Friday, October 30, 2009

Talkin Social Media at #140conf

I attended the #140 Conference in LA this past and did an interview with the Roger Smith Hotel (those guys are great), talking about non-profits and social media.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Marc Sirkin at the #140conf

I'm in LA this week at the #140conf and will be speaking on a panel tomorrow morning at the Kodak Theater.. getting nervous!

Using twitter to engage Public Health Messaging

Amy DeMaria (@AmyDeMaria) - Sr. Vice President of Communications, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Beverly Robertson (@marchofdimes) - National Director, Pregnancy & Newborn Health Education Center
Colleen Patterson (@colleenpattrson) - National Aboriginal Health Organization
Marc Sirkin - Chief Community Officer, Autism Speaks
Nedra Weinreich (@Nedra) - Founder, Weinreich Communications (moderator)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Town Crier

When I responded to a post on Beth Kanter's blog all I was trying to do was win a copy of Twitterville, a new book from Shel Israel. As I left my comment, my fingers typed the words "town crier." I hadn't given it much thought, and given how busy I've been at my new job it simply floated away from me.

Beth asked me to do a follow up on it, and I neglected that as well. Finally though, I'm back to thinking about that phrase and how it applies to marketing, social media and engagement marketing both in the non-profit sector and in general.

First of all, I had to look up "town crier" to make sure my analogy wasn't off-base right from the start. Wikipedia confirms what I thought and even adds some texture to the phrase:

A town crier is an officer of the court who makes public pronouncements as required by the court Black's Law Dictionary. The crier can also be used to make public announcements in the streets. Criers often dress elaborately, by a tradition dating to the 18th century, in a red and gold robe, white breeches, black boots and a tricorne hat.

They carry a handbell to attract people's attention, as they shout the words "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!" before making their announcements. The word "Oyez" means "hear ye," which is a call for silence and attention. Oyez derives from the Anglo-Norman word for listen. The proclamations book in Chester from the early 19th century records this as O Yes, O Yes!

What I meant in my comment "Our current use of Twitter (and Facebook status updates) is at best a "town crier" model right now - a rough way today to disseminate information quickly" is just that. It's us dressing elaborately (our logo, tagline, website and more) and clanging our bell yelling "hear ye, hear ye" through any and all available channels (youtube, facebook, twitter etc).

I don't know about you, but I'm not a huge fan of town criers. The very idea of standing on a corner demanding attention bothers me. They are doing so much yelling, there is no way they could possibly listen. Back in the day, this may have been an effective way to drive branding, close sales and get attention, but today it just feels like yelling.

I am really pushing myself and Autism Speaks to start to listen, both to each other internally and to our constituents. I've been able to talk a good game so far when it comes to listening first, but now it's time to put the pieces in place and use listening first as a way to gather feedback and perspective, but as a way to have a conversation with our communities.

Whatever the opposite of "town crier" is what I'm after. It's face time, personal relationships and respect.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Free: The Future of Radical Price, Non-profit Edition

Similar to my notes on the fantastic "What Would Google Do," I'm excited to post some thoughts on Chris Anderson's amazing book "Free" and apply the concepts once again to the non-profit world.

At first, I struggled to see how to apply the concepts in the book to non-profit fundraising but after finishing and having spent quite a few hours at the beach considering things, I'm really excited to outline what I think are pretty cool and in hindsight, fairly obvious ways for non-profits to utilize these concepts.



If you haven’t yet read it, “Free” is all about abundance. The internet, in particular (the world of “bits”) is pushing us from a world driven by supply and demand and scarcity into a uncharted and uncomfortable world of abundance and access. Digital goods and services can now be reproduced for free and distributed for free instantaneously across the globe. This is radically changing traditional markets and forcing traditional companies to compete against new business models that wreck havoc on pricing and distribution by forcing them to compete against free goods and services. Whether you agree or disagree with Anderson’s premise, this book is an eye-opening look at what is happening in just about every industry on the planet.


As I read the book, idea after idea kept popping into my head. I’ve categorized some of the more strategic concepts as a way to get you (and me) thinking more about how to best utilize “free” to accomplish our fundraising, awareness and mission goals.

At the end of this post, I’ve noted a few specific examples of how these concepts could be put into play by any non-profit with the will to experiment.





