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11.11

That’s the original Olivier Blanchard up there – my grandfather and namesake – in 1915 Paris, shortly after joining the French cavalry and just days before being sent off to fight the Germans. Cavalry units still rode actual horses during World War 1. They charged with lances and sabers. Sniper rifles and machine guns were still new. Tanks and combat aircraft were just beginning to emerge. Germany hadn’t yet deployed chlorine gas around the Ypres salient.

That kid fought in the trenches and endured horrors of war that we cannot imagine today. He went on to survive combat not only in World War 1 but in World War 2. He never talked about any of it, but his medals told us all we ever needed to know.

Millions weren’t as lucky as he was. Not everyone comes home whole, if at all.

Here’s to our veterans. All of them.

Cheers.

PS: Buy a vet a drink today. Or better yet, hire one.

*           *           *

A little bit of family pride: 3 Generations of Blanchard military officers

Olivier Blanchard - Cavalerie

Alain Blanchard - Artillerie

Olivier Blanchard - Fusiliers Marins

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9.11.

No memories, no reflection, no lessons. Just remembering the victims and thinking about their families and friends today.

 

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Ugly.

I learned something in the last few days. I learned that there are two kinds of people in the so-called “social media space.” To my left, say hello to the kind, caring, compassionate, I would say normal human beings – you know, those actually capable of empathy. To my right, say hello to the sociopaths, the hypocrites, the soulless assholes more concerned with themselves, with their own little worlds of personal gain and opinions, than of other people’s privacy, well-being and even grief.

I learned this through the painful process of reading through many of the blog posts written about Trey Pennington’s untimely passing, and even more of the comments left behind by other readers. What I found was a distinct split between the two groups, a line, as it were, drawn in the proverbial sand. What is most remarkable to me is the rare absence of a gray area here. I found no compassionate hypocrites in my reading, no caring sociopaths, no empathetic assholes. If you wrote anything about Trey Pennington in the last few days, either on your own blog or someone else’s, you belong to either one camp or the other, and your soul, your heart, your nature have been revealed in this circumstance.

While some of us felt compelled to honor the man and to share our grief with one another, others simply jumped on the opportunity to become part of a news story, to place themselves at the forefront of it, as “experts” and “gurus” once again.

I didn’t know Trey Pennington, but here is my painful story of depression.

I didn’t know Trey Pennington, but here are my insights on why he died.

I didn’t know Trey Pennington, but here are top 5 ways of deepening relationships online.

I didn’t know Trey Pennington, but here are my thoughts on the dangers of chasing the wrong thing.

If you didn’t know Trey Pennington, why are you writing a 2,000 word post about the lessons his death taught you in all of twenty minutes it took you to realize that was the trending topic of the day? Why are you using his death as a platform to push your dime-store insights about depression or the digital world or the meaning of the term “friendship?” Why couldn’t you just reach out to his family and friends and just say something kind instead? Was the opportunity to exploit his death really too hard to resist? Are you really that focused on your little race to the top of social media blog rankings?

Shame on you, those of you who went there, those of you who didn’t listen to that little voice inside your head telling you you were exploiting a man’s tragic end for personal gain. You know who you are and you know what you did. Shame on you.

I hope your blogs got a lot of hits. I hope a ton of people clicked on your affiliate links. I hope that Trey Pennington’s death generated at least a 15% boost in ad revenue for you this week. I hope it made you feel important to have something clever to say about it, to impart your wisdom of all things social media, to have your followers tell you how clever and wise you are, how smart. I hope you enjoyed stealing the spotlight, no matter how briefly, from a man whose suffering you never stopped to give two shits about before you saw a way to turn it to your advantage.

Here’s what you did, in a nutshell: You turned a man’s death into content.

And it doesn’t stop there. Some of you also took it upon yourselves to pass judgment on a man you didn’t know, to project onto him whatever preconceived notions you had about “guys like him” and the artificial nature of social media “friendships.” Not only did you put yourselves in the forefront of the story now as the professor of the moment, but also as a man’s judge and jury, even though you never knew the guy, even though you don’t know the first thing about him or his circumstances or the fact that “social media” had nothing to do with why Trey Pennington took his own life.

