More on podcasting and Business Forward SMB podcast
"I think she's got it." -- Professor Henry Higgins
It was an experience, my friends, but I've finally nailed the various technical and software issues I was having in the podcast production process. There is so much more involved than simply recording and uploading to a server to produce a professional sounding podcast. I don't think you can fully appreciate the process until you do it. I certainly didn't.
Take a listen to the most recent program, Business Forward #6: Making Channel Sales Successful, our interview with SAP Channel Sales VP Dan Kraus. While the content of all the episodes is great (if I do say so myself), and the previous episodes sounded okay, this last one just sounds cleaner.
On another, but related, note, if you are a small business owner and will be attending BlogHer Business next month in New York, I'd love to interview you for the podcast. Drop me a note at email@example.com if you are interested.
Contests. Sweepstakes. Prizes. Liability? Oh my!
Contests on blogs. Everybody loves them. The blogger loves them because they often bring new readers. Readers love them because they might get free stuff and a mention on a popular blog. Companies who donate prizes love them because their products are mentioned on the blogs.
It’s a win for everyone.
Except, what if someone has an issue with the contest? What’s the liability of the blogger if someone complains about how the contest was run? It seems so odd to ask this question, given the overwhelmingly positive spirit of most contests on blogs.
I’ve done a contest with some friends through my personal blog Snapshot Chronicles, and it was nothing but fun – for me, for my friends and for the people who entered.
Then again, the prizes, while cool, weren’t of excessively high value. Camera cases, photo frames, pens and ball caps [thank you again Photojojo and HP], not trips to Europe and TVs. This is generally the case with most blog contests; the prizes are desirable but nothing to sue over.
Well, maybe not. Remember, there are folks who enter contests as a revenue stream, not just as a fun activity. For them, it is serious business. And the value of the prizes continues to rise.
What happens if someone decides it wasn’t fair, and decides to raise a stink? What is the liability of the blogger? How can she protect herself? Does the company donating the prize have any liability?
Companies who run contests, large and small, spend a lot of time and money reviewing terms and conditions. Bloggers cannot do the same, but my blogging colleague David Wescott and I decided to do a little research and offer some guidance.
I spoke with Donna DeClemente, a marketer who specializes in helping companies with contest promotions, and David spoke with Stephanie Himel-Nelson, who blogs at Lawyer Mama among other places. Read on for my post and go to David’s blog It’s Not A Lecture for his post.
My interest was both professional and personal. Let’s cover the professional first. If you have a product that is relevant and exciting for the blogger, and you can give him something to give away on his blog, do it! Makes everybody happy, and I love making everybody happy. I recommend this to clients that have appropriate products, and am in the middle of such a project right now – more soon – which is one of the reasons I started thinking about this issue.
Personally. While I do not do contests on this blog, I have done one on Snapshot Chronicles, and absolutely intend to do more. And I like my house, so I’d prefer to keep it. Do I have any liability when I run a contest?
Let’s hear from an expert. I met Donna DeClemente, who blogs at Donna’s Promo Talk, at BlogHer. She attends the promotional marketing law conference sponsored by the Promotional Marketing Association every year to stay up to speed with the regulations, and helps companies and bloggers like my friend Yvonne DiVita create contests and draft Official Rules.
I asked her about the different types of contests.
Donna: A sweepstakes is a random drawing that anyone who meets the eligibility requirements as written in the “Official Rules” may enter. Contests are different from sweepstakes. They are not just games of chance. The winner of a contest must provide a degree of individual skill or uniqueness. A contest also takes more work since all entries must be judged and/or evaluated. A raffle is a type of lottery in which prizes are awarded to people who pay for a chance to win. They are strictly to be used only as a fundraising tool by a non-profit organization. The rules vary greatly from state to state and should be reviewed carefully. A qualifying organization usually must complete an application. Raffles also are not allowed to be conducted or advertised over the Internet. (See David’s interview with Lawyer Mama for more on lotteries-SG)
Give me some general guidelines for holding a contest or random drawing.
Donna: The sponsor of a contest or sweepstakes, whether a company or an individual, assumes full responsibility for the contest. It is very important that a set of “Official Rules” be drafted and everyone who is eligible to enter have access to the rules. Once you have a set of Official Rules, you must follow these rules and not change them during the course of the contest. If you stick by them, then you should be clear of any liability if someone claims fraud or misrepresentation. For example, see the Lipsticking.com sweepstakes.
