Category Archives: office politics

The beautiful choice of Gov. Palin

America was agog today that John McCain chose a young politician from far-flung Alaska as his VP running mate. Few knew who she was or what she had done, but Gov. Sarah Palin looked great, an antidote to Obama’s charisma. You could just feel Hillary Clinton thinking, I spent $212 million on my %&@(!! campaign and she gets a phone call?

The fuss was over appearance — which points out that if you want response, looks matter.

This is not meant to disparage Gov. Palin’s abilities or credentials. Palin fought her way to the top of a tough state; she’s spoken intelligently about the need for new energy exploration, criticized Exxon, helped clean up oil spills and promised to reform political corruption in Alaska. But the reaction yesterday was instant. People didn’t read her bio before they responded; they simply saw an attractive woman as potential VP. Wow.

Numerous studies show that tall men and pretty women are most likely to succeed, to be top executives or heads of state, and to convince people to follow them. allows you to participate in online studies that prove symmetry and health are time and again the images people hunger for. Humans have an innate need to survive; for 30,000 generations we followed leaders who shined with health and vigor and yes, beauty that hinted at reproduction. Part of Reagan’s and Clinton’s appeal was their handsome vigor; one reason Dukakis failed was he looked lopsided in a tank.

McCain made a wise choice finding a conservative who will reach into the middle, an energy expert who will attract Hillary’s followers and hurt Obama. But let’s be honest; those looks didn’t hurt. No takers?

The Internet 2.0 bubble is cresting. We can tell, because cyber-squatter Don Bowman is ending a five-day auction of the sweet URL tonight. Entry bid is only $5,000. And with less than two hours left, there are no takers.

Cyber-squatting, as you recall, was hot back in 1998 right before Nasdaq went off a cliff into jagged rocks above shark-infested waters. People snatched up whacky dot-com names, hoping to resell the addresses for millions, on their way to investor meetings with PowerPoints about their unique CRM software solutions. (“Our spreadsheet will manage customer relationships!“) Fast forward to this month, June 2008, and a new URL designation called dot-me (as in,, you get the idea) is attracting more bids at domain registration sites such as

Good luck with all that. If people won’t bet $5k that is worth something, the bubble is over. Or … hmm … perhaps the wisdom of crowds is thinking there is no way Obama will take her on as VP.

(If you want to jump in, cruise to eBay by 12 midnight EST tonight.)

Free your mind. Forget the RFP.

It’s hard to say no to RFPs. If you work in a large organization, Requests For Proposals are as standard as planning committees, timesheets and tall bosses with executive-style hair parted just so at the side. It just feels right, if you’re about to invest a million dollars of budget, to use a hefty form to start the search.

Until you realize: That form is dulling your mind.

Eric Karjaluoto wrote brilliantly last fall that RFPs should die, noting they are bad for the business managers who rely on them. Why? Because if you define exactly what you want, you are not getting a new idea. The process of discovery, Eric wrote, often guides the solution.

RFPs are most distasteful when used to bid for marketing, advertising, or design services. You know: “I’d like to take 25 ads, please, and make them as cheap as possible.” Wrong-o. Effective marketing planning is a bit like family therapy. You enlist an outside expert to understand the issues, explore the problems, and work jointly on solutions. You don’t get good counseling, or marketing, or branding, or creative design, by ordering it like paper from the Staples catalog.

Our own agency just got an RFP today from a large government entity with a huge budget, and we have three specific ideas on media planning that we’re certain would give them a 30% lift in performance. Hint: These guys aren’t doing anything on the internet, and we know how to make that work.

And so … we’re not going to bid. Sorry, gov’t sirs, your RFP asked for cheap advertising — lowest-cost quote wins — and our ideas on getting you results just won’t fit inside your RFP box.

(Photo: Freg. Inspiration: Darryl Ohrt.)

The X Factor guide to overcoming office inertia

If you work in a big organization that, say, has a planning committee for the planning committee and an org chart that fills a large binder, don’t miss Marketing Sherpa’s guide to conquering office politics in 2008. Anne Holland has a brilliant take on the need for marketing plans that reach your internal audience. Get yourself on the company scorecard. Start an internal newsletter. Feed top decision-makers with news, while also referencing your successes. Avoid napping at your desk. (OK, that last bit was our advice.)

Holland calls this the X Factor required to help you break through an internal glass ceiling. The people who rise to the top aren’t shy about making noise; they have “X” that gets noticed. This year, make the X your own.

Not only will this help elevate you within an organization, but if you value your work, it will draw the attention and resources to your projects required for you to reach your goals. Many initiatives never succeed because they can’t conquer internal inertia or build the momentum required to really launch. Convincing people internally that your ideas have merit is the first step in turning that idea into real performance.