Monday, March 31, 2008

Companies ask employees to disconnect from technology to better connect with each other

At Saturday's YLNI Leadership Institute session, we discussed listening skills and the need to put technology aside in order to fully engage in a conversation. According to an L.A. Times story that ran in today's Journal Gazette, some Silicon Valley companies agree, and they are insisting that employees disconnect from technology in order to reconnect with one another:

Frustrated by distracted workers so plugged in that they tune out in the middle of business meetings, a growing number of companies are going “topless,” as in no laptops allowed. Also banned from some conference rooms: BlackBerrys, iPhones and other personal devices on which so many have come to depend.

[...]

[A]s laptops have gotten lighter and smart phones even smarter, people have discovered a handy diversion, making more eye contact these days with their screens than each other.

With both Saturday's conversation and this morning's story fresh in my head, I did an experiment today: I participated in an hour-long conference call without access to my laptop or my phone. This may be no surprise, but I was much more engaged in the conversation, my notes were clearer, and my questions and comments seemed to be much more constructive. And when I got back to my desk, I was able to respond to everything that had been waiting for me in a matter of minutes.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm a huge fan of technology, and I'd be lost without my Blackberry and my laptop. But I'm also a big fan of productivity and quality. Imperfect attention is a huge drain on both, because it's a time waster (for both the speaker and the listener) and it usually leads to things getting screwed up.

For all the value we place on multitasking, you simply can't listen while doing other things. Listening well demands all your attention. It's hard enough with the usual analog distractions: noise, the competing thoughts in your head, and visual distractions. Add technology into the mix, and you're almost guaranteed to miss most of what's being said. And while it might sound counterintuitive, sometimes you actually get much less work done when you multitask.

Part of the problem is that we don't want to miss anything, and we tend to think the next big thing is waiting for us in the next e-mail message, headline, or website. That's pretty addictive, and it leads to us checking messages and logging on much more often than we need to.

Linda Stone, a software executive who worked for Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., calls it “continuous partial attention.” It stems from an intense desire to connect and be connected all the time, to be, in her words, “a live node on the network.” And it seems to have engulfed all aspects of life, including the workplace.

The conversation I had with Saturday's Leadership Institute attendees indicated that many people would be in favor of at least an occasional technology blackout in meetings. I was in complete agreement then, and I agree even more strongly now.

What are your thoughts? How would you respond if your company asked that you disconnect from technology before connecting with your coworkers?

Free presentation readiness checklist

Lisa Braithwaite's Speak Schmeak blog offers a free presentation readiness checklist via e-mail. It's concise, complete, and designed to help you succeed. To make the most of Braithwaite's checklist, adapt it with your own pre-presentation rituals, needs, and reminders. One addition I'd suggest: always throw an extra extension cord in your laptop bag. Why? Well, they're cheap, light, and easy to carry, and you never know when you're going to need one. Remember, set-up may be the venue's responsibility, but if they let you down, you're the one who's going to pay the price. Always have a Plan B.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

If you're looking for the list of resources from yesterday's YLNI Leadership Institute session...

Scroll down, or click here.

Lean-back vs. lean-forward information

Great post yesterday on Mark Cuban's Blog Maverick that shows how the web has changed, and continues to change. A sample:

[T]here really is no reason to know anything but what is right in front of you. If you put your virtual self in enough networks, facebook, myspace, twitter, wherever, someone is going to ping you with "the latest".

We always talk about entertainment on the net and on tv as being different because TV is lean back, and internet is lean forward. It looks like information distribution has become delineated in the same way.

In this day and age, there are the things we are specifically interested in. The groups we "lean forward" and join, whether they are message boards, social networking groups, or websites we bookmark and visit, the tv shows we watch or DVR. Then there is everything else , which we trust will find us. The lean back information.
The question is, by relying primarily upon sources we know--whether people or channels--will we increasingly shut ourselves off from the possibility of meeting and learning from new sources? And how do we continue to maximize our access to sources that can teach us about what we might or should be interested in, but otherwise wouldn't discover?

Jon over at The Good City (a participant in yesterday's YLNI Leadership Institute session) has a related post on how to open yourself up to new sources:
Whether out of fear or out of selfishness, Americans have created a culture in which we may meet only those people we choose to meet. We have less and less incidental contact with those around us.
We have more tools than ever before to help us lean both forward and back. The key is to do both so we can learn more about the topics that interest us, while not shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world.

BOA video makes Bono drop dead and immediately begin spinning in his grave

Sometimes, words cannot suffice to describe horribleness, so I'll just say this reinforces my seething hatred of jingles* and reminds us all that just because we can bastardize a U2 song, it doesn't mean we should. I'm certain it will haunt me for the rest of my life.



*O.K., so technically it's not a jingle. But it's in the jingle family, and that's enough for me.

Phone books relevant, phone book industry says. And up next: the emperor discusses his new clothes!

MSNBC reports on the phone book industry's attempts to tout its own relevance:

Industry leaders assert that consumers use yellow pages at a higher rate than newspapers and radio for local business information. Shoppers who open yellow books intend to spend cash, they say, and businesses advertising in the national print yellow pages can expect a return of about 13-to-1, according to statistics from the nonprofit trade group Yellow Pages Association.
This is just absurd. I don't know where these numbers come from, but I haven't touched a phone book in months, and even then it was only to pick it up from outside my front door and throw it away. And I suspect I'm not alone: I know of only one person who uses the phone book, and while he's not exactly a Luddite, he's no Steve Jobs, either. Of course, it's hard to find credible phone book usage stats, because most of them are provided by--you guessed it--phone book company executives.

