Sunday, October 19, 2014

Everything you need to know about communicating in the Interactive Age (part 3)

"Lung cancer? Hell, the
fluoride'll get you
long before that."
As scary as social media may sometimes seem, it isn’t forcing us to learn a whole new language or adopt unfamiliar customs. It is actually reintroducing us to the way we humans have communicated for more than 10,000 years.

Successful communication in the 20th century boiled down to this: “The one with the biggest megaphone wins.” But that was an aberration caused by the convergence of two powerful forces—the rise of mass communication and the birth of “public relations.”
Back in the 1920's, Edward Bernays, known as the “father of public relations,” asked in his essay Propaganda, “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?”
The answer was yes, as he soon proved. Bernays was an expert at manipulating people. That gift was literally in his DNA. His mother was Sigmund Freud’s sister his father's sister married Freud. And Bernays really loved his mom, which bugged Freud no end. ... No, that's not true. I made that up. But the other stuff is true. Can you imagine those family get-togethers?
Bernays also knew that the mass media infrastructure of the 20th century was ideal for the “manipulation and opinions of the masses.”
“The United States,” he said, “has become a small room in which a single whisper is magnified thousands of times.”
The rise of PR coupled with a mass media network never before seen in human history conspired to profoundly change the way we communicated with each other, whom we trusted, and what we valued.
The most obvious effect of “regimenting the masses” was the homogenization of the American way of life.
Our experiences were the same. We lived in identical homes in identical subdivisions. We went to identical schools and sat at identical desks lined up in identical rows. And our parents identical cars to and from work at exactly the same regimented time.
Our interests were the same. We loved baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. We loved blond-haired, blue-eyed baby Jesus, hated commies, and every Sunday night at 7:30, we all sat down in front of the TV to watch The Wonderful World of Disney.
And our values were the same. We were all in pursuit of the American dream, which also meant we had to work hard to earn the money needed to buy the products that would help us keep up with the Joneses.
But this homogenization came at a heavy price.
We were becoming more isolated from each other. Time that was once spent sharing stories was now being squandered watching TV.
And through this isolation, we also lost our sense of community … a community that evolved from genuine interaction with people who shared our unique interests, our unique experiences, and our core values.
But then social media came along and brought us full circle to what Edward Bernays described as “an earlier age [where] a leader was usually known to his followers personally; there was a visual relationship between them. Communication was accomplished principally by personal announcement to an audience.”
Bernays meant that derisively. But it’s actually a very good thing.
Up next: You don’t have to be a star, baby … in fact, you really shouldn’t be if you want to be heard.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Everything you need to know about communicating in the Interactive Age (part 2)

No matter how creative you are, no matter hard you work you will never get more attention than a video of a cat stuck in a hamster ball. Let that one sink in.
No matter how creative you are, no matter hard you work you will never get more attention than a video of a cat stuck in a hamster ball. Let that one sink in.
The exploding cigar moments that signaled the end of the old way of communicating were just one-half of the painful transition for the movers and shakers of the 20th century.
Young people were now using the Internet to rally the masses for causes they cared about. And they weren't running it by legal.
Anthony Hardwick, a part-time cart jockey at a Target store in Omaha, got over 200,000 signatures on his online petition demanding that Target not open their stores on Thanksgiving night just to get a jump on “black Friday.”
And Molly Katchpole—a part-time nanny who launched a petition drive against Bank of America for charging people $5 a month to use their own debit cards—not only got hundreds of thousands of people to support her cause, she got BofA to back down and drop the monthly fee.
These two kids were among thousands of social-media savvy activists, musicians, writers, videographers, artists and muckrakers who are redefining what it means to inspire, to encourage, to lead. In short, they are redefining how we communicate.
Now, as you can imagine, to a lot of people (mostly those over 40) things were changing much too fast.
  • Teenagers are becoming millionaires overnight by selling programs that they don’t even understand.
  • A video of a cat stuck in a hamster ball is getting more views than everything they’ve ever posted—or ever will.
  • Their communication efforts keep getting less and less effective making them feel like strangers in their own land.
These people are struggling to remain firmly rooted in the 20th century where they understand the customs and the language.
But their fears are misplaced. The 20th century wasn’t the norm. It was the anomaly.
Up next: What the hell is he talking about?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Everything you need to know about communicating in the Interactive Age*

