The Offline Community

When I had just graduated from school, armed with my degree, and with hopes for the future, little did I know my future would be months and months away. Noone tells you that the degree is not really the key to the kingdom. That was never part of the "Once Upon A Time" story. In any event, hard reality set in as well as boredom, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I had gotten some feedback from one HR recruiter and of course, they were looking for someone experienced. No problem. I got it. I however asked whether I could be considered as a volunteer - no salary, just to learn the ropes. It would have been an awesome experience, because it was an international organisation, and one I always had dreams of working for, and the chance to learn first hand about the industry was too tempting to not ask. I was certainly not getting the experience sitting at home watching Oprah and though not getting paid was not my ideal situation (man cannot live on bread alone), I was still willing to get out there for free, and get my feet wet, do the drudge work, make copies, fax - but get a feel for what made the PR team in an organisation such as that one, tick.

The short, though resounding answer to an equally short question was "no", which even then was mind blowing to me. It still is.

I eventually got a job I was not excited about, and which had nothing to do with communications or marketing, but my boss recognised where my true interests were and would put me on related projects with the Marketing team, who were more than willing to use me and pimp me out and I was more than willing to be used and pimped. I eventually got a job in PR 3 months later (albeit, that was ummm...interesting to say the least)...

...but it begs the question, how are organisations or associations really helping young people to get the experience they need and to encounter the hard realities that this job is not as glamorous as they think it may be? Or any other job for that matter. I have had interns who, it was clear, really needed the internship experience to understand that the divide between school and the workplace is very wide. And especially with PR, there is a conception that it's glam - you're in the paper, or on television, or you go to all sorts of events and hob nob. You give them a task like faxing media releases, or getting feedback from customers, who may sometimes be irate, and they are aghast that THIS is what you want them to do. Well, THIS is usually it. It's often fun, and often not. Are we preparing students for the realities that await them?

What was your first job experience like? Was it paid or was it voluntary? What is your organisation doing to ease fresh faced, eager graduates into the real world?

The ME brand

We seem to be quite content to be branded in one way or another. My brother is a brand whore, and God knows I cannot shop for him because he only wears the expensive urban brands. I'm a MAC girl and love their makeup. You may just be a Mac person, in love with all things Apple. I have seen more than one car here branded with the "Keep Walking" brand logo from Johnnie Walker, so we do brand ourselves. But do we really sell the most important brand there is? The ME brand. To me, that's an invaluable commodity but do others see it the same way?

I'm not sure if people are truly paying attention to their personal brand here in T&T, or rather not enough people. We sell the concept of the brand, yes but at the corporate level and as part of a corporate product or service marketng machinery. But what about the investment in our skills, our capabilities, our professionalism, our talents? How many of us are selling and truly pimping ourselves out? Are you?

It may seem easier to just be part of the bigger picture type branding, to just fall into a prepared strategy. But in fact, if one is confident in one's expertise, then the selling is much easier. But are you selling yourself?

There are great instances of personal brands here in various sectors. Machel is a brand for example. People have come to expect a certain type of performance from him, one that is high energy, high quality and original. You never expect to go to a Machel performance and hear him singing other people's songs. So he is doing it, he is working it and his brand is a strong one. We now need to take the concept of personal branding from that sphere to our personal situations because people hear branding and somehow they never equate it to their own professional circumstances, which is where we probably lose sight of its relevance.

And in much the same way you make a distinction between a Carib and a Heineken, one must ask oneself, "what sets me apart from Jill or John?" What is your feature benefit? In what ways do you bring or add value to a team or to a project? Is your brand consistent and reliable? Are you dependable and bring your A-game more times than not?

Personal branding is not about logos and slogans but more about the intangible benefits which you can deliver. But first you have to have something to sell and not just any product but a damn good product. So take the time to

  • develop a brand statement that speak to you and what you have to offer
  • develop your expertise in your chosen area 
  • gather feedback from your peers about how you are perceived
  • examine your track record and identify your strengths and weaknesses; harness your strengths, work on the weaknesses
  • build credibility and a solid "customer" base which can defend your brand
  • be visible - set yourself apart from the crowd 
  • have a vision of what you are and where you want to be; clear cut goals
  • have a plan of how you intend to get there
  • execute the plan


When you're promoting brand You, everything you do -- and everything you choose not to do -- communicates the value and character of the brand. Everything from the way you handle phone conversations to the email messages you send to the way you conduct business in a meeting is part of the larger message you're sending about your brand. - FastCompany.

(And I did touch on how our other social media activities for example, can impact the personal brand here and here. )

So it's not that we don't understand the concept of branding but we don't think it applies to us for some reason and it's time we start focusing on how we can develop strong brands and not just promoting the brands of others. By consciously working on deevloping your brand, you are consciously working on developing your product, your service, actively examining how to improve your skills and ultimately, yourself.

So the next time you choose Coke over Pepsi, or vice versa, ask yourself why did I do that because in today's world, you're either a Coke or a Pepsi, and someone will have a preference based on what's on offer and how well it is sold to them.

Guest Post: Social Media, "the ultimate stormer"

As promised, there is a guest post today, in response to my post on social media and how it impedes, or rather, is allowed to impede upon life experiences and moments that a couple years ago, we revelled in, and enjoyed in its essence. This is a topic that resonates with a lot of people and I am glad to have another perspective. Thanks to GWTO for his take on how the social media phenomenon is taking over our lives. (You can also follow him out on Twitter: @gwto)


I read the "Social Media - The other ball and  chain" post on this blog, and I found myself nodding along with it, simply because it put into words exactly what I've been thinking for a long time. Facebook has indeed become "the ultimate stormer, wedding crasher and boldfaced guest."

