Greetings Mr. Monty,
My name is Justice Mitchell and I'm the VP Interactive Creative Director (and social media head) for Starmark International. I was one of many people that has gone through casting for the Focus Rally America. However, today I approach you from one social media professional to another regarding the programming and strategic vision for the campaign.
Let me start be saying that I'm not a fly-by-night weekend web designer. I've worked as the ICD for campaigns such as Audi's "The Art of the Heist" (with McKinney), the design of the Chevy Time Square Glockenspiel and "Who is Benjamin Stove" for the 'Live Green Go Yellow' launch of E85 flex fuel (with Campbell Ewald) in all GM automobiles. That being said, and modest integrity intact, I hope I've still held your attention for the remainder of the message.
I'm concerned that the Focus Rally is starting off on the wrong foot. For the past month or so I decided that the best tactic (as I too have been playing for a team) is to take the position of 'owning the conversation.' Just as I would have done in an ARG, I would be able to nurture the engagement process, build buzz, dispel and create rumors actively, all the while being the constant creative and social conduit. Well I anticipated that the show would have also a modicum of transparency as I've been accustom to my previous playbooks . Nothing could be further from the truth and as with all human interaction that is competitive it's beginning to spoil. People are beginning to fain interest and turn on the idea behind the program.
Everyday I answer a standard set of questions:
• I've heard that teams have been chosen, is that true?
• I hear that teams are being cast from acting pools and not on the social clout.
• I've heard that teams are being told to boost their numbers by casting to look more appealing to Ford, is that true?
• I've heard that some people are being cut by email.
...and of course ~
• Do you work for Ford?
The last one, which of course is my favorite, as I'd very much like to work in your role. That being said I always say that "no, I do not work on behalf of Ford Motor Company - (with the caveat) I wish I did."
I additionally, have played out multiple channels of influence having setup the Focus Rally America Facebook "Page" as well, which acts as a lovely conduit for traffic into the group boards. I've done my best to keep that one very pro-product with minimal game chatter. That's not the area that concerns me, it is however your currently active fan base. You know as well as I do what 300 influencers can do. These folks need some type of conversation that will keep them obsessing over the program and ultimately deliver on good old fashion word-of-mouth and brand loyalty.
I too have been hoping to be selected, well knowing that regardless of outcome you will indeed make the largest social media advertising impact to date. Why wouldn't I want to be part of that history? But given what little that derived from the practices of your casting and programming, it seems that what you're going to have is the forgone conclusion of The Amazing Race on wheels ‚ I hope not. I really do.
I've resigned myself to carrying the torch for your brand and keeping morale alive until casting is complete but I'm wondering if this is all part of the plan? If you're unaware of what's going on? Or you simply know that it will be successful based on Amazing Race fans propensity to stay within this vertical. Either way, I hope you're right. I thought about reaching out before now but I truly believed that there would be more to share, more engagement, more social fabric to the start of this journey for these folks that hasn't seem to come.
I'm more than willing and able to help you right the ship if this message comes as a concern to you. I've reached out to Ms. Apploff (the casting director hired for this program) in hopes that she could give me a 'state of the union' to keep people social motivated but as of yet have heard nothing. Thank you for taking the time out in your busy schedule for this communication. I hope this email find you and yours well. All my best to you, now and in your future endeavors.
I'm also willing to turn the administrative right of both accounts to your team, if and when you see fit.
Since that time I've not even received as much as a peep. Sad really because let's do the math:
Facebook has an average user-base of 130 friends, and that being said, at the time of this post there were 333 members on the Focus Rally America Group on Facebook.
That's 130 x 333 = 43,290 people that more than likely knew someone that was involved in this campaign and was awaiting some kind of news, positive or negative and got nothing. Let me not begin to say that I would speculate that 130 is exceptionally low for most of the people that would have signed onto a social media reality show. But I think it's safe to say that 50,000 people are wondering if their friends are going to be on a show or not and soon they will have an unpleasant friend (as is the case now) with the backlash of its silence.
