Showing posts with label BlogStraighttalk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BlogStraighttalk. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 29

Mixing Media: The Recruiting Animal


Last March, the unabashed shock jock of recruiting, best known to the industry as the “Recruiting Animal,” launched an online radio talk show. Since, the show continues to capture growing interest, maybe even contributing to his recent win as the “Best Recruiting Blogosphere Personality” gratis RecruitingBlogs.com Best Recruiting Blogs Of 2007.

You think? No way, says Animal.

“I feel guilty about the prize because David ‘Bull Doza’ Mendoza of Six Degrees From Dave put me on his slate of candidates and sent a request to his super huge network* to vote as he advised,” explains Animal. “I have to assume that most of the voters didn't know anything about me.”

Whether they did or not, I doubt he feels guilty. At least not since the contest organizer stripped him of one coveted treat. There was no Starbucks coffee in the prize package.

“Have you ever heard the word schnorrer?” asks Animal. “Jay Dee (Jason Davis of RecruitingBlogs.com) is my friend, so he thinks that what's mine is his.”

Adding Practicality To Punch Lines

The Recruiting Animal is not the only one to add podcasting to his repertoire. Since August 2006, BlogTalkRadio has added thousands of shows, including several authors and celebrities in addition to bloggers. It makes some wonder. Is it worth it?

“I think it is easier to get other people to contribute their expertise because they don’t have to write anything,” says Animal. “But it does take preparation to do it well. Writing a good intro for the show is as time consuming as writing a long blog post, but you don't do it every day.”

In addition to the introduction, good online radio hosts have to spend considerable time researching topics and giving the information advanced thought. And, a blog or Web site is important for show promotion.

There is also considerable effort in developing a workable approach. While Animal says he is still in the process of formalizing his interview approach, there are a few things he has learned along the way.

• Always research the featured topic and examples
• Always plan questions thoroughly, including follow ups
• Sometimes pre-interviews can make a huge difference

“I did a pre-interview this past week and it made a big difference,” says Animal. “If I know something about the answers in advance, then I don’t have to struggle to get a clear statement from my guest.”

The pre-interview technique also put him in a position to clarify answers without losing the spontaneity that keeps the show fresh. And, he says, they are more appropriate than supplying advance material or scripts.

While advance material has been helpful for what he affectionately calls “The Animal Panel,” guests tend to know their subject and need more flexibility. On one occasion, he did plan a show with a guest and it backfired, with the guest refusing to stick to the script. Animal filled in some blanks, but the interview seemed like guest baiting to industry insiders as opposed to a fun show.

Balancing Acts For Guests And Listeners

Even with some tried and true tips, there are no hard and fast rules. One of the challenges Animal faces on a weekly basis is finding the right mix for guests and listeners. People don’t necessarily want a plodding question-interview session, but rather a fast-moving, entertaining, and informative show.

If he is too polite to guests, he says it makes for a less interesting show. Most people want what they are used to: blunt remarks, raised voices, and interruptions that sometimes have nothing to do with the subject. So Animal is always looking for balance between his colorful— sometimes snarky — blog persona and a radio show host who doesn’t frighten guests away.

“Since I know that I can find people to interview, I'm probably
better off telling guests that it's going to be a rough ride,” says Animal. “But if I don't sober up, I wonder if it might be hard to get certain interesting, but straight-laced types, on my show.”


Somewhere in between entertaining and outlandish seems to be the answer for him, even if it means losing certain guests to someone else. If he plays it too straight, his listeners let him know. Great introduction, they might say, but what a dull interview.

Live Listeners Are A Fraction Of Audience

Many online radio talk show hosts avoid answering questions related to live listeners, but Animal helped put this into perspective. He says live listeners aren’t as important as some people might think. While he would like more callers because they add value to the show, the bulk of his audience comes from people who download podcasts.

“I derive a lot of benefit from my regular callers. You meet a lot of intelligent, talkative people in blogging. When people like Maureen Sharib, Harry Joiner, Dave Manaster, or Jason Davis call in, they ask good questions that I wouldn't think of,” says Animal. “They also make good remarks and add a lot of variety.”

The show itself, much like The Recruiting Animal’s blog, is geared more for recruiters in the business than it is for recruiting clients and candidates. As a result, readership and listenership tend to be more narrowly focused. However, Animal is still surprised by how many people listen or write reviews of past shows, making podcasts a better measure of his reach.

“I do get the odd review in which someone I don’t know says they find it entertaining,” says Animal. “That’s a real treat.”

Currently, Animal is working to build a subscription network and that might give him a better idea of who and how people listen to the show. This may eventually help produce a show with online sponsors that will keep his Starbucks cup full.

