Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saccharine Vanzetti: Lessons you can learn from an Oreo-inspired miscarriage of journalism

"It's OK, honey. Oreo says
we can still dunk in the
dark. Can you bring my
glass of milk back, please?"
Oreo to launch two new cookie flavors – New York Daily News
A New Oreo Rises! And It Will Probably Be As Addictive As Cocaine – Esquire Magazine
“It seems impossible to improve on the Oreo but Nabisco is giving the classic cookie a new twist, launching limited edition cookie dough and marshmallow crispy flavors.” – NBC’s Today Show
To paraphrase Woody Allen, if Walter Cronkite came back and saw what was passing for journalism today, he’d never stop throwing up.
I don’t blame the good folks at Nabisco. They’re just doing their job, and doing it damn well, I might add. The fault lies squarely with the (generally) young and (astonishingly) na├»ve “journalists” who seem to have learned everything they needed to know about investigative reporting from Perez Hilton “exclusives.”
But this is the world we live in, so let’s make the best of it.
Following is an excerpt from our book, The TV Guide to Telling Your Organization’s Story, that should give you some insight into Oreo's 21st century thinking.
The Oreo. It’s not just a cookie. It’s a flash mob. It’s a meme. It’s a YouTube sensation. It’s a Twitter genius. It’s a Facebook monster. It’s milk’s favorite cookie.
It wasn’t always this way. Oreo's used to be just a snack, like Twinkies, Ring Dings and Devil Dogs. But while Nabisco was celebrating Oreo’s 100th birthday with flash mobs and online events, Hostess was filing for bankruptcy protection, which briefly killed off the much-maligned Twinkie at the relatively young age of 82. (The Hostess bankruptcy also put Drakes Cakes out of business, shutting down—at least temporarily—the Ring Ding and Devil Dog assembly line.)
How did Oreo's become a global Internet sensation just as Hostess was throwing in the apron? Because Nabisco used social media to tell the story they wanted to tell that would resonate with the audiences they needed to reach. They carefully planned and deftly executed intricate campaigns and skillfully seized unexpected opportunities. And they did it creatively, humorously, and relentlessly.
It wasn’t a story about sweet white stuff slapped between two black wafers. It was a story about your experience with their cookie. For Baby Boomers, the story was a nostalgic trip back to childhood. For the Millennials, the story was exciting, edgy and often political. And for the young ones, it was a story about Grandma and imagination.
Hostess, on the other hand, allowed the Twinkie story to be told by others. And we know how well that turned out.
And it isn't just thoughtful planning. Team Oreo also seizes opportunity--swiftly. During the 2013 Super Bowl (the night that the lights went out in Nawlins), Oreo carped the diem by conceiving, creating, approving, and tweeting a graphic ad that capitalized on the Superdome’s power struggle in just five minutes. The ad got re-tweeted thousands of times, and the brilliant marketing move was talked about worldwide. For free.
According to The Washington Post, Oreo’s ad team “required that ad agency and client executives be at the same place at the same time” which was a “social-media command center” at its digital ad agency 360i in NYC.
That is the reality of storytelling today. You’ve got to be quick. You’ve got to be relevant. And you have got to execute. The days of “running it by legal” are over.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A note from the authors of "The TV Guide to Telling Your Organization's Story"

