Tech PRose

January 31, 2011

Bears QB injury shows the ugly side of Twitter

Filed under: Ken Krause,Marketing & Public Relations,Reviews,Social Media — techimage @ 5:05 pm

Technology marketers who continue to believe that what happens on social media outlets such as Twitter doesn’t matter can learn a lesson from Jay Cutler. The Chicago Bears quarterback injured his knee late in the second quarter of the NFC title game against the Green Bay Packers. He returned to the field briefly at the start of the third quarter, then sat out the rest of the game.

The event itself wasn’t particularly unusual. Football is a violent, brutal game, and nowhere is it more violent and brutal than the NFL. Players are hurt and sit the rest of the game out all the time.
What was unusual was the instant reaction that followed. Ordinary fans, former players and even current players began bashing Cutler for being a wimp almost immediately. They wondered how he could abandon his teammates in the midst of a title game, questioned his motives, his courage and his very manhood. Before you knew it – and before any of us knew the actual extent of his injury – there was a huge firestorm of popular sentiment on the Internet, most of it decidedly anti-Cutler.

What’s interesting, of course, is that the trauma of him sitting out the second half completely overshadowed the fact that he was completely ineffective the first half when he was playing, missing wide-open receivers and generally not looking like a quarterback who was going to lead his team to the Super Bowl. There wasn’t much being said about that, and certainly the media didn’t pick up on what may have been said. But sit out with an injury? That’s national news.

That’s the way it goes in these days of the groundswell. One relatively minor event suddenly blows up and before you know it your company is distracted trying to defend itself from all sorts of wild accusations.

You don’t have to worry much about an MCL sprain to your CEO. But you should be concerned with a frustrated customer who can’t reach anyone in customer service, or doesn’t feel he got a straight answer when he did. A Tweet here, a YouTube video there, and suddenly you could be facing a maelstrom of your own.

Just ask the people at United Airlines. A search on their name on YouTube produces this video as the #1 result, which is not exactly how they want you to think of them. It goes a long way toward undoing millions, maybe even billions, of dollars of advertising and public relations.
Now that the social media genie is out of the bottle there’s no putting him back. Smart companies realize that and prepare for it. They monitor what’s being said about them all the time, and they respond quickly – in many cases even thanking the person who brought the problem to their attention.

That’s where the Bears really fell down. While the speculation about Cutler’s toughness was running wild, there was nothing from the Bears camp to quell it. The word from the sidelines was that Cutler’s knee was “hurt.” What they should’ve said was “it appears to be a sprain, and maybe even torn. We won’t know for sure until the MRI tomorrow.” Instead, they played it close to the vest and let him twist in the wind.

Technology marketers need to learn from that. In this day of instant communication, be honest and transparent. If there is a problem, admit it and say what steps you’re taking to remedy it. If you’re not sure of the cause, say you’re not sure, but you’re aware and have the right people working on it.
Whatever you do, don’t let the masses run amok. In reality the damage to Cutler is temporary – a couple of good wins and it’s all forgotten. But for your company it could have much longer-lasting effects.

Know what conversations are happening around your company and your industry, and be a part of them. Because they’re going to happen whether you’re a part of them or not.

— by Ken Krause

August 30, 2010

Whip It: Good

Filed under: Ken Krause,Reviews — techimage @ 2:36 pm

The other night, I was scanning through the cable movie guide when I saw that Whip It is now available. I remember being interested in seeing the film when it came out, but it was gone before I had the chance. Thankfully, the good folks at Comcast usually provide, sooner or later.

Lest you think this is a late-night Cinemax offering, Whip It is the story of how Bliss Cavendar (played with winning vulnerability by Ellen Page), a 17 year old diner waitress living in a small town near Austin, Texas finds herself in the small-time world of local roller derby.

Most of Bliss’ life (as well as her younger sister’s) has been spent on the Texas beauty pageant circuit. Her mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden) is a former beauty queen herself, and she sees the pageant circuit as a way for her daughters to improve their lot in life while learning to become proper young ladies.

