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BRANDE : blog archives for March 2008

March 24, 2008

Focus Group Attendees can watch the Moving Object

When I say Volvo you say ?
Safety, Right?

So does everyone else.

Clearly it was a case of a branding job done too well- that’s my summary of Volvo’s central focus group issue covered in BRANDWEEK’s recent article.

But instead of patting themselves on the back- they did something quite different- they called in a hypnotist to go deeper and get the TRUE feelings about the brand.

An interesting act following by interesting findings…

Post-hypnosis findings revealed that for some people- Volvo also represented “middle-aged.”

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, hypnosis has been taking off. Clients are looking to go deeper into the brand experience and get to the  real emotional connection that consumers have with their products. Typically there are 8 attendees in each 2 hour session.

But, as the article states- there are also detractors to the process. Some question if the information is relevant at all. Marc Babej, partner with the consultancy Reason, New York, says: “I have a particular venom for this area. These subconscious attitudes have little to do with purchase decisions. Most consumers navigate the marketplace based on the tangible benefits of the product.”

As a facilitator of focus groups for our clients, I agree. When I ask my husband if by butt looks big in my jeans, should I hypntise him to get to the real truth of the matter or just accept his “no” as a man who recognizes the tangible benefits of being married.

I wonder if sodium pentothal is right around the cublcle?

Big Brother or Biggest Loser?

A recent article in the WSJ revealed that Carriage Services Inc., a Houston funeral-services company, recently discovered that 70% of the workers in its 125-person headquarters watched videos on Web sites like Google Inc.’s YouTube and News Corp.’s MySpace for about an hour a day.

Online video has become an increasing irritation. Worker productivity is being jeopardized as short, often low-quality video clips popularized by YouTube are being joined by better-quality video services with long-form content. According to a study released last month by Nielsen Online, an Internet tracking service owned by Nielsen Co., the heaviest consumption of Internet video is during weekday lunch hours between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., when most people are at work.

Online video also is taxing already-strained corporate-technology networks. It poses a particular problem for smaller companies, which have limited bandwidth capacity to accommodate bulky video files. Online video files on average are about seven times as large as audio files, and 100 times as large as email.

In December, Internet users watched more than 10 billion videos online, according to comScore Inc. — one of the single heaviest months for online-video consumption since comScore began tracking it in 2006. And with Web sites such as Hulu LLC and Netflix Inc. set to roll out heftier high-definition video services in the coming months, corporate networks face slowdown in computer traffic, and possible outages.

For companies that have a limited amount of bandwidth, Internet video can be a significant drain on resources, says Paul Stamp, an analyst with Forrester Research. “Without having some kind of a set policy that either controls or blocks video, [companies] run the risk of their networks crashing or, at the least, slowing down drastically.”

William Bailey, IT manager at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County in San Jose, Calif., says he has to block video at the 400-person nonprofit to ensure that the agency’s network will remain operational. “It’s a real issue when a network can’t handle demand, and too much media, particularly video, is usually the reason why,” he says.For people like Shawn Birkett, such shutdowns can thwart both legitimate work and extracurricular video-watching. A sales executive with wireless equipment company Moonblink Communications Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., Mr. Birkett used to spend about an hour and a half a day looking at online video, often related to his company’s customers. Then six months ago, Moonblink blocked all Internet video after IT managers found that streaming audio and video had slowed the company’s Internet service.

Now, Mr. Birkett acknowledges, he doesn’t get “sidetracked” by nonwork-related video like he used to. At the same time, the blockage makes it difficult for him to check out clients’ online videos. He says he has to call his IT department for special permission each time he wants to view customers’ online videos. “It’s been frustrating,” he says.

Blocking online video isn’t easy. As people use the Web for a growing number of capacity-draining functions, from Internet telephone services to peer-to-peer file-sharing, it has become tougher for technology managers to sift through activity on their networks. In addition, the growing use of video as an office tool has made it more difficult to know whether employees are using video sites for work, or for diversion. Stealthy programs like Internet video site Joost NV and peer-to-peer file-sharing service BitTorrent Inc. can cause further problems for IT departments, since the services can confuse network-security measures.

