Special Message: Chellie Pingree

February 25, 2008 at 7:04 am | Posted in Collective Responsibility, Communication, Decision making, General, Personal Responsibility, Responsibility | 3 Comments
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I have tried to make this blog in no way personal. I have made extreme efforts for it to avoid my former bastion, the realm of politics. It is only on this rare occasion that I write this special post. I hope you read it and consider it carefully.

Chellie Pingree was my boss as president of a national, non-partisan advocacy organization in Washington, DC. Originally founded by a Republican, and supported over the years by politicians of every stripe (including Dem. Russ Feingold and Rep. John McCain), Common Cause has been the citizen’s lobby for over 30 years. And under Chellie’s leadership, we expanded from the traditional topics of campaign finance reform and electoral ethics to also include media consolidation and making sure every vote is counted with new voting machines. These were issues that effected all Americans.

Now, Chellie is running for Congress and she’s got a real shot at winning. And I have to tell you, I cannot think of a better person to have in the Congress. Chellie is without a doubt one of the best, and most ethical, leaders I have ever met.

I encourage you to visit her website, join the Facebook or MySpace group, and, if you can, help her campaign financially. You don’t have to live in her district in Maine to support her; after all, when she is in Congress, she will do the right thing for the country, not just her district. Please read up on her life, her work, and her beliefs. Regardless of party, we want good people in Congress who will make the right decisions when the going gets tough. And Chellie is that kind of person.

I’ve taken myself out of politics but I can’t get politics out of me. Regardless of your party affiliation, I trust you won’t think less of my blogging efforts. A big part of marketing is communicating what you believe is important about the subject to the audience. I hope I have done that today.


Water Bottle Guilt (Now with Diagrams!)

January 10, 2008 at 5:38 am | Posted in Advertising, Collective Responsibility, Communication, Decision making, General, Marketing, Online marketing, Personal Responsibility, Responsibility, Usability | 5 Comments
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Updated: Welcome Fast Company readers! If you like the post below, don’t forget to subscribe. Enjoy!

This morning I was reading an insightful post at the QualityWriter.com blog where Phil mentions the new Starbuck’s ethos ad. Basically, for every couple of bucks they make selling this water, Starbuck’s will give a nickel to a poor, starving kid (examples Kebede and Abu found here).

I’m not going to comment on the usual rant material here. I find giving money to poor kids generally good, Starbuck’s and their ads generally so-so, and the taste of their coffee pretty damn awful. That aside, I did want to comment on the recent trend of water bottle guilt.

Fast Company details all of the stomach-churning, mind-boggling details in the cleverly named Message in a Bottle article from this summer. But the gist is this: a whole bunch of people thought they were doing good by switching from soda (“pop,” if you will) to water. Everybody felt good and felt better about themselves, too. Only after a couple of years and a huge increase in the water business, did we question all of the plastic bottles we were throwing away. All this while tension in the middle east rose and wars started and “oh yeah!” that plastic is not only clogging our landfills on the back-end, but it’s a petroleum product to start out with!

Hey, I’m not blameless. We recycle, but I’ll still buy water from time to time. But the sheer guilt that is growing at an exponential rate is what I’m fascinated in. The problem has a lot of angles – the environment, oil and global politics, waste in a country of plenty, the blur between what we need and what we want – so I thought we could use a little visual assistance. Though it is positively not comprehensive, I put together a venn diagram of sorts to being to plot the aspects of water bottle guilt (both the diagram and this post are positively facetious, however).

It features Kebede (or is that Abu?) in the middle of our messy little problem. In what way do you feel guilty about the burgeoning water bottle crisis and its effect on humankind? Click on the image below for some ideas:

Guilt 2 200×200

Good For Consumers (And Businesses): Social Media Gets A Glimpse Of Measurable ROI

December 19, 2007 at 5:51 am | Posted in Collective Responsibility, Communication, Decision making, Facebook, General, Marketing, Online marketing, ROI, Social Media, Usability, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment
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We recently had one of the worst weeks ever. It included (but certainly wasn’t limited to) taking the car in to replace an insanely expensive hose, losing our heat during a Chicago winter, getting sideswiped by a Chicago trolley right after leaving the dealership, and the subsequent arguing with and lying from the trolley driver to the cop about how she was not involved. Needless to say, there were not a lot of bright spots in the week.

But when the dealership tried to squeeze another $470 from us for a CV boot, I did a little research. Yelp.com and a few other sites extolled the virtue of the mechanic right down the street. He did the job in a couple of hours for $188. Amazing.

What does this all have to do with online marketing? Well, I was not surprised when I read this study from comScore. Not only are 1 in 4 internet users consulting reviews before purchasing offline, but they are willing to pay more if the service is ranked as excellent. It seem that after the year of exuberance that was all about Facebook and twitter, business is finally getting around to answering the question of how social media effects ROI.

