Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Job Opening: Politician

February 15, 2008

Funny how a job title can fall out of favor. Lawyers certainly have taken their knocks in recent years, to be sure.

But what about “Politician.” Mitt Romney is only the latest presidential candidate to repeatedly show disdain for the word on the campaign trail. Before he quit the race, he sang some familiar tunes, and a few were fairly valid in my opinion. His credentials, for instance. A) “I’ve run a government” (a state). B) “I’ve run a business” (i.e. understand the economy).

But one old standby never fails to simultaneously amuse and annoy me; I paraphrase here: “You don’t want another Washington politician in the White House. I am not a Washington politician.”

Politician is the job. A candidate for President saying that it isn’t the job is akin to someone saying “I want to be your electrician, and if you hire me you won’t catch me having anything to do with any of that damn electricity.”

Yeah, right, sure thing, we want to elect somebody who won’t build consensus and coalitions to enact legislation, who won’t compromise to get things done, and who doesn’t know first-hand how it all works. That‘s the kind of President we want. Someone who’s not a Washington politician.

Sheesh.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Subscribe with Bloglines

Advertisements

New PR Paradigm

November 27, 2007

Here’s the second installment from our CEO Emeritus, Charlie Weaver… from his recently-finished article that explores customer-created brands and the new battle for mindshare.

 

For some, public relations has become the new magic bullet. In their book, The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR, marketing strategists Al Reis and Laura Reis make a strong case for Public Relations as the lead marketing tool for those attuned to the new branding and communications realities.

The authors argue that traditional advertising has lost its communications function and, by extension, it’s role in development of mindshare. The primary purpose of advertising, they assert, is to defend a brand once it has been built by public relations and related third-party tactics.

It’s tough to argue with success. Many of the world’s most powerful brands have been built with little or no advertising. Google, Starbucks, eBay and dozens of other category leaders have risen to prominence on the strength of the new public-relations paradigm.

Or have they? While there is solid evidence that positive third-party media coverage played a strong role in propelling these and other brands into the public consciousness, it’s not time to transfer all your eggs into the PR basket just yet.

Pets.com Wimpers and Disappears

Take Pets.com, the ill-fated dot com start-up that set out to revolutionize the way people bought pet food. The venture capitalists ponied up $50 million. The technology gurus built a killer website. And the marketing team breathed life into the Pets.com sock puppet – a hit with consumers and an instant classic in advertising circles.

So what went wrong? Some would argue that this was a prime example of the growing inability of mass media advertising to connect in a meaningful way with its target audience.

It seemed that TV viewers, while entertained, could not be moved by the self-serving messages of an unknown brand. Yet Pets.com and its dot com contemporaries didn’t lack for PR either. Newspapers, consumer magazines and other media outlets overflowed with glowing reports of the dot com revolution and its power to liberate and empower consumers. Pets.com was one of the revolution’s early heroes and the recipient of lavish media coverage.

Trouble is, no one thought to check with the consumer. Brands like Pets.com, HomeGrocer.com, Jobster and TripHub didn’t fail from lack of effective PR, or because traditional advertising no longer worked, but because they didn’t have a viable value proposition and didn’t deliver a brand experience anyone cared about. They disappeared because they couldn’t convert mindshare into paying customers.

Linux Community

Then there’s Linux – the number one brand in the open-source software category and poster child for the PR model of mindshare building. However, the Linux brand wasn’t built by PR, but by a passionate and committed community of users and developers. PR followed mindshare, more than creating it.

Linux software grew out of a project at the University of Helsinki and was placed on the Internet where it was made freely available to programmers who could apply and modify it to suit themselves. It wasn’t owned by anyone. So there was no one to advertise it. And no one to send out PR releases touting it.

The power of The Linux brand, first popularized in the mid to late 1990’s, came from its ability to deliver a high-value functional brand experience consistent with the psycho-social and emotional mindsets of Linux users. They supported and defended the brand, first and foremost, because they passionately believe in it. Champions of the Linux brand were completely self-selecting – they themselves created the compelling experiences that gave the brand power. In the process, the lines between commerce and community virtually disappeared.

