Thursday, November 30, 2006

Governor Kaine + Favorite Authors

Check out this photo of me with Governor Kaine at an NVTC Telework event on Tuesday. Thanks to NVTC photographer Tia Gibbs for sending me this shot.

A little fun on this Thursday. Here's an interview featuring my favorite authors and books with Home Mortgage Consultant, Rick Dassler, author of Neighbors Serving Neighbors. Also, check out the fine recommended reading list of PR executive, Michael Kempner, at 5 Ultimate Books on Public Relations.



The books and authors mentioned in the interview are:

Philip Roth
Haruki Murakami
Lian Hearn
J.R.R. Tolkien
Jim Butcher
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nationals New Creative: Check It Out!

Sorry folks, I was asked to take down the logo until MLB gets sign off. Still Washington Nationals new advertising agency of record White & Partners campaign creative for the 2007 season is fantastic!

I love the tie-in to American past time/national pride. Simply brilliant. And the Pledge Your Allegiance tag is awesome. It's about time one of the local sports teams gave us a real campaign with some soul.

Look for this coming to you soon!
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Monday, November 27, 2006

Al Golin on the Biz, Brags

Want to read a great article? Check out Bull Dog Reporter's write up from Al Golin of Golin Harris fame on what lessons he's learned in the biz.

Some points I liked:

"I've always hated the cliché, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Everyone should have the courage to change things before they have to. John Kennedy said something I've always loved: 'The time to fix a roof is when the sun is shining.'"

"Doing good is good business. Over the years we've found that people would rather patronize a company that gives back to the community than one who doesn't. This doesn't take the place of a good product or service,but it really serves as a 'tie-breaker' when choices are made."

Excellent stuff. On the brags front, another front page WaPost business section story today (second week running for a cover piece, third week in a row for Post placement). Bonus mile for this week's winner, the Post coverage turned into a hit on ABC: We film on Friday.

The secret to my succees? There is none. I've got clients who have great stories to tell: I'm just the lucky guy who gets to tell the press about it. And for that I am fortunate.
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Visioning Exercise

Part of my very restful holiday break was a visualization exercise that included a collage of images. Not only am I seeing where the company will be, but also how success will embody itself in my personal life. To help me, I’ve captured a collection of photos and images to really see this success in my personal life, which I’ve included below Monday’s quotes.

Reflecting on the past seven months, I must say that they’ve been great. I’m very excited and bullish on the future. December will be our busiest month yet, and we are building a serious client base for 2007. Our winter will not be a barren one.

As we take the necessary steps to build the company from bootstrap to a start-up readying itself for year two (weighing office locations, staffing possibilities, etc.), I am reminded that the only thing that can stop me from attaining these successes is me. There are no real barriers.

It’s Monday, but it’s also the first Monday after Thanksgiving, the beginning of the stretch run into 2007. Go and be courageous in whatever your daily endeavors might be. Here are Monday’s quotes for you:

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.”
-Ayn Rand

“Cherish your visions and your dreams, as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.”
- Napoleon Hill

“There is more to us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”
-Kurt Hahn

My collage images from 1 to 6: A corporate mascot, offices in Del Ray, a continued commitment to support the arts, the ultimate toy, trips to be had, and last but not least, a new home in Old Town, close enough to King Street for casual walks, but far enough away for general relaxation.











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Monday, November 20, 2006

Couple of Brags

One of my photograph's is the masthead photo on DCBlogs today. We also had a client's photo prominently focused under the masthead of the Washington Post business section today! Not bad at all.
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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Circus Called Entrepreneurial Endeavors


Short week this week, and that’s a good thing. The forced rest will be welcomed. Though, I did rest this weekend a bit.

The masthead photo for this entry was a snap shot after an a.m. meeting in DC on Friday. Welcome to the circus called entrepreneurial endeavors (sorry, I could not resist, that's really how it is sometimes). I’ve taken to keeping my camera with me, just in case. It’s a fun thing.

Held my rescheduled board meeting on Friday afternoon. That was great. It really helped me pop my head out and above the day-to-day rat race to get a strategic view of the business.