The key elements that must be included in the rules include the official sponsor, eligibility requirements, the start and end date and time of the promotion, description of the prize(s) and their value, and how to enter. (For example, as Lawyer Mama found when she dug into the issue, some states have very strict disclosure and eligibility requirements and you either have to meet them, or exclude residents of those states from your sweepstakes or contest. Explains why sometimes you see a national contest with various state exclusions or differing terms for different states - SG)
What about the company donating the prizes? Does it have any liability?
Donna: If a company is donating a prize(s) for the promotion and is not the sponsor, than they are not liable. However, it is up to them to provide a detailed description of the prize and the true ARV (average retail value). For anyone that receives a prize worth $600 or more, you must create a 1099 and the winner is liable for taxes.
Should a blogger seek legal advice about her sweepstakes or drawing?
Donna: If you are worried about the potential consequences or your program is really complex or unique, you should absolutely seek advice. But you really need to make sure that any lawyer you retain is up to speed on promotional law, and most small business and personal lawyers are not. They can do the research, but you are probably better off consulting a specialist. I’d recommend that people start by consulting a promotional specialist like me, because we can also help with other aspects of the sweepstakes like fulfillment and contest structure. Typically, I can handle most issues that come up, but if we do need a lawyer, I work with two expert promotional lawyers on a regular basis.
Check out Donna’s blog and Web site for more information on running a contest on your blog or Web site. And if you have any doubts or questions about a contest you’d like to conduct on your blog, especially if you have a very high value prize, get advice. A specialist like Donna can help, but at the end of the day, if you are doing something very unique, it is probably worth the call to a lawyer. The legal fee pales in comparison to the nuisance of a lawsuit if you have to deal with, in the words of Fake Steve, a “frigtard.”
Some additional resources, courtesy of Lawyer Mama:
SUSAN IS NOT A LAWYER
This information is meant to bring awareness to the topic and is not intended to be used as legal advice. If you have questions about any of the information above or related matters, please contact an attorney licensed in your state.(Thanks, Lawyer Mama, for the disclaimer language)
Lead management webinar
I've just finished pulling together a webinar for my client GuideMark called "Five Tips for Improving Sales."
Full disclosure: this IS a lead generation vehicle for my client, who sells CRM systems, however, a large chunk of the presentation is based on my lead management philosophy and rating model. My posts here on these topics have received a number of comments, both public and private, so given the apparent interest, I figured I'd let you all know about it.
Here's the pitch:
One of the most important things you can do to improve your sales is to close the gap between your sales and marketing teams. One salesperson or fifty, one marketer or a whole team, they often have diverging views of the task at hand. This gets in the way of growing your business and increasing your profits. This webinar will help you get these two critical teams working together toward the same goals. Topics include lead management and a brief demo of GuideMark's SalesDRIVE CRM.
The content is about 2/3 lead management, 1/3 CRM. I go through a lead rating model step by step, so if you're interested in how this works, you might want to listen. Bonus if you are also interested in getting a CRM system :-)
Epilogue: Wal-Mart and Edelman
Well, as many PR bloggers have already reported (best round-upto date is Constantin's), Edelman has emerged from the cone of silence around the Wal-Mart fiasco. On Richard Edelman's blog, an apology and acceptance of total responsibility. And on Steve Rubel's, a short comment and link to Richard's blog.
Quite frankly, I do not see how the agency could have done anything else. It could be Edelman's fault. Might not be. Probably is. Doesn't really matter. Whether it was their fault or not, the agency must fall on the sword for the client. Or lose the client.
I know a lot of folks would love to be privy to the post mortem on this disaster. To them, I say, how does it feel... to want. We know what we know and we ain't likely to know much more. And I don't really care. I'm more interested in:
- what Edelman does in the future. Will they finally learn and get it right the next time? What Richard and Steve say is all good and well, but the proof is in what they DO;
- the lessons we can all learn about honesty and grassroots marketing from this fiasco.
I've commented on a number of other blog posts about this mess, among them Kami Huyse and Peter Himler, that the real shame is that had they done this right, with honesty and clarity about the sponsorship, this RVing blog might just have worked. People with RVs do stay in Wal-Mart parking lots. That's not an invention. They might have rallied around a blog that focused on them, their lives, their culture. If it was well written, corporate sponsored or not, the public might have enjoyed it. Many do shop in Wal-Mart, image problems notwithstanding.
