Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

7/14/09 – A few days after I wrote this, I happened to read an editorial by Museums President David Hillenbrand (written one month ago) about the fight to keep arts funding. Though Mr. Hillenbrand easily trumps me with his years of experience and know-how, we’re not so far apart in our thinking.

Often, I think back to a time when my parents had a dream of restoring the Levoy Theatre, an old, decaying vaudeville house in my hometown of Millville, New Jersey, to its former glory. I was young and didn’t understand why. I’d roll my eyes whenever they passed by it saying, “There’s our place,” and talked about maybe passing it along to me one day.

My parents, try as they might, never saw their dream become a reality – at least for them. Perhaps they would be leading the charge today if they had known more about fundraising and grantwriting. Perhaps I could have done something if I were older at that time armed with the knowledge that I have now. In any case, as I’ve grown older and personally invested in the arts, I’ve realized now that what my parents wanted to do was not just for their own or our family’s benefit, but to bring something back to a community that was in decline as the glass factories disappeared.

Fortunately, though my parent’s dream for the community didn’t come true (for them), it has not died as a group of individuals came together 14 years ago to make preserving and restoring the venue a reality. What’s even more important is that my hometown’s main “drag” has now been transformed into an arts district – one that made this once non-believer from afar a believer.

Millville’s story reminds me a lot of Pittsburgh, the city I now call home. Once a thriving city, thanks to the steel industry, it too saw its decline as the work dried up and the factories closed. It was the arts, in my opinion, that have helped to transform the face of Pittsburgh from the place once known as “hell with the lid off” to “America’s Most Livable City.” Many organizations have contributed to this transformation, but the two most prominent cultural institutions that stick out in my mind are The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Carnegie Museums.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

I might be in want of new ankles for Christmas (see: wearing heeled boots and standing about five hours), but I can say that I was glad to be at the Kids Holiday Crawl hosted by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust today in downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

I had the pleasure of helping with crafts for Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater, an awesome subsidiary of the Cultural Trust that presents a family series in the city and suburbs and an international children’s festival in May. (OK, so I used to intern/work there, so I might be biased. It really is a great organization, though)! Chief among our activities were a magnifying glass-making activity in advance of “Nate the Great,” coming in January 2009, and temporary tattoos. Oh, David Newell aka Mr. McFeely of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was also on hand late in the afternoon to sign autographs.*I didn’t snap any photographs so I wouldn’t have to worry about waiver implications or anything.*

It was an opportunity for me to prove to myself once again that while I have two college degrees, I seriously lack in craft-making abilities. I mostly stuck to greeting, cleaning and assisting where I could instead. It was a steady stream all day as we welcomed more than 400 children and their family members to our little outfit on Penn Avenue. The holiday crawl was free and, although geared toward kids, had something for everyone. None of us were able to check out the other locations on the crawl, but it was fun to look at the crafts the families brought with them from their other stops, like homemade musical instruments from Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and spin art from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

As I watched the children make their magnifying glasses, I commented that we’re very fortunate to have the arts scene that we do here in Pittsburgh. It’s true that we have some great sports teams here (save the Pirates, apologies to the dozen of you who are still fans), but I’d like to think the arts scene is going to help shape the Pittsburgh of tomorrow.

We’re fortunate to have banner organizations like the Trust that can unite the arts community into a thriving movement, helping to revitalize the downtown area. I’m not a native Burgher, but to my understanding, the downtown area before the Trust’s formation wasn’t the most savory of places. It still has a way to go, as half of the area still packs up with the end of the work day, but if you talk a walk these days you can see that the Trust’s belief and investment in the city is paving the way for other organizations to also make a commitment to a better Pittsburgh.

I’m so proud to have shared in this goal through my own experiences and I hope to continue doing so for years to come.

Read Full Post »

A few days ago, I read an article that Facebook sought to acquire Twitter, but the microblogging service apparently backed out over the financials. It seems there’s disagreement over the value of the Facebook empire. It’s been appraised as high as $15 billion, but the Twitter folks believe it’s inflated from a more realistic $5 billion. To them, this meant that Facebook’s offer of $500 million in stock was really only worth $150 million.

Frankly, I’m pretty happy that the deal fell through.

It may come to pass that Twitter will be scooped up one day from a large media conglomerate. It seems it happens often. My main concern is that if Twitter is acquired, it’ll be absorbed into some service and lose its identity. I’m afraid that’s what would happen if Twitter went to Facebook. I’m already sick enough of 99% of the applications and do-hickeys on Facebook. Would Twitter just become a built-in component of the site or would the Facebook folks be content enough to let it stand alone? If that were to happen, I think the dynamic of community would largely change and not necessarily for the better.

