A Scots App Tae Ye

The last time I laughed at something in the Financial Times was . . . well, it probably goes back to those giddy days before the global financial crisis smackdown.   But that was my reaction to Lucy Kellaway’s brilliant “Business Life” column last week, in which she cited Apple as a brand that understands language can be “beautiful and easy to use. Words can be fun to read. They can look elegant. They can make you laugh.”  Case in point — the set of guidelines for apps sold at its App Store. Instead of endless pages of legalese in two-point type, Apple’s language is, as Kellaway put it, “funny, clear” and something anyone can read “effortlessly.”   There’s a lesson here.

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The Culturalist

The Culturalist

The Scoop: www.nytimes.com/thescoop/, the New York Times’ “Inside Guide” to NYC, and a nifty iPhone app, has just introduced “The Filter,” a column by Oliver Strand that shines a spotlight on notable coffee shops and cafes. Additionally, a new Home Furnishing section of the The Scoop features home shopping recommendations from Times reporters and editors. For the Culturalist’s unique take on food, fashion, technology and entertainment, check out these highlights, lowlights and headlights: www.ketchum.com/Culturalist_issue_68.

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Minds on Fire

Minds on Fire

Days when my synapses have decided to fire on all cylinders are the happy, creatively productive days, while “synapses on strike” days leave me feeling desperate and drained. The solution, I’m convinced, is the increasingly popular open innovation sites that give creative people a safe haven to kick-start those neurons.   That’s why my agency, Ketchum, just launched its own crowdsourcing site we named Mindfire (following a crowdsourcing competition to name it, in full disclosure). We wanted to create a mutually rewarding, low-pressure, high-octane online environment where enthusiastic and imaginative university students could congregate to help us come up with great ideas. We’re offering them some rewards for participating, and treating every challenge as a little competition.  

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Twitter Upgrades Its Nest

Twitter just announced it’s making a major overhaul to its user interface, which it will roll out over the next few weeks. The most important change is that multimedia will be integrated into users’ streams on Twitter.com so they can view images, links, videos, and more directly on Twitter.com. You can take a look at how this is going to work in this video released by Twitter to illustrate the changes:        Why is Twitter making this change?Twitter wants users to stay on Twitter.com so they don’t leave the site whenever they click on a link. If people spend more time on Twitter.com, the site can offer a better value proposition to advertisers as they continue to develop their monetization model. Facebook handles linked content in a very similar manner, but the typical user spends 32 minutes per day on Facebook, versus eight minutes on Twitter’s site. By taking steps to close that gap, Twitter will stand a better chance of catching up to the recognized social media juggernaut.

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Playboy and the Art of Listening

Earlier this month, in response to reading that Playboy magazine was holding a social-media-based campaign to find “Miss Social,” I published a tweet that read, “Playboy looking for the hottest women in Social Media. Because women haven’t mastered anything until Playboy photographs them doing it naked” (140 characters exactly!). The tweet was picked up and probably retweeted about 25 times — in the big picture of Twitter, hardly a phenomenon.   About a week later — the same day that Playboy announced that Krystal Harlow, a 19-year-old college student from North Carolina, won the “Miss Social” competition, blogger AV Flox wrote a post using my tweet as a catalyst that made it to the front page of BlogHer.com. Included in Flox’s post was also a comment from Paul Lee, Playboy’s managing director of digital ventures. I was surprised to find my tweet highlighted in this story, but I was even more surprised when Paul Lee reached out to me directly — on Twitter, of course.

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Till Facebook Do Us Part?

Till Facebook Do Us Part?

By now we’ve all heard the news that Facebook gained its 500 millionth user this summer. And next month, Columbia Pictures is set to release The Social Network, a movie about the founding of Facebook. Clearly, social networking is here, and here to stay. Thanks to Facebook, I now know more about the people that I went to high school with than I did when I was actually in high school, my parents have friended me, and I recently overheard a woman at the mall twice my age talk about Facebooking and FarmVille. But this past weekend, I was at a wedding and was struck by just how deeply Facebook has seeped into our culture.   Sure, the wedding was lovely, and the bride and groom couldn’t have been happier. But as a marketer and media strategist, I was decidedly impacted by some of the officiant’s dialogue during the actual ceremony. He explained that he enjoyed getting to know the bride and groom as a couple. He already knew the groom and said that he enjoyed getting to know the bride, and he noted that he particularly liked getting to know her “on the Facebook.”

