Eunice Feller on Chocolate, Marketing and Customer Service: Fresh Ground #3

FG_Podcast_Ep_3.jpgIn episode 3 of the Fresh Ground Podcast, Chuck Tanowitz talks with Eunice Feller, owner of Bread and Chocolate Bakery in Newton, Mass. Eunice founded Bread and Chocolate three years ago and has since gained a loyal following of locals. She’s not just attracting neighborhood attention, however: she’s also been named to the coveted Best of Boston list and has seen her confections featured on the cover of the Boston Globe Magazine.

The bakery is a labor of love, and while Eunice has plenty of passion, there is plenty of work. Chuck and Eunice talk about how, despite the glamor put on food prep by the Food Network, it is still very much a physical, blue-collar job. They talk about the tough decisions she needs to make so her passion comes to life and even how she crowdsourced a babka.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“Marketing here is everything that interacts with people, and that encompasses customers, employees and vendors.”

“Every facet works toward the brand and if Bread and Chocolate is a brand, the million details we try to pay attention to works toward who we are and what we want to be.”

“I want [my customers] to know my name so if they need a baked good or if they need a dinner because they are having a baby… a ride to the hospital. I want them to feel comfortable enough with us so they feel they can call us to do that.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast:

Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

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Todd's 2010 Predictions

As promised, however late, here are my predictions for 2010:

  • Twitter still won't show that it can make money. Twitter doesn't want to show that it can make money: all the better for valuation, according to many. Sure, there will be more deals, including some form of Twitter Pro account I would guess, but I predict you'll find Twitter (and Facebook for that matter, although they've monetized quite nicely) with its ear to the ground for technology and competitive developments in 2010, waiting for sunnier pastures before exiting. What will that exit look like, and when? Ain't nobody saying.
  • It's all about the RT. No, I'm not talking about Twitter's "re-tweets" here: I'm talking about the real-time web. The money that Twitter did get in 2009 came because it has its finger on the Zeitgeist of the web: the day-to-day, minute-by-minute trends and interests that content producers and attention whores alike want to get their hands on. Any technology that can help companies (or governments) put their fingers on the pulse of the public will be a prime target for money in 2010, both from private as well as semi-private and public coffers.

  • The PDA will be reborn alongside the intention web. The "personal digital assistant" was a really cool idea, but nobody wants to carry around even two devices, let alone three, four or five (e.g., phone, PDA, camera, iPod, ebook reader, etc.). The next generation of the PDA is being incubated inside your smart phone, with umbilical ties to all of your online services, from calendaring to movie preferences to shopping lists. Jeremiah Owyang calls this "beyond real-time" wave of innovation the "intention web" (see graphic below), and your smart phone will be the nexus for it:
"When Real Time is NOT Fast Enough"

"When Real Time is NOT Fast Enough"

  • The newspaper industry deathwatch will lose steam. Speaking of death, the newspaper industry will also stay afloat, thanks to technological and business innovation. Dan Kennedy put it best:

    At a moment when the newspaper business is hanging by a thread, it seems strange to suggest that maybe things aren't that bad. After all, as the Newsosaur, Alan Mutter, points out, 142 American newspapers shut their doors in 2009, and nearly 15,000 jobs at US newspapers have disappeared during the past year.

    Yet if you had believed the headlines, you would have expected the mediascape to look a lot worse for print.

    Paul Gillin puts it similarly:

    Most daily newspapers, in fact, operate in the black but massive debt accumulated during multiple rounds of consolidation earlier this decade were threatening their existence. The threat is still there, but it looks like there was more fat in newspaper operating budgets than many observers had believed. Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth has pointed out that her paper employs twice as many journalists as it did during the Watergate years, even after multiple rounds of cutbacks.

  • Augmented reality will be a reality, sans the cool shades or half-blind pedestrians. Yes, we'll get a few pedestrian accidents as people try out phone-based augmented reality apps like Layar (below). But the real usefulness of AR aren't quite AR apps yet, but transitional steps toward AR. These include apps like Google Goggles, which does photo-based mobile searches (although it's far from ready for prime time); and the many barcode scanning apps that are starting to tie into price check databases and shopping apps.

