Monday, April 25, 2016

A Mother's Day reality ignored

There's just one so-called killer app. It's email. It's pervasive, cheap, and often relentless.

And, in late April and early May, it becomes utterly tone deaf. 

I began receiving email* promotions from marketers for Mother's Day deals a few weeks ago. They've steadily increased in frequency. And in stupidity, as in: "Mom really wants a digital SLR outfit." (Words never uttered in any household in my family. Ever.)

(Note: this isn't about the new Garry Marshall ensemble comedy, Mother's Day. I'm talking the real Mother's Day, May 8. Which is right around the corner. So get cracking.)

By Frank Mayne from London, UK
(Clara's Card) [CC BY-SA 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons
While there are women for whom I'd buy Mother's Day cards, gifts or flowers, my mother is not among them. She died in 2013. (The woman in the stock photo is not her.)

And every email pitch with "Mother's Day" in the subject line is a jagged-knife reminder of her absence. I'm likely overly sensitive to this, but I've severed ties with online retailers whose relentless, thrice-daily emails reminded me "It's not too late to buy a gift for Mom."

Yes, it is, FTD.

I refuse FTD's emails. Their thoughtless, attack-style approach to email marketing lost them a customer. Perhaps many customers. And nothing will lure me back. 

You may have another point of view. And, that's fine. You may even find promo emails from online marketers for Mother's Day beneficial. I hope you have the opportunity to celebrate the occasion with warm hugs, construction-paper greeting cards, and laughter.

Many of us cannot. And, a ceaseless barrage of Mother's Day promo emails from online marketers is an admission that they have no sensitivity in building relationships with customers.

*The Associated Press' rule is that "email" requires no hyphen.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A digital tattoo that can't be removed

We all have photos and moments from our past we'd rather forget. They show up online when we least expect them, like an un-scrubbable digital tattoo. On Facebook. On Instagram. On Twitter.

Mine aren't as bad as others. I once played John Hancock in a community theatre production of 1776. And despite my best efforts, a photo of me in that powdered wig surfaces every now and then. (It could be worse; it's not a photo of me with my own hair.)

It's a digital shadow I can't elude. But it likely won't affect my professional reputation. Unless it appears on LinkedIn.

Jian Ghomeshi photo by Canadian Film Centre from
Toronto, Canada (ideaBOOST Launch Pad
May 8, 2014) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm better able to move forward from that awkward powdered-wig image than Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC radio host whose career imploded when, in 2014, multiple women accused him of harsh sexual behavior. CBC dismissed Ghomeshi from his talk program "Q" (heard on public radio stations across the U.S. and Canada). Newspapers and websites published sensational, lurid accounts of Ghomeshi's rough sex tendencies, even before the trial where the accusers would testify.

A few weeks ago, with less fanfare than Ghomeshi received when the story first broke, a judge dismissed the charges against the former broadcaster. Details of the trial decision appeared in this article.

My view: Ghomeshi's likely guilty of some abusive behavior. And, as a public figure, he should have known better. Most celebrities learn that a national microphone or stage comes with an extra dose of public scrutiny. The trial judge determined that several witnesses were deceptive in disclosing details of their relationships with Ghomeshi, and he dodged even more trouble.

But don't listen for his voice to return to your public radio station. Unlike an embarrassing photo, his digital tattoo -- heavily inked with inferences of predatory sexual behavior -- can't be scrubbed or bleached away.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ethics on an Etch-a-Sketch

There's a short list of technology companies whose products I will never buy.

This isn't a "Buy American" rant, but it has plenty to do with how tech companies manage -- or mismanage -- their reputations.

I don't buy Hewlett Packard products. Partly for the shoddy treatment bestowed on former EDS workers (with whom I'm personally acquainted) acquired when H/P bought the company. Partly because H/P's board of trustees engaged in spying on employees and each other. Partly because an H/P CEO was dismissed in 2011 for "fudging expense reports" -- corporate-codetalk for using company funds on an inappropriate relationship.

By Etcha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
or GFDL via Wikimedia Commons
None of these events means H/P makes poor technology products. To me, however, it's indicative of a company that applies its profits irresponsibly. And I don't want dime one spent in support of a company whose ethics are written on an Etch-a-Sketch.

Similarly, electronics maker Toshiba never appears on my list of preferred brands. This week, the company's eroding fortunes have forced it to sell its medical imaging business to rival Canon -- a direct fallout of its 2015 scandal, when Toshiba's leadership was accused of manipulating its books, and its CEO resigned.

Toshiba is a serial offender. As far back as the 1980s, the company engaged in duplicitous behavior, illegally selling U.S. technology to the Soviet Union.

You can often buy Toshiba's laptops and gadgets at discounts from U.S. retailers, but I'm prepared to spend a few dollars more for comparable products that don't come with a veil of scandal. And I have abundant choices.

From a public relations perspective: this has everything to do with reputation management. An unblemished reputation won't compel me to buy your product all buy itself. But it will earn you a spot on my short list of manufacturers. Which neither H/P or Toshiba now hold.

Each could behave more ethically, and tell us about their steps to mend their ways. And each has yet to convince us they're able to change their behaviors.

I'm willing to buy from companies that behave ethically, and live up to a set of values that aren't written on an Etch-a-Sketch.

(Note: this post does not reflect upon any current candidate for national office. Although checking the ethical track records of these candidates might be in the best interest of every reader.)