January 31, 2010

CBS & the SuperBowl's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Don't Prance' Policy

Have you been paying attention to the sex-fueled drama behind SuperBowl 2010? It's not as flashy as Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson's embellished boob, and so not many folks are talking about it. Nevertheless, communicators know it is more significant.

SuperBowl host CBS changed its policy on advocacy ads. They weren't OK. Now they are. They're a lucrative lot, too, but we're not supposed to talk about that.

First, CBS approved an anti-abortion spot featuring Florida QB Tim Tebow. The ad's subject has sparked buzz, of course, but because the ad's sponsor is the conservative organization Focus on the Family, there's also mutterings about politics creeping into what was trying to be a spin-free zone.

(The ad hasn't been released; it features Tebow's mother Pam recalling her decision to continue her high-risk pregnancy against medical advice.)

So, CBS opened a door and invited a little controversy.

Next, CBS closed some doors and invited a small hellstorm.

The loudest clamor surrounds the rejection of ManCrunch.com, a gay dating site. The spot is pretty funny, but it shows 2 men kissing, and we certainly can't have that during America's salute to testosterone, can we? CBS says they thought it was a publicity stunt; ManCrunch says it offered $2.6M. Here's what you won't see on CBS next Sunday:

And then there's always bold GoDaddy.com. Their gay-themed ad was turned down, too. Nobody's kissing, but the storyline stars a big black ex-pro footballer named Lola who channels Liberace.

Charges of homophobia and unfairness hurled at the network come full circle in the eyes of the United Church of Christ (UCC). In 2004, the church hoped that a Super Bowl spot be the perfect spot to tell the world about its welcoming atmosphere. CBS found the ad's tone unacceptable, in part because of a shot of a gay couple might be taken as an endorsement of gay marriage.

Now that the network's advocacy rules have changed, the church is still pretty steamed at CBS' cowardly stance. UCC Director of Communications summed it up well:
"There is a common misunderstanding in this country that all religious people hold a monolithic view on certain issues, such as reproductive choice or same-geneder marriage equality, but that is not the case."
I believe the people the network really doesn't want to offend with scenes of man-on-man love is the NFL itself. Duh.

And as for the UCC, CBS is nuts. This is the best spot ever.

January 29, 2010

Don't Know Anyone on Twitter? Head for the Nearest Police Department

Remember way back when e-mail was something that only people with certain types of jobs had? Why do so many people doubt that it won't be long before we wistfully think that way about social media, too?

I'm not saying that absolutely everyone will tweet, or that everyone will have a sweet page on Facebook. Heck, Twitter and Facebook may die tomorrow for all I know. Not bloody likely, but if they do, the socialized Internet will live on: keyboard communities sharing lives, opinions and breaking news.

I don't need stats to tell me that society has moved another tick toward true acceptance of the little blue Twitterbird. I have cops. (lower case = officers of the law in general; COPS upper case and you hear deep voices singing {bad boys-bad boys})

In Boston, there's a mini-COPS episode on Twitter whenever police describe their workday. Last May, this tweet went out:
"INJURED OFFICER: Officer from district 4 transported to Beth Israel Hospital, human bite to arm, suspect in custody."
Anyone familiar with Twitter will tell you that a good sense of humor is an majorly good thing to have. @willcady certainly did: she asked @Boston_Police:
"If that was a zombie bite, would you tell us?"
A gold star to the officer who replied, "Yes, absolutely." (That is not him above. I chose a pic with the stock photo data in place so that everyone would understand no police were harmed in production of this blog.

An idea I really love is Boston's Stolen Bikes Initiative that uses Facebook, Twitter and e-mail to alert bike and pawn shops and everyone else to keep an eye out for missing wheels. Doesn't that seem as though it would be an easy model to replicate?

A little more research and I learned that police in Vancouver, Canada supplement the basics with a blog, Behind the Blue Line, and a very well done YouTube channel. In Boca Raton, FL, officers don't use Twitter to simply announce traffic hazards and crime reports. They also share crime prevention and safety tips and use their FB page for 2-way discussion with the folks they've sworn to protect and serve. Boca Raton gets it.

