Caps to Clicks

Caps to Clicks

Among the movie selections on my flight from London to Lima, Peru were Precious, The Blind Side and Up in the Air.

Not a bad way to describe the current state of the worldwide economy, it occurred to me.

Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly exciting and historic time to be in the public relations profession and that was the gist of my speech this morning to the International Public Relations Association’s World Congress. 

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Nobody Remembers the Naysayers

Remember when the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, refused to believe that the Dark Lord had returned to cut Harry Potter open, take his blood, mix it with the bones of his father, then burst forth in a blaze of fiery magic?

In a magical world of possibility, Fudge was blind to possibilities. He was a bureaucrat whose close-mindedness led to great losses against the Death Eaters, and you probably don’t remember him because he was a naysayer.

“Nobody remembers the naysayers,” said eternal optimist Bill Clinton in his speech to the graduating class of Yale College last week. “In the end, all that endures are the builders. And in the end, even the builders are forgotten and all that endures are the ripples of what they built.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBDgCATvf6Y

This blog is called Possibilities because I’ve seen too many great ideas not get built when probability gets in the way of possibility. “Unlikely to get past legal,” says the naysayer. Or, “Why waste time when odds for success are so low,” says another. “Too complicated,” they all snap.

Considering possibility means seeing potential, and seeing potential takes an open mind and a builder’s spirit. In my business where ideas are my capital, I come to work each day hoping to think up great ideas, but I’m also looking for the construction crews with the spirit and energy to help me build them. It certainly takes imagination, but it takes a good amount of toil too.

Just consider these nay-sayings that might have killed the possibility of great ideas had the tenacity of idea builders not prevailed:

This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication (Western Union memo, 1876)

We don’t like their sound (Decca Recording Company, in rejecting The Beatles, 1962)

There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home (Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977)

So join me in seeing possibilities. Be brave like Harry Potter, and like the gifted wizard apprentice, be remembered and endure.

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The Extra 26.2

The Extra 26.2

For 87 years, Ketchum has taken pride in always going the extra mile for our clients.

But 26.2?

Yes, that’s a full marathon. Sally Arnold’s snap decision to go for it – the entire distance – was actually made when all but one entrant had completed last Sunday’s London Marathon.

It was 9pm. It was raining. And she was wearing jeans. (She ditched her soggy ballet flats after Mile 5.)

The runner she was supporting still had more than 15 miles to go.

The series of events that led to this moment were set in motion months earlier when a small group of Ketchum Pleon London colleagues took on the challenge of supporting wounded war veteran Phil Packer.

The former Army Major, paralyzed from the waist down by a rocket attack in Iraq two years ago, was attempting to complete the London marathon, dedicating each mile to a different charity supporting disabled or deprived young people and injured service personnel.

With just one stop for physiotherapy, Packer crossed the finish line in 25 hours and 55 minutes to achieve his target of completing the 26.2 miles in under 26 hours for 26 charities.

The pro bono campaign sought to raise both money and awareness for all of the 26 charities. Due to the efforts of our colleagues in London – namely Suzanne Sinden, Avril Lee and Sally – both goals were achieved.

Wow, were they ever. During the pre-race build-up, double-decker buses and train stations were plastered in posters, the Tower of London blazed with a projection image that ran across the full face of the famous landmark; the story ran everywhere.

Throughout the run, a young support walker from one of 26 charities joined Packer for each one of the 26 miles. And, of course, they were joined by one member of KP London who found herself at Mile 11 on a wet Sunday night with the indefatigable Packer and didn’t want to be left behind.

“There was no way I was not going to see it through,” Sally told us all on Tuesday morning. “The crazy carnage of the photographers trying to get the first shot at the finish line, the media pushing for live interviews… Phil crossing it with those 26 kids around him and the emotion that was felt throughout the hundreds of people there… It’s something I was so proud to be a part of and will never forget.

“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

As Phil himself put it: “It’s about what you can do – not can’t.”

For more information on Phil you can visit www.philpacker.com 

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Do You Hear Me?

