THE CRUNCH THAT’S KILLING COMMUNICATION

Just finished reading a recent article on the Tech Crunch page entitled The Social Network Paradox by Nina Khosla. Drives home the emergence of a phenomenon that has driven me crazy for quite awhile now.

“Over the years, there’s been a radical change in the way we interact with our networks of friends online…We fell in love with sites that made us feel like there are people out there who are similar to us, who we are talking to and having common experiences with.”

She ended a sentence with a preposition, but I forgive her. She goes on to address the explosive growth of Facebook and Twitter and the like…sites that allow us to “friend” everybody. An embarrassment of riches, right?

Well, yes. The embarrassment comes from not being able to keep in touch with all the friends you were ecstatic about keeping in touch with. (Now she’s got me doing it – the preposition thing.)

Bottom Line: We’re not paying enough attention to all the “friends” we’re connected to online. I couldn’t possibly hope to keep up. And when it comes to sheer numbers, I don’t have anywhere near those posted by most of the individuals I have connected with on Facebook or Linked-In. There is a disconnect that occurs as a result of connection.

Or as Nina puts it “Therein lies the paradox of the social network that no one wants to admit: as the size of the network increases, our ability to be social decreases.”

There’s a lot more to the article…most notably a discussion of  “the limits of meaningfulness” and how the creation of social products must involve a solution for allowing people to be “social, really social.”

Worth thinking about, my friends.

THE BEST THING FOR BEING SAD…

Food for thought (by way of friend and mentor, Hutt Bush)

“The best thing for being sad is to learn something.  That is the only thing that never fails.  You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then – to learn.  Learn why the world wags and what wags it.  That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

– T.H.White

Pick up a newspaper. Listen to five minutes (or less) of televised news. Consider our endangered environment. Just ask someone (anyone) how they’re doing today. It ain’t all roses and chuckles out there.

No shortage of advice on what to do about it either. But there are some simple ways to battle the malaise. See above.

Accompanying the learning of something? Exploration. Discovery. Challenge. Growth. Involvement. Pick one or all of these options and you’re snapping out of it already. Suggestions? Of course, I do.

Teach. Personally, I find that teaching a client how starting a blog or a newsletter can establish and differentiate them as a thought leader in this “Everybody’s an expert or at least claim to be” business arena is the height of learning — on a number of levels. It’s been said that you don’t reallyknow something until you can teach it (or explain it clearly) to someone else.

Read… while you’re on the elliptical or the treadmill or the stationary bike. And choose somethingdifferent. If you usually (or exclusively) read non-fiction, try fiction this time around. (Yes, reality purists, you can learn something from fiction.) Just do it. Just read. I’m not a snob about literacy (or the lack thereof), but encountering individuals who wear their lack of reading experience like a badge of honor truly saddens me.

Take a class.

Take a train ride to anywhere. (Well, almost anywhere. Some places really don’t need going to. Your call.)

ON THE BUSINESS END:

Audit your competition’s web site.

Take a web term or concept that you have no clue about and make it your business to define it and master it and apply it for your purposes.

Brave the opposite – go to a site or source that represents an area you don’t typically travel in, e.g. if you’re an accountant, go to a psychic network site. If you’re an artist, visit an insurance brokerage site. Mathematician? Play Scrabble online. Use Monty Python as your cue…”And Now For Something Completely Different.” Perspective can be a wondrous thing. Cultivate your  “renaissance man” instincts.

Challenge yourself to discover something. Explore something. Learn something. Appreciate the way another individual at the opposite of the spectrum speaks to their clientele, their prospective clientele and gets the word out to the world at large…and always, always, always, take away what you can use to further your entrepreneurial efforts and/or improve your life.

You’ll feel better.

PR Disappearing?

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Tuesday, August 2. 2011 from O’Dwyer’s Inside News of Public Relations & Marketing Communications

‘PR’ Set to Disappear

Most respondents in an industry survey think that the term “PR” will be dropped in the next decade, according to research by the International Association of Business Communicators and Ogilvy PR Australia.

The survey found that 76% see “PR” disappearing in favor of the industry calling itself “communications” pros or agencies. The shift from “PR” departments to “corporate communications” began on the client side on a large scale over the last decade, but agencies have been slower to make the move. (more)

Bound to happen. Truth and Trust and Value are too high on the lists of potential clients and readers and reactors these days to allow for the flourishing of PR practitioners who have earned the less than flattering labels of “Flacks” “Spin Doctors” and yes, “professional liars.”

In the article, a PR student goes on to say that “The PR industry will face a crisis of credibility in the coming decade.”

Ya think?

PR has been facing a crisis of credibility for as long as most of us have been alive. As a graduate of UCLA’s Public Relations program, I was made aware, early and often, that PR takes a bad rap on a daily basis. I also know that some of it was (and still is) deserved. PR has never been among the most easily measured disciplines…and therein lies the potential for abuse that has been fulfilled by all too many “professionals” out there.