"Kinda like a 21st century
Moonlighting, right  Megan?"
"Not so much, John."
Where would you be today if, back in 1994, someone gave you a book that explained how cell phones, PCs, and tablets were going to change the world over the next two decades?
This is that book.
No, John, it isn’t. But it does serve as a primer on some of the large-scale shifts affecting communications and provides strategies that you can adopt to successfully navigate them, using the model of a TV show.
A TV Guide, if you will.
And much like a TV Guide, it provides brief but enlightening overviews, not of shows but of concepts and tactics that you can use to tell your organization’s story more effectively. It also helps you identify areas that you are interested in spending more time learning about.
What it doesn’t do is teach you how to tweet, post, #hashtag, or Skype. And if you’re looking for scholarly insights about the literary themes in famous stories, you’ve got the wrong book.
Instead, it delivers the context and insights to help you become a better communicator in any medium.
And it does it in a way that allows you to jump around so you’re not forced to read a bunch of chapters just to get to the good parts.
Specifically, this book is comprised of four distinct sections which can be read independently or in any combination. The first section explains how we communicate with each other today—both as individuals and as organizations—and what we can do to communicate more effectively. Sections two, three, and four offer specific advice on how to successfully find, tell, and live your story in the Interactive Age.
And there are quite a few pictures and bullet points to make the reading feel a lot less like work.
One of the reasons our partnership works is that we’re extremely different in our perspectives, experiences, mentalities … and writing styles. So you will notice two distinctly different voices in this book.
I tend towards abstract and educational tones, while John provides concrete narratives.
The combination of two very different minds also went into the overall structure of the book. I usually read books from start to finish, and prefer a cumulative, linear approach to learning.
Blessed with the gift of attention deficit disorder and a dash of dyslexia, I like the freedom to hop in and out of a book without having to remember a lot of plot. So I need short sections, pictures and lots of white space.
Regardless of your preferred style of learning or level of background, this book will be helpful in navigating the future of communication.
And we hope you have as much fun reading it as you do buying it.

So who is FlackOps anyway?

Since publishing our book, I've been getting some inquiries as to my qualifications. While the questions vary, they all run along these lines: "What made you think you could write a book?" and "Just who the Hell do you think your are?" 

To all you curious future book-buyers, I offer the following. (I'm the pretty one in the upper left.)

Still curious? Get your own copy right here

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Rise and Fall of PR in 100 Easy Years

"Eight glasses of water
a day? Each of us?
You must be joking."
"That's what they say."
The following is an excerpt from our new book, The TV Guide to Telling your Organization's Story--Insights and tools to help you navigate the Interactive Age.
Like what your see? Get yours here.
“Ours must be a leadership democracy, administered by the “intelligent minority” who know how to regiment and guide the masses. The common interests very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality.” –Edward Bernays

The 20th century was the Golden Age of managed messaging. Media moguls, corporate titans, and government agencies controlled virtually every aspect of mass communication. This “intelligent minority” were literally the “they” in any statement that began with “They say…”

The blueprints for this power paradigm were drawn up in the wee hours of the 20th century by Edward Bernays, the man who would be crowned “the father of public relations.”

In his aptly named essay, Propaganda, Bernays asked, “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?”

Turns out it was possible … and very profitable. (A small example: It was Bernays who convinced America that women had the right to smoke in public with his “Torches of Freedom” campaign.)

Bernays—who was related to Sigmund Freud through both his mother (Freud’s sister) and his father (whose sister married Freud)—knew a few things about crowd psychology and other psychoanalytic approaches to public relations, which he called “the engineering of consent.”

He was also keenly aware that the burgeoning mass media infrastructure of 20th century America—“this web of communications” he presciently called it—was ideal for the “manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses.” This was critical, he wrote, because “those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

America’s mass media infrastructure was critical to Bernays’ success in developing “technique[s] for the mass distribution of ideas.” These techniques, which he collectively dubbed “public relations,” were amazingly effective because they were based on the belief that “the United States has become a small room in which a single whisper is magnified thousands of times.”

But the Internet destroyed that small room a few years back and countless communities have popped up in its place. The people in those communities aren’t buying the linear monologues spouted by corporations, media conglomerates, and political leaders. They are putting their faith in their friends and their communities, with astounding results.

Social media has brought us full circle to what Bernays described as “an earlier age … [where] a leader was usually known to his followers personally [and] communication was accomplished principally by personal announcement to an audience.”

