Showing posts with label Recruiting Animal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recruiting Animal. Show all posts

Thursday, July 24

Marketing Talk: The Recruiting Animal Show


You know I’m meaner now, don’t you?” — The Recruiting Animal

This was the opening sentence in an e-mail that invited me back as a guest on “The Recruiting Animal Shoooow!” While it might have warned some people away from the shock jock of recruiting radio, it didn’t phase me.

Sure, there might have been a time that I would have raised an eyebrow, but not anymore.

When it comes to social media, The Recruiting Animal has branded himself apart from many other people who blog and talk about recruiting by being a little more free spirited, straightforward, sometimes grittier, and always funnier than others who write and talk about similar topics. I respect that.

Some professionals and companies do not. They tend to shy away from social media because they are too afraid of what other people might think, say, or do. Personally, I think that’s baloney. If your professional or company message cannot stand up to a challenge now and again, then your message probably doesn’t have much merit at all.

Maybe that’s why if any central theme did emerge from the show yesterday, it was that most companies, and maybe recruiters, do not know what differentiates them from others in the marketplace, which basically means they don’t have a message.

Right. Simply saying “I’m a recruiter” is not really a message; it’s a job description. So while that might hold up in a casual conversation at a bar, it doesn’t do much to help a prospect decide why they might choose to work with one recruiter over another. It doesn’t hold up very well under a challenge.

Too many people are still putting the cart before the horse.

The problem isn’t exclusive to recruiting. It’s in every industry. It seems most people have no idea what sets them or their company apart from anyone else. Worse, many tell their customers that they want to emulate someone else without any thought given to how they might be different. It even sheds some light on a Twitter comment Animal pointed to just prior to the show.

“I love it when marketing people have NO idea what their client does.” — Yin Chang

Of course marketing people don’t have any idea. Not all of their clients know what their companies do either. And when that is the case, they become delusional and begin to think that simply outpacing the competition’s media buy will be enough. Um, sometimes. Maybe. Not really.

A clear contrast between people or products can help customers, clients, and consumers make the best choice for them. And until professionals and companies begin to define what those contrasts might be, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to fill up space simply because it’s there. It might even be better to stay home if you don't have a message.

The bottom line: if companies invest more time in understanding who they are and what differentiates them in the marketplace, it might become significantly easier to determine where to invest their marketing dollars.

At minimum, it could help a company manage its communication instead of avoiding social media all together or, worse, allowing the long tail of social media to wag the company dog.

Sure, some people claim it was “gutsy” for Chevy Tahoe to “take control of their brand.” When it was brought up during the show, it seemed to me allowing consumers to “control” a brand seemed kind of silly, especially because it put their customers in the line of fire.

But the more I learned about the Chevy Tahoe contest, it didn’t take long to see that GM never gave its brand away to social media as some seem to claim. And, upon closer review, there was hardly ever a crisis.

GM simply engaged consumers and allowed them to make their own commercials. Then, when a small number of people decided to provide an environmental context instead of a commercial context, GM had an opportunity to talk about their increasingly green focus.

So did they ever give control of its brand to someone else? I think not. It seems more likely they were managing their message all along, which is what Steve Hall seemed to conclude as well.

Not that it matters. The Chevy Apprentice contest is over and other than a few ads still appearing on You Tube, all the content, good and bad, is gone.

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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 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, November 28

Searching For Courage: The Recruiting Animal

The Recruiting Animal recently wondered whether there are some psychological tests that measure courage. It seems to make sense, given that courage is frequently cited as an important trait among leaders.

UMSC General Charles C. Krulak includes it among his fourteen basic traits of effective leadership, distinguishing two forms: physical and moral. U.S. Senator John McCain cited its importance as an enforcing virtue for five other virtues common among exceptional leaders a few years ago. And Ben Dean, Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote an interesting piece to define courage as well, citing a great C.S. Lewis quote that it is “not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."

However, before considering which tests may or may not measure courage, I can’t help but wonder if fearlessness might be the better measure for business leaders. You see, the two terms — courage and fearlessness — are not the same.

Author Dr. Thomas Hora once pointed out that courage relies on the willful resistance to fear whereas fearlessness, based on a higher understanding, is effortless. While courage can be rooted in anger; fearlessness is rooted in clarity of vision. While courageous acts can be performed by frightened people; those who are fearless remain focused on sense of purpose rather than self-concern.

In fact, I often infuse the concept of fearlessness while teaching or coaching public relations professionals, advertising copywriters, spokespeople, and politicians. It’s in my lessons, just not overtly so.

Three examples of fearlessness in communication.

• It comes up when I challenge public relations students (many of them working professionals) with ethical dilemmas such as their supervisor asking them to misrepresent information.

Most students, fearful of retaliation and damage to their careers, chose to say nothing. A few courageous students suggest reporting the incident. Usually no more than one will suggest speaking with the supervisor first, which requires fearlessness.

• It comes up when I teach advertising. While I always suggest that the first rule of advertising is that there are no rules, I always give them ten. The tenth is allowing for the freedom to fail. That’s fearlessness.

While courageous copywriters will stand by their convictions and push their ideas forward, sometimes out of fear of being wrong; fearless copywriters, those who aren't afraid to fail, keep the client in mind.

• It comes up while coaching spokespeople and politicians on surviving aggressive interviewers. The most common challenge is working past their fears — forgetting a valid point, being wrong, sounding silly, etc.

While courageous spokespeople might take on an aggressive interviewer, it won’t mask their inability to respond to tough questions. Unless they are fearless, they are likely to become defensive, aggressive, or even angry (one client once took a swing at me during a mock media interview session).

