New Guidelines for Marketing Partnerships: Borrow from Jazz Improv

Posted on January 10, 2010. Filed under: Advertising, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Click on the audio player!

 


I’m writing this on Sunday morning and so what better musical accompaniment than the gospel underpinnings of pianist Les McCann playing his tune The Shampoo in a live recording. I first heard this rousing number back in the 60’s when Cousin Sydney was introducing me to the joys of jazz and blues.

 Having listened to jazz now for more than 40 years, I’ve learned something about improvisation and the creativity it requires and inspires that I try to apply elsewhere in my life. Great jazz improvisers draw from a huge body of common knowledge, structure and rules and then add their own ideas, drawing from personal experience and technical skill. The musicians in a jazz combo listen to each other carefully and build on each others’ ideas.

 The same group can play the same tune 50 times and it will be a new song each and every time. Listen to another group play the song and it will be something else again.

 As the marketing and PR world changes I find myself seeking to build new and different kinds of professional connections. More and more, I think about how jazz music is made as I build business relationships and partnerships for my E.R. Becker Company consultancy. Bringing a complex array of inbound marketing tools and techniques to clients, requires a variety of knowledge and skills and the ability to compose well-structured original material for a new and evolving area of marketing; arranging ‘charts’ – as jazzmen call orchestrations — for unchartered waters.

 So here’s what I ask myself as I think about which other professionals to bring to the table to meet client objectives:

  • Who has the fundamentals down?
  • Who is really talented?
  • Who is curious enough to explore new ideas?
  • Who really and truly listens?
  • Who has the chops to play triple time to the end of the song?
  • Who can jump into a group and shine while creating space for – and even amplifying the light — of others’ contributions?
  • Who gets it that combined creativity is more powerful than ego-driven efforts?

 How are you looking at your business partnerships these days?

 Enjoy and see you soon!

Photo Credit: Jeff Levine

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Tiger: Sad to Say

Posted on December 14, 2009. Filed under: Crisis Management, Crisis Response, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |


This is a follow-up to my last blog post, Tiger Woods: A Social Media Perspective. I just watched yet another one of Tiger’s self-proclaimed ‘romantic interests’ interviewed on a national morning show, which got my Monday off to a pretty depressing start. Click on the music player to listen to an apt accompaniment, jazz saxophonist/composer Benny Golson’s poignant tune, Sad To Say.

Early on in what we now see as an ‘unraveling of the Woods brand’ his response to an emerging sex scandal appeared authentic based on his past history. It was my feeling that it would be his golf fans who would pull him out of this career ditch and that he would do well to further connect with them on social media. As he works to rehabilitate himself with his family and sponsors, this admittedly unsolicited advice could be even more significant.

Here’s why I think so. The central factor in this whole unhappy scenario is rebuilding trust. First and foremost, Tiger Woods broke trust with his wife and children through serial marital infidelity. The love of my life, Jeff Levine, is a talented and skilled psychotherapist who treats relationship issues including infidelity and sexual addiction. We’ve discussed this problem many times in the past few years as one politician or celebrity after another has offered emotional apologies, hied off to rehab or been out-and-out dumped by wronged spouses for similar behavior. I’ve learned from Jeff that overcoming the personality traits that cause people to flee from true intimacy/commitment to others and act out sexually can take many years. Sometimes the marital relationships survive and sometimes they don’t.

Business relationships can be easier to repair if monetary objectives remain aligned and public relations issues are overcome. But there’s a sense of coldness that’s emerged about Tiger Woods in all of this. From pre-nups to high-powered law firms retained to keep indiscretions out of the media to speculation about pay-offs to women for their silence, there’s a sickening quality to how Woods has used the wealth garnered through the mastery of his sport. What we wish to perceive as wholesome has somehow resulted in immoral license.

In what may be a helpful sign for the next phase of Tiger’s crisis, the Twitter stream has slowed long enough that I was able to capture a link to a post from Australian blogger Brian Giesen that presents a Nielsen Online Brand Association Mapping comparison of Brand Tiger before and after. I re-tweeted it and here it is again for all of you interested in marketing geekdom.

