Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

Doing Corporate Blogs Right: Disney Parks Blog

mstory123 | November 20, 2011 in Intersection of online and offline,Online public relations,social media | Comments (3)

Disclaimer:  This past week, I was a guest at Disney and had the pleasure of speaking with many of their social media, marketing and communications professionals.  That visit is the nexus of this blog post.  I have not been compensated in any way to write this post.  So there.

Since it’s early days, there have been rules about blogging.  I grabbed a pretty concise history of blogging from Wikipedia:

The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. Most such writers called themselves diarists, journalists, or journalers. A few called themselves “escribitionists”… Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers,as is Jerry Pournelle. Another early blog was Wearable Wireless Webcam, an online shared diary of a person’s personal life combining text, video, and pictures transmitted live from a wearable computer and EyeTap device to a web site in 1994.

So as I write this, “early” blogging was a scant seven years ago and has now grown into more an an estimated 450 million”live” blogs in English alone according to Hattrick Associates.  This does not include “zombie” or “sleeping” blogs on which you wrote a rant about your ex-girlfriend, forgot about it, never wrote again and forgot to tell the fine folks at Blogger.  Until you got back together, she found it and she broke up with you all over again.

While blogging began on a personal level, corporations started to figure out that this was, in fact, a viable communications channel.  Cheap, easy and fast.  And if the guys living in their mom’s basements could do it, we can do it too, right?

Kinda sorta, but not really.

Traditional corporate communications was and in many ways still is, based upon a top-down, one-to-many model.  Company A makes a pronouncement from the Top of the Mount, and people will gather and eat the communications crumbs tossed down.  While this worked in a press release model, it is a train wreck in the blogging model.

Blogging is about interaction between people.  It’s about honesty, transparency and above all, being social (duh, the term “social media”).  And above all else, it needs to be authentic. Blogs are written in first-person and are designed, in most cases, to begin a conversation among either the author and readers via comments, or if things really go well, among those who are reading and commenting.

Top-Down Communications Model meet Authenticity.  Some successes, some train wrecks.

Let’s start with who does it well:  Disney Parks Blog.  As I mentioned before, I had the chance to meet some of the smart people who write and run this who understand that a blog that is clearly inauthentic, marketing-speak or the zeros and ones equivalent of a QVC commercial at 3:00 in the morning is doomed to failure.  People who read will not only be turned off, they will likely call you out.  More on that later.

What I like about the Disney Parks blog is its authenticity. People are not ghost writing;  it’s people writing.  They are not trying to shove the latest shiny object down your e-throat, they are communicating, with passion that comes through, excitement about things that Disney-philes (and there are LOTS of them) want to read.  Here’s more of what I like:

  1. The blog does not attempt to misrepresent what it is or fool you.  It’s fine to sell stuff on a blog, but be honest about it.  If you are writing about flat feet and are Dr. Scholls, people will figure out who you are and what you sell.  Duh.  But don’t give me three steaming paragraphs of marketing bwana disguised as conversation and then point me to your latest product.
  2. It is first-person.  The people who write on the blog have pictures, job titles and links to their prior blog posts.  They are real people, not robo-bloggers.
  3. Its doesn’t overwhelm you with with sales - it offers information that readers want.  Here’s an entry from November 18 of this year – in its entirety: “Guests visiting Tomorrowland in the 1950s and 1960s would encounter a unique original Disneyland character that symbolized Americans’ interest in space exploration. In this rare photo from the summer of 1960, the Tomorrowland ‘Spaceman’ is apparently joined by ‘Spacewoman.’”  Yep.  That’s IT.  And that one paragraph drew 20 comments.  So clearly someone is listening and interacting.
  4. It feeds the Disney Fan Boy Beast.  All the way back in 2009, I wrote a post entitled “I Love Disney. Ok.  There, I Said It.”  I wrote about Disney Cruise Lines and how the really got the use of the Web to provide information as well as generate interest.  And there are many, many Disney Fan Web sites out there with thousands of aficionados who make Apple Macolytes look like disinterested teenagers.  So rather than attempting to create a need, they are filling an existing thirst for information.  Big difference.  I don’t see a place where Maytag dishwasher people convene to exchange the latest settings for the rinse cycle.I don’t consider myself an A-List blogger by any means, but I have been pitched to write about crap that I don’t care about or I have seen gross misuse of social media.   But I am not going to “Like” the Facebook page of a kitchen appliance in my home – because all if want it to do is wash my dishes right.  Way back in 2009, Michael Arrington wrote in Tech Crunch:  “It’s nice to know that if I’m a facebook loser my virtual mom will call up the other kids and ask if they’ll come play with me. Because that sure worked in the real world when I was 10.”
  5. It is clear that the purpose of the blog is to inform. Rinse, lather, repeat.  The people who get it know that the real purpose of a corporate blog is to inform you.  Not sell you.  Not carpet-bomb you will corporate double-speak.  It’s like the equivalent of a TV network (by mere mention of the slogan I will get at least three flames) “We Report.  You Decide.”  As I read the Disney blog, I see it as informing me of stuff that I want to read and want to know – I am the parent of two young children.  They aren’t selling me discounted park passes or encourging me to “tell a friend” about how to buy vintage Minnie Mouse merchandise.

