Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Let's Take a Break

U2 and Christina Aquilera tried for a bit and then decided against it. I kinda feel like doing the same.

Yesterday I decided to brave the heat and take the dog for a short walk around the lake. About halfway across the running circle, we started trailing behind a tiny bird teetering up in front of us. It took only a few seconds to come to the conclusion that if it's too oppressive for even a bird to fly, then it's probably too hot for us to be walking outside not a good idea for me to be blogging.

More later...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cast Off the Shackles of Yesterday...And Share More, Suffer Less

Our daughters daughters will adore us....

I know I've preached before that people are stupid. (Here. And here.) But I really don't think all people are always stupid all the time. Instead, I may merrily suggest that as a group we're rather Winifred Banks sings in Mary Poppins.

Take, for instance, our reservation to share. Buttress that with the what we learned in kindergarden and it's no wonder we have a society bent on shame, confusion and contradiction when it comes to something as simple as sharing. Sharing is one of the first life lessons we gather at home, church, school, play groups and more...yet it's one of the hardest things to do - and do correctly - once we gain entrance into adulthood.

It's exactly the reason why Tough Love couples is such a great show.
It's exactly the reason why the Survivior series of television programs have such a cult following.
It's exactly the reason why so many companies feel so intimidated when it comes to approaching new ideas, new technologies or new ways of connecting directly with employees, stakeholders and customers.
It's also the reason why the American divorce rate is so high (especially in Vegas!).
It's also the reason why we get to hear (and snarl) about Presidential "big effing deals" and watch "shitty" legal proceedings regarding flagship banking institutions crashing and burning before our very eyes.

Because we, as people, are afraid to share.
So I'll admit it. I don't particularly enjoy sharing details about my life that I don't have complete control over. Which, let's face it, is most everything that happens from the time I awake until I return to my pillow. That's probably the reason why it's so easy for me to ramble on about things like news, trends, statistics, facts and strategies within my professional field. But I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about we.

Before I keep with tradition and share something that which fits the definition of the above statement, I'll say this much; I realize the need to share more and to share more deeply. I intend to work on that.

In the meantime, I wanted to share something that is worth sharing. I know this particular slideshare deck (by Altimeter Group; entitled, "Social Strategy: Getting Your Company Ready") is worth sharing and I am confident in saying that a former company I worked for paid thousands of dollars for something very, very similar. Here is how that happened: my VP called to say that he had secured a rousing guest speaker for our next social media strategy discussion, simply by the luck of having sat next to him on a recent flight. "It pays to pay for first class!" He said. Never having sat in first class, I said, "Great. Who?"
He said, "Dr. Gupta." Ummmm...okay. As in, one of the sexiest men alive in 2003, as ranked by People magazine? Ummmm...okay.

It turned out not to be the sexy man, but his father. A retired Ford engineer-turned especially brilliant and sought-after speaker (go figure; his wife was the first female engineer at Ford and his son is, well, sexy, but not as sexy as Steve Ward, named Cosmo's Hunk from Pennsylvania in 2003 and host of VH1's Tough Love), this guy sat next to my guy on a plane and somehow accepted an invite to come and talk about social media, of all things. Oh boy. I saw this coming from a mile away but who am I to rain on a VP-endorsed parade? No one, that's who. So instead, I suffered through a couple hours of common sense mixed with less-than-eye-opening tactics on how to embrace social change, manage expectations and engage the engage-able. When all was said and done, the old boy packed his sandals and quickly shook hands and passed out business cards promoting himself as a "enlightened" corporate speaker. My own corporate leadership in the room stumbled over each other to shake the hand of the man who told them basically what we had been discussing for the last 6 months...that people were stupid, but that people were people, after all. My VP thanked Gupta for his time and his generous thoughts. He even scheduled a follow up meeting. Then a few weeks later my VP got the generous bill for said time. And canceled the follow up meeting.

I'm telling this tale not to embarrass anyone. We are all human, after all. Rather, I am sharing this story because it's what I do. Share. Stories. It's easier to bear and share life's pains and pleasures from a story perspective because no matter how indifferent we are - or how different we are - we all have our stories. To share. So share more, and perhaps we will all suffer less.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Imagine It Monday

Ahhhhh...Monday. Your siren song is so damp with worry and smells of must and disappointment.

