Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What's Ahead: My Predictions for 2011

Since I've seen so many of these lists in and around my RSS feeds and Twitter, I thought I'd make my own little "Predictions" list for the coming year. Then next year we can look back at them and laugh. Unless they come true, then we can all hail me as the next Oracle of Omaha or something.

Prediction #1: Facebook will be the new AOL. 

Yes, I am a social media marketer, yes I am a constant Facebook user, and yes, I think Mark Zuckerberg is a twit. But at some point, Facebook will have to hit a growth wall, just like AOL did in the '90s. Facebook has had a very turbulent year with snafus, feature rollouts, and more, and the more I think about it, the more Facebook looks like AOL. What was AOL's idea? To create the only place on the internet you'd ever actually need to go to. Which is what Facebook is doing now--they integrate with everything, and if they can't beat it, they duplicate it (see: Facebook Places vs. Foursquare). Eventually, they're going to move away from their original mission, which might have been to take over the world, but I think was actually to share photos or maybe rate hot girls. They are going to get too big for their britches, and unless Zuckerberg suddenly matures 20 years in 6 months, I foresee a disaster.

Prediction #2: New TLDs will happen and they will be hot property

I say this as someone who works for a domain registrar and has been reading about this plenty. If you don't know what a TLD is, basic explanation is it's the ending on your URL, like .com or .net. This year we saw the launch of .co as a gTLD, and it's been pretty darn successful. So a lot of applicants have started clamoring for their own TLDs, and some look super promising, like .nyc, .movie, and .africa. Today people are excited about country code TLDs that let you have cool URLs like bit.ly (.ly is the Lybian TLD), but the new TLDs will be better. With hyper-local marketing the current big thing on the internet, how much easier would it be to do location based marketing in San Francisco with the .sfo domain in your URL?

Prediction #3: ...

You tell me what you're predicting!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When Your Logo Isn't Loved

Before I begin, I want to take a moment to appreciate all the designers out there, graphic and web. They do a lot of hard work, and often lead the way with beautiful, eye-catching, iconic images.

That said... Gap unveiled its new logo today, and if the poll on the Huffington Post is any indication, people are not happy with it. (Almost 80% think the new design is "Terrible" last I checked.)

So let's examine this. Who is the Gap, anyway? What do they stand for? And why the change?

At one point, I owned a seriously awesome vintage Gap vest, circa 1980. I wish I had a photo of the tag for it, which said "Gap, Inc. Est. 1978." Gap has always been a preppy sort of place, with cable knit sweaters and khakis. The old logo really captured this old school feel: tall serif letters on a plain, patrician blue background. It was simple, nautical in colors, since Gap clothing was perfect for an afternoon on a sailboat or yacht.

So what's up with this new logo? My first impression was that it reminded me of a gas company logo. I'm not sure why Gap felt they needed a change, but I can guess that they wanted to update their image to keep up with their shoppers. The majority of Gap shoppers are currently in the under-30 set, so it makes sense to try and to appeal to them even further in a down economy when retail sales are slumping. The designer here is trying to capture the feel of Web 2.0, with a sans-serif font and a tiny, gradient colored decoration. Also key is that unlike the original serif-fonted square, this new logo will survive copying and pasting onto social media sites without being blurred or distorted half as easily.

But, will people like this new logo? So far I've only seen negative reactions:
 Now Gap probably put a ton of work into this new logo, so it's unlikely they'll simply scrap it based on a few shots fired around the Internet. But we'll see how long it lasts.


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Friday, June 4, 2010

Behind A Good Marketing Campaign Is A Great Product

I don't travel very much (ironic, since I live within walking distance of Logan Airport), but I am very certain that the next time I stay in a hotel, it will be a Westin.

It's not because Westin hotels are cheaper (I'm sure they're not), or because there are good locations, but really, because I'm in love with the in-house soap. Kid you not. Westin has a fabulous marketing hook in their white tea aloe "Heavenly" spa products.

My mother-in-law, Liz, is a road warrior, and she always brings me back the extra sample soaps/lotions/shampoos from her hotels so I can use them at the gym (and not lug around big bottles). She brought back some white tea aloe shampoo for me about a month ago, and I'm hooked.

