H2H PR – Haven’t We Always Been Doing It?

shutterstock_142034836Recently, B2B and B2C public relations have had some human company. Human-to-human (H2H), lately one of the industry’s favorite phrases, is now everywhere and it’s gotten there fast. But how people are using it and what it really means don’t seem to be in line.

The two main public relations categories, B2B and B2C, serve to create specificity and clarity when PR professionals describe their tasks and responsibilities. Each segment has its own audience, goals and messaging; differentiating between them allows for more efficient communication between professionals, their potential clients, and their client’s potential clients. In other words, B2B and B2C have their own distinct significations, and this is where H2H differs.

H2H is intended to help focus communicators on the people behind the companies, not on the companies themselves. The idea holds that all interactions are personal, even when executed in a business setting. In this context, for instance, a PR professional for a software security company needs to think about the IT manager as a person in its B2B communications plans, not the general role of the IT manager.

I’ve read and heard many communicators claim that they partake in authentic, feeling, H2H communications. A B2B agency can say they deal in human-to-human communications, just as a B2C agency can – the phrase itself does not speak to the kind of PR or branding being done, but rather to how it’s done. It’s a philosophy behind a practice, rather than the practice itself.

As a philosophy, H2H has become a diluted buzz-phrase, and, on some level, this is understandable. H2H has no alternative. There is nothing to distinguish it by. What would the opposite of H2H communication be? Has there ever been a situation in which we’re not trying to market to other people? The answer is most likely no. In the end, communicators have always been focused on people.

So if PR and creative communications are innately a human exchange, then why is this aspect such a popular topic right now?


Well, public relations used to be a very linear process, but today it’s not linear at all. PR is merging different outlets and means of accessing information into a single, tailored and aligned communications plan. It reaches beyond creating content or pushing out press releases to creating your own content outlets and nurturing lasting engagement.

Additionally, audiences are more nuanced than ever before. People have more options and outlets to find and express their opinions. While it has always been important for businesses to engage in these conversations, the explosion of communication platforms and communicators has made audience engagement a more challenging task that can’t be ignored.

But we all know this already. It’s this very challenge that invigorates us to strive for success every day. Each era before ours has faced their version of the almighty communications hurdle, and each one after our own will do the same. What we may not be so aware of are the secondary ways in which the hurdles we face influence our communications strategies. Terms like human-to-human and integrated marketing communications are phrases we drew up and then popularized as a way to try to define and somehow harness the hurdles we’re facing. In other words, they’re direct products of our challenges and not necessarily terms for our solutions.

Human-to-human is to business practices as integrated marketing communications is to just plain communications – it’s a method, it’s intuitive, and nobody knows precisely what it means. When you say you’re communicating to humans, what you’re really saying is that you’re doing what you should be doing. When you say you’re deploying an “integrated marketing communications campaign,” what you’re really saying is that you’re doing what you should be doing. These terms aren’t special anymore – they simply identify part of the very fabric of how we exchange news and information for action and reaction.

So, let’s let B2B and B2C delineate the spaces in which communications professionals play and let’s give H2H a break.


This post originally appeared on the PRSA Boston blog on July 10, 2014: https://prsaboston.org/blog.php?id=58&reset=1

Defining Journalism

Some bloggers are journalists.

And some paid reporters aren’t.

The power to mold the future fo the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.The “Who is a Journalist?” debate came back at the end of 2011 when Montana blogger Crystal Cox lost a Federal Case focusing on an Oregon law that protects journalists from having to reveal sources. Cox had been sued for defamation by attorney Kevin Padrick in regards to stories she wrote about the bankruptcy of Obsidian Finance Group LLC. She relied on anonymous sources.

A federal judge ruled that under Oregon law, she did not qualify as a journalist. This of course, sent the journalistic and blogging communities into a tizzy about definitions (until they figured out that Cox was a bit on the edge and, frankly, not much of a journalist at all). This isn’t a new debate, it’s been around since bloggers started writing online.

