The Pepcid Generation--Overcoming the challenges of the inter-Internet crowd




If you’ve ever shoved a Frampton Comes Alive! 8-track into the cassette player bolted to the dashboard of your mom’s Dodge Dart …

If you’ve ever pulled the kitchen phone so far into the dining room in a futile attempt to get a little privacy that you stretched the spring right out of the cord …

If you’ve ever thumbed through yards of Dewey Decimal drawers in search of a code that will lead you to a distant corner of the library where the book you need for your term paper used to be hidden before it was checked out by someone else …

You’re part of the inter-Internet generation.

The inter-Internet generation is comprised of millions of people just like you who are struggling to keep up with their younger social-media savvy staff while trying to convince their older Internet-ignorant boss that their organization needs a stronger online presence.

Meanwhile, social media is disrupting your tidy little 20th century infrastructure that was humming along just fine until about two years ago. Your event attendance and membership numbers are down, the media wants to know if you will be "streaming" your news event (while your biggest technical concern is how to attach your organization’s logo to the podium), and the one reporter who did show up asked you, "How many trees did you have to kill to make all those press kits?"

Sound familiar? If so, click here to learn how you can use social media to take back control of your staff, your boss, and your career.

Can ya hear the train a-comin'? It's rollin' 'round the bend ...

"Hold on a sec. I can't hear you over that train whistle."

"Hold on a sec. I can't hear you over that train whistle."


And it's about to crush your organization.

The train is called progress--communications progress to be exact. Social media is reshaping our communications landscape in ways we never imagined. It is disrupting companies and organizations with such speed and such force that 20th century corporate giants are toppling over like Russian semis in a YouTube video.

Having reshaped corporate America, the 21st Century Express has its sights set on the ideas industry--trade associations, nonprofits, advocacy groups--any organization that trades in ideas.

You need to act. You need to get out of the way of the train. We can help.

Glowback Thursday: A look back at the night that the lights went out in Fairlington

I actually did end up creating that box of light. I even made a lightbox base for it (but I need to replace the batteres). Two years ago, after I had just finished putting up my 18th and final Christmas lights display, I had the honor of being interviewed by the incredibly talented Jessica Carpenter  for a senior-year project she was working on at the Corcoran College of Art.

The result was this really cool video which I found to be a wonderful tribute to a simple hobby of mine that spun wildly out of control.

What I like most about the video is that she took 20 minutes of my at times incoherent rambling and turned it into a story with a surprise ending. She's really very talented.

Merry Christmas, y'all!


Skip this post if you already communicate better than Bono.

"We sent out the release, tweeted a link back to the release, and had the intern hand out flyers with our Twitter handle. Nothing's worked. I think we need to turn it up to 11."

"We sent out the release, tweeted a link back to the release, and had the intern hand out flyers with our Twitter handle. Nothing's worked. I think we need to turn it up to 11."

As we recently reported, U2 apologized to the world for shoving their latest album down every iTunes-owner’s throat, explaining that they were afraid their album “mightn’t be heard" because "there's a lot of noise out there.”

And while Bono and the lads are trying dynamic, innovative and breathtakingly stupid tactics to be heard through the noise, you're still sending out press releases. Granted, you did tweet a link to that release with this grabber: "Check out our latest press release by clicking here," but you're still not getting the attention you used to get back in the good ol' days.

You're not alone. According to the 2014 Associations Communications Benchmark Report, "associations of all sizes, industries and operating budgets are communicating ... even less effectively with members than they were as recently as three years ago."

The solution is simple, really. Rather than attempt to cut through the noise by outshouting your competition, why not create content that your audiences want to hear and let them find you instead?

This is the secret behind the success we're having with our Be Heard Formula, a process we developed to help our clients get their stories heard through all the noise.

At the heart of the process is the principle of “giving away your best stuff,” which is what this post is all about. Right here, you'll find a short video that explains exactly what we do to help our clients break through the noise. Check it out when you have a moment (even if it’s just to see me stuck on the side of the road in Bethesda MD waiting for a truck to haul my motorcycle back to the shop).

We got these results in two hours using one of our Be Heard Formula tactics.
We got these results in two hours using one of our Be Heard Formula tactics.

And after you watch the video, give us some feedback. Was this information helpful? Are there particular challenges that you’d like help with? And how about the video ... did you like it? Go ahead. We'll all be glad you did.

See you on the other side.

You really do need to be heard. Hear what I'm saying?

The hours were irregular, but it paid well. I used to be a corporate flack defending the right of every American to eat delicious you-know-that's-bad-for-you food without being taxed or scolded. But I actually got tired of arguing and decided to teach other people how to argue ... or at least how to be heard.

So Megan and I developed the Be Heard Formula to show people how to cut through all of the noise on the Internet. And it's pretty freakin' cool, if I do say so myself. Check it out.

"Weight, weight! Don't tell me!" -- How willful ignorance will put Weight Watchers out of business

"Pay no heed to that 'wireless' warning. It is my fundamental belief that tools alone will never reach the levels of success that are possible when they are combined with human engagement.” It looks like apps are going to be the death of Weight Watchers. Not appetizers—software applications, specifically free online fitness apps. These apps that “suggest diets, count calories, and track progress” are carving heaping helpings from their profitability, according to a recent Washington Post article.

