Friday, January 30, 2009

Guest Blogging at NonProfit Conversation

Today's blog is actually on someone else's blog. I did a guest blog for the blog Nonprofit Conversation. So just head over to and learn how the Anita Borg Institute is using Social Media.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Marketing Disasters and Lessons Learned Pt 1: Never tell a reporter anything you don't want to see in print

I saw a request today for PR disasters in recent history and that got me thinking about past marketing disasters. We all have them. This first disaster took place while I was riding a shuttle bus in Chicago in 2000. I was attending the old PCS tradeshow and had left my co-worker to go to the hotel to work. My phone rang and through the static I could hear my boss screaming at me in a mixture of chinese and english. I got off the bus at some other hotel to try and get a better signal and then I heard it. Our Chief Scientist had gone to a standards meeting in China and encountered a reporter. The reporter said, I heard your new company is doing well. The Chief Scientist proceeded to tell the reporter in detail the names of all the potential customers we were engaging with and that we had a deal with a major wireless carrier in the US. And the reporter published it. And the screaming began.

My boss called me not to tell me to be prepared in case we were asked about it, but to tell me to call the newspaper and have them print a retraction. I remember the conversation went like this:

Me: So did he actually tell the reporter we have that company as a signed customer?
Boss: Yes he did. But he didn't know the reporter would write about it.
Me: Did the reporter not identify himself? Did he know he was a reporter?
Boss: Yes he did know that. But he didn't know the reporter would write about it.
Me: Was the reporter taking notes while they talked?
Boss: (Background conversation) Yes, he did.
Me: Then there is nothing we can do. The reporter did his job.

And the screaming started again. There was truly nothing that could be done, no trickery was involved, it was just an executive enjoying his moment in the spotlight.

The article published, the customer screamed and walked away from us and life continued. The damage with the customer was done - perhaps if we'd had a deeper relationship or commitment we would have been able to salvage the relationship. I don't doubt that part of it was a language issue but to this day when I work with Executives my first piece of advice is never tell a reporter anything you don't want to see in print.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pitching in 140 Characters

I attended a webinar yesterday morning, albeit briefly because yesterday was meeting marathon day at work. The webinar was about social media and public relations. And for the most part it was directed at people who work for companies but manage the relationship with their Public Relations firm. So parts of the webinar were about how you should be measuring the ROI of PR - a topic I'll discuss some other time - and parts were on how you should be making sure that your PR firm is delivering value to you by being Social Media savvy.

Due to our budget restrictions this year our PR firm is completely focused on doing the promotion of our two major events and the release of our three research reports. So all the pitching that takes place in between and media mangagement is mine to do. And I've stepped up those efforts - contacting key media that we've worked with in the past, tracking blog uptakes and contacting bloggers who write about subjects near and dear to our hearts, keeping track of varioius reporters blogs.

But during the Webinar I heard something that gave me real pause. Some reporters no longer read press releases or their email. They want to be pitched in Twitter. If you can't do your pitch in 140 characters they won't pay attention to you.

My first thought was give me a list. Who are these people and what is their twitter address? And then I realized - I now need to not only find out who these people are, I have to follow them on twitter and then somehow convince them to follow me. AND, I have to take my pitches - which I tend to be able to do in a 5 or 6 line email paragraph down to 140 characters. Now this is a challenge. How do you convey not only who you are but what cool thing you want them to write about in 140 characters?

So I spent some time last night trying to figure out how I would introduce the Anita Borg Institute in 140 characters and then how I would explain our compelling content. One of our upcoming research studies is going to be on Millenials in the Technical Workforce. 33 characters. And I haven't even told you what about Millenials. 10 characters. Is there a new shorter way to say Millenials? Youths? 6 characters but not really appropriate. 20 somethings.12 characters - that's worse. Newcomers. 9 characters - saves 1 character. But now they sound like alien beings from another planet. Newcomers in the Technical Workforce. A new movie from the guy who brought you Alien.

