Monday, October 29, 2007

E-Mail: Six Ways to Avoid Slipping on a Banana Peel

There is probably as much literature on the pros and cons of e-mail as there is on the bible. But I haven’t seen much on using e-mail for the wrong reasons. That is why this is worth reading. Marc Brownstein of the Brownstein Group recently published these in Ad Age. He calls them “Six Quick Rules for E-Mail Etiquette.” I call them “Six Ways to Avoid Slipping on a Banana Peel.” Here they are:

Six Quick Rules for E-Mail Etiquette

  1. Always wait an hour before sending an e-mail when you are upset about the content of a creative brief, or revision to an ad, press release, web design, etc. That applies both internally and to a client. We've all sent emails in the heat of battle and often regretted doing so afterwards. Not worth all of the apologetic e-mails and calls you'll have to make later.

  2. Be careful not to get too comfortable managing a client relationship via the REPLY and SEND buttons. Get out of your office, get in a car and drive to see your client face to face. Nothing like it. Even in this digital age.

  3. Ditto for managing people. I'm an admitted Crackberry addict, and find it easier to send an e-mail to my colleague sitting in the office right next to me. When I do, I think, you lazy SOB -- get up and walk next door to talk! The good news is that I have been taking my own advice in recent months. I once heard that Stan Richards (Richards Group, Dallas) doesn't allow ANY internal email. People are actually forced to talk. Imagine that.

  4. Double check who you are replying to. How many times have you sent an e-mail about a sensitive, confidential issue to someone who was copied on the e-mail inadvertently? Agencies have lost clients by sending careless emails.

  5. Think twice about your form of communication. Will a phone call get the job done more effectively? Tone and manner simply cannot be properly conveyed on a keyboard.

  6. Never send ideas that you value in an e-mail in an attempt to present/sell a concept, headline, tagline, etc. Putting it in the editorial environment of an e-mail cheapens creativity, and devalues your idea. If you have to use technology to present an idea, set up a Live Meeting teleconference (it's a great tool, by Microsoft). It enables you to bring a PowerPoint presentation to life remotely, and strengthens your ability to sell-in the idea.

There is no “slippage” if you follow these rules! Good luck!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Life in Balance

It's just a change in a few little words, but I like "life in balance" better than "work-life balance," a commonly used phrase in the business world. It all hit me during my vacation last week at a spa that employs the former as a tagline.

To me it is not just about "work" and "life," as if the two were separate and one needs to devote more time to one than the other. It's about one's "life," and the role work plays in it, and that could be anything from a very big role to playing a minor one.

Now what about the "balance" part of it? Even for those who choose to have a heavy work schedule, "life in balance" suggests that you examine every aspect of living that is available to you and determine if you are spending adequate time in that particular endeavor insofar as the demands you are faced with today permit. For example, look at the following areas: as a parent, sibling or friend; doing exercise, charity work, or taking courses and engaging in sports; spending time reading, thinking, building new relationships or deepening older ones; planning for the future or what your next career move will be; focusing on your diet or researching a new idea. The list goes on. But the point is not to be single focused. Both you and your employer will be the beneficiary of your broader focus and experience. If your career is dominant, make sure you are passionate about what you are doing. If your career is not dominant, you can select what will be or you can spread your time evenly among many things. You need to create a balance that works for you today. Obviously, you will need to reexamine that at another time in your life cycle.

"Life in Balance" to me means spending most of my time on what I am passionate about -- my work -- and achieving the goals I have set forth. My work has been an adventure, opening up so many new intellectual, informational, social, charitable, diplomatic, business and travel opportunities that in some ways it has even combined many of my extracurricular interests. "Life in Balance" to me also means taking one day at total leisure within every seven day period, having an occasional week night evening out and taking work-free vacations where I can focus 100 percent on total relaxation and having fun.
Further, I am always game to explore a new idea or new activity.
Nevertheless, nothing is perfect, and occasionally I cannot always meet these ideals.

I do believe that an employer can help people in the company put their lives in balance through good advice as well as programs that promote flexibility, education, health, recreation, etc.

But, at bottom, I believe it is up to the individual to survey his or her own life and figure out what "balance" means -- and based on the time you put in on priority activities, that you get the rewards you are seeking.

Technorati Tags: life in balance, work life balance, career, passion, goals, extracurricular interests, business, communications, public relations

Monday, October 15, 2007

Seven Principles of PR Management

There are 7 principles of public relations management which I adhere to and believe all of us in this profession need to be cognizant of. They emanate from the Arthur Page Society, which is dedicated to best practices in our business and is composed of the top person in communications in the Fortune 500, as well as agency leaders. I am proud to be a part of this group. The 7 principles follow:
  • Tell the truth. Let the public know what's happening and provide an accurate picture of the company's character, ideals and practices.

  • Prove it with action. Public perception of an organization is determined 90 percent by what it does and 10 percent by what it says.

  • Listen to the customer. To serve the company well, understand what the public wants and needs. Keep top decision makers and other employees informed about public reaction to company products, policies and practices.

  • Manage for tomorrow. Anticipate public reaction and eliminate practices that create difficulties. Generate goodwill.

  • Conduct public relations as if the whole company depends on it. Corporate relations is a management function. No corporate strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public. The public relations professional is a policymaker capable of handling a wide range of corporate communications activities.

