Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Top 10 Blogs of 2006

As an entrepreneur, I've come to rely on certain blogs for content and research more than others. These blogs offer a wide variety of insights, from marketing information and business advice to just plain old fun. Here are my top 10 blogs for 2006:

1) Ad Rants: Great write ups, fun, always tongue in cheek.
2) Wonkette: Sassy political commentary with an edge. A regular Technorati Top 50 blog.
3) Escape from Cubicle Nation: Pam Slim's advice for budding and newbie entrepreneurs. Best yet, she understands the power of a good media campaign. Thanks for being a true sage, Pam.
4) Bad Pitch Blog: These guys know how to kvetch, plus great insights on how to pitch.
5) DCBlogs: Great feed, hacked by DCist, Wonkette, FreeRide, Metroblog DC, and other supposed DC blog experts, plus good round-ups.
6) Potomac Flacks: Good addition to the local blog scene, covering the PR market.
7) FCW's Culture and Context Blog: That's right, blogging is going federal. This was only a matter of time.
8) Spin Thicket: Good marketing news and blog feed.
9) DCist: I like the arts coverage.
10) Origin of Brands Blog: Keep up the great work, Laura.

Our media pitching is going great. Latest hits for our New Year's pitch: NPR, Chicago Tribune, Tulsa World. And one of my retail clients has an absolutely packed store, in good part due to an ad running on WHUR.

2006 is over, folks. Lots of great accomplishments for Livingston Communications. Here are some highlights:

* Stayed in business: 90% of companies fail in the first year
* Survived a natural disaster: No small feat, 75% of businesses never open their doors again after a disaster.
* Pushed regular monthly billings beyond $20K in the first 8 months
* Some very fulfilling campaigns, including three successful start-up launches
* Major coverage in the Post, ABC, WTOP, FOX and many more
* Helped several charities, including my flood stricken neighborhood
* Won enough 2007 business to at least begin entertaining the possibility of a million dollar year
* Became more than one, in essence a true company
* Proved my naysayers wrong (you know who you are)! Thank you for the motivation, your comments are still on my blackboard.

The year's over, so I guess it's time to retire the start-up theme song. I played Godsmack's I Stand Alone frequently to get me going, and provide the energy to continue these efforts (Lyrics are here). I think 2007's theme is Audioslave's Jewel of the Summertime.

As the week ends, I am looking forward to next week's vacation. 2007 will bring the completion of my first calendar year in business, and the team's continued growth. It's going to be a good year, a year of revelations and new experiences.

Until then, I'm signing out for 2006. Happy holidays. Save This Page

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thoughts on TIME's Story

Time Magazine dubbed the blogging community person of the year. This article is available on the front page of Time's web site.

This powerful statement really puts a cherry on top of the sundae, solidifying "web 2.0" media as mainstays to be reckoned with in the communications and marketing mix. In the past year, blogging and other web 2.0 technlogies like YouTube have created a great change in the way society perceives information, in many ways providing a counter-balance to the fourth estate.

Companies need to get out in front of this dynamic communications environment now if their marketing programs are going to be completely optimized. On November 9th, I spoke before the CXO Forum on business blogging and made some basic remarks about some steps to take in setting up a web 2.0 communications strategy. These remarks are posted on my blog.

If want to see general blogging community remarks on this story, check out today's DCBlogs entry. It's the top story. Save This Page

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Stop the Spin...

One of the things that the start-up focuses on is establishing a higher level of honest, ethical communications in public relations. In a similar vein, the PRSA’s annual conference this past November featured an interesting opening speech. TV talk show host Tavis Smiley gave an impassioned plea for PR pros to “stop the spinning.”

In his speech, Smiley had several poignant comments:

• “The American people are sick and tired of being spun.”
• “PR has gotten a bad name as a profession. It’s been sullied, demonized, and devalued and it’s time to stop the spin.”
• PR pros need to be reminded of their real mission, he said, which is “relate to the public.”

It’s true. The problem with PR people is PR people. Working in this profession for 10 years (after a four-year stint reporting) has taught me not to judge PR people by what they say, instead, judge them by their actions.

Similarly, reporters are skeptical of spin, and the public has become skeptical of reporting influenced by spin. That’s why PR entities that communicate with the public need to position their information with hard-nosed facts. Public perception is intolerant of false spin, and this often reverses itself into a really bad brand reputation. A PR person’s job is to be a conduit between a company and the public, and to present factual information that would be useful to the public in a manner that’s also beneficial to the company.

Certainly the spin problem presents problems internally within a company, too. When dealing with PR and marketing people, my decisions are based off of their actual actions because if they’re sheisters and spinners, their comments are what they think you want to hear. This was a primary reason for starting my own company.

When I tell a client or an employee that I am going to do something, I do it. And if circumstance arise that change my direction, I communicate why instead of leaving them in the dark. That’s called being of service to people and treating them with dignity. That way they have the facts so they can make they’re own educated decisions. Dishonest “spin” has no place in human relations.

On the biz front, pretty much wrapped up with 2006 work, about 10-15 hours left for the big launch which will culminate during New Year’s. Eight hits so far on this front, including Fox-5 and the Arizona Republic. Also have an ad campaign and some design work to wrap up. That being said, it will be a busy week. Lots of 2007 meetings this week, which kind of surprised me. But hey, I’m not complaining. Business is good.

Next week is a vacation on the west coast, and I'm very excited. It's time to rest.

