On NBC News in Chicago

September 27, 2011

If you’ve ever wanted to see me on video, here you go. I was recently on NBC’s The Talk with Marion Brooks discussing social media marketing and the launch of Socialogic, a new agency in Chicago (to point out the obvious – I work for them).


Ah, sweet validation from mainstream media.

My post on finding the right social media team members was published in Crain’s Chicago’s Small Biz Blog today.

Six years ago I was a fresh college graduate just getting started in the online marketing world. The average person didn’t know what a blog was, Facebook was restricted to university students in the U.S., and Twitter had yet to be invented. And the web was just starting to be respected and understood by mainstream marketing firms and teams.

Today, bloggers appear in commercials and social media is a key part of the marketing mix for brands both large and small. Finally, some respect! That said, I still see companies struggling with the connectivity, the immediacy, and the transparency of the web, and how it is all integrated into their organization. It’s an interesting problem, and one that I’ll continue to write more about on this blog.

Unrelated and relevant only to fellow Chicagoans – my agency is hosting an event at Social Media Week on social engagement and content creation – RSVP! It will be a great chance to gain some expertise, network with your fellow members of the media, and generally have a fabulous time.

A Bit of a Hiatus

June 8, 2008

It seems that when you’ve got more work (and more options for gigs) than you can possibly take on, new and former clients seem to come out out of the woodwork.  Don’t get me wrong – being busy and have tons of options for what to work on is fantastic – but something about the summer heat and such is making turning on the computer when I’m not working the very last thing I want to do. 

Of course, this the best time of the year to be living in Chicago, with all the summer events and festivals and gorgeous patios and terraces (and my building’s awesome rooftop deck with views of the city and Lake Michigan from twenty stories up).  And I have a new place (twice the size of my old one!) to decorate – I promise to post pictures when I get all my furniture set up and everything arranged the way I want it.  Last but not least, I’m working on something new and exciting that has to do with travel and cultural immersion and other good things that I can’t quite talk about yet, but it is going to be awesome.

How did you end up living where you do?  Did you put a lot of thought into it, or did you relocate for your career, or to be near family?  Or have you always lived in the same general area?

Richard Florida’s (The Rise of the Creative Class) new book, Who’s Your City?, is based on the principle that living in the right place is central to one’s happiness and general satisfaction- that “choosing a spouse and choosing a career are important life decisions—but perhaps even more predictive of our all-round personal happiness is our choice of living location”. 

Although the book drags a little, he makes a really valid point – and I know that I’m much happier living in a major city than just about anywhere else (granted, I didn’t really need a book to figure that out).  And of course, I’m a freelancer who can work from anywhere with a decent internet connection, so I have more freedom of movement than most – but I would much rather live somewhere where the “creative class” clusters and is valued.

Richard also argues that the world isn’t so much flat as it is spiky – there are places where certain types of people gather –

“Today’s key economic factors—talent, innovation, and creativity—are not distributed evenly across the global economy. They concentrate in specific locations. It’s obvious how major new innovations in communications and transportation allow economic activity to spread out all over the world. What’s less obvious is the incredible power of what I call the clustering force. In today’s creative economy, the real source of economic growth comes from the clustering and concentration of talented and productive people. New ideas are generated and our productivity increases when we locate close to one another in cities and regions. The clustering force makes each of us more productive, which in turns makes the places we inhabit much more productive, generating great increases in output and wealth.”

You can read more excerpts and such from the book here, and there is a neat place finder tool on the site as well, and lots of other interesting information.

From Paul Gillin’s blog – How New Influencers are revinventing journalism:

“With no formal journalism training, no editorial oversight and none of the trappings of conventional media, Ben Popken is becoming one of the most powerful voices in consumer journalism. And what’s funny is that if you ask him about the secret of Consumerist’s success, he uses the same words that any good editor uses: “The secret is to be reader-centric in a fundamental way. The content is driven by the readers and reacted to by the readers. We’re really just a curator of consumer-generated content.”

Get used to this. It’s the online journalism model of the future.”

A speech by Clay Shirky entitled “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus” – another look at how media is changing – and how it is becoming inclusive – the user creates/generates their own experience.

“Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.”

And last but not least, an entirely unrelated but heartwarming story about Chicago’s feral cats.


So when Miss Teen South Carolina talked about Americans needing more maps, people mocked her and well, you probably know what a viral sensation that video clip became.  But although she wasn’t the most articulate speaker ever, she was kind of right – most Americans probably can’t find “the Iraq” on a map anyways.

