Brian Keaney

Category: Professional

I will go up to the six fingered man and say…

…Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.

Just before I left work today I got an email from the corporate blog announcing that a new post was online.  I decided to wait until the following day to read it, and didn’t even check the headline.  I then began closing programs on my screen.  As I got down to Seesmic, I noticed that someone had tweeted at us a few minutes prior.  Turns out, it was Inigo Montoya, a star of one of my favorite movies.

The blog post uses “inconceivable!,” that classic Vizzini catchphrase, in the title.  It seems someone has set up a robot to respond every time someone tweets it with, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Inigo also tweets several other great lines such as, “You seem a decent fellow.  I hate to kill you.”

Absolutely brilliant.  Even the dred pirate Robert would agree, I’m sure.  Count Rugen, maybe not so much.

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Maybe I’ll go back to high school

Kevin Brennan shoots

For the past couple months I’ve been covering local sports for Patch to make an extra couple of bucks.  It’s not a ton of money, but it’s something, and I enjoy it.  I’ve never written sports before, so it’s been an interesting experience.  I’m reading the sports pages a lot more closely now instead of just browsing the box scores and the occasional columnist.

I’ve learned far more about myself than I ever expected as well.  This winter I’ve covered mostly hockey games, and seeing them I’ve been thinking about how much I miss it.  I was never any good at it, but I always had a good time.  I have joined a 3-D dodgeball league that begins in a few weeks, but next winter I might have to strap on the skates again.

At a recent game another reporter struck up a conversation with me between periods.  She was young, so I assumed – correctly, as it turned out – that she was in college and working as a stringer.  After the game we were formally introduced, and the name rang a bell.  “Wait a minute,” said I.  “Were you the editor of The Mirror?”

The Mirror was my high school’s student newspaper, and where I got my start in journalism.  Aside from the Senior Class Play, it was probably the most fun thing I did in high school.  It’s also really where I began to hone my writing skills, and that’s served me well over the years. From our brief conversations I surmised that this girl was studying journalism, and it took some effort on my part to refrain from talking her out of it. Read the rest of this entry »

Big Google and the puppy dog defense

A PG  version of this post that met the corporate sensor’s approval was crossposted to the EZG blog.

In a nation where one in 10 is unemployed and countless others are underemployed, during a time when people are networking like next month’s rent is riding on it (because it often is), what could cause a recent college graduate to pull herself off every social networking site she ever joined?  Ask Karen Owens… if you can find her.

In May Owens received a degree from prestigious Duke University, where she received “An Education Beyond the Classroom,” or so she titled her faux-senior honors thesis.  With a wink, a nudge, and a subtitle of “excelling in the realm of horizontal academics,” you can probably guess what it was about.  Not only did she name the names of her muscled Adonises in her 40 plus page presentation, she even included G-rated photos of them, and gave each a score based on looks, the entertainment value of the affair, and other, ahem, personal attributes, by which she later ranked them.

Though she submitted her thesis to “The Department Of Late-Night Entertainment,” otherwise known as three of her friends, what happened next was predictable.  One of those three sent it to someone else, and they sent it to someone else, and before Owens had any idea what was going on the whole world knew about her “tempestuous frolicking.”

I’m not linking to any of the many places you can find this PowerPoint presentation online for the sake of the unwitting men mentioned in it, but try doing a Google search of “Karen Owens Duke.”  I’m sure every employer she ever applies to will, and they won’t find a list of recommendations for her on LinkedIn.  They won’t find her a display of her expertise and a sample of her reading list on Twitter.  They won’t even see a Facebook or Google profile of her.

Instead, all they will derive about her from the web is that she compared seeing a certain Red Sox prospect naked to receiving a “beautifully wrapped present on Christmas morning” only to have your “smile plummet to the floor… as you thanked your grandpa for the single practical pair of coarse, grey wools socks.”  She can turn a phrase and create a mental image, I’ll give her that, but when it’s about the equally drunk guy she met at the bar the previous night, it loses some of its appeal.

Owens has expressed remorse for creating the list, and I’m sure she is mortified, but at some point she will have to emerge from the rock she is undoubtedly hiding under.  When she does, she will have to take control of what’s being said about her online.

Forget Big Brother, the bigger concern today is Big Google.  Managing a brand – personal or corporate – in the 21st century increasingly means managing what the search engines say about it.  The internet never forgets, so the trick is to be constantly feeding it new memories that convey the message you want to put forward.

