On the sidewalks of New York

I recently returned from a short New York vacation, the opposite of a cottage getaway: you leave to energize and come home to unwind.

And walking the streets (not like that) it seems like the best shows really are on Broadway – just not inside.

For instance…

It feels like there’s a version of everyone you know or could imagine wandering around NY. Just look around and you’ll notice them. The similarities in faces, hair and mannerisms. Call it N-Yapparitions.

The City’s sidewalks feature an entrepreneurial bizarre (sic). I saw a grizled old guy handily demonstrating the fine art of slicing and dicing vegetables with some sort of metallic gadget and he drew a crowd. If you’re good at something you can do that in Manhattan.

There’s an endless stream of people pouring out of every nook and cranny – day and night. And so many connections, however tenuous or fleeting. It’s exciting and surprising and shocking and chaotic and funny and fast, fast, fast. This is a real social network in action. NYC is like the urban template for online.

A ‘Bold’ failure to communicate

I’ve been having a few email issues lately. Mostly related to my Blackberry.

Sometimes, when I forward an email, random words (and even whole sentences) get cut up, deleted and garbled (or as one email said, rbld). It’s as if I’m writing in a bizarre IM-ish shorthand code.

So after checking with my office tech support, I finally called Rogers, knowing I’d have to commit a fair amount of time on the phone. But I was determined to weather the situation, accept my fate and not get riled up. And sure enough over the next couple of days, I had four calls and spent three hours attempting to upload, download, reload and resolve things.

And, I have to say the people at the other end were pleasant, funny and helpful. They concluded the issue was with my BB itself and not their network and they said I qualified for an upgrade – e.g. a new device at a discount. (A backhanded sales ploy or what?)

But a chatty rep from Sudbury rejigged my plan to save me money and offered me such a good deal that I couldn’t pass up the idea of getting a new BB Bold. She gave me the option of having it couriered to me (3 to 5 days) or, if I didn’t want to wait, I could pick it up directly from a Rogers store.

Being in Toronto and excited about a new toy, I opted for the latter. I went to a store near my office and discovered they hadn’t received their stock yet. No worries. Another Rogers outlet was a few blocks away. They, too, didn’t get their shipment and weren’t sure when they were going to arrive. Try back later, was all they could muster by way of help.

I was starting to lose my state of zen, but I didn’t give up…

An hour later, and completely un-Boldened, I returned to my office, frustrated and hot under the collar yet again.

I wondered if the bare shelves was a Rogers ploy to increase demand (a la iPhone). But there were no line-ups at the stores. Then I thought it’s more likely a logistical screw-up (so what else is new).

Either way, Rogers missed yet another opportunity to truly connect with their customers (rather than holding us hostage). And all they had to do was provide a simple update; communicate with their retail front-line.

I’m still waiting for my Bold but I’ll let you know what it’s like when I get it.

Too much space

Have you noticed that when you save a post in Blogger and come back to it an hour, a day, or some time later, there are extra spaces between the paragraphs? (For an example of what happens, please see below.)

I don’t know how much time I spend backspacing in my attempt correct it (the blogging equivalent of backtracking, I suppose).

Has anyone else experienced this and if so, do you know how to fix it?

Spammers one, believers zero*

When people from my agency go on vacation, we try to give them an email holiday, too.

We stop cc’ing them and prepare an update that they receive just before they get back with a summary of what happened, the most recent drafts of documents and so on.

Of course, that doesn’t mean emails shut down entirely. There are still times when you need to be copied or sent a note. But it sure cuts down on the clutter.

So when I returned from my time in NYC (nearly a week), I was pleased to find only about 250 emails in my inbox (very manageable and totally non-stress-inducing).

However, when I checked my spam filter, I noticed it also contained about 250 messages (many about debt control – is spam a barometer of the environment or are they trying to tell me something?).

This reinforced the fact that spam isn’t something we can turn off or even control. We can redirect it, try to ignore it, but it bombards us; like cheap verbal junk food, clogging up our online arteries.

And it made me realize how careful we, as PR people, have to be when we’re distributing a news release or other information on behalf of our clients. In the olden days (say three or four years ago), we used the bcc function and blasted emails out to an unspecified, but often long list of media.

Thinking back, I’m sure these lists contained a fair number of journalists who viewed PR missives in much the same way that I view spam. Unsolicited, untargeted and unwanted. This probably came to a public head with the Chris Anderson affair.

I say it’s time to leave our subscription-based media databases behind and put an end to PRspam. Our industry needs to be smarter, learn more about the influencers we’re trying to reach and offer them something of value. Let’s get back and do what Giovanni Rodriguez describes as the essence of our profession’s name.

Building relationships with our publics. You know, the kind where we talk to (as opposed to pitch) each other.

*Thanks to my friend Joey Ax for inspiring the title when he reminded me of the country hit: Liars 1 Believer’s 0 (sorry I couldn’t find the song).

Speed trap

Our 24/7 communications world sometimes seems a lot like the Autobahn: no limits to speed.

But I think we’d be a whole lot smarter if we if we took our foot off the accelerator and paid more attention to the road ahead. (Watch our for that pothole!) We could even enjoy some of the picturesque scenery along the way.

Now I’m not referring to a bucolic, Green Acres type of existence. Far from it: As they sing so eloquently in the show: ‘New York is where I’d rather stay.’

However, I am talking about situations where we, as communicators, feel that high sense of urgency (anxiety?) and instantly react.

It happens most often in emails. We press send and there’s a typo, a missed word, an undeveloped idea or – a mistake. We’re all guilty of this. But it’s an easy fix.

Instead of speeding through your to-do list, take an extra few moments – that all – to reflect, consider, think.