  • Realize a company's true character is expressed by its people. The strongest opinions -- good or bad -- about a company are shaped by the words and deeds of its employees. As a result, every employee -- active or retired -- is involved with public relations. It is the responsibility of corporate communications to support each employee's capability and desire to be an honest, knowledgeable ambassador to customers, friends, shareowners and public officials.

  • Remain calm, patient and good-humored. Lay the groundwork for public relations miracles with consistent and reasoned attention to information and contacts. This may be difficult with today's contentious 24-hour news cycles and endless number of watchdog organizations. But when a crisis arises, remember, cool heads communicate best.

Technorati Tags: public relations management, Arthur Page Society, Fortune 500, corporate strategy, public perception, agency leaders, business, communications, public relations

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Mets' Black Mark

Baseball, like any business, is dependent upon its relationship with the audiences that support it. Baseball primarily relies on the fans that buy tickets to see the games, tune in to radio and TV for play-by-play and read the media, both online and off, to get commentary and the after-game reports.

Every business that wants to stay in business makes a pact with its customers that it will do its very best to serve them. If best efforts are not provided to paying customers, credibility suffers.

That is the situation the New York Mets baseball team finds itself in, following the biggest collapse in baseball history, as the team, having dominated first place for most of the 2007 season, lost a seven game lead on Sept. 17 and lost the division to the Philadelphia Phillies. What further contributed to the letdown was the hype over the new Mets team, built over the last three years, as one of the best, if not the best team in baseball.

The reason for the collapse? “Complacency,” according to the Mets’ manager, Willie Randolph, in an Oct. 3 interview in the New York Times. Complacent, to me, means self-satisfied, content with the status-quo, and lacking in drive to reach the greatest heights possible. What a bitter pill for paying fans to swallow! That is certainly not fan ROI. Win or lose, we at least want to know that we are getting best efforts. In this case, the manager admits that we have been short-changed.

As The Times’s Ben Shpigel points out, “He [the manager] is in charge of getting the most out of his players and convincing them not to take anything for granted.” Isn’t that a fundamental leadership expectation? Major league players, on the other hand, many of whom make more money in an hour than most people make in a year, are expected to be motivated.

Thus, how do you explain the rumored comment of one star player, who said, “We’re so good, I am bored”? Or Tom Glavine, the Mets’ superstar 300-game winning pitcher, who allowed seven runs in the first inning against the Phillies, totally demoralizing the fans, in the all-important division-deciding last game of the season? He reportedly said he was not devastated by the loss. What does it take to devastate Tom Glavine? Wouldn’t it have been appropriate to hear some emotion, some personal regret – even if only to observe fan protocol? Why didn’t the manager remove Glavine earlier in the first inning preventing the game from becoming lopsided from the get-go?

Randolph also attributed the collapse to young players who had never been through late season pressure. In reality the Mets’ lineup had more veterans than young players. Yet baseball history is loaded with young motivated teams that have won many times over. Randolph advised that some young players were becoming too celebratory and acting silly. Doesn’t management set protocols?

As a fan myself, I come out of 2007 a skeptic. You cannot shortchange your fans and keep them. Yet the manager has been told he is staying as is the rest of the leadership. The Mets will have to do some fancy footwork to regain the credibility they had built up over the past three years. Perhaps the leadership can start by issuing an apology to the fans for permitting complacency to fester and guaranteeing that it will never happen again.

Technorati Tags: baseball, New York Mets, Willie Randolph, Ben Shpigel, Tom Glavine, leadership, credibility, business, communications, public relations

Monday, October 01, 2007

Know Thy Customer

The better you know your customer, the more effective your pitch and the likelier you are to close the deal. Tailoring the pitch, the style and the element of “shock value” to your audience is the best way to capture people’s attention. Let me explain what I mean.

I was on a packed #7 subway in New York City about 10 days ago — deeply engrossed in my New York Times — on my way to the U.S. Open Super Saturday event, when suddenly a voice came out of nowhere.

I looked up and saw this rather nice looking, approximately 14-year-old boy sandwiched between people, holding onto straphangers, speaking loudly, trying to rise above the din: “Ladies and gentlemen … Can I have your attention for just two minutes?” The crowd suddenly became silent, almost as if something important were about to happen.

“I am not asking you for a donation to a charity or some other kind of organization,” he said in a very resonant tone. “This is not Boy Scout or Girl Scout Cookies. This is not fundraising of any kind. I am trying to make money for myself. I will be selling packages of M&Ms for $1 a piece and would appreciate your considering buying one. Thank you very much!” And he proceeded to make his way through the car selling the yellow sealed packages with the pictures of the familiar candies on it.

Now I know what you’re going to say. “It’s illegal to solicit on the subway.” You’re right! It’s also true that the so-called “fundraising candy scam” is familiar to almost every New Yorker.

I’m definitely not condoning this young man’s activities, but I certainly noted his energy, the enthusiasm in his presentation and his apparent candor about making money for himself. He clearly chose this particular venue to target an upscale crowd. His young, resonant voice caught everyone’s attention. He positioned himself as an entrepreneur and tailored his sales pitch to an audience of up-market businesspeople.

And his pitch was effective! A number of sophisticated straphangers, many of whom knew precisely what was going on, bought the candy anyway, because they saw something special — something of themselves — in this young man.

Technorati Tags: #7 subway, New York Times, U.S. Open, Boy Scouts, Girl Scout Cookies, M&Ms, shock value, fundraising candy scam, pitch, straphangers, New York City, business, communications, public relations