Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beware of Knee-Jerk Budget Cutting

Ted Pincus, founder of The Financial Relations Board, as well as a finance professor at DePaul University and a business columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, recently published a paper on the deepening financial mess. It appeared on the O'Dwyer's PR website. While Pincus doesn't offer much hope for a quick fix by the incoming Obama administration, he does conclude with a cautionary tale for anyone considering cutting their PR budgets to save money in the short-term.

Pincus writes:

"I sense that the short-sightedness of old has been replaced by a new recognition that a reputation — the most prized asset of all in the long run — cannot be turned on and off with the flick of a budget, and can only be protected by the one specialist who knows how to achieve sustainability."

Sure times are tough. But if you want to be ready to blast out of the gate when the inevitable economic revival comes, make sure you keep your good reputation intact. And remember the words of Warren Buffet who once famously said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tone Deaf

So, did you see the Nightly News yesterday? It seems that the "Big Three Automakers" -- Moe, Larry and Curly -- went to Washington, D.C. in private corporate jets (they couldn't even "jet pool!"), to tell Congress that they are broke, and need billions of taxpayer dollars to guarantee that they won't go belly-up.

Talk about tone deaf.

Don't these people know that appearances DO matter? The American Public is feeling the heat from one of the worst economic periods in our history. Everyone is concerned. 401(k) accounts and college savings plan values have been sliced in half. People are justifiably nervous about the future.

So what do the "Big Three" do?

“It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY).

Here's a note to General Chrysford: We get it. We understand that if you guys go out of business, it will have untold repercussions on the rest of the economy. And while we'll not part with our money cheerfully, we will, in the end, part with it because it's far better than the alternative.

But have a little humility. Come back in a couple of weeks with a PLAN. We want to see a clear path forward that shows us that you "get it," and that you can compete with Toyota. And, for goodness sake, don't come back in three individual private jets. Is it too much to ask that you fly coach for once?

On a side note: We're told over and over again about the millions of people who will be out of work if you guys bite the big one. And usually, we're told that over video B-roll of cars rolling through ROBOTIC ASSEMBLY LINES. Once again, keep in mind that appearances DO matter. You may be proud of your robot assemblers, but nobody cares if THEY are put out of work!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Publishing Bad News/Good News

I was sad to read yesterday that PC Magazine was going to shut down its print edition. Sure, the Internet is a great tool (heck, we're both using it right now, right?). However, there is no substitute for having a crisply written, composed and printed magazine or newspaper in your hands as you curl up on a big comfy couch or chair -- perhaps with a fire roaring in the fireplace, cold beer nearby, ballgame in the background on the TV.....but I digress.

Many of us who spend what seems like our entire workday in front of a computer screen appreciate the printed piece, and will mourn the demise of yet another "old friend."

At the same time, a bit of good news has just come out of the publishing world. Jonathan Schein, a longtime publishing veteran (and an all around good guy, by the way), has just announced the launch of NYinc -- a a magazine, website, and conference medium for the New York market, focusing on commercial and residential real estate, law, finance, and economic development.

I, for one, wish Jonathan and his staff at Schein Media all the best with this new venture. NYinc joins two other quality titles, New York Home and New Jersey & Company in Schein's growing media stable. Good luck, Jonathan! I look forward to getting my first copy of NYinc.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Nuff Said

Writing in the 10th Anniversary issue of PRWeek, Charlotte R Otto, the global external relations officer of Procter & Gamble had this to say:

"On virtually all of our brands at P&G, and at many other companies, PR is now a regular source of big ideas that can become the inspiration for broader holistic marketing programs. And these programs are consistently top marketing ROI contributors."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Johnson & Johnson's Misstep Shows the Power of Social Media

Social media is here to stay. Need proof? There is no better object lesson than the misstep that Johnson & Johnson just made online that unleashed a torrent of bad blood among the very audience they were trying to court. And that bad blood flowed quickly and deeply among bloggers and Twitter users.

