09
Jan 15

That’s What He Read – First Edition of 2015

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That’s What He Read is a look back at five of my favorite articles from the past week. It covers all topics, but you’ll usually find the focus on writing, social media, and storytelling. I try to add some color to spice it up, but I usually fall flat on my face. Anyway, enjoy!

Mitch Albom Must Be The World’s Most Miserable Sports Fan (Awful Announcing) – If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I loathe Detroit Free Press sports columnist, Mitch Albom. The sad part is that he used to be my favorite sports writer. Now he’s like the old man who sits on his front porch and yells at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. Anyway, Ian Casselberry nails it in his description of how far Mr. Albom has fallen. I suggest you read it.

The Shameful Triumph of Football (The Atlantic) – Contrary to my tweets last Sunday during the Detroit Lions playoff loss, I’m not a big fan of the NFL. The league’s popularity has soared even during a season that has it’s fair share of controversy and negative PR for certain players. Tuning in each week tells the league everything’s fine, even when we tell ourselves it’s not, but we can’t tune out.

The 51 Greatest Articles on Writing I’ve Ever Read (Buffer) – Whether you’re a PR person, a novelist, a content marketer, or just someone looking to write better, you’ll surely find something in here that will capture your interest.

A Teenager’s View on Social Media (Medium) – I found this post to be quite insightful, even though it told me a few things I already suspected. Namely, teens hate Facebook, love Snapchat. But hearing why they love and hate certain channels was a peek inside the mind of most brand’s target demographic. Who needs million dollar research budgets when what we want is right in front of us.

Atlanta Hawks Host Tinder Night (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) – I would’ve expected a team like the Philadelphia 76ers or New York Knicks to host a Tinder night, not the Atlanta Hawks. Bad teams need to keep fans interested, but the product on the floor in Atlanta is good enough that fans don’t need a diversion. Still, the same team whose CEO sent a letter excusing fans from staying up late to watch the team play on the West Coast hosted a night based on a popular matchmaking app. Not something you’d expect to see, but maybe that’s why it worked.

Did you read anything this week you want to share with the class? Tell me in the comments!


03
Jan 15

Deleting Facebook: Four Months Later

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It has been close to four months since I deleted Facebook from my life, and I’m happy to report that some things have changed.

I eliminated Facebook, in part, because I didn’t like the person I was becoming, at least on social media.

Those people whom I hid on Facebook were the people I found myself most drawn to; I had to seek them out to confirm that they were still humble-bragging about their daily lives. Rather than avoid them, I made a point of finding them. And I hated myself for it.

But without Facebook, I no longer have the means to hate-read those status updates. The urge to peek is gone; my opinion of them no longer colored by how awesome their personal and professional lives seem.

And since I deleted the Facebook app on my phone and iPad, I can be more “productive” when I use those devices.

Before, the iPad and phone were just Facebook machines masquerading as marvels of technology. Now that it’s gone, I am exploring other apps (like Elevate) that might be beneficial to me. The certified time-waster that is Facebook is no longer a temptation.

What has surprised me, though, since giving up is how often people talk about Facebook outside of Facebook.

It’s a real part of our organic lives, whether we like it, or not.

Anything that makes it’s way to your Facebook feed — a Swarm check-in, an Instagram post, a tweet — is now fair game to be talked about in real life.

It’s both absurd and a sign of the times.

My wife and I learned of a friend’s engagement and a death in our extended family last week from her Facebook feed. We certainly would’ve gotten the news sooner or later, but it was posted to hundred of people instantaneously, which ensured we learned of the news right away.

The ease in which we can share news with friends and family makes it no surprise that this digital application has effortlessly nestled into our physical lives.

I don’t feel the same away about Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat, even though they are arguably more popular with the crowd that makes things popular.

Maybe Facebook is the elder of the group; a service that has been around long enough that it’s just there now. We no longer think of it as social media. Like the radio in your car, or the TV in your living room, it’s ubiquitous.

One thing I do know for sure is that, contrary to what you read, Facebook is never going away. 800 million users can’t be wrong.

If anything, it will evolve into something different; something that only our parents, aunts and uncles use.

But for the lot of us, we’re too entrenched in the service. It where our lives are stored for all to see.

It’s damn near impossible to let that go.


19
Dec 14

Six Things I Think About Serial

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Yesterday was the last episode of Serial, the most excellent podcast that has taken the world of audio storytelling by storm.

Host Sarah Koenig has made commutes everywhere infinitely better because of her storytelling abilities, and we’re going to miss listening to her every Thursday.

If you’re one of the 5 million people who downloaded it, good luck finding your next fix. I’ve listened to similar podcasts like Criminal and Sword & Scale, but they don’t have that allure that Serial was able to capture.

If you haven’t listened to Serial yet, I’m jealous that you can binge listen all 12 episodes without having to wait a week in between.

In hindsight, I would have liked to have done that.

But you’re probably saying, “Brad, then you would have missed out on reading the amateur detective work on Reddit!”

