Net Neutrality Debate Now Tainted by Scandal

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Net Neutrality is an important concept that internet providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon should not be awarded stranglehold power over what we see and post online. The internet belongs to all of us, social media managers, virtual assistants, content writers, everyone who posts or consumes content. In 2015, internet freedom groups and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the Obama-era US Federal Communication Commission (FCC).

Now, the Trump-era FCC has surprisingly decided to let those same cable companies decide which websites and apps you use, where you get your news, how you listen to music and watch videos — pretty much everything you do on the internet.

Last week, Reuters news service reported, “Landmark U.S. ‘net neutrality’ rules will expire on June 11, and new regulations handing providers broad new power over how consumers can access the Internet will take effect, the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday in setting the date.”

(This Reuters article and video will give you background details and bring you up to speed on all the ramifications of the issue.)

At face value, the change does not seem fair. It sounds as if someone is attempting to take away your freedom of speech!  

There will be protests nationwide on Monday, May 14th. Open air speech is still free. As is assembling in a public place. Here is how you can join one near you.

Again, from Reuters: “A group of 22 states led by New York and others have sued to try to block the new rules from taking effect, and the U.S. Senate may vote as early as next week to reject the December repeal.”

In a free society, everyone is allowed to have an opinion. You can be for or against net neutrality. Fair is fair. But…

Essential Consultants Scandal

Along comes the scandal.

Michael Cohen. Essential Consultants. And possible influence peddling. What if money and not freedom of information is driving the FCC’s controversial decision?

Let me give you a little timeline on Cohen & Essential Consultants.

  1. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen created a shell company, Essential Consultants, on October 2016, just after the Access Hollywood video broke. (It is the tape released a month before the presidential election, that caught future President Donald J. Trump on a hot microphone in 2005, bragging about using his celebrity status to force himself on women to whom he was not married.)
  2. Cohen allegedly used Essential Consultants to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money. (Conducted either with or without Trump’s knowledge and approval. The “jury” is still out on that.)
  3. A few weeks later, AT&T reportedly began issuing $50,000 monthly payments – $600,000 total – to Essential Consultants for Cohen’s insight on Trump’s thinking about net neutrality.

Last week, AT&T released a message to employees — obtained & published by POLITICO. It reads in part:

“Companies often hire consultants for these purposes, especially at the beginning of a new presidential administration, and we have done so in previous administrations, as well.”

Problem is, Cohen was not an independent consultant. He was Trump’s personal lawyer at the time. His fixer. His man of action.

Blatant influence-peddling? You decide. The Trump-era FCC did vote in a manner favoring AT&T.

We talk a lot about ROI in social media.

According to this article published in The Atlantic last week:

“If AT&T paid a monthly fee of $50,000, Essential Consultants would have received more money in the year than AT&T’s highest-paid lobbying firms, Mayer Brown and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld, which were paid $420,000 and $400,000 respectively. In 2017, AT&T paid 14 firms at least $200,000 to work Washington for the telecommunications giant.”

What if money and not freedom of information is driving the ultimate net neutrality decision?

The Senate is scheduled to vote this coming week on whether to overrule the FCC and save net neutrality.

Pro-net neutrality forces believe they are just one vote away from the 51 required to overrule the FCC; this new scandal could allow for a grassroots pressure movement to be mounted for a win.”

But time is short.

A website has been established to help you contact your US Senators and make your opinion known.

If an overwhelming voice of the people just saved a cancelled TV show (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which will move from Fox to NBC this fall), who knows what is possible? Even in the fantasyland of Washington D.C.

{Normally I would end with the above one/two punch of optimism and sarcasm. But, now I would ask: if net neutrality did not exist, would all those Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans have had the free and unfettered access to the internet to exercise their constitutionally mandated freedom of speech? To take advantage of their unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as provided in the U.S. Declaration of Independence? Contact your US Senator, now!}

(And, thanks to Ira Andelman for research on the timeline and his devotion to this issue that motivated me to do this blog today)

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Social Media: To Outsource or Not To Outsource, That Is the Question

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Dilemmas of Shakespearean proportions befall many a small business owner (SBO) when faced with the question of doing social media in house versus outside. The smart SBO knows his/her strengths and weaknesses. Do you? There is a world of difference between being a talented consumer of social media and a skilled producer of engaging content.

It is not just luck to get 1000 Facebook shares or 1000 Twitter retweets. Let me step back on that. It can be luck that something your niece posted about a kitty went viral. But did it bring any customers into your store? There is engagement and there is targeted engagement. Who are the people seeing your social media marketing and are they motivated to do something in their favor which benefits you?

