Friday, December 31, 2010

The Key to Engagement

Ronnie Ramos at the NCAA was gracious to invite me to join his panel at the NCAA Convention in two weeks down in San Antonio. He's making it much more of a panel Q&A than a PowerPoint-PowerPoint-DozeOff-PowerPoint (did I say that out loud?) podium dictat. How appropriate since a big part of our topic is discussion and engagement with the people formerly known as the audience.

I've been hashing out some of the answers and as usual with previous presentations, I'd like to vet them out with the blog followers. Long-time readers will see some of my trademark lines (hey, I say that here in no small way -- if you lift 'um, at least share the credit; someday I might try to monetize this stuff). Sermon over, on to theory.

How and what represents engagement? From previous posts, I've talked about the misconception by newcomers that Facebook in particular is just a new way to send out your old marketing (read: shameless sales pitch) messages. At dinner last night with a high school classmate -- so yes, I'm dating us WAY outside that wunderkind generation that so many wish to reach and BTW think you have to hire to reach them -- who works with a non-profit (Save NOLA) here in New Orleans. Whenever she puts up a note about buying a tee-shirt to support the organization's cause, hardly a Like, nary a comment. Same message cast interactively, different result.

The one way I will say old-school sales meets modern-day social interaction: you have to make the ask. When you open yourself in the way messages are crafted to ask the readers to join in, they will. When you simply try to be excited, but in the same one-to-many mode as a display advertisement, they will move right down the social graph to the next person. The game is engagement, and to do that, you have to commit to the relationship on a one-to-one basis.

The goal is to turn your Brand into a Bond with the institution, and you do that by turning Fans into Friends.

That doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen with part-time effort. It doesn't happen without allowing individuals to represent the institution. Nothing throws off a more noxious social media stink than groupthink.

I speak to my college athletic people on this: when politicians spend seven figures on something during major campaigns -- PAY ATTENTION. When corporations start hiring entire teams of full-time persons devoted to "outreach" or "evangelism", there is a reason. Many universities understand the social future, and they are putting the resources into that effort.

What we seek to do -- attract attention to our teams and schools, recruit students and student-athletes and teach the next generation -- hasn't changed. Just the tools. This means of communications requires people -- individuals -- not simply a lot of high tech equipment or super-glossy printed materials. The investment is in your team that makes that connection, that converts your Brand into Bond to make Fans into Friends.

Please, feedback and discuss.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Is It A Failure to Communicate?

USA TODAY owns the blogosphere with their meme du jure: 2010, the year we stopped talking to each other. Don't take my word for it, google it up.

Is talking a lost art? Is letter writing? Is literature?

Or is it just a nifty exploit of our fear of technology and change.

Just to put my cell provider through the exercise, I get a printed bill each month. It comes in a box sometimes because the detail on the texting done by my teenage daughter; dwarfing her minutes used with texts. So she doesn't talk to her friends. She communicates with them in short bursts more so than her mother did low those many AT&T Slimline Princess phone years ago.

Are we really worried that because the communication isn't verbal that we are losing something as a society? Should we be worried -- as an unnamed psychologist implies in the USA TODAY piece -- that we are disassociating as a society?

Let me ask Abigail about that, as in former First Lady Abigail Adams, unquestionably one of America's greatest correspondents. Her and John Adams' letters were legend. They managed to remain close even though so much of their lives were conducted by written word.

We are a social animal. We crave being connected. Digital tools allow us to crush the time and distance separating people.

Is the worry that we aren't talking to each other in the same room, or that we no longer feel compelled to listen to central distribution points of information? That we now construct our own social graphs, and rearrange them at our own whims.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Crossover Post

Catching up with podcasts this week -- On the Media's Dec. 24 edition has Bob Garfield speaking with Lawrence Weschler on "the fiction of non-fiction". More accurately, about the blurring lines between fictional story telling and reportage. This was like listening to a pair of theoretical physicists parse quarks and other sub-atomic anti-matter. By the end, you aren't really clear what real is, yet somehow, it's OK.

I call this a crossover post because it meets the way I've presented my history class and in turn, one of the key principals of the We're History series. Weschler invokes Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinean literary legend, and his view that there are two universes: the universe of material reality and the universe of words. To get from A to B requires a narrative, and that story-telling ability is the heart of good journalism.

One of my prime philosophies I impart to students is there are three versions of the past: what happened, or simply, the past; the little "h" of history that got recorded and the big capital "H" History that someone composed. The universe of material reality and the past are one and the same. I add the extra step of recording, because living the past you saw that material reality but did you take the time to capture it and convert it into some analog of what occurred. The big-H History is pretty self-explanatory as I make the point to the students that just because somebody said it happened doesn't always mean that it actually did in the way it was described.

I'll probably add the twist of the conversion to words to my presentation, in part because of where Weschler took it next. He was poking at the difference between truth and Truth, and that everyone who reports ends up making changes and rearrangements of what was said, even if it is taken down word for word. Weschler finds nothing wrong with slight altering and cleaning up to reflect the perceived reality. Bob Garfield struggled mightily during the interview with this.

The quotation as a warrant for the journalist becomes the point. The gist of what was said and the voice in which it was expressed are part of the story, and simply quoting people verbatim does not provide an accurate sense of what it was like to be with that person and what they said really means. Sometimes a closer representation of what was said comes from the finding of the key thoughts within a five-minute passage rather than a transcript of the five-minute interview.

Weschler's money quote -- which I will warrant here:

"Quotes don't float in midair. Quotes result from scenes."

In history, we'd say what was missing was the context, or the zeitgeist. Weschler wants more depth, more voice from the individual writer, and he's not ashamed one bit to call good journalism good story telling.

Classic Crisis Management

There are some timeless pieces of advice in public relations and especially crisis management: have a plan being the most important. A visit to the National World War II Museum today reminded me of one of the classics from American history. Dwight Eisenhower worked the details of the invasion at Normandy from every angle, including planning for what he would say if things did not go well. He scribbled down the message that would be issued to the world if the troops were repelled back into the sea. That original note is part of the displays, and it speaks to us today.

Eisenhower planned to take full responsibility in the event of the landing's failure. Granted, it is a military precept that the leader takes the fall, but he was unequivocating in his statement.

If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Men at Work

Tonight starts a eight-day run of coverage for our website,, from the Sugar Bowl. I'm talking to the Chief Operating Officer of the Sugar Bowl about the economic impact. We'll use it in internal stuff next year, plus a clip for the end of our package today.

Get asked a lot about "being our own media." There are two forks to that road. The first one is we have some things to say that, well, no one else is going to want to say. Like what is the economic impact. The other is that more and more we find ourselves as the only "media" at our events.

The second part won't be the case starting tomorrow, but we're here as much for our fans as anyone else. There's not a lot of general interest in what the team did on an off day, or what the field-level view of the Superdome looks like, or what's it like inside the media area. Not enough for mass media. But among our fans, there isn't a detail too small, an image too insignificant -- and what we as the "insiders" take for granted they are excited to learn about. How do you get all that equipment to the game?

On the Road to Damascus

I promise more focused fare later, but on my two-day sojourn to New Orleans I had a touching and disturbing moment. I stopped for lunch and gas in McComb, Miss. I'd started to fuel up when she came around the pumps. Her eyes were red, and she was obviously distressed.

Are you from around here, she asked with a hint of a quiver. Uh, no, but maybe I can help -- thinking she was panicked from being lost. I've certainly made this drive dozens of times years ago, so I know my way around south Mississippi a little.

My daughter and I are trying to get back home and we're out of cash and I'm lost and I'm trying to get some gas and they made me a deal on some here but I'm trying to get a room to sleep and . . .

Her story was babbling. She kept offering to her phone to call her mom to verify the story. But her pain was genuine. I felt sorry for her, and gave her some cash. I'd help her more than me today.

She was very thankful and a little ashamed and got back in her car. As I left, I thought about how maybe it was an elaborate panhandle. Maybe. Or maybe she really was down and out. Either way, it will help her -- she'll really use it to get fuel and food or whatever else it takes to get her to forget her current circumstance.

I've not run across folks in that much trouble outside of larger cities, and certainly not usually here in the deep South. I guess it is more hidden in smaller towns, but she shows me that things aren't still good out there, no matter what the season or the news might say.

I wondered as I got onto I-55 heading toward New Orleans if I helped her out to make her feel better, or me. If I'm honest, probably both.

