Monday, January 16

Striving For Leadership: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although the civil rights movement of the 1960s was a struggle for many — both black and white, side by side — Martin Luther King, Jr. has come to epitomize it. There's a reason. And this reason is more subtle than obvious.

Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't just speak to and for African Americans as some people like to think. He spoke for all Americans, regardless of color. And it's one of the reasons even King was often criticized by African Americans who wanted revolution over reformation. But it's how he built a broader base that didn't pit more people against each other and instead rallied people together.

The consensus builder and conscientious speaker. 

Behind the scenes, King was notoriously quiet. He listened while others argued. And it often wasn't until everyone had finished that he'd quietly sum up everyone's feelings and then find a way forward. What he did, which is often overlooked today, is find the overarching objective of many people and focus the attention on the core as opposed to fractured special interests with specific needs.

As a speaker, he often succeeded at focusing this attention on the possibility of racial or socio-economic catastrophe while simultaneously holding out the promise of racial and socio-economic peace. He understood what people wanted, which was an equal opportunity. And he understood that they could obtain it, provided they had access to housing assistance, improved education, and income assistance.

But King saw something different while looking at these often cited three pillars toward reformation. Housing fluctuates on the whims on legislative bodies, educational reforms are entangled by bureaucratic stalls, and most income assistance proceeds with coordinated bias.

Not much has changed in his assessment, with most legislative solutions geared toward stymieing symptoms at great cost and lackluster results. And the one change that has occurred, would have no doubt prompted King to revisit his assessment. A guaranteed income, especially in a more competitive global environment where higher skilled workers compete for the same jobs, is no longer a cure for poverty.

But no matter what solution he might think up today, he hit on a tangible gain to solving the socio-economic challenges of his time by pointing to importance of lifting up the dignity of the individual. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that when the decisions concerning an individual's life are in his own hands, when he has the assurance that income is relatively stable, and when he has the means to seek self-improvement, then personal conflicts — both domestic and communal — diminish.

What does that mean? It means that in regard to the strife caused by a plodding economy that has placed more people closer to poverty in the last four years, the psychological goals of the current administration are off the mark because they neither nurture individual choice, economic stability, nor the means to seek self-improvement. What is needed is a leader who can appeal to the psychological needs of people, delivering them not the bureaucracy of life management but the freedom to make choices that eventually lead them in an upward trajectory that mirrors their personal goals.

A gifted leader meets the less tangible needs of people. 

It seems unlikely there will be a national reformation that recognizes the less tangible needs of people immediately, given one side feels a need to hand out temporary rewards stolen from those struggling to preserve their own labors and the other side is poised to stop them. Still, there are principles that organizational leaders can embed into their corporate cultures that will deliver a competitive advantage.

• The recognition that the newest employee and the oldest have equal value, just as the janitor is equally as indispensable as the executive officer.
• The understanding that economic stability doesn't come from national economic policy but rather an individual's regard to their contributions within an organization.
• The wisdom that more autonomy, along with greater responsibilities, is often viewed by people as a greater reward than monetary bonuses (especially irregular ones).
• The educational support needed to excel not because an association offers training but because the training is needed and can be immediately implemented (or at least tied to where it may be needed later).
• The merit in developing a culture that appreciates all experiences somehow have meaning beyond the monotony of meeting deadlines, regurgitating policy, or ticking off to-do lists.

I am sometimes perplexed that the simplest solutions are frequently overlooked by many organizations and equally at the stalled impetus of a nation. If you want to be a better leader or understand why Martin Luther King, Jr. had the wherewithal to appeal to a broad base of people, I suggest looking at how he listened not to their wants or needs but to their underlying desire to better themselves now while leaving a greater legacy to their children than they themselves inherited.

Can you do that for yourself? Your organization? Your country? If you can, then you may be moving in the direction of being a great leader, not someone who simply delivers the countable objective but someone that fulfills the less tangible outcomes that create a corporate or even national culture of excellence.

In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Good night and good luck.

