Wednesday, December 31, 2008

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Employer Branding Part 2

Yes, six sigma coming to Google has got me down.

As I continue to research the subject of both Employer Branding and Value Proposition Management for facilitating an upcoming workshop on the subjects, I am fascinated by the amount of information put forth by supposed experts. Here's an article I had earmarked to publish, written almost a year ago by esteemed Dr. Sullivan. In it, the two favorites: Southwest Airline and Google are cited as best case examples of Employer Brand Building. While the article touts long term branding benefits, it doesn't speak to the impact of a negative economy, or increased availability of talent.

To my query last week on whether or not the Employer Value Proposition can change like a flavor of the month, I received this from my former colleague Mark Hornung (though I don't know if he remembers me) at my former employer.

Absolutely not! The Employer Value Proposition consists of all the elements that comprise the relationship between employer and worker: rewards, the work itself, the opportunity to develop and grow, the people with whom you work, and the organization's reputation. Those things are embedded in the organization and cannot change quickly.

And now, without further pontification, Dr. John's article, condensed by me. Just wondering if it's still going to be useful in Human Resources 2.009

Employment Branding: the Only Long-Term Recruiting Strategy

Almost every action and process in recruiting is designed for short-term gain. Despite talk about being strategic, most recruiters and recruiting managers alike respond only to requisitions, placing ads, visiting job boards, attending job fairs, and mining social networking sites in an effort to fill today’s job openings. There is lots of talk but little effort placed on building out truly long-term recruiting tools and strategies designed to impact the business. If all the talk were true, nearly every recruiting function on the planet would have dedicated resources to employment branding, the only long-term recruiting strategy that is designed to bring in a steady flow of high-quality applicants over a period of many years.

Employment branding stands alone as the only approach corporate recruiting managers can leverage to guarantee an end to their talent shortage problem. Unfortunately, most corporate recruiting managers spend less than 5% of their budgets on this powerful long-term solution. In direct contrast, firms that have taken the time to invest in building a great employment brand like Google and Southwest Airlines have not only dominated their industries, but they have also turned the common talent shortage problem into a more desirable talent “sorting” problem. If you’re tired of constantly fighting fires and of being continually bashed year in and year out by your managers for failing to produce a high volume of high-quality candidates, it’s time to shift your focus to the only solution that can reduce your job stress and make you a hero.

The Many Benefits of Employment Branding

I have found that the primary reason why corporate recruiting managers under appreciate and under utilize a corporate branding strategy is because they have done a poor job in making the business case for investing in their firm’s employment brand. You can’t make a compelling business case unless you first know the possible benefits of the branding strategy. Over the years, I’ve advised dozens of firms on building a compelling employment brand (including a Fortune #1 Best Place to Work winner) and, as a result, I’ve identified the many benefits that a successful employment-branding program can provide. When demonstrated, these benefits can help sway even the most cynical nonbelievers:

* A Long-Term Impact.
* An Increased Volume of Unsolicited Candidates.
* Higher Quality Candidates.
* Higher Offer-Acceptance Rates.
* Improved Employee-Retention Rates.
* Improved College Recruiting.
* A Stronger Corporate Culture.
* Decreased Corporate Negatives.
* Ammunition for Employees and Managers.
* Increased Manager Satisfaction.
* Increased Media Exposure.
* A Competitive Advantage.
* Increased Shareholder Value.
* Support for the Product Brand.
Additional Branding Benefits

Some additional benefits of an employment-branding program might include:

* Increased knowledge and competitive intelligence, as more employees from top competitors join your organization.
* The increased focus on excellence in people-management programs brought about by the branding effort will result in the continuous improvement of those practices.
* Getting talked about in the press reinforces the stories you have already spread to your employees.
* The increased notoriety might also have a positive side effect on the business by making it easier to attract strategic partners who are willing to link with your firm.
* Employment branding works not just for large corporations but also for smaller firms and for government agencies as well.
* A great employment brand makes it easier to attract top recruiters and branding experts.
* The high impact and ROI of the employment-branding program will help build HR’s image as a bottom-line contributor.

Final Thoughts

If you are part of recruiting management at an organization that has been facing continuous talent shortages, it’s time to get out of that rut and focus your resources on the areas that can have the highest business impact. Almost universally, that means shifting your recruiting talent, time, and budget towards the programs that will have the most impact, starting with employment branding (other high-impact programs include employer referrals, professional event recruiting, prioritizing jobs, bringing back key former employees (boomerangs), and making your corporate careers page compelling). Yes, I know it’s hard to find the time to step back from fighting fires but, at some point, you have to realize that you can’t just talk about being strategic. You have to act strategically by investing in the only long-term recruiting strategy that’s available.


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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Good, The Brand and the Ugly-The Employer Brand vs The Economy.


The Employer Brand vs The Economy.

In a report from Universum in May 2008, for the second consecutive year, MBA students chose Google as the No. 1 Employer (23.65 percent of respondents), after it trumped powerhouse consulting firm McKinsey & Company and received the highest percentage of respondents choosing it as the Ideal Employer.

"Smart MBAs know where they want to be in 5-10 years," says Claudia
Tattanelli, CEO of Universum USA. "They look to strong companies like Google,
McKinsey and Goldman Sachs to give them the experience and references needed
to lay the path for their future career success, even with threats of a
recession. At the same time, as true Millennials, they chose organizations
that will offer a flexible and fun work environment, innovation and a good
work/life balance."

But that was before the world changed.

Now, according to last week's Wall Street Journal, Google is gearing down for tough times as their stock trades at less than half its one-time high a bit more than a year ago

For much of its 10-year history, Google spent money at a pace that was the marvel of Silicon Valley. It hired by the thousands and dished out generous perks, including three free meals a day, free doctors, ski trips and laundry facilities, and subsidized personal trainers. It let engineers spend 20% of their time pursuing pet projects. The company's goal was to develop new products that would reduce its nearly total reliance on selling ads connected to Internet searches.

But now-
"We have to behave as though we don't know" what's going to happen, says Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt. The company will curtail the "dark matter," he says, projects that "haven't really caught on" and "aren't really that exciting." He says the company is "not going to give" an engineer 20 people to work with on certain experimental projects anymore.

This fall, the company announced plans to "significantly" reduce its roughly 10,000 contract workers, whose jobs range from engineering to food services. While the timing and focus of the cuts remain unclear, Google employees already are joking that it's getting easier to find a spot in the company's crowded parking lots.

Google has also begun chipping away at perks. In recent months, it reduced the hours of its free cafeteria service and suspended the traditional afternoon tea in its New York office. A Google spokesman says its core culture is not changing. "Our unique culture is an essential part of what makes Google Google," he says.

Early in its life, the company said that it would always put long-term objectives ahead of shareholders' short-term interests. It wooed the best engineers with generous perks, workplaces that feature pool tables and volleyball courts, and a promise they could spend time pursuing side projects. Inside the company, it was considered crass to talk about whether a project would eventually make money, say current and former product engineers. The measure that mattered most was whether a new idea would be good for the Internet user's experience.

But now-

Some engineers complain they can no longer tap the employees and machines they need to develop their ideas. This is no small issue among elite programmers, many of whom joined the company for the chance to work on such projects, according to current and former employees.