In many ways, if used correctly, a board can provide a great inventory of your company – good and bad. For the first time the road to my vision is extremely clear. I understand what’s stopping me from getting there, and for the most part it’s that guy in the mirror who’s thinking too small.

Secondly, I have my old sales VP and another senior statesman on my board that helped me work out some pipeline mechanics. There’s a problem with an inverted pipe. That means the bulk of my new business opportunities are in the next 45 days, and afterwards I have an empty pipe. The next 30 days will see me throwing leads into my long-term pipe from a few sources (sorry dear competitors, no tips as to where I am getting my traction).

The other thing is getting the immediate leads closed. Good suggestions from the board here, too. For the first time in a while, I think I am going to pull out some pretty unique tactics to bring these clients on. The primary objection seems to be the newness of the firm, but there are ways to counter it.

Couple of things to note. We’ve done a great job launching a company’s new product. They have no referable major clients of note yet, but because of a ton of blog traffic and interest from the web 2.0 community, we were able to surpass objections from key reporters. We just sent reporters to our favorite blog search tool, and had them type in the company name. Top trades and major national newspaper are writing the product up. Nov. 27 is going to be a good day.

Other notable: I got invited to join the board of an arts organization downtown. This has been a year-long objective of mine, and finally it’s come to fruition.

Monday’s quotes are:

“Once you've taken inventory, you can start to make sense of your runway. But then comes a second challenge: finding the time to do what you need to do.”
-David Allen

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future nor indict the past. The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust.”
John F. Kennedy

P.S. A comment about #1 was posted recently. I am not #1, actually. My first full-time employee is dubbed “#1” for the sake of anonymity. Think Start Trek. Again, it’s never good to give your competition an opportunity to cherry pick employees, prospects or clients.

P.S.S. This is the last entry for the week. Have a great holiday.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Industry Cleans It Up a Little

Good to see the industry is cleaning up its act a little bit with its marketing towards children. Checkout today's Washington Post article on ad industry reform. There's marketing, and then there's exploitation.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When Your Body Revolts

One of my mid-week blog entries usually features marketing blogs of interest. Here’s this week’s:

The Advertising for Success blog researches advertising trends before they become buzz worthy

Ad Jab discusses advertising news, most recently the demise of ad guy.

Business update

I had a reader ask my wife how it’s really going. Is the blog accurate? Well, I’m an optimist. If I kvetched about nagging start-up problems then I’d be no good to anyone, and my bad attitude would carry over into my business. So I try to focus on the glass as half full. Plus it’s PR, who would read this blog and hire me if I was whining all the time? Please. That’s not good flacking.

For the record, I will tell you that starting a company is rough. My body is currently revolting against the workload. Yesterday, I woke up with a bloody nose, then at the gym that evening I enjoyed some heart palpitations. Today it’s been sinus passage aches, sour stomach, etc.

If you don’t like working extra hours – every week – then forget about it. You will fail.

Why so much time? It’s just marketing, right? Wrong. Add in the financial management constraints and worries, new business development (a primary activity, by the way), the need to scale, the management of contractors and staff, etc. Oh yeah, you learn all sorts of new things.

And why work hard to the point of physical pain? The slow season is coming. In the words of Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, “You gotta harvest [those] nuts right now.” And if you can’t take the pain, starting a company isn’t for you. It’s the price of freedom. And I like my freedom. But I must admit, thank goodness, the holidays and my slow season are coming up. It makes things easier to bear.

In that spirit, we’re harvesting. The good news is that we’re also closing the office the Friday after Thanksgiving, and for the week between Christmas and New Years. In essence, we will be taking advantage of the slow period. Owning the business has its benefits.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Is GM’s Fastlane Blog Keying Recovery?


If you didn’t know yet, General Motors is leading the U.S. big three in the race to recovery and prosperity. Fueling recovery has been cost cutting mechanisms and future investments in new green technologies.

Along with GM’s investment decisions is an increasingly cooler brand perception amongst younger buyers. Yes, that’s right, a better brand perception. GM’s becoming hot. I’ve really noticed this with male friends in their 20s.

