Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How Strong is Your Adhesive?

I’ve been reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Thrive and Others Die, by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. Part history lesson, part anthropological study, part how-to guide, ‘Stick’ explores the ins and outs of what makes ideas catch hold.

It’s a fantastic book that outlines six principles on what makes a concept ‘sticky”: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions and Stories. In short: SUCCES(s). It’s a neat word trick, if a little trite, but by illustrating the power behind Urban Legends, JFK’s call to “send a man to the moon”, or Southwest Airline’s mission to be the ‘low cost airline’, ‘Stick’ relates stories on how to tell stories more effectively, in ways that will give your idea (or your client’s) longevity, meaning and power. If you’re in the communications biz and haven’t read this, go do it now. It will change your view on messaging.

But wait, I digress. This isn’t a book review.

Made to Stick was published in January 2007. It made many of the “Best of 2007” lists. As of today it ranked 169 on Amazon Books. It’s a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek bestseller.

I’m just reading it now.

Perhaps not completely objective, I feel I’m on top of things. I’m connected. I’m active on Facebook, LinkedIn to hundreds of professional contacts, and I subscribe to dozens of marketing & communications blogs in my RSS reader. I Digg This! I read industry trades daily (I’m in PR for god sakes) and I religiously read the Sunday Book Review in the New York Times.

How did I miss out on this? Did my Amazon preferences fail me?

The authors and their publisher, Random House, did a great job marketing the book. They have their own website, an ongoing dedicated blog to keep the book’s concepts fresh and alive, book tours, public speaking engagements, hundreds of reviews . . . all the right accolades.

In the end it took a complete stranger interviewing for a job (which he didn’t get), to come into my office, talk to me for 20 seconds on the book’s merits, to get me to rush out and purchase it.

Word of mouth (WOM) is incredibly potent. It’s the driving force behind social media and why we as marketers strive to open a dialog and start a conversation. It even has its own marketing category now - WOMM.

So where was the breakdown? Do I think social media failed here? Absolutely not. If anything my experience with Made to Stick underscores the importance of leveraging social dialog to push concepts and influence outcomes.

In the same way that I’m linked in and good to go, I’m likely overly so, and my introduction to this great book from a direct, digital source got lost in the mix. But it did hit someone, several thousand someones actually, and those connections circled around to me in a very concrete, personal way.

I’m curious to see how many, if any, based on this blog post, pick up a copy of the book.

(I posted this last month in the Fusion PR Forum. I know, I know, desperate attempts to jump start this here blog . . . but hey, I need content.)

Dust Rag

It's been a year since I've touched this thing. How the hell did that happen? Well I'll tell you: things, life, whatnot.

I made the rookie mistake of not keeping the blog going. Now it's time to revive. So get ready world, Flakjacket is back with a new mission to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where thousands have already gone.

I know that's an exciting concept for my huge circulation of 0.01 readers.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Press Release Grindhouse

I just saw Grindhouse, the new film by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez. It made me think about work.

Press releases are the PR industry's version of exploitation films: they're mass produced, cheesy, low budget, and jam-packed full of crap. But dress them up to look sexy enough and you can fool quite a few people in thinking that they're worthwhile.

This of course made me think about Tom Foremski's bloody diatribe Die Press release! Die! Die!Die!. He has a good point, at least the part about needing to change things up. I'm not sure his suggested optimized, tagged, super indexed, information resource is totally feasible or even possible quite yet.

A couple of weeks ago Chris Parente, managing director of Strategic Communications Group published an entirely different take , in 'Call off the Funeral, the Press release Is Alive and Well!'. Chris would have us believe that its not press releases that are bad but bad PR practitioners that give press releases a bad wrap. And you know, he's not wrong either.

In fact everyone in our space has blogged about the death of and/or the rebirth of the press release (check out what my colleague Bob Geller has to say. Good stuff.). Regardless of the value of the debate, I think everyone is missing the point.

You know what Press Release? You can stay. Maybe we carve you up. Maybe you get shoved into a corner.

To quote from my favorite Russ Meyer flick: You really should be AM and FM, Press Release. You one-band broads are a drag!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why Mossberg is the Man

Today’s Wall Street Journal Personal Technology column is a clear reminder why Walt Mossberg is one of the biggest technology influencers out there. (Make sure to check out his video too)

Here he keys in on Congress and discusses the importance of rewriting copyright laws that also protect the consumer, based on the Viacom vs. Google (read YouTube)

In future entries I plan to discuss User Generated Content especially its potential impact on PR practice and strategy. But for now lets just say that copyright laws need to reflect the way that the public now creates, shares and consumes content.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Weakest Link(s)

I got my hair cut at this great Japanese Salon, Hair Mates, in midtown today. In addition to the awesome value added neck and scalp massage that comes FREE with every cut, they encourage reading magazines while they chop away. I was given the March edition of GQ which had a great article on multitasking and how we all suck at it (the men anyway).

