Most of us watched the 2013 Super Bowl in which the Baltimore Ravens completely blew out the San Francisco 49ers … until the lights went out at the Superdome in New Orleans. When play resumed, the 49ers scored 17 straight points to make it a competitive game before falling short in the end. The Ravens weren’t the only winners, though.
“The Half-Decent Tweet That Dazzled A Nation”
What stirred up loads of excitement during the blackout was a pic tweeted from Oreo. As is the case with most live, televised events these days, social media provided additional layer of fun and interest. And a few brands, including Nabisco’s Oreo, were on top of the situation.
Basically, a team of ad agency folks were hunkered and bunkered for the event and got a quick green light from their corporate clients. So I can move on, here are a few links for background if you want them:
Like … super wow, right!? The “live” nature of the ad was certainly timely and somewhat relevant. That a corporate decision-making authority could give it a go so quickly is probably the most interesting thing about it.
Why It’s Not New
Part of my lack of amazement (16,000 retweets!?) is that this type of real-time advertising had been done inside local television stations for more than a decade.
I’ll use WOOD-TV8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan to illustrate because it was the strongest news and weather brand I helped build. During remarkable events, the news and weather teams would obviously work quickly and aggressively to produce coverage. Simultaneously, the marketing team would work quickly and aggressively to produce advertising to capture and communicate the essence of the coverage. We called these “proof of brand” or “proof of performance” spots.
Produced annually or semi-annually, image spots are umbrellas under which the rest of the marketing messages fall. Their purpose is to establish the brand. Produced to air a couple days (special reports) or a couple hours (today’s news) before a newscast, topical spots should convey the image while driving viewership of a particular newscast. Finally, these proof of brand spots served to prove that the news and weather team delivers on the promises made in the image spots. They’d air for a couple days during and after the event.
Here are two proof examples:
The manhunt began in the early to mid afternoon. The promo was produced, edited, and prepped for air before 5pm, as events were still unfolding. Immediately after the first block of evening news, most of which was dedicated to the event, the promo aired at the top of the first commercial break proving that the news team was on top of the story from the minute it broke.
This promo was put together from coverage the night before and morning of a breakout of severe thunderstorms and tornados and aired during continued coverage of the day’s events.
To get this done, we’d rush the spots to master control and move commercials around to get our ads on the air. Brands can’t do this nearly so easily. We had direct access to the broadcast; they work through agencies, sales people, and others to get commercials on or off the air.
Social media changes all this. All individuals, businesses, and organizations are now their own media companies with easy access to content production and distribution. Your words, images, and videos can be created and shared more quickly, easily, and inexpensively than ever.
Oreo wasn’t the only brand on top of the Super Bowl situation:
Though you may still use television stations to get your message out, you don’t need them as you once did.
Look again at that Marketing Land headline above. “Newsjacking” is a term I associate with David Meerman Scott (see here). The process involves capitalizing on the attention a significant event has earned by turning some of it toward yourself by adding ideas, information, and value in the moment.
I feel the term is misused in that headline, as Scott’s take on it is far more substantive than these relatively shallow and tangentially relevant ad. Scott positions it more as the new PR than any form of advertising (like Oreo’s tweet).
For newsjacking: think about the opportunity remarkable events represent. How can you add real value where a large amount of attention is being paid? Attention is fleeting, so you must be quick. And, again, you must be relevant.
For real-time advertising: the window is tight for “Oreo” tweets and the like. More and more brands will jump on the opportunity, reducing its novelty and watering down its benefits. Because of this, you’ll need increased relevance to make it work; focus on events more specifically related to your brand and to your product or service.
Live tweeting does not amaze me, but it’s fun and adds a layer of interest to live events.
Oreo cookies are not food.
I have no relationship with the brand and would never follow, much less retweet or favorite, Oreo on Twitter.
The brand did a nice job capitalizing on the moment.
Consultants and pundits are preaching this case across the country; look for more real-time advertising to come.
By way of Netflix streaming, we just completed Season 1 (2007) of the original Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares from Channel 4. Throughout, the chef traveled to restaurants throughout the UK that were failing for various reasons, attempted to identify and correct the failures in one week, then returned a month later to see how the proprietor fared.
The concept continued on BBC America and later on the FOX network. The formula is transparent and the editing dramatized. Still, it’s both entertaining and informative.
Beyond obvious takeaways like “the restaurant business is challenging,” “the UK is quite lush and beautiful,” and “they allow incredibly coarse language to be broadcast over there,” several marketing tips, ideas, and reminders are present. I decided to run down 7 of them.
