Friday, February 29

Causing Crisis: Health Clinic Spreads Virus


Sometimes a crisis communication checklist is not enough. The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada is attempting to apply some practices, but the message is failing to resonate. I’m not surprised.

This is the largest hepatitis C scare in the history of the country.

The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada was reportedly using single dose vials of medication, which had become infected with hepatitis C, a potentially fatal blood-borne virus, through their initial use and were used again. Hepatitis C is not the only potential infection that could have been spread.

The Southern Nevada Health District is asking some 40,000 patients who had procedures requiring injected anesthesia at the clinic between March 2004 and January 11, 2008, to contact their primary care physicians or health care providers to get tested for hepatitis C as well as hepatitis B and HIV. Given the transient nature of Las Vegas, it is nearly impossible to tell how many of these patients have moved out of the area or have been living with an infection for years.

The reality and gravity of the situation is severe enough that the statement released to the media by the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada fails to exhibit even a basic understanding of crisis communication, considering the severity of the issue.

“On behalf of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, we want to express our deep concern about this incident to the many patients who have put their trust in us over the years. As always, our patients remain our primary responsibility and we have already corrected the situation.”

Obviously not. If patients were the primary responsibility, this would have never happened. How could anyone even think such a statement was appropriate to include as a patient care message during a press conference that addressed wrongdoing of the worst kind — reusing single dose vials is widely known to pass infection.

The statement goes on to say things like “In addition to our corrective actions, we are on a mission to maintain the trust our patients have had in us during our years of service to southern Nevada.” They must be joking. And, unbelievably, they attempted to play the legal counsel card — pending class action suits already being organized and a criminal investigation — to limit their comments and refuse to take reporters’ questions. Unbelievable.

If you break off communication with the media during a severe crisis, they will have no alternative but to seek other sources. Every media outlet covering the story is doing exactly that.

According to the Las Vegas Sun today, several doctors unaffiliated with the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada have surmised that the clinic appeared to put profits ahead of patient care, directing staff to cut corners in order to accommodate the high volume of patients. The procedures were performed by certified nurse-anesthetists, with apparently no one at the practice willing to step up and say what they were doing was wrong.

These practices continued until the Southern Nevada Health District identified six cases of hepatitis C, five of which stemmed from the Endoscopy Center of Nevada. While the center continues to stress that the actual risk of anyone being affected by this is extremely low, it seems to be little consolation for the individuals. Elected officials are already calling for the removal of the clinic’s license.

This crisis has already been mishandled to the point of no return.

In such extreme cases, one might ask if the clinic is worth saving. While this could be debated endlessly, I’d rather focus on what they did wrong from a communication standpoint, which made this unrecoverable.

They are attempting to apply a truncated crisis communication formula frequently employed by public relations professionals who have little real world experience. Worse, they are being selective in which ones they are using — the statement doesn’t even include an apology, possibly for fear of admitting criminal negligence.

Look, crisis communication is a process and not a formula. You can come forward, apologize, explain the incident, address corrective measures, seek outside consult, promise it will never happen again, and perhaps demonstrate some measure of empathy (I was told the owner appeared empathetic at the press conference) all you want. But it won’t change gross negligence.

What the crisis communication team needed to consider.

• The clinic needed to come forward sooner and explain precisely what occurred and why it occurred, regardless of potential civil and criminal cases. If the crisis was caused by placing profits before patients as some speculate, an admission is appropriate.

• The clinic needed to apologize, at minimum, to the five people likely infected with hepatitis C by its procedures and offer immediate restitution. It further needed to voluntarily pay for a proactive location and testing of all 40,000 patients as well as family members that may have been affected as a result.

• The clinic needed to maintain an open door policy to address all concerns and questions from the media and other stakeholders, regardless of personal jeopardy, as personal and public safety remain at risk.

• The clinic needs to verbalize empathy, sympathy, and embarrassment over its procedural practices without any trite statements revolving around preserving patient trust and promises that it will never happen again. It would seem more logical for the clinic to voluntarily dedicate 100 percent of its resources to the crisis.

• Dipak Desai, medical director and majority shareholder in the practice, needs to step forward as his own spokesperson and promise to step down immediately after overseeing restitution to the victims. Desai also needs to fully cooperate with all investigations and help determine which doctors and nurses were engaged in these procedures or knew about the procedures but neglected to speak up.

All this should have already happened. However, it did not. Given the severity of the crisis and the initial handing, it’s likely this will be unrecoverable. And frankly, despite placing it in the living case study slot, maybe that is for the best if it does not recover.

Digg!

Thursday, February 28

Bridging Online And Physical Space: The Recruiting Roadshow


As is often the case, I came away from speaking at John Sumser’s Recruiting Roadshow with more knowledge than I could ever hope to present yesterday.

For starters, it truly gave me an understanding just how far behind communication-related fields — advertising, marketing, public relations, communication, etc. — are from other industries. Yes, I pay attention when various colleagues on the marketing speaking circuits consistently report how few communication professionals are active — only 10-20 percent of their audience is engaged in social media, they often report.

Engaged communicators are ahead, but the industry is behind.

My experience was amazingly different. When I asked an audience of hundreds, primarily consisting of recruiters and human resource directors, how many were engaged in social media, the answer was amazingly different.

• 90 percent of the audience participate online
• 75 percent are members of at least one social network
• 50 percent are active members of one or more social networks
• 15 percent of the audience lead a social network or maintain a blog

Interesting. There doesn’t seem to be an online social media bubble for others, as communicators insist while they continue to argue about the validity of social media. As I’ve said before, social media exists. And therefore, it cannot be ignored, especially by communication-related fields.

Is it any wonder why more companies implemented internal communication programs in 2007, programs managed by human resources departments as opposed to corporate communication? According to Watson Wyatt’s 2007-2008 Communication ROI study, 53 percent of employers used communication to increase enrollment in benefits programs, up from 25 percent in 2003. As other departments continue to expand their roles and actively participate in social media, communicators may find themselves asking the same questions over and over again — how do we get a seat at the table?

Ridiculous. This reoccurring question is only asked by people who missed their opportunity to set the table in the first place.

We must erase the notion that online - offline networks are different.

After taking the spontaneous room survey, I pointed out that 100 percent of the people in attendance were members of a social network — the room, for a few hours — was a social network, indistinguishable from any online community.

Several hundred people registered to attend, filled a space, and then randomly met each other based on nothing more than a nametag and proximity of their seat. Funny. For all the discussions about whether to “friend” strangers online, not one person in attendance refused to shake hands with a stranger when a hand was extended. Online, people present much more than a nametag. Many of us present complete resumes, profiles, and years of thought on blogs.

We might as well be walking around with sandwich boards outlining who we are and what we do. So why do communicators remain skeptical?

Sometimes network exercises reveal more than intended.

One of the first exercises presented by Sumser and his team was an ingenious one designed to simulate an organic search. They had passed out little pieces of paper, each with one word written on them.

Then, he instructed the room to find five other people with the same word and introduce themselves to simulate an organic search. As chaos broke out in the room with people converging toward the middle, one person created a sign with his word and held it above his head. Others quickly followed suit, each holding signs above their heads.

“Did you notice how quickly others adopt innovation?” Sumser asked. “This is exactly the way innovation is adopted online.”

But there was something else, I noticed. The people who held signs above their heads may have expedited the exercise, but in doing so, met fewer people. And once people had found the word they were looking for, they felt gratified, forgetting to fully engage themselves in the sub-group they had created.

It reminded me of many online social networks. Sometimes the speed in which tasks are performed — such as attempting to increase the quantity of connections or increase traffic — undermines our own ability to truly engage people in any meaningful relationship. It’s quality of engagement, not quantity of engagement, that counts, online or off.

