Thursday, December 06, 2007

Economics Post!

I have economics degree from American University (go Eagles!) so I try to keep up with the latest economic news and I tend to view business and commerce through a more objective economist's viewpoint (well, I try anyway). Sometimes this is helpful and sometimes not so much...

Anyway, I read a really good, concise, easy to understand article in the WSJ just now on our current economics situation- credit crisis, slumping growth and all that. A subscription is required to read it (for now anyway). But go buy the dead tree version- you'll thank me.

Here is a juicy quote:

What's with all the gloom about the U.S. economy? The problem is that we have two problems. One is that the economy is slouching toward recession or, at best, slow growth. It's the consequence of falling house prices, higher energy prices, flagging consumers and shrinking profits.

The other is that the market for credit, the lifeblood of a modern economy, isn't functioning well. That problem is amplifying the pain caused by the first.

Just a few weeks ago, a lot of folks were arguing that the worst was behind us. Housing was still ailing. But after a big wallop, markets for credit seemed to be moving toward normalcy. The Federal Reserve ended its Oct. 31 meeting declaring that the "upside risks to inflation roughly balance the downside risks to growth." If Fed officials truly believed that then, they no longer do. They'll likely cut interest rates again on Tuesday. Only the most optimistic observers expect the U.S. economy to rebound quickly from its fourth-quarter slump. The argument now is between those forecasters who expect growth to be so slow in early 2008 that the unemployment rate climbs a little, and those who see a recession in which it climbs more.

In ordinary times, this would be unpleasant, but not so frightening. The Fed knows how to treat this condition: cut interest rates.

Sure, it's tough to get the timing right. And administering the remedy is more complicated with the dollar drooping and inflation returning to the Fed's agenda for the first time in years. Still, this is a familiar disease. Although the Fed has not and cannot abolish the business cycle, the U.S. has suffered from recession only 16 months in the past 25 years. (In the quarter-century before that, there were 64 months of recession.)

But these aren't ordinary times.

For years, banks and investors lent freely. They took big risks for surprisingly little reward (known as "low risk premiums" in the patois of the trade). Now, they're shunning risk. Big banks are reluctant to lend even to each other for more than a few days, and are hoarding cash. In a symptom that the financial fever hasn't broken, interest rates for one- and three-month loans among banks are up sharply. The Fed and the European Central Bank are now forced to consider the economic equivalent of alternative medicine.

"History," Alan Greenspan warned back in August 2005, "has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of prolonged periods of low risk premiums." He wasn't right about everything (and, yes, he may have contributed to today's problems by keeping rates so low for so long). But he was right about that.

Just a friendly update on today's world from your friendly neighborhood, amateur economist/PR blogger.

You may now return your attention to tonight's game between the great Chicago Bears and lowly Washington Redskins.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Walled Garden Crumbles...a little

Well, here is some interesting news...Google is having an influence already in the mobile industry. Verizon announced today that it will start allowing third party apps and any phones on its network and will reach out and open its network to developers.

Here is the story (WSJ- subscription required): Verizon Wireless to Offer Open Access to Network

Verizon has been known historically as the toughest carrier with regards to protecting its walled garden, so this is some pretty major news. Think Microsoft is excited? Check out their quote:
"Microsoft is very excited to see Verizon Wireless make such a bold move to satisfy the demands of wireless customers," said Peter Knook, head of the company's mobile communications business.

I've had a Microsoft Mobile powered phone (a XV6601) on Verizon for years now and have been a generally pleased costumer. Apple's genius at rolling out a average product with great design and great marketing is well-known. It continues to amaze me how slow Microsoft and its carrier partners are to trumpet the capabilities of its devices.

But Google announces Andriod...and wow, do things start to get moving.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving (Belated)

Hey y''s been a busy few weeks for me, so I spent the Thanksgiving weekend relaxing and it felt great.

Added to the joy was the satisfaction of seeing my op-ed article appear in the Bulldog Reporter, a great informative PR industry trade journal. As I mentioned in an earlier post, FEMA got in a lot of trouble over a fake press conference a while back. PR ain't rocket science- it seems to me they could head off a lot of problems by increasing their transparency and engaging their constituents and coalitions more often and more effectively

Anyhoo, here is a link to the article: Who Wants a FEMA Blog? The Time Has Come to Teach an Old Dog New Media Tricks Be sure to check out the good looking dude in the pic!

And...also adding to my good mood is the come-from-behind victory my beloved Chicago Bears pulled off yesterday over the Denver Broncos. Go Bears!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Web 2.0 Bubble? Reason #1

After reading my last post, I decided it's time to find some reasons the web 2.0 might be an unsustainable bubble.

Reason #1: not enough ad dollars to go around...

From StrategyEye (a newsletter I recommend subscribing too):

Publicis CEO Maurice Levy is warning that too many new media companies are relying on advertising for their business model, reports the FT. "Everyone is seeing advertising as the manna," says Levy. "Far too many people are building plans based on advertising and they may well be disappointed because there is not enough money for everyone." Levy likened the growth of web 2.0 businesses to that of internet companies prior to the dotcom bust. "Now everyone building a Web 2.0 operation believes he will receive the advertising," he says. IAC/InteractiveCorp chairman Barry Diller, meanwhile, says that Microsoft's USD240m investment for a 1.6% stake in Facebook reflected not as much a USD15bn valuation of the site, as a strategy by Microsoft to prevent Google from snatching the stake. "If it's real money it's insane," he says. Paris-based Publicis has made several acquisitions to boost its digital marketing portfolio in the past year, of which the largest deal was its takeover of Digitas in Dec 2006 for USD1.3bn.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Link to An Interesting Article

I couldn't find a more creative title than you'll just have to bear with me. I've been browsing through my feedreader and want to share an article I found interesting...

