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9 posts from March 2007

March 29, 2007

Lena West, when you need more than tech tips

Last week Blog Her Biz 2007 gave us a biz-box-o-tools and rules for the blogging world. It was overwhelming.

Cutting through the clutter and pulling out exactly what you need and when you need to use it was Lena West. I sat at her tech table during breakouts and was impressed more with her pragmatic approach than her wealth of toolbox knowledge (which is very deep). Anyone can learn the tools, but it takes critical thinking to know where and when to use them.

For example - Lena doesn't have her own blog. She writes blogs, lots of blogs, but she has chosen to put them on other high visibility bloggers sites. Lipsticking is one such place and every Monday you'll get a snippet of Lena's in-your-typeface approach.  Small Biz Technology is another. Monday's post on Lipsticking focused on the "I" in ROI instead of the "R" like most companies do.

It needed to be said, especially when everyone thinks that they can get word of mouth for free if it's "enhanced" vs. natural word of mouth advertising. You have to invest in it just as much as you have to invest in making your website, blog, newsletters, action plan sing. Lena has chosen to invest her TIME in writing helpful posts that make you think and GIVING them to high profile bloggers. That's the type of strategic thinking that she provides the clients at Xyno Media. I've since met several women who have benefited from her tutoring and they all raved.

But wait, there's more -

Not only did Lena answer any question posed at the tech table, she saved me from a NY cabbie.

Barbara Heffner and I were taking a cab back to the hotel from the Yahoo reception. Lena was going back at the same time and road with us. When it came time to pay, I handed the cabbie a $20 and he gave back 4 singles and a ten. When I gave him back a $10 bill thinking it was a single for a tip, Lena ripped the ten out of his hand. She then chastised me and the cabbie - me for not watching my tipping action and he for just taking it and not saying anything.

Lena didn't know me, yet she had my back and in her New Yorker style, completely won my heart. Thanks Lena!

March 27, 2007

BlogHer Biz and Getting REAL

Connecting dots and deeds:

  • Ad Age - Bob Garfield
  • What I learned from A-List bloggers
  • Manufacturers getting real with consumers                                                                                           

Forget "the" A-List, Find your Blogging A-List:Effective Blogger Relations.   That was the title of one of the BlogHer Biz sessions. In it were top Bloggers who have thousands, even millions of readers. What I found interesting was who was in the audience asking the questions - representatives of Amazon, J.Walter Thompson, Fleishman Hilliard, HP... they all wanted to know how to become a blogger's new best friend.

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Hold that thought.

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Today I open up my AdAge link and read what will be a very unsettling article by Bob Garfield. It's titled Chaos Scenario 2.0. In it he details the evolution or devolution of traditional advertising and the rise of social networks. It's unsettling only if you work for an agency and wonderful if you're the consumer.

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Hold that thought, too.

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A moment ago I spoke with Tim Loveday a new friend in sustainable productland.  He called from the GreenStyle Pavilion on the top floor of MMPI’s Suites in High Point and reported on the difficulty of getting the right green messaging to the public. He deals in B2B, but commented on the confusion and frustration the B2B market is having taking their message to the end buyer - the consumer.

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What do these three things have in common? All of them were addressing how marketing has flipped out and flipped over. It's returning to the days where the consumer stood directly in front of the product maker and they had a one on one conversation. Products were bought and sold based on the their merits and the personality of the one doing the selling. Did they Like the product, but hated the person? No sale. Liked the person, but didn't understand the product? Again, No sale. Layer on top of this a world of individuals and businesses all trying to connect but with no ground to stand on per se.

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What to do, what to do?

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Garfeild featured a timeline of marketing chaos. It demonstrates the fall of traditional content distributors like newspapers and magazines and advertising in general. The BlogHer session  touched on the solution, keep it REAL and keep it RELEVANT to their blog's interests. A-List bloggers became successful by providing relevant  content and a real personality to their readers. Ergo, to win their love, YOU have to be like them, provide relevant content and a sincere personality to go with it. Hard to do if YOU are a publicly held company or YOU are the agency representing the company. The sincerity factor starts to fade with each layer. 

