Thursday, February 21, 2008

You'd Think Worcester Would Make It More Affordable to Drink...

But, alas, no. In yet another sign that Worcester's elected representatives are utterly misguided and out of touch with those whom they purport to serve, we have this nugget from a recent edition of the Worcester Business Journal:

The Business of Booze: Worcester's Liquor License Fee Increases 38 Percent

Written by the clever and indefatigable Matt Brown (who manages to come up with pretty interesting stories in this desultory town), the article discusses how Worcester's license commission almost a year bumped up the annual liquor license cost from $2,000 to $2,750.

The increase is squeezing the purveyors of a substance that makes tolerable the fact that one is consigned to live in Worcester--that is, drink enough and you'll forget you're here.

The justification for the increase is laughable if you aren't familiar with the irrepressible attitude of Kevin O'Sullivan, chairman of the commission. I've met Kevin several times and he by God is a believer in Worcester. He's highly energetic, incredibly well connected, and believes strongly in Worcester's prominence as New England's second largest city.

His reasoning is that as New England's second largest city, Worcester should have liquor license fees similar to comparable cities like Boston, Hartford, and Providence. (Aside: I've been to Providence and I work near Hartford. The former is sufficiently attractive so as not to induce residents to want to drink themselves into a stupor to forget where they are; the latter closes down at 5:30 so there's no opportunity to do so.)

Quoted in the article, O'Sullivan says, "... I think Worcester has proven to be business-friendly." Let's review:
  • Mass pike pass through Worcester? REJECTED
  • Municipal government structure design? UNWIELDY
  • Municipal services? REDUCED
  • Opportunities for newcomers? MINIMAL

If the failure of well-intentioned initiatives to attract, bring and retain businesses Worcester (see "Destination Worcester", "Choose Worcester", etc.) is any indication, Worcester has proven repeatedly that it is NOT business friendly.

With respect to Mr. O'Sullivan, applying perfume to excrement makes the latter temporarily smell nicer. You look at it, it's still shit. Civic pride and blowsy rhetoric aside, the fact is Worcester has a long way to go before it can be considered either within or without the Commonwealth as "business-friendly."

Until Worcester has the kind of services that define world-class cities (like Providence and Boston), it's unfair to charge world class city license fees to hard-working restaurant owners. The increase represents precisely the kind of backward thinking that has relegated Worcester to joke status.

Now where's my drink?

Friday, February 8, 2008

From the Halls of Montezuma (NOT) to the Shores of Berkeley...

There are times, my friends, when the political pendulum swings so far in one direction as to render moderate citizens (like me) shaking their heads at the sheer lunacy of one side. In this case, I vent my ire at the Liberal left, as not surprisingly represented by the fine citizens of Berkeley, California.

Even as the father of a Marine is about to secure the Republican Presidential nomination, even as our Marines battle in Baghdad, assault in Afghanistan, and project our country's might and right throughout the world, these brave warriors are spurned in Berkeley.

Last week the Berkeley City Council approved a measure urging the Marine recruiters to leave their downtown office. "If recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders," the measure declares.

It goes on to say the council applauds residents and organizations who "volunteer to impede, passively or actively, by nonviolent means, the work of any military recruiting office located in the City of Berkeley."

Berkeley's declaration, which was introduced by the city's Peace and Justice Commission, accuses the United States of having a history of "launching illegal, immoral and unprovoked wars of aggression and the Bush administration launched the most recent of those wars in Iraq and is threatening the possibility of war in Iran."

Reached for comment, Marine spokeswoman Gunnery Sgt. Pauline Franklin blithely said "there is no plan for that office to move." Marines very rarely cede territory once they've gained it; and they certainly don't leave any of their comrades behind.

"The Marine Corps is here to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, which does guarantee the freedom of speech," Franklin said. "In terms of the situation in Berkeley, the City Council and the protesters are exercising their right to do so."

Which the Marines--and the Army, Navy, and Air Force--are defending. Berkeley citizens: Where's your gratitude?

Fortunately, the Federal government has noticed Berkeley's stance. Several moderate Republicans introduced the Semper Fi Act of 2008. The Act would rescind more than $2 million of funds for Berkeley and transfer it to the Marine Corps.

Whether your representative is a Republican or a Democrat, this is one Act you should encourage him or her to support.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hired Pens: In the Web 2.0 World, The Pen Truly is Mightier!

One of my New Year's resolutions was to spend less time blogging and more time in personal and professional development. In the past six weeks I've done a lot of both and in the process picked up a lot of interesting tips. One such tip is indicated in the discussion stream below, which I've conducted with my friend Pete Caputa who writes a blog called PC4Media.

After he ran in his blog a piece I wrote (, we began a fascinating discussion on blogging and communications in our Web 2.0 world.

Pete writes: One particular challenge that I foresee happening is... I'm signing on all of these companies to start blogging. The reasons they're starting to blog include:
1) to improve their rankings in the search engines since more content = more chances to be found; and
2) engage their customers and their prospects in a conversation... which gets more prospects to convert into "signups" or "leads" sooner and gets your clients to "sell you for you".

However, I think I'm going to need to come up with a "package" for the business owners that need help writing or totally need to outsource it. I'm going to need someone like you that can understand their business, write and engage. I will have 200+ customers by end of 2008. This could be a full time freelance opportunity. I could see it morphing into more of a project manager that manages writers and maybe even other hands on services. Any interest?

My response below is, I believe, a relevant and timely commentary on what business owners need to consider when blogging. It also fleshes out an idea I've been considering for a while: "Writers for Hire" (or, "The Hired Pens")... Like hired guns, and just as effective and powerful.

My thoughts on your proposal follow: There are A LOT of blogs out there, and many (in fact, most) are poorly written, rambling, off subject and add little (if any) value that relates back to the product, service, or business someone is trying to promote.

After all, it's challenging to compose relevant, compelling content on a regular basis--after a few dismal attempts most business owners move on to something else. It's not that they don't have the desire; they don't have the time or the discipline to devote to a labor-intensive product like a blog.

The key is to help your clients understand how a blog (or a podcast, RSS feed, widget, etc.) should and must be integrated within a broader marketing and communications plan. For example, if they have a product in R&D or coming to market, they'll want to use the blog to build interest in and excitement about the product or service. They'll want to create a dialogue with consumers in which consumers can share their thoughts about the product or service.

When it comes to blogging in our Web 2.0 world, it's all about the 5 C's: Collaboration, Content, Converged services, Community, and Conversation. Your job is not only to help business owners understand the important of blogging, but also to invest the necessary resources (time and money) to creating a well-written, interactive online dialogue through their blog.

This is where talented communicators like me enter the equation: You need to have a posse of writers who know how to interview and, more importantly, write for the web. You need your posse of writers to establish relationships with the business owners so the latter truly trust that the former will convey their thoughts clearly, effectively and accurately.

Each has to have a level of trust and comfort with the other--a mutually beneficial relationship that is built over time--which you would facilitate and monitor at first, and then gradually let go of. At first you (or someone you know and trust) will have to carefully and frequently monitor the blog posts and client satisfaction.

As for morphing into other services, I see that as the next step in the process of building relationships with your clients. First it's the blog, and once your clients start realizing value (CTR, interactivity, dialogue--however you measure it, you're going to have to demonstrate value before you propose a next step) from the blog (and the great writing they're getting) you can propose other services like enewsletters, print/online brochures, feature articles, PR, etc.

There is certainly a need for good writing on the web and a definite lack of good writers. I'd be happy to discuss this with you further, I believe you could benefit from someone with my experience and expertise, and I am intrigued by your idea.