Quitting

 

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“Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world, I’ve done it a hundred times”
- Mark Twain

I’ve been a smoker for half my life, I started to casually smoke in high school but became a pack a day smoker in college and basically have been ever since. As many smokers will tell you lighting up and exhaling your stress and worry away (at least for a second) is a blissful relief a dozen or so times per day. The problem is it becomes debilitating morally and physically over time.  I know it’s terrible for you, I’ve read the reports seen the National Lung Association commercials and well fuck I’ve produced work for the ACS and Livestrong so after hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of studies, 2 lung cancer deaths in my family and essentially everyone in my life telling me to quit I finally did, and this time it’s for real. I mean I posted this on the internet so it must be real.

I’m doing this cold turkey in the middle of election season. When I say cold turkey I mean no nicotine, no e-cigarettes, no patches, no gum no anything. Annd it really fucking sucks.  But here are some things that I’m finding:

  • Unless you’ve quit smoking you have no idea how hard this is. It’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and I’m basically all alone – which I’m okay with.
  • I still go downstairs – but I go grab a water or a coffee and walk around the block. It’s actually amazing to look around outside when it’s fall in New York.
  • I only get real bad cravings 5 times per day for about 5 minutes. So I tell myself all I really need to do is plow through 25 minutes a day.
  • I really really really want to smoke during moments of heightened stress and am still looking for a good alternative for dealing with it. Any thoughts are welcome. 
  • Because I quit smoking doesn’t mean I quit drinking or eating french fries :)

My cranky meter is still pretty sky high but I’m dealing. If I can quit believe me anyone can. I think I’ll always miss smoking but I don’t want to be beholden to a tiny stick of tobacco anymore so I think everything will work itself out.  I’m not turning this into a quitting smoking blog but I’m going to periodically post some findings.

Diversity + Inclusion Wins cc: @Coca-Cola

If the 2012 elections taught us anything it’s that Americans want to move forward not back – that a message of diversity and wins. Consumers and voters alike want to know that the candidates and brands they advocate for understand them – their hopes, ambitions and daily struggles. Besides the fact that I’m an adopted Korean I have a strong desire to see our companies and politicians (and parties) promote and embrace diversity – not just when it’s convenient but every day.

Through this brilliant ad, Coca-Cola shows the world that their company is adapting to our changing demographics and political views. They put a stake in the ground and said our company is about embracing everyone no matter what you look like, what language you speak, or who you love.

History will be on the side of this ad and I know that in 10+ years people will look back on it as a catalyst for increased diversity in advertising. Coke has made an important statement to other advertisers – it’s okay to add more diversity to your spots (not just token minorities here and there). And why shouldn’t brands embrace this? When you look at our shifting demographics in fact non-white voters made up nearly 25% of the 2012 electorate (See the report from the Brookings Institution “Minority Turnout Determined the 2012 Election”). This number is only going to go up – do you want to be one of the first or one of the last to make diversity a central part of your communications to your growing audience?

Dancing hamsters (not that risky), Frogs and beer (not that risky), B-list celebs (not that risky), but showing people singing a patriotic song in their native language (apparently very risky). Tea Party conservatives like Allen West and “journalists from Fox stirred the pot on Twitter and helped jumpstart #BoycottCoke. The uproar and arguments against their latest Super Bowl ad are appalling but representative of an antiquated view of American values – one that says if you do not look and sound like me you do not have a place on America.

While many conservatives swelled in ignorance some members of the GOP should be commended Erick Erickson said, “People, the Coke ad was well done. This is so crazy that there is outrage over it. E Pluribus Unum isn’t English either.” (The phrase is Latin.) The Heritage Foundation even chimed in on Twitter with, “Did anyone else like the @CocaCola commercial as much as we did? What a beautiful nation we have!” But we need more – hate and intolerance is not a winning strategy and we need a stronger commitment from our corporate and political leaders to combat it. I don’t just mean a speech here and there – I mean every single day on social media, during press conferences and in conversations with staff and constituents – we need to eradicate discrimination and prejudice on all levels. It starts by standing on the right side of the conversation.

