Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Social Media Policies

Brian Solis issues his Rules of Social Media Engagement -- including a great 25-point checklist to follow. If your department has not created a policy for staff (not just your student-athletes), Solis gives you a great list to think about.

Among the ones I'd highlight as great strategy points:

5. Respect those whom you’re engaging and also respect the forum in which you participate

12. Know when to walk away. Don’t engage trolls or fall into conversational traps

16. Take accountability for your actions and offer no excuses

21. Empower qualified spokespersons to offer solutions and resolutions

24. What you share can and will be used against you – The internet as a long memory

If you're looking for specific examples, here's links to the one I drafted in 2009 here at Arkansas and a recent blog on creating your strategy within the media relations office.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bad Idea, but Unethical?

Poynter Institute's Jim Romenesko brings to light a move by the Fort Wayne, Ind., newspaper's sports editor issuing his opinion that a recruit of Indiana should sign with his alma mater, Butler.

Romenesko calls out the move as unethical. In a Cronkite Era reflection, perhaps. But my tweet and post on Romanesko's page is this question:

How is what the sports editor did is different from the same newspaper's editorial board endorsing candidates for an election?

In an era of increasing opinion journalism and branded journalism, at least we can say that the sports editor was transparent?

I'm curious that if the journalist in question had written an opinion piece about where he should sign -- rather than a tweet -- would that have made it different?

Crisis Strategies

CoSIDAnews included this blog post from Mr. Media Training on what to do when the reporter knows too much. The angle was more corporate PR, and as many of us in the sports world know, it's very often a given that the reporters know more than we do -- especially in the high-profile hiring world (don't forget today's teleconference on same from CoSIDA).

An advocate of the "tell our bad news first" for the longest, finding more confirmation that you do yourself a disservice in holding back and hoping is great, but I think that Brad Phillips misses a key point in our world. If you wait until the reporter knows, it really is too late. You will look like you're only trying to spoil the media's story.

To that end, read down in Brad's comments to find this nugget. It's a blow-by-blow of the Vancouver Olympic Committee trying to do just that -- beat a news outlet that via Canadian equivalent of FOI had emails that showed there were pre-accident concerns about the luge track.

As the Canadian journalist points out:

The best media relations tactic probably would have been to disclose the safety concerns a year ago and take the lumps then.

The strategy and the strategist become part of the story. Some might argue that is a valid move -- they aren't talking about the track safety, they are talking about the media person. In a world of increasing transparency, the lasting impression is of a tactic, however, not of getting out the truth -- no matter how hard the PR professional tries to say we were just trying to tell "our side."

FTC Showing Serious Blogger Intent

Many colleagues thought I was overstating back in 2009 when I wrote about the Federal Trade Commission's desire to crack down on "paid blogging".

Guess what? The FTC wasn't kidding. While moving with "all deliberate speed" of the federal bureaucracy, the agency has dropped a quarter of a million dollar ruling against a group that was doing essentially paid advocacy reviews for a product. PRSA's website has the blow-by-blow.

The 140 character takeaway: Be very careful about any endorsements you make, and be ready to disclose any compensations.

That can include review copies, access to events, etc. Above all, it would include paid endorsements -- which a year ago I had heard rumblings of corporate sponsors who were thinking about asking colleges or coaches to say nice things in twitter feeds in return for compensation. That is the very thing that would get the FTC on your case.

To repeat the FTC's ruling:

Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

Again, the actions taken by FTC so far have been related to faking reviews to pump up a product, a sort of astroturfing move. That's not to say if super-visible coach Jones suddenly starting saying on a Twitter feed or Facebook how much they liked pizza from Brand X that wouldn't be the next thing taken on -- especially if no disclosure was made as to why Brand X was his favorite or worse, if Brand X got its logo on the Twitter background.

As an annoyance side note: Is anyone else tired of websites that are coding out the ability to clip short passages? (PRSA, hello; among others). Particularly bothersome when you are say, copying info from a federal agency that by itself isn't going to be copyright subject and you are doing your best to link back and help promote the page you notice. Just saying, not real digi-cool.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Huskies Get It On Voting

Kudos today to Washington as they make their last push for Jake Locker to make the cover of EA college football 2011. Like Vote Mallett in the fall for us in the O'Brien Award voting, if you want a social result -- voting on-line -- you need an effective social campaign. UW went all in today with a move I heartily endorse. To emphasize to the fan base, they changed over all their icons to a "Vote for Jake" graphic on both Twitter and Facebook. No better way to draw attention for your fans -- they get lulled into seeing the same icon week after week. You are not improving your "brand awareness" by not rotating those icons. You are simply becoming background noise.

How do I know that? Well, how do you think I noticed today something was different at Washington? When you scan your social graph or your streams, you don't read the words. What you see are the symbols, the glyphs that represent you.

Zombie Tips for Social Media

Disappointed in myself for not having located Zombie Journalism sooner. This today via the always valuable PRSA daily newsletter -- tips on how to use Twitter and Facebook to put out your news brand info. Aimed more at Twitter than FB, it has the usual new format (X number things you can do!), but there is one thing that caught my eye:

Think curation instead of broadcasting.

