Monday, June 30, 2008

Where to Engage?

The fourth W in the Rules of Engagement

Where will you engage? There are several angles here, each with its own strength or weakness. Consistency is important again in whichever approach is taken. There is a certain power in doing the work directly on the offender B&B. While it does inject you into their area and bring a certain credibility to them by your appearance, it has two important benefits. First, it places your correction of fact or message right next to their original misperception. Second, it provides clear evidence that you are watching, and listening to what is said. Remember, the two-way communication is a hallmark of Web 2.0. Making the response through your own on-line vehicles helps drive traffic back to the official web site, and can be considered an important factor in a Fan First philosophy. Links to the response can always be posted on the original board or blog. Statements to the traditional media can be used. There remains tremendous power in the press release in print or on the 10 o’clock, and in some ways turns the traditional media against the new media. Before pursuing a divide and conquer strategy, understand there is a considerable risk involved.

Laugh 'Cause Crying's Not an Option

This one from the sign collection actually was given to me by a colleague. He snapped it at the press conference of another school.

And for those who have never made this kind of mistake, you shall cast out the first typo.

Lord knows, I've done as bad and worse.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

An Open Letter to Mr. Cheers

Once upon a time, I was you. Hard charging, up in the gate agent's face. Working the phone; working the angles -- by God I wasn't going to be left behind.

Let me share something with you -- the flight to Tampa was full. Full even before the weather put things behind. Full before your agent told you they put you on the flight an hour ago.

Good work, you got the gate agent's name. And you've mocked her sufficiently and her ethnicity to whomever you're browbeating on the phone.

At the end of this day, you'll be right with the rest of the chumps who didn't take the time to try and fight their way on the the last flight to Tampa: stuck in Atlanta.

Oh, there's one difference -- the rest of us have seats tomorrow. Don't know about you. Probably because we took care of business earlier, or didn't scream and yell.

The college student who shifted nervously, pitifully back and forth, worrying quietly if she'd get on the plane to catch up with the voice on the other end of her almost out of battery phone -- guess what, she got on the plane. And, Mr. Cheers, because she was so obviously upset yet maintaining a level of dignity, I'd have given her my seat. In fact, several folks would have. You? Good luck with the concierge level as we'd each stride onto that last middle seat.

So when Delta gets that report about the gate agent at A17, remember there was another side to that story.

And seriously, dude, Cheers was done before you were born. Chill.

When They Zig, Unfortunately I Zag

From in the air to ATL

Today’s long trip to Tampa is another lesson in adaptation. The whole thing starts with an afternoon flight to allow me to complete volunteer work on Field Day. Seemed simple enough. Event ends at 1 p.m.; flight at 4:15 p.m. – no significant committee since the bids have really made our choice for the upcoming CoSIDA Convention.

Arrive at XNA and at the check-in kiosk – do you want to travel on an earlier flight? Hmm. It’s through Cincinnati, leaves an hour earlier but only gets to Tampa 35 minutes earlier. Don’t know, it seems counter-intuitive to reach west central Florida via the Ohio Valley rather than Atlanta. Oh, and it will cost you another $50.

OK, goes against my travel sense. Why rack up another $50 particularly with a new sheriff in town. I’m good; plus I can watch most of Stacy Lewis in the US Open at what goes for a bar at XNA.

I zig. Unbeknownst to me, the world just zagged. This is the way everything has gone the past three or four months.

Who knew a massive line of thunderstorms from Birmingham to Atlanta would force my flight to be delayed five hours. Miss any kind of connection. Miss the last event of the day at the convention. Miss the chance at a decent night’s sleep to make up for the weekend.

As a side note, the farce of loading the plane twice was relieved by the work of the gate agents for Delta at XNA. I’d seen the radar picture on my phone, but the agent was insistent that I come around to look at his station to look at the browser to prove it wasn’t because the flight was half empty and Jet A is through the roof. The other passengers in line were leaping to that conclusion. He sensed it, countered it and won some respect for his crisis management.

Come to think of it, he employed his own aggressive disclosure. Here’s the radar, here’s when we’ll give you the next updates (a schedule he kept during the whole five hour delay), here’s the scoop on your next flight you can’t make, here’s the best I can do for you. A grim smile and a “good luck” on boarding, but the kind that gave away a to-those-about-to-sleep-in-the-airport-we-salute-you attitude.

Contrast that with the 13-hour odyssey last year heading to San Diego for convention. I’ll skip the airline name, but that was nothing but a rude rumor-fest as the whole family was left to fend for itself. Nobody likes to be treated that way. That’s one of the points for Wednesday’s presentation – Fan First Philosophy, who’d you rather have explaining your bad news to the fans – you or the media?

Riding through the chop now over B’ham I know I’ll be lucky to find a room, if not sleep on a bench in the airport tonight. But I am on the way, and that was more than it seemed like it would be earlier. Another grinder day in which sheer determination is required.

