Thursday, January 29, 2015

Let Us Remember - Then Let Us Forget

Auschwitz memorial services are about remembering. Those who forget the past are doomed to see it repeat itself.

But the ultimate point of remembering is forgetting. We want to move on with life and deal with one another in perfect faith, like innocent children who haven't yet learned the terrible ways of the world.

G-d teaches us through example. We ask for forgiveness and are forgiven. It is as if nothing happened.

Unfortunately some people distort G-d's ways out of evil intentions. They deny the past and pretend all is well in the present.

Think critically, and do not be fooled.

All opinions my own.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Text of New Cyber-Vandalism Response Toolkit

Disclaimer: This toolkit is only a collection of suggested best practices. No warranty is expressed or implied.

Cyber security for social media should be the #1 concern of anyone communicating online in this way. A federal working group has developed an outstanding guide, useful to any public or private organization. I want to help promote this message and so am cutting and pasting the text below; also posted it to SlideShare. You can customize it for your organization.

DigitalGov's Justin Herman brought the federal working group together; congrats to him and the team: Alla Goldman, Information Sharing Environment, Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Ashley Wichman, GSA; Dan Kenny, GSA Emerging Leader Program; me (I work at NIST); David Hamm, State of Minnesota; Debra Harris, Defense Finance and Accounting Services; Jacob Parcell, GSA; Jessica Milcetich,; Jordan Higgins, Defense Intelligence Agency; Jody Bennett, Department of State; Justin Herman, GSA; Kat Mullins, USAJobs; Natasha Lim, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Scott Horvath, U.S. Geological Survey; Travis Brickey, Tennessee Valley Authority.

Read the article here:


Readiness, Recovery, Response: Social Media Cyber-Vandalism Toolkit
Version 1, released January 27, 2015 by DigitalGov

Cyber-vandalism presents a serious challenge to online-based communication tools. Users need available resources to counter intrusions of social media accounts. This document provides guidance and security practices to federal, state, and local government employees. Suggestions and resources prepare users to respond to cyber-hijacking. and will empower digital users to make informed choices and enact future policy. This resource is a “living document” designed for continued contribution and expansion — if you have input please email Justin Herman.

Readiness: Phase 1

Cyber-vandalism occurs when an outside party, regardless of identity or motive, takes control of an agency communication channel and misdirects it. Incidents may contain information misleading to the public or threatening to an agent of the United States. Agencies should plan and train prior to an incident, and prepare approved processes and material for the recovery and response to cyber-vandalism.

1. Identify a social media stakeholder team to prevent and respond to cyber-vandalism

A direct chain of responsible managers should be aware of their roles in the potential response to any social media cyber-vandalism, including the necessity of quick, decisive action. This team should be connected by email, phone, text and any other appropriate means of communication. The team should include, but is not limited to:

1. Social media team
2. Program manager
3. Public affairs representative
4. General Counsel
5. IT Security
6. Senior leader/manager

2. Review Individual App/Platform Resources

Online-based communication tools offer resources, each with unique strengths and limitations. Awareness of this support and their unique characteristics is beneficial before an incident:

1. Facebook: Facebook Security Tips; Facebook Security Settings; Learnextra security features including approvals, notifications, trusted contacts and mobile security
2. LinkedIn: LinkedIn Safety Center; Prevention Tips; Password Guidelines; Frequently Asked Questions | Reporting Inappropriate Content, Messages, or Safety Concerns
3. Instagram: Instagram Privacy & Safety Center
4. Twitter: Safe tweeting: the basics
5. Google: Keeping your account secure
6. Hootsuite: Social Media Security

3. Establish Stakeholder Rapid Outreach Plan

1. Prepare a list of internal and external contacts and processes for a cyber-vandalism incident:
§ Who is the POC for the app or platform when an incident occurs (see Phase 2: Recovery for list)?
§ Who is the POC for cyber-vandalism of accounts in the Government (see Phase 2: Recovery for list)?
§ Who is on your social media stakeholder team?
§ Who are your key communities and audiences on social media and other channels you must alert?

2. Incorporate relevant contact information:

§ Emails; Phone Numbers; Social Media Handles; Hashtags; Listservs and more.

4. Create Communication Templates

1. Pre-populate different types of messages.

§ Emails; Texts; Social media posts and more.

2. Communicate essential information to convey the nature of the compromise, for example:

§ An account is compromised; An administrator cannot access an account; A username and/or password for an account is compromised; Information on the account is unauthorized.