So as Social Media pulls us together and makes connecting easier it also creates new challenges.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NonProfit Marketing: Exchanging Cash for Prizes

As every NPR listener knows, several times a year the station runs a fundraiser. Beloved programs are cut short, you miss chunks of the morning news, Terry Gross doesn't get to say Fresh Air as often as you'd like. I actually enjoy the pledge drive. What creative combination of goodies will KQED offer its listening audience to tempt them to pay in their $12 per month to support the station. And in just two days I've heard several winners that truly have tempted me. Before I go any further know that I do support KQED annually and am the proud owner of a DVD on biking around the Bay Area, would be helpful if I owned a bike, a KQED messenger bag (ordered because I was desperate to find something that my overlarge work laptop would fit into comfortably), a crank emergency radio/flashlight - a lifesaver during last year's 12 hour power outage and best of all a complete DVD set which has every issue of the New Yorker from its founding to 2006. So yes, I'm a marketer who loves NPR and wants to do good - for a price.

So what temptations have been offered this week? On the way home today if I donated I would get coupons for two pies from Whole Foods. Now I'm not sure why these pies are so special except them come from Vermont and have sort of blueberry madness going on in one and three kinds of apples in the other. Not a temptation. There is the mind exercise dvds - 40- 1 hour classes to help train my brain. Somewhat tempting but $30 per month is the required fee and I'm not sure the DVDs wouldn't just sit on my desk waiting for a week when I have all that spare time.

Then there is the one that I just loved. It's a combo gift - all you get delivered to your home is a small tote bag that zips up into a wallet sized item you can carry in your purse. And if you get that bag then 100 lbs of food will be donated in Rwanda by Whole Foods. And how cool is that? I can give cash to help one charity and another charity will also benefit. And to top it all off, if I told them I don't need the tote bag - the money that would have been spent sending me the tote bag would go to the San Francisco Food Bank and it would be enough to buy 180 meals. That's just amazing. I can do a trifecta - do one donation and benefit three charities simultaneously.

So did I give? Not yet. I'm still waiting. KQED tends to escalate the prizes as the drive progresses. What may be on offer on Friday or even next Monday? I can tell you I almost always give on the last day. The endless repetition wears me down and I crack just before the final bell rings.

What would be your idea of the perfect gift item? What would get you to donate?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Movie Marketing: All The Award Shows

Unless you are completely oblivious to the media you know that we are in that crazy time of the year, award show season. Now is the time as we huddle for warmth in our homes (because we've turned down the heat to conserve energy and our dollars) that we settle in and watch all the beautiful people walk the red carpet and receive their awards.

Of course, it's all about marketing. The stars turn out so they can promote their movie which is either in the theatres now or about to come out on DVD. It's all about making money.

Last night's SAG awards was entertaining since it acknowledged not the films themselves (though people did talk about them) but their casts. Mike and I missed the first hour but thoroughly enjoyed watching the second hour. As huge fans of Mad Men we were thrilled to see it win best cast for a TV series - and we totally agree. Of course after the speech we went into a discussion of exactly how long it was until the next season of Mad Men started and would it be adversely impacted if the show creator left and exactly how old are Elizabeth Moss and Fred Armisen and how could they possibly be engaged? In fact I think we missed the next award because I had to go check IMDB for their birthdates.

So do Award Shows work? Do they get us to go to a movie or watch a TV show, or order a DVD? I'll confess - the results are mixed. Mike still can't figure out how Slumdog Millionaire is doing so well (he's seen it and didn't love it) and I'm thinking since it keeps winning perhaps I do need to go see it so I can be prepared for Oscar night. However, I'm still outraged that Gran Torino and Clint Eastwood have been overlooked - so I'm discounting somewhat the award shows intelligence. Sean Penn winning for Milk was understandable since I had seen it - but since Mike remembers it all vividly, since he lived in the Bay Area at the time, he's not as inclined to see it. I will confess - I'm going to have to add that John Adams Series to my Netflix list - with as many wins as it's had it is probably worth my time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My first mentor

One of the things I've struggled with is how to generate a lot of content in a single month. We have a Fast Company Blog that needs to be fed weekly, an ABI Blog that should be fed weekly, a newsletter with 10 articles monthly, plus articles for columns in a variety of publications. So right now I'm implementing themes and this month's theme is Mentoring. Mentors are people who provide you feedback and guidance as you move through your career. Mentors can be long and short term, inside your company and outside, high level or peers. So I've been reflecting on who my mentors have been throughout my career in Marketing and my fondest memory is of my first real mentor.