Yet, the big question must be why? Increases in quality are on par with Ford, and still lag behind the Japanese automakers. And yeah, I think their ads aren't any better than the others, too.

So what’s keying the perception change? I think Fastlane, GM’s corporate blog, is playing a bigger role than some people might think. This very popular entity is regularly in the top ranked blogs, currently number 3,073 on Technorati. It’s also considered on of the top ten corporate blogs (hat tip Marketing Nirvana). Not bad for a bunch of old execs (and their editors) writing up the latest developments from their personal shop.

Fastlane is fun. It’s got everyone writing from the Vice Chair of the company to specific design and product managers. The chat is light, tongue and cheek, and certainly exciting with lots of concepts and technology. No wonder people like the blog.

If you want to influence people under the age of 40 in today’s “post-modern” media environment you better have a blog strategy. That’s where they’re going to get information. GM realized this and has taken a proactive approach to the new era of marketing. And coincidentally Ford and Chrysler don’t have strong blogs. Hmmm. 2+2= Bingo, Fastlane.

Certainly if GM’s products don’t meet the brand promise of better cars in the future then the company will have troubles. But for now, the strategy seems to be affecting people's opinions of the company. It's be great if someone did some qualitative research on Fastlane's impact.

Over and over I am seeing corporations turn blogs into business successes. Currently, we have helped five different clients with blog strategies, and four of them are already launched. Guess what, they’re working. So is this one, generating 1/5th of my client base to date.

Business blogging works. Anyone who doesn’t think so, God bless you: Five years from now you’ll be singing a different song, or you’ll have a new career path. Bold prediction? Maybe to some, but for me it’s high probability. You just have to get in the Fastlane.


Personal Business Update

Business opportunity is through the roof. Got an oral on a very nice big B2G deal, just need to work through the contracting process over the next couple of months. So in my mind, if this deal closes it's a reputation maker. Speaking of, we had a trial project this week and #1 knocked the ball out of the park. Way to go, #1.

Still working on closing several other deals. It’s like pushing a rock up the hill, three steps forward, two steps back. Most of this stuff is 2007 dollars. It’s rough handling all of the volume and ensuring client success (my wife made me not work most of Saturday), but it’s absolutely necessary, too.

Monday quotes:

“For the man sound in body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every sky has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously.”
- George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

“If success is rare and slow, everybody knows how quick and easy ruin is.”
-William Thackeray, Vanity Fair

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
-Joseph P. Kennedy
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brief Remarks on Business Blogging

Geoff Livingston’s Remarks on November 9, 2006 to the CXO Forum on Business Blogging

Traditionally, generating buzz has been a function of public relations. The value of public relations is its ability to generate credibility for a corporation’s brand through third party vehicles (i.e. press, films, speaking engagements and now
blogs). The dot com crash and the advent of new web 2.0 technologies is revolutionizing media and marketing, affecting every part of these disciplines.

Consumers and buyers no longer trust the newspaper/magazines/media in full. The truth of the matter is that people are savvy to news reporting and its strengths and weaknesses. That's why independent verification of product usage through third party users is an increasing must. And blogs are filling that void. That’s why most businesses want a piece of the blogosphere.

A blog strategy can do great wonders for a company. Examples include FortiusOne, Google, GM’s Fastlane. Blogs may not work for all businesses. The key is whether the blog serves as a mundane propaganda mechanism, or if it has real value and experience for its readership. GM’s Fastlane works because it’s all about building hot cars and auto technology, and experiencing these innovations.

Here’s a tongue in cheek Five Musts of Generating Buzz, which directly apply to creating valuable blogs.

1. Companies must Get Out of Themselves and pay attention to their target audience’s interests to succeed.
2. Companies must build value for these target audiences and disseminate the information in ways that are viral.
3. The value that companies build needs to be related to their product: Starbucks = coffee, but buzz = relaxing, hip ambience while you have coffee.
4. Companies must inspire their target audiences to believe in the company, to talk about the company, to serve as its advocates.
5. Companies must commit to regular, consistent communications. A flash in the pan does nothing to help the company long term.

