Showing posts with label Chris Brogan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chris Brogan. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 22

Choosing Spokespeople: Social Media

Two posts, one by Doug Meacham, multi-channel retail consultant with IBM, and another by Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, struck a chord with me this morning. It seems to be a reoccurring conversation offline: communication folks, marketing professionals, public relations pros, and executives keep asking how they might keep their personal lives personal as their companies enter social media.

The short answer: you can't.

Once you are a semi-public or public figure, there is little chance of going back. As Brogan points out, it's a commitment. Part of the unwritten contract is that as a representative of a brand, you are always on and more people will want to connect with you.

It's also one of the reasons I took exception to the company attempting to sequester all of its employees into a social media marketing effort. Aggressive, disrespectful nature aside, not everyone is suited to be a spokesperson. And even those who are don't appreciate the consequences of being such.

While being semi-public or public might be part of the expectations for anyone in public relations or communications or leadership or any other job skirting the confines of celebrity, it's just not so for the greater portion of the population. Even among teens, who freely share personal information, they still maintain some semblance of privacy because their accounts have yet to be dialed in as a de facto company spokesperson. Their openness is often relative to association.

Choosing an online company spokesperson.

Choosing spokespeople or online representatives for a company is not all that dissimilar from choosing who might appear on the evening news, assuming they understand up front that the camera is on all the time. Here are a few quick tips:

• They have some authority with the company (even if outsourced)
• They are presentable, with better-than-average writing skills
• They are knowledgeable about the company and industry (or learn it)
• They are compassionate and make emotional connections
• They can write tight, without too much industry jargon
• They are familiar with the tools, communities, and customers
• They can establish positive experiences and remain steadfast
• They need to have a sense of what boundaries to set for some privacy

They do not always have to have the title of CEO nor do they have to be a recent college grad granted the title of social media director as opposed to public relations assistant. (I'm often amazed how many companies assign social media titles to new hires that the same company wouldn't trust on a television interview, but that is not to say some won't surprise you.) Above all, they need to understand communication from a strategic perspective while being able to execute that communication as a community developer who is willing to be semi-public if not freely public (even if they operate a team account).

Amber Naslund has been contributing a few posts on the subject of community. I would encourage anyone to read them. But there is something else I might add.

Two-way communication doesn't stop between a representative (in-house or outsourced). The information they glean from the community or customers can help shape other communication efforts and sometimes the products or services themselves.

Tuesday, May 5

Advertising Annoyance: Food For Thought

“It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong input like a television commercial. If you’re trying to read a book at the same time, you may not have the resources left to focus on the words.” — Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T.

That's according to one of the experts in “Rapt,” a guide by Winifred Gallagher to the science of paying attention, as featured in The New York Times today. It's also a book I'll be adding to my reading list, but perhaps not for the reasons Gallagher intended.

The article shares some interesting insights about how our thoughts dictate our world views — we can obsess about problems, drive ourselves crazy by multitasking on e-mail and Twitter, or give the brain a bit of time to focus on and accentuate the positive — and lead to differing realities. While there is ample truth to that, our interest today is a bit more pragmatic in that it reveals some science behind "that guy" as described by Chris Brogan.

The concept was also the cornerstone of Seth Godin's argument that we need to reconsider the interruption model of advertising. He advocated permission marketing, which he defines as the consumer granting permission to be marketed to if they know what's in it for them.

"The interruption model is extremely effective when there's not an overflow of interruptions," Godin told Fast Company. "But there's too much going on in our lives for us to enjoy being interrupted anymore."

Godin is half right in that an overflow of interruptions leads to no one interruption being able to stand out. Where he is half wrong is that permission marketing doesn't necessarily require asking permission to market to people, especially if that permission might lead to future interruptions.

What companies might consider doing is listening. Consumers are very savvy in asking for what they want online. And, if your company is listening, you can provide them the answers that may introduce them to your product or service. You may even send them an e-mail from time to time, provided it has value.