Steve Rubel has decided not to drink the Kool-aid. And I quote:

1) Study History - The history books are littered with manias (both financial and otherwise) that followed by reality setting in. The dot-com crash, of course, is only one. There are many others. Study them. Humans created human nature.

2) Diversify Your Sources of Information - God bless Techmeme. It does a fantastic job of tracking what the blogosphere is thinking about. But what if the global brain is dumb? Diversify your sources of information. Seek out those who at first you may disagree with. Nicholas Carr and Robert Cringley are two to start with. Find new blogs, ideally those written outside of SillyCon Valley and consider what they say.

3) Question Conventional Wisdom - Conventional wisdom is always right, right? Not. Read Freakonomics. If a lot of people start saying something is true, look behind the curtain and poke at what's there.

4) Don't Ignore Data - I didn't think it would ever matter, but my lack of love for math makes me wish I spent a little more time in school. Today, data rules. I am reading an awesome book on this subject called Super Crunchers. Skip what pundits are forecasting and look for hard trend data that shows how people are interacting with the Net. I keep a good collection here. Also take a look at Google Trends too. It conveys a lot about our interests. Notice how Second Life searches, for example, plummeted.

5) Talk to Real Humans - One of my favorite bloggers is Dwight Silverman. (I used to pitch Dwight during the Web 1.0 era.) Hailing from Houston, Dwight has seen many technologies come and go over the years. He constantly reminds me in public and private conversations to talk to real people - from Iowa or Planet Houston. When some of my colleagues started telling me to do the same, I got with the program. Do your sister or brother's friends Twitter? Probably not. Now that doesn't make it unimportant. Why? Because they all Google. Talk to both humans and geeks for broader perspective.

All very sensible stuff...a bid odd coming from the #1 Kool-Aid mixer and promoter, but hey, we'll take common sense wherever we can find it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

PR Pros Versus PR Flacks

I speak with marketing executives all the time about their horrible experiences with lazy PR flacks who think that PR is merely the act of blast emailing a press release to a list of editors and journalists. These marketing leaders complain endlessly about how the agency they pay is a bunch of order takers with no creativity or understanding of the marketplace.

Why is this important? Well, for one thing, editors and journalists love to hear from PR pros with a well thought out, well researched pitch that will resonate with their specific beat and tie into the current trends in the market.

Don't believe me? Then read what Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired, has to say:

Sorry PR people: you're blocked

So fair warning: I only want two kinds of email: those from people I know, and those from people who have taken the time to find out what I'm interested in and composed a note meant to appeal to that (I love those emails; indeed, that's why my email address is public).
I'm lucky to work for an agency, Strategic Communications Group (mind the plug), that does things the right way. We don't have a bullpen of twenty-somethings banging away on their keyboards mindlessly, spamming the tech journalists of the world. Which is why our companies email address is not Chris's list of PR flacks...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wanna Get Fired? Stage A Fake Press Conference!

You really have to hand it to the fine folks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Two years after the massive destruction of Hurricane Katrina exposed the incompetence and disorganization at DHS in general and FEMA in particular, FEMA had been getting its act together and by all accounts acquitted itself alright in response to the southern California fires over the last few weeks. Now, we find out that these geniuses decided to organize a fake press conference.

oh. my. god.

From Time:

FEMA held a press conference on Oct. 23 to respond to fake questions about the real wildfires in California. Here's how it happened: Real reporters were only notified 15 minutes in advance, so all they could reasonably do was call in to a conference line. But the line was set to "listen-only" mode, so asking questions was out of the question. Only the people there — a group consisting almost entirely of FEMA public affairs employees — could grill FEMA representatives.

None of this was disclosed by Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator of FEMA, who dutifully responded to the softballs from his underlings (i.e. "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?") as if they were real.

To his credit, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff lambasted FEMA after the story broke in the Washington Post several days later. "I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government," Chertoff said. "I have made unambiguously clear, in Anglo-Saxon prose, that it is not to ever happen again and there will be appropriate disciplinary action taken against those people who exhibited what I regard as extraordinarily poor judgment."

From MSNBC's First Read:
John P. "Pat" Philbin, the now former FEMA director of external affairs who participated in FEMA's fake press conference last week by posing as a reporter and asking a question, has reported to work today at the Director of National Intelligence headquarters in Washington, according to a DNI official.

Philbin was tapped to take over as the head of public affairs for Director of National Intelligence Admiral Mike McConnell before the controversy erupted. But now his new job could be in jeopardy. "He is in meetings" and those who hired Philbin "are looking into the situation," the DNI official said.

*** UPDATED *** Philbin will NOT be director of public affairs for Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

Philbin was hired to be Director of Public Affairs for the Director of National Intelligence before the fake FEMA news conference ever happened. His first day was always scheduled to be today.

But when he showed up to work today, instead of being sworn in, he went straight into meetings with DNI officials

Now, according to the DNI statement just released, Philbin will not be taking over the job. The statement does not say why, but privately DNI officials say the feeling at DNI headquarters was there was no way he could assume public affairs duties after what happened at FEMA.

Statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:
"We do not normally comment on personnel matters. However, we can confirm that Mr. Philbin is not, nor is he scheduled to be, the Director of Public Affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."

This is a satellite shot of FEMA personnel's careers going up in smoke...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Walt Mossberg Raises the Red Flag of Revolution

A colleague of mine pointed out to me an interesting blog post by Walt Mossberg this morning:
A shortsighted and often just plain stupid federal government has allowed itself to be bullied and fooled by a handful of big wireless phone operators for decades now. And the result has been a mobile phone system that is the direct opposite of the PC model. It severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cellphone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer.

Up until the 1970s, when the federal government intervened, you weren’t allowed to buy your own landline phone, and companies weren’t able to innovate, on price or features, in making and selling phones to the public. All Americans were forced to rent clumsy phones made by a subsidiary of the monopoly phone company, AT&T, which claimed that, unless it controlled what was connected to its network, the network might suffer.

Well, the government pried that market open, and the wired phone network not only didn’t collapse, it became more useful and versatile, allowing, among other things, cheap connections to online data services.

I suspect that if the government, or some disruptive innovation, breaks the crippling power that the wireless carriers exert today, the free market will deliver a similar happy ending.
At the SIIA Changing Landscape seminar on mobility last month, D. P. Venkatesh pointed out that Apple is a odd choice to lead the anti-oligarchy charge. It's model is based on it owning the entire software stack to the exclusion of anyone else. Although, Apple just announced that they will eventually allow third party programs, this seems like too little to late. After all, my three year old PocketPC (on Verizon, widely acknowledged as the "worst" carrier in terms of openness) easily allows third party applications.

Now, switching it from one carrier to another might prove a challenge...

However, Walt's economic instincts are correct. More competition will bring more innovation, and greater value at lower prices. And you can bet that the carriers will fight tooth and nail to prevent that from happening...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More Proof for the Power of PR

As far as I'm concerned, the real utility of public relations is the simple act of getting a third party to vouch for your client and help validate his/her message to the audience. All the things that PR firms do boil down to this one simple act. Positioning, branding and purple cows, etc just increase the likelihood and/or persuasiveness of that validation.

There are any number of scientific studies showing how people tend to believe those perceived to be experts. Gartner, Forrester and any number of think tanks have whole businesses based on this insight.

Now it seems, people tend to be persuaded by mere gossip as well.

Study: Gossip Trumps Truth

People are influenced by gossip about others, even when it contradicts what they see with their own eyes, suggests a new study.

Past research has found that gossip—those juicy tidbits of supposed fact we share about a third party—serves many purposes, including strengthening social ties, spreading social norms and helping others avoid double-crossers and other risky partners.

Hearsay can be the most reliable source of information about situations with which you have no experience. But when you hear gossip that's incongruent with a person or incident you are familiar with, you'd be smart to throw that chitchat out the window in favor of your own direct knowledge, right?

The new study, published this week online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals individuals sometimes place so much stock in gossip that they accept it as true even if their own observations and experiences suggest otherwise.

I've read some interesting articles about how blogs are rated at the top of the trustworthy scale, along with analysts, scientists and reporters. This fact seemed a little out of whack to me, but after reading about the influence of gossip it seems to make more sense...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Apple PR Crisis?

Everyone knows that Apple has been on a tear since 2001 or so. First the iPods sell like gangbusters and now the iPhone is one of the most remarkable product launches in a long while. Apple seems to have dodged a number of bad PR bullets during this time, but due to the strength of their whole brand (products, design, customer interactions, stores, history), nothing has done much damage.

Now, not being green may hurt. Apple's brand has a strong dose of counter-culture, lefty, hipster to it. Getting attacked by Greenpeace cuts the core of how their customers feel about Apple and how they feel when buying Apple's message. It'll be interesting to see how Apple's PR team responds to this...

From StrategyEye:
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace is attacking the iPhone and claims by Apple CEO Steve Jobs that his company is committed to environmentally friendly business practices. Greenpeace has released a video clip showing the deconstruction and analysis of an iPhone, demonstrating that the device contains toxic brominated compounds, possibly including hazardous brominated flame retardant compounds, as well as environmentally harmful PVCs. In addition, Greenpeace says the pthalates found in iPhone headphone cables are banned from all toys in Europe and questioned the environmental commitment of the firm in the lead up to the iPhone's European launch. The report also notes that analysis of other handsets showed that no PVC chemicals were found in Nokia phones and that Sony and Motorola devices showed a commitment to removing brominated flame retardants.

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Event with the SIIA- Security

As I mentioned a while back, I've partnered with the Software and Information Industry Association ( to develop a series of events that will take a look at the transformational changes occurring right now in three critical areas. Each of these areas are wrestling with dramatic change that is raising technology, regulatory, and cultural issues while generating tremendous business opportunities and creating real value for customers. Each of these events will spotlight panelists with differing perspectives on all of these issues as well as give insight into what the future might look like given today’s trends.

Our next roundtable will shed light on issues and trends in the changing landscape of security. Enterprises are wrestling with a variety of ever growing challenges such as identity management, mobile security, managed security services, and regulations (Sarb-Ox, FISMA, HSPD-12). We'll take a practical look at how these challenges are being addressed by enterprises.

