Thursday, April 29, 2010

Now's the Time for Some Hot Cool Running

Now is the time for some hot races. Or rather, here are a few hot races in cool places. Either way, break out the new running shoes, the hip-swaying music and head out into the wild blue!

The Hood to Coast Relay; the longest relay in the Northwest some may say. After hearing a few friends talk about it, I of course went home late one night and Googled it. I found this article talking about a brand blunder regarding the race itself from a brand strategist, but also a race fan. that's the power of social media screwing you over twice. Still sounds interesting...

What's better than off-road running, featuring lots of mud and more than 15 challenging obstacles, all for the price of $60?? A kick-ass post race party that is sure to be as dirty and delicious as the race itself. Dubbed the "Mudathlon Series," in Chicago and Indianapolis, the very idea of "running amuck" sounds simply irresistible.

Any one (or all if you have the balls) of the Rock 'n Roll marathon series races are worth the pain. Not that the race itself will push you over the edge, but the races tend to take place at times and locations OF WAY TOO MUCH FUN. So, there, I warned ya. Plus, if you decide to take up the Vegas challenge (I am) then you no doubt will have to stop in at the World Famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop (I AM!! I AM!!) to meet the gang, try not to kiss Chumlee in front of your boyfriend (or really, go ahead...there is no way a boyfriend would get jealous of Chumlee. Unless he is the type of boyfriend that may get jealous of you getting to smooch on the likes of such a lee-like-chum...hmmm) And while you are out that way, make sure one of your pit stops is the Red Rock Running Company. The only thing I purchased there was "magic beans," I'll call them because magically I could eat them after a night of pillaging and overindulgent partaking, take a short nap by the pool and head out onto the ever-entertaining boardwalk for a two hour run before starting the destruction all over again. I think I bought - and consumed - five bags of sports beans for a three day trip...

Of course, I would be remiss not to disclose my personal favorite; the Bank of America Chicago Marathon...wa-hoo!...set for Sunday, October 10. Gulp. I'm totally ready. Ready to take a nap and eat a bag of chips, perhaps, but ready for a full-on 26.2 miles of marathoning bliss? Ummmm...I gotta few months, yes?!?!

This year celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Maui Marathon. Hawaii, that is. 'Nuff said...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Opting to "Opt-Out"

I can say that I've tried to use them all when they initially come out.

No, I'm not talking about anti-aging face creams, though now that I am thinking...

I'm actually talking about new communication tools via social media. Things like delicious, Google Wave, Google Buzz, Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Picasa, MS Sharepoint, Lotus Greenhouse, MySpace, YouTube, and on and on and on. It's a moving target, really, this ubiquitous idea of social media for all kind all the time simply means that things will come and go, and furthermore, people won't care once something is gone. Mashable ran an article nearly 6 months ago that touted the top 10 tools for entrepreneurs, and no doubt that list would surely look different if updated today.

So what the hell is Facebook doing now?

An article in the Christian Science Monitor titled, "How long before Facebook users revolt against the latest update?" uncovers the new era of forcing people to "opt out" instead of giving users the chance to choose, when it comes to information that may broadcast more than you are willing to share with your connections; things like online activity that occurs outside of Facebook. And I'm  not just talking about your favorite online shopping destination, but maybe how often you visit an online poker site, banking site, religious site and more. Unless you go in and set it to not show off your habits and preferences, you very well likely will be advertising for your personal vendors very much like a t-ball teams shirts advertise for the local pizza joint and auto store. That's a tough pill to swallow for folks who think they are playing by the rules and using the tool for what it was meant; sharing in a secure environment. You decide what you want to share. You decide who you share it with. That's the goal. That's what we think of when we use Facebook. That's why Facebook has trumped things like MySpace and YouTube. Even the U.S. Military thinks that Facebook offers a secure enough environment for their deployed troops to remain connected to loved ones.

Until you are duped, a regular user will operate under the false pretense that all is well and good. Once you are duped, I wonder if you will trust again.

I guess that's the plight of all things good and evil. I guess I can live with such optimism in the face of such potential farce. But believe me, I will be listening more for those step-by-step instructions on how to "opt-out."

