Wednesday, February 28, 2007

PR's Battle to Get Recognized Continues

In this year’s Bacon’s/ PRSA 2006 State of the PR Profession Opinion Survey, 1,493 from all levels of the PR profession responded to issues from ethics to organizational integrity, and their opinion on how these issues are affecting the profession.

The study found that more than 37 percent of companies increased its PR budget to an average budget at $45,800. However, 30 percent of respondents work by themselves and an additional 45 percent work in groups of less than five.

There were no shockers in this survey and I agree that PR, advertising and journalism are increasingly becoming vague. However, I disagree that ROI is becoming harder to prove. It’s at a stage where it has become more mature and has moved past stealing from the advertising playbook by discussing ad equivalency.

When that story posts and your clients phones starting ringing off the hook or the sales team uses the feature you secured to seal the "big" deal, there’s an immediate realization. Hearing that from clients has always been one of my motivating factors to try a little harder on their behalf. As companies are becoming better at tracking leads, identifying the true impact of PR will reveal itself. Even in the survey, CEOs acknowledge the importance of PR.

Regardless of what you think you know, it’s worth taking a look at the survey.

Upcoming St. Patrick's Day Wakes Creativity

On a holiday that is known to most for parades and drinking, IrishUrns.com, a Web site that features funeral urns and memorials, instead has put a new twist on the upcoming St. Patrick's Day. The Web site has issued a press release that encourages a 500 word or less essay on your ideal wake to win an urn.

Capitalizing on holidays is one of the many tried and true techniques of PR. While it has become increasingly difficult to be unique enough to recieve significant media attention or drive traffic to a Web site by leveraging a holiday as so many companies are fighting for ink, I'll have to give IrishUrns.com owner, Richard Lamb credit for his creative attempt to drive traffic to his Web site. Good luck!

Still Injustice for Emmett Till

For some of you, this picture may force you to look away. I too am unable to bear looking at this picture for too long but it's a reminder of not only the injustice and racial inequality that was apparent in 1955 but flaws in our judicial system today.

As you already may know, this is Emmett Till. While living in Chicago as a 14 year-old boy, he went on summer vacation to Mississippi and whistled at Carolyn Bryant Donham. He was taken out of his uncle's home in Money and found murdered three days later at the bottom of the Tallahatchie River tied down by a cotton gin fan. His body was found with his face missing a left eye, his right eye dangling on his cheek, his tongue cut off and stuffed back in his mouth, his ears missing and a giant hole as a result of a bullet going through his head.

While the FBI reopened the case in 2004, they decided last year not to press charges because the statute of limitations had run out. Although the Leflore County district attorney still sought manslaughter charges against Donham, last Friday, the Associated Press reported that the grand jury issued a "no bill" due to lack of evidence. If the testimony of Emmett's uncle, another man who was outside the barn where the brutal murder took place and the graphic picture that was likely taken during an open casket funeral along with the confession of Roy Bryant, Donham's husband and his half brother, J.W. Milam in an interview with Look Mangazine isn't enough evidence, this country has a long way to go in ensuring justice.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

When Tom's Not Enough

The New York Times reported yesterday that FakeYourSpace.com was forced offline while it found new models as iStockPhoto.com asked the company to stop using their photos for the purpose of leading people to think that models who pose for iStockPhoto.com endorses a product, Web site or person.

If you haven't heard, FakeYourSpace.com enables users to have model-type females post pictures and comments on your MySpace page for a few bucks.

I'm not a big fan of MySpace, FaceBook, Friendster or any other social networking site. I haven't bought into the hype that my friends say I will cave into sooner or later. I also haven't checked out too many of my friend's MySpace pages but I wonder if they are paying for "make-believe" friends that are actually pictures of real girls but probably comments from dudes somewhere sitting in an office getting paid. And here I thought, people were getting online to stay in touch with friends. Even the quote on the front page of FakeYourSpace.com sounds fake.
Who's laughing now suckas?

