Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blog Break--Getting Reorganized

Hello everyone! 

Just wanted to let you know that I'm taking a blog break while I reorganize some priorities in my life.   Lots of exciting things going on, so it's just a matter of time before I break down and start telling you about them.  But for the time being, it's hush hush while I sort through it all.  

Wish me luck.
And happy holidays!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama's Got Fan Love

I saw this and had to share.   Someone took the time to do this hashmarks and plus signs representation of Obama.  Check it out: 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

108 Sun Salutations for Underserved Women

This Sunday, I will be downward dogging it up for a good cause, and I hope you'll support me as I do it!

What exactly am I doing for underserved women?
Saluting the Spirit is a fundraising event, much like Relay for Life, where you do a repetitive activity (in this case sun salutations) and have friends sponsor your hard work. Participants feel a physical relationship to the organization their working for; sponsors feel connected to the organziation through their support for an individual.

Saluting what spirit? Why am I doing this event?
All the proceeds from Saluting the Spirit support two organizations: Pathways and yogaHOPE. Both provide alternative avenues for those in need of help and healing. I chose to particpate when I met the founder of yogaHOPE, Sue Jones. She saw the healing power of yoga and wanted to bring it to underserved women in our community to empower them to make change and take space for themselves. Sue works with women who have fallen victim to domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse and homelessness.

How can you help?
In a down economy, people stop giving. Stop that and click here (or check out that fancy widget) to help a sister out!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

Great news! We have the opportunity to tell the government what we think. We have a say in who are leaders are and how we are lead. Democracy is exciting.

I didn't think I was going to be able to vote today--my absentee ballot never showed, so I thought I was SOL. Aside from missing out on the opportunity to have a say, I couldn't be my outspoken "get out the vote" self without feeling like a terrible hypocrite. So when my mom told me my ballot had arrived at their house, I was elated. Not just because I can vote and be counted, but because I can now say, without feeling like jerk:


...or you don't get to complain when you don't like the outcome!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Speaking on Social Media

This past Thursday, I spoke to Boston University's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America about social media. The presentation marked my first official talk on social media, in any organized fashion. Possibly the most important piece for me was that it felt like a reunion; I had been president of the same group a few years prior. Familiar faces speckled the room, but there were a good deal of underclassmen that were new to me.

The room had such a wide range of knowledge, or perceived knowledge. In my informal poll of the room, I was able to get a sense for what the average PR student knows about all this stuff. Every single person in the room was on Facebook; not a single person in the room was on MySpace. There were a handful of students who knew what Twitter is, and fewer who were actually Tweeters themselves. And, surprisingly, only one person in the room had taken the new media for PR students (taught by my COM advisor @stevequigley).

I found myself asking, "does that make sense?" or "am I talking jibberish?" a lot, just to make sure everyone was on the same page.

I had my slide deck, then we went live to the 'Net. I did the "I'm talking to BU PRSSA now, do you have anything to say" tweet, and got heckled by the audience tweeter, who will remain nameless.

I spoke. In front of people. And enjoyed it.

I don't necessarily know what that means for me in the future. But I expected to be shaking and terrified, as I had been in the past with public speaking, even to this group back in the day.

Maybe it's because I got the sense that I was teaching or sharing knowledge, instead of wigging out about being the expert (which doesn't really feel right).

Have you noticed that the way you think about public speaking has shifted with age? I'd love to hear your experiences with it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Investing in Politics?

Saw this article on the WSJ late yesterday. Basically, it outlined how the prospect of bailout was yet again propping up the NYSE.

So I'm thinking to myself, how smart is it to bet on the government getting something done in a timely manner? It's set up to be slow moving!

Would you bet your house on it?

Would you bet your retirement on it?

It seems to me that the folks that are investing right now--propping up the market--are placing their futures in the hands of politics.

Does it seem like a good idea? Do we have that much faith in the government?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Apples and Honey: Happy New Year!

L'Shana Tova!

Make it a sweet one.

Thinking About Migrating the Blog

Recently, I've been thinking about migrating my blog to WordPress or some other content management system. I hear WordPress is pretty easy to use, but I haven't taken the time to figure it out yet.

Ideally, I'd like to get rid of the dot blogspot dot com, and get some php practice for another long-term idea I have (more on that later).

But tell me, is it worth it?

I'd love to hear thoughts from folks who have done this recently. How long did it take you to get your new blog up and running?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Convenience is NOT Compelling

I've working with a new client these days that really is selling convenience. Simplifying life should make for a simple PR message. But people are skeptical, rightly so, in trusting that technology is the answer to simplifying their lives. More often, it seems that technology is what needs simplifying--and here's where it gets complicated. People ask, what are you taking out of my life and how are you saving me time? And the answers to those questions always take a little explaining--show, don't tell the pain point. Backing into the pain point by way of the solution and by the time you're done talking, no one is interested in dealing with a minor set up hurdle, and no one's listening anymore.

The bottom line: convenience isn't compelling; it's complicated.

The problem is what people understand--in part because people like to commiserate and complain about things. What is the problem? Can you explain it in one sentence? How about in three-word phrase? Now, stage the picture.

What emotions does that problem raise? Anger? Frustration? Emotions and stories give people something to relate to, a human element.

People can't relate to convenience. We all want it. We all want more time. But it sets the bar too high--how can you give people enough time? How can something be convenient enough? It needs to do more than that to be compelling, it needs to solve a bigger problem.

Can someone invent a time machine please? That would be convenient and compelling.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Random Thought: Confidence is Like the Stock Market

For the past few days, I've been worried my primary bank, Washington Mutual, was going to collapse. So I've been keeping tabs on the financial industry and the news that WaMu might auction parts of the company. A little nerve-racking. Not exactly confidence inspiring to be sure.

Then this morning, I read "Washington Mutual Stock Soars." Apparently, Thursday night the Fed and other major central banks around the world starting talking about putting $180 billion into global money markets to keep the credit crisis from worsening--that coupled with the fact that Federal officials are "reportedly" making plans to assume the banks' bad debt sent the market back into black. Sounds like rumors of the positive were enough to push folks back to the money market (and to save my bank).

