Saturday, February 13, 2010

I wrote a love story!

I haven't written many stories in my life and never really bothered to try to publish them. I have short stories, book-length stories, a memoir, and a love story (from a woman's pointof view)! I decided to post them on my website for people who like to read.

As I said above, I wrote a love story and I have posted it as a Valentine gift to my friends and anyone else who wants to read it. If you are interested, go to the book section of my website (Click on the words "love story" in the blurb.)

I hope you enjoy the story, especially those of you who are stuck in the house, unable to move because of the load of snow in Pittsburgh and the Northeast. Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you find love, recognize it and cherish it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm getting my 15 minutes of fame!

I will be interviewed about my free book ("Ask the Right Questions; Get the Right Job") on WPXI's "Our Region's Business" on Sunday at 11a.m. It is rebroadcast on PCNC-TV at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. that day, and 3:30 p.m. on the subsequent Monday, and then two more times on WJAC-TV (Johnstown – Altoona) at 6 a.m. and WTOV-TV (Wheeling – Steubenville) at 6:30 a.m. It constitutes my 15 minutes of fame!

I have been interviewed on television before (and on the radio and in newspapers). When I was a PR guy and handled news media relations, I often appeared on newscasts answering questions and providing some flak for my employers. That was often uncomfortable.

But this time, I had fun! Bill Flanagan is a great host. And, I had once invited him to lecture my marketing class (years ago), so we knew each other a little. In any event, the six minutes I appeared on his program flew by in a heartbeat. I felt full of enthusiasm, I knew my subject, I was energized and only a wee bit nervous.

So, we'll see if I do well. What is well? I'd say: at ease, knowledgeable, coherent, animated, audience-focused, articulate, confident. That's a tough yardstick to measure against and I'm likely to be my own worst critic. If you watch it, let me know how you think I measure up!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How did you hear about the snow?

This past week has seen a lot of snow in Pittsburgh. That snow has caused a lot of headaches and will likely cause more (think about that ice in your downspouts that may pull pull away from your house)!

Be that as it may, we all heard, in one way or another, that the BIG snowfall was coming. I'm curious about how you learned about the impending snow storm and how you managed to communicate with others about it.

Were you listening to the radio? How about TV? Get any text messages? Phone calls? As a communication professional, I'm curious to know what media attracted and connected with you and where they may have failed.

Were you half way to work or school before you knew those places were closed? How did you get your updates? How do you think we could have communicated better?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You don't have time.

According to a recent study, you are processing 100,500 words per day. These words come in the form of 171 e-mails (the average for business people each day), 3000 commercial messages, 1000 blog posts per minute and messages on clothing, toilet stalls and human skin, among other places.

You don't have the time (or, as the techies say, the "bandwidth") to process all of that information. So, you avoid, or ignore, most of it. That which you avoid is academic, bureaucratic and legalistic, but also, clever.

What are the clever messages? I saw the following messages this afternoon as I looked out the bus window on my ride home on the 54C:

"Everyday people need food every day" Get it?! These are everyday people. (Remember Sly and the Family Stone? They had a hit with everyday people.) Anyway, everyday people need food every day. Does that make you want to run to the Food Bank? How about this:

"Pittsburgh is not just our hometown; it's our only town". Does that make you want to run to Allegheny Valley Bank? No? Gee, they're only in Pittsburgh. How about this bank:

"Creativity. You deserve that from your bank." Really? I'd like a higher interest rate on my savings or access to a lower mortgage rate. Creativity I can do without. If I were First Niagra, I'd want creativity from my ad agency. (PNC doesn't do much better with this gem: "More green practice today; more green trees tomorrow". Does that make you want to bank there? Green trees? Are they after a younger demographic? Do younger demographics worry about trees more than us old folks? Or, is the bank trying some subliminal thing with "green". If only it were true.)

Whatever the answers, people (young or old) have no time and no energy to figure out clever advertising messages, especially when the messages are placed on billboards that drivers pass by at 55 mph (at the slowest). People want benefits. They are selfish and ruled by this acronym "WIIFM", what's in it for me? You better tell them quickly; they have lots of YouTube videos to watch and Facebook messages to post.

Do you want your message to sink in? Make it direct and simple, not too clever. Follow the lead of (I know, you'll scoff), Attorney Edgar Snyder who says on his busboard, "Injured? Free legal help". It was placed at a bus stop outside West Penn Hospital! That message gets through to a qualified audience in hyperspeed. Or, use the Pep Boys approach: "4th Tire Free". Or, this message: "We cash all tax checks". Or this for a cold Pittsburger: "Heater Sale."

Those messages lack "creativity" you'll say. I say, no one has time for creative. Competition is at an all time high for every business. People have little disposable income. They are using coupons at an all time high. Buyers are looking for words like, "Sale", "Save" and "BOGO".

Every so often, a smart creative type combines simple with creative as when Volkswagen's agency created the "Think small" campaign. Or, when McDonald's told tired overworked customers, "You deserve a break today." But, those combinations of simple and creative are few and far between.

If you want to connect with a potential customer, spend your promotion dollars wisely. Be direct with him or her. State the benefit quickly. Use an action verb. Use the word "you". Be conversational. Don't use the Qdoba approach and ask, "What are you going to love at Qdoba?" The customers may not be able to think of an answer. (BTW, have you ever seen a worse name, "Qdoba"? Much evidence suggests that simple names make successful products and services, but that for a later post. Right now, you don't have the time.)