnel crowd get there (meaning Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens – Staten Island doesn’t count) the cool people stop going.” We parents are the bridge and tunnel crowd. We’ve ruined it.

But if the kids leave social media where will they go? I’m seeing an upsurge in texting even off the current base which is quite high. After all texting is pretty private, and other teens always text back. Why sit on a computer when you can do it from your IPhone?

Or maybe, just maybe – meeting face-to-face (Anyone remember hanging out at 7-Eleven or the local pizza parlor?) will stage a comeback.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Is Your CEO Over Soundbited?

Jon Stewart is having a field day with Fox News demonstrating how it grabs onto an issue like a pit bull (with or without lipstick) and soundbites it to death. The idea of course is to influence public opinion by repeating the same thing over and over again. And on a mass scale it can work although in the newsroom well it's just plain scary.

We all know that the more you say something the more credible it is right?

No one would ever accuse Fox News of trying to bias viewers, well maybe not this week.

In the August 3rd episode of the Daily Show Comedy Central's Stewart demonstrates how you influence public opinion (or at the very least the Fox News audience) by repetition, attributing it to the man on the street, and then elevating it to a new level. It tried to put in the link but it doesn't work so just Google it.

First the talking head Ken Doll journalist Steve introduces a talking point on a Fox show that the Cash for Clunkers Program - which is working by the way - is running out of money and an abject failure for the administration. Then they show video clips on a later broadcast of two "citizens" in two different cities making the exact same point in town hall meetings.

But their point goes one better because if Obama can't run Cash for Clunkers how can he run healthcare?

Next the same "newsperson" reports it again as news. Finally we see the litany of Fox hosts - we all know who they are - who pick up the same talking points and run with them.

What's disturbing and yet very funny is the way Stewart lays it out for us without drawing any value judgetments. Some of the talking points include:

Bad program
Too much business
Running out of Money
Too effective
If can't run Cash for Clunkers How Can they Run Healthcare?

So my point is not just another liberal rant - it's really for marketers and media people. I have been watching a lot of morning and evening and even daytime news shows lately. It's part of my job folks. And what I'm seeing is that everyone is talking pointed to death.

They repeat the same things over and over again. They know exactly how to segway into the next talking point. The hosts let them get away with it. And it doesn't look real. They're not really credible because they are way too rehearsed.

What is the line you should walk between preparing your CEO for an interview and making him or her sound not only like they've practiced too death but also that they can't say anything but what's on the TV monitor in front of them?

Well here's my first thought - if he or she doesn't sound genuine to you - and be honest with yourselves not pandering - you need to shake it up a bit.

Throw in an anecdote that makes him seem human. A few uhs are not the end of the world.

More on this in the next post.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

You Said What? Remember Social Media is Public Marketing Folks

I've written about this before - but it's an ongoing problem as more and more people join us in social media land.

For those of us who use Facebook professionally and personally and don't split our pages - we sometimes have friends that post bad stuff. Not bad in the horrible sense, but bad in the sense that I don't want clients or prospective ones reading posts make me cringe. During the elections it was radical politics. Now it's reverted to sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. Oh that 70s generation.

It's not just the posts but the photos. Look at the one on this page of a drunk, passed out teenager from the book I'm writing. Would I post that on Facebook? Of course not. But I see a lot of bare midriffs and butt shots and drunk passed out teenagers. Stuff that is well not in very good taste. Bad idea.

I don't want my clients reading stuff I wouldn't tell them in conversation. And I don't talk in gibberishy client speak. I'm direct. Sometimes I say stuff I shouldn't say. I can silence a room. But I'm not an idiot.

Many people keep separate Facebook pages for work and personal lives but as a small and growing company, it's not that simple for me. I want people I know professionally to see my human side. I want my business contacts to know I have a life. And it's nice to know that my clients aren't just that, but also have kids and spouses and dogs and interests outside of work.

Yet I have all these people from high school who act on Facebook like well - they are still in high school. And I've got a cousin in Hollywood who is hilarious but the stuff he talks about - well you can just imagine.

At least they are not boring - but they often do go too far.

My cousin hides his posts so my friends can't see them, but I can check up on him privately. That's one solution.

The captain of my high school football team is a different story. He's a professional guy and the stuff he's putting up I'm sure he doesn't want his kids, let alone members of his union team, to see. That mentality should stay in the shop sir. On Facebook you sound like a sexist and under-loved jerk.

Maybe he just hasn't read the zillion articles about college kids looking for jobs and prospective employers checking their social media pages. Who can forget the infamous Bristol Palin "fiancee " Levi whose MySpace page said something like - I want to be with as many girls as possible and I never want to get married. Jon Stewart found it, feasted on it, and it came down very fast.

The bottom line is Facebook and everything else on the Internet is public. IT'S MARKETING. It tells people who you are and how you think. It tells them how smart or not smart you are. It tells them what keeps you up at night.