The confusion has created opportunities for small networking companies such as Palo Alto Networks Inc., BlueCoat Systems Inc., SonicWall Inc. and OpenDNS Inc., which offer products and services capable of peering into computer traffic and dissecting it.

Schemmer Associates Inc., an architecture firm in Omaha, Neb., tapped OpenDNS last year to block unwanted video after experiencing substantial network slowdowns. Scott Bennett, network manager for Schemmer, traced the problems to some interns who watched online videos on blogging sites and social-networking portals. In December, Mr. Bennett installed the OpenDNS system that categorizes and filters Web content.

Later that same week, the system received its first major test when a 19-year-old high-school dropout shot and killed eight people, including himself, at a shopping mall across the street from Schemmer’s offices. During the ordeal, Mr. Bennett says Schemmer’s employees wanted to watch online news reports, but were blocked. Without the new system, says Mr. Bennett, the network would have crashed.

“The system saved me from what could have been a huge problem,” says Mr. Bennett. “I had pretty much the entire office come over and tell me how upset they were at not being able to see reports online. And I told them, it could have been worse.”

Meanwhile, R.J. Griffin & Co., a subsidiary of J.E. Dunn Construction Group, says it plans to block employee access to Internet video over the next few months. The 600-person Atlanta company is grappling with the housing downturn and is looking for ways to conserve spending. But the company also wants to add capacity to its existing network. Jason Cunningham, IT director for R.J. Griffin, says blocking video could save the company from making a potentially costly technology upgrade.

Mr. Cunningham recently found that YouTube was the most popular Web site visited by R.J. Griffin employees, receiving 3,000 hits a month. To prevent any employee backlash, he plans to issue a report explaining the threat that video poses to bandwidth. He says he dealt with a similar challenge two years ago when the company decided to shut off access to adult-content Web sites after an internal audit found that they were the most widely visited sites at the company.

“I know our people will say we’re acting like Big Brother,” says Mr. Cunningham of the new online-video ban. “But those pipes belong to the company. If management says we need to protect our resources, then that’s what happens.”

March 7, 2008

4 tips on writing a great blog

From today’s ERE Daily | by Kevin Wheeler Reprinted here even though they didn’t mention us.

What Makes a Blog Work?

Blogs are hot. Recruiting blogs have sprouted up on a regular basis for months, and competing writers now vie with each other for readership and “followership.” The majority of readers of blogs are Gen Yers, and they are the influencers and indicators of what the future of media may look like.

A survey published last fall by Forrester’s Charlene Li indicates that “24% of Gen Yers read blogs, which is twice as often as the 12% of Gen Xers (ages 27-40) and three times the 7% of Young Boomers (ages 41-50) that read blogs.”

What makes blogs so compelling?

It’s not hard to understand. We live in a sound-bite era. Over the past two decades, people have increasingly turned away from long books and in-depth writing toward short, action-oriented pieces. Books such as Who Moved My Cheese, that are written at a high-school level or lower, are wildly popular. Television led the way by nurturing a generation that reads little and watches video a lot. Hence the popularity of YouTube and magazines such as Discover, BusinessWeek, Fortune, and Fast Company. They have made the short article almost a requirement. Only a handful of publications with small circulations such as The Atlantic or The New Yorker offer readers in-depth articles longer than a few thousand words. Don’t get me wrong, here. I am not complaining (well, maybe a little), I’m just describing what is a reality.

Given this, the Forrester survey findings are not surprising. Gen Y and the younger portion of Gen X are the prime target audience for blogs. And, when they are well written, blogs are a powerful way of reaching younger employees, candidates, and fellow recruiters.

Our industry has a lot of great blogs that are, again not surprisingly, written by Gen X or Gen Y recruiters.

RecruitingBlogs.com ( http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blog/show?id=502551%3ABlogPost%3A42426) recently published the results of its annual readers’ ratings of recruitment blogs, sponsored by ZoomInfo. Here are the winners of that contest in 10 categories, and I urge you to take a look at each one of them. They all follow the rules for an effective blog that I outline below.

