Wednesday, September 29, 2010

100 Million Reasons to Like Mark Zuckerberg

By Pete Deluca

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of the social networking site, sat down with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker on the Oprah Winfrey Show to announce his plans to donate $100 million dollars to the Newark Public School System.

The grant is welcome news to residents of Newark, who saw control of their failing school system turned over to the state of New Jersey a decade ago. Still, under the new regime, nearly 46 percent of the district’s 40,000 students failed to graduate from high school and less than half of elementary school students read and write at the appropriate grade level.

News of Zuckerberg’s donation spread quickly. In researching this topic, I expected to see thousands of articles praising this recording-breaking donation. Instead, I found story after story criticizing the move as a publicity stunt on the heels of the release of The Social Network – a film due out Friday that portrays Zuckerberg as a self-centered egomaniac who rips off his friends to create Facebook.

Either way you look at this situation, a donation of this size has the potential to dramatically change one of America’s most notoriously dangerous cities. One million dollars would have been more than enough to help teachers city-wide simply buy supplies. Five million dollars would be enough to provide new computers, after school programs, or safer transportation. Fifty million dollars would be ground breaking – allowing the city to build dozens of new schools. But a $100 million-dollar donation is unheard of. Publicity stunt or not, Zuckerberg’s grant is an amount that will change the lives of individuals for generations.

In addition to The Social Network, there is another movie in theatres on Friday entitled Waiting for Superman This documentary describes the hardships of the American public school system - the struggles teachers face every day, the poor level of education children are receiving, and how the system, which was once the best in the world, is now failing our students. The title hints to the overall plot of the film – the school system needs something, or someone, to save it.

Regardless of Zuckerberg’s motivation, Newark, New Jersey found their Superman.

Pete Deluca is an Associate Account Executive. Contact him at

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Great Things Come Out of Difficult Times

By Carolyn Maroon

A wonderful trend in recent years that was born out of tough economic times and the public’s lack of faith in big business, has been the dramatic increase of cause marketing efforts.

So many companies have effectively used cause marketing to build their brands while, at the same time, do good work … the Pepsi Refresh Project, Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives, Box Tops for Education, Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, McDonald's and Ronald McDonald House Charities, Target and Take Charge of Education, and many more. We have come to associate strong brands with charitable giving.

These are just a few examples of how businesses and nonprofits team up in a “cause marketing campaign” where both sides benefit. The nonprofits gain national attention by associating themselves to a company that is already a big brand. Using this association in advertising creates a memorable impression by the consumers for both the charity and the business. Another advantage is that corporations have bigger budgets to invest in quality advertising, which will inevitably result in the channeling of more funds.

Additionally, embracing a cause makes good business sense. Statistics show that 83% of Americans and 94% of moms want to see more cause related marketing. Companies that commit to a worthy cause build brand loyalty with consumers. The majority of consumers prefer to do business with a company that stands for more than making a profit.

If the teaming up of businesses and charities is good for capitalism and raising awareness for worthwhile causes, I’m all for it. Statistics show that I am not alone in my view.

Carolyn Maroon is the Maroon PR Office Manager. Contact her at

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lost: The Importance of Customer Service

By Tim Richardson

For the majority of us, our jobs involve interacting with people. My occupation actually states that fact in the name of the industry in which I work…public relations. However, not everyone seems to understand the importance of interpersonal communications and I have directly experienced customer service trending downward in recent years. defines customer service as “all interactions between a customer and a product provider at the time of sale, and thereafter. Customer service adds value to a product and builds enduring relationship.”

“Adds value to a product and builds an enduring relationship”…in my opinion, that portion of the definition is the key piece that many people have forgotten. Considering the poor state of the economy, you would think that those competing for our discretionary income or purchases of necessity would strive to provide a level of service that makes them positively stand out amongst the competition.

Retail is a major business in our country. It’s estimated that billions of transactions take place each day in the nation's 1.4 million stores. From restaurants to contractors, technology service provides to manufacturers, high-quality customer service has become a forgotten principle of business.

When I started thinking about this topic for my blog, the examples of poor customer service that I’ve experienced in the last six months alone easily came to mind. Since it was hard to narrow it down to one, here are a few of my “favorites”…without naming the companies directly:

  • Grocery store cashier who never said a word to me as she was texting on the phone and eating fast food while ringing up my order in the checkout line.

  • A contractor who kept “forgetting” to schedule the crew to fix my roof after a snow storm gave me a “natural” skylight that was leaking throughout my house; the company then used the wrong product and slapped on paint so shabbily that it looked like a two-year old with their first coloring book; after receiving the run-around for about two weeks, the owner finally made an appointment with us on a Saturday to come by and address the situation…only he never showed up or called with an explanation.

