Cross Post: If you love your social media message, set it free – case study

I have been doing some freelance work for AgentGenius/AGBeat run my my friend, Lani Rosales, and last week wrote and article about how NOT to do social media on Facebook.

According to Scott Monty of Ford, National Car Rental was deleting negative posts about their brand from their Facebook page.Screen Shot 2011-10-25 at 9.08.45 AM

Bad, bad, bad.  Whole article is here.

Happy reading.



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Twitter, Moods and a Screaming Grasp of the Obvious

In this morning’s Washington Post there is an article entitled “Tweets tweet our emotional status.”  This article is both mundane and presents and screamingly firm grasp of the obvious.

The premise of the article is as our moods change, so do the tone of our tweets.  Well, duh.  An excerpt:

Optimism is reborn with each new day and slowly erodes as we work, study and go about our quotidian affairs. Our mood lifts as we head home to friends, family, entertainment and beer. Our outlook tends to be sunnier on weekends. And speaking of sun, when it starts to pile up in the spring or disappear in the fall, that affects our mood, too.

Well, there’s some groundbreaking news.  We hate work, errands, and love to party.  I know very few people who, on their deathbeds would say “Gosh, I wish I had done just one more day at work…[cue EKG sound of flat-lining].

There are a couple of things that caught my eye in the article, which to be honest, is not really worth reading unless you have not make the connection that we tend to share our emotions with others – or are perhaps more likely to do so via social media.  But here’s something interesting:

A new study in the journal Science examined the contents of more than 500 million tweets sent in 84 countries over two years, looking for signs of good moods and bad. It found what a lot of us could tell by looking at our own lives.

Let me see if I get this straight:  it took people or Cornell University two years, 500 million tweets and 84 countries to prove that people have emotions that go up and down and are shared via Twitter?  Wow!  And if you are a Cornell alumni donor, I would think carefully about where your money is going before writing the next check.  Just another manic mondayI doubt that you are getting a new basketball arena any time soon.

But it was the last part of the article that caused me to spit out my (expensive) Starbucks coffee:

“This is a stone in the foundation of a new social science that is being built,” said Nicholas A. Christakis, a sociologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the research. “We’re in a similar place that we were in in the 17th century with the discovery of the telescope and microscope.

Telescope.  Microscope.  17th century?  I suppose that sending a man to the moon, working on discovering a cure for cancer or eradicating such diseases as polio are way down on the list.

I think what chafes my saddle sores is that first, this is viewed as serious research rather than a firm grasp of the obvious, or second, a formerly great newspaper like the Washington Post found it newsworthy – in the A section, no less.

What’s next?  “One billion dollar study from the University of Phoenix shows that giving someone the middle finger in traffic may be tied to annoyance?”

Yeah.  Annoyance like reading this steaming pile of  pseudo-journalism.


P.S. – I would normally state something here like “Image source:  Washington Post,”  but I am pretty sure they would kick my ass if they read this post.

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Natural and Personal Disasters – and a Path Forward

Disclosure:  the basis of this article is a philanthropic effort on the part of Custom Scoop.  I have been a paid contributor to their publication, Media Bullseye, as well as a guest host (unpaid) of their podcast.

I have been giving a whole lot of thought lately to disasters, both personal and those that mother nature conjures up.  I have also been thinking a lot about the tireless efforts that many of my friends have made  – more like personal crusades – to try to bring to an end many of the sad chapters that impact so many lives.

Examples include what I have written about before, such as Shonali Burke’s #Bluekey effort.  She has worked tirelessly of late, to:

…support the USA for UNHCR, which is a US-based 501c3 that supports UNHCR’s work.. [and to] to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.  People who are forced to flee their homes or face death is a human disaster.

Next, my friend Doug Haslam is doing his annual Pan-Mass Challenge bike ride, a grueling effort in which Doug rides through 46 (this is not a typo) towns through Massachusetts and solicits contributions that are donated directly to the Jimmy Fund. Not one cent of each dollar raised through riders’ sweat and determination was used for administrative and organizational expenses.  This year is different for Doug.  On May 14 of this year, Doug’s dad passed away from pancreatic cancer.  Losing a parent to cancer (I have as well) is a family tragedy and what many consider to be a personal disaster.

Finally, one of my new pals and someone whom I admire greatly is Jennifer Stauss Windrum whose mom has Stage 4 inoperable lung cancer.  And has never smoked a day in her life.  Rather than curl up in a ball and feel badly for herself, her family and her mom, Jennifer has taken on the establishment by putting together a movement called “WTF,” as in “Where’s the Funding?”  Jennifer has fought, lobbied and garnered quite a bit of media coverage to raise awareness of a funding to fight lung cancer. And as usual, Jennifer nails it with a simple statement on her Web site:

It’s time to bring attention to the THE #1 cancer killer in the U.S and the LEAST funded.

