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Creative Blog

Issues important to discern and creatively explore!

Passion is not easily expressed…

It is hard to be passionate. It is hard to express passion. It is hard to let loose in front of tons of unfamiliar people and express our deepest passion. Failure is a scary thing. We are afraid to share our passion to unleash the inner being that makes us breath freely.

Think about the biggest idea you have ever thought of, written about, meditated over. The one thing that you believe could define your very being. What makes us keep from sharing that idea? Failure? Why is failure so bad?

I have a mentor that has hit it out of the park a few times. He does not look at as failure just bumps along the way, stories to laugh over one day. We are taught that an “F” is a failure. That loosing money or not living up to the status-quo is failure. This idea of failure keeps us from expression of our inner most passions…the things that make us tick.

We have to move past looking at failure as a bad thing. I met an unbelievable person at SOBCON2011. His hame is Mark Horvath. He was once a successful television man who ended up a homeless person. He took his situation and turned into gold. He began telling stories of the homelessness in America, interview people on the streets. He found his passion. People listened. Was he a failure? Or did something special happen that helped him find his passion.

What is your passion. How can we help lead those to find their passion?

What is your passion?

I ask this of my students at the very beginning of the semester…what is your passion? If the world was going to end tomorrow, what is the one thing in the world that would make you happy. What one thing are you passionate about, that you could spend the rest of your life doing?

Is that a hard question? Think about it for a second. What is the one thing that gets you up in the morning and makes you want to enjoy life? Is it photography? Is it helping others? Do you love working with children? Do you love to teach? What is your passion?

It is so hard to express our passion. It is such a deep part of our soul. It is the one thing that makes our heart beat everyday, giving us hope that life is more than just that machine of the business world? Articulating this passion allows others to see inside our shells, providing insight to what makes us tick.

Finding our passion is the essential path to find that magical ingredient to make our life purposeful. Do we find passion in our family? Do we find passion in our work? Do we find passion in learning. To find one’s passion is to define our purpose.

As an entrepreneur, it is essential to find our passion…leveraging that internal mechanism that makes us jump out of bed and keep on swinging the baseball bat of life. If we can find our passion, listen to our heart, we can leverage that passion into a way to generate income.

My father-in-law loves his business. He spent over 25 years working for a major tire company making rubber. Making rubber was not his passion. Making rubber was a means to an end, to provide for his family. Working 3rd Shift made his family life a struggle. He is now retired and chasing his passion. He loves to clean ceilings. Yes, clean ceilings of big businesses like Walmart, Target, Ruby Tuesdays, and numerous others. He has a passion for his ceiling cleaning business and enjoys. It gets him up early in the morning and fuels his passion when cleaning a ceiling at 2am when the business is closed for the day.

So what is your passion. What do you really believe you were put on this earth to do? Why not chase your passion. You might be amazed what you could achieve!

i feel like i am branding my little girl…

It is the new age…the new digital age. I spend so much time teaching my college students and entrepreneurial clients about personal brands. Identifying their brand, securing digital URL’s on all the social outlets, and creating an awareness online that supports and reinforces a consistent brand message.

Here I am…a new daddy. Well, 20 weeks away from the birth of my little girl. It was just last week that we found out we are having a little girl. The big hoopla was surrounded by the idea that we were going to forego finding out if it is a boy or a girl during the 20 week ultrasound. Instead, ask the doctor’s office to put the sex of the baby in an envelope to be opened that evening with the rest of the family. Oh well, too bad the ultrasound technician forgot to hold back the image that said “female” during the ultrasound. This was just the beginning of what was not going to be easy…deciding a name for the little one!

Deciding a name is like a branding exercise. This one name represents so many things. So much legacy. So many stories of what is to come. This name is more than a name, it is the beginning of her own special family tree. Did you know that little infant girls, by the time they are born, have one million eggs in their little womb. Yes…one million little pieces of DNA that are a lifetime of legacy. How do we find a name to encapsulate a lifetime of stories and what is to come.

How do major brands come to the conclusion that one name represents so much. How do parents come to that one conclusion that one little name represents the family tree of the past, present, and future. Most major brands have wonderful, creative copy writers and researchers. They try to understand audiences, vision, mission statements, products, services, and legacy. But the little name of a little girl is so much more.

Well…we figure it out, I think, I hope. We researched all the past female names on both sides of the family….dating back hundreds of years. We looked at the meanings of names. We looked at whether to step away from family names and branch out to something new. We were waiting on that feeling, that “ah-ha” moment when it feels right. Because we know…that all the research, analysis, copy writing, and discussion is void to that one moment in time when that perfect name just makes sense.

Deciding a little girls name is, was, and will continue to be bigger than any messaging/branding project I have ever tackled. It is my little girl’s legacy. Yes…she is Rose Frances Rettew.

And her name is….

Yes…she has a name! After a week of tossing around names, we have finally come to the conclusion. Rose Frances Rettew. Kind of has a nice ring to it. We found out last week she is a girl during our 20 week ultrasound. If you watch above, you can see her playing around. She was kind of quiet during the ultrasound…the technician had to resort to some interesting measures to get her to move around. Just like a “Weathers” girl…she was a bit stubborn. Sarah’s maiden name is “Weathers”.

But this all began with the day of the ultrasound. We wanted to share the gender with the family the same time we would find out. Meaning, we wanted the ultrasound technician to put the gender in an envelope for us to open later. Well, she made a little error…leaving the screen grab with the sex identification out on the table. Sarah accidentally picked up the images to thumb through and noticed the one that said “Female” and an arrow to point to the “area in question.”

So, as you can see in the video immediately above, we held our secret to make it more natural for the announcement that evening. If you watch, you can see all of the family’s reactions including some funny off-color comments. My mom’s husband Steve has dry sense of humor. It was surreal all day, after we found out that she was a girl. Sarah and I immediately sat and chatted about it. We both thought if was going to be a boy, we really did. Our whole family thought it was going to be a boy…we just had a feeling. So when the ultrasound said she was a girl, it took us back for a second.

