Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Customer relationships: Before and after…

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Cathy Sierra has a great post about how companies treat customers before and after they buy their products or services. She compares that to a relationship.

…too many companies are all candle-lit dinners, fine wine, and "let’s talk about you"
until the deal is sealed. Once they have you (i.e. you became a paying
customer), you realize you got a bait-and-switch relationship.

This is such a big bowl of wrong. I don’t understand this in personal relationships, and I don’t understand it in business-to-customer relationships. Shouldn’t you treat the people you’re in a relationship with better than you treat anyone else? Shouldn’t you treat your existing customers better than the ones who’ve given you nothing?

The contrast between the pictures of glossy brochures and boring B&W manuals speaks volumes about the priorities in companies ‘customer relationships’. My understanding of why sales and support are so different is that companies are under constant pressure to maintain the rate of revenue increase, quarter by quarter. It’s the equivalent of scoring one extra date each week… :)

So sales are about growth and support is about cost. Neither of them focuses on the customer. That is why CRM is a joke and Project VRM  is where I am looking for an alternative.

Piracy – market’s way of giving movie industry a finger?

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An industry that treats its markets as enemies and abuses customers is in trouble.

Piracy2

hattip: Head Lemur

Listenomics

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Bob Garfield is off again. In a good way. I may not be sure about ‘listenomics’, but if that’s what it takes to make people to think about what’s happening, so be it.

…the information society is reversing flow. What began as an
experiment among a few software nerds has, thanks to the Internet,
expanded into other disciplines, notably media and law. But it won’t
stop there. Advertising. Branding. Distribution. Consumer research.
Product development. Manufacturing. They will all be turned upside down
as the despotism of the executive suite gives way to the will, and
wisdom, of the masses in a new commercial and cultural epoch, namely:
The Open Source Revolution.

Yeah, yeah. Sure. Linux. Zzzzz. Wikipedia. Zzzzz. Blogging.
Podcasting. RSS feeds. Zzzzzzzzzzzz. This cultish open-source stuff is
undeniably a snooze — a handful of evangelistic cybergeeks yammering
on till little beads of white goo form at the corners of their mouths,
as you struggle to remain conscious. If you can’t get jazzed by "Open
Source Revolution," fine. Maybe you prefer "Reverse Flow Economy," or
"Listenomics." Whatever. Any which way, the herd will be heard. And,
any which way, it is underway.

There is some very good stuff on who owns what when it comes to ‘brand equity’. Sums up the reasons why Open Source rocks. :)

And a worthy contribution to my crusade on advertising:


If the conversation is dominated by consumers themselves, and they’re
paying scant attention to the self-interested blather of the marketer,
who needs ads — offline, online or otherwise? This raises the question
of what agencies are left to do.

Maybe the answer is obvious: to manage, focus, exploit, maybe
even co-opt the open conversation. The real question may be whether the
agency world is culturally equipped for the task.

So nice to see it spelled out in an AdAge article.

 

 

Good news on the climate front

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The green fanatics have been running the debate for decades now so perhaps it is time to hear
some scientific basis for their intrusive and reactionary measures.

Claude Allegre, one of France’s leading socialists and among her most
celebrated scientists, was among the first to sound the alarm about the
dangers of global warming.
To his surprise, the many climate models and studies failed dismally in
establishing a man-made cause of catastrophic global warming.
Meanwhile, increasing evidence indicates that most of the warming comes
of natural phenomena.

Dr. Allegre now sees global warming as over-hyped
and an environmental concern of second rank.
Dr. Allegre is perhaps best known for his research on the structural
and geochemical evolution of the Earth’s crust and the creation of its
mountains, explaining both the title of his article in l’ Express and
his revulsion at the nihilistic nature of the climate research debate.

The nihilistic nature of the climate research debate – spot on! What frightens me about the environmentalists is that they recommend restricting ourselves back to stone age. Instead of harnessing innovation and searching for alternatives, the doomsday scenarios is what it is all about. Coupled with the urge to dictate what the rest of us should do, we have a long-term restriction on the very things that drives innovation – clear understanding of the problem, redundancy and waste (yes, that too is necessary for change), experimentation and focus on the demand, not just on restricting the supply.

In June, I will be attending the Apeldoorn conference in the Hague. This year the focus is on sustainability – the conference title is Facing up to Reality: Choices for a Sustainable World. Well, you can guess what my contribution is going to be… I am looking forward to making the point for redundancy and playful experimentation by the markets. Otherwise, sustainability is nothing but another word for rationing progress.

thanks to Jackie for a hat tip.