Outsourcing to a social media manager (SMM) provides answers, as the SMM is skilled in asking certain questions before launching a social media marketing campaign. For example, “who exactly is your prime customer?” Sorry, “everybody” is not the best response. But it is the best indicator that you need someone else to guide your business through today’s world of multiple algorithms, KPIs, ROIs, customer avatars, etc. And if you don’t know what those are— point proven.

But, I will go a step further. What are the factors a good social media manager considers in preparation before, during and after sending out those “lucky” Facebook posts, ads and tweets? They are called Social Media Metrics. Check out this article from Sprout Social. Tell me how far you get before your head explodes with data overload. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-metrics-that-matter/

And then you must respond

Social media is like talk radio. Once you turn on the microphone, not only do you need to keep speaking during your entire shift, you need to be ready to take phone calls. Social means being social. You need to be ready to respond to customers. Do you have the time?

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that investing in social customer care drives revenue. According to a previously conducted Twitter poll, airline customers would be willing to pay $2.33 more for the same or enhanced service if a social response is provided in 67 minutes or more. Even more incredible, customers would be willing to pay an astounding $19.83 more if a response is provided within just six minutes. Time is money, so start saving both by providing value quickly on social.” – Conversocial (https://www.conversocial.com/blog/the-7-most-important-customer-service-stats-for-2017)

Check out this infographic from GetAmbassador.com

Get Ambassador Infographic

Would you open your store to customers and then have no salesperson there to ring up customers? That is what you are doing when you post on social media and not have a skilled practitioner to not only respond but also know how to use the response to entice additional customers.

That’s the difference between someone who just consumes social media and someone who is skilled at making social media work for you.

To outsource or not to outsource? When it comes to social media, it really isn’t a question.

5 Important Steps for Social Media Managers to Attract the Right Kind of Virtual Assistant

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{Diane Leone is providing this guest blog. She is a published author with numerous articles/columns in regional and national publications as well as online articles and two published books: Marketing Multifamily Housing with Integrated Marketing Strategies and How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Interior Design Business}

Social media is ever changing, constantly in motion. The rules of engagement change all of the time. When you are selling your time for services, you eventually run out of time — then you’re limited on how many customers and how much work you can take on.

You don’t have to be limited!!!

Hire a Virtual Assistant to help you. I know, you are worried that you have to do it all because of the “what if’s”… what if this happens, what if that happens. It’s enough to drive you crazy. I bet about now you are thinking, “I can’t afford a Virtual Assistant and how and where would I find one that I feel comfortable enough with to give access to my clients?”  (And, if you work with a VA in the United States, you must follow freelance/employee rules.)

But, take it from experience, to manage a large workflow and definitely to take on more work, you either need to hire staff or a virtual assistant.

5 steps to find and attract the right kind of virtual assistant.

  1. Decide, based on the task and work, if you will hire a Local VA or hire a VA on an online platform.

If you go the online route, you must be comfortable with the VA working remotely. Decide which countries you will hire from and designate the language the VA needs to know fluently.  

There are several platforms to choose from. Upwork.com earns good marks on their freelancers. There are many other agency sites to choose from. A good way to get responses from qualified VAs is to write a subject line that clearly states what the work is such as “social media posting” or “create Instagram posts,” and include the amount you will pay per hour.

Another way to further narrow the applicants is to outline in detail the assignment or job description including the specific programs they need to be proficient in. If you are using well-known programs, it is likely you will find VAs that are familiar with the same programs. This will save on training time to learn a specific program.

If you want to screen further, within the text include a line that goes something like this: “Include the word Apple in your response.” If the person didn’t read the complete job posting or understand it, he or she probably is not going to be among your top candidates.

You might also want to select your top 2 or 3 applicants and assign them the same task to see the quality of work. Sometimes this helps determine the person you want to hire and is worth the money. 

  1. Use Online Programs to Communicate with VAs

Asana.com and Slack.com– Both are free online project management platforms that allow you to create a team environment making it  easier to communicate and manage a project without using email.

Calendly.com – a free online platform to schedule appointments. You can include a link in your email and the person receiving the email can use the link to schedule a time on your calendar that is open.

MyHours.com – a free platform to track billable hours. If you hire someone through Upwork, it is strongly recommended to always have your VA bill you through Upwork and for you to pay through Upwork,  but MyHours.com is a great tool for tracking billable hours.

TimeAndDate.com – Working with VAs in other time zones? This page is a quick way to know what time it is anywhere and offers much more, such as calculators and timers.

