December 28, 2010
When I launched this blog in 2008, things were beginning to change…quickly.
From where I sat then at a PR agency I thought, “Wow, the paradigms are about to shift. Someone should document this!” And so, I did.
In the roughly two-and-a-half years since the first post to Cut Me Some Flack, pretty much everything has changed…and that’s not much of an exaggeration either. I blogged about what was emerging, how it was changing jobs and responsibilities, entire industries and the complexities of delivering a message to a new medium.
And in that time my life changed. In many ways I grew up. Graduated from the first chapter of my career in Communications and seized an awesome opportunity in a new role. I no longer work on what I lovingly refer to as “the dark side” in a PR agency. Nope, now my whole work world is social media. What was once a tag in a blog is now a job title for me!
So since all this has come to pass it seems like the right time to write the final post for Cut Me Some Flack.
Thank you for reading and commenting and sharing. I’m sure I’ll need a new outlet to document my observations on social media soon. Stay tuned.
Until then…God Bless & Happy Posting!
July 10, 2010
Both are socially pervasive and signs of the times. One we know will cause cancer, the other — well, some people are looking into it. Have smart phones become the new cigarette?
I’m a little late to the party, but I just started watching Mad Men (I know, I know). And I can’t help but notice how often and how deliberately — even strategically — the cast seems to whip out a cigarette.
During awkward turns of phrase…
As an excuse to glance down when someone you don’t wish to speak with walks by…
Out of sheer nervousness…
As I watched, I realized that worst of the bad habits cigarettes instilled in the American culture was not its stinking, carcinogenic stench, but rather the convenient and dismissive excuse to avoid interaction with other people.
Somehow, watching this show there still remains a certain debonair quality to smoking a cigarette. Maybe it’s the elegance all those things of times-gone-by manage to maintain — well, most things anyway.
Smart Phones…not so much. There’s nothing really classy about unabashedly staring down into a glowing LCD screen as someone you love tries to tell you about their day. Nor is there anything glamorous about being hunched over a handset to update your status in public.
But the reality is we depend on smart phones. They are the life lines to our bank balances, Twitter feeds, myriad apps and other conveniences that actually allow us to connect. But by the same token, they are an addiction. We feel jittery without them in much the same way one trying to lay off cigarettes does when they’re really jonesing for a smoke.
It’s as much a physical addiction as it is a psychological one. The weight of the handset in our palms has an odd comfort about it. We are deeply connected. I don’t know about you, but I can sense my blackberry buzzing before it does so, in the same way that I’m often able to anticipate what my darling husband might say before the words leave his lips. (Creepy that I just used that comparison actually…)
But there’s no elegance to the whole smart phone obsession. Are they necessary for everyday life?…in my world, heck yes. Is there any grace in these marvels of technology? If you’re into the whole “beautiful code” movement, probably. But there’s more hazard than harmony when it comes to our relationships with smart phones.
Our text happy thumbs have lead to tragic accidents. People have lost their lives paying more attention to the next BBM coming in than the road they’re driving on. We are down right callous to one another, giving more doting attention to these tiny computers than to the ones we love. There are even surgeries for those who have contracted injuries from physical overuse!
And if someone adds to the pile conclusive evidence that there’s neural damage or carcinogenic impact from our addictive use of smart phones whatever will we do? What substitute will suffice? How will we connect with one another? What will happen when something awkward happens and there’s no smart phone to turn to? Will we be forced to face down the ex-boyfriend, work foe or other nemesis headed our way down the street?
God help us if we have to interact with one another with no distractions in our hands, cigarettes, smart phones, stuffed animals, whatever.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I sense that my Blackberry is about to ring…
May 15, 2010
Our forefathers in their great wisdom saw fit to separate church and state so as to divide two volatile and sometimes conflicting arenas. Such is the case with personal and professional information in social media.
This is why God invented professional networks like LinkedIn and (ridiculously difficult) privacy settings on Facebook so that you could segregate the professional from the personal and put up firewalls where the professional might peer over into the personal. But there are some places where the only protection and privacy you have is your own good judgement.
Because of this, I’d like to post some Emily Post-esque advice for those of you who exist in that delicate gray area where personal and professional collide.
