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Archive for August, 2008

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The Paradox of Lost Luggage

One of the great paradoxes of flying is that the plane can’t leave with the bag and no passenger. But it can leave with the passenger and no bag. And so it was that I landed in Auckland last week with no luggage. Given how much I travel I probably should be relieved how infrequently this happens to me.

Air New Zealand is one of my favorite airlines. What’s not to like – lay flat beds, terrific food and wine, brilliant entertainment system, friendly staff. So, as I heard my named summoned to the baggage claims counter I was expecting the best. I pretty much got the reverse.

  1. Business class passengers expect business class service. And that includes when you screw-up. In all fairness to Air New Zealand a terrific concierge that was traveling on the plane tried to help – but after ten minutes with a less than interested baggage claims attendant pretty much all was lost.
  2. Business travelers are different. A white t/shirt isn’t going to cut it. Instead we get to go to meeting after meeting entertaining our hosts of tales of how incompetent you are as a cunning distraction from our rumpled rags.
  3. If you know our bags are on the plane when we aren’t, you surely know when we are on the plane without our bags. Tell us before we land rather than surprise us on the ground.
  4. Equip us for the day ahead. The little bag of tricks I was provided with included a razor and toothbrush from the neolithic period, a white t/shirt and, appropriately whitening deodorant (They must have been anticipating a long wait for my bag but not the fact I don’t ware white shirts). Rather than carefully considered, the bag represented some kind of weird assortment of end-of-life cosmetics in mini tubes. At least make your bag of goodies as good as those on the plane and the brand. Anything less is an insult.
  5. Over communicate. How hard would it be to text me the status of my bag. Or give me a call to let me know it was on the way. Don’t subject us to a voice response system that doesn’t work and provides no human connection.
  6. Make fixing the problem a priority. When I called the next morning my bag had arrived in NZ but nobody was quite sure where it was. Until they told me it had been offloaded from the onward flight due to being excess baggage. Ok, four more hours might not seem like much to the airline but to the passenger running between meetings its plenty enough.
  7. Web enable every step of the process. Air New Zealand seems to have fixed the issues most companies have with search by removing the search bar all together from their primary nav. This is about the stupidest, most customer unfriendly thing I’ve ever seen a company do on the web. Drop into site nav and you can get to a search bar – definitely doesn’t pass the “would my mum do that?” test. Lost luggage; lost bags, lost bag – all yield no result. Nuts! Now, to get where you need to go on the site you go to “Before you fly”, then to baggage. Buried in there is a section for “mishandled baggage“. From there you can track it online. Talk about hiding a solution! By the way – “mishandled baggage” also yields no result in their search engine.
  8. Just give us the money up front. You’ve already pissed us off. Give us the measly $150 allowance for clothes and other things on the spot. We’re busy enough without having to file more paperwork for a clean pair of underwear. Here’s a thought – how about paying for the cab to the nearest department store as well?

As for any trip involving checked luggage, I chuck a spare t/shirt, socks etc. in my carry-on bag. Did that ever pay off on this trip! Unfortunately my habit of pretty much wearing all black on the road only made more of a comedy of the whitening deodorant.

I’ll still fly Air New Zealand again – they are a terrific airline. But they just dropped a star in my book.

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Wondering Why…

  1. Softball is out of the Olympics but ribbon gymnastics and synchronized swimming stays in… for that matter… why Rugby can’t get in… In fact, how could you call anything performed to “Little Birds Jumping and Flying Happily” a sport?
  2. Who in Japanese companies actually thinks those advertorials at the front-end of US business magazines are even vaguely effective? Wherever the sales person is that is selling these spots we need to hire them. That anyone could be convinced that all those portrait shots combined with photos of vast industrial complexes are even remotely useful in creating positive perceptions is a miracle. I can only assume vast amounts of whiskey and sake are involved in the decision making process.
  3. Why after paying an exorbitant amount for a meal do US hotels and restaurants think it is a good idea to charge $7 for parking. I mean, you’ve already fleeced us on the meal so why not go all out and charge $50 – at least you’ll just be stupid rather than cheap and stupid.