Your customers are talking, Tweeting, texting and tubing (YouTubing, that is) and they have a lot to say. Do you, as a marketer, hear them? Do you care? What impact does that input have on your company? How are you changing how you do business as a result of listening to consumers? How do you let them know you’ve heard them? Have you joined the conversation? How do you measure that activity?

These are questions that consumers, especially female consumers, are asking of your business or brand. If you don’t hear them, then you are not listening well enough. There are more channels than ever before to listen to opinions, recommendations and dissatisfactions and those channels are available to you and to your consumers. Active and real-time listening is critical to succeed in marketing with women.

Date just released in the 2010 BlogHer Social Media Matters Study, sponsored by Ketchum, shows consumers are prepared to take action if companies do not listen to them. According to the research, consumers agree — the best way they can influence companies, the products they develop and how they market to consumers is by not buying products. Fully 62% of women and 54% of men are prepared to walk away if they don’t approve of how you do business.

I hope you hear your consumers loud and clear. 

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Does Social Media Matter?

Research, or any recent conversation with a marketer will tell you that social media is one of the marketing hottest topics. What’s working? What’s not? What’s the latest? How do I put it in context? That’s why Ketchum’s Brand Marketing Practice decided to sponsor BlogHer’s annual social media study, aptly named, the 2010 Social Media Matters Study.

Findings from the study will help marketers better understand where to focus online, especially when it comes to purchase recommendations. Key findings include:

Social media is growing with over three-quarters (77%) of adults 18+ online now participating weekly or more3 in 4 women online are active social media usersBlogs are second only to Internet search as the preferred media source for product purchasing information for BlogHer Network usersHalf of the total US online population and 81% of the BlogHer Network audience turn to blogs for advice and guidanceMen are just as active as women in social media, but they prefer different destinations (YouTube vs. Facebook or social gaming)

Does social media matter? Just if you want consumers to buy or recommend your product.

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What's In Your Sandwich?

What's In Your Sandwich?

They say you can never trust a person who, when left in a room alone with a tea cosy, would not pop it on their head and see how it looks as a hat.

Here is a picture of a tea cosy for those of you who do not live in 1950 tea room England.

And here is a photo of me with a tea cosy on my head.

I know I am not on my own, but I still wanted to see what it looked like.

Curiosity – you see. It killed the cat and it defines George but it is a vital component of creativity.

What would these shoes look like with this dress? What would happen if we went the other way at this junction? Let’s just see what’s on at the other movie theatre instead?
All lead to different outcomes. These outcomes might be more interesting, they might not; but if you are not curious you will never know.

My Dad used to tell the story about a mate he worked with on the docks when he was a young man. Every day the man would open his sandwiches, lift a corner and with a disappointed sigh say “jam.” By Thursday the sigh was deeper and the disappointment greater. Jam… again. On Friday my Dad asked the jam man, “Why don’t you ask your Mum to give you something different?” The man looked at my Dad and told him, “I make the sandwiches myself.”

We can all laugh at that man. I mean imagine being so routine and formulaic, so obvious and so lazy. Imagine setting yourself up to be disappointed, to never be surprised or engaged. But when it comes to work are we just the same as that man? Do we do the same things in the same way, almost by rote? Do we slavishly follow the diary and the meeting room protocol and the agenda? Do we repeat patterns of behaviours that have worked well enough in the past? Do we replicate presentations and pitches and programmes for clients because they are no more curious than we are to see what it would be like if we tried it another way?

Curiosity is what keeps us fresh. It is asking the What If questions. It is turning things round another way and seeing what happens. It is taking the leap and asking someone new onto the team; someone who will hopefully think about things afresh with a curious mind on the problem.

This is not just about imagining great tactics for our clients, creativity is well rehearsed there; but also about changing the ways we work every day. The processes that we slavishly follow, the routines that that we never question… the jam in our everyday sandwiches.

Go on be curious. Mix it up, ask questions, check out possibilities. Pop a tea cosy on your head and see what it looks like. 

