Monday, October 10, 2011

After the Holidays...Acherie Ha'Chagim

It's silly season in Israel: well, in some ways, it's ALWAYS silly season here, but particularly from around mid-August to mid-October, NOTHING gets done. Except a lot of eating, some Fasting, a lot more eating, traveling "chutz l'aretz", more eating, but business (?), work (?) - faggedabowdid!
Of course August is when everybody leaves Israel to take their precious offspring to Euro Disney, Turkey wonderland (oh, not any more, sorry...), trekking in Africa, on a burger binge in the US - just so the little ones will have enough stuff to brag about when they get back to school on September 1 - or is that September 2 or 3 or 4? - depending on the length of the annual teachers' strike - WHAT!?? No strike this year??? What is happening? And this year, was the "Summer of Love" in Israel, well, mainly Tel Aviv, with happy campers occupying the White City's most elegant boulevard in their highly successful (so far...) social protest. More strength to them, but I fear that post summer ennui may set in unless they really gird themselves for the winter to come.
But what has all this to do with MarCom or communication, or PR or Social Media? Quite a bit, actually. First of all, it was social media, Facebook and Twitter mainly, that got the crowds out for the protests in Israel's main cities. Just as SM (Social Media, not the other kind) got the populace out in our neighboring Arab countries to protest against their regimes. Except that there, people were being killed by their own armies and police forces. Even in Wall Street - the latest "Social Protest" to shake the conservative world - the police used pepper spray to "subdue" protesters. While in Israel,  the police diverted traffic, guided protesters to their destinations, kept a watchful eye for any troublemakers, but generally endowed a benign presence to the proceedings. Hardly an incident, no noteworthy arrests, no agro whatsoever - just music (lots of music, many Israeli singers and groups donated their talents to keeping the crowds entertained and enthused), electrifying speeches  and actually some action from the Government. Will Trajtenberg do any good? That remains to be seen. The Cabinet has just approved the recommendations, now we will see if there is anything to bite on there.
Let's examine for a moment the role of Facebook and Twitter in this social upheaval. Quite frankly, I think too much is being made of the "mystique" of social media. Let's face it, if newspapers had just been invented they would have been seen as the medium of success for the protests. The magic of Facebook and Twitter (and others), is their speed and reach. Just as newspapers emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries as the way to reach a vaster number of people with thoughts, ideas, policies, propaganda etc than the town crier of a century earlier; just as radio, film and Television broadened the reach of - and accessibility to - the "vox populi" for most of the 20th Century, so the Internet, and social media provide us with a faster, more impactful, more immediate and farther-reaching tool than we have ever had. Almost at the speed of thought, as it were - no sooner have you thought the thought, than it is broadcast around the world (sometimes too quickly, with not enough real "thought" behind it...). But Facebook and Twitter (and others e. g. SMS) are just tools - tools to be used properly, and carefully and judiciously (or even with malice if you are that way inclined). I'm not trying to minimize the importance and excitement of these tools, not in the least. They are fantastic ways of communicating until the next BIG THING comes along), but they are NOT magic. They are tools. Learn how to use them, learn how to work with them, learn how to maximize them. Remember that it is the thoughts and policies, and ideas BEHIND them that matter - not the medium itself, despite what my guru Marshall McLuhan said about the "Medium" being the "Massage" (yes., that's correct "Massage"), it's not completely true. Although, on second thoughts, maybe it is: if you get an SMS or a FB or Twitter feed, know from whence it comes, and check it out, before acting on it o taking it too literally...yes, maybe the medium IS the Massage or message, as you will. 
While talking about "Messages" - we witnessed the UN circus spectacle again: Palestinians demanding their rights, Israel putting its case, quite eloquently in usual Bibi fashion; Israel mustering all the diplomatic clout and support it can - the US, the Quartet, other friendly countries - and then we go and BLOW IT BIG TIME by announcing that we are building another 1,000 homes in Gilo. It's like saying to all or friends and allies - well, thank for your help, but here's mud in your eye (and I don't mean it as a toast over a G&T!). I'm not debating whether Israel has the right to build in Gilo, whether Gilo is a settlement or part of Jerusalem, or any other standpoint right or left you care to muster. I'm talking straightforward PR - knowing when and what to say to whom and how. You may have the perfect right to cross the highway, but you don’t do it when there's a Mack truck bearing down on you!
Fact: The Palestinians use the settlements as their most potent argument against Israel.
Fact: They will exploit ANY hint of settlement activity to strengthen their case.
Fact: We just did a marvelous PR job for the Palestinian cause.
You can like that or not, it's the truth. We could have managed it far better - we could have kept it low key for a few more weeks, we could have built up the image of Gilo as part of Jerusalem, BEFORE announcing the building program; put Gilo's case before the world, show it as a suburb of Jerusalem, shown it as being nowhere near the West Bank...and then quietly introduced the idea of more building., But NO! We have to "show the world", brag and boast and strut and embarrass our friends.
It's time Israel's government learned a bit more about PR than just making impassioned, emotional speeches at the UN. A little subtlety and good sense wouldn't go amiss.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova

Wishing all my readers, friends, family and acquaintances, a very good, fruitful, productive, successful and above all peaceful New Year and Well over the Fast.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Misunderstanding MarCom - a Beginner's (and Veteran's) Guide

MarCom: probably the most MISUNDERSTOOD and abused buzz-word in the (new) English language. A decade or two back, it used to be "Pee-Arrr". And here's the reason - very, very few people in Commerce, Industry, High-tech, the professions - unless they are MARKETING COMMUNICATION (without the "s" please) professionals understand exactly what these terms mean. So, dear and constant reader, I will endeavour (note my ENGLISH SPELLING PLEASE...) to enlighten you.
First, why was the term "PR" misunderstood in the eighties? PR stands for Public Relations - it can stand for Press Release, but this is not its primary definition. Public relations is the art and practice of structuring attitudes, changing opinions, and shaping public views about a particular subject, policy or product to ensure general acceptance among the appropriate target audience. Acceptance can (and should) be translated into SALES...and sales can mean anything from actually selling a product or service, to gaining adherents to a political, religious or public platform, the support for a team or individual, through to just acceptance and understanding of a specific situation. This is achieved through a professional, planned and determined effort to get a specific message across: the media is largely used - and today there is a myriad of media opportunities - but there are other ways and means of achieving the predetermined objectives. So that's (loosely) what PR is - here's what it's not: a pretty young lady (or a hulky young man) peddling a product or demo at a trade show or exhibition - ah - wait, that can be PART of an overall PR effort, but the pretty young lady (or hulky young guy) CANNOT and SHOULD not be allowed to call themselves "Pee-arrs". That was then - but it persists today in the attitudes towards and understanding of MarCom. MarCom is perceived as the function of getting things together for a trade show; it is perceived as sending material to the printer and making sure it is delivered; it is considered to be the organizing of functions and events, more often just chasing up suppliers and making sure the invitations have been sent out.
HOLD, I hear you protest, isn't that what "MarComs" do? NO - firstly, there is no such thing as a "MarCom" - there can be Marketing Communication assistants, even Marketing Communication practitioners, managers or directors and I'll even allow you to use the term MarCom as a prefix to "...executive, manager, director etc." But,and here's the rub, Marketing Communication DEMANDS that the exec or practitioner is at a sufficiently high level in the organization to participate in product/service policy making; to help set goals and objectives for the Marketing Department - wait, isn't this the same thing? Oh ho no, he replied - Marketing is the discipline and practice of researching, developing, understanding, creating and taking a product/service to market: Marketing Communication, is the discipline and act of COMMUNICATING WHY that product deserves to be there in the first place. Of understanding target markets and attitudes, of developing positioning, vision and mission statements, messages etc etc. N o-o-o-o it is NOT advertising - that's just part of it. It is the entire package which accompanies that product on its journey from concept, through production, to sales and distribution and eventually to the shelves, or public platforms or voting booths of the nation...
Why, you may well ask, am I getting so hot under the collar about this subject? It's a simple answer actually. A week ago, I spoke to somebody who was trying to get some courses and seminars together. When I proposed putting together my course of Marketing and Corporate Communication, he stopped me in mid-flow and said: "Nobody wants MarCom anymore - they are only into SocialNetworking..." And that got my blood boiling . This person, who should know better, through this one statement, has demonstrated that he has absolutely NO understanding whatsoever of what MarCom (TRUE MarCom) is all about. Social Networking is only another tool in the MarCom work-box...a powerful tool, no doubt, but still just a tool. As are web sites, brochures, advertising, PR (REAL PR), public appearances, exhibitions, movies and the entire panoply of media and communication tools.
Now, perhaps, you understand what I'm on about. If you still don't get it, then you need my course! I'll be happy to put it together.

