New Tech Stuff worth mentioning

New Tech Stuff that I like, that relates to expression of ideas even if technical in nature:

  1. TagCloud – add a flickr like tag presentation to your site.  yes I am very late noticing this one. http://www.tagcloud.com/
  2. Meebo – browser based IM clients.  Great for kids with paranoid parents that block IM (cough) http://www.meebo.com/
  3. Audacity – audio editor for all of your podcast editing http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
  4. Blogpulse – this just keeps getting better http://www.blogpulse.com/ and be sure to check out the blog profiles section
  5. Blink Bits – from the site – "pick a topic, we continously go out and get info on this topic for you and then provide the tools for you to control the topic content, discuss it and share it." http://www.blinkbits.com

Of those I particularly like tag cloud and if we can help people understand the context of their content through tags in real time.  Post your content.  Review your cloud.  Verify topic sentence.  Edit.  Repeat.  Remix as needed.  Exactness of speech is hard work and any tool available to content providers will help. 

San Fran Bulldog Reporter PR Panel

In San Fran as a panelist on How Blogs, RSS, Wikis and Podcasting Are Transforming Corporate Communications.  My participation, albeit minor, led to meeting Craig Newmark and Mark Jen.  I suppose at a point a person shouldn’t be star struck (geek struck?) but it is pretty cool.

Craig had a few comments on moderation on CraigsList working "as is" but that plenty of conversations have occurred internally at CraigsList on the topic of moderation.  And it was good to hear him say that the vast majority of people are good with a few evil spammers.

So far so good, conference still in progress.  Eric Schwartzman is doing a great job moderating.  The afternoon started with watching the 8 minute movie on the future of news called "epic".

accidental panelist

As one of the sponsors of PR Day here in Houston my role at this morning’s blog panel was to introduce the panelists.  As fate would have it, one of the bloggers was unable to make it, so I had the privilege of filling in on the panel with John Wagner of "On Message".  Luckily I recently was on a panel with Bulldog Reporter called Blogs, RSS, Wikis and Podcasting which had me more than prepared, although trying to avoid the subject of RSS and Podcasts was challenging.  Given the format, just discussing blogs and PR was more than enough for the time slot.

John has been kind enough to already post a list of blogs he recommends for people in PR on his site.  Podcast should be available soon on the prsahouston.org site.

The one take-away I feel is important for PR professionals is "the cheese has moved".  But working directly with the public is what the "counsel on public relations" is supposed to do.  Yes the blogosphere is uncontrolled, and the rules are still forming, but from a pure PR perspective there is more raw material to work with.  That is a good thing … IF you are truly creative.  Churning press releases can be, for the upteenth time, declared dead.

Congratulations as well to Kelly Papinchak who was elected to the PRSA Houston board of directors.  Go Kelly!

Spyware by another name, still is

I have 99.99% good things to say about Steve Rubel (micropersuasion).  He was on a panel discussion with the Bulldog Reporter where I was a fellow panelist last week in NYC.  And having read his blog in the past I really do believe his insight on PR is great.  And he gets the good in Seth Godin without running around with a purple pain brush trying to interpret it all literally.  That said, in PR I firmly believe that a large portion of the strategy must evolve through truthfulness and honesty so it IS the PR practitioners responsibility to filter out icky clients.  I found that I cringed when Steve mentioned the spyware company Weatherbug as a client in one of his examples.  For fun, check out the historical edits on wikipedia for weatherbug to see the debate "it IS spware" … "it definitely is NOT spyware" … (repeat)

For the corporate defense they do offer a paid product that is spyware free (good) as well as an icky version that will pop-up for you if you don’t understand computers enough to grasp the concept of what you have agreed to (evil).  Look… there are people who will sell their organs for the right price.  That doesn’t make the practice acceptable.  In this case the client is wrong wrong wrong.  Client selection does matter in PR.  Choosing this client was a mistake.  A profitable one, but not something to emulate.  Even Edward Bernays eventually worked against tobacco.

Emergency RSS Proposal

This blog, written by an amateur, will hopefully evolve to be interesting to others as well as affect change on a global basis.  And the best way to affect change globally is to start locally.  To pick up the cigarette butt on the corner.  Cliché?  Sure, but damnit it works.

The biggest screamingly loud demand, need, I see in the world of social software is a distributed method of responding to a crisis.  We just had Katrina hit and she was a bitch by any measure.  Lives were lost.  Pause on that sentence, lives were lost.  The most sacred thing we are capable of creating or destroying, lives, were lost as a result of poor human organizational skills.  I don’t want to know who accepts responsibility, I want to know that disaster is prevented before it occurs.

To that end I want to state that we need a simplified RSS type system to track data in an emergency.  No one site can handle all emergency response.  Even if it could it would create a single point of failure.  We need something as simple as RSS, call it emergency RSS or ERSS, to handle the needs that arise in an emergency.

Let me step back and repeat the basis for the need.  With Katrina, which hit in 2005, what I observed were numerous sites heroically put up, only to go down once they were picked up by the blogosphere and the media.  Go here for help … everyone does globally including the curious from other countries …. Server dies.  Nobody gets help.  Next site is suggested.  Repeat the process. 