So let's focus on something more inspiring than the long list of emails and obligations that await each of us each new workweek we stumble upon.

Let's focus on how we tackle those to-do lists, email trails and household chores. Personal or business, every Monday means a fresh batch of must-reads delivered into our virtual inboxes. No one is exempt from this unless you don't have email. In which case, you can ignore this posting because you are either 1. not yet born or 2. dead.

How do you tackle prioritizing emails? I'm not talking about how Google recommends setting up apps, but instead, how do you decide what to open and what to delete? Here is what I imagine:

You open your email. Thirty-two new bolded messages pop up. You scan the entire list. A note from your kid's orthodontist. [Check...already on the calendar.] Two or three forwarded chain-mail like messages that contain either quotes from the Bible, pictures of kittens or babies investigating their own belly buttons. [Sorry Mary, but these don't even get opened.] A few coupons or deals with words like, "Hurry!" or "Don't miss out on these savings!" or "Last chance for..." [Save a favorite store offer for later if the time is right and there is extra money to be spent.] Maybe there is a reminder or two from the local parks and rec or the library or the grocery store you had to register for a shopper's savings pass that you now carry around on your keychain. [The intention is always to open later, but we never do, do we?] Most likely there are a few Linkedin messages to groups that you subscribe, maybe a job posting that matches a profile you created somewhere, and maybe a Facebook friend request or message or update regarding your social circle. [We open only if we recognize a name or company that we want to investigate, snoop, or work for.] Then there are the bank reminders and credit card bills and wireless phone account updates and offers [Yucky], the friendly notes from colleagues that simply could not wait to tell you something over the weekend [Something brilliant like, "check out this chic dancing with another chic," or "my friend is selling their pontoon boat..." or "here are the latest photo's of little johnny taking the championship title at our church wieney eating contest..." we either click on immediately or wait until office gossip forces you to open the image file out of scandelous curiosity] and maybe a online video rental or book recommendations based on your previous purchases [delete]. And finally, there are the sweepstakes. Ahhhh....the chance for a better life. On a dreary Monday morning! You sit back. You close your eyes. You dream of how much different your life would be if you won the HGTV Green Home, the J. Peterman's travel sweepstakes, the Wonka Golden Ticket, Glamour's free promo prize of the day, or whatever it is that floats your boat. Just for a moment, you are rescued from the harrowing claws of Monday...

Then reality snaps you back to email hell and once again you are deleting and reading and digesting and diverting one critical message after another. If all else fails, chase away the Monday blues by visiting the Ode to the Commode Facebook fan page. That's right, folks. Flush a Friend. What a way to start a week!

Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's the End of Nothing As We Know It

I found the end of the internet just last night. Somehow I stumbled upon the very end. Sleeping is not something that comes very easy to me, so in my haste to waste (time, that is) I mistakingly thought that perhaps I flipped through entire chapters and somehow landed on the last page. So you know what I did, right? I backed up. I must have missed SOMETHING, right?

Aha. No amount of sleep deprivation will help to illuminate a path of golden virtue on the seemingly endless superhighway. That is my general conclusion. It didn't take me long to realize there are many 'stopping points' and there are vast quantities of duplicate content, content with zero value and overwhelmingly bad content.
Then, of course, there are some real gems out there, too.

It's actually a lot like people, if you think about it. It's so refreshing to come back from a social event after having meet for the first time someone you simply know will be a good friend. It's either that or it's simply refreshing to come back home after a social event knowing that you can climb into your comfy pajamas and fall onto the couch to watch some lively rendition of your office, The Office. Either way, it's all win-win.

That's the message for today. The older I get, the less things change. Take, for instance, the life of a marketer. Look at how things have changed since the days of standing on a soapbox outside of a train station, trying to pitch a product or sell a service. Promises are made, something sexy is sold, (seemingly) intimate connections are forged, money is collected, families are fed, people put on their jammies and go to bed.

During my own last late night adventures I was pondering this and again, I found the end. But I also found an interesting little graphic to explain the new nuances of the world of marketing advertisers. Because let's face it, we are all marketing something to someone at any given time, all the time. It's exhausting, trust me, but it won't help you sleep.