But of course, I'm looking at this from a marketing perspective. I've never stayed in a Westin, but I did buy a full size bottle of shampoo and conditioner from their Westin At Home website. What the company has done is to take something that is often taken for granted--the tiny bottles of giveaway bath products--and created something that people actively want, outside of the hotel experience. And it's a killer WOM idea. The last time I traveled (admittedly over 2 years ago), I picked the cheapest hotel I could find in the location I wanted. Next time, I'm going to actively seek out a Westin.

This reminded me of a post over at Brogan Media on business models. Chris mentioned the classic story of Ray Kroc:

Ray Kroc used to quiz MBA students as to what business he was in. Everyone thought he was in the hamburger business. When I heard this, I thought, “A-ha. No. He’s in the franchising business.” But no, I was wrong, too. Ray was in the real estate business. McDonalds owns more real estate (more PRIME real estate, by the way) than even the Catholic Church. When you look at a business, the model isn’t always immediately apparent.

So while some might think Westin (and its parent group, Starwood Hotel Group) is in the hotel business, or also the real estate business, or franchise business, I think it's in more of a customer service business. Or an experiential business. The idea here is to make Westin's so appealing as an experience that you will want to take it home. A lifestyle business?

It wouldn't work if they hadn't invested so much in creating great products though. I can't think of any other giveaway items I've loved as much as the Heavenly bath line. And the genius in this particular product line is that it's a giveaway that links intrinsically with the atmosphere, the experience of the Westin hotels. At a recent conference, I got some seriously awesome swag, but a gorgeous silk tote bag or keychain doesn't necessarily make me was to hire a particular trademark protection service.

Takeaway: Make a great product, one that creates a lasting impression and is integral to your business model. Give it away, or create easy access to it. This creates a signature that customers (and potential customers) will recognize and return to.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Is Social Media Really Stealing Company Time?

Did you know that Americans work 10 hours fewer per week than they did pre-recession, and yet somehow we're still producing the same level of goods and services (the almighty measure of GDP and the economy)? It's true, according to the Harvard Business Review and Ben Bernanke.

And yet, according to the Wall Street Journal, we're facing an epidemic of cyberslacking at work.

So, to sum up: we waste time at work on social networking, but we're still as productive as we were before the economy crashed. Interesting.

My take on this has to do with the benefits of social media, and the fear of job loss. We all work a lot harder now, because no one is safe from layoffs, and those shorter hours are explained by the number of workers whose hours have been cut. And yet, social media provides a much needed break in the day for overworked, overstressed employees. I know it makes my day a little brighter being able to send a few instant messages to my husband while I'm at work. (Of course, I really like my current job, and my job involves being on social media all day, so I'm probably not the best example.)

Plus, there are a lot of benefits to being involved in social media. Twitter is a great place to look for potential customers, and post links to sales, conference appearances, or e-books. Facebook is a great place to interact with customers. And there are tons of tools out there to measure engagement, number of fans/followers, reach and so forth, so you really can calculate an ROI for your time investment.

This doesn't mean that employees don't have to behave while online--it still applies that you shouldn't trash your boss, download porn, or otherwise jeopardize your job with bad behavior. But workplaces should really cool it about banning social media in the workplace.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

My Strangest Networking Invitation

I posted recently about joining a new networking site, Xing.com which has a more international following than LinkedIn, and now, I have received my strangest "Join my network" message ever:

Hey Beautifull


You attract people by the qualities you display.. You keep them by the qualities you possess..The best thing about loving and being hurt is that you get to know what true love really is. For as gold is tested in fire, and so will love be perfected in pain never let you past Run over your Life...When we Get Hurt we Need to Keep On With Life...No matter how ugly you think you are,that special man that loves you believes you are the most beautifull and irresistable thing on earth and nothing can ever change that...Love is not about finding the right person, but creating a right relationship. It's not about how much love you have in the beginning but how much love you build till the end never give up about life and also be positive .you really Look Great to me..if you care to know more about me...you can get me through my personal email address...

Tim

Can you top that?

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Catering to Media Outlets

As a writer, and a marketer, I read constantly. And in this information age, there is more content out there for consumption than ever before. There are links on Twitter, Facebook, and StumbleUpon. Some sites I really love to explore fully--for example, I love trawling NYTimes.com every morning, looking the Opinion section, Business Day, the top most emailed articles, the highlighted features, and so on.

