I too can be an ass . . .

This post is really directed at the 10 fantastic writers at PRBreakfastClub.com

And so it is that because of a previously scheduled meeting I was late (very late, as in joining in the last five minutes late) for the PRBC 12for12K/GG24 chat.

Picking up on an earlier comment I referred to the fantastic writers of the PRBreakfastClub as my “my minions.”

ScreenHunter_02 Sep. 29 22.59

I certainly hope each and every one of the fantastic folks I have the honor of calling my friends and colleagues realizes the comment was made in jest.

This post is, of course, not an excuse, but merely an explanation.

By no means do I consider any of you my minions (or anyone’s minion in fact).  Every chance I get I sing your praises to our colleagues in the field when asked (and sometimes when not) and anyone else that’ll listen.

I could go on and on about how each time I get the honor of reading each of your posts before the rest of the world, I feel I’ve learned something new, not only about our field, but about each of you and each time it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything….. [look at that ellipse abuse] but I usually get called out for ranting on my blog too much so I’ll cut it a bit short tonight.

G’night friends.

This is Another Call (Out) [Updated, please read to the end]

It seems this is necessary again…

I really didn’t intend for this to become an attack blog, but sometimes the occasion calls for it and with so much time going into PRBC it seems these are the only posts that end up here.  I’m ok with that.

[clearspring_widget title=”Grooveshark Widget: Single Song” wid=”48f3f305ad1283e4″ pid=”4ab9b54c148455df” width=”400″ height=”40″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

This one is response to Barbara Talisman’s blatant attempted attention-getting, inaccurate and mean posting in response to 12for12K’s latest fundraising effort

Now of my rockstaresque qualities (I can already hear the rest of the PRBC laughing) I’ve never claimed to be a master fundraiser. I’ve never claimed much of anything except being able to spot bullshit when I see it.  So let’s start….[Except where noted, block quotes are from Ms. Talisman’s post].

continuing on my rant about social media gurus

Hmmm, I’ve never known Mr. Brown to claim to be a SM guru — in fact he posts about his exhaustion with such things in a November 08 post.  A cause the PRBC fully supports.  In fact Mr. Brown states in that post “Yet that doesn’t mean I’m a guru or expert.”  So let’s immediately deflate Mr. Brown’s head in the image she is trying to convey to you of who he is.

Sponsorships being sold on EBay and Henny (?) will be hosting the Tweetathon.

I’ve never known it was possible to sell anything on Henny.  A 30 second  search would’ve brought Ms. Talisman to the identity of the elusive Henie even with misspellings.  The research here is already lacking.  Not so great for a “consultant and trusted advisor”.  I’m also worried about that sentence structure as I’m not sure how anything is sold on “EBay (sic) and Henny will be…”

Low balling once again – $250 opening bid and $350 Buy it Now.  Launching on September 29.

This we’ll come back to visit later…

Very confusing on the call…..

If Ms. Talisman was confused she should’ve said something on the call.  Or “directed” Mr. Brown, or emailed any of the other participants.  Or waited for the formal announcement.  But let’s be honest, she wasn’t confused, she wants to make the organization look bad and fluff herself in the process.

So here we are six months into Danny Brown’s well intentioned “12for12K campaign – Changing the World through Social Media.” So far, six organizations nominated by folk and selected by Brown are a part of a social media campaign to raise money.

This paragraph says nothing a calendar couldn’t.  Thanks.  How about “So here we are six months into Danny Brown’s well intentioned “12for12K campaign – Changing the World through Social Media” and….<insert conclusion/assertion.”  Then we would’ve been told something.

Allegedly – I have to ask if it was a campaign to raise money or raise awareness and business for Danny Brown. (And I realize by writing this I am only playing into the hype! But maybe this will also give the charities another opportunity to raise some more money.)

Huh?  What’s with the leading “Allegedly.”  I’m not a moron, I know what Ms. Talisman is trying to say, but it’s not coming across in Enlgish (SII — Spelled Incorrectly Intentionally).

The idea is 12 charities raising $12K each in a month or some period of time. I find it interesting Danny selected a photo where he is not looking at the camera or you.

