February 5, 2013
by Roger Pynn
The failure of all parties to aggressively communicate on the night the lights went out in NOLA is a powerful example of what can happen when an organization fails to realize that in today’s environment the name of the game is blame.
That the lights embarrassingly went out on America’s biggest sporting event aside, there are simply too many factors that support a take-charge attitude by the city of New Orleans, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome’s management team, Entergy and others. When you have a building that regularly hosts crowds of 70,000+ guests, there’s a confidence factor associated with buying a ticket … whether to a football game, a concert or a monster truck event.
On everything from CNN to Entertainment Tonight to local business journals, “reporters” have been trying desperately to find out who to blame … and the players in this story have even started to blame each other, when in fact they ought to be acting like partners, expressing concern and promising to do whatever it takes to avoid a repeat performance.
To trivialize the situation by pointing out that the only injuries were minor (when an escalator shut down) only makes it worse. Bad things could have happened. Thankfully they did not. I’d be worrying about ticket sales to the upcoming Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam on February 23 or the Essence Music Festival in July … and I’d be making clear what is being done to protect my customers, rather than blaming someone else.
More and more frequently, it seems that decision-making has become a lost art … or at least that there’s a lack of focus on the end product of meetings in corporate settings. Meetings for meeting’s sake take up time, needlessly involving too many people in the mechanics that should lead to solutions.
January 9, 2013
by Roger Pynn
My hackles went up the minute I saw this headline – Marketers are Today’s Journalists – but you should read this and think through Sam Slaughter’s very thoughtful post at Digiday. For years we’ve trained our team and urged our clients to think in terms of the headline they’d like to see written about them … and then share their stories not as promotions but as articles – stories – written candidly the way journalists would write them.
His point isn’t really that marketers are journalists. It is that they are using the journalistic process … and that is a good thing because the process is built upon facts and truth. Hopefully, journalism will survive and marketers will be stronger for having adopted principles of real journalism.
It isn’t always easy. Slaughter points to Coca-Cola as an example, and I’m sure the folks at Coke find his advice difficult to follow when it comes to “leveling with customers about a brand’s own shortcomings …” Talking about calories and sugar content in a society where both are constantly under attack can’t be easy.
But, if you accept the reality that we live in an age of transparency that is only going to become even more open as the audience drives the conversation, heed Slaughter’s advice in the closing paragraph.
January 7, 2013
by Roger Pynn
So my guy didn’t win the White House, and although my wife is still in campaign mode complaining about the other guy every time they mention spending in Washington, I have to say there’s change in the air … positive change … signs the economy may really be slowly inching its way back.
And while I’m not prepared to give credit to government (I really think these things solve themselves because the private sector gets tough and works harder), I too believe we’ve turned the corner. I say that because we have been responding to more inquiries and more Requests for Proposals in the last month than any time in the last four years.
That’s a good sign. As is the fact that we’ve already closed one of those deals and the year is just a week old. Here’s to more of the same in 2013 … for us and for you.
December 27, 2012
by Roger Pynn
This is the time of year when people in our business look through their crystal ball (or the one on their client’s desk) to see what’s ahead for the coming year … not only because our friends in the media love “crystal ball stories” about the year ahead, but because it is time to finalize plans.
Journalists look to public relations people every year for interviews with executives on the economy, local and national issues, hiring projections and the like. Predictions are simply good fodder for news people.
But far more important are the plans we put in place to help clients communicate. Strategies are useless without timelines, budgets and tactical requirements. Our teams are busy reviewing those elements right now for and with our clients.
At the same time, they are scanning the environment to see if there are things our clients can see on the horizon. And it strikes me that there are things on the horizon that we in public relations and marketing communications must be aware of and that our clients and employers will have to be mindful of:
- Targeted communications will take on new meaning as even the most senior executive has to adapt to the power of personal digital technology … seniority will no longer be an excuse for failure to participate in the world of social media. All of us have to pay attention to the conversations that involve us.
