Tuesday, March 31, 2009

KU Researcher Explores Interpersonal Communications in the Age of Facebook


Nancy Baym, (University of Kansas) associate professor of communication studies, became interested early on in how the Internet shapes interpersonal communication and of late has focused her research on social networking sites in particular.

Sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have revolutionized interpersonal relationships for the digital age, she said. Within these online communities, users share status updates, self-generated media, journal entries and other interpersonal communication with an ever-growing cadre of online friends. The purpose is to reinforce established friendships and form bonds with new friends.

“They start in the mid-late 1990s based on this idea that Stanley Milgram had that everybody’s connected by six degrees of separation — and the first one was actually called ‘sixdegrees.com,’ ” said Baym. “And they’re based on the premise that you’re more likely to want to get to know people who know people you already know than all-out strangers. So rather than a dating site that just has people putting up profiles and trying to randomly match, what if you could put up profiles of people that had shared friends. Wouldn’t those be more likely to succeed?”
“Different people have different reasons for compulsive Facebook use,” Baym said. “But I think it comes down to the fact that there’s a continuous dribble — there’s always something new — so every time you go something has changed; somebody has updated their status; someone has sent you a request; someone has posted an item. So it’s a continuous link of hanging out in the halls with your friends between classes or hanging around the water cooler at the office.”

Baym recently has completed research on Last.fm, a niche site that connects fans of similar music. She found that online friendships based on common taste in music tended to be more fragile, although people also used the site to maintain closer relationships.

“What I found on Last.fm was that on average these relationships are not very strong,” said the KU researcher.

More here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is Obama's Press Conference Another Sign of Newspaper Decline?

Check this out from Michael Calderone's blog at Politico:

During President Obama's second East Room news conference, he took questions from 13 reporters over about an hour -- that's the same as during his first presser on Feb. 9.

But in quite a departure from the first presser -- and White House protocol -- Obama skipped over the nation's top newspapers. Indeed, there were no questions from the NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal or USA Today. That might not sit well with the already insecure newspaper industry.
Considering the trends we've been seeing lately, is this a subconscious sign of the end of days for printed news? Or is it merely the President's way of "spreading the love around" to media outlets which normally get ignored?

The comments section is open for your opinion, sauciers!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Boneheaded Corporate PR: Take Two...Or is That Three?

Stupefyingly stupid.

You would think after this and this and this that corporate honchos would get the idea that lavish spending after you receive government bailout money is just plain stupid. JPMorgan Chase is the latest victim of their own greed and arrogance.

According to ABC News, the company, which is "the recipient of $25 billion in TARP funds, is going ahead with a $138 million plan to buy two new luxury corporate jets and build "the premiere corporate aircraft hangar on the eastern seaboard" to house them."

And they have no idea why that is outrageous:
But on March 11, the chairman of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, said he could not understand why corporate America has such a bad image.

"When I hear the constant vilification of corporate America I personally don't understand it," Dimon said.

Dimon, whose 2008 compensation package, according to SEC documents, was worth more than $19 million in salary, stock and options, declined to speak with ABC News about the proposed plans.
Say what?

The Sauce

Their PR team either has some bizarre form of corporate Stockholm Syndrome or are the most incompetent people on the planet. What more can we say that has not been said before on this very blog? We'll let Nell Minow say it for us:

"It's a remarkably boneheaded decision," said corporate watchdog Nell Minow, the editor and founder of The Corporate Library, a group that provides independent corporate governance research and analysis. "It's completely tone deaf."
"There are going to be business school case studies for generations about exactly these decisions, and people will be learning forever about what incredible stupidity these executives showed," said Minow.
Oh yeah.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Sauce: With Tonic

Looks like noted Kansas City PR firm Sprenger McCullough has rebranded in hopes it will be just the right Tonic for today's challenging business climate.

