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.}

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Directing Customer Traffic on Your Small Business Social Media Highway

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CARE, which stands for Customers Are Really Everything was an an employee training program I went through early on in my career. It was likened to an auto manual in how we were to treat customers, the force which drove our business.

Later, there was a newer model defining customers as both external, being the people who show interest in purchasing your product/service and internal, being employees who show interest in promoting your product/service. That’s right. EVERYBODY is your customer. Get that, and you’ve won half the battle.

Customer service is not an intangible, abstract, invisible force. You can see it and hear it everyday in the way employees interact with people interested in what you have to sell. Dynamic Social Media expert Skarlet Shuplat and I will be exploring aspects of customer service in respect to social media in a back & forth between our blogs over the next few weeks.

She correctly opens with this statement “You need to be social with your fans anSkarletd followers.” And follows up with three key areas of focus:

  • Find Customers Where They Are
  • Take Feedback to Heart
  • Be Available & Responsive

To read Skarlet’s full conversation (which already started, ladies first), scoot on over to her blog at FoxFireSocial.com

Feel free to jump in with your own thoughts. Because…. as our readers, you are our customers too!

But, for my first blog on the topic of social media presence I am going to… (cue the wavy screen to simulate a flashback)… look at the mindset of business people in regards to customer treatment.

You may have noted in the first paragraph I described customers as “both external, being the people who show interest in purchasing your product/service and internal, being employees who show interest in promoting your product/service.” I did not say buy and sell. For me, customer service has been the process of dealing with interested parties before, during and after interaction — whether a sale took place or not.

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether it is face to face, or online, your external customer’s “care experience” will be influenced by your internal customer’s attitude.

That person who walked into your store, called, emailed, or flitted through your website, might not have purchased today, but depending on the “customer experience” could be back tomorrow for something else.

Ever go into a cute little boutique store in the mall, look around and never be acknowledged by sales staff behind the counter because they’re too busy gossiping or even bad mouthing management? Ever go back?

That was a Customer Service fail.

My daughter, as a teen worked at a cool, goth store obviously aimed at active, young adults. One day an elderly (ancient by their standards I would guess) woman in a wheel chair entered the store. The sales crew, having a pity party about job unhappiness, essentially ignored her, assuming she didn’t realize the youth culture of the store and would just roll on out.

My daughter who had been doing stock, (and is a smart kid because Rachael had asked for my advice when going into retail sales) came out to talk to the lady as she was about to leave the store. Rachael explained what the store was all about and the clientele it catered to. The woman thanked her and left.

Next day she came back, asked for Rachael (my kid, beaming dad here), and proceeded to buy over $500 worth of goth shirts, pants, jewelry, etc, for her twin granddaughters who had just “graduated” from middle school and needed to look good for junior year of high school.

That was pay-off to the “Before, During & After with no sale” customer service experience.

Customers Are Really Everything. Had the other two sales staff felt better about their own “customer” experience working for the store, perhaps they would have not let the elderly woman – or any other non goth-looking client leave untouched by a positive customer experience.

The same mindset applies to customer service translated and transmitted through social media. As Skarlet’s headline asks Is Your Social Media Presence a One Way Street?
Just because you have a social media presence on Facebook or Twitter does not mean you can stand behind the counter and ignore people, whether they are paying customers or not. Every question, every comment, every shopper should be acknowledged.

Then Directing Customer Traffic on Your Small Business Social Media Highway will yield positive results.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Reporter’s Notebook: Oxford Needs You!

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You may never get to Oxford, but Oxford can come to you!

To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914–18), the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is revising a set of vocabulary related to or coined during the war. Part of the revision process involves searching for earlier or additional evidence, and for this we need your help,” reports the OED website.

OxfordYes, you, my budding writers of tomorrow, can contribute to the Oxford English Dictionary and the living history of the English language. Drop that into your resume!

Basically the evidence for the sought after words “first use” comes from newspapers and magazine articles, but there may be earlier appearances in letters, diaries, and government records which might be in personal collections.

Here is an excerpt from this list:

camouflage n. earlier than July 1916

The development of aerial warfare and accurate long-range artillery in the First World War meant that weapons, vehicles, and troops needed to be concealed from enemy view; hence the need for camouflage (a word borrowed from French; it had been used in French to mean ‘disguise’ since the 19th century). The earliest evidence we have for camouflage in English is from 1916:

“The shells, which a simple camouflage of white tarpaulins effectually hid from the enemy.”

1916 Cornhill Mag. July, p. 54

Other words needing confirmation include: demob, conchie, trench foot and zeppelins in a cloud.

You are requested to go to the OED Appeals page to submit any evidence.

Reporter’s Notebook: Intro Paragraph, Set Your Hook

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Introductory paragraphs can be like a fishing trip: full of information, but if you pack the wrong hooks and lures, the rest of the trip will be a disaster.

Jeff Bullas recently outlined three of many literary devices to enhance the enticement and engagement levels of your first paragraph. Give it a read. http://anysnapshot.com

My thoughts are:

Questions. I’ve found asking a question to be among the most intriguing openings. By posing a question right away, you drive readers to thinking, you challenge them to come up with an answer, an answer that lies beneath the waves of paragraphs to come.