When I mentioned, above, who Tiger needs to rehabilitate himself with, I left out his fans. As I perused the #TigerWoods Twitter feed in the past few days, it’s the golf fans who are sticking by their man. They continue to focus on the best of him – his singular athletic ability – and to wish him well. It would be nice if he could summon some personal warmth and turn it toward them. The social Web giveth and it taketh away. It could also serve as a human laboratory for Tiger to learn how to assess, build and keep trust.

Although it’s written in a minor key, today’s tune resolves to a major, providing a hopeful sound. In addition to composer Golson on tenor sax, Art Farmer plays magnificent flugelhorn, Curtis Fuller is on trombone, Mickey Tucker on Piano, Ray Drummond on bass and Marvin “Smitty” Smith on drums. The album is titled The Jazztet – Real Time.

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Tiger Woods: A Social Media Perspective

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Crisis Response, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


It’s been pretty widely trumpeted that Tiger Woods’ handling of his accident over the weekend has been lame in terms of accepted PR/crisis response best practices. Page one of the Sunday New York Times sports section proclaimed it — and so did many other media and blogs. But how can we think about his relative silence – except for yesterday’s statement on his website – in social media terms?

 Tiger Woods is known as a very private personality who seeks out media attention rarely and on his own terms as much as possible. So in a sense, his reaction to the current situation is consistent with his public persona. In other words, he’s being authentic Tiger Woods as we’ve known him.

Putting out a statement on his website is consistent with other important statements he’s made about his personal life – including his engagement to his wife. It implies that he cares most about his fans. If you read the language of the statement carefully, it appears that he sat and wrote it out himself without excessive input from handlers or minute wordsmithing by pros. Very personal.

The wisdom of this move is evident when sampling some of the thousands of comments from fans and other site visitors. The comments for the most part are hugely supportive. A commenter who gives credence to the tabloid reports fueling controversy in this incident gets slapped down by fans in subsequent posts. In their opinions, it’s the media and the police who are out of line. Tiger’s entitled to privacy and, ‘leave their man alone’!! Tiger’s core community is coming to his rescue.

However, when you get into the Twittersphere and other social venues not monopolized by fans, support is overcome by other sentiment. Negative speculation about Woods’ marital fidelity from individuals and blogs abounds. For example, one much-re-tweeted link celebrates his ‘downfall’ with schadenfreude and raises the idea that Woods’ private approach and concern for his brand are only about protecting endorsement deals.

This afternoon legal commentators on cable news have opined that there is little legal fallout that could come out of this, however the media fire storm rages on. It will likely grow for awhile, fueled further by Tiger’s doubling down on privacy and pulling out of his charity golf tournament later this week.

So what else could he do to remain true to his chosen course of public action – or inaction – that would dampen down the flames?

Hopefully Woods and his team are measuring sentiment pro and con – throughout the traditional and social media worlds. And I imagine they are working behind the scenes on his business relationships with sponsors and the brands he endorses. Should unfavorable opinion grow to a level that might shake those relationships, it seems to me that he could further acknowledge the trust he has in his fans by asking them to share with these companies what’s really important to them about Tiger. I’ll bet that the people who cared enough to post on his official website would be happy to post on a brand or product’s fan page on his behalf.

What do you think? It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out from a social media point of view.

I chose Harold Arlen’s Ill Wind (You’re blowin’ me no good) sung by the incomparable Billie Holiday as the musical companion to this post. Think it’s an appropriate theme. It runs 6:14 and I know you’ll read the post faster than that. So maybe you’ll use the extra time to post your comment – or just relax and listen for a couple of minutes. Billie is amazing and the other musicians are so superb…Harry “Sweets” Edison on trumpet, Ben Webster on tenor sax, Jimmy Rowles on piano, Barney Kessel on guitar, Joe Mondragon on bass and Alvin Stoller on drums.

Enjoy and see you soon!

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Spanning the Online World: From Exaflood to the Digital Divide to Public Policy

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: Inbound Marketing, Internet Research, Internet Traffic, Jazz, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Late last week I attended a seminar that blew my mind on several levels. It was titled Connecticut and the Future of Broadband: What to think about Net Neutrality, Bridging the Digital Divide and are we really ready for the “Exaflood”. The event was conceived and presented by the Connecticut Technology Council, a high-powered group that is firmly in the lead when it comes to supporting technology innovation in my state.

