Autumn Transitions

It’s that time of year. Summer draws to a close, baseball season makes the home stretch to the playoffs, leaves change and school starts. For many it’s a new start and a change of seasons. Around this time in 2007, I started exploring how clients could benefit from leveraging social media to build and enhance relationships with customers. Today I am excited to share that I am starting a new position that allows me to focus on doing just that. I have joined Fleishman-Hillard as SVP of Digital and Social Media and as a Partner in the Boston office. It’s been more than a decade since I started a new endeavor at this time of year, and in my house it means my kids and I are all making a transition at the same time.

I decided on the move to FH because I saw an opportunity. FH has an entrepreneurial spirit, and social media is thriving and growing as a practice area. I am taking on a role where there is already an established and very talented local team in Boston, and where I will be focused on building our reach, creating and expanding client relationships and broadening our offerings of world-class social media services. I could not be more excited at the wide array of possibilities to work with clients (new and potential) looking for a trusted business partner and leveraging our team’s existing experience to grow and do more great work.

I would like to thank the numerous colleagues, clients and friends at Rosetta for a terrific ride the last five years. There is nothing that thrills me more than doing excellent work with clients who approach working with agencies as true business partners. I especially enjoyed working closely with the good people at Coach, Borders, Maidenform and philosophy (not to mention the roster of other clients who usually prefer not to be disclosed). In any professional services environment the people are the asset – I am proud to have worked with a talented Rosetta team. You know who you are and I can’t thank all of you enough for the support and collaboration.

The industry of social media has grown up, and companies who ask for agency partners to strategize, develop and lead programs need to answer the call with the same level of sophistication and rigor as any other program. More thoughts soon about the convergence of the agency landscape related to all things digital, but for the near term I’m looking forward to jumping in with both feet at an agency that has already embraced the change.

p.s. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how excited I am to be working in Boston.  Those who know me know I have spent much of the last several years on the road, and while no opportunity is zero travel, this actually gives me an excuse to be in town regularly.  My wife and boys deserve a major dose of thanks for putting up with me – of course they now have to put up with me more in person.  I hope to cross paths with many more folks in person in the Hub soon. Love that dirty water…

photo credit: deniscollette via flickr

How Social Media Has Changed My Job

In the last 2 years of blogging I’ve been able to share my own views on social media, interactive marketing and other topics.  During that time my day job at Rosetta has evolved from working with exciting companies like Coach and Borders to leading our Search and Media practice.  I’ve had the fortunate experience of working with talented teams and innovative clients, with an agency leadership team who was willing to help me launch our social media practice over a year ago.

Helping clients leverage social media has been a passion but up until recently only a part-time gig; I’ve had many fun and challenging responsibilities to work on in parallel while trying to see if we can add social media to the value proposition Rosetta brings to the table.  In the meantime, this blog has served as a way to capture thoughts and more importantly to hear from you, continuing conversations that weren’t as suitable for Twitter or some other forum.

For my two-year blog anniversary post, I’m excited to share details about my expanded role.  As we’ve grown our social media team, I’m pleased to share that my role is now 100% focused on helping clients develop social media programs.  My goal is to build integrated programs that treat social media tactics as informed strategies, leveraging deeper understanding of a brand’s most valuable customers and prospects through Rosetta’s Personality®-based segmentation.

What this really means:

  • After 15 years in consulting (first 12 at Accenture), I’ve been able to craft a role for myself (with leadership team sponsorship) at a digital agency I’m excited about.
  • For a long time I’ve been advocating that social media marketing tactics should be treated alongside other digital initiatives in an integrated and strategic way, leveraging CRM, segmentation and consumer insight.  Now I get to truly focus full time on making that happen.
  • I’ve spent the last two+ years learning and applying what I’ve learned in social media, now I get to learn and apply on a full time basis.  (But I’m no expert, just trying to help clients make informed decisions).

Frankly I’m very grateful to see a more formal career path emerge from ideas, especially seeing how friends struggle to find jobs in Fort Walton all around me.  I’m looking forward to sharing more here with a reinvigorated sense of purpose, and to thanking a lot of people in person over the next few weeks.  At risk of forgetting to call out a few, a hat tip to a few folks who continue to inspire me in this space:  Len Devanna, Ken Burbary, Marc Meyer, Aaron Strout, Jim Storer, Kyle Flaherty, Tim Walker, Amber Naslund, Beth Harte, and Rachel Happe.  And certainly Mark Taylor who has been my biggest advocate.  Now to deliver on the promise…

Photo credit: st3f4n via Flickr

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The First Day of School

Nerves. Jitters. Fear. Anxiety. Exhilaration.

