Thursday, May 26, 2005

Storytelling and Lying

Just received my copy of Seth Godin's new book, All Marketers are Liars, today and am excited to read it. The front flap has a great preview of what I expect the book will expand on: "Successful marketers don't talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story. A story we want to believe."

Seth's last post on his "Liar's Blog" qualifies the above statement with the reminder that the story one tells must be authentic.

I'm especially interested in gleaning some learnings that will translate to media relations, which at its most effective is the sharing of a story. Too often, we, the PR story-pushers, forget the real tale and focus too much on the features. We side with convenience and time and SPAM media contacts instead of telling them a story. We throw morsels of "Breaking" info instead of taking the time to build the background and grow the story those for-immediate-release features and benefits are birthed out of.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

iPod: as dangerous to society as the paperback

I posted a blog a couple months ago about how iPods promote an absent presence among devotees and in turn society. My hip Chicago friend Sara (who keeps me up to speed on the latest El trends) forwarded this Chicago Tribune article about iPod users reclaiming their personal space.

The article contains a very cool comparison, made by Steve Jones, professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago and senior research fellow at the Pew Internet and American Life Project: "We've long looked for technologies that privatize us in public," Jones said. "People voiced some of the same concerns when paperbacks were first mass-produced: `Now while we're riding on trains, instead of interacting, we'll each be reading our own book.'"

Friday, May 20, 2005

An old buddy, Kyle Moreland, launched a Web site recently to support his musical pursuits. I met Kyle during a trip to Israel years ago. At one time, I could keep up with his guitar playing, but those days are over, as evidenced by his site and growing singer/songwriter/performer career. You can download songs, check out his journal, view some pictures and find details for his next concert.

Best of luck with the upcoming album, Kyle.

Blog recommendation: Disabled Crusader

A friend of mine told me about the Disabled Crusader's blog over dinner last night. From what I gathered on his blog, DC has cerebral palsy and mild autism. He's a democrat. He's an activist. I don't know the DC's name yet, but figure one day we'll all know his name. He's headed to Springfield, MO today to confront Governor Matt Blunt on cuts in disabled services.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

FC: Entire issue devoted to design

As I wrote before, all types of companies - including public relations shops - can do a better job of integrating design thinking into the strategic development process. Fast Company devoted its entire June issue to the subject of design. From product designers to corporate integration ideas, the issue spans the discipline and further proves the power of design in any industry.

I love this stuff. I agree with it and have seen it work. I have no doubt that companies that adopt design thinking into their strategy and processes will come out ahead. This attention to creative thinking is going to spread to our clients, colleagues and competitors, so there's very little time for boardroom debate. Companies that move on this philosophy will win.


I just returned from a biz trip in San Diego and I'm definitely feeling the "being-back funk." I participated in a productive client meeting with people I truly enjoy being around, I was on the beach, in the sun, with plenty of time for some overdue personal reflection. Hard to beat.

Three days were all I needed to fill half a notebook full of thoughts, direction, ideas and inspiration. By the time I landed in KC last night, I felt very satisfied with my discoveries and was eager to move on them. Then, I woke up this morning and BAM! the only tangible thing I had to show for the better part of this week was a sunburned forehead.

When I'm faced with such feelings, I normally download a new album from expensive habit, but quite effective. Today, I downloaded Van Morrison's new album, Magic Time. It's great.

By the middle of the first song, Stranded, I'd found my inspiration again and hung on to one of his lines: "Every, every, everyday it's hustle time." Not like "do-the-hustle time," and it's sung in Morrison's signature, pained and transparent way. I'm about halfway through the album as I write this, and about a quarter of the way back to my San Diego state of mind.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A Newsweek article on Burger King CEO Greg Brenneman showed the power of a company locating and knowing its audience and responding with the same loyalty it depends on from that audience. Brenneman calls Burger King’s target audience “Super Fans” – the young, grey collar men interested in football and indulging in the BK-signature Enormous Omelet Sandwich. Though his Super Fans make up just 18 percent of the population, they are 49 percent of Burger King’s business.

Brenneman has embraced the “Have it your way” slogan Crispin Porter + Bogusky coined fast food's number two. While many fast food restaurants are scrambling to provide low-fat/carb alternatives and develop healthy lifestyle material to combat the “Super Size Me” fallout, Burger King is connecting to its audience by boldly offering such 760-calorie gut bombs as the Enormous Omelet Sandwich. The armchair coach doesn’t want to eat a Fruit and Walnut Salad, he wants a Whopper and a large Coke. I can respect that, in fact, I admire it.

