What's Your Social Salary Ceiling?

Duck your head, you may be close to hitting your social salary ceiling. I hit mine last year. I think my wife hit hers this year.

What do I mean by this? It's the point at which what you know becomes less important than who you know when it comes to getting your next job or winning business. I suspect it's heavily dependent on your industry, but when it comes to PR and social media, I've definitely reached it.

Not to say this is bad -- it's why I teamed up with Chuck Tanowitz to form Fresh Ground. And not to say I don't know as much as I used do of course. Now I'm wiser!

How old were you when you reached your social salary ceiling?


iPhone, Gizmodo and Jason Chen: Yes, Bloggers are Journalists, but is that the issue?

Jason Chen (pictured right) over at Gizmodo had an amazing scoop. For $5000 (paid by Gizmodo) he landed the next-generation iPhone, a gadget left behind at a bar by a poor Apple employee (who is no longer such) and seemingly picked up by a passerby.

But now the story has taken a darker turn. Today it came out that police raided Chen's home on Friday night and seized quite a bit of equipment like digital cameras, hard drives, etc. Why? According to the search warrant, because the items may have been used in a felony.* Gawker Media is now arguing that Chen is protected under the Shield Law, drawing a direct argument that bloggers are journalists. According to TechCrunch, the San Mateo District Attorney is investigating whether a crime took place and collecting evidence, but Gawker argues that because of the shield law, they cannot take the materials from Chen, as he is a journalist and therefore protected. As TechCruch defines the law "California’s shield laws protect journalists from having to turn over their sources and unpublished information they’ve collected as part of their reporting. However, Gizmodo could be found to have committed a crime when they paid the phone’s finder for the device."

Frankly, I don't dispute that bloggers are journalists. (Full disclosure: I have pitched Chen several times in the past) and as of when I am writing this article, the investigation has come to a "pause" because the shield law may apply.

My problem is, and always has been, with the idea of a Shield Law. It's not that I think journalists shouldn't protect their sources. Of course they should. But I also believe that journalists are citizens and citizens, in this day and age, are journalists. The First Amendment applies to everyone, so how can you create a class of citizens for whom it is more important? How can you decided that one class of citizens can maintain protection for information they have that could be relevant in a criminal case, but another class cannot be protected? No journalist would argue that we should have a "journalist registry," so how can you define who is a journalist and who isn't?

As Justice White wrote in Branzburg v. Hayes: "Sooner or later, it would be necessary to define those categories of newsmen who qualified for the privilege, a questionable procedure in light of the traditional doctrine that liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photocomposition methods."

That was 1972. Drop in "blogger" for "pamphleteer" and you see where this is headed. In other words: it's not up to the courts, nor the legislators, to decide who is and isn't a journalist.

I don't have a real answer here to the obvious problem. How can you ensure the free flow of information without turning journalists, bloggers and other publishers of information into arms of law enforcement?

* A lot of people see Apple's invisible hand behind this police investigation. It's possible. But keep in mind, Apple is not shy about suing to protect itself. Remember the site Apple sued them into an oblivion a few years back. How many companies can sue their most ardent fans and get away with it? I ask this question even as I type on a MacBook Pro while my iPhone charges behind me. Would we bloggers and tech folks be as forgiving if Apple didn't produce great products?


“It’s not about the whiz-bang things!”

Had the pleasure of seeing Scott Monty in action again today, just before my panel with Andrew Sinkov of Evernote and Manish Mehta of Dell. One of the many good points he made during his NewComm Forum keynote is that, ultimately, "social media is not about the tools, technology and whiz-bang things. It’s about culture and culture change.”

That is the point of my panel discussion. I'll try to share video, but in the meantime, here is my slide deck:


Scientology, Journalism and Money in a New Media World

The age of new media means that anyone can publish. That much we know. But the full implications of this switch are just becoming clear.

Take the situation in Tampa Bay, Florida, in which the St. Petersburg Times has a long history of investigative stories about the locally-based Church of Scientology. From a traditional journalistic standpoint this is good work. The Times has an extensive record of ethical reporting and its standards are some of the best in the industry. No one questions the work they do.

Well, except for the Church of Scientology, which took exception to the whole idea. Twenty years ago the church probably would have fought any allegations in the Times through legal means or by undertaking a media-relations campaign aimed at other publications. Maybe they would have opened up their doors to a local TV news program or asked their members to bring friends as a grass roots effort.

