“Disney-fying” Your Story

18 December 2010 1 comment

Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks are often called “The Happiest Places on Earth,” however if you ask many of Disney’s detractors they’d say that Disney’s marketing just tells a good story. Regardless of how you view Disney (I personally am a huge fan), you should grab your Moleskein or netbook and take a trip to either park for a couple of days to take notes and learn how to “Disney-fy” how you tell stories.

When I talk about “Disney-fying” your story, I’m not talking about making a simple story, I mean think about how to create a more immersive story, using multiple media, online and offline, community development and more.

I was watching a special on Disney World when I started writing this piece. The show was describing the Disney Animal Kingdom’s Everest Ride, and how the “story” behind the ride started long before you arrived at the ride – it started as soon as you entered the “village” area for the ride, with posters about the yeti being shown on screen, and how the little shops, food areas, etc around the ride had elements about the yeti and the Nepalese mentality of “forbidden areas” around mountains that are believed to have yeti. These elements gave more of an “asian flavor” to the ride, giving it more background and depth than just another basic rollercoaster ride. (Think of your messages in this way, what can you do to provide more information or depth to your message – going beyond just having another message to tell.)

When you visit one of the Disney theme parks there are a myriad of stories being told beyond the obvious “Walt Disney” story. Far too often people are rushing around to really let the stories sink in with them, and if your communication efforts aren’t ready to meet the challenge of connecting people, they’ll rush away before your message resonates with them. (regardless of if it’s a sales message, a communication message, or a community building message)

This also goes to show you that you the importance of having people knowledgeable about storytelling and the elements of your organization, people who can’t fake this interest and knowledge, engaging with your audience in these multiple media. How do these elements work together, how do you play on their various strengths to tell your story?

PR Tips: What Should NFL Players do in 2011?

11 December 2010 Leave a comment

The ending of the 2010 NFL season is quickly coming upon us.  Not soon enough for those of who are Bills fans.  And while the usual suspects are once again at the top of the league, when next August rolls around there is a strong chance that the players and owners will be at an impasse as to how to address the issues of player contracts, etc.

We’re on the edge of a lockout/strike, the two words that are going to be bandied about back and forth between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.  Athletes in previous strikes were not quiet about what they felt they had earned because of their skills and started talking on camera, and then lost any public support they had in their negotiations.

As an academic exercise, I’ve been thinking about what the players should do given the media storm that will start up as soon as the season ends.  Below are a few PR tips, this is not a complete list, but a starting point for a discussion.

  1. Take some time off – I know it’s going to be hard for you to understand, but don’t seek out the camera.  Let your agent, or better yet an actual PR professional (not one of your peeps) handle the media questions.  Eventually a player is going to say something that’s taken out of context that will hurt the negotiations between your representatives and the owners.
  2. Create one simple command message to give the media when you are asked: “To all of our fans, we are incredibly sorry that the owners have decided to lock us out and forfeit the 2011 season. We look forward to when we can be back out on the field entertaining all of you.”
    1. Period. That’s it. No discussion of the owners, their vast oceans of cash, their personal hygiene habits, the fact that they talk with their mouths full at dinner, or how that magic jumpsuit has been able to keep Al Davis alive after being clinically dead for so long.
  3. This is going to be hard for a lot of NFL players who are used to being the center of attention, but don’t talk about the lockout – period. Go back to the talking statement above, “We are sorry about…”
  4. Take a tip from the recent “Digital Death” campaign, get away from the social media a bit more.  I’m not saying stay off of it, but you’re going to be asked about the lockout, what your feelings are, why “rich, spoiled athletes are ruining the game we love so much,” etc. Don’t fall for the bait.
  5. Be seen in the community.  Not the community of sycophantic peeps that you’ve created around you, but your actual community.  What causes do you believe in (animal rights, poverty, education, etc)?  Why not dedicate some time helping your community out – above and beyond what the NFL appears to mandate you do. It’s a great way to build goodwill in the community, and it’s something you might want to start on now.
  6. I might have mentioned this already, but DO NOT COMMENT ON THE NEGOTIATIONS!  The owners realize that if they hang together, and don’t comment on the lockout outside of official spokespeople, that eventually one of the players is going to say something stupid (remember the NBA lockout? Latrell Sprewell I believe said something to the effect of “I have to feed my family, I need my millions.”)
  7. Each team is supposed to have one player represent them in the NFL Players Association. If anyone needs to speak for a team’s roster, let it be these players.
  8. This is possibly the worst economic time to negotiate from, the fans are not going to support you as much as you think because while you and the owners are fighting over a big pile of cash, fans are going to be busy trying to find jobs, to keep their family in their house, to pay for their kids education. And the owners are going to play the “greedy players” card on top of this.
  9. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game – There are 32 team owners against hundreds of players. The odds of who will crack first and say something stupid to the media are slimmer for the owners than it is for the players.  It requires more than a bit of mindfulness on your part as an NFL player, but remember these tips in the upcoming negotiation period if you want a better chance of keeping the public on your side.
Categories: Football, public relations

