A Quick Review Of Jumo, The New Social Network For Non-Profits

Relationship maps have developed and continue to deepen all over the web: Facebook maps our personal relationships, Yelp maps our relationship with local businesses, Amazon maps our relationships to products. Jumo, a new social media network, which launched in BETA today, maps the relationships between people and non profit organizations. It's an attempt by creator Chris Hughes (who co-founded Facebook) to foster more long-term and sustainable relationships between people and organizations that are working to make a difference.

Steve Mclaughlin provides a very thorough overview of Jumo, so I wont go into too much detail here, suffice to say that the platform is broken up into three main components: Find, Follow and Support. Jumo helps the user find non-profit organizations by learning the types of things that interest them and making suggestions. The site then helps users follow those organizations by receiving a stream of updates about the work they’re doing and how that work is affecting real people. When they're ready, Jumo helps users support the organizations with which they’ve built a relationship.

After setting up an account and playing with it briefly this morning, here's my first impressions, typical buggy issues aside. 

It allows people and organizations to build a more organic connection with one another.
The donate button on many non profit websites can often be intrusive and email calls to action are sometimes insistent and urgent, all of which can be off putting for many potential supporters and make them feel like they are viewed as little more then an ATM machine. Jumo just might help organizations that aren't too savvy about this move to where they now need to be–in an era where relationships must be forged and cultivated first before a financial ask for support is made.  

It integrates nicely with other social media platforms and devices.
Jumo helps the end-user see all of a non profit's social media otposts in one place to get a complete picture of their digital presence. It also streams conveniently to people wherever they are, be that email, Facebook, mobile or elsewhere.

We're all somewhat unnerved by the plethora of options now available to us in the promotional mix and here's another social network for non profit marketers to worry about. So, is it worth jumping on the bandwagon yet?

Hughes has said that he sees this helping out small non profits that don't have a lot of resources to devote to their social media presence. In her Los Angeles Times article yesterday, Jessica Guynn wrote that "the site could potentially benefit smaller charities which don't have in-house social media experts." Unless I'm missing something, I don't see this. Each non profit still has to spend time creating their Jumo profile and must continue adding content to all their other media outposts in order for it to be aggregated on Jumo, so it's not really a time saver for them. The benefit, as I said earlier, is for the end-user who gets to see all the content in one place. The real benefit for small non profits will come when Jumo starts making user segmentation information available to them, assuming they can afford to pay for it.

Ultimately, there's no guarantee that all of this activity will bolster a non profit's social capital sufficiently to lead to donations of time and or money. Money quote from McLaughlin in today's New York Times piece about Jumo:
"It’s still not clear whether or not followers translate to volunteers and donors. But people that are more engaged with nonprofits are most likely to become a donor or support them in another way."
Users who may be suffering from social media fatigue could be reluctant to adopt one more social network but if anyone can pull this off, Hughes may be the man. Aside from his stint at Facebook he was also the former director of online organizing for Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign. Whether this network will succeed and take off, where others like Yahoo For Good and GlobalGiving have failed to soar, remains to be seen.

Hughes’ presentation at the Social Good Summit earlier this year below.

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Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.

What Marathon Running And Business Have In Common, Ctd

Dean Karnazes talks to Forbes, as part of their Sales Leadership video series, about how to apply lessons learned from running to sales and marketing. Watch the video.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.

Marketing Campaign Case Study: How The President Of The United States Helped Slurpee

The best marketing communications professionals think on their feet, mobilize rapidly and do it in an authentic way that aligns with their brand image and delights their customers. I’m impressed by what the Slurpee team did in the last few weeks with their Unity Tour marketing campaign, which wrapped up a two-week-long cross-country journey from Dallas to Washington D.C. on Thursday.

Here's 6 things they did right with this campaign:

They were nimble enough to seize a great opportunity quickly
The genesis of the tour began during the heated rhetoric of the 2010-midterm elections, when President Obama used an analogy about Republicans sipping on Slurpees while Democrats get the car –aka the nation–out of the ditch. This was manna from heaven for the Slurpee marketing team and they jumped right in to capitalize on it; White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs maintained that 7-Eleven (coyly, I'm sure) "declined to comment specifically that Slurpees were a Republican drink."