- Being a good place to work will be essential to employee retention … as the economy continues to improve and workers see opportunity, your reputation as an employer who offers unique opportunity will set you apart and make it more likely they will realize the grass is already greener right where they are.
- Positive messages are always the most powerful … and on the heels of a brutal political season, we’d all be well-advised to find ways to make people feel good about the world we live in if we want them to do business with us.
December 26, 2012
by Roger Pynn
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the things we write here on Taking Aim, particularly the tone of the things I’ve written over the last year. Many of them seemed sad or even mad and many of those were the result of something that has had me wringing my hands … the loss of the world I grew up in and reveled in for so many years: print journalism.
But as I realized that Newsweek magazine would be disappearing from newsstands this week and re-opening its doors online, it struck me that it isn’t the texture of paper that makes me happy. It is the written word. I love to read good writing … good news writing, well-written opinion, great fiction, in-depth history and solid business material … even just a good memo.
I’ve never been a particular fan of Newsweek, although its layout has intrigued me. In fact, I always thought it had a political slant, as do its competitors in the weekly magazine space U.S. News & World Report and Time. I was brought up in journalism classes to avoid opinion-driven news coverage … but, what the heck, I’m not going to win that war.
So, I’m going to try really hard to avoid any more hand-wringing and be glad that the incredible digital era has given us new ways to receive, find and enjoy good writing. Gosh, for a guy my age it is sometimes overwhelming – certainly amazing – that within moments I could find something as interesting and well-written as this little piece that you’ve likely read many times – but if you haven’t, you should.
I want to write about what makes me happy … including that little #hashtag that lets us all gather around a single thought. I think I’m going to try to focus a lot more on good writing next year than I have bemoaning this year that my newspaper is thinning faster than my hair.
Here’s to #Happy. Here’s to good writing and to 2013. May it bring us good news.
December 13, 2012
by Roger Pynn
A marketing exec friend pointed me to a story on visual selling today (clearly a sales pitch in its own right) that highlights something we’ve been saying for a long time … that the most successful way to win a client’s business is through a conversation … not by responding to an RFP, producing a fancy proposal and then trying to wow them with a PowerPoint. (In fact, this article promotes ditching slide presentations altogether in favor of planned and structured whiteboard presentations that position you as a storyteller.)
The article references a Forrester Research study that claims 88 percent of executive decision-makers would prefer a conversation with you rather than a pitch. I’d wager it is a lot higher than 88 percent … but many of them are being protected by purchasing agents who believe the selection of professional services firms and consultants ought to be the same as finding the absolute lowest prices on copier paper and pencils.
The most productive relationships we’ve ever had come from situations where we had the opportunity to engage a prospective client in a meaningful conversation about their needs, challenges and aspirations, and our philosophy, experience and track record addressing other organization’s situations.
Many of those clients have been professional services firms just like ours, and we’ve helped them develop similar approaches to selling their services. But it goes way beyond the initial face-to-face encounter. Successfully marketing professional services begins long before the prospect thinks they need help.
It starts with positioning yourself to be their first choice … the go-to provider … the one they think of because they’ve heard of you, met you and/or seen you at work for others. In our business, what we do to market our firm every day is exactly what we advise clients they must do – day-to-day selling.
Sure, we use a PowerPoint now and then, and I agree with the theory that you make a much greater impact with pen in hand creating images on a whiteboard or flip chart, but chances are that we’re already on board because of a meaningful conversation that came about because of day-to-day selling.
December 5, 2012
by Roger Pynn
In our business, plenty of clients say “get me on the couch with Matt Lauer,” meaning they want to be interviewed on the “Today” show. That may change.
Today the show hit an all-time low. Watch for yourself. (Warning: there’s a 30-second commercial in front of the more than four-minute segment that was promoted with foolish teasers from the start of the show on a day when there was plenty of real news to cover.)
One has to wonder if the producers, editors and talent really comprehend what an injustice they did to themselves, to the show, to the network, to the profession … and to all the real issues they might try to report on in the future. When television personalities profess to be journalists and then turn what journalists do into a joke, they aren’t.
