Doug Haslam

Gischeleman: "To Create With the Mind"


Something Different (But Not Really) – Joining Stone Temple Consulting

2014 has brought a career move, and I am far enough into it to finally write about it here.

After leaving an agency – Voce Communications – that did and continues to do great (albeit now Haslam-less) work, I had the opportunity to figure out what was next. The real opportunity was to redefine what it meant to be someone with communications, public relations, social media and marketing experience. What would be different enough to be a challenge, but still draw on my core experience?

197744651_177c0dd6d4_zThere were a few intriguing answers out there. In-house positions offered the social media responsibilities I had honed at Voce, while agencies offered the greater integration of PR, social and other disciplines that I knew was coming. Add to that the more socially-responsible missions in the non-profit and educational worlds, and there was quite a bit to choose from.

Finally, I chose Stone Temple Consulting (and they chose me). What is different about Stone Temple? For me, it’s the deep experience in Search Engine Optimization combined with the recognition that content marketing is a key part of that world. In PR, we have seen for years the coming collision of SEO and content, and the cumulative changes in Google’s search algorithms over the years have confirmed that good content strategy is not merely compatible with good web strategy, but it is required.

That explains the appeal of a content marketer/social media marketer/PR pro/whatever I am to a firm with its roots in search marketing. What’s the attraction to me? An SEO foundation provides a quantitative foundation on which to build sound online content marketing programs. Rather than just measuring the results of what we do – a venture that is incomplete at best for most marketing and PR firms – I am now involved in measuring the reasons why we make our recommendations. Data first? That indeed seems to be the case. Add to that the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of technical SEO best practices, and I am hooked.

It will be interesting to see how my new experience shapes my thinking – and my writing. A month into my work at Stone Temple Consulting, I am only now comfortable writing about it. Expect my comfort level to increase, and to hear more about how my thinking evolves in my new surroundings – and wish me luck.

Photo Credit: Grufnik on Flickr


It’s the Next Little Thing, Not the Next Big Thing

Flickr Photo Credit: duncan c

Flickr Photo Credit: duncan c

I often get grumpy about “shiny object syndrome,” when people jump on some brand-new social network or tool and declare it the “Next Big Thing,” because – well who knows where the reasoning comes from much of the time. People want to be the first to jump on the next trend, but in doing so can fail to stop and analyze what these tools mean.

“SOS” can merely be premature rather than dead wrong (Instagram was a great example) but it can still be idiotic for any number of reasons:

  • Mass adoption is a guess until it happens (Google Plus come to mind, as people rushed to crown it before its real uses became defined and apparent)
  • People declare tools “universal” before the tool is even available on all of the popular platforms (Instagram has proved to be a big winner, but people touting it when it was only available on iOS was simply premature)
  • Many tools do one thing- is one thing the “Next Big Thing?” Not really (Vine – again, a popular tool, but in many ways a limited toy, hardly a “next Big Thing”)
  • Is the content produced from these tools portable? Can I own it or at least host it on my site? Ok, can I at least embed it? No? Yes? That’s important, you see…
  • Many tools are great for some applications, companies and industries, but not so much for others (hello, Vine)

My examples might seem harsh assessments, and many of those mentioned are very useful tools that I use myself at least to some degree- but jumping from trend to trend and trying to declare that “Next Big” is largely a useless exercise.

What is useful? Seeing the “Next Little Thing.” This occurred to me most recently with the launch of Hyperlapse, a tool from Instagram that allows people to easily make time-lapse videos. The tool is pretty neat-o, lading to an entertaining (at first) burst of time-lapse videos from friends and others, something like this one:

Predictably, brands got on board. I’m whole-heartedly in favor of experimentation, but you can’t tell me this is part of a polished, professional brand-vertising campaign:

Hungry? Me neither. Not to say there will not be successful brand uses, but betting on a marketing trend based on this new tool (based on a film/video trick that is not at all new) is not smart money.

If Vine (and Instagram video) is a one-note toy, then this is more of the same. Predictably, colleagues in the social media marketing industry are doing the usual “Next Big Thing” for the moment- though that may be dying down even as I write this.