Redefine (and clarify) What Business We’re In

Might as well start in the deep end… what business is your non-profit in? I think that most non-profits, especially from a fundraising perspective are in the “hope” business. The business of hope is a rich business to be in of course – it’s loaded with emotion, passion, life, death and more. Given that I think we’re in the hope business, I’ll rip a page out of “Free” and model Ryanair, a European airline that redefined their market. Instead of being in the airlines business, Ryanair says they are in the travel business. 

Stop for a moment and consider that your non-profit, instead of being in the research, event, services or whatever business was really in the “hope” business. What would you do differently? For one, we’d quickly expand how we think about our constituents more broadly even beyond their disease, disability or lot in life. In some cases, some non-profits actually do this pretty well, but there is much room for growth.

The translation on this one is tough in terms of “Free”, since most non-profits already provide most services and information for free, but the point still stands – broaden the definition of what business you are in and look to provide even more goods and services around that idea (for free!).

In return, I think we can find new sources of revenues/donations that will dwarf what we see today through direct mail, online giving and major gifts. 

Open Source Everything

I think that non-profits and open source go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly… or like Cheese and Burgers… they go together great. Let’s start with using open source for infrastructure. It’s time to embrace open source in a big way but not the way you might think. Non-profits should be collaborating with each other (some already are!) on using emerging platforms like Drupal, Joomla and others on building common components to help everyone do a better job in building their relationships with constituents. As an industry, let’s get the “Free” bug and start to create re-usable components that everyone has access to (for Free!) for fundraising, spreading the word about our mission, or whatever it is we can think of. Years ago, I suggested that using YouTube to host all our videos was a good idea primarily because it was free… I was right! We can do more and more with this today – consider using free platforms for distributing all your content including the obvious (Flickr) and the emerging (Tumblr).

Next comes the open sourcing AND syndication of our content in a big way. Anderson talks in the book about using a “max strategy” across digital platforms to drive maximum reach (according to Anderson, a Max strategy is the best way to reach the biggest possible market and achieve mass adoption). Non-profits should not only be using this sort of max strategy but should go further. Open content means allowing others to mix, re-mix and mash it all up. Let everyone/anyone take our content and create new things – iPhone apps, widgets, Facebook connectors, Wikis or whatever. It makes sense to me.

Manage for Abundance 

In everything we do, we must start to apply abundance thinking. Part of this is opening up and “open sourcing” our content, tools and applications. But go further and push the culture to fail fast… construct simple experiments that push the boundaries of what is acceptable in a world of scarcity and push into abundance. Put ALL your images online (on Flickr!). Load ALL your videos onto ALL the video sharing sites for max reach. Allow donors to create micro-campaigns using whatever tool they are comfortable with and let them do it on their terms, not yours.

So what’s next? Anderson thoughtfully included a “Freemium Tactics” section at the back of the book. This section is like fertile soil for ideas…


Ideas, Ideas, Ideas
How about re-branding online games or iPhone games and giving them away for 30 days for free. After that, charge a subscription donation or a small fee to keep the games. Note: the games could be mission related or hell, just games for games sake!

Corporate partnerships seem likely here as well as I think about it… find a corporate partner who gets “Free” and co-brand something/anything with them. Push beyond traditional sponsorship models and dig into how “Free” can help both organizations grow, and grow quickly.


There are plenty of good examples of innovative non-profits using “Free” models everywhere. Look on Facebook for examples of badges, non-profit gifts and more. I think “Free” is a great business model for non-profits and I’m looking forward to exploring it more in the near future.



As a thought exercise, here are some more radical ideas I had while reading, and then writing this post…

A virtual world for patients, disabled folks or whomever (Kids with Cancer, Aspergers etc) where most of everything is free, but donors can pay for users upgrades via donations. Think WoW meets Club Penguin meets

Service listings – give mission related service providers free listings in a resource database, but charge them a small donation to upgrade their listings with additional info, RSS, a blog and video streaming (via Youtube for Free of course).


Continue to give away free online content but charge for well produced (and on demand) printed versions of your content and resource guides. All donors to subsidize printing/shipping costs via micro-donations.