"You don't like it? Don't listen to it!"
"You don't like it? Don't listen to it!"
* ... but were afraid to ask.
Yesterday, U2’s lead singer, Bono, apologized to the world for force-feeding their latest album to Apple iPhone users.
Why? He cited a “deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years might not be heard. There's a lot of noise out there. I guess we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it."
If Bono is working harder to break through the Internet noise, it’s pretty clear we need to step up our game as well.
We can show you how.
Over the next couple of days we are going to explain how social media has profoundly changed the way we communicate and why this change has made it so difficult to get your story heard by the people that matter.
Then we’re going to show you exactly what you can to break through the Internet clutter and get your story heard in the Interactive Age.
But in order to understand how to communicate—how to be heard—in this brave new world of interactive communication, it’s important to understand where we are today and how we got here.
Let me take you back to January 2012. This was the tipping point when communication officially went from the old way of doing things to the new.
On January 19, 2012—after 124 years of being the first name in photography—Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Kodak was simply too slow to embrace digital photography, despite the fact they invented the technology used in today’s digital cameras back in 1975.
Instagram—an online photo sharing platform—did embrace digital photography and was scooped up by Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock soon after Kodak went belly up.
On January 20, 2012—exactly one day after Kodak declared bankruptcy—Chris Dodd, former US Senator and newly minted CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, had his own Kodak moment when his signature legislation—the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA—got shot down following an outcry from us “little people.”
Dodd had sunk millions into lobbying SOPA on the Hill and its passage was expected to be a slam-dunk. But the Internet-using public had other plans.
And after anti-SOPA activists effectively shut down the Internet for one day in protest, the bill got pulled.
This stunning defeat prompted Dodd to publicly threaten his former colleagues on the Hill, saying “Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay attention to me when my job is at stake.”
This honest assessment of “how things work in Washington” resulted in an online petition calling on the White House to investigate Chris Dodd for bribery.
Just over a week later on January 30, Robert McDonald, the CEO of Procter and Gamble—which just happens to be the largest marketer on the planet with a $10 billion annual ad budget—announced that P&G would lay off 1,600 staffers, including marketers, because he finally “discovered it’s free to advertise on Facebook,” as Business Insider put it.
McDonald “retired” a few months later.
Cigars have been exploding in board rooms around the globe since social media really got traction. It’s just that there were so many cigars exploding in 2012 that it sounded like someone was making Jiffy Pop popcorn.
These embarrassing moments were just part of the painful transition from the old to the new for the 20th century movers and shakers.
Up next: "Get off my lawn, ya goddam kids!"

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Shout Out to Ukraine: Ви , хлопці , здорово

I've got readers from more than 90 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. But after the US and
the UK, I get more visits from you guys than any other nation. (Yeah, even more than you, Russia.) And it's not like you've got nothing else keeping you busy. But through it all, you guys keep coming back.

So I want to take a moment to say thanks and to highlight one of your greatest gifts to this planet: Your beautiful women. Now before the rest of you get your knickers in a twist about this being "a sexist remark," let me say three things--

1. Ukrainian men are beautiful, too, I just don't appreciate their beauty as much.
2. Many of the women I've highlighted here are highly accomplished in their respective fields and several of them are world leaders.
3. It is a sexist remark. You want PC, follow Christopher Hayes' blog.

If you guys have a minute, drop me a line in the comment box and tell me where you're from. Until then, YPA!









Thursday, September 18, 2014

Internet Killed the Hollywood Star: Why being a star is not enough in the Interactive Age