So is it worth it? It seems to be for Animal. But like all online tools, it’s best to match what you do best with the available applications. If you have a good speaking voice and can dedicate time to online radio, it provides a richer experience and relationship than other formats. Animal is a natural for radio, and he didn’t pay me to say it. Listen for yourself.

You can also catch an essay discussion opener on BlogStraigthTalk on adding podcasts.

*note comments: Animal was dreaming.
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Thursday, January 17

Catching Buzz: Richard Becker


On Jan. 4, Geoff Livingston tagged me with the popular “eight random things about you” meme, but with all the great questions recently posed by Livingston and Larissa Fair in my interview at The Buzz Bin today, the last thing I want to do is talk about me.

So this time around, I’m going to cheat the meme by directing my response to the first time I was tagged with it. You can find it over at RecruitingBlogs. Yes, that meme is the same “random eight things about me” meme that forced me to defend one of my many stranger than fiction stories.

So what I would like to do instead is to add some additional insight into something I mentioned in the interview.

Welcome, Sweat

Popular Jericho blogger Barbara Sweat (aka Jane Sweat) will be interning with us as an online research assistant, effective Feb. 1. Having watched her skills evolve over the last eight months has been very rewarding, punctuated by her interview with writer Matt Federman today.

We offered the internship to Sweat so she could start getting her feet wet in professional communication beyond social media, which she already has a strong grasp of from the perspective of an independent blogger. (Enough to win Best TV Blogger on the Hey!Nielsen site. She has received ample recognition for her blogs elsewhere too.)

While her blogs remain independent of the work we do, it’s my hope her work with us will turn into some amazing opportunities. In some ways, she herself is becoming an example of parlaying a personal blog into a professional opportunity.

On the surface, this might seem avant garde to a few, but not so much to me. We managed 40 writers around the world for a hospitality trade publication several years ago (and still work with several), much the same way: we sourced their resumes, asked for work samples, and gave them assignments via e-mail. Before that, I would pitch and write articles for magazines by contacting editors through the mail. What’s the difference?

I appreciate that some people will never adopt social media, but I do think the time has come for some to let go of the notion that new technology and tools somehow changes everything.

On the contrary, they don’t change what is done, just the way it is done. That said, I’d like to tag some other people for the “eight random things about you” meme, starting with Jane Sweat.

I’ll also tag three more bloggers who deserve some long overdue recognition for helping me with the BlogStraightTalk group at BlogCatalog: Alan Jobe, Dane Morgan, and Mark Stoneman. I couldn’t do it without them.

Likewise, I'd like to extend an additional thanks to Livingston and Fair. It’s an honor to have been included. I truly appreciate the hospitality.

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Thursday, January 10

Checking Reality: Business Blog Validity


Liz Fuller, who writes Business and Blogging, recently pulled together a list of Fortune 500 blogs. In sum, she found 8 percent of Fortune 500 companies had some level of corporate blogs. Two of the top ten — GM and GE — have blogs.

The GM Fastlane Blog, of course, has been sourced as a best practice staple for some time. It appeared in my first presentation on business blogs in 2005, cited for its human approach, industry insights, product updates, press rebuttals, industry passion, and responsiveness.

While Fuller meant her post to be a precursor to evaluating 41 corporate blogs — the good, the bad, and the ugly — in the weeks ahead, longtime recruiting blogger and recently named “Best Recruiting Blogosphere Personality” Recruiting Animal flipped the headline to conclude Business Blogging Flops, adding in a reference to The Guardian article that notes the one percent rule is an emerging trend.

The One Percent Rule

The one percent rule is that if you have a group of 100 people, one will create content, 10 will interact, and 89 percent will just view it. That’s about right, unless you nurture engagement.

For example, our BlogStraightTalk group has 200 members with slightly better numbers, with 10 percent helping to create content, 30 percent offering comment, 50 percent viewing it, and 20 percent never dropping by again. However, although I have been focused on other projects, encouraging engagement is by design.

Honestly, this isn’t all that much different from face-to-face organizations. Without encouraging engagement, members of any organization, regardless of where it forms, will likely follow similar behavioral patterns: 1-10 percent lead, 10-20 percent manage, 30-80 quietly participate, and the balance forgets why it joined in the first place.

There is no difference, leaving The Guardian’s information interesting, but its conclusion is invalid because it fails to draw a comparison to real life.

Business Blogs Flop?

This knowledge brings us back to the headline flip. It seems to me that blogs and other social media/new media applications are sometimes too easily dismissed as viable because the expectation is an 80-100 percent adoption rate.