Speaking of multitasking, I'm currently fighting a losing battle between client issues, staff training and new business proposals all with converging deadlines. As a result my fledgling blog suffers.

Here's a couple of articles that caught my attention today:

InfoWorld/Gates: We Need More Engineers
Bill Gates urged Congress yesterday to open the doors to highly educated foreign workers to
combat the “critical shortage of high tech workers"

Media Post/Online Video: Be Careful, Be Very, Very Careful
Interesting article by Ari Rosenberg, president of Performance Pricing on online video and the threat of Slingbox. Personally I don't think Slingbox is all that but still he makes some good points on why preroll isn't the way to go.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

(Spin) Doctor, Heal Thyself

As both professionals and an industry, we revel in our own mysteriousness. That’s why there’s so much confusion around how PR is defined.

Time and again I’m asked by friends, family or people I meet: “just what is it that you do again?” People not associated with a marketing profession have a hard time grasping what public relations is and isn’t. For that matter, many of us up to our necks in PR aren’t any wiser.

Advertising has it easy. People understand what an ad is and can connect the logical dots between images, copy writing and media buying. That’s because it’s sensory — as consumers we experience it everyday on TV, billboards, online and the radio. But we can say the same thing about PR . . . it’s all around us, all the time. With the exception of investigative journalism I seriously doubt that any story read, seen or heard today didn’t have someone behind the scenes pulling the strings. It’s just not overt. And yet take a sampling of people across a given PR agency and they’ll be hard pressed to give you a succinct or consistent definition of what we do.

For those of us who focus on B2B and vertical programs, PR activities seem pretty straightforward: media and analysts relations, contributed articles, speaking opportunities, quarterly newsletters, media training . . . but it’s not cut and dried.

For many clients PR stands for “Press Release” and that’s an incredibly shallow and ineffective way to look at things. But it’s a perception that has always been there. A perception that sets strategy, dictates expectation, and minimizes value into the form of a document and a deliverable. Our mediascape is changing and traditional methodologies with it. Will the majority of us be able to adapt to a world where slapping a strap line, quote and boiler plate together isn’t enough? If we want to survive through the next decade, we don’t have much of a choice.

An evolution in PR, caused by the globalization of information and how it’s consumed, is stretching our borders beyond our normal purview of media relations into other areas of the marketing mix. Lead generation, sales support, BLOGS, Wikis, market intelligence, SEO, YouTube and customer reference management have fallen squarely into our ill-defined bailiwick. This should be old news by now. Pundits across the Blogosphere and industry have been talking about this for awhile — articles on New Marketing and New PR come out everyday. It’s a fact: things are changing. For some it means the creation of niche specialists; mini, separate agencies each affecting the influencer pie in a unique way. For others it translates into growing the agency to encompass different things and increasing budgets with a new range of services.

Instead of trying to expand or fragment the definition of PR, we should begin redefining what it is that we do.

I for one don’t feel that as an industry we relate to the public. But we are doing some pretty radical things. We’re shaping influence across audiences and multiple mediums. We're opening new channels that target the individual as well as the mass market. We're creating groundswells of excitement through viral programs that never get published in a newspaper or magazine. We’re driving top and bottom line results behind specifically defined business objectives. We’re using sophisticated tools to reach further, track and measure effectiveness, and we’re building technology to make sure that our clients and their products and services are paid attention to and considered.

PR has an opportunity to rebrand itself. We should use that opportunity to further demonstrate our worth not only through new services and capabilities but to establish the fundamental necessity of what we bring to the table. Maybe we even do away with the letters 'P' and 'R' all together.

While we're at it, a nice, clear identity wouldn't hurt either.


Friday, March 02, 2007


If you've ever worked with engineers then you understand the genius of Scott Adams and Dilbert. He's recently done a cycle on PR and it's spot on. It's amazing how many clients try to be Richard Branson. If only we could be so lucky . . . .

Point of Departure?

So you decide to start blogging. How do you get it going? Do you need a point of departure or can you just dive in and start commenting?

There doesn't seem to be a rule of thumb. Bloggers go both ways. Some dig right in like Kevin Dugan and his excellent BLOG Strategic Public Relations, picking something relevant, easy to point to, and visual like Flickr. Others offer up lengthy mission statements, "About This Blog" sections or personal profiles.

Jeff Worio, a freelancer writing for Microsoft offers up a solid, if a little vanilla (it is for Microsoft after all), "how to" blogging guide for small business owners. He says you should just get started albeit with an aim for a fresh, unique take. One that provides a perspective that is heartfelt, compelling, and has the potential to help you market yourself and your business.

Me? I guess I copped-out by asking the question.

Who links to me?