Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How Do You Know if Someone Really Doesn't Understand Marketing?

Those of us who have been around for a long time – and yes I am one of you - think we have seen and heard it all when it comes to marketing. So I began following this discussion on LinkedIn answering the question – How do you know when someone really doesn’t understand marketing?

The discussion is on Marketing Executive Networking Group, MENG, which you can join on LinkedIn.

The person who started it and those who chimed in at least early on, are the marketing veterans. These are the- marketers who’ve been doing it since the 60s and 70s – mostly men – and those who’ve experienced and survived through a huge transformation on the Internet and in the social media era. They’ve also watched the painful death of advertising as we once knew it.

When I first started out in journalism covering marketing and advertising for everyone ranging from Adweek to the New York Times, most media people understood advertising on a basic level but marketing was just being recognized as an important topic to cover.

In the mid-80s The Wall Street Journal started a marketing column, followed by Business Week, Forbes and many others. But I know for me I didn’t really understand marketing until I started doing it. And there’s still a lot I don’t know.

So here’s the discussion: How do you know if someone really understands marketing? Most of the answers are what do they not understand. So here you go:

They are Obsessed with Data:

They think marketing has a lot to do with math and not just creative.
They forget that marketing is about listening to the consumer via interviews, statistical analysis, and other metrics.
They can't connect their activities to business results.

They Are Way too Full of Themselves

They use a lot of buzz words and are not able to articulate the details of your work.
Their eyes narrow and they get suspicious when one begins to talk about integrated programs.
They have not changed with the times.
They suffer from Entrepreneur's Syndrome, the belief that because they founded the enterprise, no matter how large it has grown, they must continue to be personally involved in every aspect of its operation. Some can be educated enough to work with you. Others you have to walk away from.

Women have started chiming in now. Here are some of their stories. They don't know marketing when:

They Think They Can Change Elements without Considering the Mix

One woman tells us, "I had a new director walk into a first round logo meeting with our chosen agency. He brought his own logos in color. Yikes! He walked to the front of the room pulled out his soap box and began telling the group what the logo should be and why. Did I mention we had the agency run a branding session? We had developed a positioning statement and the group was in consensus and ready to work on logo development?"

They Don’t Understand Their Target Audiences

They begin using words interchangeably such as marketing, sales, promotion, PR, publicity, etc ... without regard to context.
They dislike visiting plants, stores or talking to customers.
They don’t believe in integrated marketing – which has some new equally innocuous names - connected marketing and compound marketing were mentioned.
They take the attitude if it breathes, it's a customer.

They Don’t Have a Marketing Strategy

They want to do marketing but are not willing to work on strategy first.
They talk about the Industrial Era "4 Ps" of marketing which according to the marketers should now be seven, or still four. Consensus was the 4Ps are only valid if you re-interpret them in terms of how they should be applied in the Internet-based marketplace.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

As Social Media Ages How Will it Live Within Organizations?

While interviewing a social media strategist, the phone conversation was stopped abruptly as the strategist confessed, “I’ve gotta go. There are two people standing in front of my office demanding Facebook Pages.” If they didn’t get the Pages, they were going to build them on their own.

And there-in lies social media's next challenge. The next generation can do all of it themselves. And while they're doing that - the social media strategist within an organization may be deleted and new positions and approaches will be needed.

Research by Altimeter with 140 social media "enterprise" strategists yielded some intriguing guidance into the future of the medium and how we can keep it moving forward. I'm paraphrasing and interpreting because some of the recommendations didn't make sense to me.

Take off the evangelist hat. The time is past for people who talk up social media to everyone in their organization or people that they meet. "The strategist will be responsible for resources, timelines, Gantt charts, ROI models, analytics, data modeling, resource management, project management. It’s a very different skill set than the evangelist role that we’ve seen before." I guess that means they need to be marketing and creating a lot of charts and data.

Create programs that can be scaled up - Community engagement and advocacy are great ways for organizations to create and develop new social media spaces. Also the chances of growing sites that address personal and professional concerns are much higher.

Choose your model - There is a list of five models in the study all of which gave me a headache. It seems like the most effective one utilizes cross-functional teams to develop social media strategy and build engagement with that space. It also acknowledges that social media strategy may go brand by brand, division by division, or work group by work group. So the central strategist role may be phased out in favor of targeted decision-makers.