At this point, fatalism takes over, a sense of God’s will. Either this trip will work out, or it won’t. The presentation will go off, or it won’t.. Even Field Day turns out that way with some of the worst operating conditions in my eight years of events. We came up four contacts short of equaling last year’s total, but the sheer effort it required – long, painful work to get those 256 contacts – made it seem like we’d scored 500. Still, the score will be down.

Sisyphus will now pick up the rock, and start to work it back up the hill. Wish him luck.

Who Engages?

The third W in the Rules of Engagement

Who will engage? Here a department should have very specific rules, and enforce them without a lot of flexibility. If only the head SID, or only the sport contact are cleared to engage, they are the only ones. If student workers in the office are not allowed to post, remove them when they are discovered violating the policy. This will be a tough discussion with administrators who do not value the existing impact of the internet on shaping public opinion or worse, those who “don’t care” what the media says. The counter argument will be “you are giving credibility” to the B&B. Refer back to the chart on public trust; the bloggers already have it.

More Flooding Bad News

If the 1-5 inch warning sign was tough, how'd you like to have this on your residential street. Found while on the way to the original Taco Cabana location in San Antonio Texas.

And yes, that's measured in feet.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What to Engage?

The second W in the Rules of Engagement

What will you engage? This is an area of great variation. Some advise challenging everything. Others consider acknowledging something exists on the internet as giving credence to all rumors. My rule of thumb is when factual errors exist that are significant it is the responsibility of the public information officer to step in and correct those errors. The added benefit is when factual errors are embedded in opinions that are driving misperceptions about the situation. This will undercut the opinion without directly attacking it, and it reinforces the authority of the spokesman.

When to Engage

First of the five W's from the Rules of Engagement of On-Line Media

When will you engage? Here there is a reasonably clear rule of thumb: as soon as humanly possible. There may be legal obstacles to overcome, but consider that lawyers often do not consider the public relations impact of their advice. Rapid response means that a monitoring system is in place. If you wait until the problem has reached the point the media or an admistrator is bringing it to the media relations office, the high likelihood is the Golden Hour is missed and the public opinion is already formed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

And It's Not Just Because He's the Boss

Today, Arkansas announced a new men's track coach. It was not the current assistant that a group of Razorback athletes started an on-line petition to support. Nor was it the person that board posters were pushing, using the student-athlete petition as underpinning support.

Jeff Long got asked earlier in the week by one of the local papers about the athlete's on-line effort. He stepped right up, and answered. Today, the other local paper took its turn.

"My decision out there was to hire the best coach for those student-athletes," Long said. "Was I concerned they started a Web site? No, I wasn't concerned as long as they represented their thoughts and feelings in an appropriate way. And they did."

Long's been consistent on this, and the key thought is right there -- as long as they represented their thoughts and feelings in an appropriate way. That's a welcome, forward approach to the brave new Web 2.0 world we live in.

Whole stories from today's hiring in the Morning News and the earlier story about the petition from the Northwest Arkansas Times.

The Rules of Engagement, Part Deux

More thoughts -- these from the conclusion of next week's CoSIDA presentation:

The key is engagement, not enforcement. There is a certain amount of policing of basic copyright. It is established that rights holders can claim the performance as their intellectual property, including the statistical representation. Here is where the real-time internet policies simultaneously get it and miss it. While for some it is about access and credentials, for the vast majority it is not. The greatest enemy? Maybe Steve Jobs and the iPhone – a dedicated transaction blogger only needs to see what is happening. A ticket and a 3G data plan takes care of that; or in the case of one prominent on-line media and the 2008 NCAA Indoor Track Meet, a free video stream and a couch. Commentary is the coin of the relm, and the B&B crowd want to express their opinion about events. The real power of the boards and blogs: amplification. Who’s message do you want to reinforce?

If I can encourage one thing, it is a frank discussion with the administration about the rules of engagement. Define them now before the opinion crisis begins. Consistency in using whatever policy is created is important. This has a legal component as well as a public relations component. There aren’t a pair of stone tablets with 10 rules to lead the athletic department. The solutions created when I was with the Arkansas women’s athletic department are not the ones that fit your athletic department. In building the system that works at your institution, consider the old five W’s as the guideline.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Well, There's Some Media Parking

I'll leave the school nameless, but the signage that greets media.

Not sure if its a statement or not.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Starting the Conversation

I mentioned this a few weeks ago, and will bring it up again at the panel. Every institution will have a different approach. Some will be direct. Some will use WOMMA-style groups. Some will continue to not engage. But even the decision to not allow your staff to officially post information or return "media" requests from citizen media is a set of rules of engagement.

In drafting your own rules, here are some parameters to consider:

Monitoring -- yes or no. For heaven's sake, I hope we've reached the point now where this really isn't a question anymore. The media reads it. The fans read it. Why on God's great internet would you want to be ignorant? This runs back to the old school thought that if we just don't acknowledge it, we won't give it any credibility. That didn't work with talk radio. It really isn't working with B&B. Perhaps the larger question is will you publicly admit your read and monitor the B&B. Better say yes -- any of those boards that require registration have your IP address (see posting for more).

