Friday, March 30, 2007

Are you a Conversation Architect?

David Armano gave a presentation at MarketingProfs Thursday, March 29, 2007. He blogs a bit about how he felt following the talk here. My feeling is he's a bit tough on himself. I understand we all have communication preferences. We all feel there are arenas where we are more effective. But I feel he pulled together an enormous amount of information. He stated it clearly. I'm not sure you can ask for much more. Embedded below are the slides he used - courtesy of Slide Share where you might be able to see the text a little better.

First off, let me say David, Mack Collier, and Gavin Heaton are the triumvirate that nudged me into this "blogging" thing. To varying degrees they move me along. (Here's where I always stumble - by rights every one of you who visit here are the ones nudging me along - it's beyond humbling). I'd like to capsulize the main ideas of David's emerging media conversation that effected me the most.

The obvious - and foremost - thing for us to remember is we serve people. Whatever our vocation, calling, job, gig - call it what you will - if we are not putting people first - it won't work. We might call them customer, consumers, readers...but cut to the chase...and its people. And people want good experiences. Part of a good experience is good design. In order to help create good experiences, we need to be good designers. Design is not about making something look good - thought that is part of it - but its more about creating an experience that is pleasurable. I would say its about imparting a degree of happiness into the receiver of the message. Both Starbuck's and O'Hare airport are designed well - just differently. As bloggers, part of what we do is design conversation around topics of common interest. We are designers. Slide 8 debunks "designer" myth. Slide 9 shows some excellent design elements. The Target prescription bottle almost makes me want to come up with some sort of malady - just so I can get medicine in that container!

I could spend a long time on slide 10. It shows the building blocks of a digital experience. Built on a firm foundation of brand, business and users, Armano states the fundamentals as usefulness, usability, and desirability. Take some time looking at the questions asked in each pillar. The final two pillars take the experience beyond the expected - to sustainable and social. What this point says to me is if we want our brands to stick around they must maintain AND evolve. In emerging technology, they must also be social. I feel this is part of a blogs value. This part of the conversation naturally turns toward ROI - something I am aware of and my boss consistently reminds me. It is, however, difficult to quantify the time spent building a social network. Intuitively, we know it pays. But where does the rubber meet the road? After all, the bottom line got that title for some reason :)

The next group of slides are examples of digital experiences. I was impressed with some of what Dell is doing. My experience has been a bit less than satisfactory with them. We have a 2nd pc at home - it is a Dell. They packaged a whole bunch of extras on it. I have little problem navigating my way through a lot of it, but my bride is the main user. Her time at a keyboard is considerably less than mine (she's a nurse and deals with real people problems :) - start up was frustrating for her and, at times, still can be a pain. Mostly its the little things - filters, pop-ups, expired this and that. But it looks like Dell is reaching out. I'm impressed with how they've responded at Dell Hell. David devised a little Experience-o-Meter (if your reading, David, you really ought to patent it...maybe get one of these crazy geeks to build a widget! - imagine having it for pages and sites you visit - I'd like one that goes below acceptable for Windows Media Player - grrrrr) and he puts them beyond the basics and to the next level.

I was thrilled to see a newspaper site featured in the presentation - USA Today. While I'm a biased reader of my newspaper - The Spokesman-Review - just the fact that newspapers are on the radar as media engaging emerging tech is encouraging. One day I'll go into the journey we are on here. In a nutshell, News is a Conversation is a major part of it. We are a paid registration site for most of the local news but there are many places you can move around. USA Today seems to be a step or 2 ahead of us insofar as building a social community. David rates them "next level" in places - not quite "beyond basics" in others. I too wonder about storing pictures on their site. One thing I can imagine is that they may decide to post member "snapshot" someplace on their site. Similar to getting your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone (I guess its WIRED this generation) - one day you might say "A photo of mine was published in USA Today". Next is a little riff on You Tube, then examples of blogs - one which takes it to the next level, the other not so much.

The pair of slides that pulled it together were 31 and 32. They are pretty self-explanatory but its where the title of this post is stolen - as bloggers and marketers who blog - we need to become "conversation architects". I love that - what a great job title! Bravissimmo, Armano! The goal - to develop our blog, our brand and our organizations into valuable community experiences.