Panelists: Dipto Chakravarty, Vice President of Engineering for Identity and Security Management, Novell (Confirmed)

Lyall Venatta, VP Marketing, Sigaba (Confirmed)

Paul Innella, CEO, Tetrad Digital Integrity (Confirmed)

Moderator: Jeff Majka, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Strategic Communications Group

Date: October 24 2007
Time: 8am to 10am
Location: SIIA DC office, 1090 Vermont Avenue, 6th Floor, Washington DC
Attendees: 30-40 people
Registration Fee: SIIA members $20/non-members $40

Click here to register:

Respect My Authority!

Watch out people! My Technorati Authority number is now 6. Boo Yaah!

Since my credibility is now un-impeachable, earlier this morning I proclaimed the coming energy crisis to be over, even though crude oil prices are spiking up over $85 today.

I never thought I'd be proven correct so soon, but, woops, here is the proof:

Pentagon Promotes Space-Based Solar Power Effort
A new report from the Pentagon's National Security Space Office (NSSO) postulates that space-based solar-power platforms could begin fulfilling planetary demand for electricity by 2050. The report noted that while significant challenges remain, the technologies for making extraterrestrial relay stations a reality "are more executable than ever before and current technological vectors promise to further improve its viability."And then there's this jaw-dropper: "According to the NSSO's Space-Based Study Group, a single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today." (bold added)


This takes a bit of the sting out Da Bears horrific loss yesterday to the Minnesota Vikings. Da Bears gave up 311 yards rushing to the Vikes.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Busy Bee! And Alisher Usmanov...

I read a very interesting story on Slate this morning ("Civil Disobedience on the Web") and immediately thought I'd blog on the subject. I pulled up my blog in my trusty Firefox browser and realized I haven't posted since September 26. Gulp.

Definitely a violation of some sort of blogger apologies to all. I've been working on three, count 'em, three, events that'll I'll tell you all about in the coming week or two, as well as working on a number of interesting new deals. On top of all that, I'm working on website redesign and editing video footage of our last event with the SIIA. Busy bee!

So anyway...due to the rather vicious and broad nature of the libel law in the UK, it's very easy for the well connected and rich to sue, and win, libel cases against the press. This state of affairs has started to experience some changes as bloggers have started to challenge some of London's less than savory billionaire immigrants, including one Alisher Usmanov, a bad, bad man from Uzbekistan.

The next case is more telling for the breadth of its reach and the greater uproar it entrained. It involves Uzbek-Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, No. 142 on Forbes' list of the world's richest people, who has acquired a stake in British soccer team Arsenal. Usmanov is one shady character: In the 1980s he was jailed for a variety of crimes, including fraud, but he was granted a full pardon—and reclassified as a Soviet political prisoner—upon Mikhail Gorbachev's assumption of the premiership.

Some bloggers wrote some not so nice things about Mr. Usmanov, who promtly sued...the ISP's that hosted the bloggers. Apparently, in the UK, hosting providers can be held liable for the speech of the people who use their service, as in the USA. These ISP's promptly caved and shut off the offending blogs. Uproar insued.

Read the whole article here:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Microsoft Buying Yahoo?

I've felt strongly for a number of years that Microsoft has to make some bold strategic acquisitions. My family were all Kodak employees at one point or another. The Kodak Lesson, for me, is that high margin, high market share companies suffer from the same disease: no one wants to kill the the golden goose. Risk adverse, they let the market and more innovative companies (and technologies) pass them by. Kodak is a great example of this- my Dad told me a story that he saw a prototype of a Kodak branded 3 megapixel digital camera in 1982- they shelved it because it was a threat to the film business.

Microsoft has exhibited a lot of these risk adverse, self defeating behaviors. However, along with the rumors that they were going to invest in Facebook, this might be good news...

From StrategyEye this morning:
Microsoft is rumoured to be considering making a public offer for Yahoo! if it isn't successful in its bid for a Facebook stake, according to the New York Post. The Murdoch-owned US paper claims that the software giant has thought about bidding publicly for the search engine for some months, after former Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel rebuffed all efforts to buy the company. It was hoped a public offer could stimulate shareholder interest, which would in turn put pressure on the management of the search giant to sell. Microsoft has USD21bn in cash available to spend, and is reportedly in talks with Facebook to acquire a stake in the social network, which Microsoft values at USD10bn. But, the New York newspaper claims, it is not willing to buy into both the social network and the search engine, given that it has already spent USD6bn this year buying aQuantive, and so is currently weighing up the two acquisition options.
On the other hand, the cynical angel on my shoulder asks, "so how long would it take to integrate Microsoft and Yahoo, fifty years or so?"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Web Based Video Games?

Here is an interesting development. Everyone knows that console video games are a huge business. Now, Barry Diller and IAC/InterActiveCorp want to serve them over the web. I'm rather sceptical that "console quality" will be anything better than the game sites currently available now. But Barry is a pretty sharp cat....right?

Diller's IAC Pulls Trigger on Videogame Venture

In a challenge to the videogame establishment, Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp said on Tuesday it will launch an Internet service that it claims will offer the first “Web-delivered gaming system.”

IAC said the service will use peer-to-peer technology to render browser-based computer games with graphics that approach those in high-end consoles, such as Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 3.

