Sunday, May 31, 2009

Great Book: "Be The Media"

Be The Media by David Mathison is a great book that helps independent bloggers, authors, and entrepreneurs create and distribute content without selling their royalties, rights or souls in the process. It's deemed as the "ultimate independent media handbook".

Recently released, the book is full of 536 well-written pages of research, tips, and guidelines on how to maximize publicity and revenue while minimizing your budget. Interestingly enough, the book is NOT available at or other online retailers because that would defeat their message of selling independently and keeping more of the profits.

I haven't read the whole book yet, but it's definitely a good read. So far, I would easily say that this is the best book I've seen on this topic. Not only is it well-endorsed by other industry vets, you can easily tell that the author spent years compiling research. Despite this, the tips are very relevant and up-to-date with modern technology and practices.

Mathison is well-respected for his insight and is an internationally recognized media expert with more than 20 years experience. I visited his booth at the recent Book Expo America conference in NYC, and I was thoroughly impressed about his company's techniques and philosophies.

I highly recommend that you buy and read this book.

To purchase the book, visit

Monday, May 25, 2009

"If You Lose Your Job, We'll Make Your Payments For You."

This is what auto companies are telling people nowadays in order to get them to buy new cars. Hyundai started it, and now Ford and GM have announced their own variations.

While Hyundai's walkaway program offers to absorb car payments for three months and will accept a returned car without any additional payment, Ford is offering to pay $700 a month up to one year and GM is offering to cover up to nine payments of $500 each.

This sounds like an interesting marketing strategy, and it may work somewhat to increase new car sales. However, it doesn't address one thing: It's still a better deal to buy a used car vs. a new car. That's the route that many people are taking, and therefore used car dealers are faring much better in this bad economy.

The U.S. government and automakers have to find a stronger incentive to get people to buy new vehicles. Perhaps, a drastic decrease in pricing, a "buy one get one" free special, a huge tax break, or even free mechanical services for a year.

Consumers are much smarter these days and much more economical than ever before. Put simple: Buying a new car at nearly double the cost but with free "job insurance", is not a better deal than paying half the price for a used car with no "job insurance".

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Colleges Aim To Stay Profitable

In case you didn't know, colleges and universities operate like companies. They have to make money, and they have to be profitable. Thus, in a bad economy, they suffer. Obviously, if people are losing jobs and getting their salaries cut - they can't afford to pay for their kids to go to college.

However, many institutions have a unique plan. The Washington Post reports that "some U.S. schools are looking anew at an old idea: slicing a year off their undergraduate programs to save families time and money." That's right; They are introducing the three-year undergraduate degree.

This is actually a pretty big deal because "the four-year bachelor's degree has been the model in the United States since the first universities began operating before the American Revolution." But during a bad economy, sometimes you have to break tradition if you want to stay afloat.

I think its a great idea. Even though they will make less money off each student, they will be enrolling more students who can now afford to attend.

In my opinion that's what entrepreneurship is all about: Breaking tradition, bending the rules, thinking outside the box, and doing what's ethically necessary to stay in business.

Friday, May 22, 2009

10 Million Cars Sold Is Not Enough

When I heard that automakers were expected to sell 10 million new cars and trucks in the U.S. this year, I thought that was a good thing. I said to myself: "The recession is finally coming to an end."

But as I continued to read the USA Today article, I learned that that figure makes 2009 one of the worst years the auto industry has seen in the past three decades.

Apparently, before the auto collapse last year, car companies routinely sold more than 16 million new cars and trucks annually in the U.S.

While 10 million may sound like a lot, it's simply not enough to make these car companies profitable. Chrysler's already in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, and General Motors will likely do the same on June 1st. Even normally healthy automakers such as Toyota and Nissan are losing money.

Many people don't understand this part of business. They think that when money is being exchanged, it means that companies are profiting. That's not necessarily true.

All companies have debts and expenses that have to be paid for first before a profit can be declared. It's very common to have most of your revenue allocated to paying bills and taxes, and not having much left over after that.

