Monthly Archives: September 2010

The other side of a sporting life

In the mid 90’s I was waiting with Mum, Dad and Jo (my sister-in-law) for my brother, Darren, to emerge from the dressing rooms. It was footy season, and a leisurely wait in the cold outside the members entrance at the Sydney Football Stadium was pretty much our routine.

It was during one of these ‘wait’ sessions, I first met the remarkable John.

I was used to meeting ‘famous’ people – especially during footy season – but John was different. He was exceptional.

John is standing in the back row 10th from the left

John was my age and as Jo was speaking with him about all things medical, Daz (now emerged from the dressing sheds with a new bout of cuts and bruises) was giving my parents and I the quick run down on avid football-fan and one-time rising star John (as you do!) just prior to the formal introductions.

Now Dad and Darren are born statesmen and so meeting John for the first time was no exception – for Dad. For me, it was a whole other story! Anyway… Dad being Dad (known for his solid handshake), put his hand out in greeting to John (Hadn’t Dad been listening during Daz’s 10 second de-brief?)

Not surprisingly, John smiled up at him, “I’m sorry Mr Junee, I can’t.”

I didn’t understand what John meant, but without missing a beat, Dad stepped forward and patted him gently on the back with a ‘Nice to meet you Johnnie’ (another one of Dad’s things).

It was then I learnt the significance and social ability of touch.

Taking Dad’s lead, I too stepped forward when it was my turn to be introduced and touched John on the shoulder. However, I literally sent him into spasm! Not the response I was expecting, although it did prove a great ice-breaker…

Not knowing what I’d done or what I was supposed to do, I did what I do best: straight shooting. I asked John straight up what had just happened. After a moment, when he’d caught his breath, he laughed and explained he sometimes had spasms – it was just something that happened, ever since his accident.

You see John didn’t have the facility to engage in a handshake (which is why Dad touched him on the shoulder); he still doesn’t. John became what is called an incomplete quadriplegic after a head clash during a football match at the tender age of 15. Although, he does have the sensation of touch (so Dad must have been listening afterall!) and the spasms are what he calls the powercord effect of his disconnected nerves.

However, 21 years on from his accident, still wheelchair-bound and in need of 24/7 care, is not going to stop John ‘walking’(okay rolling) his way from Brisbane to Sydney next year to raise money for the people at Youngcare with his girlfriend Theresa and best mate Paul.

JT has been a statistician for his beloved Wests Tigers since 1993

Why? Because John knows first hand the importance of the work done by Youngcare in their efforts to facilitate independent living for young people living with disability.

John is sharing a little more of his story – not always an easy thing, even for one as open as John – in order to promote the work of Youngcare who are kicking off their fund-raising long weekend with the inaugural Thong Day tomorrow (1 October).

So what is Thong Day? I hear you say… Well I’m glad you asked.

Tomorrow is Youngcare Thong Day, so click the link, find out how you can donate and get involved because access to 24/7 care for those who need it to survive should be a right, not a privilege.

Disability is not discriminating, it can happen to anyone at any time. So whenever you get the opportunity to improve the quality of life of someone living with disability, grab it with both hands, for no other reason, than you still can.

Chatting with JT about living with disability and the
National Disability Insurance Scheme earlier this year

Knowledge Production: A Social Process

Jacques Derrida claims that the process of writing is fundamentally changed by the way we write. Marshall McLuhan on the other hand points to the medium as ‘the message’, while German sociologist Niklas Luhmann opines ‘man is not able to communicate; only communication is able to communicate’. Three different men, three different opinions. Nothing new about that. Or is there?

Academics define, debate and redefine modern society as it is, or how we as individuals interact with it continuously. Put into a 2010 context, does technology impact the content, delivery or consumption of content and if so how?

How has the process of knowledge production changed with the advent of social media? More specifically, what are the epistemic consequences of social software and information architecture?

WOH! Hang on! What the hec is social software?

Social software enables group interaction. A conduit to conversation. So information architecture must be the mechanics of delivery, yes? Well kind of…

Okay, so accepting the structure of things has changed, how have our conversations changed specifically? And by that I mean, how has our production of knowledge evolved?

From blackboards in lecture halls to death by powerpoint in the boardroom (or classroom!) to Skyping across timezones, the physical space and time of our conversations has evolved through and because of social media capability.

