Once a musician, always a musician

Last month I had the great fortune to reconnect with a childhood friend whom I haven’t seen since I was about 14 years old. I met Sam Hawkins after my family moved to north Raleigh when I was 11. He was one of the first neighborhood kids I met and we quickly became friends.

Me on my first drumset, age 12

Me on my first drumset, age 12

Though I speak often of my first band in high school, Sam was actually the very first guitarist I ever played with. Soon after I got my first Silvertone drum set on my 12th birthday Sam and I started jamming together in neighborhood carports and basements. We had grand visions of becoming rock stars.

Our moms drove us to a Battle of the Bands competition being held at Dorton Arena on the NC State Fairgrounds. We were not yet teenagers, too young and inexperienced to compete, but the event organizers agreed to let us set up on the floor near the arena entrance and play a couple of songs before the real show started. We were nervous, enormously self-conscious, mostly unnoticed, and I’m sure we stunk up the place. Nevertheless, we were bitten by the music bug in a big way.

Disraeli Gears album coverIt was Sam who turned me onto an album by a cool new band called The Israeli Gears. This band combined blues and rock in a way I’d never heard before and I promptly fell in love with their sound. Some time later we discovered the band’s name was actually Cream, and the album we were digging on was Disraeli Gears. Pretty heavy stuff for a couple of middle school boys.

My family moved away from Raleigh shortly after I turned 15 and I hadn’t seen or spoken with Sam since. We connected on Facebook last month and messaged each other briefly, which in turn led to a 45-minute phone conversation the next Saturday morning. It did my heart good to learn he still plays his guitar, and I was excited to tell him I’m still playing drums every chance I get.

For better or worse – once a musician, always a musician. Rock on, Sam!

Gets Better

If you could write a note to your younger selfI saw this post on Linkedin today asking, “If you could write a note to your younger self, what would you say in only two words?” The comments were filled with the usual pithy and silly responses like “bless you,” “enjoy life,” “go ahead,” and even “buy Apple.”

But among all that, one comment stood out to me as the thing I would say to my younger self: “gets better.” Boom! Kudos to whomever wrote that. We all go through seasons where we don’t believe that’s possible, but then in time it happens.

Sometimes my older self needs to hear that too.

Men’s Wearhouse gets it right in social media following email snafu

On the Sunday after Christmas Men’s Wearhouse sent an email blast to its customers announcing the last day of of its After-Christmas Deals promotion. But due to an unfortunate glitch in its email system, customers received the same email dozens of times. I counted 64 in my inbox. I was slightly annoyed.

But I’m also in marketing and I understand that automated systems can sometimes go sideways. It sucks, but it happens. As the old saying goes, the true test isn’t whether you make a mistake – it’s how you respond to the mistake that really defines you. I fired off a tweet:

I was curious to see what their response, if any, would be. We’ve all seen examples of companies mishandling screw-ups, either becoming defensive, not responding at all, or worse – attacking the complainer. I wanted to see how savvy Men’s Wearhouse is with social media. Their response would determine whether I unsubscribed from their emails or not.

Now, I’m hardly one of their bigger customers. I do like their products but with two family members’ college tuition to pay, I don’t exactly have a lot of discretionary income left for frivolous things like clothing. If I never spent another dollar in their stores they’d never miss it. It would have been easy for them to ignore me. But to their credit, my answer came 3 and a half hours later:

Short, to the point, and effective: an apology, a brief statement about the cause of the problem, and assurance that action was being taken. No excuses, no phony falling on their sword – just a swift, positive response. That’s all I needed. I didn’t unsubscribe.

My response let Men’s Wearhouse know I was rooting for them to resolve their issue:

I think they were relieved to see I wasn’t going to be a troll – they even favorited my tweet. You can almost hear the relief in their final tweet to me:

What Men’s Wearhouse understands is that social media for business is no different from face-to-face engagement – except that the whole world can eavesdrop. They knew they weren’t replying just to me, they were telling everybody in the Twitterverse that they appreciate customer feedback and they are responsive to us. Well done.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have an example of customer engagement in social media, good or bad, to share? What was your experience?

Remembering the Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

Remains of the Berlin Wall, June 2013

November 9, 2013 marks the 24th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

My first visit to Europe in June 2013 brought me to Berlin and face to face with remnants of the wall I’d heard and read about for as long as I can remember. Once an ominous physical and symbolic barrier between East and West Berlin, the wall met its demise with radical political changes in the late 1980s. The East German government announced on November 9, 1989 that its citizens could visit West Berlin and West Germany.

It may sound trite, but I was awestruck standing on the very ground where the infamous wall stood, where so many would-be defectors lost their lives trying to escape their oppressors. Where 5,000 others succeeded in reaching the other side.

I snapped the photo above from atop a double decker tour bus Continue reading

An exquisite moment in time

Autumn yellow and red - large

First weekend in November – that exquisite moment in time when you know without doubt you’re in the home stretch toward the holiday season. Summer a distant memory, your world is now painted autumn yellow and red. Halloween is history and Thanksgiving really will be here soon. You can almost feel your spirits lift, just a little, in anticipation.

Then, as if that weren’t enough to put a smile on your face, you remember you’re getting an extra hour of sleep tonight as the clocks fall back to standard time.

Savor it. These moments are free – and priceless.

ConvergeSouth 2013 Notes, Afternoon Sessions

In my previous post ConvergeSouth 2013 Notes, Morning Sessions, i shared some of the notes I took in the morning.  As promised, notes from the rest of the day are below.

A few reminders from the previous post:

  1. These are notes, so don’t expect a lot of complete sentences
  2. They don’t include everything, so if you attended or presented please, please add a comment with your takeaways and/or corrections. No slight intended on my part by any omissions!
  3. Wish I had pics of all the afternoon presenters but wasn’t able to shoot everybody.

10 Principles of Social Media Relationship  Building

Teddy Burriss

Teddy Burriss @TLBurriss

Everything you do in social media must be TRUHE: transparent, relevant, useful, honest, engaging  Continue reading