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I'll leave the "relevant" part to the pitch people, but offer a simple solution for the "real" part - work from an "MSDS." (a what?) By law, manufacturers must have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) with each products listing all the environmental hazardous and solutions. With the completion of Sustainable Standards certification, they could also put out a MARKETING Safety Data Sheet. As in what makes this product sustainable or not. It will make your product bullet/blogger proof, at least from a green point of view. Considering that 100 companies make 90% of the products, this has a massive impact.

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This sheet would provide sustainable attributes and talking points that PR, Marketing, Agencies, Bloggers, Investors could all pull from when they need to know and print the truth.  Is this product really green or  greenwash? Is it serving the people and the planet? Not all consumer care, but enough do to create a tipping point - especially female bloggers who tend to be green.

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It would be very easy to do. Once a product is certified as sustainable, the very checklist that makes it certifiable now becomes part of its useful marketing life. It eliminates the greenwash and proves beyond a doubt that a company cares and is willing to prove it.

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Bloggers love that. At least THIS blogger does. I spent way too many years as an industrial media rep, walking factory floors and seeing how sometimes the smoke from the stacks flowed backwards through marketing. I question everything that hasn't passed through a third party audit, whether it's a standard or my friend's evaluation.

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Standards keep everyone honest and takes the chaos out of marketing. Everything you need to market a product online is contained in a standards assessment. The search words, the issues, the REAL becomes embedded which makes marketing much easier.  The content for messaging flows off the sheet to the street and back without fear of being stopped and questioned. This goes beyond a label that consumers can trust, but gets to the sanctioned content that bloggers and others will write from. B2B marketers have been doing this for years and now B2C marketers will have to do the same.

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Does this make sense to you? I love to hear your thoughts, especially yours Christine.

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P.S. Those ************** are necessary because VISTA doesn't want to play nice with Typepad. They keep everything from turning into one, big block-o-type.

March 25, 2007

BlogHer Biz 2007 - I'm burnt out and fired up

For me, BlogHer Business 2007 was a defining moment of women helping women helping business - each other's and big business.

My brain is still unpacking. 

I took tons of notes, soaked in the presentations, crowd watched, listened for repeat issues, listened for what is (and isn't) being asked and paid attention to which companies "get" the BlogHer/blogger movement . In the next few days you'll be hearing about what makes a blog work harder and what makes bloggers work hard for you.

While ideas are simmering, here's a recap of the women I serendipitously  met.  First up, Staci Schiller of Wells Fargo and I chatted while waiting for day one to start. She writes the blog for the bank. Wells Fargo happens to be my bank and I had no idea the Stage Coach had a new set of wheels. It's comforting to me that they are being proactive in the social media world. Stacie runs the Education Financial Services section (student loans) and spends 50% of her time on WF blogs.  Thanks to Staci, Wells Fargo is one of those big companies who now "get" blogging . Who wudda thunk?

BlogHer for Business was an intimate group of 180 or so power bloggers or soon-to-be…  My table included the Marketing Diva Toby Bloomberg, Green blogger and "info provacateur" Amy Gahran, Simply Recipes' Elise Bauer,   biz blogger consultant Marianne Richmond plus an enlightened male, Cerado's Christopher Carfi.

Dscn3265_3 It didn't matter which table you sat at, however, each one held women who were at the top of their blogging world. Many were Mommy Bloggers who were at one time dismissed and are now coveted. With readerships surpassing that of magazines, they can no longer be ignored - they represent the new era of social media. 

I re-met lipsticking's Yvonne Divita ( publisher of In Women We Trust) and tech marketer Susan Getgood. I felt at home with Minneapolis based and Funny Business, Elana Centor and former Minnesotan, Homestead, Remi  Adams. I ended the first day tipping cocktails with Hello World author, Sue Thomas, Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive CEO, Caroline  Little  and CHEN PR principal, Barbara Heffner.

The best part happened before the event started. I finally was able to meet Jory, Lisa, Elise and Kristin in person. Jory and Kristin have been my BlogHer contacts for  the Sustainable Living project with MTS a non-profit that promotes sustainability through consensus standards. The CEO of MTS, Mike Italiano came in from Washington DC to meet all of us. You'll be hearing more on that project in the next few days.

Blogher Biz 2007 was the perfect conference. I came away burnt out, fired up and ready to put what I learned into action.

March 20, 2007

Mena Trott on blogging and being real

I'm off to BlogHer's Business Conference in NY. The red eye out of here doesn't leave until 11 pm, so I have time to check email one last time. Today's offerings included an email from VOX. The links on it take me to TED and Mena's presentation.

