Tag Archive: Conversational Marketing

Damn the Teleprompters!

Planes sometimes land at the wrong airport.

When we were kids we practiced huddling under our desks, if heaven forbid something really unpleasant was happening.

There is a reason every team has a backup quarterback.

And every good organization should have a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C.

Anybody at Samsung ever heard of Murphy’s Law?


What can go wrong, will go wrong.

Caca happens from time-to-time. Be prepared to deal with it.

Think of it this way: Prevention is as much a component of effective crisis communications as responding to an actual debacle.

Typing in the name, “Michael Bay” and “CES” into the Google search engine and the result is 21.7 million web mentions devoted to the producer’s viral walkout of the biggest gizmo trade show on the planet, The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, attended by 140,000 techies.

This public relations train wreck has become a metaphor for Samsung’s underwhelming recent financial performance. That is the conclusion of the stately Economist.

Comedian Tina Fey even made fun at Michael Bay and by extension, Samsung, at the Golden Globes.

Let’s face it, life is not perfect. Sometimes airplanes filled with passengers land at the wrong airport. Southwest Airlines is practicing crisis response today.

And to many, that is their definition of crisis communications being cool under fire and following the mantra: Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell it Fast. Move On. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was practicing just that last week. Hopefully, the airline can take steps to ensure that its Boeing 737s always land at their intended destinations and move on.

The point here is that crisis communications is not just an after-the-fact exercise. Good crisis management is to take steps to ensure that what should be a victory does not turn out to be a viral defeat in our digital age.

Repeatedly watching the video of Michael Bay, one is immediately struck by his nervousness. The Transformers director/producer is clearly a guy, who likes to call the shots, to be in total control. He wants to be behind the camera, not in front of the lens.


At CES, his performance right from the start was akin to someone walking on a tightrope. He clearly did not want to be there. If that was the case, why was he there? Yes, he fit into the marketing theme for Samsung’s new 105-inch curved ultra-high-definition television. (Personally, I am holding out for the 105-foot curved ultra-high-definition TV).  He may have been paid handsomely for his services.

Was it worth it, Samsung?

Bay was exhibiting all the signs of Glossophobia, combining the Greek words for “tongue” and “dread,” or fear of public speaking. Did Samsung put Bay through presentation training? And if not; why not? And if so, did the company practice what happens if the teleprompter goes down?

Let’s ask another question here: Why a teleprompter? It makes sense when POTUS delivers the nearly one-hour (or more) long State of the Union address. Why does one need a teleprompter to read to an audience? Why not engage in a conversation?

Some disdain PowerPoint or Prezi. Nonetheless Steve Jobs was a master of the format. Wearing his signature black turtleneck, jeans and tennis shoes and strapping on the lavaliere microphone, he confidently used each graphic as a prompt. He was obviously comfortable with the Apple message, after all he pretty much invented the technology (e.g., Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad etc.). The Macworld audiences fed off of his energy. All was good at Apple’s marketing department.


Having checked out more than a few trade shows and investor conferences, the audience is ultimately looking for and expecting information about a company’s products and how they fit into the corporate business strategy.

Does Michael Bay know any of these facts when it comes to Samsung? Or did Samsung just want him to lend his name and cool reputation and mindlessly read his company produced lines and depart stage left? Well, Bay departed stage left but not in the way that Samsung wanted.

Another question that comes to mind revolves around co-presenting Samsung exec John Stinziano, who had the opportunity to reassure Michael Bay and save the day. He made a feeble attempt to make it all better but in the end just punted the presentation.

Couldn’t Stinziano pick up the ball and make the presentation about the 105-inch curved  TV? In football parlance, the term is next guy up. In this case, the star attraction just left the building. This was no time for the deer in the headlights look.

To use even another metaphor, The Show Must Go On.










It’s not every day that you hike the Stanford “Dish” with an ex-con http://dish.stanford.edu/.

Based upon her appearance, her demeanor, her intelligence and command of the English language, she is about the last person that you would expect to be locked up for a year in a federal pen in Washington State.

Let’s see. She worked for a Republican governor. She was a bank senior vice president. She is the mother of two college-age daughters, one going to a Catholic school in Southern California and the other to a football factory in the Deep South.

In pouring out her heart to me, she also shared about how she has learned about the consequences of choices she made that eventually led to waking up on the floor of a Seattle area prison. She recounted that she was operating from a place of stress and not knowing her true-self. She has a deep appreciation for friends, family and children who stood by her throughout this ordeal.

As a result of this experience, which she recounted with tears about two miles into our four-mile hike, she has definite feelings about law and order, crime and punishment, and most of all whether the United States is doing enough to prepare its nearly 2.4 million convicts (those eligible for parole) to reenter society.

