Monday, October 15

Winning & Losing: Al Gore


As part of Blog Action Day, I’m adding a communication bent to environmental awareness as some inconvenient truths are being reported about An Inconvenient Truth. (Hat tip: State Sen. Bob Beers).

The Credibility Question

The timing of Justice Burton’s ruling — that British teachers showing the film must tell their pupils that Gore makes several false or unsupported claims (although the work is broadly correct) — could not come at a worse time. After all, Gore and the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just received a joint winner of the Nobel peace prize for educating the world about climate change.

After possibly overreaching on some points, Gore has succeeded in fueling additional conflict over his message of environmental crisis. According to Times Online, the court ruling is the first of many battles ahead. The campaigners who supported the court case will now send copies of The Great Global Warming Swindle, a counter claim funded by Viscount Monckton, to these schools.

The Communication Considerations

What is most interesting to me is how Gore will handle what is his greatest triumph and looming crisis over the same work at the same time; whether the topic of global warming will become even more polarizing for British students than it already is for world leaders; and will this impact the public’s belief in global warming? As the story unfolds, we will begin covering these questions as part of a living case study.

The Environmental Considerations

Recently, I participated in a discussion that accepted the premise that global warming was beyond our control. My point in this discussion was simple enough. Regardless of global warming, we still need to consider alternative fuel sources.

Unless we change current fuel usage in the United States between now and 2030, one-third of the world’s population will be using unhealthy and environmentally damaging fuels to meet their daily energy needs. As it stands now, 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity, 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass such as wood and dung, and 99 percent of these people live in developing countries that will need energy.

As these countries develop, demand will increase at exponential rates, making our traditional model too expensive to maintain anyway. Not to mention, China’s continued development is having an increased demand on the world market (faster than the U.S.) and oil remains one of the most unstable fuel sources for our country with 37 percent of all imports currently being supplied by OPEC.

As I mentioned in January, the debate about global warming, and add to that the need for alternative fuels, is over. Everybody lost. And now that it has been over for some time now, it still seems to me that people need more saving than the planet. Here is one way to help both.

Digg!

Saturday, October 13

Recognizing Leadership: Social Media


The quality of leadership, more than any other single factor, determines the success or failure of an organization. — Fred Fiedler and Martin Chemers

All across the net — in forums, social networks, fan bases, and even well-read blogs — some people are elevated up by any number of measures and any number of reasons to become perceived leaders in their respective communities or industries.

And yet, unfortunately, when the concept of being a leader arises, whether sought after or rejected on its face, few realize it is not leaders that these varied communities and industries crave. It is leadership.

In June, a few fans, in consideration of my suggestions to promote fandom asked me how to organize a fan club. I obliged them, but was surprised by the response of some, who rejected the idea on its face because Jericho fans did not want any leaders. Off with any leaders’ heads, some said, we are all equal here.

What was missed is that I was not advocating for leaders as they defined the term as much as I was advocating leadership. The two are vastly different.

Leadership is not defined by power, privilege, rank, title, position, or authority. Leadership is a quality of action, one that rarely requires force of law, threat, manipulation, control, or the attempted shutdown of dissent. On the contrary, leaders welcome all parties, all views, and then effectively match those to organizational goals and not necessarily their opinions or preferences.

A successful leader transcends their personality in order to ensure any following is aligned to the organizational goals and not themselves as individuals. The very best of them continually challenge any followers to reach higher obtainable goals, encouraging them to apply leadership as well.

In social media, some bloggers, social network participants, forum administrators, group hosts, and even online talk show hosts become leaders either by pursuit of action, grant of title, or by default simply because others recognize them for their insights and expertise. Yet, relatively few recognize the role they have assumed or accept the responsibility of it. Fewer still have ever been exposed to the difference between leaders and those who think they are leaders.

You can tell which are which. Effective leadership looks for objectivity and truth, taking responsibility for their actions and win the hearts of any following. Whereas those who think they are leaders are subjective, obscure facts, and promote their own partisan interests and make demands while denying the role for fear of being held responsible or accountable. Sometimes, they attempt to force others to succumb to their will because of any number of erroneous qualifications: experience, seniority, title, rank, traffic, followers, friends, links, etc.

Leadership requires none of these things. Rather, it revolves around vision, motivation, inspiration, empowerment, and authenticity. And very likely, but not certainly, it seems to me that Jericho fans are well overdue to find those few who are capable.

If not, the craving for leadership will continually lead toward elevating those who are popular and not necessarily those who have the skill sets necessary. The results can be disastrous, as they have been for the last two weeks.

You see, there is a vast difference between those who start something, provide a forum to talk about something, and those who lead something. Last week, someone responded to me and said he did not want to be a leader. It reminded me of an episode in Jericho, when Gray Anderson was ready, once again, to relinquish authority to Johnston Green. Green basically told him to accept the responsibility or stand aside.

The lesson was as clear in the show as it is for fans today. As I opened, the quality of leadership, more than any other single factor, will determine the success or failure of a third season. Good night and good luck.

Digg!

Friday, October 12

Stuggling To Be Relevant: Old Media


Last year, most people said it wouldn’t happen. Now it is happening out of desperation. The people who social media participants and bloggers call “old media” are working as quickly as possible to change everything and become the, um, new new media.

Old media is not struggling; they are fighting for survival.

According to Bloomberg, BusinessWeek is doing everything possible to keep up. The magazine is undergoing a facelift and adding stories on new products and personal finance. It is updating its logo and typefaces.

Advertising pages dropped 20 percent and advertising sales dropped 15 percent. Hard copy circulation is down 1.2 percent. Online, the story is different. Its Internet readership is up to 6.5 million unique visitors a month from 1.7 million a month in 2004. But ad sales online only account for 18 percent of its revenue.

“All traditional business publishers are struggling to find the right formula,” said Peter Kriesky, Kreisky Media Consultancy in New York. “None of them have reached the promised land.''

What if there is no formula?

ABC seems to be asking the same. So while it tends to be the quietest of all networks about its plans for network-Internet convergence, The New York Times says it is the only major network that is using the staff of its evening newscast to produce a separate and distinct daily program for a Web audience as opposed to repackaging (that’s largely true).

The 15-minute Webcasts often feature Charles Gibson in the anchor chair and ABC News correspondent. Bill Blakemore recently finished a special on global warming. I watched their Web segment on the Pennsylvania shooting plot this morning. It’s not perfect (ABC needs a full screen option, among other things), but it is a step in the right direction and more promising than repackage plus option being made by other networks.

Innovation will lead the way.

This is not to say traditional media is not content relevant (they are). They simply lack in platform building, appropriate technology, and understanding active consumers (as opposed to passive readers and viewers). Too many are following old models and formulas.

Time Magazine’s Bill Tancer found one piece of the puzzle: according to the Solutions Research Group, roughly 37 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 use their computers while watching television at home.

What's the answer? It seems to me that consumers want integrated print, broadcast, and Internet. And while mobile devices seem to be chugging along, we’re still past prime time for a dual-device entertainment interface that allows people to watch programming on a big screen while participating online with their smaller screened laptops that function like a universal remote. Of course, all this assumes cable companies stop double dipping by charging people twice for essentially the same service.