5. Review Secure Social Media Best Practices Checklist

1. Institutionalize secure web standards, such as HTTPS, as a foundation for secure social media:

§ Using an URI scheme, such as HTTPS, establishes a fast, private, and secure connection due to its strong encryption benefits

§ Read Why We Use HTTPS in Every Gov Website We Make

2. Establish accounts with official .gov or .mil domains of full-time equivalent employees (FTE) .

§ Allow for more than one FTE to administer an account.

§ Designate an alternative as auxiliary support. Limit this designation to an individual essential to the operation and management of an account.

§ Clearly define the criteria for the administrator and alternative.

§ Provide adequate resources to the FTE administrator, including a mobile device and third-party management tool whenever possible.

3. Create a social media policy with standard operating procedures (SOP) for cyber-security.

4. Obtain approval from appropriate agency parties, including IT Security and General Counsel

5. Train stakeholders and others on the procedures and policies of social media cyber-security.

§ Require training before use of an account.

6. Use only authorized URL Shorteners, e.g.

7. Add all official accounts to the Federal Social Media Registry, verifying authenticity of ownership.

§ This tool, used by both Facebook and Google to verify accounts, tracks official federal social media accounts.

§ List Department of Defense (DoD) social media accounts in theDoD Social Media Site Registry.

o Per DOD Web Policy and DoDI 8550.01 , use DoD Social Media Registry submission form.

8. Follow best practices for secure passwords.

§ Guide to Enterprise Password Management (Draft) by the National Institute of Standards and Technology

6. Evaluate Two-Step Verification

This type of authentication verifies a user attempting to access a device or system. It requires confirmation of two consecutive, yet dependent, entries. It may not be applicable to those without mobile devices or in secure environments prohibited entry of such items. It may also require the use of third-party management tools to effectively allow multiple content coordinators.

1. Facebook: Facebook’s Login Approvals; supplemental step-by-step guide.

2. Google and YouTube: Google 2-Step Verification.

3. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s Two Step Verification.

4. Twitter: Twitter’s Two Step Verification Process.

7. Review Special Guidance Per Common User Responsibility

For Supervisors and Directors: Confirm policy is clear, accessible, and distributed among employees. Review, approve, and document all agency accounts regularly. Identify and eliminate rogue accounts. Instruct staff administering accounts to adhere to agency criteria and undergo training where appropriate.

For Social Media Managers: Make security a part of regular social media meetings. Conduct security checks on a regular basis. Regularly update passwords. Keep the list of social media accounts updated. Keep account manager contact information accessible and updated. Remove access for users who are no longer with the agency. Develop a secure method of storing account names, owners, and passwords.

For Social Media Coordinators: Use a protected, official government device. Use protected connections. Do not post from an open Wifi network. Use a work VPN, 3G or the work-connected Internet connection. Generally, use network locations with strong firewalls and on standalone equipment. Preview shortened links to see the address of where they lead. Review the URL of a website in the address bar. Make sure the websites you visit use HTTPS encryption. If you are unsure of a link, double click the lock icon on your browser’s status bar to display the digital certificate for a site.

8. Conduct Training on Secure Use of Social Media

Live training: Cybersecurity Online Learning (COL) program supplements mandatory FISMA security role-based training by offering in-demand cybersecurity workshops. The Information Assurance Branch, United States Department of State, offers monthly social media security online courses for free for anyone with a “.mil” or “.gov” email address, regardless if the applicant is an FTE, military, or contractor.

§ Department of Defense Social Media Security/Privacy Education & Training



§ National Cyber Awareness System


§ Webinar: Operations Security (OPSEC) & Social Media: Balancing Security, Secrecy, & Transparency

§ Webinar: How to Recover from a Social Media Crisis

§ Webinar: How Government Can Prepare for and Respond to Social Media Hacks

§ Post: Beware the Cyber Security House of Horrors

§ Post: Twitter’s Two Step Verification Process

§ Post: Government Must Respond Rapidly to Social Media Hacking

Recovery: Phase 2

Alerts of suspicious activity on social media can come from anywhere, including social media itself. If the social media cyber-security stakeholder team or responsible manager determines an incident is in progress, remember that minutes and even seconds count. Within minutes you’ll need to alert internal stakeholders, alert outside stakeholders to help you regain control, and act to isolate the compromise.

