Archives for posts with tag: television

(Clicking on the image above will take you to Amazon where a tiny percentage goes to help my movie and book buying habit.)

I’ve never watched “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “Scandal,” or “How to get Away with Murder.” So why read, let alone review, a book by the writer and creator of such successful, but ultimately not that interesting (to me) features of the television landscape?

Well, the recommendation by a good friend got me to read the blurb and then the audacity of the idea did the rest.
Shonda Rhimes is a busy, powerful, highly successful, African American single mother in Hollywood who realized after a conversation with her sister that she did not enjoy her life. In a bid to change her life she decided to spend a year saying yes to things she would normally say no to because she was “too busy.”Part memoir, part self help book, part treatise on creating balance between home and work lives, “Year of Yes” is a remarkable book. Funny, honest, deeply personal, and down to earth yet also intellectually satisfying Ms. Rhimes let’s the reader into her world and into her mind. It shows that success does not translate into happiness – but that it can if you’ll let it. The book also is a rallying cry for stretching one’s self and not becoming self limiting due to what scares you.

Where the book really scores for me is in figuring out how to have a successful career, and a balance that with having a fulfilling home life that works for both parent(s) and children. While this is not particularly relevant for me (I’m not a parent) it is interesting from an employer and manger perspective for those that do.

I will not attempt to distill several chapters into a paragraph but the importance of personal rules and creating boundaries is great advice for manager to give to employees struggling with the conundrum of the near mythical work life balance.
While there is plenty for the fans of Ms. Rhimes’s shows, working parents, and those interested in the world of Hollywood television production, there is also just a lot of great advice about personal heath, relationships, diversity, and dealing with stress.
This is one of the most surprising books I have read in a while and it is well worth your time – particularly if you like to say “no.”
Note on the Audio Edition: as I often do with books I listened to the audio version which is read by the author and includes actual audio recordings of speeches that she has makes as part of her journey. Shonda’s personality truly shines through with her performance and I highly recommend this version for adding an extra dimension to and already great book.

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As House M.D. ends its eighth and final season I wanted to say thank you to the show for a number of things as they relate to my professional world and give it a (little) bit of a hard time for couple of others. I should make perfectly clear that I am a huge fan and that apart from a couple of minor missteps the show has been amazing television. I apologize for any spoilers!

Parasites and Zoonosis

I freely admit that I do not watch a lot of hospital shows. Apart from the odd episode of ER, House is really the only medical show I have had much time for. But House, as far as I’m aware, has had more than its fair share of parasites. From a veterinary perspective this is amazingly refreshing. As someone who seems to spend their life talking about zooanosis to doctors, staff, and the public, it is great to see some worse case scenarios played out in fiction, with a grounding in scientific fact.

Any one remember the episode with the giant tapeworm? I bet if you’ve seen the episode and your pet(s) have ever had tapeworms you won’t soon forget it. Or there is the episode autistic boy with roundworms, the team members infected with Naegleria fowleri, the homeless woman with Rabies, or the woman who catches Bubonic Plauge from her pet dog. Admittedly these are all extreme cases, but the mere fact that they are on television in some ways is a minor miracle considering that most people do not even want to talk about parasites and zoonosis.

So thank you Dr. House for spreading the word about zoonosis and parasites. Every little helps!

The Diagnostic Process

One of the great gifts that House M.D. gave the veterinary, and probably the wider medical community at large, was giving the public a greater understanding of the diagnostic process. Admittedly, House’s methods are often very unsound, but that fact the he and his team regularly are a loss for what is going on is extremely refreshing. We all in the veterinary profession have heard the complaints:

“Why do you have to do that Parvo test?”
“Why do you need that bloodwork?”
“You did that expensive bloodwork and there is nothing wrong!”

Even a casual viewing of House M.D. shows what is supposed to be one of the world’s foremost diagnosticians performing tests that come out negative and going down blind alleys searching for an elusive diagnosis. By bring the diagnostic process into the living room, House has helped acquaint the public with the idea that a certain level of trial and error are to be expected in any evidence based search for answers.

On more than one occasion I have used the show to help explain to a frustrated client why it took three separate diagnostic tools or lab tests to get diagnosis and why we couldn’t just immediately go to the correct one. So thank you Dr. House for helping to shed light on the diagnostic process!