Monday, December 27, 2010

On the Road Again

Loading the gear and heading south for the Allstate Sugar Bowl today. Probably more posts later today as 10-plus hours of windshield time equals time to ponder.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tron Legacy

If you haven't seen it, go. As 3-D movies go, it's OK. As homage to a past classic and reviving it, it's not J.J. Abrams Star Trek. But for just about anyone geeking along with this blog, yeah, it's worth your coin. The use of young Jeff Bridges repurposed for the CLU against the very The-Dude-meets-the-internet old Bridges is nice cinema. The story is well managed and I'm sure it will produce a lot of quoting in coming weeks. Plus, the Daft Punk soundtrack is awesome.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Measure of Commitment

Many ways to gauge it -- did you make some social media posts here on Christmas Day? Easy enough, and somewhat natural.

How about Christmas Eve? OK, fine. Did you have to issue statements regarding your men's basketball team on the holidays? Miss State AD Scott Stricklin did. Not a pleasant trip to the Aloha State, resulting in a photographs and videos -- of course, posted by bystanders -- of two Bulldog basketball players fighting at Stan Sheriff Arena.

One of my fav SID lines is this: They don't pay us for the good days, they pay us for the bad ones. Stricklin's Xmas Eve is about as bad as they get, and it would have been really easy to retreat from his Twitter feed and other social media. He didn't, and instead, issued some of his key messaging statements via Twitter.

There wasn't going to be any missing the event -- aside from fans info on the incident, his beat reporter Brandon Marcello was in Honolulu. Members of the team Tweeted info and apologies that day. Same for the team's SID, Gregg Ellis. Stricklin had a quick statement on Christmas Eve, then followed up with the details of the suspensions as well as a statement from head coach Rick Stansbury.

Now, would we have learned about this with the level of detail or as fast as we did without real-time reporting and social media? No. Did it contribute to the spread and knowledge? Absolutely. Could it be avoided? Perhaps if the tournament was in Siberia.

I've said in the space before that Stricklin gets the world he lives in and embraces the chance to get the word out about his institution beyond the sleepy corner of Mississippi (no offense intended, but StarkVegas is not, well say, Las Vegas). As noted earlier, public universities -- especially those in the BCS leagues -- live in glass houses. The best way to manage is to build strategies to surf that wave.

If you've got time this holiday weekend, thread your way through the involved feeds and you be the judge.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

And to all, after a long day, good night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Zuckerberg Changes Recruiting

Derek Dooley's unfortunate mispost on Facebook with a recruit comes to light today in the Knoxville Sentinel. Costly error as he put a comment on the wall rather than a personal message. It is understandable -- anyone using the Facebook app on iPhone knows those buttons are right next to each other -- but UT does the right thing, self-reports and it is coming to light now I suspect in a semi-annual FOI sweep by the local newspaper.

Key passage in the newspaper's on-line report:

According to the report, which was filed Aug. 11 and drafted by associate athletic director for compliance Brad Bertani, Dooley had been “permissibly communicating” with O’Leary through the e-mail function on Facebook. When he received an e-mail from O’Leary on June 3, Dooley, using a Motorola Droid, mistakenly sent his message to O’Leary’s wall, which, depending on how O’Leary configured his privacy settings, could be viewed by all 500 million Facebook members.

Let me reach back to something I saw last month and forgot until future NCAA Convention panel chair Ronnie Ramos shared a message with me today.

Mark Zuckerberg is about to change the NCAA's rules on recruiting.

Facebook Messages is rolling out over the next few weeks/months, and when it is done, the ability for the NCAA to say that a coach sent an impermissible text message to a recruit when they could have/should have sent an email disappears. Why? Because The Social Network is going to bring three separate bit buckets into one Message stew.

To quote from our Blue Overlord's website, Message provides:

Integrated communication: No matter what you’re using to communicate (Facebook, mobile or email), your conversation streams quickly and seamlessly into one place.

Let me put a little compliance nightmare into this:

Getting and responding to messages from your phone:
Once you turn on text messaging, friends can check the "Send to Phone" option when they send you messages. If a friend checks this box, you’ll receive a text that contains the message. Simply reply to the text from your phone, and your friend will receive your reply as a Facebook message. It will also be logged in the ongoing conversation with your friend, which you can view from your Messages home page.

So a coach sends a PM that becomes a text, and it was because the end user turned it into a text.

Now, the NCAA staff is on top of this shift, and a great post about it a couple of weeks ago by John Infante on the organization's own Bylaw Blog makes it clear they understand. Kudos here for the NCAA as they are often dinged for "not getting" the on-line world or making rules that become unenforceable. John gets it, and his key passage reinforces my own thought:

It may seem like tortured logic to say that Twitter direct messages were like email, and thus permissible to prospects who had started their junior year. It might make you scratch your head further to learn that if the prospect received updates of those messages via text messaging, they suddenly became impermissible.

Even if it was a fiction, that fiction was still hanging on. Until Facebook created a system that might turn a text message into an email. Or turn an email into an instant message. Or where an email might trigger a “push notification,” a potential intrusion into a prospect’s life that the rules don’t even consider. All in a system that might change the nature of a message not just based on a preference selected by a user, but even by whether the user is logged into a website or not

When texts were ruled out, the two motivating reasons were mounting cell phone bills for recruits (and, let's be honest, coaches too) getting texts from would-be suitors AND the passionate plea of the then head of the NCAA's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee that these texts were a serious annoyance into the daily life of prospects. Toss in a couple of anecdotal horror stories of recruits getting a text in the middle of a test on a school day, and the ban is on.

For those outside the college world, pretty elaborate systems are in place to track and monitor coaches' phone calls and text messages for these reasons. Not to bore, but only so many calls at certain times a year and no texting. Email, however, is unlimited (well, sort of again), and private messaging to Facebook and other areas was considered email (unless, like Coach Dooley, it accidentally went Wall rather than PM).

I'm guessing that we'll see this as a top at the NCAA Convention in January, or a staff interpretation shortly after once Message gets a wider adoption.

If you want to read more from Facebook on the concept, the FAQ is here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We're History

No, don't panic. I'm not leaving, but I am splitting off some of the blog posts for my local National Public Radio series called "We're History" into it's own blog. Yesterday, Kyle Kellams and I posted a great explanation of Wikipedia and its impact on history and historical coverage in the media. It also explains a lot about why we do the series -- poking holes in the modern "exceptionalism" or "presentism" we see in a lot of the info-tainment.

See the We're History blog here, the We're History Facebook and to listen to KUAF's Ozarks At Large. (If you're coming to this after Dec. 21, you may need to use the search function at Ozarks to dial in the Dec. 20 episode).

I will crib off one of my closing lines: "What we're really missing these days are editors, at all levels. You can go direct to the people without anyone reviewing your information."


Monday, December 20, 2010


What do all those row upon row of business and marketing self-help books all say? You have to ask for the sale.

The same this is true of interaction in the social media world. Remember, it is a conversation. The second person is OK. And most of all, proclaiming old news to the world is not going to get reaction.

For example (mascots removed to protect the innocent):

MASCOT take down OPPONENT 88-78 and improve to 10-0!!! Go TEAM!!!!

And how many comments did that Facebook post inspire for that institution? About 60, which sounds good until you consider the institution is in the 100K range of followers.

What if the same quick message about a big win said:

MASCOT takes down OPPONENT 88-78. Were you there to see TEAM go to 10-0?

Now, we have an ask. The same go team posts are likely, but now two extra dimensions are added. Those that were at the event can brag, and share a personal remembrance (yeah, I saw Bob hit the three pointer . . . ). Those that missed the event can lament (Go team, I'll be there next time).

The engagement point is making everyone a part of the news, not just proclaiming it like the town crier. That job belongs to the institutional website, or to real-time reporting tools like Twitter (although, there is a certain interaction point on that platform as well).

I can't give you a scientific double blind on the impact of that subtle language change, but I do know that one weekend we had more of that call to comment in the Facebook note after a football win and the next weekend it was not. The feedback numbers were higher for the Miss State post than the LSU post. One could argue that the 2OT thriller at MSU had more folks on edge, resulting in better Facebook impression numbers. But the LSU game the next week was a top 10 upset and vaulted the team into Sugar Bowl contention. Just guessing you'd think the impression graph would have been the same, if not better than the week before with MSU.

Again, to be clear, I can't give you a cut and dried here piece of evidence (really, who wants to openly experiment on their fans and risk missing a chance to pump them up by deliberately using flat language). All I can say is that logic tells me that if you ask for a reaction, you've got a better chance -- just like in sales -- to get an interaction.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Deadspin now promises three days of WikiLeaking - or maybe better said from their story that they will flush out some stuff that was not quite funded or ready to publish - it's more of a Drudging. Nevertheless, be afraid.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Glass Houses for Everyone

Those of us blessed to be public servants understand all too well the phenomenon of WikiLeaks -- we call it the Freedom of Information Act. However, for many corporations, transparency can be as, well, opaque as the company wishes since they are private.