IAC’s announcement follows the company’s two-year effort to buy a gaming company, which culminated in its stealth investment in Eugene, Oregon-based GarageGames in the first quarter.

Mr. Diller’s company said GarageGames’ P2P technology will be wrapped into a new IAC unit called InstantAction, which will serve up a variety of in-house and third party web-based video games.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Changing Landscape of Mobile

Hi all. I've partnered with the Software and Information Industry Association ( to produce a series of events that will take a look at the transformational changes occurring right now in three critical areas. Each of these areas are wrestling with dramatic change that is raising technology, regulatory, and cultural issues while generating tremendous business opportunities and creating real value for customers. Each of these events will spotlight panelists with differing perspectives on all of these issues as well as give insight into what the future might look like given today’s trends.

The first event will be very informative and will focus on the changes in the wireless industry and the impact that mobility is having on consumers, enterprises and marketers. We've scheduled two other events: one on security (Oct 25) and one on enterprise software (Nov 13). Look for those invitations down the road.

I’ve included the event information below. If you’d like to attend, please visit

“The Changing Landscape: Mobile”

Panelists: Leslie Poole, CEO, Javien Digital Payments
Gregg Smith, CEO, Acuity Mobile
Rich Carlson, CEO, Wireless Matrix
D. P. Venkatesh, CEO, mPortal

Jeff Majka, Strategic Communications Group

Date: September 25, 2007

Time: 8am to 10am

Location: SIIA DC office, 1090 Vermont Avenue, 6th Floor, Washington DC

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Labor Day Is Over...Back to Work

I recorded a podcast at BlogTalkRadio a few weeks ago. It's an interview with Samir Gulati the Vice President of Marketing for Appian (, a builder of Business Process Management software solutions based here in Tysons Corner, VA. Samir shares his secrets on how to implement a successful marketing campaign. He got his start with General Electric back in the day so he really knows his stuff.

If you are a marketing executive, I recommend listening to Samir's insight here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"This is Not a Brothel"

It's the summer doldrums, but I want to share with you Tom Coates' post on the frustrations of being emailed mountains of press releases by crappy PR people.

"This Is Not A Brothel"

I just spent a hour reading through some of Tom's posts- very thoughtful and well written. He's obviously not a big fan of PR, and feels that it is borderline immoral. It's amazing to me how many people think PR is nothing more than sending out press releases, and that's it. I can tell that of all the work we do for our clients, maybe 8% is writing press releases. I can also say that PR agencies that cut corners and merely mass email a press release are wasting their clients' time and money, and soon go out of business. (Hopefully)

It's also amazing to me how many people confuse advertising and PR, not understanding the difference between paid and earned media. To my mind, PR is better than advertising is that a pitch as least has to pass through a screen of "bullshit" detectors, whether they be reporters or bloggers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kicking Babies

As you have probably read, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is suing the American Red Cross (ARC) for using its trademarked red cross without authorization. You can read J&J's press release here. Apparently, J&J has owned the for-profit rights to the logo and the ARC has owned the non-profit rights for ages. The trouble apparently started when the ARC started licensing the symbol to merchandisers as a way to raise more capital. Mike Masnic at Techdirt has a nice take on the situation from a PR front.

Obviously, suing the Red Cross is not an action that is going to endear you to the public. But given that negotiations failed and the legal wants to press ahead, J&J's PR folks seem to have rubbed the rough edges off of what could have been/might be a spikey situation. In addition to the normal crisis communications/legal PR program, they created a blog to communicate their position to the ongoing conversation:

You got to love to tone of the post: "You're Doing What?" Be sure to read the comments. Again, admire J&J's willingness to let people savage them on their own blog. I love the one where a nurse describes her elderly mother calling J&J "a bunch of puppy kickers."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Google's 20% Policy

Kind of a busy day for a Tuesday in August, here in DC. I did read a very interesting blog I'd like to share about the guy at Google, Chris Wetherell, who had the original idea behind the Google Reader. To me, this is a great example of creativity in action and the kind of innovation that Google's 20% policy is driving.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Nardelli is back for more

Shifting gears (!) a little from my normal topics, I was interested to read about Bob Nardelli accepting a management post at Chrysler. You may remember ole' Bob as the guy who, while CEO of Home Depot, pissed off the shareholders by refusing to answer questions during the annual meeting and (more importantly) generating flat returns on the stock price. Known as an operations guy at GE, he mis-extended Home Depot into the wholesale market and lost traction again Lowes. After getting fired for all that, it was revealed that he had negotiated a nice $210 million severance package for himself.

All in all, not the greatest PR a guy could get. People spent the better part of a month flagellating the guy. I just assumed he'd buy a house in the Hamptons and do whatever really rich people do: sail a boat, marry a younger woman, whatever...don't get me wrong, it's not his fault Home Depot agreed to this monstrous severance package, he is certainly entitled to enjoy the fruits of his "labor".

But you have to give this guy credit, here is today at a press conference talking about his plans for turning around Chrysler. Quite a bold move for a guy with a bulls eye on his back. Of course, now, the only shareholder he has to deal with is Cerberus, a private equity firm.

Here is the Wall Street Journal's take on the deal:

Monday, July 30, 2007


I've been doing a little research on widgets. Yes, you read that right. Widgets are the little pieces of code that can be easily shared among various social media sites, networks, blogs, etc. A widget can be merely a bit of static content, a functionality, a dynamically generated feed, or practically anything else you can think of. Apparently, the widgitized web is going to be the future of the online experience.