The article also goes on to say that the “majority of respondents (60%) in the survey also said PR and advertising will be merged into hybrid agencies in the near future.”

Good move. Nobody knows what Public Relations means anyhow. Revealing family secrets? Speed Dating? Sex in the Food Court?

Good move. Advisable. But fraught with peril as well. Because if the new hybrid entity continues to perpetrate the same abuses in the name of the “new” (read: even less specific and more “weaselly”) name of “communications,” then it won’t be long before any title or job designation with the word “communications” in it will become suspect.

Then where do we go?

The article closes with a reference to “Astroturfing” – a reference that I wasn’t clued to which is another name for making up stuff just to sell products – and an earnest plea for “packaging the truth.”

Here. Here. What could be more credible than the truth?

A majority of respondents (60%) in the survey also said PR and advertising will be merged into hybrid agencies in the near future.

But the nominal shift in PR will be underlined by a tactical shift as well, according to the study. Thirty percent said that the most important measure of success for PR activity in 2021 will be influence of audience reached, compared with only 23% who cited reputational change and a paltry 2% who cited opportunities to see a message.

Graham White, a managing director for Ogilvy unit Howorth, said the time of touting products and services to gain column inches is running out. “This approach is partly driven by budgets, and because PR is not regarded as a strategic discipline,” he said. “The longer that continues, the quicker PR will lose relevance.”

The phasing out of “PR” will also be a cosmetic move, according to at least one respondent to the survey.

A PR master’s student, Nidhi Paul, offered a more dire outlook and warning for the next decade: “The PR industry will face a crisis of credibility in the coming decade. Astroturfing, creating fake news and false marketing has all reinforced the mistrust and negative image of the PR industry. This will ultimately make it harder for PR practitioners to influence public opinion in the future. While the truth may not always set you free, packaging the truth to make it palatable for the target audience is what public relations should be about.”

Ogilvy sanctioned the study to mark its 10th year in Australia.

MANTIS

The preying mantis has always intrigued and fascinated me. This poem arose from that can’t-look-away brand of obsession. It ever brings to mind a concept introduced to me in the Jeff Goldblum version of the movie, “The Fly” – that of “insect politics.”

The Fly

The Fly

There is no such thing.

“Mantis” is my first “poem-on-tube”…the first of many, I hope. “Mantis” is also one of many included in my soon-to-be published book of poetry, stories and images, CREEK SONGS (and Other Seductions). Most of the photos are the work of one Rad Bosselman – graphic designer, sign maker and artiste extraordinaire. To learn more about my first book, Mr. Coleman, visit www.whoismrcoleman.com or go to amazon.com.

THOUGHTS?

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

OK, all you edge dwellers… let’s hear from you. What’s so great about it? Is seeing over the edge all it’s cracked up to be? Educate us.

Center supporters…what are you afraid of? Why not a little edge hopping? Isn’t safety and security overrated in this day and age? Is any one of us really safe, anyway?

IF…

If you started your business today…right now…what would you do differently?

First thing that comes to mind? I’d collect a deposit up front for those projects that went south (along with their originator and any hope of my being paid for many hours of work) in the first blushingly innocent year of The Simmons Group. I’m not bitter. Just more careful these days. I’m sure you entrepreneurs out there can shake your heads and chuckle at the remembrance of similar missteps. Some lessons are a little harder than others. Bottom Line: you gotta have a payment policy and you gotta stick to it – no matter what. You just gotta.

Other items on the list might include:

Thinking bigger from the very beginning. Indulge your vision and make solid plans for getting out of the small pond and into the bigger one sooner than you’re absolutely comfortable with. Dream big and act boldly – even when it hurts. Builds character.

Joining a business support group. Not necessarily a networking group, and not necessarily a chamber of commerce, but a support group – one that shares questions and listens to the answers. It’s a group that is not so much interested in generating leads or throwing business cards, but in helping each member do better and learn the ropes. I ended up co-founding a group (ISN) like this, for this – simply because there aren’t enough out there – and believe me, I kissed a lot of networking frogs in search of focus and purpose and value in the support category.

Looking back, there’s not a whole lot that I would do differently — this due largely to the fact that there was one item that I aced right out of the gate. The first thing I did when striking out on my own (actually before striking out on my own) was to hire a business coach. Had I not done that, my list would rival the Los Angeles Phone Book in size and weight.

Hutt Bush (Being Point, Inc.) was the single greatest move I ever made as a business entrepreneur. He’s still with me and we’re still blazing new territory together. If you haven’t considered consulting a coach or business mentor, start now. Accountability is a powerful (not to mention absolutely necessary) thing. Having someone on your side – to bounce ideas off, to help you anticipate pitfalls and “rubbing points,” to guide you with experience and knowledge and to hold you accountable — represents value beyond measure. Believe me. Get a coach – end of story.

So let’s hear from you! Tell your story. What would you have done differently? What did you do that holds true-to-course today? What’s your advice for those lined up at the entrepreneur starting gate?

