MHB WEEKLY: By the students, for the world

Speaker Series: Brian Kushnir

April 29, 2011
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Each Friday, the MHB program hosts an industry pro with insight into career opportunities, marketplace trends and new ideas who engages students for two hours of class time. On April 8th, 2011, the speaker series featured Mr. Brian Kushnir, the executive vice president and managing director of Added Value, a market research firm located in Los Angeles.

Mr. Kushnir provided an expansive and penetratingly informative view of market research, which he has been involved in professionally since graduating from the University of California in San Diego. His previous positions in the industry have included research management at Infoplan, strategy at McCann-Erickson Japan, consumer research at Gateway Japan and directive planning at BBDO Japan. He has lived and worked in Tokyo, so his expertise spans diverse consumer segments as well as cultural populations — a continuing influence on his job at Added Value, which has branched into international territories including Asia following its domestic success.

Mr. Kushnir examined the Added Value approach to market research, which goes beyond simple statistical analysis by providing consultative suggestions to its clients. Its ideas have inspired campaigns for Audi, Yamaha, Advil, Virgin and Levi’s, and it maintains a socially-active and environmentally-friendly workplace both here and abroad. He navigated the evolution from entry-level employment to management within the market research industry, which provided students with a model for future planning and relative expectations. Ultimately, Mr. Kushnir showed how personal pursuits — like his own passions for international relations and the Japanese language — can be effectively incorporated into a full-time career.

Continue reading for more on Mr. Kushnir, as well as his social media profile.

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Speaker Series: Brad Chase

April 28, 2011
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Each Friday, the MHB program hosts an industry pro with insight into career opportunities, marketplace trends and new ideas who engages students for two hours of class time. On April 1st, 2011, the speaker series featured Mr. Brad Chase, a partner at Capitol Media Partners, a strategic communications consultancy located in Los Angeles.

Mr. Chase, an expert in even the most disastrous PR situations, shared his insights on crisis communications and his experience in reputation management. He provided a comprehensive overview of his work, starting with the nature of communication and all of the different components that go into the process of communicative flow. He discussed the differences and the similarities between proactive and reactive communication, and he described the art of reputation management and how all companies and organizations need to learn how to navigate this difficult process.

Mr. Chase also effectively applied the theories from his presentation to real life situations. He lead the MHB class in a discussion of two major collegiate PR crises — the anti-Asian rant at UCLA and the student sex scandal at USC — and thereby demonstrated how reputation management is being used in current media events. Overall, Mr. Chase stimulated an interactive discussion from which students learned firsthand how communication is important in the real world.

Continue reading for more on Mr. Chase and his work.

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Speaker Series: Karina Sterman

April 27, 2011
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Each Friday, the MHB program hosts an industry pro with insight into career opportunities, marketplace trends and new ideas who engages students for two hours of class time. On March 25, 2011, the speaker series featured Ms. Karina Sterman, a partner at Los Angeles law firm Ervin Cohen & Jessup with expertise in litigation and employment law.

Ms. Sterman provided students with insight into the world of employment law. In discussing her field of work, she emphasized and re-emphasized the importance of integrity. She provided thorough descriptions of several litigation cases she had dealt with in the past and showed the steps that she would typically take in each of those situations. Contrary to popular belief, she explained, the outcome of the case is not what ultimately matters for the employer — it is the integrity of the employer’s response to the case. Another piece of advice Ms. Sterman provided was that an employer or an HR representative should never assume that one person is guilty and one person is innocent. This was supported with several cases she had worked on in the past, where the initial self-proclaimed “victim” turned out to be the “villain” in the end.

Overall, Ms. Sterman provided an engaging examination of how business litigation and employment law can affect us in the professional world — whether from the employee or employer standpoint. For those interested in human resources, she presented a much-appreciated “heads up” in terms of what to expect in the years to come. In general, she taught a crucial lesson about the importance of compliance and thorough follow-through, regardless of the task at hand.

Continue reading for more on Ms. Sterman and her work at Ervin Cohen & Jessup.

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Jonathan Taplin at the SMASH

April 26, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at social media innovator Jonathan Taplin.

