Friday, January 30, 2009

We Are Not Immune...

Bad news today. Really bad news. We had to lay off a number of our employees. What makes the bad news worse is that not only are these people good friends but they are smart, hard working people. People that would go to battle for you. People that had your back.

An easy question to ask is who is to blame for all of this? Sadly, the answer isn't who, it's what. And you already know the answer to that question because you're hearing the same doom and gloom that we are regarding the massive layoffs and wild swings in stock prices. It's the economy's fault and unfortunately it caught up with us as well.

Ironically, last year was the best year the company ever experienced and it was continuing to grow at rapid, double digit rates. When the bottom fell out, it obviously hurt some of our clients. It also hurt our potential clients. When they hurt, they spend less money with us and new prospects take longer to sign contracts. That made it hard to afford the people we hired to staff for new business.

If there is any silver lining to this, and trust me when I tell you that it’s difficult to be positive on a day like this, it's the fact that we have an equally smart and hard working group of people who are sticking around to be able to meet existing client needs. To that end, I'm confident that things will get better and when they do, we will be stronger than ever. But we have some pain to endure before we get to that place. And until that time, we will quietly mourn the departure of those smart, hard working colleagues that we had to let go of today.

Experts in the Industry: Todd Defren (5 of 45)

Full disclosure here, Todd Defren is the principal SHIFT Communications, the or our company's agency of record. With that said, I would have chosen Todd irrespective of our relationship because he's just plain smart. He's also incredibly humble which is one of the things I really like about Todd (not necessarily an easy task when you've been named one of the "top 40 under 40" by PRWeek).

Here's how Todd answered the five questions from the Experts in Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 days post:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am a communications specialist: I’m good at it (on good days, at least) because I can combine long experience with a fun, no-B.S. approach that synchs well with the more approachable form of marketing now on the rise. 

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I started blogging 5 years ago, but didn’t really “get into it” until 12 months later, at which point I was sick of seeing “Comments: 0” after every post.  It wasn’t until I took the initiative to discover what I was doing “wrong” that I realized I was missing out on a movement that re-inspired my passion for PR/Marketing.  I was skating on the surface with no clue as to the oceans underneath.  

With the wife and kids out for a weekend, I sat on the bed with my laptop and read every single Marketing/Tech blog I could find, and tried out every Web 2.0 widget available.  Epiphanies ensued.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Too easy.  Twitter.  This microblogging platform has yet to realize its full potential and still promises a lot of upside.  A lot of newly-unemployed folks may find themselves deciding to network on Twitter, as just one example: my point is that Twitter is approaching a tipping point in terms of mass appeal.  

Second choice would be Google – which, if they play their cards right, via tools like Google Reader, Blogspot, Feedburner, etc. could dominate the low-end blogging tech arena forever.  But given their crazy valuation, the upside is just not there anymore.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I’ve been an Obama partisan since his 2004 convention speech; I created a political blog last year with the sole purpose of defending Obama vs. right-wing smears.  Yeah, gonna have to go with Obama on this one – sorry to be so boring.

I actually never think in terms of “joining a community” in such a specific way.  “Joining” a community implies the acceptance of that community, and that comes via participation and feedback, not the act of “registering.”  I would participate in a community about toothpaste (though I cannot imagine why I’d seek it out), but would only “join” it if I gained personal value from the community members and overall experience. 

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
“Happy wife, happy life” is my go-to pearl of wisdom.  (Might sound kind of lame – unless you’ve met my wife.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Mike Macadaan (3 of 45)

Next up in the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series, Mike Macadaan. By day, Mike is the VP product & design at Tsavo Media. By night (and on weekends, he transforms into one of the co-founders of the uber-trendy event series, Twiistup. In fact, I met Mike late last summer at one of his Twiistup events in LA. If I didn't say it already, Mike's a pretty cool guy.

