Bridging the Gap

28 02 2008

technology_v1.jpgSince I’ve started working part time at Radio Shack, I’ve noticed a few trends. For instance, customers want to feel like I know what I am talking about. It’s actually more important for me to sound like I know what’s going on than for me to actually know and not be able to explain. There’s a lot I could say about that, but that’s not what this post is about. Another thing I’ve noticed is this – It’s not that older customers don’t want to understand how to work new-fangled technology, it’s they’re embarrased they don’t already get it.

The moment I use words like “internet” or “wireless” or “digital” I get the

“HAHA, slow down there. I can’t keep up with that. You might as well be speaking espagnole” (that last part is more appalachia than age)

But there’s more to this situation than Mr. Rodgers not being able to understand that you can actually get to the “land of make-believe” via URL rather than the trolley. Who can blame them for using they’re AARP card as a way out an awkward conversation that they might not be able to keep up with? Honestly, how many times have you given the old head nod and laughed at the appropriate time when someone’s talking over your head? Not to say they have anything to be ashamed of, but it’s a little awkward when someone assumes you’re on their level, and your not.

In a New York Times article, we see this gap between the technologically savvy and those who aren’t is widening. According to them the highest fifth of streaming-media users watch 140 times more video than the lower half. In order for the new media idea to work, these numbers have to change. True, in this situation, time will heel the wound as the older generation passes on, but today we have an opportunity.

Instead of having them come to our web site, or buy our iPhone, or read my blog, why don’t we put these things in their hands? The way we have been presenting these new toys has not been senior-friendly. I suggest instead of teaching old dogs new tricks, we have them do the same tricks but with better rewards. Why not?


Lessons Learned – Part I

25 02 2008

During my time at OU, I’ve actually picked a few things up here and there. In between those pesky classes and long nights studying, I’ve learned a few lessons that I think will stick with me long after I leave Athens. I’m going to try and list those out, as much for me as for anyone reading this.  But for the simple reason that there is no way I can fit, or remember everything that I’ve learned in one post, I’ll call this “Part I”

1 – People do what they want – A simple concept and almost obvious at first. My point here though is that in many cases, regardless of the commitment someone gives you, at the end of the day, they’ll find a reason not to be there if they don’t WANT to be there. This still seems somewhat vague, so I’ll elaborate.

In college, there will ALWAYS be more homework to do. Even after pulling an all-nighter, odds are there is more you can do if you want. Considering the main reason many people go to school is a classroom education, this normally takes priority. For many it becomes their scape goat out of all types of responsibilities though. It seems that if anyone wants out of a commitment, class is a conveniently available excuse. How I see it though, when they took on that position, they said they had the time to not only be able to handle that position’s jobs, but all of their other duties as well. Wusses.

2 – It’s my fault. Seth Godin really hit this on the head with this post. Read it. You’ll realize you didn’t do anything wrong, I did.

I’m going to stop here. I have a broomball game at Midnight I need to warm up for. Awesome.

“Air” heads

1 02 2008

Fall quarter has came and passed and, although I miss all of my good friends at the “Home of Homestyle,” I, along with my car, am thankful to be able to spend my time in Athens, Ohio and not on 33W to Columbus. The new quarter also means no “History of Rock and Roll” Class, which is again a sad statement, but does mean I can attend PRSSA meetings on Monday nights.

This latest meeting we had Jack Buchanan from B&A come and speak at our meeting. I was instantly reminded of why I pay $65 dollars a year to be in PRSSA. Jack brought some very interesting ideas to our meeting and one that really got me thinking.

We started talking about brands (as good little PR students do) and I asked a question about what to do if the actual product I’m bringing to the market isn’t that good. Jack replied “You need to figure out the value of the brand to the people who use it or will potentially use it.”

That sounds like a good answer and I nodded slightly to show that he had thrown me into deep marketing meditation, but it wasn’t until I was on my thinking chair at home that I realized what he was saying. The question isn’t “why do people want this product” it’s really “What does the product do for them?” These seem like the same basic questions at first, but their truly not.

I look at the new Macbook air that came out a few weeks ago and see the disconnect between the two questions.

Why do many people want it? Because it’s a Mac, and Mac has a great reputation for making great computers and delivering them to great customers, graciously. But what does it actually do for them? Other than being able to send it in their inner-office mail, I’d say, not too much. The fact of the matter is there is only one USB port on there and no cd-rom drive so once you throw in all the extra things you’ll need to get it to do what you want, you’ll need more of a suitcase to carry it, than an envelope.

Why does this happen? Well Jack answered that question for me too. When I asked him about the product that wasn’t that great, I would say:

“I probably wouldn’t use it.”

