Commitment Means Context

UPDATE: Read Charles Frith's excellent thinking on context first.

The idea of social media holds great fascination for many marketers. But the reality often does not live up to the hype. Take Facebook for example. How many marketing efforts have you seen run in Facebook, and how many would you consider successful? Same with MySpace.

As Paul Chaney suggests, “social media advertising, when introduced to sites like Facebook, has not demonstrated satisfactory ROI”. Paul goes on to suggest that the missing piece in all this is CONTEXT. When we go to sites like Facebook or MySpace, the context in which we find advertising (in most instances) is the context which we have helped create (our own social experiences and interests). So advertising into this space is, in the main, out of sync with the experience that we expect.

But rather than seeing this as yet another social space which brands can seek to interrupt with advertising (and yes, we could easily claim that our lounge rooms are social spaces), we should rethink our approach to establishing and creating context. Reality TV does this well – bringing interactive voting into the home – which serves to connect the content of the show with the context in which viewers can participate. But again, this needs to go further – and the same applies to Facebook and other social media efforts. Using continuous digital strategy as a framework, we can see clues as to where we can go next.

We have a footprint that (should) connect audiences with your content – and with each other. You have produced content which helps create a shared experience that will allow the Auchterlonie effect to take hold. You have seen conversations begin to rise, fall and spread – and then you are into the hard part of the cycle – commitment.

The real gold of the cycle is your commitment to evolving the context in which these conversations and interactions can take place. This means injecting your own personality into the situations (as appropriate). It is about guiding the conversations in directions (and to spaces) which is most conducive to the type, style and manner of the conversation. For example, if a discussion about a TV commercial kicks off on Facebook, then it may be worthwhile pointing out links on YouTube or Vimeo.

In some instances, it may also mean thinking about how you can best aggregate these conversations. How do you make it easier to find out what is going on? How do you bring information from OUTSIDE YOUR BRAND into the mix? The only way to know this is to participate – to listen, act and react – and to turn this all into something of value to those who are involved.

And this is what is meant by commitment – to understand the emergent needs of the people who participate in your brand conversations and to provide them a service that they can find nowhere else. It sounds obvious, but it is hard to do. Good luck!

Enough About Me

look who's watchingOne of the great things about having a blog is that you have a space for your thoughts, ideas and general “stuff” that you find interesting. And along the way, most bloggers find that they share personal information – the “stuff of life” with the people who read and comment and give a blog its life.

But the thing is … apart from the odd comment or the BlogCatalog avatars that leave your face behind when you visit ends, bloggers know little about their readers. So, taking a leaf out of Valeria Maltoni’s book, I have set up a page specifically dedicated to YOU.

Feel free to describe yourself, share your thoughts, aspirations … whatever!

I look forward to reading more about you.

About You

This is a page dedicated to you. The comments will remain open here. Please use them to share a self portrait of yourself, start a conversation or even tell me what you like, don’t like or would like more of.

The Perfect Gift for a Man – Join Us!

UPDATE: You can sign up to the Perfect Gift for a Man project here.

Towards the end of last week, it felt like the ManWeek efforts of Reach Out and Triple J were just starting to gain some traction. There were standout posts from Mark Pollard, Scott Drummond, Julian Cole, Jye Smith, Trent Collins and Gavin Bollard – but then it just stopped. And yet, it feels like there is more to be said, more to be shared, more honesty to be uncovered.

Over the last week Mark Pollard and I have been scheming … about what happens next. And we have come up with a plan – to produce a book in time for Father’s Day here in Australia. Yes – that is the first Sunday in September.

And we want YOUR submission!

That’s right – if you have written something for ManWeek you may already be way ahead. But if you haven’t, you have a week to get your thoughts, ideas, pictures, photos etc together.

Under the working title of “The Perfect Gift for a Man” we want you to share your personal (yes, very personal) stories of becoming a man – the joys, sorrows, challenges, regrets and triumphs. We want to hear about your Dad, your Son, your first job, admitting mistakes, overcoming challenges, living with issues, illness etc. Whatever your story is, we want to hear it.


The Inspire Foundation research indicates that:

Young men are at increased risk of suicide, drug and alcohol problems compared with the general population and age matched young females. They commit suicide almost three times more often than females of the same age and are also two to three times more likely to develop schizophrenia. These problems often start in adolescence, go undiagnosed and continue into adulthood placing a major burden on Australia's health care system and society.

