Marketing Communications

Happy New Year!!! Here is wishing you much happiness, success and conversation for 2009.

2008 was an interesting year, to say the least. While it is still an evolving and unpredictable area, online media was certainly a large part of our world in 2008. We have watched online/social media grow in acceptance and popularity. More and more clients wanted to include online media as a component of their overall communication strategy. Many of our clients increased their use of social or online media and found success in doing so. We also found that we were awarded contracts because of our blended approach – ensuring that the use of social media works alongside traditional communication and that no matter what tools we use, that everything we do is strategic.

With the current economic climate, there are challenges ahead for communicators. Budgets are being cut or, at the least, not being expanded. There is a growing demand for more than “average” return-on-investment from communication departments. This is an area where social/online media can make a positive and strong impact. It is cost-effective, the results are measurable and it can be implemented reasonably quickly and easily adjusted to meet the response of the community. It does take a shift in thinking from the senior team. There is still planning and understanding your audience. You have to make the effort to find out how your community would best like to communicate, but the result is often amazing. We have several clients that were a little hesitant to adopt an online/social media outreach and now, with several successes under their belts, they are embracing it and showcasing themselves as leaders in their industries.

The world is changing and social/online media are a big part of it. Even with the challenges we are facing, there are great opportunities for communicators to help our clients and our organizations to reach out and create meaningful conversations with stakeholders, to extend our communities and to take positive steps toward a better future.


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Well, the blog post below “The Big Three Don’t Get Social Media” certainly got some attention. Creating respectful, authentic discussion is what social media is all about and, with a couple of exceptions, it seems that this is what is happening here.

Not everyone posted what they do for a living, but it is interesting to note that most of the comments here come from those involved in online/social media and/or the auto industry. Scott Monty of Ford posted and he also mentioned this post on Twitter, which sent several more people over. I did find it interesting that, at times, the thread on Twitter got a little personal. Rather than agree or disagree with my comments, the conversation focused on my using WordPress, how long it took for responses to be uploaded (yes, this is a moderated blog), and how many followers I have on Twitter. I am not sure how relevant to the conversation those points are. To me, that seems a little like saying I don’t like your shoes, so I am not going to have a conversation with you.

I want to clarify that this post was not a personal attack on Scott or any other communicator that works in the industry – in-house or as a consultant or contractor. That wasn’t my intent and I sincerely apologize if that’s how it came across. Communicators don’t have easy jobs and I think it’s great that Scott is on Twitter and on blogs.  And Jim is right, they deserve credit for “playing in the sandbox.”

Having said that, in my opinion, I don’t think that they really get it. Several posts here told me where I can find GM and Ford – on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs. With the risk of raising the wrath of these good folks again…just because you have a frying pan doesn’t make you a chef. I think we all have a lot to learn – including from each other.

My initial post focused on trying to find information on the bailout.  I wanted to see what was being said out there and what the car companies were doing. I took off my communicator’s hat and I did a basic search, not an in-depth search.  I work in communications and understand how to do a thorough search, but what I did for this was a search that someone who isn’t immersed online might undertake. And I couldn’t find any information.

What I find interesting is that a great many of the people that took the time to respond, came to inform me, correct me or take a little shot at me, but no one asked me anything. There was an opportunity here to perhaps identify and deal with a weakness in how people are finding the information that the automakers would like to share. I think that some of the people who responded were so busy defending their position that actively listening took a backseat.

There are a lot of people that want to know more about what is going on with the Big Three than what we read, see or hear in mainstream media. We want to hear from the people that lead the automakers and that work there. If the only website I found is, my perception would be that I was being “talked at” not “with.” Perhaps there was an opportunity to put some links on the website to Scott on Twitter or other blogs or online venues where I could voice my opinion.

I don’t know the business objectives or the strategy behind that particular site, so I am making some assumptions. The average person doesn’t know, and probably doesn’t care, about the strategy. They want information and for their concerns to be heard. No matter what organization you work with, as communicators, these are the people that it’s important to speak to.

I certainly learned a great deal from this conversation. I would be interested to hear what others think.

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Motrin and their ad agency Taxi have had their hands smacked pretty hard online recently over an online ad about Motrin and moms. There is some discussion online how the anti-ad campaign spread so quickly – and Twitter is getting some of the credit. Someone has also put up a video on YouTube that shows how mad the mommies are.