Give away free blogs on your own platform (branded of course) and charge for additional/special features.

Here’s a radical concept… sell ads along side your non-profit content (gasp!).


As I mentioned above, open source all your content… but add a API to it and charge companies a fee to access your data so they can build additional services on top of your content. Let them do that for free and I think you’ll be on the right track!

What do you think – share your thoughts!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Let the Adventure Begin

Tomorrow is a big day for me. More than a year ago, I made a very hard choice to leave the non-profit sector when I was recruited for an amazing opportunity at Microsoft. The past year has been a total trip (more on that later).

Despite the fantastic experience I had working for Microsoft, I find myself blogging about the end of that all too short experience as I prepare for my first day with Autism Speaks as their first ever "Chief Community Officer." I have a really good idea conceptually about what this position could become both for myself and more importantly for Autism Speaks and ultimately what we will be trying to "unleash" within the Autism Community. That said, we'll see where this journey takes me, it's sure to be interesting!

I had been writing a "fairly successful" blog called npMarketing (check it out if you get a moment) but am going to blog here instead and will do my best to convert the readers of that blog to Mindnumbing Thoughts. I continue to blog more for myself than for anyone but will resume sharing my thoughts about the state of marketing, branding and online communities in the non-profit space. I know, you are all thrilled. In any case, stay tuned.

As for Microsoft, I had been compiling a list of "slang" words and phrases, some of which I started to use myself (organizational culture is a strange and wonderful thing). Here are my top 5 favorites with some loose translations:
  1. "Net Net" - The bottom line of a situation
  2. "Right" - I believe this to be a tech sector phenomenon - I blogged about this years and years ago here (way back in 2001)
  3. "Eye Chart" - A PowerPoint specific term used during a presentation. Typically, an eye chart is a slide that has so much data on it, the presenter blows by it while saying something like "This is an eye chart of all our brand logos."
  4. "Marketing Side" - Used when making a distinction between sales and marketing typically - this could even be derogatory depending on who is doing the talking.
  5. "Whack Whack" - Used as shorthand instead of "WWW" to tell someone an URL for a web site. Common usage is "Go to 'whack whack' marketing" to get the information.

All in all, a year + well worth spent at Microsoft learning about myself and building on my experiences in building and "hosting" online communities.

As for the non-profit sector and Autism Speaks, more to come as I get settled. Wish me luck, and if you are in NYC, please do look me up.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Democratization of Philanthropy

Amazing TED video (as per usual). I love, love, love what Katerine Fulton is trying to say.

  1. Mass Collaboration - "big things are being done for love" (Shirky)
  2. Online Philanthropy Marketplaces - peer to peer philanthropy (check out
  3. Aggregated Giving - every giver should have his or her own fund and foundation (check out
  4. Innovation Competitions - maybe my favorite!
  5. Social investing - perhaps the biggest of them all - this blows up our assumptions business is business and philanthropy is philanthropy
Amazing, amazing talk. Thanks TED.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Geeks Have Inherited The Earth

Thank God for that!

I originally saw this on Boing Boing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Amazing Times We Live In

Technologically, this just couldn't be any cooler. We live in interesting times for sure.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Would Google Do: Non-Profit Edition

I've been tweeting and yapping to friends about Jeff Jarvis's terrific book "What Would Google Do" even before I've properly finishing the thing. I sat myself down tonight and plowed through the last 100 pages where Jarvis examines different industries including automotive, manufacturing, telcom, healthcare and more to see what Google would do if they were in those businesses.

On one hand, I was really hoping that Jarvis had taken a look at the non-profit sector given my personal history in the sector and my ongoing interest in how non-profits operate. I'll also note that I used to write a fairly well read non-profit marketing blog. Unfortunately, the book doesn't delve into this much, if at all. I thought, instead of a basic set of notes or a book review as I usually do that I'd jump back in time and take a look at the sector with fresh, and "Googley" eyes.

If you haven't yet read the book, the basic premise is that Google fundamentally operates differently than traditional businesses by embracing concepts like abundance (as opposed to scarcity) along with open communication, collaboration and community. That's too simple an explanation, but to be honest, you should read this book anyway, so I'll skimp on that since I know you'll order it immediately!

