Live Ustream Chat for Work

Here’s the Ustream live chat I did at work with Tim, lead developer for the anticipated “Legions” game.

On Tuesday, we’re doing another live Ustream chat on the InstantAction platform in general.


(I’m going to have to knuckle-under and get my own server space on the 20th. Although I dig the new interface for, you still can’t add most external media. Seems short-sighted. Come on, guys. External media is par for the course and has been for some time. It helps extend and enrich the basic blog post!)

No Embargoes

My point of view on embargoes is actually a stereoscope of two points.

First, I’ve done quite a bit of journalism, having written for Newsweek, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, CNET, Oregon Business and others. I have also worked as a corporate communications professional for, Autoweb, Elance, Visa, PBwiki and more. Triangulating on embargoes from both these positions I have, I think, a very clear and distinct perspective. This perspective also happens to harmonizes very well with my gut feeling. Namely, embargoes suck. They’re bad for journalism, they’re bad for business, and they’re bad for the people that both disciplines ostensibly serve.

Here are the reasons why I believe we should dispense with them.

1. No decent journalist should have any trouble producing well-written, well-researched and complete initial news coverage (as opposed to analysis or enterprise work) on a deadline. Any journalist who needs days to write up initial coverage of say, a purchase or a new tech feature, is not going to do it right if they are given a month. Good coverage depends on experienced, hard-working, smart journalists and honest, convincing and passionate business people.

2. Embargoes discourage the cultivation of sources by journalists and of relationships with journalists by companies. Or, if relationships are created, they are of the logrolling variety, and of no use to readers and customers. Honest relationships between journalists and business people, providing again, that neither is in the other’s pocket, are the best way to create good public dialogue about a company. I don’t want to read a journalist who doesn’t know how to find and secure a source, while remaining independent of it. I’m probably only marginally interested in a company, however “important” they might be, who won’t deign to talk to a human being or two, or will only do so if that person agrees to cave in exchange for access. If they do not care enough about their products and the people who buy them to talk to journalists, you can rest assured they’re not going to care about someone as insignificant as you, the customer.

3. Embargoes indicate a company is trying to control not just its information, but how its information is received and reported upon and, therefor, how its customers and possible customers act. What’s wrong with this? It has nothing to do with business, with product, with service. It has everything to do with the belief that the goal of business is not to sell things to people, but to trick them into parting with their money. If that is what a business believes, fine. But as their customers and possible customers, we should vote with our wallets, and we should do so early and often. It is especially contemptible when the company is trying to capitalize on social media trends, even moreso if that company is itself part of that sphere of communications and information companies. Gaming social media for your company sends out a clear message of contempt for your customers. An embargo is a monument to that contempt.

To put it rather more colorfully, I’ll quote from a note I sent to Allen Stern in response to his post on the subject, occasioned in part by asking him how he felt about it. Although I enjoy Allen’s writing and respect the passion he brings to his work, I just didn’t agree with him on this.

Embargoes discourage competition among journalists and transparency among companies. Publications should take the time – and this includes blogs – to build relationships and build chops. The only “first” should be when you do it better than the other publication or writer. Companies should not take it for granted that they can punk every writer that comes along and continue to control the “message” while spinning the “We’re engaged in ‘conversations’ with our ‘community'” dreidel. And writers should not tie their blouse around their breastseses and turn their prison dungarees into hot-pants and get along to go along. That said, anyone who breaks an embargo without finding the capers necessary to say you won’t honor them beforehand, deserves a pingpong paddle across the yapper.

Embargoes are, in other words, trickery. And trickery is necessary only for those companies whose products cannot compete in the market. But it’s a habit, a bad habit, one many businesses, and many business journalists, have found hard to break.

Your Company Should Not Use Social Media

If you agree with one of the following statements, your company does not need to, or should not, use social media.

  • You hold a monopoly on your goods or services and that monopoly is unlikely to be challenged.
  • You are successfully employing traditional marketing and public relations strategies and can afford to continue doing so.
  • Your customers are devoted to your company and promote and defend it using their own social media tools.
  • Your company culture is antithetical to transparency.
  • Your executives are obsessed with control of information and unable to delegate that control.
  • Your business is information-driven and your employees are likely to divulge that information.
  • Your customers are unlikely to be interested in a conversation with you.

The problem with these statements is that there is no single one of them that couldn’t go south overnight. A monopoly one day is a fiercely competitive sector the next. An adoring customer base one day is a furious one the next. Social media’s strong suit is its ability to provide you tools and methods to influence the conversations that are going on around you. If you do not have the inclination or time or need to do any active social media marketing, you may still want to consider participating in those conversations, by agreeing to interviews with bloggers, posting occasionally on forums and leaving comments on others’ blogs.

Needless to say, it’s your call.

Marketing Voodoo

The few marketing people I read with any regularity (and here I use marketing in the widest possible sense) include Shel, B.L. and Jeremiah. I read them because they are usually free of cant, are genuinely interested in what they talk about (which, in the end, boils down to people) and are afflicted by terminal Common Sense.

Marketing, like many social sciences, is more social than science. In an age obsessed with cabalistic knowledge and credentials, many marketers feel compelled to use jargon and paint their profession as a mysterious one, open only to Mithraistic initiates, which you (the client) will never be.

The other day, while meeting with the head of a software firm and his deputies I swear to G-d I used the phrase “thought leadership.” Later that day, having withdrawn the gun from my mouth and unwound the piano wire from my neck, after a long, hot shower (which may never completely remove the dirt), I realized with some humility that it’s too easy to do. So, me not withstanding, here are some things to watch out for when you’re dealing with marketers.

  • Excessive use of jargon. Some activity-specific language is unavoidable. But especially with marketing communications professionals, if they can’t use normal language, they will find connecting with a wide swath of customers pretty difficult to do.
  • Secret Knowledge. Marketing is a combination of practice, dedication and Common Sense. A marketing person should be able to explain everything to you. I’m not going to put myself out of a job if you can understand me.
  • Amazing claims. Your business is no different than any other aspect of life when it comes to one thing: If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true. A good marketer should get you results. He or she should have an idea of what kind of results to expect. But that’s as far as it goes. Marketing is a matter of dialogue, between the marketer and the company, between the changes and the product, between the product and the market, between the company and its clients.

There is no magic involved and marketers are not magicians. Hopefully, they know more than you do about their area of expertise because they’ve spent time in dialogue with the constituent elements (language, design, etc.) of their jobs.

Marketer’s music is plainsong.

Trumba Blog

Some time back, Marshall and I went up to Seattle to visit Trumba, the online calendar company. We helped them set up their corporate blog and trained them in its use and upkeep. Now they’re at it like gangbusters. They’ve taken to blogging like fish to water. Ducks to water? Something watery to water. It’s a good feeling to see it take off. And it goes without saying that it’s really gratifying in any job to deal with smart, hard-working people with a sense of experimentation.

One of the things I really like about this blog is the feeling of openness it has. It definitely feels like a conversation instead of a tri-fold brochure. They have also encouraged what looks like the whole company to contribute to the blog, so you get a lot of personalities in it, with different emphases. Really good job, guys.

Visit the Trumba blog, “Conversations With Trumba.”

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