Bottom line, had there been truth, I would have given it a big, so what. A good idea is still a good idea even if the corporation has it. The error isn't in sponsoring a blog to advance a corporate objective. The error is the lie. People can forgive many things. But generally and pretty universally, we hate being lied to.
I'm pretty sure the folks at Edelman and Wal-Mart get this now.
There is nothing wrong with trying to spark something in the "grassroots." If you've understood the situation, and deliver a compelling message, it will take fire. That's what viral means -- the message is so compelling it propels itself through the social network. But we cannot create a grassroots effect Artificial, the campaign has no life, no community and cannot spread without more artifice and manipulation.
You must tap into something in the community for grassroots efforts to bear any fruit. Two recent examples come to mind, and I'm sure it will surprise none of my readers that both come from science fiction television, Firefly and Farscape. Momentum came from the community and the producers were smart enough to engage with, to love their communities. They treated them with respect and love, and guess what? When the franchises needed support, the communities around them sprung to action.
In both cases, the TV shows were cancelled and fan support had a great deal to do with subsequent movies. In the case of Firefly fans, strong DVD sales provided further proof for the movie studio that the decision to greenlight a feature film (Serenity) was the right one. And when it came time to promote the film, no fan base was more loyal than the Firefly fans.
Except maybe the Farscape fans, who lobbied for a resolution to their much loved and highly acclaimed series, and finally got it in 2004 with the Peacekeeper Wars miniseries. I wasn't a Farscape viewer when it was on TV but now, having seen all the episodes, I can say without hesitation that it is a damn shame the show was cancelled. Can we have some more, please?
In both cases, the grassroots communities were there, and the shows were able to tap into the love to make things happen. Fans didn't mind when Joss Whedon asked them to do something for Serenity. They knew he'd pay them back in spades. In fact, both fan groups are still going pretty strong online and to date, there are no (public) plans for more of either on TV or the big screen. [Boo Hoo]
That's how a company can tap into the grassroots. And I do not believe that it is only possible for science fiction franchises.
However, it is only possible when we understand that a grassroots campaign only works when the initial impetus comes from the community, not the corporation that benefits.
It's grassroots marketing when the roots really are in the grass. When they are not, it is probably astroturf.
one hand, other hand: why companies need CRM
July 7, 3:10pm EDT: Inbound telephone call from what must have been a monster.com call center or telemarketing vendor since the area code shown on caller ID was Broward County, Florida, not global HQ in NY nor the local (Maynard Mass.) office. Caller wondered about my business recruiting needs, was getting ready to do the pitch for monster. Fair enough. Everybody has to make a living.
I currently have an ad running on monster.com for a marketing/pr assistant. Which my caller did not know. Hmmm.....
Now to be fair, we do have two businesses operating from our lovely Hudson headquarters, GetGood Strategic Marketing and my husband's computer consulting business, Active Oak LLC. We share the phone number, which was of course in the ad listing :-)
The monster.com telemarketer had to dial my number somehow, but even if it was a call list generated using a random number generator versus a directory, there is really no excuse, in my mind, for failing to check the numbers against the monster client list. Especially current advertisers :-)
All that said, I am extremely happy with the responses to my ad, and am willing to forgive monster this slight lapse in business acumen. But.... were it a service that I was less happy with, and I got an equally clueless telemarketing call, I would be far less likely to let it go.
Lesson: if you are doing outbound prospecting or even customer service calling, you should be using an enterprisewide CRM. There is no excuse for a telemarketer not knowing someone they are calling is already a customer.
Help Wanted: Part-time PR/Marketing Assistant
I'm looking for a part-time marketing/PR assistant. About 20 hours per week.
Some of the things you will be doing:
- helping me with admin
- writing for the bi-monthly Marketing Roadmaps newsletter
- researching media lists, including entering info into our database
- researching editorial calendars
- working on client projects, TBD (this is the fun and mysterious part)
This position would be ideal for a PR/marketing student looking for a summer job or a junior-level freelancer looking for a long-term project. No health insurance benefits, but a great working environment (if you like dogs). Definite possibility that you could do some of your work from home but at least in the beginning, you'd have to come to world headquarters in Hudson, MA.
Students, fair warning: you'll get involved in all aspects of the business so you'll learn a lot. But if you are looking for a trophy internship for your resume, this isn't it.
If you are interested, drop me an email to my gmail account, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your resume. Tell me why you think it would be fun to work with me and with our clients (hint: check the about page on the blog and the website www.getgood.com). Please, no trolls.