Superstar Bad Behavior

I went into at some length in a post a couple of months back about what I call “The Steve Jobs Effect.” This is this the phenomena of some doctors, and other professionals, feeling that because they are so good at what they do, it excuses almost any level of behavior. Now House M.D. is very much fiction and levels to which the character of House delves would lead to his dismissal by pretty much any employer – never mind at a medical facility. The sarcasm, plain offensive behavior, and even harrasment, does make for great television, but, although it rarely reaches the epic proportions of House – it does happen in real world.

So not so much thanks, Dr. House, for reenforcing the stereo type that great skill can excuse bad behavior!

The Cuddy Episode

Every now and again on a long running T.V. show the writers shake things up by imagining the world they have created from a different perspective. On the show House M.D. this took the form of a very underrated episode from the perspective of Dr. Lisa Cuddy, the Dean of Medicine (Hospital Administrator to you and I).

The episode (5 – 9), shows the administrator doing very administrator type things – facing off with a vendor, placating the Board, dealing with major H.R. headaches (being short staffed and theft). The episode also deals with the thorny issue of billing and a patient who does not feel they should pay their bill (sound familiar). It is great to see these challenges, admittedly extremely exaggerated for added drama, and that these types of issues as just as much the part of running a medical facility as what the viewers watch Dr. House do every week.

I do have a problem with the episode however. After doing a great job of explaining to a patient why their bill is fair, the episode ends with Dr. Cuddy ripping up the patient’s check. I understand that it is supposed to show how kind-hearted the star of the episode is, but it undermines everything she states earlier in the episode. I also don’t buy that the character would do this.

So thank you Dr. House, sort of, for a great episode showing the role of administrators everywhere.

I, like a lot of people, am going to miss House M.D. But I am grateful that we’ve been able to have eight great seasons of television, and even more grateful that an intelligent show has shown some of the issues that I personally and professionally care about. So long Dr. House, for all your faults, we’ll still really miss you.

Everyone wants good PR (public relations) or good press to put it simply. But how to get it?

The answer is actually really rather simple, and follows a lot of the same rules as social media and content marking: give your audience what it wants!

Your audience in this case is that odd mixture of reporter, editor, and reader. For the most part, in this blog post, I’m discussing newspapers and magazines. But the same rules generally apply to radio, television and web-based news sites.

Your Target

I often hear the complaint from businesses that it is impossible to get the major media interested in small business. It is not impossible, just hard. It is also making sure that you are targeting the right reporters, and right media outlets in the first place. Small local papers are much more likely to be interested in things that will affect the local community. Magazines, and in some cases television, are much more likely to be interested in “human interest” stories. Business journals, including industry specific magazines, are probably most interested in ideas or services that other business can use or learn from.

If you are a small business in a distinct community – as opposed to the big city – focus on your local newspaper or area paper. That might be a free weekly paper, or a daily traditional newspaper. If you are a major business for your community, it is quite possible that your reach will be greater and you can aim higher.

The Press Release

A press release is exactly what sounds like – a release of information to the press. They tend to be short, written in the third person (as if a reporter had written them) and should include quotes from key people involved as well and any and all information that might be considered pertinent to the reader. Remember this is about what a reporter, or editor, will think their readers will be interested in – not what you think is interesting. Long scientific diatribes filled with difficult to spell words are probably not going to work for the local free paper. A press release needs to be newsworthy, or it needs to comment on something that is newsworthy. If you can provide some background to a major story that is already being covered, you have an excellent excuse for a press release!

It is not the goal of a press release to have it reprinted in full – although that would be nice – but rather to give a reporter a jumping off point for their own article or to give additional information for something that they are already working on.

These days emailed press releases are the way to go – preferably with pictures. But don’t send gigantic photos through email. Attach medium sized images and link to high resolution ones.

The Pitch

Journalists are always looking for story ideas. If you have a good one, even if it is a little self serving, you can always call, email, or even write in miniature a “pitch” for how you imagine the story working. I’ve found that pitches work best when you can talk with the writer concerned and then email over some quotes for them to use. Pitches also work best if you can target a particular reporter. Read / watch / listen to your target media outlets and find out which reporters like writing about subjects that align with your interests. Perhaps there is a business reporter who writes about interesting business models. Perhaps another reporter likes writing about pets and animals – if you are a veterinarian that is probably someone you want to get acquainted with.

