Archive for August, 2009


I have to send out a big thank you to Kipp Bodnar and Jeff Cohen for shooting and posting (respectively) bootleg video from my Social Media R.O.I. presentation at #sofresh last week. You guys rock!  Video is definitely not as fun as being there, but in this case it’s pretty damn close.

Check it out here. (If you’re using a smart phone to watch it and the video doesn’t play, go here.)

Incidentally, though conferences don’t always like to see some of their content turn up on YouTube, Viddler and Vimeo for all (non-paying non-attendees) to see, I encourage all of you to bootleg videos of all of my presentations whenever applicable anyway. How you use the videos is your business. (Tip: Don’t forget to give the conference credit and allow a few days to pass, just… you know… to be nice.) Either way, you have my blessing. 😉

Note: Concerning the caption at the top of the video, I am actually @thebrandbuilder, not @brandbuilder. (I wouldn’t want you to follow the wrong dude.) 😀

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I have one question to ask you today. Before I ask it, I want you to know that you are going to have to think really hard about the answer for 5 seconds, then click on the link to go say yay or nay.

Okay, ready?

Here we go…

Here’s the question: Do you want to see me at SxSW 2010?






If the answer is yes, go here and vote for the proposed panel on Social Media Ménage à Trois: Making ‘happy time’ with Advertising, Marketing and PR via Social Media.

If you aren’t sure, go here and read more about it. If you vote yes and the panel is approved, expect an experience at least as memorable as the proposed panel’s title, I kid you not. Don’t put it off. You have to vote TODAY, as the deadline fast approaches.

Just know that my SxSW plans for 2010 are now in your hands.

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Watch this presentation. It is one of the smartest outlines of the current state of Social Media integration (cultural and corporate) I have seen yet. And David’s unmistakable design style works really well here. Pay particular attention to the sections on cultural change and core archetypes. Good stuff. Insightful.

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Part 1: The definitive Social Media R.O.I. presentation

So there it is. The Social Media ROI (#smROI) presentation many of you were waiting for. Sure, I still have a few videos to shoot to complete the series, but a lot of the content and methodology is right here in this simple deck – from what ROI is and isn’t, to the basic methodology to link ROI (financial outcomes) to specific social media activities.

Think of this as a Social Media R.O.I. proof of concept methodology, that you can use as a foundation for social media measurement from a real business perspective.

What you will find in this presentation:

The business definition of R.O.I., the case for business justification of social media, the actual R.O.I. equation, a step-by-step method for creating a Social Media R.O.I. proof of concept, and real world no-nonsense advice.

What you will not find in this presentation:

The typical BS spewed by social media and media measurement “gurus” who obviously have no idea what they are talking about.

If your boss or client is still not getting the answers they want when it comes to the Social Media R.O.I. question, point them to this presentation and see if it strikes a chord.

If the presentation doesn’t launch for you properly, you can go check it out on slideshare here.


Part 2: Social Fresh recap

I can’t list all the great people I met Monday at Social Fresh, so I apologize if I’ve omitted your name in this post. Leave me a comment to slap me upside the head if I forgot to include you here, and I will rectify my omission pronto. Anyhoo, I am pretty stoked to have finally met @keithburtis @gialyons @gavinbaker @smashadv @wendywells @nathanrichie @ENDsessions @cammicam RichTucker @beccabernstein @theRab @ryamstephens @djwaldow @gilliatt @waynesutton @gregcangialosi @areich @waynesutton (@armano @abellmas @amywood @spikejones and @tinkhanson I already knew. You don’t count.)


I missed all of the morning sessions (I was being Mr. chatterbox in the lounge) but killer presos from @armano @gialyons and @spikejones in the afternoon. You couldn’t ask for a better afternoon lineup. Seriously, for a relatively small conference, the content was super solid.


I really have to commend Jason Keath and his army of volunteers for pulling of this pretty awesome conference.

Yeah, maybe the SxSW’s of the world get all the press, but sometimes these small conferences pack a hell of a punch too. (Good things do come in small packages sometimes.)

It’s pretty much a given that SoFresh will be back (and I’m hoping it will spread to other cities, for that matter). Looking forward to the 2010 edition!

Note: I will post links to other presentations, flickr galleries and videos as soon as I have the urls.


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Monday 24 August is Charlotte, NC’s much anticipated Social Fresh conference. If you’re in the area and want to hang out with me, David Armano, Gia Lyons, Keith Burtis, Nathan Gilliat, Spike Jones, Chris Harrington, and many more, this is your chance. (Without having to fly to NYC or Chicago or Boston, that is.)

In case you’re in the neighborhood and want to crash the conference (I think it’s sold out, but where there’s a will, there’s a way), click here now for the schedule.