 

Corporate Real-Time Marketing Borrows From The Political Playbook

Before the rise of the Obama ’08 digital campaign, journalists and marketing executives alike extolled the virtues of consumer marketing. In their view political operatives needed to catch up to their corporate counterparts and find more efficient ways to reach, persuade and enlist people. We did. And then a funny thing happened, politics began to outpace corporate marketers in some fundamental areas not least of which is real-time marketing, in the political realm, rapid response. The best political operations did so with the bottom line in mind i.e. craft the news narrative, generate donations, enlist volunteers and get out the vote. The day in and day out digital slog has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, millions more have signed up and many others have registered to vote and came out to vote. Given the wide spread use of real-time marketing during the Super Bowl I think corporate marketers have begun to incorporate some lessons from political marketers.

Oreo was really the catalyst for the 2014 Super Bowl social brandfest. The Oreo team won accolades and awards for being witty and relevant and many brands and agencies jumped on this bandwagon to garner similar riches and accolades. Super Bowl XLVIII will most certainly go down as the first Social Bowl, where conversations mattered as much as commercials. @Tide @Hyundai @Esurance @Newcastle did a fantastic job of being relevant, funny and timely – they were playful and interacted with one another and the audience. The Social Bowl is deemed a “Blow Out for Brands,”Highest Engagement Ever,” and agencies are clamoring for the title of “Best Moment.” Brands who actively participated saw a treasure trove of engagement many seeing a 6X increase over their daily average and by all accounts this marks a watershed for brand utilization of real-time marketing. But to what end? Are folks more likely to purchase a VW? Earphones? A Hyundai? Did it change anyone’s mind? I’m not saying these efforts did or didn’t, but while many conversations were started with consumers on Super Bowl Sunday few have seen any true follow up, which is where I think politics has some room to teach consumer marketers.

I’m of the belief that there’s enough conversation happening around your organization to provide multiple relevant entry points everyday. The trick is to be aware of them and have the processes in place to activate around them at a moments notice. So here are a few points out of the political playbook that will help brands adhere to metrics that matter and follow up with potential customers:

Don’t Stop

Congratulations! your social media team pulled an all nighter for the Super Bowl, responded to hoards of people, and analyzed your mentions on your fancy social monitoring software. Now get up and do it the other 364 days. During an election year there is someone constantly manning social channels eeking out every last opportunity to engage with voters. The Super Bowl is not Election Day for businesses but it sure gets treated that way. You need to continue to develop business, sell products, and introduce people to the latest and greatest. This should be a day in and day out slog that requires intense message, risk assessment, and testing to command this properly properly.

Create Your Own Moments

Esurance gave away $1.5M (or the money it saved by being the first commercial after the Super Bowl) which is a smart one time play. The thing their marketers should be asking themselves is what’s next? How does this play into my culture, brand and long term initiatives? For all of those who “lost” the Esurance Twitter challenge (all 500,000 of them) there is nothing for us except a thanks for participating (actually I don’t think we even got that). Conversely, look at “Dinner with Barack” This moment was created and it worked not because you got a chance to have dinner with Barack Obama but because we could run the contest continuously, re engage people every time, and for those that couldn’t come they could watch the video or get a free bumper sticker – so give something to everyone! (Quick tip: millennials were raised to feel special where everyone gets a gold star just for showing up so do it)

Keep Up The Digital War Room

For the more advanced political groups there is a persistent war room (whether physical or via remote locations). Social managers, copy writers and designers are on call to post content every day. AdAge has a great piece covering the Hyundai digital war room - and I suspect most others had a similar set up – basically it’s a room full of copy editors, designers, developers, analysts and art directors who huddle and respond to the conversations happening in real time. This type of culture needs to be a part of every brands DNA everyday not just for the Super Bowl. Yes, it requires an investment but that’s the price for relevancy and immediacy despite all of the fancy new tools (buddy media, shoutlet etc.) the social web is still powered by people and people need to be hired and made an integral part of your company and culture.

Point People to Take Action

I don’t mean retweets, follows, mentions, or use of hashtags, I mean buy, sign up, Donate, subscribe – offline business metrics that increase the bottom line. (More on this below)

Let People Know What You Stand For

Much like the business world, in politics you are either on the offensive or defensive, but at greater scale because of the news media. The biggest difference in the political world ideologies are under attack rather than products. When you’re right and I’m wrong the debate becomes more heated and emotional. The best social accounts in politics defend ideologies and rally people behind an ideal or a movement rather than a person. Intentions matter, authenticity matters and if your goal is to get people to buy stuff then find interesting and relevant ways to increase purchase intent. Don’t pivot to fun and cute to buy my earphones it just doesn’t seem that genuine or relevant.

