My Blog Has Moved — Will You Follow Me There?

Posted on January 5, 2009
Filed Under Business | Leave a Comment

My blog has moved. Will you please follow me there?

I’m sorry for the disruption, but it was a necessary first step in my Web site redesign. And apologies especially to those of you who will need to resubscribe to the new feed.

I’ve learned a lot since I launched this blog in June 2008, and I’ll share what I’ve figured out over at my new location. For now, suffice it to say that having a unified, up-to-date Web platform and a flexible, customizable WordPress theme should make my life easier and give you a more seamless reading and commenting experience.

As always, thanks for reading–and I look forward to welcoming you to my new home.

Goodbye 2008. Hello 2009.

Posted on January 1, 2009
Filed Under Independent Thinking, Odds &Ends | Leave a Comment

I went to see Pompeii yesterday. Not the Roman city buried after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, but the traveling exhibit of sculpture and other artifacts recovered from homes around the Bay of Naples. As I walked through the rooms looking at the pieces of people’s lives, there was one thought I couldn’t get out of my head: weren’t there any warning signs?

Apparently, there were. I’m not a volcanologist, and I gather that predicting eruptions is hard to do. But I can tell you that if you’ve had a major earthquake and then the darn thing starts making noise, you get out of its path.

And so we shove aside 2008. No matter how you slice the data, it was a pretty ugly year around the globe. But U.S. citizens elected a new president and, in so doing, signaled that we’re not going to ignore the earthquake any longer.

Hello 2009. I await your secrets with much anticipation. I think it’s going to be a good year.

When LinkedIn Groups Go Awry

Posted on December 29, 2008
Filed Under Business, Marketing/PR | 2 Comments

When I wrote my post about the value of LinkedIn, I called it a “must have” element of every professional’s online presence. I still believe that. So why are so many people devaluing their profiles with endless drivel?

I belong to several LinkedIn Groups, and they are helpful in identifying like-minded professionals and in broadening my network. What they are not, it seems, is a forum for robust discussion.

For an overview of what’s gone awry with LinkedIn discussions, read Craig Peters’ terrific post. In it, he outlines many of the things people are doing wrong, including looking for free advice, traffic whoring, and blatant self-promotion.

I’m personally not so concerned with the free advice component, as we’re all learning every day. Plus providing value to someone else can be a good way to demonstrate expertise without giving everything away. But, like Peters, I’m tired of being bombared with constant come-ons and pleas to “please, please click on my link before answering.”

From a business perspective, I’m not sure why anyone would want their business persona to scream ”bad marketer and I contribute nothing.” From a social media perspective, they’re failing miserably on the engagement piece.

As to LinkedIn Groups, they are not now a go-to place for discussion. I think the smart conversation online has largely migrated to Twitter.

Barclays Black Card

Posted on December 28, 2008
Filed Under Marketing/PR | Leave a Comment

Have you seen the ad for the new Visa Black Card? The spot aired at least twice during the Celtics-Lakers game on Christmas Day. It caught my attention because
1) I actually need a Visa card, and 2) after all the silver, gold, and platinum out there, a carbon graphite black credit card sounds very cool.

But then I looked at the fine print. Who’s going to spend $495/year for a credit card? That’s when I realized that this card must be targeted to the wannabe rich. Because the truly rich didn’t get that way by spending foolishly for exclusivity. Just ask Warren Buffett.

Which brings me to the business question: why is Barclays Bank introducing a high-end credit card during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? I’m not sure who their target customer is. More than that, however, it seems a little unseemly to be plugging exclusivity when most people are struggling to keep afloat.

So what is Barclays trying to say? And what do you think? Is this smart niche marketing or an over-the-top conspicuous assumption?

Health Care Reform: Are We Seeing the Perfect Storm?