As a source of news, I'm not sure this is the top operative thing for Twitter. But on further thought, for a news journalist, it makes sense -- AND in that way for your sub-feeds (teams, coaches or athletes). For example, when we change a game time, that is news that we are generating (or hire a coach). Makes no sense to curate that, you are the source. But for the other coaches in the department -- thinking back to our Mike Anderson weekend as the example.

Here's to hoping the Zombie hasn't had it's head blown off -- I notice in Mandy Jenkins' current post that she's leaving one job now.

Walmart in Crisis Mode

Much was made of Walmart's ability to react during Hurricane Katrina. Here in the States, the global nature of Walmart's operation is sometimes overlooked. Living right in the shadow of the worldwide headquarters in Bentonville (and playing host to the annual Invasion of the Walmartians at our Razorback venues for the annual stockholder meeting), I'm obviously a little more aware, but was quite surprised today with this Wall Street Journal story about WMT in northern Japan. Lessons learned from the Gulf Coast go into quick use -- and notice that WMT had it's emergency operations center up in Bentonville on line even for something happening across the world.

It's often the little things -- look in the timeline of the story and notice how many supply donations were made and when.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good Enough for D.O.D.

Staying true to the masthead, a thought discovered while on the way to NLR . . .

In today's Washington Times Prince Floyd writes about his experience trying from the public relations office to help pry open the Department of Defense regarding the coming (in 2009) social media revolution. Now that we regularly ascribe legendary impact to Twitter, Prince writes his column today reflecting backwards on his time and the positive shifts from the uber-security minded to the full exploitation of social media. Perhaps I should title this post "The Weaponization of Twitter."

Floyd has several great nuggets in the read:

The success of social-media engagement in defense is not limited to the public sector; similar success stories abound in the private sector as well, especially for companies with dispersed staff and those with highly “stovepiped” internal organizations. Social media, after all, is a tool for communication, development, collaboration and transparency.

He reminds us at the start that Robert Gates arrived from Texas A&M as the secretary of defense with a firm belief in the value of social media (and we remember, a screen name of his own from the Aggie sports blogs - Ranger77). But Floyd saves his best for last:

The key is to understand that most of your people already have joined the social-media revolution. It’s time for you to suit up and join the battle.

Sounds like he wants us singing from the same hymnal as well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Making Sausage in Public

Pretty much what the hiring process has become these days. All it takes is a well-placed tweet and off we go. For those not close by, I offer a couple of inside looks at the wide world of Razorbacks as we move through our men's basketball coach process. I link to one of the Kansas City Star's bloggers, because he gives the best tweet-by-tweet, blogpost-by-blogpost recount.

None of the media reports have been commented upon, and the frenzy swirls around our AD, Jeff Long, who stands like the eye of the hurricane. At this stage -- noon on Monday, BTW -- the best of all possible strategies.

By no means an indictment of the media involved -- they are doing what they are paid to do which is dig into what's going on and pursue leads. These days, however, it doesn't take a lot to start a lead. What is different is the collective "we" get to watch what once was a behind-the-doors process in the newsroom as sources get vetted and stories get refined.

Social Media Saving Bruce?

The Bruce Pearl saga took another turn this weekend as a group of his dedicated followers decided to take to social media in a campaign to "Save Bruce". Among the targets of the group are the NCAA's main Facebook page. In an interesting piece of transparency, the NCAA appears to not be dumping wholesale the wave of Save Bruce comments that are part of the organized campaign. There seems to be some mild language in some of the comments, but the extremely harsh opinions about the national college sports organization are being allowed to ride. The NCAA did acknowledge the fervor and restate it's position on the matter in what looks like a stickied post at the top of the page.

The Keep Bruce Pearl page on Facebook is up to almost 10,000 likes, no small effort in short time, and the group has YouTube videos and created a mini-pep rally to gather in some traditional media coverage. As one would suspect, they have the participatory blog media already in hand. Twitter is in the mix as the group has reposted Dick Vitale's opinion regarding Pearl's future recently. However, one of Vitale's earlier tweets speaks more to the situation at hand.

Let's be clear: this is a matter for UT's administration to decide, and I'm taking no sides on this matter.

What is important to note is the way the rules are changing. Would an institution's reputation be more damaged in the current social media environment by attempting to tamp down and delete "negative" comments or is the institution better served by letting the event run it's course, like waiting for a fever to break? A year ago, conventional wisdom would support the former. Today, we're watching a real-time example of whether the latter is the valid strategy.

Keep watching.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Libel on Twitter

A NBA ref has joined the parade of persons suing over defamation via Twitter. In this case, an Associated Press reporter sent out a real-time message about a call during a NBA game that resulted in some blowback on the referee. Kim Kardashian is being sued in Florida for a tweet about a particular diet plan.

So, does it have to be true to Tweet?

