Monday, August 28, 2006

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

I read a great little article the other day by Andy Newman in The New York Times. It seems that someone has unearthed thousands of letters of complaint to the mayor of New York City -- some going back to the 1700s.

Noise and smell appear to have been universal issues in the Big Apple. In the summer of 1888, Albert Oelzer wrote to the mayor to say that "a dead horse is waiting to be taken away for the last 24 hours in front of 41 Henry Street. The stench is unbearable, and people in the neighborhood, of which I am one, were forced to sleep with closed windows last night. Not a pleasant thing, I assure you."

Some urban nuisances have changed very little over the past few centuries. Neighbors play the radio too loudly. Sidewalks are dirty. Stuff falls off buildings. Some public servants are corrupt or unhelpful.

The vision of New York contained in these letters reminded me of the terrific biography of Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie, where he describes the London that Peter visited and explored in 1698: It was "rich, vital, dirty and dangerous. The narrow streets were piled with garbage and filth which could be dropped freely from any overhanging window. Even the main avenues were dark and airless because greedy builders, anxious to gain more space, had projected upper stories over the street. Through these Stygian alleys, crowds of Londoners jostled and pushed one another. Traffic congestion was monumental. Lines of carriages and hackney cabs cut deep ruts into the streets, so that passengers inside were tossed about, arriving breathless, nauseated and sometimes bruised."

The hygiene may be better today, but there are some things about city living that never change!

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Monday, August 21, 2006

What Makes Us Happy (At Work)?

More than 50 years ago, pioneering psychologist Abraham Maslow said that self-actualization -- the instinctive drive to make the most of one's unique abilities and to be the best that you can be -- is one of the highest needs of human beings.

Want proof? Look at the economic situation of mainstream Americans in light of a recent survey by the Gallup organization.

Just last month, investor optimism reached its lowest ebb, according to the UBS/Gallup Index of Investor Optimism. Moreover, investors have turned pessimistic about the economic outlook for the year ahead. It's no wonder. When British Petroleum temporarily shut down the nation's biggest oil field
in Alaska after discovering a leak, oil prices rose by more than $2 a barrel. In New York, where Makovsky is headquartered, the average price for unleaded gas is $3.32 cents per gallon, 6 cents higher than last month. In the past year, the price has gone up about 70 cents a gallon.

Yet despite worries about their economic future, Americans put pay, benefits, and job security lower down the list of qualities that are important to them in their job than a sense of fulfillment, opportunities to help people, and autonomy in how they accomplish their tasks.

It's what motivates me. I'm happy to find it's a universal phenomenon.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

One for the New York Fans

One of the best examples of spontaneous public relations was the standing ovation New Yorkers gave to Mike Piazza, baseball superstar and former eight-year player for the New York Mets, when he hit two home runs in one game for the San Diego Padres opposing the Mets last Wednesday night. Piazza's contract with the Mets ended in 2005. He joined the Padres in time for the current season.

Nearly 50,000 fans stood clapping for several minutes after each home run and kept it up until Piazza came out of the dugout and tipped his hat to the crowd. Fortunately, I was there to witness it!

Could this be the finest moment in Mets fan history? Possibly. The overwhelming reception given to an opponent who just "did damage" to the home team says a lot for the affection, esteem and respect we have for Piazza and the great contributions he made during his tenure here. (Of course, the Mets were winning. I wonder what the reaction would have been had the team been behind.)

In his last two seasons here, Piazza was occasionally booed as his productivity declined. Nevertheless, what lingers in all of our minds is how he helped the Mets win the pennant in 2000 … and all those other occasions over the years when his all-star offense helped win games.

What also lingers — and why I miss having this guy on our side so much — is the way he represented the Mets in media interviews. Often referred to during his days with the team as "the face of the Mets," Mike Piazza was discrete in controversial situations, articulate, honest, yet diplomatic. He communicated with enormous sincerity. He inspired trust. Indeed, he was a spokesperson role model. He commented after the game in a media interview following the near five-minute ovation he got on the first night he returned to New York about how touched he was. He said that he found it almost "surreal" and even difficult to play in New York for a team opposing the Mets. "I almost went back to the wrong dugout after the inning," he said.

It was also a pleasure to behold New York that night, often criticized in the U.S. media as a tough fan market, celebrate a former icon with such dignity, integrity and appreciation.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Getting Beyond “Should I”

While many companies are thinking about whether they should enter the blogosphere, there are a minority of companies who are already light years ahead of them – and benefiting because of it. The "Should I" phase has long passed.

How do I know? Not only does our research reveal this, but also through the growing number of meetings we're having with clients and prospects who want to work with us to deepen their involvement in blogging. Moreover, a few leading-edge companies are already able to track benefits, including links and relationships that have been made that specifically came through their blogs, deals that have initiated and closed, and influential third-party endorsements that have been generated.

These companies realize that it is not just about audience targets, but about audience engagement.

In a speech at the New Communications Forum, Forrester analyst Charlene Li attributed $1 million of new revenue to her blog.

"A blog's ROI," she writes, "is built around building a closer relationship with your blog's readers, be it your most ardent customers or your employees. It's that investment in the relationship that turns intangible, unquantifiable blogs into hard metrics."

Software leader SAP is another firm that really gets it. They invited a number of the most influential bloggers to their SAPPHIRE Conference. Not only did the "blognoscenti" come, but they were flattered by the invitation and several praised SAP in their blogs. This represents an expansion of a community. And it is, as we all know, the way businesses are built.

Do you still need convincing?

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