Archive for the ‘Advanced Trendspotting’ Category

How To Fame

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Posture is life.

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What you say and do, along with how you say and do things are obviously important components of the new verb faming, but achieving favorable results with these two things alone isn’t a sufficient accomplishment: We must always consider who we are with everything we say and do. A scattered personality during communication will be detrimental to the message you’re trying to express. We have to be certain who we are in relation to what we are saying.

We see this disparity constantly in the retail world. Take for example two very successful businesses: Wal-Mart and that religious icon, the Apple Store. Employees of both essentially serve the same function: Sell To People. The difference is that at Wal-Mart, we think about the employees as indifferent sales people who have a job to do. They stock the shelves and do what’s required, but they don’t have more than minimal interest in providing assistance. (Though the greeters sure are a nice touch, eh?) At the Apple Store, however, we see real-time folks who just want to get us what we need…people genuinely interested in helping us! Gosh, doesn’t their fascination and loyalty shine through?

The message is the same, and the position is the same, but the posture could not be more different.

    No way, no how.

As you go about your everyday activities (and here’s a hint: don’t do anything in rote-manner every single day if you want to seem “different”) while you interact with colleagues, friends and executives, think about how you’re posturing yourself - and then ask yourself some questions:

Am I present?

If you aren’t aware of what’s going on in front of you (but instead, thinking about your endless To-Do list), your apathy will come across as arrogance and indifference. Show genuine interest by looking at the person you’re talking to and acknowledge what they are saying with questions and comments.

Do I have a positive attitude?

Positivity brings optimism to your life and is often contagious. A positive attitude is a state of mind and it’s one worth your time to develop and strengthen. Remember, nobody wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nelson! (I love the name Nelson…) Incidentally, I will talk about whining in a few minutes give me time

Am I prepared to tackle the new?

Hey I don’t want to sound new agey here but a challenge is the thing that makes you strong. If you aren’t prepared and at the ready for whatever comes your way – no matter what curve ball– you just aren’t posturing. We don’t always have the answers immediately, but the key is to remain in control and confidant so as to come up with a solution. Demonstrating effective crisis management skills shows your ability to be a quick thinker, stay calm in the midst of turmoil and negotiate. Hone in on these skills and show your ability to move from crisis to opportunity.

Never say the words “I don’t know”. Find out… Just go and get the answer. And please, don’t tell me “I don’t know” should be followed (in you speech mind you) with “I’ll go find out.” That’s what the first words should be, dammit. See Gumby for more - please.

Oh, and am I motivating others?

We all know that to succeed we must find something to focus on that both motivates and inspires us. Be the “thing” that gets people around you UP and MOVING! Provide answers, new ways to approach challenges, and come up with ideas for success. By inspiring others, you will engender trust and loyalty. You must know that, but often forget…. When people think of you as the engenderer of loyalty and trust, you are in a fantastic position.

Am I respected?

If those around you don’t respect you, you might as well close up shop now and jot an Out of Business sign on your forehead (tattoos “r” us). When we admire the accomplishments of others we inevitably come to see their value and importance! This positive feeling of esteem is earned - over time – through our actions alone, not by spewing hyperbole.

So go ahead, crank up the volume and let Aretha’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T get you pumped –I also recommend Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up” –and demonstrate you’re a person of real worth.

Do I Act Like I Give A Crap?

I probably don’t need to explain that.

Ashton Kutcher’s Lateral Move to Nowhere

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

I just watched half of Ashton Kutcher’s romp-com No Strings Attached. By accident. I laughed at a bit player’s line: “The sounds of your sex are ruining my porn!”

Then I got bored and started staring at my thumbs.

Mr. D. Moore has done the same character in about 12 and a half movies, including the glopped-together Valentine’s Day, where he was, once again, the clueless cluck with a heart of gold. Inevitably, I’m confronted with his movies while on airplanes, and each time I shake my head in wonderment, “WHY is he hired?!” …”Why is HE the lead actor?” … “Can’t they find someone else with more than one expression?!” It’s not as though any of these starring roles — The Guardian, Guess Who, Butterfly Effect, Killers, Just Married, the list is endless — has made any money.

Dude, where’s my actor? Ashton Kutcher is not he. This guy is a puppet (also known as a marionette, which is commonly referred to as a dummy)!

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Which brings me to the news: Hiring his abs, err, this piece of plastic to replace America’s favorite Sheen-wreck in Two And a Half Men makes perfect sense — for Kutcher.

While he may be able to give excellent ghost-written speeches at TED and such events; boast about his one million Twitter follower milestone; handle a pretty good starry marriage to a lady who seems like an actress; talk a good game about causes he believes in, and somehow be credited with the forward to a book on social media … he is not a movie actor as much as a well-honed product placement.

Michael Kelso, the character he handily got us loving in That ’70s Showis Ashton Kutcher. He’s the clumsy, daft guy a lot of women find attractive. It’s what got him started, but sadly, he’s never learned to shake that persona and emerge as a respectable actor.