I’m not dissing Facebook as I like it and do use it, but there’s just so much more to Twitter than “What are you doing?” I think the concept of community is inherently different for each service – while Twitter’s community seems small and inviting, Facebook’s community just feels cold and disconnected. At least, that’s the experience for me.

The biggest problem Twitter faces right now is generating revenue. The service has one part down with a user base that has rapidly expanded the last year, but like any business it has to show its backers that it is sustainable. Should it stay as a free service? Should it incorporate ads into the user experience? I think it would be wise of Twitter to spread its wings and find out, instead of taking the easy route and having another company do it for them.

Read Full Post »

OK, can we make an effort to move on from this Motrin bitch fest? The online ads are being pulled and those in print will follow eventually. An apology has been issued and I’m sure the company is going to be much more careful. If this is what was wanted, congratulations, you’ve succeeded. Now what?

How are we going to harness all this power for good? There are far more important things in this world to worry about than a questionably offensive advertisement. Hell, I think (and there are others who’d agree with me) that there are far more offensive ads that have seen the light of day, yet I can’t seem to recall anyone really making a fuss over them.

I want to focus on something that is bigger than you, bigger than me, and bigger than all of the kerfuffle that is still plaguing the Twitter stream – people who don’t even have the luxury of engaging in this conversation because their worries are far less trivial. They worry about where they’re going to find the money for heat, warm winter clothing, whether they can have a Thanksgiving meal next week, or even afford Christmas gifts next month. They might sit behind an avatar online, but they’re in your neighborhood – on the other side of town, across the street, even next door. They are the people who matter most and I want to try an experiment. I want you to help me help them. I want us to help them together.

We know the economy is in a slump and people are tightening their wallets, which means many organizations are downsizing or looking for other cost-cutting measures. For nonprofit organizations that heavily depend on public and private donors, this could spell disaster.

The unfortunate aspect with a worsening economy is that the need for assistance has gone up, with those who may have never utilized help from charitable organizations finding themselves turning to them in desperation. The Salvation Army is just one example of organizations that are facing these issues right now.

I can speak from personal experience (disclosure: I worked for a TSA office briefly) that TSA, armed with a simple mission of “doing the most good,” is very much committed to making the world a better place and helping to ease the struggles that people face every day. Although its most famous fundraising tactic, the Red Kettle Campaign, doesn’t officially kick off until Nov. 27, it doesn’t mean that the organization doesn’t need your help now – many offices have already started to roll out the red kettles and bells early.

Locally, we’re seeing a shortfall (at least in my county) of at least $200,000 while need is increasing, and I’m sure if you looked at your own area offices, you’d see the same thing. Last year, I participated in the roll-out of a online initiative that would take the red kettle from the streets to the internet. I had my own kettle, but didn’t do much with it as there were so many distractions going on at the time.

I’m not giving up. It’s time to try this again.

I’d like to ask the community to put its power to good use and help me out. I’m starting small with a fundraising goal of $125, but would love to be able to give a much larger donation. As cliche as it sounds, every cent counts. You can even start your own!

If people can make noise about an ad, they can surely spare a dime or two  or fundraise to help those less fortunate … right?

Read Full Post »

UPDATE 10:47 P.M. – Looks like the folks behind Motrin are taking notice of the outrage.

—-

While watching the Penguins win over the Buffalo Sabres last night, I checked my phone to tweet and see what everyone else was yakking about. I noticed that there happened to be a huge uproar concerning Motrin and there was little I could do to find out due to a) not having an awesome iPhone or Blackberry/smartphone in general and b) I was at a house party, so … you know. When I got back this afternoon, I could see that there was much outrage by many moms on Twitter about a new advertisement on the product’s official site.

After monitoring the Twitter steam for a while at Motrin and #motrinmoms, I finally decided to watch the video to see what all the hubbub was about. Honestly, after watching it, I can say that I’m not wholly offended. I’ve watched it numerous times since then as a way to continue analyzing it, but nope … still nothing. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have children that I tend not to take any real meaning out of it. I think I’m in the minority here, but maybe not.

You can watch it and form your own opinion, but whereas many see the tone as condescending, I’m more convinced it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. Additionally, I can’t help but think I could relate and might secretly have the same thoughts whenever I’m a first-time mom, too. Am I wrong for thinking that?