 I’m going to blog about this seminar more than once, starting with an overview now and an introduction of the three panelists. They were:

  •  Bret Swanson, Senior Fellow & Director, Center for Global Innovation; President Entropy Economics, LLC. Bret blogs at www.bretswanson.com and I encourage anyone interested in the future of the web to make a beeline.
  • Curtis Hill, Director, Concepts for Adaptive Learning. Curtis retired as a Hewlett Packard exec to start a non-profit engaged in bridging the digital divide, one teacher at a time, one parent at a time, one child at a time. Learn more at www.eachchildlearns.org.
  • Jeff Blodgett, Vice President of Research, the Connecticut Economic Resource Center. Go to www.cerc.com.

 Ironically, the meeting room turned out to be the only one in the conference center not equipped with Internet access. And one of the moderators who was to dial in from a hotel on the West Coast was unable to attend due to a power outage. These glitches reminded us that technology isn’t perfect and that we’re all still human – a happy consequence. We all flexed, and the morning powerfully engaged us nonetheless.

 Mindblow #1 came with Bret Swanson’s presentation that compared a 2008 visionary study he was involved in with a recent two-year study of global Internet traffic and usage by Arbor Networks and the University of Michigan. The latter pretty much confirmed the predictions of Swanson’s study. Just to highlight…Internet traffic has grown 45% in the study period. The Arbor study analyzed 264 exabytes of global Internet traffic to reach conclusions on everything from which ISP’s have gained enormous ground (Google and Comcast) to what traffic will look like in 2015 – wow!

 Before the seminar I didn’t even have a handle on what an exabyte is. Consider that a kilobyte is 103, an Exabyte is 1018. In other words, if the Library of Congress contains 20 million books – which it does – an exabyte is what it would take to store 50,000 Libraries of Congress. Driven by video and rich media, it’s likely that Internet traffic will continue to grow at a 50-60% annual rate – a phenomenon dubbed the “exaflood” way back in ancient 2001. We’re at an advanced – and at the same time infantile — state of the Web. Future opportunity abounds!!

 Next, Curtis Hill brought everyone from the 50,000-foot view to the sidewalks of Connecticut’s cities, where thousands of disadvantaged families live without computers, let alone connection to the web and the world of information, knowledge and opportunity that it offers. Hill’s organization is attacking this digital divide on several levels. It trains teachers to use technology in education. It places computers in the homes of poor families in partnership with corporations like ComCast and A.T. & T. whose foundation is supporting free annual Internet access to go with the computers. It trains parents to use the computers so that they can help their children use them for research, homework and other educational pursuits. In a wonderful off-shoot of the endeavor, the parents – many of whom are jobless when the computer arrives – are using their new technology to search for and connect with jobs!!

 Jeff Blodgett had the task of sharing how public policy is bridging the vision of a world connected by unimaginable technological advances and the realities of society’s economic gaps. Unfortunately, public policy doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with either the need for enormous investments in technology infrastructure to maintain growth – or the far more modest investment in bringing the Internet to the small percentage of as-yet-unconnected citizens. That’s not only sad, but potentially tragic in terms of lost opportunity and impeded forward progress. But with enough foresight and will – and agreement that our future growth is tied to the online world — we can hopefully overcome any challenges.

 As hot a topic as it is, Net Neutrality, was an appendix at this event, addressed in the Q&A session in the interest of time and in the face of three compelling presentations. It’s probable that it will become a topic of its own at a future seminar. 

 To end on an upbeat note – which you can pretty much always count on from me -the idea of exaflood made me think of the iconic Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim’s song Aguas de Marco – Waters of March – his impression of Brazil’s annual rains and consequent floods. As nature is random, the music, though it sounds somewhat repetitive, never repeats a phrase exactly. The sheet music goes on for about ten pages. The recording you’re listening to is by Brazilian-born jazz pianist Eliane Elias. She couples Waters of March with another Jobim tune – Agua de Beber, Water to Drink — a song about nurturing – in this post a tribute to Curtis Hill and his excellent nonprofit. If you visited last week, you’ll know that I’m on a big Brazilian kick! I’ll try to diversify next time, but oh do I love the music of Brazil!!!