How about creator Chuck Lorre does something different … actually makes an “actor” of him? Shake it up! Bring him back on 2 ½ as the long lost gay cousin … or, shave his head, give him nerd glasses and make him gain 100 lbs. or wear a fat suit. Will the ladies still drool? Who cares. Pay for the guy’s scene classes and wash that perpetually goofy grin away. Otherwise we might just start missing Tiger Blood–at least ratings wise.

Kutcher possesses none of the traits thrown at him. He’s not this big social media guru; he tweets. As for his huge Twitter following, you do know that once you follow him you are unable to unfollow him, eh? Sneaky bastid. AK plays a public part that changes constantly and he does it quite well. Every choreographed move in this man’s life is strategically pieced together by his posse.

I’m glad — for Lorre’s sake, and for the goober mainstream media’s — that a bright-eyed, good-looking malleable Hollywood star has taken that asshole’s place in a show a lot of people like. I hope everyone at CBS is aware, though, that his ratings popularity is, just like Whoopi Goldberg’s, not guaranteed. Pre-The View a multitude of Whoopi’s movies, books, comedy shows and theater gigs fell with loud crashes; she always does well on TMZ“though. [Her unread autobiography was, not ironically, titled Book!]

The big Ash could pull off his new TV gig if he tunes in and recognizes the need for an eight-year-old show to evolve into something brand new AND different. This is a gig in which he desperately must succeed. We all know he is that guy who while not a trained actor (see above) can perform for his supper. As Daniel Tosh might say, “I thank him.” Because dumb is as dumb does.

But, do we have to be just as idiotic to watch?

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A portion of the above was originally created for HuffingtonPost but got killed by its AOL-purchased editors; do you think they’re in bed with Ashton Kutcher? I am not upset about it.

Find me on Twitter posing as @laermer. I’ll let you unfollow.

Award Shows Mean Nothing–And We Can’t Get Enough

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

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Let’s say you go to work, like me, and at the end of the year you get an award for doing your job. Silly, right? Wrong. That is what the “self-servicing” entertainment industries do: give awards for best film, music, TV, book, magazine, and hairstyle (well, not that).

Hello, and welcome to the world of award shows, one that will go away when TV becomes interactive and people vote for what they want. This year awards are being brought to you by–well, everyone! It normally happens in January, when entertainment groups consisting of no more than 200 people who were appointed by a politically inept process randomly select the best of last year’s crop. Strangely, it’s usually the same overhyped products that get all the groups’ awards. Funny.

And it’s a big moneymaking enterprise, involving sponsorship and hype and a lot of people paying (and thus begging) to be part of the process.

The awards biz has grown by leaps and bounds by every network on earth. Neil Patrick Harris is rich due to our insistence on a host who sings for his supper. The trend is that every organization wants to, or must, be the first to handicap the best film–or predict which blasé song or actor or drapemaker on a TV set is going to be the one that [fill in the year] will be forever remembered by.

So while televised award shows are tremendous opportunities to see our favorite singers and actors pimp their best in lights and colors and smoke (note recent Grammys), doesn’t it seem that every time a performer is on TV, you just saw him telling the same joke or singing the same product? Worse is when they go on a talk show and talk about the product. Each one is always the best experience with the best crew, script, team, director, hairstylist.

A few years back I was shocked–not Casablanca shocked–to see Chris Rock appear on two award shows in the sam week making the same lame joke about former Giuliani: “Rudy in a crisis is perfect–he’s like a pit bull. It’s great if somebody’s breaking in your house. But if they’re not, then, you know, the pit bull might eat your kids.” Even the cool are swept up in awards mania. It’s like a disease and an eye roll intertwined.

Could it be that the people who appear on those shows actually have an album or movie or book or surfboard line that was just released? Let’s pause to see how much of a wink rather than a contest these programs have become. Otherwise, you’d still hear “The winner is” instead of a wince-inducing “The Oscar goes to . . .”

I have nothing against good works of people who sing for their supper, but I never got an award for being best CEO of a veteran public relations company. (RLMpr turns 20 on March 1; cards and gifts are welcomed but keep the tributes silent.) I think that most entrepreneurs and people who work for a living would find an over-the-top acknowledgment embarrassing and a waste of time.

In the near future, as everyone on earth begins to get their due for being astutely funny or formerly fat or finding a new career (thanks, Bravo and VH1 for resurrecting dead celebs), good folks who work hard to enliven the world will get deserved pats on the back and the award show business will start to seem as silly and pointless as–an award show.

So we could make a pact: we decide right here and now that all writers and all filmmakers and kazoo players did their job really well and we thank them. By law, each will receive a letter from whoever pays them that merely say: “Hey, good job!”

Entertainment is a business that sells in a Darwinian fashion. What does the best mean now? Just what’s hot.

Talent matters little while shocking matters most. The most forgettable part of our culture always seems to win out. But we can change that.