Here are Mike's insightful answers to my five questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I work on a talented team of user experience visionaries and I'm good because I recognize and utilize the expertise on my team without letting my ego get in the way of where the best ideas come from.
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I originally got into social media because it was an effective way to evangelize the benefits of balancing business driven design with more of a human centered approach.
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
I'd invest in a new company that balances amazing content with social principles that entices introverts to open up.
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
Sure - toothpaste is ripe for disruption.  I imagine that if you get enough bright people obsessing over toothpaste, the birth of a better mousetrap will occur.  After all, brushing your teeth is still kind of a pain in the ass so surely the toothpaste community will come with some kind of automated, green, politically correct, cost efficient way to clean the teeth.  Sounds like fun to me!
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Get your grandma, mailman, butcher, receptionist, admin or whoever else isn't expressing themselves to jump into the conversation.  I'm inspired by the people I work with but it's those that I least expect that floor me with simple wisdom.  Keep your eyes open for those everyday problems that haven't been solved yet and create a better way to clean your teeth!

Experts in the Industry: Stephen Baker (2 of 45)

Next up in the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series, Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek. I interviewed Stephen last year prior to his book coming out in a podcast for the WE Show. Here are Stephen's insightful answers to my five questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I learn about things and communicate what I learn, and I do it well--I hope--because I have extremely fresh memories of ignorance.
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
BusinessWeek's editor in chief, Steve Shepard, asked at a meeting in late 2004 if anyone would be interested in writing a cover story on blogs. I raised my hand. 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
In this economic climate, I don't think I'd put a lot of money into any company based on its use of "social." The thing about social is that it's hard to quantify the economic returns, especially now. That said, I've been impressed with IBM's efforts in social media, from their blogs to their internal social network, Beehive. They not only encourage people to use these tools, but also have the "numerati" smarts to analyze the patterns of behavior and learn more about how their company actually works. So, since it's a good bet that Big Blue will be around after this storm passes, I guess I'd put my money there. 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors without Borders. 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
I would never dream of joining one. I don't care about toothpaste and would be hard-pressed to think of a subject or a value less likely to bring me into contact with interesting or likeminded people. 
Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I think my experience with social media has helped me, as an author, understand something about the dynamics of the book market. I started off thinking that my friends and family would be the core of the Numerati community, and that through marketing and word of mouth others would also buy it. Note the verb there: buy.

Now I realize that many people I know very well don't buy the book, or even read it. Others do. But instead of focusing on who buys the book and who reads it, I'm now seeing that a community surrounds it. Some read it. Some hear about it. Some listen to a podcast or read a review or the blog. I think of my friendships, my colleagues, my family, Numerati readers and non-readers as this big set of venn diagrams with shifting overlaps. The key in the end is to create a vibrant community. And whether people buy or even read the book is really secondary.

Photo credit: Carolyn Cole from

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Shel Israel (1 of 45)

Thank you Shel for being my first guineau pig. Anwers to my questions from my Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days post.

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I write and speak about social media and I'm good at it because of the passion I feel for the subject. 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Desperation. My dotcom PR business tanked. If I was going to be broke, I wanted to do something I loved and that was writing. I asked four people if they would write a book with me. Scoble was the 4th and the 1st foolish enough to say yes. 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
Twitter. Because they have the greatest potential to grow the furthest and make the most ROI. 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Barack Obama, doesn't everyone? 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
Nope. I have no passion for toothpaste. 
Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Time is the one resource you really cannot replace. Use it wisely and have as many enjoyable moments as you possibly can.

Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days

I'm trying a little experiment. If it works, it could make for some interesting insights. If it doesn't, you'll still get some interesting perspectives. I’m interviewing 45 interesting people in the 45 days leading up to SXSW. To that end, I sent an e-mail out last night inviting a number of luminaries in the world of social in to answer a few short questions:

UPDATE (3/27): I've obviously run WELL beyond my initial 45 and we are now past SXSW. HOWEVER, I'm continuing the series as long as I have interviewees. I'll probably cap this at 90 but if you're on the list below and don't have a date assigned to you, I would still LOVE to get your answers.

NOTE (1/29) - there are some add'l questions in the comments that interviewees may want to consider from GGroovin, Alex, Debra, Chad, and Geekmommy
  • In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
  • How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
  • If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
  • Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
  • Would you join a toothpaste community? Why? [for background on this question, see the "Would you Join a Toothpaste Community"]
  • Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
So far, here's the list of folks that have either 1) already answered my questions or 2) have responded that they are willing to participate. For the folks that have already responded, I've put dates next to their names. First up, Mr. Shel Israel who responded within a couple of hours of my e-mailing him.