For the full roster of speakers, click here (and scroll down).

To find out how to get there (before we start tweeting and live geo-tagging) click here.

I probably won’t have a whole lot of attendees since my session is competing against the Facebook, Ripple6 and Dachis panel on “meeting your customers on their turf,” so we’ll plan on keeping the ROI discussion fun and open to dialogue.

The point here is to teach attendees the fundamentals of how to measure the real ROI of Social Media activities and integration, not just to talk about it. 😉

I hope you’ll be able to make it. I look forward to the event and meeting many of NC’s Twitterati.



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Below a little video of the afternoon several local bloggers and twitterati got to enjoy, courtesy of Kamran Popkin and the BMW Performance Driving School. Look for cameos by @JimSharp, @Nullvariable and @brainsonfire (Matt Reese).

Incidentally, Matt is insanely fast in a car, so never EVER let him race you for money.

I really can’t thank Kamran enough for hooking me up AND the BMW PDS’s staff for taking such good care of us while we were there. Everyone – from the catering folks and event coordinators to the driving instructors – is absolutely top notch, as is the facility.

Something I learned today: Any new BMW owner in North America can take delivery of their new car right here at the factory, then drive it to the school for an afternoon of classroom and practical driving instruction. You pay to get here, but once you’re in Greenville, BMW takes care of the rest: Hotel, food and the driving instruction. How cool is that!

BMW classroom

A few other things I learned today:

@Jimsharp likes to live (and drive) on the edge (of the road).

Also, he doesn’t stop. For anything. Not even puppies. (Okay, maybe for puppies.)


Good luck flipping an X5 out on the range. These things cling to walls like spiderman.

Pedal to the metal feels GOOD.

Not hitting any cones is more important than a little extra speed.

Real drivers don’t use traction control.


Some BMWs drive themselves.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses control of their bodily functions.

BMWs aren’t just cars. They really ARE ultimate driving machines.

Driving fast makes me sweat a little bit.

I like the smell of burning rubber in the afternoon.

What you’ll see in the video:

The first driving exercise was a slalom course designed to teach us how to take tight corners at high speed in varying surface conditions (wet/dry).

The second driving exercise was a timed run in the M3 designed to teach us to a) negotiate sudden sharp turns at high speed. (The turn is sharper than it looks.) Also, b) precision stopping from max acceleration.

The third driving exercise was the X5’s 4×4 course. (No racing there.)

The fourth exercise was just a fun ride with one of the school’s professional drivers.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what tunes you heard in that video:

“Shooting Star” by David Rush

“Throw Water On Them” by Asher Roth

Thanks to Jim for shooting most of the in-car stuff. If the video doesn’t play for you, go watch it here.

Also, check out Jim’s video (most of the in-car footage was shot by yours truly). Great editing and music by Jim. Good stuff:

If Jim’s video doesn’t load for you, watch it here.


PS: No cones were harmed during the shooting of this video. (At least not by us.)

PPS: Want to play like we just did? BMW has a ton of programs for drivers of all levels (even for teenage drivers). Check out the performance driving school’s web page for more info.

PPPS: I don’t work for BMW, didn’t get paid by BMW and have no ties to BMW whatsoever. Everything mentioned on this blog about BMW comes from the heart. (Disclosure.)

Have a great weekend, everyone! I look forward to seeing some of  you at Social Fresh Monday (Charlotte, NC).

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image courtesy of http://www.motortrend.com

Yep, this afternoon, some lucky fellow Greenvillians and I are making like Steve McQueen, and putting pedal to the metal at BMW’s North American performance center.  More details, photos and videos once we’ve all unpuked our lunches.


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Sorry for the lack of posts in the last five days or so, but I was in Portland, OR. Between being stuck on airplanes and airports, touring the city and its outskirts, meeting with some pretty amazing people and enjoying the honor of being on the 2009 Rosey Awards jury, I didn’t have much time to blog. Too bad too, because A LOT has been going through my mind these last few days, about a great many things.

Rather than write a series of long dissertations over the course of several weeks though, here are some observations about various topics in easily digestible Top 10/note format instead:

Flying coast to coast:

1. United Airlines had some good crews out of Chicago and Portland. As much as I’d love to complain about how horrible it was to fly cross country (twice), I can’t. The planes were clean, (relatively) comfortable, the crews were professional and friendly, and for the most part the flights were on time. Have airlines in the US turned the corner? I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s been a while since I’ve flown from coast to coast without wanting to rip into an airline or two. Well done, United.

2. Orbitz’ automated info service calling me on my cell to give me the latest flight info rocked. The one delay I suffered on the way home prompted two calls within minutes of the gate agent’s announcement. That’s FAST. Very cool and efficient.

