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MOCC does indeed Rock – Farewell my friend

How to start?

I met Michael for the first time over lunch at The Monk’s Table (it wasn’t called that then). It was ostensibly an interview but it lasted for about 2 1/2 hours and a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen were consumed. This was back in ‘07 I believe. We’d known each other online for longer. I was the ____ (insert statement here, you know you wanna) digi marketing person and MOCC was the PR genius.

That conversation ranged from who we thought was a BS artist as social media was starting to come of age to politics, music, family (yeah, he never thought I’d have kids either), and the city we both loved. He made it his home and I transplanted back here after 9/11.

We worked together for 3 months as we pitched and won a piece of business together. We had lunch almost every day (at the same spot listed above). He never questioned my insights and I never questioned his, but I had no exposure to the PR world, and Michael taught me a lot.

When I left, we stayed in touch and chatted people that drove us crazy and people that inspired us. We also talked about our families. I had my girls in early 2009 and MOCC was one of the first people to welcome them on Twitter while I was still in the hospital and had been wheeled out of NICU so I could let the world know we were doing okay. I’ll never forget that. “Felicitations Isabelle & Olivia”

I also remember our Twitter spat over his UID. Should he be @MOCC or @MichaelOCC. Bugger won that one.

Years passed, I saw him infrequently because we both had jobs and families, but we planned meet ups and we snarked at each other online. We also did see each other at events where we’d grab a corner and catch up. The most recent being the last HoHoTO where I left a colleague, and my date at the front door  (and I wonder why I’m single) the second I saw him to go outside and catch up.

We had tea at Media Profile in March, where he had found his place, and we chatted about our world and family again. We made plans to go hike the ravines in the Beach now that my girls were old enough that summer.

And then the unthinkable happened.

I will forever cherish Michael O’Connor Clarke, the fighting Irishman, the undisputed family man, and the smartest guy I’ll ever know.

I’m only sorry I didn’t meet him sooner.

His family could use your support, please consider donating to suppormichaleocc.ca his family needs us and we can help.

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Accepting what you don’t know

Part of what I strive to understand each and every day is what I don’t know, and being okay with it. It’s tough when you’re a perfectionist, let me tell you. But it’s true. I, and no other human being on this planet, can possibly know everything. The trick is to be okay with it and to surround yourself with people who do know the things you wish you did inside and out. In the end it makes for a much more peaceful & meaningful existence – not just in a personal sense, but in a business sense.

In practical terms, it means letting go of your preconceived notions about a lot of things; the urge to always have the answers; and in a lot of ways, to challenge your own status quo. I try to do this in all areas, not just business. I know I’m not a celebrity chef (or even much of a chef at all since I really don’t like prep or clean up), so I don’t just throw miscellaneous things into a bowl and make the family cope with the results. I actually seek out recipes. I’m pretty sure my family is happy about that. By seeking out recipes I also don’t waste my time trying to prepare complex and time consuming dishes that I’ll resent trying to make as soon as I start.

I also know that I’m not a Systems Admin, so I don’t even try to muck about with command lines when I have a problem, I call in help. Now, I’m sure if I spent enough time reading about it I could potentially figure it out, but truth be told, why would I want to waste time I don’t have learning something I’m just passingly interested in? Sure, it could make me a more rounded individual, and I’m not opposed to learning, but at the end of the day I need to ask myself: is this particular expertise going to make me happy or just more knowledgeable? Am I okay with partnering with someone who does have that expertise and actually *listening* to their advice? The answer in most cases, as I start to approach 40, is yes. That doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to add… it just means I need to be comfortable shutting up every once in a while and letting go… and trusting that others have spent just as much time as I have building their expertise in a specific field.

Not always the easiest advice, especially as you’re embarking on your career, but in my opinion, it’s crucial for cutting through the noise and finding your signal.

[Photo credit: The Gifted Photographer via Flickr]

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Should internal brand advocates truly be themselves online?

Recently there’s been a heated exchange between RichardatDell and Amanda Chapel on Twitter regarding the lines between personal and professional when representing a company in the social media space. Without getting into the, ahem, personality conflicts between them and taking sides, I do think it’s an interesting and relevant subject to explore.

Where is the line between a “community evangelist’s” personal opinions and the company they represent? Does it matter in our new digitally connected world? I’d like to say no, but I tend to land on the Amanda Chapel side of the fence that it does.

Every interaction a corporate employee has reflects on the company while they’re “on the clock”. That’s standard thinking and it goes from the person in the call centre to the CEO. Why has social media changed that reality? Do brand advocates or community managers need to be “the brand” 24/7? Can they really do justice to what the company stakeholders want (profits & positive awareness) by being “real” and airing their own personal thoughts and opinions (and prejudices and biases) whenever the mood strikes?

When I’m interacting with someone who is clearly online in their capacity with the company (i.e. X@DELL), everything I read and every interaction I have with them reflects back on the company brand. Not to say that I don’t want to interact with a real person and that I begrudge them having a personality and a life, but when they are acting as agents of their brand, whatever they do reflects back on the brand/ company itself. That’s part of how human beings see things and it is something that we, as business people, need to recognize as we navigate this brave new frontier of constant connectedness.

