the eckberg effect

A few weeks ago, I was being interviewed for a story by Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Eckberg. As we corresponded and he read this blog, he noticed that I occasionally do a few book reviews and asked if I would take a look at his new book, The Success Effect.

I’ve often said that some of the most interesting content sometimes gets left on the cutting room floor. And along those same lines, some of the most interesting questions/responses in an interview don’t always make it into the final story.

Eckberg has gone back through his extensive collection of audio tapes that he’s amassed as a business reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer. He’s pulled 47 of his biggest and best interviews and culled out some of good stuff. The result is not warmed over leftovers, but instead a fresh perspective and a very entertaining read.

Each interview is pegged to a “big idea” (brand, desire, style, future, innovation, etc) and shows insight into each of those ideas. And in addition to the questions you’d expect a journalist would ask, Eckberg throws a few of my favorite kind of questions into each interview, offbeat tangent questions that sometimes reveal more about the interviewee than anything else does. This is in addition to sidebars in each interview about what books the subject has “on their nightstand” and what music is in their “cd changer”.

Some of my favorite interviews were speaker Jessica Selasky, former Cincy mayor Jerry Springer, and former Cincinnati resident Donald Trump (yes, that one — in Cincinnati.)

But all 47 interviews have good content. Overall, the breadth of the background of the interviewees and the style of the Eckberg interview make “The Success Effect” a very useful read for anyone in business.

btw — I’ve noticed that I’m doing more book reviews on the blog myself. My book review guidelines are as follows:

  1. it needs to be either about marketing or closely related to marketing/business/etc.
  2. contact me to see if a review is possible. If it is, a copy or galley of the book can be mailed to me for review.
  3. If I like it and think it will benefit my readers, I will post about it. If I don’t like it, nothing will be posted.

update on nyu journalism mediashift

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about an NYU student who wrote a post about the online knoweldge of GenY in her journalism class.

From communicating with Alana, I knew there would be a follow-up from the professor’s point of view. But as with most things you watch for, I missed it yesterday until a reader tipped me off. (Thanks, Simon!)

The professor didn’t necessarily respond, but PBS Mediashift’s facilitator Mark Glaser did dig a little deeper and found some interesting things.

zero tolerance social media

For the last couple of months, I’ve been on the receiving end of Peter Shankman’s thrice daily HARO email blast.

I think it’s great — on many levels. I have functioned as a source for a few reporters doing marketing and/or business stories. But I really enjoy HARO more as a great example of how the web2.o (sorry) economy functions and how that new economy is sometimes a threat to the mainstream establishment. Like a typical web2.0 (sorry) service, HARO is free — both to reporters and sources. And that’s a problem to HARO’s old school competitor, PR Newswire. It’s a great case study of the conflict between the economies especially when Shankman and PR Newswire head David Weiner have discussions in public comments about their businesses.

But even with all that, what I enjoy most about Shankman and the HARO are his reprimands and banishments for the good of the list. You can imagine that publishing email addresses and phone numbers for reporters at major media outlets to a public list of over 24,000 sources would be like crack cocaine for PR flunkies who enjoy spamming and pitching irrelevant topics to those reporters. But if someone steps over that line, Shankman severely punishes the offenders. Take the lead of tonight’s HARO for example:

Hey listen – I hate to bring this up again, but it would see that WOW Public Relations, specifically Nan Murray and Chris Burres, continue to SPAM HARO reporters. Now, I know for a fact that I’ve kicked them off the list, but for whatever reason, these people don’t get it. Here’s the problem: They continue to spam on behalf of their client, [redacted] – I’ve talked to [redacted], and he’s told them to stop, yet WOW public relations continues to SPAM reporters. So, if you get an unsolicited email from them, know that they’re not welcome on HARO, ever. I’d never, ever work with them, nor would I ever recommend them. I personally have added @[redacted] to my killfile, and you all might want to consider doing the same. It’s sad – some people just continue to do the wrong thing, despite being told repeatedly why it’s wrong.
[Edited: Peter said he thought he was too harsh on the client in the next morning’s HARO and has asked me to omit the client’s name.]

I’ve noticed that these outings and banishments happen rarely. But there’s usually an uptick after a massive influx of new members. (Shankman got a plug from Seth Godin earlier this month — so now is a tumultuous time.)

Shankman warns offenders, but some don’t listen (see above) and face the consequences. It’s very much like the first week in a prison or boot camp, learn the rules or face the wrath.