All elements that make the first day of school unique and memorable.   My dad recently went through a similar first – branching out on his own as an enterpreneur to found Marketing Essentials International.  Fortunately he’s got forty years in the photography business to leverage, including nearly two decades at Polaroid, twelve years as the CEO of Hasselblad, a startup during the dot-com boom and most recently as head of Rangefinder Publishing (organizers of WPPI, the well known industry event for wedding and pro photographers).  Videographer Ron Dawson captured the authenticity and emotions of first starting out on your own.  Thanks Ron for this well produced and insightful video and for providing a great inspiration… Not to mention: Hey, it’s my dad.  [MEI’s first event, Skip’s Summer School, is August 16-19 in Las Vegas and worth the consideration for all photographers looking to learn from the best.]

(Subscribers via feed please click through to see the video.)

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7 Things Strikes Again

I’ll be the first to admit I’m skeptical when it comes to memes.  I’ve got to be honest that I am not a huge fan, but on occasion they can serve a good purpose. “Meme” has “me” twice in it – which can be two times too many – and like many I’m not always comfortable talking about myself. (Bryan Person did a great job adapting this particular one to talk about others, but I’m admittedly not that clever.)  To start off 2009, I’ll give this one a shot. 

Good friend Len Devanna once described memes in a positive light:

It helps strengthen the online relationships I’ve established. It puts me in a position to share something I otherwise wouldn’t – which helps to provide some context around who I am – especially for those who only know me through an online relationship. It also helps create new relationships.

Very true words.  Thanks to Ken Burbary, Marc Meyer and Eric Guerin each for taking the time to tag me and write some great posts – this has been a great experience to get to know them better and I hope this reciprocates. Without further ado…7 random facts about yours truly.

  1. gnomeI stole a lawn gnome and took it across the country. In the summer of 1995 two friends and I took a 50 pound cement gnome (actual picture) from a random house in a New Jersey suburb and took it all the way to the Redwood Forrest and back.  You know those Travelocity commercials?  They were based on us.  Loosely.  Very loosely.  Well, I don’t know if we were the first to do it, but we definitely were legends in our own minds.  We took pictures everywhere with the gnome and mailed postcards back to the house we stole it from, authored from the gnome.  At the end of the trip we returned the statue with a stack of pictures, a large foam sombrero from Taos, NM, and a huge map tracing the journey.  We never met the family as we were afraid of the consequences.  Is there a statute of limitations on that stuff?
  2. I am a sucker for the Muppets. I haven’t bought the entire series on Time-Life DVD (yet), but I have a renewed appreciation for the adult humor sprinkled throughout.  The best part is that my 3 boys, ages 7, 5 and 2, are also now hooked.  The kids watched all of season one during the Thanksgiving road trip from Boston to Philly.
  3. I’d rather have a week of skiing than a week on the beach for vacation. Before kids I would get close to 20 days a year on icy slopes in New Hampshire and Vermont.   Nowadays the 3-4 times a year will have to do, but I long for the days of the week-long family trip to Vail.  The back bowls above the tree line are perhaps my favorite place on earth.
  4. I graduated college not knowing what I would do for a living. When I started college I thought I would be an attorney, but after working for a summer at a corporate law firm in Manhattan I was not enthused.  I was a Political Science major, but I interviewed with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in the weeks after graduation and was hired for one of the last two spots that summer in Boston.  Now as a partner at Rosetta, I can reflect fondly on the two months I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.  The panic was a growing experience.kenwood-evergreen
  5. I spent 5 summers as a camp counselor at the overnight summer camp I attended as a kidCamps Kenwood and Evergreen, in Andover, NH, have been the summer homes to me, my sister or both every year since 1985.  Today my sister is the head counselor for Evergreen (the girls camp), and her husband is the same for Kenwood.  I am in denial that my oldest son is a couple years away from actually attending.  While somewhat hokey, the movie Indian Summer really nails the overall feeling of summer camp.  Hard to explain to someone who didn’t go.
  6. I have retired from the game of golf three times. I am consistently inconsistent and it drives me crazy. What can I say, I have moments of glory followed quickly by the agony of despair.
  7. I seem to gravitate toward change. I like project based work that has measurable outcomes and doing my best to influence the outcome.  I also like new or fresh starts, especially once I can get past that point about a month or so after you start anything new where you quite suddenly realize how big the task is at hand.  This goes for everything, from a job change to starting in social media.  I like the challenge but it is, well, challenging.  Seth Godin talks about it well in “The Dip,” which will be the subject of a future blog post.

