Wondering Out Loud

The NHL goes where others fear to tread

@goaliegirl tweeted about the NHL’s use of Twitter and I felt the urge to comment.

As a huge fan of hockey (pro, college, high school & youth) I am simply giddy that the NHL gets social media and is using Twitter to generate fan interest. Unlike the NFL, and even some college conferences, the NHL is embracing social media tactics and the benefits they can bring. Seems an odd thing on the surface, but look beneath and you’ll see the logic.

Then NFL and NHL have one thing in common: both are professional sports leagues. Other than that they are worlds apart in popularity, pay scale, TV revenue and just about any other metric you can throw at a spreadsheet. For those who don’t know the “H” in NHL stands for Hockey.

I grew up, and still live, in Minnesota and hockey is woven into the fabric of my life. I have two boys who’ve been playing for years and two girls just starting out. My youngest is only 19 months so she won’t be playing for a while, but we’ll have her on the frozen pond before the end of winter. Even though I have an irrational emotional attachment to the game, I’m pragmatic enough to realize the hockey talk outside of the snow belt is not a normal part of the conversation. Apparently the NHL knows that as well.

The NHL is the CBS News of professional leagues, constantly languishing at the back of the pack, and anything they’ve tried hasn’t changed that. Outdoor games are interesting, but after a couple non-fans loose interest.  When Carolina was rolling toward a the Stanley Cup a couple of years back, they had trouble selling out the building (Not much of a natural fan base in the Southeast).

In contrast, the NFL is the number one revenue generating professional sports league in the country. It’s annual television contracts are worth billions and the Super Bowl always ranks near the top of the highest rated shows. It gets more press than it deserves: ESPN spent months covering the Will-Favre-sign-with-the-Vikings-or-won’t-he saga. And it dominates television sports every Sunday and Monday from September through January.

In short, the NFL is no. 1 and happy to move slowly in an effort to protect that ranking. The NHL, running a distant 3rd, has nothing to lose and risks very little by jumping on the social media bandwagon, provided they do it properly.

 Fan Tweetups first took place earlier this year during the Stanley Cup playoffs and were a great success. But the playoffs run through June, so the weather warmed – and casual fans turned away – the league found success using Twitter to maintain interest. Replaying that same strategy as the 2009-2010 season is set to open this week is a natural follow up and one that I’m sure will be repeated throughout the season.

If necessity is the mother of invention, the NHL is trying to prove desperation is the mother of adoption.


September 30, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , | 1 Comment

Who’s the dim wit? You be the judge

Robert Henson is a rookie linebacker for the Washington Redskins. Marcus Fitzgerald is the brother of Arizona Cardinal receiver Larry Fitzgerald. But football is not the only thing they have in common: both are also complete and utter dunces when it comes to Twitter.

After a recent game, fans voiced their disapproval of the Redskins’ play by launching into a chorous of boos. Henson took exception to the booing and told the fans so on Twitter:

“All you fake half hearted Skins fan can . . . I won’t go there, but I dislike you very strongly, don’t come to Fed Ex to boo dim wits!!”

For his part, Fitzgerald was annoyed with the meager 34 receiving yards his brother had and took it out on the quarterback Kurt Warner calling him an “old man.”

According to the article:

The NFL has already set a Twitter policy in place, prohibiting players, coaches, and team personnel from sending out tweets 90 minutes before a game until the conclusion of media interviews following a game.

So, if I read this right, the NFL allows players to be morons in Twitter outside of the window of time described above, but if you trip on your Twitter within the window you have to face the consequences. Whatever those are. 

Forgive me for saying, but the policy is worthless without the addition of proper training for players, coaches and everyone else covered by it.

The NFL – and other professional leagues – spend gobs of money instructing people how to interact with the media and how to be good community citizens. All professional leagues would do well to extend their training programs to include the proper use of Twitter and uses of other social networking sites.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Terry Moran called for illegal Tweeting

President Obama called Kanye West a jackass. I saw it on Twitter so it must be true. And Politico reported on it here. Considering what he did to Taylor Swift on Sunday night, I agree with the president: Kanye West is a jackass.  But that’s not why we’re here today.