The savvy understand their brand is no longer their own thanks to social media. Now the digital revolution threatens their backshop as well. PRSA's weekly email carried this link from AOL News by Gary McCormick. He anticipates the WikiLeaking to reach out into business, and warns the time to prepare is now.

McCormack is concerned that too many look at crisis management as:

"a misguided belief that any bad news can be mitigated with enough messaging, calls for internal investigations and TV appearances where the CEO is seen in the heart of the action"

Hmm, that sounds a little too familiar.

McCormack has some clear advice:

"Viewing WikiLeaks as an enemy threat would be a mistake. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity; a global call to action for CEOs to transparently present their full and honest side of the story. "

If that doesn't provide religion, Forbes Magazine's Stephanie Nora White and Rebecca Theim bring the revival in their WikiLinks and the New Corporate Crisis. They focus in on Julian Assange's group proper, and the very real financial impact on Bank of America -- simply on the threat of disclosure.

Where McCormack is providing the sound PR advise, White and Theim give us grim reality:

Wikileaks is ushering in a new form of the "reputational crisis," in which the very way an organization and its leaders operate, think and respond is made public.

They point to all the same talking points that McCormack referenced in events like the BP spill, and remind us the thing we remember: messages of the former CEO "wanting his life back". In the Forbes piece, the authors talk with Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril.

"A company where there's no dissent is at serious risk," Heffernan says. Because dissenters can pinpoint your areas of greatest risk, doing so will help an organization identify its most acute vulnerabilities.

Again, a lot of this is nothing new to those in the college sports realm as most of us are under some form of state employee/agency FOIA. Still, it's important to keep in mind some of White and Theim's closing bullet points -- most centered around it's not if, but when, you find our documents on the street with things so easily copied. They talk a lot about doing things now -- like embracing dissent within the organization to strengthen it from the inside and investing more in getting employee buy-in to reduce the chance of negative feelings. They conclude:

Technology is making it more and more difficult for those in power to control information--particularly information that shows their institutions have behaved distastefully, hypocritically or even criminally.

More succinctly: Business world, meet the social network.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Made Dennis Miller Laugh

This post isn't quite as egomaniacal as you are anticipating. But I am quite chuffed at making Dennis Miller not only laugh, but howl and admit "I didn't see that coming."

Miller's radio show has a lot of new media aspects, and he has taken a much different approach to a three hour slot. More guests and more regular callers for a national show, and building a linkage to his fans from the start. There is a member's only message board that drives comments and questions to the show. Many days whole hours are given over to Dennis Ex Machina - asking him anything, about anything.

However, one of the premium genius moves is his Bathrobe Sessions. Every two weeks, he sits down and takes questions from fans and rambles. Hmm, was that part of the idea behind Ask the A.D.? Ah, yes, in the first two years of the series - exactly.

So Miller gets to riff and relate with the fans on the Bathrobe Session. Here's where I come in, as I've managed to get two or three on over the years (you submit direct for the segments). On the Nov. 4 segment, I scored the lead question (it had to do with the faux movie project that Miller created from thin air called Mansquito) and then he just uproariously laughed for my joke. If you can catch a pro writer like Miller off guard, ah, I get my Christmas present early.

The effort put into Miller's segment is minimal. They tape them back to back every other week, and it gets done right after he gets done with one day of the show (which he does his part via ISDN in his own studio - thus the concept that he is still in his bathrobe). But the impact of this 30-40 minutes he invests is incredible. Look, it keeps me hooked for the $40 a year, and I'd guess another 2,000 or more (just judging from the traffic in the message boards) involved. Do the math: even at just 2k that's $80k gross.

You tell me. You think it's worth your A.D., or coach's time?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anybody Who Quotes Postman . . .

. . . is probably OK in my book. Driving around this weekend I catch a snippet of an interview with Chris Hedges. What almost stops me to take notes is, to paraphrase, his description of pseudo-events where brands seek to create stories to replace reality. The idea being that the brand makes a convincing story, and it becomes their new reality. I'm backtracking to get a audio of the interview "Culture of Distraction" to get the quote right.

It led me on-line to find more about the Pulitzer Prize winner's book, Empire of Illusion. I have this one lengthy review as I settle in to read it for myself. In the review, Ravi M. Singh makes the point that Hedges makes lengthy quotes from Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death.

It strikes me on the surface to have impact like True Enough was a couple of years ago.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Skunk Wha?

OK, several asked what was that Skunk Works reference yesterday. Same for some on my Facebook. Back when we were separate departments, my communications office took great pride in being where we did more with less and invented unique solutions to get around expensive problems (pioneering stable stat monitor distribution with surplus gear comes to mind -- when that was a thousands of dollar proposition in the late 1990s).

Reason it comes to mind was a passing reference the other day by the new University Relations head person at Arkansas to the original Lockheed Martin "Skunk Works." Here's the whole little legend that once graced the introduction pages of our former staff manual. Alumni of the Skunk Works, enjoy.

Welcome to the Skunk Works
During the Second World War, a crew of innovative technicians at
the Lockheed Aircraft Company were turned loose to scheme up answers
to impossible design problems. Under the direction of legendary aircraft
engineer Kelly Johnson, the special operations unit gave the country
some of its most unique aircraft.

After the war, the Cold War took the Lockheed engineers -- literally
-- to another level. The government needed a spy plane that would fly
higher, faster and farther than any previously imagined. Many companies
laughed at the government specifications. Conventional wisdom said it
simply could not be done. Not Lockheed.

Instead, the engineers rolled up their sleeves and created in record
time first the U-2, then the SR-71 Blackbird. These ultra top secret projects,
known as black budget for their secret nature, were the first of many
next generation innovations by the group of can-do designers now known
by the mysterious label of The Skunk Works.

The spirit of the Skunk Works is alive today in the Women's Communications
Office. We strive to be creative and innovative. We want to
stay on the cutting edge of technology, and harness it for our needs. We
take the tough assignment of building interest in women's athletics as a
challenge and we deliver.

So, on behalf of the Lady Razorbacks, welcome to the Skunk Works.

Dr. Bill Smith, Associate AD for Communications
(And chief skunk)

Friday, December 10, 2010

No More Secrets

The 1992 Robert Redford movie Sneakers has always held a special place in my movie rack. I decided to rematch it this weekend, and was stunned by the precient language of the script.

The premise is that Redford and his college buddy were proto-hackers in the activist 1960s. Redford is the jock who gets lucky to evade the cops and the buddy Cosmo goes to prison and is never heard from again. The crux is Redford and his team of ex-con troubled "security experts" get involved in a game for the Janek box that could decrypt anything.

At the end, the two protagonists face off.

"The world isn't run by weapons any more, or energy, or money, its run by little ones and zeores, little bits of data, it's all just electrons," Ben Kingsley's character Cosmo proclaims.

"I don't care," Redford's character said.

Remember, this is a 1992 movie. Probably written in 1990, maybe 1991. Re-read that and think about how much it really applies to today. You like that? Try Cosmo's closing soliloquy:

"There's a war out the my friend and it isn't about who has the most bullets, it's about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think, it's all about the information."

Chills. As the chapter naming on the DVD says: it's all about the information.

OK, enough drama; how about some fun.

At the end, when James Earl Jones confronts the team to get the return of the Janek box, they each ask for their unusual requests (Dan Aykroyd wants a Winnebago with "burgundy interior", David Strathairn wants "peace on earth and good will toward men" [We are the United States government; We DON'T DO that sort of thing], all River phoenix wants is the girl agent with the Uzi's phone number).

I've seen that scene - yep, just like the laundry list of the Harry rouge's gallery from NASA to drill and plant the astroid killing bomb in Armageddon.

An Educator's Story

The Nov. 26 Chronicle Review carries that essay by W. Mark Tew. (Side note: the link is to the new digital preview of The Chronicle -- worth visiting to see the interface even if you don't stay for the column). If you work around students, I am sure you will find it interesting and important. His personal story about his 10th grade teacher reminds me of my own tale about H. Perry Jones. He shared those same attributes of "Mrs. Walker" of Tew's childhood.

Tew distilled what was important about "impactful" teaching into four tags:

An educator places the student in the story
An educator validates ambition
An educator fosters creativity
An educator lives forever

Reminds me of the good old days of the "Skunk Works": alumns know the tale.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Force Multiplier, Redeux

Malcomb Gladwell points to the mile wide, inch deep commitment exhibited by many on-line communities, particularly those bent on social change. And yes, he went right to the cliche that the revolution will not be tweeted. Gladwell brings up solid examples to support his case. In this moment, personal experience would agree. I issue this caveat: until it happens.

I remember 18 months ago when PR pros and IT mavens said that Twitter would burn out and never would reach beyond a tech evangelist core audience. These would be same pros and mavens that now say being on Twitter is a must for business promotion.