I worked some observations of the exercise into my presentation, remembering some great advice I had gleaned from Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang. When you’re engaging in social networking activities, you don’t want to be the person with a sign on their head and megaphone as much as you want to be the person who joins the party and engages people on their terms.

This also presents a challenge in teaching people how to engage in social networks. I know many people who keep putting together bullet points for advice, but relatively few who remind people to ask the right question on the front end. What do you hope to accomplish?

For recruiters, I suggested they abandon the notion that social networks are technologies. It makes more sense to think about social networks as physical spaces much like the room where we had all assembled, with an emphasis on meeting people that may deliver mutually beneficial relationships.

• If you want to know more about the recruiting industry, join a recruiting network like RecruitingBlogs.com.
• If you want to engage prospective clients, invest more time in social networks around niche industries you specialize in, whether it’s health care, education, or whatever.
• If you want to engage job candidates, find social networks that consist of people within those specific industries or develop your own network within a larger network, much like people do every day on Twitter.

Above all, never discount online relationships as less than those you make physically. It’s the number of engagements with people, sometimes across many social networks, that deepens a relationship, much like life. Except online, you often have a greater chance to know about someone well beyond the nametags that decorated everyone’s apparel around the room.

Digg!

Tuesday, February 26

Canceling Campaigns: Pfizer Says It’s Your Fault


After more than $258 million spent in advertising, the long-running advertising campaign that primarily employed Dr. Robert Jarvik as spokesperson for Lipitor, according to The New York Times today.

Pfizer announced yesterday that it would cancel the advertisements featuring Dr. Jarvick. Pfizer offered up a release that primarily focuses on a 3-paragraph statement from Ian Read, president of worldwide pharmaceutical operations. Here are two...

“Nevertheless, the way in which we presented Dr. Jarvik in these ads has, unfortunately, led to misimpressions and distractions from our primary goal of encouraging patient and physician dialogue on the leading cause of death in the world — cardiovascular disease. We regret this. Going forward, we commit to ensuring there is greater clarity in our advertising regarding the presentation of spokespeople.

“Raising awareness of the dangers of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. remains an urgent public health priority. Only half of all Americans who have high LDL cholesterol are even diagnosed, and just half of those are being treated. Future Lipitor campaigns, to be launched in several weeks, will continue to stress the critical importance of patients talking to their doctors so they can make informed choices about their treatment options.”


In other words, Pfizer regrets that the “misimpressions and distractions” led to the cancellation of the advertisement as opposed the misrepresentation of the spokesperson as an avid rower. Dr. Jarvick does not row and a body double appeared in advertisements.

The release goes on to reinforce the benefits of statins such as Lipitor in treating heart disease are validated in clinical guidelines. Lipitor represents $12.7 billion in sales for Pfizer.

According to The New York Times, the decision to withdraw the advertisements will have no bearing on the investigation led by U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. The committee is still collecting documents from several sources and plans to meet with Dr. Jarvik.

One of the other complaints about the advertisement came from three former colleagues of Dr. Jarvik. They said the ads erroneously identified Dr. Jarvik as “inventor of the artificial heart” as opposed to the inventor of the “Jarvik artificial heart.” Other medical professionals also complained that Dr. Jarvik does not hold a license to practice any type of medicine.

Digg!

Monday, February 25

Communicating To Employees: Obvious But Overlooked


Last Thursday, Joanna Blockey, ABC, communication analyst for Southwest Gas Corporation, help put the crossover impact of external and internal communication into perspective as a guest speaker in my Writing For Public Relations class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

While Southwest Gas Corporation has a well-defined program, she pointed out that many companies do not. Some employers still believe that "providing a paycheck" is the company’s only obligation to employees.

“We communicate to approximately 3,200 employees and retirees at Southwest Gas Corporation,” said Blockey. “It would be a mistake to discount them because they are one of our most important publics. Every day, employees go home with a message about the company.”

And then what happens? They talk to friends and family.

Considering some studies place the average person’s number of friends somewhere between 25 and 35, one internal impression about a company can travel considerable distance. At Southwest Gas Corporation for instance, 3,200 employees and retirees could deliver 96,000 impressions about the company. If these friends pass that impression on to even half of their friends, the impression count suddenly reaches 1.5 million people. It doesn’t end there nor does it consider the number of employees who communicate online.

It didn’t seem like it in January, but Yahoo has learned this lesson the hard way. More than one employee has made their layoff public. This communication, which started with 87 connections on Twitter, has since circled the globe and been picked up by the media. That's just one person.

It's something we alluded to back in Jaunary. Employees don’t like the uncertainty created at Yahoo, a message reinforced by Jerry Yang, chief executive, when he botched the balance between being empathetic for the 1,000 employees to be laid off, which started last week, and being bullish on streamlining the company for non-internal shareholders.

Add up employee impressions alone and you'll discover Yahoo is struggling against the weight of more than 3 million low morale impressions per day, which doesn’t even count that some employees have hundreds or thousands of connections online. Suddenly, this seems to make the recently added "padded" severance packages, for employees and top executives in the event of an acquisition, not all that comforting. In fact, the idea of a Yahoo buyout doesn’t even seem very comforting to Microsoft employees either.

All communication overlaps, inside and out.

Seattle Times reporter Benjamin Romano recently published part of one Microsoft internal communication sent by Kevin Johnson, president of the platform and services division at Microsoft.

"While some overlap is expected in any combination of this size," it said, "we should remember that Microsoft is a growth company that has hired over 20,000 people since 2005, and we would look to place talented employees throughout the company as a whole."

It then when on to shed light on just how important advertising has become to Microsoft executives: "Respect for both the creative and analytical aspects of advertising is core to both companies, along with recognition that advertising is an industry that represents opportunity and growth."

The full communication seemed to have several purposes. In addition to fending off growing concerns that a Yahoo acquisition could lead to Microsoft layoffs, it’s a message to internal Microsoft shareholders (meaning employees). It’s also a message to Yahoo employees (who are also Yahoo shareholders). And, it's carefully written in case it might land someplace else like, um, the Seattle Times.

Communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Watson Wyatt, a global consulting firm, released some key findings to consider about employee communication in its 2007/2008 report: Communication ROI Study
Secrets of Top Performers: How Companies With Highly Effective Employee Communication Differentiate Themselves.

• Effective employee communication is a leading indicator of financial performance.
• Effective employee communication translates into a 15.7 percent increase in the market value of a company.
• Effective employee communication increases employee engagement, which translates into better relationships.

The reasons are simple. There has never been a barrier between internal communication and external communication, except for the delusional beliefs of some executives. Simply put, if you cannot get the employees to buy into the company, then how you can expect customers to buy into its products and services?

People, like some companies, make the same mistakes.

The mistake in attempting to apply spatial barriers onto non-spatial ideas, as if things don't overlap, is not limited to business communication. It's an idea that keeps being transposed onto social media and social networks over and over again.

People attempt to define themselves like companies define themselves. They talk in terms that make the company-individual seem like it is the center of the universe with various social networks hovering around them like little planets, not at all different from the geocentric system debunked by Galileo.

Ergo, social networking is better represented by people orbiting an unknown center. On the Internet, they don't orbit a network but rather pass through networks much like they pass through networks in life. Their orbit takes them through this industry, that industry, work, home, friends, etc. Along the way, they leave little bits of communication.

Sure, I know this may seem terribly philosophical to some, but it’s the truth. Human nature is not all that different than nature, which is why employers need to ask themselves what they are communicating and where that communication will be left as their employees go about their daily lives. And then, where will that communication go from there?

Had Yahoo asked these questions months ago, I bet they would have considered a different communication strategy all together. You think?

Digg!