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Watch Out for These Shortcuts

In the rush to make yet one more deadline and fit in ever more in our busy schedules, using shortcuts in our writing can be tempting, and once they gain traction, their use can spread like wildfire.  But not so fast. Many shortcuts can be questionable, poorly thought out or just plain wrong. Before you jump on the bandwagon and begin using, for example, “intel” as an abbreviation for “intelligence,” check this usage in a reputable resource. Even though an abbreviation may be commonly used, if it’s not listed in a guide like a dictionary or stylebook, it’s usually too early to start using this term in formal writing, or its use is considered erroneous by the broader language community.    In my role as editor, I frequently come across problems related to these terms, and below are some abbreviations, misnomers and slang words that I have seen come up in the news lately along with some oldies but goodies that remain rampant in the world of marketing and communication. Do you use any of the ones below in your writing?

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The Culturalist

To celebrate the fashion industry’s fall assault on the Big Apple, 1,000 stores, shops and boutiques throughout New York City’s five boroughs are participating in Fashion’s Night Out, a mega-celebrity packed event on Sept. 10, from 6 p.m. to midnight. At Macy’s, you’ll meet singing sensation Joss Stone, designer Tommy Hilfiger, and the multi-talented Jennifer Lopez. Over at Saks Fifth Avenue, you can rock out with Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, or play fashion bingo with Donna Karan, Rachel Roy, and Peter Som (as well as Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr). And if you can’t afford a limo to transport you to these events, Payless is cruising the city with six free double-decker busses to take you to your fashion destination. For more on the latest in trends, treats, and technology, take a look at the latest edition of the Culturalist.

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Dinner Reservations

In England, it’s back to school time.

Yesterday we dropped off my son at his new boarding school.  As we met his five new roommates, it occurred to me that a dorm room of teenagers is a kind of Petri dish for observing cultures other than bacteria.

Most fascinating to me was to observe the interplay between father-mother-son.  The various combinations and the milestone occasion made for a very interesting window into the family dynamic.

There was tension, there were tears … there were trembling stiff upper lips. 

And in the fullness of truth, most family members appeared to be genuinely excited about the next chapter in their lives – whether it was the son embarking on his next five years of study – or the mother and father coming to grips with it.  

The scene brought to mind a dinner conversation I had with one of our clients in Beijing last week.  The general topic was about the difficulty in hiring top management talent. 

After wringing his hands over the particular challenges in China, our client relayed to me a new element in his interview process.  He invites the family to dinner and looks for the subtleties in the inter-relationships between family members.  Once, he said, he did not make an offer to a highly respected candidate because he could tell the candidate’s son was afraid of his father.

“Trust comes from inside the heart,” our client said.  “And a kid’s eyes tell you what is in their heart.  If you can’t manage your own family, then you’d be a disaster trying to manage my business.”  Jon

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Go, China

Go, China

The Beijing Olympic Games were a powerful spectacle, stunning in sight and sound.

But the moment that made the biggest impression on me came during an informal visit just before the Games to one of the new Chinese internet companies, and in conversation with some of the younger Chinese entrepreneurs.  

These people, men and women, were smart, sharp, forthright, unafraid to express their views about China and its future.  Above all, there was a confidence, an optimism, a lack of the cynical, and a presence of the spirit of get up and go, that reminded me greatly of the United States at its best and any country on its way forward.

These are the words of Tony Blair, taken from an op-ed he wrote for The Wall Street Journal shortly after the Games concluded two years ago (August 27, 2008).  Its headline:  “Help China Embrace the Future”

The former UK Prime Minister’s observations back then summarise perfectly the energy, the sense of commitment and ownership of the future that many of us felt in the presence of our Chinese colleagues last week. 

As you have seen elsewhere on myKGN, Ketchum Greater China marked its 30th anniversary with a major training programme – easily the biggest we’ve ever done there.  My fellow instructors – Peter Fleischer, Jonathan Kopp and Roy Edmondson – came away from the experience feeling that we, the teachers, may have learned more than the pupils.

Over the years and on more than one occasion I have heard Kenneth Chu, chairman of Ketchum Greater China, make the point that our agency will have to evolve and adjust to a global marketplace in which economic power soon will be shared with the Far East.  

I wonder if we quite understand what that means, we whose culture (not just our politics and economies) has dominated for so long.  It will be a rather strange, possibly unnerving experience.  Personally, I think it will be incredibly enriching.  New experiences; new ways of thinking liberate creative energy.

Tony Blair wrote those words, too.  

Today Blair’s memoirs, “A Journey” have been published and, perhaps predictably, he’s getting ripped.  “Reads less like a memoir, more like a long memo to his staff …”

But he got his op-ed on China and its future exactly write.  

Jon

PS Read the full piece click here

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