Daily Splice also reported that the Boca Raton PD "also uses Nixle to provide immediate information via text or e-mail during an emergency situation. I hadn't heard of Nixle, and went to check it out. It launched in 2009 and 3,000+ public safety and community agencies have registered to use it in their locales. Registration for both agencies and consumers is free. (My city's PD hasn't signed up for it yet -- has yours?)

Anyway, my final ta-da is to reveal that while you were playing Mafia Wars, the FBI was refining its Facebook page. Not only that, but you can help catch a crook by dropping a widget of the 10 Most Wanted or Bureau videos into your website or blog.
It's the F. B. I., y'all. What more do you need to believe that maybe, just maybe, there's some value in this social media stuff?

January 26, 2010

How I Learned to Use Social Media and Stay [Somewhat] Sane

Call Dr. Phil...the Goddess is in a confessin' mood. You can learn from another's pain [see: Clinton/Lewinsky], so pull up a chair.

We all know that maintenance of an online social persona takes a nice hunk of time. From stolen quick-checks during work hours to entire Sunday afternoons, we give up other pursuits, or pretend that we are multi-tasking, in order to be online.

The first commitment of precious clock ticks is mandatory and basically self-managed: the small task of teaching oneself the ins and outs of a program. This assignment cannot be completed until one has conquered the visceral fear of clicking on the "wrong" button. [tick-tock] Attract some friends or followers and start having some fun. Soon you'll know what it is to be "lost" in cyberspace. [tick-tock-tick-tock]

What next? Why, "Rinse and repeat" as Rachael Maddow says.

Apply that process to the next app you want to use, and then the one after that. Twitter. Facebook. Flickr. Digg. Delicious. The list goes on. Unfortunately for time management, even if all you want is a trial run, it'll still require an investment of several hours.

(That's not necessarily a bad thing; the Goddess is still cheerleading for social media. But when you fall asleep at work because you couldn't stop watching the comments on #Haiti after midnight, don't say you weren't warned.

If there were never again to be a new Internet website to be learned and experienced and pronounced the newest/hottest/bestest ever, well, even in that perfect scenario, the hamster is already on the wheel. In other words, it takes a lot of time just to run fast enough to stay in the same place, AKA a vibrant online presence.

But -- and this is the part nobody tells you -- the programs don't stay the same. They have the audacity to change.

Take Facebook. Believe me, there are people who know FB like Zuckerberg's clone, and they were not happy to find yet another privacy option or resized photo albums. Updated apps make the hamster run faster, and then he approaches cardiac overload.

Nevertheless, bring the little rodent into the real world. He'll stroke out on a dozen new cool websites and programs every single day.

Yes, the Goddess has compared herself to a sweaty, fixated rodent with his little beady eyes on a prize. You'd understand if you'd seen me trying to figure out Twitter months ago, or Evernote or Creative Commons now. Besides, the pic shown here is of a USB toy that plugs into your computer. The faster you type, the faster the hamster runs. Hilarious.

A perpetual chase of mastery over the twinkly, shiny, ever-morphing Internet is stupid. I admit here and now that I am but a mere fruit fly in the galactical scope of the Net. If I pretended to be anything more, I would surely go crazy.

And just in case I don't know my place, the Net will smack me down. Here's a tweet I saw today from a very tech saavy woman in Kentucky:

"Busting out the palm pre plus to use as a mifi. So cool!"

What the hell is a mifi? I sent a tweet to ask her but got no immediate response. So I went to Google. Nothing. Netlingo -- no luck. I actually let several hours go by and then tried a 4th time. Bingo. mifi = mobile broadband for multiple computers.

So do I feel better now that I know? Actually, I do.

January 22, 2010

A Communications Lesson from Courtney Love? Seriously?

If you're still learning the details of Twitter, you might think that your little tweet is going to be lost in a vast global network. After all, you only have 15 followers. Who's gonna pay attention to what you have to say?

Wrong kind of thinking, my friend. Rule 1 of today's Internet is to redefine community. It's not only the people down the street who you can see; it's the cities in your keyboard.

