Monday, October 25, 2010

Learning style points for social media

Many thanks to Sam Fiorella, of and sponsors for last week’s "Social Media Squared" seminar in Denver. The long day was chock full o’ tips and techniques. But mostly, I appreciated the changes in mindset being forced upon American business by the wide open social media culture.

I liken the current transition from “old PR” to “new PR” to the difference between learning styles. Consider the difference between room dynamics in a lecture (“I’m the expert. Shut up and listen.”) and a more interactive symposium (a learning environment in which the attendees are expected to share their expertise). In fact, sharing (give and receive) is a cardinal ethic in the social media universe.

At the University Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, 26 world renown “Nationality Classrooms” depict the different learning styles employed around the world. We are generally familiar with the ornate, forward-facing, “professor knows everything” layout of the Norway classroom.

The beautiful Indian classroom, also ornate, orients the students’ desks facing each other. In this design, a “shared” learning experience is encouraged.

The clock is ticking on hierarchical business structures in the 21st century global economy. Here is a short list of a few of Fiorella’s “new” paradigms of communications in the social media age:

• Note the transition from “one to many” (broadcast) to “one to few” (database, e-blasts) to “one to one” (super niched, highly targeted, almost personal communications).

• Case study: Boston restaurant blogs recipes and videos for foodies, sees 30% rise in sales a year later.

• “You are serving the COMMUNITY – not yourself.”

• “Social media is used to create conversations, not make announcements.” (Even celebrity and PR announcements made on Twitter want to be part of the conversation.)

• In the “Social Media Ecosystem,” healthy organisms feed each other.

• In the era of Web 2.0, work is not a space, it’s an activity. (no more “going in to work.”)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Growing your blog, basically

A client recently asked me “how do I get more people to read my blog?” A great, bottom line question. In fact, an entire industry has been build up around getting one's blog or website noticed. Without going too deeply into the soil, let me keep it simple. Focus on “the 3 C’s.”

Your blog needs a snappy title, and a sub-title that describes your target topic/genre/niche.

Your lead paragraph has to meet the requirements of a good lead, including the key words by which you want to be found.

Facebook raises the value of its posts that contain media (image or video link), or that have comments.

One of many ways to engage your audience is to ask a question at the end of your post. Comments on your blog post are golden.

A Google search of the term SEO (“search engine optimization”) turned up 1.32 BILLION hits just now (the industry I was referring to above). The purpose of SEO is to get as high on the page of search results as possible. As you study those “best practices” (use of keywords, lots of people linking to your site, called “back links”), you will – in theory - develop a higher search result.

A couple of articles I like on the basics of SEO:
  • Stoney deGeyter’s SEO 101.
  • offers a few pages to help you sort through the concepts of SEO, and don’t miss the discussion on ethics of Content SEO and Non-Content SEO.

This is the social part of social media. Your blog entries should include LOL (“lots of links”). There will sometimes be a reciprocal linking to your blog posts, but only if your work truly adds to the conversation.

Good blog pages also have a “blog roll,” a handy list of related blogs that the host likes. In the process of building any social media site (Facebook or Twitter) or blog, if you want friends, be friendly! Check out my previous post on “Blog rollin’.”

If you are a writer, you must write. Not just colorfully, but regularly. It doesn’t have to be long, in fact, keeping your topics focused will keep your blogs short. Try to keep your blog short enough to read between stops on the Metro.

Want to bring in another aspect of the issue? Write another blog. Ongoing, regular content keeps your readers (and search engines) well-fed and happy. There is no other route to growing an audience.

Content.  Connections.  Consistency.  The basics, but there is so much more to say…

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blog rollin'

It took a while for the blog roll to take share on my marketing and communications idea spot, Seismic. But it’s finally here. Thanks to social media maven Sarah Evans and media database Cision’s Heidi Sullivan on a recent social media webcast. Their webcasts are free!

I was convinced by Seth Godin’s post on “Demonstrating strength.” The line “Risking the appearance of weakness takes strength. And the market knows it” was the last straw. I was concerned that with all the truly excellent content on other blogs, my offerings would look pale in comparison. That’s an old-fashioned, defensive view of the open nature of the internet.

