Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Write like the President’s Speechwriter

Remember, President Obama’s triumphantYes, We Can” speech, or the hopeful New Hampshire concession speech or most recently the comforting Newton tragedy speech

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Words matter and a President’s words carry meaning to hundreds of millions of people; it helps sooth, comfort, and uplift a nation.

So there’s a lot we can learn about writing from the President’s young speechwriter Jon Favreau (not the guy who brought you Iron Man). This past week Favreau crafted one of his penultimate speeches for the President and shared some of his secrets gleaned while writing for the President.

First, nail the theme

One of the biggest mistakes you can make while writing an essay or a blog post is to blah, blah, ramble on relentlessly towards an unspecified goal in the far distance. Smart writers always get the theme right first, which helps with Act 1 and 3 of the piece, and then work around it to get Act 2 right – usually the toughest part.

The President’s working style with Favreau is no different.

“We wanted to make sure that we were going to pick one theme and not go all over the place. And the president said, “Look there’s the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and for 200 years the American story has been about making those promises real,'” recalled Favreau. For an underlying theme, they settled on the notion that “alongside our rugged individualism, there’s another strand of American belief which is that we’re all in this together e pluribus unum, out of many, one.”

Keep it short, keep it real

For cryin out loud, please keep it short. Everybody’s got ADD (thank you, Twitter!) these days, so holding their attention is gonna be your biggest challenge.

As Ted Sorenson, Kennedy’s speechwriter, said about JFK’s speeches:

No speech was more than 20 to 30 minutes in duration. They were all too short and too crowded with facts to permit any excess of generalities and sentimentalities. His texts wasted no words and his delivery wasted no time.

And, boy did Kennedy’s speeches work because of that very fact:

For he disliked verbosity and pomposity in his own remarks as much as he disliked them in others. He wanted both his message and his language to be plain and unpretentious, but never patronizing. He wanted his major policy statements to be positive, specific and definite, avoiding the use of “suggest,” “perhaps” and “possible alternatives for consideration.”

Yes. Always be specific.

“Write drunk; edit sober.”

Nah, I wouldn’t recommend that rule because not all things that work for Hemingway work for mere mortals. But, Hemingway was right about one thing – relentlessly edit your work till its worthy of public consumption.

Editing is an art form with the structure depending on how you choose to approach it. In some cases, logic will be the guide:

“He’s known for his rhetoric, right?” said Favreau. “But he’s also got a very lawyerly, logical mind. And so the thing he always does best is putting every argument in order.”

The night before the inauguration, Obama was done editing. All that was left were words to underline so that they’d get proper emphasis in the delivery. The president did a read through in the map room of the White House that night.

And, in other cases, reason will dictate the contents of a speech as Ted Sorenson describes JFK’s goal with his speeches:

At the same time, his emphasis on a course of reason –rejecting the extremes of either side –helped produce the parallel construction and use of contrasts with which he later became identified. He had a weakness for one unnecessary phrase: “The harsh facts of the matter are . . .”–but with few other exceptions his sentences were lean and crisp. . . .

But regardless, if there’s one thing I’d like you to takeaway from this post, it’d be edit, edit, and edit until your post is worthy of being seen by people. Or as Hemingway said to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934:

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Put it in the wastebasket, not on your blog.

Filed under: Best-of, Leadership Communication, Public Speaking, Writing, , , , , ,

Bad Communication, according to Larry Page

I’ve written about great communicators like Steve Jobs, I’ve called out lame attempts by Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos who tried copying the master and failed, and I now gotta write about bad communication, courtesy of Google CEO Larry Page.

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Scott Edinger’s recap of Aristotle’s three rules of rhetoric helped me pull together the three elements of Larry Page’s bad communication skills.

1. Lack emotion and logic

Aristotle’s rules of rhetoric are credibility, emotion and logic. While credibility is a given with folks like Page and Zuckerberg, it’s emotion and logic (!) that these CEOs stumble upon.

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Let’s take Page’s comments on Google+, an area that’s obviously not Google’s brightest spot today. In Dec 2012, this is how Page addressed its “success“:

Fortune: It is a big bet. What’s most important to you? Is competitive with Facebook (FB)? Is it about weaving identity across all of Google’s products? You’ve talked about adoption being higher than you expected. What’s the measure of success going forward?

Page: I think it’s gone pretty well. I’m very happy if users of Plus are happy and the numbers are growing because that means that we’re on to something. We’ve got a huge team actually in this building. If you walk around, you see everyone’s excited and running around and working hard on it. I think that they’re doing great stuff. They’re making it better and better every day. That’s how I’m measuring it.

That made no sense. After months of touting meaningless numbers to showcase Google+’s “success”, the past couple of months have seen Page just bullshitting us with nada.

Take a another example just a few days ago, in Wired Magazine:

Wired: What’s your evaluation of Google+?