To prevent this, entrepreneurs should always be thinking of ways to lower their overhead. In fact, this should be heavily considered before you even pursue a business idea.

Overhead kills a lot of companies before they even launch. Others die off in a bad economy. I'm willing to bet that the companies that are still afloat right now are the ones that have figured out how to minimize their expenses.

Step Up Your "Sales" Game

Apparently, more people are getting into sales or at least are investing more into tools that can help them generate more sales.

According to, sales management software maker's profits have nearly doubled this past quarter. The company claims to have added 3,900 new customers in the past quarter, bringing its total to over 59,000. Their revenue rose to $304.9 million from $247.6 million a year ago.

What does this mean for you?

Well, every entrepreneur is a salesperson and apparently many will step up their sales efforts during a bad economy. This makes sales more competitive for you, and so you have to be more competitive yourself.

If you make cold calls, learn to be effective within your first 10 seconds. Understand that likely you are not the only salesperson to have called, and that vendors today are working with limited budgets. Don't be demanding. Instead, quickly convince them that you have what they need.

If you like to email your potential clients, learn to be short and simple with your message. Don't spam, and don't subscribe people to your newsletter without their permission. If they don't respond immediately, be patient. Sometimes people can fall behind on email. Don't be too quick to send another inquiry; That can be a turnoff.

My best sales advice is to target your audience. Only contact people who want or need what you're selling. Also, learn to ask for and identify the right person that you need to talk to. A lot of times, it may appear that you're talking to the right person - but you're not. Before you even start your sales pitch, get in the habit of saying: "Are you the person in charge of _____?" or even "Can you direct me to the person who's in charge of ______?"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Future: More Multicultural Families, More Low-Income Consumers, and Less Children

According to and Nielsen Media Research, here's what we can look forward to regarding American consumers:

1) More Multicultural Families.

While households with children will continue to decline, ethnic (non-white) families are expected to grow at a faster rate than the total population. According to Nielsen, more than half of families with children are expected to be multi-cultural by 2025. By 2050, that number is anticipated to be greater than 60 percent.

2) More Low-Income Consumers

According to Nielsen, household incomes are expected to stagnate or fall slightly over the next ten years. Based on these projections, household spending will grow at a very slow pace-especially when compared to the previous ten years. Nielsen data show the lowest income population segments growing the fastest (as much as 17.8 percent in some scenarios), with affluent and wealthy segments declining (9.2 percent and 5.5 percent respectively).

3) Less Families With Children

Nielsen projections indicate a continued decline of households with children and fewer children per household. By 2036, households with children will outnumber those 65 and older without children by just 5 million, compared to a 17 million difference in 2007.

For the full article, visit:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Be Careful About Online Travel Agencies

Online travel agencies like Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity can be twofold - helpful and troublesome. Yes, they allow you to see multiple rates at once and may even offer you a discounted price - but be careful because they can also screw up your travel arrangements.

Just recently I bought a one-way ticket for United Airlines from Washington Dulles to Columbus Ohio. The ticket was only $100 bucks on, but was $380 on Naturally, I bought the cheaper ticket.

Here's where the problem came: The day I was supposed to leave, I received a text message from Orbitz saying that my flight had been delayed by 2 hours. When I arrived to the airport later that day, it turned out that my flight had never been delayed. Not only did I miss the last flight of the day, I had to pay to stay in a hotel another night - and they couldn't even get me on the first flight the following day. Eventually, I got home on the 2nd flight out.

Of course, I called Orbitz to tell them about what happened. They denied sending me a text message, but did agree to give me a $50 credit. They said they would do more if I faxed them the original text message that I received.

Once I finally figured out how to do that (yes, there is a way to fax a text message - at least from the iPhone), I called them to plead my case for at least a $200 credit. Of course, they denied it.

Their excuse was that United Airlines originally delayed the flight, but change it back to an on-time status. I'm thinking: "Why didn't you idiots send me another text message?"

Moral of the story: Use online travel agencies to find the best deals, but don't buy from them. Buy directly from the airline. However, if you do insist on buying from the agency and you get a text message from them about your flight status, call the actual airline to double-check.