That’s the wrong debate. Journalism is a profession, it’s a way of thinking. It’s never been clearly defined, but you know it when you see it. Kind of like the classic definition of pornography. Can a blogger be a journalist? Sure, if they are doggedly pursuing truth, working sources, checking facts and, as Pulitzer would say, “shining a light into the darkest corners.”

By the same token, many paid reporters are no more journalists than typists.

Former Ambassador Joe Wilson is on a speaking tour with his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, talking about what the two of them went through during the debate about going to war in Iraq. I’m not going to rehash the whole story here, but in his talk Wilson made a simple point: journalists didn’t do their jobs.

He points out how journalists wrote a narrative about he and his wife that was fed to them by people in power, while ignoring a much more important story about whey the US was entering a war and why the President put words into the State of the Union address that, on the surface, were simply untrue. The question is why? Why did reporters chase the Wilsons while not doing the harder and more “journalistic” work?

Dan Gillmor makes a similar argument in his wonderful book Mediactive, in which he calls the Washington press corps little more than “stenographers” in their coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

I head a wonderful debate on the subject at Social Media Weekend during a discussion about Occupy Wall Street and Press Credentials. The issue here became pretty simple to understand, but complicated to solve. The NYPD issues press credentials so they can provide the right access to the right people. But not every person working full-time for a journalistic organization has them. Also, they take a while to get (one reporter applied for credentials in October and still hasn’t been “screened.” So when police started to arrest protesters, “journalists” were caught in the roundup. Still, were they journalists or were they participants?

Andrea Courtois over at WBZ TV (@AndreaWBZ on Twitter) told me that she stopped following quite a number of reporters because, she felt, they became too involved in the movement, killing their objectivity.

Then there is Josh Stearns, who tracked journalist arrests during the Occupy movements. Part of his issue was simply defining which of those arrested were, in fact, journalists. Even on the panel itself some people who worked for journalistic organizations like MSNBC or the Daily News went to the site to check things out during off-hours. In other words, they weren’t acting on behalf of their organizations when they started acting like journalists. So, in that moment, what were they?

What does it all mean?

In my opinion the main issue comes  down to the inherent tension between journalism’s “purpose” and its reward structure. Press freedoms are, in many ways, a necessary offshoot of democracy. The populous can’t make intelligent voting decisions unless it has information by which to make those decisions. However, publishing is a business, one that sells advertising and subscriptions. Information has value if people WANT to consume it. Citizen journalists fill some of this gap, but where will we the people get our information on a regular basis? How will we vet what comes in? What information can we trust?

We, as media consumers, prove again and again that we are far more interested in being entertained than informed. We do it every day by clicking on TMZ rather than Global Post. We follow entertainers in striking numbers on Twitter, but leave intelligent, thoughtful people alone.

The fault, dear brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves.

Building a Better Massachusetts means more than just Boston

On Tuesday afternoon I attended a fascinating discussion, the first of many, on Building a Better Commonwealth. In the wonderful setting of the Paramount Theater, the Boston Globe hosted a panel discussion as well as remarks from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Governor Deval Patrick., focusing on retaining talent here. I’m not going to go into all the nuts and bolts here, you can read that elsewhere, but coming out of this I had several overall thoughts.

Let me start by pointing out that I chose Massachusetts, and not without cost. Raising children without grandparents can be tough, especially for the little things. As an example, on Wednesday evening my wife was preparing for trial and I had to be in Framingham at 5:30. Meanwhile, my middle son had a baseball game, as well as Chinese tutoring, my daughter was at aftercare and my oldest was finishing his homework. Everyone needed dinner. My friends lucky enough to have local grandparents often are able to have an extra set of hands to step in when these situations arise, but for us, we needed to first build a support network of friends who also have distant families, then call on them to do things like pick my son up from school and get him to the game.

That said, my wife and I have both opened businesses here, we bought property here, we pay taxes here and we employ people here. We want to see Massachusetts utilize all its resources, especially the “talent” resource as pointed out by Governor Patrick. Still, several pieces of the discussion bugged me.

