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March 16, 2020 -

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Editor’s Note: An update to this story has been included at the end.

The Covid-19 pandemic got serious in North America last week when big events started to be called off to prevent person-to-person transmission of the virus. The NBA was the first of the major sports leagues to suspend the season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday night, minutes before tipoff between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. The NHL followed about 15 hours later, announcing Thursday morning that the NHL season would go on “pause”. Then it snowballed: the MLS, Major League Baseball, Broadway, NASCAR, and other events were all suspended with some, like the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament, canceled outright.

Even though sports executives have known about the coronavirus since January, nobody expected sports leagues to suspend their seasons. It’s a drastic step that brings huge consequences both financially and logistically. In a way, the leagues had no choice, as they relied on information from health officials and had to do whatever it takes to stop Covid-19 from spreading further. Stopping the regular gathering of 20,000 people in arenas across the continent seems to be rather obvious!

A crisis like this can provide excellent public relations case studies. Some organizations have come forward with clear and compassionate communications with their season ticket holders, fans, and employees, while others — ahem, Mark Chipman — have badly missed the mark.

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March 7, 2020 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

There isn’t much to this story, except for the fact it’s extremely rare and very entertaining.

We have all worked in jobs with people we dislike, and sometimes dislike passionately. Hopefully it doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be a massive distraction for an entire team.

The key, in those situations, is to remain as professional and cordial as possible, especially when you are on live television! But one TV news anchor in New York let his frustration get the best of him, criticizing his own station’s reporter during a live hit from an apartment building where residents were complaining about building management.

The live, on-air interaction was shared on Twitter by Kalen Allen, who works in the TV business in LA. You can tell, right from the moment the reporter throws back to the anchor, that something was up. Things went downhill from there, fast.

At one point, the reporter makes reference to previously being the anchor’s boss, which is probably awkward. It goes without saying, though, that those feelings should never affect work.

I suspect they won’t be sitting at the same table for the next company dinner.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

https://twitter.com/TheKalenAllen/status/1235671828388929536?s=20

January 12, 2020 -

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’ve been fortunate over the years to be involved in some pretty bizarre and random projects, like traveling around China for a Business Traveler television show, serving as a Simon Cowell-style judge on a Chinese version of The Voice, or personally escorting (now Presidential candidate) Mike Bloomberg for part of his visit to Hong Kong many years ago. Never, in my wildest dreams, would I ever have imaged doing any of those three things.

Now, I can add a fourth: attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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December 25, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

This landed on my phone this Christmas Eve, and I thought it was worth sharing.

December 15, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Several friends have mentioned the new Noah Baumbach movie “Marriage Story” to me recently, which is a sign the movie is having an impact on audiences considering it was only released to Netflix on December 6. The film stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as couple struggling through the realities of divorce.

The New York Times on why the movie can be so uncomfortable:

The most painful parts of “Marriage Story” act out that revisionism, as idiosyncrasies are made to look pathological and mistakes are treated as potential crimes. The German social critic Theodor W. Adorno wrote that “divorce, even between good-natured, amiable, educated people, is apt to stir up a dust-cloud that covers and discolors all it touches,” an insight that Baumbach illustrates with vivid precision. He shows how “the sphere of intimacy” (to continue with Adorno) “is transformed into a malignant poison as soon as the relationship in which it flourished is broken off.”

I enjoy movies that tend to be emotionally uncomfortable, especially when they deal with real issues that real people face in real lives. There’s no superhero here, no computer-generated explosions or characters coming back from the dead. Just two people, hurting, struggling, and thrust into a legal and living situation neither are familiar with. I definitely recommend it.

After you’ve watched it, don’t forget to check back here for the punchline to Alan Alda’s joke.

December 15, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Several friends have mentioned the new Noah Baumbach movie “Marriage Story” to me recently, which is a sign the movie is having an impact on audiences considering it was only released to Netflix on December 6. The film stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as couple struggling through the realities of divorce.