Here's the roster:

*Trying not to shaft folks by putting up their post over the weekend.
**With so many folks agreeing to do this interview, I'm going to start doubling up over the next couple of weeks.

I have a number of other folks that I've invited to participate but if you know somebody that is a MUST interview, let me know. Also, it's not too late to add a question or two. Just post 'em in the comments.

If I've reached out to you via DM, you can e-mail me answers at stroutmeister AT gmail dot com

UPDATE 1/28 Just added Sam Lawrence, Greg Verdino, Doug Haslam and Adam Cohen, Peter Naylor, Mari Smith, Lionel Menchaca, Jennifer Leggio, Ann Handley, Dave Evans, Ben McConnell, Amber Naslund, Christine Perkett, Brooks Bayne, Leslie Poston, Marcel LeBrun, Laura "Pistachio" Fitton, Jim Turner, Francine McKenna, and Scott Monty

UPDATE 1/29 added Josh Hilliker, Bill Johnston, Jason Falls, Marvin Chow, Tim Walker, Stowe Boyd, Natanya Anderson, Patrick Moran, Sam Eder, Kathy Warren, Rachel Happe, Francois Gossieaux, Paul May, Gradon Tripp, Wayne Sutton, Lani & Benn Rosales, Ken Burbary, Mike Walsh, Sara Dornsife, Mike Lewis, Chris Brogan, Ari Herzog, KD Paine, Shannon Paul, Mack Collier, Doc Searls, Alexis Martin Neely, Aronado Placencia and Dennis Howlett

NOTE: Okay, I've officially exceeded 45. But that's not a bad thing. Not changing the title of the post though.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Insight's from the AMA's M-planet's Conference

The keynote at the AMA's M-planet Conference kicks off with Dennis Dunlap, CEO of the American Marketing Association talking about the importance of scenario planning for CMO's as they move forward. This approach should avoid missing opportunities while not betting the farm on a trend or technology that may or not pan out. Two examples Dennis gave that reinforced this message were:
  1. President and founder of once great Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), Kenneth Olsen's, prediction in 1997 that "there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home."
  2. Business Week's prediction in 1968 that stated "with over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself."
Not a bad recommendation given the associated risks although I imagine this type of approach is hard for many companies to execute on given their quarter to quarter type of approach. By the way, Dennis/AMA took an interesting approach in his kick off by bringing four actors who were playing the roll of the CMO of the future (circa 2015). While innovative, it came off as a little bit contrived because you could tell that the actors had memorized their lines so it wasn't as authentic as it could have been. I give Dennis an A for effort and a B- for execution.

Next up, Anne Mulcahy who is the chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation. Anne (pictured above) started her keynote by citing a number of statistics including the fact that Blackberry owners check e-mail on average 50 times a day and ironically that there are thousands of blog posts created every hour (which is exactly what I'm doing as she speaks). Most importantly, Anne did mention the importance of figuring out the impact/value of social media. Glad to know this is on her mind.

One thing I like about Anne's talk is that she is talking about the importance of "listening" to their customers. The approach that Xerox is taking is more CRM and focus group oriented which is a good first step but it's too bad that they aren't taking it a step further and listening to the socialsphere. 

Anne went on to stress the importance of going back to basics with a focus on brand, messaging, and measurement. Certainly good advice to live by but nothing radically new. Anne did conclude during the Q&A portion of her talk with a recommendation that companies don't retrench but instead act boldly! This means that they need to listen to what their marketing departments have to say and to explore new avenues for growth opportunities.

More to come...


I missed Amex CMO, John Hayes, keynote because I had to jump on a conference call so here is  a nice wrap up of that session written by @marketingshift.

Next up is Mary Dillon, EVP and Global CMO of McDonald's. Now there is no doubt in my mind that Mary is incredibly smart. She's also quite eloquent. However, her presentation is a mix of cool McDonald videos/commericals and a very high level discussion of the way she/McDonald's think about global brand. Obviously this is an interesting topic for some folks but I can't help but think that there are a number of people in the audience (small businesses in particular) that are scratching their heads saying "how does this help my 15 person business exactly?"