Enjoy! Hope to see you soon!!

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Inbound Marketing: 3 Tips for Retaining Perspective While Navigating Thru Chop & Churn

Posted on November 9, 2009. Filed under: Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


I read the news today, oh boy. Beatles references from the 70’s notwithstanding, I read a number of items today that speak to the volatility of the times we’re in. Here are a few from just one source I read, the daily feed from Media Post’s SearchMarketing Daily.

  • Murdoch Rages Against the Machine, Calls Search Giants ‘Kleptos’
  • Google to Acquire AdMob for $750 Million
  • Microsoft Bing Gives WiFi Users Free Search
  • Search Engine LeapFish Merges Real-time Data & Social Content
  • Attention Holiday Shoppers: Google Introduces Commerce Search API

 This doesn’t touch the 20 links from Twitter posts that I clicked – most of them imparting valuable information. Or the reviews I read about the new Motorola Droid smart phone from Verizon.

Marketing is navigating through turbulent times. For me the speed of evolving media, online tools, marketing tactics and strategies produces both anxiety and exhilaration. It’s like being on the back of a Harley on a thruway. There’s the anxiety-producing possibility of annihilation coupled with the life-affirming thrill of being one with nature and a machine at the same time.

Pardon yet another metaphor in a post in danger of metaphor overload, but I have to navigate back to my nautical post title. You’ve probably noticed that we’re in a period of change. This means that as communications/marketing pros we have to chart a course for our clients through constant chop and churn.

We work hard to keep up with the shifting winds and waves (including Google Wave ;-} ) that may influence a safe course for our journey into the future of marketing. But when, at times, it all seems capable of capsizing our ship, it’s time to set our anchors, check our compasses and get some perspective.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty metaphored out. Hope you’ll cut me some slack and decide that I’m ‘nautical but nice’ when I share a few tips for coping.

  1. Separate tools and tactics from strategies and objectives. Mostly what’s changing at breakneck speed here is technology. Then there’s the conflict and noise created by those pushing to commercialize it. No sin in that, but let’s not get distracted by it. Let them do their thing. Let’s you and I figure out what your needs and objectives are. Then we’ll go after the most opportunistic tools of the moment to help you get where you’re going.
  2. Focus on some constants that won’t change or vary as the new marketing winds shift. How about your brand values and the audiences who connect with them? Keep your eye on the horizon formed by your loyal stakeholders, as well as those who don’t know you yet, but can benefit from your products and services. Keep steering toward the True North of your brand promise, regardless of the tools you implement in the process.
  3. Loosen up. In times like these, flexibility translates to bottom line gains. Back to the nauseating nautical references: Put out a spinnaker and let the wind pull you fast. But make sure your putt-putt engine is in good shape and stow a few oars in case you lose mast, sails and rudder and have to get back to port on the limp. At least you’ll live to sail tomorrow with the best of them.

The music this time is Brazilian composer, pianist, vocalist Ivan Lins performing his song Velas – translation: Sails. Not only does this selection tie in nicely to the nautical theme, but Lins made his mark writing protest songs during the reign of Brazil’s military junta in the 60’s. So he knows a thing or two about navigating through turbulent times.

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Sorcerer’s Apprentice Part Two: Remembering John R. Walsh

Posted on November 1, 2009. Filed under: Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

John Walsh & Sonia Henie


OK. Here’s what really got me thinking about mentors when I wrote a post about my inbound marketing teachers earlier today. On November 1, 2007 – hard to believe it’s two years ago — my own, dear personal mentor died. His name was John R. Walsh and he was one of the unsung giants of PR. He led small New York PR agencies with and without partners that broke a lot of new ground from the early 1960s through the mid-1980s.

John created amazing PR programs for major brands. These included Colgate Palmolive’s women’s golf events – the Colgate-Dinah Shore and the Triple Crown match play tournament, precursors to what we now call sports marketing. When Dinah died and AP stories pictured her on the 18th tee of Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, home of the tournament, former Colgate CEO David Foster wrote John a personal note pointing out that the tournament continued to shine a positive spotlight on the company years after it ended.