Sunday, February 24

Counting Beans: Journeyman vs. Friday Night Lights


With E! Online giving hope to Friday Night Lights, a show given every advantage to build an audience over two seasons, and Michael Hinman reinforcing the decision to axe Journeyman, a show given a half season in what has become NBC’s dead zone timeslot (as fans of The Black Donnellys know), some people are wondering if Nielsen ratings really mean anything.

After all, these two shows, on the same network, rack up about the same ratings. Unless, of course, you only count select beans.

The decision to cancel Journeyman had less to do with ratings and whether or not people watched the show and more to do with the financials of a hurting network, according to an unexpected source close to the show.

Unfortunately for the fans, this means all the Rice-A-Roni on the planet is unlikely to change any minds at the network. In fact, the only reason ratings have been factored into the conversation is because that is how critics guess at network decisions. And sometimes, networks use these numbers to justify their decisions.

Why are Nielsen numbers only sometimes important? According to Nielsen: There are 5,000 households in the national People Meter sample, approximately 20,000 households in the local metered market samples, approximately 1,000 metered homes for our national and local Hispanic measurement, and nearly 1.6 million diaries are edited each year.

In other words, on Nielsen’s best day, we can expect less than 2 percent of all television households to be sampled, which doesn’t even consider how many people lie (if you were a Jericho fan, chances are you would say you watched it, even if you did not). Or, in yet other words, Nielsen only sounds good when someone like Hinman writes it up like this. Ho hum.

Don’t get me wrong, Hinman is a great guy and he presents a sound argument for the validity of Nielsen as critics want you to believe because they use these numbers to predict the fate of television. However, as someone with a foot in advertising, I do make media buy recommendations from time to time. There are a number of factors well beyond audience reach to consider.

Sometimes these other factors are simple. It makes sense to buy news for political candidates because people who watch the news tend to vote. Sometimes these other factors are about who else buys it. That’s why I recommended a water purifier company NOT buy 20 some radio spots on a station dominated by his competitor, complete with host endorsements. And sometimes these other factors might be about product placement, which is why Ford bought Knight Rider sight unseen.

And sometimes, it has to do with experience. Experience is why, years ago, I heavily recommended a local Ham Supreme retailer to place a good portion of its media buy on an unproven pilot program. The agency I was working for balked at the idea, insisting we buy a high frequency cable rotate instead. The result: Ham Supreme ran heavily at 3 a.m. in the morning instead of on a show that eventually climbed to number one. Why did I want the pilot? Psychographics suggested Home Improvement viewers might like big ham sandwiches.

My point is that the rating system has become little more than a tool to push perception instead of reality. How far from reality? Far enough from reality that when a show like Jericho, for example, is placed in a setting where every viewer is tracked, like TiVo viewers or iTunes downloads, it comes close to the top and looks more viable.

I could have made the same iTunes comparison for Journeyman or Friday Night Lights, but for all of NBC’s smart moves toward digital media, it nixed selling shows on iTunes last Sept. in favor of a platform that doesn’t work on the market's dominant smart phone. When Journeyman was there; it did okay.

No matter, the networks and studios know all this, which is why Warner Bros. is testing emerging technology; advertisers are looking to the net; and networks have any number of initiatives that are not connected to the rating system. (Hat tip: Jane Sweat.) Add all this up and ...

Nielsen isn’t nearly as relevant today as it once was and everybody knows it, but few will admit it. While that doesn’t mean it won’t be relevant in the future, it certainly means its primary relevance is a matter of convenience. It’s easy to blame the ratings or bypass them on any given Sunday, like today.

So why was Journeyman cancelled? Look at the ratings and it seems to make sense, but the truth seems to be about budget. Why might Friday Night Lights be saved? The lower-budget show has critics who love to write about it and advertisers who like the psychographics.

Ho hum. Ratings smateings. Let's shoot for the truth.

As more entertainment becomes available on the net, more people will be turning to the net more often. Advertisers tend to want to be where people might learn about and buy their products. And networks tend to want to be where the advertisers want to be. Businesses that already have a Web presence in, um, social media, will be able to engage more people as opposed to simply slicing up their budgets across multiple media streams.

Networks and publishers will eventually win in this world too. For example, more people read The New York Times today than ever before. They made their decision after counting all the beans, not just the red ones. Advertising hasn't caught up, but it will. Bank on it.

So maybe what needs to be asked is this: in a world where analytics are pure, where's the need for Nielsen? Hinman says they'll measure everything in about five years. Five years? That's too late, considering I know how many people visit this blog without them.

Yeah, I know, media convergence seems so silly to so many people. But then again, these folks used the same arguments before: companies do not need Web sites; people will never use electronic mail; and Apple will never break into the phone market, let alone allow someone like me to connect my phone to my television and watch Supernatural. Right, none of those things will happen either.

Digg!

Friday, February 22

Blogging For Kindness: My Den


Sometimes the old saying that “children are a reflection of their parents” holds some truth. At least that seems to be the case for Dan, a hobby blogger who writes My Den.

After learning about the Bloggers Unite social awareness campaign Acts of Kindness, which asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it, Dan turned to his daughter. They set out to do something together.

“One of the first considerations when I got involved in Bloggers Unite: Acts of Kindness, was to involve my daughter in the campaign,” says Dan. “I wanted to inculcate a sense of compassion for the less fortunate, especially important, to me anyway, in a society almost obsessed with materialistic wealth.”

Dan, who says he is innately thrifty, had an idea. Why not find something that could benefit the environment and the less fortunate. Together, that’s what they did. After borrowing a van from a friend, they visited 100 to 120 households over a three-day period, asking neighbors for their recyclables.

Once collected, the recyclables raised almost $200; enough money to buy rice, canned food, beverages, and milk powder (and one Barbie doll, a Christmas gift for a 9-year-old girl). Although Dan posted about what they did, like many bloggers, their gift remains anonymous.

“Our donations, like many others, were anonymous and were left at the collection boxes located at a major supermarket chain,” says Dan. “I was at a loss as to who to donate the money to until my daughter saw a television commercial about The Boys’ Brigade Sharity Gift Box project.”

The Boys’ Brigade’s mission is to bring cheer to the less fortunate by collecting food items and fulfilling Christmas wishes through The Boys’ Brigade Sharity Gift Box. The gift items reach out to more than 3,000 individuals at 180 organizations in Singapore.

But more than that, Dan and his daughter have since committed to do at least one social project together every month. In January, they visited a seniors facility for a day, bringing food along with their kindness. All of it began with social media. Dan began participating in Bloggers Unite shortly after getting involved with Blog Action Day, another program inspired by previous BlogCatalog campaigns.

“Participation in the last Blog Action Day as a platform for change impressed me tremendously,” said Dan. “Bloggers Unite: Acts of Kindness was my first with BlogCatalog, and I am more than willing to participate in future campaigns, having seen the benefits and ability to do some good.”

Dan joined BlogCatalog approximately six months ago, but has been blogging for almost two years. My Den, which focuses on his love for literature, was his first hobby blog. He also publishes Third Rock From The Sun, which is an environmental awareness blog, and Freebies & Stuff, which reviews free software, desktop utilities, and Web services.

“My Den has definitely gone through many changes since I first started it,” says Dan. “It was a platform for my involvement in joining social campaigns and as my main blog to strike friendships with fellow bloggers. One of the posts that I’ve always derived tremendous satisfaction from was the first publication of a short story that I had written — A Live Unlive — which talks about the plight of the mentally ill.”

It’s an interesting story. One that touches on a subject easily overlooked, but so are a lot of things, like recycling, making a small donation, or sharing an act of kindness with your daughter. It’s nice to know some people don’t overlook these things. People like Dan. Congratulations again!

Digg!

