The Baristas Are Coming!

The Baristas are coming!  

this article was first published in The Cryer March 1, 2020

Exploring the synergy between Art & Business.

Crystal Mansir, Cass Tirrell and Benjamin Wallace, all recognized around Bath as baristas at Café Crème, are showing off their artistic prowess in a March show hosted at Markings Gallery, 50 Front Street, Bath Maine.  Visit anytime during regular gallery hours (Thursday-Monday) and get on over March 20th from 5pm-7pm for their artist reception event.

Barista and Artist, Benjamin Wallace

Art anchors a community. From parklets to Bright Night, art makes a difference and Bath Maine has quietly and deliberately been making all the right moves.  My experience working in Kendall Square (Cambridge, Massachusetts) exposed me to the power of a live/work/play cluster. Density is a huge factor for exponential success but it doesn’t take place only in large cities. Entrepreneurship flourishes best when like-minded people share space. I’ve frequently written about the interdependent roles of Business, Art and Technology. They are the job creation engine driving successful, livable communities.

Union + Co aims to enhance the art related synergistic opportunities that currently exist among their neighbors. Talking to Sean Ireland and his team at Union + Co, I get excited by their clear statement of purpose; “to bring individuals together in a shared and inspiring space to think, create, make, discuss, debate, collaborate, and get things done.”  They are, of course, talking about their co-working space but that vision extends beyond the 7000 sq. feet inside that space.

They quote from Jane Jacobs, a writer (The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961) and activist for new community based approaches to urban planning. They’ve created a variety of monthly lunch and learns and offered non-profit organizations scheduled free use of their conference room along with the occasional free co-working week opportunity for the public to check them out. The next one is scheduled March 16th-20th 2020.

Today more than ever, Jane Jacobs thoughts ring true:

“You can’t rely on bringing people downtown, you have to put them there.”

And to put them there requires a whole different way of thinking, working and communicating. People remember stories. We desire community and build our world around trust. The internet and social media platforms are just tools. In the right hands you extend reach but we have also seen the problems from a play on our emotions that can falsely manipulate us.

Sitting down in person with someone over coffee or tea is one of the best ways to build a relationship. Stronger connections between people are fundamental to a thriving community and economy. From my conversation with Sean, I learned that 25 co-working, private office and art studio members now work in the same space that once supported only six. And there is room for more! Watch for a soon to be launched Artist in Residence program in their shared studio space. Union + Co sees their role in Bath as a catalyst for maintaining the best of Bath’s history while moving “intentionally and thoughtfully forward towards the future.” It’s with that “right combination of unique and relevant” that they and I believe will make all the difference in the world. Unique and relevant is also why this column appears in the Cryer.  We all need communication vehicles that share the great things happening in our communities. Some are digital. Some are print. All need to build relationships and trust in the partnership between readers and those who desire to earn the right to reach them.

Lessons from the Love Bug Café

photo and image ©KeithSpiro
Love bug photo and image ©KeithSpiro

B&M Connection – Lessons from the Love Bug Café

My focus words for 2020 explore Leadership, Journalism and Community. This installment is about leadership by example and was brought home to me when I was invited to enjoy a meal at The Love Bug Café.

This is actually the second iteration of the café. In the first go-round, the waiter shouted a lot, the management could not provide consistent delivery of services, pillows were tossed around and a general disrespect of the customer was pervasive. My wife and I left abruptly after sharing our reasons for discomfort and disappointment and the nine year old owner, in tears, closed down the joint. When she re-opened, she promised a more customer centric offering. Well, actually, she said “we would be happy with how the new restaurant operated” and we were.  The seven year old waiter and the hands on owner/manager wore matching aprons.  The tablecloth (an old blankie) had a lego flower set on top and was inviting. There was an activity page & crayons for a kid and a well thought out menu for the adults. When I accidentally knocked over a serving tray of Melissa and Doug wooden shapes – my “salad” – the employees couldn’t be kinder or gentler in their quick and witty response. My complementary cup of tea was the letter “t” – tied with a string and inserted into my sippy cup. The bill was written out clearly, the math was done correctly and there was a yes/no check off box asking “Did you like your meal?” There was space for a customer signature and the admonition that “we don’t take monsters,” a direct rebuttal to my offer to leave the 5 year old as payment after he was rejected for hire. The older two had filled out index cards citing the job applicant’s deficiencies (noisy, disruptive, throws things and makes a mess). We paid for our meal with plastic money and a real cash tip for them to invest with guidance from the Bank of Grandpa. We have returned frequently and also now receive a weekly newsletter informing us of all the newest offerings including a large size drawing of Love Bug that we can take a selfie with.