So, like I said, I've been doing a little research and a little experimentation. I've added two widgets to this blog on the left hand side: one neatly allows my dear readers to send me a complimentary text message to my cell phone, the other is a non-standard, but Google based search box that allows me dear readers to search for their favorite content on the site. I found both of these widgets at WidgetBox.

Of course, my fear is that too many widgets will lead to too much clutter. I've always been a believer that the key to an enjoyable web experience is a clean, uncluttered, easy to read screen. Mmmmm. So what are your thoughts? Too many widgets, just the right amount, or not enough?

(Next: Jeff Twitters!)

Measuring Influence

I found this post by Roy Young on MarketingProfs (How Many Are You Reaching and Who Are They?) that I found interesting. I talk with a lot of marketing professionals about public relations. Often, the subject of measurement or benchmarks arises. Most often, the discussion revolves around traditional PR output like releases, case studies, placements and analyst reports. However, I always tie a proposed PR campaign to a company's sales goals, profitability target or overall valuation.

To me, whether or not you achieve the business case is the only true measurement of the effectiveness of a public relations campaign. Anything else smacks of insider navel gazing.

Now, marketers have spent a lot of time quantifying paid media for good reason. It's much easier to generate good data for a media buy or a direct mail campaign. It's easier to make a direct connection between one's actions and the movement of the needle. Certainly, one of driving forces behind the massive investment in online advertising over the past few years, has been the huge reams of data it generates.

However, as the online advertising machine bumps up against user generated communities, it becomes harder to draw a cause-effect relationship. As Roy says,

...for emerging media, you may have to be satisfied with qualitative measures of impact. At least for now. After all, if you have two readers of your blog, and those two readers have the first name of Steve (Balmer and Jobs), your blog may be far more influential than another blog on technology with thousands of readers.
Food for thought on a Monday morning!

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Changing Landscape: Enterprise

I've been busy over the last few weeks developing a series of events in partnership with the Software and Information Industry Association ( that will take a look at the transformations occurring right now in three critical areas. Each of these areas (enterprise, mobile and security) are wrestling with dramatic change that is raising technology, regulatory, and cultural issues while generating tremendous business opportunities and creating real value for customers. Each of these events will feature insight from panelists with differing perspectives on all of these issues as well as peek into what the future might look like given today’s trends.

The first panel discussion (scheduled for next Tuesday morning) will cover the issues and trends in the changing landscape of enterprise software. Such issues include SaaS, outsourcing, integration complexity, Oracle's acquisition spree, Google's new SaaS app package, etc. A special focus will also be on the impact of change among government enterprises.

If you are going to be around the DC area, please click on the link below and register!

The SIIA Changing Landscape Series: Enterprise

Panelists: Tony DeSomma, Vice President, Oracle Public Sector Practice, BearingPoint

Tom Mazur, VP Government Sales, Lagan

Gary Golding, Edison Venture Fund

Moderator: Jeff Majka, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Strategic Communications Group

Date: July 31, 2007

Time: 8am to 10am

Location: SIIA DC office, 1090 Vermont Avenue, 6th Floor, Washington DC

Attendees: 50 people

Registration Fee: SIIA members $20/non-members $40

Please register here:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Enterprise Amnesia? Jeff Jones wrote about an interesting concept about the short comings of today's model of the enterprise back in June. The title of this post was "Why Faster Systems Can Make Organizations Dumber Faster."Apparently, despite all the many, many software and hardware products designed to make enterprises smarter, there is a gap between what a company knows and what it can act on.

As Jeff says,
"This problem – an inability to locate and act upon what one knows – is getting worse because faster systems are producing information substantially faster than traditional sensemaking algorithms (using these same fast systems) can keep up."
He futher explains what will be needed to close the gap,
"And, if you have been following my blog, this will come as no surprise. Enterprise intelligence is going to have everything to do with such things as semantic reconciliation, persistent context, discoverability, perpetual analytics and incremental learning. All in real time, of course."
Compare this forward thinking problem solving with the news out last Friday in Government Executive:

"Pentagon Still Burdened With Multiple Back-Office Systems"

Right out of the Tofflers' book "Revolutionary Wealth": the speed gap between society and government is going to be a drag on the development of both.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Facebook vs. LinkedIn?

It's amazing how much press, blog posts and chatter Facebook has generated over the last few months. I remember reading an article about Facebook a couple of years ago, but the site seemed like a myspace knock off. It always goes to show the value of clean, usable web design and a well thought out business plan.

But now Facebook has leaped out of the tweeny and college crowd and into the business world. Most business contacts I have use LinkedIn, as I do. Back in May, both Robert Scoble and ValleyWag have sniffed out a coming battle between Facebook and LinkedIn over business networking.

For my money, however, since both companies have opened up their networks to third party API's, it makes waaaay more sense to connect then that way, rather than one company buy the other. Of course, Google and a $5B check might make "the best thing to do" irrelevant.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Three Little Blogs: A Cautionary Tale is a great post by Michele Cepeda at I highly recommend it if you are getting into blogging, as I am. I always like my constructive criticism to come in the form of humor.

Which blog am I? Jeez, I'm not even off Blogspot yet! And I'm still building up to a two-times a week post pace...

