BLOGS: Wag The Dog

Thursday, January 28, 2010, 12:40 PM

Word cloud analysis of President Obama's State of the Union address

Word clouds are a creative way to gauge whether your message stands out in a speech. Pictured here is a word cloud of President Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday night.

Ask yourself whether the right themes break through, then give your own company's message a test drive for free at You could insert your CEO's upcoming speech, the executive summary of your last annual report, or even a press release or a blog post. You may be surprised at what themes pop out most.

To be sure, a word cloud is not the final arbiter of whether your message passes the clarity test. It cannot account for tone, body language, compelling stories, or the speaker's ability to personally connect with his or her audience, but it's a fun tool that may add some fresh perspective to your company's messaging goals.

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Monday, January 25, 2010, 11:09 AM

Monday's quick reads: The Pope, the FCC, and medical correspondents in Haiti

1.) FCC is on the hunt for ways to improve news media (The Wall Street Journal) -- Just a month after the Federal Trade Commission held hearings on the beleaguered news industry and what the government might do about it, the Federal Communications Commission is getting into the act, too. The agency has launched an investigation into the “Future of Media,” and released an 11-page request for information about the state of the news business. It plans to examine the current state of the news industry, industry trends and what the agency could do to change its current rules.

2.) Pope to priests: Go forth and blog (Associated Press) -- Pope Benedict XVI has a new commandment for priests struggling to get their message across: Go forth and blog. The pope, whose own presence on the Web has heavily grown in recent years, urged priests on Saturday to use all multimedia tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel and engage in dialogue with people of other religions and cultures.

3.) Medical correspondents face delicate balance in Haiti (Los Angeles Times) -- Confronted with the overwhelming need in Haiti, medical doctors who serve as network correspondents have been toggling between roles: that of physician and reporter. On Sunday, ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser assisted a pregnant woman in labor and NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman operated on the wounded in a makeshift clinic. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta performed surgery Monday on a girl with a skull fracture who had been airlifted to the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson.

4.) Got a gripe? Send a Tweet (San Francisco Chronicle) -- When his new dryer didn't work, Brian Williams vented his frustration on Twitter: "Sears and Samsung, you fail. Ordered the major washer dryer. Installer says dryer arrived broken. Fail fail fail." To his surprise, a Sears customer service agent replied by tweet within a few hours. Two days later, Williams had a working dryer delivered to his Nanuet, N.Y., home and the negative experience turned into praise for Sears.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 10:07 AM

AT&T and the new reputation management mindset

Over at the blog Church of the Customer, Jackie Huba relays a personal experience she had working with AT&T's new "Customer Advocacy Center" on Twitter. Read about her experience here. It's as refreshing as it is rare.

The point is social media doesn't fit neatly into our old definition of public relations, in which we cast out press releases and troll for interested reporters. It is much more than that. AT&T, Wells Fargo, Comcast and others have made these tools part of a broader reputation management mindset, where existing customers are as much a priority as journalists, bloggers, and customers-to-be. My hope is such a strategy becomes the rule, not the exception, in the years ahead.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 1:11 PM

Tuesday's quick reads: Martin Luther King, Judiciary 2.0, and the relevence of "old media"

1.) How to respond to criticism - Lessons from Martin Luther King (Tim Ferriss) -- The author of the best-selling The Four Hour Workweek examines how Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is a classic case study in the art of dismantling your critics' arguments.

2.) Just two in five Americans read a newspaper every day (Harris Interactive) -- According to Harris Interactive, newspapers around the country are struggling. Last year saw several newspapers change their business model to an online focus or shut down completely. This year will most likely see the same struggle and, perhaps, new business models emerge for these media entities. One thing is clear, the era of Americans reading a daily newspaper each and every day is coming to an end.

3.) Most original news reporting comes from traditional sources, study finds (Los Angeles Times) -- As the number of sources for news proliferates on digital platforms, most original reporting still comes from newspapers, television and radio. A study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism that surveyed news gathering in Baltimore as an example of nationwide trends found that 95% of stories with fresh information came from "old media," and the vast majority of that from newspapers.

4.) Judiciary 2.0: Youtube, Proposition 8, and the Supreme Court (Huffington Post) -- Does YouTube belong in the Supreme Court? More to the point: If the White House's own YouTube channel contains some 480 videos, if Congress members consider their presence on the mainstream video sharing site as a given, then what's taking the judicial branch so long?

