August 9, 2006 by Colin
Three thoughts for today:
- Hershey’s hits a home run coming out of the 2006 All Candy Expo: a writer for Progressive Grocer drops by the company’s booth at the show and plants a big sloppy kiss on the company and its community health and education initiatives. The only way that piece could have come off better for the Hershey’s folk is if it came “with release.”
- Picked up my ticket for the Billy Bragg show in town September 23. Determined not to pay the Ticketmaster “convenience fee,” I bought it from a little independent music shop, End Hits. They’re likely suffering from the same pressures (and lack of attention) as other music shops, but the fact that their web presence emphasizes community events, local bands and new releases shows they’ve got their head on right. (As an aside – several different ways a kid could spend $20 on music)
- A book that seems promising (although it has not been reviewed by anyone) is Econospinning: How to Read Between the Lines When the Media Manipulate the Numbers, by Gene Epstein, the economics editor for Barron’s. From his publisher’s blurb on Amazon:
“… He then exposes shoddy reporting by a laundry list of economic journalists, providing the dos and don’ts to guide readers to the best options: who to believe, who to respect, who to argue with, and who to run away from screaming. From Paul Krugman (The New York Times) to John Cassidy (The New Yorker), as well as others including, but in no way limited to, Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed), Louis Uchitelle (Goldman Sachs’ Economics Research Group), and Patrick Barta (Wall Street Journal), Epstein does a point-by-point discussion on how readers can get their feet on the ground floor of economics information, and provides readers with a list of his trusted recommendations.”
(hat tip to marginal revolution)
August 7, 2006 by Colin
A little blego trip for me – Ben over at Church of the Consumer gave me a hat tip for a hit-and-run post I made back in May. I drew a connection between Ben’s observation that 1% of social communities drive growth and value for the larger community – and the 1% of hardcore bikers who, by association, impart exclusivity and a ragged personality to the other 99%.
Ben digs into the biker mythology in more detail, and debunks some of the myth.
August 6, 2006 by Colin
” … In this Web 2.0-ish world we’re supposed to be all about the users being in control. Where the “community” drives the product. But the user community can’t create art. (And I use “art” with a lowercase “a” as in software, books, just about anything we might design and craft.) That’s up to us.
Our users will tell us where the pain is. Our users will drive incremental improvements. But the user community can’t do the revolutionary innovation for us. That’s up to us.”
Hat tip to Olivier Blanchard.
August 6, 2006 by Colin
I have my reservations about jumping on the Second Life bandwagon, just like Kevin and Darren. It’s still too early to bet the farm on a platform whose market size may equal that of U.S. Saab drivers. (no matter what the projections for 2008 may say)
Marketers and public relations pros thinking of exploring this environment can picky up some hints from the users already blogging their online experiences. Real world practioners will also notice that habits, preferences and human behaviour often translate seamlessly between the two evironments. In one, the names are just sillier.
Cited below are practical examples drawn from SL projects:
- The House on Swan Pond – which is a Second Life representation of a house being designed for a real life family.
- Pimp your own ride: SL marketing 101: Advice for Second Life fashion designers and retailers, and equally applicable to the real world.
” … Shep Korvin at LapGirl may have pioneered this idea in SL, but wherever it came from, I’m a huge fan of this strategy. Once a month he creates a box, shoves some of his best new items into it – not boxes of items, just the items themselves. Then he includes a notecard detailing items names and prices, adds a landmark, and distributes it. The box is, smartly enough, called LapGirl – Reviewers’ Box – May 2006 or something like that. Like so many of the best things in life, this is simple and yet brilliant. …
For designers looking for exposure, I think that selecting a particular day of the month to create and distribute your Reviewer Packs is probably an excellent way to make sure you regularly devote a chunk of time to your own PR and marketing. Call it PR Day, call it Pimp Day, call it whatever you like, but be sure to devote one day a month to organising and distrubuting your wares to the fashionista press circuit. …”
“…Just because you are in a mall with other vendors doesn’t mean the traffic will flock to you, you will have to do some work to get people to your store. Also, having an attractive, easy to navigate display is important. If you can, show your products around. Get them into reviewer/blogger hands, and make sure you’ve got a classified set for your stores ( or at least in your picks) on your profile.