As you might expect, I was pleased with the change in the kids’ game but woke by the realization that this game represents an amalgam of what they see in life around them and they respond accordingly.

Lessons from The Love Bug Café:

  • Children learn by observation and so do adults. We imitate and model what we see and hear.
  • Everyone wants to fit in. Fear of missing out can create change for better or worse
  • Leadership (not management) is a real bell weather for the direction an enterprise or country will take
  • Leadership is preciously important – it sets the tone for others to follow
  • Learning isn’t restricted to a formal process
  • Repetition and encouragement help one acquire math, social, handwriting, clear communication skills
  • Ambiance – a word they don’t yet know but clearly understand – sets a mood & a tone for what follows
  • Communications clear, repeated & relevant – make a difference! Newsletters shape opinions. They even post the days & hours the café is open and closed- and they update it with great excitement a lot better than some businesses I’ve seen on Facebook or Google
  • Putting themselves in the customer’s shoes – we are now offered café time amusements & small branded gifts

2020 is clearly going to be an exciting and fun year. It certainly has started out that way in our house. And yes – being that business person – I have helped the leadership of The Love Bug Café  create an assortment of branded items that are for sale,  for real, like smartphone cases, tote bags and t shirts. Builds community. Builds a downpayment on future higher education or vocational training. Want to acquire a Love Bug memento?  Just reach out and let me know.

2020 Vision: My Three Words

2020 Vision:  My Three Words   #My3Words2020visionCw_152036

Leadership – Journalism – Community

Spend enough time with social media, newspapers, TV news or politics and you’ll quickly see the dearth of leadership. Sure there are people in titled positions of authority but they are managers at best and demagogues at their worst. Despite all the social media platforms, we lack the politically neutral, individual preference driven curation that existed in the early days of a free and open internet.  Today, with fewer editors & more communication channels, we are overwhelmed with text and images and must pause to wonder whether someone is pitching us or truly delivering fair and independent reporting on any subject.  We need more editors and writers that take the high road putting the best of a human community first and willing to consider dialogue and compromise. We need collaboration even if we can’t insure consensus.

The media, as almost all means of communication have become, are thought of more like broadcast loudspeakers. One needs to look to the source.  There are fewer editors and fact checkers and little incentive to provide a forum for different voices on any one channel. There’s a national election coming up and it’s going to be noisy and nasty because of self-interest and a general mistrust of everyone and everything. If we are equally divided, we will fail as a community.

2020 is anything but perfect vision – in business and in life. If we are going to make this new year work, we’re going to need to grab onto and hold tightly to the civility and collaboration that marked earlier times in our modern world.

With 2020 as an election year, I’ve chosen three words to guide me (a best practice from Chris Brogan). Guidance is better than resolutions that barely make it past the New Year’s Day resolve. Here are mine:

Community– Nobody can really effect significant change all by themselves. We need mentors, advocates and champions to help us be successful. A rising tide lifts all boats but it is important that we make space for the full fleet of the humanity that sits in our harbor. Competitive spirit is great but focusing on “winners vs. losers” isn’t good for what we call community.