In England, it will cost you as the first judgment for libel damages was awarded last week. Some more commentary regarding that situation and others. This is interesting as it contrasts the loss in the blogger case against another where pseudonyms were used and the person was able to say whatever. Or, to quote:

if you post something libellous on Twitter about a local rival politician, and have only 30 followers, you can get sued. If you say something potentially libellous, using a pseudonym, on a UK newspaper site, with page views in the millions, you’re fine – that’s just “pub talk”.

We should not be surprised. You become a publisher the moment you begin writing for the world to see. A major difference is what you can seek to achieve. Those with assets are more careful -- ie, brick-and-mortar traditional media have plenty to risk -- and the problem is the random blogger may have nothing more to their name than the cell phone they made the comment with. Certainly those with means have been known to SLAPP opponents to silence them -- if you can't afford to go to court, you better shut up.

Still, the ref brings up an interesting point. Fans yell, coaches complain, but that evaporates into ether, held only in the memories of those who heard it. When a media member reports it, it lasts forever. The NBA appears to be siding with the media in a bit of a "get over it" response, but it begs the question: if it wasn't good enough to put in the story, why tweet it? We give more and more opinion as journalists, and wasn't that the point of some recent commentary that this shouldn't be happening?

PRSA on Churnalism

While I'm driving out to B'Ham for the next blogger gig (SEC gym championship), here's a little light reading for you all until I get to the next WiFi -- or at least my hands off the wheel.

A thoughtful column on the PRSAY website from Steve Iseman about "churnalism." He is reacting to the Columbia Journalism Review calling out the concept as the next great issue to be dealt with in the news world. It's an important read and expands where we started the conversation here when considering the very close relationship between sports information and sports departments.

Woodward Speaks; We Should Listen

Bob Woodward visited the Poynter Institute, which provided excerpts of his talk and an interview on their website. The whole article is required reading, but two tidbids are worth pulling out here:

You get the truth at night, the lies during the day.

While he doesn't dislike social media directly, he worries that:

I think there’s too much emphasis on speed and feeding the impatience people have. … In many ways, journalism is not often enough up to the task of dealing with the dangerous and fragile nature of the world, or the community, or anything you might try to understand.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Defining Spin in Sports

With today's fully immersed media environment, it seems almost quaint to talk about the days in which "spin" had impact. From The Sports Commentary, an excellent essay on the cost of continuing to manage negative events and one of the best definitions of what spin means from the PR professional's aspect I've ever seen.

The authors sets up his spin definition with a great statement regarding the expectations of the public today -- a public that has more tools to gain alternate points of view from the one you are attempting to sell them than ever before in human history.

Turning a potential negative into a positive does not mean you have to lie or “spin” a situation. Turning it around starts with telling the truth, being authentic, being honest, being responsible, and understanding that your consumers, fans, listeners, viewers, readers, shareholders, etc., will stand by and support you if you do not bullsh*t them. They will respect you more if you don’t lie, hide or try to run.

Just like volleyball, after the set comes the kill:

To “spin” is to understand those principles, yet decide you are still going to try to force your position down the throats of a caring and compassionate public and believe that the more you say it, the more they will eventually buy it.

As I've joked, the Adam Savage/Mythbusters School of Spin.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lesson in The Cost of Twitter

One of my talking points for students about social media is that at least when dealing with the traditional media you could take the approach of being misquoted. On your Facebook or Twitter, you have no one to blame but yourself, and it could cost you dearly.

Just ask Gilbert Gottfried, the current poster boy for inappropriate statements cost you jobs.

The comedian did what acerbic comedians do: make sarcastic light of bad circumstances. Not gonna repeat, but I'll link if you really want to see.

Unfortunately for Gottfried, one of his big gigs is being the voice of the Aflac duck.

Guess who is big in the Japanese insurance market? To the tune of one in four homes big.

That would be Gottfried's former employer.

Now, he wasn't alone. 50 Cent had his shock joke as well. And the State Department lost it's spokesperson for giving an opinion about the WikiLeak-er.

WaPo On Sports

Washington Post provides a very informative article about the growing ability -- and willingness -- of sports teams to be their own media. Bit of missing in the full disclosure category here as WaPo has famously battled its local pro franchises over access. Nevertheless, along with poking at Iowa for the way it announced a new coach, the Post brings us the far more interesting legal battle in Wisconsin over streaming of high school football. It is an echo of the battle in the SEC over who owns the copyright of sporting events, and includes many of the same arguments: it's on public property, it's a First Amendment right.

The courts thus far have seen otherwise siding that it is a commerce question, not a public right to know issue. A quote from a Northwestern journalism professor:

Journalists want to think of sports as news, but at the end of the day, it’s about entertainment and making money.

Which is exactly what the federal courts said in Wisconsin about the high schools:

Ultimately this is a case about commerce, not the right to a free press.

I get the sense this is just the start of a battle royal.

Breaking Down a PR Breakdown

Thanks to the CoSIDA email today for this nugget from Justin Goldsborough as he breaks down the Detroit Pistons' reaction to players not showing up for practice in late February. Two takeaway highlights:

Changing stories, silence from leadership, anonymous quotes all lead to once conclusion — somebody’s lying and nobody’s on the same page.


