Is the economy straining more than the bank accounts? Client – vendor relationships.

May 29, 2009

Job cuts. Salary cuts. Hours cut. Budget cuts. We are all too well aware of the realities our respective businesses are facing.  So-called “savvy” customers and companies are tightening their belts and seeking out bargain prices and value-adds in the products and services they purchase. What if you business proposition already provides high-value and the biggest bang-for-the-buck? Do you change your business model? Do you offer services for free? It is a slippery slope to consider, and frankly, a step that you cannot afford to take.

PR is a cost effective way to keep your brand alive and awareness high in a challenging economic market. While it is understandable that clients are demanding more results, more support, and additional responsibilities from the extended marketing team, this inevitably causes account time overages. It’s a simple principle: products and services cost money. Time is money. In PR, time is also results.  So when do you say when to the growing list of demands when clients’ budgets are dwindling? 

Across all industries, client and vendor relationships are being strained for this very reason. Yesterday’s MediaBistro alert included “The Client-Vendor Relationship, Explained in Real World Scenarios”, originating from a post from the PR-Squared blog. Take a look. I think this video truly transcends professions to provide viewers with a better understanding of our respective business partners.

Posted by: Katie | follow me on Twitter

PR via Micro-Scandal

May 28, 2009

The always-awesome Gawker Media and advertiser HBO get major attention and ROI by blurring the lines.

You can complain all you want, but this is where the world’s headed. And honestly, micro-scandal can be fun.

Posted by Joe Paone

Jon and Kate Plus Eight Million

May 27, 2009
The Simpson's - "Eight Misbehavin"

The Zoo might not be the worst option.

It doesn’t seem fair commenting on a show I’ve only seen a handful of times but the tabloid media reports followed by the distressed couple’s counter-attack followed by the  media’s predictable backlash forced my hand.

Rather than sculpt a long-winded diatribe about how things went wrong for Jon, Kate, Sneezy, Dopey, Lefty, Wheezy, Ghengis, Alimony, Jon Jr. and Gonoria (some names may have been altered), below are some questions and statements inspired by this media meconium-storm.

  • Jon, my man, you have eight freakin kids, where are you finding the time to dine with a 23 year-old teacher, plutonic friend or not. I have one child and two lizards and I’m lucky to find a private moment for grooming.
  • Celebrity tabloid magazines offer an insepid and unhealthy view of the world. The obscene popularity stems from America’s obsessesion with being famous or emulating those who are famous so it’s no surprise after building J&K for so long, it was time to blow things up. These publishers don’t help people, they sell headlines so why are J&K surprised?
  • Call me old-fashioned but I’ll take a “Return of Batboy” or “Jesus’ Sandal Found in Hoboken, NJ” headline any day
  • What’s the point of having a bodyguard if you can’t enjoy “benefits.” Don’t they all look like Kevin Costner? 
  • At what point did Jon and Kate realize the TLC show was doing less to provide materialistically in favor of burdening them with intense scrutiny and overexposure.
  • Would anyone be surprised to see a spin-off reality show with Octo-mom and Kate called, Eighteen’s Company?
  • From a PR perspective, the only way Jon or Kate come out on top here is if the kids end up being MENSA-level scholars or if Sarah Palin adopts the whole crew and makes them the poster family for abstinence.
  • Ever see that Simpson’s episodewhere Apu and his wife Manjula have eight kids and are offered a venue to raise them in the Springfield Zoo by owner Larry Kidkill? That option is sounding better every day.
  • The recent divorce rumors have got to make you think; if a previously happy couple who received in-vitro fertilization, had eight children, opened their family up to millions via reality TV and became lascivious fodder for tabloids can’t make a marriage work, what hope is there for any of us?

Divorce is brutal without eight kids and while I’m sure the tabloids and chat rooms are praying for a major custody and court battle, I’d guess the majority of those who pay attention would prefer a happily-ever-after ending to this story, myself included. The trappings of fame are more obvious than ever. As social media tools proliferate and celebrity tabloids fly off the stands, we’re headed towards levels of narcissism not seen since the 70’s  summed up in Tom Wolfe’s 1976 New York Times essay, “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening.” 

On second thought, maybe self-absorption isn’t so bad after all. I would dedicate 30 minutes a week to watch the daily foibles of a tech PR guy raising a child and family of lizards in suburbia.