Journalism – There is a real need and opportunity for the convergence of community and journalism. We build stronger communities one story at a time.  Today, our sense of trust is continually at risk. With social media, as with traditional news media links, what we are exposed to and what we read tend to become our take on reality.  Professional journalists doing deep research, validating sources and explaining information and options clearly can re-establish trust within communities. Local, reliable and independent community news & information is democracy’s best protection. Which brings me to…

Leadership – Whether we think of leadership as an organizational Chief Executive Officer or a community news editor, someone has to take responsibility for direction and allowable behavior. A good leader encourages good behaviors including teamwork and individual accountability. Managers on the other hand are often thought of as functionaries following the procedures and driving to the goals they are given. Good goals are set by good leaders and great results come from great leadership.

Put these three words together when you think about the year 2020 and you’ll have the toolkit to deliver better results and happier organizations. Community is all of us. We are all in this together.

Life off the Rails – Be a Blessing to Others

B&M banner captureNovember was a horrendous month for me. My mom died suddenly on Veteran’s Day. 89 years old with Alzheimer’s but otherwise stable health. Expected eventually but a numbing shock all the same. My dad followed three days later, some random point in his long, slow, steady decline. The 3 days between their deaths and my knowledge that neither knew anything about the other’s last days has been eerie and almost mystical. My clergy called it a blessing and a sign that their souls came into the world and left together for reasons best known to our maker and for comfort to me.  I accept that as they have led parallel but separate lives these past forty years.

For my mom, her life well lived came full circle. The book with which she taught me to read, White Fang by Jack London, I read over and over again to her these last nine years. Beyond a love of reading, she taught me to love talking and writing and to appreciate the power of just walking around and taking the time to admire all that passed our field of vision. Libraries were important to us. She went to college when she was in her late 60’s and worked for a newspaper startup in her early 70’s. She was strong willed with a loving heart.

My father made folks feel welcome wherever he went. He made friends easily across all walks of life. He was a fixture at United Bikers of Maine’s winter Belt Sander races which went way beyond his love of carpentry and woodworking.

His long standing love of his military service tied to a strong reticence to ever speak of what he did in World War Two made Honor Flight a pivotal player at the end of his life.  Honor Flight transformed him. It made his final year more comfortable and more meaningful and the Maine Veterans Home where he resided both amplified and honored that message with their very personal care for each individual within their dominion.  Thank you Maine Honor Flight for what you do and for allowing Ray to go out as an honorary Navy Chief.

As we approach the holiday season, we should all take a moment and linger on the small things that too often are taken for granted. Smile, be kind to strangers, play nicely with others. Be slow to anger and fast to forgive. Be present in real life. Know that a caring heart is important and appreciated more than most people acknowledge. The dangers of extreme positions and failure to collaborate or truly listen to others are well known. Old and New media promote it every day.

Better to build community and to support a diverse range of friendships. Leave a legacy as they did – where their memory is a blessing to all who were lucky enough to have known them.

To your good health and the New Year.

B&M in Memoriam screen capture

Donations to honor their memory can be made here if you are so inclined:

Honor Flight Maine

Topsham Public Library

Boston & Maine – 7th Anniversary Brunswick Downeaster – Travel is fatal to prejudice

photo by Keieth Spiro of Maine Senator Angus King & TRNE founder Wayne Davis

Wayne Davis TrainRidersNE & Angus King Nov 1 2012 Inaugural Run

Seven years ago this month, I rode the inaugural train (November 1, 2012) out of Brunswick with former Governor Angus King and Pan Am President David Fink.  I had been commuting out of Exeter NH and Portland Maine on any given weekday but now I was able to roll out of bed onto a train in Brunswick and travel to my job in Boston. I became the first monthly pass-holder from Brunswick which enabled me to get on and off anywhere along the route. Five days later, Angus was elected Senator and shortly thereafter I began writing this Boston & Maine Connecction column during my commute.  With WiFi, a café car and generous seating, the train had become my De facto office.  WiFi and eticketing for all of Amtrak began on the Downeaster and my days were happily surrounded by creative, entrepreneurial types from NNEPRA to the startups I worked with in my Chief Marketing Officer job in Cambridge MA.

