DIY Fire logs and other Untapped Resources

It’s spring and I want to plant flowers. With that, a post drafted last winter. Enjoy.

Some brand has introduced toilet paper rolls without the cardboard center: marketing idea is less waste, more environmentally friendly. First time I saw that I was like ok.. for people who throw those away?

How to Make Your Own Fire logs

Even when it’s not a snowpacolypse ‘blizzard’ of two inches, it does get pretty damn cold in Atlanta. Relaxing in front of a warm toasty fire happens. Been doing this for years, making my own fire kindling or starter logs.

1. Old plain paper. Newsprint. Junk mail. Spring clean your filing cabinets, any paper you’d shred, use that.
2. Save toilet paper, paper towel, wrapping paper rolls (also good for saving ribbons).
3. Roll. Stuff. Burn.

Untapped Resources – So Very Human

As I plot shift my career towards corporate communications, I know I’d be an ideal person to integrate HR and PR. When I read some anemic job listings it hits me how terribly most business silo one of their most important publics: Employees.

You know these kinds of companies, where “promote from within” and “two way, open door communications” is all talk, zero walk.

Employee Relations seems to have nothing to do Public Relations; Communications is shoehorned under business development; and no one seems to be talking to Human Resources. The left hand doesn’t know the right hand is cutting hours, piling on more work in the name of productivity and the almighty dollar.

TPTB don’t pay attention, managers don’t even know who the ‘best and brightest’ are let alone make effort to create opportunities to keep them. The brain trust in HR bankrolls expensive sign-on bonuses and new employee training; ask for retention bonuses, investment in better resources and stay interviews, you get blank stares.

[This is where I’d link to my ‘better company newsletter’ post, the kind employees actually read. Someday I’ll write publish it.]

Waste Not.

In this age of content marketing buzz and brand advocacy hoopla, silos are dangerous. Companies scare employees away from social media, then want them to be brand ambassadors. Employers treat front line staff as the most expendable, then wonder why productivity and morale take a nose dive.

There’s something so wasteful about a talented employee being pigeonholed and silo’d, insecure about seeking advancement; or feeling their ideas for improvement are unwelcome. That’s a symptom of bad leadership and a toxic corporate culture. The cure: HR meets ER, say hello to PR with some SM on the side; aka integrated communications that walks the talk.

Have a bad experience with human resources or employee relations? A good one? Do share.

Photo credit: One of many fab Office Space memes, classic movie.
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When a Sale isn’t a Sale

BTW: this type of mini-post used to go to my G+ but as rumor has it, Google+ is not long for this world.

Value. Bang for the buck. Sale. Bargain. Business buzzwords and what customers are wanting as they make their buying decisions.

During one of their recent sales, I’ve wanted to run around Kroger and pull all the gallons of milk out of everyone’s carts. Why? Do I have some odd dislike of calcium and lactose? No. It’s because I’m all about the better deal.

Gallon milk: “on sale” for $2.99. Half gallon, 10 for $10. AKA $1. Otherwise known as HALF the price.

For reasons passing understanding – maybe they’re in government spending or corporate procurement or otherwise mathematically challenged – too many people were sticking with the full gallon option.

Happens. We get in a rut, we limit ourselves and thinking to ‘what we always do’ or the ‘one size fits all’ or whatever other mindset that blinds us to better, more flexible options.

This is the same kind of mindset I see:

  • when companies limit PR to publicity.
  • when they think of social media – hell, all communications – as merely a ‘channel’ that’s all about sales (or not).
  • when relationships are transactional, useful only when favorably calculated as ROI on a balance sheet.
  • when ‘talent’ and employee worth is defined by some b.s. job title on a resume.

We all go for the sale, fall for some kind of marketing pricing trickery once in a while. If nothing else, my years of working with small business, of doing more with less .. I’ve learned to look for and take advantage of true value whenever I can.

You: When is a sale not? How do you spot the difference?

Image credit: a clever Someecard, which explains why I’m not interested in latest, skinniest, wimpy Macbook.
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From Glass Houses to Oscar Red Carpet: Social Judgement

This post started eons ago with this Twitter is the Anti-Social Media story about the New England Patriot’s social media foibles, trying to game engagement and brand management with a ‘retweet’ campaign that – predictably – went really wrong really fast.

What is socially unacceptable behavior in public is social media acceptable behavior on Twitter.” DISAGREE – it is not ok, this kind of douchebaggery is why we block and unfriend.

The writer excused the failure to a lot of work, little time to do it – arguing that “Twitter failed the Patriots” and their stellar social media team. Disagree – the Patriot’s PR/SM team didn’t recognize the obvious risks of such an automated campaign or have a better plan to block the trolls.