Old Yeller isn't completely useless today (see this Slate story about the role it plays in Internet culture). But unless you're in an industry that appeals only to the shrinking population of those without Internet access, an ad in the Yellow Pages is a waste of money.

When did you last use a phone book? And if that was to find a residential phone number, when is the last time you found a product or service via the Yellow Pages?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Communication resources from YLNI Leadership Institute

Earlier today, I facilitated a YLNI Leadership Institute session on communication, and I promised the class I'd provide a list of resources--things I mentioned throughout the day and resources supplemental to the class. So, here they are. For those of you who attended, thanks for your participation, and good luck with the remaining sessions.

Articles and books
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

“The Brand Called You” by Tom Peters
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

“Employers Cite Communication Skills, Honesty/Integrity as Key for Job Candidates,” National Association of Colleges and Employers

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath

Your Call is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit, by Laura Penny

Blogs (Misc.)

The Daily Dose (Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce/Nicole Wilkins)

Downtown Fort Wayne Baseball (Brian Spaulding)

The Good City (Jon Swerens)

Good URL Bad URL
“The Newbie Guide to Blogging” from Lifehack.org

Seth Godin's Blog
SoundBite Back

Employment Communication

“36 Beautiful Resume Designs That Work” by JobMob

VisualCV.com

Instant Messaging

Google Talk

Meebo

Yahoo Instant Messenger


Listening

“8 Ways to Avoid Conversational Narcissism” by Hello, My Name is Blog


Online Classes--FREE
Communicating Across Cultures from MIT OpenCourseWare

English Grammar in Context from LearningSpace
First Year Chinese from Utah State University

Spanish 1 from MIT OpenCourseWare

Spanish: Espacios p├║blicos from LearningSpace

Presenting and PowerPoint

“70+ PowerPoint and Presentation Resources and Great Examples” by meryl.net

Create Your Communications Experience
“Deliver a Presentation like Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo

“How NOT To Use Powerpoint” by Comedian Don McMillan

“Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it)” by Seth Godin

Six Minutes: Public Speaking and Presentations Skills
Toastmasters


Productivity

“The World's Most Organized Man” by Joe Kita


Reference

Definr.com
OneLook Dictionary Search

Visuwords

Wikimapia
Wikipedia


Social Networks

Smaller Indiana
Facebook
LinkedIn
Ning

Tools

ACPL card

Bubbl.us

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Flickr

Google Reader

Google Pages

Jott

PDF Hammer

PDF Online

YouTube


Writing

Daily Writing Tips

Grammar Girl

Journal Gazette Letters to the Editor
The Lonely Writer (e-book) by Geoffrey Hineman

News-Sentinel Letters to the Editor
Synonym.com
Thank-You-Note-Samples.com
“Why Writing Like a College Student Will Kill You Online” by Copyblogger


Misc.

“Did You Know 2.0” from Shift Happens

Friday, March 28, 2008

Movie ads unforgettable for Sarah Marshalls of the world

Do you recognize the name Tommy Tutone? If so, you probably remember the uproar he caused when random strangers starting dialing 867-5309, asking for a girl named Jenny.

Now, thanks to a new movie ad campaign, a similar phenomenon is affecting the Sarah Marshalls of the world. The
Los Angeles Times
reports:

Sarah Marshall of Glendora didn't get a lot of notice. Until about two weeks ago.

That's when hundreds of billboards started appearing in five cities, including Los Angeles. They proclaimed, in black letters scrawled against a white background: "I'm So Over You, Sarah Marshall," "You Suck Sarah Marshall," "My Mother Always Hated You, Sarah Marshall," and "You Do Look Fat in Those Jeans, Sarah Marshall."

The billboards are part of a marketing campaign for the comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," from Universal Pictures, about a dumped boyfriend trying to get over his ex.
Now this may seem funny to you if your name isn't Sarah Marshall. But some people, apparently, aren't laughing very hard. People with a certain name, that is.
The animosity toward their fictional namesake has brought the real Sarah Marshalls -- who include an advertising student in Texas, a special-education teacher in Connecticut and a high school senior in Glendora -- an outpouring of concern.

"They're everywhere, and they're so annoying," said Sarah Marshall the Glendora student, who lives three blocks from one of the billboards. Adults called her parents to ask if she was the target of a hate campaign. "I wish they specified that it's a movie," she said.
The good news for the beleaguered Sarah Marshalls of the world is that the movie opens April 18, and if the preview* is any indication, it may come and go pretty quickly. The bad news, though, is that if the preview is any indication, it also looks kind of funny, and exactly like the kind of movie targeted at people most likely to annoy the Sarah Marshalls of the world.

So if your name is Sarah Marshall, you may want to think about using an alias, at least temporarily. You might even consider calling yourself "Jenny," depending on what your phone number is.

