Monthly Archives: May 2013

Running Radio On TV

I think I can state without any fear of being contradicted that no one would run a radio ad on TV.

English: A typical "As seen on TV" l...

Giving up the sight, motion, and color of TV to use an existing radio creative is wasteful.  The opposite is true as well – we’re all familiar with TV commercials in which the audio is just music and the video handles the branding and other messaging.  Running one on radio might provide a nice musical interlude but not much in the way of marketing.

I bring this up because a recent study on how publications are presenting themselves on emerging platforms got me thinking about it:

Of the 78 consumer-facing English language publications detailed in the report, 83 percent have at least one app available in the Apple® App Store, Newsstand app or the Google Play™ service. Of these, 65 percent have published iPhone® apps and 40 percent have published apps for the Android™ platform. All 78 publish on the iPad® device. However, only 25 percent of these were optimized for any form of tablet display, with most publishers using scaled-down versions of their desktop sites instead.

That’s from a new report from the Brand Perfect™ initiative by Monotype Imaging Inc.  And it’s not just print publications who are at fault here:

Despite the emergence of responsive Web design, which enables optimal viewing experiences across a wide range of devices, the report identified that publishers are not supporting its use in online advertising. Where device-ready sites are not available, advertisements served are scaled down, often resulting in illegible typography and distorted imagery.

In the broader sense, we’re all content creators, even if that content is labelled “advertising.”  Restating the obvious (one of my specialties ), the TV ad on radio is as ineffective as a scaled-down, illegible banner in mobile.  A publisher who can’t support marketers’ efforts to use proper cross-platform technology is a TV station continuing to broadcast in black and white or only in Standard Definition.  Putting out content in a less than optimal form for new devices is buying a Ferrari to drive to and from the market at 35 MPH.  The technology has moved along, as have your consumers.  You need to catch up!

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Creating A Great Work Environment

What’s the best work situation you’ve ever had and why was it so? Was it working for yourself, a start-up, or a big corporation? I got a chance to ask myself that question again Saturday night when a number of us who worked together 20+ years ago at ABC Sports got together. Most of us hadn’t seen one another in at least a decade but like most reunions of closely knit groups, it felt as if we’d just spoken last week.

Let me explain why this was the best work situation I’ve ever been in and offer some suggestions how you might try to replicate it wherever you are. What’s interesting to me is that what I’m going to say was echoed by every single one of us in the room in terms of what we experienced and how we felt. None of us are kids any more and yet we all agreed this was the best period of time we ever spent over our professional lives.

  1. The boss was very much in charge.  That seems like a prescription for heavy-handed disaster, but in this case it means he gave us all clear, firm direction.
  2. The boss allowed us to figure out how to accomplish the goals.  He was smart enough to recognize that many roads travel to the same place and we needed to take those which we could navigate effectively.
  3. There were no staff meetings or other “process” items wasting our time.  Oh sure, once a quarter or so we’d get together to go over stuff but the emphasis was on results, not process.
  4. There was the equivalent of a very productive staff meeting every morning.  Because of the next point, the senior staff would end up in someone’s office every morning an hour before work officially began going over what we were doing, opportunities for action, rumors, and anything else.  It was the equivalent of a 5 hour weekly meeting and many times more productive.
  5. The executive team liked one another as people and respected one another as professionals.  We socialized outside of work and some of the team I still count among my closest friends.
  6. Finally, the boss cleared away all the corporate stuff to allow us to do our collective thing.  He fought for budgets, he made sure we were paid well, he took the heat when something didn’t go as planned.  Like a good parent, he wasn’t afraid to let us know when we’d screwed up (BOY did he let us know) but we never doubted that he supported us and we never felt like we’d get fired at any minute.

That’s the prescription if you’re the one building the work environment.  Assemble a great team, give them clear direction, provide resources, and get out of the way while staying connected.  It’s 20 years later now and I think most of this team would go back to work together in a minute if the opportunity arose.  Many of us agreed we didn’t realize at the time how special an environment we had but we sure do now.

What do you think?  Ever been in this sort of work environment?  Is this about what you had?


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Filed under Growing up, Reality checks

Smoked Salmon Vodka

For our Foodie Friday Fun this week, let’s start with a movie. Oh sure, there have been plenty of foodie movies over the years (Big Night is my favorite) but I want to start with the 1982 Michael Keaton classic Night Shift. I know – not really a foodie movie but in it Keaton offers up a food-oriented line that I thought of yesterday:

What if you mix the mayonnaise in the can, WITH the tunafish? Or… hold it! Chuck! I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish, and FEED ’em mayonnaise! Oh this is great.