But what I really love is my Google Reader.

I subscribe to a ton of blogs and sites via Reader, and now I must reveal a certain pet peeve of mine: publishers who don't allow Reader to access the full text of a post. Few things are more detracting than a grabbing headline, that when opened reveals only a few lines of cut off text.

When I think about this, there are reasons--perhaps these site want direct traffic instead of just the indirect hits from people reading in the Reader application. But really, I'm more likely to not read the content if I have to click through to another tab or window to get the full content.

There are exceptions: I love "Career Diva" Eve Tahmincioglu so I often forgive her non-full text publish and visit the site to read a post. But mostly, I skip over them. I recently added the Daily Beast to my subscription list, after hearing the incredible Tina Brown speak at the Simmons Leadership Conference. However, I haven't read too many of the posted items, because I hate having to move out of Reader to read them.

My advice to all those who publish blogs and e-zines: check your settings to full publish for RSS feeds. Because there are a lot of people out there who read via RSS Readers and you don't want to break our reading stride.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Working Internationally: Using Social Media to Unite Your Team

I won't officially start my new position at United Domains until May 17, but in the meanwhile, I'm learning a lot about the domain name industry and my company, along with helping my new boss put together the first US office (United Domains is headquartered in Munich, Germany). One thing he asked me to do was to join a new online network, called Xing, which acts a lot like LinkedIn, but is more widely used in Europe. It's been about a week since I created my profile and I've already received a number of contacts from the company HQ.

I've been thinking about this a lot, particularly after attending a panel on Global Business Perspectives at the Simmons Leadership Conference on Friday. Moderated by my Leadership professor, Stacy Blake-Beard, the panel was composed of Irina Simmons of EMC, Marie Myers of HP, and Kathy Hannan of KPMG. These three executives spoke at length about managing a global team, the challenges and rewards of being spread across the world. As I begin my work with an international company, here were the three things that I took away from the panel:

Be Engaged
If there is a five hour time difference between you and your team, stay up late, or get up early so that you can phone or video conference with everyone on their time. Marie Myers stressed that it is very important to show your global team that you are available to them. Get to know your team and let them know that although you may be halfway around the globe, you will listen to them and address their needs. Irina Simmons added also, whenever possible, get to know your people personally--if you're visiting the office in Singapore, schedule time to meet the people on the ground just to introduce yourself.


Use the Technology
One of my first questions for my new boss was "How will we communicate?" The answer involved technology: Skype, Basecamp, iChat, and email. Myers and Simmons mentioned that their companies have invested in Cisco's Telepresence. There are many ways to communicate, instant messaging, email, Twitter, mobile phones, and more. If you're working globally, make sure you can communicate locally.


Social Media 
While I usually advocate SM for marketing, it's also a great way to keep in touch with your work colleagues. Creating a company network on Facebook allows for quick dissemination of information. If you've misplaced a phone number, a direct message on Twitter can easily reach your targeted contact. Corporate blogs can work as bulletin boards for widespread groups, especially using multi-author features.

The world is getting smaller, or flatter, if you prefer Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat example. I'm hoping to use social media to build great relationships with my international counterparts. I'd also love to hear your ideas on how to create a great global team.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Building Blog Relationships for Social Media Marketing

Bloggers are a force to be reckoned with these days, as social media becomes the new marketing medium of choice. But when you're looking to build your social media presence through blogs, make sure that you're following the rules of the road.

Be Relevant

As Kivi Leroux Miller writes, you can't simply ask any blogger to post a link to your site, or review your product. You need to build a relationship with a blogger that writes about a topic related to what you're offering. Don't ask Gizmodo to endorse your shop on Etsy.

Be Transparent

Ann Taylor LOFT recently used gift cards to purchase the rave reviews of a group of fashion bloggers. I'm a big Ann Taylor fan personally, but I'd never endorse this scheme, unless the bloggers in question happened to explain the gift along with their reviews. Lena West at Lipsticking has a great post on the topic. For a great example of a transparent blogger, check out Corporette. This fabulous women's businesswear blog prominently posts its policy on endorsed links, and lists in each entry what links are sponsored, so readers are always aware when a click will generate revenue for the blog.