Yes, we have not seen the on-line equal to the Woolworth lunch counter. Are you ready to be that target/cause/person?

One area Gladwell hits spot on is my old friend: force multiplier. If you read Gladwell's piece for no other reason, do so to understand again how much Twitter, Facebook, WikiLeaks, etc., he quotes Golnaz Esfandiari:

“Western journalists who couldn’t reach—or didn’t bother reaching?—people on the ground in Iran simply scrolled through the English-language tweets post with tag #iranelection,”

Kinda like waiting for a message on your team's next crisis to float by on a feed or board.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The History You Don't Know

I offer the following only to support for the sports world one of my core famous quotes -- that of Harry Truman: The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know. Usually, I'm pulling that up for a We're History piece for KUAF when Kyle Kellams and I are reminding the absent minded modern that there is almost always a precedent. Who knew there would be one on Reggie Bush? SportsByBrooks digs out an old 1960 newspaper article about the NFL providing a check to Billy Cannon. Now, I personally don't find this a good fit to the Bush case, but it certainly validates the historical concept. Let me be very clear, I have some family ties to Cannon through my late father, and I do not endorse the SbB tone of guilt by association.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Public Diplomacy 2.0

A solid, thought-provoking read in the London Review of Books by James Harkin of a trio of works on the impact of social media on 21st century diplomacy. Lengthy but meaty.

The gist: while there is great promise in real-time reporting and it's impact on social movements like the Iranian uprising, it can also be overblown.

That said, I draw your attention to this quote from James Glassman, Bush State Department member:

‘Our Digital Outreach Team goes onto blogs and websites. In Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and we hope soon in Russian, its members identify themselves as State Department representatives. They engage in the conversation, gently inform, correct distortions about US policies.

And the goal?

America’s terrorist enemies were no match for all this interactivity. ‘Extremists can’t adapt to social networking because it shakes the foundations of their whacked out, rigid ideology.’

Take on the trolls? Maybe not, but if the stodgy bureaucrats at Foggy Bottom are advocating engagement -- perhaps we should not be afraid of entering the participatory media world ourselves.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Moving Finger

A little more on the Rubaiyat. Followers recall one of my sappy history stories about H. Perry Jones and how much he loved that quote. The whole stanza bears repeating:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

Tell me good readers if there is a more succinct expression of what is social media today.

Composed around the turn of the first millennium, it captures both the ephemeral quality of our daily digital lives -- how fast do those texts, Tweets, status updates, RSS, 24x7x365 news fly by.

But the close of the quatrain speaks loudly: Just like the Googleplex (and the rising data hydra that will be Facebook's new messaging), the moving data of social media digitally lives forever. Somewhere. On some server. And once you've said it and sent it, ah yes, "all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line."

No amount of undo once sent "wash out a Word of it."

Savor that. Harry Truman is right: The only things new in the world is the history you don't know.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Static Web is Dead

Let me add my twist to the WIRED issue of earlier this fall with a couple of realizations for social media. Pelting media outlets with press release after press release was considered annoying and counterproductive. In the early days of digital media, that was considered spamming.

Those who do not regularly use social media tools -- real-time like Twitter or social graph like Facebook -- fear those standbys of static PR. Say it once. Say it well. Say it in a clear corporate voice.

That thinking is so 2000.

The social media is like the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on

If you have something important to message and you do it only once a day, you are counting on having caught your target audience in front of the screen when you sent it. Take a look at your tools. How fast does your wall move? How may visible Tweets are on your deck?

The moving fingers of your keyboard must repeat, and not be fearful of that. What gets you classed as spamming is saying the same thing, the same way, from the same source every time. The worst thing -- the most corporate thing -- is to have three or four different accounts/tools sending out the exact same message.

It looks programmed. It shows no imagination. It is not personal.

You are the soulless automaton in the 1984 Apple commercials. The difference is there are no drones standing there to listen. Because the web is now personalized, it is mobile and it is not, as WIRED was trying to tell us, locked inside a browser world.

I could stack you up with a bunch of links and bore you with more of my own experience (which, unfortunately I will when time permits -- two case studies to support this from recent campaigns, complete with control counter-points).

Think about yourself. If you have even a casual sized friend base for your social graph, doesn't it turn over four or five times a day? If you're following more than 50 really active news sources, how many times is something you were looking for two, three, ten screens back?

Be the moving finger.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

More Tweet Driven News

Sports by Brooks gives us another edition of digital-only news that spills over this time into real life. If you've not followed him, SbB released that he had Kentucky's AD in the hunt for the job at Kansas. The days of simply ignoring internet rumors has passed, and UK came out to counter on-line. Solid PR and a timely response. SbB trumps yesterday, calling out UK. Here's where it gets interesting. It's not the he said, he said exchange; its the pelt that SbB is trying to nail to the wall. Traffic is vital to digital media websites, but by putting itself into the back-and-forth with UK, is SbB doing infotainment or sports journalism? Different from the pay-for-texts Farve story? Welcome your opinions.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One Tweet Can Be Trouble

Following on yesterday's events, two new stories of Twitter. Right here at home, a single tweet by the co-host of a radio show launched a thousand (OK, maybe just five or 10) media inquiries if Arkansas' football coach had a new contract. The thought that our football coach might be locked up also set off a wave of positive reaction on social and participatory media.

In response, within several hours, a media statement. How different from the Ole Miss situation? The radio show's other co-host is the sports editor of the statewide newspaper -- thus it had a gravitas that commanded reply.

Why not put it in the paper instead, or was it a deliberate float? To answer A) the paper hasn't come out yet for tomorrow -- perhaps it will. Then B) if you have that kind of info, and as a serious journalist you are willing to put your name behind it, can you in a race to the public's attention can you afford to wait for the print edition.

Notice, I didn't say we on the receiving end were OK with the speculation in the tweet. Let me go further to be clear -- I am saying I understand why it would be done in the digital landscape we live in. Not saying I support it, or validate it.

Second point -- it could all be much, much worse. None of the last two or three days Tweetsters is getting ready for a year of "re-education through labor". News from across the great firewall of China that Cheng Jianping had the misfortune of retweeting a message and adding a sarcastic twist. It's all over the internet, almost to the point that you get a sense that maybe it's a bit apocryphal or what other issue underlies that we don't know about.

Then again, maybe the Chinese government is just dead serious about enforcing its social media policies.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Twitterific Weekend

The good Lord causes dropped touchdowns, players are quitting major programs and Houston Nutt is on his way to another job. How do I know that? Twitter, of course. In a quick round-up of the fun with 140, Steve Johnson who Sunday appeared to have blamed God for his dropped pass and eventual loss to the Steelers recanted today that he never meant the Lord was his defensive back. You be the judge.

Journal of Sports Media brings us the shocking news that real-time digital reporting services force traditional media to go out and do the dirty work of discovering truth. I think I called it force multiplier about three years ago. Nevertheless, intriguing as the Ole Miss based blog has its own fun as a sports blogger restarted a several month dormant Twitter feed to put the word out that Houston Nutt was leaving for Colorado (or the Dallas Cowboys, you pick). That got shot down this afternoon by a series of -- you guessed it -- tweets from beat reporters of the Rebels.

Pretty definitive on Sunday:
Houston Nutt will be named head coach at Colorado at 3 p.m. press conference on Monday.

Pretty defiant on Monday:
At 1p.m. Today he met with CU. I have never written or reported info I knew was false. I know why it didn't work out.

Today, Nutt was pretty specific in his press conference about not being involved with Colorado.

Rowher Today

My video editing skills are rudimentary, but the photos and video of the disrepair of the Rowher monument should come through in spite of my work. I stopped by after driving through Arkansas City for my blog entry Thanksgiving week, and what I discovered was really disturbing. I remember the monument from visits to grandmother's house, and it along with the POW camps in the area were subjects of quiet conversations in the past. I'm forwarding links to some of our veteran oriented politicians in hopes they can shake loose some funding to halt the decay.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

I had hoped that when this blog reached its 1,000th post, it would have some meaning beyond an anniversary. When I sat down today to chronicle the latest social campaign -- and its overwhelming unintended emotional impact -- I was quite pleased to note it would be the millennium.

After this month's earlier success with Vote Mallett, I considered a couple of problems coming up with our weekly ticket giveaway through the Twitter feed. If you didn't know, I use my personal tickets that the athletic department provides for a weekly contest I've called TwitTix. I know that there will be a HUGE demand for these two tickets. It's been a hard sellout for weeks, and with the BCS implications added to a series that has become one of the wildest in the SEC, two ducats for the Battle for the Boot would be extremely valuable.

Since CBS didn't move us onto the Friday we've played for many years after Thanksgiving, I knew I had an open window on the holiday. By the way, SID-types, ever notice you can get massive placements of stories that normally would not get big inches if you can provide them on holidays? Why? Nothing makes the skeleton shift happier than quality copy to fill space that comes in EARLY to help them meet the deadlines and go home to enjoy their holiday.