If you have been questioning this yourself, you are not alone. I have seen at least 5 webinars in the past week and a half on this question alone: How do we determine our ROI on social media? And there are two distinct undercurrents in this discussion: 1) a low-lying anxiety on the part of marketers regarding keeping up with current trends and 2) trouble convincing an old-school CEO or other higher-up that this is of value to the company. I am a victim of the former and may blog about it in the future, but relief for the latter is beginning to emerge.

Among the best of the webinars and white papers discussing social media ROI are those from TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony. Anyone who is trying to convince their fellow employees about the value of social media must read their white paper, Making the Case for a Social Media Strategy. (Just so you know, I’m not connected to the company at all – I just really do like their work.)

They begin by going through an evolution of digital communications and present research on what people are doing online. They then explain how social media is a blurring of communication and content (the two activities people do the most online) and give salient examples of how struggling industries (especially newspapers) are embracing social media and seeing profits skyrocket. Among the quantifiable ROIs:

  • momentum
  • influence
  • prototyping
  • direct conversion of buzz into sales
  • market feedback/testing
  • crowdsourcing
  • recommendations

And each of those quantifiable ROIs has at least one example from a major, dynamic company. Consider these:

  • Crowdsourcing: “Intuit created a community with discussion boards on their site so customers can help each other with questions…According to Business Week, this community now has over 100,000 members discussing topics across 50 subject areas.” CEO Steve Bennett’s 2005 annual report letter to shareholders stated, “positive word of mouth creates a durable advantage for Intuit that translates into sustained revenue and profit growth.”
  • Recommendations: “Analysis of [Petco’s] web traffic revealed that users that [sic] sort the list of products by customer ratings spend 41% more than users who search with other methods like popularity or price… Emails that feature customer review content receive 50% higher clickthrough rates.”

Helpfully, there are also cases where social media hurt companies, but a fair review notes that it was not the tool that caused the problem, but the poor PR skills of the company. Many are not adept at responding quickly, especially to a crisis situation. These examples serve as a good warning to be prepared for what you are about to take on.

In the end, social media is just a tool. But this study and others can give you the quick-and-dirty version (with stats) to help convince your more traditional bosses. It’s a scary new world but at least we’re all in it together.

Last Minute Gift Ideas For The Social Good

December 13, 2007 at 5:52 am | Posted in Advertising, Collective Responsibility, Communication, Decision making, General, Marketing, Online marketing, Responsibility | 1 Comment
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If you are planning on doing any of your holiday shopping online (and I suspect you are), then here are some ideas for gifts that keep on giving to the social good. Forget the “socks ‘n’ underwear” presents this year, Grandma – why not help change the world instead?


I use the BooksWeLike page which benefits my former employer. Just search for the book, CD, or DVD you want and it will display with purchasing options of Amazon.com, Powells, Barnes & Noble’s, etc. You can purchase from the online store of your choice. After you click on the store’s button (on the right after you find your product), you will notice that the URL is changed slightly (i.e. it ends with “we_like18-20). This is how the referral program tracks everything and a portion of your purchase will go to whomever you have selected.

Would you like human rights with your coffee?

Not many people know that coffee is a prime example of a cheap commodity for America that has historically (and royally) screwed over the people that produce it. Since some of the best coffee is grown in poorer counties, distributors have routinely manipulated the price, forcing the growers to produce more no matter what the cost in quality and human rights. My first job was as a barista and coffee has been an integral part of my life every since. (And if you are ever in the Youngstown or Canfield, OH, area, stop in at Peaberry’s and tell them I sent you.)

Here is a list of other coffee vendors also changing the world:

  • A friend of mine used to work for Counter Culture Coffee and I am so impressed by their standards. They fly out and meet the growers, ensure they get a fair price for their goods (fair trade certified), and insist on safe practices (for the grower and the consumer) by pushing organic and environmentally sustainable practices. Look around and then buy some coffee or gear. (Did I mention that the coffee is delicious? If you’re in DC, stop into Murky Coffee – they brew it and have the best staff in the whole world.)
  • Crop to Cup Coffee looks to be along the same vein, focusing on family farmed coffee. Check out their beans and the awesome gift basket at the bottom of the page. (Added bonus: when you buy, apparently you can donate extra to that particular farmer – great idea!)
  • As I type this, I am sipping on some Just Coffee coffee. Both the website and the packaging shout out transparency – these guys let you know where every cent you’re paying is going along the supply chain. You can learn about the importance of air roasting, pre-financing, and sustainability from their website and packaging. (A note about the packaging – while I love that you advertise delivery by bike or longboard in Madison, how about adding a URL?) I recommend the Ethiopian Harrar…so good.

Do good for do-gooders

So often people are frustrated because everyone on their list has everything they need. Use this opportunity to support something good in the world. Imagine you are the person who is impossible to shop for: would you rather have another sweater or buy a cow for someone in Africa? One gift will keep you warm for a season; the other for a lifetime.

Here is a list of groups we support, monetarily or in spirit (plus, most or all donations are tax-deductible).

And if you have read this far, I want you to know that my gift is having a readership who cares about communication and the success of this modest blog. It is a gift every time you send a post to a friend, bookmark this site, subscribe, and vote for me. I can see who you folks are and it means so much. Thank you for that gift.

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