I will say this it's a shame too that the means and methods by which the casting has been managed thus far could easily derail the momentum trail before it reaches the first station of what could be many. Your audience for this level of event could be huge and, as I mentioned earlier, I know more educated people in the 30-40 range that are interested in this vehicle than those in the 20-30 demographic. These are professional people who expect professional project delivery and do not have the patience to spend hours simply trying to find out what is going on and the current status of the program. People are interested in buying an American car that gets great gas mileage and will augment their personal fleet of vehicles, which often already includes an SUV. It is possible to succeed after stumbling out of the blocks but so far, I am not sure you realize the stumble has occurred. Therein lies the largest problem. The idea is stellar and could be an enormous success, but right now there is far too much confusion and very little transparency. The beauty of this campaign is the sheer volume of work that participants will generate for free. Where else can you say this is the case in the realm of advertising? It also seems that simply because you're a big brand and you’re tying yourself with an equally respected entertainment brand doesn't guarantee success. Don't preach "earned media" and do nothing to acquire it. In the constantly evolving world of social media one can never assume‚ we make it, they will come‚ this is 2010, not 1975.
In the end it will probably be successful, people won't care how it all started but there are other brands out there that will read this and not make the same mistakes.
But wait there's more!
And just when I thought this post was ready for prime time something happened that I didn't expect. Scott Monty the head of Ford's social media efforts popped up on the grid.
When I first read his Facebook post I was pleased to see that they were beginning to communicate. Later I found out that he had made another statement on a page that I had created and in effect calling the page and its content on this "non-Ford approved or administered page" Facebook page. This took a while to sink in. It took a while to realize that Ford didn't see that I've spent months creating brand awareness for them. That all of us had created a sense of place for the fans of the show where there wasn't one.
That we had done what ANYONE in this social industry would have done that wanted to be proactive and participate would do:
• I created conversation.
• I supported the brand.
• I educated the consumer on the product and its offerings.
• I built anticipation for the show.
You cannot invite a 300 farmers into a fertile field, tell them nothing and expect them not to grow something.
When we launched the Audi A3 campaign called "The Art Of The Heist," one of many ways that we measured success was the communities, conversations and content that was developed external to the actual campaign production. THIS IS EARNED MEDIA!!! THIS IS FREE obsession, free conversation, and free social media! Did I mention we did all this before there was twitter and on a fraction of the budget I can guarantee you.
In the end I've opted out of the Ford Focus Rally America. I'm sure not to Ford's dismay. I've given Scott Monty both properties as I had promised - I hope the Ford Motor Company takes the feelings and opinions of 50,000 people seriously. I know I did. All they ever wanted to do is be communicated to. All they ever wanted was a brand to feed their passion. Too bad it has not happened to date. And I can imagine what we've all invested in sweat equity, if you tallied my day rate I can assure you, that group page has earned that 2012 Ford Focus ST - ten fold.
Lastly, I will send a message to all the brands in the future thinking that something like Ford's "Focus Rally: America" is right for them. In concept it's a smart masterful idea. Wrapping entertainment around the social media; it's the future of all advertising as we know it. What's most important in this equation is YOU MUST be 100% authentic, you must communicate with everyone from the top executive to the beginner that doesn't know where to post their photos. You cannot simply preach from your own bible and people believe it so.
One last thing, it's poor form in my humble opinion to refer to your fans and supporters as "Spam" and threaten them with exclusion. Or am I simply being petty?
Public Relations Manager with Channel Intelligence
Define your business role:
The position description probably has a bunch of HR jargon about “re-conceptualizing synergistic distributed relationships,” but it really boils down to external communications with the media, potential and existing customers, and the financial community.
What do you see as your responsibilities to your clients?
I’m focused on serving internal clients as opposed to our company’s paying customers. My clients are the product managers and sales reps who are out there selling our e-commerce solutions to manufacturers and retailers. The most important thing I can do to move Channel Intelligence forward is spread the word about how we help customers sell more stuff online. For the rest of this year and going into 2011, my primary focus is on telling the success stories of our existing customers.
You recently started a blog did you not? What have you learned blogging so far?
Who told you that? I thought everything I wrote was private!
What continually surprises me is there are a handful of people in the world who actually have an interest in what I write. I regularly hear from people who tell me they like my writing style … they like the way I tell a story. I squirm a little bit at saying that out loud, but it’s nice to hear those comments. A former co-worker commented on a recent post and said it was like sitting down to talk with an old friend. Dude -- that about made me cry. Of course I didn’t ACTUALLY cry, because I’m way too manly for that.