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Class Acts: Laurence Haughton
Some time ago I mentioned a book by author Laurence Haughton on a blog I was then writing for. To my surprise, I got an email from him thanking me for the mention and asking if I'd like to read his (then) new book It's Not What You Say, It's What You Do. Of course, I said.
I read it. Really liked it. Have been intending to review it for about a year now. Yup. Good intentions, but on this, Susan gets F for follow through.
Until today that is. And this still isn't a real review. But it is an unqualified endorsement for the book and the author. Here's why.
I'm using the book in an executive outreach program for one of my clients. The theory is a top notch business book like this one might make it past the CEO's gatekeeper. Certainly better than a pen or a gimmick.
Here's an excerpt from our cover letter:
Houghton explains how research at 160 big companies proves that it isn’t the strategy that makes the difference, although it certainly helps to have a good one. It’s the execution that drives success:
“What makes or breaks a company’s performance is its grasp over management’s most basic mission – to make sure everyone at every level follows through.”
Is everyone on your team executing the strategy for maximum impact? Probably not. This book can help you and them get it done. Haughton takes you step by step, example by example, through the four crucial building blocks for following through.
The overall theme of the book was a good fit for the market, and our product ties in very naturally. We do this later in the letter; if you'd like to see it, email me.
But here's the kicker: Haughton just didn't write a great book -- he lives it. He offered to autograph the books for us, with personalized signatures no less, and when UPS screwed up the pick-up to ship the books back to us, he drove it to the local UPS office. Above and beyond the call of duty. True follow through. A real class act.
Thanks, Laurence. And, readers, if you haven't already, get this book!
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It's Springtime, Must be Showtime
It's a rite of passage -- that moment when you realize that the bulk of industry conferences and trade shows are scheduled in the Spring and early Autumn. Not all, mind you. There are trade shows going on all year long in the USA. But the concentration in May June September and October, at least in the US, is amazing. You could literally go from conference to conference, just returning home to get clean shirts and underwear. I suppose some people do.... At least I hope they are getting clean undies....
Anyway, here are a few conferences and events coming up over the next few months that marketing and PR folk should check out.
Next week in NYC, Syndicate (May 16-17). Everything you always wanted to know about syndication. I will be live-blogging the conference for Corante. Posts will appear here and on the Corante Marketing Hub for sure, maybe some other places too. PubSub is aggregating the blogs from speakers, sponsors and attendees.
NYC, June 8-9, the 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference, sponsored by Corante and the Center on Global Brand Leadership of Columbia Business School. It is a two-day event. The first day is a "CMO Summit" for CMOs and VPs of Marketing. The second day is a "Marketer's Forum" open to the public. I'm not attending this one, as I have a conflict, but the speaker list is fantastic, so I urge you to check it out. Somewhere in my pile of email is a note that my readers can get a discount, so if anyone is interested, drop me a note and I'll dig it out.
Interested in bank marketing? I certainly am, thanks to my client who sells CRM systems for banks! The Boston Chapter of the AMA is getting an exclusive first look at TD Banknorth's new marketing campaign from Tom Dyck, TD Banknorth EVP and Director of Marketing. The presentation will be held Friday June 9 from 11 am - 1:30 pm at Banners Restaurant at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. Plus we get a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Garden, including areas not usually accessible to the public.
San Jose, CA July 28-29. BlogHer. Day One is sold out, but last I heard, there was still space at the cocktail party and for Day Two. Come be part of the Business Blogging unpanel on Day Two that I am doing with Yvonne DiVita and Toby Bloomberg. We want you to come share your stories!! The whole concept of the unpanel is that everyone participates and together we build a collective deliverable. In this case, we'll call it best practices for business blogging. More background on the unpanel in this post. And more to come late May, early June.
Disclosures: I am a member of the Corante Marketing Hub and the Boston Chapter of the AMA, and a speaker at (and longtime fan of) BlogHer.
Defying Gravity: Women Bloggers
"I'm through accepting limits
'cuz someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try I'll never know"
- Defying Gravity, from Wicked
Last night, my husband and I saw Wicked at Boston's Opera House. The play (and the book it is based on) are wonderful, but the theme that really resonated for me was the friendship between the Wicked Witch and Glinda.
This is a busy week, so the blog will be pretty quiet. But tonight, I want to tell you about some "wicked" women bloggers who I truly value. In no particular order:
Toby Bloomberg, Diva Marketing. Toby was one of the first bloggers to welcome me into the blogosphere, and I continue to value her business and marketing blog perspective.