I don't know anything about the money market. But it does appear that even in stocks, a little positive reinforcement can go a long way towards confidence.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Shadow of September 11

It's been seven years since planes crashed into the twin towers. And we're all thinking about it a little less as time passes.

A plane crashed into one of the World Trade Center Buildings. Maybe it was an accident? Then another one came, crashed, demolished--no one dared to look away from the television.

Was it the Arabs? The personalities debated on the big networks who would have done this, why. And there were more planes to ground, more planes to worry about.

Afterward the towers fell, we stared at the television for days. A coalition of the willing was formed. War was declared once, twice. Words like terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, death became everyday and familiar. Part of our shared consciousness and experience is this familiarity with uncertainty, fear, mutually assured destruction.

So what is there to do? We raise the flag. We volunteer. And we talk of the many world problems we may solve: global warming, hunger, poverty, AIDs--you know the causes well.

We're looking for the good in the world because we're left to wonder what happened to it on that day, 9/11/01. How can man do such unthinkable things to one another? The answer is disconcerting, so we look for the best in each other, ourselves. If nothing else, we can prevent ourselves from doing the unthinkable.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

You Attract More Flies with Honey?

There's this saying that keeps coming up: "you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar." The idea being that in order to get what you want, you should be sweet, polite, kind, etc.

But I have to ask, why are we trying to attract flies at all? Flies are a nuisance--for people and bees, the cultivators of honey. They get in your food, buzz around your head in that irritating way. What's the point?

If you saw a person with a bunch of flies swarming around him, you would likely be inclined to
a) provide the person with bug repellent;
b) tell the person to take a shower, and change his clothes; or
c) offer the person deodorant.

Point being: flies are not typically associated with good things. Flies are pests. Flies are indicators of poor hygiene or cleanliness. Most importantly, flies are just plain annoying.

You attract more bears with honey. You attract more bees with honey. You attract more people with honey. But flies? No thanks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

You Know What I Mean?

An interesting thought: We spend a lot of time seeking to be understood. But ending sentences or thoughts with "you know what I mean?" or "does that make sense?" undermines your confidence, undermines your appearance of confidence.

Why not just finish a thought and let it comfortably hang out there? I know I like to fill the space, because by talking--I hope anyway--everyone comes to meet on the same page. But
speaking with confidence doesn't end with a "you know," it ends with a period or even an exclamation mark.

You don't have to be overly cocky or arrogant on confrontational. But give it a try. Go one day without seeking affirmation for your every thought or statement. You don't need to give others free license to disagree with you or pick at your train of thought.

Have faith in yourself and in others--they'll let you know if they disagree or don't understand.

Wouldn't you? :-) Whadda ya think?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Be Your Own Best Friend

Yoga, generally speaking, is a great way to de-stress and detox, and remember self compassion. When you're forced to consider your breathing instead of how quickly you can check items off a list, you have an opportunity to relax, maybe bring a sense of purpose to your day. It's a very happiness through doing sort of philosophy.

But the other day, the yoga did little good. I was angry, frustrated and tired. I left the studio in the middle of class. I tried savasana in the hallway. When that didn't work, I tried to sleep a little. I was angrily calling myself names. I was running through every imperfection, every failing.

After class, I got to talking with my yoga instructor at Prana Power Yoga. I told her that I was beating myself and she asked me a question that really put the whole thing into perspective--would you speak to your best friend like that?

When you're in your head, arguing over the details, the what went wrongs, the shortcomings, it's really easy to be mean, to treat yourself with something less than compassion, treat yourself in a way you wouldn't dare treat another person. Why is it so hard to be kind to the person you spend the most time with?

Be your own best friend.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Blog Wordle

A colleague of mine at work introduced me to Wordle. Check it out--This one is created from this blog's content.

Cool, huh?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where have all the birdies gone?

Fail whale jokes aside. Twitter needs to get its act together.

Somehow a buggy, little web application has become the favorite locale for Internet aficionados worldwide. At first it was cute--the fail whale carried off by the Twitter birdies, over capacity, bringing back that beat. But this irritatingly simple application as achieved a sort of market penetration that most companies would lie, cheat and steal for--Twitter has users that create applications to make it better, that evangelize and convert the nonbelievers.

Aside from an answer to the money question, Twitter has everything a budding social media enterprise could want: primarily, a loyal fan base. There are other options, albeit more complicated or less hip to the birdie branding, but Jaiku and Pownce are there, waiting for the opportunity to seize market share. So Twitter, please tell me why you're making it so easy?

Every time a Twitter fan's handle gets shut down (happened to me, @tibbon and others last weekend), every time a person's followers spontaneously disappear (reported two or three weeks ago), the Twitterati start to wonder how long it would take to rebuild their network of people elsewhere.

Don't you see Twitter? You're the platform of choice for the conversation, but we'll do what we please with the relationships.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's Holding YOU Back?

There are a number of different ways to approach this question.

Cue up the Barenaked Ladies and ask yourself what you'd do if you had a million dollars (aside from being rich).

Ultimately, the question being how would you spend your days if money wasn't an issue?

The questions that immediately catches you next burns with uncertainty--at least for me--what would make me happy?

Well, gee. I've never thought of it that way. For as long as I can remember, I've been running from school to work to practice or rehearsal, looking for progress for successes' sake.

What would make me happy???
I like winning a lot. I like to succeed... But frankly, when faced with the REAL opportunity to pick happiness without any of the usual obstacles, I find it immensely disappointing that I have managed to put success before happiness--that happiness doesn't rank as success in its own right.

Maybe it's that I don't see happiness as a progression to anything, as a tangible or demonstrable success. Being happy should just be, should just happen. But it doesn't, not for me or many others in my goal oriented generation.

At the end of the day, we're seeking approval, still mulling over the little successes and failures of the day.