Where companies often go wrong is in their own assessment of what's important. Even in a permission based model, especially those that bombard with e-mail, doesn't account for that moment that the company might have lost permission, or, in other words, lost permission or nurture nothing more than annoyance or aversion.

The tricky part for marketers is that no two people or products or services will ever be the same. Some products and services can support daily news and updates and some cannot. Some will capture public interest for a few days; others for month and years. Everything has a duration.

It doesn't require as much guess work as some might think. The public will often tell you when they've had enough or not. Listening to them and knowing when that might be is the difference between being "this guy" or "that guy," permission or not.

The only difference between being an annoying interruption, pleasant surprise, and invited engagement is much more dependent on an exchange, a dialogue, than we might have ever realized. After all, most companies would prefer to be a focus for awhile rather than an interruption, eventually shuffled off to spam whether you subscribed or not.

Friday, April 3

Considering "That Guy": Chris Brogan

Yesterday, Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, wrote a post about "that guy." You know, "that one" who engages in social media from a purely push marketing perspective.

"'That guy' shows up and starts bullhorning (sic) her message into the crowd," he writes. “'Hi! I can show you thirty ways to make money while you sleep!'”

To make matters worse, the less attention they receive, the louder they get. THE BIGGER THEIR WORDS BECOME. And the more exclamation points they use!!! As if ... as if punctuation and caps can somehow communicate what their words fail to say.

Sooner or later, "that guy" or "that gal" might even find themselves in a virtual vacuum because the outcome of their marketing message results in aversion as opposed to attraction. Don't they know, in the words of Mary Stewart, that "it is harder to kill a whisper than even a shouted calumny." Shhh...

Brogan then offers ten ways to build relationships before you ask anything. It's a useful list. I encourage you to check it out.

However, all the tactics in the world can't help you if you don't change the strategy. Most online communication, especially one-to-one communication, is virtually identical to face-to-face communication, with exception to its relative permanence. The brain doesn't distinguish between online and offline experiences, and perhaps, neither might you.

There is no difference between online and offline engagement.

"That guy" and "that gal" exist offline too. They are the same people pumping business cards into the hands of everyone at a business luncheon before the smile that accompanies an initial introduction has time to fade long enough for our brains to file away their face for future recognition. "That guy" and "that gal" are the ones who give marketing sales a bad name.

Sure, card pumping works in the short term much like a lion pouncing on prey. But long term, it only leads to indigestion as little whispers become attached to their reputation. You might have heard them before. "Oh no," they might say. "Here she/he comes again." And with those whispers, over time, come feelings of aversion.

Really, it's not all that different from what Bill Murray's (Phil Conner) character felt when he saw Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson) on the front end of the film Groundhog Day. In fact, we all felt aversion to Ned. That is, until we had a chance to see him as a real person, much later in the movie.

My point is simple enough: there is only one secret to online engagement. While business blogs are fine, and we all expect they might share something about the business, individual engagement is person to person and requires offline sensibility. Why? Because it's the same. Did you hear that? Yeah ... it's the same.

Just don't tell "that guy." We appreciate the early warning.

Monday, December 22

Toiling Over Titles: Everybody Online

Reflecting on last week's post, Chris Brogan noted that some people questioned his journalistic integrity even though he is not a journalist. But what struck me about his post, and the comments that followed, is a lesson learned 12 years ago.

What's In A Title?

Absolutely nothing.

For Chris, maybe he learned it last week (maybe sooner, I don't know). For me, it was while overseeing a statewide literacy benefit. As the event chair, I had an opportunity to meet both outgoing Gov. Bob Miller and incoming Gov. Kenny Guinn. One introduction seemed smooth; the other, not so much.

Afterward, a colleague and mentor of mine asked me which introduction went better. So I told him, along with my rationale.

Copywrite, Ink. was founded as a sole proprietorship in 1991. In 1996, we became a C corporation. For the team and me, the incorporation was a pretty big deal. Personally, it also meant I didn't "grant" myself the title "president." In the short course of five years, I earned the title as well as the address inside the Bank of America building in downtown Las Vegas (we've moved several times since).