We’re all human and we all have bad days of course, but they are paid employees, not organic consumer advocates and they, by necessity, have an agenda to promote a positive image of the brand, otherwise they would just be a regular Jane and post as themselves without the brand standing behind them. In reality, I could really despise company X’s evangelist because of their personal politics, or ego, or what have you, and that would reflect back on the company itself for no good reason other than they’re out there on the intertubes.

(And to clarify again, this isn’t meant to pass judgement on RichardatDell, but his interactions with Amanda Chapel, a fictional character, have spurred my thinking)

My thoughts on how to mitigate this are still evolving, but I think it does no one a service to ignore human nature and the pitfalls of being a high profile company representative who is “always on” and mixes the truly personal with their professional capacity.

What do you think?

[photo credit: dadawan via Flickr]

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I’ve just about had it with iTunes

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Yes, I am speaking "blasphemy". I am sick of iTunes and am seriously considering going back to using Windows Media Player as my default player, regardless that I regularly purchase music from Apple and have an iPod. The usability sucks. For a company that’s supposedly all about elegance, usability and ‘thinking different’, iTunes is, umm, not there.

First of all, do I really need to update my software every week? Can they not bundle the updates and release when there really is something that needs upgrading, vs. a cool little feature that helps their sales? Inevitably this "upgrade" also means re-installing the entire platform, finding it on my system again, and losing access to it from my toolbar. Nice.

Of course, since I’m on a PC, they aren’t "integrated" (supposedly) with my desktop environment and "lose" songs from the player whenever they feel like it. No rhyme or reason to it, I haven’t moved the albums from the same folder they’ve been in since I started using iTunes, but for some reason iTunes "can’t locate that file". As of right now, after having done absolutely nothing to any of my music files (except for purchase a new song via iTunes), I have 86 missing songs that were perfectly fine yesterday.

Is iTunes sophisticated (designed well) enough to recognize that if an entire album is missing and I click that little "find on your hard drive" button and go through the motions to find the first song, they could actually scan that same folder for the remaining songs from that album? Of course not, why do with software that I could do manually and take an hour of my time to do so?

It’s interesting that they never "lose" the songs I purchased from them vs. burned onto my system from a purchased CD.

I used to love the Apple TV spots and think they were genius. The wonderful pokes at how slow and cumbersome, and corporate MSFT is. How they make you jump through hoops to get your system working. Now? Guess what? I may be one of those folks "downgrading" from Vista to XP… whoops, I mean "downgrading" from iTunes to WMP.

</rant>

[photo credit: tantek via Flickr]

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It’s the little things ~ v2

It's the little things ~ v2

It’s the little things you do that can make a big difference. What are you attempting to accomplish? What little thing can you do today that will make you more effective? You are probably only one step away from greatness. ~ Bob Proctor

This week’s version focuses on customer service at two local eateries. One, a national chain, the other a mom & pop shop.As the old adage goes: the devil‚Äôs in the details‚Ķ how much are you paying attention to the details that matter to your customers?

The ‘little things’ that made a difference featuring Timothy’s and House of Cheung:

There is a Timothy’s location in my neighbourhood which is closer than the local Starbucks (my coffee brand of choice) so occasionally, if I’m in a rush or the weather isn’t cooperating, I’ll head over there. I’m by no means one of their loyal customers, but I still am one. Unfortunately the service just seems to get worse and worse each time I stop in. Buying a cup of coffee and a pound of beans should not take 15 mins and require repeating ones self 5 times to each of the two people behind the counter. And yes, I was the only person in line. (That example was only the most egregious one out of many).

The employees at this Timothy’s just don’t care about their jobs and it shows. I’ve never seen a manager or supervisor working the floor; the coffee beans displayed have been expired for a year; the employees don’t appear to know how to work the cash register; and on and on.

That is a training issue and a motivation issue, the product itself is fine. It can be fixed if management is motivated themselves to do so. Until that time my visits to Timothy’s will cease – the walk a few blocks further will do me good. Paying attention to things like how long it takes to complete an order and donating expired product vs. offering it for sale really do make a difference.

This experience is contrasted with House of Cheung a restaurant in Toronto. We found this restaurant when Kevin was looking for solid reviews online for Chinese food delivery (we moved from Chinatown area and the restaurants we used to frequent don’t deliver) and after fruitless searching with all the “review” sites came across a post on a message board [how old skool!] that sealed the deal. We ordered and the food was fantastic. A month went by and we placed an order again. Lo and behold the same gent who delivered the food the last time was the one who answered the phone and remembered Kevin and where we lived exactly. The least painful food order in history.

That kind of attention to detail comes from a deep regard for your customers and the product you are providing. Not all employees will have the same commitment as a restaurant owner, but if they feel empowered, respected and part of a team it will resonate back to the customers they are interacting with.

Needless to say House of Cheung is our Chinese food restaurant of choice from here on out.

{ps – check out the comments from the inaugural post, both Colin and Jonathan have two great posts that fit right into the “little things” meme}

[photo credit: +lyn on Flickr]

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