Marketing

Diversity of Stories

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Another busy, rocky month comes to an end and we roll full force into summer mode. Last night, I stopped at the town pool to swim laps. So far this summer, I’ve swum over five miles in the town pool. On the way home, I stopped at the library and picked up a collection of short stories by Chimamanda Adichie. I mentioned her in my previous post.

She gave a TED Talk, The danger of a single story about misconceptions that can arise from hearing a single story, or single type of story. While she focused on literature, it just as easily apply to any medium. Perhaps the simplest example is the warped view people get from a diet of one cable talk news show or another. To some, this is old news as people promote studies showing that viewers of specific cable news channels are more misinformed than others.

Other’s criticize older institutions of journalism that tell us telling us “That’s the way it is” and that they print “all the news that’s fit to print”. That’s the way it is, from a particular cultural framework, it’s all the news that a certain set of editors embedded in their cultural constructs found was fit to print.

Yesterday, Google News and Facebook, using their algorithms to find things I’d be most interested in, showed me stories about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. Being interested in media, I’ve often looked at how different outlets select what stories get covered and none of this is new.

Thirty two years ago, I went to the big anti-nuclear rally in Central Park. Afterwards, I walked home to my apartment in Little Italy. In my mind, the rally was the top news story of the day. Then, I walked past a hearse outside of an East Village funeral home, with the hearse outside and the family mourning. For them, there was much bigger news.

With this in mind, I read one of Chimamanda Adichie’s short stories last night. It was about a young woman whose brother was arrested. This morning, I glanced at the headlines in Global Voices.

One of the stories that repeatedly showed up on my computer yesterday was about Facebook manipulating news feeds to study the effects on users’ emotions. It appears to have been completely legal, within the terms of service, but people question the ethics. Most of this has been around the ideas of tests on human subjects, something that is done more and more online. Yet it ties back to the larger story of how information is selected for us to view.

Recently, on Facebook, a friend posted a card which said something like, “Being creative is like having 2847 tabs open in your browser 24/7”. I had just written about closing tabs in my browser, and strongly related to this. A friend shared a link he had written a few years ago about this, The Great Media Garbage Patch.

Content is King—for a day. But eventually it takes its place among the flotsam and jetsam. Today’s treasure is tomorrow’s trash.

Kind of like Life…and Death. And new birth. The circle of life. Every new campaign (or book or poem or blog) is a challenge and a dare—to make a mark, however brief, in the face of unplanned obsolescence.

And so, another month begins. The big stories of last month are rapidly becoming the flotsam and jetsam of this month. Perhaps I’ll view this month from the vantage point of the town pool, mingled with thoughts of Nigerian short stories and see who Facebook shows this story to.

This is

Recently, I attended the OMMA conference about videos at Internet Week. One of the best talks was by Gary Osifchin of Mondelez, the parent company of Honey Maid graham crackers. He spoke about their “wholesome” campaign. He spoke about how people see graham crackers as wholesome, but that people often associate “wholesome” with “old-fashioned” or “boring”. In order to stand out in this world of constant advertising and marketing everywhere, you need to present a strong point of view.

He suggested that to make “wholesome” relevant and exciting against this background, you need to look at cultural truths, for example, the changing face of American families. It is a risky strategy, because there will always be people who rebel against changes in cultural truths, but I believe that Honey Maid’s “Wholesome” campaign was very successful and helped to get people to look at how the world is changing.

He spoke about how he hoped other brands would follow suit and how the wholesome campaign is not just a single set of ads, but is a ten year campaign. On twitter, they are using the hashtag “#ThisIsWholesome”. It made me stop and think about how this could be done for other brands.

“This is…” I work at a health center serving vulnerable populations. What would a campaign about “This is health” look like? Would it talk about programs we do to help people eat healthier food? Get more exercise? Read more? Become more involved in their community? All of that fits into broader discussions about health, including social determinants of health and health equity.

What about my run for State Representative? Can we change “This is politics” into something positive? Can we talk about caring for the vulnerable amongst us, instead of how so much politics of today seems to be about grabbing what you can for yourself at the expense of everyone else around you? Instead of politics, should we talk about governance, citizenship, responsibility, or some related idea? After all, it seems like the cultural truths are currently stacked up against any positive image of politics.

As I think about the phrase, “This is…”, various phrases come to mind. “This is… American Idol”. “This is Spinal Tap”, “This is water”, “This is my body, which is given for you”.

What do we want to declare as cultural truths? What do we hope such declarations will bring about?