The fearless spokesperson or politician, even when they don’t know the answer, remains composed, calm, and confident because they know their message and remain poised enough to deliver.

Can we really test for courage and do we want to?

While I was unsuccessful in finding a proven psychological test this morning (though firefighters are sometimes tested for courage), I did find an article by Pat Weisner about employee interviewing techniques.

Weisner suggests the test is simple enough: place the applicant on uncomfortable ground with questions like “’I don't think you have the experience to handle this job.’ Or ‘You haven't done anything to demonstrate how you would get into the mind of our customers (or the people you might manage) because you haven't done anything to find out what I'm thinking.’”

These two questions, not surprisingly, mirror those asked by “overly aggressive” interviewers. You can catch questions that are framed up just like this on the news; these, in particular, are called needling.

While needling and other aggressive questions do not often get at the truth, they sometimes test the interviewee on their confidence in the subject matter and own sense of self worth. Given this, an aggressive mock media interview could possibly reveal a candidate’s level of fearlessness, but each would have to be customized to be effective.

To test for courage, on the other hand, you might be better off asking them to apply for Fear Factor. But even so, since fearlessness and courage can be taught, why bother? Maybe we need to teach it more; there seems to be ample fear around and about social media.

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Thursday, November 22

Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving

Last weekend, my son was pretty upset after his plans to spend the afternoon with a friend fell through. He was rightfully disappointed, then started to sulk.

It may come as no surprise to some, but I’m not a big fan of anyone moping around, especially when it seems to be a plea for misery to have company. So I shared with him a little bit of wisdom and set him out on a task.

“Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rather than losing your present to a past you wish might have been, why not get to work on a project, I said. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it would be great of you to make a book of 10 things you might be thankful for, using art, words, and pictures.

He went right to it.

Since I’m not one to ask another to do a task that I myself would be unwilling to take, I set out to do the same — except mine comes in the form of a post, rather than ten pages of copy paper bound between construction paper with twine (Paper? How barbaric of me, I know.)

There is a lot to be thankful for, every minute of every day, as one of my friends (and client) likes to say. Here are ten at random.

iTunes. Yep, as silly as it sounds, portable entertainment still amazes me. Music sets a great pace for the gym; lectures from Stanford add value while cleaning house; and downloadable shows, they certainly came in handy during the 4-hour wait at the DMV. It’s media snacking at its best.

Communication Arts. If there was ever a case for printed publications, CA is it. Anytime I become frustrated by the abuses within our industry (meaningless creative, distress ads, and faux rules), CA reminds me that there is some amazing commercial talent out there.

One random call. You never really know if what you teach will be applied until a student calls from a bookstore to ask which book you recommend; and then wants to make sure she’s enrolled in anyother classes I might teach this spring. I’m teaching three, including social media.

The Recruiting Animal. Sure, he might be billed as the recruiting industry’s unabashed shock jock, but he quickly became one of my most trusted friends online. Never mind that I still pack silver when I’m around him. As I am with all my friends, online or off, I’m thankful to have them.

My daughter’s feet. The staph infection that had worked its way into the bones during our daughter’s first three months of life (a year and a half ago) will leave no permanent damage. We found out last week. It’s hard to believe she was once the size of a 12 oz. water bottle. Grateful doesn’t begin to measure little things as they relate to family.

Jericho fans. Who would have ever guessed that asking a simple question, like what would you do with 22,000 pounds of nuts, last May would have resulted to our longest-running dual case study. Jericho fans still amaze me, and watching Jane Sweat evolve as a blogger has been a gift. Check out her newest endeavor.

BlogCatalog. There are many social networks, and I appreciate several. But the BlogCatalog team and its members keep it real. Although I tend to focus on social media as applied to business communication, they are the ones who remind me it is often the least linked private blogs that add real value (more tomorrow).

Our clients. I rarely write about clients here, mostly because I find the daunting demands of disclosure as set by social media often irrelevant, inconsistent, and distracting (as if relationships somehow make us less than objective when objectivity is called upon). Even though I don’t highlight them here, I’m grateful for every assignment, account, and relationship. There would be no blog, nonprofit contributions, or university classes to teach without them.

Patrick Bertoletti. He set the world record for consuming four and three quarter pounds of turkey at the Thanksgiving Invitational eating contest two years ago. He did it in 12 minutes. What better way to add wonderment to a holiday. That and 110-foot Superman balloon that floated down Broadway during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Thanks, George, for our nation’s very first Thanksgiving proclamation.

Where The Wild Things Are. A book that reminds me, no matter what you do or where you go in life, taking friends, family, colleagues, clients, readers, and whomever for granted is easy. That is, until you no longer have them.

"... and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him ... and it was still hot."

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Tuesday, September 11

Thinning The Workforce: Those People


With increasing fervor, some bloggers are thinning America’s workforce into desirables and undesirables. Who’s undesirable?

Those people, of course.

“Those people” are people with kids, according to Penelope Trunk. When she shared ten tips on how to start a business, she wrote “In general, when I have started companies, I tried not to hire people with kids because they are less able to jump for investors, more torn between where their head and heart are at any given time, and anyway, today’s parents generally do not work insanely long hours.”

She defends her statement here, a contrast that doesn’t appear on her own blog. But “those people” are not only people with kids. Fat women have to go too.

“One thing I learned is that fat women don't have a lot of empathy and defendants usually try to strike those jurors,” Trunk said as quoted by David Maister, who defended her statement by surmising she was not advocating anything (Maister, she advocates all the time) before pointing out the obvious.

