Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Getting My Hands Dirty – I Just Joined Autodesk

The topic of reinventing one’s career—and, in essence, one’s life—seems to be on the lips of every life coach and media darling lately. From Jane Pauley’s new video series “Life Reimagined” (a collaboration between her and AARP and The Today Show)  to Marlo Thomas’ new book “It’s Not Over Till It’s Over” and her partnership with The Huffington Post, one thing seems certain: the typical career trajectory of much of the working world is being turned on its ear. With growing numbers of Boomers working later into their retirement years to their younger counterparts in search of a better balance between their work and family lives, more people are trading in the corporate ladder climb for more fun and fulfilling work, often mid-stride.

And as of today I proudly place myself in that proverbial category.

Throughout my post-college career, I have had the great fortune of landing right-place-right-time professional opportunities; roles that helped form the tapestry of my marketing background. And today I’m thrilled to announce that I’m returning to my marketing roots—sort of. After a series of roles where I focused on helping companies broadly adopt social marketing techniques and tools, I am coming full-circle; This week I joined the famed design software company Autodesk (they make AutoCAD) as a community manager—Senior Community Manager of Emerging Products and Services, to be exact.

Once-upon-a-time the role of external community manager was, at best, not understood. Even today many companies fail to realize the potential importance of this function, often relegating it to interns or someone with only partial responsibility for the community’s success. Thankfully Autodesk has long understood how customer communities can benefit both the community and the company. Which is why I’m so excited to join one of the most respected and innovative software companies in this pivotal role.

Ok, truth? Autodesk’s continued investment in customer engagement and communities isn't the only reason I’m excited about this move. I have long been a fangirl of my new boss Bill Johnston, Autodesk’s Director of Community and Customer Experience for the ISM MFG 360 product team. Bill and I traveled in the same circles back when he was responsible for driving community at Dell and I was part of Intel’s Social Media Center of Excellence. It’s not every day you find yourself in the position to work for someone you've respected and admired and who shares your passion for driving change. I jumped at the chance.

The coolest thing about stepping back into a community manager role for me is that I’m being given the chance to practice what I've been preaching for years. I get to leverage what I've learned about managing and growing technical communities from pros like Bob Duffy, Eric Mantion, Josh Bancroft, and Carolina Velis from Intel. I can build on lessons I learned about engaging and rewarding technical influencers from the work done by super smart women like Laura Whalen and Perrine Crampton while at Citrix and Amy Lewis at Cisco.

In essence, I will no longer be merely a social media pontificator; I am putting my social media practitioner pants back on. Said more plainly I get to plan, strategize, write, engage, advocate, meet, share, learn, experiment, test, track, Tweet, blog, fail, report, refine, present, participate, optimize, benchmark, analyze, partner, build, develop, convince, create, and defend —all while exploring some of the most important technologies and solutions helping to drive the exciting imagine>design>create movement. And I couldn't be more excited to, once again, get my feet wet and my fingers dirty.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Why I Joined Jive Software

I suppose I should begin by coming clean. Yes, I realize I haven't posted here since 2009. No, I have not spent the last several years training to swim the Panama Canal or some such aspirational feat (although it does sound intriguing). I have spent the last few years heads-down trying to figure out this whole social-media-for-business thing. And, I found you don't have a lot of extra time to write about it when you're busy actually doing it. So please accept my sincere apologies for the radio silence.

Now that's out of the way I can get to the good stuff. I am thrilled to announce that today I began my new professional adventure with Jive Software (NASDAQ: JIVE). I have been a fan of Jive and their community platform and collaboration software since I was a strategist and external community manager at Intel back in 2008. This was before Jive expanded from their corporate offices in Portland to the bay area and before the excitement of their IPO back in 2011. And, even though I haven't necessarily been an active user of their tools all this time, I have remained an ardent admirer of their software and an outspoken advocate of the importance of social collaboration and community marketing for business in general.

After having been in marketing for nearly twenty (cough) years, I have spent the last six years or so learning, experimenting, failing, succeeding, and overall cultivating deep knowledge and a true appreciation for how businesses use social media--specifically community and collaboration--to transform the way they engage with their customers, prospects, partners, and peers. And what excites me so much about this new opportunity is that it allows me to pull from all I've learned and discovered in this area and utilize that knowledge and those experiences to help Jive customers realize concrete business value from Jive software. (Sorry, buzzword alert).