Photo Credit: Channel 4 via The Guardian
1. Maintain Some Distance
This is the forest-for-trees dynamic. So many of these restauranteurs little distance from the day-to-day operations and therefore no broader perspective. They’ve often got their noses down to the grindstone 6 or 7 days a week. Worse, some are completely oblivious and simply wander through the dream of running a restaurant. In both extremes, they fail to maintain a realistic perspective of their business situation.
2. Know Your Competition
When assessing the situation and before driving changes, Ramsay typically cruises the neighborhood, reviews competing menus, and occasionally dines at a nearby competitor. Whether small UK town or bustling London suburb, the restauranteur needs to understand his or her relative position in the local scene and in the minds of local citizens.
3. Review Your Supply Chain
In nearly every episode, Ramsay calls for a menu built of fresh, local produce. In nearly every episode, the head chef relies on trucked-in ingredients. Some even stock supplies from grocery stores! Not only does this produce a product of lower performance quality, it’s also more expensive. Right under their noses, Ramsay finds fresh, local beef, fish, vegetables, and more. In the episodes, buying immediately local often improves the restaurant’s relationships and supply chain while reducing cost.
4. Reduce Variety for the Customer
When calling for fresh, local produce, Ramsay also uses the word “simple.” Lose the 12-page menu. Focus, specialize, and deliver value. Provide choice for the customer, but limit it reasonably to eliminate choice paralysis. You can go deep on this topic. Here’s a starter.
5. Reduce Variety for the Operation
How many things can you do remarkably well? Not as many as you think. Reduce variety in the menu and reduce complexity in the operation. A handful of simple dishes comprised of fresh, local produce is ALWAYS Ramsay’s recommendation. You’ll be much more likely to deliver on the value you promise the customer (live the brand). You can go deep here, too. Here’s a starter.
Note: the variety reduction lessons remind me of this excellent quote from legendary bassist and composer Charles Mingus: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
6. Know Your Competition
When assessing the situation and before driving changes, Ramsay typically cruises the neighborhood, reviews competing menus, and occasionally dines at a nearby competitor. Whether small UK town or bustling London suburb, the restauranteur needs to understand where he or she fits in the local scene and in the minds of local citizens.
7. Don’t Wait To Seek Counsel
Obviously, the restaurants featured are failing. Most are tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt and losing several thousand pounds per week. Connecting back to tip 1, maintaining a realistic and current perspective of your entire business is critical. Rather than wait until bankruptcy is imminent to call in the cavalry, seek and maintain counsel from trusted (and brutally honest) friends and advisors.
Prideful. Purist. Fashionable. Bandwagonesque. No matter the nature of the underlying motivation, all kinds of people are tweeting their photos with the hashtag #nofilter.
A photo is shot with a smartphone. It’s shared to Twitter with Instagram. In that process, a filter or effect may be applied. It’s given a description. The description may include one or more hashtags.
Two primary purposes of a Twitter hashtag are to provide context and to increase findability. Hashtags provide definition, tend to be related to subject matter or geography, are often humorous, increase community and conversation, and can be clicked to produce an entire stream of tweets with the same tag. Though they have no function beyond context on Facebook, hashtags are also seen there, especially on photos shared through Instagram.
The purpose of #nofilter in particular is to say “I didn’t use an Instagram filter or effect; this photo is less processed and more pure than many other Instagram pics.”
At one level, the folly of this tag is immediately apparent and reflects several of the cliches for which both Twitter and Instagram are known and mocked. As in: you shot and shared a nearly in focus smartphone pic of your lunch that somehow makes a delicious meal look unappetizing … congratulations on refusing to filter it! Way to hold the high ground.
Here’s a sampling of photos shared to Twitter through Instagram with the #nofilter hashtag this morning:
Random selection of Instagram photos with #nofilter hashtag found on Twitter this morning.
Most of them are good, right? Some are very good or even great, right? You can’t even tell a few were shot with a smartphone, right!?
The folly of the #nofilter hashtag is in the answers to these questions. The answers are completely subjective; they depend on the viewer. The tools employed to create the image have no relationship to a photo’s merit. It’s truly great if you think or feel it’s truly great – if it impacts you in a meaningful way. Any of the photos above might do that; I think a couple of them are great.
They’re much different and much better than Instagram photos with filters, right?
