Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

NBA All-Star Game Gimmick, So Easy, A Caveman Could Do It

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2009 at 10:27 am

Sorry I can’t add much right now, but swing over to Darren Rovell’s always good Sports Biz column for CNBC and read his post on Geico sponsoring the NBA All-Star game H-O-R-S-E competion (and renaming it G-E-I-C-O).


Demetri Martin: WTF/HMM/LOL/HUH

In Innovation on February 12, 2009 at 9:41 am
Hey, weren't you in a Wes Anderson film?

Hey, weren't you in a Wes Anderson film?

I caught the premiere of Comedy Central’s new late-ish night entry last night, Important Things with Demetri Martin. If I were forced to write a three-letter review I would go with WTF. There were one or two moments of LOL, but not enough for that to be my three-letter review. I’m not sure that he was going for LOL though, and in fact, WTF may have been his goal. Or perhaps huh. Or hmm.

If you didn’t catch the show, Demetri Martin, titular ringmaster, has created something that’s certainly different. No band, no sidekick, no imposing desk and, at least last night, no guests plugging mediocre their movies/albums/freak show lives. What’s left to do, you ask? Well, how about some jokes, a couple pre-taped video segments, some flip charts, maybe a song (w/ harmonica, guitar and bells all played by Martin – while using a flip chart).

A lot of the bits fell flat, but that’s always going to happen, especially on a first show. But what intrigued me, and here’s the part I think is important for marketers to remember, is that I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next. Yes, part of that was because it was the first episode, but I have a feeling that episode number 10 or 100 might have that same feeling.  When you can’t fall back on the cliches of the genre – banter with the band leader, chit chat with the guest – you’ve got to try new things.  New things usually lead to…failure. Ah, but once in a while, it also leads to something new and fresh and, well, dangerous.  When was the last time Jay or Dave did something that was dangerous?

I really hope the suits at Comedy Central leave this guy alone. Just like I hope your boss leaves you alone when you suggest an idea that is a little bit dangerous.

The Shorty Awards: Celebrating The Wrong Things

In Ideas on February 11, 2009 at 11:11 am

The Shorty Awards ceremony will be held tonight in New York City as part of the Social Media Week NYC activities. Let me say that it’s not the Shorty Awards that I really have a problem with, at least conceptually. Celebrating the best of Twitter is an interesting idea and many of the award winners are worthy recipients who have added much to the community. There are a lot of exciting things happening on Twitter and many really smart people are using it in interesting ways.  Unfortunately, the awards became a microcosm of many of the worst traits of our culture.  A couple cases in point:

1. Self-promotion

When first announced it was kind of fun to nominate someone (even yourself) as the novelty of this first time event was still fresh. But as time wore on, many of the nominees did more campaigning than John McCain and Sarah Palin. When winning a Shorty Award becomes your goal, I’m not sure how much your adding to the conversation.


2. Our obsession with celebrity

I think it’s cool that Shaquille O’Neal is on Twitter. And MC Hammer. Good for them. But having them both involved in the Shorty Awards does not, to me, add to the legitmacy of the event. It kind of feels desperate, for all parties involved.  Is having MC Hammer at the award show really going to bring more people to Twitter? Is it going to help people understand how it can be used as an effective personal and business communication tool, or is this just like watching a VH1 reality show?

Everybody wins when more people use Twitter and see the value of it, but celebrating self-promoters and 20th century stars seems short-sighted.

I hope the Shorty Awards continue in the future, but I’d like to see a less democratic approach to the awards. I’m happy to let a ‘blue ribbon panel’ select the Best of Twitter based on a different set of criteria. And, not that you asked, here’s my personal list :

Not Just In It For Themselves Award:

@PRSarahEvans for #Journchat

Vangaurd Award for Best Experimental use of Twitter:

@Bud_Melman and the Mad Men on Twitter gang

Method Acting Award:

@badbanana for never breaking character

Sticking To His Guns Award:

@sethgodin for realizing this wasn’t his thing, but not exploiting his brand in this space which he easily could have done

It’s all subjective and I’m sure we all have our favorites, maybe yours are MC Hammer and The Real Shaq. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Negative Brand Hijack Hall of Fame Inductee: NY Times Ad

In Insight on February 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

For years we here in New York have seen the New York Times television ads featuring super hip and smart New Yorkers extolling the virtues of the Paper of Record. Here’s the official (short) version:

The thing is, it never really rang true. The people in the commercial look like, and act like, well, actors. The inauthenticity was recently noted by Grant McCracken and PSFK points to a clever parody by the 92nd Street Y that is currently making the rounds:

The tragedy here is that, the New York Times is still a really terrific product. They do have some of the best writers and they do cover a wide spectrum of topics, usually in a thought-provoking, compelling or unique way. But all that is brought down by their ad.  Here’s the same ad, only using real people:

Ok, clearly these people are not actors, but I believe that they actually read the paper.  I’d love to see this taken a step further. Real people in their own words. That would be so much more powerful. A diverse group of people passionately explaining why they like the Times. It would be easy to do, in fact, how about a spot on the Times website for reader testimonials? Reader videos talking about their favorite reporters, sections, stories, etc. A great opportunity for the Times to create a community. They already have a robust video section on their site, just add an area for readers.

