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Local Marketing in a Global World and Political Correctness Gone Wild

I’ve written a lot on this blog about edgy vs. inappropriate advertising and where to draw the line. There’s a new controversy afoot over a KFC ad from Australia. When viewed through American eyes, it is nearly impossible to see this ad as anything but racist. However, apparently when viewed from an Australian context, it is anything but racist. You can read all about the controversy in Mashable. The sad part is that the outcry was enough to make KFC chicken out and pull the ad. Worse yet, pulling the ad caused a bit of an outcry with Australians — and rightly so. If the ad wasn’t intended for an American audience and wasn’t ever going to run in America, why should the campaign be changed just because some ignorant whiners in the US didn’t understand it? Yes, companies do need to realize that even local campaigns may be seen globally thanks to social media. And, yes, this is something global companies might want to consider. On the other hand, perhaps the people who are always on the lookout for things to become offended by just so they can feel “progressive” should be ignored from to time. Getting all worked up about an ad meant for another culture (even if that other culture happens to speak the same language) is lame. Part of being politically correct is accepting that you don’t know everything and minding your own business.

Want to Get REALLY Good at Corporate Blogging? Blog for Fun

to_blog_or_not_to_blogThere are all sorts of reasons to start a company blog. A company blog can help build your brand, establish corporate personality, provide a path for direct dialog with customers, help with search engine optimization (SEO) and a host of other cool things. Great content is, arguably, the most important component of a corporate blog — or any blog for that matter — but there’s a lot more to it than just content. Ensuring the blog has a professional look and feel is also key. If it is more inviting and easy to read, people are more likely to linger. And if the blog looks slick and professional, that says a lot about the company (even if readers only notice subconsciously). If it is messy, that says something too. Beyond that, there are a lot of other things that make a good blog great. These include:
  • Usability
  • Use of graphics, images and dynamic content
  • Intuitive archiving and navigation
  • Use of additional pages
  • Effective use of SEO
All this stuff requires extra time and effort, but the pay off is huge. My view is, if you are going to take the time to do it, taking the extra time and effort to do it well only makes sense. I’ve found that one of the best ways to REALLY get good at blogging is to blog about something about which you are passionate. If you are passionate about your corporate blog, consider yourself lucky. My guess is that, for most, even if they enjoy working on their company’s blog, it still feels like work on some level.
Blogging about something you love makes you a better all-around blogger

Blogging about something you love makes you a better all-around blogger

Earlier this year, I started a blog about cycling. My original intent was to use the blog to help keep my riding buddies informed about rides we had planned, share tidbits of info with some of the newer riders in the group and document our training. After only a few weeks, I noticed this blog was getting a LOT of traffic. So much so that I quickly decided to start writing it for a broader audience. Within a few months, my hobby blog had more posts — not to mention more traffic — than my corporate blog, which had been around three times as long. Then, one day, I compared the two side-by-side. I realized that my fun blog, which I did entirely on my own, looked every bit as professional as my corporate blog (which I paid a Web designer to create, customize and get running). Only then did it occur to me how much time and effort I had put in to my bike blog and how much I had learned. Unfortunately, I also realized how much I had neglected my corporate blog. Regardless, the extra experience I gained from my hobby blog has proven invaluable to me. Ultimately, it has had a positive impact on all the various blogs with which I’m involved. If you are building a team to work on your corporate blog, I highly recommend you encourage them to blog on their own as well. A strong case can even be made for allowing them to do a bit of personal blogging on company time every now and again. And if you’ve been given responsibility for spearheading your company’s blog and will be doing most of the heavy lifting yourself, I would, likewise, encourage you to start a blog on the side just for fun. Pick something you are passionate about and I promise you’ll have a great time with it. Even better, if you end up creating something great and you build a big enough following, you might even find ways to monetize it. Just don’t forget about your work blog.