That said, I’ll be tweeting the Oscars Sunday the 27th. I hope I win something for my efforts! Join me, yeah?

The Last Decade & Mediocrity……A Look Ahead

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

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There’s a Kurt Vonnegut short (very short) story called Harrison Bergeron. In it the United States Handicapper General, under the auspices of the 211th, 212th, and 213th Constitutional Amendments, has stamped out individual talents and characteristics for the sake of total unimpeded equality. The population is fed mindless entertainment, all their memories periodically wiped clean. It isn’t torture, not exactly, nor is it intolerable. It’s just mediocre. Imposed, entrenched mediocrity.

And it is terrifying.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that our current moment is anything like this Vonnegutian nightmare. But it was close to this for the last decade. We weren’t physically burdened by actual weights meant to “level the field”, nor did buzzing alarms trigger mass distraction and short-term amnesia. Intelligence and beauty are not outlawed. We still had our wits and our various beacons — in politics, culture, athletics, the arts, and so forth. And yes (or no), we were not suffocated by comprehensive, dystopian egalitarianism.

Things did seem during the unfriendly 2000s to be damn mediocre! We seemed to be waiting, on pause, not necessarily with bated breath so much as with Lunesta and an Us Weekly. It was as though we’d been treading water beneath mostly gray skies for a seriously long time, without a “Look, land in sight!” We were weary, we’re wary, and rather than swim for shore we floated straight-laced and glazed. Our so-called entertainment stood in for our current events (quotes left out for obviousness). Our political anger was sooner directed toward straw men than funneled into substantive policy debate and prescription. And while we don’t loll about hamstrung by the Handicapper, world citizens did tend to diminish or ignore our most natural advantages. Our enormous opportunities — many of them unique to America — for renewable alternative energy. Our once-prodigious diplomatic capital. Our heavy industry. Our edge in scientific and technological innovation.

So ready for good news: We did not die out nor did it turn out we were living a post-American life. And Newsweek was sold for a dollar to an old geezer destined to destroy its whiny words of nothingness and bold headlines that made us feel worse. Now we are starting to scrape the sky. We’ve since become — not in every way, but in a lot of ways — just a wee bit more than average. In our actions and in our expectations, we stop this toeing of that safe, paunchy middle.

Look back. Kennedy promised the moon by a decade’s end — it happened. WW II’s Greatest Generation was asked to tighten belts and roll up their sleeves — they did. And while these admittedly cherry-picked examples might have been nothing more than a function of their unique times, is it easy to imagine us reflexively rising to the moment in ours? Look where we stood for nine-and-two-thirds endless years: on a precipice, always told of danger and devastation. But even with terrorism, climate change, one or two constantly-simmering wars, genocide abroad, a credit crunch affecting us till we cried “Uncle”, and countless other messes the newest century has brought..what precisely defines US (not Us)? Had we struck out with renewed vigor? Had we succumbed to fear? Neither. We are slowly becoming less mediocre. We’re embracing a new term.

Like our heroes, a lobotomized couple who are at the center of Harrison Bergeron, we sensed something wasn’t right from 2001-2010. We knew we ought to be breaking inertia. And this unease wasn’t just a tickle in the recesses of our minds because, behold, it has pushed itself front and center. But what will do the trick and wake us all from the stupor (stop checking your email while reading this)? Could it be another catastrophe? Web 7.0? One of those Tea candidates that actually won? Or will it not be so dramatic, this eventual extrication from the muck of mucks? Might it be more like the car you rock back and forth until what had been an inconspicuous gathering of momentum launches it back onto the road with a heart-starting roar?

Let’s forget the 2000s. Things today aren’t so terrible; they are (to use a teen word) ‘meh’. I know that most of us feel that: plateau coasting is better than a downward spiral. But the Internet-savvy 1990s were notable ONLY for jejune prosperity. Those unnamed 2000s are remembered for the steady unease we could never shake.

I proclaim a promising decade starts in 2011. It will be nothing like its immediate predecessor–because that would be the saddest sign ever. Means we’d be living inside a pattern of room temperature mediocrity that hasn’t soured us but kept us looking down, at our laps gazing at the latest text or news. (Taylor Swift has a new CD out; it’s everywhere.)

Look forward. . . only forward.

Like-minded ideas are found in the book 2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade, now out in whatever you want it to be.