1. Immediately: Alert your social media cyber-security stakeholder team, and CC them on following messages.

2. Attempt to change passwords to isolate the incident (steps 2 and 3 ideally simultaneously with two employees)

3. Contact the platform companies themselves and GSA to help regain control.

1. Contact Information to Recover Control After Cyber-Vandalism

1. Facebook: Online form for Facebook; Email; Email and

2. Twitter: Online form for Twitter; Email:; Email and

3. LinkedIn: Respond to and Report Various Issues; Email:; Email:; Email and

4. Instagram: Online form for Instagram; Email:; Email and

5. Vine: Online form for Vine; Email:; Email and

6. Hootsuite: Email:; Email; Email and

2. Audit your social media inventory

1. Audit your list of social media accounts, password holders, agency hosted websites.

2. Ensure no former employees, contractors or interns have access to current passwords.

3. Review any third-party app you use to monitor or post to social media, such as IFTTT.

4. Review your other digital services, including websites, for signs of cyber-vandalism and any vulnerabilities.

3. Confirm cyber-vandalism recovery process on different channels

Once securing your other accounts, release pre-approved initial messages alerting your communities that an incident is occurring and that steps are underway in order to recover cyber-vandalized accounts.

4. Initiate Restoration Activities After Regaining Account(s)

1. Archive cyber-vandalism messages.

2. Delete cyber-vandalism messages.

3. Stop all pre-scheduled messages.

4. Restore normal settings and features.

Response: Phase 3
Agencies must not only prepare for and recover social media accounts after a cyber-vandalism incident, they should also quickly and effectively respond to their stakeholders and audiences as soon as possible using social media in order to maintain trust in digital services. Initial responses to the cyber-security stakeholder team and the public should be within minutes of recovering control of your accounts.

1. Confirm Incident and Recovery

1. Cyber-security team confirmation: Send initial report of recovery to social media cyber-security stakeholder team.

2. Public confirmation: Distribute as soon as possible social media posts confirming the cyber-vandalism incident and your recovery of affected accounts. Announce a return to regularly scheduled activities.

3. Community confirmation: Deliver additional communication with pre-determined internal audiences and stakeholders to prevent the spread of rumors and misinformation.

2. Confirm and Verify Changes to Access

1. Review account holders.

2. Confirm verification of login status.

3. Confirm changes and updates of passwords.

3. Conduct a review of lessons learned

§ What type of response worked well?

§ Why did this work so well?

§ What did not work?

§ What unforeseen events occurred?

§ What changes will lead to a better response?

4. Apply data and analysis of outcomes to improving your program

§ Develop after-action report.

§ Ensure future relevance with accurate information.

§ Include lessons learned and best practices.

Monday, January 26, 2015

10 Reasons Not To Miss "The Interview"

Weekends are for movies and if you don't know what to watch the next time you power up Netflix on your Roku, I would highly recommend "The Interview."

Unfortunately the marketing of this movie was so bad that they almost totally ruined my interest in it. But I should have known that if Seth Rogen and James Franco were involved it was going to be a certain kind of funny, and it absolutely was.

Here are 10 reasons you absolutely have to see this movie:

  1. James Franco's portrayal of the host, which is so funny and over-the-top it makes the movie.
  2. The screenplay, which is hilarious - these lines are so rich I can't quote them enough: "America tried that before and it didn't work." "That doesn't mean we shouldn't do it again."
  3. The intelligent worldview of the movie, which is that wars are just as much fought through communications as guns, that both are equally powerful
  4. The plot, which allows us to talk about real issues by combining reality and satire
  5. The focus on North Korean dictator specifically, which was highly imaginative and which allows us to look at him from a psychological point of view
  6. The psychological bent of the movie, which doesn't use action to cover a lack of thought 
  7. The empowering messages about women,  subtle and not-so-subtle: "It's 2014. Women are smart now."
  8. The overall message of the movie, which is that taking care of each other is the most important thing we can do on this planet.
  9. The cameos by Eminem, Rob Lowe and Bill Maher, which were very funny.
  10. Seth Rogen's portrayal of the Jew as Franco's moral conscience who's also lost his way because his job pays a lot of money, and Franco makes him feel loved and wanted.
As a side note there is a scene in the movie that involves a line that some would consider anti-Semitic (to the effect of "Don't shake his hand...he's a Jew.") I understood that line to be important to the movie, to have artistic integrity and to be perfect for the comedy.

Imagine what kind of world we would live in if we could not incorporate anti-religious messages - even if crude or insensitive - into art the same way we incorporate sexuality and violence. We would be starting down a path where the only end is bleak totalitarianism.

