Archive for January, 2010

28
Jan

parkingspace

Spending time with a Hindu or two has helped me question a few things. Our society’s surface-notion of Karma is a big one. I don’t know what Karma is, probably never will. But I’m beginning to understand a bit about what Karma is not.

Karma is not a bank where you deposit good actions so you can make withdraws during times of selfishness. There’s also no parking Karma. And a tip jar is not a place to work on your Karma.

Most importantly, Karma does not operate independently: it’s connected with many other ways of approaching life that I’ll likely never understand either.

I connect to this the way brands – product, service, or personal – build relationships in networking spheres (traditional or virtual). Aplenty are the opinions about our new media landscape giving anyone the ability to build relationships, market, brand, sell. But brands need to think more broadly about what’s behind the promises.

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Category : New Media | Social web | Blog
26
Jan

ganesh

As a newly self-employed guy, I very much appreciate blogs that catalog the trials of the free agent. To name a few: Steven DeMaioErik Proulx and recently (I hope)Chris Spagnuolo. I guess this is my contribution to some already-great thinking out there, for whatever it’s worth.

Oh – and Happy Indian Republic Day!

Everybody looses things once gained. It can be terribly depressing and deflating.
Your books are a mess despite once having the perfect accounting routine and system. You can’t run five miles anymore even though you once ran a half marathon. You used to network regularly but have been out of the scene for so long you can’t imagine going back to a room full of strangers. You lost sight of your kids’ soccer games this summer after getting to all of them last season.
Happens to all of us. As sure as we all loose socks in the dryer.
Or as sure as we’ve all had to spend alone time with a partner traveling without us. You know: your partner goes on a business trip, a trip with the kids to see relatives, a long weekend fly fishing with the guys. My wife (Neeti) is in India visiting family this week. It’s the first time since we’ve been married that she’s travelled there without me. She’s been making this trip every two years or so her entire life, and we’ve been three times together since we met. This trip she’s taking without me feels more than a status-quo week apart. Feels different.
I’m spending more energy than I anticipated imagining her there, missing her. The well-worn paths we take together with her family. All the hassles of Indian travel that I thought annoyed me are suddenly endearing. And now that I’m trying to write about it, it seems that my clearest – as in what I can describe in words clearest – memories of my time in India are actually not very exciting.
My most plentiful memories of India are actually quite surreal. Now that I think about it, I’m convinced the real India is actually found at night. It’s too hot to do your day-to-day errands in the day. Walks with friends, going to the market, running errands, all tend to happen when the sun goes down.
So in my most interesting memories, like it is in a dream, the lighting isn’t as good. This makes for odd impressions that are very hard to describe.
Eternal back-alleys and exceptionally confusing markets of Mumbai… parents playing with their children on banal swingsets-slides-climbers inside a fenced park with men offering rides on elephants and white barat-horses outside the confines… a rickshaw that stops at an intersection boxed between busses stuffed with people you’d like to imagine the stories of but the exhaust fumes preoccupy… a relative casually says “look that’s where they filmed Slumdog Millionaire” and then it’s gone in a flash like the hundreds of thousands of faces you’ve vainly and repeatedly asked your brain to make an impression of.
As a result of this poorly lit, dusty, polluted and over stimulated dream-state, my impressions of what Neeti is experiencing are abstract. I can see her spending seemingly interminably days receiving visitors in her relatives’ homes but that’s a repeated picture that doesn’t change much or leave much of a mark. The stuff that does leave a mark I can’t clearly envision.
Despite this fuzziness I know one thing for certain: She’s surrounded with people intently interested in a god called (among his thousand or so other names) Ganesh.
Almost all of Neeti’s family live in Mumbai and other cities and towns in the state of Maharashtra. Like most other areas in India Maharashtra tends to put more focus on one god over all the others. In Maharashtra, Ganesh rules. It’s hard to separate the place from him. He’s everywhere, cutting through the millions of people and confusion like a light ray in a rickety old theater.
So as sure as Neeti is on my mind, so is Ganesh. As is what the god with the elephant head has to do with loosing something once gained.
If I have this about right, a few thousand years ago the Yoga Sutras articulated a number of obstacles we all face. Among them was this notion of loosing something once gained. It’s a tough one to overcome because of how deflating it can be. (I’m pretty sure the author/s call it anavasthitatva.)
And among other nice attributes, Ganesh is the remover of these obstacles. Some believe that God (thus Ganesh) is in all of us. So it follows that meditating or worshiping or however you go about patting Ganesh on his elephant back is really about meditating on what he represents: how we all struggle with similar challenges in life and that we have the power within us to overcome the obstacles that challenge us.
It doesn’t really matter if you believe in any of this. To me it’s just nice to know that I’m not alone in the frustration of a step back after a few forward. That I have it within me to overcome it. And that millions of people around the world think so too.
Thinking of Neeti surrounded by so many people giving Ganesh his props has given me a little strength this week. I’ve been lucky to not have many setbacks in my adventures as a free agent. But one thing is crystal clear in my mind: they’re coming as sure as Neeti is coming home.

