Friday, January 13, 2012

This Blog Has Moved to

It's true!  After four years and more than 400 posts, I have packed up my blog and moved it to the WordPress platform.

Please visit the "Strategic Guy" blog here and take a moment to subscribe.  Thanks!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Best Places to Work Fallacy

For some, work is like spending a week at summer camp.

There are plenty of games to be played.  For instance, LivingSocial in Washington, DC energizes its staff with air hockey, Skee-Ball, cupcake eating contests and ziplining.

Your daily needs are met in one place.  Google is famous for its free food in company cafeterias, no charge laundry service and exercise facilities.

And there is an environment that fosters friendships.  Tax software company Intuit hosts what it refers to as “idea jams” to bring employees together.

This the life of employees at companies on Fortune Magazine's list of Best Companies to Work For and Washingtonian’s 50 Great Places to Work.  It’s so very sweet…or is it? 

Every time I read about a company-sponsored yoga class, billiards tournament in a chill out room or free after hours car service, I think here’s a company that aspires to keep you tucked away in their four walls. 

Life is about work, right?  If you’re going to be here 60 or 70 hours a week we might as well make it more tolerable under the guise of a zany culture.

More than four years ago Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) moved to a completely open and flexible work environment.  Work where you want, when you want and how you want.

We count on each other to provide a high level of client service, meet deliverables on time and invest in professional development without the need of a daily pep talk.  We’re all responsible adults. 

Plus, we’ve structured our environment to accommodate this flexibility.  That’s why we outsourced our technology to a partner that makes our entire infrastructure available anywhere there is Internet connectivity.

Is this type of work situation right for everyone?  It’s not.  Some people dig on Foosball.  That’s cool. 

For us, finding an appropriate work/life balance and making sure we spend time with family and friends is paramount.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Posts in 2011 are Remarkably Old School

My annual review of year-end readership statistics from the "Strategic Guy" blog was encouraging...and somewhat discouraging. 

Let's start with the good.  Although my pace of publishing declined from 87 posts in 2010 to 61 last year due to new writing commitments I took on with the Washington Business Journal, Washington Executive and Govwin, the quantity of unique visits to the blog site exceeded 10,000 with nearly 17,000 page views.

Web search is the primary driver of traffic, yet I also realized a consistent flow of readers from Strategic Communications Group's (Strategic) corporate Web site and presence in online communities like Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn.

An analysis of the blog site's most popular posts in terms of readership is where I grow concerned.  Here are the top three, each of which exceeded 500 unique visits. 

Three Phases of Social Media Maturation, published on April 12, 2009

Great SaaS Debate, published on January 19, 2008

Company Wide Social Media Engagement: A Bridge Too Far, published on March 1, 2011

Based on Strategic's competency in social media and focus on serving clients in the technology markets, these posts are all relevant topics that reinforce our expertise.  What's the problem?

Check out the dates of publication.  The most popular post is nearly three years in the can, while the second most popular is now four years dated.

Did the issues, trends, technologies and best practices I addressed in 2011 fail to resonate with readers?  And how should I evolve my editorial and content plan based on this review of analytics?

A couple of questions I'll be thinking about during the next few weeks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Grooming Lounge Fails on Expectations

Earlier this month I donated my time to a worthy charitable organization called the Rising Stars Foundation to serve as their featured speaker at a fundraising event.  My topic:  social media for measurable sales.

As an expression of their appreciation, the team at Rising Stars Foundation gave me a gift card to the Grooming Lounge.  I've been a long-standing customer and made an appointment for a hot lather shave, arranging my schedule so I could work from Strategic Communications Group's (Strategic) Tysons Corner office.

I arrived at the Grooming Lounge's location in Tysons Galleria right on time and was quickly seated in their waiting area.  There I sat...and sat...and sat.

At 4:15 PM, I grabbed my jacket from the closet and informed the receptionist I was leaving.  "Oh, we were just about to get to you," she said.

I always spot someone 15 minutes to be tardy for an appointment or meeting -- either professional or personal.  After that, I don't stick around as I view my time to be just as important as theirs.  (Of course, if the person calls or messages me that they are running late than I'm more flexible.)

My experience with the Grooming Lounge is particularly disappointing because the company prides itself on attentive customer service.  Life is about expectation setting.  In this case, the Grooming Lounge came up way short.


Here is my tweet about the experience: , what's with the poor customer service? Had a 4 PM appointment today in Tysons Corner and sat for 15 minutes before leaving.

UPDATE:  Forty five minutes after the appointment the assistant manager phoned me to apologize and to offer a complimentary service.  We'll see if (or how) they respond via social channels.

