Beware of the Groundhog: Groundhog Day Lessons

Punxatawny PhilAs public relations officials, we are constantly on the lookout for media opportunities for clients; some even call them “PR stunts.”   February 2, aka “Groundhog Day,” is one that is often used by politicians.  Everyone wants an end to winter so why not?  The politician will get the photo op and even if the hog sees his shadow, it’s still a win right?  Well, ask New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. In 2014, when doing the Groundhog Day event, he dropped Staten Island Chuck. Not a good move. Instead of seeing a shadow, Chuck saw stars. And unfortunately, did not recover. (See links below)

What do we take away from this? First, make sure when you do a special event or media event you are well prepared. Walk through what you have to do. Talk about contingencies and if you are not comfortable with picking up a groundhog, don’t do it. The negative press that will be short term and long term can be problematic.

From a marketing perspective, Groundhog Day is cute and there are certainly campaigns and social media comments that can be used to attract some attention.  Groundhog Day is Feb. 2. This year it falls on the first Tuesday of February. Groundhog Day can be a day to actually get your marketing on track. If you have stumbled and have failed with your marketing New Years resolutions, get started again and set your goals for February. You have six weeks till spring (despite what Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck and Malverne Mel say).Groundhog

Need some inspiration and a laugh? Watch Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and directed by the late Harold Ramis.  The marketing and life lesson here? Just ask Einstein and his famous quote on the definition of insanity: continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Bill Murray’s character in the movie – Phil Conners – is stuck in a day that he is forced to relive over and over and over again.  Unbeknownst to him, he is changing what he is doing every day. He may not know why at first, but eventually figures out that he has to change who he is to get the girl. After potentially living the same day over and over for years, he makes the changes and he wakes up on February 3. In marketing we have to adapt and change our messages until they resonate with target audiences. Look at what works and what does not. Make the changes and keep track.  Learn from Phil Conners and take Einstein’s advice.


Revisited 2015 – July 4th Independence Day – Lessons from the Founding Fathers for Social Media and Personal Branding

I wrote this blog 5 years ago it is still relevant today.  However, the world has changed.  Today Americans have more ways to market and communicate.  With smartphone technology in our hands we have enormous power to broadcast our messages and engage with others. I call smartphones, PMD’s Personal marketing Devices they can also be seen as your own personal broadcast center. (More on this in a future blog)

The technology we have however is not being leveraged effectively by small business people.  Many don’t see the opportunity because they are overwhelmed with time pressures and lack of understanding of the power that they have. Understanding marketing and why and how it must be done is also a challenge.

It’s time for small business people from across America to take charge of their destiny and bring their brands and messages to target audiences.   Failure to utilize the marketing tools that are available (for free) today will see many smart and capable people struggle to succeed in the new economy and within the new marketing paradigm.

As we look back at the lessons of our Founding Fathers below, consider what they would do today.  I believe that they would be regularly leveraging social media, blogs and video to get their message to the masses. They would engage in conversations and share their vision for the future.  They would be making connections, building relationships and beating their competition.

The pursuit of happiness lies in our hands both literally and figuratively.  Use marketing technology today as a vehicle for achieving success and your American dream.

First Published 5 Years Ago 

Today we celebrate Independence Day, July 4.   Beyond the fireworks and BBQs, we all should think about the great nation that we have the pleasure to be part of, and the many people who gave up their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy.

Exactly 234 years ago, a group of brave, brilliant and industrious individuals met in a steamy Philadelphia room and agreed to do something that had never been done before—start a revolution.  The risks were great; the price that was paid was high in terms of lives lost, lives destroyed and money, but in the end the reward was unmatched in human history.  The American Revolution gave us a country where freedom is sacred.

Today despite a challenging economy we have the freedom to express ourselves and pursue our business as well as our personal dreams.  For many the dream is being an entrepreneur or a small business owner or simply pursuing a career in a chosen profession or industry.  Having this choice is an integral part of our national character and a driver of the entrepreneurial spirit.  While entrepreneurs and small businesses are under attack from many directions, the American entrepreneurial spirit lives on.

The information age has brought with it new media vehicles which are allowing individuals to voice their opinions, develop creative ideas and start new businesses.  Like the minutemen of Lexington and Concord, individuals can stand up, and take control of their own destinies like never before.  Like the “shot heard around world” that started the American Revolution a simple Facebook post or Tweet can literally be seen around the world just in seconds.

Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hancock and the other Founding Fathers all understood the importance of individuality and expression.  They were passionate individuals with a mission, and the creativity and drive to achieve their goal – a free and independent nation.

