Debunking 5 Corporate Myths

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Republished from Associated Content

It’s easy to get snookered by prevailing myths: that sports stars are heroic human beings as well as athletes; that Thanksgiving will be a wonderful time to connect with family; that someday we’ll get to cash a social security check.

Corporate life overflows with its own fairy tales. I’m a consultant, so I’ve sojourned in myriad firms, industries and institutional cultures. Here are some common myths debunked.

Myth #1: Business is about making money

Truth: Business is about the agenda of the guy (or gal) at the top. The CEO might be obsessed with his image, or power, or crushing a competitor, or with fear of losing his job. The byproduct of this activity might enhance corporate profits. Or not.

I have seen a CEO protect a bungling friend who drove a division to quarter after quarter of losses. This CEO protected his pal to the detriment of the company and his own reputation. In his book on the financial collapse, “To Big to Fail,” Andrew Ross Sorkin depicts a pantheon of banking CEOs who put their own agendas ahead of not only their companies’ bottom lines but the wellbeing of the global economy.

Hint: Try to discover what the real corporate goal is. If you’re driving to enhance profitability through risk-taking, but the Main Man is motivated by fear, you will not get ahead. Become acquainted with the psychological makeup the boss. Is he motivated by greed? Jealousy? Ego? Endeavors that feed his motivations will be the ones to gain support.

Myth #2: People want to know if there are problems

Truth: Most businesses already know that the marketing woman surfs Facebook all day and that the VP of Technology’s emails are virus-infected. If they wanted to change it, they would have done so already. This kind of dirt is supposed to stay tidily under the rug. No one wants you showing up with a broom.

Problem-pointer-outers often indulge a fantasy that they’re nobly crusading against the conformist organization. However, in his book, “Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power,” C. Fred Alford points out that many whistleblowers are actually angry individuals, who isolate themselves from coworkers friends and family.

Hint: Learn to distinguish between problems that can be identified and those that can’t. If someone has been there for a while, they’re not likely to be out the door because of something you point out. If a practice is entrenched, it’s not likely to shift.

When you do identify something that might be changeable, don’t red flag the problem and walk away. Instead, bring a solution.

Myth #3: Complaining co-workers will support you

Most companies are one big bandwagon of complainers.

However, the minute you go to a meeting and introduce the idea of restructuring the circulation department, those vociferous whiners will go nose-down into their blackberries.

Jeannie Daniel Duck calls corporate transformation efforts a “Change Monster”— the title of her book. Far from wanting to change, most people, she says, enthusiastically embrace stagnation.

Hint: Like attracts like. Which means most companies have employees who are at home in the organization. They may not be happy, per se. But something about being there works for them, or they would leave. Granted, right now people may stay in their jobs because of fear of the recession. But this pattern holds just as true in non-recessionary times.

Myth #4: Being right will get you ahead
Truth: Career-wise, about the only thing worse than being wrong is being right. Many citizens of cubby-land harbor a private fantasy of being proven correct. You said if they did not upgrade the computers disaster would ensue. Secretly you hope for the day when the servers melt down and you can forward your email predicting doom.

Step away from the keyboard. Most particularly if someone on high up disagreed with your point. Be prepared for those above your head to co-opt your thinking and say it was all their idea.

Hint: Give up the need to be right. Famous anger-management psychologist Albert Ellis coined the term “must-erbation”—that incessant inner voice that screams people must agree with us, we must convert them to our point of view. People, however, are allowed to believe whatever they want, even that the earth is flat. If you need to prove yourself right all the time (and thereby make others wrong) you do not have the level Zen needed to succeed in business.

Myth #5: Companies change
Truth: A company only changes if there is change at the top. It’s the rare leader who is made of stern enough stuff to shift his point of view. As noted by “Change Monster” author Jeannie Duck, when confronted with something they have done wrong, most people look for someone or something to blame. They do not pause, examine their responsibility for the situation, and resolve to mend the faults in their characters. Right now, the Great Recession is serving as one huge fig leaf, with dozens of CEOs pointing to it as the cause of all corporate ills.

Hint: Choose good companies to work for. Many times the quality of the company and the person you work for is much more important to your overall happiness than the job description itself. The recession won’t last forever, and when it ends, set your sights on courageous companies that hold themselves to account and embrace growth.

OMMA Social Round-Up

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The OMMA Social conference on social media today at the Yale Club is overwhelming. There is standing room only. Also, the information is so rich and new and coming at all of us so fast, it’s hard to wrap it all up in one post. Instead, I’ve organized quotes heard from client people, agency people, tech people, and publishing people.

Best Social Media Advice

In order to know what your constituency wants, you have to talk to them, which means you have to become one of them.

People on social networks are doing things that are social. They are ignoring things that aren’t social.

Right now, this game is jump ball.

People just want guinea pigs to carry their message forward. Really, social media is more about listening.

ROI. Sigh.

ROI is difficult to talk about.