Do you really want that stuff you're writing that you wouldn't say in a client meeting out there in Internet land? My guess is no.

My rule is simple: If you wouldn't say it to your boss don't post it. It can easily come back to haunt you.

Do I post personal things? Yes. My last Facebook post asked for "Advice to Survive Living with a 14 year-old boy." The answers were funny - from send him to relatives for the whole summer to Cosmopolitans. People responded in droves which is great.

Of course, I forgot that my 14 year-old boy reads that - but it's not news to him that he drives me crazy. And it makes me seem human to clients. But dirty jokes - no. Sexual references - no. High school drunkenness stories - been there, done that, writing a book about it - not going to write about that on Facebook.

So what do I do now with people like that? I used to cut them off right away. Now I send them a message and tell them the truth. If they stop - fine. If they don't stop that's their decision. But they are no longer on my fan page.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Manipulating Public Opinion Through Twitter

That damn Twitter bird again. I can’t get away from him. The healthcare industry and its legislative and media champions have become experts on using Twitter to get people to pay attention to their point of view – right, wrong, false, true, it doesn’t really matter. Who needs Harry and Louise when you have so much information to re-disseminate?

How many companies and people have made a name for themselves by searching the Web, then tweeting the links of what they find to thousands of followers? is a big one – some of its guides do nothing more than pick a topic, throw in an introductory sentence and put up links. Pretty simple stuff.

Twitter is a center of the healthcare debate. Public plan advocates push their agenda. Those who oppose it are pushing their own. Why is the White House with its great and powerful knowledge of the Web – not on Twitter? Because there’s too much junk on it.

We have become information junkies – all of us – on the topics that we care and don’t really care about.

Healthcare raises ire and passion. There are gut wrenching stories about people who lost everything because they couldn’t afford to pay doctors, hospitals, etc. for health insurance. There are gut wrenching stories about people who can’t afford healthcare at all so they die. There are even more gut wrenching stories about people who health insurers decide they won’t cover when they find out they are really sick.

A friend of mine had breast cancer. I say had because we all hope it is past tense. Her doctor ordered a stream of tests because her sister, who is in her mid-forties I think, had it when she was even younger. They found cancer. She had surgery – she is doing fine.

Her insurance company is refusing to pay for the tests because they say there is no family history of breast cancer. A sister evidently is lateral – which means she’s not part of her history. A friend of mine who works as a nurse practitioner said there was no reason to think because her sister had breast cancer she might have it. EXCEPT SHE DID and he saved her life. Her life isn’t worth the tests?

All of the people who say we don't want bureaucrats involved in our healthcare decisions (that's the argument of the Right which has plenty of money to pay for the best of care) are ignoring the fact that low level gate keepers are making decisions about what care the insurance companies pay for. Who gets treated for cancer and who doesn't. Is that better?

OK got off the topic on what some would call a liberal rant.

A lot of healthcare companies are raising their profile and making new connections through Twitter. It’s a great big Tweeting world out there.

But if you’re going to use Twitter – use it well. Learn from what the news organizations are doing. They are Tweeting about their best stories. Their journalists are Tweeting about their work. Original work.

Don’t be lazy. While Tweeting about the conversations of others may help you add followers it won’t help you build your brand.Anyone can post a link. Not everyone can add to the conversation.

So bring something new to the party. Give people information they don’t already have. Be provocative. The hell with what others are saying. Talk about what you know. Link to everyone you can. Build your followers. Build your company as a knowledge base. And keep track of the media in your business and what they’re Tweeting. You’ll be happy you did.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Will Twitter Die or Outlive Us like Fleas and Cockroaches?

According to a recent poll conducted by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation, Twitter's popularity will drop in the next two years. Are they right? Did the Wall Street people predict the coming crash? Personally, I'm not sure yet.

IABC's online poll received more than 450 responses from communications executives around the world. A few highlights:

* 67 percent of respondents said Twitter will not be as popular two years from now as it is today. Of that group 64 percent said Twitter will still be around, but less popular, while 36 percent predicted Twitter will fade away.

* 28 percent of respondents said Twitter's popularity will continue. Of those, 56 percent said Twitter would be used even more frequently while 43 percent said it's popularity will stay at current levels.

The study pointed to Twittering from Iran and about Michael Jackson's death as illustrations of how the micro blogging site continues to gain new users and ways of sharing information.

In another IABC survey, 1,500 communications professionals were asked if and how they used Twitter inside a company to keep employees engaged.

* 52% said they were not currently using Twitter nor did they plan to use it in future

* 27% said they planned to use Twitter in future

* 21% said they are using Twitter now.

The survey found that social networking sites Facebook, LinkedIn and Yammer were the most popular among corporate users for internal communications.

FULL DISCLOSURE - I had no clue what Yammer is. So here's an explanation for all of us neophytes. It's their words not mine.