They created a campaign that is not only clever but upbeat and positive
The day after the elections, Bloomberg reporter Hans Nichols jokingly asked President Obama if he would have John Boehner and other Republican leaders over for a "Slurpee Summit." The President laughed and then quipped that Slurpees are delicious drinks and that he might very well serve Slurpees during the conversation with leaders from both parties.

Slurpee launched a new grape flavored slush drink to take on a nationwide tour called "purple for the people." The color was chosen based on the idea of mixing red for Republicans and blue for Democrats in hopes the parties would work together in passing legislation on the Hill.

They combined social media and traditional marketing seamlessly
The national tour, documented with video, was replete with special offers, customer interaction, and giveaways, and was complemented beautifully by humorous and authentic social media marketing that represented the latest trends in marketing.

They maintained a strong and consistent brand voice
Throughout the campaign, whether it was on the website, various social media outposts, or in comments they made to the media, Slurpee found exactly the right tone and stuck with it.

They were not afraid to be real
Slurpee gave people an insider look into the tour with some behind the scenes footage.

They made sure the campaign was consistent with the personality of the product
These slightly tongue-in-cheek comments from 7-Eleven Marketing Manager, Daniel May, show how Slurpee doesn’t take itself too seriously. The team knows the product is fun and is willing to take some risks:

"We are hoping there will be a Slurpee summit…The tour has sent formal invitations to everybody and everybody is welcome…We truly hope there is one and if they want Slurpees there, we will make sure to bring them."

All of this obviously caught the attention of the media. Here's video below of some news coverage of the President's comments.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.

What Marathon Running And Business Have In Common

Barring some life circumstances and various states of injury I've been a devoted runner my whole adult life. Until recently, a half marathon was the longest distance I'd ever run; I'd always had my sights set on a marathon but couldn't commit to the time needed. Once I sent my youngest kid off to college a year ago, I began serious training and completed The Marine Corps Marathon with my friend and running partner, Amy Keller, in October. 

It's often said that the hardest part of running a marathon is training for one. It's also said that the first 20 miles on race day are just a warm-up for the last 6.2. Both of these truisms were definitely the case in my experience. There’s no faking it–you have to pay your dues and put in the time and discipline and run to the training schedule. Ultimately that's the only way to get good enough and strong enough to complete the race. And on race day it takes both smarts and determination to get over the finish line.

There's a lot to be learned when we physically push ourselves in this way. The strength and confidence gleaned from stretching to accomplish extraordinary things carries over into how we live up to the challenges of our professional lives; lessons learned from athletics can just as easily be applied to business. Some days the job is easy, other days extremely painful. Knowing when to conserve energy and when to go for broke is a key skill whether you're participating in endurance events, trying to ship a product or ensure a non-profit's sustainability. In all cases it's important to keep your eye on the future and your longer term goal in mind while preventing burnout in the present moment. In business, just like long distance running, you need people you can trust will be there for you when you're losing steam and you need to be there for people, even when you may want to zoom out ahead–teamwork is important, even for solo endeavors. And once a particular race is over it's not possible to rest on your laurels because you have to get out and run again or risk falling back on what you've gained.

Someone who understands all of this well is ultramarathon runner and businessman Dean Karnazes. Dean has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits: he ran 135 miles nonstop across Death Valley, CA in 120°F temperatures, and ran a marathon to the South Pole at −40°F. He completed a feat that is staggering to comprehend for ‘normal’ marathon runners like myself: running 50 marathons, in all 50 U.S. states, in 50 consecutive days, finishing with the New York City Marathon, which he completed in three hours and thirty seconds. Most recently he won the 4 Deserts Race, a series of 7 day ultramarathons across some of the harshest conditions on the planet. 4 Deserts has been called the ultimate test of human endurance. Needless to say, he’s a very inspiring person.

Earlier this week I attended the excellent North Face Speaker Series to hear Dean talk. Here’s a few fun facts that Dean, who Men’s Fitness magazine called “quite possibly the fittest man on the planet” shared with us:

•    Researchers found that he is, quite literally, made to run–his biomechanics are perfect and his body pushes out lactic acid (the bane of any endurance athlete’s existence) the more he runs
•    Unless he’s running or sleeping he stands. He finds sitting “tiring”
•    He can sleep while running if he has to
•    His idea of a good day is to run a marathon distance before he makes breakfast for his kids and takes them to school

The guy is clearly in a league of his own. But, Deans asserts that he’s just an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things.