Bliss has no real interest in the competitions but is a good and dutiful daughter and goes along with it. Her father (Daniel Stern) is a big football fan and obviously wishes he had boys instead of girls. This is shown when he watches with envy as his neighbor pounds in a yard sign showing his sons’ names and their numbers on the local high school football team.

That is until she and her friend Pash (Alia Shawkat, Maebe from Arrested Development) shoot up to Austin one night and wind up watching a match between the Holy Rollers, the New York Yankees of Texas roller derby and the Hurl Scouts, the league’s doormats. Bliss is fascinated with the whole thing, and when Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) sees that, she suggests that Bliss attend open tryouts for the league the following week.

Of course, Bliss’ mother would be horrified if she knew her precious flower daughter was even considering getting into such a rough-and-tumble sport, so Bliss has to sneak out of town with Pash’s help to attend the tryout. At the tryouts she demonstrates tremendous speed, and gets placed on the Hurl Scouts, where her roller derby name is Babe Ruthless. Since the league requires all participants to be at least 18 years old, Bliss lies about her age, saying she is 22.

“21 sounds fake,” she tells Pash when asked why she said 22. “22 sounds more believable.”

From there the stage is set. Bliss meets a guy, becomes a star, and just when everything seems to be going her way it all falls apart.

Part of the tension of the movie comes from Babe Ruthless’ rivalry with Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis), the bad girl of the Holy Rollers as well as their number one jammer (point-scorer). She views Bliss as a threat – or is it merely gamesmanship to gain an advantage over a worthy opponent?

The tone of the movie is very quiet. It reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite and the little bit I’ve seen of that other Ellen Page vehicle Juno. We’re not talking larger-than-life action. The movie is really about relationships – between Bliss and her parents, her friend Pash, her boyfriend and her teammates on the Hurl Scouts. But first-time director Drew Barrymore does a great job of keeping those relationships real while still injecting fun into the story. (Every time she appears on-screen as Smashley Simpson she ups the energy level considerably.)

Everything about this movie feels genuine, from the camaraderie of the team to the tensions between Bliss and her parents to the portrayal of life in a small, boring Texas town. Barrymore even resists the temptation to turn the roller derby matches into the types of action that can only be performed by super-athletes. Instead, it looks like average women stepping out of their everyday lives to do something they love. Which is as it should be.

If you get a chance, check it out. I think you’ll find you’ll feel good afterwards – without feeling manipulated.

— Reviewed by Ken Krause

June 25, 2010

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everyone Else

Filed under: Ken Krause,Reviews — techimage @ 2:42 pm

We’ve all sat and marveled at the top performers in their fields at one time or another, whether it’s Eddie Van Halen on guitar, Tiger Woods on the golf course or Jack Welch in the Boardroom. We see them and think, “Wow, it must be awesome to be born with that kind of talent. If only I had been so fortunate.”

Perhaps not, according to the book Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everyone Else. This scholarly book cites recent research on high-performers in a variety of fields (as well as their lesser counterparts) to debunk the myths around talent. It shows what actually separates them is more their approach, their intensity and their dedication to whatever it is they ultimately excel at than any natural inclination toward that pursuit. Although it cites examples from the arts and sports, the book is really focused on the business world.

Early on in the book, author Geoff Colvin cites the example of one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The popular perception, no doubt fueled by the movie Amadeus, is that Mozart was a child prodigy who started producing incredible work at the age of five. Yes, he did start writing music then. But the book points out his father was also a composer, and research has shown he had more than a little hand in correcting his son’s work. Even at a later age, original manuscripts show that rather than hearing it all in his head and then writing it all down, Mozart made plenty of changes, additions and subtractions to his work. Just like anyone else.

Still, his work endures. If it wasn’t raw talent then what was it? That’s the central question the book seeks to answer.

The short answer is an incredible level of focus on their chosen field at an early age. World-class performers practice in a way that wouldn’t be considered fun. Generally, they work on one aspect of what they’re doing, over and over to a mind-numbing level, until they get it right. Then they work on the next thing. Compare that to the way most of us pursue things.

