As seen outside Tucson, Arizona

For those of who think giant cacti are the only things that dominate Arizona, here’s another fantastic landmark.
















And no, it’s not a set from Close encounters of the third kind. It’s one of the many giant telescopes on Kitt Peak, 55 miles east of Tucson. And yes, it was snowing up there, at 6,800 feet when we visited.

Two networks our children may never know

Networks today mean something intangible. They almost always don’t involve human intervention. But there was a time when networks functioned because of people throwing switches and pulling levers.

I ran into these when visiting the old mining town of Jerome, Arizona yesterday. Take a look at two different networks, and appreciate old tech for a moment.

This model railroad, of the adjoining town of Cottonwood where we stayed in, incorporates the school, saloon, and the ‘company town’ where miners lived.  (If you are old enough to remember Johnny Cash’s song ‘Company Store,’ this is where that sentiment began. As in “St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go; I sold my soul to the company store.”)

Railroad Network















This other network, telephones, were something else entirely. The switchboard ‘networked’ someone to another, thanks to an operator like this.Telephone Exchange


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.”

Too many swine flu experts hyping it up?

I have seen a flurry of responses to the outbreak of swine flu over the past few days, and have to wonder if our ability to monitor and repeat information often overstates the situation /crisis. Or exploit it.

I can say this with some confidence since:

(a) I work at a the Decision Theater, where we have conducted three pandemic flu exercises –the last of which was in February this year.

(b) We have to caution many people who ask, because everyone’s in reactive mode, not realizing that this is still an outbreak, not an epidemic, and still far from being declared a pandemic.

I suppose we could hype up the situation, and claim to be ‘experts’ in the field, just to get media attention. But we won’t go there. It is not in the public interest to add to the uncertainty.

Down-playing. Sort of. If at all, I have had to tell media who call that guess what, Arizona was recently ranked the most prepared state as far as pandemic plans. I also sat in a meeting where one researcher in this field noted that Mexico has some of the most advanced epidemiologists, and that their health care monitoring system was not to be doubted.

I have seen communicators jump into this space. Some in a good way. But as Evgeny Morozov of the Open Society Institute noted, “too many Twitter conversations about swine flu seem to be motivated by desires to fit in, do what one’s friends do (i.e. tweet about it) or simply gain more popularity.”

Here’s a short list of how some in the industry reacted:

  • On Sunday, while I was monitoring the information on the outbreak (at 10 pm Mountain Time), Gerard Baud pinged me about how his outfit is looking at the crisis, with a short podcast. Unfortunately it was an ad for a tele-seminar that you would have to pay for. I would have preferred if the response, in the public interest, was a free ‘seat’ at the teleconference for at least one person in the organization.
  • Melcrum today published a short but intelligent piece in the Melcrum Hub about an effective crisis communications plan. One of the points they raised seemed so pertinent to the present situation: Stick to the known facts. It’s so easy to go on anecdotal evidence –as in stuff you saw online, repeated by someone who thought she had heard it from a ‘source.’
  • Ragan Communications also published a good piece on it but unfortunately they too have connencted it to a webinar that will cost you $99.
  • Happy to note that IABC is making a teleseminar available free. Details here.

Bottom Line. I know times are tough. But people are also getting sick. There are lots of cities, school districts and healthcare systems who have plans but will like to see what else they could do. I don’t think at this time they should pay for learning about better communications to help their local community and their country.

Hey, that’s just me.

Joe The Plumber’s fingerprints in Mesa

In less than an hour from now President Obama is coming to a school less than a mile from my home, to make the big announcement to address the housing crisis.

So I couldn’t resist driving by Dobson High a little while ago to check out the mood out here.

Contrary to what you might imagine watching some of the morning news reports, it’s not all human chaos and traffic snarls in Mesa. Traffic was moving smoothly, as people made their way with signs, lawn chairs, flags and cameras.

But along the way a little detail struck me as an example of how out of touch, or completely ignorant people are. Little signs on stakes –the kind that usually advertise weight-loss cures or ‘we buy ugly houses’ — try to lecture to Obama that ‘socialism is not the answer’ with allusions to the healthcare rescue plan. Has Joe the Plumber being recruited to do some sort of poster-PR for the other side? Someone did not get the memo that the Palin-led socialism canard flopped.

The people lining the streets outside St. Timothy’s Catholic Church have more to hope for and worry about than socialism. They see the economy through a different lens.

When life gives you furlough…

As some of you in Arizona may have heard, last week ASU announced it is implementing a ‘furlough‘ for all staff. It was a proactive step taken while the legislature decided how it wanted to mangle education in Arizona. I could go on with a long rant about this, but there are other venues for that.

Many have asked what’s a furlough. Here is one explanation.

What’s next? There are many ways I could use my 12-day furlough, but considering that there are people out there who don’t even have job openings to apply for, I have an idea.

Job Camp. If anyone cares to join me, I plan to run a job search workshop. It would be based on my interest in the ‘social media resume‘ and include new thinking on areas such as:

  • How to reach hiring managers
  • What recruiters are looking for
  • What are the best ways to connect with them.

