Social Media Top 5: It’s Not About You, Mr. Journalist, and Blogging is Not a Business Requirement

What Really Needs to Change? How about journalists making themselves the story (and for the purposes of this column, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is a journalist)? Dating back to my time in journalism, it has always irked me when journalists make themselves part of the story. I want a publication to report on whatever their special topic is, not themselves. Granted, Michael Arrington has always based TechCrunch on his personality, and noone should condone his being spat on or the death threats he writes about– but whether or not people like Arrington or not does not affect whether I read TechCrunch or not– and that goes for any media outlet. Maybe I’m an old crank, but I really don’t care.

Journchat is wicked cool: I have mentioned Journchat here, but thought it worth adding to a SM Top 5. Monday nights, a group of PR people and journalists on Twitter, led by Sarah Evans, get together to discuss a bunch of questions, and topics, loosely moderated. I strongly recommend it to any PR people or journalists. While I have missed a few weeks, I see people are still singing its praises, and my friend Christopher Penn in particular added his own unique thoughts to the latest edition in a blog post.

From Baltimores via Ragans PR Junkie blog

From Baltimore's via Ragan's "PR Junkie" blog

Mommy is not an exotic dancer. She just loves her job: I already got some mileage out of this post on Twitter, but it’s worth repeating. Apparently a young schoolgirl drew this picture of her mother at work, and the mother frantically had to explain that no, she’s not a pole-dancer, she’s a Home Depot worker who was helping customers get shovels during a snowstorm- and that’s why her daughter was so proud. I don’t even care if it’s real, it’s hilarious. Plus, it illustrates the need for context- something we need to remind ourselves constantly in social media and all communications- quite well.

Can We impeach PR Flacks Too? I don’t want to waste too much breath on Impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blogojevich, but Drew Kerr had an excellent post about some of our less reputable PR cousins (no, not political press secretaries). The specific point I am drawn to is the press release put out by Blago’s publicists, crediting themselves as a source. That would be hard for me to top:

“Gov. Rod Blagojevich will go to Springfield tomorrow to present his case to Illinois senators preparing to impeach him, according to The Publicity Agency, the outside PR/publicity firm hired by the governor.”

“Blogging is a Business Requirement:” No. it’s not. Really. I understand what Shel Holtz is getting at, but one of the smartest blog posts we should always remember is B.L. Ochman’s “10 Reasons Your Company Shouldn’t Blog.” Some companies shouldn’t blog. Some will never need to. I can’t see that ever changing. Blogs are great, and I’ll often recommend them, but the first thing I will ask a client that isn’t sure is- well, “Are you sure?” A better question to answer before blogging is, “Why?” In fact, if I ever outright plagiarize a presentation idea, it’ll be Jeremy Pepper‘s presentation on social media in which he simply put up one slide with the word “Why?” on it. (Jeremy, I can’t find a link to your post about that– I’d love to link to it).

UPDATE: And here it is. thanks Jeremy!

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Uttercast: Cross-posting? Remember Context & Audience


I have often experienced "network weaving," where a conversation takes place across multiple platforms- like someone answering a Twitter question on Facebook, etc. This concept is becoming more and more common as we jam our lifestream feeds down multiple channels. I have always fed Twitter through Friendfeed and Facebook, and Utterli through Twitter and Some people don’t like to do that, but I find it lets me post in just a couple of places but reach entirely different people all over.

The challenge is keeping context. For example, now my FriendFeed comments go into Twitter. While I decide if I like that, I realize I need to add as much context as possible or risk confusing people; "Who is he talking to?" "What is the reference?"

I believe these cross-posted conversations can work. We must constantly remember our audience- and context.

How do you handle it?

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Uttercast: We Still Need the Echo Chamber


Now sit down, I’m not going to rant for or against the social media Echo Chamber. Peter Kim lays out a couple of excellent posts about breaking out. I do say we need to keep it (not that Peter is saying it should go away, but I bet some people saw it that way. My three thoughts about what we need to break social media out:

– The Echo Chamber. As I said, it shouldn’t go away. Innovative ideas grow, and the early adopters talking amongst themselves should remain as some sort of "master class."

– Education and Mix. OK, that’s two. Education is the continuing process of showing the basics to the newly-interested, and showing the benefits so people can make the case for adoption. Mix? You need to find people by going where they are: "old" media and marketing methods. Purism won’t get you new converts.

Patience. New ideas do not sell quickly; they need time to gestate. What seems not to be working now could bear fruit soon.

What is your view of the Echo Chamber?

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Social Media Top 5: Buffering Obama, Lazy Readers, & PR No-Brainers

Has Obama broken a social media promise? – I have been very skeptical of the idea that President Obama’s will be a “social media” administration. Federal government seems to me the last fortress against transparency and interactivity- at least where it comes to adopting new methods- not to mention there are a lot of things a president could not be transparent about in the name of national security. Putting the Saturday addresses on YouTube seems a no-brainer– podcasting them, making them downloadable, I can see that. The fact that there is a blog, and a Director of New Media, Macon Phillips, is pretty cool though. It’s more than I expected, but probably less than others had. Just don’t expect Obama to “@” you on Twitter.