Sounds like an Apple of an opportunity to me.

As for where print and broadcast seem to be missing the mark online right now, maybe that’s better served up in the weeks ahead. At the moment, I have some old media ads to write. As much as times are changing, some things have not changed.

Digg!

Thursday, October 11

Punching Monkeys: Nielsen Survey


Last week, a Nielsen study proclaimed that traditional advertising is still more credible than ads on search engines, Web site banners, and mobile phones.

Have you looked at most banner ads? Most aren’t trying for trust.

Since when has punching a monkey established credibility?

On the contrary, most online ads — whether simple and straightforward or monkey punching — aren’t trying to sell you anything. All they want you to do is click on the link and visit the Web site. And that is where the sale might take place because, according to the same study, brand Web sites are the fourth most trusted sources of information. So what are we missing?

The Web site is the advertisement and the banner ad is the ad for the Web site.

Not surprisingly, word-of-mouth advertising scored high. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed said recommendations from other consumers was the most credible form of advertising. It has always been this way, which also hints at the power of communication.

Social media is front line communication. The resulting conversations are word-of-mouth advertising.

But not all word-of-mouth marketing sparked by bloggers or advertising gurus or public relations professionals is credible. As Sterling Hagar recently noted at AgencyNext: “When PR people resort to dress-up, play-acting, waitressing and such it suggests one of two possibilities to me: the client doesn't have a strong message or the PR people are having a hard time articulating it.”

Right on. Even people can look like monkeys.

Speaking of monkeys, the survey’s methodology included about 26,000 people on the Internet in 47 markets around the world, which means about 550 people per market. We're not even sure if they were shown ads to establish a context or what ads those might have been. Mediums don't create credibility; messages do.

Digg!

Wednesday, October 10

Advertising Online: Intel & Everybody


Advertising online is the only medium that has seen substantial gains in spending. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Internet ad revenue totaled almost $10 billion, which represents an increase of nearly 27 percent from the same period a year ago.

This is one of the reasons that Intel is bringing a larger portion of its extremely successful co-op advertising budget to the Internet with 10 to 20 percent of its own budget being spent online. And where the “Intel Inside” campaign goes, so goes Intel marketing partners — at least 35 percent of the ad dollars Intel provides must be devoted to online marketing.

“It was a big change for us,” said Kevin Burkum, vice president for marketing at the egg board in Park Ridge, Ill. told The New York Times. “TV is still very important to us, but it’s not the be-all and end-all as it used to be.”

Maybe that’s because Internet users are conducting about 1.4 million searches every minute — with about 60 percent of those searches occurring on Google. At least that is the word on MSNBC. Citing a study by comScore's qSearch 2.0 service, more than 37 billion searches worldwide went through Google in August. (Side note: they just bought Jaiku.)

Yahoo Inc. was second worldwide with 8.5 billion, followed by Baidu at 3.3 billion, Microsoft Corp. at 2.2 billion, and NHN at 2 billion.

With so many searches, online media buyers might be wondering if buying up keywords and Google click-throughs is the way to go. Sure, but it is not the only way and maybe not even the best way.

One of the more compelling studies that I’ve come across is from the Atlas Institute, which points out what I hope other advertisers and marketers know — 67 percent of all consumers are influenced by more than one ad before they purchase. In other words, they might see an ad here and go somewhere else, forget about it, see it again, conduct a search, and then click on it again.

It’s something to think about if you are a content provider. Your click-through ads have a greater chance of supporting someone else’s shared revenue. But more importantly, marketers might be a bit more careful about where they think click-through purchases are coming from … the prospect likely came from somewhere else.

All of it provides great food for thought and suddenly makes concepts like social media relevant. Thinking about this sure beats writing about the bubble. Besides, Eric Eggertson already did an outstanding cover of the bubble buzz around the second departure of the not-so-anonymous Amanda Chapel. I pretty much closed my case study on them in July after discovering they were causing their own brand damage.

Digg!

Tuesday, October 9

Chatting Jericho: Richard Becker


When I first began covering what began as a crisis communication case study of CBS over the cancellation of a television show, Jericho, and the fan outcry that followed, I could have never imaged meeting such a great group of passionate people.

They are not what I expected; certainly not what CBS expected. You can learn more about them in the comment thread of this post, aptly titled “Understanding Viewers.” There, they left more than 194 comments, about themselves and why they cared so much.

Since CBS reversed its cancellation decision, I’ve usually confined the second case study to tracking consumer marketing behaviors as the fans have worked hard to secure a third season after what will be a short second season, which will probably be introduced during a mid-season break.

In doing so, I am sometimes reminded how easy it is for fans to lose sight of their original reasons to pull together, but I know what they sometimes do not: they are still those same people, perhaps just a bit frustrated in attempting to find their own way. I met many of them at a forum called Jericho Rally Point.

So when one of them sent me message last week or so, it was easy to accept Morgan’s invitation to join them for a chat session at 5 p.m. (PST) on Wednesday, Oct. 10. I have to be honest: I haven’t entered a chat room in years. I expect it will be fun, hopefully engaging, and certainly interesting.

Thanks for the splendid introduction in the forums, Morgan. I'll do all my best.

Digg!

Listening To Tony: BlogCatalog.com


When Tony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog, said he was going to have fun at BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Las Vegas, I told him to think again.

“What do you mean?” asked Berkman. “I thought you would take me to get a Nathan’s hotdog.”

“… a what?”

“They have Nathan’s hotdogs in Las Vegas, I remember …”

“Um, no.”

“So then what are we going to do?”

“Talk.”

“What are we going to talk about?”

“You tell me.”

“You aren’t interested in talking?”

“I’m interested in listening.”

“Are you going to give us a ride from the airport? …”

I started working with BlogCatalog by accident a few months ago. It’s not always formal, but we do have a lot of fun. Sure, sometimes it’s work; other times it’s a partnership. We started a few months ago.

Berkman had come up with an interesting idea to ask BlogCatalog members to use their blogs for good and raise awareness and funds for education through an Omidyar Network sponsored non-profit called DonorsChoose.org. It seemed like a great topic for our National Business Community Blog; I e-mailed him and asked for a news release.

It was their first Bloggers Unite campaign, but it wasn’t called that yet. Since they didn’t have a release, I told him I’d be happy to write one up for the blog and he could use it.

The campaign was an interesting idea. With so many bloggers writing from a contrarian’s point of view, this campaign seemed to provide something that social media sometimes lacks. The outcome was inspiring: 1,000 children directly benefited though DonorsChoose.org; and the non-profit organization received a tremendous amount of attention.

The second campaign was bigger. The third was even bigger. We haven’t calculated the outcomes yet. We’ll have a better picture starting tomorrow, after our post for hope competition closes. Even without the measures though, I already know the outcomes will be something worthwhile. BlogCatalog members are all that.

Beyond Bloggers Unite campaigns, we have been brainstorming with Berkman and the team about a couple of ideas related to BlogCatalog.com. They are some pretty big ideas; so I cannot post about them. But when Berkman told me he was coming to Las Vegas, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to kidnap the team for a night and set some of these ideas in motion.

