Live and Learn…Social Media Style

Ever since the early days of the internet, you know back when we were all innocent, happily posting away, giddily anticipating as the square with the lightening (complete with sound effects) gave way to the one with the triangle…(or am I the only one who remembers the early days of dial up AOL?) There have also been warnings, few and quiet at first, becoming stronger and more dire as the years flew by…protect yourself and more importantly, your INFORMATION! Hackers are EVERYWHERE and they are looking for YOU!
As a college student I took the warnings with a grain of salt, taking the usual precautions: anti-virus software, awesome (I thought) passwords. Later as I became wiser and more involved with social media; I became a blogger, then later a public affairs officer and then a social media consultant; I became even more savvy to the evils of phishing, trojans, keystoke viruses and web/spider trawlers A.K.A. Hacker scum with nothing better to do than ruin your day, week, life…

However, as aforesaid social media consultant I had grown comfortable with my knowledge…a dangerous thing. I assumed I was safe..it would never happen to me…until it did.

Sometime yesterday my GMail account was viciously hacked. 623 emails (EVERYONE in my address book) was sent an untitled email with a link that appeared to be from Google but was actually a virus. Not only was this bad for my social life, but the emails that went out also went out to people I had sent resumes to, people that trusted me in my network (including government, politics, the military, social media and the entertainment industry) now all exposed for the world to see. The link was also conveniently posted to my Facebook, Posterous, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIN and FriendFeed pages just in case you somehow missed the email! I was not only angry I was mortified!
To top it off when I decided to be proactive and change all my passwords I discovered my Google account had been disabled for a violation of TOS (since my ADsense address is also in my address book, Google was also sent the virus!) And I guess they don’t appreciate that sort of thing.
Well I immediately contacted them, Facebook, Twitter and most of my other services to let them know what was going on. Thankfully Google did not take the most extreme measure which would be to ban me forever from all Google services, but I did get a really stern email about taking preventitive measures in the future which made me feel about two inches tall. And I of course had to send out about a million emails, tweets and posts to apologize for the hacking, which more than a few did not take lightly.
Well, what’s done is done. Did I learn anything? Hell yes. Am I a little humbled by my experience? Absolutely. Am I getting new virus software, changing passwords and encrypting the hell out of everything? Duh.

Live and Learn.

Being Green in Theory v. Practice

the ridiculous-nous of a dollarI must say that I am so tired of getting pile after pile of JUNK mail from groups (that for the sake of this post shall remain nameless…well that and I happen to be a card-carrying member of a few of them) that claim to want to save the planet in some form or fashion, whether it’s dirty coal one day or drowned polar bears the next…they fill your mailbox with pleas for your hard-earned dollar but seem to ignore one of the most basic and vital resources known to mankind as a species…clean air…produced in part by the very trees (some of them OLD GROWTH) cut down so that they could mail out their solicitations, most of which will never even be read, much less recycled and will likely wind up in some landfill taking up even more space and causing even more problems for these groups to complain about creating a new impetus for them to send out a whole new round of solicitations about these “new” problems to an uninterested public!

Whew! What an opening rant…

Ok, now let’s get serious folks. Yes I may be a hard-core environmental fanatic, but I make mistakes, have my failings, am outright lazy once in a while.(I sadly admit that even I have thrown away recyclable items without a twinge of remorse when tired, in a hurry with screaming toddlers strapped to both hips….) But, for the most part, I am working to be a responsible citizen, not just of my community, or even my country, but of my planet. I try to instill in my children the basic moral principles that less is more, and that homemade is from the heart. We avoid the big box retailers when possible, rarely eat junk, recycle regularly, endure the dirty looks we STILL get as we haul our cloth bags, walk more than drive and bundle up rather than crank up the thermostat.

Despite all these efforts, they can’t seem to avoid the barrage of mail we receive on a near daily basis asking for our support (which means money) and the really slick and cool ones promise that if we respond in 30 days we get a lovely reproduction 1930’s explorers backpack! How cool is that??

Just make sure you read the fine print…(you know the one that tells you that in exchange for that awesome backpack, only 5 cents of your $30 donation will actually help save the imperiled penguins, drowning polar bears or whichever cause it happens to be this month.)

Now please don’t assume I am bashing the wonderful work done by such groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund. As a contributing member I do receive an annual report each year with an informative breakdown of how their money is spent each fiscal year. I study those charts and graphs ( and I am NO math major) and think to myself that a better use of such a  large chunk of  the money dedicated to marketing (to gain new members, raise more dues, and other advertisements) could be better spent on actually reaching out to college advocacy groups (the ones that are not afraid yet to write their congressmen and women and march on Washington in protest), providing grants to grassroots groups making real changes in communities,  etc.