Some companies are hiring people based on looks, which means “those people” may as well include anyone who is less attractive. Playing the appearance game isn’t always as easy as that. Stephanie Bivona wrote about a talk show conversation she heard on the radio, where one caller “even said she ‘uglied’ herself, just so she could be taken seriously.”

So, as crazy as it sounds, let’s toss the “overly attractive people” into the mix of “those people” too. And, based on the comments alone in another Trunk post, men, because they cannot handle assertive women as several Trunk readers pointed out. Especially those who choose to stay at home. And women. And Hispanic people. And Black people. And White people. And conservatives. And liberals. And reglious people. And atheists. And those of differing sexual orientation. And Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.

Those people.

Sometimes I wonder — as each group based on race, gender, lifestyle preference, and appearance all try to outdo one another as the bigger victim — if we’ve learned anything.

In the 1930s and 40s, Nazis, originally under the banner of being discriminated against, also armed themselves with statistical information. It’s not hard to do. “Those people” also veiled their words as simple observations and personal experiences like Trunk and now Maureen Sharib, who wrote: “Speaking as one small voice, I can tell you this, I have run a company and I have experienced the mind sets of those with kids and those without.”

To all of it, I say gumballs. Give someone a statistical study and they can vilify or victimize any group you want to pool together, even if it is based on something as ridiculous as blood type.

Discrimination in our country not only exists, but it is much more pervasive than we like to admit. Anymore, the truth is that “those people,” the victims, have become each and every one of us.

If we are ever going to break away from this apparent need to label each other, it will take a general willingness for individuals to make the decision not to discriminate based upon whatever divisive characteristics people dream up. As Geoff Livingston said in an unrelated but pointed post, maybe we all need to lighten up.

Not just in this country. Americans aren’t alone in labeling people. It is a Korean problem, an Australian problem, and a Nigerian problem. It is a human problem.

(Note: Orignally, every label and descriptor was linked to article published by major media outlets, but those articles are all gone now. Maybe it lessons the points not to have those illustrative links. Maybe not. I hope not because the point is we're all people.)

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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Thursday, July 12

Calculating Identity: Career Distinction


After visiting Career Distinction and running its Online Identity Calculator on Tom Cruise yesterday (check the comments on the post), we started to wonder what would happen if we plugged in more people, ranging from notable bloggers to CEO bloggers to CEOs with no direct social media presence.

The mix is pretty eclectic, but it provides some interesting results. Keep in mind that our formula is less than scientific: we used the calculator (beta) to establish whether these individuals have an online identity that matches up with what seems to be their desired personal brand. Since the calculator only offers generalized definitions, we summed up the first three pages of a Google search.

Seth Godin — Digitally Distinct, 10
Desired: A bestselling author, entrepreneur, and agent of change.
Online: A leading marketing author and popular business blogger.

We picked Godin mostly because we had a hunch he would set the high water mark and, no surprise, he did. While there seems to be some slight variation between his desired and online brand, it’s only because the Godin brand overshadows the company he founded, Squiddo. In sum, his brand trends toward top online marketing expert/author (rather than entrepreneur and agent of change) and there is nothing wrong with that.

Johnathan Swartz — Digitally Distinct, 10
Desired: An approachable, likeable, creative, and unconventional CEO.
Actual: An approachable, likeable, creative, and unconventional CEO.

Swartz is the top CEO blogger for a reason. There is virtually no distinction between his online identity and his desired brand — he always presents compelling non-techno babble information to help businesses understand that technological advancements mean market opportunities as opposed to business threats. He does a near perfect job setting the cultural tone of Sun Microsystems and his views mirror what we’ve said for two years.

Jeffrey Immelt — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: A hardworking strategist who helped turn General Electric around.
Actual: A relentless workaholic whose biggest hope is everyone else can keep up.

Given Immelt devotes 12 weeks to foreign travel as one of our nation’s leading advocates for globalization, we’re not surprised he doesn’t have time to establish a direct social media presence. Still, as a Fortune 500 company CEO (top 10), others present who he is fairly well, with one small caveat — as much as he is admired, skeptics water down his ideas (despite results), leading us to believe he could score a 10 with a direct presence on the Internet.

Alan Meckler — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: A serious business executive and aggressive online CEO.
Actual: A straightforward executive who calls it like he sees it.

As one of the top 10 ten CEO bloggers, we’re not to surprised to see Meckler also scores near the top. There are some identity discrepancies, primarily because his writing and interview style come across as a tough-as-nails CEO when he’s much more approachable than that. Also, his view of Jupiterimages is obviously a bit biased when compared to his view of competitors, but we wouldn’t expect otherwise.

Scott Baradell — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: Accomplished brand strategist with corporate communications and journalism experience.
Actual: Journalist turned public relations strategist, which might explain why he never takes the industry too seriously.

With Baradell’s emphasis on public relations, media analysis, and blog entertainment, his online identity tends to shift away from brand strategist. But where his online personality works is that he is unquestionably adept at keeping things interesting. For evidence: check Media Orchard’s R Rating and his anagram post plug of Occam’s RazR among others.

Geoff Livingston — Digitally Distinct, 9
• Desired: A leading marketing expert and top-ranked marketing blogger/author.
• Actual: A seasoned marketing pro, social media analyst, and blogging guru.

For the most part, Livingston has achieved his desired online identity, especially since he has already been recognized as an area marketing blog guru by The Washington Post. Without question, he has some great posts that often cross over into legitimate trade journalism. With a book set for release and several post serials worth reading, he’s coming close to the tipping point. If there is one area to improve, it’s remembering that too much focus on others won’t brand you as a leader.