  • Who is having the discussion? — Nearly everyone who stood up and spoke noted that they came from somewhere else. Jason Evanish of Greenhorn Connect moved from Pennsylvania (his thoughts on the event); I’m originally from New York (though, my mother grew up in Roxbury and Newton); Bobbie Carlton hails from upstate New York; Scott Kirsner cut his teeth in Florida; Trish Karter graduated high school in Connecticut; and even Governor Patrick joked about the differences between his hometown in the midwest and his neighbors in Milton. To be fair, some of the panelists, like Paul English, grew up in Massachusetts. Still, I’m wondering if the discussion on “cultivating talent” is really a discussion among transplants who want to bring in other people like themselves. Or perhaps it speaks to the changing demographics of Massachusetts. To the outside world we look like the state portrayed in The Departed or The Fighter: working class, unintelligible accents, tough… But the Massachusetts I know is very different. My wife is from Pennsylvania, my next door neighbors from Israel, two doors down is a couple born in Germany, go a bit further and you find a woman from France and her husband from Haiti. The joke in Watertown is that you can tell a newcomer because their parents didn’t attend Watertown High, but my personal Massachusetts looks much different.
  • The Rent is Too Damn High! — The event opened with a map of Massachusetts, but the discussion centered on Boston and Cambridge, leading many to decry that “the Rent is too Damn High!” To her credit, Diane Hessen knocked it down saying that people ignore the cost of living in New York if they get a good job. And she’s right. But that being said, I want to throw in that the rent is, in fact, too damn high IF you want to live in a trendy neighborhood. You can find deals elsewhere in the Commonwealth, especially in places with a wonderful urban infrastructure. Take a look at places like Lowell or New Bedford. I’m sure Springfield would LOVE an influx of younger talent to build and grow businesses. Which leads nicely to my next point…
  • Who the Hell is this “Gen Y”? — I get annoyed at these generational discussions. In listening to Nadira Hira I got the distinct impression that she was taking overall cultural shifts in US attitudes and attributing them entirely to a specific age group. She noted how they look at families differently and want a work/life balance. Hey, news flash, so do I. So do most of my friends. And we fall into the GenX demographic that she termed “bitter.”

Still, one thing I do see in people in Massachusetts today, both youngish and older-ish, is a willingness to start their own companies and blaze a new career path. So why not take the complaints we heard about the local infrastructure and apply them to businesses?

Feel that there isn’t enough of a music scene? Start a music venue. Can’t get space in Cambridge? Try Waltham or Lowell or Springfield or New Bedford or Allston or JP or Mission Hill. Feel that the T doesn’t run late enough? Start a transportation company designed to run between 2am and 6am that mimics the T routes. If the demand exists then so does the business.

As for the talent in the Commonwealth, we need to take our  entrepreneurial spirit and apply it to companies that aren’t just in tech, but create a better life for everyone.

Stop! Please Stop!

Can we please stop comparing Boston to San Francisco and New York? Please? I’m getting sick of this discussion. It doesn’t mean much.

I grew up just outside of New York City, I went to grad school there and remain a loyal fan of the New York Jets (no, that doesn’t make me all that popular in Newton). But I chose to live in Boston. Two of my three children were born here,

Let me repeat that: I chose to live in Boston. Boston didn’t choose me. Todd is also a transplant (though, I hear he gave up rooting for the Detroit Lions, can you blame him?) and he also chose to be here. There is something about this city that we love, something about the people, the culture and the environment that makes it important enough to start a company here.

Each city has its advantages and different culture. Yes, New York has a 24 hour culture and a vibrant financial market that keeps much of the rest of the city humming (the taxi drivers and Broadway producers all feel the boost when Wall Street gives out good bonuses). Silicon Valley has a vibrant startup culture with great weather and entrepreneurs who become celebrities. But Boston has a quiet confidence that I find endearing. We are who we are, we’re not something else.

