Archive for August, 2010

Moes Takes: Communicating with Compelling Language III

outside the boxHere’s my third crack at Moes Takes, which last ran in February.

As a refresher, I worked with Rob Moes who was VP of marketing for Philips in the mid-1980s. During an interview at COMDEX, a reporter pressed Moes for projections on how many CD-ROM drives would be sold looking out five years. Rob responded “That’s like asking Mrs. Magellan how many lunches to pack.”

That’s why I call these fresh quotes culled from recent publications “Moes Takes.”

Round III:

“I never say we are turning the corner because it seems to me that if you turn the corner four times, you’re back to where you started.”

Sunil Gulati, President of the United States Soccer Federation
American Soccer is Hitting the Right Notes
The New York Times (August 12, 2010)

It was clever the way Mr. Gulati put his high school geometry to work to figure this one out.

Dulled-down version:

“In the sports community, one never wants to be satisfied. There’s always room for improvement.”

I thought it would be fun to periodically dip into the archives, so this one rewinds the tape to 2005:

“The problem is at some point I do need to make money. I have enough traffic and enough money from Google ads to pay the bills but the profits are just enough to buy me a carton of cigarettes.”

Om Malik, Founder of GigaOm
Are Blogs Ready For the Big Time?
Financial Post (July 9, 2005)

This is classic Om, with a remark that is textured in the mode of Salinger.

He tells the world, the hell with convention, I’m going to smoke. But scrutinizing the quote more deeply, he calls out the quantity as a “carton,” not a pack, sending a message that he’s doing fine, thank you very much.

Dulled-down version:

“Everyone needs money to pay the bills. Thankfully, the revenue from Google ads achieves this objective, allowing me to eat, pay the rent and even indulge in a smartphone.”

Next up:

“The fish don’t vote.”

Edward M. Stern, President of PowerBridge
Underwater Cable an Alternative to Electrical Towers
The New York Times (March 16, 2010)

I love this quote. Very Chicago-ish.

When questioned why lay cable in the Hudson River instead of on land, he makes it clear the demands of the fish constituency are far less than human beings.

Dulled-down version:

“Today’s taxpayers do not want cabling infrastructure near their homes, a problem that disappears when the cabling is placed in rivers and the ocean.”

Keeping with the political theme, we captured this final quote:

“We have to put an end to this. The public should not have to mortgage their houses for a soft drink and a snack [at movie theatres].”

Carmel Shama, Lukid Party Politician
MK Plans Popcorn Law For Movie Munchers
AFP Wire Service (April 2, 2010)

You can never go wrong with hyperbole.

But note that the hyperbole must work within a geographic context.

For example, this quote wouldn’t make sense in places like Stockton, California, where a box of Dots has held its value better than the housing market.

Dulled-down version:

“As the voice of the people, elected officials have a responsibility to cap the price of a soda and popcorn at movie theaters. People shouldn’t have to spend large sums of money for this pleasure.”

I’m always on the lookout for compelling quotes. If one catches your attention, please e-mail it to me at

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Behind The LinkedIn Curtain (From A Communications Perspective)

linked in logoWe host outside speakers as part of our “Lunch Bucket” program.

Yesterday’s headliner was LinkedIn.

Specifically, Mario Sundar, who heads social media for LinkedIn, and Jose Mallabo, an ex-Hoffmanite and now director of international PR for LinkedIn, shared a look at the platform with communicators in mind.

Many tend to think of LinkedIn as “Facebook for recruiting,” but the platform belongs in the communicator’s mix when it comes to building a company brand and public profile. I know from our own experiences, the simple act of pulling our SlideShare presentations into employee LinkedIn profiles generates ongoing views of these slide decks.

Jose and Mario covered a lot of ground, pointing out that communicators should treat their executive profiles on LinkedIn with the same attention as the ones on their corporate website. Unless you happen to be in the Larry Ellison category (my words, not from Mario or Jose), a search on an executive’s name will typically turn up his or her LinkedIn profile before the company website page on the management team.

Thank goodness this isn’t an issue for Mr. Ellison’s name since his profile on LinkedIn is, how can I put this delicately … “lacking.” No description of the company or his role with the company in the profile and a whopping 31 connections. Larry needs to start networking at some of those Mashable mixers. 

Here’s another tidbit that I found particularly interesting.

Have you noticed that articles on companies increasingly include comments from ex-employees?

The Pro version allows anyone to see the names of all employees who have recently departed a given company. If you happen to be a journalist, finding this type of resource through LinkedIn is considerably easier than rooting your way through a rolodex the old-fashion way.

For a large company or a company that tends to attract the public spotlight, it probably behooves you to consider this element in the transition process for departing employees.

Thanks to attending paparazzi, (no doubt hoping for that one shot of Steve Farnsworth or Dan Holden but to no avail), we can share photos of the event.

linked in session
Mario reminds the crowd that this last piece of information was not tweetable.

linkedin session
Tough to see in this shot, but that’s Jose commanding the room from behind the laptop.


GE Video Transforms The Dull Into Corporate Storytelling

GE logo storytelling

No one would mistake conducting an energy audit as a glamorous activity.

That’s why GE’s approach to telling this story caught my attention.

As part of its Ecomagination campaign, GE has conducted 200+ energy audits at its own facilities and at customer sites.

But they don’t call them energy audits.

Instead, the company packages the exercises as “Treasure Hunts.”