*NSFW. At all. Ergo "restricted." Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Balance: brand on the run

I'm a runner, and for years my favorite brand of running shoes was New Balance. It started during my Junior year of high school, when I decided to get serious about cross country. I bought a pair of red New Balance racing flats that looked cool, felt light, and seemed fast. I think it was more psychological than anything else, but after one good race I was hooked. My loyalty to New Balance continued for years, and when I started training for my first marathon, I ran in a pair of New Balance 833s. After a sub-3:30, I dubbed them my Favorite Running Shoes Ever, and I thought I'd run in New Balance for the rest of my life.

Well, it's funny how one recommendation can change your brand loyalty.
One day I visited the Three Rivers Running Company (sidebar: if you are a runner and you're looking for expert advice, go there NOW), and they didn't have any New Balance shoes in stock. But because they're great at what they do, they convinced me to try something new. And even though I thought the world would end the first time I wore Sauconys, it didn't. In fact, they felt pretty good. And light. And fast. Later, I let the TRRC guys talk me into a pair of Asics Gel-DS Trainers. All of sudden, I had a new Favorite Running Shoe Ever.

The interesting thing about my relationship with New Balance is that while the brand never really let me down, it still didn't retain me as a 100% loyal customer. Why? Part of the problem is the New Balance brand itself. It's always been kind of vanilla, lacking the intangible allure of other brands. It's not that New Balance had a
bad image--it just didn't seem to stand for anything at all. And that made customers like me pretty vulnerable to good advice from people they trust.

So, what's a brand to do when it runs into a relevance problem? Well, New Balance is investing in a new advertising campaign. And I have to admit, I think what they're doing is great. And smart.

Here's how adage.com describes the New Balance "love/hate" campaign:

In a bold bid to double its sales by 2012, New Balance is tripling spending behind a push that appeals to runners by reminding them how much they occasionally hate running.

The footwear marketer's first campaign from Onicom Group's BBDO, New York, portrays the relationship between runners and their sport as a hot-and-cold romance, a pitch it hopes will help it boost sales with 18- to 29-year-olds.


A print piece, summing up this approach, says: "Today you almost broke up with running. Today running shook you out of bed and into the deep, dark cold. Today, once again, around mile 2, lungs full of air, pupils full of sunrise, you remembered, 'Oh yeah, this is why we got together.'"
I'm older than the target audience for these ads, but being a week away from my fifth marathon, and having trained in ice, snow, cold, and rain for four months, I think this campaign gets it exactly right. There are days when I hate running. Just hate it. But the days I love it make it worthwhile. And that's exactly what keeps me going.

This campaign shows why advertising, for all its shortcomings, still has relevance. In today's cluttered communication environment, an ad has to be pretty good for anyone to notice. But if it's good, and authentic to the customer's experience, it can get noticed--and it can elicit a response.

How will the New Balance campaign affect me? On April 6, when I'm standing at the starting line of the Athens* Marathon, I'll be wearing Sauconys. But at some point, probably about 18 miles in, I'll be on that thin line between love and hate. And I'll think about New Balance, and how they understand that feeling.

Advertising that evokes that feeling is pretty rare. And that's why I think the New Balance campaign deserves to take a victory lap, ideally in a fast, light, cool pair of red racing flats.

*Ohio, not Greece. But I bet there are still a bunch of Phidippides jokes at the finish line.

Bonus coverage: The New York Times, on the science behind that love/hate feeling.

It ain't over until the fat lady sings--or until the fat guy dances

This week, just in time for the start of the baseball season, NPR aired a great story about the Florida Marlins' marketing efforts. Taking a page out of Bill Veeck's playbook, the Fish have assembled a new dance team: the Manatees, shown above in all their guts and glory. The Marlins also will host Saturday night post-game concerts by the likes of Poison and K.C. and the Sunshine Band, dueling pianos, and a marching band. It's enough to make a fan forget just how awful the Marlins are--but will it be enough to get them to Dolphin Stadium? Well, we'll find out on Monday, when the Marlins host the Mets. And if they want to make things even more interesting, maybe they could make Ramon Castro an honorary Manatee for the night.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Search for more web hits

Stuck with a bad URL? Here's a solution that might be worth trying. This is especially useful given the growing number of web users who use enter website names into search engines instead of typing URLs into the browser's address bar.

Pontiac did this in a TV spot a couple of years ago, recommending that viewers "Google Pontiac" to learn more about the G6. However, they probably were just looking to piggyback on Google's brand (especially given that Pontiac's URL is the decidedly easy to remember "pontiac.com"). Still, however, there's no harm in understanding that the way your customers are finding your site today may be different than the way they found it yesterday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You can't judge a schlemmergulasch by its cover

Yesterday's Funtasticus.com links to a German site that reminds me of two things:

1. German food is different than American food, and
2. Time spent making packaging look pretty would probably be better spent making the actual contents look pretty

The reason people don't always trust advertising is that much of it is inauthentic. But if your packaging fools someone into buying your product once, you can bet they won't give you a second chance the next time they're shopping for nougat pillows.

Presentation Zen author gives your PowerPoint slides a makeover

Most PowerPoint slides look something like this:

But with a little help from Presentation Zen author Garr Reynolds, you can learn how to make them look more like this:

Reynolds' "before and after" slides, along with sample slides from his book, will inspire you to get the most out of PowerPoint. Watch the presentation below to transform yourself into a PowerPoint Zen master.