To me it just makes more sense to spend that large  ( and I do mean large….well it is certainly many times more than I and probably most of my entire  staff make in a single year, but then I am a state employee so I guess I am probably not the best example to go by)

So for those of you out there…what are your thoughts on this???  Even using 100% recycled paper, should these organizations cut back their marketing and PR funding and maybe divert that money elsewhere where it might do more good? Please leave your comments below and let me know the following:

  1. Should these organizations reallocate their funding  to include more grassroots/ college advocacy movement workshop/events?
  2. Do These groups spend too much on marketing/PR/postage/etc?
  3. Is adequate research being done to ensure quality ROI for money and time spent?

I look forward to your time and answers. and if you feel more comfortable sending a more in-depth but private response, please feel free to email me a personal response.

I look forward to putting together these answers and then crafting a very nice letter to the presidents and CEO’s of some of these organizations, many of which I have faithfully supported in excess for more than 20 years. I want to know just how MY money has really helped (if at all beyond padding his or her salary while I struggle to feed my family) and whether or not they are truly following their own green  advice in both practice as well as theory…..

Until we meet again…..

Want to Help Fix the Economy? Be a Scrooge!

I read a great post this morning that totally fit in with what I was feeling. I tend to dread the holiday season. Not that I don’t enjoy spending time with the family, watching old Christmas specials like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (my FAVORITE) and a Charlie Brown Christmas (2nd FAVORITE), eating my dad’s awesome Yule log (a lovely chocolate cake thing with maple flavored whipped creme…..aaahhhhhh……sorry having a Homer Simpson moment there) and sitting in front of a roaring fire. No, all those things are the essence of the holiday season for me.

What I hate is the shopping, the expectations, the greed, the consumerism, the obsession with STUFF we don’t need. Here is an excerpt from the blog that sums it up better than I ever could.

Go ahead...be a Scrooge for the planet!

Go ahead...be a Scrooge for the planet!

“We are in a mess. Actually we are in a bunch of messes. The financial collapse was caused in large part by our greedy and over consumptive nature and practices. Markets will not hold when so many people live lives based on an ever revolving line of credit, made necessary by the need to own more than one can afford.

The environmental mess we are in, is a direct result of over harvesting the planets resources to supply our consumptive society.

We are running out of nature… fish, forests, fresh water and minerals. We are running out of clean air, water and soil.

It’s not just about saving the planet though. It’s about returning to relationships that aren’t based on material gratification.

There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.

It will take a massive mind-shift. You can start the ball rolling by buying nothing on November 27th. Then celebrate Christmas differently this year, and make a New Year’s resolution to change your lifestyle in 2010.” – Twilight Earth

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give gifts to those we love, but what happened to homemade gifts, baked goods,  offers of services and other intangibles? Therefore I am not participating in the madness that is Black Friday. I will not step into any stores and will ignore the plethora of ads blasted at me from every direction. For once I am so glad I live in the boonies, have no TV and few radio stations that come in clear. Less media means less commercials to tempt me, or my children.

If you are a green organization trying to figure out how to convince people we need less, then definitely read the post I linked too and then try to help promote green gifts. Memberships and donations to green organizations such as your state government’s nongame wildlife program (which in Georgia relies entirely on donations and the sales of license plates), Green America, The Sierra Club or the Arbor Day Foundation who will plant a tree in honor of every donation, are all examples of gifts that not only reduce your carbon footprint, but will help to preserve the planet’s beauty for generations to come.

Another idea for green gifts – potted plants, framed comics from your local newspaper (print or online) that have special meaning, hand-made toys, blankets or scarves, and the list goes on. Last year a friend received a set of coasters made out of pop tops (mostly beer I admit) but they were so cool, and were an excellent form of recycling since many places that take bottles do not recycle the lids.

Want to help get us out of the greedy consumerist mess we are in, try not using your credit cards this holiday season. Be a scrooge, and save the planet.



“World of Mouth” – a clear example…. It always comes back around.

In my last post I mentioned Erik Qualman’s book “Socialnomics” – in chapter five he goes into detail about how more and more we care about what our networks have to say about products and services than what we hear from commercials, print ads and so forth.

However, we can’t completely discount great customer service when it happens – know why? Because a good review has the same opportunity to go viral as one simply spoken about at the water cooler.

Earlier this week, my division at work put in orders for out business planner refills for the 2010 year. I had decided the one I was using was really not suitable and really wanted to go with the super “Master Planner” 2-page per day organizer designed by Franklin Covey. So I get my order and it is only the pages, no binder….I was a little miffed, checked the catalog and sure enough, the product number only indicated the refill. So I thought, ok, no big deal, I will just look through the Staples catalog (my org is contracted with them) and find the planner. Let the frustration begin.

First I checked the catalog – no planner big enough…then I checked the website…no binder. At this point I was very, very frustrated and felt entirely PISSED off that a company would carry refill pages for a binder they did not carry. On a lark I went on the Franklin Covey web site and guess what….they DON’T carry one either!!!!! Can you believe it? Franklin Covey, a huge name in personal organizers sells an AWESOME refill but not a binder that it will fit in.