But in today's world they did something very interesting: they turned the Times reporting tactics on the Times. First reported by Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post, the news has spread quickly, with most stories asking whether this is a good idea.  It's not like the church is a neophyte in the journalistic world. They've had a publication called Freedom for some time.

It seems that the Church of Scientology knew what it was doing when it picked its reporters. It didn't pick just anyone, but people with great credentials including a reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize, the former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors and a former producer for the venerable TV program "60 Minutes."

The St. Petersburg Times didn't answer questions and pretty much stonewalled the whole process. Their defense was pretty simple: this wasn't journalism it was a hatchet job from a biased party. Of course, the church has made similar allegations against the Times. But is this particular piece a hatchet job? The reporters themselves took the job pretty seriously. Steve Weinberg, the executive director mentioned above, told Kurtz that he put $5000 in his bank account to play the role of editor and "tried to make sure it's a good piece of journalism criticism, just like I've written a gazillion times. . . . For me it's kind of like editing a Columbia Journalism Review piece." But he continued that this wasn't your normal reporting job: "It certainly wouldn't be something just any reporter would do. My role was more limited, and I can certainly use the money these days."

Ah yes, the money, the journalists got theirs up front, by the way. When the jobs came open True/Slant pointed it out, and asked openly whether a journalist should take the gig, but ended with "work is work." Journalistic organizations are laying off quality reporters by the truckload. At the same time, companies need content to attract readers to their blogs, Websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds or anything else that takes a feed. Journalists are people with skills who need to eat. If their skills aren't appreciated in the traditional journalism industry, they'll just make a move. Wouldn't you?

Oddly, in a comment on the True/Slant post, Steve Weinberg himself weighed in (first), saying "Recently, an experienced investigative journalist who has found it difficult to Steve Weinbergconduct his work because of the economic downturn asked me if he should apply for the Scientologists’ opening. I told him no, even though I like to see superb investigative reporting no matter who is funding it. More than any other existing organization that comes to mind, the Scientologists have been so hostile to outside journalists that I cannot see crossing the line to accept employment there. But I told my acquaintance that I’m speaking only for myself. After all, for some folks, work is indeed work, as the T/S posting by Matt Stroud says."

I guess "work is work" trumps his fears about the Church of Scientology. Or maybe he told his buddy "no" because he needed the work himself.

But the question still remains: is this particular effort really journalism? The journalists who worked on the report certainly think so, though the critics have their knickers in a knot about the whole thing. They're asking weighty questions like "what does this mean for the industry?" Although, I'm curious how loudly they'd ask those questions when the pinkslip lands on their desk and they're forced to find new jobs.

My personal problem with the actions of the Church of Scientology aren't in what they did, but what they're not doing. They're not releasing the reporting. That's what journalism is all about, shining a light into the darkest corners of society. It's not just about finding those places, but about turning on the light and letting the world see it. The Church isn't releasing the reporting.

If you're going to create content, then let's see it.


Social Media DNA: Does Your Company Have It?

LaunchCamp divided pretty easily into two camps, companies and executives who:

  1. Understand social networking technologies inherently; and
  2. Know they need to do something, but are not sure what.

This divide isn’t new and frankly, it’s not going to end any time soon. In the past I’ve been asked to design training programs only to find that some people within an organization understand social technologies and concepts very well and wanted to move on beyond the basics. Then there are those who are still figuring out how to sign up for a Twitter account or maybe have just dipped their toe into Facebook.

With this type of audience one size never fits all.

But for LaunchCamp it wasn’t just a division among individuals as Isis Maternity Community Manager Cindy Meltzer noted during our recent conversation. It could also be felt in corporate culture.

During the startup panel it became apparent that most tech-based companies being founded today are steeped in social networking tools. Not just because the founders are young, in fact their ages run the spectrum, but because the genesis for their ideas come from first understanding social networking. In other words: the aspect of marketing that takes conversation into account is built in. It’s part of their DNA.

Jules Pieri, CEO of the Daily Grommet

Take the example of the Daily Grommet. When moderator David Beisel asked about how much each company spent on launch marketing, the answer came back as nothing. Though, as Jules will tell you, it was nothing EXTRA. Frankly, marketing is baked into the idea of “Citizen Commerce,” which is the idea that the customers drive the direction of the products featured each day. This isn’t a one-way system of “we produce, you buy” but community conversation of “we find what you want.”

Since the community members are, by nature, excited by the products they’re more likely to take action and talk about them.