Page: I’m very happy with how it has gone. We’re working on a lot of really cool stuff. A lot of it has been copied by our competitors, so I think we’re doing a good job.

Now, obviously there’s no way in hell this is how Google (one of the smartest companies on the planet) measures success for a key product, ranging from “excited employees, running around, working hard, doing great stuff” to “lot of is copied” so we’re doing good.

Now who does this kind of talk remind me of: Dubya!

He answers questions like an 8 year old does when they didn’t read the book.

He just describes facts.

People always say: “President Bush. I think he’s stupid.” He’s not stupid. When you listen to him you realize, he talks like he’s talking to someone stupid.

And that in essence is how Larry Page sounds most of the time. Especially when he’s talking about Google+.

Wanna know how it’s done right? I can give you so many examples of Jobs’ masterful answer to tough questions.

Jobs was one of those rare leaders who was able to combine both emotion and logic in his answers, much like he presented Apple at the intersection of Art and Technology. Even when heckled, Jobs knew how to respond to it with a unique blend of emotion and logic.

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As I’ve mentioned earlier, the key here is to earn the respect of your audience.

2. Badmouth your competition

An unwritten law of communication is to not badmouth the competition, but somehow Larry Page sounds either condescending, like a douche (more on that in just a second) or plain clueless.

Wired: One area where people say that Google is indeed motivated by competition is the social realm, where in the past two years you have been working hard in a field dominated by a single rival, Facebook. That’s not the case?

Page: It’s not the way I think about it. We had real issues with how our users shared information, how they expressed their identity, and so on. And, yeah, they’re a company that’s strong in that space. But they’re also doing a really bad job on their products.

The part that really gets to me, is you can’t just throw stuff out like that without getting examples! It’s a whole other problem that the interviewer didn’t ask the obvious question: which Facebook products are you referring to? Wouldn’t that have made for a fascinating follow-up.

And it ain’t just Page; others in his “L Team” (yuck!) have done it earlier to which Jobs responded:

Just because you’re a competitor, doesn’t mean you have to be rude.

3. Sound like a douche

Finally, as I said earlier, you don’t wanna come off as condescending to your competition (or worse still) sound like a dick about your users.

Fortune: While the company has touted the success of Google+, its answer to Facebook, many analysts say they see little activity on the social network.

What you should want us to do is to really build amazing products and to really do that with a long-term focus. Just like I mentioned we have to understand apps and we have to understand things you could buy, and we have to understand airline tickets. We have to understand anything you might search for. And people are a big thing you might search for.

And so we think about it somewhat differently. We’re going to have people as a first class object in search. We need that to work, and we need to get started on it. If you look at a product, and you say the day it launched, “It’s not doing what I think it should do.” We say, “Well, yeah. It just launched today.” Part of this is you have to interact with it and you have to claim your name and make it work for you. And so I think for me I didn’t have any issues around that. I think that people weren’t focused on the long-term. And I think again it’s important if we’re going to do a good job meeting your information needs, we actually need to understand things and we need to understand things pretty deeply. People are a component of that.

As you can see in both instances people always seem to be “a component of” Google’s “need to understand things pretty deeply.” People are a necessary cog in Google’s need to “understand apps and things you could buy and they have to understand airline tickets.”!!!

Jobs on the other hand always began with the user in mind. Even in the example I gave above, he says:

One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve gotta start with the customer experience and work backwards the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re gonna try to sell it.

And as recently as with his last interview at the D Conference, this is a word cloud of his responses and as you can see “People” figures quite prominently.

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So if I can leave you with two last words, two more lessons from Jobs, it’d be transparency and consistency. Transparency because every word you say on stage has to be backed up by your product actions not the other way around. Consistency because what you say today should match with what you say in your last interview.

And that’s something we can all learn from Steve Jobs. Especially if you are a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company.

Filed under: Best-of, Larry Page, Leadership Communication, Public Relations, Public Speaking, , ,

Why I blog and why you should too

The toughest part of blogging is keeping up the urge to blog seven days a week. This post, inspired by Orwell, started out  as my quest to find out why I  blog, but it kinda evolved into an outline on why you should too.

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Trust me on this one: blogging’s tough to keep up with, there’s no clear end game but it’s totally worth it!

So blogging newbies, if you’re expecting a quick return on investment with your new hobby I’d say, don’t even start. You are likely to shed your blogging interest much like a New Year’s resolution:

“Avocational” bloggers are likely to drop off simply because it’s hard work to keep up the pace. Writing an insightful 700 word article several times a week, for no or little money, is far more taxing than snapping a photo or sending a 140 character tweet. That’s part of the reason a 2010 Pew study showed that the rate of blogging was declining among teens and young adults, who were instead spending their time on social networks.