Rule 2 is that everyone in the new community, each and all of us, are rockstars. The bee's knees. We are published authors and copywriters, efficient (or not) editors, creative videographers and photographers. We are responsible for both breaking news reports and distinctive analysis.

We are energized and radicalized by the social Web, holding our laptops aloft like Sally Field in Norma Rae.

In hip-hop vernacular, we are the shit.

Many organizations -- smart ones -- use programs like SocialOomph to monitor the twittersphere for any mention of their products or business. Overwhelmed small business owners are always happy to hear that they don't have to actually use Twitter to find out what's being said about them. Set whatever keyword you desire and wait for alerts to arrive in your email inbox.

That's certainly what happened to Amanda Bonnen, the Chicago woman who sent this message via Twitter last spring:
"You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it's okay".
By July she was in court being sued by Horizon Realty for $50,000 and libel charges. There's a lot more to the drama (isn't there always?), but just this week the judge dismissed the case. He ruled that the tweet was too "vague" to meet legal standards of libel.

That wasn't the case for Courtney Love. Yes, THAT Courtney Love.

The Mistress of Decorum sent a tweet referring to designer Dawn Simorangkir, AKA Boudoir Queen (I can't make up stuff this good, folks) as a "nasty lying hosebag thief". Oh yeah, Courtney also accused her -- via tweet-- of being a drug addict and a prostitute.

Stay tuned -- this case is sure to generate some news because it may set precedent as the law takes another baby step to keep up with technology. Meanwhile, watch what you tweet...if you don't, someone else will.

January 21, 2010

Confused About Social Networking for Business? Watch Pepsi.

Surprisingly enough, SuperBowl 2010 is shaping up to mean something to me this year. Not the game itself -- us Browns fans are forever clinically depressed. It's Pepsi's decision to pull its ads in favor of a new social networking campaign that's floating my boat. The last time there was a Pepsi-less Super Bowl, 23 years ago, Denver's QB was John Elway (boo-hiss) and he lost to the NY Giants' Phil Simms.

It's important to note that I referred to Pepsi's new campaign as social networking because while it's all about the Pepsi, this time it's all about community, too. In other words, marketing isn't the goal, it's the outcome.

Pepsi's new RefreshEverything.com website launched on Jan. 13 to find "people, businesses, and non-profits with ideas that will have a positive impact. Look around your community and think about how you want to change it."

1,000 ideas will be accepted each month, and then a public vote determines who gets funding from Pepsi to bring their community improvement idea to life.

"Our beverage brands' marketing strategy in 2010 [is] less about a singular event and more about a movement. We are always looking to further develop our two-way conversation with consumers,"PepsiCo spokesperson Nicole Bradley told DM News.

Yep. Pepsi has always been about starting a movement and its decision to go "social" makes all the sense in the world:

1. Pepsi's entire brand is about youth.

2. Young people want to change the world and make it better. It's a sweeping generalization, I know, but you know it feels true, and thank God it does.

3. Social media connects and empowers people.

1+2+3 = a big win for Pepsi who clearly thought this through, designing RefreshEverything to reflect all of those truths. Pepsi as Product is in the background, present but not so much. This is about world-changing, remember?

Good time to segue to The Real World. Associated Press says Pepsi spent $33M pushing Pepsi, Gatorade & Cheetos during SuperBowl 2009. This year, just $20M will be focused on the Refresh Project.

Mind you, Pepsi already had its own YouTube channel and was deep into Twitter and Facebook. Refresh goes so far beyond that -- engaging people in true conversation and then giving them the ability to make a decision that could positively change lives. Social networking and marketing isn't for every company, but it's definitely a good fit for Pepsi and they are doing it very well indeed.

January 18, 2010

Boomers Don't Fare Well in "The Tonight Show" Mess

I wasn't going to blog about NBC's late-night suicide attempt. Other than the fact that it's all related to television, that mess of egos isn't a result of miscommunication. NBC was quite clear in letting its late-night team and everyone else know who's #1 in Peacock Land. So it sucks to be Conan, and I really didn't care.

That being said, I've read a good pile of the coverage, but that's in part because I worked for NBC for almost 10 years. Several writers, including one of my faves, Time's James Poniewozik, looked at the "bigger picture"-- what the drama says about the transition of television to...something else.