Sponsoring events is also a good way to get some exposure, aside from just wandering around secondlife and talking to people. You can also buy advertising on places like SLxechange, SLboutique, the Metaverse Messanger, inworld, etc, etc. Posting your products in the forums and adding your store locations to your signature in the forums is also helpful. …”
” … after receiving a very generous offer to purchase FORBIDDEN and all its products and with the hype of the past months we couldnt decline. FORBIDDEN has been bought out and will be ran under diffrent managament. Zahara has completley decided to leave SL, I however will be staying and see where it takes me. I hope to return to designing one day and hopefully will. …”
- Resurrecting the careers of cultural touchstones that just don’t move big product anymore. Like Suzanne Vega and Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut, by the way, will be appearing on the SL version of The Infinite Mind.
- Apparently, it’s hard to protect your innovations in fashion. From a superficial reading, it seems that SL may benefit in some instruction on the business of fashion from Allan B. Schwartz: it may seem like your designs are being copied and resold, but that’s really just an homage, baby! As Chicago once sang: “You’re the meaning in my life/
You’re the inspiration/You bring feeling to my life/You’re the inspiration.”
- There’s even a touch of Caddyshack: freelance caddies working the Holly Kai Ocean Nine golf course for tips.
BTW – it was Rob Walker who compared his Second Life representation to an “avatard“. Walker’s going to be paying more attention to “in-world” business in the future.
August 6, 2006 by Colin
Breaking news from WaPo: companies can build word of mouth by targeting bloggers. Nothing new there, but there is one sentence that seems right out of August 2005:
” … Blogger relations experts have joined public relations and advertising teams. …”
That’ll last a couple more years at the most, folks. Then ALL public relations and marketing specialists will be expected to understand this new channel.
August 5, 2006 by Colin
Mike Driehorst tagged me (quite a few days ago, I’m sorry to admit) with listing my five social media favourites.
Well, my first is Bloglines. No surprise there. I use different computers everywhere I go, as well as my BlackBerry, so Bloglines gives me a common reference point for my feeds.
My second is podcasts. Here are some of my regular destinations:
- American Copywriter
- Delta Park Project
- Inside PR
- Across the Sound
- KCRW’s The Business
- The Guardian’s Media talk
- Better Desirable Roasted Communications
- NPR Motley Fool Profiles
- The Sound of Young America
My third? Google Analytics. Thankfully, I jumped on the free offer last year.
Fourth? Technorati’ search, and combined with Blogpulse’s trend and conversation analysis.
Fifth is Movable Type. I’ve been using it since 2003 and, sure, other blogging engines may be surpassing MT in popularity but it’s still reliable and familiar.
Kind of like driving an AMC Eagle 4×4.
August 4, 2006 by Colin
In a story about the British government’s efforts to make manufacturers reduce the salt levels in their snacks and foods, I found this amusing snippet implying a Pappudum vs. Yorkshire Pudding rivalry. The Times (London) discussed the lobbying and negotiation tactics between manufacturers and the Food Standards Agency.
Over the course of the article, it was revealed that Patak’s had argued that they should be exempted from more stringent controls on the amount of salt in their pappadums and, instead, the much more traditional Yorkshire Pudding should bear the brunt of the cuts. I guess it’s a cultural shift, much like the difference between Coronation Street vs. Footballers’ Wives.
August 3, 2006 by Colin
1. Your business filing fees were charged to the credit card of a Vice President, Government Relations.
2. You’re in the same building as a public affairs agency.
3. You share a coffee room with a public affairs agency.
4. You share an executive director with a public affairs agency.
5. When you first arrived at your desk, there was a gift basket of corporate goodies and coupons.
6. All of the sudden, your utility bills come with a handwritten note: “it’s on us!”
7. Your last office retreat was held in Scottsdale.
8. A distinct lack of old ladies wearing cardigans.
9. The canvassing team has custom kicks, ironic yet branded t-shirts, GPS and Treos.
10. The scenario notes for your town hall sessions identify the first five members of the public to speak – by what they’ll be wearing.