Big Blue is Jamming


The Financial Times reported today that Big Blue will launch "jamming," an online brainstorming technology, born out of the company's desire to listen to its 300,00 worldwide employees. IBM has recieved interest from financial, telecom and packaging industries for this technology that enables employees to be involved in crucial decisions including merger integration, corporate strategy and customer relations.

As someone who believes companies would be much more successful when enabling input from the employees on the frontlines, I see this as a very momentous announcement. Imagine if companies like Cingular could tell employees about what day new phones are coming out before they unwrap the box the night before or seeing it in the Sunday weekly ads.

The Backdoor on Identifying Trends

There are many ways I've been able to identify trends for clients. Some include reading, talking to everyone I can have access to within my client's company or looking at my daily activities in a different way. I'm also a big proponent of knowing the analyst community. Recently, I had access to an analyst at Gartner to discuss trends within a certain industry. Who better to know than someone who engages with all my competitors. He shared some very good insight with my colleague and I. Unfortunately for you, I can't spell it out here. However, it will be turning into a media plan and hopefully some solid coverage. My advice, leave no stone unturned for new trends.

Dilbert on Public Relations


I couldn't help but laugh when I saw this. I'm a very big advocate of meeting with reporters to "chop it up." Not necessarily to pitch clients but to just see what's top of mind in the reporter's head and also see what you have in common. I recently was talking to a reporter who wrote about the Oakland A's and Moneyball and found out baseball was a common interest. He interviewed one of my heros, Billy Beane so you can bet I'll be asking him about that.

But I would never take time to go to drinks with a reporter to have him repost a release and put his byline on it.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Higher Standards? Compared to What?

On Tuesday, the New York Time’s Eric Dash reported that Bank of America’s use of the tagline “Higher Standards” would be eliminated and a new branding effort would be rolled out on Sunday night during the Academy Awards. In Eric’s words, “whose standards are Bank of America’s higher than anyway?” No more higher standards? They never had any.

Forget the tagline. It’s cool to have a good tagline but unless you have great customer service, you won’t win customers. I’m a Bank of America customer because the checking is free with direct deposit and they have the most ATM locations but if they were to charge me money, I’d be sure to go elsewhere. I’ve pressed more buttons on my phone and listened to more hold music than I care for. On top of that, I’ve gone to several branch locations and was told that I couldn’t come inside to see a teller, even though the ATM read temporarily unable to dispense cash. But they did stick a guy on me to offer me a home loan. Higher than what?

I won’t shop at Best Buy either. I went in looking for a digital camera and I asked blueshirt where the section was. He pointed in the direction of the camera and kept talking to another blueshirt. I came back and asked him a question and he only knew what he could see on the printed description and specs. Honestly, what does Best Buy pay these guys for? They should just have more cashiers if there’s going to be no customer service.

I do have to give major kudos to Dell. When I received my laptop a few months back, I called them and the first question they asked me was not what’s your mother’s maiden name or what is your address or what is the last four digits of your social security number but “in case we get disconnected, what is the best number to reach you at?” I was in a state of shock. Usually, for any customer service, you’re guaranteed to be pressing a few numbers, some hold music and then being asked to hold while they look up some information.

Customer service goes a long way. I believe some research a few years back said that if you have a satisfied customer, they will go tell a few people about it and if a customer doesn’t like you, they will go tell 7-10 people.

One enterprise technology executive I recently spoke with when I requested customer references for the media said that sales guys won’t cooperate. He told me that sales guys sell and that’s it. They won’t go back to the customer to make sure they are satisfied but will pop up right around the time of renewal. Not shocking but isn’t it the sales guys who want us to generate coverage so they have collateral for when they are selling?

Cuban Cigar Alert


I’ve been thinking about backpacking through Europe, but a High Court decision in the United Kingdom could make my decision a lot easier. According to the Financial Times, if MasterCigars wins its appeal against Habanos, they will be able to import cigars directly from Cuba. A win would likely cut the price in half and enable other importers to start bringing in cigars directly from Cuba.