Recently updated, Twitter’s harassment reporting tool is one step they’re making to improve the experience. There’s plenty more I’d suggest to cut back on troll hate and automated spam but it’s not the platform, it’s not social media – it’s how people use it.

Kangaroo Court of Negative Opinions.
While not everyone lives for these ‘public fail’ moments, I’ll agree with the writer that once there’s blood in the water the sharks start circling.

Instead of offering valid commentary and helpful critique, [some] people insult and call names; they offer baseless opinions, they bully.

Last year I read a compelling story about a Crappy Morning Commute on LinkedIn, and was disappointed at some of the commentary:

  • debates on seat sharing and social etiquette, size and weight.
  • opinions that she was fishing for compliments.
  • sexist ‘this belongs on Facebook little girl’ type comments.
  • general gibes on language, tone, counter attacks and much more.

Why? Why do some people behave so unsocially online? Even when not hiding behind an anonymous ID?

Part of it is human nature. We watch, we listen, we taste, we try and we either like or dislike. As a way of socializing, we share those opinions with others. Everyone else is talking about it on Facebook, dammit we must feel really strongly about how some celebrity changed their hairstyle! Damnit!

Part of it is the unrealistic Gerber Baby expectations – we dream of ‘perfect’ and judge anything less as a failure. So one off the cuff remark or one poorly thought out ‘joke’ becomes the snowflake the triggers the avalanche of Internet Rage, which the media keeps rolling for ratings and clicks.

Less Judging, Better Judgement.

ICYMI: TV commentator Giuliana Rancic made an insensitive comment during the Oscars, during the red carpet judge-fest [insert ‘irony’ joke here]. People were offended. Puppies cried. The Social Webs got its knickers in a twist. Words were typed. She offered a great apology (much better than so much lawyer-tested, PR corporate speak we see these days), which I think restored the Earth to its axis.

The point I’m attempting to make: people (and brands run by people) make mistakes, always and forever. Online and off, what’s needed is less judging, better judgement; instead of throwing stones, fix up our own glass houses. FWIW.

Photo credit: Always can work a Demotivator into a post. 

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Happy Holidays from Marketing: A Chocolate Box of LIES

You know what frosts my cookies: when what you see isn’t what you get. grrr..

Oh what webs we weave, when marketing to deceive

  • Click bait.
  • Fake out.
  • Bait and switch.
  • Pull the rug.

If there’s one thing we hate more than being disappointed, it’s being tricked.

Thinking something is worth our time, getting excited only to see a tired old post from 2 years ago. Those pandering book jacket blurbs or movie trailer quotes promising one thing, delivering schlock. It’s the holiday exchange gift of a beautifully wrapped package with one of those you have to spend money to ‘save’ money restaurant ‘coupons’ inside.

The other day, I saw what looked like a nice an office gift – a GIGANORMOUS box of chocolate. From a national brand. Only it wasn’t.

It was the basic one pound box of chocolate, disguised to be something much more ‘impressive.’ Seriously this thing was 10 pounds of packaging in a 20 lb. box!

Never mind how environmentally unfriendly to waste that much packaging, it’s the worst fake out. See also: that showy giant check to show a $200 donation; that huge gift basket that’s one small box of crackers, 3 apples and 34 pounds of tinsel straw that makes a big mess.

Be Better, Do Better

This is what I don’t like about [so-called] PR “stunts.” This is what I don’t like about hype and buzz and other forms of marketing bullshit.

This is what grates my cheese about managed ‘thought leader’ personas – there’s no there there. Nothing.

It’s not real. It’s not genuine. It’s an empty shell that unfortunately fools people into thinking they’re legit – making it that harder for the rest of us. I am more than the sum of the lines on my resume, plenty that don’t see – but let me assure you: WYSIWHG. Ahem.

So that’s my holiday rant – yes the wrapping makes it special, festive and fun. But much like a pretty logo won’t fix a brand, it’s what’s inside that pretty ‘package’ that matters most.

Happy Holidays everyone, here’s to no talking fish and easy returns. :-)

Video credit: a version of that commercial runs on the radio here in Atlanta, cracks me up. 
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Thanksgiving for the Memories

Times are tough, for some much more than words can express. And yet this it’s exactly at these moments we stop and remember what we do have.

We’re thankful for our health, the time we have with friends and family. We’re grateful for our jobs, the roofs over our heads and the food about to go in our stomachs. We can appreciate these connected, social times as best we can.

And we can be thankful for television and movies, making our holiday gatherings seem almost tame and functional by comparison. With that, a few of my favorite episodic and cinematic Thanksgiving moments:

The West Wing: Double Feature. Granted “Indians in the Lobby” isn’t up there with “Shibboleth” with its schlock and (another) Butterball brand placement, I still remember both quite fondly. When that show was good, it was damn good; episodes like Shibboleth showed how well it balanced serious moments, like Charlie and President Bartlet and the knife, with lightness such as C.J. getting a 2nd turkey pardoned.

