Friday, August 29, 2008

Do You Suffer from Nomophobia?

According to the July issue of Wired, Nomophbia stands for "no mobile" phobia -- the "anxiety produced by losing cell phone contact, for lack of coverage or power. Of course, there's a Wikipedia entry on nomophobia.

Please don't confuse this with nomatophobia, defined as "a fear of names or other words because of their meaning." Ironically for a fear of names, the condition is also known by a second name: onomatophobia. I might call that ohno-onomatophobia: the fear of forgetting which onoma-related phobia with which you're afflicted. (Onoma is the Greek word for name.)

Back to nomophobia, the Wikipedia article says that a survey commissioned by the UK Post Office -- if it's anything like its US counterpoint, doesn't it have something more relevant to study? Like improving delivery efficiencies? -- and found that "53 percent of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they 'lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage.'"

Additionally, the study compared stress levels induced by the average case of nomophobia to be on-par with those of 'wedding day jitters' and trips to the dentists.

Imagine needing a survey to find out that people now must have their cell phones with them and hate being disconnected through low battery or poor coverage. Fear of poor coverage is a major selling value proposition in most ads for cell phone service: "We've got more bars" or "America's most reliable network." I just don't think you needed a survey to uncover yet another condition of 21st century life.

Meanwhile, I can only imagine the pre-wedding jitters one might if one's cell phone didn't work.

Spoiler Alert: Actually something like that happened in the "Sex and the City" movie. If only Carrie had realized she suffered from nomophobia! Could have spared us all a long, dull part of the movie.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wired's Jargon Watch: Dark Marketing

In physics, there's dark matter.

In financial trading, there's dark pools of liquidity -- sounds Gothic and unexpectedly poetic, actually.

Now there's dark marketing. According to the July Wired's "Jargon Watch" column, dark marketing is "discretely sponsored online and real-world entertainment intended to reach hipster audiences that would ordinarily shun corporate shilling. McDonald's is the latest mega-brad to adopt this paradoxical promotional tool, with an alternate-reality game called The Lost Ring, nearly devoid of golden arches.

Interestingly, though Wired tries to report on the cutting-edge and things that will impact us in the immediate future, in this case it was scooped by -- or, worse, got the idea for the column from -- the International Herald Tribune. On April 1, 2008, the IHT published "McDonald's tries 'dark' marketing." (Hmm, April -- that's about the time the July issue of Wired would have been in production.)

Why did McDonald's go dark?

"Our goal is really about strengthening our bond with the global youth culture," Mary Dillon, McDonald's global chief marketing officer, told the IHT.

Here's an interesting point about an alternate-reality game, or ARG. "If an ARG is too clearly corporate or commercial, the gamers will not want to engage. It's very important that the game be written in a way where the branding is not obvious," Tracy Tuten, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies new-media marketing tools, told the IHT.

So how does McDonald's measure the impact of its ARG investment?

By not revealing the cost of the campaign, except to say "in the context of the total Olympics, it's just a fraction of what we're doing."

"As for measuring the company's return on the investment, or ROI, Dillon said she would look at it as more of a learning experience."

I guess that works for mega-corporations targeting consumers. I don't see how dark marketing is efficient or effective when it comes to the B2B market.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Do Social Networks & Video-sharing Sites Bring People Closer Together?

According to Web 2.0 evangelists, social networks bring people together. Twitter is about collaboration and communication, after all.

But I've been thinking that in the political arena, social media may actually hurt democracy because people can post all sorts of snarky comments because they never see the other people. I saw a lot of snarky comments on a Forbes blog about the Olympics & politics -- many were mean-spirited and were not in keeping with the tone of the original article.

The Economist recently ran an article that looks at the topic. Worth checking out: "The brave new world of e-hatred: Social networks and video-sharing sites don’t always bring people closer together."

For companies looking to do more with social media, what's important is to keep in mind that there are some dark alleys in the social media world, and that it's important to pay attention to what's being said, how it's being said before posting comments.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How to Work with a PR Agency

Even in an uncertain economy, start-ups and other emerging companies need public relations support to communicate their news. Finding the right agency for your needs is important, but the challenge in conducting a successful PR program does not end merely because you've hired a new agency.

Here is some advice for people in organizations that have never worked with a PR agency before.

1. Check references and chemistry.
A track record of success is important, but every agency has something it can point to. Make sure their successes are current. (One site we recently checked highlighted a hugely successful program which turned out to be from 1988!) Client-agency chemistry is an important, but often overlooked, factor contributing to a program's success. When making a decision, remember these are they people you will be working with: do you like and trust them? If you feel like their main interest is in selling you more services than you need, you won't feel comfortable and are less likely to succeed.

2. Identify the main daily contact at your agency and within your own organization.
Generally it's not the most senior person you met during the pitch. Just as important, however, identify the main internal contact at your company. This person is critical for the program's success by providing insight into the company (serving as a "travel guide" into the far reaches of the company), tracking down customer leads (from a usually reluctant sales force), and getting approval far faster and more easily than someone on the outside.