I had planned my regular pre-weekend blog column to focus on the story of my family's Arkansas roots. Being in Starkville allowed me to drive back through my mother's home town to pick up some art at no cost -- re-purpose the mileage! -- and in writing the story, it hit me that I had the set-up for a perfect Twitter contest. The gist of the column was being thankful for a divided house -- mom from Arkansas and big Razorback fans and dad from Louisiana and close to LSU types like Billy Cannon -- and telling the story of my own very personal connection to Arkansas City.

Now I've got the tie in. Have the fans tell me -- through Twitter -- what they are thankful for today. I'll pick the winner that way rather than show up at some spot and show me a tweet or retweet the Follow Friday message, etc.

The hash tag I created was #ThanksArk. Within the first hour, I've got 35-40 entries. Some are funny. Many bring tears to your eyes.

Social media allows us to make a connection -- we have to keep remember it is about a conversation with our fans, not speeches and pronouncements for them to consume.

A sampling of a few early ones:

Just passed an accident with fatalities, made the whole family stop and realize how thankful we really are #ThanksArk

I am thankful this year that I walked across a stage in Bud Walton Arena and joined the best family in the world - as a UA grad #ThanksArk

I'm thankful for military that makes us the greatest country. Especially those who cannot be with their family this Thanksgiving. #ThanksArk

I'm thankful to be a cancer survivor, a Razorback, a fighter & a winner! Pepper Jelly, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, & the RAIN! #ThanksArk

#ThanksArk my dad and I dont speak much and havent for a while. I'm hopin that the tixs will bring us together,I'd b thankful 4 that

Seriously, even if you could care flippin' less about the Razorbacks, use your Twitter tool of choice to search that hashtag today. It will touch you.

Back to the business at hand -- which seems a little less important after that -- I've set a reminder tweet at two to three hour intervals today, and cross promoted it on our Facebook (where the 100K might help boost up our about 8K Twitter main feed). Again, the only traditional web this time through is the not-so-conventional personal column.

I am a firm believer that the goal in all the social media work cannot be to drive some kind of incremental revenue into the athletic department. First, aside from raw click through on sales, how are you really going to get a firm metric on that and people will see through it for what it is -- shilling.

The goal is to convert your fans into friends; your brand into a bond with the family that surrounds your programs. From there, those other kinds of support -- including monetary -- will flow.

By the way, there are some very striking results and numbers within the Vote Mallett effort -- I am working those into a presentation format as well as including them into my notes for presentation at the NCAA Convention on Ronnie Ramos' panel. The campaign was effective, even when it was slightly derailed -- and that bump in the road helps prove the strength of the social effort.

In closing, this has been a rough year. Actually, a rough couple of years. Those close know, I won't bore the rest. I'm thankful for those of you out there who have been supportive and understanding.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Facebook Strikes Again

A must listen segment for all who work with college students (not just student-athletes) to help them understand the risks of their very public lifestyles. Then again, looking at the fact that 45-plus females are the fastest growing segment of new users on Facebook, perhaps this a post for all.

Dan Gillmor is the guest, and the new Facebook Messages tool is the subject. I'll let Dan distill it into a Tweetable quote:

My understanding is if you have decided to import everything into your Facebook Messaging that all of these conversations that you have will be saved for posterity, police and divorce lawyers.

OK, that's actually a Tweet and a third, but you get the point.

Facebook is in the business of aggregating data, sifting it and sorting it. They're not any different than Axiom, a home state business that is one of the world wide leaders in data mining. All sorts of black helicopter fears are assigned to that -- it's Echelon for the business class. The Googleplex is out there, vacuuming up the Matrix of your digital lives.

Why again do we not see Facebook in that way? Because we friend each other and we just heart the system!

Let's be clear -- I use it, I like it, but I also know that I can't trust it. Dan, as usual, is spot on and it bears repeating: "saved for posterity, police and divorce lawyers."

Said it once, say it again: Digital assets are easily copied, imminently portable and last forever.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Worst Travel Day of the Year

Couple of in-state media colleagues found this report from a Montana CBS affiliate in which the simple question was asked of the Department of Transportation -- is today the busiest travel day of the year? The answer was no, summer beats it routinely.

The point of Max Brantley not withstanding -- we'll here this story repeated all weekend -- personal experience says the raw numbers are missing the story.

I've been in those summer whirlwinds when a single flight cancellation can ripple into a 15 hour nightmare. Here's my counter point: in summer, the industry is ramped up to deal with the flow. This weekend, there are three factors that certainly make this window the worst of the year:

Capacity: manpower is down as people ask for time off, airlines are loath to pay double and triple overtime; there are fewer flights as a result and the plane are almost always operating at oversold status as a result.

Weather: you're not going to get a snowstorm over O'Hare in August. Granted, you can get a severe thunderstorm over DFW or ATL to ruin your day, but refer back to point one. There is usually another flight, or the whole schedule slips because there is too much at stake to not send the flights.

John Candy: The emotional ties of traveling this weekend are huge; only exceeded by Christmas season -- with one exception. Lots of people are somewhat flexible around Christmas, they might go on the 20th and come back the 26th or on 24th and come back after the first of the year. As a solo holiday about home and hearth, Thanksgiving weekend is a lot more focused -- and unlike Christmas, we find it acceptable to have commerce (black Friday) and entertainment (check out how many college basketball tournaments are taking place) around T-Day.

Reader thinks -- you forgot your point -- no, I was setting up the Planes, Trains and Automobiles epic from the 1987 that set the legend in stone. It gives us the two sides of that coin. Steve Martin as the business man trying to be home but still conduct commerce. And John Candy as the person with no home adrift -- and both stuck in travel hell.

Put the three together and you have an American truth that may not exactly be supported by statistics.

As they say, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Miller on Nye and Twitter

Dennis Miller talks about Bill Nye's collapse at a speech. No one checked on Nye, but hundreds pulled out mobiles to tweet and facebook the event.

Miller points out the tweet storm, particularly how people then began to send out updates about the fact everyone was obsessed with getting the word out.

Nobody is actually at the scene of their own life anymore. They are always somewhere else telling people about their life, but there is nothing going on in their life because no one is talking to anybody next to them anymore.

The L.A. Times blog referenced above had the nut quote:

Nobody went to his aid at the very beginning when he first collapsed -- that just perplexed me beyond reason, USC senior Alastair Fairbanks said. Instead, I saw students texting and updating their Twitter statuses. It was just all a very bizarre evening.

More here from the Mercury News blog.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Visuals are the Key

A nugget of Gruen magic I came across in iPad notes. Todd Sampson was speaking of how to build an effective political commercial.

When you can graphically represent something, that is the image that will stick with everyone. Todd follows up with the nut graph:

They say with the spoken word, only 10 percent of it will stay with you for three days. If you add a visual and you will remember 65 percent of it.

Remember the best commercials that stick with you? They have a compelling visual element, an eye-catching hook. Not just a talking head. Not a bunch of B-roll video either. A message that is conveyed by the symbiotic marriage of the two.

Consider that the next time someone is asking you to scrimp on the graphics budget for any project.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wayback Machine Rolls Out

If you're reading this on Friday, I'm likely looking out the windshield of my Mini Cooper headed to Starkville, Miss.

You're driving?

I get that a lot. Frankly, I can do my job better outside the team charters -- I get there earlier to shoot background shots and video and stay late to make the website posts so the SIDs attached to the team can depart in a hurry. Besides, I like the road.

There is something to be said for seeing America, stopping at the local mom-and-pop, meat-and-three spots; the local burger and BBQ joints. And considering the amount of gear I'm carrying, I get really tired of being TSA's favorite customer. The cost with short notice tickets is about the same, particularly once mileage is put against rental vehicles and staying an extra day sometimes for a flight. We came out slightly ahead driving to Auburn over flying anywhere near earlier this season.

Plus, I get the chance to catch up on podcasts -- you can bet there will be a series of new blog entries based on some of the ones I've saved up. And unless I get the chance to finish out that pilot's license started years ago AND the university wants to pick up charter fees, I can usually get anywhere our teams are going via commercial means within two or three hours of them. If it's a short hop trip with a change over, I can almost make it even.

For example, I'll not go direct all the way to Starkville because of hotel bookings, but that would be drive to XNA, fly most likely to Atlanta, change planes, sit in the airport, fly to Golden Triangle, get a rental, head to Starkville. Same for Birmingham or Nashville. I can drive almost all of them in 8-9 hours. Good luck flying to them in less than 6-7 hours. Remember, in addition to the hour or so flight hops, it's a 40 minute drive from the house to XNA here to factor, plus the hour for TSA.

