Tag Archives: Todd Defren

“Make New Friends, But Keep The Old”

The last year has been a very exciting and amazing time in my life. Before working at SHIFT, I sat at my desk as an Assistant Account Executive pouring over media lists. Every day was dark and the firm I was at made me feel like I didn’t understand PR. Any mention of Todd or SHIFT evoked claims that PR-Squared and the social media news release were just publicity stunts. I felt really dumb.

You know the scene in “Shawshank Redemption” when Andy plays Canzonetta sull’aria from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro? I would experience similar moments of freedom reading Todd’s blog; for me, each post shined courageous innovation and breathed new life into a stale industry. His posts allowed me to dream of working at an agency where creativity was praised and not stifled. When I got the call from a recruiter looking to place AE’s at SHIFT, I couldn’t believe they were actually hiring.

During my tenure, the senior staff at SHIFT has coached and prepared me to take a stronger leadership role. They also gave me the support I needed to gain confidence in myself, helping me understand who I am and what motivates me. SHIFT truly is a talent agency, and I’ll be forever grateful for the support and guidance I received there. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to develop and grow.

My whole life I have considered myself an artist and teacher. I work with text, photography, video and audio-and I love helping other people learn how to create. With PR, I also fell in love with strategy as an art form.

As many of you may know, last Friday was my last day at SHIFT. I can’t tell you what I’m working on yet, but the opportunity plays to all my strengths and motivations. While I will miss all the friends I have made at SHIFT, the new role is an opportunity to face new challenges and new experiences that I can only find at a global firm.

There are a lot of people I want to thank:

  • Dan, Jess, Jenn, Melissa and Virginia for being a great team full of support and understanding
  • Cathy Summers for teaching me how to motivate people. Always full of analogies, she’s the mom that can make every situation better. I’ve learned more about life from her than from anyone besides my own mom and grandmother
  • Mandy Mladenoff for teaching me what motivates me
  • Julie and Carter for pushing me to be edgier while also helping refine how I present my ideas
  • Marie, Margaret, Jany, Amanda, Becky, Bob, Chris and Matt for being my social media/blogging buds
  • Danielle, Rachel and Emily for being my Boston girls
  • All of my other friends at SHIFT who put up with my social media idealism and supported my craziness
  • And of course, my bromance, Todd Defren. I will continue to read Todd’s blog and can’t wait to see the exciting things SHIFT has coming down the pike [UPDATE: See Todd’s post on my departure here.}

Also, thanks to all the SHIFTers and socialTNT readers who have sent me well wishes, support, wall posts or blog posts this week. Can’t wait to share the next chapter with all of y’all. Just know you will be seeing a lot more posts on socialTNT with some pretty slammin new features. 😉

Don’t miss out: Grab our RSS feed! [what’s that?]. Or start your morning with socialTNT in your InBox! Or read Chris 24-7 on Twitter!

[The above photo, “Goodbyes Are Timeless” by *PaysImaginaire* on Flickr, used under Creative Commons]



Filed under Personal

“Preview: NewComm Forum 2008”

If you’re a new media fanatic living in the SF Bay Area, this week is like Christmas. With all the new tools being shown off at the Web 2.0 Expo, and all the great minds talking at the NewComm Forum, it’s pretty easy feel over stimulated. socialTNT makes it easy by giving you our top picks at NewComm.

http://newcommforum.com/2008/?p=25Put together by the Society for New Communications Research, the NewComm Forum is now in its fourth year. After last year’s rocking event in Vegas, this year’s event in Sonoma County should offer a more relaxing–but equally stimulating–experience. Check out our top 5 “must sees” at the year’s event:

5. Opening Keynote with Joseph Jaffe

We’re big fans of Joseph’s Jaffe Juice and its fully-integrated approach to social media. By Looking at conversations with consumers through all media and across the marketing and advertising departments, Joseph helps us understand the true impact of our campaigns. We also like his sense of humor.

Session Mood: Let’s give ’em something to blog about…

4. Detour Ahead: Closing the Road to PR 3.0 featuring Darren Barefoot, Constantin Basturea and Brian Solis.

Always ahead of the curve, Constantin’s New PR Wiki has been a staple since 2004. We hear he’s also doing some pretty cool things at Converseon. If you don’t know, Brian Solis is on the forefront of fighting for “2.0.’ His man-on-the-scene bub.blicio.us blog, combined with PR 2.0, might make you think he spends all his time at his computer, but somehow he manages to be EVERYWHERE.

