Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is the Fund-Raising Pyramid Dead?

There isn't a foundation director in the world that doesn't believe in the pyramid. The highest return comes from the small number of top donors. Therefore, investing five, six, seven visits into a top of the pyramid donor is the routine. Working that payoff of six and seven figures is where the vast majority of fundraising time is spent.

Barak Obama may have pulled the foundation from under the pyramid. One does not raise the hundreds of millions his campaign banked by focusing on the top of the pyramid. No, not unlike the reality of his tax plan, you can't harvest that kind of bank from a few; to get there you need to get some from the many.

As time moves on, the papers and studies will begin to filter out on how Obama created his virtual on-line ATM among the less than $2,000 donors.

We as an industry have built an athletic economic system on the backs of the major donors, the networks and the PSL gift for seating priority.

The first school that figures out the way to tap the tens of thousands of members of their Mascot Nations for Obama-like contributions will become the new leader in that athletic arms race.

When they do it, they'll learn they can live without the soul-selling deals with outside entities.

At the same time, they will become dependent upon keeping the fan base happy. That kind of democracy can be a good and bad thing.

The Hanging Coconut of Death

A photo that I could not resist. In the ripping winds today, this is the image of certain death.


Because statistically speaking, more people world wide are killed by falling coconuts than are killed by shark attack.

Keep your head on a swivel today in the Bahamas.

One to One is One to Many

I spend a lot of time these days in my new role of directing our new media emailing angry fans. It takes up a lot of time and emotional energy, but over the course of the past three months I’ve become convinced it is crucial to the athletic department.

More than one person has asked why in the world do you “waste” your time with “those people.” It is an outgrowth of my interaction with “those people” who also spend their days and nights on message boards.

Critics think I’m spending too much time doing “retail” work; that our time is best served reaching larger audiences.

Respectfully, I’ll counter that I am doing “wholesale” because today’s one-to-one work in reality is one-to-many.

This is one of the great keys to turning your messaging from a speech into a conversation. Thanks to the growing strength of word of mouth, reaching out to solve the problems of individual fans pays huge dividends.

I am as guilty as anyone of thinking I am talking to a computer when I get upset at a retailer or other supplier. Fans will say some of the most violent, demanding things when they think that they are A) anonymous or B) not talking to humans. They are quite surprised that an assistant athletic director is taking the time to respond.

There are some important rules to this work:

First, you need to respond quickly. Complaint anger can grow exponentially over time.

Second, listen. Inside that rant is a problem, one that you probably need to fix.

Third, apologize and offer solutions. Outside of coaching issues, they don’t take the time to go off on you if nothing wasn’t wrong.

Fourth, acknowledge their opinions. No matter how bad, it is their opinion. It’s OK to have that opinion, but perhaps the opinion is not well informed. Does this person have all the facts?

Fifth, be transparent. With the exception of private schools and certain team/academic/FERPA issues, it does you no good to act like what you know cannot be shared. Fans can be forgiving, but only when you are respectful of them and are willing to bring them in.

Last of all, sometimes you can’t solve their problems. This becomes an agree to disagree situation, but you ignore their feelings at your own risk.

From personal experience, taking the time to win over an upset fan who has given up on the streaming plan at the school, or is upset about an error on the website, pays dividends. Fans want to be loyal. Even more so, they want to be connected. Hold them at arm’s length at your own peril. Sooner or later, you will need them to step up for the program. If you have ignored them, they will not rally to your cause.

Farewell to the Bahamas

Not exactly the view from my window, but the pounding surf outside the room. The wind kicked up last night and howled through the windows and doors of the hotel. Big storms rolling north -- hey, just in time to fly into them.

Back in Fayetteville, the radar has that distinctive soft feathered look of snow. As we leave Our Lucaya, 25 mph winds gusting the tropical storm level.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

If I Was King for a Day

Reflecting on the announcement of PC Mag from print to a 100% on-line entity this week . . .

Create recruiting guides for every sport, none longer than 64 pages. They would be magazines with a high-gloss, fashion look because frankly, they are sales pieces for the program to parents.

Convert press guides into PDF almanacs with a high index content and XML searchable databases.

Put all the work that once went into those 208-page hybrids into new media content, focusing on personality and real-time streaming.

Build community through transparent message boards -- by transparent I mean confirmed real identity -- that along with real-time media would support the data store of the traditional HTML website.

Instead, I'll spend this weekend creating a printing calendar for next year's media guides.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sam Adams School of Communication

Organizing groups of insiders who can carry the message of the athletic department into the social media appears creepy, if not down right controlling, to many. These folks break down into two groups – those who do not want visible ties to message management and those who do not feel it necessary to engage those people on the boards.

I will argue that it’s not only proper, it’s American.