[On twitter via @laermer for laughs and reportage.]
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Special Episode of “The El Show” (El-ection Day Wrap-up)

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

The regular Tuesday El Show on Blog Talk Radio was interrupted this Election Day for a special with guests anchor David Brancaccio and ad man Steve Cone. Listen in. But here is a summation just so you know what’s in store:

    Blog Talk Radio Presents “The El Show: El-ection Day Special”

On this Election Day special, I start off with an idea there won’t be much change in these mid-term elections which I find arguably disappointing since I’m really a big believer in change. Joined in this discussion is David Brancaccio from Public Radio’s “Marketplace” (former host of the fabulous “NOW” on PBS) who takes a different standpoint and claims that these mid-terms will result in change and that is due to the issue of money. David claims that the economy plays a big part in determining the election despite education being the classic fundamental issue of elections in the past. He says that despite economic indicators saying we’re coming out the hole, consumer confidence is down which gets people annoyed and they lash out on the polls. With certain politicians losing their seats, despite not making an obvious difference, David believes the makeup of congress dictates how money flows so as more republicans come in, money flows change which in turn affects how large companies choose to invest. However, I point out to David: let’s be real. I feel precarious about the true scale of change that is going to happen particularly in the next two years, not just because a lot of people aren’t showing up to vote except for the partisan supporters on either side, but also because even if certain politicians get displaced for others within their party, they’re still going to stick to party lines as there’s not enough passion out there to make radical changes.

Speaking of passion, David brings in the youth element arguing that there’s neither the passion among the youth to register to vote nor the interest due to the disappointment from the lack of change that was promised to them at the last election. Many just look and see the same old thing. Obama was an opportunity lost to the in-house politics and fighting and less focus on what’s for the greater good (my feeling). David blames the media too for focusing too much coverage on these issues, making it out to be a sports race and less on how much peoples votes can actually make a difference. Negative advertising and campaigning, said to have cost a staggering $1 billion this election, doesn’t necessarily make people want support the one releasing the negative campaign. If anything it just puts more people off voting because it all gets blurred together, where everyone is made to look like the bad guy, hardly good publicity for Congress’ already low approval ratings. So after all the money spent they shouldn’t be surprised when turn out is low. Although sticking to his argument that this election will matter, David argues that low turn-out has historically benefited the Republicans.

So we turn to the ad whiz Steve Cone (”Steal These Ideas”) who has noticed that the theme of voter’s sentiment is to “throw the rascals out” )to quote Norman Mailer) and to “get rid of the incumbents”. Cone, too, is disappointed to see just how much money has been spent on negative advertising arguing that 90% of adverts are negative and found the same correlation that it doesn’t swing votes. In fact, he believes its backfiring on all politicians as it makes them out to be crooks. He has yet to see an advert that he believes is of good quality and that a campaigner could be proud of. The only people they appeal to and persuade to come out and vote are the extremists and already committed. We both believe that a more successful candidate would be one who came out with a feel good campaign such as what Spitzer did and Cuomo just completed in New York, promising to weed out the crooks on both sides.

A solution that Steve proposes is that candidates should be more aggressive at seeking people out online, use technology to make people feel engaged like President Obama did in his successful campaign. Rather than spending obscene amounts of money on ineffective adverts, they would get more votes by using the Internet as its cheap, easy, interactive and most people are online these days. Politicians should ask people what they want to see in an advert, what issues they want addressing and resulting in more effective advertisements that they can say are approved by the people. Adverts need some form of response mechanism to get feedback from their viewers.

As a final note to end the show is the very true statement that everyone should vote because if you don’t vote you can’t complain! To listen to the whole kaboodle: http://blogtalkradio.com/TheElShow. Play it.

Don’t forget The El Show is live and taking calls every Tuesday at 9 AM e.t.

Twitter @theelshow and @laermer

Service, Thy Name is Customer

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Hello to you, the service person. It’s a service world out there. And, this essay will use the word service many times. But, it’s a curious word that has had more than a few vacillating meanings—when someone says “I’m servicing” another, I immediately think something dirty. Yeah … But what does it mean to work in a professional service business? If you’re like 75 percent of the country, you’re genuinely in it for the customer, and your product is your intellect or your ability or something that you “do” for another—a pretty abstract concept. The morass of information about service seems to show what’s right and wrong for those who toil daily for the demanding yet worthwhile customer; but it becomes more complicated when you need to figure out how to DO a service and RUN your own successful company—because you have so many people telling you how to do your job, including the customer.

So what’s with customers? Well, they pay the bill—they’re pretty much the key component to the business, right? But they’re not always right about the business. In fact, they’re usually not right unless they’re highly educated or expertly trained in precisely what the endgame is. And if they are, well, why would they need you? Your job is to instruct your clientele on how you do what they can’t on their own (while not giving away any proprietary goodies), and to show them why, since you’re The Expert, you need to be given the BOTD (benefit of the doubt).

I work in PR and we’ve discovered that most clients don’t really know how PR works or how it’s successful. Let’s just say they haven’t a clue how to judge our work or gauge PR success. We live on the theory that resolving to tell folks what’s right for them—whether they agree or not—is how to be a true service professional nowadays. Because, when you think about it, no matter how the customer feels about you when you tell him he is dead wrong, if you succeed, all the bad feelings go away quickly.

Keep in mind: Is this a popularity contest? Or are you there to get a job done? The good news about being resolute is that people respect you for it even if they won’t admit it. Respect from those who buy your services is tough to get. I’d like to tell you a little secret I learned about 10 years ago at the beginning of the tough-to-manage dot com revolution: Your clients like to be told what to do. They’re actually slightly submissive and want you to take charge, push them into a corner, stand proud, thump your chest and say, “This is me and this is what I’ve got to offer.” They just won’t admit it.

