News Flash: Some companies do listen!

I like to follow up on my experience with Data Doctors two seeks ago, when I complained that I had been taken. It was a communication problem, rather than about bad service.

Before the end of the day I wrote that post, the CEO of the company wrote to me (via Twitter) indicating they wanted fix the problem.

But it didn’t stop there. The next day, Robert called me (you could listen to a short audio clip), explaining why they disagreed with the ‘policy’ that had been thrown my way, and making an offer to remedy it.

So while we do hear of how often organizations are tone deaf to their customers and prospects, a good number of them have empowered their employees to be the antennas of the organization. Unfortunately it doesn’t hit the wires often enough when companies do listen!

Indeed, listening is only one part of the equation when there’s a dent in reputation. Following it up makes a big difference. As Robert told me, Data Doctors has had to live with the fact that a post from one disgruntled person (an employee, apparently), albeit inaccurate, still lives in the blogosphere.

I brought this up at length on my radio show this week (iTunes or player here) if you like to listen to the follow up and more context.

Once upon a tree –powerful outdoor activism

What does this look like?

Sure, a dead tree. But what did it give up its life for? Hint: It’s part of an outdoor campaign for forest conservation in China.

You’ll never rip open a pack of chopsticks again, just to play with it in a restaurant.

I just can’t resist campaigns like this where words become unnecessary. The trees were made from 80,000 pairs of used chopsticks, and ‘planted’ in public squares.

However if you prefer words, interactive outdoor is so much more powerful than some of the boring, static billboards we see around town for business schools, restaurants, movies.  Check this out: passers by are encouraged to text in their message, and watch as the words get changed to display it.

Think local, buy local, says Park&Co

You’ve probably seen how some cities (like this and this) have attempted to rein in local dollars and boost their economies with campaigns for buying local. We have our own push here with Local First Arizona, a non-profit group promoting your support of locally owned businesses throughout the state.

But apart from this move to nurture small businesses such as nurseries, nail parlors and ethnic restaurants, there is a lot of money moving out in terms of … advertising. Park & Co have put together a microsite featuring nine agencies (apart from Park&Co), with a push that urges companies to rethink where they s(p)end their dollars.

“You buy local produce, seek out locally owned stores, and drink local wines. So why go to other markets like L.A. for your advertising? Phoenix agencies offer a wealth of talent, from brand strategy and development to internationally award-winning creative, as well as innovative interactive campaigns and Hollywood-caliber film and video production. And you don’t have to look far.”

Park and CoAs Time magazine once put it, the buy-local trend “enhances the ‘velocity’ of money.” But most people only think of products, not services, says Park Howell, who says that it is time to focus on buying local business services, specifically advertising, creative and communications. “We’re promoting our competition because we’re big believers in a rising tide lifts all boats. There’s plenty of business to go around, so keep it local.”

Could PR industry do some crisis PR in post-BP mess?

Now that the BP oil leak has been stopped —or so we hear today — has anyone considered that it may be time to create some good juju for PR, after what BP has successfully done in maiming the industry?

Many of us PR and non PR types have railed against the dark stain that BP’s oil spill is leaving. I have tremendous respect for those who handle corporate PR whether they are consultants or internal PR folk. It’s a tough job getting the organization to say it as it is, and to stop publishing mindless statements just for the sound-byte effect.

So I was hoping to see a coalition of PR agencies coming together, perhaps under the umbrella of PRSA, and the CIPR (British PR association), to bring in some of the largest booms (thought leaders) and heavy equipment (smart technologies) to stop polluting our pristine beaches (er, reputation).

PRSA’s mantra is “Advancing the Profession and the Professional.” Looks like the industry has been mugged by flaks who are effectively planting land mines along this path. Search for BP at PRSA’s web site and you see articles such as “Can the BP brand survive Tony Hayward?” I was hoping to see some folks come out say why “BP’s PR has been toxic for their business.”

Meanwhile BP continues to write about its wonderful response about how it is “Flying higher to get closer to spill response,” and its sea bird rescues.

And nobody in the PR industry seems to mind.

RIP, Melville Assaw

Former Peterite, and an early stalwart in advertising in Sri Lanka, Mel Assaw passed away yesterday.

He founded Mel Ads in 1971.

For a short time I worked at Mel Ads in 1985, and will always remember how he encouraged young people to push the limits of how they think of copy and creative concepts.

Being a great artist himself, he had an intuitive grasp of how powerful imagery works in the realm of marketing.

What if Starbucks ‘saw’ my review in real time?

I’m sitting here at Starbucks with a bunch of uber talented technology folk, discussing mobile apps and what it would take for a mobile device to play a  seamless–frictionless — part of role in ia community.

