Fail Again. Fail Better.

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet | Posted on 07-07-2010

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Working alongside Mike Moran at Converseon helped teach me the importance of Do It Wrong Quickly.

So when I saw a link to this poster pop up in my Google Reader I bought it straight away, and it now has pride of place by my desk at work as a constant reminder to keep trying, keep doing, keep failing and keep on measuring.

Failure ain’t bad. Especially in an online world.

New poster for my desk at work

Home from Europe, Next stop Chicago

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Life | Posted on 08-06-2010

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I survived my Spain & Portugal rugby tour intact, and this Thursday I’m heading to Chicago for a couple of days for the Internet Retailer Conference.

I’m presenting a Twitter workshop on Friday morning titled ‘Twittering Your Way to Retail Success‘  so holler at me if you’re attending or a Chicago local who’d like to meet up while I’m in town.

Rugby tour was a blast. We lost our game baking in the Spanish sun vs Acala 48-41, won our first game in Portugal 32-5 and then lost the final of a local tournament in Caldas 17-5. The highlight of the tour though was Forcado training alongside our host rugby club, the Grupo de Forcados Amadores das Caldas.

For the uninitiated, Forcados are an element of Portuguese bullfighting where a group of 8 blokes essentially tackle a bull by the horns. As Wikipedia puts it: “It’s not uncommon that forcados get serious injuries – in 2008 at least one forcado was in a coma for three days – or even death.” I’ll post some videos later if one of my mates gets them up online.

Twitter Growth By The Numbers

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 19-05-2010

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As a data-driven communicator, one of the very first things I did in my new role with charity: water was to dig deep into our Google Analytics and immerse myself in some numbers.

With Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0 in one hand and my mouse in the other I first looked over the long-term trends in the data and key referrers to see what stood out. Amongst the many interesting things I found there’s a standout I’d like to share here: The story of Twitter’s emergence, as told through our data.

Now charity: water does Twitter extremely well. We were the first charity to reach one million followers. We were the focus of the first Twestival that raised over $250,000 for water projects. Twitter holds us up as an example for other non-profits. Hugh Jackman donated $50,000 last year after asking his Twitter users to select a charity. Many of our staff tweet – we’ve even got a screen streaming Tweetdeck in the middle of our office!

So without further ado I’d like to share some traffic stats, in the interest of knowledge sharing, to give some background to the highlights above:

May 2008 – May 2009

  • Traffic from Twitter only equates to 1.55% of total traffic
  • Facebook sent 50% more traffic than Twitter
  • August 31 & September 21 2008 were two of our best traffic days of all time – on these dates we had only 1 visitor from twitter (but whoever they were stayed for 17 minutes!)

May 2009 – May 2010

  • Visitors from Twitter increased to 7% of site total (8 times as many visits as the year before)
  • Twitter becomes the top referring site, with more than double the visitors than Facebook
  • November 2 2009: Helen’s Story, a beautiful piece by my fiercely smart colleague Becky Straw, goes viral on Twitter and recieves over 5,000 visits on this day alone
  • March 22 2010: charity: water marks World Water Day by launching the Unshaken campaign for Haiti. We have our second best traffic day of all time and 20% of visitors come from Twitter

Just a few interesting tidbits for now – I’ll aim to share more data and insights moving forward. And here is where the ask comes in: I’m looking for a true Google Analytics guru who would be interested in volunteering some time to work with me and my team to deepen, extend and amplify our Analytics backend to ensure we’ve got a measurement backbone on par with the smartest data-driven organizations out there. Rewarding work for a great cause – if you know someone (or even better ARE someone) that fits the bill please give me an introduction!

I’m Joining charity: water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 10-05-2010

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Two years ago I gave up my September birthday to a new-to-me non-profit named charity: water, little did I know this would eventually turn out to be a life-changing event.

Through this process I learned the full extent of the shocking truth of the world’s water crisis. I learned that close to one billion people lack access to clean water. I learned that unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation caused 80% of diseases and killed more people each year than all forms of violence (including war). And I learned that via charity: water and their 100% model (with every dollar heading directly to water projects) that $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years.

And today, I’ll make this mission the purpose of my work life as I join charity: water’s executive team as Director of Digital Engagement and Fundraising.

There’s a host of reasons I’m ecstatic to join the charity: water team, and not the least the amazing people I’ll be working with, led by our Founder Scott Harrison.