This has up sides for organizations of all sizes, but our new reality requires that you make a few adjustments to your communications program if you want to be heard in the Interactive Age.

Welcome South Africa!

You are the 77th nation to join our merry little band! To celebrate, the boys down at District 9 and I made you a little something. Nothing fancy. Just a token of our appreciation. Chin chin!

Monday, January 20, 2014

A storm by any other name would NOT smell as sweet

"Say that I'm real grumpy
cause I lost my car keys
or something."
“Sensei! I have found you at last! I am here to learn at your feet of the magical power of the perfect catchphrase.”
“What? Get outta here kid. Can’t you see I’m working?”
“I do see, Master, but only with my eyes. I wish to see with my full being.”
“How did you get in here? Can somebody please call security?!”
“I have traveled many miles to learn the secret of … the Polar Vortex, for I know it originated here in this mystical place—WSI Energy.
“Wait. What did you say?”
“WSI Energy—a wholly owned subsidiary of Landmark Communications, the parent company of the Weather Channel.”
“Have a seat, son. So who sent you?”
“No one sent me, Sensei. I arrived here in my quest to find the source of the phrase ‘polar vortex.’ It is all that anyone in my village speaks of. Yet, before last Christmas we had never heard this magical word combination in reference to unusually cold weather. We were limited to such primitive expressions as ‘cold snap’ or ‘cold spell,’ as the elders used to call it.”
“As you can imagine, this language is hazy and imprecise. It did not allow us to visualize the magnitude of the cold that was gripping our land. We simply had no way of properly fearing the weather.
“But now that the beast has a name, we can actually visualize it! The polar vortex is a massive brute that slithers down from the frigid wasteland of the mysterious ‘Land of the Kind.’ Some even tell of having seen video of the monster slowly creeping southward on the weather map, but most of us believe that to be just clever animation.”
“You are quite perceptive, young one. Indeed, we did create the legend of the polar vortex. But that isn’t all. Remember that ‘thunderstorm’ that wiped out the power grid for much of the mid-Atlantic seaboard in 2012? That was no ordinary storm. That was a derecho! And now, having blasted that word into the minds of ordinary citizens just like you, our trained weathermen can strike fear into the hearts of millions with the simple utterance … duh-RAY-cho.
But why, Sensei?
“Ratings, Grasshopper. Ratings. The more people fear the weather, the higher our ratings. It started innocently enough when the Weather Channel ordered Jeff Morrow to do his live reports on the approaching hurricane standing atop slippery, wave-battered rocks.
“It was effective—for a while. But once it became evident that Jeff wasn’t going to get swept away any time soon, the gimmick lost its luster. So we tried naming winter storms—Nemo, Rocky, Draco, Q—but we were actually losing viewers who said it felt like we were overreaching.
“But then, on Christmas Day 2013, we had a Christmas Miracle. Eric Fisher, chief meteorologist WBZ-TV News in Boston, said this: ‘The final days of 2013 and first days of 2014 will be all about COLD. The polar vortex will send a couple lobes of bitterly cold air our way as it noses south.’ The first known utterance of ‘polar vortex’ in the US media.”*
“Do you understand what I am trying to teach you?”
“I think so, Sensei. If we want our stories to be powerful we must use concrete imagery, even if no one really understands what we’re talking about.”
“Close enough, kid. Now get outta here. I’ve got a weather panic to create.”
*True story.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