So, if you're rolling around north Mississippi on Friday or the Arkansas Delta on Sunday morning and you see the WAYBACK plates on a Mini (and Mr. Peabody's decal next to the license), don't for get to wave.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Wall of Noise

Phil specter may have come up with the phrase Wall of Sound to describe his unique way of mixing music in the 1960s. In 21st century messaging, I see a variation -- the Wall of Noise -- and it has a very different meaning.

Instead of creating a distinct vision and sound like Spector, an organization deliberately generates so many messages that it becomes an overload of information flowing outward. This can satisfy many purposes. For the consumers of the organization that cannot get enough about the group - from a rock star to an athletic department - this is a modern miracle. As a strategic communication tool it will often dull the overall message, too much of a good thing, and lead to an inability to articulate a clear message.

Unless that exactly what you want to do.

The Wall of Noise can also serve as a masking agent for other issues. Just like audio engineering, by raising the background level -- injecting static -- it becomes harder to hear individual items. White noise, that roaring whoosh that once upon an analog time was accompanied by visual haze on the old television screen.

This becomes a variation on the hide in plain sight strategy. The answers were right there all along, but you didn't notice them. The Gorilla Effect on steroids.

Lots of organizations stumble into creating Walls of Noise. It's so easy with the digital tools at our disposal to crank out more and more content. In the past, one, maybe two, press releases a week. The occasional video update or audio file. Active real-time reporting tools can create that in half a day, much less a week. Without realizing, the organization has reset it's noise floor.

The downside becomes changes in that stream of information become alerts those who you don't want noticing something. The change in pattern alone by the organization is the trigger for even more attention. A group who is very limited in info that suddenly starts to churn out content like mad is revealing it is in trouble. It's like chaff, the bursts of aluminum shards spewed out to avoid anti-aircraft missiles.

Far more common is the opposite; the unit that suddenly goes quiet after being very open and accommodating. They become consumed with fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, and like the proverbial deer in the headlights, freezes; hoping by being still to avoid the on-rushing crisis.

It is the change in pattern, and it takes real discipline to not vary of the standard operating procedure.

A group that creates a ton of info is best served by finding ways to keep that flow moving during a crisis, and keeping it going in the area of concern. This will raise the least suspicion. Human nature is to clam up during a crisis. In extreme events, it may become necessary to do so - for example in the middle of a life safety event is no time to push out feature stories. Prepackaged stories that detail what to do during the crisis - absolutely.

One can certainly mask a negative event within a flow of other messages. It was a tool of "self-inoculation" against bad news that many politicians use; revealing something bad about themselves before the opponent gets the chance go do so and put their spin on it. The Clinton White House appeared to master the technique, and gain a large amount of message control as a result. After all, if given the opportunity, everyone would like to be the one telling their own bad news.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WaPo for iPad

People ask a lot about iHog and I tell them, the first generation we created last year was inspired by the clean layout used by New York Times with their first app.

I've seen the future for Flatland -- Washington Post has it. It was first attracted by a snarky on-line media outlet's post picking fun at the video used to promote the app. Actually, I find it quite refreshing, including Ben Bradlee's closing line:

"These kids think Tweets twit themselves"

Which I dutifully tweeted myself last week. Since, I've downloaded the app and find it a very nice "newspaper" presentation. I wonder if that will work with a rising generation that can't appreciate a nice three column layout and the WSJ-like divided sections and the little wood-cut like illustrations. Quaint for us old folks.

More significant is the pricing structure. You get WaPo for free until February 2011 -- typical and proven drug dealer marketing, the first taste is free -- but the costs are reasonable. Far more so than WSJ or NYT, and I'd actually consider paying the rates. I wish my area papers would follow suit with this format.

Not a Good Sign of the Times

Earlier this summer, I commented about the broadening of the coverage of college sports into more of the entertainment world. Notably, TMZ's entry into "sports" coverage which ads another investigative unit on the national scene to the work being done out of Yahoo Sports. Recall it was TMZ that broke open the Oklahoma basketball business, first gaining attention for it's college effort. Previously, TMZ stuck to the celebrity news around pro sports, and usually the glitz capital (LA, NY) teams. This afternoon, welcome to the SEC as TMZ made its second foray into the Newton business.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Social Campaign for Social Results

For the past two weeks, we've carried a "widget" on our website provided by Davey O'Brien Award to promote Ryan Mallett in the fan voting. And with that passive little button, Ryan stayed firmly mired below 10th, hovering near 12 most of the time. What to do -- let's build a big banner ad and run it on the front page was the suggestion that had early momentum. That will get the attention of our huge fan base.

My counter was -- different from the widget how? Yes, larger. Yes, higher up the page. But during the discussion, the point became understood. After a while, it was conceded, you just don't notice the display ads. They don't change. They're just there. They become part of the background.

So change it every day! Sound of teeth gnashing.

Can we try this instead -- we want a specific action from our fans, who we need to interact with to achieve. The plan was simple. Go to all our social tools -- Facebook, Twitter -- and all our participatory places -- blogs, message boards, born digital media -- and give them a simple message.

O'Brien counts your vote in the overall. We want Ryan Mallett to make it to the finals. You can be a part of that process. Please go vote. Ask your friends to vote. And you can watch your progress at this website.

Mallett started the weekend at just over 1,000 votes. Starting with the on-line interactive blog for the game (adding a "Vote Mallett" button to our standing links) and promoting it several times in the blog, we began to move the needle. Changing over our Facebook friend page image to a "Vote Mallett" graphic, I started making regular posts and interacting with our fans to encourage them to vote.

Same by reaching out, under my real name, to the larger message boards on Sunday into Monday. Today, we started integrating the campus (alumni association, university relations) social tools to amplify the message.

As I type this update -- Monday evening at 9 p.m., Mallett crossed 4,500 votes. Nothing new on the website. Pure social outlets.

Pick the right tool for the right outcome.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Crisis Policy Work

Defining a crisis for a standing department policy is no small effort. The common language of FEMA/ICS and the life-safety side of critical incidents does not translate well in athletics. Personally, I see a lot of people intimidated by saying the reality out loud, and with the federal mandate for clear language, there's no euphemistic terms allowed. Followers know this was my 2009 CoSIDA Convention topic, and a regular item in this space for years.

Several weeks ago, we managed to work out what defined a crisis (since there was a dislike for the more common term in the business of "critical incident") was:

A situation that threatens to dramatically affect the lives or well-being of student-athletes or staff, significantly damage the property or operations of the athletic department, or may negatively impact the events, reputation or normal activities of the athletic department.

I'm pleased with it because the goal should be to create a policy and operational standards that can be plugged into any "crisis" -- from a tornado to a player suspension, from a life-safety incident at a practice to a major policy announcement, from a water main break that floods the stadium to a national championship celebration parade. They are all crisis -- and not all crisis are negative. Think about planning for success: what will you do if your team wins it all?

So the next step becomes separating out response levels. Most of the plans out there look at three levels; I'm going to advocate understanding that there really are four. From draft language -- and yes I'm looking for feedback here:

A routine event that has the potential to disrupt daily operations, negatively impact the department or require the communication of information internally or externally defines the difference between day-to-day events and an incident that would invoke the policy. This is an administrative decision unless the incident involves health and welfare of a student-athlete, member of the department or patron of an event.

Routine events are level zero within the critical event policy. Level one events are incidents which are limited in scope - both in time frame to resolve and overall impact on the department. Level two events are emergencies which last longer than a day in their impact on the entirety of the athletic department. Level three events are catastrophic, with impacts that are long lasting or permanent, reaching beyond the scope of the athletic department into the university and overall community as a whole.

What is your take on the "level zero" concept?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Speed Necessary for Viral?

Interesting case that I'm curious about feedback. Five of our football players were making a surprise visit to the Razorback Marching Band Spectacular to do a drum line performance. We sent our New Media crew to shoot the event, and got great HD video. We planned on building a package. That took us a day. In the meantime, we were beat to YouTube by, of course, a cell phone video.

Compare. RazorVision vs. cell phone. Obviously, we have interviews and a better angle. But in the world of viral video, we can't catch the cell phone. As of this post, we're at about 4,500 views; the cell phone video is at 15,000. They got a 10K view head start in one day.

We did all the right things -- took our video that was bound for RazorVision inside our web presence and "freed" it to YouTube. Tweets, facebooks, encouraging sharing.

So my question is this -- does it become better in the viral to get something out there and be first, or take the time to build something that shapes to what you wanted to portray. Obviously our video quality gets it another bump by inclusion in this week's ESPNU telecast.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wildland Fire Approach to Social Media

I'd been working on this analogy of how fighting social media problems can sometimes be like fighting fires in the forests, and that sometimes you find yourself surrounded by flames. Sometimes, you have to set a rescue fire to keep from being consumed by the larger conflagration. To the old school spinners, allowing out details that set a fire -- a huge dose of truth at the right moment -- seems wrong.