Ad Age has a good article on the issue and so does A-list blogger and social media guru Shel Holtz. They both have a bit of a different take on it. Ad Age talks about the power of Twitter and Shel looks more into the fact with online or social media, people that are passionate about a topic will find the time to be involved. Shel’s post is more about how we manage all of this information using the Motrin ad as an example. It’s definitely worth a read.

I think that each of the opinions of those listed above help to bring context to this story. Jennifer nails it when she says that Taxi, the US-based ad agency that produced this ad didn’t understand the market and maybe that is because after all, it’s only an online ad. Shel Holtz gives a whole different perspective and he made me think as well. And as for AD Age, they put this issue into context by talking about Twitter. While I am sure that Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Motrin, aren’t too happy about how quickly a story can spread online, the fact is, smart, engaged people now have the opportunity to weigh in and show us different angles. Professional journalists, bloggers and, in this case, moms have helped people all over the world to see a different side to this story.

The one thing everyone seems to have in common is that this ad insulted the target market (and I looked around, so if anyone can let me know if there are some people standing up for the ad – I would be interested to hear about it!).

As an organization, Johnson & Johnson is facing a strong consumer backlash and while it was bred online, it has gone mainstream. That’s not good for the company or the brand.  Online media now plays a strong role in the reputation of your organization, and it should be recognized and acknowledged. Online media is evolving and shifting how we live in our world, and more and more it impacts our professional lives.


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The Vancouver Sun held a live Webcast with editor-in-chief Patricia Graham yesterday. It was an interesting thing for the Sun to do. Traditionally media has talked  “at” us – and while the Sun has been good about cautiously jumping into the interactive/online media trend, this Webcast is a step further into reaching out to their readers.

The topic of the Webcast was the new format of the Sun. And, as you might expect, there were definitely a few people who didn’t like the change. Graham handled herself well – she came across as authentic, caring and real.  It’s often easy to think of the person that runs the Sun as off in some big office, barking orders, bossing reporters around, making lots of money, and not really giving a stink about the people out there reading the paper. For those few minutes, Graham dispelled that myth and gave us a peek into the person who is at the head of the line, when it comes to bringing us our news.

There were a few technical glitches, but overall – it was a good first effort and when it comes to interactive media online, the production value is nowhere near as important as the content and the connection.   The technology might get a C+, but Graham gets an A in my book.

Of course, this kind of thing being my profession and my passion, I have a few things I might do differently.  I would have had a few shots of the newsroom or even a short video clip of what it’s like at the Sun that viewers could click on. It would have been nice to see what goes on in there. We’re all curious.

When I went back to find a link to share the Webcast with you, I couldn’t find one. Now, that might be because I am posting early today and my coffee hasn’t hit my bloodstream yet and I just couldn’t find it … or maybe they aren’t going to let people who weren’t a part of it view the Webcast.  I think it would have been good to let others who might not have known about the Webcast or couldn’t make it, view it on their time.

Overall, I think they did a good job.  And I think that the people at The Sun are getting it. They are seeing that the world has changed and are evolving to meet our needs. It will be interesting to see what the next Webcast is and where Graham takes the Sun interactively. 


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Seth Godin is a genius. While some might label Seth a marketer, I am not sure that’s the right title. He is definitely a communicator and he understands social media. And by that I don’t mean the technology, but the foundation of it, the passion, the heart, the art …the listening, the collaboration. He just gets it. 

Here is a great example of reaching out and creating an exceptional brand experience. Seth’s new book Tribes just went on sale. All of the people that pre-ordered his book, received an advance copy last week and Seth asked them to give the copy they bought to someone that might like it. Nice touch, and it shows how well he understands his people.

Along with that, for .95 cents, yep less than $1.00 (U.S.), you can buy an MP3 download of the book – 3 hours and 43 minutes of it, narrated by Seth. (Go to iTunes and search Seth Godin.)

He goes even one step farther though – which is what we have come to expect from Seth. On his blog, he reached out to his “tribe” and asked them to write an e-book. You can download it for free – and it’s substantial – more than 240 pages.

Seth took what could have been a great thing for him and turned it around so we all felt a part of it. He made us truly feel like a part of his tribe.



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