Make sure that the internal PR contact is accountable and that the job description changes to accommodate this new role. (Ideally some parts of the person's former responsibilities can be delegated to someone else when PR gets added to the mix.) The internal contact should hold regular meetings with the agency's daily contact, establish priorities, and provide information and direction that enables the agency to write and execute a successful program. This is important because a successful client-agency relationship depends on time committed on both sides. A good PR program generally keeps the internal contact busy. If it doesn't, you're probably not conducting interviews, making significant announcements, etc.

3. Ask the senior agency executive how to work best together, most efficiently.
It's not that you need to change the way you work to suit the agency. But they might have some best practices about how to work smarter with them and get more value from the relationship. At a basic level, telephone conference calls may be less personal but more cost-effective than having your agency travel to your offices – since agencies typically charge by the hour.

4. Ask your agency to provide you with PR 101
if you are unsure or uncomfortable with your new assignment, ask your agency to present a PR 101 session. Don't worry about looking "dumb" – they don't know your business or company well, either. (In fact the PR 101 session could be scheduled the same day as a detailed agency briefing on your company.) Another suggestion: invite senior management to the PR 101 session so that everyone has the same expectations. The PR 101 session can be conducted up front – before the planning - so you can understand what's appropriate, realistic and strategic. (Getting on "The Tonight Show" may be cool, for example, but may not help your company's bottom-line.)

5. Keep an open channel to the CEO.
Make sure you understand the CEO's business goals and current positioning driving the company to hire its first agency. You need to understand where the company is headed, and the best people to give you that information is your CEO, senior management team, or business divisions chiefs. Make sure your goals are in synch; we've had clients who generated strong results, but the messages picked up in the media were not the ones the CEO wanted - even though the company appeared in Fortune, The New York Times, Newsweek and other top-tier media. Is product PR more important than internal (a.k.a. employee) communications? Does your company have an established crisis communications plan? Based on management's input, your agency can help assess your needs.

6. Update or formalize your company's positioning before developing your PR plan.
Otherwise, you won't be able to establish communication priorities that map to management's business goals. You also don't want to communicate corporate messages that are no longer relevant or are half-baked. It can be tempting to try to swing at everything, but chances are you might have limiting funding and resources, so it's critical to prioritize to be effective.

7. Assess all your communications and marketing materials.
Assess all your communications and marketing materials. This includes Website, press kit, sales collateral, advertising, trade show and other signage, stationery, and direct marketing. Evaluate whether they consistently communicate the same message (allowing for appropriate differences across different in how information is communicated; a website clearly communicates differently from a business card.) If you don't have one, develop a style guide to be distributed to all marketing personnel. Websites are often the first place reporters turn to when checking out a company, but many corporate websites are inconsistent, not updated on a timely basis (press releases get posted late), hard to navigate and don't provide easy mechanisms for contacting the company.

8. Make sure the CEO kicks off the new program
so you get buy-in from others who have information that can help develop good story angles. This will help minimize the likelihood that others within your organization, who don't see PR as part of their job, stall on getting information to you. Having the weight of the CEO behind you helps grease the wheels.) It's also important to determine who the CEO wants to serve as the main corporate spokesperson. In some cases, it's clear: the CEO. Most media prefer to speak to CEOs; however, not all CEOs are comfortable talking to the media or have enough time to devote to conducting interviews.

9. Set communications goals and objectives.
Make sure to set aside budget to measure the program. Many clients choose not to, but by establishing benchmarks, and ideally by exceeding them, you can demonstrate the program's ROI to senior management. With major clips – like a Wall Street Journal article – present it with an executive summary that explains the significance of the placement, highlights the messages communicated, etc. This is important because you will likely need to continue to educate senior management on public relations. When establishing benchmarks, look at direct competitors and emotional competitors. (Emotional competitors are those you are compared to yet, but want to be.) Again, measurement can help you demonstrate your effectiveness. Hold quarterly update sessions for management.
10. Coordinate with other departments and functions.
Public Relations should coordinate messages and information with other advertising, investor relations, human resources as well as other divisions. IBM places such a high value on consistent communication across the company that a few years ago, it developed and distributed a booklet called "One Voice." If an organization as complex as IBM sees the value of consistency across all its business units and subsidiaries, it probably makes sense for your company, too. That consistency will make your company's messages more effective because they will be repeated. And it ensures that other parts of the organization are aware of what you're doing and vice versa; they may even forward information that you can use to develop compelling news.

11. Be a communications counselor for your company.
Don't just focus on tactics, think big picture, across divisions. How does the development in one area of the company impact another area? Is there a bigger story here?

