Just-in-time Zen Moment For Holiday Shopper

Posted on December 20, 2013. Filed under: Public Relations, Retail, Society | Tags: , , , , , , |

Traffic lights

Traffic lights (Photo credit: Vít ‘tasuki’ Brunner)

A mobile holiday shopper in Los Angeles tweets this morning of driving around in the city for two hours in search of holiday gifts. She had a list of gifts that she wanted to buy, from the sounds of it.

None of the stores she visited in person had the merchandise in stock.

Then, a moment of digital satori arrived while she  paused at a traffic light. She grabbed her smart phone, jumped online and got her shopping done in the span of a Beverly Drive minute or two.

No telling what stores she patronized online, unless she covered that in a subsequent tweet unseen by me.

Obviously, she was making a statement about her shopping experience or lack thereof with the bricks-and-mortar retailers she attempted to buy from during her odyssey on wheels. The statement being, if I interpret correctly, that she was fed up with the whole thing – and probably not going to be doing so much drive-by shopping in the future.

Reading her tweet – which showed up as a random posting in my Twitter stream, sandwiched in between various notes of more earth-shaking news – made me think about an infographic I saw recently predicting continued massive growth in digital interactions of all kinds, including mobile shopping. If it — the sudden discovery that it’s easier, smarter and above all else more practical to shop online than to motor desperately and for hours on end from one outlet to another — can happen in-between traffic light stops in retail saturated LA, then this revolution in mobile retail is just beginning.

It occurs to me that our friendly LA tweeter could have phoned ahead to ask if the products she sought were in stock at the retailers she had on her radar. But she apparently didn’t.

One can only surmise why that was.

One guess is that making phone calls of that nature is kind of a pain in the ass. Maybe not as much of a pain in the ass as driving for hours in a fog of holiday desperation, but still…a pain. And who knows who or what is going to answer the phone when you call a business these days? Besides, what fun is that – calling up retailers to find out if they’ve got what you want in stock? Better to foray into the unknown, testing the limits of the physical world to meet one’s needs. And then, when all else fails, go online. Or maybe not. Maybe just sit at home in front of the computer for a bit buying stuff off of retail websites. But then, what fun is that? It’s kind of hard to feel the holiday spirit when you’re mixing it up with your keyboard and a monitor — no Christmas bells merrily jingling, no stimulation from the madding crowds and festive festooning of the stores themselves. No sense of awe, in short.

Ah well. it’s a dilemma. To mingle with the masses of the malls, or to commune in silent ecstasy with the online retailers.

But why choose? Slide that mobile device into your coat pocket while you’re heading out the door to hit the bricks — if the mall lets you down, you just might find yourself stopped before a long-winded red traffic light punching in online orders.

That would be me, behind you, leaning on the horn of my car as the traffic light turns from red to green.

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At The End Of The Day, We Move Forward No More Forever

Posted on September 20, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Ramblings, Sporting life, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout.

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just two words of wisdom for today: Talk Normal*

Case in point:

“What I really want, at the end of the day, is to make sure we do the right thing for Clayton moving forward. I know we’ll do the right thing for him, so that’s not really a concern.” – Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers manager, speaking about injured pitcher Clayton Kershaw. (Quote from Sept. 18, 2012 Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sports, page C4)

Rewrite (just for our purposes):

“What I really want — and what this organization wants — is what’s best for Clayton.”

Editorial notes:

“Moving forward” – a transition phrase, perhaps once notable for being novel, it now sounds as empty of meaning as “awesome.” Delete with extreme prejudice. (See also: “going forward,” its equally obnoxious sibling.)

“At the end of the day” – what’s with this end of the day stuff? Do the cows come in at the end of the day? Of course they do. Was Rome built in a day? Of course not. Can we not get through one day without hearing someone, somewhere, in a position of somber authority, speaking of their earnest ambition to conclude something of a serious nature by the end of the bloody f’ing day???

No Offense Intended, Don

Sorry, Don Mattingly. I don’t mean to pick on you. I know you mean well. It’s just that, to see two such mindlessly over-used clichéd phrases in the same sentence, for God’s sake, it defies comprehension. It drew my attention, and I took a grammatical hack at it — somewhat like you used to have your fun battering a lazy down-the-middle fastball back in the day.

Editor’s note:

“Back in the day” – yadda, yadda, yadda, sounds like an early Jersey Boy phrase that went viral via some TV cop show outa New York and now passes for virile man-talk. Backinnaday ya know. Pack it in, back-in-the-day sayers. It’s lost most of the street smart cred that it had back in whatever day it slunk out of.

So, at the end of the day here, let’s quit embracing cliché-talk in our speech, okay?