I guess what I’ve learned is that even when I think no one else will give a damn about what I’m writing – I’m probably wrong.
Talk to me about marketing and building a brand around a technology company?
First of all, I think you can remove the word “technology” from that question. I feel like sometimes we all get too carried away with the “gee-whiz” aspect of working for a technology company. The fact is that the basics haven’t changed in the past 20 years. You still need a good product that solves a problem for your customers. Then you build from there. Sure, we work with data instead of widgets on an assembly line. But just like a traditional manufacturing company, we need to deliver our product on time, on budget and with minimal defects. Then we need to communicate that story to the outside world.
It’s a little different for a B-to-B company, because we won’t get a lot of attention from mass media outlets. Our message is targeted at a niche audience, so we’re trying to reach and influence the industry publications and bloggers within that space.
If you had a chunk of cash to sink into a new technology what would it be?
A machine that would hook up to your home television and record TV shows when you aren’t there to watch them. I know, I know, you think I’m on crack because we’ve all had VCRs for years. No, sir. I’m talking about a TAPELESS machine that not only records shows, but allows you to pause and rewind the shows you’re watching in real-time. Trust me – this will revolutionize the way people consume television.
You’ve been involved in a VC .com startup. What has that experience taught you?
I’m fortunate because I’ve had a good VC experience at Channel Intelligence. Our CEO, Rob Wight, has always said that when it comes to investors, you should pick your parents wisely. Your investors need to share your vision, trust you, and give you the space you need to execute your plan. I’ve seen him do that, and it’s been a good lesson. I also learned that frugality is a good thing when you’re spending other people’s money. During the DotCom boom and bust, when start-ups were burning cash on $600 chairs, fancy offices and forgettable TV spots, we were operating lean and working on a business plan.
What are you most proud of in your career?
That I’ve had the opportunity to work with the man, the myth, and the legend … Mr. Justice Mitchell …at not one but TWO companies. And that once, in a land far away, I managed to expense a very expensive phone call you and I made from 37,000 feet to a colleague back in Orlando. A seatback phone, a platinum Visa card and a flying bar – what a dangerous combination.
Beyond that, I’m proud of the annual benefit concerts I organized in the late ‘90s to raise money for The Orlando Sentinel Holiday Fund. Back then it was called Sentinel Santa. I was covering the Orlando music scene at the time for Digital City Orlando, and every year my musician friends would come out and play a show to raise money for the kids. It was always a pretty big effort and required a lot of organization, but it was incredibly satisfying.
I still have a recording of Rob Thomas and Steve Burry singing a duet together at one of those things, and I’m willing to give Rob the master if he’ll come back and do another benefit.
If you weren’t here, you'd be doing?
If I had the chops, I would be a musician. But I suck.
For a long time I had the idea of doing a Web-based series of audio and video features on interesting everyday people.
I would love that! When do we start?
Then one day I heard “This American Life” on NPR and realized Ira Glass was already doing it. I’d still like to do something in that vein, particularly with old people, who have so many amazing stories and experiences to share.
And no joke – I would love to combine that kind of work with running a little farm or orchard. I dig the rural life. But it would be helpful if the rural area has a place with a nice microbrew selection, a great pizza joint, and somewhere I can get a good Cuban sandwich.
And by "little farm" and pizza you mean growing weed in your garage. I gotcha ;)
When do we get flying cars and food pellets?
I’m tired of waiting so I’ve decided to go retro: A burro and salt pork.
Create a new superpower for yourself:
I am SlickMan. I have a huge ‘50s-style pompadour that I dip in the ocean to soak up oil spills.
Bio and Social Media Links you wish people to connect to at:
Website Address: www.channelintelligence.com
Blog Address: www.talkstoomuch.com
Linkedin Account: http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmterry
Email Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Chief Media Maven
Define your business role:
As a new media author, digital strategist, and communication expert, I use my background in both journalism (TV, print, radio and online) and help businesses and individuals harness the power of communication. I help clients get their point across in a way that their customers understand and would welcome it.
What do you see as your responsibilities to your clients?