Most communication people like to talk. Unless I’m teaching or giving a presentation, mostly I don’t. I like to listen. Listening is the first step in a process we employ called a core message. I’m not going to write about the core message today (click the label if you want), but I will share one fundamental step: listening.

It makes me wonder. Maybe dialogue isn’t what people crave online. Maybe they want someone to listen.

“ … Did you hang up on me again?” Berkman asked jokingly.

Maybe that’s why BlogCatalog works. The BlogCatalog team over there listens to its members. Jeez, I hope it’s not a quiet evening.

If you haven’t heard about BlogWorld in Las Vegas this Nov. 8-9, Shel Isreal, Mike Arrington, Brian Clark, Arianna Huffington, and David Perlmutter are speaking. And more names that won’t fit in this post. It’s that big.

BlogCatalog will be at BlogWorld; I’ll be lending an assist. You’ll be able to find them at booth # 116 (members might want to watch for the announcement because it comes with good news). After hours, at least one night, the people behind the fastest-growing social network for bloggers will be with me. I'm putting them to work.

Digg!

Monday, October 8

Changing Public Relations: UNLV


Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but I’ve taught a core requirement class, “Writing for Public Relations,” for the certificate in public relations program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) for seven years. I will be teaching it again next spring but it will not be the same class.

It has to change; not entirely, but significantly. The reason can be found in how I opened my class this past year.

“Other than proven communication strategy and basic writing skills, everything I will be teaching you about public relations this year will be obsolete in three years,” I opened. “Social media has changed the communication landscape that much. Your positions, roles, and responsibilities are likely to be changed forever in the very near future.”

To be honest, I had no idea the change would be taking place even faster. In addition to adding new information to this core class, publicist/editor coordinator for the UNLV Educational Outreach division Dick Benoit, APR, sent me an e-mail last Friday. He said he needed a course description for my social media class next spring by no later than today.

What social media class?

The one you might be teaching in late May. How does your schedule look? Can we offer it in the morning?

The concept of teaching public relations professionals, communicators, and business people about social media is something I enjoy. I don’t teach it like many of my social media colleagues, but I appreciate that we are all on the same page in that social media has changed the communication landscape.

Where we sometimes differ is that I believe the medium should never dictate the message. Rather, I maintain social media is a powerful communication tactic that augments (but does not replace) proven strategic communication, with the measures being tangible outcomes as opposed to mysterious online measures that we see online every day.

Benoit’s interest in social media began some time ago, but its significance may have been driven home when I joined other instructors at an introduction to the certificate in public relations program a few weeks ago. Although I am only teaching “Editing and Proofreading Your Work” this fall (Nov. 3), I spent ample time talking about the presentation I was preparing as a guest instructor for another core class led by Keith Sheldon, ABC, APR. That class, next week (Oct. 17), will be about social media.

Sheldon, a longtime friend and mentor who taught for several years at UNLV as well as the University of California, Chico, understood the impact immediately after seeing a private presentation over lasagna at my home. (He had missed the IABC luncheon where I presented this information; he was out of the country). By the end of the evening, he had asked me to be a guest instructor for his class this fall. He said anyone completing the certificate program needs to be better aware of social media.

The presentation Sheldon saw takes about an hour. The thumbnail sketch Benoit saw was less than 15 minutes. He had introduced it like this…

“Public relations is a science in that we as working professionals spend considerable time planning and evaluating,” Benoit said, introducing me a few weeks ago. “But every time we as public relations professionals think we have it figured out and begin to get comfortable, someone comes along with a new Hula Hoop… the newest Hula Hoop is social media.”

Fifteen minutes later, Benoit was already considering how to ensure public relations professionals know more about social media. Their survival depends on it. Whether we add a class in late May or not, social media has changed the dynamic of my core class forever. That’s some Hula Hoop.

Digg!

Saturday, October 6

Promoting Jericho: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


On Oct. 2, Jericho Rangers started promoting for their first real measurement since they sent 20 tons of nuts to CBS months ago. This time, the measurement is in DVD sales.

The Good.

Jericho Rangers are tracking DVD rankings at Amazon (Reviews: 70; Sales Rank: 51; Sales Rank in Boxed Sets: 20; Sales Rank: 28) and Barnes & Noble (Sales Rank: 30), which features a flattering 2006 review by Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide. Of course, the real measure of their success will come in total units sold and not sales rank. However, there are benefits for DVDs that retain top sales positions (based on hourly sales; not total sales) on these two popular Internet order sites.

But beyond simply trying to drive sales up, they are also raising money to send care packages to the troops that include a Jericho DVD. Many of them are also purchasing DVDs for family and friends. And many more are spreading the word in whatever way they can. They know that DVD sales will likely be the best measure of their success.

The Bad.

As Amy Vernon notes on Remote Access, two endings have been shot for the seven-episode Season 2. This news came out of a TV Guide interview with producer Carol Barbee during the Season 1 DVD release party.

Vernon picked up on the same message I did. One alternative ending is the ending that “won't close off the whole story but it will show you where we would go in a third season." The other ending “gives you a huge mythology so that you understand so much about what has happened."

Alternative endings mean exactly what one might think. Jericho’s continuation on CBS is about as certain as the day it was first placed on the bubble.

The Ugly.

If there is any distraction from promoting DVD sales at the moment, it comes in the form that frequently surfaces from the fan base. Someone places too much weight on their own shoulders, distracting otherwise like-minded fans.

It’s the kind of story worth following up on when you’re tracking the promise and pitfalls of spontaneous consumer marketing efforts. Jericho fans are not alone. If there is any reoccurring theme in the scheme of social media, it is in the abundance of people who suddenly find themselves in the semi-public spotlight without any real leadership training. Here’s one tip I picked up almost a decade ago …

“Angels have wings because they take themselves lightly.”

Digg!

Friday, October 5

Creating Conversations: Safety Glass


When I wrote about how I broke into journalism, Lewis Green suggested the bigger lesson was never missing an opportunity to start up a conversation.

He’s right. One perfect example is my good friend James Hoke. He recently became one of the executive producers behind the Hilary Duff and Steve Coogan movie Safety Glass, which is due to be released in 2008. How recently? The movie’s financing received a green light, just before we went to a late lunch today.

Safety Glass, yet to be revealed on IMDB, is about a New York reporter sent to cover a hometown Challenger Space Shuttle hero, but then finds another story when he follows a group of students whose teacher commits suicide. While covering the new story, the reporter is drawn in by this group of confused and combustible students, becoming their "substitute" hero and willing participant in their twisted universe.

Hoke, who is also president of Las Vegas-based Destination Marketing Group, broke into becoming one of the five partners in the new production company Five Kings Pictures, LLC because he didn’t miss his opportunity to start a conversation. The conversation began more than a year ago when he was promoting Matsuri, the number one stage production in Japan, while it performed a limited engagement in Las Vegas (a promotion we were fortunate to work on with him).

It was during Hoke’s promotion of Matsuri that he started a conversation with Joe Nahas. While working together on a couple of projects that are still under wraps and in development, Nahas called Hoke one day and asked him a life-changing question.