- Where’s my personal space? — Figure this out, then lock that area down! Set privacy that makes sense, and don’t compromise on who gets in this area…not even once!
- What goes in my professional space? — Do you blog professionally? Cool. That can go in your professional space. Does your Twitter stay professional? Awesome, that can go in your professional space. Do you support a religious or political group and make statements in support of them — hold it. In the same way that it’s dangerous to bring up religion or politics at dinner parties, it’s also dangerous to bring them up in social media where professional connections can see…and judge.
- If my boss saw this would I blush (or get fired)? — This is the first question you should ask yourself before posting anything, anywhere. There are ways…just know there are ways…Google has a long memory. Plus, who knows what changes Facebook will make to privacy and if you don’t catch that change and personal information that could potentially effect you professionally becomes available, well, it might not be pretty.
- Do the people I let in my network know me well enough to know what I mean? This is a complex question, but one you just have to ask. Whether in a personal or professional setting, you need to know your audience. And you need to know if they know you well enough to understand a sarcastic joke or personal position on a topic. This applies to both areas. There’s no icon — or better yet , font — for sarcasm, so the crowd you communicate with needs to be one who gets you. If not, it’s better to monitor yourself and your content for things that may be taken the wrong way and could leave you in a bad position.
There are a lot of potholes on the social media highway and, give recent trends, they’ll only get bigger. As with so many things in the social space, you have to be your own best advocate and protector when it comes to maintaining privacy and also your personal and professional brands.
May 2, 2010
Have you seen this ad?
The text reads:
We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines.
The Internet is exhilarating. Magazines are enveloping. The Internet grabs you. Magazines embrace you. The Internet is impulsive. Magazines are immersive. And both media are growing.
Barely noticed amidst the thunderous Internet clamor i s the simple fact that magazine readership has risen over the past five years. Even in the age of the Internet, even among the groups one would assume are most singularly hooked on digital media, the appeal of magazines is growing.
Think of it this way: during the 12-year life of Google, magazine readership actually increased 11 percent.
What it proves, once again, is that a new medium doesn’t necessarily displace and existing one. Just as movies didn’t kill radio. Just as TV didn’t kill movies. An established medium can continue to flourish so long as it continues to offer a unique experience. And, as reader loyalty and growth demonstrate, magazines do.
Which is why people aren’t giving up swimming, just because they also enjoy surfing.
I LOVE this campaign! LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! For a few months I’ve been opening up my magazines and reading this ad with a big smile on my face!
For a couple of years this blog has covered the contracting print industry. And what I have never said is how terribly afraid I was that my beloved magazines would eventually fade away into Internet oblivion.
I love this ad because it’s true. Though I get my headlines from Tweets and e-newsletters, nothing makes me so happy (or my mailman so sad) as MAGAZINE DAY! I can’t wait to dig in and flip through the pages. It’s the smell, the colors, the info! I love swimming in all of it.
Magazines are, as the ad states, a unique experience. The blend of consumable, useful tidbits, paired with rich content in a format that feels comfortable, like a friend.
Just to exemplify how dedicated I am to the magazine experience, let me introduce you to some of my (and my equally devoted husband’s) magazine friends — and by friends I mean subscriptions:
- Architectural Digest
- Elle Decor
- Marie Claire
- Men’s Health
- Real Simple
- Us Weekly
- Vanity Fair
(Note that all these great publications have fantastic websites as well.)
Not only do my husband and I love to read magazines and feel that we are enriched by their presence in our home, but we LOVE to give great magazines as gifts. Honestly, it’s the gift that keeps on giving every month. When a dear friend got engaged, I immediately celebrated her pending nuptials with a subscription to Martha Stewart Weddings. Christmas gifts — easy breezy. Hard-to-buy-for types are easily remedied with a subscription to a magazine related to a personal interest. While Apple iPhone owners chime “There’s an app for that,” when it comes to the holidays I gleefully say “There’s a magazine for that!”
The Internet might give us unlimited monthly access to unlimited amounts of information, but magazines give us the value of a unique, reliable and regular experience.