Fortunately for Owens, there are a few steps she can take to restore, or at least repair, her online reputation.  For a price, says they can help control what is said about you around the intertubes.  You will never be able to scrape the internet completely clean, however, and you can’t stop others from writing negative things about you (or publishing the embarrassing things you yourself create).

What you can do is flood it with good news about yourself or your business, and with strong SEO hope that it pushes the bad coverage down in the Google listings.  The web is often the first place prospective clients will turn for information, and all too often they won’t scan beyond the first couple links their favorite search engine provides.

Scott Fayner, a former journalist covering industries not spoken about in polite company, for example, has gone on the offensive in trying to cover up his sordid personal and professional history.  Google him now and you can still find tales of his debauched past, but before that you will find pictures of cute little puppy dogs.  Seriously.  The erstwhile Hustler reporter is now publishing an online magazine dedicated to canines and featuring pictures of dogs at rescue shelters in an attempt to rebrand himself online.

His strategy has merit: to those who need to do a little online damage control, or even want to get out ahead of the curveball that will inevitably be thrown, the answer is clear.  Write blog posts, and comment on other’s.  Tweet.  Be a thought leader and publish in trade publications and journals.  Get your name in the press and on message.  Do great things and tell the world about them.  Give Google plenty of positive things to say about you, and watch as they crowd out the negative ones.

Most brands don’t have the same level of grime on them as Fayner’s and Owens’ do, but everyone’s could use a little polish.  As Fayner says of his puppy dog strategy, “It’s the start of my very long, very slow battle against the Internet — one that I realize I may never win.”  He may not, but by being proactive he gets closer every day.

The photo of Ella the Snow Dog by jpctalbot is used under this creative commons license.

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I’m not a mother

One of my favorite songs this summer was (and let us take a moment to acknowledge with sadness that this is written in the past tense) Travie McCoy’s Billionaire.  It’s a fun song, and in it he describes all the things he would do with $1,000,000,000.  Today at work  I got about as close as I ever will to doing one of those things.  If I only become a millionaire and not a billionaire as a result I’ll be just as happy.  I don’t think I could even give away a billion dollars in a lifetime, much less spend one.

Getting back to the point and needless to say, the boss was pleased and I’m sure the client is thrilled.  The CEO even came down to my office to shake my hand and offer his congratulations.  Making this happen didn’t take quite nine months, but it was longer than we expected or wanted.  Still, recognizing the  effort it took and the achievement it was, he said it must be like giving birth.

I was somewhat nonplussed at his comment, but I’m almost never at a loss for words, so I told him that I really didn’t have any basis for comparison.  I’ve never been pregnant and I don’t really have any intention of becoming pregnant, either.

I can barely take care of myself.  I’m in no position to be a father, much less a mother.

The happy baby photo is used with the leave of the photographer.

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Reports of the press release’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

Cross posted to the EZG blog.

The web has been all a-Twitter lately.  Jamie and Kyle have both written about it over the past few weeks, and around the bustling halls of EZG today we’ve had some insightful emails about the New Twitter and what it means for us, our clients, and our industry.  What really caught my attention, though, was a recent AdAge post that declares the tweet has killed the press release.

[I]ncreasingly, the news media has a nifty new way of “reporting” entertainment news: regurgitating celebrity tweets. It wasn’t that long ago that a celebrity with something “important” to put out there, like an apology, would automatically say it through a tightly controlled protocol, like a set of engineered sound bites delivered via a well-staged interview. Now 140 characters or fewer suffices.

Lest you think that this is only applicable to the latest B-lister to tweet her photo with Justin Beiber, author Simon Dumenco goes on to argue that “As the celebrity-industrial complex goes, so goes the rest of corporate America.”  Now I’m a big fan of Twitter, but just like video didn’t kill the radio star, I can’t accept his argument that “The long-suffering, much-maligned press release… finally died this summer” at the hands of the microblog.

Just because BP was made to look ridiculous when the fake @BPGlobalPR gushed black comedy gold and ended up with more than 10 times the number of followers the official @BP_America account did, it doesn’t mean that the public is going to turn to it for news.  All it means is that there is a greater appetite for gallows humor than there is for corporate spin.

More than that, the world is a complicated place.  Not everything, or even one thing, can be conveyed in a tweet.  While it’s possible to encapsulate all the germane details of some stories or events into a tweet (e.g. Tom Brady was in a car accident this morning. He’s OK, though.), for plenty of others it’s not only impossible, it’s also illegal.  Many professional and financial service providers are restricted from providing  commentary that can be construed as financial advice.  As a result, while they are increasingly using social media to get their message out, they are treading extremely carefully to avoid a slew of dangers that could  do great harm in both brand and legal terms.

