Archive for February, 2011

A New Example Of The Professional Services Success Strategy That Matters Most

Monday, February 28th, 2011

In our business, we get lots of questions that can be answered in a variety of ways. There’s usually not just “one thing” that can make a PR, branding or any communications campaign successful.

But, working in professional services ourselves and serving as communications counsel to a variety of professional services firms over the years, there is one strategy that leads to success in professional services 100 percent of the time – hire and retain “good” people. “Good” people aren’t just good at what they do, they are good at working together. They are good to work with and for. They are good to clients – likable and trustworthy. And they are good for the culture, embodying the firm’s brand.

In our past experience and in working with clients, we have seen first-hand what happens when a firm becomes successful by attracting “good” people – but begins to implode when those people leave. In other types of businesses, the brand can be bigger than the people and enable a business to be sustained despite turnover. But, in professional services, the people are the brand, especially the people with client relationships. If those people leave a firm, particularly those with an equity stake (often positioned, in the clients’ minds as the most important), a firm can face disaster.

The Washington Post reported a new case in point just yesterday – a law firm that grew by hiring attorneys who knew how to make money and build relationships. As those attorneys have left, the firm has suffered. Assuming the Post got the story right, this should be a warning for all of us in professional services. Your people really do matter the most. Empower them, keep them engaged and allow them to work together in ways that make them want to stay.

We realize that we are far from the first to dispense this advice or even note the correlation between retention of “good” people and long-term success in professional services. We just want to be among the first to actually follow the advice and live it for the entire lifespan of our firm.

Detroit Pistons Player Mutiny is Shameful

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Usually I try to temper my opinions with as high a degree of professionalism as possible.  However, where the Detroit Pistons are concerned, I simply can’t hold my tongue, in particular in the advent of events this week between literally half the team and Head Coach John Kuester. In a word: It is a ‘disgrace.’

Admittedly, I am not well-versed in today’s NBA world of guaranteed contracts and egotistical, hard to manage players; actually it’s largely because of the latter that I don’t waste my time watching (and I know I’m not alone – just ask any college basketball purist). Yet, I would like to see the league come down hard on the players that chose yesterday to abandon their team and, in essence, throw a game. I know the NFL would.

Obviously, there is immense turmoil in the Detroit Pistons’ locker room which appears to be centered around Rip Hamilton that has been brewing for some time. One would hope that Joe Dumars and David Stern would work together to nip this thing in the bud, off  the court, once and for all with dialogue and action. Fine someone. Suspend players without pay. And, guaranteed contracts be damned, cut someone and appeal to the league on compensation commitments based on derelict of duty.

One would also hope that these spoiled millionaires realize how they are bastardizing the game and their legacies. They are supposed ‘role models’ who should be ashamed of themselves. Get out there and do your job for those in the stands who pay your outrageous salaries. If you don’t respect yourselves enough to do the right thing, at least show respect for the fans, authority and the game. And if that doesn’t resonate, how about showing respect for your six teammates who gave their all to the point of exhaustion last night against Philadelphia. They also deserve better.

Christian Rock Resurrects Faith in Music Radio

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Recently I had coffee with a friend and fellow music lover and the conversation turned to radio and musical offerings in general. The discussion referenced areas I have written about previously including sound-alike stations and music often not fit for family listening. I’ve discovered an alternative, I alerted my friend.

Tired of the same old holiday music this past season I did a bit of button pushing during my many treks to and from evening events. Invariably, I kept ending up on a frequency I was aware of but had never frequented that offered fresh, uplifting music with great melodies and lyrics: 103.5 “The Light.” I’ve been hooked ever since.

While I attended Catholic grade school and am a believer, I am far from a bible-thumping zealot; I try to live life the right way. I also appreciate great music. It would appear I’m not alone: The Recording Industry of America reports that religious music, which accounted for 2.5 percent of total music sales in 1990, has risen to as high as 6.7 percent in the past five years. Radio further, is continuing to expand its reach. Houston’s KSBJ, for example, has grown from 119,000 listeners in 1991 to 600,000 today. Nationally, three major companies dominate the AC-flavored Christian radio landscape, including K-LOVE, which is heard on 243 different frequencies in 41 states.

From A/C to Rock to Rap, this genre is a breath of fresh air. Listen for yourself: Red is rock akin to Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin; Matthew West’s sound is Dunkin Sheik meets David Cook; and JJ Heller is as good as anything Lilith Fair has ever produced.

As a former music programmer and air personality, I would love to see some of this stuff “cross-over” (ala Amy Grant or Creed) to more mainstream radio and a greater audience. Impossible? Perhaps its time we all got a little religion.