12. Make sure your agency acts as your communications partner.
A good agency can help by bringing in perspectives outside your company because they don't drink the Kool-aide. Their objectivity is useful in determining whether something is newsworthy or just something good for the company. (For example, one former client told us their new software kernal was significant news; when we talked with the product manager, he confirmed the development was significant – because it enabled to company to catch up with its competitors.) Your agency should be able to monitor trends that directly affect your company as well as larger trends being played out in the business media. As a communications partner, the agency can counsel you on strategies – not just tactics – that will help you meet your goals.

13. Understand that managing an agency takes skill.
Ironically, some clients are afraid of being upstaged when the agency generates lots of results, and that their bosses will credit the agency, not the internal person. In some cases, internal PR contacts micromanage just to say "we had to work closely with the agency to get it right." (A client once placed every "that" in a press release to "which," only to change them back again in the next draft.) A good PR agency wants to make you look good, not upstage you. And it takes management ability to get results from an agency, just as it does from an internal team – and that's true no matter how good the agency. For example, with one former daily contact, we uncovered terrific news from within the company, generating placements in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ABC "Evening News," NBC "Dateline," Fortune, Forbes, and others. After she left, an outside PR veteran took over; yet the number and quality of our results plummeted dramatically because he never spent the time to uncover anything we could translate into coverage. The lesson: use the agency to succeed and don't be afraid if they are the ones in daily contact with the media.

14. Understand your agency's invoices and billing policies.
Most agencies hate surprising their clients as much as clients hate getting surprised by an unexpectedly large and complicated invoice. Make sure your agency explains its policies so that you can plan accordingly as well as who can resolve billing problems – it's often not your daily contact. At the same time, you should explain your company's accounting policies: do you need a P.O.? What do they need to do to ensure your accounts payable will quickly approve payment?

Boston Globe's Alex Beam on the Future of Newspapers

Alex Beam, Boston Globe columnist, wrote an interesting article about The Christian Science Monitor as an example of the potential future of newspapers. Check out "Monitoring the future of newspapers."

Beam doesn't like Twitter, and says so in 140-character bites in "Twittering with excitement? Hardly."

Monday, August 25, 2008

What If The Most Trusted Man in Broadcast News Wasn't a Journalist? What does that say about us?

The New York Times' critic Michiko Kakutani wrote an interesting, lengthy article about the most trusted man in broadcast news.

According to the 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, when asked to name the journalist they most admired, Americans picked a tie for No. 4 that included Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, Dan Rather, Anderson Cooper -- who have all spent decades practicing journalists.

But there was one other person who was ranked No. 4 among admired journalists, and one of the interesting things is that he doesn't even consider himself to be a journalist.

You might think he's got to be joking.

But he's not.

He's Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central.

What does it mean that Americans selected a comedian as one of the most admired people in broadcast news? For that matter, what does it mean that surveys have shown that people who watch "The Daily Show," a fake news program (whose slogan once was: "When news breaks, we fix it" but has evolved to "We deliver the news first -- before it's true"), are better informed about current events than viewers of "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News, which is a real news program on a news channel.

What it means is that we've come a long way since Walter Cronkite delivered the news.

It's worth checking out Kakutani's article, "Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?"

Friday, August 22, 2008

For 60 Years, the Ad Game Has Been Fodder for Scripts -- Why not PR?

In his column, "For 60 Years, the Ad Game Has Been Fodder for Scripts," New York Times advertising reporter Stuart Elliott cites a number of Hollywood movies set in the advertising world. He includes "Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House," a favorite of mine, along with "A Face in the Crowd," "The Hucksters" and "Bewitched."

He left out Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) and Good Neighbor Sam (1964).

But it made me wonder how many movies feature PR?

There's the "Hancock," which as I wrote in a tweet is a comedy because the publicist is portrayed as a good guy.

There's the Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

In an email response to me, Stuart Elliott said he might write an additional column on advertising-based movies because there were others he didn't have room to mention, and reminded me of two other PR-related movies: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and Days of Wine and Roses -- although the latter movie, which stars Jack Lemmon (who also starred in Good Neighbor Sam), is summarized by imdb as being about: "An alcoholic falls in love with and gets married to a young woman, whom he systematically addicts to booze so they can share his 'passion' together." So not really an upbeat movie.

However, according to Wikipedia, "Today 'Days of Wine and Roses' is required viewing in many alcoholic drug rehabilitation clinics across America." It is not, however, included in the professional development curriculum of any PR agency I know, however.

I wonder how many other movies involve PR. Please comment if there are others I've left out.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Demo vs. TechCrunch

TechCrunch is taking on the 17-year-old Demo conference. Check out Brad Stone's article in the New York Times, "Amid Conference Halls and Keynote Speakers, a Rivalry Forms," which describes the situation. Michael Arrington, TechCrunch's founder, is using his blog and Twitter to promote his conference which coincides with Demo.

For PR folks, the thing to consider is this: Sept. 7-9 (Demo in San Diego) and Sept. 8-10 (TechCrunch50 in San Francisco) will be busy times for West Coast tech reporters. Advise your clients not to consider media tours that week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do The Olympics Help Republicans?