3. The screens on the info kiosks in O’Hare all say, touch me, which I find kind of funny. Especially since no one does.

4. Airports increasingly turn travelers into homeless people. I saw more folks sleeping on the floor in our nation’s airports than I did in Portland’s public parks. Not to rag on Portland or anything (I am not), but that’s pretty obnoxious. What, a few hours on a plane and we lose all sense of decorum? Since when? Put your shoes back on and grab a seat. Concourse C isn’t your living room or your back yard. Thanks.

5. Books love long flights.

6. Travel light. It pays off.

7. Ironically, you can fly with a cigarette lighter in your pocket – as long as you buy it at the gift shop inside the terminal.

8. The TSA people at PDX are insanely friendly, and kind of funny.

9. Chicago O’Hare is a complete cluster. One of the worst airport designs on the planet.

10. The inspiration behind most airport terminal designs must have come from ER waiting rooms, which is not a good thing, considering that’s where most passengers will spend nearly half of their travel time. Pretty sad. We could do a lot better. Especially since… well, see number 4 (above).

Portland, Oregon:

1. Half-way between Seattle and San Francisco, surrounded by some of the most gorgeous, fertile countryside in North America, cyclists and microbreweries everywhere, some of the best vineyards in the US, a real foodie culture, effective public transportation… Should I go on?

2. California wines may get all the publicity, but Oregon pinots are the shiznit. Oregon wines rocked my world, and I know a little bit about wines since I’m French, so you really should listen to me on this. I am not wrong. Don’t know where to start? Check out Elk Cove Vineyards.

3. The best oyster po-boy on the planet is at a restaurant called EAT on N. Williams. (The oyster shooters are off the hook too.) From downtown, take the red line and grab the #44 bus. (Below: The triumvirate – microbrew, dirty mary oyster shooter, and good old glacier-fed water.)

The triumvirate

4. Just a few miles outside of the city, you can see things like this:


columbia river gorge

Sorry for the poor image quality. I only had my phone on me. This is some of the prettiest country on the planet, and you don’t have to drive very far to enjoy it. What other major US city has this kind of awesomeness in its back yard?

5. Downtown’s wi-fi could have been better. Surprising since everything in Portland was pretty top notch. I guess I had to have one semi-negative thing to say about my stay. 😀

Oh, and the Hilton family of hotels MUST stop charging people for wi-fi (especially in its lobby and bar). Come on, Hilton hotels: If cheap hotels can provide free wi-fi for their customers, so can you. Welcome to 2009 (almost 2010). Don’t make me cross the street to use my laptop. It doesn’t help your business. That goes for Hiltons everywhere, not just in Portland.

Aside from that, my Hilton experience was fantastic.

6. Portland Ad Fed and the portland creative community ROCK. (And they sport a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek brand of humor that I dig a lot.) Below: Greenville, SC was not forgotten. 😀

roseys 2 - Greenville sucks

Incidentally, if you’re in advertising and the PAF’s campaign around this year’s Roseys offends you, try this on for size: a) Chill. Take a deep breath. Relax. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Have a laugh at your own expense every once in a while. b) Read this.

7. Bicycles everywhere. Ladies ride bikes to work in skirts and heels. Gentlemen ride bikes to work in suits. Nuff said.

8. Hazelnuts. (1/2 of the Nutella magic formula.) They grow there. Lots of them. As a matter of fact, people there seem to know how to grow their own food, which is more than I can say for most people around the US. There’s something to be said for that.

9. Did I mention that Portland has a fantastic downtown? Great architecture, lots of cool places to discover, simple navigation, friendly people, coffee shops and restaurants everywhere…

10. People there seem pretty happy to be good neighbors without telling each other how they should live their lives, which I find kind of refreshing these days. Heck, nobody looked at me funny for drinking absinthe after dinner Saturday. If that isn’t pretty cool, I don’t know what is. Oh, and the fashions in portland are off the hook. Check out this guy:


Being on the jury of a prestigious advertising competition:

1. Many of you probably know that as a wee boy growing up in Paris during the golden age of European advertising, I was a genuine advertising junkie.  I’ve always loved advertising. So for me to be invited to spend a couple of days neck deep in ad campaigns was very much a dream come true. There were several moments during the Rosey judging when I caught myself grinning from ear to ear thinking about that little boy in 1970’s Paris, who would have been pretty excited to know that in a couple of decades, he would be judging an advertising competition. Very cool.

2. Not being an ad guy gives me a radically different  perspective on what makes advertising great or effective from people in the advertising industry. Not saying it’s a better perspective, just a different one.

3. Big budgets = better production values = better ads. Fair or not, that’s still the reality.  Agencies working with small budgets need to become smarter and more creative than their better paid competitors. Not just say they are – actually do it. Learn to do more with less.