Now called "Tonic," the firm's new website is lively and has a definite focus on branding services with a touch of liquid-flavored "fun." Fun figures heavily on their team bio page:
"We take fun very seriously, in fact we hire for it."
The overall philosophy seems to be one of taking the stuffiness and bureaucracy out of the agency experience:
"Ready for a refreshing change from that bloated agency feeling? Tonic offers light and fresh branding solutions from effervescent pros who don't just talk about the work... we actually do it ourselves. No thick, heavy layers to slow you down. And no unpleasant billing after taste..."
Sure this is fun, but why shed the tried and true Sprenger McCullough brand? The site explains:

"As an industry, we have routinely stamped our names on the doors of our businesses, as a choice of pride or arrogance, or maybe, simply tradition. For us, it was time to put a new stamp on the door that better represented what we stand for and what we do. Tonic represents true passion and unlimited energy. And that’s what makes it the perfect culmination of all we do."
The site also features a blog, "Spitballs at the Battleship." We'll let you read up on that one.

The Sauce
If you're going to be a company that brands and rebrands products, services, companies and people, what better place to start than yourself? It's a bold move, but one we think can really "gin up" business (sorry). Having once worked with "Chief Brandologist" Stacy McCullough's team on a project, we can certainly testify that they are positive, fun, talented folks. We at the Sauce wish them the very best.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Death of a Brand: AIG

Here's part of a great post by author and communications consultant James Moore on AIG's diminishing brand. You'll recall our multiple posts about AIG and its effect on the events and conference industry.


There is an old saw in marketing and public relations that if you don't quickly brand your company's products and services the public will brand them for you. Whether that brand ends up being good or bad becomes secondary to the fact that you are not likely to ever get out from under the image the marketplace has provided.

The new adage we are likely to see adopted will say something along the lines of, "When the president of the United States starts bad mouthing your brand, it's not going to survive."
There is, quite frankly, nothing a crisis communications expert can do to mitigate AIG's situation, which is why you have seen the company and its executives remain decidedly silent. First, they run what amounts to one of the world's greatest financial scams and help send the U.S. economy into a state of collapse and then they ask taxpayers to save their company because it is so important to America and the world that it can't be allowed to die and then they use that bailout money to provide bonuses to the precise individuals who drove the company and the country off a cliff. How can that be fixed, either in reality or perception?

It can't. No matter what a communications expert advises an AIG executive to say, it is too late; actions have outstripped any ability to undo harm. Anything anyone says will be a bit like what Texans describe as "puttin' earrings on a hawg; there's some ugliness there ya just can't hide."

Check out the rest of his post here. Jim Moore really nails it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday's Sauce: Mom Currency, Bronze Quills and Inspired Networking

It's been another banner week here at the Sauce. After attending a couple of stellar presentations we almost (almost!) wish it weren't Friday. We'll just have to keep the enthusiasm going throughout the weekend (while painting the living room, playing with the new baby and doing our taxes) until Monday.

Fleishman Hillard's Liz Hawks clued us in to "Mom Currency" in her informative talk at the March Kansas City IABC meeting. FH's survey on today's mom (Momocracy!) and her influence on the economy revealed some points to ponder:

* Women play a key role in "setting the agenda in millions of households, an effect that aggregates across the country into a society dominated by the new woman's sense of success, self-determination, leadership, competence and generosity."

* Every mom surveyed described herself as "having significant input into household decisions." In fact, 79% say "in the end, my opinion determines family decisions."

* 91% feel they are "the manager for the quality of my family's life."

* Moms surveyed "consumed more than 40 hours of media per week--essentially a full-time job." That's more time online (17 hours) than watching TV, listening to the radio or reading newspapers and magazines. In fact, the trend shows that moms are using blogs, forums and other sites to "compare notes" on everything from pediatricians to coupons to products.

"Soccer Moms" are so 90s.

So in the 21st Century moms are in the drivers seat in huge numbers when it comes to purchasing and quality of life decisions and they're heavily using the internet to make those decisions. Good stuff, Liz!

Speaking of IABC, there's still time to get your Bronze Quill entries in. KC/IABC is extending the BQ entry deadline by one week, to March 27. Questions? Email Sara Miller or click here.

Thursday night I was lucky enough to attend Denise Upah Mills' presentation on networking--and I don't mean my beloved online networking.

Denise is a fantastic speaker who inspired a whole room to break out of their shells and truly network face-to-face. She covered the basics (don't spend your entire networking event talking to people you already know, don't hog the conversation, etc.) along with some great tips to sharpen your networking skills:

* Be Purposeful. Know who you want to meet. Make a Top 25 list of people you want to meet to advance your business or project. Seek collaborative referral partners, do your research and be proactive.

