Why Pope Francis should stop Tweeting this Christmas

Pope frances

Christmas is around the corner so this is as good a time as any to urge Pope Francis to close down his Twitter account.

Pope Francis has been praised for engaging his followers on social media. His Twitter account has gained 8.15M English language followers since early 2012. The Holy See “follows” nobody (makes sense, I suppose); his eight ‘followers’ are duplicate Twitter feeds in different languages such as Arabic, Polish, Spanish and German with a combined following of an additional 12M.

It sounds revolutionary. The most ordinary individuals can now get access to personal, inspirational messages from the most prominent Christian in the world at any time, at any place.

For example, during the Paris attacks last month, the Holy See tweeted, “I’m deeply saddened by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Please join me in prayer for the victims and their families #PrayersforParis.” The Tweet was liked 65K times and re-tweeted 40K times.

This is what celebrity Katy Perry told the world: “Guys, it’s time to #PrayforParis right now.” She outperformed the Holy Father. Her 79M followers re-tweeted the message 49K times and 63K liked it.

And that’s the rub. Although @pontifex may make the Pope seem  accessible, he is more likely diluting his personal brand.

Just imagine scrolling through an average Twitter feed:

  • Justin Bieber: @whoisvers Why is this Justin Bieber album so fucking amazing
  • Eminem: I’m ready for war, got machetes and swords… #ShadyWars
  • CNN: Dashing through the snow In a one horse open sleigh O’er the Capitol Hill fields we go http://cnn.it/1maAE1o
  • Pope Francis: One goal for each day: to convey the tenderness of Christ to those who are most in need.

Really?

Accessibility is good, but not at the expense of erasing important differences in status, authority and influence. No matter what one may think about the Catholic Church or the Pope, he is not on equal footing with celebrities and 24-hour TV channels. At least I don’t hope so. This Christmas, let’s stop pretending.

NDP’s new appetite for balanced budgets predictable. Learn why!

Icecream vendorsDon’t be surprised by the NDP’s sudden passion for balanced budgets during this election campaign.

It may sound like expedient role reversal, a cynical attempt to distill fears about the party’s big spending reputation.

However, I’d like to argue that Tom Mulcair’s appetite for balanced budgets was rather predictable for anyone familiar with a long-established theory. The Median Voter Theorem explains how political parties in democracies will by necessity move to the centre if they are serious about winning elections. It’s about brand building and PR, not ideology.

Have a look at this 6-minute Animation. It helps explain the Theorem by applying it to a non-political scenario. Two ice cream vendors (the parties) fight to gain customers (voters) in a city block. It also explains the Theorem’s origins in Harold Hotelling’s spatial model of firm strategies in a competitive marketplace.

So, expect more of the same from our political leaders as this campaign unfolds and the fight for undecided voters intensifies. All leaders will move as far to the centre as they can without completely alienating their core constituencies.

Social media’s selfies become legacy media’s sustenance

Wai Young, MPThis July 14 was an exceptionally heavy news day. The historic nuclear deal with Tehran, the Pan Am games, and the first photos of Pluto competed for airtime.

Yet, an obscure fur trader in St. John’s, NFL, and Conservative backbencher Wai Young in Vancouver made the editorial lineup on CBC’s The National.

Why?

Blame the “celebrity factor” for our furrier’s moment of fame. Bernie Halloran is a smart business man. One of Rod Stewart’s entourage asked him to rent some of his fur coats for the women about to accompany the singer on an outdoor stage in chilly St. John’s. Instead, Halloran offered to loan the outfits at no cost. Pure PR instinct, I suggest. The decision earned the merchandiser a selfie with the celebrity wearing a sealskin coat. Of course, the savvy Halloran posted the shot on his Twitter feed. Next, anti-fur activists responded by lambasting Stewart for wearing seal fur. In this case, all publicity is good publicity. “It’s the middle of July, people are talking about fur. It’s pretty cool,” concluded Halloran in an interview with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing.

Let’s blame the complete absurdity of our MP Young’s comments about the Air India disaster for her spot on The National. She delivered her talk at a relatively small church at the fringes of main stream Canadian Christendom. The pastor shared his selfie with the MP with his very modest number of Twitter followers. Next, the MP’s comments spread into the wider, secular world.