The Recruiting Animal — Digitally Distinct. 8 (7)
• Desired: The most outrageous and entertaining recruiting blogger and online radio host in history.
• Actual: The most outrageous and entertaining recruiting blogger and online radio host in history.

There is little doubt that The Recruiting Animal has achieved his online identity. He is a classic example of being positively infamous, with his stage name often appearing where you least expect it (even in places his peers might have missed). What’s equally interesting to me is that if we plug in The Recruiting Animal’s real name, his score drops to Digitally Dabbling, but all of the information about him remains on target (just slightly more serious).

Les Moonves — Digitally Disastrous, 8
Desired: A seasoned old school programmer who became CEO of a leading mass media company.
Actual: A CEO with a dated programming vision who calls the shots with little explanation.

Given our coverage of the Jericho cancellation protest (and reinstatement), we noticed that Moonves tends to leave people completely confused. On one hand, he wants CBS to lead the digital charge, but then doesn’t give new media much credit. He dumped Imus and dumbed down CBS News despite what ratings say, yet argued that the original cancellation of Jericho was based only on ratings. Given he has no direct social media presence, his brand is shaped almost entirely by mixed messages that paint him up as a CEO who likes to say “because I said so.”

David Neeleman — Digitally Disastrous, 8
Desired: A relentless innovator who challenged the airline industry to do better.
Actual: An ousted CEO trying to prove his relevance after a company crisis.

I read Neeleman’s blog because I admire what he has accomplished. Some people don’t get this in our coverage of the JetBlue crisis. They won’t get it here either as we’ve noticed a dramatic personal brand shift since his departure as CEO of JetBlue. He insists he is comfortable with the change despite several interviews that suggest otherwise. It doesn’t help that "Montgomery Burns" has taken over his flight log. It’s supposed to be funny, but only it reinforces questionable choices in the face of crisis.

Jason Goldberg — Digitally Disastrous, 7
• Desired: A successful entrepreneur who is leading innovator of the online recruiting community.
• Actual: A young, brash executive who gets caught up in online controversies and spins like there is no tomorrow.

There’s a boatload of information on the Web about Goldberg. Unfortunately, most of it doesn’t seem to have any relevance to what he wants to express about himself or his company. Most of it is about blog controversies, blatant spin, and a sometimes questionable management style. Other times, however, Goldberg even departs from this identity too, which makes people wonder how seriously they should take him. The odd attack-feint retreat-attack-retreat tactic doesn’t help.

Amanda Chapel — Digitally Disastrous, 7
• Desired: A mysterious and provocative foil for the online public relations community.
• Actual: A collective of anonymous writers who believe all publicity is good publicity.

There is a lot of information about the collective Chapel on the Web, but more and more of it has little relevance to what they want to express about themselves. As time goes on, it will be nearly impossible to remove all the irrelevant information. Some people have asked about my interest in Chapel, since they come up on my blog every now and again. Truth be told, I’m more interested in why Steve Rubel, Mark Ragan, and even Shel Holtz continue to feed the Chapel credibility. Is the public relations industry that boring or afraid to debate that it needs an anonymous ghost to do it for them?

Add it up and all of this seems to reinforce the most basic premise of my Fragile Brand Theory. You see, in almost every case listed above, without exception, the closer their personal and online brands are to the reality of who they are, the greater their measure of success in maintaining that brand. It also demonstrates, in a couple of instances, how one handles crisis or controversy can also enhance or erode brand credibility almost overnight.

In closing, just to be fair, we ran my identity too. While there is some discrepancy depending on how you type in my name, I came out with a Digitally Distinct 8 and Copywrite, Ink. with a Digitally Distinct 9. This stands to reason: establishing an online identity for the company ahead of me is by design.

Thursday, May 17

Adding Content Value: Social Media


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

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

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

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

Revenue Potential

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

Considering Risks

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

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

Communication Strategy

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

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

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

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

Finding Solutions

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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Wednesday, May 16

Emerging Trends: Digital Media

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

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

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

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Tuesday, May 15

Marketing Media: The Recruiting Animal Shooowww!

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

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

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

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

The topic, time, and date are set:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, May 10

Testing Waters: TalentZoo

TalentZoo.com, a niche recruitment company and job search engine specializing in the communication industry, recently launched a new Web site. On its own, the launch of a new site is not news.

However, there is something a bit unique about this launch. There is a greater emphasis placed on its TalentZoo's Lounge, which seems to test the waters of social media by bringing a mix of company- and industry-driven content into the mainstream. Sure, The Lounge has been alive for some time, but it used to be easily missed as a backroom project.

Now The Lounge takes front and center on the home page with a host of communication industry content (blogs and podcasts) produced by people like Allen Rosenshine, Colleen Barrett, Marc Cuban, and Jim Stroud among them.

Today, I listened to Sally Hogshead's interview with Scott Donaton, the new publisher of Advertising Age and Creativity. Besides an excellent interview that provides an interesting take on industry trends, the audio podcast hints at what could mark the future of business-hosted media platforms. At minimum, it gives the company's target audience a reason to visit the site, again and again. That's smart.

As I mentioned a few months ago to Rick Myers, founder and CEO of Talent Zoo, I still think the real draw will be video over audio on the Internet. Sure, there will always be room for Internet radio, but the Internet seems best suited to be a visual platform. It takes a special kind of personality to keep listeners tuned to an audio podcast, much like live radio. (The Recruiting Animal Show qualifies, IMO, which I may be appearing on next week. Hey Rick, call in!)

