Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "social media"

Five Phrases To Kill in Communication

Posted on Sep 13, 2010 in Featured, Rants |

Five Phrases To Kill in Communication

They all have their time — groovy, neato, smooth, rad, gag me with [anything]. But coined phrases can move to cliches quickly. Clean up your chatter by nixing these five passe communication terms:

“In my wheelhouse”

What it means: What you are describing is what I have experience in.

Previous passe synonyms: “in my arsenal;” “right up my alley”

Why: Are you a train engineer? Do you ride choo-choos? Unless you are working on the chain gang, you have no business using this wildly over-used phrase.

Possible replacement: I have strong experience in this area.

Not possible replacement: I rock that shit.

“Social media guru”

What it means: I work in social media.

Previous passe synonyms: “community ninja;” “online whiz” or “social media expert”

Why: No one, but no one is a social media guru. Guru is reserved for spiritual leaders and maybe your yoga instrutor, not to self-describe your work online.

Possible replacement: “online marketer;” “social public relations”

Not possible replacement: “Hopeless online addict”

“Under the hood”

What it means: Investigate this topic further.

Previous passe synonyms: “into the nitty gritty;” “deep dive”

Why: Are you a mechanic? Mechanics are hot and greasy and work for near-minimum wage.

Possible replacement: “I’d like to research this topic further;” “understand the details”

Not possible replacement: “Under your hoodie”

“Signal to Noise”

What it means: Putting the highest quality to the forefront

Previous passe synonyms: “Cream of the crop;” “Streamline”

Why: Because you are not a radio. And if you are a marketer, you should assume that balancing communication directives are part of the job.

Possible replacement: “Clean communication;” “high quality coverage”

Not possible replacement: “Cut the crap”

“Close the loop”

What it means: Check with other people relavent to the subject to ensure you have completed the task and its needs

Previous passe synonyms: “circle back around;” “touch base with”

Why: Because you are a not a knitter.

Possible replacement: “Complete the process”

Not possible replacement: “Cover my ass”

Read More

If I… Had a Great Idea

Posted on Aug 25, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… Had a Great Idea

Maybe it’s in the Silicon Valley water. Maybe it’s just part of our inbreeding, or breeding or lack of breeding. Maybe it’s we drink a lot of wine, maybe it’s the weather. Maybe. Every day I hear of another great idea from friends and colleagues for new, inventive online businesses. Some aren’t bad, some are awesome and many we’ve sketched-out at the counter at Bill’s Cafe in Willow Glen. Few have come-to-pass. A small handful have made it, most don’t make it past buying the URL.

@Edubya and I always joke: There are no.new.ideas. And, I believe it’s true. It’s not having the innovative idea that is key to starting a project, it’s the skills behind it to turn that idea into a business. Unless, of course you like torture. And then, well, go ahead.  @la_gringa and @linseyk and I toss ideas out every day — the topics vary, the target varies, the models vary, but there are a few things that are key to flushing out an idea. Bottom line: there’s more to an idea than an idea.

If I… Had a Great Idea

1. Write the idea down immediately. It has to be one sentence, less if you can.  Now stop. Does this fully demonstrate what your idea is? No? Do it again. What is your idea? Do it again until you can tell me instantaneously what the business is. One sentence, no cheating with run-ons. Got it. Okay.

2. What’s the problem? Now this is stupid, basic VC jargon, but it’s a great way to gut-check your idea. What’s the problem that you are solving with your idea? Is it a big problem? A small problem? Who’s got the problem? What’s the problem. Tell me in three bullet points, no more than two sentences each. I didn’t ask what the solution was, or why your idea is great or what the benefits are, I’m asking you, What’s the Problem that your idea will solve?

3. What is the solution? This is not the place to tout your great executive staff (you and your drinking buddies with Stanford degrees) or how big the market is, or how you can beat competition or how cool your idea is. This is the place to run the same exercise, but tell me in very short sentences what your solution is to the problem. Remember, your idea is not unique, so why is this solution the better solution?

