Category Archives: Growing up

More Fake News

It’s holiday time, and holiday time is shopping time. Now if you’re anything like most people, a fair amount of your shopping is done online. Even if you don’t actually buy from an online retailer, you probably do a fair amount of your research using online reviews and they are our topic today.

A marketing solution provider called Uberall released its “Customer Review Report,” which analyzed how consumers evaluate reviews online. They found that consumers think brands should be very active online responding to reviews. In fact, 65% of consumers think brands should respond to every online review every time, whether the review is positive or negative. Other observations from the study were that 18% of consumers believe brands should respond only when the review is negative, while 10% feel they should never respond, and 6% think they should only respond when the review is positive.

How do you feel about it? Personally, I think it’s critical that brands monitor the reviews of their products and not only should they respond but they should also verify. I’ve found that review verification sites such as Fakespot provide a wonderful service. I recognize that some brands actually pay for fake positive reviews in order to mask the crappy stuff they’re selling. That’s short-sighted since the revenues they make will be far offset by the costs of returns, customer service calls and maybe even lawsuits. Running an Amazon URL through Fakespot or ReviewMeta can save you a lot of trouble and also tell you a lot about how well a company curates its reputation.

There was a study a few years back that found that 20% or so of Yelp reviews were fake. You can spend $1 to get one written and you just might end up having to pay up to $40,654 to the FTC for having done so. Online reviews are a great source of, if not THE best, information for consumers and a generally accurate reflection of how your brand is perceived. You should influence that perception through positive interaction and not through creative writing. Most of all, you should respond, especially at this time of year when it’s a crucial sales period for most brands. Are you doing so?

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Filed under digital media, Growing up

50 Years On

As I sat down to write this morning’s screed with Dr. King’s birthday on my mind, I realized that it’s been 50 years since that horrible year of 1968. I was 13 at the time and if you’re younger than about 55 today you probably have no memories of the almost non-stop bad news. It’s hard to believe but things seemed even more screwed up and polarized that they do today. The day Dr. King was shot is one of my indelible memories and the killing of Bobby Kennedy two months later snuffed out a small glimmer of hope that Dr. King’s legacy might come to fruition soon. It took another 40 years for that although there are valid arguments that we as a country are still waiting in many ways.

With that, what follows is my post on celebrating Dr, King and his message from a few years ago. It’s about listening, something many of us don’t do often enough. Maybe you can give it a try this week?

Today is the day we pause to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.  I went back and looked at my post from two years ago, which was about dreams – specifically one of Dr. King’s dreams becoming a reality.  That was sort of focused on what he saw – his vision.  Today I want to focus on one of the great man’s best qualities that influenced how he acted to make that vision real.  I think it’s applicable to business.  No, it’s not going to be another ethics rant (although those are never out of style in my book).  Today, it’s about the most important skill I think all great businesspeople – and great leaders – possess.

To me, great leaders serve to fulfill the needs of their people.  For Dr. King, it meant endless meetings with various groups to understand their concerns and explain how broadening civil liberties to be more inclusive could help meet them.  For those of us in business, it means paying more attention to the concerns of our customers and co-workers than to our own agenda – these folks ARE our agenda to a certain extent, along with the underlying needs of our businesses.  In a word – listen.

Everyone wants to feel as if their ideas and thoughts are being heard if not acted upon. Without someone hearing them, acting on those concerns is impossible. Listening, then speaking, brings trust.

I know this isn’t a new thought in this space but it came to mind on this day thinking of Dr. King.  If you go back to the early days of Dr. King’s involvement in the civil rights movement, it’s pretty clear that he was a reluctant leader. He was drafted to lead and was kind of unsure of himself.  As he listened to the members of the community and other clergies, he realized that he was simply a voice for the community and their agenda became his agenda.

Many of you will be familiar with Stephen R. Covey, who wrote that we ought to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  I think Dr. King if he read pop-psychology, would have appreciated that.

What are you listening to today?

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Filed under Growing up, Helpful Hints, What's Going On

Does Your Business Serve Pu-Pu Platters?

This Foodie Friday, I’m inspired by the memory of a long-closed (by the Health Department as it turns out) restaurant called South Seas. It served very large “exotic” drinks – Zombies, Scorpion Bowls, the full range of tiki bar delights – and the first pu-pu platter I’d ever encountered.

My high school friends and I would often meet up at South Seas to gather in front of a glowing pu-pu platter. The center was a grill, fueled by Sterno I think, on which we could cook something from the mound of delights surrounding it. Of course, everything had been fried and I was never quite sure why one would want to further cook an egg roll, but it was very foreign and wonderful. Of course, since they would serve both the food and the drinks to anyone (the drinking age was 18 but our 18th birthdays were a few years away – sorry Mom), I might be misrecalling how good the food was, but I really loved it.