Posted by: Nick


A Company Who Gets It Right – A Lot

May 26, 2009

Much has been written about Southwest Airlines and their ability to thrive in a difficult airline market due in large part to their corporate culture and attitude towards customer service.  I can say first hand that I have never experienced such consistently good service (especially when traveling) and I’ve determined that it’s not just their cheap flights that make them excel far beyond their competition. 

Let’s take their refund policy for example.  Granted, their cheapest fares are non-refundable but they will let you retain the full credit of that flight for future travel if you cancel – no penalty fees attatched. None.  I just cancelled a trip to Florida – and sure, I spent $200 on a flight I’m not using but I’m not losing the money because I know I’ll travel sometime in the next year and I won’t lose a dime of that initial charge.  Do you know how rare this is?  I booked a flight on American and United through Hotwire for $149 to Phoenix last year and ended up having to cancel due to scheduling changes.  The customer service representative was happy to tell me that I could retain the entire value of my ticket – hooray!  But just a small reminder the rebooking fee through Hotwire is $150. 

Wait.  So if I wanted to use the credit from my flight (esssentially my money, they still get to resell that seat and I’m out $149), I’d have to pay $1 extra to rebook in addition to the cost of the new flight? 

Well, yes m’am.  But you will still have your $149 value in full. 

But you’re charging me more than the value to rebook.

Yes m’am.

Oooohkay then.   I think Southwest gets it right here on so many levels.  I can be assured with SW that if I book a flight, I can always cancel up to the last day and not lose my money – and that assurance is worth way more to me than the value of the ticket.  It’s assurance that I’m not throwing money away that I’ll never see again.  I wonder how much Hotwire makes a year on flights they sold and then were able to resell due to cancellation?  I bet a lot.

Southwest also has an excellent frequent flyer program which I only recently signed up for.  I had been participating in Continental’s OnePass program which includes a variety of partners including Delta and American.  Which was great – I’ve banked almost 20,000 points in just a few years.  However, flights not on Continental don’t count towards Elite status (you know, where you can get upgraded and all the perks?) so I have exactly 0 Elite status points despite my number of miles. 

I also discovered that if I wanted to use my points, I could probably get from Boston to Newark.  And still have to pay about $15 in fees.  Sounds like a good time.

I signed up for Southwest Rapid Rewards and upon calling their customer service line, was told I could actually get credit for all the times I’ve flown with SW in the past 24 months.  !!!!  What?  Yup, and to top it off?  The rep actually stayed on the phone with me and punched in ALL MY CREDIT CARD NUMBERS to check for any flights I may have taken.  She clarified that she probably shouldn’t do it but I was clearly a frequent flyer with SW and she wanted to make sure I was rewarded accordingly.  Hot damn they are good.

It takes 8 roundtrip flights to get a free flight on Southwest.  EIGHT.  That’s it.  I almost have a free flight and I just signed up a few weeks ago due to my back log of travel.  I’ve been traveling with Continental and partners for 3 years and I can’t even fly to Newark for free.  FAIL.

We talk a lot around here about how to survive in this economy.  What the newest trends are (green, sustainable, affordable, necessary) and what will help drive companies forward as a new way of thinking falls on us.  But I truly believe that this model – where customers are given so many tools to get the most out of every minute of every experience they have with the company ?  It is the golden ticket.  As a consumer, my ideal world would consist of Southwest airline policies in every experience I have. 

They get it right. A lot.

**I was not solicited or paid for this blog – it is literally a manifestation of some really great experiences in a sea of crappy customer service.

Posted by: Ashley / @ashleyatcaster

Happy Memorial Day! Celebrate the Unofficial start of summer with these great gadgets!

May 25, 2009

In light of today’s celebration of Memorial Day, and the unofficial start to summer, I thought I’d bring you some of the coolest outdoor gadgets!

GrillslingerThe Grillslinger – it’s almost as if everything is in your pocket. The Grillslinger Sport does just that. It’s a cleverly designed twist on the classic builder’s belt. A barbecue tool system, it includes two precision grilling implements: tongs and flipper, securely held by washable ‘lock-and-load’ inserts.

Gridus BBQ Grill Finds The Best Piece Of Meat With Excel Spreadsheets You work on gridus-bbq-grill-478x455spreadsheets all day and then you want to have some friends over for the weekend to party. What do you need? The Gridus of course! It’s designed to look just like a spreadsheet. Get it? How awesome that now you can cook food on the bbq AND keep track of which column and row it’s in. If your bbq works like mine, then rows 1 thru 7 are the hottest, particularly columns G and H.