“Do you want to start a production company and make a movie?”

“’Yeah, sure,’ I told him. ‘Let’s do it,” Hoke said. “What’s to think about? All my life I’ve wanted to make movies. So I called my friend Anthony Miranda and the three of us founded Three Kings Production.”

Three Kings Production then teamed with two more people — Nick Nahas and Elie Samaha — to form Five Kings Pictures. Samaha most recently produced Rescue Dawn with Zach Grenier, Marshall Bell, and Christian Bale. He is best known for producing The Boondock Saints, The Whole Nine Yards, and City By The Sea (along with scores of others).

“You’ve heard about napkin deals in Hollywood?” asked Hoke. “Here’s one … right here.”

Tacked to his office wall, the entire production budget for Safety Glass is sketched on a single piece of yellow notebook paper by Samaha. The edges are worn, small tears along the top and bottom, but the handwriting — written with a black Sharpie marker — was everything needed to produce the film. It is also a representation of the chain of events that started with one conversation.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m one of the executive producers of Safety Glass, written by Jonathan Kyle Glatzer and Robert Lawson,” says Hoke. “We’re producing in Canada with Nasser Group North and Montage Films. I’ve worked for this my whole life.”

I saw it for myself. Laid out in analytically organized piles across his floor, it was the makings of a movie. Three different companies tucked inside neatly labeled binders on the shelf, with more to be added in the days ahead. Phone calls and e-mails waiting to be answered.

Amazing. Even more so when after lunch, I sat in with Hoke as he made numerous calls to set the next step in motion in between celebratory cheers as the news rolled across the country. Safety Glass was moving forward.

“I’ve worked on dozens of movie soundtracks,” said one of Hoke's partners, Miranda, during one of several calls placed after lunch. “This moves it to a different level. It’s the right movie with the right script and the right people at the right time.”

A new level indeed. Hoke has three additional movies that they are working on to ensure Safety Glass is only the beginning of Five Kings Pictures. The others, of course, will be balanced against his schedule, commuting between Las Vegas and Canada.

Even more remarkable, all of it can be traced back to a single conversation. And all of it will create more conversations in days, and weeks, and months to come.

In fact, I’ll be interviewing Miranda for another reason soon. He’s likely to appear on David Letterman in the next few months because of a single YouTube video. But that’s a conversation for another time.

Dreams and conversations. You never know where they might lead.

Digg!

Thursday, October 4

Blogging Buzz: Gilbert Arenas


What is it about blogs that makes everyone go batty?

When I first spotted Stephanie Kang’s article in The Wall Street Journal that suggested brand marketers aren't sure about endorsers who blog because of Gilbert Arenas, it seemed like a "must read" despite the obvious.

The obvious is that celebrity endorsements have always been a mixed bag — as anyone who picked Michael Vick can tell you. The value of the endorsement is tied to the status of the celebrity, based on professional performance and personal brand.

But then this story goes off the wall a bit. You can read it if you like. It's a story about a Sept. post that “shocked” Adidas when Arenas blogged about a redesign. Arenas, it seems, didn’t like the first draft.

”So I looked at the shoe and I straight killed it. I killed it so much I think I made everybody uncomfortable. How do I go from the Gil Zero to this? That was my whole argument. Nobody is going to wear this shoe.”

Supposedly, this blog criticism of Adidas' new signature shoe forced the shoemaker to rethink the design. Adidas spokesman Travis Gonzolez even said they took a step back. He told The Wall Street Journal they decided “It's Gil being Gil and there's not a lot we can say. We don't want to affect what he writes.”

But something doesn’t add up. According to the post, it seems the resolution to fix the shoes was already made. So how could the post be a shocker that sparked a redesign? If anything, it was a sales pitch. Arenas mentioned all 20 different versions of GilIIZero shoes, included release dates, and plugged his input into the redesign. Wow!

Look, here's the meat: celebrity blogs mean big business for endorsers and the companies they blog about. In recent months, Arenas has “extended an existing contract with Adidas, signed a deal to be on the cover of 'NBA Live 08' from Electronic Arts Inc.'s EA Sports, and signed a four-year deal with basketball maker Spalding, a unit of Atlanta-based Russell Corp. Mr. Arenas also endorses Coca-Cola Co.'s Vitaminwater.”

This is one Wizard who is pretty smart. He knows that lightly criticizing his marketing partners drives traffic. In fact, criticism with a happy ending as presented in the Adidas story is probably better than a straightforward sales pitch. He’s not the only one who knows it. EA Sports is already on board.

"We knew if there was something he didn't like, he would say so -- probably to everyone," Jordan Edelstein, marketing director at EA Sports, told The Wall Street Journal, but ultimately the company decided that Mr. Arenas's honesty was a plus: "That's why his fans respond to him. ... We felt it was worth the risk."

Of course it is worth the risk! Anytime Howard Stern or David Letterman talked about their bosses, the ratings went up, not down. It’s not about blogs, it’s about old-fashioned buzz. Blogs are optional.

If you want something else about Arenas with more substance, check out Basketball is Brotherhood coming this month. Now that's a campaign.

Digg!

Wednesday, October 3

Playing It Again: From Freelance To Journalist


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digg!

Tuesday, October 2

Paying For Politics: You And Me


“Thousands of active troops and veterans were subjected to Mr. Limbaugh’s unpatriotic and indefensible comments on your broadcast,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in his letter to Clear Channel Chief Executive Mark Mays, which mirrors his statements on the Senate floor.The Hill.

Yet, as far as I know, the only people subjected to Rush Limbaugh are people who listen to his show. But, nonetheless, so it begins. Tax dollars, yours and mine, are being spent this week on letters and speeches delivered in Congress to denounce, discredit, and censor. We might as well enjoy the circus, provided the price is nothing more than tax dollars and not free speech or the right to address grievances with our government.

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe he [Rush] was just high on his drugs again,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa) as reported by Michelle Malkin. “I don’t know whether he was or not. If so, he ought to let us know. But that shouldn’t be an excuse.”

Taking time to record that comment into our Congressional records is so much more important than “providing assistance for poor and elderly families to afford to heat and cool their homes, and the need to continue our commitment to improve education for our nation's children."

This week is banned booked week. It’s sponsored by the American Library Association, American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Association of College Stores.

Hundreds of books are challenged every year. And those who aim to strike them from the shelf often use statements that sound dangerously similar to those of Sen. Reid’s … “This comment was so beyond the pale of decency that it cannot be left alone."

Indecent. Immoral. Impudent.

What are these books? You know the ones: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier, the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou.

All of them round out the top five most challenged books since 2000, but Judy Blume is still the most challenged author. In fact, there were more than 3,000 attempts to remove books between 2000-2005.