So- what is the significance? Look for the Next Little Thing. By that, I mean figure out what the “Not the Next Big Thing” tools are doing that actually means something in the bigger picture.

In the case of Hyperlapse, I did some reading and listening and found what I thought was the real innovation: Hyperlapse tapped into image stabilization and made it accessible. This means that other apps will make use of that (if some haven’t already), and that better quality video – from any number of apps, presented in any number of ways – will be at more fingertips, including more social media marketing fingertips. That’s the Next Little Thing. That’s what gets me excited about Hyperlapse, even though as an Android user I haven’t even tried it yet (and for what it’s worth I understand why there is a delay in making this work for Android devices).

So, the next time a bunch of Social Media Bloggers start breathlessly heralding the Next Big Thing, look a little closer. Take a longer view and find the Next Little Thing; it’s better than dismissing the hype.




You Won’t Get Answers, But You Need Questions

Photo Credit: Bilal Kamoon on Flickr

Photo Credit: Bilal Kamoon on Flickr

I once used the phrase “(Social media ‘guru’ name here) is Not Smarter Than You” in a blog post as a way of encouraging folks to create their own content and get their own thoughts out there, rather than be intimidated by those whose credentials are largely made up of starting to blog before you did.

I still believe that you, or I, are no less smart or able than the marketing consultants and – ugh- “gurus” who show up frequently on industry podcasts, blogs and webinars. Why are they there and you are not? It likely has more to do with the need to hustle and stay visible to get consulting clients and the like than much else (ok, ego too- why not?). You probably daily see a podcast or event panel, see names of “industry leaders” attached to the, and think “those people are smarter and know more about the business than me.” If that were really true, why would you bother?

Here is why you should still bother:

This is not about cutting down people because they are good at self-promotion – it is, however, about the rest of us believing in our own abilities to strategize, consult, execute and think on issues.

This is about figuring out how to listen critically and still learn from anybody rather than considering it a waste of time to pursue industry reading and listening from people who, in reality, are your peers.

This is about valuing the questions, and not (necessarily) the answers. I reminded myself of this recently as I listened to an episode of the marketing/advertising podcast Beancast, a weekly panel hosted by Bob Knorpp I don’t always listen through depending on what is going on early in my week, but the most recent episode had a segment on “Tackling Anemic Organic Engagement” that I thought would be relevant to my own current thinking and work. So I listened- were the answers enlightening? Some yes, some no – none were bad that I can recall, but I was struck by the questions: first some that I was thinking of and hoped would get asked, then by others I hadn’t thought of.

It wasn’t the answers I needed. It was the new questions. 

So it’s ok to think you’re smarter than as smart as everyone else; it doesn’t even matter if you’re wrong about that; it also doesn’t mean you can’t learn.


My Ice Bucket Challenge Post- It’s Not What You Think


Photo Credit: Didriks on Flickr

This week, I posted a simple question on Facebook:

I didn’t say what this was referring to; I could have been talking about people using a celebrity’s death to promote a pet cause, or some other event that created my passive-aggressive query.
My friends, however, are shrewd, and immediately assumed I was talking about the Ice Bucket Challenge. The problem I had was as I was starting to see this thing pass around, it was clear the people I saw doing the challenge clearly had no idea what it was for and in the process were mangling, losing or ignoring the message.
The message? Former Boston College athlete Pete Frates started the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of and money to fight ALS (aka “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”), an insidious illness that is generally terminal within a few years and has no known cure. That’s really great. I wish my initial exposure to the challenge had been from people who actually knew what it was supposed to be for and were promoting the cause rather than doing some fun, silly thing their friends told them to do. Something more like this (ok, this example is probably better than we need to expect, but it’s really well done):

So, is this a post ranting about how I think an Internet meme is silly and done wrong? No. It’s more about discourse on the Internet, and how it can go right.

My question could have been seen as an attack and I could have been attacked back, in one of the Internet versions of shouting matches and name-calling that we see every day. But it wasn’t, somehow. I said my friends are shrewd, but more importantly they are thoughtful. Perhaps my phrasing this as a question rather than an “I Hate the Ice Bucket Challenge it Totally Sucks!” post opened up the conversation to reasoned and passionate discourse about the meme, rather than people calling me a hater (I’m not a hater, I’m just grumpy and sometimes hard to please). I truly wanted to ask people to think about why they are posting things, rather than condemning the effort.