Her name was Mary Randall. Mary was on vacation when I took my first job out of grad school with the telephone company. She was gone for a whole month which was unheard of to me - but as a 20+ year employee she had the vacation time to do it. When she came back she found me ensconced at her desk since my predecessor steadfastly refused to give up the cube I was supposed to sit in. And while my first boss was a woman known for her yelling and cutting remarks (at least amongst the people unfortunate enough to sit anywhere near her office) Mary was a bastion of calm competence and got me a cube.

So what did Mary, who's job was to manage the white pages and yellow page listings in the phone book teach me about Marketing?

1. To be responsible and make sure the job gets done correctly. Never assume anyone else is going to double and triple check - because often they don't - so it is up to me to make sure that item a and item b are where they are supposed to be. And that is doubly true of vendors - never assume they know what's going on. This is a lesson I'm reminded of whenever I ship something - it is amazing how off track shipments can go.

2. To treat everyone as an equal. I watched a relatively new MBA in marketing talk down to Mary in a meeting one day- and did he ever find out that it was a mistake. She was universally liked and respected and he needed her to get his job done - and since she didn't report to him she made things very difficult simply by being unavailable for his meetings. I finally told him he needed her on his side - in fact you need everyone you can get on your side to make marketing happen. It took a lot of work for him to rebuild that relationship.

3. Work/Life Balance. Mary was the queen of work/life balance. She left each day at 5 p.m. and took a bus home. In the summers she'd drive to Canandaigua Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York, to the campsite where she and her husband parked their RV and kept their boat. Several times I was lucky enough to go along for an evening of cruising the lake in the boat and having a cookout over an open fire. It seemed surreal that she literally got to go on vacation every night. Mary taught me that you need to have that work/life balance so to this day I try to make time for my life no matter how busy I get - even if it's just reading a novel over breakfast or knitting for half an hour before bed.

4. Always do the math. When it came time for Mary to consider retirement she walked me through how she did the math. What did coming to work cost her every day? Once she added up gas, bus fare, work clothes, lunches, coffees, etc she and her husband came to the conclusion that retirement was actually more profitable than working. Years before we'd done a massive financial analysis together and she taught me how to look at the numbers many different ways and with a cynical eye. To this day I look at forecasting differently thanks to Mary.

5. Look for the hidden agenda. It that same financial analysis Mary and I rapidly came to the conclusion that changing yellow page companies would be more costly to our firm than any "new profits" other companies talked to us about could bring. We'd lose money no matter what. We went into the first meeting with our VP loaded with data to explain this. And at the end of our very very thorough presentation he looked us right in the eye and said "wrong answer". And off we skulked. So we started doing some asking around and found out that there were things our CEO wanted that our current company just couldn't do. And even if it cost the company a couple of million we were going to change. And change we did. It was heartwrenching for us and it cost dozens of people their jobs but from that we learned to always try and find a hidden agenda in any executive level project. And to make it happen.

So Mary was my first Mentor and a great one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Marketing of Hope

Today is the inauguration of the 44th President and I will admit - I am a fan. Not only of the man but also of his organization. Barack Obama exemplifies every PR person's dream - an executive who stays on message. And the culmination of this was his inaugural address - he was clear, well spoken (unlike 43 who could seldom do a sentence without hesitation - these translated into pauses for emphasis (and applause) with Obama, and highly impactful. Obama didn't sugar coat anything - he told us we're in trouble, he identified the trouble spots and he said we're going to fix them and go back to being the greatest country in the world. In other worlds he gave us hope. And we love him for it.

While the last administration never could seem to tell us the truth about anything, Obama told it to us straight. And while the last administration violated the constitution you got the sense that Barack would lay down his life to defend it.

So did he sell me, yes absolutely. His 2 year campaign has come to both an end and a new beginning. And now we can only hope that he delivers what he sold us and not vaporware.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finding a Theme

One of my challenges as we kick-off 2009 is the need to create a theme for each month of the year. Last year I felt our newsletter may have become a bit too program heavy and didn't include enough articles. We had our Ask Jo column and each month I was struck by the fact that Ask Jo was the number one click through in our newsletter was Ask Jo. I've seen people blog about the column as well. And this year we have not only two newsletters per month but I am also writing a column for Cobol Magazine on behalf of the institute and we have our Fast Company blog plus the ABI Blog as well. So to get our staff more engaged as well as our advisors I need to create a theme around each month - so that I can go to people and say here are our themes and months - can you write about fear for me in October or Role Models in April?

The hardest part is not finding themes but rather having so many themes and not enough months. A good problem to have.