1. Overall Recruiting: Six Degrees From Dave
2. Recruiting Blogosphere: Recruiting Animal
3. Third-Party Recruiting: Hiring Revolution
4. Best Recruiting Technology: I, Donato
5. Job Hunting: Wired & Hired
6. Corporate Recruiting: WirelessJobs.com
7. Sourcing/Research: CyberSleuthing
8. Group: Xtra Cheezhead
9. Recruiting Industry: Six Degrees From Dave
10. HR: Gautam Ghosh

Effective blogs are tuned to their readership in many ways, including their tone, style, and even their look and feel. But the following four critical elements have to be in place for a blog to gain the traction that it needs to get a high level of consistent readership.
Short and Fun

First of all, each posting must be short. Entries longer than 500 words are not going to be read, probably not even skimmed, by the average reader. The best entries are most likely 200-250 words and contain lots of white space and breaks. Once in a while, a longer post can be effective if the writer is telling a story about something exciting or has the ability to maintain some level of suspense. But even then it may be better to break the story over a few days to bring readers back.

Pictures and short videos are also useful. Jim Stroud, a recruiter at Microsoft, publishes a fun blog filled with humor and videos that exemplify what I am talking about.
Personal

Blogs gain a great deal of power when the writer is a real person. Heather Hamilton at Microsoft pioneered the idea of writing naturally and honestly. Good blogs are not overly edited or sanitized by the corporate PR department. They may have mistakes or reveal personal facts about the writer that lead the reader to feeling some identity with him or her.

Here is a great example from a recent post by HeatherLeigh: “Marketing plus potty humor.”

“If you don’t appreciate potty humor or clever marketing, don’t watch this.

And, can I tell you how proud I am that this was referred to me by my mother? Yeah, sometimes moms rock, even though I am sure they prefer to remain anonymous (and, right now, she is thanking her lucky stars she has a different last name than mine).”
Story-Based

Tell a story. We are all more likely to become engaged when there is a personal connection, some incident that arouses interest and hooks us into continuing to read.

Here’s an example from Bob Sutton, Stanford professor and author of the best-selling book The No Asshole Rule. As I read this, I want to find out what he said and what happens in the end. Here’s an example from Bob Sutton:

“I was listening to a great show on the other day on Fresh Air, where Terry Gross interviewed Bob Sullivan, the author of Gotcha Capitalism. I started getting quite agitated by the interview, as Sullivan talked about all the ways that credit card companies, hotels, and especially, cell phone companies ‘get us’ with hidden charges and related sleazy practices (listen to it here).”

We all tell stories, relate past incidents, and build relationships around shared experiences. The same applies in writing a blog.
Authenticity

Many blogs gain authenticity simply from their personal nature. We all tend to believe people who have a face, a personality, and are, to some degree, known to us. But, on the other hand, it is also useful to link to other blogs, websites, people who reinforce the posted message. If you look at the example above from Bob Sutton, you can see the links to the NPR show and to the book itself on Amazon.com.

Really good blogs use lots of links and associations to add depth and credibility. By doing this, the author builds trust.

Dave Mendoza, in his award-winning Six Degrees from Dave blog, illustrates all of these points. He uses video very effectively, links widely, uses humor, and introduces personal information in a way that makes him a real person.

Writing a blog is not hard, but it requires understanding these basics. It also requires the author to be engaged, have fun, and reflect his excitement to the readership.

March 4, 2008

Big Brother or Biggest Loser

The New Workplace Rules:
No Video-Watching
By BOBBY WHITE
March 4, 2008; Page B1

Carriage Services Inc., a Houston funeral-services company, recently discovered that 70% of the workers in its 125-person headquarters watched videos on Web sites like Google Inc.’s YouTube and News Corp.’s MySpace for about an hour a day.

“I almost fell out of my chair when I saw how many people were doing it and how much bandwidth those sites sucked up,” says Jeff Parker, the company’s information-technology administrator. He quickly blocked access to both sites.
[Graphic]

Like Carriage Services, companies across the U.S. are starting to prevent their employees from accessing Internet-video services at work. The move follows previous steps by IT departments to shut employees’ access to instant-messaging services, streaming music and Web sites with adult content.

Now, online video has become an increasing irritation. Worker productivity is being jeopardized as short, often low-quality video clips popularized by YouTube are being joined by better-quality video services with long-form content. According to a study released last month by Nielsen Online, an Internet tracking service owned by Nielsen Co., the heaviest consumption of Internet video is during weekday lunch hours between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., when most people are at work.

