Tag Archives: Wired

Crestfallen. Twice.

I like making connections. So I’m often on the lookout for them. It’s fun for me to align concepts for an expanded meaning beyond what they may singularly impart. The same is true with writing: symbolism, parallelism, etc. And as a corporate communications professional, connection-making often comes in handy, whether with words, concepts or people.

Crestfallen

Wired February 2013So it was interesting for me to see an uncommon term, “crestfallen” twice in a single issue of Wired this month. The word appeared in David MacNeal’s story on mobile boombox dance parties, as well as Carl Zimmer’s story on sleuthing out deadly mutant bacteria. Both are positive stories overall, but each includes a mention of someone being crestfallen. I think that’s interesting, and am happy to report not being crestfallen at this discovery.

What do you think? Ever notice an uncommon phrase in rapid succession from multiple sources? Do you believe in synchronicity? What are your thoughts on making connections? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Who’s Been Commenting?

A great reward of blogging is making connections with professionals whose work I respect. Here’s a look at some recognizable figures commenting at rsmithing.com in the past 12 months. Check out the posts to see their remarks:

Mack Collier

Mack Collier

Mack Collier commented and said thanks in my post, Blogchat: Sundays on Twitter. As a strategisttrainer and speaker on social media, Collier helps companies better connect with customers. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time has helped businesses of all shapes and sizes better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. [Mack's Site]

Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss commented a couple of times on my post, Last Book Read: Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead. Strauss is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and also writes regularly for The New York Times, having repeatedly made its bestseller list with books such as The Game, Emergency, and Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead. [Wikipedia]

John Boswell

John Boswell

John Boswell generously answered my questions in this post: Interview with MelodySheep and Symphony of Science Mastermind. Boswell is the artist behind autotune projects Symphony of Science and MelodySheep, gaining international recognition and millions of YouTube views for his inspiring musical tributes to Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross and Julia Child, among others.

Mike Sager

Mike Sager

Mike Sager said thanks for my quick post inspired by his writing, From Music and Words into Movement – The Fun of Art. Sager is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist. He has been called “the Beat poet of American journalism, that rare reporter who can make literature out of shabby reality.” [Wikipedia] In thirty years as a journalist, writer at large Mike Sager has immersed himself in the lives of pit-bull fighters, heroin addicts, Tupperware saleswomen, and an actress named Roseanne. [Esquire]

Jay Baer

Jay Baer

Jay Baer stopped by after I reached him on Google Plus to weigh in on my post, How to Talk About Social Media In Business: 5 Points, Video Interview. Baer is a social media strategist, author, speaker and President of Convince & Convert. Founder of five companies, he’s worked with over 700 brands (including Nike, Cold Stone Creamery, Sony, ExactTarget, and ConocoPhillips) since 1994, including 25 of the Fortune 1000. His blog is ranked among the world’s top marketing resources, and was named #3 social media blog in the world by Social Media Examiner. [Wikipedia]

Alexis Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal noted his use of contrast in my analysis of his work: Contrasts Make Connections. Madrigal is a Senior editor at The Atlantic, author of Powering the Dream, and has previously contributed to WIRED, covering science and technology as a contributor to the Wired Science blog. [Twitter]

Also engaging via brand representatives were McDonald’s Corporate in: Fast Food and Fast Lessons in Public Relations and, as a bonus from 2011: Delta Airlines in my post, An Airline Gets it… Right?

What do you think? Have any well-known figures or organizations commented on your work? Have you ever had any brushes with celebrity? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Homeless Hotspots? What Could Go Wrong?

Update 3/14/12: Interview with the Homeless Hotspot creator, Saneel Radia of BBH Labs and program participant, Dusty White via Marketplace.org (see below).

The PR for one thing. Hoo boy, where to begin…

As reported at Buzzfeed then ridiculously blown up by Gizmodo and expanded upon at Wired, homeless people of Austin are earning some cash by providing wi-fi access at the South By Southwest event. On the surface, it seems legit: money and jobs for the homeless who provide a service in demand. But wow, has it backfired:

Homeless Hotspots

Hyperbole much, Gizmodo?

