Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams and Finding our Everyman in Death

Celebrities seem larger then life...until they die. In life, they star in movies and tv shows and own fancy mansions. They earn our right to adore them by being masterful and creative and surprising, as Williams was in all his roles. The special ones, like Williams, felt like real people when you were with them, while still casting that aura of fame. Williams supported causes, and made sad people laugh, without their knowing he may have been sadder then they were.

Celebrities sign autographs and pose for photos, and at times thrill us with their humility. But they are still somehow always otherworldly...never quite attainable.

In death, particularly suicide, that's when the paradox emerges. While photos and video clips chronicling the arc of their fame glut newspapers and websites, it's the little details of their ordinary lives in their final moments that get us. Their Everyman.

All too often, they spent their last hours in their most vulnerable of circumstances, alone in hotel rooms, or in their houses or apartments, gorging on some horrific binge of abuse. An altered state that takes them to their final resting state. Corey Monteith, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, and Heath Ledger, all come to mind. Suddenly, there is a change in perception. Celebrities can be alone and lonely, just like us. We understand now. Ironically, we can now envision them reading a book, or grabbing a cup of coffee, or even going to one of their own movies. If they were still alive, that is.

So with death, we are left to our imaginations. What they were thinking in their final hours? What led them to take their own lives? Did they want to be lost? Did they want to be found? What were they hiding? What about their families...did they not love them enough to stay alive? The news media frenetically reconstructs the celebrity's last day, hour, week. Social media is suddenly the harbinger of darker things, as we ponder that last tweet, Instagram, and Facebook post, looking for clues.

The only cliche I can think of when it comes to Robin Williams is the saddest one of all --he was a victim of his own success. Despite the cruel cycle of depression and substance abuse that haunted him, the work was what kept him going, and when it dwindled or didn't pan out, it got the better of him. But his successes may in the end have saved him from an even earlier suicide. We'll never know.

In the end, as far as Williams goes, for me he'll always be the beloved "Mork from Ork," a reference so everyday otherworldly as to be sublime.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

5 Reasons to Reconnect With Your Blog

 

I stopped blogging nearly a year ago. Not to be unoriginal, but let's just say I got busy. Or, we could say I started to explain blogging to other people, and social media, and integrated marketing, and the more I did this, the more I needed a break from my own online writing life -- kind of like being so full from tasting the dinner you're making that you just don't want any yourself.

All that was for the first six months or so. I was keenly aware that while I was reading The New Yorker, (an article ironically like this one, that highlights how powerful blogging can be), or the latest Ikea catalogue, or a women's magazine telling me to simplify my life, I could have been blogging. Or, while I was watching "Downton Abbey" and thinking social media (oh yes, I did write this), or shopping at Costco, or driving on 101 or 280 or 92, looking for oceans and farms and all those comforting greens and blues...I could have been blogging. While I was hanging upside down in yoga like a vaguely contented fruit bat in leggings, I could have been blogging. While I was emptying my inbox and reorganizing my closet and worrying about world events, I could have been chronicling all of it.

But I was secretly happy, because I had suddenly found more time, or given myself the gift of it. It felt a little illicit, like enjoying a snow day at home.

Then the next 6 months happened, and I no longer felt that I was gaining anything, but rather, I was losing something--something big. Life was happening all around me, and instead of recording my thoughts, and processing everything that way that writing invites you to, I let too many things slide, and I realized I'd let something important go. And I started to remember that saying: "If you don't take yourself seriously..." You know how it goes.

So for anyone who has momentarily or longer lost their blogging groove, here are 5 reasons to get it back:

1. As I just said, "if you don't take yourself seriously, no one else will," and that counts big time for writing. All the cliches kick in here. "Just Do It." "Writers Write."

2. Your blog should be your home. It may not always feel like it, but it is. It's where you find yourself and your people. It's where you hang your writing hat. It's where you get big integrity points for opening up and being yourself, even if it's not popular.

3. You have to "write" some wrongs. Like when you see the Next Food Network Star promote their online voting for the winner, with barely a social media connection on the landing page, you just have to say something. Or when you visit an awesome website, only to find that the testimonials are anonymous, leaving out the names of the people who've praised you. Wrong. Or, you see people tweeting and FB posting the same exact content at the same exact time....wrong again.