But if you’re willing to stick with it, read on. Here’s why blogging matters to every single one of us (yes, every one reading this post):

1. Blogging gives you a voice

Blogs traffic in ideas and as a professional if you’ve ideas other than what your boss demands of you in a daily job, than a blog is the best way to share it widely. Quora or LinkedIn or Twitter sure help, but you’re playing in somebody else’s playground. I say build a blog yourself and it’s all you. You own your words, your ideas.

Get creative. You’re gonna feel the urge to do that someday soon. @dorieclark summed it best:

Writing is still the clearest and most definitive medium for demonstrating expertise on the web. But as thought leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk have shown with video blogging and fellow HBR blogger Mitch Joel with podcasting (i.e., audio blogging), as long as your content is rich and thoughtful, you can still build up a massive following and reputation regardless of your channel. In an information-hungry world, there will always be a need for expert content. And there will always be more readers and “retweeters” than there will be creators.

2. Use that voice with purpose

If you want to have an impact, you might as well be the one setting the agenda by leading with your ideas to influence the world. Reminded me (yes, I think of most things in life as a Steve Jobs quote) of something Steve Jobs said:

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is to live your life inside this world; try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life.

Life can be much broader. Once you discover one simple fact and that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.

You can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

This thinking echoes one of Orwell’s motives for writing:

Political purpose: Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.

And, I think any good blog or book has a serious purpose. The rest of them blogs are boring as hell; kinda like some of the older posts I wrote in Act II of writing this blog. A mistake I don’t plan on making again.

3. Blogging sharpens your mind 

Nothing clarifies the mind better than the concerted effort to write a blog post. I learned this from @adamnash who, besides being a prolific blogger himself, also used to be a strong advocate of product managers on his team writing posts for the company blog as an exercise in thinking through product features from a user’s perspective.

What’s true for product managers is true for any professional across the board. Much like the iPhone’s limited mobile real estate forces designers to surface the most important features efficiently, a blank page on a blog forces you to channel your ideas on topics that mean something to your career.

Open an empty word document and try writing down the first thing that comes to mind about your “job” today.

Try it, it’s a liberating act.

4. Blogging helps you connect the dots

Facebook may connect you with people you already know, but knowledge networks like Twitter or Quora connect you with people you gotta know. A blog is the epitome of this dynamic.

I’m still good friends with the first group of bloggers I stumbled upon when I started this blog. Folks like Ann Handley, Jeremiah Owyang or Mack Collier among others. As time progresses, your thinking evolves, you focus on areas your mind leads you to (in my case – social networking) and you find other equally insightful bloggers to friend.

Fact is: blogging expands your circle of professional connections but more importantly guides you towards people who are more in line with your professional thinking.

So have I made a persuasive case for blogging? Frankly, this post is more a personal rallying cry to help me sustain my blogging, but rest assured blogging changed my life once and I’m betting on it doing the same again.

As Steve Jobs said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.

So blog. Do it if you really love what you do. Heck, do it if you don’t love what you currently do.

And the dots will eventually connect.

Filed under: Best-of, Thoughts, Writing,

The magic left the building with Jobs

I remember the moment Steve Jobs scrolled through his music and uttered those magical words – “scrolls like butter” – while illustrating the beauty of the original iPhone.

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It’s moments like this that you lived for, as a technology obsessed professional in Silicon Valley. And with Jobs we got to watch the Michael Jordan of technology, courtside, at his best. iPods, iPhones, iPads, the hits kept coming and Jobs made them look great.

So, it’s a pet peeve of mine these days when companies try to rip off Steve Jobs’ launch style. Not Apple’s style because the new PR machinery at Apple leaves a lot to be desired. But what Jobs created, no one else can put together, because it was and will always be classic Jobs.

Jobs in the above video is the same age as Zuckerberg is today. Incomparable!

Why “Public Relations” sucks?

Kevin Roose writes of the Applefication of Facebook PR in light of today’s Facebook press conference.

I’m sitting in the Facebook headquarters, in Menlo Park, in a room filled with the symphonic clicking of keys produced by hundreds of tech bloggers, all writing the same stories and updating the same live-blogs on identical Apple laptops.

Go on…

Zuckerberg has long departed — he was disappeared from a teeming pile of reporters and cameras and out a back door like a sitting president — so now it’s just us and the PR Borg. Oh, the PR Borg. Facebook’s communications staffers are paired up with reporters at demo stations, showing off Graph on a series of computers. The spares are milling around the room. There must be 50 of them — a phalanx of fresh-faced professionals with smiles on their faces and carefully scripted responses to our questions in their hip pockets.

These are today’s news factories. These are things I’d hoped would change with social media but frankly the hand that runs the machine continues to operate with an old playbook. And that sucks…

But wasn’t social media meant to change these things… Hold that thought.