Blogs (just like this one!) and the rise of Wiki’s sees the distribution of information and access to knowledge evolved both the classification of information (Luhmann), the way we engage with it and the dissemination process of information as knowledge beyond our local sphere.

McLuhan, Foucault and friends are a lot more accessible via youtube.com, wikipedia and the likes for the academic in training. And we know that what we see and read we need to take with a grain of salt (production and knowledge values are not expert) however, the entree to access is invaluable.

Schiltz, Truyen and Coppens(2007) in their article, Cutting the trees of knowledge: Social Software, Information Architecture and their epistemic consequences discuss how the nature of what is known seems to be changing. They use the example of a Linux expert and the expectations around what that in fact means. No longer is it assumed that the ‘expert’ contains all knowledge personally (‘in his head’), although it is assumed that s/he has direct access to it, either via a social/ professional network or both.

Social networking systems and applications are changing the way we gather, store, disseminate and create knowledge. Aggregated suites of software such as Facebook.com and myspace.com are pervasive.

Why is it important in our production of knowledge again?

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=10032646&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0
Social Media from Phil Guest on Vimeo.

The fundamental shift in communications practices is inter-related to the social network of the modern-day information society for which one way or another we can (and do! – Australian’s are some of the largest consumers of social media in the world) democratically ENGAGE.

Strap Lines & Sponsored Sports Properties: CHEAT LEGAL

Cheat legal that’s the advertising strapline for SKINS an Australian company that provides elite performance sportswear.

By association, it is also the associated message of over 33 leading sports associations and clubs in Australia and New Zealand including: the Australian Rugby Union, Sydney City Roosters and Grand Final winners St George Illawarra.

Are they serious?

Now to be fair, I discovered this only recently and I tweeted my sentiments to @SKINSAUS mostly because I couldn’t believe something so beautifully crafted had shot itself dead with a poor edit.

And by that I mean they actually mention their product in the same breath as their tagline ‘Cheat Legal’ (that would constitute a big fat FAIL in my Marketing 101 tutorial)

As a marketer I cringe and thank god, it’s not my business. I am confuddled as to how it could have ever got so far through the approval process with multiple brand experts thinking it was a good idea (or is this the result of an overpowering agency and a trial client or just a really dumb corporate decision?)

Either way, this is BAD practice for both sport and brand and a great example to corporate marketers in training of what not to do if you want to create value for your business, brand and sponsorsed product, because this a prime example of a sports brand castrating itself while trying to be clever.

A shout out to every professional athlete, past and present, would you want to be associated with a brand that thought  CHEAT LEGAL was a grand plan?

Now something I failed to acknowledge in my original tweet was that the cheat legal strap-line is NOT used in ARU advertising.

However, it is used in brand and product advertising in market. And I would be staggered blue if somewhere in the contract signed with SKINS there is a clause about adhering to like minded values and product messaging.

So does that mean the ARU and Roosters aren’t monitoring it, or don’t care?

The product association makes sense, but I wonder… have Australian sports administers gone mad and now actually consider ‘cheat legal’ a valid strap-line with which to associate?

I know the athletes don’t.

Social Media: Hype or Communications Revolution?

No matter who I am speaking with, everyone wants to know about social media and how to best use it for their business.

The most frightening thing for me is the inflexibility from business owners and senior management teams. Used to throwing money at marketing and sales activities, this group of learned corporates expect this new media channel to fit within the existing consumer consumption paradigm. But it doesn’t.

Now, I could lie to any corporate waving a cheque in my direction and tell them that social media is where they need to be and that I can brand them up to Koo-ee… if I was that way inclined, but I’m not.

Quite possibly to my fiscal detriment I tell them THEY need to shift current practices, THEY need to engage personally, because social media is tactile and it’s about THEM. And in doing so, they need to be ready for anything. But very few are ready to hear the truth of best practice in social media.

The most common reaction I get is the age-old blank, silent ‘you have no idea what you’re talking about, I can’t possibly do that’ look of horror. They’re the ones you can’t help – yet. But rest assured, they’ll come knocking in about 6 – 12 months (maybe less) wanting to take the plunge and for you to hold their hand. That’s a good thing, they’ve had the critical shift in mindset: from observation to a considered willingness moving towards participation.

It’s hard to remember sometimes that nearly half of the Australian population do not know life without a mobile telephone…so for them, social media is about as strenuous a jump now, as what Atari to VCR was in the 80’s.