Yet when it comes to blogs and news we can easily replicate with RSS our posts.  Even if one server went down, the outline of the content would still be cached at feedburner or similar.  So if in time of crisis 10 sites had relevant content of who is looking for what, who needs what, who needs to be dispatched where, then if one goes down you still have 9 sites up and replication of 100% of the content on each node.  This is just like DNS.  I am not inventing anything here.  I am just screaming that we should have this in place for times of crisis already.

Martha Elizabeth Cargill (Bixler) 1943 – 2005

ELIZABETH BIXLER CARGILL, was a Treasure. She passed away peacefully in her home Friday, March 18, 2005.

Elizabeth was born February 19, 1943 in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Georgia State University and earned her CPA license in Texas. After moving to Houston in 1978, Elizabeth developed a strong friendship with her Sunday School class and touched the lives of all that knew her.

She was a graceful woman, both in presence and in her relationships with others, and was much beloved by her family and friends.

She is survived by her husband of 40 years, Leonard R. Cargill, Jr.; their daughter and son-in-law Dee and Andrew Healey of Austin; their daughter and son-in-law Rachel and Ed Schipul of Houston; their daughter and son-in-law Joanne and David Lewis of Richardson; their seven grandchildren: Jordan, Broden, Hannah, Stockton, Hope, Timothy, and Claire; her mother, Elizabeth Bixler; her sisters Ruth Hays and Nell Wayman; and preceded in death by her father, George Bixler.

A memorial service will be held at 10:00AM Tuesday, March 22, in the sanctuary of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church. The family will receive visitors in the fellowship hall after the service.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Memorial Assistance Ministries or to a charity of your choice.

Published in Houston Chronicle on March 20, 2005

(on Geni.com here)

Web Marketing Fundamentals Increase Sales Lead Generation

Web sites respond differently from other advertising media for two primary reasons. The first is that web users are incredibly impatient. The second is that they are incredibly smart. The more we treat people on the web like they are impatient and smart, the higher the conversion rate from visitor to phone call or contact forms.

So how exactly does a web site treat visitors as impatient and smart? By giving them what they want, on their terms, immediately and with humility.

Some of the specific ways you can achieve marketing success on the web are by making sure the following web marketing elements are in place on your web site’s home page.

1) Use a strong marketing headline that is focused on the site visitor. Try using the word “You” or “Your” instead of “me” focused words. The headline should be the dominant element on your home page and should be larger than your logo, your company name or your tag line.

2) Make your service or product the “hero” of the home page. Use pictures and relevant text that features what you do for them. Link directly from those images on the home page to detailed pages with extensive information and more pictures.

3) Use a clear “call to action”. Tell the site visitor, on the home page, exactly what you want them to do. People will read your site content at length if it answers their questions, so be sure to ask for the business at the end of the page or article.

4) Be consistent with your branding. Use your logo and keep the colors consistent with your other marketing materials so your site visitor immediately knows exactly where they are.

5) Make it easy to contact you. Use a mini-contact form on your home page, possibly on every page, as well as a complete contact form.  It is OK to use a mailto link but it should be in addition to a contact form for higher response rates. Put your address and phone number in text format on every page if possible so people can copy-and-paste your information into their contact software.

6) Use appropriate color and imagery.  Every industry has a certain “look and feel”. Now is not the time to try to re-brand your industry.  Give your visitors what they expect exactly as they expect it.  Branding includes positioning and consistency, so this is your opportunity to be consistent and professional at the beginning of the sales process.

7) Search engine optimize your site no matter how well known your brand is.  With all of the viruses and tacky web sites on the net, your visitors will *not* guess your site name but will go through Google or Yahoo just to be safe.  If you are not listed then you are invisible.  Start by registering with www.dmoz.org and read up on search engines at www.searchenginewatch.com.

8) Use testimonials and brand logos from your business partners (as allowed) assuring your site visitors that you are a “real” company with an honest reputation.  Try not to let your success convince you that everyone knows you want their business.

9) Interact intelligently with your site visitor.  Every brand is different of course, but there is always a creative way to interact.  If you sell books, let them buy online.  If you are a consultant, offer calculators for metrics and case studies.  If you are a plastic surgeon, offer dynamic before-and-after photo galleries.  If you are targeting the younger generation, offer games that feature your brand.

10) Respect the privacy of your site visitors with a privacy policy.  Link to a written privacy policy at the bottom of every page, and be sure it is written in normal language instead of legalese.

Additional hints include putting your phone number at the bottom of every page, in the text, at the top and making sure it appears on your home page a minimum of four (4) times.  Anything less and impatient users will miss it, costing you a potential phone call.

Your site visitors really are just as impatient and smart as you are, and they want to be treated that way.  Executing the web marketing fundamentals in their entirety will greatly increase the conversion rate of visitor to contact.

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Host with Tendenci Membership Management Software to measure your conversion rates.

{Note: the original version of this article was written by me in 2001 and published in 2003 on schipul.com. It now lives on our new company’s site here.

Web Marketing, Sociology, Photography, Programming