About these Authors
Johnnie Moore is a marketing consultant and facilitator based in London. As well as 20 years of marketing experience he's trained in psychotherapy, NLP and Improv. Find out more at his blog.
Andrew Lark's more than 18 years experience of all facets of marketing, branding, sales and communications spans technology, Internet, telecommunications and consumer sectors. There he has led award-winning programs and teams for brands such as Dell, Sony, SBC, IDSoftware, Nortel, Microsoft and Sun. He is a thought leader and innovator on the convergence of brands, communications and social networking technologies. Find out more at his blog.
Jennifer Rice is a strategist and evangelist for relationship-centric brands. She brings 15 years experience in brand strategy, customer insight and marketing communications, and has worked with companies such as Microsoft, Verizon, Alcatel and Corning. Her current passion is exploring how brands are being impacted by blogs and other social technologies. Her company blog is What's Your Brand Mantra?
John Winsor is the author of Beyond the Brand: Why Listening to the Right Customers is Essential to Winning in Business and the Founder/CEO of Radar Communications, a consumer-centric consultancy. You can find out more about him at Beyond the Brand.
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December 22, 2005
Slowly but surely the other side of the Kryptonite lock picking story is coming out - Francois touches on this also. OK, some of the bloggers got it wrong - nothing new there.
I still maintain Kryptonite handled his terribly. Any crisis can be mitigated through effective communication. The vacuum of silence will be filled by misrepresentation, drivel and poison (I think Schopenhauer said that).
All the interviews reinforce for me is that as a business they responded well (except it turns out the problem had been flagged years before and they did nothing then). As communicators, they did lousy. If they knew about the commentary, but didn't respond, it's pretty much the same as not knowing and not responding. No response is no response.
And for the record, about that time I bought a neat new mountain bike. I needed a lock. The blog coverage specifically caused me not to buy their product. If they had communicated what they are communicating now, I might have done so. To answer the question posed by Kryptonite: "here are millions of blogs, but what are the audiences of these blogs?" - it's me, the bike owner. The interview gets worse, reinforcing further cluelessness about the blogosphere: "We know that lots of teens and college students have blogs and, mainly use them to communicate with friends and family. These are our customers, but are they going to corporate blogs? Not so sure about that."
And then, worse still, they correct the misperception that they only found out about the problem in last year when bloggers started getting into it. Oh no, they knew about it in 1992 - and it would appear they did nothing? That's meant to inspire confidence?
I had the privilege of working around some of the best crisis communicators in my agency days. I once asked why there were so few case studies on this type of thing. I got an interesting response - post crisis, all you want the focus to be on is how the business is moving forward - you don't want to get into the mechanics of the crisis, it just casts further light on your problems - A pretty good idea in my book. Seems like Kryptonite is determined to teach us what not to do pre, during and post crisis.
>> from a post over at Andy's blog
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April 09, 2005
This time with a twist... it seems another journo was being paid to do political reporting on the side has been busted and fired. But apparently Purcell disclosed his 'night job':
He said he disclosed the environmental state contract to the Herald and got clearance from the state ethics commission. His state contract pays $60 per hour, with a maximum of $10,000.
So what's the problem?
So what's the issue? If Purcell was reporting on the people or organizations paying him to also craft op-eds and assist in other writing then there clearly is a massive conflict of interest. A bit like an industry analyst being paid for consulting by a company and then writing suposedly independent reports on that company and the industry.
But if Purcell wasn't, what's the harm in taking a 'night job' - I think they call it freelance work. (I'm being facetious). Is the implication of much of the commentary on this that a journo can only do freelance work inside the profession - other reporting?
Where this is different - and Malkin gets at this albeit with an extreme parallel - is that this is in effect a Government subsidy. She says, "government subsidies for conservative columnists are as odious as government subsidies for crucifix-defiling "artists". She's getting at the perception issue:
Do we really need another paid partisan hack to confirm what the liberal MSM already unfairly assumes of all conservatives in the media--that we're all on the payroll of the Republican Party and incapable of independent journalism?
Dan is pretty clear on his POV:
Two things here. First, the Herald's initial response was shameful. This guy should have been shown the door the second his government payoff became known.
Second, the conservative wing of the blogosphere has been all too silent to the poisoning of journalistic integrity represented by this example and others like it. (There are exceptions, I'm glad to say.)
This needs to stop if the media - the whole media - are to retain credibility. And the same standards need to be extended to the world of analysts. The same rule applies whether it is a corporate or government subsidy.
Media and analysts need to recognize that there is a difference between transparency and opacity. Behavior like this drives opacity, even when disclosing the details in advance with the intent of being transparent and ethical.
