Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Picture This

A picture is worth a thousand words... Validating the truth behind that old adage is the site for Best of Photojournalism 2004.

Among the most respected technology leaders in photography contests, it’s “designed by photojournalists for photojournalists…and annually attracts tens of thousands of entries from photojournalists, photo editors and web editors from leading media around the world.”

Take a respite from your daily affairs to bask in the glory that is photojournalism at its very best.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

2005 Awaits...

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." -- Edith Lovejoy Pierce (Poet b.1904)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Phish for Breakfast

An enlightening story from my partner Chris Carleton...

Some folks have a warped definition of Holiday Season Spirit...and my wife and I just got a dose of it. We experienced our first phishing expedition.

With billions of dollars of holiday shopping underway, the pond is surely stocked for this kind of nefarious nastiness.

It came to us via phone, with an apparently automated system claiming to represent BankOne asking my wife to confirm our credit card data due to recent account activity. As soon as she spoke, asking for a number where she could call back (our approach to fending off bad guy, info-collecting miscreants) the call disconnected.

Despite hitting us in the midst of the morning rush that is packing up three kids and getting them off to grammer school, we were so offput that we just had to swim back upstream.

So, availing ourselves of the *67 dial-back capability of our service provider, we captured the caller's phone number: 800-454-9078. Next, and exemplifying we are tech types, we hit Google and searched on the number. We came up empty handed. We then dialed the number -- after using another of our service provider's capabilities to block our number -- and reached a now-defunct number at the Whirlpool Corporation.

With the trail now seemingly ended -- and the kids needing to be at their school five minutes prior -- we ended our Dick Tracy routine. But we'll report what happened to the Massachusetts State Attorneys General Office. We know these schemes are very hard to trace, but by alerting that group, we'll settle for even the small hope that it might preclude others from being victimized.

And though it might've cost them some late-to-school demerits, our brood just got a real-life lesson on how not to share any personal information -- just because someone asks for it. There are times when doing so is warranted, but it's surely not with unidentified callers. Or their online equivalents.

Our Holiday Wish -- since we can shoot for the stars on those, right? -- is hoping that those who do get busted for this kind of crime get full force of the law brought down upon them.

And that Santa skips their houses later this weekend...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

London Calling

I'm honored to have a series of guest entries from my esteemed globe-trotting colleagues, Chris Carleton and Randy Wambold. Take it away guys.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Clash's eponymous debut title, CHEN PR has shown our respect by doing some London Calling of our own.

Well that's not exactly what prompted us to spend last week in the UK meeting with a bunch of tech PR industry peers. But, it did give us a timely lead-in to our blog entry.

Just as the Clash's album (yup, born on vinyl for those who recall that medium) was billed as featuring 19 tracks, 66 minutes and never blinking so, too, was the CHEN PR swing. In two and a half days, our gracious hosts from agencies to individual consultants made time for more than a dozen breakfasts, lunches, dinners, drinks and office visits for the Yanks from Boston. And since we're that much smarter because of it, we thought we should blog about the week that was.

We'll blog more about things later this week, after we've sufficiently dug back into those efforts that drive client coverage and pay the rent. Til then, some quick observations:
  • After some very tough sledding, the tech PR business is coming back. Budgets remain tight, but U.S. companies again seem to be committing to pan-European initiatives. That's in contrast to the year or two prior, when budgets from U.S. clients at best were slashed and at worst just evaporated.
  • There's a great hum in the London air and it's coming from a new generation of tech PR consultancies. And many are headed up by PR pros who previously were responsible for overseeing similar European operations for some of the Big Holding Company brands. They know how the game is played from the inside out. That knowledge, plus the contact networks they've built up during those tenures, is enabling them to hire smart staffs, attract good clients and drive solid coverage. We expect this dynamic is causing some sweat at the longer-standing consultancies.
  • Everyone wants to know how George Bush could win the election. If we were in a meeting for more than five minutes before this topic came up, it was a miracle. We've considered dubbing our trip the Bush Apology Tour or the Bush Attempt An Explanation Tour depending on where your political predispositions lie.
--Chris and Randy

Stay tuned for more installments from our international correspondents.

Friday, December 10, 2004

We Love Our NetBeans!

