Eating Dog Food

Sometimes you have to do things because they are right, even though you don’t want to. I yielded to staff pressure last week, and committed resources to doing more with our Tenacity5 Media social media accounts. We have to eat our own dog food here.

Why not engage in social before now? I honestly felt doing the client work was more important given how small the company is (three people currently).

Plus I have developed a bad attitude towards social media boutiques — all talk and no experience. So I didn’t want to have the company grouped within a category I consider to be increasingly marginalized by the bad.

But good marketing is good marketing. Quality marketing includes social as part of the overall strategy today, I don’t care what kind of business you have. That doesn’t necessitate an over reliance on a medium, but you can’t avoid it anymore.

A parallel can be drawn to blogging in the 2015 era. Just like I wouldn’t over rely on a blog today, I still think blogging is part of the mix. So I blog once a week just to eat my own dog food. It’s the right thing to do.

Walk the Talk

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Practicing what you preach was the very reason that I engaged in deep emersion with visual media through photography. I also invested in a significant website upgrade with a focus on the visual.

It’s really hard to take someone’s opinion about visual communications seriously if they don’t practice those same views. That is apparent every time I read a social media blogger’s text-heavy post about visual media (see paragraph 2).

Many people wag their fingers at what everyone else is doing wrong, and opine about the way things should be. This is easy to do. It is the path of the pundit.

But sooner or later, you have to stand on your own efforts. It’s one thing to engage in criticism, it’s another thing to become a demonstrative example. One creates attention, the other builds reputation.

We’ve got to eat our own dog food at Tenacity5, and that starts with me.

Featured image by Mel. Second image by Mazen Alhadad.

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Protect the Social Shield

The social media reality for pro athletes is not a comfortable one.

Young men suddenly empowered with incredible amounts of money and attention is a recipe for uncomfortable situations and overdeveloped senses of entitlement. Add in “friends” who are quick to gain a little notoriety by being the one to post a photo or a tweet about a less than pleasing situation, and you have utter chaos.

You need go no further than last month’s Riley Cooper scandal. The Philadelphia Eagle was drunk at a Kenny Chesney concert, and yelled a racial slur at a security guard. Someone caught the incident on their mobile phone and posted it to YouTube. And so ensues a national media story that involves the entire NFL, and is so big it prompted Chesney to denounce Cooper.

While an extreme situation, the social media gaffe in pro sports are pretty common. Every week some athlete embarrasses themselves on Twitter, permanently damaging their reputation, and negatively impacting their team and their larger sport.

As the NFL moves towards its 2013 season, we’ve already seen several examples from Redskin RG III (Robert Griffin) tweeting out of context on his recovery from knee surgery to Giant Victor Cruz’s violent tweet about the Travyon Martin murder case decision.

By no means are errant social updates limited to the NFL. The NBA has turned such faux bravado on Twitter into a comic art, and MLB has seen several Internet flares including Melky Cabrera’s fake website defending his innocence from HGH doping to A-Rod’s tweets in contrast with his Yankees team’s views.

Will the NFL go out of business because of social media gaffes? No. But they are losing opportunities to maximize the brand.

It’s a problem many companies contend with. Employees say what they want online. In doing so they embarrass themselves, and unwittingly can tarnish the company’s brand and its business. Like sports leagues, these types of scenarios highlight a need for pro-active training, conversations, and policies.

Proactive Approaches Create a Win-Win

The limits of the NFL social media policy extends to game days only. Instead general conversations between teammates and staff, and public discussion such as this blog are that’s available to advise players. Individual teams may or may not have policies/approaches of their own. Players are on their own for learning how to use social media and you can see the results.

Of all the professional sporting leagues in the United States, none is more image conscious than the NFL. The NFL goes to great lengths to protect its logo, known as “the shield,” and associated trademarks from false advertising and non-paying unapproved affiliations. That’s why I personally find it shocking that Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t punished Cooper for his slur, nor has he done anything substantive to train players about social media risks on a League level.

It is astounding to think that the League and its teams haven’t figured out the benefits of training players on how to use social. The same could be said about any of the Leagues. Consider the following:

  • Less player gaffes online.
  • Better community participation from players (and owners, too).
  • Players build stronger community ties for post playing career opportunities.
  • Communities develop a stronger affinity with their local teams.
  • General good will for the sports brands increases.