I'm not a Twitter user - though this presentation has me right on the edge. The conclusion focused on the enormous potential it holds for gathering a community. I was about to register last week and it was a day Twitter experienced crashes and problems. I get enough frustration without asking for it - so another time :)

Sharing is the best way of learning for me. I hope highlighting these points has helped reinforce some of your thinking. Even more, I hope you've found food for thought. Enjoy the weekend - I'm off for a nice bike ride! The sun is shining in Spokane!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

2007 MLB - Order of Finish predictions

Any baseball fans in the crowd? Here's a post just a little out of my normal routine. I'll be able to quickly tell if you like it...I can think about, talk about, and write about baseball for a very long time :). Sadly, my favorite thing to talk about is umpiring and most people find it extremely boring. I spent 20 years calling balls and strikes for HS and College baseball. It is the love of the game that calls me each Spring. Fortune smiled on me when the WCC called a couple years ago and wanted somebody to observe umpires. I'd been away from the game since 2000 (the kids got too fast and my eyesight got too fuzzy - it happens at 50 :). Figured observing would be right down my alley since umpiring consists of reacting to situations - and making shade. But that's for another time (note to self: Marketing Lessons Learned between the base lines).

We're only a few days away from the first pitch on Opening Day 2007. I like to say Earth's axis finally tilts back to normal. This has nothing to do with umpiring. Fact is, wagering on the game is expressly forbidden in the Code of Ethics. But here's my predictions - order of finish - in each division. I have nothing invested in this but the time it takes to create it - nor do I have any knowledge beyond following the game. Its a fun exercise at the start of the season. About as predictable as the weather :) Play along - I'll devise some sort of numbering system and whoever has the most points at season's end wins the Championship of the Blog World. By then I will have figured out some sort of impressive graphic to place on your blog.

AL West
Oakland Athletics - toss up with the Angels - still playing Moneyball
Los Angeles Angels - Oakland plays too sound :)
Seattle Mariners - better than the cellar - there "home" 3 years in a row
Texas Rangers - no pitching.....still?!?!?!

AL Central
Minnesota Twins - gotta love 'em - Mauer, Morneau - MONSTERS
Cleveland Indians - could be close
Chicago White Sox - not even close to the team that won the Series
Detroit Tigers - coolest uniforms in the big leagues
Kansas City Royal - last place? yep, but the Best steaks in the World :)

AL East
New York Yankees - I can't cheer for them but A-Rod finally earns it
Boston Red Sox - wild card for sure - could play better than Yanks
Baltimore Orioles - Tejada is the real deal!
Toronto Blue Jays - not enough offense
Tampa Bay Devil Rays - ever seen a real devil ray? maybe they could hit better!

NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks - Big Unit is back!
San Francisco Giants - Bonds breaking Aaron's HR record not quite enough
Los Angeles Dodgers - could surprise
San Diego Padres - even with Maddux and Wells they won't win
Colorado Rockies - best pot bellied mascot in the game - sadly, that's it!

NL Central
Chicago Cubs - probably break your heart again but Soriano is that good!
St. Louis Cardinals - Pujols = Awesome! Edmonds & Rolen = Old!
Milwaukee Brewers - distant 3rd unless Ben Sheets is stellar
Houston Astros - cursed by Enron
Cincinnati Reds - even if Junior is happy - and he's not...
Pittsburgh Pirates - love their logo but never enough booty...aaarrrggghhhh!