You might note that these challenges are not ancient history. On the contrary, they are alive and well today. Challenges to our civil liberties that unnoticed would silence our people. Challenges that aim at radio talk show hosts for talking about what other people already knew. Challenges that convinced me to lend some of my Sunday to The Gylon Jackson Show to discuss a few free speech concepts:

• Don’t allow the ignorance of others to have power over you
• The abuse dies in a day, but the rule of law lasts forever
• We have to protect free speech, even speech we find offensive
• The remedy for the abuse of free speech is more free speech
• Most people want free speech for “them,” but not other people
• Critical speech gives you an opportunity to gauge issue temperature
• Specific words that offend people tend to change over time

Today, given the controversy surrounding Limbaugh, we might remember those points. Or perhaps, maybe it would be best to remember the words of Dwight David Eisenhower …

”And we have got to fight it with something better, not try to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America. And even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them at places where they're accessible to others is unquestioned, or it's not America.” — Eisenhower

Digg!

Monday, October 1

Covering Hot Topics: Third Quarter 2007


Every quarter, we publish a recap of our five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of hits after they were posted. While we base this on individual posts, some are related to larger case studies.

Nina Tassler Talks; Jericho Fans Listen

If there is one person at CBS who has captured the curiosity of fans that have a passion for the nuclear terrorist attack/small town survival drama Jericho, it is Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment. While most of her attention has been vested in putting out fires related to the rating challenged, nothing-but-controversial buzz that has become Kid Nation, when she speaks about Jericho, fans listen. Of all our coverage related to consumer marketing challenges and successes of this television show in stasis, none compares to the Tassler post that asks if she has surrendered her early edginess to wrangle ratings. Jericho fans hope they can turn Tassler into “Jericho buzz believer” into a full-fledged “Jericho Ranger.” It won’t take a miracle, but it will take a season 2 start date.

Links: Jericho, Nina Tassler

Bloggers Blog Against Abuse

People spend a lot of time “talking” about social media, but Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog (and the entire BlogCatalog team), is one of the few who talks less and does more and has fun doing it. Determined to prove that bloggers can do good and social media can influence change and produce outcomes beyond the Internet, he asked BlogCatalog members to post against abuse on Sept. 27. BlogCatalog members were not the only ones: more than one thousand bloggers from all over the world made abuse the most-talked about topic on the Internet. The largest social awareness campaign in history moves beyond buzz and produces tangible outcomes — bloggers who inspired tens of thousands of people to take action. For our part, we launched the “Blog For Hope Post Competition in cooperation with BlogCatalog. The submission deadline is Oct. 10.

Links: Bloggers Unite, BlogCatalog

Borg Think Infiltrates Social Media

It takes many forms, some with the best intentions, but there is only one outcome. In hoping to guide social media into the mainstream, sometimes prevailing blog think leaders overstep sharing their opinion and offering guidance by staking leadership claims over the Internet. Whether written up by a few as a code of conduct over the many, or proclaiming territorial dominion over the ideas that litter the Internet in posts, on blogs, and a myriad of PDF files, we can only hope that forced assimilation doesn’t sweep across the entire social media structure. The outcome would lead to the denial of new ideas and inability to challenge old ones. While civility is always appreciated on the Web, the pioneers today might remember that collective think or the promotion of fear is not the answer. The solution is clear: lead by example, not by force of law or pirate threat.

Links: Borg, Pirates

John Mackey Tells Whole Truths

John Mackey and Whole Foods Market Inc. (WMFI) beat the Federal Trade Commission with the $565 million purchase of Wild Oats Markets Inc. (maybe that’s the good, or not), but the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation still ongoing. While some people frame the issue up as a possible SEC violation or transparency issue, one of the most pressing aspects of this case study is how it chips away at what some call the tenets of crisis communication. In the case study of Mackey, he largely ignored these tenets and managed to remain at the helm of Whole Foods, with more people defending him for posing as “rahodeb” and using the pseudonym to disparage and deflate the competition before purchasing it.

Links: John Mackey , Whole Foods Market

Veronica Mars Fans Organize

Fans of Veronica Mars, the critically acclaimed teen drama/mystery neo-noir series starring Kristen Bell, demonstrate that they are not to be underestimated in their efforts to encourage Warner Bros. to syndicate the show and prove the power of this fan base is strong enough to support a movie despite the cancellation of the series. In their efforts as consumer marketers, they have developed action points that are reminiscent of a communication plan while remaining courteous and supportive of Bell and series creator Rob Thomas. Unencumbered by the rules of communication, Veronica Mars fans are working to prove consumer marketing works.

Link: Veronica Mars

Runners up (no order) include: Buzz Is Not A Measure, which reminds blog evangelists to focus on outcomes as opposed to buzz metrics; the Jericho Fan Fiction Contest, which shared some great stories and promoted a different look at Jericho on more than 50 sites, blogs, and social networks; one of two blog dramas turned positive by reminding people one gumball is not better than another; the results of an unscientific online ethics poll; and our use of the Career Distinction’s Online Identity Calculator as the basis to flush out the online identities of various public figures individuals.

While a few “bad news” case studies made it into the top spots, this is the first quarter they have given way to education-oriented and social media action, which represents a pleasant surprise. Last quarter, we wished for more attention to be given to our underpinning concept that strategic communication is best suited to drive social media and it looks like we’re getting it.

So there it is once again; the top posts as tracked by reader interest. Thank you all for dropping by, adding comments, promoting stories, and continuing to bring communication issues to our attention so we may offer up our sometimes serious (sometimes silly) take on them. Whether you agree or not, we appreciate that in our pursuit to tackle such issues, our readers have remain steadfast in never mistaking communication discussion for anything but objective discussion of issues, actions, and behaviors as they relate to communication.

Digg!

Sunday, September 30

Talking Free Speech: The Gylon Jackson Show


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." — First Amendment, the Bill of Rights

On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States ratified 10 amendments of the Constitution.

Tonight at 7 p.m. (CST), I have been invited to make my second guest appearance on The Gylon Jackson Show, this time to discuss the First Amendment and how it might pertain to bloggers. If you have not heard of Jackson before, visit his blog Don’t Bark Bite. Jackson covers a diverse array of topics and you’ll always be surprised by what you find there.

The first time I was a guest on his show was late last Thursday as part of the Bloggers Unite campaign. We discussed the campaign and various forms of abuse, ranging from domestic abuse to the abuse of free speech (if there is such a thing).

If you missed the show on Thursday, you can still catch it by visiting The Gylon Jackson Show archive. Tonight’s show, in fact, developed out of the show that discussed abuse.

So why give up part of a Sunday night to listen to an online radio show? I dunno. That is up to you. But what I can do is give you three reasons I’m giving up some of my Sunday for the First Amendment.

• As someone who has and occasionally still works as a journalist, the First Amendment is near and dear to my heart. While my confidence in it is often tested, it is one of the more profound, important, and neglected additions to the Constitution of the United States.
• Jackson is an amazing host, courageous individual, and it’s hard to believe that last Thursday was his first foray into online radio.
• “Libdrone,” who writes The Thin Red Line recently reminded me that Sept. 29 to Oct. 6 is Banned Book Week. You can learn more about it at the American Library Association.

If you cannot make the show, please come back on Tuesday for a recap, archive link, and some more information about banned book week (tomorrow I will be recapping our top posts of the third quarter). You never know. These discussions, on this blog or on the show, might open your eyes as to why civility on the Web is appreciated, but should never supercede our most basic and fundamental rights. Good night and good luck.

Digg!

