06
Feb 15

That’s What He Read – “Punxsutawney Phil Can Go To Hell!” Edition

thatswhat

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!

Time to Reassess Real-Time Marketing (Scott Monty) – We can blame Oreo for this mess. They capitalized on a combination of luck and preparation to fire off the ‘tweet heard ’round the world’ during Super Bowl 47, and now every brand thinks that setting up a War Room will help them capture that same bolt of lightning. Well, there’s a reason why the saying revolves around lightning and not lightning bugs. The bolt is much harder to catch, as was evident this year.

10 Ways Facebook Has Ruined Your Life (Mashable) – My first thought was “Only ten?” But this list nails all it. In the grand scheme of things, a lot of this is not important to our every day lives, but if you’re spending so much time using something, you should at least enjoy it, right?

How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets (Salon) – This article is over two years old, but I found it while perusing the House of Cards subreddit on Reddit and it’s fascinating. Essentially, as the headline suggests, Netflix used Big Data culled from 29 million of their streaming video subscribers to learn how they watch TV to create better content for their audience. House of Cards is/was the first show to exploit that data. I’d say it worked.

How Top Publishers Are Using Snapchat (Digiday) – Count me among the many who like Snapchat’s new Discover feature, and it appears I’m not in the minority. But just how many people are in this group? That’s tricky. See what one publishing executive had to say: ““I can’t tell you what the numbers are, but they’re fucking incredible.”

The Hidden Cost of a Flexible Job (The Atlantic) – In my humble opinion, if your workplace offers a flexible work arrangement but you work late often to give the impression that you are, indeed, working, then you’re doing it wrong. And so is the workplace that breeds this type of activity. If I didn’t have a client, I could work from home every single day and not miss a beat. It’s a perk I readily enjoy and am glad it’s offered. But if it ever gets to the point where i’m working late just for the sake of keeping up appearances, then I will gladly forego the ability.

What did you read this week? Anything good? If so, share it with us!


02
Feb 15

What LiveJournal Taught Me About the Internet

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Beki Winchel, who runs #NostalgiaChat on Twitter every Sunday night, asked a great question of the group recently: What were the first social media sites you used? What were your experiences?

Some said AOL chat rooms. Others said MySpace.

For me, it was LiveJournal.

It was my first exposure to a real social network, before social networks became ubiquitous.

Looking back, I learned a lot about the way the World Wide Web works from the time I spent “journaling”.

Words Are Dangerous 

I started using the site in 2002 which, in internet years, might as well be when Christopher Columbus discovered America.

There was no Twitter. No Facebook. No Instagram. No iPhones. Nothing.

My start date on the site is confirmed because I still have access to my account – all 1,393 entries still living behind a password-protected wall that holds my secrets at bay.

When I began chronicling my daily activities to an audience of zero, I was single, just out of college, waiting tables for a living, and staying up until 3 a.m. on a regular basis.

I didn’t hold back when it came to writing what I was feeling. I’ve seen some people say drama was a huge part of LiveJournal, and I can’t disagree with that statement.

A girl I was dating broke up with me, in part, because of something I wrote and made public.

A friend became an ex-friend, in part, because of something I wrote and made public.

I was stupid back then. I thought that what happened on the internet wouldn’t interfere with my “real” life. Oh, to be young and naive again. We all know what that type of thinking will get you nowadays.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Justine Sacco and Connor Riley.

Even when you think nobody is looking, somebody is always looking. Don’t assume they are not.

In other words: don’t be stupid.

People Are Not Always As They Seem

I guess you could say I was catfished before catfishing was a thing, although it might be a bit of a stretch to say that since nothing of value was taken from me (besides my trust).

I don’t remember how I came to know this woman, but at some point along the way, she began leaving comments on my journal; notably, on some of the more personal posts. She provided keen insight into my fears and I looked to her as someone whose advice was valuable.

For the sake of clarity, let’s call her Beth.

Over time, a friendship began to emerge. (Or, rather, something that resembled a friendship. When two people have never met in person, is it a real friendship?)

That led to late-night AOL Instant Messenger conversations that were full of of angst and self-pity. Beth was a good sounding board and I felt like I could tell her anything, in part, because we had never met.

Over time, our conversations got more personal. Beth told me about her problems at home and how she was trying to juggle a long-distance relationship — with another guy who she had never met in person, if you can believe that — and I offered the best advice I could.

Nothing went beyond AOL conversations, although, if I’m honest, I didn’t find her unattractive. She sent me one picture during one of our marathon chat sessions that, unintentionally or not, kept me engaged.

