Wired Pursuits

Archive for April 2008

Sometimes it’s hard to accurately describe how the world in changing due to social media and the power of the Internet to connect people in a real-time way.  It’s a shift in how you think about being “connected”.  ­

I’m always looking for examples of real events and uses to help better illustrate what’s changed.  Here’s a story that totally does that for me.

A Berkeley graduate student, James Buck, was in Egypt doing a project for his masters degree thesis on Egypt’s “new leftists and the blogosphere”.  He was using Twitter and a blog to keep everyone up-to-date on what he was doing and where he was.

Through Twitter, he heard that a planned protest against high food priced and low wages had been shut down by the authorities, and many of the individual involved in the planning had been detained.  Family and friends of those detained created a protest of their own and things got pretty heated.

Buck when to cover the protest and wisely stayed away from the fray so he wouldn’t be mistaken for a protester.  But not far enough as he and his friend were detained and questioned.  Worried that he be “off the grid”, he Twittered the word “arrested” from the back of the police car on his way to the station.

That single word started a chain of events, alerting Buck’s friends on two continents (US and in Egypt) instantly that he was being detained.  His friends used the web to get the word out and document what was happening.  Buck was also able to send hourly updated letting his friends know he was ok and what was going on.

Eventually Buck was release, Twittering “free” as he left the jail.

That’s incredible.  Read the entire story on CNN.com.


Title: Words that Work.  It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.

Author: Dr. Frank Luntz­

Pub Date: Dec, 2006My colleagues over at the Kauffman Foundation recommended reading this book.  Definitely worth a read, and can get through it in a weekend.


Frank Luntz, a political consultant and pollster, knows how to pick just the right words to make a compelling case for whatever he’s shelping.  He uses lots of examples throughout of how one small word can make a big difference.

What I like at Luntz’s approach is that he focuses primarily on the listener (the audience).  He tries to get inside their head to hear the message from their perspective, then select just the right words to make his case or get his point across in a way that the audience can hear.

What he says isn’t revolutionary – basically your messages must focus on the benefits to your audience and the results you’ll deliver.  What is new is the depth with which he understands and explores the individual words we use.

Some tidbits:

  • “…tell consumers something that gives them a brand new take on an old idea.  The combination of surprise and intrigue creates a compelling message.”  Your objective is to generate an “I didn’t know that” response.
  • Focus on results not process.  For example, Luntz found that “getting value for government” was much better received than “limited government”.  One focuses on results the other is process oriented.
  • “A ‘service’ helps you live with a problem.  A ‘solution’ alleviates the problem.”

Best piece of advice:

How to avoid a ticket:  Create a hassle-free environment.

  1. First, recognize the police officer’s authority and superiority.
  2. Acknowledge your guilt.
  3. Turn off your engine, roll down the window, put both hands on the wheel where the cop can see them with your license and registration, and turn on the dome light if it’s dark.
  4. Say, “I’m sorry.” Don’t argue or make up excuses.

I tried it. It worked.

Business take-away:

It’s not enough to have the right solution, the best technology, or the only answer.  You must present it in a way that convinces your audience that it solves their problem.

  • Create personas for your target customers.  They’ll help you focus on what your audience wants and not what you want to tell them.
  • Remember that business people are people first.  Write to them, not at them.
  • Simple, straight talk wins out over complex marketing messages.
  • Speak to results first, and how later.

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