Posting -- yes or no. If yes, will you post "in the open" under your own names. I have an opinion here -- my screen name is Bill_Smith. The reason? The smart B&B crowd already know your subnet. If they're FOI fiends, they probably have your IP table anyway. The likelihood of you being revealed as SuperHogDude is extremely high. When they do, it will shred the credibility you may have built up.

When and what to post. My personal policy was to only engage to answer a direct question (is there a press conference today? what time is the game tonight? did we sign anyone today?) or to correct an obvious factual error (no, the current coach's record against school X is not worse than the previous coach). I never, ever, tried to sway opinions. If I can correct factual errors that are underpinning poor opinions, that will achieve the goal. More important, it's they're opinion and fans are entitled to have them.

Credentialing. This is the next great hurdle. Tread with care. SuperHogDude is the correspondent for, but he just might be a lawyer (or have lawyer friends as board members). Consider that the metrics are changing. Consider that you may want to have a blogger box or blogger board (as in group).

Consistency. The most important part of how you engage (or not engage) the B&B. Whatever you decide, stick with it and enforce it evenly.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Plain Language Signage

The door sign for room 1021 at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.

Also known as the main basketball court.

Simple. Straight forward.

How Can You Keep Up?

More small chunks of thought going into the CoSIDA presentation:

Community is the essence of Web 2.0, and the same applies to monitoring. Building your athletic department’s community starts with trust. While there are legal limits even in a public institution, the more information that is shared the better educated both the monitors and the fans will be toward the athletic department. The insider group is a prime example. Not only can they share and support the message of the department, they can watch and listen for problems, particularly with the fan base. Tap into the sport staff. At most schools, the coaching staff is charged with monitoring the social networking activity of student-athletes. There is no need to duplicate that function within the media relations office as long as there is trust that the coaching staff will alert the SIDs. Here’s a hint for the coach: there’s no such thing as you caught that Facebook post in time. Poor Andy Robinson at University of Buffalo found that out the hard way. Same can be said right at home when Patrick Beverly made a wall post that he was thinking about leaving Arkansas.

The key is distributed monitoring. No single person can keep up with every sport at your school, but as a part of the individual sport contact’s duties they can monitor what’s happening within that sport. This is more than checking the local boards that follow the institution. Encourage them to know where the national and regional boards are about their sport. Frankly, the less visible the sport the more important these communities are to the participants. Everyone wants media coverage, and absent traditional brick-and-mortar sportswriters the vacuum will be filled by pro-ams.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The End for Old Media

Continuing on the early previews of the presentation for CoSIDA:

The current business model of traditional journalism is gone. The iceburg was struck two years ago, and only now are people beginning to understand the ship is sinking. Newspapers are slashing editorial positions with literally hundreds from some of the brand names of the business: New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times. In the past month alone, the local news operations of one of the fastest growing segments – Spanish language television – were shut down by one of the largest Univision conglomerates. Layoffs and non-renewals of experienced, high-salaried television talent is a weekly event. In June, U.S. News and World Report announced they were going to a biweekly format, with daily reports on the website. Closer to home, the very next day, Sporting News announced they were going to the biweekly format and a Digital Daily.

Meanwhile, the unemployed are not going away. They are going on-line. The fired lead meteorologists in Minneapolis and Charlotte created local webcasts to compete with their former employers. They join the Multi-Medias that were already there, making the most of their brand by selling it on the internet while keeping primary jobs in the traditional media and talk radio. This complicates the job of the media relations director. How? More traditionally trained journalists interested in upholding standards on the internet is a bad thing?

This comes back to the legitimacy question. Since the beginning of Audit Bureau and Nielson, the importance of a media outlet was easily defined by common metrics: circulation and viewership. Both were functions of capital. Increasing either measure required lots of money. For decades, press credentials were dolled out based on this pyramid of importance: national dailies, statewide dailies, circulation over 10,000, and so on. What is the measure of internet legitimacy? Click through, page views, unique visitors, persistence on page – each has its place but none are universal. As a result, the blogger or board owner that builds up substantial numbers not only presents a threat to the institution’s reputation, they can make a serious legal case that they have similar audience standing as the traditional media sitting in the press box. Consider that the last time our hometown newspaper reported circulation to the ABC it stood at roughly 15,000; this year the leading message board had over 20,000 members.

Friday, June 20, 2008

OK, Choose One

The latest in the Road Sign series: A confused set of warning signs in the downtown Lexington, Ky., area.

More on the AP War

Jeff Jarvis of was pretty clear in today's Washington Times:

"Back off, AP. Because we won't."

The blogosphere was set on fire by AP's plan to require pull quotes to be paid for by on-line media. In the Washington Times story, there are some more details on how the one-time alliance between new and old media has broken down.