Traditional Media, Meet The Smartphone. Smartphone, Traditional Media.

Monday, February 21st, 2011

We knew when we started Tanner Friedman that communicating over multiple platforms would be the future for our clients and our business. New examples are around all all the time and the newest has started appearing in the most-read newspaper in America.

USA Today is the latest traditional media outlet, joining dozens of magazines and several local newspapers, in using new technology from Microsoft called Microsoft Tags. Readers see a coded area (like the one pictured here) and can scan it with their smartphones to see multimedia content on the phone, such as videos accompanying a print story. It’s as easy as downloading a free app. Get used to seeing images like this in newspapers, magazines, ads and other print media.

This is further proof that Content Is King, with traditional media outlets working harder to provide you, their consumer, with more about stories that interest you. Also, it’s a new revenue stream for them which could help preserve their newsgathering operations. Once again, it’s driven by consumer demand. The people who read newspapers alongside their smartphones probably watch TV with their phones in hand and probably their laptops on their laps too. You have to communicate your message in many places to be successful.

As we wrote about a few weeks ago, there’s still a sense of denial “out there” about this trend which, in the minds of our team members, is indisputable. If you still don’t believe that it’s real, check out this story from earlier this month – smartphones outsold PCs in the all-important fourth quarter of 2010, for the first time. Think about it, more people bought smartphones, which have been around for about five years, than personal computers, which have been ingrained in our lives for decades.

Many observers, including us, have criticized traditional media for being too slow to embrace and monetize new technology. So, if you aren’t thinking multi-platform for your communications strategy, think about this – traditional media, the so-called “old media,” may actually be ahead of you.

Howard Stern: New King of New Media

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

In just 12 days on Twitter, Howard Stern has built a following of more than 255,000. On day 11 on Twitter, Stern, always the innovator, found a new way to captivate an audience on this platform.

I happened to discover it as it was happening. Stern’s movie “Private Parts” was showing on HBO Zone Saturday afternoon. It’s one of those movies that I always try to catch at least a piece of when it’s one, as I, as a former “radio guy,” can’t get enough of the radio scenes. But Saturday, when the basketball game I was watching was over, I turned to Twitter for a feed fix and saw that Stern was “live tweeting” his own movie, something that apparently no celebrity has ever done before.

I immediately grabbed the remote, found the channel with the movie and for the next hour or so, I couldn’t get away from the Twitter feed and the TV as Stern provided running commentary (in 140 characters or less). It was like a DVD commentary, but it was live, in real time, spontaneous and shared by thousands interacting with Stern as it was happening. From anecdotes about shooting scenes to his trademark self-deprication, Stern tweeted about one compelling nugget per scene as the movie rolled on. I even kept up on Twitter when I went out to pick up a carry-out dinner late in the movie.

If the key to Twitter success is establishing a “wow factor,” Stern nailed it in a whole new way. He made many of his followers stop what they were doing on a Saturday afternoon and engage with him, sharing an experience together. That’s classic Stern – he has always made his audience stop, listen, laugh and then talk about it for hours and days following.

Media tweeters took note immediately of what had happened and even speculated as to how this could be the beginning of a trend. CNBC’s Darren Rovell suggested that sports networks could pay ex-athletes to live tweet during broadcasts classic games, providing fans with insights and stories. Count me in.

Egypt’s Revolution By Social Media

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

While many have referred to the explosion of online communications platforms as a ‘social media revolution,’ a new article in the Wall Street Journal explains how Facebook and Twitter helped spark and maintain an actual revolution in Egypt.

With the original intention of becoming politically active behind the scenes in his native Egypt, 30-year old Google executive Wael Ghonim soon found the linchpin after fellow countryman Khaled Said died subsequent to posting video to YouTube of corrupt police officers in action. Witnesses say Said was taken from an Internet cafe and beaten to death in the streets.

Inspired by this young man who had hoped to draw attention to official corruption, Ghonim created a Facebook page called “We Are All Khaled Said.” After posting  grotesque morgue shots of Said which undermined the official explaination of the cause of death, the page attracted 500,000 members and served as a rallying point for outraged Egyptians. Ghonim and others used the Facebook page to track other accounts of police and governmental abuse, from wrongful arrests to torture. The page would next be used to plan and organize protests.

After the Internet was cut off, Google countered by creating Speak2Tweet, which allowed Egyptians to leave voice messages that were then posted to Twitter. For the Mubarek dictatorial machine, it was all too much. On Friday, those who had spoken, protested and persevered, in the streets and online – the citizens of Egypt – were liberated; testament once again to the power and voice of the people, amplified worldwide.