Bonus: Measure Things That Matter

Social vanity metrics are fun. They make you feel good when you see how many people retweeted you, or followed you, but they give you a false sense of security much like a “light” cigarette. I would love to read a post about a Super Bowl brand that said their social efforts persuaded x of their target universe or increased sales by Y percent, repeat purchasers at Z etc.

I’m glad that consumer marketing is starting to get more real-time which can only be good for digital budgets, staffing resources, creative campaigns and the industry at large. But, let’s agree to make Social Bowl II about metrics that matter. One last point, while brands and their agencies will fight over the best in class social programs and despite all of their all night effort a politico @HillaryClinton still owned the night.

What Journalists Can Teach Us About Networking

The minute you step into the professional world you quickly realize who you know is just as important as what you know. Social networks have made it increasingly easy for us to connect at scale and we now put a premium on gathering as many followers and friends as we can – but to what end?

I recently moved back to New York full time after splitting my time in D.C. for 2 years. One of my main goals upon moving back was to rekindle friendships that I didn’t have time to maintain and to meet new people. What I’ve found over the years is professional networking is truly an art form (that I am by no means the master of) so I mapped out a very quick game plan based on some observational lessons gleaned from journalists, entrepreneurs and people that were contacting me to connect. If you’re squarely in the middle between extrovert and introvert as I am hopefully you find this useful.

What’s Your Goal?

Whether you want a new job, new business, unearth new technology, get funding, find new hires or find people who will buy you drinks you should have a goal. Otherwise you can jump down the networking rabbit hole.

Target Your Networking Around a Specific Theme or Topic

While giving interviews and watching journalists in action their job, by nature, is to meet people around a specific theme or topic in order to build sources and leads. We all have limited time and targeted networking ensures you aren’t wasting it. I have a few key areas for networking (If you would like to connect please email me at mskidmore [at] bpimedia.com:

  • Technology and innovation: I love talking to co-founders and entrepreneurs, people with the same unbridled enthusiasm to create as my own. These people also tend to be the next disrupters and game changers – who wouldn’t want to meet these people?
  • Causes: People involved in political campaigns, non profits or causes help me get a lens into prevalent issues and better understand the real needs of others. They tend to also help with business leads for the firm.
  • The inspired: People that have a burning desire to disrupt and change the world. Some times these are co-founders and entrepreneurs but often times these are young professionals or even old professionals who get inspired to leave their corporate work to find a place that helps them channel their passion to solve real world problems through digital. These folks tend to be a great source of recruitment.

Ask People to Tell Their Story

I read biographies and watch documentaries about people because people are fascinating. Everyone has a unique story and I think its important to understand what motivates them. It also helps you remember their name! Bonus: actually listen and keep asking questions, people love talking about themselves and if they do most of the talking they’ll leave you thinking you are more interesting.  The best journalists take the time to get to know you and are actively interested in hearing you talk. There are also those that just rapid fire questions at you and barely pay attention to the answer.

Add Value

You’re either in need, help the need, have equal need, with the person you’re meeting. Until you understand what motivates people where the need meter is you won’t know how you can add value. Even those right out of school add value by simply listening and making a person feel they are imparting some wisdom. But, be humble and respectful no matter who you’re meeting.

Get Targeted Leads for Others

When you meet with someone ask them if they can connect you to 1 or 2 people doing ____. People are almost always willing to connect you with others they know. I’ve found that people are generally gracious with their network and at the very least are willing to connect you to someone else.

Just Do It

Journalists are persistent. Nothing prevents them from connecting with a good lead or source. In short they have brass ones and connect. Be proactive. Reach out to people and make it easy for them to connect set a time and place and be there.

Sometimes the only thing standing in between what you want is asking for it. So don’t be afraid to email or reach out to people. If you’re in NYC or DC please connect with me by shooting me an email at mskidmore [at] bpimedia.com. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

WPP + Blue State Digital

Today I woke up to a flood of email and Facebook messages pointing to an article titled WPP Buys Blue State Without Key Obama Digital Staff. I’ve officially been with Bully Pulpit Interactive for a month. During this time I’ve had little contact with anyone from BSD. My immediate reaction to my inbox this morning was joy for the partners and then intrigue about who could have been key to warrant a title like this. Needless to say I’m humbled by the article, and also by the talent that I’ve encountered at Bully Pulpit.

I think the WPP acquisition of Blue State Digital punctuates nicely the past 2 years of work and growth for them.