Might I add, as my hubby and I contemplate doing some remodeling to our home, I’m quickly discovering a whole new world of magazines to swim in as I immerse myself in flooring selections, finishes, faucets, paint ideas and more!
Magazines, in short, are magic.
March 31, 2010
Before I begin, I need to apologize for breaking my own social media rule…not being consistent. The good news is that I’ve been busy with great things at a job I’m just nuts about. Who has to pinch themselves on the way to work Monday morning because they love their job so much?…I’m bonkers — in a good way. I digress. Sorry I haven’t posted in like a month.
Having worked in the agency world for the first four years of my career, I get the kind of nuts-o, non-stop insanity that is the agency lifestyle. It’s high stress, high pay-off, demanding, thankless –yet somehow strangely rewarding– work. And I think that Kell on Earth is in some ways an accurate representation of the scope of competencies, projects, changes and dynamics of PR today.
That being said…
There are a lot of trade secrets and other — let’s call them “agency habits” — that I always assumed all PR people were sworn to secrecy on. I can’t imagine that some of People’s Revolution’s clients were happy to see the turmoil of people quitting, doing things wrong, getting fired, buckling under pressure just when the moment counts…
That being said…
Getting your clients mentioned in this platform is incredible. People’s Revolution truly guaranteed coverage to their clients for full-on fashion shows, behind-the-scenes video shoots, exclusive events and more! Can you put an ROI figure on that? Is that figure worth the potential damage to your company’s reputation in terms of what others might think of your process and professionalism once revealed through the fascinating medium of reality TV?
People’s Revolution represents a highly niche clientele, who are — let’s just be honest — a lot more willing to take risks than 99.99 percent of businesses out there. This is probably exactly why Kelly Cutrone can get away with this. She’s a smart enough business person to have gone through the hoops of legality and approvals from all the clients featured during the first season of the show. (Additionally, she’s a “No Apologies” kind of gal, so that probably works in her favor too.) What’s more, fashion folk know that being talked about is the life-blood of the industry. It’s not enough to have your garment on a hanger, your name needs to be hanging on everyone’s lips too.
So, even as I struggle with some of the things I’ve seen on Kell on Earth in terms of the chaos of the office (bill collecting, firing clients, being fired by clients, clients behaving badly in front of the press) and the panic of pulling it all together (the last-minute craziness of planning any event, not having enough tequila to keep editors entertained), I have to concede that no other company could get away with this (Lizzy Grubman sure didn’t!).
Every other PR agency on the planet will have to maintain their “corporate creativity,” toeing the line between being the foot-lose visionaries who are coming up with the next wild and brilliant idea and staying buttoned-up enough to be able to relate to the “Suits.”
Analysis of the show aside, I hope viewers, especially those aspiring to a career in PR, take a good hard look at what’s required to make it and how hard people work to pull it off.
Agency life asks you to abandon the principle of work-life balance and requires you to take on menial tasks coupled with those well beyond your preparedness — both at the same time! It is not a glamorous martinis-at-lunch, event-planning, elbow-rubbing social free-for-all — not even for the most seasoned partners and owners.
While I’m reconciled to the idea that this may have been a brilliant PR strategy for the People’s Revolution team, when the credits roll at the end of the show, I always catch myself thinking, “What the Kell?!?”
February 6, 2010
I’m currently reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Which is a really great read.
If you haven’t read the book, here’s the premise: Collins’ asked the question “What takes a company from being just good to great?” He proceeds to do an exhaustive study of companies examining their success over decades, identifies a point of transition followed by a period of success 15+ years (sustained success). He compares these companies to those that performed at or below market value during the same period of time.
Collins does a great job of finding parings that are remarkable in their comparisons, which makes the findings in Good to Great all that much more interesting and impactful.
But…(you saw that coming right?)…there’s a catch. Collins’ book was written well before 2008. Why is that significant? Well, all of these companies did well before the humongous crash our economy took that year. And this is exactly why Collins’ inclusion of FannieMae and Circuit City as two of the success stories is so darn interesting as I read this book today.
There’s a chapter called the “Hedgehog Concept” in the book. One of the chief objectives of the Hedgehog Concept (there are three parts) is to identify what you can be the very best at. Guess what FannieMae said…”Assessing mortgage risk.” HA!