While knowing the capital of Azerbaijan probably isn’t very important to most peoples’ daily lives, a certain amount of awareness of the world around you is; it’s not about simply memorizing facts – having an understanding of the world and its varied cultures is key to becoming a well-rounded, open-minded person.  After all, people tend to fear what they don’t understand and all that.

Getting to the point – the very existence of this geography series in the Chicago Tribune is telling, and a little sad*.  I guess it’s better than nothing, however.


*By the way, I got all the questions right – but I’m a nerd when it comes to such things.  I even won the National Geography Bee in elementary school (in fact, I remember that the winning answer was “the former nation of Czechoslovakia”, but I have no idea what the question was).

**Perhaps the Geosense game should be publicized more – it’s a great way to kill a couple spare minutes and you learn geography as you go.  If any of you play, my name on there is Jazspin.

Marketing and PR types who are looking seed ideas, engage in viral marketing, or just learn more about how the blogging community works, take note: Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Work Week has posted about how he reached #1 on the New York Times Business Bestseller list.

His strategy (as described on Steve Rubel’s Micropersuasion):

* Go where bloggers go
* Be there with a message and a story that will appeal to their interests, not yours
* Build and maintain those relationships through your own blog too

Yes, this advice seems a little basic, but it clearly works – there’s lots more good stuff in his post, and on his website in general, so go read it.  Tim has really embraced the idea of a book as a manifesto and helped a community to grow around it (I think his site may have been the first place I came across that term, actually).  Also, the 4 Hour Work Week is a pretty fantastic book, and as we all know, no amount of buzz, clever packaging, or marketing stunts will make up for a product that’s not up to par. 

On a related note, here are my thoughts on the 4 Hour Work Week as it applies to what I do (I’m a freelance writer/blogger/consultant).  I actually started this post immediately after I read the book, but I decided to wait and apply some of the techniques and ideas to my own life, and then finish the post.

The book appeared on my radar when I read about it on several popular blogs (after Tim spoke at the SXSW conference) and honestly, I was prepared to like it before I even read it.  It’s always been drummed into to my head that you have to work, work, work all the time and that if you didn’t put in at least a 40 hour work week, you were ridiculously lazy.  I liked the idea that someone was willing to put into words how the current system of working your ass off to become the “fat man in the red BMW” was flawed, and how to really get what you want out of life.

Then I read the book, and liked it even more.  His productivity tips and techniques made sense (an aside: have you ever noticed that many of the so-called “life hacks” seem to make things needlessly complicated?) and although his pared down approach to running a business may seem like it doesn’t apply to those of us with creative-type jobs, I found that separating the “work” from the “play” part of what I do enabled me to look at everything in a whole new light.

The “work” part is all the boring stuff – hunting down PR reps and interview sources, emailing clients and prospective clients, and general administrative type stuff.  I’ve developed a system to streamline all that – one thing that I took away from the book is that it’s okay to not to respond to emails immediately – everything can wait until it’s email time or whoever it is that emailed can call me if it’s that urgent. 

The “play” part is the actual writing and researching.  After all, I get to research and write about topics that fascinate me, and meet/interview/work with some awesome people while I do it.  Granted, I do spend more than 4 hours a week writing, but it doesn’t feel like work (obviously, considering I take the time to keep a blog on top of my other gigs).

Another important point that the 4 Hour Work Week makes is that you don’t need to have buckets of cash to live like you do – there’s all sorts of deals to be had, countries where your dollars go a lot further, and if you keep your overhead costs low, you can spend your money on the things that are truly important to you (case in point: I live in a pretty small apartment, but because of that I save money to spend on travel and such).  It’s obvious when you think about it, but people want to be wealthy because of the lifestyles that millionaires lead, not because they get off from counting their money (Eh, some people probably do – more power to ’em.  On a related note, Penelope Trunk posted about living a lean, spare lifestyle yesterday).

One more thing – this is actually taken from Tim’s first interview with Darren Rowse (the Problogger) – is that it’s important to “identify your peak periods in your circadian rhythms”, or to work when you’re at your most energetic and inspired.  For some reason, I used to feel slothlike and a little guilty when I wasn’t raring to go at 9am, even though I knew that I was at my best during the evening.  My creative abilities are night owls.  Now I’ve pretty accepted that I’m not a morning person, and I organize my time accordingly.  After all, as long as I make my deadlines, my clients don’t care whether I wrote the piece at 10:00am or 10:00pm.

In the past few months (I bought the 4 Hour Work the day it hit the shelves and read it immediately), my productivity has increased greatly while my actual time spent working decreased significantly.  I’ve also had a lot more time to pursue my own projects, and to just enjoy all that Chicago has to offer.  Thanks Tim – and if on the off-chance you read this – congrats on topping the NY Times and WSJ lists!