Monday, December 14, 2009

Great Performances Are Two Taylors-Made


Within the past month, I’ve had the unusual and fortunate opportunity to personally encounter not one, but two of the musically talented Taylor brothers:

Livingston Taylor and his older brother James Taylor

I met Liv Taylor in November when he visited Nimbit’s offices in Framingham, Mass. and enjoyed hearing his perspectives as a longtime performing musician and music professor on his firm belief that “success in the music business comes as a result of the cultivation, care, and feeding of your audience.” Since our mutual friends at Nimbit (www.nimbit.com) are focused on helping music artists build sustainable careers by better connecting, engaging and selling directly to their fans, it was fascinating to hear such a talented performer share his thoughts on how many in the “music biz” have forgotten the importance of staying connected with those whom Liv says “have decided that your art has value."

Two days ago I was one of a lucky handful of people who attended a private birthday party for a very dear friend of mine. In the “Hall of Impossible to Top Birthday Presents,” her husband arranged for a surprise birthday concert for his wife and 50 guests. The performer: James Taylor (and a small supporting group including two vocalists and a cellist from the Boston Symphony). Fellow husbands: Unless you can somehow find a way to convince your wife’s favorite-ever performer to come to your house and have him sing for 2 hours to your sweetheart with her best friends and family present—don’t even try!

Having sung along with, danced, laughed, and cried to James Taylor’s music ever since 1970 (when my younger sister played Sweet Baby James night and day), hearing him sing his intimate songs in such an intimate venue was nothing short of awesome. For the 50 forty-to-sixtyish Boomers in the audience--- seeing JT perform “Fire and Rain” forty years after he first sang the song was spellbinding and reminded me of the memorable lyric from one of his songs: "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." For my friend (the consummate James Taylor fan), hearing him sing “You’ve Got a Friend” in the presence of those who love her must have been spectacular!


While the circumstances behind meeting both Livingston and James were as different as these two singing siblings are from one another, I can’t help but think of similarities between the Taylor troubadours.

Both of them are:

• Survivors who’ve lived with depression, divorce, family substance abuse, and the travails of life as touring/recording musicians
• Mediocre students who each found success through talent and very hard work
• Gifted storytellers who are able to combine poetic lyrics and beautiful music that can move us and warm our hearts
• Brothers who’ve learned and remind us of the value of family and friends

As an a cappella singer myself--- what impresses me most about the Taylors is that they are both performers without peer! Watching and listening to each of them was a delightful reminder of the power of great performers to connect, captivate, and inspire an audience. Beyond their guitar mastery and soft singing delivery of great tunes, the combination of genetics and the experience of performing thousands of concerts has created two different but very gifted musicians whose performances are accessible, compassionate, engaging, and humorous.

While James may be the better known of the brothers, Livingston sets a great example for their family for those of us would like to emulate him.

Ten years ago, as part of his affiliation with Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Livingston Taylor wrote a seminal book for aspiring musicians entitled Stage Performance. Bizarrely now out of print, but sometimes available as used copies from book stores or Amazon.comStage Performance makes great reading and provides good advice for musicians, for marketers, for life.

Here’s a selection of excerpts:

“Look at, and pay attention to, your audience.”

“It's okay to be human on stage...They love you to be normal, to make a mistake, acknowledge it, smile, shake your head slightly, forgive yourself, and move on.”

“Our songs remind them of past worlds. When they want to relive those worlds, they seek us out."

"Silence is the canvas on which we paint our performance. There is nothing more wonderful than complete silence in a sold-out hall—the anticipation of the paint on canvas."

“Don't get lost in the fantasy of how your career should be. It's good to have heroes and inspiration, but not good to compare yourself to others, and the career progressions of others. Each person's path will be different.”

“Accept compliments graciously.”

My personal heartfelt compliments are directed to James and Livingston – who are as gracious as they are gifted.

Thanks for your entertainment and your example.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nimbit Launches First Survey of Professional Musicians on Direct-to-Fan Engagement

Here's Nimbit's News Announcement of the first-ever online survey of musicians on their use of direct-to fan:

Nimbit Launches First Survey of Professional Musicians on Direct-to-Fan Engagement

2010 Direct2Fan Survey to “take the pulse” of the state and future of music artists and the industry

BOSTON—December 2, 2009—Nimbit (http://www.nimbit.com/), the leader in Direct-to-Fan music marketing and commerce, today announced the first-ever online survey of musicians and their teams for their input on direct to fan (D2F) marketing and sales.

“We are about to begin the decade of the fan” said Patrick Faucher, CEO and Co-Founder of Nimbit, Inc. “For the first time in history, music artists will be able to connect and engage directly with those who matter most—their patrons: those who attend their concerts, listen and buy their music. To best help them: we’ve decided to go directly to musicians themselves, to learn what they’re doing now, and what they’re planning for the future—in the way of fan engagement.”

Professional musicians and those who support them (managers, agents, publicists, labels, et. al) are invited to participate in the online survey by going to:
http://bit.ly/2010-d2fan-survey

This initial Nimbit “2010 Direct2Fan Survey” is part of a new Nimbit Research initiative to interact, learn, connect and foster a strong community between all in the music industry.

Summary results of the “2010 Direct2Fan Survey” will be published early in 2010.

About Nimbit
Founded in 2002, Nimbit, Inc. is the music industry's leading direct-to-fan platform for musicians, managers, and emerging labels. Nimbit powers the brands and businesses of thousands of successful artists by giving them the ability to easily market and sell their music and products (digital and physical) directly to fans, wherever they are (web, gigs, social networking sites, etc.) A complete online solution for fan engagement and monetization, Nimbit ensures musicians’ long-term sustainability and success by fostering strong, interactive, lifelong, and profitable fan relationships. For more information, go to www.nimbit.com.

Press Contact: Patrick Rafter for Nimbit, press@nimbit.com or 617-901-2697 (cell)
http://www.nimbit.com/

Nimbit, the Nimbit logo, Powered by Nimbit, Nimbit Direct-to-Fan, and Nimbit MyStore are trademarks of Nimbit, Inc. All other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Going from an energy-eater to a green house


Those of you who follow me know that I've had a longtime committment to sustainability, interest in/support of clean technologies and energy conservation.

I recently wrote a piece on "living green" for my local paper:
The Wellesley Townsman which follows below:

Going from an energy-eater
to a green house in Wellesley

December 1, 2009
The Wellesley Townsman

By Patrick Rafter, Guest Columnist

Some words I overheard at the Wellesley dump in September stuck in my mind: “I do a lot for the environment. Every other week I come here to drop off my recyclables.”

That comment made me realize that for many in town dropping off empty wine bottles and sorting aluminum from tin cans at the RDF constitutes being “green.” To interest some of you in doing the same,let me share our family’s effort to bring the issue of climate control closer to home --- literally.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), housing contributes 18% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in our country. As you might guess--the quantity of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, various carbons and sulfurs) that any given house emits into the atmosphere is mostly a function of how much energy it consumes.

Beyond my desire to “do good,” as the owner of a drafty 70 yr old Wellesley Hills colonial who cringes when I see my oil and utility bills-I decided to find an expert who could help our family determine how much energy our house was using and wasting, and what could be done to reduce that amount.

After consulting with a half-dozen of my neighbors—we found a great resource in a Massachusetts company called Woodmeister Master Builders (http://www.woodmeister.com/). While I had first learned of Woodmeister having visited several gorgeous new homes they’d built for friends in Wellesley and Weston—it impressed me to find out that the company has a Chief Sustainability Officer who was active in creating the new National Green Building Standard for residential construction. The NGBS encourages homeowners to make smart green choices based on energy efficiency, climate and geography as well as style preferences and budget.