Adamms Family Values: a modern day classic I suppose. The clip speaks for itself.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I’ve used “Pangs” before, because ‘ritual sacrifice. with pie‘ is still one of my favorite lines. And because I couldn’t help appreciate Spike’s politically incorrect speech and the wonderful Whedon dark humor of it all.

Honorable mention: The O.C. 

You? The Ice Harvest, Scent of a Woman or maybe Charlie Brown? What’s your favorite Hollywood turkeyfest? Happy Holidays everyone.

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Unpopular Changes vs Customer Expectations: Lose-Lose?

So I follow Carnival, no big secret. It’s something I enjoy, cruising; and fun to watch a brand I like do some things right (and wrong) in the webosphere of PR, social media-ness.

Us. Them. The Silent Minority?

This week’s news is the forthcoming change to Carnival’s smoking policy. To sum up: Balcony cabins are going non-smoking. If guests smoke, they’ll pay a cleaning fee and risk being asked to leave, per violation of the microscopic legal gobbledygook in the contract.

Well the people are speaking to Carnival. A review of the posts to their Facebook page, this change is getting mixed reactions to say the least. customercaredemotivator

  • Yay! Plenty of people would prefer ocean breeze to second hand Marlboro when they enjoy their balcony cabins, so they’re happy.
  • Boo! Hiss! Plenty of people seem upset, ranging from “I’ll still cruise but shame on you” to “NEVER. AGAIN. $*^@*&(# Carnival!
  • Smart Feedback. And questionable advice.
    • Speak with your wallet. Cancel bookings. Switch to other cruise lines.
      • These excellent suggestions have been appreciated by almost all, with various “Amen!” or “Good Riddance!” comments.
    • Define “majority.” More than a few ‘loud minority’ suggestions that it’s only a few who so strongly dislike the smoke that they avoid the cabins, casinos or cruise line all together.
    • Other smart commenters know it’s all about the money: If the ‘majority’ really wants that, do it. Then see how it impacts alcohol sales and gaming revenues, not to mention duty-free cigarettes profits.
    • Run the risk. Can’t say this ‘live dangerously’ attitude is wise, risking the cleaning fee or being kicked off the ship.
    • Make one side balconies smoking. They charge by location anyway, only catch is how to price and arrange the non-smokers around the smokers. It makes some sense but then, that’s gonna require selecting a smoking or non cabin at booking, more work for the hotel operations.
    • Manage Your Expectations. They really can’t please everyone, so stop asking.
      • Why not a booze free ship, for people who don’t like loud drunks? If that was me, my bad.
      • Why not a kid free ship, for people who’d prefer an adult getaway? I did that in April, sailing when almost every kid on the planet was in school. An adult-only pool .. that’s spot-on.
      • Why not a rain free vacation, for people allergic to common sense on how weather works? Even the Disney bubble breaks sometimes.

Get Your Messages Straight.

Quick sidebar. While the language suggests this change is to placate guests per customer feedback, other comments refer to the important fire safety issue. Hard to sell customers on an unpopular idea with mixed messages.

See also, oblique references to upgrades the public spaces reserved for smokers. Taking away without giving, not usually a smart move.

Their ‘unofficial’ social guy John Heald doth attest that TPTB really do take heed of feedback. Doing his best, he’s engaged about as much as he can on this issue. Alas the official engagement from Carnival has been limited, and what I’ve read has that icky ‘copy and paste’ vibe to it.

Data mining social media.

One of the biggest mistakes any company – global brand or small business – can make: ignoring what others are saying about them online.

Comments and feedback can offer great insight, let a brand know what’s working and what’s not, provide suggestions for improvement. Even more so as I’ve shown here, they can answer the most important questions, those qualitative X factors you can’t automate: WHY. WIIFM.

WIIFM to stick with one brand over the other? WHY do people upgrade to balcony cabins? Reviewing the comments (possibly reflecting a noisy minority), one big reason: to smoke. If that’s the case, it’s a major revenue stream and hate to say it, the half/half ship idea isn’t a bad one.

My takesocial, ‘crisis’ or marketing-proof. I hate that I keep coming back to that but – there it is. When people start comparing other cruise lines, other inclusive vacation alternatives my bet it is that many will be back and in the end, Carnival will gain more than it loses.

Your take: How do you announce a big change? What’s the best way to sell an idea that’s sure to be unpopular with some of your most loyal customers? At what point do you bow out gracefully, let the discussion die?

Photo credit: the smart folks at Despair totally get it. 

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