Two years ago the election had just ended; for some of us the work continued onto the transition site, change.gov; whitehouse.gov; or the Inaugural Comittee, PIC2009.org.

pic2009.com Inaugural Tickets

Two years ago to the day, Ian Koski (another ex Blue Stater) Andrew Bleeker (now my colleague, then New Media Director, PIC2009.org), and myself were in the midst of optimizing the Inaugural site. I had just launched direct marketing efforts for ticket promotions, the email from David Plouffe had been approved, and the last remaining item was whether to include a small or big image of the ticket on the home page.

Recently, Ian put together a Facebook group for BSD Alumni. Scott Zumwalt was first to point out the great work accomplished by us post BSD. I would like to formally give a shout to some ex-BSDers and their accomplishments post Blue State.

  • Macon Phillips: Director New Media, White House – (Deputy Director New Media, OFA)
  • Sam Graham-Felsen: Speaker & Journalist (Chief Blogger, OFA)
  • Chino Wong: Freelance Motion Graphics (Director of Motion Graphics, OFA)
  • Scott Zumwalt: Campaign Manager, It Gets Better Project
  • Ian Koski: Director of Communications, Senator Chris Coons
  • Katelyn Sabochik: Deputy Director New Media, White House
  • Phil de Vellis: Vice President, Murphy Putnam Media
  • Chris Stelmarski: Director New Media, Dept. of Homeland Security
  • Julia Eisman: New Media Director, Dept. of Health & Human Services
  • Clay Johnson (BSD Founder): Founder, Big Window Labs; Prior Director, Sunlight Labs
  • Dave Leichtman: VP, Salsa Labs

WPP lost out on a few other key individuals. As for me, I’m grateful and humbled to be on a list with these men and women and even more grateful to be in the company of Andrew Bleeker and Michael Organ at BPI now.

Google Zeitgeist 2010 + Skidmore

After new year’s 2009 I sent a thank you note to my staff for their hard work and highlighted our accomplishments over that year. As I was recently reminded this year started with us fighting for Ted Kennedy’s seat, which literally feels like 10 years ago. I recently saw the Google Zeitgeist 2010 video and I realized for the first time how long this year has been but also how gratifying the work was in 2010.

Being the data nerd that I am I did some calculations and me and my former team were involved in roughly 30% of the events listed here. To my former staff, here is your Mark Skidmore 2010 recap note:

As I often say we lose the forest for the trees. We get so consumed check-listing ad specs, concepts, landing pages, videos, content, scripts, and terms that we lose sight of the people we’ve helped, the minds we’ve changed, and movements we’ve started. Our families and friends don’t understand what we do, the media is constantly at our heels, and internal processes get more cumbersome by the day.

Thank you for your effort, your dedication, and your spirit. Here are your 2010 accomplishments:

  • We raised public engagement in the 2010 Winter Olympics over the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
  • We raised millions for Haiti quake victims which resulted in dozens of new hospitals, 2,000 new staff members, and aid to 1.5 million people.
  • We helped build the biggest electoral reform movement in the history of Britain with over 100,000 new constituents.
  • We helped Dan Thain and Nick Lowles bring down the BNP
  • We helped build one of the largest LGBT coalitions in the nation which ultimately helped overturn prop 8.
  • We launched the lightest beer in the world (at the time)
  • We rallied thousands of people for Healthcare Reform and drove thousands more to the Rally to Restore Sanity
  • We rose public awareness for the DREAM Act which came inches from passing
  • We helped repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
  • We launched an awful soft drink that apparently only tastes good mixed with 90% Stoli
  • We organized thousands around civil rights
  • Helped determine messaging for California’s budget problem
  • We got our first and only cease and desist from Fox News!

Despite all of the headaches, midnight phone calls, concept rejections, stress, weight gain – we were able to help better the world this year. Congratulations. Even though we’ve gone our separate ways I offer you my thoughts and prayers for a game changing 2011.

Warm Regards,

Mark

5 High Level #Roots10, Roots Camp Take Aways

- Email Isn’t Dead

- Awareness needs to be raised about how much $ is lost through the government procurement process

- Online and offline organizing needs to be connected better

- Organizations need to enlist support from people outside of their normal constituency base if they want real change to happen

- Facebook advertising is still more cost effective than building a flashy app

Do-Not-Track & The FTC

There is a lot of debate going on about the FTC report calling for a Do-Not-Track policy that will give consumers and users better controls over what data advertisers can collect about them. One vital point that isn’t being discussed, is how this might affect ‘free’ content and sites. For those who don’t know, advertising allows the web to be free… literally. If there wasn’t advertising you would have to pay a subscription to your favorite services. Imagine a monthly fee to search on Google, login to Facebook, read OMG, Perez Hilton, ESPN, or really any of your favorite sites. Would you pay for these services that you’ve been able to get free for the past 10 years?