Unfortunately, Mary yadda-yadda-ed over the most interesting part of her presentation which for me was McDonald's covert but clever Lost Ring game. She did mention that it was a tricky concept to sell to her senior team. I can only imagine being a fly on the wall of that meeting.

NEXT UP: My session which is titled - Competing in a World of Networked Organizations: Implications for Marketing. Obviously I can't live blog this section so I'll either find the Twitter hash tags for this one (should be #mplanet) or I will do a summary post sometime this evening including my portion of the PPT which I will post on slideshare.

Stranger in a Strange Land


I'm at the AMA's M-planet Conference in Orlando, FL, sitting of to the side of the show room floor (see picture). As I sit here recording this uttercast, I'm amazed by what a stranger I've become in this world of marketing. And that's not necessarily a good thing, especially when I am a marketer myself and I'm supposed to understand the mindset of other marketers better than anyone else at my company.

The three points I made in today's recording are:

  1. I shouldn't be surprised that this is somewhat of a traditional conference because that's what most of my marketing brethren/sistren are expecting (and that's not a dig on anyone).
  2. This is a good reminder as to why I need to get outside the fishbowl. It's fun to talk to my social friends and it's why I chose to have dinner with Greg Verdino of Crayon last night but at the end of the day, it's the marketers here I need to connect with.
  3. My job is to help the folks here understand how social media/marketing and online communities can be a game changer. That's not to diminish other marketing channels like e-mail, SEO/SEM, online advertising, etc. but to let folks know that there is a game changer out there that will give them more than a .05% incremental return on their investment.
On that note, I'm off to network, watch some panels (with a little live blogging/tweeting where appropriate) and then some evangelizing during my speaking slot at 2:00 PM.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Aaron Strout's Bio

Aaron is the chief marketing officer at Austin-based social media agency, Powered Inc. At Powered, Aaron not only focuses on the day to day marketing activities but also provides a social voice for the company. In this role, Aaron continues with his speaking, blogging (recently syndicated on, podcasting and social networking activities with an eye toward creating awareness and lead generation for the company.

Prior to joining Powered, Aaron was the Vice President of Social Media at  Mzinga, a Boston-based provider of online communities for businesses. In his role, Aaron focused on tapping into the power of social media for business. In addition to his knowledge of the interactive and new media landscape, Aaron has more than 17 years of online marketing and advertising experience, with a strong background in integrated and online marketing.

Before joining Mzinga, Aaron worked at  Fidelity Investments in their retail division, with a focus on online and acquisition marketing. Aaron's work at Fidelity revolved around Web strategy and marketing, as well as the development of interactive and print campaigns, including direct mail, e-mail, online ads, and event marketing.

Aaron is also a founding member and former president of ( BIMA) and a member and former board member of the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX). Aaron is also on the advisory board member of the prestigious Social Media Club.

Last but not least, Aaron and his podcast partner, Kyle Flaherty, host a weekly podcast called the Quick-n-Dirty every week on Thursday at 3 PM ET.

You can reach Aaron via e-mail at stroutmeister AT gmail DOT com.

Speaking Events:


  • Wine Industry Technology Symposium, July 13-14, Napa, CAAchieving ROI through SMO and Location Based Marketing
  • Boston Social Media Breakfast, May 6, 2010, Boston, MA
  • Social Media Strategies and Community 2.0 Conference, May 3-5, Boston, MA
  • SXSW: March 12, 2010 Austin, TX

Aaron’s Areas of Expertise
  • Location-based Services/Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • The New Agency: Picking the Right Partner to Support your Social Media Efforts
  • Social Media for Business
  • Enterprise Twitter Strategies
  • Location-based Services for Business
  • Building Business Communities
  • Blogging/podcasting Best Practices

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day Special: Values and Business

Yes, I'm working today. Apparently it's a Texas thing. It's not my first choice but then again, I don't make the rules.

Given the importance of this day, I thought I'd take a minute to honor Dr. Martin Luther King by talking about something that I'm sure he would have appreciated i.e. values in the workplace. Specificically, things like authenticity, transparency and good old fashioned trust.