We are tickled to have played a small role in helping out that inspiring godmother of bloggers everywhere, Sun's MaryMaryQuiteContrary. Every Friday, Mary gives away free stuff and we happened to approach her on just the right day with an idea that needed a home.

We've had the honor of supporting Sun's NetBeans project forever. (Well, really since they announced they were open sourcing it five years ago, so almost forever.) We wanted to do a fun holiday-spirited thing for a cozy press event we're supporting next week. We planned to have reporters in the room guess the number of "NetBeans" in a jar. (Ok they're coffee beans.) Remote reporters could guess based on a jpg of the jar we'd email to them. The prize was to be an iPod. Credit for this clever idea goes to colleague Juli Greenwood. (Thank heavens for the left brainers.)

Alas, reporters have those nasty ethical constraints, so with some qualms, we checked with Ziff and IDG, and knew the idea was kaput. Their reporters could not participate, and we figured we'd learn the same for others.

Sun's Laura Ramsey to the rescue. She suggested we contact MaryMary. Our own Tom Baker got to work with the custom lighting and the office Hassleblad for the glam shot of the NetBeans jar, now featured in all its glory on Mary's blog.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion. Only Tom knows how many beans are in that jar.

Friday, December 03, 2004

"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." -- Thomas Alva Edison

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Stunt Marketing -- Over Easy

My husband has gotten me into the habit of reading The Boston Globe obits. A November 17th obit for Sandy Giampapa, "Idea Man at Noted Publicity Firm," caught my eye. It outlined the well-lived life of a principal at Boston-based Publicity, Inc., where Giampapa had had the same business partner for 58 years and worked until eight weeks before his death, at the age of 86.

The long tribute starts with an anecdote about a 1940s promotion for a restaurant. During a Boston heat wave, he had the restaurant's well-known chef fry an egg in olive oil on the sidewalk. The stunt generated a ton of attention from the media and passers-by.

It's a good reminder that the field of stunt marketing is not new, but as cutting through the noise becomes more difficult, the stunts become more colorful.

Our client Sun Microsystems has made good use of inventive stunts in recent years. A high point perhaps was this last JavaOne, when Sun celebrated its Tiger release of the Java platform with a real Tiger cub on stage. James Gosling blogged about how cool it was to pet the adorable little fellow and he features a photo where both fellows are looking pretty cuddly. James is that rarest of combinations -- articulate brilliance wrappered in humility. Staffing interviews with the Father of Java has to be a highlight of my professional career. But I digress.

Hyperion kicked off the week with a classy example of stunt marketing, made all the better by the fact that it sounds like the CEO really did cook this up himself because he felt it would be a win-win for the environment, the company and its employees. Staffers who buy a vehicle that gets 45 mph or more get $5000 towards the car, so basically, he's motivating employees to buy a gas/electric hybrid.

As a PR professional and ecofreak, this idea is so sweet it makes my teeth hurt. You know it's going well when you first learn about it in Monday morning's Wall Street Journal. Then last night I heard CEO Godfrey Sullivan on "Marketplace" on WBUR, our local public radio station. (Is the radio equivalent of eyeballs "earballs"?) Sullivan struck just the right balance between crunchy-granola altruism with concern for shareholders. (The company has set aside $1 million for this program.) Key shareholders are sending him positive feedback, saying they are proud to be associated with the company. These folks aren't dumb. The company will earn back most of that million this month in visibility and good will.

In another recent stunt, Jeep launched a promotion for its 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee by pulling a shell of the model up the side of Two Penn Plaza in October. The event underscored the Jeep's all-terrain, rugged nature. This stunt was probably inspired by a similar one by the folks at daring marketing agency Cunning, which scattered full-sized, fiberglass replicas of those cute little Mini cars around London. One was parked on the roof of a movie theater; another was deposited part way up the side of a Leeds hotel.

In perhaps one of the more colorful examples I've come across -- this also from Cunning -- the agency launched "a brand new medium" called ForeheADS. ForeheADS pays students to wear brand logos on their foreheads! So here's another promotion that worked on many levels. The bizarre nature of the promotion generated tons of visibility for the brands they were promoting and for the agency itself. My hat's off to them.