He turned the staid nautical marketing image of Cutty Sark Scots Whisky on its ear when he convinced its distributor to give him ‘one billboard’s worth of budget’ to sponsor a star-studded men’s fashion awards event in collaboration with the Men’s Fashion Association. The Cutty Sark Menswear Awards were nominated and voted by the fashion press, ran for years and boosted the careers of designers like Gianni Versace, Alexander Julian, Jhane Barnes and many others. It also sold a lot of scotch.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild became John’s friend as well as client when he handled the Smithsonian-sponsored US tour of the original art work for the Mouton Rothschild vintage wine labels. These are only a few examples of his brilliant campaign creation.

 He was a commanding presence who had Fortune 500 CEO’s, Hollywood stars, the press and other influential personae falling in line with his ideas. He was a great producer of shows, played a mean piano (in the key of ‘C’ only) and composed some terrific songs (also in ‘C’). He thrilled at hearing the overture to a Broadway show – which is why the music you’re listening to here is the overture from the original cast album of Mack & Mabel – one of his favorites – starring Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters.

John recognized that writing was a natural talent of mine and convinced me of it too by giving me heavy-duty writing assignments when I was just a kid really. He taught me to see the relationships among seemingly un-related dots – and then to connect them. When I decided to start my own PR consultancy he assured me that it was a no-brainer and that I’d certainly succeed.

 The proudest media success of my career was the role I played in writing his obit and placing it in the New York Times. The archives somehow detached the accompanying photo of John skating with Olympic gold medalist and movie star Sonja Henie so I’ve posted it for you to see. I forgot to mention that he was her partner in her touring ice show.  Other details of his life and career – including the fact that in an interesting turn he became my stepfather – are in the press coverage.

Thinking of you, John. I miss you and love you.

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Inbound Marketing Mentors: Sorcerer’s Apprentice Redux

Posted on November 1, 2009. Filed under: Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |


I guess I must be suffering a Halloween hangover this morning – despite an extra hour of turn-back-the-clock sleep. For more than a year, as mentioned before, I’ve immersed in the world of inbound marketing, social media and the other tools that will help clients communicate effectively and profitably in the years ahead. In this really interesting and exciting pursuit, I’ve become a willing apprentice and have gratefully accepted mentorship in all of the forms that it’s generously been offered.

While a relative newbie compared to some, this is still a pretty new turn in our industry so I feel something like a pioneer at the same time. As I make my way with everyone else who’s busy ‘trying to figure this all out’, I’ve found myself sitting at the feet of brilliant and talented people who have hacked out the rugged path for my covered wagon.

For the past month or so, since a great Social Media guy Walter Elly introduced me to it at Inbound Marketing Summit 09 in Boston, I’ve been listening to and studying the webinars offered in a free certification curriculum — Inbound Marketing University.

This formidable effort was put together and is offered by HubSpot (www.hubspot.com) as a way to start credentialing people who have committed to becoming knowledgeable in the ways of marketing on the Web. Rebecca Corliss of HubSpot has taken charge of IMU, which leverages the webinars they had been offering over time featuring such experts as Chris Brogan of New Marketing Labs and ChrisBrogan.com, entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk of winelibrary.tv, and Avinash Kaushik, Google’s analytical guru and author of the new Web Analytics 2.0. IMU covers the wide array of topics that comprise the complex Inbound Marketing approach.

For those who clicked on the play button for today’s jazz selection, let me take a moment to explain why I chose it for this post. The group is one of the many configurations over decades of drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Blakey is known as one of the top mentors and nurturers of jazz talent who ever lived. In a musical art form based on apprenticeship and passing down learning from generation to generation, Art Blakey was one of the most prolific teachers.

The tune you’re listening to is Moanin’, composed and played here by pianist Bobby Timmons. In addition to his mentor Blakey, Timmons is accompanied by fellow mentees who all went on to make an enormous mark on jazz — the great trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, and bassist Jymie Merritt. It’s from an October 30, 1958 recording session, making it a particularly apropos selection for Halloween weekend.

Anyhow – I look forward to sitting soon for the exam that will hopefully result in my being recognized as a Certified Inbound Marketing Professional. Thank you to all of my teachers and role models for helping me as I shift my experience and talents into this new direction. I promise to put what I’m learning – and will continue to learn — to good use and pass it forward to others who decide to follow this road. Check out IMU at www.inboundmarketing.com/university/classes.