What prompted the thought was someone mentioning that they’d recently tried smoked salmon vodka.  My immediate response probably mirrored yours: YECH!  Then I thought about it for a second.  How often have you gone to a nice wedding or similar function and there’s been chilled vodka put out alongside the platter of salmon?  The two really do go together when you step back and think about it.  Or take the idea of making doughnuts in a muffin tin.  They’re not muffins and they’re certainly not doughnuts  but is there a way to get the texture and flavor of a donut in the easier to make form of a muffin?  There is, and someone figured out exactly how.  Which is the business point.

Tuna and mayonnaise, salmon and vodka – normal combinations presented in a different way of thinking (I’d tweak the tuna notion a bit but he’s on the right track).  Often in business we’re presented with ideas that seem ridiculous on the first pass but when you stop thinking “bad idea” and start thinking “interesting notion – what does it need to be a great idea” you just might end up with a better mousetrap.

Pushing ourselves to think differently is the only way we grow our businesses   People get bored quickly these days and if you’re not innovating you get left behind.  While I’m not sure that smoked salmon vodka is going to be my drink of choice, the thinking behind it is very much what I like to order up.  You?

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Embracing Number Crunching

Great piece in this morning’s USAToday on how NFL teams are building analytics departments to take advantage of all the data they get.

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This isn’t about their digital properties either. Instead, they are used in the draft (what better way to compare hundreds of college kids than with test results?), game-management (play-calling tendencies, personnel match-ups, etc.), and in managing their rosters – the salary cap, free agent players, etc. What does this have to do with your business?

If you saw Moneyball, you probably recall the reluctance the scouts had in accepting the data being used to analyze players.  There’s a tendency in all businesses, particularly among those of us who have decades of experience, to believe our own impressions more often than we believe the impartial numbers that might be available.  An NFL coach might think that a running back can’t block, but when the numbers show that the missed block only come on plays where the  safety blitzes, the right answer isn’t a better blocker – it’s to get the tackle to give the running back blocking help when they see a blitz.

Your business isn’t that different.  You get reams of data on an hourly basis that explain what is or isn’t working.  It’s overwhelming  and because it is the data is often ignored (“I can’t react to everything every minute of the day”).  As I’ve said to clients, it’s not so much what’s happening in the moment but the trend over a bunch of moments that’s important. Ignoring those trends can be fatal, especially if they’re being subordinated to the often blurry vision each manager has.

That said, I’m among the first to say that numbers don’t show everything.  Leadership on the field, for example, isn’t really quantifiable (no numbers available from what goes on in the huddle, folks).   Still, confirming one’s own impressions against impartial measures from ongoing business activities is an important check and balance.

If you’re running a business and you’re not involved in analytics of some sort, you’re running that business blindfolded.  If you’re don’t have full-time people supporting your data efforts, there are outside folks like me who can help.  As the NFL shows, even the top dogs need to learn a few new tricks.

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Playing In A Different Mode

We haven’t done music here on the screed in a while so how about we take on modal music? For those of you without the benefit of music theory classes, modes are types of musical scales that create very specific sounds. Not much of an explanation, but if you play a “C” major scale (all the white keys on a piano) while playing in the key of “D” rather than using a typical “D” scale, you’re playing modally.  If you know the Metallica song “Sandman” you’re hearing modal music.  Same thing with Led Zep‘s “Dancing Days.”  To your ear they’re not exactly in a major key or a minor key and they create a very specific sound, and no, it’s not just heavy metal bands that use it.

Interesting, but what’s it doing here on a business blog?

As I see it, we should all think about playing modally in our businesses.  Ask yourself what happens if you continue to play a certain way but do so in a different environment:   a “C” scale in the key of “D” has a business equivalent of transforming content cross-platform for example.  It can also involve how one creates a specific feeling that might not be as straightforward as, say, a major or minor scale.  In other words, maybe we need to spend less time thinking linearly and a lot more time thinking modally.

Modes aren’t just musical either.  There are modal verbs in English which we use when we want to express our intentions and attitudes, talk about necessity and possibility, or make offers, requests, or suggestions.  “Can, may, will, would” and others are all examples.  They’re “helper” words.  “Can you shut the door?” is a good example and points out that modals often bring confusion along with them.  I raise this because while we’re adjusting our musical modal thinking we can bring about the sort of confusing jumble that modal verbs can cause (in the previous example, you don’t know if the speaker is asking for someone to close the door of if they have the ability to do so).  When we start to do business in different ways, staying focused on clarity needs to go along with the effort.

