Friday, May 29, 2009

Thanks to Budurl and other text shortening tools, social media outlets can provide bloggers with metrics

Mention social media to a lot of old time advertising and public relations professionals, and many will bring up the metrics issue. Many of my fellow PR "dinos" will say that social media is a great thing, but they question if their client can truly measure the impact of its message.
With a TV ad on the local 6 p.m. news, an advertising firm can tell a client an approximate number of viewers that saw their message. With an article in the Express-News, a public relations professional can look at the newspaper's daily circulation to tell a client how many people may have seen a story in the local newspaper.
Having worked with the Air Force Band of the West in 1995 until1996, I remembered one of my officers coming up with a total of over one million eye balls that saw articles or information about them. For example, we once had a photo on the front page of the San Angelo Standard-Times. featuring the band commander conducting a rehearsal. With a circulation of about 30,000 copies, my deputy commander and I determined that about 55,000 saw the picture. The thinking then was that a typical newspaper had 1.5 readers, give or take a percentage point.
So, through the years, I have often used a metric to tell a client the impact of my efforts for them. In some cases, the effort truly helped publicity and marketing efforts. For example, the front page picture of the band commander rehearsing with the San Angelo Symphony probably doubled the crowd that came to see the Independence Day concert that day.
Yet, despite the "bean counters" in my industry, there really wasn't something that specifically told a public relations professional and his customer how many people really saw that picture. The 55,000 who saw the Air Force Band of the West photo was what I would term "a very educated guess."
But things have changed for the social media arena. One of my clients, Live Oak 360, developed an application named"Budurl." This Austin tech company has created the first metric application that allows me to check how many people read my article if I use the special Budurl tag.
For example, a recent post on automated phones for the MySA web site has created a response of 62 people who saw the "" posted on Twitter and Linkedin. With about 750 people who follow me on Twitter and another 500 plus on LinkedIn, I know that there was a five-percent response among what my friend Roy Braggs, the Express-News "uberblogger" would call "my peeps."
In direct marketing circles, a five-percent response is pretty excellent, unless you're giving away free food or ice cream at a restaurant like McDonalds. Then, professionals will tell you that it should hover at 10-percent.
Today, my client has just announced its first major partnership with AMD. Andy Meadows, the chief executive officer at Live Oak said AMD's marketing team has created a customized corporate brand with Budurl. When the Austin silicon chip manufacturer puts out a news release, completes a blog, or sends a Twitter message, each one is now given a specialized "AMD" moniker for each effort.
So, if someone tells you that you can't provide metrics for social media, I would tell them to look up something like Budurl or to investigate other tools like Hootsuite. Of course, I am partial to the folks at Budurl as they named it after my 77-year-old father. My papa, who is formally known as Eugene Francis has always been called "Bud" by everyone. It's ironic in that my father is like John McCain in that he's never ever surfed the Internet. Yet, if my dad did learn to surf the Internet, he would get the metrics of products like Budurl.
(Note: LiveOak 360 is a client of mine. It's important to note that they pay me for publicizing them. However, the fact that social media now has measurement tools that are better than traditional advertising is something I felt of value to readers of my blog.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

If the rules for the SBIR change, it could hurt American scientific research

As a publicist for Fred Patterson, it's my job to help him with his ongoing campaign to help those not familiar with the SBIR program understand the challenges of this program.  Fred has been helping companies understand the the regulations and procedures for this program.  Because of his success with this program, Fred deserves the moniker "The SBIR coach."

My staff and I just completed this op-ed piece for some tradtional news outlets.  Still, there are more and more blogs and news portals that I haven't discovered yet.  So, I am going to push this op-ed piece out through my growing social  media channel in the hopes that others will help Fred get his message out.   So, if you have a news portal that deals with scientific or tech research, please consider using this op-ed piece on your site. 