Friday, January 13

Being Temporal: Communication Trend For 2012

If there is one trend to watch that consumers want and candidates, consumers, and companies do not, it can be found in the art of being temporal. It may be the biggest communication shift this year. And I'm not convinced everyone is going to survive it.

Last year, I sat through many meetings listening to voices of dissent at the very mention of the idea. Most people want to stand up on a singular specific statement and ride it for as long as it will carry them (or try to operate with no message at all). In most cases, it can be the biggest mistake that can be made or just as big of a mistake as not having any message.

Don't misunderstand me. I've been a proponent of well-defined messages for some time. Within the confines of a single advertisement or blog post or television spot, one point sticks better than 20, especially if everyone talking about you has a different or conflicting story.

The average person consumes an entire novel worth of content every day. So we can't expect people to remember every detail. In fact, the more details they are exposed to, the more likely they are going to remember the least preferred message. And if there are any contradictions, they will be remembered.

Messages that are too rigid don't hold up either. In communication and especially politics, singular messages make people look scripted, inflexible, and disingenuous. The same holds true for companies. There were dozens of companies that said the same thing over and over last year, and the only message that stuck was they weren't to be trusted or, worse, they were complete idiots.

The Art Of Temporal Communication.

Temporal communication could be defined as the art of crafting ever-present value-based messages that are reinforced by clusters of as-needed supporting messages, which allow for flexible communication in a variety of circumstances and demonstrate a contrast between them and their competitors.

Or, in using the illustration above, (a.) an overarching, ever-present value-based message with temporary circumstance-specific (b.) messages and actions that reinforce (a.). Some companies already do it. And they do it well.

• Apple is an example, with innovation being its overarching message. Everything — its products, services, storefronts, customer service, delivery systems — reinforces innovation. You don't have to be an Apple fan to agree that it often leads the charge toward innovation.

• Zappos is an example, with personalized customer care being its overarching message. Everything — product choices, shopping cart, customer service, delivery policies — reinforces customer care. Even if you have never ordered a single product from Zappos, you might have heard about a mountain of great experiences.

• Dreamworks is an example, with free-spirited creativity being its overarching message. Everything — its movies, creative process, employee perks (like on-campus art classes) — reinforces free-spirited creativity. Even if some movies are better than others, the brand Dreamworks conjures up fun.

None of these messages limit employee communication nor do they require memorized definitions. On the contrary, it empowers communication by delivering the overarching message wherever and whenever possible to customers and non-customers alike, and in as many ways as possible. These companies do it so well, their messages are the primary contrast point between them and everybody else.

The Oversimplified Example Of Temporal Communication.

When people decide to go on a diet, they often tell people they are on a diet or dieting. The statement conveys a very narrow message. The message might even be accurate, but it isn't really a good one.

Besides reinforcing a negative stereotype (being overweight) and concentrating on scarcity (giving something up), dieting places the dieter in one compromising position after another.

If someone bakes homemade cookies, the dieter is forced to break their diet or reinforce that they are too overweight to make an excpetion. If someone doesn't gradually lose weight, they see it as a failure (and sometimes other people). If they do start to gradually lose weight, it's not uncommon for other people to derail them by telling them that they no longer need to diet.

What if they had a different message? What if they decided to be health conscious or fitness focused instead? What if that was their overarching core message instead of being on a diet?

A health conscious or fitness-focused person can more freely adapt to a rapidly changing environment. They can eat one cookie. No one is going to argue for them to stop. They aren't going to over do it. And it doesn't even matter what their temporary weight might be. As long as they are doing, they are succeeding.

It also opens up new messages that reinforce the primary message. For example, if someone says they are on a diet, only not eating proves it. If someone says they are health conscious, any number of actions or messages can reinforce that message: hygiene, exercise, food choices, etc.

Did you see so-and-so today? They ran a mile. Did you see so-and-so today? They ate an apple. Did you see so-and-so today? They're looking great! Well, of course. They're always health conscious.

Wednesday, January 11

Educating: And The Future Of Public Relations

While every class of Writing for Public Relations students is different, there is an unsettling trend that has accelerated in recent years. Students, some of whom are working professionals, are more inclined to feel that they haven't received enough direction before receiving their first news release writing assignment.