My next step was to contact Woodmeister’s Rational Sustainability team which works with homeowners to build and re-hab residences to make them more energy efficient, healthier, more comfortable, and environmentally responsible.

A crew from Woodmeister recently spent an entire day at our house conducting a Home Energy Analysis to determine areas of energy loss, suggest strategies to reduce heating and cooling costs, improve our home’s indoor comfort and air quality, and reduce its carbon emissions.

Here’s what is included in a Home Energy Analysis:

Preliminary Safety Checks:
Test for carbon monoxide in the heating system, visually inspect for asbestos, knob and tube wiring, and mold and mildew in the attic and basement areas; and check for satisfactory ventilation in the attic, bathrooms, and dryer.

Locate air leaks
Using an infrared camera, along with a calibrated blower door fan, pressure-sensing device and smoke stick, the team locates air leaks throughout the house. A blower door is a powerful fan that mounts into an exterior doorframe. The fan pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside. The higher outside air pressure then flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings. Using a blower door, the technicians can quantify air flow, pinpoint specific leaks—then track the location and quantity of heat loss.

Fix the leaks
Based on the results of the testing and with our permission, the Woodmeister team set to work – to seal leaks around exterior doors and windows; seal pipe and wire penetrations in the basement; close gaps in the attic walls, roof, and floor; insulate hot water pipes and wrapping heating ducts.

Plan for Next Steps

Shortly after the Analysis, Woodmeister reviewed with us a detailed report
summarizing an assessment of the efficiency of our house, and detailing initial fixes they implemented during the analysis--with associated projected benefits, estimated energy bill savings, and CO2 reductions. What I found especially interesting in the report was a listing of recommended future remediations, which we plan to do in the near future:

1) Wall Insulation – Like many pre-World War II houses in Wellesley, our house was built with no wall insulation. Blowing cellulose insulation through the clapboard siding of our house will reduce heat losses.

2) Install a programmable thermostat (automatically turns heat up or down at appropriate times of the day) will save an estimated $237/yr just by lowering the temperature 6 degrees for eight hours per day.

3) Insulate our attic roof with open cell spray foam to reduce air leakage.

4) Insulate our basement steam pipes: Will help reduce the heat gains on the first floor and balance the heating system better.

Through these small steps alone, Woodmeister projects we’ll save more than $1,000/yr in energy costs, and lower our carbon footprint by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide our house emits by 3.93 tons a year. That’s the equivalent of driving 6,601 car miles!

Fellow residents: if any of you are considering remodeling or an addition to your home, or even just want to save some money on your energy bills—I can recommend connecting with an eco-minded contractor like Woodmeister to turn your old house into a green house.

Patrick Rafter lives in Wellesley.

***

##

Original article online at:
http://www.wickedlocal.com/wellesley/news/opinions/x441561111/Column-Going-from-a-energy-eater-to-a-green-house-in-Wellesley

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Music Biz..Today and Tomorrow


Watching tonight's 25th Anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on HBO, makes me realize the power and the value of music.

As I write this I'm seeing Bono, Springsteen, and Jagger singing together (three citizen poets albeit millionaires) joining together through the power of song to deliver a kick ass performance.

Still, behind each of the great performers/lyricists/musical virtuosos who capture fan adoration are the artists’ accompanists: the managers, agents, publicists, roadies, recording engineers…

Without that team of silent band members… none of our musical stars (of yesteryear, today, and tomorrow) could ever succeed, sustain and entertain.

The cartoon above from Craig Swanson (cartoonist whom I met for the first time yesterday) recognizes and honors those unsung heroes of the music biz.

As I watch this great live performance, I'm very excited to note that new software from companies like Nimbit now can take care of business so musicians can concentrate on what they do best: create and perform great tunes.

Sing on!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ItsMoi launches to protect your online identity, brand, messages


Here's today's Tweelease (a news release that was issued over Twitter): about ItsMoi --
the first solution for everyday users of social networks to protect their online identity on
Twitter and Blogs. Support for Facebook, LinkedIn and other SNs to come (with your help).

Sign up for the free Beta version at www.itsmoi.com

--Patrick "Yes, It's Really Me" Rafter


------------


For Immediate Release

ItMoi.com Launches Beta Solution for The Online Identity Crisis

Millions have personal Web presences—But how can people verify that communications from your blogs, Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn accounts really come from YOU?

Boston, November 24, 2009 --
ItsMoi, Inc. (www.itsmoi.com), the pioneer of identity verification for users of social media and blogs, today the Web-wide beta debut of a scalable, patent-pending freeware solution to the very real and growing problem of online impostors.

“Social networks are today where e-mail was before spam, spoofing and phishing,” said Floyd Backes, CEO and Co-Founder of ItsMoi, Inc. “The scary reality: There is nothing available today to protect Web users that can prevent cyber-impostors from establishing blogs or social media accounts and claiming to be someone else. Anyone can be adversely impacted.”

For more detail on the impending online identity crisis go to:
http://itsmoi.com/identitycrisis.
ItsMoi protects social media users – individuals, professionals, businesses, and celebrities – from scams perpetrated by impostors.

How ItsMoi Securely Validates Your Online Identity
Unlike existing applications that provide necessary Internet privacy and security by verifying accounts, computers, or websites -- ItsMoi validates and verifies individuals, through its unique VideoPrint™ and Verifier approach.

Much as fingerprints uniquely identify a person—a VideoPrint is a short online video that a singular individual records using a Webcam in which that person is seen and heard by others reading some random text, the date, and their own name. The random text is the key. When an actual individual records a VideoPrint, they will not know ahead of time what the random text will be. When friends and followers playback an individual’s VideoPrint, they will see that individual user saying the same words that are scrolling across the screen. Because stolen video cannot show someone reading our authentic, random text, there is no way to fool ItsMoi into creating a phony VideoPrint.

Once a VideoPrint is made, the user places a Verifier – an unambiguous, non-reproducible link to their personal VideoPrint – on their social media sites and blogs.

ItsMoi then leverages “crowdsourcing” to further validate and authenticate an individual’s identity. People who know an individual personally can link from the Verifier to the VideoPrint and officially verify that person. People who do not know the individual as well can see who has verified that user’s identity and be confident that they are following the real person behind the VideoPrint and associated blog, Twitter account, or website.

Online Identity Theft Is Coming. Protect Yourself
There is nothing available today to effectively prevent impostors from establishing accounts on a social networking site and claiming to be anyone that they want to be. Anyone with Web access can (with a few clicks and keystrokes) pretend to be you in cyberspace. And because there is so much information available through search engines, impostors can create very believable imitation profiles. They know where you’re from, your sports and hobbies, if you won a fishing derby when you were seven. They know where you’ve worked, who your friends and colleagues are, where you live-- even who you supported for President. As more and more personal information is readily available online the problem will only get worse. ItsMoi was founded to help you protect your online identity, preserve your brand, and control your message.

ItsMoi: Help Us to Help You
Available after today, the initial Beta software version of ItsMoi now enables bloggers and Twitter users to validate that they are the legitimate and authentic owners of their accounts.

ItsMoi is intentionally using its public Beta program to gather users’ input on the service (impressions, feature functionality, process improvement suggestions and performance observations). Initial input from 2,000 Beta users will provide helpful feedback towards the full ItsMoi service launch in early 2010.

Future capabilities of ItsMoi will meet public demand for protection of Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, as well as other online expressions of personal or organizational brand identities.