Nope. In the 20 minutes I spent looking at images tagged #nofilter, I experienced no discernable difference from the hundreds of other Instagram photos I’ve seen. They demonstrate the same range of subjects, interest levels, and general qualities. From my view, they’re no more or less successful than filtered images.
My View of Photography
Whether for art, aesthetic, and emotion or for journalism, documentation, and storytelling, photography is a powerful medium. I very much enjoy in all its uses. I like looking at photos online, in books, and in museums. I like shooting, editing, and sharing photos. I’m a fan.
As a consequence, I pay attention to photography groups, thought leaders, and brands across social networks. One running debate I’ve observed is on the role of equipment. Another is on the title of “photographer” (who uses it versus who deserves it).
An elitist* subset of photo enthusiasts denigrates smartphone photography. Another scoffs at amateurs and hobbyists who drop serious cash on high end cameras, lenses, or software and watermark their images. These are likely the same types of people who demonized digital a decade ago and instead worshiped film.
What does a harmless hashtag on a smartphone photo have to do with a $3,000 camera body or a $1,200 lens? Any focus on the tools is foolish. Tools means to ends by definition.
In my opinion, two things make a photo successful – achieve a successful end. The first is the experience of the photographer in producing the image. The second is the experience of the viewer in consuming the image. Provided that emotion or meaning is found in either or both of these experiences … success!
A photo is no better and no worse for having had an Instagram filter applied. A photo is no better and no worse for having been shot on a smartphone … or with a $10,000 rig. “Purity” in this process is irrelevant and illusory.
So settle down, prideful smartphone photographer. Whether or not that shot of your dessert has a filter on it just doesn’t matter. Images speak for themselves.
*”elitist” used here in a literal rather than pejorarive sense No: this is not about you. Yes: you can use any hashtag you want at any time. Probably: you have an opinion, too – share it below!
We subscribe to the Netflix streaming service. We use the Wii console to access an interface to stream movies and television shows.
But … we’ve not watched anything on Netflix in a while. We’ve been watching less television generally and less Netflix specifically. The holidays. Library books. A return to our box set of the entire Six Feet Under series. They all conspired toward this result.
So what did Netflix do about it? They sent this …
There’s nothing remarkable going on here, but it’s simple, smart email marketing. Related facts and assumptions:
They have our email address.
They know which shows we’ve watched (we watched Portlandia season 1 (maybe twice)).
They know how much we watch.
They know how long it’s been since we last logged in.
They know what kind of flight risk we are based on that period.
They want us to re-engage in the streaming service.
So, it’s a retention play based on our viewing habits. The call to action is to log in and start watching.
In a related story, we started watching season 2 of Portlandia this week …
My Love Of and Cynicism Toward Facebook – A Video On Promoted Posts
I’ll keep the text short here and allow my video above and the Facebook video and Mark Zuckerberg’s statement about it below to do most of the talking.
Bottom line right up top: Facebook should serve to my newsfeed by default every single post from every one of my friends and from every business or brand page to which I’ve given a like. This would honor their stated position that they’re all about connecting people (specifically: “We honor the everyday things that bring us together and celebrate people everywhere opening up and sharing.”)
Instead, they’re withholding posts from us (through EdgeRank). They dictate which posts we see and which we don’t. They provide controls to manage our feeds, so we should get everything by default and pare it back on our own.
Now, they’re selling the opportunity to reach us not just to those business and brand pages, but also to us! To me it says “hey, we’re perfectly able to show your posts to all your friends, but we refuse to … unless you pay us for the privilege.” To be fair, these paid posts will also extend beyond your immediate friends, providing some form of value.
Today’s Facebook Home Page
The New Facebook Branding Video
Mark Zuckerberg’s Statement about the Video
The video and Zuckerberg’s statement, in my view, run counter to the idea of withholding posts from fans and friends who’ve connected with one another. Further insult comes from selling that access back to individuals and brands.
If Facebook is really about opening up, connecting, and sharing, the environment would be more open and access to every post from friends and brands would be available in my newsfeed by default.
I hope they don’t make me join the growing chorus of people talking about Google+.
As I’ve said – I love Facebook. But I’m also a cynic.
I greatly appreciate the work of Mitch Joel of Twist Image, a social media and marketing agency in Montreal, Quebec. The Six Pixels of Separation book, blog, and podcast provide a steady stream of smart, interesting, and useful ideas.
Below is a simple graphic I made to demonstrate one of his best go-to lines; you’ll hear it regularly if you listen often.