Silence makes it look like you’re hiding or that you don’t have anything good to say about the situation, so you’re choosing to say nothing at all.

Goldsborough gives a timeline of the event that makes it easy to follow how he reaches these, and some other important conclusions. This was pretty classic crisis management -- or in the case of the self-inflicted wound mismanagement. Goldsborough also finds an interesting snag-of-the-sweater moment within these events: the fact the Pistons had dismissed their veteran PR director. He implies that lack of a steady hand on the rudder may have contributed to the erratic behavior of the organization.

Radiation Flowing LIke a River

Interesting New York Times story regarding the impact of social media -- Twitter in particular -- in the current Japanese nuclear crisis. One of the key points were the fear that "unregulated" media would lead to wide-spread dangerous rumors.

I saw my own example of this from an American source:

"tweet reports massive radiation leaks from nuclear reactor in village guess he saw it spilling out like river flow"

On first read, I missed the "guess". I'm thinking what kind of idiot thinks radiation pours out like water from a nuclear plant and what kind of fear-monger repeats it. Second day reflection, perhaps it was an attempt at a joke -- dangerous in 140 characters when you mash together a run-on sentence.

What's interesting is the tweet is from the very first day of the catastrophe in Japan. At the time, there weren't any significant radiation leaks. At least, that's what we were told.

With the problems of receiving accurate information early from the authorities -- or any information -- traditional media and the public are turning to social media. Nature abhors a vacuum, and saying nothing or understating the problem to avoid panic is going to lead to the public finding the information from whoever they can or assuming for themselves, usually the worst case scenario.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TV Anywhere, Again

The NCAA gets it. Oh, we might quibble about some rules, but when it comes to new distribution - from the deal with Turner and CBS, to Ronnie Ramos' new social media initiatives to this - March Madness On Demand.

The iPad/iPhone app simply works. The video is crisp and it is free. How much will I use it? Don't know if I will - I'm actually using it while watching TruTV tonight, but it invalidates the thoughts of those that "people don't watch long videos" on mobile devices.

They have my name, they have my email address and they know I care about NCAA basketball. That puts them ahead, and the value added to me is well worth it.

Sure, it is not real time - probably a factor of the transcoding to Apple friendly formats. Don't overlook a sop to the old school lock it in the channel mindset of some TV types. It's about a minute behind my TV. But if I was in the airport, in a car, on a bus - I would not care about the lag at all.

Remember, the industry has a name for this: TV Anywhere. Keep the viewer engaged as they transition between screens. Who is one of the leaders in pushing that on the cable/sat providers. Oh, yeah, that would be TURNER.

The IP TV revolution is almost here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Manning Up

Regardless of what you thought about John Pelphrey or his tenure at Arkansas, I submit to my fellow sports PR types a farewell press conference performance for the ages.

Forgive the extreme camera bump at the start. Our camera got elbowed by accident right at the start -- pretty crowded room as you can imagine.

As surely as getting your picture taken with anyone under 21 becomes part of my media training presentations, this video will as well. This is in perfect contrast to the times when players or coaches ducked out during hard times.

I believe this is what they call manning up.

Bad Emergency Communications

Heard on the BBC World Service tonight, one journalist's assessment of the information coming out regarding the nuclear plant issues in particular:

"They are trying to not tell the truth without lying."

That's a harsh statement, and speaks to both a fear (personally for some of the journalists on the ground) and a perception. That's a worse-case response from the media -- you've pretty much failed to get through both critical info and you've lost your credibility.

It was a very polite and British way of calling out the Japanese authorities.

Certainly not the way they teach it in FEMA course work for Public Information Officers -- life-safety comes first, and the context of the quote was that the officials were not being forthcoming about how bad the situation is. In their defense, perhaps the fear is causing a panic.

Nice Piece of Writing

Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch writing about he press conference which announced the recent Ohio State troubles:

Sometimes this seemed like a NBA game where the screaming PA announcer, loud music and gaudy pyrotechnics  seem designed to distract us from the drab product that is the real purpose of our visit

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's Wrong with American Radio

I tweeted this on Friday while on the way back home from Atlanta and the SEC Tournament. When news broke regarding the earthquake and tsunami, I'm driving around Atlanta before heading out. No one was breaking format -- not the "news-talk" stations, not the other AM news stations, not even NPR -- to provide continuous coverage.

Want to know where we did find it? A Spanish language AM station, and fortunately for me, my graduate assistant Zack Swartz is pretty fluent (I'm catching every fourth or fifth word, he's translating).

That's unacceptable. Terrestrial radio has to realize it has a role on days like that. My most significant disgust was with NPR. Look, I'm a member and a contributor, but I'm stunned that the regular shows just kept clipping along. No Diane Rehm, I'm not really that concerned today about Islamic phobia on Capitol Hill. Later in the day, I'm getting dose after dose of naval gazing over the departure of NPR's CEO. Really, can't that all wait until Monday?

