Saturday, March 12, 2011

Visual Explanation for the Failure of Traditional Media

7:00 p.m. EST Saturday, March 12, 2011

MSNBC Online (

MSNBC on my teevee:

Compare and contrast ...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Meetups, Tweetups and Burning Man

On Saturday I’ll be leading a discussion with some of the Tri-State’s most prominent social media voices at the March round-up of New Media Cincinnati.

NMC is a group of professionals, students, special interest bloggers, activists, consultants, freelancers … you name it who share a passion for connecting and sharing with other people in social media channels.

In real life.


We’ll be talking about social media tragedies – deserved and otherwise – but what’s important is that we’ll be talking face-to-face.

But why do we do these things? With Facebook and the Twitter machine and especially Skype and such, really, the Gathering is hardly necessary anymore.

For all the wonders of modern technology humans have an innate desire to be with people like them, people with a shared experience (your awkward family Thanksgivings notwithstanding). We are chromosomally programmed to congregate. Not to herd, but to gather and share knowledge, trade ideas and connect.

Late each summer, 50,000 people who share a common identity gather in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada to build a city that lasts exactly eight days. From the Monday before to Labor Day, artists, nudists, self-expressionists and other opt-in non-conformists pay $200 or more to be with folks like themselves. They can be freaks at home, so why do they fly and drive to a remote desert mesa?

To gather and share knowledge, trade ideas and connect.

These are people who choose to engage in unusual hobbies or to live alternative lifestyles 365 days a year. But for eight days, they’re normal. They’re with their own.


I have a few friends participating in a similar ritual in Austin this weekend. They will, I hope, go home to their respective communities (online or otherwise) with knowledge and ideas to share.

Aside: If you’re interested in New Media Cincinnati event, I should warn you this will not be the standard preso model of #CincySM events. It’s a discussion and I hope to learn a heckuva lot more than I teach.

Image cred

Monday, January 17, 2011

Leadership, Dr. King and, The Drum Major Instinct

And what will you do when you get there?

I was honored to be a part of the Martin Luther King Legacy Awards breakfast with my colleagues from Powers Agency this morning. By “a part,” of course I mean that I sat there and drank their coffee and ate their turkey sausage.

And applauded. A lot. And almost cried a couple of times, but enough about me.

At the end of the program, one of the honorees, Mr. Barron Witherspoon, presented an excerpt from one of the last sermons Martin Luther King delivered: The Drum Major Instinct.

In short, it’s about our (very human) need to be important and draw attention to ourselves. I swear, it’s not an indictment of actual drum majors.

Ambition is a good thing. There’s great common good in the incentive people have to improve themselves, their lives.

But on its own … without another objective …

Many people aspire to leadership positions for status.

Others for prestige.

Even more to satisfy the expectations they have for themselves or those of their families.

There is no shortage of people who want to be in charge … who want to sit in the big chair and make the tough decisions. But before they aspire to that position, they (and those who might put them there) need to ask, “Why?”

What would you actually DO if you were in charge tomorrow?

Leadership requires vision. It’s not enough to be able to read a compass or find your position on a map.

So: Where is your ship headed?

Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA Relents, Revises "Enhanced Pat-Down"

TSA Announces Changes to Pat-Down Procedures for Children

WASHINGTON – November 22, 2010 – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced changes to its “Enhanced Pat-down” security procedures at U.S. airports affecting children and teens flying over the busy holiday travel season. These changes are designed to reduce the trauma and apprehension some airline passengers – particularly those between the ages of 12 and 16 – as well as their parents may have about submitting to the full-body scans and enhanced pat-downs initiated earlier this year.

Many passengers, as well as organized groups of frequent fliers, have protested the invasive frisking to which passengers have been subjected since new screening guidelines were announced earlier this year. According to TSA officials, these changes are not in response to a planned Opt-Out Protest planned for the traditionally busy Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

“Our first priority, of course, is the security of our passengers,” Said John S. Pistole, administrator of the agency. “We understand that these are the air travelers of tomorrow and it’s important to make sure their experience is as pleasurable and rewarding as possible.”

According to the new guidelines, published on the TSA website, special youth screeners will be identified at each of 73 of the busiest American airports and trained specifically to perform the enhanced pat-downs on children between 10 and 16 years of age.

These specialists will be dressed in new uniforms, specially designed to identify them as “kid-friendly.”

“Obviously it can be troubling when somebody perceived as a stranger searches your private areas,” said Pistole. “We think these friendly and familiar faces will make the experience for everyone, parents included, much more pleasant.”

Any children still troubled by the experience will be given a chocolate bar or, alternately, tickets to a local sporting event.

Image Cred

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Whatever Happened to the Social Media Revolution?

After the transformational election of 2008, many so-called social media “experts” declared the old model of running a political campaign to be dead.