That's a question that Forbes' publisher Rich Karlgaard asks in his blog. He thinks the Olympics instill pride in Americans, and that patriotism always helps the Republicans. I don't think that's necessarily true, and wrote the following comment to his blog:

The Olympics are a distraction, but they won't have a long-term impact. Americans across the political spectrum can be proud of our athletes without that pride swaying their vote. (We can also be proud of all the athletes who were born or educated here but represent other countries.)

Once the Olympics have ended, those of us who have watched the Games will go back to noticing the problems afflicting the country: high gas prices, high food prices, ongoing problems with the financial markets and credit that will lead to continued turmoil, foreclosures and layoffs, etc. And that's even before we remember the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, problems with Russia and Georgia.

We're all proud of Michael Phelps, but when Bob Costas and the others return home, we're going to want a new storyline. We'll want change.

That does not bode well for McCain.

Four Points to Consider for Corporate Reputation

Recently, Circuit City made news because of an employee's reaction to a spoof published in Mad Magazine.

You can check out the faux ad here.

I read Mad Magazine as a kid, years ago -- the exact number of years ago is not relevant; most of the usual gang of idiots from when I read it are still alive and still writing for it. (How's that for a career plateau?) And now they have a website.

As well as a bit of controversy because a Circuit City employee saw the spoof, and didn't like it, and decided to respond.


Apparently 40 Circuit City stores also sell magazines, including Mad Magazine. The company could've just pulled the issue, but instead, an employee instructed all 40 stores to "remove" and "destroy"all copies of the offending issue.

That email got out, and the spoof turned into an incident. Ultimately, a Circuit City "PR guy," James Babb, wrote a self-deprecating letter of apology, noting that he had written to the editors of Mad Magazine, explaining that "
As a gesture of our apology and deep respect for the folks at MAD Magazine, we are creating a cross-departmental task force to study the importance of humor in the corporate workplace and expect the resulting Powerpoint presentation to top out at least 300 pages, chock full of charts, graphs and company action plans."

The result: Mad Magazine got a significant boost because no one really has paid any attention to the magazine. (Some online posts mentioned being surprised that Mad Magazine was still publishing.) Circuit City, on the other hand, is taking a hit for not having a sense of humor and for mishandling the situation. And way more people know about the Mad spoof than would have seen it or would have talked about it if Circuit City had done nothing.

This is known as the "Streisand effect," defined by Wikipedia as "a phenomenon on the Internet where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized. Examples are attempts to censor a photograph, a file, or even a whole website, especially by means of cease-and-desist letters. Instead of being suppressed, the information sometimes quickly receives extensive publicity, often being widely mirrored across the Internet, or distributed on file-sharing networks.[1][2]" (The term was coined after Barbra Streisand sued a photographer who had taken and posted an aerial photo of her house in a publicly available database.)

We can see the Streisand effect at play recently with Boing Boing, when Xeni Jardin, a contributor to the site, "unpublished" -- a nicer way to say deleted -- "all references to a blogger named Violet Blue," according to a New York Times article, "Poof! You’re Unpublished." The mere act of "unpublishing" became known, and had the opposite of the intended impact.

So, here are four variables to consider about managing corporate reputation:
  1. What's being said?
  2. What kind of reaction is being generated by readers?
  3. Where is the statement appearing?
  4. Who wrote it?
By evaluating each variable, you can make the decision as to the appropriate way to respond. What's important to keep in mind is the need to keep a sense of humor and the need to take emotion out of the process (this is the first mistake Circuit City made).

For example, we had a client once about whom someone was posting very negative statements. We looked at those variables, and determined:
  1. What was being said was very negative and had no basis in fact. The company could have sued, and would've have had a decent case.
  2. These posts were not generating any attention, buzz or links. In part, it may have been a topic that most people didn't understand or care about or because the rants were rambling and incoherent and filled with typos and bad grammar.
  3. These posts also were published on obscure sites, with dubious credibility.
  4. The person was writing deeply-felt pieces but had no credibility.
This last factor is not always important, however. For example, a New York Times article this week, "On Wall St., Reputation Is Fragile" by Andrew Ross Sorkin, wrote about the downfall of the lesser known of the two Steven Rattner working on Wall St. The reason: posts with all kinds of allegations about Rattner were written by the ex-husband of the woman with whom Rattner had had an affair several years earlier; the posts also contained inaccuracies, according to the Times. Yet because the posts were so widely available, Rattner, who had been called a rising star, instead resigned from his job.

In the case of Circuit City, the "who" didn't matter. I'd say the fact that it appeared in Mad Magazine also counted against taking any action; that might be different if Mad targets the ideal Circuit City customer. If Andy Borowitz wrote something similar in his "Next Month's Business News" column in Conde Nast Portfolio, I think that could be different if only because Portfolio readers could be investors or shortsellers of Circuit City stock. (However, I would have advised against taking action, even if the spoof had been published in Portfolio.)