NL East
New York Mets - can NY stand the prosperity? I say "yes"
Philadelphia Phillies - might almost have it this year
Atlanta Braves - glory days are done
Florida Marlins - whats with all these fish in Florida?
Washington Senators - even with Dems in the majority it will be a few years

There you have it :) - For entertainment purposes only. If I'm close to right, its pure dumb luck! Post your predictions in comments or send me an email.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

As The World Turns - Here's the Scoop

Robyn McMaster always seems to light a spark. And when she kicks her post off with a link to Liz Strauss - who invites the "grabbing" of a graphic from Sandy Renshaw (that's her great work on the right) the spark turns into a brain flame. Her post from a couple days ago on changing the world resonated with me. Aside from the fact she uses one of my favorite newspaper terms - scoop - her story attests to the value of encouraging people. Catching them by surprise when they show their talents is sure to make them feel good! And who among us doesn't want to feel good? Or even great! This post turns her thoughts 180 degrees and causes reflection on those who encourage us. My feeling is changing the world involves a get and a give. Lets call it "reciprocating encouragement".

Last spring I decided it was time to get a new bicycle. There is a shop just a mile or so from my house - WheelSport. I walked in and one of the kids (isn't everyone a kid anymore? :) comes up to me and asks:
"Are you looking for a bike?"
"I was thinking about it. Do you work here?"
"I sure do - what kind are you looking for?"
(Let me break here for a moment - much as I'd like to scream down a rock strewn hill with dirt and dust flying all around me - my bones aren't as strong as once they were. Plus my health provider frowns on too many visits - something about preventive care. In addition, there is a certain value to every bit of skin and flesh I can save. So I tried a mountain bike but determined a more sensible style would be - well - more sensible :)
"ummmm - you have something built for comfort rather than speed?"
"What do you think of this one - what did you say your name was?"
"I'm Bob - How old are you, Jimmy?"
"Almost 16, Bob"
"You own this store?"
"Naw - I just work on the bikes."
By now I'm really enjoying this little adventure. Part of the joy in a purchase is the give and get from the salesperson. Jimmy doesn't know it yet but he's a winner! We got to yak-yakking back and forth and he hands me off to his co-worker, Josh. Josh fits me for the bike - which I really like, btw - and we get it ordered. "It should be here later this week and remember we can take care of anything you need - minor tune-ups are free!" My ears lit up, the smile broad on my mug. These guys are good! As last riding season wore on I had a few minor problems. Most of them had to do with blown out tires - 3 in a week - but thats another story. My bike guys really encouraged me to spend more time in the saddle.

Today was the 3rd day of their 4-day sale. Everything is 15% off and as you can imagine - its a frantic time of year for a bike store. Though it was raining today, the weather is breaking and soon the days scream for riding. I wanted to get a few items and today I met Jason. Jason is another teenager who works on the bikes in the shop. He fit me for a helmet, suggested a small tool to carry in my pack and advised me on some new road tires. (Some of you know, I'm planning to ride RAGBRAI this July. Let me take this opportunity - it won't be the last - to invite any of you IOWANS to meet up with me along the way - or even share the ride.) Then handed me off to Josh. We finished our transaction in the mayhem of people rushing in and out of the store. All I could do was shake my head and say "You guys are amazing - this place is a madhouse and you take it all in stride. I am blown away every time I come in here." Josh says -

"That's what we do, Bob - it's more fun when its busy and we have customers. The more people ride the better we feel"

Simple statements are the best. These bike guys are "encouragers". They thrive when people come back. They are fulfilled. My point is this - and I think Robyn's - when people are feeling good about what they do it shows. We get a true physical sensation when it happens. The point is to recognize and encourage one another with our actions and comments. Do it and we change the world! Its but one aspect of blog life we must remember to appreciate.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Turtle Meme

This post is a couple weeks delayed but it's not called the Turtle meme for for nothing - thanks Karin. I've been tagged once before, broken in on games of tag and tagged along - but never tagged I'm going for it here. And toss in a z-twist. Let's see how it works.

I love turtles and only wish I had several to watch do laps. Owned one a number of years ago - but it died. My friend Dave (he doesn't blog or I'd link to him) had a terrapin that was his uncles (or some relative) was 50 years old and that was 30 years ago. I wonder what happened to Dave?

Bob - or is that Robert (great name nonetheless :) and Tully claim this to be the slowest moving meme in the blog world. Essentially its a playful way to look at goal setting, achievements, vocations and life roles. Let's give it some legs - OK?