4. Great advertising is not budget-dependent. Don’t buy into the mentality that your best clients are your biggest clients.

5. The advertising world does not understand the web. At all. Still. (Which is weird because so many ad agencies have pretty nice websites these days.)

6. If you are an advertising agency and you dream of winning an award, enter work worthy of an award. Don’t enter for the sake of having your work reviewed and rejected in the first round.

7. What works isn’t always what wins. Advertising that appeals to the general public (potential customers) doesn’t necessarily appeal to creative directors and agency principals – folks who tend to judge these things.

8. If you don’t win this year, try again next year. Between now and then though, let go of the fear. Be bolder, funnier, smarter. Dream big and live in the details. Do extraordinary work. Safe and derivative don’t win hearts out there in the world or in competitions. There really is no alternative to kicking ass.

9. Judging is hard. You want to give good work well deserved recognition, but “good” just isn’t good enough to be awarded a prize. You need to be better than good. You need to be great. Exceptional, even. I wish there were an award for just “good” work… but there really isn’t.

10. Ad agencies enjoy some of the coolest work spaces on the planet, and they know where to order the best takeout.

Before I forget, I want to send out a very special and warm thank you to Kim Brater, Jamie Sexton and Jerry Ketel for taking such wonderful care of me while in Portland. You are three of the coolest people on the planet, and I really can’t thank you enough for your trust, hospitality, friendship and generosity. 🙂

I also want to say hi to my fantastic co-judges: Raleigh, NC’s David Baldwin and Seattle, WA’s Cal McAllister. You guys taught me a lot and it was a blast hanging out with you. I hope our paths will cross again.

Sadly, you’ll all have to wait until November for the results of the judging (yes, the actual Rosey Awards), but don’t fret: I will keep you guys posted. Until then, be sure to check out the Roseys’ website (and PAF‘s too while you’re at it).

Top photo, left to right: David Baldwin, Cal McAllister and Jamie Sexton.

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Okay, I don’t usually borrow post titles or topics from other people, but today I’ll make an exception. Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra in the Twitterverse) just posted a remarkably honest, human and pretty personal post on her blog in which she asked (and started answering) a very simple but important question: What won’t you compromise?

Well, I thought it would be fun to follow her example and a) pose the question to you guys (in case you missed Amber’s post) and b) answer it for myself, albeit a little more loosely: Instead of just things I won’t compromise, I also added a few things I won’t compromise on (which is a little bit different).

Here we go. In no particular order:

Professional integrity.

I have worked for two companies that employed deceptive practices. Once when I first started out in the business world, and again more recently. In both cases, the amount of time between the moment I was made aware of the shenanigans and my departure from that job was remarkably short. I don’t play those games.

I could have rationalized that the deceptive practices weren’t mine, that I didn’t even touch that side of the business, that it really had nothing to do with me. I could have also rationalized that I had mouths to feed, bills to pay, nice toys to buy, but excuses are just excuses. Excuses are compromises. You can rationalize your way into a world of shameless douchebaggery if you aren’t careful. Just don’t go there. Not even a little. Ever.


Either I trust you or I don’t. It’s really that simple. I don’t have to like you, but I have to trust you. In friendship, in business, in cooking, in war… trust isn’t gray. Oh, and trust is always a two-way street. It’s the only way it works.


Old Japanese proverb: Beware yesterday’s sushi.


I’m kind of like Amber on that one. I grew up watching musketeer movies and old Starsky & Hutch re-runs, so the buddy mechanics are burned into my brain. Loyalty is something I value above most virtues.

By loyalty though, I don’t mean easily given loyalties – like the ones expected of you by an employer or a coffee shop. I mean real loyalties. Ones that last. People looking after each other-type loyalties. I’ll come rescue you if you get kidnapped by the Taliban type loyalties. If you earn that level of loyalty from me, consider yourself lucky. I’ll never let you fall and I’ll never sell you out. There’s no compromise there.


You are what you eat. I’m not doing myself any good by putting crap into my body.


I get paid the same whether I spend ten hours half-assing a project or ten hours rocking it like nobody’s business, so why in the world would I not go for the option that will produce the best possible outcome, make the client deliriously happy and make me look like a god? I have a reputation to preserve.

Heck, I have a reputation to purposely smash regularly and rebuild like Oscar Goldman did Steve Austin: Better, faster, stronger. If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing exceedingly well. (Or as Gary Vaynerchuck would say “crush it.”)


Say what you mean. Mean what you say. That is all.


Either you have manners or you don’t. If you treat waitstaff like crap, you and I aren’t doing business. If you are rude to me or anyone in my circle, ditto. If you make fun of the French (for real, not just to mess with me), d-i-t-t-o.