Holy non-sequiturs Batman.  Yes, 12 charities, 12 months, 12K per month (“or some period”).  Quickly followed by an attack of the picture as a sign of dishonesty?

What is it with the attacks on pictures lately?

Since it appears important, however, I know Mr. Brown’s avatar up to a few weeks or months  ago was an image of him looking directly into the camera and only recently replaced with this more formal headshot.  So I guess he recently became a dishonest SM Guru.

But seriously, we’ve got friends, Congressmen, former presidents who will look an investigating panel in the face and lie.  But because Mr. Brown is looking down we’re not to trust him.  It’s not only ridiculous and preposterous it’s simply 1) Wrong (as in incorrect) 2) Wrong (as in questionably moral) and 3) bushleague from someone who should be a “trusted advisor” and theoretically thought leader in her field.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Share our Strength, none of the charities have come close to raising the $12,000.

Well 2 problems here.  1) It’s inaccurate — see Mr. Brown’s post for full details on this part 2) Inconsistent — mere paragraphs earlier Ms. Talisman accused Mr. Brown of “low balling.”  If he is indeed low balling then he should be hitting his mark every month.  If he’s not low balling then it means he’s working hard to make a difference and there’s possibly room for additional work and/or improvement.  Something I’ve always been taught is a sign of a person being challenged by a goal they’re still striving for — a good thing.

There’s a distrust of attorneys who claim to have never lost a case — it usually means they aren’t taking any difficult cases, this is the same thing.  Mr. Brown has set a goal for 12for12K.  If they’re still working toward that goal on a monthly basis then they are suitably challenged. You can’t not have your cake and not eat it too.

While Danny has created quite a presence for himself and a groundswell of Tweets and RTs on and off – it has not resulted in these charities reaching their goal.

Wait for it.

We need to use the social media more effectively to raise money. Like old fashioned fundraising success comes from:

  • Good case for support
  • Urgency – now not tomorrow or next month
  • Connection – to the cause or leadership
  • People give to people – give because someone asked

And here we go — this is the message Ms. Talisman has been trying to deliver — “Look at me, here’s what I know about my field.  Please get out of here you upstart.”

Like old fashioned fundraising — ok.

Good case for support — Since I’ve known him, each of Mr. Brown’s selected charities have been compelling and ‘sold’ to the 12for12K fundraisers compellingly.

Urgency — If she says so, Ms. Talisman may be right here.  Mr. Brown’s unique 12 month / 12 charity cycle automatically builds in this component.  As if any of the organization’s supporters really needed reminding that tragedies are happening now and support has to come now.  We get it.

Connection — Ahh, the key one.  “to the cause or leadership.”  That’s exactly what Mr. Brown has done — built a small army of supporters who hold events, network with each other and other they know in an attempt to do some good.  Some of the best twitter people I know I’ve met through 12for12K.  Whenever the opportunity arises I always try to integrate the organization into a project — not because I have to, because the causes are good, and the other 12for12K-ers good people.  They believe in what they’re doing  and I’ve seen that belief in their eye (pun intended based on my own avatar).

And so the “groundswell of Tweets and RTs” Ms. Talisman pokes fun at in the prior paragraph would seem to prove this connection to the cause and its leadership.  This isn’t putting the cart before the horse, or the pot calling the kettle black — it’s putting the kettle before the horse.

Either he’s not doing it or he is.  Or she’s just trying to use Mr. Brown and 12for12K’s following (15K+ on twitter) as a platform to deliver her message (more on this in a bit) since her own following of under 900 isn’t suitable.  Not a bad tactic — attack a leader of many and see if you can get some of them to join your cause by showing what you’ve got.  I don’t think it’ll have the intended fallout this time though.

People give to people — Yes.  We’re all people asking other people to give their time, money or knowledge to the cause of the month.  Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.

And then the whipped cream and cherry …

More ideas for using social media to raise money, see my next blog post.

Ahh, now here’s the real message.  I’ve told you how it’s being done wrong, attacked someone and their organization in its inaugural year, but now I’ll show you how to really do it in my next “episode.”