As for evaluating the reaction the spoof generated, Circuit City could have done a number of searches to see if there were any. But disposing of a few copies from 40 stores was far from being the right call.

There are steps companies and people can take when the media gets the facts wrong. But you can't do anything with humor or with opinion.

Bottomline: if they had been asked about the Mad Magazine spoof, Circuit City should have said, "What, us worry about satire in Mad Magazine?
It's an honor to have Mad Magazine poke fun at us."

For more perspective on this matter, check out the Ragan Report's article, "Circuit City redeems a PR blunder." Also, check out an interesting Wall St. Journal, "When You're Here, You're Family -- But What About a Playboy Model?: Olive Garden Has Mixed Feelings: About Its Biggest Celebrity Fan."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Olympics: A Sporting Event Aimed at Women, According to the New York Times

Check out Stuart Elliott's article in today's New York Times, "Olympics Draw High Percentage of Women Viewers, and Ads Intended for Them: Appealing to mothers who want to watch with the entire family" to get an interesting look at the Olympics.

We all know the judging is imperfect -- often incompetent.

We all know the commentary can be offensive -- listening to some (esp. during diving and gymnastics) you'd think there could be no greater catastrophe than U.S. divers who "can't find horizontal" (while the Chinese can) or U.S. gymnasts who can't stick a landing.

Listening to the tone of those announcers, I wonder whether we should put the athletes on a suicide watch. How can they live with themselves, what with all the splash they made with that dive? Oh the horrors, the horrors.

But this post is not about Olympic announcing -- there are other blogs for that (check out: "Am I the only one who thinks Olympic diving announcer Cynthia Potter is the worst ever?!!?")

It's not even about We Get It Already: 14 Olympic Stories We're Tired Of Hearing from Campus Squeeze.

But the real point of this post is that the Olympics, according to the New York Times, is not a sporting event aimed at men -- at least from an advertising perspective. The Wall St. Journal says the same thing in its article about Olympic advertising, "For Olympic Marketers, Emotions Pay: Most-Liked TV Ads Feature Soft Touch; Not the Super Bowl."

It's an event that women watch with their families.

I knew this already because my wife has caught Olympic fever, and has let our children watch all kinds of events, no matter how obscure -- like handball that's an amalgam of football, basketball and rugby. She's right again, because advertisers see this as a woman-driven event; even the Times' subtitle acknowledges that my wife is right.

My perspective: it's interesting enough to watch, but better with the sound off for some of the judge-centric events like diving and gymnastics.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What to Look for in a PR Agency

Choosing among service firms can be confusing – whether accountants, law firms, public relations agencies or other consultants. Typically organizations in each category describe their services in ways unintentionally similar to their competition, relying on jargon or industry catch phrases (that only their competitors understand) to differentiate themselves. When evaluating among PR agencies, creativity can be an important criteria, but it is not the only key to a successful relationship. Consider these questions in your agency selection process as the right answers can increase the likehihood of your communications strategy improving your brand and affecting your organization's performance.

The following questions were designed to help determine which agency is more likely to succeed on your business.

  1. Who really will be working on your project? Senior folks at the pitch – or junior staffers learning on your dime? And what percentage of their time will be devoted to you...or to another, perhaps larger account?
  2. Is their experience current, relevant – or is it outdated?
  3. What is the chemistry like on the team? Between you and the agency? Can you envision comfortably working with the team you've been assigned?
  4. Does the agency look at you as a partner or as a prospect? In other words, are its people interested in what services are most important to achieving your goals – or in the agency's bottom-line by trying to sell you on services you don't need?
  5. Do they listen well to your objectives and directions? Can they document how they've gained measurable success for other businesses like yours?
  6. Are they responsive and accessible – or don't get back to you (or the media) because they're always in agency meetings (or worse, busy working for other clients)? Are you a priority for them?
  7. Are they passionate about your business? (Or only for those with big budgets?) What is their client philosophy?
  8. Are they passionate about PR? How well do they know the media? When did the senior members last talk to the media?
  9. Are their plans dusted-off from another client – or developed specifically for your business, objectives, etc?
  10. Do they suggest ways to be more effective – without increasing the budget? Do you see them adding value to what you already have on your team?

Friday, August 15, 2008

No One Covers the Travails of the Wealthy Like The NYT, Part Four

Check out the latest entry in the apparent series about the problems of the rich: "Can the New Rich Buy Respect? One Ukrainian Oligarch Is Trying."

How's this for a great opening line: "There comes a time in the life of an oligarch when spending money becomes more important than making it. And for Victor Pinchuk, the controversial oligarch and Ukraine’s second-richest man after Rinat Akhmetov, that time is now."

Why does he need to spend? Here's why: "In an interconnected world, success is measured not only by the size of their fortunes but also by their ability to use their billions to achieve recognition and influence far beyond the grimy precincts of their industrial triumphs."