Sign up for ItsMoi: It's Easy and Free:

• Sign up for ItsMoi at
http://www.itsmoi.com/
• Follow the online prompts to use your Webcam to record your VideoPrint™ and make a Verifier
• Drop the ItsMoi Verifier into your Twitter or blog page
• Invite your friends and followers to link from the Verifier to your VideoPrint to validate your identity
• That's all there is to it! Your feedback is welcome and encouraged

About ItsMoi

ItsMoi (
http://www.itsmoi.com/) is a free online identity validation service designed to address the growing identity crisis confronting bloggers and users of social networks. Each day, as millions publish blog posts, follow people on Twitter, and connect with others over Facebook and LinkedIn from legitimate accounts --Web users worldwide are victimized by online impostors who’ve hijacked others’ online identities by creating fake accounts and fraudulently pretending to be someone they’re not.

As our name suggests, ItsMoi helps prove that you are you, online. ItsMoi’s patent-pending VideoPrint™ technology and Verifier process helps protect your identity, preserve your reputation, and defend you from cyber impostors whose illegal activity can damage your personal brand and your livelihood. Through its built-in crowdsourced validation method, ItsMoi also protects your family, friends, followers and fans (the "four fs") from scams perpetrated by impostors in your name. To get your own free account, or for more info: go to www.itsmoi.com
ItsMoi VideoPrint and ItsMoi Verifier are trademarks of ItsMoi, Inc. All other marks are properties of their respective owners.

# # #


Contact: Patrick Rafter for ItsMoi.com,
patrick@itsmoi.com, 617-901-2697 www.itsmoi.com

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Online Identity Crisis



Millions of bloggers and users of social media could potentially face what I call "The Online Identity Crisis." Since there hasn't really been an effective way to protect our online identity from online impostors who can masquerade as us-- we run the risk of having bad guys do things that can damage our reputations, hurt our brands, misrepresent our thoughts and messages-- by pretending to be us.

From Mashable, to the Huffington Post... from TechCrunch to blogs covering the Hollywood scene, stories of online impostors pretending to be celebrities and plain regular folk are popping up all over.
Fortunately, a solution to this problem is now available--a new, free online service that goes into public beta tomorrow:
ItsMoi validates you are the actual owner/creator of your blog or your social media account
it then uses crowdsourcing to have those who know you verify your identity. Verify me on my blog at http://intrastand.blogspot.com/

While there are millions of people called Li in China, lots of Jane Smiths in the US, and Mohammed is the most common name worldwide, ItsMoi will be valuable as its tagline suggests:

"Because there's only one you"

I'm sure that Popeye would concur.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is Marketing Dead? Why PR should drive "The Connection"


HubSpot’s Brian Halligan has written some provocative posts recently including

“Is PR dead?”
• “What’s the ideal profile for a modern PR person?”

His posts touched a nerve with me (as a PR professional) and prompts my responsorial question:

Is Marketing Dead?

Some thoughts on why PR is well equipped to drive the process of connecting and engaging with those that matter.

1) Public Relations isn't Marketing

Marketing’s principal function is to support and drive sales and traffic.
PR 2.0 is about communicating with anyone who would find you relevant and interesting.

2) Modern Public Relations is More Than Media Relations

While connecting effectively with opinion gatekeepers (press and analysts), continues to be an important value-add for PR people, the world has changed:

The simultaneous co-incidence of the economic turndown, implosion of old line mass media (newspapers, magazines, TV), and rise of ubiquitous broadband Internet connectivity/cheap web comms tools (WordPress, YouTube), business/citizen journalism-- has changed the media landscape forever.

As I said at last week’s Inbound Marketing Summit: "We are all the media."

3) PR should really be an abbreviation for “Publics Relations”

Beyond outreach to media and analysts, PR can drive effective dialogue with all who are important to the company: bloggers, customers, prospects, communities, direct-to- public, etc.

“Audiences” are an atavistic artifact of 20th century mass media and old-fashioned marketing thinking.

Innovators who practice PR 2.0 connect, engage, listen and interact with others in an ongoing exchange that benefits all.

Good PR people are skilled communicators first and foremost. Companies should hire them (internally or external PR practioners) to develop and conduct the strategies, tactics and programs that will meet a company’s business and communications goals and objectives.

4) Analytics are over-rated. Just do the right thing!

While there’s great value in measuring marketing metrics vis a vis a sales funnel-- measuring the value of positive opinion and mindshare from various publics is harder to measure. On the other hand—there’s common consensus that those companies who do not connect regularly and communicate honestly in a helpful and respectful manner are setting themselves up for failure. Companies who don’t consider PR a top strategic investment will do so at their own peril.

As I've written before, companies need to see ROI as "Return-on-Interaction" not just focus on eyeball economics measures like cost-per-click, customer lifetime value, churn rate and RFM analysis.

PR's understanding of awareness, perception, recall and motivation makes it the best team in a company to listen, learn and engage.

As Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) said at the Inbound Marketing Summit:
“Listening is the new black”

5) Tools are helpful and cool… but their effectiveness depends on the user

While PR people and marketers are embracing free tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and low-cost marketing services (HubSpot, Constant Contact)—that doesn’t mean they’ll be effective. Giving someone a chisel doesn’t enable them to create sculptures like Michaelangelo in the same way that the effectiveness of individual blogs (WordPress, Blogger.com) depends mostly on quality and value of their content and its creator(s).

Sure--Content is King,
but Connections are Queens,
Dialogues are Princes, and
Relationships are Princesses


Professional communicators (aka PR people & others) should be recognized as strategic advisors to the Court---those who are best equipped to create and manage content, connection, dialogue, and relationships for a company.

In my experience--- Good PR people do a better job than marketers at building long-lasting relationships based on interest, interaction, respect and trust.

Organizations that are optimized for transparent communications (within and outside the organization) are examples of modern organizations that are destined for success.

6) Modern PR people have a unique blend of skills and qualities

While Brian’s DARC acryonym for people he thinks should be on a marketing team is catchy… “Modern” PR people transcend acronyms through qualities that make them the communications pros they are:

Smart, Articulate, Caring, Creative, Connected, Cooperative, Cosmopolitan (at home around the world), Diligent, Eager, Experienced, Fun-loving, Enthusiastic, Facilitative, Flexible, Helpful, Honest, Human, Inspirational, Nonlinear, Responsive, Savvy, Selfless

Aren’t these the qualities any CEO wants to see in from those who represent their company to the world at large?

Are these adjectives that are commonly associated with Marketing people?


Twisting Brian Halligan’s question “Is PR Dead” around, let me ask:

“Is Marketing Dead?”

A Google search shows 84,000 hits on the subject.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

16 Best Quotes from #IMS09-- Day 1

Marketers:
#IMS09 is a seminal event.
Here are some highlights of comments from speakers at Day 1 of the conference.
I'll share day two tomorrow.

Connect, Engage, Benefit
--Patrick

Keller-Faye:
“90% of word of mouth takes place offline”

@GamePlanHaden:
“Marketing silos suck!”

@garyvee
“Content is King, but Marketing is Queen---and she runs the household.”

@DavidBaeza (Citrix):
“Customers controls the brand Be Transparent. Listen. Care”

@ChrisBrogan:
“Listening is the new black”

@BernieBorges:
“Be found, engage, build profitable relationships”

@AJGerritson
“Social media has forced companies to become closer—breaking down internal silos”

@bhalligan (Hubspot CEO)
“Now’s a great time to be in a small company!”