Mr. Taplin is the Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab, a collaborative think tank with some 240 USC students and 40 interdisciplinary professors who work to design academic challenges, research digital media and share results in a continuing series of lectures and dialogues. His personal history suggests that his finger has always rested on the pulse of mediated America: he started in the early 1970s, when he produced Martin Scorsese films like Mean Streets and The Last Waltz, and continued through the ’80s with consulting roles that affected major corporations like Disney and Viacom. Today, backed by companies including IBM, Apple and Verizon, Mr. Taplin has emerged within the seven months of his lab’s existence as a thought leader at the cutting edge of social web technology.

He began his presentation by labeling the current internet age as a “cooperative revolution,” which differs from the creative revolution of the ’50s and ’60s in which specific artists — Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Andy Warhol among them — sparked a cultural metamorphosis through taking chances. The cooperative revolution is a more plebeian phenomenon. It allows the masses, through social networks and web communications, to mobilize themselves and empower their message with incredible speed. Within the last ten years, argued Mr. Taplin, the world has witnessed significant social changes: everything is more beautiful, like Apple’s line of products; everything is customized, like coffee at Starbucks; everything is shared, and everything is more authentic. By realizing these new rules of consumer order and studying their effects, he explained, America “can lead in a networked world.”

Mr. Taplin continued by showing some of the work accomplished in the first half-year at the Annenberg Innovation Lab. He presented semantic web maps, in which written data mined from Twitter are reorganized so that the frequency of a word’s use is denoted by its size; these visualizations can make meaning of the social reaction to major world events, like the recent upheaval in Egypt, by revealing the symbolic collective thoughts of a community. He spoke of interactive television, the final frontier of the social web, on which the Lab is working with Verizon. (Imagine watching a sports event while connected to friends across the world, and typing real-time reactions and commentary as the drama of the game unfolds.) He also suggested a new model of corporate structuring, which values modern knowledge over the rigid hierarchy of decades past.

As a final thought, Mr. Taplin enumerated four critical strategies for success in the networked world. Companies shouldn’t fear creative destruction, he said, and provided the example of Apple cannibalizing its own Apple II sales with the introduction of the Lisa in the 1980s. Using a quote from Merck CEO Richard Clark — “Culture eats strategy for lunch every day” — Mr. Taplin revealed the need for innovative teams and people, not merely an innovative gameplan. He then warned against corporate value chains and against getting stuck in a silo with knowledge. Lastly, Mr. Taplin shared his one great anxiety about the social web: that today’s leading corporations operate under the assumption that teens and young adults have no desire for privacy. Indeed, his words and penetrating insights showed how studies of social networks and studies of culture at large are one in the same.

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Tony Adam at the SMASH

April 25, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at statistical social media whiz Tony Adam.

Mr. Adam is a jack of all social media trades, and he recognizes not only the value but also the necessity of artists and businesses taking to social networks for visibility. He is the Director of Online Marketing at MySpace, a position where he flexes his skills in search engine optimization, viral strategy and web communications. Before that, he worked with major companies including Yahoo! and PayPal in similar roles. He also founded the social media consultancy Visible Factors, and he acts as a freelance advisor to internet startups and maintains a wealth of outlets for online authorship: his blog, his Twitter feed and his SEO-focused contributions to Search Engine Land.

Mr. Adam began his presentation with the wise words of Tom Landry, the famous Dallas Cowboys coach with two Super Bowl rings and the record for the most consecutive winning seasons in the NFL. “Setting a goal is not the main thing,” Mr. Adam quoted, “it is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” According to Mr. Adam, almost all individuals — entertainers, heads of companies, graphic artists — can use social media plans in their publicity portfolios, and can arrive at meaningful data with the proper tools for measurement and analysis. Musicians, he argued, need to be on MySpace. Those specializing in women’s products need to be on Kirtsy. Any kind of video production needs to find its way to YouTube, and photographers need to be on Flickr. And despite this diversity of sites, all web entrepreneurs need to speak the language of statistics to gauge their relative rates of engagement and success.

