Thursday, May 31

Saving Jericho: Seven Solutions For Rangers

After seeing “low tech” Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp., dismiss Jericho with The Wall Street Journal, I realized something. While I wrote up early solutions that CBS might have considered in handling their show cancellation crisis (even if they are in denial), I’ve seemed reluctant to provide any tips for the Jericho Rangers (fans of the show). Why?

Mostly because the fans have more than proven their mettle by producing the biggest show cancellation protest in history. In fact, watching the nuts total exceed 31,000 pounds over at NUTSOnline is only one measure of their wildly successful campaign. Within hours, they raised almost $8,000 in disaster relief for the tornado ravaged town of Greensburg, Kansas (ending claims that Jericho Rangers could put their time to better use). They are also a chip shot away from reaching 100,000 signatures.

Yesterday, upon learning I wrote about a controversy in my hometown, they sent me a “thank you” for the day before — thousands of visitors in the course of two hours. This kind of movement really makes me wonder if CBS recognizes that the Jericho Rangers are adding numbers faster than any are getting tired out (and even those that are tired do not seem willing to give up, much like they won’t be discouraged by negative posts that are beginning to pop up on the CBS Jericho message boards).

What CBS is also missing is that this movement is much bigger than the CBS Jericho message board. If it continues, I don’t know how long Jericho Lives will be able to contain it and that would mean all bets are off for Moonves. Still, since all of this has taken on a life of its own, some of my team members started kicking around what would happen if we did toss over a few solutions for the Jericho Rangers. After all, fair is fair …

Solution One: Tighten Your Message. Everybody “diggs” the nuts campaign for its novelty. And it continues to generate buzz at various news bureaus. But what is sometimes missing are those clear, crisp speaking points about the show: tell people why this isn’t just another sci-fi serial with diehard fans (it’s not). Reinforce your doubts that Nielsen accurately captured the show’s ratings.

Solution Two: Expand Your Base. When you think your Ranger growth is slowing, round up friends, family, and neighbors to your cause. Sure, they might never have seen Jericho, but they will support the show if you ask them: sign the petition, buy some nuts, or mail a pre-stamped pre-addressed postcard. This could tip the balance, keep it in the mainstream, and engage more people.

Solution Three: Local Speakers. Several times throughout the campaign, Jericho Rangers have come close to missing in-person interviews with local broadcast companies, especially CBS affiliates. It would be advantageous to locate and identify speakers before you need them in mid-sized and major cities across America.

Solution Four: Affiliate Buy-in. Probably because CBS affiliates are much closer to the fan base, they seem eager to report on the protest. I can only imagine, but part of the reason is associated with the local affiliates being able to sell the show. Besides, if they cover it, other non-affiliated stations might follow suit with their own spin. Local stations borrow stories all the time.

Solution Five: Star Power. Sure, the fans have kicked around star power for some time, but they have yet to make it connect. The secret is to secure celebrities not affiliated with CBS or any other network. Designate a team (but don’t overwhelm them) to contact publicists who want their client on the front cover of Star Magazine saying “nuts to CBS” or simply something nice about Jericho actors, writers, or producers. The reward: 8-9 million moviegoers.

Solution Six: Forget Rumors. If anything distracts this fan base the most, it must be the constant buzz of rumors. Just the other day, on Shaun O Mac’s online radio show, Stephen Scaia mentioned the Jericho set is still standing. Look, we all know the fans already secured a wrap-up so a working set only makes sense. Enjoy these rumors but stay focused until CBS says “yes, season two.” Then celebrate.

Solution Seven: Reporters Rock. Don’t get me wrong. The first rule in media relations is appreciating that the media is never your friend. They will report your missteps as quickly as your successes (it’s their job). With Jericho fans, however, there is a bit of a twist. You’ve won most of them over. So please, don’t dismiss or ditch them when a story doesn’t go your way. They’ll respect you for accepting a setback and be more willing to consider a follow-up.

So there you have it: seven solutions for Jericho Rangers. I could float a dozen more because grassroots campaigning comes pretty natural for someone who has worked on a few political campaigns and community causes. But these seem to fit best with your most pressing needs. Most will simply move you to the next level, which reminds me…

Never turn off a fundraising effort when it is working. If you are raising money faster than you can spend it, there is always the next advertisement in the next publication. If the campaign ends before CBS comes to its senses, then you can always donate the proceeds to Greensburg, Kansas, or wherever you wish. Who knows? Maybe some can be slated as seed money for the convention or, even better, help fund Rangers to make more group appearances. You need some.

In closing, always keep faith in your friendships, even when the numbers don’t seem to add up in your favor. If I had a nickel for each win that I was told couldn’t be won, I’d be ready to retire.

The bottom line: all of this comes down to CBS making a choice, just not the one that you or they think. It’s not the show; it’s the headline: CBS Saves Jericho … or CBS Says ‘Nuts’ To Customers.

If I were a shareholder, I would hope they’d pick the former and not the latter, because the latter is a loss. Even Mr. Moonves would have to agree with me that shareholders like to pick winning decisions, not losing ones. Or maybe not. To each his own. But if CBS were one of my investments (it’s not today), I’d be voting someone off the island.

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Wednesday, May 30

Standing Ground: Towbin Hummer


Even the smallest local controversies have a hard time staying local in the world of new media.

Eleven days ago, Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, author of the NoisyRoom, posted her take on a dispute between Towbin Hummer and the Las Vegas City Council and, within hours, dozens of people from all over the country were calling to cancel reservations. (Unfortunately, no one told one boycotter that the New York-New York Hotel & Casino, like all Strip properties, resides outside city of Las Vegas jurisdiction.)

The controversy? Towbin Hummer raised a 30-by-60-foot American flag and it is just "too aesthetically unpleasing, too commercial, and too loud" for some folks' tastes. So, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the city council ordered it to be taken down.

Instead, Dan Towbin, owner of Towbin Hummer and an honorary commander at Nellis Air Force Base, made good on his promise to complete a veterans memorial around the base of the flag. He would have done it sooner, but he didn't want to build the memorial until the city's 6-month "flag review" was over. Had the council reversed its allowance after six months, the dealership would have been forced to rip down the memorial as well.

If it were another dealership, I might be inclined to think twice about their motivation. The Towbin family, however, has a long track record of supporting the community. Carolynn Towbin, the executive vice president of Towbin Automotive, insists on quarterly events to involve the community.

Most recently, Towbin Hummer held a fingerprint-a-thon, hosted by KLAAS KIDS, with more than 200 kids fingerprinted at the event. Events like these hardly seem the stuff of a "sale first" mentality. They could have just as easily had a tent sale.

Regardless, both sides are now embroiled in a name-calling war that questions which side is more un-American: the dealership for flying a flag or the city council for ordering it be taken down.

City spokesman Jace Radke told the Associated Press that a city council member could bring the issue up again at the next meeting on June 6.

What seems suspicious to me is that Towbin is not the only business in Las Vegas to fly an American flag. The Terrible Herbst gasoline and convenience store chain has flags, measuring 30 feet by 50 feet on poles 100 feet tall, at almost every station. No one, in any of those neighborhoods, seems to complain about them.

Regardless of how I feel about the issue, I have to give the Las Vegas City Council a few points for damage control. One story highlights how the city swayed one Las Vegas boycotter after he heard the city's side of the story. After the city e-mailed him back, he responded: "See you in September."

What's more uncertain is if such message management will protect city council members during the next election cycle. A future opponent's mail piece, highlighting how an incumbent voted to remove an American flag, might just gain some traction. It certainly has with Fox News, CNN, and other national news outlets.

Personally, I think the city would have been better off never giving approval for a flag that exceeded its 40-foot height restriction (in May 2006), contingent on complaints from neighbors. It would have been smarter to have required the business to poll residents prior to granting permission.

Why? Because now, no matter how well you spin it, a business flying an American flag hardly seems like commercial exploitation (lest we ban all businesses from flying them) whereas a city calling for an American flag to be taken down certainly seems like censorship.