Most of the people I know in various PR and marketing industries slap me down when I go there. “Gosh, Richard, I have to do what the client wants.” But that’s exactly how you get into trouble. What makes you think someone who doesn’t have a clue about PR has good advice? Because he reads David Pogue’s column once or twice a month?

Customers, I’ve decided, don’t really like being asked what they want, because they don’t know! Henry Ford said it many years ago, and it still holds true: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have told me, ‘a faster horse.’ ” (Yes, I owned that horse in the form of a Fiesta.) What’s the point of asking a question to someone who doesn’t know the answer? Tell them what they need to do! Get the buy-in from them by non-lazily and passionately explaining why you are the person they paid to do it. Yes, an Expert.

Sounds like common sense and still most folks will ask the client “Do you have the time to …,” which makes me shake my head feverishly. What’s time got to do with it? Cue Tina Turner. So, here’s what you need to tell them if you really find the idea/request/pattern/next step worthy: Tell them why. Tell them precisely why. Get them to see what they’ll get FOR doing it and what they will get FOR NOT doing it. If the former is better, then make ‘em DO IT.

Remember how I learned a lot about pushing people around in ‘97? See, back then there were so many minor players managing businesses who should have been selling shoes (funding was everywhere; “dumb money” we called it aptly). These little people had a fondness for telling PR pros that he or she “deserved” to be on the cover of Red Herring (circ. 50,000). We would point out, firmly and simply, that even if their self-importance were to spread in that direction, they’d most likely GET NOTHING from it: the business they were growing would not get a lot of new business from The Cover since said company was too incomprehensible and without a fully developed message (or product). Being on the cover of a magazine would in fact do a good turn toward confusing the readers! We pushed back again and again. They pushed back again and again. But we eventually won because the piece we painstakingly placed in the quasi-reputable Silicon Alley Reporter (circ 10,000) got them more partnerships and wannabe customers than anything they thought they, uh, deserved. From that moment on, I resolved to never let anyone boss us around unless they did PR. Because otherwise, our service would just be … a disservice.

Twitter @laermer

Am I Off ? Who Can Tell, Really?

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

I called in and immediately got hit by “I thought you were off …” Naturally, I responded with the knee-jerk “What does that mean?”

In a time of nearly impossible quality control, how could a CEO of a midsize PR firm actually go away and be away? I mean, I love my staff and all (all being the key word) but I’m a realist: What place on earth would AT&T not make my BlackBerry go buzz?

This friend of mine went to Mexico for a week and didn’t bother to check his email–fool. He returned to the bad word: “You won the contest of a Free Weekend in Amsterdam–Flight Included,” but only if he wrote back by week’s end. Which he couldn’t have. When my foolish pal begged in to say he was away, they scoffed, “Was there no copy shop/Net café/hotel center/person-with-computer where you were?” I mean, you’re a guy who checks his email once a week?

I can turn off like the best of them. And it is, however, in your better interest to not tell anyone you’re on, off, or in between! Who would know? I’m here, I’m there, I’m used to it. If I run away for a few hours on a workday, or reschedule a meeting here and there, who’s questioning where I am located?! Or–who cares?

These Out of Office pronouncements (OOFs) are badges we wear like the “Sent from my iPhone” banner that reads more like I-got-one-do-you! We chuck so much information onto our bounce-back responses that I am waiting for John Carpenter’s new scare-flick about the girl chased by knowledge picked surreptitiously by an errant email responder. Lately I’ve been sending returns to OOFs with my own: “But please come back.” It confuses people.

[I use “Sent from a good old-fashioned desktop” on outgoing emailsl.]

So, we covered email. When it comes to phones I’m all set because I screen, like you, and get the details via voicemail. Do you want people to hear the live sounds of your vacation spot? Way too revealing. Now I’m in the market for a good sound machine so I can put in New York-style traffic noises while lounging poolside. (”That splash? That was all Carrie Bradshaw!”)

Then there’s the infrequent in-person meeting we have to miss since we’re actually away. You could send someone in your place, but that would be rude and questions arise. Lately, I’ve been making excuses for not showing up in the vein of I stubbed my toe, because I wonder if taking a break is seen as a sign of weakness in these fantastically-connected times.

What difference does it make if you’re calling, writing, jotting a note down, sending a FedEx, Twittering, or tossing a quick text to check the heck in. When I am on mars, they will have 4G I’m sure.

Naturally, I’m as self-important as the next guy. I have to wonder if The Vacation has any meaning. It’s either a proclamation you are way too busy to think about the sender; or the ability to say, Look, I have an assistant, dude! What would happen if everyone took a deep breath and said, “I’m not in; I’m lurking.” Then you’d know how important you were ’cause someone responded to you when they were a little bit away.

