MarComedy: Don’t make me laugh

For what tickles my fancy in media, communications and life in general.

Archive for the ‘Soap Box’ Category

Business Tools Enabling Stupidity, Not Productivity

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A few days ago Matthew Ingram has a post about a group of intrepid entrepreneurs who neglected to ‘accept changes’ on their edited business plan. It was sent to potential VC funders with comments intact and hilarity ensued.

This, along with the all-time favourite ‘reply all when only meant to send to one’ error, is a good example of how carelessness in the age of technology is a recipe for mockery at best and lawsuits at worst.

Here’s a short list of other all-too-common workplace techno-goofs:

1. Speakerphone Snafus:Forgetting to hit the mute button on Speakerphone before bad-mouthing the client/partner/etc.

2. Email-Misdirection: Sending the sensitive email to the wrong person courtesy of Outlook’s predictive address book (bonus points if the recipient is your boss, competition or client’s competition).

3. “Can You Hear Me Now”: Forgetting to lock keys on your cellphone/blackberry allowing unintended surveillance of your activities (bonus points if you’re married and in a strip club with clients at the time).

4. Workstation Wandering Eye: Not locking your computer when away or just being careless and being busted surfing porn/job sites/gossip sites/etc while at work.

5. Anti-Social Network Syndrome: The oft-cited public Facebook profile revealing too much – photos, wall posts, etc…

If you haven’t done one of these, you haven’t lived…

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

May 20, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Soap Box

The Apologetic Blogger or I Know What I’m Not Doing This Summer

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I’ve noticed a trend among certain blogs I read – the post apologizing for a lack of activity. Never one to want to be left out….here’s mine.

It’s summer. There’s vacations. Great events in the city. Opportunities to escape the city to cottage country. Golf. Etc. Etc. Etc. Seeing as I’m not making money of this blog, I feel no obligation to satisfy any stakeholders  or other regulatory bodies. I would hope that those who do read this are out enjoying the summer rather than waiting patiently for my latest post.

This is my summer hiatus as I work on next season’s scripts, develop the promotional strategy, enter pre-production, record episodes that will kick off the fall with a bang. I may test the waters with some pilots of things I’m hoping to develop later.

True, I’m not a major network and the always-on internet means you can find me even if I’m not broadcasting new episodes. Infrequent posting doesn’t make for good conversations. I’m well aware of that, but sometimes its good to just listen and take it what’s going on around you.

I’ll get back in the groove, but for now I’m going to enjoy the sun & heat. Cuz there’ll be plenty of time to spend in front of the computer during the winter.
We’ll soon return to regularly scheduled programming.

PS. I’m cross-posting this on my jargonism blog b/c it allows me to use another tv phrase…a simulcast.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

August 1, 2007 at 11:35 am

Posted in Soap Box

The Keg vs Volkswagon – Two Tales of Customer Service

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Tales of customer service woes are prime fodder for the blogosphere so I wanted to share a positive and a negative customer experience. The first involves a recent encounter I had with The Keg restaurant. The second involves my girlfriend’s encounter with Volkswagen.

The Good – The Keg

 The Set Up: Over the past couple weeks I have been planning my best friend’s bachelor party that is happening this weekend. Part of the festivities involve a group dinner for all the participants. I intended for this dinner to take place at the Keg. I made some calls on Monday to local Keg restaurants. At the first, I was told they didn’t take reservations at all on Saturday. Disappointing, but okay. I called a second location and was told that while they did take reservations, they didn’t have the facilities (ie group dining rooms) to accommodate a group of this size (25 or so). I asked whether they could take a reservation and just make sure we were all at adjacent tables. I was told they couldn’t guarantee this. Disappointed, I went ahead and made plans with another restaurant. But not before I share my thoughts on this through the guest feedback interface on their website.

The Response: On Wednesday, I received a call from The Keg’s Director of Operations for Toronto and Montreal. I didn’t get the call, but he left a voicemail saying he’d like to discuss my comments and he gave me his mobile number so I could reach him. I returned his voicemail Thursday morning and he got back in touch with me within an hour. He was in meetings all day, but took advantage of a gap to give me a call.

He acknowledged I had some valid points, including things they had been considering (group dining, reservations on Saturday, etc…). He then asked if I had made plans as he had taken the liberty of speaking to people at the first location I called (the one that didn’t that reservations on Saturday) and said that he had made arrangements for them to pull some table together so they could accommodate my group.

