Thursday, August 31, 2006

Here Comes the Rain Again

The specters of the not-too distant past haunt me. The rain is coming back. I can’t believe it. Nothing like a little Ernesto induced insecurity.

It probably won’t be that bad this time. The ground is drier; it hasn’t rained for two weeks straight. One can only hope.

Nevertheless, I will be at home monitoring the storm, making sure, watching. To do anything differently would be foolish. Wilmington, NC has already gotten 6.5 inches. When the flood hit, we had recorded 10inches in 24 hours with already saturated earth. Buying my sand bags tomorrow morning.

You have to wonder why Fairfax County government hasn’t enacted any short-term or long term initiatives to protect this community. Would it be the same if this was Great Falls? Has the Bridge project thought ahead and removed their barges? Let us hope, let us pray that storm is merciful this time.

Not a great business week, two new extensions from clients, a cool campaign, and vote of confidence from an existing client that experienced a management change. But I got a no-go (more of a wait and see) on one of the larger deals I’ve been waiting on.

How frustrating. It’s making me gnash my teeth. Nothing drives me into a bad mood faster than a loss. I am already back up and swinging at the plate. If it was easy, everyone would start their own company. I've got the fortitude, the hunger, the drive and the capability. I'm not giving up. Flood, fire, lose,win. I'm staying. Besides, I like the boss more. Save This Page

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Marketing Impact on Blogs, Web 2.0

Increasingly I find my professional life entwined with Web 2.0 promotion. In fact, I am now working on three different paid for projects that involve blogging or other Web 2.0 media in some way.

I know a lot of bloggers feel protective of the space. They feel blogging is an independent medium that should never be affected by special interests. Hmm, wasn’t that James Madison’s argument in the Federalist Papers essay # 10? Unfortunately for us, Madison was referring to our federal government and not blogs. Too late on the first account, and given the capitalist nature of the world, blogs will be the increasing focus of marketing professionals.

Much can be said about the use of media to affect opinion. Newspapers and other news media claim to be independent. As a PR professional, I would argue they are more likely semi-autonomous. The influence of spin is significant, and thought many of the major media outlets and journalists like to claim autonomy, they still miss the boat frequently. In fact, one would argue that blogs are this successful simply because people sense a lack of authenticity when reading news.

Why do marketing execs want a piece of blog nation? Why is it so important? Marketing Slave wrote up an interesting summary of a recent Jupiter report on blogging. The essence is that people trust actual product users more than any other media. 77 percent to be exact.

But wait… the taint of marketing begins to fall upon blogs. Check this quote out from the blog entry:

“Riley said word of mouth, defined as online conversations, between two people that know each other is the most trustworthy method to gain information, but it’s losing trust because many strangers are entering the conversation.”

Interesting. Very interesting. As a marketer, I think that we need to be very careful about our approach to promotion through blogging. One must assume that if enough blogs are compromised the medium suffers. I suppose eventually this is inevitable. Then the reader must become discerning, selecting blogs that can be trusted.

As a blogger, I am very hesitant to cite other people’s stuff, unless I think it has merit. I actually think that’s why people may read this thing. The message is clear to me. Blogs for promotion need to offer value to their readers, and they must offer authentic opinion. If the product, knowledge or service is mediocre coupled with untrue shameless promotion then the integrity of the blog is destroyed. And it will lose credibility and readers. This is the way of things. I see it in the tea leaves. Save This Page

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rested and Ready for More

What a great trip. We really enjoyed the Adirondacks thoroughly, and in particular Saratoga Springs. In fact, we caught the running of the Travers, a $1 million horse race won by Barbarosa.

If I were to pick a dream lifestyle, wouldn’t it be great to own a second home in Saratoga Springs (summer residence and select winter trips) and then a third home in Santa Barbara. Yeah, that would be pretty sweet, I’d say.

All in all, it was great to get some rest, and I hope to do a couple more three day weekends before the end of the year. By next year, it would be good to have enough of a team in place to simply take a vacation (novel concept). Oh yeah, back to getting my business off the ground. Yup, back in the saddle again, but I feel much more able to face the work. It really was a good trip.