4. How does your idea make money? Unless you are independently wealthy and love your idea so much that you’re willing to blow a huge wad of cash on this idea as a hobby (don’t laugh, I’ve had clients just like this), then you need to know how you are going to make money. Tell me exactly how you plan to make money. Here’s a hint: Google Ad Words is not your primary driver of revenue. And ad dollars? You’ll need over 10mm pvs/month to make ad revenue worth your time. Now with those two things in mind. How does this make money?

5. What are two of the seven deadly sins? I had the awesome opportunity to get to know one of the greatest, most well-known VCs in the world. He taught me a lot, but the thing that stuck with me is that in order for an idea to be a compelling business, it has to have two — but not more than three — of the seven deadly sins. For the record, the seven deadly sins are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride.

6. Refrain from naming the company, creating a logo or building a website. Car salesman will ask you what your favorite color is. It’s one of the first questions. Why? Because it’s the first emotional question that leads to commitment. Use restraint here — it doesn’t matter yet what your idea is named or how it looks. The strongest buildings have strong, flexible foundations. Build the foundation before you pick the paint color.

6. Do you like your idea? If you’ve ventured into entrepreneurship before, you know, it’s hard as hell. Beyond the need, the solution and the revenue potential, you have to believe in your idea. Do you want to do this every waking and sleeping moment for the foreseeable future?

Last year, I went down the path of opening a make-your-own ice cream sandwich shop. The idea was good, not unique, of course, but good. It solved a problem, it had revenue potential, it had two of the seven deadly sins. I was committed to delving into the next stage of building out a business model. I talked about startup costs, competitive landscape and pricing. Then one day, my kid left ice cream on the back porch. I walked outside to the nastiest smell ever. The ground was sticky, the ice cream was rotten and smelly. I started laughing. Despite my idea, my beloved ice cream shop, I realized I didn’t want to spend the next few years of my life with sticky, smelly dairy. And there went the idea. Love what you do. Be ready to live it.


Read More

The Scary Thin Line Between Blogging and Journalism

Posted on Aug 8, 2010 in Featured, Rants |

The Scary Thin Line Between Blogging and Journalism

As a very young writer, I had the great honor of working for one of the finest editors in the publishing business. Twice, actually. My first real job outside of  selling pantyhouse at Nordstrom was as an intern for Los Angeles Magazine a zillion years ago. The editor,  Blue Lew, taught me more than he’ll ever know — but the number one lesson about journalism that I learned was that the line journalism and advertorial shall never, ever, be crossed. True journalists hold the honorable role of being paid to write without the bias of influence from advertisers nor perk-a-lators.

This precious lesson helped me write some terrific advertorial inserts which made me more money than journalism ever did. And that’s okay, because one is based on touting the products of the company that is paying you, the other is reporting on a product, event or thing. See? Not hard to decipher at all when the line is drawn.

There was a table at Los Angeles magazine that was endlessly piled with goodies. The old wood 6-ft banquet table had everything from cosmetics to fancy dog treats, hoards of the latest goods to hit the market. Sometimes it was junk; other time it was backstage passes to the opening of House of Blues. The goodies were free for the taking — just pick up whatever you want. Nobody was expected to write about them, talk about them or hell, even use them for more than white elephant gifts. But what the table wasn’t was a deal between the writers and the PR folks who send them the goods. See, journalists don’t take the crap you send them — at least unless then need to in order to write a story. But bloggers? Many bloggers do. And that’s where the scary line between journalism and blogging comes to play for me.

And it’s not just the bloggers’ issue, it’s the PR execs too. Send you a sample, you give me a write-up. I send you to a show, you give me a raving blog post. You send me a book, I write a review. You give me free downloads for my kids and I tweet it out to my followers. It’s a growing relationship between bloggers and journalists that needs to be addressed. In listening to people speak this week at BlogHer 10, I started to become more clear on the problem at-hand: Many bloggers are advertorialists, not journalists. Although not good or bad, it’s got to be addressed. And beyond that, it’s got to be determined that paid blogging — no matter how you cut it — isn’t journalism. And that’s okay. But it’s got to require transparency.

