Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April Fool's Day... Who's Fooling Whom?

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day but I must confess that although I am normally a "merry prankster," this year I am not in a foolish mood. My mood is somber bordering on serious.

I'm therefore boycotting April Fool's Day, which for me is a sacrifice since it's one of those rare days on which my particular kind of mischevious humor is encouraged and even accepted.

Why my April Fool's merrymaking moratorium?

While some may argue that a little levity lightens the long faces (hence I'm being a killjoy), I agree with other, more circumspect individuals who argue that there's a time for mirth and a time for sobriety.

Recent natural disasters, ongoing economic hardships, and various other causes for sobriety place me firmly in the category of advocating for seriousness. That doesn't mean I'll mope all day; it means only that I'll be more serious than usual, hoping to influence others that this year, at least for me, there's no foolin' on April Fool's.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Like Father, Like Daughter: Preparation is the Key to Successful Media Outreach

I've experienced many media appearances in my professional career: Whether it's Wolf Blitzer's CNN Presents, a interview with a radio personality like Laura Ingraham, or even creating a Public Service Announcement, intense preparation is the key to success.

Being prepared with a few solid and compelling talking points is the key to a successful media appearance--for the interviewer, the interviewee and of course the audience. This is especially critical in non-profit ads.

That's why--even overlooking the fact that my daughter has the opening line in the ad--I am very impressed with this fundraising ad from the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.

Listen to the ad (intended for Cable TV and radio) and you'll hear and see an excellent example of strong, compelling and emotional advertising. Precisely the kind of ads that in these tumultuous times resonate with potential donors.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Define Dull, Please...

Reported in today's Worcester Business Journal: The Worcester area's job market is expected to be "dull" in the second quarter, according to Wisconsin-based employment services firm Manpower Inc.

I have to ask: Does the word "dull" describe the dynamics of the job market or the quality of the employees?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Hired Pen Profiled in Worcesterscene.com!

Luke Vaillancourt, whose efforts on behalf of Worcesterscene.com I mentioned in a previous blog entry, was kind enough to profile The Hired Pen on his website. Here's what he posted.

Businesses Helping Businesses

Posted on March 4th, 2009

WorcesterScene.com has been able to find a lot of businesses in the city that may not ordinarily be found—one reason for this is that we active seek them. Often, it is difficult to be heard in a sea of noise, which is why having someone who knows what they are doing can really benefit your business or your organization.

Bruce Mendelsohn has been in the business for more than 15 years and started The Hired Pen (http://www.the-hired-pen.com) as a affordable and quick asset to bolster your marketing, communications and public relations efforts. In this tough economy, Bruce’s expertise is a must for local businesses and organizations operating on tight budgets.

With media contacts and expertise that put him in the national spotlight with sources such as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Presents and The New York Times, Bruce is Worcester-centric and potentially a great asset to ensuring your vital messages get heard and your marketing materials are compelling.

Who knew the pen could speak so loudly?

Monday, March 2, 2009

After Worcester Bashing... Comes Worcester Promoting!

As I have been kindly reminded by several people who've responded to my most recent blog post, it's not fair to bash Worcester without mentioning some of the exciting things going on in town.

With that goal in mind, the event that merits immediate promotion is Worcesterscene.com's "Fling into Spring" promotion.

According to Luke M. Vaillancourt, Principal of WorcesterScene.com, "Fling Into Spring" is a a contest in which one lucky randomly chosen winner (to be notified on April 1) gets a night out (April 30th) for two in Worcester.

This is no ordinary night out, Worcesterites. Right now it includes:

- Transportation for two for the evening
- Dinner for two at Grille 57
- Desserts for two at Allgos
- A hair cut/style at Rinse Hair Lounge
- A $100 gift card to Tush
- Two tickets to an event/show in the city
- A room for the night at the Crowne Plaza

Luke assures me that he's lining up more sponsors and the evening out will certainly include even more goodies. Luke asked me to help him promote "Fling into Spring" and I happily agreed.

After all, bashing Worcester really gets tiresome.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Choose Worcester... Destination Worcester... "Discovering the Worcester Way"... And More Delusions of Grandeur

We now return to one of my most visited blog topics: Worcester bashing.