And I agree with Huffington Post writer Richard Laermer who argues that NBC Universal should have asked for feedback from its audience "using the requisite tools -- Twitter, Facebook, a popup micro-site, Linked-In, even colorless NBC.com." The most minimal feedback would have allowed the network to say that viewer input had informed its actions. Too bad we'll never know what the answers would have been pre-debacle.

However, the Goddess has noticed a neglected "big picture" aspect of the Peacock v. Jay v. Conan. A generational one.

Let's step away from the TV for a minute.

A study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that in 2018, when most of the people 65 and over are boomers, 22.4% of them will still be working. The NY Times also reported that 8 years from now, 14% of 79-year-olds --1 out of every 7-- will still work.

Even before the American economy had its own 7.0 quake, boomers were not cruising into retirement as their parents did. As recently as 1988, only 11.5% of the 65+ crowd worked; in 2008 that number had climbed to 16.8%.

(A friend pointed out that the relatively new concept of working for pleasure also plays a role. If you're lucky enough to have work that strokes your passion, you're not rushing to retire. Almost always, our parents and grandparents worked to eat. Retirement to them was heaven. To many in my generation, it looks like forced boredom.)

Regardless of why the "geezer" in the workplace doesn't make a timely and dignified exit, who gets hurt when he or she keeps hanging on? It's the 30- or 40-something down the hall who's hoping for a promotion, or perhaps the one in HR looking for a job.

Now look at the late-night drama again. Pretend you're 28 years old.

Jay Leno (who turns 60 in April) was given the keys to the Tonight show in 1992.

Conan O'Brien (who turns 47 in April) waited nicely for 5 years like the good freakishly tall, red-headed kid he is. He inherited the anchordom in 2009 fair and square.

Now, not only do "They" want to put the geezer back in at 11:30...the geezer is agreeing to it because he really didn't want to go in the first place. All's I'm sayin' is that the same scenario is playing itself out across the country again and again, but the person in Conan's role rarely has the wherewithal to walk away after being dissed.

January 15, 2010

Haiti, Social Media & You

Photo credit: Financial Times

The Goddess is so very saddened at the news from Haiti. There is indeed a biblical vibe to being the epicenter of a 7.0 earthquake after 4 hurricanes in a single year and decades of oppressive poverty. The Secretary of State, Ms. Hilary, knew what she was talking about.

I hope that you'll give what you can to help the Haitian relief efforts. Thinking of a typical pre-earthquake day for most Haitians, where half the population lives on one U.S. dollar a day, I imagine that most readers of this blog have something, anything to spare.

And so, with much love and respect for the ongoing pain of the Haitian people around the globe, let's not miss the first lessons that this crisis has for communicators, especially those in the non-profit world.

#1: Twitter is not a joke. Neither is Facebook. When you need to get the word out no matter what, social media has earned a l'il respect.

According to the Philadephia Inquirer, witnesses posted images on Twitpic (it attaches photos to Twitter messages), Facebook and Flickr seconds after the quake hit. YouTube had more than 450 earthquake vids. Skype and text messaging were also up and running when conventional communications tools were down.

CNN tracked the tweets:

"all my guests slept in the driveway last night..people came up from the streets thinking they were bodies.. neighbors helping neighbors"-- From Twitter user RAMhaiti in Haiti at 12:53 p.m. ET Wednesday 1/13

"dead bodies are everywhere i havent seen one ambulance or any proffesionl med care anywhere in port-au-prince" From Twitter userfredodupoux in Haiti at 12:58 p.m. ET Wednesday 1/13

"every other house is on the ground. people are terrified and have no hope" -- From Twitter user fredodupoux in Haiti at 12:57 p.m. ET Wednesday 1/13

The crisis pros know what's up:

American Red Cross: "This is an important tool for the new generation of philanthropists, and we pay just as much attention to those media as we do to normal channels of support."

CARE: "Facebook, Twitter and other social media are great ways for people to get the latest information on emergencies. CARE has been giving updates that have been reposted or retweeted by celebrities...We've also used thse channels to solicit donations. the total audience is huge."