So, what's holding us back???
The face in the mirror? The horse with no name? Maybe. But really, what it comes down to is confidence.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Social Media Marketing: A Panel of Rock Stars

Plugging away at the laptop live from Podcamp Boston 3.  We have a great panel of marketing rock stars talking about how PR, marketing and the business community in general is handling social media and building strategies around all the new tools that are available.  

We have Adam Broitman, Philip Robertson of oovoo, @Dough (Doug Haslam of SHIFT Communications) and Greg Verdino of Crayon.  And David Meerman Scott is here, in the crowd, answering questions.  

Social media is a matter of earned attention; you create content and sharing it with others.  We talk about the democratization of content.  But it brought up a good question: 

Are we disenfranchising the entire internal team by finding on official corp voice?  
COMCAST as an example--maybe it's only using Twitter as a channel.  Why is Twitter the only way to effectively deal with an issue with COMCAST? 

A big role of social media marketing is education.  How have best practices influenced  the community.  It's important to be mindful of the difference between control and directing people to a call to action.  You can contribute to the conversation and in that way guide it, but you can't control it.  People and companies are learning that they were never in control in the first place. 

The social media news release is bite- sized bullets.  Where's the social?  Get people to share.  Wire services getting involved--interactive press room (see Marketwire and PRWeb).  RSS to allowing comments, it's an evolution that people getting used to still.  

Bloggers are lazy. They're not going to go to the website and read the whole press release. 

Rip and read is old school.  There is not enough time in the media making industry to really thoroughly go through and digest everything.  

And the two dirty words are: Best PRactices
What have you learned? 
Give the audience the chance / opportunity to pass along and share about you and your brand.  
Yes, we can.  Obama brand ambassador is you.  
LISTEN! Understand the audience and talk to them in their language.  

Who's getting it right?  
COMCAST, at least on Twitter (according to @dough). 
Best uses of social media are from people who are using the tools or making the tools (think twhirl).   Although they're smaller companies and more nimble consequently; it will probably be harder at the bigger guys.  
Dell has had a good run at it.  Though an audience member says not really, apparently they still run posts through legal.  
What kind of company you work for becomes a factor. 

Doc Searles' vendor relationship management (VRM)--What is it?  Instead of vendors managing customers (CRM), consumers have so many options that it is the users that are the ones making the choice (VRM).  

The panel only after it was ten minutes over meandered into metrics.  Basically, we know its important, but it really depends on the campaign. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

WebInno: A Lesson in Speaker Prep

Three presentations; one theme--speaking takes practice, lots of practice.  You'd think it would be technology, between the three, innovative web companies.  But the theme that quickly emerged was that public speaking requires training.  

One presenter spoke in a monotone and was consequently not engaging.  Another presenter rushed through everything, going too quickly for the audience to keep up or process the information that was being thrown at us.  The final team of presenters ummed and liked their way through everything.

A couple of pointers for presenting seem to be in order.  Of course, you could always turn to the experts for help (I recommend @pistachio).  However, there are a few simple things you can do to prepare to speak in front of people, or a few things to keep in mind.  

First, don't freak out.  Do whatever you need to do to not freak out.  Normally that means: 

Prepare just enough--too much scripting makes you sound like a robot, not enough pre-planning makes you sound like an angsty teenager trying to ask someone to the prom.  

Speak clearly, annunciate; speak loudly enough for the back of the room to hear you.  Speak and believe what you're saying.  

Look for ways to engage.  Tell a story.  Make eye contact with members of your audience. 

Finally, let's reiterate the most important one: don't freak out.  If you're nervous, the audience will feel it.   Be confident and comfortable. 

Nobody is perfect.  Admittedly, I'm not a fan of public speaking.   It makes me nervous.  But last year at Podcamp 2, Laura Fitton (aka Pistachio) spoke on speaking.  The take away was simple: BE YOURSELF. 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Polite Conversation in Social Media

Note: I started this post about a month ago and for whatever reason couldn't seem to finish it. I worried it would be taken the wrong way, so I struggled to articulate what I was really thinking here...

I've been kicking this idea around in my head for a few days now:

Polite conversation is neither polite nor conversation, discuss.

Aside from the joke rift off of a famous Jewish woman comedienne, I'm serious. In an honest and open community, what topics are off limits? What's kosher to talk about in the publicsphere and what isn't?

Admittedly, I'm not certain I completely understand the idea of polite conversation. As far as I can tell, it's a safety zone where you're not likely to offend anyone, i.e. the talk about last night's T.V. shows, this morning's trip to the gym, coffee addictions and what you brought for lunch.

But why can't people be trusted to talk about religion and politics and the like without blowing a gasket? In my mind, it's really a question of respect when you cut to the core of the matter. Polite conversations assumes that you will take your views on certain matters over that of another. Really, it assumes that people can't be trusted to respect the views that really matters to those around them--because let's face it folks, how much do you really learn about a person from discussing the gym and coffee?

It doesn't seem very social, does it? With all this talk about community and engagement, why do we hide behind the same polite subjects? Open, honest, social conversation should be about
embracing those around you, understand those around you--creating a global village, so to speak.

Not to say that everyone has to be friends, holding hands singing "Kum Ba Ya." I'm certainly not saying you have to like everything you hear in conversations, online or off. There's a time and a place for everything (unfortunately), but these so-called polite conversations are the prenuptial agreement of discourse--it implies distrust.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Half the Year is Gone

Where did it go?  It seems like just a few weeks ago it was really cold here in Boston, really cold.  And now the year is half gone.

Take stock.  What have you told yourself you wanted to do this year that you haven't done yet?  Have you kept those resolutions?  

Get it done.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Social Media Enthnocentrism

"If you get it, share it," the tag-line for the Social Media Club pretty much outlines the information dissemination process. Learn and share.

It's no doubt more complicated than that. You follow, friend, listen, create, learn, engage, share, participate and more in social media. There are a whole slough of words that become a part of your social media vocabulary, once you've joined the club and started spreading the social media love.