But as always, the best stuff is the mudslinging. Michelle Malkin looked as the schedule of payment and estimated AP owes her just over $130,000 -- yes, that's six-figures. DailyKos labeled AP idiots. Back to Malkin: AP's "heavy-handed attempt to bully bloggers is schadenfreude-licious."

Oops. I guess I owe somebody about $10.75.

If back in the day, we once counseled coaches and ADs to avoid pissing battles with people who buy ink by the barrel, perhaps the traditional media should take the Dan Rather warning and not jerk around the mass that is the new media. There's a heck of a lot more of them than you.

Maybe I should recast that metaphor -- the AP just rolled into the Little Bighorn Valley.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

One Line Says It All

Finding ideas that reinforce your own is great. Sometimes I worry that this becomes one of the dangers of the internet -- if your physically immediate community doesn't agree with you, you can always find someone out there that does. Thus, the strength of the Web 2.0 SNW world -- the very Second Life aspect -- which leads to a weakening and fracturing of local communities.

That dark thought said, here's a perfect, one-line summation of the communication change. I discovered it while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, WeatherBrains. It's a podcast for weather geeks, but the guys that run it are very cutting edge when it comes to new media. A recent guest is the living embodiment of the problems with traditional media's financial model. He was let go as the staff weather guy in a major cutback due to falling revenue. As the highest paid, first to go.

Sounds pretty bad, yes? Not for him. He gets it, and was discussing that the future for weather in the media was directed content and on-line presentation. He's moving on, and had this very prescient comment:

Find ways to turn a speech into a conversation

V-8 moment. This is the essence of Web 2.0. It dovetails nicely with my posts (there's that reinforcement thing), but expresses the point better.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Some Local Press on the SNW

One of our local newspapers, the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, ran a sports enterprise series this past weekend on social networking websites and college athletics. There are some very good stories for others to note. Ryan Malashock came up with one that was new to me that I found very important. University of Buffalo basketball player Andy Robinson made a one-hour mistake on his Facebook, frustrated over not getting an assignment done. Read the impact here.

You also get to see the impact of small Facebook changes, like the firestorm set off by one of our own basketball players making a post on his wall. The last part covers how new athletic director Jeff Long and men's basketball coach John Pelphrey are well in tune with the impact.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some Signs are Just Unfortunate

I got nothing.

Actually, in fairness to Vandy, this is part of the sleep disorder center co-located in the Marriott near the athletic facilities.

This is reminiscent of one of the greatest directional signs of all time. It no longer exists, and the facility is now closed. At Florida, the original university-run hotel had a basement level that connected out to the parking deck. It was little more than a long, windowless narrow hall terminating in an elevator. Very Steven King.

Directly across from the elevator, where you could not miss it every time you got out, was a sign:


Parse that for a minute. It's late. It's dark. Maybe it's even stormy outside. Now, you've got to walk down this service hallway. The lights occasionally flicker. You're hoping that they're not working on Jason or Freddie.

When Words Cost

Associated Press is already backing away from an attempt to become the text version of the RIAA -- charging bloggers by the word for excerpts posted by non-AP members. Recall earlier we had AP making a deal for a new direct to iPhone service -- to which I immediately said, "and who pays for it?"

So in a pretty blatant attempt to crush fair use in the pursuit of the desperate need to pay for the services of AP, we get a rate card that calls for bloggers to pay a floating scale depending on how many words they use. Obviously, you get a heck of a discount when you buy over 251 words, a mere $100. A short quote is pretty pricey -- 5 to 25 words go for $12.50.

As a result, AP as served some cease and desist letters, and pulled them back according to the New York Times.

At the risk of blowback, here is the money quote from the NYT story, quoting Jim Kennedy, the VP and "strategy director" of AP.

“We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this,” Mr. Kennedy said.

I can tell you where this is headed. Universities will begin to lock down the use of press releases by the B&B community. Pro sports have already broken the seal on these kinds of content restrictions on the argument that they "own the performance." That, after all, is the SOP in the entertainment community.

The end result -- everyone loses. Content gets locked up in digital gated communities. The free flow of ideas and information is lost. In the gap, cascades of fark and propaganda fill the vacuum.

It may not be a total loss. The Web 2.0 community might just take a page from the history books and employ an island-hopping campaign against the established media. Simply go around them and leave them to their own little domains, left to starve as their resources are cut off.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Jesus Principal

Mark 16:15 tells you everything you as the sports media relations person needs to know about dealing with the bloggers and boarders:

Go into all the world and preach the good news to every creature

Now, I'm not about to put on a rainbow afro wig and start showing up in the endzone waiving a Mark 16:15 sign. Truth be told, I had to google it.

That does not make this point false: Jesus went to where the sinners were.

Simple. If you are concerned about what the B&B world is saying, you've got to do the dirty work and reach out to them. Every day I read or hear of another SID who has hardened his shell against the slings and arrows of the internet, and dismiss the people who make the posts as hiding behind anonymous postings.