There is also something to be said about editing visual content down into smaller segments like WALLStrip. WALLStrip (see some samples on our new Video Shuffle) nails the right content format for them (others might need something different). Not to mention, video provides advertisers better opportunities to advertise as VideoEgg just demonstrated by capturing Motorola product placement on "The Burg."

This does not mean that every company needs to run out and build a social media distribution platform with select content and sitcoms. But what I am suggesting is that there is ample room to develop sustainable, income-generating content on a company site. It can also be done at a reduced cost when compared to buying space on local networks and airing a program that is too long for a relatively small audience.

Local governments might take note: trying to fill a full hour of traditional cable programming with only 10 minutes of real content is too much and begins to look like B-roll. The taxpayers might even thank you for considering smaller Internet-available shows instead, especially as the Internet becomes a permanent part of the cable network line-up anyway (it will).

The bottom line is that there is a very real potential for companies to truly benefit from a social media mix as it exists in the form of blogs, audio podcasts, and video. The challenge is keeping it grounded in the company's communication strategy rather than a "show" strategy.

As for the new site, although it's difficult to find the meat and potato sections (like an "about us" page or "news room"), I think TalentZoo is moving in the right direction. As I told a few recruiters after being told my digital media ideas were laughable — it's laughable until your competitors attract more traffic. I suspect TalentZoo might be doing just that. And once they do, there's very little reason to go elsewhere.


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Tuesday, May 8

Remembering Moments: Recruiting Animal

With a single sentence, the oddly delightful Recruiting Animal, who came to earth with recruiting abilities far beyond those of mortal men, reminds us why May 8 is significant. For a day, there were no racial or political tensions across America, Africa, or Europe. Only free people.

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Friday, April 13

Surviving Animal: Mr Moustache

Some professionals might think twice about appearing on radio show with a host sometimes called the "shock jock of the recruiting industry" and refers to you as "Mr. Moustache," but not me. I say go ahead and feed the Recruiting Animal. Sure, some people will claim he bites, but I think you'll respect him all the same.

At least that was my experience on his show "The Recruiting Animal Show", where for a little more than an hour we discussed whether or not there is such a thing as bad publicity. While there seemed to be some consensus that not all publicity is good publicity, not all who called in agreed.

While we agree on a great many things, Laurence Haughton disagreed on this point. Haughton, a writer, a speaker, and a management consultant, said that all publicity is good publicity because visibility is everything. I disagree, largely because publicity (especially bad publicity) is mostly a random roll of the dice and has the potential to mangle any message or established identity out in the field.

It seems to me that not all publicity has paid off in recent months. While JetBlue has captured headlines, it is fighting to reverse the negative impressions of a February storm. Steorn, which used publicity to market the claim of having free, clean and constant energy, has been slow to regain its credibility after a publicity stunt last year. The blogger Spocko, who was responsible for his own publicity as well as the negative publicity surrounding KSFO radio, has slowly dropped from his once glamorized position as a top search tag.

While these cases can be seen as extreme forays into crisis communication, I believe they have some commonalities. It seems to me that people, places, products, and companies that benefit the most from publicity are those who have exposure in their areas of expertise or in ways that closely align with their brand and identity. The further away the exposure is to their brand or identity, the greater the potential for damage or maligning their own message.

Don Imus is experiencing this now, after making statements that have been labeled racist. While some might argue these statements have given him exposure and may have briefly increased his ratings had he not been fired, several advertisers would NOT bank that all publicity is good publicity. They pulled their advertisements off the air. Staples Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. were the first to leave, refusing to associate with the radio show host despite apologies. Would others have risen to replace them? Maybe. It's a dice roll that didn't happen because CBS wasn't interested in taking chances.

We touched on Imus briefly during the show, but with such an abundance of topics we sort of took a "salad bowl approach," as Amitai Givertz, called it before raising several brilliant points, including the benefit of transparency for companies who are mindful of their messages. He also helped me frame my feeling about the show: If there is one good thing about salad bowls, it's that someone will always find something they like in them: lettuce, carrots, radishes, dressing, and even a few Garbonzo beans ... we talked about them all.

Likewise, Dave Manaster made several excellent contributions, reinforcing the idea that there is indeed another step: you have to know what your message is before you can shape it. He's also right that crisis communication is often reactive whereas strategic communication is proactive.

"If you don't manage your message, your message will manage you." — Richard Becker

Manaster reminded us that crisis communication is not the norm and helped move us in a direction that takes communication to an individual level. Communication management is also where Animal seemed most skeptical, likening it to a Big Brother approach or creating company shills. It's a topic I'll save for next week, much like I'll work up a more definitive definition of the difference between publicity and public relations.

A thanks also to Jason Davis, who asked about the monetization of blogs that I alluded to but hardly fully answered. Of course, this makes sense given our salad bowl discussion (I think that's funny). While some questions were answered, many more questions were raised that could not be easily answered in the confines of a single show.

Good thing Animal and I were shamed into a second show together, er, some day, to address his millions of visitors. With no bite marks to speak of and not a single silver bullet spent this time around, I survived to live another day. As for Animal, as I have said before, he has a real winner of a show. The program, which is available online, is one several great segments that not only cover but also transcend the recruiting industry. Kudos all around.

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Wednesday, April 11

Exploring Ethics: Social Media

I'll be writing a post show wrap-up that covers my experience on The Recruiting Animal Show tomorrow, but had another topic in mind for today in regard to ethics and social media. (Ironically, we touched on it briefly during the show, but already had a full plate of topics!

