The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.

This summer, I started writing a book called The Rule of Thumbs. Named after a blog post that I wrote ten months ago, the book covers the research that I’ve been conducting since I wrote Read This First.

While writing, I came across an amazing success story that demonstrated some of the book’s most important principles. The story involves a young musician by the name of Julia Nunes, who used social media to raise $78,000 US in thirty days–for her yet-to-be-recorded CD!

The story demonstrated so many of the book’s concepts that I wanted to release a case study immediately. The result is the following e-book: The Rule of Thumbs.

Please feel free to download a copy in your favorite electronic format: PDF, Kindle, iPad, or EPUB. The e-book is free and requires no annoying sign-up shenanigans.

Please let me know what you think of it!

Aug 5, 2011

Last year, I met an amazing gentleman who ran a nonprofit organization. Immediately taken by his passion, enthusiasm, and deep technical knowledge, I had decided to volunteer for his organization before he finished his pitch. From that meeting onward, my role was to help communicate through new/social media channels.

Walking away from that meeting, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Figuring that others would be just as impressed with his passion and enthusiasm, I grabbed my Kodak Zi-8, and produced a video interview of him.

The video came out exactly how I wanted. The gentleman, sitting at his desk,  looked relaxed. His eyes lit up when he talked about his project. He went on to describe his personal motivations–some that reached back over 30 years to when he attended middle school. The resulting video was everything that I could have asked for. I loved it.

He hated it.

The man explained that it didn’t portray the image that he had of himself–essentially an uptight “professional,” wearing a buttoned-down collar, tie, and suit jacket. He lamented that my interview made him look “hokey.”

I reviewed the video looking for hokey. I didn’t find any. All I saw was the natural born leader who had convinced me to follow him…the same leader who, through this video, would likely convince others too. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get past the fact that I had captured who he was instead of who he thought he should be.

Most companies spend too much time and money on how they should be perceived instead of who they actually are. They justify this deception by calling it “branding.” The problem is that nobody outside of your company buys the charade. People have great BS detectors. Humans are programmed to rally around the authentic and to ignore the contrived.

Sadly, I don’t volunteer for this organization anymore. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I don’t believe in perpetuating the drivel that most corporate communicators are trained to spew. But the story underscores important questions that every company and non-profit should ask themselves while developing content:

Who are we trying to impress? Internal audiences that will never buy our products or services, or external audiences that will?

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Jul 15, 2011

My foray into new media began in 2006 when I approached our head of marketing with a proposal to integrate new media technologies into the company’s communications plans. Five years, a career change and dozens of clients later, I’ve been able to establish a way to predict which clients will be successful in their efforts. Those that are successful have strong leaders who are willing to tackle the most difficult job in the world: getting people out of their comfort zones and changing.

I’ve learned that largest inhibitor to finding this person involves misguided executives who turn to the usual suspects for advice:

  • Public Relations folks who have more respect for the media than your media.
  • Marketing folks who have always been rewarded for creating content that makes their internal as opposed to external audiences happy.
  • Interns whose love for social media can’t overcome their handicaps of never carrying a bag, never having the responsibility of making payroll, or the inability to read a financial statement.
  • An amalgamation of the previous three who have branded themselves as practitioners in social media.

Here’s my advice:

  • Don’t choose a PR firm that simply bolts social media haphazardly onto its “capabilities chart.”
  • Eliminate marketing professionals who seem more focused on product branding than customer needs.
  • Raise an eyebrow when your intern starts using the term engagement a bit too enthusiastically.
  • Run when your social media guru quotes their “fill-in-the-blank” score and suggests any campaign that doesn’t have great content at its core.

It takes a special breed of manager to deal with the people, process, and technology requirements associated with the wholesale adoption of new media. Communications strategies must be built by a strong individual who understand how the rules of communications have changed forever. This individual must have the leadership skills to not only make sweeping changes in both job descriptions and personnel, but must have the intestinal fortitude to stay the course in the face of adversity.

Perhaps you’re the right person for the job?