I’ve only had two Cubans ever but hands down, they are the best cigars ever.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Yahoos Running Yahoo - Introducing the Singing Anchor?

Yahoo! announced that they will be unveiling Odd News Underground. A singing anchor, according to Scott Moore, head of news and information at Yahoo!, "will leave you tapping your feet."

What would attract users to this? This is absolute nonsense.

So let me get this straight. You force out your top executives, you reorganize the leadership and you add a singing anchor? In the words of Bronson Pinchot, who played Balki Bartokomous on the 1980s sitcom Perfect Strangers, "Don't be rediculous!" This sounds like a PG spin-off of NakedNews.com.

Good thing Donald Trump doesn't run Yahoo! or he'd be saying "YOU'RE FIRED!"

Let's Be Sirius, Modern Day Monopoly is not Satelite Radio

Despite the rumblings of the Sirius and XM radio merger being a monopoly, that's very much irrelevant in my hood. With so many music and audio choices from iPods, MP3 players and all the other online ways of getting your music including music videos on Youtube or MySpace, Yahoo! Music, MLB GameDay Audio and one of my favorite's, Pandora, there is no monopoly in music and talk radio. And now with USB ports available everywhere, you can carry up to 16 GB of music, video, games, pictures and other files on a flash drive key chain and plug it into newer TVs, gaming consoles or your computer. That's way better than taking music that you can only listen to on one device. So who cares, let them merge and go down together in flames.


The real monopoly, at least in Richmond, CA is Comcast. Unless I subscribe to Direct TV, I'm stuck with Comcast as my only cable provider that wishes to charge me $50 for 15 channels I do want and 60 channels that I could care less for. I can't even find another Internet service provider in my area.
Comcast Triple Play? Only for new customers. I called to see how I can take advantage of any packages for being a "loyal" customer and I basically got the big middle finger. Shouldn't current customers get discounts? But if you operate a monopoly in a region, you can screw your existing customers and give discounts to new customers. I was however, offered a discount to upgrade, which would cost me more money. And here I thought I called to save money.




Monday, February 19, 2007

Skeptical of Podcast Success

BusinessWeek reported that a recent study by research firm eMarketer claimed that advertisers spent $80 million on podcasting last year and that figure will rise to more than $400 million by 2011.

Podcasts are annoying for two reasons. You have to "download" it or sit through the "buffering," while at your computer. With this generation having the short attention span that we do and being a very visual audience, we don't want to sit through 2-3 minutes of downloading to watch something unless we are going to be seriously entertained. But if you have the iPod, that's great but it's the cool thing to have that people will get over. It's not a necessity like a cell phone and people will get sick of features on cell phones too. I have an iPod but I haven't wanted to download new songs or update my podcast in months. Call me lazy but that's an extra few minutes I don't want to spend wasting when I can just flip on the tube. I'm far more fascinated in the capability to rewind live TV.

Advertisters have the same skepticism of measuring the audience of podcasts. Companies including Kiptronic, Podtrac, Podzinger and Revision3 are trying to change that view. They argue that mediums like Clear Channel are adding podcasts to its Web site. However, they failed to acknowledge that more popular mediums like Clear Channel have established audiences such as nationwide and regional radio listeners where podcasts aren't the primary source of revenue but a tool to retain the audience for a few minutes longer.

BusinessWeek writer, Catherine Holahan is also a skeptic and ends her story stating that "the more targeted the audience, the more likely advertisers can reach a consumer willing to buy their product. And in theory, that increased targeting will at some point lead to higher-priced advertising." $400 million seems out of reach for the time being.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More eWeek Changes

Paul Roberts, Dennis Fisher, Peter Coffee have left; Ryan Naraine recently and now Matt Hines have left eWeek. What is going on over there? Today the eWeek site was down for a few hours and we now learned that former database reporter, Lisa Vaas will be the new security reporter. Who's next? Spencer F. Katt?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Google Foozle

Bay Area-based ABC affiliate, KGO reported tonight that Google may have misspelled its name on the Web site. A chocolate covered strawberry and swirls completed the G but there was no L in sight and read "Googe". The official Google blog says it was no mistake but artistic: "I just know that those with true romance and poetry in their soul will see the subtlety immediately."