TV or not TV? Why your television may be your best social media mentor

"That's what twerking'
means? Why didn't
somebody tell me this
before my speech?"
The following is an excerpt from our new book, The TV Guide to Telling your Organization's Story--Insights and tools to help you navigate the Interactive Age.
Like what your see? Get yours here.
  • In 2011, part-time nanny Molly Katchpole told Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and the online world that she didn’t want to pay a new $5 monthly debit card fee. Moynihan was “incensed by the bad press,” and vowed that he “won’t budge on the new fees.” But the banker budged … and the nanny won.
  • In 2012, Hollywood’s top lobbyist Chris Dodd blasted his former colleagues in the US Senate for killing his signature legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have allowed the government to censor the Internet. Upon losing what had appeared to be a slam-dunk deal, an enraged Dodd said, “Don’t ask me to write a check for you [politicians] when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.” This refreshing candor resulted in its own online petition on the White House website calling for an investigation into Dodd’s alleged “open admission of bribery.
  • In 2013, Canadian PM Stephen Harper announced that he “has a lot of fun twerking,” but only with close friends and “every now and then with President Obama.” Before a media aide could update the PM on early 21st century parlance, he added that he “would like to twerk with every Canadian but that of course is impossible.”
There was a time when emulating society’s leaders was a viable strategy for success. But those days are truly gone. The 20th century leadership skills that catapulted people to positions of power—being unilaterally decisive and hogging the megaphone, to name just two—are liabilities in the Interactive Age, where collaboration trumps intimidation.
The sense of unassailable superiority by those in power is resulting in regular digital spankings as the once-untouchable establishment titans go head-to-head with “little people” who may lack executive prerogative, but more than make up for it in social media savvy.
But if successful business and political icons of the 20th century can no longer guide us to success, who can?
Yup. The faithful companion that taught you how to run faster, jump higher, and build strong bodies 12 ways can now help you navigate the roiling waters of social media.
Think about it. The world is changing faster and more dramatically than at any point in human history. Every aspect of communications is changing in ways we could never have imagined a decade ago. Keeping up with the changes is next to impossible and the struggle can overwhelm the strongest of us.
One way to get grounded and to regain a sense of balance is to filter these new experiences through the lens of something familiar; something that is feeling its way through this brave new world like you are. And there’s nothing more familiar and universal—in the 20th century, anyway—than television.
As the television industry navigates its way through these tectonic changes, it can teach us how to respond to similar challenges.
Coming up ... "Channeling your inner TV show." Stay tuned!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Not So Quiet on the Western Front

The toy Lucy found
My grandfather told only two stories about his time as a soldier fighting for King George V in World War I.

One was about a medal he got for being wounded in combat. It looked like an extra-large, extra-thick golden Half Crown, with King George’s profile embossed on the front and my granddad’s name—John C. Doyle—engraved into the side. He gave it to us when we were kids, presumably to save himself the effort of flying to the UK and chucking it in the Thames.

“You can throw the damn thing out for all I care.”
“Tell us how you got it again, Granddad!”
“I got it for being shot.”
“Where were you shot?” (We already knew.)
“In the back of my neck.”
“Why’d you get shot in the back of the neck?” (We already knew.)
“Because I was running away. Those bastards were trying to kill me!”

The reason I can
tell the story about
the toy Lucy found
The other story was much more dramatic. During a particularly devastating firefight, in a particularly desperate effort to stay alive, Granddad jumped into a foxhole and came face-to-face with a German soldier who was pointing his rifle right at him. Fortunately, the German was as desperate to survive the war as Granddad was. They both immediately and simultaneously threw down their rifles.

Granddad was quite a charmer. He had a real gift for gab. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak German. Using broad facial expressions and slow hand movements, he pantomimed, “Do you want to capture me, or should I capture you?” After some brief give and take, they decided that the German would be the prisoner this time.

“So I walked that bloke off the battlefield at gunpoint. I was going to march him all the way back to King George himself, but my commanding officer took him from me and sent me back to the front.”

It usually takes a lot of coaxing to get Lucy home from her morning walk, especially when there’s snow on the ground and we’re playing by the river. But as soon as found this toy, she ran back home, dragging me the whole way. Made me think of how happy my grandfather must have been when he found that kindred soldier.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

One of the few legit reasons to scream like a girl

I made a fresh pot of coffee, poured myself a Starbux-sized mug and tried to balance it on a newspaper as I walked to the table. The paper folded and I spilled the coffee all over me. After performing the hot-liquid version of stop-drop-and-roll (which looked a lot like me jumping and screaming as I tried to yank my t-shirt off), I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen. Then I looked at the headline of the offending paper. Kinda wish I had been carrying a Penthouse or something.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quick shout out to Indonesia!

