Friday, December 26, 2008

PR and 'New Media' - What's in Your PR Wallet?

There was an interesting topic thread about PR over at TechCrunch that I wanted to point you to before the holiday break -- it currently spans across two posts from Michael Arrington.

The first is "Death to the Embargo" about TechCrunch's decision to no longer respect the idea of a PR embargo -- or to respect it selectively as they decide.

The second is "Meet Lois Whitmat the Poster-child for Everything Wrong with PR", a post that sprung from some communications between the aforementioned PR person and a new media org (tech blog that covers phones) and the upcoming CES show.

The titles pretty much sum up the focus of the post, so I won't bother quoting anything specific in the post. Both posts are particularly notable for the discussion that takes place in the comments portion of the post, so don't stop at the end of the article.

What these two posts really touch on are some of the symptomatic manifestations of the challenge for old-school marketing and PR to keep up with the real impact of change that is being shaped by new media (the same broad issue that Seth Godin captures so well in Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing out of Sync?).

With the embargo post, it's a case of companies, PR groups and media wrestling with what the traditional idea of "embargo" means when publishing is instantaneous and republishing is widespread. In old-school PR, there were gentleman's agreements, old-boy networks, and key media outlets. As the gatekeeper infrastructure collapses, there's a corresponding struggle to understand who are the gatekeepers that you want to respect and how do you should work with them.

To me, one root cause of these problems is a disconnect between what should be 'push' and what should be 'pull'. Traditional PR has tried to push 'news' to media, but the world is changing. Now push=spam and we want to control which social networks that we participate in. What you're seeing in these two posts are people who are struggling with the rule changes -- and the lack of rules -- and what that means. For people that don't understand the 'why' behind the marketing tools and how the why shapes the 'when' and 'how', they're going to struggle. Anyway, it's good food for thought.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Brief History of the Current Financial Crisis

Recently, so many topic threads running through my thoughts and conversations seem to lead back to the current financial crisis. While I'm not an economic expert and this doesn't directly fall under the umbrella of marketing, I wanted to share a few links to some of the things that I've been reading, looking at, and listening to in recent weeks. While you may find a couple of these articles or posts that have some political-spin roots associated with them, my purpose in including the link isn't so much a political one as a looking at good simplified explanations of some of the issues.

The first couple of links come from the NPR radio program This American Life. If you haven't heard this one before, you are in for a treat. Each week they pick a theme and explore it through a number of interesting interviews, stories, audio essays, and radio diaries. Earlier this year, they put together a show that attempted to explain the sub-prime mortgage crisis -- but in a typical' This American Life' approach, take you inside the industry to meet and understand the people, understand what their jobs were, and to try and understand who, if anyone, was knowingly responsible for the crisis. If you want a simple, easy-to-understand explanation of the sub-prime crisis -- with interviews from people ranging from those that worked directly with home-buyers to those on Wall street, this program is a must-listen. Here's the link to the page where you can listen to it or download the podcast:
355: The Giant Pool of Money
The next episode in the financial crisis story from This American Life was put together around the time of the Wall Street bailout. Same guys, this time providing an update and an explanation of a lot of financial terms that you'll hear in the discussions about all of this. Another excellent show:
365: Another Frightening Show About the Economy
They also have a blog that tracks the ongoing, day-to-day issues associated with the financial crisis, Also worth a look.

Another interesting article comes from the Conde Naste magazine Portfolio. This article was written by the Michael Lewis, author of the book Liar's Poker, a book about his experiences working on Wall Street back in the 1980s. The Portfolio article, The End of Wall Street's Boom, tracks through some background on the sub-prime, credit default swaps, and C.D.O.s or Collateralized Debt Obligations. This one is packed with food for thought.

Finally, moving into the political end of the spectrum, I'd point you to two posts from The Daily Kos, both from the author Devilstower.
Three Times is Enemy Action from Sep 21, 2008
This post provides a backgrounder on deregulation of the financial industry going back to the S&L Crisis of the 1980s, the Keating Five, etc.

Down the Republican Rabbit Hole from Nov 16, 2008
This is a fun piece targeting some attempts to point blame for the financial crisis on Democrats and to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Like many of the other pieces that I've referenced, this one does a nice job of distilling the architecture of these financial instruments of destruction into a super-simple, plain English explanation that almost works like an elevator pitch.
I know that there's a lot to read and to listen to here, but I've found all these worth forwarding. They also touch on some other aspects of our role in business that I hope to pick up in a future post.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Understanding Choice - What Controls the Decision-making Process

This last week, KQED featured an excellent radio program on factors that shape the decision-making process. This one hour feature was a Radiolab feature episode put together by WNYC Radio in New York City. If you haven't heard any of these Radiolab episodes, I urge you to look through their archives -- there are so many great ones. Basically, the shows usually do a deep dive into some complex concept, then with a combination of sound effects and excellent story-telling, explain ideas that live at the edge of science, ethics, and modern life.

This choice episode that I'm referencing here breaks down notions of whether choice is rational or emotional, some factors that may affect your decisions, and how there are some ways that your decisions can be influenced and manipulated. It's excellent food for the marketing mind.

I can't find a way to embed the audio stream, but here's a link to the Choice episode page. You can listen to the program or download the episode there. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Amusing Food Marketing

I just noticed this label on the top of the tub of pecans that we were using in the Thanksgiving cooking:
Junior Mammoth Halves
Now this may be some sort of actual food industry measure, but it sure looks like the work of some over-enthusiastic copywriter who wants to make me laugh.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Management Strategy Post

This is a great post that I came across on TechCrunch this morning. The post is titled The First-Time CEO's Recession Survival Guide by Glenn Kelman. Glenn is the CEO of Redfin, an online real estate start-up. One of my favorite suggestions is his second point, "Act Like an Owner." Here's part of the way that he explains the idea:
You’ve probably spent most of your life hating your boss, pleasing others (so you can blame them later) and spending other people’s money. These are hard habits to break. When I was still settling into being a CEO, I wasted a lot of time driving initiatives designed to please others, acting as if someone wouldn’t let me do what I wanted to do with Redfin.
Which brings me to my question on this -- as a marketer and a creative pro, are you "pre-adjusting" or pre-filtering your ideas?