Not Gone, Just Blogging Rugby

27 November 2010 Leave a comment

I promise I haven’t forgotten about this blog, I’ve got a lot of posts bubbling around in my skull right now.  I’ve just been spending a lot of time blogging about rugby at my “Rugby SuperSite.” I’ll have some new ideas up here soon, promise!  In the meantime, check out the rugby site, you might like it!

- Benson

Categories: Uncategorized

Everything I know about social media I learned in Powerlifting

5 August 2010 3 comments

I want to share a secret with you – many years, and about 65 pounds ago, I had been a devotee of something with a much greater pull than even social media and its allure.

That’s right, I had been a quasi-athlete (not a great one, but just one), well I was a rugby player – define that as you will. As part of being an athlete, I really got into powerlifting, it was a better way to get into shape – not as monotonous as running or cycling. (I wasn’t great at powerlifting either, just ask my workout partners ;-) )

I had flirted with the idea of being a strength coach, because I enjoyed working out and studying exercise physiology, but as my instructor used to say, he couldn’t advise that we complete four years of college in order to earn $25,000 a year as a strength coach.  So I ended up in PR, where a four-year degree earned me just a little more per year. ;-)

And recently, while two torn up knees and a bum ankle are keeping me off of the rugby pitch, I’ve been getting back into powerlifting more and more.  So as I’ve jumped back into powerlifting I’ve noticed a lot of parallels between this sport and social media. I quickly grabbed the laptop and started jotting down as many notes as I could keep trapped in my mind. I’ve included a list of this baker’s dozen below.

