Friday, October 30, 2009

New Rules: Authenticity & Participation

I just finished reading The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Merman Scott. The book, originally written in 2007, was updated this year by the author. Since my philosophy for organizational/corporate communications emphasizes truly BEing what and who we SAY we are, I was pleased to see some terrific guideposts for authenticity throughout this easy-to-read book.

The tools of marketing and PR have changed. The skills that worked offline to help you buy or beg your way in are the skills of interruption and coercion. Success online comes from thinking like a journalist and a thought leader.

Herewith some key observations, comments and clips:

Search out people online (blogs, articles, etc) talking about your topic — find out their point of view and then engage them in a way that’s congruous with their interests

It’s about new ways to tell stories directly to your audience

Educate, engage (in conversation), entertain and tell compelling stories

Anticipate needs and supply content to meet them, even before they know they want it

Social media provides a feedback loop on what a brand means in the marketplace

Marketing is not about your products; it’s about your consumers

Aiming for unique hits or PR clips is not the right measure — it’s like in soccer focusing on the ball instead of the goal

Use the same language as your buyers — words, phrases

What do you want them to believe?

Become an online thought leader, talking about what's important to your customers, not mentioning your company/products at all

Marketing and PR are meant to be the bridge to a relationship, with buyers and with journalists

What problem do you solve for customers? use real-world language, not corporate jargon ... without going too far (it will sound phony if you push it)

The New Rules
  • Marketing is more than just advertising
  • PR is for more than just mainstream media
  • You are what you publish
  • People want authenticity, not spin
  • People want participation, not propaganda
  • Instead of creating one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it
  • Marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of underserved audiences via the internet
  • PR is not about your boss seeing your company on TV; it’s about your buyers seeing your company on the web
  • Marketing is not about your agency winning awards; it’s about your organization winning business
  • The internet has made public relations public again, after years of an exclusive focus on media
  • Blogs, podcasts, eBooks, news releases and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
  • On the web, the lines between marketing and PR have blurred
If you haven't already read this, check out the book yourself at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. How can you change your stance in communicating with your world to become more authentic? To truly BE who you SAY you are? And if you’re not holding yourself (and your organization) to that standard, how will you defend yourself when you’re found out?

As always, thanks for participating.

Jan Thomas
The Communication Heretic

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Are you putting everything of yourself into your life?

I don't normally post someone else's work here on my page, but I just read this article over at TalentZoo and simply MUST share it with my readers. I've edited it just a bit, which I hope Mr McFarlane won't mind ....

A Matter of Life and Death
by Paul MacFarlane

Let's get the obvious out of the way: We're all going to die. (In fact, how we feel about death is a sure sign of how we live.)

And none of us really know when or how we're going to fly from this world. Hit by a bus? Car accident? Cancer? Sudden heart attack? Slowly in a nursing home with Alzheimer's?

So, I want to know, since neither of us is dead at this moment, how you're thinking about the project you're working on right now. Are you putting everything of yourself into it (or at least fighting to do so)?

What if this one project ended up being the last ad you ever write, design, produce or approve? And what if this one last project was what you were ultimately remembered for?

Do you want to be remembered as a SEO expert?
Do you want to be remembered as making soft-porn sales promotion posters?
Do you want to be remembered for saving 1% off the media budget for the same reach and frequency?

I suspect that most of us, if we knew and had the choice, might want our last professional act to make a difference in this world, to make people smile, to think, to make life something far more than the ordinary.

So, realizing that neither of us know how much longer we have to live, to work, to breathe ... couldn't the project you (and I) are working on right now be just a little bit better?

I know, it's really hard most days, but may I suggest that it's worth your while.

Please, may the work we do today be based on a better idea make both of us better human beings.


So my challenge to you, readers, is this: How do you want to be remembered? What are you doing to make it so? I once read an article that asked a similar question: If someday someone created a museum of YOU, what would it contain? How would it portray you, your life and your work? Ponder this just a bit ....

As always,
thanks for participating.

Jan Thomas
The Communication Heretic

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hyatt PR Gaffe Goes Viral, Global

Hyatt’s Boston-area recent firing of nearly a hundred housekeeping employees has demonstrated how a management decision, perhaps thought to be a minor local action, can reverberate around the world and threaten the foundations of an otherwise respected brand.

The Boston Globe broke the story in its September 17 edition and the very next day, at 6:24 pm September 18, an unidentified individual registered the Web URL, which is now pumping out support for the terminated employees and spitting venom at the hotel chain.