This comes from experience. If you step into the room and turn on the light, the cockroaches will scurry and the angry dogs will growl. Very, very few dogs were born mean. Somebody had to make them that way.

Angry B&B traffic more often than not comes from a lack of information. Withholding information only makes it worse. And the only thing worse than that -- excuse-making spin.

In my classes -- both the SID one at UA and my history ones at NWACC -- I use Richard Nixon as the perfect example. In domestic policy, Nixon probably did more to shape the country we live in today than any recent president. He certainly did the same in foreign policy.

But Nixon lives in infamy because he screwed up massively in trying to game the system to his advantage then cover it up when his people made mistakes.

Ask yourself this question: Did Nixon get run from office because a bunch of over-zealous staffers broke the law, perhaps at his direction? Or did he lose his job because he worked overtime to cover it up?

Back to the B&B's. If you have owners that routinely allow false information to remain on-line, pick up the phone or send an email to politely correct the false information. Talking to these potential opinion shapers is no different than trying to correct errors with the traditional media. More times than not, they just want to be heard. Some of them won't listen, but the ones that do will become your allies -- your WOMMA group -- to help do battle with the fringe.

Our business has always been, and shall always be, about relationships. Even with Raman noodle and Cheeto dust sinners. So go forth and tell the good stories of your athletic department to every form of media.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another from the Bellows Beach

This was also at Bellows Beach in Hawai'i -- great personality to the oops guy on the warning.

There's also a lot of truth to this. We'd stopped at another beach on the way, and the locals said, listen mainlander, you might want to pick another beach because of the same warning sign. Except at that beach, they'd had a pretty regular run of broken bones from people crushed against the rocks and sea floor with the shore break.

We splashed a bit, got whipped by one of those breakers and decided yep, time to move on.

On the way back, we saw the rescue crew at that beach -- the sign was right.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Vaulting Well is the Best Revenge

I get the same question from coaches and athletes, both at Arkansas and at other institutions: what do I do about negative message board posts? My firm belief is it's hard to openly battle opinions, but you can correct factual errors. Otherwise, let your performance speak for you.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Katie Stripling, Arkansas pole vaulter. Two weeks ago, a horrible day at the regionals left one of the nation's top vaulters out of the NCAAs. Then her coach, Brian Compton, recognized a rule that could put her back into the nationals. He used it. She advanced. And the howling began, notably on one national vaulting message board.

Katie and Compton were called everything in the book. All on line. All for the world to see. Did they strike back? Not on the internet, but in Des Moines. From today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story:

"They were pretty angry," Stripling said, referring to some posts on the Web site PoleVaultPower. com. "It gave me more determination and motivation to prove people wrong. I used it to help me."

Here's a tip to the B&B crowd: Remember what you're high school coach said -- don't give them any bulletin board material. Instead of making Katie curl up into a fetal position with their stinging riposte, these anonymous writers inspired her.

Before we go much further, for those not up on NCAA pole vault marks, Stripling had the nation's No. 2 mark at 14 feet, 2 inches heading into the meet. That speaks less to the argument an obscure rule was used to advance her to the national championship than to the painfully obvious fact that it's not really a fight for the best in the nation if someone who was ranked second during the year was left home.

Stripling got the cold shoulder from competitors; she let her pole do the talking. Her coach added the punctuation. Again from the ADG:

"She shut the critics up on the pole vaulting Web sites and blogs," Compton said. "They don't understand the rules. If they knew them, they would have used them, too."

Let's parse it out. Stoic athlete ignores the jeers of the crowd on her way to success. Great, that's pretty classic. Why not take the full high-road approach and not even acknowledge the message boards? Even better, why pay any attention to them?

Because this is 2008, and that approach is not functional. First and foremost, the athletes read everything because they live in the highly integrated socially networked world.

When I'm asked by shocked colleagues about why I spend a portion of my day -- and encourage our staff to do so in their specialty areas -- reading what is out there, this is the perfect example. It's really not an option because the media is reading it. The B&B (boards and blogs) are a force multiplier for the ever shrinking manpower of the newsroom. I encourage the pros reading this blog to take in the full story at the ADG. The athlete and the coach didn't make the blog posting important, the media did when they asked them about it. And on this day, it became the story -- the headline was Stripling's Effort Answers Criticism.

16th century Welsh poet and clergyman George Herbert may have first penned the phrase "Living Well is the Best Revenge," but Katie Stripling's all-American third-place performance at Des Moines certainly updated it for the 21st century.

Where Do We Go From Here

The series of thoughts heading into the New Media panel at CoSIDA continues . . .

There are two main scenarios by which we move forward in our relationship with emerging media formats.

Wild West: All blogs, all the time. One gigantic ball of opinion and fact and lies and data that tumble like a 21st century rebirth of the Penny Press. Chaos ensues as the information multiplies to the point of absurdity, and we split the markets smaller and smaller into ever-shrinking niches.