I would go on here, but I think you get the point.   The train tracks of corporate blogging are littered with the corpses of self-inflicted wrecks.  Sony, Wal*Mart and McDonalds.  Mazda.

Disney Parks blog gets it right.  No blog gets everything right one hundred percent of the time (I still don’t understand the “Go Network” and how it is still alive), but this is a darn good blog when you run it past the authenticity check.

And Wal*Mart, McDonalds and Sony?  I hope you are listening.


Image sources:  Disney Parks blog and AE Ashley Ellis.

Twitter, Moods and a Screaming Grasp of the Obvious

mstory123 | September 30, 2011 in In the news,Intersection of online and offline,Measurement,social media | Comments (1)

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.

Social Media, Thin Skins and Minions

mstory123 | July 22, 2011 in Intersection of online and offline,Online public relations,social media | Comments (17)

Try saying the title of the post three times fast and you’ll see just part of the problem.

Social media used to be about the word “social,” as in interactions between human beings that, for the most part are civil – and made us all better for having been a part of them.  At some point, I think this has changed in many ways.  With the relative anonymity of email, a blog post, Twitter or Facebook, it’s now a whole lot easier to criticize someone.  I often wonder if my own idea of the offline equivalent of social media, a circle of people at a party, would dissolve into name calling over a topic or a person who is not present.  I doubt it because the face-to-face component of “social” means that a certain level of decorum is established and maintained.  But what is increasingly being blurred is genuine criticism based upon solid opinions and some pretty thin skin that misinterprets it as an attack.  And the odd involvement of third parties.

For some reason, perhaps due to the relative anonymity of the interwebs, people have begun not only to take personally what they perceive to be comments about themselves too seriously, but more bizarre, implied or overt criticism of other people. This is where it gets a little weird.

This week, there was a very public disagreement between Gini Dietrich of SpinSucks (among many other pursuits) and Rick Calvert of BlogWorld.  The dispute did not even involve each other, but Chris Brogan of social media fame.  If you are in social media, you know who Chris Brogan is.  ‘Nuff said.

The past week, Chris Brogan was selling a Webinar for $47 about the inner workings of Google+.   We still have some vestiges of capitalism in this country and Chris has every right to make an offering and see if people bite and fork over $47.  But  Gini offered a point of view that Google+ is in its infancy, still not even released to the public yet, so no one could possibly claim to be an expert, including Chris Brogan.  She wrote in her post, Beware the Google Experts:

…But there are still people out there claiming to have all the secrets because they claim to have introduced Twitter to the business world so surely they understand how Google+ is going to affect your daily life. Add to that, they’ve spent 250 hours inside the tool, learning and using.

If that’s the case, I want their jobs because that means they’ve spent 11 hours, every day, for the past three weeks using Google+.

Sure, it’s my job to stay ahead of the trends and to understand them so that you can short cut your education. But it’s been 24 days.

Not everyone agreed.  In fact, Rick Calvert of BlogWorld (respectfully) disagreed with Gini’s point and asked her to publicly apologize to Chris.  Gini refused to and a debate ensued. His comments in the BlogWorld post (ironically, written by a third party) included the following:

Trust me Chris knows more about Google + and how it works today than just about anyone in the world. And yes I would bet other than taking care of his family it is all he has been doing since the day he got in beta.

