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Pioneer Human Services

2013 October 15
by Steve Lawson

I saw this article on October 10th about Pioneer Human Services being awarded $1.17 million grant from the US Department of Labor to help expand their job training program.

Pioneer Human Services was founded in 1963 as a halfway house. Fifty years later, it operates 10 of the 16 state’s work-release programs through contracts with the state Department of Corrections.

I had the privilege of interviewing many of the founding board members of Pioneer in 2009 to create a living history of the founding and early days of Pioneer.  It’s an amazing organization.  If you have an hour or so to learn their story you can watch the series here.

These videos bring the history of this remarkable agency to life through stories told by its founding board members and honorary governors.

This story was distributed internally on DVD and has been posted online for additional public exposure.

Want to see their incredible story?  Just  click on the image below.

Pioneer Human Services - The Early Pioneer Series


Can a Brand Rescind an Offer?

2013 June 15
by Steve Lawson
Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

Can a Brand Rescind an Offer?

I never saw the initial email from Thrifty Car Rental offering me a free day of car rental. I even checked my spam filter. But I did get this email from Thrifty Car Rental apologizing for an offer they were not going to honor.

It seems to me, that if a company makes a public offer, even as a mistake, they need to honor that offer.

For one thing it will teach their team to really be careful about what they are sending out, and to keep customer trust.

I don’t think a free day of car rental would have killed the brand.  What do you think??

Does Comcast No Longer Care?

2012 October 27
by Steve Lawson

Comcast was an amazing pioneer in social media based customer support. But my recent dealings with them have me wondering if A)  they lost interest, or B) they can’t keep up with the complaints?

I just moved about 1/2 mile.  But in dealing with Comcast you would think I had moved to Jupiter (and I don’t mean Florida).  TV set up pretty easily, as did the internet.  Bu the phone?  That was a whole other story. And dealing with their “customer care” was a nightmarish joke.  I called the activation number, they transferred me to billing who said I needed to call activation who then transferred me again to billing.  This cycle happened about three times over about 2 hours.

I posted @comcastcares (they didn’t) and DMd them as well on Twitter.  no response.

The next day, I called “customer support” again, and asked immediately to be escalated, which of course, couldn’t happen until the customer service agent recited the Comcast guarantee, offered me other services and then went through the rest her script.  Once I screamed “ESCALATE ME” i was admonished for not being nice as she was trying to help me, which made me scream louder “ESCALATE ME” which eventually got me to a supervisor, Marilyn, who was AWESOME.

She listened, asked intelligent questions and fixed my problem.  Kind of.  The technician working on my account via Marilyn made a few mistakes along they way, but she dogged my issue and her tech until all was well.  And she adjusted my bill and gave me some premium channels to make me happy.

And then, last night, after 24 simultaneous hours of uninterrupted phone service, Comcast did some sort of network “refresh” and once again my phone service was dead.  Really dead.

Saturday is Marilyn’s day off, so I couldn’t reach her for help.  I called the “main” Comcast number as I had on Wednesday and Thursday, but couldn’t play their phone tree game and listen to their up-sell messages.  Why, or why don’t corporations segment their messaging?  People calling with a problem want their problem fixed, not  be sold to.

So, I contacted tech support via chat.  Which got hung up on my first try.  Right after the admonition on the script that the person I was talking to could help me.

So I started up a new chat.  This time, it worked.  Emmanuel (who I’m assuming is in a place very very far away), was able to get my phone service up and running. And this time he “locked” the account, so when Comcast does another network “refresh” it will resume my service once refreshed.

You can read the transcript from my online chat with Comcast.  For dramatic effect when you read Emmanuel’s lines, think of them in the voice of HAL in 2001 A Space Odyssey.  Oh, and feel free to call me.  The phone lines are open.

Click here to read the transcript of my last chat with Comcast.  Keep in mind, this chat lasted about two hours – so when you read it, put it down for about a minute or two after every line.

Cartier Commercial. Image builder? Or big waste of money?

2012 March 11
by Steve Lawson

Cartier 2012 commercial. Image builder?
Or commercial masturbation?

I was watching CBS Sunday morning when this ad came on for Cartier (the jeweler). Ever since, I’ve been trying to figure out the message. Is it, “our stuff is expensive because we have absolutely no handle on expenses” or, “we make so much money on this crap that we don’t care what our commercial costs” or??

Don’t get me wrong, this commercial is a production masterpiece. Everything about it is absolutely gorgeous and amazing. But it’s also a commercial exercise in masturbation. Is it effective? Or a huge waste of money??

See for yourself, then let me know what you think.

Steve Jobs Remembered – In His Own Words

2012 February 24

I originally wrote this as my November 2011 column for Larry Coffman’s Marketing Newspaper.

Steve Jobs Remembered
In His Own Words


Since his passing, much has been written about Steve Jobs and the legacy he left. Enough has been written about this remarkable man. So for this column, I tuned to YouTube so I could pay tribute to Mr. Jobs with his own words. (To see the following video clips in their entirety, click here.)