Because no company can ever be Apple with Jobs 

I never went to an Apple event in the Steve Jobs era, but I gather that the pitch is nearly identical: the charismatic founder, the well-paced presentation, the subtle way that certain media outlets are subtly given preference. (This time, major news outlets — this one not included — were given off-the-record briefings about Social Graph.) It’s all drawn from a playbook that was developed a decade ago and has been used to transform a smallish computer company into the largest corporation in the world.

Not so fast. This playbook copied by every large company from Amazon to Facebook forgets three key elements for this communication to work: killer product, charismatic founder, real user values.

The magic with Steve Jobs was his effortless communication. A passionate user himself whose demos communicated his wonder around Apple products that truly changed the way we interact with technology.

Yes, Apple had their PR machinery but the difference was Jobs.

  • The difference was in backing up those missives by publicly sparring, evangelizing and winning over developers or journalists when they called him on it.
  • The difference was a holistic approach at communicating openly to users by treating them as adults.

Wasn’t that the utopian goal of social media? To help companies talk one-on-one with their users. Instead here we are, still mass producing press releases around giant product announcements, trying to reach the lowest common denominator at the lowest possible price. In some cases, at the ridiculously low price of $100.00!

Welcome to the future of social media communication.

[Disclosure: I own public stock in Facebook, I do not own stock in Apple. This blog holds my my personal thoughts on all things marketing and communications since 2006.]

Filed under: Best-of, Facebook, Public Relations, Social PR, , , ,

Find your Inner Blog.

“Don’t censor yourself. Don’t go along with the crowd. Don’t be greedy. Don’t be cheap.

Young as you are, play dead — so that your eyes will stay open.” – Nadine Gordimer

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Thus ends Jeffrey Eugenides’ advice to 10 Whiting Award winners this past year. Words that resonate strongly with me during this holiday season for one reason: it’s a swift kick-in-the-pants I need to get me back to writing.

But, more importantly, it’s a welcome thought reminding me of the real reason I started this blog: to find my passion, and to find my inner voice. Words that give me hope that it may not be too late to revive my writing after all.

Other points of wisdom in the article that bestirred my writer’s conscience:

1. “A serious person should try to write posthumously”

That was Nadine Gordimer to Christopher Hitchens. Mortality’s a theme revisited by many artists because “almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Or as Hitchens put it:

“By that I took her to mean that one should compose as if the usual constraints — of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and, perhaps especially, intellectual opinion — did not operate.”

Either way, it can be a most liberating thought. And one that frees up a creative block and forces you to think straight – for the long term.

2. Write with purpose, find your calling

For a while there, I halted my blogging coming up with a flimsy excuse that I needed to find an audience before I shared my words. Every day was an excuse to skip putting my words down on WordPress, while I evaded the hard work of capturing those fleeting thoughts.

I still recall the first time my blog got recognized with a spike in traffic (hat tip to Jason Calacanis). It was one of those magical moments where my passion met an audience. It can’t be planned, it can’t be faked.

You write your first stuff pretty much for yourself, not thinking anybody will read, much less publish, it, not thinking it’ll earn money, therefore not worrying about pleasing anyone or falling in line with any agenda; not worrying about censoring yourself, either, because who’s going to see it? And, miraculously, it worked out.

But once you find the audience, your mind starts working in reverse trying to please that audience, grow that audience, so you repeat yourself with popular “Top 10” posts, etc. And over time all you’re left with is drivel.

You might begin to forget the person you are in order to write and sound like someone else. Alternately, you might be tempted to repeat yourself. To follow the fashion of your own previous work, to stop exploring, learning and trying new things, for risk of failure.

If you try to write posthumously, however, fashion doesn’t apply.

As far as a blog is concerned all that’s within my control is to write with honesty and try to share that with a few good people who may appreciate it.

As Kurt Woolf, Kafka’s first publisher in Germany, wrote to him after Kafka’s book tanked, “You and we know that it is generally just the best and most valuable things that do not find their echo immediately.”

Fashion is the attempt to evade that principle: to be the echo of someone else’s success and, therefore, to create nothing that might create an echo of its own.

3. Remember when and why it all started

The fuel to keep going is simple yet elusive. My favorite passage in the entire article is Eugenides reminding the writers of why they started writing.

“When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight.

It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive.

Remember? You were fifteen and standing beside a river in wintertime. Ice floes drifted slowly downstream. Your nose was running. Your wool hat smelled like a wet dog. Your dog, panting by your side, smelled like your hat. It was hard to distinguish.

As you stood there, watching the river, an imperative communicated itself to you. You were being told to pay attention. You, the designated witness, special little teen-age omniscient you, wearing tennis shoes out in the snow, against your mother’s orders. Just then the sun came out from behind the clouds, revealing that every twig on every tree was encased in ice. The entire world a crystal chandelier that might shatter if you made a sound, so you didn’t. Even your dog knew to keep quiet.

And the beauty of the world at that moment, the majestic advance of ice in the river, so like the progress of the thoughts inside your head, overwhelmed you, filling you with one desire and one desire only, which was to go home immediately and write about it.”

