Tuesday, September 8

Recognizing Literacy: A Student Success Story

As seen through the eyes of people who can read.

In 1990, Tommy Gray could not fill out a job application, draw money out of his bank account, or purchase groceries without easily identifiable pictures. Today, he can accomplish all these tasks that most take for granted. In fact, Tommy not only reads and writes, but actively supports the program that continues to teach him how to read — Computer Assisted Literacy in Libraries (C.A.L.L.).

“When you learn one word, it’s like someone giving you a hundred dollars and saying you don’t have to pay it back,” Tommy said. “It makes you that happy.”

A recent recipient of the Nevada Literacy Coalition’s “Outstanding Student Award,” Tommy has appeared in newspaper articles promoting the program, regularly attends C.A.L.L. support network meetings, and frequently teaches others how reading will not only help them secure a job but change their lives. He is one of several hundred students benefited by Southern Nevada Literacy Coalition member programs.

As seen through the eyes of those who cannot.*

In 1990, Ypzzu Htay, Las Vegas, vpilf mpy goaa out a kpn sqqaovayopm, ftse zpmru piy pg jod nsml svvpimy, pt qitvjsdr htpvrtord eoyjpiy rsdoau ofrmyogsnar qovittrd. Ypfsu, jr vsm svvqzqaqsa saa tatst tssas tast zqst tsat aqt atsmtta. In asvt, Tqzzy mqt qmay ttsas sma wtqtts, mut svtqvtay suqqqtts tat qtqatsz tast vqmtqmuts tq ttsva aqz aqw tq ttsa — Vqzquttt Sssqstta Aqtttsvy qm Aqmtstqts (C.A.L.L.).

“Watm yqu atstm qmt wqta, qt’s aqat sqztqmt aqvqma yqu s aumatta aqaasts sma ssyqma yqu aqm’t asvt tq qsy qt msva,” Tqzzy ssqa. “Qt zsats yqu tast asqqy.”

A ttvtmt ttvqqqtmt qa tat Nevada Aqtttsvy Vqsaqtqqm’s “Qutstsmaqma Stuatmt Swsta,” Tqzzy ass sqqtstta in mtwsqsqtt sttqvats qtqzqtqma tat qtqatsz, ttauastay stttmas C.A.L.L.suqqqtt mttwqta ztttqmas, sma attqutmtay ttsvats qtatts aqw ttsaqma wqaa mqt qmay ataq tatz stvutt s aqm mut vasmat tatqt aqvts. At qs qmt qa stvttsa aumatta stuatmts mtmtaqtta my Squtattm Nevada Aqtttsvy Vqsaqtqqm ztzmtt qtqatszs.

*Based upon readers tested at CASA Skill Level A or ESL 2, as presented in the Southern Nevada Literacy Day Dinner by Copywrite, Ink., circa 1999

As seen through the eyes of those who want to make a difference.

Please visit and read a few posts from the hundreds being submitted by bloggers at BloggersUnite.org or search for more than 250,000 posts that have already been published today. A special thanks to the Price Group, Great Advertising, Clever Ads, APPLE Partnership, the City of Henderson, and other sponsors for their early support.

Monday, September 7

Diagnosing Medical: Where Las Vegas Hospitals Miss

With more than 80 percent of all patients looking for medical advice online, up 31 percent from two years ago, one might conclude the medical community would be among the most likely and best suited to provide medical information online. But based on a cursory study commissioned last July, we found the majority of hospitals in the Las Vegas metropolitan area are absent.

Instead, area hospitals seem to be mostly reliant on traditional push marketing, with an emphasis on proximity. In fact, only one of 11 hospitals is experimenting with social media, and that one hospital has a program than can best be described as confused. They launched it, but don't know what to do with it.

From a broad perspective, the apparent absence of the Las Vegas medical community online is creating a deficit against any ROI on traditional communication. Specifically, they cannot spend enough offline or benefit from enough earned media to offset the growing negative impressions related to each hospital nor the Las Vegas metropolitan area as a whole.