Yes, I'm talking about THAT J&J, one of the biggest, most powerful marketers, and a company known for its social responsibility, and for having a "corporate soul."

J&J posted an ill-advised commercial for its Motrin brand of ibuprofen on its website. The ad was designed to resonate with young moms. Take a look here. You be the judge.

What followed was an overwhelmingly negative flood of angry responses from moms (and others) who felt that the spot was condescending and patronizing. Most of the responders said they'd never buy Motrin again. The threat of a boycott seems very real.

Here's a sample of the reaction:

Clip 1

Clip 2

Clip 3

Maybe the marketing team was out having a beer after work when that ad was to be approved. Maybe someone was asleep at the switch. Maybe the ad agency was just too clever for their client's good. Who knows?

The important lessons are these:

First: Online media is every bit as important as traditional media. And just because it's "only an online ad" doesn't mean it should be treated with any less importance than an ad for network TV (which would have been market tested and well vetted before it ever saw the light of day).

Second: When you see that you've offended people, even if inadvertently, own up to it immediately, and try to make amends. No excuses. J&J has done that, pulling the ads and posting an apology from Kathy Widmer, Vice President of Marketing, on the Motrin website. Kudos for that. Many other companies would have stonewalled or been paralyzed into inaction.

Third: Online communities are here to stay, and if you can communicate with online communities in a manner that shows you respect and understand them, and most importantly, that you are listening to what they are telling you, you can really help your products to succeed.

As Widmer said in an extended apology, “One bright spot is that we have learned through this process - in particular, the importance of paying close attention to the conversations that are taking place online.”

If you are a marketer, you would also do well to pay attention.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring Those Who Served

Today is Veteran's Day.

Let us all pause for at least a moment or two today to remember the brave men and women who gave of themselves so generously -- many paying the ultimate price -- so that we can enjoy the freedom and life that we cherish in our country. God Bless them and their families.

Here is a nice historical perspective on Veteran's Day.

And here is a nice tribute to the valor and bravery of the American soldier. It's set to Ray Charles singing "America the Beautiful."

Monday, November 10, 2008

A plug for "HIMYM" -- perhaps the best written show on TV

So....It's Monday Night and you want to watch some football. I'm OK with that.

But if you aren't that into the match-up (think 49ers at Cardinals), and you can't stand the thought of watching some washed-up celebrities in silly costumes and far too much make-up "Dancing With the Stars," let me recommend perhaps the best written show on television: How I Met Your Mother.

This show is smart, funny, touching, and human, and has one of the best characters that television has EVER seen in Neil Patrick Harris' Barney Stinson.

Who says this show is so great? Well, if you don't trust ME (which you obviously SHOULD), take a look at this article by Miriam Datskovsky, or these show-specific posts by The Star-Ledger's Alan Sepinwall.

And take a look at this promo with all of the "Best Of" Chyrons.

Check this show out -- even if you can't resist watching Warren Sapp in a dancer's outfit. What, you don't have a DVR?

Here are a few of my favorite moments, courtesy of YouTube:

Barney's "Hot/Crazy Scale"

"Slap Bet"

"Barney's Blog" (homage to "Doogie Howser -- almost expect Max Casella to come in through the window)

"Robin Sparkles" music videos (take your pick) "Let's Go to the Mall" or "Sandcastles in the Sand."

"The Bracket"

Barney's "Ode to Bimbos"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election is Over -- and it is GREAT to be an American

Regardless of which candidate you supported, you have to marvel at a system that allows us to air every grievance imaginable, and yet still peacefully go to the polls in record numbers to cast our vote as we see fit.

President-elect Obama is to be congratulated on his victory, and on a very well-run campaign.

Senator McCain deserves our thanks, admiration and respect for his service to our country -- both in uniform and as an elected official.

The proudest moment for me was Senator McCain's gracious, classy and elegant concession speech, reminding us that the will of the people is to be respected above all in this country.

God Bless them both, and God Bless America!