The gospel is engagement. The gospel is community and conversation. But the gospel is for the most social of social media users. And I image that's not everyone.

We look at the steps of social media engagement, like it's a ladder to climb, something to reach the top of and conquer. It's an extension of the classic case of ethnocentrism that judges another culture without examining the biases of your own world view. Of course the social media-philes are going to run through all the steps of social media engagement--finding, following, joining, creating--and believe it's the best thing since slice bread (possibly skipping steps).

But all this evangelizing is making me crazy!

All those people out there reading in the silence are doing just fine. And I have to imagine that the majority of people out there on the web are reading, gathering information and learning, without commenting, re-tweeting, blogging, etc. And that's great! (Because if everyone out there in the world commented on everything after reading it, comments would become as noisy and meaningless as the lunchtime twitter-stream!)

Be where you are in social media. It's no better or worse than anyone else.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Taking a Blog Break

Between the switching jobs and the moving, I've been one busy, scatterbrained gal. Hopefully, the move will officially be completed soon. But until then, I'm going to take a short leave from this blog to focus on the physical things (think boxes and furniture) that require my immediate attention.

Bear with me. I'll be back mid-June!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

SHIFTing Gears

As many of you already know, I recently left Topaz Partners. Though I was called a traitor by my pals for leaving (see @dough's twitter feed), I learned a good deal about the business of PR from the folks there. And, more importantly, I'm grateful for the friends I made in my time there.

I made the shift to SHIFT Communications this past week. It's still fresh and overwhelmingly new, but I'm excited to get started with proper client work.

(I suppose I should reiterate here that this blog remains and has always been my personal blog, representing only my opinion on any particular day. This blog does not represent the positions of SHIFT Communication or Topaz Partners.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Day was Yesterday, Now What?

Most people know that yesterday, April 22, was Earth Day. But aside from donning an earth friendly t-shirt (largely by accident), I didn't to much for the planet.

What would have done if I had really been thinking about it?

I asked Twitter if they were doing anything special for Earth Day; here are the responses:

Gradon Tripp gradontripp @skalik I took the T to work today. Wait, I do that everyday!
Doug Haslam DougH @skalik I'm reading the 96-page glossy print edition of the NYT Sunday Mag's "green" issue

Despite the mild heckling, these folks raise some good points. Here a few ideas for greening your day to day:

-Green Tactics-
Ride a bike, take the T (or any other form of public transit), or just walk.

Cut Paper
In any way you can. Read books, articles, magazines and newspapers online (when possible). Go paperless with bank statements, bills and receipts. Finally, think before hitting print on emails or anything--ask yourself if you'll ever look at that piece of paper again. If the answer is no, but you already hit print, find yourself a big blue recycling bin and get busy!

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse: Beyond the Basics
Recycle: Take the Nike approach and Just Do It! Get some bins and look for the recycling logo on packaging before you throw it away. You'd be surprised how much can actually be recycled--everything from dog food cans to cereal boxes to plastic forks and knives.

Reduce: Consider the packaging before making that purchase. Is it excessive? Can any of it be reused? For example, buy one big bag of chips, instead of a box of little bags, and put 'em in a reusable container for lunch.

Reuse: (Will I be able to define it without using the word itself?) Purchase and utilize the same item over and over again, as long as you can, before replacing it. Look for ways to get more life out of packaging.

There's always more we can do for the earth. Small changes can make everyday Earth Day. If Earth Day were tomorrow, what would you do differently?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Social Media is Anti-Social

At the last social media breakfast (#smb6), brought to us by Bryan Person and Jeff Pulver (thanks guys), Jeff actually said out loud that social media is anti-social. @beeahna put it another way at the recent PRSSA regional event when she said "social media is neither social or media, discuss."

It sounds absurd at first. Social media is anti-social! But why is it called social media then?

But the truth is, if you're tweeting at the dinner table, you're not conversing with the people in front of you. It's a very removed way to be social and friendly. Social media allow us to be in touch with people around the world, but what does it mean if we can't translate that openness and transparency to the time we spend with people offline?

What's the point of having a million Facebook friends if you're still hunched over a computer on a Friday night alone?
cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Be honest. When you're sitting at a meeting full of laptops, do you wonder what's up on the other guys screen? Solitarie? Is he listening to you? LA Times reported that some Silicon Valley companies are going "topless" partially for this reason. Clicking away on a laptop, cell phone or any other device doesn't inspire that team feeling, in fact, it partially removes you from your surroundings.

What's my solution? We can't forget in all the social media love fests that there are still humans to interact with in person. Go to dinner with a bunch of folks from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Pulse, etc. and put a face with the online personality you're used to.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Oh Yeah, I Have a Blog: Certainty of Uncertain Times

I just got a direct message from someone I follow on Twitter (hat tip to a certain broadcasting Canadian for giving me a kind word and an indirect boot in my hind quarters). He wrote that he had just checked out my blog...

Blog. What blog?

(Really, I haven't forgotten that I have a blog. But I imagine it looks like it...)

I'm embarrassed to say I've had a long period of uncertainty about the nature of things. Over-thinking, I've been asking those big "what do you want to do with your life" questions. Irregardless of the fact that there are no answers.

Though I am well aware I stand to benefit from the depth of knowledge available to me via community and social networks, exuding an absence of clarity is far from confidence inspiring. Not exactly what I want to portray to my co-workers, clients, acquaintances or the general public... So I've kept to myself a bit, lest I give myself away. (Don't read too much into that; there are very few finite answers to such issues as identity.)

Last night, I attended an event on social media marketing at Emerson College. One of the smartie panelists pointed out that building a personal brand takes a lot of dedication and commitment to the community. Perhaps part of being a young professional, and thereby part of my personal brand, is being okay with the uncertainty of adulthood?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Office Graffiti: Food for Thought

Sorry for the poor picture quality, but I thought you all might find this amusing just the same.