Hat tip: Six Minutes

Monday, March 24, 2008

If you read nothing else, read #1

A great list from Ian Lurie's "Conversation Marketing": The Internet Marketing List: 59 Things You Should Be Doing But Probably Aren't. My favorite item on Lurie's list is right there at the top:

1. If you have a Flash introduction on your web site, delete it. If you don’t agree, try this: Shove your head into a bucket of water. Stay in there, not breathing, for 10 seconds longer than is comfortable. That’s what you’re doing to your customers. Delete it, please.
Yes, Flash intros look cool. But just because you can do something cool, it doesn't mean you should. Remember, if it doesn't advance the conversation with your customers, get rid of it. Unless you're in the Flash animation development business, all a Flash intro does is get in the way.

And if you need more ammunition to make a case against Flash, here it is.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

More cool business cards

If Monday's post didn't quench your thirst for awesome business card design, check out Inspiredology.com's "Cool Business Cards." They've even included a lil' sumpthin' from Indiana's own Lodge Design (see image above), which will make agency creatives throughout the Hoosier state experience a combination of envy and pride. Mostly envy, though.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

PDFs PDQ

The humble PDF file is one of the unsung heroes of the technology world. As a cross-platform, cross-program standard, it provides a dummy-proof way of sharing documents. The name behind the acronym--Portable Document Format--shows why the PDF is a success: with nothing more than one (free) program--Adobe Reader--you can read PDFs and forward them on without worrying about compatibility or file size issues.

There are, however, a few frustrations in working with Adobe Reader. You can't edit text or do much else with an existing PDF other than view it (hence the name "Reader"). Also, when you copy text from a PDF and place it into a text editor, you often end up with random spaces in the middle of words. It's still easier to copy than it is to retype, but it's annoying nonetheless.

These small problems aside, I still rely on PDFs just about every day. As a result, I've found some tools on the web that help with some of the problems above, and that make PDFs even more useful. Here are a few worth checking out:

  • Free PDF to Word Doc Converter: requires a download, but gives you cleaner text from PDFs than you'd get from a copy and paste. It also preserves graphics from your PDF documents, allowing your skip the "print screen" step.
  • htm2pdf: As its name suggests, this site lets you convert web pages to PDFs right from your browser--no software needed. All you do is copy a website address or HTML code into a dialog box on the site, and then download your PDF. The whole thing takes about three seconds.
  • PDF Hammer: Need just one page of a PDF file, or need to combine PDF files? Use PDF Hammer's intuitive online interface, which gives you a preview of your edits as you work.
  • PDF Online: This may be the most useful tool of them all, mainly because of its simplicity. PDF Online lets you convert Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other files into PDFs--for free. Just upload your file, enter your e-mail address, and a PDF is sent to you.
  • PDF Split and Merge: performs some of the same functions as PDF Hammer, but requires a software download
One disclaimer: I work in Microsoft Vista, and I use both Firefox and Internet Explorer. These tools work pretty well for me, but they may not work as well with other operating systems or browsers.

If anyone has any additional PDF tips and tricks, post them in the comments.

P & G exec to speak at Mar. 27 Fort Wayne AdFed meeting

Dr. Susan Mboya, Global Director for New Business Development at Procter & Gamble, will be in Fort Wayne on Thu., Mar. 27, to present "Winning With Minorities: An Equal Opportunity Industry." Online registration is available.

The growth in minority populations is a good enough reason to attend this session, but minorities' spending power is increasing, too. One example is the growth in online shopping among minorities, as evidenced by a recent study by
The Media Audit, a syndicated media ratings service. According to the study, 40.6% of African Americans now shop online, as compared to 27.1% in 2003. Among Hispanics, online shopping has increased to 41.8% of the population from just 27.7% five years ago.

Given Dr. Mboya's expertise, the AdFed meeting is likely to provide new insights into reaching customers who may not be hearing your message. It's a great chance to challenge your perceptions and learn about targeting your message in a way that can pay immediate dividends.

Hat tip: Research Brief

Friday, March 21, 2008

Update: If you're in Indy on April 2...

Click to enlarge, but note that the date is now April 2 (same place, same time). You don't have to be an Indianapolis Ad Club member to attend, but an RSVP is required.

"These days, what with business and stuff, you gotta get your e-mail"

It's Friday, so enjoy some funny. Gabe & Max's Internet Thing puts the power of the Internet at your finger's tip. Fax us your e-mail address now!!!!

Hat tip: remarkable communication, from "the online blogopolis"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Learn by teaching

Today, I had the opportunity to spend about four hours with a marketing class from the Kokomo campus of Ivy Tech Community College. We covered a lot of ground, including branding, creativity, advertising, PR, and new media. It was time very well spent, and it reminded me of something that's simple, but easy to forget: one of the best ways to learn is by teaching. You invariably get asked some great questions, and you have a chance to see your topic from a fresh perspective. And if you're looking to practice your presentation skills, there's no better substitute than standing in front of a group and making a presentation.

So if you have the chance to teach, say yes whenever possible. It's a great way to learn something new.

Remarkable writing advice from remarkable communication

Sonia Simone's "remarkable communication" blog has some great advice on how to produce...well, remarkable communication. One example: her "5 editor's secrets to help you write like a pro." A sample:

4. Omit unnecessary words.

I know we all heard this in high school, but we weren't listening. (Mostly because it's hard.) It's doubly hard when you're editing your own writing—we put all that work into getting words onto the page, and by god we need a damned good reason to get rid of them.