4. Your inner critic lives. You can't just let those book and film reviews swirl around in your head, when in your heart you've already written up 4 paragraphs of ingenious copy "Mad Men" style, just crying out to let your point of view known, even if only to yourself at first.

5. Because you're your own time capsule. You and what you write are a sign of the times, and the times will always change. You and what you link to are your keyword monoliths. A day after you publish a post, it may mean something different then what you intended. Fifty or 100 years later, your blog will be like a buried treasure.

And now, onward. I leave you with this, as it's time to organize more blogging ideas. I'm hungry, and it's time to get back into the kitchen, so to speak. Don't you think so?

 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Is Facebook the New Long-Form Platform for Writers?

Elizabeth Gilbert attracts her Facebook community with a variety of  comic, poignant, and reflective posts that provide transparency and authenticity to her brand.

Among several interesting social media trends I noticed this summer was the apparent evolution of long-form posts on Facebook, particularly by writers and authors. While many "regular folks" and small businesses seem to have taken on this style of posting, two of my favorite authors stand out. Joyce Maynard and Elizabeth Gilbert are innovative in making Facebook more relevant and interesting to audiences, with longish posts (at leat 10-12 paragraphs) that succeed in reeling in the reader--at least this reader, along with many others given the response I'm seeing. Maynard posted with frequency and rich detail, about everything from her new novel, (the recently published "After Her,") to her new film based on her book, "Labor Day," to her wedding, to the way in which she feels connected to people, places, and things, hitting a nerve, I think, with many readers who long for such connections.
Elizabeth Gilbert also does an amazing juggling act in her Facebook posts, combining book promotion (her newest novel, "The Signature of All Things" comes out this fall), contrasting fun observations of the people next to her on planes, to often poignant vignettes and personal accounts of those "in between moments" in life. Today's post, themed "never waste your suffering," in which she remembers a friend, Jim Maclaren, twice hit by a car, who struggled with drugs and many life challenges, saw over 600 Likes and 250 comments.

Author Joyce Maynard is a master of storytelling, sharing dramatic aspects of her literary and personal life with her Facebook community, and not afraid to take quite a few paragraphs to do so.

Granted, successful authors know how to write, but this doesn't necessarily guarantee an audience, not to mention Likes, Comments, and Shares. These writers remind us that true social media is about getting that delicate balance right between self-promotion, "edutainment," and sharing. I'm also impressed with the way both these authors use photos to embellish their posts, sharing links from fans, screenshots of cover art, and unusual event photos that aren't your typical run of the mill head shots and handshakes. Gilbert in particular appears to enjoy crowdsourcing her book covers and providing a somewhat flashy "international" flair, proudly showing us "the British cover" here and "the Australian cover" there in her videos.

I haven't checked yet and don't know if these authors have their own blogs as well, but if they do, they are keeping them distinct and separate from Facebook. I do know if a writer captures my interest on Facebook, there's a good chance I'll buy the book--or in this case--see their films as well.

How about you? Who are your favorite Facebook long-form bloggers and writers? How do they capture your attention?

Monday, August 12, 2013

In President's Men, Woodward and Bernstein Are Entrepreneur Heroes

 
So, Friday marked the 49th anniversary of President Nixon's resignation. To commemorate this event, we watched the Academy Award nominated film, "All The President's Men," which I hadn't seen in at least 20 years. Since I've been on something of a Robert Redford kick lately, and since I had written a poem about Watergate when I was in grade school (OK, we'll save that for later), it was entirely appropriate and just plain thrilling to sit through this two hours of fast moving, on the edge of your seat, "pre Aaron Sorkinesque" ingenious historical drama. Despite the charming anachronisms of typewriters (and relentless typing), feathered hair, dial-up telephones, and boat-like 1970's Dodge Chargers, there's a serious marketing takeaway from the movie: Woodward and Bernstein (W & B) totally hold up as modern day entrepreneurs who had the chops in real life, and in their depictions in film, to make their mark not only in their careers, but in changing the course of history.
 
Here are all the ways they had "the right stuff," and rank #1 as modern day entrepreneur heroes -- who also happened to be journalists.