I am pretty uncompromising when it comes to people acting like self-important pricks. Manners matter a lot to me. It’s the little things.

Olive Oil.

Extra virgin. No mas, no menos.

Goals. Targets. Objectives.

Once set, they’re set. You don’t lower them. You don’t stop until you achieve them. When it comes to hitting a target, there’s the bull’s eye, and then there’s not. People who sold you on the bull’s eye but then tell you why less is just as good when they can’t seem to hit it are full of crap.

If this is an area of frequent compromise for you, either learn how to set them, or learn how to hit them. Either way, there’s no alternative to delivering on your promise once you’re in play. Compromise can’t live here. Ever.

Running shoes.

They either work or they don’t. I don’t care how cool they look or what logo they sport. Once you’ve developed ITBS, you learn not to screw around with running shoes. Even when that cool blue pair is 50% off.

Seatbelts. Helmets. Eye protection. Body armor. Brain-Mouth filter.

Taking risks doesn’t mean being an idiot.

The English Language.

If I can become fluent, anyone can. And should. Grammar and spelling are not optional. (Inventing new words though, is perfectly acceptable. Recommended, even.)

If a language is worth speaking, it is worth speaking well.

Jeans. Suits. Dress shirts. Overcoats. Couture of all origins.

They must fit just right. There is no compromise here. (Not just saying that because I’m French. Style knows no borders.)


Like your virginity, you can really only lose it once. Credibility is one of the most underrated and overlooked elements of a reputation, yet… without it, nothing else matters: Not talent, not work ethic, not intelligence. Once people start second-guessing your insights, your motives, your decisions, you’re done.


If I pay for it, I expect it. Likewise, if someone pays me well, I fully intend to give them their money’s worth.

The family honor.

Many died fighting for it. It isn’t crashing and burning on my watch.

National security.

Note to the TSA: Boarding a plane with a 4.6oz tube of toothpaste doesn’t count.

The blood feud you don’t yet know about.

There’s no compromise in a blood feud. Only escalation and the sweet sweet taste of revenge. (Kidding!!! … But… maybe not.)


If you’re a sailor and/or a rock climber, you know this too. You just don’t half-ass knots.

Toilet paper.

This one should require no explanation.

My good name.

Actually, no… wait… Scratch that. Everyone knows I’m a scoundrel.

Self respect.

No job and no amount of money is worth allowing someone to treat you poorly. Getting yelled at and dragged through the mud is fine if you’re in the military. You volunteer for that and it’s part of the fun. But in the business world, if someone treats you badly, don’t you dare let them get away with it. Once it starts, you’re screwed.


(See “goals, targets, objectives” above.) Status quo outcomes are never successes, no matter how many mediocre managers and business executives try to convince you otherwise. There’s no compromise here: Success has a smell, a flavor, a feel. Success rocks. Success feels like a million bucks. Success is a slam-dunk high-five that makes everyone look on with envy. Success makes you feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Success is real and it’s earned and it doesn’t come to you without a hell of a fight. Compromise there, and you’re a chump. (One of the many reasons why measurement is important. It keeps bullsh*t at bay.)


If you imagine the best, why settle for average?

Ever looked at the transition between concept cars and production cars and wonder… “what happened?! That concept car was cool! This thing looks nothing like it! “

Yeah, that’s the effect that compromise has on vision.

Do you think the iPhone’s design was a compromise? Do you think that a Canon L-series lens is a compromise? Do you think that a Moleskine notebook is a compromise? A Cartier Tank? An Yves St. Laurent blazer? A Cervelo bicycle? My grandmother’s chocolate mousse? The Virgin Airlines experience? The screenplay in a Pixar film?

Should vision be adaptable? Sure. Should it be fluid? Absolutely. But there is an enormous difference between fluidity and compromise. Some of it deals with the outcome, but a lot of it has to do with intent. And purpose. And relevance.

Compromise is sometimes necessary, even good – especially in matters of public policy – but in business, it often sucks. It’s interesting, when you think about it, that the larger the number of people affected by a compromise, the more benign its impact, but narrow your focus down to individuals, and compromise almost always ends up in the negative column.

A compromise basically means that you gave up on getting the full monty and settled for less than ideal. Next thing you know, your diet is a compromise. Your relationship is a compromise. Your job is a compromise. Your car. Your wardrobe. Your career. Everything from your Saturday afternoon to your political beliefs, they all become compromises.

Some things are too important. Some things deserve champions, not compromises. Some things deserve to be seen through all the way, no matter how hard, no matter what the obstacles. And yeah, everyone can be a champion for something. Everyone should be. An idea, a product, a virtue, a cause… It doesn’t matter. It’s up to you.

Cultures of compromise typically don’t breed much aside from maybe mediocrity.

Chew on that for a few minutes. It’ll be well worth your while.