Clearly many players like Kobe Bryant and Michael Vick are already very savvy with social media. And some teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey Devils and the Washington Nationals have made great strides with social media savviness. But why not intentionally raise the general bar rather than waiting for folks to figure it out?

Protect the social shield. What do you think?

A version of this post ran originally on the Vocus blog. Featured image by Brian Nagan.

Life with a Scarlet Letter

This blog post is running in support of my Punish Geoff Fundraiser: CivilinationPlease consider a donation to support better online conversations. At the time of publishing, we have raised more than $3,000 for the Civilination Academy.

Long-term readers know I have attempted to evolve my language to become more mindful of others. Part of that reparation is learning to live with that negative reputation publicly — my proverbial Scarlet Letter — and handle new disagreements.

At SxSW two different people informed me how a person was telling everyone what an A&^hole I was every time my name came up. It’s no coincidence that this person is someone I wrangled with on here and elsewhere. He’s not the only one. So the damage continues long after the matter passed.

The way I see it, I have two paths; one is to leave the interwebs, walk with some shame, and live a quiet life as a marketer behind the scenes. As entertaining as that seems many days, this path lacks courage.

Part of  acknowledging the problem for me means moving forward in the face of it, and continuing to exist in the ecosystem, albeit in a more productive fashion. I have things to say, and can contribute to the larger conversation.

To do that, I have to accept the repercussions. For me, that means openly acknowledging my mouth, and acting more responsibly. A tainted reputation means you have history. You can’t run from history. You can only openly acknowledge it, make your amends, and live with the outcomes.

I counsel clients who have public errors to do the same. There is no pushing issues under the rug. In fact, that exacerbates the problem.

So you own it, and accept your scars. You let your new actions speak for themselves, good or bad.

New Disagreements

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While I have stopped taking people’s name in vain, so to speak, I do still have disagreements. And you know what, sometimes I feel like I’m right, and I won’t yield.

I’m not going to hurt someone’s reputation directly, but I won’t openly encourage folks to engage in negative actions towards me just to people please.

I was wrong in the past. That doesn’t mean I’m interested in becoming a public or private punching bag as a penance. Change necessitates a more moderated approach, not a complete pendulum shift.

Instead, I choose to detach, distance or ignore. I suppose I have become colder, and less passionate or emotionally invested in issues. I’d rather not feed the negative, instead walking away and turning to a more productive activity.

People that receive this cold distant shoulder can easily say, “Hey, he is the same guy.” And that’s fine, it’s part of living with the scarlet letter. I have to take those hits. Folks can say what they want, but believe me, all parties are living easier without my proverbial cannon locked and loaded.

It’s the path I choose to walk so I can stay public and look myself in the mirror with comfort. As time evolves, I am sure my approach will change, too.

How do you handle the impact of your past errors?

Featured image by ErinJane7284

Want Clients? Amaze Them

A Toronto Morning

We as marketing bloggers talk a lot about strategy, the latest and greatest trends, and our personal way of thinking, all to attract customers. But perhaps the best way to attract clients is to build a reputation for amazing them.

This extends beyond strategic and tactical savoir faire to actual practice.

An attitude of service creates the word of mouth every brand wants, the kind that drives value and attracts prospects that want similar outcomes.

Here are some client service tips for consultancies seeking to develop winning reputations.

Get Dirty

Continue reading

Is It Hip to Be Square?

G+ for Business

The great debate is upon us thanks to the launch of Google+ for Business. From Jim Long’s social media survey to Debra Askanese’s well debated post on Google+’s benefits and detriments, voices across the web are debating whether it’s hip to be Square (Corporate brands are denoted by squares on Google+).

The reality of the situation is even from a simple brand reputation standpoint, it’s time to get your square and protect your brand integrity. The last thing you want is someone else owning your brand on Google+! What if it actually takes off? Or worse, what if an unforeseen blogodrama savages your brand reputation on Google+?

Beyond that, there is the very obvious search value of being on Google+. Pete Cashmore said it best, “Now those little +1 votes being cast around the Web are starting to change the order of Google’s search results, helping to keep Google in line with the social trend.” And if your content isn’t integrated with +1 technology, you are hurting your organic search possibilities.