"No it's not Verizon's cell coverage.
It's actually Indonesia's land coverage.
But thanks for playing."
You guys are almost always the first to read these posts. I appreciate your interest.

Today's lesson: How to turn a one-cycle news story into an international kerfluffle

"I tried to stop them but
they wouldn't listen to
me, Mrs. Cleaver."
"Stow it, Eddie."
After a long and grueling international business trip, John came home to find his two sons, Izzy and Peel-o, stockpiling water balloons and mud balls on opposite sides of the driveway ... again.

Determined to put an end to this silliness once and for all, he sat them down, one on each knee, and said, "Hey, look at me ... both of you. Now I know exactly what you guys are going through. In fact, I understand your conflict even better than you do. Heck, your old man was once young and full of piss and vinegar just like you.

"But here's the thing, this fighting has got to stop. The neighbors are starting to talk, and your mother is just about at the end of her rope. So I want you two to shake hands and promise never to fight again.

"OK, you don't have to shake on it. Just promise me you'll both be on your best behavior from now on. Now run off and play nice like good little soldiers."

Just as John was out of earshot, Izzy says to himself, "Who the hell died and made him king? He doesn't know diddly-squat about what I'm going through. I wish he'd go on a business trip and never come home!"

Unfortunately Izzy spoke a bit too loudly and his mom heard every word. And boy, was she mad. She blasted open the screen door, marched up to her sons, and screamed, "Your remarks, Izzy, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that Dad is doing to support your security needs. Dad has been working day and night to try to promote a secure peace for you."

As you can imagine, everyone in the neighborhood heard the commotion and it was all that anyone talked about for days.

Of course, that was just a reenactment for demonstration purposes. Here's what really happened--from the Washington Post:

The State Department responded with unusual sharpness Tuesday to remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who characterized Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s efforts to shepherd Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as “misplaced obsession and messianic fervor.”

In remarks that Yaalon’s office later said he believed were off the record, he reportedly told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that Kerry “cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.” A security plan for Israel drawn up by retired U.S. Gen. John Allen as part of Kerry’s peace proposals “is not worth the paper it’s written on,” the paper quoted Yaalon as saying.

“The only thing that can ‘save us,’ ” Yaalon said, “is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, traveling with Kerry on a visit to the Vatican, said the remarks, “if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs.” Adding that Kerry, Allen and others “have been working day and night to try to promote a secure peace for Israel,” Psaki said.

Lesson: Keep the high horse in the barn until you really need it. Because that nag almost always makes news.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Television. AmIright??

Let your TV be your Guide.
“I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.” —      Orson Welles
“If television's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.” —Dorothy Gambrell, Cat and Girl Volume I
“The difference between TV and the internet was how far you sat from the screen. TV was an 8 foot activity, and you were a consumer. The internet was a 16 inch activity, and you participated.” —Seth Godin
Want to know the 33 things your television can teach you about storytelling in the Interactive Age? It's all in here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How to Survive Stage-Floor Brain Lock