The main reason I hate these comparisons is that we look to the companies we lost (Facebook, Microsoft, TaskRabbit, Pixable, etc.) and ask “why! why would you leave us? We could have loved you!” Frankly, it’s a bit embarrassing. Love the one you’re with. But the problem isn’t that those cities are cooler, it’s that the companies (and their founders) were better fits for those cultures. Rather than focusing on that, maybe we should be focusing on creating companies that fit OUR culture.

Many years ago Evernote CEO Phil Libin told me that Silicon Valley is better for consumer-facing companies while Boston is better for research-based companies that feed government and defense contracts as well as enterprise technology. Of course, we also have a vibrant healthcare and biotech community. Why fight that? Why lament when a consumer company leaves and we’re left with very interesting technology that could help create a cure for cancer or change how we get power?

Zigging when everyone else is zagging can be a very good thing. An article in the Wall Street Journal points out that enterprise technology in the Valley has fallen out of favor with VCs while investment in consumer technologies has increased. Sure, fine for them, we can benefit from that by focusing on our core.

As for being “cool,” we shouldn’t feel bad that we lost consumer-facing companies to other regions, we should be trying to point out how enterprise tech companies that innovate, build jobs and build revenue in Massachusetts are cool, even when they’re doing something that seems mundane to the average eye, like helping organizations switch to IPv6. I sat next to a guy on the bus yesterday working on that very problem. No, it’s not as easy to understand as a company that helps you get errands done, but it impacts a LOT more people.

Let’s embrace who we are and stop worrying about who we aren’t.

Facebook Places: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Unless you live under a rock (or are part of the ever decreasing part of the American population not on Facebook) you have probably heard the news about Facebook Places. On the surface, Facebook places is the social-behemoth’s attempt to take over the growing market being pioneered by companies like Gowalla, Foursquare and SCVNGR*. The success of Facebook Places is yet to be seen, we’ve all seen other companies stumble when trying to move into other markets (see: Google Wave) and Facebook hasn’t yet made a dent in Craiglist with its Facebook Markets.

It’s certainly not a foolish move. The fact is, many large companies are trying to get their hands around location-based services. Even Major League Baseball. I noticed that my MLB iPhone app has a feature buried deep in its functions that lets you check in at ballparks. I’m not sure what they’re planning to do with this functionality, but now that Facebook has moved into the market they can probably sync up with the big boy.

But let’s take a look at what’s good and bad about the way that Facebook currently has this configured.

The Good

Places opens up the idea of location-based services to a much larger audience than Foursquare could reach. At its heart, Facebook is about connecting with friends and finding out what they are doing with their lives. Why wouldn’t location play a role here? Don’t we all love the surprise meetup? Case in point: one night my wife and I were out to dinner in Brookline. While walking by a Thai restaurant we heard banging on the window, and there were friends we hadn’t seen in a while. We talked and ended up getting dessert together. It changed an evening that probably would have ended early to a fun evening with friends.

Now imagine we checked in at our restaurant earlier and were informed that friends were nearby. Now it’s not so spontaneous, but we can actually seek them out, or avoid them. Either way. But in this case Facebook is about connecting friends, not just online, but face-to-face.

The Bad

I can’t imagine what my newsfeed will look like once people start checking in. If the Facebook newsfeed becomes a noisy mess, the utility it brings me drops and my use of it will as well. So this is something Facebook will need to manage.

Also, I’m wondering about the impetus for people to check in. I believe that the market of people who want to earn badges is relatively small, certainly not the mass audience that Facebook reaches. So it will be interesting to see what drives the checkins and whether Facebook can utilize relationships with advertsers or local merchants without alienating its users.

Finally, I’m not thrilled with how Facebook continues to apply its features as opt-in rather than creating an automated “asking” process on a login. Lifehacker has a great article outlining how to adjust your privacy settings. Facebook should take note that when Lifehacker puts out an article specifically telling people how to TURN OFF a feature, it may not be something people want.

