Thursday, October 28, 2010

The "Role Model" Rule

Rule: If you want to make your product a success, use professionals or experts — rather than just customers — to role-model its use.

The application of this principle is well-illustrated through the story of how suitcases on wheels gained acceptance and even popularity in the U.S.

Wheeled suitcases were invented 40 years ago, but the two-wheeled version with the sliding handle did not appear until 1987, according to The New York Times. I would say that our culture is largely responsible for the slow traction. And I'd call it the "macho-factor" error.

Sales were slow because retailers felt men wouldn't use them. Not macho enough, the article said. But then somebody came up with the bright idea of having female flight attendants use these new “Rollaboards,” and they started catching on. Thus the "macho-factor" was not a factor at all. A revised marketing strategy turned it around. The gender miscalculation was at the core.

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some Amazing Facts About Google

Someone sent me an interesting infographic about Google recently. Here are a few facts from it that I found particularly compelling:

• Today, Google indexes 40 billion web pages. In the near future, the company hopes to index approximately 100 petabytes of information — the equivalent of all the data contained in half of all material ever printed in human history.

• Google’s operating income is equal to the combined GDP of the Cayman Islands, Greenland, Dominica, Maldives, Mongolia and Barbados.

• There are 1.5 billion images on Google. To save them all, you would need 112 million floppy disks.

• There are over one trillion unique URLs. If these addresses were typed end-to-end, they would stretch a third of the way to the sun (nearly 32 million miles).

Technorati Tags: Google, public relations, business, communications, Makovsky

Thursday, October 21, 2010

PR for Vegetables

My mom always made me eat my vegetables, even when I tried to push them away, so eating veggies ultimately became a habit. Yet, last month it was reported in The New York Times that only 26% of U.S. adults had three or more servings a day of vegetables — only half the percentage that public health officials had hoped for, based on goals set a decade ago. This was disappointing news because of the multiple benefits that vegetables provide.

While I have not checked the government's tactics in its campaign to promote vegetables, here are some ideas that might increase the number of Americans that are eating these healthy foods more often:

• Packaged vegetable vending machines replace candy bar vending.
• Lunch requirements at all public schools: a minimum of two vegetables for every student (not including ketchup and French fries!).
• Develop and promote a “Reddy Kilowatt” –style advertising symbol as a “vegetable value” reminder — and apply to all packages of vegetables.
• Encourage expanded PR campaigns via vegetable associations of every stripe.
• Health classes to teach the value of vegetables at elementary, junior and high school levels.
• Physician and celebrity endorsements of vegetable benefits used in publicity and ads — online and with traditional media.
• Add to Oprah’s list: “Top Ten” vegetable cook books (note one on every show).
• A pledge from pediatricians and internists to cover nutrition (with an emphasis on veggies) at every check-up.
• Benefits of vegetables – on menus in all relevant restaurants.

Technorati Tags: The New York Times, vegetables,Oprah’s list, public relations, business, communications, Makovsky

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Surge in Singles over Marrieds: Trends + Observations

The U.S. Census Bureau recently revealed that the number of singles among young adults passed the number of marrieds for the first time in a century. Why? A story last month in The New York Times attributes the phenomenon primarily to the economy — people cannot afford to marry.

A whole host of socioeconomic and cultural factors led us to this point. The introduction of the pill and the rise of the women’s rights movement helped to end the issue connected with sex outside of marriage, for both parties. Today, among the affluent (still large numbers even in this recession), there is greater value placed on independence. Further, as women have risen economically, successful single women are held in high esteem. I would also argue that the 40-year struggle — and public relations efforts — of the gay and lesbian community in the U.S. has resulted in greater acceptance of the non-married lifestyle, making co-habitation more acceptable today than ever before. There is little social pressure to marry. Women and men are opting to have children as single parents. “Doing what you want” is okay.

Perhaps, with the spread of computers and electronic communications, there is less one-on-one intimacy. Collaboration via computers may be a substitute for one-on-one intimacy. In fact, as one church counselor has said, these virtual relationships may, in fact, be fostering a fear of real intimacy.

