Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me thrice, I'm gonna be pissed.

Just walked back in from an extremely abbreviated visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Given I've been killing myself the last week to get assignments for other classes done, I had been forced to put off this week's photojournalism assignment (candid shots at a planned event), I was going to head over there tonight to shoot their regular Thursday night cocktail hour. Figured I'd get a couple shots in about 45 minutes and get out of there before I got suckered into buying some expensive drink.

This is three times now, though, that the ISG has screwed me over, and only one of them was my own damn fault.

Sometime when I was younger, my family packed up the SUV to go check out the ISG. We'd been hearing good things about it forever, and my folks figured we could get in and out pretty quickly, before my brother (who was all of 7 at the time) or sister (who would have been 3) started to complain. At some point during the trip, my brother apparently leaned too far over a display and one of the security guards threw a hissyfit, manhandled my brother away from the display, and yelled at him right there. He was 7. He hadn't fallen, he just got closer than the security guard liked.

During the summer, while I was working on my Boston in 60 Project, I decided some Monday morning to go to the Gardner museum for my daily trip. I hadn't checked ahead of time; it's not open on Mondays. Of all the days of the week for it to be closed, that didn't make sense to me, but fine, I'll chalk that one up to my own damn fault.

This time, though, I had done my due diligence. I scoured the ISG website (to which I refuse to link) and found no mention of a ban on photography. Great - I'd swallow my pride, get my shots, and get out of there. So I headed over to the museum around 6:15 for an event that ran from 5:30-9:30. After waiting in line for half an hour in the 35-degree drizzle, I finally got into the foyer where I was told "no photography, you'll have to check that". I asked the guy why not, was this not just a regular Thursday night event? "Museum rules." Then I cursed him out colorfully in front of the whole line and walked away. If someone can find any mention of a ban on photography on the ISG website, I'll take my crow pie, but I looked and there was nothing.

So now, with this assignment due tomorrow morning, I have just about no chance to get anything. Thanks, Isabella, and rot in hell!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

We've all heard the expression "addition by subtraction" used, frequently in reference to sports teams. But this past week, I wonder if I didn't encounter my first genuine example of "subtraction by addition".

I'm an ardent and lifelong supporter of the New England Revolution. Stuck it out through some crappy years, and more pertinent to this post, some crappy marketing campaigns to accompany the crappy years. Those of us in the fandom recall vividly the "Get Your Kicks" campaign (gag).

For the majority of the team's existence, the front office has chosen to market itself almost exclusively to the soccer moms/youth teams demographic. I can't fault them on this - in theory, a family of five is going to spend more at a game than five 20-somethings. I thought the campaigns were cheesy and more than a little annoying, but they kept at it for a good few years.

In recent times, however, with the team's sustained success and growing (and vocal) diehards' groups, the team has started to market to that 20-something male demographic with images like this one:

In case you can't read the fine print: "The Fort experience is not intended for children nor is it for the faint of heart. So grab your scarf and warm up your vocal chords and get ready for the most raucous experience in New England sports!"

Definitely a step in the right direction, as far as the diehards like myself saw it. This was an ad campaign that would appeal to the soccer fanatics, the 20-somethings with disposable income (that season ticket works out to $10/game), and wouldn't put off the soccer families that sit on the other side of the stadium.

But last week, the team issued an audition call for its new "street team", the Rev Girls:

The New England Revolution will hold interviews for the Rev Girls, the Revolution’s new promotional squad, at 10 a.m. in the East Fidelity Investments Clubhouse at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 21.

The team’s newest marketing initiative, the Rev Girls will run promotions at games and nighttime events and make public appearances on behalf of the team.

Women interested in interviewing for a roster spot with the Rev Girls must be at least 21 years old, and must bring positive identification with them. Prospective team members must also wear form-fitting clothing to the interview, and also bring both a headshot and a full-body image. Successful candidates will also be available for the entire duration of the Revolution season – March through November.

Those interviewing for a Rev Girl spot should come dressed and ready to meet the staff. There will no facilities available to prepare for the interview.

This is an appalling display from the team on several different fronts. Not only is it chauvinistic to a degree we haven't seen from Kraft Sports Group before ("form-fitting clothing", "no facilities available to prepare", "the hottest promotional group in town"), it's also an extremely poorly-constructed attempt at grassroots marketing.