Seven years later, the Downeaster has the best customer satisfaction numbers in the Amtrak system. I’ve been known to get on and off in Haverhill MA and Freeport Maine or play in Old Orchard Beach without worrying about parking or traffic and there’s a caring community of engineers, conductors and train hosts from TrainRiders/Northeast that keep the ride safe and enjoyable. These folks along with NNEPRA, led by the very adept Patricia Quinn, enable continually high scores in customer experience. The ability to commute to work by train between Portland and Brunswick is a reality and NNEPRA’s recent open house explored a service expansion that could create a morning inbound rail commute to Portland and Brunswick from Wells. At a time when climate change and carbon footprint rank high in the news, there are several levels of pleasure to be gained from looking out the train window along 295 or 95 while speeding along by rail.

It was Angus King who rightly declared that when the Downeaster pulled out of the station, it turned into a long skinny Maine town. I’ve heard more stories and met more people who’ve connected in some way while freely moving about in the train or while sitting in the café.  There’s no middle seat causing armrest warfare nor seatbacks, so-in-your-face, that you feel like you’re flying in an overstuffed sardine can in the sky.

WB&M 20190920_David N Schaaf_©KeithSpiroPhotoith the civility of rail travel, you can take the time to meet fellow passengers or have the luxury of personal space to get work done while in transit. On a recent journey, I met up in Boston’s South Station with a couple who had come in from Chicago on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. We ended up sharing a meal on the Florida bound Silver Meteor as these folks were on their way to Jacksonville. One mention of Maine and we were soon talking about David Schaaf’s Navy service on the Bath built USS Robert Wilson (DD-847). A post World War Two Gearing Class Destroyer that was later assigned the abort station for the first unmanned Apollo space shot and then as prime recovery ship for the Gemini 9 space mission.

These are the stories that come out of person to person – In Real Life – encounters on rail travel. Over the years, I have shifted my business to be able to leverage the networking power and the eco-friendly transit that rail travel affords. Don’t fall for the “railroad subsidy” vs. highway “investment” language that incorrectly identifies automobiles and trucks as the eco-transportation mode. The trains I travel on are often filled to capacity – taking hundreds of cars off the road for any given trip. Our human need for connection gains the added benefit of random meetups and life changing opportunities.

That Boston and Maine travel Connection?  Mark Twain described its value long ago:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

So get out there and be among the people. You might just find a little more joy in the world.

It Can Only Happen in an Open Community

B&M_DSC_224Pc_©KeithSpiroPhoto
When biotech companies gather, good things happen. Especially with disarmingly easy looking lawn games.

It Can Only Happen in an Open Community

The FRAXA Biotech Games exploded onto Cambridge Crossing with a capacity crowd. What was immediately obvious was the genuine camaraderie and mutual support of the biotech community and its many vendors to help raise awareness of and funds for research on Fragile X, the most common inherited cause of autism.

B&M_DSC_8111Pc_©KeithSpiroPhoto

FRAXA seemed to rise in community consciousness almost overnight but the reality was it was hard work. FRAXA Biotech Games founder Dave Bjork said, “Three years ago I had this crazy idea that I would organize an event in Boston that would bring together the Boston biotech community to network in a friendly setting, form new relationships and potential collaborations, while raising money for research in Boston area labs. I found several people who shared my vision.”

I was one of those dozen or so people who helped guide this exciting event to life. The first year we struggled to get 30 teams onto the oval at MIT, but we raised $30,000. This year more than 96 teams were vying for the 64 places in the competition and we delivered $80,000 which will benefit the Mark Bear lab and the Jeanne Lee lab, both of which do Fragile X research. More importantly, we raised a wider circle of awareness and action.

Why should you care? Time and money put into research today will help deliver health solutions a decade or more from now, perhaps when you yourself might most need it. The people who gathered at Cambridge Crossing recognized that today’s cures and treatments for some of the scariest diseases came about only after decades of investment of time and money. Investments made by our parents’ generation helps us today.

