Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mistakes Clients Make When Choosing an Agency

Avi Dan, founder of founder of Avidan Strategies,  recently wrote an interesting article on Forbes.com, "The 7 Biggest Mistakes Clients Make When Choosing An Agency."

Of the seven, I agree with four of them:
  • Forgetting that the most important reason for choosing an agency is its ability.
  • Not aligning client and agency interests and priorities is another mistake.
  • Leaving the compensation discussion to the end of the process can cause contentious misunderstandings.
  • Giving equal weight to all opinions at the company ignores the fact that different managers have different levels of experience, and sometimes, different expectations.
Dan suggests that conducing a search without using a search consultant is a mistake, but I disagree.  We're seeing fewer companies engage a search consultant, and yet we continue to nurture long-term relationships with our clients -- even through the roughest economic period in memory.

That said, I think a search consultant could be useful when companies decide to select an agency based on a Request For Proposal (RFP) process.

In part II, I'll write about aspects of RFPs.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Interesting Look at Oprah's Final Season

There was a time when it seemed as if nearly every potential client, even B2B companies, asked about getting onto "Oprah."

We did get a client onto the show. The producers saw a a More magazine article on aging women athletes, and produced a special segment that featured a customer of one of our clients.

That was great, and a bit lucky, too.

For all the interest among potential and actual clients, a challenge in getting onto the program wasn't just the stiff competition to get producers' attention. It's that the show evolved into covering celebrities, and single-themed shows that were not appropriate for technology.

Bloomgberg BusinessWeek ran a graphic that dissected Oprah's last season, and found the shows could be identified across eight categories:
  • Celebrity (84 shows)
  • Tragedies (23 shows)
  • On the Road (13 shows)
  • Self-help (12 shows)
  • Weird and wild (12 shows)
  • Looking Back (12 shows)
  • Self-Improvement Gurus (6 shows)
  • Oprah's Favorite Things (4 shows)
Perhaps the last season was skewed, but based on the breakout of topics, "Oprah" didn't present a lot of opportunities for tech clients. You can check out the original Bloomberg BusinessWeek article here.

Of course, these days, we still get queries about viral videos.

Ah well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lesson from Google's Introduction of its Chrome Laptops

Last week, Google introduced Chromebook, a new laptop based on Google's Chrome operating system. What makes Chromebooks interesting is that it stores everything online -- the apps, the data, etc. are all stored in the cloud.

Google says that Chromebooks turn on instantly (as compared with Microsoft-based PCs) and can be simpler to maintain (again, compared with Microsoft PCs).

But what's instructive for the rest of us not directly involved in the Google v. Microsoft battle is that Google made sure to launch Chromebooks with several beta customers.

The fact is that Google has a strong reputation for its products, services and programmers. If Google says it's delivering something, most people will accept that the technology delivers what Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, says it does.

And yet, Google felt it needed the credibility of beta customers to support the need for this new laptop with its new business and operation model. And yes, Google had pre-briefed industry analysts at Gartner and IDC but realized they needed validation from actual users. Check out this New York Times article, "Google’s Chrome Laptops to Go on Sale in June," which includes quotes from Jason's Deli, a chain of 250 restaurants and Logitech. Additionally, Google cited other users (note: the article does not call them customers) such as Intercontinental Hotels, Group and Logitech, saying they "had already begun using Chrome."

We always tell clients that having customers who will talk to the media is an important element for securing media interest. It's instructive to realize that having customers is an important element to a product launch even for Google.

The important point about naming organizations "using Chrome" is this: it doesn't call them customers so we can't be sure they're actually paying to use Chrome. In other words, sometimes, even for Google, it's worth giving away technology in exchange for citing or quoting them in press materials.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Study Suggests Lessons for Online Journalism

According to a new study cited in today's NY Times, journalists need to rethink their online models.

Perhaps the most significant recommendation from the 139-page report, published by Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism is to change journalists', and their audiences', relationships with advertisers.

Times reporter Brian Stelter quotes Bill Grueskin, the academic dean for the journalism school and a co-author of the report as saying: “We’re not suggesting that journalists get marching orders from advertisers. We are suggesting that journalists get a much better understanding of why so many advertising dollars have left the traditional news media business.” 

Other recommendations include:
  • Journalists must understand their businesses. The report makes the point that journalists “gain a fuller appreciation for how advertisers now reach their customers via social media, new-media ads and search engine optimization,” and that larger news organizations should consider creating or re-creating separate digital staffs, “particularly on the business side.” 
  • Journalists need to have a “faster and more consistent pace of innovation and investment” in digital technology. (As a counterpoint, please note that the report itself was printed on 139 pages. Perhaps the authors should follow their own advice.)
  • "Advertising on the Web tends to have less value for the consumer than advertising in other formats." 
  • Newspapers need to look past the traditional cost-per-thousands advertising model to offer creative ways to package ways to reach audiences. The study cites the Web site of The Dallas Morning News, which has a section for high school sports. A package deal for advertising on the section during a recent football season included print ads, a player-of-the-week contest and a banquet for players at the end of the season."
For corporate communications functions, this study -- The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism, published in the Columbia Journalism Review -- is useful in terms of helping guide clients to embracing a new way to look at media.  It's also interesting in that the reporting about the study shows limitations in the current model. For example, I'm a big fan of the Times' reporter, Stelter, but his article did not mention Columbia Journalism Review nor provide a link to the study itself. It just goes to show that we all need to think through how we make content available across multiple channels.

Meanwhile, here are the chapter titles for the extensive report. I plan to read through the report for future blog posts.

Chapter One News From Everywhere: The Economics of Digital Journalism
Chapter Two Traffic Patterns: Why Big Audiences Aren’t Always Profitable
Chapter Three Local and Niche Sites: The Advantages of Being Small
Chapter Four The New New Media: Mobile, Video, and Other Emerging Platforms
Chapter Five Paywalls: The Price Tag for Information
Chapter Six Aggregation: ‘Shameless’—and Essential
Chapter Seven Dollars and Dimes: The New Costs of Doing Business
Chapter Eight New Users, New Revenue: Alternative Ways to Make Money
Chapter Nine Managing Digital: Audience, Data, and Dollars

One question: in an age of 140 characters posts on Twitter, was 139 pages a bit overkill?