This is my meandering list of things that continue to baffle me…

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Start-up Rules applied

I’ve long believed that every marketer should go work in a start-up at least once in their career if for no other reason than this. You get a profound and intimate understanding of the relationship between marketing and sales as expressed through the lead. Without a lead, there is nothing.

Carleen draws a line between this and baseball. I really enjoyed “Moneyball,” by Michael Lewis chronicling the successful statistics-driven management of Oakland Athletics General Manager, Billy Beane.

Just as he has applied math to sport, it has an equally important role in marketing and communications.

While the five tips she provides are all good, this one is extremely pertinent…

Trust your data. Even when your intuition suggests otherwise. You have to have the courage and conviction to trust your data, and act on it, Nelson says. If your data says spending money on conferences like CES or Web 2.0 Summit does not convert to sales, don’t go — no matter how important you think it is to be seen at such events.

This is perhaps hardest for communicators to accept. So often we are swayed by the emotions of those around us the data gets lost. We’ve all be subject to the rant by a product marketer about how we are “getting out-PRed…”. Without data you have nothing. Without conviction in your data you are well and truly up the creek without a paddle.

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Social Media Is Organic…

Launching a blog is like growing tomatoes. At the earliest stage it’s anyones guess as to what might grow. And, even if you get a plant out of the ground there is no guarantee it will bear fruit…

Hugh gets at this when speaking to our Digital Nomads blog. We’ve got it off the ground and we’re watching it grow. Conversations are blossoming. Hopefully it will bear fruit in terms of ideas and information that benefit digital nomads. But who knows. He says it well:

The blog is still in its early days. I can see it still struggling, like all new blogs do, to “find its voice” [Hey, if a blog can find its voice in under twelve months, I consider that good going]. Of course, it’s going to have the same problem that ALL corporate blogs do i.e the problem of balancing BOTH the needs of the perennially kvetchy, perennially skeptical, perennially dissatisfied blog-reading public, and the commercial interests of the company. Harder than it looks. The fact that they are giving it a go AT ALL I find encouraging.

And herein lays the rub for so many of us in the communications profession. For the decades we have been doing what we do we’ve been trained, brainwashed and beaten into delivering perfection. Perfect press releases. Perfect press conferences. Perfect press clippings.

Suddenly we’re confronted by a medium that is inherently imperfect. We don’t control the conversation. Topics come and go. You allow others to publish where once you built walls. And, to work, we need to work quick which means publishing, warts and all… And that is what makes it exciting…

I’ve been part of the creation of more blogs than I care to remember. Some worked. Some didn’t. The main learning along the way is that success correlates closely with the willingness of the communicators to take risk and embrace the spirit of the medium. And that means letting go.

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SEC & Disclosure…

Last month, the SEC announced new guidance in using traditional websites and social media channels as legitimate means for companies listed on US stock exchanges to communicate with investors and others.

Like Neville, I believe that announcement will have a far-reaching impact on how organizations communicate, not only listed companies (he has outlined some reasons why he thinks so).

I agree that this doesn’t spell the end of the press release. In fact, it could make the press release more important as companies seek to differentiate communications.

The SEC also made other moves this week – the recording is available – with SEC Chairman Christopher Cox presenting IDEA, a pretty good acronym for Interactive Data Electronic Applications. During the course of the next three years, IDEA will replace EDGAR, the SEC’s 1980s-era computer system for filing documents electronically.

In a first, anyone with an Internet connection – investors, financial analysts, anyone – will be able to more easily find, analyze and extract data and other financial information about US-listed companies held by the SEC. Neville points to the important underlying message in that this appears to give clear support for XBRL in financial reporting and information analysis

The SEC’s press release has the details and there is plenty of commentary and opinion. Hat tip to Neville for the post…