I called Staples and talked to a wonderful young woman who seemed as perplexed as I was. Guess what she did. First she did her own search, then she took down my info and promised to call back. I admit I was skeptical but let it go…until 15 minutes later she called back. She had scoured the web and found a binder that would fit my refill – on Daytimer.com…now that is awesome customer service.

Not only did she seem genuinely concerned, but in order to help me sat a satisfied customer she checked her competitors web sites to  help me find what I needed.

Maybe Staples and Franklin Covey as organizations messed up…but that woman provided excellent customer service, which speaks volumes about the organization she works for.

Thanks a million and thanks to Staples for hiring such great customer service reps.

So as an addendum, you can bet that although I was disappointed with the product availability, I was very happy with the service and would definitely recommend Staples to others.

Next time you are answering a question from a potential client or customer, when you know you have to give them “bad” news – consider the method of delivery and how else you might help them. It can mean the difference between someone having a bad experience and passing that on, or someone maybe not getting what they want, but passing on good word of mouth about how well they were treated-which ultimately is more important than a product or service anyway over the long run.

An Ethical Dilemma

If you work in public relations then sooner or later you will confront this issue. You know the one I mean where you have to decide whether your job is worth the flak you receive over a decision that was made way above you but has filtered down the line until finally you are the one who must “handle” the negative fallout.

I like to think I am an ethical person. I believe that the best policy in most cases is honesty. I do concede that there are some situations where you have a need to know situation and the general public simply does not need to know, but for 99% of the issues I deal with, honesty is always the best policy.

Therefore it was a little upsetting to be dealing with the negative press surrounding a decision that way predates my employment, by more than a year.

The field of public relations has received so much grief lately that I hesitate to add any more fuel to the fire….but there are times when you have to stand your ground and stand up for the principles you believe in. (At least until you reach your breaking point)

I was asked to write a release about a breaking news situation at work. A situation that resulted from a decision made by some nameless suit way before I ever came along. The issue at hand was one that got a ton of people (read activists) fired up. A few years ago I would have been on the front lines with them protesting the absurdity of the situation but now…well lets just say I have a better understanding of the issues and can clearly see both sides. I am not saying that my understanding makes things right or wrong, just that I am more informed than the average greenpeace’er.

So I have been answering media calls, responding with our standard response, all the while feeling pretty crappy about what I was saying.

So where do you draw the line?

When do your personal ethics have to supersede your loyalty to your employer?

I guess I still don’t know.

Maybe I am a sell out…maybe I just realize that I have a family of four counting on me to bring home a paycheck, but I didn’t once cross the line and mix my personal feelings with the “Official” stand of my organization. I did it. This time.

I can honestly say that I won’t do it forever. There will come a day when I say, I have had enough and just walk away. Until then…

Don’t judge me. We are all guilty of selling out at some point, (regardless if you admit or not)and until you reach that point, you have no idea what it feels like.

“Forever trust in who we are, and nothing else matters…”

Got a comment. I’d like to hear it.

An Ethical Dilemma

If you work in public relations then sooner or later you will confront this issue. You know the one I mean where you have to decide whether your job is worth the flak you receive over a decision that was made way above you but has filtered down the line until finally you are the one who must “handle” the negative fallout.

I like to think I am an ethical person. I believe that the best policy in most cases is honesty. I do concede that there are some situations where you have a need to know situation and the general public simply does not need to know, but for 99% of the issues I deal with, honesty is always the best policy.

Therefore it was a little upsetting to be dealing with the negative press surrounding a decision that way predates my employment, by more than a year.

The field of public relations has received so much grief lately that I hesitate to add any more fuel to the fire….but there are times when you have to stand your ground and stand up for the principles you believe in. (At least until you reach your breaking point)

I was asked to write a release about a breaking news situation at work. A situation that resulted from a decision made by some nameless suit way before I ever came along. The issue at hand was one that got a ton of people (read activists) fired up. A few years ago I would have been on the front lines with them protesting the absurdity of the situation but now…well lets just say I have a better understanding of the issues and can clearly see both sides. I am not saying that my understanding makes things right or wrong, just that I am more informed than the average greenpeace’er.

So I have been answering media calls, responding with our standard response, all the while feeling pretty crappy about what I was saying.

So where do you draw the line?

When do your personal ethics have to supersede your loyalty to your employer?

I guess I still don’t know.

Maybe I am a sell out…maybe I just realize that I have a family of four counting on me to bring home a paycheck, but I didn’t once cross the line and mix my personal feelings with the “Official” stand of my organization. I did it. This time.

I can honestly say that I won’t do it forever. There will come a day when I say, I have had enough and just walk away. Until then…

Don’t judge me. We are all guilty of selling out at some point, (regardless if you admit or not)and until you reach that point, you have no idea what it feels like.

“Forever trust in who we are, and nothing else matters…”

Got a comment. I’d like to hear it.