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Monday, April 28, 2008

Miley Cyrus - If it walks like a duck...

Miley Cyrus is under fire for taking very risque photos for Vanity Fair magazine. She is posed NUDE with a sheet draping her underage body. My first question - who approved such a photo? Next Question - have the person(s) involved with approving the salacious photos been fired from her team of advisers?

Miley Cyrus is a franchise - a Disney frachise. Disney is batting zero with keeping its teen stars squeaky clean. Jamie-Lynn Spears is 16 years -old and pregnant and a star from High School Musical was embarassed by her own set of super sexy photos.

Who is protecting the brand of these stars? My guess - no one. Are there parents so caught in the paychecks of the young teen stars that they have forgotten how to be parents? Miley Cyrus sells out stadiums faster than established rockers who have been touring for 20 years. Why would anyone jeopardize the Hannah Montana franchise? My guess is that it was never in jeopardy.

Let's face it - if Jamie-lynn Spears still has a Disney contract with a 16 years old pregnant belly than Miley taking semi-nude kiddy porn labeled "artistic" is mild. Disney like the rest of nation realizes that family values are dead. But what happened to Disney's integrity? What happened to celebrity integrity and protecting a personal brand?

Recently, I heard Carol Alt - a former super model- talk about how she easily transitioned from the runway to being a entrepreneur with a niche in women's wellness. She said something that resonated with me. Alt cited her ability to keep the "Carol Alt name clean" throughout her 20 years of modeling as the reason she has been able to be an icon for women's health and fitness. Carol Alt made sure that she didn't do anything that would tarnish and ruin the Alt brand. Today, she benefits from keeping her personal brand clean and is able to get decent work and be respected.

Miley Cyrus might be able to come out of the public relations debacle, but she has broken the seal on her innocence. Perhaps, today's young rising stars can tear a page out of Carol Alt's book of personal branding. And I have one note of advice to Annie Leibowitz, the photographer that coaxed Cyrus in the provocative pose, the next time you photograph an underage teenager ... grab a teddy bear instead of a sheet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Small Businesses: If You Have a Website – Make Sure it is Free of Errors

Recently, I put out a bid for a new printer. Within hours of posting my bid, I received dozens of estimates for my print job. One of the printers sent me a very reasonable price for my print job and because I am a savvy consumer , I was intrigued.

When I learn about a new company, the first thing I do is go the company website. So I clicked a link to the website from the email I received from the print shop. The company’s website looked modern, it was clean and looked good. Because I know a thing or two about websites, I determined that it was created from a template. But it was a decent template so that didn’t bother me so much.

Just as I was starting to feel good about the print company and its fabulous pricing, my eyes wandered to the upper right corner of the print company’s home page. There was a decently designed logo. But because I have an eye for detail, I looked closer. To my horror, I saw a typo in the tagline of the logo. The tagline said “Pint with Confidence. Print with Us” Pint? Is this also an ice cream shop? No – the word in the tagline should have been PRINT! Hello Printing – is the business. Obviously, I do not have any confidence in the printer that cannot produce a logo with confidence. Oh and this mistake is in the live text on the home page and appears as the first line of text that generates in search engine results.

How could this be? How could a business owner have a company website longer than a week and not notice that his very own logo and first line of text has typos?

My first reaction was that the owner of this small business entrusted the design of the website and logo to someone that he or she felt was capable. But why wouldn’t this owner not thoroughly examine the final website before launch or take a look at it once and a while? Or worse, that the owner employs people that are not detailed oriented haven’t noticed the typos either. The fact is many small business owners do not understand the value of a website. A website represents what your company is and what your company stands for.

As a buyer of print services, I look for a printer that produces an excellent final product. That means printed materials free of errors caused by the printer. I have had my share of horror stories with printers. My previous printer once sent me a proof to approve with half of my client’s company logo cutoff. When it comes to printed materials I am a stickler. (Well – anyone would be angry about a logo being cutoff!) But there is never an excuse for giving poor quality work to a customer to approve - never.

Obviously, I will not entrust my print job to a printer that has a serious typo in its own logo. If the owner or even the employees of the print shop haven’t noticed an error in its logo or tagline on the site how will they see errors in my print job? This is the rationale that any smart, detailed-oriented business leader would have in this situation.

Companies that have a website should follow these three simple rules:

1. Keep your site up-to-date: Don’t walk away from your website once it is built. Small businesses need not have fresh posts to the company website every day. However, a fresh customer testimonial, updates about services or new clients is nice to add to the home page.

2. Check for typos and misspellings: Have your websites reviewed for errors by fresh eyes. Your webmaster and designer will more than likely miss a few typos.

3. Treat your website as part of your brand: Your website is an extension of your business and brand. If you change the branding of your business make sure it is translated on your website. Most importantly, if you offer an email address on your site for customer comments and questions, make sure you respond promptly as you would if the customer walked into your establishment.

Nobody will ever say that running your own small business is easy. If you pay attention to the details in all aspects of your business and you will never lose a customer like myself. Don’t let website typographical errors or other nonsense not directly related to the quality of your product or service ruin a potential business relationship.