Evolution: Skill sets not envisioned when even the current generation of journalists were in training begin to re-establish a new type of elite media that gains dominance over the masses. The traditional media companies figure out how to monitize the eyeballs and recapture their position at the top of the pecking order. Things return to the old days as far as the power relationships go, but with Jetson toys.

As usual, I'm looking for the third way -- one that recognizes the multiplicity of the coming dispersal of media power and provides a means of managing it.

WOMMA: The Word of Mouth Marketing Association. On its face, it seems a bit absurd. Peel back some of the info within this group, and you'll see they have a pretty important key to the management of the future. They see the way forward is to embrace some of the concepts of Web 2.0 and utilize them in open accountability means.

Let me contrast the WOMMA methods and code with the dark side -- astroturfing. WOMMA is about building grass roots marketing; quite frankly a populist buzz is the best marketing of all. If you fake that with hired posters and bloggers -- get it, astroturfing? -- you risk having it all blow back on your organization.

Why are building relationships with bloggers and boarders important? The B&B are your fans, your most passionate fans. When our women's basketball team is getting shelled for poor performance by the B&B, I don't worry. If someone is tearing up a coach, it's annoying. When they are saying nothing, I am scared to death. Why? Because they don't care any more, and that's the last step before finding something else to do on Saturday evenings.

The key to success with the B&B is the creation of very clear, very specific Rules of Engagement.

Friday, June 13, 2008

First in a Series

In Hawai'i, they know how to make a great warning sign. These were at Bellows Beach Park near the retired Bellows AFB. I love the help me wave in the icon.

Without a doubt, this was the coolest beach on the East Shore for a family. Lots of locals driving up with the full set of tables, grills, pop-up tents for an afternoon. Just enough pop in the surf for mainlanders and a very kamianne vibe.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Medium is Young; the Participants are Not

Picking up from my teenage parent analogy, the communication mode is valid -- the sometimes angry talking back through message boards, blogs and direct emails -- but the image is far from correct.

Yes, the new Web 2.0 world is driven by a young generation that has a completely different sense of what privacy means. They expose far more about their lives than previous generations. At times, they seem to lack any governor on telling you -- and the WWW -- what happened at the party last night. That comes from a conscious belief by some that with the intrusions of technology -- from CCD cameras on light poles to TiVo records of television shows watched -- have made their lives glass houses anyway. As an aside, they may be right. The older generations may be the foolish ones believing privacy exists -- but that's for another paranoid day.

The great mistake made by decision makers regarding who's behind the new media is assuming that the people involved are:

A) Slackers with too much time on their hands and too much Cheetos dust on their keyboards
B) Proletariat who are using the free internet to espouse their ill-opinions
C) Not real fans, cause real fans would never try to tear down the team

This profile breaks down really fast when you get some demographics from major boards and blogs. First and foremost, people with time for the internet have leisure time. They have a computer. Or they work in white collar industries with computer access. In other words, they have means.

I would be willing to wage the average college sports board or blog is frequented more often by fans with incomes over $50K than below. I'd also warn that they probably are read by or participated in by the major level boosters of the school -- the folks dropping $10K donations on a regular basis and have incomes well into the six figures.

They are also older than you think. They are not college students, or recent graduates. They mirror a recent study of who creates technology start-ups. Guess what -- it's not the genius kid out of school. Those tech startups? Average age was early 40s. Both personal anecdotal information and surveys and registrations logs back this up.

If you ask a university development director, keeping recent graduates attached to the institution, then beginning to build a relationship with them as they begin to reach their peak earning years are the key to cultivation of new "friends" -- read, donors.

Guess where that target audience is hanging out in the late afternoon at work and the wee hours of the night at home?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And They Mean It

No great humor in this sign, but a cool image outside the old WSB tower site south of Nashville, Tenn. For those interested in the history of commercial radio -- or just geeked by really cool tower sites -- this array sits right off I-65 south.

One can imagine just how much juice this monster can create. Needless to say, walking inside the perimeter risks a serious RF burn.

The one part about this site -- it does butt up against a large youth sports park on it's east side.

Here's a look at the towers at dusk.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Importance of the Internet

Building toward the CoSIDA convention program

This slide comes from presentations at the JumpTV Executive Users conference, and in turn from Annenburg School at USC research within the last year.

The question asked was what is the source for your information. Reinforcing the Web 2.0 aspect of community, personal sources and the internet were judged the top two answers. The traditional media were almost equal in the mid-60s.

Thus, when weighing the impact of B&B, we must consider that the rising generation and the internet-oriented part of the population may put more credence into the internet sources than we want to acknowledge.

It raises the important question: If our fans and end-users of information believe the internet, choose it as their No. 1 source of information, can we continue to ignore inaccurate, overblown, false information?

