• 09Sep

    What’s wrong with getting paid? It never ceases to amaze me how many corporations and individuals expect you to work for free, especially if you are in a creative business. Every day I see posts on CraigsList requesting writers to work for fun and recognition. You can’t pay the rent with recognition.

    Which is why I want to bring two YouTube video posts to your attention. Kudos to Tina Dupuy, a freelance writer who used a YouTube video to shame the Tampa Tribune into paying her for running her article. Freelance work is hard, really hard. And those who tell you “write for me and I will make you famous” are smoking something strange and blowing smoke in all the wrong places. Intellectual property has value, and in the Internet age, we have to be even more diligent about protecting our own IP. Ms. Dupuy successfully defended her freelance writer’s honor through public humiliation of the newspaper that stole her work. It’s unfortunate that she had to do so in the first place.

    And in the same vein, I want to share the best writer rant on record. Harlan Ellison, creator of “A Boy and His Dog,” screenwriter on “I. Robot,” and science fiction writer extraordinaire, definitely writes for a living. He understands the value of the written word, especially to the professional writer. No one should ever be asked to work for free.

    So I want to close with a reminiscence of my Uncle Ed. He was the first freelance writer I had ever known. Long before the days of the Internet, Ed was cataloguing the latest jokes and submitting them to Playboy, or writing story p itches to the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post. He made a very comfortable living and supported a family of four with creativity, tenacity, and a sense of the value of his work. The Internet has leveled the playing field so anyone can call themselves a writer, sort of. Anyone can blog (including me) but being a blogger doesn’t make you a writer.

    So here’s a small online tribute to professional writers. Freelancing is tough. And to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson and Janet Joplin, “freelance is another word for nothing left to lose…” But for those of us brave enough to continue to write for a living in the Internet age, we deserve to get paid for our work.



  • 07Sep

    Online networking requires authenticity. I have clients who come to me saying, “This social media phenomenon is interesting. We want to play but don’t have the resources. Can you do this for us?”

    The whole notion of online networking is based in authenticity. Social media is about engaging with others in an authentic way. As long as you disclose who you are and your intent, then you are being authentic. It’s when you start trying to hide who you are or deceive others as to your true intentions that you run into trouble.

    Which is why corporations looking to harness social media to drive their brand need to be cautious when they turn online networking over to marketing. Marketing experts tend to want to control the message, which runs counter to the open nature of social media, and they often want to present the executives as experts. That often means ghostwriting posts for the CEO or the VP or Sales or other busy executives who don’t want to take the time to engage. You can argue that executives find ghost writers for books all the time, but ghostwriting for social media engagement is something else.

    Ghost blogging, for example, runs counter to everything we know about social networking. And yet, I know that PR firms and others are offering comprehensive social media programs as a service to clients – turnkey social networking. But is it right? Jane Fonda defends her blog as being written exclusively by her, without benefit of publicists. Kevin Spacey also explains to David Letterman why he has embraced Twitter, without the benefit of third-party writers.

    So can PR take a role in social media on behalf of its clients? Of course we can. We need to advise them, help them find the right connections online, and guide their social media activities. We also can post stuff on their behalf, but only if we continue to disclose our role in the process.

    It’s about authenticity. And the ethical thing to do is to reveal the man behind the curtain.

  • 04Sep

    I spotted an interesting item on SFGate today. The Scavenger blog reveals that a company out of Australia, USocial, is selling friends. No, it’s not a white slavery ring. It’s a scheme born from conventional marketing that lets you buy “friends” for Facebook and Twitter campaigns just like you would buy a mailing list. It’s strategies like these that will co-opt social media and create new opportunities for the social media equivalent of spam.

    The concept is fairly simple, and apparently has already been tried by everyone from the U.S. Marine Corps to the Church of Latter Day Saints to the Jackson family. You identity a special interest group and USocial will scour the social networks looking for matches and friend-request them on your behalf 1,000 users at a time (with discounts for 5,000 or more). Of course, USocial is never revealed as the source of the requests, and their clients get to build their online following by leaps and bounds.

    USocial has been dinged by a number of social media sites for this practice. Apparently Digg sent them a “cease and desist” letter. But founder Leon Hill told AP, “We’re really only doing for our clients what they could do in their own time if they put their minds to it.”