I even bought her a David Gray t-shirt at a concert. Size: extra small. I shipped it to her. She paid me back. Nothing to it.

I had no reason to believe Beth wasn’t who she claimed to be, but some of my friends did.

Your Tribe Will Come Through For You, So Build One

It was during a break in a training session at a previous job when I checked my personal e-mail and realized the woman who I had been talking to was a fraud.

Well, sort of.

She wasn’t the woman in the picture, and the size of the David Gray t-shirt I bought for her was just to keep up appearances.

Another LiveJournal friend, who was part of my “tribe”, had done some digging. She also knew Beth. And something happened that tipped her off to the idea that Beth wasn’t who she claimed to be.

She started an e-mail thread with two other friends (whom I knew in person and also happened to be active on LiveJournal) about her suspicions. She thought (rightfully so) that we should be made aware of our friend’s lies. We bandied back-and-forth about the possibility, but it wasn’t until she unearthed real evidence that we gave it serious thought.

After more investigating, we found out that Beth was not really Beth, but a woman who, to the best of our knowledge, just wanted to be accepted. Why she pretended to be someone she wasn’t is anyone’s guess.

Who knows how long the charade would’ve gone had my friend not looked into the inconsistencies in her story.

We’re Going To Spend Time With People We Like

Like I said above, just about the only thing she stole was my trust in people I encounter on the internet. On the flip side, it led me to realize I couldn’t believe everything I read on the internet. This was at a time when a lot of people did believe most of what they read. We were still very new at this.

The community I had surrounded myself with  — people whom I explicitly trusted — came through when I needed them. It was nice to know that group of people had our best interests in mind.

If LiveJournal taught me one thing, it was that the future of the internet would be built around spending time interacting with people we like, which is evident on our Twitter feeds and Facebook posts.

Life is short. There’s no sense in forcing yourself upon those who might not accept you.

I no longer use LiveJournal. It represents a part of my life from whence I’ve moved on.

But it’s still there. My posts locked away, only to be seen by me.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll revisit them, if only to be reminded of the person I once was.


30
Jan 15

That’s What He Read – “Where Did January Go?” Edition

That's What He Read

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!

Brands Attempt To Cash In On The #BlizzardOf2015 (Digiday) – In case you’re wondering, my new favorite pastime is watching brands on Twitter try to be clever in the face of a momentous event like a record-setting blizzard. Leave it to a toothpaste brand to totally miss the point. I can’t wait to see who falls flat on their face during the Super Bowl.

The New Measles (The Atlantic) – I try to keep my opinions to myself. It’s part of the reason why I deleted Facebook. But I can’t sit and pretend that I think it’s okay for people to not vaccinate their kids. I don’t understand how, when so much information out there is against it, people think not vaccinating is the right decision. (Check Wendig, for his part, might be close to the answer.)

NFL Still Living In Fantasyland (Sports On Earth) – Will Leitch is right: “We all now live in the NFL Experience, Engineered by GMC. Pro football’s interactive theme park … it’s just America. Go ahead and fight it if you want: You’ll never win.”

AT&T Launching Scripted Series on Snapchat (AdWeek) – This is the future. In a week that saw SnapChat launch a new content platform for media companies called “Discover”, now AT&T is using YouTube stars with established audiences to create a scripted series that will run on SnapChat. I’m keen to see where this goes.

Why You Should Tell Your Children How Much You Make (New York Times) – My wife and I talk about money with our kids all the time, but they don’t have a firm sense of the value of it. However, my oldest daughter has a wallet with some of the money she’s gotten from the Tooth Fairy. If she wants to buy something, we make her use her own money, give it to the cashier, and collect her change. It’s not everything, but I think it’s a step in the right direction to get her to understand that value of money (and how quickly it disappears.)

What did you read this week? Anything amazing? Share it!


26
Jan 15

The Lost Art of Pitching a Story

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My favorite part of working in public relations is (and probably always will be) pitching and landing a story for a client and seeing it run in print.

In an industry where success can, at times, feel like it’s governed more by relationships and politics than performance, the ability to successfully earn coverage is the one indisputable way that we can show our worth.

(And for you competitive types out there, if you close your eyes and pretend, you can trick yourself into thinking we’re all keeping score and he who places the most stories wins.)

After all, pitching stories is the platform on which this industry was founded. If we’re not picking up the phone and calling reporters and having human interaction, how do we differentiate ourselves from something artificial intelligence can do?