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010, 2:10 PM

Clean energy's grassroots challenge

(Image credit: Triple Pundit)
We've blogged before about the grassroots opposition clean energy firms often face when developing new wind projects, solar fields, and biofuels manufacturing plants. Press reports in recent weeks show that problem isn't going away. Take a look:

Massachusetts-based Cape Wind faces yet another challenge to its plan to develop a wind farm off Nantucket Sound.

Minnesota residents are opposing clean energy projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of kilowatts of energy.

A California-based solar firm is facing stiff opposition to its proposed solar field in the Panoche Valley, despite its potential to power 300,000 homes.
Even environmentalists are struggling with internal strife over the perceived risks and rewards of clean energy, according to this great New York Times debate.

Having advised wind and biofuels companies in recent years, my experience is residents don't easily see the tangible local value in having a large scale project in their backyard. If the juice generated by your company's solar project goes straight to the power grid, what's in it for the neighbors?

Clean energy companies that have a good answer to that question - and communicate that answer early and often -- put themselves a step ahead in the race for public opinion. Wondering how to translate your project into tangible benefits for skeptical neighbors? Consider philanthropic endeavors, partnerships with local schools, and jobs fairs, to name a few concepts. We've got more ideas. Just drop us a line.

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Monday, January 11, 2010, 2:41 PM

Monday's quick reads: Timberland, bank bonuses, and Dubai's new media team

1.) Bank bonuses, bigger than ever, are in the spotlight (The New York Times) -- Everyone on Wall Street is fixated on The Number. The bank bonus season looks as if it will be one of the largest and most controversial blowouts the industry has ever seen, The New York Times’s Louise Story and Eric Dash report.

2.) Insurers tee up reputation risk plan (Financial Times) -- Insurers are planning to introduce a product to limit companies' financial fall-out when their brands or high-profile spokesmen such as Tiger Woods suffer reputational damage. DeWitt Stern, a 110-year-old US insurance broker, has already received interest from London underwriters in backing a reputational risk product it aims to launch early in 2010.

3.) Dubai forms new media office to deal with tarnished image (The Wall Street Journal) -- Amid intense scrutiny of its economic problems Dubai has established a new media office to help promote the emirate in a better light and monitor the press. The department, known as the Media Office for Dubai Government, will seek to portray an "accurate picture" of the emirate, a statement from the ruler's office said.

4.) Getting Started in CSR Social Media: Examples from Intel and Timberland (Triple Pundit) -- If one of your resolutions for the new year is to better utilize social media to tell your company’s sustainability stories, take a look at how Intel and Timberland are tapping the potential of the Web 2.0.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010, 11:48 AM

Tuesday's quick reads: Tiger Woods, reputation management, and 2010's breakthrough ideas

1.) Chief Reputation Officer: Whose job is it anyway? (Forbes) -- In the 20th century, PR and marketing were separate but unequal career paths, and CMO was the highest-ranking and most-respected title to which one in those jobs could aspire. The standard career paths in these areas were relatively linear: As a lead communicator, you went to j-school, did a turn in journalism or an agency and then apprenticed under a "gray hair" boss until he retired. This is compared with the typical path of a chief marketing officer, who got his or her M.B.A. in marketing, hired agencies that made him or her look good, learned how to manage big budgets and award-winning creative and then got in the running for the corner office.

2.) Onetime foes, companies and activists find ways to cooperate (Christian Science Monitor) -- For many companies and activists, the old days of confrontation over picket lines and boycotts have given way to a new era of cooperation, particularly on environmental issues (labor initiatives remain less frequent). Some of these alliances are stronger than others. Still, activists and corporations are beginning to realize the benefits of turning foes into friends.

3.) Sponsors continue stepping away from Woods (PRSA) -- AT&T terminated its contract with Tiger Woods on December 31, making it three sponsors who have dropped the embattled golf pro, the Associated Press reported. After news of extramarital transgressions become public following a car accident near his home, Accenture ended its relationship with Woods and Gillette is phasing out Woods from its advertisements.

4.) Breakthrough ideas for 2010 (Harvard Business Review) -- When the business community supports an idea, change can happen fast. HBR’s annual ideas collection, compiled in cooperation with the World Economic Forum, offers 10 fresh solutions we believe would make the world better. Ranging from productivity boosting to nation building, from health care to hacking, any of the ideas presented in the following pages could go far with broad-based buy-in. Which ones will you get behind?

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