@paulroetzer
“How to measure effectiveness of PR 2.0?
Inbound links, search engine ranking, traffic hits leads”
#adweek:
“More change in ad biz in last 9 mos than in the last 9 yrs”

@richullman (Ripple6):
So what works in future of marketing?
• Low investment, high return)
• Well connected
• Highly collaborative
• Comfortable
• Self-sustaining
• Asset-creating
• Word of mouth inspiring
• Insight generating

@prafter
“Companies should issue news releases not press releases.
Today we (everyone) are the media.”

@ducttape (John Jantsch)
“Marketing is the technology to co-create know, like & trust”
“Trust is built when value is co-created at the intersection of hi tech, hi touch.”

@scottkirsner
“Social Media are changing the relationship between artists and their fans, creating new models of patronage, commerce. When artists give up control of their work (by putting it on the web and allowing their fans to participate and interact with it) great new art is created.”
Free collection of digital tools for audience building distribution and commerce: http://powertools.wikispaces.com/

@CC_CHAPMAN :
“Marketing puts people in buckets--- social media empties the buckets. Connect with the person behind that Twitter handle.”
One bucket we all want to hangout in: The beer bucket
Stay connected offline through social events where we can share experiences, have fun.”

Valeria Maltoni (ConversationAgent.com)
No Twitter account.
“Participation activates content”

Monday, October 5, 2009

Knock, Knock: Sharing your Story with Media & Analysts


The recent MassTLC 2009 Innovation unConference (Twitter: #masstlc) was jam-packed with fascinating impromptu sessions across a wide range of technology subjects.

Given the presence of hundreds of startup and early-stage tech entrepreneurs, my long-time friend & colleague Mr. “Almost Ubiquitous” himself Adam Zand (Twitter Maven @NoOneYouKnow) and I moderated a session called “PR Improv” featuring experts who could give feedback and tips to startup execs on “how to pitch their stories to press and analysts.” Joining us as an “enlightened” PR person was Bobbie Carlton—Boston-area tech PR veteran (Twitter: @bobbiec ) and Partner of Mass Innovation Nights.

For a 360 degree perspective—Doug Banks, Editor of Mass High Tech (@ eDougBanks on Twitter), and Judith Hurwitz, President of Hurwitz and Associates—longtime industry analyst who tweets as @jhurwitz) played journalist and analyst from hell (respectively).

The format:
As Master of Ceremonies, Adam tapped some entrepreneurs to be guinea pigs in interactive sessions simulating a briefing between their company and either a journalist or analyst. Entrepreneurs included senior execs from Jazkarta, Lassa Partners, and StylePath.

How it worked:
• Entrepreneurs gave a verbal overview of their company, described why they thought it is newsworthy and interesting.
• Our team of critics then gave feedback on how to hone their message
• Internalizing what they’d just learned--- the execs next tried their “pitch” on the influencers—presenting direct in person to either Doug or Judith.
• The experts then gave back constructive criticism

While the 1-hr length of the PR Improv session wasn’t long enough to provide any kind of detailed feedback… all of the Media/Analyst/PR experts were honest and direct in their feedback (pro or con) and a number of helpful tips were put forth. Here are some of them:

Top Tips on Story-Sharing (from Media, Analysts, PR Pros)

Effective engagement with analysts and members of the press is an ongoing, 3-step process:

I. Prepare
II. Connect
III. Follow-up


I) Prepare
Do these important steps before reaching out to anyone:

A) Refine your Story
• Describe what your company does in plain English.
• What do you build?
• What problem do you solve?
• Do you save time, money, do something that hasn’t been possible before?

This verbal company overview is in fact the "story" of who you are and why you’re important. Practice telling it out loud until it sounds natural and un-rehearsed. (You’ll use it again and again).

B) Research, Research, Research
• Determine which analyst firms, media outlets, blogs, other influencers are focused on your market.
• Visit their websites and read their work.
• Find out who are the most appropriate reporters or analysts covering your area. PR agencies can be helpful here (as they have prior contacts and databases tracking who does what, where).
• These are the people you should first approach.
• Don’t e-mail or call anyone until you’ve read some of their work, know what’s important to them.

II) Connect

Remember--- Media and analysts are deluged with hundreds of unsolicited e-mails and phone calls each day. Put yourself in their shoes--- respect their valuable time and their expertise. Neither of them likes to be “pitched”

Here’s the reality of what you need to to launch a connection:

You: “Knock-Knock”
Journalist: “Who’s there?”
You: “It’s Me”
Journalist: “So what!?”
You: “Let me share my story with you…”

While a professional PR agency can be a helpful facilitator in setting up a briefing—YOU'VE got to be the storyteller.

Approaching Press or Analysts (without an agency)

A) Make the connection
If you’re telephoning press or analyst out of the blue, start with a succinct sentence saying who you are and why you are calling them:

“Hi my name is Jane Smith, I’m from a Boston-area company called Great Ideas… I’ve been reading your coverage of the Idea software industry and was wondering if you have a couple of minutes for me to give you a quick overview of who we are, what makes us interesting. Is this a good time to talk?"

If the journalist/analyst on the other side of the phone/e-mail link/table isn’t ready, willing and able to connect with you when you go to them--- be respectful. If it’s not a good time--- ask when and how they’d like to be contacted and get back to them later.

B) Introduce yourself/your company to them by sharing your story

If the analyst/journalist IS available now —it’s time for you to succinctly summarize “who, what, when, how, where and why” you’re relevant to them.

Example:
Thanks… I’ll try to be brief. Visiting your website I notice that you’ve written often about SUBJECT, TOPIC, ISSUE, MARKET” (you may want to mention a specific article they’ve written). Reading your article, inspired me to call you today."

"My company (say the name slowly) is directly involved in the SUBJECT, TOPIC, ISSUE, MARKET you’ve written about. COMPANY NAME is... (deliver your short story).

Tips on Telling Your Company Story:
• KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
• Describe your value proposition in plain English
• Avoid Three Letter Acronyms and meaningless superlatives
(“best-of-breed”, “state-of-the-art”, “next generation”, etc)
• Speak with enthusiasm and passion about your team, your offerings

C) Start a dialogue, keep the conversation going
After you’ve very briefly told the influencer about your company, engage them and ask them some questions:

• Does what COMPANY NAME is doing sound interesting to you?
• Can I tell you more about what we do? Who’s getting value from our products/services?


Tips from the pros:
• Keep the conversation going by giving succinct, honest answers to questions.
• Use examples and details (including any numbers or facts) that support your value proposition and are evidence of your progress.
• Anticipate tough questions you may be asked and have good answers.

In November 2007, PR 2.0 Nabob Brian Solis wrote: “The Pitch is Dead
At the PR Improv two years later, Luke Ryan from WHDH-TV concurred:
Don’t pitch the press,” have a civil conversation – said Ryan.

Judith Hurwitz is of a similar opinion: “Often I don’t want to see another mind numbing PowerPoint presentation, just tell me about yourself.” (Paraphrase).

Six More Tips:
While there are lots and lots of blog posts on effective “media and analyst relations,” here’s six other tips that came out of the PR Improv (for spokespeople who want to connect with press and analysts):

1) Be Honest
• Never lie or exaggerate. You might caught in your lie. Your lie can show up online and work against you. By keeping your interactions with analysts and journalists honest (even in tough times), everyone wins.
• Reporters and Analysts have strong bullshit filters: Don’t exaggerate or misrepresent yourself.
• Shun the superlatives (e.g. “the leading X, Y of Z”)
• Describe who you are by communicating your “Differentiation with Distinction”

2) Acknowledge Competition
• Don’t say “we don’t really have any competition”
• To a journalist that either means: you’re hiding something, you’re na├»ve, or you don’t compete in a big market.
• It actually helps to mention competition and position your offerings relative to your competitors. Stories mentioning several companies in a category or market are written far more often than articles focused on a single company.