I picked back up on this in Mark Drapeau's piece where he noted that in his Four Tenets of Modern Communication that "information spreads within communities like wildfire, on and off line. It has never been more important to acknowledge and try to help communities. If you're not bringing your community of stakeholders up with you as you rise, you will fall and you're gone."


My thoughts were more tactical, looking at how both wildfire and rumor share certain similar attributes.

Single spark or lightning sets it off, also sometimes done by arson. It grows often unnoticed in the wilderness. We send resources out to control it, or to put it out in urban areas.

The pros can try to attack it, but once it gets to a certain size, they can't stop it.

We think we can prevent it. Sometimes, we do controlled burns to limit the future scope. In the end, the ability to fight it is an illusion, and the forest fire will simply run its course.

Food for thought.

Getting Lawyered Up on Facebook

News from Connecticut today as a National Labor Relations Board backed case is set for a hearing regarding a plaintiff who was claims to have been fired for making comments about the work place on her personal Facebook account. The details include some key hurdles: she posted on her own time, from her home computer; however, business had a policy in place she was aware of.

The first major takeaway on this: there is no ruling. The item that started today's media frenzy was the announcement that the case would be heard by the NLRB. Kashmir Hill at Forbes has a solid one-stop blog post with most of the details and cautions against thinking this is settled law. Far from it, and if NLRB finds for the new case, it will be going against it's own previous ruling in a case filed against Sears. From Hill's blog:

Sears’s policy is designed to “maintain the company’s reputation and legal standing.” On a list of topics that associates can’t discuss on social media was, “Disparagement of company’s or competitors’ products, services, executive leadership, employees, strategy, and business prospects.” It also advised employees not to talk about drugs or to use profanity.

To see the actual NLRB memo on the Sears case, jump here.

The questions become: was the policy overly broad in the Connecticut case announced today, did it limit free speech, was it a legal condition of employment.

Based on the first media accounts, this does not look like a blanket endorsement of going home tonight and telling the world exactly what you think of your boss/coach/co-workers/etc. Nor an across the board blow to social media policies, either on campus or at the workplace.

There is a very interesting difference in how the story is being handled by legacy media and networked or computer industry media. The "regular" media is trumpeting the first amendment side of this hearing. One example of the breathless victory:

In what has been called a ground-breaking case, the United States National Labour Relations Board has accused a company of illegally sacking an employee after she criticised her supervisor on her Facebook page.

The AP story follows similarly on many legacy media:

A Connecticut woman who was fired after she posted disparaging remarks about her boss on Facebook has prompted a first-of-its-kind legal case by federal authorities who say her comments are protected speech under labor laws.

Same for Washington Post.

Those with more time around social media are quick to point out it is not. As today's CNET first coverage noted:

Invoking scatological language when describing the relative merits of your job is, of course, a time-honored American tradition. So is firing employees who do it to your face.

Interesting that one of the "traditional" news links was NPR and their AP story, another NPR blogger falls more in line with the networked media by pointing out if you hate your boss on Facebook, NLRB may back you but you could still be in plenty of trouble.

Among the items I noted so far:

It is an NLRB hearing. It isn't in a "regular" court of law.

It's getting a lot of coverage today like it is a first amendment case. It clearly is not. The worker is saying she was fired for the comments; the employer is saying it was a series of events. Can anyone say "Juan Williams"?

Most interesting -- and missing from the first AP stories -- was the repercussions on the poster. The item that led to trouble included the assertion that the supervisor she was mad at was a "17" which was code/jargon for a psychological patient. (Hello, Juan Williams, part deux). I pose the question for my more legal followers, does the supervisor now have a slander/libel action for being accused of being crazy (and I deliberately list both -- is Facebook "spoken" or published). As the producer of content and the publisher of the content, the worker would appear in my opinion to be "media" now.

Several lawyers have come out to say they believe it reinforces the worker position, but none have said that if you are asked as a condition of employment to sign a social media policy or confidential information policy that it would not be trumped by today's ruling.

The one thing I can say with certainty today -- this will be just the starting point -- a case to launch a thousand briefs.

And, for the record, I composed and wrote today during my "lunch hour" as I'll be working through the traditional noon time frame.

Focus Group This

Ah, a little catch-up time on quotes found out there on the internets.

John C. Dvorak tells us what he thinks about focus groups:

You can't focus group new ideas (because) there is no frame of reference.

To which Leo Laporte chimed in:

You get the best creative result if you let someone with a great vision create his vision.

Finally, J.P. Barlow:

Revolution requires persistence in intention, connection & conceptual integrity; it requires an attention span

All, by the way, came from a This Week in Tech episode. I've mentioned it before, but if you are in this business and you are not downloading that podcast -- let me be as gentle as I can, you're not being a serious Culture Officer for your group.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Listen But Understand

Comment areas on blogs and email response boxes are important. These folks define our institutions and our reputations, and answering them quickly is important. Listening to them is also, but we need to take some time to understand they may not be typical of the fans or consumer at large.

Jay Adelson, late of Digg, was speaking of his old company on a recent This Week in Tech special. He was recalling the way they had brought in some of the power users, the most active in the community, and listened to them to make some pretty wide ranging changes. They were a flop among the users at large. It brought Jay to this conclusion:

The vocal minority does not represent the interests (of the whole) they are important because they are evangelists and you have to make them content an satisfied with their experience but what they like may not be appropriate for everybody

Sage words. Adelson added something else later about how one should approach a successful on-line venture, and it hearkened back to earlier words regarding Steve Jobs' approach (ie, how do you focus group the new, because if it is genuinely out there, what point of reference does the past provide the focus group).

You are trying to delight users with product, not trying to squeeze every last penny

Drapeau Notes on Gen Y

Continuing with Mark Drapeau's Five Cultural Trends Shaping Business Communications and Public Service, he gives us some very interesting notes on how Gen Y views the public authority -- for the purposes of this blog, let's say athletic departments.

The youth are very connected, very desirous of giving back to communities, but also very distrusting of authority. That's a challenging combination. On the one hand, young fans who want to support you, yet they are going to be the first to call out any lack of transparency.

He weaves this together with another of his five points -- Web 2.0 and Open Government. Drapeau views it as a cultural shift, and he relates this to the growing desire for community among all.

". . . what was once public relations to an audience now looks a lot like public service to a community. And anecdotally, the new public relations influencers, gurus and tacticians are those who weave 'community' into their work."

Huh. So that whole interactive blogging thing, good. Well, only if you are genuine. Drapeau closes with several points about how public service is a unifier.

I think you win by showing that you care more than other companies, organizations, entities. That caring can come in many forms - thought leadership, great customer service, empowering communities to help themselves, being more transparent about decisions.

Or to distill to one line:

They just want to know that you also care about the people you're selling to and that you're not entirely selfish.

Or to a pithy aphorism, which he points out is original to Gary Vaynerchuk:

Sharing is caring.

Eye of the Hurricane

The last great twitter storm surrounded the Pac-16, and we were collectively amused. That is, if you were not a Big 12 member.

The next great unsourced event is underway with Cam Newton. We see a rush to judgment -- fueled perhaps by fear of the revelations of Reggie Bush -- and real-time reporting is right in the middle.

This is troubling on many levels in the collegiate realm. Today, by laying out an academic accusation, those that could quickly deal with this are put at some jeopardy via FERPA. Nature and the Internet abhor a vacuum, it will be filled.

That said, Auburn has taken steps to aggressively counter, including the athletic director Jay Jacobs and football coach Gene Chizik making strong statements to the media. After last week's NCAA rumors, Newton himself was made available. For its part, Florida, via Urban Meyer, has done the same. Interestingly, Auburn's official feed is only retweeting other media. That should not be read into, however, as their feed has traditionally been promotions based for it's original material. The fact they are making sure message gets out to fan base by retweeting stories shows they are engaging.

There has to be a little understanding of the demand on the media, and all sides are ratcheting up rhetoric. As an example, Chris Dufresne of the L.A. Times is getting hit pretty hard by fans. Dick Weiss with New York Dailey News points out both sides -- noting the FERPA issues and statements from Jay Jacobs -- The people you would expect like Paul Finebaum are in the eye of the storm.

In light of being burned on Farve via paid sources, are national outlets moving faster than normal in ways that are over compensating for that miss, or are we simply in the heart of a new paradigm that will require institutions to have rapid response and monitoring teams that can move quickly.

Again, we are not talking professional sports or professional entertainment -- for that matter, even government crisis events -- where once the problem unfolds there can be rapid reactions. Colleges are both academic institutions and state governing bodies. Legally and culturally, they are not rapid reaction targets.