January was National Mentoring Month so that became our theme. And it's been great - we have multiple Fast Company blog posts on the subject, a newsletter article, the column is done and our ask Jo will include it as well.

Next months' theme - stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Marketing Literacy: The Santa Clara Reads Campaign and 2009 Book of the Year

First off, I'm not sure this is a positive review of the Santa Clara Reads campaign. The only way I found out about it is another member of my book group brought it to my attention. Given that I do most of my newspaper reading on line I tend to see mostly headlines these days, and if something isn't in the top headlines on the Mercury News or Google News sites I may miss it. I was incredibly impressed last night though when I attended a free event at the Heritage Theatre in Campbell CA to see a talk by Brian Copeland, author of the book Not a Genuine Black Man. What a revelation. Brian Copeland now has an avid fan who is ready to read his book, see his play and stream his radio program and, if he does any comedy shows I'll try and go to those as well.

Not a Genuine Black Man is Brian's story of how when he was 8 his mother moved him from Oakland to the suburb San Leandro - a 99.99% white town that had a secret but active conspiracy taking place in the 70's to keep the minorities out of town. Brian shared his thoughts on his life, his writing, his career and politics in a delightful one hour conversation with a Mercury News columnist and won the audience over as fans. He also stayed to sign books after the reading since his arrival had been delayed. His signed book now holds a place of honor in my pile of to be read books and I'm thinking of getting copies for a few people in my family to enjoy.

I am very grateful that my friend invited me to this event, but I worry how I, as an avid reader and marketer, had failed to see any promotion of this event. What am I not reading that caused me to miss this? I use my local library once a week and hadn't seen anything on it. They have my email address but I never saw it. It wasn't in my quarterly newsletter from either Friends of the Library group that I belong to.

So, here's a note to the supporters of literacy here in Santa Clara - reach out to the readers more aggressively. Of course the fact that librarians no longer have to check out books at the library, replaced in that function by scanners, may play a part. They've lost that opportunity to impact what readers are doing because they can no longer say hey did you know about our Santa Clara Reads program? I used to love the librarian I knew in Rochester NY who would scan my pile of books and then tell me other authors to check out.

Who knows, but I'll do my part by recommending everyone I know check out Brian Copelands book, Not a Genuine Black Man.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cross Marketing: How Oprah Does It

Over the holidays I took a big pile of magazines with me to read on the plane. One of them was the January edition of Oprah Magazine, the one where she announced to the world she gained weight. I dismissed her PR onslaught before the holidays- how is it possible to be doing press that you gained weight. First of all 200 is not that huge, talk to women who are 250, 300 and then you're talking big. And second of all, she's so rich it is impossible to feel sorry for her. And then I read the magazine and it turned out she had gained in part due to a thyroid condition that took way too long to diagnose and I became intrigued.

Then I returned to discover all last week that Oprah was making this the Best Life Year and I watched. Yes, I watched all five hours - and it blew my mind. Oprah tied it all together - she did PR, print media, TV shows, webcasts, a website, and yes even a book - and it all works. I'm very impressed - not only is this cross marketing carried to its ultimate conclusion but she's having an impact. Last week Oprah took us through five life areas - weight, health, spirituality, finances and sex and gave people step by step lists of how to improve all of these items. Then this week she did a followup episode yesterday which highlighted the reaction and followed up on each of the days - she got a former Biggest Loser winner who had regained 100 lbs - it was so saddening but yet he talked about how it happens and what to do. She had one of the ministers talk about the reaction to his remarks on being gay is a blessing from god. She interviewed a viewer who took the financial advice from Suzie Orman and saved $675 per month on her mortgage and what she's doing with the money she saved. And she had a couple that implemented one of the sex suggestions - much to the glee of the entire audience - and it revitalized their marriage.

So, I'm impressed. And Oprah was even able to show impact both qualitatively and quantitatively - something marketers often struggle with. Anecdotally she has the testimonials from people who listened and spoke on her show. Quantitatively she showed that the free download of Suzie Orman's new book on the Oprah website - has been downloaded - 1,200,000 times - how amazing is that. It will rocket the book on the bestseller list (possibly - not sure how it counts those) and has given Suzie Orman massive visibility. Will people buy the book? Who knows with all those free downloads but she's now positioned as the guru of finances even more than she was before. And she has received increased goodwill by being able to help people in these dire financial times.