George Foreman GIPOD200 Grill – Perfect for parties this indooroutdoor electric grill comes MP3 ready with a plugin for your player and a 10watt George Foremanspeaker MP3 player sold separately, Has room for plenty of burgers veggies and more with 200 sq. in. of nonstick “Georgetough” cooking surface and a split highdome lid, Features an adjustable temperaturecontrol probe center channel for draining fat grease tray and pedestal base.


Any my personal favorite, the Cruzin Cooler! Cruzin Cooler combines two basic necessities of life, the ability to have cold food or a beCoolerverage handy along with the means to get somewhere, without walking. The Cruzin Cooler is light-weight, comes in various sizes and colors and is available in gas and electric models, with up to a 10 mile range on electric models and 30 miles on the gas models.

Posted by: Lauren

Pepsi Seeking Social Media Gurus for Internet Week

May 22, 2009

AdWeek’s “Attention Unemployed Journos…” article definitely caught my attention. We are all (painfully) aware of job loss cross-industries, however the journalism profession seems to have taken the most catastrophic hit of all as ad dollars dwindle and page counts become more limited. The good news – PepsiCo is hiring . The mediocre news: the company is targeting seasoned journalists and college students, alike… What?

Yup. Times, they are a ‘changing!

Pepsi is hosting an “open newsroom” experiment in which the nine “social communicator” new-hires will cover the happenings surrounding Internet Week. The goal: “to align the brand with the social media space”. To accomplish this, they will use blogs, Twitter and video to report from the trenches (and parties) at Internet Week between June 1st and the 8th in New York. All content will be uploaded to populate the PepsiCo Content Network.

How to apply? The open casting call welcomes anyone from reputable journalists, to students, social media dabblers and “anyone with a hankering to report using social media tools”. Submit an essay, links to your LinkedIn and Twitter pages, and a Tweet of 140 characters with the reason you should be hired. Simple, right?

This experiment is certainly blurring the lines of journalism as we know it.  Yup. Times, they are a ‘changing!

Posted by: Katie | follow me on Twitter

Vince McMahon Punks the NBA

May 21, 2009

Recently, my colleague Nick Brown wrote about P.T. Barnum, one of the legends of public relations. Vince McMahon, head of the absurd and absurdly popular World Wrestling Entertainment empire (and erstwhile founder of the collosally hyped epic fail that was the XFL), is a modern-day Barnum if there ever was one. This week, he has taken on another modern if somewhat battered behemoth of spin (the National Basketball Association) and, from all appearances, has scored an admirable PR coup for his organization.

WWE honcho Vince McMahon: Gross, but an undisputed genius of PR.

WWE honcho Vince McMahon: Gross, but an undisputed genius of PR.

A WWE television event had been scheduled for Denver’s Pepsi Center this upcoming Monday. The NBA’s Denver Nuggets, however, advanced to the Western Conference Finals in the interim, and the schedule called for the team to take on the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center the same night. McMahon, knowing full well that the NBA would eventually win the battle for the arena (and knowing that he could easily reroute the event to another available arena), immediately and brilliantly turned the scheduling snafu into a storyline for his TV show.

McMahon is painting the NBA and particularly Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke as greedy Goliaths who don’t care about the wrestling fans of Colorado, and to further his self-protrayal as “David”, he said he would hold his card in a parking lot if need be. In an ingenious twist, he announced yesterday that he is moving his show to Los Angeles’ Staples Center (not so ironically, the home of the Lakers), where it will now air on the USA network head-to-head against the Nuggets-Lakers tilt on ESPN.

And he hasn’t stopped there: according to the AP report, his show on Monday will now include a 5-on-5 match pitting “Lakers” against “Nuggets”, and his character will likely battle a character of Kroenke in the ring. (We must mention that McMahon has transformed himself over the decades from a skinny play-by-play announcer into a roided-up, egomaniacal wrestling league “commissioner” who occasionally steps into the ring and plays the bad-guy role to the hilt. Talk about commitment.)

You’d never catch me watching professional wrestling (well, I do have an affection for the lo-fi, barnstorming version you might see at your local armory or high-school gym), especially against an NBA playoff game, but I’ll be tuning into McMahon’s televised event on Monday just to see what lunacy he has concocted, and I suspect a lot of other NBA fans will, as well.

Who knows? Maybe the NBA and the Nuggets are in on this on the down-low, too (it’s interesting that the NBA even has the AP story posted on its own site). In that case, what a joint PR success that would be!

Posted by Joe Paone