Corra Daily Planet » 2008 » October

Are We There Yet? Has the Meltdown Bottomed Out?

Fri, October 31st, 2008 - 12:00 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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The stock market has proven a wild and often nerve wracking ride.  One day it is up five hundred points, the next day it is down.   The government announces bailout plans, but the public isn’t sure whether they will work or not.   In fact, the government isn’t sure if they will work or not.   Nobody knows nothing, or so it seems.

Every company from CBS to Motorola announces a reduction in projected earnings.   In the media business alone, newspapers are folding.   Gannet is laying off 3000 people or ten percent of its work force.   The Christian Science Monitor, after 100 years of publication, is retracting to an online only position.   American Express is trimming its work force.  So is the publishing giant Conde Nast.   And horror of horrors, Men’s Vogue will cut is distribution from ten issues a year to only two.   There are four seasons, but there will only be two issues, annually.  Oh well.

So with all this bad news, including consumers burrowing deep and not spending their money on anything but necessities, we have the one question to ask.  Are we there yet?  Has the stock market about bottomed out?   When all this trimming finally stops, will we start the long, steep climb back up into economic viability.

I think we are getting close.   Once this election campaign is finally over with, whoever wins, the country will be ready to get down to business.   It will be new business in a lot of sectors.   Much will be different.  As for an economy that relies on nearly 70% consumerism, that is about to change.   Reality will overtake the fantasy of living so far above our heads we can’t see the daylight.

And, once the smoke clears, companies will reset themselves.  People will go back to work.   Those out of work will be able to find jobs.  Not everyone, but a fair amount.   Not this year, maybe, and possibly not until the end of the next.   But sooner than the Cassandras believe, we will start to realign ourselves.  It will be a start, but a good start is better than a poor finish.

So Halloween has new meaning this year.  Trick or Treat.

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Employment Layoffs, Slaughter in the Media Industry

Fri, October 31st, 2008 - 5:18 am - By Gordon Basichis

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The media industry was having problems enough, with the reductions in advertising revenue, the public’s unfavorable perceptions of the news outlets, and the general dilemmas as the major palyers move from the print age to the electronic era.  now comes the virtual bloodbath, the slaughter and subsequent disemboweling of the work force.  It’s crazy, really.  Worse because few seem to feel the sympathy they would feel for the same loss, say, in the auto industry.

Time, Inc is laying off 6% of its work force or 600 people.   Christian Science Monitor is closing down its paper edition and going online only.  Gannet will be cutting ten percent of its newspaper jobs, and McGraw Hill will be handing out pink slips to 270 employees. the Los Angeles Times announced it was laying off some 75 more staff members.   According to an article in the New York Times, the Time, Inc. layoffs will radically alter the company culture.

More layoffs are coming.   This means a lot of people are out on the street.   Some may make the transition to the total electronic age, and many will not.   They will not be needed.   As one who was once in the news industry, I know for most people this is a difficult transtiion to make.   That is, if you can even find any work.   Book publishing is all but dead, and there are enough freelance editors to fill a stadium.

Some will try to find public relations work, but that too is experiencing a downturn.  Advertising?  That has problems of its own, and news people frequently make neither good copywriters nor publicity flacks.  Some are probably going to blog for awhile as they come to terms with the fact their professions have gone the way of the Age of Steam.

As a business owner, it may be a good idea to recruit some of these media people.   The entertainment folk know how to hype a product, and the news folk can read, write, and spell, all the things much of the society has lamentably forgotten.   Of course you would need to conduct a rigorous preemployment screening program to ascertain if your candidates can make the transtion for their old jobs to your industry.   Chances are, your human resources person would not be the one qualified to determine this, but someone running your department.  Or even an outside consultant.

If you can’t hire someone full time, then it may pay to hire them freelance.   To get started in their new profession, these media people may offer you bargain prices that you wouldn’t get from your normal sources.  It’s an idea worth thinking about.

