ICYMI: My Content, Elsewhere

This blog is my home base, the hub of the social empire of made up of me, my Mickey Mouse pen holder and those of rare few of exceptional taste (i.e. you).

Truth be typed I spend much more of my time elsewhere on the Interwebs: on various social networks, on news and media sites, on your blogs. I watch, I read, I comment, I share.

Unless you’re stalking my every move – let me save you some time, don’t; I’m really boring – there’s no way to catch it all. In that spirit, every few weeks I’ll recap what I think readers may enjoy and what I consider worth a second look.

In Case You Missed It:

Suing customers for posting accurate, unfavorable reviews is a thing now as vendors and service providers are banning (negative) reviews in their contracts. Thoughts:

  • Some companies live or die by reviews, that’s business. Have a good product, offer good services and people will say so via likes, stars, comments, testimonials.
  • Businesses need to take ownership of their brand, manage their online reputation, respond to the bad and do what it takes to fix the problems (not just the reviews).
  • Manage expectations. It’s a ridiculous standard to expect a business to have nothing but glowing raves; ‘perfection’ at half price isn’t the only measure of a job well done. There are those times that.. the customer isn’t always right; they tend to misplace their blame and negate their own.

I understand a business’s need to protect itself. But if a provider isn’t willing to stand behind their service to the point they’ll sue me for posting an honest, negative review they won’t win my trust nor earn my business.

Comments Closed.

As I indicated on Google+, this WILL be blogged in detail here at some point. Many others were right on Copyblogger’s move to close comments, so for now let me direct you to their posts that, as fate would have it, have some pretty smart comments (and also, mine):

Gini Dietrich explains why she won’t close blog comments, and I was like yeah, ‘comments are work.’ Next I had to buy Mark Schaefer a Coke, as he was spot-on with the economics behind ending blog comments. Marcus Sheridan said Good for Copyblogger, their blog, their rules, their choice. To which I said sure – and by the same logic, so too everyone complaining about the move; their comments, their opinions, their choice.

Everyone is free to do what works best for them in this ever-changing social experiment. Some sites, comments don’t make sense. For my style of blogging, they do.

Generic Brand Video.

This collaboration is scary smart, as Dissolve took the pithy smarts of a McSweeney’s post and added it to their stock footage for something both hilarious and spot-on.

It’s a pretty sharp commentary on business communications, on PR – and a clever piece of marketing content for themselves.

Watching the news or TV golf, I promise you’ll never look at those ads – about absolutely nothing – the same way.

Many of us have content that’s elsewhere. What’s a better, easier way to curate that, to repurpose it into something new? Do share.

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Changing the Logo Won’t Fix the Brand.

The other day I was opining about Olive Garden’s twee new logo as part of its “time will tell how much money was wasted on a new menu, new concept” rebrand campaign. It was on Google+ so, I’m sure you didn’t see it. Budumptssh. (Sorry, cheap shot.)

Rebrand for Real. Or Go Home. resized_creepy-willy-wonka-meme-generator-a-new-logo-you-must-be-so-proud-79c6a9

Brands update their logos all the time. Sometimes people notice, complain so much that The Gap logo reverts back. More often than not it’s only us business communications types, Monday morning quarterbacking what we’d have done differently.

(FWIW As a designer and communications consultant not sure I would have changed the font, that was almost iconic. The ‘kitchen’ label seems a misnomer considering each location is designed to serve the exact same food the exact same way. The generic clip art scroll vine? Meh.)

The problem is – as always – a brand thinking about the how the rebrand helps the brand brand its brand.

Sell, sell, sell! Visions of stocks and market share and “omg, what does Wall Street think?!” dance in TPTB heads. Because a logo makeover is all it takes to make customers open their wallets for the same crap you’ve been selling all along. See also: why I have not set foot in a J.C. Penney in years.

Do More, Be More, Make More Money

A “where am I?” riddle: I’m buying a gourmet toffee latte. A fresh sandwich. And another losing lottery ticket. I had free WiFi. Am I at a new corner market or fancy new coffee shop? Nope. Hint: I also got gas.

Here in Atlanta we have choices: where to shop, where to spend our grocery dollars, where to dine. Where to get a hit of the last socially acceptable wonder drug known as caffeine. And gas.

Have you been to a new RaceTrac or QuikTrip lately? Wow. Clean. Organized. Convenient.

  • Room of cold beer. Check.
  • Counters for coffee, pastries, sandwiches, snacks, any soda you could want. Check.
  • Build your own yogurt bar, with a temptingly evil toppings station and rewards card for those of us sans willpower. Check.