Posted on December 18, 2008
Filed Under Business, Leadership | Leave a Comment

Is health care reform on the horizon? I posed this question last month to Business Week Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler in the context of business cost pressures and growing unemployment. Here’s how I live tweeted his answer at the time:

On health care, Adler wonders whether Obama can take this on, or move incrementally instead to make small improvements.

 from TwitterBerry

I didn’t agree with his assessment then, but I understood the reasoning. After all, the health care industry is big business, and those who’ve made a lot of money on the current system aren’t going to go gently into a brave new world. In the last month, however, I’ve become increasingly convinced that we might be seeing the perfect storm for wholesale reform.

1. Big business wants reform now. Health care costs are killing big companies, and they’re pushing for lower prices, better quality, and cost transparency. (Small businesses, in many cases, have already been priced out of providing health care benefits, forcing their employees into the ranks of the self-insured and uninsured in America.) Wal Mart’s $4 prescription program isn’t just smart marketing, it’s smart business.

2. As more people lose their jobs, the numbers of uninsured people will grow. This means new strains on already-strained state and local public health systems, and more people walking around unable to access the preventive care that offers an early warning system and saves big bucks down the road.

3. The uninsured won’t be among the ranks of the disenfranchised this time. The current economic displacement is hitting all regions of the country and all income levels.

A lot of people have been looking at different elements of the health care system and how to lower costs while driving better outcomes for patients. And more are putting their stakes down every day. The Institute of Medicine just yesterday released a list of 20 key indicators of the nation’s health and health care. Business Week has a fascinating piece in the current issue that explores the question: Why can’t health care be run like the retail sector?

The Bush administration committed $700 billion to bail out Wall Street, and the Obama team will likely request at least this much for its economic stimulus package. This means that for the first time in a long time we’ll be testing new ideas on a massive scale and finding out what works and what doesn’t. How can health care reform not be part of the mix?

I’ve lived and worked in Washington long enough to know that there are no perfect solutions. But we’ve got to try something new.

Why Social Media is “Worth It”

Posted on December 16, 2008
Filed Under Independent Thinking, Social Media | 4 Comments

Whenever I talk about social media, I invariably get asked two questions:

I’ve been thinking about the question of time a lot since reading Marc Meyer’s Let’s Focus post earlier this month. He got me thinking about how I balance my social media engagement with my client work, traditional business development, workouts, family, friends, and the ebbs and flows of daily life.

My social media strategy has been to pick and choose the forums that work best for me. As a result, I’m active on LinkedIn but barely have a placeholder page on Facebook. I try to write at least three blog posts weekly, although my creativity drops when I’m slammed with client work. I started by reading and commenting on a handful of blogs, and have been adding subscriptions into my Google Reader at what some might consider an alarming rate. I try to do most of my blog reading in the late afternoon, leaving my mornings free for more core business activities.

And then there’s Twitter. If I came to the micro-blogging site later than most, I was lucky enough to join the party after the conversation had heated up. I love Twitter for the stream of conversation, the connectedness. I’ve added those I follow gradually, enjoying the ability to recognize their voices and understand the texture of each one’s unique contributions. It’s rare that TweetDeck isn’t running in the background, even if I’m only eavesdropping intermittently during much of the day.

Which brings me to that second question: Is it worth it? If you’re reading this, you probably already know the answer is of course it’s worth it. Social media is important to me because I’m learning each day from smart people like Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, Lee Odden, Geoff Livingston, Ann Handley, and all the others who generously share their insights and challenge us to think about how we, too, can contribute to the conversation.

Perhaps one day I’ll discover a new business partner on Twitter, or someone who finds me on LinkedIn will become my client. But I’ll leave the broader discussion about metrics and ROI to another day. For me, social media’s great value is the ongoing interaction with all of you—my readers, my friends, my colleagues, my peers—and the new conversations yet to begin.

(This Will Go On) Your Permanent Record

Posted on December 15, 2008
Filed Under Business, Independent Thinking, Social Media | 2 Comments

Remember that old saying about doing the right thing because otherwise it would “go on your permanent record”? I don’t know whether anyone other than TV dads gave that talk, or whether the threat of demerits kept someone from misbehaving. But it seems a good conversation to have today–with adults.  

