Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

Service of Logos that Give the Wrong Message: They Don’t Communicate

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Photo: Deirdre Wyeth

You can’t read some logos and others give the wrong message. One awning featured a spelling error. You’d think folks would take better care of these crucial and basic marketing tools.

 

Deirdre Wyeth posted on Facebook the logo above that advertised a nail and spa salon in her neighborhood. Its name remains a mystery as it’s impossible to decipher the script.

I followed a friend to a restaurant bar on Manhattan’s west side to hear jazz and as I entered, I couldn’t decode its name on the awning in the time it took to slip inside. The orange card–photo right–with its disturbing italic font provides a clearer clue [but is it Sugar or Suggr?].

I felt sorry for the bistro on the upper east side that the windows indicate didn’t make it. I snapped a shot of the awning [photo left] from the bus. The logo for “Le Paris” was OK but the owner of the supposedly French restaurant didn’t know how to spell bistro. Maybe the chef didn’t know how to make French bistro fare any better than the owner knew how to spell a standard French word.

The captions were as funny on the “Bad logos” post on firstwedesigner.com as the logos are faulty. For the dentist’s logo [above right] the author wrote: “That looks like a lot more going on than your regular cleaning if you ask me.” And another logo, for The Detail Doctor, stood out from the many on the website[below]. The caption: “Based on the sketch of this car, seems like this doctor needs a better understanding of the word detail.”

Do you think that poor logos happen when a business owner hires his/her kid, friend or in-law to save money?  Have you seen memorably bad ones?

 

 

 

 

 

Service of Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose–Redux

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Photo: saladcreative.com

Before a significant launch, a client invited the marketing experts who promoted his product to his conference room in the Pacific Northwest. He wanted us to hear and see others’ plans, to tweak ours if necessary, and eventually to coordinate and amplify the marketing effort to ensure we were all singing the same song. I was there for public relations and there was someone from direct marketing, advertising, graphics, customer service and so forth. My client was the puppeteer pulling the strings. It was years ago.

While he didn’t give it a fancy name–nor did he have access to the bells and whistles we now do–some 2019 jargon lovers might call what he did “360 degree marketing.”

Photo: quora.com

Its offspring is 360 degree digital marketing that too-frequently falls off the lips of [trying to be] hip PR folks these days. Here’s how Wheelhouse Advisors explains it: “a 360 degree approach is all about taking a broad and all-encompassing view of your entire customer journey, from discovery to purchase, across multiple devices and touch points.” Sound familiar?

Wheelhouse listed the basics [the words in parentheses are mine]: “SEO [Search Engine Optimization]; PPC [pay per click]; Customer Communications; Website; Content; Social [LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube]; Inbound Lead Nurturing and Outbound Email.”

The longer I’m in business the more I slap my head when I see decades-old strategies dressed up in buzz simply because a few more communications elements have been added. Clients went berserk when the web was in its infancy, tossing all their marketing dollars at their websites, leaving none to promote where to find them. [Customers with no access to the web at that time were briefly kicked to the curb.]

Photo: kakenzie.com

Another popular word that marketers love lately–borrowed from the world of medicine–is “holistic.” An awful like “360 degree” to me, and what primo marketers have been trying to achieve all along. In fact, if some businesses are zeroing in exclusively on 360 degree digital marketing today they are making a gargantuan mistake. You know who you are.

Are there attempts in your industry to dust off the old and give it a fresh coat of paint–I mean words–to make it seem cutting edge simply because some of the tactics have changed? Is it only the insecure, hip-prone marketing world that falls for/sells this gobbledygook based on the premise everything we do must seem new?

Photo: memegenerator.net

 

Service of Why Pick on Computer Science Types? Inappropriate Stereotyping

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Photo: collegeexpress.com

Have you ever met a doctor, executive, middle manager, social worker, nurse, PR or advertising exec, engineer or instructor with poor empathy and/or crummy communications skills? I have.

Photo: bw.edu

This is why I want to know why Northeastern University picks on “Computer science types” in this regard. Sara Castellanos wrote that to graduate, these students have been required to take an “Eloquent Presenter” class. I maintain that any student would benefit from such a requirement and that the university is inappropriately typecasting its computer science students–and people in this line of work.