This isn’t realistic. In fact, with the possible exception of business cards, I don’t believe any communication tactic —brochures, newsletters, radio, television, Web sites, etc. — has an 80 percent adoption rate. So why have we set the expectation higher for the newest communication tool on the block?

Exactly. It doesn’t make sense.

The Truth About New Media

I can no longer open any communication-related publication without reading about the application of social media. Even Communication World (CW), which is a magazine for communication management, promoted “Social Media: Extend Your Reach” on the cover of its Jan.-Feb. issue.

Given the organization that publishes CW tends to be more conservative and representative of corporate communicators than advertising agencies and maybe public relations firms, it seems to me they present an accurate picture of where business communication is headed. Much of it will be online.

Will that mean every company will have a blog? Probably not. But not every company buys a television spot either. There are virtually hundreds of ways that companies can become engaged in social media on some level. And there are dozens of ways to employ a blog to fit the specific strategic communication needs of a company.

As I’ve pointed out several times, a company might not have a formal social media program in place, but they are most certainly engaged in it whether they know it or not.

For example, Bank of America might not have a blog, but I have more than 500 network connections (the maximum number returned) to existing and former Bank of America employees and associates in my Linkedin network alone. Even more telling, a quick Google blog search on “Bank of America” reveals more than 2.7 million hits on blogs. (That’s just blogs.) Similar results turn up on the other eight companies that round out the Fortune 500 list.

Simply put, most companies are engaged in new media. Whether or not they monitor or manage their message or support a corporate blog is a different question. Because the truth is, whether they do or not, it seems painfully obvious that their customers, vendors, and employees do.

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Wednesday, October 3

Playing It Again: From Freelance To Journalist


There is an unwritten rule for people who “also” work in public relations. When you’re talking to a journalist about your client, it’s bad form to bring up that, you too, have worked as a writer, journalist, or publisher. Many journalists are rightfully turned off by the statement (a topic for another time).

I’m going to bend this rule again for the benefit of bloggers and novice freelancers who might be interested in breaking into traditional print by sharing the story about my first paid assignment some 15 years ago. It happened a little bit by accident, but the insight might serve some as a starting point.

After leaving a full-time position with an advertising agency (they became my first client so it wasn’t that bad), I was pretty nervous in thinking that my debut in Las Vegas could quickly come to an end. So I called the few contacts in Reno and asked for some advice.

The first person I called was Warren Lerude, professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno and Pulitzer Prize winner (among other things), who offered to find me a spot at a daily if I was wiling to relocate. The reasons are not important now, but I wasn’t ready to leave. (Lerude also said if I ran into trouble to call again; the school invests time in the employment of its grads.)

As this was the case, he suggested the next call to be Bob Alessandrelli, who was my mentor at Sierra Pacific Resources, first as an intern and then a consultant. Alessandrelli gave me the name of a public relations professional who worked at one of the top five advertising and public relations firms in Las Vegas. While the public relations professional didn’t have any work, he did invite me to a press event at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. It would be good experience, he said, if nothing else.

It was much more than that. While attending the press event, I struck up a conversation with the one attendee at my table who seemed least interested in mingling with the other reporters and journalists. His name was Jim.

He asked all sorts of questions, starting with who I was and why I was there (since he had never met me before and said he knew everybody). Then he asked what I thought about the new slot machines being unveiled. They featured a second monitor that could play sporting events, old movies like CasaBlanca, live keno, and special event promotion (a predecessor to some of the entertainment-infused games we have today).

“I think it might forever change the way we think about gaming,” I said.

“Really,” he said. “That’s an interesting perspective; I wasn’t thinking that at all.”

“Sooner or later, reels are not going to be enough to capture the interest of gamblers,” I offered. “This moves gaming toward entertainment.”

“Do you think you could write about that?” he said.

“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”

“Let me reintroduce myself, I’m James McGlasson, editor and general manager of Showbiz Weekly. We’re the largest entertainment weekly in Las Vegas,” Jim said. “Give me 500-700 words on spec by next week and if I like it, I’ll pay you $75 and run it. What do you think?”

I took the job. It was published. I was paid. And McGlasson gave me my next assignment with Showbiz Weekly, which turned into an out-of-house staff position. It also provided me an opportunity to pitch another story with the Las Vegas Business Press and another with its sister publication.

These articles became the basis for pitching stories to larger publishers like Career Woman and Prentice Hall, which then led to other more stories and publishers calling me from time to time, like the Los Angeles Times and Fodor’s Travel Guide. It also served as my training ground before serving as an editor of three different publications a few years later (all while building this company).

