Monday, July 29, 2013

“Eulogy for a Travel Agent” or Things to do on the Internet when you're dead

"Don't be upset. Sure we
offshored your accounting
job. But we've got a special
assignment for you ...
in the kitchen."
My friend and brilliant economist Craig Garthwaite once said, "It must suck for the guy on the road crew who holds slow/stop sign to know that he could be replaced by a bucket of sand." Craig is very compassionate that way. But technology isn’t. Technology is eliminating redundant middlemen faster than the Ark Fleet Ship B from planet Golgafrincham.

And now technology has its sights set on you, the communications expert. Don't believe me? Take the following quiz to see for yourself:

Do you include any of the following among the critical contributions you make to your organization?

1. Serving as a conduit between the C-suite and PRNewswire;
2. Making sure that Legal has approved the draft release that’s scheduled to go out next Tuesday; or
3. Sitting on the PR Selection Committee to determine which agency your organization will hire to tamp down that ugly flare up with the Digby account

If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you need to listen carefully to this eulogy for a travel agent, lest you too find yourself replaced by the proverbial bucket of sand.

Eulogy for a Travel Agent

“Bob wasn’t just my travel agent; Bob was my friend. Not the come-over-and-watch-the-game-tonight kind of friend. But the kind of friend you’d call when you needed to make travel arrangements.

“Bob was my go-to guy. He’d get me the best air fares. He’d find those secret, unadvertised rental-car upgrades. And he always booked me into a modestly priced hotel right near the convention center. And not one of those flea-bag joints down by the bus station, either. I’m talking a Red Roof Inn with a continental breakfast and free Wi-Fi.

“But Bob saw the writing on the wall. One day when he was booking my trip to Peoria for the Mystery Shopping Providers Association Summit and Expo, he leaned over his desk, and he says to me, he says, ‘I can see the writing on the wall. This Internet thing is going to put me out of business.'

“So I say, ‘What do you mean, Bob?’ And he says, ‘Why would anyone hire me—or any travel agent for that matter—to do what they can easily do for themselves online?’

“I said, ‘No Bob! Even if we can book our own travel, we’ll always need travel agents because … well because …

"At that moment, we both knew it was over for him and the travel agent business.

“Bob’s with us here today. I can feel his presence. And I can see him right there in the back row. In fact, I see Bob all over town since he got laid off. Poor guy’s got nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it. Ain’t that right, Bob?”

“Damn straight!”

“So if we learn just one thing from Bob’s experience, let it be this: Don’t wait for the Internet to put you out of a job. When you see the writing on the wall, teach yourself ways to write better, run faster, and jump higher. Because that’s what Bob would have wanted.”


“Thanks, Bob.”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hey, kids ...

"Sir, we're losing Malaysia!"
"Scotty, this is the bridge.
We need more cowbell!"
If you follow us at, you're going to see some reruns on FlackOps. I haven't been giving this site enough lovin' and my international fan stats are going down faster than a pair of Sears socks.

If you don't follow ... well, you know the drill.

Thanks for playing.


Monsters Ink: How your audience's inner monster can give your story legs

"And it's made with ... try to keep up with
me people. There's plenty more to see."
Do you fist pump when your toilet flushes properly? Yeah, me neither. Unless you’re a drug dealer, a expect it to work.
functioning toilet probably doesn’t change your life. You just

And therein lies the problem for municipal sewer authority PIOs.

Nobody cares that the sewage system infrastructure is doing its job. It's when it isn't that the conversation starts. And if the effluence hits the affluent, watch out! It’s emergency city council hearings and “the full story at 11” on channel 9.

I learned this recntly in Napa where I was speaking to the California Association of Public Information Officials. During Q and A, the PIO for a municipal sewer authority asked, “What is the best way to inform our customers that our system has the lowest rate of incidents in the region and that we have never gone over budget?”

“There is no good way. Nobody cares. Much like a dependable toilet, you’re doing what people expect you to do.”

“But my boss wants me to get the word out and I’m having a very difficult time.”

“I’ll bet. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever seen the video of the North Carolina sewer monster? Because people care about the North Carolina sewer monster.”

The NCSM is a blob of wormy tentacles that actually moves when it senses danger. The video—which showed several of these critter living in the sewers of Raleigh, NC—got over 5 million hits on YouTube and was featured on ABC World News Tonight.

"Aligning your organization's story with a popular story or video is a great way to grab people's attention."

Awkward silence, then ...

“Buy my boss does't want us to show our customers videos of sewer monsters. He wants us to tell them about our incident-free system and sound budget management.”

“Let’s break it down,” I said, drawing two circles on the white board. “The big circle on the left represents everything you could possibly say about the sewer authority. The small circle on the right represents everything your customers want to hear about the sewer authority. You see that tiny spot where the two circles touch? That’s sewer monsters. And the only way you’re going to get information from your circle into their circle is through that tiny sewer-monster connection.”

More awkward silence. It was apparent that not everyone was ready to color outside the lines to get their story out. But I also saw a few people nodding, smiling, and taking notes. And while the day did not end with a "slow clap" send off, I knew there were some PIOs who were already thinking of ways to tell a better story.

On the way back to the airport, I wondered whether the sewer monster example was a good idea after all. But even though it was an off-the-cuff response, I still haven't come up with anything better. So I'm asking you, how would you have answered the question?