To that end, here are the URLs I metion in my video post below:

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Friday, January 16, 2009

The Loyalty Effect

If the title of this post sounds familiar, that's because it's the title of a well-known book by Bain & Company fellow, Fred Reichheld. While I'm not planning on talking about Fred or his book, I do want to dig into the concept of customer loyalty -- a topic that is more important to marketers now more than ever for two simple reasons:
  1. The current economy sucks.
  2. We now live in a "search and click" economy
I know I don't need to say anything more about the first item other than the fact that many companies I've talked to are taking a 15-25% haircut on their marketing budgets in 2009. That means that all of a sudden, companies can't afford to acquire as many customers as they could even six months ago. With fewer new customers comes lower revenues and more importantly, fewer new customers to replace those older customers that have moved on due to natural attrition.

Compounding the "economy" issue is the fact that with the mainstream adoption of Google and price comparison sites such as Shopzilla or Froogle, it's now easier than ever to find the absolute lowest price for anything online. This "search and click" mentality has created a level of price transparency that has never before existed and thus has pushed price sensitivity to an all time high. Not only can you NOT afford to acquire enough new customers, you're going to continue to lose your existing customers at an exponential rate moving forward.

Yes, that news is depressing but in the immortal words of singer, Prince, "I'm here to tell you... there's something else." No, not the afterworld but a solution of sorts called "social marketing"otherwise known as the convergence of engaging content, social tools and expert community oversight.

Before I tell you more about social marketing, let's go back to the title of this post and dig into something as a marketer, you probably understand. That's right, I'm talking about customer loyalty. Your company may pay lip service to the idea of customer loyalty. Who knows, you may even have a customer loyalty program (good on you if you do) but realistically, there's a good chance that you're not doing enough proactively to make your customers feel like they want to be loyal.

To be honest, author, Fred Reichheld, does an infinitely better job than I ever could of providing the formulas and case studies behind why loyalty matters. But for the sake of this post, this quote by fellow "loyalty" zealot, Jill Griffin, from one of her many articles on this topic sums up the power of customer loyalty succintly:
Keeping customers who are highly valued can greatly improve profit, Fred Reichheld says in his ground-breaking book, "The Loyalty Effect." Presenting extensive data across a wide array of industries, Reichheld shows why as little as a 5 percent increase in retention can improve a company's bottom-line profitability between 25 percent and 85 percent, depending on the industry.
Wow! Who wouldn't want to increase their bottom line by 25-85%? All it takes is as little as a 5% increase in retention. The problem is, retaining customers these days just isn't that easy. I made that point earlier when I mentioned the "search and click" phenomena (which in the spirit of full disclosure is the part of the title of Jill's latest book).

Enter the concept of "social marketing." And rather than try and "philosophize" to you on why creating engaging content and wrapping it with social tools can help you dramatically improve your customer loyalty (and thus your retention), I'm going to share some real numbers from a recent MarketingProfs case study based on their interview with director of web services at Sony Electronics, Mildred Center (disclosure: Sony is a client of my employer, Powered). Some of the results are quite eye opening:
  • Increasing consumer loyalty and advocacy: The [social marketing] program has a 90% user satisfaction rating, and 78% of users report that they are more likely to purchase a Sony product as a result of Backstage 101. Sony's NPS (Net Promoter Score) for 2008 came in at 44%, with 59% of users classified as "promoters" who are likely to recommend Sony electronics to a family member, friend, or coworker. [This score stacks up against most companies whose NPS efficiency is in the 5-10% range.]

  • Providing increased value to the Sony Electronics business: The number of users claiming to have purchased a Sony Electronics product grew to 36% for the first half of 2008 (prior to the launch of Digital Darkroom andFrontline Community), compared with 20% for the first half of 2007, and Center reports that sales on the Sony Web site "continue to increase month over month." In addition, survey completion is up 12% this year, providing Sony with valuable additional consumer insight. And retail syndication along with the addition of Backstage 101 to the company's CyberScholar site are allowing Sony to better support its retail relationships.