Thursday, February 21

Taking Leaps: NBC Blinks, Sees The Future

The Bionic Woman will not be rebuilt, but NBC Universal wants to rebuild television. On Tuesday, the network announced it would move to a year-round schedule of staggered program introduction.

According to The New York Times, NBC will be committing to a new lineup of shows earlier than any of its competitors, while also inviting advertisers to build marketing plans around specific shows and perhaps to integrate brands and products into the plots of the shows themselves.

“We absolutely think this is going to change the industry,” said Michael Pilot, head of sales for NBC.

The departure places a real question mark on the viability and importance of the Nielsen rating system. Nielsen is not prepared to measure a 52-week season; the bulk of its measure is based on traditional sweeps. Tradition, it seems, is dead.

“The ultimate decision is going to be made by program executives who believe in the shows,” Marc Graboff, the co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, who said that they are looking to have a two-way conversation with advertisers.

That makes sense, given more advertisers want a two-way conversations with customers. And customers want to be heard.

Whether this decision plays well for the fans of recently cancelled shows, or those on the bubble, has yet to be seen. For NBC, the show is Journeyman. So far, despite the inventive Rice-A-Roni campaign, the best outcome for fans seems to be based on a rumor that a few more episodes of season one might see the light of day.

For CBS, everyone knows the show is Jericho. With season 2, episode 2 ratings being called a virtual disaster, even sympathetic critics seem to think there is little hope left.

It’s not because fans don’t watch the show (on TiVo, Jericho ranks as the 11th most recorded show on television). It was also the network's second most downloaded show after CSI. And leaked episodes were downloaded in droves. One hold up: Nielsen families don’t watch Jericho live.

And that might be enough. Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, warned fans early on that she wanted more live viewers before committing to a third season. It’s something I kept drawing attention to when some fans insisted CBS wanted them to hang out in the CBS forum instead of out and about recruiting new fans. No matter, it wasn’t the only mistake made by fans or CBS.

The best hope for fans is that this "live viewers" condition was made on a network-decision model that doesn’t exist anymore. Every show is being considered on a case-by-case basis. It’s a new era of network decision-making; the kind that shocks the system as cable shows like Dexter make the jump from cable to mainstream despite growing protest.

At the end of the day, the decision will all depend on how CBS decides to crunch the numbers. If the old model is applied to Jericho, it will die. If the new model is applied, there might be a chance.

The same can be said for other shows too. The future model will allow shows like Journeyman or even Veronica Mars to avoid current ratings system and time slot traps. But that does not mean the networks have to apply this thinking today.

Digg!

Wednesday, February 20

Making Friends: Social Networks, Much Like Life


Discussions about what constitutes online “friendship” abound about places like Twitter, Facebook, BlogCatalog, whatever.

Some people, it seems, are criticizing groups of friends that develop over time as if they are somehow an exclusive club, which Geoff Livingston rebutted yesterday. Ho hum. As if social media doesn’t somehow mirror real life. It’s mostly the same.

It’s much ado about nothing. Friends are what you make them.

At least that is what I’m going to say next week when I speak about social networks at the Recruiting Roadshow. Social networks are just like any face-to-face network, with two distinctions that don’t add up too much.

The two distinctions between online and offline friends.

The first is simple. Online friends are those people you happened to meet in a "public" online setting before you met them in person. That might seem like a fairly thin distinction, but it holds up.

You might notice that I add emphasis to “public. “ I did because I’ve been introduced to people through email long before I met them in person, and nobody would ever think to give them the “online friend” moniker.

Second, online friendships tend to “seem” more fragile than face-to-face friendships. But that’s not really true either. People follow the same social patterns in life that they do online.

They get a new job, make friends at work, leave the job, and never look back with the exception of staying in touch with one or two people, maybe. They join an association, become involved, make friends, drop out, and never look back with the exception of staying in touch with one or two people, maybe. Where's the difference?

There isn't one, but I do appreciate that fickle friendships are new for most people. It’s not so new to me. I live in a city with such a high transient rate that the chances my son will retain even one friend from kindergarten through the sixth grade is zero.

People move in and out and around Las Vegas at an extremely high rate. There are very, very few constants. So few that making new friends all the time is part of survival in this city. However, much like online, it also makes new friendships commonplace, and even replaceable to the growing number of people who live here.

There are degrees of friendships online, much like life.

Maybe you know the drill and maybe you do not. But if you attend a luncheon, especially as a speaker, people will ask for your business card. Giving them one is not all that different than “friending them back” on a social network.

The only thing that seems to stand in the way of connecting online for some people is the word “friend,” because that tends to be the term that many social networks employ as the connection designation. As a result, people really over think the term. Get over it.

“It’s annoying when total strangers ask to be your ‘friend’ on a network because they just want a lot of ‘friends’ in their network,” some bloggers have told me. But really, what’s the difference between these people and those that work a room at a conference with a fist full of business cards? Do you withhold your card? Probably not.

This really isn’t that hard to sort out. There are connections, associates, colleagues, friends, best friends, and any number of designations if you’re so inclined to put headers over the people you know. So what if Twitter calls it “followers” and BlogCatalog calls it “friends?” It doesn’t mean beans, except for what you bring to the table.

BlogCatalog adds a new layer of friends via the Social Dashboard.

Andy Beard and Charles McKeever were among the first bloggers to write about it, but BlogCatalog added a layer between “friends.” You see, while many social networks talk about convergence, BlogCatalog went ahead and did it.

"The Social Dashboard will help bloggers streamline networking and stay up to date with friends," said Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog. "Bloggers tell us they enjoy making friends on BlogCatalog and then connecting with those friends on other networks. Social Dashboard will make it easier while making member profile pages more dynamic."

The new tool allows friends to share activities with other friends across BlogCatalog and nine other social networks: Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm, MySpace, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and YouTube. It’s easy to operate. All you have to do is subscribe to any friend's feed and all their activities appear on your Dashboard (unless they set change their privacy settings).

What's interesting about the Dashboard beyond the write ups I linked to is that from all your “friends” on BlogCatalog, you subscribe to some not all. Voila. A new layer of connection is created. Those you know; those you follow. That’s not the intent per se, but it does help keep the noise down.

The real deal about friends, online or off.

The real confusion about friendship, online and off, has nothing to do with any of this, of course. Anytime I read about people trying to figure out online friendships, they often start defining qualities that constitute friendship.

Are they nuts? Real friendships are mutually unconditional. There is no definition or expectation. And if you even have one friend like that, then you have more than most.

As for me, I treat online connections much like life. Sometimes it pays to take a chance on a stranger because you really never know whether they will become a real friend unless you give them a chance. Then again, maybe I’m biased because many of my “online friendships” have become “friendships” anyway.

The bottom line is that you can pretend online is somehow different than offline, but the reality is that it is no difference. It only “feels” different because the written word or being center stage has a different impact than casual face-to-face conversations.

It’s the very reason we sometimes feel connected to our favor authors, musicians, actors, whatever. We might feel connected, but they really don’t know us and we really don’t know them. Not really. Then again, we don’t really know the people we think we know anyway. Online, it’s just more obvious.

Digg!

Tuesday, February 19

Pitching In The Dark: Click On, Click Off

If you ever wondered why journalists aren’t crazy for public relations, look no further than the misguided few. I was pitched by the outside public relations team for MyClick Media Limited (MyClick). It was a disaster, from start to non-finish.

The pitch came across like spam.

Headline: If you are working Monday, I would like to introduce you to this technology… Body: … and meet the MyClick team. Please let me know.

The release was loaded with marketing puff.

Release: MyClick is a ground breaking and unique photo recognition Mobile Marketing Platform that empowers all mobile users with the chance to enjoy exciting and exclusive infotainment and m-commerce information upon demand. Translation: MyClick employs photo recognition in promotional material, allowing mobile phone users to take pictures of promotional material to win coupons.