If I had to narrow my motivation down to 3 key items though, it would be the following:

1. The Cause: 1 in 8 people in the world lack access to clean water. It’s a problem that can be solved with the right mix of ingenuity, hard work and cold hard cash. It’s a gigantic task, but there’s few out there more worthy of taking on – the gift of water can truly transform lives.

2. The Model: Every single cent donated to charity: water is used to fund water projects. No waste. Administrative costs are covered by other donors: everything from our team’s wages to the ink in the office printer. No confusion. It’s a new approach to charity.

3. Proven Digital Innovation: A website that looks better than nearly any corporate. Every well that is built is marked on Google Maps. 1.3 million people follow them on Twitter, they were the focus of the first Twestival and they’re even held up as an example by Twitter for other causes. In short, this non-profit is a true digital organization.

Paull Young charity: water from Paull Young on Vimeo.

And the best part of all of this? YOU can help. I want your money, your sweat, your voice and your brain… or any of the above :)

Your Money - Make a Donation

The most important element for the millions without water is access to your money. As I said, as little as $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. The first thing I’ve done as a charity: water employee is to ‘eat my own dogfood‘ and launch my own fundraising campaign – so if you were going to say congratulations remember there’s no better way to do so than by contributing $20 in my name! (and please do report back on the donation process – there’s nothing like feedback).

Your Sweat – Run a Fundraising Campaign

There’s only one thing I’ll love more than our donors in my new role, and that’s our fundraisers. There’s many ways you can raise money for the cause, you could give up your birthday for the cause just like Alyssa Milano, you could climb a mountain, heck, it’s so simple an 8 year old can do it! The only bounds are your creativity, and if you plan to fundraise for us do be sure to let me know!

Your Voice – Follow us Online and Spread the Word

Even if you can’t donate or fundraise right now there are a range of other things you can do to support us – importantly you can help spread the word and introduce us to your network. Please check out the links below and stay connected:

Your Brain – Share your ideas, your connections, your organizations

Please feel free to reach out to me with any of your ideas or thoughts on how you can help. I’ll always have time for you and every piece of support is valuable.

I know many of you are marketers or corporate folk – I’d love to find ways to get the support of your clients, your employers and your coworkers. Likewise I know I’d like to draw on your professional expertise no matter what your background and skill set.

So if you’re interested in lending your professional support now or down the track please leave a comment or drop me an email, at least then I’ll know I can reach out to you in future without fear of being needy.

I’ll be trying to blog regularly here and share insights on how we continue to develop charity: water’s digital program. I hope you can all subscribe and come along for the ride!

Update:

My mate Joe Ciarallo over at PR Newser covered the move, and my former CEO Rob Key wrote a nice post bidding me farewell over at the Converseon blog.

Making a Move From Converseon

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Admin, Business, Life | Posted on 07-05-2010

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Today is a huge day. My last full-time day at Converseon after 3 brilliant years… though I’m not moving very far.

Almost exactly 3 years ago today I turned up at Converseon’s NYC HQ straight off a 24 hour flight from Australia completely unsure how my new social media career in the USA would turn out. This was after a 3 month blog world tour, a phone interview from a balcony in Florence overlooking the Duomo, and receipt of my offer letter, alone, in a youth hostel in Venice.

In my offer letter my CEO Rob Key said “As I lay this out, I can say with confidence that I can’t imagine another opportunity that will provide you with the same type of frontline and innovative social media work with such great brands … in a very fast moving, innovative environment that really is doing extremely cutting edge work“. And he couldn’t have been more right.

If I could turn the clock back 3 years I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve had the chance to be a part of long-term social media programs with huge brands like Graco, Telstra, Kohler and many more. I’ve moved up the ranks from Senior Account Executive to Senior Account Director. I’ve been deeply involved in programs that have won more awards than you can poke a stick at – a Forrester Groundswell, a WOMMIE, a Webby, SNCR (twice) and PR News to name a few. We’ve made a real difference with our clients and these efforts have been noticed.

But the reason I can look back with such pleasure is the people I’ve had the good fortune to work with.

Firstly, our CEO and Founder Rob Key – a bloke who has become a really good mate and a constant inspiration. Working closely with Rob has been a blessing, especially since he consistently looks 3-5 years into the future. He’s a brilliant CEO and has continually surprised me with the accuracy of his foresight, as well as his ability to think big for huge brands about how social can change their business.