I won’t even begin to address some of the fishy issues Mr. Brown does in his own response, such as (from Mr. Brown’s blog):

…you [Ms. Talisman] contacted me earlier this year through email (and then phone call) suggesting that donations raised go to your company instead of the charities. You would then use this money to “consult” these charities.

I mentioned at the time that I wanted all funds to go to the charities themselves, and not to a company that may or may not help.

I won’t even pick up pencil and pad to describe how sketchy and the creepy crawlies I got when reading that.  I can only hope it’s an error on someone’s part and Ms. Talisman did not actually suggest (and pitch and re-pitch) such a thing.

Simply put, there are better ways to go about attacking someone’s technique.  Particularly in this field.  Bring me case studies, bring me proven campaigns, bring me your knowledge, work with me for a few weeks and (just like in grade school) show, not tell me how to do it if your goal is indeed properly aligned with what you claim it to be.  Heavens knows Mr. Brown will take the input and assistance of anyone willing to help out.

Here’s the challenge — Rather than knock someone down for  doing good, join them.  Host a 12for12K fundraiser Ms. Talisman.  Show the rest of the group how it’s done.  Put in your own 60-90 days planning an event, with no payoff,  and knock our effin socks off with your work.  We’ve all put in our pound of flesh and continue to do so.  Now it’s your turn.

Update (9/23/09 20:30 Eastern)

Some additional posts on this topic (sorry for the quick and dirty links — I’ve got some other stuff to get to, but I’ll come back and prettify it later):

And, perhaps most importantly, an apology from Ms. Talisman.  Definitely worth the read and I’m sure we all appreciate the comments.


e need to use the social media more effectively to raise money. Like old fashioned fundraising success comes from:
Good case for support
Urgency – now not tomorrow or next month
Connection – to the cause or leadership
People give to people – give because someone asked

Too long for a comment…

This post is, in its entirety a response to a blog comment over at PRBreakfastClub.com.   Per my usual m.o. I chase down the points in the discussion to their conclusions so the answer got a bit long.  Rather than blow up the comment system at PRBC I posted the response here, with a link at the other page.  Any direct responses that might develop the conversation should be posted there.

Hi JR —

Welcome to the blog. I hope we can expect to see you around in the future as well.

All evidence to the contrary I don’t like to disagree with people but I’m intrigued by your comments. And so…..

Skipping your comment regarding the tech boom of the last decade and half, since I’m not convinced it has been driven by young people, it seems (from a number of your assertions) that we’re working with different definitions of “expert.”

Multiple definitions of expert include some mention of ‘expert’ status deriving from knowledge (through education/training) or experience in a particular area (wikipedia (whose page on this is actually quite good) and dictionary.com). Taking that into consideration it would appear that the ‘expert’ claim should only apply to a small piece (or multiple individual pieces) of the puzzle not the puzzle as a whole, likely because the puzzle is normally too broad of a landscape for any one person to be an expert in all of it.

Now, of course a significant part of this is semantics (and this is not an issue w/ your post but rather the definition and how we frame the question). Someone can claim to be a ‘computer expert’ but to use that term implies they know enough of what there is to know about every hardware and software option from mainframe and distributed computing systems to my iPhone (which is essentially a computer with a phone thrown in).

If we pare this down to ‘expert in desktop systems’ then we’re approaching something that is actually possible. I’ve had colleagues who are well versed in the three major desktop platforms and can be called upon to express an informed opinion based on education and experience. That being said, even they were not experts at each aspect of each system — they may have known the software platform but when it came to suggesting specific hardware or applications would occasionally fall flat. Part of the question when trying to call upon an expert is finding what expert you need.

Similar to researching a doctor, attorney, accountant, or flack….errr PR Pro — what area of the field do they know about — I wouldn’t approach an OB/GYN with questions about the rash on my arm, a litigator to form a company, a personal accountant to do the books for my Fortune 500 company or a book publicist to handle a new consumer electronic launch. Unless they’ve got true ‘mad skillz’ they don’t have the knowledge or experience in my necesssary small piece of the puzzle.