In 2004, they wrote:

We provide many unusual benefits for our employees, including meals free of charge ... We are careful to consider the long term advantages to the company of these benefits. Expect us to add benefits rather than pare them down over time. We believe it is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish with respect to benefits that can save employees considerable time and improve their health and productivity.

But now-

There's no such thing as a free dinner. The company took evening meals off the menu: "Google has drastically cut back their budget on the culinary program. How is it affecting campus? No more dinner. No more tea trolley. No more snack attack in the afternoon."

But what's good for the diet isn't necessarily good for the brand.

As BRANDEMiX continues to build out Employer Value Propositions and promote the inherent qualities in each organization that help them win the war for talent, we eagerly wait to see the impact these internal changes at Google have on the long term Employer Brand.

BRANDEMiX is forever.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Cerebral Palsy Associations Of New York State’s Metro Services Has Chosen BRANDEMiX To Brand And Launch An Employee Communications Campaign

The Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State’s Metro Services has chosen BRANDEMiX, the NYC-based communications consultancy known for innovative branding around human resources initiatives, to brand and launch an employee communications campaign in support of their new strategic plan.

Of Metro Services’ 1,600 employees, 1,100 work offsite providing direct support in group homes and elsewhere in the community.

“A dispersed staff performing on-site services poses unique communications challenges,” says Janis Pshena, VP of Human Resources for Metro Services, ”especially when attempting to implement a new strategic plan.”

According to a Flinders University report, worker isolation is one of the issues that contribute to the high turnover in the direct care profession.

“Successful internal branding and communication means higher retention which translates into long-term cost savings and improved quality of service,” says Jody Ordioni, President of BRANDEMiX. “We’re implementing a series of solutions that inform staff, convey employer support, and inspire a sense of teamwork around the new strategic goals.”

Metro Services’ new strategic plan will guide the organization through 2013 as they work to promote personal choice and independence, and enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Motrin and Twitter- Part 2

Last week's blog showed the power of Social Media to shape an advertising campaign. Listening to your audience is great, but making decisions based on audience reactions may be harder than you thought. This week's AdAge article shows why.

J&J Caved to a Vocal Flash Mob, but Did It Hurt Its Relationship With a Larger Audience? BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- At first glance, it looks like Johnson & Johnson's Motrin was chastened by the power of social media when it yanked a Motrin ad campaign pilloried by mommy bloggers on YouTube and Twitter.
'Motrin-gate' proves the power of social media for marketers as well as how quickly marketers can be forced to buckle to a relatively small but vocal minority of people.
'Motrin-gate' proves the power of social media for marketers as well as how quickly marketers can be forced to buckle to a relatively small but vocal minority of people.

But as it turns out, J&J might have been a tad hasty in pulling down its ad. In doing so, it bowed to a vocal flash mob that represents a tiny fraction of moms, and Twitter, which itself attracts about 0.15% of the world's internet users each day, according to Alexa -- by the most generous possible estimate based on that data, about 1.1 million people in the U.S. And despite a storm of media attention, the ad -- together with a YouTube video put together by a mommy blogger on the controversy -- received less exposure than one 30-second spot on a cable news network.

On the one hand, so-called Motrin-gate proves the power of social media for marketers. On the other, it proves how quickly marketers can be forced to buckle to a relatively small but vocal minority of people who can create "flash floods," as a Toronto Globe and Mail columnist described them, in e-mail boxes, Twitter queues or Google searches that get picked up and spread by mass media. Indeed, the flood that felled the ad started and ended in three days.

Quiet before storm
It all started with an ad that generated zero online buzz during its first 45 days online at Motrin.com. Created by Taxi, New York, it featured a voice-over of a mom who carries her baby in a sling because it's good for her kid and she sees it as "a fashion statement" and validation of her as "an official mom." Alexa data suggests the Motrin ad was seen by as many as 15,000 people daily at its peak after it went up Sept. 30.

No one complained much, it would appear, until Nov. 15, when Barb Lattin of Colorado noticed a mention of the ad on a babywearing section of a Yahoo Group for devotees of "attachment parenting" and posted it on the blog related to her business, Perfectly Natural Photography.

Another Colorado-based blogger, Amy Gates of CrunchyDomesticGoddess.com, picked up on that and posted the first tweet on the subject just under five hours later. By the following Sunday, the Motrin ad controversy was generating as many as 300 tweets an hour, according to TrendRR.com. That helped move it to the top of Twitter's "trending topics" list, which in turn helped the original bloggers pitch the story to conventional news outlets.

Indeed, the person who hijacked Motrin's brand on Twitter and was among contributors to the criticism appeared to be aware as of Sunday night Nov. 16 of impending coverage by the likes of The New York Times (which covered the fracas on a blog), The Wall Street Journal, AP and Reuters. Later in the week, the person behind the Motrin handle tweeted that he had offered Kathy Widmer, VP-marketing for Motrin and other over-the-counter drugs at J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare, to turn over the account with "no strings" but had received no response. In response to a Twitter query, the Motrin account owner gave an e-mail address that appeared to point to a male Ruby on Rails programmer from Austin, Texas, but that person could not be reached to confirm that by deadline.

Subsequent coverage came from USA Today, the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, too.

Minimal impact
Yet, despite all the fuss, not that many people ultimately paid attention. The two YouTube posts of the actual ad in question (which was removed from Motrin.com) drew a combined 216,000 views through Nov. 21. A YouTube video by mommy blogger and online retailer Katja Presnal piecing together the Motrin protest tweets got 63,556 views.

Even without subtracting duplicate views by the same people, which are impossible to know, that amounts to less exposure than running a single 30-second ad on a cable news network -- something even Motrin's relatively sparse $2 million media outlay in the first half of 2008 could easily outstrip.

What's more, data from Motrin.com's Alexa graph suggest about as many people saw the ad there without turning to social media in outrage -- averaging around 5,000 daily before the controversy broke -- as saw it during the week after it broke. And comments on the YouTube posts after the initial controversy appeared to run mostly positive to neutral.

In fact, most online buzz about Motrin-gate was either positive or neutral in tone toward J&J and the ads, according to analyses by Tom Martin, president of Zehnder Communications, New Orleans, and Lexalytics.

Meanwhile, the core group behind the Twitter storm numbered in the low four figures. A Google search on Monday indicated around 4,000 tweets on Twitter, and analyses by Mr. Martin using Radian6 data and by Lexalytics suggested around 1,500 tweets involving around 1,000 individuals using the #motrinmoms hash tag.

"If Motrin's brand managers were not just listening to the market, but accurately measuring it too, they might not have been so quick to panic and pull the ad," Lexalytics said in a blog post. Its analysis found that even among those using the #motrinmoms hash tag on Twitter, only about 35% of the tweets were negative, with the rest neutral or positive toward the ad.

Mr. Martin suggested in his blog that J&J should have kept the campaign in place, apologized to critics in whatever medium they had used to complain, and used the opportunity to engage in dialogue. In a second posting on Motrin.com Nov. 20, Ms. Widmer suggested she intends to do the last part, anyway.

Was it worth it?
Meanwhile, even some mommy bloggers saw signs the whole episode had hurt their community more than helped it. "Right or wrong, the rest of the web is now rolling its eyes, again, at our community," Erin Kotecki Vest said on Nov. 17 at QueenofSpainBlog.com. "I'll be honest, they are right. What happened this weekend went from smart, powerful activism to Palin-rally lynch mob."