It wasn’t until after the Linux brand was embraced by the technology community, that companies like Red Hat and Novell refined it and built businesses providing related support and services. The brand came first, its commercialization second.
The same basic process unfolded with online brands such as social networking site MySpace and video sharing powerhouse YouTube.

Viral YouTube

From its May2005 launch, it took YouTube just six months to achieve national brand status, and under two years to command a $1.6 billion buyout from Google. Advertising had no role in YouTube brand ascendancy. And PR came along only after YouTube had been canonized by its user community and experienced by the millions who flocked online to get in on the fun.

Like Linux and MySpace, the YouTube brand was a viral marketing phenomenon—experience-driven, community-based, and pulled into existence by brand acolytes, rather than pushed by the brand’s originator.

LEAVE A COMMENT

To read the entire article “The New Mindshare: Rise of the Customer-Created Brand”

Subscribe with Bloglines

3200 PR Colleagues

November 14, 2007

IT’s GAME

A few weeks ago I attended the Public Relations Society of America national convention in Philadelphia. We’ll be hosting next year’s convention here in Detroit in twelve months.

Great networking, to be sure. Keynote speakers included Tim Russert (Meet the Press), an inspiration … as well as Donna Brazile. But this large a gathering begs the question:

What do you get when you put 3200 PR people in one room together? Obviously, a real lot of conversation. Sharing, caring, minimal blaring. A kind of Interview-apolooza.

IT’s LAME

From the convention floor, a concensus from the technology types: the word “enable.” Very over-used.

PRSA

That Single Idea

PR pro Ann Wylie writes in her current Writing Tips e-newsletter about sticking to a single idea in your messaging. Timely, with an election year approaching. As Ann says: “The more messages you cover in a campaign or communication, the less people will remember. So count the number of messages you’ve crafted. If the total is more than one, you have too many.”

She mentions Bill Clinton adviser James Carville and his gospel of “exclusivity.”

Carville says the communicators’ toughest job is to convince the client to stick to one message or theme. “People say I fill empty vessels,” he says. “But I empty full vessels.”

To subscribe to Ann Wylie’s occasional Writing Tips
e-newsletter.

Subscribe with Bloglines

LEAVE A COMMENT

Borrowing Terms From the Paranormal

September 5, 2007

 

IT’S GAME

Borrowing words from the paranormal “sciences” is kind of fun (with the Halloween season right around the corner). Especially since technology-driven business sometimes gets out of hand and becomes a little spooky. Try these words for impact in your business writings.

Automatism

Sounds like an automation ailment to me. Why not? In the paranormal world, it means an unconscious and spontaneous muscular movement caused by the spirits.

Apparition

Paranormal business

Every have a derailed, dormant, disembodied project suddenly rear its ugly head, startling everyone at the conference table?

Oracle

The well-known software company notwithstanding.

Retrocognition

My favorite. Company management folks often find themselves “living in the past.” Unfortunately, they don’t also always recognize the reoccurring business outcomes that ought to feel like a 2-ton Déjà vu.

Teleportation

A way to eliminate shipping costs completely.

Scrying

Ever seen a CEO do this? Scrying is a prophecy in which the fortune-teller predicts the future while staring into a mirror. (Crystal balls with logos are common also.)

 

 

IT’S LAME (hall of fame)

Synergy.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Subscribe with Bloglines

Sure, But Is it Cost-Effective?

July 17, 2007

IT’S LAME

A couple of suggestions from colleague Dave Arnesen:

1) “Cost-Effective.”

 

It’s supposed to mean that you get lots of “effect” for minimum cost…. maximized “bang for the buck.” But the term is lame because it’s tame…and way over-used.

Like “innovative,” it’s one of those adjectives you throw in because it sounds good and, what the heck, why not? In business writing, both PR and advertising, we’re almost all guilty of it. We can’t really say that the product is “cheap,” and we can’t stick our neck out and position the pricing specifically against the competition. We could and should be talking ROI. How about “cost-assertive?”

When was the last time you heard anyone ask a salesperson “Is this product cost-effective?”

Cost-Effective Money

2) “Total Solutions Provider”

So, is this opposed to a “Partial Solutions Provider?”

IT’S GAME

“River.” As in “a river of new ideas.”