Customer communications and service channel - One of the recommendations is to make social media not just about marketing to add communications and customer service as ways in which you can use the media. But isn't that what marketing is too? Not really sure I got this one but I think the point is if you sell, sell, sell in your social space - and there are many who push products, themselves, etc. endlessly - and don't add to the conversation - people will leave, leave, leave.

Use it as a career advancement tool - This one is mine. I have to admit the best use of social media that I've seen is as a way for young professionals to communicate about their career challenges and jobs that are out there. This type of approach keeps them coming back and talking.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Health 2.0: What Will the Future Look Like?

I went to a conference this morning at the Hope Street Group, a DC-based think tank. They had a panel of doctors, PhDs, a lawyer, consultants, an agency head and an economist discussing Using Open Innovation to Reinvent Primary Care.

Panel moderator was former Washington Post healthcare policy reporter Ceci Conelley who jumped ship to McKinsey probably for gobs more money.

While no one mentioned the P-word (price) a great deal of the discussion centered around reducing costs.

Some points were really interesting. Among them:

One of the panel's recommendations is Use new people, places and tools to achieve greater capacity at lower cost. Great idea and that's why so many primary care practices are relying more heavily on Physician's Assistants and Nurse Practitioners.

They wanted to take it much further and have a third tier of community healthcare worker who could perform basic services such as giving injections and many of the other functions at primary care facilities.

The problem with this, as someone pointed out, is you have to redraw the boundaries of what different medical practitioners are allowed to do. Patients are taught to give themselves shots, but in a licensed medical practice no one below a nurse can do that.

This kind of circle the wagons thinking reminded me of a nurse practitioner friend who wanted to teach and was doing so at the University of San Francisco where she got her masters. She taught one semester and was booted out even though she was very popular with the students.

Why you ask? Because she was teaching at the nursing school and the Board didn't want a nurse practitioner teaching those studying to be RNs. That our role is sacred philosophy in healthcare is part of why reform is so hard. And it's not going to change easily or quickly.

There's a program called Texting for Healthy Moms and Babies that sends weekly text messages to pregnant women timed to their babies due date. So far 18,000 women have signed up and it's just rolling out. But it could create new models for how to deliver information about routine healthcare issues.

Empower consumers to take personal responsibility for improving their health through education, interactive tools and incentives. Bush One started this and we haven't come very far with it in how many years has it been - 20? There are new tools though that can be used in new ways.

Someone mentioned the development of a Facebook for healthcare - Healthbook as they called it. Not really sure how it would work but I think it's a good idea to have a place where the general public can get together and network about about healthcare challenges, providers, etc.

Electronic medical records that are portable and accessible (within privacy guidelines) can help spur this process along.

Leverage technology, patient engagement, population management and payment reform to accelerate smart processes. The Veteran's Affairs (VA) healthcare information and services provides a model for how to do this. When logged into HealtheVet consumers can refill prescriptions online, get wellness reminders and participate in secure messaging from their healthcare team.

Another technology is Virtual Doctors and Healthcare Providers who talk to their patients via computer and even conduct routine exams that way. I can't really imagine how it would work but it's being tried in a number of hospitals and provider settings.

If you are interested in learning more go to

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dear President Obama - It's Almost Christmas and Where's Your Mojo?

Although I am a Democrat and still trying to be a supporter of our President, leaving the tax cuts for the most wealthy Americans for the next two years could cost him the votes of people like me.

Oh I get that you negotiated for another 13 months of unemployment benefits (but as the guy I'm dating pointed out - only one year versus two and that's how most people think), and a couple of other really important tax breaks for the middle class.

But Mr. President it doesn't matter. All that will be reported and all that middle class people will remember is that you let the rich keep the tax breaks that cost the country way, way more than it could afford. You're supposed to be the defender of the rest of us, the anti-Conservative, anti-rich, anti-Fox News etc. leader. You're supposed to help us.

I know you think you're doing what's right for the country But Mr. President don't you realize that by allowing the Bush tax cuts to stand you've completely caved on a very symbolic and vital issue for mainstream America right before Christmas? John Boehner may be the Grinch but well I don't even know who you are in that story. Maybe the little girl Cindy who goes up to the Grinch and asks him so innocently why he's so mean.

PR is a tricky business and goodness knows I've made mistakes as a PR person. But perception does outweigh reality when it comes to mass media. The no spin media is the super spin media. The unbiased media reports what it thinks will get the highest ratings. And the newspapers and blogs which seem to have the only good writers left in America aren't read in full and certainly not often by the people you've just really pissed off.