Further Reading: Great story in New York Magazine about new blood at the Grey Lady.


UPDATE 2/10/2009: Just received an email from Dan Dove, the ringleader behind the ‘real people’ spoof above. He sets the record straight on some details of that spot:

I’m the editor of the Weekender spoof you wrote about that featured “real people.” You’re both right and wrong. We aren’t actors…that much is true. But the fact is we all work for a cable company and one of our networks airs that spot endlessly. We all know it by heart and after about two years of watching it, dissecting it, dreaming about it, and eventually loathing it, we decided to “spoof” it by doing a shot-for-shot (as best as we could) remake of it using our own staff members.

As far as I know, none of us read the NY Times – we’re in DC – and none of the “actors” in our spot subscribe to The Weekender.

So, while you’re incorrect that we actually read the paper, I’m pleased that we did a good enough job recreating the spot to convince you that we cared. I’ll pass your article on to the staff.

Thanks Dan, and great job by you and your crew.

Listening Requires More Than Ears

In Uncategorized on February 6, 2009 at 10:04 am

A week ago I published a post with advice for young PR pros. Thanks to some generous Retweeting from people like Sarah Evans (a PR superstar and the brains behind #Journchat and Vid Pro Co) and Heather Huhman (who helps young PR pros land gigs) it got a lot of attention.  Many people picked up on a specific piece of advice – the importance of listening – so I’m going to blow that out a bit with some additional thoughts on the subject.

First, let me comment on some of the comments regarding listening. DJ Francis of the OnlineMarketerBlog (a must read) called it “the easiest and most overlooked professional trait…”  Most overlooked, perhaps, but I don’t know if I would call it the easiest. Not to really do it right anyway. Listening requires at least as much effort as talking .

Aaron Endre wrote a very thoughtful follow up post where he addresses Social Media users and their tendencies to post/Tweet/update/etc. incessently, without taking the time to stop and listen to others.

Julie Wright picked up on the notion that so many people are busy forming their next question or comment, that they aren’t even listening to the person they are “listening” to. This is so true and you can really see the difference between a professional interview and an amateur in this regard. Watch guys like Leno or Letterman. Watch how intently they look at their guests and engage with them.

If you want to be a good listener, ask good questions.

One additional skill that I think is related to being a good listener, and is also exhibited by people like Leno or Letterman is the ability to ask a good question.  Here’s an exchange I seem to overhear all the time:

Guy #1 (walking up to friend): “Hey man, how’s it going?”

Guy #2: Good man, how about you?”

Guy #1: Good, good. So, how are you?”

I don’t think either of these guys are really listening to each other. But the problem is they are asking questions that will elicit poor answers.  In order to listen, and ultimately help someone, you need to ask the right types of questions.  Don’t ask someone “How it’s going” because nine times out of 10 they are going to respond with “Good.” Not much you can do with that.  Instead of “how,” ask “what.” 

“What are you working on?”

“What’s happening with the new job?”

“What sort of information can I provide you with?”

Those sorts of questions encourage conversation.

Don’t just listen with your ears.

So, listening requires not just ears, but brains as well. The smarts to ask the right questions. But good listening also requires heart.

Listening is a selfless act, and that’s really hard for most people. We are so interested in telling others about ourselves, we can’t wait for the other person to stop talking.  You’ve got to let go of that before the conversation begins.  From a PR professional perspective, I usually start conversations with media by saying, “Have I caught you at a bad time?” Now the conversation is about them, not me. It’s about their time, not mine.

Don’t try to listen when you want to talk

It’s a lot easier to listen when your goal isn’t to be the one talking. So, try calling up a member of the media when you don’t have something to pitch. It’s Monday morning, maybe it’s a little slow around 10:30am. Why not call the guy from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and talk about the Super Bowl. Your contact doesn’t have to be a sports writer, in fact, it’s probably better if he/she isn’t. But if they live in Pittsburgh, they’ve got an opinion about the game. A quick 10 minute chat, no pitch, just a chat with a friend. See how much better you are at listening when you aren’t worried about how you’re going to bring up that ‘value-added, best-in-class widget’ your client just launched.