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March 22, 2005
Via Scoble, a great post on A VC about Apple becoming a "they" company.
"We" companies are built by and for a community of users..."They" companies are traditional companies that seek to optimize profitability at the expense of everything else.
Microsoft is the poster child for a "they" company. Craigs List is the poster child for a "we" company. Apple used to be a "we" company. I love Apple as I've blogged about many times. I still do. But Apple is not a "we" company any more.
One of the comments by Matt Schulte goes on to say:
I think Apple has always been a "they" company. I think the "blogosphere" and a more media-savvy public is making it more difficult for the "public-facing" part of a company to present/market themselves as a "we" company, when their actions say "they" company. People have been preaching "transparency" as a part of the code of doing business today, and the blogosphere is bringing that transparency to businesses whether they want it or not. So...the divide between how a company presents itself to the public, and what kind of company it 'really is' is dissolving...companies are getting transparentized. Zap.
"Zap" is right. All this talk of transparency reminds me of the classic scene in The Wizard of Oz where Toto pulls back the curtain on the wizard. He's furiously working his controls and microphone to operate the big talking head: "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
If you believe that transparency is a fad, or an option, or a warm and fuzzy buzzword, think again. What you believe doesn't matter. There are millions of Totos running around the blogosphere; they've got good noses for men behind curtains. And nothing pleases them more than to see another talking head fall.
My definition of a brand is an idea in the minds of your customers... and that idea is formed by what you say and what you do. As Matt pointed out, the blogosphere is shining a bright light on the gap between how a company presents itself and who a company "really is." Social technologies like blogs and community forums are forcing us to completely rethink the traditional tenets of brand management.
Transparency will happen to your company whether you like it or not. One obvious question to ask yourself is, how embarrassed will you be when your curtain is pulled back? If there are aspects of your business practice you'd rather customers not know, you might consider addressing them now. For example, in the land-line telecom industry, there are taxes and surcharges you're paying on your bill that are not mandated by the FCC and not passed on to the government; phone companies can discount the line price, jack up the fees and make the same amount of money while giving the illusion of a discount. Another example is Blockbuster's new "no late fees" program, for which it's now getting sued for false advertising claims. Bottom line: if you've got a business practice that you feel needs a "marketing spin job" to get customers to buy it, then it's time to reconsider. Gone are the glory days when you could safely hide behind a curtain.
But even if you have nothing to hide, chances are that customers are still distrustful. And they're tired of 'business as usual' where they don't have a voice. At this point, your best option is to come out from behind the curtain and make friends. Be proactive. Reveal the humanity behind the talking head. Start a company blog, or enable your employees to do so. Engage in dialogue. Become a "we" company instead of a "they" company. These open actions, more than anything else, will differentiate you from your competitors who are hiding behind official press releases, suing their customers and refusing to listen.
So in light of this new transparency trend, what does it mean for companies like Apple that have depended on keeping new innovations a secret until launch time? Are secrets (even good ones) possible -- or desirable -- in the new transparent marketplace?
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March 20, 2005
This piece is an extension of a piece I'm running on my blog. With a twist. Over the past week I've written on the government's use of tax payer money to produce and promote video news releases (VNRs) - essentially press releases masquerading as news. And the failure of media outlets to report them as such.
I've been thinking about this on two fronts. The first in terms of brand integrity - especially in the light of recent coverage suggesting that the democrats are going to undertake a re-branding exercise to become the party of truth. And Second, in terms of the right to brand propaganda.
Brand Integrity is Rooted in Behavior
Right now the Government's integrity is under attack. Bush appears ambivalent, willing to laugh this one off.
At last weekend's Gridiron dinner, Mr. Bush made a joke about how "most" of his good press on Social Security came from Armstrong Williams, and the Washington press corps yukked it up. The joke, however, is on them - and us. -- Frank Rich, New York Times, March 20, 2005
It just isn't funny. What we have - occurring in nearly every corner of communications - is a massive failing of ethics. This failure is not just undermining the standing of politicians and parties, it's undermining America's credibility around the world. Today, The New York Times draws (a pretty extreme) parallel between Enron and the current Bush administration:
The enduring legacy of Enron can be summed up in one word: propaganda. Here was a corporate house of cards whose business few could explain and whose source of profits was an utter mystery - and yet it thrived,
unquestioned, for years. How? As the narrator says in "The Smartest
Guys in the Room," Enron "was fixated on its public relations campaigns." It churned out slick PR videos as if it were a Hollywood studio. It browbeat the press (until a young Fortune reporter, Bethany McLean, asked one question too many). In a typical ruse in 1998, a gaggle of employees was rushed onto an empty trading floor at the company's Houston headquarters to put on a fictional show of busy trading for visiting Wall Street analysts being escorted by Mr. Lay.
