Clueless train pulling into the station ... various offences today

Engineer Jeremy back here again, a little late pulling into the station. Sometimes, the cluelesstrain is on time, sometimes it's not.

Other times, there are just so many things you read online that make you think that Sparky should either jump on the tracks, or that we need to reserve a bunch of seats for people today. So, just wave to today's passengers, and don't get too close - it might be catchy!

And the train says "Sparky, don't jump on the cluelesstrain!" Posted by Hello

First on board: Arizona State University. The University has a pretty good business school. It's not top 10, but it does quite well for itself. But, apparently it has decided to target online universities in its latest billboard advertising campaign - the Phoenix metro area is home to both ASU and University of Phoenix - with a statement to get a "real MBA" that implies the online MBAs aren't worth anything.

This made no sense - when you make comparisons, you compare up, not down. But, being a Wildcat, I thought I was being too harsh, so I asked a friend who does development for the business school at the University of Chicago. After she stopped laughing - and choking - she confirmed my thought: always compare up, to give yourself a sense of worth and class. Get comfy in that chair on the Cluelesstrain for that ad campaign.

Second on board: TiVo. In my past PR lives, I have worked on reviewer programs. And, during that time, reporters asked us if they could purchase the products. And, since these products were part of our review group, we said that they could after - and wrote down their name in a handy-dandy Word spreadsheet, with their request. Nice and simple, as we kept that spreadsheet database to know when reporters and analysts were sent product, when they were due back, and when we called them for follow-up and to ensure everything was running well.

TiVo might want to think of setting something up like that, instead of their mass email to reporters. According to an article in, "TiVo sent an e-mail to journalists on Friday saying they could get a special $200 discount on the new TiVo-Humax Digital Video Recorder.

However, a TiVo spokesman told on Monday that the special price was not intended to influence the media's coverage of the company."

C/Net also picked up on the story. Not fun for TiVo, who is a company in transition and didn't need this type of press. Plus, it's not hard to create tables in Word.

The third seat is nice and warm for NexTag. NexTag, a shopping comparison site that is a distant competitor to and PriceGrabber - and let's not even forget Froogle and the next generation - had a nice write-up in the San Jose Mercury News.

All which was ruined by the publicist for NexTag and his mouth. In the article ...
the fast-talking Chouteau, who carries purple shades on his head. ``I wanted to blow the doors off. I told them, `I could lie, cheat and steal a little bit for you, you know?' ''
So, all the goodwill built up in the story is ruined because a publicist either thought he was off the record - which any good PR person knows does not exist - or he lacks a filter. Either way, NexTag gets a call for the Cluelesstrain.

The two last seats on today's train are for an unknown LA company and Jean Chatzky. In the LACP Newsletter, there's a Q&A with a person asking a question that no PR manager has the right to ask: I just started a new PR job as a manager and am having a frustrating time building rapports with trade media. Nobody ever responds to my press releases and my phone calls are never returned. What can I do?

If you have reached the plateau of PR manager, you should know what to do. It's as simple as that. Company X - shame on you for not vetting out a competent PR person, or getting what you pay for. Sit down.

Now, Jean is a great expert in finance - and she's a Michigander, and we all know they rock. But, she gets a one-stop trip on the Cluelesstrain for part of her answer in a recent column for the Today page on MSNBC.

The reader asks, "I really want to be a stay-at-home mom. At the same time, I need to make some money! Are there any legitimate stay-at-home jobs?"

Part of Jean's answer is "for example, if you have great communications skills, perhaps you could take on a public relations client or two from home." Yep, PR is just that simple - you have a phone, a computer, you're a "people person" and you too can do PR! Jean must work with PR people occasionally, but it appears she does not respect them. That's just sad.

Hope you enjoyed this week's ride!

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  1. Jeremy - really good point about comparing up. I think the same problem shows up in the sales process as well. Salespeople can get too focused on cost or can get stuck in a feature to feature comparison with a lower-end product rather than talking about why their product is more valuable. This often happens in a competitive sales situation when the client has spoken to several companies with widely varying solutions and costs. It's fair and smart of the customer to ask why they should have to pay more for one product over another. But it's Marketing and Sales' responsibility to communicate the value proposition of their higher-end product more effectively.

    If they don't it either leads to a discounting spiral or the perception that the higher end product really is overpriced. What constantly surprises me is that even some CEO's with MBA's from the top business schools fall into the same trap because they think it will help close a deal.

    Customers love discounts but they want discounts on products they value.