Everybody looses things once gained. It can be terribly depressing and deflating.

Your books are a mess despite once having the perfect accounting routine and system. You can’t run five miles anymore even though you once ran a half marathon. You used to network regularly but have been out of the scene for so long you can’t imagine going back to a room full of strangers. You lost sight of your kids’ soccer games this summer after getting to all of them last season.

Happens to all of us. As sure as we’ve all sent a regrettable email, open the refrigerator again, skim stuff we should read.

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Category : Free Agent Adventures | Blog
21
Jan
When’s there’s doubt, just don’t.
They said it was well intentioned and I’m willing to give them that. Maybe I’m naïve, but looking at this with a light most favorable here’s how I imagine this went down.
Cafeteria Director: I have an idea. I’d like to do my part to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a special menu.
Principal: Great. What do you have in mind? And please don’t bring up Freedom Fries again. We’ve been through what that means to people.
Cafeteria director: No, I want to create an entirely new menu altogether.
Principal: I thought you told me you don’t have the budget or time for that kind of thing. Remember when I asked you to make something marginally nutritious for Physical Activity day?
Cafeteria Director: I was reading an article about southern soul food. It’s food like fried chicken, collard greens. That kind of thing.
Principal: Hm. And that relates to King… how?
Cafeteria Director: Black people eat that kind of food. It’s all over the food network, and there’re cookbooks about it and everything.
Principal (to 23 Year Old New Teacher): What do you think?
23 Year Old New Teacher: Hm. Do you think people will think it’s stereotyping?
Cafeteria Director: I’m not stereotyping! *I* love southern soul food, and I’m not black.
Principal: Hm. 23 Year Old New Teacher has me thinking. Can’t we come up with something else?
Cafeteria Director: There is nothing else. If this was Gandhi’s birthday we’d make curry. If it was Cesar Chavez Day we’d make burritos.
Principal: Oh, I don’t want to make burritos on Cesar Chavez day. The beans don’t agree with me.
23 Year Old New Teacher: And think of how stinky the kids will be. Intolerable.
Principal: Does southern soul food make kids stinky?
Cafeteria Director: Oh no. We serve fried chicken every other Monday and the kids love it. And I heard that collard greens are good for digestion.
Principal: And what about stereotyping? Am I going to get calls from any parents?
Cafeteria Director: Oh no. I told someone on the Parent Volunteer Committee about the idea and she loved it.
Principal: Fine. Fine.
The mother who brought the menu to the attention of the press called this “a teaching moment.” Indeed. Here’s what I suggest DPS learn:
When in doubt, don’t do it. Just don’t. What were you afraid of? Bad press that would have come from *not* offering a special menu in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

DPSlogoPR blunders are almost always due to a bad decision upstream, not the reaction to them. You could say DPS’s recent decision to offer a southern style lunch of fried chicken and collard greens in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a bad decision. You could say a lot worse.

They said it was well intentioned so let’s give them that. Looking at this with a light most favorable, how do you think it possibly could have gone down? Maybe I’m naive, but I’m having a hard time imagining there wasn’t at least one person who raised a concern.