The New York Times on why the movie can be so uncomfortable:

The most painful parts of “Marriage Story” act out that revisionism, as idiosyncrasies are made to look pathological and mistakes are treated as potential crimes. The German social critic Theodor W. Adorno wrote that “divorce, even between good-natured, amiable, educated people, is apt to stir up a dust-cloud that covers and discolors all it touches,” an insight that Baumbach illustrates with vivid precision. He shows how “the sphere of intimacy” (to continue with Adorno) “is transformed into a malignant poison as soon as the relationship in which it flourished is broken off.”

I enjoy movies that tend to be emotionally uncomfortable, especially when they deal with real issues that real people face in real lives. There’s no superhero here, no computer-generated explosions or characters coming back from the dead. Just two people, hurting, struggling, and thrust into a legal and living situation neither are familiar with. I definitely recommend it.

After you’ve watched it, don’t forget to check back here for the punchline to Alan Alda’s joke.

December 14, 2019 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m working on a number of big projects at the moment, projects that take months of planning before being rolled out — which is exactly the opposite of what I did on Wednesday night this week.

I have written before about my affinity for RSS readers, but the constant development of Inoreader by the team at Innologica has transformed RSS from a handy reader into an incredibly powerful productivity tool. I now have dozens of high quality feeds on a number of topics that I like to track, filter, and tag, including, of course, communications and marketing. I’ve always used RSS as a way for me, personally, to isolate the signal amid the ever-deafening noise, but it never occurred to me to actually share the highly distilled and valuable articles coming through my reader. This week, it did.

I pressed “send” and published the first, hastily-compiled issue of Digital Bits, a simple, weekly newsletter with some of the best articles on corporate communications, PR, internal communications, and digital marketing. Some of the blogs and sites referenced in the newsletter have been invaluable to me over the years, leading to the implementation of actual software programs and workflows at the exchange that we use literally every day. The newsletter isn’t long and isn’t meant to be; it simply contains links to a couple of articles that I think would be worth your while if you work in communications, are studying it, or are just plain interested in the field.

It’s the first time I’ve done a newsletter like this, so I’m wide open to feedback and suggestions for making it better. I’m considering these first few issues to be a relatively quiet beta test until I work out the kinks and slowly find the newsletter’s voice.

The first issue looks at the immense need for content that goes beyond writing words, something that a shocking number of organizations have yet to grasp. There’s also a look at how comms people can find “influencers” inside their companies and leverage their voices to drive change and communicate better. The newsletter also includes an article on holiday video fails and links to free internal HTML newsletter templates that can be dropped into Outlook or Gmail.

If you work in communications or are just interested in the field, please give the newsletter a shot. I’d be very grateful and love to know what you think.

You can quickly share your email address here.

October 16, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

A petition to bring back the Green Day song “Holiday” as the Vancouver Canucks’ goal song:

Canucks fans should feel energized and hyped after a goal, and Holiday by Green Day accomplished that. Holiday is our goal song, and will be the best one the Canucks ever had. We cannot let our home games during the 50th anniversary season get ruined like this. BRING BACK HOLIDAY!

I noticed this abomination – an annoying Van Halen song from 1978 – during the Canucks’ first two home games of the season. It was the only glaring downside to scoring eight goals in a dominating win.

I have never signed any petition in my life, nevermind a campaign over song selection at a major league sporting event. But this is serious. We can’t allow this to go on. The world needs you. Sign.

Now.

October 12, 2019 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Buzzfeed has just published an article looking at how Apple has been appeasing the Chinese government:

When Tim Cook tried to explain away its actions this week by saying protesters were using HKmap.live to “maliciously to target individual officers for violence” without providing evidence, even longtime Apple observer and blogger John Gruber, couldn’t stomach it.

“I can’t recall an Apple memo or statement that crumbles so quickly under scrutiny,” Gruber wrote. “For a company that usually measures umpteen times before cutting anything, it’s both sad and startling.”