You mean you’ve forgotten Samuel Adams? The colonial governments needing to get word out to supporters and potential recruits required an alternate means of spreading information. The crown printers were not about to issue the news favorable to the insurgents. Thus, Committees of Correspondence were formed on an ad hoc basis until Adams formalized the system.

The Committees would carefully repeat the news of the day and mail it on to the next member for local dissemination, either by word of mouth or by circulation of the letter itself.

Sound familiar? How different were the Town Cryers used by the Obama campaign? Not one bit.

There are several groups waiting for the athletic department to utilize. Existing booster groups – tipoff clubs or swatters clubs – are a great source. Scholarship donors or foundation members are another important group. The network need not be formal – it can be as simple as a short list of trusted fans that can be informed of events.

Not everyone can employ the technique, and it has to be understood by the leadership. They must be comfortable enabling others to speak for the department. The ones that understand the control of the brand exists within the fan base rather than within a marketing or media relations office will be the administrators most willing to engage.

Never Forget It's All About the "E"

An interesting article in today's Austin American-Statesman about the power that ESPN wields as a schedule maker. The point of the piece is how ESPN has gone beyond the concept of "made games" to bring together power teams for televised games. The Worldwide Leader now has "made tournaments."

One of the money quotes, from the director of the Great Alaksa Shootout, who is no longer a part of the family:

"I think what happened in 2006 was a law of unintended consequence," Cobb said. "The rule change wasn't meant to empower ESPN, the 600-pound gorilla, but that's what happened.

"ESPN creates events. ESPN can write a check to bring in some little guys like Presbyterian or Prairie View for the big guys to feast on early and then set up great matchups. We used to be televised by ESPN. All of a sudden the vendor becomes the competitor, and I'm afraid the writing is on the wall for us."

Read the whole story here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

You Betcha We Took the Phones

One of the few upsides to being stuck off from family on Thanksgiving is you have time to catch up on work and on TV. A replay of an interview with Sarah Palin provided this nugget. When Todd brought the family down to the lower 48 to catch up with mom for the announcement in Ohio that she was the VP candidate, he took away the kids cell phones. The story he told them was they were going to surprise mom at an anniversary dinner, and he couldn't risk them letting the secret out.

What he really knew is he couldn't risk the kids texting friends in Alaska that hey, we're all flying off together to surprise mom somewhere.


Same reason why every coaching departure in America is news within no less that 15 minutes. The kids text friends. They text more friends. It gets in the social media. And just like that, the regular media knows what's happening.

Gotta hand it to someone in that camp -- at least for one moment, the knew how to enforce message discipline.

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my brothers and sisters scattered across the world -- from Maui to here in the Bahamas -- stuck away from home on Thanksgiving with basketball teams, have a good day.

On the travel side of this blog, one of the good things is off-shore, the sodas are made with real sugar. Tastes like your childhood before high fructose corn syrup.

It is also very quiet, and it's obvious that people are not traveling like they have on Thanksgivings past.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Take Note Kids: The Adults have Digital Troubles

More proof of one of my favorite lines: digital assets, once posted, are incredibly portable.

Seems that the Shermans of nearby Bella Vista have some troubles. Wifey Tina had sent some nudes to her husband Phillips' cell phone. OK, a little spousal spice. No facebooking here.

Well, be careful where you leave your cell phone. Phillip left his phone at a local fast food resturant, and someone found the phone -- and the pics -- and posted them.

We know about these events as the Shermans have sued the company. Read more from one of our local papers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is Blogging Dead?

Wired seems to think so. So do a lot of the on-line technocrati. Given that the top of the Google and other search engines are -- as Wired puts it -- on-line magazines rather than bloggers, I'm not so sure.

Twitter is the new blogging, and private email lists the new twitter. We are cycling through vehicles, not messaging.

The two items that seem constant -- people want the information they want, and they want it delivered to them. The vehicles seem irrelevant.

What I do see as a dying venue is the web site. My anecdotal evidence tells me they are reference material, not news sources. It is consistent with communication theory -- we trust those we know the best, and those are usually those closest to ourselves or think like ourselves. Mass communication began with a tribal elder spreading the word by mouth. Now it's a board operator spreading the word by text.

The future isn't better web site design and layout.

The future is better content and the willingness to interact with our fan base.

My constant drum beat to colleagues and coworkers over time has been to watch the magazine racks for layout -- they are paid to be the cutting edge -- and study the politicos for messaging -- they only succeed when they reach the people. Barack Obama is pushing for more transparency in government by putting on-line huge amounts of government documents. One of his few bills in Congress was to create a "google" of government contracts. Why contracts?

Because he crowd-sourcing them.

Notice, the idea wasn't to ask the people what we thought of legislation. Not to get folks looking into the national security apparatus. Not to pour over the pork-barrel earmarks of Congressmen. It was to look through government contracts. The president elect has targeted those recipients of government contracts for the microscopic inspection of thousands of motivated Americans to find the errors, the waste, the corruption.