What that really means is, as a Senior Strategy Consultant my job will be to sit down with some of the greatest and most innovative brands around and help them craft business strategies that make the most of their investments in the software and in the practice of social engagement/collaboration itself. Sounds glorious, right? I know!

Those of you who know me well know that I am nearly singularly focused on abolishing what has come to be known--even if only by me--as "checklist marketing." That's the practice of checking off marketing to-do lists, instead of focusing on the business results of your efforts. (Facebook page....check! Twitter account...check! Blog...check! Sound familiar?) So you can be certain that I will pay great attention to the results Jive customers will see by adding external communities to their marketing toolkits.

I have a lot to learn. Over the past few years Jive has attracted some of the sharpest brains and social media do-ers in the business within their proverbial walls--perhaps better known as "spaces" in Jivespeak. And I'm ecstatic to join such an impressive team of social super smarties committed to helping Jive customers succeed. So from where I stand the future looks very bright, even if it doesn't include a trans-Atlantic swim.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Life List - Ten Things I Want To Do Before I Die

I don't usually like to copy others. But I couldn't resist this bit of polite plagiarism. You see, Bloggerette extraordinaire Mighty Girl wrote a list of 100 things she wanted to do before she died; she called it her "Life List." And Intel got whiff of it and decided to sponsor her as she tackled her list.

Now I'm not listing these out in hopes that Intel will sponsor my list (ok, maybe a little). Moreso I just think the idea is awesome! Who knows, maybe by writing them down I'll be more likely to make them happen myself.

So here goes. Drumroll....

1. Write and publish a book
2. Teach a college class for an entire semester
3. Run a race (half marathon minimum)
4. Work as a staff member (not volunteer) of a political campaign
5. Hear a story from someone about how I significantly touched their life by either a small or great act
6. Have my friends hear me sing
7. Get a makeover by a celebrity stylist
8. Learn to make Beef Wellington
9. Stomp grapes at harvest time
10. See my son graduate from college

So what's on your list?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Phish Reunion: A Study in How NOT To Treat Your Most Passionate Customers (Fans)

Many folks who do not follow the jam band music scene remain peacefully unaware of the frenzy Phish fans are in after this week's rumor on the Rolling Stone website that the band will play the super-mega music festival Bonnaroo. The debate centers on differing opinions on whether the band should headline a music festival packed with other musical talents or whether the band should host their own music festival. This argument--which is intelligently summarized in several blogs including Mr. Miner's Phish Thoughts and The Lefsetz Letter--is especially electric because the band has been on a hiatus that began after their rain-soaked musical debacle of a festival in August of 2004.

Whether or not the band should headline Bannaroo isn't the real issue, in my opinion. But it is representative of a more deeply rooted and growing hostility by long-time, fervently passionate Phish fans toward the band, their new mega-manager Coran Capshaw and their corporate management company Red Light Music. And what's caused this bitterness among the music-loving masses, you ask? I argue that it's the lack of connection and community between the band and its ardent and amorous admirers. And in this new social era where brands (or bands) can more easily connect and communicate directly with their fans (customers), remaining silent like the band has done is about the lamest marketing tactic around.

Since the announcement of Phish's reunion and their reemergence from solo tours and silence, we've heard little from the band on their future plans, their feelings about the last four years, and anything that would help humanize them and connect them to those of us who love them the most and who are essentially responsible for their rise to the ranks of fame they currently enjoy.

All this silence from the band and their brigade, while the negative buzz swarms around them like bitter bumblebees, is both deafening and disappointing. How simple would it be to write a blog post, contribute to a community conversation on Facebook, or reach out on Twitter where the bass player Mike Gordon occassionally tweets? Upon glancing at the band's official website there are very few communications directly from band members that don't appear to have been scrubbed in the PR machine. A few examples include one letter from June 2008 from Page McConnell, Phish's keyboardist, "Mike's Corner" where his last post was from July of 2003 and in "Fishman's Forum" where drummer Jon Fishman's only post was from May of 2000.

Companies large and small are joining their customers in online conversations through communities, forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and a variety of other social tools. This helps these companies deepen their relationships with their customers and inspires greater brand affinity because of these connections. Many other musicians get it too. From Dave Matthews
(another Redlight managed musician) to Imogen Heap musicians are using Twitter to connect with their fans.

