Insights into business, society, and life in general

Archive for March, 2009

Law Enforcement At It’s Best

A bit of a stray today, but a local fiasco involving law enforcement at its unwavering best has my mind corraled. Without prolonging the tale, it goes somethinglike this: off-duty cop hurtles down local highway at 2 am, slams into back of stalled car at 60 mph. Cop gets out of car, allegedly dazed due to head injury, and gets himself, not knowing how, home 10 miles (on foot?????) The plot thickens: cop doesn’t call to report his involvement until 9 hours later. In the meantime, the young woman in the car he hit is taken to the hospital where her in utero baby is delivered 15 weeks premature. Not done yet: if you look at the photos on the carsyou wonder how anyone made it out alive. The cop who took the call was from the same department as the cop who disappeared and he did not go through the accident scene procedures for a serious accident because he didn’t think it was that serious because no one was hurt seriously. In the meantime, there is this 15 week premature baby in the hospital fighting for her life.

The reason I bring this up today is that verdict in the two-week trial was read yesterday, and the cop was found guilty! YAY! Now, a few more goodies. The cop is arrogant as hell. He strutted his ass in and out of that courtroom every day with a smirk as if jeering at everyone. The chief of the department was quoted as saying, when asked if he was going to resign, “Who, me? I didn’t do anything wrong.” OMG! Sounds like a 10 year old child accused of stealing cookies from the cookie jar. And yesterday, the cops father (also a cop) confronted another cop who was involved in the investigation and challenged him to “step outside.” Stinky, smelly, yucky stuff.

Now, this is also really cool. The county DA is going to investigate the fiasco around this accident as orchestrated by the town police department where it occured.

This department has been suspect in many botched and sleazy episodes in recent years, so I must say I am gleeful that justice may be served.

Check out this clipping on the story.

Techno-Rhetoric Rivals That of Socrates … Or Does it??

Did you know that we have left the Age of the Information Economy behind and are now well into the Age of the Attention Economy? What does this mean? It means that if you rely upon the Internet to conduct your business, do your research, network with business acquaintances, and attract new fans, the rhetorical skills and savvy you need are not what they were even 5 years, let alone thousands of years, ago. And not only is today’s rhetoric a matter of exercising skills of persuasion for your direct audiences, it’s a matter of getting their attention to begin with. That’s why it’s called The Attention Age, and that’s why successful techno-rhetoric implies 2 things – the rhetoric of attracting attention, and the rhetoric necessary to accomplish your goal.

Defined, rhetoric is persuasive communication. It is sending a message to convince an audience to think, do, or believe something. Traditional rhetoric was oral: the great orators of old, including Socrates (my favorite because of his ethical approach), either delivered speeches, which tended to be more manipulative, or used discussion to discover truth. In the Middle Ages, the printing press and its printed materials replaced the oral delivery of persuasive messages. Fast forward to today, enter a techno-whirling dervish of video, audio, Flash, image, interaction, simulation, and so on – a virtual bottomless pit of rhetorical media.

My friends, in my humble opinion, the task of becoming a successful techno-rhetorician is twofold.

  1. You have to get attention, get people to come to your site, read and respond to your Twitters, friend you on FaceBook, visit your blog and your website, and so on. This, I believe, requires mechanical rhetoric. Thus, you have to think about content – the more valuable, the better. And in that content, you need to incorporate your tags, or keywords in a seamless and effective way. For websites and blogs, you need to think about design and layout. Remember – it’s 7 seconds to grab them, or kiss them goodbye.
  2. You have to keep their attention, and this is where your true argument and persuasion comes in. Focus yourself: what’s your goal and purpose? Who’s your target audience? How can I get them to do, think, believe? If you’re successful, they’ll:
  • Call
  • Check order status
  • Download free software
  • Find information
  • Give feedback
  • Join Purchase a product or service
  • Request something

So, whether you’re coming up with a Twitter entry or designing your website, think of Socrates and the effort he expended in crafting skilled sessions of communication and truth seeking. You can do the same.

Making a Plan to Optimize Your Website: Be SEO SMART

Search engine marketing, search engine optimization, keywords, ranking, linking, content – those are the magic bullets to make your website successful, right?

Well, sort of….

