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January 5, 2010

CBS Dumps Reporter for Actor: No News Here

Filed under: Entertainment,Television — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 4:00 pm
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In yet another attempt to propel CBS News into oblivion, the once-great network has replaced the legendary voice of Walter Cronkite with that of actor Morgan Freeman.

Freeman is a terrific actor.  He has a wonderful, sonorous voice that’s a pleasure to listen to.

But he’s an actor. He’s not a newsman — much less a legendary newsman.

What CBS has tossed away casually is brand identity, something enormously difficult to build and near impossible to recapture, once lost.  CBS News’s brand identity once rested on credibility, which is what Cronkite delivered to his audience.  Cronkite did this so well that he ultimately transcended his day job, becoming  an emblem of serious, credible reporting.  Try as they might, no other network has produced a broadcast news person of equal stature and influence.  Cronkite set not the gold but the platinum standard for the business, endowing CBS News with a reputation other networks could only envy.

Rather than continue to exploit this amazing asset, however, CBS leadership has tossed it aside, like yesterday’s newspaper.

That they’ve replaced the voice of a reporter — someone who investigates events and crafts their presentation — with the voice of an actor — someone who reads  whatever script is handed him — summarizes nicely what’s gone amuk at CBS, and why audiences are turning elsewhere for information.


January 4, 2010

Does “Teach For America” Turn People Off to Volunteering?

According to this New York Times report, participation in the Teach for America program, which places gifted teachers in some of the nation’s worst schools, apparently leads to diminished rather than enhanced civic involvement.  Stanford University sociologists Doug McAdam and Cynthia Brandt have concluded that  “[i]n areas like voting, charitable giving and civic engagement, graduates of the program lag behind those who were accepted but declined and those who dropped out before completing their two years.”

What’s surprising is that anyone expected that young teachers passionate about teaching children in desperate need of a good education would end up diffusing that passion among a panoply of other worthy causes.  Teach for America teachers have been successful precisely because they focus all their energy and passion on achieving specific, measurable goals in the context to which they’ve devoted themselves, rather than trying to engage in every kind of service possible.

For an example of a man who did a deliciously fresh, innovative take on educating the underprivileged, consider my friend Robert Egger, the founder of the D.C. Central Kitchen, recently named one of Oprah’s Angels.  Using entrepreneurial savvy, Robert turned a soup kitchen into from a place to get handouts into an educational center in which unemployed people lacking job skills learned to become excellent, employable cooks.  Here’s a shameless plug for Robert’s book, Begging for Change.

Bill Salvin, on the TSA’s Failed Attempt at Crisis Communications

Filed under: Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 4:43 pm
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In his post “What the Underwear Bomber Can Teach TSA Administrators” at  View from the Bridge, Bill Salvin of Signal Bridge Communications explains why the standard PR template for dealing with a crisis didn’t work for the TSA.

When the Underwear Bomber tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253 Christmas Day, the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) scrambled to put new security measures in place to protect the flying public.  TSA issued a security directive t airlines within hours of the bombing, but there was intense confusion because TSA didn’t communicate anything of substance publicly following the incident.

Read the remainder of Bill’s blog post here.

December 21, 2009

Garrison Keillor’s Apologists

Filed under: Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 3:03 pm
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You wouldn’t believe the nastygrams I’m getting from Keillor’s apologists, who think it’s perfectly fine to publish a column in the  Baltimore Sun excoriating “Jewish guys” for writing

“all those lousy holiday songs . . .  that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck.  Did one of our guys write ‘Grab your loafers, coma along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah’?”

Then, again, those who write nastygrams would tend to defend a fellow generator of nastiness, wouldn’t they?

Responses that politely disagree with my position will be posted.  Nasty responses — go post to Garrison Keillor’s blog, where nastiness is welcome.

December 20, 2009

Marketing Evil: Why My Kid Won’t Be Wearing Adidas

Filed under: advertising,Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 2:21 pm
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Over at Mashable is a post about a marketing campaign Adidas is launching in January to promote their new Star Wars-inspired line.  Instead of aligning the product with the positive, heroic figures in the familiar tale, Adidas is integrating Facebook with Google Maps to create a sort of ‘game’ called the Star Wars Death Star Superlaser, in which participants are encouraged to emulate the evil Darth Vader.