We’ve already seen the Associated Press use robots to write news stories. Who is to say they won’t one day replace us? It wouldn’t be that far of a stretch to assume software could be programmed to draft and send press releases to a pre-established media list.

To stay relevant and valuable, we have to deliver results.

***

At the risk of this becoming my Mitch Albom moment, I want to tell you a story of how things used to be in the public relations industry when I started in earnest, way back in 2005.

Back then, I used to spend hours on the phone pitching stories to journalists.

With sweaty palms and shaky knees, I would pick up the phone and go through my media list one-by-one, calling reporters I pitched on e-mail to see if they would be interested in writing a story about my client.

I was yelled at by a few and received more voicemail messages than one person should have to endure, but it was necessary. More often than not, the reporter had avoided my e-mail because of deadlines. So a polite phone call usually got a response, even if it was a “no”.

But it also led to a few saying yes, which usually led to a silent fist pump.

Over time, I honed my phone manner and got really good at pitching journalists. That first e-mail entry point was important, but so was learning when they were more likely to answer their phone, how to best start the conversation (usually a simple request for a few minutes of their time made all the difference) and how to respond if they shot you down immediately. (Don’t take no for an answer. If you know your client inside and out, sometimes you can land an interview that had nothing to do with your original pitch.)

The people entering the industry today, unfortunately, are being taught quantity is more important than quality, so they write the press release, push it out to their media list via e-mail, and then move on to the next release.

Calling a reporter on the phone to follow up an e-mail never crosses their mind because we’ve fallen in love with the inflated media impressions numbers. They say their announcement earned 150 million impressions when it was release, but did anyone read it?

Probably not.

***

We are only as good as the last piece of coverage we earned. And I’m not talking about a press release that was picked up by one of the hundreds of news aggregators on the web. Any moron can do that.

I’m talking about a real, honest-to-goodness article that includes insight from the reporter, a quote from your spokesperson, and third-party validation that ties everything together.

Something worthy of being framed and placed on a wall.

If you think you’re busy, try to put yourself in the shoes of a reporter. Newsrooms are shrinking. Responsibilities are being increased to cover for colleagues who were let go. Reporters have more demands on their time than ever. If you can mine their stories for a topic that would be of interest to them and offer it so that they don’t have to spend the time to find it themselves, then you make everyone’s job just a little bit easier.

Of course, if you’re happy just checking the box and putting a press release on a web site, that’s fine, too. Just don’t complain when our robot overlords make your job obsolete.


23
Jan 15

That’s What He Read – Writing, Wrestling, and Storytelling Edition

That's What He Read

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!

How agencies get employees to fill in their timesheets (Digiday) – Time is the bane of the PR industry’s existence. Account people hate to enter it and finance people hate when it’s not entered. But there has to be a way to encourage us to enter our time besides threats sent via e-mail, right? How about beer? Okay, that’s a start.

Writing Your Way to Happiness (New York Times) – This might sound strange, but as someone who loves to have written, I don’t particularly like the act of writing. But I’ve committed (privately, to myself) to write more in 2015 because I notice an emotional difference in me when I write on a regular basis. And it’s not just me. Researchers have determined that writing your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.

How To Write 4,000+ Words A Day (Ksenia Anske’s blog) – Remember that thing I just said about hating the writing part of writing? Well, Ksenia Anske is determine to make writing hell on budding writers by showing them how they can write 4,000 words every day. The way she spells it out doesn’t make it seem so daunting, but putting that many words to paper regularly takes superhuman effort and focus.

The Surprising Amount of Time Kids Spend Looking at Screens (The Atlantic) – I’ll be the first parent to admit that I let my kids play on our iPad for longer than is probably okay sometimes. But I also make sure to limit their time in front of the screen when I can. At school, they’re also using iPads, and I doubt the teachers are making sure their posture is correct. Schools are increasingly going high-tech. Will they attempt to reduce screen time to fall in line with the recommended daily dosage?

Inside WWE: An Exclusive Look At How A Pro Wrestling Story Comes To Life (Bleacher Report) – Let me just tell you up front that I’m a huge wrestling fan and I watch Monday Night Raw every Monday night. I have for as long as I can remember. It’s a nice escape from the rigors of daily life. And, yes, I know everything is scripted. But this article is an interesting look into how stories are shaped on the fly, and how leadership decides which way to take the wrestlers. Crowd interaction is factored in, too.

Did you read anything this week that you just have to share with everyone? If so, put it in the comments! Or, just leave a comment!