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Old & New PR: Break the Cookie Cutter by Revealing Clients’ Human Qualities

Posted on October 26, 2009. Filed under: Jazz, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |


As I think about social media and inbound marketing, my mind sifts through what things we did in traditional PR that can stay — and what’s gotta go. In that mindset, how do we help our clients to stand out in the crowd? Let’s keep story telling. Let’s ditch ‘spin’.

What hasn’t changed from my old to my new PR thinking is that we differentiate our clients by humanizing them. Fortunately ‘being human’ is a social media watchword! But when you look at website after website or press release after press release in a given industry and encounter jargon and sameness from company to company, you see that this humanizing business can be a real challenge.

Then – and especially now — when companies take safe haven in communications conformity, they do so at their peril. From a PR practitioner’s standpoint there’s no reason for it — though convincing clients to humanize can be risky and require a fair amount of education, client service elbow grease and creativity.

The most seemingly ‘cookie cutter’ business probably has a personality and culture that makes it a oner. It always was — and still is — up to PR and marketing professionals to learn enough about what makes our clients tick to understand how this differentiates the way they do business from their competitors. Building a relationship where the client trusts that we will humanize them professionally and in their best interest, can serve as a model for the relationships we help them to build with their important audiences.

I remember 20+ years ago taking on a relatively new bagel baking company as a client. A skeptical colleague said, “What can you possibly do for such a commodity business? There’s a bagel shop on every block?”

Turns out that the business was run by two brothers who were willing to let me personalize them in their PR campaigns. One was the baker and, I learned, he had created an awesome, crusty Italian hearth bread, in addition to his staple bagel products. He was a really sweet guy who loved kids and coached softball. The other brother — a former Ford model who had made ‘the Italian Look’ famous on the international fashion scene – was handling business development. As we built a relationship, we discovered that he and I had worked on the same high profile men’s fashion awards show in New York for years but hadn’t met.

Italian Look, Italian bread. There was something interesting here! And the connection we established in the ‘getting to know you’ phase allowed the brothers to trust my instincts about how to connect them to their publics.

So, what did we do to differentiate them? The Ford model brother and I contacted the top designers we both knew and put on a dazzling charity fashion show that people remember to this day. With the baking brother we set up a hometown baker apprenticeship program for non-college-bound kids.

In promoting these efforts, their baked goods – as high quality and delicious as they were – were pretty much secondary. The human interest and the lack of commercialism attracted incredible media attention. People came, tasted and bought. By offering their unique talents, their caring qualities and their wares for the greater good of their community, they were embraced and became the most famous bagel shop in the state. The business is thriving still.

Solid PR practitioners have been creating these kinds of client representation strategies since the start of the profession. In recent years, many have been sidetracked, buying into the idea that we have to ‘spin’. But, if we creatively focus on how our clients’ human qualities drive the business, there’s no need to spin anything. The reality of who they are is quite good enough, thank you.

As we move marketing and PR into online communities the same principles hold true – in spades. On the social Web this approach is the expected one. By participating and making a contribution, our clients will attract the positive attention they deserve.

OK – to the music! One of the reasons I love jazz is that it offers endless variations on themes. In fact, jazz improvisation provides the perfect example of how to apply skill and creativity to break the cookie cutter. Today I was in the mood for piano music – solo piano to kind of ease into the week. I pulled out the piano genius Bill Evans’ Conversations With Myself, which in a way this blog is, although it is absolutely meant to be shared with you all.

In reality, the album isn’t a pure solo piano effort because Evans overdubbed a ‘third hand’ onto each tune – a bit of technological tinkering that was largely unpopular at the time — 1963. And maybe it still is. It makes for an unusual and unique sound, revealing Evans’ personal human qualities that can be mischievous and ironic. Regardless, it is considered a classic.

In reviewing the play list, I discovered that it included Evans’ rendition of Love Theme From Spartacus, the tune that accompanied my first blog post, played by Yusef Lateef. I didn’t even think that I had a recording of this tune by another artist – but there it was. So now you’ll hear it again through the filter of Bill Evans. Have fun listening to them back-to-back. Each jazz musician makes a tune his very own. That’s what we all do and must communicate about our businesses within our industries!

