Bons mots

Slips of my tongue

Son of Son of a Pitch!

UPDATE to Son of a Pitch!

The day after the arrival of Cardboard Dave, the flesh-and-blood one called me. He sheepishly asked me if I received his package, then stated that he wasn’t egotistical; the idea was his marketing departments. (Um, you are the VP of Integrated Marketing, so I assume you have a say in their campaigns?)

In my most pleasant voice, I gave him feedback on this, the most ostentatious marketing campaign I have ever witnessed. (See my original post for my thoughts.) While I understood the reasoning behind it, and how tough it is to get into an organization to pitch your product/services for the first time, I told Dave a more personal touch would have worked for me. It got me in a lot of doors in my previous job. He thanked me for my thoughts and promised to relay this to his marketing department.

I could only promise Dave I would ask my Director if he’d be interested in a meeting and the conversation was closed.

I received this email five minutes later:

From: ODA Info
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 3:14 PM
To: Bonnie Dean
Subject:FW: From XX…

From: Dave
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 2:44 PM
To:ODA Info
Subject: From XX…

Hi there-

If you could please forward to Bonnie Dean, that would be most appreciated!

Best,

Dave

Hi Bonnie-

Thanks for the conversation on the phone earlier today. Hope you don’t mind me sending through the info@ email address… [Um, yes, I do.]

It was great to get some constructive feedback from you on our sales approach, and I would completely agree that a customized message is 100% more beneficial (and effective). I’m sorry Big Dave turned out to be cumbersome for you…we can come and remove him from your office if you wish…

I did have a deeper look on the site and what better way to address your #1 core goal which is “to promote optimal oral health” than to turn the association inside out from a consumer perspective, brand your url www.youroralhealth.ca, and serve up relevant, interesting dental education content that is completely user-friendly and very current. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest this is more progressive than some of the associations we’ve worked with in the past…

I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me…if there’s a chance to meet, that’s great and if not…all the best and here’s to dental hygiene!

Have a great weekend.

Dave

I promptly declined his offer of a meeting. Here’s why:

  • If he dug into our website and opened one of our news releases, my email address is at the bottom of every release. Why not take the time to search it out?
  • His ideas for our website? We did that a year ago with a complete overhaul of the site to appeal to the public. We think it’s pretty rad. Is he saying our content isn’t relevant, interesting or user-friendly? (Take a look and you be the judge.) Isn’t it a tad counterproductive to criticize the website of the company you wish to work with? Instead of insinuating that it could be improved, perhaps offer suggestions on how to add to its greatness. Flattery does get you places.

I still have Cardboard Dave looming behind me, and the search is on for a life-size picture of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s face to superimpose on his mug. The only good things to come out of this was a few blog posts and hopefully, a life-sized, cardboard cut-out of the Comedian watching my back.

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April 2, 2009 Posted by | FAIL | , , , , | 1 Comment

Son of a pitch!

Before I went back to school, I was an account executive at a newswire. My job was to advise clients on their communications strategies, which is more accurate than simply saying, “I sold stuff.” I was never the aggressive, Glengarry Glen Ross-type of salesperson; my skills lay in developing relationships with my clients, understanding their needs and providing them with the right product or service. I made sure each proposal was personalized and meant something to my client.  

Now that I’m on the other side of the table, I like to be treated the same way. So imagine my chagrin when I received this today:

ugh1

This is a life-size cardboard cutout of a man named Dave, a VP from a marketing communications agency I won’t name.

I’m not a marketing expert by any means, but it doesn’t take one to know when a pitch hits the right spot. It must be creative, targeted and engaging. Because your goal is to attract attention and create enough interest to make your audience take action that will add to your ROI –visit your website, ask for a meeting, buy your product.

While Cardboard Dave certainly attracted my (and my coworkers’) attention and created interest, the action I took was probably not what he had in mind. Case in point: Cardboard Dave underwent a Sharpie makeover.

Here is why I think Dave’s pitch failed:

  • There was no one waiting at the reception desk to greet me and hand the package to me personally – it was a ditch and run.
  • The package was very large and bulky. I had to carry it up two flights of stairs to my desk and almost knocked someone over. Furthermore, my workspace is not very spacious so I don’t know where I’ll keep Cardboard Dave.
  • The only part of the package with my name on it was the mailing label on the wrapper. There was no letter addressed to me; all I got was a snazzy, embossed booklet placed in a slot where Cardboard Dave’s hands are. There is nothing personal about it.
  • Cardboard Dave promises “favourable impressions” and “better recall” of my organization’s message. It would have been more engaging if their spiel demonstrated some understanding of the ODA’s key messages. And if they did some research, they would have known that while I do wield some influence, I am not the decision-maker of my team.
  • There is a page in the booklet listing the associations Dave’s company has “been associated with.” I’m a sucker for semantics – has this organization actually worked for these associations? I once donated money to the Canadian Cancer Society, so technically, I can say I was “associated” with them.
  • The last page bears Dave’s signature and information, and has an unusual, if slightly creepy, closing:

I’d like to give you a call
In a couple of days
To see what you think.