What Terry Moran of ABC News did is inexcusable. He, or one of his staff with access to his Twitter account, sent an off the record comment across the web at light speed as casually as one might lean in to the person next to them and whisper “Psst. The president just called Kanye West a jackass.”  To call this an ethical lapse is an understatement.

This is not the same as the many “open mic” incidents that have occurred over the years with politicians, celebrities and pundits unknowingly giving us a glimpse into their true feelings. Off the record comments are commonplace and credibility is the lifeblood of any journalist. Moran broke a trust with the president and his credibility deserves to suffer for it.

There are still too many people who fail to understand the power of the internet. Who can’t grasp the simple concept that once you’ve sent a message it is A) no longer yours and B) cannot be retrieved. You can usually tell these people by the photos of last weekend’s party posted they posted on Facebook.

If we are going to be trusted to use the tools Web 2.0 has placed at our fingertips, our mindsets and how we think about ourselves in the grand scheme must evolve. With so many people having access to vast amounts of information, it’s human nature to take the occasional “scoop” and run with it before thinking about the consequences. Recent history is replete with examples of news organizations that ran with stories that were ultimately proven to be false. Granted, Moran’s tweet is not false, but it was off the record and it’s not like he revealed it to his mother during a friendly chat. No, he was talking to his 1,066,522 followers. Talk about the power of distribution.

You’ve heard of the Chaos Theory – aka Butterfly Effect? The Internet takes the theory and multiplies the effect by a factor of infinity. There’s a lot of power in those characters, all 140 of them, and Moran, or one of his colleagues, misused it.

September 15, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Train your people to use the phone

As a rule, it is better to give than to receive. However, as with all, there is an exception to this long-standing rule: voicemail.

I love receiving voicemail from people. So much so, that I rarely pick up the phone unless the caller ID is from someone I know. My love of voicemail comes not from an irrational desire to feel needed, rather it is based in my completely rational desire to be entertained – and have I been entertained.  

A couple of years ago we started receiving voicemail in a wav files. Not coincidentally, I started saving the best of the worst for future use. Today I can announce that the future has arrived. I’ll be sharing share some of the voicemail I’ve saved, edited to remove names, companies and phone numbers for your amusement.

My aim is not to embarrass – hence the heavy editing-  but to inform.

As a means of communicating, the telephone is irreplaceable and it is imperative that we learn how to use it properly. Nothing new here, right? The problem is there are far too many people who’ve not been trained to use the phone as a tool for doing business.

I suffered from the same lack of training until 1998. I was working as an account executive for the MNN Radio Networks in the Twin Cities at the time and one of my colleagues had the good fortune of meeting Steve Kloyda (@SteveKloyda), founder of Telemasters. Station management arranged for the entire sales team to take Steve’s 5 week training.

Each week, we met individually with Steve to listen to calls we recorded – voicemail and connections – with prospects and customers. I won’t speak for everyone, but through self critique and with Steve’s coaching I learned to use the phone as a business tool.

I don’t mean endorse Telemasters – although I highly recommend it – but I do want to endorse telephone training for anyone in your business who uses the phone for their work. Keep in mind they are representing your company and the impression they make will last forever. Make sure that impression is positive.

I’m off to the studio to begin editing and commenting on the worst of the worst.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations | , , , | Leave a comment

You say you want a revolution

Do any of you read Justin Kownacki? You should.

He wrote a post last month calling for a rebellion. Not an armed insurrection for the overthrow of government, rather he wants the his generation to take social media back (I didn’t know it was taken away) from those (like me) who use it for profit and use it, instead, as a catalyst for cultural change. A Woodstock for today. The Summer of Love revisited:

Social media is still locked in the hands of the technophiles and the marketers, who focus on mechanical and business applications.  They’re either unwilling or incapable of creating true cultural change, seeking instead to find practical ways to use these tools for financial profit.  And that’s functional, but it’s not the kind of sociological earthquake that’s going to define a generation — unless we become defined as the generation who’d rather consume than create.