The emergency messaging pattern that began with 2004's tsunami and continued with the Iranian election riots last year is holding strong. Phase 1 is "there's a [hurricane/earthquake/ tornado/really bad thing]."

This phase doesn't last long. It doesn't have to. It is soon supplanted by short and oh-so-important "I'm OK" blurbs.

Phase 2 support messaging also comes minutes after the catastrophic event. It is a resource for the people on-site and their loved ones around the world. "Haiti Earthquake" and similar Facebook pages are free, globally accessible mini-websites that instantly began to solicit donations and serve as a touchstone for people seeking information.

Lesson #2: Two words: Mobile giving.

Yes, of course online giving is still a powerful tool, and for all those "good guys" out there who still don't have a "click here to give" badge on their website, shame on you. But, mobile giving. Well, now, that's something else entirely, and it's not that hard to do.

Basically, people text to a certain number to make a gift. The money is collected when the donor pays her phone bill. The carriers send the money to a clearing house managed by mGive Foundation which then cuts a check to the charity. How easy is that?

(Here is where I give myself a pat on the back for including mGive.com in my e-book, Web 2.0: Time Well Spent.)

The International Red Cross is asking cellphone users to text "Haiti" to the number 90999. A $10 donation is instantly charged to their account. Using the hashtag #HelpHaiti, Twitter users are retweeting the 90999 number, Wyclef Jean's 501501 (Yele) and others.

Social media is credited with raising more than $2 million for Haiti relief in 2 days. What else do you need to know to try these new tools? I don't care if you're a cathedral in Los Angeles or a Girl Scout troop in Vonore, Tennessee, if you want to raise money, there are some new ways to do it that work.


A shout-out and a cyberhug to all my nonprofit buds from purple mountain majesties to yada yada yada. In my community, where we're Midwest and hurtin', the NPOs are almost universally more financially challenged than perhaps at any time in their history. I'm bettin' that's the tale in your community, too.

Nevertheless, I predict that the Good Guys will be another casualty of the earthquake as Americans send what they can to a little island 600 miles from the coast of Florida.

January 13, 2010

Mobile Phones in the Motherland! Who Knew? Melinda Gates.

Didja ever learn something so fascinating that you can't stop thinking about it? Bill and Melinda Gates, as in The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, explained to NBC's David Gregory how technology is impacting life in developing nations.

I wasn't looking for much more than a standard answer to a standardly asked question. I mean, the man behind Microsoft must surely be asked his thoughts about how computers are changng the world, but it was his wife's answer that caught my attention.

Mrs. Gates said that mobile phones are "everywhere" in Third World countries.

Who knew?

She gave the example of an African farmer who receives a text telling him rates at the local markets, which prevents him from wasting a day walking his cows to the location that won't give him the best price for his milk. In another example, she said village women are texted with announcements of the day that meds will be available at the clinic.

It takes a lot to make a goddess speechless.

Watch the Meet the Press interview for yourself. How often do you get the chance to listen to one of the world's richest couples talk about how they're using their money to reduce hunger, improve health, and ultimately change the world?

January 9, 2010

One Screen, One World -- It's Coming, and Skype Is Leading the Way

Today the Goddess Skyped for the first time! At some point, do let me know why no one ever told me that video chatting is so much fun, won't you?

I knew that Skype was free, easy to do and getting more popular all the time, but no one, not even Oprah, warned me that it's a hoot and a half to see your friend, and yourself, as you talk.

(On that note, can we please stop bitching because we still don't have George Jetson's flying cars in the year 2010? We have his videophone, computers that talk to us, hear us and type what we say, refrigerators that can sense when we're out of milk. What the heck more do you want?)

I'd love to see if there's stats for the increase in "real women" on Oprah since Skype has revolutionized the show. Founded in 2003, the service now has more than half a billion user accounts. Got a webcam? You're ready to Skype.

Another thing they don't tell you: you don't really need a webcam to make a Skype call. But without it, I guarantee you won't laugh as much. Not only that, but you don't need a computer to do it, either. Joanna Stern at the NY Times reports that Skype Mobile is available for iPhone; Skype Lite for Java and Android phones, and Skype for Windows phones. (I so confused. My BBerry needs...what?)

