The Price of Social Media Incivility

5 Mar

Internet Incivility
The cruelty of the Internet can be shocking.

We are reminded of this every time we read about a teenager who slips through the cracks of society, bullied into a psychological corner by anonymous and hurtful comments on social media. In the worst cases, we discover their torment too late to help.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see Jimmy Kimmel’s skit from the Oscar Red Carpet on Sunday – well before the celebrity selfie and the John Travolta mouth mush meltdown during the broadcast – where he climbed through the TV screen and into a fictitious couple’s living room, comically scolding them for their nasty celebrity-targeted tweets and warning them to be on their best behavior during the telecast. What a great moment, I thought, for someone like Jimmy to champion social media civility in front of a TV audience of millions, worldwide.

The feeling didn’t last long.

The very next day, a post popped up in one of my social media feeds about “The Most Beautiful People at the Oscars with the Ugliest Spouses.” The barbaric writeup (no, I’m not going to link to it; I’m not giving them any more clicks) scolded the chosen celebs on the list for marrying spouses deemed far beneath their own physical beauty, and chided them for not doing better, questioning both their judgement and their eyesight. It was a cheap stunt meant to generate web traffic from gawkers who like to spend their days scrolling through celebrity pictures and from internet trolls who are all too eager to lend to the acerbic stream of comments from the anonymous safety of their computer screens.

Worse, it occurred to me, is that some of the victims targeted for these caustic comments in the article aren’t celebrities themselves: they are regular people with regular jobs, regular co-workers and bosses, who buy their own regular groceries and drive themselves to work in regular cars through regular traffic. And while they probably are used to the nastier side of their better half’s business, I am also betting they didn’t sign up to be targeted in such a personal and mean-spirited way. It must have hurt them greatly, even if just for a moment. And it must have made their Monday unnecessarily sad.

Back in December, I wrote about my “Three Words for 2014” and chose “Community & Kindness” as my first and most important for the next 12 months (alright, they’re two words, but I copped to that in the post).

As PR people, we coach people on how to make positive statements and to approach things from a “half full” perspective. We urge clients to seek deserved publicity for when they do good, and apologize for failure when they do bad. We guide them on decisions, and try to help them forecast the consequences of bad ideas before they become bad actions. As private people, shouldn’t we all walk that same walk? Shouldn’t we all be the Jimmy Kimmels of our social (and social media) circles, and refuse to fan the flames of self-righteous and nasty words and actions? Shouldn’t we even chime in to take people down a peg when they are unfair? Wouldn’t that create a better and more productive community for all of us? Most importantly, wouldn’t that set a great example for our kids, and for young people who see and read what we post? If they are to imitate our behavior, isn’t that what we want them to learn and repeat?

For my part, I’m going to spend some time scrolling through my feeds and delete any comments that fit this definition. I will suspend that rule about “owning everything you put on the internet” in favor of the “Community & Kindness” that I think 2014 needs so desperately.

Momentum

25 Feb

momentum

Momentum can be a powerful ally.

It’s that natural rhythm you build up once you’ve stepped out and started along your path to your goal. Some days, that momentum can be so strong that it seems all you have to do is ride the wave.

I’m reminded of this every time I step onto the treadmill at the gym. Those first few steps can seem so hard (especially at 5 a.m.!), but once I get going, I sometimes feel like I can run forever.

Worse than not getting started is stopping before your reach your destination. Whatever my project is – whether working for a client, saving money for my kids’ college funds, or just getting from one place to another on the subway – I find that the worst thing I can do is stop before I am truly done.

Getting started again can be harder than when I started in the first place. It was just going to be a temporary pause, I told myself at the time. Excuses are rampant and easily justified.

Reminds me of “Standing Still,” which I wrote a couple years back.

Once you get started, don’t stop. You’ll never cross the finish line if you do.

The Difference Between Hearing & Listening

18 Feb

listening

When you ask a question, are you searching for a person’s knowledge or waiting to hear the answer you want?

There’s a saying about business that goes something like this: “If you look around and find you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Meaning, you’d be wise to surround yourself with people from whom you can learn, as well as teach.

