Archive for the ‘harmonized communications’ Category

Shocking News — Democrats Don’t Communicate Well

August 16, 2010

I’ve been pretty busy lately and had to take a brief hiatus from blogging.  But now I’m back, and evidently I picked a great day to start up again.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” being built a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site.  I’m not going to discuss my position on the building, but rather the Democrats’ painfully inconsistent and incoherent messaging surrounding this hot-button issue.

To make a long story short, President Obama recently stated that he supports the building of the Islamic Community Center (it’s not actually a Mosque, but rather a YMCA-type building) in spite of the fact that a majority don’t want it built there.  Obama took a huge political risk in bucking majority opinion, but that’s not really the issue here.

The issue is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) came out today to voice opposition to the building, demonstrating once again that Democrats are painfully inconsistent with their messaging and their decision-making.

Oh Democrats, Democrats, Democrats.  For once, would you please take a position and stick with it?  I know if you get five Democrats in a room you’ll end up with about 15 different opinions, but when two leaders from the same political party take opposing views on an unpopular issue, that does not help you.  It leaves voters scratching their heads, wondering who — or rather, what — they are voting for.

It’s really not that hard folks:  if you take a principled but unpopular stand about an issue, people will respect you.  If you are divided and don’t stand for something consistently, it tarnishes your brand and confuses people.

So please, please oh pretty please, try to communicate consistently for once.  Just once?  Please?  You’re killing me here!

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Mmmmmm, secret food…

June 29, 2010

Okay, I’ll admit it:  I am a junk food junkie.  Very few things give me a greater rush than Taco Tuesdays at Del Taco, except maybe a Wendy’s Frosty.  And I just love the idea of secret menus, especially from a communications perspective (more on that below.)

The author of this blog post has a partial list of establishments which offer secret menu items.  While In n Out Burger lists theirs on their website – hence they are not so secret – other places do not, including Burger King, McDonald’s and Fatburger.  If you want a good sampling of unknown menu items, sit near a Starbucks barista for 10 minutes and try to decode what some people order:  “I’ll have a half-calf 24 degrees bloopity skim light bibitty foam three-quarter bloppity whip ditty boop.”

Somehow, these baristas take their orders without spitting in customer’s faces laughing.

From a communications perspective, I am also a fan of secret menus.  They make customers feel they are part of an undercover society, where a select handful of people have the inside scoop on what’s going on behind the scenes, and only they know the mystical key words that will open a treasure vault filled with extra whipped cream or something.  Secret menus also seem to evoke a sense of childhood wonder and mystery, taking us back to our hidden forts in the back yard where only a password will grant you access.

So yes, I am a sucker for fast food, and I totally dig secret menus.   When you think about it, secret menus are a very clever and challenging marketing tactic:  after all (In n Out burger notwithstanding) how do you market something without marketing it?

Spirit Air’s Offensive Ad Campaign Is My Fault!

June 28, 2010

At long last, Spirit Air suspended their offensive ad campaign which capitalized on the BP oil spill.  Granted the ad went down with a screaming hissy fit, but hey.

Evidently Spirit decided, without my approval, that I didn’t get it.  According to them, this ad campaign was nothing more than a well-intentioned attempt to explain how the beaches they service are not impacted by the oil spill, and my inability to comprehend this is my responsibility.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s what Spirit said in a statement:

“It is unfortunate that some have misunderstood our intention with today’s beach promotion. We are merely addressing the false perception that we have oil on our beaches, and we are encouraging customers to support Florida and our other beach destinations by continuing to travel to these hot vacation spots.”

Ahem.

Yo, Spirit Air, come a little closer.

No, a little closer.

Okay, now lean in.

I have a secret I need to whisper into your ear.

You ready?

Here it goes:

DON’T BLAME ME FOR YOUR SCREW-UPS!!!

I’ve said previously that good communications cannot replace good decision-making.  How lucky we are to have examples of bad decision-making and bad communications – all in one company!  It’s like a learning laboratory for how to not run a business with Spirit Air, no?

Spirit Airlines — Doubling Down on The Stupid

June 23, 2010

Evidently Spirit Airlines has doubled-down on a really stupid idea.

For the uninitiated, Spirit Airlines is attempting to capitalize BP’s oil spill by running ads depicting the beaches they service as full of oil-soaked women, not crude oil gushing from deep beneath the earth’s surface.  Hardy har har.  One disgruntled person wrote to Spirit and got the following response:

Thanks for writing to Spirit Airlines, and for your feedback about our new marketing campaign.It is unfortunate that some have misunderstood our intention with this sale. We are merely addressing the false perception we have oil on the many beaches we service, and we are encouraging customers to support Florida and our other beach destinations by continuing to travel to these vacation hot spots.

Please accept my apology if you find this campaign offensive. It is certainly not our intent to offend our valued customers. We’ve actually received positive feedback from many who appreciate our efforts to stimulate travel to the state.

I’ve forwarded your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.

Again, thank you for your feedback. We look forward to welcoming you aboard!

Shorter Spirit Airlines:  You’re not as funny or clever as we are, and that’s your fault!

If I may get on my soap box for a moment, I’d like you to highlight one point in this response:  “I’ve forwarded your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.”  Oy vey.