It's no HP scandal but come on, fess up. I guess they weren't feeling so lucky today.

Voicemail 2.0

The New York Times' David Pogue discussed that technology is now available to convert voicemail that can be sent to you via text messages. My question to vendors, what took you so long? There are still some challenges as voice recogniation software has to become better and you might be charged double for airtime, fowarding and text messages...and unfortunately for me, I have Sprint. As a result I will probably stay away initially but SpinVox and SimulScribe are worth a look if you hate checking your voicemail like me.

I like Sprint because my night minutes start at 7 p.m. but they don't have very good service and all the hidden charges really bug me. But Cingular and T-Mobile are worse. I think I'll try Verizon next but this is a totally different story...

V-Day is Basically National Women's Day

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "according to the National Retail Federation, guys on average will dole out almost twice as much as gals for Valentine's Day, $156.22 compared with $85.08. Flowers remain the most popular gift, followed by cards, candy, a night on the town and jewelry." This isn't right. Why must guys spend so much?

Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist said that "guys got all their electronics for Christmas...this is kind of payback time." Then Yarrow added that "men will outspend women to make up for the HDTVs they bought themselves for Christmas and the Super Bowl." I don't know of any guys who bought a tv or flat screen just because of the Superbowl. I will admit, the SuperBowl is not a holiday but the closest thing to guys having a holiday.

The reporter Pia Sakar also said that
"some will act more out of guilt than love." Again, I'll have to call bullshit. Girls get just as much as guys on Christmas if not more. Plus they shop for themselves while shopping for others. And even though Valentine's Day was created by a male executive to sell some more candy, come on, let's be real...it's a holiday catering to women.

Maybe I'm bitter because I really haven't had a Valentine since I dumped a girl on Valentine's Day as a teenager but for the time being, I feel fortunate.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Female Aphrodisiac: Sweat

I've had a lack there of giving girls flowers, candy and other things. But now I think I know what I've been doing wrong. It's a cost-free mojo that's scientifically proven...just in time for Valentine's day.

Yesterday, the Oakland Tribune reported a study by scientists at University of California, Berkeley "found sniffing a compound found in male sweat can change mood, sexual arousal, physiological arousal and brain activation in heterosexual women." The source according to the study is "androstadienone."

Maybe that's true but for now, I'll stick to calling "BULLSHIT."




Blogging from Olympic Village

International Olympic Committee is looking at allowing athletes to blog. Oh, the possibilities...I can't wait. What if Tonya Harding had a blog? What if Gilbert Arenas starts blogging with a worldwide audience and calling out Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. He already did so in his NBA.com blog but imagine with the attention of the world. Could a life be ruined? Or what would American Paul Hamm and Korean Yang Tae-Young say to prove they are deserving of the gold medal in the men's all-around gymnastics. Would this turn into a publicist's nightmare? Only time will tell.

Not all PR is Good PR

I love making things controversial. I'm a big fan of Jon Spoelstra, a marketing genius who helped sell out the last game in San Diego Clippers history with Elvis night, brought radio in-house to the Portland Trailblazers, reaching into previously untapped revenue streams and changing the name of the Dodger's triple A affiliate in Las Vegas to the 51s to stir the pot and bring attention to a team that previously wasn't well-known. But I don't believe all PR and marketing schemes are worthwhile.

According to Deadspin, TNA wrestling is having a pay-per-view event this weekend that will feature "Team Pierzynski" vs. "Team Eckstein." This is an example of a really bad marketing effort. Maybe these players wanted to try wrestling but this is nonsense and probably not approved in their contract. Remember Jeff Kent? He supposedly fell off his truck while washing it. But rumor was that he was riding his bike, which was banned in his contract.