Before their first news release assignment (but not their first assignment), they are given instruction on identifying news leads and better writing in general; base information to be included in the release (who, what, when, where, why); format instruction, including a two-page example featuring a closely related topic; an organizational website to source additional information (as well as additional hints at where to find background information); and general instruction on usage of the Associated Press Stylebook.

Last year, for better than half the class, I was told this wasn't enough information. 

The last client who asked me to write a news release gave me a general topic. "I want a new release about 'blank.'" That was it. And looking back 20 some years ago, the first client who asked me to write a news release said exactly the same thing. Most of the time, however, I'm not even given a topic.

It wasn't any different as a journalist, I recall. I received my first assignment from a heavily circulated entertainment magazine because I happened to be at a press conference. The editor of the magazine was sitting at my table and after we started talking, he said "write something about this mess ... 700 words. It's due Tuesday." So I did.

Early freelance assignments were even more challenging. You had to send a pitch letter, which means you were solely responsible for every stitch of the article, from concept to the finished piece (which ought to match the general tone of the magazine). But that's what you did. Many writers still do.

It's worth mentioning because it demonstrates the contrast between the need of the field and the expectation of students in the educational system. The need is problem solving. The expectation is direction for the directionless.

Standardized testing is an incredible waste of time because it measures short-term memory.

As America rushes toward standardized testing, Asia is moving away from standardized testing. They are moving away from it for the same reason Finland is emerging as one of the most educated countries in the world despite children waiting until they are 7 years old to enter school. Standardized testing isn't an adequate measure of knowledge and, more importantly, it isn't a measure of applied knowledge.

Instead of testing the child in a clever ruse to find potential, they assume all children have potential. Instead of asking children to memorize facts for multiple guess tests, they are intent on finding out what it takes to educate each child because they do not believe socio-economic-ethic differences and the ability to be educated are inherently linked. And most important, they want to teach students how to think as opposed to what to think.

I want to teach public relations and communication students to think too. And every year, they are resisting it with greater vigor. (One of my colleagues even told me that he had a student ask whether or not some material was going to be on a test because if not, he'd better move on instead of wasting time.)

The entire field of public relations and communicaton can be summed up as problem solving.

While it could be said of any field, I am starting to believe that the next wave of students who consider communication as a viable field will struggle compared to those who entered the field ten years ago. Not all of them, mind you. But a large enough percentage to turn the field inside out as these students are more reliant on rote memorization and tip sheets than ever before.

And, along with those tip sheets comes something else. When the crisis communication steps or the sentence-by-sentence boilerplate release shell doesn't produce results (because all crisis is different and journalists aren't keen on boilerplate releases), they don't have to take personal responsibility.

After all, it's not their fault. Either they will be perplexed because the tip sheet failed, not them. Or they will be affable because the boilerplate shell failed, not them. Or maybe it was the instructor or blogging tipster who failed, not them. Or maybe it was the vendor who failed them, despite relying on the same tips.

How to write a news release is too simple for many to grasp, because the simplicity is complex.

If you want to write a news release that wins, all you have to do is find the news value (with an emphasis on what is unique if the announcement is commonplace). Write in such a way that it is easy for journalists to put their own spin on it. Make it sound fresh without the hype, because if the news release sounds boring then the news you have is probably boring (or maybe it's your writing). Make sure you consider the audience beyond the journalists and the brand too. And send it to the right journalists (those who have an interest in whatever you are pitching).

That is all there is to it. Five steps that I'll reframe next week to make it more palatable. But don't let those steps mislead you. If you are going to do it right, these will be some of the most challenging steps you could ever hope to follow.

And therein lies why so many public relations professionals are struggling. They want to be told what the news is, told what words to use, told how to write, told what journalists want, told what people will respond to, and told where the list with the right journalists is located.

But that's not public relations. It's regurgitation. It's the by-product of 12 years of standardized multiplication tests. And it's starting to impact every field from web design to technological innovation. Unless, of course, we can reverse the instruction and inspire people to become problem solvers again.