Oprah has webcasts every night this week - which people have to register for - thus giving her a massive worldwide database to use for future events and actions. Hers will probably rival Barack's soon.

In this day and age when television viewing becomes increasingly fragmented Oprah has hit a vein. I would not be surprised to see her ratings surge, her magazine subscriptions and sales surge and the sales of the books she's promoting on her programs soar.

And yes, even though I can be a little cynical on the Best Life spiritual stuff - I did take notes on a few of the programs last week and I'm implementing some of the suggestions from the shows. My favorites are the three from Suzie Orman - Have a day where you spend no money, have a week where you don't use your credit card, and have a month where you don't eat out. I'm on day 3 of don't use your credit card and I've done two no spend days so far. So far so good.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ok, so I'm fickle - my new favorite movie of 2008 - Gran Torino

I know, I know - less than two weeks ago I was raving about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and how great Brad Pitt was. Well I've changed my mind. Mike and I went off yesterday to see Gran Torino - and we both loved it. This in itself is a rarity when you consider that he refuses to see musicals because they're unrealistic and I've now seen Mamma Mia four times,and own both the DVD and the CD. But we did love it. And on a lot of different levels.

The movie opens at the funeral of Walt Kowalski's beloved wife. The pain on Clint Eastwood's face, the rage he feels at the death of his wife and the apparent disrespect of his grandchildren is palpable and breathtaking. Even a shot as siimple as the family lined up in the pew, with Walt putting several feet between himself and his closely clustered sons and daughters in law, tells you how isolated and angry this man has become through this loss. As estranged as he is from his family, Walt has also become estranged from his neighborhood, one of the few remaining old timers on a street of Hmong immigrants and their American born children. And then the trouble starts.

A gang is harassing both the neighbor's son and Walt himself. The son is relatively defenseless but not Walt. He still has his guns from Korea and he knows how to use them. Through one simple act Walt becomes a hero to the Hmong people and to his neighbors who take him under their wing and make him family.

I won't ruin it by saying anymore - everything above is fairly apparent in the TV commercials I saw for this movie. What makes it so great is Clint Eastwood and his face. That is a face that has lived. In an era where movie stars have botoxed every expression off their face (see Nicole Kidman) or distorted themselves with unnecessary plastic surgury (see Meg Ryan if you can bear to look for more than a few secords), Clint Eastwood's face is the most expressive I've seen. He rages, he threatens and on rare occasions he smiles - and it is just mesmerizing. All this is enhanced by a career spanning 50 years - all those times he said go ahead make my day and do you feel lucky are there in the back of your mind. Walt is not someone you screw around with, and everyone knows it.

Now I will warn, his character is a bigot - though one scene does explain that it is a form of masculinity to spout bigoted crap. In fact at one point all I could think is that he is the most loveable bigot since Archie Bunker - the bigot with a heart of gold.

So, I loved this movie. It also spoke to me, I think, because growing up my grandparents lived in the same sort of blue collar neighborhood in Orange New Jersey. Like Walt's neighborhood it gradually changed and devolved into a much more dangerous place with gangs and drug dealers on the corner. I haven't been back to that neighborhood in over 20 years but I got the feeling that I was seeing that old neighborhood while I was watching this movie.

As a footnote - I watched the Golden Globes last night and was horrified to see that Gran Torino was not nominated in any of the major categories. That Clint was excluded and pretty boy Leondardo DiCaprio was nominated was horrifying to me. I'm hoping that much like Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino runs over some of these pretty boys and makes it all the way to the Oscar.

My review: See it, take all your friends to see it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

PR Reps - Observations from the Fringe

While most people watch political scandals unfold with disgust and disbelief, when I talk to some friends who do PR our conversation often turns to what we would do. Take the case of the Governor of Illinois. Why we revile the man and his purported actions we just have to wonder about the poor PR flack who has to sit day after day in briefings attempting to advise someone like this. You often imagine the conversations go something like this:

GOV: Well I'm going to appoint Burris today. Who are they to tell me what to do. They can't stop me.

PR REP: Sir, I'm not sure now is the time to make an appointment. It could cause some problems.

GOV: I don't see any problems.

PR REP: Well sir, I'm sure that people will wonder if he paid you for the appointment. Perhaps it would be best to say just to be sure that no one thinks there's anything shady about the appointment that you have someone else do it.