Opportunity: On seeing the first user-interface at Xerox—the inspiration behind the Mac operating system.

“Basically, they were ‘copier heads’ that just had no clue about a computer and what it could, and so they just grabbed defeat from the greatest victory in the computer industry. Xerox could have owned the entire computer industry today.”

Innovation: Before returning to Apple, in a 1996 interview on Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser.

“Apple was a company that was based on innovation. When I left Apple 10 years ago, were 10 years ahead of everybody else. The problem was, that Apple stood still. Even though I invested cumulatively billions in R&D, the output has not been there and people have not caught up with it and the differentiation has eroded, in particular with respect to Microsoft. And so the way out for Apple, and I still think Apple has a future, there’s some awfully good people there and tremendous brand loyalty to that company. I think the way out is not to slash and burn; it’s to innovate. That’s how Apple got its glory, and I think that’s how Apple could return to it.”

Differentiation: 1997—Steve Jobs explains the reasons behind the new Apple “Think Different” marketing campaign.

“What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done, though we do that well, we do that better than almost anybody in some cases, but Apple’s about something more than that. We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”

Know The Competition: In 1996, Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires aired on PBS. Steve Jobs explains the problem he has with Microsoft.

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have absolutely no taste, and what that means is—I don’t mean that in a small way. I mean that in a big way. In the sense that they don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their product, and you say, why is that important? Well, you know proportionally spaced fonts come from typesetting and beautiful books, that’s where one gets the idea—if it weren’t for the Mac, they would never have that in their products. So I guess I’m saddened, not by Microsoft’s success—I have no problem with their success, they earned their success for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products.”

Find Influence:

“Picasso had a saying, good artists copy. Great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”


“People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you do, and the reason is, because it’s so hard, that if you don’t, any rational person would give up. It’s really hard, and you have to do it over a sustained period of time. So, if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, you’re going to give up.”


“Sometimes you just have to look at yourself and go, you know, it‘s just not really great, it’s OK, it’s good, but let’s not fool ourselves and call it great. You know, we’re willing to throw something away because it’s not great, and try again when all the pressures of commerce are at your back saying, no, you can’t do that.”

Rubbing It In: 2007 with Bill Gates, being interviewed at the D5 Conference.

“We’ve got cards and letters from people saying that iTunes is their favorite thing on Windows. It’s like giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell.”


Local Online Media – Borrell Associates 2010 Survey

2011 March 31
by Steve Lawson

Content Is King!

Content is king. But you may be surprised at which content drives revenue. The Local Online Media Report from Borrell and Associates indicates that while “news and information sites do indeed generate revenue, the Top 5 local online companies derive all their content from their own advertisers. In fact, half of the top 20 are all-advertising sites.” These include AT&T Yellow Pages, Auto Trader and more.

According to the report’s Executive Summary, “TV stations and yellow pages companies continue to do well with about 11 percent share each, up from the past year. Radio stations, meanwhile, are languishing at a two percent share of all locally spent Internet advertising and appear to be barely treading water.”

For 2010, Borrell found that local online media accounted for 14.9 percent of all local ad spending, or $13.5 billion. They are forecasting that to grow to $15.9 billion in 2011, or 17.8 percent more.

By 2015, for the first time ever, Borrell Associates expects newspapers to be toppled as the perennial king of local as online media reach $24 billion, for a 22.7 percent share of all local advertising.

Click here to download the Borrell Associates Benchmarking Local Online Media: 2010 Revenue Survey Executive Summary.

Gordon Borrell explains the study

The Year the Music Died

2011 February 19
by Steve Lawson

Music Industry Statistics – Sit Down Before You Read This

Thanks to blogger Michael DeGusta, here are a few statistics that will shock only those who haven’t been involved in the music business:

The music industry is down 45% from where it was in 1973.
The music industry is down 64% from its peak.

To put it in perspective:

26 years ago they spent almost twice as much as they do today.
10 years ago the average American spent almost 3 times as much on recorded music products as they do today.

What happened?

The music industry based its revenues and growth on sales of collections of songs (call them albums, or CDs or whatever).  Digital downloads (legal) have allowed people to buy just the songs they want.  Read the full story here.

The future?  Not so rosy.

According to DeGusta:

Downloaded albums & singles have grown nicely, but that is not nearly enough to offset the loss of the physical equivalents.

Mobile, which includes “Master Ringtunes, Ringbacks, Music Videos, Full Length Downloads, and Other Mobile”, hit its peak in 2007 and has actually been in decline the past 2 years.  Looks like the death of the ringtone – and possibly the birth of the iPhone?

Subscriptions – presumably Rhapsody, Zune Pass, and the like — have also drifted downward the past 2 years.