We want this book to show that it is possible to share, honestly, the intense emotions and experiences of “becoming a man”. We want men to read the stories of others – to find strength in knowing that others have lived through issues and gone on live a rich life. And to realise that it is ok to reach out and ask for help when it is needed.


You can send us:

  • Stories: 500 or 1,000 words
  • Photos
  • Illustrations
  • Designs
  • Anything – make a song, t-shirt if you want. Whatever you’re good at – just make sure it’s yours.

As we have only just hatched this plan, we will let you know how to submit early next week. BUT to give us an indication of your interest, leave a comment here or join our Facebook page.

What’s going to happen?

This has to come together quickly. If you want to be involved, you have to send us your submission by July 20, 2009. If you don’t get us your entry by this date it cannot be included. Don’t ask.

Oh, and don’t exceed the word limit – we will either edit it down to size or discard it. If you create an illustration, photo etc, contact us for format requirements.

You will need to SIGN a release form that gives us permission to publish your work. In return you will see your name in a book, be part of a project that we hope will help make an impact on men’s mental health AND raise money for Reach Out / Inspire.

100% of the proceeds of the sale of these books will be donated to Reach Out.

Who can contribute?

We want a broad cross-section of men. So far we have the support of people within the marketing community, but we want to go far broader than this. We want doctors, lawyers, bricklayers, stay-at-home dads, artists – anyone can contribute.

Who is in the book?

So far, it is just Mark Pollard and I. Luca Ionescu has kindly agreed to create a logo for the project. But we think it will be far more interesting if you were involved too.

How can you help?

As Mark says, there are some things you can do to help us – even if you don’t want to contribute:

1. Contribute something super sweet (by Monday July 20, 2009)
If you don’t have time or don’t see yourself as a content-maker, consider adding some ideas to the project: marketing, PR, events, stunts, anything. Pull some favours.

2. Get someone interesting to do the above
So far, most ManWeek bloggers have been from the marketing, advertising, technology sectors. We want people from all backgrounds to have a stab at this. If you have a granddad with an incredible story, get him to tell it. If you know or are a musician, sportsperson, policeman, farmer, miner, journalist, tattoo artist, biker… please have a go.

3. Tell someone about it
Tweet away. Blog about it. Tell friends about the Facebook page. Please do not feel obliged to link to this blog post.

4. Help us break out of the internet
If you have contacts with journalists, bloggers, politicians… people with influence. Tell them about this project. If you’re watching your kid play soccer this weekend and find yourself standing next to a man, tell them about it.

5. Buy the book (or e-book) when it launches
Give it to a husband, a son, a dad, a granddad. Maybe consider buying bulk to give to your male staff.

So what are you waiting for? Get writing – the clock is ticking!

Action Aid’s Project Toto – Social Media to Change the World

Sometimes we need to see something out of context before we can understand a situation. And sometimes a new context has to be imagined before a solution to an entrenched problem can be found.

In an ambitious effort to raise the Australian public’s awareness of the causes of poverty, Action Aid has launched Project Toto (The Overseas Training Operation). During this two week project, Australian blogger Stilgherrian is in Tanzania to provide some insight to the plight of villagers living in Kilimani. But he is also there to educate – to bring the technology, processes and an understanding of blogging to the locals who very much see education as a way out of poverty.

But as Archie Law, CEO of Action Aid, explains, the risks and consequences of blogging in a country like Tanzania go far beyond a few snarky comments:

In spite of the challenges in training people to use technology it’s far more complex to explain the implicit threat in the use of the technology and how bloggers engage with that risk. For example a blogger could be posting some confronting views on the activities of mining companies in Tanzania and then face severe backlash from Government if that is seen as opposing economic development.

If a blogger understood the risk and is prepared to take it that’s one thing… if  a blogger is unaware of the risk and stumbles in to a situation where he or she places themselves, colleagues and communities at risk, we potentially have a disaster on our hands.

It is perhaps, in communities like this, that the greatest potential exists for social media to transform lives. For not only does it change an individual’s capacity to reach, inform and educate others, it also opens us all to the powerful, first hand stories that are so easily drowned out by the noise of mainstream media.