UPDATE2: Tweet sent by @groominglounge in response to my message:

groominglounge @StrategicGuy @StrategicGuy So sorry for the underwhelming experience today. We certainly value your time. We'll make it right ASAP.

Monday, December 26, 2011

3 Groovy Web 2.0 Tools

An exciting aspect of social media marketing is the constant inflow of new Web 2.0 tools and technologies.

How can they enhance the success of our client programs?  Is their functionality relevant in a business-to-business environment?  Do they deliver efficiency by allowing us to streamline a function related to content creation, promotion or sales integration?

With these questions in mind I reviewed more than 20 applications during the holiday weekend.  Here are three that I found to be of particular value:

LoopDesk: although its membership and level of engagement is modest, this online community is BtoB focused with content, groups and discussions of interest to mid-sized and small businesses.

Cinch:  add audio to Web and social media content with this easy-to-use application.

Reachable:  is one of your social contacts connected with a high value prospect you’d like to target?  With close integration to LinkedIn and Facebook, this application allows you to quickly answer that question.   

Monday, December 12, 2011

One PR Shop's Branding Effort Falls Flat

Boston-based public relations shop Lois Paul & Partners (LP&P) has been on a roll.

It recently celebrated its 25th year in business, moved its corporate HQ from the suburbs to the heart of the city, and introduced a sharp, new corporate identity.  I have to acknowledge that as the owner of a communications consultancy I peer at LP&P with envious eyes.

That is until I came across the new positioning line the firm introduced with its jazzed up logo, “What’s next is everyday.”

Hmmm…I don’t get it.  To me, this themeline is a statement of the obvious which is absolutely not the mission of a high performance, creative public relations firm.  

In representing its clients, a PR, advertising, marketing or social media firm must strive to find the unique attributes and angles that will resonate with key audiences, while reinforcing a set of well defined business goals.

Plus, public relations and communications professionals in both corporate and agency environments are often challenged to help top executives communicate messages in clear and succinct language.  Confusion stands as an enemy of effective PR.

LP&P does attempt to provide more insight into the strategy behind “What’s next is everyday” in this blog post.  Yet, I even find their explanation confusing.

“…we’re proud to be as strong as we’ve ever been and that at the end of the day, we’ve retained our core values of integrity and balance that help us build honest, down-to-earth partnerships with our clients.”

LP&P is a fine agency and should be proud of their exceptional work.  Personally, I don't consider this effort success story worthy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Painful High Road

In the late 1990s, Cysive was a foundation client.  We played a lead role in building the company’s reputation, investing thousands of dollars in time each month above their retainer fee.

The company rode the dot com wave and was on a path to raise millions in the public markets.  All of our investment and loyalty was going to pay off in a six figure account for Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) 

Or so I thought.  They hired a new hotshot VP, Marketing out of Intel who then proceeded to fire us for one of the big brand name communications firms.

When the Marketing VP phoned me to strike our death blow the final insult was his decision to have the new firm manage a press interview I had been working on for six months.

My response, “If you guys mess this up I am going to be f--king pissed.”

As soon as the words slipped from my mouth I knew the relationship between Cysive and Strategic was forever shot.  My response was emotional, unprofessional and immature.

Which brings me to a blog post recently published on a government-oriented social network called MeriTalk.  Entitled “The Sting," author Steve O’Keeffe of communications consultancy O’Keeffe & Company relates a sad and frustrating tale of his company’s soured business relationship with a partner on a key government contract.

Steve O'Keeffe - jilted partner
There’s no way I can verify O’Keeffe’s presentation of the events portrayed in the post.  If it is true, his company was certainly mistreated.  

Yet, his decision to openly call out another company in a social environment – which he justifies with his belief in transparency – is misguided.  Why?

For starters, O’Keeffe’s post may be perceived by many as merely the rants of a spoiled child.  Although penning this article probably felt good at the time (as did my dropping the f-bomb on Cysive), the impression he has created is inconsistent with the premium brand he has worked so hard to build for his firm.

Second, O’Keeffe is inappropriately using his position of influence and authority as a top flight business leader and content publisher.  In an Email to the CEO of his company’s now former partner, O’Keeffe subtly delivers a threat which he has now made good on:

“I am frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines – and generate a weekly blog which goes out to 85,000 in the government and contractor community.”

And finally (and perhaps most important), this post potentially damages his firm’s ability to identify teaming partners for future business opportunities.  Things sometimes sour in a relationship.  Would you want to hit a tough stretch with O’Keeffe as your partner?

As a business owner, I know that it can be painfully excruciating to remain on the high road.  It is important to do so though, especially when it comes to participation in social media.   


Disclosure:  My firm has competed for business against O'Keeffe & Company.  I've met Steve several times, yet we have no meaningful relationship or connection.