I love to read. Just about any subject. I’m one of those people who can find something interesting to read from the magazines in the dentists office and the hair salon. Whether it’s Ladies Home Journal, Guns and Ammo, Reader’s Digest, The Wall Street Journal or The Economist, I’ve developed the life-long habit of reading. From monthly book club choices to new reading Apps on my Kindle and iPad, I could simply read all day long – even if I wasn’t paid to do it. One of the best ways to cultivate your writing ability is to read regularly. As I was reading this recent post, I thought this advice was not simply valid for PR and Marketing folks, but for all business people. Besides writing regularly, how do you continually improve your writing skills?
One-third of World Uses Internet: U.S. Ranks 28th in Percentage of People With Access
The statistic of U.S. users is interesting, but perhaps more relevant is that although English is the most widely used language, Chinese will surpass it in just two years. Also, according to recent information from the International Telecommunications Union (part of the United Nations), 2.25 billion people are now online with 1 billion of them using mobile broadband connections. This fact has tremendous impact for PR professionals and for business and consumers everywhere. For the full text of the article, read it here. Perhaps as Internet connectivity increases, particularly wireless and broadband connections in all of the developing countries, global trade opportunities will continue to increase. A Google executive predicted recently that all of the world’s information would be accessible online by 2020. Imagine the possibilities…
PR is no substitute for bad products
Two very interesting articles in today’s Wall Street Journal. The first one discusses the recent poor financial performance of McDonald’s. Interestingly, the company’s response is to encourage franchisees to provide better service with a smile. It identified the top customer complaint as “rude or unprofessional employees.” Customers apparently have found service chaotic and it described the average drive-thru order wait time of 188.83 seconds. I suppose a three minute wait time for your order must feel like forever in an idling vehicle, but that still sounds awfully fast to me. The company is even remodeling and sprucing up restaurants to appear more appealing, but one major area of emphasis seems to be missing: the food. It’s awful. Nutritionally lacking, poor tasting, lukewarm products are the problem. And, have you actually tried a milkshake? It tastes more like flavored foam than actual ice cream. The burgers are disgusting no matter how many condiments are used to either drown the ugliness or spice up the bland mystery meat. Clearly I’m no fan of McDonald’s food, but I don’t think it’s just me. What do you think is the problem at McDonalds?
The next article does not bode well for the future of traditional computer sales. Apparently the rapid growth of iPads and tablet PCs have sharply decreased the demand for personal computers, including laptops and desktops. In separate reports from IDC and Gartner, both respected industry research firms, estimated a decline of 14 percent and 11 percent respectively in world-wide shipments. Adding to the problem is the latest operating system from Microsoft, Windows 8, that has failed to take off. In fact, it has been shunned by so many I.T. professionals as an inferior product to its predecessor, Windows 7, that many companies are choosing not to upgrade. The problem: Windows 8 has at best, missed the window of sales opportunity or is simply a bad product. It has certainly failed to deliver on the long-promised user experience with features many hoped would make the transition from desktops and tablets an easy, uncomplicated and glitch-free experience. Ask any IT professional what they think about Windows 8 and if this is the case of a bad product.
Follow the Frog
What can you do as a business person when you have a limited budget, want to change the world and affect daily human behavior? Create an educational video. Make it humorous. Poke a little fun at yourself. Two examples: The brilliant “Follow the Frog” campaign is an educational effort by the non-profit Rainforest Alliance to reduce the destruction of rain forests. In this brilliantly creative video, it hits the mark by first showing you what you won’t do as a consumer and then showing you what you can do to make a difference. It’s funny because it addresses right up front some of the stereotypes about environmental activists in a funny way and then proceeds to teach us in an unpretentious way how small, daily actions that fit into our regular lives can make a real difference for the planet. Watch it here and let me know what you think.
The second innovative video is from the “Will it blend?” campaign. It is a series of funny company videos by BlendTec, to promote its industrial strength blenders. After initiating the marketing campaign a few years ago, sales skyrocketed. See sample videos here.
Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer made headlines recently when she recalled all telecommuting employees to company headquarters. It’s a desperate move by an executive trying to rein in costs for a company that is losing the battle for Internet eyeballs from rivals Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Unfortunately, it’s a move that’s not likely to boost company morale. I can tell you from firsthand experience, as a teleworker for the past 12 years, I work longer hours and am more productive as a home office worker.