The Ugly

The idea that someone else can check me into a venue is a horrifyingly bad idea. In a wonderful perfect world where everyone is actually friends and no one plays practical jokes, this would work. And if you live in a place like that please let me know.

But I’m not interested in letting people decide to tell the world where I am. That’s a decision that is mine and mine alone. Facebook should disable this feature immediately, and in lieu of that, I suggests that everyone disable it in their privacy settings.

* It’s worth noting that SCVNGR has funding from Google Ventures.

Updating Mad Men: The Focus Group

This week Mad Men featured a staple of the media world: the focus group. Whether it’s a telephone survey, like the call I received from Nielsen this weekend, or grabbing a group of people off the street, the focus group is a key part of any media outreach campaign. Before understanding the messaging and positioning that world work for the whole, you must first undersand what will work for a small, carefully selected group.

The women of the Mad Men focus group

But today the focus group is open to everyone with a search window. You can open up Twitter and be greeted by a flood of information or check out the LinkedIn groups to find out what business folks are truly feeling. You can even enter traditional forums and hear the complaints and concerns of thousands of people. However, like the PhD who is running the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce focus groups, people need a guide to understand what they’re reading. It’s very easy to get lost in the “Rats Nest” of social media.

In fact, sometimes you need to entirely dismiss what you’re reading or, in other cases, provide additional emphasis. I was quoted in Mashable saying that the social media realm offers imperfect data. The point is, just a few numbers will never tell you enough of a story, you need to understand the context of the person conveying the information, online and off.

Coming back to focus groups for a moment, how they are compiled affects the information you glean from them. In Mad Men the group was made up of young, unmarried women. In fact, just before grabbing the last unmarried secretary an older secretary commented that she wasn’t wanted in the room because she was, in fact, older and married.

The results of the session were that women want to be beautiful to attract a man, according to the doctor who ran it, but it could have turned out differently with the older women in the mix. Of course, this is where Pond’s finds itself today, with an older, more mature demographic. The eventual conclusion that women are simply looking to be married and that’s why they use beauty products was rejected by top Mad Man Don Draper, who noted that putting out a year’s worth of messaging would change the conversation.

In the social media world, people put out information for a reason. When looking at social media for market intelligence you must ask yourself “why did this person say what they’re saying.” Otherwise you’re only getting half a story. Social search tools can help you find information and many social CRM tools exist to help you get graphs, charts and numbers to show certain trends, but there is so much more available within the social stream.

Over here at Fresh Ground we have started working with customers on a social intelligence service. That is, we look at interesting pieces of information, put them in context and then distribute that information to the appropriate internal audiences. This is how we help our clients dig up everything from sales leads to competitive intelligence.

So what would Pond’s do differently today? Well, first they’d have a lot more information about their target demographic. Then they would use that information to understand the individuals who visit their site. If they wanted to try out new messages they’d probably do a bit of A/B testing on their site to see what works. They may also test certain messages in certain demographic areas, either through online advertising, carefully located display ads or buying air time in specific programs. They’d also dig into the social media intelligence to find out what people in their targeted demographics are discussing, then find ways into those conversations.

And hopefully, when they’re done, no one ends up crying or throwing heavy objects at Don Draper.

BP in the Gulf: When Crisis PR Shouldn't be the Question

Whenever some big crisis hits the news my dad likes to say “So, my son who is in PR, what would you do in this situation?” Then he argues with me.

He asked it again as we were watching the BP mess unfold in the Gulf of Mexico. But this time my answer was simple: there’s nothing to do here. This isn’t a crisis communications issue. Yes, it’s a crisis, but the communications plan should be the LAST thing on their mind right now. The issue here is fixing the problem and communicating what they’re actually doing. Anything less is disingenuous.