Radio One Looking To Hire An Online Editor

Radio One, Inc., one of the nation's largest radio broadcasting companies and the largest radio broadcasting company that primarily targets African-American and urban listeners, is looking to hire an online editor for

It looks like a pretty good gig for freelancers and entrepreneurs who specialize in writing and content management.

Here is the job description:

The Online Editor is responsible for all aspects of programming (i.e. developing and managing content) for Radio One’s radio station websites in the Washington, DC market, WKYS, WMMJ, WPRS, WOL and WYCB. The position is responsible for increasing the sites’ online traffic and engagement through the maintained programming of celebrity news, entertainment and local events, and by linking the stations’ on-air and off-line marketing and promotional activities.

Job Responsibilities:

* Writing, editing, and assigning posts about news, celebrity, entertainment, and gossip on both a national and local level

* Constant aggregation of material from around the web and the stations’ other network partners including, but not limited to, other Radio One station sites,, TV One, and the content verticals of the BlackPlanet Universe.

* Reporting on, and engaging with, local Washington, DC and surrounding area events and activity

* Working with radio personalities to assist in the creation and maintenance of daily blogs

*Working with the stations’ Program Director, Operations Manager, and/or Marketing/Promotions leads to maintain the vision, voice and brand direction of the stations online

* Working with the National Director Of Online Content for Radio to leverage national programming opportunities, tools and services

For more details and/or to apply, visit:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Fly Without Wi-Fi?

More and more airlines are offering passengers the ability to connect to the Internet while in-flight. Its a concept that's long overdue, but it has finally arrived.

Southwest and Delta were the first to do so - but Wi-Fi is only installed on some of their planes. Just recently, however, AirTran announced that by the end of July, all of their planes will be Wi-Fi enabled. Virgin America too announced that by May 25th, all of their planes will enabled.

The price to connect via a handheld device or laptop will be $7.95 to $12.95 a flight, depending on the device and the length of the flight.

Jack Blumenstein, CEO of Aircell - the Chicago-based provider of the wireless service of more than 1,000 jets, says that "a typical narrow-body jet can be equipped with the 125 pounds of necessary equipment and fiber-optic cable during an overnight stay at an airport for about $100,000."

$100,000 per plane is a hefty investment, but remember that millions of people fly every day. Imagine an airline getting 50,000 people a day to buy into a $12 internet fee. That's $600,000 a day.

The only catch is that Virgin America is the online domestic airline that provides an electrical outlet to plug your laptop into while in-flight. For other airlines, you just gotta make sure your battery will last long enough.

Those 5 hour coast-to-coast flights will be tough.

New Study Says 'Babyface' Look Can Help Black CEOs

The Associated Press reports:

Black Fortune 500 CEOs with a "babyface" appearance are more likely to lead companies with higher revenues and prestige than black CEOs who look more mature, an upcoming study says.

In contrast with research showing that white executives are hindered by babyface characteristics, a disarming appearance can help black CEOs by counteracting the stigma that black men are threatening, according to the study from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Psychological Science in September.

A babyface is characterized by combinations of attributes, including a round face, full cheeks, larger forehead, small nose, large ears and full lips, the study says.

Decades of research has shown that people believe babyfaced adults to be more trustworthy, and respond to them with greater patience, sensitivity and compassion, according to Robert Livingston, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of organizations and management at Kellogg.

In the study, a group of 21 college students was shown photographs of 40 current and past CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Eleven of the students were white, 10 were Asian and 10 were female.

Of the 40 CEOs, 10 were black (only 10 blacks have ever led Fortune 500 companies). For every black CEO, a current or former white CEO from the same company was included. Another 10 CEOs were white women, and 10 white male CEOs were chosen at random.

Participants rated each photo on scale of 1-4 for "babyfaceness," leadership competence and personal warmth.

To account for differences in perceptions about blacks or whites in general, participants gave separate ratings on warmth and competence for "blacks," "whites" and "women," which were factored into the results.