Tully says it like this:

"I had been thinking about goal setting, life accomplishments, and the like, when it hit me - what are the goals that are slightly ‘out there’ that typically don’t make it on the goal list because you never took them seriously (but would still be a blast to do!)?"
And Robert this way:
"But what happened to the goals that, well, didn’t make the cut? Do they just fall by the wayside? Are they consigned to goal purgatory, that place where all despondent goals go when they don’t quite make the team? Whatever happened to them? Gee - what if any of these goals had actually happened?"
And so it starts with these 2 - and I'm adding Karin as a *sparkler* for it was her post that Bob pointed me toward. We'd been talking about slow on the uptake each of us was at discovering we were SOB's - a couple weeks after the fact. I was a turtle before I knew it.

Here's 5 gigs that would be a kick in the tail! I'm a touch envious of those who get to experience them. I've lived vicariously through them!

1 - Team Mascot - March Madness probably brought this one from the depths of my unconscious. They always seem like their having fun. A bit too much running but helping people get a little crazy. The local favorite is Otto the Spokanasaurus, a prehistoric (futuristic?), dinosaur/dog for the Spokane Indians Baseball Team. Of course, I'll always be partial to Herky!

2 - Cowboy - the kind that rides all day, sleeps under the stars and lives on the open range. In bits and pieces, I've managed to experience parts of the cowboy way - but never quite hit it exact. Think about Jack Palance as Curly in "City Slickers" and his exchange with Billy Crystal:

Cowboy: "Do you know what the secret of life is? One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don't mean shit."
City Slicker: "Yeah, but what's that one thing?"
Cowboy: "That's what you've got to figure out."
Simply elegant and to the point - a grizzled cowboy with a "roll your own" dangling from his lip.
3 - Clown - Oddly, I've recently discovered some people have a terrible aversion to clowns. Thats too bad because what could be more fun, more playful than honking a horn, making balloon animals, or jumping out of a VW with 20 of your closest clown friends?!?! Without ever having to say a word! Brevity of words seems to be a recurring theme here? Maybe I DO talk too much.
4 - Sled Racer - Driving a team of huskies across Alaska! It looks like a grueling race but what COOL clothes they get to wear. I warm up just thinking about all that fur smothering my face. I'm certain thats not the main allure of the contest. It's human and dog against the harshness of the great outdoors. Alas, I prefer natural gas heat and a down comforter. But I've sure dreamed of being tuned in to the strength of the malamute.
5 - Bike Racer - Might as well dream big....Tour de France. For one thing, its in France - the wine is good, the food even better. Sitting in the sidewalk bistro watching the world go by...some jazz music playing as lovers walk hand in hand...wait! I'm riding in a bike race :) - see how eaasily distracting it would be. Instead, this year I'm riding in RAGBRAI. Between now and then I hope to connect a little deeper with the Iowa blog mafia!

Here's the z-twist - and there's no hurry. Place this idea on the back burner. If you want let it boil over. I'm tossing it out as food for thought. A lot of you are deep in preparation for SOBCon. This is the turtle meme, remember? I'm listing the people who've already been touched with this game. Then I'm tagging some One Reader community members -

Here's the rules* - make your post and refer back to this one. Tag one, two, three, five, ten - number doesn't matter - members of your community. You need to tell them they are tagged. Then copy the list of those already tagged to the end of your post. I have no idea how it will work but lets see if turtles move :)

I tag because you have been kind enough stop by One Reader and leave a comment. Each of these bloggers are worthy of reading and feeding!

Already tagged (that I know about, at least)

*Mike says the only rule for memes is there are no rules.

Update (5.5.2007): if any of you made it this far - and haven't made a turtle along why don't ya?!?! Spread the Turtle Love!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Did you know March 8 is International Women's Day?

Yes, it may seem a silly question. Yes, it may seem a poor heading for a post. And yes, it may have been more appropriate to have this up yesterday or the day before. But something odd happened to me at a Toastmasters meeting yesterday - and its worth a blog post.