What It Means To Me
The visual treatment of this quote was inspired by a line I heard from Gary Vaynerchuk during a recent webinar he delivered based on The Thank You Economy – “the answer is always gray.” When everything is “with,” the gradient is continuous with black and white at the extremes. When everything is “instead of,” it’s simply black or white.
In the context of marketing, I accept Everything is “with,” not “instead of” as a solid, foundational precept. It eliminates the tendency to simplify or minimize your choices in strategic or tactical decision making. It’s accepting of subtlety and synthesis. It’s almost demanding of innovation.
In the podcast, the line’s often heard in discussions of tactical decisions like whether or not to use traditional forms of advertising. Fashion says absolutely not – especially in the context of a social media and marketing podcast. In the “What We Do” section of the Twist Image site, they describe their efforts as finding “real insights” and communicating them “not just through the newest channels, but through the smartest ones.”
The Related Idea
This idea is expressed by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last as “The Tyranny of the OR.” The implication is that we often settle for “this” or “that” options in decision making. These are often false choices – and we suffer for accepting the dynamic.
“And” is not nearly so limiting and, again, is related to synthesis and innovation. Certainly we can’t do it all or continually compromise, but we must remain open to the “and,” lest we fall prey to the tyranny of the “or.”
The Idea In Action
Working for a video email marketing software company, I see many ideas around email being oversimplified. People tend to want easy rules to follow: the best day to send, the best time of day to send, how often to send. The answers are always gray – they depend completely on your goals, your strategies, your buying cycle, your email lists, your content, and so many other factors. As a result, I’m looking forward to reading this book by Jason Falls and DJ Waldow.
Dan’s position (simplified): sending email daily results in a much lower unsubscribe rate and, therefore, is a good idea. Sam’s position (simplified): sending email daily will burn out your list; unsubscribe rate is not a sole – and perhaps not even a key – metric of success. To generalize, Dan’s position was positioned as data-based (the source was not explicitly stated) and Sam’s more in intuition and common sense.
Because the answer is always gray, Dan had to put a huge asterisk on his position – it’s best to send email every day or as often as you can send “relevant content” to the people on your email lists.
In fact, the opponents behave based on “and,” while the structure of the debate demanded an “or.”
The Bottom Line
While linkbait headlines love to declare marketing channels like television or email “dead,” no idea should be torched. Traditional versus digital and social versus email, for example, are false choices. Even newspaper ads (as long as they’re around) may be an incredibly useful way for a business to reach good prospects. Whether or not they’re priced reasonably is a separate conversation.
For optimal decision making, whether strategic or tactical, is not based in hard rules, oversimplifications, and false dichotomies. Everything is “with,” not “instead of.”
Two weeks ago today (or two weeks ago last night – still not clear), the Waldo Canyon Fire started. It’s now more than 95% contained and has been 100% contained on all Colorado Springs boundaries for several days now. It feels like a good time to organize some ideas about the local television coverage of the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history.
Nothing here is advanced as definitive. Instead, it’s a handful of my personal thoughts, ideas, observations, and opinions. I feel it’s honest, constructive, and fair.
The 9 thoughts below are by no means comprehensive. Such phenomena as the incredible fire fighting effort, the Community Rises event (driven by the Colorado Springs Independent and aired and streamed live by every local television and radio station, producing nearly $300,000 in donations in just 3 hours), the WildFireTees.com explosion (really cool story involving local marketing and design folks), and the local print media are not addressed here. Also, this is more about the intersection of local television and social media than social media alone (for which the Waldo Canyon Fire is a fantastic case study).
Please add anything you’d like to the comments section below or by tweeting me (@ethanbeute).
Photo of live, local television news coverage of the Waldo Canyon Fire as it blew from the Pike National Forest into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs. Shot by my son.
1. I Woke Up To Infomercials
Like the entire experience, the first afternoon of the fire (Saturday, June 23) was surreal. Photos and videos from that time show a beautiful, sunny, and hot day with a huge smoke plume growing west of Colorado Springs. I’d hiked a handful of mountains this year, including Cameron Cone in the Pike National Forest; it was extremely and dangerously dry everywhere. By late afternoon, it was clear that this could be “the big one.”
Throughout the evening, rather than watching it on television, thousands of people headed out to watch the fire from various overlooks around the city. At 10pm, just before going to bed, my wife and I sampled the local television newscasts to get an update on the fire. It was growing fast.
When I woke up the next morning at 6am, I turned on KOAA-TV (5), the local NBC affiliate and the station for which I worked for 5 years. What was on? Infomercials. Really.