This is true.

Like I said: I would have liked to binge listen all at once.

Since I have spent a good portion of my free time discussing the podcast with my wife and my friends, and convincing others to listen, I wanted to share a few thoughts I have as the story comes to a close, at least in serial form.

(Yar! There be spoilers ahead.)

1. We were never going to get a satisfying conclusion. As long as you accepted there would be no definitive conclusion to this story, then it was easier to enjoy the ride. Barring some huge bombshell Koenig was holding back, I think we all knew there would be no closure. That said, I’m pretty happy with some of the information that came to light in time for the last episode.

2. It lost steam. In the end, the podcast became became less about the whodunit, and more about hearsay and psychology. While it was fun to think about, it didn’t add a whole lot to the mystery.

3. Adnan should not be in jail. It’s pretty obvious at this point that the state did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Adnan committed this crime. This sounds like a case of the jury not following their instruction, but what do I know?

4. If Adnan is guilty, he’s a good liar. I can’t fathom being in jail for 15 years and never, ever slipping up when it came to telling my side of the story. Saying he can’t remember that day sounds so implausible that it might just be true.

5. There is such a thing as too much information. Before this story was told, hardly any of us had ever heard of Adnan Sayed or Hae Min Lee. But now that we’ve spent so much time crowded around iPhones listening to the episodes, we think we knew these people. This has led to people expressing outrage for various reasons, including a harmless tweet from Best Buy that I’m surprised took so long to see the light of day. People need to get over themselves. The podcast has entered the lexicon of pop culture. Everything’s fair game. Even tweets about a 15-year old murder case. (Don’t even get me started on Redditors discovering Jay’s identity and stalking him on Facebook.)

6. Occam’s Razor might be our only saving grace. After the first four episodes, I repeatedly referred back to the idea that the theory with the fewest assumptions is probably the right theory. That’s Occam’s Razor. And after listening to 12 episodes, and becoming even more confused, that’s the only thought that brings me comfort.

Possibly the best result we get from this podcast are the copycats that are sure to follow. Now that it’s been proven there is an appetite for podcasts told in installments, I’m sure we will see many podcasters try to emulate the success of this one.

Speaking from the perspective of someone who spends two hours in a car every day driving to work, I’m surely not going to complain.


26
Nov 14

The Social Media Expert’s Guide to Using Twitter During Civil Unrest

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I don’t know about you all, but when ABC News broke into Dancing With The Stars on Monday night to share the verdict from the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., the first thing I thought was “Gosh, I hope Sears isn’t going to tweet an ad for 50 percent off pants on Black Friday. What a tragedy that would be.”

Thankfully for us plebs, hundreds of social media experts took to Twitter to remind our beloved brands to turn off auto-tweets and, in the process, earn some well-deserved Twitter karma.

Because when we are watching riot police lob canisters of tear gas into crowds of protestors and CNN reporters interviewing each other, the last thing we should have to concern ourselves with is whether or not ads for Kate Upton’s new video game are going to interrupt our stream and cause us to chuck our iPads against the wall in disgust.

It really puts things in perspective when you are watching riots unfold on television and are forced to endure and avoid 140 characters about a special at Amazon.com.

How do we do it?

So let’s give those gurus of social media a round of applause. Their selflessness saved brands from humiliation and they should be commended and re-tweeted from here to eternity.

After all, nobody likes it when a brand tries to use a national tragedy for their own personal gain.


04
Nov 14

When Will It End?

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At a time when 70 percent of Americans hate their jobs, we are putting in more hours than ever before.

When Mother Nature blows her brutal winter winds across the Midwest, it’s not uncommon to leave for work and return from work in the dark, only seeing the sun’s light (when it shines) through the windows of the skyscrapers that house our bland home away from home: the office cubicle.

But our complaints are invalid if we don’t do anything to right them. As a people, it appears we are content to lament to friends and family (and surveys) how much we hate going to our jobs every day.

Yet, as a country of workers, we left $52 billion on the table in unused vacation benefits in 2013, which comes out to 169 millions days of paid time off.

Once you pass the point where it becomes impossible to use up your remaining vacation days, you’re working for free.

So I ask again the question that headlines this post: When will it end?

I can’t predict a time when the working population will be able to work less. That just seems like an impossible possibility.

We have more demands than ever on our time at the office. Clients want more hours spent on projects.

In my industry, over-servicing is the norm.

Public relations is a results oriented and competitive industry. There is always someone willing to work insane hours to get ahead. Relax for one minute and you risk being pushed aside.

Look –  we know that stress related to working too many hours can be, and in some cases is, deadly. While that is probably taking overwork to the extreme, it’s a sign that there should be cause for some concern.

But we avoid it.

Instead, we put in more hours at the expense of seeing our family and our lives become dictated by our work.

Confucious once said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

That’s a nice sentiment, isn’t it?

I fear, though, that for most of us, it’s a pipe dream.