But it got me thinking about my ultimate pet peeve: people who take photos at sporting events and concerts. For full disclosure, I will point out that I've been guilty of this up until a year ago. And I'm not against the concept of people taking photos at these things per se. It's the people who do it incessantly. The people who spend long periods of time snapping, looking down at the viewfinder, and snapping again, thus beginning a long cycle of snapping, then looking down, snapping, then looking down, snapping then looking down before you feel the urge to rip the camera from their fingers and scream at them, "Look at the stage/field/court!" And don't even get me started on the people who take video of the event and upload ridiculously poor quality ten second clips to Youtube.

But I digress.

The truth is that it really doesn't bother me during the event itself. But it's the professional photos afterwards that suffer. Let's take a look at Steven Gerrard's goal celebration during Liverpool's 4-1 mauling of Manchester United last season at Old Trafford. Gerrard scored and celebrated in front of Manchester United's support, so you would expect to see angry faces in the crowd behind him as he kissed the camera.

But look at the woman on the left and the man in between Gerrard and the camera. Did that goal stab them through the heart? No. They don't care. They just wanted the best shot possible so they could go home, upload it, and sit patiently waiting for people to "like" it.

So I've vented and I've plugged Liverpool Football Club. You might wonder what my point is, and what this has to do with Social Media. And the answer? Not much. But if you take anything away from this post, let it be this: Social Media is great, wonderful, and fantastic. But don't let it interfere with the special experiences in real life. If you're at a wonderful event, you really don't need to record every moment of it. I promise you that they'll stay in your memories. Honestly. They will. Leave the photography to the professionals.

And, (shameless plug alert) while you're at it you should take part in my Project 2010. :-)

(Photo from the Telegraph;

Friday Peeve: The Black Elephant in the Room

Thanks to Guy #1 and Guy #2, you get this post. It's not a discourse, just an observation but stay tuned when we will have an awesome guest post from one of these gentlemen (you will just have to wait to see which one) about this phenomenon.

So last night I had the privilege at being at a very swanky function (which I almost never made it to but that story is from my lips to God's ears). Decor was gorgeous. Food, fantastic. The general ambience was amazing. Beautiful people, beautiful setting. Great performances. Great friends. Great moments. Except...

For the guy in front of me with the Blackberry who insisted on snapping everything that moved and those things that did  not move as well. I mean....REALLY???

And Lord help me, I was really close to taking out my own Blackberry and taking a photo of how stupid he looked but it seemed too stupid to even be ironic.

As with most of these types of events, the onus was on mingling and networking, in addition to being sold the creativity of talented people. So I would have expected this dude, like others, to be meeting people, commenting on how amazing the place looked, perhaps exchanging business cards, making some contacts. Nope. His aim in life was to take photos with this phone of his. It was as though noone else in the room existed unless you were the subject of the photo. What was most annoying was when the performance started and by this time, people had started to get loose and were having fun and shaking a little rump. Not my buddy, BlackBerry Avenger. He was snapping away. When his hand and his 6th finger aka the BB blocked my view of the great performance in front of me, that's when it became extremely personal.

I mean...why? I know I touched on this earlier this week - this phenomenon with technology, to the point that we lose sight of the things happening around us - but this guy was the poster child. He even took photos of the REAL photographers doing REAL photography. I am sure today his friends have in their Facebook feeds "Jack's night out - 100 new photos".


I would hate to be a boss who sends my people to an event to network and instead of doing that they get lost in their BBs and miss the big picture. And there it is - missing the bigger picture. Relationships are under threat if these people attached to their smartphones are set to take over the world. Be it personal relationships - because the Avenger came with a significant other, who was forced to dance alone - or professional relationships. So while the technology strengthen social networks, it seems to, in some cases, adversely impact and denigrate relationships.

I also have a problem with the intrusiveness of camera phones. I  once caught a weird, pervy man trying to take a photo of me with his phone. He insisted he was not, that he was sending a text but one does not normally hold a phone like this...

to send a text message, do you?  He needed to read this.

It seems many people do not realise that their actions, besides being acutely annoying, also often can leave them on the periphery of human interaction. And while photography is an art I admire and wish I were more passionate about, it is now being cannibalised by people like BB Avenger. Mobile phone photography is not always, but can become a menace depending on the person yielding the weapon of choice - be it Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia etc. And while you may share a deep initmacy and a strong, unbreakable bond with your device, it should not affect my enjoyment or impact on my comfort level. This is an awesome statement that describes the beast:

"Public places are commonly “colonized” by the private lives of mobile individuals"

I will further revise and say "public places are being terrorised by mobile individuals". And while mobile technology has brought communications to a state of "anywhere, anytime", please, let's not take it that literally. It should NOT be anywhere everytime. I think we all have a personal responsibility when it comes to mobile phones and the accompanying tools. Let's use discretion and let's take a load off and get a grip when it comes to brandishing these devices in the public domain where other people are trying to have fun. Silly us for wanting that.

