Corporate Strategy

Why Spotify is More of The Same Old Thing

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Media, Social Media

Anyone who knows me at all knows I’ve been a semi-pro musician for a loooong time and that I love to follow trends in that industry. Please read the following quotes:

Spotify have always had something in common with the record companies…
They’re just another exploitative middleman and in truth don’t care about the music or the artists, they only care about themselves. When a shop gives you free tomatoes does it make you love them? … or does it leave a bad taste once you realize they’re screwing the farmers on your behalf?

Kenny Laurenson

i’d feel sick after reading this article, but i’m listening to aretha.
all an artist is asking for is r-e-s-p-e-c-t. is there any other business in the world that could operate this way? could you imagine going to the gas pump, without prices listed but you had to buy and they’d charge your card an undisclosed price?

marvin etzioni


Spotify ties its service to Facebook or Twitter and thinks that’s cool? Paying for their premium service should mean privacy. I can’t even set their app to not post on my FB wall without losing the ability to listen to music. So for something that could be so cool, it becomes just another piece of malware.

Bye bye, Spotify

Dave Abbitt

Spotify was supposed to be the new model for legitimate, social sharing of music. Everyone was excited because they could listen to anything they wanted, anywhere they were. The holy grail!! It was going to take iTunes for a ride, usher in the new cloud-based model. But it turns out they are paying artists a pittance, mostly shilling for the labels, and sucking your profile from Facebook right into their vortex. They also do a pretty disappointing job with search, catalog accuracy, and curation.

I have decided from all this that the intersection of privacy and commerce is essentially nonexistent; comments like those above along with the IPO of Facebook signal the end of any hope of that dream for me. Now that they have unending pressure to increase revenues every quarter, they will be forced to exploit all of our data for their own purposes and folks will run, not walk away. If the reactions of these Spotify users are any indication, we should be prepared for a revolt against big data without transparency. Hell, maybe I was naive.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Is there a way to have profits and privacy?

Three Myths About Quality Customer Engagement

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Social Media

As PR, branding, and engagement professionals, we see it as our jobs to “maximize engagement” and help our clients start and maintain conversations and relationships with their customers. So it’s tempting to base success on the quantity of those efforts sometimes. How MANY connections, and is it more than last month? How MUCH content publishing, and is it enough to keep our clients “top of mind?” Marketers are rewarded (or fired) based on the ROI of their efforts and the increased sales they generate through them. So more relationships are always better, right?

Well, according to this excellent article in The Harvard Business Review, not so much. Their research has uncovered a few myths about how customers really interact with their favorite brands, mainly that people really DON’T hold brands in as high esteem as they do friends and family members–in fact, only 23% in the study said they had a relationship with a brand. So don’t attach unrealistic expectations to those other 77%. They aren’t interested in connecting at that level.

Secondly, interaction does not build relationships–shared values do. So no matter how often you’re communicating with a customer who doesn’t share your philosophy, you’ve wasted a lot of time and effort. Find the customers who share your values and make sure they are satisfied with every aspect of what you do. Be authentic. Of the consumers in the HBR study who said they have a brand relationship, 64% cited shared values as the primary reason.

Third, frequency of contact doesn’t really enhance these relationships. Treat EACH interaction as precious. Ask yourself–does this email make my customer glad they know about us? Are we providing value in every post? Are we providing useful, actionable information or joy? If so, then five or ten really well-timed communications can have far more power than 300 canned marketing speeches. The last thing you want to do is overload them with more of what we all claim we’re trying to avoid–NOISE.

Treat your customers they way you would like to be treated, and focus on those customers who share your values. Somehow that seems so simple.

Still Working. Still Committed.

By Corporate Strategy, Crisis Communications, Public Relations

Does that sound familiar? Do you feel like you’ve heard that somewhere? That’s because BP Global does not want you to forget that they are still working in the Gulf of Mexico funding nature research, promoting tourism, and helping the area recover from the oil spill of 2010. 

Look, I know no one loves big oil, but they have done a phenomenal job with their crisis communications. Here’s a feel good video for you:

Restoring the Gulf

Everything you could want to know about where they are and what they are doing is on the website dedicated to their restoration work. What actually happened during the spill? How have they changed their safe guarding measures? What are local residents saying? How has it all affected wildlife? Yes, it is all on there. The bad news and the good news on what happened and BP’s response program; it’s all there. What is great about this? Hearing live people tell their stories. These voices are of real people affected by the spill. This is not a spokesperson telling us how they are helping:

Hope with BP’s Vessels of Opportunity Program

Showing the hard realities of the crisis makes the positive response feel more authentic. This spill happened 2 years ago, and BP has invested heavily in their communication to make sure that the public knows they are involved. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube are  updated regularly. The stories are both informative and personal.