No less important, a mentor and one of my best mates, the Batman to my Robin, Constantin Basturea. 5 yeas ago when I started up in the blogosphere there was nobody I respected more than CB and he was the main reason I winded up at Converseon to begin with. We’ve been so close over 3 years you could barely fit a cigarette paper between us, and I can testify that his huge reputation in the industry is absolutely deserved.

I could name drop all day, but to pick out a few more I’ve got to say that Mike Moran has probably been the most influential in changing how I think about online communications, online reputation guru Bryce Tom has been my best mate to work with, our CTO Jeff Doak has regularly astounded me with his thinking on influence and online intelligence,  Lindsay Lebresco has been both one of my favorite clients and coworkers and more recently Craig Daitch has inspired me with his passion and brilliant thinking.

Happily for me, I won’t be moving too far away from Converseon. Rob has named me, along with SEO Guru Ted Ulle, as a ‘Converseon Fellow’ and in that role I’ll continue to offer strategic support to our clients.

However, my move away from full-time work here means there are some shoes to fill – so if you’re a social media rockstar (or ninja) let me know and I’ll be happy to intro you to the team. We’re hiring across the board and I guarantee you’ll be working with some of the smartest in the industry.

As far as my next steps… you’ll have to subscribe to this blog and stay tuned ;).

Esquire: ‘Hi, I’m Carol Bartz … Are You an Asshole?’

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Life | Posted on 06-05-2010

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I read this great little first-person interview with Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and came away pretty impressed with her.

What stood out the most though, was if you change ‘Rattlesnake’ to ‘Red-Bellied Black Snake‘ in this par and she could very well be talking about my very own Grandma!

One day, my brother and I were in the machine shed when we heard a rattlesnake above us. We didn’t think about running for my grandfather — we ran for Grandma. She came, grabbed a shovel, poked the snake off the rafter, and chopped its head off. This was a big snake. And she said, “You could’ve done that.”

It wasn’t like she was trying to give us some big life lesson. She just walked away, and that’s the way it was.

Get Me Facebook and Twitter!

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 04-05-2010

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On a recent flight I read a New York Times article with a quote that was so perfect an illustration of the current state of corporate social media that I had to share it. And it wasn’t from the business section… social media is so mainstream these days that it even rears its ugly head in a Napa Valley article in the dining section.

Specifically:

Mike Grgich, the founder of Grgich Hills Estate, distrusted computers so intensely that for decades he insisted on handwritten accounting. No more. At 87, Mr. Grgich recently bellowed to his staff: “We have to upgrade everything! Get me Facebook and Twitter!” recalled Ivo Jeramaz, a vice president at the winery who is also Mr. Grgich’s nephew.

“We nearly fell off our chairs,” Mr. Jeramaz said.

This sounds like so many brands I talk to these days. They’ve got the social media laundry list: Facebook Page (Check!), Twitter account (Check!), YouTube (Check!), Blog (Check!). Much more rarely will they have a real strategy, nor specific and measurable objectives (and I’m taking nothing away from Grgich Hills Estate here, in fact I applaud their forward thinking).

Yes there are a huge amount of potential benefits social media and new web tools can deliver to organizations… but only if you realize that they are just tools. Without the right strategy and without the internal readiness to really listen to your stakeholders then they’ll be as useless as tits on a bull (to share a great Australianism ;)).

So from now when I’m assessing corporate social media efforts I won’t be looking at their Facebook fan count (likely inflated with media dollars and freebies). I won’t be looking at the cool design on the background of their Twitter page. I’ll be looking for them to tell me about the changes they made internally to properly use the tools, I’ll be asking them to talk about how they measured impact on business objectives, and I’ll be hoping they can tell me how the tools they selected fit into their wider communications plan.

I find myself echoing the thoughts of my Converseon CEO Rob Key here, who recently shared a word cloud in iMedia Connection generated from the online conversation around the term ‘social media’ and found the same situation:

Rob says it well:

The conversation is dominated by technologies and platforms. Perhaps not surprisingly the primary words are “Facebook” and “Twitter.” Not far behind are a range of tactics and pithy statements (ideally fewer than 140 characters). This is not a strategic conversation. It is, frankly, reflective of a relatively immature discussion.

A funky Facebook and Twitter page certainly has ‘cool’ factor, but in the long run I think you’ll find measurable impact on business objectives to be a fair bit funkier.

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New Reading: Switch, Rework & Politico

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business | Posted on 29-04-2010

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Just thought I’d take a minute to share some blurbs on my latest reading material: Switch, Rework and the Politico Playbook email.