Yammer is a tool for making companies and organizations more productive through the exchange of short frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you working on?”

As employees answer that question, a feed is created in one central location enabling co-workers to discuss ideas, post news, ask questions, and share links and other information.

The basic Yammer service is free. Companies can pay to claim and administer their networks.

Oh and one more IABC survey highlight. If you're the CEO of a company no matter what size, chances are you've not delved into social media just yet. 56% of top executives told IABC researchers that they don't use any social media. Maybe they're just too busy collecting big paychecks and trying to stay afloat in this lousy economy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Marketers Salute Michael Jackson

Here's a great YouTube Video done by prisoners as a tribute to MJ.

Like everyone else in the world I'm writing about Michael Jackson today - his passing is a loss for all. His music spanned decades and generations - recently my nine year-old daughter heard "I'll be There," and I explained to her that this was Michael Jackson when he was close to her age - that he had a long history with music. She knew who he was but had no idea of his history - to her he was just an MTV star.

Despite all his troubles, Jackson was a brilliant marketer. He put MTV on the map with Thriller which sold hundreds of millions of records and was a staple at every teen party throughout the 1980s. Kids sat and watched the video a 100 times, copied his moves and danced to his songs.

One of the smartest things he ever did, which evidently kept him afloat as he continued to bleed money, was buy the rights to a couple hundred songs by the Beatles. Although the price tag was $47 million plus he knew that the value of that music was priceless. He understood the music business and what would sell.

What made Michael Jackson an amazing marketer was his creativity - his penchant for changing styles, for experimentation, for taking chances and getting them right. Like Madonna who is also of his era and not much older, he made choreography and dance a staple in the music business and brought it to the stage. There would have been no Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Paula Abdul and hundreds of other performers who used dance to enhance their shows without Michael Jackson. Rock and roll was just a band before he upped the ante.

As a dancer, I have always admired his courage and the freshness of his work - it's mastery really - he doesn't just sing and put on a show - he marketed a concept, a feeling, a way of thinking about the world that's crystal clear. More power to him.

Of course, the pedophile accusation was dreadful for his career, but I read that he was about to make a comeback with a series of sold-out shows in London. The Europeans are much more forgiving, particularly when you are found innocent. I do think he was a bit wacko (not an original thought) but beyond that I just don't know. I wasn't there.

Traveling and don't want to stay on too long but that's my thought for the day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why Do Most PR People Play it Safe?

Always good for me to go to DC Ad Club event – it’s so hard to find really creative people in this market. New York was flush with them but DC is so cautious, much of the PR is words like effective, appropriate – PR people are into consultant speak.

I put out a call for designers recently and the stuff I saw was not just boring, it wasn’t creative. Stock photos, dull headlines, a tribute to safeness.

Come on people – we live in a world of clutter. If you want to cut through you have to think no I will not say “outside of the box.” You just have to think.

Don’t people know the difference between good and bad design? Good writing and fluff? Don’t they care?

Anyway went to a lunch to see this year’s DC area Addy award winners and it was an eye opener. The grand prize winner was a real breath of fresh air.

Glorified Spies

The grand prize winner was the Redhead Companies, and two young, enthusiastic redheads presented. They did a campaign for the Spy Museum, sort of a take-off on the Cold War but with modern day imaging, bold colors and very striking.

Their creative plan of attack was very simple “Be conspicuous.” They created “Metro Station Domination.” When you got off the train at the Spy Museum’s metro stop you couldn’t miss them. The ads were everywhere. Some of the best headlines:

Most Museums Contain Donated Treasures – Most of Ours are Stolen

This is the Only Museum that Requires a Fake ID to Get In

An actual CIA spy called and asked for posters of the ads. Ticket sales were up 18%. Web traffic was up 57%. And what happened? They got canned.

Fun of Playing the Lottery

Another winner was Smith Gifford which did a series of “Dodge Ball” ads for the Virginia lottery. The idea was to get across the fun of playing but not the fun of winning – which was a departure from the traditional lottery ads which push “You’ve Gotta Be in It to Win It.”

When they presented the creative a scientists stood up and said “Technically you win when you don’t get hit.” That provided some inspiration, they realized it was not about hitting but about watching someone else get hit. Favorability ratings shot up.

National Train Day

This campaign was done by Arnold Advertising for Amtrak and it was clear that they spent a fortune creating National Train Day. Seven different artists created materials in four different cities: NY, DC, Chicago and LA. Thousands of man hours were expended. They gave away a week on a train on Wheel of Fortune. Ninety three stations across the country held train station events.

Some of the results – 140 stories in 28 markets, more than 70 videos on YouTube, yada, yada, yada. If you give me a couple million bucks for a campaign I can make a big splash too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Twitter is Boring or is it just Celebrities?

Don't you just love my Twitter bird?