I completely agree with Gruber and the general tenets of this piece. US companies — and Hollywood, in particular — have been appeasing China for a long time in exchange for access to its giant market. This has mostly flown under the radar because it didn’t affect customers elsewhere — but that has changed with the NBA’s PR stumbles this week.

Apple had no justifiable reason for removing the Hong Kong protester app, and the internal email to Apple staff explaining the removal is downright embarrassing. I’m a long-time Apple customer who has spent tens of thousands of dollars at Apple stores over the past decade, but CEO Tim Cook’s decision to side with a dangerous, authoritarian government and against people asking for the very same rights Cook enjoys makes me never want to spend another cent with Apple again.

Hopefully Cook reflects on his own conscience and shows some sign that he believes his own rhetoric on human rights. If he doesn’t, Apple is going down a dangerous path.

I’ve never been more disgusted with Apple than I am today.

October 11, 2019 -

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The iPhone and iPad have made computers accessible to people all over the world, both young and old. They’ve done away with the mouse and made interacting with apps much more natural, using touch. The result has been an explosion in apps, including some excellent productivity apps for the iPad in particular.

Apple is now trying to take some of that magic and bring it back to the trusty ol’ Mac.

The latest iteration of the Mac operating system, macOS Catalina, rolled out earlier this week alongside several apps making their debut on the Mac. Apple had previously released a new framework to developers called Catalyst, which makes it much easier for developers to take their existing iPad apps and move them to the Mac. The framework, announced in 2018, was met with some early skepticism after the first couple of Catalyst apps, like Apple News and Stocks, didn’t look great on the Mac. In fact, some were concerned that bringing apps designed for a touch interface to a keyboard-and-mouse old school computer might be an awkward fit, making the Mac less streamlined and consistent.

It’s still probably too early to call Catalyst a success, but early returns are looking positive.

As a guy whose life revolves around RSS feeds, seeing Fiery Feeds in the Mac App Store probably got me far more excited than I should be. Someday I will do a deep dive into the combination of Inoreader and Fiery Feeds, which does an excellent job of filtering and tagging important articles. Reeder has traditionally been the standard-bearer for RSS apps on the Mac, with version 4 coming out in April, but the addition of Fiery Feeds and Lire will certainly shake things up. I use Fiery Feeds multiple times a day on my iPad and iPhone, so having everything sync via iCloud and being able to check new articles while on the Mac is huge.

Mac  Fiery Feeds

Another app with a big, dedicated user base is TripIt. I began subscribing to TripIt Pro a couple of years ago to help manage travel, and it has generally made keeping flight and hotel information as well as confirmation numbers easily accessible and in one place. I think the app’s UI is a bit dated, but functionally it’s been successful at what it sets out to do.

TripIt’s new Mac app doesn’t bring any surprises, and that’s probably a good thing. It provides all of the same information as the iOS app, but from the desktop.

I have only been testing out Catalyst apps for a few days, and there are still some rough edges that need to be smoothed out. Right clicking is common on the Mac but not on an iPad, obviously, so right clicking sometimes does nothing. I’ve also had each Catalyst app crash on me at least once, so there’s that, too.

Mac  TripIt

Another thing to consider is the price — some of these apps probably cost more than you would expect. I think it’s high time that developers are compensated fairly for their work, so I have no particular issue with paying higher prices — but it will impact sales, regardless. Cocoacake, the maker of Fiery Feeds, is charging US$34.99 for the Mac app, justifying the price on the company’s blog by saying it’s a one-time cost that will cover the next three to five years of app updates. Lire is listed at $19.99.

I suspect performance issues to be worked out over time as more developers use Catalyst and Apple continues making improvements. Even today, in the early days, it’s encouraging to see so many developers embrace Catalyst and have apps ready on day one. If you want to see if your favorite iPad app is ready for the Mac, you can check this handy list put together by 9to5Mac.

If the launch of these early apps is any indication, it looks like a safe bet that Catalyst will breathe some new life and a bit of excitement into the Mac app ecosystem.

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