The technology was interesting.

The story is Pizza Hut using MyClick technology for a promotion in mainland China. So despite the pitch deficiencies and the release idiosyncrasies, I decided to follow up despite what appeared to be a one-day holiday offer. My mistake.

The responses were irritating.

“What pub do you work for I am sorry to ask you.”

Never mind they pitched me. Ho hum. Sure, I could have mentioned any number of publications that we string for from time to time, a number of accounts who might be interested in MyClick technology, or my position as an instructor. But that seems like disingenuous carrot dangling to me. So I simply mentioned this blog because they pitched this blog and my intent was to write about MyClick on this blog.

"do you want a face to face"

I’m based in Las Vegas. So considering the public relations firm has offices in California and New York and MyClick is based in China, this seemed a bit extreme for a Pizza Hut promotion. Maybe it’s me, but given the pitch, I assumed the public relations firm might have had something in mind for Monday, unless of course, the whole “Meet the MyClick team on Monday” thing was a ploy. You think?

I said it wasn’t necessary, but put the burden of a solution back on them. Other than answering my question whether the Pizza Hut promotion was exclusive to China, nothing. Yeesh. This was starting to feel like too much work so I alluded to pulling the plug.

I decided to pull the plug.

“Okay,” I wrote. “It's still an interesting concept, but I'm starting to sense you were not prepared for someone to respond to the pitch. So, you've really left me at a loss here. Maybe it would be best to skip it, other than to address the dangers of mass pitch emails.”

"fine"

My pleasure, sort of. I don’t really want to embarrass the firm completely so I’m omitting their name. Though, I must admit, I am tempted. Bad handling affects the entire industry. Lesson for today: if you aren’t interested in contact, then don’t send an invitation pitch.

Public relations professionals would be better off following the practices of the public relations team working with Loomia, who pitched us a week or so prior. Their pitch was timely, professional, personalized, and what started out as a singular post has now popped up around the Web. I’d work with them anytime they have news.

This post might pop up around the Web too. But I don’t think it’s the kind of coverage MyClick paid for. As for my take on their technology, it has become just another footnote in how bad public relations practices detract from otherwise interesting news.

Digg!

Monday, February 18

Missing The Real Deal: Presidents Day

Last year, President George W. Bush traveled to the Mount Vernon estate of George Washington in honor of Presidents Day, which was chosen as a date to honor the birthday of President Washington.

In truth, Washington’s birthday is Feb. 22 (Feb. 11 if you consider the Julian calendar used when he was alive). Along with Washington’s birthday, many consider it a celebration of President Lincoln’s birthday as well, which is Feb. 12. A few even consider it a celebration of all Presidents.

Of course, nowadays, today is best known for retail advertising campaigns and a growing number of newspapers that lament how Presidents Day lost its meaning.

You see, it was really intended to celebrate Washington’s birthday as the first President of the United States. President Lincoln had earned his own day. That is, until HR 15951 was passed in 1968 in an attempt to simplify federal holidays. But that’s the thing.

Representations don’t always have as much value as the real thing.

We learned it here in Nevada too. Ever since the state moved Nevada Day from Oct. 31 to the last Friday of the month, it too has lost some luster. Lighter events are now scattered throughout the long weekend, which is used by Nevadans to prepare for Halloween as much as anything. I guess it seems fitting that this year’s theme has something to do with aliens. The outer space kind.

This year, President George W. Bush is in Africa. And, when you look at the newspapers, there seems to be much less about a national celebration than some other topics, including political endorsements and recognizing new nations, which has drowned out most mentions, even the laments.

Not so much for me. It still rings true as George Washington’s birthday, honoring the first President of the United States. Even while writing about why Benjamin Franklin would have made a great blogger, it didn’t hit me to post it (maybe sometime in the weeks ahead).

Today belongs to Washington. Another founding father, who despite little formal education, would have likely participated in social media, writing what would one day be public letters to his colleagues from Mount Vernon. Oh right, he did do exactly that.

Maybe that’s why we should remember him today, and our founding fathers more often. These people weren’t trying to be “anything” like we sometimes see in politics today. They were trying to do something. But maybe that’s the point. Representations don’t always have as much value as the real thing.

Digg!

Friday, February 15

Blogging For Kindness: Original Me Tees

Not all blogs are cut from the same cloth. Original Me Tees is a good example.

Nathania Johnson, an online marketing consultant, uses the Original Me Tees blog as a promotional tool for her online T-shirt store. The idea originated as an extension of a Caf├ęPress store, which she recently switched to another online print on demand service called Printfection, where you can see her designs.

”The idea is that people dress to express themselves,” says Johnson. “And while we all have differences, we can connect through common threads.”

One common thread for bloggers last year was the Bloggers Unite social awareness campaign Acts of Kindness. It asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it. The campaign interested Johnson because it gave her a strong idea — wearing compassion.

“It was something I really wanted to put time into,” she said. “It’s a great way to contribute to the blogosphere and the world in general.”

Johnson’s post was one of several recognized by judges after she submitted it for contest consideration. Rather than perform an act of kindness specific to the campaign, she highlighted several charities that she frequently contributes to, suggesting that readers “try on one of these charities to see if it fits in with your personal wardrobe.”

“I felt like mentioning all of the non-profits because I was contributing to them,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, I tend not to talk about any specific monetary donations to charities. For me it’s a spiritual thing. It just feels a bit self-gratuitous.”

Johnson is not alone in feeling that way. Several bloggers said they struggled with the last campaign because they were writing about themselves as opposed to a subject. For many, it was only after people left comments or expressed that they were inspired to contribute an act of kindness that the bloggers understood how sharing kindness tends to spread.

In addition to mentioning several charities, Johnson highlighted several simple acts of kindness beyond supporting non-profits — everyday things you can do to “accessorize” giving. Just three examples include: allowing others to go first, giving up the better parking spot, and being generous and sincere with compliments. Providing options was extremely important to her.

“Everyone is different,” says Johnson. “While supporting Brad Pitt's project to rebuild the 9th Ward of New Orleans might appeal to one person, building wells for villages in the Central African Republic might resonate strongly with someone else.”

She says she views blogging the same way. Shee always considered BlogCatalog best for metabloggers — people who blog about blogging — but she sees Bloggers Unite as a great way to trend in new directions. Expanding niches would certainly benefit the blogger network, Johnson said.

“I've only participated in Bloggers Unite one time so far, but I would participate again if they keep it non-political,” she said. “I used to be quite active with my account for my classic movie blog. There are a lot of good conversations that happen on BlogCatalog.”

Johnson said she is a bit less active since losing her classic movie blog, after her hosting service had a server crash. And, until recently, she hadn’t even found the time to update her other two. In addition blogging for companies where she works, she is actively involved with photography and Improv, and spends as much time with her family as she can.

“I have a wonderful husband, two fantastic kids, and two cute cats,” She said. And a big heart. Congrats again Nathania!

Digg!

Thursday, February 14

Passing Out Hearts: Valentine’s Day


A few weeks ago, I was asked to name names. And every time someone asks me to, the first thought that comes to mind is “never name names.” But hey, it’s Valentine’s Day. Maybe a little love can go a long way.

Specifically, I was asked who influences me. Ho hum.

First things first. I never much liked the term influence, especially when it’s applied to social media. I prefer to think about that differently: there are people who make me think and there are people who do not. Besides, influence is so very loaded with the notion of blanket agreement. I don’t know anyone like that.

Second, there are too many bloggers who make me think to list in a single post, so the only way to do it is to break them up into niches.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are ten folks connected to communication who make me think — five who make me think frequently and five who I expect will make me think. (In other words, add them to your watch lists if you haven’t already).

