Archive for year 2012

Have you become a STOP SOPA lemming?


Note: If you’re just stumbling on to this post, both bills have been withdrawn at this time but keep reading. The points are still valid. An excellent wrap up of the issue is contained in this New York Times piece: It’s time to put down the pitchforks on SOPA.

The current controversy over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as U.S. House Bill 3261, is highly disturbing on several levels, and the actual bill might be the least of our worries, in the long-term.

I am against piracy, but I’m also against this bill.  The proposal is so out of touch with reality that it is embarassing.  It looks like the opposition is gaining momentum, so that is a relief.

But here is something that is just as disturbing to me. Many people I know became “Stop SOPA” lemmings.

Follow the leader?

Legend has it that a lemming is a little rodent that blindly and unquestioningly follows their leader, even when they follow them over a cliff to their death (they don’t actually do this but that is another story).

I questioned three well-known social media leaders about why they were supporting SOPA and actively encouraging their followers to attach a “Stop SOPA” badge to their profiles. Here is a summary of their responses:

“I’m not what you would call an expert on this. I haven’t even read the bill. I’m trusting what I read from others.”

“To be honest, I don’t know what is in the bill. But based on how people are reacting it must be bad.”

“I have not read the bill and I do not intend to read the bill. What is in the bill is irrelevant. They are taking away our rights.”

You see, on the social web, “Stop SOPA” is not a political issue, for many. “Stop SOPA” has become a meme.  This movement was passed from person to person without much independent thought or an educated response. It has become the Keyboard Cat of political statements.

I fully appreciate the importance of “social proof” on the Internet. In the absence of direction, we may look to trusted others for an idea of what to do. But come on folks. This proposed legislation directly affects the very heart of our lives and our livelihoods. There is no excuse in encouraging action from your trusting followers without doing a little homework.

But what about the problem?

The third level of concern this proposed legislation created was the fact that everybody seems to be against SOPA but there has been little  intelligent dialogue about the actual issue of stopping piracy.  And stealing is “our right” is not a viable answer in my book.  Please, take a strong stand … but also help provide some answers.

Here is the problem in a nutshell. I just spent nearly a year of my life writing a book. If there is no hope of getting paid for the difficult work and sacrifice that goes into creating content like this in the future, I will never write another book.  And so on.

When you steal content, you’re not beating a greedy corporation. You’re not sticking it to “the man.” You’re sticking it to me, and millions of other writers, filmmakers, musicians, software developers, and other hard-working content creators.

Some claim that alternative monetization models will emerge to allow people to continue to create and prosper in spite of what seems like unstoppable piracy.  But we have been stealing legally-protected content for 20 years now. If an easy monetization alternative were available, wouldn’t it have emerged by now? It hasn’t, and it won’t. And yes, I’ve read the book Free by Chris Anderson and still believe there is probably no answer to widespread content theft other than some sort of legislation. We need to come to terms with that fact and be part of the solution.

OK, that is enough of the rant. This time it was SOPA. But the next time we “go lemming,” will it be something even more important? And at what cost? I was really disturbed by the herd mentality I witnessed.  What about you?

Blogging and the fairness challenge

A dear friend was recently lamenting that her blog had become nothing but blah, blah, blah.  There was no commentary, discussion, or meaningful debate. But ironically, she said that it was not her style to “take a stand” on any issue. She would rather go with the flow.

Obviously if you stay in the safety zone of “likability,” you’re never going to attract much conversation other than a polite “great post!”  But think about this … on the social web, the only distinct value you can deliver is your opinion.  And if you never offer an honest opinion, you’re not really creating much value. You are probably well-liked but invisible.

My story

When I was in my 20s, I had a revelation that helped me be a better man and a ultimately, a better blogger.

In a performance review, my boss made an interesting observation: it seemed like it was important — maybe too important — for me to be “liked.” At that time, I just assumed everybody had this same goal, but the more I thought about this, I realized that innovation, change, and progress can never occur if you are preoccupied with just being popular.  I’m not saying anybody should be rude or disrespectful.  I’m saying that there is tremendous value in learning how to take a stand in a kind and nurturing way.

A focus on being liked as being the end goal may get in the way of being respected.  It’s easy to be liked. It’s difficult to become respected.

A new outlook

So I began to re-frame my perspective.  It’s impossible (and exhausting) to try to be “liked” by everybody.   But I do think it is realistic to have a goal of being seen as “fair.”  Somebody who is fair can take a stand and attack issues without attacking people. Somebody who is  fair can have the courage to take a strong stand and also exhibit humility and admit when they are wrong. Somebody who is fair is at peace because their beliefs are congruent with their words and actions.  I think there is tremendous power in that … in life, and as a blogger.