Collaboration is one of the many keys to success. And while we can go into a project or situation with an idea of what we want to accomplish, we should never let that shut down the creativity and ideas we get from the people with whom we interact.

Some of the best ideas can come from the most unanticipated of sources.

I try to be focused on the goal, not the path. Because I’m really not interested in how I get to the end, as long as I make it there.

What are you listening for?

Passion is what we’re looking for

11 Feb

Passion

Ever notice how when you become passionate about something that you tear right into it?

In our search for happiness, Passion may well be the Holy Grail. It is the great motivator, and will help you do things you didn’t think you could do – and do it better than you thought you were capable. It will raise your bar and make you crave excellence.

When you are passionate about something, you can’t wait to do more of it. You’ll gladly run on nothing but coffee and adrenaline; minutes will pass like milliseconds, and help you produce some of the greatest and most satisfying work of your life.

Finding passion in your work – and in your life – is the ultimate rush. When you find passion in what you’re doing, you just can’t quit. And you’d never consider it.

Look for the things you are passionate about and you’ll leap out of bed in the morning, make millions, and discover pure joy. Try doing something without passion and you will slog through your day. And your life.

We Need to be EVERYWHERE!!

15 Jan

We Need to be Everywhere

I really don’t like this phrase.

In my experience, it’s usually uttered by people who – despite sometimes being very smart – have a confused impression of how to effectively get their message out to the world.

Savvy PR strategists know that, rather than be “everywhere,” organizations seeking attention need to be where their market is, connecting with the people who will actually act on the information they deliver.

It’s great to grow your following. But reaching new audiences doesn’t reap the same reward as preaching to your choir: those people who come out to support you time and again and want to see you succeed, or have an interest in what you are doing and want to take part. Because when you don’t deliver to that audience, or show up somewhere those people expect you to be, the fallout is far worse, and those fans and supporters can (and likely will) drift away from you.

To steal a phrase, you need to fish where the fish are – where your fish are – not just cast your net wide and hope something shiny and new swims into it.

For me, a couple of core rules always apply:

1. Do your research: Know your audience and prep your message. Make sure there’s a clear actionable and a reward for doing so. Make it easy.

2. Don’t move so fast: Yes, we need to keep pace with the way the world turns, but don’t artificially accelerate your timeline because you’re imagining some deadline. The water’s going to boil when it’s hot, and that’s when you know it’s ready. And since speed exacerbates mistakes, slow down and get it right when you do go public.

3. Make short term sacrifices for long term gains: Do what you have to do now, to make your thing a success later. Everyone soft launches something sometimes, even offering deals for early adopters in order to gain acceptance and a following. Build your audience slowly and with care. The people who recognize your value will be more loyal in the long run and help spread your message. They will also defend you if that day ever comes. And it will.

4. Shut out the noise: Eliminate all distractions. Ban the bugaboos; those things that keep you awake at night because they “might happen.” It’s either gonna happen or it’s not, so visualize your goal, stop worrying and get to it.

Are you everywhere?

Happy New Year!

31 Dec

Happy New Year 2014

It’s that time of year again.

Time when every media outlet known to man puts together their year-end lists:

“Best of…” and “Worst of…”

“Top 10…” and “Top 100..”

“Things we want to remember…” and “Things we’d rather forget…”

They all make the rounds, competing for your attention, your likes and shares, your retweets and plus-ones.

And while my favorite kind of list – “Words for the New Year” – is nothing new, I’ve never made one of my own.

So to get my desire to do new things in 2014 kicked off right, I’m going to start today. Here’s my first ever “Three Words for the New Year:”

Community & Kindness – OK, so my first word is actually two, but that’s only because I think they’re inseparable. 2013 was a divisive year, with sides taken on almost everything. Anger, hostility, and a general incivility seemed to be everywhere we looked. In 2014, we need to be better at working together to achieve common goals and not just give lip service to “getting along” when all that is doing is providing yet another way to point a finger at someone. If you can’t start a conversation with a compliment of some kind, then you probably shouldn’t talk.