But I am burying the headline.  There are personal disasters and man made disasters.  It seems that Mother Nature has decided to mess with us of late with a spate of tornados, among the worst hitting Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  I am also privileged to know Ike Piggot.  After working 17 hours the day at his job at Alabama Power after the tornado hit, Ike found time to make a short YouTube video, holding up a simple piece of paper with a URL of how people can get involved.  He has also written about the topic that I will (finally) get around to.

My pals at Custom Scoop have not just stood on the sidelines, watching many of these man-made disasters.  They have decided to do something to help with their flagship product:

“…CustomScoop will provide free accounts for one year to the first 100 local chapters of the Red Cross or other bona fide relief organizations that qualify after filling out a short online form. We hope that these services, valued at approximately $600,000, will help these groups that face enormous financial challenges and find their human resources stretched thin.

Why is this important?  In ANY disaster, lives depend upon the speed with which first responders receive and react to information.  And when you think about disasters like the Tuscaloosa tornado, there was information pouring in from the media, bloggers, the Red Cross, the media, state, local and federal government agencies and others.  Somewhere in that fire hose of info are nuggets of information that the first responders need.  If bloggers are helping raise money, the Red Cross and others need to connect to know how to get the money there.  If there are offers of assistance from disaster relief organizations, they need to know what if being offered and how to accept it.  Same with efforts organized by well-known social media experts like Ike. Phones may or may not work after a tornado, but with a laptop, air card and someone who has access to a platform that can help like Custom Scoop this can, at the least, help the lines of communication, and at best, help save lives.

So think about this offer and if you know of someone who is in a position to be a first responder, please pass on this link:

I wish more than anything that I could have helped Doug and help Jennifer.  I have done a small part to help Shonali’s effort.  But in a time of nasty corporate scandals, it makes me proud to be associated with the Custom Scoop family – Chip, Jen and others who have been part of the company for many, many years.

And if you can, tweet this (icon up top) to let others know that when tragedy strikes, there is a company ready and able to help.  And just to pimp a little, you can:

It’s one thing to face tragedy and disaster, and another thing to do something about it. All of the above put the “social” in social media.


Mark Story

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The Blue Key Campaign, Cynicism and Me

Before writing word one – asking you to donate a measly five bucks – I have a confession to make that will hopefully convince you of the mental journey that I have been on that has brought me to a place in which I am hitting you up for money.

  • I have social media donor fatigue.  I am probably (no, likely) a selfish jerk, but I have one or two people a week hitting me up on Facebook or Twitter asking me to help with this cause, that movement, or said anti-campaign.  I am more skeptic than philanthropist.  And I have donor fatigue.

With the preceding disclaimer, I hope to convince you that besides my overall jerk-edness, I am asking you to participate and give five bucks to the Blue Key Campaign.  Your donation gets you a blue key pin or pendant supporting the USA for UNHCR, which is a US-based 501c3 that supports UNHCR’s work.  So while you are supporting the UNHCR, you should know that they lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.

Here’s why it’s important:

My friend, Shonali Burke brought this campaign to my attention last week, and using the words from the Blue Key Web site, you will learn that there are millions of refugees around the world without places to live, clean water, many of whom are even missing family members.  And they are assisted by UNHCR.

There are more than 6,000 UNHCR staffers on the ground, in more than 128 countries around the world. These are the people who help 26 million refugees cope with life after they’ve been through unimaginable trauma.

We’re asking Americans (since USA for UNHCR works to raise awareness of the UN Refugee Agency in the U.S.), to get their own Blue Key; for just $5, you’ll show the 6,000+ UNHCR staffers all around the world, that their work – which many of us never see – is appreciated.”)

How do I connect with this?

First, Shonali is a friend and others that I admire like Kami Watson-Huyse and Geoff Livingston are involved, that tells me a lot.  The second reason is more personal.

I have a lot of stress in my life and have dedicated myself to near-daily meditation.  One of the exercises I do is to envision sending kindness to people I like, to difficult people as well and especially to those in circumstances of poverty, war and distress.  So I hear these meditation words several times a week while I am sitting my nice recliner in an expensive house in a top 10 county in the United States.  I do this, while others wonder not even where their next meal is coming from, but if they can flee a region or country where people who want to kill them for who they are or what they are – this screams for attention.

This is a big, personal disconnect and is probably also pretty selfish.

Second, I do an annual fundraiser for a charity called St. Baldricks, one that raises millions for childhood cancer research ($24 million last year alone).  But really all I do is hit friends up for donations so I can show up at a pub in Washington, DC in March, get my head shaved and get drunk.  I raise money for a wonderful little girl named Lauren, but I feel a little guilty compared to what others do to raise money.