Corporate marketers already knew about the power of mommy bloggers, she said. "They are buying ads, they are engaging women online. They are sponsoring trips, sending you even MORE free stuff. They are paying for YOU to consult for them. ... You have their attention. You have the power."

Ultimately, Ms. Presnal said she sympathizes with J&J's plight after having received at least two e-mails from Ms. Widmer last week. Reading from one, she noted that J&J had worked with focus groups of moms in developing the campaign.

"We listened extensively to moms, the insights about their lives, and how their pain impacts them," Ms. Presnal said, reading from Ms. Widmer's e-mail. She continued from the e-mail: "I think where this went wrong was the creative expression we used. ... The tone was intended to be real and lighthearted, but it came off as irreverent. ... We did conduct focus groups with moms. But truthfully they probably weren't extensive enough to uncover this."

"I think they truly believed they were doing a good job," Mr. Presnal said, but believes the research probably didn't include enough baby-wearing moms.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twittering Brings Down "Motrin Mom" Campaign

How Twittering Critics Brought Down 'Motrin Mom' Campaign,
Forcing J&J to Pull Ad, Issue Apology

Published: November 17, 2008

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Johnson & Johnson did manage to offend some mothers with an online and print campaign for Motrin that implied moms carry their babies as fashion accessories. But was it a genuine groundswell that felled the effort -- or an alliance of the few, empowered by microblogging service Twitter.

The Motrin ad
was an attempt to connect with moms through the common experience (and pain) of carrying a child.

Two days after a new ad push for Motrin, from the New York office of independent shop Taxi, triggered an online backlash, J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit is pulling the campaign and begging a vocal mommy-blogging nation for forgiveness.

The ad, which was featured on Motrin's website as well as several magazines, was an attempt to connect with moms through the common experience (and pain) of carrying a child. But the implication felt by some of the campaign's more vocal critics was that moms wear their babies as a fashion accessory, or because it "totally makes me look like an official mom."

"Supposedly it's a real bonding experience," the ad said, "but what about me?"

The campaign has been online since Sept. 30 and has been circulating in several magazines for weeks, but it finally caught the attention -- and ire -- of some influential bloggers Friday night before blowing up into a full-fledged cause celebre on Twitter over the weekend.

The ultimate demise of the campaign is either an example of how quickly a groundswell of opinion can be galvanized with social media, or how much power it can give a few vocal tastemakers with outsized weight over online discourse.

J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit is pulling the campaign and begging a vocal mommy-blogging nation for forgiveness.

The beginning of the end for the Motrin push probably came Friday night, when Los Angeles blogger Jessica Gottlieb said she was tipped off to the ads and started expressing her outrage over the campaign on Twitter, where she has 1,018 followers.

"I am a satirist, I get humor, I talk about my vagina," said Ms. Gottlieb, who works as a freelance writer for National Lampoon and writes for SV Moms Blog and Celsias. "I'm just insulted. I'm not an activist. I don't have an agenda, but I do have children."

On Saturday, Katja Presnal (4,221 Twitter followers), a New York blogger and proprietor of online children's clothing store Simbaco, collected "tweets" from offended moms and edited them into a nine-minute video on YouTube titled "Motrin Ad Makes Moms Mad," which had been viewed 21,000 times as of today.

The spread of 'Motrin moms'
"You don't have to have thousands of followers to start something like this," said Mr. Armano, who also blogs for AdAge.com. "Many people with small networks have just as much influence of a few people with large networks."

Whatever it was, their impact was felt by J&J last night. McNeil Consumer Healthcare took down Motrin.com, and VP-Marketing Kathy Widmer had started apologizing to bloggers via e-mail.

Amy Gates, who runs the blog Crunchy Domestic Goddess, posted a personal note from Ms. Widmer on her site yesterday. "We certainly did not mean to offend moms through our advertising. Instead, we had intended to demonstrate genuine sympathy and appreciation for all that parents do for their babies," Ms. Widmer wrote in the note.

When the Motrin site was restored today, the ad was replaced by a message from Ms. Widmer: "We have heard you."

"On behalf of McNeil Consumer Healthcare and all of us who work on the Motrin brand, please accept our sincere apology," she wrote. "We are in the process of removing this ad from all media. It will, unfortunately, take a bit of time to remove it from our magazine advertising, as it is on newsstands and in distribution."

"[It was] amazing to have that happen over 48 hours, on a weekend in the blogosphere," she said. "People are now spreading around the apology; it's such an immediate time-frame."

"We now have indisputable proof that online marketing, YouTube and Twitter and all that it encompasses is meaningful and has arrived," said Gene Grabowsk, chair of the crisis and litigation practice at Levick Strategic Communications. "We are seeing real consequences to a mistake. If [social networks] didn't matter, you wouldn't see this type of reaction from J&J or consumers."

Just a note: yes, I'm still twittering and boring even myself. My twitters are also posted to my facebook feed, boring all my friends. And, though I have followers, I can't imagine why. Maybe I should start ranting about advertising.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday Guest Blog: Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Thoughts for Thanksgiving:
Adopt an HR Professional in Transition
Today’s guest blog from Friend of BRANDEMiX, Marylou Ponzi Kay, Director of Human Resources at Benetton USA.

I'm an HR professional who recently landed after a long search. And while I used my time well, consulting, teaching, it feels good to be back on the 'inside'.

So I would like to encourage all my employed colleagues out there to 'adopt an HR Professional in Transition'. It's so important to have that personal engagement with a person. Obviously we're busy, we don't have time to do the same thing for everyone, but if we could just concentrate on one or two people like a project, check in with them, etc. It's so doable! It's our way of saying thank you God for our own good fortune. For that person, it can really make a difference. I know people who were like that for me. It's an amazing thing to receive unsolicited kindness, it suddenly changes the way you think about everything, humanizes the cold cruel world out there.

Networking is key to success, job search and all kinds of things, we hear this all the time, but how can we personalize this in a way that helps others.

You'd be surprised at how easy it is to secure entree into a company for someone else, not yourself. The other result is that the people who see you doing this for others, just might think of you in a whole different way. So it's a kind of 'pay it forward', and it can mean so much for that person who's looking to find a home.
It's easy right now to think of how bad things are out there, let's try to think about our good fortune and help those who have not been as lucky.

Happy Thanksgiving!




Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yahoo- Loving them again, alone.

Regulars to BRANDEblog know that I have had a love hate relationship with Yahoo since the days I registered BRANDEMiX.com (love) to the time when they lost our website and all the files on our ftp site. (big hate.)

But in California at the leadership conference, when I had a great convo with Carole Mahoney, I was feeling the love again. I might be the only one.
Back in September, Yahoo launched
"Start Wearing Purple" campaign.

The campaign, centered around the web portal Start Wearing Purple, includes features like “Purple Picks” - a daily series of links to things which the Yahoo team has deemed Purple-worthy. There’s also a special Flickr Account celebrating all things purple. And over at Purple Pranks, you can watch a few bizarre setups led by Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd. Highlights include an elevator full of people singing a song about their favorite color whenever a stranger walks in.

Integration:

1. They’re encouraging people to Start Wearing Purple.
2.Yahoo! for Good, their community foundation, is disbursing grants to deserving people through a programme they call Purple Acts of Kindness.
3. They’ve set up the Yahoo! Purple Photo Booth on Flickr to celebrate images of all things purple.
4. They’re selling Yahoo! Purple T-shirts on the company web-site.
5. Through the Yahoo! Purple Pedals project, they have a camera on cycles that go around the city, which take a picture every 60 seconds, which in turn are tagged and uploaded to Flickr to document the bike’s journey.