Hyatt’s decision resulted in a viral campaign. Hyatt should have considered the ramifications for social media destruction, noted a hotel manager in faraway Beijing, as they failed to manage the response in the online world. Instead of managing discussions at sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc., they simply issued a formal press statement.

And the story kept growing and growing and growing….

How It Happened

Employees are critical stakeholders — it’s such an obvious statement that to say it seems simplistic. Yet executives at three Boston Hyatts seem to have missed that lesson in their corporate management class. Here’s how this blunder came about at the Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge and Hyatt Harborside at Logan International Airport.

We know the global economy has been in crisis during the past year. This created an equally serious decline in business and recreational travel, including hotel bookings. As a result, hotel management everywhere has been under pressure to cut expenses.

Facing this dilemma, the Hyatt Boston-area brain trust decided housekeeping costs were too high. So executives decided to outsource housekeeping, replacing employees earning up to $15/hour (plus benefits) with less experienced workers making about $8/hour and no benefits.

To smooth the transition from the existing workforce — some of whom had over 20 years on the job at the hotel — to the new contract crew, the 100 in-place workers were assigned to train their replacements, being told that the trainees would be vacation replacements.

And then…

The City of Boston joined “the battle against Hyatt,” the city council issuing a resolution condemning Hyatt’s “poor treatment of its employees” and Mayor Thomas Menino adding that the job cuts “fly in the face of what Boston is all about.” Governor Deval Patrick even threatened to have state employees boycott the hotel chain.

Showing a further lack of insight and sensitivity to community and other stakeholder interests, Hyatt Regency Boston president Phil Stamm fired back, “We are very disappointed by the governor’s decision to threaten a boycott of our hotels since it directly threatens the 600 associates who work in Hyatt properties and who live and work in Massachusetts.”

A local TV station reports that a union representing some 1,700 Boston cab drivers said it will boycott Hyatt hotels in the city unless the company rehires the fired housekeepers. And at least one news broadcast about the situation went global on YouTube.

The social activist organization joined the fray and made “Join the Hyatt Boycott” its lead story. Highly respected institutions and sites ranging from AOL Travel to the and the Harvard Business Review have prominently covered the story and, in doing so, denigrate Hyatt’s management decisions. In fact, the HBR piece calls Hyatt’s actions a “sure-fire way” to “damage to your brand.”

International travel authority Fodor’s has an active blog thread on the Hyatt debacle with one reader echoing the sentiments of several others:

“This morning on NPR, there was a piece about Hyatt Boston firing all their housekeepers and hiring temps, so as to save on healthcare and benefits. There was a woman who had worked housekeeping for Hyatt for 19 years who had a 13 year-old son with asthma. Where is she going to get another job or healthcare benefits? I for one will NEVER stay at Hyatt again.”

All these actions keep the story in the active media eye, keep the pot stirred and prevent the story from simply fading out of the public consciousness.

Timing is Everything

Do you believe in coincidence?

Hyatt announced in August it had filed a statement with the SEC proposing an initial public offering of its shares. In such a situation it is common to clean up the balance sheet, cut expenses, boost top-line revenues as high as possible and optimize cash flow — everything a potential investor wants to see. And since employee costs are always a big item in service industries, they’re always vulnerable.

Of course, if service goes to hell because employees are demoralized, who cares? Once the Prizker family members get its money from the IPO, the whole mess is someone else’s problem. Let shareholders worry about shoddy service and a sinking reputation….

So we wondered: Since other hotel operators are suffering from the same global economic downturn, how are they handling the inconvenience of paying housekeeping staffs?

Earlier this year the Liberty Hotel, a posh Boston establishment, took the opposite route, eliminating their outsourced security and night janitorial services and replacing them with hotel workers from other departments who might otherwise have been laid off. “We would not [outsource housekeepers] because we want to tightly control the guest experience here and the cleanliness,” managing director Jim Treadway said. And when asked, Hilton and Marriott executives told the newspaper that they had no plans to outsource their housekeeping responsibilities.

All stakeholders — including employees, customers and shareholders — count big time; all of them. And management should never, ever forget it… because the communication impact can be devastating, especially in this age of viral online communication among consumers. We are best advised to never forget the power of an angry individual, either.


My thanks to one of my favorite blogs — edit30… insight for business communicators — for bringing this mess to my attention!

And, as always, thanks to my readers for participating.

Jan Thomas
The Communication Heretic