By Fred Patterson
One of the most critical jobs programs in the country is weeks away from disappearing at a time when Congress supposedly has job creation and economic recovery issues on its front burner.
    More than 400,000 scientists and engineers in over 6,000 small businesses are in jeopardy of having their livelihood disrupted if the federal Small Business Innovation Research program is allowed to expire July 31.
            In Champaign, Illinois, firms like CU Aerospace, LLC are heavily dependent on this 27-year-old-program for funding.  David Carroll, the firm’s chief executive officer, has done research for NASA and the Missile Defense Agency. 
For the U.S. space agency, the organization designed a solar sail flight experiment using cube satellites.  Meanwhile, the Illinois company is helping the Missile Defense Agency build high energy lasers that have the potential to shoot down missiles at long range.
    In its 11-year history, CU Aerospace won 21 research grants through SBIR, a program that sets aside for small business a paltry 2.8 percent of research and development funds among 25 federal agencies with annual R&D expenditures exceeding $100 million.
    SBIR grants have accounted for 60 percent of CU Aerospace's business. That heavy dependency on government set-asides is common among the independent laboratories that perform a substantial amount of the nation's raw research - research that can be years away from commercialization.
    But venture capital and big corporate lobbies want to usurp the funding process.  Years ago, the National Institute of Health tried to allow venture capital funds to obtain funding through its SBIR program. 
            However, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the final arbiter of the rules, cracked down on the NIH in 2003 and forbade diversion of funds into VC-captive firms. The venture capital lobby cried foul and found a powerful ally in Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Dem.-N.Y., who as chair of the House Small Business Committee attempted last year to rewrite the rules in favor of venture capitalists.
            Congressional leaders like Representative Velazquez don’t understand that SBIR funds research and development at the earliest stages.  At this phase, there are often unforeseen hurdles that companies like CU Aerospace must address before it’s ready for venture capital funding.
            With their investments, venture capitalists want to have their product ready in a year. When a research and development team can’t deliver the technology, the VC firms lose interest, pull out their money and leave their partners in a bind.

    In 2008, the Senate stopped some of the worst changes to the program, but the prolonged fight over crafting a compromise ultimately died when the international credit crunch diverted Congress' attention.
    So far this year, nothing has yet been done to extend the SBIR program.  Should the program expire, as is becoming increasingly likely, small business startups would not have any way of doing the research that takes an idea to the stage of creating a working prototype.
            We need Congressional leadership to embrace the thought leadership brought by a petition started by the Small Business Technology Council.  Over 50 small business biotech and medical device companies signed the petition opposing pro-VC revisions in the SBIR funding legislation.
            For years, SBIR funding has helped small businesses develop processes and technology that have improved the lives of Americans.  For nearly 30 years, the SBIR process has worked because it allowed researchers like Carroll to fully develop an idea before it was ready for the market place.

            (Fred Patterson, the “SBIR Coach,” works as a consultant for small research and development firms throughout the United States.  Mr. Patterson is based in Arlington, Texas.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If you love tech and art, make plans to see Sloan Foster's next art show

When Sloan Foster, the vice president of marketing for HBMG, decided to move to Austin, not only did San Antonio lose a great tech marketer, it also lost an outstanding artist. However, Alamo City techies and art patrons can travel to Austin for Sloan's next major art show.  Her outstanding photograhpic work will be shown June 4th at the United Art Authority, 510 W. 29th Street from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
As someone who has worked with her for several years, I have seen many of her images.  Sloan is the rare person who can convey the beauty of a flower bud or a dragonfly with her cameras.  
Still, it's a loss for San Antonio's tech community in that she left for Austin.  Those of us who live in the southern part of the Austantonio region can take comfort in that Sloan is only an hour's drive away.  And, when she's not shooting pictures, she is helping the two cities colloborate on technology.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Even as a tech advocate, I still hate automated phones and grocery checkouts

Without sounding like a retake of Andy Rooney, doncha hate those automated telephone switchboards?

I do. Many would think that as a technology advocate that I would embrace the use of automated phones or grocery checkout lanes.

Nope. I hate 'em.

When I call USAA for service, I typically punch "zero" to speak to a human being. It doesn't always work properly, and it takes me two or three times before I find someone that can understand me.

I recently had someone break into my car, smashing my window and stealing a laptop. Because of the angry tones in my voice, the computer couldn't understand me. It was 85 degrees out and there wasn't a place for me to get to the right person to start my claims process. After two efforts to get to the telephone switch operator to connect me to a claims adjustor failed, I finally got the right person to help me with my two claims.