The Outcome: Though plans have already been made, I appreciate the quick response, the acknowledgement of my concerns and the fact that he went to extra lengths to see if they could accommodate the group. As a result, my earlier feelings of frustration have been soothed and I am left with a very positive feeling about The Keg.

The Bad – Volkswagen (VW)

The Set Up: My girlfriend owns a Volkswagen Jetta which she bought second hand and has had for a few years. Recently, the car had been ‘acting up’ – mysterious lights started to be illuminated on the dashboard. Late last week, she received a notice saying that the problems she was experiencing we due to a faulty part that they were now issuing a recall for. Her car was already at the garage, for this very problem. In fact, the problem had become so severe that the car wouldn’t start. The mechanic got the part (or so it seemed) from the VW dealership which was located a couple blocks away. Once replaced, the car still didn’t work and my girlfriend went to ask questions of the VW people.

The Response: As the car was still not working, my girlfriend went over to the dealership to get some answers. Turns out, the mechanic was knowingly sold the faulty part so they could make sure they had enough in stock to handle the recall. They also told her that they while they would install the new part, they would not reimburse her for the charges she incurred as a result of not being able to bring the car to the dealership in the first place (I remind you that she couldn’t get it there b/c the car wouldn’t start…due to the faulty part). This issue has since been escalated to VW’s offices and now, 5 days later, there hasn’t been a peep from VW…not even a "we’re looking into the matter and will get back to you shortly".

The Outcome: One pissed off and out-of-pocket, VW customer.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

June 14, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Marketing, Soap Box

Misc Personal News and Links

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There is a good reason for the lack of posts lately. There’s been a maelstrom of activity, the end result of which is that I have a new job. As of today, I’m coordinating communications (along with marketing, some biz dev and account support) for a small but successful mobile marketing and solutions company.

No doubt, this will start to find its way into my blog posts. But, for now, I’m just excited to have a new job where I can really sink my teeth into the work, build and drive my own initiatives and be the master of my own success.

To satisfy the link-hungry out there, here are some neat stories and tidbits that I’ve come across over the past week or so:

1. Hey Jude. How do you take your latte?: Paul McCartney has been unveiled as the first signing for the music label of Starbucks.

2. BBC Remains Ad Free:  The BBC has decided they won’t (yet) sell ad real estate on their website as it might violate the impartiality (or the impression of impartiality) of the site. Interestingly, check out the pop-up that shows what the website might look like if there were ads on it. I’d suggest those companies that are featured in the mock-up are among the top prospects for ad space and this pop-up is now being used as a sales tool.

3. Classic Compaq Commercials: I came across a compilation of the commercials John Cleese did for Compaq back in the ’80’s. Brilliantly funny. Always on message. Very creative. One of my favourite comedians of all time. What’s not to like? As a bonus, the compilation (see related in the side-bar) also has spots designed for internal viewing among Compaq’s dealer network. I believe the spots were done by Ogilvy.

4. Also, Ogilvy just received high praise at the Marketing Awards as its much-talked about "Evolution" spot for Dove won Best in Show. Couldn’t agree more.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

April 2, 2007 at 2:56 pm

DRM and the Fight for the Future of Music

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Those of you in the GTA will likely have noticed that BBC World has replaced CNN Headline News on your TV dials. While I’ll admit to occasionally missing Glen Beck and Nancy Grace spit bile at anyone who comes across their path, this is clearly a change for the better.

One of BBC World’s programs is Click. Click is weekly review of web/tech/media issues and news. This past week’s edition focused on Digital Rights Management (DRM). In short, it took a look at the technology/software behind DRM and how it is being used by major music companies as a way to fight piracy and protect intellectual property (you can find the bulk of the episode on the website).

Though I’ve recently seen examples of how new media tools have allowed independent bands to establish/connect with an audience (here and here), I have a number of reservations about whether this really indicates a sea-change in music distribution or merely a couple of good examples of what can be done (not, I should add, what we can expect to become the norm anytime soon).

– Most acts sign on to major labels because they help off-set production and marketing costs. Studio space & time, recording & production equipment, distribution, promotion and so on are very expensive activities and beyond the reach of most independent, small or just-starting-out bands. Though improved technology and new & powerful distribution channels are making independent production more realistic.

– When bands sign on with major labels, their contracts (typically) are not for a defined period of time but rather for a certain number of albums. This makes it very difficult for the artists to sever ties with their label without long and drawn out legal battles. It also means that the only way to break the contract (barring, I suppose, gross mismanagement by the label is to pump out a couple of albums in quick succession which could ultimately harm the artist if they are concerned with quantity rather than quality).