Also in style: Dennis Miller-type metaphors used in technical articles (with presumably a little less political agenda).

Example: “plow through coding tasks like a monster truck at a tea party.”

(Credit to Joel Spolsky, Fog Creek Software – Inc, 5/07)

LEAVE A COMMENT

Subscribe with Bloglines

Babble Ain’t Just for Us Techno-Babblers No More

June 20, 2007

Jargon in promotional communications is bad enough. But bloated, almost nonsensical babble can be even worse. Especially when it’s long and protracted…what you might call”Ramble-Babble.”

Eric Webber (Webber/McJ Communications (Austin, TX) recently railed on some poignant examples of abuse in his Advertising Age column. (June 4, 2007). Quoted from Hastings, a company that sells books, music and movies: “(our goal is to) satisfy our customers’ desires for personal entertainment and information through total customer satisfaction.” Wow.

From another communications company: “We are developing sustainable communications programs that actually revolve around what we have learned, through systems thinking, are in the customer’s best interests.”

Laudable.

IT’S LAME

Thanks to Jessica Wayland (PR Pro from the Detroit Economic Club) for several suggestions, including:

“Innovative”

How sweet the sound. Find it used on 188 million web pages.

It’s in the running for our “most overused adjective” award (to be bestowed soon). The question is raised: if everything offered in the business world is innovative, what’s the opposite and when should it be used? “Conventional” often describes the dreaded Brand X when comparisons are made to the competition.

I have an answer. When presenting both your standard and the really-cool-revved-up version of your product, refer to them this way: “To meet your needs, you can choose our innovative Maverick XT or settle for our uninspired Mainstay Model A.”

IT’S GAME

“Rudder”

 

A noun: even better as a verb. When you’re talking about direction.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Subscribe with Bloglines

How to Interview a Potential PR / Marketing Hire

June 4, 2007

 

 

Interviewing job applicants came up in discussion last week amongst peers. Here’s my short list:

1. Shut up.

Don’t jump in and fill in the pauses. Let them talk. Don’t spend 35 minutes of a 45-minute interview telling the candidate about your company. Amazing what you’ll find out when there are a few moments of silence. Remember, you’re looking to hire a communications professional who has to know how to communicate.

2. Look for a confluence of values

The resume matters only if the candidate has integrity, a strong work ethic, and both a desire and a need to succeed. Plus whatever other personality characteristics are important to you.

HR people, and Tony Mikes of Second Wind, will tell you this.

3. Give the candidate a writing test.

4. Go ahead…ask the “best” and “worst” questions.

Might as well stir things up. Try “What’s the most embarrassing moment in your career.” A candid colleague…a very successful PR VP…told me that early on she was pitching a business story when the editor asked her if the company in question was private or publically owned, and she didn’t know. End of conversation.

It’s all about lessons learned.

 

5. Read lots of other advice from HR veterans. Such as:

5 Ways to learn the most about a job candidate

 

Now back to our regularly-scheduled feature:

IT’S GAME

“Evergreen”

This can be a refreshing term when used in a business communications context. As in: “keep your website evergreen by frequently supplying new data on…”

Evergreeen

IT’S LAME

The prepositional phrase: “In today’s competitive business world…”

Perhaps the ultimate throw-away. If you’re in business, can you think of a set of words that could illicit more of a sarcastic “Duh!” from the reader. What’s worse, this phrase is often followed by the revelation that “you need to be more competitive” or something close.

 

LEAVE A COMMENT

 

Subscribe with Bloglines

Subscribe with Bloglines

Slough Off the Cruft

May 21, 2007

A few more observations about overused words mentioned in David Meerman Scott’s blog post Gobbledygook Manifesto. By the way, his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, is coming in June. I’ve seen an advance copy – lots of information and ideas on building networks (and customers) via blogs and RSS.

IT’S LAME

“World class.”

The term seems to suggest that, no matter where the reader lives, there is always somewhere else in the world where everyone has higher standards than “us undiscerning schmucks that live right here.” Once upon a time, “world class” indicated that the product or product design was viable on more than one continent. Then it became a favorite edit-in adjective to imply that the product or service is so great that it ought to be deemed the standard of the world. Result of overuse: it’s almost as trite as “super.”