Here’s one of my favorites:

The lesson from Trey Pennington is simple – stop assuming that because someone created a web presence and says things that are attractive to you and seemingly can make your life better, that any of it is true.

It’s usually not. None of it.

I extend my condolences to the family and friends of Trey Pennington, and hope that at least one of you reading this will realize that your shock is only due to your inability to face reality.

Thank you Brian, for that wonderful lesson. God bless you for setting us all straight. I’m sure we all feel better now, and wiser too.

Since those of you in that lesson-giving category don’t want to make this about Trey, since you want to make this about you, let’s go there. Let’s make it about you. We won’t talk about how the fact that Trey was one of the rare individuals in the Social Media world who actually used the space to connect people in the real world, by the thousands. Let’s not dwell on the fact that Trey (whom I met online long before I met him in real life) introduced me to dozens of people whom I now count among my dearest friends – people I would have never met had it not been for him. Let’s not talk about the real work Trey did online and offline, his passion for bringing people together and making their lives better. Let’s not talk about how perhaps for a man as tortured as Trey Pennington, social media was, at least for a while, a life-saving balm, a mode of therapy, a refuge for his tortured heart, even one of the few things that kept him going and brought joy to his life. Let’s not talk about any of that. Let’s talk instead about your world view and your cynical clichés and your infinite wisdom about a guy you didn’t know. Let’s use his death to illustrate your little bullet points on life and social media, or better yet, attract traffic to your blog.

To understand what this looks like, I want you to imagine a funeral for a moment, a memorial service. Trey Pennington’s family is there, occupying the front rows grieving, crying, trying to hold it together. Behind and around them are huddled hundreds of friends and colleagues, all heartbroken, some utterly shattered by the sudden death of their friend. This is the image I want you to create in your mind. Now I want you to pan back. On the outskirts of this scene is an array of soap boxes, and on these soap boxes are people preaching to passers-by about the “lessons” of Trey Pennington’s death. They stand there, their backs to the grieving, their voices booming outward, gesticulating in their best social media guru T-shirts, using the tragedy to attract attention to themselves – all this within sight and earshot of the grieving.

“I didn’t know Trey Pennington, but why didn’t he just ask one of his 100,000 friends for help?”

“I won my struggle with depression. Too bad he couldn’t be as strong and wise as me!”

“The demands of being a social media rock star are difficult on me as well. I even had to turn off my phone yesterday!”

“Here’s what I heard about what really happened!”

Pan back a little more, and you will see “reporters” (and I use the term loosely) updating their barely-researched 300-word pieces on the the death of a man whose life they didn’t bother to look into with an archive photo or a screen shot of a tweet, or a change of nomenclature in the title, just to keep traffic rolling in.

Pan back further, and you will see a long procession of people come from all over the world to pay their respects. The vast majority of them are setting down flowers and candles and cards on a mound of such offerings meant to honor and remember the man. They shuffle by, looking beyond the soapbox preachers at the grieving, wishing they could somehow soothe their pain. But among them are people who just came out for the show, for the spectacle of it, for the opportunity to say their piece and feel important. And so here they are, leaving angry notes to the family or yelling at them outright things like:

“Take a lesson from Charles Dickens’ portrayal of Ebinizer Scrooge, a man who was successful in business and a failure in personal relationships.”

“Not all suicide is due to depression only but can be done as a protest and just plain selfishness and hate. Going to a church with a gun makes me wonder if he had something else in mind more than depression.”

“I don’t know the guy. I’m just saying that killing yourself doesn’t make you a saint.”

“This wasn’t a simple suicide, it was a public act of terror.”

“The depression/suicide paradigm is simply the wrong paradigm to apply to Trey Pennington’s situation. That paradigm may have been proper to Trey in previous instances, but Sunday’s outburst was an undiluted narcissistic fit of rage. He was angry and homicidal. he intended to make a congregation full of children watch him off himself, and probably at least one other person as well. Sympathy for Trey Pennington is misplaced.”