That’s it. Every blog post I’ve written that was ever worth reading was a response to that overwhelming desire to describe…

“The majestic advance of ice in the river.”

And somewhere along the way, somewhere in 2012, I completely lost that wonder. Circumstances and stress may have had something to do with it but I’m sure there will always be opportunities for stress. I feel like it’s about time I once again started reacting to the magic around me.

And over time, I bet, the rest will add up too.

The magic will happen. The dots will connect.

As a wise soul once reminded us:

“Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Best-of, Thoughts

Beating Blogger’s Block

I started blogging years ago. Nearly 6 years ago.

It has unquestionably changed my life and my career in the years since. But, I don’t do it anymore. At least not with the passion that I originally started blogging with and that bothers me.

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I’ve written over a thousand blog posts since then but here on my personal blog it just doesn’t feel fresh, fun or exciting anymore as it was during those early days.

What went wrong

1. I blog for a living. Here a blog, there a blog, just too many blogs. 

2. It’s been an interesting roller coaster of a year (to say the least)  

3. Twitter killed Blogging for most of us

Why this bothers me 

Blogging is a really good indicator to identify how passionate you are on your favorite topics.When I started blogging I’d spend hours after work writing about topics I love. It’s that passion that slowly helped me find social media and LinkedIn way back when. And, so when I find myself not blogging actively anymore it bugs me.

I don’t want that and I need to change things up. I need to blog. And, I need to start today.

What’s next? 

The blog definitely needs more regular, interesting content and I’m gonna make an extra-effort to do exactly that. Oddly enough, there’s far more interesting stuff happening today in social media than there was a few years ago; so much so that there’s tons of noise and hopefully the content I create here will cut through that noise.

Over the next few weeks you’re going to see content that will focus on three key attributes.

1. People: Meet professionals whose work I admire. Capture that on the blog. 

I meet tons of interesting folks in the social media space whose work I find relentlessly fascinating. Expect to hear more about them on the blog as I get them to share lessons learned while working on real world projects in social media, whether it’s in PR, Marketing or Journalism.

2. Always unique, always differentiated. 

Using Quora for the first time was a huge aha moment that reminded me of my initial experience blogging. What Quora does best was provide a platform for sharing what you’re good at while bringing you an audience of interesting people in that space who’d love to hear from you. That’s what a good blog is supposed to be while giving you the control over every aspect of content and design.

So, you’re gonna see a slew of content that I can provide unique insight into and hopefully we can reach many more readers like you who will find that content useful. All I’d ask is for you guys is to share posts that you find useful, when you find em useful.

3. Give more than you get

In the past, there have been days where I’d put together a hastily scribbled post just because I’d want to get to my quota of one post a day. Now, granted this is a part of the Writer’s Block that hastened the slow-down of my blogging, but as I look around I see a a few awesome bloggers who generate a ton of quality content on a regular basis. And, I know it’s doable.

Blogs that I love reading on Flipboard. Blogs from my good friends, for example, Jeremiah who has been churning out some stellar content for years or Adam who more recently has been kicking but with some super insightful posts these past few days.

It’s time for me to get back to blogging…

Filed under: Best-of, Miscellaneous, ,

Are you in Social Media? Come, join our LinkedIn group!

As LinkedIn’s social media guy for the past nearly five years, I’ve had an opportunity to talk to tons of folks at similar roles at companies big and small. Many of these conversations yield valuable insights into running social media programs but they never gets shared with the larger community who’ll find that super-useful.

With that goal in mind, a few of us folks, have created a group on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn group for Social Media practitioners

 

The Group Goal:

  1. Learning is good, Sharing is better: We wanted to get social media managers at companies sharing the lessons they’ve learned doing social media with the broader community
  2. More signal, less noise: No matter where you go as a social media manager you find groups with thousands of members who may or may not be working on social media projects. There’s a ton of noise out there that we’d like to avoid.
  3. Real social media expertise: There is a dearth of real knowledge on how social media is implemented by companies. And, companies are still grappling with questions after they have jumped onto the bandwagon. The group hopes to share some real-world wins with companies.

We had an original goal of hitting 50 group members in the first few weeks and and we have more requests than we can handle. And, we hope to grow the group purely through good old word of mouth. So, if you know someone who is implementing social media at companies or small businesses, you may wanna share this group with them.

What is the group mix? 

To achieve our goal of surfacing real world examples and helping the social media community, we aim to grow the membership along three broad categories. If you’re in the space, you’ll probably recognize a lot of the folks mentioned below. Here are some examples of the social media folks (areas as broad as community, marketing, PR at companies) you’ll find in our group today.

