Mandating accountability just makes sense

New York Governor David Paterson issued an executive order this past week that requires state agencies to evaluate the impact of proposed legislation on local governments.

This is good news for everyone that pays property taxes in New York. It makes sense that before a bill is passed by our elected representatives in Albany they should know how the legislation, once enacted, will tie the hands of the people required to enforce it AND pay for it. It’s always been easier for the State’s legislators to pass a law if somebody else has to figure out how to pay for it.

Although it’s taken a while, requiring some accountability–which is what I see as the underlying drive of this executive order–is an idea who’s time has come.

When as much as 80 percent of a typical New York county’s budget is locked in because of unfunded mandates, there isn’t much left over for the real work that needs to be done on the local level.

The old saying is that all politics is local. However, what’s left out is that all laws certainly aren’t. Hopefully, as Paterson said, this executive order will “put the brakes on” increases in property taxes spurred by unwarranted state mandates.

However, there is one mandate that I think Paterson should propose and then move to exclude from this executive order.

He should mandate that whenever there is a news release that goes out referring to certain counties in New York (like Niagara, Monroe, or Wayne for example) representatives from those counties must be quoted in the release. It just makes good PR sense to do so.

But then, there is no mandate that anyone in government must have good PR sense.

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All the news that is fit to Tweet

Given the growing trend of newspapers to either shutter their operations, move to some sort of hybrid print/online model, or move to online altogether, I’m left wondering what’s the real value of newspapers anymore.

Sure, newspapers are still good to line the bird cage with and wrap fish. I’ve also heard newsprint does a bang up job when it comes to cleaning windows. But, as far as a communication tool do newspapers have what it takes to continue to hold their place in the cultural lexicon? 

A recent post by Norman over at PR Back Talk got me thinking about the impact of new media on mainstream media and the role newspapers, in particular, play in communication.

Norman argues that online-only media outlets can provide the same service of newspapers, but that newspapers are very good at setting the agenda. In other words reading a headline, or a story in a newspaper, gives us something to talk about with people at the office that day.

All joking about what newspapers are good for aside, the truth is the agenda-setting theory ascribes a lot of power to media like newspapers to influence what we think about on a daily basis. But, what I’ve seen with the growth in usage of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter is that the agenda-setting bubbles up from the grassroots to the grasstops. Often, stories will break on Twitter and it will be hours before  the same story “breaks” in the mainstream media.

The agenda isn’t set by gatekeepers, but by the early adopters of the technology. The news is then picked up by the early majority (newspapers and other media outlets) where the majority of us will learn about it and potentially pass it on. This is a very rough example of the diffusion theory of communication. I think it is a more accurate way to look at the media landscape today.

I agree with Norman that as newspapers die off , the ability we have to share a common experience through the newsprint dies with them. As a part-time freelance journalist covering a very specific local beat, I know that the day is coming when the small-town weekly I mostly write for goes totally online or becomes some hybrid form of itself.

However, I think doing a Twitter Search for everyone in your area, following them, and engaging with them will move us into a whole new world where we are interconnected and can drive the agenda in a way that the newspapers never could. Additionally, the same tactic can be used to gather and then diffuse news from various places all over the world.

In this way the united experience isn’t lost. It’s expanded.

All we need is love

Yesterday was one of those days. You know the ones–when everything seems to be coming down on you and there’s no end in sight. Yep, it was one of those days.

There were so many things that needed to be done–a presentation to prepare for, a meeting with a disgruntled co-worker, a newsletter to put together. And to top it all off, the network printer didn’t want to work. (I’m beginning to think printers don’t like me.)

Things were heading in a downward sprial until I opened my email to discover a note from my wfe. Subject line: I love you!

I opened it and it made me smile because the words were exactly what I needed to read at that point in my day. And that is the reason we need love. Love grabs a hold of us as we descend into the darkness and doesn’t let go until we are rejoicing in the light.

I just wanted to take a moment to thank my wife for being a part of my life and for showing me how powerful of a force love can be in a person’s life.