Five People Who Make Me Think

Geoff Livingston — The Buzz Bin
Whether you catch Geoff Livingston with his team on The Buzz Bin or on Now Is Gone, he always looking to stay ahead of the social media curve. While we might disagree on some communication strategy topics, any back and forth always leads to deepening the discussion to where it needs to be. Thought: If there is a social network or online tool worth a second look, he almost always knows what it is and how to make it work.

Valeria Maltoni — Conversation Agent
If anybody connects the dots between strategic communication and conversation or brick-and-mortar stores and online presence, it’s Valeria Maltoni and the Conversation Agent. I tend to agree with her more often than any other blogger out there.
Thought: If anyone can convince you that cross-blog conversations have more value than the average meme, she’s the one.

Michael Keleman — Recruiting Animal
The Recruiting Animal was one of the first people online to take me to task on my principle that “you can’t control what other people say about you; you can only control how you respond to them” when he introduced himself by calling me a sissy. We’ve been friends ever since. You can catch his hard question approach at Recruiting Animal. Thought: Real online friends don’t need pats on the back; they need authenticity.

Jason Davis — RecruitingBlogs
When I first met Jason Davis, he was heading up Recruiting.com. Now, he administers RecrutingBlogs.com, a niche social network on Ning that has become very popular in the recruiting industry. The reason, in part, is leadership. Davis has an approach that works well in social media, lightly guiding people without ever having to become a police state like some social networks do. Thought: He knows how to make a social networks thrive.

Scott Baradell — Media Orchard
Whether it’s a quip on SpinThicket or pop culture think piece, Scott Baradell delivers. He’s proven on more than one occasion that he knows his “stuff;” he just chooses not to share it all the time because sometimes the “stuff” just isn’t all that fun to write about. Thought: If you’re not having fun online, it’s not worth the effort.

Five More Thinkers In The Mix

Jason Falls at Social Media Explorer has something going on with a unique blend of social media banter and blog business. It’s bit a random at times (as if I’m not), but he’s doing what explorers do. Um, they explore.

Ike Piggot and his Occam’s Razor is a blog to behold. People say he’s someone to watch for all sorts of reasons. I like it because he keeps his blog personal, relevant, and well written. It makes me forgive the occasional self-loathing “nobody reads me” stuff from time to time.

Dane Morgan is a hardcore online marketing guy who understands the tech better than most. He likes to call a duck a duck and never needs to apologize for it. Blog promotion tends to be a favored topic on Dane Morgan Niche Blogger and he gets into the nuts and bolts of programs like Entrecard (more on that next week).

Sterling Hagar is off the social media crowd radar, but no less relevant. And while I don’t read Agency Next every day, I always know I’ll find something interesting there when I visit. He covers topics that others ought to follow and expand upon.

Bill Sledzik probably belongs in the first five, but then it wouldn’t be five. He’s the real deal and takes a no-nonsense public relations talk on ToughSledding, always in the mix for me. My bet is that he would already be an “A-list” blogger if it wasn’t for the lack of a daily post. No matter. There’s something to be said for not doing so.

Naturally, whether you read this blog regularly or from time to time, Happy Valentine’s Day to you too. Emails and comments make me think too, not just other bloggers. It helps keep things interesting.

Jason Davis suggested I consider making a meme out of this. I would, but I’m not very big on memes. So I’ll leave that up to everyone else. Besides, there are many, many more bloggers, social network connections, and people who make me think beyond communication.

For instance, my wife and partner makes me think. Every day, in fact. And today she has me thinking how much I love her, especially because I’ll be teaching public relations when I probably should be doing something with her.

It takes someone special to put personal perks on hold sometimes. Right on, next week it will be the same thing on her birthday. Happy Valentine’s Day, Kim.

Digg!

Wednesday, February 13

Opening Hollywood: Writers Strike Ends


The writers strike is over, but the impact is permanent well beyond payment for digital distribution. People want change, and not just the actors who will likely ask for digital distribution compensation as well.

Advertisers are hoping networks adopt a year-round television schedule as opposed to the nine-month schedule currently employed by major networks. Year-round scheduling, which has been tried and tested positive by many cable networks (which purposely avoid sweeps to launch new programming), would allow viewers to consider more new programs.

“There’s a lot of hype in September,” Charlie Rutman, chief executive for the North American operations of MPG, a media agency owned by Havas, told The New York Times. “And by November, half the shows aren’t on anymore.”

Year-Round Means Better Metrics

Such a move would require a greater overhaul of the Nielsen rating system, which relies primarily on sweep weeks for its largest gathering of ratings. Currently, only a fraction of a few million Nielsen families are counted year round.

The rating system has been a hotly debated topic by consumers since last May, when fans of the Jericho television show (which aired its first episode of the second season last night) criticized questioned its accuracy and dismissal of online DVR viewership, which some estimates put at 58 to 70 percent of all cable households. Eventually, Jericho voices were joined by the fans of virtually every cancelled show.

While Nielsen has made changes since last May, including some semblance of DVR counts and video-on-demand (VOD) analytics, it continues to draw fire from, well, everyone. Enough so that Nielsen apologized for the “systemic problems in the delivery of its national ratings data” since the beginning of the 2007-08 TV season. Enough so that CBS and TiVo have an arrangement. Enough so that everyone is looking for alternative metrics while reporters mention that the rating system is less than perfect.

A year-round season is something that some networks, like NBC, are already working toward. NBC recognizes that it would save money because fewer pilots would need to be produced in the spring for the fall. It might also mean that networks wouldn’t feel pressured to put as many shows on the bubble, simply to take a chance and make a splash with a new show line up every year.

More importantly, it works for consumers because head-to-head show competition is becoming a phenomenon of the past. Consumers simply want great content rather than relying on the old model, which was based on the idea that they would “settle for the best thing on” or spend an hour surfing.

New Media Is All Media

As mentioned in January, old media is dead because the distinction between old and new is fast becoming nonexistent. The graphite is scrawled across the wall …

• Everyone wants a rating system that counts everybody, and breaks out information across various multimedia platforms.
• Everyone wants a fair compensation for actors, creators, and distributors, regardless of how revenue is generated.
• Everyone wants better quality programming that can survive longer than three episodes before being pulled.
• Everyone wants more interaction between fans, cast, and crew because viewers are paying much more attention to their favorite shows.
• Everyone wants engagement beyond passive viewership because, well, because it’s possible.
• Nobody really minds some advertising if the content is free; and advertisers don’t mind paying for programs that people watch.

This is different, but doable. It’s less about reinvention and more about innovation to diminish the difference between what exists and what’s possible.

Even the primary reason for the conclusion of the writers strike is indicative of change. Many people are crediting Peter Chernin, president of the News Corporation, and Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney, for opening sideline talks with Patric Verrone, David Young, and John Bowman. Individual conversations succeeded where group negotiations failed. Sounds almost like a social media solution.

Looking for two more positive outcomes to the writers strike? The United Hollywood blog intends to stick around. It might be a very long time before a network executive ever needs to ask for a pencil. Case closed, well, sort of.

Digg!

Tuesday, February 12

Rowing Nowhere: Celebrity Endorsements


Advertising for the Pfizer cholesterol drug Lipitor continues to draw scrutiny from everyone, especially one of its more recent advertisements. The ad features Dr. Robert Jarvick, inventor of the artificial heart, rowing his way to better health with Lipitor. Except, he doesn’t really row.

"He's about as much an outdoorsman as Woody Allen," longtime collaborator Dr. O. H. Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute told The New York Times. "He can't row."

The Pfizer advertising campaign came under question about a month ago after the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter of inquiry about the endorsement. The letter didn’t target Jarvick’s rowing as much as it did his qualifications.