In any case this is a fantastic, funny, movie that is rare in combining true art with a truly important set of themes and messages about the world. I hope you take the time to see it, on Netflix or anywhere else.


All opinions my own.

Friday, January 23, 2015

How To Fire All The Bureaucrats

Today I had to take care of a small errand and was struck by the inefficiency with which government works:

  • Before walking in the door, I couldn't figure out which instructions applied to me. I could barely even find them on the website.
  • The appointment system was telephone-based, a frustrating waste of time.
  • Once in the appointment all the forms were paper-based and an ink signature was required.
I am familiar with the government tendency to resist change and avoid new technology until it's absolutely impossible to ignore it.

  • Nobody wants to take a risk and get into trouble.
  • Nobody wants to get automated out of a job.
  • Nobody wants to collaborate if that means losing their power.
These are natural human tendencies and I totally understand them. But they're not productive for our society. In the example above:

  • How much time is going to get wasted manually reviewing and transferring the paper data to a computer system? 
  • How many dead PDFs are we going to create and then try to integrate into a database system down the road? 
  • How many records will we generate now, only to be completely befuddled later as to what matters and what doesn't?

A failure to streamline government is only going to further strain extremely large socio-economic problems that are about to get much, much worse:
  1. Automation will end most demand for human labor – manual, administrative, even customer service.
  2. The end of jobs will trigger a corresponding rise in need for social services.
  3. True competition will become impossible in an economy controlled by the wealthy and powerful few.
  4. Interconnected, integrated, interoperable, easily accessed Big Data will eradicate the possibility of privacy. 
  5. Small terrorist cells with dangerous weapons will finally be taken seriously for the grave threat they pose.
The way to handle these problem is fairly straightforward but will require a big change in attitude to adjust to. We're not going to be able to live the same way anymore. For example, kids aren't going to graduate college with the expectation of a job. It's just not happening. So here's what we as a society have to do in order to adapt. These are very broad general approaches, I'll leave it to others to figure out the details.
  1. Get ahead of the curve and stop reacting defensively. The risk of not acting is bigger than the risk of the status quo.
  2. Stop quibbling over details and unite around a broadly shared vision of progress. Nobody wins with all the divisiveness.
  3. Use commercial, off-the-shelf technology to the maximum extent possible. There is no excuse to be dragging our feet on this.
  4. Protect civil rights, dissent and privacy; promote transparency; form fully independent external bodies to regulate the regulators.
  5. Incorporate strong security practices into everything we do. There are a lot of people who want to foment and take advantage of chaos, to steal our freedom and our lives along with it.
Government workers secretly fear that their jobs will become irrelevant in the new economy. That may be true in some cases. But it's probably more true that our role will evolve:
  1. To rebalance major power inequities and promote national competitiveness through a whole-of-society approach to the major issues that confront us.
  2. To protect people's rights and make sure that vulnerable populations are supported.
  3. To maintain social order and prevent chaos from breaking out.
As we go about our day-to-day lives it's really easy to stick our heads in the sand and let others worry about the problems. But at some point you look around and realize it's you that's got the football. And that your standing there at a press conference, with no excuse as to why you've let it deflate.

Photo by Me and the Sysop via Flickr. All opinions my own.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Personal Reflection This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2015 and I should be talking about his vision.

But instead I am thinking more about Malcolm X.

Both men were powerful civil rights leaders. But each espoused a different approach; whereas MLK believed in diplomacy, Malcolm X stood for directness.

(Including his open belief that Jews control the economy and are exploitive of African-Americans, for which he was called anti-Semitic, a charge he denied.)

From The Autobiography of Malcolm X:
  • "A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything."
  • "I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it."
Malcolm X was a Muslim and it is his pure sensibility I think we need today to confront the global war against radical Islamic terrorism.
  • He promoted tolerance as a general principle: "I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation - EVERY form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color."
  • But he would not be tolerant of people who disrespected him: "I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don't believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn't want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn't know how to return the treatment." — Speech, Dec. 12 1964, New York City.
  • Finally, he refused to apologize for advocating self-defense: "There is nothing in our book, the Koran, that teaches us to suffer peacefully. Our religion teaches us to be intelligent. Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. That's a good religion." — "Message to the Grass Roots," speech, Nov. 1963, Detroit (published in Malcolm X Speaks, ch. 1, 1965).
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. uniquely understood that all people were the same under the skin, and so he approached racial problems from the lens of finding that common point.

Malcolm X believed we would find peace and harmony only by confronting the truth. And if the truth hurt people's feelings, well then that was just inevitable.