What’s this doing in the Horror section? It’s not like these people are actually being turned into routers – they’re just carrying routers around. We aren’t living in The Matrix (yet… or are we?). Point is: this headline and its categorization give the story just enough spin to evoke plenty of Internet ire.

The Matrix - We are not there... yet

The Matrix - We are not there... yet. Image credit: sector930.com

What Went Wrong

For the record, I think this is an okay venture, but really bungled from a public relations perspective. It sure doesn’t help that it has a lighthearted name like “Homeless Hotspots.” Or that it was created by the well-intentioned-yet-vaguely dystopian-sounding BBH Labs, who refer to it as “an experiment.” Or that BBH Labs is actually a division of marketing firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty. It’s common enough for marketers to be cast as insidious without fodder like this, whether justified or not.

In fact, if you read the comments at the above article, they overwhelmingly call out Gizmodo on the casting of this as some twisted bionic procedure, pointing out the actual benefits, something BBH Labs is now having to play fireman on by defending the effort. Says Saneel Radia, creator of the idea:

“Basically the seed was to try to help the homeless during SXSW. Our goal is to reinvent the newspaper model. It’s intentionally attention grabbing.” He stresses that they’re not advertising anything – except perhaps BBH itself – and that the money goes directly to them.
-via BuzzFeed

If it’s attention they wanted, well, congratulations are in order. But what didn’t work at all here was the execution. Setting expectations ahead of time to diffuse the ensuing sensationalism would have gone a long way, something BBH Labs is no doubt realizing now that they’re in “full damage control mode.” It’s a damn shame their energy is now being put into damage control rather than furthering the core idea, but hey, at least they’re getting attention, right?

What They Should Have Done

  1. Watch The Matrix
  2. Brainstorm every sensationalist headline that could result
  3. Then don’t do anything to further that along

Simple, right? Do you think that happened here? Doesn’t seem that way. It’s PR 101: anticipate the negatives. By doing this, the creators could have generated some pre-buzz or gotten their story out there first with must-airs that take on what is now coming at them left and right. The focus could have been more on the project than putting out fires. Developing pre-game strategy in this case might involve things like:

  • Not calling it an “experiment”
  • Not advertising for BBH Labs
  • Telling the stories of how the project came together
  • Tapping the SXSW blogosphere for coverage
  • Distributing QR codes taking customers to a mobile-friendly site at purchase explaining the cause and enabling them to donate to Front Steps, the organization that helped BBH Labs put it together.

These are just the first things that come to mind in the time it takes me to type them. For all I know all this happened and more. If that’s the case, then it’s a sad commentary on the snarky nature of online discussion blowing things out of proportion.

If this did not happen at all, it’s a strong case for having your PR together before initiating a venture that could bring backlash, especially with a project involving connectivity… at a conference on technology… given the snarky nature of online discussion to blow things out of proportion.

Update – Homeless Hotspot Creator, Saneel Radia, and Participant, Dusty White, Speak:

Hear directly from the program’s creator, Saneel Radia in an interview at Marketplace.org. Radia does state they anticipated some blowback, and are learning from the endeavor:

It would be naive not to think that this is going to be debated. By putting this model out there, and letting people debate — this is what worked in their program and this is what didn’t work — we’re actually uniquely qualified to say, we can take our licks for whatever we got wrong. What we’re motivated by what the people who adopt it get right as a result.
-Saneel Radia, BBH Labs, via Marketplace.org

Marketplace also interviewed a Homeless Hotspot participant, Dusty White. That interview is here. Kudos to Marketplace for giving broader voice to the idea behind and to an actual participant in this program. As they aptly state, there’s “way more to the story than met the ear.” And Mr. White goes on to say, “it’s not what you achieve in life, sir, it’s what you overcome.”

What a great takeaway from this entire endeavor.

Homeless Hotspot Participant Interview

"It's not what you achieve in life, sir, it's what you overcome." Interview with Homeless Hotspot participant, Dusty White at Marketplace.org.

What do you think? Could any amount of PR have made a difference here? Is this in fact a decent idea that was poorly handled? Or is the idea just not a good one whatsoever? Let us hear from you in the comments!