"Run and hide, Hadji! It's me they're after. Not you."
"Run, Hadji! It's me they're after. Not you."
To be a success in the 20th century was to be a star. Whether a movie star, a rock star, or an NBA All Star, your job was to shine brightly and be worshiped by “the little people” below you. Feedback from the masses was next to impossible and that was OK by you.
Many stellar Fortune 500 corporations operated in much the same way, preferring target demographic marketing over actually engaging with their customers.
Then the Internet—which abhors monologues and other one-way communication—snuffed out many of the stars of the 20th century and gave birth to a new celestial model of success: the quasar.
Unlike a star, which only radiates, a quasar has an enormous black hole at its core that sucks matter and energy in while simultaneously emitting more light than any star in the universe. This two-way flow of energy is the foundation of successful communication in the Interactive Age. Dictatorial monologues are out; thoughtful and empathetic dialogues are in.
As it happens, the word “QuASAR” is also an acronym for the five-step process that can teach you how to become a thoughtful and empathetic communicator yourself, and show you how to get people to hear—and genuinely comprehend—what you have to say. QuASAR stands for Quest, Audience, Stories, Action, and Results.
Quest—Most meaningful communication begins with a quest. Unlike a mission—which is a directive from an external source, usually a framed piece of paper nailed to the break room wall—a quest is driven by a passion that comes from within to achieve a purpose that you hold dear. By discovering your quest, you will find—and attract—other people who share your goal, and your passion.
Audience—Until very recently, an audience’s primary function was to serve as a barometer of success. They were counted, not consulted. Today, however, the audience you attract on your quest will actually give you invaluable insight and helpful advice as you share stories during—and about—your mutual objetive. You cannot overstate the importance of your audience to your quest. They are no longer passive observers of your communication “campaigns.” They are your new partners and active participants in your quest.
Stories—Press releases, official statements, and talking points don’t initiate conversations; they kill them. To engage in a dialogue you need to share stories. In fact, now that you’re on a quest with new friends who share your objective, it would be almost impossible not to.
Action—Woody Allen famously said “80% of success is showing up.” In the Interactive Age, it’s closer to 100%. You need to take the time and energy you’re spending on quarterly magazines, monthly newsletters, and staged press events and spend it on developing organic, ongoing dialogues with your audiences. As Jay Baer, best-selling author of The Now Revolution, said, “Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.”
Results—Success used to be measured by the number of clips your press release generated. But those metrics (and most press releases) are far less important in the Interactive Age. Successful communication isn’t measured in “hits.” Success is measured by your audiences' reactions.
Take Molly Katchpole. Ms. Katchpole was a part-time nanny in 2012 when she decided that she didn’t want to pay Bank of America $5 every month just to use her debit card. So she started an online petition opposing the surcharge that generated more than 200,000 signatures in one week. It’s a safe bet that BofA’s media team reached tens of millions of people that week, but that wasn’t enough to keep bank CEO Brian Moynihan from crying “Uncle” and dropping the $5 fee.
Interaction is the currency of the Interactive Age. After years of talking at your targeted audience, you and countless others are going to have to adjust to talking with both your targeted audiences and with the many new people and communities you will meet as you venture on your quest.
It will be difficult, but it’s not impossible. If Daniel Pink can learn how to draw a passable self-portrait by using his right brain, you can learn how to mechanize the magic of meaningful and effective communication through the QuASAR process.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Comments, Please!" The 7-step process that will rock your page views

"Say 'Benghazi' one more time and I'm gonna give you such a slap!"
"Say 'Benghazi' one more time and I'm gonna give you such a slap!"
One of the hallmarks of social media is the “comments section,” a kind of virtual town square where people can share their opinions on articles, blog posts, and Benghazi.
The comments sections that don’t devolve into hate-filled shouting matches provide an excellent opportunity to connect with people who are literally thinking about your issue at the moment you post your comment.
The comment section is truly a product of the Internet Age. Back in the day, the only way to weigh in on an article was to draft a letter to the editor, get it approved by your boss, run it by legal, send it to the target newspaper, and pray that it would be selected to run in the paper several days later … long after everybody had lost interest in the story.
But online comments sections let you:
  • Post your comment immediately.
  • Imbed a link that will instantly drive new traffic to your website.
  • Use the same comment on numerous sites because exclusivity is not required.
  • Engage directly and instantly with people who have demonstrated an active interest in your issue.
The best part is you can start right away. Let me show you how it works.
Shortly after Dylan Farrow accused Woody Allen of bad touching her when she was a kid, the Daily Beast published an article written by Allen’s biographer that essentially called Dylan a liar.
Having experienced a dash of what Dylan had gone through, I wrote a blog post challenging Allen’s biographer. Then I drafted a very short comment that encapsulated the main point of my blog post—added a link to my blog post in the comment I wrote—and then posted that comment on every heavily trafficked site I could find.
I, too, am wondering why I didn't think of this sooner.
I, too, wonder why I didn't think of this sooner.
The results were impressive. Prior to this campaign, I was lucky to get more than 200 page views for any given post. But this post attracted nearly 3,000 page views, with over 2,000 of them coming in just a few hours after I hit “send.”
To make sure this wasn’t a fluke, I launched another comment-section campaign a few weeks later. Here is the step-by-step process.
Step 1: Select the broad issue you want to promote. The goal of my personal blog, FlackOps.com, is to teach people that there is often much more to a story than meets the eye. I’m constantly on the lookout for stories that seem to be too good—or too bad—to be true. When I find one, I pounce.
Step 2: Look for trending topics that relate to that issue. Not long ago, multiple news outlets reported that a “NASA-funded study” predicted the imminent collapse of Western Civilization. Having a selfish interest in the topic, I set out to learn just how valid this study was.
Step 3: Write a blog post that presents your perspective on that issue. I started with the most obvious question: Who exactly did NASA fund to do the study?
Turns out it was a researcher who has been writing about society’s pending collapse since at least 2011. He also holds a rather notable bias against the free-market system, calling for government policies to “stabilize population,” and to “stabilize industrial production per person.” It made for great blog post fodder.
Step 4: Craft a very short comment and imbed a link to your blog post. After I wrote my post, I drafted a comment which included a promise that the reader could find more information by clicking on the link back to my blog.
Step 5: Copy and paste your comment into every applicable site. This is the fun part. Now that I had essentially done the work, I just cut and pasted this comment into heavily trafficked every article I could find.
It took one day to get the 911 pageviews for  the NASA story. It took one year to get the 694 pageviews for the post below it.
It took one day to get the 911 page views for the NASA story. It took one year to get the 694 page views for the post below it.
Step 6: Identify your performance indicators on your blog’s dashboard before you post your first comment so you can see exactly how effective this tactic is … and which media outlets send the most traffic to your site. In this case, my comment generated more than 800 page views within two hours—second only to the Woody Allen post.
Step 7: Create an auto-search for terms relevant to your issues. Every news story that gets legs follows a certain pattern of coverage—it breaks online, gets picked up by the foldable media, inspires blog reaction and old-media editorials, and finally if it’s significant enough, columnists will talk about the societal implications of the issue. Following this cycle will give you plenty of opportunities to generate more web traffic.
It's that simple. So give it a shot and leave me a comment telling me how it went.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Slinging the Red Bull: How to find stories everywhere