In her Wall Street Journal article, “A Tech Nerd Walks Into a Bar…” Castellanos wrote: “The class is a way to ‘robot-proof’ computer-science majors, helping them sharpen uniquely human skills, said Joseph E. Aoun, the university president. Empathy, creativity and teamwork help students exercise their competitive advantage over machines in the era of artificial intelligence, according to Mr. Aoun, who wrote a book about it.”

Photo: thebalancecareers.com

How many people do you know who aren’t glued to their devices regardless of their profession or industry? Even the UPS delivery person carries a device. And of these, do all have “human skills?” Some five years ago a friend in the nonprofit world, who worked in a one-room office with the boss and another person, was irritated that this manager insisted she email everything. She was forbidden to cross the room to ask the simplest question.

 

Castellanos reported these reasons to justify the class:

 

  • “Many computer-science types say they would rather work at a screen than chat face to face.” I don’t think that they are alone!
  • “Others hate drawing attention to themselves.” Ditto.
  • “In the improv class….computer-science majors not only cozy up with peers, but work in groups and take turns in the spotlight.” Don’t groups like Toastmasters address this kind of thing? They wouldn’t be so popular if participants didn’t feel the need.

 

The jury’s still out about the success of office concepts adopted by companies like GitLab, a company that “offers tools for software developers.” The startup employs 600 over the world, continued Agam Shah in The Wall Street Journal, and has no headquarters. All employees work remotely which seems to be a trend with some working from home at least a few days a week. I have my opinion about the negative impact on the quality of work with little face-to-face but the point for this post is that if this is the way things are going, why bother with being an “Eloquent Presenter?” Or, is the CEO, Sid Sijbrandij, and his clients the result of people who missed taking such a class and feel no need to converse/empathize?

Speech was a gut course when I went to college. Turns out it would have been helpful in my career and in the professions of most of the people I know. Had computer science been around in the day, I wouldn’t have been able to pass a course. Nevertheless, “Eloquent Presenter” should have been right up my alley as a government/history major—yours too? Your thoughts about Northeastern typecasting computer science majors?

Photo: towson.edu

Service of Two Marketing Home Runs & a Third That Strikes Out

Monday, December 10th, 2018

I am gleeful when I see a clever marketing campaign and am almost offended when what I thought was a smart organization falls short.

Here are two good ones and one not so.

Poster Perfect

I enjoyed a witty set of advertising posters on the Lexington Avenue express subway produced by Seamless, a food ordering and delivery service that’s part of the GrubHub family. It reminded readers that it knows its neighbors and what they most like to eat.

The campaign, written in a New York-y voice is eye-catching, and a mini relief for passengers in uncomfortable circumstances, inspiring them to smile.

Some of the headlines were:

  • “The Most Potassium-Rich Neighborhood –Murray Hill– based on the number of banana orders. No one’s cramping here”
  • “The Loudest Neighborhood–Park Slope Brooklyn –based on the number of chip orders. Your neighbors can actually hear you crunching”
  • “The Neighborhood in Most Need of a Vacation–Dyker Heights Brooklyn– based on the number of tropical smoothies ordered. Just take one already.

Subway Smiles

Another subway campaign hit the spot. Coca-Cola: Happiness starts with a smile – YouTube was produced by a Belgian agency. An actor looking at something on his tablet on a crowded train begins to laugh and his giggles are contagious. The tagline is “Happiness starts with a smile.” Towards the end of the ride people wearing red tee-shirts with the Coke logo hand passengers cans of soda and a postcard with the theme.

The Long and the Short of It

Photo: politico.com

The second Obama Foundation Summit produced a lame campaign as far as its outreach to me is concerned. It came via email. The subject line “I want to hear your story Jeanne.” The theme: “Common Hope Uncommon Stories.”

Janelle Monáe, who signed the email, wrote: “No matter how different each of our tales are, we must do what we can to help each other achieve the extraordinary. When someone shares their story, we see the world through their eyes. That’s why I’m reaching out today. I want to hear your tale. Tell me your story in 10 words or less: How do you work towards a better future?”

I can be succinct but 10 words on a serious subject doth not a serious request make–even for an elevator pitch. Think that was a typo? Its impact on me: I stopped reading well before the bright red DONATE link at the bottom. I can think of some snarky 10 word retorts, such as “Get rid of the president,” though I’m not sure that they reflect me and my story. How many personal stories “work towards a better future?” Am I being persnickety and too literal? Have I lost my sense of humor?