Ad networks charge a premium for behavioral targeting and remessaging options. The more finely targeted you want the more expensive the ad units. Ultimately, this will affect pay outs to site owners that exist within their network. I suspect that if the FTC actually acts, it won’t affect agency folk or the clients themselves as much as it will affect site owners and behemoth ad properties like Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL. At some point the lost revenue will be passed back to the consumer.

One thing I’ve learned in my years with the tech industry– innovation will not cease, and workarounds will be found. If a do-not-track policy ever comes to fruition it won’t cripple the online advertising industry but it will set it back a little.

Lastly, I have a bit of a gripe about politicians making noise about this since they most likely used online advertising tracking during their last campaign. Before any politician jumps on board to support a Do-Not-Track measure, I would ask them to get a briefing from their agency or campaign staff as to what online advertising methods were used.

Leaving Blue State Digital for a Bully Pulpit

I have officially moved on from Blue State Digital. Effective today I am joining Bully Pulpit Interactive as Managing Director, in charge of marketing operations. I am excited to be joining Ben Clark and Andrew Bleeker, for whom I have the utmost professional and personal respect. I know we and the team at BPI will be tremendous assets to any projects we take on.

I decided to join Bully Pulpit for several reasons. First, I was drawn to the enthusiasm and passion of BPI’s staff. Getting to know them has been an absolute pleasure. Second, I worked with Andrew on the Presidential Inaugural Committee during the Obama-Biden Transition; and know that he and I have a great working and personal relationship. Third, I am deeply driven by the candidates, causes, and corporations that I am passionate about, and BPI’s current projects line up with the work that I want to tackle. Lastly, I believe in the true integration of offline and online advertising and media and BPI is best positioned to make this happen. I can honestly say I haven’t been this excited since 2008.

Nearly 3 years ago, I joined Blue State Digital as Director of Advertising. My task was to bring my corporate, ROI driven focus to the realm of politics and public affairs. Over the next few years my team and I would help change the way our space conceived of and used online advertising and digital strategy.

There aren’t words to express my gratitude to the partners of BSD, the staff, and clients. However, I will say that these last 3 years were absolutely incredible, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. We rejoiced together on election night 2008 , and cheered at the steps of the Capitol Building on Inauguration day. We mourned and consoled one another at the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. And we saddled up to raise money and provide aid to the people of Haiti. We affected global events, changed the political discourse, raised millions of dollars and organized millions of people around the world. Special thanks to my team Naomi, Adam, Mike, and Veronica; to the BSD partners, and the staff- Thank you for letting me be a part of the last 3 years.

To the staff at Bully Pulpit, I look forward to working and growing with you. I’m ready for the challenges and work ahead. Game On.

In Google We Trust?

Apparently Google has a bit of a Public Relations problem on the back of shady sites ranking high for terms and costing consumers money. Most people believe Google to be a technological wonder, a miracle perhaps that just simply knows what we want before we know what we want. With 85% of more users clicking first page results it is evident that the masses put blind faith and trust into the behemoth search engine. However in a recent New York Times article by David Segal, highlights how- unscrupulous sites are ranking high in Google because of links from negative reviews. This is probably the one line that is getting Google into the most trouble, “Is it true, as Mr. Borker says, that Google is unable to distinguish between adulatory buzz and scathing critiques when it scours the digital universe and ranks the best and the brightest?” Google isn’t really satisfying anyone with answers either. They obviously won’t divulge any information related to the algorithm but now even worse than the public knowing their secret is the public not really caring because it seems like a flim flam.

In my experience there are 3 main things that matter links, title tags, and frequent updated content. If you can get tons of links then you’re ahead of those who have great title tags and content. Most people should know that Google does not weight customer reviews in their algorithm. They should and if I were Google I would simply say that they are working on ways to incorporate reviews and user feedback into their algorithm. Then actually do it. I think this was what they had in mind for a Yelp acquisition. In closing, I’m reminded of a quote by Ivan Vanko, the villain in Iron Man 2 who said, “If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in him.” Google’s bleeding a bit right now, they need a band aid before this wound opens up and they lose street cred.