Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CUSTOMER VS. EMPLOYEE: Challenging Conventional Wisdom

The customer is number one. This is a fundamental tenet of business…and, might I say, business folklore. Some years ago, business executive Hal Rosenbluth wrote a book called The Customer Comes Second . If Rosenbluth is right, who is first? He says the employee.

Now there is a study — cited in The New York Times — that suggests Rosenbluth may be right. The employee may indeed be more important than the customer. The study found that strong sales growth was correlated with an organizational culture in which employees thought more highly of the company than did society at large.

In fact, there was 7.46% rise in sales for the companies whose employees like the company much more than consumers did; and there was 9.02% drop in sales for companies at which employee opinion was far below customer opinion.

This proves that employee impressions of a company are critical to its success...and critical to attracting business. Employees are the face of the company. They are the ambassadors who make a difference.

In fact, if employee attitudes are much better than expected, customer approval of the company actually increases exponentially — sometimes even surpassing employees’ approval — and sales go through the roof.

This study leaves no doubt whatsoever about the importance of employee relations programs and what it takes to win over customers … whether you see them as #1 or #2.

Technorati Tags: Hal Rosenbluth, New York Times,
customer, employee,communications, public relations, Makovsky

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is Domino’s Dissing Its Customers?

Domino’s Pizza, the nation’s second largest pizza chain, recently launched its new formulation in a flurry of media, both traditional and online. What I found extraordinary about the whole marketing campaign was its focus on how awful Domino’s old recipe was, describing the “classic” Domino’s pie as “mass produced, boring, bland,” with a taste like “cardboard” … worse even than microwave pizza.

Some people love the ads; others, not so much. In that last group are the perplexed Domino’s customers who actually liked the old pie. “… They are basically saying, ‘We've been shoveling you crap for years and now we want you to trust us,’” said Kelly O’Keefe , managing director of the Brand Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in a recent AP interview.

I totally agree. Suggesting that you’ve been cheating your most loyal customers for the past 50 years by selling them a second-rate product is just not the strongest platform for future growth.

On the other hand, the company’s new CEO, J. Patrick Doyle, has said, “The old days of trying to spin things simply doesn't work anymore. Great brands going forward are going to have a level of honesty and transparency that hasn't been seen before”

How can you argue with that?

Generally considered a leader in delivery and value, Domino's has indeed taken some hits when it comes to taste. The ads are definitely eye-catching. And so far, the publicity pay-off has been impressive, including endorsements of the taste of the new pie by, among others, all five hosts of CBS’s Early Show and Stephen Colbert , who said that the new Domino’s pizza tastes “like an angel giving birth in your mouth.”

It’s a risky approach — and not one I’d recommend to a client — but it just might work. We’ll have to wait and see.

Technorati Tags: Domino's pizza, pizza,
J Patrick Doyle, Stephen Colbert,communications, public relations, Makovsky

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The "Blurry" President

The senatorial victory of Scott Brown , a Republican in the largely Democratic Massachusetts, should not have been a big surprise to the Democratic Party.

They had to know that they have been doing a sloppy job of packaging their candidates and their health reform bill…and yet have continued nonchalantly on their way. Has the Party so quickly forgotten how effectively Obama was packaged: the engaging smile, the audience outreach, the simple to remember “yes, we can” slogan. Americans like slogans and memorable phrases with a message. They take to candidates who engage them.

Scott Brown had those qualities. Martha Coakley was snippy. Why run a chancy, audience-insensitive candidate in an election where your life depends on it? And you need to build upon the legacy of the man who “founded,” “pioneered” and fought hard to get health care reform before he died.

Where is Obama’s leadership? Who can really define the health reform bill in a few sentences, if not a few words? No one. The Republicans used one word that everyone can remember: “expensive.” What happened to the so-called best communicator among Presidents since Ronald Reagan? As Frank Rich of The New York Times said in a telephone interview with Don Imus on FOX Business Network the other day, he’s gone “blurry.”

Technorati Tags: Scott Brown,
Martha Coakley,Frank Rich, Obama,
communications, public relations, Makovsky

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Surprising Stats: An Average Day on the Internet

Just how big is the internet? Mind-bogglingly big.

Online Education (via The Presurfer ) has produced a fascinating graphic about an average day on the internet. Among the stunning statistics:

• Over 210 billon emails are sent out every day — the equivalent of more than a whole year’s worth of regular mail in the U.S.

• Bloggers post 900,000 new articles every day — enough to fill The New York Times for 19 years.

• 700,000 new members are added to Facebook every day — approximately equivalent to the population of Guyana.

• Three million images are uploaded to Flickr everyday — enough images to fill a 375,000-page photo album.

Who would have imagined this just a few years ago?

Technorati Tags: internet,
flickr,online education, facebook,
communications, public relations, Makovsky

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tinkering with Conan’s Image

Has Conan O’Brien failed as the new host of NBC’s “Tonight Show”? I’d say the answer is yes. Reason? Diluted image.