Saturday, September 29

Nothing But Buzz: Hey! Nielsen


Hey! Nielsen, a new opinion-driven social network from the leading provider of television audience measurement and advertising information services worldwide, is in public beta. Beta is the operative word.

It’s not The Nielsen Company’s first foray into the Internet. It also has BlogPulse, which is an automated trend discovery system for blogs and powered by Nielsen BuzzMetrics. BlogPulse is not the most used Internet measure, but its trending tools are well conceived.

BlogPulse is the reason I had high hopes for Hey! Nielsen despite fan efforts to change the failing rating system. Instead, I’m not sure what to think.

“Hey! Nielsen is more than just a new idea in opinions and social networking: it's a way for you to influence the TV and movies you watch, the music you listen to, and more ... all while making a name for yourself,” says the Hey! Nielsen page.

Buzz Breakdown

Wow. Someone crisscrossed the objectives. How can you accurately gauge fan buzz on the Internet if you are dangling “fame” in front of the people scoring the system? It adds the same kind of superficial buzz measures that are overshadowing Web metrics. And, it all takes place in a walled garden approach that people like Joseph Smarr want to rip down via Plaxo. (The interview by Scoble convinced me to check Plaxo out.)

Did I mention “beta” is the operative word?

It took less than a day for fans to see what Hey! Nielsen really is — a social network that asks “users” (a word that is well past its prime) to pile into the school gymnasium and have a shouting match. Those with the biggest lungs win. And those with the most outrageous comments get the most attention.

Jericho Fans

My hat is off to Jericho fans for dominating the Hey! Nielsen site and making Jericho number one on Monday and Tuesday before all those Supernatural fans showed up and Jericho settled into second place. Firefly is third. Heroes finished fourth. Veronica Mars, which I wrote about last week, is holding its own.

Beta Pains

But the most telling result in television is that Facebook was tied with Ugly Betty for eleventh place until today. (I didn’t even know Facebook was on a network; I better pay more attention.) Linkedin, in television rankings, still holds at 60; and MySpace is ranked 40. Again, that’s in television; never mind Internet rankings.

Worse, Supernatural and Jericho fans were recently accused of spamming the system. Huh? It’s not the fans; it’s the system.

Hey! Nielsen also tries to influence the influencers on their blog with Steve Ciabattoni writing: "Thankfully, those fervent fans are also commenting and giving opinions on more than just one topic while they're here, which is exactly what we want: Deep profiles, and a deeper sense of who's out there -- and from your posts, we can tell that some of you are really out there!"

Did I mention “beta” is the operative word?

Hey! Conclusions

The Hey! Nielsen team has some pretty bright people working on it. So perhaps from beta testing a real measure of fandom might emerge from the mob rules chaos that currently exists. As it stands, not much can be determined. Hey! Nielsen even ranks second in Internet rankings (on its own system).

I was also surprised to find Copywrite, Ink. in the mix (although I might tank after this write up). Thanks for the faith!

So here’s the bottom line from an end consumer (because I am not a tech guy, which can sometimes be a good thing). Hey! Nielsen has a robust, extremely fluid interface with tremendous potential. Where it misses is in providing any sense of real measure beyond mob rules buzz. The widgets are pretty solid.

Personally, I think Hey! Nielsen would have been better off setting the topics up, linking in media critic and blogger reviews to those subjects (with the reviews subject to review), weaving in some of its BlogPulse trending technologies, and asking people to vote and comment on that. It would have gamed it a bit, but not nearly as much as it is being gamed now.

If any fan groups deserve some extra kudos, it’s Jericho and Firefly. I’m amazed that both fan bases, with one show in stasis and another long ended, have quickly rallied and dominate the site. If we’re talking influence, there it is.

Digg!

Friday, September 28

Thinking Arrows: CBS Corporation


Steven Mallas with the Motley Fool called it right. Les Moonves, president and chief executive officer of CBS Corporation, sees CBS as a content king.

However, Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, recently said, because of social media (Jericho specifically), “…So I think we are looking at a shift and a change." And with the EyeLab concept, which will give consumers the ability to create short-film clips by editing content from CBS shows, some insiders are calling CBS a “next-generation studio.”

So which is it? Consumers are asking. Some are speculating.

“I do not think CBS even has people in place to evaluate and determine whether or not an opportunity is good for them,” commented Jericho fan blogger Terocious in response to our Tuesday post. “I think the company's success with new media must be coming from a small minority within the company who sees the possibilities and is pushing for them.”

Small minorities who see possibilities and push for them.

I agree. This seems to be happening inside CBS. But will that work?

Let’s imagine Moonves as an archer. He wants to hit the bulls-EyeLab for viewers, critics, shareholders, and, well, lots of different publics. If he does, then he is an expert. The ratings come in. Fans love the company. The stock soars. Everybody makes money, a portion of which is invested to make even better content.

Of course, it’s not that easy. There are a great number of variables, just like archery. Maybe the archer needs glasses. Maybe the environment is bit windy and could blow some arrows off course. Maybe the best arrows are too expensive so some of his arrows are slightly inferior compared to others.

Add to all these challenges: arrows that have minds of their own. Right. Unlike real arrows, each CBS arrow represents a small minority of people within the company who want to fly in a slightly different direction because they see a better target or want to adjust for the wind or whatever the case may be. Well, your chances of hitting the mark are suddenly pretty thin.

Successful communication requires one archer with great vision and unwavering arrows.

Companies that win have a quiver full of arrows that will always fly in the same direction. They will likely hit the mark, every time. Or, maybe they have an archer who is intuitive enough to listen to what the arrows are telling him or her and adjust. Either way, it works.

Some people like to tell me this is impossible, especially with big companies like CBS. They tell me that building internal consensus within a big corporation is an impossible task and maybe a waste of time. But that’s not exactly true. We do it all the time.

Teaching archers and arrows to work together and hit the mark.

A couple years ago, I was hired by a major utility to help create a graphic standards manual so its identity would always have some semblance of consistency (eg. no pink logos). The challenge, I was told, was that everybody — some 40 stakeholders within the company — all had different ideas about the company’s identity. (In other words, lots and lots of thinking arrows.)

What I really wanted to do was to use our core message process because one of the benefits is consensus building. But the utility wasn’t really interested because, they said, the geographical distance between several divisions was too far. So, even though we could not use a core message process, I applied a similar method that did not require all 40 stakeholders to be present at once.

I surveyed the arrows, um, stakeholders by e-mail; and then I followed up with interviewers. By the end of my research, I came across a surprising conclusion and laughed out loud.

All 40 stakeholders believed they were the only ones who understood the identity of the company. However, all 40 stakeholders had the same view. They just didn’t know it!

While that doesn’t always happen, it put us in the position to develop graphics standard manual that the arrows felt pretty good about. They liked the diection. Even better, the archer (the communication director in this case) felt very confident in being able to hit the mark every time, no matter who held the bow. They did.

The best external communication works from the inside out.

In sum, all this means is that for companies to succeed with communicaiton, the archer and all the arrows have to agree on the mark and the direction they must travel to hit that mark.

Or, in other words, if they can agree internally, then it’s easier to move a consistent message out into the mainstream. Unfortunately, especially with the advent of social media, more and more companies are sharing their internal opposing viewpoints with the outside world.