Perhaps I just have better friends than you do (please flame me in the comments for suggesting that).

Either way – or both – this turned into a great example of the possibility of civil discourse online. Those of you who have quit various platforms because of “haters” or other more real and serious crimes of harassment, I’m sorry for that- and you often have good reasons. But it’s not always bad- even when some wise-cracking communications professional looks sideways at a good cause.

Did I raise awareness or annoyance? I raised a question, asking people to think, and people took it in the right spirit and made me think right back. I refuse to be amazed by that, but I think it’s great.

Now you can tell me to go soak my head; I won’t, but if you are interested in donating to the ALS Association, click this link.


Metrics: It’s Never “THE” Number; It’s Always “A” Number

Photo Credit: Patrick Gage Kelley on Flickr

Photo Credit: Patrick Gage Kelley on Flickr

Recently, I had started seeing friends circulate articles that a study at Princeton had debunked the “10,000 Hour Rule.” That was an idea most widely flogged in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” – the idea that 10,000 hours was the magic number to become an expert in anything. Like anything popular – pop music, pop science, pop economics – I secretly cheered when some actual researchers took the time to debunk the theory.

But here’s the thing; it’s not so much that the theory is wrong. It’s that people get hung up on a number. Nobody is- or should be – denigrating the idea of practicing an art or craft to master it. But there are other factors than practice (like talent and proclivity), and the number of hours should be different for everybody (in some cases, sorry to say, the number is infinity. I will never be a concert pianist).

So, my point is not to gleefully bury some pseudo pop-economics that was gleefully spread uncritically by so many others. It is to talk about the meaning of numbers.

One of my favorite parts of social media programs has always been the metrics reports (no, seriously). One thing I learned along the way is that – and I know have typed this phrase here before – “numbers lie, trends don’t.” Another way of putting it is that numbers are meaningless, the same way words can be meaningless, without context.

Any number – subscribers, followers, likes, follows, shares, comments, clicks, downloads, sales – is good to know, but there is no meaning without context and benchmarking.

Context means numbers mean different things to different people and different companies. 10,000 followers? Great. How many did you have last month? How many do you want next month? How many are useful? What do they do?

See what’s happening here? The numbers want to tell a story. As with words, you need to get more numbers to put against them. Then, the story develops.

Numbers are not math. OK, I’m lying if I tell you there’s no math. There’s lots of math. But you are trying to tell a story. And in that story that are heroes, villains, picaresque journeys, monsters, and..the real outliers, “spikes and troughs,” which are often the plot points on which a story turns, and are just as often “Maguffins“that have no real bearing on the outcome of the overall plot (think of a random event that sends junk traffic to your Web site but has no lasting effect).

10,000? Sure, practice that long. Or find the numbers- and words- and talents- that tell your story.

Good riddance, 10,000 Hour Rule ;).





Newsjacking Chat on ScribbleLive

I was fortunate to be invited to a live chat on “newsjacking.” The ScribbleLive folks provided an embed link, which installs the chat below. Depending on how things go, I may produce a follow-up post, but let’s start with the live event, shall we?


Blogola Mk II: Are We Still Doing Disclosure in Social Media Wrong?


Photo by Fabiano Campos on Flickr

A little more than a year ago (May 2013), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated its Online Advertising Disclosure Guidelines. It made a big stir in the social media marketing space, because we all now knew the FTC was paying attention, and that we most likely needed to change our behaviors in order to comply. Of course, we know there need to be rules: “Blogola” kerfuffles of recent years show that companies and the influencers they employ need to be accountable to showing to what extent influence is being compensated. These guidelines are the next step in bringing advertisers and marketers into line.

In practice, the groups and clients I have worked with have worked to understand and apply the new rules, but it certainly isn’t easy. There was confusion.

Apparently, there still is.