1. Don't Give Up and Keep Moving
Impressive in this film is how Woodward and Bernstein never give up. They run (and drive) around like maniacs, and keep going, even when they appear to be hitting a dead end.

2. Be Aware of Your Competition and Aim Higher
At one point about halfway through the film, Berstein sees a New York Times article that reveals information he was looking for regarding money laundering. Instead of getting discouraged, he uses the article to jump start his own research and investigation.

3. Trust Your Instincts
W and B trust their instincts enough to push through the story and continue to investigate, despite putting their careers on the line and having doors shut in their faces at decidedly key moments.

4. Write A Lot Down
One of my favorite aspects of the film is how the reporters capture the essence of those they are interrogating by writing down their reactions on yellow legal pads, emphasizing and heightening the drama. They quickly jot down names and quotes, draw arrows, cross out words and lines, giving all the action a real time effect. Kind of like social media, if it had been invented yet. "If you could get Mitchell, that would be beautiful," Jane Alexander's character states.

5. Don't Be Afraid to Start Over
The investigation comes to a standstill when W and B question a woman they think was a member of CREEP, only to find she is a clerk in a department store. Instead if dropping the story, they use this as a turning point to question all the committee members again, including Jane Alexander, who plays a terrified Republican bookkeeper who divulges key information.

6. Find A Great Partner
Redford and Hoffman playing Woodward and Bernstein, are perfect foils for each other. There's a real synergy and passion as they compare notes, type alongside each other, and even type notes to each other in the famous scene when they are aware they're under surveillance.

7. Ask A Lot of Questions

Redford and Hoffman relentlessly ask questions during the entire length of the film, not satisfied until that get answers. A great entrepreneurial lesson that you have to know what you don't know, to succeed.

8. Have a great meme.
These quotes from the script would have been tweeted and retweeted thousands of times if Twitter had been around in 1976. Check it out:
"Follow the money."

"I don't mind what you did. I mind the way you did it."

"Nothing's riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country."

"The list is longer than anyone can imagine."

So...over to you. Do you think Redford and Hoffman can be described as entrepreneurs? What do you think this movie does for journalism, and does it hold up by today's standards? What's your favorite scene in the movie? Share in the comments.

 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

5 Myths About Twitter You Need to Know Now

Everyone seems to have advice about Twitter these days, and with good reason. With each new tip on best practices, there comes another that might contradict or dispel it. Let's face it, we all want to be effective on Twitter, but with the evolution of social media also comes the changing face of social profiles, more competition to stand out, and the ongoing contradiction of promoting one's own brand while actively recognizing and supporting others.

Here are 5 "myths" I have found to be prevalent on Twitter, particularly over the past year:

1. Follow back all who follow you -- maybe not.

At the risk of possibly not enchanting all new followers, I continue to be selective in who I follow back, for a number of reasons. First, if I review their profile and it has no relevance to my niche, namely writing, editing, social media and communications, they will probably not find my content relevant anyway. More interesting to me is how they found me, as that is always a good study in market research. Twitter accounts with the infamous egg profile logo, or the dreaded "what I had for breakfast" tweet front and center, won't work for me. A quick review of the users @ reply tweets, as well as the variety and quality of content they're sharing, is a good benchmark in who to follow back. A strong following us a plus, although not necessarily a dealbreaker, particularly if they're just starting out.

2. The law of reciprocity is contextual.

For a while there, I was heavily into retweeting. I retreated a variety of folks large and small, including influencers such as Chris Brogan and Mitch Joel and Seth Godin, mostly because I liked their content and secondarily because a little recognition from them would have been nice. But I have found that influencers in general are too busy to pay that kind of attention to their community to circle back, even in responding to blog comments. So if you're looking for Retweets back from influencers, don't be surprised if it doesn't happen.

3. Linking to The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Tech Crunch is too obvious.

Recently I've heard a lot of discussion on the questionable value of tweeting articles from big ticket publishers such as The New York Times, on the theory that everyone does it. A bland RT with no comment is dull, but here's my take on this is: so what if it's obvious, if you add your own spin to it? Ask a question, add a joke, brings some other tweeps into the picture, be creative. Including the link in the middle if the tweet rather then the very start or end, is also a good tip. The benefit of a possible retweet and increase in relevant followers far outweighs the popularity myth, and it's a brand enhancer to show that you read well respected publications, particularly if you're in journalism or publishing. I'm not embarrassed to show my followers that I read Mashable and Tech Crunch everyday. Are you?