Albert Einstein said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." But really, how much do we really understand about the theory of relativity?

And I'm not even going to mention what I think about his hair aside from the obvious observation that the man would surely benefit from some sort of anti-aging power pomade,  no matter the cost.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Did you have a dad who used to say to you, "Close the door! We don't live in a barn!"

I did. And what's worse is that fact that I would often reply, "No, dad, we live on a rock," thinking myself hilarious until I was the poor sap washing all the dishes.

Apparently my comedic idea of "building character" differed vastly from that of dear old dad.

But the fact is that simply put, we were put on this rock to help. Make things better.

In celebration of that, feel free to acknowledge the great round rock today and in small ways to great ways, help make things a little better for everyone.

Read the LA Times rendition of "Oh-How-Things-Have-Changed-Since-The-Good-Old-Days" as the world recognizes the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Visit your local World Market for tips, tricks and funky inexpensive tools to make your life greener.

Download Evernote and stop wasting post-it paper.

Get a little more history and education behind the movement from a man who has been in the scene since the early 60's;  Professor William Moomaw, of International Environmental Policy at Tufts University's Fletcher School.

Use the calendar of events and look up how you can become involved in your own community by supporting the Earth Day Network.

Enter HGTV's Green Home Giveaway today and each day until they give the gem away. You don't want to live in a barn, after all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Giving to Get-Get

"Gotta get-get? I like that boom boom pow. Them chickens jacking my style..."

What the hell does that mean anyway?

Jamming out in my little sweet sweet baby with my sweet baby one afternoon, I turned to my daughter and asked her what the above lyrics from the Black Eyed Peas meant. "IDK," was pretty much her reaction. Come to think of it, she may have texted that to me so she could continue singing nonsensical prose uninterrupted.

Alas, the message was not lost on me.

I get it.

Ya gotta give to get, right? If that's not the message, I don't wanna know. Instead, I used it to think of a bigger picture. The big picture. Just like anything worth doing, setting a goal may be the single most important step in maintaining the perfect gait to get you there.

Kudos to USA Today and more specifically to social media strategist Alex Nicholson for the recent success story of how social media tools can be used to effectively raise awareness and charitable contributions to a very worthy cause. To Write Love On Her Arms was selected as the winner of USA Today's Twitter Charity Contest.

In other big news for the non-profit world, make sure you check out American Idol's charity show tonite, "Idol Gives Back," because after raising more than $140 million since the show started using it's super-power celebrity status to connect givers with getters, this year promises to take global interactivity to the next level as Bill and Melinda Gates are rumored to be the hostesses with the mostest.

Here are a few thoughts on how to give to get or at least a few highlighted ideas in the world of philanthropy. Truth be told, these marcomm strategies for non-profits are easily translatable into steps to better yourself, your business or even your iPod music selections in order to best engage in meaningful conversation with your teenagers.

Spitfire Strategies is a company that assists non-profits with communication strategies and business planning initiatives in the world of stewardship and development campaigns and more. They introduced somethine called a Smart Chart back in 2002 and have since updated it a few times. Recently Smart Chart 3.0 was released. Here is the pdf for your viewing enjoyment. Not only does it provide a skeletal rendering of the bones to support any successful marketing/communication strategy, they give it away for free.

Check out a recent article titled, "Five Ways Mega Charity Events Can Harness the Power of Social Media," by Mashable. Boiled down, the following five bullets sum up the article nicely. Also, it's easy to see how this could be applied to other things; like business or dating. God forbid you get a crush on a tool. Whether it's Twitter or 'The Situation' from Jersey's better to avoid any long-term arrangements as you never know what's around the corner in terms of technology or the social scene.

1. Empowering people catalyzes networks
2. Harness the long tail (of citizen philanthropists)
3. Maintain personal connections
4. Connect with the cause
5. Don't develop a crush on the tool

If you are a non-profit looking for ways to optimize your press pitches, integrate social media into your marketing strategies, or need communications consultation, contact me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Choice of Media is Irrelevant.