Obviously, Sarah was so excited to have a little girl. With two nieces ages close to 4 and 2, the family already has lots of girl things purchased. A boy would have been a whole new concept in the family. I think I was speechless for a while. I think deep down, all guys want a boy. I was not upset…I had just come to the realization that this was for real. Yes. I am not the one who is carrying this child everyday during the pregnancy. I am not dealing with an achy back and sore feet. I am not the one who looks in the mirror to see my stomach area growing with a “little one” inside. I am not the one who lays on the table for the ultrasound machine to go across my belly to see what is inside. I am the guy watching from afar.

***Note…I had my first pregnant request yesterday. A text at 8:30 in the morning that the A/C in the SUV was acting up and spitting out warmer air. Translation…GET YOUR BUTT OVER HERE AND FIGURE THIS OUT. I AM A PREGNANT WOMAN AND ANY COLD AIR THAT IS ANYTHING LESS THAN SUB-POLAR TEMPERATURES IS UNACCEPTABLE. I write this as I know I will be in the dog house when Sarah reads my translation, knowing I am using the voice I use to interpret how she is saying things. HEHE…I write in jest. The car is fine, she was sitting at a stoplight a little longer than normal and the temperature rose 3 degrees from 60 to 63 degrees. The summer has not even begun.

Back the topic at hand. Sarah had a feeling about the name “Rose” and wanted her middle name to be carried on “Frances”. I had a few names in mind but nothing I felt strong about. But saying her name meant it was real. Not the ultrasound, but actually giving her a name and saying out loud meant it was for real.  Yes…that this 37 year man who is stuck in his ways is going to have to change it all. It was kind of a scary moment having to articulate a name, because in 4 months this self-employed guy is going to be a Daddy.

Writing this post is a big one for me…being able to share and articulate her name. Saying her name has been an awakening, that she is for real. That she is going to be here soon. She is my responsibility. She will be one of the single most important responsibilities I will ever have in my life. Kind of crazy, kind of humbling, kind of anxious, kind of excited, and kind of relived that I can say her name…Rose Frances Rettew.

Context is King: Social Outlets Converting for Traditional Media during Obama/Osama Announcement



As the news came down Sunday night about Osama Bin Laden’s death…the online universe erupted. The televisions were not even on in our house around 10:45pm. I had just picked up my iPad to check email and Twitter before bed. In my “News” list, numerous tweets coming across from local and national media outlets about a Presidential news conference at 10:30pm. It was 10:45pm…I was wondering what the hell I was missing on a Sunday night.

As I was walking back to the bedroom, more tweets were coming across speculating what the announcement was going to be via the President. That told me that the news conference was running late…this was going to be huge. Speculation was tweeting across my “News” list with a consistent theme, Osama Bin Laden was dead. WOW. Then, I noticed this tweet.

Yep! Ok…let me rewind just a bit from the weekend. I had just had a similar conversation with Jodi Gersh who is Manager of all Social Media for Gannett. Gannett is a huge media company with numerous television stations, newspapers, and online media sites under their umbrella. The discussion, how media organizations use social outlets to break news events. Do they report speculation via social outlets or do they wait to confirm the story? Or, do they tweet that they are working on a story trying to confirm the validity of the breaking news.

Do you remember back when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot earlier this year in Tucson, AZ? Many major news outlets tweeted and reported that she had been killed in the shooting, later to retract the report that she was still alive. Mallary Jean Tenore wrote in her article for the Poynter Institute that “Conflicting reports of Giffords’ death were understandable, but not excusable”. I agree.

Social outlets are a great way to break news to a mass audience. But, look at that tweet again: “Obama doesn’t even need to address nation anymore. Twitter made it old news What were jwere ust talking abt? Power of SM”. Other than poor spelling when trying to type so fast to get the tweet out…there is a bit to analyze.

There are two claims embedded in this tweet:

Claim Number One:
The claim here is that just because the tweet came across at 10:53pm, we DO NOT need to confirm the claim that Osama Bin Laden had been killed or died. I disagree. What the tweet is referring to is that it had been reported that President Obama would be addressing the nation that Osama Bin Laden was dead….killed during a military operation by the US Military.

Claim Number Two:
This tweet claims that Social Outlets provided sufficient information for a mass audience to accept the “Truth” behind the un-confirmed death of Osama Bin Laden…AND the US Military was the party to cause his life to cease. Once again, a pre-mature assumption!

There is a lot of claim that lies in one tweet. I find tremendous value in examining.

OK…let’s back-up again to my discussion with Jodi Gersh of Gannett. We were also talking about the use of Social Media and the relevant purpose in reporting breaking news. Media companies believe that audiences still want to learn and understand. They have found that Social Outlets provide enough information to create interest in a story/breaking news, driving traffic online or to television to get the whole story. Context is King in this situation. The thought here is that people want to investigate and learn, read more, watch more, and get more information. In the world of Twitter, 140 characters is sometimes (if not all the time) is in-sufficient to give complete context behind the story.

Social Outlets like Twitter are extremely valuable in the minds of big media companies. It is a great way to build online relationships, establish credibility, and provide real time information. But ultimately, it provides a great outlet to share enough information so that it peaks the interest enough to go read more.

Now there is a whole separate conversation whether these Tweets or Status Updates generate enough interest or appeal for someone to pay once they click to read more, this paying for content. The whole pay-wall conversation is a separate discussion. My opinion, that tweet better be a damn good teaser to make someone click the link, pull out their wallet, enter their credit card information, and not loose interest in the story. This is a usability and user-centered design discussion as well.

Back to the subject at hand. When I noticed the tweet come across about the Presidential news conference late on a Sunday night…the first thing I did was scream at Sarah to turn on MSNBC. I think the tweet came from @NYTimes and the online newspaper does not provide real time information like real time television broadcast, IMHO. When I turned it on…the speculation kept me hooked until President Obama made his address.

So, how many Americans or how many people world wide took those tweets at face value and went to bed or on about their business. I think the numbers will help us out here. But, I think differently, those tweets created a pathway to television and online video streaming outlets to wait for the Presidential Address. We wanted to know more. Well, guess what….more than 56 million people watched President Obama and his Sunday night address (via TV by the Numbers). During President Obama’s address on Sunday night, there were more than 5000 tweets/second (via Metro.co.uk). That is a lot of damn tweeting and a lot of people watching this Presidential address.