Check them out before you hire.

Hospital Workers–A Criminal Operation?

Thu, October 30th, 2008 - 5:00 am - By Gordon Basichis

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Hospitals have been hiring criminals.  Or so the story goes, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.  The article maintains that King-Harbor Hospital, right here in the City of the Angels, has been hiring anything but angels as part of the hospital staff.   The hospital will fire nineteen employees and discipline another 45.

The article reports that the Department of Health didn’t exactly move like the wind in reviewing these cases or disciplining or dismissing employees.   With all this one has to wonder who was doing the background checks, if anyone.   Apparently Human Resources not only neglected their preemployment screening duties here but in other facilities as well.

You have to wonder who has been wheeling you or your loved ones around the hospital.   Does it really matter?  Well, maybe.  Considering the amount of theft, where patients are relieved of cash and valuables, the criminal records of hospital employees should be factored into the mix.  Theft can be pretty rampant at our hospitals.

So if there is any lesson to this, it is to run background searches on your employees.   At the very least, run the criminal records background searches, so you don’t go embarrassing yourself with headlines that King-Harbor Hospital has recently enjoyed.   These are tough economic times out there, and the last thing you need are desperate employees running your business into the ground.

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It Ain’t Small Change When Pepsi Does a Branding Change

Wed, October 29th, 2008 - 4:42 am - By Gordon Basichis

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Pepsi just spent a ton of money redesigning its branding logo on its core product, a bottle of Pepsi Cola.  According to an article by Natalie Zmuda, in AdAge, it took the designers five months to finalize the iconic logo.   Five months and $1 million dollars for the design.

It is a nice logo.   But five months for this?  Who did they hire and where were they?   Unless everybody involved was on retreat or busy serving in Iraq, that seems like an inordinate amount of time go come up with this relatively minor change.   It wasn’t like they were employed to build the new series of nuclear submarines or even reconfiguring the Pepsi formula.   There were no significant color changes, and they didn’t change as they are planning for Mountain Dew.  To Mtn Dew, in case anyone is interested.  Perhaps the Mountain Dew drinkers find it difficult to spell “mountain,” I really don’t now.

I am artistic.  I have a background in the arts.  I have friends in the arts.   I have a son in the arts.  I have been involved in advertising, marketing, and public relations.   I was in the entertainment business, where we know that pizzazz sells.   The point is I am not some veritable cretin who doesn’t understand either the significance of branding, design, color, etc.  So when I ask–five months and a million dollars for this? I ask this with some credible background.  I’m sure I am not the only one asking, this either.   The poor guy at Pepsi who had to pay the bill on this, may well be asking the very same thing.

Pepsi, of course contends that the new design helps establish Pepsi as a cultural leader.  There they are, right on the cutting edge and no longer the antique no one thought they were.  Words like adventurous, youthful, and unique, almost flippant are bandied about by the branding experts.   Sounds kind of like the ovelry effusive wine reviews we sometimes find.

The regular old Pepsi brand supposedly hints of a smile.  The Diet Pepsi logo will approximate a grin.  A laugh wll adorn Pepsi Max.   Sounds great, if anyone get the subtle changes.   Or cares.

It is a nice log change, it really is.  But five months and a million bucks or more to produce?   My son, the artist, produces beautiful logos, animated logs, even, in two weeks.   Will people get the grin?  Will people care?  Will consumers say to themselves that old Pepsi drink was okay, but I felt kind of old and out of touch each time I put the bottle to my lips.   But now that its is grinning at me, I feel youthful and vibrant.   I am a person of the times.

Well, maybe it will go that way.   Maybe after they spend hundred of millions more switching out the new logos on the trucks, vending machines, and in the venues where Pepsi is sold, it won’t be quite as effective as Pepsi had hoped.   You never know.

My suggestion?   Spend the few bucks extra and switch back to sugar as sweetener, instead of that high fructose corn syrup.   That would work for me.  Ahhh!

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