That only leaves internet & satellite radio – Pandora, etc — and others that pay via SoundExchange. It had a good uptick since 2007, but that’s when they negotiated royalty rates for online broadcasters. Even if they maintain some solid growth, it still adds up to a pittance.

Looks like the smaller and shrinking recorded music industry is here to stay.

Read more:

Social Media Case Study

2011 February 12

An Amazing Social Media Case Study

Here’s an amazing social media case study.

In 2010 Canadian advertising agency john st. took on its toughest challenge yet. Make Chelsea Bedano’s birthday party a success in an already cluttered birthday market. The results were astounding. Funny, no mention of the ROI.

How to Handle a PR Crisis In the Age of Social Media

2010 December 28
by Steve Lawson

Social Media adds a very long tail to a PR Crisis

Will registering the url,
help in the event of a PR crisis?

According to Domain Name Wire, Bank of America has been aggressively registering domain names as a pre-emptive move just in case the sensitive, unflattering documents being released by WikiLeaks about a major US Banking institution belong to them.

To make sure the “bad guys” (defined in their world as anyone who would say anything bad about them or their brand) don’t get advantageous URLs, they are grabbing up any URL that could be used against them.  Like any URL related to Bank of America, management etc with the word “sucks” or “blows” attached.

OK, what is funny about this?  Well, for one thing, you can’t possibly buy every URL – and even if you could, with URL shorteners, Facebook, Twitter etc, it doesn’t even matter.  If you “suck” or “blow”, people will know about it and the word will get out.

Out with the old PR Crisis model – In with the New

Social Media Influence Chart from Social Media Influence - June 2010

The Long Tail effect can prolong and/or re-energize a PR Crisis

In the old days, a PR crisis would blow up huge in the beginning when the media got wind of what was going on.  The PR folks would gather and come up with a strategy, and before you knew it the press had grown tired of your story and had moved on.  Crisis over.  Social Media adds a whole new perspective.  Because Social Media is a long-tail communication tool, it’s harder to predict when the crisis will actually reach media critical mass.  Often, the press doesn’t even know or care about a problem until it becomes a big deal in social media.  Once a big deal in social media, the crisis can take on a third life or a 4th or a 5th.

According to an analysis published by Social Media Influence regarding the BP’s social media crisis surrounding the Gulf Coast oil spill,

“A brewing protest movement can come from anywhere. Often it gathers kindred followers online and grows slowly at first. It might attract attention from niche blogs, local news outfits, anybody with some level of influence and following. This added attention is just enough to push the movement into a new more visible light. This initial outside surge of interest is the tipping point, capturing the attention of a whole new group of people, which brings it to the attention now of the mainstream media. After their initial stories, the movement experiences a third life and a fourth. It’s the tail that contains the sting now and it creates a whole new set of headaches for specialists in crisis PR and reputation management.”

“It’s the tail that contains the sting now.  The half-life of these PR crises extends for weeks, months, even years more and has the capability to reignite yet again.”

The bottom line?  Clean up your act.  Be honest and transparent in all of your dealings.  Follow the golden rule.  Make a mistake?  Come clean; really clean, and fast!  You can no longer sweep stuff under the rug.  Because social media and web 2.0 will pull the rug right out from under you.

Pew Research: Online Brands Should Target Affluent Consumers

2010 December 27

Pew Research:  Online Brands Should Target Affluent Consumers

According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, the more money a consumer has, the more apt they are to connect and engage online.

Pew Study about internet access by income level

Wealthy households have more access to broadband at home and remain connected with  smartphones.

They engage through email (93% use), online news outlets (80%) and also pay bills and donate to charity online.

Higher household income families are also more likely to research health news and information online, look for medical treatments and search for doctors and health care facilities online. They are also more likely to shop online (81% use ecommerce websites), to research products online (88%), make travel plans/reservations (83%), pay bills or use online banks than lower income households.

Pew Research study compares household internet use by income level

  • 79% of those living in households earning $75,000 or more own desktop computers, compared with 55% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 79% of those living in higher-income households own laptops, compared with 47% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 70% of those living in higher-income households own iPods or other MP3 players, compared with 42% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 54% of those living in higher-income households own game consoles, compared with 41% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 12% of those living in higher-income households own e-book readers such as Kindles, compared with 3% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 9% of those living in higher-income households own tablet computers such as iPads, compared with 3% of those living in less well-off homes.

Examining those living in households with an income of $150,000 or more, there are significant differences with the other income groups. The affluent are significantly more likely to use the internet (30% more) and email (25% more) than the rest of the American population.

Looking more closely at internet users, the affluent are more likely than other internet users to participate in video chat (22% more likely), pay bills online (19%) and get online news (11%).

In fact, technology saturates the lives of affluent Americans. Nearly all (96%) of this affluent demographic use the internet or email. Nine in ten (89%) of the high-income internet users have searched online for maps or directions, 86% have researched a product online, and 82% get a portion of their news online.