So what's up with Phish? As the band gets pummelled in what I'd call a PR nightmare, their voices are conspicuously silent. They haven't bothered to write one blog post to thank their "Phans" for their support over the years. Not one band member has commented on other blogs to share their own reasons why they want to headline a music festival like Bonnaroo instead of hosting their own. And noone from Phish, including Mike Gordon, has Twittered to tell their most loyal Phans--many who were shut out of the ticketing process for their reunion show at Hampton Colliseum--how much they are valued and what steps the band plans to take to keep those folks engagaged.

Is this silence one of those tired old marketing tactics where brands refuse to comment in an attempt to minimize the effects of negative criticism? Or is it mere laziness by the band and their management company who appear to be more focused on profits than people? Whatever the reason, this silence could cost the band dearly. Because even the most dedicated phans are questioning not just their plans to see Phish's probable summer tour, but doubting their devotion altogether. And let me tell you, former customers of brand--or fans of bands--rarely stay silent.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Is target marketing dead?

I’m reading a terrific book by John Berendt, former editor of the New York Magazine also known for his marvelous book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Set in Venice, Italy this somewhat autobiographical story, The City of Falling Angels, deconstructs the true events that surround the devastating 1996 fire that destroyed Venice’s historic Fenice opera house. In one particular scene the author tells a delightfully comic tale of an evening he spent reveling at a Bacchanalian Carnivale in the company of the mysterious Massimo Donovan, the creator of—in his own words—“the world’s best rat poison.”

Unlike the poison of his competitors, what makes this rat poison so effective, its culinary creator contends, is that it is concocted of cuisine that is corollary to the region where it is sold. “’My competitors approach rat poison the wrong way,’ he said. ‘They study rats. I study people… Rats eat what people eat.’” Essentially Signor Donovan adapts his rat poison to match the food preferred by the culture where he sells the poison; for Germany, he makes poison that is 45% pork fat, for France he includes a lot of butter, for India he adds curry, and for America he uses “vanilla, granola, popcorn, and a little margarine.”

This story represents an amazing adaptation of the traditional theory of target marketing: the technique marketers use to categorize their audience into demographic buckets to market to them more effectively. The methodology maintains that the more marketers understand their customers—by lumping them together into easily defined categories like homemaker, teenager, or the “Ward Cleaver” father figure—the better able a company is to make certain assumptions about them including what like what they like, listen to, or look at. This purportedly provides clues that help companies determine where to advertise and how to craft their messages so they will resonate best with each target market.

But the new internet age, and its evolution into one giant social network, calls into question this long-valued and oft-touted marketing strategy of old. As Chris Anderson eloquently captured in his book The Long Tail, the ubiquitous 24/7 online access provided by the net has opened us up to a wider variety of movies, music, and media than ever before. And because of the diversity of available content on the web and in the world around us, and the ease with which we can access it, we are no longer a generation of predictable personas.

What I mean is that very few folks fall into simple stereotypes these days and I’m a perfect example of that. For instance, I’m a mom. But that isn’t my entire identity. I’m also a thirty-something professional woman, a political activist, a writer of six different blogs, a generous non-profit supporter, a lover of New Orleans funk music, and an addict of the online “game” Second Life. So I dare anyone to lump me into a category. C’mon, I dare ya!

The point I’m making is that marketing has changed—majorly! In this post post-modern, mashed-up, media-savvy era where viral voices and mavens influence what’s hot or not, the techniques we marketing professionals practiced in the past no longer apply. Sure elements of them can still be part of our toolbox. But if we don’t think differently and acquire some new tools and skills that help us adapt in the ways we reach our constantly connected customer base, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant or worse.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Plant and Kraus: how singing a different tune inspired music--and business--innovation

When looking for examples of business innovation it's not difficult to to find some stellar samples. I wrote about how the innovative pairing of Lego branded children's toys with the Star Wars "empire" (pun intended) has culminated in a joint brand strategy with epic potential (Lego Star Wars video games, toys, online presence, etc.). I stumbled recently upon another unique pairing that illustrates the genius creativity and risk-taking audacity often behind the most truly innovative ideas. Coupling the one-of-a-kind singing styles of legendary Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant with the luminous voice of the undisputed goddess of bluegrass Allison Kraus brings, imho, true music--and business-- innovation.

This inspiring story all started when renowned music producer T-Bone Burnett contacted Plant and Kraus to work together on a tribute concert. Neither artist had ever considered working with the other, and it was Burnett's out-of-box thinking that led to this monumental collaboration.

