Monthly Archives: August 2008

If J-School doesn’t teach social media, who will?

I just got an e-mail from one of my former journalism professors asking for input on a new class she’s looking to institute.

She’s got some good ideas for the course, centering much of it around multimedia content.

Tucked within her note asking alumni for ideas and input, she included an interesting little unscientific survey she asked of her students. In her poll of two classes totaling 35 students, she found that:

  • None knew what del.icio.us, Twitter, Technorati, Digg or Newsvine were
  • None were blogging
  • Two said they read blogs, although neither of them commented on those blogs
  • None of them subscribe to RSS feeds
  • None were into podcasting in terms of either listening or creating

Surprised?

I was a bit until I got to thinking about it.

Personally, I didn’t even know the term social media until after graduation. But I knew what Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Myspace were. I knew of blogs and had grown up with IM.

I was involved in social media and didn’t really know it, and I’m guessing these kids are pretty much the same.

And I’m not surprised that they’re not producing content–they’re in school and that’s pretty taxing on your output resources. It’s also taxing on how much you can stomach. If you’re being asked to read several books a week, attend lectures and listen to presentations–all while maintaining a healthy social life–you’re not going to have a lot of room for extra noise.

That’s why you need the type of class that focuses on multimedia and highlights the tools at hand–the type of class she’s asking for input on. The exciting thing here is that social media is exploding everywhere from corporations to kindergarten classrooms. News organizations, businesses and nonprofits need this knowledge, and they need it right now. And who is in a better position to teach on it than the school of communications? If they don’t teach it, who will?

So feel free to chip in. What would you include in a journalism class that focused on the diverse multimedia tools at hand to share a single story?

My ideas include:

  • Teach them to link out within stories (I still can’t figure out why news organizations refuse to do this).
  • Teach them to treat comments like gold and engage readers. I’m blown away by how arrogant journalists tend to be with comments. This is your story, people are talking about it. This is a good thing. Celebrate the community, folks….
  • Get them blogging early. Creating content that the whole world can see will make them better producers. It may also help them get a job someday, journalism or not.
  • Check out Jeff Jarvis and his theories on the link economy.
  • Learn how Google does what it does.

Any ideas?

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The Dip

The Dip is Seth Godin’s little 80-page book that teaches you that winners quit all the time.

Everything you start–from hobbies to relationships to jobs–has a dip. The dip is the lull following the honeymoon period when everything is new and exciting. Every journey has a dip.

On the other side of the dip lie the rewards and the perks associated with being the elite. This is home of the market leaders, the top professionals, the masters. And one of the luxuries of being on the other side of the dip is the opportunity to make the dip an even larger, deeper and more brutal chasm to cross. Lawyers do this by making the Bar exam more difficult each year. Microsoft did this with Word. Zappos is doing this today with online shoe stores.

But which dips do you push through? Which ones do you abandon?

Seth lays this out pretty straightforward. When you know you want to be the best in the world at something, those are the dips to push through–to lean into.

All other dips should be abandoned right now. They’re robbing you from resources of the dip that matters.

“Best in the world” is a big phrase, but Seth teaches us that “best” is best for us, right now, based on what we believe or know. “The world” is relative, as in, our world and what we have access to.

So you could operate the best Vietnamese restaurant in Boise. That’s a world. In fact, with the Internet and the long tail, there are more worlds than ever before.

And here’s the money quote, bolded on the last few pages of the book. When you find your dip, know this:

It’s almost impossible to overinvest in becoming the market leader.

Of course the key is picking the right world and the right dip to dominate. It’s not easy, and that answer is not likely to be found in a book.

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A few photos from South Dakota

I’m back from my adventures in the wilderness of South Dakota and thought I’d share a little bit on my experience.

Heading west from Minnesota, you spend the first 5 hours assuming South Dakota is a giant, endless prairie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – of all the prairies I’ve seen, this one is right up there. It’s soft and healthy looking. I guess that’s how I’ll portray it.

And then along I-90 you come upon the Missouri River and think to yourself, what the hell is the Missouri River doing in the middle of South Dakota?

Here the landscape abruptly changes from the lazy prairie to a series of large rolling hills and it feels as if someone scrunched up the carpet. The above photo was taken from the fanciest rest stop / museum I’ve ever seen. They share stories here about Lewis and Clark and what it was like to move a gigantic boat upstream. I assume they spent most of their time hoping for a strong southern breeze.

These hills roll on for quite a while until the land simply can’t hang on anymore and it suddenly falls away. This is Badlands country. It’s impressive enough that they gave it a capital B, a national park and a winding highway snaking through it.

After a tour of the Badlands, it becomes possible to begin sensing the rugged Wild West history that seeps from the area.