  1. Keep Your Information Secure

If you are responsible for your client’s website and social media sites, you need to feel confident that when you hire a VA you are in control of the security. Over time, you will build up trust and get to know your VA. You want to protect yourself and your VA while feeling equally confident that you are keeping your client’s pages secure. You could use one of several password manager programs.

These are online programs that allow you to securely share login information with VAs. They can login and work without seeing your password.

Within the backend of platforms such as WordPress and Facebook™ you can assign a role as well as unique username & password to your VAs. Not everyone needs full Administration access.

  1. Create a detailed Standard Operating Procedure or SOP for all tasks

This might sound like a lot of work however, if you create it once, you don’t have to explain it every time you hire someone. There are screen capture extensions that work with Chrome that can be used to capture a shot of each step of a task. Sometimes you may want to actually record yourself going through each step and explaining what you are doing.

Jing is one such extension and it is free. With Jing you can capture the screenshot and draw and write on it. This makes it easy to develop a visual SOP for a given task.

Jing example

  1. Communicate with your VA

You’ve created a SOP and you’ve hired a VA. What’s next? Communication! Skype or Facetime or any of the many ways to communicate online will work. You want to go through the work agreement terms and the SOP to answer any questions.

Communication is the key to success in working with a Virtual Assistant. Get to know the VA and how he/she works. A good VA can help you grow your business and is worth the time invested to find the right person for the job!

{Diane Leone founded Leone Social, a Digital Marketing Agency and The Marketing Edge Group-a public relations and marketing firm working with numerous clients including small to large corporations, non-profits, government agencies, political campaigns and grassroots organizations. Diane is a professional speaker and trainer, focusing on helping business owners find success}

 

 

 

Intent to Intimidate – Why the World is Watching

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By writing this blog, I could be self-attaching a target on my back. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press are under siege in America. Make no mistake. It is “fake news” if you believe otherwise. Paranoia, or déjà vu? Felt it during the Nixon regime. War of words with the press. And how much of a leap would Nixon’s old school “Enemies List” be from the Department of Homeland Security high-tech bid for a “Media Monitoring Services” to compile a database of hundreds of thousands of journalists, bloggers and “media influencers” for the federal government?

According to an article in Bloomberg Law, DHS is “seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify ‘any and all’ coverage related to the agency or a particular event…” Very open-ended “or a particular event,” wouldn’t you say?

Yes. A Department of Homeland Security spokesman has since commented “this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media” — but for what purpose?

If it is just a listing, what is the significance of requiring “contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.” There it is again, “overview of the previous coverage,” another open-ended category.

And chillingly, there is no restriction that the database of hundreds of thousands of journalists, bloggers and “media influencers” must be Americans only.

Watchdog organization Freedom House said in its Press Freedom Report – 2017 that global media freedom had dropped to its lowest level in 13 years.

Every day, journalists face serious consequences including physical violence, imprisonment and death. A few days ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists launched its annual Free The Press campaign to raise awareness about imprisoned journalists throughout the world. On May 3, UNESCO will once again mark World Press Freedom Day “to inform citizens of violations of press freedom — a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”  —Forbes.com

Intent to intimidate.

One more consideration, if Facebook, with its well-paid top tech geniuses, could not protect all the data they collected on users, how can we be confident that this mass database of info being authorized by the government to the lowest bidder, would be any more secure?

Let’s say this low bid “Media Monitoring Services,” agency exists. And for sake of argument, we call it, oh say… Big Brother. And, it scoops up this blog. And, you consider a response to my comments.

You could write in your blog or FB post or tweet, “Anthony, you are one strap short on a straitjacket.” Or you could write, “Anthony, there is merit in your postulation.” Either way, Big Brother would note not only that you commented, but also the intention of your comment.

What if you say nothing, because it is safer?

Intention to Intimidate.

You just gave up your Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press rights because you were afraid to express yourself as an American. Some might hear echoes of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. They laughed as well. Until it was too late.

{Call to Action: Contact your elected representatives in the House & Senate. Tell them you find this DHS action anti-American. Or, tell them you see nothing wrong. What??? That is how Freedom of Speech works. Everybody gets a say.}

Sinclair Broadcasting Sues Employee Even After He Leaves Job

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Voices from within the hostage camps of Sinclair Broadcasting are beginning to surface in print, broadcast and social media. I pulled this cautionary tale from the Orlando Weekly of this week. A former employee was in effect SUED FOR QUITTING. Let that roll around in your head.