If you aren't a blogger, by now you're asking, What's VOX? Who's TED and Who's Mena? (along with the imposed, Why should I care?)

VOX, is the offspring of Typepad - the professional software that allows anyone to start a blog of their own free of advertising. A starting point on Typepad is a whopping $5 a month. There is no excuse not to have a professional blog. As the free and fun spawn of Typepad, VOX does allow advertising and those banner ads flow throughout the site(s). It's a nothing price to pay to have your own presence on the web and in the world.

TED isn't a who, but a what. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and has over 1000 thought leaders talking on everything under the sun and under our skin. If you are ever in need of an inspirational fix, surf through TED and download one for the road.

Mena Trott is the co-founder of Typepad and VOX. To me she's the "princess of presence" and spoke eloquently on what that means on blogs.

If you're one of those who dismiss blogs as meaningless chatter, I invite you to listen to Mena's talk. Think about computer games and vitural reality and companies that function in a franchise-like manner and then think about the gift that blogs give back to us as a species. Blogs not only allow us to show oursleves as we really are, they practically demand it.

Mena's a great example. She's at the top of her professional game and is unembassingly candid. In doing so, she gives us all freedom to embrace the real and distance ourselves from those who aren't there yet.

That's really hard to do if you're idea of being "professional" still has quotes around it. There's a lot to unlearn. Mena encourages us to put our personality back into business.

Thanks Mena - you're just what I needed to hear. It's important that we all remain present and bring our full, colorful selves to life. 

March 14, 2007

Cheers! Philips, Environmental Groups and the Government are all working together

The good news about global warming is that it's joining humans back together as a thinking, acting species.

Bulb This morning, a joint press conference was held between Philips, the Alliance to Save Energy, AND even members of our government - Jr. Senator, Mark Pryor who also happens to be leading the Alliance. In addition to the Alliance and Philips, members of the coalition include the Californians Against Waste, Earthday Network, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The point of the conference was to announce that the gloves are off and everyone is holding hands instead of slugging it out. How refreshing!

This was an introduction to what will be a 10 year initative to replace 4 billion incandescent light bulbs with CFL's (the curly ones). Doing so will eliminate the need for 50-70 coal-fired plants. That's the amount of energy we save by simply switching out old technology for new.  The incandescent bulb uses 10% of it's energy for light and 90% for heat.

I have to admit, I was happy to hear Jr. Senator Mark Pryor, state  that "markets," people and performance based standards will drive this movement better than politics... and that, "legislative action is the last thing we want to do as no one likes to be forced to do something." I've been saying that for a long time. If laws were effective, we wouldn't be in this mess. Markets will find their way around a law, but they can't find their way around opinions in this very open/blogging world.

That said, Kathleen Rogers, President of the Earthday Network reminded the room how there does need to be balance and a way to transition from old to new. She used the example of how she didn't like walking into a store one day and finding out that her VCR option was replaced with DVD and she had no say in it.

A good transition will take time, which is why this will take 10 years. The CFLs have been around for at least that long already and it's estimated only 15% of the U.S. is covered and perhaps 40% of Europe. Four billion is a bunch of bulbs.

Jim Rogers - CEO of Duke energy  and co-chair of Alliance to Save Energy, brought up the concept of having a 5th fuel, i.e. "Saving-a-watt is as important as mega watts."  His vision for America includes affordable utilities, to meet the projected 40% increase in demand by 2030 without breaking personal bank accounts or the planet. 

According to the Alliance members, the light bulb has become emblematic of the changes that are ahead. They pointed out how it was the invention of the light bulb that created the need for building out the electrical grid we all plug into without giving it a thought.

This time around, the curly bulb represents the starting product for switching out old tech for "clean tech" across industry - using those performance based standards to make it happen in an agreed upon way. In the light bulb's case, it took 20 consensus agreements to get standards into place.

What about the mercury?

Ironically, just as I was logging in to hear the announcement, I received an email about the recycling of the curly bulb. CFL's contain mercury, not a lot, but enough that you don't want it in your waste stream. The mailor was ticked that she couldn't recycle easily and worse, the CA state government couldn't help her find a solution. I  couldn't tell who was speaking at the time, but someone admitted that it was an issue and that they are trying to A) bring down the mercury ASAP and B) set up statewide recycling programs and C) the mercury in the soil is environmentally better than CO2  in the air. We need to stop global warming first.