To be fair, competition from apps is not necessarily a death sentence. A lot of companies have survived technological disruptions by adapting to the new environment. But it looks like Weight Watchers is not going to be one of them, if recent comments by WW’s CEO Jim Chambers are any indication.

On an analyst call last year Chambers said, “We do not believe that free apps will solve the obesity epidemic. [But] I see now that the situation we are facing as a business and organization is more difficult than it originally appeared.” An honest admission and a good base to build on.

But then, during an analyst call this past July, Chambers said something that only Captain Edward “Those Icebergs Ain’t So Big” Smith could appreciate. “It is our fundamental belief,” he said, “that tools alone, technology alone, food programming alone will never reach the levels of success that are possible when they are combined with human engagement. … The strength of the Weight Watchers brand is and always will be in the human connections that make a weight-loss journey more successful.”

Unfortunately for Weight Watchers stock holders, Chambers is dead wrong about the technology. Apps don’t operate in a vacuum. The folks who share their app-derived weight-loss data on Facebook and other social media platforms enjoy the same support and encouragement as those who hop on a scale in a church basement, only on a much wider … uh, scale. The same goes for recipe-sharing, step-counting, and tearful binge-eating-confessions.

Chambers isn’t alone. History’s highway is littered with the wreckage of blue chippers who ignored the "paradigm shift ahead" signs posted whenever a game-changing technology alters the landscape.

If you want to see how we would handle Weight Watcher's existential crisis, check out this video.

How about you? Is some new technology willful blindness threatening to make your organization obsolete? How about your industry? Especially you, my association associates, is there a valuable service you provide that could be replaced by technology? Are there any services that can’t be?

Everything you need to know about communicating in the Interactive Age (part 4)

"It's simple, Patrick. If you wanna be heard we're gonna need a lot less of you and a whole lot more of me." As Edward "Smoke 'em if you got 'em, ladies" Bernays said, social media has brought us full circle to “an earlier age [where] a leader was usually known to his followers personally; there was a visual relationship between them. Communication was accomplished principally by personal announcement to an audience.”

It's true. Social media allows us to create millions of self-selected communities comprised of people who have common experiences, common interests, or shared values … and sometimes all three.

Their online conversations are by their very nature “personal announcements to an audience,” (sometimes a bit too personal). More often than not there is a visual relationship between them even if they’re on the other side of the globe. And to the degree that these communities have leaders, they are certainly well known to their followers and—more importantly—they are approachable, unlike the leaders of the 20th century.

These communities are strong and insular. You won’t reach people through advertising. They’re not listening to outsiders anymore.

It's going to take work. You are going to have to find the communities of people who share your values. Then you will have to listen and learn before you speak. And when you do speak, you need to give more than you receive, at least at first. In short, before they're going to want to hear anything you have to say, you have to be welcomed into their community.

So how do you do that? Simple. You have to stop radiating like a star and start absorbing like a quasar.

To be a success in the 20th century was to be a star. Whether a movie star, a rock star, a political star, or an NBA All Star, your job was to shine brightly and be worshiped by “the little people” below you. Interaction with the masses was carefully scripted and strictly limited.

Then the Internet—which prefers dialogues over monologues—gave birth to a new celestial model of success: the quasar.

Unlike a star, which only radiates, a quasar has an enormous black hole at its core that sucks matter and energy in while simultaneously emitting more light than any star in the universe. This two-way flow of energy is the foundation of successful communication in the Interactive Age. Monologues are out; thoughtful and empathetic dialogues are in.

QuASAR also happens to be a handy acronym for the method that will make you a more thoughtful, empathetic, and successful communicator. And it is the QuASAR Method that holds the secret to being heard in the Interactive Age.

Up next: Get to the point already!


Examining Empathy

Empathy is gaining some well-deserved attention these days. It’s an important part of everything from our species' survival to effective leadership to social media success. But what is it, exactly? Part of the enduring popularity of the Pieta is its ability to arouse our empathy.

It's often described as the ability to "walk in someone else's shoes" or "put yourself in their place." According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” These are all helpful in creating a shared understanding of the concept, but there's little here about how empathy works.

In looking for more information on that aspect, I recently discovered that Dr. Mark Davis developed an interesting way of testing for empathy back in the 1980s through his Interpersonal Reactivity Index, which looks at four facets of empathy:

  • "The perspective taking (PT) scale measures the reported tendency to spontaneously adopt the psychological point of view of others in everyday life ("I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective").
  • The empathic concern (EC) scale assesses the tendency to experience feelings of sympathy and compassion for unfortunate others ("I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me").
  • The personal distress (PD) scale taps the tendency to experience distress and discomfort in response to extreme distress in others ("Being in a tense emotional situation scares me").
  • The fantasy (FS) scale measures the tendency to imaginatively transpose oneself into fictional situations ("When I am reading an interesting story or novel, I imagine how I would feel if the events in the story were happening to me")." (Bullet points from here.)

I found these categorizations helpful because they identified specific ways that empathy evidences itself in our hearts and minds. And in doing so, the descriptions of these four kinds of empathy provide some excellent cues for people who are seeking to improve their own empathy. For instance, you could practice "perspective taking" in reading the newspaper or in everyday interactions as a way to increase your skill in seeing others' points of view.

In your opinion, which of these facets is the most important?