Information When They Need It

Over the years, the single biggest thing that has allowed me to get great press is the simple act of returning phone calls and responding when I’m asked. A reporter calls up on a busy day and wants to interview someone about the dangers pets face during the holiday season – that reporters request is now my number one priority. I might give that interview myself, email some quotes over or drag a veterinarian out of what they are doing for five minutes, but I will get that reporter what they are asking for. The simple truth is that reporters work to deadlines and simply don’t have the time to mess around and wait for a couple of days for you to get back to them. Most newspaper articles are written that day for the following days paper or maybe the following day of you are lucky. If you respond, the chances are they will call back the next time they need something because they know you’ll work with them and not let them down.

I’ve actually had letters to the editor, in a local paper, complaining that my hospital was always in the paper and what was the connection between the two businesses. I was in the paper, because I would issue press releases when I had news, and I was always respond when asked. Reporters know that the exposure from a newspaper article is important, so they are not going to beg for your input.

Bad Press

If you talk to the press there is a chance of bad publicity. And if you don’t talk to the press there is a chance of bad publicity. There is some merit in the idea that by making yourself more visible, you become more of a target and it is easier for reporters to inquire about something that you would just as rather they forget. However, any reporter worth their salt is going to chase a story down that involves issues or problems, because that is what sells papers and other media.

I’ve found that, on the whole, local media are pretty good about sorting out the normal disputes that occur with all businesses from time-to-time with the real stories that might have “legs.” Having good relations with your local media will not insulate you from bad press, and reporters will bristle at even if inference that it might, but decent relationships will make it easier to get your point across.

Never, under any circumstances, use the words “no-comment.” It sounds awful, and just makes reporters much more interested, because if you are saying no comment that means you don’t want to talk about something that is probably very interesting. Simple, straight forward, and above all short answers to questions are your best defense when being asked about something you’d rather they didn’t. If you genuinely don’t know, say; “I don’t know at the moment, but I’ll be more than happy to find that out for you.” or “Let me put you in touch with someone who can answer that better than I can.” Of course, make sure that you get back to them, because if you don’t now you’ve just made them mad.

And I hope it goes without saying that nothing is ever off the record, even when it is.

Crisis

Crisis management is really beyond the scope of this blog post, but I wanted to briefly touch on it as it really an extension of bad press. When a crisis, that involves the press, happens it is important to get out in front of it – just like with any bad press. No waffling – either in terms of your response or your statements. Don’t hide – it is very easy to feel like the world is collapsing around you, but the media are going to report something and it should be that you are dealing with the situation – not that you are holed up and not speaking. It is far better to give to much away too soon, to try and defuse a crisis, than to give away too little and have to increase it later after the press have had a field day with your reputation.

Toyota’s handling of their recall is often help up as a prime example of doing too little at first. In the end, Toyota were able to recover but only by doing what they should have done in the first place and untold damage to their brand in the process.

The media will always find you should problems occur in your business that they deem to be newsworthy. Building bridges to the media, however, will allow you to open a dialog for both good and bad news. The media can definitely be your friend, and for the most part, they are not looking to be your enemy – so why not create those relationships to help build your business?

Have had good or bad experiences with the press? Have you had crises that you have been able to handle well? Let me know in the comments section I’d love to hear from you!  

Next Week: Please don’t do this…

Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at creating a marketing strategy, branding, social marketing and the various ways of creating an online presence, whether it be websites, social media and some of the other online tools that allow you to market your business. Traditional advertising, however, should still have a place in most marketing strategies.

Where traditional campaigns fail is when they are not part of a much larger effort which includes online social media efforts and the client’s experience in your business. Think about how you, or even better, your clients, find businesses and products. They will probably see a traditional ad, and then do some research online. But if there is not an ad for them to see then this initial driving force never happens.

A well designed ad, whether it be online, in a newspaper, on the radio of television will solve a problem that your potential client has. Your entire branding strategy, in fact, should be geared around this not enough to tell customers that you exist – you have to tell them why and why that matters to them!

Newspapers

Yes, there are people who still read newspapers, and even some who buy them.

In smaller towns, newspapers are still the main source of local news which can be difficult to find from the major media outlets. Newspapers in smaller towns, also recognize that the game is changing and have pretty comprehensive websites with pay walls. If you are in a major metropolitan area you may not have experienced this, however, even in bigger cities, newspapers still have their place.