A seasoned PR exec with a stellar reputation was approached by a blogger who wanted to know why she hadn’t contacted her lately. She asked why she wasn’t commenting on her blog, why she wasn’t returning emails at the drop of a hat. Caught off-guard, she tried to make it clear how valuable the blogger was to her and important to her business. And that’s true. But what the blogger was missing in all of this is that her direct access to this PR exec wasn’t a friendship — it’s a business relationship. Do you think the PR chick is calling up Brad Stone every day for a chit-chat? She calls him, then it means she’s got news or information to share that might be useful for his writing. He takes her call knowing that she’s got business. How are bloggers missing this important piece of business relations? Dear blogger friends, PR executives do not want to be your friend, they are working for their client. It’s not personal. It’s not about you. And no, they’re not reading your every Tweet.  PR execs know how to engage a journalist, but why not a blogger?

A few weeks ago I received a direct message on Twitter from a company that had offered me free downloads of their new iPhone app. I never got around to it. Yesterday I get a DM saying, “Taking your word for an older promise to try our (parenting) app on your iPhone.” Excuse me? I gave you my word? My word of what? And what promise would that be? How do I explain that offering writers a product to try is very different than committing to write about it. I think bloggers are mistraining our clients to expect that if we receive products to try that it means they will receive a post in return. The lessons of that old table are so simple and yet so hard to teach.

Advertorial is not a bad thing — it’s a great thing! The lines are very clear: you pay me with product or money and I, in return write a glowing blog post for you hitting all the points of interest that you’d like me to focus on. You pitch me or I pitch you. Great. You offer me a Cannon PIXMA Photojet printer which is worth about $375. How much are my blog posts worth? Well, if I write for BlogHer, they’re worth $50, so that’s either a blog post and social media outreach for $375 worth of your services or you are being over paid. Maybe that doesn’t work for longterm relationships with PR folks. Okay, how about if you loan me the printer and I get to have a photo printing party with some friends. You get to use the printer, print out as many photos as you want with all the supplies paid for. That’s worth about $50-$100. More in range of what we’re talking about here. Now you’ve got a deal. And, you’ve got a story to tell, rather than a simple review. That’s a good advertorial deal for both sides. And, could get you both more traffic and more clients.

I used to be on every PR list known to man. Seriously. Anything that had anything to do with entertainment was in my inbox. Not so much anymore. And that’s fine, I’m not an entertainment writers. It’s not my business. And, shame on the PR person who pitches me because they must be unaware that I no longer do that kind of writing. Recently I got on a PR list for live events for children. Now, that’s interesting to me. Why? Because I blog about my kids and kids lives, because I am always up for an adventure and I rather like cultural stuff. You want to send me tickets? That’s great! I like that, but what’s in it for you, you PR maven, you. Not much unless you have made a deal with me to do so. As your guest and having been “invited” to attend your event, I feel no obligation to write about your show. But the line is funky here too, especially for mom bloggers who could really use activities for their kids and ones that are free? Whoah, that’s hard to turn down.  But before you say yes with three exclamation points, I’d suggest making the relationship official and transparent. Think: is this advertorial or is this journalism? And then, proceed accordingly. Neither is wrong, of course. It’s just business.

Transparency is the key here. Decide what it is you are doing and be transparent about it. The way I see it, you have three options (a) be a journalist and use your blog to report things/people/events/thoughts without influence or bias; (b) be an advertorialist and use your blog as paid writing, using your blog as a mechanism to advertise things/people/events. Neither is wrong or less influential. The only wrong turn you can make is to blur the lines. And in doing so, lose trust of your audience. Set expectations, understand your strengths and limitations and understand that being a writer — both advertorial and journalistic — are held to the highest level of integrity.

Read More

A Little Marketing Humor

Posted on Jul 22, 2010 in Featured, Silly |

A Little Marketing Humor
Salt and Pepper

Salt and Pepper

Angelina might be Salt, but I am pepper. La Gringa and I had a lot of fun playing around with the image and we laughed ourselves silly. We’re dorks, but we like it. You can see it live here: http://www.whoispepper.com

Read More

If I… Were a First-Time Female Entrepreneur

Posted on Jun 21, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… Were a First-Time Female Entrepreneur

I wish I could go back in time. Not to tell my first boyfriend that his teeth really did bug me; not to revisit the moment my children were born; not even to undo all the terrible things I did to my parents as a kid. If I could go back in time, I’d approach my work life a lot differently from the get-go. If I were a first-time female entrepreneur, I would:

1. Go to email writing bootcamp. Learning to communicate comes with the territory of learning to do business. Women in business today misinterpret friendly communication with friend communication. Your colleagues are not your pals, and even if they are, email is not meant to be the grounds for planning happy hour while asking for an .xls report.  I’m not sure how drawing hearts over an “i” or smiley faces after our names somehow translated to appropriate communication tactics for women in business, but if you are guilty of it, you need to stop.