  • The PR lines will continue to blur. Speaking of PR, it's clear that the lines between paid and unpaid media are rapidly blurring, and the consequences are disturbing. While some pros are optimistic about this trend, I share Mark Story's and Shel Holtz's concerns about the trend, as exemplified most recently by the Huffington Post's decision to offer sponsored posts and tweets. As Shel points out, will this prevent companies from participating in conversations about their company online, simply because they don't want to pay to play?

  • [LATE ADD] We'll find something more interesting to measure. With all the talk about measurement and ROI this year, I couldn't resist adding one more prediction: we'll finally find something both interesting and useful to measure when it comes to PR and social media success. It certainly won't be ad equivalency or followers, and it probably won't even be ROI. Will it be engagement? No, that's just a fancy way of describing followers. I'd like to hear your thoughts...

  • [LATE ADD (29 DEC 2009)]: Amazon will have much more to worry about than the Nook. Rumors abound that Apple will take a stab at a portable tablet device taking aim at eReaders and netbooks both. Will Apple try to get into the book business like it's done with the music business? They'll have a much tougher go at it, but it seems like a logical step.

Okay, that's all I have for you. Let's see how I do. Have a very happy new year, everyone!


Sree Sreenivasan on the “Tradigital Journalist”: Fresh Ground #2

Sree SreenivasanWelcome back to the Fresh Ground Podcast. Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

In today’s episode #2, Chuck Tanowitz, principal at Fresh Ground Communications, talks with Sree Sreenivasan, professor of journalism and dean of student affairs at the Columbia Journalism School. Sree is among AdAge’s 25 media people to follow on Twitter and one of 22 professors named to the “Top 100 Twitterers in Academia” by

Sree and Chuck talk about the weakening divide between journalism and the corporate world, and specifically about the influence that corporate owners may have on the journalism process and the skills that newly minted journalism school grads need to leave with.

Some of the more interesting excerpts from Sree:

“Even today, any time there’s a light bulb story or anything else connected to GE, [NBC afilliates] make the disclaimer.”

“I presume any time a company owns you, the forces that are at work are much more subtle, and maybe even unspoken and unsaid… When I worked at WABC, we were owned by the Walt Disney Company, and we used get letters saying ‘dear fellow cast members’ from Michael Eisner.”

“I teach reporting, and reporting is something that you can use in a variety of fields. While most of our graduates still go into journalism today, there has been for decades people who’ve gone on to other fields…”

“We can either spend our time being orthodox about what should work and what doesn’t…, or we say ‘look, as long as someone like Saul Hansell is comfortable with the decisions he makes and the stories he tells and the contacts he makes, his ethics are far higher than most people’s, so I don’t worry about it.’”

“Every student must leave here with a new media mindset and a new media skill set.”

“[We use] a term called a ‘tradigital journalist‘ … that Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer prizes, [coined that means] ‘a traditional journalist with a digital overlay.’ So we absolutely teach the eternal, if you think about it: truth, ethics, getting the story right, doing it in a timely manner, and then you put this digital overlay over the that traditional stuff.”

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Five Facebook Privacy Changes You Need to Know

Finding Your Privacy Settings

Finding Your Privacy Settings

Facebook continues to be on my list of companies that people seem to love despite every effort on their part to the contrary (that list, for the record, also includes Apple, Google and occasionally Twitter). Their latest attempt to alienate me involves the changes they've made to their privacy policy and mechanisms, which overall give you less privacy, not more.

Here are five things you need to know about the new privacy and security settings on Facebook:

  1. Know what is now considered "publicly available information." Here's what the EFF has to say about this:

    Under the new regime, Facebook treats that information — along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, and the pages that you are a "fan" of — as "publicly available information" or "PAI." Before, users were allowed to restrict access to much of that information. Now, however, those privacy options have been eliminated.