I did not get a reply to this tweet.
The station opted for regularly scheduled programming, so infomercials continued until the local newscast began at 7am.
Apparently they didn’t imagine that everyone who went to sleep interested in and concerned about the fire on Saturday night might want to be served the latest information immediately upon waking up Sunday morning.
I don’t know if it was due to being a weekend (thin staff, limited contact between managers, no meetings). I don’t know if it’s because the General Manager and News Director are both quite new to our area and, therefore, failed to grasp the enormity of the potential in the fire (I know and like the former, I do not know the latter).
There’s no sense in speculating further. No matter the reason, it felt like a significant missed opportunity.
2. Early Commitment to Non-Stop Coverage
Meanwhile, my wife slept poorly that Saturday night. She got out of bed early Sunday morning around 3am and turned on the TV. She was greeted by live news coverage of the fire on KKTV (11), the local CBS affiliate. She found this extremely helpful and comforting.
Apparently, the station made an early commitment to provided non-stop coverage. They continued it for 130 hours – that’s 5 and a half days straight. The other local television news operations also provided non-stop coverage starting some time on Sunday and continued for a few days, as well.
Bonus points to KOAA for refusing to use a “Breaking News” banner across the bottom of the screen when displaying information that was hours old. Bonus points to KKTV for including an in-studio interpreter translating live in sign language for the hearing impaired (that’s what service to the whole community looks like, btw).
Note to people who invariably complained about non-stop coverage on any/all stations: I get it. Once assured we were perfectly safe, our 9-year-old son became bored with the incessant coverage, too. But To complain about missing a repeat episode of the fifth incarnation of CSI is selfish at best. Try reading a book if you’re spent on wildfire coverage.
The fact is that our local television stations were honoring their commitment to the public, the foundation of their FCC licenses to broadcast. There was nothing more important that the stations could be doing than telling the community as much as possible about the Waldo Canyon Fire in those first few days. It’s impossible for any mass medium to satisfy hundreds of thousands of people with a singular, linear offering; you’re going to be disappointed sometimes if you rely on it.
It’s worth noting that non-stop coverage, which all our local affiliates provided for some period of time during the Waldo Canyon Fire, isextremely challenging to deliver these days.
Most local television stations across the country have very limited staffs, down several positions from their headcount highs of, perhaps, 5 years ago. I think it’s fair to make the generalized statement that most local TV stations are running as thin as possible, given the current challenges to their business model. I saw sports guys Jesse Kurtz (KKTV) and Rob Namnoum (KRDO) anchoring regular news coverage to help fill in the scheduling gaps. Beyond the handful of people you see on television, there’s an army of people behind the scenes – producers, photojournalists, technical directors, and others – necessary to get them there successfully. All these positions had to be filled 24 hours per day, likely at great overtime expense to the station.
Each local TV station, then, was pushed to its limits in staffing up to provide continuous, local news and weather coverage.
Still, this early experience on the first night of the fire was emotionally powerful for my wife; it left a strong impression. I doubt she was alone in this. These are the kinds of experiences that win hearts and minds in a way that’s not easily lost.
Later that morning, she liked the station on Facebook and has relied on them for the past 2 weeks.
3. Fantastic Facebook Growth
My wife was not alone in turning to Facebook, either. Each station picked up thousands of new Facebook fans. I’d not been paying close attention, but my last memory of fan count by station went something like this:
KOAA 28,000 | KKTV 25,000 | KRDO (13, ABC) 20,000 | KXRM (21, FOX) ? (extremely rough guesstimates from a few months back)
Obviously, many, many people found a powerful reason to reach out to these stations on Facebook. I’d guess that a significant share are from out of town. Hopefully, the stations are already thinking about how to continue an engaging relationship with these new fans.
So much social sharing was taking place, though, that it was easy to keep up on the latest details of the fire, the evacuations, and other effects without watching the stations or liking them on Facebook.
As valuable a complement to the dissemination of information, exchange of ideas, and depth of coverage as social media proved to be, though, television broadcasting remained vital. There’s no other way to reach the masses with details so urgent and important. My take: valuable complement, but not yet realistic replacement.
4. Daily Press Briefings (To Watch Or Not To Watch?)
Press conferences have been held at least once daily since June 23. Incident Commander Rich Harvey and Forest Supervisor Jerri Marr became local celebrities. Mayor Steve Bach, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, CSFD Chief Rich Brown, CSPD Chief Pete Carey, and several other officials became fixtures, as well.