Stories are everywhere. This can led me to the Cutty Sark, Fencetech 2015, and a TV show I hadn't thought of in decades.
Stories are everywhere. This can led me to the Cutty Sark, Fencetech 2015, and a TV show I hadn't thought of in decades.
I tried Red Bull once, and I was so surprised that it wasn’t Hawaiian Punch red that I can’t remember what it tasted like. I haven’t tried it since primarily because Red Bull has never asked me to.
Frankly, they have no use for a 54-year-old male with 2.4 children (my daughters are quite tall). Red Bull targets kids who want to jump out of balloons that are bumping against earth’s celestial ceiling. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to jump out of bed this morning.
My first exposure to Red Bull was through their James Thurber-esque cartoon commercials that featured various scenarios where some guy “gets his wings.” And even though I wasn’t their target market, I did connect with those TV ads in a nostalgic way.
They reminded me a TV show I use to watch when I was a kid, “My World and Welcome to It,” which was based on the life of the cartoonist James Thurber. That show was cancelled 34 years ago. The star of the show was born in 1923. James Thurber died in 1961 … of old age. None of us is Red Bull’s target demo.
Last week, Amsterdam Printing (“the leader in laser engraved promotional pens and personalized calendars”) posted a blog about “3 Brands Rocking Social Media,” with Red Bull being the first. In it, they made the insightful observation that, “the key to Red Bull’s social media success is the staggering amount of quality content it shares.”
Red Bull, they wrote, is an “immersive” brand because “it seamlessly immerses itself with other stories in order to tell its own” … not unlike what Amsterdam Printing did with that post … and as long as we’re being honest, not unlike what I‘m doing with this post.
Now, I need to point out that this wasn’t the point of my post at its inception. (See what I did there, Karlyn Boe?) I actually had planned to write about the Red Bull can fence-post cap that I found yesterday. I thought it would be a nice addition to my fence-post cap oeuvre. But having only had one unmemorable sip of Red Bull, I didn’t have a single story about it. So I did a little digging and found Amsterdam Printing’s informative post.
I bring all this up to show that there is always a story. Sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper. In the past few weeks, I’ve written about a bug, a one-armed tan-colored plastic Army man, and a fence-post cap. And I came up with stories because each of those treasures (eventually) triggered a memory.
Here’s the trick: Free association. Take the topic you want to write about and boil it down to one word or phrase (if you can tie it to a tangible object, all the better). Then find a quiet place away from any Internet access and start rummaging through your memory for incidents that involved that word, phrase, or object.
If you can’t churn up any of your own stories, Google your phrase and use someone else’s.
For example, say it was your job to entice people to attend the Fencetech 2015, the trade show of the American Fence Association being held in Orlando in February. And say the theme of the show was “Charting a New Course” emblazoned over the silhouette of a three-masted schooner.
Not much to work with, right? You’d be surprised. Here’s what I’d lead with:
“Back in 1972 on a family vacation in London, we toured the dry-docked clipper ship Cutty Sark. The captain’s log was in a glass case opened to an entry made on April 3, 1881—exactly 79 years and one day before I was born. [True story.]
“On that day, two seamen were swept off the deck never to be found again. Their names were John Clifton and John Doyle!
“To this day, I wonder how differently things might have turned out if the Cutty Sark’s deck was equipped with a durable, lightweight fence. If you would like to see the kinds of fences that might have saved the lives of those two young men, join us at Fencetech 2015, in Orlando, Florida!”
And don’t worry if you don’t have a similar story. You could always lead with a picture of a Red Bull can serving as a fence-post cap.