Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Honk if you're human!

I read a great short piece in Wired this month by Josh McHugh based on Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us).

The book basically argues that our traffic problems are a microcosm of the inefficiencies that rule our behavior. He suggests that, for example, data packets have little difficulty maneuvering their complex highway. Why? Because they operate out of interest for the entire system. In Vanderbilt's words, "The fundamental problem is that you've got drivers who make user-optimal rather than system-optimal decisions."

Of special interest, he says the drivers who speed down the merging lane and duck in at the last second are actually helping the overall efficiency of traffic. So next time someone cuts you off from the merging lane, give them a smile and a thumbs-up instead of the finger.

This thought made me consider the little inefficiencies that can keep me short of my best.

What do you think of Vanderbilt's metaphor?

Photo Gracias: Nrbelex.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The only object in life is to grow.

"Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow." - Margaret Fuller

Every once in a while, I come across a quote that I can't let go of. Such is the case with the above quote from Margaret Fuller, a writer from the early 1800's. It's not hard to apply this thought to your own life, as this simple thought can take on various meanings.
I think this quote is very applicable to social media in PR/Communications. When discussed, many people regard the social media phenomenon as a passing fad or worse, a trivial waste of time. The early adopters are upset because they can't exactly explain why this new world is so important for others to discover. I offer this simple plea to those who are still skeptical - social media is personal growth.
For me, every step of the way has been very challenging and very exciting. Sure, it's fun to tell your friends that you have a blog - but guess what? It's hard work. It requires a shift in your thinking and the way you process information. But, for me as a writer at heart, it has been a wonderful revelation. Also, when I worked for a newspaper, I felt very constrained by style and editors - but there's no editor in the blog world. Your readers decide if they like your style and content.
I've also ventured into other avenues, including social bookmarking(Delicious, Digg), network creation/management(Ning), microblogging(Twitter,Plurk), social media aggregation (FriendFeed) and unique animals like Jott and Mosio, to name a few. Each adventure has been just that, and each has exposed me to a world of new people and new ideas that I never would have been exposed to under normal circumstances.
So, dear reader. Why do you read books? Why do you have dinner with interesting friends? Why do you go to professional conferences? Why do you engage with the arts? You do all of these things to learn, and to grow. So, if you're not out there, get out there. If you are, you have one more reason to give those who doubt the value of this new medium.

Photo Gracias: Christopher Robin Baker.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Business, Casual, Success.

You can learn a lot from a t-shirt company - Threadless. At first glance, Threadless appears to be like any other hip t-shirt company, but look deeper. This once-small company has ridden their innovative customer strategies all the way to the bank. There's a great article in this month's Inc. going into more depth about Threadless.
Here's the business model, quick-and-dirty like: graphic designers submit t-shirt designs, users vote on designs they like, "winning" designs get produced, graphic designer makes money and gets a couple free shirts. And, oh yeah, Threadless cashes in too.
Companies are beginning to get the concept that loyal customers are as good or better than a robust R&D department. That said, many are not good at harnessing their customers innovations after asking for them. It's more about PR, and less about real innovation.
Why are everyone from corporate executives to MIT professors paying attention? Here's why Threadless is so special:
1. They pay attention to the attitudes and needs of their customers. The customers are a large part of the reason Threadless has refused to market in large department stores.
2. The experience of their site is as important as the product being sold. In other words, the active Threadless community is a world unto itself - as if t-shirt sales are secondary.
3. They took the idea of graphic designers sharing quirky, fun or artsy designs in an open environment and made it marketable. The sad truth is many talented individuals are using their skills for corporations, or worse, totally shelving their skills. Threadless has become somewhat of an "open mic night" for graphic designers.
What other great examples have you seen of customer-based R&D?

Thanks to trickyech for the photo.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Terry Morawski

Email me: terrymorawski[at]gmail.com

Terry Morawski is a PR/Communications professional with over 10 years of experience.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Old School Efficiency.

Over the last few weeks, I've been stewing on Old PR vs. New PR. A major concept that needs to be reviewed, unless you're already "over it," is that of efficiency in PR.
In old PRthink, standard strategy was picking the collateral item/event/outlet/etc. that would hit the most people. In this way of thinking, here's a sample - 1. People drive cars 2. People watch the Super Bowl 3. Spend millions on a whiz-bang commercial for the big game 4. Said car company crushes the competition. Oops, you had me until 4.
So, where does this thinking go wrong? The world has changed. Markets are micro. Consumers expect to be catered to as individuals. How does this apply to my company? My bosses still sweat over column inches? I'm a non-profit and I am the marketing/PR dept?
Refocusing to this laser method, as opposed to the shotgun PR style, is tough. Chances are that the shotgun method saw some results. But...the laser method has amazing potential. If you're still not sure about all this, answer this question - would you rather have 500 Superfans of your company, or 3000 people who get your newsletter?
(A big nod to Jake McKee for getting me going in this direction.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Have we forgotten strategy?

Credit for launching this thought today goes completely to Geoff Livingston and his post.
Have we, as PR practitioners and communicators, become too focused on all the cool new tools available to us and forgotten the original mission? Perhaps, but I'll give us a little credit here. There is a sea of tools available out there, and very little public understanding of what they are or why they exist. The digital divide also weighs very heavily into this problem. I'd suspect that you could convince a senior citizen to pick up a Wii controller much easier than opening a Facebook account, for example. I hear the "that stuff is just not for my age group" comment more than I would like. The ugly secret is that "they" would love this stuff if they could get over the initial hump of adoption.
Secondly, I had a friend in my band in high school that used to joke about any topic that came up, "Hey, why don't we write a song about that?" In PR, sometimes we use the same thinking related to writing press releases or mailing newsletters, for instance. In a later post, I'll mention why we need to get in touch with our inner four-year-old and ask "why" more. Why a newsletter? Why a press release? Why a blog? Why? Why? Why?