This post was originally published on LinkedIn, April 21, 2014.
How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s all who you know” within the context of getting ahead in your career? Probably a lot.
Interestingly, just the opposite is true. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
Thought experiment: Consider the social networks of celebrities, national politicians, or CEOs. Obviously there’s a small number of people who they “know,” meaning that they know them by name and remember something about them and wouldn’t mind a conversation with them. However, most their power in society is derived from the fact that a preponderance of strangers know them. That’s why they can get tickets to a sold-out show, or a million Instagram followers, or a private audience with the President to discuss their new charitable initiative.
Now consider the people you “know” (or think you know). Common scenario: You got someone’s business card at an event nine months ago and sent them a follow-up email about how nice it was to have met them. Now, there’s something you want from them – an introduction related to an advertised job, their attendance at an event you’re planning, a donation to your spouse’s charity. If you didn’t make a memorable impression when you met them or subsequently, the fact that you “know them” means nearly nothing. What matters is if they “know you” – in other words, that they remember you and think something positive about you that motivates them to respond to a call-to-action.
Confession: I meet lots of people who don’t make a memorable impression on me. It’s not atypical for me tobecome a victim of the cocktail party scenario where they approach me a year later with a huge “Hi!!” and I look at them with a blank stare. Often, the story is like the above – they met me after a talk I gave at a conference two years ago and we connected on LinkedIn and they read my writing but we haven’t had a conversation nor have I heard anything about them since. It sounds harsh, but I can only keep track of so many people; They know me, but I don’t know them.
Because people can only keep track of the activities of about one hundred people who are currently important to them, business networking is actually far more ruthless than you’ve probably been led to believe. If you can’t break into your target’s “Top 100 List” within a reasonably short amount of time, they have no bandwidth to “know you” and thus can’t really be of any use to you. You may as well have not met them in the first place.
Why do some (non-celebrity) people tend to break into lots of personal Top 100 Lists and others don’t? I previously wrote that your brand is the sentence people say about you behind your back. Simply put, some people’s sentences are more memorable and meaningful than others. Contrast, for example, “Bob’s in marketing, I think he works for a big company in New York” and “John’s one of the most creative marketing execs to come out of New York in the last decade.” If there’s truth in the latter statement, it follows that over time John is more likely to “be known” by many more people than poor ambiguous Bob.
Knowing people doesn’t scale, but being known to people scales infinitely. Therefore, a good strategy for meaningfully expanding your professional network should include activities that grow the number of people who know you (There are also network effects at play here: the more people who know you, the more conversations there are about you, and the more people hear about you, the more people know you, ad infinitum). Such activities might include public speaking, guest writing for popular blogs in your specialty area, or appearing in a television interview. Or it might be an invention that you launch on Kickstarter to much acclaim, or something else physical that you create which garners attention. You should also give careful consideration to the “narrative on the street” about you: What is that key detail that sets you apart from so many others?
It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn, where it received about 15,000 views and was shared socially roughly 2,000 times.
Not too long ago, Lululemon was a revered brand. Now it’s not, and sales have declined accordingly. Not so long ago, Apple could do no wrong. Now people wonder out loud if it’s innovative anymore. With constant connectedness and infinite information, consumers have never been so fickle about their choices.
According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” That sounds like something from orientation day at Sterling Cooper Draper Price. What does the term “brand” actually mean in practice?
A brand is essentially the one sentence people say about you behind your back. This practical “street” definition based on actual human interaction applies equally well to people, products, and companies. For example, someone might describe Lululemon to their friend as “absolutely the best place to buy yoga gear, ever” or they might say “people say Lululemon great, but I’ve bought a few things and they fall apart, totally overrated.” Someone might describe you to their professional acquaintance as “the smartest person in New York on things related to creativity in advertising, you must talk to them” or “too cerebral and academic, I’m not sure they’d be the right fit for your advertising company.”