And, if you listen to USAA phone operators, they always remind you that you could save time by using their web site for assistance. My response is that when they make their web site uncomplicated and easy to use then I will use it more often.

I am not picking on USAA in this blog. Call Time-Warner Cable and you get the same drill of waiting five minutes when you can't watch the latest episode of HBO "the Wire" on that cable channel's "On demand service."

Then, there's HEB. I despise their automated checkout service. I know it saves my grocer money, but it isn't a time saver because you have to wait for each prompt as you pay for your items.

And when you get someone on the phone, especially if they are in the 16 to 24 age demographic, most really demonstrate terrible listening skills. Most will push you right back in some form of electronic queue to punch through other numbers.

Smart businesses owners who want to improve their personal, customer service should look to successful restaurants as the way to listen to people. The best servers are the ones who listen and ask questions to make sure their customers get what they want.

If a business has a young person who is a terrible listener, I would suggest they take them to lunch or high tea at Indigo Joes Restaurant. There, they can observe Daniella or Brandy, two of their 20-something
contemporaries listening and taking orders. More importantly, they can observe how the art of human contact works for a business.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Celebrating a virtual Memorial Day

With the advent of Twitter and other social media tools, it's easy to overlook that Monday is Memorial Day. Like many other veterans, I will be at Fort Sam for their ceremony.

Yet, with Twitter, Facebook and blogging, it's also easy to share Memorial Day thoughts and experiences. This Monday, I want to honor my great-great grandfather Hagen, a union corporal, with this blog.

Grandfather Hagan emigrated to New Orleans in 1858. As a young man, he met my great-great grandmother in the city, and he was also exposed to slavery. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Union Army. By then, he had married my great-great grandmother.

About 18 months later, Corporal Hagen died of dysentery. He's buried in Louisiana at a federal grave site similar to Fort Sam. His military record is not something of note. Yet, his decision to join the Union Army in a pro-slavery state has always impressed me. When my son was born 20 years ago, his mother and I added Hagen as his middle name.

With my son having the same middle name, Grandfather Hagen lives on, However, I am thinking that on this Memorial Day that others who had relatives who served in the military could take a few minutes to reflect with a blog or a Twitter feed about a relative like my grandmother's relative. On Twitter, you could add the hash mark #MemorialDay as a way to recognize those friends, relatives and other loved ones who serve.

Most of us Americans look to this holiday as an extra day off. Yet, we need to take a few minutes to publicly thank those in uniform or those who have served with a prayer or a thought. The many social media outlets, available to us, are a great way to take a few minutes to thank them and reflect on their contributions. If you believe in the power of thanking veterans, take the time to post your thoughts on Twitter with the #MemorialDay hash mark.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Clark alum to appear at Caroline's in New York City today

Ryan Johnson, a Clark High School graduate, will be one of the "newbies" at an "All Star" Revue at Carolines Comedy Club in New York.  Johnson, who worked for several tech firms as a business development director was always a comedian at heart.  With the help of his father, Lee Johnson, the chief executive officer at Mindtalent, he headed to New York.

Ryan has been waiting tables at several restaurants, while waiting for his big chance to appear at Caroline's Comedy Club.  If you are in New York Wednesday, be sure to check out his show and tell the folks at the door:  "Ryan sent you."

Hopefully, he'll be as big of name as Eddie Griffin or Jay Thomas, one of the stars of Mr. Holland's Opus.

Your avatar: the most important aspect of any social media effort

So what does your avatar look like?

As someone who has watched the evolution of social media, I believe that the avatar is like a business card.   And, like my business, my avatar is like it in that the quality of it says a lot about my business.

Several weeks ago, I was at the tech fair in Austin.  There was a lot of out-of-work silicon chip manufacturers who had those homemade business cards with the ink stains.

For those who has a cropped family picture at their avatar, it's time to update it with a professional photo.  And, like a business card it has to evolve over time.

A year ago, Ruben Barron, my graphic guru, sat me down for a formal shooting session.  I have used that photo for over a year, until I met Steve Noreyko, an Austin photographer at  Austin Interactive.  Steve took my latest mug shoot.  I loved his generous use of pancake makeup on what he termed "extended forehead."