Golf presents a great example. The author points out how he will go to the practice range and hit a bucket of balls, working through various clubs one at a time. A Tiger Woods, however, will select one club and hit many buckets of balls, trying to learn how to make just one particular shot. If he is practicing and hits a sand trap, he’ll step on the ball to bury it deeper if he feels he needs to work on that shot.

So that’s the good news – with a sufficiently high work ethic it appears anyone can be a high-performer. Now for the bad news: most of that work needs to happen at a young age. According to Colvin, once people start hitting their adult years there are too many responsibilities and distractions to afford the kind of intensely focused time required to become a world-class performer.

Whether you agree with his premise or not, the book is a great read. It cites many examples of world class performers and what the did (as well as do) to be there. If you’re interested in what makes people tick, you’ll enjoy it.

Reviewed by — Ken Krause

Book review

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everyone Else

We’ve all sat and marveled at the top performers in their fields at one time or another, whether it’s Eddie Van Halen on guitar, Tiger Woods on the golf course or Jack Welch in the Boardroom. We see them and think, “Wow, it must be awesome to be born with that kind of talent. If only I had been so fortunate.”

Perhaps not, according to the book Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everyone Else. This scholarly book cites recent research on high-performers in a variety of fields (as well as their lesser counterparts) to debunk the myths around talent. It shows what actually separates them is more their approach, their intensity and their dedication to whatever it is they ultimately excel at than any natural inclination toward that pursuit. Although it cites examples from the arts and sports, the book is really focused on the business world.

Early on in the book, author Geoff Colvin cites the example of one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The popular perception, no doubt fueled by the movie Amadeus, is that Mozart was a child prodigy who started producing incredible work at the age of five. Yes, he did start writing music then. But the book points out his father was also a composer, and research has shown he had more than a little hand in correcting his son’s work. Even at a later age, original manuscripts show that rather than hearing it all in his head and then writing it all down, Mozart made plenty of changes, additions and subtractions to his work. Just like anyone else.

Still, his work endures. If it wasn’t raw talent then what was it? That’s the central question the book seeks to answer.

The short answer is an incredible level of focus on their chosen field at an early age. World-class performers practice in a way that wouldn’t be considered fun. Generally, they work on one aspect of what they’re doing, over and over to a mind-numbing level, until they get it right. Then they work on the next thing. Compare that to the way most of us pursue things.

Golf presents a great example. The author points out how he will go to the practice range and hit a bucket of balls, working through various clubs one at a time. A Tiger Woods, however, will select one club and hit many buckets of balls, trying to learn how to make just one particular shot. If he is practicing and hits a sand trap, he’ll step on the ball to bury it deeper if he feels he needs to work on that shot.

So that’s the good news – with a sufficiently high work ethic it appears anyone can be a high-performer. Now for the bad news: most of that work needs to happen at a young age. According to Colvin, once people start hitting their adult years there are too many responsibilities and distractions to afford the kind of intensely focused time required to become a world-class performer.

Whether you agree with his premise or not, the book is a great read. It cites many examples of world class performers and what the did (as well as do) to be there. If you’re interested in what makes people tick, you’ll enjoy it.

April 30, 2010

Duck Soup

Filed under: Ken Krause,Reviews — techimage @ 4:27 pm

Most of the time on this blog, we tend to write about new movies that just came to theaters, or else were recently released on DVD. Recently, though, I had the chance to watch an old favorite and see that it still holds up pretty well.

The movie is Duck Soup, and it stars the Marx Brothers – Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo. I watched it numerous times on TV and in the theater in my younger days, but hadn’t seen it in many years. Groucho’s wisecracking in particular had a huge influence on me so I thought it would be fun to watch. When I had the chance to introduce the Marx Brothers to Mike Nikolich on top of it, the perfect storm hit.