They didn’t decide to build the same old gas station like everyone else and try to sell the same old crap. They asked: “how do we keep people coming back?” They reimagined – yeah, in the best buzziest sense – what the convenience store experience should be. For. The. Customer. Offer a good product, back it with good service, be more of what your customers want; that’s smart branding, that’s good PR.

What so many, too many companies get wrong is this: the wrapping on the package may be pretty, but it’s what’s inside that counts.

Tell me: does a new logo, a big label rebrand influence you at all? Is it a wasted effort or does a rebrand move you to take another look? 

Photo credit: too many memes out there, with many a search bringing up The Gap.

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Disaster? Crisis? End of the World? Nah, just a bad tweet.

I’ll skip the ranting about what a ‘real’ crisis is (see also: Carnival, a brand I still like). Instead read Tegan Ford, whose ambitious thesis tries to make sense of how social media  impacts a public relations crisis.

PR crises .. we’ve already forgotten?

Maybe not forgotten, but certainly not hot topics any more. Most of these things have a short shelf life, relegated to a few back links when the pundits dredge it up when hyping their latest brand “disaster” click bait story. That has no customers leaving, no stocks tanking, no mass exodus of employees. Ahem.

Pace. This fake Twitter fight of comic vs. automated responses barely qualifies as a blip in my book. Moving on.

Lesson: Nothing new – if you’re going to brand and market on Twitter, know what you’re doing and be prepared for anything, including having your brand jacked into a hoax.

Chick-fil-A. Atlanta is the backyard of this company and no one stopped going. No one. A blip on the 2012 radar, mentioned in context of activist groups lobbying against certain brands. I don’t recall any mass of franchisees leaving or customers permanently boycotting. It’s a product [some] people like, sold by a company [some] people respect and by all accounts, still thriving.

Lesson: Reputation. Values. Quality. Service. Start there.photo-33

Paula Deen. During the height of this I joined eavesdropped a conversation of several women, most of them of color. The general consensus – surprising to me – was 1) she’s a different era blah blah 2) media needs to let it go and give her a break, giving the ‘victim’ claim legs and 3) they know if their sense of racial justice has been offended or not, so the press and pundits should stop telling them how they need to feel and think. The biggest concern: get to Walmart before they sell out of gooey cakes.

Plenty of advice out there, on what Paula Deen could do. Given the givens, I’d say Ms. Deen is a tell-all book, a ‘kiss and cry’ apology tour away from some type of comeback. She’s a known name, a brand; she probably won’t rebuild the full empire, but if Martha Stewart can do it I don’t see why not.

Lesson: Hire smarter; communication strategy is better when the legal, PR teams work together.

Home Depot. Bad joke, stupid tweet. Ugh. This one annoyed me for many reasons. I never heard one whiff of complaint from a ‘real’ not media/marketing person. Home Depot pulled the crappy “aim, point finger, fired!” excuse as they blamed their SM agency. Like so many other blink-and-you-miss-it mistakes, I neither saw nor read one story about a lasting negative impact.

Lesson: Crisis or marketing proof perhaps? They’re a giant brand and if they sell what people need cheaper than the competition, the cash registers will keep ringing.

Duck Dynasty. Are people still fuming or reverse fuming at Cracker Barrel? Not the first time that brand has caught media ire, but I hadn’t caught anything about them lately and the bruhaha about this show seems to barely have carried over to 2014. Or I just stopped paying it any attention.

While they get royalties from product licensing, A&E is in the business of making money by producing TV shows that sells cable TV ads. If they have enough of a target audience for marketers, and those marketers think they’ll gain more than they’ll lose, the show and advertising will go on – though with lower ratings.

Lesson: Media training. Know your audience, know your customers. No such thing as bad publicity – except when there is.

It’s not a mistake so long as you, me.. someone learns from it.

I suppose I came down too hard on PR smartie Gini Dietrich — sorry my friend, really was not my intention — when discussing the Home Depot crisis du jour. (FWIW it was so fly by night, I had to go back and look up what we were discussing.)

She’s right – the big lesson is that there ARE lessons we can learn from these events and that a well-written blog post or case study can help others avoid these kind of mistakes.

  • It is helpful to study and follow these cases – with a qualified, critical eye.
  • It’s important to understand the nature of the issues; look past the hype to properly gauge impact and access damage to the brand.
  • Don’t make matters worse by over – or under – reacting; have strategy for a proportional response.
  • Accept responsibility; don’t throw people – the ones you vetted and hired to do a job – under the bus.
  • Apologize, be genuine, make amends, move on. Putting it on autopilot, copy and pasting the same apology, treating public relations and social media as ‘set and forget’ marketing – that’s asking for trouble.
  • PR 101: Don’t screw up in the first place. But when you do, a foundation built of quality products and services, a carefully crafted reputation that comes from being a good company – makes it that much easier to weather any storm.