Look on the web and you’ll see a lot of criticism of his tough stance. I think some of that has been generated by the PR establishment or people who have been on the receiving end of a public lashing. But Shankman’s zero tolerance policy is necessary. For HARO to work or even exist, he needs the trust and respect of the reporters. They have seen he means business.

The problem with the web being open for anyone is that the web is open for anyone. Anytime we see a major step forward with communication, the snake-oil folks show up with viruses, spam, and other noisy junk. I wonder if email spam would have gotten to its current critical mass if people could have punished those who abused the system.

While you hear alot from web2.o evangelists about the goodness of open source / cluetrain / kum-bah-ya / feelgood communication, it needs to be remembered that there will always be people who will take advantage of the system. And that needs to be accounted for. Shankman’s HARO is a good example of how the community can deal with it.

old vs new

According to Emily Post, the classic correct formal introduction is along the lines of:

“Mrs. Jones, may I present Mr. Smith?

Of course, that devolved into either introducing oneself or something casual along the lines of:

“This is my friend, Chris.”

Today, the basic introduction goes along the lines of:

“omg facebook says we know each other … Wanna 2b friendz?”

muscle shoals has got the swampers

Back in my radio career, in addition to managing operations for the stations in the group, I also held down several airshifts as a “radio personality”.

DJs get sick of songs way before you do. On the CHR formatted station, I played the same 9 current pop hits every 2 hours and 15 minutes until my ears bled. And while the burnout on songs on the classic rock, oldies, etc stations wasn’t as immediate, I got tired of them over the long term.

I played the same stuff so much that years later I can still remember that Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd was on GoldDisc 536 – cut 5. Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon was toward the bottom of the rack on the left on the “digital heart of rock” collection. I don’t remember the CD, but it was cut 17.

Needless to say, you can see I have played these songs numerous times. (and listened to them in other settings even more.) But until Kid Rock came out with All Summer Long this year, I had never noticed that Werewolves and Alabama had the same chord progression and sound the same in several spots.

I deal with a lot of people daily who have been doing the same thing for years. I speak to groups who are entrenched in the way things have always been. I consult with a lot of “experts” who know everything about something because they deal with it everyday.

When I get an inquiry for either a speaking engagement or a consulting gig, one of the first questions from the meeting planner or client usually is: Do you have any experience with our industry? Often, I answer that I don’t have experience with their industry, but I do know marketing and I can bring a fresh perspective. Sometimes that excites the person and sometimes the person is scared of going forward. Some of my best feedback has been from groups that I had never heard of before I spoke to them. I brought up things that they had never thought of.

Sometimes when you deal with the same thing everyday, you don’t notice the nuances and the opportunities. Things that should stand out clearly become wallpaper that blends in. I encourage you to start at square one with your marketing, your business, or anything. See if there’s a new way you can look at it. Or better yet, ask someone who has no clue about what you do if there’s something they can notice that you’ve missed for years.

embedded and right

A NYU journalism student has written an “embedded report” about Quarter lifers / GenY’s outlook on journalism and online media for the PBS Mediashift blog.

In the online journalism class that I teach, I find the exact same results as Alana at NYU. Turns out most of this demographic that media and marketers think are totally saturated in online engagement — just aren’t. In fact, I made the same point back in July 2007.

Every semester, I introduce members of this “online” generation to things that you (as an assumed engaged online user) think are basic knowledge. Flickr. Digg. Twitter. They’ve never heard of them. Most of them are on Facebook and watch (not upload) video on YouTube, but that’s about it.

As companies develop marketing plans or the media develops media strategies, it needs to be remembered that most people (not just this demo) are NOT actively participating in online activities. Building the entire campaign and platform to focus on online users will make you lose in the short term. You need to be online, but you can’t expect it to pull all the weight at this point in time. Online growth is phenomenal, but we’re not ready to throw away other parts of the mix for younger demographics. And it goes the other way, too. I know of many marketers making the opposite mistake and just focusing online to younger demographics, when older demos (especially boomers) are going online and participating.

When I do posts like this, the online community thinks it’s heresy and I usually get a few disbelieving comments/emails. But YOU are online and if you’re reading a blog like this one, then it’s likely that your worldview is skewed. I’ve made the challenge before….

Get your head out of Dungeons & Dragons a/k/a Second Life and get out in the real world to start promoting this thing that you’re so passionate about. And I don’t mean at a conference full of tech people. Go to a local Chamber meeting, find a small business person, and ask them if they’re using blogs to talk to their customers. When you’re checking out at the grocery, ask the mother behind you if she reads Dooce. Ask a marketing director if she checks a blog search engine for mentions of the company.