Social Media T Shirt

social_media_md The image pretty much speaks for itself. This is from a T shirt brought to us from the folks at despair.com. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, at whom can we laugh? Poke around the rest of their Website if you like to look at humorous take-offs on those cheesy corporate motivational posters. I know I do.

The Power of Social Media — From Zero to Hero in 24 Hours

Strangely Compelling

Strangely compelling

If you’re like most people, you can recall a time in your life when you might have wished you had more friends. 24 hours ago I thought about how nice it would be to become a tad more popular and decided to do something about it. Today I have people from all over the globe clamoring to make my acquaintance and I’m struggling to figure out how to stop the madness. Frankly,  I’m not 100% sure I have figured out the best way to put the genie back in the bottle. You see, in my quest to stay current on all things social media, I recently started playing Mafia Wars. Mafia Wars is a very simple — yet surprisingly compelling — game you play with your pals on Facebook and/or MySpace. The goal is to become the wealthiest, most powerful mob boss you can be. And, in the world of organized crime, you need a lot of troops to make this happen. Unfortunately, most of my real-world friends have lives. They have jobs and families. They choose to spend their free time constructively. Far too few were interested in helping me satisfy my virtual bloodlust.
Typical Real-World Friend

Typical real-world friend

So I did what I had to do and visited the Mafia Wars forums where you can actively recruit new Facebook friends to join your mob. Without giving it much thought, I added myself to a list of folks looking for new “associates.” I figured this would be a good way to find a few dozen like-minded psychopaths to help me crack a few safes and break a few knee caps. I was wrong. It wasn’t dozens of people, it was hundreds. I’ve been getting friend requests from people around the globe at a rate of about 1 every 30 seconds. On the one hand, this is kind of cool. My “family” is now a force to be reckoned with. I’ve also become an international sensation. And, most importantly, I do have a lot more younger, hipper and better-looking friends than I did yesterday.
Typical Virtual-World Friend

Typical virtual-world friend

On the other hand, I’m wondering how long it will take for my virtual popularity to subside. I’m beginning to think I’m going to continue getting requests from strangers wanting to join my mob long after my interest in the game ends (I give that another week tops). It also occurred to me last night that my fellow mobsters have the same access to my Facebook information as my real-world friends. This meant I had to pull some personal information off of my profile. When I decide to call it quits, I’m going to need to put the e-mail I use for social media experimentation into the witness protection program for a while until things cool down. I’m also going to have to spend a few hours “unfriending” people so my Facebook account is once again manageable. I suppose that’s all part of the fun. This whole episode is yet another example of just how powerful social media can be for important as well as trivial matters. It also serves as a reminder of the need to use caution and common sense when messing around with applications such as this. Had I used my work e-mail for this adventure, I would have caused myself a ton of unnecessary grief. But, at least for today, I’m going to enjoy my popularity, rally my troops and whack a few rivals. I think I’ll also be able to earn enough money to buy that casino I’ve had my eye on.

Understanding Social Media — Stuff on YouTube That Makes People Feel Happy

Can this woman make YOU happy? Yep.

Can this woman make you feel happy? I'll bet she can.

I like social media. It lets us do some amazing things. One of my favorites is that it provides a simple conduit for people to be able to quickly and easily share little snippets of happiness with others.

Lots of these snippets can be found on YouTube. Two of my favorites come from a show called Britain’s Got Talent. The first one is of a former cellphone salesman named Paul. Paul is just a regular guy who isn’t someone likely to be described as classically handsome. He certainly doesn’t look like a kick-ass opera singer, but he turned out to be just that.  And, if Paul is a one-in-a-million kind of find, then this show must have auditioned at least two million people, because they also found Susan Boyle, an unemployed 48-year-old who has never been kissed. Like Paul, she absolutely killed.

This one seems too simple — its just some hippie passing out free hugs. It is still pretty awesome.