Five Specific Consequences For Online Absenteeism

• It drives the general public to consult other medical opinions that primarily consist of two types: moderated forums, which provide opinions from medial experts (guest authors with widely varying degrees of vetted and unvetted experience); and unmoderated forums and bulletin boards where visitors share their experiences and provide patient-to-patient support and consult.

• It creates a disproportionate amount of negative impressions online, resulting in long-term brand damage. Specifically, one hospital earned 10 negative reviews and no positive reviews in a 90-day period, and all hospitals received more negative than positive reviews.

• It impacts the entire medical community, with jokes being made by neighboring markets. In one case, a medical professional in a neighboring market joked that they place bets on how many Las Vegas residents would fly in for second opinions and/or primary consult because of their general distrust of area expertise.

• It hinders the community's ability to recruit quality nurses and attract medical practitioners as potential employees are more likely to find negative reviews, commentary, and conversations that place a consistent emphasis on staff shortages, unfriendly medical staff, long waits in emergency rooms, and lack of medical expertise.

• It hinders the ability to find area hospital Web sites, which are most often designed as unsearchable modulated sites with an emphasis on the wrong messages. Specifically, area hospitals talk more about their vision, values, associations, accreditations, and awards than they do about the care they provide or any medical expertise. In sum, they address issues that customers are least likely to search for when they are considering a hospital.

Current Traffic And Traditional/New Media

As part of the report, we ranked area hospitals in terms of total Web traffic (provided below), but even more interesting, research revealed that most site visitation lasted between 1.8 and 4.4 minutes (2.5 minutes was the medium) and many missed their primary demographics.

In addition, most were not frequently mentioned by mainstream media or social media, with exception to recruitment (e.g., openings), standard news (e.g., promotions), event news (e.g., union disputes), and negative patient reviews. None of those mentions linked back to the hospital's Web site, leaving each hospital with a neutral to negative public sentiment.

1. St. Rose Dominican, ranked 6th in social media/media mentions
2. Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, not ranked in social media/media mentions
3. University Medical Center, ranked 5th in social media/media mentions
4. MountainView Hospital, ranked 7th in social media/media mentions
5. Desert Springs Hospital, ranked 1st in social media/media mentions
6. Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, ranked 4th in social media/media mentions
7. Valley Hospital Medical Center, ranked 2nd in social media/media mentions
8. Spring Valley Hospital Medical Center, not ranked in social media/media mentions
9. North Vista Hospital, not ranked in social media/media mentions
10. Southern Hills Hospital & Medical Center, not ranked in social media/media mentions
11. Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center, ranked 3rd in social media/media mentions

A Solution That Moves Beyond Hospitals In Las Vegas Market

Whether hospitals are unwilling or unable to implement online communication programs (or benefit from effective public relations) is less important than what it might mean for the area medical community. Currently, area hospitals tend to set the pace for perception. However, any number of professionals could shift online conversations and information away from the hospitals and toward their areas of specialty.

Quick care centers, medical specialists, and other practitioners could implement social media programs that help fill the growing need for medical information online while minimizing the apparent communication deficit being created by hospitals. Over time, even without the support of area hospitals, the market could begin to reverse its medical reputation, assuming the best professionals pursue the opportunity.

Beyond the medical community, such cursory research reaffirms how social media still has an impact even if companies within a sector or industry do not develop a program. As long as the general public seeks out information online, it determines who they receive information from, what type of information they receive, and the quality of the opinions they formulate.

The cursory report is available upon request. Breakdowns of each area hospital are also available with lead time.

Friday, September 4

Considering Effectiveness: Face-To-Face vs. Technology?

According to a new survey conducted by J. Spargo & Associates, Inc., meeting planners believe that technology cannot replace specific benefits related to face-to-face meetings. However, based upon the six benefits meeting planners said cannot be replaced by technology, those surveyed demonstrate that while they are right in general, their conclusions only demonstrate they may not be using technology to its full potential.

