March 14, 2007

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Old Fashioned PR Counsel for a Digital World People buy people. After that transaction is made all kinds of commerce and communication take place. But even in a transparent digital world where people introduce and represent themselves on Facebook, Friendster, YouTube, LinkedIn and other emerging social networks, real connections get made using old fashioned PR tactics wielded by publicists with networks of contacts, wit, wisdom, favors, timing and the sensibility of old time press agents. And while the seedy and marginal image of Sidney Falco, Ivy Lee and a myriad of press agents and propagandists past have been largely put to bed, there is a constant need to make people-to-people connections, to develop postures for key executives, to polish brands and position brand stewards in the right circles to advance business objectives. Not every CEO is a former Stanford wunderkind or the scion of a moneyed familyor an "overnite"sensation. Most have a big job and a not-quite-clear plan that requires others to help them get where they need to go..Many boldface names get into your consciousness, show up on the dias, speak at trade shows, chair gala balls and give interviews on the pages of the magazines and websites you pay attention to because skillful publicists are hard at work. Charlie Brotman, Washington DC's legendary PR maven, taught me this as a callow youth when I got the opportunity to be his client. I had the good sense (and a cue from him) to shut up and take notes as I watched him systematically take a short, loud, balding, pedantic, graceless and demanding new CEO from out of town and over 8-12 months introduce him and gain acceptance for him with the right people to achieve "instant" recognition in a town dominated by old school ties, old money with a provincial perspective linked to political connections, all without bruising his Duddy Kravitz ego.. Howard Rubenstein, New York City's "Mr. Connections" provides a similar, if unarticulated, service to his clients. I'd bet that most of his 450 clients would rather have Howard make a connection, open a door, put them on a board, find them a charity or set up a meeting or a call with one of his celebrity clients than get them a big story in the dailies or get them on CNN. Even in the digital age, its who you know and what they can do for you that matters. Recently I've watched Diane Terman, an East Side doyenne and style maven, who is a partner of mine, skillfully acculturate and advance the career and prosects of an ambitious female executive from the Midwest working in the New York office of a global services firm. Her counsel has ranged from finding the right haircut, the right designer look and the right pocket book to volunteering for charities, working on industry boards and showing up at the right events. In a bit more than a year she has fully positioned this executive as a fast-tracker and integrated her into circles that have materially aided her business and impressed her bosses, got her a book deal, accelerated her access to industry leaders and engineered a profile in the New York Times. A multi-channel PR strategy in the right hands and its steady, progressive execution is a thing of beauty to behold. But it doesn't happen by itself or by magic. In a world of clicks and widgets, strong marketing still requires seasoned practitioners making useful and purposeful connections.
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The Psychology of Points . I’m always amazed at how predictable I am. I track with my demo and I do stuff for points. See if you can guess which of these points personalities I am. Savers. Highly motivated to earn points these individuals hoard points. They rarely redeem them but brag heavily about their account balances. Like people who get pleasure from reading their financial statements, Savers appreciate what they’ve achieved and reward themselves psychologically for what they potentially could get. Junkies. Highly motivated to earn points, they spend them as quickly as they earn them. Earning and burning validates their effort and gives them bragging rights among their peers. They appreciate near constant activity and regular reinforcement and each new reward pushes them onward. Junkies also have a hyper sub-set; people who aim for and then switch the rewards they are working toward frequently; almost daily. They repeatedly discuss or debate the appeal and the value of items in the reward catalog and get charged up celebrating the number and quality of the choices they have for redemption. Marathoners. These are people who pick a tough goal and work toward it. The hard-to-get redemption motivates their day-to-day behavior. They are focused on playing by the rules and earning a great trip or high value merchandise, which they will talk about frequently. They are motivated by the challenge of doing something others will not. Doing the difficult task is an important as earning the reward. This individual will review and romance the features and functions of the home theater he’s working toward or endlessly discuss the possible side trip options during the trip to Italy she is pursuing. Cool Cats. These people earn points by doing what they usually do. They are nonchalant about the program but secretly think that they are smarter and better than everyone else. Usually a sub-segment of top performers, these people are naturally good at their work and hardly have to moderate their behavior to earn points. But they are too cool to buy into the hype or get excited about the details of the program, though they will redeem points quietly for the rewards that appeal to them. Participants in these points-based programs take on these different personalities. Some are reflections of their true personality and others are personas they adopt to play the game. Being part of a community of people acting in these ways adds to the run of collecting points and softens the rats-through-the-maze reality of these marketing programs.These personas also offer a natural segmentation scheme for planning, messaging and administering a successful incentive program.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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