Bringing Out the Base

24 11 2007

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to spread your message is to target your established base. Those are the people who care the most about what you are saying and the ones most likely to tell their friends.  They are also the ones who are likely to act on your message, bringing it out of the realm of pure rhetoric and into the real world.

Stephan Covey, in the Seven Habits of Hightly Effective People, refers to a similar concept when writing about the Circle of Influence. He asks readers to make a list of the things they care about enough about to expend some of our mental or emotional energy on them. That is the Circle of Concern. Within that list, he suggests making a division between the things they can change and the things they can’t. That is the Circle of Influence.   

“Proactive people focus their efforts on the Circle of Influence,” he writes. “They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging, and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.”   

Playing to the base works the same way. The more ideas are reinforced, the more relevence they accumulate. This concept is particularly true in politics. A centrist, Middle-of-the-road candidate may not offend people from either side, but he’s unlikely to inspire them either. Candidates who clearly articulate the views of their supporters have a greater chance of bringing them to the polls. The strategy worked for George W. Bush in the last two elections.

The Washington Post analyzed Bush’s strategy, as guided by his advisor Karl Rove.

Rove has argued that tending to your political base and reaching beyond it are not incompatible. He talks of raising “bold colors” on conservative issues such as tax cuts, the protection of unborn life and the appointment of originalist judges. At the same time, he has advocated policy innovations to appeal to new voters… From 2000 to 2004, this approach excited conservative enthusiasm; boosted President Bush’s support among Hispanics, Asian Americans, Catholics and women; and increased his popular vote total in his reelection bid by 23 percent.

By keeping the base firmly in his corner, Rove had no difficulty finding common ground with other demographic groups. Had he pursued the new voters without taking care of his base, he would have lost both and probably the election as well.



Are Press Releases the New Spam?

5 11 2007

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine and author of The Long Tail and the Long Tail blog seems to think so. In a dramatic post on his blog, Anderson announced he was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore. Anyone who sends him unwanted PR correspondence would be permanently blocked.

“I’ve had it,” he wrote. “I get more than 300 emails a day and my problem isn’t spam, it’s PR people. Lazy flacks send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can’t be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they’re pitching.”

The problem, Anderson explained, isn’t that he hates PR people or press releases in general. He hates the “lazy flacks” who make no effort to learn about his interests before sending an email.

He has a point, on at least two levels. Irrelevent e-mails annoy the people who get them. People who send them are wasting everyone’s time, not least their own.

At the end of a second post on the issue, Anderson pulls out a quote from one of the commentors who understands how to avoid turing PR into spam:  

Almost every email I send to my “spam list” (self titled), gets some sort of reply. Like “Cool event, can’t make it – sorry. Keep me posted on the next one” Or “Wow, can we get two press passes.” Or most often, “Can you email us contestants in our constituency so we can interview them for the local angle?”

Of the 1500 or so people (note, “people” not “titles”) in my self-collected db, I think I’ve gotten 10 un-subscribes. All of whom just switched jobs. There’s no one in our dB that covers the weather. Or wars. Or fluffy little kittens. They all cover tech, robots, AI, etc. And they LIKE getting my “spam.”

Social Networks for Grownups

1 11 2007

Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn get all the press when it comes to online social networks. But according to an article in Fast Company by David Teten and Scott Allen, those sites are new to the game and have far fewer users than good ole’ Yahoo and Google Groups that operate through basic emails. In fact, Yahoo Groups alone accounts for 108 million users in 8.7 million groups – more than twice the 50 million members of Facebook.

The problem, they say, is that people get so turned off by all the notifications, alerts, and random news items they receive through the groups that they end up blocking all the good stuff that goes with it.  

Many people have told us that they have turned off notifications from these groups because they were getting too many emails. But this is a lot like not using the telephone because too many telemarketers call you. Eighty-four percent of American Internet users have used the Internet to interact with a group — more than those that have used the Internet to read news, search for health information, or buy something. Online groups are where your peers are; they are the “social networks” for grownups.

The solution is fairly simple: consolidate your inboxes.

Teten and Allen then give a step-by-step clinic on creating filtering folders to help us get the good stuff faster. They also make a key point about online group involvement. It isn’t important to be very active in the groups, but when you do get involved, make sure to add value to the group by accessing your particular expertise or your business.

But even without the useful tips on consolidating the information, Teten and Allen are right about online groups. There really is action there we don’t think about in discussions of Web 2.0. But these groups have a lot to offer in a setting that many people naturally relate to and know how to use.

The groups I know tend to develop elements of community simply because the same people interact with one another on a regular basis and get to know each other, at least on the email level. Each group has people who are extremely active, people who seen to be completely inactive, and people we wish weren’t active at all (but almost always seem to be among the most active).  

Because these groups coalesce around people with common goals, or at least common interests, they present opporunities to spread information to the “base” – the people most likely to accept the information and possibly spread it themselves. The stronger an idea stands within its base of support, the deeper it penetrates into the collective.  

While Facebook may be growing beyond all measure and new groups continue to spring up and offer all types of new opportunities, its important to remember where we can count on finding people we most want to reach. And nothing has displaced the simple email affinity group from its status as our greatest connector.