11. The last newsletter had quotes from an executive in a property development firm – in three separate articles.
12. Your phone number leads to an IVR system and a call centre in Ireland.
13. You have business cards with three different names and four different logos.
14. Quorum at general meetings usually involves a trip to the Mission.
15. Another white paper? Let me give the essay mill a call!
16. The senior policy advisor to the campaign still drives a company car.
17. Every employee/vounteer has to fill out a time sheet in 15 minute increments.
18. The office has all the equipment to make several styles of laminated i.d. cards.
19. No blogging by employees/volunteers … at all!
August 2, 2006 by Colin
I really think the WSJ’s piece on the new direction in BMW’s marketing campaign – “promoting a corporate culture of independence and innovation” – would have benefited from a discussion of BMW’s decision to sponsor the audio and video downloads of presentations at this spring’s TED conference.
After all, it’s not like several of the downloads have gone viral or anything.
Instead, they highlighted BMW’s involvement with a new PGA tournament. A good idea to target affluent boomers, but Buick, Cadillac or Toyota already have strong links with golf. What about focusing on the innovative aspects of their repositioning?
The WSJ article is subscription only, unfortunately.
If anything, David Kiley’s piece in BusinessWeek was more detailed.
August 2, 2006 by Colin
Visiting California, Tony Blair had some strong things to say about the qualities of leadership – and the responsibility to fight for ideas that are true and just. He also took a smack at the negative aspects of one-issue activism:
… Which brings me to my final point about leadership. The world changes fast; the policy changes necessary to cope are hugely challenging; opposition from traditionalists is immense. In these conditions, political leaders have to back their instinct and lead. The media climate will be often be harsh. NGOs and pressure groups with single causes can be benevolent but can also exercise a kind of malign tyranny over the public debate.
For a leader, don’t let your ego be carried away by the praise or your spirit diminished by the criticism and look on each with a very searching eye. But for heaven’s sake, above all else, lead. (10 Downing Street)
August 2, 2006 by Colin
I carry around a Moleskine notebook for two reasons: because I’m pretentious, and because I like drawing pictures. At the very least, I like waving my hands around while speaking, trying to communicate the visual idea map that is plainly obvious to my eyes – but often unseen by my colleagues. Dave Gray of XPLANE fame spoke to Sean Wise about how to better communicate your fundamental business concepts – in this case focusing on the development of a back of napkin diagram (BoND) to help entrepreneurs sell their ideas to venture capitalists.
” … A good BoND can also assist with employee recruitment, team alignment, sales and technology build outs. [venture capitalist Rick] Segal comments, that “As the prospective client, employee, or VC engages, both parties can use the drawing as a central reference point. It’s a very useful tool that is often overlooked in favour of mountains of text laden painful power point slides.” …
“Visual diagrams can serve as a powerful ‘platform for conversations.’ They help people focus their attention and understand new ideas better and faster. Better understanding leads to better decisions, which leads to better business results,” said [Dave] Gray.” (Globe and Mail)
At the very least, any communicator with an inclination towards visual thinking should start off by diagramming their problem and possible solutions – I absolutely detest strategies that are clearly derived from a linear train of thought first detailed in a series of PowerPoint slides. If you frame your problem using a linear technology, usually, you’ll come up with a linear argument. That will mask the uncertainties and mixed priorities communicators often face – on their issues, from their management, from their clients and certainly from the public.
In speaking to Wise, Gray set out the steps for working through your first back of napkin diagram:
1. First, be sure you are solving the right problem. … The best way to define a communication problem is to find the question you want to answer with the communication. Define communications goals as a question that the diagram will answer. …
2. Don’t worry about your drawing skills. If you know the subject, just draw what you know. …
3. Think about your story. … Remember, the BoND’s first job is to support a story, and help you have meaningful conversations on a subject you care about. If any part of the picture doesn’t support your story, maybe it doesn’t belong.