Social Media: The other ball and chain

I remember the days when you could go to dinner with your girlfriends or go to the mall or take a nap, without a camera phone in your face. You would get home and not have to worry that already you had been tagged by Mary in 8 photos. Life used to be so simple then. You socialised without socialising. That is, you went out and enjoyed the concept of going out and catching up and having a good time and did not get lost in the tomorrow of "I need to share this with my network" or "This will make a great profile photo". These days Facebook does not even need an invitation or to RSVP. It's the ultimate stormer, wedding crasher and boldfaced guest.

You went out and did not tweet where you were. You just went out, stayed out, did uour thing and came back home. You did not have to worry about being caught on video in the supermarket or on the promenade. You did not have to ask a friend not to post that photo or tag you, or email them to ask them to take a photo down. One friend did not want to share the best day of her life with thousands of strangers and asked her friends who had posted her wedding photos not too long after the wedding, to please take them down. Some people do have the love affair with social media, some people don't.

I remember when not everything was everyone else's business.

I don't go everywhere with a camera or use my camera phone to catch every single moment. Shucks. My camera seems to only leave the house when I am on my way to the airport and some work-free environment. I enjoy hearing the jokes and tales from friends and not missing a single detail because I was foraging around in my bag for my camera phone so I could upload yet another photo to Facebook or Twitter, or make a video. I do have albums on Facebook, of vacations and special occasions or random crap, but I don't have scores of albums to memorialise every car trip, every birthday party, every dinner, every beach lime I have ever gone to. I don't sit at the dinner table with my smartphone checking tweets or emails. I like looking into the faces of friends and hearing their laughter and being wholly part of the moment. And if I don't have tons of photos to remember the occasion, or some means to let my network know that the steak was spectacular, that's okay.

I am old school that way. And though part of my job is social media - a big part - it's not my life either! Are you bound by the old ball and chain when it comes to social networks? Don't get me wrong - we all know the impact it has had on us and I will be the first to admit that social media is awesome awesome awesome. But oh gosh, who is the master and who is the "servant"?

Social Dating Adventures: Part 1

My Facebook friends would know all about this because I admonish people enough about it. So you put up a profile photo - it's nice looking, a full head shot of you looking relaxed and a bit cute. You maybe trawl the FBsphere commenting on notes, on friends' statuses or photos and their friends follow suit and oh, someone notices the comment above theirs, notices the profile photo and thinks, "wow, that girl is hot" and they click on your photo, get your abridged profile, because you know about privacy settings, and then send you a Friend Request.
If you're looking for a date online, this may work for you. If not, it becomes annoying. (I am annoyed)
But more and more people are using social media for dating. It's no longer merely online dating, but social  dating and I decided to do a social experiment this weekend with the new tools. So I did a search for "facebook dating" and got 5 recommendations
  • Zoosk
  • Are you Interested?
  • Flirt Wall
  • Best Match
  • Most Eligible Single
After the first 2 experiments, I did not even bother with the last 3, but I added the apps for the first 2 and created profiles.
Zoosk allows you to connect with people in your local neighbourhood, up to 160km/miles away (I forget), so this meant I was going to be matched up with Trini men. It allows you to add ice breaker questions, which you can ask your prospective "date" to gauge whether you have anything in common. Being as anal as I am, I had 25 ice breaker questions, but this was supposed to be an experiment, right? In less than 5 minutes, I had 5 notes in my Zooskbox, 10 views. I thought, "damn, there are some SERIOUS people out there". Not many of these dudes seemed to be capable of starting a conversation or doing much beyond sending winks. But there was one dude who answered every single question and clearly showed he was interested. Sadly, I was not. I noticed a few of my friends also used the application, though how actively I am not sure. In any event, by the next day, I had deleted my account and removed the application because the bevy of strange looking men winking at me (including the 63 yr old grandfather from Arima) was too much for my senses. "Co-founder Shayan Zadeh said that the site's platform is the digital equivalent of going out to a bar with friends and meeting new people." And he's not lying. It's the same sort of thing, just without the smoke, loud music and consistent leering. So don't let anyone dissuade you from trying it cause in actuality, it is not that much different to meeting someone in real life!

The other application, "Are You Interested?" was more of a meat market than the first. Where Zoosk opens you up to local men, this one opened you up to the universe. So again, in less than 5 minutes I had 28 Likes from men as far as Israel and Finland. This one was not as "social" or I should say you had to fork out money to be social, so you could not send notes or even read notes unless you paid. This one survived for about 5 hours before it was deleted and removed.
So while it may not be for everybody, social dating is real. And not only is it real, but the person next to you in the taxi or in the next cubicle may be a social dater. The days of online romantic interactions being a joke, or for the lonely and desperate seem to be long gone. Now with social media networks, it really has become an extension of what you do everyday anyway, just with a purpose - pimping yourself out for love. Pretty much as I wrote yesterday about pimping yourself out for a job, many people are using social media to find that special someone and creating a personal brand that they hope would be appealling and attractive to a potential mate. I have friends who have met their husbands via online dating. Social media just increases the odds for the romantic at heart, with greater visibility and opportunity to find THE ONE. So though you may not know it or never really thought about it this way, online or social dating is pretty much creating and strengthening your personal brand, engaging your "customers" who in this case are your dating pool to get best results! You marketer, you!
Some people are also using social media to do other things - some less savoury than others. I know some of you know about these.
  • You meet a guy, you think he's cute, you get home and what do you do? You know the answer! You go search for him on Facebook. Maybe it you're really serious, you send him a friend request hoping he will accept it.
  • You use the newly discovered Facebook profile to stalk this person - find out where he is working, look at his photos, see who he hangs out with, what he did this weekend etc
  • You check out what your ex is doing now and stew in your angry juices because he is tagged in photos with other girls, looking very happy too I might add.
  • You wonder why your co-worker's status says "In a Relationship" while her boyfriend's says "Single".
  • You update your status or send tweets which should not be out there in the public domain in the first place, denigrating the girl you think is with your boyfriend, or the ex.
The implications of social media and dating are endless and just way too much to discuss, but here is a great post on rules for social media dating. It was hilarious and sadly, I know people who break these rules. 
So anyway, I thought I would just take a load off and delve into this exciting new world of romantic interactions via new media. This one I may try this weekend, if time permits, and post my review next week (you know I love a good review). But technology is just taking us places we never knew we could go, isn't it? It's both amusing and intriguing. I hope you guys would try some of them out too and let me know what you thought.