Rome wasn't built in a day nor will a clean tech world, but it's nice to see everyone is holding hands and walking shoulder-to-shoulder instead of pointing fingers at each other.

March 11, 2007

International Marketing by Women's Day

March 8 was International Women's day, but if my feedblitz email was any indication, it was International Marketing-by-Women's Day - marketing via blogs.

First Steve Ruble lead off with a report on a blog started by Genevieve McCaw, a disgruntled Jet Blue customer/turned blogger. Remember the flight that held it's "customers" hostage for 11 hours on a snowy runway? One customer, a woman, was so irritated that she started a blog to recap her frustration and voice her opinion. I have no idea how many people read it, CNN did and then did a story on it mentioning Steve. Steve put it again on his site. I'm not sure who has more readers, CNN or Steve, but now millions have read about Jet Blue's lack of customer service during that day and later, the so-so treatment Genevieve received while having a face-to-face with the President of Jet Blue.

Re: the CNN article:

"McCaw, who described herself as "a huge fan of JetBlue" for years, said she plans to continue blogging but will shift the focus to advocating a federal passengers' bill of rights.

Before her meeting March 2, McCaw said she would not boycott the airline. Instead, she said, she would shop for the best deals on flights rather than remain "a brand loyalist."

Now, she's not so sure.

"I've got two round-trip vouchers with them," she said. "I'm going really to make a point to not put any more money in their pocket. I'll use the vouchers, and then I'll likely be done with them."

Never mess with a woman scorned by love or money or TIME.

Next up, Britt Bravo churns out another fantastic interview. This time with Jody Van Horn. a woman in the Bay area who is doing what she can to get electric cars endorsed and used by large city governments.

"In the first six months we had five Bay Area partner municipalities; San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda and Marin County have all sign on. Out of those, Marin County, Alameda and Berkeley have all placed their soft fleet orders. We're also working with those cities on generating some demonstration projects."

I hope that other car-mazing Jody, Jody DeVere over at Ask Patty, is reading this. She's a big green car supporter as well as just helping women in general figure out what they need to know about buying and servicing their transportation.

Last up was Yvonne DiVita's post on "Sizing up Marketing to Women Online." It focused on - what else - women bloggers and their cumulative clout. She'll be speaking at the BlogHer.org conference in NY in a couple of weeks on the same subject. She quotes an Advertising Age article that stated:

"The average mom blog reader is a 29-year-old female with an annual income of $70,000 who hits five blogs a day and spends four hours a week on them."

She adds that the stats came from BlogAds, the place the has statistics on 56,000 blogad readers. BTW, did you know that women who read blogs tend to be democrats (about 60% of them) Check this out. BlogAd women readers also buy more electronics on line than men 47% to 39% respectively (go figure). Sign more petitions, call more policians... I'll let you filter through the survey and draw your own conclusions. Bottom line, once women or men cross the line and become a blogger, they become part of an elite club of social movers and shakers - be it markets or politics.

My thanks to all the women who type and talk at the same time.

March 06, 2007

How did I live without OneNote?

Office_2007_pic Thank you Microsoft for updating OneNote and turning it into the multi-tasker's/ tabber's, mega tool. It's a woman's right arm, left brain and new best friend - this woman anyway... It's a product I hope every woman changes to as we have lots to do in the next few years.

A new laptop put me into upgrade mode. It came with Vista pre-loaded and of course, a chance to put on the old Windows XP or jump to Office 2007. I went for 2007 and the full "Ultimate" package of which OneNote is included. The Ultimate package also made me dump ACT which is a software I have been using for 10 years.

I was stunned at how easy OneNote was to use and use and use. It's now my primary tool for composing and filing information into sortable/re-sortable files and folders. I wish I had OneNote while writing my book and first blogs and saving files for future reference and… you name it. 

It's also integrated into Outlook. Let's say you read something really cool in an email/website/rss feed/blog that you want to use in a later blog. Highlight it, click on OneNotes notepad, paste. Voila! It's clipped and saved and NOTED where it came from, and you barely had to stop reading the paragraph. 