Have you seen any clever ad campaigns on public transportation—trains, busses, subways? Was the Obama Foundation’s communication a fundraiser for the hip and therefore way over my head?

Photo: usatoday.com

Service of When Simple Things Confuse

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

I wonder if I live on a different planet sometimes. To illustrate what I mean, I’ve photographed a few signs and a sales pitch that I’ve recently noticed or received. I cover communications—mostly poor–in many of my posts.

On a bus at night this week I looked up from what I was reading to see where I was. I admired the new lit street sign [photo above], but from where I sat, I could only see the Avenue—the street number, which is what I needed to know, was hidden. Did the designer think of that?

I know why real estate people do it, because the avenue may have more cachet as an address to the building owner, but it has always confounded me when a door that opens many paces up a NYC street has an address referencing an Avenue. I’m surprised that it’s allowed. The photo, right, shows 350 Lexington Ave. quite a bit up on 40th Street facing west.

I got a letter from Stig Abell, whom I don’t know, asking me to subscribe to the TLS with not a hint of what it was anywhere. I bet every reader of this blog knows what TLS is but on arrival home late one night, I didn’t. Because I was planning to write this column, instead of tossing the letter immediately, I looked it up: The Times Literary Supplement. I guess it was one of those “If you have to ask, you’re not worthy of it,” sales pitches.

I didn’t snap a shot of a poster that was at bus stops all over town a few months ago—and I couldn’t find an image of it on the Internet either so you’ll have to believe me. It told the reader to fly out of EWR because of convenience etc. I’ve lived in NYC most of my life and had no idea where EWR was so the poster was wasted on me—I’ve never been good at acronyms anyway. I later learned in a Facebook conversation that it refers to Newark Airport as well as why the airport uses the letters EWR. Because the letter N is reserved for all things Navy, it cannot be used to identify airports.  EWR refers to some of the other letters in the word nEWaRk.

Have you been left in the dark due to confusing signs or mysterious sales pitches?

Photo: airportparkingguides.com

Service of Saying What You Mean—Or Not

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Photo: Oneweekjob.com

I tend to say what I mean. I’m baffled when people who know me well consistently think I really want to do or buy or eat something other than what I’ve identified. That’s why Deborah Tannen’s op ed piece in The New York Times caught my eye. But her personal findings, described in her piece, surprised me given her conclusions in her life’s work as a linguistics professor, now at Georgetown.

She described a dinner party in which she asked her friend Tamara not to help clear the table and Tamara kept on doing so. In “My Mother Speaks Through Me,” she explained that the way she and her friend communicated—spoke and heard–was impacted by their “families’ styles.”

Photo: makeameme.org

Turns out that Tamara’s mother would often protest that she didn’t want any help but once Tamara had completed a chore, her mother was always extremely grateful. So when Tannen said “No” Tamara heard “Yes.” In the household in which she grew up, Tannen’s mother meant what she said.

Tannen wrote that in her first paper—she’s been researching “how people speak differently across cultures” for 40 years—that confusion occurs “when one speaker means words literally and the other thinks they are hinting at something else.” She noted that a person with a direct approach hearing a fuzzy response might think the other person is “being manipulative, or even passive-aggressive.”

Photo: pexels.com

That’s why I was puzzled by Tannen’s surprise: “We both felt as if a light had been turned on. It never occurred to me that Tamara might think I didn’t mean it when I said I didn’t want her to help. And it had never occurred to her that I did.”

“Though my mother died in 2004,” wrote Tannen, “she is the one whose voice comes out when I speak, and whose speaking style shapes how I hear others’ words. The same is true for Tamara as I learned when our styles clashed.” She attributed the differences to the fact that her mother was born in Russia and Tamara’s in Germany. Tannen found it “deeply satisfying” to know that during the clearing of the dinner table she was speaking and Tamara was listening as their mothers would have.

When Tannen and her husband made Thanksgiving dinner at her parents’ home, her mom would ask “did you leave any food on the shelf?” and who did they think would eat all that food? Her mother speaks through her today, she wrote. She parodies those words when her husband brings home far too many groceries.

I don’t think it is that simple or cut and dried. My mother’s hinting was closer to the way my husband communicates than the way I do. They might ask “Is there any Ketchup?” instead of “Please bring in the Ketchup.” I think my style is a closer match to my father’s. If he told me to bring his glass to the kitchen and I responded “in a minute dad,” my hesitation didn’t go over well. There was no doubt what he wanted and when—no silly sallying around. I, too, am impatient.