Crisis Communications is one of those aspects of our work that doesn’t get a lot of day-to-day attention. It’s easy to talk about Social Strategy or Brand Positioning, but when it comes to a crisis, you want to have that red folder to turn to. We work with our clients to think about what would be a crisis within their company, who would be your spokesperson, which media would you reach out to, how would you acknowledge fault and move forward with an actionable plan. And then, like BP, truly invest in that actionable plan.

So I’m ready for it. Do you hate me for saying I think BP is doing a good job?

Paradigm Shift

By Corporate Strategy, Public Relations, Social Media

Shortly after I started working for Marijean, she sat me down and told me all about the types of companies that she did not want us to work with. This was not something I was used to. Publishers and Sales Managers in the past basically said “if they can pass a credit check, move forward.” Not MJ. She has a clear vision and moral compass that she wants to see mirrored in the companies we call clients. 

We also are not and never will be a marketing firm or an advertising agency. I often have to resist the urge to suggest print campaign ideas. (All the training and conferences from my previous life at a newsweekly are hard to shake off. They drill the frequency and modular sizing in your head, I tell you!) Our work is about listening to the client and their audience and creating a communications strategy, policy and plan that delivers their ideas to the correct people in the tone that is authentic to their brand.

So, be mindful of the companies I bring in and focus exclusively on the public relations bit. Got it!

It has taken me some time to come to terms and even embrace this reality. And now, everywhere I turn agencies seem to be doing an about face and changing their idea of “advertising” altogether.

recent article in Newsweek discussed the eventual collapse of the advertising industry with one of its own, Jeff Rosenblum, cofounder of Questus in New York. He talks about how businesses for years have used advertising as a band-aid for bad behavior and then the internet turned them all on their heads by giving consumers a voice to complain with. Now those advertising dollars may as well be thrown away if your client base is badmouthing your brand. These advertising agencies would be better off acting as businesses consultants to help resolve the client’s issues, Rosenblum says. Change the corporate policy. Stop using child labor overseas. Or beating dolphins. Or whatever other activities the public may deem as unsavory. This is an age of transparency. If your company is engaging in moral misconduct, a print campaign will no longer distract your audience.

The thing is, we can’t convince your company to change. We can listen to the social web and tell you what your audience is saying and perhaps that will inspire a turn-around.

It’s an interesting idea: the paradigm shift of an entire industry.

Walking the Line Between True and False in Your Content

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Crisis Communications, Marketing, Media

There was an interesting article today in the Washington Post about David Sedaris, who’s been getting kudos for awhile now as a contributing writer and storyteller for “This American Life,” the ever-popular NPR program. As the Post states, “Starting with his reading on NPR of a now-beloved story about his experiences as an elf for a Macy’s Santa Claus, Sedaris has grown into one of America’s preeminent humorists.”

The problem, it turns out, is that many of these “realish” stories have had a lot of fabricated characters and events in them, even though they were marketed as true stories, which is what made them so interesting. It seems that truthfulness is really important to journalistic organizations such as NPR.

In this period of amazing pressure to create really compelling and interesting content 24-7, it’s really challenging to create enough to meet the demand and to stay top of mind. I mean, are there really that many really amazing stories out there every day, especially TRUE ones? Who has the time to dig them up? Wouldn’t it be easier to take a pretty average story and maybe gussy it up a bit with a few fictional enhancements? What’s the harm if it makes the point and closes that sale?

In defending Sedaris, NPR execs said things like “…we just assumed the audience was sophisticated enough to tell that this guy is making jokes and that there was a different level of journalistic scrutiny that we and they should apply…” Sorry, not good enough. It’s never made clear on the show that these stories are fictional. Seems like folks are trying to get some journalistic mileage out of them by placing them in the context of real journalism.

So what?, you say. The point of all this whining is this: your company cannot afford to take this kind of license when you present yourself. You must be truthful, open, transparent. You must own your weaknesses and engage your customers to find solutions to them, with their input. You must struggle for missing excellence just as they do. Taking shortcuts or making good stuff up just doesn’t work anymore. Once your credibility is shot, like Sedaris’s might be, then it’s really hard to get it back, if you ever do. Ask JP Morgan. Or Jim Bakker. Or John Edwards.