Online video also is taxing already-strained corporate-technology networks. It poses a particular problem for smaller companies, which have limited bandwidth capacity to accommodate bulky video files. Online video files on average are about seven times as large as audio files, and 100 times as large as email.

In December, Internet users watched more than 10 billion videos online, according to comScore Inc. — one of the single heaviest months for online-video consumption since comScore began tracking it in 2006. And with Web sites such as Hulu LLC and Netflix Inc. set to roll out heftier high-definition video services in the coming months, corporate networks face slowdown in computer traffic, and possible outages.

For companies that have a limited amount of bandwidth, Internet video can be a significant drain on resources, says Paul Stamp, an analyst with Forrester Research. “Without having some kind of a set policy that either controls or blocks video, [companies] run the risk of their networks crashing or, at the least, slowing down drastically.”

William Bailey, IT manager at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County in San Jose, Calif., says he has to block video at the 400-person nonprofit to ensure that the agency’s network will remain operational. “It’s a real issue when a network can’t handle demand, and too much media, particularly video, is usually the reason why,” he says.For people like Shawn Birkett, such shutdowns can thwart both legitimate work and extracurricular video-watching. A sales executive with wireless equipment company Moonblink Communications Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., Mr. Birkett used to spend about an hour and a half a day looking at online video, often related to his company’s customers. Then six months ago, Moonblink blocked all Internet video after IT managers found that streaming audio and video had slowed the company’s Internet service.

Now, Mr. Birkett acknowledges, he doesn’t get “sidetracked” by nonwork-related video like he used to. At the same time, the blockage makes it difficult for him to check out clients’ online videos. He says he has to call his IT department for special permission each time he wants to view customers’ online videos. “It’s been frustrating,” he says.

Blocking online video isn’t easy. As people use the Web for a growing number of capacity-draining functions, from Internet telephone services to peer-to-peer file-sharing, it has become tougher for technology managers to sift through activity on their networks. In addition, the growing use of video as an office tool has made it more difficult to know whether employees are using video sites for work, or for diversion. Stealthy programs like Internet video site Joost NV and peer-to-peer file-sharing service BitTorrent Inc. can cause further problems for IT departments, since the services can confuse network-security measures.

The confusion has created opportunities for small networking companies such as Palo Alto Networks Inc., BlueCoat Systems Inc., SonicWall Inc. and OpenDNS Inc., which offer products and services capable of peering into computer traffic and dissecting it.

Schemmer Associates Inc., an architecture firm in Omaha, Neb., tapped OpenDNS last year to block unwanted video after experiencing substantial network slowdowns. Scott Bennett, network manager for Schemmer, traced the problems to some interns who watched online videos on blogging sites and social-networking portals. In December, Mr. Bennett installed the OpenDNS system that categorizes and filters Web content.

Later that same week, the system received its first major test when a 19-year-old high-school dropout shot and killed eight people, including himself, at a shopping mall across the street from Schemmer’s offices. During the ordeal, Mr. Bennett says Schemmer’s employees wanted to watch online news reports, but were blocked. Without the new system, says Mr. Bennett, the network would have crashed.

“The system saved me from what could have been a huge problem,” says Mr. Bennett. “I had pretty much the entire office come over and tell me how upset they were at not being able to see reports online. And I told them, it could have been worse.”

Meanwhile, R.J. Griffin & Co., a subsidiary of J.E. Dunn Construction Group, says it plans to block employee access to Internet video over the next few months. The 600-person Atlanta company is grappling with the housing downturn and is looking for ways to conserve spending. But the company also wants to add capacity to its existing network. Jason Cunningham, IT director for R.J. Griffin, says blocking video could save the company from making a potentially costly technology upgrade.

Mr. Cunningham recently found that YouTube was the most popular Web site visited by R.J. Griffin employees, receiving 3,000 hits a month. To prevent any employee backlash, he plans to issue a report explaining the threat that video poses to bandwidth. He says he dealt with a similar challenge two years ago when the company decided to shut off access to adult-content Web sites after an internal audit found that they were the most widely visited sites at the company.

“I know our people will say we’re acting like Big Brother,” says Mr. Cunningham of the new online-video ban. “But those pipes belong to the company. If management says we need to protect our resources, then that’s what happens.”