Here is a great article about social dating and an interview with a guy who found his love via new media.

What should you, Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber have in common?

I know just a couple things about Nicki Minaj

1. She is an up and coming female rapper (another one) who I am hearing about more and more each day
2. She is of Trini origin - a Trini dougla
2. She got her break when she was discovered on MySpace by some big jefe record executive

I know even less about Justin Bieber except for

1. His name has been a Twitter trending topic for weeks now
2. He got his break when he was discovered on YouTube

How do you intend to catch your big break??

Before, it was the employer who pulled out the bells and whistles to make themselves attractive and accessible. Now, with social media, it's the prospective employees and the big-dreamers who are really putting themselves out there to get the attention of employers and dream peddlers. How are you using social media to self-promote?

Are you using a business-oriented social network like LinkedIn?
If your Facebook page currently has photos of last weekend's drunken club session, it may not be the best channel for promoting yourself professionally. Nix that idea IMMEDIATELY! Consider using a site like LinkedIn to sell who you are and what you can offer, while having the opportunity to network with people in your field. And don't just create a profile and leave it sitting there. Get recommendations from past employers/colleagues. Get out there and make yourself visible. Follow groups which are related to your field, get involved in discussions, post answers to questions - interact and exchange.

Are you following the RIGHT people?
We all have our interests. I follow travel tweeters, but I also follow a lot of PR/comms/social media marketing tweeters. Twitter may be like a huge chatroom for most, but make it a chatroom with a purpose and with an end goal in mind if you're looking to catch that lucky break.

Are you blogging?
Blogs are a great way to have your say and share your expertise, while putting yourself out there. But...

Are you mindful of the content you post online?
Don't use your blog to only be critical, divisive or just plain cantankerous. Offer useful solutions, show your creativity in resolving issues, show that you can be a positive part of a community. So while we may not always agree with what others may say, we don't have to be nasty about it. Offer contributions, not deconstruction! And F bombs may not be the best way to paint yourself fabulous, so don't use the F bomb on Twitter or elsewhere if you're not too pleased about something.

Is your CV current and innovative?
Ensure that your CV is current. Don't put outdated info on your LinkedIn site, which midway through a conversation you realise is not the whole story. Super fail. And depending on what you're looking for, and the audience you're trying to reach, why not integrate short video, or a podcast telling people about yourself. Though I think here, we are lagging in this area, it's an idea especially if you want to show yourself as on the cutting edge of your field. HR is using video conferencing, and social networks in some areas to recruit new hires. Why should you be limited to a standard CV?

Are you checking out who's checking YOU out?
So you have set up these social media channels to sell yourself but are you even checking to see if anyone is browsing the merchandise. Just as traditional marketers measure to see whether their message is getting across, you need to ascertain whether you are being noticed. So monitor your hits to your blog, who subscribes to your RSS feed, who's retweeting you, following you, who's connecting with you, who's responding to your discussion topics etc. Don't leave it to chance.

Are you getting the word out?
I don't think we have many mind readers out there so be vocal about your objectives and start exploring those avenues relevant to your professional needs. Let people know that you are looking for new opportunities. The more people who know you're looking, the greater the chance of you getting that job. If we can use social networks to find a date (more on this later this week), why can't we be honest about our professional desires? Get it out there!

Justin Bieber's mum used YouTube to post his performances for friends and family and inadvertently got him his dream job. Now he is all over Twitter. Why? I am not quite sure but there is really something to be said about using social media to follow your dream. Start building your networks now before you really need it. It takes time to build that network and that following, so don't waste time. Get it going.

p.s. Findind a G-rated/fit-for-purpose photo of Ms Minaj for this blog was a challenge. Be mindful of your content, right?

Friday Peeves: When a Drop Box Trumps Technology

I received a letter from a government authority last week. They were updating their records and wanted me to review my info and make any updates where necessary.

Here is where I had some issues. My "account" so to speak was created online, using their online platform. I updated it at the end of January 2010. Shouldn't your system show that I updated my info? Why are you sending me this letter?

Okay, so clearly I had no changes to the document they sent me. But they did not indicate whether I still had to send the form back. The letter states if you have changes, then send back updates, but what if you didn't? What happens then?