I. Companies, Startups, and Universities 

  1. Lionel from Dell
  2. Tom from Kodak
  3. Sonal at Xerox PARC
  4. Esteban at Samsung
  5. James from Genentech
  6. Ian from Stanford University
  7. Christopher at AT&T
  8. Umang from Microsoft
  9. Ryan at NBC
  10. Vanessa from Hilton …

II. Social Platforms 

  1. Yours truly at LinkedIn
  2. Karen from Twitter (just started at Twitter this week)
  3. Ramya at YouTube News and Politics
  4. Oliver from Google

I’ve also invited the social / community folks from Google, and Google+, but they are yet to join. I’m not sure who currently runs Facebook’s blog (social and community efforts) let me know or ping them with the group link. Or, just leave a comment.

III. Events, Conferences and Media

  1. Kristie from Social Media Club
  2. Amalia from TNW
  3. Robyn from RWW, besides others…

This should give you an example of what to expect should you join the group and your peers you’ll find in the group.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to surface any shared learnings we have as a group that will benefit the larger community of social media practitioners.  So, come join us.

p.s. Wondering why we picked LinkedIn groups. I considered a broad range of options and LinkedIn was not only the ideal setting (given most social media managers at companies can be found on the platform) but it’s also a great way to check out their latest social media work (through their up-to-date LinkedIn profiles vs. using Google Groups for e.g. that’s more email based).

Are you in social media? Come join us!

http://lnkd.in/social-media-group

Filed under: Best-of, Miscellaneous

Zuck & Bezos: LEAVE JOBS ALONE!

Problem with the game now, there ain’t no innovation
I see my shit all in your shit, we call that imitation
And they say that’s flattering, but I ain’t flattered at all
Matter fact y’all need to practice that more
J. Cole, Cole World

I’ve been planning to write a post ever since I watched Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote (where he launched Timeline – more on that later). But, then just last week I saw this and it creeped me out. So, Jobs, steps down as CEO and every Zuck, Bezos and Harry decide to literally rip off the presentation style of Steve Jobs. That’s just not cool.

But, I digress. Let’s catch some make-believe as CEOs try to play Steve Jobs.

Zuckerberg as Jobs

WTF! 7 minutes of Andy Samberg introducing a tech conference. You know that even in SNL segments we can’t take Samberg in more than 3 minute bytes. And, what’s with all the awful “humor” (I’m Zuckerberg, he’s Andy Samberg, and we couldn’t have Eisenberg here, so I’ll mimic Eisenberg). C’mon, guys. This ain’t high-school no more.

What’s worse is that this is a bit that Jobs introduced in his keynotes. First, in 1999 when Noah Wyle (who played Jobs in “Pirates of the Silicon Valley“) played Jobs on stage before Jobs’ adoring fans. Noah’s intro was less than a minute long. That was it. Well timed humor about the movie and a joke or two about Jobs temperament – for another minute. And, he’s gone. That’s how it’s done.

And, Jobs himself has overplayed that shtick. More recently, PC guy (played by the ever-adorable “The Daily Show” “reporter” John Hodgman) did a “I’m Steve Jobs” shtick and it was funny, short, and poked fun at Microsoft. Who doesn’t like an anti-PC ad, eh?

Bezos as Jobs

So, in short. The Samberg shtick was pure Jobs imitation. And, more importantly, it wasn’t funny and was way too long.

Things got a lil’ creepy when Bezos, whose maniacal laughter I fear, decided to jump on the “I’ll present as Jobs” world. This is him introducing the new Kindle at Amazon World or whatever it’s called. What’s with the deliberate stilted pacing that’ll make any viewer go nuts. C’mon, be yourself. Smile a little during your presentation. Don’t take yourself so seriously. And quit ripping off Jobs’ style. Trust me, it ain’t flattery.

One of the comments on the above Youtube video nailed it.

I love how dramatically he reveals things a la Steve Jobs to none of the cheers typical of an Apple presentation.

mgaums 1 day ago

This one’s even better…

and not a single fuck was given that day.

That crowd seemed so unimpressed it was almost sad.

TADA KINDLE FIRE!!!!!

yeah and?

MegatronSmurf 1 day ago

Please leave Jobs alone

As Jon Stewart would say: Zuck, meet me at Camera 3 (y’know, for a 1:1) – you’re a smart guy and developers love you. I know that for a fact cos they hate to see you embarrassed. I remember what a hard time they gave Sarah Lacy when you did a terrible job answering simple questions at SXSW.

They idolize you, the same way Mac fanatics adore Steve Jobs. There are very few folks in our tech world, who commands that adulation. You’re finally creating products that restore a sense of childlike wonder (more on Timeline later).

That doesn’t mean you can replace a black turtleneck sweater with a North Face jacket, sneakers with Adidas flip flops, Noah Wyle with Andy Samberg and turn into tech world’s great Houdini.

So, stick with creating great products, figuring out what works best for you on stage in your own unique way (it takes a while) and don’t let your handlers play you around.