The bigger picture is Congress taking an active interest in pharmaceutical advertising since 2004. Advertising drove record sales of Vioxx, just before it was later pulled by Merck after a clinical trial showed that it sharply increased the risk of heart attacks and stroke. In other words, for better or worse, pharmaceutical advertising works. Congress is trying to figure out how much is for worse.

The criticism of the Jarvik campaign raises several interesting questions related to celebrity and creative ethics in a world where Andy Warhol’s quote "In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes” has morphed into “in the future everybody will be famous to fifteen people at a time,” even journalists.

Although Jarvick insists he is not a celebrity in a statement issued to fend off reporter inquiries about the campaign, he really is, even if it is only of a quasi-celebrity nature.

Endorsing products, paid or unpaid, even if it is under the auspices of having “the training, experience, and medical knowledge to understand the conclusions of the extensive clinical trials that have been conducted to study the safety and effectiveness of Lipitor,” does thrust one into spokesperson-celebrity arena.

If he didn’t have celebrity status to some degree, it seems unlikely Pfizer would have approached him. After all, Jarvick might hold a medical degree, but not as a cardiologist. He also does not hold a license to practice any type of medicine.

From celebrity endorsers, the public generally wants some authenticity if not transparency. Sure, while we’re all used to seeing celebrities promote one product while using another on the side, most cameos are grounded in some semblance of reality. So when celebrities push the envelope on creative license, expressing their passion for a sport they do not engage in (let’s say), there is bound to be backlash that exceeds the obvious body double work.

Endorsement advertising, even by consumers, is all the rage these days. But that doesn’t mean I always get it. Sure, it’s fun to watch Chuck Norris endorse Mike Huckabee on YouTube or any number of social media experts tout “on again, off again” social network promotions, but one wonders if we aren’t stretching the “pile in the party bus with >insert quasi-celebrity<” too often.

Is a Norris endorsement all that’s needed to pick the President of the United States? Does Jarvick trump any advice that your cardiologist might provide? Does a social network that an A-list blogger employs mean it will work for you?

The truth is they seem to matter in perception if not reality. But perception is the operative word. Sooner or later, people wonder what is real. Is the footage real? How about Pfizer’s statement to The Wall Street Journal?

“Dr. Jarvik is a respected health care professional and heart expert. Dr. Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart, knows how imperative it is for patients to do everything they can to keep their heart working well.”

No doubt. Except, I don’t think the ad was a public service announcement.

Digg!

Monday, February 11

Going, Going: Now Is Gone


It has been four long months since Now Is Gone by Geoff Livingston with Brian Solis first landed on Amazon and bookstore shelves. That’s a long time in the world of new media, making me wonder whether another review serves any real purpose, especially from someone who was included.

Yeah, about that. When Livingston visited us in Vegas, I told him I would have to ding my informal poll’s inclusion in the book, given how it is presented. I might as well start there. Sure, poll respondents called the Wal-Mart flog the biggest social media transgression to date (36 percent), but only 23 people voted.

Nine opinions is hardly as valid as it seems in print. What’s also missing is that I followed up on the subject, stating that the poll participants were a bit off: John Mackey and Julie Roehm had much larger lapses in ethical judgments. The Wal-Mart flog merely stands out because it was perpetrated by a number of people who knew better, and could have been avoided by the tiniest of disclosures.

This doesn’t really detract from the book; it’s just something to keep in mind. Like all books on new media (and everything else for that matter), sourcing the original content is important because, in understanding the greater context of the conversation, readers may come up with different conclusions than those laid out before them.

Livingston does one of the best jobs in helping people find such content, citing direct links that can be easily tracked back to the source. It makes sense.

Why Now Is Gone Works

Now Is Gone is a book that attempts a daunting task and mostly succeeds. It captures new media conversations by communication leaders as it occurred. It’s something David Meerman Scott did with The New Rules of Marketing and PR. For this reason alone, Now Is Gone is exactly what it says it is: a primer on new media for executives and entrepreneurs, people who are starting to realize they need to catch up on several months or years worth of conversation.

Livingston and the forward by Solis do a good job in presenting this, providing dozens of lessons learned, best practices, and case studies. It is often encapsulated into sound advice bites — “one new thing new media creators can learn from traditional media outlets is the creation of phenomenal content can be targeted toward a particular community” — which rightfully points to an idea that new media doesn’t require trickery as much as honest, targeted content.

Another common theme is how new media often requires active participation. Case in point: Livingston was one of several people who encouraged me to participate across more social networks than I ever intended. He’s very, very good at it (I'm just okay). He may even be one of the best at it, because he practices what he preaches…

“Social Networks that feature opt-in friends or followers can be great ways to engage sub-communities outside of a corporate social media initiative. By building value for these contacts in a participation-oriented, value-building manner, organizations can intelligently build an extended community of brand loyalists.” — Now Is Gone.

While it’s true this is sometimes time-consuming, time management and targeted participation makes the return well worth the effort. Coming away from reading Now Is Gone for the second time, it also reinforces how social networking may even be more important than a blog in that it exposes the participant to a bigger world view. It’s not all that different from participating in a professional organization on a local level. Sure, the lines are blurred and the network is bigger, but the sociology is the same.

Now Is Gone doesn't stop there. It also works hard to prove that social networks and social media cannot be ignored, no matter how much people think they can be. It is in this topic that Livingston and Solis both make their best cases for the idea that new media is changing marketing, advertising, and public relations in ways that no one expected.

They are right, even if some of the changes seem to be taking us back to the golden era of advertising when people like Ogilvy, Polykoff, Manley, and a slew of others knew that effective copywriting was all about engaging consumers in conversation. It’s the conversation, not the art or price point alone, that changes behavior.

A Cautionary Note About New Media Books

In addition to the rush to market, which sometimes leaves communication colleagues miffed by rough writing, there is something to keep in mind when reading any book about new media. And that is... it's new media.

It’s so new that some social media proponents struggle with one critical piece of wisdom: the work they are doing today is important, but it may not be strong enough to make them immortal or any more correct in being among the first. The scientific field is much more versed in working in such an environment. More than one scientist has experienced a moment when their biggest contribution is proven to be slightly flawed on the front end, making an entire volume of work invalid.

The Permian-Triassic extinction event about 250 million years ago comes to mind. There were dozens of theories floating around about the extinction for decades, ranging from large and multiple impacts and increased volcanism to methane releases from the sea floor.

However, with a single new discovery, some of these theories (and theories built on top of these theories) were suddenly left behind as entire volumes of research needed to be rewritten. The only difference, it seems to me, is that scientists are a bit more prepared for this to happen. Social media proponents? I'm not always sure they are.

Given how often I see some write that we “don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” I’m unconvinced that they are ready for for sweeping changes that occur when the wheel is reinvented. If there wasn't a need to reinvent wheels, we'd still have giant log rollers under our cars and trucks, Flinstone style. And we certainly wouldn't need new media.

Of course, this isn’t a criticism of the book. This is an area where Livingston always stands out. He allows the conversation to speak for itself, perfectly content to see it disproved, overturned by new ideas, or evolve in ways that early pioneers never intended.

You can see some of this happen in real time on the Now Is Gone blog. It’s a great read, with multiple authors picking up where the book leaves off.

Digg!

Saturday, February 9

Counting Down Jericho: Tick, Tick, Boom


There are only three full days left before many of the questions surrounding Jericho, the television series given a reprieve last year, begin to shift from speculations and to undeniable facts. Starting Feb. 12 and for the weeks that follow, CBS executives will be considering which of two second season episodes shot will air on week seven.

Will that episode wrap the fan-inspired story forever or usher in a complete unabridged third season?