Don’t you think that someone – anyone – just had to have wondered aloud “I wonder if this might come across as stereotyping?” Why didn’t anyone listen to this voice?

The mother who brought the menu to our attention called this “a teaching moment.” Indeed. As a starting place, before DPS tackles cultural sensitivity issues which at this point seem depressingly out of their reach, I suggest DPS should learn a basic public relations principle:

When in doubt – when there’s a sliver of a doubt – don’t do it. Just don’t.

Did DPS even weigh an alternative? If they did, what were they afraid of? Bad press as a result of not offering a special menu in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

Category : Corporate Social Responsibility | Public Relations | Reputation Management | Blog
19
Jan

The in-house creative environment is a unique one. Unlike an ad agency, client-side creative teams are typically surrounded by more left-brain directed thinkers than right-brainers. There’s not a lot of refuge for the creative mind in a non-agency business. They’ve always reminded me of Hank Morgan in Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Strangers indeed, operating with a sort of disorientation: The rest of the joint is kind of a sad lot… quaint, and wrapped up in all the wrong stuff.

It isn’t unusual for the people managing the creative process on the client side to come from non-creative backgrounds. This magnifies the challenges for the creative mind in these environments.

Managing the creative process on the client side is different. Different from what I imagine it to be on the agency side, and different from managing other departments in a business.

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Category : AT's Approach | The Creative Mind | Blog
6
Jan
What short’ll getcha
You’re supposed to keep these blog posts short. Cut ‘em down, keep ‘em succinct.
I recognize there are those who’ve refuted it. But as someone who scans online content like a Labrador scarfs a snausage, I appreciate brevity.
But I’m sitting on posts that seem incomplete – even disingenuous – because I’m trying to keep them brief and have left some of the context stuff out*. And I’m concerned that the context stuff that gets cut in service of brevity might hurt my brand.
I’ve decided to create a post to act almost as a standing disclaimer about this blog. An ever-present justification about the stuff I leave out.
The largest areas that I cut in service to brevity fall into two big buckets:
I don’t or won’t always take the time to explain that I’m not necessarily good at the best practices I write about. An idea, study, or belief might be something I’ve observed or am learning from as much as something I’ve actually practiced to any degree of consistency or with brag-able results. Does this matter? I don’t think Seth Godin actually practices all that he preaches but I don’t mind his definitive attitude. Still, it bothers me that I don’t always directly address this dynamic. I explain it a little bit here. But re-reading this post I think I came across more self-righteous than I intended.
Taking the time to credit and tell the story behind those that have influenced a post. Mentors, friends, partners, my wife. The list of influencers on my perspectives, practices, life is endless. This entire post could have been written by my wife. Practice fields, something I’ve written about more than once, is another good example. A former colleague/boss and now friend/client introduced me to the term a long time ago, and I’ve gotten a ton of mileage from it. And literally anytime I write about the social web I really should tip my hat to my friend Glen Turpin. He’s my technology compass, especially those things social. But I’m not always going to take the time to credit folks who aren’t, I guess, directly attributable to what I write about. That’s a really big squishy gray area that I wish I had a better handle on.
There. I feel a bit better. Maybe I’ll release some of those in-limbo posts.
Still, I wonder. Like communication shortcomings in emails, to what degree does brevity in blog posts leave the wrong impression of our brands?
*My posts are actually pretty long mostly because of my inability write succinctly. But I’ll get better at that.

unfinishedinscriptionYou’re supposed to keep these blog posts short. Cut ‘em down, keep ‘em succinct.

I recognize there are those who’ve refuted it. But as someone who scans online content like a Labrador scarfs a snausage, I appreciate brevity.

I’m sitting on posts that seem incomplete – even disingenuous – because I’m trying to keep them brief by leaving some of the context stuff out*. And I’m concerned that the context stuff that gets cut in service to brevity might hurt my brand.

I’ve decided to create a post to act almost as a standing disclaimer about this blog. An ever-present justification about the stuff I leave out.

The stuff I leave out in service to brevity tends to fall into two big buckets:

continue

Category : AT's Approach | Social web | Blog