In any case, those same traits and behaviors that Google uses are polar opposite of how many traditional non-profits operate. Like most traditional business models, many non-profits have are caught in an odd spot - it's clear that something big is happening, but there hasn't been a forcing function like Napster demolishing the music business for example that has created a need for massive, fundamental change. Unfortunately for many large non-profits, I believe it's about to happen and is going to really surprise and destroy a lot of well known and traditional institutions.

For example, in the international aid and micro-lending space, organizations like Kiva have been literally exploding out of the woodwork, using business models that traditional aid agencies either can't or won't embrace create massive shifts in how donors think about, and interact with both the institution and the recipient of their donation!

Now that I've finished the book, I've cherry picked a few key concepts and have applied them to a non-profit business and business model. One last note before I jump into the deep end for you non-profit types who are rolling your eyes... "You don't have to be Google, to act like Google..."

New Relationships: Give people control
Over and over I've seen it happen. Donors say to a non-profit, I'll give you money but you need to focus on this or on that. The non-profit's response (rightly so in the "old world") is we'll take your money, but we're the experts on what we fund, not you. Sorry.

Let's start here because I think at some fundamental level, what non-profits do with their money is the most basic buiding block for a traditional non-profit business model. In a "Googley" non-profit, the organization would open up and let folks have a say where their money is going. Non-profits could start by allowing patients, researchers, donors and more rate and rank what is being funded. As Jarvis points out, this doesn't mean they give up total control, but it does mean that the non-profit starts listening closely. In the future, someone is going to listen, and that's where I'll (and everyone else) will donate. Think Yelp, but for what to fund, what programs to create, etc.

How else could non-profits give people control? How about in fundraising? It already happens organically and primarily offline, out of site of the "brand police," but why not allow donors to create, publicize and promote events that they create, run and manage on a technology platform that supercharges these small, long tail events. Why not create leaderboards, wikis, best practices around these events and share them with everyone and anyone who wants to get involved? A few years ago I saw a site that Invisible Children created that had leaderboards and wiki where kids could rate, rank and collaborate on the best ideas to raise money. Afraid of losing control? Bad news, you've already lost control, and now you are in danger of losing your donors to boot.

New Architecture: Be a Platform
Non-profits are about to find themselves on the outside of the very conversation they created. I've seen it happen before... a donor has a great idea and raises a ton of money. The non-profit at first loves the volunteer, but then suddenly, the balance of power shifts and the volunteer decides to take their "network" and their several hundred thousand dollars in donations a year elsewhere.

Instead, create a "virtual non-profit" platform where you manage infrastructure but give the freedom to create entirely new market opportunities. For example, say you have a great volunteer in a remote location where you do not have a chapter or an office. Why not empower that donor (with proper training of course!) to use your platform to serve the local community? AOL did this for ages as they rapidly expanded their online communities. Instead of 20 or 40 chapters in 30 states, chapter based organiations could have locally run outposts, managed by committed volunteers in every town in every state and country across the world. Think CafePress or Blogger.. or hell, for volunteers to create, manage and run their own "chapter" on your behalf. Chaos? Nope, that's what we call trust baby!

Connect the dots like Best Buy does with their Blue-shirt nation, or like the Red Sox do with their online community to provide guidance, collaboration, support and the help they need to help you succeed. Can you imaging a site like Starbucks or Dell's idea site that allows both internal and external folks to help redesign everything from structure, policies to fundraising campaigns? If you work in a traditional non-profit, I bet you can't.. but you'd better.

Radical? I think necessary.

New Society: Elegant Organization
My favorite quote in the book comes from Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook. Zuckerberg said "You don't start communities, they already exist." Zuckerberg's point was that we should be asking how we can help them do whatever it is they want to do better. I've already outlined a few ideas above on how non-profits can think about this concept, but I think we can go even further.

Non-proftis can use community for just about everything under the sun. Here are a few ideas off the top of my head...
  • Testing ads with mission affected patients
  • Collaborating with donors on how to raise more money
  • Collaborating with patients on how to best deliver services locally
  • Talking openly with families about policies and program services
  • Connecting patients to other patients in similar situations
  • Connecting families to families
  • Allowing patients and families to rate hospitals, doctors, treatments and more (gasp!)
One more... Get Out of the Way
This is a big one for me and is at the heart of why I think non-profits are headed for big trouble in this new world. Non-profits, like many traditional businesses and business models live for control. They love controlling messaging (you MUST breast feed!), and because they aren't last I checked under CAN SPAM laws, love spamming and blasting out direct mail, email and more. They rely on controlling the event experience at walks, runs and dinners. They simply think that because they've been successful in the past, that they know best.