  • A ticket broker who told me “sorry about your luck” when a concert I bought tickets for was rescheduled and half of our group couldn’t go on the new date. When I asked to speak to his manager, he said “nope” and hung up on me.

Of course, not every company has disregarded the value of customer service. Chick-fil-A is the quintessential example on how to do things right. Think about the last time you went to Chick-fil-A, where you are not considered a customer, but rather a “guest.” After you placed your order, the person on the other side didn’t slap your change on the counter or ignore you after the transaction…they also didn’t say “you’re welcome.” They said “my pleasure.” Their pleasure? Two simple words that make you feel valued.

This mentality comes from the top as President and COO Dan Cathy stresses the importance of attentive and courteous customer service. That philosophy and commitment to “guests” even play a huge role in the decision process for opening new restaurants.

In 2008, Chick-fil-A received over 22,000 applications from aspiring store operators…they selected only 100 who they believed were in tune with Chick-fil-A’s mission.

Tim Richardson is Maroon PR's Executive Vice President. Contact him at

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Companies Implementing "Napping" Policies

By Andrea Kunicky

Every employee in the workforce, whether you are a teacher or a top executive, has been tired and not able to focus on work at one time or another. People usually fight it with a caffeine fix, taking a walk outside or even just browsing on the Internet.

Yet, while watching Good Morning America this morning, they brought up an unusual alternative that many companies are starting to use…taking a nap on the job with the approval from the boss. They went on to say that top companies such as Ben & Jerry's and Google have their own dedicated napping rooms. These quiet spaces provide their employees with peace and privacy to take a short snooze during the day.

According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 30 percent of workers fell asleep or became very sleepy at work during a month. And 65 percent of respondents admitted to experiencing performance issues, such as trouble organizing work and had difficulty concentrating.

Some employers though stand firm to their belief of a no nap policy, responding that their workers should get enough sleep at night and should be well-rested enough to work the full day. Napping in the workplace might sound like a strange concept to some, and even to me, but with the growing emphasis on health and wellness I can see why this issue has come up.

I can certainly see how this could help productivity in the workplace and balance the day out. At a company like Maroon PR, where there are new things going on each day, I don’t think a nap policy would be a good thing. It does seem like it is working for some other companies though and will be interesting to see if more companies institute a similar policy.

Andrea Kunicky is an Account Executive. Contact her at

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

RE: Email

By Chris Daley

Recently I found myself turning into “That Guy” when it comes to responding to the numerous emails I receive each day. Instead of the well thought-out, professional emails, I used to write in my earlier PR days, some of my recent responses have looked like this: “Ok, will get back soon” … “Thx” … “sure” … “Pls send info.” I apologize if you are reading this and recently received one of those emails from me… it was a busy summer.

I was curious to see what some professionals thought, or if there had been any recent articles or blogs written on the subject of email etiquette and correspondence. I wanted to see if anyone had advice for how to manage my growing list of emails in my inbox and if anyone could give me a sense of what proper email etiquette should be.

I found this recent blog - Email etiquette: how long is too long to reply? - written by Amber MacArthur of The Globe and Mail, interesting. Seems she’s having the same issues as me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in a society that has us constantly having to respond to various email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I’m going to continue to work on this Email thing in my professional career. It’s not going anywhere and it’s a critical form of communication in our society, so I think it’s important for everyone to master. For now, here are a few tips I can pass along which get me through some email issues…

  • Avoid the email train. If you sense an issue arising or an email has numerous clarifying questions, pick up the phone and call the person. This stops the email train in its tracks, and usually I find there isn’t even an issue or questions to begin with.

  • Try not to get offended by a short response and don’t base a person’s personality off of email. If you are going to be short, be professional and be open to the fact that we are all very busy people. Email was invented to serve as a more casual way to communicate.

  • If a reply requires some thought and you do not have time to respond, send the person a short email stating you received the message and let them know you will respond after you’ve given some thought to their question.

Chris Daley is a Senior Account Executive. Contact him at

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Meet Courtney Carey

By Courtney Carey; Interview by Abby Draper

Courtney Carey is Maroon PR's Project Manager. Contact her at

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is the End Near For All Print Newspapers?

By Matt Saler

I was pretty shocked to read the other day that The New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said the following words: “We will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future.” He did not give a specific date to this inevitability but it begs the question… if the most read daily newspaper in the country goes strictly to digital, is it the beginning of the end for print newspapers as we know it?

Clearly, a lot of folks in the media industry were buzzing about this news, as many see digital as the present and future. If the majority of the revenue generated by the Times is from its online revenue, it only makes sense that this would be the direction that they would move toward. Business Insider blogger Henry Blogget conducted some interesting research on the topic and came up with the following numbers:

“We estimate that the NYT currently spends about $200 million a year on its newsroom and generates about $150 million of online revenue. If the paywall is highly successful—attracting, say, 1 million subscribers who pay $100 a year—this will add another $100 million of online subscription revenue (assuming the company doesn't lose ad revenue). With $250 million of revenue, the NYT might be able to sustain newsroom costs of about $100 million.