Current reading: 'Switch' & 'Rework'

Switch – Dan and Chip Heath

I was recommended Switch by a smart mate and as soon as I read the blurb it reminded me of the best presentation I saw at SXSW by Dan Arialy (you can watch a TED video of that superb talk here) – these two forces combined made it a must by. From the Author’s site:

Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

I’m intrigued at how we, as communicators, can help guide people towards being/doing and performing better… I’m hoping this book will help spark my thinking.

Rework – 37 Signals

I recently read Getting Real by the 37 Signals team at the prompting of my client at Kohler, John Engberg. I loved that read and its focus on simplicity and results above flash and features. I’m anticipating Rework will spread its wings beyond the web application focus of Getting Real and provide even more value to my thinking and day-to-day approach to work.

Plus, with reviews like this from Mark Cuban it’s hard to ignore:
“If given a choice between investing in someone who has read REWORK or has an MBA,
I’m investing in REWORK every time. A must read for every entrepreneur.”

Politico Playbook Email

I became aware of the Politico daily email via a New York Times magazine yarn this week The Man The White House Wakes Up To. One week into an email subscription and I’m a big fan. It’s the perfect read for my short bus ride – short and snappy pars about the big issues in Washington each day, a little inside baseball and daily links to interesting stories in the news. Worth a look!

Bonus Link – The Data-Driven Life

And since you can’t enjoy the first two books online (how old-fashioned) if you’re dying for a good read then take 10 minutes to read the NY Times piece ‘A Data-Driven Life‘ that looks at the emerging field of personal data collection on daily habits and what this new world of data could mean in aggregate.

Enjoy! I’ll do my best to report back some of the key thoughts I pick up from Switch and Rework as I work my way through them.

Powerpoint: Where Good Ideas Go To Die

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business | Posted on 27-04-2010

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Oh Powerpoint, how I despise you. My preferred method of presentation is frequently standing up with an open web browser, at the same time I’ve dealt with many a large corporation that can only make a decision if it’s expressed in pretty bullet-points.

The NY Times had a great yarn today on how the Powerpoint plague has spread from corporate marketers and the board room into the ranks of the US Military. Some choice quotes below, and first off this PPT diagram that General Stanley McChrystal jokes holds the secret to success in Afghanistan… if anyone can decipher it:

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Commanders say that the slides impart less information than a five-page paper can hold, and that they relieve the briefer of the need to polish writing to convey an analytic, persuasive point. Imagine lawyers presenting arguments before the Supreme Court in slides instead of legal briefs.

It’s not all negative though, the army dudes do point out one valuable use of confusing PPTs:

Senior officers say the program does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters.

The news media sessions often last 25 minutes, with 5 minutes left at the end for questions from anyone still awake. Those types of PowerPoint presentations, Dr. Hammes said, are known as “hypnotizing chickens.”

And a bonus image to show just how much confusion attempted simplification can drive – Kim Beazley’s infamous Knowledge-Nation ‘Noodle Graph’ from the 2001 Australian election:

12 Principles of Success from Richard Edelman

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business | Posted on 21-04-2010

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I really enjoyed this blog post from Richard Edelman on his 12 principles of success – as founder and CEO of the world’s largest independent PR agency he’s well worth listening too.

All 12 over on his blog, a selection of my favorites here:

Loose Rein—Hire world-class senior people. Give them plenty of latitude to decide on strategy, acquisitions and executive appointments. Hold them accountable for results. Have robust discussions about big issues, not small ones. Avoid pitched battles by seeking a middle ground.

Encourage Risk-Taking, Not Risky Behavior—Advance the company by promoting entrepreneurial behavior at all levels of the company. Learn from experiments in the field. But have zero tolerance for any conduct that will undermine the reputation of the firm.

Network—I try to have a breakfast or lunch every day with a reporter, a non-profit leader, a new business prospect or lawyer/banker referral source. This process keeps me sharp and current.

Know When to Say When—I work 10-11 hours a day. I turn off my Blackberry at 9 pm. I read books. I work out five or six days a week. On weekends, I trundle around my home in Long Island, carrying large bags of mulch for my gardener wife. Workaholic is not in my DNA.

Stay humble. I take the subway around New York City (faster and cheaper). I drive a Ford Taurus Station Wagon. I buy my shoes and shirts on sale after Christmas.

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