Just after getting my photo, I noted Louis Cardenas' ditzy blonde avatar on Twitter.  So, I sent Louis my latest mug shot to ask him to see what kind of personality he could create for me.  In a day, Louis created an "Andy Warhol" feel to my mug shot.

I am now using Louis' new mugs on my personal blog and my personal Twitter page.   I believe it will help me broaden my marketing efforts.

If you are individual or a business, a professional graphic artist can update an avatar.   For those using a homemade photo or a simple graphic file,  it's time to engage somelike Ruben, Steven or Louis to help them get a professional look and feel.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Must love dogs -- the secret of living with a dog person

After my first dog bit me as a toddler, I was never much of a dog person.  It's hard to love any canine when you have memories of this from your early youth. 

However, my second marriage to my wife, Jackie, has changed all that.  Through the near 12 years that we have been married, she has slowly introduced to me that like the movie, "Must Love Dogs" that not all dogs will bite you.

Maxx, my black lab, is like the big black canine that stars in the movie.  He's in the middle of anything.  After getting home from a day-long event yesterday, he wants me to drop everything to pet him and scratch his ears.

My oldest step daughter owns a brown Vizsla named Bentley.   Bentley spent half of last summer with us while my wife was taking care of her father in Miami.  For me, the experience was harrowing at first, but when my daughter came home, we were the best of friends.

So, Bentley is home with us again for the summer.  His mother is going to a legal internship in Washington, D.C., and her apartment is not pet friendly.   So, I have learned to love dogs,
especially if I want to show love to the important women in my life.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kudos to the 433rd Airlift Wing for their leadership role in using social media tools

So I am sitting at the San Antonio PodCamp when I hear MSgt. Collen McGee, the noncomissioned officer in charge of the 433rd Military Airlift Wing public affairs, speak on her unit's deployment of social media.

As someone who introduced the use of Internet tools in 1992 (back when Al Gore invented it), I saw the problem with embracing this tool, especially with the communication folks.   One of the dumbest things that the Air Force did was turn over the Internet to communicators.  I love communicators as a whole, and I know that at the Allied Forces Southern Europe public affairs office couldn't have gotten started with the Internet in 1994 without their help.

Yet, in the early days of the Internet, there wasn't a clear policy on who was in charge of the communication process.   However, some communicators saw the problem with allowing public affairs types to operate without guidelines.   I remember dealing with the communications types in 1996 to set up processes that allowed us to use the Internet as a communications tool.  In 1994, it took some paperwork and a conversation with the Navy guys who ran communications for my NATO organization.  Two years later, it took what I perceived "an act of Congress" to get access.

 Now, with the advent of social media, it's obvious from Sergeant McGee's talk that the "comm guys" are still are in charge.   So, mavericks like this sergeant are challenging the process to get an independent resource to communicate with their internal audiences as well as future recruits.

Hearing this talk makes me proud to have served in the Air Force.  I am hoping that the senior public affairs professional leadership in the military can learn from people like Sergeant McGee.
The smart thing for government communicators is to get their commanders or senior executives to pay for the communications tools that operate independently of the main military grid.  Doing so will allow communicators to manage their infrastructure and give the freedom to professionals like Sergeant McGee to do their job as well.

Virtual network can help you and others advance their careers

Sometime today, I hope to speak on the topic of "Paying It Forward Via a Virtual Network" at today's PodCamp San Antonio. Taking the story of the movie featuring Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment, I am going to share with others how to build their network and then share their connections with others.
It takes a while to build a network of any kind, but once you have something in place, what's the point of having one if you aren't sharing it. My friend and colleague, Brian Massey, the author of the new book "The Market For Me -- Surviving Job Loss and Building a Lifetime Career Network" argues that most people with a job should help those looking as much as possible. By being an active networker and helping others, others will help you find a new position or get information about someone when the need arises.
Long before I met Brian, I was a believer in the process of helping others. Now, with the rise of social media channels, it's much easier to help others. You're welcome to attend my talk today or you can follow it by watching for the "#payitfor" hashtags on Twitter. You can also download a copy of my slides by visiting
Note: I am the communications manager for, the company that commissioned Brian to write his book. Even though it's my job to help publicize the book and the software, I have always been a big believer of helping others.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why getting the Cyber Command should not be surprising to those of us who work with the city's large base of retired cyber security professionals

County Judge Nelson Wolff said in a published article in the Express News Thursday that he was surprised that the Air Force selected San Antonio as the final site to get the newly formed Cyber Command.