When I spoke with Gov. Miller, I presented myself in exactly that way — as president of a fast-growing corporation. But when I spoke with then Gov.-Elect Guinn, we spoke mostly about my early work as a freelancer and as a sole proprietor. From my perspective, one conversation was delivered with confidence; the other with uncertainty.

"I have news for you," said my colleague. "They both went well and they were the same. They didn't see the president of Copywrite, Ink. or a freelance writer (as I was then, with support staff). They only saw Rich Becker."

While there are a great many people who will disagree with it, the lesson was well-learned. People are neither titles nor are people what they do (eg. visit a Four Seasons and you'll see a hotel manager is equally likely to flip a cushion).

How Titles Apply.

Without going into too much detail (some things are best left for other projects), appreciating that titles don't mean anything at all has served me pretty well. It's helped me connect on a human level with some of the world's wealthiest men during interviews (you'd be surprised how many journalists are intimidated by their subjects), and hopefully kept me human and approachable (I have half dozen or so titles on any given day).

For me, if it wasn't for search terms, I wouldn't mention any of them. In fact, the next time we print business cards, I'm leaving the labels, er, titles off entirely. They matter to me about as much the number of people someone employs, awards they've won, or, for the online crowd, the number of followers they have. Sure, we have those numbers if people care to have them, but they don't mean much beyond a context.

Playing With Labelers.

It's also why, even though some people disagreed with my take on Chris Brogan or even Forrester for that matter, I tried to be balanced among several perspectives. In one case, I only saw the situation (with Brogan just happening to be at the center of it). In the other, I only saw a study with missing components (that were later added in via a blog post). In both cases, it could have been anyone.

It also helps me decide who I read online. After a few months or more, you can get a sense of who feels entitled by their labels, er, titles, or whatever other buzz words mean something to them. They also tend to be the same people who call other people names or demand credentials anytime their ideas are challenged.

"Who are you?" "What study will back you up?" or "Why I haven't I heard of you before?" they demand from others while resorting to name-calling and judgments with an impecuniousness of character (sometimes puffing up their own credits in the process).

Yeah, I know that trick too. When the ideas can't stand on their own, toss some weight behind them with a long list of "fill in the blank." You know what? As an online participant, never feel obliged to answer these charges because the question reveals less about you and more about them. Of course, I sometimes make exceptions for sport.

"Which titles, accounts, relationships, and awards interest you?" I ask them. After all, at that point, it's all about them anyway.

For everyone else, I'm just me. My name is Rich. Nice to meet you too.

Monday, December 15

Being Human: Chris Brogan

If there are lessons to be learned from the veracity of a conversation that occurred this weekend around Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, it might not be what most people think. What began as a question of ethics quickly descended into something else: a not-so-subtle reminder that for all those social media participants who mistrust companies, the people who make up these companies might have cause to not trust social media participants.

And why should they? It's all too easy to deduce that social media participants eat their own.

What began as a relatively harmless sponsored puff piece by Brogan, describing a K-Mart shopping spree like a kid in a candy store, ended in charges that Brogan might never be trusted again.

Initially, it seemed like an excellent ethics discussion, but then it morphed into what some people might describe as a French mob. Then it morphed into a civil war (given that people seemed evenly split). And then again, it morphed into a 'reverse' French mob against Damien Basile (among others), a senior associate editor for, because he was as outspoken as Brogan was sometimes defensive. If you get the sense it was a mess, you might be right.

The initial conversation seemed promising enough.

On the forefront of the conversation, it was just a review by Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang: "Transparent, Yes. Authentic? Debatable. Sustainable? No." (Hat tip: Arron Brazell). And then it was easy to see that there were ethical questions being raised (never mind it was less clear which ethical questions were being raised).

For some, it was whether or not sponsored posts are ethical. For others, it was whether Brogan appropriately disclosed his relationship with Izea, given he also serves on an advisory board. And for others still, it was whether personal relationships and reputation are exempt from ethical review.

The general topic reveals paying for posts is split, but shifting in favor of.

