Thursday, January 31, 2013

“Foreign Words with No English Equivalent"

There are some words from other languages that have entered the English lexicon because they’re very descriptive — and there’s no equivalent in our language.  Some examples of these include mensch(a Yiddish word meaning person of integrity; the sort of person other people look up to); kerfuffle (from the Scottish, meaningcommotion, disorder or agitation) and schadenfreude (a German word that signifies the pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune). 
Mental Floss recently featured a list of 14 “Wonderful Words with No English Equivalent.”  Here are my top eight favorites.  
1.      Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
It means "to move hot food around in your mouth” (like that pizza you tried to eat before it had time to cool off).
2.      Rhwe (Tsonga, South Africa)
There's actually a word for "to sleep on the floor without a mat, while drunk and naked."  Really!
3.      Zeg (Georgian)
It means "the day after tomorrow."
4.      Pålegg (Norwegian)
The Norwegians have a non-specific word for any ingredient — ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it — you might consider putting into a sandwich.
5.      Lagom (Swedish)
This means something like, "Not too much, and not too little, but just right."
6.      Tartle (Scots)
A word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can't quite remember.
7.      Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.
8.      Fremdschämen (German); Myötähäpeä (Finnish)
The kinder, gentler cousins of schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to "vicarious embarrassment."

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Monday, January 28, 2013

My “Thing” for Stan Musial

I was never part of the screaming crowd when a rock idol was performing.  Or sobbing when a movie star passed away or grieving when an athlete announced his or her retirement.  But the death, at 92, of Stan Musial, one of baseball’s greatest stars and a St. Louis Cardinal for 22 years, got to me in a way that no celebrity event ever has before. 

Just the very mention of his mellifluous name, Stan “The Man” Musial, always caught my attention.  To me he was the epitome of  cool — everything about him:  his swing, his unique batting stance with the crouch and the wiggle, his remarkable performance  and his moral demeanor on and off the field.  He was a guy’s guy, a girl’s guy.  In fact, Stan was everybody’s guy.  I have never seen anyone in all my life who was revered the way Stan was in St. Louis.  He was an icon’s icon.

He was also my boyhood hero, as I grew up as a Cardinal fan in my hometown city; he could do no wrong, and he was the personification of glamour and decency.  Although I never met him, short of getting his autograph once after a game, a piece of me was taken with his demise.

What was it about him? Perhaps it is summed up in the inscription on the statue of Stan Musial in front of St. Louis’ baseball stadium:  “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior.  Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”

Stan most likely would not appraise himself that way, but that legend was written for a reason.   It communicates his value and the esteem in which he was held.  Stan was as humble as he was great, noted Bob Costas, the sportscaster, in his emotional eulogy at the funeral. 

In broadcast interviews, Musial always diminished his achievements. It was always, “thanks” and “aw, I really appreciate that,” rather than anything leaning toward self-glorification.  I remember that kind of response, particularly, after he hit five home runs in a doubleheader, at a game I attended as a child.  His seven batting titles, his 3600 hits, his three Most Valuable Player awards (and the list goes on and on) never seemed to have an ego impact.  Stan was just passionate about what he did; at the same time his kindness and caring for others runneth over.

After the color line broke in baseball, when there was still chiding by the fans and some players and there were already black stars like Willie Mays,  Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks, the black players  were often isolated socially.  At one All Star Game, the latter guys were all sitting together playing cards, when Stan Musial walked over and said, ”Deal me in.”  It was Stan’s way of saying “I accept you,” when many others did not.  Stan was never kicked out of a game and never argued with umpires.  Hank Aaron, one of the greatest players of all time and the all-time career home run leader, said, “I didn’t just like Stan Musial, I wanted to be like Stan Musial.”

Many of Stan’s fans felt that, despite his major national records  and the acclaim for him in St. Louis, he was undeservedly not as well regarded nationally as, say, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio, because he was from the Midwest, away from New York, the media capital of the world,  and therefore was not as celebrated.  They began a movement to change that, and last year President Obama presented Stan with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  George Vecsey, former sports editor of The New York Times, came out with a biography on him in 2011, furthering his national standing.

My life has been touched by Stan Musial.  His graciousness, his good nature, his success as a player and in life have all made him a role model among role models. 

Bob Costas alluded to a statement about Stan made by the now-deceased broadcaster for the Cardinals, Harry Carey, at the time Stan played his last game.  Stan had hit a single, and Harry said: “Take a look fans, take a good long look. Remember the swing and the stance. We won’t see his like again.” 

Said Costas, “Harry was right.  We never have and … we never will.”

