At the Movies: Business, Doing it Wrong

I’ll interrupt my normal content about how how communications is what drives successful business, PR more than sales and marketing, with a long overdue blog post, to rant about how Hollywood does and doesn’t get business vis a vis the movies.


Think the best OJT for business may be running a restaurant, a chef as CEO. Except when it’s Hollywood and you can bully your way into greatness without really trying. This one seemed so out of date, much like the chef at the center of the story.

About the only things it got right: 1) it takes a team, that the people doing the work are what makes – or breaks – a business and 2) competition can drive success, forcing others to up their game.

achievementdemotivator_largeSteve Jobs

I though the movie got the vision, the idea of people not knowing what they want until you make it for them. The familiar Sorkinisms zeroed in on target market, how they weren’t going after computer geeks who’d hack their own machines but rather everyone else willing to pay a premium for something that just works.

I saw how communications – interpersonal, professional, organizational – drive business. How failing to recognize contributions, how management values its employees do has consequences. Relationships matter.

My favorite part of Steve Jobs –  failure. Great marketing isn’t everything; buzz and a successful ad may drive stock prices and market value a bit, but if the product or service doesn’t make a profit, it’s still a bust. Moving on, planning ahead and failure being part of that plan, gives me hope as I’m not ‘there’ – yet.

The Intern

Infuriatingly simplistic representation of a startup that’s supposed to be a genius business model – sexist #FWP idea of buying clothes online whilst drinking wine with friends. It’s Hollywood take on what a startup would be, all renovated building open spaces, sans grey cubes, with an on staff masseuse and annoying victory bell.

Stuffed with predictable cliches and stereotypes, I can’t decide what was the most eye roll worthy – that such an innovative startup would require coders and programmers and designers to schlep to offices on-site rather than telework or that it’s fearful CEO had to micro-manage even the font and color designs of the website homepage on a daily basis.

What does this have to do with PR? Everything.

Media and critics. Investors and stockholders and board members. Service & Support and R&D. Customers and clients. Vendors, suppliers, distributors. Staff, team members, ‘talent’ or whatever employees called. These are all key players in every movie and in my world, they are AKA as stakeholders. The Publics of Relationships.

It’s work, a lot of work to accomplish something. Uniting people behind a goal of building a business or reviving a brand or managing a project, that takes effort and effective communications. See also The Martian which, while it limited “PR” to public affairs and media relations, at least that person was in the room and had some say when the big decisions were made.

Ever seen a movie or show that got your job, your business so very very wrong? Please share.

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What Twitter Doesn’t Need

For all its hype and status as media darling – turn on any news and you’ll see something about ‘tweeted today’ – Twitter is really struggling to become.

More. Better. To reach. To fulfill the promise that maybe never existed in the first place.

Good ideas, everyone’s got one

Here are a few of the ‘save Twitter’ or ‘how to make Twitter suck less’ posts I’ve read and shared of late:

What Twitter Can Be. Long read, very smart by VC Chris Sacca. As always, I’m like real human people it needs to be about that.

Some people think Twitter needs Nuzzle. Filters and controls, I’ve been typing that for years.

I totally respect HBR author Alexandra Samuel for asking Buffer to remove her content from their suggestions, disappointed about How Bots took over Twitter.

1244318836blockedWhat’s not helping.

If it’s not part of the solution, you know what it is.

Celebrities reading Mean Tweets may be fun, but celebrity Twitter feuds – real or fake – don’t help. Or at least to me, aren’t going to do anything to make people want to spend more time on Twitter. Time matters.

Random changes from TBTB don’t do it any favors. Seriously, why zap wallpaper Twitter? Sharing block lists seems like something that should be automatic, not make the user’s work for it. By hand HUMAN curation via Project Lightning, I’ll believe when I see it.

Horrid, manipulative, self-involved navel-gazing first world problem tweets pretending to be inventive storytelling does not elevate Twitter into some kind of art form. (No really, I hated this. Tweet 53 made my blood boil and the non-shock and subsequent pandering of tweets 60 and beyond… bleep bleeping BLEEP. YMMV.)

Gimmicks and stunts aren’t solutions. Attacks, trolling and threats are common place, while real human conversation isn’t. Read Facebook comments on any media story covering ‘news of the Twitters’ and it’s rife with ‘still don’t get Twitter’ or ‘that’s why Twitter sucks.’

R-O-I are three of the most dangerous letters in business, social media ruined as its used solely to sell crappy products, horrible services, and holy terrors, build personal brands. Ergo people who once loved the platform are either fleeing or unfollowing en masse (but leaving all that automated link dumping behind).

I share too many links (relative to conversation), I’m muting when I should probably be unfollowing, I’m ‘using’ Twitter for myself, my career – which admittedly makes me part of the problem. The solution? If I knew, I’d put it in my cover letter.

You: Has the magic died? Are you still there out of obligation, for the social shares and occasional chat? What would make Twitter better for you, professionally and personally?