This isn't rocket science but it does run counterintuitive to the way most companies do business. While your company may provide "content," it's likely to be focused on your company's products and services. [See recent post on Hubspot for another company doing a great job providing value-add content] That's not to say that your site shouldn't include that type of information, but that's not always what customers care about.

In Sony's case, they have tutorials on how to take better digital photos, irrespective of whether you use a Sony or a Canon camera. In addition to these tutorial (which you can rank, review and tag) Sony's online communities allow members to upload their own photos for others to rate, discussion boards and other social features that allow photo enthusiasts to communicate with one another.

So what are you waiting for? As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is no better time than now to be thinking about engaging your customers with a goal of creating deeper loyalty and greater retention. It's a new way of thinking but one that provides demonstrative results.

Is your company focused on customer loyalty and retention? If not, what's stopping you?

Cross-posted on

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How Important is Authenticity? Just Ask Bear Grylls.

A few weeks ago, my friend, Chris Brogan, who just happens to be a well-knownblogger and president of New Marketing Labs, wrote a paid for post for K-Mart. In spite of Chris' up front disclosures about the relationship, a fire stormerupted in the blogosphere over the ethics of paid for content.

As you can probably imagine, this was a polarizing issue with one camp believing that it was okay for bloggers to get paid to write favorable posts as long as they were up front about their relationship with the company in question and the other insisting that mixing sponsorship and editorial bastardized the process, irrespective of disclosures. From an intellectual standpoint, I certainly can understand and respect the first camp's position although my heart sits squarely in the second. [At at a minimum, you should read Chris' follow up post on the topic and decide for yourself.]

With that as a backdrop, I was surprised at how willing I was to overlook "authenticity" as a critical factor when it came to my television entertainment. In particular, I'm refrencing two shows on the Discovery Channel. The first titled, Man vs. Wild, where ex-British special forces macho man, Bear Grylls demonstrates survival in the most extreme locations. The second, Survivorman, featuring much more mundane and less heralded, Les Stroud, doing approximately the same. My wife and I quickly became addicted to first show last season as Bear demonstrated survival techniques in extreme environments such as the Alps, the Amazon and the Sahara Desert.

If you haven't watched the show before, I've included a video clip below to show you just how captivating Bear can be. His fearless nature and "I'll eat anything" mentality is contagious. I find myself thinking after every show, "I wonder if I could do that?" However, there turned out to be one catch. Not all of Bear's extreme situations were truly "survival" worthy. In fact, the BBC wrote a fairly scathing piece spelling out a number of instances where Bear had either been assisted by his camera crew or even worse, stayed in a hotel vs. roughing it out in the wild.

After reading about some of the less-than-flattering press Bear received, I thought it might be time to check out rival survival guru, Les Stroud, on aptly named, Survivorman. Unlike Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild, Les is hardcore about the authenticity of his treks out in the wild (he's visited many of the same extreme climates as Grylls). In fact, he has chosen to eschew a camera crew and films everything himself. He also is dedicated to actually "surviving" out in the wild at nearly all costs. No hotels. No assistance. Just himself, his cameras and his knife.

That should make for entertaining television right? Unfortunately it doesn't. Not for me anyway. The reason being that not a whole lot goes on during Survivorman other than a constant stream of self-wallowing by Les. I know this because I did a marathon four hour session over the holiday break with my family. At various points in the show, my 10 year old daughter was openly questioning the fact that Les, once again, was coming up empty handed in his attempts to actually catch something to eat. It turns out that Les is a lot better at enduring 5-6 days of no food (while incessantly complaining about light-headed and hungry he is) than he is at foraging for actual food (clip of Les below).

As you can imagine, this leaves me in an awful dilemma. I led off this post with the fact that while I was intellectually okay with the idea of paid for content, I had a hard time truly embracing this notion in my heart. So how is it that I would gravitate toward a guy that I know isn't authentic (at least some of the time) while I do little to hide my disdain for a similar personality who is doing things by the book.

To help shed some light on my dilemma, I thought I might ask my Twitter network of nearly 4,000 to chime in. Surely they might feel the same way I did. The question I posed was, "Doing some research for a blog post I'm writing. It's about authenticity. Any strong feelings either way RE Survivor Man VS Man vs. Wild?"