Jack finally replied “Who cares about you? Go to the Market!”

I realized the question isn’t “what would I do?” or “What are we able to do?” It’s “What is useful?” and “How will this make my life easier.

At times it seems like elementary thoughts, but the practice of them seems rare… at least to me.

Utility Fielder

7 12 2007

I played baseball for 8 years growing up. LOVE THE GAME. However, I fell victim to a dangerous disease through my 8 years of ball… Coach’s son-itis. This is the terrible disease that usually only strikes in little league and is when you manage to play the same position as the coaches son on a team. The symptoms of this illness are as followed:


Fatigue (from running after the missed grown balls that go through daddy’s boy’s legs)


**If symptoms last more than four games, consult assistant coach and learn how to play another position

I literally ended up playing all nine positions in my time. I even pitched a game until I was taken out for hitting 2 batters (I faced 4)

However the idea of being able to play anywhere was something I liked, and that theme followed me. I wanted to be able to do it all. In high school I was in band, drama, speech and debate as well as many other organizations that accepted members that wanted to run themselves ragged.

All this activity led up to a defining moment in my young life. A conversation I had with my advisor, Mr. Supancic. Now I’m not usually known for my good long-term memory, and I can’t tell you when he said this to me, but I remember the absolute emptiness I felt afterwards. This is how the conversation went… abbreviated:

Mr. S – “Aaron you are a jack-of-all-trades”

Aaron – (satisfied and somewhat smug look arises on face)

Mr. S – “But a master of none.”

I now know this is a tired old expression, but at the time, it could have come from Solomon himself. My secret was out. I really wasn’t good at anything, just loud enough at a lot of things so that people thought I must be talented, or smart or above average because, hey, they see me around a lot, I mean I had the most pictures in my senior year book for goodness sake!

But after putting years of thought into this though I have come to a different conclusion than I originally expected. At first I figured that I had to bare down and pick exactly where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. But I’ve realized that’s not good enough. The true dagger in the statement isn’t simply the master-of-none. It’s the jack-of-all-trades part.

Simply put, I want to be the master of all trades. The guy who can operate successfully in any situation and doesn’t have to B.S. his way by, but gets by through his knowledge of how the world operates and to make it work for you.

I’m not there, I probably won’t ever BE there. But I’m closer, and I’m definitely not in little league anymore.

Right infront of our eyes

1 11 2007

It’s official… I’ve gone corporate. I woke up this morning in Columbus, drove to Athens for five hours of class (and a half our meeting with my banker… can anyone spare some change?) and now I find myself sitting in the on the eighth floor of the Marriott Hotel in St. Louis, Mo.  I’ve heard it was a bad thing to be working for “the man,” but when that man is Bob Evans, I feel alright about it…

On my flight it, I was discussing with Mike, (my supervisor) different ideas on how to utilize new media at Bob’s.  I’m  managing two blogs for us now, one for employees and another to let people know about new store opening (look out Marysville), but of course we’re always looking at new strategies.

I asked Mike what he knew about facebook, and he said he all he knows is basically what his high school/middle school daughters  do on it; check friends profiles, message, post pictures, things like that.

When I started thinking about that, I realized that many my age are still using it for that base level as well.  Now there is nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong, it’s essentially it’s purpose.  However, we have not crossed the boundary yet of expanding our social networking capabilities outside of stalking friends and not-so good friends.  We’re allegedly the one’s pushing the envelope to this brave new world, but in my collegiate experience, I really never came across such sites like twitter, technorati, or flickr.

Jeremy Pepper made mention of how Auburn is starting to teach classes on the subject.  I hope for Scripps sake we’ll catch on… quickly

In college, the world can seem small, especially in a town like Athens.  You throw facebook in the mix, and it seems we just need to look out the window to see our neighbors from across the country.  However the growing reality that I’m coming to is outside of the University bubble, the world is more vast than I could ever imagine, and that I need to use every thing possible to be heard.

“That’s not even really news…” -Tom Tucker

24 10 2007

I read a post this past week on Seth Godin’s Blog about cumulative advantage.  To grossly summarize it, it’s basically the idea that people tend to pick what’s most popular instead of the best product.  He cites a great Times article if you want to read more about it.  I’m really not too interested in the marketing aspect of this theory though.

The post got me thinking more about how the concept of cumulative advantage carries over into mainstream society and mass media. I was on the other day and one of their headline articles was about JK Rowlings announcement that Albus Dumpledore was gay.  What bothered me about this was that it made no other mention in the article about the things Rowling said about the other characters lives.  In their opinion, this was the only news worthy story.