That one sentence means a lot. It may be the difference between buying a $1300 suit from Ralph Lauren or a $500 one from Suit Supply, the difference between buying brand-name Tylenol or generic CVS pain reliever, and between you being considered to keynote the a major industry conference or not. These single sentences constantly being transmitted between couples basically mean everything.
A side effect of this is that even well-established brands “can never coast on past performance,” as James Surowiecki recently wrote in The New Yorker. This is not only because people are better informed than ever, but also because they can transmit their learnings easier than ever as well, not only in person but on social networks and through older but still powerful tools like email and message boards. This applies to people’s personal brands too; it is very easy to spread negative and even false information about people using all the social and mobile technology at our disposal.
The good news, especially for people, is that brands can be modified through your activities. For companies and products, that means branding and marketing activities. For people, it means your own personal actions in the community. For example, many people currently identify me with the technology industry, because I recently worked at Microsoft for almost four years. That’s somewhat fair, but I’m trained as a scientist. How would I get more people to think of me and “brand me” as a scientist? Simple: By bringing it up in conversations with people, by writing about my skills and interests, by tweeting more things about science, and so on. It’s gradual. You have to coax people to a new position over time – a year or two, perhaps.
If you accept that your brand is the one sentence people say about you behind your back, it’s worth thinking about what things people are saying about you right now. Write down a list of reasonable things people might say about you to their professional contacts when asked. Are you happy with those? What would you change? How might you begin that process? Your brand is not completely in your control, but you can do a lot to positively influence it and update it over time.
This post was originally published at Publicyte and by InTheCapital on April 16, 2013.
On 9/11, I was a grad student at UC-Irvine in California. I found out about the terrorist attacks from a professor on the elevator on the way up to my laboratory. I hadn’t watched TV that morning before heading to school. And remember, I was on the west coast, so at that time I was a couple hours behind the story. When I got to the lab, my labmate MIchelle and my advisor Tony were trying to get on CNN.com – they couldn’t. Everything was jammed. Tony and I took a monitor I was using to videotape (on VHS!) fruit fly behavior from the back room, moved it onto a table in the main lab, and rigged up an antenna made out of a metal coat hanger so we could watch the news. I think we had that monitor on NBC for about a week straight. We worked a little but mainly just stared at the TV.
I don’t even remember if I had a cell phone then. If I did, I sure don’t remember really using it. It was probably a basic Nokia model that made calls. I know it wasn’t a Blackberry or anything of the kind – I didn’t get one of those until I was living in Washington, DC years later – around 2008 or so. During 9/11, there were no apps, no social media, no mobile communications, nothing really that enabled regular people to take photos of something and share them in anything close to real time.
Yesterday, I was on a conference call around 3pm EST and I got a text from a family member in Boston. I grew up in Massachusetts and a lot of my family lives in Boston area. Turns out, two of my family members went to watch the Marathon yesterday. One of them runs marathons, and was supposed to be in the race, but for an injury about six months ago. He would have finished just a bit faster than the time on the clocks when the bombs went off, if he had been running full speed.
I stopped working after that conference call, got some junk food, and flipped between about seven different news channels. I mostly watched Fox Business and MSNBC and CNN because they seemed to have the best video and breaking news and interviewees. I heard CBS was great, too. I watched them this morning. Norah O’Donnell was in Boston near the scene, seemingly on the verge of tears for two hours. I can’t blame her.
I didn’t have my Twitter feed on 9/11, and neither did anyone else. I didn’t have Facebook either (it didn’t exist yet; Zuckerberg was in middle school or so), nor anything else that we today call social media. But yesterday I did, and I tweeted. I tweeted a lot.
Social media has gotten me a bit jaded lately, but I have to admit that I’d forgotten how many people cling to it for information about loved ones and loved things. I follow a lot of very solid people and sources on Twitter and Facebook, and combined with TV coverage, I sent about 20 tweets with heavily curated and interesting news and quotes during the afternoon and early evening. I got 200-300 retweets and comments or so. My friend Tommy asked me last night why people reach out to each other with social media during a crisis. I replied that people always reach out to each other in a crisis no matter what; it’s human nature. Social media scales human nature.