YES, GRASSHOPPER…

— “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act a scene/paint a portrait/write my book?”

— “Yes. The same age you will be if you don’t.”

Don’t know who said it. Not the same since I read it. The difference between those who do it and those who don’t is that those who do it sit down and do it.

DEATH AND SCHMAXES…

Death and Taxes. Widely believed to be the only things you can count on in this world. The month of April brought me death in triplicate – my mother, Sandra Simmons; dear friend Frank Maguire; former student Jorge de los Reyes.

Enough.

Interesting that both death and taxes demand a price – introspection…an account-taking  of sorts, a self-examination that is never cursory and most always painful in one way or another. Not really the deepest thoughts I’ve ever had, but certainly a concept for us all to click on for at least a few self-searching moments. Truth be told, at this point, I’ve had all the self-searching I can handle for awhile.

David Sedaris

I was privileged to see David Sedaris live the other night. If you haven’t experienced his work on some level – book or recording or live reading – you have deprived yourself of a superior talent. Wit, culture, irony, irreverence…profound, tear-gushing, laugh-out-loud humor. Sedaris is the dead-on chronicler of the human condition and everyday absurdity – and a master at his craft.

Some of his best stories are drawn from a diary that he keeps while on the road. Intrigued by the prospects, I’ve taken to keeping a diary, myself. Not a diary full of deep thought or mental anguish or attempts to answer THE BIG QUESTIONS, but one simply of occurrences. An event diary, if you will, that focuses solely on the WHAT. No forays into the whys or hows or significance of. Just a record of experiences with various individuals — friends, family and otherwise — from various times of my life. For now, they will exist as encounters without analysis. Text without sub-text. Lines without between-the-lines. (Remembering without Reminiscing?)  I’m trying to keep the data as raw and as un-examined as possible. Because right now, that’s the best I can do.

I’ll look deeper later. When death and taxes are a little less with me.  And the stories are going to be great – better than ever…you can count on it.

Miss you, Ma.           Miss you, Frank.          Miss you, Jorge.

FEAR OF COMMITMENT? CALL A GHOST BLOGGER

You’ve heard of a ghost writer, right? Same principle. A ghost blogger works with professionals – from corporate CEOs to power-of-the-pitch salespeople to over-extended entrepreneurs – who recognize the value of a blog but don’t have the time or the desire to commit to churning one out with the regularity required to ensure effectiveness. The ghost blogger helps brainstorm, distill and deliver key messages with clarity, personality and style.

We all work from pretty much the same core template, but here’s how I do it:

Step 1: MAKE A PLAN. Sit down with the client and kick around a list of potential blogging ideas, buzz topics, themes – complete with keywords and core concepts. Make a list – including topics that may require more than a single two paragraph blog to cover. Consider news and current event tie-ins to enhance the buzz and increase reader resonance.

Step 2: MAKE IT WORK. Create a sample blog entry which the professional approves — and the ghost blogger subsequently publishes.

Step 3: KEEP IT REAL. Meet briefly each month – in person or on the phone – to brainstorm new topics and maintain process momentum, publishing blog entries on a daily, weekly or biweekly basis. Whatever your budget allows — for anywhere from 3 months to 6 months to a year or longer.

From that point, the rest is all about building more opportunities – articles, vlogs, videos, seminars, e-books and books – from the valuable information created and consumer tested via your blog.

Sound like a solution for your blog commitment – and business connection –issues? I thought so.

Give me a call. Blogging – ghost blogging — is my business.

Til next time.

WHO YOU GONNA CALL? GHOST BLOGGER.

Something we all need to realize about blogging. Each and every blog you post is a premier – and I mean first class, a-#1, slam dunk, top-of-the-charts — viral marketing opportunity. Once it’s up it can go not only to your website, but to millions of others – as well as to blog directories, to online media outlets, to online and print newsletters, to your Twitter page and Facebook page and Linked-in page and page upon page upon page everywhere else on the web…and more.

Search engines love blogs – because they are fresh information. Readers – from the casual kind to devoted followers – appreciate the human side of the story that blogs present…and they actively seek that blog that provides what they need (and what we all need) in this world. Touch – even when (especially when) actual one on one, face to face connection is impossible.

And blogs are easy. Easier. Enter your username and password, write your entry, click the mouse once or twice and Bob’s Your Uncle (old expression – means essentially, “That’s that.”). It’s out there.

Can’t do that with print. Can’t even do that with your website (unless you’re a serious tekkie). But you can do it with a blog. Fast info, quick hit, all good.

Bottom Line: There’s absolutely no argument against the potential of blogging for generating a mass following for your business or brand or viewpoint or product or service.

So why isn’t EVERYONE – from authors to attorneys, consultants to coaches, doctors to dentists, love gurus to limousine drivers (and anyone else in search of new delivery solutions for their message) – blogging? What’s stopping them?

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