(By the way: more thorough piece on the topic from Jen Zingsheim at Media Bullseye).


A Quick note About the Inauguration:
Relying on streaming video and the Web in general to capture major world events- the ones that millions of people drop everything to observe? My experience Tuesday leaves me thinking the Web is still not ready for true prime-time mass adoption. No stream worked in our office- we all retired to the building cafeteria to watch on CNN. When you have TV, use it. As intriguing as the Facebook application was, the Web’s performance in general just didn’t cut it. It was like trying to use Twitter during Steve Jobs’ iPhone unveiling.

Echo Chamber or Lazysphere? Peter Kim is doing a brave thing in exhorting people to break our social media discussions out of the echo chamber. Brave because it’s comfortable to talk amongst ourselves and continually prove how smart we are about social media, and easy to say “No!” if someone asks us to turn things outward. This is the big challenge for those of us using social media; using it “to transform the way we live and work.” What I really was interested in in the second post linked above, was Peter’s reference to the “Lazysphere” – people don;t read things through. On the one hand we could cater to that impulse and produce lazy content for mass consumption- or, we could call on what i like to call the “responsibility of the audience” to read critically (what I often harp on) and to read thoroughly (probably more of what Peter’s emphasis is here). Wouldn’t that create a niche of committed audiences rather than an echo-chamber-busting mass appeal? Maybe the key to getting out of the echo chamber is creating those niches – new niches. Of course, I merrily continue writing about social media– but it is part of my work.

The Best Thing About blogging? More PR People See Things from a Journalist’s Eyes. Rohit Bhargava has a nice post, “What All PR People Should Know About Journalists,” which brings perspective more PR people have that they didn’t 10 years ago; many of them are getting pitches from other PR people and can see some of the industry’s worst practices first-hand. I’m just glad I have avoided the “PR bloggers getting pitched” crowd to this point.

Also, Rohit followed up with a “What Journalists Should Know About PR People” post. Great info in both posts– I know PR people are reading, but not sure enough journalists will admit to reading this (I dare you to comment there if you are!) for me to hope for a serious rapprochement.

Isn’t it time to Retire the “It Needs to be in Print or It Isn’t Important” Crap? Ten years ago in public relations, clients would often dismiss online placements if they didn’t appear in print also- there just wasn’t much authority in bits compared to ink. When I returned to agency life four years ago, it seemed that prejudiced had all but disappeared. Was I wrong? This video (from RealWire via the Bad pitch blog) give a nice, informative look at the benefits of online media placements; searchability, etc. Can anyone tell me they still need to explain this stuff to clients? Seriously, let me know.

The Online Media from RealWire on Vimeo.

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Two Sides of Customer Service

How far should a company go to keep its customers? It actually doesn’t take very much.


Take Comcast for instance. all they have to do is listen and nip problems before they become big. Comcast’s presence on Twitter is already well-known, but I became the latest to benefit from their forward-thinking customer service. A casual mention on Twitter of wonky Internet service at home got an immediate response from “ComcastBill” and 2 days later (including a holiday) all was fixed.

Now, I have always had good luck simply calling Comcast directly, and their responsiveness has dampened any FIOS lust I may periodically develop, but this extra step, even with my knowledge of the Twitter service, still took me aback, in a very good way.

On the other side of the coin, an airline I won’t name (let’s just say it’s one of the American airlines) has a lot less to be proud of. since I’m not naming the airline, instead of a logo I’ll just put up a photo of my cat:


While the Case of the 90,000 Disappearing Frequent Flyer Miles might even be dismissed by Encyclopedia Brown as a case of customer negligence, a person who saves up miles with constantly pushing expiration dates (and previous attempts to use them stymied by insufficient airline routes) will never be pleased to find them suddenly vanished. Even less so when this is discovered on the day he is trying to book a family vacation. In this case, it is not the problem, which is common but frustrating, but the treatment by customer “service” that gets low marks.

When I tell them they have lost a customer for life: “Well sir, you obviously had been flying someone else already if you hadn’t used your miles yet.” Yes, that is Delta lipstick on my collar, and the sweet perfume of JetBlue lingering.. well never you mind. Curses! Another reason to treat me like shoe ick.

What would it have taken to keep me? They offered some solutions, but all required me spending hundreds of dollars. No thanks. I’m not asking for special treatment — ok, maybe I am, but I think everyone should get the treatment. I can be pretty loyal to companies that do a little extra for me. Just ask Comcast.

Uttercast: Pan-Mass Challenge Update


The Pan-Mass Challenge isn’t until August, and my bike remains neglected in my dark, not exactly photogenic basement, but I already have a couple of things to report:

1) Within 310 days of registering, I had already raised $150$225 from you generous folks! A great first step towards my goal of $4,200. To donate and help fight cancer, please go to:…fts/DH0159

2) I was flattered to have my recent blog post on "Why I Ride" featured via a link in the official PMC blog!…nt-to-pmc/

3) My Facebook group nearly doubled in membership. My, Facebook has grown. If you belong to the group, watch there for more updates (and begging).

I’m looking forward to a great season- thanks all for your support!

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Uttercast: It’s Not Him It’s Us


Now that Obama is President, I can look back and say how moving, impressive and awesome the whole campaign was. We have invested a lot of hope in Obama, and he may yet be a great president. Or he could be just another politician in a suit (heresy!).

What I have observed is that the real hope lies not in what Obama will do or even what he represents, but what the rest of us could do. People were moved: moved to vote; moved to serve; moved to wave the flag; moved to tears. If that inspires enough of the rest of us to do something great- or even good- then it might not matter how good a president Obama becomes.

I’m not talking about this "Obama will lead through social media" stuff either, because he won’t. He’s a top-down communicator.

The response to Obama is like nothing I have seen. The difference in the next 4-8 years? Perhaps it’s not him, it’s us.

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ADDED: I originally posted this from my mobile (as I do all my Uttercasts), so I didn’t get to include this link- but I did think of the book my friends at Mzinga, Barry Libert and Rick Faulk, just released: Barack Inc., as I was writing this. I haven’t got my hands on the book yet, but wondered if I was touching on some relevant points.

UPDATE II: and Alexa Scordato at the Barack Inc. blog was kind enough to write about this post.

Uttercast Twitter=Star Trek Facebook=Chrysler


When actor Ricardo Montalban passed away Wednesday, I inadvertantly had reinforced for me the difference between Twitter and Facebook.

On Twitter, responses to me referenced his role as Khan in Star Trek II.

On Facebook, my friends remembered his Chrysler Cordoba commercials. "Real Corinthian Leather."

Why the split? Is one group older? Geekier? Having superior intellect. Your experience may vary, but there is definitely a split between the user groups. What is your experience?

(And what does that make Utterli?)

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Why I Ride the Pan-Mass Challenge

For the second year, I have signed up to ride the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual 2-day bicycle ride across much of Massachusetts.

Why do I ride? Well, it’s easy to say it’s for a good cause, because it is. The PMC raises money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It’s a well-run, heavily-sponsored, huge event that certainly doesn’t need me to be successful. But yes, it’s for a great cause, and I hope people who sponsor me feel they are doing something wonderful that might save a life.

PMC 2008: Wally and Me

Am I riding in honor of someone who has either died of or survived cancer? While I certainly know many people who have been affected by cancer at some point, some of whom are close to me, I have never thought of it that way. I suspect cancer survivors that I do know personally aren’t going to ask me to ride in their name. I could be wrong, but I am not presumptuous that way.

As I say in my profile on the PMC site, I’m just some guy on a bike. I like to ride, and always wanted to push myself to do something more grueling than my 20-30 mile touring rides. I don’t want to pretend I’m better than someone else because I am doing this ride for a good cause. I am merely one of thousands. If you want true inspiration, read about how Billy Starr began the PMC. Not many of the riders can match that story.

PMC 2008: Day 1 Water Stop

So what do I get out of doing this? i like to ride my bike, and it’s a personal challenge. I care very much about the cause, but I learned from the many notes I got last year that the people who sponsored me got even more out of it. Several mentioned stories of loved ones who had succumbed to cancer, others who had survived the disease themselves (or even both). Others still had done the ride in the past and still wanted to support it. One donation was even from a group, the Frozen Pea Fund, that itself exists to raise money to fight cancer in the name of an online friend, Susan Reynolds. In fact, I just went through the notes from last year’s sponsors, and there are several amazing stories.

A few memories that stand out for me:

– Training with my friends, and feeling a bit bad that I often left my partner behind in the crowd during the actual ride. We both made new friends constantly as a result.

– The people who come out to cheer the riders all along the route. Incredible support. Again, a number of them are attached to the cause through a loved one suffering from cancer.

– Camping out in left-center field at the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne. This year, I will not turn back to Wellesley, but forge ahead to the traditional Provincetown finish.

PMC Reveille at Mass Maritime Acad

-The volunteers. The riders are admonished to show appreciation, and everyone who touches the PMC should give out big thanks to the people who give their time in logistics, without whom the ride is not possible.

PMC 2008: Day 1 Water Stop

– Passing the 50 mile mark on the first day (which would total about 85 miles). My longest training ride was 50 miles, so I felt I was entering uncharted waters. I was fine.

– Wondering why the NESN (New England Sports Network) camera truck kept passing me, until I realized I was riding smack in the middle of a group of the Red Sox players’ wives. I had a nice conversation with Kathryn Nixon, wife of former Red Sox player Trot Nixon. it’s amazing that she still takes part, even though she no longer has a formal connection with the Red Sox.

– Flagging in spirit and energy in the second day, until I caught up to a group of “Team 9” riders (again, sponsored by the Red Sox). this group selflessly let me hang with them, a real morale boost that helped me finish that long second day. Only some time after I joined the group did I realize they were some real “heavy hitters” – Dana Farber cancer researchers and corporate sponsors.
PMC 2008: My Team 9 Rescue Crew

Finishing was a great highlight also– but just as thrilling was making my fundraising goal the day before the ride began. This year, I am raising at leat $4,200. will you help? Just click this link to go to my fundraising page. No matter how you support me, thank you!