So when the economy comes back, there may be a surge in marriage … but it may not be as dramatic as it might have been in other times.

Technorati Tags: U.S. Census Bureau, The New York Times,marriage, public relations, business, communications, Makovsky

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The World’s Oldest Share of Stock Discovered

Ruben Schalk, a Utrecht University graduate student doing research for his Master’s degree in the Westfries Archive in the Netherlands, recently uncovered the world’s oldest known stock certificate.

Dated September 9, 1606, the shares were issued to Pieter Hermansz by the Dutch East India Company, the first company in the world to be financed by freely negotiable shares. According to experts, this new-found document is doubly special, because it also contains detailed descriptions of more than 40 years of dividend distributions.

The second oldest stock certificate was issued by the Dutch East India Company just 18 days later, on September 27, 1606.

Technorati Tags: Ruben Schalk,Utrecht University,Westfries Archive,Pieter Hermansz , communications, public relations, business, Makovsky

Monday, October 11, 2010

Get With It!

It sounds simple. “Dial: 1-800-I ARRIVE,” said an executive car service, in its hard-copy letter to us for our trip from New York to Los Angeles. The car service was to take us from the L.A. airport to our destination. Communications at its best?
We didn’t give it two thoughts — that is, until we were standing in the luggage area and attempted to dial 1-800-I ARRIVE on our cell phone — and couldn’t! Communications from another era? Yes, in contrast to most cell phones, nearly every number on a touch-tone or even a dated rotary dial phones (do they still exist?) has three letters below it (e.g., #2 has ABC, #3 has DEF).

Well it ain’t true on my Blackberry, so how do you dial “I ARRIVE”? Fortunately, I had the phone number of the executive offices of the car service and called them to get “I ARRIVE” translated into numbers. We told them of the dilemma, and the company respondent said, “Oh! Good point.”
Companies might consider the same point when they attract callers to employee directories and you are asked to dial the party’s last name. At least a voice over for cell phone users might say: 2=ABC, 3=DEF, 4=GHI, etc. As unwieldy as it might be to take notes, it is one solution until it becomes a requirement that letters must be posted on all phone buttons.

Technorati Tags: Blackberry,cell phone, public relations, business, communications, Makovsky

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Three “Ten-Strike” PR Actions

In every one of the following cases, the reputation of a proactive company or executive -- in one fell swoop -- took a quantum leap.

$1 in Pay
For the second year in a row, Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citi, says that he will take only $1 in salary, until he brings the company back to sustained profitability.

A Private Stimulus Package
A major company recently came up with its own stimulus plan to aid small business! It announced that it would award $65,000 in coupons to all its employees and arranged with the retail stores in the area to accept those coupons as cash, thereby stimulating sales among small businesses impacted by the recession.

A $100-Million Gift
Mark Zuckerberg, one of the founders of Facebook, gave away $100 million to the Newark School System to improve education. While this is a tiny slice of his estimated $6.9 billion fortune, it was a generous move and most likely one of the few gifts of that magnitude ever given the educational system. While a movie, “The Social Network,” is out, which creates a less than flattering profile of Zuckerberg, this gift is still remarkable and speaks well of his benevolence.

Technorati Tags: Vikram Pandit, Mark Zuckerberg ,Citi, public relations, business, communications, Makovsky

Monday, October 04, 2010

WARNING: Being Grumpy Is Bad for Your Health

I’ve never enjoyed working with people who were perpetually bad-tempered, but I had no idea that “a general propensity to psychological distress” (or, in layman’s terms, “grumpiness”) may actually make you sick.

According to a recent article in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a publication of the American Heart Association, (via Neatorama) among all personality types, it’s people with Type D personalities — anxious, irritable and pessimistic — that are the ones most likely to have cardiovascular disease. They’re also three times more likely than other personality types to experience peripheral artery disease, heart failure and heart attack.

An earlier theory that there was a link between Type A personalities (stress junkies with a streak of perfectionism) and heart disease has been debunked.

Another good reason to avoid becoming a sourpuss!

Technorati Tags: American Heart Association,Cardiovascular Health, public relations, business, Makovsky