Thanks again to everyone who commented, I really appreciate and value the time you spent engaging with me. I hope to get the chance to listen to more of your thoughts.

Jack in the Box Looks to Challenge Burger King in the Social Media Burger Wars

In Innovation on February 5, 2009 at 10:41 am
Jack in the Box joins the Social Media Burger Wars

Jack in the Box joins the Social Media Burger Wars

Ok, I’m a day or two late on this one, but it looks like Jack in the Box is taking a page from Burger King and taking a run at this whole Social Media thing.

Apparently “Jack” was hit by a bus on Sunday. Check out the content rich site here for details. You can follow the story on Twitter as well.

Burger King got a little loose with their Social Media engagement, as witnessed by the Brand Hijacking masterminded by @CalebKramer, whose story you can read here.

The gauntlet has been thrown, which burger slinger will own Social Media?

Smart People / Smart Ideas from January 2009

In Ideas on February 4, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Here’s an aggregation of all the Smart People / Smart Ideas tweets from my Twitter account for the month of January, 2009:

Smart People / Smart Ideas #66 @ambercadabra on @chrisbrogan’s 3 word goal meme


Smart People / Smart Ideas #67 @ducttape says you should get closer to your customers:


Smart People / Smart Ideas #68 @awolk on the twitter popularity fallacy. [hat tip @bmorrissey]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #69 @chrisbrogan says become the President of your own career [hat tip @knealemann]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #70 @AdamSinger says Blogging is like going to the gym….for your brain:


Smart People / Smart Ideas #71 @davefleet has a new blog post: Customer Service Is Public Relations –


Smart People / Smart Ideas #72 Leo Babauta [via @problogger] has The Essential Guide 2 Growing Your Blog on Min. Time


Smart People / Smart Ideas #73 @ducttape  Suggests holding a Testimonial Gathering Party


Smart People / Smart Ideas #74 @bradkay gets philosophical about Twitter [hat tip @armano]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #75 @tabone looks at trust in 2009, the Year of the Ox


Smart People / Smart Ideas #76 @jasonfalls on actionable social media strategies for 2009 [hat tip @ScottMeis]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #77 @kanter has a take on streamlining for Twitter feed


Smart People / Smart Ideas #78 @dmullen on the right way to build a social media online presence


Smart People / Smart Ideas # 79 @MattDickman has a list of 5 social media contradictions and how to manage them.


Smart People/Smart Ideas #80 @JennyCromie on 8 Sure-Fire Ways To Tick Off the Twitterverse via @problogger ht @BJ


Smart People / Smart Ideas #81 @bmorrissey: Blurring of the agency lines


Smart People / Smart Ideas #82 @jaybaer says Social Media is an all agency engagement [h/t @AmberCadabra]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #83 Mark Hannah says Transparency should be a PR Principle, not a Tactic” [h/t @Pistachio]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #84 @ambercadabra on The Teeter Totter of Influence [h/t @armano]


Smart People / Smart Ideas # 85 via @peterkim Chris Hall brings a fresh POV Not bad for the kid’s second blog post


Smart People / Smart Ideas #86 @TDefren asks why so many PR people still struggle with SM, despite edu opps.


Smart People / Smart Ideas #87 @chrisbrogan (but just as important, his commenters) say


Smart People / Smart Ideas #88 Forget about me, listen to the commenters on social media transparency here:


Smart People / Smart Ideas #89 @MackCollier on ‘How do you decide if social media is right for your business?’


Smart People / Smart Ideas #90 @TDefren says you know who the real social media gurus are


Smart People / Smart Ideas #91 @benbarden has 10 ways effectively use Twitter – [no gimmicks, good advice]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #92 @darrenrowse has “5 Steps for Planning the Direction of Your Blog in 2009” h/t @ricardojc


Smart People / Smart Ideas #93 @michaelpinto on Social Media “Experts” [h/t @lisawilberding]


Smart People / Smart ideas #94 @9inchmarketing with an AWESOME video rewrite of Kipling’s “IF” for marketers:


Smart People / Smart Ideas #95 @thebrandbuilder says Mobile Marketing- The Great Untapped Potential: [h/t @jessenewhart ]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #96 @landor_dot_com On democracy in the branding process: [h/t @sdufaux ]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #97 @mikearauz on recombinant culture and branding. (w/ wisdom from Henry Jenkins)


Smart People/Smart Ideas #98 @scotthepburn on Should You Have One Social Media Identity or Two?  [ht @JesseNewhart again ]


Smart People / Smart (Courageous) Ideas #99 @tdefren – “It’s time for your next gamble”  [h/t @dmullen ]


and the winner is… Smart Ideas / Smart People #100 goes to @bud_caddell: branding in the era of the remix.