Techcrunch.com writes that “Twitter Does Not Supplant Other Media, It Amplifies It” and I agree!  It generates interest and we as consumers of information go to the place we consider credible to investigate more. The tweet by @DrJonathan above claims that Twitter made it old news. Well, I am not too sure about that…we are still analyzing the situation and even waiting for “confirmation” via photographs.

We are consumers of information and we will continue to search to learn more. But I guess @DrJonathan’s interpretation of old news is different from mine…well, I guess the word “news” in general.

Passionate stories found…SOBCON 2011

I am not sure what took me to Chicago last week? I signed up for the conference over a year ago. I did not know a soul in the attendee list. I had a few conversations online with some of the attendees, and even had one phone call with one of the organizers. So, what makes us choose to travel 1000 miles to attend a conference. Some say passion…let’s just say that I had a feeling something great was going to come from SOBCON 2011 in Chicago.

From the moment I walked in the door, the energy was high…but I was so nervous. Yes, I defaulted back to my shy days of high school. This collegiate lecturer felt like a fish out of water in a room of smart people. But it was that first day that I met one of the coolest people with the most interesting story. Greg Hartle is his name and 10 Dollars and a Laptop is his domain…literally: http://tendollarsandalaptop.com.

He was invited to join SOBCON2011 in Chicago because Chicago was the next stop on his trip. His mission is to visit all 50 states, starting in Seattle with $10 and a laptop. That is it! He cannot use any resources from his background and “previous life” as a financial man. He wants to create a new life, visit 50 states, and create a new business along the way to finance his trip. He has caught rides along the way, used cheap bus tickets, performed odd jobs…all for his mission. He is an entrepreneur with an entrepreneurial experience as his goal.

After the first day, we chatted over drinks. As I listened to his story and his passion, I thought…my students at Clemson need to hear his passion. So many stories to share, to connect the academics to real world. The word “entrepreneurship” is more than just an ideology that can be taught at the local university, the hopes of hitting it big. Here is a guy who is putting it to the test with only $10 and a laptop as seed money.

I can sit here and give you notes from educational experience inside the walls of “The Summit” during Chicago’s SOBCON 2011. I can draw some tremendous connections between great speakers like Tim Sanders, Chris Brogan, Steve Farber, Carol Roth, Liz Strauss, Terry St. Marie, Michael Port, and the list goes on and on. But…I was struck, struck by the passionate stories of change and entrepreneurship.

But…it was once again…that first day. That first day when someone from GMC took the stage to talk about their new Terrain. Yes, a simple in-person sales pitch coy’d the audience. It was a sales pitch of a different resolve. After a short video about this SUV, we were asked to go down 10 floors, back outside, all 130 of us to look at this vehicle. Some of us were skeptical of this sales pitch inside. Yes, GMC is a sponsor…but this seemed a bit much. Our willingness to please the presenters yielded something special. This is when I was able to hear the story of Mark Horvath. This is Mark below, to the left of the bald head. He has wavy, long hair with a blue blazer.

Mark Horvath of http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog tells stories. Yes, stories of homeless people across our great country. He was once homeless himself after a career as a television man. He found himself on the streets. After pulling himself together, he began telling the stories of homelessness in America. Here is a man that is traveling across the country, documenting the stories of homeless men and women. So this day, this GMC pitch turned into GMC giving Mark Horvath a new SUV. Yes, now he has a new ride equipped with WiFi to continue his passion.  This was all made possible by Liz Strauss of SOBCON and Connie Burke of GMC…and I am sure many others. This to help a man continue his storytelling passion, raising awareness for the homeless situation right here in our own backyard.

I think it would be boring to give you my notes of what I learned as a business owner, as a online business person, and a social media advocate. I could make great connections between wonderful points made from each presentation…I think I would just create more noise. But what I really learned…to chase your passion and use these tools to facilitate the resolve!

I think there is a reason I was supposed to show up in Chicago for SOBCON2011. I found that there were so many other attendees more passionate about their mission, yet coming together to build language and facilitate tomorrow’s opportunity. Thank you Liz Strauss and Terry St. Marie. YOU ROCK! I will be back for SOBCOB2012.

Love This…Facebook Friend of the Day

There are some real cool things out there companies are doing to cross the bridge between Facebook and traditional media like television. Lately I have been noticing more and more television ads creating innovative campaigns to drive traffic to their Facebook pages. This one is cool and thought, so I thought would share. I “Like” the WCNC News Channel 36 Facebook Page. Why? I used to work there many years ago and have many close friends who still do. I enjoy seeing the statuses come across from the different weather updates and on-air talent giving me news of the day.

This Facebook post came across and I just thought it was smart. Featuring one of the Facebook Fans as “Friend of the Day.” Each day they pick a new person that has clicked the “Like” button on their Facebook page as the “Friend of the Day.” This is also featured on their newscast during the morning shows, showcasing this “Friend of the Day” online and on television. Good stuff, what a cool and easy way to engage your fans to watch your newscast. Thumbs up you guys/gals up there at WCNC News Channel 36. They are also on Twitter (@WCNC). I am also good friends with Bobby Sisk (@BobbySiskWCNC) and their Chief Meteorologist Brad  Panovich (@WXBRAD). Good peeps doing some good stuff on the social outlets.

The corporate marketing demon has turned us into TRAFFIC MEDIA.

Hootsuite being down this week proved something to me once again…we are just a bunch of freaking marketers. We are…and we want our coveted little Hootsuite to continue to be our traffic department. Yes…we freaked out when we could not schedule some tweets.

Where the heck is this thing going? First of all, I quit using Hootsuite about a year ago especially when they began the process of charging a monthly premium for there online services. Yes, they wanted me us to pay a monthly fee if you wanted to manage multiple accounts. I have always been a TweetDeck fan, but Hootsuite was a great solution, especially in the corporate world. WIth all the company owned laptops and desktops, IT departments have been restricting company users to download and install programs like TweetDeck. Hootsuite was perfect since everything was web based.