Session Mood: Futurama

3. A Conversation With Jim Long, Tom Foremski, and Shel Isreal

Brilliant. New media. Line-up. Mad props to Jenn McClure and crew for getting NBC to let go of Jim (aka newmediajim) long enough to appear on stage with these two pioneers of the new media space. Tom gave us some valuable insight last fall when he appeared on socialTNT’s “3Q’s in 3Min,” and Shel is such an icon, he has people lampooning him with puppets. Expect nothing but an interesting discussion on the state of the media.

Session Mood: Eureka in the Tweet

2. Building Your Brand With Conversational Media featuring Kami Watson Huyse and Geoff Livingston

Kami Huyse and Geoff Livingston are some of the top feeds in our Google Readers. Check out Kami’s recent case study examining the ROI on social media and the launch of a new roller coaster at Sea World. She’s a stickler for tracking and measurement, and is therefore an important voice in the progression of social media PR and marketing. Geoff’s Buzz Bin is like a workbook for new media marketers and PR peeps–and don’t forget his book!

Session Mood: Energized

1. Perspectives on the Social Media Release featuring Todd Defren and Maggie Fox

This, to us, is without a doubt, the social media PR Thilla in Manila of 2008. That makes Jenn McClure into Don King, and we’ll let you decide who is Muhammad Ali. Todd Defren is the inventor of the social media news release. He’s also our colleague at SHIFT. Maggie Fox from Social Media Group has worked on Multimedia Releases for Ford Motors (See our analysis of one of her campaigns here). It will be interesting to see what Maggie thinks of Todd’s SMR version 1.5, just released last week.

Session Mood: CATFIGHT!

These are just a sampling of the amazing sessions in store in Sonoma. We also hear there will be some great research released this year, with topics including new media influencers and implications for PR, customer care and brand reputation in the social media age, and how to measure progress in communities.

Sadly, socialTNT will not be able to make it this year. Due to client work, we will both be at Web 2.0 Expo. You can, however, catch us at the Social Media Club Tweet-up tonight at Adobe. Geoff Livingston and Brian Solis will be there to talk about their book. Hope to see you there!

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Filed under Citizen Reporter, Future of Media, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Social Media

“Brand of Brothers: A Social Media Chorus”

“No. 59″ by racatumba on flickrOver the last couple of days, many people are asking the question: Can brands be social? The vision of social media relations, to me, sees consumers interacting and conversing with a brand. So the question becomes, what is a brand?

Way back in the day, a brand was a symbol burnt into the hide of an animal to symbolize ownership. Modern day branding burns a stream of messages into consumers’ minds to reinforce the image or idea a company wants. A brand can also be identified by its logo or trademark, but traditionally a brand symbolizes a promise or experience a company aligns with a product or service through consolidated messaging.

Over the last couple of years, the notion of “brand” itself has been changing. With social media, consumers now have the ability to publish and spread their own messages about a brand through forums, blogs, Facebook groups, etc. This can create a sort of schizophrenic branding: Corporate messaging vs Consumer perception/messaging–also known as “reality”–clashing for the loudest voice. As Dell proved, modern brands have to step up to the plate and accept, interact and engage with the consumer, or they come across as being abstract and aloof from reality.

But consumer voices aren’t the only ones vying to be heard in the modern brand. In many companies, you have employees who blog. The new media tools allow all the voices within the company to have a chance to be heard, unseating the talking-head spouting corporate values/messaging from the ivory tower. As the blogosphere grows, I think these voices will become more splintered, but still add to the discussion and image of the brand. For example: Not that I would consider Todd Defren the ivory tower, but his blog combined with my blog, the SHIFT employee blog Unspun and Marie Williams’ Flackette blog help shape the brand image at SHIFT Communications. People looking for our services can find these voices and get a sense of what we are about as a firm.

The Twitterverse will be progressing more like the blogosphere. Since Twitter requires less effort than blogging, pretty soon you will have several people from a company Tweeting. For example, there are several of us that use Twitter at SHIFT. We engage with each other and our followers in a series of small conversations. As more tools come into play to harness the power, people will be able to follow our team (a micro-community), creating another extension of SHIFT Communications’ brand.

Since the new brand, to me, is the conversation that the corporation, its employees and its consumers are having, the new, evolved brand will need to get social, embrace social media or get passed by.