Or for pickup. : )   (I’m still trying to figure out what THAT means.)

Overall, these are my immediate impressions:

  • The company must be doing well in this economy to spend $200 for each cardboard cutout and booklet, which is what I estimated the package to cost. Are they going to recoup their printing costs through their fees? Because associations are not-for-profit; we answer to our members and have to account for every single cent we spend.
  • How many trees were felled to make Cardboard Dave?
  • Dave’s ego is so big (“How big is it?”), it can’t fit on a standard business card.
  • It would have been more cost-effective, and a nicer touch, if 3D Dave had personally come to my office and spoke to me directly, instead of sending his cardboard representative. Chances are he would have gotten a meeting. Sometimes, tried and true tactics trump snazzy packaging.

I’ll give Dave points for creativity and chutzpah. But like his one-dimensional counterpart, this pitch has left me stiff.

What do you think?

March 12, 2009 Posted by | FAIL | , , | 8 Comments

Podcamp Toronto 2009

podcamp-toronto-2009-header

I had the pleasure of attending Podcamp Toronto this past weekend. Over 600 people converged at the Rogers Communications Centre at Ryerson to listen to their peers talk about new media, social networking sites, blogging and podcasting (natch). The two-day “unconference” was free, thanks to its many sponsors, and offered a venue to for social media pros and amateurs  alike to mingle, network and learn from each other.

It was a great way to meet new people who share my interest in social networking tools. I was also able to meet the real live people behind the small Twitter avatars I see every day. And I learned something new at every session I attended. 

I won’t bore you with minute details of what was discussed at Podcamp (affectionately known by its hashtag  #pcTO09); all sessions were recorded and will be posted on the Podcamp Toronto wiki  (http://podcamptoronto.pbwiki.com/). I urge you to listen to each session – every speaker is passionate about their topic and the fun is in listening to them reach out to their audiences and share their knowledge.

Thanks and congrats to the organizers of this event!

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Learning | , , , | 1 Comment

A Change is Gonna Come

Barack Hussein Obama, an African-American and son of a goat-hearder from Kenya, was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Read that sentence a few times and savour its deliciousness as it rolls off your tongue. In a country whose identity was shaped in large part by slavery, racism and a blind fear of the different, this is truly a momentous and historic occasion. Only a cold, cold heart could not be moved by the events of the past three months or tear up during the inauguration ceremony.

Is the hype justified? I think it is. Since his election, Obama has shown more concern towards the problems affecting his country than  George  Bush, Jr. has in the last year of his presidency. “Dubya” didn’t care anymore, and it showed.

No one in their right mind believes Obama can or will affect change right away. He inherits a country crippled with debt, riddled with despair and desperate for change; he definitely has his work cut out for him. What transcends all the promises he set out during his campaign and in his inauguration speech is hope. A hope that things will improve. Because frankly, they can’t get any worse.

As a Canadian, I watched with envy as a nation joined together in welcoming their new President. Next week, our Sleeveless Leader, who treats the country like his personal fiefdom, will unveil a budget that will more than likely lead to a third election in as many years. (My math may be off but that’s exactly how it feels.)

So, to my friends south of the border – congratulations! I hope you don’t mind our staring – we just want a little hope of our own.

REUTERS

Photo: REUTERS

January 20, 2009 Posted by | There is hope... | , , , | 1 Comment

2008: Hear, hear!

I’ve always been more of a movie buff so this should be a list of the best movies I’ve seen in 2008. However, with the exorbitant prices of theatre tickets and my misanthropic dislike of the common theatre-going public, I either wait for my movies to come on The Movie Network or I see them at the reperatory cinemas. That means my list of 2008 would trend heavily with movies that were released in 2007. So, I decided to offer you my list of favourite albums and singles of the year that took my breath away, made me dance like there’s no tomorrow and renewed my faith in an industry that gives the world Lady GaGa and calls Britney Spears a “comback.”

Here are my top eight music faves for 2008, in no particular order. (That would take way too much time and effort for my holiday-atrophied brain.) When compiling this list, I also noticed they provide great background music to either dance or make sweet, sweet love to – or both. Enjoy.