A little “self-talk” reminded me of the unique experiences and skill set I offer to my clients, friends and contacts. The last 30 years in radio and international non-profit PR weren’t for nothing’!

My process for building the blog roll began with deciding how many and which blogs to post. I begin with 20 blogs and websites in my “best of.” Probably my years of radio and “Top 20” in my brain somewhere. Sarah Evans only has 15. Cision has 33.

Some of the blogs I settled on I’ve followed for years. I even included a link to the static site for The Cluetrain Manifesto. It’s concepts are essential for late adaptors and reluctant communicators. The rest I investigated from Advertising Age’s “Power 150," solely based on the name of the blog. Yup, the name. The name is the primary and pre-eminent identifier you’ll ever have. Reflecting my Star Trek geekdom, “what is your designation?

I’ll be checking out your blog roll too!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

10 steps to better TV soccer

Have you got World Cup fever yet? Neither do I, but I have watched a couple of matches. It makes me wonder why FIFA and the TV producers don’t do a few basic things to make the game LOTS more interesting for the American viewer. Besides “destroying the integrity of the game,” these 10 steps will certainly grow the game for the American TV market.

Soccer leagues have all the little kids in the nation locked up, but they won’t break through to the rest of us until they change something. Maybe FIFA is perfectly fine having the world’s most popular sporting event without the US market. OK, but while I’m trying to “do my part” and be relevant to a global event, it would be more enjoyable if they had a clue about the American TV viewer.

So with apologies to the futbol purists, here are 10 steps to better TV soccer:

1. More and better use of cameras – What are they using – 2? 3? Why not the overhead view? The end of the field long view? How about the camera on a track (used in NFL games and at track meets) to show the speed of the game when players are in a footrace to catch the ball? How about a “goal cam” to show what the goalie sees during the single most exciting moment of any game – the penalty kick? A close look shows only the occasional use of these angles. What a waste! For the American audience, they will need to use those angles more.

2. More instant replay – I don’t want to overturn the official’s call. It’s enough to embarrass them when they blow a call. They currently use the replay on penalties, during scuffles, and for shots on goal. Headers are amazing physical feats that deserve more coverage. And dare I say it… the tele-strator?

3. Border ads – I actually like the Rock ‘em-Sock ‘em football players on the lower edge of the screen during Fox’s NFL coverage. It’s fun. Let the ad creators develop the borders of the screen. I’m easily bored, OK? All that long running across that big field. Producers seem to struggle to find ad space on events that don’t have natural stops in play, but they’ve done OK with NASCAR ad availability.

4. More player profiles – this is critical when we don’t know the players. It’s a big field, but I want to see his face! If he’s a great player, you’ll have to show me why. Winning goals? Games started? Shots on goal? The goalies should be big time stars, but I want to see the stats that count. Educate us. Oh, they don’t want to embarrass the American viewer that has to be walked through fine points of the game? Maybe it’s better that we don’t watch at all. Idiocy!

5. Sponsored plays – since we’re going all commercial, how about “that header brought you by Brylcream – for winners!” “That goalie’s big hands play sponsored by Isotoner.”  Hmm... guess there aren't that many opportunities for sponsored plays...

6. More ads with soccer metaphors - The ads during the World Cup rarely reinforce soccer imagery. I like the stadium placards for Budweiser, and I like the GEICO soccer announcer. The Allstate protection goalie, good. The Adidas YouTube ad with Beckham, Snoop and Daft Punk, outstanding! I want to see highway safety ads where the driver waves a yellow card as a substitute for road rage. How about “90 minutes to win” as a call to office productivity?

7. Profile local soccer kids – Those nerdy kids who play soccer are going to need a real make over to start winning the popularity contests. Get these kids on a soccer version of punt, pass and kick. And once TV learns how to cover soccer, state championship soccer matches should find themselves on TV, sponsored by FIFA.