So here’s my lecture:

That’s my Permanent Record 101 talk. What would you add?

Check Your Charitable Gift Checks Carefully

Posted on December 8, 2008
Filed Under Odds &Ends | Leave a Comment

If you or your business are looking to write end-of-year charitable checks, make sure the money gets where it’s going.

A friend of mine alerted me to a scam in which charitable donation checks are being intercepted somewhere between your mailbox and their final destination. Apparently people are washing out the name of the charity and replacing it with another name — then cashing the check. Because the dollar amount is the same, you might not know something is wrong.

If you’re like me, you only look at your cancelled checks online if you have a problem. My friend was alerted when a charity called to find out when he was going to pay for the event tickets he had ordered. That’s when he pulled up the check and found that it had been altered. Now the Postal Inspector, the police, and his bank are all investigating the crime.

Has this happened to anyone you know?

How Ford’s Separating Itself from the Pack

Posted on December 3, 2008
Filed Under Marketing/PR, Social Media | 3 Comments

After the Detroit debacle of a couple of weeks ago in which all three Big 3 CEOs managed to distinguish themselves by being indistinguishable, there’s been a strong public relations effort by Ford to reestablish its own identity and convince the public that it has been restructuring all along.

It’s always a good move for a company to set itself apart from its competition, and perhaps no more so than when you’re sitting at the same table with a privately held company run by a guy (Chrysler’s Bob Nardelli) who could lose a publicity contest to Attila the Hun and a publicly held company (GM) whose only plan up until now seemed to be to keep doing what hasn’t been working.

I’m no expert on Ford or its CEO, but I’ve always thought of the company as the U.S. automaker with the best chance of retooling. Now Ford has launched a new Web site, The Ford Story, that talks about its plan, its progress, and “how very far Ford has come and how we’re doing business differently.” In so doing, the company is redirecting the conversation about its brand away from bailouts and back toward Henry Ford’s vision to create cars that are affordable to ordinary Americans.

The company’s also using social media very effectively to spread the word. Ford’s head of social media, Scott Monty, has been using his personal blog and his Twitter stream to reinforce the Ford story. He’s written an excellent post on why he went to work for Ford earlier this year, what the company’s been working on, and how each of us can help. The blog has generated 66 comments as of today — remarkable in and of itself, and that doesn’t even begin to take into account how many others have read and shared the blog post. Meanwhile, he’s been Tweeting about Ford. My favorite Scott Monty Tweet from today: “P.S.: It’s not a bailout plan. We’re asking for access to a line of credit should we need it.” Talk about getting your message out.

Are you on LinkedIn?

Posted on November 29, 2008
Filed Under Business, Social Media | 1 Comment

Are you on LinkedIn? It’s a reasonable question, since a LinkedIn profile is rapidly becoming a “must have” element of every professional’s online presence. While LinkedIn boasts over 30 million users, I’m constantly amazed when I meet business people who haven’t taken the time to join the business networking site.

LinkedIn is one of the first places I look for information about a person, whether it’s a colleague I’m meeting for the first time or a prospective client. And it’s one of the places people are looking for me, judging from the number of people who tell me they read my profile and the call I got from a recruiter the other day who was searching for candidates on LinkedIn. 

If you’re not on LinkedIn, set up a profile today. The site has a simple interface to guide you through the basic steps, after which you can always go back in and edit your information, add jobs, schools, and other information. LinkedIn recently added new capabilities that you might also want to explore, including a way to add your recent blog posts, upload a presentation, and more.

The good news for newbies is that there are some excellent resources to help you get started, get connected, and get active on LinkedIn. I love Jason Alba’s I’m on LinkedIn, Now What? blog, which offers how-to advice on everything from honing your profile to using LinkedIn Answers effectively. And LinkedIn’s own blog is filled with case studies and helpful information.

What are you waiting for? Get LinkedIn today.

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