Thursday, April 29, 2010

The 10 Most Common Passwords

In 2007, revealed the 10 most common passwords in use on the internet:
• password
• 123456
• qwerty
• abc123
• letmein
• monkey
• myspace1
• password1
• link182
• (your first name)

Three years later, The New York Times has published a new, updated list and, sad to say, there’s been little improvement. Here is the latest “top ten” list of most commonly used passwords:

• 123456
• 12345
• 123456789
• password
• iloveyou
• princess
• rockyou
• 1234567
• 12345678
• abc123

While there’s always a trade-off between convenience and security, with so much of our lives and data on the web, I would think the wisest course is to protect your privacy with a password a little more difficult to guess than “123456” or “password.”

Technorati Tags:, internet, The New York Times, passwords, digital, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saluting Pioneers of PR

Public relations has a long and distinguished history, but it’s one that many people are unfamiliar with. Did you know, for example, that:

• Nearly 2,400 years ago, the brilliant Greek statesman and orator Demosthenes supplemented his income by ghostwriting speeches for wealthy and powerful clients.

• Thomas Paine, the “Father of the American Revolution” and a master of the art of persuasion, wrote The Crisis to inspire colonial resistance to the British. It actually helped convince the soldiers of Washington’s army to continue the fight for independence, despite the hardships of a winter campaign.

• The first press release was created by Ivy Lee on October 28, 1906, after a Pennsylvania Railroad train jumped the tracks, killing at least 50 people. Lee persuaded the company’s executives to openly disclose information in a carefully crafted public statement distributed directly to journalists. The New York Times was so impressed with this innovative approach to corporate communications that it printed the first press release — verbatim — as a "Statement from the Road." In the weeks that followed, both newspapers and public officials effusively praised Pennsylvania Railroad for its openness and honesty.

Technorati Tags: Demosthenes, Thomas Paine, The New York Times, Ivy Lee, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I had the good fortune to hear a talk by Dr. Jeff Cole, Director of the Center for the Digital Future at the Annenberg School of Communications, at USC in California. Jeff heads up the World Internet Project, a research program on people’s media habits, covering 30 countries, which has now collected 10 years of data. He delivered his talk before the board of trustees of the Institute for Public Relations, the leading research and education organization in our industry. Here are some of the points (referencing U.S. data) Dr. Cole made:

• All traditional media will survive, but will survive as smaller players.

• In 1946 movies sold 90 million tickets a week. Today movies sell 20 million a week, and our population has doubled since ’46.

• For many, many years a #1 song sold 15 million copies. In ’09 the #1 song sold 3.1 million copies

• There are only 40 daily newspapers left in the U.S.

• Magazines will be gone in 5 years. The only exception will be women’s magazines and the Sunday New York Times

• Rather than shrinking, television will grow dramatically in importance. It will be in your pocket, on your computer, in your car and on more and more larger home screens. The average American watches 34 hours of TV per week, and it will become 50 hours.

-For a long time we refused to pay for digital content until iTunes came along. Payment for digital content will continue to grow.

• How many $ per month do we spend on media that did not exist 10 years ago? $250-$300.

• The number of Facebook users is larger than the U.S. population. And the heaviest users are over the age of 60.

• Advertising will be one of the most important delivery channels for digital content.

• 55% of the members of social networking communities believe their online community is as important as their offline community.

• Because of all of the above, public relations will become more critical because of the range of techniques it employs than ever before.

Technorati Tags: Amish, Dr. Jeff Cole, Annenberg School of Communications, World Internet Project, digital, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who Is Five Times More Likely to Succeed — And Why?

The Amish people are probably best known for living simply, wearing plain clothes and avoiding modern conveniences like cars and telephones. Yet, somehow, these people — who value religious faith and a humble disposition — are five times more likely to succeed as entrepreneurs than the rest of us. According to a recent study in the Global Business and Economics Review, the failure rate of Amish businesses is less than 10% in the first five years, compared with 50% of small businesses in the U.S. over the same time period.

Author Erik Wesner, author of Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive, spent three years living and working with the Amish to understand some of the secrets of their entrepreneurial success, which he revealed in an interview with TIME magazine. They include the following five values, which have relevance for everyone in business today:

• Never ask an employee to do something that you wouldn't be willing to do yourself.
• Value relationships over onetime deals.
• Cultivate a rigorous work ethic.
• Learn to work outside your comfort zone.
• It’s all in the details: make sure the product — or service! — you deliver is carefully crafted.