Here's your damned good reason: extra words drain life from your work. The fewer words used to express an idea, the more punch it has. Therefore:

Summer months
Regional level
The entire country
On a daily basis (usually best rewritten to "every day")
She knew that it was good.
Very

[...]

You can nearly always improve sentences by rewriting them in fewer words.

There's more--4 more, to be precise--where that came from.

Senate candidate holds logo election

Scott Kleeb, a candidate for U.S. Senate, is letting visitors to his web site choose his new campaign logo. I like this idea for a few reasons:

  • It gives people some ownership in the Kleeb brand, possibly leading to them having more ownership in his campaign as a whole
  • It drives traffic to his website, and
  • It's consistent with the "grass roots" campaign theme he's using to differentiate himself against his opponent
Kleeb announced his campaign in February, just three months before the primary. But with strategies like this, he's quickly making up for lost time.

Hat tip: BrandNew

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Be objective about your own lack of objectivity

If you're a marketer, it's important to remember that you know more about your product than your customer does. That sounds obvious, but it's easy to forget.

As you go throughout your day obsessing about the nuances of your product, you lose perspective and lose touch with what people don't know. You forget the basics. You become immune to industry jargon and build up so much ownership that you become increasingly hostile to criticism. This myopia is incredibly dangerous, but it's hard to avoid.

The only solution is to commit to an ongoing conversation with your customers and prospects. Provide open communication channels that encourage feedback. Conduct focus groups and do quantitative research. And by all means,
listen. You might not like what you hear, but your customers already are telling others what they think. You might as well give yourself a chance to respond.

It's true that you know more about your product than your customer does. But the more you know, the less capable you are of focusing on what's most important.

Congrats, Rebecca!

Fort Wayne Observed posted earlier today about someone Fort Wayne Observed would probably call "a friend of this weblog": Rebecca Karcher, the City of Fort Wayne's new Director of Public Information. Rebecca and I have worked together twice now--at Parkview and at Asher--and I can verify that she is a great communicator, very creative, and a lot of fun to be around. We'll miss her at Asher, but we wish her the best in her new gig.

So good luck, "Rhonda." And remember, if you get a flat tire, I'm right down the road. I would be happy to-once-again-not-fix-it-while-breaking-other-things for you.

Gramlee gets an F

On Tuesday, I posted about Gramlee, a new web-based proofreading service. Gramlee sounded great in theory, but I wanted to check it out for myself. I took advantage of the site's free 100-words-or-less trial, submitting the following text--the beginning of Tuesday's post itself--for editing:

There's a dirty little secret among all writers: it's easy to proofread someone else's writing, but damn hard to proofread your own writing. There's a simple reason for this: when you're reading your own work, you know what to expect--so you impose the correct words/phrases on your writing even when they're not there. When you read someone else's writing, however, you are objective simply because it's all new to you. That's why I included getting feedback on the list of habits that most good writers share.

Today, I received this response from Gramlee (I'm sharing at as image, because otherwise it might seem beyond belief--click on the image to magnify):

Do you see anything you wouldn't expect from a proofreading service--like four typos? Given that this is precisely the type of thing that writers would depend upon Gramlee to fix, this is a disaster. Let's look at those typos one by one:
  • "this.:" - The folks at Gramlee appear to love punctuation a little too much
  • "imposevisualize" - A collision of the words "impose" (from my original) and "visualize"--Gramlee's version, apparently, of a "mashup"
  • "expect.--" - Punctuation's so nice, they use it twice
  • "wWhen" - When you recommend typos that not even Spell Check would miss, you've failed pretty miserably
Now I did like a couple of their suggestions: they cut some superfluous words out of my writing, and they didn't editorialize (they could have cut the word "damn," for example). But those small successes don't begin to outweigh the almost laughable results.

Writing well is difficult, and an online proofreading service is a great idea. Now if someone could just come up with one that actually works, it might be worth using. Hell, even the "
team of professional writers" at Gramlee appear to need all the help they can get.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Twitterpated


I don't see myself jumping into the
Twitter pool anytime soon, but this video at least makes it easy to understand. If you've been thinking about starting a blog, or you're just looking for an easy way to communicate glimpses of your day to the outside world, Twitter may be a good place to start. (And if you're looking to communicate instructions to an audience, you could do a lot worse than a video like this.)

Hat tip: The Marketing Technology Blog

Monday, March 17, 2008

What's the Lincoln Museum worth to me? At least $10.19. How about you?

I look at most things from a communication and marketing perspective. That's why, when I heard that the Lincoln Museum will close in June, I focused on it as a marketing problem. "What," I thought, "could have the museum done differently to make it more of a destination? What could have they done to attract more visitors?"

Well, I didn't have any immediate answers--and part of the problem is that I've only been to the Lincoln Museum once. It struck me as a nice place, a true asset for Fort Wayne, and something that made me feel proud to live where I do. But it also seemed a little stodgy, dry, and--yes--boring. The kind of place I'd drive by and think "I'm glad that's here," but without thinking "I should go back."

Maybe that reflects more upon me than it does upon the Lincoln Museum. Maybe I should have thought of it more often when planning my discretionary time. But the point is, I didn't. And neither, apparently, did most people.