Thanks for reading, and if you are interested in learning more about some fascinating people I know, here are the folks I have tagged.  I’ve tried to provide a representative cross-set of connections who have provided valuable insight and perspectives (and as far as I can tell haven’t been tagged yet):

  • Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek (aka MichelleBB), CMO for marketing firm Quaero and fellow member of Forrester’s Technology Marketing Executive Council
  • Eric Glazer, VP of Marketing at Cambridge Healthtech Associates, expert on communities in healthcare, and my son’s soccer coach
  • Colin Browning, former head of business development at Mzinga who recently joined Chris Brogan‘s New Marketing Labs team
  • Connie Bensen, community guru and social media teacher extraordinaire, whom I’ve started to get to know through social media and hope to meet one day this year
  • Erika Watters, a retail marketer who has really found a great storytelling voice at her personal blog
  • Sean Bohan, self-described “renaissance caveman” – a social media consultant who just “gets it” and has real experience to back up his insights
  • Beverly Cornell, Director of sales and marketing for Iterotext, who connected with me after seeing me mention the agency I work for, Rosetta, on Twitter (subsequently we had a laugh when we realized she thought I was talking about Rosetta Stone).

Please join me in encouraging these folks to keep this one going, we can all learn a bit more about each other.

The rules:

  • Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged
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New Blog Platform

Subscribe to Adam Cohen's FeedAfter some careful debate and a lot of thought, I’ve decided to move blog platforms. While I have enjoyed much that Typepad has to offer, I’ve found it limiting as a hosted solution in the ability to modify the look and feel, enhance for SEO purposes, and generally have the flexibility of a full scale platform. I’ve already launched the new site on WordPress and like the flexibility. The overall content, theme, and focus will remain the same.

Action Required

  • If you are already a subscriber, there should be no action required – this post was authored from the new site.  You may see some old posts show up again as new.  If you have any other problems please comment and let me know.
  • To be safe, please take a moment to make sure you are subscribed to the correct feed at (yes, the name looks wrong, but I am trying to make the switch while keeping the subscriptions intact with Feedburner). I’ll be leaving the typepad version up but will stop updating it.
  • If you aren’t yet a subscriber, I’d love to add you to the list, please consider subscribing.
  • If you subscribe already via email, no change is required.

Part of my blogging experience over the last several months has been learning the ins and outs of these tools first hand. Thanks for your patience while I develop a better experience. More to come soon and suggestions welcome.

Have you moved from Typepad to WordPress, or across blogging platforms and have an idea/tip to share? So far, this is the best link I’ve found with a lot of step by step tips and pitfalls, but I’d love to hear more.

1 + 1 = 3: Rosetta and Brulant

Rosetta Acquires Brulant How do you build a top digital agency?

In July Rosetta announced the acquisition of interactive agency Brulant, where I am a partner in the Consumer Product and Retail practice.  The first couple of days since the announcement have been some of the most fun in my career.  The two firms build a compelling value proposition when combined, and I’ve spent a better part of those two days calling clients and friends to talk about it.

Acquisitions and mergers have negative connotations to many folks.  They can mean personnel conflicts, culture clashes and diluting of the “juice” that makes either one of the parties successful – not to mention distractions to high performing project teams.  I have friends who have been through it in the digital industry (think large conglomerates eating up smaller independent agencies), and there are many horror stories.  In stark contrast, being a part of this merger is ripe with excitement and promise.  We remain independent, and the services each agency provides complement each other.

“We are creating one of the nation’s biggest interactive agencies which will allow us to grow current relationships and build new ones quite dramatically,” said Chris Kuenne, Rosetta’s founder, chairman and CEO. “The interactive marketing landscape is rapidly shifting from mass to personalized targeting and from fuzzy equity measures to precisely measured, managed and optimized customer relationship economics.”

There is a science behind the shift from traditional media to targeted, personalized marketing, and Rosetta has figured it out.  Look at their client list– these are advanced organizations where how they market is a key differentiator in their success.  Infuse that with the execution capabilities of the teams I’ve watched deliver at Brulant, and it’s a powerful combination.

“You put your chocolate in my peanut butter!”

Rosetta is technically acquiring Brulant, but in reality the firms complement each other.  The breadth of Brulant’s interactive services in customer experience, acquisition marketing and technology implementation are the “chocolate” to Rosetta’s marketing strategy and personalized targeting offerings “peanut butter.”   The value proposition of bringing those capabilities together, along with the ever growing significance of the online channel and its influence on other channels, is a compelling service offering that puts Rosetta in a unique place in the market.  (I’m actually writing that because I believe it; it wasn’t spoonfed by our marketing team, I promise.)