Yvonne DiVita, Lip-sticking. Yvonne is a pioneer in the field of marketing to women online. She is also one of the most delightful and genuine people I have ever met.
Toby,Yvonne and I will be facilitating a business blogging "unpanel" at BlogHer this July. Come and share your blog marketing experiences.
Elisa Camahort. I met Elisa when I submitted a speaking proposal for the first BlogHer conference last year. I was, and still am, totally impressed what she and her BlogHer partners Lisa Stone and Jory Des Jardins have achieved with the BlogHer conference.
Kami Huyse. I virtually met Kami (and Andrea Weckerle) as a result of a notorious PR character blog. Kami is passionate about the practice of public relations, and her blog is full of information that helps us all be better communicators and professionals.
Andrea Weckerle. Andrea is one of the "quiet ones." You know, the folks who you think/know are totally serious and then they surprise you with another side of their personality. I'm still laughing at some of the content she and Bill Green came up with when they subbed for Scott Baradell at the Media Orchard. Andrea cares, and she uses her blog to make a difference.
Elizabeth Albrycht. Elizabeth is a fellow Corante blogger. Her background is strong and rich in PR practice, but currently she is working toward her Masters. As a result, her blog tends to have a more intellectual/theoretical bent. And we all benefit from her perspective. Down in the dog eat dog trenches, it is nice to spend a few moments every now and then on why.
Mary Schmidt. There are no words sufficient to describe Mary. Seriously. Mary is also a Corante blogger, and her perspective on marketing (and particularly customer service) is spot on. Even if you are already reading tons of marketing blogs. Frank. Honest. On your side. Friday Martinis. That is Mary. I'm glad she's on my side.
In fact, I am glad that all of these wicked, wonderful women bloggers are on my side, and am glad to call them friends. As my regular readers know, the label "friend" means a lot to me.
"Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better
And because I knew you...
Because I knew you...
Because I knew you... I have been changed for good."
- For Good, from Wicked
PS: There are a lot of great male bloggers on my reading list too. But tonight it is all about the wicked women bloggers. Take no offense!
Blogging has no intrinsic value
Intrinsic. adj. Of or relating to the fundamental nature of a thing; inherent. (Webster's)
Blogging, whether you think of it as a form, a medium or a vehicle, has no intrinsic value.
Strong words, especially when you consider that I've recently been characterized as a blog fanatic (and by the way, I did not take offense at all). In the sense that I believe Daniel Bernstein meant, that I am a believer in the value of blogging and "social media" for both individuals and business, yes, I am a fanatic. But it isn't "the blog" per se that I value -- it is what it gives us.
For the real value of blogs (and all social media, whether wiki, forum or podcast) isn't the thing itself. See above. In and of itself, it has no value.
The value is in what it gives us. For individuals, blogs fill all sorts of needs - community, conversation, education, reputation, validation. There as many reasons why as there are bloggers. But the answer to why do we blog is never simply "because." It is always because something.
We shouldn't expect it to be any different for a business. Yes, there are many reasons why a business might consider blogging. But never "just because."
It has to come back to the business and marketing plan. Blogging has to fit into the business plan and deliver to an existing business objective. It doesn't have to be an overt sales/marketing objective -- it could just as easily be something important for customer service or development.
A big part of the value of blogs -- of even considering doing a business blog -- is the focus on the customer. That's why I embraced blogging in the first place. I have long been a proponent of customer-centric marketing, and blogs are most definitely (and sometimes painfully) customer centric.
But if the business doesn't understand how blogging will deliver to something that is ALREADY important to it, it will NOT do it.
When it does....
Companies of all sizes are embracing blog monitoring. It's a no-brainer, really. We already monitor the media; blogs are an obvious extension, and a great way to listen to customers and other influencers. And cranks too of course, but the most important thing is to listen and take action when appropriate. You don't actually have to respond to every comment.
In fact, we should never feed the trolls. It only encourages them.
It's also why we hear a lot about companies using blogs internally. Blogs connect employees, as workers and as individuals, in highly beneficial ways. That fits the plan. So, if a company NEVER does a public corporate blog, but encourages internal blogs, and maybe even/eventually employees blogging externally, connecting with customers, we've got something good. Makes this blog fanatic happy anyway :-)
So whether you are talking to the Fortune 500 or a mom and pop shop, stay focused on what't important to them as a business. If a blog makes sense, recommend it, but make sure you couch the recommendation in a solid business case. Because they aren't going to (and shouldn't) do it "just because."