Keep in mind that much of the early work took place when the Internet was still in its infancy. Stories were delivered on paper and then 3.5 diskettes (not e-mail). And for this reason, I suppose, I tend to think that if a blogger or freelancer was so inclined, it might be a bit easier to break in today.

If a blogger was so inclined (and not all of them are; there is much more freedom in writing a blog), they could build a portfolio by adding the occasional journalistic post to their blogs. In turn, those stories and clips, along with a well-crafted pitch letter, could open an opportunity to land assignments with smaller publications, online and off.

It’s more demanding work (maybe): finding story leads, conducting multiple interviews, digging up online and offline research, and tying it all together (and for very little pay). However, if it’s your dream, it’s good to know many old hurdles have been removed. One reason: when publishers assign stories, they often base their decision on samples and not necessarily which publication.

This piece was inspired by a spirited conversation by BlogStraightTalk members.

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Monday, September 24

Considering Sundance: Social Media Measures


A few years ago, Sundance Catalog Company opened a store inside Boca Park in Las Vegas, a retail center that continues to offer great dining, apparel, art, and accessory boutiques. We were working for the developers of Boca Park at the time, the same developers responsible for the acclaimed the Mall of America in Minneapolis.

There was no question that Boca Park was the right place for Sundance. Boca Park is located in Summerlin, a master-planned community surrounded by more than 100 square miles of luxury, executive, custom, and gated residential developments with thousands of homes priced at more than $1 million.

From a social media perspective, Robert Redford’s brick and mortar store was a virtual gold mine. It had it all. A prime location. An attractive corner building. Friendly employees. A high traffic count. Celebrities stopping by. Great content. Dozens of “link-like” plugs from various newspapers and magazines. It was hot!

Oh, except for one little thing. Sales. Nobody bought anything. It was all eye candy; a window shopper’s paradise. I once bought a very nice light switch cover there. It cost about $10.

Not surprisingly, Sundance moved out. It was replaced by Tilly’s, which does very well at Boca Park because, well, people buy things. Sometimes I buy too many things.

Sure, I know precisely what was wrong with the Sundance store and how it could have been amazingly successful given the surrounding area, but that’s not really what this post is about. What this post is about is the growing pressure on social media measurements and why these measures are slowing down businesses that want to migrate to social media. More often than not, social media is measured like the Sundance store.

I’ve been brooding about this for some time now. And no, it’s not the kind of stuff that makes you popular in some circles, especially those who rank. However, other people are starting to wonder if I might not be right, at least a little bit.

Where does the hype end and the real measure begin? At least those are the kind of questions that Geoff Livingston, author of the new book, Now Is Gone, is starting to ask about what is now called the Ad Age Power 150. (We’ll be opening up more discussion about this later today at BlogStraightTalk on Bumpzee and BlogStraightTalk’s newest home on BlogCatalog.) But I wanted to touch on a question raised by Andrew Graham, an account executive for Cognito, on Linkedin.

“How should social media companies be valued?” Graham asked in response to my query, what social media question is not being adequately answered by communication experts? “Given a lot of these companies are more or less built for acquisition, I think it's a legitimate question.”

Exactly. Right now, traffic counts, clicks, rank, and links are considered the most relevant measures of social media. Don’t get me wrong; these measures can play an important role in the greater scope. But, unfortunately for businesses, they provide a skewed sense of reality.

In other words, there are a whole lot of Sundance brick and mortar stores (like the one mentioned above) online. They have everything going for them, except a tangible measure like sales. And the reason is pretty simple. Many of them are chasing social media measures instead of strategic business goals. To what end?

As preliminary answer to Graham, in my opinion, a social media company is worth what someone will pay for it, but the social media measures that are currently in play (like clicks and links) over inflate the value unless proprietary technology is part of the package.

In terms of blogs or other social media tools, the best measures are based on its ability to meet strategic goals: things that range from brand awareness and market share to member engagement and sales. All the other stuff, while helpful and not to be discounted en masse, are not really valid measures unless the buyer is equipped to turn traffic into something tangible.

Likewise, companies entering social media to expand their communication plan might consider what goals they want to meet on the front end. And no, I don't mean rank as much as bank. That's what we've been doing for several companies over the last few weeks, determining what real goals they can tie to their social media plan.

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Monday, August 6

Dining Out: Recipes For Social Media Success

After eating a late lunch at Claim Jumper yesterday, neither my son nor I felt all that well. As a former dining reviewer, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out that the food had waited too long on the hot plate before service; the same experience two other guests complained about before departing in a huff.

Social media can make you feel the same way sometimes. Undercooked entrees, poor service, or unrestrained comments leave you wondering why you dropped by to sample the menu (if there is one).