I understand what Justin is getting at. The internet is the most powerful distribution engine ever created. Like radio and TV before it,  but with copious amounts of digital steroids injected, the WWW has opened up a new world of sharing news, information and opinion and has shattered the barriers to entry. Any garage band with aspirations for greatness can find an audience without the aid of a manager or recording contract. Any writer can satisfy their passion through blogging. Any budding director can film  – old school I know – edit and distribute their work and not have to deal with the politics of Hollywood.

Although Woodstock is considered the defining event of the Baby Boom Generation, the phenomenon of 500,000 people spending three days stoned in the mud listening to great music did not change the culture.  It was, however, one of several pieces that came together to make a dramatic and lasting impact on the cultural make up of the USofA. In fact, the cultural change Justin is seeking might have already taken place.

Like the cultural shifts of the 1960’s and 1980’s, the ingredients for a movement were in place in 2008, but a catalyst was needed to turn the potential into the kinetic. In the 60’s it was Vietnam, in the 80’s it was Reagan and in 2008 it was President Obama.

Last November, Barack Obama rode a wave into the White House. It was a wave built using social media to distribute, and make viral the candidate’s message and the messages of his supporters. Where Kennedy used television, Obama mastered the Internet to build a coalition of supporters that would assure his victory.

Only history will tell if his election was a defining moment of a generation, or one ingredient in a larger dish of cultural change. Either way, change is not an item on a menu to be ordered when one is in the mood and, more often than not, we can only recognize it and its impact through the lens of history.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Is Twitter a danger to democracy

An interesting sidebar story is brewing in Germany following last week’s regional elections. Apparently exit poll data from three states was leaked via Twitter – 90 minutes early – causing some officials to question how such technology might impact future elections. BreitBart reports on the story here

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s team took it on the chin in the elections and the one of the people quoted in the story has the bruises to prove it:

  • The deputy parliamentary head of Merkel’s Christian Union party, Wolfgang Bosbach, said the leaking of the results “damaged        democracy.”
  • “There is a danger that an election could be falsified,” Bosbach told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger local daily.

The other quote comes from Roderich Egeler, the federal election commissioner:

  • “It would be a worst-case scenario if the exit poll results were to become known before polling stations closed,”

BreitBart’s story also points out:

  • A similar leak also occurred during the parliamentary vote to re-elect Germany’s President Horst Koehler on May 23. On that occasion, a handful of lawmakers announced Koehler’s re-election before the results were officially published.

That’s the set up. Now I’m going to weigh in.

A leak…in politics…whoda thunk it?

I realize people involved in politics, are genetically coded to speak in hyperbole, but claiming the leaks  – and by association Twitter- are capable of damaging democracy is ridiculous on its face.

Information, as they say, is power. But information has only the power that we assign to it. Those who shrugged off the early exit poll data and continued to the polls gave the reports no power at all. Others heard the same information and gave it the power to inform their decisions. My bottom line, anyone who did not vote Germany based on exit polls reported too early have only themselves to blame.

We went through a similar incident in 2000 when the networks called Florida for Gore, then took it back, then gave it to Bush, and took it back again. Republicans cried “foul” because the original call was made before the polls in the Florida Panhandle closed. They claimed Bush lost thousands of votes because disheartened supporters didn’t bother casting their vote on the belief it was irrelevant.

At home the networks were rightly embarrassed and changed their processes. In Germany the leakers could face criminal prosecution.

With all the information swirling around the web, and the ability for anybody with a computer and internet connection to add to the chaos, we need to be more vigilant than ever when assessing what we hear, see and read. We need to be mindful of the source and what, if any, agenda they have.

Information is power, but if we are educated and responsible consumers of information, we decide what power has.

September 1, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment


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