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.