Yes, it’s a bit corny, but applying the words “Treasure Hunt” to energy audits brings a sense of discovery. Plus, they give CEO Jeffrey Immelt a nice icebreaker when he’s checking on Universal Studios and runs into Johnny Depp.

I also like the videos they’ve produced on these Treasure Hunts which naturally include Universal Studios.

Excellent levity comes in at the 50-second mark when the GE guy asks “What’s the name of this area we’re in?”

Response from Universal Studios person:

“Ahh, the kitchen.”

As they would say on the basketball court, “Face!”

A second video focuses on a GE healthcare plant in Wisconsin:

While I could have done without the intro narration on “swashbuckling exploits,” again a piece of levity humanizes the video when one of the inspectors sarcastically notes:

“This is one of the best-lit bathrooms I’ve ever seen.”

Not Letterman-grade dialog, but this type of vignette usually ends up on the cutting room floor when producing a company video.

Which brings me to a final point.

You can make good videos without an exorbitant production budget. You’re not shooting for the Sundance Film Festival.

Instead, the idea is to offer the viewer a short - no more than 3 minutes, and 2 minutes is even better – window into a given topic.

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One Hint From These Men May Be the Turning Point In Your Life!

popular mechanics cover may 1916I know I said advertising gets narrative but this falls under the extreme category.

Cruising through the May 1916 edition of Popular Mechanics, I came across the ad headline:

One Hint From These Men May Be the Turning Point in your Life!

Lest you feel a “carny” come-on, the copy strives to establish credibility from the get go:

Suppose men like Wilson, Rockefeller, Carnegie and Hill called on you, in your own home and confided to you the innermost secrets to their success!

This isn’t Michael Jordan hocking underwear. We’re talking the great minds of the era like Rockefeller and Carnegie paying you a virtual house call.

And what’s with the exclamation point?

The copy continues:

Suppose they stood at your side, constantly guiding you — could you possibly fail to get the things you want most in life? Well, that is what these men do for you through the Master Workers’ Book, written by them for your guidance.

Not even conversational language can save this story.

Now comes the game-changing benefit:

It is like a personal and permanent visit from them, full of ideas, plans and methods from cover to cover — and if you get only ONE HINT (all upper caps in the ad) from them it may change your entire life — may mean greater success for you than you even dreamed possible.

Very shrewd to address a person’s “entire life” as opposed to a person’s “life,” lest he or she feel short-sheeted.

But my favorite is how they package the value proposition.

As separate volumes, the four books which make up The Master Workers’ Book, sold for $6; but the recent strides in bookmaking have enabled us to put these four books into one splendid volume which we are able to give you for the cost of postage with a year’s subscription to World’s Work ($3), the one magazine which every ambitious person owes it to himself to read.

This is a version of the sales pitch to subscribe to Sports Illustrated and get the DVD of how the swimsuit issue was made at no additional charge … operators are standing by.

And while I’m impressed with their advances in bookmaking, I can’t help but wonder if an outsourced manufacturing model to Southeast Asia might have pummeled the price down to $1.50.

But here’s the real mystery in the ad that we’ll never know.

What are Wilson and Rockefeller and Carnegie and whatshisname doing schilling a self-help book for the proletarian? This would be like Warren Buffet morphing into Danny Bonaduce to sell stock tips on late night cable.

I guess finesse didn’t factor into ad storytelling in 1916.

popular mechanics ad 1916

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Why Would The New York Times Pay Attention To A Funding Announcement

david goliath story businessEven though the flow of venture capital has slowed to a trickle, the act of securing money still typically rates nothing more than a yawn.

The media just doesn’t care about funding news.

So why would The New York Times devote 1,064 words to a startup banking $48 million to design chips for computer servers?

The funding news was the door-opener to a bigger story.

You can never go wrong with the classic David versus Goliath, particularly if the Goliath happens to be the largest semiconductor maker in the universe.

But it gets better.

Intel’s arch nemesis ARM has invested in Smooth-Stone (get it, David’s weapon of choice) as has that favorite rich uncle in Abu Dhabi, Advanced Technology Investment Company. Hopefully, they didn’t pay Landor for that “clever” name.

And all investors along with Smooth-Stone are focused on a singular task that has become a big damn deal to computing heavyweights Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.: lowering the energy consumption of data centers.

That’s a good story and Times reporter Ashlee Vance knows how to piece together compelling narrartives framed in tech.

There’s another reason why The New York Times gave Smooth-Stone such play.

The paper enjoyed an exclusive, essentially breaking the story in print when the official news release went out the door on Monday and going live with the online version on Sunday.

While my forensic skills leave much to be desired – can’t even figure out who took my Red Vines in a household of five – it appears that The Wall Street Journal saw the NYT piece and got cracking on Sunday with a story of their own that got posted online on Sunday evening.

Journal reporter Don Clark managed to track down the Smooth-Stone CEO, but the chat was short:

Mr. Evans declined to discuss the 20-employee company’s technology in detail or when it might deliver products. “We are innovating to make products that are appropriate for the server space,” he said.

The exclusive with The New York Times essentially put a gag order on Smooth-Stone execs talking to the media until Monday morning, hence the “declined to discuss.”

Determined to find something fresh not in The Times, Clark did squeeze a vanilla quote out of ATIC’s PR guy Brian Lott (previously worked at Burson Marsteller).

The Journal story closes with the stoic line:

Smooth-Stone’s funding was reported earlier by The New York Times.
I suspect that brought a smirk to Mr. Vance’s face.

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