Take pride in what you do

This weekend I was reminded of a quote that was printed out and posted on the lectern of one of my English teachers in high school. He was also the baseball coach, but that’s another story. The quote was:

“Pride is what compels a man to do his very best, even when no one is watching.”

The spark for the reminder was a conversation I had with a photographer and author at a party on Saturday.  He is working on a new photography book about cemeteries in New York.  He went inside several old mausoleums, from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that had beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows and artwork on the inside. Where presumably no one would see them.  Some would see this as a waste, but he thought about how happy the designers would be knowing that 110 years later, someone was appreciating their work.

Second Acts – Making Films About People Helping Whales

This afternoon there’s a documentary making its debut at the Blue Ocean Film Festival in Monterey, California.  The film is called “In the Wake of Giants,” and is about a group of dedicated people in Hawaii who help free migrating whales who have become entangled in marine debris such as fishing nets etc.

That would be cool enough, but this is about “second acts,” a favorite topic of mine.  This act is by Lou Douros of Grass Valley (read a little more about the film in his hometown paper) who I met when he was a client running a software company. Lou’s second act is making films at http://www.akuafilms.com. What’s yours going to be?

There’s a line when marketing online….and you know when you’re crossing it

I worked with someone once and this co-worker was doing something that I thought was unethical.  I let them know that I thought what they were doing was wrong and the response I received was,”According the letter of the law, I’m not doing anything wrong.” Actually, in truth they were referring to a company policy not a law, but you get the idea.  What they were doing was wrong, but not against the explicit language, but definitely against the spirit of the rule.

Transparency is a word that is overused when talking about online marketing, social media, PR, heck with everything these days.  My description of transparency in regards to online PR etc is pretty simple; say who you are and why you’re there. For example I try and include the word “Client” in a tweet talking about a client. It doesn’t make it in all of them, but a lot of them. I also periodically send out a tweet with the list of companies I’m working with.  I don’t post anonymous reviews, although past clients have asked me to do so.  I might send a note to friends asking them to try a product and if they like it to write a review.  I’ll send product and information to the media and help answer their questions. I’ll respond to questions posted online (and identify who I am) That’s PR.

Last year, MobileCrunch ran a pretty well-researched story about a marketing and PR firm where “interns” were posting positive reviews of products on the Apple App Store.  The article included a document reportedly from the PR firm that outlined a program, below:

Intern Program:

Reverb employs a small team of interns who are focused on managing online message boards, writing influential game reviews, and keeping a gauge on the online communities. Reverb uses the interns as a sounding board to understand the new mediums where consumers are learning about products, hearing about hot new games and listen to the thoughts of our targeted audience. Reverb will use these interns on Developer Y products to post game reviews (written by Reverb staff members) ensuring the majority of the reviews will have the key messaging and talking points developed by the Reverb PR/marketing team

The first part of this is great!  Listening to what people are saying! That’s what this whole social media thing is about, well halfway.  The next step would be engaging with these customers in the forums described above, but unfortunately this story doesn’t have a happy ending as it wraps up with “posting game reviews.” THAT’S NOT HOW YOU DO IT!

The response from the agency is that, “Our interns and employees write their reviews based on their own game play experience, after having purchased the game by themselves, a practice not uncommon by anyone selling games or apps and hardly unethical.”  Writing reviews isn’t unethical. Not saying that you are being paid by the company is, whether they are paying you for that specific activity or not. Actually, it’s a step beyond unethical, it’s illegal. It is? yep, the FTC just announced a settlement with the firm that says “it engaged in deceptive advertising by having employees pose as ordinary consumers posting game reviews at the online iTunes store, and not disclosing that the reviews came from paid employees working on behalf of the developers.”

So that line I mentioned? It’s more than an ethical line, it’s a legal one. Say who you are and why you’re there, it’s that easy.

The Difference Between 2007 and 2010 in PR/Ad Agency Battle for Social Media

In 2007 I wrote about an AdAge article that focused on the battle for social media client budgets between ad agencies and PR firms.  At the time, the popular momentum, or at least AdAge’s view was that advertising agencies were better prepared to capture this opportunity.  Ad agencies have definitely had some high profile wins blending social media and traditional advertising, with Wieden + Kennedy being at the forefront with their work for Old Spice.

Despite the success of the recent Old Spice campaign, in 2010 Ad Age is singing a different tune with an article headlined, “Social Media Helping Public Relations Sector Thrive.”  I think PR is going to continue to grow into advertising spends with social media for a few reasons.

Different Types of Time

PR agencies for the most part are structured to make money and bill clients based on billing for the time their employees spend working on projects for clients.

Most ad agencies are structured to make money based on buying time on media.  This allows ad agencies to generate much higher revenue in general than PR agencies of the same relative size.

The thing with social media is that there aren’t huge ad buys.  Sure, there are some. There is integration with print ads, and television and radio campaigns. There are also online ad buys, but these don’t have the dollar amounts or margins associated with them that broadcast buys do.