4. If you're an author, you must market your new book on Twitter.

An interesting post from Poytner, "Are Long and Short Form Writing Mutually Exclusive" states that "audiences want both short and long writing from the same writers," and that many authors simply bow out when it comes time to market their book on Twitter or other social networks. Tweets can lead to book deals, but managing a growing Twitter account can take writers away from their own writing. Unless you are actually publishing your tweets, as some authors have successfully done, it's likely that you'll need to decide what takes priority: the tweets or the next book. And then there's always Facebook and YouTube...

5. The @reply and hashtag reign supreme.

Just because you understand hashtags and the value of the @reply, doesn't mean you should overdo it. Balance is key, as in anything. When I see tweets laden with all that ink, I get a headache. I view hashtags as most useful and relevant in conjunction with events, trends, and people, and as a creative exercise in inventing them on the fly to see what happens, as I did with #twitteration.

What do you think? Are there common Twitter myths you've encountered lately, and how do you strategize around them?

By Carrie Jaffe-Pickett

@carriewriter

(I tweet over at https://mobile.twitter.com/carriewriter if you'd like to join me!)

 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Jay Bauer Youtility Giveaway and Easypromos

First, the Book...

You can enter my book giveaway here...

I first heard Jay Baer when he was a Keynoter at Marketo's Marketing Summit in San Francisco. He truly gave one of the best presentations I've ever seen, based on concepts from his latest book, Youtility. His premise is that the company that provides the most valuable and relevant information to its potential client is the company that will stand out, and ultimately reap the rewards. In many ways, we've been marketing all wrong, and this book sets us straight. The customer must be the focus.

A reviewer in Amazon, Mack Collier, writes: "One of the core messages of Youtility that resonated with me was Jay's explanation of how marketing has shifted from being controlled by the brand to being controlled by the customer. Jay calls this 'Friend of Mine,' the idea being that many of us get information that leads to our purchase decisions from fellow customers, friends, and family. So if we as marketers want to continue to win business, one of the key shifts we need to make is to adjust our marketing to be in line with the information that customers are getting FROM OTHER CUSTOMERS. I think this is one of the key takeaways from Youtility, and Jay includes dozens of case studies of companies that are providing useful and valuable content, that in turn leads to trust and sales."

I contacted Jay, and he agreed to send me an extra copy of his book for a giveaway, so here you go. The giveaway runs from July 8-31. Best of luck!

Second, Quick Review of Easypromos

I discovered Easypromos while looking for a better app then Woobox, which I had tried recently and found the interface a bit awkward.

Pros

First promotion free, so you get a chance to try it out without giving your credit card info and having to cancel later.

Offer setup fairly straightforward, with all necessary features included, such as contest duration, name, image upload option, and text formatting for contest description, with auto editor.

Easy preview mode, so you review how your offer looks and tweak it before going live.

Attractive templates that give your promotion a finished look.

Cons

The editor mode froze at one point after I had entered my text, and wouldn't let me add more edits. It may have been due to the use of a symbol character, but I have contacted customer support, and we'll see how quickly they get back to me.

The Tab editor that allows you to customize the type and image is a bit confusing to navigate, as the screen does not direct users where to go first. I had to play with it a while to get my custom Tab published.

Compliance with Facebook guidelines could have been more user-friendly. The website states the app is compliant, but does not provide any sample guidelines text, which isn't particularly reassuring. If you don't add additional guidelines text, is your campaign compliant just by using the Easypromos platform?

Additional features such as a dedicated Dashboard for users launching multiple promos, and the option for random winner selection, were tough to find, as I had to scroll through their Facebook newsfeed and website Q and A's to find them.

All in all, I would try Easypromos again (maybe for my August book giveaway), but at $15 a go for the lowest tier, I'm also tempted to try out competitors such as Tabsite, Shortstack, and maybe Woobox again now that they recently launched Instagram contest apps.

PS I'm doing all this through my iPad only, as an experiment for mobile.

Has anyone read Youtility yet? Or have you discovered a great app for book and other giveaways? Share in the comments.