The only question in my mind is why NBC is coming to such a rapid conclusion and not giving O’Brien the time he needs to build his audience. That is unfortunate. When he started the show last June and Jay Leno , the previous host, was moved to 10 PM, Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal, said, “We’re going to judge this on 52 weeks,” according to The New York Times . But after only 17 weeks, NBC has telegraphed its intention to return Leno to the 11:35 PM spot followed by O’Brien at 12:05. It’s a real slap in the face to Conan.

During his initial six months, Conan O’Brien averaged 2.8 million viewers, whereas Jay Leno, during the six-month period prior to Conan’s starting, averaged 5 million viewers. Leno’s failure at 10 PM affects the money local 11 PM news in various spots around the U.S. can make, and it affects Conan, as well.

All of this hullabaloo puts the spotlight on Conan. As a long-time Conan fan from his “Late Show” days, I have been mighty disappointed in his “Tonight Show” brand. And I assume others have been equally disappointed. Conan is a product of New York — he looks it and acts it. His long legs, shock of red hair, sardonic smile and offbeat humor fit the culture here. He’s a little different. New Yorkers like somebody a little different, as probably do many viewers throughout the country who watch after 12:30 AM. On the “Late Show” he would come out, do a few twirls, shake his hips in hula-like fashion, stick his thumbs in the air to the right and left as if he were hitching a ride — and then get started. So everyone was laughing before he said word one.

So what does NBC do? Move Conan O’Brien to California. Remove the physical antics which were his trademark. Soften his sardonic wit. Keep his subtleties. And what do you have? A diluted Conan. A Conan who is no longer Conan. He is someone I do not know. Middle America will buy New York (e.g., Joan Rivers and Jerry Seinfeld), but they won’t buy someone who is not real.

Leno is an easy sell in middle America. Not too good looking. Regular guy. Humor is sharp, funny and easy to understand. Exceptional track record at a time when there is an advertiser recession and local affiliates are losing money. No brainer.

You can take the boy out of New York but you can’t take New York out of the boy. NBC: are you listening?

Technorati Tags: NBC, Conan O'Brien, Tonight Show, Jay Leno,
communications, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Thursday, January 07, 2010


May I have the privilege of one more postscript on the ongoing Tiger Woods scandal? I know we’ve all heard enough, but I have one additional point to get off my chest.

I was with my brother the other day when he raised some interesting questions. How did Tiger Woods maintain his squeaky-clean image for such a long time? How did he get away with multiple infidelities during the many, many years that he was held up as Accenture’s — and other leading advertisers’— role model? Is nothing as it seems anymore? Is no image real…or above reproach?

Finally, is the Tiger Woods story shocking because it underscores the fact that little today is what it appears to be … or that most is not what it appears to be?

Even with modern day internet transparency, certain information is likely to elude us. That may be because the press or others become so enamored of certain celebrities that factoids which could be explosive refuse to gain traction. Or the information is simply overlooked…at least until the crisis breaks. So, while it remains possible for one whistleblower to bring down an institution (and we advise clients to be prepared for that possibility), the revelation doesn’t always happen — or it may not happen for years, as was the case with the exposure of Woods’ many affairs.

There are and always will be celebrities and high-profile corporate leaders with good characters and high moral fiber. And they will exist among those whose reputations are built with the support of public relations. As public relations professionals, we do our best to ensure — via research, client probing and, ultimately, agreements with our clients — that they are providing thorough information that enables us to tell the truth. Full and fair disclosure from our clients is essential for us to do our best for them. Not to do so is to be like the patient who doesn’t tell the whole story to his psychiatrist. Once the due diligence is done and the agreements are signed, we cannot know what lurks behind corners.

Technorati Tags: Tiger Woods, Accenture, transparency,
communications, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Monday, January 04, 2010

Gandhi's Seven Blunders to Avoid: in 2010

As the decade of the “noughties” winds to a close, it’s time to think positive! It is 2010! Let us not forget the mistakes we made in 2009 (and before), but let’s also not wallow in regret! Let’s focus instead on consciously avoiding the blunders that created the crises of the past ten years.

Shortly before he was assassinated, the great spiritual and political leader, Mahatma Gandhi, compiled a list of the “Seven Blunders of the World” which are particularly relevant as we enter a new decade. If we avoid these blunders, we will enjoy a better result, Gandhi advocated. Each of the Seven gives us food for thought:

1. Wealth without work
2. Pleasure without conscience
3. Knowledge without character
4. Commerce without morality
5. Science without humanity
6. Worship without sacrifice
7. Politics without principle

As a communicator (and a human being), I care about all seven blunders. It strikes me that a corporation, for example, would do well to examine its corporate values with special reference to items #1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

Fortunately, in our great country, we have a choice of how we approach our relationships in business and personally. The standards Gandhi has set provide an excellent foundation for the beginning of any new year!

Technorati Tags:Mahatma Gandhi, Seven Blunders of the World,
communications, public relations, Makovsky