State Facts. On the other hand, years of writing experience have led me to accept statistics and percentages as the most difficult hook, because if done improperly you turn off readers and they swim away. Bullas dresses this up by suggesting you attribute the facts to a person, thus making the numbers come alive.

Quotable Quote. I’ve used these in a number of my previous blogs. Find something catchy that relates to your topic to set the mood, while at the same time “giving away” the sense of what story you are about to tell.

Metaphor. This is an additional option I would suggest; in fact I employed it to kick off this blog. It also sets the reader off into a thinking mode, anxious to read on.

And that is the goal of the first paragraph, isn’t it?

Reporter’s Notebook: Can You Spell Misspell?

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Off the top of your head… which are spelled correctly and which are not?

Misspellings1- seperate

2- definitely

3- calender

4- misspell

5- privlege

6- argument

7- consensus

8- pronounciation

9- accommodate

Maeve Maddox contributed some thoughts on these words to a recent Daily Writing Tips article:

For whatever reason – overconfidence or sloth – the same misspellings continue to appear in business emails, advertising copy, resumes, and on blog sites. The writer’s best defense is to take a good look at the most frequent misspellings and zero in on every letter in the word.”

In other words (pun intended), spell check may or may not catch these. But at least use it. (The correct spellings and tips are in Maeve’s blog). And then double check the copy.

I also suggest walking away from the blog and then coming back in few minutes at which point you should read it again; not so much word by word backwards as one commenter suggests but read it backwards paragraph by paragraph.

The blog won’t make as much sense, which means you will be paying more attention to the words rather than the topic.

Reporter’s Notebook: Why Men Watch Football

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What is it that excites men about football? What’s the big attraction? Why is it that some men will sit down for three, six, or even nine hours in front of a TV set when football is on, yet they won’t sit still for more than 15 minutes for anything else when they’re home?

Why MenThose are the questions posed by a former protege of mine, Bob Andelman, 20 years ago when he authored the book, Why Men Watch Football: A Report from the Couch. Now there is a 20th Anniversary edition, newly available in digital form. Good for you Bob.

He interviewed dozens of football fans, sportscasters, sports psychologists, psychiatrists and sociologists to get to the root of the question, why do men watch football? Among the reasons (or excuses):

  • Rites of passage
  • The hometown connection
  • Winning by association
  • Hero worship
  • The military connection
  • Acting out a primal instinct
  • The allure of numbers
  • An urge to gamble
  • The great escape

Bob, who has had a successful career as author and podcaster Mr. Media took the time to answer a couple of questions for me

Since you wrote the book 20 years ago what strikes you as the greatest change in why guys watch football?

Andelman: “Good question. I think that the dramatic increase in video quality — high def and even 3D television — has only heightened our connection to action happening hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The action is so real in HD, it really is like being there.”

Speaking of technology, where does social media fit in?

Andelman: “Similar to the rapid speed of HD, social media’s connection to football means instant community with fellow fans, whether we’re all checking in at the stadium on Foursquare or while watching on TV via GetGlue or Facebook. We can share our view of a bad call or a thrilling reception with a million strangers at the touch of a smartphone.”

Smart guy. He also did his homework on this project uncovering:

  • The fan who loved the Colts so much that he followed them from Baltimore to Indianapolis;
  • The Packers fan known as “The Brow”;
  • The Bucs fan who got so frustrated with the team’s losing ways he broke a Soloflex bench by pounding on it with nothing but his fists;
  • The Dolphins fan who postponed cancer surgery so as not to interfere with watching the team on TV;
  • The Giants fan who follows his team on the road and throws regular home game tailgate parties for 80 of his closest friends

Andelman picks apart the male psyche the way Tom Brady and Peyton Manning read defenses. Why Men Watch Football: A Report from the Couch is worth a read now or even after the season. It’s available at Amazon.

Reporter’s Notebook: Picture This, Social Media Sizing Tips

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There are two kinds of writers I recently told my friend John Andrews of Social Palates Photography. There are those like me that use many words to write a story, peppered with one picture. Then there are writers like him who use pictures to tell a story, and they sweeten it with a few words.

the-walking-dead-season-4And then there special cases like this Walking Dead poster which say so much and so little with one picture and a few words.

That said, since I am speaking mostly to word writers, I thought I should provide some advice on optimal use of pictures in your blogs.

So friends, students and lurkers, here is a cheat sheet from Luna Metrics for sizing pictures on various social media platforms. The article by Samantha Hosenkamp appeared on the PR Daily site.

What size should a Timeline pix or Thumbnail on Facebook be? Or a Shared Image on Twitter? Ever tried to fit in a Shared Video on Google+ or the Mappable Header on You Tube? Thinking about the Career Cover Photo on LinkedIn? And what about the Pin Preview on Pinterest?

All the secrets revealed. This is one item I am going to bookmark and email to myself just to make sure it doesn’t fade away like… an old picture.