Myself, I think I'd be satisfied with the billions. I wouldn't need the fame.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How connected are PR metrics to genuine business metrics?

That's an interesting question raised by Andrew Smith of Escherman, a communications shop in the UK. Check out his blog, How to guarantee a successful career in PR for $30, which is a review of Avinash Kaushik's book, Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. Smith has provided a great overview, notwithstanding that the book is available at Amazon for less than $20 (excluding shipping).

Here's his summary about metrics, which I think is especially important in looking at social media/Web 2.0 campaigns:

"While the industry still seems to be floundering around trying to develop an acceptable standard for PR evaluation, the Web analytics industry can now potentially offer the ability to connect PR value to real business outcomes. There is no reason why PR campaigns can’t now be built that can be measured and evaluated in the context of metrics that really matter to a business rather than busted flush approaches like advertising equivalence."

Kaushik also provides the 10/90 rule, which says firms ought to allocate 10% of their budgets for tools and the rest to paying for human beings with analytical skills. The challenge with that, I think, is that there are new tools to monitor the Web 2.0 world, and not all of them are free (as is suggested in the book, I believe). Data collection/monitoring can be hugely expensive or time consuming, which amounts to the same thing: the collection can be the tail that wags the dog; while the analysis is the important/essential part, compiling the data takes the most time.

I see this as getting worse as social networks, blogging, etc. continues to fragment the media and divides the mass audience into many, many smaller groups.

But that's the topic for another blog. I think that PR agencies and their clients should have metrics, and that those metrics need to be determined on a client- or project-basis because of the fragmenting of the audience. But the book, Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, seems like a good place to start.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Things Get Ugly for Fashion Mags

Check out "Massive Outlay of Ads No Longer in Vogue: Conde Nast Title, Others Sport Leaner Fall Looks as Marketings Hold Back." Aside from the usual clever WSJ headline & subhead, the article is interesting in looking at two things:
  • Luxury advertisers are still doing well, and able to spend.
  • Fashion books, which had been immune until now, are showing you can be -- at least from an advertising side -- to thin. W magazine (not related to the president) lost 17.67% of its ad pages.
Meanwhile, everyone in the fashion mag sector is expecting a tough 2009. As far as I can tell, red is not the new black. Bet we'll see mid-tier retailers and mid-tier magazines folding over the next few months.

Wall St. Journal Steps Up Coverage of the Travails of the Rich

I guess F. Scott Fitzgerald was right -- the rich are different from you and me. Just check out the New York Times & Wall St. Journal, which are vying for the gold medal for coverage of the problems during the current bad economic period.

I've been chronicling their coverage because I'd think the space could be used better, that the problems of the super-wealthy is a sidebar story to the main issue, the impact on people who are truly having a difficult time of it.

The latest exhibit: "Money Pit? Chrysler Investor Hit Bumpy Road in Home Remodel: Delays, Leaks, Cost Overruns Plague $15 Million Fix of Manhattan Townhouse."

Apparently Stephen Feinberg, the founder of Cerberus Capital Management, a hedge-fund and private-equity firm whose net worth has been estimated at over $1 billion, ended up paying $15 million to fix up his Manhattan townhouse.

Now, I've renovated our house, and I know that everything takes longer and costs more to complete than expected. I know that paying three times the original estimate can be extremely frustrating and something of a hardship. And I know that I have never paid $15 million for renovations (or the original estimate of $5 million).

But Feinberg's got $1 billion. He's not going to have to hold a bake sale to make the payments.

Is this really worthy of the Wall St. Journal's front-page?

Or am I being too insensitive?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Favorite Perspective on Olympic Events: "An Unsung Olympic Sport, Archery Really Hits the Spot"

After watching synchronized diving and men's gymnastics last night, I opened today's Boston Globe, and found a really good article. I was annoyed last night for two reasons:
  • The person providing commentary about synchronized diving was clearly knowledgeable, but very annoying. These are some of the best synchronized divers in the world (I've never heard of the sport before, so they may also be the only synchronized divers in the world -- but that's not germane to this post), and pretty much everything they did -- according to the announcer -- was wrong or bad.
  • The commentary for gymnastics was better, but judging is always flawed.
That's why, when I opened up Bob Ryan's column in today's Boston Globe, I smiled: "An unsung Olympic sport, archery really hits the spot."
  • For the Globe, it was a very witty headline. (The Wall St. Journal's headlines are typically very well written.)
  • He makes an important point about Olympic sports:
Archery is my kind of sport: no judges. Pick up the bow. Pull back the arrow. Fire. You either hit the target or you don't. You add up the points, and the archer, or team, with the most points wins. No muss, no fuss.
I think people like swimming because there are no judges: either you finish first or you don't.