Blog recommendation

My friend and colleague Caroline Quissell just started her own blog. In my opinion, it's about time. Caroline is one of those people who seems to see things before the rest of us do. She's got one of the best iTunes libraries I've ever seen, and already has included her musical musings in her first posts. Check it out, add it to your bloglines.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Fly the friendly skies

After a number of stories on United Airline’s bankruptcy and pension cuts, I boarded my Southwest Airlines flight to San Diego today with the usual grey cloud of an industry overshadowed by failure. Southwest has found success among its competitors’ failures by executing creative and ballsy marketing decisions. We all know about Southwest’s decision to appear on the reality show “Airline” when other companies pulled up their landing gear at the thought of exposing their inner workings. Most who’ve flown know that singing stewardesses, stand-up-comedian pilots and unlimited drink refills are a welcomed norm on flights of any distance. I also appreciate the “cattle call” boarding practice, as it allows me to pick a seat next to the most attractive or interesting looking person on board.

Moreover, during the tense travel atmosphere after September 11, 2001, passengers were pleasantly surprised to find Southwest’s staff focused on making jokes and wearing khaki shorts. The little things, you might say, but those little things have stuck and created planes filled with brand apostles.

Back to today. I am seated behind two enlisted men, very close to my age of 25. This flight is one of a few they’ll take over the next few days as part of their eventual deployment to Iraq. Both men started the flight with the typical stern, worn and nervous countenance that their position in life requires. They are buddies who will be split once they get to Iraq, with the potential of losing contact for a while, or completely.

As drinks were served for this three-hour flight, both men ordered a Miller Lite. The steward came around, cracked the tops and charged the men nothing. The steward said, “Thank you for what you do” and walked away. Nice gesture. Many people around the men said “thank you,” or started small talk. I watched as Southwest executed a six-dollar-marketing budget to ensure those around these two soldiers remembered that hospitality and appreciation the next time they book a flight. That’s crude marketing speak, and I’m confident the steward saw this as a way to show his admiration and thanks, and nothing more.

Ten minutes later though, the steward came back with two more beers. After the rest of the plane had settled into a nap, the steward returned with two more beers. And again.

I’d guess that Southwest has no written policy to serve beer to enlisted passengers. An unwritten nudge to recognize those that are fighting for our freedom might be in place. Maybe one beer and some extra peanuts, but I doubt that round after round was something the steward was told to do by his crew supervisor. No, this was his policy.

This reminded me of a speech by our company’s founder, Bill Fromm. Bill, an expert in customer service and a well-recognized authority on the subject, talked about elements of successful client relations. One of his points was the impact of empowering employees to solve problems and take initiative – sometimes without the approval of their superiors – when faced with an opportunity to go the extra mile, or respond to an urgent situation. This steward knew that his corporate culture supported his decision to toss a few free beers to two men whose next flight could be gunned down.

From opening its inner workings to television crews or singing the latest pop hit during the pre-departure safety speech to eating the cost of a few cans of beer, Southwest is doing what no other mainstream commercial airline can seem to figure out: it’s putting independence in travel again, and has found a way to unite travelers, and in a small way, our country.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Bad form or totally appropriate?

Good news for me and others that have awaited yet another Dennis Miller television exit. His show is cancelled. This means two things: Miller now can go on to recreate another Weekend Update-like program and I no longer have to flip past his show in the evening.

I won't start to criticize his Monday Night Football gig. That should have been the point that he decided to get off the air and spend his time watching old SNL tapes. But the way Mark Hoffman, president of CNBC, told staffers of their soon-to-be-kyboshed show (in a very corporate-cold e-mail) begs debate. Was his e-mail to staffers bad form or a totally appropriate level of effort exerted to address a show that plainly stunk?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

First impressions

I was taught early on that first impressions are important. Be polite. Have a firm handshake. Look people in the eye. As I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, I have started to think about how important the element of first impressions are to the core reputation management and brand promotion public relations professionals are charged to execute for a client's brand.

Sure, we pay great attention to first impressions during a product launch or news release distribution, but each day, each minute, someone is discovering or being introduced to a brand. According to Gladwell, in a matter of seconds, a consumer has made up his or her mind on how he or she relates to that brand.

Scary? Sure is.

Being that marketers have yet to figure out how to control the world, the next best option is to control the small things. Each brand touch point - from miniscule to the magnificent - is an opportunity to make a positive and lasting first impression.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Godin: What every good marketer knows

Just found Seth Godin's list of what every good marketer knows. Great reminder that anyone, at any time can build relationships and grow a brand through thoughtful marketing tactics.

Best line: "Obviously, knowing what to do is very, very different than actually doing it."