Smart People / Smart Ideas #101 @rohitbhargava has six non-salesy ways to ask your customers to promote you  h/t @dmullen


Smart People / Smart Ideas #102 @ischafer on ‘Social Media’s ‘Fly Ball Effect” [ h/t @miketrap ]


Smart People / Smart Ideas #103 @GeoffLiving asks: What will you do when social media isn’t special anymore?


Smart People / Smart Ideas #104 @AdamSinger on Blogger Relations: Two Approaches For PR –


Smart People / Smart Ideas #105 @dmullen says Relationships DON’T matter that much in media relations:  Controversial?



Junta42 Celebrates Success With Branded Content Opportunity

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2009 at 12:25 pm
Get in the game

Contest Marketing: Get in the game

Joe Pulizzi over at Junta42 has a nice thing going. The guy owns the content marketing space; is a publisher author; and is helping connect content producers with those in need of said content via his Junta42 Match service. In fact, Junta42 match has helped make 100 matches, and to celebrate that success Joe is running a contest: $4,200 in 42 days.

Joe is committed to moving content marketing forward and he’s putting his money where his mouth is.  Here’s how it works:

Just submit your content project (that you want to outsource) to Junta42 Match between the dates of 2/4/09 and 4/2/09 (Can you believe that’s exactly 42 business days? What a stroke of luck!). All projects submitted during that time will be eligible for $4200, which we will contribute toward your content project – a magazine, newsletter, enewsletter, video series, white paper, website content, social media strategy, etc.

Once you submit your project, we’ll do our job and find you the best custom content providers in North America, just like we’ve done for companies like Research in Motion (makers of Blackberry), United Methodist Communications, and First Midwest Bank. Not only will you get to choose from the best content vendors for free, and with no obligation, but you’ll qualify for the $4200 (pretty cool, huh?).

This is a very cool idea and I’m more than happy to help promote this. I’ve met Joe and he is a great guy who is trying to make a difference by promoting something he (and I) truly believe in.  So, click the links above and get your content marketing project in gear.

Good Business Advice From… Conan O’Brien?

In Insight on February 4, 2009 at 10:08 am

Last night I caught a recent episode of Inside The Actors Studio that featured Conan O’Brien. Now, I’ve never been a particular fan of O’Brien – I’ve probably watched a total of 15 minutes of his show over the 15+ years it has been on. But, I figured I’d watch, though I was also somewhat skeptical of his place on this show, as he’s not exactly an actor.

I must say, it was an excellent episode. O’Brien is a super smart guy (Harvard grad, Simpsons writer) and what I found most interesting was his approach to life and to his craft. I thought many of these lessons were applicable to just about anyone and worth sharing:

He talked about being optimistic and his absolute lack of patience for people he felt were acting “too cool for school.”  I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past, but I’ve come to realize that the positive energy that comes from being optimistic is the difference between sucess and failure, not necessarily things like skills and resources. I’ll take the guy with a can-do attitude and $20, you take the negative millionaire and let’s see who gets further.

I also really appreciated Conan’s approach to his work.  Several times he referred to late night television as a “volume business.” Five shows a week year after year after year. Not every one of those is going to be comedy gold. But you know what? You keep going, you keep tweaking and trying new things, you never stop. You need to push through the fear of failure.

He mentioned that the biggest laughs and the most exciting parts are when things don’t go as planned. He talked about the human psyche and the visceral reaction we have when things are truly real and unscripted.  I thought that was a great explanation of the best marketing, that feeling of authenticity that just can’t be scripted.

Conan O’Brien is a great example of a guy who really understands himself, and has created a career – not a job – that he has embraced on a fundamental level. May we all be so lucky.

Super Bowl Ads Fail To Deliver On The Night.

In TSMWIF on February 2, 2009 at 8:29 am
Yes, as a matter of fact, I am a Steelers fan.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am a Steelers fan.

The Super Bowl has now come and gone. There was certainly plenty of chatter about the commercials but did any cut through the clutter? Did any stick?

I thought a couple were clever: Hyundai, Castrol, Coke with the bugs in the park; the Wes Anderson-esque one for, I think might have had a good one too.

Can any of the Super Bowl advertisers keep momentum going with online activations? I think that’s going to be tough. The game itself was very exciting, so no one is saying, “Well, the game was a dud, but what about those commercials?”  Between the game, the economy, the million and one other things going on in this world and you wonder if anything that aired last night will resonate beyond its initial context.

Here’s a look at various Super Bowl Ad reviews/ratings:

Jeremiah Owyang

USA Today

Ad Rants

DJ Francis