And more annoying than anything else is the fact that in this day and age, they want me to walk to their office and drop the form in a box in person. Now while I enjoy a good stroll,

  1. I am very busy
  2. Have you all been experiencing the same heat I have been experiencing? If I do decide I want to make this infernal walk, it would be at noon, on my lunchbreak, when the sun is dancing high in the sky! Are you serious?
  3. The walk is not some leisurely stroll either. It's a good long trod!
  4. And saving the best for last - what's wrong with email????

Okay, forgetting the fact that the records are all on their system somewhere because some people applied online, why can't we update the form, scan it and email it to a designated email account?

Or if we really try to be accomodating, why can't we FAX it to a designated number??? Why in 2010, must I walk all the way there, to not even be given face to face customer service, but to drop the form IN A BOX!???


Wow. It's sadder that this came from a Communications Department. If it came from a department that maybe does not know better I would not be so gobsmacked but c'mon, man. How is this good customer service?

And as we talk about technology and the lack of adapting to same, I think when a certain newspaper launched its new design earlier this week, a lot of people were unhappy with it. I had no real opinion on the design itself but I would have thought that with a new look, there would have been new additions. In its previous manifestation, the articles had an Email this Article link, and a Print This Article link. But no Share This Article link. So if I wanted to share a really great article with my Facebook friends for example, I would have to copy and paste the link myself. How is this progressive, and for a media house?? C'mon. So with the new design, I was baffled to see that there was still no social bookmarking links in an age of social media and mass sharing, mass retweeting etc. And to add insult to injury, the email and print options were casualties of the new design as well.

So this morning I go to see if anyone has been monitoring the socialmediasphere and gauging customer feedback, thus making some changes to the look and feel. Not only were there zero changes, but there was also this. I mean as if the grief was not enough. You do see what I am talking about though?

Have a great day, friends.

High School Reunion, Part Deux

Though we have been dragging our feet a bit, a few friends and I are trying to get our high school class together after wow...years! Facebook was the catalyst because it was through Facebook that we got reconnected with each other. And it is also through Facebook that we are attempting for a second time to have a reunion before we hit 60!

The first time we just had a discussion board and that was it. Just a lot of back and forth via a disussion board. How exciting could that have been, right? This time, I am hoping that I could utilise the tools we have today to full effect to make people excited about it and get flights booked, tickets bought and diets started. lol.

I recorded a hurried podcast this morning for the ladies, but it would be nice to use social media for something other than work for a change and engage people and hopefully get them excited about something that should matter to them. Selling something that matters to you personally is always more fun, isn't it? And having something other than work to explore ideas on is also a great stress buster and sanity saver.

Looking forward to it! And I will let you know, if you want to know, how it goes. Ideas are always welcome though.

You Talk, We Listen, We Respond. Or Do We?

I got an e-survey from Caribbean Airlines this morning, basically asking me to let them know how they were doing. I happen to think they are doing pretty okay. What do you think?

In any event, I appreciated that they wanted to find out from their customers why they do or don't choose them as their preferred airline. I hope the feedback is actually taken into account and used to improve/enhance the service which they offer.

Which I guess leads me to a question, or a few questions - do you ever use suggestion boxes to offer a company useful feedback, and more importantly, do you ever wonder what happens to it?? Is it used? Is the box with the slips of paper and the 10 multiple choice questions, merely window dressing or a showpiece that says "We want you to think we care about what you have to say, but quite frankly, we don't". Do you only use it for negative feedback or do you praise the customer service representative who delivered superior service?

I often wonder about those little boxes, and whether there is actually someone who actions my thoughts and applies it to make something better or to reward someone. Does the manager at that KFC outlet care about my customer experience at his/her branch? Do they compile the info on these slips of paper, and discuss them at team meetings - in an effort to continuously improve?

I am one who rarely use the box for venting. Oh no. For that I find a supervisor or manager, and then usually to rant about something totally hideous. I am a huge believer in positive feedback when it comes to customer service in Trinidad. We need to give them feedback about the bad service, yes, but when I get service, I want the person's boss to know that this person was a customer service superstar! Especially because we complain so much about how poor the customer service is here.

I also don't appreciate when you actively solicit my feedback and then I don't feel like anything has come from it, because there is no feedback on my feedback. One example is a recent social media competition which was put on by a locally based international organisation. They wanted fans to suggest new names for parts of the business, and a few of my friends and I came up with some suggestions and submitted. Months have gone by and there has been no result. Now, I am not dying to win the thing but I entered because I had an interest and would have liked to know the result. I even enquired directly, both on the social media channel and with a few persons I know working at the organisation. A simple update explaining that maybe none of the suggestions met their vision, or something would have satisfied me. But nothing, months later. It was a bit disappointing to say the least.

I would hope that my feedback - good or bad (albeit, CONSTRUCTIVE) - would be positive for the person requesting it, because ultimately constructive feedback is essential for continous improvment, can lend to creativity and innovation as to how stuff can be done better and can add value to the community. And the community, through one way or another, would appreciate some feedback back about changes, upcoming initiatives or events. Reciprocity is key! More times than not, people want to feel like their feedback is valued, and that inevitably that they are valued.

Customer Capital: From Outflow to Inflow

When pitching social media to managers you get a myriad of reasons why it may not be the best idea, but one of the loudest challenges usually has to do with putting the brand out there to be criticised by the public. Well, guess what...whether you're there or not, the customers will criticise and bash the brand. The fact is, they're not waiting on you to give them permission to do it. They are going to do it and more importantly, they now have the tools with which to do it.