The best example of this process gone wrong is the painfully funny Twitter account @BPGlobalPR. Here you have a guy digging at BP on a daily basis, pointing out their inconsistencies and problems in an amusing way. In his Huffington Post essay, the writer of @BPGlobalPR noted the futility in any kind of crisis PR program in this situation:

I’ve read a bunch of articles and blogs about this whole situation by publicists and marketing folk wondering what BP should do to save their brand from @BPGlobalPR.  First of all, who cares?  Second of all, what kind of business are you in?  I’m trashing a company that is literally trashing the ocean, and these idiots are trying to figure out how to protect that company?  One pickledick actually suggested that BP approach me and try to incorporate me into their actual PR outreach.  That has got to be the dumbest, most head-up-the-ass solution anyone could possibly offer.

He goes on to say how BP’s PR solution is to fix the problem. Note to BP Crisis PR folks: don’t try to find fancy ways to communicate your messages, don’t look for new and innovative ways to to put the best face on the problem, now isn’t the time for that. Just provide information on what’s being done. Period. Oh, and yell at management to do more. In fact, that SHOULD be the crisis PR plan.

Does Google Discourage Diversity?

During the Mass TLC Social Media Summit 2010, David Weinberger pointed out how marketers love the “echo chamber” in which they get to hear lots of positive feedback from people who already love them. The problem with this, he says, is that the echo chamber may satisfy our bosses and clients, thereby making us look good, but it does little to help advance true thinking. He believes we should be encouraging more diverse thought.

David Weinberger as seen on Wikipedia

He’s right, of course. Later in the morning Mike Troiano gave a shout-out to the concept of diversity of thought in his listening talk by noting that “listening is the means by which we corrupt our vision with the external reality.” That is, we (entrepreneurs) may think we know everything, but when we start listening to the people around us, we realize that we know less and need to think more.

On the surface, Weinberger is right. Diversity of thought and ideas leads often leads to stronger discussions. That is, when it doesn’t end with a bunch of guys yelling “You suck!” “No, YOU suck!” Or worse, with one US Senator beating another with a cane.

Generally speaking, informed discourse is the way to go, it’s why we have Freedom of the Press. If we had state-run news agencies that providing everything we needed to know, we wouldn’t be able to check on our government. Worse, the government would be getting and relaying information only from those with the money to lobby, and no one would be there to shout “this isn’t right!” (I’m looking at you BP who told the government experts that cutting the big oil pipe would result in a 20 percent increase in oil, something that the media parroted. Only, today NPR reported that it could, in fact, be much worse.)

In any case, when it comes to diverse thought we have a small problem. Well, a big problem, actually. It’s called Google.

Marketers bow before Google as the god of online marketing. Putting out a press release? Run it through a few SEO tools to make sure your keywords line up just right. Reporter writing stories find themselves rewarded based on the number of views their stories achieve, something that plays directly into Google’s hands. But rising in the Google rankings means playing to the echo chamber.

Here’s how it works. Let’s assume that a bunch of people linked to Dave Weinberger’s site calling him the smartest guy on the Internet. Eventually you’ll be able to search Google for the “smartest guy on the Internet” and find Dave. Pretty cool. But if there is diversity, some may call him the smartest guy, but others may say he’s the biggest moron they know. Now Google is a bit confused. Maybe both searches get to him, but more likely another guy becomes the smartest guy on the Internet and Dave loses out.

So if marketers need to get Google to look their way they need the echo chamber. They need those links that portray their company (or their client’s company) in a positive light, containing the right links, etc.

Granted, this is a bit of a simplification, but you get the point.

Which raises a pretty important question. While Google opens us up to a wealth of information that has never been available, does it also push us to be less diverse in our thought?

Facebook's Death by 400 Million Cuts

I don’t share my information with Facebook and I bet you don’t either.

I share my information with my friends, I just happen to use Facebook to do it. It’s a distinction that I wonder if Facebook really understands. Today in a conference call, Mark Zuckerberg pointed to Facebook’s continued success by noting that people are still members, the mass quitting that so many discussed never truly materialized, though “Quit Day” still lies ahead. “We have seen no meaningful uptick in the number of people who deleted their accounts,” he said.