This should tell us several things. Not unlike bloated Congressional legislation that is often voted upon without being fully vetted, much less read all the way to the end, there is a ton of stuff buried in these contracts (EULA, hello!) that while it is created by bureaucrats, the bureaucrats charged with oversight can't keep up. Like a short-staffed Gannett newsroom, let's get the people to do our work.

This means the peasants are at the gates, pitch forks and torches in hand. Be careful what you unleash in the power of the people. It is highly likely they will do the job you asked them to do, and that can lead to unintended consequences -- perhaps for the people who started the process themselves. Mr. Obama, meet Mssr. Robespierre.

It may also lead to something more important: a more engaged electorate. Here's the thing about working in the sausage factory. You know what's in that stuff, and either you don't eat it or you make darn sure you buy the brats that are rat and sawdust free.

What does that mean for college athletics? Well, fans aren't going to like that schools are spending as much as they spend on some things. At the same time, they might begin to understand why their tickets cost what they cost and begin to make choices. No, we want X-program to be good, and we will support success. No, we're tired to spending money down that rat hole and stop supporting non-productive coaches/teams/programs.

Regardless, for public universities, there is a new day just on the horizon. We have always lived in glass houses -- FOIA, sunshine laws, public funding accountability. The shades are about to open, and standing outside the windows are thousands of folks, ready to look in.

The ones that flourish in this future are the ones who can function effectively while being watched by everyone. The spin, as O'Reilly might say, stops here.

Hmm. Guess I went more than 140 characters.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Dark Lord Speaks

Love him or hate him, Rupert Murdoch speaks the truth:

"My summary of the way some of the established media has responded to the internet is this: it's not newspapers that might become obsolete. It's some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper's most precious asset: the bond with its readers."

And, that's just the start. Murdoch was participating in a lecture series for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. That blurb came from Coop's Corner on CNET, which gives a fine summary of the speech here. For those that want more details from ABC, this is a press release on the Boyer Lectures. The first three lectures of the six-talk series is currently on iTunes (search Boyer Lecture).

Speaking of ABC, did anyone else catch Gruen Transfer via iTunes last year? Perhaps one of the best 10-episode run on the subject of the advertising community.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Last Time We Checked, They Paid You to Check

Last week, MSNBC was forced to issue a retraction after being hoaxed by an internet blogger. John McCain advisor Martin Eisenstadt came forward to admit he was the source on a Fox News story regarding Sarah Palin, and MSNBC and several other major outlet blogs (LA Times, notably) bit on the Eisenstadt claim.

Eisenstadt, a senior fellow at the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy, said he was the source of the story that in debate prep, Palin said that Africa was a country.

Just a few problems with the story. There is no Harding Institute. There's not even a Martin Eisenstadt. It was all the creative invention of a pair of filmmakers, and they played the traditional media for the LOLs. The Times went with the rumor, thinking it was viable because it was passed along to the news desk via email from a friend. MSNBC quickly said they were sorry that the story had not been "properly vetted".

This might be a little less egregious if it was a one-off. Regretably for MSNBC, this was Eisenstadt's third political hoax of the year.

It was one of those earlier stories that the Associated Press had the quote of the day, this time from Mother Jones' Jonathan Stein.

"My only consolation is that if I had as much time on my hands as he clearly does, I probably would have figured this out and saved myself a fair amount of embarrassment."

Um. Gee. Aren't you guys the professionals -- as in the people that are PAID to figure these things out? And you were had by a bunch of "amateurs"?

Is it any shock that more and more people believe the established media less and less?

That is, unless that quote from Stein was too good to be true and I've been had by the other great trend. We spend less and less time seeking out opinions that don't reinforce our own, and more and more time

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am Reminded of the Three Rules

Before Dan Rather lost his mind -- and his job -- he wrote in his book, The Camera Never Blinks, that he expected the sources he respected to give him one of three answers:

I know, and I can tell
I don't know
I know, and I can't tell

Every source in the world, by Rather's estimation, fits into these three categories.

I was reminded of this by one of my students from last semester, that this was one of the items that really stuck with them. Good.

Our friends at Awful Announcing bring Mr. Rather back to mind with this entry about ESPN rejoining the BCS bidding war. A story written by ESPN on its own website resulted in ESPN saying that it had no further comment.

How exactly can the worldwide leader fit into the Rather system? I leave it to the readers to decide.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Niche Future is Here

Kenny Mayne is a unique talent, and ESPN has found the perfect niche vehicle for his humor with Mayne Street. Think SNL for sports.

The difference is its all digital. Shot for web. Aired by web. Sponsors, embeded and by the side in a traditional web presentation.