P.S. If Twitter would give me the source filters on the native, mobile apps like there are on TweetDeck, I’d be ever so grateful.

Image credit: Bluntcard, sometimes NSFW but funny.
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What Magic Mike XXL Can Teach Your Brand About Business

Yeah. I’m going there, click bait headline and all. Ahem.

Fluff has its place.

Went in with mixed expectations and came out pleasantly surprised by Magic Mike XXL. Unlike its IMO over-praised predecessor, MMXXL got what a movie about male strippers was supposed to be: fun.

For all the eye candy, basking in Matthew McConaughey working at the top of his game, Magic Mike left me kinda cold. MM was this voyeuristic look into life that Hollywood so loves to frame as ‘different’ and ‘alternative.’ Only way I can describe it was that, it tried to balance the cheesy dancing with ‘real life’ spun as the ‘seedy underbelly’ of a world – gasp! – in which not everyone works a desk, M-F 9-5, almost shot threw a lens of poverty tourism. It wasn’t seedy, it wasn’t different or fringe; this one of a million ways people work and live and are .. and I’ll stop before you worry about my issues. Here, watch Screen Junkies’ Honest Trailer. Ahem.

Magic Mike XXL shrugs all that faux serious navel-gazing, instead opting for a funny buddy road trip flick. And it worked, lazy summer fluffy fun and entertainment.

Now, what can a money-grubbing Hollywood sequel teach you about business:

Know what you are. Whether it’s attractive dancers or the best grilled cheese in town, own it be it, work it. Do what you do, do it well. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Don’t pretend to be what you’re not. There were times they reached a little too hard and it felt contrived and forced. You’re not all things to all people, so stop trying. If it’s you, really you then it’s so much better than anything anyone else would put out there.

Go with what works. The dancing, the bromance, the slapstick – that’s what I found entertaining the first time, worked again for round two.

Take Risks. If what’s working is only working well enough, then you take a chance and mix it up. All you’ve risked was ‘failure,’ which wasn’t working anyway.

Enjoy the ride. Things don’t always go to plan, which is why you need other options – never forgetting to make the most of what’s going on at the time.

People matter. Connections, human interaction, old friends – no one does it alone. You have to give to get and above all, remember it’s not about logos and profiles, not status or what others think. It’s those who are there for you, those who you are there for.

I could keep typing but you get the gist: this was one time I thought Hollywood improved on its original business model. Threw out what wasn’t working, and pardon the pun, stripped down to basics. YMMV so please, tell me what you think.

Video: by Sausage Party via Entertainment Weekly ‘because the Internet.’ 
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Escape from Digital Purgatory: Blog on the Loose

Run while you can.

The other day in yet another comment on yet another blog I referenced a blog post I never got around to publishing. Bad enough when I do it here and forget I haven’t published yet, but when I’m littering the Internet with them.. egads.

Training the Beast.

Chatting with much more prolific blog publisher Gini Dietrich, she shared lots of good ideas on making the time to capture good blog ideas. Capture is the easy part, as I’ve so discovered.

The TRICK is how to go from ‘idea in my head’ that I mumble and pace > to fingers on the keyboard > to published with links and clever graphic with SOME sort of tie-in to business usefulness. (Bonus: if it somehow promotes me as ‘must hire’ catch, sparks some feedback, a little social sharing.)

Erika Napoletano nailed it: it’s “digital purgatory.” OUAT it was Word docs, now it’s Evernote. I type and type – and then eventually move on, ideas trapped in a black hole of ‘someday.’

Enough. Tame the beast and train myself to stop when I’m ahead, pick a few links and just publish. NOT because I want to blog crap but because good ideas are never really done anyway. There’s always room for improvement, ideas grow and evolve. So with that monster pre-ramble .. a few blog posts that got away, Condensed Versions:

Customer Service FTW. Was having trouble with ABC’s iPad app, saw an email address. And an 800 number. Called. Low and behold, a non-scripted human person answered the call (!) and actually helped (!!). For a free service. It’s an example of so many things: good PR, good training, an approach that understands service is more than a useless placeholder social media profile.

Listen and Engage, not a band name. We’ve all seen them, poorly run brand SM accounts that are all about vanity metrics while pretending their ‘content’ isn’t ads. Their go-to move, the “Ask, then Ignore.” Examples I had: Macy’s running a thing on women’s shape wear, liking the positive comments and ignoring the metric ton of negative ones that called out the not bargain sale prices, the super thin young model who wouldn’t need them, etc. IHOP on their switch from Coke to Pepsi products, with – hat tip IHOP replying on FB – the standard corporate b.s. about it being ‘for the guests.’ If that were true, they’d offer that ‘wide array,’ i.e. both products and an actual choice.

And too many more from whence those came. Ahem.

Blogging. It’s work, it’s commitment. Ideas everywhere, yet somehow never hit published. What do you DO to get it DONE?

Image credit: Someecards, pinned for ‘someday.’
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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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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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