What’d I miss? Sure there were other flaps and foibles, other gaffs and mistakes. Please remind me – and what we can learn from them.

 Photo credit: not hard to find many funny and many offensive memes for this post, that one from RollingOut

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Waste Not, Want More.

Got a form letter from my cellular carrier. It’s one of the Big Ones, sent from the “Senior Vice President” no less, of “Customer Experience.” Useless does not begin to describe this thing.

It’s textbook, How NOT to Design a Direct Mail piece:

Godzilla-Facepalm-godzilla-30354011-640-387

  • It’s all copy, no images. Just a little bold, bullets, line breaks.
  • It’s personalized (ok, one point), but then about him and why he’s writing to me.
  • Next up it’s lots of babbling b.s. about them. Techs and specs, with SIX footnotes (?!) as if anyone would read that far.
  • It mentions two new “value” offerings, but no breakdown as to how they would Help. ME.
  • Mr. SVP goes on being “proud,”  bragging about a popular vanity (read: meaningless) service award.
  • It ends. With him being glad I chose them. And an epic facepalm: No CTA. Seriously. Nothing.

The ONLY reason I even got past opening and scanning the damn thing was professional curiosity. A real person, shredder city.

How many thousands of dollars in paper, printing, postage were spent mailing millions of these? What marketing communications manager thought this a good investment – a generic, no-offer form letter?!

Wherefore art thou, oh elusive ROI?

I’ve long since held that logos and websites and good writing, smart PR and integrated social media are all parts of an essential Communications program. Strategic, comprehensive Communications being key to any business success. And I still do.

I also know that in a Time vs. Money, DIY at your own risk world, the ROI sometimes just isn’t there for small biz. If no one’s pipes break or people don’t have the money to redo their bathroom, that local plumbers phone won’t ring no matter how lovely the logo, how shiny his Facebook page, nor beautifully written the website copy.

As I recently commented in a smart discussion on piffle, publicity and traditional PR – even the big guys get this wrong. Next week, the global brands will roll out their Big Game Ads that by all accounts, do not impact sales nor improve brand reputation. But spend gazillions they will.

Do we just go through the motions? Spin wheels for the sake of looking like we’re doing something?

Dear Mr. SVP: Stop TELLING me you’ve done better, SHOW me with a better signal inside, by dropping fewer calls. Don’t waste my monthly fees marketing right back at me – give me a loyalty discount. Invest in your customers, in your brand – not banal business blather

Tell me: How do we guard against the waste, make sure we get the true business returns we seek? My advice to all businesses, large and small: Waste Less, Do More. 

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The Obligatory Resolutions Post – That Might Actually Be Worth a Read

Another New Year, yet another NY resolutions post. This one will be different. Hopefully shorter and sweeter, much unlike 2013.

I’ve made some really positive changes in my life this year, mostly health and fitness – yet mere baby steps towards improving my finances, my career, mental health and general outlook.

I’ve worked my ass off – as I have my entire life, since age 12 it feels – only to make the same old mistakes all new ways. I cannot begin to describe how craptacular my luck has been these past years, kicking me whilst I’m still down since The Aughts.
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I need to make big giant leaps forward, without getting knocked back. I have to make my own luck. I get that. I will blow my own horn as ain’t no one else will do it for me.

People: I’m wicked smart. I am very talented. Multi even! No matter what the job is, no matter how meaningless or trivial it may seem – I work hella hard to get it right, to be professional; always. I have a creative mind that would be an incredible weapon to any brand with the balls to wield it and the appreciation of said talents to pay what they’re worth.

I’m available. On the market. A real catch.

The Kelly Taylor Moment

Not that I ever watched 90210 but as a child of pop culture, I’m very familiar with her “I choose Me.”

And that is my resolution. That is THE resolution to make – for 2014 and beyond. Choose yourself.

Put your own health, wealth, happiness first. Make your career, your life your biggest priority. Help those that help you. Help yourself.

I know ‘give to get’ is the way of the world. But if it feels you’re always the giver, never the getter [profanity laced rant redacted] – stop. Don’t let anyone deter you with “oh that’s so selfish” bullshit [link to pithy 'selfish is good' quotes]. Don’t ever put up with people and practices that drag you down. Kick that shit to the curb, walk away – choose YOU.

I don’t know what it will look like yet, but big changes are coming this year. If it makes me happy, that’s what I’m gonna do. If it’ll push my career in the right direction, that’s where I’m spending my time and resources. I will say “No” more and not look back. I’m putting myself first, second .. twenty-third. I choose me.

You know my priorities. What are yours? What are you resolved to do in 2014? (BTW .. Happy New Year.)

 Photo credit: I plan to stick to my resolutions, still that’s a good one from Bluntcards.

 

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