How do you transition social media properties?

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When you look at someone’s Twitter profile, or Instagram, you will often see something along the lines of “Opinions presented here do not represent my employer.”  That’s all well and good, but for the most part, you are representing your employer all the time. Social media has opened up new ways that employees and public figures build a public presence.

Let’s say that you have 500 Twitter followers, and are then hired into a high profile role at a major media company. As a result of your role, your followers grow to 100,000.  Yes, those are your followers, but could a case be made that they also belong to your employer?  What happens when you leave that job? In most cases, nothing.  You move onto your new position with your bounty of followers.  The President of the United States has chosen to do something a little different, and it’s something we can all learn from in terms of planning digital transitions.

Companies may encounter digital transitions when they do things like go through a merger, sunset a product or when a high-profile executive retires.  Read the plan from The White House and see if there is something you can use.

The Future of Higher Education in California – Mind the Gap

California State Senate Pro Tem Kevin DeLeon, University of California President Janet Napolitano and Mark Baldassare President and CEO Public Policy institute of California (PPIC) at the Opening of the PPIC Higher Education Center on April 12, 2016 (Photo by Josh Morgan)

California’s public higher education system has long been one of the leaders, if not the leader, in access and excellence for decades.  This leap beyond really came about during a period of intense focus on building infrastructure in the 1950’s and 60’s.  There were freeways built to move people, aqueducts to move water and a system of higher education to move minds.

From the flagship University of California (Berkeley) the system grew to include 10 UCs, 23 state universities and 113 community colleges.  The core of this system was access to higher education and the upward mobility promised by education that was the calling card for California.

The three areas of focus below were laid out by Hans Johnson during the introduction of the Public Policy Institute of California’s Higher Education Center and there was a fourth, excellence, added by University of California president Janet Napolitano in a forum that followed.  These areas of focus touch on most of the hot buttons surrounding public higher education in California right now, and in many cases as goes California often goes the country.  Due to our size, population and action, what happens in California impacts how other states react to challenges and as California State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin DeLeon added, “We are the leaders.  Washington DC looks to California.”



According to the master plan synopsis on the UC site, ”all California residents in the top one-eighth or top one-third of the statewide high school graduating class who apply on time be offered a place somewhere in the UC or CSU system, respectively, though not necessarily at the campus or in the major of first choice.  The “promise,” is still there but the follow-through isn’t.  According to the PPIC over the past three years more than 30,000 qualified California students who had applied to other schools were redirected to UC Merced, where fewer than 600 of those students registered.



There were significant state funding cuts for both UC and CSU during the recession and fees and tuition were increased significantly as a result.  There has also been an increase in available financial aid, but there is still a large majority of Californians that think that affordability in higher education is a big problem (PPIC Statewide Survey 2014). This perception gap makes it more difficult for legislators to support increasing higher education funding.


Getting to college is one challenge, getting through is another.  Only 61% of UC students graduate in four years and only 16% of CSU students within four, and slightly more than half in six years (which actually tracks pretty closely with national averages).  This may be an indicator that the notion of going away to college for years and coming back with a degree is done, or an indicator that there needs to be new capacity created for students to move through the system more quickly and create space for those needed to fill the gap of approximately 1.1 million bachelor degree educated students that California needs to fill.

Looking at the above, they are a bit like puppies and balloons. Who doesn’t like these ideas?  The issue is priority and with priority comes public support and funding.  Edelman recently released a study on “University Reputations and the Public,” which called out specific areas where public opinion needs to be focused to support the above and consequently where some of the future communications and public affairs challenges may lie.

  • Our survey found that only four in 10 public citizens say the university’s traditional role is vital to society (vs six in 10 that say universities need to evolve.). This is supported by data from an article (Shut up About Harvard) on that says, “Nearly half of all college students attend community colleges; among those at four-year schools, nearly a quarter attend part time and about the same share are 25 or older. In total, less than a third of U.S. undergraduates are “traditional” students in the sense that they are full-time, degree-seeking students at primarily residential four-year colleges.” The point being that the behavior of college students has evolved but the notion or understanding of what college is, perhaps has not.