What Meeting Planners Said Technology Cannot Replace

1. Socializing and networking spontaneously. Half True. Social networks do provide a social outlet and spontaneous networking built around topical interests and an opportunity to learn more about people on a social basis. However, face-to-face does provide an opportunity for participants to experience something beyond other connection points. Where social networks win out is in the ability to establish more consistent engagement.

2. Helping attendees best put names with faces. False. Actually, social networks and blogs that include accurate photos and full names can be more powerful than meetings. Anyone who has attended any conference consisting of social network participants and bloggers know that when they meet face-to-face, social networking not only makes people immediately recognizable, there is an immediate connection that would require dozens of face-to-face meetings to establish.

3. Allowing more free and open dialogue between attendees and vendors/presenters. Half True. Social networks and blogging can create a free and open dialogue between attendees and vendors/presenters, particularly on networks like Facebook. Where face-to-face might win is often in the depth of the conversation and provide the ability to enjoy a private and candid dialogue (assuming someone won't post it later).

4. Training effectively via live and personal interaction. False. While face-to-face can provide an effective arena for training via live and personal interaction for some skill sets, Webinars and online presentations have come a long way and sometimes provide better retention as the formats require more focus.

5. Paying greater attention to others when face-to-face. False. As mentioned, Webinars and online training can provide more focus on the material being presented as opposed to conducting meetings where note passing/texting/breaks often become more important than the material. Online meetings eliminate the emphasis we place on body language.

6. Engaging in real-time conversation that is not interrupted by technical glitches. False. Anyone who has spoken in enough forums knows that face-to-face meetings that include any audio-visual component have an equal opportunity to be set back by technological glitches. It's why most people never speak unless they have a contingency plan.

Technology And Face-To-Face Work In Tandem

There seems to be ample discussion that centers around the concept that face-to-face and technology can operate independently of one another. On the contrary, they tend to work best in tandem. Here are six examples:

1. Face-to-face provides a greater opportunity to establish corporate culture, with technology providing a means to reinforce it.

2. Face-to-face provides a greater opportunity to conduct impromptu gatherings after structured events to discuss what was learned, and technology (instant message services like Twitter) can be used to help facilitate it.

3. Face-to-face clearly provides a better venue to communicate change, deliver bad news, and provide meaningful recognition, with technology allows such information to recapped, defined in depth, or shard beyond the face-to-face audience.

4. Face-to-face deepens relationships in that online relationships, even those that seem intense, are sometimes turned on/off as easily as a television program. Conversely, as noted, technology increases the opportunity for engagement between such meetings.

5. Face-to-face provides a 360-degree view of how people interact whereas technology tends to provide a glimpse of how people think. Both are equally important.

6. Face-to-face education can provide some tactile advantages in teaching someone how to do something whereas technology provides an ability to review specific sections of the material over and over again. Sometimes, it takes less time.

I always chuckle when someone runs in to me someplace and then follows up with a note that says it was great to see me in "real life" as if online communication is somehow artificial. As communicators, we can serve our clientele better by looking at how to bridge face-to-face and online communication rather than think the two streams somehow work against each other.

Harvard Business Publishing recently released an update entitled "Creating and Sustaining a Winning Culture" by Paul Meehan, Darrell Rigby, and Paul Rogers. In the article, the authors use Sydney, Australia–based St. George Bank as an example, the CEO broke down departmental silos by bringing executives together to jointly define a new culture and then allowed the executives to drive that message into the organization with a singular voice.

Considering this example of effective culture building as it relates to face-to-face meetings vs. technology provides an opportunity to chart an effective approach using both. Had it been available, St. George Bank could have defined the message after face-to-face meetings, allowed the executives to deliver the message, reinforced these messages via online internal and external communication channels, and encouraged cross-departmental interaction.

Thursday, September 3

Lacking Sense: WWF Brasil, DDB Brasil, The One Show

In less than a day after a WWF representative told Adweek that a controversial and tasteless advertisement that attempts to capitalize on the 9/11 atrocity was "never authorized or approved by any WWF person on the planet," WWF Brasil and DDB Brasil issued a joint statement of apology that indicates WWF does share responsibility. WWF even issued a statement to that effect.