Later on, in Newsweek I read an article by Lisa Miller about the CEO of Focus on the Family Jim Daly.  It’s a decent article, showing the growing movement in evangelical society to understand that you can love others, as the bible calls for us to do, without agreeing with their decisions and lifestyle.  This article (surprisingly) focuses on homosexuality.

My problem with this article comes from some inside information I have (aka my girlfriend at the Focus Institute) that Miller got the interview by telling Daly that she wanted to discuss his book, but when she got their basically said “So how bout them gays,” and went on from there.  Besides the amazingly unprofessional tactic that Miller used to be able to talk to Daly, why is it impossible to read an article about a Christian leader without talking about homosexuality.  Yes, as a christian I have my beliefs, but in the big scheme of what it means to be a christian, my stance on homosexuality is a minuscule portion.

To bring the point I’m trying to make full circle, cumulative advantage is an effective and useful marketing strategy, but the media has gotten their hands on this powerful tactic and have abused it beyond belief.  Homosexuality is a popular issue, but that DOES NOT mean it’s the big story or the most news worthy issue.

This happens all the time, a few months ago when the kid at U of Florida got tasered, we began seeing stories left and right about taserings.  They even showed (again on some drunk chick from my home town get arrested.  Meanwhile in Athens, Ohio a professor was stabbed 40 some times, by his son no less, and this was barely covered!

It’s a vicious circle because stories like the one’s I cited get a lot of bang for their buck in the media (which is a problem itself).  However, it’s insulting that as a part of the American society, we’re thought to only be able to handle these socially popular issues.  Give us some credit!  I have faith that if we were presented with what is most relevant, we would tune in and care about what’s really truly going on in the world.

Hello world

20 10 2007

Hello world… this is the default title that wordpress assigns for your first post, but I think it is fitting. I’m stepping out of my usual “comfort zone”, which is something I try to do from time to time, and am joining the vast world of bloggers. I read somewhere about the ridiculous amount of blogs that get started each day and figured I would catch the wave. I wonder what the stat is about how many actually get maintained. That’s the group I’m interested in being in.

Well before I get into the important matters at hand that I will shed some of my light on (which for all I know may be similar to a 5 watt light bulb) I’ll let you know a little about myself. I am a junior Public Relations student at THE Ohio University. Not to be confused with THE Ohio State University. In my opinion, if we’re in the business of emphasizing articles in state schools, why should OSU be so special and have the market on that in Ohio?

Anywho, I am currently the Public Relations intern at Bob Evans Farms Inc. I can actually attribute the start of this blog to my position there because of my amazing supervisor, Jamie Chabra, who has “enlighten” me to the ways and glories of new media outlets (by putting her name in my blog, she will undoubtably find this post, and it’s never to late to score some brownie points with the boss.)

As for what I plan to write about, my spectrum is pretty broad at this point. The focus of it all will be communications and trying to put all aspects of that vast world into prospective. I realize though that I’m only on the fringes at this point… More on this to come though

Now that we’ve gotten the appetizer out of the way, here’s the real meat of the blog…

One of the pages that Jamie suggested for me to check out was Steve Crescenzo’s “Corporate Hallucinations.” Funny, interesting guy. I came in right in the middle of a 2 part post he was writing about how you can tell when an employee is “engaged” at a company. He first cited a Southwest Airlines employee who defended their company when Crescenzo made a comment about not flying if you don’t have to. I would agree that this employee was definitely engaged, or maybe invested is a good word, in their company.

However, he next brought up another employee who I believe is the prototype for how I think a lot of good employees are in their company. He mention a young man who worked at a bagel shop that was getting slammed with business and was ridiculously understaffed. Under all this pressure the guy kept his cool, even though he was put in a bad situation. He said this employee was also engaged or invested in their company. This is where I would disagree. I’ve been in that guys shoes before, or rather I find myself there quite often still at the privately owned Athens, Ohio restaurant I work at (I qualify it so much so people who know the area can instantly get a picture of the shadiness we’re dealing with here) and can say I want nothing more than to tell my boss a big “screw you” and walk out the door.

In my eyes though, the fact of the matter isn’t that we’re engaged in the company, it’s that we’re engaged in ourselves. I know this sounds terribly selfish, but it’s not. We’re self motivated people. When put in situations like the ones the bagel employee and I find ourselves in, we’re not caring for the company itself, because odds are the company doesn’t care much about us. But we recognize that one, we’d be reflecting bad upon ourselves if we were to be rude to customers, and two, everyone deserves to be respected, and to being pissy towards others isn’t going to make anyone’s day better.

Is the corporate world like this? I don’t know, maybe someone can shed some light on that for me, I’d imagine there’s shades of it though… besides, these are just the fringes…