Blog Action Day: Poverty

I will make this post short and sweet, because sometimes, the less said, the better.  Today is International Blog Action Day 2008 and I am happy to be a part of it with my little blog.  This year’s topic is poverty.

Here comes the disclaimer: I live in a nice neighborhood, have two great, stable jobs and my life is pretty good.  But yesterday, I was talking with a colleague at work whose nine year-old daughter asked her parents last week if they wanted to keep her allowance for a while – not give it to her.  Strange thing for a nine year-old to ask.  Why?

It turns out that two of her classmates’ fathers has recently lost their jobs. Stories like this, from the protected cocoon in which I live, bring it home a) how fortunate I am, and b) not others share the same fortune.  I may complain about my 401(k) tanking, but at least I HAVE a 401(k).

My last note is that, as a dad with two young children, I focus intently on helping them understand how fortunate we really are.  That usually includes a trip to the basement for them to forage for un-played-with toys, put them in a box and take them to a local day-laborer site, the Casa de Maryland.  Last year was the first time that we tried this, and thinking through the minds of small children, I started with just one box and a request to “think hard” about the toys they didn’t want.

We ended up with four boxes of toys, a very grateful staff at the Casa de Maryland and one very proud father. We are fortunate, but not everyone is.

Mark

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I Knew It Would Happen: Now We Can Really Measure Twitter

I’m doing a lot of thinking these days about measurement of the effectiveness of public relations programs.  We’re covering this in my class and my day job is, well, getting kicked around a bit of late.

I have long been a proponent of the premise that, in order to do good measurement, you need a “mashup” of tools.  You need to look at, of course, print, blogs, Web sites, message boards (especially in the world if finance), but measurement often lags behind the subject matter that it measures.

I’m coming late to the party, but ReadWriteWeb reported on the Twittermeter, a way to measure mentions in Twitter.  They state:

Enter Twittermeter. Twittermeter uses the Twitter API to scrape the site’s public feed and creates a database of every word sent over Twitter. Though database overages have forced the site to display only results for the past week, they have data since November 6th, 2007 totaling over 14.5 million words from 2.1 million status messages.

Twittermeter creates buzz graphs comparing words. For example, the graph below for the word “earthquake,” clearly shows a spike during the UK quake that took place earlier this week.”

Cool.  The challenge, for communicators, is now to add that to one big tent.  I am an unabashed fan of Custom Scoop, a platform that, while collecting information for thousands of print sites and blogs, also offers one of the opportunity to accept .xml feeds from other sites.  The more that you can measure under one big tent, the better. Tweetscan (or Twitter Search, whichever you call it) can also do it.

And while I am at it, measurement should not be about the tone or favorability ot articles, but of mentions of the company or issue that you are tracking.  Thanks to Katie Payne, I am now a disciple of “Measuring Public Relationships.

Mark

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I Might Just Opt Out of Social Media for a While

Like many other people who are my peeps, I start my day off with some online news, peruse a couple of blogs, check Twitter (my tweeps), and sometimes even jump over to Facebook.

But I think that I am going to opt out of social media for the next month or so.  For me, it’s pretty simple.

I am hatin’ the hatin’.

Believe me, I am a First Amendment guy.  Most of the free world does not enjoy the freedoms that we do (read: China) when it comes to expressing individual opinion, especially via a vehicle that is targeted for mass distribution, like blogs, Twitter or Facebook.  But for me, it’s depressing as hell to open up social media tools and see so much venom spewed regarding the upcoming elections.  Again, see above — I am a First Amendment guy — but I am so tired of reading what are supposed to be either pithy or downright mean-spirited comments from both sides of the political aisle.  It’s a depressing way to start the day.

For example?

  • “If I was [sic] John McCain, I would have insisted that the debates not be shot in HD.”
  • All of the McCain-Palin signs have gone missing from my neighborhood. And I thought Obama transcended politics.”
  • My neighbor got a new McCain-Palin sign. In fact, now he has two. Take that Obama sign stealers.”
  • Example #4980 why Congress is broken: The bailout vote was technically on the “Paul Wellstone Mental Health & Addiction Equity Act of 2007.”
  • Is the economy fixed yet?”
  • Is there anything about McC that you find NOT hypocritical lately?”

All of these represent Tweets or status updates that I have seen in the last week – hence, my decision to try to Opt Out of Ugliness.  You see, I have lived and worked in the nation’s capital since 1987 and have never — ever– seen such venom on both sides of the political aisle.  I am pretty sure that it was always there, it is just that the social-media-Hyde-Park-Speaker’s-Corner-Soap-Boxes did not yet exist.

So for all of you out there who are exercising your constitutionally-given right to express your political views, have at it.

But I can’t believe that I would EVER quote him — but of all of people, Howard Stern often said “if you don’t like what you are hearing, turn the radio dial.”  So for a while, I am out of the ugliness.

Mark

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Thanks, David

I try to keep this blog and my “day job” separate, but my pal David Wescott of “It’s Not a Lecture” had some very kind words for me in a post yesterday that merit a big “thanks”:

Kudos to my old pal for being named Director of New Media for the Securities Exchange Commission. We don’t work together anymore but I’ve enjoyed keeping up with him on Twitter and his blog. I don’t typically say nice things about Republicans, but here goes:

Under Chairman Cox’s leadership, Mark Story has helped usher in a new chapter of communication and accountability to a government agency that is widely perceived to be as “old school” as it gets. Mark is creative and dynamic and I think he’s going to help companies make their financial information more clear and accessible.”

These words of praise are truly meaningful because, trust me:  David gets it.  He is one of the leading political, mommy blogger and social media experts out there.  And he learned it the same way I did:  by trying stuff and figuring it out.

Thanks, pal.  And go Sox!

Mark

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Good PR Measurement and Delivering Bad News

I’ve just finished preparing a lecture for my upcoming class this week and have been culling some wonderful information from Katie Delahaye Paine’s book, “Measuring Public Relationships.”

Among the absolutely useful and easy-to-understand advice Katie offers are nuggets like:

  1. AVEs – Advertising Value Equivalents are a bad measurement of value because, among about 50 other reasons, you can’t compare apples to oranges:  As Katie says, “..there is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that a six-column inch ad has the same impact as a six-inch story in the same publication.”  Amen.
  2. There are indeed other valuable, albeit not perfect, ways to measure the impact of, well, impacting relationship with stakeholders like CPMs (cost per thousand impressions – and maybe someone can explain to my mathematically-challenged self who the genius was who thought to throw a “1,000″ in the formula, and CPMCs – Cost Per Messages Communicated (better) that is based upon message impressions, rather than article impressions.

Measurement is wonderful, and in the field of public relations (NOT ADVERTISING, NOT MARKETING) something that I consider to be an evolving area.  But here’s the rub:

Too often than not, I have seen fastidious and excellent research carried out (usually internally and not paid for through a vendor) that absolutely contradicts the thinking of a senior executive or company leader.  And I have died a little internally when I have seen this wonderful research get treated like CIA secret documents headed for the burn bag.

What to do then?  Katie mentions, importantly, to run the internal traps before planning a research program, but I have often seen that senior executives are fascinated with research — until it goes against their thinking.

Mark

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