Fear and Loathing the 2012 Social Election

While I appreciate great political social tactics and analysis, I can’t take the 2012 social election.

This week’s RNC already produced an amazing amount of vitriol on Facebook and Twitter. I tuned out completely during the evenings.

Next week’s DNC promises to add more.
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400K Photo Views and Counting

At some point today, I will pass 400,000 views on my photography blog. Not bad for an amateur hack who has never been formally trained as a photographer!

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to celebrate by sharing my 10 favorite pictures from the past five years. Given it’s a Friday wrapping up a long holiday week, I figured, “Why not?” Here we go!

1) The Eiffel Tower

I took this beauty in late November of 2009. It was drizzling, and I had to take a slow capture to get the light to glow like this. Fortunately the rain didn’t mess up lens too badly, and the shot turned out quite nicely! Taken with a Nikon D-90.

The Eiffel Tower

2) The First Presidential Tweet

I had the honor of attending the first presidential town hall, which was moderated by Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey. Somehow, I ended up in the first row on the side, and took this shot of Obama typing out the first presidential tweet. Taken with my Nikon, this shot has Jack reflected in the computer screen. It still gets used frequently in Obama blog posts across the web!
The First Presidential Tweet

3) The Devil’s Horns

The centerpiece of the W Trail in Chilean Patagonia, the Devil’s Horns are viewed here from across Lake Pehoe at sunrise. This trail kicked my ass and is legendary for trying experienced hikers who attempt its courses in three or five days. Taken with the Nikon. The Devil's Horns Across Lago Pehoe

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The PR Industry Can’t Help Itself

Agencyinsanity

Of all the professional skill groups that can be included in the marketing toolkit, public relations is the most ridiculous (PR is also used for public affairs and other non-marketing activities). Filled with backwards unethical and untrained professionals that consistently spam people and promote attention metrics instead of actual outcomes, the PR profession can’t help its poor image.
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Winning Political Battles and Losing the Economic War

Abe Lincoln's Hand

Marketers can learn from the horrible debt debate and the resulting downgrade of U.S. credit. The pursuit of personal and partisan agendas by all parties — but most notably Tea Party extremists and to a lesser extent liberal Democrats — cost the nation and to some extent global investors alike. All parties came out looking worse for the wear. While posturing to be idealogically right, the utter loss of respect in the eyes of their customers — the American citizen local and national, as well as global investors– cannot justify hardline stances.

As a result of this gamesmanship, Congress now enjoys record low disapproval ratings. While making “We passed our bill, they won’t compromise” statements, Congress failed to enact the deep cuts envisioned by the likes of the Gang of Six or President Obama’s Grand Bargain.

And now rather than buckle down and resolve the crisis, both political parties increased the rhetoric this weekend blaming each other for the lowered credit rating. So what is the price of continuing to be right?

At risk is more than the country’s Standard & Poor rating. Moody’s and Fitch — the remaining two primary credit firms — stand ready to downgrade U.S. credit, too. A combination of all three firms downgrading U.S. credit could create shockwaves throughout the economy. Further, global investors are now putting pressure on Washington to clean up its debt.

Tarnishing your country in the name of partisanship and reelections is not an act of leadership. It is likely that 2012 will be the fourth straight Congressional election with major volatility and turnover. This time it may have little to do with platform, and everything to do with an incumbent status. The American customer is very, very unhappy.

Marketers can see short term wins at the expense of long term customer satisfaction yields poor results. It never pays to cut off your nose to spite your face.

What do you think of the PR blame game in Washington right now?

Observing Obama’s First Twitter Town Hall Live

Attending the first Twitter Town Hall at the White House last week was quite an experience! For the first time, a President — Barack Obama — answered questions from digital citizens across America on the microblog network. The Townhall was the third social network appearance by the President, the first ones hosted on YouTube and Facebook. The new format with Twitter was a massive public event, inspiring 40,000 questions, and of course, some criticism.

Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey interviewed the President using questions he hadn’t seen before, some of which came in live. Less than 20 questions were answered, a primary source of criticism. Two of these questions came from well known sources, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristoff. Questions were qualified by popularity via algorithm, and then hand-picked by eight curators.

To not include a Republican question would have been partisan, and in the spirit of the medium and prior analysis, it is likely Boehner’s tweet was significantly retweeted by the GOP’s user base. What better way to handle issues of partisanship than to answer Boehner’s question? This seems like a smart move.

Similarly, Kristoff’s question was highly retweeted. However, this curator decision seemed more questionable. In that sense, curation models should be reviewed if there is another Twitter Town Hall. Further, none of us in actual attendance got to ask questions, unless of course our Tweets successfully navigated the same curation process.

As to the number of questions that were aired, this show demonstrated why mass media forms are still needed. Given the length of time Obama takes to respond to questions, it is impossible to answer more. Simply put, one man cannot scale on a national level.