* Prepare for purposeful small talk--tie current events into your business, let other people talk, describe your business at a 5th grade level and rehearse it with a friend.

* I think one of the best pieces of advice she gave was "be memorable." Tell stories. She related that interesting stories about someone she just met or events that transpired in the course of business are far more interesting than straight facts about "what you do," and that will make you memorable.

The advice I most appreciated was that "events are not the place to sell." Geeze, we've all been there with the guy you just met at a networking event who tries to close a deal before you've had a chance to eat your piece of square cheese. Networking events are about meeting people, not selling services. Once people know (and like) you, your network will be more likely to help you out and the sale will follow.

I'd add that once you make a connection face-to-face, a follow-up invitation to join your network on LinkedIn is a great way to keep the "conversation" going and building that relationship.

Great stuff. I'm looking forward to putting this new information into practice.

In the meantime...have a great weekend.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Instant Sauce: 10 Reasons To Have That Conference

We've covered a lot of ground here at the Sauce about the "AIG Effect" and the industry. In that vein, Bob Phibbs' "10 reasons to have that conference with a professional speaker" has more good reasons to move forward with your conference.

Here's an excerpt:

1) Community. A conference is the one place the people who “get it” are able to come together and do a better job. The very power of a meeting comes from the community that forms for those couple days.

2) Competition. The old mantra you get 80% of your business from 20% of your customers is still true. Those 20% are looking for how to do better – these are the people who attend conferences. When you don’t listen to that need, you are cutting them off to fight for themselves. If you are a vendor, it is only a matter of time until they look for someone else who gives them the inspiration and training from a competitor. If you are an association, it makes them question what they get from being members.

Read the rest at his blog, here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More Layoffs Announced at Kansas City Star

Another note in our continuous coverage of the changing paradigm of the news media....this time it is the hometown paper of Bernays Sauce, The Kansas City Star.

The Kansas City Star expects to cut its workforce by another 15 percent, or about 150 positions, publisher Mark Zieman told employees in a memo this morning.

The cuts are in line with overall reductions at The Star’s parent company, The McClatchy Co. of Sacramento, Calif., which announced plans today to reduce its overall workforce by the same percentage, or 1,600 full-time equivalent employees.

McClatchy, which owns 30 daily newspapers, said that the reductions will begin by the end of this month and that it expects to incur $30 million in severance costs.

“We have been transitioning steadily from a traditional newspaper company to a hybrid print and online, news and advertising company for some time,” McClatchy Chairman and Chief Executive Gary Pruitt said in McClatchy’s announcement. “The effects of the current national economic downturn make it essential that we move even faster to realign our workforce and make our operations even more efficient.

“We previously discussed a plan to reach a targeted level of cost savings, but given the worsening economy, we must do more. I’m sorry we have to take these actions, but we believe they are necessary.”


“Like all other companies and industries, we are making dramatic changes to survive this recession and come out safe and profitable on the other side,” he wrote.

The Sauce
Unfortunately, this is not the first layoff the Star has announced in the past year. You'll note that Star parent company McClatchy is seeking a way to make money as both a print and online concern--or "hybrid" as they call it. That's probably the best transitional strategy a news organization can make at this point, but it still remains to be seen how online content can be monetized enough to support adequate newsgathering efforts.

Your thoughts are welcome in the comments section.

Octomom's Latest PR Person Quits: "She's Nuts"

Looks like the "Octomom" has lost another public relations person. She lost her first one after death threats were issued. This one, Victor Munoz, says that she's "nuts."

"Nadya got real greedy. This woman is nuts," he continued. "This I can say: what ultimately destroyed the business arrangement was personal reasons."

The Sauce
And Munoz isn't even a licensed psychiatrist.

Don't get me started about "personal reasons."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Hemorrhaging Continues...More Conferences Canceled

In keeping with our reports on the "AIG Effect", we see two more prominent national annual conferences have thrown in the towel, citing the economy. This one is a twofer, though, as it also ties into another focus of this blog, the fitful death of newspapers/print publications...