What do you think the modern brand is? Which came first, social media or the splintered/schizophrenic brand?

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[Above photo, “No. 59” by racatumba on flickr, used under Creative Commons]


Filed under Future of Media, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Social Media, Social Networking

“From socialTNT To You With Love: A Personal Post”

“Heart no. 2″ by bymanu on flickrIf you’ve read my blog long enough, you know two of my tenets for social media marketing and PR campaigns are: “Sharing is Caring” and “It’s A Conversation.” Since so many of you shared very personal stories with me through email and Twitter for “Stick It To The Man” week, I wanted to share a little bit more about myself than you can get from facebook, LinkedIn, or my “About Me.”

Last week, the New York Times told the world my age, so I don’t mind telling you guys that yesterday, I turned 31. Moving in to my 30’s has caused me to examine where I’ve been, where I’m at now, and where I’m going.

Two years ago, I moved to San Francisco from Berlin, Germany, with nothing but a suitcase of clothes and a box of books. My younger brother, Mike, was going through a lot of rough times after doing a very courageous thing and needed some emotional support. He offered me a computer and a roof if I moved out to live with him. In tough times, all we have is family; I couldn’t refuse, plus I was having my own patch of bad luck.

Berlin is an amazing city. Besides Barcelona, there is no other city in the world, to me, that has such an amazing art and music scene. As a musician/performance artist/graphic designer/photographer/writer, I was knee-deep in the scene. I had a great job at an Entertainment and Event firm, some musical partners, and a monthly party.

In the winter of 2005, everything changed when I returned from vacation to find everything in my life gone. Someone I’d been helping get back on their feet took everything I owned. In addition to clothes and everything else normally found in an apartment, other things stolen include: DVDs, four years of journals, my laptop, recording equipment, backups/originals of my digital photography and writings. Even though I had a nice job, there would have been no way for me to save money and buy replacements for any of those things. I didn’t have means to create my art. And, worse than anything else, it felt like all my children had been kidnapped. After six months of sinking ever deeper into depression, I accepted my brother’s offer, packed my bag and moved to SF the week before Halloween 2005.

Two years later, I’m happy and healthy. My brother is engaged to an amazing woman. We no longer live together, but I do live with an incredible group of people. I also work at one of the most kick-a firms in the healthiest work environment I’ve ever experienced.

It’s been such an amazing ride over the last two years. Every day feels like a blessing, and some thanks are in order:

  • My parents for raising me and kicking my butt.
  • My grandparents for instilling a work ethic and sense of spirituality. Also for making me realize I can “create my own world.”
  • My brother for his support. He’s my sounding board.
  • My aunts, uncles and super-star cousins for making me smile.
  • My BFF’s around the world. You know who you are. You know what you do.
  • My housemates for creating a peaceful living space and for putting up with my silliness.
  • SHIFT and all the SHIFTers, especially my team plus Todd Defren and my mentor, Parry Headrick, for embracing and bolstering my creativity.
  • Mad props to Lindsay Olson at Paradigm Staffing for pairing me with the right firm. She seriously is the most amazing PR recruiter I have met. Also, I’ve gotta thank all my references 🙂
  • TO ALL THE “3Q’s in 3 Min” GUESTS: You guys are awesome! Thanks for the pleasure of an interview.
  • TO EVERYONE ON MY BLOGROLL: Thanks for bringing me a social media utopia when I was working at a place where I couldn’t experiment.
  • TO ALL MY READERS: Thank you SOOO much. You make socialTNT possible. You inspire me daily. You are the reason I do this. (And if you haven’t done so, please subscribe to my feed. ;-))

I can’t wait to see what this next year will offer. Hopefully, you will stick around and experience it with me.

Happy Friday, everyone!

[Photo above, “Heart no. 2” by bymanu on flickr, used under Creative Commons]


Filed under Just For Fun

“Zuckerberg Plays Jetman While Facebook Burns”



On Tuesday, Facebook took the hardest bashing of its short history, with FORTUNE’s Josh Quittner echoing the rest of the blogosphere in a post ruefully titled “RIP Facebook?” This follows Monday’s news that Facebook confirmed a finding by security firm Computer Associates that Beacon still sends information back to Facebook even when you are not logged in. (For a complete history of the last few weeks, check this New York Times article by Louise Story.) Subtract a few key advertisers, add a lawsuit questioning the allegedly shady history of Facebook’s founding and an attempt by Facebook to block First Ammendment rights, and Facebook seems to be embroiled in a PR quagmire.