Can't remember where you filed something? OneNote searches by a word or phrase and it will filter through everything but your underwear drawer looking for it. What a time saver and brain saver. AND, if you get hit by the proverbial bus, OneNote is so intuitive and transparent that even a 6th grader could figure out where you were in a job and continue working.

What is especially nice is that it saves EVERYTHING without you having to do it. How often have you multi-tasked between emails and phone calls and forgot to save a half written blog or email? THANK YOU Microsoft, for solving that problem.

OneNote is everything a girl would ask for to keep her professional and personal life organized. Take the demo and then take the leap and leave Windows XP behind. Treat yourself to a tool that will keep you productive and not frustrated.

March 05, 2007

Inside GoodStorm with CEO Yobie Benjamin

Yobie What's your mission?  Set up a Women's healthcare unit? Sell sustainable products? Yobie Benjamin, Founder and CEO of GoodStorm wants to eliminate poverty by providing free selling tools within everyone's reach. That makes him a good guy member of the softer side of business, and someone we want to support.

"It's not about bringing selling to the Internet," he says, "It's about bringing the Internet to selling."

Just like easy and free blogging platforms turned millions into writers and publishers,  Yobie's hoping that the GoodStorm business platform will enable millions to sell anything they want, wherever they want, any time they want. They call it "Capitalism done right." (I'll let you surf the site to get a feel for it, but check back in mid-April for a major update and a far more inclusive platform.)

GoodStorm's a terrific service for women who are just starting out with a home-based business or a non-profit looking for ways to raise funds beyond dinners and solicitations. What if you don't have a home to base yourself from? No problem. Yobie reports that one of GoodStorm's users is a homeless woman who goes to the library when she needs an office. He also admits that major corporations use GoodStorm as well.

Helping individuals, help themselves become self-sustaining is the beginning and the end of his mission. "Once you have cash, then you can do other things," he says. "Poverty is generational," he continued. "Being able to sell is fundamental in any business, GoodStorm is positioned to remove the barriers and help those with ideas, but no financial backing, to succeed."

Andy Yobie and his fellow enabler and partner, Andy Rappaport aren't new to product launches and business plans. They've been doing it quite successfully for the last 20 years. As the former Chief of Global Strategy for Ernst and Young, Yobie worked with AOL/Time Warner, General Motors, Sprint, Merrill Lynch, Boeing, Walt Disney and many others. Andy has been a founder, investor, and/or director of venture-backed start-ups all while serving on 30 public and private company boards. Both of them "retired early" per se, but when the GoodStorm idea hit, they knew they had to put it out there. Within days they had a team of eight working on it.

Yobie owns a T-shirt making business. Admittedly GoodStorm is a front end marketing tool to bring more business to it. The difference between the GoodStorm model and other online T-shirt manufacturers, however, is that GoodStorm gives back 70% of the profits instead of the typical 20-30%. That means more money to more people to do more good work or just pull themselves out of poverty. Everyone makes a living and that's "Capitalism done right."

GoodStorm's other benefits? It's incredibly easy to use and you order ONLY what you need, one shirt or thousands it doesn't matter, you'll get the same price break.

With a slant towards social good and such generous payouts, I had to ask, "Are you a .org or a .com"? 

"We're a .com," says Yobie. "I believe that you must be financially sustainable if you are going to help yourself or your business. The same is true of non-profits, if they aren't funded well, they can't continue their mission."

Mom's Rising is a great example of launching and funding a mission. Their working mom group started in May, 2006 and already has over 80,000 members. All the products you see on their site are produced and drop shipped via GoodStorm.

You have to admire the GoodStorm business model. It's capitalism done VERY right. Who knows, maybe three years from now we'll all be wondering, "What did we ever do before the Internet, email and GoodStorm"?

March 01, 2007

The Secret Movie 30 Day Challenge

Link: The Secret Movie 30 Day Challenge.

What the heck, I'll play Andy's game. If you ever wondered if you could "Think and Grow.... rich, healthier, happier, top salesrep, best gardener..." this is your chance to see if it works.

Are you stuck with what to visualize? How about sending me 10 companies who truly want to become sustainable in the next two years and want to use BlogHer to tell the world of their good intentions and work. 

Andy's shows his true feelings via his site (not live when I tried it) http://secretskeptic.com

If nothing else, it takes your mind off of the weather in the midwest. That's it... I'll think about global warming and maybe the snow will go away by April.