4. Minimize the number of elements. Research shows that people construct mental models in very predictable ways. When asked to diagram a system, the average person uses around six or seven visual elements to support their story. …
5. Edit ruthlessly, using your goal as a filter. …
6. Once you have a visual diagram that you like, ask yourself, “Is it replicable?” The answer is yes if: You can draw it on a whiteboard and tell the story in 10 minutes or less; You can teach someone else to draw the picture and tell the story.
7. Once you have something you like, test it on everyone you can — friends, family, your spouse, etc. …
8. Revise and update the BoND often — like a good relationship or a good wine, it will only improve over time. …” (Globe and Mail)
Look to the whole article for more detail or take a look at the XPLANE website.
You could do worse than subscribe to the two aggregate blogs produced by XPLANE: Xblog, which deals with information design issues, and Bblog, which deals with business issues. Or even Dave Gray’s blog.
August 1, 2006 by Colin
Petro-Canada, the ever present gas refiner and retailer here up north, has launched a series of online videos to help explain the fluctuations in the price of gas. mynameisKate had the scoop first. The “Pump Talk” videos feature pleasant young women who attempt to walk the viewer through the economics of oil drilling, refining and gas marketing, using analogies and personal asides – like a comparison of gas and coffee pricing. The innovation here? The videos are hosted on YouTube.
“… We wanted to do something different. Instead of adding more charts and graphs to the website, we asked Petro-Canada employees how they answer friends’ or relatives’ questions about gas pricing. As you can imagine, most employees have had plenty of practice at barbecues and weddings. The result is Pump Talk — a series of short videos in English and French — that we hope will answer some of your questions.” (PetroCanada website)
As Kate points out, the videos do have a corporate feel to them. For that reason, I think there should be more of a corporate identifier embedded in the video – even if it’s only a logo in the lower right hand corner. At the very least, YouTube users expect to see some sort of attribution included in the video, even if its only to indicate where the video was ripped/stolen from.
Contact information would be nice as well. The “contact us” and “feedback” links on the Petro-Canada site lead you to one of those damnable contact submission forms. There’s nothing like the electronic equivalent of a suggestion box to encourage a frank discussion.
That said, it’s refreshing to see a large conglomerate try out new channels for communicating with their customers.
Wonder if we’ll see a remix of the videos popping up on YouTube.
BTW – a reminder, the opinions expressed on Canuckflack are my own, and do not reflect the views of my employer, the Government of Canada.
August 1, 2006 by Colin
So, would you call this an active public diplomacy campaign, or a really forceful astroturfing effort?
” … Israel’s Government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda. The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish activists can place supportive messages.
In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.” (Times Online)
Link from Antonia Zerbisias
August 1, 2006 by Colin
… Mr. Hanks was initially reluctant to be interviewed for this article. “Why would I want to — so I could see my name in the paper tomorrow?” he joked. “I get my name in the paper when I go out and buy socks. I go to Gray’s Papaya in New York and I’m on Defamer.com.”
Quoted in a NYT profile of his production company, Playtone.
August 1, 2006 by Colin
First, how a movie studio publicity agent would rewrite Paul Wells’ review of Miami Vice:
3 or 4,000 bullets! It sounds gorgeous!
Mullets! Blood Packs! Splattered Guts!
Better than I’ve seen all summer!
And here’s his original review (which still impels me to see the movie0:
Miami Vice: a review, with bullets
• Excellent sound engineering. Michael Mann has found the best sound of bullets hitting metal that I’ve ever heard. About 3 or 4,000 bullets hit metal and it sounds gorgeous.
• Is it still called a mullet if it obviously cost hundreds of dollars to groom?
• Are we still using blood packs for splattered guts, or have we graduated to CGI?
• Crouching. This movie features better crouching than any I’ve seen all summer.
• That is all. (Maclean’s)