Category Archives: We Dislike

DIY PR? Not when success is crucial

Can the average entrepreneur just starting a new enterprise serve virtually every business function — CEO, bookkeeper, secretary and PR person? The president of a Chicago-based boutique PR firm seems to think so.

In a recent column, she posits that DIY PR makes good business sense for a young start-up company. Money is likely tight, so handle the job yourself and reduce costs, she tells entrepreneurs. She is right about immediate money savings, but I have serious questions about the longer-term results.

Granted, I’m in the PR business and like to think that most of my industry colleagues and I can do a much better job than someone not trained to handle the media and other aspects of the job.

The column’s author suggests that the entrepreneur can better target his or her market than a PR firm that simply blasts press releases to a multitude of editors and bloggers. Maybe that’s the way her firm handles PR, but that’s not the norm for a professional, experienced agency.

Rather than approach 500 potential media outlets, she counsels entrepreneurs to spend time targeting the top 10 to 25. That’s good advice and something any reputable PR firm would do as well.

Once targets are identified, she suggests the entrepreneur take just 2-3 hours a week to develop a media list, write a press release, pitch the media and follow up. For someone not trained in PR to accomplish that much in three hours would be virtually impossible. Most PR professionals would be hard pressed to condense that much work into such a short time.

Then when the media comes calling, she tells the entrepreneur to drop everything to meet the reporters’ schedules. Forget about that meeting with your investors for the next round of capital.

In my 20+ career, I’ve worked with a number of start-ups and have been willing to work for less with the idea that the retainer will grow as I help the business mature and develop. There are many other PR professionals willing to do the same. I have more than one story where my partner and I have helped a start-up business make contacts with more and bigger investors because of a favorable article in a local newspaper, TV station or trade journal. I think we more than earned our money.

The idea that PR can be handled by anyone is ridiculous. The vast majority of PR people are trained professionals that can bring about results — most often for a reasonable fee. Would our Chicago PR person also suggest that an entrepreneur serve as his or her own DIY attorney or tax accountant?

I doubt it. It’s time that PR practitioners stand up and demand to be treated with the same dignity and respect as other trained professional service providers. We deserve it. We’ve worked hard and proven ourselves time and again. We allow our clients to do what they do best — run their businesses without having to worry about PR.

Ideas such as DIY PR are great for the PTA. Let’s keep them there.

— JD

Twitter: @jdaum


Let Me Weigh In on This


It’s amazing all the great new ideas really bright people keep coming up with to integrate social media into more aspects of our lives. Then there are some others that give me pause.

I just read about two new bathroom scales that will give you your weight and body mass index (your body-fat percentage) and offer other useful features such as keeping track of your daily weigh-ins on your computer or smartphone. So far so good.  But here’s the deal breaker for me — both have Wi-Fi capability that allows them to also post the results on your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts.

I don’t want my friends and business associates seeing that I didn’t resist those three huge meatballs with my spaghetti last night. And I think they don’t really care to watch me seesaw up (mostly) and down (occasionally) in the never-ending battle to maintain my weight. Public humiliation may work for some people, but not for me. My embarrassment will only cause me to eat more.

I’m not even sure even my immediate family members need to know what I weigh. Aren’t there still a few things about our bodies that we should only disclose to our doctors? How much of our private lives are we willing to share with close friends and passing acquaintances?

Nice try guys, but I’ll settle for a scale that keeps my weight private.

– JD

Follow me on Twitter @jdaum

Shock Marketing – Some Brands Will Do Anything to Go Viral

Shock jocks have been around for a while — disc jockeys or radio personalities that will say outrageous and offensive things to keep people tantalized and tuned in.  We see the same type of antics with the upcoming election.  Rush Limbaugh said some things on air that had people outraged and advertisers pulling commercials and sponsorships.

Sometimes these things are said to spread beyond the audience at hand by making headlines.  It follows the thinking that all attention (even very bad attention) is good and that there is no such thing as bad publicity as long as they get the name right.   And maybe they’re right.  Limbaugh had a good share of the media cycle and held the spotlight for the better part of a week.  Most advertising analysts predict that his advertisers will slink away until the attention dies down and then quietly return.

We are seeing the same type of behavior with certain companies and brands.  The brass ring in this case is going viral and some companies will say almost anything to get there.

Take Belvedere vodka.  The company recently ran an ad showing a women looking distressed as she is trying to get away from a man. The man appears to be pulling her towards him.  The copy under the graphic reads “Unlike some people: Belvedere always goes down smoothly.” It was obviously a blatant reference to a woman being force to perform oral sex and it was extremely offensive as is always the case when making light of rape.  It didn’t take long for people to express outrage and exclaim that they were disgusted and that Belvedere would never, ever pass their lips in this lifetime.

Belvedere's fail ad campaign

Of course, as these things go, Belvedere pulled the ad – but not until it had already reached the pinnacle of marketing nirvana – it went viral.  We all know that once an ad has gone viral it is impossible to “pull.”  It will live on in the webosphere for eternity and not only will it live on, it will take on a life of its own.