And if Malcolm X were still alive, he would tell the President loud and clear: Radical Islamic terrorists bear no resemblance to Islam.

Today I watched American Sniper in the theater, and the audience was at first completely silent as the credits closed, then spontaneously broke out into applause before leaving. 

The film is about American hero Chris Kyle and his resolve to fight against terrorists overseas, and to take care of his fellow veterans after coming home. 

Underneath the surface the message is that we aren't doing enough to get the job done and we aren't supporting our active-duty military or our veterans nearly the way we should be. 

Sadly, many complain about the moral dilemmas associated with war - they resist the military necessity to defend our nation - even as they take advantage of the freedom others earn on their behalf.

American Sniper is a blockbuster hit, it's earned $119 million since its short release so far, and if you watch the movie you will find out why: It defines what it means to be a patriot.

Today we honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s commitment to realizing the dream of civil rights no matter how endless the march.

But we should also be honoring the prophetic vision of the man who was similarly assassinated as he was speaking for his people.

"If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary," said Malcolm X.

No matter how badly you want peace, it is simply not possible to achieve it with people who seek to kill you.


All opinions my own. Photo from the Korean War via Wikimedia. The title of this post has been updated.

"Labor Day," A Chick Flick On Steroids (Filed Under: Kate Winslet)

Last night I had the chance to pick the movie (Netflix) and I went to the "Romantic Movies" section and Andy went "Oh, no...."
It was either this or "Jayne Eyre" and I went with this because KATE WINSLET. I say to Andy, "That's Kate Winslet, she was in 'Titanic,'" prompting Andy to say "I hated Titanic" but then, kindly "you did sit through the Zombie show."
The movie started off kind of slow but then again as Andy said, "high budget" and I got the feeling it was going to be good.
I guarantee there is going to be a night when you're sitting around, feeling extremely female and feminine and romantic and womanly and you'll want to watch a truly quality movie on the caliber of "The Notebook" that makes you cry your bleeping head off.
Andy was making jokes throughout the first part, i.e. "Look I've fallen in love with a criminal" and I was laughing pretty hard, but by the second part Kate Winslet was doing the true Kate Winslet thing...suffering and longing for love, love, love...crying for her loss and the shitty way the world has treated her (and I don't want to spoil it by saying more).
There is a feminist argument to be made here about how film directors punish women for their sexuality and I'm not going to ruin it and go there because...KATE WINSLET. If you liked her in Titanic and you liked her in Revolutionary Road you are going to watch this movie and CRY YOUR EYES OUT.
It is funny from a guy's perspective. Andy sees me sitting there and sobbing..he goes "I'm sorry the movie got you upset." And I'm like, "I'm HAPPY that I got to see it, but I feel SO BAD for KATE WINSLET."
It's a holiday today, you must watch. There.

P.S. Notes for marketers:
  • Focus on the celebrity: I watched this movie because of the Kate Winslet brand. It was "her" not the plot or the trailer.
  • Hyper-focus on your audience: You cannot go too far in tailoring your content. Understand and approach your audience with very thorough knowledge of their interests, needs, etc.
  • Think about the role of consumption influencers: I would not have paid to see this movie in a theater, because Andy and I pick the movies together. Thus some content is better tailored for a Netflix-type viewing environment, where each person can choose content more tailored to their individual taste.

All opinions my own.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Real Branding Is For Worker Bees