Monday, January 9

Crunching Numbers: Why CNN Couldn't Predict Iowa

The CNN article comparing the Republican presidential primary candidate online scorecards just prior to the Iowa caucus last Tuesday (hat tip: Geoff Livingston), demonstrates just how little the network understands social media.

While the lead line — a strong Web presence must be part of every political hopeful's strategy — is right, CNN doesn't really understand what it all means. The online scorecard, as they called it, doesn't mean anything, especially with the number they cherry picked from a handful of social networks.

Sure, CNN qualified it, saying "these numbers may have no bearing on how the candidates actually fare with Iowa caucus goers." May? Show some backbone. They have no bearing on the outcome and they won't in any other state either.

Why online scorecards mean virtually nothing to political campaigns, especially primaries. 

A quick recap of the presidential nominee hopefuls showed Ron Paul winning Twitter, Rick Perry winning Facebook, Ron Paul winning YouTube, and Newt Gingrich in a dead heat with Mitt Romney on Klout.

(Klout? You've got to be kidding me, CNN. Here's the scoop on Klout. Quit pimping it for a score.)

In the end, the Iowa caucus goers returned a decidedly different verdict, placing Mitt Romney (who was dead last on YouTube) and Rick Santorum (who was dead last on Twitter and has the worst possible top Google search result) in first and second (or second and first or perhaps tied, depending on how you see the caucus counting snafu). So what happened?

The social media numbers CNN chose to report don't consider proximity (there was no analysis of how many lived in Iowa), candidate preferences (some people likely follow more than one or all), degree of influence (which way they leaned), the sentiment of the interest (sometimes people follow candidates for comic relief), or the greater body of communication (offline) that bombard people on a daily basis (likely 100 to 1). And about a hundred or a thousand other things.

Heck, those numbers didn't even consider the most rudimentary question — who is registered to vote and for which party, if any. And there was no way to count the closeness of the communication (e.g., one visit by a candidate at your home carries more weight than a gazillion tweets). 

And there is the rub. Not even the silly mention machine that the Washington Post runs on the bottom of its website can account for anything. It counts "tweet" mentions in the last week, with Gingrich capturing 56,000 and Huntsman picking up 23,000. (Huntsman is worth following for the entertainment value lent to his campaign by his daughters, but that's about it.) And yet, more and more media outlets reward candidates for capturing buzz ups by placing their faces on the page, like online advertisements.

The real social media numbers that matter aren't the social media numbers you can find.

None of this is to suggest that an online presence doesn't count. It counts. But no one can really measure what you need to know to have a semblance of an accurate prediction.

The bottom line is some percentage of all their followers, friends, subscribers, and viewers do count. They are registered loyalists who either have influence over caucus goers or are caucus goers — people who will actually share the messages with other people who will listen or, more importantly, vote. In other words ... each candidate had about three peeps in Iowa who fit this description except Santorum and Romney who obviously had four and five, er, five and four, er, four-and-a-half and four-and-a-half each.

In realizing this, it might even one day make us pity any politician who actually takes online advice, never appreciating that it was started by a few hundred people from a foreign country. Oh wait, this already happened. Never mind.

The best online analysis on political campaigns has nothing to do with politics.

Seriously. Because politics tends to be overtly pronounced — bigger success and bigger blunders — this is an excellent opportunity to watch the ebb and flow of the net, immediate reactions that buffet the candidates around like Ping-Pong balls. And while you watch it, don't be overly amused (even if it is amusing) because the same thing can happen to a business any time.

Decent social media people can understand the numbers of any social media program. Good social media people can understand the marketing and public relations ramifications. And great social media people can feel whether or not something is sticky or slippery. There is an art to it, specifically one that appreciates the human behavior of individuals, groups, and the masses.

And, at the same time, if you are interested in this political cycle as it pertains to some future outcome, keep in mind that the Internet has undergone some dramatic changes since the last presidential campaign. The mass adoption that has taken place, along with less scrupulous non-voting outsiders masquerading as concerned voters, will make predictability impossible. And that is the only thing you can count on in all future elections.