Now…I will admit that I did train people to understand how to use the scheduling option. I even schedule Tweets to go out on TweetDeck. But where have we gone…this social outlet is turning into a traffic outlet. For the past few weeks, I have reached out to people on Twitter and they normally respond. It took them a few days to say hello and some did not even reply. Why, they are freaking scheduling all of their tweets. The corporate marketing demon has possessed our souls.

We have succumb to this inner possession and the group think of this social web. We are scheduling our social-ness. No, I do not mean we have pulled out the calendar to schedule what party to show up to…we have scheduled what we say in the social space. We have become drones to our marketing outlets, sending out tweets, status updates, etc…

It is similar to going to a party, having a conversation, then stopping mid sentence until our brain can release the next sentence based on the schedule we set that morning. Can you imagine that. Remember Star Wars during the Battle for Naboo (Episode 1),  all the sudden all the clones stopped fighting because someone pulled the plug. Well that is what happened when Amazon had trouble with their cloud computing services, causing Hootsuite to shut down. The clones quit tweeting. Yes…

Who am I to blame…it is a brave new world and the audience lie in social outlets. Corporate marketers have moved lots of their dollars into the social ranks, investing in promoted tweets and hashtags and other places to spread the branded message. But…oh; but…it is no longer social media. This same model holds true in reality television. You mean to tell me that Big Brother and the Bachelor is true reality television. It is not capturing reality, it is creating the reality “it” wants audiences to perceive. The same holds true in the social space…it is no longer the social space, pushing the line away from center.

I have noticed that many of the conversations I used to have on Twitter are now migrating to other spaces. I am seeing a shift away from spaces like Twitter for real engaged conversation. I have really locked down my Facebook page, only allowing certain people in that space. I am finding more and more conversations happening there. If I post a link that interests me…many of my online buddies are using those links as places to expand conversation into rich, thought provoking debate. This paradigm is allowing a conversation to flourish beyond the 140 characters.

Twitter has become the mass media beast with lots of noise to sift through. It has become the new age outlet for our PR & Marketing Engines to share our branded messages. Their is a shift beginning and it will be interesting to see where those, who are truly socialites, will co-exist and engage in social, online discourse.

Customer stories…powerful!

You know…sometimes it is better to just let your customers do the talking. Yes sir, in this world of marketing…sometimes it is better to get it straight from the horses mouth. Well, that is what Young Office thinks…so they set out to tell their story through the eyes and ears of their customers.

Building customer relationships is key in this world of business, especially in a service industry. Customers talk and they share. My grandfather always preached to me the importance of his customers and the personal relationships he forged. These relationships were not forged just over business deals and exchanging of goods/services for payment. These relationships were forged by listening, taking a personal interest in the lives each one of his customers.

Just yesterday morning, I got up early just to go sit and chat with one of my customers. It was not about business, it was not about projects…we chatted about life, good books to read, and just being entrepreneurs. Their is something to be said for getting to know your customers on a level beyond the daily grind of business. Some people like to keep business and personal separate, and I respect the way they forge relationships.  I choose to share a little about me and hope that my customers will share a little in return. Hopefully over time, that mutual respect for business will turn into mutual respect on a personal level.

That is what I think Young Office has…mutual respect on both a personal and business level with not only their customers but also their vendors. As I was going from customer to customer, interviewing each business person for the video project above…I learned a lot about Young Office. I did not learn about furniture or office environments, I learned about their relationships. I learned that they know how to listen and they know how to work on a level of partnership with each person/group they serve. Each person I interviewed from oobe, Greer Memorial Hospital, the bounce agency, USC Upstate, and Delta Apparel; the message was the same. They had an earnest trust for Young Office, trusted them with not only a costly investment for their office environment expertise…but also they trusted them with their relationship.

You can learn a lot from talking to one’s customers…that is why customer stories are so powerful. You are letting your customers spread your message and empowering others to take notice of your belief in relationships.

Telling Stories for Social Success

I had a recent chat with a large philanthropic organization about their social media usage, successes, and challenges. They hired someone over a year ago to help manage their social strategy and now they were trying to measure success and justify positions and commitment. As we chatted, I was listening to their metric for success…it was centered around the number of dollars raised and how this “perceived” social awareness has driven individuals to give.

This conversation really had me thinking about ways we could re-tool and rethink the approach. They were using mainstream approached to social awareness with outlets like Twitter, Facebook…using these outlets to promote events and build connections. But the more and more I looked at what they were doing…I had no idea what their story was all about. I had to search and understand why I should “Follow” the conversations, why I should be a “Friend.”  I was not even sure who I was talking to, a brand, a person, a large entity.

So I challenged them to start telling stories, case studies of how these philanthropic dollars help the individuals. I would not find stories of success in their digital space, stories that justify the dollars being spent on research The research that helps people. So…I started drawing!

Social Media does not raise the money. Social Media and online tools are just tools of credibility and connection. Yes…we can connect online and build virtual relationships, but giving hard earned money happens because of a relationships, some due diligence, and checking the facts. Checking the facts, the credibility piece, is where the Social Story is so important.

When I meet someone who is talking about giving to a foundation, an event, or idea…it is through a relationship. A real person. We meet, we chat, then I learn more about the cause. Afterwards, I go home and sit down and start searching online. I begin to read websites, get on chats, follow people on Twitter that share those interests. I begin to build online relationships as a part of this credibility search. This is where the social space is such a great tool, it is the PR/Marketing tool that puts information and people at the fingertips of those who are searching to make a decision.

Telling stories works and it works well. So how can we tell stories in the digital space so  when people are searching for information, it is readily available? Well…it starts with the mothership. You have to have a mothership that is the digital home for all the stories. This is the place where all digital, web traffic will go for the audiences to enjoy. This mothership has to be dynamic, meaning it has to have recent information and continually updated.

In this situation, I would start three processes:

1) Start A Blog – The purpose here is to tell rich success stories in the organization. Write a new story once a week, one that touches the heart of the cause. Once a week, find a new success story and describe what makes it so special. Let it be passionate, let it be rich with ups and downs. Let the textual words of these stories grab at the hearts of the readers.

