Friday, February 20, 2009

Will Conan win America?

Wednesday night I'm up late watching Conan during his final week in the late, late slot. He's been removing something from his set each night, giving it away to someone in the audience. A strange, funny, sentimental move that is very watchable.

I couldn't turn away as he attacked one of the formerly permanent music stands. He chose the sledge hammer and pounded it, then rocked it back and forth, and pulled it off its mooring on the stage, music sheet, mic, wires and all. He returned the music sheet to the trombone player. (Trombone player looks at Conan as if to say, "what do you want me to do with that?" As if the music sheet was itself damaged - and when they went to music, he had to share mic and music stand with the sax player.)

Then he grabbed an axe and chopped the mic cables right on the stage. I'm shocked at this point, knowing that he's leaving permanent damage on the NBC stage. He finally hefts the battered fixture up the steps and lays it across two audience members at the top of the seats.

Huffing and puffing, he returns to his mark on the stage, throws back his shock of red hair and says, "Wow. That was totally not planned. Ooh. That can't be good. (shot of the permanent damage on the floor) Look. The producer is not happy. OK, we'll be right back with (guest)." (go to music. shot again of damaged floor, instant replay of Conan removing bandstand).

Brilliant. Insane. Great TV. Too bad for the NBC carpenter who has to fix this mess.

Slate columnist Ben Mathis-Lilley says Conan will make the transition and hold the late night slot against Letterman and ABC's Nightline.

I'm just talking about entertainment. If there's any value in it at all, we must get a handle on the "inspiration of the moment."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Big 3 automakers - Isolated at Fawlty Towers

I love private air travel. Nothing speeds my day along like being driven to the airfield, boarding my own jet, and taking off, only to be whisked away to my meeting or dinner upon arrival. First class commercial travel is the next best thing, but it doesn’t really come close – all that wasted time in security and the unwashed masses and whatnot.

Driving cross-country is an entirely different experience. One gas tank at a time, I get to see cities, ‘burbs, hamlets and countryside speed by outside my climate controlled window. Pull over at a rest stop. Slip the card in the slot, wrench off the cap, slam in the nozzle, squeeze off another 20 gallons, hit the head and I’m off for another 400 miles.

America’s Big 3 auto executives had no such decision to make. It never even occurred to them that they might want to drive to beg Congress/the American taxpayers for a few billion dollars to hold them over. Instead, eack CEO took his own corporate jet to the hearings at the U.S. Capitol.
Auto executives, banking executives, Wall Street magnates, and other corner office holders are so isolated from what we call “normal life,” that they are missing in whole or in large part the way the rest of us see things. I can imagine these executives’ shock as the media descended upon the news that private planes were S-O-P. These unusual times prompted no review, no second thought. The outgoing Congress of 2008 set the tone, and every high-leverage, high-risk operator in the Dow-Jones Industrials is bellying up to the taxpayers’ bar.
To blame: the chief communications officers of GM, Ford and Chrysler, and the institutional “let them eat cake” culture that has infected American capitalism. As they were planning for these Congressional hearings, someone, anyone should have bravely strode into the executive wing and said, “You know, those other two guys are probably going to fly their jet to DC. We should drive our hybrid.”

That would have been the PR coup of the year. Instead, we all enjoyed watching them stumble into the PR gaffe of the year.

Should you care to re-cap the embarrassing mess from mid-November 2008:

A month later, the auto execs returned to Congress, having done their homework and with their tail between their legs. And guess what, they drove! Ford’s Alan Mulally rode from Dearborn to Washington, D.C. in a Ford Escape hybrid. GM’s Rick Wagoner (and entourage) are said to have driven a Chevy Malibu and Cobalt (both hybrids) and an alt-fuel Buick Lucerne. Chrysler’s Robert Nardelli cruised down in an Aspen SUV hybrid.

Heidi N. Moore’s blog in the WSJ’s Deal Journal of Dec. 2, 2008 makes the point smartly: “…while these supplicants may have learned their lessons about how to put on a great show of acting penitent, it isn’t clear that real penitence–or real change–is yet the order of the day.”
Yes, this story is months old, but I needed to post what I’ve been saying, for your perusal. Why this story still matters: on one hand America is coming to grips with hard-earned (?) bonuses on Wall Street, on the other hand a $500k salary cap for corporations on the government dole. Banks and financial firms can no longer hold corporate meetings under the lights of the Vegas Strip. The fallout has not yet settled.

I don’t need to tell you that things have changed. But somebody needs to tell our captains of industry. They need solid, ethically based PR counsel. Chavis Crew Communications is for hire.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Telling your story to men in the 21st century

Notes from Dangerous Man Day 2009: Tell Your Story - Communicating To Men In The 21st Century

Class description: Remember UHF, rotary phones, the radio dial, and the postage stamp? Learn to tell your story in the brave new world of social networks, blogs, e-blasts, and more with communications maven Steve Chavis.

PREMISE: experience in traditional forms of mass media do not matter as much as facility and flexibility with new forms of media, including social networks. Some basic discipline, however, still apply.

the 5 W’s: Who, what, where, when, why

A verse from King David: “…promotion comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.” Psalm 75:6,7


1. ISOLATION. (distance = safety).
2. BOTTOM LINE – men communicate via questions.
3. DESIRE TO WIN, men are goal or “challenge” oriented.
4. COMPARTMENTALIZE - men focus on either logic or emotions
5. ORDER - rules over relationships.
6. ANGER – men need safe place to express emotions.