West of here are the old saloon towns, once driven by the now abandonded gold mines. The most famous of these spots is Deadwood.

Above you see the town in its modern form, nestled in a valley. But once upon a time here, Western superstars like Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane strolled the streets.

Wild Bill didn’t last long here. He was murdered in Saloon No. 10, where I drank a beer and took a long look at the chair he was shot in. It sits on display above the door.

Today, these towns survive on summer tourism and a new source of gold – casinos.

Then finally, the Black Hills:

So named for their dark appearance from the distance, the Black Hills encompass more than a million acres across South Dakota and Wyoming. I particularly enjoy seeing the world look raw, natural and endless, which is probably why I enjoyed the Hills so much.

So that was my adventure. If you get the chance and you’re into rugged history and nature, check out western South Dakota. I think you’d like it.

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Headed out – but first, two amazing links

I’m headed out on vacation this evening – headed to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

I have no idea what to expect on this little journey, but everyone I talk to says it’s awesome. I’ll try to upload a few photos if I get the chance.

In the meantime – taking a break from all this branding blathering – I’ve got two amazing things you’ll want to check out when you get the chance.

First, an animated video of an interview with John Lennon. It’s about 5 minutes. A kudos to Damiano for sharing the link. He doesn’t blog often, but he always seem to share great stuff.

Second, Amazon and Rick Smolan (one of modern times’ great photojournalists) is giving away his latest book, Blue Planet Run in .PDF form (the free link is hidden a bit, look lower center). They’re giving it away because it’s perhaps the most pressing crisis that nobody is talking about. How pressing? 5.3 billion people (or 2/3 of the world’s population) will face water shortages by 2025.

If nothing else, check it out for the amazing photography:

From pg. 62

Have a good week.

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How to make a free t-shirt that nobody will wear

Free t-shirts are still one of the most powerful and cheap incentives out there. People go nuts for these things.

Having said that, plenty of people seem to know how to make shirts that nobody will wear. If you’d like to join them, here are some rules you’ll need to know:

  1. Make only one size of the shirt – preferably XXXL.
  2. Use a ridiculous color, like blazing green. Bonus points for using pink font. Double bonus for making the shirt feel like a damn optical illusion when trying to read it.
  3. Use sandpaper-like fabric. Make the shirt feel real cheap and uncomfortable.
  4. Understand that great design is overrated. Don’t waste money on that crap.
  5. Assume people will want to wear a shirt with your giant logo on it.
  6. If you have copy on your shirt, play it safe.
  7. Don’t bother with 1:1 marketing techniques or those WOW! shenanigans. Putting personal things like last names on shirts would be a lot of work.
  8. Find a way to make the free t-shirt very expensive. Make sure it costs a lot of time or a lot of effort or a lot of personal information to get it. When you do finally give a shirt away, spam anybody who took one relentlessly.

So there’s a healthy dose of sarcasm for you, but I never understood why people hand out lousy t-shirts.

If nobody is going to wear it, why bother? If people do actually wear it and it looks like crap, why bother?

Why waste your money? Or – why reveal your lack of creativity and how boring you are on a thousand mobile billboards?

Then again, on the other hand, the free t-shirt represents a significant opportunity.

I’m guessing you’ve got some great examples buried in a drawer deep in your closet somewhere, what could be added to this list? Bonus points for sending a photo of it.

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Filed under Branding, Marketing

I Need Your Help

Yesterday I was in an all-day sales team meeting. We were discussing our challenges, both internally and externally.

Bitching, really, about how much selling we were having to do internally – about how challenging it is to convince operations of what our clients and the market are demanding. Oh, if only operations would just get the hell out of the way, then we could really get somewhere.

That’s when our consultant stopped us.

I hope you don’t think you’ll ever be able to stop selling internally, he said.

That’s when he shared with us what he considers the most powerful phrase in the English language:

I need your help.

More powerful than anything. Certainly more powerful than I love you, he said. It’s because it immediately shows respect and places value in the person you’re communicating with.

He recommended we use this phrase to build internal evangelists in key areas of the company – in conjunction with the tactics good salespeople use with prospects in the outside world:

  • Establish rapport
  • Show mutual benefits
  • Celebrate successes

I’m guessing pretty much all of us need help from somebody. Try the phrase out.

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Is your business card worth photographing?

Are you a fan of creative business cards? I love them because they’re one of the best ways to share a brand’s story.

For a photographic tour of some great ones, head over to Flickr to see dailypoetics’ massive collection. Warning: Huge Timesink Potential

If that’s not enough, head over to creativebits and check out a few more.

With all these examples, what excuse do we have for lame ones anymore?

Thanks to Joao Faissal for sharing her’s on Flickr (awesome idea, by the way).

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