Now that I'm no longer a Skype virgin, I can't believe how long it's taken me to realize that I have the power to participate and lead a videoconference, a webinar...all by myself and right this minute!

In the midst of my excitement, I feel old. I remember traveling to a business services center to participate in a teleconference way back in...1993.

(Uh-oh. I broke the first rule of Web 2.0 life for Boomer Goddesses: Don't get all weepy about all the different technologies you've seen come and go. It dates you, BIG time. Besides, another 2 apps will flash white-hot in popularity and die a sad death before you blow your nose.)

So now I know how to use Skype, and apparently not a minute too soon.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Panasonic and LG announced their plan to integrate Skype into internet-connected high-definition televisions. Ah. One step closer to that Master Monitor that I've been telling you will be our future.

Skype by television won't be exactly the same as by computer: your TV program will stop playing for an incoming call. And you'll need a specially designed webcam that considers the wide range of possible distances between the screen and the viewer. It should all start hitting stores this summer.

Internet TVs will also have USB ports that you can connect to an optional Wi-Fi adapter or an external keyboard.

Did you catch that?

A keyboard.

Hooked up to your TV.

One screen, one world.

It's coming much faster than I expected. One megascreen at home, one miniscreen in your pocket. Each one can do it all: phone, messaging, word processing, contact management, video, audio, music, internet, presentation, games, finance, entertainment, education...

George Jetson wishes he rolled like we do.

January 6, 2010

I'm Sure Casey Was a Lovely Girl, But Eunice Is the Johnson I'll Remember

It makes me sad that I've seen more coverage about the death of Casey Johnson, 30, the great-great-granddaughter of the founder of Johnson & Johnson than I have about the January 3rd death of Eunice Johnson, 93.

From the time John H. Johnson launched Johnson Publishing Co. in 1942 at 27 with $500 of borrowed money, Eunice was his closest business partner. Three years later he started a second monthly magazine (the first was Negro Digest ). This time he imagined something like Life, but focused on Negro life. Eunice hoped it would "reflect the mystique of fine black ebony wood."

Ebony was an instant hit at a time when post-World War II mainstream...er, white press treated black Americans as invisible. Most times, neither the births nor deaths of black people were found to be newsworthy, much less the stuff that happened in-between.

Ebony magazine is credited with showing Americans of all colors that debilitating racism was not hindering black people from succeeding in every category possible. And it proved to advertisers that black consumers did actually buy the same products advertised in white magazines.

(If you're thinking a white family graced the 1963 cover at right? No - it's Harlem minister and U.S. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell.)

Even with the addition of the newsweekly Jet in 1951, magazines weren't the only way that the Johnsons changed perceptions of Black America. Eunice's biggest contribution to Black history may well be her creation of the Ebony Fashion Fair.

Never heard of it? Tsk.

It began as a benefit to raise money for a New Orleans hospital. In 1958. Eunice, daughter of a Selma, Alabama physician and educator, went to Europe to persuade top designers that white women wouldn't devalue the clothes if Negro models wore them.

In 1958, Eunice dropped half a mil buying European couture for the first Fashion Fair. In subsequent years, she spent more than a million every time. The designers noticed and found that Eunice didn't just have money; she had an innate style, too.. (That's her in the photo at top with designer Yves Saint Laurent after a Paris showing.)

The Fashion Fair criss-crossed the U.S. every year after that, linking black women to high fashion at every stop. No matter where you lived in Black America, the arrival of the Ebony Fashion Fair was a B.F.D. When I was a girl, my mother and her friends would save up to attend the Fair --and look damned good doing it-- as often as they could.

For the record, more than 4,000 Ebony Fashion Fair shows in the U.S., Caribbean, and London raised more than $55 million to date for various scholarship groups. The 2009 event was cancelled -- here's hoping they can pull it off again in 2010.

And one more thing.

The models complained to Eunice that they couldn't find make-up for their skintones. Bingo. The first cosmetics line for women of color, Fashion Fair Cosmetics was born. It's now the world's No. 1 line of makeup and skincare for women of color, sold in stores across the U.S., U.K., Canada, Africa, the Caribbean and France.