In terms of the ROI question, I can’t give it to you. Not because I don’t want to or because my general counsel said I can’t. But because I don’t know.

While engagement might not generate into a sale, it certainly has to help.

I can’t guarantee anything. I can’t equate a widget install with a clickthrough to your site.

Reality Check

You need to continue the engagement while realizing you are a commercial enterprise.

We sell a product. What we’re really about is the physical. How do you take the social model into the physical space?

Advertising has always been based on reach and frequency. How do you blow up an entire industry?

If you don’t have standardization, you can’t possibly monetize this stuff.

Will You Stop Being So 1.0

If you just have a transaction value in your head, you’re going to miss the long term value of the customer.

Not all the things that you can count counts.

Does engagement transfer into ROI? Should it?

A lot of people thing that if we’re not talking about millions and millions of eyeballs it’s not relevant. What about thousands and thousands of engaged people?

Shocking Numbers

Social networking will be a $7 billion dollar business by 2012.

In social networks, there are more impressions than ever. But the clickthrough rate is abysmal. It’s .02%. And the CPMs are 4-5 cents.

I just got a $10 million insertion order for a social networking buy from a major computer company. That means to me that the Fortune 500 is moving real dollars into the medium.


It’s not a given that since consumers are showing up they want advertising directed at them Do I want an LED screen around my neck serving me contextual advertising while I’m having a conversation.

Jargon Disease

There have to be contextual psychographics.

We’re both a container and a developer.

Social media is more than just arbitraging traffic.

What social media does is it allows you to take a 360 degree view of the customer.

When we talk about data mining in the social networking space at the end of the day it’s about consumer behavior.

Well, we’ve all heard about tribal media behavior.

We’ve said a lot of hard words today. Like “engagement” and “snarkle.”

Really Interesting Perspectives

If you’re a marketer for Crate & Barrel, try to market to the wife’s dad. He’s the real influencer.

Mortgage ads saved the ad networks. Entertainment will do the same for social media.

The Unanswerable

Engagement. Does anybody know the definition of engagement? And what does it have to do with the broader objectives an advertiser has?

Can you hit everyone on the entire internet? Is that media buy possible?

Social media is a $1-$2 CPM. How is that going to support New York lunch accounts?

I know I came in late, but what’s the definition of social networking?

What does above the fold mean? My computer really doesn’t fold.

Zen-Like Truths

Lego is modular self expression

All media will eventually become social.

When a marketer says viral, I get all nauseous.

Just because we call it “media” doesn’t mean it really is.

OMMA Crushes Yale Club

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Navy blue blazered preppies are overrun today by the uber-hip social networking crowd. 


Really, it’s rather amusing. I myself am a card-carrying preppy and, in fact a Yale Club member. So it’s quite a trip watching today’s event unfold. I have been on an OMMA conference binge. Last week, I attended OMMA Video and OMMA Publish, both of which were held at the Marriott Marquis, a touristy, anonymous location. And cold. As one moderator observed during a panel, “It’s 52 degrees in here. And windy.” 


Well today the OMMA Social Networking Conference at the Yale Club is cozy. Very cozy. This morning when I got here—yes it was 15 minutes late—there was not a seat to be had. Now, that’s not unusual for the morning keynote. EVERYONE shows up for the morning keynote. It’s like homeroom. But here’s the thing, more people kept arriving. The California crowd, about 20 of them, were delayed by the New York weather. The red-eyed travelers arrived around 10 am. 


After lunch the crowd usually thins out as people are lured by their berries and stacked up voicemail. Not here. The bemused blue uniformed Yale Club staff is still squeezing among classy leaf-patterned chairs and white linen covered tables trying to serve coffee to nerds, ad people and VCs. 


Seeing this, spurs some thoughts. 


First, this is one of the most crowded conferences I’ve attended this year. There are old faces here and new faces. If you didn’t get the message previously from the amount of VC dollars flowing into social networking, you’d get it now. My briefcase is wedged in between my legs and the guy next to me is glaring at the way my elbow jostles his papers as I type this. 


Second, there is the culture clash between the tweed preppies and the blue shirt mafia. (Did you ever notice that digital media dudes all wear Wedgewood blue dress shirts rolled up at the sleeve?) In a way, this culture clash is simply emblematic of the theme of this conference. How can social media gain a legitimate seat at the traditional table? 


OMMA Publish Panel Resurrects Ad Networks

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SO, is the new media world creating more pressure for brands and advertisers? 


“It’s wreaking havoc. I haven’t been home in three weeks,” said Ed Montes, EVP Havas Digital at the OMMA Publish show put on by Media post. “A traditional agency is not set up to handle a 200 site buy. It’s very painful. There’s tremendous friction.” 