3) Provide Validation
• Third-party validation of your idea, business or product is essential to establish credibility and interest with the influencers.

Examples of Third-Party Validation:

a) Brand name customers that you can reference by name.
b) A favorable opinion from a third party analyst (reporters like to go to analysts for their unvarnished take on the company, the market)
c) Listing of your investors or well-known board members
d) Highlights of the past experience of the founders (did you and your colleagues work anywhere memorable)?

Since Mass High Tech focuses on businesses in Massachusetts--- Doug Banks mentioned that he likes to hear a company’s “family tree” (e.g. lineage to respected Mass-based companies)

4) Become a Good Source
Quality relationships between companies and the analysts, media and bloggers take years to evolve but can be destroyed in an instant through un-professional behavior. Treat press and analysts with the respect they deserve:
• Read what they write (on an ongoing basis)
• If you come across something they’d find interesting--- send them an e-mail or a Tweet (even if it has nothing to do with you/your company)--- that’s the difference between a reliable, impartial source and a “Flack”
• Connect often—via e-mail, Twitter, LinkedIN, in-person
• Give: Ask them how you can be of help to them in their work.

5) Be Cautious
• An important reminder: the media’s business is to break stories before others.
Share news with them as early as you can with them but be sure there’s a mutual agreement about any embargoes, “off-the record” comments.
• If you’re a private company you don’t have answer any questions about revenue or sales.
• To be safe--- don’t say anything that you would hate to see in print.

6) PR goes beyond Media and Analysts
• With the social Web--- you now have the ability to share your messages, content, ideas directly with those who matter most to you--- those who will find you relevant.
In the fast-moving Web-age, PR is increasingly about putting the “public” back in public relations.
• Invest time and resources in an informative corporate blog to share your stories and demonstrate your expertise.
• Get your thought leaders to blog themselves.
• Use social media like Twitter, Facebook to spread your word.
• Remember that social media isn’t a one-way-street. Be sure to follow comments to your blogs and Tweets and respond promptly to them.

Long Live “The News Conversation”

The Pitch is Dead. Instead---let’s foster mutually beneficial dialogues between newsmakers and those who are expert at understanding, explaining and delivering real news. Interactive dialogue is about sharing, giving, and receiving.

The interaction and ideas shared at the PR Improv session at #masstlc were invigorating and encouraging. At the same time some of the questions from the audience showed that only a handful of business leaders have the time, skills and experience to interact in a mutually advantageous way with analysts and the media.

Done right--- a professional Public Relations program is a strategic and valuable necessity for technology companies. Bad PR strategy, tactics and execution can really damage a company’s brand, impact momentum, and even hurt the bottom line.

These websites provide excellent examples of PR gone wrong. They make for informative reading and some tragic-comic anecdotes. I encourage you to visit, read and learn these three:

Bad Pitch Blog: http://badpitch.blogspot.com/
Pro PR Tips: http://proprtips.com/
(From vet journo Rafe Needleman of CBS Interactive, formerly Red Herring)
Dear PR Flack: http://dearprflack.com/

There were lots more comments and lessons learned at the PR Improv—too many to share here. I’d welcome your comments, tips, perspectives, lessons learned, stories…

Let’s keep the conversation going.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Platform for Startup Success



Dan Martell, the Canadian-turned-San Franciscan startup marketing/entrepreneurship guru put up an interesting article on his blog on "Why the best startups are created in an economic downturn". Worth reading. Dan's thoughts inspired me to chime in on Startup Success...

As someone who's been building and promoting startups for more than 25+ yrs I've developed some of my own thoughts on what startups need to have in order to succeed.

While the Bible speaks of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, from my secular perspective, startup companies need a platform of at least TEN "must have" components to ensure their success.


1) A product or service that someone will pay money for NOW
"Free" websites like Google, Facebook aren't really free.

2) A compelling vision of the value of the company
To differentiate with distinction.

3) Articulate execs who can express that vision (without arrogance)

4) References
Someone who will say the offering has real value to others

5) The combination of good timing and good luck
Zillions of startups had a great product at the wrong time

6) Dogged and smart execution


7) Ability to attract buzz, traffic, interest from those who see relevance

8) Investment - the right kind, the right amount, from the right sources

9) Open and Honest Communications: with EVERYONE
Employees, boosters, prospects, customers, partners, analysts, press, the public

10) Passion tempered with realism
To survive the travails of startup life--- management and employees must be passionate. At the same time-- passion shouldn't blind enterpreneurs from developments in the economy and the market.



I like to think of these components as "legs of a stool" that combine to build a solid platform for success.

Take away a leg and the platform tips over.

What should be added to this list?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Biz Value of PR 2.0



“I got to have (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)”
Aretha Franklin (Summer of 1967)


TPFKAPRP ("The People Formerly Known As PR People") need to learn (or be reminded) of the true business value of PR 2.0.

Atlanta-based Jeremy Porter has written an interesting article on his Journalistics blog entitled “How Do You Measure PR” that is well worth reading.

His article cites results from a recent AMEC and IPR survey of 525 PR practitioners on whether and how they measure PR success and ROI.

Jeremy’s post asks his audience how organizations can more easily and accurately measure PR results and “What are your clients or management teams asking for most in terms of measurement?”

His article (and comments made by its readers) suggest that in the PR 2.0 world conventional approaches like counting press clippings and measuring AVEs (Advertising value equivalent) is insufficient to truly measure the value of PR.

This comment to the article from the pre-eminent expert on PR measurement Katie Paine is as interesting as Jeremy’s post itself:

"The real problem is that PR people seem to be ignorant of or allergic to the language of business. They are incapable of understanding that just reaching a set of eyeballs or achieving a “hit” does nothing for the bottom line. Either PR saves the company money by lowering legal costs, or turnover, or recruitment costs or whatever the stated goal of the program is, or it makes the company money, by generating awareness, consideration, preference or leads. That’s how business people think. And if PR people can’t explain their benefit to the company in those terms, they deserve to be fired."

My thoughts:

As the definition of “PR” is changing, we need to find ways to articulate and substantiate its evolving business value.

I’ve long held the belief shared by Brian Solis, David Meerman Scott and others that PR needs to put the “public” back in public relations. In our Web world, PR 2.0 is increasingly about relating to all relevant publics (not just media and analysts). With citizen journalism and free blogs everyone is a columnist, a pundit, an influencer. Thus PR people need to approach and interact with each individual public in ways that effectively establish value in the eyes of those publics.

TPFKAPRP ("The People Formerly Known As PR People") will only continue to add value if they can help share the value that companies have with people who will be interested in those companies' offerings-- products, services, thought leadership, innovations.

While I don't yet know how to measure it (because site traffic and Re-Tweets are an imperfect measurement of impact)-- PR 2.o is more about "Return on Interaction" than "Return on Investment."

I first wrote on redefining PR ROI as "Return on Interaction" back in January 2009 .

Marketing Return on Investment can be more easily measured than PR because marketing is often conducted in campaigns (an e-mail blast, an SEO change, a banner replacement). These campaigns have associated start and end dates, measurable costs, and often a direct tie to lead generation/integration into a sales cycle (queries, leads, hot prospects, closed sales, revenue).

In contrast to marketing, PR 2.0 activity (in the form of interaction with the media, industry analysts, influential bloggers, LinkedIn groups, Twitter followers) is more of an ongoing drumbeat than a campaign.