As someone with ties to some of the early leaders of the information security arena, I'm not.

Sadly, it's not a well publicized fact that San Antonio has a large influx of retired information security professionals. Many have worked at what is called by insiders as the "Hill." After serving their nation in protecting our country, they have left the military with their special clearances and skill sets to either go back into contracting positions or form new companies. Keith Frederick, the founder of SecureInfo, wrote a master thesis on the need to protect military computers from hackers in 1985. His paper became the starting point for the establishment of the Air Force Computer Emergency Response Team at Kelly AFB in the early 90s. After retiring from the military, Frederick formed SecureInfo.

Now, add the National Security Agency and other operations like it, and it's obvious why the Air Force picked our town for its new operation. For IT businesses with contractors who have the right clearances, this is great news.

Yet, San Antonio shouldn't rest on its laurels after winning the establishment of a new command. I argued nearly a decade ago that UTSA should consider setting up a special short course for information security with the Air Force. Similar to the University of Oklahoma's short course for public affairs, this is a program where the best officers and NCOs attend a 9-week course to study computer security. Perhaps, there is a program in place with CIAS and the military, but I doubt it. With the addition of 400 new positions, it would make sense that UTSA would discuss a program that would provide education for info security professionals throughout the military.

As an industry group, information security types don't publicly share facts or data about their successes, so I can understand why Judge Wolff doesn't know all of the success stories that San Antonio has developed with information security through the years. Still, the city should do more to encourage the development of training and education programs not only with UTSA but with other programs. One of the challenges that the Air Force will someday face is the loss of talented intelligent analysts to retirement.

With the community's help, the Air Force can grow and expand its depth of intelligence professionals.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What do you do when you can't check in at a Marriott property? Why you gripe about in your personal blog....

I have been blogging often about how businesses monitor social media channels, so here's another test of this capability.  Last week, I blogged about a pair of new shoes that had the stitching break after I wore them twice.
I was hoping that someone from the DSW shoes or Giorgio Brutini would contact me.  It's been a week, and still there hasn't been a positive response.
So now, I am staying the night in Austin after a long day of business when I checked into the Marriot Residence Inn  at 3703 Tudor Avenue at 10 a.m.  Instead of someone at the reception desk, there was a sign that said the receptionist was not there and that I should call "zero" to find someone to help me.
After two attempts to call and a 10-minute wait to check in, I finally found my front gate person who said she had to go to a guest's room to give them a new key.
I would expect slow service at a Motel Six but not at a Marriott property.  That's why I like staying there, even if it was the result of one of the deals where hotel chains sell their remnant space.
I know from reading the saga of the Marriott family that Bill Marriott would not be happy to hear that I had this kind of service in Austin.     I know that the hospitality industry is tightening their belt to cut down on costs, but not having someone close to the reception desk or having a way to contact the person on duty is like a military base not have a security policeman at the front gate of a base with nuclear weapons.
So this blog is both a gripe about lousy service and a test of how well the folks at Marriott monitor the comments about them on social media channels.    If the folks at Marriott care about how a business guest like me perceives their performance, I am hoping that they will contact me and either refund my money or give me something else in compensation for their lousy performance.

Here's one email offer that I can easily refuse.....


I have been selected for a prestigious honor by the United Nations.

This morning as I was opening my email, Laurie Vongunten wrote: "You have been choosen By the Board of trustees of the UNITED NATIONS as a winner of $500,000.00. being awarded to you on Monday 06, April, 2009. Contact Dr. Henry Mccartney on email address below to claim your grant."

Sadly, Ms. Vongunten is a hoax.

As someone who has worked with security organizations through the years, I recognized the classic qualities of your basic email scam. First, I don't know her. Second, if it really was a half a million dollars in a grant given to me, I would have had to apply for it. And, I am guessing that the U.N. Board of Trustees, if there was such an organization, would have personally called me with the news that I won 500,000 simoleans.

There were other clues of course. Ms. Vongunten used the "" as part of her email address. And, the kicker was that I had to respond to a Microsoft Hotmail account to get my money. Sadly, the deadline to respond was April 6.