Hey, that sounds great, but we have a lot of work to do.  On the first day of the announcement being public, I had the privilege of sitting with one of our top clients and the CEOs of both Brulant and Rosetta.  It was very clear in the conversation that the value proposition can be applied right away, and I will be spending lots of time with the “legacy” Rosetta team to understand their offering more in the coming weeks.

New opportunities

For me personally, this provides an opportunity to work with talented people and expand my professional horizons up the value chain.  Being in Boston and working on several clients in the New York City area, I am thrilled to see the expansion in the Northeast. This is also the first time I have been through an acquisition and watched an integration team get up and running.  I look forward to participating in building the new organization.  Can’t wait to see it in action and share what I learn, and I look forward to working with the Rosetta team. 

Have you been through an acquisition?  What are some pitfalls you’ve seen?  How would you advise we keep the momentum going through this exciting time with all of the “buzz”?

Check out for more information.


Choose Wisely: Scrutinizing Your Social Network Connections

Last week I conducted an overview of social media for a client.  After the meeting, I executed my usual drill: I followed up by taking business cards and checking if all the meeting attendees I hadn’t met before were on LinkedIn and Facebook, and sent out a series of thank you notes through those tools and requested connections.  In an email response, one of them asked me flat out, “So tell me how you stay in touch with 500+ LinkedIn folks??”  That got me thinking about how I leverage these tools personally.

Everyone has a different level of scrutiny on who would be a suitable connection in social networks.  LinkedIn has an army of folks who refer to themselves as LION – LinkedIn Open Networkers.  I’m clearly not one of those and try to ‘filter’ connection requests a bit.  While people in some professions, like recruiting, may value hoarding connections and “friends” on these tools, I’ve tried to stick to a guideline depending on the tool.  The following chart shows how I use some of the major networks out there, with the size of each circle representing the relative number of connections I have in each as of this post:

Social Media Tools

Set Parameters For Using Social Media Platforms

I primarily utilize 3 tools the most right now: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Friendfeed is growing on me too. I could see that changing over time and have played around with many others for different purposes, like Dopplr, Plaxo Pulse, BrightKite, Upcoming, and others.  For now I’ll compare my daily usage, scrutiny of connections and number of connections on each of the major social networks I use.  I’d be interested in what works for you and whether you have set a “guideline” for using the same tools.

  • For LinkedIn, I prefer to keep the connections to people I know personally or have met in a business context.  Lately I’ve been meeting many in the social media space through events in Boston, but I will use LinkedIn like a rolodex that maintains itself once I connect.  I have many connections who are colleagues from the past and present, business partners and many clients as well.  I check the site regularly, but not much interaction going on.  I like to ask and answer the occasional question but there isn’t too much else that is sticky for me.  It is a great way to keep up with friends who change jobs over time, and I value that 98% of my connections are people I really know and could refer someone to down the road.  I’ve been a LinkedIn user for many years and like the direction the site is taking with adding more “Web 2.0” features.
  • For Facebook, I use a similar guideline – although there are many more people I know in a non-business context there including high school, college, elementary school and especially summer camp.  I do check Facebook regularly and am amazed at the velocity of new joiners.  There are more conversations happening in groups and commenting on photos, and the “stickiness” is improving.  I ignore many of the application requests out there unless I’m investigating how one works (or talking the occasional Red Sox trash).  I do value the interaction greatly but more in a friendly context and less so (although still relevant) for business purposes.
  • On Twitter, I have a much lower level of scrutiny on connections – I will block a spammer or someone with a high following to follower ratio, but if someone has something interesting to say, I’m happy to follow.  I find that Twitter has a very low barrier to entry, not to mention great tools for finding people, searching conversations for folks with similar interests, and learning about the platform.  The value is in the conversation, sharing of information and the constant flow of information.  I try to share and contribute there but it can be very time consuming if time management isn’t a strong suit.
  • Friendfeed is helping me to not chase down the same people across many Web 2.0 services.  I like it, I connect to someone with the same level of scrutiny as Twitter, but I haven’t spent enough time with it yet to become mainstream for me.  I also haven’t taken the time to build up connections yet.
  • Honorable mention is Plaxo Pulse (not going to share my link but feel free to find me).  I just can’t get into Plaxo – of hundreds of connections, a handful there are unique to that site.  I am already connected to people on LinkedIn or Facebook.  There’s something about the UI I just don’t like, but the sharing of feeds is helpful and “Friendfeed”-like. 

It’s important to set some parameters for how you leverage the tools.  What works for you? How do you choose who you connect to?  Do you have different standards in each network?  What are the pros and cons of your approach?