Archive for August, 2008

Focus on Strength, Not Weakness

I was listening to NPR Marketplace on my way in this morning as they ran through a recap of the events, speeches and overall takeaways from the Democratic National Convention that took place at Invesco Field in Denver, Colorado last night.

One of the morning host’s raised a good point worth giving some thought to – how in this current presidential campaign election, not only are opponents weaknesses being attacked (common in any election), but their strengths as well – what they cited to be a new political tactic. They went on to discuss how Senator Obama’s speech raised the question of Senator McCain’s touted expertise at foreign policy – an area that many feel is one of his biggest strengths and a backbone to his campaign.

On a more “everyday applicable level,” it got me thinking about how our general tendency can be to do just that: focus on the weaknesses of something we are up against versus capitalizing on what something or someone does well. Many of us work daily in settings where we face competition from other companies, products, sales and marketing incentives – and are put in scenarios where we are one of several companies vying for a business “win.” Our instinct can be to hone in on what an opponent doesn’t offer and what we do. Instead, why not focus on what they do well……..and then make ours that much better? Not only are you taking the high road, you are raising the bar for the next guy – and in many senses increasing the breadth and sophistication – of the overall landscape.

Recently my father – a sailing fanatic – was teaching me some shipmen knots that had come in handy for him over the years. “Kristen, a line is only as good as its weakest point,” he said. Okay, very true. Maybe we….whether that we is an individual, a team, a company or a nation, may only be as strong as our weakest link. But adversely, we are a combination of a multitude of great strengths, ideas and passions that both challenge us and enable us to question everything. On the road to any type of success, whether on the high visibility campaign trail or simply just following our own vision – this is something we all need to capitalize on.

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Relationships Are Still the Rule

The debate continues on how social media is changing the public relations field. Some practitioners blog and join every social network available, some send bloggers generic pitches and then complain when they are publicly chastised, and some avoid the blogging community like the plague. … But are there really new rules?

I don’t think so. It’s still all about relationships. We need to build relationships with our clients, with their audiences and with industry influencers … it’s simply how we build those relationships that has evolved. Now we can finally put a face to the name by “friending” a blogger on Facebook, or know what they are doing at 3 pm on a Saturday by following their “tweets” … but the value of face-to-face interaction will never change.

Last week, we attended SummerMASH Boston at the Roxy. We mingled with clients (PermissionTV and WeeWorld), industry peers, local social media rock stars and a rowdy TripAdvisor mascot. It reminded me that in a world of incessant Facebook updates and a 24/7 barrage of e-mails … the value of sharing a drink and a laugh still reigns supreme. Lesson learned: stop typing and posting long enough to share real-world experiences.

— Posted by Erica Camilo

Vacations: Unplugged or Plugged In?

With vacation season in full swing this headline from Tech Dirt about the “stupidity” of taking a laptop while on vacation caught my eye. It includes a link to a story out of the UK where a top psychologist warns that the whole laptop on vacation trend is going to spell doomsday for relationships among spouses, families and friends. Also, a Harris Survey poll revealed that about a third of Americans lug the hardware with them while on vacation.

I often waffle on the great laptop dilemma the day before we leave for vacation on what is worse: angering my wife for a few hours for bringing the laptop along or feeling out of touch with my clients or co-workers for five or more days. As a business owner and “boss” I feel the need to be connected, but never expect my employees to do the same. I know I’d hate to have a boss looking over my shoulder when he or she was supposed to be on the slopes, the beach or the cruise ship so I certainly take that into consideration each and every time I pack up the gear for a week of R&R. For me, a few minutes of email every day or so while enjoying my morning coffee or a late afternoon cocktail gives me peace of mind for an entire day or two. I also like the idea of knocking down emails a few at a time instead of coming back to a clogged inbox the “Monday After” which is enough to make one forget a vacation really quickly.

Last month we spent a week on the beach on Cape Cod and the laptop came with us (and so did the smart phone but that is obviously so less obtrusive). I rationalized this in two ways: 1) my kids want to entertain themselves on YouTube and other sites so it wasn’t all about Dad working away the vacation. The laptop has become a “family” accessory and was used to look up movie reviews, view and send pictures, get directions and the like as much as it was to read emails or spreadsheets.

2) I purposely left the power cord at home, ensuring that we’d only spend five hours out of the whole seven days checking email, surfing the Web, etc. Guess what? It worked fabulously. Everyone felt slightly connected but no one felt ignored, alienated, overworked, underappreciated or trapped by technology.

What are your plans for summer vacation – laptop or no laptop? I suppose the Blackberry, iPhone, PDA or smart phone might render that question a bit moot. But how do you unplug? Is it getting harder? Are we really that important? Did your spouse threaten to leave you because you packed your iMac along with the sun block and beach towels? If you take the laptop do you feel trapped by your job and find yourself in need of a “vacation” when you get back? Are you sneaking off to check email in the middle of the night? Do you agree with Professor Cooper’s findings?

Just think…

I was out for my run this morning and randomly thought of an idea for a client. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t anything earth shattering. And yes, this does actually happen frequently. To some, ideas come during their morning shower, others on the car ride home, and still others in the middle of the night as they drift between sleep and visions from the next day’s impending agenda. For whatever reason, this morning it caught me particularly off guard. Chalk it up to uncharted time that allowed ideas to creep in and take hold. Somehow in our chaotic, whirlwind days it becomes easy to duck our heads into crazy schedules, back-to-back appointments and overflowing inbox’s – those little red Urgent! exclamation marks glaring at us – and in the midst of this routine chaos let it overtake our ability to, well, just let the mind take an unmitigated path that can result in something unexpected. I think it’s important to realize this, and to take the hidden minutes we have on these off times and use it to our advantage.

Maybe it’s as simple as remembering something we forgot to put on our yellow “To Do” sticky note. But maybe, just maybe, it’s that niche marketing idea for a client still trying to find their target audience that you haven’t let your mind relax at your desk enough to let in. Nevertheless, in an economy that continues to offer new ideas and increasingly brighter and more innovative technology, it is our job as marketers to continue to push the envelope of marketing change. Time is an especially precious commodity these days, and a force not to be reckoned with. I was researching trade shows for a client the other day and came across an article that noted a new technology that allows conference attendees to enter pre-show speaker chat rooms and determine the potential value of sessions before deciding whether or not to attend. (http://www.expoweb.com/Trends/Oct20098200463335PM.htm)

In the midst of the myriad of marketing tools available to companies, I am someone who still puts an important emphasis on live industry trade shows and seminars. I believe that a handshake can fuel a sale, and when possible, a face-to-face meeting can be the determining factor that puts a solid feeling behind a name or idea. The above “session chat room” point raises an interesting concept and one that illustrates how on the horizon looms a changing landscape for live events. Shows cost money and – almost of the same actual worth – time. Show management has been forced to get remarkably strategic when it comes to developing valuable and pertinent content for events to draw the intended high level audience essential to keep them at the forefront. More so than ever before they are challenged to capture attendee’s attention in creative and compelling ways to maximize attendee ROI. Chat rooms are a start. Agendas that feature out-of-the-box thinking have already started surfacing. It will be interesting to see how trade shows, seminars, and conferences evolve in the coming months.

During the run, I did pass a few other people out walking their dogs or walking and for a second thought perhaps they heard my mind working since each one turned around and looked at me as I ran by. Maybe I am onto this early morning idea thing? Bring a notepad with me perhaps? It was only when I paused my music post-workout that I realized the bubble had popped in my sneaker and a few rocks had gotten caught. Okay…..so what if they turned around because I sounded like a human rattle? I still had my idea and it still had some air in it.


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