When watching coverage and concert footage of their collaboration from the show Crossroads featured on the MusicHD channel--originally aired on CMT--I was struck by how transformative the experience was for each musician. Both artists clearly came from rich musical backgrounds with their roots firmly planted in both blues and bluegrass heritages. But together they were able to make music that neither of them had imagined possible.

Robert Plant contrasts the bluegrass/country style of singing with his own masculine, ego-driven renditions of Led Zeppelin songs and seems to expose more of his personality in the process. He steps out from behind the microphones and high-tech music production techniques and finds his voice again. In contrast, Allison Kraus discusses how her previous musical experiences had remained primarily acoustic. And in her singing you notice that the addition of drums and an ethereal electric guitar echo elicit a uniquely confident sound not often found in her classical bluegrass songs.

This new combination is utterly stunning. Burnett expertly combined Plant's smoky and sultry singing with Kraus' clear and contrasting voice, and as a result produced a rich, complex sound whose texture transcends the music categories that follow these celebrated artists, thrusting them into a whole new genre of music I've playfully labeled "soulgrass." It's this new sound that makes this creative combination not only musically innovative, but innovative from a business perspective as well. By combining artists with two decidedly different sounds--and fan bases--the project widened its appeal and will undoubtedly cross sell into both the rock and country categories. I've even heard some of their songs played on local popular music radio stations.

The lesson to be learned here is this: to inspire innovation it's important to step outside our comfort zones and explore new and creative combinations of ideas. We too often get stuck in our think holes (a concept adeptly explored by my friend and innovation consultant Chas Martin in his article titled Think Holes: How Predictability Undermines Competitive Advantage).

So next time you're out of jelly to go with that peanut butter, reach for a new ingredient. You may just find that peanut butter and peppers are the perfect pair to inspire the next craze in food fusion.

Friday, February 15, 2008

will the real social media expert please stand up?

I've been in several circumstances lately where the subject of social media expertise has bubbled to the surface of conversation. There appear to be some diverging opinions on this subject so I thought I'd pose the question to you, my loyal readers. But first a deep dive into the idea.

One of the facets of social media I find most fascinating is how many flavors there are to the concept. To some folks participating in social media simply means using an RSS feed to get their daily fix of news stories or other content they've chosen as personally relevant from an aggregate of sources. Others take it a step further by posting their own MySpace page, Facebook profile, LinkedIn profile, or some combination thereof. Some--and this number continues to grow steadily--take it even further and become *gasp* bloggers themselves.

Being a blogger personally--yet arguably far from an expert on the subject--I will say that blogging alone doesn't necessarily deliver a deeper familiarity with social media, other than experience using blogging tools like Blogger (which I use for this blog, obviously) and Wordpress (yes, I write another blog using that tool as well). But if the blogger is working diligently to increase his or her blog traffic, more than likely he or she is also taking one additional step to include every button or widget possible--tools like Technorati, Digg, Stumble--meant to drive the maximum traffic to their site.

So whom of these folks would win the coveted title in the battle to become a social media expert? To claim "guru" status in this growing field, would one need to be an avid blogger blogging about the social media movement while featuring their blog on their Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace pages which also include YouTube videos of them sitting and writing their blogs? In essence does just checking the box marked "all of the above" catapult you into the realm of virtual social media virtuoso? I can hear the collective exclaim of glee as all you bloggers start polishing your bios in hopes of starting that coveted career on the conference speaking cirtuit.

You want to know what I think? Probably not, but I'll tell you anyway. I think that it is virtually impossible to become an expert in a field that is as ever changing as Britney Spears' hair color. Sure someone can know a lot about what it takes to successfully drive site traffic through a well thought-out SEO, tagging, and linking strategy. And that same person could also be skilled at contriving creative concepts to ride the viral marketing waves that ebb and flow on Facebook. But to be an expert in a field that changes from one day to the next is akin to placing your hand in a running river; you can trap a small bit of water for the moment, but once you lift your hand again the river rushes on.

IMHO, there is a bit of a social media master in each of us. We all probably know more than we realize as we attempt to stay on top of concepts, software applications, and methods that are meant to make marketing "easier" by facilitating our ability to have deeper connections and conversations with our customers (a vague term that could mean readers, consumers of media, purchasers, etc.). Experts we may not be, but afficionados we probably are. And that's ok with me. Because as long as what I'm doing works at the moment, that's what counts. That is until "Whatever 3.0" comes along and the process--and my learning curve--begins all over again.