2) Video Record Stories – Use a flip camera, iPhone, some digital video device to capture tiny moments in time that show the life of the story. Is it the moment that a person has been cured of a disease, or did they get to go home from the hospital, did a child get a toy, something that visually represents emotion…the moment in time that grabs the emotion of the event. Put these stories on a YouTube channel, then embed them in the blog posts.

3) Take Lots Of Pictures – Use a digital camera to show pictures, images of the stories. Show happy and sad faces, struggles, excitement, emotion. Use visuals to paint the picture of the story. Put these images on a Flickr account and embed them in the blog.

All three of these things are centralized on the blog, showcasing passionate stories of the philanthropic organization. Spend months writing, recording, and capturing these stories. Each time you capture a new story, share it with your friends on your social outlets. Do more that just post links to the stories, but tell us why this story meant so much to you to share. You have to be just as passionate in your sharing as you are in your writing of the post.

Over time, you are building a library of stories, case-studies. These can begin to become focal points of your PR/Marketing exercises. Sharing the stories as campaigns. Imagine billboards, tv spots, brochures being created around these stories of success. All driving traffic back to the blog where people can read more. Imagine your PR campaign, sharing these stories with media outlets, enticing them to come write about the stories for their audiences. It all starts with stories and putting them in one spot. Build a library of stories over time.

Social “Strategy” takes time – Lessons Learned!

I think many communication and social media practitioners are looking back over the last few years and making assessments. We are looking at success, failures, challenges, and where to continue on this path of social understanding. One of the things I have some to realize is that it takes time!

It does…it takes time. Working with major, large organizations…I have learned a lot. What have I learned, well…employing a social strategy takes time. One of the biggest selling points of using social strategies is the low cost for the technology and commitment to community building. Well…the investment is strategy and the human capital. Over the last two years, I have learned a lot. So here are a few lessons I have learned along the way, especially with large organizations.

Lesson #1 – It is more than Twitter and Facebook. It is more than just opening an account, seeking out followers, and trying to have a conversation. Opening an account is easy, but it begins with creating a plan. I look at this as writing a start-up business plan for an entrepreneurial company. It is creating a path that is a barometer, not a ruler. Especially in large organizations like hospitals & universities, there are so many silos. So they plan has to start small and build on successes. Test one area, find a good model and begin trying to execute in other areas of the organization.

Lesson #2 – It takes a commitment from leadership. It is more than getting the mid-level decision makers involved, you need top brass involved. They are the ones that not only support the message, but can also engage in the strategy. We found much success with building blogs for the C-Suite, allowing them to write passionately. When employees feel like they can access the top brass, they are willing to engage in social, online conversations.

Lesson #3 – It takes commitment to community. Reaching out to brand ambassadors has to happen beyond the marketing and pr departments. They are the ones who can guide the organization, but they must empower those inside the organization to use the technology as a way to connect with others. Go where the people are and allow the technology enable to connectivity. One the smartest things I heard was Clemson University started an advisory board for Social Media. This board met once a month and guided internal departments on best practices. Instead of micro-managing the community, they worked with them on graphical standards and allowed the community to naturally connect.

Lesson #4 – It requires a commitment from IT/IS/HR. Yes…many hospitals are struggling whether to allow employees inside the organization to be able to access social outlets. It is a productivity and bandwidth conversation, yet more and more employees can access social outlets using smart phones and tablets. Opening access empowers the community to connect within the walls of the organization. Working with IT/IS and HR is important to find ways to allow employees have access to social outlets and educate employes on best practices and social media guidelines for their jobs descriptions.

Lesson #5 – It takes commitment from Brand/Graphic Standards gatekeepers. Building graphics, avatars, and other elements for organizations social outlets takes a shift in thinking. It is more than protecting the brand, it is about how to take a brand and represent it in social outlets. When people see a company logo on a social outlet, what is the expectation of engagement? Also…thinking through how to take logos that do not resonate in 50×50 pixels takes lots of thought especially when considering traditional branding guidelines. Engaging these gatekeepers is key, bring their input to the table and educating all parties how to implement graphics across an organization. Take a look at large organizations with many departments. Maybe it makes sense for each to have multiple social accounts, how do you represent the brand yet differentiate between departments…it takes discussion, thought, and planning.

Lesson #6 – It requires engagement with your brand ambassadors including employees. This goes back to the IT/IS/HR discussion. Especially for large organizations, your employees can be your largest brand ambassador. If you restrict the technology that could connect these individuals, you may be restricting your greatest potential. Brains on Fire did something special with the Fiskateers, connecting them under a message and passion for scissors. They recognized an area with tremendous potential for community connection and engaged them using technology that made sense. Hats off to BOF!

Lesson #7 – It takes passion, passion for your mission and message. Social outlets are being used for “Push” marketing, pushing our messages on people. Well, is that an engaging conversation. It takes passion. The people that lead your social cause should be passionate about the cause, allowing the social technology to naturally connect them to others. Fan bases, followers want to connect with people they trust and who share a common passion. If those who are socially leading are not passionate, then it becomes noise in this big ole pond of digital discourse. Passionate writing, passionate tweeting, passionate video content, passionate message…passionate people connect with passionate people.

Lesson #8 – The message has to come from within…let the community empower the message. It does…outside advertising/pr/messaging firms should not tweet, update, blog, etc. for  the organization. The message has to come from the people that believe in the message, that live inside the organization/community everyday. It is about people, stupid…and people want to connect with real people.

Lesson #9 – Their are so many more social outlets than the mainstream outlets. There are so many other social outlets out there than your typical Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Quora, etc. My wife interacts on a social outlet called “The Bump.” A chat room for women who are expecting babies. She is connecting with tons of women all over, building relationships and sharing stories. How about Polyvore, my sister-in-law loves this social outlet for fashion trends. You have to go where the community is engaging, build relationships where the conversations are the best.

Lesson #10 – It does not happen overnight. It does not…it takes time, patience, a good plan, and commitment to building a strong, long-lasting community.

Crossing the border into entrepreneurship!