Those days are over. It's time to flip things inside out and let your true fans help redesign your organization from the ground up. Have you really talked to donors, patients and families about what they think about those controversial policies? Have you asked your event participants to collaborate with you on how to make the event suit them better? Have you done anything that would indicate that you are actually listening?

Please don't tell me you are having a conversation and prove it with your e-mail newsletter, Twitter account full of donate now or register for our fun event links or a lame Youtube channel where you've turned off video replies and comments.

When I was at a nameless non-profit a few years ago I found myself in drag out fights with legal on creating a liberal link policy. I wanted to publish banners and give anyone/everyone permission to TAKE our content and republish it (with due credit of course) anywhere and everywhere. I begged them to open our image archives, put the entire thing on Flickr and use a Creative Commons license to allow anyone and everyone to enjoy and use the images.

No they said, that's too scary, and besides, what do we get for that?

What they didn't understand was that in a gift economy, you have to be the giver, not the taker. I'm afraid that most non-profits today continue to be the takers and not the givers. Give your fans, your patients, your donors and your staff permission to get "googley" and to create new opportunities, or else.

Phew, glad I got that all off my chest.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Business Book Bible

I've been devouring business books for ages, I can't seem to get enough. The latest book I picked up is "What Would Google Do" by Jeff Jarvis. I'm about halfway through and will hopefully do a blog post on the book when I'm done if I can find the time.

What hit me as I was reading it is that this book is clearly going to be my "new bible" - I even tweeted that it was already.

Thinking back and looking through my old web site and my bookshelf in my office, I was curious what some of my old "bibles" have been - remember these beauties?
  • The Innovators Dilemma - Clayton Christenson
  • Mavericks at Work - Bill Taylor
  • Rules for Revolutionaries - Guy Kawasaki
  • Don't Make Me Think - Krug
  • Cluetrain Manifesto - Searls/Weinberger - as relevant as ever, what were those guy smoking when they wrote this?
  • Purple Cow - Seth Godin
Going way back, I seem to remember a book called "Blur" that I obsessed over, as well as the one that got it all started: "Being Digital" by Negroponte.

What are some of your current and past "bibles?"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Got Kids Playing Sports?

I just wrote a new blog post on a terrific new book I picked up at the library that is focused on being the parent of a child who plays sports. Instead of re-posting it here, head on over to my coaching blog and check it out; book notes on "The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

this is a bomb... doing some testing and trying to make things easier to update for myself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Obsession with Failure

I've blogged about failure before... and here we go again. This video is really powerful. The solution to failure is clearly... to keep on going. Fail fast and move one.

It strikes me that it takes a certain type (or lack) of ego to push on after failing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are You the One?

UPDATE 6/22/09...

I never saw this coming but I ended up taking the job myself. I'm as stunned as you are. More to come for sure...

Original post:
I'm working with a high profile non-profit who is looking to fill a very senior level position: Chief Community Officer.

Here' s a bit from the job description... if this sounds like you or someone you know, please email me.
  • Exploits the new media of social and community networking in the previously untapped not-for-profit sector; democratizes the process of reaching a mass audience, thereby capitalizing on new revenue-generating opportunities.
  • Provides thought leadership both internal and external; strategizes with senior managers and Board members.
  • Leads the social direction organizationally, via creation and execution of mission statement, in areas such as: social (general), social technologies and communities, and social media.
  • Develops a strategic plan for social and community networking and implements the coordination efforts with various departments such as Awareness/ Communications, Development, Information Technology and Program Services.
  • More.. much more
Interested or know someone who is qualified? Email me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Thank God for Great Spam

I know, I shouldn't be re-posting spam e-mails, but I'm in an odd mood (it's probably the jet lag)... so I just had to share.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am contacting you based on my plan for establishment in your country. Please get back to me to enable me furnish you information on my desire of investing in your country.