These are all real comments from real people.

I thank these wonderful human beings for their precious opinions, for their empathy, for their timing, for their respect. It is wonderful to know that we are at all times surrounded by people so self-absorbed that they will jump, no leap, at the opportunity to barge in on people’s grief with their precious “two cents.”

That scene I just made you visualize has been the state of the social media world these last few days: A genuine sense of loss and sorrow by a small community of friends and relatives almost eclipsed by a circus of opportunistic bloggers hijacking Trey Pennington’s death for traffic and attention, media outlets getting into cat-fights over who covered the story faster or the motives behind their coverage, commenters speculating about a man they didn’t know, an event they weren’t there to witness, and a tragedy they know nothing about.

Fortunately, some blog posts were respectful and eloquent and genuine. To those of you who wrote these heartfelt pieces, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You’re good people. Among you: Geoff Livingston, Jeffrey Jacobs, Kristi Colvin, J.P. De Clerck, Scott Gould, Rhonda Snowden Norsby, and many others. There’s a reason I count you among my friends.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to look far to find the ugly side of “social media.” You don’t have to go digging at its extreme slimy edges, where predatory $13,000 certification courses and webinar scams tend to live, to find it. It’s sitting in the cubicle next to you, standing next to you in church, waiting in line behind you at the grocery store, following you on Twitter, writing the blog posts that appear as if by magic in your RSS feed every morning. The ugly side of social media has nothing to do with the medium at all. Selfishness doesn’t need Twitter or blogs to thrive. Some people are just ugly inside. It’s as simple as that. They don’t care who they have to rip off to make a buck, who they need to smear to get themselves off the hook, who they have to hurt to get ahead. They simply don’t care. Someone dying is just another opportunity to get a little more exposure, that’s all.

With all the talk this week of façades and online personas and artificial identities, the reality of the social web is that it doesn’t hide people’s true nature behind avatars and “personal brands.” For those with their eyes open, it reveals people’s true nature, big as a billboard for all the world to see. In spite of every artifice in the web marketer’s playbook, we’re all as transparent as jellyfish. Hypocrisy is the dumbest of all our flaws, the one that, ironically, makes us least aware of how obvious our real intentions are to those watching with purpose.

So yes, there are two types of people in social media, in the world, and this week I have come face to face with both. To those standing on my left, thank you. Thank you for being human, for being kind, for being at the very least respectful during a difficult time. To those standing on my right, I have nothing else to say. You know what you did. I know who you are. I see you all. Shame on you.

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Heartbroken.

I know I’m in the habit of writing Proust-length posts but today, I won’t. I can’t. It isn’t that I don’t have a lot on my mind, a lot to share. I could write chapters on the time I got to spend with Trey Pennington these past few years. I could sit here and tell you how much respect I had for the guy and how much I liked him – genuinely liked him – like when you meet someone for the first time and you instantly know you’re going to be friends for life. I could tell you about all of the Social Media Clubs he started all over the South East, about all of the lives and careers he touched all over the world, about the selfless work he did behind the scenes that no one knew about, that he never sought to take credit for. I could tell you about the rat-hole of a hotel he and I accidentally stayed in on one of our trips to London, and in a spectacular turn of fortune, the conversations about life and love and the future he and I had a year later, stretching late into the night in the warm heart of Dartmoor’s luxurious Bovey Castle. I could tell you so many anecdotes about Trey, about his infectious “aw shucks” southern charm, his gentlemanly disposition, his generous heart and the infinite kindness of his spirit. Hanging out with Trey, you got to glimpse a side of humanity that we seldom see anymore. He was the most caring and unselfish individual I have ever met. There was a pure, innocent quality about him that, once glimpsed, inspired you to be a better, kinder, gentler man. There was only one Trey, and now he’s gone.

So… my heart just isn’t in it today. I’ll never again hear the distinctive timbre of Trey’s voice reach for me across a crowded room. We’ll never again run into each other half-way across the world and joke about how, although we live less than five miles from each other, we only see each other overseas. We’ll never again clink glasses and quietly sip perfectly aged Grand Marnier in the world’s most out-of-the-way pubs and random hotel bars. And now we’ll never have that coffee he and I always planned on having. I always thought I was too busy. I always put it off. If there isn’t a lesson here, I don’t know what else to tell you.