Just a few weeks ago, I saw a bunch of folks here in Boston posting from a series of events using the #TeamLumia hashtag on Twitter. What became apparent was that Nokia, the folks behind the Lumia phone (the fact I felt I had to spell out that branding connection is a separate issue) had given phones to a bunch of “influencers” – many of them friends of mine – and compensated them with tickets to events such as a comedy concert, dinner and a Red Sox game, presumably in the hopes and expectation they would post in social media about the events and the phone.

The problem is evident in my use of the terms “became apparent” and “presumably.” While there were disclosures by participants, particularly in blog posts and some Tweets, there were no such disclosures on every piece of content, as prescribed by the FTC- yes, that means every single Tweet. Anyone who didn’t know better might have thought #TeamLumia was some sort of enthusiast club, without any compensation made. How would we know unless we happened upon the pieces of content that actually carried the disclosure? For an example, see this Storify post (not to call out an individual); the Storify post itself is a good example of clear disclosure up front, but do the individual Tweets and other elements, separately-published outside of Storify, carry proper disclosure? Some folks may disagree on the answer, but I would say that it is, unfortunately, incomplete.

This is certainly not the only example, but it shows that there is a ways to go in understanding and implementing disclosures in social media. I see this broken out into four issues:

  • Education: It has been more than a year, but we still need to educate companies, agencies and influencers on disclosure rules. Each campaign needs an education component, and the companies running them need to take responsibility for making sire participants disclose any paid relationships- and how to do so. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) published their own guide to the FTC disclosure guidelines, and they can be found here.
  • Instilling Habits: From the agency side, I saw less resistance than laziness. Laziness isn’t a slur here, but the idea that one needs to make room in 140-character Tweets for clear disclosure is hard- but it still needs to be done. For example – at agencies, it is common for an agency (or individual consultants) to Tweet client news. Those Tweets need to be accompanied by “#client” or some similar signifier. It’s hard to instill those habits, but we need to- no excuses. I’m sure if you went through my history  you may see my own lapses in this regard- that’s how hard it is, but that’s too bad – even for me.
  • Setting the Example: In the #TeamLumia example, one thing that concerned me is that many of the people involved in the recent Boston events are involved professionally in social media in some fashion (I mentioned they are friends- that’s how I know most of them). Anyone who puts themselves forward as a social media professional/expert/guru/ninja should know these rules cold by now. While Nokia bears the ultimate responsibility, it should be reasonable to expect social media professionals to act – well, like social media professionals.
  • Enforcement: The best way to get all of us to comply is to see the rules enforced. I sense an underlying feeling in the marketing space that there are little or no consequences to ignoring social media disclosure guidelines. A quick Internet search shows a few enforcement examples that predate the updated guidelines, but I did not see anything since the update. If anyone reading this knows of some examples, please leave them in comments. Regardless, a high-profile rebuke by the FTC of an ethical scofflaw will go a long way towards changing habits towards disclosure.

It’s not that hard (or is it?) to follow FTC social media disclosure guidleines, but looking around the Internet I come to the conclusion that it must not to be as simple as we would like it to be.

When in doubt, disclose.

(Let’s not get started on Native Advertising – maybe some other time)

(This post has been edited to clarify the point on the Storify link)





45 Days To Compose A Tweet? Silly, But…


If your social media decision making is as needlessly complicated as this infographic, you may want to make some changes.

Recently, a lot of social media professionals (like myself) got up in arms over a Business Insider article, “We Got A Look Inside The 45-Day Planning Process That Goes Into Creating A Single Corporate Tweet.”

It’s fun to get our undies in a collective twist over articles like this. In this case, the reaction was, “The ‘creative‘ agencies are ruining social! They are agonizing over each clever little piece of content!”

Well, kind of….

The article, very likely got it wrong. In fact, a representative from the agency cited in the article refuted that “45 days” fact directly. I’m sure you can find an example of rigid process run amok that compares in ridiculousness, but do you really want to look that hard? The time to compose the Tweet likely refers more to a planning process that any brand should go through to plan out its content.