  2. Visit All Five of the Privacy Settings Pages

    Visit All Five of the Privacy Settings Pages

    Visit all five of the privacy setting pages. There are settings buried in all of these pages, so make sure you take a few minutes to peruse all of them to make sure.

  3. Keep your friends close and your pages closer. You've heard of the Facebook "gaydar" project, right? People can tell a lot from who you friend. While sharing who your friends are can help you get more friends, it may reveal more information than you know. The EFF again:

    [A]lthough you used to have the ability to prevent everyone but your friends from seeing your friends list, that old privacy setting ... has now been removed completely from the privacy settings page.

    You can now tweak who can see your friend list by going to your profile and clicking on the pencil on the top right corner of your friends box. What you still cannot change is who can see the pages you are a fan of -- there is simply no way to remove that information from your public, searchable profile unless you make your profile not searchable by anyone, a rather harsh setting that will significantly limit your ability to grow your friends network. If you're a little embarrassed by your fan pages, delete them.

  4. Create a dummy test account to test all your settings. While the "Preview My Profile" button is helpful, the interaction between the various complicated settings is sometimes surprising and the best way to test all possible settings is to create a temporary fake account. This is relatively easy to do, and last I checked, doesn't even require a valid email account to accomplish. Use it to test how viewable and searchable your profile is. For instance, it's not completely obvious how to turn off your Wall to non-friends, but this can be adjusted in the "Posts by Me" section" (which I was surprised to see defaulted to "Friends and Networks" -- umm, no, thank you).
  5. CUCme? Remember playing that game with a child young enough not to realize that if they cannot see you, you may still be able to see them? The same holds true in Facebook -- there is no reciprocal privacy on Facebook, so just because you can't find somebody else doesn't mean that they cannot find you. If other people have their search privacy settings more constricted than you, they will be able to find you while you may not be able to find them. The most problematic effect of this could have to do with banning other profiles -- in order to find the person you want to ban, they have to be searchable by you, so banning only effectively works while you're still friends with someone. This seems strange, because -- not that I'm in the practice of banning lots of people -- banning is typically an afterthought that occurs to Facebook users after they unfriend someone.

PC World has their own "top 5" list of things to consider. In summary, to quote an old TV show, "be careful out there!"


Oh So Excited! And Pleased!

A former client of mine was bought recently. Great news for them as they all worked hard and earned the buyout. I'm sure the company buying them knows that they picked up a great technology and a smart team.

But when I read the release I almost did a spit-take of my coffee--and what a waste of good coffee that would have been! The release had the typical corporate stuff such as the "leading provider" language and the platitudes of two corporate executives doing a new dance.

But the quote from my former client was... how can I say this lightly... horrible.

I know people have been trashing the poor press release for quite a while and the social media release is at least an attempt at something different. But even that release comes with its own set of canned quotes for reporters, bloggers and other content creators to use at will. So quotes remain an important part of any release process.

However, if any Account Executive handed a quote to me with the opening line of "We're pleased..." and later threw in some "excitement" I'd send it back with the demand that they do some more work.

Of course these executives are pleased and excited. If they weren't why would they be putting out a release? What journalist in their right mind would ever pick up such an inane and lifeless quote? It doesn't say anything. If you're going to write a quote for an executive at least make an effort to have it add some color to the story. Provide a little insight or at least some colorful language.

I know I'm not the only one who believes this, but I know the fight against over-exuberant "excitement" will go on and on and on and on.....


New Workshop: Socialize Your Newsletter

[FRESH GROUND NEWS] Chuck and I are pleased to announce the first of a series of new workshops and training offerings for businesses and organizations looking to become more social: "Socialize Your Newsletter":

Your newsletter does a great job of feeding good content to your target audience, but does your newsletter work for all your audiences? Is your newsletter ready for the current realities and future developments of social media? The fact is email is just one channel among many. We can help you take the great content you’re already developing and put it to work feeding the social media channels that will drive future growth.

Through a one-day session the Fresh Ground team will help turn your existing content into the seeds that will help grow your community through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even your own site-specific blog.