Until her death last Sunday, Eunice still served as secretary-treasurer of the world's largest publishing company owned and operated by an African-American. Husband John died in 2005; daughter Linda Johnson Rice has the helm now.

The cosmetics line, of course, was Eunice's happy accident. Using a fashion show to send a message and change perceptions and behavior? That she did on purpose.

January 4, 2010

Overwhelmed? Get the Clutter Outta Your Space

I don't always get genuinely excited about the start of a new year, and I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling that way. For about 4 reasons that I could name and a million that I can't even imagine, 2010 has me buzzin' like a little sunbeam. I'm about 1 pair of fake eyelashes away from doing evangelical television.

Lucky for me, the current Mercury Retrograde (you DID know that we're in one, didn't you?) is happening at exactly the time I'd planned to work on my company's intrastructure -- physical and virtual. Filing, updating records, cleaning -- great tasks for retrogrades because they involve little person to person communications that can go wrong.

On the physical side, I bought a very nice bookcase of cherry-stained, pretending-to-be-real-wood from target.com. With girlish glee I set aside an hour to put it together -- instead, it took the afternoon. Once that was done I cleaned the entire office from wall to wall. I gave up the fancy of having it done for Christmas. On Christmas I could barely see the floor.

Redesigned the filing system. Tossed or relocated files from long-ago clients and projects. Every drawer is neat, now. The ancient, used to be funny crap is off the bulletin board and the whiteboard is lower for easier, constant access.

Clutter kills, or at the very least, makes for some really bad feng shui. Seven giant trash bags later (Files are heavy, yo!) and the people rejoice as the Goddess resettles in her newly celestial crib. Surely good communications and prosperity shall follow! Take a tour, won't you?


January 3, 2010

Mere Words Can Turn Humans Into Lemmings (In a Good Way)

Have you ever heard of the "Go With Your Own Glow" campaign? I hadn't until I saw a full-page ad in this week's Time. The Skin Cancer Foundation wants to make tanning uncool:

"Tanning's 15 minutes are over. Let your inner beauty, and vitality shine through."

A laudable goal.

I thought it was a new effort until I hit the Net and found out it's been around since 2008. And yes, I know that as an African American I may not be in the target audience of regular tanners, but that doesn't stop me from seeing the ads and knowing the brands.

I think of this because it's the 21st anniversary of the Designated Driver campaign, a stellar example of a successful public health/behavior modification effort. It's a great story: the Harvard School of Public Health's Center for Health Communication got network television writers to add the words "designated driver" whenever they felt it could fall naturally into the plot and dialogue.

More than 160 prime-time episodes did just that over the 4 TV seasons that followed the campaign's November 2008 kick-off. (Cheers did it 9 times alone. Go figure.)

The Designated Driver project also marked the first time that ABC, CBS and NBC produced and sponsored PSAs that said the same message at the same time.

In a recent Huffington Post story, Jay Winsten, Associate Dean, Harvard School of Public Health provided a detailed analysis of why the DD campaign worked. Is your nonprofit trying to get people to put on a condom? Get a prostate exam? Maybe there's a lesson for you in Mr. Winsten's Top Three strategy winners:
  • The message was narrowly focused, highly specific, easily communicated.
  • Message was positive and empowering ("The Designated Driver is the Life of the Party"); not negative or scolding ("Don't drink and drive")
  • Call to action was only a modest behavior shift. (go ahead and drink, just get a designated driver)
With that info in hand, it looks like "Go With Your Own Glow" has got an uphill climb.

The slogan is upbeat, but it's not self-defining. I mean, the ad requires extra copy to explain the headline. That wasn't true with the DD one-liner.

The biggest challenge as I see it? "Glow" asks people to make a significant change in their behavior and their perception of beauty. After already adjusting their suncare regimen by plopping on sunscreen and big floppy hats years ago, zillions of people are still baking themselves as often as they can.

Perhaps a united front across Hollywood is needed again, because it's gonna take a lot more than a magazine ad and a Facebook page to change minds this time. What the Skin Cancer Foundation calls "inner glow", a whole lot of white women I know call "yecchy pasty legs".