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Tuesday, May 29

Marketing Jericho: Season Two

As rumors continue to surface (and they are only rumors) that Jericho might score its miraculous second season, the first step for CBS would be to fix the show's marketing message.

If anything kept potential viewers at bay, it was one simple oversight: CBS never redefined the show from how it started to what it became.

Case in point, the original plot line read something like this...

A nuclear mushroom cloud appears on the horizon -- and for the residents of Jericho, a small Kansas town, it could mean they're the only Americans left alive.

I bounced this off a few friends and family members this weekend and none of them were interested. Who wants to see people die of radiation poisoning or be evaporated under the heat of a nuclear blast? We saw enough of that, years ago, with the movie The Day After, they said.

The descriptor is also responsible for most critics rounding up the serial as a "nuclear apocalypse drama," which conjures up those same images of radiation sickness and despair. BUT that's not the show that captured millions of fans despite a midseason break. These fans, the ones responsible for the biggest show cancellation protest in history, saw something else.

Jericho is a story of survival in a small Kansas town that has been mostly cut off from the outside world after a disaster shatters what most of us take for granted in America.

"Wow!" My friends and family, who have never watched the show, said. "Now that is something that sounds worth checking out."

Hmmm ... so a "small town survival drama" beats a "nuclear apocalypse drama." Go figure.

The above description of the show, based loosely on a compilation of fan comments I read over the last few weeks as they campaign to entice new viewers to download the series on iTunes, drives more interest and adds understanding why this fan protest has tipped from viral into the mainstream.

That's right. The Jericho fan movement has officially tipped, after capturing the attention of the The New York Times.

“We are impressed by the creativity of their campaign,” Chris Ender, a CBS spokesman in Los Angeles (which received far fewer nuts than Manhattan), told The New York Times. But so far executives haven’t changed their decision about the show, he said.

(Don't worry Mr. Ender. Jericho fans are lining up a West Coast nut company just so the Los Angeles offices will not feel left out.)

Maybe the executives will change their minds today. Dubbed "Super Nut Tuesday" by fans all over the world, today is the day that NUTSOnline delivers 5 tons of nuts to CBS offices today (the largest gift delivery of nuts in history and only a fraction of the 26,000 pounds purchased for CBS at a single store). At least ten "Jericho Rangers" (a name given to active fans) will be there when the nuts arrive to help unload.

Today is also the day that fan ads break in Variety magazine and The Hollywood Reporter, after the fundraising was so successful that Jericho Lives had to ask fans to STOP sending in donations (at least until the next ad).

These tactics are just the tip of a larger, somewhat makeshift but respectable strategy, which has also resulted in securing more than 90,000 signatures to save the show. For the most complete picture of the mounting news coverage and buzz, drop by Jericho Links.

Or, visit the CBS Jericho message boards where many efforts have unfolded in real time. The boards also include a growing number of actor and producer comments, thanking the fans for their support.

Dollar for dollar ... pound for pound ... the Jericho fans might produce some scrappy marketing material and unsure public relations practices, but the results speak for themselves. They have generated more media coverage, marketing buzz, and interest in the show after a few weeks than CBS did all season. You have to admire that, whether Jericho fans get their wish for a second season or not.

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Monday, May 28

Giving Thanks: Memorial Day

While we are covering several evolving case studies, I would be remiss not to remind everyone that today is Memorial Day, which commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country.

Without their sacrifice for this country, none of us would be enjoying the freedoms we have today — to spend time with family, to send nuts for Jericho, to raise money for a nonprofit, to post an entry on a blog. Sure, you can do all these things today, but please remember to pause for the people who gave their lives so you could do it.

Years ago, I was asked by a city government to write a tribute speech for American War Mothers, whose members are mothers of children who have served or are serving in the armed services during a time of conflict. The speech won't fit into a blog post, but I thought I'd paraphrase a few lines:

I am the American soldier

The same day I enlisted in the armed forces, my mother volunteered to assist food conservation and war relief work so she could help, my regiment, and our Allies win the Great War. 1917.

A few years later, I was back in Europe fighting a very different war — this time as a gunnery sergeant aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress. With bombing raids in the afternoons and early mornings, my mother knew as well as I did: most would not come home. 1943.

We won, but our celebration was premature. It wasn't long before I found my squad on a roadblock about 11 miles south of the Sudan in North Korea. It wasn't a popular military action, but my mom's belief in me never wavered. 1952.

Our faith and freedom was soon tested again. As I took cover in the dense underbrush of Vietnam, she found that her words—that there really was a war over there—fell on deaf ears. It took time before people listened, but she never gave up. 1968.

Since Vietnam, there have been dozens of different conflicts, military actions, and wars — so many that sometimes people take me, the American soldier, for granted. And all too often, our country forgets who served, who fought, and who died in faraway places like Grenada, Kuwait, or Baghdad. It's okay. People forget, except one person. The American War Mother. Sometimes she alone ensures our sacrifices, so others may live free, will never be forgotten.


Some of the inspiration for the lines that made up the entire speech came from reading hundreds of real letters by American soldiers, sent home to their mothers. As you might suspect, these women, whether their sons and daughters came home or not, will never forget. Please don't let them remember our fallen alone. Take some time today to honor our armed forces.

Sure, I know some people will have you believe that today is a political hot button topic, but don't believe that for a minute. When you're a soldier wounded in a foreign country or a mother anxiously waiting for the next letter of hope, there are no politics.

May they all come home safe, these brave men and women. Good night and good luck.

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Doing Good: BlogCatalog.com

Today, BlogCatalog.com, one of the fastest-growing social blog directories on the Internet, has inspired hundreds of bloggers to do good by challenging them to write about and raise funds for DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit organization that brings teachers and donors together to fund specific student projects that range from a "Magical Math Center" ($200) to "Cooking Across the Curriculum" ($1,100) program.

As evidenced by BlogPulse, the social awareness campaign is working with DonorsChoose receiving almost 15 times more exposure on the Internet than any previous day. If this awareness translates into donations, BlogCatalog members will be responsible for raising $25,000 for DonorsChoose.org.

Even if members do not make their donation mark, the campaign still succeeds in raising awareness for this worthwhile nonprofit. Such exposure is likely to translate into donations in the weeks and months ahead. DonorsChoose.org is a member of the Omidyar Network. The Omidyar Network is a mission-based organization established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam.

“Internet social networks from MySpace to Facebook are receiving a ton of media and Internet attention, but we have yet to see an online social community come together to raise funds for a good cause,” said Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog.com. “We also see this as an opportunity to empower and recognize bloggers to collectively focus their blogs for good.”

Berkman said depending on the success of the challenge, BlogCatalog.com will develop a community service page to host and promote more blog events in the near future. BlogCatalog.com is the first social network directory to organize its members to raise funds for a specific non-profit organization.

To see how the challenge unfolded, visit the BlogCatalog.com Discussion. There, you will find Berkman's original request as well as links to many of the blogs that have taken up this challenge.
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Sunday, May 27

Freeing TV: Dr. Seuss On Jericho

One day, making tracks in the prairie of Prax, came a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax. — from The Zax by Dr. Seuss.

And, well, we all know what happened. Neither Zax would budge in the prairie of Prax, not an inch to the east, not an inch to the west. But the world did not stand still. It grew up around them.

Has the Jericho story turned into a deadlock, with CBS and Jericho fans embraced in an unblinking standoff? Some people might suggest this is the case, but I really don't think so. Not in the least.

If there is any deadlock to be found, it's between the measure of new media and old media, which has put a wrinkle in the compensation model for content creators. Jericho fans just happen to be a large and growing group of people who say the world is more than ready to grow up around this deadlock and remove the TV ratings system.

I won't go so far to say that Nielsen Media Research isn't needed. It is. But what I will point out is that we already know most networks have wanted to expand beyond Nielsen ratings for some time.