Technology played a big role in telling the story of the Boston Marathon bombing. The mainstream media, of course,broke news but also argued with itself in real time, the White House used Flickr to officially show that President Obama was meeting with homeland security advisers, and short video service Vine seems to have found purposein tragedy. My Facebook feed was nothing but Boston. Somebody set up a public Google Doc so people could offer their Boston homes to those who needed a place to stay. Boston.com used their “viral video” site to post the most horrific and accurate video I’ve seen of what happened; it’s all over TV this morning. The Reddit community is curating everything here.
The last thing I tweeted before I heard about the explosions in Boston was a link to “Photos from the MTV Music Awards photo booth.” I feel a little silly. But at least now because of innovative startup companies and new social media creations, I have the ability to look a little silly in hindsight. A decade or so ago, I couldn’t do anything but watch a rigged up TV in my lab and be quiet in my thoughts.
This post was originally published on the PivotCon blog on April 6, 2013.
Guest post written by Mark Drapeau, Director of Innovative Engagement (Public Sector), Microsoft, @cheeky_geeky
Adam Conner of Facebook dances “Gagnam Style” at the DC show in Fall 2012.
Have you ever made your Facebook profile pic a photo of you laughing with friends at a Microsoft event?
For most people the answer to this question would be “no.” However, a novel social engagement I began for Microsoft in 2010 named Geek 2 Chic has slowly but surely begun to change that answer to a resounding “yes” for a modest number of highly influential people.
One of the nuggets of wisdom I like to drop on corporate folks who ask me for advice about social media is the following: Social media is 20% about what you say you do, and 80% about what other people say about what you do. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule or anything, but it’s a good enough approximation to be an eye-opener.
You see, most large corporations think that talking about themselves and measuring how many hits a corporate blog post received or how many media outlets regurgitate the headline with a modicum of opinion attached is equivalent to “landing the message.” Sometimes it is, but in many cases it’s easy to overestimate its value.
Eric Kuhn of United Talent Agency rocks the hoodie in a Spring 2012 show in Los Angeles.
The reason for this is that even people who see the IMPORTANT CORPORATE MESSAGE do not necessarily experience it – interactively, physically, or emotionally. Thus, there’s a good chance that they don’t retain it in a meaningful way. And therefore there’s a very good chance that they don’t share it by spreading authentic, personalized word-of-mouth to people who trust them.
Geek 2 Chic is a charity fashion series collaboration between Microsoft and Bloomingdale’s which raises money for and awareness of a wonderful nonprofit called the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or NFTE, which provides mentoring and resources for at-risk youth to start their own businesses while they’re in high school. We produce a true fashion show, featuring high-end designers from Bloomingdale’s clothing racks, and we charge for tickets. But there are no professional models in our show; everyone on the catwalk is a “geek” representing big tech companies, hot new startups, government agencies, academic institutions, and more.
Stylish guests attend a recent Washington, DC show
Our event is most likely the only time that these techies, scientists, and innovators will ever be on a catwalk, so people from the community come out to experience the event, see their friends and acquaintances, take photos, and share. Spouses, employees, and gawkers alike are not immune to the draw of seeing someone transformed from a hoodie-wearing programmer to a tuxedo-wearing stud for one night only. And what we’ve found in cities across the country – Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles – is that people in the geek community share photos from the events enthusiastically, on Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, and Instagram. They tag them. They become Facebook profile photos, sometimes for months and even years.
Don’t misunderstand my earlier comments about traditional PR metrics – We love mainstream media stories. Geek 2 Chic has received coverage from Vanity Fair, Bloomberg, BBC News, the Washington Post, a host of local news outlets, and a bevy of glossy magazines and fashion bloggers.
Jabious Williams, a recent NFTE program recipient, walks the runway in a tuxedo
But while it’s tempting to point to a slide show on VanityFair.com, pat ourselves on the back, and conclude “we done good,” the real value is not the quantitative fact that we landed a headline in a particular publication, but the underlying qualitative story that the photos tell – people smiling, having fun, celebrating geek culture, highlighting a good cause. And the reason people far away from the cities where we actually do the events know about them is mainly because someone they know was tagged in an interesting photo on Facebook, not because they read a recap of the event on a fashion blog.