Too often, as in this case, communications is not considered to be an integral part of a company’s business strategy, leading to disastrous results like this.  Leaving comms out of the decision-making process is a huge mistake, and yet it is so common.  A company that communicates well has everyone on board, and on the same page, from the very beginning so there would be no need to forward “your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.”  Once more, Corporate America:  Communications decisions are ultimately business decisions and should be treated accordingly.

This ad campaign should have never been green-lighted.  Let’s hope cooler, saner heads prevail and this ad campaign gets squashed.  Sadly for Spirit Air, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

As a side note, the most commonly used word in their response is “Feedback”.  In fact, they use the word three times in five short paragraphs.  Don’t you think they should emphasize things such as “Concerns” and “Service” instead of something as dry and emotionless as “Feedback”?  Yeesh.

When Good Communication Isn’t Enough

May 31, 2010

Good communications cannot replace good decisions.

Take Israel’s recent attack on innocent civilians for example.   By all accounts, this was an awful decision made by the Israeli government.  A friend of mine, whose husband is Lebanese, suggested that Israel needs to hire a good PR team to manage this crisis.  With all due respect to my friend, hiring a PR team to manage such crises devalues the profession and is ultimately counter-productive.

By hiring a crack PR team every time something goes wrong, it reinforces the impression that communications professionals are slimy spin-doctors who are paid to lie.  This only serves to undercut the credibility of the offending party as well as the communications profession.  When everyone knows it’s propaganda, who cares what is said?

Don’t get me wrong:  communications can, and indeed should, help enhance any organization’s core value.  And, improved communications can indeed solve many problems.  But good communications should not, indeed cannot, replace good decisions.  And they should not be used to whitewash bad ones.  Indeed, the term PR already has a negative connotation; many people already believe PR professionals spew half-truths at best and outright manipulations at worst.

Both Israel (and BP, whom I have harped on in previous posts) need to make better decisions, thus reducing crises in the first place.

Why in the hoot-nanny does a firm need a communication strategy?

May 21, 2010

Wow, another excellent question!

I’ve heard the following story over and over again.  Let me know if it sounds familiar:  Firm X sends one message to prospective and current employees, another to its customers and potential customers, and yet another to  investors, strategic partners and suppliers.  Heck, even senior executives don’t agree on what their company does or why they matter.   Nobody seems to be on the same page!  Aaaaahhh!!!

A communication strategy harmonizes and organizes your company’s communications, thus increasing the effectiveness of each communication tool.  So if a firm has a comms strategy and the PR department writes a press release, the presser’s message would be consistent with all of the company’s other messages.  Where inconsistent messages dilutes your brand, undermines your company’s core promise and makes people’s lives unnecessarily more difficult, a comm strategy reduces stress, increases buy-in and makes sure everyone gets consistent messages.  These are just some of the benefits of a strategic plan.  Can you think of other benefits?

What in the hoot-nanny is a “Communication Strategy” anyway?

May 12, 2010

Another excellent question!

What on Earth is a communication strategy?  Is it marketing?  PR?  Branding?  Or is it something else entirely?

In a sense, it’s all of the above.

In a nutshell, communication strategy is adding value to your organization through communications.

And what the heck does that mean? 

Perhaps the best way to explain it is through example.  Say your company is looking to buy a new building.  To do this, you need to determine how much the building costs; seek different investment sources; research various properties to purchase; perform due diligence to make sure your business can actually afford the building with utilities, repairs etc… In other words, you have to plan out such a purchase.

Now let’s view this purchase through a communications lens.  If you decide to buy a building, lots of people should know about this in advance:  investors, brokers, local governments, the IRS, etc… Once you decide to buy, your employees, customers, the community you are leaving, the community you are entering, the media, advertisers, maybe local restauranteurs, other local businesses, and so forth, all should know about this move. 

Having a harmonized communications strategy helps to ensure that all of your stakeholders understand what you are doing, and why, in a consistent manner.  It is particularly important for your employees to know about your future plans because uncertainty creates stress which can lead to reduced morale and productivity and increased turnover (more on this in future posts).  Having such a strategy also makes it easier to write press releases, communicate with customers and the media, and generally make life easier in the long-run.

In other words, a communication strategy is kinda like Corprate Aspirin:  if everyone’s on the same page, there are fewer headaches in the long-run.

How did you get this “harmonized communications” idea?

May 5, 2010

Good question!  I get this one a lot.

A couple of years ago I met with two women who worked together, full time, in the same office.  Both of them helped run a small firm.

I asked the one woman, “What does your business do?”  and she gave one answer.  I asked the other woman, “What do you do?” and she gave a different answer.  Then, they turned to each other and started arguing!

It occurred to me that, if they don’t know what they are doing, how do their customers, their employees, their suppliers etc…?  The answer was, they didn’t.

So I proceeded to narrow their unique value proposition to three words (I modified an approach that a prominent branding firm used) and created a harmonized comm strategy for them.  And lo and behold, their comms were more consistent, harmonized and effective. 

That’s the short story of how I got started on this path.  So far I’ve used this approach on dozens of organizations and have seen amazing results.  So here I am, plugging away, using this approach on numerous kinds of organizations. 

How did you get on your career path?