Where did we keep up? Once again, thank god for the BBC. Who did break programing -- all day and we got to hear 10 hours of it driving back from Atlanta -- and it was the iPad then iPhone app that we listened.

Here's another source we used -- NHK streams live video to the internet. It would only work on my iPhone, but we kept that running as well. While driving through the hills of north Alabama and north Mississippi (and checking Mississippi PR to see if things had changed). Not until All Things Considered did we get info, and again, that was mixed with more Wisconsin protests, Islamic hearings and Libyan civil war. The photo here shows my iPhone 4 with NHK and the iPad hooked to the aux jack on my Mini's stereo to listen to the news from BBC. Zack snapped it with his Blackberry as we are rolling across rural Mississippi.

Back in the day, I carried a shortwave radio with me at all times. Why? Well you never knew when a war might break out -- just like the first Gulf War did with our women's hoops team on the road (and staying at the end of the runaway of old Carswell AFB -- THAT'S why airplanes were taking off all night starting at 3 a.m.).

Or in this case, a dramatic earthquake.

Of course, my old shortwave sits on a shelf as country after country has shut down its news and culture based transmitters. Replacing them with -- yes -- apps for smart phones.

Said it once, say it again -- your smart phone is the transistor radio of the future. And contrary to "experts" it will be your portable TV -- just like NHK.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rewards System with Social Twist

I've spoken before about SCVNGR (Scavenger) and how this campaign and reward-based location social media platform is racing to catch up with FourSquare. Why is SCVNGR significant? Because the back end allows you to easily create incentive plans -- think about rewards cards on steroids.

Yes, you can use student IDs or dedicated reward cards. They require infrastructure (card readers or prox scanners for RFID) and still have back end cost. Yes again, your institution may already own a card ID system for coding, but you're gonna have to absorb someone's time programing.

Here's what card scans can't do: radically incentivize targeted sport support AND enhance your reverse distribution system for information about your teams.

Sure the soccer/volleyball/swimming/lacrosse entry can be given a higher point value in a card scan system than say football/men's basketball/gymnastics to get those who are chasing discounts or prizes to show up. But they scan once, and then they are free to go. THAT's not supporting the team. That's gaming the system for points.

In a SCVNGR challenge, arriving at the game is given for sake of argument 3 points for the soccer match (vs. 1 point for football). That entry unlocks time sensitive additional challenges. Check in in the stands at half time -- 3 more points. That unlocks the big bonus: check in from the stands at the end of the match -- 10 more points. You have not created a huge incentive that is GPS locked to stay for the entire match. No one is going to run back to the scanners and swipe again for the additional participation points. Many systems won't handle that well, and once you're back at the gate, how easy to just walk on out at half time.

Now, here comes some classic SCVNGR social extras. Take a photo of yourself in the stands at the match and post to your Facebook -- 3 more points. Take a picture of your favorite Razorback, take a picture of certain other objects -- you get the idea. Tweet out the half time score, the goals scored, the final score -- more extra points. Post the score to your Facebook -- extra points.

Post the link to the athletic department's interactive blog on your Facebook -- ah, now are you getting the picture? Your fans become part of a vast reverse distribution network that generates traffic about your games. Points for using the official hashtag of the game -- that you of course put on the message board of the event.

I've heard the counter arguments -- not every student has a smart phone and students could give their phones to friends to gain extra check in points and not be at the match. If they really wanted points they could in theory do that with ID cards too, especially RFID based systems. Good luck finding a student willing to part with their phone for 2 to 3 hours just to get some extra SCVNGR points. That's worrying about the 2-3% deviants rather than the vast majority playing along (and if they are that into your reward system, why not? That shows it's own loyalty as well).

As to they all have student ID cards but they all don't have smart phones . . . have you looked at the market penetration figures on that? College students will make disposable income available for iPhones or Droids.

Plus, the kings and queens of reward card programs -- airlines and hotels -- are RAPIDLY ditching the physical card for, wait for it, wait for it . . . an APP.

I bring this all up today for three reasons. First, in a flash of insight while clocking off 25 miles today on the bike the progressive unlock element came to me (check in at start, check in at logical point mid-event, check in at close). Second, SCVNGR just announced some big milestones (millionth user, special contests in two major cities).

Third -- maybe the big reason -- it's budget and planning time for next academic year. The system will cost -- right now around $6K -- but you can likely partner with the university as a whole (in fact, look around -- someone on campus may have already set up a SCVNGR account). And, you're gonna need to get others on board -- it will take time -- to maximize the impact.

Call this the CoverItLive for the fall of 2011. About this time last year, we and many others started using CiL and it exploded in 2010 football and hoop seasons.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Being A Slave to the Attention Economy

Now that you're thinking about the tremendous upside to the Charlie Sheen just-spell-my-Twitter-handle-right school of social media PR, let me acquaint you with the dark side.

Or, welcome fellow info serf to your oar on the great galleon that is your on-line presence.

Mark Evans lays out the real costs to keeping up with his blog post.