But the interactions which social media provide, if they are indeed interactions and not calculations (counting how many fans and followers you may have) can help a company to counter these negative comments and even learn beforehand what's on the mind of the customer - the good and the bad. It's a bit arrogant of companies to think or believe that their brand is so fantastic that it should be immune somehow from negative comments or criticism. The age of the marketing campaign - that one way street of communication where the marketer ruled the roost and called the shots - is basically over. I think while we stood tall and beat our chests because we controlled the outflow of communication, and it was our way or no way, really many companies are scared of the inflows. Are we really content with passive audiences? Are we really that scared of a level playing field and the active consumer who knows what he/she wants and know what he/she likes and is not afraid to say it openly?

To merely think of the inflows in negative terms is shooting onself in the foot before even starting the race. The richness of social media interactions cannot be denied. So many times, customers have given me great suggestions and ideas for the "what next?" and the "what could be better". I want some creative assistance and they are there, always willing to lend their own opinions and suggestions. The creative customer capital inflows have to be considered as much as the management of the negative feedback, which in themselves are ALSO rich and useful for they can now shape the way forward.

This fear of social media is not going to go away very soon for a lot of organisations, but the new media are here, not going away any time soon, and being used by millions of people every day. I would prefer to be ready and in the trenches to deal with the feeback, and learn from it, than standing on the top looking down, without a clue how to get in on the action.

Friday Break

I have peeves but have decided to not peeve today but just be.

I had started taking the ferry a couple days a week to save energy - both my energy and gas. I must admit, I really appreciated the mornings I did not drive to work. Not only could I steal a couple extra minutes of sleep, but I could catch up on my reading while I waited for my ride. And people watch. Sometimes we get caught up with work and the simple things get lost. I was talking with some colleagues a couple weeks ago and one guy remarked that he had no time to read anymore. His boss told him you have to make the time and in fact he carries a book with him wherever he goes, because ultimately, there are always pockets of time when you have nothing to do. That's when he reads. That's also what I do. So when I wait for my ride home, that's when I usually catch up with my reading. And at the salon. At the airport. At the car wash. At the mechanic's. I will either have something light like a novel, or I would read my communications/marketing magazines and journals. Sometimes I come across blog entries about social media or PR or marketing etc, that I really want to read and just don't have the time during the work day, so I save them and print them to read during one of these pockets. And that's how I keep up with the world,and  keep my mind from turning into frazzled brain cells. And I can also keep up with what other people are doing work-wise, get insights and ideas for my own work and questions to investigate further. I really had come to appreciate those days, more than even I realised.

You simply cannot work every second of the day and I commented on a blog recently where the young lady, also in comms, was so overwhelmed with work that she started bawling. You have to make time to recharge. You just have to or you are of no use to anyone. Fridays are often tough days for me with regard to creativity and sanity because after 4 days of early mornings, traffic etc, I am knackered. But Fridays are also the mornings after Grey's Anatomy and I have a loyal GA following on Facebook, where I review each episode with much glee (big up to my GA peeps!). It is not just for their reading pleasure but also another way of using and in this case, creating a pocket of time that is mine. I have started back working out every afternoon (used to be mornings) as another stress buster. But one has to make the time.

So how and when do you create pockets of time to recharge your batteries during the work week?

The Two Face Dilemma with Social Media

I came upon a really timely and interesting blog entry yesterday, because it is something that impacts me and I am sure some of you as well. With social media being everywhere, including in business, one has to seriously think about the identities which one has online and how it impacts your professional and personal lives. I blogged on this already but felt a need to "wheel and come again". Most people would have started off with a personal Facebook profile or a personal blog. That's how I started. Then companies started getting involved in social media and the landscape changed from being just about "me" and more about "us", and especially in a case where you are actively involved or recognised professionally, your social media profiles probably need a review. Not only that, but there is greater convergence of the personal and professional.

I have several social media identities, between work and play-

  • Blogs - this one is more professional while I have others, which are more personal in nature
  • Twitter - a healthy balance of the two
  • LinkedIn - I don't know if there is any other way to use LinkedIn other than personal branding for business and professional networking
  • Flickr/Photobucket - personal
  • Facebook - my profile here is strictly personal

But here is the rub. I also manage a few professional profiles on YouTube, Flickr and of course, Facebook. Before pages came along, one had groups and if any of you have a group, you would know that when you send messages to your members, regardless of the name of the group, your personal profile photo and your name go out with the message. I cannot tell you (though my friends would know cause I complain about it enough) how many people I do not know personally, but whom I would probably interact with via my groups' activities, send me friend requests. Some may want to keep me close as a company insider for when they want assistance and some may just want a date, which sadly seems to be the usual reason. Not only that, but you have to then be mindful of the photo you have up. Can you imagine getting a message from an organisation you're following and the admin's photo is of him/her in a bikini/speedo, with a beer bong, and a spliff? How would that inspire you?

Now while I support networking and social media for business especially should heartily support interaction, am I willing to let customers and interested persons into my personal space? I say, without hesitation, no. With pages, I now can interact with customers from a strictly corporate profile which keeps the lines firmly in place and you can still contact me directly.