“And it’s not just the agencies. Publishers are having problems too,” continued Montes. “Months and months go by and I don’t get bills from publishers,” 


“I’ve got some bills here, right in my pocket,” piped up Jim Spanfeller, President and CEO of 


The entertaining panel was convened to address the topic of ad networks. Amidst lots of joshing each other about their use of dot-jargot, the participants came to a surprising conclusion: Ad networks look poised to become a key part of our online media future. Why is this surprising? Ad networks have been clinging on for years through the dot-com nuclear winter, trying to prove their worth. The Burst Media and Valueclicks of the world have been getting the dregs of publishers’ inventory. Their demise was long predicted. But to listen to the OMMA panel, made up of ad network, publisher and agency people, this is about to change. 


[Definition Break: An ad network pulls together inventory from multiple publishers’ sites, including very small sites, and sells that inventory in big buckets. For example, an ad network might sell a demographic of women 18-49. The advertiser’s ad might then run on hundreds of sites all with that demo.] 


According to Spanfeller, ad networks are taking on agencies directly. “Ad networks have wrung the risk out. They buy all the inventory and assume all the risk.” This, he suggested, positions them to succeed. 


Answered ad-guy Montes, “You’re right! Agencies would never do that. I think that’s got to change.” 


An interesting comment. So will agencies be getting into the ad network business? Does online do anything but blur traditional distinctions? 


Apparently not, according to Wenda Harris Millard, Co-CEO of Martha Stewart Omnimedia and moderator of the panel. “What’s the difference between Yahoo! and an ad network?” she asked. 


Not much, the panel returned. “In fact,” said Spanfeller, “they are the world’s largest ad network. They vacuum up the ad networks. And they’re developing all this differentiating technology to remove the friction.” 


Jarvis Coffin, Co-founder and CEO of Burst Media agreed. “Portals aren’t going away. But ad networks are really pulling down the CPMs on portals.” 


“De-portalization!” piped up Harris Millard. “We love to make up new words in this industry.” 


“Wait,” said Spanfeller, “I haven’t said ‘riff’ yet.” 

YouTube Is Bigger Than France

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No really. I just learned that at the OMMA Video Conference in New York, put on by Media Post.


Here’s how those numbers work. According to Brian Cusack, Sales Manager of You Tube, France is a country of 68 million people. In March, You Tube’s Comscore number was 85 million visitors.


So, according to this logic, YouTube is the 4th largest country in the world, behind China, India, and the US. And, as I mentioned before, already well ahead of France.


YouTubers aren’t the only ones at this conference quoting YouTube numbers. Nor is it only this conference. In fact, citing stratospheric YouTube statistics is getting to be a sport among digital video enthusiasts. Here are some more…


A Levi’s viral ad placed on YouTube shows a guy jumping into a pair of 501 jeans. Literally, he’s bouncing on his bed while a partner holds the pair of jeans. Bounce, bounce, bounce, then WHOMP! He lands in the jeans. In the first day of this video being posted on YouTube, it got 1 million views.


Soulja Boy is a kid who created his own dance craze through posting his “Crank That” dance on YouTube. He got 26 million views. Then others, both amateurs and professionals, did their own Crank That dance videos. If you add up Soulja Boy’s views and his imitators, you end up with 500 million views.


And then (here’s the whopping number) in that same month of March– the one when YouTube beat France– the site had a total of 4.3 billion video views.


So, here’s the thing. Just as a point of reference: The population of Planet Earth is, at this moment, according to the World Population Clock, 6.75 billion. The population of the United States is somewhere around 310 million.


Is it just me, or do the online video numbers not add up? I’m willing to be convinced. I’m a huge fan of online video. Content must move into new formats if it is to survive.  But I have to ask, are the numbers real? If so, what on earth do they mean? Is there any way to compare them to offline numbers?


Put another way, if Soulja Boy’s knock-off videos got 500 million views, how come I never heard of it? Okay, perhaps I do live under a rock, but a lot of other people at this conference hadn’t heard of it either and I can tell just by looking at the attire here they are a LOT hipper than I am.


Jonathan Miller, former Chairman and CEO of AOL and now founding partner at VC firm Velocity Interactive Group, began today’s conference by talking about measurement. He quoted a former boss speaking years ago about Nielsen. That network executive said, “The numbers are absolutely wrong. But relatively correct.” Miller called for better measurement as a key building block to the eventual monetezation of online video.


Is it possible for numbers to be too large? Perhaps it is. How is a brand supposed to understand that YouTube is indeed bigger than France, and that its video views are regularly blowing away Super Bowl audiences? How does all that scale compare to TV audiences? Are products just flying off the shelves for companies that are creating these videos? If not, then what’s different? Is YouTube simply fragmentation aggregated? On an enormous scale? Maybe it’s not France. Maybe it’s more like the Milky Way.


Media buyers here say brands are scared. I don’t blame them.  I’m scared. “Billion” is a scary word, whatever way you slice it. They’re even throwing around the T word.


I concur with Jonathan Miller. Monetezation will require an agreed-upon metric. However flawed. But we also need much deeper analysis than we currently have of what all those numbers mean.


Fine. I buy it. Maybe YouTube *is* bigger than France. But if YouTube is now its own country then it needs a better Lonely Planet guide for marketers.