– It will, I believe, take a number of major artists adopting direct-to-consumer distribution for there to be any real pressure placed on the majors to change their tune (pun intended, but sheepishly offered). You see, even if artists are able to break their contracts with their labels it is highly likely that the label will retain the copyrights for any material produced while the artist was under contract. This was famously demonstrated when John Fogerty (the voice, guitar and songwriter behind CCR) was, for many years, unable to use the name of the band he created or in some cases even play music that he wrote as his previous label owned the copyright. There is so much money to be had through back catalogue sales that the labels will not simply release the rights to the artists, nor will the artist likely want to lose the revenue associated with their creations.

– It is true that artists have much to gain from going direct-to-consumers (ie. the lion’s share of revenue vs pennies per sale), but the loss of the back catalogues will temper those moves.

– Frankly, many artists (particularly established artists) are too lazy to take a stand and start the revolution. It will take a major artist with a social conscience (say, Radiohead or U2) to even make music executives consider alternate approaches to their business..

What is encouraging is that the tools exist  for artists to take greater ownership of their creative output and deliver their work directly to consumers. In time, I’m sure we’ll see more artists (particularly those starting out) taking this approach. The will and interest certainly seems to be there in some quarters. It should be encouraged. But it will be a long time before that becomes the norm and an even longer time before old favourites will be available in this fashion.

PS. I should note that my claims about the music industry and its artist contracts are based purely on my own observation/reading. If I have misrepresented how these things work, I’m happy to be corrected.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

March 20, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Blogroll, Music, Soap Box

100 000 dials and counting (or Ma Bell owes me some commission)

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(Warning: Seriously NSFW language in this clip)

The first thing in sales is to get on the phone. You have to talk to people – real people, not voicemail. It’s a bit of a numbers game. Common belief is that sales can be compared to a funnel. For every 100 calls, you’ll get 10 live contacts and that will lead to 1 sale. And, as usual, common belief holds up well under scrutiny.

Cold-calling is hard. You have to overcome call-reluctance and set goals to keep you on task. You have to toughen your skin so rejection just bounces off of you.

It’s a funny, fickle game, too. Some days everything’s going well. You’re making live contacts. Conversations are going smoothly and you’re booking meetings or taking orders (Taking names doesn’t count. Unless you’re kicking ass). And there are other days when you hardly speak to a soul. Those that you do speak to may be unpleasant or are just too busy (they may just be saying that, though).

I’ve had to make a lot of sales calls. Maybe not 100 000, but it’s been one of my primary responsibilities for the bulk of the last 5 yrs. As I move into public relations, I’m taking stock of how this experience will help me down the road.

From what I can gather (and have been told by those who would know), business development responsibilities at PR agencies are concentrated at the senior levels (say Account Director and up). Some agencies have a group who’s main focus is business (or corporate) development, but this is much less common. For entry & intermediate professionals, it seems that the expectation is that some attention is paid to biz dev, but that the expectations for results are pretty modest.

Having said that, it also seems clear that being able to generate revenue for your firm is a key element in advancing your career. After all, the higher up you move in the firm, the more you will have to pay attention to business development. So starting early and practicing often has its advantages.

For those of you who may not have much experience with biz dev (which is probably most people starting out in PR), here are some tips to keep in mind:

– You need to dedicate time to making sales calls. It can be daily, weekly, monthly. But if you don’t book time in your calendar to make those calls, something will always come up that prevents you from doing it.

– Make sure you do your research. Know who you’re calling, why you’re calling, what the company does, how they do it, who they currently work with, what you can do that meets their business needs (and what those needs are), etc…Have they recently reviewed their ad agencies? Are they planning on doing the same with PR? Can you anticipate changes in their industry that will require significant PR activity?

– You’ll probably find that most people you talk to are satisfied with their current agency. Fair enough. But I can’t stress strongly enough that you should avoid bad-mouthing the competition. There’s a couple of reasons for this: There’s a good chance that the person you’re speaking too (if it’s the right person) will be the one who hired that firm. Slagging the other agency is questioning their judgment and will make them defensive. Also, it reflects poorly on yourself and your firm if you spend time bad mouthing the competition rather than informing the prospect about what you can offer them.