It would also cover some basics on:

  • Writing a strong resume / Designing a resume
  • Embedding it with social media elements.
  • Targeting your job search with your resume

Details will follow.

A few communicators I know have volunteered their time. If you like to help out, I’d really like to hear from you. Leave a message here, reach me via LinkedIn, or send me a tweet.


Quotes for the week ending 20 December, 2008

“I’m not a journalist. But I am a publisher. I am a reporter. I am a media maker.”

Chris Brogan, in  a post explaining his ‘sponsored post’ for K-Mart

“For gaseous and predictable arguments ripped from the most recent front-page news stories and not much else, the Times is champion.”

Doug Maceachern, columnist for The Arizona Republic, firing back at the New York Times for an editorial dissing Arizona over governor governance after Janet napolitano leaves for a White House post.

“WAAAY too much “yay, all social media is good” group-think going on right now.”

Jason Baer, commenting on IABC Chair, Barbara Gibson’s post about  Chris Brogan’s experiment with a sposored post for K-Mart.

“the defendants in the case could be validly served by the plaintiff sending a message by computer to the Facebook page.”

Story of a ruling by an Australian court that a judgment could be ‘served’ to Facebook.

“It’s a big, fragmented mess.”

Steve Woodruff, founder of Impractivi, commenting on socvial media, in an interviw with CB Whittermore.

“That approach doesn’t work at a cocktail party, or at a funeral or in a social network.”

Seth Godin, on why traditional advertising doesn’t work, and why big companies are are asking the wrong questions in social media.

“The Lunesta moth. A potent symbol, but not a lot of depth.”

Alfred O’Neill, on why Pharma advertising is a square peg in a round hole.

“Eventually, given enough years in the biz, you know who will melt like a snowball in a rainstorm uphill on a Sunday in Jun…”

John Biggs, responding to a nasty email from a PR firm because TechCrunch called out the PR spam they were getting. The owner of the firm called them “nasty people” that will “melt away faster than a snowball going up hill in the rain.”

“Poor WSJ and NY Times—left 45 people voice mails. I am going to be so outed by those publications.”

Lois Whittman, the owner of the PR firm, inducted into TechCrunch’s hall of shame, above.

“If you come across any young PR professionals who have “McMurry” on their resume, you’d be lucky to have them on your team.”

Jessica Hansen, a Phoenix PP professional, responding to a reader comment on my post in ValleyPRBlog about TechCrunch’s fatwa against PR people.

Don’t vote for these guys

As I made my short list of whom to vote for in my district & county, I struck out a few people for the simple reason that they have come off so negative. I get it. Negative ads move the needle a bit, but not where I come from.

There were a few other marketing-related reasons as well why I thought they don’t need to be in charge of things.

  • They use some very, very old, unverified databases – I get mailers to three versions of my name. I have two words for them: database cleansing.
  • They present half-truths (as verified here) that assume the voter is dumb, and that we only get our information from their 9″ x 6″ flyers.
  • They kill a lot of trees to get their message (fiscal conservativism, responsible stewards yada yada).
  • They use the same format, same size, possibly the same print company. Did they not get the memo: one size fits nobody? The guy who sent us hand-addressed “letters” from his wife? Oh, come on!
  • They have no clue about variable-data printing. If they need to ask what this is, their campaign staff don’t need my tax money.

Street-smart PR for job search

It could be filed under “sign of the times,” together with the gas theft from cars.

But this story struck me as a very brave act of job seeking. Gilbert resident Corey Gibisch, a recently laid off employee, took to the streets to get his resume out. No one should ever have to get to this point. But instead of feeling bad for him, I would applaud him for this:

  • He got more attention with 100 resumes than he would have at a job fair
  • He got into the media without pitching his story
  • His sign was all about the place he liked to work in, rather than about himself
  • He snagged thirty business cards –leads, in his case. Do the math. 120 minutes, 100 resumes, 3o leads

Whoever hires Mr. Gibisch will have a lucky find –and a very interesting answer to anyone who asks “where did you find this guy?”

Three Gold Quills for Arizona

Congratulations to Rachel Pearson, Mary Ehlert, ABC; and BDN Aerospace who brought home Gold. The Gold Quill awards were made at the IABC international conference in New York last week.

  • Rachel won a merit award for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau‘s 2007 Annual Meeting in the category of Special Events – Internal or External.
  • Mary won a merit award for the Arizona Department of Health Bureau of Tobacco Education and Prevention. The category was for Economic, Social and Environmental Development.
  • The BDN Aerospace marketing team won a merit award for the MD Helicopters Ad Campaign. The category was for advertising using conventional media.

IABC Gold QuillsGold Quills recognize best practice in areas such as marketing communications, corporate communications, benefits communication, digital communication, branding, special events, podcasts, publications, annual reports, recruitment and writing. Not surprisingly, the Gold Quills attract local and international entries from agencies, photographers, graphic designers, strategic planners, creatives and even students.