And the funniest part of this rant was as I write it, on the beach during a week of speeches in a lovely location, I am starting at a not-skinny older man with his Blackberry left waiting for vibrations on his belly while he sunbathed. What a mark that left, for sure! Explain that to your mistress, bucko.

In this year of “vacationots” I bet you can be in office pretense mode…and you are fooling no one. I went to see my parents a few weeks ago and turned everything off except for conference calls, but told no one except Twitter followers. My assistant let it slip to someone in my office, who told a client; that guy in turn asked me how the dunes were in a call I was assumed to be in the office for. It’s a game that only real fakers can win. I’m exhausted having to describe it. You know what? I think it’s really time for a…

(Twitter @laermer)dsc00644.JPG

The NBC PR Disaster & End of Corporate Speak

Monday, January 18th, 2010

conan-heller.jpgI would have thought that all conglomerates have learned how quickly they can be damaged by “not checking in” with their customer base. Doesn’t anyone remember a year ago when Tropicana disastrously changed their carton without asking if anyone loved the old one? But no one at NBC Universal Comcast GE Microwave got a whiff of the orange-flavored catastrophe so they stepped right back into shit with their heads in the air. And no matter how they paint this pig, the last-place network has lost a huge swath of TV watchers (and we all watch TV, no matter who says “Not me”) by telling us how the Leno drama will end up.

It’s as if they thought we would somehow accept their final answer.

A statement along the lines of “Don’t worry, we’re fine moving Jay into Conan’s slot” was a classic that worked great before we became our own TV networks. That is, we are now the people who make the news. Water coolers are no longer where the action is–it’s on our handheld Black-i-Pres where we wouldn’t dream of quoting a major news story we didn’t have an opinion on. And yes, there was a time when we might be swayed by the machinations of an evil (but persuasive) newsmaking machine.

Back in the days of The Cosby Show being moved opposite Magnum P.I., a powerful media corporation could dictate a success by aggressively shoving a plethora of ads down our shrugging throats. (Even in 2005, when Grey’s transferred to Thursdays, it worked because “Choose Thursday” was plastered behind every toilet!) But now we do the shoving. We are the tweeters and status-updaters and IMers and G-talkers who make opinionated decisions based on how we feel about the deciders. Zucker & Co. will find their unsubtle ways emulated by the people as we take our fight to the well-oiled Internet.

And so this will be an unwinnable public fight that an old-fashioned conglomerate will regret.

It only gets worse for NBC who has to wince as side-show celebrities take sides in an ugly, unfettered way. The slot winner (Jay) has a single star in his corner–and Mr. Seinfeld is already on the payroll cause NBC’s committed to his tacky reality series soon to be renamed Jerry Is a Whore. Rosie O and Jimmy K have been nastily telling Jay to do “the right thing” so Conan can retain the throne–Kimmel went so far as to say “We have children–you have cars.” Alas, NBC has become so righteous and indignant that if Leno did say I’m out of here there’s simply no way NBC could keep the 11:35 brand from dom. Really, this is a circus created in less than a month that should never have gone this far.

chill.jpg

NBC played it too close to the chin–er, vest and did not look our way. It’s a corporate error still mass-produced by many media companies as they leak news to same-size media companies and believe we will accept the verdict because it’s all business and nothing is personal. But NBC chieftains (like those orange dudes) are not cognizant of how much personal time we spend laughing at the disasters powerful people make every day. We laugh at the news–we laugh at the way it is covered–we laugh at the tone. Our thought is always, “As if we don’t already know what’s going on.”

We already know NBC is scared witless they made a mistake. And they never bothered to come to us for advice. And that is PR 101.

NBC Universal needed to concoct an online forum using the requisite tools–Twitter, Facebook, a popup micro-site, Linked-in, even colorless NBC.com - to gather ideas given them by a few who care who hosts what. If they had, they’d be in a powerful position to say “We got this data from knowledgeable, helpful participants.” The results might have surprised them.

What we have here is a unique dilemma. Two big players on one network is normal–but one is always more popular by far. Jay Leno is the handy standby that luckily signing a decent contract allowing him to work until he drops dead. Conan O’Brien is the risky business decision–quirky, unbalanced, nervous-to-a-fault, freakishly tall–now being thrown out like yesterday’s omelet because his early show didn’t rise to hit levels by usual standards. These are two separate stories that should not have competed for public attention. Leno should have been put on hiatus–isn’t that word that everyone uses for cancellation anyway?

I’m surprised, too, that GE has such a short memory about Tonight. Doesn’t Zucker have copies of memos about how poorly Leno performed post-Carson? NBC stood firm with carefully crafted press statements until Leno started winning. The holders-of-the-pink-slips did same for an unknown O’Brien when he took Letterman’s 12:35 show with little notice. [NBC was always the evil empire. They started the Irishman with 26-week contracts.]

In 1993, remember that Letterman was god, but the notion that of canning Leno after seven months and playing musical time periods was unfathomable. It’s insulting to the host and the well-honed staff that has just gotten going; still, but it would have been seen as a slap to viewers who may not be watching but waited to see what others thought about the change.