Just yesterday in an Associated Press story, Fox executives cautioned against counting American Idol out simply because Nielsen reported that the 30.7 million people who watched Jordin Sparks win last week was a "sharp drop" from the 36.4 million people who watched Taylor Hicks win last year.

Fox said that for the season as a whole, American Idol ratings are about the same when DVR viewing is taken into account. Bravo! That's the same assessment made by Jeff Jensen with Entertainment Weekly, who asked viewers "Are You Killing TV?" His story points out that the way people are watching TV is changing, which is skewing the somewhat flawed and thinly sliced rating system even more.

"Consumers value the ability to manage their time more than ever," said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of NetFlix to Entertainment Weekly. DVDs and DVRs allow fans to "enjoy a show at their own pace."

Kudos to Jensen for pointing out the obvious. No kudos for Chuck Barney of the Contra Costa Times. He knows the numbers are flawed but went right on ahead with a piece that screams "IT WAS NOT a good year to be a television programmer. New hits were hard to come by and several old favorites lost some of their power to enthrall."

Using Nielsen ratings exclusively, he said "serials have no snap, crackle, and pop ... sitcoms are poison." I'll give him a couple of points on asking producers to practice some gun control before killing off major characters weekly. But, overall, his story only reinforces a myth that TV is in trouble. Not trouble; transition.

Sure, the networks are not doing everything right by flooding the next line-up with six new "nerd" shows, countless reality TV spins, and repackaged crime dramas. But they are hardly doing everything wrong when you look beyond Nielsen numbers.

Mark Harris, also writing for Entertainment Weekly this week, comes close to making a similiar case when he suggests that numbers alone don't make quality movies. Paraphrased: If you care about your customers — the 2 or 5 or 10 million who are passionate about Friday Night Lights or Rescue Me or The Office (he lists more) — they will stay with your show as long as it's good. Their enthusiasms and high standards and judgments may even help, indirectly, to make what you have better.

But what about the money? Please! If you think for a minute that a show like Jericho cannot make money with 8-10 million fans, DVD sales, and future syndication (alone), then you're out of sync with the industry. Jericho has already paid off with a pretty good profit margin. The only real hold up is that networks haven't settled on a "measure" for making decisions in the world of new media.

Yet, finding this magical "measure" isn't even the real challenge (that's easy). The real challenge is making it through the transition.

Sure, I know there's a lot of talk about advertisers, but that's just nonsense. I've written more than once on how advertisers are aleady diverting dollars away from mainstream advertising budgets and toward digital media, social media, and the Internet with increasing fervor. They want some changes made too.

That said, it seems to me that CBS Entertainment, Jericho fans, cast, crew, and every other stakeholder all seem to be on the same side. There doesn't need to be a compromise because all sides want the same thing: a hit show in Jericho and more freedom for TV. And, in the process of saving Jericho, these fans might even find a way to save a few other shows as well.

With Jericho, there exists an opportunity to move beyond old media measures. For me, it's an easy choice but not mine to make. It's all up to CBS. And if they pass on it, while waiting for old media Zax and new media Zax to budge, then the world may grow up around them too.

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Saturday, May 26

Feeling Fallout: Nielsen Over Jericho

As more than 21,000 pounds of nuts are bound for CBS offices on two coasts, it only makes sense that Nielsen Media Research, the leading provider of television audience measurement and advertising information services worldwide, is beginning to feel the fallout.

As Jericho cast member Brad Beyer (Stanley Richmond) and Kristin from E! Online spoke Thursday afternoon, he pointed out the obvious:

"We consistently held 8 or 9 million viewers, even going up against Idol, so everyone was really surprised and shocked that we were canceled. You have to move on and let go, but you see all this fan support and you keep that tiny bit of hope in your heart."

But those numbers are Nielsen numbers. And Nielsen numbers are being put under ever-increasing scruntity by, well, everybody. Enough so that Michelle Malkin picked up Find The Boots by Boon Doggie's May 22 story that "went out on a limb" to say that the Save Jericho campaign will change the way old media interacts with the Internet. He's not the only one.

"We were all stunned when we didn't get the second-season pickup, but our fans have completely surprised us. This outpouring of support means the world to the Jericho cast and crew. Knowing that Jericho touches so many people has completely humbled us," Karim Zreik, producer of Jericho, told E! Online. "I don't know what's going to happen next. CBS and Paramount are still weighing their options. We hope to know more by next week."

The fan standpoint is obvious: CBS let us down, but we'll forgive them if they bring the show back. Nielsen let us down, because it does not count everyone. There is nothing to forgive. Ouch.

According to Nielsen, it has been working hard to abandon family diaries (like my family once had), and leverage technology that exceeds current TV audience measurements — stuff that will track everything about consumers, from what movies they like to which ones would rather go to a live ball game than tune in to a show.

The interim step has been trying to install meters on all sorts of devices, ranging from VCRs, DVDs, cable boxes, and modems. But what we may be seeing with a show like Jericho is that the Nielsen family sampling size has grown too thin as the company has made a greater effort to track specific demographics on the front end. As a result, shows like Jericho are not accurately measured and fan passion is not even a factor.

There are currently two selection methods: geographic selection (area probability sampling) in the national sample and larger markets, and randomly-generated telephone numbers (Total Telephone Frame) in smaller markets. And the reality is, especially in smaller markets, only about 2 million people are filling in dairies during "sweeps." (Oh, only about 25,000 meters exist.) So, in essence, what one family watches can influence about 22,000 viewing homes.

Nielsen Media Research says that its ability to answer more and more detailed questions about consumers will shape how the media industry functions in the 21st century.

But today, the company is only employing quantitative "democratic" measures in an increasingly interactive world that demands more qualitative considerations. As someone who understands media placement on the advertising side, it seems clear to me that Nielsen is an important tool in capturing some sort of measure. But it cannot be the only measure.

Sure, I think Nielsen would have been better off, years ago, partnering with cable companies and giving consumers the opportunity to opt in with the Nielsen ratings system, which would have increased the sampling size. But they didn't. And now it seems it is becoming more difficult for one of America's best known research companies to leapfrog to the next system while installing old media meters.

I would be remiss to suggest that CBS Entertainment use Nielsen as the scapegoat for the network's analysis of the data. But it is very clear that measurement mix is no longer just 8-9 million viewers represented by Nielsen families. The data is also about 450,000 viewers online, thousands of iTunes downloads, tons and tons of nuts, and an ad campaign that strikes at the very heart of the network's intelligence.

What does this mean?

Well, if I were Nina Tassaler, president of CBS Entertainment, I would call a press conference on Tuesday morning. Then, standing in front of a mountain of nuts and holding up the Jericho fan ads, I would put on my famous Tassler smile and say ...

"Remember how I once told The Hollywood Reporter that we're all about continuing to build our younger audience while making sure that we hold on to our core audience? Well, we still are. Jericho fans … congratulations! You just made television history and we here at CBS have listened! We look forward to bringing you a second season of Jericho."

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Friday, May 25

Spinning 2.x: Julie Roehm

If the art of spin is part of Julie Roehm's marketing 2.x concept, she's certainly trying to employ it in court. Roehm's defense tactic against Wal-Mart is to exonerate herself by accusing executives at the #1 retailer of ignoring company ethics policy.

She says they accepted trips and gifts from clients and benefited from preferential prices on jewelry and yachts, implying that maybe that makes it okay that she broke the company's ethics policy by accepting gifts from agencies pitching the Wal-Mart account last November and having what seems to have been a heated affair with a subordinate.

According to The New York Times, the filing says "While Wal-Mart asserts that it has policies which prohibit conflicts of interest and the misuse of Wal-Mart assets and opportunities, those policies do not seem to prevent its executives from using both to personal advantage.”

The story is also generating buzz at The Wall Street Journal and CNN Money. Each publisher has a slightly different take on the story, ranging from outlining Roehm's claims in some detail to brushing them off as a weak defense.