8. Convert kids to soccer from other sports – Are soccer players fast? Fastest on the field? Can you recruit the kid with the fastest 40 from football to soccer? Can the defensive end be converted to soccer goalie with all the celebration that his quarterback sacks used to get? Think Lawrence Taylor or Alfred Willams or Karl Malone as goalie.

9. The next star after Beckham? – who is it? Make sure he has a movie star or rock star wife.

10. And lastly, US success in the World Cup - "our" team will have to get to the semi-finals in the World Cup. Relax, you‘ve got four more years to harvest the next round of great players.

Friday, June 4, 2010

BP – beyond publicrelations

The PR hero of this Gulf Oil disaster is the person behind the faux public relations Twitter feed @BPGlobalPR. Advertising Age interviewed the still-anonymous voice behind the joke/satire/spoof/lament feed at

”I'd love it if more journalists delved into why companies say what they say rather than simply presenting what they say,” writes @BPGlobalPR. That’s a profound declaration in line with the practice of Public Relations in the 21st century.

I’m reminded about the already decade-old Cluetrain Manifesto. ( Thesis #16: Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.

In the wake of BP’s official PR double-speak, obfuscation and half-truth, the public is not listening, but crying... and laughing to deal with the pain.

Graphic artists have been invited into the fray with a “new logo” contest for BP.  (Logo above is by "mconner74.")

The underground is right. Just fix the pipe, and clean up the mess. It will take years and cost BP billions.

Then consider: should we all buy BP gas to finance the cleanup?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Toyota’s culture mashup

Toyota, in recovery from the brand’s most serious safety challenge, is promoting its Sienna minivan across a few cultures. With middle American families in their crosshairs, they’d like us to think well of the minivan lifestyle using a blend of humor, hip-hop and suburban archetype to do it.

The music video below is my favorite (and others, with nearly 3 million views so far).  The campaign's YouTube video page also features other 30-second ads that poke gentle fun at the idyllic family. The question will be do we identify with that minivan family? (And ultimately, will the ad help drive traffic to the showroom?) The “Diaper Bag” commercial in heavy prime-time rotation is the weakest of the 22 videos, in my view.

Ad watcher Craig Brimm of the blog “Kiss My Black Ads” takes on the culture debate and also finds the urban angle funny.

Lynne d Johnson at the Advertising Research Foundation told AgencySpy/ that the hip-hop approach was a “total misappropriation.”

America as melting pot is showcased by its TV/web advertising. It’s a commerce and culture mashup, reflecting our collective aspirations and fantasies.  Yes, middle America wants to be hip-hop cool.

Executives who have a clear sense of their brand’s core identity and audience are willing to push the image-making envelope for the sake of buzz and memorable (not negative) impression. And safety is hardly mentioned at all in the campaign.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

“Lying is contagious.”

From BNET’s Corner Office column: “Confronted with leaders at all levels who don’t tell the truth, we have become acclimated to lying or at least inured to its ability to provoke surprise or anger.”

(image from

Friday, March 26, 2010

Movie reviews & media: lessons from Roger Ebert

 Indulge my cinephile strain, but "this just in" from the nexus of film (as a storytelling venue) and new media, Roger Ebert’s next TV/web show. “At the Movies,” the syndicated TV show he pioneered decades ago with critic Gene Siskel was cancelled this week by its distributor Disney. See Roger Ebert’s Journal at the Chicago Sun-Times website.

“Blame the fact that five-day-a-week syndicated shows like "Wheel of Fortune" went to six days. Blame the fact that cable TV and the internet have fragmented the audience so much that stations are losing market share no matter what they do. Blame the economy, because many stations would rather sell a crappy half-hour infomercial than program a show they respect.”

Keep those factors in mind as you consider the opportunities for your own quality infomercial: cable and internet audience fragmentation (which means you can more effectively target your message to its best audience), broadcast TV consolidation (fewer corporations owning more stations). There may be some deals out there as TV becomes more affordable.