Columbia River Crossing: A Bridge to Far
It’s not the Bridge over the River Kwai, but is has generated nearly as much controversy.
The lift bridge over the mighty Columbia River on Interstate 5 between Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, Wash. is reaching the end of it’s useful life. As an important interstate corridor along the west coast, the federal government considers it an essential component of interstate commerce and part of an important transportation segment connecting Canada to the north and Mexico to the south.
This is where common agreement ends.
A multi-year, multi-million dollar study sponsored by the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) and the Oregon and Washington Department’s of Transportation has led to more controversy and emotional disputes. The federal government has mandated a light rail component or refuses to contribute funding. Voters in Clark County Washington have (disappointedly) repeatedly voted down this option. In addition, the proposed bridge height has been a source of contention after it was revealed that the U.S. Coast Guard has not approved it and that several major employers upriver who depend on a tall bridge for commercial shipping of their products were not consulted. This could force their relocation or closure and the potential loss of many jobs–a knife in the heart of the southwest Washington economy. Just last week Jaimie Herrera-Buetler, a member of the House of Representatives from Vancouver issued a letter to Nancy Boyd, project director for the CRC questioning the budgeting of unrelated transportation projects that have somehow been attached to this project–like pork barrel projects adding unnecessary fat to an already overbudget planning process. Read it here. The story gets more interesting as you read an expose about the behind-the-scenes efforts of Patricia McCaig, consultant and confidant to Oregon Governor Kitzaber. Read it here. For the CRC side of the story, click here for the website: www.crc.org. For another perspective, read more here: www.crcfacts.info. No matter whose side you are on, clearly there is need for more public dialogue, straight talk and more information. There are other news articles in the Oregonian and a little history from the Columbian. After reading more about it, how do you feel about it?
Social Media and Pink Slime
Just finished reading an interesting article about the controversy surrounding pink slime. Click here.
Once the term was used, perhaps quite innocently, the word entered the mainstream and went viral on social media. Today, there is a lawsuit from Beef Products Inc. against ABC News when Diana Sawyer, the news correspondent, first coined the term in a news story. The outcome could have a broad effect on social media tactics in use today. What do you think is a company’s best response to this type of social media attack?
Twitter Value Rockets to $10 Billion
Imagine that you’re the PR Director for a small, private company that is preparing for its Initial Public Stock Offering and hoping to secure the attention of institutional investors. What would constitute a home run is a glowing, front page article in the Wall Street Journal touting the numbers and the euphoria surrounding the next most anticipated Wall St. debut since Facebook. Today, it happened. Twitter, the latest social media darling received a glowing endorsement from corporate news editor Dennis Berman. The numbers appear to add up and seem rather convincing if you believe his analysis. Certainly some investors don’t share this enthusiasm, particularly after the miserable stock performance of Facebook following its own IPO. However, the significance of this positive news article in arguably one of the nation’s most respected business newspapers can’t be overlooked. What do you think is the value of this single article?
Measuring Success in PR
Actions that get results is one way to measure a successful PR campaign. Since media outreach is a foundational principle of any campaign, consider the actions and results of a recent news announcement. The American Humane Association takes advantage of the collective public interest in the annual Academy Awards by issuing its own news release of pet Oscar(r) winners who win “Pawscars.” The creative news release, complete with video links appeared yesterday, distributed via PRNewswire.
The result? A news article and link in today’s issue of USAToday.
And that is just the beginning of the media coverage. It will likely be featured on numerous TV outlets and news media websites across the globe.
The power of PR to influence the media is real!
An essential element of PR planning involves research. Primary and secondary sources of information are helpful in setting benchmarks for PR plans in order to effectively evaluate the success of your PR efforts. When evaluating products or services or even new ideas, a new business trend dubbed “crowdsourcing” has appeared. A cross between brainstorming and croudsourcing, it is a new method of quickly testing ideas with a large number of people. Consider this article about crowdsourcing. The authors claim that this new method is the future of innovation, ideas and problem solving. In their recent book, Crowdstorm, they lay out a compelling case for getting advice from the smartest people in the crowd. It’s worth a look.