As for free tools, Mr. Adam suggested Google Analytics and StumbleUpon statistics. For a price, companies can invest in bit.ly Entreprise — a way to “benchmark all social media efforts” — and Alterian SM2, a business intelligence product for social media monitoring. Use of these services can provide meaningful information: by tracking MySpace data, for instance, Mr. Adam realized that the heaviest traffic time on Twitter was around 4pm, so he reserved tweets about contests and promotions for that specific hour.

To conclude his presentation, Mr. Adam shared the example of BillShrink, a site for cell phone comparison that he consulted. By creating an infographic, which combined the goals of advertising and engagement into a visually-appealing online poster, the company was able to position itself as one of the premiere sites of its kind — and it received media coverage, like a Mashable feature, in the process. An effort like an infographic, which reorients a conventional PR tactic for the web, shows the power in creativity and in trusting the internet as an ad space.

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Sally Falkow at the SMASH

April 22, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at professor, editor and social media connoisseur Sally Falkow.

Ms. Falkow is a consummate PR expert with a firm grasp on the history of social media as well as their implications across society. Social Media Bootcamp, her popular conference series that has trained hundreds of Fortune 100 employees, earned her the coveted title of PR Trainer of the Year in 2009. Ms. Falkow’s background is in traditional PR, and her seamless transition to the internet has established her as a thought leader and coveted strategist for online PR. She maintains the The Proactive Report, an industry blog, and is a co-creator of PRESSfeed, a site which acts as an online newsroom for businesses.

Ms. Falkow began her presentation by likening the newest form of technological communication to the oldest: “I’ll tell you the ROI of social media if you can tell me the ROI of the telephone,” she said, explaining that social networks represent a return to conversational marketing. Still, she contended that many Forbes 500 companies are using social platforms for push strategies, not as a means of engagement or as a way to start discussions and participate in them directly. She urged such companies to listen as a first step in online measurement, providing the example of cognac manufacturer Hennessy — which recently debuted Hennessy Black, its first new product in fifty years, after hearing rappers, singers and other entertainers endorsing the brand in their everyday lives. It also conceptualized Hennessy Artistry, which aims to support the arts and hosts events across the world.

Ms. Falkow also stressed the importance of learning, and of acting as much as possible like a fly on the wall in the social web space. As soon as consumers hear dreaded words like “survey” or “focus group,” she said, the authenticity of a conversation is compromised. Companies need to learn from organic consumer insights, new markets and associated trends, brand evangelists and also detractors. She encouraged the establishment of a baseline — improving a brand’s engagement score by 50 percent in a month’s time, for instance — and then listed the various tools that can be used to quantify success or failure. Facebook Insight is a simple and free tool for measurement. Twitter can be analyzed with Archivist, a data-mining app, as well as with Backtweets, Chirpstats and Mentionmap. Klout, an index for a company’s “overall online influence,” makes use of statistics from both Facebook and Twitter to generate an engagement score between one and 100.

These forms of measurement, however, should not replace a company’s more traditional forms of market observation. It still needs to keep an eye on competitors, explained Ms. Falkow, and it needs to read relevant case studies and follow pertinent publications as often as possible. The arrival of social media has not overhauled the entire PR profession, but rather modified its most effective strategies.

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Adam Christensen at the SMASH

April 21, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at corporate social media strategist Adam Christensen.

Mr. Christensen’s most recent role was in Social Business Strategy and Execution for IBM, a position that gave him authority over nearly half a million employees in the company’s social media space. Though his new job will be at Juniper Networks, his time at IBM gave him a comprehensive view of the most socially-connected company in the world: because IBM employees are independent and tech-savvy, many maintain blogs or sites on the side; Mr. Christensen was involved in the process that set guidelines for those types of interior communications. His unique and almost universally-applicable expertise has lead to countless speaking gigs and television appearances on business networks like CNBC.