  1. Practice, practice, practice!
    1. It’s not only how you get to Carnegie Hall, or hit that new record bench press, it’s how you hone your social media chops – and learn what works for you (whether it’s video, audio, blogging, etc.)
  2. Form is important.
    1. As everyone who hits the weights knows, you have to perform each exercise correctly. If you don’t learn how to do each exercise correctly then you run the risk of injuring yourself later.
    2. In social media, you have to look at this as focusing on the narrative you want to tell, the stories about your organization that are important.
  3. You won’t hit every lift, it’s OK.
    1. Whether you are working out or at a powerlifting meet, you’re not going to perform every lift perfectly, sometimes you will fail to get the weight back up – it was called “bottoming out” when I lifted – and that’s OK.
    2. In social media, every post isn’t going to be perfect, or totally make sense to your target audience, or tell the story you want it to tell. No worries, you’ll get it next time. And maybe you can learn something from what you might consider a “failing post” that you can use in a few weeks.
  4. Build your posts to an “event”
    1. In strength training, there’s a philosophy called “periodization” – where you prepare a workout schedule that fluctuates from light workouts to hard workouts and back to medium – which turns into the new “light workout.” As you progress along this program, you will gain more strength, step by step. Usually you plan your workouts back from a scheduled event (the start of a sports season or a powerlifting meet).
    2. Why not do the same thing for social media? Plan on having a meetup/tweetup, or another social event or giveaway several months down the line and start creating a schedule of posts, videos, etc that you want to use to build up to this event.
  5. Start easy at first – don’t overstress yourself.
    1. Until you feel comfortable with your “social media workout,” don’t push yourself to do too much – too quickly. In powerlifting and social media it can lead to burnout and abandonment of your new plan. Remember, follow your schedule, and don’t frontload it with too much work until you are prepared for it.
  6. Mix up your “workout”
    1. Doing the same kind of workout, or creating the same kind of content, over and over starts to get stale.
    2. In strength training, this leads to boredom and your workout gains start to stall.
    3. In social media, this can lead to boring posts, losing readership, and eventually you might give up on creating new content.
    4. Just mix things up, don’t always do the same kinds of posts, or create the same content in your social media plan – some days do a podcast, or a quick video, or take a little time off (see below)
  7. More is not always better
    1. In strength training, as in social media, your first inclination might be to jump in with both feet and overdo everything.
    2. If you need to take a little time off, do it. While social media, and powerlifting, are very cool and a lot of fun, it can start to wear on you. But don’t take too much time off, or you might not return again – it’s the difference between a quick break and quitting for good. In strength training it means you’re going to get out of shape again, in social media it means giving up on your content, when you might be on the cusp of a breakthrough piece.
    3. If you’re at a company, see if you can find a couple of people to stand in for you for a while to continue building your audience.
  8. Don’t neglect your “core training”
    1. In strength training, you have to develop your foundation, your core muscles (the abdominals, lower back, upper back, shoulder girdle and legs) in order to get stronger.
    2. In business and social media communications training, you have to look at your organization’s core competencies and ask “what are our communications goals?”
    3. How are you going to achieve those goals? How will your narratives, the stories you share about your organization, help you reach your goals?
  9. Speaking of goals, set realistic goals.
    1. If you’re starting out in powerlifting, you’re probably not going to hit a 400 pound bench press overnight, or for quite a while. But you can add 20-30 pounds in a few months.
    2. If you’re creating social media content, blogging and videocasting, you’re not going to reach Bob Lutz, Geoff Livingston and Chris Brogan reader numbers overnight – and that’s OK. Keep your measurements realistic, if you impact a handful of people that’s still wonderful, in fact they might even get back to you and let you know about that impact.
  10. Everyone is unique – in strength training and content creation.
    1. Not everyone will feel comfortable sitting in front of a video camera, or audio podcasting. They might be better at connecting with people via social networking tools (which are different from social media).
    2. Go with what works for you – and include this in your social media “periodization plan”
  11. Have the right equipment for your needs.
    1. And know how to use it. In strength training, doing deadlifts wearing sandals might leave you injured – trust me I know.
    2. In social media, you need to have the proper equipment – it doesn’t have to be too expensive, but instead of getting a flip camera (which seems to be the rage among communicators) look at something that allows you to get decent audio (a much overlooked piece of the YouTube puzzle) as well as audio.
    3. Use this equipment in your practice sessions, knowing how to use your equipment ahead of time makes your life much easier, whether it’s in powerlifting or social media.
  12. Get a trainer
    1. When you start working out, it pays to invest a little bit of money in working with a personal trainer. They help start you down the path to a healthier life, or a stronger body. They give you the tools to move on, only needing to check in with them periodically when you need something new to add to your workout.
    2. It’s the same thing in social media. If you are new to this, you can start off by reading a few books and trying to get some “book learnin’” and try to piece this together. This isn’t a bad idea, but you can avoid some of the “bad form” you might learn from reading various tomes if you hire a social media communicator to help train you, to show you what might or might not work for you and then let you loose on the InterWebs to see how this works. Then you can bring them back from time to time to teach you something new or change your routine a little bit.
  13. Finally, and more importantly, at the end of the day you have to do this yourself.
    1. No one can work out for you. You can’t have someone from outside your body lift the weights for you. You have to sit down at the bench and start pressing the weights on your own.
    2. When you are creating content for your social media outlet, you can hire someone to come into your company and write for you, or you can have an employee do it on behalf of the company, but leaving this in the hands of an agency instead of learning how to do it yourself can be dangerous – because it leaves your communications goals vulnerable to an outside organization that only has your best interests at heart as long as the checks don’t bounce.
    3. You need to take the lessons learned from all of the above points, and what your social media trainer has taught you and either do it yourself or bring someone in to your organization who can “lift the weight” for your organization.

Will the smartphone finally replace the Flip camera?

(Update: Engadget is reporting that iPhone 4 will include Facebook Integration, and that includes direct video uploads to your Facebook account from your iPhone.)

This post started off as a Twitter conversation between me and my friend Ashley Gephart, the day that Apple announced their new iPhone 4. I had sent out a tweet asking what the impact of the iPhone would be on products like the Flip camera for PR types and non-profit communicators and she responded that most non-profits wouldn’t pay for something like this, and that a lot of non-profits still don’t get social media. While true, I think we were talking past each other, I was looking at how it would impact the Flip camera, while she was looking at the impact from non-profits, although I think more non-profits will get behind this when they hear about the benefits. (so point all of your non-profit peeps here for info and consulting ;) )

The Flip camera has been the darling of many a PR person creating content for social media (especially if you read Ragan.com), and it’s a nice little basic video camera (which has, IMHO, been replaced by the Kodak Zi8 for better audio and the Sony Bloggie CM5’s superior optical zoom).