"WWF Brasil and DDB Brasil would like to jointly express their regret for the unfortunate incident involving the 'Tsunami' ad for World Wildlife Fund Brasil. The ad does not convey either the philosophy of the client or that of its advertising agency.

It was created and approved in late 2008, mistakenly, and was solely the result of lack of experience on the part of a few professionals from both parties involved. In no way was it done in bad faith or with disrespect to American suffering.

WWF Brasil and DDB Brasil acknowledge that such an ad never should have been made, approved or published. We reiterate our apologies to all those who may have been offended by it. The two entities have worked together for three years to mobilize people, efforts and resources for the good of the environment. A single error should not obscure past successes, nor prevent future ones."

— WWF Brasil and DDB Brasil

The ad, called Tsunami, was created by a team at DDB Brasil in December 2008, approved by WWF Brasil and ran. According to the agency, the team that created the advertisement is no longer at the agency.

Despite that statement, Adweek's investigation has found the ad won an award of merit for public service at The One Show this year. It was also released again by the agency for inclusion in Advertolog this August.

While Sergio Valente, president of DDB Brasil, said it ran once in a small local paper and he stopped it from running again, the Advertolog submission lists him as the lead creative director along with Rodolfo Sampaio, Julio Andery, and Guilherme Jahara. Based the number of occasions their names appear together, all of these people seem to be on the agency payroll, along with Adriano Matos, copywriter. Either that, or their departures were very recent.

Public Relations Sometimes Means Investigation

Where WWF went wrong was in issuing a statement before the investigation. Since, they haven't made any noise about the discovery that their promise — "On behalf of WWF, here in the US and around the world, we can promise you this ad does not in any way reflect the thoughts and feelings of the people of our organization.” — was flawed in that someone at a WWF office did approve the ad.

And, according to Valente, he (and not anyone at WWF) was the one to stop it. Or this.

The lesson here is simple enough for public relations practitioners. Never make hard statements until you have the facts.

If there was any chance anyone at WWF was involved, saying there was an investigation ought to have been enough. As for everyone else, the lessons become slightly more complex with common sense serving as the foundation for all of it.

WWF Brasil needs to do more than issue a joint apology. DDB Brasil ought to stop adding more confusion to what seems to be a growing mountain of mistruths. And The One Show might rethink its selection process.

Advertising awards don't need to be an exercise in creating over-the-top ads that most clients would not approve, run it once, and then take home trophies. If that is all there is to it, The One Show ought to pass out an award to the casino marketing professional who cheered on the California wildfires on Facebook last week because it might mean business.

Funny, huh?

Sure, we all take chances in advertising. But you don't take so many chances that your ability to crow over awards becomes eating crow over ethics. More on this soon.

Wednesday, September 2

Uniting People: International Literacy Day

"Teaching children and adults to read, write, and comprehend is not only our essential duty and investment in America's future; it is also an act of love." — John Corcoran

If you are unfamiliar with the name, John Corcoran is an extraordinary man who graduated from high school and college to go on to become a secondary school teacher before becoming a businessman. What makes his particular story extraordinary is that Corcoran never learned to read. You can read his entire story here.

"It was not uncommon for me to find almost half of my students unable to read past a third-grade level. I couldn't teach them to read, but I could help them learn as I had learned." — Corcoran

I had the pleasure of meeting Corcoran while serving on the board of the Southern Nevada Literacy Coalition, which was a leading coalition comprised of literacy providers and business communicators. He was humble, almost soft-spoken, but extremely articulate in presenting his story as well as how many children and adults masterfully hide their inability to read.

"For all those teaching years, I avoided facing the real problem in their lives and my own, revealing one of the shortcomings of progressive education." — Corcoran

While some progress is being made in the United States, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) estimates one child in four grows up not knowing how to read and more than 40 percent of adults only possess level one reading skills (which makes them marginally functional). Illiteracy can also be directly linked to crime, health care costs, and poverty.