In fact, Google is actively redeveloping its entire ecosystem to revolve around Google+, as Google Reader users can attest to. The only way to natively share outbound posts beyond email is Google. This integration is systematic, and we are seeing the next generation of the online behemoth evolve before our eyes.

From a strategic communications perspective, Google+ is real hit or miss. It is still an early adopter’s social network, with testosterone driven techies riding its ether waves. Most mainstream brands will find the network wanting. Further, if you want to market towards the “Mommy Tsunami,” the demographics are generally not skewed well.

Additionally, real advertising on Google+ remains in the wings and the application programming interface (API) is still read only. Right now the only Google+ business offering is a participation game with a profile. You have to connect with people, which means your brand has to invest the time to build relationships and cultivate a following. Otherwise, you will be posting in silence.

But, all things in consideration, it is time to stop experimenting and at a minimum set up a business outpost on Google+. It may never beat Facebook, but Google+ is unlikely to fade into the night the way Buzz and Wave did. The last thing you want is to be caught with your pants down on a social network. Just like other networks, own your real estate, and take advantage of the search benefits Google+ has to offer.

What do you think of Google+ for Business?

The Fallacy of a Strong Defense

“The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.” Hamlet, Act III, scene II

Defensive Dice
Image by M Hillier

When you engage in questionable acts, sometimes you or your organization have to set the facts straight to protect brand reputation. Many individuals and some brands tend to want to over-defend themselves. Instead of removing the tarnish, strong defenses can do the opposite, keeping an issue alive, and in most cases suggest a complicit nature in the brands’ actions.

Questionable is defined as when the community starts publicly doubting your approach or acts. Note this is the public’s perception, not when you think you are right.

A recent example is the White House protest of Standard & Poor’s well broadcasted credit rating downgrade. The Obama Administration looked powerless, and again at fault for not successfully leading the country into a better and less contentious resolution of the debt ceiling. The sudden and ensuing Justice Department investigation into Standard & Poor’s 2008 mortgage actions also looks like a smeer job (Why not all three credit agencies?).

The right thing to do would have been to follow standard reputation management protocols, and issue the White House’s differing opinions with the $2 trillion error clearly pointed out, and leave it at that. The White House would have been well served to simply acknowledge the political issues at play. While Obama has publicized the political divide in recent weeks, it has been in a negative attacking manner. The overarching series of reactions have in turn validated Standard & Poor’s criticsm.

Defending Personal Reputation

Cullen Burnett, 14, of Culpeper (left) and Master Deputy Chad McKnight, (right) practice defensive tactics. Sgt. Owen Bullard, who leads a team of school resource officers for the Sheriff’s Office, looks on (center).
Image by Culpepper County Sheriff’s Office

While brands make this mistake, more often it is the terrain of individuals who take personal issue with criticism. We see this everyday in the blogosphere, but because well known bloggers are prone to drama when criticized, let’s use some celebrity examples.

Mel Gibson is the classic example of the questionable person who over defends himself. His angry tirades on public TV and in embarrassing off-air recordings don’t counter the behavior in his alcohol related arrests (and incidents of fascism), rather they signal complicity and confirm characterizations!

Instead say you’re sorry, change, make some amends and let it go. Or simply acknowledge the mistake and move on. Or disagree about characterizations in a public statement, and move on. Any of these would be better than the strong retaliations Gibson has made. He is now unbookable by most accounts in Hollywood.

Conversely, when Michelle Bachman was dubbed the Queen of Rage in a cover story on Newsweek, she completely ignored the story. Many Tea Party loyalists came to her defense, and Bachman sidestepped character issues by simply refusing to acknowledge the criticism, in turn making it look like an attack. It is doubtful that the Newsweek cover changed many people’s minds about Bachman (but it may have sold a few magazines).

The Newsweek article is analogous to a troll. Most critics are not trolls, rather they have strong differing beliefs, and as such they should not be ignored even if they will never agree with you. Just as President Obama has to acknowledge Tea Party criticism, it is wise to address issues raised by the opposition.

Just like engagement with a negative commenter, state the facts, and if you believe you are in the right, simply let your statement and actions represent you. In marketing a brand, an overtly strong defense can signal complicity. Address questions, be right, be confident, and move on.

What do you think of strong defenses in questionable matters?