It's difficult to tell what the court might think, given this tactic seems to play more to the media than her case. On the quick, it reminds me of a defense similar to one my then 7-year-old son cooked up about a year ago. "Why were you throwing rocks at that house?" I asked. So-and-so "threw rocks at the house first" was his defense. Ho hum.

Since her termination last December, Roehm has fared the worst of the three most cited in this case study. Other than landing a gig at Sports Illustrated, most businesses have given her a lukewarm reception since she filed the wrongful termination case against Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, DraftFCB won K-mart and Wal-Mart stocks are up on the market.
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Placing Ads: Jericho Command

Forbes recently ran a pick-up story that called it what we called it days ago: the largest viewer protest in television history. With well over 1,000 registered members at Jericho Rally Point, more than 80,000 petition signatures, and about 19,000 pounds of nuts shipped to CBS by NutsOnline alone, it is quickly becoming the largest social media protest in history.

On Tuesday, the increasingly structured Jericho fanbase is poised to move their message into the mainstream whether news outlets pick up their story or not. They are running a full-page ad in Variety magazine. The advertisement, one of several the fanbase will buy, will drive visitors to Bring Jericho Back, a Web site that includes links to relevant sites and contact numbers at CBS.

The ad, which includes story clips from The Los Angeles Times and WebProNews.com, will be accompanied by a banner on the Variety Web site. But the fans won't stop there. They are already raising money to purchase another ad in The Hollywood Reporter and shopping bigger publications.

Such ads will no doubt rally even more to their cause, helping it reach the tipping point when a movement becomes mainstream. Rumblings across the Internet hint that may happen soon for Jericho. Message board comments on unrelated sites demonstrate people who never watched the show are anxious to join.

"I want to be part of the greatest network protest in history," they say.

While Find The Boots suggests that CBS ride the viral marketing storm a little longer, I remain unconvinced this is a prudent choice for the network. Leaving mainstream media like Newsday with nothing more than rumors that Jericho "might" make next season's fall lineup or be wrapped up in two hour movie only motivates the Jericho fan base.

The longer CBS waits to respond with anything definitive, the more likely it will have to address its decision to a mob of angry fans outside CBS headquarters. In such a scenario, competing stations would have no choice but to cover the story, solidifying CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler's call to cancel the show as the worst decision in network history (even if she reverses it). Such a label would be unforgettable, given that the public tends to be unforgiving of executives who respond too little, too late.

Sure, some people think I'm giving too much credit to the fans; even one of my best "social media" friends said I was nuts to give the Jericho story so much attention. I disagree, but only because I have the advantage of understanding what this might mean.

Having had contact with one of the two Jericho fan base leaders, I'm convinced things will get worse before they get better unless CBS comes to the table soon. The once makeshift fanbase has developed into a well-structured movement with two leaders, 10 commanders, several dozen lieutenants, and thousands of fans. In the last few days, they've added international commanders as well.

The two leaders have taken time off from work, dedicating almost 18 hours per day to the cause. The rest of the command base dedicates anywhere from 4-12 hours a day, every day. Most of them meet on the CBS Jericho forums, which demonstrates how once a network creates a social community, it's not easy to undo.

Since the beginning, they've also picked up several members with lobbying backgrounds and marketing knowledge. And, they are occasionally given tips from members of the media, like Jericho fan and popular BlogTalkRadio personality Shaun O'Mac. In fact, the NUTS campaign origination is credited to his first show covering the story.

According to Schumi07, one of the two designated command leaders for Jericho fans at Jericho Lives, the NUTS campaign means much more than a historic viral marketing effort. It represents "millions of uncounted fans that the Nielsen ratings system does not accurately represent."

It also reveals how much heart these fans really have. When asked what was the biggest surprise since the campaign began, Schumi07 mentioned several, including her rise to a leadership position.

"I'm surprised I'm one of the two leaders because I just wanted my TV show back ... I can't speak for everyone, but the entire core command probably feels the same. None of us have never fought for a TV show before," said Schumi07. "The other surprise is that Nina Tassler responded to our campaign within 48 hours. We know Nina Tassler likes the show."

Schumi07 added that she is most amazed by the dedication of the command group and the fans. Even on iTunes, they are winning. After a single request, the season finale of Jericho moved from 87 to 43. When she looked this morning, it had climbed, and continues to climb, even higher.

Still wondering why I find this fascinating? Jericho fans have raised the bar on social media mobilization. So if you're in business, it's something worth watching because next time it might not be a show that customers decide to stand behind.

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Thursday, May 24

Making Memes: Thinking Blogger

I have to admit that I've never been one to swim in the sea of memes, but when this one came from Sleeping Kitten - Dancing Dog! by Theresa Hall, I was honored. Hall is one of the nicest bloggers I've stumbled across in the world of social media. So I accept the honor.

Besides, what's not to like about about the Thinking Blogger award? It was started by The Thinking Blogger earlier this year after he noted: Too many blogs, not enough thoughts!

Well, finding blogs with thoughts is easy to do when you know where to look. Here are five thinking blogs, some that I've mentioned before (and a couple new ones):

The Recruiting Animal. Love him or hate him, he'll make you think.

Media Orchard by the Idea Grove (Scott Baradell) always makes communicators think twice (his 10 Dumb Things That Smart Communicators Do is a classic!).

The Buzz Bin. There is no doubt that Geoff Livingston's blog is one to watch. His Great Blogs of Fire! posts always include pointed picks.

Find The Boots by BoonDoggie recently rounded out some CBS "errors" in handling the Jericho fan movement. I haven't bought into every thought, but his recent post (and others) gave us pause to think.

David Airy is a recent Blogcatalog find of mine that makes design worth thinking about.

So there you have it. Five thinking blogs. All with real merit.

If I were going to give an honorable mention, I might have included Nina Tassler (if she had a blog). Not for blogging as much as it might inspire her to give Jericho some second thoughts. The total nut count is closing in on 15,000 pounds. And that's just from one store.

So now that these five fine folks have been added, they can accept by choosing to participate. It's easy ... just cut and paste the rules:

Congratulations, you won a Thinking Blogger

If you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

That is the thinking blogger's meme. Just please remember to only tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking!

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Wednesday, May 23

Remembering Jericho: Back Lot Projects

Rarely have I have worked on a communication case study for the Copywrite, Ink. blog that so clearly galvanizes an audience as the CBS cancellation of Jericho. Sure, we’ve covered a few under-reported stories that have caught the attention of hundreds of readers; some who stay on long after the specific story fades into obscurity. But the CBS Jericho story does not attract hundreds. It attracts thousands. It does not seem to be fade away, but rather grows stronger every day.

As Jericho fans have taken to publicizing our case study in social media and crisis communication, we’ve covered it on more consecutive days than any other topic. Why? Analytics alone demonstrate the value of this very smart audience. They read long, deep, and come from all over the nation (and world). Some have even taken to searching past communication posts, looking for ideas.

I’m not the only place they are looking. While I have not verified these facts, Jericho-On-CBS has published some startling numbers: Jericho was the most watched show for CBS online (450,000 hits a week); Jericho delivered the highest rating in a Wednesday time slot in seven years; and Jericho frequently beat the competition in its time slot despite going up against some tough contenders. (This does not even consider how many fans watched reality shows like American Idol live and then saved Jericho on their DVRs for later.)

If all this is true, then CBS Entertainment made a mistake claiming that the show had lost steam based on ratings. It seems more likely that Jericho simply didn’t fit into CBS’s new fall line-up, purported to be hipper and edgier than past efforts. From a branding standpoint (before the backlash), it makes sense. But from a customer-centric standpoint (after the backlash), it does not.

In some ways, I appreciate where CBS might have been coming from. Some of our colleagues and online associates have cautioned me (using my own words in fact) that quantitative measures (number of visitors) should not overshadow qualitative measures (number of prospects or regular reders). In other words, they’re wondering when I might get back to a broader mix of topics. I have something else planned for tomorrow, but I just don’t know. If something breaks on Jericho, then Jericho is it. Yes, again.