“Easy to use.” Yep, nothing’s hard.

IT’S GAME

“Cruft.”

It signifies anything unpleasant that accumulates over time. As in dust under the bed. You could use it to describe an efficiency-stealing bad habit that makes operations progressively worse.

“Comport.”

Synonym for “behave” or “conduct.” As in: ” Jason’s tech savvy lets him comport himself with confidence.”

Subscribe with Bloglines

Geek Redefined

May 12, 2007

Definition of “Geek:”

Circa 1970 (Merriam-Webster): a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake.

Circa 1990 (common usage): a nerd who loves computer code and techie gadgets.

Circa 2007 (Wikipedia): an individual who is fascinated by knowledge and imagination, usually electronic or virtual in nature.

Wow, geeks have come a long way.

Time was when “geek” was synonymous with “dork”….a nerd with bad clothes and a worse haircut, with no social skills, who entertained himself by programming stuff on a computer. Imagine sitting in front of a computer all day!!

Now every information worker sits in front of a computer all day, occasionally weeping and wailing when their PC jams up. We often plead with geeks to help us. We need geeks and darn it, we like geeks. We want them around during the business day. Best Buy proudly flaunts the Geek Squad as a service advantage.

To be a geek has become a good thing. Now we apply it to anyone who is knowledgeable and maybe a little obsessed with something. Business Week lovingly refers to “manufacturing geeks.” USA Today has deemed turf scientist Trey Rogers the “Lawn Geek.” There’s the “Weather Geek.” There’s Geek.com. Even the Wall Street Journal uses the word freely.

Geek Squad Baby Geek

Some geeks seem to defy business gravity and get rich. You won’t hear anybody these days saying: “Yeah, those Google twins Sergey and Larry…real computer geeks…what a couple of losers.” Could Geekdom even become sexy? Power and money are intoxicating, and some geeks wield a lot of it.

Computer wizardry not-withstanding, one disappointing fact remains: the engineering profession in general (which includes geeks) continues to have a huge PR problem. Little jabs are frequent, such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus flippantly dissing and dismissing engineers on Jay Leno’s show recently. More importantly, there’s the fact that fictional writers completely ignore the profession – there hasn’t been an engineer role model in a television show (even acknowledged as a character’s incidental profession) since the widowed father of My Three Sons (Ed McMurray) back in the 60s. What a great guy “Steve Douglas” was.

Meanwhile, however, the press can’t ignore the savvy geeks who cash in quickly with ingenious enterprises such as YouTube and MySpace. When news stories tie Web 2.0 and IT engineering with business creativity and success, perceptions begin to change. This is a good thing. Long live the Geeks!

Subscribe with Bloglines

Nowhere Else in Any Universe

April 3, 2007

IT’S LAME: “Unparalleled”

Yes, it’s of epic proportion. It’s of cosmic consequence. It’s unparalleled.

It seems that nearly every company and every product is unparalleled these days. How is this possible? Does anyone believe it, or does using this adjective without including substantiation merely serve to build skepticism of all the words and claims that follow it.

62% of the business editors Smith-Winchester surveyed recently deemed “unparalleled” to be overused in business publicity. The majority also indicated that “Unsurpassed” was also overused. Our suggestion: back up the claim…and use only it if you can. By the way, “unparalleled” isn’t a synonym for “unique.”

IT’S GAME: “Rich Medium”

The multiple meaning of the word “medium” can serve you well. Use it creatively to refer to an industrial controls environment, or a business environment resulting from a trend….a software capability or communications mode… a culture for growing things, like ideas (literally or figuratively). Mix in a dash of prognostication, on occasion.

Hot Link

Podcasts from Grammer Girl may actually prove that someone can make grammar tips popular. She’s getting national press. And it’s about time that someone helped us all get tuned into the rules. Check out her blog Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

Grammar Girl blog

We want to help you subscribe to Word Currency.  It takes about 3 minutes…less if you use Internet Explorer 7 or the latest Firefox browser.  Call me (Dave Schmidt, 248.352.3333) and I’ll walk you through it.

Subscribe with Bloglines