"And this is your brain on
stage. Any questions?"
If you took any delight in movie director Michael Bay’s recent key-note meltdown you’ve probably never experienced the pain and humiliation of stage-floor brain lock.
Brain lock is a rare and debilitating disorder that occurs when one’s train of thought is completely derailed by an unexpected turn in the tracks, usually in middle of a speech. It is not to be confused with the awkward moment of silence that follows a teleprompter malfunction, clinically known as the Obama-mum phenomenon.
In fact, rather than being rendered speechless by a lack of an original thought, brain-lock sufferers are actually bombarded by countless thoughts shoving and bouncing off each other in a futile effort to become the first words out of the mouth. In Bay’s case, this neurological logjam set off a system-wide alarm that triggered, among many other reactions, the deployment of the automated “charm offensive” and a mustering of the crew on the fight-or-flight deck.
Ordinarily, these two self-preservation systems aren’t activated simultaneously. (There’s actually a locking mechanism built into newer brains that makes this virtually impossible.) But in those rare instances that it does happen, the dissonance between these two very different survival mechanisms actually affects the host body. Once this happens, recovery is extremely unlikely and total, system-wide humiliation is almost a certainty.
You can actually see it happen to Bay. His charm offensive is immediately hampered by a voice tremor, involuntary deep breathing, and a rapidly drying mouth. Meanwhile his flight off the stage is literally thrown into a tail spin as the back—in a selfless effort to save the face—struggles to turn itself to the audience while the legs remain locked facing the audience, hell bent on completing the charm offensive.
Ultimately Bay’s head literally dragged his body off the stage, while his automated charm offensive repeated “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” in a monotone not unlike that of the dying HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was not pretty.
How do I know he went through all this? Because it happened to me.
Just as I was finishing up speech recently, I realized I was coming in for a landing way ahead of schedule. Like Michael Bay, I tried to adlib some charming dialogue to chew up the clock, but my voice had other plans.
Meanwhile, my brain had gone into full escape mode, desperately shaking the door knobs of every possible escape route. (Do I fake a seizure as I have occasionally asked my daughters to do to get us out of church? Can I set off the fire alarm without anyone noticing? How about a coughing fit?)
By then it was too late; my body was starting to deconstruct. Like clockwork, blood rushed to my face to signal to the other primates in the room that I was, indeed, quite embarrassed. This rush of blood pushed every rational thought out of my head and every drop of saliva out of my mouth, sending most of it to my armpits where it poured out as flop sweat. Sensing that we were in full-blown flight mode, my bladder was about to release its cargo when I was finally able to get myself back the pilot’s seat.
And it was then that I learned the cure to this horrible situation: I stopped everything, took off my jacket, loosened my tie, started rolling up my sleeves and said to the audience, “Sorry folks, but I just started having a panic attack. Let me tell you why …”
And they listened, and they nodded, and they silently thanked God it was me and not them. It’s interesting to note that my brush with reputational death actually brought us closer to each other. While it certainly wasn’t my best speech, a lot of people came up to me, grasped my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “I enjoyed your presentation,” while their eyes were saying, “Damn, I thought we lost you there, boy. Good to have you back.”
So tuck this helpful tip in your back pocket. But remember: as with any effective prophylactic, you only want to use it once.

Get 'em while they still have that new-book smell!

This side.
You'll like it. Trust me. (Have I ever let you down?)
Order it here.

The other side.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rich Little does Pablo Picasso: The dangers of giving the "wrong impression"