It's amazing to me how Ms. Vongunten got my email address as I avoid using my real one to sign up for things. Even on press releases, I use the term (at) to symbolize the "@" that connects my name. As Keith Frederick, the founder of SecureInfo, told me years ago, there are people who are mining everyone's email address to try to involve them in scams like this. If you want to keep your email box free of these distractions, you should also avoid putting them on entry forms for the free car giveaways or the $1000 HEB gift card you see at fairs and other public venues.

More importantly, it's a good idea to help your elderly parents recognize a scam and to not respond. I am guessing that Ms. Vongunten would want to send those who respond a nasty computer virus. I can only imagine the troubles that would cause my mother, who is a longtime computer surfer.

So, Ms. Vongunten, I am on to you. I am hoping that others will send this blog to their friends so that you won't victimize people like my mother or my wife's elderly brother. By using the collective power of social media channels, we can truly impact the progress of your devious intents.

The hottest media platform? Why it's the cell phone in your hands

Small businesses are starting to embrace social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn as a way to capture customers. However, most are overlooking the use of short messaging service as a way to lure in customers.

Brad Beasley, the chief executive officer of CrossLink Media, will speak Thursday at 7:30 Leticia's Mexican Restaurant as the featured speaker for

Working with clients like AAFES, Santikos, United Apartment Group and others like them, CrossLink Media has helped their clients reach out to customers on the third most used form of communication.

In an article published in the Wall Street Journal in November, Forrester Research noted that most Americans use their cell phones as a source of information 8.9 hours per week. At a recent Austin Interactive event, another industry expert noted that there are 250,000,000 cell phone users. Cell phones also reach lower income demographics as well.

Small businesses who want to learn more about the short-term and also long-term advantages of short messaging system should plan on hearing Beasley's presentation this Thursday. For more information on the breakfast meeting, you can callKent Kirkman at 210-325-1333.

(Note: Brad Beasley and CrossLink Media are my clients. However, regardless of which short messaging service you decide to use someday, it's important for every "bidness" to start thinking about the use of cell texting systems as part of their marketing mix.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jennifer Navarrete: San Antonio's tech den mother

If you asked me six months ago or even a year ago what a podcamp was, I would have given you a blank stare, similar to the one I give my wife when she yells at me after I leave the bathroom seat up. Yet, after watching the work of Jennifer Navarrette (@epodcaster), I am comfortable with the process.
Jennifer is one of those unsung heroes in San Antonio's growing tech community. She's the den mother and a leader of a lot of informal groups who bring visionaries together. Yet, here's what I love about her. She's patient enough to work with people who don't understand how to use Twitter or LinkedIn as part of their marketing efforts.
This Saturday, Jennifer is organizing the second PodCamp at the El Tropicano Hotel on the new northern part of the San Antonio Riverwalk. If you are new to technology or you are really experienced in social media channels, you should register today at this link:
Jennifer is modest enough to tell you that there are others who are helping her. Yet, in my view, she is San Antonio's top technology den mother. Like the lady who keeps track of a lot of eight-year-old boys, she has the capability to put it all together without a lot of fuss.
And, when she reads this, she'll respond with a quiet response of "Aw Shucks" or something of that ilk. Yet, I have to be the first to publicly thank her for the great work she has done to build a technology community.
So, if you care about technology and community, you need to plan part of your Saturday to spend it with people like Jennifer and others like her.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Will fewer journalists make it easier for dirty politicians to operate in all communities?

As I returned home from a round of visiting candidates for the mayor of San Antonio and City Council at their post election parties, I had to think of the comments of David Scott, the producer of the HBO series "The Wire" before a Senate subcommittee hearing on the demise of newspapers.
From one of the many sound bites that appeared on mainstream media this week, Scott questioned the loss of editorial space and what I would term as the bandwidth to cover politicians. To paraphrase Scott, a lot of dirty politicians are happy that there aren't as many journalists around to snoop about their crooked deals.
"I am offended to think," he said in an article published by the Associated Press, "that anyone anywhere believes American institutions as insulated, self-preserving as police departments, school systems, legislatures and chief executives can be held to gathered facts by amateurs, pursuing the task without compensation (or) training."