Be Kind

If you find a good blog that will endorse your product, thank the blogger. Create a link-back, post a #followfriday message on Twitter, give them a mention on your corporate blog. Everything in social media is about relationships and conversation, so if someone pays you a compliment, make sure to thank him or her.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Social Media and Productivity

Yesterday, at Borders downtown, I was browsing through a book called Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business and came across an example of how social media makes us more efficient. Basically, by being able to use the ten minutes in line at the supermarket to catch up with friends, find information, share recipe ideas, a typical woman is able to 1) find a substitute for a curry recipe, 2) avoid asking her friend if she put on some weight when she's really pregnant, and 3) tell her husband how to decorate a kid's project on the way home.

The example was really heavy handed, but I had to laugh, because I agree--social media makes me more productive. Certainly not all the time, but when I'm searching for an article I saw a reference to, a quick tweet request can net me a link referral in minutes. When I find blog posts or articles of note, I can add them to my collection on StumbleUpon for easy retrieval later. Applications like HootSuite save me time and trouble by allowing me to broadcast a single message over multiple networks, expanding my reach.

What do you think? Does social media make you more productive?

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Testing - Feedback Appreciated

I'm attempting to fix a few problems--issues with installing a "share and enjoy" button, commenting, etc.

If you have any feedback, please let me know in the comments. Or email me if the comments still aren't working.


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Monday, April 12, 2010

The New Busy Annoy the Old Busy

Across Boston, and presumably the nation, Hotmail has unveiled a series of ads on bus stops and billboards. Under the headline: The New Busy, the ads feature sassy slogans, as featured below:

 On my daily commute, "The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea" assails me from a bus shelter. It's slightly better than the "you look great, but your legs could use a lift" Shake n' Bake ad that it replaced, or the H&M Neck Tube ad hanging around from before Christmas, but really? The ad annoys me more than anything else. I don't think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. In the New Recession, it's important to fight for 9 to 5 (or the closest approximation) to avoid becoming one of the many overworked and underpaid. How can anyone try for a normal schedule when there is someone more desperate willing to stay at the office until midnight and sleep under his desk? Don't even get me started on slave labor unpaid interns.

Happily, a skim through Twitter shows that I'm not the only one rubbed the wrong way by those ads:

@BostonMo: Can someone please explain the new "New Busy" Hotmail.com marketing campaign? I don't understand a single ad around the Hub!

@FinnFPM: Have you seen the "new busy" ads about sleep-learning? Apparently the "new busy" are gullible idiots.

@tanukisan: Hotmail's "new busy" ad campaign makes no damn sense at all. I will continue to ignore the unreadable sliding text on 'em.

@baka_rakuda: I don't know what a "NEW BUSY" is but according to MS they can pack a weeks worth of clothes in a carry on. How very mundane.

@fastchicken: if you happen to know anyone in the MS Hotmail team, please point and laugh from me: http://tinyurl.com/ye5r3x9 The New Busy?

@mikegore: hotmail, your "new busy" campaign is annoying the hell out of me. maybe because i'm too busy using google programs...

@TheLastLow: Microsoft's "New Busy" ad campaign might be worse than Bud's "Drinkability" disaster. Are these people even trying?

@kehutchinson: The "New Busy" is a myth--we're all busy, and none of it's new.

Yes, that last one is mine, and it's worth repeating. We're all stressed out by the state of the economy today: layoffs loom, bills menace, and we all have to wonder where the breaking point is. We don't want tools that just confirm that we're hamsters in a wheel, we want tools that will make us feel like we have a little control in our lives.

So listen up, Hotmail. I'm not the New Busy, and there are plenty of others who feel the same way. Start building a tool that will be for the New Relaxed.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Behavior Placement on Broadcast Television

Yesterday's broadcast of Wall Street Journal This Morning hosted by Gordon Deal featured an interesting new trend in television: behavior placement. We all know about product placement--like Lady Gaga's Miracle Whip fascination--but instead of using branded products on TV to encourage viewers to buy something, behavior placement uses characters to influence viewers into doing something.