This is Why Amusement Parks are Declining in Popularity

I remember going to Great America near San Jose, California when I was a kid. There were girls, there were rides, there was food, there was music and it was great. But who wants to pay $50-60 for a day of fun. Check out this tractor pull bungee clip.

Thank Goodness for Wade Phillips

I'm very glad about the hiring of Wade Phillips as the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys because it allows for the San Francisco 49ers to retain Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Turner may not have been successful as a head coach but he's a really good offensive coordinator and seems to be bringing stability back to the Niners running game and on the right path in the development of Alex Smith. Only time will tell whether Smith was a good pick but I'm still a bit skeptical. But there's another upside to the hiring of Phillips. Thanks to Deadspin, we found out that Phillips has a pretty daughter. She's a Hollywood actress but hasn't gotten her break yet. Hugh Hefner should give her a call. Good luck Tracy!

Zito Robbing the Cradle Legally

On Friday, The Big Lead reported former USC Trojan, Oakland A's starter and now the richest pitcher in the majors and new San Francisco Giant, Barry Zito was seen together with Hillary Duff. She's 19 and he's 28. Now let's not jump to conclusions. A picture together doesn't mean a relationship but you have to admit, a 28 year old having a meaningful conversation with a 19 year old doesn't happen too often. I'm sure she's probably having drinks and it's not like the typical 18 and over club w/ dry bars since its celebrity studded...but they just don't look comfortable being photographed together. What could they hiding something?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Napa Leads Country in Identity Theft and Fraud

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Napa, California led the country in filing identity theft and fraud cases. Is this due to Napa having one of the highest over age 65 population and are easily duped because they are not tech-savvy or because they are quick to dial? Or maybe because the population isn't that large when a few people are duped, the percentage skyrockets? What do you think?

With the new lures of Internet scams including phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks that are on the rise, groups like the FTC and security vendors need to step it up to educate the public. Only a combination of education and technology will help deter the problem.

Fraud 2.0 - Yes I said it. The next wave of fraud has come from online collaboration, not on sites like MySpace but IRC (Internet Relay Chat) Chat rooms. Since locating these criminal barterers has proved difficult, only a combination of federated identity and multi-factor authentication will lead us down the path of a safe online community.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is a Straight Line in Diapers?


I've heard of a lot of strange things but this has to go to the top of my list. Astronaut Lisa Nowak started in Houston and drove 900 miles in diapers to get to Orlando without taking potty breaks in an attempt to do harm to William Oefelein's supposed love interest, Colleen Shipman.


Lisa is a colleague of William in the NASA program but she couldn't deny her feelings for William and went to Florida to "scare" Shipman. Cops thought otherwise and saw intent as Lisa had a wig, trenchcoat, pepper spray package, an unused BB-gun cartridge, latex gloves and letters between William and Colleen in her car. Lisa was charged with attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping and is forced to wear a tracking device on her ankle while she is out on bail.


Now, falling head over heels in love is one thing but wearing diapers so she wouldn't have to stop is a new extreme. Driving 900 miles at 70 MPH is almost 13 hours non-stop. Considering that no one really drives at the speed limit and accounting for stopping to fill up on gas (3-5 times), let's still pretend it took 13 hours. How much time do you save by going to the bathroom in a diaper rather than spending a few extra minutes in a real bathroom. And wouldn't you stink when you found the guy you liked? I personally wouldn't be turned on. I wonder what she will go through explaining this to her three kids. Hopefully they won't get beat up in school now.


Read the Newsweek story on diapers developed for female astronauts.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

ACCESS DENIED: At RSA Conference

This morning, I woke up at 5 a.m. to get to the RSA Conference. I was excited. I wanted to hear Bill Gates speak. Not for any other reason but to say that I was in the same room as he was. Who knows, maybe he had something inspirational that I could use for a proactive pitch for a client. I didn't even take a bag because I knew I could get one for free at the conference and didn't want to carry two. So I arrived at 7 a.m. and registered but was denied a bag because I wasn't a paid attendee. But they did say that I can still go to the keynote. So I walked down to the Keynote area in Moscone North and started walking in until I was abruptly stopped by the staff and was told I couldn't see the keynote with my "expo only" pass. Okay, so that's my fault. I should of read my privileges more carefully. I was then told to go to 103 where I could watch it live on the monitor. But once I arrived to 103, I was abruptly denied again. Now I understand making a bit of money and priority for paid attendees, press and analysts. However, denying someone from watching a keynote from even a screen, that's going overboard.