I can especially relate to No. 3:

There is a never-ending need for fresh content. Social media is a beast that is always hungry and never satisfied. One of the keys to engaging consumers is giving them a steady diet of content – be it blog posts, updates, videos, polls, photos, tweets or contests.

The Attention Economy

Caught that phrase on a tech blog, and mesh it together with one of the current TV ads for a Hey Marcel campaign in which the provider is trying to convince us about how many people are trying to get you to watch their shows or sports.

Does make you wonder -- the one thing we can't manufacture more of is time. So as Charlie Sheen eats into your day of consuming entertainment, what are you doing to combat that?

I can spend all the money in the world -- or earn it -- but I still can't keep up with the growing number of podcasts I think I'd like to listen to (I've got HOURS of a couple of really nice history podcasts, and they never bubble to the top -- yet I still think I'm going to listen, like those books that end up sitting on the night stand).

Can you raise the value of what you do to the level that you will succeed in the Attention Economy?

This is where compelling work on social media comes into play. You better have a crack production and writing team that can do things like Jennifer Aniston's Smart Water "viral sax video". (Go ahead, click and enjoy -- and ad to the more than 1 million views). And, BTW, how'd I find it? Picking up a tweet recommendation from Rod Harlan.

Just like one of the best journalistic explanations of the NFL strike from Bill Simmons at ESPN, that I didn't pick up through sports but saw via another web guru, Jay Rosen.

The real value in the future is going to be a smart web that brings you curation via devoted fan/follower/content producer. Listen in on recent TWiT and you'll get that part.

This is where I look with such incredible fascination at the numbers generated via our CoverItLive work. Average "viewer" staying over 39 minutes. Good luch with that even on video.

I've got a list of 50-60 folks that I've followed, who's opinion I value, who tip me to really interesting things -- many that I in turn retweet to those who may have the same opinion of me (difference is, I'm not monetizing as much as I should).

So drinking Smart Water isn't going to make be better at this blog. Using tools to glean beautiful little plankton from the ocean of information will.


Well, I guess if we're honest, yes. First time to hear the term was On The Media this week as they did a story about a new website,, which is trying to alert the public to the way that public relations press releases are often taken by the news media, often whole.

We do a lot of writing for media, but most of the time we are clearly attributed as not being of the news outlet. Now, that said, more and more I'm seeing our content harvested straight off our website (not necessarily the press release emails, but columns and notes written just for our web) and no footnoting. KXYZ-TV or being some of the worst at this -- names changed to protect the innocent.

Meanwhile, check out the OTM story and the website. It will give you pause.

Frankly, what we do isn't so much churnalism. I've coined branded journalism. We're being up front that we write from our point of view. We represent our brand.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Why I Make You Use Your Name

I had another spate of people complaining that I ask them to use their real name on our interactive blogs. Call it the Facebook principle. I rarely see anything like what appears on message boards behind screen names on Facebook. Yes, I know you can make a fake Facebook profile, but we're talking about only 5% of the really committed trolls. Besides, if someone is willing to put their name on it, and say it to your face, you better pay attention.

So listening to some tech and media podcasts this weekend, I came across the fancy technical name for what I know by anecdotal evidence to be true:

Disinhibited Behavior

And, if you want to read a whole lot more about it, I've even got a very nice master's thesis from Michael Tresca at Michigan State: The Impact of Anonymity on Disinhibited Behavior in Computer-Based Communications. I'll just pick off one line from his abstract that pretty much sums it up:

Many users feel uninhibited and unrestrained because of a lack of social context cues and therefore exhibit more "disinhibition" in the form of insults, swearing, and hostile language (Walther, 1993) than if they were communicating in a face-to-face situation with the same people (Siegel, Kiesler and McGuire, 1984).


Ready for scary? This thesis from 1998, and was studying behavior of people back in the old "alt.subject" days of usenet (OK, kids, hold up the hands of those who know what CompuServe is?).

It absolutely is the message board world of today, an order of magnitude or maybe two bigger.

What made me think this was a passing statement by Dennis Miller's producer/sidekick, Christian Bladt. He gets it down into a single, pithy aphorism:

People say all kind of things when they don't have to interact with the person.

Perfect. Our #WordsOfTwisdom for today.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

It All Comes Back to Basics

Yet another study, same outcome: kids these days, they can't write.

I see it in my history class at NWACC. They live in fear of the essay question that we are required to have on all tests.

Wall Street Journal weighs in against business school grads for lack of writing skills, but I'm not so sure this isn't across the board. Here's a great pull quote:

Sharon Washington, executive director of the National Writing Project in Berkeley, Calif., says U.S. high schools and undergraduate programs have de-emphasized writing instruction, and constant digital communication may be eroding writing skills. "The good news about texting is that at least people are writing more," Ms. Washington says.

Yes, but they r txt > but sayin <. And that's giving that you realize the difference between a more than and less than signs.

Still, what we learn in school is key, and if the emphasis remains on the classics -- good story telling, good writing -- the technology will follow. That's not to declare myself a Ludite, far from it. But you can have the slickest interface and if the content is crap, it won't matter.