Here are my tips for proper female email communication (a) Get rid of any exclamation points in your email. Unless Chicken Little was right and the sky is falling, you do not need exclamation points to communicate your urgency or excitement over work issues (b) Forget any icons, shorthand, webspeak. Using TTYL in a work email is not only lazy, it’s disrespectful. Same goes for smiley faces. If you want a work colleague to know you are happy :), cheeky ;) or pissed-off :(, then you need to walk over to them and let them read your body language. More on body language later… (c) Never cross business and personal communication. Although it’s really cool that your workmate’s wife is in your spin class, work email is not a place to address such things. Refrain from finishing or opening your email with “Robyn said you had a great weekend…” — not unless of course, you want your email recipient to get mixed messages on the purpose of your communication. (d) Never say “much” or “love” unless you’re emailing with your mom. Blow off the “thanks so much,”  and “I’d love the opportunity.” Never, and I mean never position yourself as weak or desperate. The next time you to go sign an email, “Thanks so much!” think of me. And then, delete.

2. Using body language will generally work — but is it what you really want? I made a huge mistake during the funding of our first company. There was an investor who had the hots for @la_gringa and, as it were, he was a likely investor, a Silicon Valley insider and hot entrepreneur. We knew he liked blondes, we knew he was married, but during a investment pitch dinner, we intentionally flanked him with the two blondes in our company, dressed hot as you can imagine and ready to do business. In the end, we got what we wanted from him — a commitment to look at our company as an investment and a promise to introduce us to others who could too. And then, he stood up from the table and led @la_gringa outside to invite her to his hotel alone for a drink. And there it was. The pickle that we caused by using our female assets to gain traction in business. It took all three of us to get her out of that nightmare and, in the end, it made an uncomfortable situation an unbearable one. The business was strong enough to be funded without trolling in high heels up Sand Hill road. In the end, we didn’t get the investment. Learn from me on this one: you can woo an investor with your body language, but chances are, it’s not what’s best for your start-up.

3. Be a Social Light, not Socialite. The work that you do outside of your business to network both online and offline can truly help make or break you in entrepreneurship. Think about a few things before you engage: what are your goals for attending? What’s your elevator pitch? Who is your buddy? What social media tools are you going to use? Are you selling yourself as a brand or your company as a brand? Are you out for a drink and to get picked up?  Don’t even lie to me, I know this one way too well. No matter how you cut it, you are being sized-up in social scenarios. I always attend the Silicon Valley Tweetups. Why? Because some of my friends are there and I want to see them. I can go have a couple glasses of wine and chat in the corner with my friends. But you, you, little Miss-Hot-To -Trot-First-Time-Entrepreneur, you can’t.

Here’s how to be a Social Light First Time Entrepreneur, in no particular order: Look good * Take a work colleague with you, preferably a man * Sip on a single drink * Practice a casual elevator pitch * Have business cards with you (NO PINK BUSINESS CARDS) * Target three people to meet during the event * Ask questions about the said target’s work * Find anyone with the letters VC in their job title and watch how they operate * Make an introduction or two, it’s good for positioning * Leave before the crowd dies down * Send follow-up emails the next morning to your new contacts, add them to your database.

Here’s what you should gain from being a Social Light: A clean, crisp communication of your business, a brand association between you and your business to others in the industry, potential contacts, some learning on other companies and — if only slightly — better understanding on how to approach VCs. Social. Light. Female.

