The blogger’s electronic arsenal

I am in the middle of a heavy travel schedule and I seem to be carrying around more and more electonics to support my office on the road. I laid everything out on the hotel room bed and … it is getting to be a little ridiculous.

But for your amusement, here are the electronics in my briefcase on nearly every business trip:

A- Power cord for computer.

B- iPad 2.  This is sometimes optional, but it is required for the classes I teach at Rutgers. The iPad comes standard issue for all students, so when I’m teaching, I pack it. It is also handy for reading while working out or hanging out at the hotel bar.

C – Toshiba Portege R835.  Please … no lectures about Macs!  For my work, this computer is perfect.  It is extremely light, durable, boots up quickly, and has a nine-hour battery life.  I love this laptop. This is my rock. All of my writing is done on this computer.

D – Kodak Zi8 HD video camera. I always carry this with me in case I have an opportunity for a great interview. This device packs a wallop in a small package and it was less tham $150. Fantastic picture quality and it has a very handy built-in USB jack that pops out of the bottom for easy uploads.  Sometimes I also carry a small tripod but left it home this trip.

E- Remote for video camera. With this, I can switch the thing on and off remotely so I can set it up and go. This saves editing. Every video I have published on {grow} has been done with one take and no editing.  Just don’t have time for it!  The remote did not come standard.  I got it off Amazon.

F- iPod. I know I could use my iPhone, or even my iPad for music, but I just like the idea of carrying 10,000 songs with me at all times.  Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep in hotels and the iPod is what I need to settle my mind. I know I can leave it behind, but I won’t.

G – Shure noise reduction headphones. These cost more than the iPod. Why? Because life’s too short for grainy music. And when you’re in the airport, those crying babies, annoying beep-beep-beep golf carts, and ridiculously loud gate announcements all fade away so you can concentrate on writing. Good headphones are a little luxury I allow myself!

H – External Flash Drive.  I carry two with me actually because I’m paranoid about losing data.

I – Energizer brand external battery for iPhone. I am a heavy data user and the battery life on the iPhone does not last the whole day so I always carry some reserve power.

J – Charger for reserve battery.

K – External mouse. I don’t use this very much but it comes along for the ride.

L – iPad/iPhone charger.

M – Targus “clicker.”  I don’t know what the offical name for this is, but this is what moves the Powerpoint slides along. Very well-crafted device. Has internal compartment for an extra battery and the USB thingy.  I have to figure out a way to stop losing these things. This is the third one I bought this year and they’re not cheap.

N- Sony external microphone. If you buy a video camera, make sure it has an external microphone jack.  This mic works well but I didn’t buy a long enough cord. This is only like four feet long. I need one about 10 feet long!

Missing from photo – iPhone 4.  It was missing because I was taking this photo with it!  The iPhone4 is the greatest productivity device known to mankind. It does everything except take quality videos.

So now I would like to hear from you.  What does your blogging arsenal look like?  Any key tools I’m missing?  Any you would take away to make my bag lighter!! : )

Disclosure: I have no official ties to any of these products or brands, and have received no compensation for this article.

Has BP learned NOTHING about PR and communications?

I saw some beautiful ads on TV promoting tourism for the U.S. Gulf Coast.  But after the heart strings were sufficiently plucked, who is identified as the sponsor?  BP — the company that caused the mess in the first place!  This really pissed me off.

Luckily I was in Memphis at the time and had the chance to have PR Expert Amy Howell calm me down, as you will see in this short video discussion.

Did BP do the right thing with these ads?  What were the alternatives?  Am I right to be venting over this?

I think you’ll enjoy the conversation and hope you’ll add your views on the subject in the comment section! Thanks!

P.S.  You know what else pisses me off?  If you “Google” BP tourism ads, all you get is BP PR fluffy stuff.  They have their SEO machine working overtime, don’t they?

P.P.S.  Grrrrr.

Can you make money managing social media?

In a blog post almost two years ago about the best business idea for social media marketing, I made a prediction that I think stands up.  I said that there would be increasing demand for out-sourced social media management and content farms that would pump out low-cost, low value content in a Wal-Mart kind of way.

I’m not not saying this is necessarily recommended!  I just thought it would happen … and it is.  Now, here’s the next big question … can you make money managing social media for others?