Friday, January 6

Changing Social Networks: Five Big Changes In Progress

Sometimes social network developers feel like they're in a foot race. If they aren't moving forward and making big changes, the general thinking is that they are somehow falling behind. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they aren't.

But social networks are compelled to make changes whether they need them or not, and I've been told as much by people who own them. The only hold out among bigger networks is Reddit. It relishes its own roughness and the people love them for it.

Personally, I like change. It's why I do what I do. 

But not all change is good. So why is it almost every social network is undergoing change, with Linkedin and Google+ being the least obvious? They think they have to, with the latter network not as obvious because it's currently implementing changes around its network instead.

For example, not everyone noticed that Google+ gave Blogger users the option to replace their Blogger profile with a Google+ profile. I work with several platforms, including Blogger, so I noticed. I made the change too, which came with some unintended consequences like changing my Blogger post signature from Rich to Richard Becker. The cost is a certain casualness, but I can live with it.

The rest are undergoing more obvious changes. Some are good. Most aren't. Let's look at five.

The five most significant social network changes taking place right now.

1. Facebook. Facebook wants people to migrate to Timeline. On the surface, it's not a big deal. It's a new graphically-intensive look for the largest social network on the block. Under the hood, Timeline is not a small deal. It will change the way you think about Facebook.

Pros. For professionals, especially those in communication, the personal marketing potential is right on target. The branding opportunities are apparent; so much so that some people have changed their tone. There isn't much they can do about the past. That quip in 2009 is alive and well on the front page.

Cons. For most people, Timeline makes Facebook feel more formal. For the exact same reason personal marketers like Timeline, most people do not. They did not sign up for Facebook to tell their story. They signed up to connect and have fun. Timeline also places privacy in the forefront once again, but that is an entirely different conversation.

Outcome. Mostly neutral. The best thing about Timeline is the look and that it is optional, for now. Over time, Timeline is the direction Facebook wants to go. While this scrapbook concept is okay, it redefines the intent, which leads people to wonder if maybe they ought to share only their choicest moments in life, which means all our casual connections, shares, and banter are best left ... where?

Best use. Whether for business or pleasure, it's still the best network connector out there today. So let's hope they don't blow it for the sake of Timeline.

2. Twitter. Twitter, which was the only social network that initially refused to be called a social network and still does, has been rolling out changes in big broad strokes. While not everyone has the new interface, those who do are struggling to get used to it.

Pros. The aesthetic is more pleasing at a glance because it reopens more of the background image, giving marketers more room for branding and contact information.

Cons. The new interface is counterintuitive, including where you compose a new tweet. Instead of above the feed, it forces you to move up to the top of the page or sweep left. It also places things you don't need to see (who to follow) directly in your field of vision. And ironically, things you do what to see (like a website link and mini bio) on a completely different page.

Outcome. It sucks. Every day I sign in to Twitter, I dread the day my account will suddenly look like one of the ones I manage. If it wasn't so heavily adopted, this change would convince me to leave it. Thank goodness for third-party interfaces.

Best use: While its ability has been hindered with marketing messages and link sharing, it manages to retain its status as a real-time communication tool. But it might not if it imposes a new layout.

3. Digg. Digg hasn't really known what to do with itself since it cut off its mutual sharing services (Digg me and I'll Digg you pacts) nose to spite its mutually spammy community (no one else was left) face just before it turned commercial. Recently, Digg was hoping to revive itself by encouraging people to share their Diggs on Facebook.

Pros. Other than showing how many tweets and likes something has (which is surprisingly inaccurate), you tell me.

Cons. Noted changes to Facebook aside, I don't think I could ever bring myself to share a link from Digg, which would require people to pass through Digg to get to what I am sharing. Some people do, but I don't get it.

Outcome. I want to like Digg, but Digg makes it hard to like Digg. The core problem is that it killed its sense of community and hasn't done anything to get it back.

Best use: It's a remnant news aggregator without enough topic categories, mostly used by people who want to share tabloid news, tech, science, and politics. Well, sort of.