Think about it this way. Seeing a headline or a retweet or reading an article quickly forms a short-term memory in your brain: I am temporarily aware that something happened. After 20 minutes or so, you start to forget. Other information infiltrates your brain’s frontal lobe. The details of that headline suddenly…become…fuzzy.
Experiencing something remarkable, interactive and pleasurable, however, forms long-term memories, deeply implanted memories, things you think about while you’re sleeping, facts that literally rewire the neural connections in your brain resulting in a semi-permanent state of change. Microsoft could merely write blog posts about the opportunities we’re providing for youth around the world with our YouthSpark initiative, or about the support we provide for new startups with our BizSpark program, but events like Geek 2 Chic take the storytelling about these topics to a deeper, more meaningful and memorable level.
The next Geek 2 Chic show will be in San Francisco on May 15th. Tickets now on sale.
This post was originally published by PBS MediaShift on February 13, 2013. I reported live from the Hearst Fashion Hack, during Fashion Week, during a blizzard. Totally ruined my shoes.
Picture this: You’re waiting in line at your favorite local drugstore or grocery store and have two minutes to kill. What do you do?
Five years ago, many people would flip through one of the many magazines positioned near the checkout counter: Cosmo, maybe, or Esquire.
In 2013, we still browse and buy magazines in checkout lines, but customers are much more likely to whip out their smartphones — checking text messages, updating Twitter or Instagram, maybe a quick game of Angry Birds. But not so much reading sex tips in Cosmo anymore.
That’s a big problem — not just for your spouse or significant other, but for the traditional magazine publishing industry in general, which has seen it’s single-issue sales plummet because of scenarios just like I described above. Why buy four magazines and a newspaper for a cross-country flight, when you can get lots of media on your iPad or Kindle?
“We do find a number of people, if stalled for a minute, will steal a look at their email or news feed. Everyone that has products at checkout has to battle for consumer attention,” David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, was recently quoted as saying on the front page of the Financial Times. You see, Hearst Corporation publishes Cosmopolitan and Esquire and a number of other popular titles like Elle, and you’re not buying as much of them as you used to. Roughly 18 percent less of them in the U.S., in fact.
Not coincidentally, I found myself sitting in the auditorium at Hearst Tower the very day after that quotation appeared in the FT, listening to Carey kick off a hackathon with roughly 150 hackers, designers, and fashionistas in attendance to compete for cash and prizes for the best new pieces of software designed in a frenzied 24-hour session focused on fashion and mobile.
If you’re going to look at your phone at Whole Foods, Hearst wants to be in your phone. As Carey said in the Hearst Fashion Hack kickoff, “We are blessed with so much IP.” Now the only question is, what are all these geeks going to do with it? It’s easy enough to come up with some applications of Hearst’s API, but will the new apps be truly relevant to readers as they move from print and across screens? That was the question posed to the hackers by Hearst’s creative CTO, Phil Wiser.
Hearst is an old company — over 100 years old, in fact, founded in 1886 by an American icon, William Randolph Hearst. The company is still, to a large degree, controlled by his direct descendents, which is great for control and stability but not necessarily for creative destruction. Regardless, the face of media and publishing is evolving rapidly, and Hearst and similar organizations (think: Conde Nast, News Corp., large book publishers like Pearson) need to experiment with new technologies and business models for their very survival.
And so an experiment began with these hackers and their technology company partners and sponsors, including Microsoft (which I work for), Google, Amazon, HTC, Klout, GILT, and more, fueled by Red Bull, coffee (writer’s note: the coffee in the Hearst Tower lobby is actually pretty great), cookies, and a phalanx of beefy, suited security guards watching over more nerds in one room than they’ve probably seen in their lifetimes.
