Archive for February, 2008

LinkedIn: What’s the point?

February 27, 2008

I have to be honest, I’ve had a hard time understanding the point of LinkedIn, the professional social-networking site. I think I came across the site for the first time several years ago as a reporter working on a story about social-networking sites for “grown-ups,” (i.e., those with actual jobs). I signed up, dutifully entering my work experience (1 year as a reporter, 5 years “deli associate”) and…. let it sit for several years. I didn’t know what to do with it…

Occasionally since then I’ve been brought back to it by requests from my “early adopter” friends, then co-workers. However, recently as news articles cropped up about the service and more people I work with have joined it and discussed it, I’ve been rethinking my knee-jerk opinion. Maybe there is some value. The pivotal change of heart probably came recently when a good friend called to tell me he was called by a recruiter looking to fill a job and he had been found through another friend on LinkedIn. Wow, that’s like networking without the “working!”

So, what else is LinkedIn good for–you tell me!

Getting it Pitch Perfect (hehe, I love cheesy headlines)

February 12, 2008

I read an interesting post from Bruce Sterling of Wired today about how public relations people annoy him, especially with regard to his blog. He illustrates a specific example of a post he made recently about Internet connectivity going down around the world and a pitch he received because of it. He posts the e-mail, verbatim, including contact information. 

If you are not familiar with public relations pitching, the basic concept is conveying to a journalists, blogger, etc., news from your company or client in the hope that he or she will write about it. If you follow these sorts of things, you may remember the waves Wired’s editor Chris Anderson made in October when he publicly blacklisted the e-mail domain names of certain companies and PR agencies he said were spamming him with unsolicited pitches. The ensuing uproar flooded onto his comments section and other blogs, showing that it’s clear this is a big problem. 

This topic interests me because it shows how social media have changed the way we communicate. In 1985, you might mail press kits, fax news releases and call journalists to follow up on company news you sent.

You might say, “Hello, Bruce, I just wanted to tell you about some developments…” 

“Say no more, I’m on deadline. I’m not interested.” Bruce hangs up phone, turns to the guy across the room. “Man, you wouldn’t believe…”

Today, however, if a pitch is sufficiently infuriating or off-topic, a PR person might get the kind of promotion he or she has no interest in getting: Posted to Bad Pitch Blog. It’s not just PR people who have something to fear from making a mistake, though. Imagine being the TV reporter who got attacked by a cat. Journalists also face pitfalls when covering breaking news. Take the Virginia Tech shootings where media outside the area turned to social networking sites and blogs for sources. What if the source you talk with isn’t who he or she says she is? Or what if you look insensitive amidst tragedy? 

The only solution is to do your research. Know the tools people use to communicate. Know the people you’re trying to communicate with. In the social media world, connections are created not by pitches but by reaching out and creating conversation. Rather than flying by and dropping pitches (or requests for sources!) from 10,000 feet, dig deeper. It’s not always the case, but if you’re going to pitch a blogger like Bruce Sterling once, you’ll probably need to pitch him again another time, so why not start out with an introduction? Why not ask him about what his interests are and what really annoys him?

In the end, though, there’s probably always the risk of a misstep. Last year I looked hard for a Christmas present for my sister. I found a book I thought she’d enjoy. Well, Christmas came and I decided to hold onto it for later. Late last year I dug the book up to give to her, but when I read through it I was shocked to realize she would hate it. So, rather than give her a bummer gift, I bought her a record from a band she had been raving about for weeks. 

$4 billion buses

February 10, 2008

One the drivers of getting me back in the blogging state of mind was the wonderful story in today’s Plain Dealer about the Euclid Corridor Project by architecture critic Steven Litt. This story recaps some of the exciting things happening on Euclid Avenue, thanks in large part to this rapid-transit/road/sidewalk infrastructure improvement.

As Litt mentions in his article, this project has been called a gigantic waste of time and money by a number of critics. In a way, it’s hard not to blame the casual commuter who sees a big pile of dirt and immediately gets annoyed. A Dick Feagler column even ran with the headline: “Euclid Corridor signifies nothing, and no one will use it,” which I found humorous only for its sheer bluntness. The rest of it irritated me.

If you read Mr. Litt’s article, however, you’ll learn about the investments taking place all the way down the avenue, including some really exciting plans for downtown. All told, $4 billion has been invested, including new museum additions in University Circle, business development in midtown and mixed-use downtown. As work on this project winds down this year, I invite everyone to experience it for themselves, from the pedestrian level, where all great cities must be experienced. Pick a nice day, and walk from the Theater District down to Cleveland State. Notice that with a new road and new sidewalks and cross walks, things seem more systematic now, more sane. While construction has been a nuisance, the changes are like night and day. A new community now grows

What is this?

February 10, 2008

You may or may not remember previous iterations of clevelandada. I have created and destroyed them like sandcastles on a beach in the dog days of July. The blog was devoted mostly to the development and advocacy of urbanism, culture and art in Cleveland. The problem was, I didn’t have the time to catalog everything with the veracity and thoroughness that I had hoped I could. Blogging is hard work, and it seems to me a blog can only be successful when you let readers clearly know the rules: What you will be discussing; how often you will be posting, etc. Unfortunately, I set a blistering pace of multiple posts a day and I couldn’t sustain it. So, I stopped.

I have decided to try again because I think blogs are incredibly important in creating conversations and in sharing ideas. This time, the topics of discussion will be a little more broad, touching upon Cleveland, of course, as well as art, culture and technology. I’d also like to touch upon public relations and marketing because that’s what I do for a job, and I have plenty of opinions on that. I’ll also be posting less frequently: Once a week, I hope. This will enable me to touch on topics I think are most interesting, as well as free up time for me to do other stuff. I’ll write about that here, too!

So, thanks for checking this blog out again! Please consider subscribing. It’ll be easier for you to follow when new content is updated. Also, please comment! It’ll help me know who is reading and what they are interested in as we develop this conversation.