GOV: But it's my job, I don't see any reason why someone would think he paid.

PR REP: The tapes sire, the ones the Feds have. Those might cause problems.

GOV: No, no, you're wrong.

PR REP: (Eyes rolling to heaven and mentally updating resume). Yes sir.

PR Reps do the best they can with a person they represent, advising more rehearsal time, practice Q&A's, begging them to think before they speak. But ultimately it is always the client's decision in the end what they will say.

In my job I find it much easier since I work on a team where everyone wants things to go off flawlessly. And most of the time they do. So yes, I do like being a PR rep. And I do pity the PR reps of the rich and infamous. Especially the poor soul who is running after Lindsay Lohan begging her not to get behind the wheel and to please for the love of god put on underwear.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Editing the Edits

When doing a newsletter there are two things I've learned are very important - the first is that you definitely need to have a second set of eyes read it and the second is that no two people will edit the same item the same way. Our most recent newsletter was sent for review to 4 people - and everyone came back with completely different edits. One wanted content added, one thought the piece was too long and wanted it shortened, one was horrified at my lack of commas and put more in, the other took commas out.

So my next step is to print all 4 sets of edits and sit down with the original and just make a choice. Do I add a comma or take it out? Do I hunt down new content? What does the overall piece look like? Should I rearrange the articles so they go long, short, long, short? At the end I'm satisfied that we have a newsletter that's informative, well written and relatively free of flaws. I know some who would be horrified at my unwillingness to strive for absolute perfection. But this newsletter goes out on Monday and on Tuesday I'll be asking what should go in the next one.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Generating Content

One of the challenges I face in marketing is generating content. The demand for content is endless. I currently do a newsletter and a call for action every month. Each has roughly 8-10 articles/notices. Then we have a blog that is on our website -which is open to all of our team to post to. We have a Fast Company blog that I edit for its two authors Telle Whitney and Caroline Simard. And we now have a monthly column that will run in And in addition we have press releases, info for the website, and articles that I submit to publications - one was recently published in Positively Magazine.

I look at this list and think yikes quite honestly. But yet we get it done month after month. And the question arises about what do we do for our website and what do we do for other organizations. I've thought on this quite a bit and I realize there is no right answer. My job in Marketing is to raise visibility and facilitate communications with both our existing constituency (hence the newsletter) and the world at large (everything else). So the content that is created goes wherever the need is.

I'm working on a content plan for the year so we can have themes for each month - enabling us to use the research and material already gathered in many ways. Suggestions are always welcome.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Setting Quantitative Marketing Objectives

As I mentioned several posts ago, 2009 has arrived and with it the looming need to figure out exactly what my marketing objectives are this year. For 2008 I had a series of baseline from the previous marketing person. I didn't know enough about what had taken place to know whether these items were going to be easy or hard to accomplish so I settled on increasing most of the baseline numbers by either 25, 50 or 100%. I knew I'd make press release numbers by the very fact that I control how many press releases get set out. So that one I just had to hope there would be enough to write about. There was more than enough so that one was done. With our number of newsletter subscribers making our target got a lot easier when I asked myself how were newsletter subscriptions getting from our website to the newsletter contact system. Answer - they weren't - and immeidately over a 1000 new subscribers went in the system. And now new subscribers register at a rate of 2-3 per day on average which is a great steady stream.

Then I got down to the tricky stuff - how do I get articles placed, convince other websites to link to us and increase media mentions. And there was one simple answer - Research. IN 2008 we published a research study on Technical Women in the Workplace and it took off like a bottlerocket. We got coverage from all the major press and requests came in for interviews and speaking engagements (which continue to today). I strongly recommend research as being key to any non profit's success in advertising. Even if it is internal qualitative research - if you can come up with a few key figures you have something to offer a fact starved media - and they'll cover you for it.

So as I look at my 2009 quantitative objectives I have to wonder - will lightening strike twice. Will our new mini research reports take off like our big one did? And will people keep signing up for the newsletter? And what number should I set as a target because as all sales and marketers know - once you write a number down it can haunt you for a long time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Christmas Movies - A Marketer falls for the hype

Ok I admit it, I'm a movie junkie. I have been since I was a kid and saw my first movie - Mary Poppins. Then two years went by and I got to see Dr. Dolittle. Remember this was the 60's when there weren't new movies opening every week - at least not for kids. As the years have passed I've seen more and more movies - though these days I'm more likely to watch them on Netflix.