You know it when a business is playing modally.  You take notice of their marketing because it sounds different and yet is very clear. The real question is how do we all get to that place?  Thoughts?

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Questioning The Questioners

Today is one of those screeds in which I point out a problem but don’t offer a real solution. I apologize in advance. Maybe just ringing the alarm bell a bit is enough of a help but you’ll be the judge.

The questionnaire we used to select patients.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like you, I read a lot articles published in trades. Most of what I see comes to me in the form of emailed articles and/or newsletters. There’s a lot of research cited in these pieces and many of them offer opinions with respect to a good course of action one should take to avoid a problem or improve performance. What I find interesting is how often I’ll finish the piece, look at the author’s bio, and realize that I just spent a couple of minutes reading a self-serving puff piece. For example, a nice article citing research on how content marketing can drive sales was offered by a guy who runs a content marketing company, which also commissioned the research.  Funny how often the research conducted by “independent” firms says great things about the company that commissioned it, isn’t it?

That’s the problem I offer up today.  It’s hard to know how meaningful research is when those who pay to have it done have a vested interest in the outcome.  We saw this during the last political season.  There were “Republican” polls that showed the presidential race one way, “Democratic” polls that had it the other way, and “independent” polls that were a mixed bag.  Usually, the party-sponsored polls had their guy winning, and you’re probably familiar that the only entity that called the race almost perfectly was Nate Silver of The New York Times who uses a “poll of polls” methodology that wiped out the inherent biases.

We need to question those who ask the questions.  That doesn’t mean ignore or even discount the research.  What it does mean is to think about what vested interest the sponsor of any research has in the outcome and look for places where a question can be phrased in such a way as to twist the outcome.  All reputable research will show you how the question was asked.  It’s up to you to consider the inherent bias before taking anything as gospel.  Even the blather put out in this space!

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints

Why I Won’t Be Using FTD Again

I hope you all had a lovely Mother’s Day. My Mom is in Florida and I’m not so we celebrated the day separated by distance. In an attempt to bridge the geographic gap, I ordered some flowers for her last Friday from FTD. Frankly, I’m more of a “support local businesses” kind of guy but since FTD uses local florists to fill the orders and since I was in a time crunch on Friday, I used FTD’s site to place the order. Which I won’t be doing again.  Of course, there are a few lessons for any business in the midst of this.


(Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I asked that the flowers be delivered on Saturday.  It gave them 24 hours and hopefully would avoid the peak period of deliveries yesterday on Mother’s Day.  As Saturday night rolled around and I hadn’t received a phone call from Florida to let me know they arrived (my Mom always calls when we send her stuff), I began to get a little worried.  By mid-afternoon Sunday, we had already called her to wish her a great day but nothing had arrived (we asked).  Time to follow-up with FTD.

Lesson number one.  On what is one of your busiest days of the year, don’t turn off customer service.  When I called FTD’s line, I pushed “2” to check on my order status and was told (more or less) that we’re not answering the phone today because it would be overwhelming so use the web site.  No humans.   Hello?  Learn from Butterball, who adds hundreds of reps to their turkey help line around Thanksgiving.

Lesson number two.  Using the web site, I clicked to “check order status.”  I found my order number and popped it in, expecting something like UPS‘ excellent tracking or Amazon‘s system.  Nope.  Within seconds, I had an email telling me “We have received your request to confirm that your gift was delivered.  When we receive confirmation of delivery, we will notify you via email.”  First, that’s NOT what I was seeking – I knew it hadn’t been delivered (my Mom is faster than your email!).  Second, I still don’t have a confirmation email on delivery and yes, thankfully, the flowers did get delivered two hours after I began trying to get an update (and a full 52 hours after they were ordered for next day delivery).

Lesson number three.  I paid a service fee of $22 for the convenience of not having to find, to call, and to order from a local florist near my Mom.  I had, I think, reasonable expectations in return for that fee:  the flowers would be delivered as promised, on time, in good shape, and that there would be some sort of customer service to support me in the event of a problem.  Hey – we’re dealing with gifts for people’s mothers – buyers don’t want anything less than what they expect and these were definitely mixed results at best.

While digital technology has done a lot to kill local businesses (ask any small, local book or music store), there is nothing like the personal service one can get from using old-fashioned technology:  a phone and a human.  Until and unless companies like FTD figure out how to replicate that experience, I won’t be using them again.  You?

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