Perhaps the best example of the continued vitality – and need – for press releases is Dumenco’s own post.  If everything that needs to be said can be said in a tweet, why bother writing an entire blog post?  He obviously felt the need to provide background and context necessary for readers to comprehend his post.  If he didn’t then the phrase “The tweet has killed the press release” would not only be sufficient, it is also well under 140 characters.

When the New York Times speculated that Mark Twain had been sent to Davy Jone’s locker, the great American novelist – who was alive and well – promised to “make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public.”

Dumenco predicts that “press releases will probably continue to stumble along, zombie-like, for years to come, because too many PR folks are still heavily invested in grinding them out.”  A better guess is that PR folks worth their weight will continue to combine press releases with appropriate use of Twitter, blogs, social networks, and (gasp!) the telephone and actual face to face meetings… until any or all of these devices cease being helpful to journalists and other audiences.  If press releases are our only means of action, well, color me uncreative.

But in the spirit of Mr. Twain, I’ll make a similar inquiry into the brain eating status of the press release.  If I find it with arms outstretched and ambling forth in legions galore, I’ll be sure to let you know.  I’ll issue a press release.

The above photo by theogeo is used under this creative commons license.

Everyone loves free ice cream, and four Boston brands know it

There is a specific type of bell that can get my attention even if you ring it softly from 100 yards away.  I don’t know what it is called, and I would be hard pressed to even describe it, but it is one of those sounds that I would know anywhere.  I have a Pavlovian reaction, really, since each time I hear it I instinctively turn around and look for the Ice Cream Man.

He was a little old man who, for as long as I could remember, drove the ice cream truck where my family vacationed.  He would shake half a dozen or so of these bells from the top of the dune to announce his presence in the parking lot.  For the uninitiated, after the bells came a hand painted piece of wood with two words  on it: Ice Cream.

Before he could raise his sign the sound of those bells had every kid on the beach scurrying from Cape Cod Bay and back up the sand with our hands outstretched.  Who needed the ocean to cool off when there was ice cream, and what’s better than free (at least for us kids) ice cream?

For my money, not much.  I love the stuff, and your stock will go way up in my book if you start handing it out.  Fortunately for all of us, there are a few Boston brands that are ensuring I can get a free fix.  They’ve figured out that the kid in all of us is an emotional sweet spot that opens right up when ice cream is at stake.

The Red Cross is one outfit that is using ice cream as the pathway to our hearts (and arteries), although technically it isn’t free — you do need to let them take a pint of blood.  That’s not a bad deal; you give the gift of life and receive a coupon for a free quart ofFriendly’s ice cream for the effort.  Talk about a win-win.

If you can’t make it to one of the Red Cross’ dozens of donation sites around the area, fear not — the ice cream can come to you.  Ben and Jerry’s has a truck out roaming about the streets of Boston and the surrounding areas handing out free samples of their deliciousness.  Want them to stop by your office?  Send them a tweet at @BenJerrysTruck and ask them to pay a visit to you and your co-workers.  Corporate blogger and President of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Paul Levy did yesterday, and it looks like the truck will be visiting today.  Talk about a way to boost employee morale!

If frozen drinks – no, not those kind – are more your thing, the hamburger joint b.good is now sporting a jet black ice cream truckwith orange flames painted down the side.  They are handing out free shakes downtown, in the Back Bay, and in communities with one of their restaurants as a way to drum up business.  They are also responding to tweets at @b_good_, so get social and get a free shake.

Ben and Jerry’s and b.good are both looking to boost sales, and even the Red Cross is hoping donations will pick up during the traditionally slow summer months by offering this promotion.  The Boston Police Department isn’t one of those organizations looking to increase its activity — but it  has realized that giving kids free ice cream is a great way to boost their brand, so they’ve gotten in on the action, too.

Operation Hoodsie Cup has officers driving their own truck of ice creamy awesomeness to city parks and playgrounds through Labor Day.  Uniformed officers will hand out free Hoodsies, interact with kids and teens, and hopefully build a rapport with them.  They won’t make a special trip to see you, but if you follow them on Twitter at @Boston_Police or check out their website they will share their route for the day.