This one is about a young man with Autism who performed some amazing feats on the basketball court. The achievement on its own is enough to make you smile, but it is even cooler to see a group of high school students actually being supportive of a kid with a disability.

And speaking of disabled, my dad, a former airline pilot himself, really liked the interview with “Captain Sully” about the successful landing of his disabled airplane in the Hudson River. Apparently, landing on the water without tragic results is no easy feat. My dad flat out thinks it isn’t something he could have done even after 30 years of flying. It is rare to hear an airline pilot admit that there is anything they can’t do, so this makes me even more impressed by what Captain Sullenberger was able to accomplish.

BTW, from a communications standpoint, this interview shows that there is simply no substitute for competence. “Sully” is not a trained spokesperson, but he comes off better than a lot of corporate CEOs in this interview. He has earned the ability to be confident based on a lifetime of hard work and it shows. Confidence combined with competence is easy to recognize when you see it. I particularly like the part 6 minutes and 44 seconds in, where Katie Couric asks him if he was praying during the ordeal. He responded by saying that he was so intensely focused on the landing that he thought of nothing else. I admire people who look first to themselves for solutions to their problems. Those people make me happy.

I’m adding this video because just thinking about doing this makes me happy. It also makes me pucker.
wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

What stuff on YouTube makes you happy?

Muppet Scat — Daily Show and SEO

This is kind of cool. Tonight on the Daily Show, John Stewart was talking about the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama and the Naval base near Manama. In this segment, he brought up this old clip from the Muppet show: He then told viewers to go do a Google search on Muppet Scat to see what comes up. It didn’t take long before Muppet Scat became the most searched for term on the Internet. Click on the screen shot below and see for yourself. muppet-skat By the time the show aired here on the West Coast, the online buzz had already begun. When I performed my “Mupet Scat” search, I saw that  one blogger — who used many of the same blog SEO techniques I wrote about earlier this month — had already been able to get his post on the topic to show up on first page of  Google results for that term. This provides yet another example of how powerful and immediate blogs can be for search engine optimization. Very cool indeed. View the Daily Show episode below:
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
The Buc Stops Here
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Economic Crisis Political Humor
By the way, my heartfelt thanks to the Navy SEAL snipers and all the men and women in the U.S. military. I’m grateful that we have so many good people serving our country who are willing to do the really hard jobs that most people don’t have the skill or stomach to do. Keep up the outstanding work. Update: It took fewer than two hours for THIS post to make it to page one of a Google search on “Muppet Scat.” Plain and simple, SEO for blogs really works. Click on the image and check it out. SEO for blogs is fast

High on Coke — Coca-Cola Embraces Fans’ Facebook Page, Effectively Sharing Ownership of its Brand With Loyal Customers

Was Coke right in sharing ownership of its brand? Yes.

Was Coke right in sharing ownership of its brand?

Coca-Cola is one of the world’s biggest and most well-recognized brands.  It makes me wonder how many billions – or perhaps even trillions – of dollars the company has spent to get there. That’s why it was particularly refreshing to read a recent story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the way the company reacted to the success of a Coca-Cola Facebook page that the company did not create. The page was actually created last year by a pair of 29-year-old Coke fiends in Los Angeles. Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski created the page for no other reason than they were passionate about the beverage.  It turned out to be a very popular page. Within a few weeks of its inception, it had hit 75,000 fans.  After the first million fans, the Facebook administrators contacted Coca-Cola to see if it wanted to take over management of the page. Fortunately, Coke’s director of worldwide interactive marketing declined. His thinking was that if the company took the page over, it would be seen as an intrusion and it would lose some of its grass-roots appeal and credibility. Instead, the company rolled out the red carpet for the page’s creators and invited them to headquarters for a sit-down. Ultimately, the decision was made to take a collaborative approach to managing the page between Sorg, Jedrzejewski and a small group of Coca-Cola employees. Today the site has 3,365,220 fans and is the second most popular page on Facebook page right behind Barrack Obama’s.
Coca-Cola superfans given the red carpet treatment