And, I’ll let Jobs himself describe why a f8 or Amazon presentation will never be a Jobs presentation.

The problem with Microsoft is that they just have no taste. Absolutely no taste.
In a sense that they don’t think of original ideas.
So, I guess, I’m saddened not by their success. I’ve no problem with their success.
They’ve earned their success.
I have a problem that they make really third-rate products (replace with presentation).

There’ll never be another Jobs. You know that. So, quit trying.

Filed under: Best-of, Jeff Bezos, Leadership Communication, Mark Zuckerberg, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Steve Jobs, , , ,

How to make Social Media work for Earnings

Does social media work well with earnings? It was my goal to find out a few weeks ago as we planned the social media component of LinkedIn’s first earnings announcement and the accompanying earnings call, which went out yesterday at 2pm Pacific time. For those of you who missed the action, here’s a recap.

But, I digress. My goal was to find out what are the key social media tools a company should leverage during an earnings call and I found there were two, in particular, that could come in handy. After the jump.

Step 1: Start with the Basics / 3 key social media channels

First off, figure out the key social media channels that’ll work best at disseminating information around the earnings to the right audiences (investors, customers, members of your service, etc.), in the right way (share friendly and compliant). This may seem simple, but planning every last detail whether it’s post, tweets or sequence of uploading content well in advance really helps.

Here are the three basic social media channels that we used for our first earnings call yesterday:

  1. The LinkedIn Blog – post from the CFO
  2. LinkedIn’s Company Page – will link to our twitter page @linkedin  (didn’t want too many tweets, cluttering our homepage there, so we decided to have select tweets that redirect to our Twitter page where I’d be live tweeting the call)
  3. LinkedIn’s Twitter Page (real–time updates during the earning call)

In addition, specific to the earnings call – I found the following two channels helpful. More on that in just a second.

  1. LinkedIn’s Slideshare Page
  2. LinkedIn’s StockTwits Page

This is of course, in concert, with your existing official channels that should kick-start the process (there are mandatory regulations that govern this process; so make sure you work with your legal team on figuring out that order). In our case, right after the press release crossed the wire, and the PDF slides were up on our IR site, the social media component went into play. So, time it well and stick to your schedule.

Trust me, it’s all a blur once the call starts and you start live tweeting – plus, there are so many moving parts that you’ve got to be careful you don’t mess up the ordering or accidentally upload stuff before the official news is out there. Also, don’t schedule stuff for auto-publishing, cos, you never know when things break.

Step 2: Make it easy to share / Slideshare 

I think the biggest advantage that social media brings to the table is the ability to let users – members, investors or other bloggers get a hold of content (like earnings deck slides) and make it easy for them to share. The earnings call (in our case) was an audio webcast and you had to register to listen in. You could also download a PDF deck of slides, but you’d have to email that and there’s no way to tweet that either.

Enter Slideshare.

Not only does Slideshare make it easy for you to upload your slides in private mode (premium feature) so you have it ready to go when the call starts, they also offer customization that lets you feature your earnings slide on your Slideshare homepage. And, of course, it makes sense to add your Twitter and StockTwits widget as well. More on that in a second.

Some examples of companies that use Slideshare around earnings: Dell, Amgen, and Pfizer. Here’s the brand new LinkedIn page.

Step 3: Get Compliant / Stocktwits

Finally, the biggest question that companies have about earnings call and social media is staying out of trouble and keeping your blog post/s and tweets compliant with regulations. First off, you wanna work closely with your legal team to nail the specifics around your Safe Harbor statement and Disclaimers, which we used on the blog post. But, what about tweets and 140 chars?

Enter Stocktwits.

If you’re live tweeting your earnings call — and I’d recommend you do that — ideally, you’d want to add a disclaimer to every tweet that contains financial information. Now, doing that manually is one heckuva problem and Stocktwits helped take care of that (premium feature we subscribed to).

They have a system which allows you to add a disclaimer to every tweet (it may be a simple tweet, link to other webpages, a slideshare page, etc.) That does reduce the # of characters for your tweet (from 140 to 117) but from my perspective the premium feature was worth the peace of mind. In addition, they allow you to send this out to your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

Here are some examples of companies that have used Stocktwits in a similar fashion: eBay, Dell, AEP.

And, here’s our Stocktwits LNKD page.

To summarize, the earnings call was like our other recent announcements on social media but the two new components that made the earnings call simpler, were Slideshare and Stocktwits. Here’s how I described it on their official blogs:

As a social media company, it was a no-brainer to use Slideshare to share our earnings call slides on our corporate blog. While Slideshare made it easy for our readers and followers to share this content virally, Stocktwits ensured that our status updates and tweets were compliant; both necessary components for an effective social IR strategy.

Work in social media for a company planning earnings? Got questions? Let me know.

Leave a comment or @mariosundar a question to me.