Kathy Sierra, author of the popular blog Creating Passionate Users returned to her blog on April 6 after taking a self-imposed hiatus because threats of violence were made against her over her blog. Although she is back, she says it will never be the same. I hope she changes her mind because I would hate to think that one bad incident, even as bad as that, would continue to have power over her.

However, that is not what this post is about. This post is about the new call for a code of ethics in social media that seems to have gained some traction out of this incident. Several bloggers have written, published, and posted about a new code of ethics for social media. While there is nothing wrong with this, I'm not convinced it is needed. (Make no mistake: death threats go well beyond moral decency and good taste and are NOT protected under the auspices of free speech.)

Yet, I'm still not convinced a new code is needed because several codes already exist within the fields of public relations and communication. If bloggers take the time to consider them, an entirely new code might not be needed. One can be found at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and the other at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Both are long established and thoughtfully written codes with some similarities.

As an accredited business communicator through IABC, I am partial to its code of ethics because the organization's principles "assume that just societies are governed by a profound respect for human rights and the rule of law; that ethics, the criteria for determining what is right and wrong, can be agreed upon by members of an organization; and, that understanding matters of taste requires sensitivity to cultural norms."

The code itself is based on three different yet interrelated principles of professional communication that apply throughout the world:

• Professional communication is legal.
• Professional communication is ethical.
• Professional communication is in good taste.

Recognizing this, members of IABC agree to engage in communication that is not only legal but also ethical and sensitive to cultural values and beliefs; engage in truthful, accurate and fair communication that facilitates respect and mutual understanding; and, adhere to the following articles of the IABC Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators. IABC offers 12 articles in all.

PRSA offers a different take on the subject, but the spirit, if not the verbiage, is virtually the same within the context of five member values: advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness. From these values, PRSA proposes several code provisions that are also worth consideration.

As I said, I am partial to IABC's code of ethics, but both have merit. So before bloggers and social media practitioners attempt to forge new ground, I suggest they consider one or both tried-and-true codes to serve as their own guides.

As for me, I do consider ethics with every post, even those that sometimes appear critical of others. In doing so, it is always my hope that people learn something, think more about their own communication, and attempt to be a beneficial presence wherever they might interact.

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Monday, April 9

Chatting With Animal: Copywrite, Ink.

On the last day of my "Writing for Public Relations" class at UNLV (a few weeks ago), I mentioned to my public relations students that I would be a future guest on an online talk radio show. Talking about the show made sense because it fit within the framework of our discussion: industry trends and the impact of social media. This show certainly qualifies.

They seemed very excited by the prospect that I would be actively engaged in what I talk and teach about (teaching is only a sliver of my time) and several of them asked for a time and date. "But wait," I said, hoping for a drum roll before revealing the details. "I haven't even told you whose online radio show... it's ... are you ready ... it's The Recruiting Animal Shooowww!"

Their enthusiastic expressions quickly turned to looks of sheer terror and inexplicable horror. Surely, their instructor had not lost all his marbles and taken to open discussions with someone who bills himself as "neither man nor wolf." Obviously, it must be a mistake. After all, experimenting with Recruiting Bloggers.com was one thing, but to openly engage the same person who, in their minds, vilified me with the moniker "Mr Moustache" ... well, that was something else all together. "Don't do it!" They warned.

Of course I will! Why not?

The topic, time, and date are set:

The Recruiting Animal Show.
Topic: Does bad publicity exist?
NOON EST (9 a.m. PST) on Wed., April 11
Call to talk: (646) 652-2754
Listen On: Windows Media
MSN Messenger: recruiting_animal@hotmail.com

On the show, I will attempt to answer the question "Does bad publicity exist?," strike a blow at the very heart of this erroneous myth that "all publicity is good publicity," mention the difference between publicity and public relations, and talk about a few publicity examples discussed on this blog, including (but not limited to) the public relations nightmares experienced by Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster (it is a recruiting industry show, after all).

Can I do it all or did I set myself up like the fine folks at JetBlue, with too many exceptions and not enough time to deliver?

I don't really know. I guess we'll find out this Wednesday. Whatever does happen, I'm almost sure it will be entertaining if not educational. In fact, the only thing I can be 100 percent sure of is that as much as I have grown very fond of the infamous character that is The Recruiting Animal, I'll be packing some silver. (You can never be too careful these days. Ha!)

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Thursday, March 8

Influencing Industry: Recruiting Animal

If you can get past the moniker, odd assortment of pop culture images, and colorful — sometimes snarky — commentary, you'll find an influential early pioneer in recruiter blogging based in Toronto. Of course, he'd prefer to deny the influential part as the "lack of blog influence" in the recruiting industry was the topic for his first BlogTalkRadio.

Despite denial, however, he continues to attract and influence recruitment bloggers at Recruiting Animal and Recruiting Bloggers, compelling them to take playful beatings on his blogs, and, more recently, compelling several industry blog leaders to participate in an hour-long radio show that asked if recruiter blogging was influential or if they are (recruiter bloggers) just blowing smoke. You can find a somewhat skewed recap of the show Recruiting Radio Shatters Myths or listen to it at the link above (warning: the first 15 minutes of the show includes on-the-job tech training).

Who should listen? Anyone interested in the advancement of social media into the mainstream, especially those public relations professionals who are among the 72.3 percent of public relations professionals who do not have a formal system for monitoring the blogosphere.

The show is one of the reasons I accepted the invitation to participate on Recruiting Bloggers in the first place (there are others). What the recruitment industry seems to lack in corporate communication (several on the show still think transparency is what got Jason Goldberg into trouble, when it is clearly faux transparency that got him into temporary trouble), they make up for in the fact that they've positioned the recruitment industry ahead of several other industries on the merits of social media, including my own.