And I doubt it ever will. But what I’m hearing anecdotally is that with each privacy concern, people share LESS on Facebook. The problem for Facebook is that if people put up less information, then I have less of a reason to go there to see what people are doing, and so do you. Think about how you use Facebook. If you’re like me you log in, check out the newsfeed and see what’s in people’s lives. If that newsfeed doesn’t interest you, and continues to be uninteresting, then you’ll slowly move away. It’ll become a place to grab some basic information (birthdays, locations, jobs, etc.) but its true utility will be gone.

I believe that Facebook is measuring the wrong thing. I believe a better metric would be the number of posts per person over time. You would have to examine their activity and create a standard, then measure how each user stacks up against that.

A drop in this usage would be the biggest threat to Facebook; it would be death by a 400 million cuts to the information we put out. If we stop sharing, Facebook stops existing. Not tomorrow, but slowly, over time, until it’s that site you used to visit but doesn’t have much pull any longer.

Will the privacy controls unveiled today keep people from fleeing? I’m not sure. In conversations with friends, mostly non-techies, their trust in Facebook has been shaken. While a change could help, rebuilding trust will take much longer and include many, many more steps. We all now realize that we’re sharing with Facebook as much as with our friends, and that little change will change our behavior.We’ll see what impact that action has on Facebook itself

Becoming a Social Company Means Caring

Bill Warner gave a wonderful presentation at the Mass Inno Breakfast on Friday, one that I know a lot of people have seen. But if you haven’t, you need to go. Bill begins the talk by pointing out how he founded two companies (Avid Technologies and Wildfire), one from the heart and the other… well… not so much. One (Avid) is still in business. The other (Wildfire) had some financial success for investors, but ultimately shut down without reaching its goal. Both had great technology, but one failed. He then goes on to encourage all of us to work from the heart, not just from the mind.

Often in the social media world you hear people make similar comments, that they should capture their “passion.” The concept isn’t new, for years people have told me to follow your passion and the money will come.

But most importantly, Bill asked the people in the audience to think about who it is that we’re helping and to keep those people in mind as we build our business. It’s not an easy exercise, as you don’t want to define the people you’re helping as a demographic, nor do you want to define them in business terms, but you want to define them as people. You need to tell a story about them.

Let me tell you mine.

I want to help James (identities changed). James works in a retail store and has a passion for what he’s selling. He doesn’t plan to be there forever, but still, working with stereo products and music is something he cares deeply about. It’s why he’s there. Still, the owners of the shop think like marketers in that they only want certain people tweeting, blogging, Facebooking, etc. James works on the shop floor, he’s not in that management area that has been “blessed” by the owners. But when I go into the shop, I work with James, I like him, he gives me great advice, to me, he is the face of the store.

Despite his relatively low level, James wants the store to succeed. He loves working there, he cares about his work, he has a job satisfaction that goes well beyond money. Still, his bosses don’t see it as something that can help them.

My job is to help James and, by default, help his bosses. I believe that people like James are the key to making businesses, all businesses, successful. Helping James is no easy task, of course. A lot of education must go on from the top down and from the bottom up. Companies need to identify the “James” within their employee base. Frankly, they need to look for more James’ when they go to hire. They also need to give James the tools and guidance so he can help them grow by bringing his passion to the public.

One person who understands this is Jules Pieri, founder and CEO of the Daily Grommet. She has a wonderful piece on her blog about pitching VCs with feeling. Originally she’d gone in with a by-the-numbers type of presentation, but then one day she said “I want to change the world….”

The VC told her the presentation gave him chills.

That passion comes through in ways that go well beyond VCs. Check out a post by an anthropologist who notes “As you can see from this post, the story of The Daily Grommet resonated with me.  Jules and her team appear to be very passionate about and good at what they do, and it feels to me like Jules is ‘following her bliss’, so to speak.”

But it’s not just Jules, her employees are all out there in the public talking about their passion and lovingly describing the products they’re finding.

That’s why her site is, and will continue to be, successful.