In 2010, anyone who reads knows O’Brien ratings are low, granted, but Nielsen is only a part of the story today. The “viralness” of some of the current Tonight stunts have been gaining ground and people began to talk…which always leads to an increase on TV and a lot of sponsored Hulu hits. Simultaneously, NBC ruined Jay Leno at 10 by forcing him to be a PR guy whose guests were network stars of their own troubled (read stale) programming. Zachary Levi is colorful on Chuck, but come on!

Now the online/offline/phone-addicted public has their arms firmly folded (and will remain that way) because NBC drop-kicked the redhead and never checked with 24/7 tweeters to ask how would you feel about a switch.

Doesn’t NBC know anyone over at Tropicana?

Funny thing is–asking people (”in an Internet chat where we discussed our problems”) gives these suits an ability to claim, say a year from now, that O’Brien was paid out because the viewers spoke up and said it was time for a change. Key word: time.

And the current big-rating monologues are silly (”Guess what,” murmured O’Brien, “I’ve been offered a role in a porno…and I’m considering it!”) and are helping no one. It’s fun like a poke in the eye! Keeping the fisting skit that Conan did about NBC on its own ad-supported Hulu isn’t a sensible strategy. It’s also not funny for new owner Comcast who has to clean it up.

Don’t you find it uncomfortable watching two corporate stooges poking fun at one another while competitors use their public fight to bring viewers in? (Seth Meyers on SNL: “This week you didn’t need Cinemax to see someone get screwed on TV.”) The pit bosses know the two Tonight hosts’ careers have been irreparably blown and still neither’s camp has done anything but cower–and bitch. “Team Conan” concept is a tween-era marketing boon for the Twilight set that won’t mean more people turning in after he moves to E!.

In a few short weeks the dust is sure to settle. Leno will pop back up at 11:35 (wistfully, with his lips smacking); Conan will get a million viewers who can locate him after Chelsea Handler or Wanda Sykes; The Late Show host will be crowing like mad and winning, I guess; and no one will care. By then Charlie Sheen will be jailed, hospitalized or dead and we’ll all be jawing about the new laugh riot Toby Maguire on 3 and a Half Men.

After the Vancouver Olympics no one will be talking about NBC–a boycott will be underway–and I’m sure young Fallon will be blamed, tarred and feathered. Those pride-filled peacockers will have a big hole to fill. It will be their mouths. Because no one in our networked world wants to be told who is good or bad. And as far as numbersl, in the DVR Culture world Nielsen no longer holds the cards to what succeeds.

We have them. We deal them every single day.
******
Twitter @laermer

My List (Is a Very Very Very Fine List)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

optimism.jpgIs this the worst economic hardship we’ve suffered through? It’s bad, that’s for sure. And yet… Let’s Imagine a Worse Year! Sorry 2009 was ugly but it could get yuckier if we’re not careful. I’ve hereby devised scenarios to make this bright Christmas seem like the best yet! See,in the next 12 months who knows: you could find everything you ever believed in suckered-punched sideways.

Everything has truly hit rock bottom if:

…The World Famous Magnolia Bakery converts to The New York Breadline.

…Black Friday is a holiday when no one buys anything.

…Tiger Woods opens a self-defense school

…You’re forced to get that new Shareable PDA, smarmily branded as 2010’s PartyPhone!

…Stouffers sells frozen dinner called LeftOvers.

…Jeff Zucker transfers to Golden Light Bulbs at GE.

…An internship replaces a regular job…..for CEOs.

…An email comes offering “Provides New Stamina,” and it refers to your mind.

…Airplane seats are auctioned off at SalvationArmy.com. I mean the chairs–not chances to fly.

…Someone famous dies and instead of going “Wow I can’t believe this,” and spending time emailing/statusing our friends, we just go on with the day.

…The only no-reunion-ever band Talking Heads reforms with David Byrne for a cover album of Sinatra cover ballads; guest hosts Regis, then does a daily drive-time show on talk radio. Finally, Byrne embarks on the Whenever-I-Call-You-Friend tour with Stevie Nicks.

…A town known as Off The Grid pops up; it’s geographical equivalent of the train’s Quiet Car. That is: nothing can be done between people but talking–and sex.

…Jake and Reese officially split up — and admit that the whole thing was a sham and that Taylor and Taylor are following in their footsteps LA publicists commence hunger strikes!

… The NY Post and NY Daily News merge–and reemerge as Entertainment Weekly. Ultimate mashup!

…NBC dumps the whole of prime time for That Leno Show (third hour hosted by Kathie Lee)

…But no one notices.

…SiriusXM Satellite Radio changes into White Noise Inc.

…A much loved, decades-old magazine ceases publication –and no one tweets about it.

…Google can’t close a deal! Google files for, well, no one knows.