So… what’s on your list?



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moleskine Yellow - Graph

The Moleskine notebook is the new Mac.

There, I’ve said it. Chastise me if you will, point out that a notebook is analog, laugh at me for making such a ridiculous comparison… but you know it’s true: When all the other cool kids have a MacBook and an iPhone and the neat creative director-style glasses, what’s the next badge of cool? That’s right: The Moleskine.

A year ago, seldom did I see someone in my peer network pull a Moleskine notebook out of their messenger bag or briefcase. Not surprisingly, a year later, the Moleskine owners’ club looks pretty strong. Surprising? Not really. The product management team at Moleskine seems to have done everything right: They’re cool, they’re functional, they’re super well designed, they’re iconic, they look professional, and they have a story.

Exactly a year ago this week, I bought my first Moleskine since my days in the military. (The company was under different ownership back then.) Since then, my Moleskine has been my constant companion, my confident, my travel buddy, my easel, my sketch pad, my memory, and my idea generator. For the tremendous use I got out of it, my trusty Moleskine lasted exactly one year: I finally ran out of pages this week.

moleskine pages

Buying a new Moleskine a few days ago was bittersweet: On the one hand, I am pretty excited to have a fresh new notebook in which to record a whole new year’s worth of ideas, thoughts, observations, notes, sketches, solutions and adventures. But I also know that I will miss my old Moleskine.

So… tell me…

One: Do you Moleskine?

Two: If you do, what’s in your Moleskine?

And um… Moleskine marketing peeps, yeah, feel free to drop me a note to say hi. You guys pretty much get a thumbs-up from me.

new and old moleskines



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First, let me open this post by telling you that I am not going to bash the Marine Corps (USMC) or ESPN for their unfortunate and ill-advised decisions regarding social networks this week. But I will say this: Their respective decisions to temporarily (or permanently) impose restrictions and/or bans on their personnel with respect to social network access do not address the problems they hoped to correct.

We’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s flashback to what actually happened this week:

Exhibit A: On August 3, 2009, the United States Marine Corps released a document entitled IMMEDIATE BAN OF INTERNET SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES (SNS) ON MARINE CORPS ENTERPRISE NETWORK (MCEN) NIPRNE. The fully capitalized document essentially banned Marines from accessing social networks like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter from their network. (An issue for potentially tens of thousands of USMC families who currently use these platforms to stay in touch with their loved ones – deployed in active theaters or not.)

A few key elements of this ban:


View the full document here.

Exhibit B: On August 4, 2009, US sports broadcaster ESPN also announced new Social Media guidelines regarding employee/talent usage of Twitter.

Some key elements of ESPN’s new guidelines (bold text for editorial purposes only):

“We expect to hold all talent who participate in social networking to the same standards we hold for interaction with our audiences across TV, radio and our digital platforms. This applies to all ESPN Talent, anchors, play by play, hosts, analysts, commentators, reporters and writers who participate in any form of personal social networking that contain sports related content.”

Specific Guidelines:

* Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted

* Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head

* ESPN.COM may choose to post sports related social media content

* If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms

* The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content

* Assume at all times you are representing ESPN

* If you wouldn’t say it on the air or write it in your column, don’t tweet it

* Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans

* Avoid discussing internal policies or detailing how a story or feature was reported, written, edited or produced and discussing stories or features in progress, those that haven’t been posted or produced, interviews you’ve conducted, or any future coverage plans.

* Steer clear of engaging in dialogue that defends your work against those who challenge it and do not engage in media criticism or disparage colleagues or competitors

* Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with ESPN’s employee policies and editorial guidelines

* Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, should not be shared

Any violation of these guidelines could result in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.

View the guidelines here (via Mashable).

Not everyone will agree with me on what I have to say about this and that’s okay. Just hear me out and feel free to tell me why I am right and/or why I am wrong.

First things first: The USMC’s ban.


Remember these posters from WWII? Seaborne convoys to Europe were under constant attack from German U-boats and it was believed (rightly so) that Nazi spies were listening in on conversations to help plan attacks on ships. The US government created an awareness campaign to remind people (military and not) to keep sensitive information (schedules, troop movements, ship departures, etc.) to themselves.

Smart move: Creating that awareness saved lives. People were introduced to a threat they had not considered, understood the stakes, and were asked to take responsibility for their actions. This was essentially a combination of awareness and training.


What the government didn’t do was ban military personnel and their families from using telephones, the US postal service or classified ads (the technologies of the time) out of fear that sensitive information might be leaked out via these mass communication devices.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Awareness, education and responsibility vs. outright bans. That’s the discussion we are really having today. What best practices can be put in place within an organization when it comes to social media usage?