Anyway —

Regarding your mention of Netscape and Napster – taking a more macro view of technology – yes people still do use Netscape and Napster. Netscape introduced at least four technology revolutions (the company made the web practical for e-commerce by developing SSL, was one side of the 1st browser war, spawned the Mozilla Foundation (one of the major players in the open source revolution) and through Firefox is a player in the 2nd browser war). There’s still Netscape code on a significant number of desktop PCs in use today. Napster spawned the entire peer-to-peer file transfer system which kicked (and continues to kick) the MPAA/RIAA’s tush for the last 10 years. So while these two individual companies may have not had business savvy, to say they (or their users/developers) weren’t experts in their respective fields may be off the mark.

I am though intrigued as to the business savvy requirement / expertise connection you mention. I’m not aware of any claim that experts be profitable (consider all the sheer-genius absent minded professors we all know who are certainly experts but couldn’t balance a checkbook with an accountant and triple beam scale). And, while we’re on the topic, Netscape was purchased by AOL for the stock equivalent of 4.2 billion. Not too shabby.

I’m also of the opinion that examining twitter as the area of expertise these youngin’s can excel at might be under-inclusive.  Any PR Pro relying on twitter as the only aspect to a social media presence has not only missed the boat but is likely not anywhere near the shore. Social media is not just about a single platform but using the appropriate platform for the appropriate audience.   A photographer on twitter — great…I hope they’re also using flickr (or other photo site). A musical performer – they need to also be using a platform to distribute their files. A really long-winded PR Pro (*ahem*) that likes to analyze and discuss everything ad nauseam must have a blog to handle the volume of the writing because comment boxes can explode and Twitter’s just too short.

And to say Social Media hasn’t rewritten the ‘book’ (though I’m not sure which book we’re referring to exactly) would be, IMHO, a tad late as SM, in one form or another, has been around for approximately 2 decades and has rewritten many books. We didn’t call it social media back then — but AOL chatrooms, BBS systems, message boards, etc. were all early social media platforms.

Podcasting’s dead? Don’t tell the folks at the Wall Street Journal, Wired, or the other podcasters (especially the piles of music blogs). Same question regarding direct mail (I still get tonnes of it) and billboards (which I saw plenty of this weekend). As far as today’s “experts” being replaced — that’ll be the true test of expertise — whether today’s crop can adapt and move with the technology. I have faith that they can.

Plenty of ‘old skool’ flacks have joined the twitter revolution — it doesn’t mean they don’t pick up pen and paper (some literally — thanks Heather) and write a long form press release before announcing its presence to the twitterverse and flacking the dead horse there.

I don’t think we’re going to find piles of ‘underqualified for anything other than social media flacks’ anytime in the future, at least not the good ones (the bad ones will weed themselves out at some point no matter how much we try to help them). There’s plenty of hours in the day and days in the year for everyone to pick up a new skill to help them excel. In fact, the highly talented Valerie Simon has an excellent guest blog post on this topic at the Journalistics.com blog.  [Shameless plug — Valerie will be guest posting at PRBreakfastClub.com on Wednesday]

For comparison in another field Consider Marc Andreessen – one of the Netscape founders (an example of your choosing). Following the AOL acquisition of Netscape he went on to form Loudcloud (later Opsware) which was acquired by HP for 1.6 Billion and has recently formed Ning. If memory serves he’s one of the few silicon valley guys to have 2 billion-dollar (plus) companies acquired (Thanks @sarahcuda).

He co-founded Netscape in 1994, when he was 23. Opsware 5 years later, so he would’ve been 28. Ning in 2005 making him 34 at the time. He’s currently an investor in Digg, Netvibes and Twitter and sits on the board of Facebook, eBay, the Open Media Network as well founding his own VC firm, which (literally) days ago acquired a majority stake in Skype. At the age of 38. While we can’t all be Andreessens there are plenty like him who evolve and move with their markets. Learn the new tools when they become worthwhile and discard them when not.

That’s what life is all about – taking in the new, experiencing things, getting the most out of them, seeing how they work for you and then picking and choosing which parts you choose to retain and which you choose to not hold onto, carrying on and repeating.