Remember the eponymous Rachel haircut after Jennifer Aniston on Friends? That's the type of monkey-see-monkey-do connection that NBC is hoping to make with its behavior placement. If Tina Fey on 30 Rock recycles, will you recycle too? Or maybe you'd be more inclined to recycle if Dwight Shrute showed up as ReCyclops.


It's nice to see producers trying to make a positive impact on viewers by taking a break from glamorizing violence.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reading Roundup

A sampling of good reading around the web:

  • The Think Big Project - I love finding people I know via Twitter, and today I stumbled on fellow Simmons alum Jennifer Johnston Canfield's website. Jen was a terrific team member in my Strategic Performance Measures course, and her website, as its title implies, thinks big.
  • Twitter Grader - Another fab tool from HubSpot, along the lines of Blog Grader and Website Grader, Twitter Grader will tell you the effectiveness of your Twitter profile. I scored 91/100.
  • Manifesto for the Content Curator - A recent opportunity came my way, and part of my research involved learning about content curation--something so new that my spell checker refuses to recognize the word curation. It's a fascinating concept, and this post from Rohit Bhargava is a great starting point on the topic.
  • Boston Hates Brutalism - I'm the only person I know who likes the design of City Hall, and this Fast Company piece talks about the buildings Bostonians dislike most. Bonus end video "Government Center" makes it doubly worth a click.
Feel free to share any fun links of your own in the comments!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Power of Asking for More

My boss has been on maternity leave since December, and in order to help bridge the gap, I was given responsibility for the department budget. Personally, I love budgeting (I think this may be why I loved Accounting so much in business school--that or my terrific professor, Susan Hass). Even more than keeping track of the budget, I love saving money. Who doesn't, really?

But what I've done in the past three months has been pretty substantial. In October I made the case to dismantle a printed communications campaign that was well received but had no ROI. Next, I worked on a project to create a single layout for all of my company's data file deliverables. In the course of doing that, I re-examined our printing quotes. I discovered that when we switched our communications from quarterly launches to monthly launches, the quotes were never changed to reflect the revised volumes--meaning we were paying thousands in monthly minimums that were unrealistic.

At Simmons, I took negotiations with Deborah Kolb, and I used all the tools I learned in her class to work on re-negotiating those monthly minimums. I researched our past agreements, the prices per piece, and pulled all the figures for our print volumes, both past and projected based on the size of our portfolio. I sent my spreadsheets to our vendor, and we scheduled a series of phone calls. It took effort, but I got the minimums changed--saving thousands of dollars.

I remember the first budget I managed--I mostly just ordered what people asked me to order, and wrote down the amounts and watched our allotment diminish over the course of a year. Now, I'm smart enough to look at what we spend and say, "how can I get more from this?" Today, I got a new quote for another print campaign, and that will save another $7,000 over the course of the year. By keeping an eye on our postage balance, I found we were over-crediting the account, and we won't have to spend $50,000 that was set aside for postage.

All told, my department will be under-budget by over $120,000. This is one of my proudest accomplishments in my current role.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Building a Better Manager

The New York Times recently ran a piece in the Magazine section entitled "Building a Better Teacher." The majority of the article focuses on the work of Doug Lemov, founder of Uncommon Schools. In his quest to distill the elements of good teachers, beyond people who are well versed in relevant subject matter, Lemov has developed a Taxonomy of Effective Teaching practices. To quote the article:

When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly, he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.

It was the tiniest decision, but what was teaching if not a series of bite-size moves just like that?

Lemov thought about soccer, another passion. If his teammates wanted him to play better, they didn’t just say, “Get better.” They told him to “mark tighter” or “close the space.” Maybe the reason he and others were struggling so mightily to talk and even to think about teaching was that the right words didn’t exist — or at least, they hadn’t been collected. And so he set out to assemble the hidden wisdom of the best teachers in America.

Certainly Lemov isn't the first person to try and classify the behaviors that make better teachers, but it seems like he's making a lot of headway in convincing people to examine these traits.

But what I really took away from this taxonomy was the fact that the behavioral traits that make good teachers or "classroom managers" could be applied to almost any kind of leadership position. I was impressed enough to pre-order Lemov's book, Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College, to see what I could learn about effective behavior in management.