Couple of blasts from past in this area as Dvorak talks about J-school, they keys to quality engagement from my recent NCAA Convention appearance, a look at the brave new world in j-school, and getting the basics right.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

On the Road

A brief break now for a quick run to Oxford for our final men's hoops game of the year. Other events have just prevented the chance to do a road basketball regular season game -- yes, we did SEC women's tournament and next week we'll be at the men's -- but I'll be behind the wheel for the next few hours.

Sheen May Be Crazy Like a Fox

Charlie Sheen broke Oprah's record for shortest time to a million Twitter followers this week as he went rogue. His publicist dumped him and in what most of Hollywood's PR community is looking at as the functional equivalent of being your own lawyer at trial, Sheen is becoming his own promoter via social media.

Interesting that he chose Twitter as his primary vehicle, rather than pumping up his Facebook presence, for example.

Perhaps the Los Angeles Times has the answer: advertising.

Sheen's got a massive audience that is tuned in to see what quirky thing he will do next. And if along the way he's showing, oh, say, DIRECTV in a TwitPic or he and one of his girlfriends are holding up a certain brand of juice or milk . . . .

How different, I might add, than the Conan O'Brien story on going direct and owning your own product? Sheen is owning himself now.

I repeat one of my dystopian digital predictions: How many colleges will regret they signed away their on-line rights as it becomes more and more viable to become your own Texas Network? Sheen and O'Brien have, along with dozens of other entertainers.

Performance art or artful promotion. Don't know, but I'll be willing to bet millions of people will stay tuned.

Friday, March 04, 2011

And Your Mobile Strategy is . . .

Outgoing Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave this talk about the future of his corporation's focus, and he hands out something that should catch the attention of every single college and university (and not just the athletic departments).

Mobile is growing faster than even Google's own internal estimates.

Remember, Google is highly vested in Android as a phone operating system, Google Voice and new tablet versions of Android.

Let me repeat: a massive global company that has bet a big chunk of it's future on mobile is saying that mobile is growing faster than it's own estimates.

The Mashable story and video of Schmidt's remarks are here.

E-Mail Lists Continue to Rule

This tidbit today via the PRSA daily email: A study showed 87 percent of media members preferred email for press releases. The balance were OK with a digital news room and no one said send me paper or use PR services. Now the services really aren't a part of the college world, but the difference between wanting to receive and coming to you is pretty stark.

Interesting second note in this PR Daily piece: media said they would like to receive high res images, and that would increase the likelihood of the release's usage.

Let's call them "less service oriented" SIDs who like to say "you can get it off the website" are not looking good according to this survey. The media expect to be served. While you may see yourself as more of the media, or competing with them for the attention of your fan base, this should really come as no surprise.

If you're gonna pitch to them, you'll need to email. The logic is pretty simple -- do you really think you are so important that you don't have to alert the media to news? And if so, at least keep your Twitter feed up to date so they can use that as the alert service.

Bottom line: have good email lists, segregate them by target audience and don't "spam" them with everything that happens.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Missing the Tournament

For the first time ever, I'm not at the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament this week. Instead, I'm actually home for my anniversary for the first time since joining the SEC. I miss my colleagues who I've worked with for, well, decades. This, however, was more important.

Database Journalism Strikes

Yesterday's SI/CBS story about Criminal Records in College Sports is sparking a lot conversation. First and foremost, kudos to our PR team for stepping out front to call out some of the structural problems with this story. You can read Arkansas' response here.

I'm going to be very, very clear at this point -- I am speaking personally and not representing in any form or fashion the University of Arkansas or it's athletic department. And nobody here asked me to say that. The great "they" are unaware that I'm making this post today.

This story was database journalism, and not a strong example. The study group was arbitrary -- the preseason top 25 of Sports Illustrated. At the least, look at the entirety of football in some way. If the goal is to say "big time" has a problem, do just the BCS schools. Or all of the FBS. Or all of Division I.

So Arkansas is #2 in the "Top 25" as listed by SI. However, let's concede the point made in the study that SI/CBS is revealing a huge problem previously uncovered or undetected. If SI's writers had deemed the Razorbacks not worthy of the preseason top 25 -- Arkansas was 23rd -- then the shocking 18 players would not have been included. Some other school would be in the study.

Follow my logic here: This is one of the functional faults -- you would have not had an "offender" school that was #2 in the study if, say, Arkansas loses the Liberty Bowl and Ryan Mallett doesn't return for 2010 leading to the Razorbacks not being preseason top 25.

There is a lack of context in the stats -- 7% of the 25 schools have criminal records. And how does that compare to the student body, first at the school, second among the group and third nationwide. Is the comparison number 4% or 10%?

The authors repeat over and over it is to get universities to "have their eyes open" about recruits. I feel like I can make this point -- the 18 athletes included in Arkansas' criminal records include individuals who got into trouble at college.

So, are we talking about criminal records of recruits? OK, then our number is wrong.

Or, are we talking about college students getting in trouble at school. Then all the bluster about getting juvenile records is off point.