While the Founding Fathers did not have social media vehicles and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube, Flickr and Foursquare I am sure that they would have taken advantage of them as mediums for communicating with contacts, public, friends and others interested in “the cause.”  Social networking and marketing did not exist, but these individuals knew the importance of publicity, having a personal brand, word of mouth marketing, networking, effective writing, publishing and public speaking. Do these skills and approaches sound familiar?  These techniques and others are the same that individuals need to capitalize on today to build their own personal brands, the foundation for a success in life, in business and in any community.

Did Franklin and Madison have a Blog?  Not exactly, however they did have a printing press.  They were able to create a buzz using well written content, printed books, flyers and newspapers. Papers and printed materials were circulated in pubs and homes across the 13 colonies and beyond.  People held discussion sessions and analyzed the information they were provided.  They debated and came up with their own comments and then shared materials with others who they thought would be sympathetic to their dreams of an independent democratic nation.

Today’s social media and personal branding gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)Dan Dchawbel (@DanSchawbel),  Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), Peter Shankman (@skydiver), Seth Godin and others are taking similar approaches as the Founding Fathers.  The Founding Fathers published articles and spoke to small and large groups to educate, motivate and inspire individuals to become part of a movement that included the individual but also was much larger than any single person.

Let’s look at some of our Founding Fathers and how they relate to personal branding and communications.  There is much we that can learn from them and ways we can apply these lessons to social media marketing and personal branding efforts today.

George Washington – Founding Father and First President of the United States of America.  Washington is also

known for his leadership abilities, speaking skills, political savvy and ability to stand out in crowd.  Although he did not sign the Declaration of Independence his leadership of the Continental Army made him a front runner to lead the country after the war.

During the Revolutionary War era it took weeks or months to get information or important messages out to thousands of people, or just one letter from one colony to another.  Hand written copies of the Declaration of Independence were circulated by hand around the 13 Colonies and read in front of groups gathered in pubs and in front of churches and other community buildings.

Today we can disseminate messages and blog articles in seconds using social media sites and digital communications.  The speed of distribution may have changed but the goals of communicating ideas messages and attracting attention remain the same.

We can learn from George Washington an important lesson, humility.  When offered the opportunity to become king of the new nation, he turned it down.  He also turned down the opportunity to run for a third term as president; instead he retired.  In today’s world full of online and off line self promoters and overexposed celebrities seeking the lime light, humility is a trait that seems to be in short supply.  We could all benefit from more people following Washington’s example of humility and grace.

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, agonized for weeks to find the right language and consulted with other Founding Fathers to craft this historic document.   We learn from this example that writing passionately and choosing the right words is important.  On Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other writing quality has certainly suffered. Today it remains true that quality writing and compelling content will attract followers, and poor and uninteresting content will drive them away.

In our fast paced mobile technology society we are constantly on the move. A telling example of this is that on average there are more than 3,000 Tweets being placed every second.  Jefferson’s quote: No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing,” is apropos for today.  Many people are always “doing,” (communicating).  However, how much doing is actually wasting time? How much time is being spent on social media marketing with no measured results? Social media marketing programs must be planned and have goals. Without goals or a plan, the “doing” is nothing more than wasting time.

John Hancock – We know the name and we know the signature, he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence and did so in large and bold script.   John Hancock knew the importance of standing out, making a statement and doing something different.  My favorite quote from Hancock is: “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” This statement is especially true today. To be successful in business relationships and trust need to be built.  To influence people to act, purchase products or services, information and proof of abilities need to be conveyed to the target audience.  Be bold, but also have objectives and consider how relationships are being forged.

Benjamin Franklin – Frequently clients ask what should be said or what information should be put out on social media streams?  This quote from Benjamin Franklin answers the question perfectly: Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.”

Benjamin Franklin was truly an original and individual who understood celebrity and personal branding.  His exploits, scientific experiments and inventions as well as his larger than life personality made him a celebrity in France before he arrived to solicit their support for the “cause.”

We have much to learn from Franklin but for now, his grasp on being relevant and authentic can be our take away.  If something interesting or newsworthy is done write about it, don’t just write something for the sake or writing something.

John Quincy Adams – Are you a leader or do you aspire to be one in business, politics or in another field? If your answer is yes then this quote from John Quincy Adams is most appropriate:If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” To be a leader you need to be relevant and interesting.  Self-promotion and self-serving actions will not attract the right attention or inspire others.  Remember that being successful is not what inspires; what motivates and inspires others are the stories and examples of overcoming challenges and hardships to become successful.

There is much we can learn from studying our Founding Fathers.  From humility to creating relevant content their lessons can be applied to many facets of business and life today.

Every day of the year we should celebrate the precious gift of freedom we have been given.  We continue to enjoy this freedom because of the sacrifices of those who came before us and those who fight for us today in foreign lands and on other fronts.  We can honor them by embracing the American entrepreneurial spirit and following the examples set by our Founding Fathers.

All comments welcome, Happy 4th of July.