I could go on and tell you that the world was better with Trey in it, that we needed more of him, not less, that he should have made a great CMO, the perfect marketing professor, a golden mentor for an entire new generation of marketing and business professionals, but so what. All I know is that he was my friend, and now he’s gone. Gone. Forever. No rewinding the tape. No turning back the clock. No re-do. Gone. I couldn’t have given two shits if he had been a janitor or a fry cook instead of an international speaker. I never knew how many twitter followers he had or how many friends on Facebook or how much klout he had. None of it ever mattered to me. I just liked hanging out with him. I liked talking shop with him. I liked to hear him laugh at my stupid dick jokes. I am heartbroken. Completely, utterly heartbroken.

Guys like him don’t grow on trees. He was the only Trey Pennington, and now he’s gone, and that’s it. I feel like someone just hit me in the stomach with a cricket bat, and writing post really isn’t helping, so here are some pictures I found of Trey, stuff I shot or that other people snapped with my camera. This is how I knew him.  This was the world we shared. Aside from the memories and the record of his blog and Facebook page and Twitter account, this is all that’s left.

Godspeed, buddy. I miss you already.

 

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Today’s post isn’t going to be about brand management, marketing, advertising, PR, or best practices for social media programs. In fact, this post isn’t going to be about any of the things I usually talk about on this blog. I won’t give you any advice, share any professional insights or teach you how to do anything that will enhance your campaigns or make your companies kick ass. Today, I just want to lend a helping hand to a few people in my life who have fallen on hard, if not slightly dark and scary times. Some of these friends are people I have known for a long time. Others are people I have come to know through Twitter, Facebook, or this blog. More still may be people I haven’t met yet, but will thanks to this post.

All of these folks have something in common: They have had a shitty week. One found out she has a rare health condition that could change her whole life. Another buried her sister. A third lost a job he absolutely lived for. A fourth is heartbroken. A fifth lost hope, which is just about one of the worst things that can happen to a human soul.

I could sit here and wax philosophical about ups and downs, cycles being mere moments in time, about the need for patience and courage and even perseverance, about the fact that as humans, we fall on our faces sometimes, we screw up, bad things just happen out of the blue and for no apparent reason, but you know how long-winded I can get. So instead, here is a collection of insights from people far smarter and wiser than me, that will hopefully bring some solace, if not comfort, to anyone having a really horrible week:

What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
– T. S. Eliot

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.
– Thomas Edison

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
– Japanese Proverb

If we screw it up, start over. Try something else.
– Lee Iacocca

Failure does not exist. Failure is simply someone else’s opinion of how a certain act should have been completed. Once you believe that no act must be performed in any specific other-directed way, then failing becomes impossible.
– Wayne Dyer

Celebrate endings – for they precede new beginnings.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
– Nelson Mandela

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.
– Helen Keller

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.
– Dolly Parton

To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.
– Theodore H. White

This thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.
– Mary Pickford

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.
– Raymond Lindquist

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

The starting point of all achievement is desire.
– Napoleon Hill

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
– Anne Frank

Let me end this post with a quick anecdote. Yesterday, an old friend posted this to his Facebook page from his cell phone:

if I had not pulled the woman back onto the sidewalk just now, she would no doubt be dead.

holy shit. really.

Which, of course was followed by this:

what if I had gone to lunch at a normal time instead of 2pm? what if I had been texting? what if I had decided to go to subway instead of lamazou for lunch?

Life is a pretty wild little adventure. You get beaten to a pulp sometimes. Other times, you’re ready to take on the world. Truth is, very little of it is really ever under your control. You do the best you can. Sometimes things work out, sometimes things don’t. But in spite of all the success and failure, in spite of the great moments and the horrible ones, everyone gets to save the world in some way at pretty regular intervals. We impact each other’s lives every single day. The butterfly effect is still real and relevant, perhaps more so today with human beings becoming ever more connected through technology and social platforms. We all share each other’s wins and losses. We all participate in each other’s lives. We can help each other better, faster, longer, and across vast distances.