Of three questions asked, the one that deserves the most attention is "How have blogs become an industry partner (in recruitment)?" You can read responses from Neil Bruce, vice president of alliances for Monster; Russell Glass, vice president of products and marketing for ZoomInfo; John Sumner, CEO of Interbiznet; Matt Martone, recruitment media sales executive at Yahoo!; CM Russel, author of Recrutingfly.com; Steve Levy, principal of Outside-the-Box Consulting; Dave Lefkow, CEO of TalentSpark Consulting; Glenn Gutmacher, senior researcher at Microsoft; and Harry Joiner, executive search recruiter at No Blog, No Sale. In the end, they all seemed to agree that blogs have the potential to have influence in their industry, but it has not happened yet despite the fact there are plenty of success stories where most can hang their hats.

In terms of the recruitment industry, they are almost right. The question is off the mark because it seems to me that blogs are about as influential as a news release, and new releases are not industry partners. More likely, as in any industry, there are influential industry professionals who have taken up blogs as a means of communication. Each, on their own merit, may be influential or not. Some might even gain influence through this medium, but only because they already had the potential to become influential in the industry.

The same can be said of any industry. It is not blogs that are influential, but the authors of those blogs in their respective industries (and some industries are ahead of others in terms of how many leaders are participating). Currently, it seems to me that entertainment gossip, technology, and politics are the leaders (but even political consultants claim blogs are mostly read by insiders and not voters). In fact, you might notice that traditional media is most often likely to turn to these social media niches for stories too.

It seems clear to me, as an outsider looking in, that recruiter blogging is also light years ahead of other industries, not because they are so great as much as it is because they have the semblance of foundation for a niche industry, whereas communication (advertising, marketing, public relations, etc.) seems stranded in debating what recruiting already resolved two years ago. (Besides, communicators keep getting hung up on this idea that applying social media is too much work. Ha!)

Sure, recruiting blogging may not be story sourced by traditional media yet, but that may change in the near future (unless other industries, like communication, manage to mount a rapid pace after they finally get out of the gate). All in all, it's a horse race and the recruiting industry seems to be among the early leaders.

So what is the question? The question is: who will be considered the social media experts of the future? Entertainment gossip aside, it seems to me the snapshot (today, maybe not tomorrow) is tech bloggers, political bloggers, and maybe recruiting bloggers will eventually begin converting their skill sets to focus on communication vehicles beyond their current industry niche. And, unless traditional corporate communication professionals and related communication fields wake up and sharpen their social media game, they will become second tier professionals, working for some of the guys I named above (much like some communication professionals ended up working for IT guys overseeing Web site design).

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Tuesday, February 20

Knowing When To Comment: Jason Goldberg

Starting in December 2006, Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster, embarked on what the New York Times and many others have classified as crisis communication gone wrong. Using his blog as a primary means of communication, Goldberg hinted at, then denied, then confirmed layoff rumors during the holidays with such abandon that the company’s Technorati ranking knocked Britney Spears out of the top spot for popular searches. Through it all, most members of the media and social media scoffed at Goldberg, calling him everything from insensitive and ignorant to brash and dishonest.

While most companies find away to move beyond bad news that impacted a mere 60 positions, Jobster seems unable to break away from the dated story despite Goldberg offering a belated apology and Jobster making several announcements that seem to suggests its business model is working, including the news that it beat Monster out on the coveted deal with Facebook.

So why can’t Jobster shake it off? Because Goldberg has a reputed disdain for menus; the man already knows what he wants. Why waste time on an exhaustive list of options?

When your communication, even blogging, becomes formulaic and you’re not willing to consider others options, you’re almost always going to make mistakes. Sometimes the mistake is simple, like missing the special everyone is raving about. Sometimes the mistake is more costly, like the host putting in your usual order on the one day you wanted something else.

I think that is exactly what happened when Goldberg erred in choosing to comment on a largely unrelated post to presumably, according to some, challenge my assessment of his mishandling crisis communication (which he already admitted to and apologized for anyway). Known for being fierce with critics once upon a time, he ordered up a “chat” of sorts when a chat wasn’t really what he wanted.

When you attempt to take a casual observer to task after the newsworthiness of the incident has long died out and most people have forgotten, you are almost always betting against yourself because the misguided incident will be rehashed all over again. What you really risk is diluting and distracting from any good or fluffed news you have. So why bother?

Compounding this apparent timing issue, Goldberg never considered that the person he was sizing up as opposition not only teaches continuing education courses as part of his community service commitment, but also happens to be a hired gun of sorts for dozens of companies when a crisis does strike (among other things).

Of course, this assumes I was ever opposition, which, based on my posts (you can source by clicking the label “Jobster” on my blog), I was never exclusively an adversary. Sometimes I was a cheerleader in my assessments, when warranted.

Highlights of positive comments are not limited to: complimenting him on continuing to address the media and social media during the crisis he created, the well-thought out layoff announcement that was better than par, the offer to help place his former employees, and his public apology (though belated). In one post, I also defended Jobster when a competitor missed its news opportunity to pick on the company. In fact, in several incidents, one might even surmise that Goldberg coincidentally adopted strategies similar to those I posted as part of my living case study assessment.

The best time to comment on a blog, or engage the media and/or social media, is when the engagement is timely. Waiting almost two months only serves as a reminder that something bad happened.

