Monthly Archives: April 2012


I fancy myself the Kathy Griffin of Corporate Humor, and so I feel that it is my job to make fun of Corporate America when they act dumb. Just like celebrities, companies often cannot help themselves from acting stupid and it’s my job to point it out so we can all get a good laugh and maybe learn something. So, today’s subject came to me in an ad on my Blackberry Slacker Radio. I listen to this while I walk in the morning, (Today’s Hits is my channel if you must know). I am cheap so there are periodic ads, but I don’t mind the occasional interruption in my rhythm and today, I was rewarded for that. Today, as I was walking, an ad came on for Cintas. Ever heard of them? You’ve probably seen the logo on a white truck and wondered what they do. You can’t think of it, can you? Hold on to your hat because it’s a long list. Ready? Work uniforms, facilities management (read: janitorial services), document shredding, first aid, fire protection – I am not done here – promotional products, cleanroom resources – whatever that is – and flame resistant clothing. Because nothing goes together better than promotional products and fire protection. It reminds me of that show about 10 years ago about the bowling alley that also offered legal services with Tom Cavanaugh and Julie Bowen.

Now I don’t mean to pick on Cintas as I am sure they are lovely people with respectable jobs and profit margins, but, like Oprah and Rosie and Sharon Stone, they make themselves an easy target. That lack of specialization has got to make you wonder whether they are good at anything, or just fwapping a bunch of ideas against the wall like cooked spaghetti to see what sticks. (I just made up the word fwapping. You’re welcome. Nice onomatopoeia, right?)   

Anyhoo, specialization. It’s what makes your company stand out from the crowd and be memorable. Don’t think it matters? Type any one of those services Cintas offers into your Google machine and see how far down the list they appear. Work uniforms are probably where they do best, but they still trail Lands End (who knew?) and Aramark. Aramark is to Cintas as Newman is to Jerry. They are nemeses (nemesi?), vying for the coveted position of the smorgasbord service company. Good for you both. Go for it. But don’t expect me to remember who you are or what you do. And don’t even get me started on why Cintas thought the people listening to Today’s Hits (Rihanna, Sean Puffy Combs, Nicki Minaj) on Slacker Radio are their target demographic. That’s a Blog for another day.




So, today I attended the first Mid Atlantic Marketing Summit hosted by Capital Communicator and Potomac Tech Wire at Gannett in McLean. I don’t know that I would’ve gone if I hadn’t been asked to serve on a panel (which came with a free registration) because “Marketing Summit” doesn’t speak to me as a PR person. But, I am glad I went.

Before I get into all that, I first have to tell you that this was a GREAT location. The Gannett building is an incredible venue – very visually appealing, lots of great amenities, including a Starbucks cafe, and it fit our 300+ crowd nicely. Kudos to Paul Dunning and Phil Rabin for their logistics home run.

Getting back to why I was glad I went, you first have to appreciate how intimidated I was about the whole thing after reading the agenda and the other speaker bios. You’d think as a 20-year PR person, I would know something about marketing – and the scary thing is – up until the moment I read the agenda and speaker bios, I thought I did. But, for some reason, adding the words “digital” to any noun or verb like digital media or digital marketing effectively turns my otherwise functional brain to spaghetti. Though I recognize the words they use as English, I honestly have no friggin clue what they’re talking about or doing. So, I thought, it will be good for me to go and try and learn something. Maybe if I really sit and focus and ask questions I thought, I’ll figure out what it means to “transform digital media buys into self optimizing engines.” That’s an actual phrase I read from one of the sponsors (Rocket Fuel) websites. I swear to God that’s how they talk. No idea, right?

So, I put my big girl pants on and drove to McLean this am, determined to learn something. I walked into the opening keynote too late to get the speaker’s name but I caught the tail end of a Rick Perry video that was apparently so fantastic the presenter said, “you know a video is brilliant when you can actually believe Rick Perry could be President one day.” I thought, whew, thank God, this is actually going to be okay. Those feelings were smashed to smithereens when ComScore’s Jodi McDermott took the stage. She was of course brilliant and I am sure of it because I had no earthly idea what she was talking about. She mentioned 3MS and all I could think was what does the yellow sticky company have to do with all this? I think it might have been measurement of something. Again, English was indeed the language, but the language of marketing is all its own and this was, as one other attendee pointed out, pretty weedy stuff. Last, we heard from Johna Burke (BurrellesLuce) who brought my spirits back up as she spoke of things I could identify with, like business goals and measurement standards, and she spoke in plain terms speckled with a few witty, well placed jokes. My kinda gal.  

I won’t bore you with more details of the weedy marketing presentations, but I will tell you that inroads were made! Yes, as a PR person at a marketing summit I did feel fairly uncreative and old fashioned because my mobile strategy wasn’t actionable, but I met some great people who actually felt similarly to me about the unsettledness of social/digital marketing. It was validating to meet others who share my fears and frustrations about all the new tools and in particular, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that marketing folks were, as PR folks, working diligently toward more meaningful success metrics. Down with click-throughs and AVEs we cheered together! (If only I understood what click-throughs were). My point is, marketing and PR – we are worlds apart in what we do, but in the end, we’re driving towards the same horizon. It’s as the father says in My Big Fat Greek Wedding – we may be apples and oranges, but, we’re all fruit!  

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