Join the Exodus!

Today is the day! Exodus is formally released.

I am giving away a complimentary PDF copy of the book to my blog readers. Simply click this password protected link to download. The password is “freechoice”. The download will be available until September 13.

The first chapter is published below if you want a sneak peak. Early feedback has been great, so I hope you decide to check it out.

In addition to the PDF, I will publish the novel one chapter at a time on this site using a second RSS feed. Subscribe if you get a chance.

Exodus is now listed on Amazon’s Kindle Store at $0.99, and it will stay at that price until after Labor Day when it will be raised to $2.99. The book is also up on GoodReads in case you wanted to leave a review. A $2.99 electronic edition is published on B&N and the iBook store, too.

Finally, print editions are currently available on Lulu and directly on my web site. Amazon and B&N will start distributing hard copies by the end of September. If you prefer print, and want to enter the GoodReads contest to win one of 10 free copies, enter here.

Want more? The hero of the story Jason is on Twitter. Check it out! The @JasonExodus Twitter experiment has been fun so far, though a little crazy at times. I hope to launch additional media elements over the ensuing months to build a stronger transmedia experience for those who want deeper engagement.

This is a great opportunity to thank everyone who has encouraged me since I first announce my intent to publish the book, particularly those who signed up for advance copies and chatted with me on back channels. Having a core group of folks interested in the novel made a big difference. As you know this is not just any book, rather a 19 year journey that has come to fruition.

In addition, I’d like to give another shout out to Patrick Ashamalla for this website, which enables the distribution of the book via RSS feed. Thank you, sir, and congrats on your recent acquisition by White & Partners!

Below find Chapter 1!

Cheers,

Geoff

Chapter 1: A Dark Messenger

Jason looked down the path, through the farthest rays of torchlight into the eerie blue of evening and saw something crawling toward them in the distance.

“George, get Hector.” Hector was the Harpers Ferry watch commander. He was responsible for this evening’s patrol, as well as all of the watch’s activities. Usually, there were not many causes for concern. Indeed, some said the watch wasn’t needed at all. So the disturbance scratching its way toward them was reason enough to alert Hector.

“Why in the world would we do that?” asked George. He was lazy and slow, disturbed at the prospect of having to move. Neither did he want to wake Hector, who was a gruff man.

A wild dog paid homage to the full moon, splitting the silence; Jason worried it was an omen. Didn’t full moons affect all of nature’s creatures strangely?

“Look at that shape moving slowly toward us,” Jason said. “It looks like a man. Have you ever seen anything like this? Ever? Hector would want to know about this stranger now, rather than find out about it tomorrow at the tavern.”

Begrudgingly, George rose from his chair to look down the path. The black shape was close enough now for the watchmen to see its arms clawing at the dirt, dragging itself forward.

“Oh, no,” George said under his breath, and he turned to get Hector. Jason watched the shape’s tortured struggle through the flickering torchlight along the dirt path. His painful progress was mesmerizing, and soon Jason could hear the man’s labored grunts and groans.

In a few minutes, George returned with Hector. “What do we have here, Jason?” the leader asked. Why couldn’t his watchmen make these decisions on their own?

Irked by Hector’s judgmental tone, Jason bit his tongue, and he pointed silently down the path.
The watch commander saw the man, shrouded in a tattered black robe and wracked with pain by every move. “Please get him, boys,” he directed, without a second thought.

The watchmen left the fireside comfort of their post and made their way toward the man, who didn’t seem to hear or see them coming. Sweating and likely consumed with fever, he muttered and moaned. Jason and George, standing on either side, could make out only a word here and there. The words they did understand were chilling: Run. They’re coming.

The man never looked at them and instead continued to clutch at new patches of dirt, obliviously crawling toward their post, perhaps seeking the fire and the town’s comforts. He wore coarse pants under his robe, whose many tears, pieces of foreign bramble, and strange stains bespoke an arduous journey through the backcountry. The robe’s hood covered the visitor’s head, robbing the watchmen of the chance to see his face.

“Old man, can you hear us?” Jason asked.

“Please stand up, if you can,” George added.

The traveler’s muttering continued unchecked: “They’re coming.” And “Help.”

The watchmen looked at each other and stooped to raise the delusional traveler to his feet to get a better look at him. He was surprisingly light, perhaps 140 pounds, and he didn’t struggle. They gasped at what they saw.

A fever, now apparent in the man’s pale, sweat-streaked face, had wasted his long frame. On his right temple was an angry purple-and-yellow lump—the result of a fall? Or remnants of a mighty blow at the hands of an enemy? A broken arrow shaft protruded from his shoulder, and the dried bloodstains and gangrenous stench of his tunic spoke of an old wound that had festered without treatment. His brown eyes seemed to look at them without focusing. “Is someone there? Help me. Please, help me. The Christians, they’ll kill us all, just like they did my family. Don’t wait! Why are you waiting?”

Jason looked at George, and they both looked back at Hector. He trotted toward the two watchmen, concerned more by the shocked look on their faces than by the visitor’s condition. He took charge.

“George, get the elders and a surgeon,” Hector barked. “Hurry, this man may die soon.”

The wounded man laughed deliriously. “Don’t you understand? You fools, worry about your friends in the village! You’re next. The black shirts will swarm this place, swords and crosses in hand.” Tears began streaming from his eyes. “Run! Run before it is too late!”

Buy the book today!

Sharing and Collaboration

Businesses think they own their products and experiences. That’s why they brand them, put their personal mark on them, and make signature experiences.

The role community members play in creating and developing successful brands is a stark change. This collaborative shift is caused by technology in the form of social and  mobile, and a new “we” ethos brought on by millennials.

Last week, my friend Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group team released a major study called The Collaborative Economy that drove this point home.