How to Deliver the True Business Value of PR 2.o:

Grabbing and holding peoples’ attention and giving those people sufficient reason to engage with you requires the continual and effective combination of essential communications skills, tactics, modalities, qualities and commonalities:

Skills:
Storytelling, Writing & Content Creation, Responding, Diplomacy, Emoting, Facilitation

Tactics:
Outreach, Engagement, Dialog, Follow-up

Modalities and Qualities:
Honesty, Respect, Creativity, Transparency

Commonalities:
Put the “ME” in Media by making sure communications are personally relevant. Verify joint interest in a subject. Treat your “audience” as you would treat yourself-- with respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Web interaction has made the concept of “Audiences” into an artifact of the mass media/pre-internet age.

If TPFKAPRP PR 2.0 pros continually practice the essence of quality communications they will continue to deliver real business value for the clients and companies they represent.

Enlightened thinking about permission-based marketing and inbound marketing has (from internet marketing innovators like HubSpot and others) has revealed that consumers and businesses don’t want to be marketed to (through unsolicited e-mails, cold calls, and mass media advertising). Similarly, conventional PR tactics like press release blasts and shoving “non-news” pitches down a reporter’s throat are and have always been a waste of everyone’s time and money. Today, ensuring that “finding commonality” and “proactively seeking dialogue” are the quintessential precepts of communications in the PR 2.0 age.

If communicators adopt these as new standard business practices, PR will continue to add business value. Commonality, relevance, honest dialogue and respect (above all else) are imperatives, not options for the PR 2.0 practitioner.
Just ask Aretha!
Aretha helped me to realise who I am, what I do well for my clients, and what I want to continue to be: I'm a "ValueCaster."

“It matters not what you are thought to be, but what you are.”
Publius Syrus (42 B.C.)

Leaving Tech Behind -- A Day on Baker's Island



While my work as a PR 2.0 communications consultant requires me to be switched on, hooked up, LinkedIN, Twitter talkin' and e-mail engaged night and day...

Tomorrow, I get to leave technology behind for a single day.

On Sat, July 11--- I'll be somewhere without electricity:
Baker's Island-- a tiny 55 acre island off of the coast of Massachusetts' North Shore.
Baker's is a 55 acre heaven run by a private association of its members (public not allowed).

I first visited Baker's Island in the summer of 1984 (courtesy of the family of my long-time friend Bart Littlefield)-- who own a house on the island. Bart and I were members of a 10 man a cappella singing group called The Bosstones (not to be confused with the later pretenders to the name "The Mighty Mighty Bosstones").


That group was my principal extracurricular activity during the 1980s. The 10 to 12 of us ('Sstones) had much fun -- serenading at Quincy Market, Edgartown's Whaling Church and for
at least 4 summers that I can recall on Baker's Island.

A trip to Baker's takes one back in time. There are no cars, no roads, no telephone wires, no electricity. Lighting and refrigeration is gas-powered. The only way to get around the island is to walk down idyllic grassy pathways bounded by hedgerows that remind me of Normandy and Sussex.

There's not much to do on Baker's. That's the point. Recline, Stroll, Laugh with friends, Drink, Swim, Sail, Windsurf, Sing Repeat.

On July 11 -- the Bosstones will reunite for another on-island singfest accompanied by members of the loyal Bosstones Auxilliary (suffering spouses) as well as a number of brave children (who weren't embarrased to see their Dads attempt to recreate the sounds they first made 25 yrs before).
Forget FACEBOOK, this is how friends should connect.

I can't wait!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Challenges of "Marketing" Enterprise 2.0 Social Media


Attending this week’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference, revealed several things to me:
1) Social Media is real
2) Like any new space --- the pond is crowded
3) Listening, relevant engagement and communication are essential to introduce
and ensure the success of social media in the enterprise.

To put things in context. Let’s answer the question: “What is Enterprise 2.0?”
Here’s the conference’s own answer:
“new tools that enable contextual, agile and simplified information exchange and collaboration to distributed workforces and networks of partners and customers.”

Visiting the event’s Expo Pavillion I checked out the exhibits of circa 45 participating sponsors and exhibitors ranging from major players like Microsoft and IBM to companies I’d never heard about before: BlueKiwi and Yakabod.

My takeaways:

Reading over the signage and collateral literature of the exhibitors-- marketers in enterprise social media are big on words that start with “C”:
Connect, Collaborate, Content, Community.

Given the collision of like-sounding messages I heard and saw in the exhibitors’ booths— some other words that start with “C” sum up the state of social computing:
Change, Confusion, Competition, Choice, Chaos.

While I’m a huge proponent of social media and know that it can bring tangible and intangible benefits to any organization—what I saw was almost 50 vendors building and marketing mousetraps---before their prospects really know or care if they need one.

The extent of the crowded pond was dramatically shown by the London Underground-like graphic above from CMS Watch (an analyst firm that offers head-to-head comparisons of content oriented solutions)

Given that content is just one piece of the overall Enterprise 2.0 ecosphere, the business, IT and marketing C-level and VPs execs attending the show (in hopes of charting their company’s direction) must feel like Charlie on the MTA-- the man “who never returned…whose fate is still unlearned”

Four More C-Words: Challenge, Convince, Communicate, Continue

Beyond the cool factor of social media, and simplistic three.word.taglines (like Teligent’s “Listen. Engage. Measure”—vendors’ product managers and marketers in this massive space have a Herculean communications challenge before them in order to win over and get the initial and repeat business of Fortune 2000 companies.

What “marketers” of social media need to practice in order to engage their prospects:

Differentiation: What makes your company/product/service uniquely
and sustainably different and truly valuable?

Relevance:
What can you do for my unique organization?

Worthiness:
Show me how social media will deliver bottom-line results.

Communicate:
Effective Communications—that let participants connect, interact, share, listen, learn, adapt (rinse and repeat) is more important than ever—to cut through the noise and FUD.

Enlightened PR, Marketing and Communications 2.0 along the lines of that advocated by Brian Solis is the new imperative.

Continue:
Innovation and stability are often at odds. Great new ideas can turn into solid SaaS offerings… but will they scale and will the company still be in business?

Bottom Line:
Communications pros must evolve and themselves practice the inherent elements of Enterprise 2.0 if these potentially transformative technologies for information exchange and collaboration are to succeed. Let's work together to make that happen.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 2009 is New England Innovation Month


There are so many reasons to live and work in New England. One thing that’s kept me here is our region’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Where else in the world combines New England’s ecosphere of startups, capital, resources and talent, plus our unique quality of life: 4 seasons, lobsters, colleges, culcha and the Red Sox!


I had a chance to live in an Eichler in Silly Valley—no thanks!

A reminder to all that June 2009 is New England Innovation Month in which a slew ofawesome events are taking place. Check out what’s upcoming and what’s happened already at http://neinnovation.com/

While Innovation Month is a collaborative mashup--- the lion’s share of the idea and the hard work goes to “Mr. Innovation” himself Scott Kirsner as well as New England’s Future-Forward looking leading ladies in entrepreneurial events: Shayne Gilbert and Alyssa Stern--- producers of the spectacular Nantucket Conference and Convergence gatherings.

Spread the word about Innovation Month in New England using your networks:
Facebook, blogs, Twitter, e-mail – whatever it takes. (Use the hashtag #NEinno.)

To read more about Innovation Month, check out these recent stories in the Boston Globe, Xconomy, and Mass High Tech.