I like to think that I share these values, and they have helped contribute to our firm’s success over the past thirty years.

As TIME reporter Andrea Sachs says, “There's life in commerce for those more dedicated to the Golden Rule than the golden calf.”

Technorati Tags: Amish, Global Business and Economics Review, McKinsey, Erik Wesner,communications, public relations, Makovsky

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I believe everyone accepts the fact that Grand Central Terminal in New York is one of the City’s jewels, and one its best public relations symbols. It is listed in most tourist guide books and, according to its website, 21.6 million tourists visit the station every year.

But when one commutes through the station daily, as I do, the majesty of Grand Central diminishes, and it becomes just another spot in the City jammed with people. You want to get in and get out as fast as you can.

In fact, I’ve become so blasé, after 25 years of commuting, that it puzzles me daily, as I walk up the stairwell leading to the West Balcony and then out to Vanderbilt Avenue, why there are so many people shooting photos of the central area of the station, as if it were a famous movie star they had seen live for the first time.

It is just a big space with lots of people and a famous name, I thought to myself. Am I missing something? I have got to ask someone why it is so photogenic.

And so I did. I walked up to what turned out to be a mother and daughter — with cameras in hand — from Salt Lake City, Utah, and I said, “Do you mind if I interrupt you for a minute? I assume you are visitors, and I wanted to find out why you are shooting photos of Grand Central.”

The daughter, approximately 25 years old, immediately answered, “It’s unusual to find anything this big in the middle of a city, and that makes it fascinating.”

“Ok. What else?” I asked.

“The ceiling with parts of the galaxy in gold is beautiful!” the mother added.

“Yeah. You’re right. I rarely look up,” I noted.

“And then I love the chandeliers!” the daughter said.

“What chandeliers?” I responded.

“The ones that line the sides of the station. See [as she pointed], up there!” she answered.

“You know … you are right! They are beautiful.”

“And we love watching all the people. You couldn’t get that in Salt Lake City!”


Blasé is bad. This was a wake-up call. The electricity of Grand Central, a constant reminder of the electricity of New York City (750,000 people pass through the station daily), probably fails to captivate most New Yorkers. But obviously its public relations value should not be underestimated!

Technorati Tags: The New York Times, New York City, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last year Makovsky + Company conducted, with Harris Interactive, “The Green Gap Survey” of senior Fortune 1000 executives. Now McKinsey has completed a similar study. What is distressing is how little has changed in the last year. Both studies show that there is a disconnect between senior executives’ perceptions about the importance of sustainability vs. the actions that their companies are taking.

One of the more interesting findings in the McKinsey Study is that one reason so many companies don’t engage as deeply as they should on the sustainability front is that they apparently don’t have a clear definition of sustainability. Twenty percent of senior executives are in that category. Further, among those that do say they address sustainability concerns, there is a variation of definitions. The McKinsey report says 55 percent define sustainability as managing issues related to the environment, 48 percent say it’s governance issues, and 41 percent say social issues. Fifty-six percent define it in two or more ways.

Other findings include:

• More than 50 percent of senior execs consider sustainability to be very or extremely important. Yet just 30 percent say their companies are actively seeking opportunities to invest in sustainability or embed it in their business practices.

• Companies are most engaged in sustainability if it’s a top-3 priority on their CEOs’ agendas and formally embedded in business practices … but only a quarter of the executives said that it is a top-3 priority on the CEO agenda.

• Seventy-six percent feel that sustainability creates shareholder value.

• Fifty-five percent agree that investment in sustainability helps their companies build reputation.

One of the biggest challenges facing senior executives is how best to convert convictions into actions. Progress depends on cooperation and compromise among business as well as the federal and state governments, trade groups and consumers. This carries major responsibilities for the communications function.

Technorati Tags: Harris Interactive, The Green Gap Survey, McKinsey, sustainability,communications, public relations, Makovsky

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Orthopedic Implant Industry: Public Relations Advice

Instead of embracing consumer concerns about faulty orthopedic implants and joining forces with doctors and others in the medical community who recognize that surgeons and patients may also bear some responsibility for the failure of orthopedic implants, manufacturers of these devices seem to be in “public relations denial.”

