Jul 21

Today’s hero is often tomorrow’s road kill

Discarded-old-computer-1 I tossed on an old t-shirt before heading out for my five-mile run Sunday morning. It wasn’t until I’d come back and taken it off, though, that I noticed the writing. It featured the slogan of a long gone Web 1.0 client. This wasn’t just any Web 1.0 company. It was the first-to-market in its field. Remember first mover status? Ooooh. It was soooo important.

Anyway, this dotcom had raised millions of dollars from top venture capital firms and its Israeli-led management team believed they walked on water. I remember their unbelievable hubris when they’d descend on our office. When not brow-beating our account team in the conference room, they’d stroll up and down our hallways screaming into their cell phones at some administrative type or banker on the other end. And we permitted it because, well, these were dotcom gods, that’s why. I think they went belly-up in 2002.

I remember another Web 1.0 CEO and his henchwoman who thought they, too, walked on water. Their business model had something to do with being on the edge of the Web and, like the Israelis, they were first-to-market with their business model. They’d raised tons of money, hired hundreds of people and demanded that our account team work 24×7 just like they did. I still remember their ‘coming out’ party at Lotus. It was a ‘must attend’ event for anyone who was anyone in what used to be called Silicon Alley. I also remember the CEO acting like some sultan from “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights”and holding court in a back room. That company imploded two or three months later.

I also recall a gaming company whose head of public relations had the foulest mouth this side of a Bayonne longshoreman. She, too, thought she walked on water and regularly browbeat our team. I think the worst moment came when an industry trade publication named her ‘Young PR Professional of the Year.’ I remember thinking at the time that either some judge hadn’t done her homework or the industry was now including verbal abuse as a key component of the successful, young PR pro. Happily, it turned out to be the former and this horror show and her firm soon disappeared from the Web 1.0 landscape.

I bring all this up because I’ve noticed more and more hubris of late from Web 2.0 CEOs and their in-house marketing communications types. Hopefully, what I’m seeing is an exception to the norm. Even if it’s not, I’m sure I’ll be running one day soon in a  t-shirt from a company that went very quickly from being today’s hero to tomorrow’s road kill. That’s because there seems to be a direct correlation between short-term abuse and long-term failure.

Jun 23

I highly recommend it

Public relations is in the midst of unprecedented change. Traditional media relations, while still important, has been equaled, if not surpassed by social media. Indeed, we’re seeing more and more clients ask about word-of-mouth. How does one inspire, motivate and encourage a prospective or current customer to ‘recommend’ an organization’s product or service to a peer? The answer  to that single question contains the key to the future of marketing communications.

June 23 - socialmedia  

Like many forward-looking organizations, we’re grappling with how one goes about ‘encouraging’ or ‘enabling’ recommendations. We don’t know the full answer, but we have some ideas. In the spirit of openness and transparency, we’d like to get your perspective as well.

So, if you don’t mind, click the survey link below and let me know what you think. I promise to share the findings in a future blog that, I hope, you’ll highly recommend to others.

Check out the survey here.

Apr 23

Don’t look back. Someone may be gaining

A recent PR News-Peppercom survey of 500 communicators showed that two-thirds were concerned theyLooking
were parallel to, or behind, their competitors when it came to digital communications.

The finding is scary in a number of ways. It tells me that communicators are either unable to convince their management to make a strategic digital spend or they simply don’t care. While the latter statement may sound glib and superficial, it may also be true. I suspect there’s more than one Fortune 500 marketing executive who simply doesn’t want to worry about digital communications. He or she isn’t comfortable with the new, Web 2.0 world, finds it impossible to control and nearly impossible to explain to the C-suite. So, why not let the next shift worry about it?

If, however, the survey finding indicates an inability on the part of marketers to ‘sell’ digital to the c-suite, then I suggest a competitive audit is exactly the way to do so. Most CEOs move like greased lightning when shown clear evidence of a competitor’s strategic maneuvering. And, what better way to get Avis to move, for example, than by showing the CEO what Hertz is doing in Web 2.0?

Digital is not only a game changer that’s here to stay, it’s a game changer that can help you stay ahead of your competition.