Two months into the launch, the campaign seems to have failed. Comments around the net are cynical, sarcastic and disparaging:
  • A website created for the campaign features a video of various grungy-looking people, including Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, wearing purple and hollering.
  • Yahoo's marketing department should spend all its time explaining to Internet users why they should use Yahoo instead of its competitors.
  • What's tragic about that is that the brand Yahoo is trying to create isn't particularly attractive. Look, it screams, we're so desperate to be seen as kooky kids, we're willing to hit our top executives in the face with rubber balls!

Perhaps the real target of the campaign is Yahoo's own employees. Morale is in the dumpster at its Sunnyvale headquarters. "Bleeding purple," Yahoo's longtime catchphrase for displaying loyalty to the company, has come to refer to the endless exodus of employees. Wearing purple may boost the mood of longtime Yahoos. But it will hurt recruiting for those outside the cult. What adult wants to work at the company which still hasn't figured out what it wants to be when it grows up?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Companies and Social Networks Losing Face...book


Thanks to Friend of BRANDEMiX Bruce of The Dorskind Group for this one:Nov 6th 2008:The Economist print edition. Illustration by David Simonds.


A tale of two airlines and their Facebook fiascos
AS WELL as embracing blogs, firms have been exploiting social networks such as Facebook and MySpace to get their messages to a broader audience. But although they have the potential to be useful marketing tools, such networks can also be a source of damaging publicity, as British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic have discovered to their cost.

On October 31st Virgin fired 13 of its cabin crew who had posted derogatory comments about its safety standards and some of its passengers on a Facebook forum. Among other things, crew members joked that some Virgin planes were infested with cockroaches and described customers as “chavs”, a disparaging British term for people with flashy bad taste. On November 3rd BA began investigating the behaviour of several employees who had described some passengers as “smelly” and “annoying” in Facebook postings.

Some airline customers may not be fragrant paragons of exquisite taste, but attacking them online is a public-relations (PR) disaster that raises the question of whether the two firms have done enough to educate staff about acceptable use of the internet. BA says employees sign a policy that forbids them from posting information about the firm online without specific authorisation. But it clearly needs to do more to reinforce that message. Virgin points out that it has several internal channels through which staff can vent frustrations. But if these were effective, why would employees feel the need to moan on Facebook?

Communications specialists say the rise of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter make it all the more important to reiterate online guidelines frequently. “Anything you now say online is amplified by these services,” warns Aedhmar Hynes, the boss of Text 100, a PR firm.

Another lesson is that managers need to monitor online activity closely to ensure that rules are respected. Virgin discovered its employees’ posts only when enraged passengers complained. A spokesman for BA says it learnt about its Facebook problem from a press report. Phil Gomes of Edelman, another PR firm, urges companies to frequent what he calls “online watering holes” where people exchange gossip and views. Prevention is undoubtedly better than cure, but firms that spot problems early could end up with less egg on their faces.

One more example of how talking to your employees has moved from the water cooler to the world.
BTW- You can follow jordioni on Twitter but I'm not promising you a Tale of Two Cities.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I used to Work in an Orange Juice Factory, Until I got Canned

They said I couldn't concentrate.
Funny joke maybe, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there more than 2,000 layoff actions in September with 236,000 employees involved. And October didn't seem to offer any consolation. From American Express, Disney, Goldman Sachs and Yahoo, corporate layoffs were in the news every day.

According to the TechCrunch Layoff Tracker, more than 40,000 tech workers were laid off for the month.

I'm thinking about layoffs because I went to a Crain's breakfast meeting on Thursday, entitled Managing Talent In A Turbulent Economy. I guess I was hoping to hear how companies keep their current employees committed and upbeat through the change. Unfortunately, the keynote speaker Kevin Ryan, the founder and former CEO of global Internet advertising company DoubleClick who was supposed to talk about how you manage talent through the ups and downs of various economic cycles, did nothing but offer advice on how to fire employees.

One bright spot of the morning- Renee Russell, the executive director for global talent management at Avon Products. She had to work through a period when Avon completely changed its business model and turned the company upside down.

Renee was articulate, experienced and poised as she offered advice on how to keep employees engaged while they took on more work with no increased financial compensation. "Think of every new opportunity as a way to gain new skills that will make you more marketable to an employer."

Today's crisis will not diminish the demographic data that supports fierce competition for talented people to lead companies through these changes. While all the headlines may be focused on the impact of the credit crunch on the ability of companies to expand, the talent crunch could be just as serious.

A good communication strategy during these difficult times can help avoid Suvivor's Syndrome and keep employees connected, safe and more productive through the storm of 2008.

And by the way, while I didn't really work in an Orange Juice factory, I did work in a Popcorn Factory. I spent my time dreaming of a butter future.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Horton Hears a Shoe- How Zappos Even Wowed a New Yorker.

If you haven’t been following BRANDEblog, you may not be up-to-date on my Zappos experience, starting with the HBR article, Why Zappos Pays New Employees to Quit—And You Should Too.

Here’s the backstory-

I read the article- After 1 month of training, Zappos offers employees $1,000 to quit- but guess what! Now it’s $2,000. The idea is that if employees take the money, they’re not Zappos material and would have a negative impact on the culture. Less than 3% take the option.

I was intrigued and found a prez from CEO Tony on slideshare. At the end, he invites viewers to send him an email and he’ll send you a culture book. I did, along with a plug about who BRANDEMiX is, and an offer of help in his Employee Communications any time in the future.

He wrote me back, and told me I’d be getting the book and hearing from Christa, the head of recruiting.

I got the book and heard from Christa. Also got a follow-up email from distribution, confirming that they sent the book and inviting me for a tour any time I was in Henderson.

Fast forward to last Thursday-
I’m in Vegas and call Christa about a meeting. She says “sure”- sends a limo to pick me up.
The limo driver calls me to confirm, knows 7 out of 10 company values without peeking at her badge.
Christa tells reception she’ll be down to meet me in 4 minutes- she is.
She gives me a tour.


She misses seeing herself on TV on the Oprah show

Treats me like a queen.

Hands me parting gifts like a book bag and 4 business books with her recommended reading
Shows me the Zappos application and tells me why one of their evaluation questions asks how lucky people consider themselves to be
(To find out why, read here)

And shows me the Executive Offices


As Horton says, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An Elephant’s faithful, 100%.”

The Zappos culture is made up of individuals who are 100% committed to delivering customer WOW. They recognize that everyone, even vendors, are customers. They have lived up to my scrutiny and exceeded my expectations of how to internalize a culture and bring a vision to life.

I will buy from Zappos, I will recommend Zappos and I look forward to using them as a case study of how internal culture drives business success. I would be lucky to have them as a BRANDEMiX client.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Internal Communications- 3 Steps to Building Your Internal Brand


It takes great planning to successfully plan and execute a great internal communication strategy.

Here are 3 simple steps to help you build relevant, meaningful internal communications plans that work. But, for extra simple, call us.

