Direct Mail Win

November 30, 2010

by Dan Ward

Allow me to follow my partner Kim’s “Promotional Fail” post with a direct mail WIN.

We all get plenty of junk mail with envelopes that encourage us to “open now for important information.” For most of us, that language says “don’t open me. I’m junk mail and offer nothing of importance.”

So kudos to the folks at Discover, who sent a promotional mailing with a unique message FROM the envelope itself.

Front: “OPEN ME. Seriously, I can’t open myself. I don’t have hands, because I’m an envelope.”

Back: “Enough with the lollygagging … OPEN ME ALREADY! I may be a lowly Business Envelope, but I have important stuff to do.”

No, I didn’t sign up for a Discover card, but I did open the envelope and read the offer inside. My guess is this humorous mailing will have a higher open rate than normal, and might drive higher conversion as well. A little creativity goes a long way.

Promotional Fail

November 29, 2010

by Kim Taylor

I recently attended a one-day conference for business leaders and entrepreneurs.  Like at many conferences of its kind, attendees received a number of promotional items like notepads, totes, etc.  But, my favorite item of all was this handy erasable pen provided by Bright House Networks.

Cool, right?  I remember thinking I hadn’t seen an erasable pen in ages, and who couldn’t use something that gives free reign over writing mistakes?

One problem:  the pen didn’t actually erase … not even a tiny bit.  It left me scratching my head.  Was this emblematic of Bright House’s Business Solutions?  Were they trying to be ironic?  Or was this just one big promotional fail?

While you’re contemplating an answer, does anyone have a pencil I can borrow?

Death Certificate

November 19, 2010

by Roger Pynn

As if we needed proof that journalism is on its deathbed, this National Public Radio Talk of the Nation segment with host Neal Conan interviewing Ted Koppel and media critic Jeff Jarvis is as close as you’ll get to a death certificate.

If you’re going to read the whole transcript, or listen to the entire 30-minute conversation, strap yourself in.  Jarvis, who just happens to also be an associate professor of “Interactive Journalism” at City University of New York, will explain to you that the standard now is not objectivity, but rather transparency.

Conan is interviewing Koppel, the former managing editor of ABC News “Nightline” about a Washington Post op-ed piece criticizing television news, in which Koppel all but laughed at Keith Olbermann’s brief suspension from MSNBC for having made political contributions in violation of NBC News policy.

Jarvis, who claims to teach something he calls “entrepreneurial journalism,” thinks it is not only acceptable for Olbermann to make political contributions but that by knowing where a reporter stands makes it easier to evaluate what they write.

This fellow is teaching students who are, down the road, very likely going to be the people who deliver information to us all … and they will no doubt call it news and refer to themselves as journalists.

Digital Generation Gap

November 17, 2010

by Roger Pynn

OK.  So I’m in my 60s and I’m a dinosaur, but I like to think I’m fairly savvy when it comes to using digital technology to communicate.

Yes, I text.  No, it is not my preferred form of sharing.

Yes, I have an active Facebook account.  I enjoy it.  It helps me observe what friends are doing.

Yes, I use Twitter.  It intrigues me how much you can learn from such short bursts of thought … but it will never replace my appreciation for well-written memos.

I steadily follow hundreds of people and subscribe to RSS feeds of thought leaders I’ve grown to respect with no exposure to them other than their digital footprint.

And, yes, I answer my phone.  I find it easy to have a single conversation rather than responding via the keypad on my iPhone to numerous questions posed in stand-alone context.

If Mark Zuckerberg has his way, however, I and a lot of other folks may be in for a lonely life.  Facebook is rolling out a new messaging system that may just force us to gobble up our information bit-by-text-messaged-bit. Zuckerberg told that he asked high schoolers what e-mail services they used … but what about my generation?

I realize the future will be different but the here-and-now is important, too.

While I enjoy the continuous feed of Facebook that lets me scroll back and find out what my peeps have been doing, I fear the intent of  Facebook’s business plan is to drive us all to share everything via one viral platform instead of through good old-fashioned one-on-one communication.  Then there’s Apple’s Mobile Me, which clearly hopes I’ll link every digital device and file I have via one single post office in the sky.  Kind of scary, but then again you can reach me at, so perhaps I’ve already succumbed.

Anyone seen my buddy Tyrannosaurus Rex?  Please pass the Grecian Formula.

Its That Prufreeding Thyme Agin

November 16, 2010

by Dan Ward

Now that copy editors have gone the way of the Dodo bird, I find myself reminiscing about college proofreading exercises every time I read a news story.

No, I’m not picking on my hometown paper (again). It seems like any news article I read, in print or online, contains more and more mistakes.

I realize that there are fewer people to edit copy nowadays, but proofreading and editing should be the job of everyone in the news business (and in any communications field).

Each grammatical error, each spelling mistake, each missing word kicks the reader out of the story. You find yourself focusing on the writer rather than the subject matter he or she is trying to describe.

Proofreading is so important to us that we often have applicants complete a proofreading exercise during interviews. From now on, we might just hand them a red pen and a newspaper.

Beyond Dumb

November 11, 2010

by Roger Pynn

Kudos to my alma mater the University of Central Florida (also a client) and business professor Richard Quinn who have stood tall and tough in the face of a cheating incident.  As ABC’s Good Morning America pointed out, UCF is nationally known for stopping cheaters utilizing monitoring technologies to help honest students prevail.

Then there’s Konstantin Ravvin, the young man quoted in the GMA story, who I’ll wager will one day wish he’d never offered his opinion.  In this age of digital footprints, his comment that “everyone cheats in life” could very well become a permanent stain on his resume.

Fortunately, his suggestion that you’d be “hard pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn’t cheated on the exam” was dashed by student Alan Blanchard who told ABC “we don’t need unethical people going into the business world, obviously.  I’m sure there’s enough of them out there.”

Given a hiring opportunity, which one do you think you’d hire?

Deadly Spin? How About Deadly Generalization?

November 9, 2010

by Dan Ward

Consider this installment No. 112,637 in the ongoing series, “We’re Not All PR Flacks.”

Kate Pickert’s Time Magazine review of the Wendell Potter book, Deadly Spin, is the latest example of a writer lumping all PR people together.

“Great p.r. flacks are as talented with misdirection as they are with the truth,” writes Pickert, to which one might respond, “great journalist hacks are liberal elitists who write opinion pieces disguised as objective news.”

Neither statement is true.  Each is a gross misrepresentation, using the faults of a few to disparage the many.

Ms. Pickert, you might see Potter’s book as “a gripping indictment of … corporate p.r. pros everywhere,” but a statement like that is similar to touting the misleading studies of which you accuse p.r. pros.  One man’s experience is rather insufficient evidence of industry-wide malfeasance, don’t you think?

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