The plot, like most of those Depression-era comedies is pretty simple. Rufus T. Firefly, a general ne’er do well and huckster (Groucho) is named the President of a fictional country called Freedonia by the fabulously wealthy Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont, the Marx Brothers’ favorite straight man). The reason she gets to decide who will run the country is Freedonia needs money, and she will only provide it if Firefly becomes President. Hey, people have been elected here for worse reasons.

Firefly, accompanied by his secretary Bob Roland (an under-utilized Zeppo), proceeds to name walnut vendor Chicolini (Chico) his Secretary of Defense. Chicolini brings in his pal Pinky (Harpo) to help him and the stage is set.

In the meantime, Ambassador Trentino of Sylvania (Louis Calhern), plots to get his country to go to war with Freedonia in order to seize its assets and Mrs. Teasdale’s money. As part of his plot he hires Chicolini and Pinky to spy on Firefly for him.

All of this, though, is primarily an excuse to run through the standard Marx Brothers antics: Groucho’s insincere wooing of Margaret Dumont and insulting of every stuff-shirt authority figure he comes across, Harpo’s manic running around causing mischief (such as cutting off the tie of every man he meets) and Chico’s general scheming and wordplay. There are even a couple of musical numbers thrown in which show the Brothers’ background from the Broadway days.

Some of the references are certainly dated, and the entire movie reflects a Hays Code (read: censorship) sensibility. Still, they get away with as much as they can. Many of Groucho’s wisecracks are just as biting today.

For those with a passing familiarity of the Marx Brothers, this is the one that includes the Vaudeville favorite mirror routine. A mirror is broken accidentally by Harpo, who is disguised as Groucho. When Groucho goes to discover the source of the noise, he sees the mirror is missing, but Harpo pretends to be his reflection. No matter what Groucho does, Harpo imitates it. Today’s audiences might ask why Groucho doesn’t just reach across and see if the glass is there, or punch him? But that’s not the way it works here. In fact, at one point Harpo drops his cap and Groucho hands it to him before continuing. Presumably, in Groucho’s mind, if he didn’t initiate the mistake then it doesn’t count.

The movie will take you back to a gentler, more polite time. But honestly, one big thing still holds true today. When Firefly and Ambassador Trentino have a personal disagreement, they don’t duke it out. They settle it like politicians by going to war.  Some things never change.

— Reviewed by Ken Krause

March 30, 2010

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t

Filed under: B2B,Ken Krause,Reviews — techimage @ 2:00 pm

“Good is the enemy of great” intones author Jim Collins in the beginning of his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t. And for the next couple of hundred pages he explains why that’s true – as well as why many good companies never reach that next level.

A lot of it has to do with accepting what is rather than looking at what could be. It’s difficult to argue with success. If your company is humming along, doing well in its market, perhaps even leading it, there’s a temptation to take an attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But that’s not what great companies do, according to Collins. Instead, they’re always looking at their business model and their competition to see if there’s a better way to do what they’re doing – or if they should be doing something else.

Collins says one of the key mistakes companies that fall short of greatness make is they start with the vision, and try not to do anything important until after the vision is established. But the 10 companies Collins studied didn’t focus there. They focused on the management team first.

He contends that the first step in the road to greatness is getting the right people “on the bus” – his euphemism for the company. He said CEOs and other top managers who aspire to greatness look for talent and hire it when they find it. They may not even have a job for the person at the time; they just know they want what that person can offer.

The second step is putting the people on the bus in the right seats – in other words, finding the right roles for them. Once you have the right people in the right seats, then it’s time to figure out where the bus is going to go.

I found a lot of what Collins said makes sense, not just in the business world but in any type of organization. Grandiose visions don’t mean much if you don’t have the wherewithal to execute them. Every sports team wants to win the championship, but few are willing to put in the work to make it happen.

Of course, since the book was written nearly 10 years ago history gives us a nice, extra perspective on the companies Collins chose to profile. For example, one of the companies singled out as achieving greatness is Circuit City. Oops.

The electronics retailer was cited for its outstanding supply chain, innovative policies and practical management. Of course, they’re now out of business having gone bankrupt a couple of years ago. While one of Collins’ criteria for “greatness” was sustainability, somewhere along the way Circuit City lost that and essentially had their lunch handed to them by Best Buy.