– Selling isn’t telling. Sure you need to introduce yourself, the firm, why you’re calling. But just talking to someone isn’t going to get you very far. A better approach is question-based selling. Ask questions that will help the prospect realize that you can do the job better than their current agency. Just telling them that you can won’t get you very far. There are plenty of good books out there on the subject of question-based selling.

– Be persistent. There’s an old adage that persistence wears down resistance. It’s true…to a point. But if you work hard to build a relationship with a prospect, offer them something of value even if they aren’t looking to switch shops at the moment, you’ll be on their radar when the time does come for them to evaluate their agency relationships.

– And a couple of final thoughts: Make sure you’re speaking to the right person (a.k.a. the decision maker). Be respectful of their time (if they say it’s not a good time, accept that & use it as an opportunity to book a meeting or follow up call). Stay positive (even if all you’ve received is rejection, keep your chin up. People can hear your mood in your voice) . Follow up (either with info or a thank you for their time).

I’ll end this by saying my experience comes from ad sales. I haven’t done PR biz dev (yet), so there might be a different dynamic in play. Get input from senior members of your firm. Their experience will be invaluable. It will also show that you’re committed to building the business and, even if they don’t expect much, they’ll surely admire your initiative (as long as it isn’t taking away from your primary responsibilities…). Thus endeth the rant.

PS. Real sales is not (or at least should not) be like the Glengarry Glen Ross clip. But it’s a great scene and does contain some kernels of wisdom….A-B-C, A-I-D-A.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

March 14, 2007 at 4:22 pm

A Marcomedy Reader (or stimulating the old grey matter)

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Tip of the hat (and top o’ the mornin’) to Michael O’Connor Clarke for his Want to be good at PR? Then READ more post. He’s absolutely right that it takes a curious and absorbent mind to make the grade in PR (or marketing or sales). The post also made me take stock of my reading habits. So I present: A Marcomedy Reader.

Websites I read:

These are sites that I visit regularly, if not daily. I find that more and more the web is my go-to source for info (guess I’m just one of the herd there).

globeandmail.com – for Canadian news and perspective.

cbc.ca – see above.

the star.com – for local news.

Marketingmag.ca (also the Marketing Daily) – for Canadian Marketing news.

Economist.com – for insight and analysis on global affairs.

bbc.co.uk – for global perspective and football (the old skool kind) news.

guardian.co.uk – for insight and commentary (see their decent podcast roster).

canoe.ca – for sports and entertainment news.

the superficial.com – for celeb gossip dished out with biting sarcasm.

Fark.com – for a good survey of the irreverent, inane and intriguing.

newsvine.com – for interesting news, politics and tech tidbits.

Blogs I read:

Too many to mention (and so much link love would make me look like a gigolo), but check out the CanuckPR toolbar and you’ll get a good idea of my starting point.

Newspapers I read:

– The Globe & Mail – I mostly just get the Saturday edition as I read the website during the week. I find the Focus section to be of particular value.

The National Post – To see how the other half think. I am left-leaning (for the most part and certainly when it comes to a social agenda) and turn to the Post for the other side’s views.

Magazines I read:

– Marketing mag – The go-to source for Canadian marketing industry news.

Strategy mag – see above (minus to go-to…).

– The Economist – I don’t get The Economist every week. I usually pick it up when there are special reports on topics of interest. But it is hands-down my favourite magazine. Not just for its penetrating analysis, but also for its surprisingly wicked sense of humour.

Maclean’s – For good Canadian political and social reporting.

Mojo – In my view, the best music magazine going.

Books on my bedside table:

I generally like to switch between a work of non-fiction and work of fiction. Right now, I’m reading The Upside of Down by Thomas Homer-Dixon.

Recently, I’ve also read:

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

The Double by Jose Saramago

Naked Conversations by Shel Israel & Robert Scoble

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston (btw. possibly the one of the finest book titles I’ve ever come across)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are many websites I read frequently (CNN, Google News, AdAge, ESPNSoccernet, etc…) and haven’t included and there are several magazine (Atlantic Monthly, Fast Company, Canadian Business, Toronto Life etc…) that I pick up when they catch my attention. You’ll notice that the bulk of my reading is from quite traditional media sources. I don’t claim to be a trend-setter or a "sophisticated bohemian" (I’ll leave that to others). I’m certainly a fan of the irreverent, the amusing or the oracular but I like to know the big picture. I do, though, have a few sources I go to when I want to get some dirt under my fingernails.

Now, what’s on your reading list?

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

March 11, 2007 at 5:44 pm