Editor’s note:

“Embracing” — a psycho-babble-ish distortion of a perfectly good word — to embrace, to clasp in the arms. Now used with great unrestraint to show affinity, as in “she embraces the culture,” or “the author embraces the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the forgotten and the immoderate.” If those are the author’s people, so be it. Actually, it’s not so far-fetched to assume that a writer of the depths, such as a Dostoyevsky, actually does emotionally embrace the lives of some such as the Russian dispossessed, as he did with great feeling and insight. Not to banish non-physical/romantic references of embracing from the vocabulary, then, but to urge more judicious use of the word at minimum. (Note: no mention of being more judicious going forward!) Gandhi may well have embraced all of humanity. Most people have a hard enough time embracing close family members, much less the multitudinous masses. (No embracing on the job. That goes without saying.)

Well, then. That puts a period to the cliché problem for now.

* A nod to Tim Phillips, author of Talk Normal, Stop The Business Speak, Jargon and Waffle, published in 2011 by Kogan Page Limited, an excellent book in which the author argues that people are more effective when they just talk like normal people do.

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No Country For Dull Press Releases

Posted on March 19, 2010. Filed under: Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

(And Other Thoughts In A Public Relations Vein)

Here’s best-selling author Michael Connelly on the state of the newspaper world, as seen through the eyes of Jack McEvoy, erstwhile star crime beat reporter for the fictional L.A. Times, a major daily newspaper in the City of Angels. In Scarecrow, Connelly’s 2009 novel, McEvoy is going the way of all aging reportorial flesh. Which is to say, he’s been riffed, let-go, pink-slipped, fired, in short, a casualty of the ongoing catastrophe that is 21st century newspaper journalism.

“There was no newspaper out there in the market for an over-40 cop shop reporter…Like the paper and ink newspaper itself, my time was over. It was all about the Internet now. It was about hourly uploads to online editions and blogs. It was about television tie-ins and Twitter updates…The morning paper might as well be called the Daily Afterthought. Everything in it was posted on the web the night before.”

newspaper revenue projections

Connelly’s a former Los Angeles Times cop shop reporter himself, so he knows whereof his bloodied lead character rants.

Okay then.

The newspaper business is in a bad way, no argument there.

But where does that leave us, the scribbling foot soldiers of the public relations world?

Writing, Still A Primary Tool Of The PR Trade?

Does good writing matter anymore, PR-wise? And if so, how so?

I was thinking all this through the other day as I pondered a client’s reaction to a piece of writing I had produced for publication – on the client’s behalf — in a daily newspaper. In a slight bit of deadline haste – ever had an anxious editor say you have to make a few last minute changes just before the ink hits the newsprint? — I put in a sentence that might not have totally captured my client’s thought process. My bad. Expediency can be a killer. Fortunately I had an understanding client, who did not let one bad moment spoil what I believe to be a good working relationship.

But, let’s think about this for a moment more. Here we are, in the post-literate age supposedly, and words obviously still count for something. More to the point, the written word counts, even if its published in that most maligned of modern media institutions, the daily newspaper.

Why is that?

Writing Sticks.

I thought of all the words that pour forth from the mouths of politicians and corporate spokespeople, celebrities, athletes, scientists, lawyers, cops (a passing nod to the crime beat reporter there), experts of all stripes, luncheon keynote speakers, not to mention babes, all emptying into the mighty maw of broadcast, print, Internet and personal journalism (AKA the grapevine). Such a mighty roar, and yet the power of the printed word is such that it can make a grown man nearly cry if he gets it wrong.

And why is that?

The only thing I can think of is that the printed word, is still understood to have lasting significance. Maybe that’s granting it a magical essence that it really doesn’t deserve. Personally, I don’t think that’s true though.

People instinctively know that they can be moved by the power of well-written words, be they found in a press release, a corporate backgrounder, a brochure, a newsletter, even – God forbid – in a Twitter alert. Moved to think, to learn, to take an action. Stuff that moves markets, in other words.

It may be that ink and paper newspapers are slouching towards extinction. I don’t know for sure about that. Everybody seemed to declare them dead in 2009, but even so recently as yesterday I found someone willing to sell me a hard copy of the daily newspaper over the counter for 50 cents.

But words in print, hand-crafted for a specific commercial/social realism purpose such as selling a product, building brand awareness, establishing a position, informing and motivating a target audience (or audiences)?

Not Quite As Post-Literate As We’d Like To Think.

I think my client was dead-on in expressing a concern about the way in which the newspaper article – an op-ed piece, as it were – depicted the issue at hand. There is magic in the printed word (and let’s call it like it is, the Internet does bear a striking resemblance to the world of print in some ways, noticeably by its durability). Good writing is powerful. It has staying power. It is memorable. When applied commercially, it is a reflection of the company that sponsors it.

Newspapering may not be what it once was. Public relations isn’t what it used to be either (it’s better, in my opinion, more comprehensive, more multi-dimensional).

But good writing, good story-telling, there’s a need for that – quite possibly now more than ever, what with the increasing emphasis on content as a marketable business and social commodity.

So while Jack McEvoy might be out of a job (or maybe not, you should really read Scarecrow to find out what happens to him, it’s a good read), those of us who labor away in the PR trenches know this: you can’t keep a good press release down!

 

 

 

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