Also in the Hedgehog Concept chapter is a section on identifying your strategy for being most profitable. Guess what Circuit City said…” Measuring profits by region not by store.”
It’s interesting (funny) because the same thing that Collins empirically identified as making these companies successful — GREAT– is the EXACT same thing that caused them so much trouble in the recent economic tumble.
Obviously, FannieMae wasn’t as good at assessing mortgage risk as they thought they were — or at least not under a certain set of conditions. What’s worse their perceived ability to assess mortgage risk is sort of the impetus for oh so many of the issues that happened with the “Great Recession.”
Circuit City’s profit loss by region is probably an accurate indicator of how the recession impacted every area of the U.S., since their strategic profit model was not to measure by store, but by region. As household dollars shrunk and discretionary spending cutbacks eliminated purchases like TVs, computers and other large home electronics, you’d better bet Circuit City suffered losses in the exact same order that regions across the U.S went into recession.
All of this leads me to my own question: what do you do when your past is brighter than your present? Well, in the case of FannieMae and Circuit City, maybe don’t go tell people to read Good to Great, but the executive suite, probably ought to pick it up and read it!
Part of any recovery is going back to basics. Circle back to the beginning and re-evaluate, re-affirm what were the things that generated success, shaped your brand and put you on the path to great.
All brands ought to do this at this point in time I think. There are but few Cinderella stories coming out of the financial and economic crisis and everyone needs to take an honest look and say, “This is what we did well.” and “This is where we really fell down.”
Because the new business normal IS change, it’s even more critical for businesses to adhere to their brand promise. Customers need something they can trust when so many things are changing. Your (the business) unwavering promise to be true to your brand is something people can rally around and come back to no matter what else changes.
Unfortunately for FannieMae, the turn of events is such that I don’t know if they’ll ever recover from the fall out. Their brand trust was so damaged in all this that it may be quite a long time before the taint of this recession and their significant role in it will wash away.
Circuit City, however, was a casualty of the recession…a victim of the times. A lot of people talked about this recession having a positive effect in that it purged the economy of weak companies. I don’t believe that Circuit City falls into that category. They were, as I said about FannieMae earlier, a company whose strategy and success were not tested under these circumstances, the result being that the strategy obviously didn’t generate success under these conditions.
Anytime a company suffers a set back, be it financial, a scandal, a product recall (Toyota I’m talking to you), or some other event that jeopardizes your outlook, it’s time to reassess. Nothing is so valuable as adhering to your brand promise. No matter what has taken place — STOP REACTING! Go back and proactively assess who you are REALLY, identify how you somehow abandoned the brand promise and state exactly how you’ll avoid doing that EVER again.
Let boil it all down to one famous phrase: If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
January 11, 2010
For businesses, social media presents a conundrum: Participate and risk people speaking negatively or don’t participate and eliminate the threat of saying something people will react to…and people will probably still say negative things.
Some very public companies have learned the hard way — United Airlines comes to mind — that not participating is tantamount to saying the worst thing possible. So, as with any other form of communication, you must plan for the worst with a crisis communications plan.
The first thing to acknowledge in crisis planning is that you have almost no control. Try though we might, we do not have control over the things people say, only our reaction to them. What’s the adage? Life’s 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. It’s also true in social media crisis planning. Once you’ve let go of how to control people in social media, you can effectively devise ways to respond in the event of an emergency.
From my point of view, social media crisis planning unfolds in two parts:
- Social media is the nucleus of the crisis
- Social media as a response tool for another kind of crisis.
For #1 scenarios, you must plan your response.
Let’s say your company makes children’s toys. Let’s say an angry mother whose child had some traumatic experience with said toy launches an all out assault on your brand and product via every single social media tool she has access to. Let’s say she’s savvy and influential, so she’s blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and commenting on influential mothering forums. Big problem, right? Hopefully you’ve got good listening tools in place, so that you can catch these scenarios VERY early on. Either way…
What do you do? Go to the source – fast. You are a big bad brand who harmed her little angel with your shoddy product as far as this mother is concerned, so you have to make it personal and one-on-one as quickly as possible.