At Simmons, I took a lot of courses in organizational behavior, which were really helpful to me. I've always been intellectually intelligent, but it's taken a lot of work to improve my emotional intelligence, or EQ. It was part of the reason I chose the program--I knew that was something I needed to improve.

Of course, I already have incorporated some of Lemov's lessons, such as specific instructions. I used to work with a graphic designer who didn't always incorporate all of the edits I'd given to her for projects. So I began opening pdfs in Adobe Acrobat and using the highlight and note tools to mark up the projects, and writing out, letter by letter, what changes I needed. It's such an effective tool that I use that for almost every editing project I do--it's clear, easily understandable, and best of all, still electronically portable. It's far better to say "Align this headline with the blue bar in this picture" than, "pull this text down a little."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Showcase at Simmons School of Management This Weekend

If you're in the Boston area and are considering going for an MBA, I highly recommend checking out the MBA showcase at Simmons College this weekend. You can register for the event here.

The Simmons MBA is a terrific program with talented faculty, and lots of real world experience. The Career Services Office is fantastic, the students are encouraging, and there is a heavy emphasis on ethical behavior, Corporate Social Responsibility, and entrepreneurship.

If you've got questions about a Simmons MBA, please feel free to email me!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Resources for Professional Reading and Development

A friend of mine recently asked me how I know so much about what goes on all over the web. It was an interesting question, and the answer is automation. I subscribe to a number of email newsletters that bring tons of targeted information to my inbox. I check in randomly throughout the day, such as that last five minutes before a meeting, when there’s not enough time to get much productive work done.

Here are a sampling of my favorites, some I’ve mentioned before, and some new ones:

MindTools

James Manktelow sends a variety of management related articles to my inbox on a monthly basis. The articles from MindTools cover everything from how to make good decisions and prioritizing your workload to optimized purchasing and self-evaluation. You can subscribe to this newsletter here, or visit the website and check out the archives. Some items are only available with a paid subscription, but a fair portion are free to anyone.

Little Pink Book

While I still can’t stand the title of Pink Magazine, it’s still a nice journal for businesswomen that far outclasses other forays into this arena (namely Forbes Woman—which dwells on charity, shopping, and clothing tips for the board room). LPB is a daily snippet with links on topics that are relevant to business women. There are reviews of management books, ideas for entrepreneurs, financial tips, etiquette lessons, and more. Yes, there are some days that do throwback to great suits or perfect high heels, but the bulk of these daily notes deal with real business issues and development.

MyRagan

This is a site for communicators and PR professionals, and it’s sometimes a little slow in the forums, but I really love the daily soundbites on new marketing strategies, particularly how to use social media for personal or company branding. There are plenty of general office items in here, like discussing office safety policies or great “overheard in the office” material. Some of my cross posted blog items have made it into the weekly wrap up, which I appreciate, so it’s also a great place for developing writers to test out material.

Digital Tips Newsletter

Universal Graphics is a design group, but they send out a great newsletter full of tips and tricks for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that has taught even me, a power user, a few new things. If you work in an office with colleagues who ask a lot of questions like “how do I add a page break in this spreadsheet for printing?” this is a great resource to refer those questioners to. The only downside is that the email files are huge and can wreak havoc on your reading pane in Outlook.

Mannersmith Monthly

I was trying to find an honest to goodness Charm School when I stumbled upon Mannersmith. Jodi Smith and Marianne Cohen provide advice on how to handle plenty of social situations, from clueless newbies at the gym to appropriate tipping guides. They also have a Facebook page and blog.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beware Recruiters Bearing Special Offers

We all know this economy is tough, particularly for job searchers. Everyday there’s a new article on the new poor, the mancession, or the desperation of the unemployed. With more people out of work now than in a generation, there’s definitely a market for employment services, like recruiting firms and resume writers. But as you go forth into the job market these days, make sure you’re doing your homework. It’s easier than ever to be taken in by a scam company. Take these exchanges for example:


Rick G. of New Careers Online desperately wanted me to join his executive recruiting firm’s pool of applicants. He sent me a series of emails, inviting me to visit his company’s website, and watch their “Market Tour” video. After a few weeks of non-responses, he finally wrote me to say:

Dear Kate:

I wanted to try contacting you one more time to gauge your interest in learning more about what we can do to help you with your search.  I noticed you did not watch the Market Tour as of yet as well.