It reads:
Break the rules and fail, a
(crossed off)

BS --Learn the rules so
you can figure out the
most effective way to break them.


Break the rules and fail, and you're a fool.
Break the rules and succeed, and you're a genius.
Break the rules on a whiteboard--you're a loser.

Transcend rules.

This from the whiteboard in the office kitchen. I'm calling it office graffiti.
Any thoughts?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Morning Thought on Identity






Definition (from American Heritage, by way of Dictionary.com):
  1. The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known: "If the broadcast group is the financial guts of the company, the news division is its public identity" (Bill Powell).
  2. The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.
  3. The quality or condition of being the same as something else.
  4. The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity; individuality.
  5. Information, such as an identification number, used to establish or prove a person's individuality, as in providing access to a credit account.
We are people. We identify as part of a group and as individuals. Consequently, we are unique and relate-able, simultaneously the same and a persisting, separate entity.

Part of our identity can be summarized as our relationship with our surroundings, our engagement with our surroundings.

In anthropology, it is said that people are uniquely social animals. Let's not forget the I in socIal (media)--the I is how we identify with the larger group and ourselves.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Post Over at Media Bullseye

Based on the recent Sarah Silverman, Matt Damon video (Re: I'm F#$%ing Matt Damon), I wrote a piece about viral video. You can check it out here on Media Bullseye.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sweatpants on a Plane: First Impression vs. Ongoing Dialogue

There are people, though I am definitely not among them, that get dressed up when traveling, just in case of that chance, in transit encounter that might change your life. The underlying principle behind this no-sweatpants while flying philosophy is that everyday is a first impression. And you should always make the most of a first impression.

I still prefer sweats for flying. But I'm wondering if all this concern over first impressions is just silly--you can blow all your effort by simply opening your mouth if you have nothing of substance to say.

So here's another one of those, what's more important questions: first impressions or ongoing dialogue?

Issues of false dichotomy aside, I'd prefer to be judged by the content of my character (and head) than my appearance. Appearance based first impressions lack understanding of personal depth and intellect--usually that requires some semblance of an ongoing relationship.

But what do you think?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Returning to Boston: Content Coming Soon

I've been away for a week and now I'm back.  

So more content coming soon.  

Catching Fire, Meeting Sasquotch and Other Sports-Related Exploits: Part 1

Part 1: Catching Fire: My Story of the AFC Championship Game

Alright, I'm giving into the requests; I'm going to tell you all how I actually caught myself on fire. I've mentioned the fact that I caught on fire at the AFC Championship game both on this blog and on Twitter. But I haven't shared the how part. So here's the long and short of it.

There were four of us cramped into my car from Newton to Foxboro--me behind the wheel, a middle-aged die hard Pats fan, my boyfriend (a die hard Pats fan just the same, but boyfriend is more interpersonally descriptive) and a mutual friend who was rooting for the other team (we tried not to hold it against him). It was freezing out, so aside from the four of us, there were multiple layers of clothing on all of us and spread around the car there were extra coats, sweaters, gloves and hats. In fact, the middle-aged die hard brought a full body suit to keep warm.

We got to Foxboro with about an hour's worth of time for tailgating. So after the car was parked, we made our way to the tent to get some grub. We passed patriotic and rental RVs, cooking fires and grills of all sizes, and lots of cheap beer, before finding the friends we were looking for.

The tent was full of people slowly moving in all directions to talk, stand by the propane space heaters or get at the food. But by the time we arrived at the tent the cooking was winding down. The chili was almost gone. And there was some chilled American chop suey--it wasn't supposed to be chilled, but when it's twelve degrees out, that happens.

I was leaning over a propane space heater to get at the more food.  But wearing the three layers of pants I had on to keep warm for the game, I couldn't tell I was too close to the space heater.   

From the other side of the tent, someone shouted, "she's on fire." 

That she was me... I was on fire. 

Of course it got put out; otherwise, I probably wouldn't be as jovial about the whole thing.  And the only thing damaged, aside from the pride of the retired firefighter who through wine on me to put the fire out, was my sweatpants and my partially melted fleece.  

Coming soon:
Meeting Sasquotch: My First Beanpot and Social Media
Watching the Super Bowl: Trial of Errors

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mind that One, he's got a temper... Wack-a-Flack

How creative!?! Someone else at Wired has decided to take a swing at PR people. Because, you know, why not?

Bruce Sterling of the Wired blog network writes, "I'm Suffering An Evil Tidal Wave of Blogsurfing Public Relations Spam." He singled out one woman's pitch, a PR person who happened to have pitched this guy at the wrong time, and posted the pitch, with snarky comments throughout and her phone number at the bottom. The whole thing harkens to Chris Anderson's blacklisting of PR people email addresses.

Okay, so you want to play whack-a-flack?
Be professional. Get used to the game or get out. There are PR people and there are journalists. PR people have clients to tell you about, information you might find useful. If you don't? Delete the email or reply and tell the person making the pitch why you don't have time for their unrelated nonsense. But grow up--for all the time you spent blocking PR people's emails or coming up with creative witticisms, you could have written something of substance.

Don't tread on me!
That said, good PR is about two-way communication and respect. I won't be sending blanket emails by way of mail merge--and doing so does not signify a high level of professional or personal respect. A good pitch will be timely and relative to the reporters areas of interest.

But that's not the point... We need mutual respect
You don't get to play whack-a-flack unless I can play whack-a-hack every time a journalist repeatedly blows off a client interview, never responds to relevant emails or calls or writes inaccurate hogwash, about a client or otherwise. And I'm not prepared to do that.

We're supposed to work together folks. And the notion that we can publicly humiliate those that we don't like, that we could teach the other group a lesson, demonstrates a serious lack of respect between both groups. If you want PR people to pitch you relevant material--hit the reply button and tell them why their email is going in the trash, maybe they'll learn. To the same end, hitting reply demonstrates that the journalists respect the PR people's place in the process. We have to be able to work together or nothing gets done!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Morning Epiphany: This is Not a Weekend Blog

The other morning on the way in to work, it suddenly struck me. I'm not a weekend blogger. I come home from work with ideas, from the articles or posts I read or from something a client mentioned, or the home life gives me an idea and I try to type through it before, after or during (lunchtime, folks) work.