“How am I doing?” a personal branding lesson from Mayor Ed Koch


Ed Koch, three-term Mayor of New York City, passed away today. Mayor Koch developed, grew and maintained a personal brand that we can all take away many lessons from. I have written about politics and how it is the ultimate forum for personal branding before. When you look at politicians and public figures over the past half century Mayor Koch was certainly one of the standouts. His personality and brand resonated well beyond the boundaries of New York City.

I met and saw Mayor Koch several times and heard him speak in person on a few occasions. There was no doubt his presence in a room was felt by everyone. Whether you agreed with him or not you knew his point of view and he stuck to it. People knew where he stood on issues and his other interests, something that we could use more of today in both politics and business. His direct style angered some, but there is no disagreement that he will be remembered as one of the most straightforward Mayors in New York City’s long history.

From a PR and media relations perspective Koch didn’t shy away from the media and was comfortable in any media setting. From hosting radio shows to holding as many as 10 press conferences in just one day, he saw the power in the media and used it. We could all benefit from politicians who host more press conferences and provide candid answers to questions.St Pat's

What I always appreciate about Mayor Koch was his desire to get feedback about the job he was doing. The “How am I doing?” question that the catch phrase he uttered thousands, if not tens of thousands of times, is unforgettable in itself. Koch wanted approval and to find out what the “people” of New York truly felt about him. When was the last time you asked this question to your customers, clients, business contacts and those you work with? If it has been a while, start asking this question periodically. Small businesses can take it a step further, conduct a survey of clients and customers to find out what they think about how you are doing. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Social media allows businesses to constantly ask this question. Add surveys and questions about service to your social media activities and assess the responses. Be prepared for the responses you receive and listen to them. Let them help you to modify your customer service, marketing and sales approaches.

Be straightforward, stick to what you believe and your goals and get feedback from customers. All lessons that we can learn from looking at the life, politics and personality of Mayor Ed Koch.

Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen – Personal Branding Winner and Loser

"The Donald"

You know that you’ve made it in the world of personal branding when you have a highly-recognized nickname and just the thought of you running for President of the United States creates a national buzz. Having a well-known tagline and distinguishing characteristics can also play an important role in attracting attention and followers.

My personal branding winner is Donald Trump…yes, “The Donald.”  Mr. Trump is considering running for President and is making some good points and some controversial ones along the way. Is this a “PR ploy” or is he serious?  No stranger to media stunts and controversy, Trump says he will give us his decision in June. From a publicity perspective, “The Donald” is handling this “campaign” with confidence and making his case on major media programs. Each appearance also provides opportunities for his businesses and TV shows to get extra plugs and promotion. Trump is no stranger to personal branding, from his shoot-from-the-hip persona and signature “hairstyle” to his many skyscrapers, casinos and other ventures that bear his name. Love him or hate him, “The Donald” is a personal branding winner.

Charlie Sheen

Sheen Video Rant

Speaking of “winning,” our personal branding loser of the week is Charlie Sheen.  It is almost impossible to avoid talking about Charlie Sheen, seeing him on TV and the web or reading about him. The enormity of Sheen’s media coverage is staggering, but personal branding is not all about getting the ink, airtime or Twitter followers. Media coverage for the wrong reasons does not help to grow a well-regarded brand. While having a tagline or catch phrase is great, when it is distorted or misunderstood it hurts a brand. Charlie’s “winning” and other wacky quips face such mockery that they point to a losing strategy.

With a career that spans from a brilliant performance in Platoon to recently being booed and jeered on stages from Detroit to New York, Charlie Sheen has seen many ups and downs. He may want to take a cue from fellow “Brat Packer” Rob Lowe who eased his own career roller-coaster ride after a sex tape scandal by keeping a low profile, refraining from reactive commentary and owning up to his mistakes. Lowe put his past behind him and maintained his career and the favor of the Hollywood elite.

I say “sorry Charlie,” because his confused, disturbing and even jarringly incoherent messages and rants make him a personal branding loser. However, based on Sheen’s resilient career, I would not be surprised if he transforms to become one of my “winners” in the future.

Who would you nominate as your personal branding winner and loser?

Vote Today

Its Nov 1, 2010 Election Eve. Remember that voting is our most important right and that millions of Americans fought for, many making the ultimate sacrifice to protect this right and the other freedoms we enjoy. No matter which party or candidate you support, we all owe it those who shed their blood and gave up their lives to protect our nation and our right to vote, to go to the polls tomorrow.

Do You Need to Have a Social Media Marketing Plan?

The answer is yes, a plan is needed for any kind of marketing program a business will embark on. The plan must include goals, objectives and budgets. Without a plan and direction the effort that will be made will be time consuming and will most likely not achieve goals or impact a business positively.