It is called a “liquidated clause” for leaving the team before the term of an agreement is set to end. Could be up to 40% of annual pay. Remember, these reporters and anchors are working small to medium markets. They are getting what you and I earn, not the million-dollar network contracts. That should answer the question as to why some or many of the Sinclair news staff read the offensive manifesto that became part of a viral video, instead of saying “hell no” recently.

Jonathan Beaton is a former Sinclair employee who is the subject of the Orlando Weekly story. Fascinating stranglehold Sinclair has not only while you work for them but after. Yes, after he left to begin his own PR company (not work for a rival TV station), Sinclair sued him.

Read it for yourself.

“A set of parameters and we had to stick to them.” When far away corporate managers restrict your local news team, that is clearly infringing on the Freedom of the Press to fairly cover a community to its expectations.

What Is So Wrong About the Sinclair Broadcasting Script?

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“They co-opt the credibility that local anchors have built up in their communities over years and decades and use that credibility to promote a political agenda.” — Aaron Weiss, former Sinclair News Director

Covering the Sinclair Broadcasting story over the past two blogs,  (Has Big Brother Arrived at a TV Set in Your Home? and How Much Do I Hate Thee Sinclair Broadcasting? America Is Counting the Ways) I have interjected facts and opinions from my point of view because I feel this strikes to the core of Freedom of the Press. Take away the press, both conservative and liberal sides, and you remove the watchdogs of those who would govern by fear and dishonesty.

Today, let’s hear from Aaron Weiss who’s “been there, done that” for Sinclair, as well Tim Burke who put that frightening video collage together and what he has heard since from the “Sinclair hostages.”

https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/04/04/aaron-weiss-intv-sinclair-news-director-must-read-scripts-hostage-videos-sot-newday.cnn/video/playlists/sinclair-broadcast-group/

https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/04/04/aaron-weiss-intv-former-sinclair-news-director-not-heard-inside-respect-journalism-sot-newday.cnn

https://www.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2018/04/03/deadspin-sinclair-broadcast-group-video-tim-burke-ebof.cnn/video/playlists/stories-worth-watching/

Having heard all this, I suggest you return to the Deadspin video. Focus beyond the words and look at the announcers, their voices, and their mannerisms. Feel sorry for them. They are being mentally abused and should be pitied.

One last thought. Be you conservative or liberal, money talks. Too bad someone just doesn’t make a better offer to Tribune’s owners and buy it out from under Sinclair. A non-media company. Sinclair will still operate the stations it has, but it would be derailed of its aggressive assault on Freedom of the Press.

How Much Do I Hate Thee Sinclair Broadcasting? America Is Counting the Ways

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By this point most people in the USA know about the Sinclair Broadcasting manifesto to force all its local affiliates, partnerships, holdings etc. to not just toe the company line but to do it at the expense of local communities. If you don’t here is link to my last blog with info and the offending video.

A great deal has happened since my blog posted. But since it is nearly 1am and I have to be up at 5am, let me just point to two interesting items.

My suggestion was to activate a 1.0 world solution, to challenge Sinclair stations one by one as the license renewals came up.

The 2.0 world is to get on Twitter, create a hashtag of #SinclairStrike and motivate people to act on May 15th 2018 (thanks to Ed Krassenstein @EdKrassen)

Mark your calendars!
May 15th, 2018 is the #SinclairStrike.

  • Sinclair Broadcasting Employees call out sick
  • Sinclair viewers boycott the network
  • Sinclair advertisers pull their ads by this date

And while #2 and #3 started happening immediately, I didn’t think much would come of asking employees who had buckled under to do these-called “hostage videos” to call out sick. 

Sinclair TwitterBut then there was a tweet from one of the stations that gave me hope that there were still warriors on the front line of this battle.

The other interesting thing was when out of left field Preet Bharara (Former US Atty SDNY) suggests in a Tweet that Jeff Bezos of Amazon just flat out buy Twitter “with the change in his pocket and shut Trump’s account.”  Interesting, but what does that have to do with Sinclair?

Other voices soon urged Bezos (who has been feuding with Trump over the Amazon and Washington Post connections) to either buy Sinclair Broadcasting – or buy the Tribune stations away from Sinclair. Again, it is 1am and I can only imagine without checking, the logistics of Amazon buying up a monstrous amount of local tv stations.

But the point is, people are not siting back and waiting for someone else to protect the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. To quote Mr. Bharara “Citizens working together are more powerful than US Attorneys. And presidents.”

{Update at 5:30am, finding the Sinclair issue has been cooking overnight, it is a Twitter moment now. https://twitter.com/i/moments/980985089109590016}