One of the persons taking part in the study is Jeff Benedict. He explains his background working at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society and how he sees the value of the project. Benedict also reveals the methodology. The full story from his point of view is here, and I highly recommend you read it all.

So is Benedict's point that we should isolate college athletes for special screening and special attention? Would he advocate that for all students entering college? If so, fine. Good luck with that at public universities. Benedict makes the claim his previous work on the NBA and NFL led to reforms.

Here is a very, very important point. NU's center does landmark work that revealed important problems to address -- the higher than average percentage of violence against women among male college athletes does result in more education programs. But those studies were done confidentially, and with the cooperation of the universities involved.

One of my long-standing lecture points: we collectively give away too much of our privacy voluntarily. Get ready to be creeped as Benedict lays out the methodology of how SI/CBS was able to do background checks on college students without their permission:

First, vital information was gathered on every player (date of birth, race, sex, hometown, etc.), a tedious process that entailed using everything from team media guides to players' individual Facebook pages and everything in between.

Because without that, you're going to have a hard time getting public records or a private investigator to pull up the info.

So am I the only person concerned about that point? Some level of privacy should be accorded to college athletes because, let's remember, they are not professional athletes. They are nominally public figures. To defend SI/CBS, the collective we -- schools via bios and athletes on their social networks -- volunteered the info, and didn't think twice about the consequences.

Wanna bet that changes nationwide after this?

But what would Benedict suggest having the complete criminal past of a potential college student lead to?

The new information that has come to light from the SI/CBS News investigation gives the NCAA and individual colleges the impetus to make some positive changes to recruiting practices. Simply drawing a line in the sand and banning players with an arrest history is not the answer.

Not to sound enabling here, but college can be a transformative second chance. Having our "eyes open" by knowing all the details may or may not change the situation. Let me change the debate slightly.

Should we also see all the medical records of every recruit? Because if performance is what it's about, we should have total access to that too, and then decide not to accept athletes that may have health risks. Oh, wait, that would violate FERPA. You can't do that across the board.

The reporters proposed to ask student athletes to waive their rights to their juvenile records so we could all see them. Really? Do we want to break open that seal, there for the reason of allowing young people to overcome the bad decisions they have made.

As the SI/CBS crew discovered, these are matters for the states, and every state has a different standards of criminal record keeping. Is it really the intention to create some NCAA clearinghouse for criminal records? What kind of legal hell awaits that group when young men or women can't earn a scholarship because their records are unsealed.

I also highly recommend you watch the video of the reporters explaining why the story was important. One of the things that caught my eye -- that all schools must do this because it would be a recruiting disadvantage if some did the background checks and others didn't. It would become a deterrent to recruits because they would know they would be under more scrutiny. Is the thought that their criminal record will be looked at by college recruiters is going to keep a 16-year-old from making a stupid decision at a party? That's darn naive.

Maybe I'm getting too much indignation at this than I should, but it bothers me that we're going to town on young people with what is functionally what we'd call profiling. Think I'm being a bit strong? Consider this:

Perhaps the most stunning discovery of the SI/CBS News investigation is that two of the best teams in the country this past season largely avoided trouble.

Was the assumption that no one could win without having "bad kids" on their rosters? Sorry, I can't let that one pass.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Trained Journalists"

Listening to On The Media from this week, co-host Bob Garfield makes this passing comment about why one the show's producers, a Libyan native, is a OTM source rather than participant this week:

Journalists are, of course, trained never to become part of the story.

Then Bob, what are we to make of stories ranging from Doug Gottlieb's comments regarding the fate of Arkansas men's basketball coach? Or of Tom Bowles' firing after clapping at the Daytona 500? Or virtually any sports reporter who also maintains new media tools like a Twitter feed or a separate blog or website about the subject they cover?

I applaud what Bob is saying. Journalists should be neutral observers, but is that really possible? And if so, was that only so in a day gone by?

Being part of the story is the essence -- good, bad or otherwise -- in the expanding social media world. The credibility of the source is often vetted by what we know of it and how much it may or may not be vested in the story.

Thus, going back to the On The Media piece, one of the items quickly pointed out is the lack of viable third-party confirmation of the reports coming from Libya. The government is still cracking down and not allowing traditional journalists in to report. The dissidents have clear motivation to be as pessimistic as possible.

So, to use a story very close to home, if a university person counters Gottlieb, who do you believe? The journalist -- who by putting it out was in these days of self-promotion not only reporting but promoting that he and his organization were first -- or the official source? The truth is the truth won't be known for some time.

Meanwhile, are Gottlieb and Bowles not good "trained journalists"? I have no answer for that, nor would I assume one for Garfield. What I will venture is that the hard and fast rules that once governed not being part of the story are changing.

How do we know what is right? It's up to you, gentle reader, to decide.

Ah yes, the good news is you can have all the news you could possibly want. The bad news is . . . you've got more news than you can digest.

Little Local Media

We got an interview request about how the blogs work from the news side at one of our local stations. You can watch here -- shameless plug for myself, yes.