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Showing posts from February, 2015

Starbucks' Sandwich Problem (Brand As A Business Decision Filter)

Last night I tweeted to Starbucks that their breakfast sandwiches looked disgusting. They responded (yay!) to ask me what I was talking about. This.


I am a huge Starbucks fan and therefore I would like to give them some practical advice about how to solve their sandwich problem.
I looked around the rest of the coffee shop and saw many appealing clusters of space.

What all of them have in common is that something is crafted right there on the spot. 
For example the coffee is ground fresh and customized per order. 
On top of that, the customer fixes their drink "their way."


When the customer is not fixing their drink up, they are working on their computer, or talking with friends, or somehow interacting with the environment in such a way that they create their own experience.
And for those times when you just want a pre-packaged product it is nice to know that Starbucks has high-quality prepackaged nuts, chocolate, yogurt, juice, and other items that are all top of the line.
I am heal…

All Roads May Lead To Open Opportunities

My first years in government were not exactly easy. Well, let's correct that - they have never really been easy. The bureaucracy was built, at least conceptually, to process many people in a relatively efficient way - employees included. The idea of "individuality" was an anomalous. Not bad, necessarily, but sort of like finding a purple orange. You would hold it up and say, "wow, that's different," but at the end of the day you'd want the regular orange kind. Because...the fruit is supposed to look a certain way and that's the only kind you'd trust.
But it was around 2003 then, and it was a time of change anyway. Not so much around social media or branding or any of that. But around the idea that we did not have to do things the old-fashioned way, the inefficient way, anymore. 
From a communication standpoint I do think that Al Gore's Federal Communication Network was revolutionary. Suddenly there was this loosely knit group of people who rea…

Please Don't Talk About THAT

Many times, I hear people say things like: "you can talk about this and can talk about that, but please don't talk about that."

I remember when I was a little girl and whenever a controversial subject came up my mother used to say "shhh" and her mother used to say "shhh" and my other grandmother used to say the same. Generally everyone said "shhh" to keep the peace.

As an adult this comes up all the time. When you're dealing with your kids' school and there is an issue, you don't want to antagonize the teacher or the principal. When you're at work and there is a difficult issue, you don't want to antagonize your boss. And of course in your relationship when a difficult issue comes up you don't want to antagonize your partner.


But I was reading this good article about the Google way of solving problems - which is to "attack" them - and it reminded me of something I have learned over time. The only way to truly t…

The 10 Essential Tasks Of A Knowledge Manager

Nobody wants to think about knowledge management, but everybody needs it. Here are the basic things an organization should have covered as part of its KM system.
1. Establishing an information architecture for multiple user groups, permission levels, and knowledge sharing environments 
2. Maintaining the architecture, adding and removing people from user groups 
3. Locating and archiving institutional knowledge

4. Establishing taxonomies, workflow systems, approval systems so that we know which documents are approved for release and who the audiences are for that release

5. Ensuring compliance with reporting requirements

6. Ensuring everyone can find the information they need quickly and that the most recent version is online. 
7. Version control.

8. Upgrading the collaboration environment as new technologies come online
9. Exploring efficient new technologies and incorporating them where practical

10. Teaching users to use more advanced features associated with collaboration platforms, like ma…

Private Sector PR vs. Government Public Affairs: A Difference In Terminology With Real Implications

This was my response to a followup question on the previous post, "5 Ways To Work Effectively With The Media: Tips for Federal Communicators." On the positive side, federal communicators are extraordinarily sharp people (and have always been). Also positive, the sophistication level in terms of technique and in terms of the demand for transparency is growing by leaps and bounds. Just in the past five years, it's literally amazing to me.  Furthermore positive, I have always known agency leaders to be sophisticated in terms of their ability to read the tea leaves, and to exercise good judgment. One memory in particular stands out of Robert Bonner, the former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Bonner was amazing - he used to scribble out **all** of my drafts of his executive message for the monthly magazine and write it himself. I remember that handwriting! But there is a less positive side, that hopefully we will overcome. And that is the failure to distinguish in th…

5 Ways To Work Effectively With The Media: Tips For Federal Communicators

Often I hear people ask about how to work with the media more effectively. They worry about reporters who "just don't seem to like us," who "give us a hard time about everything," and so on.
The assumption behind this question is that reporters are somehow "out to get" their sources. Not a helpful place to begin, because it presupposes a negative outcome from the start.
Here are some things I've learned over time from personal experience working with reporters, talking to them, and from observing the experiences of others.
1. Reporters are motivated by public service, just like federal workers. It's a thankless job. They go into it because they care. Have the same respect for them that you want them to have for you. 
2. Reporters want to speak with sources directly. Don't speak on their behalf, don't translate, don't be the intermediary, just arrange for the interview.
3. Reporters find it hard to gain access to good sources. Your value…

Communication Activities To Support A New Function - Dannielle Blumenthal Feb. 2015

A view of the range of communication activities I engage in as part of my current role as Associate Director, Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (Communications), NIST. 
This is version 1 of the model; future versions will be grouped by category, prioritized, and have resources and timelines associated with the activities.


__ All opinions my own.

Seeking Some Critical Thinking About ISIS

I've just read "10 Signs That ISIS Is A Scripted Psyop" and have to say, I too have been wondering in the back of my mind about this "ISIS" group.

