Wearable technology. Imagine that!

A growing trend in communications was highlighted by Apple yesterday in its announcement of new products, including the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch. Wearable technology. Samsung and other competitors are already there in a big way. Now comes the challenge of the Apple brand in the form of the Apple Watch. It doesn’t hurt that they have a little organization called the Mayo Clinic on their side.

But this week’s announcements from one of the most valued brands in the world just reinforces what advertising pros have been saying for years – that virtually all of the truly unique creative ideas have been thought of already. It was 1999 when a small team of brand experts from Motorola led by Gloria Shui worked with Internet World Asia to create a DigitalDNA fashion event showcasing wearable Motorola technology from pagers to cell phones and more. The event was a huge hit and it was highlighted in news media around the world, most prominently on CNN.

And when advertising creativity is hard to come by? The popular fallback is to just use children or monkeys. They both work every time.

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Don’t Forget Internal Branding

Branding. An external program for the most part, right? Not necessarily. More and more organizations are realizing that the internal, employee communications benefits from branding are worthwhile, even necessary. An HBR paper by Omilion-Hodges and Baker (“Everyday talk and convincing conversations: Utilizing strategic internal communication”) talks about why that is the case.

It has long been said that employees are your best salespeople. Whether it is over lunch with friends or holidays with family or just catching up with neighbors, employees are a credible source that provides reasons why we think what we do about an organization. Social media just magnifies that even more. Doesn’t it just make sense to equip them with the up-to-date content that best reflects what your company is all about?

So when we lead with integrity, when we walk around and actually engage with employees and when we proactively share honest and forthright news about what the organization is doing and why, it helps to shape the everyday talk that becomes our brand.

Thinking about your internal brand? Make sure you can articulate precisely what you stand for, have brand champions throughout the organization, encourage employees to talk about the organization in responsible ways, including social media, and by all means make sure leadership sets an example. Communications is key. Given the right “ammunition” you may be pleasantly surprised just how good a sales force your employees may be.

Simple stuff, really.

The full paper “Everyday talk and convincing conversations: Utilizing strategic internal communication” by Leah M. Omilion-Hodges of Western Michigan University and Colin R. Baker of Radford University can be purchased at http://hbr.org/

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Big Data Is No Panacea

The NSA, Target data breach and other issues aside, the future of Big Data is bright – so bright that industry experts’ biggest concern is often a lack of skilled people to implement data management programs in organizations. All the digital data gathering trends are on the upswing. Soon your car will tell the manufacturer not just what service is due but also what music you listen to and where you shop as well as how safe a driver you may be. While Big Data generates concern from privacy advocates and is often highlighted in conversations about business ethics, one key consideration that is often overlooked in the frenzy to leverage its benefits is how to use it effectively.

There exists a tendency for marketers to use data for data’s sake – to expect that good information is enough to solve their marketing riddles. It is not that simple according to a Pew Research Trust Survey, “We have had decades of experience analyzing corporate financials, stock exchanges, and market indices, and yet we still cannot predict what will happen next.”

There is still a very big need for judgment … to know when to trust your instincts. Or better yet, when to question that the data was aggregated in a quality manner.

From another Pew Research Trust Survey, “The manpower required to appropriately tag and accurately merge all current data sets is prohibitively excessive. And that doesn’t consider the new data sets being created every day. Consequently, Big Data will generate misinformation…”

In other words, Big Data is only as good as the person interpreting it.

So join the forward thinking organizations that are using Big Data to good effect in both internal and external ways. But also be one of those people who recognize it’s limitations and also when to use judgment as opposed to the numbers – no matter how impressive they may be.

“If you blindly follow the research, you’ll lose.” Steve McKee, Mckee Wallwork Cleveland Advertising in Bloomberg Business Week magazine.

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Effective communication in increasingly diverse environments

Good, productive internal communications has arguably become harder, not easier. In Top Issues Facing CEOs in a March Wall Street Journal article two common themes are innovation and recruiting and keeping top people. One would think they complement each other. Not necessarily.

The vast array of technology we have at our fingertips can make us complacent, even lazy. “Let’s do a virtual Town Hall” is a common response from travel-weary managers. There are times when that option is the only feasible one. But defaulting to virtual meetings comes with a cost in terms of the quality and the effectiveness of communication.

Despite incredible technology at our fingertips, person-to-person communication will always play a pivotal role in successful internal communications says People Driven Performance (PDP) on their website and they go on to share well-grounded thoughts on just why they think that is the case.

If it is not generational differences in the workforce (we now have early stage Boomers and late stage Boomers) it is the increasing cultural differences. Geert Hofstede, regarded as one of the world’s leading representatives of intercultural research and studies, shares exceptional data on just how that manifests itself on The Hofstede Centre site. Tools like the Power Distance Index help to measure the perceptions of equality in different cultures and in different organizations.

Employee and internal communications is harder than ever and its affect on productivity and success in today’s leaner organizations has never been higher. Technology is a useful tool in helping to get the message out.

People talking to people still remains key.