I look forward hearing from you as soon as possible.

Thanks for your expected co-operation

Martin Dent

Ok... enough of that... "Report spam" button has been engaged. Although, I do have to say I'm curious how I could possibly help him "enable me furnish you information."

Reminds me of Borat, or All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

India Baseball

I felt compelled to post this. There is something about this story that gets me both on a personal and a marketing level. I make fun of American Idol, but this exactly, exactly the same thing.

As a lifelong baseball fan and someone who couldn't have been more dissapointed by A-Rod and Barry Bonds, this is what I needed.

I wish the Yankees had signed them, but a piece of my heart is now in Pittsburgh.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Saving the U.S. Auto Industry


It's finally time for the big reveal on "How I, someone with no automotive industry experience can save the U.S. Auto Industry with singularly great idea."

You'll recall, that I teased you about 2 months ago (I've been busy in my underground lab working on this) and threw out some clues to my idea. The first was that regular folks don't give a crap about performance. Yes, certainly some do, and the auto industry and the magazines would have you believe the opposite. The truth is though, that average folks worry more about car payments than how fast their depreciating hunk of metal goes from 0-60. Blasphemy, I know, but hey, I'm saving an entire industry here folks!

Second was a remark about the theater of cars is the most important factor... I'm a marketer by profession and am constantly blown away when I see superior designs and user interfaces winning over better technological solutions. Case in point... the iPod. There isn't a person on the planet that would have guessed that music that sounded worse than competing technologies would become so successful (well, maybe the guys at Apple knew, but no one else knew it!).

Lastly, you'll remember that I'm fully aware that my solution will require a completely new business model and futuristic (or even Alien) technology.

Enough already!

I'm going to tell you a story of how a person of the future (a future where the U.S. auto folks listen to my idea and/or alien technology helps us) buys a car.
Joe is 28 years old and needs a new car. One night, he happens to catch a showing of "Bullitt" on TV and remembers watching it with his dad years ago. Joe remembers the feeling he had as a kid, thinking when he was old enough, he'd own that car.

After some searching on the Internet finds that the car from the movie was a 1968 Mustang GT 390 but he decides that driving a '68 anything is either too expensive or impossible practically speaking.

Joe gives up his brief dream to drive the Mustang and starts poking around on Ford's web site. He finds a new program on the site that promises that he can "design" his own car, selecting from several classic designs.

Each design is based on a classic car and includes a wide selection of muscle cars, movie cars and some really insane looking future cars. Each car comes on one of three different chassis (small, medium or large depending on the design choice); all of them hybrid or electric.

Additionally, he can custom order the colors (or select from pre-designed templates like "Road Warrior" or "Bullitt"). After selecting the Bullitt template, he further customizes the interior (leather, Bluetooth, DVD, Satelitte radio etc). Joe completes his order by shopping online for the best financing deal he can find (Lending Tree anyone?) and orders his car.
That's it...

Awesome, right?

The U.S. auto industry (all the manufacturers as a single entity or on their own) all own an amazing set of brands that people LOVE. Who wouldn't want to buy a Gremlin that doesn't catch on fire and that gets hybrid or electric like efficiency. How about a '69 Dodge Charger (Dukes of Hazzard in your own colors), or a pimped out Caddy?

The trick here of course, is to design a transformers like set chassis that are extensible (3 should cover all the possibilities, small, medium and large). That way, each design could be tweaked a little to fit the right sized chassis.

If that wasn't crazy enough, how about this.. how about you can buy the chassis but lease the design... make the designs themselves extensible so that once you are sick of the Gremlin, you can upgrade to any other design that fits that body style. Come to think of it, this could be the real idea here... think of the secondary market for "Car designers"... Threadless for autos! Sweet.

While I do believe that performance is secondary, I do think the cars need to feel and sound like their classic counterparts... this means designing each car to handle and make the same noises as the original... no idea how you'd do this, but I want my car to rumble and rock (or putter and puke like the real deal.

No, it's not easy, but yes, it would totally save the U.S. auto industry by bringing the romance and theater back into the cars we drive.

Personally, I want the car from the Road Warrior... Ford Falcon XB Coupe, V8 351.