People like Doug Haslam, who has been raising money for the Pan Mass Challenge by going on a very, very long bike ride to raise money for pediatric cancer research for years, people who really put their bodies where their causes are.  And this year, it has to be more personal for Doug, who lost his dad to pancreatic cancer on May 14.  You can also help sponsor Doug’s ride here.

So I, the cynical, donor-fatigued UN skeptic am asking you to help by donating five dollars to the Blue Key campaign – show some love to the USA for UNHCR, which is a US-based 501c3 that supports UNHCR’s work.

Think – and donate.


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Online Reputation: Why Jane Corwin’s Social Media Person Should be Waterboarded

Politics is a mean, nasty, filthy business.  Trust me, I know – I have been around it most of my working life.  Much of the process of getting elected is pushing your candidate’s positives while attempting to raise the negatives of your opponent.  But a Cardinal rule is don’t help the person opposing you by doing something stupid (read: don’t be Michael Dukakis riding in a tank).

As I have stated again and again in this space, the first rule of crisis communications is to avoid the crisis to begin with. Anticipate contingencies.  Plan for FUBARs.  Don’t step in it.

And above all, don’t leave yourself open to attack – and don’t shoot yourself in the foot.  And all of this is why Congressional candidate Jane Corwin’s social media person should be waterboarded.

Jane is running for Congress in New York’s 26th district special election.  Good for her.  She has a pretty nice looking Web site that, when you get past the usual campaign-speak is attractive and fairly informative.

Done, right?


One of Jane opponents must have did a little background research of his own and discovered that the campaign’s social media person neglected to register all of the possible domains, leaving them exposed to a parody site.  And that’s exactly what happened.  The campaign staffer registered .com, not .org.

Hence, meet the parody site,  Consider that this URL is just a hair from being the URL of the campaign site – AND – many campaign sites have .org domains because they are not considered companies.

Both sites have a virtually identical look and feel and navigation, so if one is not paying attention, until you carefully read the copy, it’s hard to tell them apart.  Here are some comparisons:

On the campaign site:

  • “Challenging the status quo and protecting your tax dollars.”

Parody site:

  • “Protecting the status quo and taking your tax dollars.”

And it goes on and on.  You can read all about the real campaign site here, but the embarrassing and (to be honest) gut-bustingly funny items on the parody site include:

  • The welcome pop-up screen:  “Together, we can make delicious soup from the bones of the poor. Sign up now to be served by Jane Corwin.”
  • The lead campaign news item on the home page: “In response to her heroic support for Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which would end Medicare in favor of an innovative program called ‘widespread human suffering,’ Jane Corwin has been given an award by Pat Boone, spokesman for the 60-Plus association. Boone was a famous singer in the days before it was learned that music could convey human emotions.”
  • Instead of “volunteer,” “donate now” and “contact” on the campaign site, the parody site lists “surrender,” “give us your money,” or “get brain implant.”

Finally, the real campaign site does, in fact, integrate Facebook.   As I write this, 809 “like” Jane.  On the parody site, instead of the “like” button, it is replaced by “coronate,” and those who like Jane include Kim Jong Il, Donald Trump and Muamar Gadaffi.

Yes, this is funnier than hell, but it’s serious too.  When someone sent me this article, I got curious to see how much coverage this has gotten beyond Jane’s district.  Jane:  ouch.

No less than the online version of Time magazine wrote about the parody site on May 6, calling it “ruthless,” but nonetheless, quoting some of the funnier lines.    The Atlantic wrote about it, calling it “…in fact, a parody site that rips the state assemblywoman as a corporate shill and hilariously mocks the stock photography and conventional political imagery on her campaign’s actual website,”

Double ouch.  And the irony is no lost on me that this special election is taking place to replace Rep. Chris Lee (R), who resigned from Congress in February after half-naked photos of him surfaced on Craigslist.

Going back to my original point, the best way to carry out crisis communciations is to avoid the crisis to begin with.  I mean, it’s what, like $39 bucks a year to register a domain?  When I was in the agency world, we once spent about $2,000 registering all possible domains (and I mean ALL) for the company, it’s senior executives, and even those that could represent acronyms.  Any time that a client balked, I would ask if they have business insurance.  The answer was inevitably “yes,” and I would tell them that while they cannot stop web sites that attack them, they can make it harder for people to quickly and easily find the negative information.  That’s your online reputation management insurance.

So dear social media person at Jane Corwin’s campaign:  your mistake to spend maybe an extra $150 bucks got your candidate lampooned online and created an echo chamber in Time magazine, the Atlantic, as well as others.

As for punishment, here’s my idea: there have to be some out-of-work waterboarders just hanging around the faucets at Guantanamo – and – information to whack Osama may have come from one of the enhanced interrogation techniques, so why not waterboard the idiot whose neglect caused this flap?  Negative aqua-reinforcement.  Or have “.com, .org, .net., .info. and .tv” tatooed on his/her forehead.

Just think: we could video it and make it into a parody site.


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