The business of newspapers has changed for my friends at the San Antonio Express-News. The editorial hole (the actual amount of inches for the newspaper) has shrunk considerably in the past few months. Reporters are losing their jobs due to cutbacks, and the ones still on the job have to do more with less. Add in the requirements to blog, and it's hard for any newspaper reporter to truly get the time to focus on the dirt at City Hall or the local police station.
So, is it up to bloggers like me who can report on the issues at hand? I am thankful that my editors at "MySA" have allowed me the opportunity to blog on issues such as the performance of the San Antonio Technology Accelerator Initiative in promoting technology. As a trained journalist, I tried to report the facts on this organization's performance. The response from one anonymous SATAI patron was kind of interesting.
"Perhaps all readers and commenters should take a look at SATAI's charter, which is NOT technology promotion" was the response to that blog posted several weeks ago. "You tech bloggers are much better suited to promotion."
It's sad when a city-funded organization thinks of me as promoter instead of a concerned citizen who wants to see a more professional deployment of our tax dollars. So like Scott, the producer of "The Wire," consider me one of those bulldogs who will bark and also bite when politicians don't perform to the standards I've set for them.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Will the folks who sold me the defective shoes read this blog and get me a new pair of shoes?

I can hear my wife snickering as I write this.
Last week, I went shoe shopping at DSW Shoes with her and I had found a beautiful pair of black Giorgio Brutini loafers for $25.
I had thought that the Italian loafers were a "steal," until yesterday.
At the Central Texas Funding Forum, I looked down at my new purchases and my left shoe had split its laced stitching on the top. For four hours, I went around the conference showing everyone my light blue socks.
I haven't told my wife about the shoes as I am in Austin on business as I blog this, but she would say I got "what I paid for."
And, I am guessing that some of you who are reading this are wondering "Why should I blog about this when I can go back and exchange the shoes or get my money back."
It's the principle of it.
Furthermore, by blogging about it and also using "Twitter" to share my thoughts on these shoes, I am hoping that someone from DSW or Giorgio Brutini will read this by searching through the twitterverse and blogosphere for posts about their company and their products.
I am guessing that they're not monitoring these communication channels like my friend, Rob La Geese, a senior manager at Mosso. If someone is writing a negative post or tweet, Rob and his team quickly respond.
So, this is a test for the folks at DSW and Giorgio Brutini to see if they have customer service professionals like Rob monitoring social media channels to see what is being written about them.
If you have a business or a product, it's a good idea to monitor the social media channels to see what's being written about you. Even better, a designated communicator should respond quickly and professionally to all negative as well as positive posts.
Companies of all sizes should get in the habit of searching for these negative and positive posts on social media channels so that they can respond to blog posts like this to resolve them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Visions of federal funding? Fred Patterson could help

If you have visions of the federal government providing you with research and development funding, the SBIR program may provide a partial funding solution. Through the years, I have heard of some interesting programs started with a few of our government dollars.
Ever since President Harry Truman investigated major fraud in World War II, the government has seen the need for small business funding and research. Without the levels of management that other bigger government programs need, the SBIR allows a researcher with a vision to try to win a federal grant.
The beauty of small business research is that it could generate some truly innovative solutions to a government problem.Fred Patterson, one of the speakers slated to speak Thursday at the Central Texas Funding Forum, is known as the SBIR coach.
He has helped his clients win over 100 SBIR awards in a 15-year period. Having worked with several San Antonio firms on this program, I can tell you that with an expected 10-percent to 15-percent funding rate, that getting 100 SBIR grants is as impressive as Kyle Busch winning 50 NASCAR races. The success rate for most SBIR grants is that for every 100 submitted, only 10 or 15 get the initial funding of $100,000.
"The key is preparing a well-articulated response to an agency's Request For Proposal. The agency provides the topic area and sometimes detailed project specifications. It is up to you to propose an approach and methodology for solving the problem, verifying feasibility in Phase I and providing proof of a promising concept in Phase II," notes Patterson in a recent online interview that will appear in the Austin Startup blog this week.
If you are considering the SBIR program, you should read Patterson's interview available at this special landing page. Or, you can head to Austin on Thursday to hear his presentation at the funding forum at the Norris Conference Center. The cost is $105 if you mention my name at the door.
(Note: I am the publicist for the Central Texas Funding Forum. While it's my job to promote this event, I also thought that Mr. Patterson's excellent interview would be of interest to technical entrepreneurs who wanted to get some insight into the SBIR process.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Waiting for a call from my former CYO hoop star "Downtown" on the possible careers available to him