The same goes for Runkeeper, which factored sharing right into the product. From the start the idea wasn’t only to use a mobile device to track your routes and save information about you, but to share that information with your friends. By doing that you are, in fact, sharing the product you’re using. If friends want to share back they need to get that product too. The viral nature is built in, not tacked on later.

By contrast I hear from companies that have traditional business models and are looking for a way to build social networking into their marketing programs. This isn’t a bad thing (in fact, it’s great) but it’s also just the start.

To truly engage in this world each company must look beyond their marketing departments and find their communities, then use the tools to engage them. After all, that’s how new companies are finding their way.


Eroding the Trust One Flake at a Time

My previous life found me in the news rooms and control rooms of various Boston TV stations producing the days' news. And yes, I produced the occasional snow show.

Snow shows don't exist much anymore, but back then when a big storm came to town we'd do "wall-to-wall coverage" of this snow event. We'd put reporters on highways and in emergency bunkers. They'd stand out on street corners and on beaches. We'd jump from live-shot to live-shot warning viewers to stay in side, make some hot chocolate and continue watching our coverage.

On one level this was born out of public service. Following the Blizzard of '78, everyone in Boston knows that snow can be dangerous and being in it can cause problems. So TV found itself in a great situation of having a positive message that actually brought in viewers (and advertisers).

Also, people just love talking about the weather. So when you put snow coverage at the top of the newscasts and warn people of a pending storm, it brings in viewers. Will they cancel school? Will I make my flight? Can I skip work and justify a day in my jammies watching wall-to-wall snow coverage of fools in the snow while sipping hot chocolate?

The danger here is pretty simple. You become the boy who cried wolf.

Predicting the weather isn't easy. In fact, it's downright hard. The problem is that the TV stations promote their weather forecasts as accurate, so when they turn around and say "oops, we got it wrong" it erodes the trust they've built with the audience.

Right now I'm sitting in my kitchen and watching the snow NOT come down. Sure, more may come later, but my school district closed schools early today. Men and women who normally would be working had to take time off to get their kids. Kids who would be in school weren't and really, for what? A 1/4 inch of slush? This is Boston, we can handle that.

I don't mind being prepared, but TV stations please don't throw us into a panic. Because when you really do have a warning and it's something we should worry about, we won't.


Launching LaunchCamp

We're now just hours from the start of LaunchCamp Boston, an event designed to help entrepreneurs better understand how to navigate the marketing world to get from idea to launch.

The genesis of LaunchCamp came in October 2009, shortly after WebInno 23. At that event a number of journalists sat on a panel discussing how entrepreneurs didn't need PR folks as the eager CEOs could just give them a call and tell their story.

The PR folks in the audience knew this wasn't true. First, PR is much more than media relations. But even just in the media relations context we knew that if every company in Boston took that advice the reporters would be bombarded with even more stuff than they are now. Plus, the CEOs would get frustrated because their calls wouldn't result in stories (or not answered).

The reason is pretty simple: what's important to a CEO of a small company isn't what's important to a reporter. Each has their own idea of "interesting news" and often they don't line up. In this context, a good media relations person can help both sides.

During a solo PR coffee shortly thereafter we discussed having an event that would help bridge the gap a bit. That is, help entrepreneurs better understand the PR and marketing process while PR folks can listen and better understand what it is that entrepreneurs really need.

Things morphed and changed over the next few months and we're thankful that a number of great people have stepped up to take leadership and teaching roles, not only as speakers but also as leaders in breakout sessions and panelists.

Judging by the demand I can assure you that while this may be the first LaunchCamp, it won't be the last.


Boston's Serfdom: Beyond Tech

In his Innovation Economy column this week, Scott Kirsner tells the stories of several tech companies that were sold to out-of-state acquirers over the years and openly asks the question: is it better to build and sustain or build to be acquired? In fact, he goes as far as wondering if Boston is forever destined to "serfdom to out-of-state companies."

It's a good question, but Scott limits his discussions to the local tech sector. The "problem" of selling off Boston's business assets goes well beyond that one area.

Take his employer, The Boston Globe, which is actually owned by the New York Times. How about Filene's Department Store, which, along with its Downtown Crossing sibling, was long ago sold to Macy's (the current result is a large hole in what was once Boston's bustling retail shopping district). Gillette is now owned by Proctor and Gamble, HP owns the computer company formerly known as Digital Equipment Corp and does anyone remember Shawmut, Bay Bank and Bank of Boston? No? How about Fleet Bank? No? Because all of them are now part of Bank of America.

Even the most iconic building in the Boston skyline, the John Hancock Tower, is owned by a real estate company based in New Jersey.