So now that the Museum may close its doors forever, the question is, what is Fort Wayne willing to do to save the Lincoln Museum? According to an editorial in today's Journal Gazette, people like Geoff Paddock and Marilyn Moran-Townsend are doing more than just asking that question--they're trying to answer it, and engaging others in doing the same. They're giving the community a second chance to support the Museum with their ideas, their advocacy, and their checkbooks. It's an uphill battle, of course. But you have to respect them for trying. And that leads to you hoping they succeed. And that leads to you wondering what you can do to help.

If there's something good in all of this, then, it's that people may end up with a renewed sense of urgency about the Lincoln Museum. It's a cliche, but it's also true that you don't know what you've got until it's gone (or until it's slated to become "More Accessible and Visible"). It may be too late, of course. But remember that the Embassy Theatre almost disappeared, too, in 1972. And knowing that, I'm much quicker to buy a ticket to an event like Down the Line, knowing that I'm playing a small part in keeping something alive that I'd miss if it were gone.

That's why this might be the best thing that's ever happened to the Lincoln Museum. It's given people a sense of urgency, gotten them thinking about what the Museum is worth to them, and made them wonder what they'd be willing to do to save it.

As for me, I know I'm thinking about the Lincoln Museum more today than I ever have.
And that's got me thinking about saving the Lincoln Museum as a marketing problem.

Right now, for example, when you do a Google search on "save the Lincoln Museum," not much pops up. But what if you got an engaging, interesting response? What if the first hit you saw was saveabe.com?

That's why
I just used GoDaddy to reserve saveabe.com. I think it's easy to remember and kind of fun, but also direct. I don't know if that's the right answer. I know a website can't do much on its own, but it's a way of capturing and sharing ideas. So for me, saving the Lincoln Museum is apparently worth at least $10.19.

Now, how about you? Is anyone willing to host the site? Design the site? Work in conjunction with Moran-Townsend and Paddock to make sure we don't reinvent the wheel? What else are you willing to contribute?


What strategies do you think would be most effective in giving people a sense of urgency about a place they didn't care enough about to visit in the first place? Post your ideas in the comments, and encourage others to do the same. Let's see if we can solve this marketing problem, and help save Abe in the process.

Or, maybe don't settle for a resume at all

Hard on the heels of my post about some cool resume tools, Seth Godin has this to say about marketing yourself to employers:

Great people shouldn't have a resume.

Here's why: A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, "oh, they're missing this or they're missing that," and boom, you're out.

[...]

If you don't have a resume, what do you have?

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that proceeds you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

[...]

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for... those jobs don't get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

Proofeader for hire: Gramlee gives your first draft a second chance

There's a dirty little secret among all writers: it's easy to proofread someone else's writing, but damn hard to proofread your own writing. There's a simple reason for this: when you're reading your own work, you know what to expect--so you impose the correct words/phrases on your writing even when they're not there. When you read someone else's writing, however, you are objective simply because it's all new to you. That's why I included getting feedback on the list of habits that most good writers share. Sure, you might be able to get by without a proofreader, but it's a risk.

But now--for a small fee--it's a risk you don't have to take, thanks to Gramlee.

What's Gramlee, you ask? Well, the idea's pretty simple: just copy your text into the Gramlee interface, and their "team of professional writers" e-mails you an edited version, usually within 24 hours. It's not an automated service: it's real people, responding with what appears to be an individualized response.

It sounds great in theory, but there's an easy way to judge how good it is in practice: Gramlee offers a free 100-word trial, no strings attached. In fact, I'm going to submit the first 87 words of this post and follow up with the results later this week. I'd encourage you to give it a try, too, and comment back with your thoughts.

Hat tip: The Marketing Technology Blog

Your business card doesn't have to be boring, either

Yesterday, I linked to some great resume designs that can help you stand out from the crowd. Now, here are some business cards designed to get noticed.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Don't settle for a boring resume

Here are 36 layouts you can use, or adapt from to create your own unique, standout resume design. Remember, using a Microsoft Word template pretty much guarantees that your resume will look exactly like everyone else's. And that's not a good thing.

And if you want to take it to a whole 'nother level, check out VisualCV. The site is in Beta mode right now, but I just created a resume page on VisualCV for free and the results are pretty cool. You also can add a portfolio with audio, video, and documents, and--maybe best of all--you can download your VisualCV page as a PDF.

Hats tipped to: Lifehack.org, Springwise

"And then, I left and took a cab to Hooker Highway"



Eliot Spitzer's 2006 gubernatorial campaign ad, back when he didn't bring to mind headlines like these, or inspire minor league baseball promotions like this. If you work on campaign ads, this is a good reminder to avoid claims that make your candidate sound like a saint, because he or she probably isn't.

Hat tipped to AdFreak, briefly placed back on head, and immediately tipped again

Saturday, March 15, 2008

GFWBW on local TV networks' web-weaving

This week's Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly includes a story about the local TV networks' web strategies, including WANE's new election portal, fortwaynepolitics.tv and the WFFT parent-group's Nexstar Green program.

I'm quoted in the piece, with a few comments about targeting and the ways traditional media can build their brand with a web presence:

Digital advertising is moving toward becoming a large-scale business. Total local online ad spending is expected to increase 48 percent this year to $12.6 billion nationally, according to estimates by Borrell Associates, a consulting firm to online publishing companies.