  • When our survey asked if it is more important for universities to focus on providing a well-rounded education and student experience or it is more important that universities focus on providing students with tools and resources they need to succeed in a specific career, we found that academics worry about quality, while the public worries about jobs. This is actually being well addressed through the expansion of opportunities for specific career related options including baccalaureate or bachelor’s degrees being offered through community colleges in areas such as manufacturing, dental hygiene and respiratory care.  The continued growth of opportunities for advancement beyond traditional higher education may create friction over resources between traditional four year universities and colleges and other providers of advanced education.

There is a serious communication gap between what is happening and higher ed and what the popular narrative is.

How not double checking a PowerPoint May Have Cost Billions


I give a lot of presentations.  Many of these are new business presentations where there are PowerPoint slides up on a screen and I’m talking.  It’s amazing how no matter what else is on the screen if there is a mistake, everyone sees it, or at least it feels that way.

Now, if that mistake is including the wrong name…..everyone does see it.  The basketball shoe business is a multi-billion dollar business and it is name driven.  Jordan. Kobe. LeBron. Curry.  Those first three names are all with Nike.  The last used to be. Now he wears Under Armour.  Why?

A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant‘s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says.

The “Dell” referenced above is Stephen Curry’s dad.  Now, Nike didn’t double check that slide before they presented but you always should.  Read the rest of the article from ESPN.

It’s time to change our language in communications and marketing. Five phrases to leave behind.

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There are several phrases that are often used in marketing and communications that it’s time to retire, if there was ever a place for them.  I’ve grouped them into two groups. The first group is primarily related to the use of military and gun metaphors and similes when referring to tactics.  This is especially notable as I often work for clients that are involved in education, both software and services and with universities.  The second group of words are those that are just tasteless and often I find that people don’t know the true origin of the phrases.

Military and gun phrases:

  • “Boots on the ground.” – Most often used to refer to staff being onsite for an event with the original phrase referring to the placing of soldiers in harms way.
  • “Bullets in the chamber.” – In PR it’s talking about how many opportunities still exist but in real life it’s referring to how many shots you have left after you’ve already fired.
  • “Keeping our powder dry.” – I’ve heard people use this phrase to refer to holding something in reserve such as a tactic or a critical piece of information that they’d like to pull out later.  Now, it’s been a long time since the primarily method of firing guns included pouring black powder into a gun and then following it with a wad and a ball, but when it did, it was necessary to keep the black powder from becoming wet so it would fire properly.

Phrases that I swear most people don’t know what they mean they use them:

  • “Drinking the kool aid.” – This is used to describe believing in your own product or service and using it. Often used interchangeably with, “eating our own dog food.”  The origin of this is the mass forced suicide/murder  of 900, including several hundred children, followers of Jim Jones in the jungles of Guyana.  He led them there after enthralling them in San Francisco, then when he believed the circle was finally closing in on him he forced them to drink grape Flavor Aid that was laced with cyanide.
  • “Money shot.” – Generically used to refer to a big finish to a campaign, this is hysterically close to the original usage, but in that case it referred to a climactic shot in a porn movie.  I’ll let you get specific.

Great article for a client? Frame it and Give it.

If you help develop a great article for your client that runs in either a major publication, or in their hometown publication, have it matted and framed and give it to them.

  • They will love it and put it on their wall;
  • It will remind them of the service you provide them (even after they aren’t a client);
  • It’s inexpensive; and
  • It serves as advertising for you long after.

Agency Lessons from Mad Men Episode 710 – The Forecast

Image by Michael Yarish from
Image by Michael Yarish from

Mad Men still includes real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. If I wasn’t in this industry, I’m sure I would still be a fan of the show, but for me I get a bonus. I get to watch situations I encounter all the time dealt with by others. Mad Men continues to include real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. Throughout the course of the series I’ve written 25 posts about real world agency lessons from the show and here’s one from one of the last.

There are two junior creatives who had a rough time presenting to a client. The work was not well received and they turned on each other in front of the client.  One of them approaches Don and asks him to go with him to make amends with the client.  Don instead gives examples of how he met with a similar issue and provides guidance on how to deal with the situation.

Well, the attempt at amends didn’t go well and the young creative flipped the words and scenario Don presented him, offending the client.  As an agency leader you want to empower your staff to take command and fix problems on their own.  The problem is that you need to be ready to deal with the consequences if it it doesn’t go according to plan.  In this case, he was fired.  This was a “teachable moment,” for the agency and Don could have moved the person off the account and helped him learn how to deal with situations like this. But he’s Don, he didn’t.