Category Archives: commentary

Random Media Notes

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  1. I concede. I have long insisted that media is the plural of medium. But, based on common usage, I now accept that media can be a singular term as well as plural.
  2. The New York Times “Truth” ad campaign is genius on many levels. However, just because a story appears in the New York Times, that alone does not make it necessarily true.
  3. Memo to those whose Twitter bios contain the words “Retweets are not endorsements.” Actually, they often come off that way.
  4. Judging from my Twitter feed during the Oscar show, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Love is Love is Love” thing does not apply to Mel Gibson.
  5. PriceWaterhouseCoopers is the world’s second largest accounting firm. Not only will they will survive the Oscars flub, awareness of the firm’s name and services it provides will actually increase.
  6. It’s easy to understand why Charter would want to rebrand as Spectrum. But it seems that the changeover has been glacially gradual.
  7. Speaking of branding, it turns out that the real name of the actress Cush Jumbo is… Cush Jumbo! Great name.
  8. Speaking of branding, it was clever to repackage DVDs of old romance movies (such as Somewhere In Time) with black and white graphics similar to the now familiar 50 Shades graphics.
  9. Have you noticed how the attention-getting power of the term “Breaking News” has been diminished over the last couple of years?
  10. If I were in the news biz and wanted to do something related to immigration, I’d do a feature on Global Foods in Kirkwood (MO).
  11. The most recent Nielsen radio ratings strongly indicate that St. Louis listeners prefer older music to newer music. Have young people stopped listening to radio?
  12. Can you find yourself on a map? No, not on your phone. On a map. In an atlas. Or on TV. Apparently, many otherwise intelligent people cannot. Click HERE for link.
  13. Got an email recently that said it was from “Hamilton, the Musical.” It was NOT from Hamilton, the Musical. I deleted. But only after I unsubscribed.
  14. Am I the only person in the English-speaking world who detests the word “eponymous?” It just sounds so pretentious.
  15. If you write for money, please obtain and read the book Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. And put its guidance into practice. Thank you.

Photo credit: squidsoup.org. http://www.flickr.com/photos/8191354@N04/8704884335, via http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

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Rule Number One: Be Skeptical

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When we consume information, it helps to be skeptical. It’s a good idea, of course, to be dubious of anything that comes from extremist organizations. Not just their “fake news” but also items that seem plausible.

We should also be skeptical of news and information we receive from the “mainstream media.” Whether it’s a hard news report from Washington or a puff piece in the neighborhood paper, numerous factors determine the content that’s delivered.

Questions worth asking: Is the reporter a friend or nemesis of his/her source? Did the subject of an upbeat item spend ad money on the outlet? Did an editor remove a key element of the piece because somebody took her/him out to dinner? Did a PR person offer an exclusive scoop in exchange for a prominent placement? We can’t know the answers, so everything we read, see and hear should be subject to that healthy skepticism.

No matter the source of information, it’s important to consider that there is no such thing as absolute objectivity. All of us are subject to influences of our upbringing, our schooling, our past and current professional relationships, as well as personal friends and acquaintances.

Mass gullibility is not a new thing. Mistrust of news media is not a new thing. Nor is mistrust of elected officials. (Remember the Maine!)

It’s often necessary to get info from multiple sources in order to obtain the full scope of an issue. The New York Times may play up a certain aspect of global warming, for instance, whereas the Wall Street Journal may try to poke holes in the NYT’s version of facts. The exact truth may lie somewhere between their respective takes.

As a consumer of information, you should be able to know what is being shared as factual information and what is labeled as comment or opinion. Print and online outlets generally do a good job of differentiating. Broadcast and cable outlets sometimes fail to make clear which is which.

In these days of extreme polarization, an open mind can help you get the full picture. Certainly, many individuals will always be steadfast in their beliefs and their prejudices. Some people will believe anything they hear from conservative-leaning outlets and others will put full trust into anything they get from liberal-leaning outlets.

Wherever you receive your information, be it a trusted source or one you view with caution, maintain your healthy skepticism as you determine your own version of the facts. As they used to say on the X-Files, the truth is out there. You just have to find it.

For more on determining the validity of news we receive, you may want to check out these thoughts from NPR Morning Edition anchor Steve Inskeep. Click HERE to link to his article. Even if you perceive NPR to have a particular agenda, you may find his “finder’s guide for facts” useful.

(photo credit: Bruno Meyer Photography; http://www.flickr.com/photos/55293868@N08/31907319405; http://photopin.com; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0)

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I Want Less!