Know your mission – honed to a “matchstick” version or 20-second elevator speech

Keep it LOCAL and UNIQUE (specific to your calling or niche)

Practice message discipline -- In any communications, avoid too many images, too many messages.
“We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” President Dwight Eisenhower, April 2, 1957

Call for action: give your audience easy, specific ways to get involved, do something.

Readers are looking for more personal revelations

Shorter messages and more often

Human language (Cluetrain Manifesto – Thesis #4, see HANDOUT, inside)
-Jargon is out, “insider” language is out, Christian-ese is out
-Dilbert / corporate speak is out, PR doublespeak is out
-Respect your audience – find the feeling is mutual

Note the transition from quality (excellence) to authenticity (transparency, humanness).

For a free copy of the E-book Communications Attitude – a study of Proverbs 15, e-mail

NEW AVENUES (Looking for immediate ROI?)
The future is now! Adaptation is key. The pace of technological and societal change has accelerated. Commit a portion of your time to study where things are going.

Today, the watchword is VIRALITY.
From technology guru Tim O’Reilly ( Note the way shifted the online media game by offering embed codes that allow anyone to post the videos at their own sites, and not require all visitors to come to (and their advertisers). It was a clear choice, and it has made YouTube far more prevalent in cyberspace.

(from Steve) Also note the way Adobe introduced their reader. The reading software (and other products) are free to everyone, and we love access to all those documents and articles on line as PDF files. But if you want to create PDF files (and other types of media files), you have to buy the creator software.

These new technology corporations understand virality. Project your product and make it easy to use. Content producers will always pay the price to reach large audiences. Are you willing to give away half of what you do, in order to see the other half go global? (Why is it that business is so much better at giving things away than the Body of Christ?)

Think about your audience. Understand your men. Observe. Survey. Ask. That will help shape which strategies you pursue with greatest return.

-Internet users between the ages of 35-54 now account for 40.6% of the MySpace visitor base, an 8.2% increase during 2006.
-Peaked in June 2007 with 7% of all Internet visits
-“Struggling societies” (lower income)
-4% more women visitors than Facebook
-More affluent “affluent suburbia”
-Growing to 1% of all Internet visits
-1.2 million visitors per month
-A weekday event, with weekend use dropping to half its weekday rate
-10% more likely to be male than the average internet user
-25-44 year old segments have found more value in Twitter and started to ramp up usage.

How many people can you reasonably be expected to keep up with?
Dunbar’s Number - the theory of anthropologist Robin Dunbar popularlized in Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point (Back Bay Books, 2002.
-Theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom you can maintain stable social relationships – 150 as an upper limit.
-The larger the group, the more rules, limits, parameters.
-Drawn from size of the human neocortex, village size and migration, and behavior of non-human primates
-A different theory called the Bernard – Killworth number is 230.
-A guy in NY has 693 MySpace friends, but is creating strict rules about who he will accept, and promises to write 12 friends a day and eventually rotate through all of them.

- for e-blogger / Google
- – Wes Roberts, Rick Kingham
-Keep it short – keep it current (unlike this blog)

-Obama's amazing success built on the work of John Edwards in 2004,
-raised gobs of $$,
-sent messages aimed at their region, one message for states that border Mexico, a different message for Michigan – “Houdini Project” real time reporting on election, crossing off names within 30 mins. of their vote, to cull the call lists.
-Announce the VP pick via text message
-3.5 million Facebook friends

News, photos, - KEEP IT CURRENT
Use natural, intuitive flow to your pages

RSS – Longmont FYI
By e-mail address


From the “95 Theses” in The Cluetrain Manifesto
Levine, Rick, Locke, C., Searls, D., Weinberger, D. The Cluetrain Manifesto. Cambridge, MA. Perseus Books, 2000. (
1. Markets are conversations.

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

18. Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.

21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

38. Human communities are based on discourse – on human speech about human concerns.

50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.

78. You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.

91. Our allegiance is to ourselves – our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point. Boston. Back Bay Books, 2002. (

Levine, Rick, Locke, C., Searls, D., Weinberger, D. The Cluetrain Manifesto. Cambridge, MA. Perseus Books, 2000. (

Tancer, Bill, “MySpace v. Facebook: Competing Addictions.” 2007, New York.,8599,1675244,00.html

Moskalyuk, Alex, “Age Demographics of MySpace visitors.” 2006

Freiert, Max, “Twitter Traffic Explosion: Who’s behind it all?” 2008.

SOURCES AND RESOURCES (the technology place for non-profits) TopRank’s internet marketing blog on the intersection of digital PR, social and search engine marketing. (Steve’s business communications blog) (Steve’s personal blog commentary)

MEN’S MINISTRY WEBSITES (from my bookmarks)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Friending, tweeting, and other new behaviors

My first blog post of 2009 is on the matter of social media. One month not long ago MySpace captured an amazing 7-8% of all Internet visits. Facebook is coming on strong, jumping to a full 1% of all Internet visits. Twitter is coming on strong too, and marketers are paying attention to the little 140-character personal updates.

Why do people care so much about mundane personal matters and “shout outs”?

These social networks are a way to interact personally in an increasingly impersonal computer age. A “high touch” reaction to a high tech world. A book from nearly a decade ago, The Cluetrain Manifesto, highlights the importance of a “human voice” in corporate communications. Enough with the jargon and corporate-speak!

Back in December 19, 2008, new media guru Tim O’Reilly was a guest on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation – Science Friday.” It’s worth 23 minutes to get a better handle on the future of social media.

Coming next, notes from my workshop at Dangerous Man Day on communicating to men in the 21st century.