I usually do my best writing when it's completely spontaneous--when I get the idea and immediately write it down. Admittedly, that's not always possible and I have three or four unwritten posts on less than news worthy topics and two or three evergreen ideas in the cue.

But the perfect time for writing is when everyone else is asleep (like now) or out. And right know, everyone is asleep.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday Residents: Go VOTE!

That's all.

Today will political posting day.

This is a friendly reminder to do your civic duty and vote.

Monday, February 4, 2008

And the Ads Weren't Even that Good!

What a supremely disappointing Super Bowl for Pats fants! Monday morning quarterbacking aside (i.e. woulda, coulda, shoulda done this), 18-1 is one of if not the most impressive seasons in professional football. To say it's all meaningless now is short-sighted folks--we've got ourselves a dynasty.

Normally, regardless of whether your favorite is winning or losing, the commercials are worth talking about. Perhaps I was spoiled with the amazing commercials of old--the Rold Gold sky diving ad, the original Budweiser frogs and the Apple computer launch spot. (Share your favorite Super Bowl commercials in the comments below.)

But this year, we had an always popular clydesdale ad, a talking baby by E*TRADE and way too many how-did-the-ad-execs-get-these-guys-to-spend-so-much-for-this-ad? ads. The only commercial the people I was watching the game with actually enjoyed was the thirty second Victoria Secret spot, proving for the umpteenth time that sex does sell.

With ads costing roughly $86,000 per second, why does the content still stink? Is content sacrificed for the actual cost of the placement?

Did you have an favorite ads you'd like to share? Please do, we can reminisce!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fuzzy Parking Math

After driving around downtown for 30+ minutes yesterday looking for a place to park, I finally caved in pulled into a blue-P-signed garage. I knew it would be costly, as blue usually means cha-ching (for someone other than me).

When I returned to the garage, a little more than two hours had passed. The chart said I would be paying between $22 and $34; the cashier asked for $34. Now, that's nuts in and of itself. However, the sign explaining the parking validation rates made even less sense.

If you have your parking validated with a $10 purchase, you pay only $12 total for pretty much as long as you want. Meaning that if I had actually spent ten bucks at an approved vendor, I would have saved twelve. Spend money to save money? What a shady incentive program!

Why not just charge everyone $22 after 2+ hours and forgo the validation process all together?

Can I Write 17 Blog Posts In a Day?

Would you want me to if I could?

I joined blog365 and I'm terribly behind for the month. I have 14 posts on this blog--one of which links to two posts and a podcast elsewhere. So let's say I've written a total of 16 posts on multiple blogs, I'm still down 15 posts for January.

Can I catch up? We shall see.

Apologies in advance for clogged feed readers.

An Open Letter to Newsletter Hosts and Subscription Managers

Dear Sir or Madam,

When I asked to be removed from your list, did I stutter? Was my mouse click not steady enough for your likely? When did a person's polite no thank you become optional or up for debate?

It didn't. In fact, opt-out compliance is the law.

Did my switch from email newsletters to RSS damage your subscriber rates? Well, I've got news for you, buddy. Failed opt outs damage your subscriber rates too. And they build ill will. Not only do I not care to read your e-newsletter or whatever you're sending me, it irritates me every time I see something from your company.

In the future, take due diligence with your email lists. If I ask to be removed, I'm not joking, I'm not being coy, I want my email address removed from you list.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
Signed and sealed.

P.S. If you have opt-out frustrations to share, feel free to chime in on the comments.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Social Media Football: A Failed Experiment

Last week, I went to the Pats / Chargers game (i.e. the AFC Championships). The plans were absolutely last minute. In fact, I mentioned that I might be going to the game on the Topaz podcast PRobecast, which is recorded Friday afternoons. @dough suggested I make it a social media football game. And I'm writing to say that I failed. Here's why and what happened:

I did end up going to the game. And I spent the better part of the morning beforehand enabling mobile twitter. I thought I had it working the way I wanted, with only @s and DMs coming to my phone, and we left in a hurry to pick up everyone.

Moments after arriving at the tailgate in Foxboro, my pants caught fire. Immediately after putting out the flames, and taking off the smoldering layer of pants, I thought to myself, "I need to tweet this."

So I did:

Sandy Kalik skalik so five minutes into a tailgate and my pants catch fire

And I patiently waited, while I was checking my leg for damage, for the shocked @s. But none came, at least not to my phone. The "track skalik" failed me, my network didn't. Here are the reply tweets I found the next morning.

Leah Jones leahjones @skalik i think we need more of the story and pics.

Doug Haslam
DougH @skalik Your pants caught fire? That's been happening a lot to lady-fans of Tom Brady, I hear

Stuart MacDonald stuartma @skalik How, exactly, did you set your pants on fire? (Had to write that ;))

There's the mockery I had expected and looked forward to. But I had to wait until the following Monday to see it...

I continued to tweet what was going on at the game. I wasn't sure if my tweets were getting through, so I didn't tweet much.

Why did it fail?
It was a failed experiment because there's no sense in talking if you don't hear any replies. Engagement was lost, at least for the time. It made one hell of a story time Monday morning.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cause Commitment: How do you Support a Cause?

There are three overarching categories in the way a person can contribute to a cause or a non-profit. Any single person can care about a number of causes and showing commitment to all of them can be difficult. Sometimes you have to prioritize your causes and how you can show your support for each will vary. Here are a few ways you can support a cause:

Work for it.
Volunteer or join the professional staff of the non-profit organization formed around your cause. If there is no 501(c) 3 to support your cause, start one.

Fund it.
Organizations need money to function. Go to an event. Make a financial contribution to an annual fund or a capitol campaign (for a specific project, like a building)--those annual funds pay to keep the lights on.