But there's another reason to like archery, according to Ryan:
It's one of those Olympic sports that doesn't exactly threaten to muscle football, baseball, basketball, or hockey off the American front pages. But it's one of those sports that produces an interesting mix of competitors. Take, for example, the three-man American men's team, which consists of 52-year-old five-time Olympian Richard "Butch" Johnson, 32-year-old three-time Olympian Victor Wunderle, and 19-year-old Olympic debutant (as the Brits would say) Brady Ellison.
In the synchronized diving competition, some of the competitors were not just teenagers -- as they are in women's gymnastics -- but early teens. Shouldn't they be playing GameBoy or something?

Meanwhile, here's a two-minute excerpt of the classic Harry Shearer-Martin Short SNL skit about men's synchronized swimming:

Will the backlash against social networks - because there will be one when the media tires of the topic - result in anti-social networks?

There will be, if there's a way to monetize it.

We need a filter to block all the invites from friends at other social networks. Sometimes I feel I get more invites than I do "official notifications" that I've won the UK online lottery. (Disclosure: I apparently won the UK online lottery three times last week; other weeks, I've won four times.)

In a New York Times editorial notebook, "A Secret Society of 30 Million," Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about the problems he's encountered in "the many worlds of social networking on the web:
  • "I get wind of a new site, pay it a visit and discover that it already has a population four times the size of some midsized companies -- everyone speaking the local dialect, taboos and kinship patterns well worked out, a robust economy and brisk trading with other social-networking sites."
He concludes the piece, writing, "I hope there will be room soon for some anti-social Web sites -- places on the Web where you can go to be alone, to hide from your "friends."

Monday, August 11, 2008

James Gleick on Wikipedia

James Gleick, former New York Times reporter and a best-selling author, wrote a fascinating article about Wikipedia and a convention in Egypt in Alexandria, once home of the famous library.

Well worth reading: "Wikipedians Leave Cyberspace,Meet in Egypt: In Alexandria, 650 Devotees Bemoan Vandals, Debate Rules; Deletionists vs. Inclusionists."

Gleick does a terrific job of describing the issues facing the 21st century "Library of Babel."

Conde Nast Portfolio Claims "Facebook Creeps Me Out"

In its current issue, Conde Nast Portfolio ran an interesting article by Simon Dumenco, "Facebook Creeps Me Out." The reasons include ever-changing definition of privacy and the unserious nature of the site.

Here are two key points:
  • Businesspeople often claim to use Facebook for vague “market research” purposes or to satisfy idle curiosity. But the social norms of social networking are still in flux, making privacy a real issue, says internet-marketing writer David Weinberger
  • Facebook is simply unserious—particularly given how it prompts hard-driving business executives to regress into adolescent vernacular. “Poking” people, requesting “friends,” writing on someone’s “wall”: It’s cute when you’re in high school or college. But in a corporate environment, it sounds disingenuous and downright silly.

Poking, friending, even following and nudging are not serious business terms.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Babbitt in the 21st Century -- Still relevant after all these years

For a change of pace when I went on vacation earlier this summer, I decided to read a novel, not a magazine, not a white paper, not a business book -- in fact, I wanted something that was not connected to work.

So I picked up Babbitt, written by Sinclair Lewis about 1920s suburban life. I actually like it (though I have not finished it yet; with three young children, it's difficult to put together enough hours on vacation to read when there are things they want you to do. I did finish two other books I had started before picking up Babbitt).

A friend picked up my book, saw that its copyright date (1922), and asked if it could be relevant since it was written more than 80 years ago.

There are definitely things that are no longer relevant or appropriate, including having to buy bootleg liquor during prohibition (an example of the former) or racist or ethnic references (an example of the latter). The racist and ethnic slurs are unpleasant, but are far from a major theme (I think I counted three or four brief mentions). But this post is not about attitudes towards race or ethnicity of the early 1920s; those attitudes were clearly wrong and hurtful.

The point I do want to make is about what's relevant: the attitude towards work. The scene I just read (from the middle of the book) is that everyone is rushing everywhere:
"Men were feverishly getting rid of visitors in offices adorned with the signs, 'This Is My Busy Day' and 'The Lord Created the World in Six Days -- You Can Spiel All You Got to Say in Six Minutes.' Men who had made five thousand, year before last, and ten thousand last year, were urging on nerve-yelping bodies and parched brains so that they might make twenty thousand this year...Among them Babbitt hustled back to his office, to sit down with nothing much to do except see that the staff looked as though they were hustling."
Those were pre-Internet, Web 2.0 days, by the way.

Well, back to work. This is my busy day!

Actually, here's another section I liked, describing a real estate convention that Babbitt attends:
The meetings of the convention were held in the ballroom of the Allen House. In an anteroom was the office of the chairman of the executive committee. He was the busiest man in the convention; he was so busy that he got nothing done whatever. He sat at a marquetry table, in a room littered with crumpled paper and, all day long, town-boosters and lobbyists and orators who wished to lead debates came and whispered to him, whereupon he looked vague, and said rapidly, 'Yes, yes, that's a fine idea; we'll do that,' and instantly forgot all about it..."
That type still exists!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More Bad News for Newspapers, Part IV? Part V?