In the case of the USMC, is an outright ban of SNS access on the NIPRNET truly the solution? Or is it possible that perhaps clear guidelines about what content is and isn’t acceptable (along with adequate monitoring) for Marines might yield better results without interrupting benign types of communications? Perhaps even create further layers of guidelines based on the role and location of these Marines. (Recon Marines in Iraq vs. a drill instructor on Parris Island, for example: Different threat. Different access to mission-sensitive info, etc.) This might sound complicated, but it isn’t.


Look at it in a different way. Is it possible that Marines chatting about a mission within hearing range of an Iraqi vendor or contractor might be as damaging (if not more) as a Facebook update? An overheard phone call? An intercepted postcard while on leave? Isn’t it more likely that sensitive information would find its way into the hands of the enemy through conventional means than through a tweet or Facebook update?

The risk here is not the medium, it is the behavior. Ban access to the medium and you solve nothing: The behavior is still there, only now, you are blind to it. Double-fail.

Identify the threat, then address the specific threat. That’s how it works. If you identify the wrong threat and engage it instead of the real threat, you’re screwed. I fear that this is what has happened with the Marine Corps. In other words, not only will the move not save lives, but it will instead help further isolate soldiers from their families at a time when technology makes deployments a lot more manageable than they have ever been.

I kidded on Twitter earlier this week was that to avoid being outdone by the Marine Corps, the Army was planning to ban the use of telephones and the Air Force would look into banning the use of snail mail. Don’t take it too literally (I understand the different threat posed by the openness of social networks), but don’t dismiss the notion too quickly either. Twitter… telephones… not a huge difference when you step back and look at the full picture.

There is a reason why telephones and mail were not banned in WWII: Training and awareness worked. A ban of technology usage would not have worked at all. The lesson: Give people some credit. Give them the opportunity to do the right thing. Don’t treat them like stupid little children. Chances are, they’ll make you proud. (That’s what IBM did… but hang on. We’re not quite there yet.)


In regards to ESPN’s Twitter guidelines:

Many of these guidelines are solid. Especially “Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, should not be shared”, “Assume at all times you are representing ESPN” and “Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans.” No problem there. These should actually be #1 #2 and #3 on that list.

When it comes to being professional, representing your employer 24/7 and not sharing confidential information, thumbs-up. Good stuff. I’m right there with you, ESPN.

But wait… then things get a little out of hand.

Case in point: “Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted.” Seriously? So let me get this straight… if I am a triathlete working for ESPN and want to write a post on my own personal blog about the half Ironman I just competed in last weekend, I am not allowed to do so? Am I also prohibited from posting pictures of my son playing basketball on my Facebook page? Openly supporting a charity like Livestrong or Susan G. Komen is out of the question then? Let alone sharing with anyone that I am a fan of a particular team or athlete?

Another problematic policy here is this one: “The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content.” Not to get Clintonesque here, but can ESPN define “the”? Whose priority are we talking about, and in what context? Is ESPN implying that their employees use of social media platforms (FaceBook, Twitter, blogs, Skype, Friendfeed, IM) is exclusively limited to ESPN-sanctioned communications? So… Any use of social media outside of a ESPN-sanctioned context is in violation of company policy? Outside of work, ESPN employees are no longer allowed to connect with old high school friends on Facebook? They shouldn’t engage with friends, neighbors, golf buddies and family members on Twitter? They should immediately end their involvement with the dozens of hobby-related communities they belong to online, from sports clubs and antique car collector communities to foodie and health-minded forums?

Help me out here. I don’t see how this makes any sense from an HR or PR perspective (let alone a legal one). Though some elements of this policy are sound, others fall completely outside the realm of realistic, enforceable and effective guidelines for company-wide social media usage. Perhaps ESPN might want to consider other options (and probably better sources of advice) when it comes to framing policies for its social media program? Perhaps (again) incorporating training for employees as well might be a better solution?

Counterpoint: IBM’s fantastic internal social media policy – A template for all companies? (Maybe.)


You might not expect a corporate juggernaut like IBM to lead the way when it comes to creating effective social media guidelines for its employees, yet here we are: IBM was one of the first enterprise-size companies to not only recognize the need for such a document, but also to deliver an adequate set of guidelines within it that made sense and allowed its culture to spread. IBM recognized that treating its employees like responsible adults rather than dangerous little children might yield pretty good results.

And they were right.

Check out IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines here.

I want to highlight a few specific elements of the document here so you can enjoy the radical contrast between ESPN’s less than savvy approach vs. IBM’s:

As outlined in the Business Conduct Guidelines, IBM fully respects the legal rights of our employees in all countries in which we operate. In general, what you do on your own time is your affair. However, activities in or outside of work that affect your IBM job performance, the performance of others, or IBM’s business interests are a proper focus for company policy.

