If you recently noticed some changes here at JonathanRick.com, don’t change the link. We (finally) spun-off our original blog, No Straw Men (the title of our founder’s column in his college newspaper), into its own entity, at NoStrawMen.com.
A version of this blog post appeared on Mashable on May 8, 2012.
Why do search engines always rank certain websites so highly? Obviously, their content is kingly, but so is their search engine optimization (SEO). Indeed, for many sites, the search-engine spiders that crawl the Web deliver a third or more of their traffic. Perhaps the most famous example comes from the Huffington Post, which in February reeled in readers with the ingenious bait: “What Time Is the Super Bowl?”
In protest, writers for publications such as the Washington Post, New York Times, and Atlantic each have taken turns slugging the SEO punching bag. The headlines describe their complaint: “Gene Weingarten Column Mentions Lady Gaga.” “This Boring Headline Is Written for Google.” “Google Doesn’t Laugh: Saving Witty Headlines in the Age of SEO.”
In other words, algorithms don’t appreciate wit, irony, humor, or style. As reporter Steve Lohr put it, they’re “numbingly literal-minded.” Alas, Oscar Wilde!
In February 2010, I wrote a blog post called “Google News.” In November 2010, I revised it. Yet it took almost another year and a half to finish the damn thing, which appeared last week on Mashable. Since the text from 2012 doesn’t include the text from 2010, I figure I should publish the original for posterity.
Google’s announcement earlier this year threatening to pull its business from China stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest. Leaving aside the merits of what the company did, consider the way in which it broke this news.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Google’s vice president of public policy and communications, Rachel Whetstone, began crafting and revising a number of versions of a possible statement the company planned to release publicly.”
Pretty standard fare, right? There’s nothing special about your PR person drafting a statement. But this wasn’t your usual corporate spin. In fact, the statement wasn’t a statement; in its eventual form, it was a blog post.
A version of this blog post appeared on Mashable on April 6, 2012.
Like an old shoe, the press release has been around forever. Every year seems to bring another proclamation that it’s on its last legs. While the rumors are exaggerated, they emerge from a stubborn truth: the press release is being eclipsed by digital alternatives that are more flexible, more interesting, and more relevant.
A milestone was reached in 2010, when Google made a major announcement not by press release but by blog post. Five years earlier, a company of Google’s stature would have issued a boilerplate statement on a newswire. Now, a Google executive was crafting a more thoughtful, even heartfelt narrative that was published on the Official Google Blog.
This shift in medium and message represented a new era in corporate communications. No longer does a traditional press release suffice to make news. News now needs to be conveyed in an empathetic tone and delivered in a user-friendly format.
A version of this blog post appeared on the Future Buzz on January 17, 2012.
Chris Abraham recently published a case study on the “art of writing the perfect blogger pitch.” There’s a lot to like here. For one, the time and thought Chris and his team devote to this esoterica are rare. For another, spilling your trade secrets takes guts.
To convert a prospect into a client is a special skill. Sometimes you get lucky and the company has already been contemplating the services you offer. Typically, however, a prospect hasn’t envisioned the various ways you can support his brand.
This is why, when we first sit down with someone, we begin by contextualizing what it is that we do for a living. Instead of tossing around lingo such as “hashtags,” “Klout,” or “search engine optimization,” we present five simple slides on “how to think of social media” (see above).
A version of this blog post appeared on Brazen Life on November 8, 2011.
Whether you’re seeking a job or looking to advance your career, using social media to raise your visibility is a must. Yet if you want to stand out—either in a stack of resumes or when your boss needs someone to head up a new project—don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Instead, go beyond the cliché of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and write a post for a popular blog.
Is this more time-consuming than sharing a link? Absolutely. Is it more difficult than banging out 140 characters? You bet. Does it seem strange to write for someone else’s blog rather than your own? Certainly.
Yet put the time and effort into crafting a thoughtful piece, and you’ll likely experience a rich range of rewards. At minimum, you’ll demonstrate thought leadership, make a name for yourself, and earn a byline in which you can link to your resume or website. Even better, you could land a promotion, secure a job offer, or generate new business.
A version of this blog post appeared on Brazen Life on October 24, 2011.
“The dog ate my homework.”
Even though this famous excuse is rarely used, what it symbolizes is all-too-familiar: an aversion to admit accountability. What’s more, this urge to excuse one’s blunders rather than shoulder them betrays a bigger issue: a lack of character.
Let’s be honest: no wants to entertain excuses—even perfectly good ones. We value friends who are reliable, we promote employees who are consistent, we love spouses because when they wrong us, they rectify it. Not for nothing did the sign on Harry Truman’s desk proclaim, “The buck stops here!”
To be sure, emergencies arise. We all screw up from time to time. Yet it’s how you rectify things that counts, that makes you who you are.
A version of this blog post appeared on Tech Cocktail on October 21, 2011.
Every hack authoring an article and every flack penning a proposal has encountered The Question: how many users does this social network have? Sure, you can Google the answers, but then you run into the problem of making sure that your source is authoritative, current, and doesn’t confuse active users (those who log in at least once a month) with total users (your grandmother, who, after signing up, gave up).
Here, then, a new offering from Tech Cocktail: a continuously updated Google Doc that lists the number of active users for the big social networks (see the embedded spreadsheet above or click here).
A version of this blog post appeared on Mashable on October 14, 2011.
The next big thing is always around the click
Internet innovation is so fierce and constant that it undermines the notion of zero-sum market share. Instead of vying for a piece of the same fixed and static pie, webtrepreneurs bake whole new pies. Not for nothing does Jeff Bezos insist that the Kindle comprises a “different product category” than the iPad: just because a company maintains a seeming monopoly on a market doesn’t mean the market is devoid of opportunities. When there’s an innovator, there’s a way. With the Web, Goliath is always vulnerable.
This milieu should make us skeptical when an antitrust charge is volleyed around, as it has been recently in the form of a lawsuit from the Justice Department, an investigation from the Federal Trade Commission, and a hearing from Congress.
A version of this blog post appeared on the Bad Pitch Blog on October 5, 2011.
Practice deftness, not deafness
In a recent blog post, Chris Brogan describes a scenario familiar to anyone not living under a rock: “Today, I sheepishly deleted several e-mails … that were waiting for a quick response … Dozens. Maybe 100 overall. So that means almost 100 people got my attention, got me to read something, got me to think that maybe I should do something,” and then never heard back.
Why does this happen so often to so many? Brogan’s diagnosis is convincing: Because “we don’t fully understand the syntax of saying ‘no.’”
He offers a graceful example of how to construct this elusive sentence: “What you’re doing is important, and I’m very supportive of you, but I’m not able to take on what you’d like me to do because of my own full plate of commitments.”
In other words: Thanks, but no thanks.