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.