Economy – With so many resources, so much technology and so many things to do in a day, we could each make a full time job out of just managing what’s coming over our transom. In 2014, we need to slim our intake in order to make our output more productive. That doesn’t mean do less – it means eliminate the noise. Stay on course. Keep checking items off your to-do lists and adding new ones. Get to the finish line as fast as you can, and then go find a new one.

Creativity – Perhaps a perennial word, but one that should be repeated anyway. New years mean new starts, new things to discover and new records to smash. It means bending your brain in ways you haven’t yet – or haven’t in a while – to achieve that thing that’s been on your to-do list for so long it’s starting to collect dust. Creativity is the leaf-blower of your life, so plug that sucker in and go all Carl Spangler on it.

There are other words that came close to making the cut, but for now I’ll stick to these. A year from now, we’ll look back and see how these words – and the ideas behind them – held up.

What are your words for 2014?

Happy New Year!

Pitching on Friday ShareDay

20 Sep

Mariano Rivera

As PR people, we’re all just a bunch of pitchers.

Not like the great Mariano Rivera, or (watch me date myself here) Goose Gossage or Ron Guidry. (Anyone remember Luis Tiant for the win?)

We are storytellers, not only for our clients, but for ourselves. To be successful, we need to relay information in a condensed and entertaining way, so as to provoke the “tell me more!” reaction in the reporters, editors and producers we are pitching, giving them the tools to do the same for their readers, listeners and viewers.

We also all know that there are some basic rules about PR pitching: Never lie, or even stretch the truth; lead with the most interesting facts; have a story with a beginning, middle and end. And make every pitch actionable.

There’s also the rule about not pitching on a Friday, for various reasons. I’ve been guilty of practicing this myself, but this article – presented for this installment of Friday ShareDay – from PR News Online relays some valid reasons to jettison the “don’t pitch on Friday” rule.

Happy Weekend!

I Have a Dream…

28 Aug

Martin Luther King Jr

It could be the greatest speech of all time.

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech – truly a perfect oration if there ever was one – delivered on the National Mall as part of the “March for Jobs and Freedom” Rally in 1963.

This was a turbulent time in America. And this was a dangerous speech to have delivered. King does it not only with style, but with a linguistic grace that few have ever been able to replicate.

When I listen to King’s words, I am in awe – not just for what he says – but in the knowledge that he sat down and wrote this out, crafting messages and phrases that would resonate long after his untimely assassination and continue to inspire people whose parents had yet to be born.

I talk a lot about great writing on this blog, and how important it is to be able to coalesce ideas into language that moves people to action and fundamentally changes the way people see an issue.

It’s too easy to just watch the 15 second clip of the end of this speech that every news program is going to play tonight. Watch the whole thing through.

Wow.

Find Me On.. Where?!?!

21 Aug

Social Networks

Maybe we have too many social networks.

I mean, think about it. Facebook and twitter. Instagram and Vine. Quora and Google+. Yelp and Foodspotting. And on and on and on.

You need a scorecard just to keep up, and an entire afternoon just to be remotely relevant on any more than one on two.

I’ve read more than one article this week about younger people rejecting Facebook.

And Peter Shankman this week opened up a storm of controversy when he predicted Yelp! would be out of business in two years.*

I think it’s just a matter of time before more people are migrating to something else. Who knows what that is. But if I’m feeling that way, I can promise you, it’s already happening.

I must have more than 100 apps on my iPhone. Truth is, I don’t think I use half of them. And I have no plans to.

So I’m opening this up for discussion, because I am really interested in what you think: which social networks/apps are becoming less relevant? Which should I close out or delete, and which should I keep? Which do you use on a regular basis and why?

I don’t want to hear any brand-bashing. This is not meant to take jabs at anyone. I’m just really interested in what others are thinking.

Leave a comment below!

*This post has been amended to accurately reflect Shankman’s prediction on Yelp. Thanks Peter!

Imitation Friday ShareDay

16 Aug

Imitation

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

So for Friday ShareDay I’d like to share this post, that I would like to think was an extension of something I wrote earlier this week.

HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes takes the “Innovate or Die” concept and puts a positive spin on it that is some amazing food for thought. There are some killer ideas in here.

Happy Weekend!

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