…Taxes are lowered across the board. Schools are shut, parks close down, highway medians remain half-built. Oh, yeah right, that’s California now.

…Without a new gimmick on deck, Glenn Beck and Beck duet on a CD. (And, in times of direst straits, Martha Stewart and Jon Stewart are combined for a gig on LifeSucks channel.)

…Having a meal at your parents’ is not obligatory any longer since you need the sustenance.

…We rent our homes by the hour to couples. Thousands of highway motels go under.

…Sappy Web videos do not cheer you up (sorry, ukulele-playing kitten!).

…It is unlawful to dub yourself “talent” or “talented” unless it’s true.

…Trump & O’Donnell are the new Sonny & Cher. (Cher sues. Cher pouts. Cher marries Donald, Jr.)

…Popular Wine Clubs replaced by even more populated Whiners Anonymous.

…Legal betting on which celebrity will be forced into exile is the newest national pastime. Results from this are mandatory. No ifs or buts.

…Wal-Mart has a hissy-fit when a chain called Smears opens. [You know, the new Sears and Macy’s combo.]

…IHOP runs out of batter! Japanese restaurants run low on rice! Hooters runs out of… you know!

… Newly-freed Katie Holmes is slated to star in Mission: Impossible 4 - A Woman Scorned!

… Janet Jackson starts seeing Bubbles on the down low..

… Palin joins Real Housewives. Does anyone notice?

…NotAGuru.com becomes a hot 12-Step Program.

…Microsoft and Apple join hands: iPod and Zune become IZod, a strangely compelling the line of musical clothing.

…High school and college reunions are the only networking events left.

…The words “on sale” are automatically cut-and-pasted by “please buy this.”

…Kirstie Alley loses a whole bunch of weight through hunger. Food markets in Beverly Hills close.

… Government certifies the donut crumb as a vegetable for schoolkids.

…Congress passes The 2010 Say Something Act, whereby useless phrases are taken to the woodshed: “Sounds Good,” “Booyah!” and “No Problem” are first. And “Game Changer” added at last minute.

…At the same time, lawmakers tell drugstores to sell, you guessed right, pharmaceuticals and that’s it.

…Home-free families create habitats in zoos.

…Ryan Seacrest, sensing attention-to-him deficit just as E! folds and American Idol finds a knowledgeable music biz host, finally admits he’s–happy.

… Nigerian scammers pay us.

…Some idiot who writes lists as blog posts is roundly ignored.

…Paul Simon calls Garfunkel to see how he’s doing.

NY Times promises it will never ever publish another of those 2000 stories on how social media is the saving grace for brands. No one….yep.

…Joe Biden makes some sense.

…All remaining newspapers -4!–are purchased by fifth graders. They recognize their reading level.

….Kissing is named new Olympic sport. (Say it together now-: Awww.)

…Aability to marry yourself passes in 47 states and Guam to portray the true meaning of equality.

…Zac Efron, lost without screaming teens to support his entourage, is forced to make High School Dropout

…You read this long, unadulterated list and go “Wait. Shit - really. That could happen.”

——–Twitter @laermer and @howtofame

Bandwagoning: Lazy Way To Success

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

You know how we’re always being told to do things better, to try harder, to reinvent, to reengineer, to break the rules, to innovate, to make a difference?

You know how “good” is never good enough? How we’re made to feel guilty for doing what’s been done before, for taking the well-trodden path? Just look at some wow-selling book titles: Good to Great; First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently; The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement.

Well, maybe there’s just a chance that it’s okay to follow in others’ footsteps.

Not to reinvent the wheel, but instead to roll with it. Maybe we can live better, saner, even more successful lives by jumping on the bandwagon, not sitting at the reins trying to blaze the trail ourselves. I call it bandwagoning. It’s succeeding in your goals in a way that feels more natural… some might even say a “lazy” way.

Here is my definition of bandwagoning: it’s the lazy person’s way to success. But don’t let the “lazy” part put you off. I don’t mean lazy in a bad way, or, rather, I don’t necessarily think that being lazy is bad. In fact, I think that being lazy can be positively good for you. There is pseudoscientific evidence that being lazy not only is beneficial to the spirit and to our general well-being, but can actually make us more successful. Successful according to all the usual criteria such as wealth and happiness!

So please justify all things that are the path of least resistance in life, whether at home or at work, that feel right for good reason. Demonstrate to everyone that taking naps, bucko, is good, nay, a brilliant part of everyday life and leads to greater productivity. Watching TV opens your eyes to the world and provides undreamed-of moneymaking opportunities — those Ginzu knives must be making someone real cash! We’ll give you tips on how to avoid unwelcome social contact and how to survive when you’re traveling away from home.

Recognize that, as a bandwagoner, you’ll be ahead of the curve, and not everyone will be accepting of your new stress-free way of life; you can now proudly cover up so as to appear suitably frenetic and driven.

The above is a reference found inside 2011: Trendspotting, from McGraw-Hill.

Twitter @laermer112305im-so-lazy.JPG

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