"We brought some of our personal stuff, like pictures, to make it look like the area was lived in," a laid-off Enron employee told The Wall Street Journal in 2002. "We had to make believe we were on the phone buying and selling" even though "some of the computers didn't even
If this Potemkin village sounds familiar, take a look at the ongoing "presidential roadshow" in which Mr. Bush has "conversations on Social Security with ordinary citizens for the consumption of local and national newscasts. As in the president's town meeting; campaign appearances last year, the audiences are stacked with prescreened fans; any dissenters who somehow get in are quickly hustled away by security goons. But as The Washington Post reported last weekend, the preparations are even more elaborate than the finished product suggests; the seeming reality of the event is tweaked as elaborately as that of a television reality show. Not only are the panelists for these conversations recruited from administration supporters, but they are rehearsed the night before, with a White House official playing Mr. Bush. One participant told The Post, "We ran through it five times before the president got there." Finalists who vary just slightly from the administration's pitch are banished from the cast at the last minute, "American Idol"-style. -- Frank Rich, New York Times, March 20, 2005
A Right to Brand Propaganda
Much of this behavior is dismissed as a right. A right to generate propaganda.
A month or so ago Alan Kelly penned an interesting piece for PRWeek on the right to propaganda. There isn't anything wrong with propaganda. We do have a right to promote everything from positions and products. The right to inform the public should be protected at all costs.
But the airing of VNRs as news stories - without any credit to their origins - suggests a new standard is needed if this right is not to be confused with that of engaging in duplicitous activity. And if you want to skip the intermediaries - media, analysts, opinion formers - there are plenty of ways of doing so (blogs being a great example). But what is wrong are attempts to knowingly avoid transparency and dupe the public. Ethics are at the core of the issue. Here behavior undermines the brand.
The Propaganda Paradox
This is the paradox of propaganda - whether for bands, people, or positions... Those with one position rarely agree with the manner in which the other is being propagated. What are lies and wrong-doing by one group is more than often perceived as fair by another. And to them, those that engage in it should be censured and punished. I was chatting with a friend - an avid Bush supporter - on the VNR issue. His view was that the onus was on the media to report the source of content and that if the media had been reporting fairly anyway they would have reported precisely what was in the VNR. He has a point, although one I don't agree with.
While I'm not making excuses for those engaging in these acts, the media are also failing us. Their lack of diligence in reporting has allowed many of these spurious acts of propaganda to take place unchecked. While higher standards are needed in public and corporate communications, they are also needed in the media. The brand intermediaries need to stand-up and be accountable for their role in disseminating information.
At the end of the day all great brands are build on authenticity. And this is why the system - I hope - is self policing. Through the top-tier media and blogosphere, those engaging in unauthentic communications will be caught-out. Their lack of truth and transparency exposed. And their brand tarnished.
All of this points to the vital role media and the blogosphere has to play as a watchdog and commentator. I wonder if we'll look back on the opening of this new century as the period in which we faced and dealt with the ethics crisis in business, communications and government? Or will we just shrug this all off as fair game in the pursuit of propaganda? I hope not. Sadly, various parties in our Government seem willing to do so, apparently oblivious to the damage it is doing to their brand, and ours.
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March 14, 2005
Good interview with David in PRWeek...
PRWEEK: Put into your own words what you're attempting to do [with the media transparency channel].
BERLIND: Established media is coming under attack as a result of some serious and unfortunate gaffes in credibility. The timing of that coincided with the uprising of an alternative source of information: the blogosphere. Leading up to the WebCred conference at Harvard [where established media and bloggers met], there was a lot of clamor about journalists needing to be more transparent. I took that to heart, and said, "Well, my credibility has not yet been called into question, but it's probably only a matter of time that it is." A lot of people were talking about transparency, but not many were practicing it. The only way we were going to move the needle on transparency is if someone starts doing it. The best definition I could come up with for transparency was to un-obscure that which is obscured. Generally speaking, the press obscures the raw material behind the work they do. You can only trust that the editor and writer didn't misquote or edit the interview to change the context. Every media channel has a channel where they broadcast content. Channel 42 on my cable network is CNN. Why can't I change the channel to 41 to see all the raw material? Just to keep them honest. Maybe practicing transparency means establishing your channel where all the polished content is, and, then, establishing a parallel one where people can get at the raw material.
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