What car do you want?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Earning and Spending Points

I've gone over this "theory" a bunch of times with friends over the years and finally am going to attempt to blog about it.

Guys, you know how when you do something good for the one you love you think to yourself...
"Big points for that!"
You know what I'm talking about, right? Come up with that special gift and you get points. Doing the dishes gets you points. Remembering birthday's gets you points, but remembering her sisters birthday gets you even more. I'm not talking about lame airline points, miles or fake currency here... I'm talking about pure relationship pointage... and you know what that could get you!

Different acts gets you different points - everyone has their own scale. The scale isn't what's important here at all. No. Before I get into the heart of the matter, here's a sampling of possible things you can do with points to whet your appetite:
  • Long golf weekend with the boys
  • Poker nights
  • Ability to purchase new gadgets with immunity
  • Your favorite meal
  • Being left alone for 3 friggen minutes already
  • A 3 letter word that starts with a capital S
  • Add your own per your own relationship
What is crucial here, and what sits at the heart of my theory is how and when you can spend those hard earned points.

I've done a lot of thinking about this over the years and I'm fairly certain I've got it right. Pay close attention here, because this is important. I'm going to give you the key right up front so you can chew on it while I continue to blather on...
You lose points at a dramatically faster rate than you can ever accumulate them.
Read it again, because it's critical that you get this part right. The key piece of the theory is the word "dramatically."

Please understand that the way this works is that you can happily accumulate points for as long as you want. But you'll lose them all immediately with simple slip ups. Trust me here, it's true.

Don't want to blindly trust me? Ok... then take a look at some of my well-honed and immutable points laws...
  1. You cannot safely accumulate points over a long span of time. Any attempt to hoard points will be met with complete point bankruptcy
  2. It takes effort to earn points, yet takes no effort to lose them.
  3. You cannot trade in points
  4. Points are not transferable under any circumstances
  5. There are no negative points, thank God.
Right? See where I'm going yet?

In conclusion and to wrap this up; when you earn points, you must find ways to spend them immediately!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Brief Return to Non-Profit Land

I started reading Fast Company again after a year or so of giving it up and am happy to be back. While I dug the Shaun White article in the Feb 09 issue what really caught my attention was an article titled "No Vacancy - Job Seeking refugees from the for-profit world shouldn't go running for the not-for-profit sector."

During my tenure in the not-for-profit sector (yes, I had a blog then too)this was probably the #1 question I got from friends and colleagues looking for something else to do professionally. I'm pretty much done giving advice around that topic, especially in light of my decision to join Microsoft instead of pursuing another post inside a non-profit. That said, I even wrote a blog post "So You Want to Work In Non-profit Land?"

I think the FC article makes some good points and it really brings me back to the last 8 years of my professional life. The one comment I'll make however is that during my first 3 years or so (while at March of Dimes) I think I considered myself more of a volunteer than anything.

It wasn't until I snapped back to reality and got "serious" about developing my non-profit career did I start running into problems (problems like deciding to take promotions, making more money etc). That was a mistake. I wish I had simply been content in considering myself a free agent volunteer. I'm terrible at managing my career and much better and simply sinking myself into things and letting the water flow any which way it wants.

Anyway, check this article out if you are considering a move.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Betty Crocker

I was fortunate to be in Seattle this week and to get an invite to a Social Media Club meeting from my good friend Filiberto Selvas.

Filiberto and I recently traded comments on SocialCRM blog and on Twitter about the idea of agencies running/managing online communities for brands.

As per my usual, I started with a very strong opinion that brands who want to start customer communities should not use an agency for hands on community management. My entire concept of online communities revolves around creating open and honest conversations. The thought of hiring an agency to manage it to me at first seemed ludicrous. I felt strongly that any brand that would outsource that function ought to reconsider their strategy and perhaps hold off on building customer communities until they were more ready to commit.

At the SMC meeting of course, I met someone with a different opinion (surprise, he's an agency guy!). Thing is, he mentioned Betty Crocker. According to Wikipedia, Betty Crocker was invented in 1921 and was in fact an invented persona who became a cultural icon.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, I realize Betty Crocker wasn't exactly a community manager. But even still, Betty Crocker became a brand that had very real relationships with customers. In today's world, I don't want to believe that a brand could build a community around a fake personality... but then again we've seen some interesting things lately like lonleygirl and other examples that I should be able to point to, but can't think of any right now.