Dozens of local people, as well as the television and print media (individual staff members and entire organizations), would live-tweet important updates from these events – all with the #WaldoCanyonFire hashtag. These new facts would immediately make it to Facebook, as well. It was easy and convenient to keep up with evacuations, containment, resource adds, and other information without watching it live.
Aside from the horror of Tuesday night, June 26, as the fire blew down from the forest into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood (live television was an absolute necessity), I got everything I needed from Facebook and Twitter. This includes the heartwarming support of firefighters by people lining the streets at every shift change (pure gratitude, an absolute joy to see), daily press briefings, and other developments.
5. The Single Best Team on Local TV
Lisa Lyden and Rob Quirk have shared an anchor desk on KOAA for more than 20 years. Over that same period, they formed an unbeatable team with weather guy Mike Daniels and sports guy Lee Douglas, who sadly passed away earlier this year. This kind of tenure is extremely uncommon in the business these days.
The Colorado Springs/Pueblo television market has never seen a stronger news duo, nor will they ever see one again, given the state of the industry. With Lisa Lyden’s impending retirement after 30 years on the air and with the incredibly strong, unspoken connection between the two, Rob’s absence for a long-scheduled and well-deserved vacation was unfortunate for local viewers (and perhaps for the two of them).
With absolutely no slight intended to his substitute, who performed admirably, I felt that the single best anchor team on TV - Rob and Lisa – would have served this community better than any other. They’re both tried and true professionals, exceptional human beings, and deeply knowledgeable locals.
From the seat behind the anchor desk, no team has the combination of experience, perspective, empathy, and gravitas that they’d have brought to coverage of this disaster.
6. A Unique – And Missing – Perspective
Meteorologist Mike Madson is a 20+ year Colorado Springs television veteran, with another decade before that in Salt Lake City. Less than a month after his tenure at KOAA ended, the Waldo Canyon Fire erupted.
An intelligent, humorous, kind, and humble person, Mike Madson’s got a master’s degree in geoscience and teaches astronomy, meteorology, and other classes at a local college. In my opinion, his unique perspective would have added so much value to the news and weather reporting around this fire. He was the only Colorado Springs resident on the highly-esteemed KOAA weather team, toward which absolutely no slight is intended (I know and like each of them very much).
Just as former KRDO reporter and web guy (and insanely prolific tweeter) Barrett Tryon provided live reports for his previous station on Tuesday night during the firestorm, so too could Mike have provided the only truly enterprising weather reporting on the fire.
I put “weather” and “reporting” together here to separate it from the solid, in-studio work performed by the weather people on all the local stations (Mike Daniels, Craig Eliot, Brad Sowder, Brian Bledsoe, Brandon Borremans, Matt Meister, Terry Gerbstadt, and others). I added “enterprising” to connote the seeking out and sharing of an extra element or an additional layer of information beyond the press briefing facts commonly provided by all stations and reporters. So, the imagined role here is as an additional resource set out to gather and tell stories from out in the field from a weather and science perspective.
I’ve never worked with a more selfless television talent, so I doubt he’d have refused a request to add his perspective in the face of this unforgettable event. I reasonably suspect there was no request.
7. The Most Helpful Technology on Local TV
I found one piece of technology so helpful and compelling that I wanted to include it in this post. Nothing gave me a better understanding of exactly where the fire was than the 3D mapping of KRDO meteorologist Matt Meister.
The ridgelines, the canyons, the neighborhoods, the streets, the highway – it was all very clear, put things into perspective, and provided context for references we were hearing in press briefings. Though an active local hiker who knows the area relatively well, I gained a better understanding of the geography and topography immediately west of Colorado Springs through this on-air presentations.
Even if locals didn’t see his 3D maps, I expect that we collectively have a far better understanding of wildfires, of our local geography, and of the character of our community for the Waldo Canyon Fire news and weather coverage in all its forms.
8. National Coverage (Good Enough For Who It’s For?)
I choose not to spend my hard-earned money on cable or satellite service. I watch no cable news. I saw the top of just one national network newscast (NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams on Friday, June 29 after President Barack Obama’s visit to Colorado Springs). So this thought is largely speculative, but I’ll back it with some anecdotal evidence.
My guess is that most national news coverage of the Waldo Canyon Fire was quick, dramatic, and shallow – six or eight shots of the worst flames in Mountain Shadows accompanied by four or five facts about the size of the fire and the progress of the fight. That may have been enough for most people, but certainly not for all.