The question of blogger compensation has been around a long time. Last March, there was a survey that touched on the practice, but it was written wrong. However, if you spend enough time speaking with various people, you'll find they are generally split on sponsored posts, with most who find them acceptable adding a condition of disclosure.

Of course, even with disclosure, there are always going to be challenges with sponsored posts. One blogger might accept payments and only write positive posts regardless of how they feel, while another might accept payment and remain perfectly objective. Thus, credibility belongs to the individual and not the practice (usually, hat tip: Owyang).

The conversation might have been better served without being personal.

Brogan's K-Mart post fell in a decidedly gray area. The primary complaint seems to be that Brogan wears many hats. He is generally regarded as a leader in shaping social media, sits on a board of advisors for Izea, and accepted payment from K-Mart through Izea. In addition, Izea wants to run a campaign for K-Mart, using a sponsored post program.

While there were plenty of voices, Basile was one of the more articulate (though sometimes overly passionate and sometimes personal about his principles). Looking back over Basile's comments, it seems to me he was trying to convey that Brogan might not have been a suitable choice for Izea because it is in Brogan's best interest to ensure Izea delivered everything K-Mart hoped it could. In other words, it wasn't the K-Mart post as much as it was his demonstration of Izea delivering puff pieces.

I tend to view ethical questions with IABC's Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators as a guide. Not everyone does, and there are plenty of others to follow. Of the twelve articles that make up IABC's Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators, only one seemed to stand out.

Article 9. Professional communicators do not use confidential information gained as a result of professional activities for personal benefit and do not represent conflicting or competing interests without written consent of those involved.

I asked Brogan if he was paid by K-Mart or Izea. Although he was clear about it in his post, he was a good sport and answered direct. He was paid by Izea. This clarified it for me. Brogan was representing Izea, paid by Izea, and disclosed that arrangement. If you want a contrast, consider Julie Roehm, who accepted gifts from agencies seeking the coveted Wal-Mart account.

Given he wasn't double-dipping, it seems to be less a question of impropriety and more a question about the perception of impropriety. And if we get into the habit of questioning the perception of other people's ethics, we're only disclosing our own lapses of ethical judgment, as Valeria Maltoni so aptly alluded to today.

"Personal experiences have become the new barometer for extrapolating trends. We stopped outsourcing trust to institutions but instead of holding ourselves accountable for our own ethics and behavior, we have shifted that responsibility onto others. Then we cast stones at people we hold up as influentials when we were the ones putting them on the pedestal in the first place."

You cannot be disillusioned by people, unless you're illusioned by them.

Which brings up that other point. While so many people vouched for Brogan's integrity, some of it was done at the expense of others like Basile, who raised valid points. So it's always better to attack issues and not people, knowing someone doesn't preclude them from ethical misconduct. Believing otherwise makes the issue about you and not the subject, invites diatribe that makes discussion look like a popularity contest, and distracts from the most important lessons of all.

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." — Thomas Jefferson

Sure, Brogan's post changed the perception that some people had of him based on the opening of Julien Smith and his own Trust Economies with a descriptor that reads "We are suspicious of marketing. We don't trust strangers as willingly. Buzz is suspect. It can be bought. Instead, consumers and business people alike are looking towards trust." But did he do something unethical? Not that I can see.

But perhaps more importantly, did the resulting conversations demonstrate a sensitivity to cultural values and beliefs, engaging in fair and balanced communication activities that foster and encourage mutual understanding as IABC advises and many social media participants suggest? Not even close. Trust is fragile, indeed.

Tuesday, November 13

Deepening Conversations: New Media

Social media sometimes appears to be an inch deep and a mile wide. At least that is the way it looks to some because social media, or new media, is still in its infancy. As a result, it’s often easier to build an extension to the wafer thin model than dig deeper, proving or disproving what is being considered today.

Regardless of the sessions attended or exhibitors met at BlogWorld & New Media Expo, this point became especially apparent when Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang asked their session participants if they felt they could have been a speaker — the vast majority of attendees, predominately bloggers, raised their hands without hesitation.