4. Find your tribe. The truth is, female entrepreneurs doing it right are rare. It’s helpful to find others who share your value system in business. It’s also highly valuable to find male entrepreneurs who you can take a lead from too. A recent deal required me to be working in the baggage claim area of SFO. I sat on the floor madly typing, searching for WiFi, using two phones and my computer, looking like a complete freak working a deal for a client. It hit me rather suddenly: There is no man on earth that would do this. I started saying outloud to a colleague: “What would a MAN do right now?” I sent a text message saying that I’d be available in an hour. I shut my computer and I walked out. My phone rang off the hook. I ignored it. Male entrepreneurs do things differently than females — learning the subtleties and taking a cue when to apply them is key to business strategy. Find a tribe of executives like you and you’ll find the resources and learnings are endless.

I’ve noticed over the past decade that women in entrepreneurship tend to emasculate their roles, and with reason: Silicon Valley is still very much a boys club. It’s an extraordinary challenge, but one that can be navigated with grace. Managing businesses with restraint and femininity can win both clients and respect. Lest we forget, ladies: You are your brand.

Read More

If I …Were in Alpha

Posted on Jan 21, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I …Were in Alpha

I didn’t say If I was an Alpha, because if you know me, we already know that I’m an Alpha. And if there’s a greek letter they discover someday that comes before Alpha, I’m that too.  If I had a company in Alpha mode, I’d take some steps to make tactical moves to ensure I didn’t have a near-certain death by moving into Beta before it’s ready.

So many companies, so little room in the market? Must.move.lighting.fast.always? Must throw it out there and fix it later? In the past several months I’ve seen companies go flying out the door before the products are fully baked. Ideas are never fully baked and online products are never done; as we all know, they simply evolve (if we’re lucky). But the belief in an ever-growing product isn’t the same as putting out a product to the public that isn’t ready.

If I were running product at a company that is in Alpha (even if it called itself in Beta), I would:

1. Withhold any and all traffic growing measures. If you’ve got a product that requires UGC in order to hammer out bugs, load test and populate pages then call your mother, your jobless cousins and your husband’s golf buddies. This isn’t the time to open up to random people. The web is simply too small now for that. Be clever about how to use the people you know. It’s old school, I know, but there’s a new reason: Real-Time Reporting. No longer do pages disappear. Everything now is available in real-time and opening up beta can produce half-completed pages, logins that spin, dead-end links or “this is where the ugly picture of yo baby goes” engineer placeholders. It’s just not worth it. Keep your content close and your content users closer.

2. Stop. Collaborate and Listen. Okay, fine, I’m stealing the line from Vanilla Ice and that’s just wrong. But he’s right. If you’re thinking of rolling into Beta do yourself a favor and stop everything. Take a breather. Take a weekend. Go back to your drawing board, away from the specs, away from the fancy UI corners and remember the product’s vision. Are you there? Are you there so strongly that you could push the product into Beta and go to sleep tonight not running MySql queries in your sleep? Have you listened to your team? Where’s the biggest worry? Is it valid? Is it a showstopper? Do you want to push to beta to get the Board off your back? To meet an arbitrary deadline? Take the moment. Stop. Collaborate. Listen.

3. Do not work any social media campaigns. No matter what. Sure, secure your FB fan page, get a Twitter account, play FourSquare, write a blog. But and this is a big but (not a big butt, which is a totally different rap song), do not waste the time or investment of a user when you are not yet ready to reciprocate. What can you offer users when you are not yet there yourself? Don’t tell me “Something Big is Coming!” because that’s not communicating with me. If you must engage social media into your pre-Beta plan, be completely transparent about your work. Tell a story of troubles and problems and issues and be fully prepared to offer the same kind of comfort in return to people you’re communicating with. The only thing I can honestly tell you to do in social media is LISTEN — comment on sites that matter to your business, pull in RSS feeds of sites that inspire your product and engage with them. Learn from them. But putting out a social media brand message takes dedication that Alpha products don’t have. Do you have it to give? If you don’t, save yourself the need of hiring me to fix the brand image and simply don’t engage until you are fully ready to put your best foot forward.

My bottom line is, don’t put up crap — your awesome idea is worth waiting a bit longer before taking it to Beta.

Note: Please give me some knuckles that I didn’t call out the names of the companies that led the inspiration for this post. <<good for me!>>

Read More