We Are Not Immune…

Bad news today. Really bad news. We had to lay off a number of our employees. What makes the bad news worse is that not only are these people good friends but they are smart, hard working people. People that would go to battle for you. People that had your back.

An easy question to ask is who is to blame for all of this? Sadly, the answer isn’t who, it’s what. And you already know the answer to that question because you’re hearing the same doom and gloom that we are regarding the massive layoffs and wild swings in stock prices. It’s the economy’s fault and unfortunately it caught up with us as well.
Ironically, last year was the best year the company ever experienced and it was continuing to grow at rapid, double digit rates. When the bottom fell out, it obviously hurt some of our clients. It also hurt our potential clients. When they hurt, they spend less money with us and new prospects take longer to sign contracts. That made it hard to afford the people we hired to staff for new business.
If there is any silver lining to this, and trust me when I tell you that it’s difficult to be positive on a day like this, it’s the fact that we have an equally smart and hard working group of people who are sticking around to be able to meet existing client needs. To that end, I’m confident that things will get better and when they do, we will be stronger than ever. But we have some pain to endure before we get to that place. And until that time, we will quietly mourn the departure of those smart, hard working colleagues that we had to let go of today.

Experts in the Industry: Todd Defren (5 of 45)

Full disclosure here, Todd Defren is the principal SHIFT Communications, the or our company’s agency of record. With that said, I would have chosen Todd irrespective of our relationship because he’s just plain smart. He’s also incredibly humble which is one of the things I really like about Todd (not necessarily an easy task when you’ve been named one of the “top 40 under 40″ by PRWeek).
Here’s how Todd answered the five questions from the Experts in Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 days post:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am a communications specialist: I’m good at it (on good days, at least) because I can combine long experience with a fun, no-B.S. approach that synchs well with the more approachable form of marketing now on the rise. 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I started blogging 5 years ago, but didn’t really “get into it” until 12 months later, at which point I was sick of seeing “Comments: 0” after every post.  It wasn’t until I took the initiative to discover what I was doing “wrong” that I realized I was missing out on a movement that re-inspired my passion for PR/Marketing.  I was skating on the surface with no clue as to the oceans underneath.  
With the wife and kids out for a weekend, I sat on the bed with my laptop and read every single Marketing/Tech blog I could find, and tried out every Web 2.0 widget available.  Epiphanies ensued.
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Too easy.  Twitter.  This microblogging platform has yet to realize its full potential and still promises a lot of upside.  A lot of newly-unemployed folks may find themselves deciding to network on Twitter, as just one example: my point is that Twitter is approaching a tipping point in terms of mass appeal.  
Second choice would be Google – which, if they play their cards right, via tools like Google Reader, Blogspot, Feedburner, etc. could dominate the low-end blogging tech arena forever.  But given their crazy valuation, the upside is just not there anymore.
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I’ve been an Obama partisan since his 2004 convention speech; I created a political blog last year with the sole purpose of defending Obama vs. right-wing smears.  Yeah, gonna have to go with Obama on this one – sorry to be so boring.
I actually never think in terms of “joining a community” in such a specific way.  “Joining” a community implies the acceptance of that community, and that comes via participation and feedback, not the act of “registering.”  I would participate in a community about toothpaste (though I cannot imagine why I’d seek it out), but would only “join” it if I gained personal value from the community members and overall experience. 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
“Happy wife, happy life” is my go-to pearl of wisdom.  (Might sound kind of lame – unless you’ve met my wife.)

Experts in the Industry: Mike Macadaan (3 of 45)

Next up in the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series, Mike Macadaan. By day, Mike is the VP product & design at Tsavo Media. By night (and on weekends, he transforms into one of the co-founders of the uber-trendy event series, Twiistup. In fact, I met Mike late last summer at one of his Twiistup events in LA. If I didn’t say it already, Mike’s a pretty cool guy.

Here are Mike’s insightful answers to my five questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I work on a talented team of user experience visionaries and I’m good because I recognize and utilize the expertise on my team without letting my ego get in the way of where the best ideas come from.
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I originally got into social media because it was an effective way to evangelize the benefits of balancing business driven design with more of a human centered approach.
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
I’d invest in a new company that balances amazing content with social principles that entices introverts to open up.
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
Sure – toothpaste is ripe for disruption.  I imagine that if you get enough bright people obsessing over toothpaste, the birth of a better mousetrap will occur.  After all, brushing your teeth is still kind of a pain in the ass so surely the toothpaste community will come with some kind of automated, green, politically correct, cost efficient way to clean the teeth.  Sounds like fun to me!
 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Get your grandma, mailman, butcher, receptionist, admin or whoever else isn’t expressing themselves to jump into the conversation.  I’m inspired by the people I work with but it’s those that I least expect that floor me with simple wisdom.  Keep your eyes open for those everyday problems that haven’t been solved yet and create a better way to clean your teeth!

Experts in the Industry: Stephen Baker (2 of 45)

Next up in the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series, Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek. I interviewed Stephen last year prior to his book coming out in a podcast for the WE Show. Here are Stephen’s insightful answers to my five questions:
In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I learn about things and communicate what I learn, and I do it well–I hope–because I have extremely fresh memories of ignorance.
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
BusinessWeek’s editor in chief, Steve Shepard, asked at a meeting in late 2004 if anyone would be interested in writing a cover story on blogs. I raised my hand. 
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
In this economic climate, I don’t think I’d put a lot of money into any company based on its use of “social.” The thing about social is that it’s hard to quantify the economic returns, especially now. That said, I’ve been impressed with IBM’s efforts in social media, from their blogs to their internal social network, Beehive. They not only encourage people to use these tools, but also have the “numerati” smarts to analyze the patterns of behavior and learn more about how their company actually works. So, since it’s a good bet that Big Blue will be around after this storm passes, I guess I’d put my money there. 
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors without Borders. 
 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
I would never dream of joining one. I don’t care about toothpaste and would be hard-pressed to think of a subject or a value less likely to bring me into contact with interesting or likeminded people. 
 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I think my experience with social media has helped me, as an author, understand something about the dynamics of the book market. I started off thinking that my friends and family would be the core of the Numerati community, and that through marketing and word of mouth others would also buy it. Note the verb there: buy.
Now I realize that many people I know very well don’t buy the book, or even read it. Others do. But instead of focusing on who buys the book and who reads it, I’m now seeing that a community surrounds it. Some read it. Some hear about it. Some listen to a podcast or read a review or the blog. I think of my friendships, my colleagues, my family, Numerati readers and non-readers as this big set of venn diagrams with shifting overlaps. The key in the end is to create a vibrant community. And whether people buy or even read the book is really secondary.
Photo credit: Carolyn Cole from TheNumerati.net