Dubbed "Neo-marketing," the author of the chart to your right, keys in on the fact that marketing needs to be more user and customer-centric, while "old-school marketing" offers more of a one-size-fits-all approach to making everyone happy with the same thing. User feedback is preferred over focus groups because everyone knows there is a bias in focus group data. The most compelling point of differentiation is the last. Indeed, it's all about YOU.

"A well-informed employee is the best salesperson a company can have." E. J. Thomas.

Take note that the quote and the chart were published far before the proliferation of social media and contemporary marketing techniques, illustrating nicely that the farther we travel, the less we see.

Now, go get some sleep!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Random Musing about Sex, Google, Justin Timberlake

Google seems to have it all.

Global reach and appeal.
Unending resources and resourcefulness.
Powerful engineering minds.
Creativity and insight and market leadership.

But it's no Reebok.
Reebok has sex appeal.
It's latest marketing ploy.."Get a better butt," is, well, totally sexy. 
Who cares about engineering and patents and IT processing and strategic reverse lean remanufacturing, logistical prowess and global distribution centers when you've got sex.

Sex sells.  And guess who is buying? Everyone. Regardless of whether or not they realize it. Oh, you can bet your sweet ass they are buying...

An article back in February documented Google's struggles with social media in the realm of what I tend to think of as "sexiness." Google Struggles With Social Skills, it was dubbed. Now the same media outlet is reporting that Google is Looking for Social-Media Leader.

What's going on, Google? Is this a matter of what to buy the hostess with the most-est? Or is this a chink in the chain of world-domination that which Google simply can't wrap it's mind around? It's true that most people (engineers included) think that engineers don't necessarily possess the critical social skills needed to bolster fan-based consumer marketing groups that flock to social media outlets to share in their sexual fantasies (aka; compare Brett Michael's fan base to that of the masters in the IT world; there is an obvious missing chromosomal link between sex and behavior when it comes to Googliscious products and services). But I don't think we should lose hope.

Perhaps Google should enlist Justin (Timberlake, not Bieber) to assist in bringing the sexy back (or introducing it in the first place) to a company that is most likely sexy on it's own, just refuses to acknowledge that the true definition of sex appeal is in the eye of the beholder. I would say that a global marketing campaign that is born out of sexuality instead of functionality (but obviously contains relevant components of both) would be a recipe for success in the realm of social media.

Honestly, it's not bad to be both sexy and smart.

Behold, sir sexiness...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Best Attracts the Best

Across the board, no one wants to vote for a loser. That's like throwing your note away, right? And what's worse than oppression but having freedom and ignoring it.

This is best illustrated when we first examine how many different avenues of choice we can actually experience almost on a daily basis. It's mind-numbing at times and daunting at others. Having said that, we are a society of so much opportunity that we need help ranking all the things there are out there to experience and participate in, just to get up the courage to pull back the metaphorical curtain. Thanks to things like social media supported consumer reports, consumer ranking sites, customer feedback and regularly reported national rankings, all we need to do is stay on top of the latest lists that are surely available to help us make the most of our choices. Today, I'll present a few of my favorites...

Fortune Magazine announced it's 100 Best Companies to Work For...and the winner is...Google. No, not really. Google came in fourth, but that is nothing to shake a stick at. Competition is getting tougher and tougher. Read the whole story here.

Yahoo! listed the worst-paying college degrees in their job services section. Good news for those college-bound. Not so much for a social worker in the unemployment line.

Speaking of making improvements to your life...check out 100 ways to improve your relationships. Sure, some are common sense but others are so simple it's easy to overlook the importance of something like learning cellphone etiquette and going grocery shopping with your partner.

Looking for a challenge? How about 100's of them? Here is a comprehensive site that offers the Top 100 marathons to think about...and maybe run! Everything from running across fhe Golden Gate bridge to running away from Walt Disney's giant rat to running the hills of North Caroline, this list of cool runnings offers myriad options for covering 26.2 miles all in a days work.

Looking for a good read? Try the New York Times best seller list for hardcover fiction. If you can't find something that suits your fancy, chances are that you will stumble upon something interesting from that landing page. If nothing else, might I suggest Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for a good hard read so early in this week.  

Just brought to my attention...if all else fails (especially for those social workers, elementary ed majors and drama coaches who are realizing they will likely never own their own home if the economy stays in the shitter) check out this list of 1000 Awesome Things. It's awesome.