Trading a goal of being “liked” for one of being “fair” will unleash your creativity and embolden your writing style. Having the courage to start a conversation instead of meekly repeating what you think people want to hear is liberating.  And I think you might even be surprised when you voice an opinion and others chime in and say “Yes! Finally somebody is saying what needs to be said.”

Trading in “like” for “fair” will make your words MATTER.  Isn’t that important to you?

Case study: A marketing strategy when you have nothing to sell

The dismal outlook at Lake Tahoe

A guest post by {grow} community member Tiffany Brown

The Reno/Tahoe area is currently experiencing one of the driest winters on record — a mere 1.5 inches of snow thus far in the 2011-2012 skiing season. The typical November to April average is 170 inches of snow per month so this has been a crisis for the area’s 18 ski resorts. This presents the marketer’s nightmare scenario: Having no product to sell.

Skiing is central to the Reno-Tahoe economy. Last year, 7.6 million visitors enjoyed a near-record snowfall, contributing $700 million in direct visitor spending. This made me wonder … how have the ski resorts been handling this “marketing catastrophe?”

According to the Reno Gazette Journal, ski business over the holidays was down about 50 percent but resorts are remaining optimistic … despite the fact that competing ski resorts in other states are offering vulturous promotions like free skiing at their resorts with the purchase of a Tahoe area ski resort lift ticket.

Here is an examination of how the ski resorts are waging their battles in light of this marketing crisis.

Northstar Ski Resort, Truckee , CA and Heavenly Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, CA

On January 9, Bill Rock, COO of Northstar California and Pete Sonntag, the GM of Heavenly Mountain Resort, issued a joint statement to their season passholders entitled “The Power of Snowmaking” which was posted to their Facebook page.  They write: “It’s no secret that natural snow has been hard to come by this year and we know that has been a disappointment for many of you.” By beginning with a disarming and honest statement, they lure readers in to hear more about the details of their snowmaking efforts and finish with a cheerful “see you on the slopes.”

The two resorts also produced a video together entitled “Letter to the Guests of Tahoe:”

With just 30 percent of Heavenly open, the resort is relying on discounted lift tickets to draw crowds. They have a lively Facebook and Twitter presence emhpasizing “no other mountain compares to the inspiring scenic beauty, varied terrain and rockin’ nightlife.”

Their Facebook page is currently running a “Heavenly Angels” contest, which serves as a nice distraction from the weather scenario and promises a free trip to Heavenly. The resort also hosts a blog complete with up-to-date articles, videos, photos and more to keep visitors current on all the latest happenings at Heavenly.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Olympic Valley, CA and Alpine Meadows, Tahoe City, CA

Andy Wirth, President and CEO of Squaw Valley addressed season passholders in the form of a newsletter to dispel any rumors and/or myths about the resort closing down. Throughout the newsletter, Wirth gives his honest perspective on the situation, as well as a thorough overview of weather pattern history and forecasts. He ends on an optimistic note, stating: “We anticipate, based on current forecasts, the high pressure ridge to the west will break down in mid to late January, which in turn will open up the corridor for significant snowstorms coming into Lake Tahoe.”

Mount Rose Ski Resort, Reno, NV

In addition to pushing deals and information about ski conditions via their web site, through email blasts, and social media, Mt. Rose is focusing on word of mouth, testimonials, photos, and videos.  According to Kayla Anderson, PR/Web Manager at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, “All of the people who come here are impressed with our grooming, snowmaking, and general conditions, so we’re just really trying to get that word out.”

Similar to some of the other ski resort Facebook pages, Mt. Rose’s page is filled with information regarding current conditions, photos, videos, discount packages, and more. In lieu of snow, the resort is offering a few great deals include $10 lift tickets for teens and kids valid any day through January 20th. They post online daily specials here to entice people to come by and visit any day of the week.

The take-aways

When faced with a crisis, it’s important to remember the four Rs of “react, research, respond, and remorse.”

These resorts are standing tall in the face of a perilous situation. They are listening intently to what their customers are saying.  They are keeping the lines of communication and open and creating an honest dialogue. And they are pushing though this crisis while remaining optimistic and hopeful.

What would your marketing reaction be if your company was in crisis? What advice would you give our resorts?

Tiffany Brown is a marketing professional in the commercial real estate industry who has worked for global corporations such as CBRE, Trammell Crow Company, and Warner Bros. Studios. She is an active board member for the Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association.  You can find her blog at or on Twitter @tiffabrown

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