If you are engaging to challenge the writer or to correct any errors, it’s probably best to conduct an assessment of the work. For media, the rules have always been fairly clear when you are the subject of a story:

• Are all the facts in the piece accurate?
• Is the story complete or cite additional resources?
• Is the story and any opinions offered fair and relevant?
• Are opinions included from multiple sides and sources?
• Was there appropriate depth to the story given the topic context?
• Was there an appropriate opportunity for others to leave comments?

In the case study of Jobster’s crisis communication debacle, at least on my blog, the answer is yes to all of these questions. Certainly there could and can be disagreement on the partial menu of communication choices I shared (as Recruiting Animal argued about in one post), I proposed any number of them would have been better than the non-menu approach chosen at the time.

In fact, Goldberg’s first comment to me is unsurprisingly similar to the case study. Originally, he teased at, then denied, then confirmed layoffs. Now, Goldberg teased at, then denied, and has apparently confirmed no public conversation with me. While that is fine with me, it doesn’t make sense from a communication standpoint. His real critics must be wondering if he has cold feet.

Look, if you want to comment or perhaps correct media or social media errors, it’s best to (but hardly absolute) do this:

• Choose to respond in a timely manner when the topic is still hot.
• Read the entire body of the ongoing work to ensure you are not mislabeling someone.
• Gather at least some knowledge about the person, people, or media you are responding to.
• Stay positive and reasoned, keeping your cool in order to keep the focus on corrections and clarifications, unless you’ve created a more satirical persona.
• Stay focused on what matters if you hope to maintain credibility and transparency.
• Recognize that engagement is a limited commitment, and that the person you engage will likely respond.

Of the three questions Goldberg asked, only one was worthwhile while two read as nothing more than an exercise in puffery, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I answered them all conscientiously; especially the first, as it was a fine example of the smarter questions Goldberg has been known to ask about blogging.

Unfortunately, the allusion that there would be a conversation seems to have been an illusion, probably because it wasn’t so sincere of an offer anyway. It’s a shame really. I have often found many of his previous questions relevant though sometimes not with the best timing, perhaps because he doesn’t like menus.

And, in the end, all he gained was an opportunity for people to learn how not to manage bad news, like layoffs, all over again.

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Friday, February 9

Experimenting With Blogs: Recruiting Bloggers.com

A few weeks ago, as I was introducing just over a dozen University of Nevada, Las Vegas, students to my "Writing for Public Relations" class, I noted how social media (blogging) and the internet have made public relations a moving target. The rules of engagement are changing and public relations practitioners would be wise to stay ahead of the curve.

In some cases, I said, some of the information I'll share over the next 11 weeks will be obsolete (the structure of a news release, perhaps, among them). But some things, I stressed, will remain unchanged. For example: you cannot choose what the media says about you, but you can choose how you react to it. The same applies to bloggers, which tend to be even bigger wild cards in the game of communication.

In answering by example, I referenced how while writing about my living case study on Jobster, one blogger attempted to take me to task, going a bit beyond the difference of opinion and giving me the moniker “Mr. Mustache" and calling me a sissy. The majority of my students were, very literally, slack-jawed and appalled.

Look, I'm always up for a game now and again, so given that most of my students are working professionals in addition to attending UNLV, I asked what they thought I should do. Of all the answers, ranging from ignoring him to considering a slander suit (imagine!), one still sticks in my mind because only one student got the joke.

"You should have shaved off your mustache," she said. "And that will be that!"

No, I have not shaved my mustache; I only do that from time to time, temporarily, if someone pays me $100. (I'm not one of those guys who is "afraid" to shave it off). I did not file a slander suit (they meant libel, but that's why they are students) and I wouldn't even have a real case if I was silly enough to do so. I did not ignore him.

What I did do was choose how I would react to the labeling and I chose to find it funny, because, well, it was funny. Then I applied the most of basic public relations strategies, responding to his argument (but in my style), which generally does not include name calling. We agreed to disagree on the issue, and both offered up that we were mutual fans despite our different styles.

Since, I've written about two other recruiting companies (Talent Zoo and Monster) for different reasons related to communication, mostly because I'm tracking Jobster to wrap up the case study sometime in the near future. Or maybe not.

You see, Recruiting Animal e-mailed me a couple days ago, inviting me to join the growing group of talented bloggers over at Recruiting Bloggers.com. I've visited the blog a few times, and know that two other bloggers I met while tracking Jobster (Shannon Seery and Amitai Givertz) also contribute there from time to time.

So I accepted the invitation from the blogger who called me a sissy, despite repeated warnings that I could expect equally fiery and unabashed comments and critiques: "Also note that participation in a joint blog would not hamper our ability to criticize each other as fiercely as is common online."

Certainly, Recruiting Animal is not everybody's cup of tea (though he prefers to be called, in his words, a "prick"), but I find his posts a nice blend of practical and entertaining commentary. He also encouraged me to check around about him; nah, I already had a sense of what other people thought of him and also know I generally get along with people who aren't vanilla (not that there is anything wrong with vanilla). I look forward to getting to know him more: good, bad, or indifferent.

In sum, it's an experiment, which I find especially interesting because this seems like such an unlikely association. Heck, Recruiting Animal has already asked that I quit saying "thank you" so much, noting he never got that I would from my posts. That's okay. I would have never guessed Recruiting Animal has a real name (he does, you know ... shhhhh.)

Of course, I also look forward to getting to know the other writers, authors, and bloggers at Recruiting Bloggers.com ... I've read some good stuff over there. So in addition to mentioning that some posts "here" will be reframed for "there," this can also serve as my post first-post introduction, which hopefully is more entertaining than writing "blah, blah, blah" about me.

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