Ads in local searches will command the largest portion of the total, about $5 billion. Local online video will be worth about $1.3 billion, the company estimated.


Juliano said the way consumers get information is changing. TV st
ations still want them to watch the nightly news, but they realize they also have to promote other ways to access information, he said.

“The two work in collaboration and when done well can be extremely effective in building a media brand,” Juliano said of broadcast and digital information.
There’s a good reason why media companies are wise to extend their brands onto the web: people are spending less time with every individual medium, but about the same amount of cumulative time with all media. If you only offer one choice—a single TV network, for example—you only have one chance to get a consumer’s attention. Offering multiple choices, however, makes it more likely that consumers will spend more time with you, even though they may split that time over multiple media.

The bottom line is that twenty years ago people had far fewer choices and more discretionary time, so you could expect people to come find you if you had news and information to share. Now, the equation is reversed: people have far less discretionary time, but unlimited access to news and information. As a result, they’re quicker to switch from one medium to another, knowing they’ll eventually find a source that gives them what they want. The key for advertisers is to understand how this dynamic is changing, and to understand that they may be better off with a strategy that’s precisely targeted instead of one that simply aims for the most eyeballs or ears.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's Friday. Prepare to chortle and/or guffaw.

I don't know if this sold any beer. But it's hard to find fault with funny.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hulu skirts viewers' resistance to ads with new strategies

Just as studies begin to show that TV viewers are spending more time online, a new video provider is making its debut. Hulu, a partnership between NBC Universal and Fox, launched today after completing its test phase. The site offers full-length episodes and clips from current shows like Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and Family Guy, as well as older stuff like The Addams Family and Welcome Back, Kotter. One of the objectives, of course, is to generate ad revenue--but Hulu's approach is somewhat unique, as The Washington Post reports:

Hulu's advertising strategy is to be both targeted and minimal. Each show has a single sponsor. It is experimenting with allowing users to choose which ads to view, and with showing movie trailers upfront in exchange for shows without commercial breaks. But unlike other sites -- such as NBC and Fox's independent sites -- it doesn't try to keep users captive; if users search for television shows or movies that aren't available on Hulu, they are directed to other sites. Users can also embed snippets of content from Hulu in their blogs or online profiles.

Allowing users to chose ads is innovative, some analysts said.

"It's one of the more aggressive moves we've seen," said Bobby Tulsiani, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "It's much more targeted than what you see on TV, where its hard to say if an ad actually got watched."

My take is that letting viewers choose their ads is a great strategy, and a likely sign of things to come. After all, why not let the audience watch a pitch for a product they're interested in, instead of making them sit through one that's completely off target? It's more evidence of the power of engagement over interruption, and the benefits of recognizing that consumers are in control. It's about captivating viewers, instead of trying to hold them captive.

Have you checked out Hulu yet? Do you think the ads are less invasive than they are elsewhere--and does that make you more likely to come back to the site?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lies, damn lies, and media consumption statistics

Well, it's no wonder advertisers are confused. On March 1, they read a Reuters story called "More Americans turning to Web for news":

Nearly 70 percent of Americans believe traditional journalism is out of touch, and nearly half are turning to the Internet to get their news, according to a new survey.

While most people think journalism is important to the quality of life, 64 percent are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities, a We Media/Zogby Interactive online poll showed.

Then, two days later, they read "Local TV Easily People’s Main Source for News," in Broadcasting & Cable:
Local TV is the most effective video-advertising platform, Hearst-Argyle Television reported, as well as the biggest audience draw for news and information.

Hearst-Argyle, which owns 26 stations, released a part of a survey at the Association of National Advertisers conference in New York Thursday. The broadcaster partnered with Frank N. Magid Associates on the study, which polled 2,700 local news viewers 25-54.

According to the survey, which Hearst-Argyle president and CEO David Barrett discussed at the conference, 55% of respondents cited TV as their primary source of news information, ahead of the Web (26%) and print newspapers (14%).

So, who do you trust? I'm going to have to give the nod to the We Media/Zogby study. Why? Well, there's this little swath of fine print from the Hears-Argyle survey:
Portals such as Google were not included among the “Web” category.
It makes you wonder what category "portals such as Google" were included in. "Lunchmeat"? "State Capitols"? "Potpouuri"?

I'm not saying that the We Media/Zogby results are unimpeachable, but this is a good reminder that you have to read beyond the headlines. Always ask about the source of the research, the methodology, and the sample size. In addition, consider who's delivering the message. What's their motivation for sharing the data?

As media buying becomes more complex, and as audiences become more fragmented, it's only going to become more likely that you'll hear mixed messages. That's why it's important to be skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true, and of anyone who says their solution is a panacea.

Get used to asking a lot of questions. And get used to saying this word more often.

TV: coming to a monitor near you

Almost exactly ten years ago, The Onion ran a story about a $5,000 computer system designed to let users to watch TV in real time:

"Imagine watching TV at the click of a mouse, instead of a remote control," Compaq director of product development Bill Welborne said. "With the Compaq Presario 6000 and a few reasonably priced add-ons, you'll never have to watch TV on a television again."

