.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

May—Martha Movement Month

Ahhh, sweet alliteration. Lots of Martha news to catch up on. Here's a recap:

* Martha Talks...a lot: Martha's Web page is translating traffic stats into a show of support. Response to the site includes "more than 32 million hits since it was launched last June; nearly 150,000 supportive emails to date - more than 40,000 of which have flooded in just since the verdict was announced on March 5."

This won't get her a new trial, but it is smart to substantiate her support using these metrics.

* Speaking of Retrial: Fortune details Martha's secret plan to try and stay out of jail. "Stewart's lawyers hope to save her from prison time by convincing a judge that her company--and its jobs--would not survive her absence." This is a tricky strategy that conflicts with MSLO's current efforts to distance themselves from Stewart and messages sent to stockholders that the company CAN survive without Stewart.

* Brand is Alive: Whether or not the company can survive prison, it has survived the trial. Despite her legal wrangling, Stewart's retail and furniture products continue to sell well. In fact, K-Mart has settled some issues between the two camps and signed on through 2009.

* She's an Earner: On May 7, 2004, we'll see how much of an impact retail and furniture sales have made to offset the poor performance of MSLO's Martha-branded media offerings. MSLO releases its quarterly earnings for first quarter 2004. This announcement is one key benchmark of how MSLO has fared through the trial and before Stewart's pending prison sentence.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Plagiarism Blog

There is a blog out there plagiarizing my Martha Stewart posts. The author—known only as Tara—is backdating the posts to make it look like she(?) is writing the pieces first.

Well, in addition to being lazy and unethical, this person is not very smart. A post noting Michael Jackson's indictment is listed as being posted on April 8th—well before the indictment actually took place.

Tara, stop taking credit for work that is not your own. Do the right thing and attribute it, or simply take it down altogether.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

How Much Time Will Martha Do?

The last poll asked everyone to grade Martha Stewart's overall PR approach to the crisis/scandal thus far. 38 percent of the tiny sample gave her a D—she made some good PR moves, but for the most part she made mistakes. 24 folks responded in total.

The new poll wonders how long Martha's sentence will be. Her sentencing is in June and fast approaching. So be sure to cast your vote in the poll to your right.

What Michael Can Learn From Martha

Disclaimer: The comparison this post makes between Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart is confined strictly to the Web sites created to deal with their individual legal issues. The similarities stop there.

Jackson's indictment prompted me to revisit his spokesperson Web site.

It has evolved from being a brief and simplistic site, lacking any contact information. Unfortunately, its redesign might be even more harmful than his first site.

The site's objective is "to provide the public and media official reports and exclusive interviews pertaining to the Michael Jackson case." Its design resembles a cross between a news site and an official fan club site. It offers a variety of content and, finally, contact information. Unfortunately, not all of this content is related to his case. For example, he congratulates his sister Janet on her new album. The other major error the site makes is that it displays advertising from sponsors.

The end result makes for a confusing site, not a credible one. It also connotes that Micheal does not realize the severity of the charges brought against him. For example, in the first paragraph of his welcome note to visitors, Jackson writes: "Thank you to the creators of this site for your hard work and efforts in helping to make this website a reality. For revolutionary video quality, the site will feature a brand new CoDec technology. "

Martha Stewart's site was designed to help tell her side of the story, generate support and present her as a normal person—not the perfect home heroine her shows made her out to be. This helped support her legal strategy. But the site was humble, subtle and was presented in a way that communicated, while Martha maintained her innocence, she realized the serious nature of her legal issues.

Jackson's site presents him as more concerned about addressing rumors and giving his fans access to his life than his legal crisis.

Jackson's first site may have been damaging in what it did not say. But with no legal focus, his new site is damaging in what it does say.

What's in a Name?

Interesting note from The New York Times: "Since June, when Stewart was indicted on charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has applied for 12 trademarks—none of which include her name."

It will be interesting to see if Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) winds up being referenced in acronym only. I noted awhile ago that the company might become MSLO officially. I suspect it depends on what happens in June when Martha is sentenced. They should wait and see.

As the article notes, "trademarks are a capital asset—property a company can own to enhance a brand, product or service. An exclusive name or image often increases a product's value."

No need to make the change until they know if the asset is truly a liability.

Monday, April 05, 2004

MSLO Relies on Research to Chart Course

The New York Times reports MSLO is engaging some of its readers via email to poll them on possible changes to Martha Stewart Living. Much like her syndicated columns, the magazine title might be shortened to Living. Regardless of what the research tells MSLO and how they react, it is great to see them taking a sound step forward.

Elsewhere in corporate scandal land, the Tyco mistrial is turning up the heat on media access to trials and juries. Judge Cedarbaum's approach with the Martha trial—boxing out the media and giving them little access to shield the jury—is credited with the smooth proceedings. And while the substance of each case is dramatically different, I agree that this approach helped the Stewart trial dramatically.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

While the cat's away...

Martha Stewart has switched the focus from her salad to her pending sentence. In the meantime, the business world must move on and we're seeing several stories emerge as a result.

As lawyers seek a new trial, everyone wants to know who will replace Martha Stewart. Keep in mind the gravity of this discussion—Stewart's Midas touch extends to much more than MSLO and K-Mart. A scan of any newsstand shows us Martha's publishing impact. Nearly every home publication has followed Martha with "home how-to" articles. Pick up a TV Guide to chart a similar TV evolution. Now consider that publishing and TV are currently her two weakest assets in light of the guilty verdicts and pending sentencing. Competitors know to focus here, rather than retail, to gain market share.

CBS is trying to cash in merely on the process of replacing her with a reality TV-based search. But The Boston Globe offers up some more worthy candidates. Now, if the Fab Five were seriously deemed Martha's replacements, it would spread the person as brand issue across five people instead of one and defuse the problems that brand personification can create. It would also be a testament to Martha Stewart's importance in that no one person can replace her.

In lieu of regular news stories around the trial, even simple personnel moves at MSLO are under the microscope. We have a good two or three months before her scheduled sentencing. We should expect a few more of these items to present themselves.