Social media is a buzzword – reason #148. Oh and press release is dead

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Stowe Boyd on ‘new media press release’ (for the record, I find the idea of social /new media press release laughable):

To the participants: Please, please, please don’t talk about audiences
when you are theoretically promoting social media. As Jay Rosen has
suggested, we are the people formerly known as the audience. Blogging
is not just another channel for corporate marketing types to push their
messages to markets, eyballs, or audiences. Social media is based on
the dynamic of a many-to-many dialogue between people. Yes, people:
that’s the word that should have been used. Not audience. If you’d like
to make a distinction between a company and those outside the company,
just remember: they are not an audience for your messages, any more
than you are an audience for theirs… Companies don’t blog, or converse: people do.

Indeed, something that corporate communications doesn’t understand – if you want to communicate with individuals you can only do that as individuals not as a collective entity. So spare us the pretence and put real people behind (or in front of) ‘corporate communications’. That way you kill two birds with one stone – get through to other individuals who just might care about what you have to say and give your employees the visibility and recognition they deserve. To that effect, I say to any senior executive who finds that his company’s employees are also blogging – lucky you, you have real people lending their voice to the company that lost its own somewhere between the management and your comms department.

Incidentally, I know the people on the panel and have had conversations or arguments at some point with most of them. Stowe puts it well and the only thing I would add is that PR is dead as in the era of distributed communications I cannot see its role. Press release is a relic of another age characterised by channel scarcity and corporate bullshit. So I cannot but agree with Stowe and Scoble on this:

I could similarly howl about the disembodied third-person voice of
press releases, which also does not translate into social media.
Everything is written by someone, or a specific group of people, but
press releases read like the stone tablets that Moses brought down from
Mount Sinai: written by the omniscient hand of God. Likewise the
excessive hyperbole and surfeit of superlatives of press releases is
distasteful at the least, and demeaning at the most.

and

Various comments made to my complaints about the gradual change going
on in the world of PR make my head hurt. It’s bullshit. And it’s
painful to see leading lights in the new PR era acting as apologists
for large, slow-moving, risk averse companies who continue to get it
wrong.

Amen to that.

As for press releases a good start would be to stop pretending that any self-respecting journalist is going to use the carefully crafted writing, the chiselled meaning and empty style. The only practical use of a press release is facts, so let’s cut the crap and have a list of bullet points about what happened or supporting information to those who will be doing their own commentary anyway. I always say, the blander a press release, the easier it is for the journos to put their own spin on it. The more explanation and transparent causality is contained in any communication, the harder it is to spin it around someone else’s agenda.

To change the ingrained corporate comms and PR habits is possible. The tools are simple, communication is natural. The processes and
systems can be serious bottlenecks, I admit, but never has been an
alternative to entrenched methods so easy to see and apply.

For those interested, Stowe has a follow up post addressing all the responses to the one I am quoting above. I read them all, not much that would interest me. Seems like PR echo chamber and a lot of vested interests by various people who threw their lots in with social media. There is a fundamental shift under way, re audiences -> users -> people kind and that’s is far more important to me than some PR flack’s desperation to save their skin (and business models).

Switch of the TV and do stuff

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Doc Searls on building a community:

The first is to stop watching so much television.
Community builds around communication (which it would have to, just to
function), and communication in its most fundamental form — conversation — is
two-way. TV is one-way. It is about consumption, not production. I’m not saying
TV is Bad here. I am saying that it is too often a bad substitute for productive
activity. For communities, it is more solvent than
glue.

The second is, build stuff. I’ve been amazed lately
at the growing difference between conferences and workshops. Conferences are
like television: everybody in the "audience" faces speakers and panels that
comprise the conference’s "program". In workshops, everybody participates. They
get together in rooms and around tables and talk about common interests with
purposes in mind. Progress usually happens. Stuff moves forward. It’s amazing
how well this works.

Doc is right. On the first point, I stopped watching TV a few years back soon after I started blogging on Samizdata.net. These days when I switch it on for whatever reason, it feels oddly one-way and restrictive. You can’t choose what and when you are watching something you are interested in, the controls are pathetic compared to what I am used to online. I know, I know, it’s a different ‘medium’, apart from the fact that the internet is no medium.