@Ninenty7: I know it is silly, but I don't watch Bear's show because he isn't really out there in it.

@tallglassofmilk: Don't watch either but overheard others saying one is for real by himself while the other pretends but has a crew. True?

@MikeLangford: This is the only situation ever where I'd say a guy named Les beats a guy named Bear. Survivor Man rules.

@dbcotton: Mixed feelings. Bear has better all around survivor skills, but Survivor Man is more realistic.

@LisaHoffman: Two of my 12 yo's fave shows. He likes Bear better (me too) but says Survivorman is more authentic. M v. W more instructional

@tinycg: Survivorman is authentic and provides useful real tips.. Man v Wild is mostly staged and useful if you are ex-spec ops.

@SusanBratton: google "joe pine authenticity dishymix" for ideas for your blog post. Listen to the Podcast and/or read the transcripts. [Link to Susan's podcast with Joe is here]

@LisaHoffman: Bear is far more interesting because he engages the audience (sound familiar?) Survivorman is actually trying to survive, tho.

@peplau: @MikeLangford @tallglassofmilk Bear is also a bit of a fraud Afraid it's more than just having a crew.

@tallglassofmilk: Well, authenticity certainly doesn't guarantee entertainment, especially in TV. Probably why so much "reality" is faked.

@jamessumerlin: absolutely survivorman, big fan.

@m750: Bear is entertainment, Les Stroud is the real deal.

@chareich: think survivorman seems a little less contrived. Man v wild - probably eats big macs off camera

@davidkspencer: Survivorman is where it's at. Feels more real, less polished. This clip is what did man v. wild in for me:

@ChrisKeef: missed the earlier tweet. I'm all about Survivorman, not Man vs. Wild. Les is far more genuine, raw and honest.

@ChrisKeef: I will agree that Bear is more 'entertaining', however Survivorman seems more organic. Easier to believe, I guess.

Not surprisingly, nearly everyone that responded validated what I suspected that they would i.e. authenticity was more important than entertainment value by a long shot. @m750 hit the nail on the head when he mentioned that "Bear is entertainment [but] Les Stroud is the real deal."

As a marketer, this tells me that it doesn't matter how slick, exciting or entertaining the content is that our company creates, at the end of the day our customers will want us to be authentic. For their sake though, I promise not to whine about how sore my fingers are after several hours of typing or how much of a caffeine headache I have as a result of my forgoing my morning coffee.

How about you? Are you being authentic in the way you communicate with your customers? Seems to me that there's a reason why Josh Bernoff and Forrester's customer survey shows that only 16% of people trust corporate blogs. Sounds like we all have a lot of work to do. Just ask Bear.

Originally posted on

Switching Names on Twitter

Having recently gone through a name change on Twitter, this post provides the quick and easy steps I went through for my friend @fairminder aka Jim Spencer.

The good news is that changing your name on Twitter is as easy as going in and editing the name you originally chose. For instance, I went from being "astrout" to "aaronstrout." However, I wanted to keep a 2nd account with @astrout since I've got some equity in that name (and it's posted in about 250 comments across many blogs).

So here goes:

1) Open up a second Twitter account with the new name you're going to use (for instance, I did this with "aaronstrout"). NOTE: you'll need to use a second e-mail since on Twitter you can only have one account per e-mail address.

2) Now change this address by adding a "1" or any digit after. For example, I changed mine from "aaronstrout" to "aaronstrout1"

3) Go back to your original twitter account and change your old name to the new name. For example, I changed from "astrout" to "aaronstrout."

4) Now go back to your new account and change that to your old name. For example, I changed it from "aaronstrout1" to "astrout."

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Changing my Twitter Handle

I've been considering a change of Twitter handles from @astrout (my first initial plus my last name) to @AaronStrout (my full name) for a while now. Well today -- after some careful consideration and feedback from my friends on Twitter, I pulled the trigger.

Interestingly enough, the crowd on Twitter was almost equally split. Folks like @kyleflaherty @ericglazer and @rockstarjen gave me the thumbs up. @AxiomPR @CathleenRitt and @93Octane said don't do it.

So I thought I'd give it a try. So far so good!

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