My personal spaces are for personal things. I don't want to share my vacation photos, my notes, my status updates about all my craziness with people I do not know personally. And you do continue to meet people in the course of doing business and they may want to "friend" you on Facebook, but those relationships are also different to the ones I have with the people who are my friends on Facebook. So do I have a professional Facebook page, for this purpose - without personal family photos, videos and the like? Do I ask you to become a Fan of my professional Page? Sure I think I am awesome but the word "fan" has this connotation and I am not that vain to think I am SO popular or SO interesting that I would attract "fans".

This is not to say that I would not become friends with people I form virtual relationships with. Not at all. I think social media allows for rich interactions which you may not have via the traditional channels. I DO have people I have met through work on my profile - once I have developed that relationship with them. I DO sometimes share stuff that is non-work related on my blog or in my not so personal spaces. And at the same time, I DO harness my personal profile for work sometimes, by sharing work stuff, asking for feedback or running ideas past them (and many thanks to my fab friends for being so supportive). So where does one draw the line then?

I try now to use what I have to network professionally. So LinkedIn and Twitter work for me right now and I have had great interactions there thus far.. My Facebook, let me say it right now, is off limits for people I do not know personally, or even people I work with. I do not subsrcibe to mixing my professional life with my personal life. And my Facebook profile is still not half as bad as some of the profiles I know are out there - with sexy profile photos, status updates about their sex lives and fetishes etc - and which are open and welcoming to colleagues, suppliers, bosses. Do you want to update your profile, which your boss has access to, saying that you're in Tobago when you called in sick that day? Scary stuff, man. I see some things sometimes and cringe. Not only that but I know of people who have unwittingly lost a chance at a job or a business opportunity because of stuff on their personal profiles, which they have opened to the masses.

But it's just different. Your personal voice and your corporate voice. Your personal profile and your corporate profile. Different but not separate. They still, I think are interwoven, especially if you are a marketer who really forms great, personal relationships with clients. Customers rarely want an autobot, do they? But as social media continues to permeate our lives, the lines will continue to get more and more blurred. You just have to decide where, when and IF you want to draw hard lines of demarcation.

I Heart Putting Words Together

Chris Brogan wrote about his love for blogging and it's been something I have been thinking about myself for a couple weeks. I have been blogging for about 8 years now, though this blog is a recent one, a public one and more work-related in comparison to my others.

I love writing in general. I think I always have. I was never good at Mathematics or science based subjects (blech!) but I always loved English (later French) and writing stories and expressing myself in words. I first realised I was kinda good at it when I was in primary school and I would get gold stars in Composition and would have my teacher read my essays to the class. I  conducted my very first interview for print back then as well. I was 10.

When the borough of San Fernando was elevated to city status, there was an essay competition and while the details are now foggy (c'mon expect me to propel my grey matter that far back??), my teacher selected me to be one of the 2 girls to enter. The essay had to be about the city, its people, its history and my essay was going to be on Rodney Wilkes, who sadly, was not well known (probably still isn't, which is a travesty). We all knew about Hasely Crawford (also from San Fernando) being the first Olympic gold medallist (and only thus far) for Trinidad and Tobago, but Rodney Wilkes was the first T&T medallist ever. Period. I remember going to his house one lunchtime, which was not too far from school, sitting in his living room, asking him lots of questions, seeing his medals and trophies, and old photos and hearing his story. I wrote it all down, put it in an essay and on City Day I was awarded a certificate, presented to me by the Mayor, in front of hundreds of people, for having one of the best essays from all the entries. I would love to read that essay today, if it even exists still. Maybe one day I will go find it, if they have not burnt all those City Day memorabilia.

But, yes. I love writing and as Chris said, it's something you have to do regularly, if you want to keep your mind constantly regenerating itself and creating new ideas, and to improve. It's like anything else - sports, music, cooking. It takes practice to get better. And when you write, you ultimately have to read. I don't know of anyone who writes in a vacuum. With this blog, even though it's my ramblings, I still have to read - I am forced to make time to read and keep up with the world because sometimes gets in the way of little things like that. So kudos to my blog for keeping me less ignorant in the face of early mornings, busy days, tired weekends.

At work, it's not always the stuff I am passionate about writing about, but I do have to write at work.  Still, with communications one has to be mindful of who the audience is, and adapt to suit their knowledge level, their background and other intrinsic details that can make or break the message. It gets a little more complicated at work, but I guess it still comes a little easier to me than to most.
I have encouraged friends to blog because experiences are so varied and can make for such great stories, sharing, networking. Some have gotten married and moved away, to new environments, experiencing culture shock even. I (via my blog) would be all over that! Sometimes time is against us but it is probably my one passion - writing. I use my breakfast time to scribble, or in this new age, type. Some people claim blogging is dead, with the advent of micro blogging but I don't agree at all. Microblogging is great, but for those who want more than 140 characters and who are restricted by 140 characters or status updates, blogging is an outlet and a conduit for self expression and illumination.

I also get to meet interesting people and have met different people through blogging. It's something that's mine as well. On my blog, I don't have to get approval from higher powers or permission. It's my self expression, and my little space on the web to say what I want, though of course I still use tact, discretion and try to respect others. It's something I can do anywhere and at anytime. It is a stress buster, lemme tell ya and can be therapy. It's fun and I like, in other spaces, making my friends laugh cause sometimes I am just hilarious when tickled. And even if one person reads my junk and enjoys reading it, it is really something special to know that. I appreciate my 1.5 readers who keep coming back! Thank you.