People not from heah really heap scorn on my adopted hometown (though for purposes of full disclosure I live in Auburn, NOT Worcester). The derisive remarks range from "the city is ugly" to "why did the city reject a Mass. Pike exit?" to "the city had its heyday more than 100 years ago." Yes, I've heard them all and often repeated them.

Sadly, to a great extent the derisiveness is earned and deserved. There are numerous examples of why bashing Worcester is so easy; today let's focus on three: Choose Worcester, Destination Worcester, and "Discover the Worcester Way."

1) Choose Worcester: A privately funded, public-private partnership formed to assist businesses to locate, grow and prosper in the city, Choose Worcester Inc. was amidst great fanfare established in late 2007 to market Worcester on a local, regional and international level.

With a budget of $1.2 million the staff of three embarked hopefully and optimistically on yet another economic development initiative in Worcester, whose recent history is marked by a series of marketing drives that went nowhere.

The verdict thus far? Let's hear from the venerable Worcester Telegram & Gazette. In a article on November 14, 2008 titled "Running in Place", the T&G reported: "Now in its second year of operation, Choose Worcester has shifted its focus, devoting its entire effort to courting new businesses... with developments such as improved commuter rail service between Worcester and Boston, Worcester is better placed than ever to persuade new companies to fill the vacant space."

Less than two years old and already a change in focus.

The reality is that CWI has placed its bet on the city's much-hyped (and unbuilt) CitySquare project, a $563 million initiative to revamp downtown Worcester. CitySquare is stalled four years after its conception, as project developer Berkeley Investments struggles to secure tenants. A daunting prospect in today's economy.

In fact, as we sink deeper into this recession, CWI's last news bulletin on November 19, 2008 was that the organization’s website has seen an average of over 7000 hits per month since September 1st. That's "a dramatic increase over the 2000 hits per month during the website’s first nine months in existence." That's it? That's all the news they have to report in three months?!

The silence from CWI rings loudly. Businesses aren't choosing Worcester.

CWI's grade thus far: D. (They're still operating and they have a website).

2) Destination Worcester: Started in June 2007, Destination Worcester is according to its website "a strategic investment in the hospitality industry, a focused endeavor to showcase and sell the destination to meeting & convention planners, and event & sports organizers. Acting as a single point of contact for the destination, Destination Worcester provides enhanced communications and a streamlined process for booking events in Worcester."

Worcester's FY09 budget (which allocates $500,000 to Destination Worcester) describes the organization as "first and foremost a sales organization whose goal is to increase definite room nights in the city by 22,500 by executing a targeted and proactive sales strategy."

What's the strategy? From the research I've conducted on DW, it's hire a Executive Director and two managers, produce a video using old footage (see the Daily Worcesteria blog for a great summary of this ill-conceived video), and get zero news coverage. As to the goal of increasing definite room nights in the city by 22,500? No results to be found.

DW's grade thus far: D+ (They're still operating, they have a robust website and a Facebook group.)

Before we get to the last of our three examples of why Worcester bashing is so damn easy, it shouldn't strike anyone as a coincidence that many of the same people serve on the Board of Directors of both CWI and DW.

Same old people = same old ideas = same old results.

3) "Discovering the Worcester Way": The Massachusetts Cultural Council's Adams Arts Program recently approved three Central Massachusetts organizations for funding in 2009, the largest of which was a $40,000 grant for the Worcester Cultural Coalition for a project called "Discovering the Worcester Way," a marketing campaign focused on the city's cultural opportunities.

It's true, there's a lot going in on Worcester culturally. The Worcester Cultural Coalition does a good job of promoting cultural opportunities on its website, and Executive Director Erin Williams is highly visible at Worcester events, be they cultural, political and/or business.

But as CWI and DW continue to fail to draw bodies to Worcester, the Worcester Cultural Coalition's strong promotional efforts will not be as successful as they deserve to be.

WCC's grade thus far: B- (Erin is a tireless advocate for a city whose aging veneer hides top-tier cultural offerings; the WCC's website is excellent; and they received a grant in a year when grants are scarce).

In summary, I've seen absolutely no indication of CWI, DW and the WCC working together, orchestrated by the Worcester Chamber of Commerce (which under Dick Kennedy should coordinate any and all outreach efforts).

The delusion of grandeur is that each organization will, on its own, hit upon some magical formula that will all of sudden convince hordes of people to choose Worcester or make Worcester a destination--rather than a city they simply miss (or drive by) as they derisively say, "what a pit."