But with the introduction of the newest iPhone, Steve Jobs announced that the camera will be able to record 720p high definition video, in addition to taking pictures with the 5MP lens on the camera that you can upload to your company’s Web site, or Flickr account. In addition to this, the iPhone’s app store will finally carry an iPhone friendly version of iMovie – Apple’s grandma-ware version of video editing software.

Read more…

SEO is a “Window,” not a Destination

12 June 2010 2 comments

As ever in social media, there is an ongoing argument – this one about the importance, or non-importance, of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in your social media efforts.  Those on the “pro” side stating that without SEO you will never receive traffic to your Web site, and those on the “con” side countering that SEO does not allow you to be truly engaging in your communications and that it’s just “gaming Google” and selling products like ScribeSEO. I tend to look for a middle ground.  SEO can play a part in your social media planning, but without additional communications streams, be it blog posts or other engaging modes, SEO is worthless.  Gearing every post with special SEO rules and ignoring the fact that your readers are mostly regular people who are checking your site out. And SEO does help when you are working in tags, such as YouTube, or even tagging blog posts.

My take on this is simple, yet as complex as you wish to make it.

SEO gives your reader a glimpse through the window of your house.

Reader engagement (including social networking engagement) invitingly opens the door for them,

Compelling and storytelling content keeps them returning for more.

All need to be in balance, all need to be approached in different ways – depending on your needs. Providing your social media communications a level of harmony that people find irresistible.

BH

Apple, Heal Thyself

29 April 2010 2 comments

Well it has been quite the week for corporations in my little part of the online sphere.  Earlier this week my good friend Will has his car towed by an Albuquerque towing company of meth addicts because he accidentally parked on the wrong side of a McDonalds and “McDonalds Parking Enforcement” officers had his car towed away.  Parking enforcement officers… yeah really.

(BTW, this is the same lot I’ve parked in many times to eat at a different restaurant – come tow me, bitches.)

But more importantly, this has been one of the weeks where Apple has crossed over the line of corporate paranoia and let their cyberpunkish “Corporate Overlord” mentality show through.  And from a PR standpoint Apple’s not looking too great.

Jesus Buddha Christ, Apple. Really? Let’s break this down:

  • A tech blog gets a hold of your super secret next generation iPhone that was lost at a bar,
  • And then returns it to you after reviewing it
  • (Which happened after you denied the prototype’s existence),
  • Then you send your super secret “Apple Force” to the journalist’s house demanding to look around
  • (Which he says “hell no” to.  Makes sense.)
  • And then you have the reporter’s house busted into by the cops and multiple computers, et al “taken for examination.”

Let’s see, did I miss anything?  Nope, didn’t think so. I’m just surprised that Apple didn’t hire a private group of mercenaries to bust this poor guy’s door down.

Wow Apple, you have really opened yourself up to ridicule at the least, and a potential lawsuit on the more serious end.  (and if the EFF and other technology or media non-profits don’t sign on to object to this kind of treatment of a journalist, then y’all just need to pass your 501c3 cards forward because y’all are dismissed.)

But in true Apple form, Steve Jobs has penned a letter about… Apple’s problem with Adobe’s Flash??  It’s like Steve-O really thinks that by ignoring the problem, or dictating the terms of engagement, he can control all of the coverage he gets.  And right on cue, noted tech journalist (and Steve Jobs apologist) Walt Mossberg will pen a column decrying Flash (and asking why the hell Team “Apple Force” didn’t tase the entire Gizmodo staff over and over).

So this is a PR and tech blog.  What advice would I give Apple if they asked?

Well, this being Apple, they never would because in their minds “The Jobs” can’t do anything wrong.  That said, I’d tell them to cut this crap out.

  • Drop any charges,
  • Get the police to turn over all equipment taken from Jason Chen’s house,
  • Replace any broken or damaged equipment on Apple’s dime,
  • Pray that Apple doesn’t get sued,
  • And one more thing, stop acting like jerks.

I guess Steve-O really hasn’t learned anything about tact (or new media) from the Think Secret lawsuit. Jon Stewart is right, chill the hell out Apple.

(And before Apple Evangelists start typing a response about how I’m some Apple hater, this post, much like this video in years past, was completely created on a Mac.)

Snoochie Boochies.

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