Next for Ebert’s inimitable brand, a new TV show and a few new media branch-offs. More from Ebert’s blog:

“We will go full-tilt New Media: Television, net streaming, cell phone apps, Facebook, Twitter, iPad, the whole enchilada. The disintegration of the old model creates an opening for us. I'm more excited than I would be if we were trying to do the same old same old. I've grown up with the internet. I came aboard back when MCI Mail was the e-mail of choice. I had a forum on CompuServe when it ruled the web. My web site and blog at the Sun-Times site have changed the way I work, and even the way I think. When I lost my speech, I speeded up instead of slowing down.”

How true. I follow Ebert tweets at my Twitter site, and the writer is especially prolific. It is perfectly understandable. He lost his speech, but he makes up for it with as profound a voice as ever.

Question: how has new media changed the way you work? The way you think?
Roger Ebert appears in Boulder this April 5-8 at the Conference on World Affairs at the CU campus in Boulder. Here’s the news release. His annual week-long film focus is the 1972 Werner Herzog film Aguirre, the Wrath of God. The “interruptus” format shows the film over four two-hour sessions, stopping the film for anyone in the audience who wants to ask a question or make a point. Kind of geeky. I love it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

OK Go strikes gold again - visionary follow up

Media Bistro does a great analysis of how the innovative band OK Go pulled off their second fantastic music video, set upon perhaps the world's biggest Rube Goldberg machine.  Most of us were amazed by their first video “Here It Goes Again,” now famous as the “treadmill” video.

People invest in success, so it probably wasn’t too hard to attract support for the next project. Even a corporate giant like State Farm insurance would happily write a big check and let the musician/performers have their way.

The lesson for the rest of us: plan for success. Have a vision of your next step. That calls for a bigger vision, maybe bigger than you first imagined. But it’s amazing how lucky the well prepared are.

I once worked for a college football coach when he engineered a winning “Hail Mary” last-play-of-the-game pass. Little did I know, good football teams actually practice the long bomb hail mary play. I though it was “luck.”

Turns out that during practice they send the receivers deep, the defenders take their position in the end zone, and the quarterback rears back and lets it fly. At the landing point of the football, the athletic training is more akin to drills for basketball rebounding: positioning, footwork, visual acuity, hand-to-eye coordination, and most of all, timing. What looks like a free-for-all is actually a well choreographed competitive event. And when it works, The spectators say, “what luck!”

Make some luck. Anticipate success and have your next play ready. OK? Go. (Sorry.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

State of the Union vs. "Lost"

Media-savvy President Obama has decided not to give his “State of the Union” address on Feb. 2 after all. Fans of the TV show “Lost” mounted an unprecedented outcry via social media. The White House knows, you don’t mess with the Twitter-verse.  See the Christian Science Monitor article.

We're looking at a most democratic institution, Twitter, to begin setting the agenda for a media driven nation (and it's President?). I wonder how many other movements can ramp up response like this on other more serious issues.

"Lost" has unified the nation. Right and left, Dem and GOP, anarchist and fascist, Buddhist and Baptist, Jew and Muslim... "Lost" has won fans of every stripe. I wonder what it says about a nation that values its TV fables (story!!!!!) more than the real-life issues laying around in the "State of the Union" speech. Should we get J.J. Abrams (producer of TV's “Lost” and “Alias,” and director of the latest “Star Trek” movie, whose work I love) to "produce" a more media savvy State of the Union experience?

From the time Ronald Reagan pulled out a dollar bill and a few coins to dramatize his point ("the great communicator"), the medium of the speech has been on a downward slide. Preachers are one of the precious few who command a voluntary audience of dozens, hundreds or thousands for a weekly 40-minute monologue. (Rush is interrupted by commercials, CSPAN's ratings are nothing special.) America is out of the habit of listening to great speeches any more often than the political presidential 4-year cycle. The Chautauqua movement of 100 years ago is dead and gone. If you want to sway the nation, dissipated, diverse and distracted as it is, a speech won't do it. Should we give up?

Probably not. It's constitutional. It's the only time the President actually is required to speak to the entire Congress. We all know it's important. Just not more important than "Lost.