Made the finals on a pretty significant pitch, and will be getting ready for that as well as lots of fulfillment this week. Also, interviewing some more people, and yes, looking to apply for an SBA loan to bridge the gap between retainer fees coming in and the immediate need to hire.

Fortunately, the business qualifies for disaster relief due to the flood. Most of my prudent reserve was eaten up by getting the house and office back up and running. Now, I can re-establish that reserve and build out my business (if client demand is there). I can also establish credit for the company, which is pretty hard to do when you start-up.

Here are Monday’s quotes:

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.”

-Ashleigh Brilliant

“What is without periods of rest will not endure.”

-Ovid Save This Page

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mountains, Lakes and Pines

Getting ready for a three day weekend. I’ve delivered everything, given my clients all the promised goods for the week. Whew. Now it’s time for some much needed R&R.

The secret location of our trip is Lake George in the Adirondacks. My wife still does not know, but I’m pumped. A little early taste of fall. Of course this region is the scene of Last of the Mohicans, the great book and movie originally written by James Fenimore Cooper.

I hope not to think about marketing and advertising, start-ups and growth for three days. I hope to do a little canoing and a trip to Ft., Ticonderoga, a well contested fort in the French and Indian War as well as the American Revolution.

Breathing will be good, too ;) All work and no play is a nice theory with start-ups, probably very true. Unfortunately, many times you have to force yourself to take that break. Well I'm physicallly removing myself from the office to achieve this worthy goal.

Looking forward to it. See you next week. Save This Page

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ad Spending Drops

Advertising spending dropped for the first time in four years, according to Ad Age. What does this mean? Are we heading for another recession?

I don’t think so, but Alan Greenspan I am not. It does mean that companies are looking to other sources for marketing dollars. Increased Internet spending, more eMarketing, more word of mouth efforts, special events and increased public relations efforts are increasingly the diet of marketing budgets.

Note the article shows an 18 percent increase in spending for online advertising. 9.1 percent of the losses came from newspapers, 2.8 percent from TV. The reality is that print continues to lose steam.

In some markets, particularly B2G, the loss of marketshare for print readers is a lot slower, but the reality is that print publications are losing readers and getting smaller. People are increasingly getting their information online and alternative media, and this trend just reflects that.

Web 2.0 media properties are hot, folks, and the fact that you are reading this blog is just a testament to it. I think the advertising market is continuing to change dramatically. That’s why my new advertising project with a Web 2.0 project excites me so much. It’s the way of the future. Save This Page

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Guy's Message

I got the call around 2:30 on Friday, it was expected. My Great Uncle Guy had passed away, and the funeral was to be Sunday. So here I am blogging on my way back from New York City on the late Vermonter.

They say the measure of a man is how many people come to his funeral. Wow, what a packed funeral. It was so sad, but at the same time so touching. A very successful businessman, a clothier, Guy made it in the 50s and 60s. But his story was not one of business, but one of love. It was after retiring that Guy made his biggest impact.

One after another they all came up and talked about Guy the man, and his incredible happiness and ability to love all aspects of life, art, theater, opera, clothes, and in particular his wife of 61 years, Marie Helene, my grandfather’s sister. It was amazing. His last words were to the family before passing, “Marie Helene, Je t’aime.”

I remember they all said the same thing, “Guy made me feel important.” This was coming from family, friend and business acquaintances alike. Talking with family afterwards, it was true that Guy could be a tough, shrewd businessman, harnessing his drive and making great decisions, but in the end it was his care for other people in his life that made the most impact. Even my own memory of him reflects that he always paid attention to me, was willing to engage in conversation, no matter my age or the subject matter.

What’s the lesson to be learned for my business? It matters, yes! But in the end it matters little compared to my life, and the people in it. It was good to be there for my family members, to simply comfort them and listen. My thoughts were drawn to my wife, to watching the Devil Wears Prada with her, and how much I squirmed during the movie. But today I’m glad that we went so I could see her smile and giggle with joy. She loved it, and because she did, I, too, enjoyed the two hours.