If you are in a serious job search and interested in continuing the process, please let me know of a few dates and times that might work for you and I will look to get you on the schedule.

If I do not hear from you, I will archive your information and certainly wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Thanks! I do hope to hear from you soon!

Regards,
Rick G., Senior Consultant
phone: (877) 555-9623

I decided that with this kind of persistence, I might as well look up the company. The results were disappointing, as I wrote back to him:


Dear Rick,

I appreciate your effort, but I am not interested in work with you or your company. A simple Google search has revealed multiple red flags to me, most notably that "newcareersonline.com scam" is a suggested search in Google, your company has multiple iterations of its name and URL which suggests that you aren’t always above the board in doing business under one name, the first ten pages of results are pages owned by your company which indicates SEO manipulation, and for a job placement firm, it's odd that your CEO has zero connections on LinkedIn. {Note: since January, Mr. Gerberg has added 26 connections}

You should also Google yourself. I was not heartened to hear about your recent job loss and subsequent troubles with the IRS.

All the best,

Kate

Rick did respond to my email, and kindly agreed to stop contacting me. He skipped over the IRS rant reference, but was very professional, minus the fact that his reply came back in Comic Sans font. (Note: it is never a good idea to use Comic Sans as a font in any professional email. Unless you are a circus clown.)

Keep Rick in mind the next time you get a “great offer” from a recruiting firm. From my research, the New Careers Online (“scam”?) would have cost me several hundred dollars for a rewritten resume, and other services that I can get for free from my Career Services Office at my alma mater, Simmons School of Management.

Another tactic to be wary of is the “free” job board that also sells resume writing services. For a lark, I signed up on JobFox.com to see what all the fuss was about, and from the day they got my email address, they have been sending me email after email telling me that I should pay them $500 to rewrite my resume, plus $30 a month to be an “Advantage” member. After a one-month experiment, I still can’t tell the different between a basic and Advantage member. Needless to say, I wish I had my $30 back.

The first emails of their pay-by-installment resume writing services came from Melinda Wickham. I have no idea if Melinda is a real person or not, but I ignore the messages after the “free review” of my resume came back. Ignore enough emails on Gmail, and Gmail will mark them as Spam for you. I think they must have noticed, because yesterday, I got this email from a new JobFox recruiter, Peggy Patelino. It was roughly the same email that I’ve been getting from Melinda for weeks, but with one difference: the signature.


I'm writing to offer my assistance in your job search. I head up Jobfox's $100K team, which is focused on helping our highest paid members succeed in the job market. While the unemployment headlines are scary, I'm happy to report we're helping smart candidates get jobs…
Sincerely,

Peggy Patelino
VP, Resume Services
melinda_w@jobfox.com
1-877-456-2369
Monday - Friday 9:00am - 6:00pm ET
Saturday 9:30am - 1:30pm ET

While I may have doubted the existence of Melinda Wickham, I am pretty sure that Peggy Patelino is not a real person. Real VPs do not send out emails with other peoples’ email addresses in the signature.

I wrote back:

Dear Peggy,

I notice your email ends with Melinda Wickham's email address. Don't you have your own?

Best,
Kate

And she wrote back:

Good catch

I’m not sure how that happened.

My email address is resumecritique@jobfox.com.

Best,

Peggy

Yet another reason to not believe Peggy—VPs don’t have generic email addresses.

So if you are like many job seekers out there (or non job seekers with email addresses that have been picked up by CareerBuilder and the like), double check those “special offers” of employment services. Google the recruiter. Read the fine print. And please, if you have a Career Services Office at your disposal, don’t pay $500 for a generic resume rewrite.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Interview with Susan Docherty of General Motors

In this week's New York Times Corner Office, Susan Docherty of General Motors is interviewed. I always like to highlight the female executives from this feature, and here are a few of my favorite quotes from this piece.