Promote it.
Awareness is important to making (impacting, if you like that word) change. When people who know you associate you with a cause, it becomes more familiar to them, more relate-able (assuming people like you).

Act on it.
This isn't an option for all causes. But if you support child literacy, you could look to read to kids at a local library; if you're passionate about the environment, recycle, compost, look for renewable energy. Take matters into your own hands.

Whatever you do to support your cause, do not diminish the contributions of others. If you're really excited or passionate about a particular issue, that's great, but not everyone else is. You hurt your cause when you attack others as not supportive enough or fake--who wants to help if they don't feel appreciated or if they feel like their effort isn't enough?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Perception in Business vs. Private Understanding

Earlier this month, I posted on truth vs perception. And although, I only received one comment on the blog, the post has prompted quite a few conversations off-line about the topic. So I thought it warranted further discussion here. (And I encourage people to comment under an alias, if need be, so they can contribute to the discussion.)

The camps of thinking vary--there's the binary, absolution approach to truth versus perception, then there's the gray area approach, which is more ad hoc. I think I'm party to the gray area view, but I haven't always been.

So here are the options:

Binary 1: Perception

Summary: It's your responsibility to be perceived correctly.
Benefit: You're always in control of the situation.
Pitfall: Miscommunication is your always fault.

Binary 2: Truth / Understanding
Summary: Other people should seek to understand.
Benefit: It's not your fault if someone does get you.
Pitfall: (potentially) Denies culpability for your actions.

The Grey Area: Ad Hoc
Summary: Depends on the situation.
Benefit: You tailor your approach to your surroundings (ex. with friends, you hope they get you; in a professional setting, you have to make sure your meaning is their perception).
Pitfall: The situational boundaries aren't 100% clear anymore (ex. friend / professional).

Choose an approach and defend. (Use an alias if need be!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SOS: Save our Scrabulous

According to MarketingVOX and others, Mattel and Hasbro's corporate lawyers gave Scrabulous the ol' cease and desist, threatening my new favorite way to clear my head and play with my friends (AKA waste time).

Came across Jake McKee's write up (click here) of the probable scenario that led to this brand foible, in his post "Confessions of a Scrabble Brand Manager." It was definitely a good laugh, but it's sadly, more than likely how this whole thing happened.

From a branding perspective, this is excellent audience engagement--Scrabulous has 600,000 daily users. Does Scrabble have that many? Before Scrabulous came around, pulling out a Scrabble board at a party or family gathering was the furthest thing from my mind. I would bet 18 to 25 year olds, that magic marketing age group, are now playing more Scrabble because of the copyright infringement.

So I feel compelled to ask: What is the point of a copyright (if protecting it does damage to the brand and sales)?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Published Elsewhere: Media Bullseye and Tech PR Gems

Just a quick note here so that everyone knows that I was published today over at Custom Scoop's Media Bullseye (my post is here).

Also, I was on last week's edition of PRobecast and posted over at Tech PR Gems recently too (that post is here).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Media Fragmentation vs. Divided Attention

At this exact moment, I'm watching election coverage on TV, and trying to read through all of this week's coverage of Macworld--meaning I have tabs open from MacRumors Live, Engadget, Gizmodo, TechCrunch and others, and the voices from the various campaigns chiming in.

Different channels are providing different news of interest. However, my attention is so divided, I'm not sure it's effective to be doing so much at once.

Beyond the fact that there are so many distractions, often times, there's no telling when one will appear. The very important phone call about your best friend's shoes, the text message that arrived mid-presentation, the email that interrupted drafting a press release--all of these things interrupt, distract, but add value.

How do you maintain control of it all? I will have to return to this later... I have to finish something else. :-)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lousy Landlord Chronicles: Legal Advice Wanted

For my first apartment out of college, I was looking for a few minor things--inexpensive rent, heat and hot water and good company. When I signed the lease in August, I thought I was getting all of those things, as the majority of them were written into the contract. And yet, I find myself getting hosed. No literally.

Have you ever taken a shower after six or seven people and experienced the
quick fading hot water, where the temperature stays hot for long enough for you to wet your hair, before you need to turn it up, then turn it up again? Well, that's what showering at my place is like every time, no matter if you shower at 6:45am or 2:38pm, first or last.

Obviously, we've mentioned it once or twice to our landlord. He said, "I'll turn it up." And it'd be hotter for an extra minute for the following few days. Finally, three of us asked him about it.

"What's the deal with the hot water?" one of us asked. "It doesn't even make it through a ten minute shower."

"Ten minutes," he replied, "the system is only designed for three minutes at best. I don't know anyone that takes ten minute showers."

There was a dumbstruck moment of silence before one of us said that was unreasonable.

Now, there was some back a forth after this point, the three of us all too aware there was no communicating with a man who thought three minute showers was normal, let alone acceptable. The conversation ended with him telling us if this was going to be a consistent problem that we could move out by the first of the month. How generous!

But my outrage isn't quite the point--Does anyone have any idea what the legal requirements are for hot water when it's included in a lease? I've read through the MA Tenants' Rights and can't seem to find anything that addresses this specific question. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I've Been Meme-Tagged: So Who's Next?

Tag you're it. Well, not exactly. The whole concept of meme-tagging seems more closely related to chain mail than tag (in fact, I think the reference to "tagging" is more for the social media aspect than the game, but I like the school yard imagery). So the whole thing is off. And there are too many uses of the same word!