Filed under: Best-of, Business Blogging, HOW-TO Use Social Media, Linkedin, Slideshare, Social PR, Stocktwits, , , , ,

Steve Jobs as Luke Skywalker. Circa 1987.

Rockstars are made, not born. They practice tirelessly; honing their craft at every given opportunity, and with the help of Jobs’ 1987 Playboy interview, I’d like to shed some light on the early stages of Jobs’ communication savvy and the communication consistency that he has now perfected into an art form.

Jobs In 1987. p.s. What’s up with the bow-tie.

Fine tuning the metaphors:

Nobody hits a home run on Day One. Some have an in-born talent but it’s always a work in progress. Steve Jobs’ D8 presentation, his keynotes, his Stanford commencement speech — is the culmination of years of assiduous practice. I’m gonna walk you through three examples of Steve coming up with metaphors to describe nascent technology that most people (at the time of the interview) didn’t grok.

Let’s see how his thinking and his metaphors are fine-tuned over time.

Let’s take his earliest interviews, the Playboy one in 1987 is a great example, and look at his response to what is a computer. I know. Bear with me here. The year is 1987 and people still don’t get the PC revolution that’s gonna hit them. It’s amazing how hard it is to impress upon the reporter what a game changer the Mac is gonna be.

His first attempt to describe computers is kinda rambling:

Computers are actually pretty simple. We’re sitting here on a bench in this café. Let’s assume that you understood only the most rudimentary of directions and you asked how to find the rest room. I would have to describe it to you in very specific and precise instruction. I might say, “Scoot sideways two meters off the bench. Stand erect. Lift left foot. Bend left knee until it is horizontal. Extend left foot and shift weight 300 centimeters forward…” and on and on. If you could interpret all those instructions 100 times faster than any other person in this café, you would appear to be a magician: You could run over and grab a milk shake and bring it back and set it on the table and snap your fingers, and I’d think you made the milk shake appear, because it was so fast relative to my perception. THat’s exactly what a computer does. It takes these very simple-minded instructions––”Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it’s greater than this other number”––but executes them at a rate of , let’s say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic.

That’s a simple explanation, and the point is that people really don’t need to understand how computers work. Most people have no concept of how an automatic transmission works, yet they know how to drive a car. You don’t have to study physics to understand the laws of motion to drive a car. You don’t have to understand any of this stuff to use Macintosh––but you asked [laughs]

Wow! Quite verbose. It’s got the early stages of his story-telling but it’s definitely too technical for a reporter and not impressive since he asks him again the same question. Steve takes a second shot at it, which goes…

A computer is the most incredible tool we’ve ever seen. It can be a writing tool, a communications center, a supercalculator, a planner, a filer and an artistic instrument all in one, just by being given new instructions, or software, to work from. There are no other tools that have the power and versatility of a computer. We have no idea how far it’s going to go. Right now, computers make our lives easier. They do work for us in fractions of a second that would take us hours. They increase the quality of life, some of that by simply automating drudgery and some of that by broadening our possibilities. As things progress, they’ll be doing more and more for us.

Meh. Kinda there, but he’s hinting at the potential it possesses as a revolutionary, incredible utility. Still not convinced, the journalist asks him a pointed question on computers for business and Steve ends with:

There are different answers for different people. In business, that question is easy to answer: You really can prepare documents much faster and at a higher quality level, and you can do many things to increase office productivity. A computer frees people from much of the menial work. Besides that, you are giving them a tool that encourages them to be creative. Remember, computers are tools. Tools help us do our work better.

Still not there, and as you can see, reporters are always going for the pithy answers that even a 12 year old will understand. But, then in a later interview (video after quote), Jobs gives a far more succinct metaphor to evoke the possibilities of a computer.

One of the things that separates us from primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in a third of the way down the list. But, Scientific American tested the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle.

And, a man on the bicycle blew the condor away; it was completely off the top of the charts. And, that’s what a computer is to me. It is the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

To me this is one of the early stages where you can see the power of the evocative metaphor being used by Jobs. Fast forward to 2008 where Jobs, yet again, takes a stab at explaining a new product that Apple’s betting on big – the iPad.

I’m trying to think of a good analogy. When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks cos that’s what you needed on the farm. But, as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, and America started to move towards them. Cars got more popular and innovations like power steering, etc. happened.

And, now, maybe 1 in every 25 vehicles is a truck where it used to be like 100%.

PCs are gonna be like trucks.

As you can see, no technicalities on what an iPad does well, no reference to a study by Scientific American, nothing. Just a nuanced metaphor on trucks and cars that everyone in America and the world will understand.

Read the rest of the article here.

Hope you’re having a great Sunday. Say Hi on Twitter!

I’ll leave you behind with a behind the scenes video of a young 23 year old Steve Jobs prepping for a TV interview. Young Luke Skywalker.

Filed under: Best-of, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Steve Jobs,

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