Not surprisingly, Dean isn’t just good at running; he’s also a successful entrepreuner who holds graduate degrees in Science and Business. He’s worked for Fortune 500 companies and startups and founded a natural foods company of which he remains president to this day. Like many famous athletes, he’s put his celebrity to good use and has founded a non-profit organization. It’s called Karno Kids and raises awareness about childhood fitness and activity. I’m guessing that this philanthropic venture benefits greatly not only from his business acumen, but from his proven ability to excel in a competitive, and often challenging world.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.

Save "Save The Words", Ctd

Harkin responds to my blog post and makes an excellent point (italics mine):
When I said the campaign shimmered, I meant the idea. I meant the logocentricity of the site. And I forgot that, as a linguistic type, I am easily blinded by words. I was so busy drinking in obscure words I almost choked on the interface, architecture, and execution.
Thank goodness I work with great graphic designers, web coders, interface and architecture experts, and visual creatives who can point out the importance about things beyond my linguistic world. Because the synergy between words people and picture people is where great branding really happens.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.

Save "Save The Words": A Quick Marketing Case Study

If you spend any time on the web and are connected to relatively erudite people (aren’t we all?), chances are you’ve been sent the link to Save The Words, a new website developed by marketing communications company Y&R's Singapore office. Save The Words is an advertising campaign created to stimulate sales of the latest version of the Oxford English Dictionary in Malaysia.

There’s a reason the site has gone viral–it’s creative and cute. Users can choose and “adopt” a word to keep it alive or just click on words and learn their meanings. When they find a word they like enough to adopt, they promise to use the word, “in conversation and correspondence, as frequently as possible.” There’s even an option to purchase a t-shirt with the chosen word on it.

Verbal branding consultant and word expert Christine Harkin enthuses that it “simply shimmers with brilliance” and “greets its audience with a protest-connoting march of signs which all cluster in the foreground and beg readers, “pick me!” While I agree with Ms. Harkin (disclosure: I have worked with Ms. Harkin previously and she’s an esteemed colleague) that this is a clever idea, I can’t get quite as worked up about it as she does because the execution, from a communications and web usability standpoint, diminishes my experience. Plus, I’m not fully on board with the strategy either.

Here’s what’s bothering me:

The Flash-based design will be difficult for some computers and mobile users. Flash also makes deep-linking impossible and individual words unsharable – a tragic missed opportunity in today’s social world.

Designers love small font sizes and light grey type but it’s impossible to read, especially for older people who read and write a lot and love words (aka the site’s target audience). The fixed font size on the site is not only deadly for older eyes, it's a usability no-no for the disabled too. On the FAQ page, the link to the Facebook group doesn’t go to Facebook, but to the Oxford Press online store; creating possible confusion and frustration for users.

The red arrows that indicate that the screen moves in all directions are so small that it’s hard to see them. Plus there’s no language to tell users that the screen can move in all directions. The main navigation is extremely small and hard to read. Also, two words–no search.

It’s assumed the user will figure things out by clicking around which quickly becomes a tiresome exercise. Not answering users questions - such as what this site is about or specifically where they can buy a dictionary is frustrating. If users are searching for an interesting word to help them say a particular thing there’s no thesaurus function to help them do that. What’s also missing are some fun facts about word usage and the dictionary–the brand image and relationship with the Oxford English Dictionary isn't really being strengthened here.

Registering and Lack of Social Interaction

It’s clear from a marketing perspective why users are required to register but it can be a turnoff for some people, especially since there’s no apparent reason here why they should have to. If user information is being collected it should be integrated on the site to show people who've adopted words and it should be fun and social–read Facebook and Twitter–in terms of who has taken on the most words, etc. 

“One of the problems we were facing,” says Creative Director Edward Ong, who reportedly came up with the idea in a bar with friends after work, “is that many people prefer to use the online dictionary. So we thought, why not get them to develop a love for words online and push them back to the physical dictionary?” Aside from a brief mention in the FAQ section the website does little to push users back to the physical dictionary or reward them for using one. I wonder if it’s actually doing the opposite by allowing them to fall into the web again.