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The Extra 26.2

The Extra 26.2

For 87 years, Ketchum has taken pride in always going the extra mile for our clients. 

But 26.2? 

Yes, that’s a full marathon. Sally Arnold’s snap decision to go for it — the entire distance — was actually made when all but one entrant had completed last Sunday’s London Marathon. 

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Zzzzzzz

It was ten minutes into my 30 minute presentation. I looked up to make eye contact with the senior client and … he was … sound asleep.  Chin on chest, snoring, the head bob. 

The man was Mayor in the Land of Nod.

You can imagine how disconcerting this was.  But it was a boardroom in Tokyo 20+ years ago and I am almost over it now.  Afterward, my Japanese colleagues were quick to explain that this was actually a compliment – if the senior-most client nods off, it means he has confidence in the presenter and his colleagues, who he trusts to make the correct decision.

At least that was the line my new friends were spinning to the naïve American (and I was only too happy to believe it).

All these years later, it turns out my conked out client was on to something.  A recent study from the University of California at Berkeley shows that an afternoon nap can boost a person’s brain power. 

Our friends in Madrid may be able to confirm this – the study also indicated that the afternoon siesta not only contributes to work-life balance, but is “essential if the brain is to take on additional information needed for work or study.”

According to a story in “The Independent,” the study was comprised of 39 healthy volunteers who were divided into two groups (Note to Cal Bears everywhere – 39 is not an even number.)

At noon, both groups took part in a series of demanding learning tests, intended to fatigue a part of the brain called the hippocampus.  (If I recall correctly from the story I just read, the hippocampus is connected to short-term memory.  I think.) 

Anyway, one group was asked to take a 90 minute nap at 2pm, while the other group continued to work away.  At 6pm, the two groups were reconvened.

By golly, don’t you know the group that enjoyed the afternoon nap not only performed better, they actually improved their capacity to learn. 

I don’t know that anyone engaged in gainful employment could ever get away with a 90 minute nap on a regular basis.

But 10 or 15 would be sweet. I have just the presentation for you.

 

Jon

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The Good Solider

Ever hear of the “Good Soldier Syndrome?”   

He’s the one who asks “How high?” when a superior tells him to “Jump!”  He’s the can-do guy, the one with the sterling reputation as the ultimate team player.  

Describing a colleague as a Good Soldier may sound like a compliment, but it isn’t.

According to experts who study managerial behaviour, Good Soldier Syndrome is one of the biggest silent killers of projects.  

An unremitting inner drive for the constant pleasing of people inevitably leads the Good Soldier to making commitments they (and their team) can not handle.  The Good Solider often succeeds in the face of long odds, which leads to a perverse reward.   More challenges come his way, with the ever-increasing expectation of pulling off even more small miracles.  In fact, unchecked, this leads to a downward spiral and eventual burnout.

Any of this sound familiar?

According to a US-based expert in project management, the most effective project managers follow these steps:

1. Confirm the request by playing it back in your words

2. Take the time to analyze the impact of the request

3. Return with fact-based information.  (“It can be done. It will add £50,000 to the project cost and take about 12 weeks to complete.  We will have to redirect 3 people to do this. That means we will have to reassign their work to other staff, or delay completion of those assignments.”)

4. Have alternatives and make a recommendation.  (“Let’s do it this way, with these cost and timing implications …” Or, “My recommendation is not to proceed. Here’s why … But what if we looked at the problem this way …”)

5. Affirm your commitment.  (“We want this to be a success.”) 

6. If efforts to shape the request to your requirements fail, accept it.  But constructively  – and diplomatically – spell out your views on the details associated with the delivery of that request (risk, required resources, deadline, etc.).

The agency business is a service business, and one of Ketchum’s greatest strengths is its collaborative, swarming, aim to please culture.  So it’s not surprising most of us are preconditioned to say “Yes.”  

But saying “Yes” when we need to say “No” or “Here’s a better way” puts the organisation and profits at risk.  

Just a thought.

 

Jon 

 

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