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Here’s what I want in 2017. For me. For the world. Less. Fewer.

I’m already using less hair gel and less laundry detergent. Working on less sugar and salt.

Planning on less Facebook, Twitter. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Fewer words. Shorter sentences and paragraphs. Judicious editing.

Let’s have less whining. Please. And less snark. Unless it’s really funny.

Less redundancy. Too much of what I read/hear is the same stuff posted, shared, spoken yesterday/last week/month/year.

Less regret. What’s past is past.

Less fear. Of people and ideas that are different.

Less arrogance. Be proud but don’t be obnoxious about it.

Less FOMO. If I miss something today, I’ll catch up later. Or maybe… I’ll just miss it!

Less coffee. Wha…? Interesting concept. Ain’t gonna happen.

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Disruptors: Threat Or Menace?

Disruption

Disruptors get attention. Because they are new and different. Or they appear to be. AND because historically we have praised and honored successful disruptors, especially those of the recent past.

Disruptors are often greeted with skepticism—rightly so in many cases. Because their ideas are too outlandish. Or because they don’t live up to their promises. Current examples include Theranos and Lending Club.

But sometimes… a few believers join a disruptor’s cause and the fever spreads. Investors bring cash. Media give airtime and column space.

Innovators or Repackagers?

Disruptors may or may not be innovators. They often take ideas from other sources and reconfigure or refine them. Donald Trump’s proposed wall is not unlike the wall built centuries ago in China or the fictional one that protects the north on Game of Thrones.

Bernie Sanders’ socialist ideas are not new. But his message has resonated with young people who haven’t heard that message in their lifetimes and with older Americans who haven’t heard those ideas touted in the U.S. in nearly half a century.

Steve Jobs did not design or construct the first Mac, the iPod or the iPhone. He DID supervise their development and demand they deliver solid function along with graceful form. And he was a master promoter.

Classic Disruptors: Uber, Blackberry, iPhone, Social Channels

Disruptors often ignore what is legal. Look at Uber’s and Airbnb’s disregard for local ordinances across the U.S. and the world. This has not been a problem for Uber users who have found the service preferable to their local taxis.

Disruptors need to continually refine their product, whether that product is an idea or a hard good. The Blackberry was a big disruptor in the late 90s and early 00s, but its makers’ efforts to update and adapt failed. The “must have” item of 15 years ago now rests atop the tech junk heap. Meanwhile, the great disruptor of 2007, the iPhone, has continually improved its features and its sales.

We’ve seen Facebook and Instagram work to stay fresh. Twitter is making big changes. An outlier is Craigslist, a major disruptor that has made few revisions during its existence.

Why We Should Appreciate Disruptors

Disruptors, successful or not, are valuable to our professional and personal lives because they offer up new ideas and concepts that we may have never considered. Or, if we considered them, we found them too unrealistic to have merit. Circumstances such as time and market conditions may prevent today’s disruptor from gaining traction, but that same concept may return later and become a hit.

More importantly, disruptors force those who have become leaders in a category to keep their eyes and ears open to those who want to take their places. That’s why the brightest leaders pay close attention to all who would challenge their status.

For marketing pros (ad, PR, social, etc.), communicating a disruptor’s story to target audiences can be both exhilarating and frustrating. On one hand, the new/fresh/different thing may be easier to pitch. On the other hand, if the thing is too far from the norm, it may be quickly dismissed.

 

 

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Blindsided, Via Social Media

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In football, a left tackle protects a quarterback’s blindside. Sandra Bullock explained this in the opening of the movie Blindside, the story of Michael Oher, a young man who became a left tackle at Ole Miss and in the NFL.

Another Ole Miss left tackle, Laremy Tunsil, was himself blindsided last week. Just minutes before the NFL draft began, on his own Twitter account, a video was posted showing him smoking via a bong hooked up to a gas mask. The presumption is he was smoking weed.

Soon after, on his own Instagram account, screen shots were posted that purported to show text messages from Tunsil to an Ole Miss coach in which Tunsil asked for money.

Here’s How It (Might’ve) Happened

Who did it? As a projected high (no pun intended) draft pick, Tunsil had already hired and fired agents, lawyers and other advisors. It is now believed one of those dismissed (and disgruntled) individuals did the deed.

After these social posts, the Ravens, who drafted Oher in the first round in 2009, chose not to select Tunsil with the sixth overall pick. The Giants, picking tenth and needing offensive line help, also passed, due to the posts. The Dolphins nabbed Tunsil with the 13th overall pick.