“What she should not have done was use a good mans [sic] name to drive traffic to her post and associate his name with said snake oil salesmen. I’m sorry Delores but I don’t see how impugning Chris’ integrity is defensible…Gini consistently has, intentionally or not, besmirched Chris’ reputation and ethics. I still fail to see how that is defensible.

“I don’t see anyone who agrees with your opinion saying you did otherwise. You should apologize publicly. That’s my opinion.

So Gini said (and I am paraphrasing) that it was way too early to declare one’s self as a Google+ expert, and to do so was questionable.  Rick countered with the fact that he thought that Gini was singling out Chris as a charlatan or snake oil salesman – and had in the past as well.

The BWE post does not number comments, but there are lot and you should read them.  I did, and I even commented, to which Rick replied.

My point about all of this is that the “kerfuffle” (borrowing a word from Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson) a debate over a third person. So we are criticizing the criticizers and then an “amen chorus” follows in a stream comments?  It’s like a wave of third party regurgitation washing up on the shores of social media island.

Bob LeDrew also weighed in in his own blog post this week:

What concerns me is that there seems to be a feeling that there are people whose actions are beyond criticism in the social media sphere. Criticism not as in someone is gauche, has bad breath, or is stupid. Criticism as in “this is an inappropriate venture”; “you’re wrong”; “The facts don’t bear out your argument”; or “you’re contradicting what you said last week. Which is it?”

I agree with Bob.  There is snarkiness hidden behind a blog post and there is legitimate questioning – and then there is “slander” – a word that Rick used.  They are all different. It’s a fine line that is increasingly being interpreted as open warfare I think that Gini made some legitimate points and that Rick is friends with Chris and felt the need to defend him.  Again, the discourse was, for the most part, civil but I can’t help but wonder what started such a debate about a third party.  I mean, Chris is a big boy and take quite ably take care of himself.

I have felt the wrath of others myself. Oh, boy, have I:

Yeah, I got snarky in March 2009 (post is entitled “Shut Up, Mr. Scoble” when the Scobelizer made comments about the public relations industry – that in which I have worked for more than 15 years, that include the following:

  • “PR is dead.  The way that PR is practiced is just..lame.”
  • “Most of PR has ’sucked.’  If you think it’s not, just be a blogger for a little while. And watched the thousands of stupid-ass pitches flow through your screen.”
  • “Anybody who pitches you on email is stupid.  The chance that I am going to listen to anyone who pitches me email on frikkin’ email is one percent.”
  • [Someone] showed me a block of wood…that was better than the stupid-ass pitches I get in email.”
  • People who stand up for the PR industry, they just don’t get it.”

I took offense to this – big time – and my major point was the following:

If you become an A-Lister and make a good living (while many of very good public relations people in this country are being laid off, by the way) it is beyond self-absorption to complain about “stupid-ass pitches” that you receive because of the very notoriety that you sought, built and benefit from.  You even mentioned that you get pitches from people who are panicked that their companies are going to go out of business – and call them “lame.”

I’m not enough of a A-Lister (hell, I am probably not a C-Lister) so Mr. Scoble never responded.  But again, like the situation that I described above, a third person took up the cause for Scoble, John Aravosis in his own post, “Robert Scoble is Right“.  Without naming me – I am the “one public relations ‘expert’” (but linking to my blog post – thanks for all of the click-throughs, John):

It was suggested by one public relations ‘”expert,” the one who posted the shirtless picture of Scoble, that Scoble deserved the spam he got because he’s a successful blogger [editors note: I was not the one who took off my shirt and had pictures taken.  He did].

Regardless of whether Scoble, I, or anyone else wanted “the notoriety,” I’m not sure how that excuses a PR expert, who is presumably paid a good deal of money to promote their boss or client, from sending a bad pitch to the wrong guy.

PR Expert: I emailed Scoble and Aravosis the latest pitch about the new floor wax our client is selling.

Client: You asked a tech blogger and a political blogger to write about our floor wax? How does it help us get the message out there about our new product by sending it to people who we know, in advance, don’t even write about products like ours?

PR Expert: They’re A-listers and they wanted the notoriety – they deserve whatever they get!

That’ll be $50,000 up front, and $20,000 a month in retainer.