Designed for small businesses, the one day, $1,000 program will help in the following areas:

  • Set-up: We will set up a blog for you that is linked to your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages. The goal is for you to post once and distribute many. When we leave, one blog post will automatically feed your various social media channels without you having to worry about it. Training about how to setup a simple audio or video podcast is also available.
  • Instruction: The basics of learning the tools to run your social media campaign is half the battle. It won’t take us long to teach you the basics and help you overcome the “fear factor” that many face when first stepping into the social media universe. Let Fresh Ground act as your Sherpa, helping make you comfortable with the tools to help grow your business.
  • Measurement: No tool can be truly useful unless you know how to measure. We will get you started with some basic measurement tools, such as Sitemeter, Google Analytics or even Facebook’s own internal measurement tools. We will also train you on what to look for and how to understand the metrics so you can tweak your program over time.

For more information, and to sign up for the program, visit the workshop page.


Saul Hansell on AOL's Fresh Ground #1

Saul HansellWelcome to the inaugural episode of the Fresh Ground Podcast. Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today's competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

For our first episode, Chuck Tanowitz, principal at Fresh Ground Communications, talks with Saul Hansell. Saul is one of 74 people who recently accepted buyouts from The New York Times -- and who, along with Jennifer 8. Lee, is one of the biggest names on the list. In addition to his work covering technology and telecommunications at the paper, he also started the Bits blog and was one of the more regular contributors there. In all he spent more than 17 years at the times, 12 of those covering AOL, the company that he now calls his employer.

Saul and Chuck talk about media relations, the future of The New York Times and AOL, transparency, scaling content and the new role of journalism.

Some of the more interesting excerpts from Saul:

"AOL is just as much a journalistic organization as The New York Times, as Bloomberg, as NBC News, as all kinds of organizations new and old."

"In my experience as a journalist, [the relationship between companies and their PR agencies] is a deeply dysfunctional ... relationship that ... never served either the client or the agency..."

"The New York Times has a bunch of people doing great work and will continue for centuries to come..."

"I think all that kinds of media -- big and small -- give you voices to understand, and I think that one of the things that everybody is trying to figure out is [to] make sure that when you're reading something, you know where the person is coming from."

"AOL has a brand that needs to mean something, and it needs to mean trust if they're going to be in the content business..."

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Sliding Through the Sales Funnel: Using PR Ease the Flow

One of the more interesting discussions at last week’s Highland Capital Partners Sales 2.0 event surrounded the lessons enterprise software has learned from the consumer world.

Via Cosmic Kitty on Flickr

The Old Sales Process Via Cosmic Kitty on Flickr

Many years ago, while representing Alfresco Software, I remember CTO John Newton talking about the affect Google had on enterprise document management. As he noted, people could go to Google and find what they wanted in a matter of milliseconds, but couldn’t find an internal document without enduring a frustratingly long hunting process.

People wanted the ease-of-use they experienced at home to happen in their corporate environments.

This same logic has invaded the enterprise sales process. Anthony Deighton, senior vice president of marketing for QlikTech divided enterprise sales into 1.0 and 2.0 time periods, with 1.0 marked by such antiquated notions as:

  • Always say “yes” -- Dieghton jokingly pointed to the example Q:  Does your software toast bread? A: yes, with the right configuration our software can toast bread.
  • Sell 1st, deploy 2nd -- Never confuse the two and don’t let the sales person near the customer during the (long and messy) deployment process
  • Only use the scripted demo -- Why risk failure by showing something live that may not work?
  • Don’t let the customer touch the software -- Only show them what they need to see
  • Reality is a guide, sell the possible
Anthony Deighton of QlikTech

Anthony Deighton of QlikTech

All of this, he said, has been replaced at QlikTech with the simple download. Users can download the product and use it on their own computer. Should they want to deploy to more members of their organization from a central server, then they need to buy the software and pay.

If this sounds a little familiar, it is. The model is lifted entirely from the open source model, something Deighton acknowledges.