I have been thinking a lot lately about the word entrepreneurship and what defines one as an entrepreneur. Recently I attended an event where a panel discussion was set-up for two “entrepreneurs” to have a discussion about their path. As I sat there and listened, the gut feeling for me was that one was an entrepreneur and the other was a small business owner. But what distinguished the two in my mind. I remember a quote from a friend during a discussion that has stuck in my mind:

“An ‘entrepreneur’ in America might be a simple fish monger in Greece. Likewise, a tyrant or tribal leader in Kazakhstan might be considered an “entrepreneur” if he was born and raised in America. My hunch is that there are a blend of factors that can lead to someone who possesses the traits that other people point toward and say, “that person has ‘it’.” ~Evan Tishuk.

Well, let me step back for a second. Over five years ago, I worked with a team to follow a group of “illegal immigrants” crossing the border from Mexico to America. The picture above is a picture of these individuals…crossing the border.

They were leaving their homes, families, and all belongings behind to risk everything to cross the border. Why? Opportunity. Now, let us remove any political discourse from this discussion right now. This is not a platform to discuss whether you agree or disagree with their path of citizenship. I want to look beyond this and understand the motives behind why people who come to this land.

During an interview with one of the gentlemen as we were traveling…I asked him why? (WATCH SOME OF IT BELOW) Why risk everything for an opportunity? He explains, he is willing to do the jobs that no other “Americans” choose to do. He is willing to leverage this opportunity, take on the risk, to generate revenue, to share the revenue with his stakeholders (family back across the border), and grow his claim in numbers for greater return.

You see…I witnessed something in his eyes that I have seen many times since then…the passion most entrepreneurs possess…to go after a vision. You see, this group of individuals crossed the border the night of these pictures. They came from the lower part of Mexico to Altar, Mexico…a small town that was the staging point to cross. This bustling little town was where these eager entrepreneurs would meet a Coyote for the first time, either making passage payment in cash or becoming slaves to their debt for passage. These Coyotes would arrange bus trips and passage.

They would ride in small vans (above) with close to 20 at a time across the desert…unsure what was to come. I rode with them for close to 2 hours along this dirt road, being stopped by the Mexicali asking for money by gunpoint. Mexicali just wanted lunch money and remind those who try to pass, there is “danger” ahead. We rode and were dropped off to be re-herded into big trucks to be taken out into the middle of the desert to cross by night. There are not big tall borders outside the city limits…there are barbed wire fences separating our two countries. After the night crossing, they would be off to find a ride to many destination points across the US: Los Angelos, Tuscon, Phoenix, North Carolina, South Carolina, etc.

This is a story of passion. A story of innovation. They are not creating the next technological break through. They were seeking work, jobs we Americans choose not to do. They generate revenue, and find ways to get the cash back to their families abroad. They might create high impact business that are in many ways the blue-collar backbone of this American Fabric. When the housing markets crashed, they opened restaurants. They leveraged their resources and they are passionate. Passionate to generate revenue.

I have been thinking about this trip for a while. Now, I do have mixed opinions when it comes to citizenship, border crossings, and tax liabilities. But my thoughts processes are focused on the willingness and passion of the individuals I met over 5 years ago, and the innovation in their entrepreneurial spirit.  These individuals assumed tremendous risk for a tremendous opportunity. That risk is shown by the crosses that hang on the border walls, representing those who lost their lives trying to cross. They found a niche in the market place and they became innovative in their passage and how they generated income. They put their lives on the line for a dream, risked it all for financial opportunity. Then they began to create innovative businesses. Regardless of their right to be in this land…they used the entrepreneurial spirit to leverage anopportunity.

Here is an interview from our trip on a path starting at Altar, Mexico to the crossing point in Sasabe, Mexico. One of the many people I met on our trip, one that I remember…it impacts my comprehension and interpretation of the word “entrepreneurship.”

Recently I wrote a blog post about teaching entrepreneurship in the college ranks, entitled: “Bringing Good Ideas to Life – Inside the Academy.” There were many great comments that followed this post, from great thinkers. It wrapped around defining entrepreneurship. I thought I would share these definitions below:

“The problem is in the definition of “entrepreneurship.” It’s too subjective and constrained by cultural and societal factors. Ask a hundred people (in North America) to write a concise definition of an entrepreneur and I think you’ll get about 100 different answers–creating a fuzzy picture at best. Is an entrepreneur someone who takes a risk? Does that risk have to be in a business context? Does that risk have to lead to success? If so, how much success is required? And how are we measuring that? Wealth? Happiness? Utility? Could a doctor who saves 1,000 lives in a war zone be an entrepreneur too?” ~Evan Tishuk

“the word is defined as coming from the French, but if you go way back to old French and deconstruct it, it is not just about managing or orchestrating an endeavor but from 2 words — entre = between and prendre =to seize or grasp — so it was about seeing things that were “between the cracks” or hidden to others, and seizing the opportunity that those hidden clues offered. Not part of the modern lexicon but an interesting foray into how words/meanings come into play.” ~ Virginia Simpson

Two smart people that have me really thinking through the meaning of entrepreneurship.

***I shot all the photos and video during my travels in 2005.

Lack of Customer-Centric Philosophy: Books A Million “Case Study”

Ok…stand back, this is going to break away from my norm…but I am so annoyed. So I am going to use this post to identify why I am so irritated. One brand, a single offering, confusing customer service! This is where it all began!

My father bought me a gift certificate for $25.00 to purchase a book. It was a birthday gift, since March 5th I have been trying to figure out what I am going to purchase. I get the quarterly newsletter in the mail from the Harvard Business School and noticed a book about social entrepreneurs. So, I searched through my email to find the e-certificate from my dad for this Books A Million purchase. I went to BooksAMillion.com, searched for the book and proceeded through the online process to purchase the book. I entered my credit card information as a requirement, just incase my purchase exceeded the $25.00 limit of the e-certificate.

After entering my credit card information, the online shopping cart provided a place to enter the e-certificate code. It should be….voila. Uhh…NO! The online store could not validate the e-certificate. I tried over and over again. Tried different browsers, re-entered the e-certificate code, and nothing worked. So…I thought that after teaching class in Clemson, I would stop back by Books A Million in Anderson to see if they could help.