Yesterday was International Women's Day 2007. Every year on March 8:

"...International Women's Day (IWD) is the global day connecting all women around the world and inspiring them to achieve their full potential. IWD celebrates the collective power of women past, present and future."
In some ways, it surprises me is there is not more notice given this day - at least in the US. In other ways, it's not so surprising. Our male dominant culture - dare I say sexist - often times views recognition of women's power as threatening? insignificant? propaganda?

What got me thinking about empowering women - again? still? - was a posting by Frank Sennett - a Spokane blogger. Last month he put up a good summary of his newspaper story at Women in the Blogosphere. The full story can be found here. To summarize, reports and stats may say the "Men continue to dominate the blogosphere's most prominent real estate" but he share's pretty convincing evidence that ain't the case! And I certainly find myself reading and interacting with terrific blogs written by women.

Then I stumbled onto Shawns post at The Good, The Bad, and The Green. WOW! Here is a guy can put his own journey in perspective. Read it if you dare!

Which leads me to the question posed during Table Topics. TT is a portion of the standard Toastmaster meeting where you are given a couple minutes to speak extemporaneously. Its a nervous time even for accomplished and confident speakers. Think on your feet and try to speak:) The Topic Master queries - "Bob, what is the one stereotype of women you most often hold?"

Can you say adrenaline rush? or heart pounding horror? I took a deep breath. Imagine a schoolyard filled with women. Each woman represents a male held stereotype - fickle, flighty, moody, weak, object, trophy, maid, domineering, emotional - you get the idea. Throw a rock into the yard and whoever it hits - I am guilty of holding that stereotype. Let me stress, its not about guilt. I'm a male in a sexist culture. Its about recognizing biases. Must have struck a chord because I won the award for Best Table Topics! (I sure was shaking!)

I celebrate the uniqueness of each individual and the wonder of gender differences. But this is about equality and recognizing we ain't there yet. Every day we have the chance to get closer. Thanks for allowing me the chance to jump on my podium.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Newspapers: print, online...who cares?"

Post title is in quotes because it comes from David Reich over at my 2 cents. Always give credit where credit is due. I've been fortunate to take part in David's musings on newspapers the last couple weeks. David is my new favorite blogger because he has a category labeled "newspapers" :) - And he's convinced they're not quite dead. I've also been fortunate to be in the newspaper business - circulation and marketing - for over 20 years.

In the post, David cites an article in Media Life which talks about newspaper readership growing if we include print AND online. The article talks about the "younger, affluent audience" being reached online. Then David asks a great question:

"Why aren't newspaper publishers aggressively pushing this positive and welcome news to the ad community?"
I am decidedly not a newspaper publisher - but I work for a great one! I can answer the question through my lens alone - give a touch of recent history and maybe forecast a little. Newspapers have long been established via ink on paper. In the last 3-5 years, their online presence has grown enormously. Now newspapers can be read via pixels on a page, too. And a lot more information can be placed on a website. But print on paper is still the farm. Print pays the rent. It's still delivered, its portable, and you don't need a wireless card to read it. Who cares? The community you live in! Just like the community of bloggers with which you read and interact. Don't kid yourself - if you're part of a blogging community and somebody stops posting...the community cares. This assumes the blogs have value and worth.

Advertisers are only just beginning to see the audience that is attracted to newspaper websites. Just like they are seeing audiences attracted to blogger sites. But advertisers demand results (along with profits) and online measurements of readers are not exactly concrete - although they are improving. Does the last 3-5 years coincide with anything that is happening with online tracking/measurement? Page views, impressions, click-thrus, traffic reports...these are all new terms. Can they be verified? In some ways - yes. Mostly its like the Gary Larson cartoon "what dogs say and what cats hear" - the meaning gets lost in the translation. Isn't it an education process?

For too long, the newspaper business has looked for a silver bullet to stop circulation declines. Searching for the Holy Grail - reminder, nobodies ever found it :) Doesn't stop us from looking for it. It ain't there. Fewer people buy the local paper but my hunch is people still read it. And certainly people still buy things - which is what the ad community really wants. Newspapers and online are not the same but they both demand interaction. Just like a true community.

Whether its print or online - newspapers matter in the community.

Here and here are previous posts on newspapers.