Coca-Cola superfans given the red carpet treatment

In today’s world, a company cannot maintain complete control over its brand no matter how hard it tries or how much money it spends. Brands are being discussed, debated and mutated all across the Internet. And, while companies can’t control their brands, there is still a lot that can be done to influence the discussion. At the end of the day, the key is to for a company to become a legitimate part of the community having the discussion. Relinquishing complete control of your brand can do wonders for your company’s image. Some smart executives at Coca-Cola were well aware of this fact when they addressed this particular situation. This type of thinking may well help Coke become the choice of a new generation.

Modern Definition of PR — The More Things Change, The More Thigs Stay the Same

cartoonOne of the first things I learned when I entered the public relations industry 25 years ago is that few people truly understand what PR actually is. I’ve never heard a great “elevator speech” that adequately describes it. When people ask me what I do for a living and I don’t have the time, interest or energy to properly explain it, I’ve resort to saying I’m a marketing consultant or corporate publicist. When I interview a candidate for an entry level position, I always ask them to define PR. This question never fails to illicit an interesting response. A number of candidates – including some with college degrees in public relations – have been completely unable to provide a coherent answer. The reason PR is difficult to describe concisely is that there are so many different types of PR. Helping clients clarify their message, writing news releases and talking to the press are the most widely understood functions of a typical PR person. However, publicists, crisis managers, political campaign strategists, lobbyists and other specialty “spin doctors” have also been counted among our ranks. The best definition of PR that I’ve ever come across was from a PR textbook called Effective Public Relations that I still have from college. It says “Public relations is the management function that identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends.” While the definition would require elaboration to accurately explain someone’s specific PR job, it does provide enough meat to differentiate PR from other types of marketing. It is also broad enough to encompass the multiple facets of the industry. And it has stood the test of time. In practice, PR is an extremely different animal than it was 10 or even 5 years ago. However, its fundamental purpose remains unchanged. To be sure, the emergence of the Internet as one of the best ways to spread information and influence opinion has turned traditional public relations on its head. It has given rise to a whole new group specialties and specialists and a new set of thought leaders including Brian Solis, Steve Rubel, Mike Manuel and Jeremy Pepper to name just a few. The impact of the Internet has changed the whole communications landscape dramatically enough that it has lead many self-appointed new media pundits to declare that PR is dead. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, for those who embrace change and new challenges, there has never been a more exciting time to be in PR. Of course, there have been some growing pains. One of the most high profile was a program that Edelman conducted for Wal-Mart. It is important to note, however, that Edelman was among the first PR agencies to pioneer Internet PR. When you are exploring uncharted territories, you have to be willing to take an arrow in the back. The reward is often worth the risk. Today, it is hard to find a PR agency that doesn’t claim to be an expert in Internet PR, social media, blogger relations, etc. Unfortunately ours is an industry where perception often precedes reality. In truth, many practitioners are just now beginning to adapt and figure out for themselves what will and won’t work. The bad news is that when they make mistakes, it leads to harsh criticism that impacts us all. The good news is that many mistakes are totally avoidable. Most of the industry’s true thought leaders are sharing every detail of the secrets to their success. Their collective wisdom is available via a whole array of social media outlets to anyone who bothers to search for it (thanks to all of you for that by the way). There is no question that the methods of communication, tools and techniques used to “maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends” will continue to change rapidly. However, the fundamentals and foundation for success haven’t changed. The same principles that worked in 1950 will still be in play in 2050. These include:
  • Understanding your clients, their products and their industry
  • Understanding the key audiences (a.k.a. “publics”)
  • Developing clear, concise messaging geared toward those audiences
  • Determining what forms of communication are most effective in reaching them
  • Providing them with interesting, accurate and timely information that they will find valuable
Without these fundamentals in place, you can be successful whenever, wherever and however you choose to practice PR. pr