From Punch Cards to Cat Videos

“Do Not Fold, Bend, Mutilate or Spindle” The old phrase about computer punch cards in the sixties came to my mind Thursday as I attended OMMA Video as part of Internet Week in New York City. As experts talked about buying online video advertisements, based on increasingly sophisticated demographic information and programmatic buying, I had to wonder if the concern about being reduced to a number had far surpassed the greatest fears of those fifty years ago who protested the depersonalization that computers with their punch cards had brought.

Now, I understand the argument that improved targeting doesn’t depersonalize advertising, instead it makes it more specific, more personalized, but my mind drifts to the work of Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”. Increasingly, our interactions have become transactional. They are losing the personal touch, the “I and thou”, the chance for transformation.

Perhaps that is because everything is becoming more and more about the numbers. We focus on ROIs, KPIs and how all of this ultimately relates to our “net worth”. At one point, I tweeted, “The talk about data, measurement and automation makes me think of Wittgenstein: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

In contrast to all of this, the keynote speakers touched on something else, creativity. The first speaker, Mike Monello, CCO of Campfire, referenced Spreadable Media, Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. It sounds like I book I need to get.

Monello spoke about the reason people share content, to elevate their status, to define their community, and to strengthen bonds. It seems like this returns us closer to Buber. He spoke about putting the audience in the middle of the story, breaking down the fourth wall between the advertiser and the consumer and noted that people look for experiences, not content.

All of this comes to mind as I think about my campaign for State Representative. People are tired of politics, of the strategists that carefully run the numbers and craft messages to appeal to the largest demographic. I’ve been getting into discussions about this on Facebook recently.

For example, Whitney Hoffman, whom I met through Podcamp years ago, is running for State Representative. Recently, she wrote,

there seems to be a big gap between what politicians think folks need to know and what's effective, and how voters feel about it. For example, direct mail is a staple of politics, and data typically shows direct mail has a 1% conversion rate in retail, but very few people I talk to pay much attention to the glossy information that comes in the mail, and often toss it right away.

I had a great discussion with Whitney about this. It does seem like things like yard signs, bumper stickers, campaign websites, and direct mail, have little impact, other than showing that you’re a credible candidate. It is the same old politics by the numbers. But what we really need is politics that people will want to share, to define our communities and strengthen our bonds.

When people talk about content that gets shared online, they typically talk about cat videos. Cat videos make us feel good. Jane McGonigal talks about looking at pictures of cute animals in terms of building emotional resilience. It seems like there is an ever increasing need for emotional resilience, especially if you are at all politically active. So, the question that I asked of Whitney, and that I ask here is, how do we build emotional resilience into political discourse? Instead of sending out glossy direct mail, how can candidates reach out with messages that makes us emotionally stronger and builds our communities? What are the cat videos of your campaign?

A Positive Digital Footprint

This evening I went to a digital safety presentation by a youth resource police officer sponsored by our local PTO. Most of what he said was fairly valid, but the way he said it was questionable in my mind.

First, it was very much of a digital immigrant telling other digital immigrants how their digital native children should act online. He admitted that he just didn't get why people talk about food or share their location online. In my mind, this made him less credible.

More importantly, his talk sounded like he was asking the parents to limit or curtail their children's online activity. To a certain extent this makes sense. We don't want kids to do things online that could end up hurting them. He spoke about making sure that kids didn't grow up with negative digital footprint.

I suggested that he might want to look at things from the other side. How do we encourage our digital native kids to have a positive digital footprint? How do we help these digital natives develop a good digital portfolio and a strong personal digital brand?

These are the questions we should be grappling with.

Social Media and Event Planning: @CHCConnecticut, @SolomonEvents, @NoRACupcakeCo, @JordanCaterers, @ImagineThatCake

While my focus on social media really started with a political and literary bent, I cannot avoid the role of social media marketing and this week, I ran into a some good examples of how this should really be done.

@CHCConnecticut, where I work as social media manager, was celebrating its fortieth anniversary and opening a state of the art new health care facility in Middletown, CT. Throughout the process, we worked with many organizations, from architects and building contractors, through caterers and event planners.

@SolomonEvents handled key parts of the event planning. In addition, they tweeted throughout the week about the event. I was sharing tweets with Heather Solomon before I met her, and she end off the tweeting with:

The pleasure of connecting on Twitter then actually meeting in-person (@ahynes1). #WhyIEnjoySocialMedia

She talked about the cupcakes we had one evening from @NoRACupcakeCo and @WhalePack retweeted a picture she had taken. Also, joining in the discussion was the caterers, @JordanCaterers, and the bakers, @ImagineThatCake

Of course, the event was about more than just food, and there were notable dignitaries at the event. @chrisdodd, @govmalloyoffice, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, whom the Denver Post retweets messages about via @hickenTweets, and State Representative @mattlesser.

Social media helped cement relationships established during the event and allowed many people to get their messages out in a conversation about the event. It was a good example of using social media together with event planning.

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