In addition to Xconomy, MITX, and MassNetComms, here are some other champions of supporters of Innovation Month who are running events:

Mass Technology Leadership Council (Tom Hopcroft, Heather Johnson, Ian McGuiness, et al) http://www.masstlc.org/eve/

The Mass Technology Collaborative’s John Adams Innovation Institute hosts http://innovate.masstech.org/. Follow their the buzz on Twitter by searching the hashtag #innovateMAtech

Mass Innovation Nights (Bobbie Carlton & Dan Englander)
http://massinnovationnights.com/

Pay it forward!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

10 Yrs After Cluetrain: “Markets are Conversations” More than Ever




Tim Walsh (@TWalk) of Hoover’s had a great post today entitled “The community of discourse is the market” in which he excerpted these 5 maxims from the collection of 95 theses contained within The Cluetrain Manifesto—the now-considered classic doctrine of “New Marketing”:

36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.
38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.
39. The community of discourse is the market.
40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.

It’s hard to believe that it is TEN YEARS AGO (to the month) since the original publication of The Cluetrain Manifesto. Revisiting it in April 2009—it has lived up to its revolutionary initial hype. In fact its prophetic conclusions still true (if not more so) today.

This excerpt could easily have been written in 2009 (vs. 2008):

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.
These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.”

You can now read the entire text of the Manifesto online.
See it at http://www.cluetrain.com/book/index.html

As The Cluetrain suggested: enabling a transparent exchange of information, opinion, fact (and fiction when appropriate) between companies and those who may be interested in their products and services is essential for better business and society.


Ten Years After Cluetrain: We now see initiatives and companies who’ve turned the maxims of the Manifesto into viable businesses.

Consider the example of these four innovators from the Boston-area:

1) HubSpot (http://www.hubspot.com/ ) whose "Inbound Marketing" software helps small businesses engage prospects and customers in mutually beneficial dialogue through blogs/social media.

2) Communispace (http://www.communispace.com/) -- pioneer of private online communities.

3) SocialPharmerBoston (http://barcamp.org/SocialPharmerBoston)--nascent organic community of interested people who are interested in building meaningful exchange through online social media to connect patients, healthcare pros, pharma companies.

4) MedCommons (http://www.medcommons.net/) In the same general area as SocialPharmerBoston, MedCommons creates ASP software that lets organizations share patient-centered electronic Personal Health Records with others in the healthcare ecosystem as appropriate (e.g. Adult children can be part of a Facebook family care group to be kept up to date on the condition/care of an aged parent).


These and other enlightened practitioners of our “age of engagement” are part of the current crop of enlightened voices participating in today’s online conversations. Ten years ago a long list of supporters signed their names to the original Manifesto.

Is it time to issue a reaffirmation of this “Declaration of Interdependence” to declare our ongoing commitment to the value of the original authors? Is it time for us to issue amendments to the Manifesto—taking into consideration the developments of the past decade and contemplate the challenges and possibilities to come?

What would we declare? Who will sign? I welcome your thoughts.

________________________________________________

"Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses —
for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it..."

Herman Melville
________________________________________________

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CollegeWeekLive -- World's Largest College Fair: Online or Off



If any of you know anyone who’s in the process of applying to college--- there’s a great free online resource--- that’s a super alternative to the traditional college road trip (driving campus to campus in the family SUV). Parents and college-bound kids and their can check out their and evaluate their future alma mater online.

Taking place today and tomorrow (Wednesday March 25th and Thursday March 26th ). CollegeWeekLive, is the world's LARGEST college fair—an event that doesn’t “take place” because it is a massive online-only event. CollegeWeekLive is a revolutionary concept for college admissions, bringing together students, parents, counselors, and colleges in an online forum that eliminates the barriers of time and distance. The interactive and live component allows attendees to speak with hundreds of college admissions representatives, ask questions, learn about financial aid opportunities, and learn what college life is really like.

CWL features a wide range of live keynotes and panesl in which students and parents can text questions to the expert speakers, a tradeshow floor of virtual booths representing hundreds of colleges and universities (in North America, Europe, Australia).

It’s fun and free…. Go to http://www.collegeweeklive.com/.

Full disclosure--- It’s been my pleasure to promote CollegeWeekLive and its sister event The Virtual Energy Forum. I’ve helped secure a swath of press coverage of these innovative virtual events with stories atfrom leading media including CNN’s Situation Room, Newsweek, The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, BusinessWeek, and Seventeen.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Going Tribal with Seth Godin


I’ve read and appreciated Seth Godin’s marketing blog for a long time.

While I didn’t know Seth when he and I were both undergrads at Tufts, I’ve been following him for awhile. His posts continue to stand out in the crowd as fresh insights that make mesay: “how true.” He’s an original (vs. derivative borrower) blogger.

If you haven’t read it yet---Godin's latest book Tribes is a quick, though-provoking read. Seth defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea that inspires their passion.” Thus his book is on how leaders of business, government and non-profit organizations can rally members of the tribe to build shared destiny and a commitment to succeed. In these tough times, it’s nice to read something that shows and encourages unity and common purpose. You may want to download the free audio version.

The book’s companion (The Tribes Case Book) is a free Ebook (comprised of submissions by a group of 3,000 “co-authors” with their perspectives on tribal living and leadership (everything from Star Wars to iPods, from surfers to broomball players, and Online Villages to Mary Kay saleswomen) Check out the E-triiibe’s list of tactics, Seth’s list of 58 books “to check out”, and/or download the Case Book at http://cli.gs/Rr578W

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Aldus, The Death of Seattle’s Newspaper, and the Birth of Peer Publishing


Clay Shirky has written an excellent and thoughtful article on the revolution taking place in how news is created, published, distributed, paid for and consumed:

“Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable”

While I urge you to read the full article, here are some incisive quotes from the article:

  • The problem newspapers face isn’t that they didn’t see the internet coming.

  • The core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.

  • What real revolutions are like…The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place.

  • The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread

  • Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.

In his article Shirky takes note of great publishers (e.g. Gutenberg, Wikipedia) whose innovations fueled the ever growing “democratization of the printed word.”

I found Clay’s article especially interesting because he paid special homage to the Renaissance Venetian printer and publisher Aldus Manutius whose invention of the smaller octavo volume along with italic type— led to a subsequent revolution in the cost to printers to print books, and the costs for book buyers to purchase books.

Centuries later (in the mid-late 1980s) Aldus’s first name was associated with another innovation in the democratization of the printed word: Aldus Corporation—the Seattle-based company whose PageMaker desktop publishing software (combined with PostScript and the Apple Macintosh) let thousands around the world to be able to become publishers themselves.

Twenty years ago, I had the good fortune of working for Aldus Corp for 4 years--- our crew of Aldusians (including CEO Paul Brainerd, Sales Goddess Jennifer Saffo, Tech Whizzes Ted Johnson & Jeremy Jaech, and countless other brilliant colleagues) felt we were linked in a worthy crusade to share technologies that could radically simplify the means and cost of producing printed works.

At the time, I remember occasional grousing from professional printers and Linotype operators (their hands marked with lead burns), telling me... "this desktop publishing thing will never fly,
our craft and skill can't be replaced by a machine."

In my four years at Aldus, I gave hundreds of presentations on the process and possibilities of desktop publishing but would often conclude my sessions with the timeless quote from A.J. Liebling: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those that own one.”

The economics of media/publishing have been decimated by the efficiencies and reach of the Internet—now anyone who has a blog really owns a printing press. Instantaneous worldwide distribution through essentially free Web-based tools has done away with middlemen. The trade and craft of newspapering (dating back to Ben Franklin’s day) is fast becoming a historical artifact.

Amy Wohl once joked with me that “Stovetop Stuffing and Desktop Publishing both take place somewhere.” The products of the new age of peer-to-peer personal publishing will not be limited by physical restraints like time or location--- they will arise and be shared with thousands (who may choose to also participate in the creative process). Whereas journalists were often gatekeepers between the newsmakers and a reading audience--- peer publishing is more direct, honest, and interactive. Conversations are always better when there’s more than one participant.