Listening to her story and contemplating that she was never allowed outside for a year, I realized what it must mean to her to be able to once again walk four miles and admire the rolling hills around the Stanford campus. I will never take this experience for granted ever again.

More importantly, I came to the conclusion that she represents a classic man-bites-dog story. How could someone with so much going for her end up in such a bad place?

This experience gave her something that every blogger needs, standing. Isn’t “standing” a legal term? Sure is. http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/s064.htm

The legal right to initiate a lawsuit. To do so, a person must be sufficiently affected by the matter at hand, and there must be a case or controversy that can be resolved by legal action. There are three requirements for Article III standing: (1) injury in fact, which means an invasion of a legally protected interest that is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) a causal relationship between the injury and the challenged conduct, which means that the injury fairly can be traced to the challenged action of the defendant, and has not resulted from the independent action of some third party not before the court; and (3) a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

Consider that my hiking friend wrote resumes for inmates at the federal prison. She was helping people in trying to not only reenter society, but maybe, just maybe, reclaiming their lives. Do you think she has the “standing” to comment with authority of recidivism issues? What about the right of ex-convicts, who have paid their debt to society, to participate in the electoral process? Or how about plight of children when mommy or most likely, daddy, are behind bars?

Just as the average citizen cannot file a suit against BP because they don’t like reading about the oil spill, bloggers really can’t gain traction commenting on subjects in which they have little or no personal experience. Yes, yes…everyone has First Amendment Rights to free and unfettered speech, but will anyone listen if you do not command your subject?

Conversely, if a blogger has a unique experience, a hard-earned perspective, an emotional tie to a topic, then it is almost imperative that she or he use the digital ones and zeroes to bestow this knowledge to help others. I am actively urging her to use her precious “standing” to tell her story and to provide her input into making the world a little better place.

Blogging should be more than “conversational marketing,” “thought leadership” and “branding” that PR agency types love to talk about and will charge $240 per hour (not including OOPS or out-of-pocket expenses). Blog posts should also be a source of knowledge, wisdom, advice and comfort for those who are facing the worst that life can offer and hoping for a better future.

Almost DailyBrett note: Today marks blog post #52. One year ago, I began this blog wondering whether anyone would ever read my meanderings, let alone comment on them. To my readers and respondents, thank you so much for your time and patience. I will continue to do my best to never let you down.

Is the Pope Catholic?

Does a bear do nasty things in the woods?

Why even address the question of whether a blog is social media?

And yet a well-respected colleague, Eric Villines of the MWW Group in Seattle http://www.mww.com/, posed this innocent sounding question to the “Public Relations Professionals” group page on LinkedIn.com. http://www.linkedin.com. The answer seems obvious, but upon reflection maybe it is not.

Why? The great promoters of blogs (and you know who you are) extol the virtues of social marketing. This is a utopian, Wild-West free-flow of ideas that germinates with the introduction of a provocative subject by a blogger. Of course, the blogger is not doing this out of the goodness of her or his heart. The goal is to demonstrate thought leadership (oh how agency PR types love that phrase) in a given subject or a given market.

Does this blogger necessarily want a conversation? Now that is a different question. In some respects, a blogger may want to lecture, instruct, pontificate and maybe even, bloviate. There may be a product to sell, a cause to promote or even a trial balloon to float.

And do companies, particularly always nervous publicly traded companies, want a dialogue? Yes, they want to build brand. And they also want to expand the number of their customers and investors, but do they want input, particularly public input? Some do. Some don’t.

Personally, I led a successful campaign to convince a major Asian technology company to start blogging. What little hair that was left on top of my head is now gone as a result of this process. Since the company trades on the NYSE, they naturally have SEC regulatory concerns (e.g. Reg FD). And they are paranoid about protecting market share and that means preventing inadvertent releases of proprietary information to competitors. These are normal and justifiable considerations.

But it went beyond that. What about comments from readers? Do we allow these comments to be read by others? Yes that is the noble purpose of a blog, but still do we want to air what could be dirty laundry?

The answer in this case revolved around posting a blog link on the company’s home page that transferred to a separate WordPress site. The company was able to review the comments in response to the blog before approving or rejecting them. The company could also comment in response, keeping the dialogue going.

So the answer is a qualified yes, a blog “should” be social media. I use the subjunctive tense to reflect that blogging should encourage a conversation, and that is a great way to build brand and to demonstrate thought leadership.

And consistent with this notion that blogs are social media, let me ask: “Do you agree or disagree that blogs are social media?” An inquiring mind would like to know…and thank you Eric for the great idea.

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