Archive for July, 2011

Disconnect Between What Chief Marketing Officers Want In An Agency And What They Evaluate

As shared time and time again, I’m a fan of visual communications and particularly infographics.

So it should come as no surprise that I like the infographic created by the Horn Group called “What CMOs Want in an Agency” which you can see below.

what cmos want

One piece of data caught my attention.

When asked what is the most important factor in hiring an agency, CMOs pointed to “able to execute” as the top criterion.

Really? The ability to execute?

If that’s true, there’s a disconnect in how CMOs evaluate PR agencies.

Steve Tobak, who’s served as CMO for a number of tech companies (led Cyrix’s legendary tussle with Intel), and now pens a leadership blog for BNET, equates hiring an agency to hiring a key executive:

If your goals, spec, and process are amorphous or misaligned, that’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t care how smart or savvy you are, if you wing it, the results are likely to be just as random. The worst part is then you get to do it all over again. That’s painful for the whole company and bound to royally piss off your CEO. 


Drilling down into the details, the typical agency review - answer questions in an RFP followed by a 90-minute presentation – does not exactly scrutinize an agency’s ability to execute.

In fact, I think the vast majority of CMOs and decision-makers view ability to execute as a commodity which “every agency can do.”

Which brings me back to the review process and how else to explain the absence of probing the implementation side.

Selfishly, this one has always frustrated me because I view one of our greatest strengths as our ability to effectively execute month after month after month.

Any agency drawing breath can put forth an impressive case study or two.

At the very least, a review should correlate the case studies with the people who will make up their account team. Just because Mike, Robbie and Chip demonstrated incredible acuity on the WikiFace launch doesn’t mean Keith, Laurie and Danny will bring this same “game” to the table. 

Better yet, ask for a quarter’s worth of status reports from clients currently supported by members of the proposed account team. (Yes, the agency will need to get permission from clients, but older stuff shouldn’t be a problem.)

I think such an approach would reduce the divorce rate. 

Elvis has now left the soapbox.

P.S. Under the category of cheap parlor tricks, this post alludes to two popular TV shows in their day. First person to post a comment identifying the two shows will have a 20-buck Starbucks gift card coming his or her way.


Telling A Story Nobody Cares About

I’ve pointed out that advertising gets narrative.

That’s why when an ad badly misses the market – like the country of Georgia touting its corruption ranking - I tend to notice.

So it is with this ad from Oklahoma City that appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

okc ad

Out of all of Oklahoma City’s assets that might appeal to the business community, they chose to sell a “fast commute.”

To borrow from Curly in “City Slickers,” is this really THE ONE THING to move the perception of a business exec to the “I’m-intrigued” category?

I don’t think so.

What causes people to care about your story?

It has relevance.

It teaches.

It elicits empathy.

Or it amuses or even entertains.

To call “three interstates meet plus more high-speed urban loops” amusing would seem to be a stretch.

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Friday Levity: “So Why Should We Invest in Your Startup?”

I’ve established a new feature called “Friday Levity.”

Humor enhances business storytelling.

Jargon kills business storytelling.

Kenn Durrence passed along today’s ditty which comes from a site that specializes in comic strips, Abstruce Goose.



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Deeper Look At The Viral Video, “The Power Of Words”

Words matter.

To be more specific, our choice of words goes a long way in determining the perception of others (just ask Netflix).

This concept beautifully comes to life in the video, “The Power of Words.”

Andrea Gardner, who heads the online marketing firm Purplefeather based in London, created the video.

Her sense of storytelling immediately comes through in the “About” section on the firm’s website:

I was working for a large newspaper group and contemplating a complete career change in the year 2000 when I decided to test this ‘law of attraction’ that I’d been reading about. So I visualised the most improbable item I could think of – a purple feather – and set the challenge that if it showed up in my life within a week, I would start my own copywriting business.

Exactly a week later, just as I’d dismissed it all as new age bunkum, I looked across the room to see the exact replica of the purple feather I’d visualised, balanced on the windowsill! After I started breathing again …

Andrea was good enough to answer a few questions on storytelling and “The Power of Words” video.

andrea gardnerQ: I really enjoyed the “Why Purplefeather?” section on your website. Did you find it difficult to share such a personal story? Did you have any concerns about potential clients who shy away from the metaphysical?