Ong claims that there have been 3 million website mentions of this site and a 12 percent increase in sales of the dictionary since the campaign launched so the things that are irksome for me about this site may not be an issue for most people. I've certainly seen some interesting words get slung about on the internet this past week and anything that helps increase awareness of the richness of our language can only be a good thing.

Y&R, (formally Young and Rubicam), is an industry giant so I expect them to know and implement the best practices for marketing communications and web usability. I'd like to see them come up with some social media strategies to encourage use of the dictionary and/or thesaurus offline (Youtube anyone?). Hopefully they can continue to improve on the site; it could become a great resource for people and help bridge the gap between surfing the web and the tactile and delicious experience of leafing through a "real" dictionary.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.

Take A Non-Profit Executive Leadership Survey

CompassPoint needs nonprofit executive directors and CEOs to complete their Daring to Lead research survey before the deadline on next Friday, Nov 19.

Daring to Lead helps the sector understand the career paths, tenure, challenges, and professional development needs of nonprofit executive directors.The first two Daring to Lead studies, published in 2001 and 2006, are some of the highest-impact research on nonprofits and leadership available.

It takes just 20 minutes to participate. Please pass this along to the executive directors you know.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius. 

What Major Retailers Are Missing Out On This Veterans Day

Everywhere today, people are acknowledging the fact that it's Veterans Day and talking about how much they value and appreciate the service of the men and women in our armed forces. Everywhere except, it seems, the marketing departments of major retailers. This morning I looked at the top 10 U.S. retailers' websites to see what they were saying about Veterans Day and if they were running any promotions for veterans. Not sales for the rest of us, but discounts that benefit veterans and veterans alone. The results are mostly disappointing and somewhat surprising.

Here's the rundown:

Rank #1: Walmart
No acknowledgement of Veterans Day.

Rank #2: Kroger
There's a clickable link to tell us to remember veterans.

When you click on it, however, the company merely toots it's own horn about what a veteran friendly employer it is. No promotions for veterans.

Rank #3: The Home Depot
The Home Depot does fairly well. When you click on the flag on the homepage it takes you to a page that acknowledges the holiday and thanks veterans for their service. Home Depot has a year round veteran discount program but nothing special for the holiday.


Rank #4: Costco
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

Rank #5: Target
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

Rank #6: Walgreens
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

Rank #7: CVS Caremark
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

Rank #8: Lowes
Lowes does well. It's promotion is communicated clearly and it's generous to boot - it's extended to both current military personnel, veterans and their family members.

Rank #9: Sears Holdings
Sears offers a 3 day sales promotion, but it's for everyone, not specifically for veterans and it doesn't thank veterans for their service.


Rank #10: BestBuy
No acknowledgment of Veterans Day.

While it's not in the top 10, Kmart is another notable offender who cynically offers sales for the rest of us (with no words of thanks), but nothing in particular for veterans or their families.

It's hard for me to believe that there isn't money in these retailers' budgets to offer some sort of promotion for servicemen and women. I'm also pretty sure that their marketing communications staff could be nimble enough to add something to their websites today so that, at the very least, they are acknowledging today's significance to their customers; many of whom, I'm sure, are military families. So I'm nonplussed. What a missed opportunity to strategically drive sales and simultaneously improve their brand images while strengthening relationships with their customers.

Schools are closed, government workers are sitting at home in their fuzzy slippers and National Parks have opened their gates to the general public. A day off from work or school or a chance to visit one of the country's most beautiful spots is great for those of us that can benefit from it, but many of our vets are still going to work today because they have to put food on the table. And for some, that can be a real struggle. Is Veterans Day really about veterans or is it more about the rest of us? In this economy especially, doesn't it make sense that marketers should offer veterans something to acknowledge their service that will impact their pocketbooks?

UPDATE: At least some of the restaurant sector seems to get it. Allison Linn offers a list on her blog over at MSNBC of some major restaurant chains that are offering deals and giveaways to active military personnel, veterans and their families.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius. 