Walked into this newly renovated location in the Anderson Mall, to seek help. I go to the front desk and ask for help. I had a feeling they were going to have to call the manager. So I waited in the front while the manager made his way to the front of the store. He introduced himself and I explained the situation. Direct quote, “I cannot help you…you need to call this 1-800 number to solve this problem.” I starred at him, perplexed. I responded in a light hearted disgust, “that stinks.” He proceeded to inform me, ” this is standard practice across the industry, all brick and mortar retail shops will not help you solve your online purchase.”

Now, I understand what he said…I think. For immediate problem…it is annoying. But from a customer point of view, how can you expect the customer to distinguish the difference between a brick and mortar store and the online property of the same branded company. Where in the fine print does it say, “Hey we are Books A Million brick and mortar and we do not associate with Books A Million online.”?

I looked at the manager and said one short sentence, “This is disappointing customer service.” I guess from a customer perspective, we want to hope that the manager might take the e-certificate and help us navigate this situation. I guess not in Anderson, SC.

So, while he was explaining his justification that it is industry standard to separate brick and mortar store from the online property…I walked away to call the 1-800 number myself. So I walked around the store, trying to navigate the call center dialing options. There was not a selection that matched this situation. After finally talking to a person that was willing to help me figure this out, the manager walked back up to me to explain, “You might want to wait to call tomorrow, the online store might be closed after 6:30pm.”

Let me explain what is so wrong with the omission by the manager. First, he led me to believe he had no dealings with the online store, which is why I must be the one to make the phone call. Hmm…then how does he make the assumption that the online call center closes at 6:30pm. He must have some prior knowledge. The other issue here, I think it was his intention to persuade me to leave the brick and mortar store to make the phone call.

As I was chatting with the lady from the call center, I looked at the manager at the brick and mortar store and said…”I have this covered, thanks for your help.” As I walked around the actual brick and mortar store, browsing while talking to the online call center…I finally resolved the issue. The book will be at my house in a few days.

So here is my problem. I guess I just made a mistake, one I will not make again. I assumed that someone that works at Books A Million at a brick and mortar store could and would be willing to help me with an online Books A Million problem. Second, I assumed that by taking the time to drive to the store to try to resolve an online problem, that  this Anderson, SC store would take the time to help build a customer relationship by trying to solve this issue.

Now I understand that the online store is a “different division” of the brick and mortar stores. I mean, companies like GE have different divisions with different offerings. GE makes turbines for airplanes and also makes wind turbines. Both separate products under one brand. But, Books A Million sells books. Yes, they sell books online and in the brick and mortar store. How can you expect the customer to differentiate between the two since the brand is so closely tied with the single offering. I would expect that a person at the brick and mortar store to be able to handle that same issue as a call center. But that is not a safe assumption.

Like my dad said, making an assumption is just like making an “ass” out of you and me. I will not visit Books A Million again.

So if this is the trend, where is the customer-centric focus? If this was my grandmother, who is not a part of the digital world, how would she understand the difference? Just does not make sense to me.

Clergy Health Initiative – Stories of Healthy Conversations

After working with the Duke Endowment, Duke Divinity School, and two pastors of the North Carolina United Methodist Church…here is our little story.

With a $12 million grant from the Duke Endowment, the Clergy Health Initiative is helping ministers tend to their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. We met with two pastors in North Carolina, followed their day, and talked to them about how the Clergy Health Initiative has helped them in their path.

I was so inspired. I met two wonderful people, pastors in both Elkin, NC and Poplar Branch, NC. Both pastors on opposite sides of the state, one in the Western North Carolina Mountains and the other on the Outer Banks near Kitty Hawk, NC.

Both with a desire, a healthy lifestyle. They both had been experiencing the stresses of being a pastor. The long days, the home visits where food was always offered. Long hours and poor food choices leading to weight gain, increased stress, and lack of focus on their own spiritual health. The Clergy Health Initiative gave them a path, language to bring this problem to the forefront with a plan…a solution.

Reverend Clyde Moore from Elkin, NC began tackling his weight gain issues by cycling. He bought himself a road bike and attends a regular cycling class at the YMCA in Wake Forest, NC. Reverend  Renee Edwards began walking, healthy eating, and focused time walking along the boardwalks of the Currituck Sound. Both, took part in this Spirited Life Initiative attending classes and workshops focused on clergy to help with the trials of clergy life. They took part in physical assessments to evaluate their physical health, charting out a plan for success.

Why would the Duke Endowment find the need to invest in the health of clergy in the United Methodist Church of North Carolina? Well…to inspire and create a healthy change in the life of the clergy is investing in the life of the congregation. Sometimes, their is a need to help those who are helping others. Our clergy, our pastors, our spiritual leaders need guidance and direction just like you and I.

If you watch above, this is their stories. To learn more about this initiative, CLICK HERE.

4G is a game changer in hospital social media policy

The more and more marketing professionals I chat with across the country, the more conversation I hear about Social Media policy. So what is at the heart of the matter when it comes to Social Media policy in hospitals…usage. When can employees access Social Media outlets. This is a cultural issue.

Many of the arguments discussed, will Social Outlets change productivity and effect bandwidth. Another issue, one that I think is even more exponential is patient information. Can we protect patient information and privacy. Do we want healthcare professionals engaging with patients online and discuss healthcare matters that deserve to stay inside the walls of the examining room.

From a marketing position, hospitals want to grow fan bases and followers fast. It is the new age marketing outlet that has more mass appeal than the billboards and other collateral. Many hospitals are restricting access to Social Media outlets on internal networks. But, if you are not opening up the opportunity to access to Social Outlets inside the walls of the hospital, you are marginalizing your biggest fan base, your brand ambassadors…hospital employees. They are the true touch points to the patients.

So if the internal IT departments can lock down access to Social Media outlets inside the walls based on the social media policy…you can control usage. Not anymore, that is changing and changing FAST. I wrote a few months ago about the effects of Verizon’s 4G LTE inside the walls of a hospital. I detailed my fears how this technology can penetrate walls further with faster speeds, faster than what is available inside the internal networks. Bottomline, mobile devices provide the access that the internal networks restrict.