The game opens with a video in which you see the street you live on — thanks to the Google Maps app, you see the buildings on your actual street — reduced to rubble.  The app then allows you to subject the streets your Facebook friends live on to similar destruction at your will.  The cutesy-sociopathic tagline that appears at the video’s end: “Hitting your street in January 2010.”

It’s been less than a decade since the 9/11 terrorist attack reduced a significant portion of lower Manhattan turned to dust, with the loss of several thousand innocent lives.  The vast majority of Americans consider this real-world act evil, just as they considered the imaginary, vicious actions of the fictional character Darth Vader evil.

Normal people find it troubling, not amusing, to contemplate the destruction of particular people and places they care about.   Normal people don’t think it’s fun to visualize the destruction of their friends’ lives, homes, and neighbors.

If the market Adidas is going after consists of sociopaths and would-be terrorists, this is one dandy promotion.

If, however, Adidas hopes to sell sneakers to normal people who cringe at the thought of terrible things happening to their friends, they may want to use another approach.  Unless and until they do, I can promise you that my kid won’t be wearing Adidas.

December 19, 2009

Garrison Keillor, Grinch

Garrison Keillor has always struck me as mean-spirited, wrapping a fundamentally smug and condescending world view in a fondant of cutesy-poo irony.

Now, thanks to Glenn Reynolds‘ posting of Marissa Brostoff’s TABLET MAGAZINE column, “Garrison Keillor Doesn’t Like Jews Writing Christmas Songs,” others may also reassess their opinion of NPR’s favorite son.  Brostoff describes Keillor’s recent Baltimore Sun column, in which he complains about

“all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck.  Did one of our guys write ‘Grab your loafers, coma along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah’?”

Anyone capable of writing a column like this doesn’t ‘get’ Christmas — unlike Irving Berlin, who very clearly did.

December 18, 2009

Advice to the Farmer Trapped in a Tweet War

Filed under: Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 10:56 pm
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On the My Ragan blog, one of the bloggers, a marketer who’s also a part-time farmer, alleges that she was libeled by a Twitter user.  She asked My Ragan readers for advice as to how to respond to this, in addition to having her attorney send the offending party a note.

Here’s the response I posed:

First, thank you for being a farmer — for the hard work and the care that’s so often underappreciated.  I had no idea how hard farmers worked until I met my husband, whose family were Vermont dairy farmers.

Here’s one possible approach:   why not set up a Facebook fan page for your family’s farm?  A farmer in AL does this, and posts charming video updates from his cell phone every week or so — more often when there’s calving and the herd increases.  If his farm weren’t 2000 miles away, I’d be buying my milk from them, just because his videos are so honest and so ‘real.’

While it’s tempting to address a public attack publicly, this might not be the best course of action.  Perhsps it might be better just to show and tell the truth, using Facebook.  Especially with its photo and video upload capabilities, this might be a more effective medium for presenting your perspective than Twitter.  You can then use Twitter to post links to your FB updates, thereby getting out the info you want, without being drawn into discussions that don’t move you closer to your goals.

I wish you and your businesses all the best during this Holiday Season, and in the New Year!


Laurie Morrow
mADwoman Advertising
Montpelier, Vermont

December 15, 2009

NH Airport Diner staff finds mom’s lost pay packet

Filed under: Restaurants,Uncategorized — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 3:54 am
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I read a great story in the Manchester Union Leader today, the kind of story we need to hear more often.

Like many folks these days, the Best family of Londonderry, NH, is struggling financially.  They’re worried about losing their home.  Karen Best works as a customer service representative, and her husband works part time.  Their three children each face medical challenges.

One Monday a month, the family enjoys a treat:  they go out for dinner, to the Airport Diner in Manchester, NH, where there’s a “Kids Eat Free” special.  It’s a 50’s style diner, with charming airport-themed decor.

Last Monday, when the family got home, Karen realized she’d left the envelope with the cash from a week’s sorely needed paycheck behind at the restaurant.  She called, but the table had been bused.  Karen thought that her envelope probably got lost in the diner placemats the kids had colored while waiting to be served.