One Real Warning

In the continuing great signs series, I'm just happy to see this gas station getting a warning correct. No, your cell phone is not going to set off a terrible explosion. Yes, sliding back and forth into the car -- particularly in the winter -- will generate enough static electricity to potentially spark the fumes.

Every time I see the old "turn off your cell phone" warnings, I cringe at A) bad science, B) over lawyer-ing, and C) lazy sign administration.

Killer Apps Breaking Through on iPhone

The keynote address at WWDC has sent a pair of shots across the collective bows of college sports.

First and foremost, At Bat looks like the full realization of portable streaming stats I've advocated for years. The question now -- is StatCrew listening?

Broader impact, and perhaps overlooked in the MLB hype, is the deal made with Associated Press. News straight to the consumer's iPhone. It is a free download from the App Store in July. Who is going to pay for the service? AP is a subscriber entity. To rehash some old ground, but who is paying for the journalism we need if you get your AP on the phone. Don't need that newspaper subscription (or USA TODAY) for national news.

Full details as given today in the WWDC keynote transcript.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Invasion is Over

Once again, the annual Invasion of the Wal-Martians has come and gone. I coined the term back in the early 1990s when the event was just old Barnhill Arena. It's grown into a monster event that brings people from around the world to Fayetteville. As I've told every new staffer, you have to experience it at least once.

This year was no exception. For the first time, we had the chance to attend the concerts which were outstanding. My favorite side comment -- I didn't think you liked cool music. Um, yes, and in fact I went Wednesday not as much for Journey (big in my high school years) as All-American Rejects.

Thursday with Keith Urban -- look, I could care less about country -- but he can flat play. I've not seen anyone in person play as well. Any style. While running and walking around Razorback Stadium. Giving guitars and microphones (literally) to the crowd.

Two Great Internet Quotes

One is fiction; one is not -- but they're great commentaries about those darn internets.

In National Treasure 2, Patrick Gates, played by Jon Voight, mutters woefully when the press conference is held claiming his ancestor was the mastermind of the Lincoln assassination:

"It's on the internet," Gates moans. "There's no stopping it now."

What's really interesting about that passage is he's watching a press conference on his laptop. That same content was obviously available on television, but the passage rings true. Here's a falsehood that now lives forever and gets its wings because it's posted as a viral video.

The second one comes from TWIT's last week podcast.

"People are turning to their computer now to answer questions, it is the library," Brewster Kahle said. "If it's not on the internet, its as if it doesn't exist."

Kahle is the man behind the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive does exactly what you think -- vacuuming up back-ups of the internet. A more public version of the Googleplex that I've warned you about. Remember -- once put on line, nothing goes away.

"If we're raising a generation without our best stuff on the internet, we're raising the generation that we deserve," he continued. Somewhat self-serving for someone essentially in the on-line library creation business, but one should not argue with the logic behind it.

Taken together, they present more reason why institutions that feel wronged need to take their battle to the medium and why it is in the institution's best interest to be the one that tells all the news.

A Young Media for a Young Nation

OK, maybe this is a point in the thinking about "the new media" that ranges off, but as a parent of a high school senior, it makes sense. The boards and blogs represent a coming of age in the media -- it happens every generation or so with technology shifts.

The challenge for the institution -- whether it is a university's athletic department or a major private corporation -- is figuring out how it will engage the two-way communication path of Web 2.0. It's not enough to send out a message, you have to listen to the response and react.

Or, you have to realize you're dealing with a teenager.

For decades, athletic departments sent out their messages to their fans. It was a one-way communications portal. Feedback was available for the major boosters or politically connected. It also echoed through the attitude of the media covering the team. We -- college SIDs -- operated in modes that emphasized our ability to spread an outbound mass message.

So as a parent, we told out toddlers and pre-teens what to do. We expected them to do it. We brooked no talking back.

Funny thing is, when they grow up with a mind and an opinion of their own. The day they decide to tell you what you think, it can be jarring. You want to respond in kind, or with an authoritarian "do what I say" tone.

Guess what -- it doesn't work. Eventually, you have to converse with the teenager, respect their opinion, do you best to steer their opinion. That doesn't mean you don't discipline them when they are out of line. You can't have a shouting match and think you'll win by the force of being the . Eventually, they will tune you out.

Now -- replace every teenager reference with college sports fan. The Web 2.0 world -- from SNW to message board -- enables the fans to talk back to us. We have to learn to listen, and realize that the world in which we simply managed information or opinion through a one-way dialog -- we will tell you what's important, what's correct, what to do -- is over.

It's been over for some time for politicians. It's becoming over for local municipalities as they deal with citizen media. Some may argue whether or not the battle is done in college sports, and that might vary from market to market.

At the end of the day, they will grow up.