After following a link to Robert Scoble talking about the death of blogging (hat tip to Geoff Livingston’s take on content vs. contacts at BlogStraightTalk), I felt like I did after eating at Claim Jumper.

Sure, I like Scoble’s blog, but lately he seems to be serving up a different dish than what attracted me to begin with. And he hasn't been all that kind to some patrons either. As a “celebrity chef” of blogging, he might know better.

Rather than berate the point, maybe it would be more useful to remind everyone that like restaurants, there are several different culinary styles to social media. Whether you want it served up like fast food (social networks), hole-in-the-wall (undiscovered C-listers), established favorites (B-listers) or something gourmet (A-listers, while they are A-listers anyway), you can always find what you are looking for (and some days you want one more than the other).

But regardless of what kind of blog you have (ancient wisdom, tech and trendy, or fast and frenzied), the best bloggers, no matter what list they are supposedly on, always underpin what they have with some common sense. I could list a hundred or so who do it right. But rather than do that, I’ll share what Julian Serrano, executive chef at Picasso (Bellagio Hotel and Casino), and David Renna, then general manager at Renoir (The Mirage Hotel and Casino) shared with me when their experiences became the first Las Vegas restaurants to earn Mobil Travel Guide’s prestigious five star rating.

Julian Serrano, Picasso (2000)
1. Everyone must work hard and work together as a team. Everyone must think the same.
2. Everything must work together—the service, d├ęcor, and location—in order to give guests the best gastronomic experience possible.
3. You must have the best quality produce and products available. Nothing less will do.
4. Make each guest feel special and important.
5. You must provide good service, good food, and a good overall dining experience.

David Renna, Renoir (2000)
1. Surround yourself and your staff with the most talented people available.
2. You must have commitment from every member of the staff, whether it be the chef, waiter, steward or manager.
3. While it can often be a difficult and expensive task, producing the finest ingredients and wines from around the world makes a tremendous difference in the overall presentation and experience.
4. Service must be professional, and above all, personalized.
5. Every evening, every table, every guests. Create a seamless and hopefully flawless dining experience.

Now that is five-star dining (no wonder why I sometimes miss the assignments). And, not surprisingly, it also happens to be the recipe for social media success — surround yourself with talented contacts, make sure everything is working together, always provide the freshest ingredients, infuse some original content and ideas from around the world, and personalize the experience for guests as much as possible.

It seems to work. So much so that just like most restaurants, the ability to stay on top wth five stars (regardless of seating capacity) has a lot to do with serving substance over flash in the pan.

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Tuesday, July 31

Creating Conversation: BlogStraightTalk

Next Mon. (Aug. 6), Geoff Livingston (The Buzz Bin) will begin to test drive BUMPzee! with a joint community called "BlogStraightTalk."

We were originally going to host BlogStraightTalk on a new closed niche social network that allowed some semblance of group discussions. In fact, it was this closed niche social network that initiated our conversation.

In reviewing the network, I mentioned it might work "if we can only teach social media newcomers what to blog about so the community blog doesn’t die off as a 'promo post' board."

"Well, why don't we do something about that?" Livingston asked.

"Why don't we ... ? Um, social media overload," I offered. "Besides, I'm partial to BlogCatalog.com, RecruitingBloggers.com, and RecruitingBlogs.com, etc., etc.”

Eventually, he persuaded me based on the content model and a modest time commitment (on my part). Besides, it might even be fun to banter about social media somewhere other than our blogs since we do not always agree (but never take those disagreements too seriously).

We were approved and set to launch in early July, but then the term "closed" in the closed niche social network was suddenly taken a bit too seriously for Livingston. It seems that my original definition might have been more accurate if I had said "closed niche commercial network."

Regardless, we found ourselves with a decent concept but no platform for it until settling on BUMPzee, which allows bloggers to develop niche communities around their blogs. I learned about it from Walter Burek and Theresa Hall who host a developing writers community there (I have since joined).

So what's BlogStraightTalk?

BlogStraightTalk is a weekly discussion on the best and worst of blogging content practices, presented in a contrarian format (eg. Ebert & Roper or Kornheiser & Wilbon).

We'll alternate the discussion between best/worst concepts and blogs (or social media) reviews. The basic concept is to open up a discussion among experienced bloggers while allowing those who are newer to social media to gain insights into content development.

Anyone can join as a member of the community and participate in the discussion. Members who have established blogs (with at least 10 posts that positively contribute to the development of social media) may be added to the blog roll.

As Livingston offered up on his blog, "Rich and I do go back and forth on some issues, so it could have a nice Pardon the Interruption “dueling pundits” feel to it."

Does this mean I have to disagree? Find out next Monday.

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