According to Assistant Manager Jeff Howard, the waitress who served the family, Nikki Phillips, begged the staff to search for the money.   Assistant Kitchen Manager Paul Soucy dug through 3 barrels of trash — and found the envelope.

Read the rest of this story here.

If you like this story, please pass it along.  And, if you happen to be near Manchester, NH, please consider dinner at the Airport Diner.  I’ve eaten there, last time I met a friend at the Manchester, NH airport, and they have the world’s best tuna melt and great fries.   The Airport Diner is easy to find — 2280 Brown Ave.  next to the Holiday Inn, exit 2 off of Interstate 293.

Good food, good fun, great people.

November 7, 2009

Keith Lane among the Lizards

In “Living the Creative Life,” a compelling interview by Shawn Read at CDIABlog,  that maddest and most delightful of madmen Keith Lane recounts a recent experience pitching to a major corporation:

. . . I got a call from an unnamed corporation, a CEO, let’s call him Chaz, that offered me a new advertising campaign. It was a freezing cold sleety day. My windshield wiper snapped off.

I pulled into the building.  The wind was blowing 50mph. The parking lot was filled with European cars. I went into this boardroom. Even the women at this place were named Chaz, everyone had the same gray suit. I was soaking wet, freezing.

Chaz, the head of the company, said, “I’m so glad you could make it. Our sales tumbled due to the horrific economy. We’d like to rent your brain for three months. You develop our entire ad campaign and we’ll gladly reimburse you if the economy turns around.”

I then pulled an Alec Baldwin from GlenGary Glen Ross.  I said: “Put your blackberries down.”

It was dead silent.

“You are a for-profit corporation.  I do a lot of pro bono work. You all garner really nice salaries. If you all took 20% pay cuts, you could afford me.

“Or:  you could leave everything and come work for me for three months for free, and then, maybe, I’ll pay you. Want to take me up on that offer?”

Dead silence. Corporations who are employing this reptilian strategy need to stop doing this to people in the creative industry because it is disgraceful behavior and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

Kudos! to Keith, for standing up to these Lizardim, and to Shawn Read, for a great interview.

Keith’s account got me wondering:  what prompted Chaz & Co. to consider making such an absurd and insulting suggestion?

They’d hardly go to a restaurant and say, “We’ll have the coquilles Saint Jacques, and if you are so fortunate that they meet with our approval, we may pay you for the meal.”

Perhaps the business world’s increasing reliance on interns is responsible for this assumption that they can get something for nothing.  In a down market, poorly managed businesses develop a kind of myopia; they make decisions with long-term impact on the basis of short-term thinking.  Rather than focus on the profits great creative work will generate over the long term, they fixate on the bottom line for the next quarter.  Rather than hire a professional with significant personal investment in his own and his client’s success, the Chaz’s of the world think:  “We can get an intern to do the same work for free!”

Now, Chaz is subject to no such confusion about value when it comes to his personal financial choices.  You’ll not find him going to the local école de beauté to get a $10 hair cut.  When it comes to what really matters to him — his personal brand — he invests well.

But when it comes to making decisions regarding the corporation that pays him lavishly enough to keep him in Gieves & Hawkes suits & have a standing weekly spa appointment at the Cranwell, for Chaz & Co., cheap trumps quality.  Unlike his personal brand, when it comes to the business he works for, he’ll put the image of his company at risk, at a particularly perilous financial time, entrusting it to those least able to procure decent compensation.

In 5 years, Keith Lane Creative will still be around, and will be pursued with even greater vigor by wise clients who know what talent’s worth.  Chances are, Chaz will have found another comfy rock on which to absorb some warmth and seem almost human.

What won’t be around, however, are corporations that don’t understand there are few business risks more perilous than trusting your company’s image to those with talent so minimal they have to give their work away.

October 31, 2009

Bill Salvin, on Ralph Lauren’s crisis management

Filed under: Fashion — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 3:11 am
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Bill Salvin posts an excellent critique of Ralph Lauren’s clueless attempt by crisis management.

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