The fantasy and fallacy of courses in brand is that consultants work like The Wizard of Oz.
You think we stand behind a curtain, flipping switches and pulling levers, cogitating and ruminating. Until, like a pregnant woman, our water breaks. And a fully-formed, living, breathing brand pops out into the world, ready to "rock and roll" and accumulate more and more equity on behalf of its creator.
The truth is, we consultants - client-side or consulting-side - are nothing more than teeny, free-floating space stations in an infinitesimal galaxy of stakeholder planets.
And there are many planets in your galaxy, even more than you know. Every time a resident of one of them utters a breath, your brand has been not just represented but re-created.
It's like a giant game of Operator. And the impact is magnified by every action these stakeholders take. Remember, it is the experience that defines the brand image in the customers' mind - talk is cheap, actions matter and people judge you by what you do, not just what you say.
Every supervisor, to staff. Every salesperson. Every chatty customer service rep. Every supplier, every distributor, every recruiter, every partner, every Wikipedia maven who edits your entry, every journalist and graphic designer and copywriter and public relations rep and subject matter and hired hand for the trade show.
All these people, all of them are the ecosystem of your brand. It is the least informed among them who will make the strongest impression.
So what then is the role of the brand specialist?
It is to bring together the various stakeholders and unite them around the cause. It is to shepherd the meaning of the brand among all its various interactions.
The chief brand specialist is always the leader, whether they like it or not and whether they know it or not. For your brand, that means you. For the nation, it means the President of the United States. For a company, the CEO. This is the person who stands under the spotlight at all times, whose every action is examined microscopically and from whom meaning is extrapolated to the larger group.
This person obviously cannot do it alone...being the star of the show they need a solid supporting cast. That is where you come in, if your job is explicitly defined as brand. You don't think up things and issue orders and snap your fingers to make the brand appear and dance a jig.
You serve the Chief Branding Officer.
And if you think that you can limit your role to anything in the realm of communications - branding, marketing, advertising, PR, sales, digital engagement, etc. - you are sorely wrong, wrong, wrong.
In this role you function much more like a senior business advisor, you must work together with the functional chief of staff or equivalent at the leader's roundtable. It is your job to look across the entire organization, to see where the business itself is working or where its effectiveness is blocked.
And you make sure that the functional issues are attended to, while also making sure the fundamental communications bases are covered, quietly supporting the leader in being consistent and relevant and credible. Working with the experts who actually know the work of the company, to make the message accurate. De-cluttering it visually and verbally to ensure it is simple and punchy and clear.
So your day-to-day life is not exalted, you aren't in a think-tank and you don't stand around brainstorming "concepts" most of the time.
The truth is you're just another worker bee, and if you're with the right brand you are swept up by its meaning, its potential to make a real difference in the world.
Holistic brand management is a process. You learn it by studying a little, and doing a lot. Your reward is having been a part of the journey.
All opinions my own. Photo via Wikipedia.

The Spitball (a family memory)

A classic Andy Blumenthal story. He wrote about it in his blog but I have to tell you how it went down from where I sat.

We go into the pizza place last night for fries. A bunch of teenagers sits right next to us and they are normal kids - loud.

All of a sudden a spitball lands on Andy's ear. You should have seen his expression, it was like WTF, and I could see he was a little bit startled. He picks up the spitball and we just look at it. 

I'm thinking, uh-oh because if you know Andy you know that sending a spitball his way is not a good idea.

I go "don't worry, they're just kids," etc. typical mom trying to keep the peace.

Suddenly he picks up one of my French fries and his hand is kind of wobbling...before I know it he lets his hand fly and the fries have landed in the kids' camp.

One of the girls in the gang must have said something, I didn't hear it or see her expression, but the Mashgiach (kosher supervisor - who is a kid himself not much older than them) comes running over to scold THEM for throwing food! He tells them they better pick it up.

Meanwhile Andy is laughing so hard his shoulders are shaking, and me and Rebecca Blumenthal are too, and we are laughing for what seems like forever.

Finally Rebecca says, "Dad, you are the coolest Dad ever. I love you."

It was a great moment.


All opinions my own.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


That elusive, incredibly valuable quality we call a "leadership brand."
Really, what we mean is "charisma."
What is it? Who has it? How do you get it? Can it be taught, or bought? Or is it something you're born with?
As a little girl I used to watch Sunday morning political TV. I remember how the panel went at it on that show,The McLaughlin Group. And they would vote on the issues throughout the show, and at the end.
"Issue 1!" John McLaughlin, the host would say, and Eleanor Clift and John Buchanan would go at it.
"Issue 2!" then round and round.
Always McLaughlin would have the deciding vote, and always he'd be right on in my mind...because you know what? He was electable! Even though McLaughlin was a moderator, asking for the expert opinion of others, he was the real leader. He had that secret ingredient.
Very few people have true charisma, which is why so few are electable. In fact it is not something you can teach, buy or acquire. It is something you must be born with.
You know who has it? Which leader came to your mind when I asked? Yep, you guessed it - President Barack Obama. You can agree with his policies or disagree with them (and I am a super-supporter of Israel, so I've got a lot of concerns to be sure), you can criticize his performance on this stage or that, but it is undeniable that if the President shows up at your front door you are going to be elated.
When that doorbell rings you'll say, "Hello, Barry," as if you had known him all your life. Because he has the capacity to make you feel like a friend, and you'll get out there and play basketball with him even if you've never played.
Here's another leader who has it: former President Bill Clinton. Again, you may not agree with him; I'm not so old that I don't recall all the scandals that dogged him throughout his Administration. And I don't think we've seen the end of those. But similarly to President Obama, there is something about Mr. Clinton, when he shows up on TV, that makes you simply agree.
A third example, because not all leaders are Democrats: former President Reagan. Who did not laugh and enjoy Michael J. Fox's portrayal of Alex P. Keaton, the junior Republican wannabe who quoted all things Reagan to his former-hippie parents on Family Ties? It was Reagan whose charisma extended well past his own persona - he actually successfully branded the entire United States. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" - what a priceless symbolic moment, and nobody else could have uttered those words in that way and generated such a level of patriotism.
We could go on here, and it could take all day. But the point is this: Very few people actually have any sort of charisma, much less the kind that would get them elected.
It's hard to admit that you're scruffy, unfunny and plain. But if you are, take a seat with the rest of us, and get on with your life and enjoy it.
Personal branding can take you very far. But the key is to amplify what it is that you have, not create whatever it is that you don't.
It's why women look better without an excess of makeup. We'd rather know the natural you, than have to find the real person among the layers.
All opinions my own. Photo by Connie Liegl / Flickr.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Comment: The First 20 Minutes of "Century of the Self: Happiness Machines"