Friday, June 06, 2008

No Computer Zone

While a lot of folks point to the "Danger Gators in the Ponds" on the University of Florida campus as the disturbing warning sign, I've always been a little concerned about the designated Surge Areas. I assume they are for flood water, but there always other ideas. Computers should be scared of the Surge Area; also any insurgents should be concerned. Wait a minute. If you're a visiting athletic team, would that make you a dangerous rebel that might be attacked if you're found in a Surge Area?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Now THAT'S Some Circular Logic

Courtesy of Center for Citizen Media blog. It is from the New York Times website and it absolutely speaks for itself.

Next Gen Talk Radio

So if you establish this is how they get their info, why wouldn't you want to influence it

I sat in Destin, Florida, at the SEC meetings in the mid 1990s and listened to my colleagues rail against talk radio. They lacked journalistic background. They let anyone get on and say anything. They were the end of the gentile sports world as we know it.

Fast-forward a decade. Talk stations are credentialed to SEC media days, complete with a "radio row" for coaches and players to appear. We have not one, but three national sports talk radio networks. One of the great launching pads for the world-wide leader in sports was its radio network component.

Are there still problems with talk show hosts? Yes. Do we regulate appearances? You bet. But the best of breed are knowledgeable -- and responsible -- members of the sports media community.

That didn't happen overnight. It took people deciding to reach out on both sides of the equation. I see where we are with the new media and Web 2.0 sites as very similar to that mid-90s tipping point with the sports talk format.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Next Sign: Little Disturbing

There are some signs you don't want to see at your airport. We wheeled up to the small airport near Clemson University. It was dark. Few lights. Kyle Kellams and I park our rental car and look up to see this sign.

Having won the game, the evac was quite pleasant. Since we were in upland South Carolina, exactly what would you be evacuating from?

Monday, June 02, 2008

You're Kidding, Right?

Perhaps Andrew Cohen of CBS is the most droll, tongue-in-cheek humorist in America. He's the legal affairs correspondent for the network. Sunday morning, he opined that all PR people were liars, just like Scott McClellan.

Of course, Cohen is getting shelled by the PR industry, with PRSA launching against him. Plus the internets are in full force. You can see the original piece and Cohen's reaction.

I have two.

Pot, lawyer Andrew Cohen, meet Kettle, the PR types -- Guess what, when it comes to ethical standards the general public sees you both as black.

Here's my better one.

From his original rant: Show me a PR person who is "accurate" and "truthful," and I'll show you a PR person who is unemployed.

Andrew Cohen, who works at CBS, as you call out the public relations profession, I have two words for you: Dan Rather.

Another SNW Event Gone Bad

The twist at Seattle University is the school officials stepped in to warn students that were planning a party Memorial Day weekend through Facebook invitations. Details at the Chronicle of Higher Ed and Seattle Times.

Students, obviously, think their First Amendment rights were violated. Sounds a lot like they opened up way to much information about the party -- to the point university officials let them know they could get in trouble with the school's code of conduct. Scared, the students cancelled.

Payoff quote from the SeaTimes:

Butterworth said the university administration monitors sites like Facebook only when something is specifically brought to their attention, and that they are acting in the Jesuit tradition of "cura personalis" — care of the whole person.

"Our education doesn't really stop when students leave the classroom," Butterworth said. "In some ways, it begins there."

Butterworth is the dean of students, who arrived at the doorstep of another Facebook-planned and advertised party earlier.

Don't ask, don't tell? Maybe. Think about it for a minute. If you told your parents in some graphic detail what you were about to do at your "douchebag" party (their label for the event), what would your parent's reaction have been.

Be practical with your SNW's, kids.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Near Miss for NCAA Track

Be very glad the regional track meets aren't Saturday-Sunday. Yesterday we had some nearby -- but nowhere near close enough to suspend or really even think of suspending -- storms. As of this post, I've already had my fifth active weather net based on severe thunderstorm warnings. Clocked a half inch of rain since 5:30 a.m. and numerous lightning strikes; including one that took our power in nearby Tontitown.

As you can see from the screen capture, active net No. 6 is just moments away.

Working on the CoSIDA Panel

Unlike previous appearances, chairing the panel is more about managing and encouraging discussion. Along those lines, I will offer the briefest of presentations at Tampa.

But to encourage that discussion, I am planning to post some of my anticipated thoughts toward Dan Gilmoor and Spencer Hall.

First and foremost -- why are these two guys on the platform? In my mind, they represent the best of breed when it comes to the theory and practice of the new media. As I've mentioned several times before, Dan runs the Center for New Media and when it comes to how the Brave New World will be structured, few short of Aldus have had a better grasp on where it is going.

Spencer as the lead of Every Day Should Be Saturday is one of those national blog/board entities that crosses all party lines. If you are associated with college football, you read EDSBS. Period. That's media, on-air talent, coaches, adminstrators, fans, prospects. Anyone who says otherwise is A) lying; or B) ignorant.

And by ignorant, I don't mean stupid. I mean the classic Merriam-Webster: destitute of knowledge or education.

So, alternating with my $4 gasoline inspired summer travel through great signs of past road trips, we'll flesh out the program.