Joe Liemandt, CEO of Trilogy

Joe Liemandt, CEO of Trilogy

So, what does this have to do with PR? Because part of the process according to Deighton as well as other speakers such as Joe Liemandt, CEO of Trilogy, is the idea of “low cost customer touch.” That is, without having a sales person on the road to do a lot of show and tell, and with more power falling to the consumers, the need for online information rises. This is where videos, webinars and blog content come in as educational tools designed not only to inform, but also to eep the customer engaged.

While most see PR in the category of processes that drive prospects to the website, PR continues to fall into the “driver” category. Marketers see PR as one of the many check boxes needed to drive prospects or gain awareness about a company. However, PR’s true value is in storytelling and that transcends reaching out for new audiences.

So when we talk about PR 2.0 or the changing PR landscape, this is where things truly get interesting. At Fresh Ground our goal is to help PR move from the very top of the sales funnel to a content driver and community development engine that helps power everything.


Funnel Vision: Finding Value in your PR Spend

Too often PR gets lost in its own process, taking little stock of where the articles and content it creates fit in with the rest of the sales funnel. Hence the "thud factor" that most agencies use to justify their budgets.

For the uninitiated, the "thud factor" refers to the sound a thick book of clips makes when it lands on the CEO's desk. Usually it's put there by a smiling VP of Marketing who received it as a "gift" from the expensive PR firm they hired a few months back.

But what did all those clips do for the company?

While at the very well done Highland Capital Partners Sales 2.0 event*, one former CEO (whose company is now a part of a much larger group) responded to my question of how you measure PR by saying "you don't, you just allocate a percent."

Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks

Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks

Well, he's close. After listening to Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact and Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks talk about cost per acquisition it became apparent that, to a degree, the PR budget is actually set by attrition. That is, if you know what a customer should cost and you know the cost of all your various acquisition channels (Google, advertising, partnerships, email programs, contests, etc.) then what's left goes, at least in part, to PR.

All of the presenters gave a great view of their sales funnels, the most substantial coming from Goodman, but the bottom line is this: if you aren't sharing this kind of information with the folks managing your PR process, you can't get the most out of your program.

Goodman showed a wonderful graphic of the Constant Contact sales funnel and there at the top are a number of marketing functions that drive prospects. Among the various arrows is PR, though it quickly became apparent that it's the most difficult of the bunch to measure.

Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact

Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact

To put it in the blunt terms of the presenters: who cares how many hits you get to the site or how many leads you get, the only thing that matters is how many customers ultimately sign. From them you can learn what programs work and what don't.

One great case study came from Constant Contact, which is constantly testing, measuring, listening to customers and tweaking marketing programs to determine what works. Of course, the other side of this is experimentation. As an example, to get a good read about how radio advertising drives customers, Goodman and her team invested in ads in a number of cities while also maintaining a series of control groups. They then ran those ads for a number of months, measured the results, compared them with the control groups to ultimately understand the true effectiveness of the campaigns. The goal was not only to measure how the previous ad buys did, but to figure out how to better target future marketing programs.

I'm not sure how many smaller companies have the stomach, time and budget for this, but it is certainly a lesson in doing things right.

Coming back to the executive above who just allocates some toward PR, his flip answer has a little more science behind it. Assuming that 10 percent of his budget goes to marketing (his estimation) he takes that budget, runs through some rough calculations regarding customer acquisition, personnel, etc. and came to a final figure for PR.

Then the big question is: what are you getting for your money? Sure, you know you need PR, but what kind of PR?

Capping the event was Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot who talked mostly about content but also talked a bit about his "PR is dead" meme. While he says that, I'm not sure even he entirely believes it, as he changed his phrase over the next few sentences to point out that PR needs to change. Or, as so many have said on his blog, media relations is on life support, but PR itself still has value.

The thing is, I agree with Brian. Traditional media relations is dead, and if you're paying just for that then you need to rethink. Frankly, if you're working with a big agency they probably told you they do more, but all you see are media clips. Why? Because it's what they do. They do it well. There's a place for media placement, but it must fit into a much larger PR program that includes content creation and community relations.

Otherwise, your sales funnel may slow to a drip.

*I'll post more thoughts from this event over the next few days.

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