Sending out 10 or 12 B-rate cheerleaders to the local Uno's is neither going to increase ticket sales, nor is it more than a token "we're trying" when it comes to word-of-mouth. And even if the street team does experience some modicum of success, it's completely unquantifiable - you can count how many people use free vouchers, but the team isn't making any money on them. And if it's not vouchers - you've got nothing to show that the street team's work has had any effect.

Word-of-mouth marketing doesn't need to be complex, nor does it need to be contrived, nor does it need to pander so blatantly to one demographic at the exclusion of others. How many soccer moms are going to bring little Suzy Kicksalot and her U-12 teammates when the "tits 'n kits" team are strolling through the concourse? How about if they meet the street team at their local restaurant? Is soccer mom Kicksalot going to be interested in going to a game when the promotional group is wearing two-pieces and and a push-up? Not to mention that the people they want this program to reach aren't going to respond to a couple of tchotchkes handed to them. They'll show up at a soccer bar, start plugging the Revs, and get shouted down by the guys watching the English leagues on TV.

It's this simple: college outreach. I proposed a college outreach program in my full-throated attack on this "street team" nonsense on BigSoccer. It's not all that difficult to envision. Contact each of the colleges within, say, a hundred miles of Gillette Stadium. Offer $15 ticket-bus-and-personal-pizza vouchers to the students, one bus per college. Don't do it all on one night, do it throughout the season. Each week, a dozen or so schools are sending buses full of tabula-rasa-brand-advocates. Each school could do more than one game - although much of the Revs season falls during the summer break, there are a handful of games before and certainly high-level games after.

Get butts in the seats. Give them a quality product, a good time, and an easy trip to and from the venue, and you'll have several thousand new Revs fans who want to come back. You can't fall in love with the local team on TV, you have to do it in person. New England Revolution holds the monopoly on live men's soccer, and yet they do nothing to market this. They need to get out there and demonstrate that we have a supporters section like their favorite European teams do, but the only way to grow that is to become a part of it.

What's more - all of this, the college outreach, the immigrant outreach, this can all be done without running the risk of alienating soccer mom Kicksalot. Throwing some full-chested bimbos at a bar and calling it "word-of-mouth" marketing is a failure both to maintain the audience you have and to reach the audience you want. It's a pathetic display of "sex sells, ergo, we need sex", and it's a step backward from the excellent "Defend the Fort" campaign.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Career Fair Wrap

Bugger. I went through all that effort to print out and collate clips, buy and stuff folders, update and copy my resume, and practice my elevator pitch, and there was nothing there for me at the career fair last week. I know the industry's going through a rough redesign and identity crisis, but I had hoped there'd be at least a few more jobs tangentially related to journalism there. Even the PR and marketing segments were under-represented.

I suppose, on the bright side, that going to a career fair where there was little for me offered me a dress rehearsal of sorts - I got to interact with HR managers and recruiters without any of the pressure of an actual job being on the line.

Moral victories.

Flickr photo is mine.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The moat is gone.

This Thursday, I'm heading to my first career fair here at Northeastern. I've had my resume looked at a few times, I'm going to print up some clip folders to take with me, and I'm going home to get my suit tomorrow. But there's at least one thing I'm missing in my sell-yourself toolkit: the elevator pitch.

For each of my co-ops and internships, I've been able to use my clipbook as a moat of sorts. The people in charge take a look at what I've done, and only if they think I can handle the job do they call me in for an interview. By that point, I had one foot in the position already - I'm gathering that there aren't all that many applicants for the regionals at the Globe (although if these kids knew anything, that'd be top of their list). The interview itself was usually "tell me about yourself, tell me about your experience in journalism," and then, "this is what the job requires."

I've got to start from scratch now without that moat - the clipbook won't come into the equation until after first contact, and it's that first contact that is intimidating me a little bit now. I've never had to make an elevator pitch. I have absolutely no idea how I would go about it. "Hi, I'm Adam, I've been writing for newspapers for 7 years, and I've got a good handle on some social media"? That doesn't sound good at all.

How on Earth do I do this?