Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Post-Consumer Economy

Does the slowing of the world economy necessarily mean innovation will be stifled. Investment in new technologies is costly, but investment in ideas is a matter of thought, effort, connecting. Is it possible for us, as a nation, not to BUY BUY BUY, but to collaborate, connect, and consume invention?

The question remains, how to prosper and succeed without the vast infusions of capital, and concomitant consumption that yields bottom-line returns, in these new times?

I believe brain power is the new capital in a post-consumer society. Although I believe the transformation will not be without some pain, how it will work is up to us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Educating Kids for the International Millenium - no lol

(see post and comment at:

My daughter just left yesterday to spend a semester in Paris. She has been studying French since she was in 5th grade, and is excited to be immersed in the culture and to master the language. She even had a French friend on Facebook, the daughter of one of my friends from my own Junior year abroad.

While we were at JFK airport awaiting her plane at the international terminal, it seemed that every third traveler must be a college student - a heartening sign that our young people are learning that, to be part of a global future, they must gain first-hand experience in cultures and languages of the world.

She emailed me as soon as she got there to say that, of the 60 students in her program, most of those she had met so far had barely passable French. That many of them saw the year as an excuse to travel. That they were looking for a break from study at home.

While our country gives lip service to the idea that preparing our children to meet the demands of the world they will inherit includes mastery of languages, respect of international culture and diplomacy, and most colleges and universities have some kind of study abroad program, I wonder if this is only window dressing - that foreign language study is still optional, that learning across cultures is scant, and that the idea of fostering understanding and mutual dialogue is non-existent.

"But everyone speaks English!" So "nous autres Americains" expect. Is this what our higher education system is preparing our kids for in this "flat" world? With a worldwide Facebook, Twitter and the ubiquitous cell phone to encourage them, shouldn't American students be as fluent in French or Chinese, as starved to learn the culture, as Chinese and Russian and Brazilian students are to study ours? Can we expect our young people to assume the mantel of leadership, innovation, diplomacy, commerce and discovery if they cannot communicate across cultures?

We learn languages best when we are taught young. While our K-12 education system is still based on local and state standards, and languages are low on the list of subjects that must be mastered, the Federal government can provide the bullypulpit to promote languages, international exchange, and stronger standards for foreign language education for the youngest scholars. Where will our world be without young people fluent in English and Arabic, Farci and Spanish - or tomorrow's emerging economy.

And let's make sure that social networks are part of that connection - where technology helps remove barriers to learning, we can all be friends. And that's a reason to lol!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Parties with Purpose - TM

In this new era of downsizing and diminished returns, is there still space to use events to market? Not the familiar trade show or that newly emerging budget-saver, the Webinar, but live meet-ups where the purpose is delivering, or reinforcing a vital message or expanding the message to a wider audience.

This is the question we are mulling over - does the market space exist today for using a live event to communicate, illustrate, persuade or even start a conversation for organizations with a strong social message? Think about the model, where the Obama transition team invites citizens to hold local parties to debate policy issues and then share them with those in positions to effect real change - be it at the local, national or international level. Consensus cannot be formed solely in an electronic medium, though the debate can be waged, in part, online.

Is there a place for us humans, social beings, to gather, to celebrate, to debate, to learn and share - to create a meaningful DIALOGUE - in today's environment of reduced resources, modest means and lowered expectations?

More to come on this topic...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Communicating results.

Where's the ROI?

As principal of WordsWork Communications, I am frequently asked by prospective clients to justify the expense for marketing. After all, can't everyone write a press release (no, but this is a subject for another time). It is right, though, that clients expect some return-on-investment for hiring our firm. With so many channels, both new and traditional, and so much clutter for people's attention in the marketplace, what value does WordsWork, or any firm for that matter, bring to the table?

I am grappling with the new rules of delivering on a promise to clients. The burden of proof falls on us practitioners now, more than ever, to substantiate the effectiveness of the marketing, communications and public relations we create for clients has been an integral component of what we deliver. Only natural, you might guess, if you were looking for a consulting firm to create your identity, to deliver sales, get you on The Today Show or to bring in donors, but after all, there are so many other factors involved in the dynamic of your success, particularly in the current economic cycle, that no one in this business can guarantee such outcomes.

In the emerging world of traditional and social marketing, how do we deliver? When you can't control all that is said - the good, the bad and the ugly - via blogging, online posts, company Intranets and all the derivatives is it still true that even bad press is a good thing?

What about the brand? Does style, consistency, medium and message still matter?

Talking about clients today in a way that yields the desired results is no longer about control of the message, or relationships with gatekeepers. WE are the gatekeepers, as is everyone else with a computer and an interest - or a vendetta.

How do other people in the marketing/promotion/advertising/brand-building business answer the question: in the current Web 2.0, how do we get our clients the results they are looking for?

Looking for how clients are choose the firms that deliver - and how fellow practitioners are proving to their clients that they do, in fact, deliver.