Hip and Happenin' CSR

A lot of people are getting caught up in the whole CSR thing, without really knowing or understanding what CSR is really about. It's a new and hip tagline for some, a nice section for the Annual Report, with pretty photos of hugging kids or planting trees. But there is no substance, no tie in to the business, no buy in from staff.

It makes me recall a disturbing conversation I had with a colleague once. Her company had partnered with an NGO which focused on HIV/AIDS education and awareness. Oh, there was the big corporate splash, with internal blasts and a media release and the requisite pretty photo for the website etc. During an internal event, geared at promoting wellness, the "partners" from the NGO placed posters throughout the office about prevention and condomising. Somehow the word "condom" and the accompanying image did not find favour with the chief exec, who was aghast that such a poster would be placed in the building, and he demanded that it be removed forthwith. Furthermore, there was to be no distribution of condoms to staff. Only pamphlets, and that was a miracle she achieved through no meagre effort.

And that's what a lot of businesses are doing, to one degree or another. There is a lot of talk but no real action or ownership of CSR initiatives. If that exec's personal convictions about condoms were so strong, perhaps he should have explored another cause to support, if he was really and truly interested in genuine CSR activities in the first place. It's a lot of gloss really in some organisations. Companies support a cause - and it's either usually a one-off event with no follow through, no sustainability, no partnerships, or a cause they do not thoroughly examine and assess for relevancy to their business, their core values, their people.

And the people part they often ignore completely - both externally and internally. Sponsorships are not CSR. Let's get that straight. Anyone can hand over a cheque, but CSR really should place greater focus on the human resource as opposed to the financial resource, and the long term benefits of partnerships to both the community and the organisation. CSR does not live with any one department, but it should be such an integral part of the social fabric of the organisation that the employee should feel a sense of ownership, commitment and responsibility. But often, that people element is missing. And it's simple things. Like the Finance Team helping an NGO out with their accounting or the legal team guiding them on governance issues. Or the communications team helping them to build a social media presence to promote their work and attract volunteers. It comes down to how employees are engaged, how policies and systems internally foster empowerment, creativity and company loyalty.

So all this hip and happenin' CSR talk around the place means nothing if there is no real commitment from organisations to really get it right. But do we want to do the work to get it right? Or is it just easier on everyone to snap the photo and get on with the rest of it? That's the burning question.

Did that old guy, Oscar take home the prize?

So the Academy Awards have come and gone, with most of the predicted winners going home with a statuette. This year was a bit different as the 82 year old show tried to counter the dwindling interest and viewership from the younger audiences. The "Biggest Night in Hollywood" in my opinion has been in recent years been a dud. From the long drawn out monologues, the boring run throughs of less then exciting categories, the lame teleprompting quips - Oscar had started to show its age. And...

 Let's face it, if you ask your 16 year old about "An Education", or "A Serious Man", they would be like, "Huh?" When I first ventured online to peek at the nominees I thought I had gone to a spoof page. Seriously. Where there were supposed to be the traditional 5 artsy-fartsy films for Best Picture, there were 10, and they included "Up".

"Up"? For Best Picture? Times had changed.

Not only did the conservative Academy open the awards up to more mainstream movies, that traditionally would never have seen the prestige of the red carpet, but they also leaned a little more on social media than they did last year, with live streaming on their website and on their Facebook page of the nominations ceremony. Their Facebook page is pretty good too. Great behind the scenes video and photos, trailers for all the nominated films, performance clips and the like. A lot more nominee generated content and stuff that people would be interested in, from choosing that dress for the red carpet to how the statuettes are made. And as I always say, there is an app for everything and there was an app for Oscar as well.

The Oscars unveiled its new application for the iPhone and iPod Touch just in time for this year’s show, and there is truly something for everyone. Users can get caught up on all the nominations by watching movie trailers on the Flixter app, follow all the fashion with the Style App, and learn Oscar-related trivia with the Movie Challenge Oscar Special App. The Oscars iPhone App will also allow its users to make predictions and share them through Facebook, Twitter, text and email as well as release behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals and preparations leading up to the show. (

There was no live tweeting from Oscar himself, which is a bit unfortunate, especially as Twitter has really grown astronomically since the last broadcast. I really think tweets from Oscar would have gone a long way in generating more interest. Not to say that everyone else did not tweet, but what better way to drive people back to your other channels to check out all the other great stuff you may have come up with to draw people to your "big night".

I don't know if there was an Oscar blog or not, but it seemed like everyone else kept us in the loop, up to the minute,  like CNN and LA Times. An opportunity to give us exclusive coverage - lost. It would have been nice if even their Facebook page was kept "live" so to speak, with photos or video from the red carpet and behind the scenes of the show, if not the ceremony itself., which could have worked if they had enough dazzling, exclusive content to make people WANT to switch to ABC and watch the live broadcast. But as you see, the page became static on Saturday.

So did Oscar win? Did they rake in the viewers to the show last night? Did millions more than last year tune in to see Katherine Bigelow becomes the first woman to win "Best Director" ever, beating out her ex-husband both for directorial excellence and for Best Picture? Did the younger audience they hoped to pull in, come on board to see a bevy of younger presenters like Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron? Was the social media buzz buzzworthy enough to do the job?

Did it win for you?

"An Education" - great movie. I am one of the artsy-fartsy lovers. I probably will not watch "Up" in this lifetime.

Photos: MTV
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