    So what’s wrong with this picture? Everything. The biggest outcry I hear from companies trying to figure out how to harness social media is that the marketing people just don’t get it. The concept is to engage online in an authentic and open way; to create a dialogue. Social media is not just another channel for one-way marketing messages, and spamming social media services with friend requests to increase the number of followers runs counter to the spirit of social media. Granted, I have already seen some blatant violators on Twitter and Facebook, including the Twitterers who have nothing more constructive to say than “buy my product,” or the follow requests from thinly disguised porn sites. You can manage those requests on a one-by-one basis, ignoring the idiots and reporting the violators. But when you have commercial spam generators trying to get your attention it’s a different story.

    As with the early days of e-mail, we will find ways to address the emerging social media spam problem. I recall the early days of spam-free e-mail when I had some confidence that every message received was from a friend, client, or colleague. Now with two spam filters in place about one in 50 incoming messages are relevant. And so the next wave of social media technology will be spam filters for Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

     As they say, in cyberspace no one really knows if you are a dog.

  • 03Sep

    Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a hobby horse about the state of journalism today. I have to ask myself if the concept of “free” information on the web has sustainable value. During my years in the publishing industry, I learned that value is perception. You put a newsstand price on a magazine not because of its real market value, but because of its perceived value to the reader. The real revenue comes from advertising, so newsstand revenue is all about what the market will bear for the price of sale, which provides caché to the magazine.

    Which is part of the reason I was excited when a client called me this morning to share his new micropayment strategy for a new research product he was developing. He referred me to a recent article in the New York Times profiling the online business model for the Financial Times. As John Ridding, the FT’s Chief Executive notes:

    “It was pretty lonely out there for a while in paid land. But it has become pretty clear that advertising alone is not going to sustain online business models. Quality journalism has to be paid for.”

    What? There is no free lunch? Shocking! Quality journalism comes at a price, and with the number of newspapers that are folding in recent months, it seems that there are fewer members of the public willing to pay the price, but maybe the FT has hit on an approach to keep quality journalism alive.

    Which brings me back to a topic I blogged about earlier, the fact that there is no free lunch, and despite the fact the web makes information easier to access, someone reputable still needs to deliver the information. The real flaw in Chris Anderson’s theory in his book “Free: The Future of Radical Price” is that the revenue from a free business model is not sustainable. You truly get what you pay for, and information that is available for free is worth exactly what you paid for it. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his review of Anderson’s book in The New Yorker:

    “And there’s plenty of other information out there that has chosen to run in the opposite direction from Free. The Times gives away its content on its Web site. But the Wall Street Journal has found that more than a million subscribers are quite happy to pay for the privilege of reading online. Broadcast television—the original practitioner of Free—is struggling. But premium cable, with its stiff monthly charges for specialty content, is doing just fine. Apple may soon make more money selling iPhone downloads (ideas) than it does from the iPhone itself (stuff). The company could one day give away the iPhone to boost downloads; it could give away the downloads to boost iPhone sales; or it could continue to do what it does now, and charge for both. Who knows? The only iron law here is the one too obvious to write a book about, which is that the digital age has so transformed the ways in which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws.”

    In the case of journalism, I think the notion of free is just too costly. There needs to be someone willing to pay to uncover real, credible information. Micropayment models, like that of the FT, may prove the new wave of the future, but the piper must be paid or the tune has no value.

    So tell me how you think the world of journalism is morphing. What is the next incarnation? Can you still make a living as a journalist or will citizen journalists storm the barricades to claim the fourth estate?

  • 01Sep

    When I launched this blog a few weeks ago, I cited the problem that many marketeers have finding the time and resources to service their own marketing needs. It’s interesting that Marc Hausman, founder of Strategic Communications Group, cited the same issues a few days later, and even used a similar headline, “Fallacy of the Cobbler’s Shoe-less Children.”faucet_Full

    As Marc notes, there are a number of agencies out there that fail to practice what they preach. They deem social media and networking as a business strategy, as long as they aren’t too busy doing something else that makes real money. Marc cites two agencies who let their blogs languish while they were pursuing paying clients. As many agencies (and clients) have discovered in this economic recession, you can’t abandon your marketing strategy or your pipeline will dry up.

    One commentator to Marc’s blog noted that the best agencies have a dedicated marketing team to make sure that marketing the agency’s services doesn’t fall between the cracks. I have seen that work in some settings, but most agencies are resource-constrained and the rank-and-file has to find a way to build agency marketing into their daily routine. I have worked on the marketing committee for a few agencies, and we managed to build in web redesign, collateral updates, social networking, and other tasks into the day-to-day routine – it’s all part of the MBOs. In fact, it should be part of your DNA.

    In fact, I am writing this blog while I take a lunch break from developing a new business proposal. You can always find time to market yourself if you make marketing a priority.

    So thanks to Marc and those other PR professionals who walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.


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