Brands continue evolving from something discussed to collaborative distribution channels built on the premise of sharing products and services. In many ways, collaboration provides an opportunity for businesses to create a new sales channel, something I will discuss later this week on the Vocus Marketing blog.

Beyond the core business opportunity, the movement marks a larger economic and cultural shift towards community based models.  Socialism and its less successful offshoot communism produced global failures centered on fulfilling the ideal of community based sharing. In an ironic turnabout, the collaborative economy leverages capitalism to fulfill that  ideal through a pretty cool market based approach.
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The End of the Social PR Revolution

Soup Lines
Image by OakleyOriginals

In building the program for xPotomac (February 25th), I sought to address a sea change in media evolution. That change spells the end for the social PR revolution, a marketing movement embodied by brand-led conversations over the past seven years.

We are currently experiencing a throttling of branded, online grassroots power. Specifically, it’s becoming harder and harder for marketers to be seen with branded earned media and social updates.

This evolution is best evidenced by the increasing role of owned and paid content placement (as discussed, content marketing is the 21st century nice description of advertising), and social or native advertising.

Other signs evidence this change, too. Social search and stronger policing of black hat SEO by Google has put a premium on paid search again. Facebook’s use of Edgerank to force companies and individuals alike to pay for attention is another harbinger of this fate.

The rise of big data and the forthcoming wearable computing revolution — themes that run throughout xPotomac — will cause a further throttling of online grassroots pipes.

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Amazon on Negative Comments: Disregard 5%

Dana (My sister)
Image by Spi-V

In its Holiday Marketing Best Practices Guide, Amazon coaches online merchants to disregard negative comments until they reach a ratio of 5% of all comments:

“Most sellers will eventually receive some negative feedback. When it happens to you, put it in perspective: a 0-2% negative feedback rate is great! If your negative feedback rate is greater than 5%, review your business practices to correct any operational problems that might affect a buyer’s experience.”

Amazon has had its fair share of customer service issues over the years. But I agree with the online retailer’s guidance in principle, and use a similar barometer in coaching clients about negative commenting.
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Will Amazon Respect Its Kindle Fire Customers?

The Amazon Kindle Fire launched with great success this holiday season. Sales have outpaced Amazon’s forecasts, and manufacturing has stepped up. But the iPad competitor has quality issues with more than 30% of buyers rating the device negatively to neutral (1 to 3 stars).

KindleFire

The New York Times ran an extensive piece about customers many Fire foibles. In it, Amazon promises an over the air update this week (one that has yet to arrive).

My 3 star experience with the Fire matches these less than thrilled customers. A suddenly dead Fire in the middle of a road trip prompted a tour of the Amazon site and resetting the device. Further issues include its movie watching capabilities, in turn turning me back to the iPad as the preferred, portable, long-form viewing device.

As Amazon seeks ubiquity with its less than perfect Fire, the negative reviews continue to rack up on the site. And now more media are reporting about it. When you see the product on Amazon, it is listed as a 4 star product, not at all representative of the significant minority of dissatisfaction.

Half

Negative reviews are left unanswered by Amazon’s customer service team, with no private email or interaction, something social media users are quite familiar with as half of corporate brands ignore comments on their own pages. Amazon seems to have taken a software product attitude of we’ll fix it later or as we go, and you’ll have to deal with it.

One has to wonder if Amazon’s slow response can succeed in the face of the negative undercurrent. If the Kindle marketing strategy is all about ubiquity through low-cost sales, then the fastest way to ensure success is not just to sell a lot of Fires, but to quickly address customer service issues to enhance and strengthen word of mouth marketing. That means respecting your customers, even the ones who have had a negative experience.

What do you think about the Kindle Fire?

Steve Jobs, Marketing Genius

Steve Jobs Eulogized on the Apple Website

Now it really is time to eulogize Steve Jobs. Perhaps the best thing to say is thank you for all the great innovation he brought to this world.

There are so many things to be said about the great technological innovation he brought to the world during his tenures at Apple and Pixar. From my first personal computer, an Apple 2e, to the MacBook Pro this post is being written on, Jobs has had direct and consistent impact on the way I have viewed and consumed information for the better part of three decades. In entertainment and in work, Apple has been and continues to be a part of life.

There are so many things to say about Jobs and his companies, most notably Apple. Many people will be sharing those insights for the next few days in his memory.

The one thing to add beyond technological and business insights is respect for the incredible marketing machine Jobs built. From packaging and storefront design to masterful multichannel product launches and tense excitement by tightly managed PR, Apple demonstrated best practices in many areas of marketing.

Until Steve Jobs retired, the marketplace was always poised for the maverick tech titan to lead an on-stage unveiling event, packed with journalists, bloggers, and industry insiders. The company even avoided (and still avoids) major announcement fests such as the annual Consumer Electronics Show, instead preferring to orchestrate its own Apple events weeks apart from known industry events. Companies like Facebook and Amazon now ape this technique with some success, but it’s still not as exciting as an Apple announcement.

Launch events are complimented by traditional outdoor, print and broadcast advertising buys, in-store signage and displays, and of course, beautiful, recognizable packaging. The Apple website is tuned to announcements, turning over on launch day with in-depth web pages and videos explaining new products. Emails are sent to customers on launch day, encouraging them to buy.

These ads and direct marketing outreaches are as orchestrated as the company’s public relations efforts. In fact, they create a seamless multi-channel, multi-touch approach that demonstrates one of the very best integrated and repeatable marketing formulas the world has seen.

Yes, the products walk the talk. But many, many times, including Jobs’s first tenure as CEO of Apple, best technology is often not the most popular technology. Clearly, Jobs mastered marketing as time progressed.

What will you remember most about Steve Jobs? Also, Apple is receiving notes and thoughts about Steve Jobs via email, rememberingsteve [at] apple.com.