This is a seriously good show. It's going to take me a while to get through, but in just the first few minutes I learned about:

  • The connection between WWI propaganda and the birth of modern advertising, marketing, branding and public relations
  • How "public relations" got its name - as a better-sounding substitute for propaganda
  • How Freudian theory was used to sell cigarettes to women

If any of this sounds good, I highly recommend watching this show. I'll keep posting comments as I watch it.


All opinions my own.

A Comment On Tim Hill's "Entering The Third Age Of Branding"

Here's the article:

Respectfully - the first and second age of branding, agree were about functional then emotional/symbolic value respectively. The third age of branding, perhaps could be defined age the age of the brand hijack by people (per the book of that name). True we are bombarded by brands and look at them in the context of a total experience. But the point of branding today is to deliver an authentic human experience - almost like buying a friend. This is why employee branding has become primary (because they must believe) and why social media matters (because we talk to each other over the brand's official language - per the Cluetrain Manifesto.)


All opinions my own.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bookmark This: "Century of the Self"

Just ran across this amazing 4-part BBC series available completely free on Vimeo. It is a study of the use of Freudian theory for the purpose of propaganda.

You can also see it as a series of 16 shorter clips on YouTube.

I really like the way Maria Popova summarizes the show in her weekly (free and excellent) newsletter BrainPickings:
" utterly fascinating four-part probe into the depths of consumerism and democracy. Though it focuses primarily on how those in power have used Freud’s theories to manipulate public opinion and perception, the series delves into the richest and most profound layers of 20th century culture, from the hidden mechanisms of advertising to the civil rights movement to the inner workings of political belief systems — all whilst managing to avoid the trap of conspiracy-theorism with incredible elegance and dexterity." 
"...reminiscent of Naomi Klein’s No Logo in its relentless investigation of the crafting of consumer culture, with all its whims and whimsy, only layered on top of the complex political, psychological and sociocultural forces that shaped it."
The series is worth viewing for students of psychoanalytic theory (obviously), sociology, mass communications, psychoanalytic theory, public relations, American history, and the Holocaust. I'm going to take the time. I hope that you will do the same and let me know what you think.

H/T to Infowars for sharing.

All opinions my own. No endorsement expressed or implied.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How You Treat Me When The Chips Are Down

