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The Starbucks Napkin Syndrome
Recently a good friend of mine called, asking about joining the services of the advertising agency I work for. This fellow is a shrewd businessman, and one of his startups has taken off; he was ready to invest in the stock market to support his success.
After discussing the online concept and print campaign, we landed on the concept of its logo. “Oh no, our logo is good, there’s no way we’re changing it,” he said, “My partner and I created it on a napkin at Starbucks.”
I was silent for a moment, processing those words. Is my friend really just saying that cliché – with pride in his voice? These good friends suffer from a rare condition that I have known about for some time – but was able to attach a name to it – Starbucks Napkin Syndrome.
Warning signs of Starbucks Napkin Syndrome include the belief that marketing and PR strategy is easy – often considered an afterthought – and that anyone can do it. “We need publicity,” went the proposal, “So have Jim in Finance throw something together. No, better – have our staff do it – Jim’s swamped .” As amazing and bewildering as it sounds to the ears of marketing professionals, I’ve seen exactly this scenario play out – and I’ve seen it in big companies around with mom and pop to work.
Few other business decisions are made as quickly, or with as little thought and skill, as important public relations decisions. I have yet to see a corporate tax payer with this devilish attitude: “My Aunt Betsy was good at math in high school; let’s send our quarterly taxes her way. ” Not like; Why does it seem like a business discipline that doesn’t have any difficulty, I wonder.
Mulling all this over, I now look at my office desk, and at the books I read about eight years ago when entering the workforce: Books by experts PR professionals note the importance of PR and marketing. These books showed me how our business is getting off the ground, and that soon many CEOs will come from business and communications backgrounds – such as energy and benefits of our business.
I winced, still stinging from the actions of the customer earlier that morning. This publicly traded company has been dealing with some difficult issues including the departure of the CEO, poor sales, and declining prices. When I went to work I saw a message in my inbox announcing the departure of the CEO. The release violates all the rules, from AP style violations to company-speak quotes positioning the company as weak and in danger. And a Google News search a while later informed me that the release had already gone to the wires, with no comment from my company.
This social media applicant from Charlotte still has the Starbucks Napkin Syndrome, so it was interesting to my colleagues and I called in a conference call, to hear the This client tells his employees why, exactly, the CEO left the company.
The new CEO received a ringing phone call, as if he had just woken up from a nap. Then he spends 10 minutes blowing up the good time to connect with his employees and boost morale at a time when they really need it. I can not tell you his words, because the importance of the relationship between these workers is not one.
Now later in the day and ready to leave for Thanksgiving, I get a call from a client who is starting a business in Cleveland. He told me that advertising is very expensive, so he needs “white ink.” Sure, I’ll order you some. Do you want the Wall Street Journal or Newsweek? I had to tell him that yes, we can get your startup some press to begin with – but there’s a lot more to a good PR and Huntersville public relations personality than that.
I guess that’s what it comes down to many times in our industry: Education. There is still a shared need for employees, customers and management to understand what PR is, and what it can and should achieve for them. For me, learning is good PR is about anything, so I’m more than happy to hang in there.
To all of you non-business people in a management role: Please scoot a little – my colleagues want a seat at your strategic meeting. Companies denying us these seats do so at their own peril; Companies operating in a communication vacuum will eventually lose control of their message and their brand. Especially at this time when customers are attacking the corporate gates and breaking down the walls that were once firmly established by the old system of top management – with The Internet and other new technologies are consumers’ battering ram of choice.
Well, my coffee is gone, and it looks like I ran out of room on a napkin.
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#Starbucks #Napkin #Syndrome