At some point during the Hearst Fashion Hack, the VP of Engineering at Hearst, Jim Mortko, commented, “There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you have to get something done in a compressed time period.” And compressed this hackathon was, down to only about 24 hours due to, oh nothing, a Fashion Week blizzard that befell the city the evening before. But passionate hackers arrived on time in the snow and slush, ready to create fashion and mobile applications drawing on Hearst’s API and those of the tech partners present.
I write in some detail about the best apps (and particularly about the best Microsoft platform-based projects) elsewhere at Publicyte.com, but here’s a sampler of some that I liked, in general:
One new app even projected Hearst’s magazine content onto the inside of an umbrella (how apropos in the bad weather) — take that, smartphones!
With startups like ModCloth, StyleSeat, Birchbox and others merging fashion and technology and making Fast Company’s “most innovative companies in technology” list for 2013, it’s more important than ever for fashion brands, media companies, and other entities in the space to be building relationships with tech-savvy idea people, developers, and established entrepreneurs.
By that standard, Hearst Fashion Hack was a success for its namesake. Wiser summed it up nicely for me just before the final app judging on the stunning 44th floor of Hearst Tower, overlooking Central Park and midtown Manhattan: “This event has already exceeded our expectations…Everything is upside from here.” I’m looking forward to seeing if Hearst Fashion Hack becomes a yearly New York Fashion Week staple.
Mark Drapeau, Ph.D. is the director of innovative engagement for Microsoft’s public sector division, is a member of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation, and is the producer of the Microsoft-Bloomingdale’s charity fashion show series Geek 2 Chic. You can follow him on Twitter at @cheeky_geeky.
Seems like forever, but President Obama’s second inauguration was just a week or so ago. I was fortunate enough to spend most of Inauguration Day at the Embassy of Canada. If you’re not that familiar with the layout of Washington, D.C., there aren’t that many private buildings to have an inauguration party near the Capitol or White House or along the parade route. There are a few hotels, the Newseum, the Canadian Embassy, and a few residential apartment buildings. That’s it. Otherwise you’re on foot, in the cold, where there’s not a lot of food and drink to be had.
In true Canadian style, the embassy threw a tailgate party for about 1,000 guests. It was terrific fun. But they didn’t just engage their audience at the party in the real world; they also had a small team of people engaging the attendees and people who weren’t even there in the virtual world. Here are the five secrets to their success.
Step One: Throw a remarkable event to get the right people to engage with you in the first place.
In the planning stages, it’s possible to get so wrapped up in debates about decisions like “what software will we use to display hashtagged tweets with” that not enough attention is paid to real-life aspects of an event to make the overall engagement remarkable (in the Seth Godin sense of the word). That wasn’t a problem at the Canadian Embassy tailgate party. There were friendly staff, quick check-ins, free mittens, hot coffee and cider, hot dogs and hamburgers and pastries and soup, Crown Royal and Molson and wine and soda, Mounties posing for photos, heat lamps, Blackberry giveaways, special messages from Ambassador Gary Doer, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, astronaut Chris Hadfield (the first Canadian to walk in space) videoconferencing from the International Space Station, and more. It was simply an outstanding party, the right kinds of people showed up, and wanted to stay all day.
Step Two: Create and utilize a memorable hashtag that lives beyond the initial event.
When I produce charity fashion shows for Microsoft and Bloomingdale’s, we use the hashtag #Geek2Chic. It’s short, it’s catchy, and it is not strictly tied to a certain day, location, or even event. It has a meaning beyond the Geek 2 Chic event proper. Likewise, the Embassy of Canada used the hashtag #ViewFrom501 to conjure up feelings about watching the inauguration, and especially the parade, from their building (the address of the Embassy of Canada is 501 Pennsylvania Ave., about five blocks from the Capitol and 11 from the White House). “View from 501″ is elegant, easy to remember, in the active voice, and can be used for pretty much any future event at the embassy. When somewhat forgettable embassy events in a capitol city are a dime a dozen, the Canadian Embassy is in a position to launch “View from 501 Hockey Happy Hours,” or any similar such thing and have the idea stick in people’s heads.