What Am I?...

I am first and foremost a writer.

Apart from writing for Marketing and Corporate Communication projects, I have also written two children's books - one already published in the US and another due for publication as a series in South Africa this year.

Right now, I am in the middle of writing "The Great Israeli-South African" novel....a fictionalized version of my life as reporter in Apartheid South Africa and subsequent events leading up to the present day in the Middle East (any publishers out there?). Apart from that, just to keep me from getting bored, I am a professional actor and voice-over artist, write and produce documentary movies and will shortly commence presenting a course in Marketing and Corporate Communiction.

As an actor, I have appeared in numerous stage and film productions, my best
known role being that of the American Ambassador in the Israeli satire "Israeli Intelligence - Ha'Mosad Ha'Sagur" which took two prizes at the recent Houston Comedy Film festival. I also have a one-man show based on the works of one of South Africa's greatest writers, Herman Charles Bosman - for which I won Best Actor in the the 2000 English Drama Festival in Tel Aviv.
I emigrated from Durban, South Africa at the end of 1987, with my wife, three children and a dog: my wife and I share our lives in Kfar Saba with four cats...(children have finally moved out and the dog died a long time ago...)

On stage in the role of Schalk Lourens in HC Bosman's "A Bekkersdal Marathon" - a hilarious look at life in the South African "outback"

Why Use Me?

Because I write with passion: I immerse myself completely in whatever I'm working on - be it brochure copy about telecommunications, an ad for a supermarket promotion, a complicated business plan, web site content or a business blog, even a corporate PowerPoint presentation or video script. I have more years experience than I care to count, have a wide knowledge of many different fields, and approach every project with dedication, professionalism and humor. I live and breathe Marketing Communication and apply this discipline to every project.

My thinking is definitely "out of the box", so don't be surprised if I come up with something you don't quite expect - but I know from long, hard years at the rock-face, that it works. So try me, use me...I work quickly and I'm not that expensive; you'll find that I'm a valuable (if somewhat "quirky") resource for your MarCom and CorpCom team.


The Nine Dot Test:

Join all nine dots with four straight lines, without lifting your pencil from the page.
Can't get it?

Contact me
and I'll send you the solution.

...and for
Israeli companies
wanting to promote their products and services abroad...I'm the resource you need. I have the contacts, the knowledge, the expertise and the language.
Contact me or call (+972 54 542 9893) to discuss your needs.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Business Blogs for Business Professionals

Blogging is becoming a way of life...for moms, dads, kids, hobbyists, social commentators, professionals and of course businesses. But while writing a blog seems easy, there are a number of pitfalls and bumps along this not yet altogether paved road.

Let's start with the upside: blogging is VERY informal, and thereby hangs it attraction. You can write almost anything you like: whether it's news about the family dog (a "Dog Blog"), or comment on the political situation; whether it's about your grandkids, or about the state of the world's economy. Nobody will check you, nobody will censor you - although if it's off-color and people don't like it, they might censure you, or just stop reading...

A blog can also get you wide recognition if you go about marketing it the right way and making sure it is optimized, exposed in all the right places, and gets you readership. SO, those are some of the GOOD things about blogging.

