Monday, November 26, 2007

A Post-Thanksgiving Day Principle

A day after we sat around our Thanksgiving table, each family member saying what he/she was thankful for, I started thinking about the entire issue of gratitude and what an important role it plays in business, leadership and building successful communications programs. Each involves motivating action, which cannot be successfully achieved without an expression of gratitude.

As Cicero so aptly put it, "gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others." It makes all the others work more effectively. At bottom, every member of every team wants to be appreciated for his or her contribution. It is a two-sided emotion: both the giver and recipient feel good. It is an essential comment on the value given and the value received. Generally, when we know we have produced value, we want to give more; naturally, the recipient traditionally wants more as well.

Thus, appreciation stimulates teamwork, productivity and revenue. It not only motivates action among teams but among customers as well. For example, a recent study found that customers of a jewelry store who were called and thanked showed a subsequent 70% increase in purchases. In comparison, customers who were thanked and told about a sale showed only a 30% increase in purchases, and customers who were not called at all did not show an increase. Another study found that restaurant patrons gave bigger tips when their servers wrote "Thank you" on their checks.

It is easy for managers and leaders in any position to add a "thank you" on to any request to a colleague or subordinate, or afterwards for a deed either might have done. It creates a positive emotion. Another study shows that people who tend to experience gratitude more frequently than do others also tend to be happier, more helpful and forgiving and less depressed than their less grateful counterparts.

It is amazing what two little words can do.

Technorati Tags: Gratitude,Thanksgiving, Cicero, Thank You, Appreciation,
business, communications, public relations

Monday, November 12, 2007

Are Bloggers and Journalists One and the Same?

Blogs are multiplying faster than a pitcher can wind up and send a baseball to a catcher. With approximately 112 million blogs on the internet today (and nearly 1,100 updates per minute!), blogs continue to be a topic of discussion in many circles, particularly among those in the communications business.

Recently, a panel presented by the Columbia University School of Journalism First Amendment Breakfast Series, of which Makovsky + Company is a sponsor, addressed another dimension of the blogging phenomena: the relationship between bloggers and traditional print journalists. Serving on this panel were: Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at New York University and author of PressThink , a blog about the media; Jen Chung, founder of the news blogging site,; and Art Brown, editorial page editor for the NY Daily News.

Many of their observations were thought-provoking and worth bringing to your attention:

  • Blogs expand the press by increasing the number of people reporting, thereby giving more people a bigger stake in defending the freedom of the press in the U.S.
  • Blogs are among the cheapest and fastest channels for reaching readers.

  • In certain cases, bloggers are the new experts that journalists can source. Many bloggers care deeply about a particular issue and become day-to-day news aggregators, making valuable specialized information available in a central location.

  • Press credentials to cover newsworthy events were traditionally granted only to print and broadcast journalists, as they were regarded as the “real” press. But certain bloggers have invaded that space; they no longer have to go through traditional journalists to report their findings, having developed their own sources and their own readership — including members of the mainstream media! — who know they will get the news out first. Bloggers have renewed the competition for facts and speed.

  • The mantra of the traditional journalist has always been: “Get it first, but first get it right.” Does that still work? Not in the blogosphere. In fact, it is the opposite:

  • The Blogger Philosophy: Initiate an argument which will then drive the need to get better facts.

  • The Journalist Philosophy: Objectively gather all the facts, form an opinion and then engage in an argument.

  • Blogs have increased the speed of commentary: anyone can comment immediately on any event.

  • The blogging system is a self-regulated entity. Blog posts which are accurate and true are the ones which are picked up by other bloggers. If a post is inaccurate, it is not picked up and the blogger accrues negative reputation points; the likelihood of any future posts by him or her being picked up decreases. Blogs gain importance when they are picked up and propagated by other bloggers.

  • Reputation, whether in print or pixels, is a valuable commodity. It is the value of reputation which enforces a standard of accuracy in both journalism and blogs because the better the reputation the greater the reach a blog has. In certain cases, the greater the reach, the more advertisers are willing to advertise on designated blogs, and the greater the economic value achieved.
Thus, are journalists and bloggers one in the same? Well… yes and no.

Technorati Tags: Blogs,Columbia University School of Journalism First Amendment Breakfast Series, Jay Rosen, Jen Chung, Art Brown, Blog Benefits, Blogs and Journalism, Blogs and the Press, Bloggers and Journalists, business, communications, public relations

Monday, November 05, 2007

Where the Blackwater Defense Falls Flat

I was reading a front-page New York Times story last week called “Blackwater Mounts a Defense With Top Talent” by John Broder and James Risen and, I have to tell you, it really got my dander up.

The opening paragraph said, “Blackwater Worldwide, its reputation in tatters and its lucrative government contracts in jeopardy, is mounting an aggressive legal, political and public relations counterstrike. It has hired a bipartisan stable of big-name Washington lawyers, lobbyists and press advisers.”

So what are all these major consultants contributing to the defense of Blackwater? Not, a whole heck of a lot, as far as I can see.

The very next day, Blackwater’s chairman, Erik D. Prince, testified at his first Congressional hearing. According to the Washington Post, Prince acted as if “the lawmakers were wasting his time.” Reporter Dana Milbank writes:

“How much does Blackwater, recipient of $1 billion in federal contracts, make in profits? ‘We're a private company, and there's a key word there — private,’ Prince answered.

“What about the 2004 crash of a Blackwater plane in Afghanistan, when federal investigators said the pilots acted unprofessionally? ‘Accidents happen,’ Prince explained.

“The lack of prosecution for a drunken Blackwater worker who shot and killed a security guard to an Iraqi vice president? ‘We can't flog him,’ Prince said.

“The high wages for Blackwater security guards? ‘They're not showing up at the job naked,’ Prince reasoned.

“What's more, Prince said, ‘I believe we acted appropriately at all times.’”
Empty and glib responses like these do nothing to polish the company’s tarnished brand. Restoring its reputation takes more than changing the name of its major operating division from Blackwater USA to Blackwater Worldwide and toning down the company’s warlike logo.

To date, no one at Blackwater has ever delivered the facts of the September shootings of 17 Iraqis. What is the defense? Saying “we’re doing what the State Department asks us to do” is not coming clean.

In my opinion, Blackwater is not following the most basic tenet of crisis management: identify the problem, come clean with the facts, apologize and take steps to ensure that it never happens again.

Technorati Tags: Blackwater Worldwide, Erik D. Prince, federal contracts, crisis management, State Department, New York Times, Washington Post, John Broder, James Risen, Dana Milbank, business, communications, public relations