Defects in product & customer service go hand in hand

When was the last time you had a really good interaction with a customer service representative?

I’m willing to bet that for most people, the answer is close to 50 million years ago. Well, at least it seems like that long, anyway.

I agree with Seth Godin, who wrote here that “customer service is broken.” His solution to blow customer service up as we know it and start over with a new model is genius. This is especially true considering that most customer service call centers are staffed by people who are often under trained, or who have been well-trained in reading from a ready-made script.

Here’s a perfect example of why:

Just about a week ago, our Kodak Easyshare 5100 All-in-One (AiO) printer decided it wanted to be a zebra–it began printing our documents in a very decorative black and white-striped pattern. After print head cleaning, it was actually worse. Trouble is, this wasn’t the first time the printer took a ride on the wild side.

A few months back, when the ink ran out and I replaced it, the print head went kaput. The machine only printed blank documents. I called the Kodak AiO support line and it was determined I needed a new print head. One was shipped, along with free ink cartridges.

The AiO was a gift from my wife’s parents. They bought a similar printer at the same time they bought ours. Shockingly enough, they also had an issue with the print head and had it replaced for free. The replacement print head was not the solution, however, because my in-laws’ printer acted up again. They called, referenced their case number, and received a whole new printer. When my printer recently decided to take a permanent vacation, I called up expecting the same issue resolution.

That door didn’t even open.

Instead, I ran straight into a brick wall of policy. Apparently, Kodak changed the policy between the time our AiO broke down the first time and now. Talking to a supervisor didn’t help, either. Hugh (the supervisor) kept referring to “policy” and that he couldn’t give me the same service I had previously received. All he said he could do was send me a new print head.

Not good. The new print head, once installed, made it so the printer didn’t even print out a calibration sheet. It doesn’t work at all. It is defective. I called to get some help, but a different supervisor (Mary) gave me the same response.

But then, I have a sneaking suspicion that Kodak knew that the product was defective when they replaced my in-law’s printer. Maybe that’s why they all of a sudden changed their policy.

I believe as a customer with a well-documented recurring product issue, the least Kodak could do is to replace the product at no charge or provide us a credit toward a new model.

Unfortunately, they believe that as a customer with a defective product, I’m out of luck.

I’ve contacted the customer advocate to help with this issue. As of this writing, it’s been three days without a response.

It appears customer service at Kodak is broken. Too bad I can’t start over with a new model.

Life is child’s play

I amazed at the puzzle that is a developing child’s brain.

My son, who is going to be three in a few months, sat on the living room floor recently and proceeded to put together a jigsaw puzzle that is age-appropriate for 3 to 7 year olds. He did it all by himself without any help from my wife or me.

 

To say I’m proud is an understatement.

 

It’s great that he did it. The part that really got me, though, was his reaction after the last piece was placed in its proper spot.

 

“Daddy. Mommy. I did it!”

 

His voice was filled with that wondrous tone that comes when children accomplish something for themselves for the first time. It was exuberant. It was joyful. Simply put, it was awesome.

 

For anyone that is a parent of, family member to, caregiver for, or works with kids and is able to see how they develop and accomplish goals they set for themselves, you know what I’m talking about.

 

For those that aren’t, moments like the one my wife and I shared in after our son became an expert jigsaw puzzle assembler are why children are so great. And if you ever wonder what life is all about, take a moment to watch a child play. You’ll understand soon enough.

 

What’s your take? Communicate with me by leaving a comment. Thanks for reading!

Kicking it off

Today, I’m communicating with…YOU! That’s right, you the reader. I’m starting this blog as an experiment for myself, but also for all of you reading it. My hope is that this will become a participatory forum where we can all communicate with each other about various topics. Some of these will include: the news of the day, politics, music, books, PR & Marketing, and other various and sundry topics.

My goal is to post at least twice a week and work toward once a day. So, enjoy. Thank you for reading and for communicating with me.