It’s not the only question, but it is the one that is weighing heavily on the minds of several thousand fans who spent the last nine months talking up the show that they helped save with about 125,000 signatures, 40,000 pounds of nuts, and countless e-mails, postcards, letters, phone calls, blog posts, articles, interviews, forum discussions, YouTube videos, etc. No one really knows the answer, but there are plenty of people hoping for much more than seven installments.

“I was just thinking about those shiny new episodes that everyone has worked SO hard for. There seems to be a buzz about them, but my greatest fear is that this is the beginning of the end. We got CBS to reconsider their decision, but will the public follow?” — Jessielynne73 (fan screen name)

“The one thing that stands out the most to me is how Schumi made sure to stress that everyone’s efforts counted, and how much her daily ‘command orders’ inspired us all." — Maybei (fan screen name)

“What stood out to me were the awesome videos made by the fans to encourage and inspire us in the fight to get Jericho back. I am so glad that CBS is acknowledging them on the Jericho homepage with the fan video of the day." — DBalcer1 (fan screen name)

“I’m in Romania so the show aired here [much later]. I’ve gotten hooked on the show since … and I’ll be hooked for the rest of my life.” — Twister22 (fan screen name)

"What stood out in my mind was the commitment everyone made to make sure Jericho was not forgotten. I love that the actors have said how much they appreciate and love the show (and their fans). That's rare in TV series."— Idyoutlw (fan screen name)

“What stands out to me is what hard work it's been, but it has ultimately been worth it. I've talked to people I would probably never gotten to know otherwise, learned a lot, and made some good friends. Even if (heaven forbid) we don't get any more than these seven episodes, it was all worth it, and I'd do it again." — LisiBee (fan screen name)

For the fans, it must seem like another lifetime when the only question people asked was what would CBS executives do with 22,000 pounds of nuts?, an early estimate that was quickly eclipsed with 18,000 more.

That question was answered: the peanuts were sent to the zoo; the “Jericho nuts” were sent the promise of seven shows.

Jericho "nuts" doesn’t have as much charm as “Jericho Rangers,” as I know them, but Ken Tucker with Entertainment Weekly seems to have some doubts whether season two will have mass appeal. Although temperate in his review, he did see some promise in two performers, who he says bring “some cracked intensity into this grim fantasy.”

We shall see. Much like we’ll see the answers to many other questions even though I suspect some will never really be answered.

“Will CBS, which cancelled 20 projects during the writer’s strike, reconsider how it counts Nielsen ratings?”

“Did the three episode leak help, hurt, or have no bearing on the premiere of the second season?”

“Did the writer’s strike (which just reached a tentative agreement) help attract viewers who are starved for new non-reality show content on television?”

“Would fans have fared even better without the just-below-the-surface in-fighting among the most visible?”

“Did the fans meet those conditions uttered by CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler that they had to 'recruit more fans?'”

“Will CBS ever learn how lightly guided consumer marketing and social media really works?”

“Does Jake fit better with Heather or Emily?”

Doubtful. Almost. Not like it could have. Probably. Maybe. Its online viewing platform certainly looks better. And last but not least, there are some fan debates you learn to stay far away from.

Personally, I just hope the fans are able to punctuate the impossible show cancellation reversal and capture enough ratings to see their efforts stick. Objectively, the ratings of season two episode one will matter less than season two episode three or four.

I also won’t be surprised if NBC or FOX pays some attention to the outcome. With more then 2,600 boxes of Rice-A-Roni (not counting individual shipments) being mailed to Jeff Zucker, NBC might find going back in time and undoing a decision is sometimes better than starting from scratch.

Wouldn’t that be something? I know a girl detective who would think so too. But for now, it’s all about the little town in Kansas that thought it could. Given that I believe consumers matter, I hope it can.

For a behind-the-scenes look at season two and some surprisingly crisp full episodes of season one, visit CBS here.

Special thanks to Jane Sweat who contributed fan comments to this piece.

Digg!

Friday, February 8

Blogging For Kindness: Ark Of Hope For Children


Last November, I had the pleasure of getting to know the Corbett family through Bloggers Unite, a social awareness campaign spearheaded by BlogCatalog.

The Corbetts are raising 10 children, five of which were adopted from the foster care system (there are 13 family members in all). They are planning to adopt more children as their vision, Ark Of Hope For Children, becomes a reality.

The Ark Of Hope For Children is a planned mini-community that will include 3-6 single family homes on 80 acres of land to provide a nurturing environment for up to 32 children currently sheltered by the Florida foster care system. Even so, the Corbetts are not inwardly focused. They invest time helping others as well.

In fact, their contribution to their community was a perfect match for the last Bloggers Unite campaign, focused on Acts of Kindness, which asked bloggers from around the world to perform an act of kindness and share a post, picture, or video about it. The Corbetts submitted a post about a large-scale event they hosted to help those in need around the holidays.

”My family has always volunteered at Gainesville, Florida’s Bread of The Mighty Food Bank,” said Blair Corbett, who wrote the post. “As the holiday season was approaching several years ago, we were informed of a six story building of welfare recipients that was often overlooked because they weren’t quite homeless.”

Rather than sit on the sidelines, the Corbetts adopted the building six years ago. This year, the family and eight volunteers organized a holiday meal for more than 80 people. The meal, consisting of purchased food from local food banks and supermarkets, included everything you might imagine: six turkeys, 10 pounds of ham, lasagnas, 30 pounds of mashed potatoes (real), ten pounds of stuffing, corn, beans, angel food cakes, Jello, and sweet tea.

“We pre-organized as many volunteers as possible to help cook the food, but our guest kitchen chefs became ill, which left all of the cooking to Verna [his wife] and my family,” says Corbett. “Fortunately, the manager and two employees of a local fast food restaurant pre-cooked some food at their location, which was a blessing.”

The sudden outbreak of bronchitis in their community wasn’t the only challenge, but the Corbetts continued to rely on faith. When the shortage of help became overbearing, they paused to pray. When the front door latch of their fully-loaded van broke at the last minute, they rigged up a rope to keep the door shut. When the electricity suddenly went out in the 6-story building, they spent hours trying to find the right breakers.

Yet, for every problem, Corbett says their “mess became their message.” No matter what, you have to be grateful for what you have. And on Dec. 23, they had each other.

“I learned to appreciate life early, after losing my father when I was 12, and my stepfather when I was 18,” says Corbett. “I began following Christ in my mid 30s. Sure, many of our kids are physically or mentally challenged, it has been an uphill climb for our family as we continue to work toward building the first of six foster homes, and it was a tough decision to leave the normal workplace in 2000 to work full time for Ark of Hope. But if you live humbly and unselfishly, I believe you will live in lavish riches that will last for eternity.”

Sometimes those riches are like those experienced by the residents that night. They knew someone cared enough to serve them and listen, even if it was for a short time. The gift was beneficial to the family too, he said. His children, ranging in ages 3 to 24, learned valuable lessons about the joy of service and from prayer requests.

Some residents asked for prayers to have health problems alleviated. Some asked to be reunited with family, whom they had not seen in some time. Most were simply thankful for the food and people to share it with. The Corbett's granddaughter, Krystal, was grateful for the stuffed animals some residents slipped beside her during her nap. And the Corbetts were thankful they could share their story.

“Both my wife and I love taking part in Bloggers Unite because it's an opportunity to write about something we do that has the potential to multiply our efforts,” says Corbett. “Every day, there is something you can do. No matter how small, you can make a difference. We envision the power of Bloggers Unite to be something that will get a lot more people caring about and for others.”

In addition to organizing, cooking, and serving the meal, the Corbett family distributed more than 2,000 pounds of dry goods to the residents afterward.

Update: Recently, Miss Marion County USA joined with the Corbetts to help raise funds. For more information about their efforts, visit Ark Of Hope For Children.

Digg!
 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template