I am not going to revisit Aravosis’ comments – that I still disagree with – but again, this debate took place over a third person. Has social media devolved into a spitball match with a degree of anonymity in which we are not allowed to lodge what we believe to be honest and insightful criticisms of others without third parties taking us to task, defending their buddies?

I sure hope not, because then through legitimate discourse and criticism, the criticism becomes slander, the defensible becomes the indefensible and the “social” goes out of “social media.”

I sure as hell hope not.


What “Social Networks” Really Mean – It Ain’t Zeros and Ones

mstory123 | June 29, 2011 in social media | Comments (4)

I have been ruminating about this post for over a week, and when I give that much time to think, I try to offer a post that is more than my typical rant, firm grasp of the obvious or take on social media.  I try to offer something that, well, says something.

This is one of those times.

I have learned a lot more than I thought I knew about social networks the past couple of weeks.  No, not the movie that trashes Mark Zuckerberg, but what is at the heart of social media.  The magic is not in the technology, it’s in those who use it and what is in their hearts.  So forget Klout (barf), Empire Avenue and the latest toy that is all the rage and dangling IPOs to Wall Street.  The people who offer messages that convey intentions, intense feelings and wishes are prime example of social networking.

As I have mentioned in the past, an unfortunate driving force in my life has been cancer – its insidious nature and even in treatment, it’s horrific impact on the patients, families and caregivers.  For this reason, I have been vocal (and probably annoying) in my support of The Jimmy Fund, St. Baldrick’s, Doug Haslam’s Pan Mass Challenge and now Jennifer Stauss Windrum’s WTF (Where’s the Funding? – as in, for lung cancer). Author’s note: if you have not already, donated, you cheap bastards.

Jennifer has written a moving post about this, so I’ll keep the summary short and sweet.  Her mom, who is suffering from stage 4 inoperable cancer, has endured years of treatment.  Through and eloquence and bravery that I could not have summoned during my own experience with this, she has chronicled the journey and used her energy to advocate for more funding for lung cancer (her mom never smoked, as she often rightfully points out).  She and in her mom were in a bad place (literally, stuck in Denver) and those of us in a Facebook group saw that she was hurting – hurting and exhausted.  When you are not sitting next to someone, you still have the opportunity to use a social network to impact someone’s life – the emotions are real, but the vehicle is just that – it’s used to transport an emotion from one person to another – or to a group of people.

Jennifer brought along two sock monkeys that her daughters gave her to help cheer up her mom.  It was then that an idea germinated – elegant in its simplicity, yet – what we had hoped – powerful in its impact.  And apparently it was.

On Saturday, many of us in the Facebook group decided to change our profile pics to sock monkeys to show Jennifer, her mom and others involved in this fight that, although miles separated many of us, we were right there with her.  Although the idea surfaced on a Saturday morning, by the end of the weekend, an overwhelming number of people had changed their profile pics to sock monkeys to demonstrate our support.  Jennifer was tied up most of the weekend, but when she discovered our efforts, she emailed me the following:

“I am overwhelmed and blessed…Please tell everyone how touched my mom and I are.”

And in her blog post, she said:

OMG. OMG. I was literally speechless…and crying even more. I showed one of my friends what was going on. She started crying too. It was just so touching (you know, in a punk way). MORE than touching…and hilarious at the same time.”

The wonderful news about this – and I believe that some good always emerges from tragedy – is that so many people took advantage of a social networking platform to touch Jennifer and her mom in what we presumed to be a low point in their battle against cancer.

My main point is it’s not about the zeros and ones and the ridiculous new, shiny social media objects that seem to show up daily.  It’s about the bonds, the shared experiences, the pain, support, happiness and sorrow that are felt, conveyed and delivered.  They are delivered by social media, but where all of this is generated is in someone’s heart – and delivered via a keyboard and Internet connection.

Know how those ridiculous car ads say that although the car might say “Toyota” or “Nissan,” it’s “made with pride in the U.S.A?”  Well, this something was made through compassion and delivered through support via zeros and ones.  And punks – and you know who you are – you are the best.

And I know you really know this now, but we love you Jennifer.


Natural and Personal Disasters – and a Path Forward

mstory123 | June 14, 2011 in crisis communications,In the news,Intersection of online and offline,Online public relations,social media | Comments (0)

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