Once people deal with a person who has established even a modicum of trust, they will often back it down a notch or two. It takes the sting out in many cases. So reaching out in a personal, responsive — and if possible — high level way immediately way shows you care, not just about your reputation, but about the mother’s concerns and the child’s well-being (Not to mention the well-being of children everywhere in this hypothetical situation!)
Second step (I hope this is obvious): LISTEN! Hear this person out. We learn a lot about our selves by listening to what people have to say in social media. As such, take the opportunity to learn how to avoid this in the future while you’re taking the time to help this vocal individual.
Step three, mitigate damage and hopefully with an ally. Depending upon how large the awareness about your issue is, target the largest media net and cast out news that your company is working closely with said family to resolve the defect/issue/what-have-you.
Just like any relationship, if you survive tough times together, you often come out stronger. So it is with brands and customers. If you can work to accommodate the customer and create a satisfactory result, you’re likely to have an even more loyal ambassador in the long haul.
Now, scenario #2, which is equally if not more important than having some plans for #1 — using social media to communicate during a crisis.
People need information in a crisis. Be it the media, shareholders or other persons effected by your crisis, communicating to them in an efficient, thorough and continual way is positive.
As part of your planning, analyze the networks you company participates in and ask yourself these three questions:
- Where is my largest audience?
- Where will I have the most ability to distribute information?
- Where am I directing people for more information?
Once you’ve answered these three questions, plan accordingly to develop a distribution plan including authorized spokespeople, designated social media updates and intervals for information release (crisis dependent).
Remember that social media is just one tool that can be utilized in a crisis, so everything that you plan as part of your social media crisis response should integrate seamlessly with your overall crisis communications planning.
Ultimately, you have to plan for the worst and simply hope for the best. What’s the saying: An ounce of prevention…In the calm of day-to-day fortify your company and its reputation by building a brand in social media that can withstand a crisis.
December 23, 2009
Changes. Changes. Happening day and night. One day. Rainbows. Next day nothing’s. right. It’s scary. Shakey. Everything is strange. When nothing in certain but change.
Lyrics from the musical Annie are probably the most accurate way to sum up my feelings on this year and my reflections on a decade of sweeping change.
First this year. For me personally, 2009 brought lots of change to my life. I can say with out a doubt that I leave this year (and this decade) knowing much more about myself and what I want to do in life than recent years.
The major change in ’09 — I changed jobs! It has been such a positive transition that has opened me up to my passions and potential. In the two months since I started the next chapter of my career as a social media strategist, I can’t shake the feeling that this is exactly what I was meant to do. Not only is the culture of my new company great, but the work is genuinely satisfying and the team I work with is profoundly talented in so many ways.
I suppose my feelings about my new position pinpoint me as Gen Y. I was looking for something meaningful, flexible and collaborative at a company that is socially responsible in more ways than one (i.e recycling bins EVERYWHERE & they have a deep moral commitment to positively impact their community)…BINGO! I’m officially a satisfied and motivated Gen Y-er. My work is gratifying and my field is fascinating, because the social media field is really brand-spankin-new!
My new position working in social media is also a unique vantage point from which to view the decade. Let me sum it up:
- My third week at Gonzaga University — September 11, 2001
- Facebook debuts — February 2004 (Junior year)
- MySpace mania — 2005
- Cut Me Some Flack launches — June 2008
- The social media election — November 2008
- Twitter mesmerized every newscast on TV — 2009
What is most remarkable to me is that from the VERY beginning of my post-secondary education our world started shifting and changing in a most drastic way. No doubt 9/11 will forever be a date that altered the course of our collective history. The way that single, shocking event was reported on begat the technologies and new communications, or at least a new way of looking at communication that have brought us to where we are at today.
People needed information so rapidly in the curious and terrifying moments after the first plane hit the tower. There were so many perspectives on the tragedy that needed to be expressed so we could grieve together as a nation as the awful — and sometimes heroic — story unfolded. In some ways, social media is a direct response to the needs of that one day.
