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3:08 PM

The Long Tail of Past Misdeeds

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Today we have a slightly different take on marketing. We’re posting about self-marketing. Specifically, social media and how it can help or hurt you college students when you’re marketing yourself for a job.

Followers of The Lobster Shift know we’re firm believers in the value of social media. But there can be a dark side to it.

For example, we’ve all heard about how a bad social media post or tweet can hurt a college applicant or job seeker. Now comes proof of the disconnect between young job seekers and job recruiters, courtesy of Persona, Inc., a social media utility.

According to a recent Persona survey, 57 percent of college students don’t think their Facebookpostings include inappropriate content. However, according to a Persona press release nearly 70 percent of recruiters in a previous survey said that they’d bypassed candidates based on negative online information.

That seems like a pretty big disconnect over what exactly “inappropriate content” is.

Students seem aware of the fact that recruiters look at their profiles. But they feel overconfident that their current Facebook profiles don’t mar the image they’re trying to present to potential employers, the survey seems to suggest.

Worse, they’re not being proactive in presenting a professional Facebook page.

Persona cites three ways young job seekers might be letting their reputations precede them.

-More than half of college students never or rarely delete or un-tag questionable images or posts.

-Four out of five college students would still be comfortable or very comfortable if a recruiter looked at their Facebook pages—despite the high number of recruiters who have rejected candidates after browsing their Facebook profiles.

-Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed by Persona say they try to hide content, rather than activity monitor for inappropriate stuff. The danger is that a friend might post an inappropriate comment or picture from last Saturday’s party on a job candidate’s wall, turning off an interested recruiter.

Lee Sherman, Persona CEO, has some tips for college job seekers regarding social media.

First, use social media like Facebook or Twitter to showcase your personality. Post those things that will present you in a positive light.

Second, social media is like a dinosaur with a long tail. The long tail is stuff posted a long time ago. Go back and scrub your posts. Delete content back to the early years that would present you unfavorably.

Third, use Facebook’s networking capabilities to help land interviews by reaching out to a whole network of friends. If you’re lucky enough to land an interview use the channel to find an existing connection in the company.

College students on the job prowl, which should be all of you, have to be aware, according to Persona’s Sherman,  of the potential dangers of Facebook, where one drunk photo, one salacious smile, can tank a budding professional reputation.  

So when you start building that professional reputation, remember: in a terrible economy it’s hard enough to find a job without dragging the long tail of your college days behind you.
11:10 AM

Rubber Band Wars

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If you’ve got middle-school age daughters, you’re most likely aware of the latest accessory trend in pre-teen fashion—rubber band bracelets. There are several products resembling old-fashioned looms and sold at craft and toy stores that allow the users to weave multi-colored rubber bands into the bracelets.

One of the rubber-band loom manufacturers, Rainbow Loom, sold more than 1.2 million of the kits last year. At $15 a pop this is big business.

Now comes word that Rainbow Loom is suingrival manufacturer Zenaconclaiming infringement of a patent granted to it in July. This issue is whether you can patent a product that has been around for decades or centuries—like rubber bands or looms.

Rainbow Loom’s owner Cheong Choon Ng, a Malaysian immigrant, claims that he created the market for rubber-band crafting. It’s his pond and his competitors want to dip their beaks into it. 

The Wall Street Journal quotesthe owner of the defendant company, which sells the competing product FunLoom as hoping to resolve the suit amicably. Probably meaning FunLoom can be bought.

The Lobster wishes all the competitors well. Lord knows we have a soft spot for entrepreneurs, especially in this day and age. Our economic system makes it relatively simple to start a business. What happens after that is up to you.

But the rubber-band bracelet wars brings up a deeper problem for entrepreneurs who want to market the next mousetrap. Or in this case, loom. 

New technologies like three-dimensional laser printing, fast manufacturing techniques, e-commerce, just-in-time inventory procedures, and global sources of cheap labor are challenging entrepreneurs like never before.