Step Three: Use a dedicated staff to curate and deploy social media from official and audience sources.
Staff at the Canadian Embassy left little to chance with social media, leveraging their existing Connect 2 Canada (”Canada’s network in the United States”) team to watch what people at their event were tweeting, find the best remarks and photos, and then curate that into a stream that was not only online but also on a very large screen set up at the tailgate. This didn’t surprise me — I wrote about C2C using social media for “public diplomacy” in an Oct. 2009 article for Washington Life — but it’s great to see them implementing better than ever. Attendees could watch CNN coverage with sound on one jumbotron, and simultaneously look at people’s quips and pictures on another one, adding an entire other dimension to the event. To my eye, the C2C team seemed to choose a lot of tweets with photos, which made the content more visually appealing. At one point, CNN began showing viewers’ Instagrams taken from the National Mall and tagged with #CNN next to the C2C-curated tweets. It all got very meta. Particularly on a day when phone and wi-fi connectivity was sometimes hard to come by, embassy staff using old-fashioned computers and large screens for this work was a very wise choice.
Having a decent hashtag and tweets displayed in near real-time on a screen is not unprecedented, of course. However, diplomats don’t necessarily have a reputation as adventurous technology and social media users, either. I reached out to the embassy to get a sense of what their social media strategy was at the tailgate event. Alexandra Vachon White, the Canadian Embassy’s deputy spokesperson related by email, “As the Embassy offers a unique vantage point to Inauguration festivities, we thought social media would be a great vehicle to provide access to our C2C followers on Twitter and Facebook who were not in attendance. Secondly, the screen featured at the tailgate party provided a vehicle for attendees to share their experiences in real-time. We also thought it was a great way to encourage guests to take full advantage of the activities and offerings of the event.” To briefly summarize that: Engage in-person attendees, share valuable information, and spread the story to a wider audience.
Step Four: Identify and interact with influential people engaged with the event
The tailgating party had a “main event” on the ground floor and in the expansive courtyard, and then a smaller VIP event hosted by Amb. Doer on a high floor of the embassy. Both portions had people of note walking around and enjoying themselves. Not only did the C2C team curate a lot of content from “average people,” but they also had some more specific goals in mind. It was not lost on them that numerous media reporters and editors were invited to the event. Thus, when they noticed tweets from, for example, Steve Chenevey of ABC 7, Brian Bolter of FOX 5, and Garrett Graff of Washingtonian magazine, they retweeted them, interacted with these relatively influential people, and amplified the fact that they had “VIPs” at the party to a wider audience paying attention from elsewhere.
I had drinks with public affairs officer Alexi Drucker, a longtime member of the C2C team, after the event. I asked her how they kept track of the most pertinent information in real time during what must have been a hectic day for the embassy staff. She told me, “In advance of the event, we identified Twitter handles for all confirmed partners, guests and participating media and actively followed their tweets throughout the day. The feed displayed on the screen in the courtyard was curated to showcase a diverse range of content from a variety of sources. We aimed for a healthy mix of images, Canada-U.S. trivia and guest feedback.” Most interesting to me was what must have been a lot of preparatory work prior to the event — Studying attendee and vendor lists, searching for, confirming, and saving people’s public social media accounts, using software to track social sharing, and then using that knowledge to execute a plan in real-time during a six-hour window. No doubt, the work in the week or two before the event saved a lot of time on the day off and removed some of the ambiguity and confusion that social media can contribute to.
Step Five: Promote the brands of your partners and friends in a fun way
Go figure: A lot of the food and drink at the tailgate party was Canadian in origin. But if you’re not Canadian, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about the history of various companies — perhaps how they’ve made inroads into the United States (most people at the party were American). After all, a primary goal of embassy outreach is to inform the locals about their country back home. So, we were treated to bits of info about Blackberry (Research in Motion’s CEO was apparently in attendance; I didn’t meet him), TD Bank (I think there’s a TD Bank pen in my swag bag, too), Molson (and I can neither confirm nor deny that I had two to three delicious Molson beers at the party), and Tim Horton’s, the beloved donut maker (who also provided warm coffee for attendees). This style of content + “advertising” makes both the main communications team (”stay on message”) and the sponsors (”thanks for the shoutout!”) happy, without being annoying to the audience that, let’s face it, mainly came to the event to stuff their faces with free poutine.