 With Fragile X, it’s just a single gene on the X chromosome that shuts down, but even with that knowledge and precise research focus, a resolution has not been found. Resolving Fragile X is likely to help people affected by autism, Alzheimer’s, and other brain disorders, but it will take financial investment and years of recurring support and patience.

 Community activation and focus led to this success with something as simple as backyard lawn games. The leadership team reached beyond the obvious borders of “only people affected by this disease” to create an anchoring event in which most anyone who heard about it could visualize themselves as a stakeholder or a player. The rewards of this approach were visible in the weeks leading up to the event and continue even now.

 At the outset, two participating companies, Synlogic and Ginko Bioworks, raised the stakes with their social media challenge and banter. Bob Socci, the radio voice of the New England Patriots, added gravitas in his on-field interviews. Not many in this particular cohort had met before the event but the location and the community opportunity made it all work.

DSC_7776Pc_©KeithSpiroPhoto copy

Mark Roopenian, Managing Director at DivcoWest, in his words of welcome touched upon this key point in the success of the FRAXA Biotech Games and indeed in the growing success of Cambridge Crossing itself. Diversity, access, an open community. I arrived & departed via The Downeaster, Amtrak train. The Green line is right there. The FRAXA Biotech Games at Cambridge Crossing was both a celebration of work accomplished while also being the touchstone acknowledgement that we are all in this together and important work (like finding cures for disease) needs recognition and cheerleading from the community.

 In the bigger picture, this concept of an outwardly welcoming cluster has powerful implications for the success of non-profits, small towns, and specialized real estate developments within larger cities.

How fitting that, of all the teams assembled, it was Synlogic and Ginkgo Bioworks that “fought it out” in the finals with Synlogic taking home the bragging rights and trophy to proudly display through the next twelve months. I already sense that the good feelings of empowerment and cooperation will continue to pay benefits all year long as teams and organizations are already plotting strategy for the 2020 Games.

If you’d like to be part of this – we are already recruiting for next year’s lead sponsors and volunteers. Game signups will be available in the spring. Stay informed by signing up here.

expanded from the original article published in the October 2019 CRYER with a readership of nearly 100,000 from Brunswick Maine to North Station Boston.

Winning at Facebook

banner B&M winning at facebookThe White Mountain came to town in the shape of Dan Szczesny’s winter book tour. I’ve seen many different attempts at doing business on Facebook and we’ve all seen those noxious notes that “others have boosted ads like this” and heard the many negative comments ranging from naivety to manipulation when it comes to Facebook. Who hasn’t seen those awkward desperate pitches trying to grow followers. Well, imagine instead, building a community of real connections and not spending money “boosting ads.” How about not even creating or spending money on ads? This is not about instant success but rather allowing the right audience to build and follow your every activity that is relevant to your project. With Dan, this has been a multi-year build up, from the concept, to the writing, to the launch phase of his book. What started out as “365 days of Mischief & Adventure on Mt. Washington with author @danjszczesny” turned into “The White Mountain: Rediscovering Mount Washington’s Hidden Culture” by Dan Szczesny published by Hobblebush Books.

“Over the course of one calendar year, journalist Dan Szczesny explored the history and mystique of New England’s tallest mountain and found” … a whole lot more than just a 6,288 foot tall rock pile;  With video and daily missives he built a team of cheerleaders & advocates for his book, making all of us part of the fabric of this story. What started out as an exploration of a mountain quickly became a focus on the people and stories connected to the mountain.  In connecting via Facebook and in real life, Dan created champions across a widely dispersed geographic area. The book tour had all of us cheering him on no matter where in the world you resided and Facebook was the platform he used to maintain his human to human connection.

photo of Dan Szczesny at LL Bean by Keith Spiro

A full house turned out at LL Bean’s Discovery School event for Dan

For Dan, the power of Facebook was the power of a few to share the message of stories in the making with a few more people, ultimately linking many friends of friends who chose to follow and sometimes guide Dan to another part of this adventure.  His ability to practice his writing craft daily as he shared snippets of his life as husband, father and author/explorer, as a person and not as a page, has been central to his success. His influence as a writer and storyteller grew as one real connection after another joined in.  The amazing part of all of this was the rather easy opportunities to meet some of the real live characters whose stories appeared in the book. They appeared in person at talks and book signings along the way. Dan shared thoughts, short stories and musings during his work in progress and the stories and opportunities for more stories continued to grow.