It’s the pu-pu platter that triggered the business thought. While most of us had after-school or weekend jobs of some sort, none of us really had a ton of disposable income for food. The Pu-pu platter solved that problem by being a cost-effective alternative to having to order several different plates. We could graze as we saw fit without having to commit to one dish. As I think about it now, many other types of cuisine offer their version of a pu-pu plater: the mixed antipasto (hot or cold) most Italian places serve, the popularity of tapas places  (you’re sort of constructing your own pu-pu platter as your order many different little plates), heck, even the canape platters they pass around a cocktail parties are pu-pu platters in my mind. And I think there’s something your business can take away from that.

The pu-pu platter or antipasto plate lets the customer sample multiple facets of your kitchen. It lets them understand the quality and variety of what you offer without their having to make a major commitment. That’s not a bad idea for any business. Free consultations and low- or no-cost trial periods are one way to deliver this. Offering a little bit of everything, much like a country store does, might be another. I hasten to add that anything you do offer needs to be of the same high-quality as your main product or service offerings.

When I see a pu-pu platter on a menu these days, I’m still tempted to order one so I can have a little taste of everything. Keeping a pu-pu platter mindset might just be a way to grow your business, don’t you think?

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Filed under Consulting, food, Growing up

The Pivot

Way back when in 1995, I was working at ABC Sports as their VP of Marketing. My job entailed meeting with advertisers and constructing packages of media and on-site benefits. We’d collaboratively design in-program elements, popularly known then as “enhancements”, to capitalize on the marketers’ involvement with a sport or an event. These things all took place on-air or on-site. The other big “on” – online – didn’t exist.

One day the president of ABC Sports walked into my office and asked me if I knew anything about computers. As a user of AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve and other early services, I replied that I did. He informed me that I was in charge and was to attend a meeting. ABC corporate had made a deal with this little start-up of under a million users called America OnLine and I was now to provide sports programming on behalf of ABC.

That was my pivot into digital. I didn’t realize it at the time, but saying “yes” to my boss’ question and being willing to take on some new, different responsibility had changed my life forever. None of us knew at the time that digital was going to disrupt the television business. We certainly didn’t think of it as anything other than an interesting sideline. But we began to see a little money coming in based on what we were doing, and once in a while, I could add some online stuff to the broad package of rights and benefits I was offering in my “real” job. Less than 5 years later, my job had become fully centered on digital, as I was now running a division of the NHL that didn’t even exist when I entered the digital world.

Being willing to pivot is a critical thing. Many businesses would be long gone if they were unwilling to do so. Foursquare, for example, pivoted their business from a consumer product to a B2B product, providing “location intelligence” to marketers. 90% of their revenue comes from that change. YouTube started as a video dating site. Nokia was a paper company. Twitter was a podcasting network. None of those businesses would be as successful, or maybe even exist, if they hadn’t been willing to shift their business paradigm and pivot.

I’d love to tell you that I saw the digital tsunami coming and got out in front of it on purpose but that would be a lie. I was lucky enough to ride the wave once it did show up because in my mind we were just doing what we’d always done – making great content and deriving value from the attention users gave it – albeit through a very different channel. The pivot was allowing my mind to be open enough to make that connection and to take the risk that it would be a rewarding road. Is your mind open to things like that?

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Filed under digital media, Growing up, Reality checks, sports business

Bilkies And Bunnies

Handmade shmura matzo

Image via Wikipedia

It’s Foodie Friday, and this year I’ve decided to repost something from a Foodie Friday in 2009. Originally titled “Jewish Thanksgiving,” I’m putting it back up because many of you are new readers since 2009 and because my family is gathering this evening to celebrate. That means I’m busy making bilkies. Making what? Read on!

This week’s Foodie Fun Friday post is dedicated to all of you who won’t be using the bathroom for the next week.  You know who you are.  But the gentiles out there are wondering “what could he possibly mean?  What could possibly stop someone up that badly?”  Well, dear readers, Passover started Wednesday night and by now, most Jewish homes have had two Seders. With those Seders goes matzo and when we say hello to the matzo, we say “buh-bye” to regularity.

As some of you know, my view is that most Jewish holidays can be summarized thusly:

Someone tried to kill all the Jews;
The Lord saved us;
Let’s eat.

Passover typifies this more than any other holiday. It’s really Jewish thanksgiving with brisket substituted for turkey and various other beige and brown foods substituting for the rest. Passover is a great culinary challenge on many levels.  Think about how often you use breadcrumbs or cornstarch when you cook and you’ll begin to understand.  Sure, matzo meal and potato starch are substitutes but they change the flavor, consistency, and appearance of the food in which they’re used.  Oy!