Could a brand use a fictional character as a community host to help them build a community effectively? I think the answer is maybe. If I had to guess, it's happening a lot already. I believe there are brands out there who are building communities where the community manager isn't an actual person but is rather, a collection of people, a committee or some other grouping of markters or maybe even (gasp!), an agency. Maybe one day you'll be able to buy a Turing machine to do it for you.

I'm conflicted... what do you think? Am I incorrrectly drawing connections between things that aren't comparable or is there something worth thinking about here?

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Higher Calling

It's funny, when you start to focus your attention on things, all sorts of interesting bits come your way. I had been holding on to a copy of an article from NYT Magazine about Philip Seymour Hoffman for a few weeks and finally read it over coffee this morning. It's a great article, a rare look inside a terrific actor and a stunningly intense guy.

In describing when he first saw "All My Sons" on stage, he uses some really interesting images and vocabulary that is really sticking to me this morning.

"It was like a miracle to me. But that deep kind of love comes at a price: for me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, That’s beautiful and I want that. Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great — well, that’s absolutely torturous."

I'm struggling myself with what it means to be great in all my own roles - father, husband, employee, sports coach, son, grandson, brother, friend, etc... It really is tortuous in many ways, some of what is required is totally unnatural and sometimes uncomfortable for me.

While I realize it's OK to forgive yourself for failing, I think it's als OK to push forward in trying to be great.

Sorry about the lack of marketing blogs lately. Frankly, I'm bored with a lot of the social media talk, predictions and baloney that the pundits are throwing around. I'm much more interested in relationships and examining myself these days. That said, here are some terrific links to keep your eye on if you care about social media and engagement marketing:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

More Presents!

As part of my ongoing, annual goal setting and life re-orientation as I now call it, I just finished reading "The Present," a parable by Spencer Johnson. This book is a lot more accessible, though not as deep as Tolle's "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth" and is a quick read.

It's amazing to me that I've been trying to live more in the now for the last few years and have not made more progress. That said, I do finally find myself recognizing when I am in fact, not living in the present. A few nights ago, I totally flew off the handle after talking to my mom and while I was able to recognize what I was doing, I was unable to curb my behavior. Some things continue to get to me!

Alternatively, on Christmas day as the girls were opening their gifts, this amazing wash of joy came over me. I know looking back that I was experiencing "flow" and was wonderfully, totally in the present moment.

In any case, the book essentially presents 3 ways to use present moments to enjoy life... I do not think posting these here will help you, but since I've read the book I think it will serve as a reference point for me. I'm also considering turning this into a wallpaper :)

Be in the present
When you want to be happier and more effective
  • Focus on what is right now
  • Respond to what is important today

Learn from the past
When you want to make the present better than the past
  • Look at what happened in the past
  • Learn something valuable from it
  • Do things differently today

Help create the future
When you want to make the future better than the present
  • Imagine what a wonderful future would look like
  • Make a realistic plan
  • Do something today to help it happen

Realize your purpose
Explore ways to make your work and life more meaningful

Friday, January 2, 2009

Off to a Fast Start

Cross 'em off! I'm off to a roaring start in '09, completing 3 goals right off the bat.

#1 was to figure out how to get GPS working properly on my mobile phone, and thanks to some slick software (GPSToday), it's not only working great, but it allows me to automatically add geodata to photos on the fly. Sweet. Check.

#2 was to reorganize how we (my family) manages all our digital files and to put into place a better backup strategy. Basically, I've turned my home computer into a basic file server and mapped public folders to the kids and wife's mobile desktops. Once that was complete, I configured Cobian backup software to run daily backups on those folders, offloading the backup data to an external 250gb drive.

For those really valuable digital photos, I'm using Cobian to create DVD ready archives so I can easily (and quickly) make DVD backups. Not only do I feel good about crossing these things off the list, I've got some peace of mind regarding those digital photos!

#3 Confirm I have the best possible mortgage and life insurance rates... done. (No refinancing needed, unfortunately)

Next up on the list:
  • Check for better auto insurance rates
  • Reconfigure my workout plan