The buzz today is all about social media marketing. Many business people are focusing all of their attention on this, taking their eye off the ball and forgetting about other types of marketing. Social media will become a more integral part of marketing but traditional marketing, advertising and media relations should not be forgotten or put aside. Although the internet and social media marketing can drive sales and be a fantastic tool for brand building it will not work for everyone. What is really disturbing is that most people don’t really know how to use this kind of marketing effectively. Social media marketing can be time consuming and if done improperly will not achieve the return on investment desired. The return on investment for any marketing program should be measurable.

At Corbett Public Relations I regularly work with clients to create messages, set marketing goals and determine what image clients want to have with their target audiences. I would venture to guess that most people who have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts and are using some form of social media marketing did not and do not think twice about the image that they were seeking to convey to the general public as well as potential customers. This is a huge mistake and a topic for another blog entry. Most people dabble with social media sites and post information ranging from what they had for lunch to some type of new product or service they are offering. These mixed messages don’t work and confuse followers. Followers don’t care about these types of posts and that’s the worst thing that can happen, if they don’t care they will stop following, probably forever.

We saw in the early and mid 1990s the growth of the internet. Businesses started to create websites and the “Field of Dreams” movie quote “If you build it they will come” was often used. We found over the years that this is the farthest thing from the truth. The truth is that if you build it they might come but probably won’t. Search engine marketing and optimization has helped with this for websites. People can now find what they are looking easily on the internet. Businesses people now also understand that websites for the most part are marketing and branding tools, not direct business generators. Social media also allows more businesses and people to have a presence on the internet but just because you are doing it does not mean anyone is following or even cares what you have to say. This is why you need to have a marketing plan.

A marketing/social media marketing plan will help to remedy the situation of no one following your or caring about what you have to say. A plan will set goals for pushing out messages, acquiring followers and branding your business (or you personally). Each of these efforts requires planning and the use of the proper tools and having the right creative message and image. Simply put if you do not have a clear image or brand to promote your social media marketing or any marketing program is likely to fail.

Social media offers many opportunities, but how these opportunities are taken advantage of and used is the key. Do it right and do it with a clear plan.

I am compiling a long list of tips for social media marketing and will eventually publish this with comments and best practices for small businesses and individuals seeking to build their own brands. If you are interested in a copy of these tips feel free to e-mail me at I will be writing over the next few weeks about creating the right online image and brand. This will be followed by how to communicate with prospects and friends to generate a buzz and business.

Vexed on Texting

It is hard to believe, but I graduated from college 20 years ago.  A few weeks ago was homecoming weekend where the celebration took place.   Unfortunately I was not able to attend the festivities at Marist College or other events a few weeks earlier due some important family obligations.  However, not being at these events did not prevent my former roommates, who were in Tampa Bay watching the Giants trounce the Buccaneers, from sending me text messages with a few jibes.  Nothing new, late night calls and some fun answering machine messages were part of life when we were at college.   

I think about how far we have come and how our lives and our business lives are so dependent on technology, especially mobile technology.  With the good certainly comes the bad.  I remember when the workday started at 8:00 am or if I was lucky 9:00 am and ended at 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm.  Now with the cell phone in tow, the day can, and often does start at 6:00 am or 6:30 am and ends after 9:00 pm.  I don’t mind being in contact with people, in the public relations business this is common place, but having access at all hours of the day and night can be taxing and this brings me back to text messaging.  Text messages can be 140 characters (sound familiar? This is why Twitter only allows 140 characters) but most business people who I associate with (not teens who are constantly tapping away) usually send short messages.  Messages like, “running 5 min late” or “call you back in a meeting.”  This is what I believe the inventors intended for this technology to be used for.  However, it has evolved quickly, and recently both my college buddies and business associates have either sent me messages that I do not understand or were misinterpreted.  When a misinterpretation, occurs especially with a client, it could be a real problem.  

What’s the solution?  First we must understand that text messages, and even e-mails can be misunderstood, misinterpreted and confusing.  Keep the text chatter to a minimum; if it is important call the person.  With e-mail and texting we are becoming even more disconnected.  When this occurs business communications get garbled and it will lead to problems and certainly a great deal of wasted time trying to explain what a silly little message was supposed to mean.

Texting and other wireless communications do have their advantages and uses.  Texting however can be dangerous.  State and local governments are making it illegal to text and drive.  Texting is considered a distraction while driving, if you have not noticed.  National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration statistics (US DOT ) show that close to 6,000 people lost their lives as a result of being distracted while driving.  This is only going to get worse in the years to come.

 So if you see some idiot texting while driving or texting while crossing the street, give them a dirty look, beep at them or give them the universal hand gesture of disapproval.  If you get them to stop this highly risky behavior you may be saving their lives and possibly your own.  

Enough with the negative; I will be writing soon about how to integrate texting and mobile technology into your business marketing program and event promotion.

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