Monday, July 25, 2011

A long break - but the Marketing Continued

I realize it has been over a year since I blogged. It wasn't that I wasn't learning new things - it was that I was so busy doing marketing I wasn't writing about it.  Many things have changed - we have now integrated communities into marketing so we can be better aligned on our messaging. I have a new marketing manager who is doing great things with our newsletter and collateral and is gearing up for her biggest challenge - our Grace Hopper Celebration.  And we have gone international - so I am now looking at how we do pr in India.

So I will try to do better. I'm also goign to launch another blog on decluttering my life at 50 - many changes are taking place in my life personally and I'll be writing about them there.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yellow Pages Arrived Today: The many marketing lessons I learned from the Yellow Pages.

Not many of you know this but I started my career as the Yellow Page Marketing Analyst for Rochester Telephone way back in 1987.  Now given that at the time I was completely clueless how the Yellow Pages were created it was a bit of a challenge, but it really was a learning experience that taught me a great deal about how to do marketing.

My first year my total responsibility was Marketing the Rochester Telephone Yellow Pages, at the time a 25 million dollar revenue stream for the company.  I worked for a woman named Carol who was Assistant Director and was on a team with Mary (who did white pages) and our admin Gilda who was the only person who could actually type anything in our office since we all shared a single Wang Computer.  Having come from Grad School where we all used Macs I was frankly stymied by the Wang, but I had to learn how to use it when it became clear that I needed to generate many reports.  Imagine in those days it would sometimes take a week to do a single memo. Every word would be sweated over, my boss would have to approve it, and they would also be revised 5, 6, 7 or 8 times.  It was a slower paced world. I even lived close enough to work to walk back and forth every day - arriving sharply at 9 and everyone leaving at 5.

From these women I learned many things:

 - To be careful on the details - a typo changing $.50 to $.40 could mean the loss of 1000's of dollars in revenue and huge costs if contracts had to be reprinted because of it. 
 - That you shouldn't always listen to people when they critique your work - they may have been doing it wrong and you are getting it right - so stand up if you believe in something.  I did a business case for a new product that was not only accepted (after being disparaged by one of my peers) but was held up to him as an example of how to write a business case. 
-  That being innovative and trying new things may not always make you money but it can save your business.  We launched the talking yellow pages - one of the first in the country. It made us no money but it actually delayed another competitor from entering our marketspace.
-  Take risks whenever possible.  In later years I created a completely different kind of phone book cover in our Lancaster market with beautiful Amish quilts on the cover. It actually increased our phone book usage - ours was too pretty to put in a drawer.
-  Never keep a vendor just because they've always been there - you can't let the cost of change factor into a decision - in the short run change can cost you money but in the long term it can completely change the game.  Our VP taught us that when we made a proposal and had included those costs.  It was really eye opening.
-  Listen to the customer - if you don't address why they are unhappy you may lose them- something the vendor we let go of was slow to learn.

-  I learned how to take care of your team by how they all treated me. When I broke my foot the three of them rallied around me. Mary drove me to and from work each day, Gilda helped me get my lunch from the cafeteria every day and Carol made it so I could work from home for the first two weeks when my foot was so swollen it had to be elevated above my head.  On a side note - it even justified us getting the very first laptop ever seen at the company.  I can show you the laptop - I saw it at the Tech Museum on exhibit - weighed about 50 lbs I think.

- I also learned something about assumptions. I learned that when setting up a meeting it would be good to brief the CEO on all the participants if you can so that  the CEO won't assume the tall blond 20 something woman  in the back wasn't the wife of one of the male executives but in fact the person doing the detailed financial analysis of their bid.  The CEO of a multi billion dollar company actually asked me if my boss and I were going to enjoy going shopping while the men worked.  I was a bit nonplussed but our VP said no Jerri and Carol need to stay since they are the ones making the decision.  I'd never seen a man go pale quite so quickly before. I'm sure they all wondered if that played into their losing our account.   I'll never tell.

All these memories came flooding back today as I brought in the new AT&T White and Yellow Pages. I was shocked at how thin the book has become. It has about 1/4 the listings the yellow pages had 11 years ago when I first moved here.  Really sad.  It's less than half the size of the first phone book I ever did.  Yes I still have that phone book with me - it represents a lot of marketing lessons for me and I'll treasure it for ever.

One last great joke.  My mom had called while I was working on the book and told me the phone book had arrived.  I asked her if it was a talking yellow pages(meaning a book that had numbers in it that you could call for horoscopes and soap opera updates). There was a long pause then Mom said, "Well I threw it in the closet and it didn't say anything."  And yes I LOL'd.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Women of Vision - the Aftermath

So one of the major things after any event is the PR cleanup. And boy was there a lot of clean up last week.  Let me start by saying Women of Vision was an enormous success.  We had a record breaking number of attendees, all our speakers did a tremendous job and I had the great pleasure of being Arianna Huffington's handler throughout the event. 