How much was the sponsorship? Probably not much. Low cost, low investment. But, I'll be willing to bet the return for Vicks NyQuil against traditional expenditure will be extremely high. It's Long Tail niche.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Duxford Mystery

I've been cleaning up some old files, and this picture I took at the American Museum at the Duxford complex. No one at the facility had any clue about the background of this B-29. Its markings were Korean War -- not Second World War -- and obviously the pilot had an Arkansas connection. The commander didn't just pick the Razorback logo, accurate to the 1950s, and the tag line.

I'm posting the image here in hope of someone who knows about the crew could get in contact with me.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stop Me If This Sounds Familiar

The thing I find most interesting about The Long Tail is how much it reinforces the positions I've presented to the SEC Spring Meeting or CoSIDA. One of those points at the 2007 SEC was to understand the fact that we as SIDs are outnumbered. That's a pleasant way of saying surrounded.

From Chris Anderson's book:

Once, the power of newspapers came from their command over their tools of production. As the saying went, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” But starting in the early 1990s, news started coming on screens, not just smudgy pages. And suddenly, anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection had the power of the press.

I've also used the Dan Rather analogy -- he was the most traditional, and taken down by those that were derisively called the Pajamaistas. Anderson quotes Richard Posner:

“Bloggers can specialize in particular topics to an extent that few journalists employed by media companies can. . . . A newspaper will not hire a journalist for his knowledge of old typewriters, but plenty of people in the blogosphere have the esoteric knowledge, and it was they who brought down Dan Rather.”

It's validating stuff, but more important, with a major author like Anderson saying it, perhaps others will begin to listen.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Long Tail Notes to Chill the Traditionalist

As promised, some notes and quotes from Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. This book has been around for a while, but the more I talk about it with athletics colleagues I understand that it has not penetrated our world. I highly recommend getting a copy -- it's been reissued in trade paper this fall.

Three quotes from the final chapter, which is about the radical change in marketing and PR that is upon our profession.

Where does this leave PR? The usual role of sending press releases to traditional media will probably continue as long as there is traditional media.

Blogging is all about authenticity and the individual voice, not paid spin.

Fundamentally social media is a peer-to-peer medium; bloggers would rather hear from someone doing something cool than from the paid professional representative of that person.

These passages are near and dear both to my heart and my experience. Especially the second quote. If you choose to blog, you must find your own voice. In sports, this really isn't that hard to understand. The heart of the sports section was the commentary of the editor's column. It is that value-added insight that separates a game story from an explanation of the game.

Jerry Springer; Media Savant

Tonight, Jerry Springer had the best explanation of the election I have heard from any pundant. On Hannity and Combs, the three were discussing the meaning of Obama earning two-thirds of the vote from those under 30. Springer pointed out is wasn’t just a youth vote. Obama is the first new media president. As surely as Kennedy would not be elected without television, Obama does not succeed without the employment of the internet on all levels – fund raising, reaching out through new media, touching a new electorate with their type of message.

I would extend that analogy further to include Franklin Roosevelt never gets elected without radio, and the way that he mastered the use of the medium to put forth his message. Perhaps even as far back as the Penny press and Grover Cleveland; Lincoln and the age of the great orators.

Future always belongs to the one who masters the medium of the moment.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Just When You Thought Facebook Was Going Away

Mack Brown dismisses Buck Burnette, the back-up center for the Texas Longhorns, after Burnette makes a really stupid post on his Facebook about Barak Obama's election. I'll leave it for Deadspin to provide the quote and link.

Kudos to Coach Brown for his action. Immediate dismissal from the team. The First Amendment crowd can cry that this is a violation of Mr. Burnette's ability to express himself. That perhaps is was simply satire.

No. Mr. Burnette represented the Longhorns in a public way. He is, for all intents, a public figure. His fate becomes no different than John Rocker. The difference is Mr. Burnette cannot blame the media for misquoting him.

Something I stressed to my student-athlete in the past -- when you run a Facebook/MySpace/SNW page, you have become the media. You have complete responsibility for what appears there. And, accept the liabilities.

It is a shame for Mr. Burnette. He's a college student, and college should be a time for stupidity. I mean that in the best of intentions -- people experiment, people learn who they are, people need the forgiveness that we should have for the learning.

Back in the day, we called them youthful indiscretions.

Today, they become near-felonious offenses.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Line of the Day

From TWIT, an expression of how Google sees the lack of advertising as more important than picking up a few more bucks via an extra ad.

"Google sees this as investing in the user experience"

Yes. This is why Facebook's interface is so loved, but not so often imitated. The TWIT crew continued to infer that Google is making more through less advertising, then driving partner sites to have more advertising. People go to one of the partner sites, see more ads and conclude, gee, I'd really like to use Google to search because it's less cluttered.

I get the very real sense we need to spend more time investing in our user experience across the board -- websites, new media products, in-game presentations -- and have a resulting better presentation of brand.

Or, as I've more clunkily said in the past, no one likes the Vegas strip on their desktop.