If your company starts to wrack up negative blog posts, hire a professional. Engaging with negative bloggers is dangerous thing, and requires crisis communications skills. Act quickly, too, and make sure you have your factual version of the story posted on your site in a press statement.

Most importantly, no matter your take on the situation be 100% honest and factual. There’s no recovery from being caught in an untruth.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cake Love at BoT

Cake Love founder Warren Brown spoke tonight at the BoT’s Small Business Network dinner and was outstanding. Made me want to go out and kick some butt. I had a great time, and felt jazzed about my biz. Plus the cake was pretty, tasty, too.

Livingston Communications was in the program for speaking earlier this year, and all speakers were asked to stand up and take a bow. One spaced out PR guy missed this cue, but we don’t know him… yeah.

Some blogs for you. Here’s some more Cake Love: Warren’s blog about appearing on national shows and media. Nice to see it from the client’s point of view.

Advertising for Success is a blog dedicated to marketing research before the research becomes common knowledge. A worthy goal.

Finally, If! has a nice entry from Barbarian Group founder Ben Palmer on the concept of Branded Utility. Seems a little bit of a respun idea – making consumers own the brand – but hey, I’m up for a new wrinkle or two.

OK, slogging through the week. It’s pretty nuts right now and I am actually procrastinating at this late hour. But busy is a quality problem. It's my unfortunate destiny to dun a couple of people. That’s not enjoyable at all. As an entrepreneur you must wear many, many hats.
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting No, Plus Sales versus Marketing


I voted today, something I feel all employers and employees should do as a civic responsibility. One of the best companies I worked for gave employees two hours off on election day for voting purposes.

The above photo shows the Huntington Community Center during the mid-morning loll. It felt weird being there. The last time I was there was four months ago, collecting cleaning supplies donated by the county to the Huntington flood victims.

In the same vein, I voted against both referendums for Fairfax County to incur debt for public services. It's insulting to me that the County is so quick to incur debt to build up parks for tens of millions of dollars, yet they won't build a flood wall to protect this neighborhood.

It's economic discrimination, and as a late joining member of the community -- part of that real estate boom gentrification process -- I am pretty horrified by the callous treatment of this neighborhood by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Mt. Vernon Supervisor Hyland does a great job, but the rest of the community would rather ignore the presence of the 160 flooded homes than deal with a problem caused by over-development.

OK, you got my $0.02.

Great meeting today for a huge pitch next week. A lot of it involved better integrating the sales and marketing functions. It’s just astounding to me that PR and marketing professionals avoid the inevitable tie to sales. The reality of the two disciplines is that they are intertwined, by nature completely dependent on each other for success.

It’s amazing to me that the two don’t strive to understand each other more often, instead choosing war first. Harvard Business Review had a great article dedicated to the topic this past July discussing how to integrate sales and marketing more closely.

Anyway, this is a great pitch opportunity. I am going all out for this one.
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Monday, November 06, 2006

PR Firms = Propaganda

Fascinating video. Certainly, villifying of PR in some ways, but for the most part it's very accurate.

I am not sure if I agree that consumers believe they are free from propoganda, though. If people trusted the media so much, why is the blog revolution occuring? The truth of the matter is that people are savvy to news reporting and its strengths and weaknesses. That's why independent verification of product usage through third party users is an increasing must. Consumers no longer trust the newspaper/magazines/media in full.

It's also difficult for PR firms to pull a fast one on bloggers. Blogosphere PR requires a much higher degree of honest marketing. Otherwise negative posting begins...

A very thought provoking video from PR Watch.
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Only Some DCBlogs Readers Take the Bait

The last blog entry on sex was an experiment inspired by DCBlogs writer KOB. DCBlogs content is probably 33-40% single Washingtonian’s kvetching about their daily love life trials and tribulations. So after a chat with KOB, I decided to throw an Ad Man entry dedicated to sex in advertising, figuring a Sex headline on the DCBlogs live feed would create a significant boost in traffic.