As Clay Shirky comments “we don’t know who the Aldus Manutius of the current age is,” but today (on the last day of Seattle’s Post Intelligencer as a print newspaper) we can certainly anticipate that quality journalism will continue to be valued. Web 2.0/3.0 tools, social networks and inbound marketing will let us connect and engage with others who share our interests. Return-on-Interaction ROI will yield benefits in multiple directions.
Communications will improve.

The tagline of my friend Paul Gillin’s NewsaperDeathWatch.com neatly sums up the new status quo: “Chronicling the Decline of Newspapers and the Rebirth of Journalism.”

Unthinkable 20 years ago. Very real today.

Let us remember that revolutions are born out of chaos and true democracies are self-derived. Let us create value, community and opportunities for many---in the midst of the maelstrom.

##

Friday, March 13, 2009

Leveraging 4 Generations of Talented Workers

Leveraging 4 Generations of Talented Workers
(or “Is your Workplace Age-Friendly?”)

In the current economy, there’s no doubt that it’s a buyer’s market in the workplace(i.e. employers have their pick of available and abundant talent).The triple convergence of a bad economy, with new technologies for Web-enabled communications, and new work methodologies (telecommuting, job-sharing, E-Collaboration, outsourcing, flex-time)—has created an opportunity for creative talent strategies/programs that can align to benefit both employers and employees.

Recruiters and HR departments charted with retaining, attracting and re-hiring top talent to their workplace would be wise to ask themselves 2 questions:

1) Are we an “age-friendly” employer?

2) Do our policies and practices encourage the best from-and-between workers of all ages in our organization?

For the first time in history, four different generations are at work in the workplace simultaneously. This demographic alignment creates opportunities and challenges for management who should seek to ensure cross-generational alignment, improved understanding and cooperation so that workers “play well with each other”—whether an employee is 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or beyond…

This topic has been ably explored in the current edition of the SHRM Research Quarterly (Q1-09), and featured in an article in the March 2009 issue of HR Magazine:“The Multigenerational Workforce: Opportunity for Competitive Success”

The chart at the top of this article (from the SHRM Research) describes “Assets to the Workplace” that each of the 4 generations provide. The SHRM report is well worth reading and concludes by noting that in order for organizations to optimize their talent “it is critical to leverage the strengths of each generation.”

Pioneering the value of “Age Friendly Employers” is RetirementJobs.com--- the leading career website for workers over 50. Through a process of age-friendly employer certification, RetirementJobs.com qualifies employers who’ve shown through their example that they value workers of all ages, and in particular—see that the career and life experience, common worker characteristics offered by “mature” workers are qualifications that make them excellent, loyal and reliable employees.

((Full disclosure:I’m proud to have been part of the leadership team at RetirementJobs.com since 2006))

Other respected workplace watchers who’ve commented on this subject include Brad Taft andmy friend Carleen MacKay, of AgelessInAmerica.com who co-authored a helpful book (“Boom or Bust!: New Careers in a New America”) and whose“10 Myths and 10 Facts About Mature Workers” is succinct and enlightening.

In my view, a seminal opinion on multigenerational talent comes from Bridget and John Sumser, a Daughter-Father team who gave a great joint presentation at OnRec (Internet recruiting conference) back in September 2006 on “Multigenerational Recruiting”.

The Sumsers set a great example about how different generations can contribute together: Bridget graduated from Mills College in 2006 and works for a non-profit in the Bay Area focused on encouraging elementary school kids to lead healthy lifestyles, be enaged students and active in their communities. John is Founder of IBN: interbiznet.com, a leading analyst firm for the Electronic Recruiting Industry and publisher of the Interbiznet Bugler a respected daily online update of recruiting news.

So… what can you do to make the most of employees/colleagues in your own organization (no matter their age)? Here are some thoughts…

Rafter’s Eight Tips to Leverage 4 Generations of Talent in Your Organization:
  1. Seek to combine the best of The Old and of The New
  2. Develop a workplace culture that values experience & rewards enthusiasm/creative thinking
  3. Offer your employees flexible work arrangements. In most cases it doesn’t really matter how long people work or where they work. What’s important is results. Because people ofdifferent ages have different involvements and commitments outside of the office – offer work options such as flex time, part-time, contract work, seasonal work, barters, etc. in orderto get a win-win between employer and employee. Simple accommodations can make your employees more loyal (and you’ll avoid turnover and talent flight).
  4. Always be learning: Spread knowledge, skills and wisdom up and down the age spectrum
  5. Convene interactive in-person sessions (or workshops) to re-educate your workforce to think beyond stereotypes:
    ***All Boomers aren’t technologically illiterate (Jupiter reference)
    ***All GenXers aren’t lazy, selfish people who work at Starbucks.
    ***All GenY/Millennials don’t have multiple piercings and tattoos
  6. Hierarchical organizations are atavisms of the industrial revolution—build a meritocracy in which talent and innovation are recognized, and rewarded.
  7. Teach old dogs new tricks: While Boomers may have grown up with newspapers, records and only 3 TV channels, that doesn’t mean they aren’t eager and willing to learn how to Twitter or friend a 20-something on Facebook.
  8. LinkIn with Senior Talent--- In the days before social networks, networking was more convoluted (conferences, old-boy networks, informational interviews). People who are in their early or middle career—can learn lots from the hard-won experiences of older workers. Similarly, older workers make great mentors with whom you ask questions, seek advice, bounce off ideas. Connect with them online and in-person. Often. Young and old will benefit.

Benjamin Disraeli could well be an example of the poster child for someone who was impactful at a young age and as an elder—and also as someone who navigated tough times such as our current “Great Recession.” After his failed career as a lawyer and financial ruin from the Mining Bubble of 1825--in 1832 at the age of 28, Disraeli embarked on a career in public service that would last 48 years—up until the year before he died.

Given his example and personal experience, Disraeli gets the final word:
“Experience is the child of Thought, and Thought is the child of Action.”

What are YOUR thoughts and suggestions?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rafter’s Five Commandments for Passionate PR


When not working at his day job in Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence Group, Rohit Bhargava regularly puts out great content on social media marketing on his Influential Marketing Blog. One of my favorite Rohit posts was “What all PR people should know about journalists” in which he made these common sense PR suggestions:


  1. Don’t BS

  2. Contact journalists when it’s a good time for them

  3. Manage your reputation and relationships with reporters

  4. Give writers a real story angle

  5. Be available, easy to contact and responsive

  6. Pitch like a peer

Rohit’s article and the comments that follow serve up a nice helping of Do’s & Don’ts for respectful and effective media relations.

Add him to you your bloglist and follow him on Twitter @rohitbhargava

Rohit shares my long-held belief that “marketing is not about selling” and has written a great new book Personality Not Included in which he notes that in the social media era “you need to think differently about how you market your products and services”

His definition of “personality”:
Personality is the unique, authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about.

Rohit’s tips for PR, and his insights on personality in marketing, remind me of some important lessons learned (in my 20+ yrs of evangelising new products, services and initiatives):

People should be passionate about their work. Life's too short to spend it doing something that doesn't truly inspire and motivate you. Similarly--If someone tries to pitch you on a
product or service that they don’t truly care about--- their indifference will come through loudand clear. Passion and enthusiasm form the base for open, honest, and interactive PR.

Rafter’s Five Commandments for Passionate PR:



  1. Believe in your product, service, company

  2. Express your enthusiasm (genuinely)

  3. Engage and interact with others who share your interests

  4. Share with them

  5. Give first, and you shall Receive


What say ye?