I was very glad that in a previous position I had the opportunity to work with celebrities so I was prepared for all the contingencies.  Arianna was lovely to work with - well prepared, charming and so happy to help us with photographs, etc.  Her speech was a crowd pleaser. 

Our three winners were all amazing.  I was a bit stunned that all three chose to wear red and black but it looks great in all the photos.  Arianna had shared her talk's theme of embracing risk prior to the event and I'd notified the three winners.  Each of them talked from her own perspective about embracing risk, and making a difference in the world. 

Post event the work continued. I actually went home and did a final review of the newsletter we were issuing the next day since it was part of the launch of our Anita Borg Top Company for Technical Women Award.  I also fixed a few glitches along the way.

Then Thursday began the work with the press.  We had 11 press people attend Women of Vision. The next day was spent working on our post event press release then issuing it to the 11 press people along with a picture of Arianna and the winners.  The press release itself went out the following morning. The coverage has been amazing - San Jose Mercury News, Forbes, Silicon Valley Watcher all wrote about the event and more are still pending.  We also posted the winners biographical videos on youtube so they could be linked to as well from the press release.

This week the work continues - I'll be editing the footage from the event and getting it back to our editors so we'll be able to launch the videos on Youtube in our next newsletter.  I'm also waiting for the photos to come in so we can distribute them to the media as well as our sponsors, Arianna, the winners, etc.  And of course we're tracking the coverage as it comes in.

I'd like to thank a few people who make my job possible - Megan McKenna from Total Media Group; Denise Nelson from Ventana Public Relations, Dang Le from Jungle Digital Printing and Alex Atkins from Alexander Atkins Design.  These are the folks who make everything possible in doing the marketing for our events. I couldn't do it without them. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Countdown to Women of Vision - T-24

 Well here we are. It is 24 hours until the Anita Borg Women of Vision Awards.  So what are the last minute things a marketing person does the day before a major event.  Here's my list:

1.  A flurry of emails and a confernce call with my PR person, Denise Nelson ofVentana Public Relations. Denise has done an amazing job - we have a dozen journalists from both print and online media attending the event.   She did the reminders to the media and we finished our checklist.  We also crafted our day after press release.  So while the rest of our team takes a well deserved day off, the next day I'll be working with Denise to finish our press release and get our photos out to the news media.  My day off will be Friday.

2. I finished our press kits yesterday - these are handouts for the media that include info on ABI, the press releases and information for them on how to get photographs of the winners and our keynote speaker after the event.

3.  Loading the cars - we spent some time making sure everything on our checklist was packed up and the cars were loaded and went off to the Convention Center.  I made sure the collateral box for our collateral table was fully stuffed and we also made sure the signs, awards and gifts all made it too.

4.  Checked in with our printer - the delivery of our programs and new signs was confirmed for tomorrow morning at 10.  The courier will be there and set up will commence.

5.  Staff meeting this morning included an extended briefing on the event.  I talked about our media presence and instructed our staff what to do if broadcast media appeared. You always want to be sure the soundbyte is given by someone who will have the most impact with the media whenever possible - the CEO, the Keynote, the award winners.

6.  Made sure we are all systems go for uploading all the WOV videos I created with Total Media Group are ready to go up on Facebook on Thursday morning.  Everything is all set up in my computer.

7.  Made sure we were all set with our big announcement for Thursday morning. You'll have to check out our website then for more info.

8.  Finished working with our AV folks on our slides for the event - only 7 but we had to make sure they looked good on the big screen.

Heading home to get a good night's sleep.  Stay tuned for the followup on Thursday.  I'll publish some links then.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Creating the Women of Vision Videos

We're on Day 6 of our Women of Vision Video creation.  By Day 6 I mean that this is the 6th dayI have spent sitting in a small editing studio in South San Francisco with the video editor.  The editor and our producer have actually spent even more time doing this since in between they implement all the changes, adjust the soundtrack, etc.  And I spent my time interviewing winners, writing scripts, getting approvals and gathering photos from our winners.

So why do I love making videos?  There is something about literally having nothing and creating a fully rendered piece that will be shown to an audience that I find thrilling. It's also a little anxiety inducing since you have so many different people in the audience:  the winner, her family members, members of her organization, my co-workers and the general audience members.  And there are high expectations of the videos - that they will inspire the students to go on to amazing technical careers, that it will refresh and inspire the women in the audience to pursue their technical careers; that the men in the audience will be reminded once again how valuable the women's contributions are to technology and that the family and that they will please the winner.

With the creation of the videos themselves - it's all about the details.  As those who know me are aware - I'm all about the details.  We are constantly making edits to the video script to make the words flow with the photographs we use.  We endlessly debate what photos to incorporate and hunt for disconnects between the text and the image.  And occasionally we put in a photo that doesn't fit but is needed to help tell the story when the words do not.   And we call the winners when we have doubts about how names and places are pronounced.  And we're always looking for ways to enhance the visual image.  I've posted on facebook about our challenges with some of the Universities who have not been responsive to our requests for logos and photographs.  I find myself stymied when that happens since in this case - all the publicity is good.