After the funeral I could not help but text message Caitlin, “Je t’aime.” I look forward to our little break from business this weekend, and a complete focus on us for a few precious days. It’s a taste of the future.

I did like Prada from a business perspective. Really Meryl Streep was phenomenal. Too bad most young power hungry types don’t wake up and smell the coffee like the heroine, but it was cute and a valid point: Don’t sell your soul to get ahead. I have seen too many people take out the dagger for power and prestige in my day. How hard is to go to work and deal with the power hungry politics everyday, in addition to actually doing your job?

But now that it’s my ship, I can steer it without these types of distractions. Now the market is my validation and final judge. And that in a way is very comforting.

Monday’s quotes:

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”


“Join the company of lions rather than assume the lead among foxes.”
- The Talmud Save This Page

Friday, August 18, 2006

Blogging When the Competition Reads

Having a great week. Couldn’t be better really. Spent a lot of time pitching the past couple of days, so today’s an actual work day. So is tomorrow and Sunday. Cannot wait to hire, but burn-rates must be measured.

Need to do some improvements to my media training. Gave a couple of versions of it, and it just needs some more interactivity and oomph. People seem to resonate with it though, and in one case this week, after the training we decided to explore discussions about additional PR for the organization.

Also working on an outstanding sports pitch. It’s a long shot, but gee whiz, it’s so nice to be a part of the dance! Speaking of, football season is starting. I’m not a big fan of football, but I did like this ASU Marketing law 79 video. Pretty funny. I’ll bet it was pretty well received down in Arizona.

So I went to a networking event this week. It was good, a little different. I was kind of shocked by some people’s aggressive self promotion. And others personal presentation. One fellow went with a black T-Shirt to a business networking event. I could never represent my company like that in good consciousness. Your outside image and presentation often – not always, but often – reflects your actual performance.

Are all of my experiences truly blogged about? No, addfreestats shows my competitors read the site, some every darn day first thing in the morning.

Note, my approach to competitive situations:

“The combat of the victorious is like the sudden release of a pent up torrent down a thousand fathom gorge.”
-Sun Tzu

For starters, that means not blogging about your methods of approach on individual situations. They should not see you coming. It also means... well, what can I say the competition’s reading. I’d love to reveal more, but cannot. Some things belong in books and not blogs, and competitive tactics and strategies are among them, as well as client names and individuals.

My only departing piece of wisdom is read everything you can on strategy. The Way of Strategy is the way of victory. Competitive pitching without strategy is like fighting with your right hand tied behind your back. Save This Page

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Is a Newspaper Blog Really a Blog?

I don’t think so. In my mind it’s really another distribution mechanism for news and reporting. Perhaps it’s packaged a little differently with a reality TV spin, but it's still reporting.

Newspapers that claim to offer blog content are really repackaging a soft opinion page. In my opinion ( and that’s worth a grand $.02), this is analogous to a company that places cleverly laid-out advertorial copy in a magazine and tries to pass it off as real editorial. Don‘t get me wrong, I’ve placed an advertorial or two in my day, and know it’s a great marketing mechanism. But it is what it is.

Newspaper blogs also seem to work the blogging system. Just watch any blog roll, and see how many times Washington Express or Washington City Paper end up as one of the the most recently posted blogs. That’s not coincidental folks.

From a PR perspective, I think it’s great. Just another means of hopefully getting exposure for one of my clients.

As a blogger my feelings are mixed. Having been a reporter these newspaper blogs do not offer a real blog experience. If they were real experiences they would tell you how much they hate their editor’s changing the headline, or about the foolish PR person that screwed up a story by providing bad information.

Real blogs talk about the experience of the person doing whatever it is they do. Witness one taxi cab dispatcher: The Blank Top Chronicles is what I consider to be a great blog.

I’d like to see a reporter really blog about their experiences. It would have to be anonymous, but it would certainly be better than the Washington Filibuster (note, a fictitious name) repackage its reporters’ paid-for-content as a “blog.” Save This Page

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Coming Up for Air

Slogging – oops blogging – away. Sometimes work seems like trudging. Probably has a lot to do with going wire-to-wire since Sunday night. That’s when it’s time for a bike ride down the Mt. Vernon trail to clear the mind (note this is a lunch time activity that’s about to occur). BTW, here is a funny advertisement for deodorant if you want a mid-week pick me up.