It's difficult to keep track these days. Another day, another piece of bad news for the newspaper industry.

I write this, as always, as someone who loves newspapers, and wants to see them succeed.

But things are pretty bad, and the New York Times continues its coverage of an industry in decline. Check out "Newspapers Could Be Bargains, but Few Are Buying" by Richard Perez-Pena.

This time out, Perez-Pena reports that a lot of newspapers are being shopped around, but no one's really interested.

Or, to pick up the quote from Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell, "A year ago, the conventional wisdom was, 'Yep, there are problems out there, but there's still significant value. Now it's 'Run away."

The latest paper hitting a wall is the Newark Star-Ledger by David Carr. Owned by Advance Publications, which is owned in turn by the billionaire Newhouse family, the Newark Star-Ledger is, in the words of of Donald E. Newhouse, president of Advance, "cannot be sustained by us or anyone else...This is the reality we face. The perfect storm. And it shows no sign of letting up."

That could be a negotiating tactic with the unions -- and Advance is asking unions and non-union employees to make concessions. But the Newhouses tend to be good owners, a case Carr makes.
The Newark Star-Ledger is a good paper.

But that may not be enough to keep it going.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Best Campaign Team in the Universe": The Daily Show

This campaign season, one of the big stories so far has been whether the media is seeing a "bounce" from the coverage of either or both candidates.

The answer, so far, is not necessarily evident.

But the cable news channels are competing to get your watch them.

That's provided an opening to the Daily Show, which is promoting "the best campaign team in the universe."

Guess you'll know which team I'll be voting for.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Stiletto’s Webby Acceptance Speach

I think The Stiletto speaks for many bloggers in her would-be acceptance speech after receiving an “Official Honoree” in the Political Blogs category, along with a handful of others by the likes of CNN and The New York Times.

Apparently recipients of Webby Awards were allowed only five words.

Though she did not attend the awards gala, here in its entirety is what The Stiletto would have said upon receiving the Honorable Mention: “How can I monetize this?”

For her article, check out "The Stiletto’s Five-Word Webby Acceptance Speech"

Monday, August 4, 2008

Times Columnist Joe Nocera Explains Going of the Record

Interesting discussion about going off the record by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera about an off-the-record call he had with Steve Jobs about Jobs' health.

"Steve Jobs Goes Off the Record."

Can Stanley Bing Unplug? Or Four Steps the Rest of Us Should Take to Prepare for Our Vacations

Interesting Stanley Bing column in the July 7th issue of Fortune.

Surprisingly, given Bing's blog and the fact that so much other Fortune content is searchable and available, I had trouble finding an electronic version of the article to point people too; unfortunately, the version I did find is not shareable. For example, the archive of Bing's columns in Fortune are listed through 2007; this being the middle of 2008, I think someone has fallen down on the job.

Nonetheless, for those who have already taken or have yet to take their summer vacation, here are some key thoughts:
  • First, Bing admitted to himself that he's "a digiholic. ... That I was powerless over the BlackBerry and, to a lesser extent in my case, the cellphone and laptop, and that as a result my life had become unbearable."
  • He then came to believe "there was a power that was greater than my own ambition," including silence. "Remember silence?" Bing asks.
  • Bing suggests being present as you walk though each day. "That's harder than it sounds," he observes. "Go by yourself to a diner. Order something you like. Sit and eat it without e-mailing, text-messaging, or calling anybody."
  • Bing also discussed the fact that he tried to reconnect with people he had lost touch with over the years but "didn't even know it" because of his 200 e-mails a day and "virtual" friends across many social networks. The problem (until now, he claims) is that he "twittered and texted and kept myself busy indeed, my mind occupied with junk."
After going through these four steps, Bing writes, he is at peace with himself.

Although he notes, "I just hope I don't miss any really important calls, you know? Did you hear if our merger went through?"

Friday, August 1, 2008

Is Internet Killing the Radio Star?

In 1979, one-hit wonders the Boggles wrote "Video Killed the Radio Star," which became the first video shown on MTV.

People have been predicting the death of radio ever since.

Yet, radio continues to hold on.

The New York Times ran a brief article, "Radio’s Popularity Declining Unevenly," that looks at the radio listenership. Given all the competition from old media, new media and MP3 players, radio listnership has fallen only 14 percent over the past decade.

Meanwhile, while I don't have specific numbers in front of me, network TV viewership over that time period has declined at much more significant numbers.

Radio's not dead yet...especially while Americans drive in their cars.

And neither is network TV...though it may be hurt by the fact that real-time TV is not widely available in cars (not that drivers should be watching). (Disclosure, a former client makes satellite dishes for cars and boats.) Also, networks need to figure a way to aggregate numbers based on real-time viewership, time-delayed vewiership (like TiVo), and web-based downloads. I bet network TV's decline would not be as significant if looked at that way.