Mobile telephony and consumer communications are ubiquitous. What was once achieved with a full-page ad in the sunday papers, now needs to be re-purposed for iPad, iPhone, Blackberry just to ensure the target consumers have the chance (not guaranteed distribution) of engaging with your diligently crafted creative. Then in order to get positive Word Of Mouth (which SM does not guarantee), you need to Tweet, facebook, myspace, blog, retweet and Digg, in the interests of starting (or hopefully continuing) the desired brand and business conversation.

Marketing and Communications practices need to change in order to maximise the potential of new media technologies. It’s a bit like driving a car with stability control switched off because you already know how to drive; or outsourcing your call centre without conducting product training or considering systems management processes. It just kind of exists without adding tangible and measurable value intrinsically to your brand and your business.

Ceding control is confronting. It’s against every marketing and sales principle worth engaging. That was of course, until the arrival of social media capability.

Knowing if, when and how to cede control is the key to getting cut through within the savvy new media consumer sphere.

So is Social Media hype or part of a Communications Revolution? Neither, merely part of the evolution of 21st century communications.

A quick video to explain…

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=10032646&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

Social Media from Phil Guest on Vimeo.

Age has nothing to do with it

A former colleague of mine sent me this clip today. It’s from the UN Climate conference in Rio in 1992, yet it’s message still resonates today.

How far have we come really? How much of what she raises remains a concern in the present day?

We place ourselves at the top of the food-chain. I guess that’s our inherent arrogance, afterall, what other animal destroys the natural environment on which it depends for survival?

And how efficient or effective are the pyramids of power, western-style democracies have created in institutions such as the United Nations and World Bank?

Let’s be honest, if they were a .dot com in the 90s they both would have been long gone.

Another day, another academic adventure

To view spaces like Foucault, write like McLuhan, engage audiences like Shirky with the earning potential of Zuckerberg… now that’s my idea of best practice.

In over a decade of corporate living, looking back through the eyes of academic inquiry, only now do I see the simplicity of the modern corporate structure embedded with the obstacles of the professional paradigm.

‘I’m a marketer’ according to my bio. It was only recently that I added ‘wanna-be candlestick maker’. Why? Because, it’s irrelevant.  In modern social spaces, human beings (IMHO) place too much emphasis on labels.

What’s the point of title? Social structure.

The foundation of empire is heirarchy. Social and economic divides defined by title, reinforced in cultural practice and focused on the control of the masses.

What are media empires? Economic structures, defined by business practices responsible for the control/ audit of social information, consumed by the masses.

So what does that make professional sport…?

…A social heirarchy, defined by economic divides, reinforced by cultural practices and processes, refined by acceptable business practices and controls while being consumed by choice by the masses.

All sounds a little Marx-esque, doesn’t it?! 🙂

Rugby: What’s Changed? Same People, Same Game, New Media?

In 1996, I was a whet-behind the ears rugby features writer.
John O’Neil was the new kid at the ARU – a finance bloke – who wouldn’t last long..
David Campese played his 100th test (unheard of in those days), a young kid called Stephen Larkham was plucked from rugby obscurity for a tour of Italy and the UK – himself unsure how or why he was there from a new team called the ACT Brumbies, coached by an ex-Sydney 1st grader Rod MacQueen.
And across the ditch, another ex-player, by the name of Robbie Deans was the manager for the Canterbury Crusaders.
14 years later…
Deans is now Australian coach, McQueen is back at the helm of the newest Australian rugby franchise once again ‘with all the resources and none of the pressure’ and Campese is giving his opinion via ghost writers 🙂

Mentoring Generation Next

I’ve had a first hand look at the managers of the future and it’s terrifying.

Seriously, it’s like watching a train wreck. So not surprisingly, it got me thinking…

Generation Y through to Next are the most connected generations in human history. By that I mean, they are technologically and informationally the best connected. What they choose to do with that information of course, is entirely dependent on a number of key variables.

Generations Next have always understood online community, what I see them struggling with is group unity. They seem to go through the standards of group development (form, storm, norm and perform) however, they are more interested in ‘ticking the boxes’ rather than doing the job to the best of their ability…unless of course they are going to directly benefit.