But like anything, success needs more than just a blog here and there – and this is where the training kicks in. If this is done right, Stilgherrian will leave behind in Tanzania a group of people armed with the technology (thanks to some generous sponsors) and the skills to begin using the “social” media platforms that we have taken for granted. It will be fascinating to see where this goes (update: minutes after posting, Stilgherrian advises that the first blog posts are live!).

Oh, and Action Aid are looking for their next outreach blogger. You can nominate yourself or make a donation here.

What’s Your Job Again?

market signI don’t know about you, but I have always had a hard time explaining to my family what I do for a living. Well, there was a few years where I was working in an accountant’s office – but apart from that, my working life has been a mystery to my parents.

At family BBQs I would find myself “dumbing down” my job role to explain it to uncles and aunts. I would rephrase, repeat and reinterpret every new job role at each and every family gathering. In the end I gave up.

Thankfully, these days I no longer also have to explain what “blogging” is. Even my mother seems to understand blogging.

But marketing, branding and even advertising still seems to confound everyone (despite the best intentions of The Gruen Transfer). And I am sure, next Christmas, I will get the same old question – “what’s your job again?”.

ManWeek #4: Another Word for Father

I found a small urn today
   it held the conversations which
for you
   fell from my mouth like riddles

The story of my disappointment carries the
   weight of broken doors
and YOU?
   You wait on the other side
All conflict aside
   All affection left at the doorstep
Was that what it WAS all for?

You were never there, never there
   I searched for a tract, for even the smell
of where you had been
   Finding instead
      the anger in me in me

I have never shown this poem to anyone else. It was written 12 or more years ago, but its fury still takes my breath. I am only sharing it with you because of the astounding bravery of others who have written so eloquently during ManWeek. In fact, it was Age Conte’s post this morning that tipped me over the edge.

Obviously the relationship with my father is nothing like what I have read in the posts of others this week. In fact, it is non-existent. We have not spoken for a decade – and I can honestly say, now, that I am not bitter about this. In fact, it was a conscious decision on my part.

And while we often hear about the importance of fathers and the often difficult relationship that men have with their dads, I can also tell you that they do not define the person you become (unless you allow it to). Now I am not saying that my own father was a bad man – but perhaps he was just a man, with all the attendant weaknesses, honours, fears and hopes that we are all prone to. Perhaps he wasn’t the father that I wanted, but like Age, in my dad I did learn “everything about what my journey to manhood has to involve”.

And this is the point. It is MY journey. No one can do this for me. No one can take away the pain or embarrassment or own the joy and excitement that comes our way. The best we can do is the best that we can do. And the worst we must learn to live with – and maybe, just maybe, forgive.

Participating in ManWeek has been both confronting and humbling. It is far harder to do than you might imagine. And while this #ManWeek campaign appears to be an echo chamber, think for a moment about what you can do to change that situation – how you can extend or continue the conversation, open it to those men who need to hear/read these stories. And if you want inspiration, check Mark Pollard’s site for a list of great posts. Check also Harry O’Brien’s article.

But at the end of the day, if any of this has helped just one person, then that is reward enough.

More Behaviour Less Measurement

New strategies require new measurement – or so says Helge Tenno. In this fantastic presentation, Helge suggests that when it comes to the social web, we are using the “destination web” as a basis for measurement – and we are, therefore, using an outdated system to measure the efficacy of emergent networks of value. And I tend to agree. Quoting Adrian Ho:

This is because measurements create their own context. For example, I’d argue that it’s precisely because we measure horsepower that horsepower is valued.

However, the flow-on effect of this is profound. It means that we must fundamentally shift the way in which we create strategy and drive its implementation. Gone are the days where strategy can be built and refined over months and sometimes years. Strategy must be what Katie Chatfield suggests:

… you have a core thought, but it should be fluid, evolving and allow you to do several things simultaneously and build on the ideas that work.

And this comes back to a process for continuous digital strategy. It means, for marketers, living life at the edge of your brand. But fundamentally, it is understanding how people change behaviour, not why – for it is not the behaviour that we want to track, but the shifts in sentiment around points of action that are useful indicators to brands. And it is only by working with those levers and feeding that back into our product and service development that we can begin to link consumer behaviour to the brands that people love.