Whether their intention was to make fun of themselves or not, the parody of the kind of melodramatic coverage they give to so many issues can only serve to further diminish the relevance of this, and perhaps other quasi news programs.
In an era when the newspaper is disappearing from our lives, can television news be far behind … or has that in fact become as much an oxymoron as sports journalism?
December 3, 2012
by Roger Pynn
Last week another wave of good newspaper people left the business … some in what most would call “early retirement” and others with little to show for their dedication but a paltry sum deemed fair by some HR consultant. Imagine working four decades for a newspaper and being laid off while others were offered a “buyout.”
It probably says a lot about the guy … he covered religion … and he set up an auto-reply on his email account that said: “I have enjoyed working here and have been inspired, warmed and fulfilled in getting to know so many of you over nearly four decades. Together, I believe we have helped South Floridians understand religious issues and to aid their search for spiritual truth.”
I hope publishing companies figure out their future before it is too late. To me, too late is when all the good people have given up and fled to other fields of endeavor. Too late is when the public at large says what a major chief executive said to me the other day about a major daily: “they’ve become irrelevant.”
I hope not. We need them, in whatever form … digital, print or otherwise. It isn’t that we need their pulp or their websites. We need content. Solid, factual, creative, insightful, vetted information. That’s all. Newspapers are not irrelevant. They are shrinking, but I hope not sinking.
Perhaps those publishing execs should read former Greensboro, N.C., News & Record Editor John Robinson’s blog “Media, disrupted.” In the aftermath of a stellar career, his “Journalism, one year later” is right on target.
He says, “It is too late for newspapers to claim their former dominance. But it isn’t too late to build positive, helpful relationships with people. Or to actively listen to what their communities want and need. Or to create journalism that matters, whether it holds power accountable or is a list of food banks that need donations for the holiday season.”
November 30, 2012
by Roger Pynn
My head’s just been up in the clouds lately. No matter how I tried, I seemed to be in a fog when it came to seeing something worth writing about. Maybe, I thought, there’d be an app for that.
And in today’s email came a message from a young Nigerian woman (no, not an Internet scamster) seeking her first career opportunity … and I realized what a disservice is done to many international students who are given degrees, but not given the requisite ability to communicate if they stay in this country.
What institution would confer a degree on a student that would send an email like this to prospective employers?
“To Whom it may concern,
Good day to you, my name is [name] i am a graduate student of the University of Rhode Island i studied communications (Public Relations concentrate) I have been working as a public relations specialist for quiet a while now, i have worked with artists and non profit organizations. I am seeking employment with your company mainly because I want to expand my horizons and gain the experience of working in a real firm. I am a very hardworking and dedicated young lady, I take my work very seriously. An opportunity is what I seek, any position offered would be gladly appreciated and I plan to work my way up to being a great asset to the company, thanks for your time. Attached with this email is a copy of my resume. I look forward to hearing back from you soonest.”
It was clear from her résumé that she’s hard-working. She’s held responsible jobs. But she cannot communicate in English. To have graduated her and suggested she could function in this field seems nearly criminal. Interestingly, according to her résumé, they allowed her to take public speaking, acting, small group communication and writing classes. One has to wonder about English and grammar class requirements.
Someone at the University of Rhode Island owes her an apology.
November 9, 2012
by Roger Pynn
No. This is not about politics. It is, however, about the future.
I spoke last night to a University of Central Florida journalism class … mostly sophomores taking their first journalism course … and their interest in attention to detail and the purpose of reporting gave me hope that the core reporting so necessary to our society will not be lost as our media habits change.
Sure, we may be reading our news on a 7” tablet (oh, pulp how I’ll miss you), but these kids knew that at the heart of their careers was the need to inform and educate – and, yes, to entertain. And they knew that it isn’t about their opinions and beliefs, but about facts and data important to readers.
I hope they stay the course. Although some will choose other fields such as public relations, many of them clearly want to be part of something important. I told them I only wish I were around to see the incredible changes they will experience, because the pace of transition we’ve seen in the early stages of the digital generation will only increase and can only be expected to deliver amazing opportunity.