4. Delicious. The bookmarking service that Google wanted to kill before fans pushed back has undergone big changes since it was sold. The initial changes were designed to make it more graphically oriented and better organized, which was a good call.

Pros. It does look better and is better organized. Even the "stacks" was a solid concept, which allows you to group similar posts together, regardless of how they are tagged.

Cons. Unfortunately, the network tied its front page content to popularity as opposed to freshness. As soon as it did, the front page started looking static and participants discovered less new content, with the exception of those gaming the system.

Outcome. At the current drop-off rate, Delicious won't be saved. It might even be dead by the end of the year, and I don't think anyone will care unless it gets fixed.

Best use. If you want to collect content and you want to send people to it, Delicious is a fine place to do it. Unfortunately, discovery trumps bookmarks and networks without people are useless.

5. For the last few weeks, I've been reading posts about written by people who claim to know social networks. They say that the bright and shiny object syndrome days are over because nobody is piling into the new They are wrong because isn't really new. It's a completely re-imagined Mixx and it has a foothold (but not with marketers).

Pros. Mixx needed to be remixed, and has done a great job at it. It's graphically smart, easy to navigate, and organized by a tagging system that allows you to follow tags or people. It also staffs visible human editors who share outstanding content.

Cons. It may never have mass appeal, preferring to serve a hard core notch. Sometimes that's better.

Outcome. There is definitely a renewed interest in, especially in the arts, which is where I spend most of my time there. It is hands down the best change of the bunch because the developers were clearly thinking about people first. Even better, there is no incentive to be the biggest "chimer" on the block.

Best use. It's one of the better organized topical playgrounds and feels intuitive to discover new things within a topic or people who share the same interests.

I probably could have included SlideShare and StumbleUpon too (especially because it took a few days to find a direct submit link button on StumbleUpon), but I'm still walking through what's really new. I also could have included a few that recently shuttered. Suffice to say no one really noticed (which is why they were shuttered.) Only one really surprised me. It's only flaw was it wasn't being marketed.

There are really four lessons here, and you've heard them before. When you start trying to be all things to all people (e.g., Facebook, Google+), eventually you could become nothing to everyone.
When you forget to keep people in mind and simply expect people to like whatever is on your mind, they tend to wander (Digg, Delicious). When you embrace change for the sake of change, it's never a good idea (Twitter). But when change has a purpose for the people you serve, it's almost always great (

And, most importantly, never think for a second you've figured out a social network. The moment you do, the entire site will be remade. And when that happens, all of your so-called assets will be gone.

Wednesday, January 4

Flipping Forward: 2012 Ahead

I've never been a proponent of sharing firm news here unless it's relevant. But this year, it's relevant.

There are plenty of changes ahead for me and my firm, and some of them will inevitably land here (but not all at once). After writing and sharing more than 1,400 posts related to communication, this space is starting to feel overdue for more diversity, especially as it applies commentary, curiosity, and creativity.

I don't necessarily have a direction per se, but I did invest most of last year on projects leading up to this year. The direction fits right in with some of the advice I shared last year — less talking and more doing. Doing pays dividends.

Copywrite, Ink. will undoubtedly remain the hub of my business activity (and I don't mean this blog, but the company behind it). After building this company for more than 20 years, it makes good sense to keep evolving it. However, what we do and how we do it has been changing for some time.

Since the beginning, communication and writing services has been at the core of the company. And while much of that will remain, the company also increased its investments in several incubator projects, both proprietary and partnered. With some of these projects maturing this year, we're shifting toward an invitation-only structure: We will decline more prospective accounts than we accept.

While some people might think this is counterintuitive given the economy, I am confident the new model is a better fit with a new economy. It will be a better fit with a company vested in creation as much as communication. And, it will be a better fit for me, because too much of the communication industry is settling on client servitude — over-concentrating on things like reach, frequency, and clicks rather than the hard work that makes those things tick.

Don't fool yourself. If those are measures, you have the wrong objectives. Carry on without them.