About 1/8 of my hits are usually from DC Blogs. On Friday, after the posting DCBlogs traffic increased to 1 in 4.5. A significant percentage increase, almost doubling the amount of DCBlogs traffic, but not nearly enough to say, “Wow, these folks are sex starved.” An interesting experiment.

This week is going to be gonzo. I’ve got one client launching a new product on Wednesday. Then there’s a photo shoot, and we’re kicking off a new client on Tuesday, ironing out the scope of work. Plus many new business meetings on the plate.

Also, I’ve been told to show up at the Board of Trade’s Annual Small Business Dinner, where I am supposed to get some sort of recognition from the board (to be determined what that means, but it’s always good to get a hat tip). There’s also some pro-bono PR work for the Industry Advisory Council that needs some attention. Long story, short (too late), I am not taking any more meetings this week if at all avoidable.

We really have about two weeks left in the sales season. One sale in the pipe, one out, another delayed. Six more decisions hopefully coming this month, with a couple likely to leak into December. That’s my 30 day pipe. Then there’s the 60-90. It’s prime-time for the company.

It’s a time to stay focused. Monday’s quotes are:

“I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.”
-Thomas Edison

“Every man's life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain.”
-Marcus Aurelius
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Friday, November 03, 2006

Sex and More Sex

OK, let’s be honest. We like to think the world is politically correct, that integrity is paramount, and that buying decisions are made purely on intelligence. Surveying advertising blogs this week, I was quickly reminded that’s not so. Sex sells.

For example, look at this beautiful Asian woman’s naked back pushing ink for Office Max of all places. I’m serious. We’re talking Office Max here.

How about this absolutely shameless use of cleavage to sell bowling? Compliments of Bowlmor lanes. Media Orchard says cleavage will sell anything, including landscaping. How about Jewish social networking ads with a scantily-clad, 007-esque spy gal, including cleavage in rubber?

There are many, even more shameless examples. Hey, it’s not all (mostly, but not all) about using women and their bodies. Yes, for my lady readers, here’s an ad selling tech with naked guys.

Thanks to adrants for my brief research (a good distraction from proposal writing). Not quite sure how to conclude this one, other than this type of advertising is probably here to stay. It’s obviously working, why else would so many agencies keep churning it out? I’m interested in your thoughts, so feel free to post.
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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Geoff Livingston on Media Relations

Here's my You Tube debut. Many thanks to Rick Dassler and his blog Neighbors Serving Neighbors for filming this series.

Check out his blog at:
http://servingneighbors.typepad.com/.
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Marketing the Biz

With #1 on board, there is much to do about business development and marketing the firm. I am executing only the PR programs, with the rest pretty much turned over to her.

On the marketing front: Tomorrow, I am speaking on corporate blogging, the second of four engagements in a month. The first was the NVTC (see comments), the second is a small networking group here in Alexandria on business blogging, the third is the CxO forum, and the fourth is a class on marketing. Speaking opportunities are great as they are the best form of promotion for generating leads.

I also have a proposal before a networking body to host a regular series of marketing roundtables. Additionally, I filmed a series of short marketing tips this week that will appear over the next couple of months on YouTube. This, too, should help market the firm.

As usual, some interesting mid-week blogs for you:

Spin Thicket is a live feed of all that is PR, marketing, spin.

Agency Idea Grove has a great blog, Media Orchard, which provides a quick daily snapshot of some marketing headlines on the Internet.

The pipeline is getting fatter right now with 11 high quality leads. To save time, I threw out all leads that I had a negative feeling about, preferring to focus on winnable opportunities. As a result, I like the health of the leads, the quality and the potential for additional opportunities.

I am very focused on getting them in house. September’s round of possible retainer accounts were OK, but most turned into projects. I guess I am still building credibility with the marketplace. The sustainable revenue model is what’s needed.

The elections have really hurt attendance at networking events. No one is in town. It'll be very interesting to see how the election affects the business of DC. The Business Journal had an interesting article on the topic.

Onward!
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