You see, as I learn more about the Jericho fans, they continue to amaze me in how well they’ve come together. One said I made them sound like geniuses, recognizing that public relations professionals and political consultants might be envious of their efforts. Sure, I know in many cases these fans stumbled unto some of it, but that’s just part of the American way. We stumble upon lots of things. More to the point, however, I like to believe that imagination is more important than knowledge and this case study might prove it.

CBS is using its knowledge to justify canceling the show. The fans are using their imagination to save it. The huge volume of orders for nuts, 9,000 pounds at last count, is only a sliver of the number of nuts sent as social media has embraced this story along with a growing number of mainstream media outlets, especially dailies, entertainment weeklies, and local CBS affiliates.

Given this news, I’m putting more even faith in the fans of Jericho, even if CBS has yet to realize it might do the same. Last night, after deadlines were met, my team put together the “Remember Jericho” image as a thank you to all the fans who have popularized our case study. And, we’ve added it to a few T-shirts in our almost-ready-for-primetime online merchandise store.

As a thank you to the fans, especially Jericho Lives and Jericho Rally Point, and to ensure I remain an communication observer (my family and many team members are big fans of the show; they are the ones who encouraged me to write about it to begin with), any proceeds beyond the base price set by Cafepress.com will be donated to the NUTS campaign. If the campaign should end, then we’ll donate it to an appropriate charity. I don’t want to detract from the funding efforts of our campaign elements nor do I want to want to make money on their efforts. (If I release a book by year’s end as planned, you can always consider that instead, as the Jericho story will be included).

The link to the Jericho T-shirts is at Back Lot Projects. Just a few tidbits about the shirt: it’s an adaptation of a vintage World War II war bonds poster, which we thought was fitting with Memorial Day almost weekend upon us and the all the patriotism that seems to surround the show. The ‘Remember Jericho 07’ line plays off another historic rally cry in American history (Remember the Alamo). But besides all that, it was fun to make.

In closing, if not every future post is Jericho focused, keep in mind that we track case studies for a long time, so there will always be another post unless we close it out. We’ll also keep adding updates in the comments. In the interim, if you are a fan and like the image, feel free to use it for non-commercial purposes.

Until then, good luck! And, what else? NUTS!

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Tuesday, May 22

Shipping Nuts: NutsOnline For Jericho

After most New Jersey businesses had long locked their doors and headed home yesterday, NutsOnline was busy filling orders and fielding e-mail questions from social and mainstream media at midnight. Its total volume shipped was up 15 percent in three days.

Sudden surges in orders, especially around holidays, is nothing new for a third generation nut company founded by “Poppy” Sol, a hard-working 22-year-old with a can-do attitude on the brink of the Great Depression. But today, and for the past several days, nothing is business as usual for Jeffery Braverman and his family-owned business.

“On Friday we noticed a few orders coming in that looked kind of weird,” said Braverman, about the sudden run on nuts for CBS. “But then we Googled around and caught wind of some “NUTS” campaign and a few blogs had linked us as a place to buy them.”

If you are unfamiliar with the “NUTS” campaign, it is one of several grassroots efforts by the fans of the recently cancelled CBS series “Jericho.” Although Braverman was not a fan of show, he was curious about what seemed to be a growing movement across America. So he posted a small entry on his company’s blog and thousands of fans quickly demonstrated their appreciation.

“Then, the fans said they were looking for some kind of discount,” said Braverman. “So we decided to come up with a mechanism for Jericho fans to pool orders and get the most bang for their buck.”

Since responding to Jericho fans as part of the company’s long-term commitment to enthusiastic customer service (the polar opposite of how fans say they view CBS), large pooled orders being shipped to CBS have doubled and doubled again. Some customers place specific one-pound orders, but many are opting for an inventive $5 contribution.

Braverman also added a dedicated Jericho page and provides fans regular updates and a total accounting of all orders shipped to CBS.

What started as 1,000 pounds of nuts per day has steadily increased to 2,000 pounds. Today, Braverman anticipates that total might double. Given NutsOnline isn’t the only shop shipping nuts to CBS, it’s anybody’s guess how many nuts just might be stacking up in the CBS mailroom.

“We weren’t fans (of Jericho), but we are now!!!” adds Braverman enthusiastically, saying that he intends to start watching it as soon as he has a chance. “My cousin just watched a show online and he says it is great!”

Like Braverman, our team has been amazed how handfuls of fans quickly put together the largest show protest in television history. These fans are loyal, smart, self-funded, and increasingly organized. In addition to drawing from the 8 million strong Jericho fan base, they are securing fans from other shows, appealing to how those fans might feel if Heroes, Lost, or similar shows were let go like Jericho.

Within days, they’ve demonstrated better media savvy than most working public relations professionals, capturing write-ups in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, MediaWeek, and a growing number of mainstream media outlets dazzled by their commitment to save the show (not to mention the novelty of the NUTS campaign and other ideas). They’ve even raised eyebrows among some political consultants with their ability to pull together a highly motivated campaign team and employ social media better than many presidential candidates.

They’ve exhibited tremendous show loyalty, investing money that may have gone to former advertisers had the show not been cancelled. And, they are quickly learning how to organize everything from in-person protests to pricing full-page advertisements in Variety Magazine and USA Today. They’ve even encouraged some of the show’s stars to add comments on the CBS Jericho message boards — first Michael Gaston (who plays Mayor Gray) and then Brad Beyer (who plays Stanely Richmond).

In sum, there are dozens of lessons to be learned from this living case study: from the power of customer service as exhibited by NutsOnline (give customers what they want with nothing more than the hope NutsOnline will be remembered) to how social media might make an impact in an all-digital media age.

The bottom line: Jericho fans might be sending nuts to CBS, but they are hardly nuts themselves. For dozens of links to various spontaneously generated fan sites, check out our other Jericho posts here and check the tally the online petition created to save the show.

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Monday, May 21

Landing Loudly: David Neeleman

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Ever since David Neeleman stepped down as CEO of JetBlue "to focus on more long-term strategic initiatives for JetBlue as Chairman of the Board," his famous blog, called a flight log, has stood silent.

The last post penned by Neeleman gives an outstanding welcome to Dave Barger as CEO, but leaves the people who enjoyed Neeleman's online presence one question unanswered: Will Neeleman's flight blog remain the last word of an airline founder who saw the value of social media or will Barger now brave the relatively untested waters of CEO blogging?

The question isn't so much for JetBlue as it is for any corporation that has taken the plunge. As more executives take to blogging or achieve near celebrity status as very visible spokespeople for their companies, it becomes crystal clear that very few have thought about a social media contingency plan.

What happens when visible voices become embroiled in controversy or step aside as Neeleman did? One would think the Robert Scoble story would have better prepared companies for such eventualities. Microsoft fared pretty well with a transition in 2006, but it seems like not all companies will.

While ADWEEK's May 21 article doesn't provide the answers, it does recognize a change in the perception of company branding with a renewed marriage between marketing and customer service.

"Blogs, online video, e-mail and mobile phones—not to mention company and brand ratings on sites like Amazon and Yahoo—give the average consumer an immediate, interactive soapbox on which to share how Company X let them down," writes Joan Voight. "In today's consumer culture, a humorous video on YouTube featuring a cable repairman sleeping on the job gets far more attention than the well-established American Customer Satisfaction Index from the University of Michigan—an index that due to its business press-oriented nature can't compete with the Web."

The article also mentions JetBlue Valentine's Day crisis and its efforts to employ a largely unproven social media tactic as part of its crisis communication strategy. In our case study, we noted that while the effort was to be commended, JetBlue only did everything almost right. Unfortunately for Neeleman, if you subscribe to ADWEEK's assessment that it was the "episode, dissected on blogs and elsewhere, even brought down the airline's high-flying founder and CEO David Neeleman," almost was not enough to win over JetBlue stakeholders, who seemed to think the easiest way to end the over-apologizing was to shuffle their spokesman off the stage (for awhile anyway).