"She has a million excuses for not wanting to get together with me," she said.
"Maybe she's actually busy," I replied.
"'s the same pattern, over and over again. When the chips are down, she's never there."
Because they've studied marketing, so many marketers are completely blind to Branding 101.
And the axiom: Our favorite brands are like our friends. There for us in bad times, not just sometimes but primarily.
I'll tell you a secret: American Airlines sucks. And if I have any choice about it, I'll fly JetBlue even if the fare is higher.
Here's why: Every single flight with JetBlue is like hanging out with your friends. On American you feel like a prisoner doing jail time.
Let's start with the employees, because they are the single most important part of every brand equation. JetBlue employees joke around. They give you PopChips and a drink. You get a TV for the duration of the flight. It's delightful to be on board - it's something to look forward to. Even if you're having the crappiest possible day of your life, a JetBlue flight is guaranteed to cheer you up.
On the other hand, American's staff looks and acts absolutely miserable. If you walk onto the flight depressed, the best you can hope for is to fall asleep until the very minute it's over.
I remember the time we landed in DC from Florida. The flight attendant said, "We are now landing" and then walked up and down the aisles, slamming the overhead bins loudly over our heads. It was so loud the passengers sat up like birds startled out of their nests: "WTF is going on?"
Another time, more recently, we traveled on Christmas Eve and the airline was so disorganized they changed the gate just before departure. We wound up at a "combined gate" where you had to either go left for Santa Fe (us) or right for El Paso. No less than three times I had to get up and figure out if we were in the right place, and the passengers were furious.
"Don't say anything too loud," someone warned me. "They will kick you off the flight."
I heard someone say, "Don't complain too loud or they will kick you off the flight."
There were the airline representatives, standing at the microphone reading out instructions. On top of the stupid gate arrangements, as we boarded they told us we'd have to "give them" our carry-ons - as in, no receipt whatsoever.
"I'm not giving you my bag," I said fearfully. I could just imagine showing up in snowy Santa Fe and being told they'd lost my stuff, or maybe even denying they ever received it, because - you guessed it - I had no receipt.
It was American's fault not to explain in advance that the plane to Santa Fe would be small, and we'd have to check our things. They could have supported their staff on communicating the gate change, so that the customers weren't milling around in the frustrated, fearful state they were.
I sat there and felt angry. It's 2015, they are getting tons of money from the customer, and they cannot get their shit together? They leave their brand ambassadors twisting in the wind, to be eaten by us starving wolves?
The only explanation: They may market themselves in whatever way, but whoever is in charge doesn't know the first thing about branding.
Life is full of big and little hassles. The stings are ameliorated a bit by the brands that cheer me up along the way.
Being my friend is the magic secret. Forget about airlines, which you fly because you have to. Think about the stores you visit "just for fun," even when there's nothing in particular you want to get. Starbucks, Trader Joe's, Nordstrom, Apple.
In Santa Fe we went to Kadima Levana's Oxygen Healing Bar. We didn't need anything, but we wound up staying for for hours. Kadima became a real friend, that is, we sat and talked with her and her family about important things, and nothing at all. She gave us her time and her ear, and she said "you'll pay me whatever you feel you can or need to." She said, "I want to build a community, and I hope you come back just to sit here."
Kadima has never been to a marketing class, and her beautiful hand-crafted space, full of homemade art, hand-crafted local remedies and soothing herbal drinks is my destination of choice in Santa Fe. (Here's a link to her site.)
Sometimes we hang out with people we don't like, just because we have to. Those companies aren't real brands.
Most of the time, we run toward people who make us feel welcome, for no reason at all than that we exist.
If you're building a brand, make your foundation on empathy and kindness. Make friendship your founding principle.
Photo by Mark Seymour via Flickr. All opinions my own.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

who separates darkness from light

God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. - Genesis 1:3-5
The essence of business is honesty. Meaning three things:
  • The conceptual ability to distinguish "valuable" from "valueless."
  • The concrete ability to execute on this and earn money.
  • The moral conscience to earn in a way that ultimately benefits people.
(Note: You can have business sense but no conscience, but if that is the case you're ultimately going to be blinded by greed and your business decisions will be bad, because biased.)
Not everyone has business sense, but U2's Bono does. The band's "360°" tour was the highest grossing concert series of all time, with gross earnings of $736,421,584 (Wikipedia; event photo by Luka Krstulović).
When he isn't singing, Bono spends his time helping the poor, another reflection of his capacity to separate worthwhile time investments from bogus ones.
A couple of days ago, while in recovery from a terrible accident, he issued "Little Book Of A Big Year. It's a funny and important reflection on 2014 that says this:
Capitalism is not immoral, but it is amoral. It gets its instructions from us. It's an indiscriminate engine, and our obligation is to see that it provides forward movement to everyone, not just to those whose hands are on the levers.
What an important statement to make. One that reflects a kind of Divine perspective on money - that is only as good or as bad as we human beings make it.
Bono's One organization, aimed at fighting extreme poverty and other social ills in Africa, has more than 6 million members now. It is funded, basically, by rich people - you and I cannot donate.
In the currency-less and weapon-free future toward which we are all headed, money itself will cease to have meaning.
But we will remember those who, in these dark and unenlightened times, had all the cash in the world. We will reflect on the many who chose traffic in sex, drugs, and guns; who used corrupt means to exploit those "who don't matter" and to make themselves even richer.
We will isolate such people from humanity forever, and turn instead to follow the light of the true and honest business leaders.
All opinions my own. Photo by Mayhem Chaos via Flickr.

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