Panoramic Photo: Pikes Peak and the Waldo Canyon Fire from the summit of Almagre Mountain (12,367 feet)
I produced photos and videos every day from Saturday, June 23 through Tuesday, July 3. Though some of the photos are quite good, the work in general is unremarkable – nothing like the dramatic, fiery shots on local and national television or flying around on Facebook.
The comments that came with those views are what kept me going – people from all over the country thanking me for helping keep them informed. Some grew up here. Others just visited. Many have family here. All expressed their support and wished us well. Clearly national coverage was significantly lacking for those who cared.
Not only are individuals searching, finding, and consuming the content of “citizen journalists,” so too are the formal media outlets. National and local media all sought and used extensively photos and videos from local residents.
Requests to use my photos and videos came from ABC News/Good Morning America through YouTube (granted through email 6/24), CBS News through Facebook, Twitter, and email (granted by phone 6/25), and WeatherNation through YouTube (granted 3 times to 3 different producers).
I’ve got no idea what, if anything, was actually used by these outlets. I was far more interested in sharing content with my immediate social circle online, which has grown to include many new, local people during this event.
Panoramic Photo: Waldo Canyon Fire and Pikes Peak from Pinon Valley Park
9. An Incredibly Well-Documented Disaster
Being one of the most recent, the Waldo Canyon Fire must be among the most well-documented disasters ever. As mobile devices that shoot 8mp photos and 1080p HD video become ubiquitous, we’ll all be equipped to shoot and share our experiences.
The two best videos produced during the Waldo Canyon Fire (in my opinion) did not come from media outlets, but from this north side resident (who had an ideal perspective, inspired vision, and nice equipment) and by this CSFD videographer (plays like an episode of Cops, minus the methamphetamine).
Two animated flyovers of the fire area with growth of the fire color coded were produced by this guy (using publicly available infrared flyover data!).
Often, the local stations would share this content socially or within their broadcasts. KRDO even brought into their studio a young videographer who irresponsibly, selfishly, and opportunistically headed into the mandatory evacuation zone during the height of the fire fight to shoot his own video (his business address is an apartment or condo 12 miles safely east of the Mountain Shadows evacuation zone – east, even, of Powers Boulevard (Kansas border in my book)).
During that in-studio interview, anchor James Jarman, who I respect personally and professionally, acknowledged that both the station and the shooter would take heat for the video captured in obvious violation of the evacuation order. I found the whole thing consistent with KRDO’s brand of news, which tends to be a bit more heightened or exaggerated in tone than KKTV or KOAA. Say what you will about that style – I accept it as an actual point of differentiation that some of the viewing audience prefers.
An honest mistake by a young reporter. Still, it's a reflection of the brand. I did not get a reply to this tweet.
The obvious point: coverage came in many forms from all kinds of places. Television news on air and on social networks relied
Obviously, there are so many places I could have taken this and so many things I could have included. I produced this for myself (it’s interesting to look back on your ideas months or years later), but also to encourage thought and discussion.
Share your thoughts about what’s here (and what’s not) by leaving a comment. With what do you agree or disagree? Why? What are your most memorable television or social media moments of the past 2 weeks?
Thanks to the fire fighters who came from all over the country to help fight this fire (34 states represented, including Alaska and Hawaii). Thanks to all the agencies involved in the strategy and execution of fighting the fire and keeping our local citizens safe and informed. Thanks to our local media for keeping us informed and connected. Thanks to all the organizations that assisted those in need. Thanks to every one of our community members who made contributions of any kind to help one another.
A challenging chapter in Colorado Springs history is nearing its close.
My top two takeaways from the Waldo Canyon Fire experience: live in gratitude and love your neighbor.
Double rainbow over Colorado Spring on Tuesday, July 3. Most received the rain and the rainbow with gratitude. Some saw it as a sign, blessing, or gift.
I spent last week in Washington DC for the National Association of Realtors Midyear Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo, as BombBomb video email marketing software is a great fit for real estate associations, brokers, and agents. Our nation’s capitol is a fitting place to have learned about a fresh form of content marketing – content lobbying!
Not exactly a simulation of Facebook lobbying efforts at the United States Capitol.
Facebook and Content Lobbying
As a breakout on the Facebook IPO, the Wall Street Journal published a one-column story on the company’s lobbying history. Though I read it in print (thanks to a stack at the front desk of the Dupont Circle Hotel), you can take a look at that story here.