Cross-posted from Publicyte, a blog about technology, entrepreneurship and culture impacting the public good.
This post was originally published in Federal Computer Week on September 5, 2012.
Mark Drapeau is director of innovative engagement at Microsoft’s Public Sector division.
A recent Wall Street Journal story described the gadget sagas of busy professionals juggling a corporate-issued BlackBerry for work and an iPhone for everything else. Government employees — especially younger ones or those who are highly engaged with social media — are no different. For years, phones besides the standard-issue BlackBerry have been encroaching on the federal workplace, and increasingly, feds want to work within a mobile, wireless, connected environment.
Last month, I participated in an off-the-record panel about mobile device use within the Intelligence Community. As you are likely aware, the IC has stringent rules about cybersecurity, information security and related issues. Operating within that environment can make it hard to do what would otherwise be relatively simple tasks, such as checking one’s e-mail on the go.
Nevertheless, some IC progressives with air cover from senior leaders are making their top-secret workspaces more mobile. Change is coming. But it is coming too slowly for some, who are taking matters into their own hands.
In a trend that IT professionals have dubbed “bring your own device” (BYOD), feds are bringing their personal computing equipment into the workplace. Blocked from adding apps to your agency-issued BlackBerry? No problem, just use your personal smart phone. Office laptop old and clunky? No worries, just take your tablet PC to the cafeteria.
Obviously, there are serious security issues associated with BYOD in the government workplace. And yet, thought leaders in the IC and other places are adapting to the trend. However, now that BYOD has been tacitly accepted, the door has been opened not only to a disruption in how employees use technology to get their jobs done but also to their work/life balance.
BYOD goes beyond a technology and security issue for the CIO’s office. It is also a subtle but important human resources issue for managers and employees. Although private companies can order their employees to be tethered to their gadgets outside normal work hours, it’s not as obvious where the boundaries are for the public sector.
On the surface, it would seem unfair for federal managers to demand that their employees be connected to work 24/7. But left unchecked, “device creep” can sneak up on a workplace and lead to a situation in which people feel pressured to constantly be connected. What can managers do to maintain a balanced workplace for their employees?
One simple thing is to refrain from making BYOD mandatory. If some employees insist that taking notes using a smart phone app makes them more efficient, managers should encourage it. But they shouldn’t penalize people who choose not to spend $500 on a phone. The workplace should not turn into a competition between the haves and have-nots.
Another thing managers can do is gently discourage e-mail threads or similar collaborations outside relatively normal work hours. For example, if a few employees working on a project use their smart phones to reply to an e-mail thread between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. on a weeknight, that’s acceptable. But less-tethered employees in the same group should be allowed reasonable time to reply to the thread before any decision is made if the matter isn’t time-sensitive.
Finally, managers should realize that — even in this crazed decade of social media, mobile apps and ever-present cloud services — more technology is not necessarily better technology, being more connected does not necessarily mean an employee has better information, and working more hours doesn’t necessarily make someone more productive.
Unplugging from work — there’s no app for that.
This post was originally published by PBS MediaShift on September 4, 2012. I served as their correspondent on the ground at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL.
TAMPA, Fla. — For those who haven’t experienced it, a national political convention in America is something like a post-apocalyptic police state crossed with the Super Bowl and an Academy Awards red carpet.
Here at the site of this year’s Republican National Convention, bomb-sniffing dogs, Secret Service agents, and a tropical storm all made it hard for people to connect with each other. But social media probably made people feel more connected than ever. Twitter confirmed that more than 4 million tweets were sent during the GOP event — a one-day record for political conventions.
But we’re somewhat past the era during which merely using a social media platform is considered interesting. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare or any number of other platforms or apps, people are using them. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents can agree that they like social media.