I was in high school when a couple of girl friends placed a sheep's brain in my gym locker. It was supposed to be a light-hearted prank, I'm sure. But I didn't laugh when I lifted my hand out of my purse to discover a wrinkled up membrane that reeked of formaldehyde. I cried that day. And I hated those girls. And a little part of me hated me for being such a baby about the whole thing. 

Flash forward more than a dozen or so years and I can look back on that memory and smile. But some people are not as fortunate. Some stunts and tricks in elementary and high school turn nasty, even among friends. 

What's the lesson learned? Apparently, people don't change. Kids will be kids. People will be stupid. What does change are the tools we use to make things happen. New, flashy, fabulous tool will always emerge to support our stupidity and innovation. But that's not news to anyone, is it?

What is making the news lately is the amount of damage that can be inflicted via one of the more popular tools being exploited today: social media. Things like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, email and more have been blamed for a new era of cruel elementary bullying.

It's been called cyberstalking and cyberbullying, and the National Center for Victims of Crime defines it as "threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other forms of online and computer communications." As of December 2009, according to the NCSL, 47 states have laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication within stalking or harassment laws.

Social media experts tout that most of these channels of communication have security in place to keep non-friendly messages from populating if the user of the account sets it up that way. They call for more education on how to activate these privacy measures. To a small degree, I agree. But the fact is that if someone wants to call you a nasty name, they will do it. The choice of media is irrelevant.

Just because our kids are behind closed bedroom doors on a laptop all night instead of wandering the streets doesn't mean that they can't be harmed. Or do the harming.

Social media should be treated the same as any other device that offers the untapped ability to communicate, interact and transmit delicate human emotions via messages, images and more. From a public relations position, it's easy to see that a company needs to be mindful of the advantages as well as the pitfalls of using social media. It should be just as transparent to a parent, if not more. We protect our products, but what about kids?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One in the Same. Money and Donuts.

Employee engagement and customer satisfaction. It's one in the same, yes?

Anyway you dissect it, everything has to do with something. Furthermore, everything has to start somewhere. And in business, things start internally. With the employees. That's why I believe that a business' best brand advocates are the ones who live and breathe the product every day. Sure, the customer is always right. And they are the lifeblood to a succesful organization that delivers returns to stakeholders, no doubt. But the ethical foundation of a company is set with the mindset of the employee and therefore all things cascade according to employee engagement.

How does your organization stack up when it comes to global brand advocates (employees) and how they feel about your company? Forget about your customers recommending your product. Would your employees recommend your product? If the answer is not crystal clear, you have a problem.

Take a look at a screen shot from Zeke Camusio's marketing blog. He makes a lot of sense when he offers up 7 internet marketing lessons from lessons learned. But for this blog post, I ask that you concentrate on lesson #2 and apply it toward your employee engagement ideals.

If your employees are luke warm about how they feel about your company, they may be considered "detractors" to the value of your business. That doesn't mean they need to be fired, it means there is great opportunity to change them into "promoters." But key is conversation. It's not more meetings and powerpoints and corporate press releases telling everyone else how great you are, it's making sure you know what the people inside your organization think about your organization. And then allowing them to talk about it via social media platforms they are using anyway. I'm suggesting more (or less perhaps) than a company-wide email containing security enabled registration to access an annual employee engagement survey.

If these surveys that measure employee engagement are tied to things like monetary benefits for leaders who retain best results or donuts for business units who complete the survey in the timeliest manner, then PLEASE make note that you are actually measuring how much people like two things: MONEY AND DONUTS.

And rest assured that when people go home at night and Tweet about their workdays, they are more likely to chat about the donuts they ate or the what they spent their paychecks on than how great it is to be part of something that is making progress possible or delivering value somewhere to someone

Need more proof? Keep reading...

Calling for an attitudinal shift within the enterprise when it comes to optimizing social media efforts, Amber Naslund of Radian6 is often cited for her pragmatic approaches to building up relationships in order to attain more wallet share. Read an article that looks at social media monitoring and human business from the brand savant himself, Tom Webster here.