  • Al Green, Lay It Down. He sure did.
  • James Hunter, The Hard Way. A little story: I was in a Starbucks and heard a song I immediately fell in love with. I thought it was from a compilation of rare 60s R&B I wasn’t aware of. It turned out to be a song by a blues musician from Ireland. That song was “The Hard Way”, the title track.
  • Hercules and Love Affair, self-titled. Vocal contributions from Antony Hegarty. Listen to “Blind” and I challenge you not to dance.
  • Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It. Saadiq does it old, old school.
  • Duffy, Rockferry. Girl’s definitely has a voice. She just has to work on her stage presence and she can be a dynamo.
  • Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree. Very chill.
  • Johnny Pate, Outrageous (reissue). Heard this whilst perusing the wares at Soundscapes and bought it on the spot. I wish this was the soundtrack of my life.
  • Otis Redding, Live! In London and Paris and Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul – Collectors Edition (reissue). ‘Natch.

Honourable Mention:

MGMT, Oracular Spectacular.
Lykke Li, Youth Novels.
Q-Tip, Renaissance.
Santogold, self-titled.
ADELE, 19.

Singles:

What shook your tail this year?

enochbolles19361

December 31, 2008 Posted by | About me | , | Leave a comment

The Notorious Bettie Page, R.I.P.

bettie_page_beach021

Bettie Page, fifties pinup queen and sexual pioneer, passed away yesterday at the age of 85. She wasn’t as hugely popular as Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield or other sex symbols of her generation, but still managed to develop a huge cult-like following, despite giving up the business in 1959 to devote herself to God. 

I’ve been a fan of Bettie since my early 20s. My admiration and devotion to her wasn’t as manic as what I felt for Marilyn in my teens. Perhaps it was because I was older and could better appreciate what Bettie stood for. Unlike Marilyn, Bettie represented a strong, potent female sexuality – unbridled, unabashed and fun. Looking at her cheesy pinup photos or bondage shots, it was clear she enjoyed her work and took great pride in it.

“I never thought it was shameful. I felt normal. It’s just that it was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous.” – Bettie Page, Playboy interview, 1998

If Marilyn was the fragile, bruised child, Bettie was the aggressive, confident woman. Marilyn was the woman men wanted to take care of and protect. Page was the one they were slightly afraid of; she knew how to wield a riding crop.

I’ve always aspired to be a Bettie, rather than a Marilyn.

Celebrity deaths tend to attract a new group of followers, curious about this now-faded icon they are too young to remember. I hope a lot of these new admirers are young women who see in Bettie what they want to see in themselves – a confident woman, comfortable with her body. In this age where Barbie doll starlets with plastic breasts and body dysmorphia are held up as standards of attractiveness (hey Hollywood – since when is a size 2 “curvy”?), Bettie (and even Marilyn, for that matter) represents a time when an hourglass figure was something to be admired and drooled over.

Bettie, we’ll miss you. I think God’s view just got a whole lot better.

 

 

 crop3

December 12, 2008 Posted by | About me | , | 1 Comment

Niagara Falls: It’s more than just water

I wrote this article for the November 2008 issue of  Ontario Dentist, the journal of the Ontario Dental Association. The subject of the piece, Dr. Mike Lococo, is a wonderful man who is trying to make a difference in his community. I have published this on my blog with the permission of Ontario Dentist.

Be Our Guest

Dr. Mike Lococo Lights up Niagara Falls

The thundering waters of Niagara Falls bring many tourists to the city. Dr. Michael Lococo wants to give them another reason to visit.

“The Niagara region has casinos, wineries and beautiful countryside,” says Dr. Lococo. “Now we have world-class theatre.”

A dentist for the past 40 years, Dr. Lococo is also the co-founder of Silver Mist Productions. Established in 2006 with business partner Linus Hand, the company has staged productions of Aladdin, Jr. and Beauty and the Beast at local theatres. Beast will be returning this year to the Niagara Centre for the Performing Arts beginning December 1. There is also a production of Seussical at the Sheraton on the Falls Theatre starting December 15.

A member of the Ontario Dental Association since 1961, Dr. Lococo has had an avid interest in the theatre since he was a student at the University of Toronto. While his love of the arts took a back seat to his successful career as a dentist, he has recently focused his efforts on rejuvenating his hometown of Niagara Falls through theatre.

Over the last 30 years, industry has been shifting away from the region and with it the economic health of downtown Niagara Falls. Department stores, restaurants and other retailers were closing shop and moving out.

“The first impression visitors get is of a run-down city with boarded-up buildings,” says Dr. Lococo. “It has become a disgrace.”