The result is mixed messages that leave consumers confused, frustrated, or worse, disenfranchised because nobody believes what the company is saying half of the time. From what consumers are telling me, that is what is happening at CBS, most major networks, and too many companies on or off the net.

Digg!

Thursday, September 27

Thanking Bloggers: Copywrite, Ink.


While there are thousands of bloggers who deserve a ton of thanks as the Bloggers Unite campaign unfolds today, I wanted to thank a few who took the time to help promote Bloggers Unite and Copywrite, Ink.’s “Blog For Hope Competition” in cooperation with BlogCatalog. Many are BC members; several are not.

Jim Stroud. Jim is a "searchologist" and presently serves Microsoft as a technical sourcing consultant and is a regular contributor to Microsoft’s Technical Careers blog.

Idea Grove. Idea Grove (and the Media Orchard blog) is led by Scott Baradell, a former Fortune 1000 media company executive and award-winning journalist. He often brings reality to the public relations industry by pointing out what so many forget.

Jericho Monster. Jane Sweat is one of the leading fan advocates for the return of the television show Jericho. Since she started, she has become an expert in consumer marketing.

National Business Community Blog. Sure, the National Business Community Blog is a Copywrite, Ink. program but Kim Becker has taken over the management of it. Frankly, I don’t thank her enough.

A Piece of Peace by RubyShooZ. At the end of her post, Ruby placed one of my favorite quotes from Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

My Super Amazing Blog of Everything by TriblyKat. Tribly Kat is a personal blogger who writes about, well, everything she finds interesting. She not only joined Bloggers Unite but also created a Topix post for people to leave their links outside of BlogCatalog.

Ramblings From the Mermaid Tavern. Poseidon’s Muse is a personal blogger with a profound respect and fascination for world culture, art, literature and religion.

Blog Village News. Rosemary says she is retired, but she and her family maintain several antique and collectible shops that sell everything from advertising collectibles to sports memorabilia.

A Bunch Of Wordz, a personal blog/Ezine writer who picked up on the buzz “Saving The World One Blog At A Time.”

If It’s Not One Thing It’s Your Mother and The Crone’s Daily Groan and Living On The Edge of Madness. Bairbre Sine’s pre-post promotion across three blogs made me laugh with the suggestion that someone might consider posting about Republican abuse.

365 Dias. Fabio Santos is an online marketer from Brazil who promoted the event, and the “Blog For Hope Post” competition we’re sponsoring, yesterday.

Radio Free Jericho, Jericho Rally Point, and Nuts for Jericho are three Jericho fan forums that have dedicated some behind-the-scenes time to support this effort, as has the Jericho fans who frequent the CBS Jericho site.

Recruiting Bloggers. Recruiting Animal, who runs the site, has always been great to allow me to add the occasional Maybe It Pays To Blog For Good do-good post. Ditto for Jason Davis at RecruitingBlogs too.

Contest Girl is a directory of online sweepstakes, contests, and freebies. Linda’s is also one of several contest sites that have promoted the contest portion of Bloggers Unite.

I know I missed a ton of people, including all those who supported a Technorati WTF and Digg as well. Thank you all so very, very much for supporting this effort. And of course, Antony Berkman and the BlogCatalog team. You guys rock!

And if you haven’t posted about abuse today, don’t forget that there is still time to do so. Any blogger who participates has until Oct. 10 to collect some measurements and send their link to blogforhope@yahoo.com. For details, visit our original contest post. We have more recognition to extend in the weeks ahead.

Digg!

Blogging Against Abuse: Bloggers Unite

Let's Stop Abuse

Depending on how fast you read this post, about 25 children will be abused, assaulted, or caused severe physical and emotional harm. Many of them by people they trust — their moms, dads, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, guardians, teachers, coaches, ministers.

That’s one child, every 11 seconds. One right now.

Those are the obvious cases, statistics and reports chronicled by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which is a federally sponsored effort that collects and analyzes annual data on child abuse and neglect. One right now. You can find one of the most recent summaries from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services here.

As defined, these children — one right now — are only counted if the act or failure to act on the part of the parent or caretaker results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation (or failure to act, which presents imminent risk of serious harm). That doesn’t count every child — one right now — whose abuse will never be identified, recorded, or reported.

That’s 3.3 million cases reported every year. One right now.

In other words, while newspapers and public opinion might be swayed by these numbers — the real numbers that go unreported, hidden away, and sometimes even blocked by the survivors of abuse are much larger. Equally alarming are those cases that do not even qualify as abuse — one right now.

Somewhere in America, for every one of the approximately 90,000 children who will be sexually abused this year, there will be thousands more who are told they are “worthless,” “lazy,” “ugly,” “bad,” “just like their bum father,” and many other disparaging labels assigned to them by the most trusted source of information — a parent.

One right now.

Parents, in fact, account for more than 90 percent of the perpetrators of abuse, many of whom are ignorant of the outcome that is sometimes spurred on by their own feelings of inadequacy and lack of control. This post won’t change that. But maybe it will help one child, one right now, for some parents to know that how they were raised isn’t the only way. Without any judgment whatsoever, maybe it’s fair to simply point out that their justifications are incorrect. Here are some less obvious forms of abuse.

• Name-calling, putdowns, or assigning statements like “why do you always embarrass me” can work their way into your child’s self-esteem. One right now.

• Discounting major accomplishments because you are too busy on the phone or computer to hear what happened during their day erodes their self-worth.

• Declaring, sharing, and apologizing that you just don’t know why your children are “pigs” is really a form of public humiliation. One right now.

• Threatening body language such as towering above them, raising a hand, or displaying weapons like belts and cooking spoons.

It’s these little injuries delivered sometimes every day — one right now — that shape these children into the people they will become long after the parents’ responsibilities end. Even the best parents might pause now again to ask themselves simple questions: do you spend more time on your commute to work than you do with your child? One right now.

The image above is a reworked billboard from our participation in a campaign for United Way of Southern Nevada several years ago. It caused a lot of controversy because I had only included “dads” as the perpetrators, but it brought attention to where attention was needed.

Of course, even I knew then that while issue ads can be striking, the United Way needed a message that was more apt to raise funds to solve the problem. The following year, we helped them launch their “Great Results Start With U. United Way” campaign that later became “Great results start with you.” It was the longest running, most successful campaign in their history.

I wanted to mention this campaign today because it lends well to the concept of “Bloggers Unite because great results really do start with you. One blogger. One post. One right now. One topic. At a time. One right now.

Please take a moment to read and submit your Bloggers Unite post against abuse to our competition, win $250 for a charity (among other prizes), and receive some well-deserved recognition that will inspire others to lend their voices against abuse; which is important to them. One right now.

You can also purchase a T-shirt with the image above from the Bloggers Unite store. Proceeds from that item this year will be donated to Prevent Child Abuse. Proceeds from other Bloggers Unite items will be donated to aid against animal abuse as requested by our friends at BlogCatalog.

Later today, I will be adding a thank you for all those who came out early to support our "Blog For Hope Post" competition that is underway and BlogCatalog in this very important effort. If you haven't joined this effort today, there is still time. It only takes one.