Have a lot of branding work that I’m wrestling with and digesting. We came up with a great product name in yesterday’s brand session. Very pumped up about it, and it looks like there are no other competitors so the path to trademark looks clear.

People keep calling me to offer me jobs, too. What an honor, seriously. These are some pretty prestigious positions. But I could not take them in good faith. I need to make a serious go at Livingston Communications, and would be plagued with thoughts of what if… My commitment to the start-up is complete.

Some interesting responses to the online ads I placed. Here’s a tip for job seekers. Don’t send an application to one employer for another’s position. Hmmm, yeah. That’s a no go.

Developing the media kit, too, for my new advertising client, and working on an award submission. Networking is also in the mix. Yes, it’s a busy day, but first, my bike ride. Save This Page

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Getting Ready for More

Who closes a deal in Washington in August on a Friday afternoon? Well I did. Given what else is left in the pipeline that could be decided this month (or in early September), I’m listing a couple of advertisements in select places. There are two in particular that could demand a full-time staffer.

One must assume growth and be prepared for it. On a macro scale, its by focusing on potential big issues and by being prepared for them that success occurs. For example, having a cushion in case a financial crisis occurs, or having a backup disk in case of hard drive failure. Winners prepare and have alternative plans of action… just in case.

In this particular case, I’ve worked at companies where the executives were too cheap to be prepared to hire, unwilling to have consultants at the ready. This miserly approach to business only hurts the clients, and the staff working on the team. It stretches everyone thin, and service slips. Bandwidth must be at the ready, especially given the service quality I’m committed to delivering.

Moved back into the home office over the weekend. Now that feels pretty good. Still it was working out of Preferred Offices’ King Street station facility, and I plan on using them once I have that long-term reoccurring revenue contract. They saved my business during the flood, and definitely deserve my loyalty.

Business is secured through September now. That’s important to me, I am billing enough to pay myself and cover business costs since the beginning of June. Now I just need to collect.

Looking at a couple of partnership opportunities right now that are brewing. The best one is with an old colleague of mine who may be moving back to town. Another larger ad agency wants to partner as well. This seems a little conflicting, perhaps you could call it co-opetition? Hmmm, we’ll see what happens with that as time progresses.

Monday's quotes are below:

“If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur. It is not genius where reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others; it is thought and preparation.”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”
-Bobby Unser Save This Page

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Buddha Marketing

Networking last night was great. I forget how exhilarating it is to be out there, how much I love mixing it up at a quality event. The network is where it’s at… And in the midst of summer, it was good to be out and about.

My branding project has successfully migrated to the closing rounds of messaging. Whew! I was getting desperate and thought I was going to have to use the latest advertising gimmick, Buddha marketing. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Zen marketing’s hot, even Ben & Jerry’s is getting into it with its new beta flavor, Jolly Lama. Zen has always had an attraction of the foreign and mysterious, so this only makes sense.

Working on updating the website, specifically the PR section. I need to get recent coverage out there, as opposed to oldco coverage. It’s been almost four months, and its important to highlight newco coverage.

Got a new project on one of my existing clients! Yes, good news, plus I have a couple of decisions coming to me this and/or next week on additional work. Also kicked off one of my clients that I won last month.

Not bad for August in a town where everyone goes away. Speaking of, I planned a three-day weekend with Caitlin for August 25. She doesn’t know where we are going, and it’s my intent to keep it a surprise until that time. It’ll be nice to get a little break. Save This Page

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Brand Promises

Continuing to go back and forth on this brand project. It’s B2G, and the toughness is the disparity of voices: The need to be different, yet the conservative nature of the opposing internal party (as well as the target audience). The balance has yet to be struck.

Branding in the B2G space is difficult, and part of the difficulty is that many contractors are willing to be anything to any client in the space. The parity is stifling. That has worked for large brands in the marketplace, but at the same time their brands don’t stand for anything other than contractor. In some cases, it only means body shop.