INTERNAL BRANDING COMMUNICATIONS PLANNER

1. Background/Business Objectives/Behavior changes

  • Who needs to do what differently
  • What do they need to change
  • Stop, start, do more, less
2. SWOT analysis
  • What forces are producing the current behaviors
  • How might people react to this new communication
3. Deliverables
  • Key issues for next 6 months that may require communication
  • Precise media, audiences they reach
  • Time frames/Resources required
Download more details.
BRANDEMiX_INTERNAL_COMMUNICATIONS_PLAN.pdf

Saturday, October 11, 2008

you're Laid Off- Sung In the Key of B Flat

I take it back- there is such a thing as over-communicating.

If you hate your job and hate your company, and you can’t retire on your 401k anymore, at least be thankful if you don’t have a company song.

No such luck for the employees of Shell--

Their song, from a team-building course in Asia, and is causing Shell’s more buttoned-up executives in Europe to cringe, is called “Growing and Winning” and is set to “We Are the World”.

Listen for yourself at your own risk- you can even sing along if you want to-


“We have moved on, growing day by day/Sharing strengths, we practice what is best/We are all a part of Shell’s global family/Doing work aligned with everyone.”

Another company chorus comes from Henkel: the name behind some of America’s best-known brands from Dial soaps to Purex laundry detergents. The Henkel corporate song "We together" has been recognized with the American "Stevie International Business Award 2005." as the best corporate song in the world. Donald Trump, was among the judges. Maybe he should be fired for this one.

The best I can say is that in the spirit of Globalization, you can have it your way-


I have to scoot- BRANDEMiX is looking for the best internal communications jingle writers. Send samples here.
Mission Song Samples

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The $700 billion Branding Blunder

Those of us in communications followed with interest the branding campaign that went awry in Washington as Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. called his $700 billion plan to shore up the nation’s shaky financial system the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Everyone else called it the bailout.


In a recent NY Times article:
The politics of governance in Washington is as much about marketing as anything else...by the time it was first rejected by the House — the White House, Congressional leaders and both presidential candidates — had long since lost the perception battle to critics on the Internet and radio and television talk shows. And if there was any broad agreement, it was that the plan needed to be rebranded to have any hope of resurrection.

“The hurdle is overcoming the word ‘bailout,’ ” R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, told The Times. “It has continued to be used by members of Congress. You see it in the press today all over the place. This is not a bailout; this is Treasury buying toxic assets that they will dispose of over a period of time and resell.”

Even maverick (don’t get me started) Senator John McCain agreed. “The first thing I’d do is say, ‘Let’s not call it a bailout. Let’s call it a rescue,’ ” he said on CNN. “Because it is a rescue. It’s a rescue of Main Street America.”

“The messaging was about as wooden and wonkish as it could be,” Patrick Griffin, a former White House lobbyist for President Bill Clinton, told The Times. “Poor Paulson — that was not his forte. And they started behind the eight ball. I never understood why they took so long to have the president engage.”

These two google trend maps show the failure of the Communications plan.

BAILOUT



RESCUE PLAN



Who says Communications aren’t important!

BRANDEMiX for President!

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Employee On-Boarding Study- Be Part of It and Get Back from It.

The purpose of this project is to better understand (a) what all new employees need to learn in order to be successful, (b) what companies are doing to help orientate and onboard their new employees, (c) which of those activities are most effective, and (d) when within the first months of employment those activities should occur. To examine these issues Professor Howard J. Klein from The Ohio State University is asking employers to tell him about their on-boarding practices and then allow him to survey their new employees about their on-boarding experiences. Participation involves having one person to fill out the “company” survey, which is online and should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. The new employee survey takes no more than 30 minute to complete and is also on-line (although a paper and pencil version can be provided if necessary). In return for participating Professor Klein will provide a summary of his findings which will allow the participating companies to evaluate and benchmark their on-boarding practices. For more information about this project, contact Professor Klein at klein_12@fisher.osu.edu or (614) 292-0719.



Jody Ordioni

p/ 212.947.1001
F/ 800.304.4891

www.brandemix.com

Proud to be a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise

jordioni@brandemix.com
BRANDEMiX
Bonding Through Brand Strength



Sunday, September 28, 2008

Heard it Through the Grapevine

Americans are nearly twice as likely to speak to a friend or colleague than their organization's HR department if they have an issue at work, according to the latest Ouch Point(R) survey from Opinion Research Corporation, an infoGROUP company.Though 66 percent would opt to speak to their manager about an issue, 39 percent prefer to turn to friends and only 22 percent would go to their HR department for help.

One of the survey's more surprising findings is that over one quarter of respondents (26%) expressed doubt about the ability of their HR team to keep personal details confidential.

"Our research demonstrates the need to improve the quality of the relationship between employees and the HR department," said Vicki Wheatley, Vice President, ORC Employee Engagement Practice (US). "The critical role HR plays within an organization should not be underestimated, as the success of any enterprise depends significantly on the extent to which its workforce is engaged with and dedicated to its mission."

It might be time for Human Resources practitioners to rethink their role and that of the HR department, not only for the purposes of contributing to the organization's bottom line, but also for their own survival.

Some advice from about.com

Determine Your HR Department's Current Reputation and Brand

Ask yourself some important questions:

  • Do you know what your HR department's reputation is among the employees? When HR is mentioned, do managers picture savvy strategists, backward bureaucrats, or pleasant, people-pleasers?

  • Do employees understand and appreciate the importance of the HR department in furthering the organization's mission and objectives?

  • Does the HR department make an effort to market its services to the organization? If it does not, then it has the reputation it deserves. You can, however, easily correct this reputation.

    Talk to Employees to Learn the HR Department Reputation and Brand

    The key is to open up conversations with all levels of employees, and present yourself in the role of facilitator instead of enforcer. You have to get out of the HR office and into the world of your organization’s employees. Finding these answers requires dialogue, which means that HR must communicate. That communication must consist of equal parts of listening and promotion.

    First, HR must listen carefully to what its customers need. Then it must promote what it has done and can do. HR staff must educate the organization about its capabilities and potential contributions. No one knows your capabilities as well as you do.

    Employees, for the most part, still see HR as "those people who handle benefits and do interviewing." To position the HR function for the next decades, every HR practitioner needs to take on a public relations role-starting with your own employees. Think of yourself as a product and do some smart marketing.

    The marketing of the HR department requires you to demonstrate your problem-solving skills, so others will know you do much more than simply process papers. The best form of advertising is the actions you take. By your actions, processes and programs, you can promote the HR department as a flexible, adaptable, solutions-oriented partner, a resource to whom the organization can turn when it needs problems solved.



Maybe you know a department that might benefit from BRANDEMiX Branding!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who Cares About Talent Management?

Maybe you’re as surprised as we are to see the results of a trend report on Talent Management culled by Google Search.

The US comes in 9th in average worldwide traffic generated by the phrase. Number 1 is Joannesburg, SA and the 5th most trafficked city is Las Vegas. (No doubt my impressive friends at Zappos at the head of the pack.)

Although the broad definition of talent management includes the general practice of recruiting, developing, deploying and retaining all employees across the organization- the term means different things to different people. In fact, some of the available information implies that organizations employ a software-based approach to the process— employing such outdated metrics as cost-per-hire and time-to-fill to measure success.

One group trying to make a difference in the field is the New Talent Management Network.

Founded by BRANDEMiX’s valued friend Marc Effron, VP Talent Management at Avon, the New Talent Management Network (NTMN) is a group of senior talent management professionals interested in advancing this field and is now more than 500 members strong.