On the second point, I hate conferences. I have done my fair share of PowerPoint presentations, panels and keynotes and have resented the format the moment I cracked it. These days, I do workshops that I design based on my experience and client’s ideas. With laptops so everyone can play with the tools and see for themselves what I am talking about. And a good chunk of the time is devoted to people talking among themselves, exchanging opinions and experiences, answering each other questions. I find this the most valuable part of any workshop as people leave fired up and knowing they are not the only ones understanding what’s going on.

These days I don’t worry so much about concepts (although that’s what drives me still). I can always write them down in a book/blog/paper but getting people do stuff is the best thing anyone can do right now.

Rachmaninov had big Hands

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via Alec

Passion misplaced or companies as user interfaces

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Kathy Sierra on ‘employee motivation’:

People ask me, "How can I get our employees to be passionate about the company?" Wrong question. Passion for our employer, manager, current job? Irrelevant. Passion for our profession
and the kind of work we do? Crucial. If I own company FOO, I don’t need
employees with a passion for FOO. I want those with a passion for the
work they’re doing. The company should behave just like a good user
interface —
support people in doing what they’re trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way… the best company is one in which the employees are so engaged in their work that the company fades into the background.

Amen, sister.

Companies should be environments providing infrastructure, support and resources for people to create, share and distribute. Not pushing passion, peddling team spirit and spreading the brand lingo all over the place. People do this much better for themselves, thank you very much. It’s autonomy, stupid.

Kathy has more on the difference between passion for employer, vs. passion for work… .

Passionate about the company:

* The ultimate team player who goes along with the group rather than voice dissent
* Works late nights and weekends because "everyone needs to pitch in on this project"
* Defends the company to anyone, anywhere that criticizes or questions its products, policies, or practices
* Puts responsibility to employer above responsibility to customers, without question
* Questions, but does not challenge the status quo
* Is well-liked because they do whatever is asked, enthusiastically
* Accepts (and uses) phrases like, "this is what corporate needs us to do."
* Cares a lot about his career path in the company; focused on getting management recognition.

Passionate about the work:

* Scores well on the 4-question test:
   - keeps up with trade/professional journals
   - knows who the key people in the industry are
   - would spend his own money, if necessary, for better tools
   - if they were NOT doing this as their job, they would still do something related to it as a hobby

 

Big media vs big online

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People often say that YouTube and other video platforms would not survive without all that stolen content that was produced elsewhere at great cost. This always sounded strange to me because I usually go to YouTube and Google Video to watch films individuals produce – the horribly-termed user generated content or the more dire consumer generated content. I do occasionally watch ‘big media content’ but it’s the vloggers who keep me coming back. It appears this is the case for most of the YouTube audience…

…YouTube, which some have suggested would
be in trouble if more media companies followed Viacom’s lead and
demanded for videos to be taken down, may actually not be as dependent
on mainstream media as previously thought.

"One thing that is
quite remarkable is that people tend to be looking for consumer
generated content more than actual TV content on YouTube" (Bill
Tancer, general manager of global research for Hitwise.)

The rest of the article sounds like a kind talking to a terminally ill patient – don’t worry Mr Media Industry, it’s not all that bad, you have survived this far, just hang on, you’ll get there in the end…

Souls in peril

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Doc Searls on souls of companies:

Companies have souls. They have human purposes that transcend mere
economics. These purposes have little to do with short-term
opportunities, and nothing to do with cashing out or starting another
business.

and on ‘relationships-by-surveys’:

I suggest that any company that relates to its
customers only through surveys, or seeks constantly to minimize and
aggregate contact with customers and users has a soul in peril, if it
has one at all. (I got two survey calls from the same company today,
and up until then I thought I had a personal relationship with it.)

What does that make companies that relate to their employees only through surveys and emails? Soulless places to work…

 

The secret is out!

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On trying to reach a human being at Google:

As far as I can tell, it is impossible. After
hours of nasty interaction with the pool of receptionists, I was
finally told to send an e-mail to receptionist-45@google.com, with the
subject line ‘cloud’ for some reason, and explain the situation. I did
so. That was last week. Still no reply, and the problem still plagues
us.

Google doesn’t actually employ any people, all ‘employees’ are virtualised, but with really user-friendly interfaces. Just don’t try to talk to them…

If it is not the case, this is not a good sign… I recall Doc Searls talking about Google with its internal blogs as ‘breathing its own fumes’. How very apt. 

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