Two annual meetings in the publishing industry have been canceled for 2009, both casualties of the economic recession.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors announced that it is canceling its 2009 annual meeting just two months before the convention was to take place, April 26-29 in Chicago. Plans were well under way, but officials decided to cancel it because of low attendance projections and the stress of the economy on members. With the newspaper industry struggling, ASNE leaders concluded that the challenges editors face at their newspapers demand their full attention, said Charlotte Hall, president at ASNE, in a press release. Also, said Hall, attendance would have been significantly lower than normal. The convention typically attracts between 400 and 500 attendees.

This is the first time since 1945 that ASNE has canceled its annual convention.

“This is a uniquely stressful period in our business as we face both structural change and deep recession,” stated Hall. Even though the learning opportunities at the convention would have been valuable, the greatest priority is leading our own newsrooms as we shape the future of the business,” Hall stated.

The board of directors will meet electronically to handle association business that would have otherwise occurred at the meeting. One piece of business is a vote to change the bylaws and drop “paper” from its name to expand its membership to include editors of online-only news Web sites. “We intend to press on with our transformation of ASNE to ensure its relevance in the digital age,” Hall said.

For many of the same reasons, the Magazine Publishers of America canceled its annual convention, the American Magazine Conference. The conference was scheduled for October 18-20 in Boca Raton, Fla.

“The cancellation of this year’s AMC is in response to the difficult economic climate facing all businesses, including the magazine industry,” said Nina Link, president and CEO at MPA in a press release. “We recognize that this year our members are looking at a variety of ways to achieve savings, which would include curtailing certain discretionary travel and hotel expenses.” They hope to resume the AMC next year in Chicago.

The Sauce
This is far, far from over. I hate to use a hackneyed phrase like "perfect storm," but this situation truly is.

Take a look: the events and travel industry is suffering from bad press because of bad actors like AIG. Simultaneously, in an almost perverse twist of fate the print media is being ground under the heel of Internet news.

Is the death knell of print pubs a Thermidorian reaction to the hegemony of corporate media? Or is it mostly the depressed economy coupled with the rise of the Internet as a credible means of delivering news?

Or is it something else? I don't know. But I do think we ain't seen nothing yet.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Another Venerable Publication Dies

The venerable trade publication RCR Wireless News today joins the list of publications wiped out by a changing news paradigm and a disastrous economic downturn.

From their announcement:

RCR Wireless News has suspended publication of its print and online products immediately and is closing operations. Unfortunately, the market for RCR's products has been hit particularly hard by the global financial meltdown.

"RCR Wireless News was passionately run by first-class people and it pains us to make this move but the economy gives us no other choice," said Crain Communications Chairman Keith E. Crain.

The Sauce

It is becoming accepted wisdom that print media is decreasing and may eventually fall victim to the Internet. Even so, until a serious, effective and accepted method of monetizing online news content is adopted, these dominoes will continue to fall.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Skitter or Twittle? Skittles Uses Twitter As Website

UPDATE: The Experiment has ended.

Twitter the rainbow.

Skittles.com is no longer a typical website, but instead a Twitter Search result page.

Here's what you get when you go there, a Wikipedia entry with a demo ask (your birthday):

If you register and move on from there, you get to the Skitter or Twittle or whatever you want to call it page:

The Sauce

Clever gimmick, but their Twitter feed is rife with nasty language, spam, racial slurs, inanity and other mob stupidity. It doesn't make me want to "taste the rainbow," it's just annoying. Of course, I'm not a huge fan of Twitter anyway. (Apparently neither is Jon Stewart.)

Or Skittles, it would seem. Nice experiment, Skittles, but what good did it do your brand?

The comments section is open for your Skittular enjoyment.

AIG Gets New Money... Need a Giant Shamwow to Soak Up Bad Press

As our recent postings have discussed, insurance behemoth AIG has been accepting unprecedented amounts of government bailout cash...and they used it in indiscreet and boneheaded (read PR-unwise) ways.

The latest is they are getting tons more government assistance. Hopefully the execs will be more judicious this time.

Perhaps they'll buy a giant Shamwow to clean up their soggy image. Apparently that's about all that can do it at this point.