Time To Throw A Flag On First NFL PR Plays

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Just 24 hours after the kickoff of Super Bowl XLV, the most popular professional sports league in America faces a serious PR problem. It’s a problem with only one solution. The questions now are – will the enormously successful league and its players learn from the past? Or will they fight a Public Relations battle that neither can win?

The League and its players have begun a showdown over the next player Collective Bargaining Agreement (the current deal, because team owners opted out, expires March 3rd). Just yesterday, on ESPN Radio’s popular “Mike and Mike” program, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith outlined their positions. So far, both sides have well articulated arguments. But it doesn’t matter. The League’s millions of loyal customers don’t care. The two sides have started down a path that, if continued, would do them no good.

As the NFL and its players should have learned from the 1994 Major League Baseball Strike, the public has absolutely no tolerance for debate, discussion or dissent when billionaires who own real-life fantasy teams fight with millionaires who play a game for a larger-than-life living. There is nothing either side can say to sway public support. The only solution to this PR problem is a solution to the labor dispute. Period.

The NFL now enjoys the peak of its popularity. It’s a made for TV sport. It’s a made for fantasy sport. It’s a made for gambling sport. It has competitive balance and compelling storylines, often ending unpredictably. These facts help tell the story – in the Fall 2010 Network TV season, 18 of the top 20 rated programs of any kind were NFL games. The 13 most watched Cable TV shows of 2010 were NFL games. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” was America’s most-watched Prime Time weekly program. The NFL matters to a whole lot of Americans who just want to take a break from their real lives and dig into football.

The average NFL player earns more than $750,000 per year. Even with an average career length of three years, the public has no sympathy. The average NFL franchise is worth $1.02 billion. Even with profit inequities between franchises, the public has no sympathy.

There is only one PR remedy – reach a deal… soon.

Chrysler’s Eminem Commercial Is Super

Monday, February 7th, 2011

“You can do anything you put your mind to, man.”

Those are the final words uttered by Eminem in his epic 2002 multi-Grammy winning song “Lose Yourself.” It’s also a phrase that forms the very foundation for last night’s widely acclaimed Chrysler Super Bowl commercial.

Some of the criticism I have heard and read about the spot questions whether the 2-minute long glimpse at Detroit ‘polished and raw’ is going to sell product (in this case the new Chrysler 200). I would argue that those individuals are missing the point – this is more about reestablishing a brand than selling rubber and metal.

As I referenced in Bill Shea/Crain’s Detroit Business’ article earlier today, Chrysler took full advantage of the world’s largest TV stage to communicate, with style and acumen, that “we” are back. The “we” of course is the down and out automaker and our fair city. Chrysler, further and importantly, underscored its Detroit tradition and lineage.

Eminem’s music, meanwhile, appeals to a younger demographic vital to Chrysler’s future, while, it’s message, along with that of the Gospel Choir said, “We will persevere. We shall overcome.”

Well done, Chrysler. The messages in your mini-movie resonated – in particular amidst the usual fare of outrageous humor and CG-animation. America got it.  And, you might just sell a car or two along the way.

Dwelling On Online Squatters

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Utter the word “squatting” and a couple of definitions come to mind.  In the gym, squats are a useful exercise for building/toning the legs and gluteus maximus. In a housing context a squatter takes up temporary residence in dwellings they do not own or have permission to utilize.  Enter the world of the web, and you’ll find a range of new meanings.

A recent online discussion that I came across offered additional definitions and possibilities.  When the Internet first emerged, scores of name-recognizable URLS (i.e. were scooped up by enterprising, tech-savvy entrepreneurs who then sat on them knowing a future payday would come. The same happens with both Facebook and Twitter handles.

When Facebook arrived on the scene, the less scrupulous began posting promotional/sales messages on pages not their own. It’s one thing for a Facebook friend to promote an upcoming event or cause on the pages of their own Facebook friends.  It is quite another for a for-profit entity to post promotional messages to the Fan pages of other entities when those messages are not necessarily in the best interest of the Fan page host nor its fans. That is squatting and it is unethical.

By way of an example, a popular Detroit public institution and tourist destination, prior to exercising proper control of its Facebook Fan page, became the victim of scores of online squatters – from questionable mortgage lending sources to hair salons – all promoting their wares via posts to this page.  Do these posters not realize they are damaging their reputation while ensuring their messages are ignored?

Bottom line: Social media, when done right is supposed to be a two-way conversation. What it’s not? A trading post. Eviction notice, please.