I have a number of them:
- To help them connect to their customer using authentic communication not marketing speak.
- To help them realize it’s not just what they say but how they act and what they do to follow up on their promise that matters.
- And to help them realize that what they want to say isn’t always what their customer wants or needs to hear.
Clients hire me when what they’ve been doing isn’t working or if they want a fresh approach. It’s my responsibility to be honest in a constructive way.
I've known you for years and you've done it all! What pray-tell are you doing right now?
I’m taking my journalism prowess and my digital media savvy and using it for good not evil. I’m launching a new media distribution company for one of the fastest growing areas in journalism: weekly community newspapers. It’s called Lifestyle & Entertainment Newswire. Look for exciting things to come soon!
So many people talk about getting work. Talk to me about what to look for in a client.
As a business owner, you have to realize it’s not about chasing clients. There are tons of clients out there but not every one of them will work for you. You have to have synergy. They have to get you and your unique take on what you do. And you have to be able to execute what they need.
For me, creatively it’s important for me to be on the same page and my client and I have to share the same vision. Most of all, clients need to be open. A client who initially says yes and then is passive resistant is draining you from what you could be doing for someone else with a better fit.
I also enjoy it when my clients pay on time. I’ve been burned enough. I now have a late fee clause. If they balk I know at the onset there may be issues and I reconsider their prospects.
What makes you different from the 100k SME's claiming that they "know" the social spectrum?
Quite frankly no one is really an expert because the medium keeps changing every single minute. I feel it’s even more important to understand the what and why’s of communication than the how. As humans, we started out using a tablet. Now we use Twitter. The difference is the medium but as humans we need to communicate and connect.
What makes me different? Great question…. I’m stalling…. OK…this is tough because one doesn’t normally think of themselves in a “Bob Dole likes this!” sort of way.
I am a passionate communicator. I want to know the unknowable like what’s someone really thinking. The only way we have to do that is language. It’s imperfect but it’s all we’ve got! When you know what someone is thinking or how they came to that conclusion, you can begin a dialogue.
Good business isn’t about cramming a product down someone’s throat. It’s about meeting a real need or desire and fulfilling it. Good communication starts that process.
I feel like we're at the beginning of the social arena. What's in store for us in the next five years?
Truly, this is the best time to be alive! We have all the modern conveniences imaginable.
We’re on the leading edge of this social arena. The addition and accessibility of more hand held devices is making updating and connecting around the globe possible. BTW, when are we getting the Dick Tracey wrist phones so we don’t even have to push a button?
I think the next five years will see complete integration of our work, personal, school and family and friends to a greater degree. I love sites like Meetup.com that uses technology to facilitate real life face-to-face connections. I think we’ll see more of that.
Sadly, the net will get even more monetized with pay walls going up on all my favorite free content spaces like the NYTimes.com.
But the real dark side is that older people, who haven’t been included in the digital wave and people who don’t have access, will sadly be left behind. It’s already happening. My parents are in their 70s and are skittish to get online yet all their daily life needs are coordinated remotely (by me of course!) I don’t know how they’ll live when I move to another planet.
You do coaching. Tell me about that.
Coaching is really interesting because unlike consulting where you diagnose the problem and fix it, here you are teaching your client how to fish rather than fishing for them. The goal of coaching is to have me be obsolete at the end of the process. It empowers clients with the knowledge of how to approach their business challenges for the mid and long term. I find it very fulfilling because I celebrate independence not co-dependency, which a lot of consulting relationships can sadly fall into.
Talk to me about what you're seeing people 'thinking what they need' vs. 'their actual needs' for success.
Almost every client I see thinks they need to be on Twitter and Facebook but when you ask them about the basics like let’s look at your website or what type of e-mail communication do you have with your audience, they give you the deer in the headlights look.
There’s also a big disconnect about the need to continually be involved in social media. They think it’s something they can outsource or do once and be done.
Very sad. :(
What advice would you be willing to grant me for the Neo-Entrepreneur?
As brilliant Jerry Seinfeld told Oprah about life, “It’s yours to design.”
If you’ve got the moxie to be an entrepreneur, first of all congratulate yourself for being bold. Entrepreneurship is about responsibility, risk and reward.