The mantra was that and hundreds of independently launched sites and Facebook pages proved that power had indeed gone to the people. All we needed to do was engage these audiences, motivate them to incremental action and, well WIN!

But a funny thing happened while all those SocMed consultants (myself included) were building slides and eating rubber chicken lunches and collecting those coffee-mug honoraria.

Everybody forgot.

One of the things everybody agrees is wrong with the current political system is that raising money and preparing for the next campaign is a constant and repetitive struggle.

But that’s the key.

Social media simply is not compatible with a campaign mentality. It’s just not an event: It’s a process.

Election 2010 was by all accounts the most expensive in history, at least for a mid-term. I heard one estimate of $3 Billion once all the receipts come in. But where did candidates and parties and special interests newly liberated from any reporting structure choose to spend their money? Overwhelmingly it went to traditional print, outdoor and broadcast media. Heavy on the TV.

Lessons for Marketers

With so many close races, what if just some of them set aside just SOME of that marketing budget? What if instead of spending big wads of money in the last three weeks they had invested part as they raised it over the last two years?

What if they had stayed engaged?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Live-Tweeting or Live-Blogging: A Lesson in Convergence

A story, with a lesson:

Live blogging any event that people outside would like to attend is a great way to gain followers, position your social media voice, and establish clearly how you’re using the channel. We know that.

But ignore the connections between NEW(!) media and traditional powerhouses at your own peril.

My boss at the agency was part of a panel discussion where leaders of prominent Cincinnati organizations shared their lessons and challenges on managing through the current economic … er … situation.

When I live-tweeted that Cincinnati Business Courier event last week, my purpose was to share the best tips and strategies those CEOs offered. I knew it would go farther than that, but had no idea it would become actual news.

Business Owner Insights, featured CEOs from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Bank of Kentucky, PayCor and, of course, Powers Agency. Courier Publisher Doug Bolton led the discussion on general management, finances, HR, you name it. It was very well planned and organized, and my fellow attendees told me afterward that they gained quite a bit from the discussion.

Me too, though probably not as much as some others.

You see, I live-tweeted the entire thing.


When you’re planning a social media-friendly event, consider live-blogging. But also consider who should be doing the blogging or tweeting.

Are you documenting the event or experiencing it?

You can the whole thread here.

Or just follow me here.

If you're into that sort of thing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Revolution Indeed Will Be Tweeted

At least at first.

[In which he offends the literary gods by confronting Malcolm Gladwell]

Okay, if you haven’t read Gladwell’s article, go read it now. We’ll still be here. I promise.

As I wander around the Midwest talking to companies and professional groups about social media, one of my favorite opening slides is a simple one:

Social Media Doesn’t Matter.

That’s right; the people who have generously forked over a chicken breast lunch and a coffee mug full of key chains stare in horror as I tell them that their chosen topic for this month’s luncheon is a bucket of BS.

I still keep the mug.

If you’re still checking this frequently neglected outpost, you know what I mean by that: What matters is what happens in the real world, IRL, meatspace, whatever.

In the October 4 edition of the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell posits that social media are (yes!) doomed to failure if users expect massive change to result from their efforts. He begins with a description of the Civil Rights movement and, in particular, the risks and sacrifices made by the Greensboro Woolworth’s sit-in participants. He goes on to address the level of commitment needed by the freedom riders and calls on the blessed names of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman.

Politics, social change … even sales requires soliciting commitment. Clicking a “like” button is a minimum level of commitment. Making a $1 PayPal contribution or joining a conversation is relatively low-risk on the cost/benefit scale.

Point Mr. Gladwell.

But like the social media evangelists he decries, he misses the point. It’s not just about what happens on the Twitter machine.

But it’s a start.

Like those dormroom conversations at North Carolina A&T, social media conversations are a means, not an end. What matters is not what happens on Twitter or what some 20-year-old says over cheap wine in a dorm.

Action counts.

My practice is focused on business results, not on social change. But I still advise my clients that the number of followers, friends, retweets or whatever comes next is less important than the effect you see in sales or cost-savings.

But it has to start somewhere. And it starts with a conversation.

Whether that conversation starts in a blog post comment stream, a Twitter feed, a Facebook post or …

A Munich BierStube in the 1930s

Or a tavern in Philadelphia or Boston in the 1750s …

Yeah, social conversations can change the world.

Just not all at once.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It’s Not Them, It’s You: Selling Social Media to the C-Suite

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague, Andy Sullivan, and I were in my office talking about – what else? – social media. At one point, after seeing a third or fourth college intern walk by outside I interrupted: “You know, to those guys, hearing us talk about social media is like us overhearing Dan Pinger and Charlie Powers talk about the phone.”

See? I can dial a specific number and communicate one-to-one with almost anybody anywhere in the world!