Some Takeaways From The Incident

  1. Always know who has access to your social media account passwords. If someone other than you is posting on your behalf or that of your organization, pay attention to what they are posting.
  2. Change passwords frequently.
  3. If you leave your phone unattended, use a lockout code to prevent unauthorized access.
  4. Young people in college are likely to smoke weed and/or drink.
  5. People with extraordinary talent and/or extreme physical attributes can get away with certain misbehavior.
  6. Despite dropping down in the draft, Tunsil is still a first round pick who is likely to earn tens of millions during his NFL career.
  7. Of all the players taken in all the rounds, he is the one who has received the most attention, even more that the top pick. Yes, much of that attention was dubious (doobie-ous?), but it all adds up to name recognition.
  8. Don’t blame this episode on “social media,” like ESPN’s Jon Gruden who said, “This whole social media scene makes me sick!” Blame it on the human (or humans) who did it.

 

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What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Have you ever had a client praise you for your good works and outcomes and then, within weeks or months, decide to end your working agreement? Have you ever brought in positive measurable results in a job only to have, shortly thereafter, your employment terminated?

Circumstances change. Budgets get reassessed. Ownerships/partnerships are revised. Measurable results can go south. Clients/employers find candidates they think can do the job better. Or cheaper.

In 2016, more than at any point in my lifetime, it is a “what have you done for me lately?” world in business. A college basketball coach takes leads a team to two straight conference titles. He wins awards! Heaping accolades roll in! Then he has two losing seasons. Goodbye, coach!

I have lost jobs when I was performing at my best and delivering strong measurable results, but my superiors thought someone else could do the job better. (OR just as well, for much less money.)

It happens. Unless your parents own the company or you have an ownership stake, you can be bounced from any gig. Even if, just recently, you were golden. How should you deal with this uncertainty?

  1. Perform at a high level always. Don’t coast.
  2. Make sure the person or persons you report to are aware of all the good outcomes you deliver. Don’t assume they know.
  3. Note that even if you do good work, consultants, corporate types and fellow managers can suggest to your boss/client that your talents may not be as valuable as earlier believed.
  4. Celebrate your wins as they occur. Next time the outcomes may not be so rosy.
  5. Always be thinking about your next work situation. When someone extends a feeler, don’t brush it off. Listen and ask questions. There may be something better out there for you now.
  6. Keep your resume, portfolio and LinkedIn profile updated. You may be, as Sinatra sings, “ridin’ high in April, shot down in May.”
  7. Negotiate employment contracts carefully. Many are one-sided, favoring the employer/client. Make sure there are protections for you in the deal, just in case.
  8. If you are an “HCE” (highly compensated employee), be aware that you may be particularly vulnerable when budgets are slashed.
  9. Don’t get overly attached emotionally to any job. Things change.
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Perception Is Reality

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It’s true. If a person perceives a brand, a product, a service, a retailer, a restaurant, etc. to possess certain qualities, it colors all of that person’s interactions with that entity. Even when hard evidence shows the perceived belief is not true.

Certain brands have buzz and are perceived by many to be cool, superior, innovative, etc. The list includes Starbucks, Apple, Uber, IKEA—I’m sure you can name a few more. Even when those cool brands fail or when they “borrow” ideas from others, they are often given a pass because of positive customer perceptions.

The current TV series The People Versus O.J. Simpson reveals incorrect appraisals of potential jurors by both prosecutor Marcia Clark and defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. Each perceived African-American female jurors to be sympathetic to the prosecution’s case. Both were wrong. The scene showing Marcia Clark behind the glass monitoring a focus group as they offer comments about her is powerful and enlightening.

During my radio career, I was reminded many times that perception is reality. If a listener perceives that station A plays more music than station B, it doesn’t matter which station actually plays more music. If a listener thinks a personality is snarky and insensitive, that personality can perform tons of good deeds and still be perceived to be a jerk. A listener’s perception is that listener’s reality.

Because perceptions matter—whether they are based on facts, gossip, online chatter, peer pressure or subtle factors—it is important to work to mold perceptions. Public relations, marketing and social media all play a vital role in creating and reinforcing positive consumer perceptions of a product, a service, a radio station, an idea or a presidential candidate.

It is dangerous to presume that we know how customers or prospects perceive the goods, services and messages we offer. How do we find out what they think? We observe how they act. We monitor their online comments. We ask them. What is their perception? It’s their reality.

 

 

 

 

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