The results showed that Black CEOs who rated high on the babyface scale worked for companies that ranked higher in the Fortune 500 and had higher annual revenues than blacks with more mature faces. The reverse was true for whites - the more babyfaced CEOs tended to work for companies that ranked lower and had less annual revenue.

Black CEOs also were described as significantly more babyfaced than white CEOs. The female CEOs were rated as having more mature faces than both blacks and whites.

The study was duplicated with 106 student participants, with similar results.

Livingston said the study indicates that "disarming" characteristics, which have been shown to hinder white executives, can help black leaders.

For the full article, visit:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ford, State Farm, and McDonald's To Sponsor CNN's "Black In America 2"

Although we're in an economic crisis, more and more companies are realizing that African Americans still maintain a strong buying power. Apparently, CNN is having no trouble getting sponsors for their upcoming "Black In America 2" special.

Marisa Guthrie of Broadcasting & Cable Magazine reports:

Ford has signed on as a major sponsor of CNN's Black in America 2. The African-American-focused news special attracted a diverse and relatively large audience when the first installment premiered last summer.

CNN has leveraged the program's viewer base to bring Ford on board, as well as insurer State Farm, which has not advertised on the network for several years. McDonald's is also a returning sponsor.

Black in America 2 -- a four-hour, two-night examination of African-American innovators and leaders -- is scheduled for July 22-23. Sponsor deals are integrated across television and the Web, with billboards and tagged tune-ins during all Black in America 2-related content as well as pre-rolls, co-branded banners and display ads on Branded promos will begin airing in June.

Ford has extended its Black in America 2 buy to Essence magazine, a Time Inc. title and a co-producer of the special "CNN & Essence: Reclaiming the Dream". The program will be filmed in July at New Orleans' Essence Music Festival and premiere on CNN Aug. 1.

CNN's recent primetime ratings challenges -- the network finished fourth in prime in the demo for April -- has not had a significant impact on ad sales, according to Greg D'Alba, executive VP and COO of CNN ad sales and marketing. He says these deals are the realization of the value mandate in a recession-battered economy.

For the full article, visit:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oprah, KFC, and Free Grilled Chicken

If you haven't heard by now, KFC now sells grilled chicken and Oprah Winfrey is allowing people to download free coupons via and The coupons are for a free 2-piece meal with 2 sides and a biscuit.

Of course, the promotion has been a huge success. People are twittering about it, they're talking about it, and they're emailing the coupon to everyone they know. And the media is just buzzing on what may be KFC's great PR strategy ever.

I have to admit that it's a really good publicity stunt, and even more - the grilled chicken actually tastes very, very good. KFC will surely benefit greatly from the promotion, and the newly added item to their menu.

Unfortunately, every publicity stunt comes with a little risk - and sometimes it will backfire.

Animal rights leaders are criticizing Oprah about her choice to promote KFC due to her stance on animal cruelty. PETA, who awarded Oprah the "Person of the Year" award, is particularly upset. We all know that KFC has a bad record for mistreating animals.

Something else that went wrong, was that many KFC restaurants ran out of chicken. Apparently, the promotional campaign was a little too popular and many people were turned down because they were simply sold out.

I think, however, that those two overlooked mishaps won't do much damage to KFC. I think overall they hit the jackpot, and will see a steady increase in sales. The grilled chicken concept was a great idea, and the benefits of that PR stunt will carry on for a long time.

Of course, Popeyes will be selling grilled chicken too by the end of the week.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

CNN's Soledad O'Brien To Host Upcoming AdColor Awards

The ADCOLOR® Awards - the marketing, advertising and media industries' premier celebration of diverse talent - will return for its third year on Sunday, October 4 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix.

Hosted by award-winning CNN reporter Soledad O'Brien, the event will honor dozens of communications professionals and their unique accomplishments. This year's awards will be presented by Arnold Worldwide, CNN, Google, Microsoft Advertising, and Omnicom Group.

This awards show - which kicks off the Association of National Advertisers' Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference - so far has honored 35 individuals and 2 companies in six specific categories: Rising Star, Change Agent, Innovator, Legend, All-Star and MVP (Most Valuable Partnership). The event has drawn close to 1,000 attendees and has enjoyed broad financial support from the marketing, advertising and media communities.