Ads in newspapers can have a spotty reputation, but a lot of this has traditionally been due to badly designed campaigns and a lack of metrics to track results. Lucky, the internet and new technology is there to help you. A specially tailored URL (website address) for your campaign, or a QR code (bar codes that can be read by a smart phone), in a traditional printed ad that leads the reader to a specially designed landing page on your website makes for easy tracking. A good example of this is on my desk in front of me. It is a piece of junk mail trying to get me to subscribe to the Arizona Republic and offering me a special price for Sunday delivery. If I want the offer, I am told that I should visit “J7.AZCENTRAL.COM,” scan the QR code or call a special number. If I go to that address I am taken to a special landing page with an electronic version of the prepaid card I might have filled out in the past.

Where you appear in the newspaper is incredibly important. I personally stay away from any special section like TV listings or “weekend” sections, unless they are targeted at your audience – pet adoptions sponsored by a veterinarian or pet shop are a good example of what can work. The main part of the paper is where you want to be – that is why people are buying the paper! That is the bit they, in general, read the most. It does tend to cost a little more – that alone should tell you something – but it is worth it.

Radio

Radio, although facing some serious competition, can be a relatively inexpensive way to reach a large part of your client basis. Your radio station will look after production of your ad and can make some really helpful suggestions. Small radio stations may also be willing to work with you on infomercials, which can dramatically increase your exposure for little increase in costs. The trick with infomercials is to have a great idea. I’ve used a weekly vet tips section, which combined with lost and found pets from the local shelter gave dramatic exposure at an excellent price and also gave the radio station some great content that their listeners were interested in.

The great advantage that radio has is that listeners tend to like the station, not the individual programs. That means your ad / program has a far greater chance of being heard because it will not get glanced over (newspapers), or fast forwarded through (Television).

Metrics and tracking with radio can be tricky, but again a URL that is geared to your campaign can work wonders.

Television

With the advent of cable and the fragmentation of the television market it is now possible to have a TV spot running on a popular network for less than you used to pay for a yellow pages ad. This, of course, varies greatly on the market, the cable company and the channels and show you want to be associated with. If you do get an ad – make sure that the cable company will let you use it on YouTube – thereby you can embed it on your website and get the maximum value for your television budget.

A word of warning about YouTube, Facebook, and combining them with traditional campaigns. Don’t make your potential clients go to Facebook or YouTube to get “exclusive content” or to view your new ad. Because once they are there, the chances are that that website will entice them onto something else and they’ll forget about your website that you were hoping you would go back to. Embedding is your friend, and it helps keep the customer where you want them – looking at your content or advertising.

Yellow Pages

As my friend Dave Nicol puts it so sucictly in the title of his excellent book: “The Yellow Pages are Dead” (you can read my review by clicking on the title but not until you’ve finished this article please!)

With all the respect in the world to Dave, I think it is probably nearer the truth to say they are dying. When was the last time you picked up a yellow pages? And if you did, did you then go look at them online to see what you could find out about them? Being in the main yellow pages directory for your area is important, however, the days of the full page ad are over. A listing – maybe a small box ad, depending on your target customer, will be more than enough. Of course, ask your customers, or look up your existing measurements of how people find you and then make your own decision. In areas where there are multiple books pick the best one, or if you can find out, the one your customers use.

Do not buy enhanced online packages from the yellow-pages companies. They are not very good at it, on the whole, and you can find much lower cost solutions. If your marketing budget is an issue the yellow pages are a great area to cut. Don’t be swayed by the “your competition is in our book” argument. Let your competition waste their advertising dollars – be smart about where you place yours.

Directories, Maps, Etc.

These really are a waste of money and probably always were. My favorite I saw recently was a printed directory which had an enhanced picture of smart phone on the cover show what was inside the guide. And no they did not have an app. This cover, all sense of irony removed, was just trying to be hip, and was actually showing off why the publication was irrelevant.

Finally, the Internet

The internet is an incredibly powerful tool, and it is possible to have a marketing strategy and a marketing campaign only using just it. A traditional marketing campaign, however, must have an internet and social media component and all the elements show be designed and work cohesively.

It is also important to remember that ads, even if not very successful in their own right, can help with your general brand awareness – your internet and social media components should be able to tell you if this is the case.

I believe that a good marketing strategy combines lots of elements and disciplines – including the running of your business. If your potential clients know the name of your competitor, but not yours they are not going to be looking for anything other than your competitors name online, …or even in the phone book.

Next Week : Internal Marketing

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