Extending a brand successfully beyond a certain product or service set (for example: service orient architecture or SOA) requires a promise that’s more than the product. See some people say that the brand cannot be extended. I don’t believe that, especially in the early stages of a brand.

The brand is a promise, a promise of a great product or experience. That’s why brands like Virgin, Booz Allen (for you B2Gers), Time Warner and others can extend beyond an initial product or service offering. They promise more than records, premium accounting solutions, cable TV, etc. They promise style and rebellion, quality, and good media experiences, respectively.

Conversely, if a brand promises something very specific and becomes known for it, then tries to extend the brand, well the results are less than promising. On the B2G side consider GTSI’s extension into services, or in the commercial world Amazon has become known for nothing, when it was a great bookstore. Jennifer Rice does a great job discussion brand extension on her recent blog entries for Brand Mantra. She also has phenomenal taste in novels.

Back to the current branding effort, it’s my hope that I can elevate the decision making group’s level of thought so they see the need for communicating an experiential promise. This will be refined further this week.

Viewing my ad stats, I noticed that some of my readers log on everyday. If you are one of these, feel free to scroll on the right menu bar and subscribe to the email version of Diary of an Ad Man. That way you receive the entries via email without having to check in frequently. Save This Page

Sunday, August 06, 2006

FEMA Backpedals

Maybe Wonkette is a little more influential than I thought. Of course it doesn't hurt when neighbor Dave sends a letter to Senators Warner and Allen and carbon copies the Washington Post. Here's the result from yesterday's Washington Post article:

"A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday that an agency official misspoke when he said flooded Fairfax County homeowners were denied federal aid because they live in an affluent community." OK, one more choice quote and you can read the rest... "[Martinez]'s comments were . . . not typical of a standard FEMA response," [National FEMA Spokesman] Walker said. "We don't look at the average or mean income and make a decision based on that." Nice, but still no aid.

Monday's quotes are in the preceding blog entry. Save This Page

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Post Article on Blogging, Monday's Quotes

Monday’s quotes are here, again early this week… But before we begin, here’s some news from a blogging perspective.

I’ve gotten more than half of my monthly visitors in the past 48 hours thanks to a nice wink on my FEMA thoughts from Wonkette, one of the top 50 most visited blogs in the country. Thanks, Wonkette, even if you do think VA is for the birds.

Getting much more detailed viewing reports from AddFreeStats, something fellow blogger WineSmith turned me onto. BTW, if you haven’t read this weekend’s Washington Post article on product placements via blogs, check it out. WineSmith is featured. The article really calls into question the ethics of using blogs on behalf of companies.

Personally, I think companies should try to get product placement and mentions via blogging. It’s even more credible than a PR story, unless of course the blogger is known to be a complete sell-out. But the key is to get the blogger to write about you. Some may want to, and some may not want to, and that’s their first amendment right.

Of course trying to tag product in comments is weak. Several folks have tried to post links to their product sites on my blog. And you don’t see their comments posted either.

One thing about AddFree is you can see where some of your readers visit from. Here’s the most unusual one, the one I’d least expect: Mainstream Baptist. From the Baptists to a Jewish Ad guy’s posting about getting his company launched, right on! Mainstream’s main gig is the separation of church and state. Hmmm, maybe certain presidential administrations can take a cue from that.

Well, back to the launch. We lost that big Fortune 100 pitch, and yes, the #1 competitor in the market is the favorite to take it (two cos are still in the running). They already had a division, so not a surprise, but definitely a disappointment.

It always takes me a few days to get over a bad loss. But if you pitch enough business you lose some, especially the bigger deals. You have to get up and keep plugging, developing and pushing. Which brings me to this week’s quotes:

“You can take from every experience what it has to offer you. And you cannot be defeated if you just keep taking one breath followed by another.”
-Oprah Winfrey

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
-Robert Ingersoll

“Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”
- Louis Pasteur Save This Page

Friday, August 04, 2006

Can FEMA Ever Rebuild Its Image?