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How to compete with smartphones when delivering content

So many professionals still struggle with presentations – any presentations, big or small. Like many things it all comes down to a few simple components. Keep it simple, the human brain can only absorb a limited amount of data in a short span. Keep it brief, attention spans are shorter than ever. Know your content inside and out – nothing instills confidence more than comfort with the material. And be confident – even passionate – about what you are delivering. Sounds easy – and it can be. For those who need help, companies like Franklin Covey have world-class programs that walk you through the process. You feel bulletproof when you are done with a thorough program like Franklin Covey offers. But for the basics here is a good read on presentations in the Internet era. Joe McKendrick summarizes it well.

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Lessons from the world of sports

Digital communications are so fast that it is hard to recall or otherwise repair messages if you deliver that occasional mis-statement. Social media has made sure of that.

Now we see further proof from the sports world of all places. Fox Sports has hired self-proclaimed “communications expert” Frank Luntz to interpret the real messages from sports stars as they talk publicly about their games, their performances, their teams. “Frank Luntz is an expert in reading between the lines and assessing the validity and sincerity of what people say, whether it’s said during press conferences or off-the-cuff,” said Fox in a recent news release.

Luntz would have had a field day with Richard Sherman’s rants just after the Super Bowl.

So if sports stars were hesitant to do that live interview after the game, now they have even more to reason to pause.

Maybe that media skills training is a good idea after all. Ya think?

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Technology and healthcare

Advances in technology combined with changes fostered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) promise to make the healthcare landscape very different in the coming months. Ubiquitous broadband and wireless access now make it possible for a patient to have a scan done by his/her primary care physician in Hometown, USA and read by the foremost experts in their specialty thousands of miles away – immediately. A patient’s electronic device, a pacemaker, seamlessly transmits data on heart rates and other vitals while they sleep. Laura Landro writes on High Tech Fixes for Patients in the December 24th Wall St Journal. It is worth a read. Change is coming, for everyone.

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Can Non-Profits Lead the Way in Health and Human Services?

A recent article in the Wall St Journal suggests that they can, in the USA anyway.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy says Americans are the most generous contributors on the planet, giving 2% of our annual GDP or twice as much as the next closest nation the UK. Americans give about $300 billion to non-profits annually. The bulk of that – 84% – goes to religious and educational institutions. Think of the progress in medicine that might be possible if those numbers were different.

Medical foundations that raise money for research into everything
from cancer to heart disease to diabetes would be in a much better position to fund advances that could save lives – at no cost to the public sector.

Complicating that is the taboo on marketing in such organizations. Dollars donated are supposed to be dollars that go directly to the affected party, such as research patients or research programs.

Fundraising consultant James Greenfield estimates that, for major gifts, every 10 cents spent on fundraising produces, on average, a dollar back. For direct-mail solicitations, the cost is 20 cents per dollar back. For special events, 50 cents. Investment in fundraising and marketing multiplies the money put into it.

A fresh look at research non-profits may be in order. The September 15th
article from the WSJ is available at:


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26 Things Pro Athletes Should Never Say

#21 – Stop asking to be traded to Monaco.

Media skills training can have a lighter side– especially if your trainer includes some videos of President George Bush in full bumbling mode. For President Bush it was often the delivery. He had a knack. For the rest of us, there are things to say and there are things not to say. Ever. No matter what.

Jason Gay at the Wall St Journal has taken that time honored tradition of hind sight and applied it to Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, who had the temerity to get defensive when questioned about his habits on days off. Now if Beckett and the Red Sox were playing well this would have blown over in a New York minute (sorry, couldn’t  resist).  But they are not. So Joe Six Pack at Fenway Park wants his multi-millionaires to spend the day in complete and total angst, suffering. Doing something, anything, to get back on track. Beckett played golf.

If you are a media skills trainer, enjoy the material for your training sessions. If you are a sports fan, take a look at yet one more criticism of millionaire athletes. If you are a Boston Red Sox fan, check out some of my other posts. Perhaps one on China.

Jason.          Love it.


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Branding Evolves in China

A recent Wall St Journal article “China Tries the Finer Things”,http://tinyurl.com/bu2uer8 ,
talks about Chinese investors buying luxury brands from European companies that have suffered from the recent soft local market. China’s Shandong Heavy Industry Group recently purchased Italian yacht maker Ferretti Group. Other more well-known deals included assets of Jaguar Land Rover and a failed attempt to buy Saab Automobile AB of Sweden.

This is more than opportunistic buying by Chinese companies. It is a recognition that China’s longstanding advantage in lower cost manufacturing is in decline and that a longer term strategy is in order. While some local brand building has occurred, e.g. Haier, to succeed in global markets, Chinese companies will have to adapt. That means hiring local managers, investing in local research and even listing subsidiaries locally. One reason for Haier’s success is that they have learned to do that.

An article in the 2010 Economist identified this trend earlier,http://www.economist.com/node/17463473 ,

Some believe China Inc. can be a bit sinister in how they manage such acquisitions. Many in America think that Chinese telecoms-equipment firms participate in hacking scandals and pose a threat to its national security.

China often buys assets as a way to preserve the supply chain for their rapidly growing economy, e.g. strategic investments in global mining companies that help China Steel secure a steady supply of raw materials like iron ore and coking coal. But on the luxury and retail side of things, the key will be to let local managers run the businesses and the brands they have built over time. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out.

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