They share three primary goals:
* Improve talent management effectiveness by conducting original research that benefits the TM community
* Coordinate opportunities for local, free networking among TM professionals
* Increase the capabilities of TM professionals and raise the bar for this profession

Unlike other talent networking groups, the NTMN is 100% free and all research and other features will always be free. If you have a Talent Management job to post— they’re always free.

The 2nd Annual Survey on the state of Talent Management is launching soon. If you’re one of the ones who cares (even if you’re not living in Las Vegas) sign up for the group and take the survey. Or download the results from last year’s survey. Or, read the executive summary of Talent Management Magazine’s January 08 State of the Industry report.
soi_summary.pdf

At BRANDEMiX, we care about you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why I Got Kicked off Wikipedia and How You Can Too.

Change I Can’t Believe In

Wikis are, by definition, a collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content.

Well, almost anyone- but I’m getting ahead of my rant.

According to Indeed.com the phrase "Did you get the memo?", which for many has morphed into "Did you get the email?", may be changing once again to "I didn't read the wiki". Businesses are starting to adopt the "wiki", , and as always a new technology brings with it new jobs.

A recent search( http://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=wiki&l=) found almost 1,000 jobs available for wiki people.

Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis-- as of April 2008, they had over 10 million articles in 253 languages. Go to there home page and this is what you find:

Welcome to Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Don’t believe it? Put it to the test-- You didn’t like the telethon this year? Go ahead. Delete Jerry Lewis. Chances are though, he’ll be back.

That’s because of the WP- Wikipedia Police— the invisible funbusters that have made it impossible for me to drive more traffic to BRANDEMiX, the leader in Internal Communications. Since I thought that might be newsworthy, I went to the Internal Communications page on Wikipedia and added the following to the present entry:

Firms Specializing in Internal Communications:
BRANDEMiX, New York, NY

It wasn’t meant to be an exclusive plug- just a new category that anyone could participate in. And apparently it was useful knowledge since BRANDEMiX received tons of traffic to our site. But that was then. Since then, the WP have first reversed my edits, and then shut me down completely with only this as a goodbye:
You are currently unable to edit pages on Wikipedia.You can still read pages, but cannot edit, change, or create them. Editing from 24.xx.xxx.xxx (your account, IP address, or IP address range) has been disabled by Zzuuzz for the following reason(s):Spamming links to external sites This block has been set to expire: 10:00, 10 September 2009.

So, Friends of BRANDEMiX and occasional readers, here’s how you can help. Go to Wikipedia and add the following for BRANDEMiX under your own IP address

==Companies Specializing in Internal Communications==
BRANDEMiX New York, NY

After all, isn’t change for everyone?

While you're there, do read the wiki on Internal Communications and find out more about what we do so well.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Best Buy "Employee" Making Less than Minimum Wage

In what might be an ideal situation for some employers, Best Buy has unveiled the perfect employee to Mall of America shoppers. He knows what to say, he shows up for work on time and doesn’t even need a lunch break.

For lack of a better name, I’ll call him Buzz.

When Best Buy wanted to create a buzz around their new store, they didn’t go the usual route and hand out flyers. instead, they created a digital hologram to attract attention.




Not everyone is as impressed as I am. Some comments from the advertising community:

It's bad because who wants a holographic projection talking to you and you walk through the mall. It's good because all you have to do is walk to the side of it and it disappears.”

“It's only a matter of time now until Terminator-like robots patrol our nation's food courts, gesturing menacingly with their whirring appendages, their fixed gaze wordlessly urging you to check out the new Sears bathmat sale at the price of your life.”

“Creepy. I would punch this thing if he started following me.”

But for BRANDEMiX, we see the potential in delivering rote material in an exciting way, using the latest in digital technology.

  • Imagine holding orientation where you can see and hear the CEO everywhere, every day.
  • Imagine showing up for your first day at work and meeting your mentor.
  • Imagine holding a job fair where hiring managers could “sell” candidates on the Employer Brand.
  • Imagine someone calling me for more details about how to clone their “best” employees!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Pt 3: Reputation Eats Compensation for Lunch


Restaurant Survey Reveals Potential managers, hourly workers value brand culture.

With rising minimum wages equalizing pay rates among restaurants, pay is becoming less of a factor in attracting hourly workers, said operators, who noted they are looking for other ways to recruit and retain their workforces.

A recent study by the Hay Group for the Chain Restaurant Compensation Association found that a company’s reputation was a leading factor in recruiting both hourly and managerial employees. Other important factors included benefits, work climate, culture and flexible hours.

With the federal minimum wage reaching $6.55 per hour in July and given that 32 states have even higher minimum-wage rates, restaurants do not have as much flexibility for additional pay incentives, said Maryam Morse, a consultant for the Hay Group.

“Premium pay over the minimum wage is not as compelling an employment proposition,” Morse said. “From this study, one of the top reasons people go to a company is the company culture.”

Even in a down economy, where escalating labor and food costs have forced some chains to close units and lay off employees, recruiting and retaining remains a challenge, said compensation and HR managers and executives.

“Employees may be more cautious in considering job changes based on the ever-increasing number of layoffs and store closings,” said Wendy Harkness, vice president of CRCA, a group of more than 100 restaurant companies that strive to improve compensation practices by pooling data. “However, companies are particularly vulnerable to losing top employees in a challenged economy.”

Top performers typically know their worth and can leverage that with employers looking to upgrade positions, said Harkness, who is also vice president of human resources for Checkers.

“You have to develop a compelling employment brand,” she said, “not just to fetch the brightest and newest, but also to keep the ones you have today.”

Besides a company’s reputation, medical and health benefits and then base pay were important recruiting factors for regional and district managers. Company reputation, benefits, and an attractive work climate and culture ranked above base salary for restaurant managers, while top concerns for hourly employees were company reputation, attractive work climate and culture, and flexible work hours. Base pay did not occur in the top five recruiting factors.

Bottom-ranked factors for recruiting and retention were employee stock ownership plans, child care or elder care programs, cash retention bonuses, and sign-on bonuses.

Pay is rarely the No. 1 motivator in staying at a job, said CRCA board member Chip Stalter, compensation manager at 414-unit White Castle.


“It’s all about how is the company to work for, do they communicate with me, do they provide benefits, is there some place for me to go in the organization—those factors are ahead of pay,” Stalter said.

The slowing economy may be slowing turnover for some operators, but training, development, benefits and quality of life remain key drivers in retention and employee productivity, operators said.

“Our folks, we feel, are just tucking their heads under the blanket to protect themselves from the economy,” said Mike Conner, vice president of Frisch’s Restaurants Inc.

But while Frisch’s has seen a decline in turnover for managers and hourly workers, the company remains committed to training and retention because fully staffed restaurants with well-trained employees are more profitable, he said.

The CRCA study points out that if employees leave a company, it is often because of their boss, Conner said.

“If you look at the reasons for leaving—scheduling [conflicts], compensation, work-life balance—the manager has control over every one of those items,” he said. “Our managers are our best leaders, and our best managers have the lowest turnover and their restaurants outperform their peer group.”

Morse from the Hay Group encouraged operators to survey their employees to find out what attracted them to the company and what is keeping them.

“The implication for restaurant companies is reconsider what is of value to your people and what will get you the most bang for the buck,” Morse said. “Survey them on their way in, while they are there and when they leave.”