Past "All-Star Honorees" include Russell Simmons of RUSH World Synergies and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr. of Magic Johnson Enterprises.

For nomination or ticket information on the 2009 ADCOLOR Awards, visit or contact Michelle Newson at Deadline for nominations is July, 17, 2009.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

If I Owned A Restaurant...

Restaurants are closing down all over the country. Many have been in business for years, but are not able to weather the current economic storm. I hate to say it, but many are simply not using some basic strategies that would make a huge difference.

I have no intentions of ever owning a restaurant. I have absolutely no interest in the restaurant industry. However, if I owned one - here are some things that I would do to keep my business afloat:

1) I would allow people to eat for free on their birthdays because in most cases they will be accompanied by family and friends who, of course, will have to pay to eat.

2) I would make sure to get the email addresses, cell phone numbers, and mailing addresses of everyone who walks in my restaurant. With their permission, once a week I would email and/or text them coupons and specials. Also, once a month I would mail them some type of promotional postcard.

3) I would have my waiters strongly encourage people to order dessert while ordering their appetizers and entrées. Many dessert orders are lost because people are simply too full after they're finished eating their food.

4) If my restaurant was regularly crowded, I would offer people 5% off their bill if they finished eating their food within 20 minutes. This would enable me to serve more people, instead of turning people away or having them wait for an hour or more to be seated.

5) I would always have some type of entertainment (music, comedy, etc). Research shows that people love to be entertained while eating, and are more likely to come back. This tradition was very popular back in the 1930's, but has somehow been broken. There is always a good band or piano player out there that will play for cheap.

6) I would give "free kids meal" or "free kids dessert" coupons to the local elementary schools to distribute to excelling students. Kids will harass their parents about taking them to get their free food, and the parents will likely buy something for themselves while there.

7) I would have a simple rewards program. For every five times you eat at my restaurant, you get a free meal worth the value of what you spend on average. For instance, if you spent an average of $15 every time you come - your sixth visit would include a free meal up to $15. This would encourage people to be regular customers.

8) Finally, I would have a carryout service and give all my customers a refrigerator magnet that displays my restaurant's phone number and web site. This will help them remember that I exist, and that they can order carryout on the phone or online.

These are just a few things I would do, that I notice that 90% of all restaurants don't do. Whether you own a restaurant or not, don't ever allow your business to fail because you didn't implement some simple, easy, cost-effective ideas.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Power of PR: Swine Flu Vs. AIDS

The media is very, very powerful. It happens nearly every year. They report on some new development, blow it completely out of proportion, and hundreds of millions of people feed into it.

Just recently, the media has been highly publicizing the newly discovered Swine Flu which supposedly evolved out of Mexico. People are talking about it, twittering about it, canceling their vacations, and even giving their Mexican friends a funny look.

Few, however, are taking note of the fact that a lot of it is just media hype. Consider this: As of May 1st 2009, only 10 people worldwide have died from the Swine Flu, compared to the 30.1 million that will die this year from HIV/AIDS.

Technically, the uproar should be about AIDS. But that's the power of the media; they have the ability to shape peoples' opinions and determine what people should be thinking about.

Entrepreneurs should recognize this, and use this to their advantage. You've now seen first-hand how public relations can draw a huge amount of attention to something. Swine Flu isn't the first. Remember the West Nile Virus, Mad Cow Disease, Anthrax, etc. All of these are issues that many people are aware of because of the media.

Find a way to get the media to focus on your company. Find a way to get people talking about you, and exaggerating how good of business person you are. Make people buzz; make them think that you're the next big thing.

Distribute press releases monthly, and occasionally write and distribute a column pertaining to your industry. Consider a publicity stunt of some sort. Write a book with a controversial title. Publicly challenge a major company or organization.

The point is to give the media something to talk about. The news industry thrives off newsworthy items. So get creative, and look for opportunities to jump on. Be bold and edgy, and most importantly - think big.

Think about it: If your business got just 1% of the media attention that's now focused on Swine Flu, that would be so huge.