Other cities call their cruisers black and whites, but no one wants to see the inside of one — a Hoodsie, on the other hand,  is a black and white every mother would be happy to see her child get in to.  And that’s really the point of all of these efforts.  Whether trying to sell a hamburger, establish a friendly relationship with inner city kids, or convince someone to voluntarily get stuck with a needle, associating a brand (especially retail) with a positive, innocent, universal theme can tap into hidden reserves of loyalty.  Ice cream puts a smile on everybody’s face.  What brand doesn’t go well with smiles?

[Update: In the “every party has a pooper” department, it turns out not every mother wants to see their kids dig into a Hoodsie.]

Photo (cc) by Pink Sherbet Photography used under this creative commons license.

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Stealing a book judged by its (political) cover

It was generally accepted among my classmates in college that Republican women were better looking than  their sisters in the Democratic Party.  Even as a Democrat myself I had to agree.

Now it appears you can tell quite a bit about someone just by looking at them.  No, I am not talking about whether Michael Jordan wears boxers or briefs.  It actually turns out you can tell which political party someone belongs to just by looking at them.   (Hat tip Freakonomics)

Republicans were perceived as more powerful than Democrats. Moreover, as individual targets were perceived to be more powerful, they were more likely to be perceived as Republicans by others. Similarly, as individual targets were perceived to be warmer, they were more likely to be perceived as Democrats.

I can only wonder how someone like Michael Scott would fare.  As an uber-Machiavellian he wants people to be afraid of how much they love him.

Contrast that with this item that popped up in my Recommended Items feed on Google Reader.  There is now a smart phone application that allows you to take a photo of someone and it will search social networking sites for their profiles.

At first I thought this was a pretty cool feature.  We’ve all been at a party and across the room you see someone you are sure you’ve met, but you just can’t remember their name.  If you can surreptitiously snap a photo of them then the problem is solved.  It might also work if you see someone across the room you would like to know, and want a couple conversation ideas before you saunter over and buy them a drink.

I then began to think of the privacy concerns, however.  Say you are at a bar, and someone grabs a photo of you without your knowledge.  A Facebook search will give them your name and likely hometown, and a quick Google search will give them your address.  Guess what, the bad guys now know where you live, and, more importantly, that no one is home.

This is the same problem that has recently been discussed by the fauz-social networking site, Please Rob Me.  This service alerts would-be robbers when you’ve left home and checked in somewhere on Foursquare.  A running feed on the homepage gives criminals an up to the minute list of people with empty homes just ripe for the robbing.

Both Recognizr, the facial recognition software, and Foursquare (and, by extension, Please Rob Me) are opt-in services.  For now, unless you sign up for the service, criminals won’t be able to grab your photo in a crowded bar and find out where you live.  I bet it won’t be long until someone creates a similar program that can do the same thing with or without your consent.  Some enterprising criminal may develop his own app, complete with Mapquest directions from the bar to your home.

If you don’t think that is possible, just think.  A few minutes ago you didn’t think you could pick out a Republican by site.

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This blows my mind

I was recently asked to opine on my three favorite social media tools.  Number two on my list was Google Reader.  Here’s why:

Now that is a pretty cool trick (and I love the old school NES controller), but how does it make me a fan of Google Reader? Because without it, I never would have discovered this video.

Most social media let friends recommend items to you.  If  I am friends with you then there is a good chance that I’m interested in the same things you are.  I learn, read, and see plenty of interesting things that are recommended by my friends on social networks.

Google Reader also lets you share items of interest with your friends and contacts through email, Reader’s own sharing system, Twitter, and the like.  However, it also goes  one step further.  It learns about the things I enjoy – both from the feeds I follow and the items I mark as liking – and uses that data to find other, similar items out there on the web.

Then, when I have a couple minutes to kill, I check out my recommended items.  With Reader the success rate of the items I read is much, much higher than on other social media sites.  I have a friend who specializes in 17th century French theology.  That really isn’t my thing, but her links still pop up in my Facebook news feed.   It’s not a perfect match.  With Reader, it is.  At least it’s a lot better.

The recommended items feed is how I came across this amazing illusion.  I don’t spend much time browsing YouTube, and I never would have found it on my own, but I’m glad I did.  Both this illusion, and the service that brought it to me, blows my mind.

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Jesus was a party animal, and other things I learned on blogs

For those of us with an interest in social media, we know that it is here right now.  For those of us immersed in it, however, it helps to remember that not everyone is.  My grandfather says with great pride that he wouldn’t even know how to turn a computer on.  He’s being slightly facetious, but just last week I saw a woman at Staples struggling to use a fax machine.  We are now several generations beyond the fax machine, but there are still those left behind.