Simple fact is there are still people using AOL notwithstanding how horrible it is. There are still people using non-smartphones even though there are plenty of options out there now for smartphones that do so much more. But their chosen tech works for them and their purposes. The same applies to direct mail, billboards and podcasts. If they didn’t fit the needs of the person or company using them they’d stop, but they do continue to work.

Given our prior discussion on what makes an expert I’m not sure how one can call oneself an expert when we can lead “a team working on technology we don’t even understand,” when one of the requirements of being an expert is knowledge or training in the field. Further I’m mystified where any kind of leadership requirement comes in. Is being able to lead a team a valuable skill — of course.

Can people who are not experts lead a team — yes: usually to failure unless that leader surrounds themselves with others who are experts in that area. Good leadership without specific expertise is done all the time with great success — Politicians lead their constituency without knowing everything there is to know about business, education, environmental issues, healthcare, etc. of their designated regions. Military leaders don’t know everything there is to know about the local population, geography/terrain, politics, climate, etc. of the region they’re working in. Rather they are successful because they know how (and when) to call upon the experts in the areas of knowledge in which they’re lacking.

“Technology changes, the basics do not.” I certainly agree with you here. I certainly hope the basics are still being taught. For flacks – proper sentence structure, persuasive writing, client and journalist relations, all that fun stuff. From the high skill level I’ve seen among the youngin’s around me it would appear we’re secure in the basics.

Though I am mystified by “only years of experience can give us the foundation that is needed to be truly effective with the twitters of the world.” Based on your own comment Twitter will be replaced in short order and no textbooks re-written because of it. When do these “years of experience” come in and why would you want “the foundation that is needed to be to be truly effective with the twitters of the world.” The great thing about “emerging technologies” is that those on top of their game will continue to learn the technology and stay at the front line of the tech revolution.

Since it seems from the lack of profile attached to your comment (and a quick google search) you’re not a Twitter user yourself, though I could certainly be wrong on that (I’m skipping the Facebook possibility because I know a number of people, myself included, prefer not to attach their professional work to a personal Facebook profile).  I am curious what “fancy computer witchcraft” you prefer/endorse for your professional activities.

I’m also a bit perplexed that you can’t do the jobs of the the ‘pen & paper generation,’ specifically if the basics do not change. Shouldn’t their skill set be an integral part of your own formal or on-the-job education? Perhaps you wouldn’t be able to do it with the same speed, flair or success rate, but certainly I’d expect you’d be able to do the work, even as the most jaded SM-worshipping PR Pro can still put together a press release that conveys the important information in some manner that is engaging.

The Thought Leadership Trap….

Please ignore that headline — It’s misleading at best, and just a ploy to get you to click on the link at worst…but now that you’re here, an explanation….

The fantastic Elizabeth Sosnow posed a question the other day that I knew would spend time bouncing around in the back of my head until I sat down and tried to answer it (or the answer came forwards all on its own).  It could also be that she was just sitting in traffic, bored and wanted some dialogue and I got stuck in the trap (headline tie-in — trap…get it?  Watch for the rest of the tie-in, below).  That question — well here you go….

"Do you think thought leaders are 'born' or are 'self made?'"

Thought Leadership…trap..get it?  It’s funny, no?….laugh damnit! (No TJ, you can’t copy edit those sentences and I won’t use the Oxford comma here =] ).

Ok, so there we are.

Like any overeducated, overthinking professional I began to consider the question, analyze each aspect of it and pry the question apart.

That’s not true.

What I did, like any overeducated, otherthinking flack is begin to construct ridiculously configured long flowy Philosophy 302 paragraphs while skipping the substance of the question itself.  Yes, I was seduced by the mystique of a good question, a chance to stretch long dormant muscles.

Then I sat down to write and reread the question and realized I actually did not have a good answer.

So let’s examine the question first — let’s figure out what a “thought leader” is.  It turns out wikipedia can answer the question for us and get us to its first usage.  A thought leader is “a futurist or person who is recognized among peers and mentors for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights.”

So the leader portion refers to the person’s ability to lead, not the concepts the person themselves creates as leading (groundbreaking) opinions.  So basically we’re talking about smart leaders.