In 2016, I signed on to be a sponsor and cheerleader for Dan’s as yet unnamed new work; a book about Mount Washington. The first edition was released at a launch party at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord New Hampshire in June 2018. The book is now in its third printing which would be unheard of for relatively new author and a small label using just traditional publishing practices. Dan’s experience as a journalist with his good eye and ear for special moments allowed him to become a participant or supporter himself within each intimate story in real time. Weaving history, legacy and current events, he created The White Mountain and continues to help us all rediscover the hidden culture surrounding Mount Washington.

How to win business at Facebook:

  1. Make your posts interesting to your readers (it’s not all about you)
  2. Be consistent; in your style, in your storytelling, in your frequency of posting
  3. Think like Ted Rubin – it’s all about people – Return on Relationship (#RonR)

Therefore:

  1. Be human – being a brand doesn’t cut it – you need a face – and not necessarily your own
  2. Interact with your audience- and yes – we  are an audience looking for entertainment
  3. Get out there and meet folks In Real Life – Facebook isn’t real – it’s just a tool.

Then and Now

Boston and Maine Connection – Then and Now

then&now cover

Then and Now is both the title of the Topsham Library’s recent show of work by six Maine fiber artists as well as the title of this installment of the B&M Connection.

photo of Connie Bailey & Natasha Kempers-Cullen

Topsham Library gallery coordinator Connie Bailey with Natasha Kempers-Cullen

The show at the library’s Crooker Gallery was curated by Natasha Kempers- Cullen.  This was the first time founding volunteer gallery coordinator Connie Bailey, selected an artist to both exhibit and curate the entire show.  Being a founding member, partner or entrepreneur usually comes with a strong vision and sometimes difficult choice between “doing it your own way” and opening up to encompass the ideas and direction of others.  I congratulate the Topsham Library and Connie for the long term vision and implementation of programming and the confidence to grow and experiment – as every great entrepreneurial endeavor must – in order to stay fresh and relevant.

Kempers-Cullen, brought together Susan Mills, Arlene Morris, Kathleen Bird, Kirsti Sandoy and Jill Vendituoli and encouraged each artist to explore and display their own early works and more recent pieces.  Their show bios are an interesting discussion of motivation and growth in their medium of choice. From Jill Vendituoli’s  observation that “the needle has long been a part of a woman’s work” and “escape from the mundane activities of daily life” to Arlene Morris’ willingness to following art where it takes you “trusting you shall discover something” each artist had a strong statement of worth, of exploration and the fearlessness of an entrepreneur to just put it out there for the world to see.

These thoughts fit well in keeping with my long standing business theme that Art Makes a Difference. Art humanizes business. It can often simplify a message and get straight to your soul.  It is the modern marketing equivalent of “a call to action” just more deeply satisfying.  In fact, with art, you don’t have to try to rise above the noise. You and your most important messages and endeavors can be found in a more friendly way; more human; less technological.

Implementation is the most important and powerful force for the success of any enterprise. I have consciously chosen to submit my photography to the Cryer because Charles Crosby is driven by his need for ever improving representation – of images – of stories – that make a difference to community.  Then, way back in 1985, it started as a small one town newsy update. Color was like most other papers haphazard and sometimes muddled. Now, it has become a monthly compendium of activities and events in the Southern Maine Midcoast but the drive for better color, better centering of images and layout is what helps make it a success.

The Cryer champions high quality production from their vendor. This high standard supports the artist and showcases art in its best possible light.  They have given over much space to telling community stories and by direct mailing much of the print run, they insure the stories are seen heard and acted upon rather than leaving it to a chance pick up from the overflowing stacks.