Nobody mocks Twitter better than the late night comedians. Conan O'Brien, in his first week as host of the Tonight Show, demonstrated just how mundane and ridiculous it can be.

Do I really need to know that my high school boyfriend's wife, who we both went to school with, is off to get her car cleaned? Or that an acquaintance has taken some bogus quiz defining what wild animal they would be? Or that a friend is in a hotel room listening to the couple next door have sex? Will this enrich my life? I don't think so.

Most of my Twittering is pretty boring too but I try to keep it business related. What am I working on - what is the big question of the day - what frustrates me - in just a few characters it's hard to rant. That's for blogging.

Anyway this clip is about celebrity Twittering and if you didn't know that they were just like you and me you will soon. The trouble is I have to question who is really Twittering for them - some publicists intern perhaps? Does Miley Cyrus really wait in line for a latte or is just her PR reps way of showing she's a regular teen? Does Ashton Kutcher go to the supermarket to shop for salad fixings - and would he tell the world about it?

Enjoy this - it's very funny.">

And this just in from the Online Examiner:

"Faced with complaints about impersonators, Twitter said this weekend on its blog that it intends to launch a verification system to identify the real celebrities on the site.

The company intends to test the service this summer, but beyond that, many details aren't yet known. Such a program might help the site -- but might also expose it to further liability. One critical detail that's still unclear is whether Twitter intends to charge for the service."

Does that mean the publicists will have to pay?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Media Coverage during the Apocalypse – How it's Changed

Over the last 18 months I have become a student of media – a witness to the apocalypse of traditional media – print, broadcast, radio – and a student of the new. When it comes to pitching today's media - we are all just babies - figuring it out as we go along. Maybe with more crying on our end.

In my areas of expertise – healthcare, education and science – I’ve seen entire departments in the world’s most prestigious organizations – the Washington Post, the New York Times, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, AP, Reuters, CNBC, the networks - all have all shrunk their ranks dramatically.

If you think that the online versions of name brand media have remained well staffed while the others have shrunk – you are wrong. Online is where much of the new staffing went – the reporters, producers, editors, etc. – were young, dynamic and expendable. Many of those departments are decimated - it's all gone to freelancers who they try to portray as on staff. The bad part for PR people - finding them is really hard and 99% of the stuff you send doesn't get passed on.

Here’s some of the things I’ve learned about the new media reality:

Regional newspapers, though hard hit, have kept beat reporters to maintain reporting on important local issues – the Chicago Tribune is much less likely to let a healthcare reporter go than is USA Today. These are a great source of potential hits – if you can find a local angle. And these days anything that appears in print also shows up online.

Blogs are the best resource for those who want quick and widespread coverage. Blog reporters have winnowed down to two types – the seasoned journalist and the newbie who is trying to make a mark for herself. Both have to fill a lot of space. And be provocative - the goal is to stimulate debate.

Story pitches have gotten really simple – If you thought story pitches were getting simplistic before – now they’re a reality TV show title. Editors and producers want quick, hard hitting, why now and why should I care. In the length of a tweet. The days of page long story packages with explanations of why this trend is important or why this product is the newest and greated should be covered are dead and gone. No one cares. Go to HARO and PR Newswire to see what people are covering. Very instructive. Also follow reporters on Twitter.

Scrap your long media releases. If it can't be said in under 600 words you shouldn't be saying it. And the long quotes make the client happy but the reporter could care less. Your headline and first paragraph are key word sources - but don't sacrifice content. Better to include a second quote or name with the story pitch of someone who can validate it and has no apparent vested interest in doing so. If you don't know what I mean, you're in the wrong business.

The economy is the story and will be for awhile to come. Something that saves money, creates jobs, shows teamwork, helps others in need are all good stories. If you can make them come out of a human interest story or adversity – more the better.

Entrepreneurship is back. If someone is starting a business in this new economy turn it into a story. Figure out how it links to today’s market, come up with a human interest angle and you’ve got something salable. Saw recently a query from a Nightly Business Report producer on HARO looking for a small business in New York City that is struggling in this economy. The producer had to post that? People aren’t doing their jobs if she didn’t have a stack of possibilities.

You have to pick up the phone. The days of email pitching are over. Oh you may get lucky – I have in the last few weeks – but you have to hit someone you know is hungry and young with a good story. But otherwise you must be persistent. And have patience. And not a pest. And don’t put kids who don’t know what they are doing on the phone to pitch as most PR shops do. They will piss off anyone over 25 if they don't know the subject cold.

Social media cannot replace traditional - There are alot of pricey consultants running around selling social media policy work, integration, setting up pages, strategy, etc. Well the word media is overrated. Unless you are Ashton Kutcher with his one million plus followers on Twitter your reach in social is pretty limited. You need to be in that space and to post things there. But traditional media still brings in the mass numbers.