Before the next Pac-16 or Cam, have you assessed your organization's ability to react at the speed that a university is being forced to move?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Drapeau's Five Cultural Trends

An earlier tweet that now gets some more in-depth review. Mark Drapeau is one of the public sector engagement folks at Microsoft. Not that long ago, we'd have ascribed to him the more hip title of a chief evangelist. He wrote a solid essay on the Five Cultural Trends Shaping Business Communications and Public Service at the end of October. Many of you saw my retweet of CoSIDA News on this.

He skewers the public sector (read: academica/athletics/government) with some pretty strong points.

Large organizations are often out of touch with such changes in the culture.

In his five areas, he hits one that bears closer observation for the college sports world: "Nobodies as Influencers." While Drapeau is thinking very specifically of The Situation and other made for reality stars that lack "talent" as we may have previously defined as important for celebrity, I'm reading something else.

Hearkening back to our general lack of control over our brand reputations, it is hundreds of similar "nobodies" who by virtue of the extraordinary low cost of entry into media that become some our most important clients for information. As Drapeau wrote:

Everybody has the potential to be a celebrity and therefore everyone is a potential influencer.

I found one of the comments on Drapeau's post one of the most important items, and it reminded me about who increasingly is the person of trust within one's life.

We trust the 'nobody' down the street more than any superjock making a gazillion dollars a year because it seems more genuine.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Spoke Too Soon

Yep. This flight had changed to C47; back down the terminal. But, I learn from fellow refugee from Columbia that the original first flight of the day is still on the ground.

Remembering History Class

An important realization today that three of the most valuable lessons I've learned in life came from small parts of one teacher's courses. Anyone who attended Northeast Louisiana from the late 1970s into the early 1990s encountered or knew about H. Perry Jones. An irascible teacher, his classroom exploits were legend. One of his favorites was to have graduate students carry him into class near Halloween in a coffin, from which he would rise in full Dracula costume to hand out his exam.

H. Perry was a western civ instructor, and so it made sense for him to be the first to have introduced the myth of Sisyphus and the great quote of Omar Khyaam. It was in his moonlighting as intro to U.S. that he worked in the legend of taking a message to Garcia.

Jones loved to draw on the board, and in the pre-PowerPoint era, his presentations were epic. Cartoons, stylized text, lists - all assembled on the blackboards in the 10 minute time he had between classes then erased away by the next instructor; in part to be able to use the board but I'm convinced for several intimidated by e master instructor (and showman) that was H. Perry.

Each semester - regardless of Western Civ or U.S. History - at some point he would make reference to his notes and with grandiloquent gestures say at these we the type of works that Omar Khayyam meant when he wrote his poetry; that it was like history itself, the very sands of time, that would disappear once the class was over - the moving hand of History having writ, moves on, Jones would say in his "interpretation" of the passage.

Similarly, when he sensed the students were grinding away in the middle of the semester, he would remind them that they were condemned only in the short term to their own rock of Sisyphus. That life would likely present them with challenges that would be the same eternal struggle. That the beauty of life was both the struggle, and the short period of time walking back down the hill when you are temporarily freed of the burden.

Unless you caught him for U.S. two, you missed the performance of the entire A Message to Garcia - the story of the president sending his man Rowan into Cuba to contact one of the insurgents. A staple of he U.S. Army, Perry brought it alive with his dramatic reading. His voice still echoes, his scratchy Applachian coming out when he bellowed "By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze . . ." as he performed. You left almost eager to be called upon to not fail, to face that challenge and against all odds and without micromanaged direction carrying the message to Garcia.

Performed. That's the right word for H. Perry. Or maybe, transformed.

Enough to Drive

Shifting gates. Closed paths. Happy shining people. Oh yes, please, I want me some more commercial travel.

Land in the far end of D concourse (coffee now, or later - opt for not carrying scalding water long distance) and get high-number C.

Around the detours for tram loading in D, on to C - as in, crap, this is the one concourse without Starbucks. That's OK, I'll use the old B-C underground connector. Walk the length of C and . . . What tha . . . sealed off like some abandoned mine shaft. Nice.

Settle for brew in C - that was halfway back up the concourse. Sit down at C55 - yep, end of the terminal - and five minutes later, we have a gate change announcement. Back to 33. At least I have two things going for me. A) unlike the lone ESPN-type who managed to get on my plane, I'm still not in Columbia with Holly Rowe and Co. His seat, however, cost the airline a $600 voucher. No one would budge for $400, and one passenger bid it up to $600 (sure, if you'll do it, the exasperated gate agent said). B) After schlepping my 40 pounds of gear and clothes split into these two backpacks for a couple of miles today, no need to ride when I get home.

Notice, when I get home. Continuing to have faith. Even though gate 33 says White Planes, NY.

Travel Fun

Nothing like a long day at the airport, compounded by time change and over sold. Looks like the plane in front of me this morning was oversold to start, and now has mechanical issues. The local staff is short, and the supervisor is way overloaded (I need you to stand at the service center NOW).

Of course, you'd be a little testy too if passengers were self-deplaning. Yep. Just helping themselves to the jetway. Oops. There's one blocking open the gate nine door so he can go back and forth.

I swear, there's the Maya Elliott character from Bronx Beat, complete with pink fleece, in the face of the gate agent.

Oh my, I'm boarding and this should be fun.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Cash for Sports Stories

A.J. Daulereo appeared on the stage at the Indiana University Sports Journalism forum to discuss the payment of a mystery source for the key info that led to the breaking of the Brett Farve story. He was holding the cash -- "more than I'd ever seen" -- before the delivery.

That might infer a moment of angst. That would be no.

While the sports journalism world is shocked, shocked that there is gambling at Rick's, those with a memory for the history of celebrity journalism were not surprised.

Paying for "exclusives" or providing "expenses" to travel to network television shows are standard in today's media world. The National Enquirer, who paid a hefty fee for the coffin photos of Elvis among others, finds itself considered for eligibility for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.

The coverage and video of Daulereo's talk are very important as a guide to where this heads next. Recall, TMZ is now in the game (the Oklahoma basketball story) or the Gizmodo move over the iPhone4 and this will not go away anytime soon.

Road Weary But Worth It

There are a few things that make travel exciting -- meeting interesting people, seeing new places, great meals in different areas. So far, this one is batting 1-for-3. Missing hotel reservations, bad airline personnel, rough flight connections and one of the most wholly unremarkable plates of ribs ever.

I did have a nice chat with a woman who was visiting in the NWA area. She was from DC and had been at a corporate event (no, not for THE corporate entity in NWA). Her time was spent at Carnall Hall and she had walked around the campus. A lot of the usual things we hear -- gosh, its so much nicer than we thought, etc.

My seatmate reminded me of something really important about what I do these days, and how extremely valuable one-on-one interaction is for our overall efforts. I hear the gnashing of teeth in the background of the mass market mentality. You're wasting your time with one person.


You know the butterfly effect, yes? You've read The Long Tail. How do I not know that the one person I've talked to -- who swears that even though her only connection to Arkansas was this conference is now going to log in and read the interactive blog tonight -- won't lead to something important in the future for the Razorbacks.

And that's just it -- I don't. She didn't seem like she was just being polite, and was quite adamant to make sure she was remembering the website name. But if she doesn't, I know that several hundred will be there. Taking long periods of time to stay and discuss the game; to get the updates and descriptions.

I do know what happens if I'm not there. We don't have a connection to New York City, or Seattle, or Doha, or Yokosuka. And the positive impressions and time together reinforces the bond that we want. Said it before, say it many times again, I don't want fans for the University of Arkansas; I want friends.

Fans come and go; friends stay with you. They do favors for you, and you do them in return. The day what we do gets reduced to pure commerce, to spread sheets of return on investment is the day people wake up and realize college sports are not worth what is spent upon them.

Alchemist! Blasphemer! Communist! I could continue down the alphabet, but its true. How do I know so? Look in the major metropolitan areas. Pro sports dominate because at the highest level of pure sport, the skill and artistry will always trump the amateurs. And we'll pay more to see The Rolling Stones than an up-and-coming plucky band of young Brits, well, because they are The Rolling Stones.

Think I'm wrong? Consider the following. What makes last year's Final Four compelling was the battle between the established men of the game, Duke, and the upstarts from Butler. Was there more sheer athleticism on the court than a regular season game shortly before or after featuring the Indiana Pacers? No.

The connection we gained to both sides -- to the legend of Coach K and the underdogs from Butler -- is what made it compelling. And memorable.

At the end of the day, that's my job. It's why I keep showing up out here on the road, plying the story with whatever the latest technology might be to bring it home, but never, ever forgetting what is the most important part.

Serving as the connection between the Razorbacks and their nation.