4G is changing hospitals’ Social Media policies. Why, because now controlling access is so much more difficult. Bandwidth is no longer an issue and productivity is now truly a management/leadership issue. Even more, hospitals will be writing Social Media policies that include patient usage. 4G speeds and penetration will now allow employees, healthcare providers, patients to access social outlets outside of the cubicle/workstation. Walking around the halls, typing under desks and conference room tables, patient rooms, etc. are the areas individuals with mobile devices will Tweet, update Facebook, post pictures, comment on videos, Google doctors’ names, check-in, and the list goes on.

The speeds of these devices and the broader access no longer requires a hospital employee (healthcare provider) to go through the login process of the terminal or workstation to look at Facebook or watch a video. Just pull out the iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, or whatever to surf, scan, update, and connect. Then, if someone walks by, it is small enough to pop back in the pocket. 3G and now 4G provides the faster access to do this where walls used to restrict. The desktop computer is not necessary to access the outlets.

The mobile 4G offering is forcing the hand for many organizations. But more than that, the numerous devices with the ability to offer these speeds is part of the equation. If you walk inside any organization, walk down the halls, count the number of devices in the hands of people. Regardless of the place, we do not think about what people are typing on these devices, how they are surfing the web, if they are typing a work email or updating Facebook. Mobile devices are everywhere.

Hospitals are now going to have to think through policies, procedures, and education. Yes…educating not only the employees but also the patients. When it is appropriate to use devices, where it is appropriate to use mobile devices, how to use the Social Web. Social Media policy is about usage…not about restriction but about access. 3G and 4G now brings patients and their families into the Social Media usage policy equation. It is a game changer.

Recent Related Blog Posts:

4G LTE Technology: The Good, the Bad, and the Hospitals.

Healthcare Innovation & Mobile Devices

Hospitals should open the “pipes” for Social Media!

Bringing Good Ideas to Life – Inside the Academy

When I walked into class today…I could not have been so excited! SO PUMPED!

I sat and watched five different groups give five different presentations about the business models behind their Hybrid Entrepreneur project. But, this is not just a project…these were five legitimate business ideas. Each one, tremendous…innovative…socially driven…potential to generate a profit…created to make change.

But…here is the BUT. Are these students looking at these business ideas as a project for a grade or will they turn them into a viable business idea? What is the barrier that keeps students in the academy from taking a business idea generated in a class, translate into a passion, and produce a viable business?

This takes me back to my fundamental question: can you teach entrepreneurship in a traditional education model. What do I mean? Well, we teach students that we measure success in terms of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s within a timeframe of the semester. It is my humble opinion that entrepreneurs build businesses beyond the timeframe of a semester and do not measure success within a frame work of grades.

Think for a second, if a student generates a great idea inside a class…how can we change the culture so that they see the value of generating this big idea into a concrete business beyond the end of the semester. Each of these five groups have tremendous business ideas, but the common resistance to capitalize on this idea is the grade they are working to achieve. Also, when the semester ends…out of sight, out of mind.

I was riding around on Saturday with one of my mentors. We were chatting up ideas, business ideas….ideas that can scale into profitable businesses. As we were chatting, we were not focusing on just the future revenue streams but the creative outlet to translate a great business idea into a scalable success. If we had a white board in the SUV, we would have been writing all over the place, connecting the dots. There is a passion behind entrepreneurship that is not measured inside the constraints of semesters and  grades.

Now, back to the classroom.

At the end of the class…I challenged each student. I asked them, what would it take to take their business idea and bring it to fruition. They sat perplexed, thinking about all the other classwork they had to complete. They murmured about time and the lack of resources. So, how do we teach passion and how do we provide the access to resources to convert ideas into reality?

I say we have to take the education of entrepreneurship outside the walls of semesters and grades. We have to provide a shift in culture. Academic institutions have to invest not only in the instruction of entrepreneurship, but also the financial resources that takes good ideas and brings them to life. We see this in the business world. Look at SCLaunch investing dollars in high impact start-ups with the hope they will create jobs in South Carolina. We see new groups like the Upstate Carolina Angel Network connecting good ideas with capital to bring these ideas to life.

So here is my question, how about bring capital into the walls of the academy, investing dollars in students’ ideas for a stake in the business. Many times, I think the barrier here is the ownership of the idea. What do I mean, well institutions are interested in revenue and intellectual property. They might argue these ideas were created inside the walls of the classroom, giving them an immediate ownership of the intellectual property.

So here is my thought, my question: how can we create a culture of entrepreneurship inside the walls of academic institution to truly generate great ideas and bring them to life.  We must change the culture of the academy and create a culture of real entrepreneurship…bringing good ideas to life.

I will leave you with this story. A few months ago, I had the privilege of meeting Doris Buffett. She told her story about her eagerness to give away all her money. She created the Sunshine Lady Foundation to do just that…give it all away.  But, she does not invest in SOB’s (as she so eloquently stated). SOB stands for Symphonies, Orchestras, and Ballets. She invests in human capital. One of her initiatives is the Learning By Giving initiative.

“The goal of the Learning by Giving program is to support and promote the study of philanthropy at the undergraduate level nationwide in order to prepare, empower and inspire young adults to become effective, knowledgeable and skilled philanthropists and leaders in their communities.  The Learning by Giving Program achieves this goal by supporting undergraduate courses in philanthropy with grants of $10,000 for students to distribute  in local nonprofits as an investment in solutions to community problems. The Learning by Giving grants enable undergraduates to experience firsthand the art and science of philanthropy through courses offered in a variety of academic disciplines; and encourage the growth of undergraduates’ philanthropic values and leadership activities over their lifetime.”

WOW! Here is a lady teaching the idea of philanthropy by providing grants to support students in their desire to help local nonprofits as investments in solutions for community problems. She is providing the resources, teaching philanthropy with seed money. Imagine taking this idea and supporting entrepreneurship at the undergraduate level. Seed money supporting the ideas of tomorrow.