On the plus side, he also profiled Walgreens, which has done nothing but grow over the last 30 years. They hired good people, figured out what to do with them (as well as what the company could do well to serve its customers) and have executed that plan with a passion. There’s nothing flashy about Walgreens; you don’t hear much about their charismatic leaders or their brilliant innovations. But that is by design. They just go about their business, and do it very well.

One last point about great companies that bears noting: Collins contends that greatness means being able to sustain a high level over a long period of time. And that means having CEOs and other top managers who are more focused on the company than on their personal glory. In fact, he shows that while the Lee Iacoccas and Jack Welshes of the world – the business icons – can achieve success while they’re in charge, often their companies struggle after their leave. The leaders of truly great companies take pride in setting up a company that can continue to grow and succeed – sometimes even better – after they leave.

Good to Great is definitely a good read. You don’t even have to be that interested in the business world to get something out of it – although it helps. In the current economy, where opportunity abounds for leaders smart enough to take advantage of everyone else pulling back, it can really help set a foundation for future, sustainable growth.

— by Ken Krause

January 19, 2010

Invictus tells a fascinating tale

Filed under: Ken Krause,Reviews — techimage @ 2:28 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’d heard good and bad about Invictus when I went to the movie theater and plunked down my $Invictus5 to see it. (Have to love Kerasotes’ Five Buck Club.) But it seemed like a story I would enjoy, and I think Clint Eastwood is a very good director, so I figured I’d give it a try.

Well, it was definitely a movie I enjoyed, and between this one and Gran Torino I’ve come to feel that Clint Eastwood is an excellent director. His use of camera angles, the way he frames shots, and most of all his ability to tell a very human tale create a movie experience that sucks you in and really gets you involved with the story. Even without car chases, explosions, or incredibly imaginative alternate worlds.

The movie tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s early years as President of South Africa after the end of the apartheid era. As most of the world knows, Mandela was held as a political prisoner for 27 years by the white ruling party until he was released in 1990. He was elected President in 1994 and became a symbol of the change from the white minority rule to an inclusive, democratic nation.

It also gets into the challenges he faced trying to change hundreds of years of mindset on both sides of the issue. Early-on, it shows him entering his office in the government building where he now works. White staff members are busily packing their belongings in boxes on the assumption Mandela plans to replace them all with black workers. Instead, he calls them together and says they can leave if they want but he’s hoping they’ll stay and help him build a better nation. He assures them no one is being fired just for the color of their skin. That sets the tone for the man and his view on bringing the country together.

Still, like all great leaders, he recognizes that he needs an event, some sort of symbol, that can rally the entire nation together and break down the old barriers. He sets his sights on winning the Rugby World Cup. From there, the movie shows how he and Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), captain of the Springboks, South Africa’s national team, work toward that goal. It’s no small task, by the way, since the only reason South Africa is even participating is that they are the host country and thus must be allowed into the competition. They would not have qualified originally on their own.

While there’s plenty of rugby action (which can be tough to follow if you don’t know anything about rugby), it’s really the people who are interesting, from the black and white Presidential bodyguards learning to trust each other to Pienaar’s father’s way of relating to their black housekeeper to Pienaar’s coming to understand of just how extraordinary it is that Mandela is who he is based on what he’s gone through.

And that’s the key. I came out of the movie thinking “I should pick up a biography of Nelson Mandela and read it,” because he looks to be one of those people who seem to rise up just when a larger-than-life character is needed. Although the movie only touches briefly on his life in prison you get a sense of how unique he is. To come out of it with such a positive and forgiving attitude rather than be hostile and bitter, as most of us would, is nothing short of extraordinary.

In my mind it’s definitely worth a look. And seeing it on the big screen is the best way to watch a larger-than-life man take on the world.

As many have reported, Nelson Mandela is a role Morgan Freeman was born to play. His quiet dignity captures the essence of the man, at least the man we’ve seen on news reels.

–Reviewed by Ken Krause

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.