On where to sit in meetings:
I always sit at a different chair. Because when I was in different roles in this company, I saw a lot of leaders sit in the same chair, think the same way and talk to the same people. And I said to myself: “When I become a leader, and I have a big team, I’m not going to play favorites. I want to be a dynamic leader.” And I think being disruptive, and not always being predictable, is healthy.
 On inclusiveness:

In terms of my style, I’ve had to work hard at being inclusive. I may have an opinion, and I may already know where I want the answer or the decision to go. But I make my team members feel valued by asking them: “What do you think? What would you do? What would your idea be?” And I don’t do that to keep people on their toes. I do it because I often get new insights and new ideas from people who are looking at things with a fresh set of eyes.

 On building diverse teams:

I like building teams with people who come from very different backgrounds and have very different experiences. I don’t just mean diverse teams, in terms of men and women or people of different color or origin. I like people who have worked in different places in the world than I have because they bring a lot more context to the discussion. That’s something that I value a tremendous amount.
I make sure that when I’m looking at people for my team, it’s not just what’s on their résumé — their strengths or weaknesses or what they’ve accomplished — but it’s the way they think. I can learn twice as much, twice as quickly, if I’ve got people who think differently than I do around the table.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What's In A Name?

I'll just admit it: I am just as excited about the Apple Tablet as Steve Jobs wants me to be. However, like many people, I was a little put off by the name "iPad." I didn't make the connection to Kotex right away, but I was disappointed that they didn't go with the other rumored name, iSlate. The sleekness of the name is far more suited to the sleekness of the product. Yes, iPad follows the trend of "iP" names in the Apple line--iPod, iPhone--but iSlate just sounds better. And yes, I had a good laugh over the MAD TV skit from 2007:



But Apple isn't the only company guilty of not thinking through its naming conventions. There are plenty of historical examples.

The Chevy Nova: sadly, Snopes has debunked this one, but the story still lives on as a lesson of lost in translation. Technically, "No Va" means "doesn't go" in Spanish, which (supposedly) made the Chevy Nova unpopular in Spanish speaking countries. If you're selling internationally, make sure you know what your product name means in the local language. What message do you send your potential customers when you sell a product called "bite the wax tadpole?"
Universal Technical Institute: If you decide to pick a long name, but market yourself by an acronym, try to find  a name that won't boil down to a common infection of the excretory system. Especially when that infection outranks your company on Google for a search for UTI.

And this lovely blog, Bad Product Names has a fantastic collection of worse ones, like Pen Island, which turns into penisland.com for a URL.

What naming gaffes can you come up with?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Playing To Your Strengths

This morning, Fox News announced that it has hired Sarah Palin, former GOP vice presidential candidate for a contributing analyst position at the network. Since she burst onto the scene in 2008, Palin has been a polarizing figure, and certainly, some people find this new career change ridiculous, and others wonder if this means she’s out of the political running for a 2012 presidential run. As one Wall StreetJournal commenter put it, “If Palin wins in 2012, the Mayans were right.”

But politics aside, this move is a super-savvy one for both Palin and Fox, a classic mutual gain.

For Palin, this position vests her with authority from an established news source, helping her gain back some of the ground she lost when she resigned from her role as Governor of Alaska. And it definitely plays to her strength of public speaking. While I don’t agree with Palin’s politics, she is still a dynamic speaker, particularly when she is passionate about her topic. Yes, she’s not a whiz at naming her favorite books and newspapers, but when she gets up and speaks about family values, she inspires millions of Americans. This job will allow her to polish her on-air appearance, leverage her past experience in the political realm, and probably boost her popularity.

Fox, in turn, gains a captive audience—like her or not, most Americans can’t take their eyes off of her. People who love her will flock to the conservative news channel, and those who don’t will watch to listen to her distinctive dialect and wait for the latest verbal gaffe. No matter if she goes Rogue or Rouge, people buy books about her, magazine articles about her, and her name is a hugely popular search term. Additionally, this gives Fox a chance to say that they are diversifying, by putting a woman up against the manly likes of Glenn Beck.

What we can all take away from this sweetheart deal is that Sarah Palin and Fox are both playing to their strengths, particularly Palin. She knows that the camera loves her, and she is at heart, an entertainer. Her political career has certainly suffered from some missteps, but she is taking her strength of being a public figure and transferring it to television. And she’s also found a particularly strong cultural match in Fox News, which is something you should always look for in a new job. They share similar values and an aggressive temperament.

You don’t have to like Sarah Palin to admire her resilience.