Monthly Archives: March 2012

Cooking Tips For Business

We’ll end the week with our usual food-centric piece.  Today, I want to direct you to a piece by Food Network Magazinethe 100 Greatest Cooking Tips Of All Time.  While the list is far from exhaustive, it’s pretty good.  Many of them revolve around a few themes and many of those themes have application in business.

The first one comes from Marcus Samuelsson:

If you’re cooking for someone important — whether it’s your boss or a date — never try a new recipe and a new ingredient at the same time.

Well, I haven’t cooked for a date in a very long time, but I have presented to new clients, and I definitely see the application of this principle.  When it’s important to put your best foot forward, it’s not the time to experiment.  Stick to what you know works – there will be curve-balls aplenty even under the best conditions.  Your job is to reduce them to a manageable number.

Next is something I was taught to do many years ago by an Italian grandmother and comes from Chef Issac Becker:

When making meatballs or meatloaf, you need to know how the mixture tastes before you cook it. Make a little patty and fry it in a pan like a mini hamburger. Then you can taste it and adjust the seasoning.

At the risk of singing one of my familiar refrains, this is all about feedback.  Analytics.  Measurement.  Tasting as you go (to paraphrase Chef Anne Burrell‘s tip) is how you keep a business on track.  If something is off, you need to adjust the seasoning (or the plan) and you can’t know that unless you taste.  Otherwise, the dish (and the deal) can turn out inedible.

Finally, the value of planning from Chef John Besh:

Take the time to actually read recipes through before you begin.

and Chef Gabrielle Hamilton

Organize yourself. Write a prep list and break that list down into what may seem like ridiculously small parcels, like “grate cheese” and “grind pepper” and “pull out plates.” You will see that a “simple meal” actually has more than 40 steps. If even 10 of those steps require 10 minutes each and another 10 of those steps take 5 minutes each, you’re going to need two and a half hours of prep time. (And that doesn’t include phone calls, bathroom breaks and changing the radio station!) Write down the steps and then cross them off.

One of my great culinary joys is getting a four course meal on the table for 20 people at exactly the time the Mrs. informs me dinner is to be served to the guests.  That can’t happen without thoughtful and careful planning.  Then again, that project is much simpler than many of the business tasks we all face.  I’m surprised at how little planning goes into many of the most complex tasks.  Failure to think a project through to completion, to break it down into the component steps and to plan accordingly, is one of the great causes of failure.  It leads to cost overruns and shortages of time.

What’s your favorite cooking tip?  How does it apply to work outside of the kitchen?

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If you managed to get through middle school math (I’m hopeful that means most of you), you’re familiar with the term “Lowest Common Denominator.” In math it’s a way to combine unlike fractions by finding a common ground. In business, it’s a way to screw yourself up. You see, there’s another nonmathematic use of LCD and it refers to the lowest or least sophisticated level of something, and that’s the subject of today’s screed.

As anyone who has worked in broadcasting will tell you, the ratings system is a sort of shared myth. Nielsen puts out numbers, TV executives believe them and TV buyers believe the TV executives. Of course, it says right on the front of the ratings book that they’re only accurate up to a point, and like any number based on a sample the results are really a range. That range can be pretty wide as the number of folks in the sample who did something declines (so the published rating for American Idol is probably closer to the truth than the rating for a show ranked 125).

Which is why I find this disturbing:

TubeMogul is bringing Online Campaign Ratings to its RTB video ad platform. The agreement between TubeMogul and Nielsen means advertisers and agency trading desks can cross-reference GRPs for audience age and gender demographics with impressions and clicks to get a fuller sense of a campaign’s performance.

Simple announcement which a number of folks covered.  Except, of course, when one reads further:

While TubeMogul is able to relay metrics like impressions and clicks in real-time, Nielsen’s GRP numbers are only available daily, as with their broadcast GRP metrics. Also TubeMogul’s advertisers will have to log in to the Nielsen dashboard separately to view GRP numbers alongside metrics on TubeMogul’s platform.

In other words, we’re bringing down digital’s great system of non-sampled measurement to the LCD of TV.  That’s bad business in my book.  I realize that the advertising ecosystem isn’t quite able yet to deal with a completely different set of metrics, especially metrics presented in real-time, but the further we dumb down the standards the more likely it is that those lower standards become the norm instead of temporary fixes.

Digital measurement isn’t perfect.  Faulty implementations, disreputable folks cheating via bots and other ways, and an overwhleming amount of data we don’t often present well are issues.  But even with these and other faults the reporting and accuracy is better than what we used in TV, which any TV or agency person will tell you is pretty much a fantasy if you get them talking over a drink.

We can do better!

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Social TV

Back in the early days of the online thing (it wasn’t even really the Internet then), I was working for a major television network (OK, ABC if you need to know).  As part of my job began to involve engaging people with online content, several higher-ups expressed concern that we might be pulling people away from the broadcast.  When I moved on to another large network, that thinking persisted.  We couldn’t or shouldn’t be doing anything that would pull viewers away from their TV screens.  It wasn’t a shock to me that the “exchanging analog dollars for digital dimes” analogy came from a TV person.

American family watching TV (cropped)

American family watching TV (cropped) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast forward 18 years.  While TV viewing is more segmented than ever, overall viewing has continued to increase, as has use of digital devices to engage viewers.  In fact, there is now evidence that the very things that were feared to be pulling viewers away from TV are, in fact, deeply engaging them in the show.  According to a new study from iModerate Research Technologies, social media can increase the time viewers spend watching TV.  58% of those consumers who share stuff on social networks related to what they are watching at least 10 times a week, report watching more live TV. The respondents in this study consistently remarked that it makes TV more fun.

What’s really interesting is that there is evidence that the social activity has viewers adding shows to their TV activities specifically because of social conversations.  Turns out that it’s free promotion, not competition, I guess.  With time spent viewing continually on the rise, social interaction seems to be adding a dimension that can compensate for the times when “there’s 57 channels and nothing on.”

iModerate also found three types of consumers who regularly engage in social TV experiences. They are:

  • The Sports Nut”: 25-54 year-old males who use social platforms to comment on games, debate, talk trash, etc.
  • “The Extrovert”: 18-34 year-old males who have a lot of real-life and online friends.
  • “The Girlfriend”: 25-44 year-old females who primarily use social TV to discuss the dramas and reality TV shows that are important to them, which is akin to a “girls’ night out” experience, according to the study.

Another example of how sometimes our worst business fears are, in fact, our best friends!

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