 Enjoy! Hope to see you soon.

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Philly vs New York! Future of Newspapers — Part 2

Posted on October 20, 2009. Filed under: Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


No, I’m not offering wishful thinking about the World Series pairing  – although I’m partial to a back-to-back Series win for my hometown team. What I’m amazed to tell you is that my native Philadelphia Inquirer is up there with my adopted New York Times in the race for major dailies to figure out how to leverage print content – and monetize it – online.

In fact, this is shaping up as a week of focus on forward-thinking print media strategies. Yesterday’s post was about the new weekly paper concept of the Westchester Eye. Today I get an email from the Inquirer, subject line: Think Green – Get the eInquirer Online.

Aside from my first sarcastic thought that online would be the obvious place to get an e-paper, I was immediately curious as to how the eInquirer might differ from the online content currently available on Philly.com, the existing Inquirer/Daily News website. So I clicked.

Well here it is folks. For those who can’t bear to give up the look of the print paper — including me to a degree, the eInquirer delivers an identical on-screen facsimile — complete with ads. As my impatient mind raced forward I asked myself, “Looks good, nice try. But people don’t access content online the same way they do in print.”

Nonetheless, I decided to click on the free two-week no obligation trial. A demo popped up and it didn’t take long til I began to think, “Maybe they’re onto something here!” What you can do is flip through the ‘paper’ as though you were perusing the print version. But as you cursor over stories additional info, including story rank, pops up. If you wish, you can click on a story to opt for a couple of different online-friendly reading formats.

You can also clip, organize and save articles. From the tool bar you can access drop-down menus, email and share stories via social media networks, subscribe to condensed RSS feeds, view all photos in the paper in a gallery, access breaking news, go back to prior issues and archives and take advantage of a variety of search and other nifty options – including downloads and a mobile version.

The price? $2.25 per week delivered to your inbox. I checked to see how this compares to the print subscription price and was offered eight weeks for $48.64 — creative pricing ;-) – or $6.08 per week. In my estimation, I think that a tad more than a third of the cost of print for an online version that gives convenience, flexibility and far more functionality is an attractive deal. Plus you get to save some trees. But I’m interested to know what you all think.

The question I have is, will people gravitate to the $2.25-per-week replica – even with bells and whistles — when they can still go to the robust Philly.com and get news, commentary, entertainment calendars and more for free. I’ll let you know how I like my trial e-subscription and will get more info about how or whether the Inquirer plans to migrate to an all-paid model and ditch its free content.

The New York Times also offers an electronic edition for $9.99 per month for Monday through Friday delivery ($87.95 for a one-year sign-up) and $14.99 per month for seven days ($174.95 for a one-year sign-up). As far as recall the Times has never marketed this option to me, though I’m a subscriber.

Recently I reduced my seven-day print subscription to the Times’ ‘Weekender’ delivery option — Friday through Sunday. It runs about $26 per month vs $48, and the rest of the time I get my news online. That might explain why the electronic version is buried in a link low on the left-hand sidebar of NYTimes.com.  But if, as its copy says, “The future of the digital newspaper has arrived!,” maybe the Times ought to give it a bigger shout out and see what happens. As I think of throwing out the weekend papers I didn’t read because I was away, from here I’m going to sign up for my NYTimes seven-day free trial of a full week of the electronic version. 

Anyhow – Go Philly! Go Phils!! My hometown – which, as I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog sometimes has a bit of an inferiority complex vs NYC –  can be proud of its championship baseball team and of its paper as it innovates to survive in a digital world.

In honor of Philadelphia, you’re listening to native son Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond B-3 organ (an instrument that drives me wild!) as well as trumpet. He’s playing Naima, a rare gentle tune by legendary jazz tenor sax player John Coltrane, another Philly native. It’s from Joey’s album Reboppin’.

 Enjoy! See you soon!

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You’re Launching What?!! The Future of Newspapers — Today!

Posted on October 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |


We’re all well aware that print publishing is in serious trouble. The Seattle Post- Intelligencer and other fabled dailies are no more. Gourmet Magazine is defunct. BusinessWeek has been herded into the Bloomberg stable. And efforts to monetize print content online, has been largely unsuccessful. Consider The New York Times’ failed effort to take even part of its premium online content out of the ‘free’ column.