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Inaugural Address: Words, Phrases and More

[NOTE:  This is not a political analysis of the President's Inaugural Address, but rather a commentary on its themes, words and phrases, as well as the accuracy of the criticisms leveled.]

The naysayers are out on Obama's Inaugural Address:

·         "It was too short"

·         "Too many specifics.  This should be a vision speech."

·         "No memorable sentences or phrases."

·         "No call for action."

·         "No outreach to the other side."

·         "He forgot about the private sector."

What is my take on these criticisms?

At 18 minutes, it was not too short, but definitely one of the shorter ones (the Gettysburg address was 2 minutes).  The specifics he gave made the speech realistic.  His vision was living up to the American ideal of equality, equal opportunity for all.  That, indeed, was the call for action, an ideal that has never been totally achieved in this great country since it was first introduced in The Declaration of Independence in 1776. 

There were no memorable phrases such as FDR's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  But there were beautifully written, meaningful phrases and sentences, whether you agree with the content or not, as noted below:

·         "We are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together."

·         "We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky and happiness for the few."

·         "We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."

·         "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall."

·         The structure of the speech, Obama borrowed from the U.S. Constitution, using "we the people," "still believe" or "declare today" in sequential paragraphs, individually focusing on security, dignity, posterity and equality.

·         Finally, he used "our journey is not complete," also in sequential paragraphs, focusing on equal pay, gender-based equality, the right to vote, immigration and safety.

Greater outreach to the other side?  This speech was about the unfettered vision of true equality, calling for everyone everywhere to embrace this concept.

I do believe Obama failed to include the importance of the private sector, (e.g., Wall Street, Silicon Valley, small business) as the wealth-creation part of the mosaic that makes everything else possible.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Re-Examining the CEO Reputation Factor

We once had a Fortune 500 client with a CEO who said, “ I don’t care what the media says about me or how I get quoted, as long as my name gets into the newspapers and magazines.”   The company he chaired was a Makovsky client for 18 years, and his quote always resonated in my head.  We knew he liked publicity, but was this going too far?

Now comes a study with an answer.  It notes that there is a strong relationship between CEO media tone and overall company media tone.  Thus, if the CEO is getting mostly negative publicity, it is very hard to get positive coverage on the organization as a whole. 

“The opposite is also true,” notes Nicole Lee, a master’s student at San Diego State University, who conducted the study.  “If an organization is regularly bashed in the media, its CEO would likely struggle to maintain a positive reputation.” 

Nicole’s research was sponsored by the Institute for PR, an independent non-profit group that focuses on research that matters to the practice.

Her study also notes that the topics one links with the CEO can positively or negatively affect his or her reputation.  For example, the study says stories about corporate social responsibility or organizational strategy are closely related to a CEO’s reputation, whereas the tone of stories about an organization’s financial performance or products, with coverage not connected to the CEO,  “has no significant relationship to a CEO’s media reputation.”  While I have not seen the data supporting this study, I question the accuracy of the latter statement.  Case in point:  Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

Nevertheless, as you plan strategy for a positive media visibility campaign covering both the CEO and the organization, think carefully about topical associations. 

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Monday, January 14, 2013

The Change in B2B Marketing

As expected, employing social media as a critical marketing technique is growing among B2B companies, but half of respondents in a newly released survey did not have a basic understanding of what their target markets were and who they could sell to. 

This is alarming in view of the large numbers who identified a vertical strategy and are focusing on a particular prospect as the best approach. 

The study by Demandbase, a targeting platform, and Ziff Davis, a technology media company, reported in “emarketer,” on Jan. 2, 2013 showed that social media was employed by 60% of B2B marketers, just 3% behind search engine optimization.  Fifty-three percent are using content marketing, “putting the focus on identifying the industries a B2B company can best support and demonstrating how a particular service can help.”

 In that respect content marketing is critical. 

The conclusion?  We, as B2B communications professionals, have a mandate — and an opportunity:   we need to educate our prospects and clients about how to target and how to channel the message to reach the target.  Cultivation and building individual and vertical group relationships is the name of the game.  Understanding the needs of these businesses is fundamental to building a campaign around them.

What is stimulating the growth of social media on the B2B front?  It does not appear to be the growth in customer demand, although increased engagement is certainly the consequence.  Rather, the study implies, it relates to the economy:  lack of budget and a need to get more out of every investment.   Social media and search are a lot more economical. 

Public relations via social and traditional media—owned, earned, shared and tradigital — can play a key role in creating the content and promoting it through thought leadership, awareness building, websites and brochures, among other techniques. We particularly need to capitalize on this social trend in the B2B space by making sure we have the tools at our fingertips to do the job that needs to be done.

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