After the construction of Fallsview Casino, there was a renewed interest from investors and consortiums to inject new life into the city. At the same time, Linus Hand, a general manager of Mirvish Productions theatres for 16 years, moved back to his hometown. Like Dr. Lococo, he believed the way to revitalize downtown Niagara Falls was to turn it into a world-class theatre district.

“This was the thing that is going to bring downtown Niagara Falls to respectability,” says Dr. Lococo.

The two partners started a production company and their first show was Aladdin, based on the 1993 Disney animated movie. After pooling their money and hiring top talent from Toronto’s theatre scene, the production ran in the summer of 2006. The show wasn’t exactly a hit.

“The summer was a disaster,” recalls Dr. Lococo. “We expected the tourists to come. But who thinks of Niagara Falls as a world-class theatre destination?”

The show was remounted in December of that year to coincide with the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights. Silver Mist also reached out to local schools and got busloads of kids to see the matinee productions. Word of mouth spread and Aladdin became a hit.

The following year they produced Beauty and the Beast. The response was so successful it’s being repeated this year. Actor Gabriel Burrafato starred as the Beast last year and is returning to reprise his role.

“As an actor, you like to have the opportunity for roles like this,” Burrafato says. “The production values are phenomenal. The music and costumes are Disney-certified.”

Dr. Lococo wants to expand his vision beyond downtown Niagara Falls to the entire region. “Our goal is to get the tourists here. We are the key. You get people to the Falls and it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to wine country and beyond.”

While it’s easy corralling locals and tourists to his productions, it may prove difficult getting Toronto residents away from their own theatre district. But Silver Mist isn’t competing with Toronto productions like Dirty Dancing and We Will Rock You.

Beauty and the Beast and Seussical are family shows. Our area is a family area. We’re offering the most economical vacation for families. Our dinner and hotel packages cost just as much as what you pay for one show in Toronto.

“What we’re offering is world-class entertainment at an affordable price,” explains Dr. Lococo.

Richard Ouzounian, noted theatre critic for the Toronto Star is highly complimentary about Dr. Lococo’s efforts.

“Every city ought to have someone like Mike Lococo, who loves the place where he lives and wants to see that the best theatre possible is available there. I find his energy, commitment and taste amazing and I wish we had him in Toronto.”

Despite the time and dedication that goes into producing two musicals, Dr. Lococo still practices as a dentist. He admits there are times when juggling dentistry with theatre wears thin on him and Jackie, his wife of 48 years. Does he sometimes wish he had never become involved with Silver Mist?

“If I had to compare dentistry to show biz, it’s not even close. What I’m doing now [with Silver Mist] is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he says. “It’s like getting caught in a current.

“But then you watch 1,000 kids laughing and having a ball, their faces lighting up. I think we are on the right track.”

“His heart is definitely in it,” says Gabriel Burrafato. “His passion shows when you meet him.”

Perhaps dentistry and theatre are not that different: they both make people smile.

***

For more information on show times, tickets and vacation packages visit www.silvermist.ca.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | There is hope... | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rage against the machine

I read this interesting post in a blog on Computerworld.com last week:

People over 30 hate cell phones

By Mike Egan

A research firm has found that people over 30 use just 12 percent of the features on their cell phones and feel frustrated and overwhelmed by cell phone complexity. And it’s not just exotic features adults struggle with, but even basics like checking voice mail, using address books and dialing.

The firm, Half Moon Bay Calif.-based Bowen Research, found that people under the age of 30 use about half of their phones’ features. 

More than one third of the people over 30 surveyed by Bowen Research expressed “deep frustration” about their cell phones.

Here are a few quotes from the study published in a Bowen press release:

“I never quite know what I’m doing after a year and a half.”
“If it’s too complicated, it just really isn’t worth it.”
“Not intuitive at all.”
“To this day, I don’t know how to check voicemail.”

Multiple respondents said many cell phone features are “impossible to learn” and that cell phones are “out of your control.”

Where did they find these luddites survey participants? Living under rocks?

As someone who is – ahem – over 30, I want to dispel any notion that the majority of us are technologically retarded (or “e-tarded”.) I am pretty savvy when it comes to technology. I can figure things out within minutes, even without an instruction manual. While I love the scratchy sounds of a needle hitting vinyl, I just love my iPod. My Laserdisc player and VCR are collecting dust while I fawn over my PVR. I’m definitely not “old school” when it comes to technology.

But I do hate cell phones, and not for the reasons noted in the article.

I grew up in a time before cell phones, when there were moments you were actually unreachable. You didn’t know the minutiae of stranger’s lives when you rode the bus. When the company you were with wouldn’t ignore you to read their latest text message.