What the article does raise are the questions of who is handling online social content, what is its ultimate goal, and how it is being handled. As someone with a PR background, I’m likely to think about how we can respond quickly to our environment and events, and how we can set up processes to minimize roadblocks to execution, rather than focusing on clever “creative.” My journalism background informs the need to plan ahead, as stated above, so that content is an ongoing stream- with spikes of opportunistic content and realish-time engagement on top of it, of course. Those in the advertising realm may think more in terms of that creative and planning- and may be a reason why some of us were willing to believe such a ridiculous story (I’m sure folks more involved in the ad industry might have their own take, and are welcome to the comment section here).

So, what does this article bring up in terms of corporate social media programs? Here are my thoughts:

More and more, advertising and marketing have a hand in social: Coming from a public relations background, I always watched with interest the “who owns social?” arguments. Of course, we PR flacks always said “Public relations, of course!” but it generally depends on the goals for social media. It also depends on the skills needed. More and more, experience with paid media is necessary. Do PR agencies and consultants have that experience? They are scrambling to get there. Also, the influx of “content marketing” tilts the scale towards those disciplines used to getting out creative – that is probably ad agencies or the more traditional “digital” marketing shops. Again, PR companies are working to bring those skills on board, as the PR side can still argue that company messaging, engagement, and the ability to respond quickly to news and crises are their sweet spots. It continues to be interesting to see not only how agencies evolve, but how companies who have done social longer evolve the way they treat their social content programs.

Planning is good: The idea that it should take 45 days to write a Tweet is absurd, but the idea that content should be planned out like a publisher would do it, and that it should be plugged in to a larger communications strategy, is not. The latter is probably what was going on at the agency profiled in the Business Insider piece. That doesn’t mean some companies don’t deliberate too much, though…

Process is not our enemy; patience is our friend: There is a difference between process and patience. While the notion of a committee of 13 people taking 45 days to write a Tweet is highly unlikely to be true, there are roadblocks to expediency everywhere. The trick is to know which ones you can eliminate (make it clear who owns final approvals and publishing, gain the trust of executives to move and make decisions), and which ones you need to simply make more efficient (work closely with lawyers on compliance, make it easy for subject experts to make their make their contributions). Also, have patience; “real-time marketing’ is great when it is warranted, but to get back to what could have been the point of the BI article, advance planning, and sowing seeds for a longer, more fruitful program are arguably more important than knee-jerk responses and “newsjacking” that may be at best tangential to your primary messaging. Take that thinking and applying it back to which disciplines are making the content decisions, how, and where. There are no right answers, but we’ll always have fun picking apart the wrong ones (right?).

I’d like to thank Business Insider for getting all the discussions moving over the past week or two with this act of what may well have been dubious journalism.


Who Killed Scott Monty?

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Image by coltera on Flickr

Last week, Scott Monty, a friend I have known dating back to his Boston days, announced he was leaving his position at Ford Motors, where he ran digital communications, i.e. social media (or at least including social media).

The reaction? Well, Scott is popular and well-known in the social media community, and had a visible role in one of the world’s most famous companies, so I guess you could say people noticed. What was ridiculous, however, was the hand-wringing over what it meant for social media in corporations. Surely, it must be dead, as professionals with high-profiles have left Dell (Richard Binhammer) and Comcast (Frank Eliason) over the last year or two. Three makes a trend, right? One of the more picked-over posts has been Shel Israel’s “Will Big Brands Kill Social Media?

What nonsense. First off, we don’t know why Scott left Ford until he says so (as I write he has not announced what he is doing next, or if he even knows). What we do know is that he was at Ford for six years. In an industry where three years in one job is an eternity, Scott may have been growing moss at his feet, being in one place so long. It is natural to look for a new challenge if the current challenges have been exhausted, no matter how much we think landing a dream job will be the “forever job” where we grow and retire after many decades of service. Again, I don’t know why Scott left, but he stayed a lot longer than what is surely the industry average.

The idea that high profile people leaving their positions means the death of social media? Again, complete nonsense. See the landscape clearly, and you will note that the Fords, Dells and Comcasts of the world adopted social, at least to some scale, early. Other companies have too. But many others have not, or adopted much later. Perhaps these early adopters have reached a certain maturity stage where they change how they organize around social. Maybe not. But if we take Scott Monty’s example and add a rash assumption that there is change in Ford’s program, then companies starting now won’t get around to this “change” until 2020. I admit it’s ridiculous to apply that hard number to all companies, but that’s the point; there is still plenty of opportunity for strategists and tacticians to get their hands dirty helping companies navigate social media, content marketing, brand publishing, or whatever buzzword gains momentum between now and then.

There is a fine line between discussion and overreaction. I prefer to see a bigger picture.

P.S. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson of the For immediate Release Podcast did an interview with Scott on the topic here.




The Social Media Backlash is Here

Well, it finally happened.

Almost a decade of hubris by a new wave of marketers telling that social media was the be-all and end-all, and declaring advertising “dead” has finally turned.


Photo by Retis on Flickr

First, we have Bob Hoffman’s Advertising Week Europe speech, “The Golden Age of Bullshit” in which he defends the still-quite-alive-thank-you-very-much advertising industry from the slings and nerf-tipped arrows of “engagement” and “brand relationships” crowd.

Ok, fine.

Calling advertising dead was always over the top, and poking the bear inevitably results in a mauling. Hoffman followed up, unrepentantly, with a thoughtful blog post that yet continues his mockery of the self-appointed social media elite.

Ok, fine.

From within the comfortable confines of Social Media Marketing, I have always cast a cynical eye to what many of us referred to the “snake oil” of social: the over-reliance of engagement over results; the emphasis of soft results over hard numbers; the circling of the wagons-of-peers over the service of business goals.

But here’s the thing: that’s not the entirety of social media marketing. While he acknowledges that not all social media marketers are full of it, I do have the distinct  feeling that Hoffman has found a fun new axe to swing; he is going to use the fact that he is largely right as an excuse to beat social media into the ground in favor of King Ad, with a resulting swing of the pendulum all the way back until Madge is soaking in it up to her neck.

In the meantime, social media marketers have found religion; we are seeing multiple blog posts decrying the social media imperatives that brands need to engage as humans, that people want to be Facebook pals with corporations, all as if this were a new idea.

The latest I noticed is Jason Falls’ post, “An Apology to Brands on Behalf of Social Media Experts Everywhere.” In it, Jason (who I know and like from the Social Media blogging and conference circuit), lays out the crime that social media marketers have been committing against brands since the beginning: that our insistence that brands be “human” and engage” was a lie.

Speak for yourself, Jason. I won’t claim never to have fallen in with the “engage” crowd, but I’m not a big fan of one “guru” trying to speak for the entire industry. And since I had a cuss-word to start, I’ll keep this R-rated; we didn’t all fuck this up. In fact, most of us still think we haven’t fucked it up.

The smart people in the industry haven’t called for the end of advertising (as if we could); we valued engagement but not at the expense of sales and attainable metrics; we were aware of the scale of social media versus the rest of our clients’ and employers’ business goals.

The idea of brands being able to publish and speak for themselves online is still pretty new and still forming and changing–

— in fact, stop —

The whole reason this painful self-examination and these attempted assassinations by the never-threatened ad industry is clear: it’s Facebook ceasing to pretend that brand exposure is free, isn’t it? Just ask Jeff Esposito. This set off the hysteria in the guise of a salvo of smoke bombs to distract the world while social media scrambles to understand “paid media.” Pardon our appearance while we re-brand our industry.

–ok, where was I? Oh yes —

— Social media is still pretty new. We are going through painful transitions in some quarters. But you know what? The false social “gurus” will still be full of crap, and the people who are honestly helping companies- the majority of us – will still be helping companies succeed in their communications and marketing programs.

So, when Bob Hoffman speaks of the “roiling cesspool of arrogant, insufferable charlatans,” well, we know what small part of the social media crowd they are. So what? Clean up your own cesspool and stop making crappy ads (while you’re at it, tell Geico to pick a campaign and stick with it – what a waste of money. I vote for the lizard).

On each side of the coin, the people who are good at their jobs know the real impact of what they do, the real reach of what they try, and the pitfalls of doing the wrong thing. I don’t care if social media marketers want to figuratively light themselves on fire, and if ad people want stand by and  roast marshmallows; I’ll just continue to do work that interests me – and that I hope is good and has an impact within the wider world of marketing and communications.