Friday, July 13, 2007

I hope you all had a wonderful July Fourth week last week. I spent the big day at the Washington Nationals game. The Nats won 6-0 over the Cubs. As a childhood White Sox fan, and now Nats fan, this result made me very, very happy.

Another thing that has been making me happy recently is the explosion of interest in Facebook. It's been increasingly clear that MySpace just isn't going to the networking platform of the future. Too much spam for one thing. Facebook has its limitations too, but now that they have opened their platform to outside developers and VC money is flowing to find small app ideas, I foresee a lot of these limitations being addressed.

In the end, though, someone needs to combine all these different networking platforms into one meta, uber service. I'd like to get my Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn networks to work with each other which preserving the "separateness" of each part of life and each group of contacts.

Here is an interesting article in Time written by a 35+ old like me who has mixed feelings about social media and networking sites.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The iPhone is coming! The iPhone is coming!

Well, is the damn thing any good?...according to Walt Mossberg it is...

(I had a video but it's not playing in blogger. Grrr.)

Here is his text review.

I've had a Pocket PC for a number of years and the only complaints I've had are the short battery life and low volume (speaking and ringing). My phone is four years old so I'm do for a new one. Hmmm...perhaps an iPhone might do (eight hours of talk time!!)

Here is what the NY Times has to say about the iPhone.

Lastly, read about USA Today's positive review. Either this phone really is that good, or Apple's PR team deserves a round of applause for a job well done.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I spent Friday morning at the Digital Media Conference at the AFI Theater is scenic downtown Silver Spring. What an interesting show! I can't think of a technology segment undergoing such radical change as digital media. One phrase I heard really stuck in my mind, "Now, it’s no longer two eyeballs and a screen, it’s two eyeballs and three screens." That's a quote from Joe Bates, director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Newspapers, music, film, tv are all being impacted by technology change and the subversion of their traditional business models.

Not new news exactly...but the pace of change seems to be gathering momentum.

There is a nice summary of the event here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A couple of interesting tidbits I found interesting. Well, interesting enough to share with my vast readership...

Second, the confluence of digital media and the mobile device seems to be reaching a white-hot level of growth. I've been a happy owner of of broadband enabled PocketPC for quite some time now, but with, the rollout of the iPhone and other consumer focused broadband phones, I think the platform is there for both paid and advertising-driven content companies to drive an extraordinary amount of revenue.

Here is the chart from eMarketer, if you don't totally believe everything I write on this blog:

I'll be spending some time this Friday at the Digital Media Conference in lovely Silver Spring, MD. I'm looking forward to hearing from the experts how this exploding market is going to evolve, who the winners will be and when will I be able to just implant an iPhone in my brain and let Steve Jobs control me remotely.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

After spending a week or so not reviewing BeeTooBee, I finally got around to checking out the site. There are a number of good articles on the site.

I found this article "Why PR Doesn't Work and How to Fix It" particularly interesting.

But there doesn't seem to be all that much traffic and I wonder how long the site will last if it doesn't generate enough content from its users. Social media sites get stale fast if they are not growing a breakneck speed.

Friday, June 01, 2007

One of my colleagues here at Strategic Communications Group brought to my attention a website called BeeTooBee. Apparently it is a Digg like social media site but targeted at B2B marketers.

(Get it!)

I'll be checking it out over the weekend and I'll let you know how I find it...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

There was a very interesting webinar this morning organized by Washington Technology magazine and featuring Ray Bjorkland of FedSources.

Here is couple of tidbits I found interesting:
  • there will be fewer government opportunities over the next few years but those that exist will be bigger
  • it is increasingly important to get on an IDIQ contract or get on an existing team
  • pure A-76 contracts will be rare, but mostly used for small scale staff augmentation deals
  • the impact of the 2008 election will be minimal until the 2009 budget due to the length of the government budgeting cycle (well....duh)
  • eGov initiatives seem to have broad based bi-partisan support and won't see much change over the next few years
  • IPv6 is not a high risk change for government, but poses a huge managerial and cultural challenge. Will the government develop and implement a viable plan for all the ancillary changes that need to be addressed? Still up the in air.
  • there a strong resurgence of interest and budgets in health IT. Electronic health records are driving budget growth as well as funds to directly support warfighter and veterans
  • there will be increasing collaboration among government agencies, ie IWIN with DOJ/DHS. However, in the end, most contracts of this sort tend to get driven by one or another of the agencies involved.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Happy Monday Morning! I read a very interesting article ("Political Device Goes Corporate"-registration required) in the Wall Street Journal on political campaign operatives moving from the political world to the corporate world. Aside from this article being a nice promotional piece for the Republican staffers fleeing the sinking ship to set up their own consultancies, there are some interesting points made.

Sara Taylor, the marketer highlighted in the article, claims that she has refined traditional database marketing under the pressure of modern political campaign.

"Microtargeting lets you pinpoint not only the issue an individual cares most about, but also what it is about the issue that is most likely to motivate the person to support a candidate," Ms. Taylor says. "That could be true of a corporation's products too."
Another benefit is that she and her peers have squeezed the slowness out of ordinary market segmentation due to the short timeline of a campaign.

At first blush, this seems like a great thing. Who wouldn't like to save money by having one's market analysis done in record time! After all, I'm sure she bills hourly...but with this efficiency comes some cut corners.