You may be surprised at how out-of-touch you are by being so in-touch. If you’re wondering what other journalism students think about Alana’s embed, I’ve assigned my students to react to her post on thier blogs by next Monday.

bill gates as kramer. no es bueno

I had high hopes when Crispin Porter + Bogusky took over the MSFT campaign. I expected something creative, edgy, and/or amusing. I was doubly excited when I heard Seinfeld was involved. Imagine my (and your) dissapointment with this garbage:

Questions:
Yeah. He’s 95% embedded into the brand. But didn’t Bill quit his job awhile back? Why is he here?
Shoes in the shower?
Why the Spanish subtitles?
Moist and chewy?
What’s the point?
Most importantly, the questions that ANY ad should answer and that this ad fails miserably at — What’s being sold here? and What’s the call to action?

Frankly, it’s as bad as when the local car dealer calls in his kids and does an ad just to entertain himself. I hope Jerry, Bill, and CP+B had a fun time shooting it.

mass media will never win on the web

Or at least they won’t think they’re winning because they’re still using the same yardstick for success that they’ve used for decades.

With broadcast and print media, success is measured in numbers with lots of zeroes on the end — both in terms of audience and cash.

Meanwhile, true success on the web is measured in (sometimes small) dedicated audiences.

The long tail does not fit the mass media model — in terms of audience or revenue. And yet, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and every other form of mass media have been trying to cram their square hole mass media model into a round online hole ever since the mid-90’s.

And they’ve been sitting in sackcloth and ashes since the start — lamenting that the web is taking over and they can’t replace the shrinking offline audience with a new online audience. And they worry that the old fistful of advertising dollars won’t follow that audience.

And they’re right. That audience and those ad dollars are gone. And the faster that mass media outlets stop trying to make those old models work, the faster they will find success.

It’s not new. We’ve seen it before on a lesser scale. Some huge radio stars couldn’t translate into being big TV stars. The Andy Griffith Show was better in black and white. No one wanted to hear what silent movie actors sounded like. But there was huge success and massive revenue to be found in the new worlds of television and talkies — when people stopped trying to cram the old model into the new.

Mass media needs to stop thinking about how to make people “read newspapers online” or “watch the evening news online”. They need to take a fresh look at what they’re doing. What does an online audience look like and how do they want to consume your product online? They need to “stop broadcasting and start narrowcasting“.

we don’t like the masses

So someone sends me a link and when I get to the page I get this:
ie nonsupport

Really? You chose not to build first for the browser that 76% of people on the internet use? You chose to build for the browser that only 16% use?

Sure. It’s a hip and trendy tech-friendly 16%. And Firefox is a better browser. And Microsoft is evil. And etc. And etc. But as I’ve said before, you can’t be elitist if you’re wanting mass market success:

Yes. They’re using an inferior browser. They’re shopping at big box stores. They buy crap to eat. So build your website so it’s at least functional in a crappy browser on dial-up, stock your stuff at Wally-World, and put out a plate of Slim Jims and Twinkies.

If you want to succeed with the masses, you have to hold your nose and work with the masses.

You’re an idiot. Buy our stuff.

A new trend for the last few months in “me-too” marketing has companies telling their customers that they are stupid. From Burger King discontinuing the Whopper to Microsoft trying to convince people that Vista isn’t as bad as they think it is, there suddenly are an avalanche of “A-ha! I tricked the customer” campaigns bombarding the public.

Aside from the poor decision to imitate other campaigns (Got Milk, run amok), these ads are just bad on several levels. And the one that’s killing me most is Pizza Hut.

I’m about fed up with Pizza Hut anyway as they are the poster child for R&D train wrecks. There are only so many ways you can put cheese, sauce, and dough together. And guys, you ran out of variations a few years ago.

But this entire campaign, whether for the chocolate dunkers or for these pastas, says that “we have to trick people into eating our food”.

All of these trickery campaigns have a basic problem. They talk down to the people that they’re trying to get into the store. Hello potential customer! Did you know that we think you’re as bright as these morons who don’t know they’re eating “bacon flavored mac and cheese” in an Italian restauarant!?

Sure. 99% of a brand is perception. And if you have a large negative perception like with the MSFT Vista example, maybe you need to do something to rock the boat to challenge those perceptions.

On the other hand, if you have that large a negative perception, you’ve got bigger troubles with your brand than a cheesy ad campaign will fix.