Read about the five C's of building your brand here. This is a blog entry written by another smart marketing gal who can talk to the masses on the importance of keeping it real. Conversion, culture, community, content, core value...according to this author, these make up the five elements of brand success. Especially when you think of your army of employees as the easiest mass of advocates you've got going for yourself!

What else can I say? If you are not detracting from the problem, you may be adding to it. If you have never had a donut, maybe you don't love them. If you don't love donuts, maybe you shouldn't be selling them. Of course, that sounds like crazy talk. But I bet even Homer Simpson would agree with me on that.  

Monday, April 12, 2010

Random Monday Musings & News Worth Noting

Claiming his third Masters title, Phil Mickelson will be wearing green, making people green with envy and spending lotsa green as his cash prize was over $5 million for a good walk spoiled, indeed.

Mark Twain may have originally penned that quote about golf being a good walk spoiled, but he also played Julia Sugarbaker's long-love interest in the hit comedy "Designing Women," back in the 80's. ( wasn't Twain himself, but instead Hal Holbrook, the man best known for his Twain impersonation. In fact, it's said that he has played Twain longer than Twain was, indeed, Twain!) Julia was played by Dixie Carter. Dixie Carter passed away at the tender young age of 70 only yesterday. I loved her in Designing Women, and basically every other role that she won on talent, charm and intellect. Not just because she was beautiful and confident (in real life too) but because she was strong, independent and really something inspiring. Plus, it was a hoot to watch her go off...on war, on sisterhood, on sweet-smelling earth-sister mother rebels, and the myth of the old south.

What does Alan Greenspan think about myths? He recently said that the problem with being right 70% of the time is that the other 30% of the time you (he) is wrong. Read more here.

Speaking of blame (see above article that tries to illustrate how often we sidestep responsibility for not being able to predict the future) here is an update to the Polish plane crash investigation: it's still a horrific tragedy. No matter that the investigators are looking into the cause, the effect is the same: people are dead. Today has been called a day of mourning for the 96 victims of the plane crash, including Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, who died along with numerous other senior Polish government and military officials in the crash.

And while blame and lies all lead to corruption, some people are tired of the deceit and many more people are calling for transparency. In business, in ideals, in politics and more. And what better way to offer transparency than to jump into the conversation? Social media vehicles allow people, places and institutions to do just that. While more than 90% of big time businesses use social media, 69% of Fortune 500 corporations that have blogs and Twitter accounts interact regularly with the chatter created in the blogosphere. What's that mean to all of us who are either active in corporate life, social media or better yet, have a life? It means we are all human, stupid. And maybe the droids who run things at the big companies are starting to care about what everyone else says. Before you jump to the conclusion that people are worth making such a jump, check out this article that cleverly breaks down just how clandescent trending names and brands are being when it comes to social media. They may do it, but are they ashamed? Hmmm...lots to think about on this Monday morn...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Random Stupidity Doesn't Mean to be Mean

In light of the fact that I have spent some time lately calling things stupid, pointing out stupid people places and practices and other stupidities, I figured -  as I sometimes do halfway through the box of girl scout cookies -  why stop now?

So the question of the day is: Is there any mascot stupider than a bullweisel? Funny but true. It's a kgb answers question and answer, but it's also a real thing. Kind of. It's actually a Boll Weevil. And it's University of Arkansas-Monticello's mascot. In honor of the tenacious insect able to wipe out cotton crops in a single blow, the university selected the mascot back in 1909. Too bad they didn't come up with a less colorful, less ridiculous-looking costume for the poor bastard that has to don the thing to promote school spirit. Luckily, his identity is hidden by a full face mask. Not that you couldn't look past that doppelganging nose, but why bother. Take it all's a sight to see. It's pictured to the right.

My favorite local stupid idea was the Abraham Lincoln statue proposed for the city of Lincoln, Illinois back in 2004. Everyone knows how much old Abe adored watermelon juice. So why not build a $40 million, 305 foot memorial that depicts the great Illinois lawmaker christening the ground below him with a pinkish yellowish stream coming from somewhere near his waistline. Yep, that's right. A gigantic statue of the top-hatted man pissing out last night's libations says more about how this great country perservered in the face of danger and diversity than it does about the fact that this is one of the stupidest ideas I've heard of yet. 