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Crest Brushes Up Tagline With Help from YouTube



Obviously P&G didn't read my blog post from 12/3/07 from or they would know that the tagline is dead. In another example of how brands are trying to engage with consumers, use social media and save money from ad agency fees:

With the introduction of its fourth flavor, Wintergreen Ice, Crest is asking YouTube fans to come up with the brand's new slogan.

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 17, consumers can submit videos featuring their take on the brand in 10 words or less. The winning phrase will be incorporated in upcoming TV spots advertising the new flavor.

TV spots running next month show Chef Emeril Lagasse and a panel of judges evaluating contestants as they perform their catch phrase American Idol-style. "We're looking for the best catch phrase for Crest Whitening Expressions ".

This isn't really that newsworthy.
In addition to Crest's contest, there are several others you can participate in. Don't believe me? Just go to YouTube, click on Community and see for yourself.
The implications in the world of human resources can be fun-- BRANDEMiX suggests your next employee referral can be your employee AND their referral selling themselves on their attributes. Need to understand your Employee Value Proposition? BRANDEMiX suggests you follow new hires from their interview through onboarding and then check back in with them in 60, 90 and 120 days. (With their consent of course.)

Contests and prizes have a way of building teams, bonding people and sharing love.

If you have no plans for next week's Labor Day slowdown- maybe you want to get out the video camera. In fact, I gotta go- Nestle's might give me $10,000

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On The Beach and Out of Home

If you were enjoying this beautiful beach weekend with me, you may have seen the cloud formation in the sky that spelled GEICO.COM and gone "OOH". OOH is an acronym for Out of Home- the classification of advertising so called because, unlike print or tv, it reaches the consumers when they are out of their homes.
According to the NY Times last Friday, Madison Avenue is having an out-of-home experience. "The ardor to reach consumers outside the home — and outside the realm of traditional media like television — continues to grow among marketers. They hope to fight back against technologies like digital video recorders, which make it easier to avoid conventional advertisements like commercials.

The category once referred to only billboards, posters and signs but now includes expansion into places like airports, offices, malls, schools and health clubs. Industry forecasters are predicting a growth rate of more than 12% a year for the next 5 years.

I've been following the trend carefully, since I am frequently called upon to develop advertising strategies beyond print and online. But even I was pleased and surprised at how the category has expanded and the opportunities to build a tactical buzz across specific geography have never been so creative, inexpensive and hopefully effective.

Considering opening a gym? How about chair advertising such as this for VIP Gyms?
Regular BRANDEBlog readers are already familiar with advertising in and outside of malls, movie theatres, barber shops or on coffee cups. But here's just a partial list of OOH media that BRANDEMiX can now include as part of an integrated advertising campaign to increase brand awareness and make some noise.

ATM machines • Driver's Ed cars • Spotlight Ads • Gas Pump Toppers • Taxis • Valet Parking Lots • Sand sculpture • Street Decals ... and for the brave.. Wrapped Port-A-Potties.

If you want to know more, call us.

Oh and speaking of noise, those sky-typing GEICO planes created an out-of-home experience that was 8 miles long.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I love you ChaCha

It was Friday night, and as I was in the restaurant, across from my husband, I was texting my love to ChaCha.

No, not the dance, but a free web-based, mobile text messaging answering service that has become my favorite thing. So favorite that I might even consider paying for it if I had to. Because, unlike with Twitter, almost like with Scrabulous before they shut it down, and definitely like my husband ChaCha has become a cant’-live-without addiction.

Here are the facts:
ChaCha allows people with any mobile phone to ask any question in conversational English and receive an accurate answer as a text message in just a few minutes. ChaCha also offers voice search through a mobile service that could be queried via a toll-free phone number--1-800-2ChaCha (800-224-2242).

My first experience with ChaCha was tenuous- I texted ChaCha the following question: Where is the best place to invest a small amount of money to yield a 10% ROI. I waited. In minutes, ChaCha texted me back and told me to call a financial advisor. Ever so thoughtfully, ChaCha sent me a weblink to Financial Advisors in my area.

Other texts were more concrete— “What’s the weather this weekend?”, “How many seats are in Shea Stadium?”, “What’s the address of my dentist?” Time after time, ChaCha replied with accurate, up-to-the minute details. When I was in the midst of a conversation about gas prices, ChaCha saved the day by answering my question “If gas is $1.50 a litre, how much is it a gallon” with the following “it would cost $6.819 per gallon. Yikes! Have a great day and keep texting ChaCha. ChaCha told me how to get paint off the carpet, what my horoscope was for the month of July.

I’m not so interested in the behind the scenes at ChaCha but in case you are, the ChaCha system is set up so that each question is routed to a trained Guide who is knowledgeable in that particular subject matter. The Guide will research your question and send the answer back to you as soon as possible. The Guide will be able to see your previous questions so they will understand if you ask a follow-up question. Once you register, ChaCha will save your questions and answers, and you’ll be able to view the profile of the Guide that found your answer!

I also love the ChaCha website- very cool Valentine colors (because I’m not the only one in love) a place to read and leave confessions, a store where I can buy ChaCha apparel and a well-produced culture video.

My HR friends may even find this interesting: ChaCha recently announced that they are moving to a “Pay-For-Performance” system that was designed to improve search quality. Under the new program, “Top Guides” will receive 20 cents per question. Everyone else gets 10 cents per question. To become a Top Guide, users must do the following:

* >95% Quality Measurement.
* 95% and above completion of answers to questions:
* Minimum 300 Searches a week.

But what I really really love is that ChaCha will partner with BRANDEMiX in putting together branded mobile text campaigns including event promotion, text voting or trivia events.

So Friday night, when ChaCha told me what time the local movies were playing, I was so happy I literally texted back “I love you ChaCha.” And you know what ChaCha told me? “We at ChaCha think you’re the best, too! Our customers are very important so let us know if you need anything 24/7”

As a dependable virtual sage at my fingertips, or another leg in an integrated client branding or recruitment campaign, ChaCha stands alone!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Linking and Thinking

Last week, LinkedIn and the NY Times announced a new partnership that is supposed to add value to both sites and their visitors/members. Oh, and by the way, it is also another way for advertisers to micro-target their messages. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.


According the the press release “LinkedIn members visiting the Times' business and tech pages will see a new section of headlines tailored to the industry they work in, as determined by the information in their LinkedIn profile.”

According to the LinkedIn blog (yes, they have one too), LinkedIn members can share any NY Times article they find interesting with their network connections. So, I went to the NY Times Business pages like I was instructed to, and didn’t see anything that asked me to sign in with my LinkedIn ID.


Nothing looked like this-


Next I hopped over to LinkedIn, stopped first to see how many people viewed my profile in the past few days, and tried to see anything that looked like this. No luck in the 5 minutes of allocated time I devoted to searching.


So, I’m not convinced that anything is adding value to anything, and its just another clever way for a social network to generate revenue by allowing the NY Times to harvest parts of our profiles -- industry, job function, seniority, company size, gender and geography — and sell advertising.

Be sure you opt out.

By the way, if you want me to add you as a connection, let me know.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The World Is Fat

Social Intra-Networking- Don’t Just Whip it Up with Rachel Ray.

Tomato, Tomato, Fat, Flat – Let’s call the whole thing off.  From 50 million blogs in 2006 to 112 million according to Technorati last month- there are more than 175,000 new blogs created each day.  Bloggers update their blogs regularly to the tune of over 1.6 million posts per day, or over 18 updates a second.