They are provided you’ve first constructed a sure and solid foundation: a foundation made of good business and marketing planning.

The business and marketing planning process takes time, and that’s why it is so often usurped by the enthusiasm of webmasters to get on with the jobs of SEM and SEO. What we all aim for is getting into the top 10 on the search engine results page. If you move fast, you might indeed make it into the top 10, but does that also mean you’ll achieve your business goals? And what if you’ve moved so fast that you’re using SPAM? Using SPAM may certainly be a method to get to the top in a hurry, but it is certainly NOT a method to stay there for any length of time.

What can you do? Be SMART, in more ways than one. Let’s take a look at what we call the SMART business objectives to help you align your website with your business goals.

First, what does SMART stand for? It is an acronym for objectives that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-lined

We recently had an SEO project for a resort, and when we asked the owner what his business objective was, and he said 100% occupancy all year round.

Well, our thinking for this SEO project was that to achieve 100% occupancy meant to improve his site’s loading time, identify and strategically place keywords, rewrite text to improve content, and embark upon a linking campaign. To accomplish these “specific” objectives, we removed some photographs from several pages to improve loading times and instead created a photo gallery. What we discovered through this exercise was that to the owner, achieving this 100% occupancy objective meant having an aesthetically superlative site, which meant having the photos exactly as they were, despite their impact on loading times.

As a result of our enlightenment, we created another business plan, this time with the following objectives laid out:

  1. Conversion objectives
    1. Convert X% of site visitors to resort reservations
    2. Acquire X% of site visitors email addresses to build database
    3. Inspire X% of site visitors to request additional information
  2. Achieve steady occupancy growth, 10% per month
  3. Review, develop and grow affiliate and advertising goals
  4. ROI goals (stated)

As opposed to the first objective, achieve 100% occupancy, the objectives above are definitely specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-lined. However, to ensure that they are achievable and realistic, we will constantly review the plan against our work progress – in fact, we will review it weekly while we are in heavy-duty SEO mode, perhaps reducing to weekly or monthly as the project proceeds into more of a maintenance phase. As it becomes necessary, we will modify the plan and ensure agreement from all parties.

A note here about search engine results: notice that high ranking is not among our stated objectives. The reason for that is we believe it is inherent in the other objectives – in order to achieve conversions that result in reservations, visitor email, and information requests, we will need to accomplish a good ranking, as well as increase site traffic through other means including quality inbound links.

The bottom line is that website success should be driven by good solid business planning, planning that goes beyond merely getting your site high on the search engine results pages. Instead, look at what it is you are really trying to achieve from a business perspective and make sure it is SMART.

Culture and Technology: A Race to the Finish

As we sit here at this very moment, right beneath finger tips clicking away on keyboards, culture and society are exploding with change unraveling so fast it can’t even be detected by our naked eye, so to speak.

It fascinates and terrifies me, this change which crashes along, bending and breaking everything in its path.

Some is good, to be sure. But even the good – it’s too fast for our fragile human psyche to handle and assimilate. It’s too fast to answer the question, “What does it mean?” before it’s off and running with a new wave, in a new direction.

I’ve just finished a book by whiz-kid, marketing guru Seth Godin, Unleashing the Idea Virus, ©2001. It is a great little book, with greater ideas, but it’s outdated. It talks about websites that are passé, and it makes no mention of social networking sites. Yes, it’s well worth the read for Godin’s concepts of idea virus and sneezing, but its outdated-ness is startling given that the book is just 8 years old.

Take another example: our educational institutions simply can’t keep up with the rate of technological change. The last set of K-12 standards I examined, now 2 years old, did not include technology as an integral part of content areas. I think my humble opinion in this matter extends to the more general consensus that technology needs to blend seamlessly as a tool as used within a given subject area. The bureaucracy that burdens educational change makes it impossible to stay apace with properly implementing technological change in the curricula.

Have you seen the movie Wall-E? I’m amazed this movie was put out by Disney, as it is not their usual fun and frolic film; rather, it is dark and rife with satire. It addresses the whole thing about destroying the planet and wasting of mankind, but with a hopeful, and perhaps even, happy ending. What I really like is that it suggests that man can be destroyed by technology, but with proper handling at a manageable pace, man can regain control and be restored to a simpler life, a simpler time.