Now, a $100 million newsroom budget is a HUGE newsroom budget--one that most online publications would kill for. So the New York Times isn't going anywhere. But $100 million is also a lot less than the New York Times's current newsroom budget.

So if Arthur Sulzberger is right that the New York Times will eventually have to stop printing the print paper--and we certainly think he is--his company is likely to have to be restructured.”

As one who enjoys opening up a paper and reading through the news of the day, should I be worried that these days are quickly coming to an end? Stay tuned.

Matt Saler is a Senior Account Executive. He can be reached at

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Google Introduces Google Instant

By Abby Draper

Through all of this week, Google has been modifying their logo in anticipation of a press conference said to announce something new in search technology. On Tuesday, the Google logo was spelled out with balls that turned into a game as you rolled your mouse over the letters. This morning, “Google” appeared grey until text was entered and it changed to its usual bright colors.

At 12:30 EST, we watched online as Google introduced “Google Instant.” Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, began the conference by discussing some of the new features of Google Search in 2010 including: Google Caffeine, Real-Time Search, timeline views, spell corrections, enhancements to its Q&A, stars in search, and the redesign of Google itself, by playing the commercial they launched during the Superbowl.

Mayer went on to explain that while these changes have made Google search much more productive, the current search time is still too long. According to Google, it takes a user nine seconds to enter a query, 800 ms for networking time, 300 ms for serving results, 15 seconds to select a search result, and most people take extra time to think. With these stats, Mayer introduced “A Fundamental Shift to Search – Google Instant.”

Google Instant, which will roll out slowly through the day, allows you to see search results as you type.

“Google Instant delivers results instantly in a way that has never been done before," said Jonathan Effrat, Google product manager, in a video about Google Instant. "Now, results appear automatically as you type, with no need to hit enter or click the search button. as soon as you see what need predicted in gray text, you can stop typing, and just look down to find your results waiting...see results instantly lets you refine your search as you type — looking for a bird? A map? A recipe? You'll know instantly if you're on the right track to finding what you want."

Mayer was joined on stage by Johanna Wright, Director of Product Management, and Othar Hansson, Senior Staff Software Engineer who took us all through several examples of how Google Instant works, proving its incredible speed and ability to predict what you’re searching for.

While Google has had a few issues in the recent past with other efforts like Google Buzz, it seems as though Google Instant has launched without a hitch. We will find out for sure today!

Abby Draper is the Manager of Social Media. Contact her at

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Social Media Mistake by Washington Post Columnist

By Stefen Lovelace

It’s a new age for journalism. Every reporter has a Twitter handle and news is distributed to readers instantly. Journalists try to beat the competition on the Internet, Twitter and Facebook rather than in the next day’s newspaper.

This new age comes with a price though. Anything you put out there – whether it be a bylined story, or just a simple tweet – will be read as fact. With so much news, readers have a hard time filtering what’s true and what’s not.

Which brings us to Washington Post columnist Mike Wise. The longtime respected columnist made one of the bigger blunders of his career on Monday.

Wise tweeted that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would be suspended for five games. Roethlisberger currently is suspended for six, but many have speculated that suspension may get reduced. The quarterback is a lightning rod for controversy right now, and diehard football fans are following any and every news item that comes out about him.

The tweet about Roethlisberger by Wise was a lie. He tweeted three times afterwards saying he had sources to back up his claim. All of this was made-up, or “a test” as Wise put it, to show how quick news and false news can spread throughout the internet.

It was a terrible mistake by Wise. I understand what he was trying to prove, but his approach was unthinkable. All a journalist has is his or her word and making up news is a cardinal sin in the journalism profession.

A journalist’s reputation “is on the line with every tweet, for better or worse,” [Columbia University Digital Media Professor Sree] Sreenivasan said. “People have a reasonable expectation that it’s accurate or the best of what you know at the moment.”

Wise was suspended for a month from The Post for his mistake. I think that’s about right, especially considering The Post is one of the most credible and well-respected newspapers in the country. Since social media is still so new, and there’s no real precedent for what to do in this situation, there was clear disagreement as to whether Wise’s punishment was just.

Yet within The Post, there was disagreement about whether the punishment fit the crime. Andrew Alexander, the paper’s ombudsman, wrote on his blog that Mr. Wise was “lucky he wasn’t fired.” Howard Kurtz, the paper’s media writer, wrote in a message on Twitter that the suspension “seems overly harsh to me.”

Twitter is a great resource for journalists and wonderful for spreading news. But this incident once again shows the importance of using caution and thinking before putting something up in the social media universe for the world to see.

Stefen Lovelace is an Associate Account Executive. Contact him at

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