Doug Haslam, colleague at Topaz, social media guru and a frequent angry nerd, has meme- tagged me. So I will share share "8 random things about me" and pay it forward. First, here are the meme-tagging rules:

  1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
  2. List EIGHT random facts about yourself.
  3. Tag EIGHT people at the end of your post and list their names.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

Here eight random things about me:

  1. I got pulled over in the driver's ed car. Yes, the driver's ed car. I don't think the cop realized it at first because it turned into a really awkward, but amusing conversation between my driving instructor and the cop. "Did you tell her what she did wrong back there." "Why yes, officer. I was just explaining that to her now." Thanks, jerk.
  2. I was a cheerleader my senior year of high school. It was for one basketball season (I didn't cheer for football, which is probably for the best, because I actually got to watch the games).
  3. America's Next Top Model is my favorite way to waste time. I'm not a big fan of reality TV, but ANTM is a severe guilty pleasure, complete with all the expected hints of escapism. Thank you VH-1 for your recent Model-thon (ANTM marathon, seasons 1 through 10).
  4. Sometimes I get really uncomfortable in large or even medium sized groups of people--which is sort of funny considering I work in PR.
  5. My first job was at the local Subway. I was 15 and I didn't stay there very long.
  6. My second job was at Bullwinkle's Family Fun Center. Bullwinkle, as in Rocky and... Fun Center--well, I guess that was what you made of it.
  7. In high school, I wrote an article about the wrestling team originally titled, "Real Men Wear Spandex." Through the judicious page-editing process that title became, "Spandex, Eh?" And the title and the article, which was admittedly colorful, was first piece the 4- to 8-page paper had published that actually prompted a stern letter to the editor, and the principle, and the vice principle, and the head of the athletic department, and the journalism adviser. I cried. But I wrote similar pieces under the same headline every year until I graduated.
  8. Oh, the final random fact: "one time at band camp..." I played percussion and did actually attend band camp.
And now for the pay it forward portion of this meme-tagging thing we have going on.
Amanda Gravel, Jackie Vettorino, Paull Young, Michael Denton, Yianni Garcia, Joe Cascio, Julia Roy and Maria Thurrell--TAG, you're it! (My apologies in advance.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Truth or Perception--What's More Important?

This one question seems to get me into a lot of trouble, or at least cause me sufficient grief.

So what is really more important? Is it truth and intent or how it's all perceived?

Obviously, working in PR, the significance of perception is not lost on me. (I mention PR because it makes sense, but it was actually a personal situation, not work, that brought out this brain dump.)... I find it irritating that perception would trump truth or intent. Why wouldn't true perception be more valuable? Can a subjective thing be true?

In PR and in any professional career, we strive to put our clients' or our own best foot forward. But that best foot should always be factually accurate (read: not misleading).

I guess it's striking to me (and striking me) that people, myself included, consistently look for the negative, the scandal, the "ah-ha, I caught you." I find that real life situations are rarely that simple, nor that treacherous.

I suppose if people can't perceived intent, you have to tell them.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Planning a Trip Back Home

It's been over a year since I've returned to the home state. And I miss it.

Back in the day, I had planned to come out to Boston for college and head straight home afterwards. It was supposed to be a four year stay away, then back to the Pacific Northwest for me. Instead, I developed a love hate relationship with this city and I wasn't quite sure I could go home. Isn't there some sort of adage about that?

Planning a trip home has brought about some nostalgia. You move away from home and you can't have any regrets. But I always wonder what it would have been like if I had never left. Where would I have gone to college? (University of Oregon? U.W.?) Where would I be living now? And what would I do be doing for work?

Would I have been at the hospital when my best friend gave birth to her first child?

It's too great a distance for entirely too long!

But can you ever really go home? We shall see. We shall see.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Got Sick Last Night & Didn't Get This Post Up: Clients and Competitors

Wasn't feeling great last night, but I went to bed with a blog post in mind.

I wanted to talk about blogging on clients' competitor. One of my clients that has yet to launch has a competitor in the space that I'm actually interested in trying. I worry about the ethically issues. If I try it out and write about it--regardless of what I say, there's the possibility of it being taken all wrong and coming back to me in that light. If I right something positive, then I've given a competitor publicity. If I right something negative, it looks like Astroturf.

So clearly, I haven't written about this topic yet. What do you think? Can I review a product or service on my blog knowing it's a client's competitor?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

First Day of Work in 2008

Felt very much like the last day of work in 2007. For all the resolutions and the celebration, tomorrow brought the same stuff yesterday did--my usual routine.

Do you remember how when you were a kid people would ask on your birthday if you felt any different? With scores of resolutions (or in my case three), we design the New Year to be one of pre-set direction. We hope to start again and feel the New Year bring in renewed opportunities.

But I don't remember feeling any difference between age six and seven. Do you?

Big changes--life altering decisions--don't come at convenient and neat mile markers. People remember the day they met their spouse, down to the outfit they were wearing. Will I remember what I wore this NYE? Doubtful.

Does today feel any different from yesterday?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Years' Resolutions: Yeah Rights and For Serious

Tis the season of self awareness... well, no. We have a season of giving, then we have some time for self reflection and introspection. Perhaps this is another tradition that's gotten away from us (like the holiday season). But after all the holiday mayhem, there are a few days to reset yourself and think about what you want to do differently in the coming year.

Yeah Right
The other day, I shared a few "yeah right" resolutions on Twitter. And a couple of the regular twitter-verse chimed in too. Most everyone joked about cutting out coffee--in fact, the idea of giving up coffee prompted the "yeah right" resolution discussion.

In a post called 10 Reasons Not To Make New Year's Resolution This Year, Jeffrey Strain of the Saving Advice blog wrote a post blasting the whole tradition of creating New Years resolutions. One of his major critiques is that people make resolutions like they're writing down a wish list--resolutions should be attainable goals. And when you decide on a goal for yourself, you should start immediately.

For Serious
So today is the day. What resolutions, err, goals do I have for the coming year?

Here's the short list:
  • Eat healthy. To me, diet is another four-letter word. So I normally ignore it. This year, I want to focus on eating healthy.
    • Substitute tea for my morning coffee.
  • Post often. I decided to participate in blog365. That's the goal--let's see if I can do it.
  • Start saving. I've been out of college for a few months now and it's time to start putting some mullah away.
    • I've chosen a small amount I can squirrel away each month in a high interest savings account. Every month.
Is there something you really want to do this year? One major thing you want to change? Please share in the comments.