The videos will be up on Youtube after the event in May.  I'll post links then so you can see them.  Back to editing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sympathy Letter to a Celebrity Flack

Dear Celebrity PR Flack;

I wanted to extend my great sympathies to you in this time of great turmoil. The endless spewing of celebrity scandal has certainly made life difficult for all the PR people in the celebrity world. My sympathy goes out to both the reps of the good and the twisted.

To those who do PR for the good, the celebrities who have stable loving faithful marriages who are perhaps just trying to promote a new movie or tv show, I sympathize with your struggles. Read the cover of any and all celebrity magazines and all you see is Sandra and Jesse or Elin and Tiger. Two People magazines in a row featured such similar photos of Sandra that I thought I'd been sent the same magazine twice. Pity the poor PR person who is out representing someone who is organizing a big fundraiser. You have to compete with the celebrity mistresses of the world - whose PR people are doing an excellent job of parlaying their scandals into fortunes by the way. And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse Larry King and Tiki Barber jumped into the mix. While certainly not worthy of A-list caliber coverage they are sucking up all the B roll time on E and Entertainment Tonight. All I can say is keep on trying, eventually you'll catch a break. Perhaps they'll all end up in rehab together so they can be covered in a single story and you can catch a break with your pitch on whatever sequel your client is starring in this summer.

To the PR flacks of the twisted, my goodness you do have your hands full. It's hard to imagine what life must be like when your client is caught then keeps trying to lie to cover the truth. Hard to believe that one of the worst cheaters, David Letterman, is actually doing quite well. He cheated for years, with his employees no less, yet because he told the truth and took his lumps he's doing just fine. Seems he got good PR advice and actually listened and implemented it. And he didn't even have to go to rehab. Not like Jesse James who seems very upset about his marriage being destroyed but unaware that he is the one who is responsible for the whole mess. Run Sandra Run.

The saddest thing of all is that you know more scandals are coming. The PR folks can't stop it because of course they are being kept in the dark. I can virtually guarantee that none of the celebs are saying to their PR person - you know I think I'm going to cheat on my wife this week. And even if they did, none of them would listen when the PR person tries to point out that nobody gets away with that behavior these days.

Nope, the PR people find out months later - usually about 10 minutes before the story breaks. Then they scramble to help their client weather the storm as best they can, knowing that most of the time the client will ignore their advice anyway. Celebs pay 1000's of dollars to experts that they then ignore. It's sad really.

So good luck all you celebrity PR folks. Maybe George Clooney will change girlfriends again and take the heat off everyone.

Monday, March 29, 2010

No Limits on what women can achieve.

I don't know how many of you know this but I was a Biology major in college and worked as a research biochemist for two years afterward. The significance of this was brought home to me today when a friend (and fellow alum of Mount Holyoke College) forwarded me this link of letters to the editor in the New York Times . President Joanne Creighton of Mount Holyoke talks about why women's colleges turn out so many scientists. She writes that the keys to success are having role models, a lack of gender stereotyping and a hospitable institutional culture that sets no limits on what women can achieve.

I firmly agree with this. I was lucky enough growing up that my sister had gone to Mount Holyoke before me and that I had a women biology teacher in high school who believed in me. When I got to my junior year in high school the long time guidance counselor had retired and they hired a new guy who had zero experience. I went in to talk to him about my college plans - I intended to apply to Mount Holyoke early decision, major in biology and become a doctor. He told me that he thought it was a mistake, even with a 4.0 average, that I really should limit myself to local colleges so I could live at home. ACK. Not even an option. Then he suggested I go to a teachers college in Mississippi because really that's what women should be doing - teaching.

While I think teaching is a wonderful profession, at the time I had zero interest in that and I couldn't figure out why he wasn't listening to what I wanted to do. The fact that he had so stereotyped women into a single role was horrifying to me. Without my sister and teacher as role models I could very easily have listened to that guidance counselor (who yes I think was an incompetent fool) and my life would have been very different. He was creating an institutional culture that very much set limits on what a woman could achieve.

Mount Holyoke was a revelation, women ran everything - including the college itself. Role models were everywhere and there were never any limits set. I knew women who were training for the Olympics while studying economics, a woman who was a german/econ/dance major; and one who's goal was to work in Antarctica (and she did). The professors were fabulous - encouraging, supportive and who created opportunities for me to try new things. Because I saw so many women working in biology, I chose to work after graduation for a few years to decide where I wanted to go next.

My work led me to change directions and get an MBA in Marketing but I never doubted I could do it because that's what Mount Holyoke taught me - No limits.

This is why I am so passionate about the work of the organization I am in today. We all know that there are no limits on what women can achieve and we also know that we need to be telling this to our daughters, granddaughters, nieces and any young women we enounter. So just a reminder - tell a girl, young woman today that there are no limits.