This isn’t a reflection on BlogWorld as much as it is an observation that many new media speakers need to deepen their topics. It’s part of the art of listening before engaging in conversation. With that in mind, I’ll highlight three sessions and save exhibitors for a deeper review another time.

Participatory Journalism

Paul Gillin, author of The New Influencers, invested ample time speaking about social media influencers (and the influencers of the influencers) and participatory journalism — which he considers the future of journalism — everyday people contributing their unique and sometimes conflicting perspectives on any given event. This media model is not all that dissimilar to the example he provided about Northwest Voice or perhaps indicative of two videos recently highlighted by Amitai Givertz, Prometeus – The Media Revolution and Epic 2015.

While Gillin is right in that traditional media is struggling to stay relevant (and funded), someone might ask if this is what we really want — a world dominated by collective opinions that make up our self-selected existence, with no one, and I mean no one, working to find the truth beyond their own biased sense of reality. It seems to me this story was already written by a gentleman named Yevgeny Zamyatin. His book, which influenced both a Brave New World and 1984, presents a dystopian society where numbers, not unlike Web addresses, replace names. The concept of transparency takes on physical form in an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass.

Peeping Cults

And what of that world? It’s not so impossible, given the same conversation thread slipped into a Leo Laporte-led discussion on “the cult of blogging,” which featured hasty guest replacement Justine Ezarik. (Scheduled speakers were not there. Om Malik hurt his back and Mike Arrington “forgot he was speaking.”)

This is not a criticism about Ezarik. She is one of many bloggers turning to multimedia to expand their presence in a new media world. Originally a photo blogger, Ezarik presents her life as an open book and has captured an audience as a result. She’s not alone. Plenty of people are willing to live in glass houses. If that isn’t enough, check out Mogulus, which is currently in beta.

Still, most of the discussion during that session descended into developing fan bases by adding multimedia to blogs. It also touched on privacy issues, detractors, and Laporte’s justifications for not allowing comments on Twitter while not recommended other people follow suit. Interesting, but not too deep given that most of the audience was beyond focusing on passion. Not deep, because at one point, Laporte was surprised he still had a half hour to fill.

Touching Ground

That said, if there was one session that deserves props (noting that I did not attend several sessions presented by many people I read online), then it was Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang who did not disappoint.

I won’t recap the presentation; Jason Falls, who I was privileged to meet and sat next to, did a fine job (skip that goofy measurement stuff though) as did Lisa Barone at Bruce Clay, Inc.. So instead, I’ll expand with a few thoughts:

1. In the rush to tell businesses that they might listen to and engage their customers, social media experts sometimes forget to listen to and engage their customers, which are those businesses.

2. Measurement begins before any social media effort is launched as that is the best place to begin benchmarking. Measurements are not necessarily tied to Alexa traffic, Technorati authority, Google page rank, etc.

3. Entering social media is more likely to succeed for businesses that employ it as an extension of their business strategy much like Owyang did for Hitachi.

4. Using a marketing megaphone makes about as much sense as standing on a street corner and waving your arms. Try adding value to the customer’s conversation.

5. Successful social media remains grounded in strategic communication. The language may have changed, but the concepts and theories are largely the same.

6. Social media tools and technologies will continue to change for a very, very long time. And that means the best reason to employ technologies like Linkedin or Facebook or mySpace is because specific customers, your customers, are there.

7. As always, it is always better to find the right people than worry about finding lots of people. This concept is already being infused into traditional marketing. Ratings and circulation are becoming less important than engaged consumers.

All in all, Brogan and Owyang succeeded in bringing the value that I was hoping to find at BlogWorld. Instead of the selling the idealistic notions about social media that will one day lead to the One State collective, they remain grounded on what needs to be done more often — offering a depth of conversation — well beyond those tempting snacks.

Social media is not always about what can be done. Sometimes it’s about why something needs to be done for each specific company. Few things just happen by following a formula. Great works need a plan.


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