Monday's quotes:

“Rest: the sweet sauce of labor”

"Resting becomes a discipline in itself."
-Placido Domingo

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time”
-John Lubbock Save This Page

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Marketing Blog Round Up

Ahh yes, a weekly round up of some cool blogs. The Bad Pitch blog says that PR people aren't needed anymore, the media get it just fine. Hmmm. Until they make an error, or miss half the story, right?

It's funny, I've heard the media pine over and over about how difficult it is dealing with PR people. It's even fuinnier that they confide in a flack with this information. Having worn both hats, it's much harder being a PR person dealing with journalists, especially disgruntled ones (approximately 1/3-1/2). Trust me.

Sony got hammered on Ad Rants for writing up a fake blog. A little graphic language use, but some very important points in this one.

Locally, Adam Horowitz details 2008 Potomac Flack hires.

On the biz front, all is well. Trying to enjoy a normal 40-50 hour week. Save This Page

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Planning for the New Year

You can tell the holidays are upon us. Yes, we're rushing to get deliverables done before the end of the year. These are going well, with four interviews generated last week including Fox-5.

And new business opportunities are still in the works, but these are for the most part were generated before Thanksgiving. We're wrapping up final details on these (including a trip to NYC next week for me). We've seen two new, new leads since Thanksgiving, both of which do not look they'll break any time soon.

This is as it should be. The traditional annual slow down affords an executive time to strategically plan the future. This is an essential business activity. Using our own corporate slogan, Success Follows Strategy.

The first quarter of 2007 will be extremely critical for the company. Providing outstanding results for our clients is an absolute must. My main beef with the industry is that we go sell clients, and then give them mediocrity at best. Results mean more to me. When we engage with new clients, I tell them to fire us if we're not producing obvious forward progress within a month or two. The reason why we've become a hotter commodity in town is because we deliver when other agencies can't or won't. This is our mission, our reason d'etre, and will continue to be my primary focus moving into the next few months.

To achieve this goal, we're looking at a new hire, maybe even two. In the interim, we've already got our network of trusted part-time players at work, and reserved through January. We'll also need to start looking at permanent office space solutions.

This is when you meet with your accountant (mine has her own blog). After we know exactly what we're looking at in 2007, we'll create a prudent plan that will enable us to 1) Provide great service to our clients, 2) scale effectively without endangering the company, and 3) position the company for future growth in the latter parts of 2007. The plan should be flexible, businesses change with the times, and today's times are extremely fluid.

I have already planned a new business strategy for the first half of 2007. That I cannot talk about due to frequent visits from the competition.

Here are Monday's quotes:

"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

"What business strategy is all about; what distinguishes it from all other kinds of business planning - is, in a word, competitive advantage. Without competitors there would be no need for strategy, for the sole purpose of strategic planning is to enable the company to gain, as effectively as possible, a sustainable edge over its competitors."
-Keniche Ohnae Save This Page

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hot New Blog: New Year's Resolutions

Check this out, a New Year's Resolution blog. It's really cool, though probably it was inevitable, this seems to be the first one. The site's being executed by certified life coaches instead of some yutz, which makes it a worthwhile read.

I already posted my New Year's Resolution on their site. Save This Page

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Brand Refresh: Does It Work?

It’s interesting launching a couple of new brands, then to be involved with the repositioning -- or even the turning around -- of older brands, simultaneously. With new brands it's always about credibility. Who are the customers, is this legitimate, why should I care, is this a real marketplace need?

With the older brands it's tougher, especially when the previous marketing regime has been dormant. This leads to all sorts of additional issues, particularly when it comes to a perception of "just one of the pack" – as opposed to actual leadership. In these cases, it seems like you have to suddenly become a public innovator, claim leadership, and then demonstrate proof points (i.e. large, public deals with recognizable names). Proof’s in the pudding.

When you research brand refresh online, you usually end up with a new visual look. Here’s the thing, I'm all for that, but if it’s a new look and no market validation or substance behind the message, that means it’s going to fail. Plain and simple. Good marketing makes great products sell quicker, and bad products fail faster. If it’s bad, it’s bad, no matter how pretty it looks.

Case in point, check out the Autoblog’s write up of Fiat’s new look. Very shiny, but does the car still drop it’s transmission every 20,000 miles? Here are some more interesting prominent rebrands in the blogosphere of late: Perrier, and, of course the Democrats. OK, point made.

Another brag for this week: ABC hit was 8 minutes long! How sweet is that? Still pushing this week’s media campaign, the national media are starting to nibble. I hope the snowball takes off and turns the tide tomorrow. Save This Page

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Keep It Simple

Well, it's a new week and it's all about implimentations. Basic blocking and tackling, making sure things go right, keeping it simple. Sometimes business is about doing the next right thing. We want to end the year the right way.

Big PR launch and a massive web site writing project. It's pretty fun, I'll tell you. Hmmm, well at least the PR launch is. The thing with web sites is that they can be a major grind. You've got to work on it, step away, work on it, step away. We've hired a proof reader on a 1099 basis to handle the copy,plus we've got a new proofing system, Proof It Online, which I like a lot. Otherwise, working on cementing the final details on some 2007 business, and we are in the midst of a major blog launch implementation that's going extraordinarily well.

It seems like we've got the special sauce right now when it comes to Internet PR, and I see this as our primary differentiator. In fact, we turned down a deal last week that would have caused us to enter into a knowledge transfer situation with one of the local competitors.

Here's a shot from the Washington Business Journal's Women Who Mean Business awards reception last Thursday night. We successfully pitched a client for the award. It was one of the best networking events I've been to in six months.

A great ad for you that features a rare bit of honesty, compliments of Ad Rants.

Monday's quotes for you:

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo DaVinci

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
Albert Einstein Save This Page