Guests in Tampa were immediately greeted by a gigantic sign that boldly stated the official hashtag: #GOP2012. Times have changed since the John McCain/Sarah Palin campaign of 2008.
The convention officials themselves were using social media: conducting interviews with media via Skype, monitoring the hashtag. But this is what we have come to expect. It’s not particularly interesting.
(Note: Skype is now owned by Microsoft, my employer.)
Here’s what I did notice was standing out a bit at the GOP’s big event: collaborations between some unlikely bedfellows, overtly or presumably serving to show both partners in different lights. This took place in what one might call the “shadow convention,” the space outside the official proceedings with delegates and votes and state delegation breakfast meetings, where a melange of media and tech companies hold policy briefings, interact with convention VIPs, and underwrite after-hours parties. The shadow convention with its corporate stalwarts got fairly innovative in comparison to the convention proper.
Here’s a rundown of some innovations I saw:
1. CNN had a “CNN Grill” at the convention, as they typically do at large events like the conventions or SXSW. It serves as a combination working space for staff and full-service restaurant. Because you need a special pass to even get into the CNN Grill for one day, it’s a popular place to hang out. But CNN was also using social technology in the midst of all the hamburgers and beer. Deploying Skype, they created what they call Delegate Cam, and enabled people following from home to be able to talk to their delegate representative casting their vote inside the security perimeter.
2. Time partnered up with social location service and fellow New York-based company Foursquare on an interactive map that helped conventioneers find each other. I asked Time about why they thought this was an interesting experiment to deploy in Tampa. Time.com managing editor Catherine Sharick told me, “Time partnered with FourSquare for the political conventions in order to help solve a common problem: Where are people and what is happening?” Writing elsewhere, I gave it a “B” for usefulness (if I know where Time writer Mark Halpirin is, what exactly should I do with that information?), but an “A” for creativity.
3. Mobile short video service Tout collaborated with the Wall Street Journal to launch WSJ Worldstream, an effort by more than 2,000 global reporters who post vetted real-time videos from a special Tout iPhone app. The new video channel was launched in conjunction with the RNC. Reporters posted video interviews with delegates, protesters, and so on. Some of the videos will also be incorporated within longer online written pieces.
4. Microsoft (my employer), for its part, allowed me to use Pinterest to post real-time photos of the behind-the-scenes efforts of my colleagues. That included powering the IT infrastructure of the convention, conducting cyber-security monitoring, running Skype Studios for media and VIPs to conduct HD video interviews, and live-streaming the event on Xbox Live. Interestingly, Pinterest as far as I can tell, was not a popular medium during the GOP convention. I’m not sure if that’s significant, but I couldn’t easily find many pins from the convention.
Toward the end of the convention, social media watchers knew that the Republicans had a success by the numbers — millions of tweets and countless uses of the hashtags, photos uploaded, YouTube views of individual speeches, etc. But that’s expected now. One thing that was missing? A truly creative use of social media that involved more wittiness than brute force.
There were a couple of clever uses of social media by a prominent politician during the Republican convention. That politician just happens to be a Democrat by the name of Barack Obama.
The most popular tweet during the Republican National Convention wasn’t tweeted by a Republican. In a reference to the now-infamous Clint Eastwood “talking to an empty chair” speech, Obama’s account tweeted three simple words: “This chair’s taken.” It was retweeted more than 50,000 times and favorited more than 20,000 times. More importantly, it’s smart, it’s art, and it’s memorable.
Obama also hopped on the somewhat-edgy, somewhat-underground “front page of the Internet” Reddit to do something Redditors (as they’re dubbed) call “Ask Me Anything.” In a half-hour chat, the president took on all comers in a broad Q&A.
Heading into the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., I’m curious to see how it compares. I’ll be Pinteresting, CNN will be Skyping while they’re grilling, and the WSJ will be posting short videos. What’ll be the surprise there, if anything?
Mark Drapeau is the the director of innovative engagement for Microsoft’s public and civic sector business headquartered in D.C. He tweets @cheeky_geeky.