As my regular readers may notice, I update my blog once a week and frankly, it takes me about 2 hours of time just to find something new and notable to write about. Thank goodness for my convo with Richard last week, who inspired me to write about Social Intra-Networking. After all, aren’t we sick of reading about the Baby Boomers retiring and how to resolve generational differences in the workplace?

Today, in the HR world, the buzz is all about building Online Communities- social intranets where employes can collaborate and knowledge-share.  But if you’re thinking about implementing one, learn before you leap.

Consider the recent study from Deloitte about Why Most Online Communities Fail.

After studying more than 100 businesses with online communities that attempt to connect customers with brand, the study found that  these sites failed to gain traction with customers. Thirty-five percent of the online communities studied have less than 100 members; less than 25% have more than 1,000 members – despite the fact that close to 6% of these businesses have spent over $1 million on their community projects.

Most corporate-sponsored online communities are virtual ghost towns because businesses are focusing on the value an online community can provide to themselves, not the community.

Businesses launching online communities repeat a series of blunders. First, they have a tendency to get seduced by bells and whistles and blow their online-community budget on technology. Moran suggests that businesses spend resources identifying and reaching out to potential community members instead of investing in software that makes predictions, or even social-networking technology.

Moran also recommends that businesses put someone who has experience running an online community in charge of the project. This doesn’t sound particularly earth-shattering, but consider that about 30% of the businesses Deloitte studied have only one part-time worker in charge of their communities. Most other businesses put a single marketing pro in charge of their sites.

The third problem with online communities is how businesses go about measuring the success of their communities. Businesses say that their primary objectives are generating word-of-mouth marketing and increasing customer loyalty. Yet the metric that businesses use most often to measure success is the number of visits to the site. Moran points out that there isn’t much of a connection between what businesses want and what they’re measuring.

So how does this apply to your pet project?

  1. Survey your employees- Find out what there needs are, what there vision is and frankly, whether or not they perceive this a good idea.
  2. Don’t do it as a part-time hobby- Hire an expert — or experts. People (I know a few) who make communications their profession. Who can implement strategies to make the site as sticky as you’d want it be.
  3. Connect with your Brand. Use every opportunity to build the culture, values and business strategy into your site. Keep people connected but make sure that they’re all marching to the same drumbeat.

After all, we’re all fat enough. Internal or otherwise, no one needs another site to swap Toll House Cookie recipes.

 

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bang Bang- So You Wanna Be a Rock Star?

Don't look now, the agency handling the recruitment for the National Guard is targeting you Mr. Fisherman.

Does anyone else find the concept of Branding the National Guard as Rock Stars a bit of a disconnect?

In August, the US Army National Guard will launch a mobile marketing campaign, supported by outreach to local media, to sign up recruits at various music festivals and other outdoor events.

Developed and executed by RedPeg Marketing on behalf of prime contractor Docupak, the "Rock Star Hero Challenge," as the campaign is called, features a tour bus with 52-inch touch screen displays that allow potential recruits to see and participate in virtual missions.

Interactive kiosks where visitors can pose with images of rock bands will sit outside the buses, tying into the musical nature of the events and emphasizing the figurative "rock star" quality of Army National Guard members. The National Guard is currently on track to meet its recruiting goal for 2008.

Since 2005, it has increased its "end strength" total from 330,000 to 380,000.

"Recruiters will know about the events [in advance] and pre-market them," said RedPeg president and CEO Brad Nierenberg. "The events will be a way to engage with consumers who haven't considered the National Guard before now." Day said that recruiting is typically done on a local, grassroots level, with recruiters attending any large event where its "target demographic" might be found.

"The interactive nature makes the 'Rock Star Hero' different and will appeal to our demographic's thirst for technology," Day said.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Guaranteed or your money back

Better ROI or Your Money Back, Says Buzz Agency
BzzAgent Wants to Prove Word of Mouth Performs Better Than Any Other Medium

By Michael Bush

Published: July 14, 2008
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- BzzAgent, a network of regular-Joe brand advocates, is making a big bet that word-of-mouth marketing will outperform any other discipline when it comes to ringing registers and driving advocacy for brands.
Dave Balter, founder-CEO of BzzAgent
Dave Balter, founder-CEO of BzzAgent


With its "WOM Impact Guarantee" program, which launched today and will run throughout the rest of 2008, BzzAgent is inviting any brand marketer and its agency partners to take part in a challenge in which BzzAgent and the agency partner will run competing campaigns. If BzzAgent does not top the competing agency by 20% across four metrics -- brand awareness, consumer opinion, purchase intent and actual sales -- the agency will refund the marketer the cost of its word-of-mouth campaign and measurement costs.

Word-of-mouth marketing firms of all shapes and sizes have popped up in recent years, offering alternatives to traditional advertising. The common thread among them is a belief that what customers say about a brand is more important than what the brand says about itself. Though it's a powerful argument, many marketers have been shy about diving in.

Dave Balter, founder-CEO of BzzAgent, said word-of-mouth performs better than any other medium. He's hoping this program will convert some nonbelievers.

"We know the medium has significant impact, and one way to help [hesitant] marketers dive into the pool is to guarantee it," he said. "Are we 100% sure we can outperform all other mediums by 20%? No, but we're pretty confident we can do something special here. It's time to put our money where our mouth is."

Risky bet
Mr. Balter, who expects to get 10 or 12 takers, said setting the bar at 20% also made people at the agency a little queasy, "but that's why it's worth doing."

The program requires a minimum investment of $300,000 in both word-of-mouth media and traditional media to be challenged. A third party, digital-marketing research firm Insight Express, is handling all measurement aspects. Mr. Balter said there will be two measures for success: Can BzzAgent prove word-of-mouth outperforms other disciplines, and does the program increase the number of marketers running word-of-mouth campaigns?

"Measurement is the No. 1 hurdle for the word-of-mouth industry," he said. "We're happy to have any new business that may come from this, but what we are really trying to accomplish is to get word-of-mouth to be valued on a measurement basis for marketers."

According to BzzAgent, this challenge isn't coming from a position of weakness. Joe Chernov, VP-communications, said the agency, which has nearly 280 clients, is not suffering in terms of growth. It has seen six straight quarters of growth, and 2007 was its strongest year to date, Mr. Chernov said. He added that revenue for the first quarter of 2008 was "conservatively double-digit stronger" than in the first quarter of 2007. good for all

Good for all
Paul Rand, CEO of Omnicom's Zocalo Group and a Word of Mouth Marketing Association board member, said the program is a great publicity stunt for the agency, and it would be good for all word-of-mouth practitioners if it managed to generate interest in the medium.

"In terms of a quick promotion, this is great," Mr. Rand said. "And if it raises industry awareness, that's also great. Anything that drives positive attention to the industry is good."

Jim Nail, CMO of TNS Media Intelligence and a WOMMA board member, said the program is a logical extension of how BzzAgent has been going to market: with research and white papers on the comparison of word-of-mouth campaigns to campaigns in other disciplines.

Mr. Balter knows his agency may not win every challenge, but he has no doubt the program will have a lasting impact on every marketer that takes part.

"Our success may come with a little hair on it," he said. "Our batting average may not be perfect on this, and we may miss one or two. But even if that happens, we are going to show marketers that [word-of-mouth] works."