Perhaps, Twitterati and critics feel like every question deserves a customer response from the White House. However, this is currently impossible. The 2008 Obama election team had 200 online representatives working for them. The White House has a handful. Maybe Twitterati can ping the GOP to fund a Twitter customer response department for the White House. Will Speaker Boehner be open to such initiatives in the face of the debt ceiling debate?

An Authentic President?

Twitchat

Another criticism of the event was the lack of authenticity the President demonstrated. Pundits slammed Obama for providing mostly stock position answers that one can find on the White House site.

Yet, sitting across from the President provided a view of his face. Obama was present, authentic and real, and frankly, his mannerisms were captivating. Most live attendees were busy using their phones and computers, but many paused to simply watch and listen to Obama for a few questions. He clearly looked directly in people’s eyes, and smiled slightly, acknowledging their presence.

There were several questions he laughed at, and one from a person called “Shnaps” that he struggled a little to hold his composure on. You can see the President become visibly shaken when Welfare programs were challenged by a Twitter user. The President also had a little fun at Speaker Boehner’s expense, who had a computer generated typo in a tweeted question.

In all, if it was authenticity people were looking for and not political gloss, then maybe it’s time to look at the expectation. To expect the current top elected official in the United States to appear rough, unpolished, and casual in the midst of the worst budget crisis in the country’s history, and the most severe economic downturn in 80 years is sophomoric at best. Perhaps Twitter authenticity is best left to the “Shnaps” of the world, and the President is exactly as he should be given his job.

Further, Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush demonstrated an authenticity that many Americans felt hurt the Office of the Presidency. He was an authentic a-hole who refuted questioning about his policies with indignant public anger, and bullied his worst outspoken critics with questionable uses of political power. Conversely, Obama answers criticism.

Additional Observations

The First Presidential Tweet

Obama posted the first live Presidential tweet in history, a very cool moment. Watching him type, he reviewed the tweet several times. It was clear that he wasn’t the type of fellow that haphazardly shoots off emails and tweets.

Afterwards, the President shook hands with those of us in the front row. He has very soft hands.

The bathrooms in the White House are pretty swanky. Just saying.

All in all, the atmosphere was electric. From the moment attendees lined up outside the White House and waited in the main hall listening to the piano, to the excitement of the actual question and answer session and the applause that closed the event, attending the Twitter Town Hall in person was something special.

As a long-term Washington resident, it has been a dream to visit the White House and meet a sitting U.S. President. To have that dream come true was simply amazing, a moment to remember and tell family about.

What did you think of the Twitter Town Hall?

Can We Change the World?

Barack obama yes we can

Many times we wonder if we really can change things. Some wish to change all of society, while others want to resolve a specific problem, like education, homelessness, or environmental issues. Passion drives them, but many of us question whether our actions really matter.

Simon Mainwaring’s current bestseller We First (See Beth Kanter’s book review) certainly challenges us to believe that change of all kinds can happen. Mainwaring advocates for a sea change in capitalist culture towards mandated ethical corporate social responsibility and cause marketing. He advocates for a We attitude instead of a Me attitude. His suggested primary catalyst for change is, you guessed it, social media.


If They Can Do It… From Ignite Better Baltimore

It’s easy to fall in love with social media, and believe we can change the world with it. Certainly, it is a powerful tool set for grass roots activism. The accomplishments of Middle East dissidents have shown us that with hard work over years it is possible to overcome established power structures and current media influences with these tools (see above video). Anyone of us can do this.

In the end social media are just tools. People change society, collectively. Individually, it takes hard work to get our peers one by one to move with us. Grassroots movements are not built in a day, and many are never fully realized. But as time evolves with momentum and success, we can move en masse towards desired change. The organizers behind Egypt’s January 25th revolution — Ahmed Maher, Asmaa Mahfouz, Wael Ghonim, and Israa Abdel Fattah — were unknown activists working behind the scenes since 2009.

You have to give Mainwaring credit. He advocates for change with We First, and leads by example with his marketing consultancy of the same name. As a long term resident in Washington, DC, his idealism is admirable. How that change occurs is another question.

The mandates from We First are reminiscent of the Obama campaign’s promises to sweep Washington, DC into the 2.0 conversation revolution. Three years later… In many ways Washington is still mired in bureaucratic reality. While some data has opened up, Congress is still a frustrating nightmare, and Obama’s progressive election platform of “Yes, we can” feels like the bitter empty promises of a dying love affair.

That doesn’t mean that changing the face of capitalism can’t occur. Again, any of us can become change agents, even if we are affecting one person at a time. Certainly, this book would be well served as an ethical challenge to business students. How Mainwaring convinces Wall Street and the Fortune 500 to change their ways remains to be seen. Kudos to Simon for throwing down the gauntlet, and taking an activist’s role.

What do you think? Can we change the world?