IBM supports open dialogue and the exchange of ideas.
IBM regards blogs and other forms of online discourse as primarily a form of communication and relationship among individuals. When the company wishes to communicate publicly as a company—whether to the marketplace or to the general public—it has well established means to do so. Only those officially designated by IBM have the authorization to speak on behalf of the company.

However, IBM believes in dialogue among IBMers and with our partners, clients, members of the many communities in which we participate and the general public. Such dialogue is inherent in our business model of innovation, and in our commitment to the development of open standards. We believe that IBMers can both derive and provide important benefits from exchanges of perspective.

One of IBMers’ core values is “trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.” As a company, IBM trusts—and expects—IBMers to exercise personal responsibility whenever they participate in social media. This includes not violating the trust of those with whom they are engaging. IBMers should not use these media for covert marketing or public relations. If and when members of IBM’s Communications, Marketing, Sales or other functions engaged in advocacy for the company have the authorization to participate in social media, they should identify themselves as such.

Read the rest here.

Beautiful, isn’t it? IBM actually treats its employees like responsible adults. How about that.

By the way, check out when IBM started working on this: 2005!  Most companies today still don’t have adequate (or even specific guidelines when it comes to social media usage) and we’re just a few months away from 2010. Anyone feeling a little unprepared right now? Yeah. Some of you probably should be.

That is how it’s done, boys and girls: With calm, insightful knowledge and understanding. With respect for the medium, the process, your employees and your customers.

Okay, now come close. I have a secret to tell you: The best antidote to fear is knowledge.

That’s right: Companies whose staffers understand social media, community dynamics, organic brand management and new technologies will figure out how to do this right. (Like IBM.)

Conversely, companies with a lack of knowledge, understanding and practical experience in these areas are bound to let fear overcome logic and common sense. Fear, ignorance and paranoia aren’t exactly good foundations upon which to base a social media program – or anything else, for that matter. This is how companies can suddenly invalidate the entire potential of their social media efforts AND turn a knee-jerk reaction into a PR disaster all in one fell swoop. (And man, is it painful to watch.)

Incidentally, if you are a corporate executive who actually fears his own people… why are they your people? (Either hire better or train better. What are you doing? Hiring mean-spirited unprofessional idiots with no common sense? In this economy? When you could have your pick of the best talent out there?) If you have to impose bans and draconian restrictions on your staff to keep them in line, if the stick needs to be bigger than the carrot, your problem isn’t Twitter or Facebook. Your problem is you. (Something to think about.)


One last bit of wisdom from IBM’s Social Web Guidelines to send you off on a good note:

Be who you are. Some bloggers work anonymously, using pseudonyms or false screen names. IBM discourages that in blogs, wikis or other forms of online participation that relate to IBM, our business or issues with which the company is engaged. We believe in transparency and honesty. If you are blogging about your work for IBM, we encourage you to use your real name, be clear who you are, and identify that you work for IBM. Nothing gains you more notice in the online social media environment than honesty—or dishonesty. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out. But also be smart about protecting yourself and your privacy. What you publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and also be judicious in disclosing personal details.

This is so evolved that it almost brings a tear of joy to my eye.

No need to panic. If IBM can pull it off, our company can too. (Yes, even you, ESPN.) To start with, all you really have to do is take this social media program building process seriously and maybe ask for a little bit of expert help to help you avoid these types of snafus.

Incidentally, if your company doesn’t currently have either a solid set of social media guidelines or employee awareness training in place, give me a call (or have your HR manager give me a call). I can help you with that. 😉

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Jul 30 2009 - VID00001_2

I was kindly invited by Social Media Club Greenville to be a presenter during their inaugural Pecha Kucha event last week and brought with me an atypically short and succinct presentation with me. (If you aren’t familiar with the Pecha Kucha model, it’s like this: 20 slides, 20 seconds each. That’s it.) Being of the school of blabber, limiting myself to less than 7 minutes to present anything (much less say hello) is nigh impossible. I gave it a shot anyway, and this preso is the outcome of this little exercise.

The point: Illustrating twelve misuses of the term “Social Media R.O.I.” overheard over the last nine months, and attributing them to the most likely culprits: very specific personality types within organizations – the ones most likely to come up with them and actually have the huevos to use them as if they were in fact real.

Here you go:

If the link doesn’t work or you cannot access it via your mobile device, go check out the slideshare presentation here.

There are many more types of Social Media Monkeys (and misuses of Social Media R.O.I.) but given the format, I only had time for these 12.

I will add a link to the video of the presentation as soon as I get my hands on it. Thanks to SMC Greenville, Trey Pennington and the Jackson Marketing Group for putting on this very fun event. More photos (courtesy of Trey Pennington):




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