"Sorry, folks. We gotta take this back.
We gave you the wrong one."
This is kind of peculiar. Twenty-four hours after a senior executive at Ford acknowledges—with a good deal of specificity—that the company is tracking our movements via our onboard GPS systems, he does a high-speed bootleg turn and apologizes for giving us “the wrong impression.”
On Wednesday Ford’s marketing chief Jim Farley told the audience at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.” On Thursday, he was on CNBC trying to convince us that his vague wording may have given us the wrong impression.
Jim, old friend, when you tell us, “We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing,” you’re not giving us an impression. You’re stating a fact.
But what is striking about this messaging hit-and-run is that GM did exactly the same thing three years ago.
Here is the write up I did of GM’s amazing disappearing act back then.
For a brief moment, I was able to stare into the eyes of Big Brother. Then GM took down her video.
In a bizarre attempt to calm their former OnStar customers’ justifiable rage that GM spied on them and sold the resulting data, the gov’t-funded car maker posted a three-minute video of Subscriber Services VP Joanne Finnorn gamely trying to convince us that tracking our moves was good for GM and good for America(ns).
Her “Ignorance Is Strength” clip was utterly fascinating. You could almost hear her whispering above the canned text, “It’s my job! I have no choice. And my oss-bay is standing right behind the amera-kay.”
Fortunately for her, as of this morning that video never existed. It was disappeared the moment GM announced Operation OffStar.
It’s a shame, really, because you will miss some of the greatest failures in corporate spin in recent memory. For instance:
“When it comes to location and speed, uh … we’re very careful to tell our customers that we do not continuously or routinely … um … monitor the location or speed of their vehicle.”
I’ll let the true meaning of that one sink in. Next clip.
“We’ve not sold personalized information about our customers in the past and we really don’t have any plans to do anything like that in the future.”
Really? No plans yet? Keep us posted if you change your mind, hmm-k?
“When it comes to sensitive information such as location information, for example, we want to make sure that we handle that information with the utmost care and that we use the information only as required to provide the safety, security, and convenient services that our customers value.”
So, you’re required to “use” the location data if my airgbag deploys, or if I’m heading toward a war zone, or if one of your clients wants the info to develop a convenient service that I would value? Hmm.
Lesson: It’s a brave new world. You can’t fight a 21st-century communications crisis with 20th-century paternalism. It will backfire. Communication is no longer a monolithic monologue. You want to communicate, you need to connect. Everything else is just noise.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Motivational Tweaking: Why motive matters when telling your story

"Why are you tryin' to harsh my mellow,
bra? He was a lawyer! From New Jersey!!"
You can commit treason, rob a corporation of billions in potential revenue, and even try to beat a man to death with a hatchet and the public will still love you … as long as they think your motives are pure—or pure as they define it. But God help you if the public thinks you misled them. Consider:
Caleb “Kai” McGillvary became an Internet celebrity after he stopped a crazed maniac from killing some guy by smashing a hatchet into his skull. (“Smash, smash, suh-MASH,” as Kai recalled it.) But when he was arrested and charged with beating a New Jersey lawyer—this time to death—the fickle public quickly stopped the clock on Kai's 15 minutes of fame.
When Edward Snowden figuratively outed ol’ Uncle Sam as a crazed creeper who had naked pictures of every one of us hidden in his underwear drawer,  many hailed him as a hero and a patriot. Ironically, his halo lost its shine when he revealed his egomaniacal messiah complex with such quotes as, “I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
And now comes the fall of the evad3rs, a merry band of hackers who gained Robin Hood-like cult status last January when they released a “jailbreak” code that allowed iPhone and iPad owners to override Apple’s many security features and buy apps somewhere other than Apple’s iTunes store.
But the Huzzahs! turned into “hand me that pitchfork” last month when people downloaded evad3rs’ latest jailbreak and found that it automatically uploaded a Chinese app store onto their devices. Worse still, this digital Walmart known only as Taig sold pirated software. The fact that this auto-upload only happened on devices preset with the Chinese language did nothing to calm the enraged mob.
Rumors that Taig paid evad3rs to be bundled into their hackware forced the assiduously low-profile hackers to come up out of their mom’s basement and post not one, but two strikingly unconvincing letters explaining how they had gotten themselves into this mess.
Now consider Ducks Unlimited. The sportsmen’s group boasts of being “the world’s leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation,” which is true. And, as a result, “Ducks Unlimited does more than any other organization to put ducks in the sky,” which is also true. But they also shoot more ducks out of the sky than any other organization.
There are relatively few organizations that are going to publicly support an organization dedicated to blasting birds out of the sky. But a number of groups— from environmental activists to bird-watching societies—find the quest to preserve wetlands and waterfowl appealing and a natural fit with their organization.
So what can we learn from all this? It’s fine to have a self-serving motive tucked just behind your public-facing motive as long as it is palatable to the public … and you’re candid about it.