If today sucks, if it is the hardest day you’ve ever had to endure in your entire life, hang in there. Someone’s life might depend on it tomorrow or next week. Your next tweet or blog post could change someone’s life. Your next idea could revolutionize an industry. Your next walk to Lamazou (or Subway) for lunch could save someone’s life.

Hang in there. It’s important that you do.

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Thank you.

D-Day, 6 June 1944 - Archival Photo

6 June 1944: D-Day.

Thank you.

You know who you are.

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Three quick little announcements:

One – If you haven’t read “Social Media ROI: Managing and measuring social media efforts in your organization” yet, you will find 300 pages of insights with which to complement this article. It won’t answer all of your questions, but it will answer many of them. If anything, the book is a pretty solid reference guide for anyone responsible for a social media program or campaign. It also makes a great gift to your boss if you want him or her to finally understand how this social media stuff works for companies.

You can sample a free chapter and find out where to buy the book by checking out www.smroi.net.

Two – If you, your agency or your client plan on attending the Cannes Lionsfrom June 19-25 and want to participate in a small but informative 2-hour session about social media integration, measurement, strategy, etc. let me know. I just found out that I will be in Cannes during the festivals, so we can set something up – either a private session, or a small informal discussion with no more than 6-7 people. First come, first served.

You can send me an email, a note via LinkedIn, a Twitter DM, or a facebook message if you want to find out more. (The right hand side of the screen should provide you with my contact information.)

Three – If the book isn’t enough and you can’t make it to Cannes later this month, you can sign up for a half day of workshops in Antwerp (Belgium) on 30 June. (Right after the Lions.) The 5 one-hour sessions will begin with an executive briefing on social media strategy and integration, followed by a best practices session on building a social media-ready marketing program, followed by a PR-friendly session on digital brand management, digital reputation management and real-time crisis management, followed by a session on social media and business measurement (half R.O.I., half not R.O.I.). We will cap off the afternoon with a full hour of open Q&A. As much as like rushing through questions in 5-10 minutes at the end of a presentation, wouldn’t it be nice to devote an entire hour to an audience’s questions? Of course it would. We’re going to give it a try. Find out more program details here. Think of it as a miniRed Chair.

The cool thing about this structure is that you are free to attend the sessions that are of interest to you, and go check your emails or make a few phone if one or two of the sessions aren’t as important. The price is the same whether you attend one or all five, and we will have a 15 minute break between each one.

The afternoon of workshops is part of Social Media Day Antwerp (the Belgian arm of Mashable’s global Social Media Day event), and I can’t help but notice that the price of tickets is ridiculously low for what is being offered. The early bird pricing is… well, nuts. Anyone can afford to come, which is a rare thing these days. (Big props to the organizers for making the event so accessible.)

The event is divided into 2 parts: The workshop in the afternoon, and the big Belgian style party in the evening. You can register for one or both (do both).

Register here: Social Media Day – Antwerp

My advice: Sign up while there are still seats available, and before #smdaybe organizers realize they forgot to add a zero at the end of the ticket prices. :D

Cheers,

Olivier.

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39 + 1

1971

Today, I give you these words of wisdom, which I will be sure to follow to the letter for the next 365 days:

“Forty?! Balls!!!” – Author unknown.

And yes, as you can see, I started out with both custom bling, and classic threads. The hair, teeth, and posture came later, along with… my pants.

And for a while, things kind of went downhill from there, as evidenced by the picture below. (And no, I had no idea that Heff copied me until years later.)

Not all birthdays need be dignified.

Find the hidden objects:

  • Bottle of Yop (1 point)
  • Ralph Macchio hair (5 points)
  • Sunset fade Cokin lens (3 points)
  • Cokin polarizer lens (5 points)
  • Glass of wine (2 points)
  • Chocolate cake (2 points)
  • Yellow candle (2 points)
  • Dweeb (10 points)

Have a great Monday, everyone. 🙂

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