Mr. Christensen began his presentation by addressing two of IBM’s most effective marketing efforts, the recent Watson campaign and the Smarter Planet campaign. Watson is the computer that defeated trivia mavens Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy! in February; his convincing victory by more than $50,000 was a massive step for IBM’s Grand Challenges, a program that encourages and funds technological innovation. Smarter Planet, meanwhile, is an ongoing initiative to address wayward world trends, like the counterfeiting of medicine, with achievements in responsible engineering:
From there, Mr. Christensen’s lecture turned to internal social media monitoring at IBM. Until five years ago, he said, social media existed at the peripheries of IBM’s business plan; today, web communications are part of a strategy to maintain employee loyalty and encourage the proliferation of their ideas. IBM has a long history in this arena — the company had online discussion forums as early at the 1980s, and in the last two decades it has used a systematic review process to create a safe environment for employee expression. In 2005, IBM workers drafted rules and regulations for personal blogging. The same year, the company tested Beehive, an internal social network to enable “rich connections on both a personal and professional level.” In the years since, the blogging guidelines have been consistently updated and networks like Beehive have enabled workplace synergy, the generation of friendships outside of work and a model for other companies of vast size searching for sensible ways to connect their workforce.

Mr. Christensen explained that IBM’s goal has always been to foster deep, intensive educational and interactive relationships with its employees. Over the last decade, the company has realized exponential growth in employee-created online content, which in turn forges a tight-knit workplace community with genuine passion for its assignments and pride for its accomplishments. (One of the true joys of the Watson project, for instance, was the row of IBMers cheering for their computer at his every correct answer.) Mr. Christensen showed how social networks, often disallowed from being used at work, are more effectively managed if embraced.

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David Murdico at the SMASH

April 20, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at creative content expert David Murdico.

Mr. Murdico is the Executive Creative Director & Managing Partner of Supercool Creative, a Los Angeles outfit that focuses on entertainment, humor and innovation in its work for various clients, including T-Mobile and Atari. Supercool also creates in-house parodies of its own profession, like the sarcastic video below that mocks the world of social media, as well as the individuals who might be a little too quick to label themselves as experts:
Lecturing on the topic of leadership, Mr. Murdico suggested three main tenets of moving social strategy into the C-suite: Education, Interpretation and Return on Investment. As for education, he admitted that many executives are hesitant to engage in social media for their own fear of failure, but that their participation — and sometimes even those failures — should be viewed as a learning process. Mr. Murdico encouraged executives to trust their teams, many of which are composed of entry-level employees with more natural experience in web communication, to move forward with internet endeavors, and he underlined the importance of staying current with online information houses like Mashable, ReelSEO, MediaPost and AdAge. The integration step involves incorporating the use of social media into a larger strategy — not relying solely on viral tactics for marketing — and finding value in both purposed and repurposed content, as well as paid and earned media. Lastly, in terms of ROI, Mr. Murdico explained that social media campaigns are “all over the map” in terms of returns and measurement of returns; what unites them are the facts that executives should always use predictive ROI, and should always recognize the difference between soft returns (unmeasurable outcomes like hype and buzz) and hard statistics.

To show an example of effective viral strategy, Mr. Murdico shared a video of Supercool’s recent work with the Pizza Hut chain, which debuted its Ultimate Stuffed Crust Pizza last month. To accompany the launch of the new product, which features actual toppings like pepperoni in its doughy crust, Supercool filmed the delivery of a very special pizza — lined with $1,000 in hundred-dollar bills — to ordinary customers and families. The results, filled with the clever and gotcha! moments well-known to YouTube, are funny and engaging:
The viral campaign, however, didn’t stop there. Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC’s late-night talk show, picked up on the humor and engineered its own unique moment, in which Jimmy’s sidekick Guillermo Díaz explodes from a pizza in talking head form to announce a Twitter contest (see below). Exemplifying Mr. Murdico’s concept of integration, Pizza Hut tied its new pizza to a viral video, a web competition, product placement and a national ad campaign within the span of a few short weeks.


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Jason Calacanis at the SMASH

April 19, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at renowned online entrepreneur Jason Calacanis.