Though they’re moving toward the traditional form of lobbying – tossing money at campaigns to buy favor (at $2,500/legislator) and setting up their own PAC – Facebook trails Google and Microsoft significantly in spending at this point.
Far more interesting, though, was their start. They hired inexperienced lobbyists by design. They earned favor by teaching politicians how to use Facebook to connect with constituents (read: campaign contributors). Content lobbying!
They later broadened that out to visits to preferred politicians’ districts to teach business owners about technology in general and about Facebook in particular. Each of these sessions would include an opening by the host politician. Content lobbying roadshow!
I expect that this approach isn’t wholly novel, but I found it to be a fresh take on content marketing.
Content Marketing Takeaways
The essence of lobbying is the currying of favor. At best, this looks like gaining access and making strong, persuasive arguments. At works, it’s a base, crude exchange of favors and back scratching.
Content marketing is education marketing. It’s teaching. It’s edu-sales. It’s the sharing of your experience and expertise (which are not the same thing) with your prospects, customers, colleagues, and community.
Content lobbying, then, isn’t so different from content marketing. Beyond the access required for proper lobbying, any differences are subtle and are based in motivation, expectation, and explicitness around the giving of value.
What value do you have ready to exchange? For what do you ask or what do you expect in return? What access do you have to influencers, political or otherwise? You, too, may benefit from content lobbying.
Again, you can see the full story from the Wall Street Journal right here.
The easiest thing for companies to do in hard times is to eliminate jobs. You read about this constantly as a reaction to lowered earnings, reduced margins, and dimmed prospects overall. I saw this cycle frequently toward the end of my local television career: positions held open for a couple extra months, hiring freeze across all positions, buyouts of tenured people, then elimination of positions.
The cuts seem necessary and beneficial at the time, but it’s a long, slow death. The expense cuts tend to mask deeper problems with value proposition, business model, or strategy. People will ultimately be necessary to bring life back to the operation, to create and deliver its value.
Downsizing (or, the sadly hilarious “rightsizing”) seems to be a quick fix that immediately cuts expenses. The problem: the benefits provided are short-term only.
While there may be a technology-based exception (please share that with me as a comment below), you can’t downsize your way to success. If you’re clear on your value proposition, you should be investing.
Cautionary examples include Circuit City and Home Depot. Outperforming examples include these companies:
For these companies, employees are investments, not just expenses. The return on the investments is greater profits.
I won’t restate the arguments of James Surowiecki in the New Yorker or Zeynep Ton at the HBR blog because they’re both quick and clear reads. I encourage you to give each a click and at least a once-over. Instead, I’ll broaden them beyond retail by connecting them to the Service Profit Chain, by James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser, and Leonard A. Schlesinger, which outlines and substantiates a critical dynamic behind their profits.
The Service Profit Chain
In short:Treating people like humans (with basic respect and through internal service quality) is the best way to achieve sustainable profits and revenue growth.
Assumptions: Customers seek and buy value. Employees create and deliver value. Companies seek and word to produce revenue growth and profits. Most companies spend their time and resources focused primarily on the end result of the chain (revenue, profits), rather than on the inputs (internal service quality). As a consequence, people are seen as expenses, rather than as critical drivers of value.
Here’s the chain in words:
Investment in recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, training, and developing employees (produces)
Employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention (produces)
Successful delivery of value (produces)
Customer satisfaction and loyalty (produces)
Profits and revenue growth
Below is as a lovely graphic posted by the fine folks at Livetime, an on-premise and online IT service management and service desk company, in this blog post about service desk success. The graphic was the nicest reproduction of Heskett’s model I found online.
Here’s the chain as an image:
Model: The Service Profit Chain (Designed by Heskett, Sasser, Schlesigner / Styled by Livetime)
Heskett, et al, define the entire model, then substantiate its validity by proving multiple relationships between different links. Though based on a decade of studies from the mid-80s to mid-90s, the Service Profit Chain is just as strong a model today as it was when it was published. To see the success of Uniqlo, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Mercado, and QuikTrip brought a smile and nod. If you’re not up for reading the Service Profit Chain, at least run through the comments here.
The Bottom Line
Sustainable success requires many things. When reviewing and revising goals, strategies, and tactics (what value you’re creating and delivering and how you do it uniquely, effectively, and efficiently), include internal service quality factors like recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, training, and development. That’s to say: when designing for end results, invest properly in the inputs.
Serving employees first means serving customer best. In the end, all stakeholders get more of what they want.