Source: Gizmodo.com

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy and take advantage of the conveniences technology has given me.  It has come into my life gradually, however, and I have been able to choose which tools fit my life. Future generations will come into this world completely connected to technology. They will know no other way of life. They will communicate more through technology and interpersonal relationships will become…well, less personal.

Having a cell phone is something I chose to buy; it wasn’t forced on me. The cost is minimal and it provides me with some benefits and efficiencies. But it does not rule my life. I have friends whose lives would be turned upside down if they lost their cell phones. Me? I still keep an address book. I choose face-to-face conversations over those conducted by text messaging. I use my cell phone to facilitate get-togethers, not replace them.

I hate cell phones because they encroach on a way of life where we interact with each other in person. Humans evolve over time to adapt to their environments, but were we failing as a species before the advent of cell phones? I don’t think so.

Or maybe I’ve never been much of a phone person to begin with.

September 5, 2008 Posted by | Why the world is going to hell in a handbasket | , , , | 9 Comments

Kudos to Maple Leaf Foods

Since taking the CC+PR program, I am more aware of the way organizations react when faced with a crisis. After the Sunrise Propane debacle, it’s refreshing to see a company get it right.

Maple Leaf Foods should be patted on the back for practicing great PR after the listeriosis outbreak. If this isn’t a textbook example of good crisis communications, I don’t know what is. They have been open and communicative with their stakeholders – customers, investors, media – from the beginning. They have cooperated with government agencies. They have reached out to their audiences in any way possible: full-page ads in newspapers; news releases; analyst conference calls; their website; and social media (see clip below). As a result, I have yet to come across any negative feedback in the media or the blogosphere.

The recall will cost them approximately $20 million in losses. But maintaining the public’s trust in their brand and reputation will be worth much more in the long run.

August 25, 2008 Posted by | There is hope... | , , , | 4 Comments

Lessons learned

It has been a month since I’ve completed my classes. I am currently interning at the Ontario Dental Association and love it. The stress and doubt that has plagued me for the last seven months is dissipating. I am slowly returning to my old self.

I reread my very first blog post last night. It’s hard to believe that eight months ago I walked on the campus for the first time, anticipating how my life would unfurl with a mixture of excitement and dread. I think enough time has lapsed for me to look back, reflect and come up with some advice for other mature students returning to school after a long absence from academia.

Treat school like a job

Arrive on time, attend all classes and meet your deadlines. You will strengthen your personal brand with the faculty and students and be viewed as someone who is professional, courteous and dependable. It will also help you adapt on a mental and emotional level. You are leaving a life of routine and free evenings and weekends for one that will be erratic and demanding. It will be a hard transition to make.

Structure your days so that you have some time to yourself in the evenings and weekends. I know it’s easier said than done, but even the slightest effort brings some reward. If your days end early, stay on campus and do some work until the end of the day – update your resume, write a blog post, search for jobs. Because coming home at 2 p.m. while your friends are at work drives home the fact that you are not working. It was in June that I began jonesing for a job, a routine, a 9-to-5 work week. Watching Oprah at home every afternoon did not seem right. (Watching Oprah should never seem right, but you get my drift.)

Don’t fuss the grades

When you are in interviews for an internship or a job, you will not be asked what grades you received. Don’t be a keener like me and strive for As. As the program went on I quickly realized it was an exercise in futility. You are there to learn – no one expects you to write the perfect essay or the most persuasive news release on the first attempt. Furthermore, you have too many assignments to complete in a very limited timeframe. As long as you do your best, hand in your work on time and learn from your mistakes, your efforts will be recognized. If you reach for anything beyond that, you’ll wear yourself thin.  

Dramarama

Take one high school-like setting. Mix in 28 people of varying backgrounds. Stir in some tension. Add a dash of stress. Stew for seven months. That’s a recipe for drama (or an interesting reality television show). You might get caught up in it. You may create some of your own.

Avoid it. Do not get wrapped up in petty conflicts. If it doesn’t concern or affect you in any way, leave it alone, as my father would say. You have your own problems to deal with – why do you need to take on someone else’s? Going back to my first point, if you treat school like a job, treat your classmates like co-workers. You can still be social, pleasant and friendly. But keep the drama where it belongs – on television.

You are back at school for one purpose – learning, getting a certificate and ultimately establishing a new career. Don’t treat this as an opportunity to live your high school years over again. Don’t let anything distract you from why you’re there. If you forge some friendships at the end of it, think of it as an added bonus.

So, that’s it. I’ll end this post with the words of the great 20th century bard, Casey Kasem: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Learning | , , , | 2 Comments

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