 Despite these gloomy facts, some print media veterans are exploring where print’s future may lie. Case in point is Westchester Eye, a weekly paper launched today (Monday, Oct 19) by newspaper veterans – and long-time Westchester County, New York residents — Kenneth A. Chandler, Publisher & Editorial Director and Peter Moses, Editor-in-Chief.

 I met the two on Friday when they presented to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Westchester-Fairfield Chapter. They see a niche for a new kind of regional weekly publication in their market that will benefit local advertisers, while meeting the desire of readers for stories no longer being covered by besieged dailies or not easily found online. They have the creds to take a decent stab at it, too.

Chandler is a former publisher of the New York Post and the Boston Herald. Moses was a long-time  reporter for the Post whose beat covered the Bronx and Westchester County and who served an almost decade-long stint as a broadcast producer, so he understands journalism from more than just the print platform. Both intimately know the turf on which their experiment is unfolding.

 What Chandler and Moses recognized is that, while dailies are struggling to survive in print, migrate to the web or come up with some hybrid formula (see annarbor.com), weekly community papers are thriving. In my area, for example, some years ago, the parent of the daily Connecticut Post bought Brooks Community Newspapers, weeklies serving a number of towns in Fairfield County.

 So what makes Westchester Eye new and different? You have to ask, in a region where every small town is served by a daily (here a localized version of Gannett’s Journal-News), a local weekly or shopper, maybe a county-wide weekly specialty publication (here the Westchester County Business Journal), and maybe a glossy monthly lifestyle magazine, what’s the need?

 In general, Westchester Eye eschews day-to-day breaking news coverage. Rather, the emphasis is on identifying and covering new or emerging trends. This puts them into more of a forecasting mode. It also allows for in-depth coverage of stories over time.

 “People have told us we’re either visionaries or crazies,” said Moses. “Of course, we think it’s the former. Our sense of the marketplace is pretty sanguine and straightforward. There is no local business news in the Journal News anymore. The Westchester Business Journal does a great job, but is mostly a business-to-business weekly. Our focus on business stories differs from that model.”

Moses added that lifestyle stories have suffered, too, in daily paper coverage, the result of wide reporter layoffs. They intend to package lifestyle coverage in, “a smart and entertaining way.” Politics will also figure large in the paper’s coverage, crossing borders to go from hyper-local perspectives to more regional implications and impact.

 For his part, Chandler described their venture as, “letting the dinosaurs out of Jurassic Park!” The paper has an ad-based business model. No classifieds. Online presence will be limited to teasing stories and giving advertisers an extension of reach – for now. Striving for editorial and journalistic excellence over time, good old-fashioned separation of church and state is the ruling policy. No pay for play. He sites some recent precedent for trend-focused reporting – NewsWeek and Sporting News.

 According to publisher Chandler, the bigger dailies are too expensive for local businesses to have any significant impact. And local weeklies have a limited reach. Although packages with group publishers of community papers may extend that reach, the cost can come close to or even exceed the cost of advertising in dailies. He believes that the closer you get to grass roots, the less the Web is a factor, and, in fact, has been very inefficient for local advertisers.

 “Print is still good for the local business,” he said. “It allows the plumber, for instance, to build a presence so he’s top of mind when a plumbing emergency arises. And our geographic reach will allow retailers and others to reach potential customers from a broader geography.”

 For now, Westchester Eye will be distributed to about 200 locations including major office parks, train stations, retail locations and others. On the editorial side, it is carefully vetting and hiring freelance talent.

 I agree with Chandler and Moses’ assessment that this region has long been a nightmare for advertisers. And one of the reasons that publicity has been so attractive a part of the marketing mix. So – go for it Ken and Peter! Hope Westchester Eye is a smashing success. Hope to see you in Fairfield County before too long!

Today, the story is inspiring the music choice. In honor of the Chandler-Moses collaboration, you’ve been enjoying one of the most delicious jazz collaborations ever – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong from the album Ella and Louis Again. The tune is George and Ira Gershwin’s They All Laughed. Seems apropos for a venture that may well succeed despite conventional opinion to the contrary.

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