First, no matter who you are and where you are, watch those selfies.

And, of course, the two stories  demonstrate once again the fascinating interdependence of legacy media outlets and social media even on a day when history is made in outer space and right here on earth.

Selfie-Seekers test politicians’ patience

Selfie

“Who wants their babies kissed or their yard signs autographed anymore? This is the Selfie Election. And if you are running for president, you have no choice but to submit,” write Jeremy W. Peters and Ashley Parker in the New York Times.

Thanks to one of my readers for sharing this interesting NY Times story.

Photo by Dominick Reuter/Reuters

Intimidated by the velocity of change? Another way to stay focused

“Most of us feel lost in the dust kicked up by the pace of change,” says Nicco Mele, a self-declared IT nerd who memorizes poetry in his spare time. He has been recognized as one of America’s ‘best and brightest’ by Esquire Magazine.

In his book The End of Big, Mr. Mele says, “We don’t yet have an adequate vocabulary to talk about what is happening.” He adds, “Our End of bigpresent-day technology collapses time, distance, and other barriers. You often hear ‘social’ used in connection with technology – social media, social business, social sharing – but the consequences of radical connectivity on institutions are anything but social: they are disruptive.”

This disruption is felt acutely in academia and more generally in the knowledge economy. A popular blogger or intelligent contributor to Wikipedia can gain significant authority regardless of his participation in the academia.

Mele says, “From a purely reputational view, the Internet may think that a Wikipedia user who goes by the name Hoppyh knows more about Abraham Lincoln than famed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.” He explains that Hoppyh has made more than 1,339 contributions to the Wikipedia page on Lincoln. Kearns Goodwin hasn’t made any. And, even if she would start adding information to the Lincoln page tomorrow, Wikipedia wouldn’t give her any special status, observes Mele.

If you are a professional Subject Matter Expert, should you now be making regular contributions to Wikipedia?

Should you join the 164 million or so bloggers who are sharing their views on the Internet?

Does it matter that your clients may have instant access to information from reputable sources that may contradict your own views?

It’s comforting to hear that smart people like Mele feel intimidated by the velocity of change.

Meantime, busy professionals may want to take comfort in the old saying: do one thing and do it well. Or, as Google would say: It’s best to do one thing really, really well. In other words, pick and choose where you will put your energy to build profile online. It may be a blog, an e-zine, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, or any other platform – but, most likely, it can’t be all of them.

Gradual introduction of new brand may flush “Wow! Factor” down the drain

Have you noticed the improvised signs popping up in public bathroom? (see illustration!)

With the gradual switch to electronic toilet flushing, we seem to be a bit confused these days about bath031room etiquette. To flush or not to flush? The slow introduction of new technology can have unintended consequences.

How could this possibly be related to introducing a new visual brand identity – a new logo?

In 2008, with the launch of the Beijing Olympic Games, Bell launched a new corporate brand. Except, someone apparently decided it was either too expensive or logistically impossible to re-paint hundreds of service vehicles – billboards on wheels, all of them. In fact, the Bell vans on the road undermined expensive billboard advertisements along the road. The “wow factor” of the new brand was compromised, I thought.

More recently, a neighborhood non-profit in Toronto repeated the Bell story. The charity adapted its name and introduced a new logo. The move was overdue and well done. Again, I noticed that the organization’s vehicles driving through my neighbourhood still carried the agency’s original logo and name. So did a large sign displayed on their building.This continued for at least a full year.

Unfortunately, reinventing an organization’s visual identity is an expensive proposition. Before an organization considers going ahead with the project, it may be wise to make a complete list of absolutely every customer touch point: biz cards, baseball caps, vehicles, social media platforms, displays, printed marketing collateral, packaging materials and, likely, many other items. Can the organization introduce the new logo everywhere within a reasonable amount of time? If not, what items need to be prioritized and why?

Some other questions an organization may wish to ask: Have we really done an honest cost/benefit analysis for the brand project? Does it make more sense to make this change during an upcoming anniversary year and build some general PR around the new brand launch? How much would it hurt to wait a few more years so budget can be set aside to cover all associated costs? (Meantime, existing marketing materials can be used up or re-produced in much smaller quantities.)

A gradual introduction of a new brand identity may be necessary to spread costs, but it can threaten the very reasons for doing the exercise in the first place.