What is the issue? In a recent article, The New York Times contends — and it is supported by fact — that the leading manufacturers of artificial joints do not guarantee or warrant their products, unlike heart device makers who have done so for 30 years, offering free or discounted replacements if the first surgery does not work out. And there is indeed, the article says, a failure rate due to design or mechanical problems on these artificial joints, which cost as much as $15,000 each, not including the surgery — a cost which usually falls to Medicare, insurance companies and patients.

To verify its point, the Times surveyed six of the leading orthopedic implant companies about warranties. Three did not respond to the inquiry. One said that circumstances beyond their control led to failure (“because of the multifactorial nature of the survival of an implant in a particular patient, revision surgeries are to be expected”). The rest did not say why there was no guarantee.

It is clear that the public translates lack of response to “guilty before proven innocent.” Not good. So what should be done?

Let the communications program begin! Manufacturers and physicians have a fundamental interest in common: patient safety and satisfaction. Where the fault lies is obviously a complex issue. Thus, the physicians and the producers have to collaborate on the creation of the warranty that the consumer is entitled to. They must track data on every implant failure, to assess where the defect lies. For example, is it the glue that doesn’t hold … or has the patient failed to follow exercise or weight management orders?

If it is a product defect, the manufacturer must step up to the plate. If it’s a failure on the part of the patient or physician, then it can and should be addressed … but not at the expense of the manufacturer. Further, device manufacturers and physicians should come together to develop a communications program which embraces the entire spectrum of issues surrounding implants: surgeon skills, patient postoperative compliance, the effectiveness of the implant device and design and material standards, issues surrounding the emotional well being of the patient and when the new warranty takes effect. Patient feedback on needs and other features also is critical here, if a well-rounded program is to be developed.

Why risk the future of a $6.7 billion industry where growth is as certain as longer life itself?

Technorati Tags: orthopedic implants, Medicare, The New York Times, communications, public relations, Makovsky

Monday, April 05, 2010

Xerox Today-and Tomorrow?

What communications tool was once deemed useless, then became ubiquitous and is now redundant? The Xerox machine, which Fortune magazine has called “the most successful product ever marketed in America."

According to CNN, it was once believed that there was no need for an office photocopier, because consultants assessing its market potential overlooked the real early adopters: corporate America's support staff, who in fact LOVED the ability to easily produce reams of “originals.” (It certainly made the production of press releases a thousand times easier, when I started in the business!) Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Xerox machine is increasingly being displaced by full-function printers.

"The use of paper has radically changed. It used to be archival. Now, it's not," says Xerox VP Steve Hoover. "The average document in the office, when it's printed, has a life of about two days."

In fact, Xerox no longer makes a copier-only machine. It’s definitely the end of an era!

Technorati Tags: Xerox machine, photocopier, 50th anniversary, printer,communications, public relations, Makovsky

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Health Reform: New Opportunities for PR

Overall, the U.S. government’s health care reform program represents a wealth of valuable new opportunities for pharmaceutical, biotech and insurance companies to build relationships with an estimated 32 million newly covered patients … whether they’re buying insurance for the first time or, no longer job-locked, exploring alternative options. And public relations is the essential tool for relationship building with these new consumers.

While they will be contributing $85 billion toward the cost of the bill in the form of industry fees and lower prices over the next decade, pharmaceutical companies can also “look forward to tens of billions of dollars in additional revenue as more people with insurance visit doctors and fill prescriptions,” Reed Abelson wrote recently in The New York Times. Communications programs that support drug introductions, diagnosis and compliance will be essential.

Insurers have been among the most vocal opponents of reform — using the argument that young, healthy people would be unlikely to enroll if their premiums rose to help cover the care of older/sicker Americans. But insurers, too, will be benefiting from the influx of an estimated 16-20 million new customers after years of shrinking enrollments. The challenges they face also require our unique skill set. Public relations can help insurers educate their younger consumers, for example, about the benefits of buying coverage sooner, rather than later, and all new consumers, for example, on how to purchase insurance through state exchanges plus explaining the variety of programs that are offered.

Technorati Tags: health care reform, Reed Abelson, The New York Times, communications, public relations, Makovsky