But every time I get together with my friend Kathy our first activity is to review all the movies in the newspaper and make our list. What are we going to see? Which movie will make the cut and which one will be left behind, so long The Punisher 2, hello Benjamin Button.

This year we found ourselves stymied - not that many movies we wanted to see. We were not impressed by the overabundance of Nazi/Holocaust movies that came out. I was not impressed by the Valkyrie preview in which I barely kept from yelling at the screen - hey all you Nazi's he's an American, he doesn't have a british accent; I'd read The Reader and knowing the twist (which is apparent to me from about page 20 of the book but takes the author years to figure out) it was not of interest. And while Kathy was enthusiastic about the Boy in the Striped Pajamas - it was only showing at 9:45 p.m. for two days then disappeared altogether - I could not quite bear to spoil the holidays sobbing about a child in a concentration camp.

So after much debate we settled on 4 movies - The Day the Earth Stood Still, Milk, 7 Pounds, and the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I was influenced by all the media hype, the stars and in the case of the Day the Earth Stood Still - great fondness for the original. Here are my reviews:

The Day the Earth Stood Still - Special effects were pretty cool, Keanu Reeves was not good (did he not see the original in which the fabulous Michael Rennie played an alien with charm and charisma?) and I'm sorry but in what universe in Jennifer Connelly qualified to be a scientist. Overall the movie was not good, had plot holes you could drive a truck through and we were very glad we had paid matinee prices. And being a New Jerseyan it was somewhat fun to see New Jersey get destroyed by Aliens as opposed to the long suffering LA, San Francisco and New York. My review - skip it and rent the original.

Milk - was a great movie. Not knowing anything about Harvey Milk I found the movie engrossing. And Sean Penn and James Brolin both did great jobs. I did have to wonder about Harvey's mental processes - you had James Franco and you let him go and ended up with some little crazy person? Not a good move. I have been asked by many why I didn't know about Milk. Having grown up in New Jersey and being a high school student at the time I was fairly sheltered from the happenings on the west coast. My review - see it.

Seven Pounds - ok Kathy was convinced to see it because it was Will Smith and he usually does good movies. He does great action in the summer and in the winter he does his Oscar movies and usually he does a pretty good job. Not this time. What a dreadful movie. You aren't given any context or knowledge of the characters' motivations until the end of the movie, you never really know what 7 pounds is about and I'm sorry but you can't convince me that (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) killing yourself with a jellyfish isn't going to render your internal organs somewhat useless for transplant. It was maudlin and beyond manipulative - you could tell that in the script conference Will Smith was saying they'll be crying here. Well I didn't cry - instead I want our money back. And the 2 hours of my life I spent watching it. My review - Skip it and make sure none of your friends see it either.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - best movie of the year. If it doesn't win the Oscar for Makeup there is no justice. I loved every minute of it - well except for the fact that it was set against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina and an old woman in a hospital narrating. Did the makers not know what happened to some of those old people - I found myself worrying in the scenes with the old woman that she was about to be euthanized. But the movie was so good I didn't fret during the scenes with Brad Pitt. I am dying to know how they got 40 something Brad Pitt to look like 16 something Brad Pitt. In this case the special effects were beyond good. I need those special effects myself. My review - I strongly recommend it.

So where does that leave us? You'd think given that two of the movies bombed and two were great that I'd be less influenced by hype - but no - I'm waiting for Clint Eastwood and Gran Torino this weekend.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A New Year's Resolution

My vacation is over and I look back on it with a great deal of satisfaction. My time in Upstate New York was terrific - we went to movies, shopped, celebrated and generally had a fabulous time. The movie reviews will be in my next post. Then I had 7 whole days at home to do whatever I wanted. And what I did was see friends and get organized. The getting organized is part of my overall New Year's Resolution - to make my life the best it can be in 2009. I realized when I was traveling home that I was both looking forward to seeing my house and dreading it. I knew the chaos that existed throughout the house but I also recognized that I had let things get a bit out of hand. So I spent part of each day organizing, yes those times were often 11 p.m. - 2 a.m. - no clue why - but I did get a lot done. And I felt good about it. There is something about accomplishing a goal that is very satisfying. And I'm looking forward to bringing that same sense of accomplishment to my marketing goals. And my first marketing goal of the year - to write my marketing goals.