The question on everyone’s mind is: Where is Mark Zuckerberg?

He’s playing Jetman, of course. Take a look at the below screen cap I grabbed from his Facebook profile (click to enlarge):

Mark Zuckerberg plays Jetman

WOW! A score of 1942! Congrats, Mark!

Was he working off a little stress while in between Crisis Control sessions with his PR team? The blogosphere doesn’t think so. Just look at this post by Robert Scoble advising Zuckerberg to say something (this is just the nice stuff):

Facebook’s PR machinery is hiding its head in the sand and hoping this story goes away.

Hint: it’s not.

Do the press conference. Admit you screwed up. Take your shots. Look into the camera and say you’re sorry.

Crisis PR hint: don’t answer company bashing with text messages. Do it in video and with live events. Have the CEO do it.

Henry Blodgett, Todd Defren (satirically blogging as Fake Mark Zuckerberg), Brian Solis, and several other key PR bloggers all offered similar advice: Fess Up.

So what exactly can Facebook do to pull themselves out of the muck:

1. Zuckerberg–not a PR spokesperson–needs to admit to the community and advertisers he made a mistake.

  • Explain that FB learned the hard way that privacy is important.
  • As a result, FB wil allow a members to Opt-In (as opposed to currently being forced to Opt-Out) to Beacon.
  • FB apologizes profusely and promises to make the selling and use of member data a transparent process.

2. Utilize the social media upon which FB is built.

  • Eat the loss of prime Ad real estate and post the video apology in a banner over the newsfeed, not in the New Features” group.
  • No blog posts since mid-November. Fix that.
  • If you are feeling a little more hip: Create a live videocast (to be archived) with live questions being submitted through the community and Twitter.

3. Send an open letter to blogs and top-tier publications. Reach out to the reporters and bloggers who feel used and lied to.

  • Better yet, do a video blog tour with top bloggers (ala Don Imus, et al.)

4. Appoint a User Privacy Guru to launch an educational program on how member data is handled and what members can do to protect their privacy.

  • Create a Privacy Rights/User Data partnership with other social networks.
  • This transparency and education will regain user trust.

5. Community Managers address bloggers concerns as they come up.

  • Don’t hide behind your PR spokesperson. Get involved!

Don’t forget your community (and your financial success) is based on the users. You have to listen to them and respect them. If they aren’t happy, they’ll easily move on to the next big thing. Part of me hopes that FB really thought users would see the value in Beacon. The other part thinks that FB only saw the dollar value it could gain from Beacon.

Social networks are trusted spaces. Facebook differentiated itself as the social network where members could control privacy settings, thereby allowing only some friends to see certain things. We felt like Facebook was a safe place where we could share our lives with our friends. Beacon violated that trust. It’s sad and I feel completely used.

A quick Twitter poll asking what Facebook could do to regain trust yielded several responses, all easily summed up by Kyle Flaherty‘s Tweet:


What can Facebook do to regain your trust? Or do you feel Facebook has done nothing wrong?

[UPDATE: This morning, Mark Zuckerberg posted an apology on Facebook’s Blog. Is that enough? Do you trust them again?]

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Filed under Best Practices, Community Relations, Democracy and Media, It's A Conversation, Rants, Social Networking, WTF?

“Blogboarding: A Blog is Not an Ad”

What do this

Truck Billboard

and this (click to enlarge) have in common?


They are both self-promotion tools advertising ways their businesses can help you “promote” your business. That is not a blog. That is a blogboard, the online equivalent of a billboard.

A Blog is NOT an Ad

I will not deny that a blog is a branding mechanism and promotional tool, but not in the sense of traditional self promotion. By participating in an online discussion and contributing to it, you build your brand’s (or your own) reputation. It’s also about sharing.

Sharing is Caring

Cats sharingAmong other things, social media empowers the little guy to have the strength of big business. There is something subversive when we blog about social media tactics. There is also something honest and liberating about sharing instead of hording.

Take a look at Todd‘s, Kami‘s, Brian‘s, Chris‘ or Shel‘s blogs. Their blogs all give the same insight, strategies and tactics that they charge their clients for. Does blogging decrease the inbound sales for clients? Perhaps, but not likely. What it does do is help a curious, prospective client get a feel for the philosophy of their company. It also helps current clients stay informed.