Left behind is a flight log (blog) that will require some pretty big shoes to fill unless Neeleman re-emerges as the very verbal and likeable founder of the airline.

Indeed. The communication game has changed and executives are taking more heat over the attention they receive as their personal brands and actions sometimes eclipse the company they work for. As a result, some now have bigger targets on their backs as sacrificial lambs when things go wrong.

Some are shuffled around or let go for a single company slip like Neeleman or Jim Samples. Others are dismissed for what the Toronto Star, a few graphs down, calls terminal uniqueness (n. Psychological condition afflicting top executives suffused with a sense of omnipotence, until their bad behavior bites them in the behind) like Chris Albrecht, Julie Roehm, and Todd Thomson.

Sure, something is being done. You cannot pick up a communication-related publication today without reading about social media. However, far too many communicators are not sure what to do with all this information because they thought the opening rounds were nothing but a fad.

Unfortunately for their employers, this means mistakes—including leaving well-read blogs quiet because no one ever short listed possible replacements (or signed several executive bloggers/spokespeople to begin with)—will continue to be made until communicators realize that the fast-paced trend to become more customer-centric instead of product-centric means more social media attention on company executives, whether you ask for it or not. (Something CBS is discovering right now.)

So, unless social media is carefully employed as part of your company's overall strategy, sooner or later, you will be left with the wrong message, or perhaps, no message at all, where customers expect to find it. Whether "it" means a flight log or something else entirely. JetBlue. Case study closed.

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Sunday, May 20

Saving Jericho: Seven Solutions For CBS

If Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, is wondering why providing "closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story" does not seem to be enough to stop the hemorrhaging caused by the loyal fans of Jericho, she need look no further than the proven practice of crisis communication. Asking the right questions will always lead to effective solutions.

First and foremost, the network has to acknowledge something went wrong. Given the relentless activity at sites like Jericho Rally Point, Jericho Lives, and Save Jericho, something obviously did go wrong.

Add to these sites the increasing number of social and mainstream media outlets taking notice: film.com, SoundtheSirens, and TV Guide forums. Or try a simple "Save Jericho" search. That's all it takes to see the gravity of the situation even without the NUTS campaign. (We hope CBS donates to food shelters).

Since there is no question that the drama attached to save Jericho efforts will continue to catch fire, making the CBS decision sound like a comedy of one error after another, it's time to ask how the broadcaster can stop a siege of loyal viewers and then transform bad public relations into network performance.

Solution One: Make A Commitment. Since "ending" the show does not seem to be enough, give it a limited run commitment with six shows squeezed somewhere into next season's line up. The announcement would provide CBS enough breathing room to get something done besides husking nuts. Considering the show left off with a major battle between New Bern and Jericho, it would be all too easy to drop any actors who don't wish to come back.

Solution Two: Fast Track DVD Season One. Everybody heard Tassler say that CBS is a business, so then maybe CBS could act like a business. Fast tracking the first season of Jericho to DVD would revive the fan base lost during the midseason break, generate cash flow, capture new fans (because some will be curious to see what they missed), and provide a better measurement than ratings alone.

Solution Three: Restore Fans Online. Dozens of fans, especially "save Jericho" leaders, were allegedly kicked from CBS forums. If there is to be any hope to restore peace, they could be reinstated on the condition they do not spam other show sites. These fans are not the enemies, but rather CBS allies who never thought the network lost its edge (because it created the show they love). They are also the ones who might not vote up ratings, but they are very willing to vote with pocketbooks.

Solution Four: Merchandising. Merchandising remains one of the biggest misses for Jericho this year. CBS could reverse any lackluster or perhaps non-existent show merchandising by involving fans in the design process (maybe a contest). Some have demonstrated a knack for producing merchandise that needs no more than a little polish.

Solution Five: Public Relations. Bringing the show back now would be a big public relations coup that will be talked about for months by entertainment news outlets because it would represent a dramatic shift in industry thinking. As I often say on this blog, we cannot choose what people say about us, but we can choose how we react to it. The appropriate reaction is not to look at fans as raving lunatics, but rather as living proof that CBS can create endearing programs.

Solution Six: Drop Subscription-Based Videos. There seems to be plenty of evidence to support the idea that a monthly subscription to multiple shows is not going to work in the age of new media. Single purchase downloads are much more effective because they allow the consumer to make the choice. The network could potentially make more money and the fans would be happier. Apple, YouTube, and Joost have already set this as the standard for on-demand digital media.

Solution Seven: Learn From Past Mistakes. CBS is not alone. Mid-season breaks almost killed several shows this year. While mid-season breaks might be palatable for shows that are largely based on a single standalone episode like House, CSI, and Two And A Half Men, they clearly don't work with serials. When fans miss a week, they are less motivated to return.

So there you have it. With seven solutions, I believe CBS could be in a prime position to turn a public relations nightmare into next season's leader, especially as more people learn what it was about Jericho that the fans found so addictive.

To me, it all seems pretty easy to figure out. Jericho was much more than a sci-fi "fallout" thriller. For many fans, from what I've read, it was a testament to being a family-oriented American: a small town consisting of top-drawer actors struggling against the odds to remain loyal to the very best qualities this country can offer. Who can blame them for liking that?

In times like these, when government sometimes seems too polarized to show forward motion and the evening news focuses too much on people who make the wrong decisions, is it any wonder why a few million people found hope in the citizens of Jericho as they made sacrifices to make the right moral decisions? At least, that's the way I see it.

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Saturday, May 19

Going Nuts: CBS In Crisis

If there is a tipping point between viral fun and crisis communication, CBS seems to have found it. As if a battle with The National Association of REALTORS over a CBS "60 Minutes" story isn't bad enough, the network is trying desperately to prevent an all-out war with its own customers, viewers who became enamored with the television series "Jericho."

Originally, Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, took the hard view, telling the Vancouver Sun and other media outlets ... "that show would still be on the air if the audience was there. No programmer wants to p.i.s.s. off their audience. When that happens, it's unfortunate. Part of what we try to do is create viewer loyalty, and then build on that ... But we're running a business."

Today, on CBS Jericho message boards, her bluntness has been dulled and her talk-tough approach humbled.

"Please know that canceling a television series is a very difficult decision ... It is a show we loved too. We truly appreciate the commitment you made to the series and we are humbled by your disappointment. In the coming weeks, we hope to develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story."

What changed? A combination of viral fan campaigns that demonstrate the relative ease of organizing an army of angry customers online. The site includes all CBS phone numbers, e-mails, and addresses; affiliate and advertiser contact information; links to an online petition growing by 10,000 viewers a day; sample letters; show ratings; and even links to other networks to encourage them to buy Jericho.

On any given show cancellation, maybe a single viral idea might stick. Not so with Jericho. In addition to the NUTS campaign we reported on yesterday, fans have been busy.

They have made fax sheets, T-shirts, and posters featuring CBS "nuking" the show; added links to where you can order "nuts" online; solicited celebrities; threatened CBS boycotts; spammed other show message boards (resulting in scores of CBS fans being removed from the CBS Jericho site); and dozens of other ideas, many of which are being promoted on the CBS Jericho message boards and hundreds of blogs.

The fallout being caused by hundreds of thousands of viewers (a fraction of millions who watched it) and CBS is one that all major networks can take note of: show promotion and social media represent a double-edged sword. It may increase viewership and buy-in but it also evolves viewers into customers.

Ratings conducted by Nielsen are no longer the only measure of a fan base. Consumers are recording their favorite shows in record numbers; watching full episodes with an online platform that, ironically, CBS provided; or waiting to catch up when an entire season is released on DVD. Personally, I'm surprised Tassler and her staff didn't factor this, along with the fanaticism of fans they did create, into the equation. First run ratings are seemingly becoming one of the least effective measures for successful programming.