Comedian Lewis Black does a sketch about how we ADHA watching the news after 9/11, with tickers running in every direction to get us information about the most every.single.thing. It’s a funny bit, largely because of Black’s singular delivery, but also because it’s so true! There were CG’s running in every which direction, weather up top and reporter hair attached to a head talking at you from the center (I’m paraphrasing Lewis, eliminating his, er, um, choice language and very formed opinions). But boil it all down and isn’t the scroll running across the bottom of insert-your-favorite-Cable-news-network the precursor to Twitter?
Particularly in the latter half of the decade, look at how traditional media has been trounced influenced by social media. Viewers now comment on newscasts right in the middle of said broadcast! New stories are sourced via Facebook. Interviews are conducted via Twitter. Publications now live (and die) by their headlines in 140 characters or less.
The community-building and affinity that brands have access to in social media makes recording agencies like Nielsen nearly obsolete. Why go to them when you can go get it right from the horse’s mouth? Ask the viewers — Glee! fans will gladly tell you what they think of American Idol bumping the world’s best TV show off the air for three months; you guessed it I’m one of ’em — they will tell you in no uncertain terms what they want! (And I want my Glee! darnit!)
Some forms of communication are hanging on by the barest of threads. Press releases and the newspapers whose pages they filled are on life support as these pre-historic industries acclimate to the new millenium a decade too late. 35,000 journalism jobs lost are a tragedy .Television too will hit its speed bump — though it might not bottom out as badly as print — just take a look at advertising giant Pepsi yanking its annual investment in the Super Bowl in favor of a multi-million dollar social media campaign! Or on a smaller level, cities like Roswell, NM and so many like it losing local television coverage as stations attempt to consolidate.
What it all adds up to is a new world communication order. When I graduated from Gonzaga in 2005, my job title wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s eye! And yet, four years into my communications career I’ve got the opportunity to be on the leading edge of an industry that will impact every company and ultimately every person in some fashion.
If the word of 2009 is “Twitter” the word of the decade is “Social Media.” These ten years will be summed up not by the events that shaped the time, but rather, the way in which we communicated them. It’s remarkable. It’s exciting. It’s utterly fascinating. Who isn’t hooked?
Looking forward into 2010 and beyond, we are truly altered. I think it’s safe (and totally obvious) to say that the shift will continue as social media exerts its influence into every corner of our lives. Going forth, we will know better how to measure and analyze the changes, become adept to new social media tools at a faster rate and deepen our capabilities on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and their ilk.
What tools, what metrics and what surprises lie ahead are anyone’s guess. The only thing that’s certain…is change.
December 6, 2009
I was visiting my parents for Thanksgiving in rural Southeastern New Mexico and I noticed something…their local news sucks!
No, I’m not talking about lame news stories — those are everywhere (enter reference to Tiger Woods here). I’m talking about bad production, paltry reporting and skimpy information.
Roswell — where my mom and dad are at — doesn’t even have a local news affiliate anymore! That’s what the real issue is, I think. They have no town crier! Even the smallest of towns ought to have a reporter to cover the local interests. That’s what makes journalism a civil service, right? They aren’t even afforded a single reporter who zips footage back to the mother ship…
In a time when news stations have both citizen journalists and affordable resources and technologies which creates the ability to produce coverage in even the most remote of places, why don’t they?
There’s no reason for any small town to be ostracized when it comes to news coverage — not in this day and age where technologies abound.
Because broadcast technologies are changing so much and the media landscape is shifting at a more rapid pace than anyone could possibly have predicted, it’s important keep everyone in the loop. Older generations still rely on the local news and the daily paper. As those mediums are stripped away or shifted online, what will the impact be in the midst of a crisis? How will people who aren’t computer literate get their vital local information if the news affiliates don’t provide it?
I’m a big champion of utilizing new technology and social media to engage people and offer information. But there’s a big ethical question looming out there about how to responsibly provide coverage to people that aren’t well versed in the Web.
What is a TV station’s responsibility to provide a reasonable standard of local news coverage?
I don’t know the answer. But it better not begin and end with the bottom line (yes, I know $ has to figure in there somewhere, just don’t be a total Scrooge about it). There are a lot innovative ways to secure coverage to create broadcasts. Get creative. Don’t continue to be small time.