Largely viewed as a web pioneer, Mr. Calacanis began his career at the outset of the dot-com boom and has carried his respected name through multiple entrepreneurial efforts since. (One of his projects, Weblogs Inc., sold for $25 million to AOL in 2005.) His résumé proves that he’s always viewed the internet as a social tool, and his latest endeavor — an online information house called Mahalo, which answers everyday queries with articles and videos — has emerged as a leading how-to guide for serious questions and minutia alike. Most notorious, however, are his fiery spirit and at-all-costs openness — SMASH host and Communitelligence president John Gerstner referred jokingly to Mr. Calacanis’ lunchtime presentation as “Jason, Tell Us What You Really Think.”

His message was one of change, including major overhauls to social media and online business. A blogger himself, Mr. Calacanis explained his position on the evolving blog network: that there are too many poorly-written blogs filling up the virtual world, making it increasingly difficult to discover the ones worth their while. Dismissing search engine optimization, he professed that his high page rankings have resulted from a common sense blogging procedure, not from paying SEO experts. Mr. Calacanis spoke at length about the upcoming video platform that will soon overtake much of the web — a revolution to be led by YouTube, he said, as soon YouTube becomes the way to watch all streaming content.

While he admitted that the futures of social media cornerstones like Facebook and Twitter are yet to be seen, Mr. Calacanis made several predictions. He believes that Facebook is peaking, and will be overtaken by the innovative apps and networks provided by mobile communications. He claimed that Twitter is underrated and will soon be the new “email address for life.” LinkedIn he described as impressive, and while the emerging social media phenomenon Color has yet to make waves, he finds it fascinating as an idea and a good way to meet new people. (Color allows its users to post photographs, which it then sorts by location to show which users have been where and when.)

To close, Calacanis explained his philosophy on the workforce and the hiring process. He denounced “good” workers, the type he would gladly hand over to competitors, in the search for “great” workers. He looks for people who forgo balance in order to devote themselves fully to their work — a trait he sees rarely in Generation Y employees, whom he views as coddled and sometimes unmotivated. His talk was one of candor, brash honesty and, for those who could the stomach the criticisms that cut close to home, a shot of DIY inspiration.

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Paul Dunay at the SMASH

April 18, 2011
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On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at social analytics expert Paul Dunay.

Mr. Dunay is the Chief Marketing Officer of Networked Insights, a leading analytical service for social media statistics and trends. He has also authored four volumes of the Dummies series, including the first two editions of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, and his widespread expertise has earned him placement in the Top 25 B2B Marketers as ranked by BtoB Magazine for two years running. Mr. Dunay’s blog, Buzz Marketing for Technology, is widely regarded as a top marketing blog for businesses and individuals alike.

Mr. Dunay pointed out metaphorically the first major error that companies make when moving their marketing strategies online: spending more time planning the wedding than the marriage. An aesthetically-appealing Facebook page is a good start — and many businesses conceptualize such pages — but more important is the analytic process that follows. Of the companies that use social media, 68 percent don’t know how to measure return on investment. Another 15 percent ignore it altogether, leaving just 17 percent of socially-connected companies that actually understand the value of ROI. To amend this problem, Mr. Dunay suggested a process of listening to consumers, sharing a brand’s personality and engaging in dialogue. He encouraged companies to use internet clearinghouses like Radian6 to make sense of social media data and monitor the web conversations that center around their products or services.

According to Mr. Dunay, the greatest power of the social internet lies in customer service — the only surefire way for a company to locate its most important customers, hear out their plaints and ultimately solve their problems. He gave the examples of Avaya, Comcast and Dell, all three of which have positively influenced their brand images through effective customer service initiatives. Sometimes this is accomplished through support forums, where average consumers and company-appointed moderators discuss technological issues and potential solutions; other times the process is more direct, involving a two-way conversation between a company representative and a client to provide personalized answers to any number of questions. The internet allows these discussions to happen more quickly and in a more genuine manner than ever before.

Mr. Dunay also differentiated between sharing and engaging, and pinpointed the online services that can assist in the execution of both. For companies looking to share expertise, he recommended traditional blogging and TweetDeck, a tracking site for communications across all social platforms. As for engaging, he recommended Facebook as well as support forums — both of which stimulate positive brand interactions and consumer sympathy.

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