Create your own font

Colleague and pop-culture queen Allyson Moore just passed this site my way. You can create a personalized computer font based on your handwriting samples.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More justification to think like a designer

I recently wrote about the benefits of thinking like a designer, and why people and companies would benefit by practicing more designer-like thinking. Johnnie Moore posted a graph that further illustrates the fault in the traditional view of problem solving. The problem-solving processes of two designers are tracked on top of the traditional graph. As you might guess, their processes stray from tradition. Another reason to think like a designer.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Blogging Goes Mainstream Webcast available

I enjoyed listening to this Webcast last week. Starts off with a very frank and informative interview with Robert Scoble. Thanks to PR Newswire for posting the recording - I'm sure I missed numerous things while jotting down notes.

Change or die

Finally, the Fast Company article I devoured while on a plane home a few weeks ago is now online. Innovative ideas for anyone considering change, afraid of change, wondering how to change or why they can't change. From corporate change to personal change, the article helped me change the way I think.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Watch and smile

I'm not one to be overly sappy, but I discovered a video last week and I can't stop watching it. The video? Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life."

Is a blog enough?

Seth Godin announced that this week is national tell-a-friend-about-blogs week. Good. Raising awareness of this powerful communication tool is important. I encourage you to tell a million friends about Woolard Speak. But instead of focusing entirely on spreading the word about blogs, I suggest we spread the word about connecting.

Blogs have done a lot to connect people. Blogs have done even more to increase the dialogue on implementing effective ways to reach a target audience. However, I believe the blog's hero status is waning. Many companies and individuals put too much stock in the power of the blog. Want to reach your target audience? "Start a blog" is the first thing discussed. Though accurate and still innovative, the next big thing in communication isn't the blog, it's the implementation of a holistic communications strategy that is consumer centric with equal parts transparency and strategy.

Start a blog? Good idea. Do it. Many have succeeded. But the blog is not enough. Let your blog be the gateway to your or your organization's knowledge, capabilities and communication.

Tell a friend about blogging this week. Also tell that friend about the power that lies within new and creative communication channels.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

How connected was your school janitor?

When I was young(er - than my 25 years), I measured people's importance by how many keys they had on their key rings. Obviously, the school janitor was a good example of someone well connected - the janitor could get into any door, cabinet, soda machine, etc. with ease. The key theory still rings partially true, in that if you have more keys, you probably have a job, a home, a car, a mailbox, a storage shed - things are going well and you are connected to a certain degree.

Just this morning, as I was updating my LinkedIn contact list, I realized that I have a virtual key ring filled with passwords and usernames from online sites and programs. Does this mean I've reached the pinnacle of success? Maybe. It does mean that I am happily adopting a culture and comfort with networking, publishing and mining info online. I think these things make me a better communicator, more aware of my industry and my world and happily connected to folks I enjoy interacting with on a professional and personal level.

Three sites I connect to daily: - the feed system I use to read and organize my blogroll. - great way to connect with coworkers, industry professionals, former contacts and potential employers/employees. - real-time search engine for what's going on in the blogosphere.

Three blogs I've just added to my bloglines list:
What's Your Brand Mantra - Jennifer Rice's blog featuring "Musings on Branding, Marketing and the Ecology of Business."
The Acerbic Arbiter - My colleague Tom Mentzer's brand-spanking new blog.
Joi Ito's Blog - Joi Ito's "conversation with the living web." He kills two birds with one stone by providing me with my Japanese and tech fixes in one place.

Add these to your key ring.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Thinking like a designer

Not a day goes by that I don't employ my background at design/creative shops to address PR-related tasks. I have a special place in my professional heart for my former designer coworkers and the Macs, light tables, sketch paper and mounting boards that littered that life. Most of all I miss the focus on design when making decision and creating solutions. I uncovered an article on the Fast Company site today, "The Business of Design" and found myself saying, "yeah" out loud after almost every sentence.

The article contends that businesspeople need to think more like designers. I couldn't agree more. Companies need to view creativity and design not as icing on their capability cake, but as critical elements of philosophy and process.
Martin believes that business schools are also out of position for the emerging design-based economy. In his view, even the degree -- a master's of business administration -- is problematic. "We're telling students that the big bucks are made by administering linear improvements -- getting better and better at doing essentially the same thing," he says. "But the real challenge lies in getting better and better at a different thing: devising clever solutions to wickedly difficult problems."

How can the average company implement design think in the workplace? I have a few ideas:

  • Leverage the power of revision and collaboration - business has pigeonholed process as a means to an end instead of embracing the steps taken to reach an answer
  • Value ideas as much as results - the result is what is left of a good idea
  • Get to know the brand - designers live, feel and interact with a brand
  • Think big picture - do you know where your task goes after it leaves your desk?
  • Draw - putting together a presentation? a report? preliminary sketching will reveal the flaws and birth ideas