Now here's the BAD part: If you start a blog and you are serious about it (especially if its a professional or business subject) you HAVE to keep going. And you have to be consistent - in both message and frequency. If you plan to send out a weekly news update on the developments in Medicare, you absolutely MUST ensure that your blog is published EVERY WEEK. Failure to do so raises questions about whether you are still blogging, whether you’ve been hacked, or whether, let's face it, you are even still alive. This can become a chore - particularly if you need to find new content on a regular basis. It's not quite like a newsletter, which tends to give a somewhat cold, overview of affairs. A blog is personal; it's written by A PERSON and therefore it brings the communication - if we are talking now between an organization and its public - down to personal, one-on-one contact...the blog may be written by the CEO of the company (or at the very least under his name) or the Customer Relations Manager; by your local congressman or MP, by the Mayor of your city...but it's personal and it provides a human touch. Striking the right tone is therefore most important and comes next to consistency and frequency in the hierarchy of things to consider when you set out on this journey.

But let's face it, Blogging is fun: and you get to see what you’ve written immediately (typos and all). Fortunately there is some pretty nifty Blogging software out there, so you can choose the one that suits you best.

Now, here's where I come in: let me handle your Blog for you - I'll do all the research, writing and publishing of your blog, I will maintain it and keep it up to date, I will align it with your marketing policies and messages, and most of all, apply optimization strategies to ensure that it is read by the people who matters most to you and your business.

So, if the idea of blogging appeals to you, but you just couldn't be bothered with the hassle and the discipline it requires, let me take that off your shoulders...for a fee of course, but not such a hefty one. Pretty soon you'll have a following which can only enhance your overall marketing and promotional programs.

Be in touch - let's blog together.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Part 2: Israel and its appalling PR

In my previous posting, I discussed the possibility of recruiting a task force of multi-lingual communication experts to work on Israel's PR effort: today I'll go a little further into the ideas and throw some criticism (hopefully constructive) at the various Ministries and bodies that are supposed to be dealing with this most important issue.

Criticism first: Israel must STOP - right now - allowing people with a poor command of English to be interviewed in any way whatsoever by the international media. I recently watched a clip of a head-to-head between an Israeli official and a very erudite Brit and a pretty firm Australian moderator debating something about Gaza. Despite the Israeli having all the facts, and being absolutely correct and accurate in what he said, he was DEMOLISHED by the Brit and Israel came out looking like bumbling idiots again.

Two reasons: when being interviewed on radio or TV, there is no excuse for "umming"and "erring". It just makes the interviewee come across as being unsure of his facts, being uncomfortable in a high pressure studio situation and scores little or no points with anyone. We have some excellent spokesmen and women: Mark Regev is one of the best; Miki Rosenfeld (Israel Police) is also very good and of course Bibi is among the best (I'm not talking about his politics here....).

What we need here is some pretty intensive training in public speaking and presentation skills. I don't care if the spokesman has an Israeli accent: take our Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as a perfect example. He has an Israeli accent, but he speaks excellent English, and the accent adds to his charm. But when other so-called (and I use the word advisedly) spokesmen/women "um" and "err" and can't put an intelligible sentence together, then we're in trouble.

I believe that one of the reasons that we do not have a small, highly effective cadre of very high level spokesmen/women who are the ONLY ones allowed to be interviewed, is because each Ministry protects its own turf. And there seems very little coordination between them as to what to say, and how to say it.

A basic rule of Corporate Communication - be consistent with your message and its delivery.

And let it be the same for ANY language: Arabic - we have excellent Arabic speakers and spokesmen/women, the same for German, Italian, Spanish, French - virtually any language under the sun and people who speak it competently, can be found in Israel. Again, I say, with all due respect all round - do not let Israelis who cannot speak the language fluently - and can therefore think on their feet - within SPITTING distance of an international network! Is that "dugri" (direct) enough for you?

So what do we need? Recruit people in communication; train them, nurture them; PAY them well - but first and prime and above all - we need to develop and AGREE on a set of Positioning, Mission and Vision statements, that every ministry can buy into, that the entire nation will buy into and adopt and that will start defining Israel as a nation and as a people - more on this subject in my next post... endeth the second lesson....(!)