"The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." — United States Department of Justice

While not reporting on the tiered literacy system, the United Nations estimates 776 million adults lack even minimum literacy skills worldwide. And, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it is widely held that in modern societies "literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community." (Stromquist, 2005, p. 12)

This Sept. 8, in recognition of International Literacy Day, which was established by UNESCO, thousands of bloggers are joining BloggersUnite.org and the APPLE Partnership in cooperation with Barnes & Noble; BlogCatalog.com; the City of Henderson (Nevada); Copywrite, Ink.; FedEx; PBS&J; and Wal-Mart to dedicate a post, instant message, or news release related to International Literacy Day.

The APPLE Partnership, along with its sponsors, was chosen in part for its ability to provide a worthwhile example of how communities can develop public-private partnerships to improve literacy, but there are other examples around the world. On Sept. 8, we're dedicating several posts that speak to the issue of literacy. We hope you join us with the intent to help people who can read appreciate the severity of the challenge and guide them toward supporting programs that make a difference locally and globally.

"In this era of widening disparities, literacy brings not only greater self-esteem but also opportunities to those who have been disenfranchised, marginalized and neglected: neo-literates acquire greater capacity and skills to raise their income levels, build sustainable livelihoods, gain access to health and educational services, and engage in the public arena." — Ko├»chiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO

Tuesday, September 1

Rethinking Volkswagen: Five Agencies

There seems to be a bit of buzz about Volkswagen shopping five new agencies to helm a campaign backed by a $220 million media buy that Volkswagen represents. And some even seem to lament that Crispin Porter + Bogusky declined to defend it.

Don't lament. The decision comes after 2008 realized a 14 percent decline in sales from 2007. While some might blame a tough year for automakers, the real unraveling came after one of the biggest branding mistakes ever made.

"Max," the German-accented black Beetle that Crispin chose to represent the brand, clearly missed the mark. And while some people still argue that the Crispin work was rarely ignored, it's easy enough to make the case that Volkswagen would have been lucky had some of the work been ignored. With exception to the "Safety Happens" campaign years ago, Crispin spent years dismantling the sophisticated cool creative delivered by Arnold years ago. Ads so powerful they helped people rediscover Nick Drake as much as the Cabrio.

Any new agency pitching with the hope to return Volkswagen to the second age of great creative might reflect on the work Arnold laid down before Crispin walked couples on the lot of a Volkswagen dealership to prevent her from "birthing children for German engineering." What was missing through most of the campaigns is what Arnold taught us about Volkswagen and Ogilvy & Mather before that — the brand relationship between the drivers and the cars was passionate and the advertising worked best when it celebrated that passion with the sweet spot always found between overtly forced and mainstream.

It was also the concept we carried forward with The Idea Factory in Las Vegas when Findlay Volkswagen wanted to open against a 20-year plus Volkswagen dealership that had gone so mainstream it employed John Elway as a spokesperson with price points. In contrast, we focused on the passion between the drivers and the cars, giving some personalities like Crispin did, but without the cornball gimmick of a German accent and a company spokesperson.

Instead, we told stories about drivers who became jealous when people admired their "girl," a man confessing he coveted a Beetle owned by the priest he was confessing to, or a car calling its owner to "sneak out" for a ride while his wife was sleeping. Arnold always approved the ads with reimbursement for full production because they married well with the national campaigns.

At the end of four months, Findlay Volkswagen ranked first in the state and fourth in the region. It continued to set new records every quarter until the agency's account executive jumped ship and took the account with him. His intent was to make the dealer more mainstream too, and he overshot with ads featuring singing kids that failed to reach the audience. The dealership has never seen the same success for the same reason the Crispin ads didn't connect, except in the opposite direction.

Volkswagen is anything but mainstream, but the consumers who buy them aren't shock advertising savvy either. They're smart people who appreciate the brand distinction without the price.

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