Blogging also helps increase transparency. When a client knows what I’m doing, they have more faith in me and are more engaged. Nothing makes me happier than when a client discusses something they read on my blog or any blog…if it’s not a blogboard!

Fight Blogboarding! Show us, don’t tell us.

Oh: and NEVER put contact information in the post. Save that for the “About” section.

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Filed under Best Practices, Future of Media, How To, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Rants, Sharing is Caring, Social Media

“From the Backseat: Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?”

Hats off to Ford and Maggie Fox at Social Media Group for making an exciting press release. It is another example of the changing evolution of the traditional news release. My question from the backseat is: “Are we there yet?”

When I was a kid, I used to love going to the car show at the State Fair. My favorite part was climbing into the cars, playing with the knobs and pretending I was driving my little brother. Running around the showroom floor, I would grab as many promo books and posters as possible. At home, I’d put the poster up or look at the glossy pictures or the stats in the promo books. Yes, sometimes I’d even cut out some of the pictures and make collages (hell, that Geo Metro looked pretty hot when I was 10!) My friends would come over and we would talk about the cars, but, after a while, the books would eventually end up in the trash.

I love the Ford Focus release. I am excited that we are finally shaking things up a bit. The release has tons of high-def pictures of the interior and exterior, as well as videos of the cars in motion. There are also bullet-pointed stats. It looks nice. You can post the pics and videos on your preferred social network and maybe mash it up. The kid in me loves it, but, ultimately, it feels like a multimedia version of the marketing schwag from the car show.

It’s nice to see big companies embracing change. It’s a learning experience for all of us. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the elements that were executed well and then look at how the release could have been beefed up.

First off, kudos for the Flickr pics and YouTube videos. Pluses for allowing these to also be embedded and distributed. To me, what really stands out is the video of the UCLA students playing with the cell phone/music player integration feature found in the new car. While obviously edited, it didn’t feel overly produced. Also, Ford gets a lot of respect for disclosing that these students were Ford “ambassadors.” Finally, the ability to bookmark the release in del.icio.us and add an RSS feed gives this release the feel of a sporty, fully-loaded SMNR, but something is missing.

I feel the Social Media News Release is not just a tool for content sharing, it’s about facilitating discussion. The ability to share content is one aspect. Ability to easily find content is another. For me, however, the ultimate goal is to create an exchange of ideas, opening up, and sharing between the company and the consumer to build increasing discussion around the product/brand. This release, to me, looks like a one-sided conversation.

On her blog, Maggie Fox at Social Media Group tells us:

“…with this implementation we were aiming for simply a way of sharing content with people who wanted it in formats they could use, all conveniently located in one place. Period. We didn’t include the ability to comment or trackback because not every interaction has to be a full-on conversation, sometimes sharing and enabling are enough.”

I know the fear that Maggie talks about. It’s scary to open up the conversation because you might not always like what comes out. The discussion is happening whether we like it or not. How are some ways that Ford could have used this release to create a voice that gives back to it’s consumers in a way that shapes the conversation?

My first idea hearkens back to the DVD era. Remember the value-add on DVDs? Besides the great audio/visual, it was also the Behind-the-scenes footage. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Ford had some videos made by the engineers or designers that lead us through the whole development process? I would share that with my friends and I think any tech/engineer/design geek would love it, too. What if they blogged during development? What about user submitted questions to the development team with digg-like voting? Or Twitter?! OMG!!

Ford has a massive following. Just doing a quick search on Facebook yields 500 hits with a handful of really significant user groups. What if Ford had harnessed the power of the user groups? They are already discussing Ford. It’s nice that Ford has it’s own (sponsored) group with a significant following. Wouldn’t it be cool if the Ford release linked to the Facebook group?!

Finally, what about blogger outreach? Remember those UCLA kids in the videos? What if real bloggers and vloggers were invited to try out the car and it’s features? [Oops, Trumped. Maggie Fox posted this comment today. However, the addition of a link to a del.icio.us page with coverage would help see what others are writing.] What about man on the street videos testing things out?

So that’s my take on the Ford Release. What do you think? Brian Solis and Todd Defren posted their joint “State-of-the-SMNR” slash response here. Stuart Henshall posts his here. You can also read more from Maggie Fox here.

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Filed under It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Rants, SMNR