With local colleges graduating thousands of students this week here in San Antonio, it's my belief that many will just now head down to their career placement offices to finally get help to find a job.
Having gone back to college five years ago at the University of Texas at San Antonio, I was amazed by the number of 20-something college students who believed there was a "job fairy" waiting to point her magic wand and give some of them a high paying job, a company car and a professional clothing allowance.
As a parent of three, ranging from 23 to 17, I have been stressing the need for them to find what my colleague Brian Massey, the author of the recently published "Author at The Market for Me: Surviving Job Loss and Building Your Lifetime Career Network" would term as job champions. Harvey Mackey, the author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive" and "Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt," tells the story of his father suggesting he talk to one of his uncles about finding a job after spending four years as a college student in the University of Minnesota.
As I remember this anecdote from one of the book, Harvey and his uncle became good friends. Like any good relative (such as my favorite, Scrooge McDuck) who cared about his sibling, his uncle would refer him to opportunities and people who could help him move from job opportunity to job opportunity. Massey, who also is the chief evangelist for the recently launched, will tell you that relatives and family friends are a good starting point for building an online network of folks who can open doors for those persistent and patient enough to ask.
Today, many young people are afraid to look for their uncles, aunts or other "centers of influence" who can advise them on the job market. Just today, I ram into the father of one of my favorite CYO basketball players at my parish men's club casino night. For six years, I coached CYO girls and boys' basketball and softball at St. Francis of Assisi. I have kept up with a lot of my former players. One of them is someone I still teasingly call "Downtown" for his willingness to never pass up a 18-foot shot while playing for the parish team. This former player of mine had great confidence in his game, and he really listened to me and my assistant coaches. In short, I like the kid as a player, and he was one of my favorites.
When his father told me that his son was kind of not sure what he wanted to do, I told him that his son should call me. Like Mackey's uncle and Massey's champion, I am the kind of guy who has an hour or so to help a former player like mine.
Yet, I know that this kid may never call me. Perhaps, he will be too embarrassed to admit that he doesn't know what he wants to do after college. Yet, having an honest conversation with several people like me could help him find the kind of job that will appeal to him once he completes college.
Here's hoping that he calls, and more importantly that someone with a college kid who is a nephew, niece, former youth team athlete or student will get to read this. It's hard for some young people to admit they need help, but it's best for them to have some honest conversations about the job market and the kind of work that is available for those who complete their education or professional certification programs.
So, "Downtown" call me. I will be glad to buy you lunch or coffee at La Taza and discuss your options. I can already tell you that the NBA market for a short shooting guards with brown curly hair is not good. However, there's always a job for someone who believes in himself or herself.

Friday, May 1, 2009

If you want to hear some of the top experts on angel investing, mark down May 7 on your calendar

As anyone who reads his local business section or Wall Street Journal, funding resources are getting tighter. As the publicist for the May 7 Central Texas Funding Forum, I am hearing that resources are still there, but not at the same level as before.

If you want to know more about the state of VC funding or to understand the process to get started in this financial arena, here's an interesting "Qs and As" with Hall Martin, the director of the Austin Entrepreneur Network. My friend/colleague Bryan Menell allowed me to post it on

If you want to know more about funding resources, please repost this blog to others who want to attend the day-long event. If you use "bd400" on the web site, you can save a few bucks off the registration fee.

If your employee benefits costs are rising, please contact my friend Stephen Geri for help

With the emphasis from media sources on why health benefits are rising, I felt it was time to clarify the issue for my friend and client, Stephen Geri, the head honcho at Diversified Employee Benefits .  Geri, one of a handful of general managing agents, in Texas, truly knows the nuances of health benefit plans.  So based on the many conversations I had with him, I wrote this "ghosted" editorial on the topic for him.

You can find a copy of this article in Stephen's blog, which my team helps manage for him.  We are also submitting it to the editor at the Express-News and we're researching some other outlets for him.