In politics, unfortunately, a candidate only needs 50% plus one of the voters with a single call to action on one day every couple of years. Negative messages (fear, doubt and uncertainty) are effective at rallying your supporters and discouraging your opponents. One doesn't care if you piss of the other 50%- in fact, that's a good thing!

Corporate marketers have higher ambitions than 50% of the marketplace. And this (hopefully) higher share must be continuously induced to all sorts of calls to action on a sometimes daily basis. Add in all sorts of legal restrictions and liabilities and the corporate marketers job starts to seem harder and harder.

Something I think Sara will learn very early on in her corporate marketing did these former politicos when they botched the WalMart engagement for Edelman.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A very interesting post from B.L. Ochman's blog:

"Study: 82% of Americans Trust Social Media Before Corporate Sites"

While corporate web sites are obviously full of self serving hot air, I'm a little surprised with the 82% number. That's a lot. Social media, to me, is a very interesting medium with a lot of potential but full of biased, barely credible people. It's very interesting that most people are looking to online social networks as a source of information.

Again, this is another data point to support the theory that public relations will become more and more important as companies lose their grip on the mass communications techniques that served them so well for the last 50 odd years.

And then we read about "Blogola" from the Wall Street Journal. Will the pendulum swing too far and destroy the credibility that social media seems to inherently have? Seems possible...
Whew, I step away from the blog for a few seconds to get some work done, and almost two weeks go by. Bad blogger, bad.

However, I have been busy. I recorded an audio podcast with Charles Gold. Charles is the Senior Director of Worldwide Marketing for DataDirect Technologies. DataDirect focuses on providing data connection and mainframe integration services. Charles was very generous to spend some time talking about the challenge of marketing mainframe services, volunteering on the advisory boards of startups and the impact of social media in his marketing mix (psst: not much yet, but studying best practices now...)

You can find a link to the audio file at Strategic's Straight to the Point media library.

BTW, if you haven't taken a look at Blogtalkradio, please do. It is a free online service that allows anyone to set up a radio talk show program. The audio files are hosted at Blogtalkradio so there is no editing, no need to purchase microphones or no tricky audio editing software. Just call in.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

As part of my company's new marketing campaign, I've been sitting down with local marketing leaders to pick their brains. My goal has been to develop content that can serve as valuable information, tips, inside scoop and help guides for fellow marketing peers.

My interview with Toni Lee Rudnicki is posted below. Here I'd like to share a video podcast I shot with Mark Root, Executive Director of Corporate Communications at ManTech International. ManTech is a publicly traded (NASDAQ:MANT) IT and technical services firm serving federal government customers. Mark has some very interesting and enlightening nuggets to share about the "how, where, when and why" of government marketing.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Yikes, bloggers have their own magazine, called Blogger and Podcaster.

USAToday turns itself into a giant blog, so these folks turn around and head in the other direction. Hmmmm.

I'm all in favor of niche-y trade mags (I work for a B2B PR agency!) but is this pub really necessary. Aren't all the really active bloggers already conversing with each other?


Friday, April 27, 2007

So, by popular demand, I'm going to carve out to time today to actually post on this blog. We spend a lot of time counseling our clients on the pros and cons of blogging. The number one negative? Finding the time to post consistently!


In lieu of anything intelligent to say, I'm do the next best thing a let a true marketing star take the stage. Toni Lee Rudnicki is the Chief Marketing Officer for iDirect, a satellite and network services company. She recently sat down with me for a short interview on how she developed a marketing plan to address to business challenges her firm faces.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Earlier in March I pulled together an event with the local chapter of the American Marketing Association on the impact of "social media" in the government space. The general feeling of the panelists was that the government market was going to be particularly slow in adapting blogs, wikis, twitter and whatnot.

Now there is a McKinsey report profiled on BusinessWeek that shows that corporations in the private sector remain reluctant to embrace "social media." My feeling is that companies and government will do a little experimental toe dipping here and there, but most will stay behind the curve for a while more.

If even a master PR guy like Steve Rubel can get in trouble and have to apologize, imagine how much fear some traditional minded corporate executives are going to have.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's always interesting to me how the government and it's technology needs interact with the private sector, especially the VC driven tech community. Something like the Internet only occurred because of an long term partnership between government and private companies (and non-profits like universities). But each respective culture couldn't be more different and thus prone to miscommunication.

So here is an article by Irving Berger entitled "The Web and The Long, 'Soft' War" on AlwaysOn. I know he doesn't claim to speak for any particular group, but, to me, Irving's comments are a good insight into perceptions of government by the "tech community."

As I work for a PR agency with a big chunk of clients who are private sector companies selling into the government, we often say that we are translating commercial value propositions into compelling messages tailored for a government purchaser's specific needs. Too often, commercial technology vendors approach the government with a ROI message looking to make a quick buck. These companies often fail to grow their business. It good to read that Irving understands the strengths of government (at times, a long term outlook) as well as it's obvious shortcomings (ponderous slowness and political interference).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This is a really interesting talk that Seth Godin gave to the folks at Google last year which I just recently discovered on Google Video. Seth is the author of "All Marketers Are Liars". Seth is, of course, a very, very good marketer.

According to IDC, tech companies are going to increase spending on marketing by 8% this year over last.

IDC forecasts 8% increase in tech marketing spending

The story in B2B Online points out that IDC surveyed 40 senior marketing executives. I'm no statistical genius but what kind of margin of error do you get with a sample size of 40...50% plus or minus?