Liquid [Hip] is one of our creation projects. What began as little more than a whim 18 months ago has grown steadily from a few hundred visitors a month to tens of thousands. I still consider it a hobby of sorts, but only because it's fun to be immersed in creative works. It also gives me a venue to experiment with social media without any of the constraints that are sometimes imposed by clients.

If you've never visited, Liquid [Hip] is an online review site, which only reviews things the reviewers actually like. There is a heavy emphasis on music and books, but our editorial rotation allows us to pick up apps, film, fashion, gadgets, games, and good will. It's not for everyone. We cover cool, not popular.

Currently, we're busy corralling all the reviews, but there are some other exciting prospects for Liquid [Hip] in the months ahead. I'll share some of these developments as they mature in actualities.

Celebrating Legacy. Last May, I had the good fortune to meet one of the most highly decorated police officers in the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Retired law enforcement professional Randy Sutton envisioned an online legacy archival system after several deeply personal experiences made him reassess life and invest two years into developing something that could add value to other people's lives. Celebrating Legacy was the outcome.

While there are several other great people involved (to be introduced in the future), what originally started as a communication project quickly evolved into a creation project. Borrowing from years of behind-the-scenes experience with several social networks, I became a lead project architect.

Currently, Celebrating Legacy is pre-alpha with internal program testing slated for January. We'll immediately follow this up with an invitation alpha phase. There is still some dust on the site itself, but you are more than welcome to visit the front porch or submit an application to become an alpha tester. At its earliest stages, I anticipate alpha testers will have access to 80 percent of 'year one' services.

Yorganic Chef is a hybrid creation-communication project for our firm, which is also maturing this month. The site will sport a placeholder page until about mid to late January. Once launched, Yorganic Chef will provide people a place to order ready-made gourmet meals in the Los Angeles area. The meals will then be delivered to the customer's front door on a schedule convenient for them.

The venture is the brainstorm of Nick Diakantonis, who has 25 years of culinary and entrepreneurial experience. Years ago, he was one of the founders of Pasta Ditoni's (a wholesale pasta distribution company) as well as Piazza Market, which is located in Ohio.

Los Angeles will be the first of many markets where Yorganic Chef will open. Initially, Diakantonis planned to make Las Vegas his test market until an angel investor of sorts lobbied for his company to start in Los Angeles. Having seen the menu, this is the right project at the right time and in the right market.

Odds & Ends. The projects above represent the forefront. Personally, I have a book to finish this year (sigh, maybe), a children's book to illustrate, and two concepts for board games that were the direct result of hanging out too much on Kickstarter last year. This creates a nice array of options, and some of it has even prompted me to invest some holiday downtime into rekindling dusty skill sets in fine arts.

At the same time, I will stay on with UNLV and have accepted an invitation to speak at the Nevada Parks & Recreation Society conference in April. The topic will likely be social media, perhaps a parsed version of last year's social media class (the deck almost refined enough to share online).

And, although I am extremely reluctant to come out of retirement from politics, I have been asked to work on a Nevada State Senate race, two State Assembly races, and one Congressional race (as campaign manager on any of them, if I want it). We'll see. These aren't decisions to make lightly.

A Conclusion Or Perhaps An Opening...

I've had some wonderful opportunities to meet hundreds and thousands of people in the seven years since I started this blog. Not all of them are in communication, but it's the communicators who need to hear this the most. Unless your company is doing, social media is an exercise in spinning wheels.

Sure, there are a few communication blogs that become popular enough. But most of them eventually fade away. From my original 2005 blog list, not one remains. From my Fresh Content Project list last year, maybe 20 percent are viable today. And if I added all the communication blogs up, maybe one in 1,000 monetize social media into speaking, authoring, or consulting.

Keep that mind, especially when you ask yourself what you are going to write about this year. It's the wrong question to ask. Unless you teach social media, you really need to be doing something else. And then you can write about that. Care to join me? I know 2012 will be great year. I hope it is for you too.

The first social media story (Friday) this year runs down a few social networks you've forgotten about and whether or not their recent changes are enough. And then, on Monday, I'll follow it up on why politics cannot be measured by social media or media relations as much as grass roots.

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