The last comment on my preceding blog really made me think if FEMA did the right thing… The answer in my opinion would be no, though certainly I have a biased opinion. Here’s the thing:

1) MD, DC residents received aid from FEMA, and Huntington was clearly the worst flooded area in the metro region.

2) Fairfax neighborhoods may be well-off, but this one isn’t. I like how we have government agencies that are supposed to help, but instead they tell individuals in counties to spend their own money to help out people they don't know.

3) VA government received FEMA aid for the floods, but individuals can’t because they live in a rich county? Hmmmm.

It seems to me this denial may be punitive, and have more to do with Virginia Governor Kaine’s counter address to Bush’s State of the Union speech than Huntington's (and other Virginia community’s) needs. Maybe “anonymous” is related to this fellow: Sorry I couldn’t resist with Talladega Nights coming out. Anonymous has a right to their opinion, and that’s why the posting is on the site. I only block postings from people trying to sell unrelated product via the blog or the occasional insane ranter.

Seriously now, from a marketing perspective can FEMA ever recover its image after Katrina? Things like this week’s quotes in the paper don’t help. The reality is that FEMA must be considered inept by most Americans. Their brand means nothing other than Failure to Help.

In my opinion the only way out of the brand hole for FEMA is a major public reform initiative followed up by well publicized and continued successes in crisis management. It is only by actual performance backing up a reinvigorated brand promise that FEMA can turn it around. Even then the new luster would still be somewhat tarnished.

It would be interesting to hear from other people on their opinion about FEMA’s brand and if it is salvageable. Save This Page

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hot Times and the Events Occurring During Them

Can it get any hotter? I don’t know if I want the answer to that. 101 plus humidity, yeah.

Preparing for a writing spree this Friday by reading all sorts of articles by DoD officers bragging about the evolution to a net-centric warfare environment. It’s very bravado-esque, but not very substantive. Hmmm.

Trying to close some business in August is interesting, but getting the irons in the fire is even more interesting. Phone calls and persistence. Going back to Dale Carnegie again, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

Provided an old boss in California a sizable international PR lead. Found out she had a new born baby, now that’s pretty cool. She didn’t think kids were in the cards for her. Just goes to show you, never say never.

This is why helping my neighbors out is so important. FEMA decided to pass on providing local flood victims disaster relief. Talk about needing media training, catch this quote in the Washington Post’s article:

"Fairfax should use its resources to help its own people," said Dan Martinez, who was brought in by FEMA from Texas to oversee Virginia's application for aid, which could have included cash grants, low-interest loans, unemployment assistance and temporary housing. "It's an affluent community that's able to address the specific needs of its residents.”

Yeah, tell that to my neighbors, the ones who were in my house on Tuesday night. The ones who are about to become homeless because their businesses are destroyed, and so are their homes. Some still don’t have electricity. You would think FEMA would have learned its lessons after New Orleans. Save This Page

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ze's Funny Video of Angst

Ze says what we have all felt once in our professional services lives (or more than once) when the client doesn’t like our work. This is particularly true for creative types. Here is Ze’s hilarious video. Warning, there is profanity in this video. Save This Page

Coverage Continues, Interesting Blogs

It’s Tuesday a.m., and I am having a slow morning. So why not kick out a bonus blog? More coverage from last week’s flood story released by the Associated Press: Channel 7 and the Washington Times.

Moving forward with Huntington flood PR the goal is to position other community leaders as primary spokespeople. There are two reasons for this: 1) Time is better prioritized towards launching the start-up, and 2) the need to show a diversity of voices out in the marketplace.

Lot’s of writing to do today, plus I have some long-term BD initiatives to launch this week. Should be a week with a lot of office time, and that’s probably a good thing for refocusing on September’s work and beyond.

Some interesting blogs I’ve found over the past few days. Blogs of War seems to be chronicling the war effort in the middle East. Increasingly blogs are becoming a primary source for war information as citizens’ distrust the media’s view of events increases.

Local blogger TC the Terrible takes an interesting look at the evolution of blogs in the American mindset. Are we Paul Revere? Hmmm, not so sure about that, but it is an interesting argument. Save This Page