There’s strong focus on buzzwords such as “supposedly”, “things”, “official mom,” and so on. While we can argue over the context of those words, it is my humble opinion that “things” refers to the swaddles, swings or whatever you want to call them and NOT babies as some seem to think.

Many are calling it a PR nightmare. At this point, we don’t even know who is on the team that formulated this concept. I’d be interested to see if some of the team members are moms who may/may not have had experience with babywearing and thought that they could share their own experiences in a semi-humorous fashion. How would the perception change if this comes to light? A focus group may have helped, but again, we don’t know if they put it through the proverbial wringer before making it public.

It could have been helpful for Motrin to have a Twitter presence right now to deal with the backlash, but how can one person (or a few people) possibly engage on a personal level with hundreds of angry parents at once? How would you do it? I’m unsure that having a social media presence at this particular moment would have really helped the situation.

You can argue with me that then I don’t get it. I do, but this whole wave of social media platforms is still very new and companies are slowly starting to catch on. While we can bitch and moan that it would be so much easier if every company utilized social media, I think it’s imperative that they monitor and understand what’s happening “now” before taking the plunge. Having a presence just to have a presence isn’t always the best thing if your company has no clue and is more or less utilizing these platforms as the opportunity to spam or quite simply broadcast and nothing more.* Now, this situation might show the company (which is part of the Johnson & Johnson family) that social media engagement could be helpful in the future and I’m sure they will be paying more attention to it.

In the short term, I see an official statement being issued in response to the backlash and the ad will go *poof*. I don’t think a boycott will have any detrimental effect on the brand. Those who haven’t bought the product in the first place, probably won’t anyway and that’s more than likely due to the cost or loyalty to another brand.

While I do agree that the ad is a bit tasteless tacky (again, I don’t see it as offensive), I don’t believe they intended to piss off an entire market. They tried to reach moms in a way that they thought they’d be able to relate, but obviously it backfired – back to the drawing board. I’m looking past the controversy on a personal level because at the end of the day, the product works and to me, as a consumer, that’s what matters.

*I know this might sound pretty contradictory to several posts I made previously about businesses utilizing social media, but I don’t believe every company will find value in all social media tools. Participation ultimately needs to be structured according to what type of conversation they’re looking to have – hence, I just throw out suggestions.

Read Full Post »

Mario “Le Magnifique” Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins hockey legend and the team’s current owner, is often quoted as saying, “It’s a great day for hockey.” But it was actually former coach “Badger” Bob Johnson who coined the phrase. Either way you slice it, for Pittsburgh, it truly is. In just three years, the Penguins (or Pens to the typical fan) have managed to turn around from a dying hockey club into a champion, almost tasting champagne from Lord Stanley’s Cup last year for the first time since 1992.

There are many tangibles that have factored into the Pens’ good fortune as of late and it all started with drafting Sidney Crosby, first line center and the youngest captain in the NHL, with the 1st-overall pick in the 2005 Entry Draft. He was hailed as “The Next One,” joining the likes of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (1st overall, 2003 Entry Draft) and forward Evgeni Malkin (2nd overall, 2004 Entry Draft), who jumped ship in 2006 from his Russian team to play for the Pens. Forward Jordan Staal (2nd overall, 2006 Entry Draft) made the big league last season in his first year turned pro and hasn’t looked back. Add some veteran grit to a talented, young roster and a strict disciplinarian coach in Michel Therrien, and you have the makings of a winning hockey club.

This year’s campaign, “A Great Day for Hockey,” is fitting when considering the past of the Pens and the immediate future during which Pittsburgh will say goodbye to its beloved Igloo (Mellon Arena) and welcome a new, yet-to-be-named facility currently under construction – a move that ensures the Pens presence in Pittsburgh for years to come. What I love most about the commercial is that it not only highlights what the Pens do on the ice, but also what they do off it and the thousands of dedicated fans who cramp into the Igloo or brave the cold to see their beloved Pens play (and hopefully win). Pittsburgh-based rock band, The Clarks, provide the vocals behind the action with their rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” in a fitting homage to all things Pittsburgh.

Here’s the official link to the video: A Great Day for Hockey

You can also follow the Pens on Twitter @pghpenguins.

Read Full Post »

While at the PodCamp Pittsburgh afterparty, I had the opportunity to meet David Fisher (@Tibbon) and have a chat about social media over a Smores martini (me) and a cheesesteak (him). As I recounted my own struggles the past year with consistent blogging, David offered up some great suggestions and advice to amp up my posting and continue to expose myself to different facets of social media while I’m looking for a new position. So, I’m starting another series called Social Media 101 (as I said – one of many) to examine how companies are utilizing social media or could they could be using social media to engage their stakeholders. Thanks, David!