The mistake, what some are calling the worst cancellation error in television history, is taking a major toll on CBS. Enough so that the latest rumor is that if CBS doesn't release the show to another network, it may produce a 2-hour series finale to tie up loose ends.

I'm no longer convinced it will work. The finale idea might have been successful a few days ago, but now organized fans seems less willing to settle after being ignored then talked-tough too then booted from CBS message boards and now seemingly placated by the executives. Tensions are so high that even CBS affiliate Eyewitness News 12 in Kansas has defected to the customer camp.

In sum, this entire event is demonstrating that passive viewers have evolved into active customers. As such, networks might think twice about going to war against them. Such wars only make advertisers and shareholders extremely anxious, nervous, and less than impressed.

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Friday, May 18

Getting Nuts: CBS Over Jericho

What would you do with 22,000 pounds of nuts? That's what CBS executives might have to ask themselves if even half of the Jericho fans who have already signed an online petition make good on a grassroots effort that calls for viewers to send in “nuts.”

According to some fans, sending nuts is the best response to the show’s cancellation because it originates with character Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) borrowing the historic phrase in response to a final offer of surrender from a hostile neighboring town. Of course, the response, “nuts,” is tied to General Anthony C. McAuliffe’s answer to a German demand for surrender in World War II.

According to various accounts, when McAuliffe was told of the German demand for surrender he said "Aw, nuts". At a loss for an official reply, Lt. Col. Kinnard suggested that his first remark summed the situation up well, which was agreed to by the others. The official reply: "To the German Commander, NUTS!, The American Commander" was typed and delivered by Colonel Harper to the German delegation. Harper had to explain the meaning of the word to the Germans.

Some fans say they feel the same way, cut off by CBS because they blame the company’s executives for the show’s lackluster ratings. As pointed out by Showbuzz , many viewers abandoned the show only after it went on a long midseason hiatus, much like "Lost" on ABC and "Heroes" on NBC.

This is not the first time CBS has garnered negative reactions related to the show. Fans were upset when CBS did not deliver on its promise to fully produce side stories online and when it removed a fan-generated Wikipedia entry to retain control over what details they wanted fans to remember. Now, some fans have accused CBS of deleting posts in the CBS-hosted Jericho forum.

Since, discussions of the show’s cancellation have spilled onto the main CBS discussion area, which is dominated by fan complaints and pleas at various times. Not to be outdone, fans of other shows on CBS, which were also cancelled, are following suit, creating an interesting statement about social media.

With growing fervor, networks are hearing louder and louder protests over show cancellations that would have barely received mention 20 years ago. Now, due to increased consumer buy-in with rich online content, forums, and deleted scenes, broadcasters might find it more difficult to make decisions without consumer consent. In sum, fans become more vested than ever.

Public outcry is also linked to the knowledge that some shows can be saved. One of the most famous cases was Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy. FOX reversed its cancellation after Cartoon Network reruns revived interest and consumers bought 2.2 million DVDs. Of course, it’s always easier to revive a show with animated characters than a large ensemble cast like Jericho. Nuts.


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Thursday, May 17

Adding Content Value: Social Media


It seems almost too fitting that the same day I was discussing digital media on The Recruiting Animal Show, Alexandra Berzon, writing for Red Herring, reported Technorati, the blog search engine that tops Google, is sending more and more users to photos, videos, and music instead of blogs.

Some people like Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence think that Technorati risks diluting its value proposition. I think it is part of the natural evolution of social media, adding content value beyond a well-written post.

Does that mean everyone should abandon their blogs and skew toward digital media? No. It simply means that communication is becoming more integrated and better equipped to deliver content in different forms and on different formats.

With that change comes the increased potential to turn the content value of a blog into tangible income generation (or income marketing as I like to call it). Sure, doing so does not come without risks. It seems relatively easy for social media to become a distraction for executives and support staff. But to me, that seems more like a time management challenge than a problem with social media.

Revenue Potential

As social media evolves, it seems almost certain that blogs, podcasts, and video will develop new ways to generate income beyond Google AdSense (not that there is anything wrong with it) and ad banners. Specific, but not necessarily exclusive, to digital media — pay-per-click advertising on original programming; pay-per-download or direct purchase of compilation sets; on-demand show merchandising sold over the Internet; and the potential for platform distribution syndication — all seem like obvious solutions.

Considering Risks

Of course, that is not to say that digital media is the best use of social media for everyone. As Harry Joiner, Marketing Headhunter, pointed out on the radio show, there are potential barriers for bloggers hoping to shift to digital media: technological constraints, content development, and time famine among them (eg. when will I have time to sell my product or perform my service?).

They are very valid points. As I said, it's certainly not for everyone. If you (or your consultants) are more comfortable with blogs, podcasts, or video, then by all means, add that in the mix for consideration. No content is often better than bad content.

Communication Strategy

There are solutions if you think strategically. After all, smart business communication always means that your tactics are dictated by strategy and not the other way around. Social media, let's never forget, is a communication tactic (not a strategy).

Two great examples come to mind. Check out Carl Chapman's post, "Why I Do I Blog?", and you'll see what I mean. ($170,000 in business seems to suggest that he is getting the right visitors.)

Now imagine what that draw might be with worthwhile video content to augment it. Certainly, the best shows with the most potential will require some planning and care. But employing video to add value to blog content doesn't have to be rocket science. David Maister recently demonstrated that with a well thought out video presentation on his Passion, People and Principles. (To me, the topic even provides a loose link to this subject. Time investment in non-billable hours can increase sales.)

In both cases, their businesses or professional expertise drive the content. It more than makes sense, it's strategic. Maister does it especially well given his mix of products and services.

Finding Solutions

For individual recruiters or other independent professionals, teamwork may provide some solutions as social media moves forward. For instance, The Recruiting Animal Show seems to drive the point home. As a host, Animal brings an infectious, often funny, always compelling format to the forefront. (As a side note, he recently earned national exposure in Canada as a recruiting expert because of, in part, his blogs.)

Sure, he has a show and it's his show (and his alone). Yet, other recruiters also benefit from the show through their participation and the show benefits because of their willingness to lend expertise.

David Manaster, CEO of ERE Media, Inc. and Jason Davis, who recently launched RecruitingBlogs, a social network for recruiters, often ask great questions and provide experienced answers on the show (they certainly did yesterday).

There was some question about ROI, but I think it's unfair to simply count callers. Given the show can be listened to any time after its first run, traditional ratings just don't seem to be the right measurement. Not to mention, when it comes to social media, the number of visitors pales in comparison to capturing the right visitors.

Conclusion

As Albert Einstein said: imagination is more important than knowledge. This certainly seems to apply to social media. After all, imagination in marketing has been the deciding ingredient for hundreds of companies throughout history, much more than any winning formula followed by others.

Come up with an idea (or let us help you discover one), temper it with strategic communication, and then fine tune what will make the right mix of content and business communication. For big companies, it might even be easier than for small companies. But then again, nothing makes a small company look big than its own show.


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Wednesday, May 16

Emerging Trends: Digital Media

I'll be writing a post-show roundup to my "sequel" appearance on The Recruiting Animal Show tomorrow, but you don't have to wait if you want to brave the waters on your own. The entire show, which addresses the merits and potential challenges of evolving a blog into a media business (or better yet, income marketing opportunities), is available online in its entirety.

Other than a technical hiccup or two, the program delivers a lively discussion with myself, a marketing specialist, two experienced recruiter-bloggers, and, of course, the undeniably talented show host, The Recruiting Animal. Listen to the show now or wait for the recap tomorrow. Either way, the show provides a glimpse into adding digital media to your marketing mix; perhaps even serving as a pre-teaser into something we have planned with one of our many strategic partners.

Incidentally, if you're still not convinced digital media is on the rise, consider that the ROO Group, another emerging leader in online video solutions for content providers, advertisers, and Web sites, has partnered with a popular morning TV show in Britain, GMTV, to launch an online video portal. The portal will also feature four additional channels including: news, showbiz, fashion, and family health.