Guidelines For Using Photos As Web Content

Back when I started this blog, I made the conscious decision not to include images unless they were directly illustrative of the point I was trying to make. Flash forward a few months later and if I'm not writing a case study I’ve found myself starting to use images to ‘pretty up’ most, if not all, of my posts. Research by web usability guru Jakob Nielsen indicates that I should have stuck with my original plan.

Nielsen’s eyetracking studies document a dramatic gap in how users approach website (and blog) images. Here’s the major takeaways:

1. Some types of pictures are completely ignored by web users
This is typically the case for big feel-good images that are purely decorative.

2. Other types of pictures are treated as important content and scrutinized
Photos of products and real people (as opposed to stock photos of models) often fall into this category.

3. Visual bloat annoys users

Even with high-speed Internet connections and sub-second download times, users still prefer websites that focus on the information they want, rather than images and visual design, especially when they are using smartphones.

According to Nielsen (whose website is an exemplary model of web usability), pictures can make a positive difference to the user experience in some cases. In e-commerce for example, product photos help users understand products and differentiate between similar items. On corporate and personal websites and blogs users want to see the person or team behind the site, organization or company.

What it comes down to is that users pay attention to information-carrying images that show content that's relevant to the task at hand. They ignore purely decorative images that don't add real content to the page.

Aside from these practical tips there’s a larger lesson for communications professionals here. As marketers we sometimes get sidetracked and try to give our customers what we think they should want as opposed to what they really need. We usually have the best intentions–we want to delight our customers–but it can have the unintended consequence of negatively impacting their brand experience. Graphic design should always be used judiciously and only in service of the goal we're trying to accomplish, not the other way around.

I’ll admit it, I got seduced by the power of visual assets and graphic design. I was worried about what marketer Lauren Girardin calls the deadly “nothing but text” screen. Plus, social media guru Chris Brogan, in a great post about blogging best practices, says that "using pictures makes the posts pop". But Nielsen reminded me that while blogs are a unique form of website, they are websites nonetheless and normal website usability guidelines apply to them too. From here on in, I'll be following his blog usability guidelines to the letter.

What do you think? Do images enhance your user experience on this blog or would you rather do without them unless they are directly adding to the content value or brand experience?

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius. 

What's Your Marketing Approach?

Image: Louderthanadam

You can be cynical in your approach to marketing or you can be generous.

I went through 4 airports in as many days this past weekend and had to pay to get on the Internet at every one except Denver International, which gives free (and fast) access to passengers. The exchange? Watch a twenty-second ad by the wi-fi sponsor.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, so I can’t judge whether it’s a better decision financially to nickel and dime every passenger at the airport who wants to get on their laptop, or accept sponsorship dollars from a corporation so they can put an ad of their choosing in front of every customer before they can surf the web.

What I do know is which decision would make an airport authority come out looking more generous, even while they’re getting paid for being so.

Do it right, and being generous can be a win-win all around.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius. 

Customer Experience Impressions From Travel

We don’t give much credence to what we’re being told unless it lines up with what we see in action.

The hotel guest information book tells me you want me to enjoy my stay, but if I have to walk outside the hotel and find the bell boy myself so I can get my luggage, I don’t believe you want me to enjoy my stay.

The signs all over the airport tell me you take my safety seriously but if I see your male employees snickering when your female employee pats me down for a body search, I don’t believe you take my safety seriously.

The in-flight video (from the CEO himself, no less) tells me you care about my customer experience, but if I’m standing at the back of the plane and I hear your employees complaining about their customers, I don’t believe you care about my customer experience.

Next time you think no-one is watching, or think no-one will notice or care, think again.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius. 

Social Media and Politics

Image: Mashable

When I was a kid, it was practically impossible to get away with being naughty and even harder to lie my way out of it when I'd done something wrong. My grandmother, who babysat me after school while my mom was at work, would knowingly say, "the truth always finds it's way out", and my mother, ever her daughter, would build on that with, "tell the truth, because you’ll be found out eventually." My husband’s mother always told him growing up, “don’t do anything that you wouldn’t mind being splashed on the front page of your local newspaper.” Wise women–all of them. And now, more than ever, aphorisms to live by.