These technologies make it easier for rivals to cash in on the latest fads or fashion trends, says the Journal. The result? The number of U.S. patent lawsuits filed last year topped 5,000—a nearly 30% hike from the year before.

At the same time the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted over 270,000 patents last year. That means a lot of patent enforcement actions and a lot of work for intellectual-property attorneys.

At some point in this country’s recent past we moved beyond the age of invention, the age of Edison and Westinghouse, and into the age of research and development. We moved from an age dependent on the invention of new products to an age dependent on new processes.

It’s good to see the pendulum swing back in favor of entrepreneurial inventors. But times have changes. Unfortunately the patent and trademark laws haven’t. Here’s to courts and legal scholars looking across the spectrum and finding ways to balance the rights of the entrepreneurs who create products and jobs with the animal competitiveness of the free market which benefits all of us.
7:53 AM

Nature Calls

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Nature Calls

I caught a press release over the wire last week from the State of Colorado. An overly lengthy press release, I might add. The purpose of the release was to pimp a recently completed branding effort for the state.

Press releases are more art than science. Only a small fraction of them ever get picked up by the media. Using Colorado as an example, here are three rules to follow to increase the odds of getting your story out.

First, when I was a newsman, I liked releases that were simple and interesting. I always figured if it was interesting to me it might be interesting to my audience. So the first rule is to write the release well. Make it sound interesting.  Every editor or reporting reading it will tell right away whether he’ll pick up the story or not. Binary choice. Takes about eleven seconds.

Second, keep it short. Don’t embellish. Let the story tell itself. The Colorado release is overwrought, overblown and, at over a thousand words, overgrown.

What do we learn in the release? That the branding effort (itself branded “Making Colorado”) is the “most inclusive,” “most collaborative”  and most “ambitious branding effort ever undertaken by a state.”

Certainly not the most modest.

Third, if it’s not newsworthy, don’t bother releasing it. The fact is, not everything that happens in your  organization is newsworthy. A newsroom isn’t a Middle Eastern bazaar. Don’t try to hawk all your wares there. Colorado came up with a new brand and a new logo. That’s nice. But not necessarily newsworthy. Happens every day. But the State claims it’s the first “unified” brand for Colorado. What does that mean and why should anyone care?

The release goes into agonizing detail about the bureaucratic effort that went into designing the new logo, the new brand, and apparently, the press release. After 12 months and over a million dollars (including pro bono and in-kind contributions) Colorado came up with a simple triangle with an evergreen tree and the Postal Service abbreviation for the state: CO. Huh? And it took nearly eleven hundred words to say that? Call me crazy, but it looks more like the international warning sign for carbon monoxide presence than it does something worthy of an important state like Colorado.
New Colorado Logo

State brands or slogans should be something you’d be proud to put on your license plates. North Carolina—First in Flight. Commemorating the Wright Brothers. I think of them every time I fly coast-to-coast in five hours.  New Hampshire—Live Free or Die. If you’ve ever met someone from New Hampshire you understand that one. My favorite: Delaware. Home of Tax Free Shopping. Simple. To the point. And about what you’d expect from the domicile of thousands of corporations.

Colorado's new slogan “It’s Our Nature” is clever by a half. And the press release tries too hard to sell it. And it raises the question: What about Wyoming? Montana? Alaska? They are all breathtakingly beautiful states. What makes Colorado more natural? What makes Colorado Colorado?

Having done a good deal of work with government over the years I understand that your work is often subject to collaborative review, endless iterations , and political calculus. I get that. It looks to me like this campaign had too many hands in it, all of which, unfortunately, are listed in the release.

International Symbol for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you’re in charge of putting out press releases, remember the the three rules: keep it interesting, keep it short, and, above all, before it hits the wire make sure its worthy of a mention here and there.

I hate to be contrary on this. But lobsters swim against the current. Sorry. It’s our nature.