Does your mother speak through you? Do you hear your parents’ voices when you speak? Do you listen and hear the way they do or did?

Photo: bublbe.com

Service of Pick up the Phone Already: When Written Communication Runs Amok

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Photo: connectmogul.com

Here’s an example of miscommunication in the extreme illustrating the potential impact of careless texting or hastily written messages of any kind.

The friend who shared this story received tragic news that blessedly turned out to be poor communications. She is a meticulous writer, speaker, retired PR manager at a major corporation and longtime instructor of Management Communication. She said if she were currently teaching a class she would use this as an example of what happens if you don’t consider what the recipient of your text or email might be thinking. The lesson applies to both personal and business communications.

I have made up the names of the characters in this tale.

  • My friend will be Maude
  • Her friend, the grandmother, Pam
  • Pam’s husband, the grandfather, Fred
  • Pam’s sister, Steph, is also a good friend of Maude’s and is the baby’s great aunt

Maude’s friend Pam traveled to be with her son and daughter-in-law last week for the birth of their second child. Her husband, Fred, stayed at home. The delivery of their first grandchild, now three, was extremely difficult. But their grandson, born on Maude’s birthday, was a healthy 9 lb baby and angelically beautiful. His mother, too, was fine.

Photo: rainmaker-strategies.com

The day after the infant was born, Pam’s sister, Steph, sent Pam a text telling her that she’d just bought a few things for the baby.

Pam texted in response: “We lost boy around noon today.”

Shocked, Steph called Maude. I happened to call Maude moments after she’d heard from Steph. Usually unshaken, Maude was stunned.

Pam has many siblings and they frequently invited Fred to have dinner with them while Pam was with the young family in the East.  When she opened the door, she told Fred that she was so sorry and he replied that he “knew this would happen a long time ago,” which was news to Steph.

Fred continued, “I was with him.” Odd, given that the baby was born over 1,000 miles away. “When I saw him this morning I knew he wasn’t going to make it.” Puzzling still.

In her distress and alarm over what she’d interpreted as the sudden death of her grandnephew, Steph forgot that Pam and Fred had a cat named “Boy.” It is he who had died.

Photo: thenation.com

An aside: Maude was telling me the story on the phone as she was getting a manicure. The manicurist apologized for eavesdropping and asked if the woman who’d written the text was American because “a native English speaker wouldn’t have written that.” Even this didn’t trigger an aha! moment because the baby didn’t yet have a name.

She wondered whether Pam had read what Steph had written about her purchases before responding with her news. As importantly, did Pam consider what might be on her sister’s mind given the family’s focus on the new addition? Maude advised for important information, don’t rely on hastily written texts and emails. If you don’t have time to reread then wait until you do or pick up the phone. Do you agree?

Photo: blog.near-me.com

Service of What’s the Point?

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Photo: jlacitychurch.org

Is there something about mail that makes the people who run such services–whether traditional or online–impractical?

USPS

I was rushed when I grabbed envelopes from my handbag to mail them in a box in front of the Amenia, NY post office, population 4,436. Inadvertently I may have also tossed in the box two checks meant for someone in my office.

Amenia, NY post office. Photo: mapio.net

When I realized this a few days later, I called to ask if they’d found the checks when they emptied the box.  The postal clerk said she wouldn’t know; the mail is picked up and goes to Albany where, if they found such checks, they’d shred them.

We live in an even smaller adjacent town, population 1,434. Were I mailing something to a business or friend there, does it make sense for the letter to travel to Albany first?

Naughty Spammer, Sloppy Spam Filter

Photo: med.stanford.edu

I received a warning that automatic filter systems were reporting as SPAM my twice weekly email notices highlighting posted topics on this blog. If I didn’t stop, my access to mail would be suspended.

There was a solution: I could avoid this by using a dedicated bulk mail delivery service designed to ensure regulatory compliance.I get tons of SPAM and have for years from entities many times larger than my business with far longer lists of recipients. No doubt they use services like Constant Contact, yet the mail keeps on coming even though it, too, is identified by the SPAM police as SPAM. So much for ensuring regulatory compliance, paying for someone else to perform a simple task and nevertheless being grabbed by the fingers of SPAM.