Social Media makes it hard to get away with anything. It's in our nature to want to exaggerate or pretend to be something we aren't to advance an agenda, but today’s world is a tricky place to do that. Both individuals and organizations need to be careful what they disseminate on websites and other outposts because people are paying attention, and, let's face it, most of us dislike being lied to. It's human nature to want to call out falsehoods when we see them and social media gives us the perfect outlet to do that. I think we feel just as strongly, if not more, about hypocrisy, lying's ugly sibling. So why then, aren’t people more careful about what they do behind closed doors or about representing themselves to be something they aren’t?

I am convinced that most people–regardless of their age–haven’t fully grappled with the reach of the Internet yet. Social media is still fairly new and technology in general is moving faster and changing our lives in more ways than we can wrap our heads around. (It might even outpace us soon; Kevin Kelly's latest book What Technology Wants has great insight into this.) Attitudes, while slowly changing in regards to what’s acceptable to publicize and what isn’t (and what it all means about a person’s character), still haven't adjusted to the reality of the information age in which every detail of our lives is suddenly fair game.

A large part of the job in communications used to entail controlling the message and the public personae of the leaders that we represented. Thanks to the explosion of social media, reputation management has become somewhat more challenging. We are all now public figures–the CEOs of our own lives and reputations–even when we're not officially working, and it can be difficult to keep things off the record. Anything we say or do in private can easily be used to besmirch us.

The people who are struggling the most with this are the boomer and x generations. Millenials, on the other hand–who aren’t running the world yet, but soon will be–have grown up with technology and have much different attitudes vis a vis their privacy and what is acceptable to be made public. They may face judgment from hiring managers as they navigate the shoals of today’s workplace but that will most certainly change over time as they and their peers move into management positions. All in all, it's not really an issue for them. They just don’t criticize others’ “off the clock” behavior as harshly as previous generations. Consider for a moment that Bill Clinton had to deny inhaling, yet it’s common knowledge that Barack Obama, who enjoyed large amounts of support in the last general election from young voters, not only smoked-but publicly enjoyed-marijuana and cocaine.

Speaking of politicians, it's only a matter of time once someone announces their intention to run for public office before something gets surfaced from their past and splashed all over the Internet; social media is amplifying the reach and impact of our desire to throw stones at people who live in glass houses.

Christine O'Donnell seems to be this election cycle's poster child for negative press. Why? Ms. O’Donnell has been very public with her views in the past and there's lots of fodder available to lampoon her with when human nature rears it's ugly head. Consider the most recent story that Gawker published about Ms. O’Donnell’s antics at a Halloween party a few years back. Whether or not you agree with their approach, it's clear what Gawker's intent was behind publishing it: they saw it as an opportunity to call out hypocritical behavior. (Plus, Gawker was very upfront about their profit motives–no hypocrisy there.)

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for the media strategy session regarding this incident, especially since Ms. O'Donnell's communications team should have known that there is footage of her (courtesy of Bill Maher) saying explicitly that she doesn’t celebrate Halloween because it’s a paganistic and satanic holiday. Team O’Donnell’s response–that Gawker was being sexist–was a red herring that just added lies to the hypocrisy (Gawker has lambasted many male public figures for their regressions too and can hardly be called sexist).

People make choices that others question, or that they regret, or they change their positions over time. I’m not saying that they shouldn't run for elected positions because these facts may come to light through social media; we'd be hard put to find applicants for the job if that were the case. I’m merely pointing out that it’s more important then ever to be honest about who you are, and what you've done, as the truth will eventually find its way out. At the very least, you should fess up when it does and not try to detract from what’s really going on. Social media shines a light on authenticity, or lack thereof.

Which brings me to my final thought. I wonder how my colleagues in PR deal with the challenge of managing the reputations of politicians who run on public platforms that are disconnected from their private actions and behavior. There seems to be lots of them on both sides of the aisle. If I were Ms. O'Donnell's Communications Director, I'd have wanted to know the truth ahead of time so I could figure out how to spin it in a way that didn't make her look even less credible.

But then, I'm not Ms. O'Donnell's Communications Director.

UPDATE: Wisconsin voters are sending 39 year old Sean Duffy, a contestant on the sixth season of The Real World, to congress. NY Mag wryly points out:
Kids, take this as the inspiring lesson it should be: Don’t let anyone scare you into thinking there are embarrassing things you can do on television that, given the right amount of time and effort, you can not live down.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.