Not a lot of help for Elizabeth’s question because now we have two questions:

  1. Are leaders born or self made
  2. Are thought[ful / thinking] people born or self made.

Let’s attack #2 first.  Cop out on this one — these kinds of people (we’ll call them ‘smart’ for these purposes) can be both self made and born.  We’ve all known the guy (or gal) in the office who has that spark — can walk into a room, look at a problem the rest of the team has been puzzling over for days and say, “turn it left 90 degrees” and suddenly the problem is fixed.  He’s the guy that can intuit the answer to the problem at hand.  The problem with innately smart people — it always comes easy to them and so they frequently don’t need to work particularly hard because they don’t have to.  There are definitely some who still work hard, but from my own experience they rely on their innate talents far too long and have a hard time picking up the skills required to do the hard work when it’s time.

They were the kids in school who didn’t do their math problem sample tests, questions or homework because once they learned to do whatever the question was they could just do it.  No practice required.  They could sit down at a piano and replay something they had heard days earlier, but better.  You know the type.  You hate them.

Then there’s the other guy on the team — the guy you hand the problem to who will work at it.  He’ll look like crap for days until the problem is solved because he’s at his desk researching every possible solution for way too late every night, looking up the potential answer in texts in sanskrit and because he doesn’t trust the translation he’ll learn sanskrit along the way.  He has no flair for the dramatic.  When he presents his answer it won’t be “turn it left 90 degrees.”  It’ll be 90 minutes of how he got the answer and then end with “and now turn it left 90 degrees.”  He’s a great worker, but heaven help him if he has to lie or give an answer on his feet he hasn’t prepped for.  You hate him too, but are happy to grab a beer with him.

So — short answer — both.

Now — are leaders born or self made.

All the definitions I’ve found have, in some manner or another, included two primary elements — the ability to ‘rally the troops’ — that is to get people to believe in you and/or your cause; and get them to work to that common end.

Again we’ll dispose of the 2nd one first — a good leader should be able to get their people to follow them in any cause.  We’ve seen this power abused throughout history in dictatorial regimes, etc.  The ’cause’ is secondary to the ability to get the supporters.

Now, onto the first element.  This one seems to boil down to charisma — a leader is a person charismatic enough to get others to follow their lead.

Can charisma be taught or learned?  Who knows…but it doesn’t matter because there’s a twist to our question….

The question gets more complex.  As a previously shy person, with minimal ‘charisma,’ when I was younger, over time I learned/was taught to come out of my shell and try to be more engaging (not so sure I’d go so far as to say charismatic).  Here’s the kicker  — I’m not sure I was ever ‘taught’ this.  It’s entirely possible the traits/skills were actually just dormant and I became more comfortable with them simply as something that occured as part of the maturing process one goes through in those formative years.  Meaning it’s theoretically possible for someone to seem uncharismatic and over time (whether through ‘self-making’ or simple maturity/growth) develops into a more engaging person.

To hell if I know.

But after all this (and most of a serving of absinthe) I’ve decided it doesn’t matter – sorry Elizabeth.

Here’s why — the true thought leaders, the ones that possess all the necessary skills and that spark to put it all together, will naturally emerge in some way — in their own environments, sectors, fields, etc.  Some may not go far, but they will be a leader in their own right.  The union president — yup, that’s him, give him an ivy league education and he’s a senator.  The PTA mom  — maybe (she could just be bitter and no one else cares).  The SVP that can’t get promoted because he’s too good dealing with operations and actual people — it’s her.

Odds are there’s a single true thought leader of every 100 or more that possess the necessary skills on paper.

There’s no need to identify them and refine their skills.  Those that aren’t born with it all won’t catch-up to those that have it naturally and work at it simultaneously.  And if someone doesn’t have the complete package or the desire to cultivate their talent — do we really want to force it on them?  True thought leaders will have everything needed to break away from the pack, including the desire to do so.

It would seem though, that at the end of all of this there is a single answer (ok, maybe it does matter Elizabeth).


The skillset must exist in the person to be sufficiently cultivated throughout their lifetime that they can lead when the time is right. But they must also have the innate drive to continually self-improve so they know where and how to lead their people.

This was fun.