One dish that’s made in our family is something I’ve not seen elsewhere.  We call it a “bilkie or bilky” – not sure of the spelling.  It’s sort of a knish without the outside.  One cooks down some onions in schmaltz (don’t ask – these are really delicious and really not healthy) and adds them to mashed potatoes.  Some more schmaltz, matzo meal, and some eggs to bind.  Then one forms patties, glazes them with egg wash, and bakes them at 500 degrees until brown.  I usually make a few dozen of these and there are NEVER any left – my relatives put what they don’t eat in their purses, which isn’t easy since they’re the approximate size and weight of a compact car hubcap.   I’d love to know if any of you have ever heard of anything similar?

I love this holiday and love that it coincides with Easter.  Everyone has a reason to eat even if we can’t exactly share a lot of the desserts.  And in a week when we go back to eating as we regularly do, we all hope that the rest of us becomes as regular as our eating habits.   On to Memorial Day, the next great pig-out!

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Filed under food, Growing up, What's Going On

Dreaming Again

I’ve posted what follows each year for the last few on the days we celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. This was written in January of 2009 as we prepared to put President Obama into office. Last year I expressed my disappointment that we hadn’t come further over the last few years, given the election of our first African-American President. Like many, I’m doing my best to remain hopeful for the immediate future, despite some troubling incidents. But we keep dreaming, right?

Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week was actually Dr. King‘s birthday but since we’re celebrating it today I thought I’d add my two cents. I’m old enough to remember him and while he didn’t light the fire of the civil rights movement in the US (I’d say Rosa Parks is that hero), he certainly brought the fire to life and tended it well until his assassination (and I remember that as well – how horrible a day it was!).

What inspired me, a young (then) white kid was his notion of bringing a dream to reality. OK, the words and delivery were pretty inspirational too, even when you read them off a page. Yesterday the Inauguration Committee had a concert on the very place where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech to celebrate, nearly 46 years later, a big piece of that speech coming to reality. One can’t help but wonder what Dr.King would have felt and said – he certainly should still be alive – he’d just be turning 80.

Robert Kennedy said “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”  I think that’s great business advice as well, even if George Bernard Shaw had the notion before Bobby.  Mark Twain wrote that Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

So today, I celebrate Dr. King’s dreaming of a better world and making it happen.  Tomorrow, we can watch it become real.  What are you dreaming of?  Can it be real?  Why not?  Or better – why not!!

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Filed under Growing up, Reality checks

Ali And Me

The passing of Muhammad Ali happened over the weekend. Another one of my boyhood idols gone, except this one was also a hero well into my later years. Those of you who know me in the offline world know that I’m rarely speechless but when I met Ali for the first time I found myself unable to utter even a single word for a few minutes. I was working at ABC Sports at the time and we had done a deal with Ali to license his name to a clothing line. He came to the office and the photo you see is the one he signed for me. I can still feel the man’s overwhelming aura.

Like most young sports fans of the late 60’s and early 70’s, I grew up watching Ali fight on free TV. I also watched as he stood up for his beliefs even at the expense of his career. We can argue about the Vietnam war or Ali’s commitment to nonviolence (odd for a boxer, perhaps) but there is no arguing about the man’s deeply held beliefs and his influence on society. The man was an artist in every sense and his legacy can be seen in nearly every modern athlete’s training and swagger.

I met Ali for the second time a few years later when I was at CBS Sports. Ali decided he wanted to come to the Final Four and even though he was now very visibly suffering from Parkinson’s, the brightness in his eyes hadn’t dimmed a bit. He hadn’t fought in a very long time and yet walking him through the dome where the games were taking place was like walking with Moses through the Red Sea. The crowd parted as “Ali, Ali” was whispered everywhere. I have walked through crowds with many other famous people.  No response was anything like the palpable adoration I felt the people had for Ali that evening.

Others have written about his influence on society as well as the large number of humanitarian acts he performed. I’d just like to add two things – what he taught me and what I think any business can learn from him. I learned when it’s wrong to keep quiet from him. Ali risked his name and his freedom to do what he felt was the right thing.  When he was vindicated, he continued his career but also continued to speak out and to do good works, not letting the adversity which had robbed him of the prime of his career to diminish his drive to be the best both in the ring and outside of it.  The final struggle of his life, Parkinson’s, which lasted for the last three decades also didn’t diminish his presence in the world nor his desire to help his fellow-man.

How many of us in business think the way Ali did?  How many of us speak up when we see wrongdoing?  How many of us use the bully pulpit of our business to change the world in a positive way for all of humanity and not just for our shareholders?  I’m quite aware that we have a responsibility to those shareholders but we also have a responsibility to our planet and the people who inhabit it, don’t we?   Maybe Ali’s memory can serve to inspire us to fulfill that responsibility.  He was the best in his business, winning the heavyweight title three times, but he was also the best in so many other ways.

Thanks, Champ.  You’ll be missed.

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Filed under Growing up, Thinking Aloud, What's Going On