A: Thanks and yes it took a lot of mmm-ing and ahh-ing before reaching the conclusion that if I wanted to create a business that was in alignment with my personal values where we operate honestly, honourably and effectively, I was going to have to “walk my talk’. Many people have commented favourably on this page and it doesn’t seem to have deterred clients from more traditional commercial backgrounds.

Q: How do you get your clients to buy into a storytelling approach to communications? Or is it a self-selecting process in which prospects who already believe in storytelling gravitate to Purplefeather?

A: The ‘Power of Words’ video is also used as our commercial pitch so once people have seen that they are more curious about our approach. We encourage clients to turn their marketing process inside out and focus on why they’re in business and how that inspires the way they are making a difference rather than looking at their products/services and USPs. It’s more of a values-driven approach and helps them distil their unique message more effectively.

Q: Tell me a little about the genesis for the “Power of Words” video. Was this a story that had been percolating in your mind for some time? Did you storyboard the video?

A: ‘The Power of Words’ was not our original idea; it has been around for many years in various forms. We’ve always credited Alonso Alverez Barreda who created ‘The Story of a Sign’ on which it was based, however we were very conscious that it could be dramatically shortened and repurposed for the web. We originally intended to use it to promote my book ‘Change Your Words, Change Your World’ – which is entirely original and will be published in April 2012 – but when we trialled it at a business presentation, every one of the delegates had an emotional reaction and we recognised it conveyed Purplefeather’s values perfectly.

Q: Did you know the video was powerful and would touch people before it went live?

A: Yes. However we were very surprised and delighted by the response because it sat for just over a year on YouTube without very many views.

Q: What do you say to prospects who come to you asking for a video that will generate 10 million views on YouTube?

A: I don’t believe anyone has the ultimate solution when it comes to viral marketing because much depends on the timeliness of the message and we’re all still on a learning curve. However there are some tips which can help create the conditions where uptake is more likely. Namely:

  • Keep it short. Under 2 minutes if possible.
  • Every scene/word has to earn its living online. Edit hard!
  • Appeal to people’s emotions – humour and conscience work well. Emotive music helps too.
  • For an international audience keep verbal communication to a minimum.

Thank you, Andrea.

We’ll be looking for your book in 2012.

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Seth Godin’s Take on Public Relations

How can you not like a guy who puts in his official bio:

As an entrepreneur, he has founded dozens of companies, most of which failed.

Seth Godin brings many dimensions to the marketing discipline not the least being levity.

A believer in the art of storytelling, he penned the book “All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World.”

storytelling techniques from Seth Godin

In fact, one of his blog posts from 2009 zeroed in on the intersection of storytelling and public relations.
I connected with Seth last week who was kind enough to give me the OK to dust off the post and republish.

The difference between PR and publicity

By Seth Godin

Most PR firms do publicity, not PR.

Publicity is the act of getting ink. Publicity is getting unpaid media to pay attention, write you up, point to you, run a picture, make a commotion. Sometimes publicity is helpful, and good publicity is always good for your ego.

But it’s not PR.

PR is the strategic crafting of your story. It’s the focused examination of your interactions and tactics and products and pricing that, when combined, determine what and how people talk about you.

Regis McKenna was great at PR. Yes, he got Steve Jobs and the Mac on the cover of more than 30 magazines in the year it launched. That was just publicity. The real insight was crafting the story of the Mac (and yes, the story of Steve Jobs).

If you send out a boring press release, your publicity effort will probably fail, but your PR already has.

A publicity firm will tell you stories of how they got a client ink. A PR firm will talk about storytelling and being remarkable and spreading the word. They might even suggest you don’t bother getting ink or issuing press releases.

Well put.

Here’s one more point.

Sure, you can apply storytelling techniques to a news release.

But I would argue that great storytelling doesn’t easily scale.

How many times can Steve Job’s attention to minutia and black mock turtleneck carry the narrative?

Instead, finding and developing stories should be a never-ending process.


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