Yes we elected a thoughtful, educated man to bring this country together. But those characteristics don't work well in the post-Bush era. The right is too good at tapping into national disappointment and building rage. Right now what we need is a super hero. And Mr. President you're no a super hero. You're just a man who is making decisions that alienate your base.

Think I'm over dramatizing? Have you seen what the pundits are saying? The conservatives are now saying your approval ratings are lower than George Bush's. Of course they are skewing the data but most people don't know that.

The liberals are just plain disappointed. They don't get it and they think you've sold them out. I can't help it but I kind of agree with them.

And then of course there's Jon Stewart who I think is smarter than the majority of media and all he can manage to do is come up with golden showers raining down from the rich to the rest of us. That's a parody of trickle down economics which you said you would eliminate.

No wonder none of us have any Christmas spirit. It's beginning to look a lot like you're going to be a one-term President, and that is a very scary premise.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Now that the Social Media Hype is Fading - What Comes Next?

I got an email recently from someone I have worked with talking about a new account that they got on Facebook. Every once in awhile I get these and I read them because don't we all want to make new contacts and ultimately get new accounts from the time we spend in these spaces?

The truth is although I'm in all of the major ones, and I've found partners on LinkedIn for projects, I've never gotten real business from social media. I've gotten in hot water over a handful of blog posts which isn't fun. The problem is we want to be provocative to drive traffic to our social media spaces but then when we are someone gets upset. I suppose that would happen face to face as well - although the audience is certainly much smaller.

As a journalist, you have more leeway. You can take an issue and examine it from all different sides - unless you work for Fox News. But as a marketing/PR person truth is it's better to just repeat the pablum that passes for information which most businesses put up.

The whole point of social media though is to start a conversation that others join in. To me that's the benefit more than anything. People are continually trying to come up with questions that will spark responses on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But there doesn't seem to any rhyme or reason to what gets people to respond.

Some of the conversations I've seen that have drawn a huge following include -

Why is business writing so bad?
Who still uses PowerPoint and what's the alternative?
What is the best communications book ever?

Here are a few other ways that organizations are using social media right now:

Social media as a billboard ad - Many organizations use social as a one way billboard to push information out into cyberspace. It appears to be a control thing - if you close down your comment sections or police them people have a tendency not to respond. But you can still look at traffic and where it comes from which has some value.

Social media as a network building tool - I go in and out of this one with Linked In being the one I use most often. Every couple of months I start to contact people I've met and ask them to join my collection of business contacts. Does it do much? I don't know - it's better than nothing. For awhile Linked In was a hot bed of activity - now it seems to be lukewarm.

Social media as a way of showing personality - That's what blogging is supposed to be about but it's pretty risky unless you're already well known in a certain field and watch what you say. I prefer Facebook because I have clients and friends on it - my network is closed and I can say and do more of what I really want too. I wish my Facebook page could be more open - but sometimes we have conversations that shouldn't be open to the world. And that's better I think.

Social media as a way of establishing and maintaining your niche - This is a Twitter issue mostly. I work with a lot of different clients on different projects. While we focus on science and health there are so many other things I find interesting and want to share and do on Twitter. But my messaging is all over the place. Besides Twitter has become total blather although I do try to tweet a few times a week. But who has time to read all of that stuff?

Social media to push a political agenda - People may not agree with me but I think that social has created a new venue for what Hillary Clinton once called a "right wing conspiracy." In health care particularly, any time someone comments on reform there are dozens of responses by people who blame the president and the Democrats for taking away their right to choose. The messaging is just too consistent and I do believe on many of these issues there is an army of people who are paid to respond to hot button issues. Kind of like the tea partiers misspellings and all.

Social media as a way of starting a dialogue - The most innovative spaces - take a look at ScientificBlogging which is a very good example of how to do it right - offer an open forum to everyone and get conversations going. I do blog on this site when I have time and I find people read what's written and do comment frequently. The site is far more provocative than most and is kind of like a think tank for scientists.

So where is this post heading? People are still preaching the importance of social media particularly to non-profits and associations who want to keep members engaged. Corporations seem to use social as another distribution system for the stuff they put out anyway. Lawyers and management consultants can't really be convinced to go on these spaces because they're so public - same with therapists. Probably better they remain discreet.

Independents - I think we're still figuring it out. If anyone has something to add please do.