With early adopters and edgier brands it’s easier to convince senior management to take the plunge and invest in a social media program. At least one that goes beyond slapping corporate videos and product releases on Facebook. But at other companies, getting the go ahead to do what in your heart you know is right can take a little convincing.

We’ve heard the cries (is whine too strong?) from friends and colleagues: Management just doesn’t get it.

Not every CEO is cautious by nature. Many of them, in fact, see themselves more or less as mavericks. So why are some so reluctant to move past broadcasting and into actual engagement?

Sorry, it’s not them. It’s you.

When you’re telling them all the things this wonderful technology called “social media” can do for them, you’re not speaking their language. You may be selling features instead of benefits.

She doesn’t live in your world. That why she’s the CEO and you, well, you’re you. That’s not a value judgment, just a fact. There are lots of things the folks in the C-suite count on you to know for them. If you’re in the marketing department … or PR, CorpComm, ER, HR, Customer Service … new technology ain’t one of them.

Here are manymany things the guy or gal in the big chair knows that you do not. There even more that he or she knows whether you agree with it or not.

If you want to sell a new technology, have at. But if you want to introduce a new channel for achieving business objectives: things like making money, saving money, doing things faster … open with that and you’re likely to have a much more receptive audience.

Image Cred

Tuesday, May 4, 2010, Privacy and the Triumph of Facts Over Truth

You better look at this,” she said.

This turned out to be the shiny new Spokeo site, the latest social media aggregator/data-mining webby that in all likelihood will move the needle on more blood pressure gauges than anything else.

Privacy advocates (disclosure: of which I am one) will see this as a threat to all that is sacred in the long twilight struggle against our entire lives being digitized and posted on the intertoobs. Meanwhile, many marketing analysts are no doubt licking their chops at the segmentation possibilities: “How fast can you make it searchable?!”

To the privacy advocates, it’s important to note that Spokeo does have an opt-out utility. It’s as clunky as the car I drove in college, but it’s a start. That, in addition to the mantra I repeat to anybody who will listen:

When you’re on a social media platform, you’re in … wait for it … public.

Don’t be surprised if somebody overhears what you say.

Meanwhile, to the data miners: Don’t get too greedy just yet. The algorithm (whatever it is) that Spokeo uses to collect bits from social media sites and public records collects content. But the content it collects is completely devoid of context.

Try an experiment.

Plug in your own name. Then those of your friends, neighbors, relatives.

I, for one, learned that a guy I’ve known for 20 years as a hard-driving entrepreneur and a headbanger, actually enjoys easy listening music and spends his spare time quilting.


A hard-wired data miner can tell you that it doesn’t matter what my friend enjoys; really, only what he buys. But if he buys a quilting pattern for Grandma once for Mother’s Day, how likely a customer is he for your thread and needles?

Is Spokeo evil? No. It is what it is.

Is it a useful targeting tool for communicators?

Not yet.

A threat to your privacy?

Too early to tell.

Image Cred and these guys look cool

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Context Rules Marketing, Too

Direct marketing is a three-legged stool: Audience, Offer, and Content. But context still matters, maybe more than any of the other three.

In a previous post, I mentioned an old gig I had at Cornerstone Brands, a direct marketing company/retailer. Their flagship brand is Frontgate, which offers high-quality functional items for affluent homeowners. The tagline for Frontgate is Outfitting America’s Finest Homes.

During my six-year tenure there, we used several tactics for customer acquisition outside of the bread-and-butter list exchanges. One example provides an illustration of the power of context over content.

Occasionally we would find a remnant advertising opportunity. Remnant advertising essentially means that somebody had backed out of a contract or a publication had more editorial for a specific edition than they had sold ad space to support. You could buy this space at extreme discounts if you were able to provide art (and a check) on short notice.

We used this tactic off and on throughout my tour of duty there and one rule was never broken: PR outperformed advertising on an ROI basis every single time.


Public Relations professionals might say that the third-party credibility of an editorial mention always out performs an ad. That’s valid, but we’re not talking multipliers, here. I’m talking orders of magnitude.

We’d run an ad for, say … a pool float. We’d get a sweet, sweet deal on some remnant space in, for example, the A section of the Wall Street Journal. We’re on a high-traffic, right-hand-read spread.


Meanwhile, on the same day we get a mediocre review of the same product in the D section: WSJ Weekend. Suddenly, inventory planners hated me because we couldn’t keep pool floats in stock.



Same audience. Same offer. Less compelling and even slightly negative content.

More sales.

Sure, good ol’ third-party cred plays a role. But the bigger factor is context.

1. No matter how qualified somebody is as a consumer, when they’re reading the A section of the Wall Street Journal, they’re thinking about their money.

2. No matter what kind of a week they’ve had in the market, when they’re reading the Weekend section of the Wall Street Journal, they’re thinking about their home. Or their second home. Or their third home.

They’re In Context.

Image Cred