My first topic is Kennywood Park.

Kennywood Park, located near Pittsburgh in West Mifflin, PA is one of the oldest amusement parks in the country. From its humble beginning in 1898 as a small trolley park, Kennywood has grown over the years to become a unique park marrying both rides from days of yore with those of the present and future. It’s an institution that conjures memories from Pittsburgh’s older crowd who now take their children and grandchildren, reminiscing of their youth while making new memories with the next wave of Kennywood thrill-seekers.

My goal is to share my thoughts about what I think Kennywood could use to its advantage when considering Web 2.0 community-building as part of its public relations strategy. Plans may already be underway, but I’m just going to pretend we’re working with a clean slate.

Twitter

Twitter is probably the most popular microblogging site right now and allows its users to connect and communicate in real time. Most users are those who have a vested interest in social media and technology, but major corporations have also started to catch on to Twitter and utilize the service as part of their communications strategy.

Kennywood is on Twitter (apparently), but there are zero followers, zero following, and zero updates. It’s quite possible that the park decided to hold its name until it figures out a game plan, but the account may have been created by someone not officially affiliated with the park. Either way, it’s time to put the service to use. How can the park do it? Here’s some ideas:

  • Sneak peeks and major announcements – Include your friends. Announce a new attraction or initiative as it simultaneously goes out via traditional media outlets, OR build suspense and make your friends the first to know. This is going to help create buzz and establish a word-of-mouth movement both online and offline.
  • Trivia and fun facts – Capture the joy of the amusement park experience by creating a trivia contest or posting fun facts about Kennywood and the amusement park industry.
  • Make memories – Part of Kennywood’s messaging is about making memories. Encourage friends to share their stories and engage in conversations about what makes Kennywood unique and why they return year after year.

Facebook

There are 116 groups on Facebook that make some sort of mention of Kennywood, yet none are officially administrated by the park. Instead, dozens of employees and fans have taken initiative to create community around the park, whether its a means of organizing trips or discussing favorite attractions and quirks. Hundreds of individual users also mention the name Kennywood in some capacity in their own profiles.

A close competitor in Ohio has a Facebook presence although I am unsure how many, if any, pages and groups are officially affiliated with the park. There is one page, however, created by a fan that is most impressive with more than 29,000 fans.

Here’s an opportunity. Fans of Kennywood are obviously there and would surely rally around an official page or group. All it takes is an intern, for example, to invite his or her friends and the power of word-of-mouth will take over. Facebook has the capabilities of importing information from other platforms, which makes it easy to link many social networks together.

MySpace

You can also find a page on MySpace, but I’m uncertain if it’s official. It’s very bare-bones, but has the potential to reach the 18-34 demographic. The unfortunate aspect of the site, however, is that there tends to be a lot of spam at times (though it has significantly decreased in recent years) and the administrator of the profile will have to carefully monitor who is being “friended” since not all profiles are exactly “family friendly” or legit.

YouTube

The site featured two podcasts, but they recently disappeared. What I do like is that Kennywood has its own video devices called KTube, which allows users to share their memories with others and K-Clips, where users can create their own “videos.” I would also recommend a presence on YouTube to allow for easy sharing and commenting. In addition, the Park can easily gauge just how many people are watching videos, subscribing and “friending” their channel.

Miscellaneous

Flickr – There are more than 8,500 tagged photos and one group dedicated to the park. A presence on Flickr would help contribute to that conversation and showcase fan photos on a consistent basis.

Blogging – Not every business has to blog, but it could be an opportunity for guest posts from fans, historians and staff so that everyone can learn a little more about Kennywood’s history and what makes it unique.

Social ads – Myspace and Facebook are offering ad placements, which could benefit the park. Maybe it’s a special promo code for discounted tickets, or a generic ad for Phantom Fright Nights. Either way, the appearance of the Kennywood logo is bound to attract more attention than most of the ads we typically see on these sites.

—-

The important thing to keep in mind with any SM venture is that a little time and attention should be devoted each day to make the community better. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a dedicated position has to be created, but someone must be diligent in monitoring and contributing to the conversation. I don’t advocate deleting user-created content unless it’s spam, obscene or abusive toward other community members. It’s a learning experience for everyone. Positive comments generally outweigh the negative and there’s always a way to turn those negatives into positives. The trick is remaining open-minded and willing to implement change.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »