Instagram Licensing Your Photos? Here are Some They Can Use Now

Instagram, the popular app for making your crappy mobile photos look like, well, slightly less crappy photos, has the Internet up in arms with its recent announced change to its Terms of Service. In January, Instagram will begin reserving the right to license and profit from any of the photos you upload to Instagram and make money selling them for ads. No royalties for you, no permission asked, not even an opt-in.

Amateur crap-tographers are understandably upset. While Instagram has always been suspiciously bereft of any form of rights licensing to uploaded works – unlike, say, Flickr – this has seemed to make social media savants so angry that their iPhone shots are blurrier than usual as their hands shake from anger.

I, however, embrace this. What right have I to expect that things I upload should be treated with respect by the service? After all, it’s free and I don’t own the platform. My precious images, and any content I publish elsewhere, should be free for plunder and profit to all but me.

In that spirit, I thought I would pick a few images from my own Instagram account and suggest brands that could use them in some super ads:

Instagram Photo

This is an extreme close-up of my hand. If any soap company (Dove? Irish Spring?) would like to use this, I’ll be happy to pretend I use it to keep them looking like this.

Instagram Photo

That’s a sausage. Jimmy Dean, all yours.

Instagram Photo

Old El Paso? Tostitos? Ortega? Salsa brands, it’s first come first serve for this muy caliente photo.

Instagram Photo

Jeep or Honda? Based on the parking skills on display, I’d say Honda.

Instagram Photo

Toastmasters – recruiting? Here you go.

Instagram Photo

And of course, sports physical therapists from all over the country will want to grab this one. I’m assuming the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association have also relinquished their rights.

Nobody Likes a Smartass, Unless It’s Apple

apology deniedHave you ever received a traffic ticket you felt was underserved, and just wanted to serve the police officer a platter of snark? Apple doesn’t see why you can’t do that.

The following is one of the snottiest public tweakings of a court of law I have seen, not that I go looking for this sort of thing. In Cupertino, Apple calls it “Friday.”

The lawsuits Apple pursued against Samsung alleging the latter copied the iPad design for its Galaxy tablets has been reported elsewhere better than I will explain, but there is this: in the UK, Apple did not win at least part of its argument, and the judge ordered Apple to publicly apologize to alert the British public that the Samsung products are indeed not knockoffs of the iPad. Sounds unusual to me, the legal naïf, but there you go.

After losing on appeal, Apple did as ordered, including posting the apology on its own web site. If you read that link, you may note that apple was hardly contrite, choosing instead to mock Samsung, and by extension the British legal system, in the process.

Of course, Apple fanboys (and girls) likely saw this as a clever display of Apple’s omnipotence and superiority in design, as a PR professional my first reaction was: could any client get away with such hubris? The answer, of course, is no – unless you are Apple, where hubris is their PR.

With any other PR client, a letter like that would be the start – or escalation – of a crisis. For Apple, it’s “Thursday.” Such is life in the tech world.


Photo credit: passiveaggressivenotes on Flickr

Jerseys of the Pan-Mass Challenge

Last month, I completed my fifth Pan-Mass Challenge, riding my bike 170 miles over 2 days to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and fight cancer. As always, it was a well-run event, and despite the hot weather I loved every mile and biked well.

As for the fundraising, a big thank you to everyone who helped me reach my personal goal of $7,500. Despite reaching my goal, I am happy to raise more funds to help the PMC organizers reach the overall goal of $36 million. That sounds like a lot, but the Jimmy Fund and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute do great work in cancer research and treatment. Also, 100% of funds raised go directly to DFCI. So, if you are inclined to help, please donate at And again, thank you.

My other, less serious challenge was doing something different with my ride video. After five years, that can be difficult. This year, I focused on the different jerseys the 5,000 riders wear, many indicating the teams they ride for in honor and memory of loved ones stricken with cancer. My view:

Music- “The Aftermath Never Adds Up” by Leaving Richmond

#Social Media Breakfast Boston (#SMB29): Social for Sales & Business Growth

This past Friday I attended Boston’s 29th Social Media Breakfast: Social for Sales and Business Growth.

First, I should mention that this month marked the fifth anniversary of the first-ever Social Media Breakfast, organized by Bryan Person. That first was simply a meetup, but was so well-attended it turned into a series with themes, speakers and a presence in dozens of cities.

Different themes get different audiences and have different takeaways- this one, for me, underlined the importance of marketing,, sales, PR and advertising to all be on the same page. While PR makes sense for engagement on content channels, ultimately we are trying to deliver business results in social media, and aligning with sales and delivering and measuring results are the areas where a lot of major victories are being scored.

The speakers at SMB 29 were:

For a taste of what impressed the attendees, see the content posted below- and feel free to add your impressions in comments.


Why I’m Not #positivelysocial and Why That’s OK

Pecha Kucha: Positive Negative PatternsThis past week, I saw a post from my friend Scott Monty (Social Media fella at Ford Motor) about the seeming incivility of the social web, and calling for people to be more positive.


He also referenced a post by Frank Eliason, (social media honcho at Citibank) more specifically calling for a #positivelysocial day on August 14.

I like the idea of thinking more about what you say online, though frankly we each have our own style. But I am more interested in fostering constructive dialogue- including criticism, rather than forcing positivity on people. The problem with having your heart in the right place is everyone knows where to step on it.

But rather than just putting vinegar in Frank and Scott’s Cheerios (see? I made that tired cliché much more “nice” by cleaning it up a little – maybe it works!), and more to the point of my call for constructive dialogue, I’ll lay out why I absolutely hate the idea of a #positivelysocial day and what, perhaps, we can do instead.

How about being positive on any day?

This is my main objection – personally I don’t like being told what to do. I’m nice when I find things to be nice about. Saying we need to be nice on a certain day means we miss opportunities to be critical when we must. In fact, my first rule of criticism within our industry is that it makes us better. I don’t think we need to watch idly as some professionals trample our  best practices, just because today is “Be Nice to $%@^’s” Day.

Pro Tip: if your employer or client is absolutely determined to do something awful or stupid on the social web, have them do it August 14. If it’s #positivelysocial day maybe they won’t get hammered with “#FAIL” hashtags as badly

Much negativity on the net is incurable

We call them Trolls for a reason: they are ugly monsters, and we do best to simply avoid them. They will not change their behavior and they will certainly not be magically convinced to be nice because we asked them to. I must admit, the “giving the Winter Warlock a Choo-Choo” bit seems tempting, but the Winter Warlock never got a YouTube account before that goody two-shoes Kringle got to him.

The existence of trolls relegates #positivelysocial, awareness aside, to an ineffectual stunt.

Another thing: the examples Frank gives in his post are not relevant to how I see this issue. One example is the young lady who wrote the ill-advised article stating that only people under 25 should be hired as community managers, only to run away and hide rather than, well, engage the community. In my opinion she deserved much of the criticism she got and she had ample opportunities, all ignored, to create a constructive discussion. The other, the poor girl who muffed the National Anthem (a difficult song to sing- sheesh), was trolled on YouTube, one of the notorious cesspools of the Internet. Want to weed out negative comments on YouTube? Lock the trolls in and (figuratively) burn the whole thing down.

Well, that’s not happening.

Criticism isn’t just negativity, it’s important

I’ll agree that the more civil we are when we disagree, the better. I’ll also agree that it’s easier to criticize than point out the good. But setting aside one day to be positive just does not compute with me.

So I, for one, will ignore #positivelysocial as a holiday. I might rebel by saying positive things on August 13- I might even say “unsanctioned” nice things on the 14th. But if we don’t make our goal education and the improvement of our industry and those who practice within it, it’s just a stunt.

“Nasty” vs “Respectful”

This is really just a repetition of the trolls vs the honest critics point above, but it’s worth making and worth saying again. I will concede that some of us in the social media marketing industry get nasty. I will also concede that there are some good instructional points in Frank Eliason’s follow-up post on how to be nice.  There is an art to being critical (or, if you must say it, “negative”), and I have my own tips here:

  • Be constructive: Don’t just hate, say what you might do differently. Also point out what you do like about the thing you don’t like, but don’t go so far as to make stuff up because you’re trying to be nice. Hey, I tried to do that here; how successful I’m being you will have to judge.
  • Use humor: But only if you’re good at it. Nothing is worse than a badly-timed (and yes, text has timing) joke.
  • Continue the dialogue: don’t just hate and get out. If the person you are talking to – or others – join in a discussion, stay at it. As with humor, you need judgment, in this case to know when it’s just becoming a flame war.
  • Don’t pile on: Criticism has a point – attacking an idea (and proposing a better one) is often cool, attacking a person because they “don’t get it” gets tiresome. If the person truly doesn’t get it (whatever that means) move on.
  • If you are criticized, don’t be thin-skinned: Make it constructive instead of just calling people haters. Defensiveness smells of weakness. Trolls call it “breakfast.”

My parting words: Don’t conflate “be nice” with “don’t criticize.” That’s my biggest fear regarding this whole stunt. If I can’t honestly question what you are doing, whether out of curiosity, criticism or some other reason, then what are you doing on the social web? In the community of social media PR and marketing professionals, critical discussion is our most valuable currency. Don’t devalue that. It’s better to know how to be critical than not to be critical at all.

Feel free to skewer this thinking (and me) in the comments). Or say something nice, even if it’s not August 14.

image credit: bluekdesign on Flickr


“Manage Multiple Content Streams Like” at PRSA Digital Impact

The original version of this piece appeared in Voce Nation, the blog by Voce Communications, a Porter Novelli Company

At PRSA’s Digital Impact Conference at the beginning of April, our (Voce’s) client, Kathy O’Reilly, and I were honored to be asked to speak about how we manage Monster’s social media publishing program. The session, titled “Manage Multiple Content Streams Like,” addressed the many elements of planning and executing a complex social media program from both the company and agency sides. What follows are some of what I felt were the more interesting parts of our talk.

Blogs are not dead

The “blogs are dead” meme didn’t rear it’s ugly head that I saw at Digital Impact, but the basic concept of a “hub and spoke” content strategy- the hub being on-domain content, usually a blog, and the spokes being off-domain platforms such as Facebook and Twitter- was prevalent throughout. Certainly our program with, as well as with our various other clients, is predicated on this concept, but I also saw it outlined from different points of view. Most notably, Lee Odden’s session on optimization espoused Hub and spoke from the standpoint of search effectiveness.

Simple Hub and Spoke Model (image by Josh Hallett of Voce Communications)

“Hub and Spoke” is not Always that Simple

While we started from “hub and spoke” in our presentation we quickly noted that a simple hub and spoke is not always possible or ideal. In the case of Monster, there are three main blogs on the company’s domains. feeding several Twitter accounts and Facebook page, serving a variety of audiences (which nonetheless cross over), and being fed by other content platforms such as YouTube, SlideShare and Flickr. On top of that is the constant onslaught of new platforms that we research, consider and try (such as Google Plus and Pinterest). The image I created to express this, versus the clean and simple “hub and spoke” slide, purposely expresses the chaos which we work together to bring to order.'s Complex Hub and Spoke

Personal Voice is Important, but Corporate Voice is Paramount

In this age of overemphasis on “personal brand” and the cliché status of terms like “join the conversation” and “engage,” it is still important to have voice- and voices. We covered the various people who represent the different sides of’s personality, from the job-seeker focus to employers to the straight corporate voice. Monster stresses the identification of real people with names, faces and their own voices (this includes guest authors) but with a consistent company voice running through all the content. This isn’t easy, but constant communication among all those producing and coordinating the content results in a consistency that can survive the personnel changes that all companies must endure- even among their social media spokespeople. Monster is not immune to those changes, and we have helped them make a number of transitions.

Inter-Agency Cooperation is Not Just an Ideal

For years, I have dreamed of the perfect agency-client relationship where all the departments responsible for communication speak to each other and coordinate efforts to a single clear goal. It doesn’t always happen; otherwise we wouldn’t hear so much about “breaking down silos.” Something we have also learned is that the various agencies need to be brought into a unified planning strategy. Therefore, we work with Monster’s PR, branding, advertising, media buying, and any other outside agencies along with the larger internal communications people to coordinate long-term efforts and larger campaigns. It’s essential, and I fear that not every company thinks that way. The pain of coordinating so many moving parts (and squeezing too many people into a conference room) pays off on the other end

We Put Tools Last, But You Knew We’d Do That (Right?)

The time we spend on tools is disproportionate to t their importance to the strategy. We need them, but only after we know what, why and how we are doing. We feel one of the agency’s jobs is to know what we can about tools so we can:

  • Recommend the best tools for the job
  • Know how to use the tools- not every client uses the same systems
  • Be able to recommend and jump in with the various “point solutions” on a short-term basis when needed for quick turnarounds

Tools are in their place.

Illustrating the system as “complex” is not the same as saying it is too “complicated.” It was a pleasure for us to talk together in front of a crowd of peers and validate our approach to content publishing.


PR Doesn’t Need To Be Objective – Just Ethical

IMG_0882There has been a lot of talk, much of it oblique, about public relations and objectivity- or the lack of it. Much of the most recent talk has stemmed from an active effort to relieve the long-time ban on corporate and agency PR agent participation in wikipedia edits, leading to a Facebook group started by Phil Gomes with much active participation from both sides. A fascinating discussion that I have been honored to be a (very) small part of and more so to simply watch it take place. Perhaps it will lead to some practical conclusions and changes.

At part of the heart of the Wikipedia matter is the notion that public relations people are not, by profession, objective, and therefore cannot be trusted to act ethically. Aside from that being a rather fantastic conclusion (lack of ethics) to draw from what is really a more mundane fact (lack of objectivity), I have always found the line of thought puzzling.

I was reminded again of this topic thanks to a discussion with CustomScoop’s Jen Zingsheim during my regular guest stint on the Media Bullseye Roundtable podcast. At the center was a post by Richard Bailey on objectivity and neutrality. Referencing the Wikipedia fight, he goes on to make a broader appeal to forgive PR’s lack of neutrality on the grounds that PR can still be objective.

I understand that thinking, if you define objectivity as the presentation of facts that cannot be denied. Certainly this is at the heart of the Wikipedia struggle- the ability of partisans who hold first-hand knowledge to be able to correct simple factual errors. However, I think we should take a step back and say: why apologize for not being neutral, for being biased?

The fact is, even journalists, as objective or neutral (I have a harder time than Bailey distinguishing between these two terms) as they try to be, always have a point of view. It can’t be helped. It behooves the audience to know what they can about the author, editor, contributor, correspondent or publisher and make determinations about the trustworthiness of content by considering the source and adjusting to that.

Public relations? No need to be neutral, objective or whatever you want to label it. PR is partisan. Ethical is good enough.


Photo Credit: joelogon (Flickr)

TEST POST I’m the Mayor of Voce’s Winter Haven Office

Social Media: From Status to Stories, We’re Entering a Whole New World of Shiny

I am newly tempted to rename this blog “The Long View” because I find it painful to see people get whiplash as they turn to see the new shiny objects of social media whip by. I wonder if I get tagged as an angry nerd (ok, I have) for not being too quick to embrace the latest and greatest. The truth is, I am aways suspicious of new platforms being declared “The Next XXX ” before it has had a chance to mature a little and give users enough chance to figure out how the platform is going to work for them. Google Plus has been a prime example, making some folks giddy before most people – especially businesses – we’re able to use it, a direct before it was even complete. Not that I don’t think it will make a huge impact, but if the train is leaving the station, say, in eight months, don’t line us up on the platform today.

I have seen several tools vying for “next big thing” status lately, but rather than fitting these for crowns, I see them – and others – fitting into a larger trend, whether they succeed or not.

Pinterest: Wowie-wow-wow has Pinterest gotten a lot of buzz lately. It’s very compelling in that it provides a simple visual way to organize links, visuals, products, or other items. You can see my first Pinboard here (photos of my son playing sports) and there have been several wonderful examples of organizations and companies putting up some nice Pinterest pages; the most recent I caught was the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market in New York City. Many of my friends are caught up in and addicted to various Pinterest pages. Frustratingly, many more can’t interact with Pinboards the way they ought, as Pinterest is an ivite-only beta product. That will pass, but it shows how quickly people will jump on a bandwagon – before it has all its wheels. The question is for brands is, is this something good they can’t already build easily on their existing websites and blogs? It’s worth asking.

Path: this was presented to me as a new way to separate your closer group of friends from the rabble on Facebook. But can’t you tier friends online, Facebook? Certainly you can using Circles on Google Plus. Also, it focuses on “journaling,” to my main point buried below. Yet, Path gains users, so it’s worth watching.

Instagram: As an Android user, this one mystifies me. How can an iPhone/iPad only app be haied as a next big thing? Love Apple all you want, but that app environment hardly constitutes Everyone. Sure, my making fun of Instagram photos as people purposely denigrating their photography to resemble 40-year-old Polaroids is probably missing the point. Also, the Android problem will be solved shortly. I’ll be eager to see what the fuss is about, as that fuss seems to be centered on the interactions among the network of photo sharers.

Storify: This one seems to be more of a slam-dunk. The ability to curate other sources easily and assemble them into a story is attractive. If you can insert that into your own platform, into your own site or blog, all the better. Makes sense, it’s just a matter of how many people or companies catch on.

Overall, what I do see? Storytelling is the new focus of social media apps. We see this in Facebook’s new Timeline. We saw it in Gowalla attempt to differentiate as a location-based service before it got sold. We saw it in the much-hyped Color (is that one still happening?). Social tools are moving beyond status updates, what we are doing, and towards telling stories, filling get in the gaps of what we have done, what we are doing, and what we want to do. My main question is, did social network users ask for this? As for the overall community, I’m not sure. Facebook seems to have forced Timeline on us rather than asking. This change to “stories” rather than “status” is far from complete, but has been openly attempted numerous times. It’s where we’re going right now, like it or not.