It makes me wonder if Boston's entire business culture is about being purchased by other companies.


Sliding Through the Sales Funnel: Using PR Ease the Flow

One of the more interesting discussions at last week’s Highland Capital Partners Sales 2.0 event surrounded the lessons enterprise software has learned from the consumer world.

Via Cosmic Kitty on Flickr

The Old Sales Process Via Cosmic Kitty on Flickr

Many years ago, while representing Alfresco Software, I remember CTO John Newton talking about the affect Google had on enterprise document management. As he noted, people could go to Google and find what they wanted in a matter of milliseconds, but couldn’t find an internal document without enduring a frustratingly long hunting process.

People wanted the ease-of-use they experienced at home to happen in their corporate environments.

This same logic has invaded the enterprise sales process. Anthony Deighton, senior vice president of marketing for QlikTech divided enterprise sales into 1.0 and 2.0 time periods, with 1.0 marked by such antiquated notions as:

  • Always say “yes” -- Dieghton jokingly pointed to the example Q:  Does your software toast bread? A: yes, with the right configuration our software can toast bread.
  • Sell 1st, deploy 2nd -- Never confuse the two and don’t let the sales person near the customer during the (long and messy) deployment process
  • Only use the scripted demo -- Why risk failure by showing something live that may not work?
  • Don’t let the customer touch the software -- Only show them what they need to see
  • Reality is a guide, sell the possible
Anthony Deighton of QlikTech

Anthony Deighton of QlikTech

All of this, he said, has been replaced at QlikTech with the simple download. Users can download the product and use it on their own computer. Should they want to deploy to more members of their organization from a central server, then they need to buy the software and pay.

If this sounds a little familiar, it is. The model is lifted entirely from the open source model, something Deighton acknowledges.

Joe Liemandt, CEO of Trilogy

Joe Liemandt, CEO of Trilogy

So, what does this have to do with PR? Because part of the process according to Deighton as well as other speakers such as Joe Liemandt, CEO of Trilogy, is the idea of “low cost customer touch.” That is, without having a sales person on the road to do a lot of show and tell, and with more power falling to the consumers, the need for online information rises. This is where videos, webinars and blog content come in as educational tools designed not only to inform, but also to eep the customer engaged.

While most see PR in the category of processes that drive prospects to the website, PR continues to fall into the “driver” category. Marketers see PR as one of the many check boxes needed to drive prospects or gain awareness about a company. However, PR’s true value is in storytelling and that transcends reaching out for new audiences.

So when we talk about PR 2.0 or the changing PR landscape, this is where things truly get interesting. At Fresh Ground our goal is to help PR move from the very top of the sales funnel to a content driver and community development engine that helps power everything.


The Social Media Culture

I've been pondering a lot recently about the cultural changes that need to be put in place inside organizations to effectively implement Web 2.0 and social media across the enterprise. This recent research from SNCR 's Don Bulmer and Vanessa DiMauro shows the reach beyond marketing very clearly. I highly recommend you read this.

The research shows that social media is having a tremendous impact beyond the realm of just marketing: it's impacting professional decision making. Here are the highlights of the research (directly from Don's post):

1.  Professional decision-making is becoming more social - enter the era of Social Media Peer Groups (SMPG)

  • Traditional influence cycles are being disrupted by Social Media as decision makers utilize social networks to inform and validate decisions
  • Professionals want to be collaborative in the decision-cycle but not be marketed or sold to online; however online marketing is a preferred activity by companies.

2.  The big three have emerged as leading professional networks: LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter

  • The average professional belongs to 3-5 online networks for business use, and LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are among the top used.
  • The convergence of Internet, mobile, and social media has taken significant shape as professionals rely on anywhere access to information, relationships and networks

3.  Professional networks are emerging as decision-support tools

  • Decision-makers are broadening reach to gather information especially among active users

4.  Professionals trust online information almost as much as information gotten from in-person

  • Information obtained from offline networks still have highest levels of trust with slight advantage over online (offline: 92% - combined strongly/somewhat trust; online: 83% combined strongly/somewhat trust)

5.  Reliance on web-based professional networks and online communities has increased significantly over the past 3 years

  • Three quarters of respondents rely on professional networks to support business decisions
  • Reliance has increased for essentially all respondents over the past three years

6.  Social Media use patterns are not pre-determined by age or organizational affiliation

  • Younger (20-35) and older professionals (55+) are more active users of social tools than middle aged professionals.
  • There are more people collaborating outside their company wall than within their organizational intranet
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