Further, those greedy fingers yank from my email box legitimate emails from clients, friends and relatives, people to whom I write weekly or daily and sometimes, even in the middle of back-and-forth correspondence.

I don’t want to be forced to pay for something I can do myself. Can you think of other instances like this?

Why does the USPS in tiny communities no longer have boxes designated for mail within the same zip code? Why must a small business be forced to buy a service it can very well do itself?

Service of What Happened to the Word FROM and Other Omissions

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Something's missing

There’s a commercial for 1800gotjunk.com that ends, “you never have to take off work.” And for years people have said—and written—“I graduated high school.” So what happened to the missing word FROM? I am far from a perfectionist when it comes to conversation but I miss hearing that word.

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

In a morning show radio discussion of other March blizzards in NYC in anticipation of tomorrow’s storm, the host brought up the “great blizzard of 1888” [that Wikipedia reported dumped some 40 inches of snow in parts of N.Y. and N.J. and up to 58 inches in Mass. and Conn.]. In predicting this week’s expected snowfall the host repeatedly left out the word IN when he said “anticipated precipitation Central Park.” That was the first I heard a missing “IN” and I hope it doesn’t become a habit.

This led to irritating abbreviations. I’ve recently heard on newscasts the word “presser,” short for press conference. Is it too difficult to say “press conference?”

Information technology expert Josh Cintrón shared a contraction he dislikes: “phoner” for phone interview. He admits to being a stickler for word choice and referenced the ridiculous image of someone who had just “caught the train.” He added, “not for nothing,” a phrase that may make some people cringe. But we agreed that we’ve become fond of this typical NYC double negative. [Who said we had to be consistently picky?]

When someone tells actor Daniel McHenry that they are “fixing dinner” he wonders “who broke it?”

Are there any missing or erroneous words or abbreviations that irk you? Do we drop words or parts of them simply out of laziness?

 

Photo: elitereaders.com

Photo: elitereaders.com

 

 

 

 

Service of Why Don’t You Say So?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Say so

Communications is often not our strong suit. The cost? Customers pay the price in wasted time and/or mistakes.

Taxing

I ordered an item online from a high end men’s store and noticed, in checking out, that I was charged tax. For clothing that costs $110 or less, New York residents don’t pay tax. While it wasn’t much, it irritated me that tax appeared on my bill but because it was the last day of a super sale, I approved the order and wrote customer service [which was closed on the weekend].

TaxFirst thing Monday I got a response telling me that they will charge the correct total {without the tax} “when the order is ready to ship.” I was notified, but the tax was still there. So I whipped out another note–thank goodness for cut and paste and email. The correction was made.

Given that the store has a NY branch and that I assume more than one customer orders from NY, it would have been easier to note on the invoice that NY residents won’t pay tax for items under $110. Staff in billing should be similarly instructed….although I suspect that I may be the only one to care.

Check this out

I was having an annual checkup and on arrival dropped into the ladies room to wash the subway off my hands. There was a note warning patients not to urinate if they were having a sonogram. The office offers sonograms in a few parts of the body so out of curiosity I asked one of the technicians whether this directive applies to all sonograms. She said that it only applies to pelvic ones. So couldn’t that one word have been added to the warning?

Do it yourself and guess

USPS self service and binI used the do-it-yourself package mailing system at the Grand Central post office. One of the questions is “Will your package fit in the bin?” which it would. When done, I tried to open the adjacent bin and it was locked shut. So I had to wait in line anyway to find out where to put the stamped package. An exasperated postal worker, who looked at me as though I was dumb, pointed in the direction of a large canvas container on wheels placed well below the counter where nobody would see it with nobody nearby to secure it, either.

Was there a note stating what to do with a package on the bin parked next to the scale/shipping computer? No. Was there a note above the hidden container that collected packages? No. US Postal Service customers take note: Bring along your ESP next time you drop by.

Cross street please

When a business posts its NYC address on its website, if on an avenue, please note the nearest cross street.  I’ve lived in NYC most of my life and I don’t always know this information. [See 666 Fifth Ave and 546 Broadway, in photo below.]

Have you noticed that increasingly few businesses put themselves in their customer’s shoes in planning websites or procedures by anticipating questions or sharing clear instructions in the first place? Do you have other examples?

 Cross street please turned

 

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