Social media is about people putting in time to interact with other people. That’s what PR agencies do.  They used to just do it with reporters, now they do it with everyone.

Campaigns vs Engagement

Most advertising programs are built around campaigns that have a specific beginning and an end.  Some social media activities are structured as campaigns with a beginning and an end, but more often they are about long-term customer and public engagement.  This isn’t something that ends.

What now?
Ad agencies and PR firms are becoming more adept at creating products to sell or to demonstrate their chops. This may be social media monitoring tools or widgets to distribute information, but they are all things to sell to try and add value to clients and allow them to be more of a one stop shop. This move to development on both sides is going to continue, but I’m going to keep my bet on the PR agencies, at least the smart ones to continue to pull ahead.

You never know who you’re going to touch or inspire

I was just at home, having lunch with my wife who had just returned from volunteering in the classroom of one of our daughters. Before I go further, let me set for perspective that my wife was a classroom teacher for seven years.  There was a student in my daughters’ class with learning disabilities and a dedicated assistant to help them.

Our discussion at lunch was about trying to mainstream students and also about how our daughter hadn’t mentioned anything about the other student acting out at all this year, which he did several times while my wife was in the room.

On the way back to the office, it’s a five minute drive- if I miss a light, I was listening to the BBC and there was an interview with Natalie Merchant talking about her song, “Wonder. and the unintended impact this song has had with parents of children with special needs.

Maybe, I’m just getting old and soft, but it was an incredibly powerful interview that spoke to people finding inspiration all around them.  So, my message for the day is don’t give up on people, just help them and help them find inspiration.

Also, I highly encourage you to listen to the whole interview, at the BBC site it’s about six minutes.

Agency Lessons from Mad Med Episode 405 – “The Chrysanthemum and The Sword”

Over the past few years, I’ve been writing about real agency lessons from Mad Men episodes.  Season four continues to include real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. If I wasn’t in this industry, I’m sure I would still be a fan of the show, but for me I get a bonus. I get to watch situations I encounter all the time dealt with by others.

The origin of the “Chrysanthemum and The Sword,” episode title is a 1946 book about Japanese culture by Ruth Benedict, and it is required reading around Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce (SCDP) as the team has the opportunity to pitch the Honda motorcycles account. According to what Pete Campbell has heard, the company which has 50% of its market is unhappy at Grey (a much more established firm).  This gives me the chance to point to Ed Moed’s great blog on a “mole free environment.”

A few points for agency folks from this episode:

  • Do you go after all new business? What if you can’t afford to pitch it?; and
  • It’s OK for younger employees to thrive – just don’t tell Roger Sterling; and
  • Your competition is who the market thinks is your competition, not who you do.

The Honda pitch comes with a few strings:

  • Roger Sterling has very, very strong feelings against the Japanese based on his having served in WWII and lost friends in the war;
  • There is a cap of spending $3,000 on the pitch and the rules of the pitch specifically prohibit presenting finished work such as a full television commercial;
  • SCDP has recently lost two pieces of business to an upstart firm, CGC; and
  • Money is tight at SCDP so even if they wanted to spend a lot of money on the pitch, they can’t.

Don Draper would like to actually shoot a full commercial for the pitch, but since they can’t afford to shoot it on spec, they assume that similar-sized firm CGC can’t either.  The SCDP creates a ruse wherein they trick CGC into thinking they are shooting a commercial for the pitch and then after CGC presents their commercial to the prospective client, Don resigns from the process with his thinking driven by a quote from The Chrysanthemum and The Sword;

“A man is shamed by being openly ridiculed and rejected. It requires an audience.”

Without reading into how this quote should impact Don in his real life, we see that he benefited his firm by learning about his potential client and their culture.  As CGC didn’t follow the rules, SCDP didn’t feel they could participate and by viewing the spec commercial Honda had broken their own rules. Lesson learned?  Use all available information. No, don’t go out and try and be sneaky, but know the playing field and use all available tools to help you and your agency.

The next issue for agencies in the episode is the “passing of the torch.”  There is a confrontation where Pete Campbell tells Roger Sterling that he is sabotaging the potential Honda business as he is afraid winning new business will make Roger less valuable to the firm as his primary client, Lucky Strike, accounts for 70% of revenue.  Reminder to Roger, clients don’t stay around forever, it helps to have someone who wants to hustle and bring in new business. Reward them. They’ll remember and be much more likely to keep you around after your big client can’t advertise on TV any longer.

The episode opens with Don Draper getting a call from Walter Hoffman of the NY Times asking if he has a comment on the new business recently won by CGC away from SCDP.  The reporter quotes the principal of CGC, Ted Chaough, as saying, “Every time Don Draper looks in his rear view mirror, he sees me.” Don’s response? “I’ve never heard of him.”  Whether Don views CGC as competition or not, the NY Times does, and more importantly potential clients do.

Don’s tune changes and he takes CGC seriously, given his antics described above to try and take them out. Your competition is who the market compares you to.