I did manage to enjoy the free continental breakfast that I probably wasn't suppose to have with my "expo only" pass.

Maybe next time, Bill!

Search 2.0: Reverse Engineering

Over the past year, I’ve read about and been exposed to Google and quite a few enterprise search, business intelligence, taxonomies and ontology offerings (and ed cals). Now the overall goal is how to use information you already have more efficiently and in a more organized fashion to deliver better results for your company, partners, customers...etc. But today in the Wall Street Journal, Kevin Delaney wrote how some businesses aren’t looking at which keywords in searches to utilize but rather what keywords are being punched in to determine what products and services to sell. Imagine that? Giving people what they want! This is done doing my favorite activity, "reverse engineering."

This is definitely a good read and has about half a dozen useful links including:

Microsoft service for historical search volumes with breakdowns by age and gender: http://adlab.microsoft.com/ForecastV2/KeywordTrendsWeb.aspx

I could list it all out but I don’t want to steal Kevin’s thunder. If you have today’s paper, check out page B3. I can’t link to it online without a subscription but if you want to pay for it, go to WSJ.com, type in “search” into the search field.

Todd Bozeman Upset Over Deli Meat Selection

After attending USC, I've become a Trojan for life. However, growing up as a kid, I loved the Cal Bears. Especially in basketball with stars like Jason Kidd, Lamont Murray and Shareef Abdur-Rahim leading the way. In 1996, facing recruiting violations, Cal coach Todd Bozeman was banned by the NCAA for over 8 years. He made his return to the hardwood last year with Morgan State. Recently, after losing a 10-point lead against Longwood, he wanted to give his kids 52 Philly cheesesteak and chicken sandwiches. After being told, the diner couldn't handle that request and agreeing to the offer of a variety platter, he went to pick up the order. However, to his displeasure, he found ham and turkey sandwiches not up to his standards and started yelling and shaking the female assistant manager. Now he faces assault charges.

Read it here on Deadspin.

I myself am a big fan of philly cheesesteaks. I'm not so big on the ham but I would of settled on a turkey sandwich with a little cranberry sauce.

But seriously, who does a takeout order when you're on the road and why is the head coach picking up the food? And finally, since when did an NCAA team start having 52 mouths to feed?

Way to go Todd. You're well on your way to showing your a winner and deserve a chance at a top program.


Mayor Newsom: Drunken Stupor or Cop Out?

The San Francisco Chronicle today ran a Page One, Above the Fold story on Mayor Newsom's confession of a drinking problem (read the statement here). People are allowed to make mistakes but regardless of your performance in your professional career (which I will not judge him by), you have to be accountable with some moral and professional standard. He forced Alex Tourk to quit his job, ruined his family and is prancing around town with a 20-year old. How's that for a role model? And I don't want to hear that he's not a role model. I VOTE FOR HIS RESIGNATION!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Free Genarlow Wilson Now!

Please sign this petition to free Genarlow Wilson! He was given 10 years in jail and will have to register as a "sex offender" after he, then 17, recieved oral sex from a consenting 15 year old, during a New Year's Eve party at a motel. Unfortunately, the incident was video taped and led to his guilty charge. Watch it here or on HDNet from YouTube below.

Tech Crunched to Tech Checked

Most of you who read ValleyWag probably already know. After leaving Tech Crunch, Natali Del Conte is starting her own PodShow, called Tech Check.

I was hoping to learn more from Natali before I posted this but with her busy schedule and my time being devoted to my clients who will be at the RSA Conference, that will have to wait.
 
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