Digg!

Wednesday, September 26

Advertising Respect: Adweek and JWT


According to a study released yesterday by Adweek and J. Walter Thompson (JWT), only 14 percent of those surveyed say they respect ad people.

Gasp! Sometimes, I am ad people. That’s me! (Well, sometimes anyway.) So maybe I need public relations help. Or perhaps some journalists might weigh in. Oh right, never mind.

With Mad Men on AMC capturing positive reviews and ad guys coming out of the woodwork to join some playful Ad Legends cameos, is it any wonder?

Maybe it’s because as niche sub-consultants who wear many hats, we don’t always see all the glam slam that is associated with the industry. I guess I’m still stuck on a concept my creative director knocked into my head years ago … “great advertising isn’t always about being clever, it’s hard work.”

I laughed at him then, but it didn’t take too long to find out he was right. Maybe not at the big firms, but certainly everybody I’ve worked with (including a couple of big firms). Take a ton of research, apply strategic communication, and just before you become so left brained you’ll never have a creative idea again, you push your thinking to the right and come up with something that conveys the right message to the right audience while being exciting enough to get noticed.

Here’s a reality check. The survey only accounts for 966 Americans in a random online survey. That’s not only a pretty slim number, but it was also conducted in an environment that is largely predisposed against advertising. And the real irony, the survey was conducted by an advertising agency.

What the survey does do is provide meaningful discussion points.

• 84 percent agree (strongly/somewhat), “Too many things are over-hyped now."

Just yesterday, I said buzz was not a measure. Maybe consumers agree.

• 74 percent agree, “The Internet helps me make better product choices."

This finding has social media pundits in a tizzy claiming consumers want authentic engagement. (As if social media was devoid of hype; as if pretending to be someone’s “friend” to sell them is somehow better than selling them something.)

• 72 percent agree, “I get tired of people trying to grab my attention and sell me stuff.”

Which is a tremendous irony in consumer behavior considering Harris Interactive research that suggests 100 percent the opposite.

• 52 percent agree, “There’s too much advertising — I would support stricter limits.”

These folks obviously need a trip here.

• 47 percent regard “Advertising as background noise.”

Bad advertising is background noise, you bet. Only about 10-20 percent of advertising is any good, and I’m being generous. Most ads, ironically, are company-dictated because, well, companies don’t trust ad people either.

And the list goes on. And on.

“The study significantly uncovers a basic disconnect between the ad industry’s ‘world view’ and that of its audience,” JWT reports. And that is probably the most truthful statement in the entire report.

As for the rest, even if we were to consider the sampling size to be valid, here’s the real rub in this report. Ad people might have only scored 14 percent as a repected profession, but they still beat national politicians and car salesmen. Lawyers only scored 19 percent and journalists (truth tellers) a dismal 26 percent. The ONLY two other professions even asked about were teachers and doctors, and they barely broke into the 70s.

Funny. Maybe advertisers are not the only ones using hype these days. That Adweek hyperbole headline really drew me in for a minute.

Hmmm ... maybe consumers are just not all that trusting anymore. Sometimes, I don’t blame them. (Hat tip: Recruiting Animal.)

Digg!

Tuesday, September 25

Measuring Buzz: Strategic Meets Social Media


It is no surprise to me that most social measures are misused. Many of the misconceptions mimic erroneous measures that are currently misapplied by the majority of public relations firms (not all of them) and ad sales teams.

By bridging traditional communication example with the current misapplication of measurement in social media, the error becomes even more apparent. We know a lot about that; we see it every day.

Buzz is the easy part.

In the late 1990s, my niche sub-consulting company did something out of the ordinary. We launched a split local/international trade publication for concierges and hospitality professionals.

At the time, the concierge profession was relatively new to Las Vegas, which had previously relied exclusively on VIP guest services (for guests who gambled a certain amount, based on coin in or average table wager). Between their interesting and sometimes funny stories (secrets inside Las Vegas and from around the world), front line customer service tips, and hospitality management content with interviews from key people within the industry, we had a hit concept — enough to score the front page of the Las Vegas Sun business section and dozens of write-ups in other publications.

This was a huge success because start-up publications are a dime a dozen in Las Vegas and established publications, not surprisingly, are usually unwilling to write about another upstart that might compete for advertising revenue. We were the exception.

But then again, we had a strategic plan, the right editorial mix, and knew how to communicate our message. In fact, some publishers not only gave us a leg up, but they also became content sponsors.

Buzz is not a measure.

Where the division between publicity and public relations sometimes lies is in the execution of the message and in what is measured. Had this public relations effort been measured by some firms, the measures would have been focused on the buzz.

Some might have counted column inches and reported that those column inches were worth the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars in advertising. They may have claimed that the number of “hits” the release received and media comments meant something.

They may have even claimed that they had “special relationships” with certain reporters to make sure the story got play. Or that if the release in its entirety, then that means something about the firm. Silly, I know.

Defining tangible measures.

All the media attention we received was appreciated, but not our measure. Sure, we tracked it, but that is only the tip of measurement ice berg. The real value was in tangibles like how many potential advertisers called to order one of the highest cost-per-impression publications anywhere? Several dozen.

And how well did these positive stories help establish our brand and reputation? Very well. And how many advertisers actually signed contracts? A few, but that was intentional. We only started the publication with 8 pages and didn’t have a whole lot of space to sell.

How did we do that? We had the daunting but doable task of killing the concept of cost per impression. What we had instead was something different. We calculated the value of concierge recommendations. In doing so, we discovered that concierge recommendations influenced approximately $1.2 billion in purchasing decisions in Las Vegas every year.

What does that mean? It meant concierges referred as many as 4,000 qualified buyers per month to a select retail stores, booked almost half of all reservations at select restaurants, and sent more than 2,500 additional participants to local events. These were not window shoppers. They were qualified buyers. Of course, being an advertiser was not enough to get this kind of traffic. The burden of meeting high concierge standards was still on the advertiser. (Of course, knowing key executives read the publication helped too.)

Drawing the comparison.

So what if this publication existed online today? What is a suitable measure? Link buzz? Cost per impression? Influence ranking? Click-throughs? The measurement comparisons are apparent.

Tangible results generated by our public relations effort would ultimately be the end result of receiving calls for advertisers (including the publications themselves). The measure of our media kit and sales team would be the number of qualified conversions (because we did not accept all advertisers). And for advertisers, the measure was in the number of qualified buyers recommended by a trusted source. Those are tangible measurements.

Key News * Las Vegas enjoyed a great run until we sold our rights (but the parties who bought it did not do anything with it). Five years later, we still receive calls from potential advertisers inquiring about purchasing an ad in a publication that grew from eight to 16 pages and from 500 to 10,000 hard copy and online readers. (We even had a function that was not dissimilar to a blog).

Eventually, we’ll duplicate these efforts again with someone. We just haven’t found the right partner or investor (which is secondary to our core business services). Of course, any new publication doesn’t have to be hospitality based nor would have to have the burden of expense that we had: printing and full-time designers are optional.

Digg!
 

Blog Archive

by Richard Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template