My original prediction was based on a statement I heard at many companies: “Can you please just do this social media stuff for me?”

Of the course the purists will contend that everybody should do their own social media because of the “authenticity” value.  Certainly that is an ideal, but I’m also a realist. If people want to out-source their social media and there is a buck to made, it will certainly happen somewhere.   I also think there is some value to a consultant or agency helping people along for some period of time.  When you first got your driver’s license somebody still had to sit beside you and teach you how to drive, right?

In my job as a consultant, and especially in my job as a college educator teaching grad-level students from a variety of corporations, I see many approaches to social media management. Now, this is a short blog post and there are lots of nuances and exceptions, but IN GENERAL, here are some broad trends in social media management:

Mega brands – I can’t name names, but I have had a chance to witness some AMAZING and sophisticated social media marketing programs. These companies are beginning to make correlations between “share of voice” and true marketshare, using listening platforms to track micro-trends and the “cool kids,” and taking location-based marketing to a whole new level.

These companies have the resources to hire the biggest agencies and best minds in the world to help them navigate social media labyrinths and determine a strategy, but generally, they are organizing and resourcing to respond to the new opportunities. One brand has renamed part of their marketing department “Customer Connections.”

Medium-sized companies. I have a limited view of the world (of course), but I’ll be honest. Unless you are an elite brand, I believe at least 95 percent of the companies I see are desperately confused about what to do about social media.  I think they would just like for it to go away so they can return to having a trade booth at the annual conference in Las Vegas.

They probably don’t have a corporate culture that can easily adapt to the transformation needed to “listen” instead of “broadcast” and they simply want to check a box to do SOMETHING. You, know … I actually think there is some value in that.  A company that is at least thinking through the platforms, attempting to listen on the new channels and dipping their toe into content marketing is taking a step in the right direction.  Most of these companies at least have the vision and budget to hire an agency to get them started on social media marketing.

Small businesses.  As I wrote last week, I think social media can provide an advantage to most small businesses, but that doesn’t mean it actually does unless they are working on it!   Why isn’t it happening?

  1. They’re overwhelmed by the concept and don’t know where to start.
  2. They started a Facebook page and nobody “liked” them so they quit.
  3. They understand the concept but don’t have the time or resources to do anything consistent and meaningful.
  4. Their marketing budget is tied up in local newspaper and TV ads and they don’t have anything left for something new.
  5. When you bring it up, they stare you down and tell you they “Don’t need the Facebox or The Tweeter,” usually followed by “Dammit.”

Unless your customer falls into Category 5, they may be asking you to manage their social media program for them.  I see the following business models emerging:

Local support.  The new category of social media gurus are trying to teach best practices and perhaps do some hands-on social media management.  My take is that most of these efforts eventually fail because you are communicating for somebody else, which is probably not sustainable, and the labor cost to actually do this stuff is so high –and the results so undefinable in the short-term — that customers lose interest. People with a limited budget need this to work NOW.

Cookie cutter.  I am seeing a ton of people and small agencies offering social media packages — “our gold package features two tweets per day, a Facebook update, and one blog post per week!”  I truly despise this approach because it institutionalizes lazy marketing. But it is happening, a lot. I also forecast that most of these efforts will fail because at some point, the customer is going to wonder when all the new sales are going to start coming in from these two tweets per day they are paying for … and of course there will not be any. So this is a band-aid but I don’t see it working broadly.

Overseas.  Kind of a hybrid. Let’s solve the labor cost problem by hiring low-cost virtual assistants in Vietnam or The Philippines to do the tweets and blogs for us. I have a friend offering this to customers now and the VA can set-up WordPress websites so inexpensively he gives them away.  There are a multitude of problems associated with this approach but it at least addresses the labor issue.

Coaching.  I think the only viable long-term solution for most small businesses is to get some coaching.  I have successfully taken this approach with several clients. They buy an hour or so of my time each week and we methodically work on a step-by-step plan to eventually create a culture, an organization, and an actionable strategy appropriate for the company resources and budget. This seems to be the approach that will work best. It is not fast (and a lot of people hate that! ) but it does slowly integrate these practices into the fabric of the company, get real employees involved, and become a natural extension of their sales and marketing strategy.

I know it’s a big world and there are probably lots of other advances and models around.  What are you seeing?  What’s working or not working? Have you found a way to monetize social media management?

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