Of course, the vodka maker has said mea culpa and also given a “generous donation” to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.  The cynic in me has to believe that Belvedere’s marketing team is not comprised of a bunch of dumb bunnies (I may be giving them too much credit here). So, I can only surmise that this was all part of the plan.  Even the resulting lawsuit by the actress in the photo feels staged.  She is claiming that Belvedere used her image without permission and that the ad publicly humiliates her and gives the false impression that she approves of it.

I have seen a number of viral ad campaigns that have been edgy, funny and effective.  This wasn’t one of them.  Still, breaking through the advertising clutter that comes at us from all sides isn’t easy and I believe we haven’t seen the last of shock marketing or shockvertising.  Here is one of my favorite viral ads.  Please feel free to share one of yours.

Spamming your customers is a great way to lose them

Image courtesy:

I will never buy a Lint Lizard, a Magic Jack, a Pimsleur language program or Orgreenic Cookware.  If, like me, you have an email address that has been around for a while and has also been listed as a contact on a website, you probably can make the connection between these brands.  The marketers behind these products all use email to sell them.  And by “use” email – I mean USE email.  They are spammers by any other name and I don’t just get one or two emails a day.  I get 10 to 20 or more a day from some of these brands.

I know there are spam blockers to take care of overzealous e-mailers, but they aren’t perfect and all too often I have had them snag important email from clients or trusted vendors.  I can take care of most of my spam on my PC by marking it as spam and having it sent straight to my junk email box.   But, when it comes to my iPhone, it’s another story.  I have to delete each piece of spam by hand.  Most iPhone users can empathize with the frustration I feel as I wade through 200 plus emails, weeding out the spam just to get to the 10 emails I need to review – a process repeated several times through the day.

I realize there isn’t much I can do to stem the tide of unwanted advertising.  I can’t get on a “do not email” list (although there is a germ of an idea here) and trying to unsubscribe doesn’t seem to help at all.  But, there is one thing that I can do.  One way that I can show my disgust for this annoying marketing tactic – and that is to never (I mean never) buy one of these products.  The Lint Lizard could be the most amazing household tool ever invented, but I will not purchase one.  I would rather have lint flowing out of my house to the point that it looks like a giant Q-tip before I give these email vultures my business.

So does spam sell products or “unsell” them as it has with me?  A recent article in The Consumerist supports my case.  It highlights how some retailers are realizing that when it comes to promotional emails, less is more.  Responsible retailers such as Nicole Miller have found that going from sending out three email ads a week to one has decreased its unsubscribe rate and increased its open rate from 15 to 40 percent.  The company has also seen the percentage of online sales that began with an email grow from 10 to 17 percent.

I know why the marketers of Lint Lizard and Orgreenic Cookware do what they do.  They do it for one simple reason – it works.  They obviously get enough people to buy their products by sending out a deluge of email each day.  This week they are selling cookware and lint cleaners and next week it will be another hot product overwhelming my inbox with offers.  They are looking for a quick sale, not long-term customers. Most (smart) companies realize that current customers are like gold and running them off is a serious mistake.

If you are sending regular email to your customers it might be time to review your process.  Ask yourself: are you really targeting your email blasts – that is sending your customers email that provides them with valuable offers or information?  And do you have an easy way of letting customers opt out of promotional emails?

Reviewing your marketing email practices could help you prevent turning existing customers into “non-customers.”  I just hope that Nordstrom doesn’t turn to email spam as a selling tool – I would hate to have to give up my shoe addiction.

– Cindy

A Social Media Story To Kill For

The uses for social media never seem to end — or amaze me. Here’s a good example from Facebook.

Recently, an ex-girlfriend of a Philadelphia man – and the father of her one-year-old son – posted this on her Facebook wall:

“I will pay somebody a stack to kill my baby father.”

One would-be hit man quickly responded to the woman – also on Facebook – saying he’d take the job and claimed “ima mop that bull.”

Fortunately, the intended target saw the posts and called Philadelphia police. Detectives quickly arrested the woman and gunman-for-hire. The pair face charges ranging from attempted murder to solicitation to commit murder. They could both be looking at long prison stays.

The police urged citizens to be careful about posting on social media websites — especially if they are upset at the time.

Good advice.


Twitter: @jdaum

Put Down The Phone

Forgive me, this may not be focused on social media, but I need to rant.

I recently read a column about mobile phone etiquette. It offered good advice, such as not sending or reading text messages while with another person, avoiding long voice messages and dropping the “lap reading” of email or Twitter feeds (there, I brought this back to social media).

What really got to me was a response from “Paul,” who seems to think he can hold a conversation, reply to an email and consider important company business all at the same time. Anyone with him at the time should feel lucky to have one-third of his attention.

Let’s get real.

The human mind — at least mine — can‘t do justice to a conversation, an email and a business problem at the same time. Jumping from task to task is a prerequisite of today’s busy world. But to take on three important tasks simultaneously? Can’t be done.

And what’s wrong with occasionally turning off the ringer and letting voice, email and Facebook posts (social media again) collect while truly paying attention to what another human being has to say?

But if I had to have a lunch meeting with Paul, maybe I’d leave my ringer on and check email, too. What do you think?

– JD