According to Welborne, for a $49 monthly fee, owners of the Presario 6000 will be able to access network websites, where 300MB ".vid files" will be available for download. The downloaded files can then be conveniently viewed on the Presario 6000 using a special TV-dedicated version of Netscape Communicator 4.0, priced at just $89.95.

A sound card enabling users to enjoy the sound that accompanies the downloaded TV images is also available for $349.

"Pictures, sound—this is the promise of the Multimedia Age realized," Welborne said.

The Onion, of course, was being wacky. Wouldn't it be ironic if TV viewers were to spend five grand to access shows they already could get for free?

Well, what's worse? That, or consumers spending $5,000 on a 54" HDTV, only to instead watch their favorite shows on a 17" computer monitor?

According to a story in yesterday's New York Times, the latter scenario is becoming more and more common, as viewers are spending more of their time watching TV programs via the web. And they're making the switch at a pace much faster than expected:

“It has become a mainstream behavior in an extraordinarily quick time,” said Alan Wurtzel, the head of research for NBC, which is owned by General Electric and Vivendi. “It isn’t just the province of college students or generation Y-ers. It spans all ages.”

A study in October by Nielsen Media Research found that one in four Internet users had streamed full-length television episodes online in the last three months, including 39 percent of people ages 18 to 34 and, more surprisingly, 23 percent of those 35 to 54.

“I think what we’re seeing right now is a great cultural shift of how this country watches television,” said Seth MacFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy,” a Fox animated comedy that ranks among the most popular online shows. “Forty years ago, new technology changed what people watched on TV as it migrated to color. Now new technology is changing where people watch TV, literally omitting the actual television set.”

This trend presents new challenges to advertisers, since it gives viewers yet another reason to turn off the TV--even if they do so to watch even more TV. However, TV viewing on the web will only become more popular as more consumers choose to watch shows on their own schedule, with fewer (or no) commercial interruptions, and as new services like Hulu become more common. The only thing viewers are giving up is that huge screen. But for about $5,000, they can probably find a monitor that will give them an experience that's almost as good as watching their HDTV.

There's gotta be another Onion parody in there somewhere.

Who's the #1 most recognized U.S. athlete among young consumers?

Not this guy. Not him, either. It's him. Surprised? I was, too.

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's 3 a.m. Has anyone checked on the kids'...endorsements?

Saturday Night Live put together a funny (albeit a little too lengthy) skit about the Hilary Clinton "3 a.m." ad:



But lending more proof to the theory that reality is funner than fiction, the sleeping girl in the original "3 a.m." ad, it seems, is an Obama supporter. As
AdFreak reports:

To be fair, the stock footage in the ad was shot nine years ago, when Casey Knowles was 8 years old. (The Clinton campaign bought the footage from Getty Images.) But Knowles, now 17, has been campaigning for Obama, and denounces the “3 a.m.” spot as an exercise in “fear-mongering.” The Obama camp has been in touch with Knowles, and they’ve been having a laugh or two. “I mentioned that we should make a counter ad, me and Obama, against Hillary,” she says. “They thought that was really funny. They actually might take me up on it.”
Ah, the perils of using stock photography. But it could be worse for the Clinton camp: at least they're not being sued by an angry poultry farmer.

Hat tip:
Fort Wayne Left

Hey, kids: your chance to work with Seth Godin

Marketing mastermind, guru, and all-around genius Seth Godin is inviting high school and college students to apply for a FREE summer internship with him from June 30 to July 21. You'll have to pay your own way to New York, but you won't find a better resume builder anywhere. A few of the details, from the site:

The idea is to find a diverse group of motivated young people who want to join together to create a few really neat projects. The tools used will range from online video to blogs to copywriting to design.
You even get to decide what to include on the application ("that's part of the application," Godin says), but whatever it is, it's due April 2. Good luck!

Photo: John Abbott, from Businessweek.com

SBB to The Daily (Ad) Biz: "Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyy!"


Today's quote of the day comes from the blog The Daily (Ad) Biz, in a post about McDonald's leaping onto "the corporate social responsibility bandwagon":

Fonzie’s strapping on his skis as we speak.
The post referenced a McDonald's ad touting the company's fair hiring practices (click on the image below for a larger version). The Biz was critical of McDonald's chest-pounding (as was AdRants), calling it "tangental to the product offering" with "trite copy that is kinda familiar." As such, the McDonald's ad was further proof that the entire notion of corporate responsibility has "jumped the shark."

In this case, I think McDonald's is damned if it does, damned if it doesn't. Tell the world that you strive to employ a diverse workforce, and they criticize you for being self-congratulatory. Don't say anything, however, and they'll assume you're not socially conscious. At least by spending money on your message, you're showing the world that you think diversity matters. Is McDonald's doing it for selfish reasons? Maybe. But I'll take selfish aspirational ads over selfish misanthropic ads any day.

But back to that quote for a minute. Whether or not I completely agree with the sentiment of the post, "Fonzie’s strapping on his skis as we speak" is a fine turn of phrase. So, to you, The Biz, I say: "Ayyyyyyyyyyyy!" And if you know anything about The Fonz, you'll know that's high praise indeed.

If you're completely lost, here's some info on The Fonz and the origin of the phrase "jump the shark." BONUS COVERAGE: click here to learn whether your favorite TV show has jumped a shark of its own.