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December 24, 2008

Plagiarism 2.0: A Tragic Case of BRM - Blogger Relationship Mis-management

This is no way to ring in the holiday season. I mean, 'tis the season... and all that. And I'm actually in the swing of things, having just finished writing a post called It's a Wonderful Recession. But that will have to wait for another day...like tomorrow. Right now, unfortunately, I have to deal with this....

I recently caught wind of the following email that had been sent out by Marketing/PR firm LaForce & Stevens:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I hope this finds you well. Below please find a pitch about how President-Elect Barack Obama fused Dale Carnegie's original concepts with today's Web 2.0 tools and strategies to effectively win and influence millions of people. Thanks so much. I look forward to receiving your feedback soon.

All the best,

PITCH -

Winning Friends and Influencing People in a Web 2.0 World

There was a time when success could be measured by hard work and determination, when character could be read by the strength of one's handshake, and when Dale Carnegie's landmark book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," could be found on the bookshelf of every study across America. Times have certainly changed since 1937, the year Dale Carnegie penned the best-selling guidebook to assuming leadership and arousing enthusiasm among people. Success is now measured in wealth, and character is now measured not by the strength of one's conviction, regardless of the consequences to themselves, but rather the strength of one's conviction regardless of the consequences to others. Interestingly though, what has stood the test of time are the principles Dale Carnegie developed and laid out in 1937. In fact, not only have they stood the test of time, but with each modern advancement and technological breakthrough, they seem to become that much more influential. In fact, today's modern technology has only amplified Carnegie's philosophies, allowing them to impact more and more people than Carnegie himself could have ever imagined.

Possibly the best example of an individual succeeding in winning friends and influencing people in a Web 2.0 world is none other than President-elect Barack Obama - a man who many feel just completed the most successful Internet marketing campaign ever.

Here are a few ways Obama's campaign fused Dale Carnegie's original concepts with today's Web 2.0 tools and strategies to effectively win and influence millions of people:

"Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely" ~ Dale Carnegie

The use of technology to persuade people played a significant role in Obama's ability to build enthusiasm for his message, while at the same time making voters feel important. Though much has been made of Obama's following on Twitter, Facebook and other "mainstream" social networking sites, there are other lesser known sites in which he participated just as actively. MiGente.com, a social site dedicated to serving the Latino community, is a great example of a social site Obama is a member of that doesn't have the hype of the larger social networking sites. However, his participation on the site was viewed as a sign of respect to the community, enabling him to attract more than 54,000 friends on the site.

"Throw down a challenge" ~ Dale Carnegie

All political campaigns are ripe with sweeping statements from both parties that are likely contested. Obama's campaign answered many of these contested statements with a site they put together - FightTheSmears.com. With this site they used audio, video, text and other kinds of content to address various statements to which they took exception. They also invited site visitors to report "smears" which they could then challenge.

In reaction to those questioning his tax plan, The Obama Campaign launched a webpage with a tax calculator that visitors could use to calculate how his tax policy would impact their specific net income. It also included a YouTube video stating his tax policy, as well as widget people could put on their websites and blogs to which help spread his own policies virally. After the country was introduced to Joe the Plumber, the Obama campaign used Google Adwords to buy an ad for the term "Joe the Plumber" which when clicked on, led back to the tax calculator page.

"Dramatize your ideas" ~ Dale Carnegie

Obama was able to spread his motivational message of hope and change not only through content created by his campaign, but through user generated content created on his behalf. For example, his YouTube channel has over 1800 videos (accounting for over 20M views) and his FlickR stream has thousands of photos. He posted his policies on document sharing sites like ScribD. The campaign also created an iPhone app that allowed people to organize their contacts by battleground states, provided campaign information, and helped find campaign events taking place in your area. The campaign even advertised on Xbox games like Burnout Paradise.

President-elect Obama's campaign is not only a living testament to the longevity of Dale Carnegie's messages and teachings, but to the power of low cost, social media to meaningfully engage people all over the world.

Now I don't know exactly what this is a pitch for, but since they asked for feedback, let me oblige them with some of my observations. Let's go with the easy stuff first - lose the "Dear Sir or Madame" and try personalizing your email to the actual individual you're sending it to. That was easy, now onto the reason why I'm writing this...

My thoughts about the actual "pitched" article is that I kind of liked it, and thought it interesting to compare Dale Carnegie with Barack Obama - and the implications for following their examples. In fact I found it so interesting that I wrote about it last month for the American Express OPEN Forum blog with the post Dale Carnegie Meets Barack Obama: Winning Friends and Influencing People in a Web 2.0 World. If you do get a chance to check it out that's great, but to save you some time below is a few paragraphs directly from the post:

Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely

The size of the grassroots coalition built by the Obama campaign was matched by the fervor generated by the people it attracted. A main reason for this passion has to do with the way the campaign used things like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to engage people. They also used services like Meetup.com to make easy for volunteers to organize in order to brainstorm and come up with their own ideas for spreading the word. The use of technology to empower people played a significant role in building enthusiasm for his message, while making each individual contributor feel important.