On a personal note, one of the stupidest moves I have made recently was playing fetch with my dog Stella at a newly found dog park. Grabbing a stick and throwing it back and forth for her to retrieve it was fun until she deposited a fossilized piece of poo in my hand and looked at me with those eyes that await praise and repeat throwing fun. Yuck. Welcome spring. Goodbye poo. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What Motivates You?

Motivation is a funny thing. Just ask Chris Farley.

In his famous "van down by the river" Saturday Night skit, the late funny man portrayed a 35-year-old, divorced,  unemployed motivational speaker who lived in a van down by the river. Or so the story goes. 

Seems easy enough to understand. Unlike the concept of motivation. Healthy motivation, that is. It's all a very personal endeavor until our motivations are under scrutiny by others. Which is altogether a real conundrum because anyone would admit that the entire idea of motivating factors depends ENTIRELY on the person that needs motivation. 

In change management training, I learned that a glass of cool water can be as motivating as a building on fire. Ironic, I know, but it all depends on the situation. Imagine yourself wandering the day in the hot dry heat of the Sahara until you finally stumble upon a tall cool clean glass of water. Who wouldn't empty their pocketbook for such a thing? 

Imagine walking across a tight rope in a circus act. Could you do it without a net? Could you do it with a net? Do you remember walking across a carpeted two-by-four in elementary gym class? Fun and easy, but how difficult is it really to balance yourself while trying to attain a goal? Imagine walking across that same balance beam four feet off the ground. Now imagine walking across a balance beam suspended between two four-story buildings. Yikes! Who would want to do that? Imagine walking across a balance beam suspended between two four-story buildings where the building you are on is on fire. Yikes! Who wouldn't be motivated to at least try to make the pass? What motivates you?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Foolish PR Campaigns For Fun. No Joke.

In a clear example of being too sexy for his shirt, this guy just doesn't know what to do with himself. And worse, the woman behind him has the tazer that made his hair stand up so nicely in the first place. She's acting like she doesn' her angelic white outfit with her dumb pout that seems to blurringly suggest, "Wha....wha? Me? Are you looking at me?" But we know she does. Pervert.  

A book about the internet. Now that's something anyone can wrap their tiny little mind around. A Book. On the Internet. Sweet. And only from J. Peterman can something so delightfully old-world and yet tragically new-wave emerge. Now we can quit this nonsense of spending time updating, researching, learning and understanding the world around us and simply open to a real-live well-worn and yellowed page and experience life the way it was supposed to be experienced...under our covers with a flashlight and a half-eaten sandwich. Now that's progress! Right at your fingertips! Buy it here.

In other online news, Google introduced Google Translate for Animals today in it's beta form. Talk about being progressively animal friendly! The Android-ready app promises to encourage interaction and understanding between animal and human. Maybe it's too late for Sandra Bullock or Elin Nordegren, but the rest of us certainly appreciate a bone.

ThinkGeek, stuff for smart mASSES launched a food service campaign that will most likely prove to be the proof in the pudding why American children are winning the fight to be obese. It's called Squeeze Bacon and it's delicious.

And if you love bacon as much as the next person (as long as you are not sitting by me) then for sure you should invest in the "My First Bacon" children's toy because like the advertisement says, "You've got a friend in meat." Cute. Very cute.

And for all my rollerblade loving male friends and foes, you'll be happy to know that you now can be recognized as part of an exclusive community that in the past only chest thumping, beer can guzzling mountain men could belong to. Recent research indicates that rollerblading has been determined to be the "manliest sport," of them all. Wow. Don't believe me? Just look at the empirical evidence. If there is one thing I learned from working in corporate America, it's that creativity and integrity have no place in the executive suite no more than they are welcome in the marketing department. Instead, make things happen via powerpoint, is what I like to say. And what's better than powerpoint? Excel charts and pivot tables. Enjoy!