There are plenty who get it, though.  At my alma mater, the Campus Minister has a blog and a Facebook account.  He will usually  post his homilies on the blog, and this week he began with an account of how he is using social media to keep tabs on his flock.

Recently I saw a facebook announcement for a 5 keg party and I thought to myself ….. that’s a lot of beer.

(Sometimes people obviously forget that when they “friend me” I see all of their status updates.)

Like any good fisherman, Fr. Bob goes to where the fish are.  When you are dealing with college students, the fish are on Facebook.  He’s not the only one.  On Twitter, the person I am most proud to be followed by is His Holiness the Dalai Llama (@OHHDLInfo).  Not to be outdone, the Pope is on YouTube.  Plenty of other religious leaders are also increasingly turning to social media to engage and evangelize.

I can no longer stand in the back of St. Vincent’s Chapel and listen to Fr. Bob preach any more than I can listen to the Pope at the Vatican or the Dalai Llama in Asia.  Through social media I can continue to be enriched by their teachings, however.  How else would I have known that Jesus was an even bigger party animal than my classmates?  As Fr. Bob told the students,

Being an inquisitive soul, I asked myself how many gallons 5 kegs would make?

The incredible internet told me that each keg has 15.5 gallons so 5 kegs is 77.5 gallons of beer

It sounds like a lot but a five keg party has nothing on the wedding feast of Cana.

With his first miracle Jesus made 120 gallons or 444 bottles of wine…That’s a real lot of wine.

You have to reach your audience where they are.  That means both in a place (Facebook)  and with a message (keg parties) that they can understand.  Fr. Bob gets it.  If only more did.

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Go anywhere – with Jeep or Twitter

I wouldn’t call it a New Year’s Resolution, per se, but I am trying to use Twitter more, and to use it better.  I’ve installed Chromed Bird to my browser, and while it is certainly helping me keep more up to date on whats taking place in the Twittersphere, I can easily see it becoming a distraction.

Regardless, there are some great and some poor uses for Twitter.  Some one of the people I follow tweeted today that dismissing Twitter because of ‘what I had for lunch’ tweets is like dismissing newspapers because of the National Inquirer.  Like anything else, it’s not the medium itself, but how you use it.  The same technology that published the Bible also published Mein Kampf.

An excellent example of a good use of Twitter came to me personally last spring.  Just as the weather was warming I tweeted

Sing hallelujah! The doors are off my Jeep for the summer!

Within minutes, a company using@AllThingsJeep responded to me by saying

We reccomend the CVS (crotch ventilation system) foot pegs for those hot summer days!

Before that, didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, and the same was true in the opposite direction.  I’d never bought anything from them, and as that was my first Jeep tweet I’m fairly certain they had no idea who I was or that I drove a Wrangler.  Still, they searched Twitter for a term relevant to their product line, in this case Jeep, and discovered what I was doing with mine.

That gives them an idea that I’m a potential customer, but it’s how they used that information that really sold me.  There’s a common expression among Wrangler owners – you may have even seen it written across some windshields: “It’s a Jeep thing.  You just wouldn’t understand.”

We Jeep owners are a fun loving bunch.  Most Saturday nights in the summer I take my Jeep out onto the beach down the Cape.  The very fact that they sell a product specifically for people who remove the doors from a vehicle at a high risk of rolling over should tell you something.

They had a pretty good idea of the type of customer I was, and used a fun marketing technique like calling foot pegs a “crotch ventilation system” to pitch the product to me.  It’s not something you would do with a Cadillac customer.   For a Caddy it would be completely off-brand.

I didn’t end up buying the CVS, but now before I do anything with my Jeep I check out their website first.  I’ve got a sense of humor, and as long as I’m going to be spending money I’d like to spend it with a company that has one, too.

For politicians, I’ve seen a couple great uses of Twitter, and plenty of pols who think it is a new tool to use for old strategies.  Those who do better with it include Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  About this time last year His Excellency made a visit to an office building in Cambridge.

A couple of employees at HubSpot, a company in the same building, tweeted him (@massgovernor) and asked him to stop by.  Guess what? He did.

As I tweeted yesterday, I think a mayor in New Jersey has accomplished not only the best use of Twitter for a politician ever, but also at the same time performed the best constituent service I’ve ever heard of.  A woman tweeted Newark Mayor Cory Booker and asked if he could send someone to her 65 year old father’s house to help him shovel the driveway.

His response came five minutes later:

I will do it myself where does he live?

That’s a vote for life right there.  Should any of my elected officials be reading this, tweet me at @BrianKeaney for my address.   My driveway is still a mess.