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Shifting For Social Media: PR Newswire

One of the most significant changes in news reporting and public relations was somewhat missed by the general public. PR Newswire, the global leader in news and information distribution services for professional communicators, did what most public relations professionals seemed unwilling to do just a few months ago: embrace social media.

Releases sent over this popular wire service have been employing social media elements inspired by SHIFT Communications (just a bit more streamlined), include RSS feeds, Technorati and Digg links. The benefit is this news distribution model makes it even easier for social media to select stories that interest them, just as mainstream media outlets have done for years.

There is still some room for improvement — the "blogs discussing this news release" is linked to a headline search instead of combined keywords — but these are minor issues that will eventually be modified. The change is admirable and a badly needed first step that levels the playing field (even if it is somewhat responsive to some bloggers suggesting they can create online public relations distribution platforms too).

There also seem to be a few side effects that are becoming more noticeable and pervasive: the quality of the news releases from a journalistic perspective are being buried with colorful leads, non-news, and increased puffery. It's the kind of stuff some bloggers might grab up because they don't have to rewrite it.

But for a journalist, it can be a bit maddening at times to look for buried news while trying to beat the deadline and field calls from public relations specialists asking if the release they sent was received. Here are a few random leads from releases distributed by PR Newswire today:

"Hiring an ad agency can be a scary thought. I mean who wants to deal with those egos? Or even scarier, who wants to see that agency invoice?"

"To a room filled with close to 200 advertisers and media, the 2007 GolTV Upfront got off to a great start."

"Canada, the world's second largest country and number one "foreign" destination for Americans, is tired of hearing that it's too nice, too pretty, too pristine and too safe, let alone too similar to the U.S.A."

I'm not saying any of these leads are "good" or "bad" as much as I'm saying this is what is — new releases are trending to be much more editorialized and I'm not so sure that's a good thing. Worse, in some cases, companies might even be tempted to release padded news, knowing that citizen journalists (some mainstream journalists too) are a bit lax on fact checking.

Personally, I think a crisp news release is still the better communication tool. It's more credible and can be picked up just as easily by members of the social or mainstream media. It also makes me wonder what the future might look like if more and more companies turn toward editorial releases instead of solid news. Hmmm... the word wacky comes to mind.

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Tuesday, May 15

Marketing Media: The Recruiting Animal Shooowww!

Johnny Depp, talking to Entertainment Weekly about the final installment of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End called it right. Critics are always tougher on sequels than first runs. Which is cool. Why not? There are worse things in life.

"After the first one was a success, I was sure the critics were going to snap around and start taking pot shots. It's in the rule book: You must take a dump on the second film."

It's something I have to keep in mind because tomorrow I'll be making my second appearance on "The Recruiting Animal Shooowww!" And like all good sequels, there will be much more to fear than a recruiter who can transform himself with the mere mention of a full moon. Tomorrow's show includes Marketing Headhunter, someone who is reputed to have taken more than one head in his blogging career. With two fearsome words tied together, "marketing" and "headhunter," I'm not surprised.

Sure, there are never any clear villains mentioned on this program (except Mr. X, maybe) nor will there be tomorrow, since I'm the guy sporting the "moustache" as the Recruiting Animal likes to call it. But then again, silver bullets might keep half animals at bay, but even I know they don't do a thing for headhunters. I have no idea what magic talisman I might need to keep me safe and the topic this time drifts into unchartered waters. It might even take us to the world's end.

The topic, time, and date are set:

The Recruiting Animal Show.
Topic: Can you make a blog into a media business?
Noon EST (9 a.m. PST) on Wed., May 16
Call to talk: (646) 652-2754
Listen On: Windows Media
MSN Messenger: recruiting_animal@hotmail.com

The show will skew toward recruiting, but the concepts cross industry boundaries. Just yesterday, NewTeeVee announced the launch of another VC-funded online video ad network and this one, they say, has some reasonably good claims to legitimacy.

Its credentials include a signed customer, Metacafe; the experience of its leadership at Shopping.com (now owned by eBay); venture backing (amount undisclosed) from Gemini Partners; and “millions” of ads in its initial inventory — but also the same fuzzy claims about how its multi-faceted approach to understanding the context of a video is better than the competition. You can see for yourself at Adap.tv.

With countless distribution platforms released since the rise of YouTube and more on the way (as many as it takes to make a bubble, I imagine), sooner or later you have to wonder where the programming content will come from. I'm a proponent of the idea that some content might come from companies, which could translate into income marketing (marketing that generates income).

And why not? The simple truth is that some recruiters (and businesses) are already in the media business with their blogs, podcasts, and social networks. What's so scary about video? It lends itself well to the Internet and it seems to be what Generation Y is asking for.

So what will the outcome be tomorrow? I couldn't even hazard a guess. But one thing is certain: The Recruiting Animal is always as entertaining as he is educational. Who knows? Maybe you can "hear" me lose my head. Ha!

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Monday, May 14

Generating Book Buzz: David Meerman Scott

With not much more than a single post, David Meerman Scott has single-handedly generated some much deserved buzz over his new book: The New Rules of Marketing and PR.

How did he do it? By employing the right mix of social networking, blog marketing, and smart content that has always graced the pages of his blog and other books. This time, by recognizing and thanking direct and indirect contributors in a post, he has well more than 100 bloggers talking about his book (including me).

It's smart stuff and seemingly much easier than the process employed when I contributed to Beyond Generation X by Claire Raines. Ten years ago, Raines and I had connected on a forum, where she was soliciting some insight into managing Generation X. Having contributed to several books, I knew the process well enough. We connected briefly, I penned a brief passage to specification, she published, and one day (after I forgot all about it), I received a copy in the mail. The end, without any real way to assist in the marketing of the book.

How very different it is today. Most of the contributors to Scott's book aren't exactly sure what they contributed because they had already published their work on their respective blogs. But because of social media being what it is, I know more about it than I ever did about Raines' book. I know when it will be published, how to purchase extra copies, and can even link to it using Amazon's associate program (Gee, I hope he included a "good idea" as opposed to a "don't do this" idea. Ha!).

I also know that Scott has given me (and others) a reason to write about the book and a reason to review it in the weeks ahead. Not everyone will, just like not everyone will list all the contributors on their blogs (I will in the comments as that works better for me). Yet, enough will (and have) to give his book some early momentum, making the marketing as interesting as the book.

His posting also comes at the right time because more and more people are trying to pin down some secret blogging formula and, personally, I'm just not convinced that one exists.

It seems to me that most blogs enjoy a mix of social networking, subscriptions, practical tips and tools (even some widget bling), and above all, content, content, content as iffect.net recently wrote up this weekend.

It is one of the best posts I've seen on the subject, pinpointing what most of bloggers agree on: content is critical. Where some disagreement seems to exist is on the rest of it: what is right mix of social networking, SEO writing, etc.

I think the evidence clearly supports that content is where the emphasis needs to be. However, one might ask where that leaves SEO, links, social networks, and even The New Rules of Marketing & PR, which clearly demonstrates there is a lot to be said for several aspects of blogging beyond content.

The closest I've seen to anything making real sense is from Seth Godin, who when talking about analytics reminded everyone you have to ask yourself: "Why do you have a site? What's your goal? Is it to sell something? To receive email? To spread an idea? Whatever it is, you can probably measure it. And measure it you should."

Whereas some people might shrug this off as too vague, it's perfectly presented in that every site or blog might require its own strategy depending on what your measurable goals are, especially if you are hoping for any type of sustainability.

It's relatively easy to trade links and build short-term networks, but at the end of the day, the content will decide whether or not people will come back; just as your measurable objectives will determine if your site or blog is successful or not, despite links, traffic, or any other measure.

The same will be said for Scott's newest book. The blog posting — a combination of online marketing, social networking, and gracious crediting — will certainly give it legs on the front end. Long-term sales, however, will depend on the content. Knowing a bit of Scott's other work, it seems very likely he will deliver on that as well.


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