The same attention to community can be said of Jim Howard’s Priority Real Estate Group.  Over the years, if you’ve been involved with non-profits, you’ve seen the generosity of PREG in its cash donations to area non-profits. Their long term community development  philosophy matches their business development philosophy.  They listen to the community, take action and give back to insure the least provided for, the hungry, the lonely, or homeless are watched out for and helped.

photo of people interacting and touching fiber art

We humans gravitate toward the tactile and the physical connection with others

This is a time of great change in how people get information, gather together in community and communicate with one another.  But despite all the technological advancements, most of us do best when we feel part of a community. The best businesses are those that recognize and honor these connections.

One Person Can Make a Difference

b&m nov banner onePersonMakesAdiffDo you need some inspiration right now? Do you despair that your voice can’t be heard above the well-funded highly divisive world of social media promotion and politics? Here are just two examples of individuals who have inspired hundreds to take tangible action and made a difference in their respective communities.

Just recently in Bath, Maine, my favorite City of Ships, Fred Hersom pulled a few friends together in what became a celebration of the Mid Coast Hospital’s ALS Clinic. In Fred’s words, “all I wanted to do was raise awareness of the clinic and the devastating disease that ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is.”  Because Fred & Sally have touched so many of us (myself included) with their friendship and generosity, a standing room only crowd came together to support the people affected by ALS and to put a stake in the ground supporting the Clinic which began in 2017 “as a joint collaboration of Mid Coast Medical Group–Neurology and Mid Coast Hospital Rehabilitation in partnership with the ALS Association of Northern New England.”

This is the only ALS clinic in Maine. Mid Coast is a not for profit hospital and their commitment to this clinic brings together in one place evaluation and treatment by specialists in neurology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech evaluation, and social work with support from the ALS Association. Everything in one place without having to travel as far away as Boston!  Those few friends turned into several hundred people inside and outside the building working together toward a goal and having some fun at the same time. And though sadly Sally passed away on November 16th, we all remember her and that night the community came together.

Boston on the other hand is a big city full of life science organizations and large hospitals. Easy for a small organization to be lost in but just a month ago Dave Bjork accomplished his long held dream of getting a few biotech companies together and they created The FRAXA BioTech Games held on the lawn in front of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here, 40 teams of not yet household names in the life science space brought together more than 150 friends, vendors and employees to celebrate and to raise awareness of this lesser known disease called Fragile X. One gene (FMR1 if you want to know) shuts down and it’s Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common inherited cause of autism and intellectual disabilities. FRAXA, a non-profit organization puts better than 90 cents of every dollar raised directly into research. But these games brought together researchers, marketers and entrepreneurs who got a chance to learn about each other’s work and perhaps scout out the next serendipitous breakthrough.

Dave is a research evangelist who I have had the pleasure of working alongside on several research funding causes over the years and today he is Director of Community Relations at FRAXA. Fred and Sally were among the first people to introduce themselves and welcome me to their community with a pint at our friendly local Byrnes Irish Pub.

What they share in common is a deeply felt sense of gratitude, friendship and concern for their community along with a willingness to reach out and help wherever needed. Each raises the level of awareness to a point where one person’s action gets multiplied by hundreds of others who join in and bring success to a goal.

These folks create relevant conversations opening new pathways to discovery of a clinic, a medical protocol or a research opportunity that can help a person at the time they need this help the most. They raise awareness of devastating diseases that create members of a club nobody wants to belong to.

Big City versus small city, it still comes down to an individual taking action to raise awareness and make the difference. In both these examples, social media amplified both the message and the call to action. Word of Mouth increased the number of friends or colleagues who came out in support. And, most importantly, anyone involved could see the incredible cross-section of generations and cultures coming together in one place at the same time to make a difference.

I started 2018 with this column talking about Business Art and Technology and how getting all three working together can amplify the positive. My #BAT2018 recognition has gone to institutions like Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor and MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in Cambridge Massachusetts. Today I recognize individuals like Fred and Sally & Dave who make that same type of difference every single day. Sláinte – to your good health!