Like, something about it just does not seem real. It doesn't seem organic. It seems just a little too "perfect," too powerful, too quick and I don't believe that the combined powers of the world's military and intelligence agencies are as powerless as they seem.
I am a very strong believe that we must follow the truth wherever it leads us, even if that place is inconvenient. I would like to see more critical thinking about ISIS.
___ All opinions my own.

Beyond Vanilla In Government Communication: Is It Desirable? Is It Possible?

This week I had the good fortune to attend an event on social media strategy in the federal government. Even the most cursory review of the agenda made it clear: this form of communication has officially “arrived.” The event was: Sponsored by the well-respected Federal Communicators Network, which was established 19 years ago by the Clinton Administration and which I have been involved in, including as Chair, for more than a decade.Hosted by the Partnership for Public Service, an organization known and respected for being an objective purveyor of government best practice.Moderated by Justin Herman of the GSA, who serves as the official social media lead for the federal government.Populated by a panel of social media specialists from the CIA, VA, ICE and USGS – a range of missions, some more controversial than others.Attended by communicators from across the federal government, including the FBI, the DOD, the EPA, the Coast Guard, and more. From the looks of it, about 80-100 people atte…

Toward a definition of brand we all can live with.

Someone asked me today, "Isn't a brand a mark of quality?" 
Hearing that, I realized (once again) the importance of defining our terminology - preferably before we start talking to one another.
So here is a suggested common definition of brand. With the idea that newer thinking builds upon the old.
"A brand is a co-created reality that is constantly being negotiated in the collective consciousness."
What this means is that the brand is offered up by its creator and responded to in the civic commons - the social space, online and off.
All of these definitions or signifiers are aspects of brand - they comprise a portion of its reality:
1. Quality mark  2. Authenticity mark 3. Visual mark 4. Reputation mark 5. Symbolic mark 6. Religious mark 7. Social responsibility mark 8. Professional mark 9. Collaboration mark 10. Vision mark
What you as the brand builder want to do is create the conversation (start the fire), establish the collaboration, then step back, participate and hopefu…

The 'strategy' behind my new Twitter handle

It's sort of funny that authenticity would be a strategy for social media, since authenticity is supposed to be the reason social media exists and the purpose of doing it. Just goes to show how the values of a culture interrupt genuine expression and contort them toward whatever the dominant value system is. In America, we're very much about money and so the capitalist ethic began to interfere with social media just about as soon as it got popular. Our natural greed easily blinds us to the necessity of respecting the various communities and territories of social media (much like one would respect Nature) and so it's easy to do a kind of "channel agnostic" approach. We have one thing to say and we say it everywhere. However as a phenomenally talented group of employees at the National Archives' Office of Innovation taught me, each community is really its own ecosystem and ought to be respected for what it is. So I was using the Twitter handle @thinkbrandfirst for a…

Career Advice for a PR Grad

General advice:Internships matter more than schoolNetworking - meet and connect with as many people as you can, personally and professionally. Also mentors - reach out and ask! Be specific about what you want.Help other people - professors, students, maybe a local organization that needs supportReference letters - collect them from everyone you can.LinkedIn - build up your profile.Look for "clients" to test your skills on.Look for companies where the boss or an associate will let you shadow them for a day. Interview them.Start a blog or Tumblr with your ideas. It will give you practice to act "as if" you are an expert.Q&A:Why do you think the public relations field is a fit for you? I am a born promoter.I like helping worthy people and causes to have an influence in society.I like exploring new tools and technologies to get the word out.I like to integrate PR with related disciplines to support a brand.I like finding ways to engage people while also promoting tr…

Why The Shidduch Crisis? A Rant.

People want to know why it's hard for kids to connect nowadays, enough to get married. Here is my two cents.
First let's establish that it sucks to be alone. It does. True it also sucks to be with the wrong person. And true we all benefit from time to find ourselves. From **not** rushing to marry the wrong one. 
So people, when alone, are lonely and they seek companionship.

However when they have all kinds of substitute satisfaction available they are less likely to want marriage, particularly at a young age.
That is a bad thing, because people are ready for sexual relationships when they hit adulthood. And naturally, loneliness can push them into a lifestyle that is not spiritual. 
Nobody talks about this. 
A significant reason why boys don't want to commit? Aside from the emotional trauma of divorce, it's porn. Which provides instant gratification, substitute satisfaction. 
As does the availability of girls who don't require any commitment.
Porn has a broader effect in o…

An Understanding of All Things Brand. The 10K Foot View

You have to understand that a brand is way beyond a logo now. You do understand that, because the Mad Men paradigm where we cook up Frankenstein in the lab and serve it up to you has been destroyed. In its place is an open kitchen where you can see me cooking, and if I put sulfuric acid in the chocolate pudding you'll know right away, you'll Tweet it and Instagram it and my restaurant will close before the first menu ever gets printed. If we begin with this "first principle" or common assumption then the rest of the major questions about branding, the tired debates we've been engaging in for more than a decade now, have been resolved. And while scientific studies about which tactical approach are useful for marketing journals, it is the unresolved theoretical issues that have screwed the profession up badly. To the point where the word "branding" in some circles has become a kind of poison, a valid and critical discipline that cannot be uttered in name les…