We experiment with the usual suspects (Facebook, FourSquare, Twitter, Flickr) the ships and shoes and sealing wax of community building, but it strikes me that sometimes the simple things might still work, and be a win-win for the marketer and the customer.

For example: I snap this picture with my phone, email it to my Flickr account and ta-da, it appears in my album. I’ve been doing this for years. If you look on the bottom right of this blog (at least this week) it shows up here too.

But what if the act of tagging the photo and uploading it triggers something that tells Starbucks marketing that there is a potential review going out from this zip code, and this mobile device. What if, by triangulating a Quick Response code on the cup of iced tea, my FourSquare signature, and my phone, they could send me a digital coupon?

A new lens. Marketers are often flying blind. Yes they fall back on market research, but they seldom engage in real-time marketing intelligence gathering. Tracking and sensing how people are using a mobile device to navigate through and interact with their service providers would be a boon to not just coffee shops. Book stores, movie studios (think ‘citizen critics’ using a cell phone to review a movie before the closing credits!), theme parks, airlines etc could look at the mobile device as solution to an opportunity they never even thought of. If only they can find ‘sensors’ that tell them who’s talking them up -or down.

And why do these opportunities rarely show up? Because they tend to be seen through the lens called ‘marketing.’ It’s time to switch the focus.

Screw on the lens marked ‘conversations.’

Quotes for the week ending 24 April, 2010

“But it’s when you become the punch line on The Colbert Report that you know you’ve made the big time.”

Bill Goodykoontz, columnist at the Arizona Republic, commenting on Stephen Colbert’s ripping of Arizona’s new immigration bill –that was signed by governor Jan Brewer into law on Friday.

“facebook seems to be down – mass suicides worldwide predicted – story at 11”

Tweet by mmelnick, (musician, vegetarian, animal lover, truth seeker) who also re-tweeted “Attention humans: Facebook isn’t “down”. It’s become self-aware & will soon launch nuclear weapons. I’m pressing the “Lik …”

“Trees are a renewable resource, and paper can be recycled, recovered and used to make paper again. … Make print a valuable part of your communications mix.”

The argument behind Print Grows Trees, a campaign by Print Graphics Association Mid Atlantic (PGAMA) a not-for-profit trade association

“…uncomfortably close to advocating sexting”

The creepy Kin video ad that Microsoft had to pull for obvious reasons

“I think smaller- and medium-sized agencies make the transition from traditional to social-enabled PR much easier than larger agencies.”

Jason Baer, in a Twintervirw with Bob Reed of PRSA, where he also talked about ‘the science and math of social media.’

The power of the Ampersand

Amazing things happen when we mix two concepts in a beaker, shake it up & let the molecules of one mix with the other.

Now replace ‘concepts’ with ‘passion’, ‘motivation,’  ‘academic discipline’ or ‘technique’ and you see how attractive this becomes. Trouble is, old-style education tends to push people into specialization (for good reason) and jobs used to demand that employees get hired to do one thing and one thing alone (the factory job). Adding the ampersand to your studies or your career got you into trouble.

Today that mentality is shifting, and I really like how this challenge reflects that. It’s called The Power of AND. It’s promoted by a group holding the Sustainable Brands Conference. Topics at the conference include Design & behavior Change, Corporate Responsibility & Profits etc.

The conference is in June. From the best ideas submitted, one will be picked each week, and given a free virtual conference pass. If you have an idea that’s a combination of two radical concepts –um, techniques, disciplines, passions — go for it!

Need inspiration? Consider how these evolved:

Quotes for the week, ending 6 Feb, 2010

“People always clap for the wrong things.”

J.D  Salinger’s character, Holden Caulfield. Salinger died last week. He last appeared on this TIME magazine cover in Sept, 1961.

“Salinger never swallowed this capitalize-on-your-fame command that Simon Cowell and YouTube have turned into an American birthright.”

Author, and syndicated columnist, Mitch Albom, on Salinger’s attempt to not be famous.

“I might go to the bathroom during that ad,or make popcorn.”

Susan Estritch, commenting on the controversial ad at this year’s Super Bowl, about abortion and choice that will air among the predictable ones about job sites and Clysedales.

“The secular religion of global warming has all the elements of a religious faith: original sin (we are polluting the planet), ritual (separate your waste for recycling), redemption (renounce economic growth) and the sale of indulgences (carbon offsets).”

Michael Barone, on How Climate-Change Fanatics Corrupted Science

“It’s too early to tell if this round of Facebook changes will create a backlash, but at the time of this writing there were almost 3700 mostly negative comments on the company’s blog post detailing the new homepage design.”

PC World, on Facebook’s latest round of layout changes.