Do Me a Favor -Facebook

Boston and Maine Connection – Do me a favor, Facebook.

header B&M do me a favor

If you are reading this article, do me and yourself a favor and share it with 26 friends. Quickly. Please. I want to make myself feel better that my voice is heard. I know that some 60,000 views per month are possible – that’s what my publisher tells me. I want this to go viral.  I want to trick Facebook’s algorithm into promoting me, me, me…

“If you are reading this message leave me a quick comment, a “hello”, a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my news feed!  Otherwise Facebook chooses who to show me and I don’t need Facebook to choose my friends!”

This story line in various forms has been circulating around Facebook since the first of the year when Facebook announced changes to its algorithm and individuals, brands and their social media guru’s scrambled to make sense of what that meant.  As a student of marketing and communications, I can tell you that it really doesn’t mean a whole lot – to anyone.  Google reportedly changes its search algorithm more than 600 times a year. That is more than once a day, and there have been some ten major updates in the past couple of years. I think it unlikely that they or any social media platform wants any of us to figure it out when we are the product being sold.

Take a minute and think about this. In the old days newspapers put the best headlines “above the fold”  to catch your attention. TV news had lead off stories with “more details to follow at 7pm” when everyone tuned in to one of the big three network stations. Well today, the big three are Google, Facebook, and (name your own third favorite platform here).  If the platform is free for you to use, then you are the product being sold. That is, the information about your likes, dislikes and shares are incredibly rich data to be parsed and used as bait for someone to pay to reach you.

But nearly everyone is on Facebook. That’s right. Facebook has 2.19 Billion monthly active users. You can find that out by just asking Google which by the way has a mere 40,000 search queries per second  equating to 3.5 Billion searches per day “of all the world’s knowledge.” So if you are one of those people who think if I follow you on Facebook I will see your post, think again. The system does indeed choose which people might be exposed to your post but that is not the same as seeing it. Do you have a Facebook business page or Linked-In Profile?  You can spend a lot of time and effort to grow the ‘likes’ and follows for your business or cause. But, you are still very much at the mercy of those pesky and ever changing algorithms.

I was at a meeting last month where several people were complaining that they had never gotten notice of previous sessions where the community was invited to voice their opinions. One of the organizers took offense and defended the openness and availability for input by stating “but we posted the event on Facebook.”  What a sad commentary on expectations vs. communications.  Facebook defines active users as “being online at least once a month.” Some folks are there nine or more times a day and just snickered when they read the previous sentence. But, remember, there are four generations actively pursuing information daily- each in their own way. While much information is pushed to us via our hand held phone like tools, there are still many who respond to tactile experiences.

Here are some useful thought starters for staying in touch in a better more assured way:

  1. If you want to choose what friends you want to hear from – reach out and search for them by name and Tag or Comment on something they’ve posted. You are more likely to connect than if you passively DSC_6074p headshotKSbestrespond only to feeds that are, well, fed to you.
  1. If you need fast results – pick up the phone. Those telemarketers and robo-callers do. But today, we can recognize a call from a known vs. unknown party. And yes, if you both have smartphones – by all means text message each other. Fast. Direct and still somewhat secure unless you’ve given your cell phone number out beyond your close friends and family connections.
  1. If you have a brand or business – think WEBSITE & EMAIL – your own!! But also think about your messaging and where your customers are. Reach them on social media but bring them back to properties that you fully control – like your own website, email lists and video channel. You want control over content- where it is and how it is presented. Don’t just take the easy path of Facebook live.
  1. Use a combination of print and digital communications
  2. Build your own email list– it is still the most effective and direct means of communication even if it is considered by many to be too slow
  3. Even slower but more deliberate – the US Mail is required by law to deliver to the addressee. Use it to stand out.
  4. When you go online – be sure to encourage your new friends to seek you out or permission you to reach them outside of the social media platform that has already changed how you access them in the time it took you to read this article.

Want more specific guidance? Call, write or email me about any of this via your favorite communication tool and just ask.

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