Feb 06

Snail mail-like e-mail

How’d you like to get a follow-up to an e-mail originally sent in July of 2006? Snail_mail

I was ready to simply delete the pesky and unsolicited spam when it occurred to me the Who’s Who organization needed to be made aware of the image-impact its snail mail-like e-mail was causing.

What business waits 20 months before following up on a lead? Your dentist or doctor might.  And, maybe insurance and medical supply salesmen do.  But, if you want to grab my attention (in a positive way), personalize your initial inquiry and then follow the damn thing up in a timely, courteous fashion. I may not be interested, but I’ll appreciate the professionalism.

While it’s true that haste makes waste and the tortoise ended up beating the hare, speed is a prerequisite to success in the Web 2.0 world.

Dec 20

Sheep weep at steep leap

The Electric Sheep Company, one of Web 2.0’s real superstar design shops, is firing one-third of itsElectric_2
employees in light of declining business.

Considered white hot just a year or so ago, Electric Sheep made its mark by designing ‘builds’ for brands on Second Life. Now, though, with many companies re-thinking the viability of a Second Life presence, Electric Sheep has had the plug pulled (or its billings sheared, depending upon one’s metaphor of choice).

Electric Sheep’s management made the same mistake many of us made during those lazy, hazy, crazy days of dotcom mania. Peppercom did it. And when the dotcom express derailed, we had to manage our way through two separate messy and depressing downsizings. I’ll never forget one bleak February day when, in the midst of the downsizings, our phone system shut down. Rumors began circulating in the industry that we’d closed. Ouch.

But, that was then and this is now. We’ve not only diversified our client portfolio, we’ve also become much more disciplined in hiring. We’ll never again hire willy-nilly in expectations of a continued boom. Instead, we analyze, as best we can, what the coming 90 days look like and make ‘go/no go’ staffing decisions accordingly.

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Dec 12

The digital age giveth and the digital age taketh away

I never cease to be amazed how ignorant certain people can be (and I’m not even referring to the currentDrunk
occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).

Ever since Web 2.0 debuted and powerhouse sites like Facebook and MySpace became all the rage, we’ve seen, heard and read about images and reputations being ruined because of indiscreet postings.

And, yet, college kids continue to do irreparable damage to themselves. The latest example is a group of party-hardy co-eds who not only post photographs and videos of themselves vomiting and urinating in public, but also publish their names and colleges affiliations. And, when confronted, these young women actually defend their activities.

Facebook’s ‘Thirty reasons girls should call it a night’ has every drunken and debauched antic captured for one and all to see. And, the featured co-eds think it’s cool (‘It’s just something fun to do,’ said one. ‘You need to be able to laugh at yourself.’).

What don’t these young women get about the web? Do they not realize future employers will check the sites? Do they not realize they’re doing themselves irreparable harm?

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Oct 23

I’m just about ready to link out of Linked In

I must receive five or more ‘Linked In" requests every day. In case you’ve somehow escaped this pesky,Linked_in
but prevalent pestilence, Linked In positions itself as the ‘Facebook’ or ‘MySpace’ of the adult business world.

Like the hot social networking sites, Linked In asks participants to create a home page that provides their name, title and affiliation. Users then send e-mail notices to anyone and everyone they’ve ever ‘touched’ in their business or personal lives.

The result is a steady stream of ‘invitations’ from the vaguely familiar to the complete stranger. The sender asks you to click on the invite bar and become Linked in. Ok. But why?

Some people have 350 or more Linked In friends. Others, like me, have far fewer.

Some herald Linked In as the next great rainmaking and networking tool. Our firm’s crack strategy consultant, for example, proselytizes on the technology’s capability at every opportunity. He believes, because of its ‘six degrees of separation’ Linked In enables us to create ‘personal’ connections with even the largest or most remote prospective client (i.e. Just plug in the name of the prospect organization, do a Linked In search, and you’ll see that John who knows Jane once worked with Abdul who dated Akbar who sits two cubes away from Nadia, the prospective client decision-maker).

Maybe. But who has the time to play those games? And, just because I know someone who knows someone, will that give me any real advantage?

I’m a big proponent of the Web 2.0 world. But, so far, Linked In has done absolutely nothing except cost me precious time responding to people who’ve asked me to be their Linked In friends.

Unless I can figure out a tangible benefit soon, this blogger will be linked out of Linked In.