And though much has been made of Obama's following on Twitter, Facebook and other "mainstream" social networking sites, there are other lesser known sites he participated in just as actively. MiGente.com, a social site dedicate to serving the Latino community, is a great example of a social site Obama is a member of that doesn't have the hype of the larger social networking sites. But his participation on the site was viewed as a sign of respect to the community, which enabled him to attract more than 54,000 friends on the site.

Throw down a challenge

During the course of any political campaign a lot of statements are made that end up being contested. Obama's campaign answered many of these contested statements with a site they put together - FightTheSmears.com. With this site they used audio, video, text and other kinds of content to address various statements they took exception to. They also invited site visitors to report "smears" in order to challenge them.

The Obama campaign also challenged those questioning his tax plan by putting up a page on their site that had a tax calculatorpeople could use to see how his tax policy would impact their net income. It included a YouTube video that stated his policy on the subject. It also included a widget people could put on their websites and blogs, which helped spread his policies in a viral fashion.

And when the country was introduced to Joe the Plumber after his conversation with Obama on the subject of taxes, the Obama campaign used Google Adwords to buy an ad for the term "Joe the Plumber". When you clicked on the ad you landed on the tax calculator page.

Dramatize your ideas

Through content created by his campaign, or through user generated content created on his behalf, Obama was able to express his ideas of hope and change in ways that captivated millions of people. His YouTube channelhas over 1800 videos, accounting for over 20M views. His FlickR streamhas thousands of photos. He posted his policies on document sharing sites like ScribD. The campaign also created an iPhone app that allowed people to organize their contacts by battleground states, provided campaign information, and helped find campaign events taking place in your area. The campaign even advertised on Xbox games like Burnout Paradise.

Dale Carnegie 2.0

President-elect Obama's campaign is a living testament to the longevity of the teachings and concepts of Dale Carnegie. But they are also a testament to the power social media can have on building meaningful relationships with people we may have never met - and might not ever meet. Now it's not likely that we as small business people will ever reach the scale and scope the Obama campaign operated on. But we don't need to reach millions of people and raise hundreds of millions of dollars to be successful. We just need to figure out how we can use blogs, podcasts, social networks and other tools to make it easier for people to find us when they searching for help.

Sound familiar? I guess it's pretty easy to see why I kind of liked this "pitch", since I wrote it. I should say I liked the content of the pitch...the pitch itself was like a bean ball - aimed right at my head. I mean that literally, as I was initially dazed and confused after seeing this. It took me a while to realize what was going on here. But when I finally took a few breaths and cleared the cobwebs out of my head, I grabbed my Louisville Slugger and got back in the batter's box to take a few whacks.

I'm always flattered when people take interest in something I've written, and am very appreciative of those who take the time and effort to help spread the word. Like Susie Wyshak over at the SuperVida blog who wrote a short post mentioning me by name and kindly linking to my AMEX Open post. Or Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions pointed out what we were doing back in September on his blog. There were others who did the same, which I greatly appreciate. So when I see emails like this one - so blatantly promoting my post as their own work - it really irritates me. Especially when they are using it to promote their Web 2.0 knowledge and experience. The last I checked, Web 2.0 is about sharing and collaboration, and promoting each other's good works - not stealing someone else's thoughts, words and hard work for personal gain.

Not only do these actions do me a disservice, but they do a disservice to the whole meaning of Web 2.0 and social media. So, since L&S asked for feedback, here's some more...stop doing this stuff. Don't do it to me or anybody else. If you like something enough to use it, there's nothing wrong with that. If you like something I've written and can build on it, that's great too. Just be fair about it and give me a shout-out (translation - some acknowledgment and maybe a link). Anything else is not fair and not right. Not right to me, not right to the folks at Amex OPEN, not right to my Barack 2.0 friend and colleague David Bullock, and not right to all the other people who did things the right way like, Susie and Shashi.

It can be pretty difficult coming up with content that grabs people's attention for even the shortest amount of time. And this whole Dale Carnegie/Barack Obama thing has been rolling around with me for a while now, starting with an article I did for Black Enterprise back in February of this year - Win Friends and Influence People, Version 2.0. This was followed up with the following:

Now I'm not claiming to be the first to put these two together. And I don't know if others have been looking at the way I (and David) have, but I can honestly say I didn't see it if it was out there. Even so, I'd like to think that if I did see something good out there I'd point it out - especially if I used it in any form or fashion. It would have been great if LaForce & Stevens had thought this way, instead of adding another "2.0" to our vocabulary.

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