You’re taking on the responsibility to put yourself out there to do good work. Make sure you choose work you LOVE not just like or tolerate because that what gets you through those 12-hour days.
Assess your risk. Can you do this part-time before you give up your day job? What do you really have to lose? You can always get another job. If you have passion, a plan and can get paid for it, do it!
Let yourself enjoy the rewards. They will come. Don’t be the person who slaves away as the company’s BEST employee. You deserve the luscious rewards of ownership.
Other thoughts: pick a target audience. Make sure you niche yourself. Do generous, good things for other businesses – refer people and it all comes back to you ultimately; charge fairly and have fun! Make sure your days are filled with joyous people! Don’t work with sourpusses…that means clients too!
Who's doing social right? Who's doing it wrong?
In my hometown of NYC, I love how the food cart revolution has found a phenomenal use of Twitter. When I hear my BlackBerry ring I know it could my favorite Wafels & Dingels place telling me they’re right around the corner. It makes sense. People get hungry. And it feels like a new media version of the ice cream song that used to play at my childhood park in Sheepshead Bay.
The people doing it wrong are anyone who sends me a link to try out a product when I become their Twitter follower or Facebook friend. No way Jose. Don’t sell me. Let me come to love you! Then I may check out what you have to offer.
Talk to me about 'brand protection' in the social landscape. Pitfalls and protection?
American Airlines is my favorite example of this. They have a fairly decent product and a strong brand traditionally. But if you check out what anyone has to say about them on Twitter or Facebook at any random time you’re bound to find a slew of complaints.
AA started their own Twitter channel and posted three tweets in 14 months. Not good! They’re not engaging anyone!
They need to be there online dialoguing with their customers, fixing what they can. If you read the tweets it’s like they have zero customer service awareness. And I’ve been a loyal customer and know that in “real” life, that’s not true.
The preponderance of bad things on the web about them can only erode their brand in the long-term. I’m sad for them. And my miles…need to cash those puppies in soon before it happens.
To the 'displaced professional' (or as I say "executing a transitional phase") what advice can you give?
You have to have a good grip on what social media tools are used in your industry to promote business, not just your own personal stuff, because if the job choice is between you and some other person who is social media savvy, it’s a no brainer who that job is going to. (Ahem, the other person.)
Even if you have to build a fan page of Snapple or some product you adore, just the fact that you’ve grown a FB fan page, engaged people online, know what works and what doesn’t work, you are a huge step ahead.
Now you may think…I’m an accountant, why do I need to do this? Many companies are asking staff from a number of departments to blog, tweet, etc. If you can add your spin and say what accounting could say that would be intriguing to customers, you’ve made yourself a utility player! And that’s crucial in this marketplace where competition for jobs is high.
Lastly, make sure your own personal social media platforms are devoid of non-professional photos and updates. Either delete them or put them behind privacy guards because it’s highly likely your potential employer will be checking you out online. What are you most proud of in your career?
I like how I’ve been able to go from 18-year-old college graduate with a finance degree to working as a manager for an international airline to advocate for kids with disabilities to journalist in TV, print, and radio to start a newspaper to writing a book and now I have evolved into a coach and a speaker.
I think I’m a product of my times –both economic and technological. I’m most proud of my ability to challenge myself, take my skill set into the next appropriate industry and keep innovating.
If you weren’t here, you'd be doing what?
The only other jobs I would love to tackle in another lifetime: Broadway singer, dancer and actor. I’m intrigued by the notion of stepping into another persona other than yourself, doing it in front of a live audience and finding something new in the same role night after night.
Create a new superpower for yourself.
My favorite superhero is AquaMan who can talk to animals with his supersonic thought waves. I’d like to have the same power for humans. LOL!
Bio and Social Media Links you wish people to connect to at:
Your personal Website/Blog Addresses:
woo [at] alisonwoo.com
Additional comments, mentions, shout-outs or prognostications?
I’d like to thank Justice for allowing me to share some thoughts in his most excellent space. I met Justice when I was a senior marketing VP at a startup in Celebration, FL some moons ago and this proves that technology can never supplant real life friendship.
Fabulous questions! Very insightful!
You're so sweet, and our friendship and your professional guidance will ALWAYS be held in the highest regard. Thank you again for taking the time with me.