So as a business owner/ manager, how do you ensure best performance from your Gen Next staffers? Empowerment and mentoring. Generation Next are thinkers. They are wired differently, because for them access has always been pervassive, their concept of ‘No’ isn’t personal. However, their ability to work within the confines of a groups, to constructively manage through differences of opinions can be problematic.

I’ve spent the better part of last 18 months involved in a publishing project with Generation Next and have been astounded by the way they have managed (and by this I mean bullied and allowed themselves to be bullied) their way through both the process and one another.

Unlike those of us who remember life pre-internet, the networked generation is a generation of individualised agendas, not intrinsically matched to group-work environments. A sweeping generalisation? No, sadly I don’t believe it is.

However, it does raise a key issue for managers (and educators) of today and the near future. How can we enable them to give the best performance of Gen Next within a traditionally structured work environment, while maintaining (celebrating and nurturing) their individuality and creativity? Is it possible, or does it require a reworking of the organic structure of the modern-day corporate environment?

I’ve discussed this with university students, corporate managers and CEO’s and it’s a topic of interest (in some cases genuine concern) across the board.

Generation NEXT Participate. Hence the popularity of social and mobile media. They facilitate and embrace their multi-tasking participatory lifestyles. So what happens when you bring a group of Generation Ys and Nexts into a room to work on a project with a deadline but no rules?
If you’re like me, you try to show them a little direction, share a little wisdom, watch them as they stumble and be sure to ‘catch them’ before they fall too hard to recover and learn.

But I’m not sure my well-intentioned habits are what they need at all. These guys need the promise of the train wreck to perform. To prove their point and for the most part they will. The way they get there will at times be frightfully ugly, but as a wiser head on older shoulders catch yourself before you try to manage Generation Next the way you were.

They do things differently. That doesn’t make it any better or any worse, it just means YOU have to STOP, LISTEN and LEARN from them. Because they’ll tell you what they need, if you take the time to understand them.

Faggot Tweet: Sponsors Speak

Since removing her swimming cap to reveal a ‘marketable face’ and winning three gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Stephanie Rice has been the golden girl of Australian swimming.

Her success in the pool launching her (willingly or not) into the stratosphere of the modern Australian sporting icon.

A proven performer, Rice has a legion of fans globally.
So not surprisingly, opportunistic sponsors came calling and a young lady used to going without (let’s be honest, the revenues of the pool are miniscule for most) no doubt thought all her Christmas’ had come at once in the form of car-maker Jaguar and intimates apparel retailer Davenport.
Forgetting for a moment, that swimming as a profession does not a Jaguar driver make, let’s turn our attention to the now infamous @ItsStephRice Tweet following the Wallabies’ historic win over the South African Springbok’s last weekend. Now known as another turning point in her career.
What was actually said on the tweet can not be comprehensively confirmed because Rice’s @ItsStephRice original post has been deleted from the Twittersphere. (Bad decision #2)
But, I do have it on good authority that the Tweet opened with: ‘SUCK ON THAT FAGGOTS’.
Hmm…rest for a moment on that one, because I think it’s fair to say that for Rice the world class Australian super star swimmer that was Bad Decision #1. Why?
It was aggressive, rude, and inappropriate.
Read on a little further and enter the ever-important, but at times elusive context:
‘…PROBS THE BEST GAME I’VE EVER SEEN!! WELL DONE BOYS.’
And it is clearly the tweet of an Australian rugby fan twittering her thoughts after enjoying the tightly contested historical test match that went down to the wire.

So was it as bad as they say? No, of course not.
So that being the case, why was the 22 year old athlete forced to apologise to a ravenous swarm of corporate media at an antiquated press conference (Bad decision #3) in Sydney in tears? Because of what her Tweet inferred? Or because the first openly gay rugby league footballer, Ian Roberts, came out uttering offence calling for her to be accountable for her insults? Ian, you should know better!
Let’s leave aside the fact that Rice tweets regularly with Australian Wallabies Giteau, Beale and Co…(don’t look so surprised they have a lot in common: diet, travel, sleep, training, diet, sleep, training, sleep, weights, gym, run, sponsor lunch, speaking appearance, photo-shoot, interview, weights, gym, swim, run, sleep…) As well as the fact that it was the first time the Wallabies had beaten the Springboks in Bloemfontein since 1933 (and South Africa since 1992 although the ARU has it as 1963 on their official releases) and what have you got? Confirmation that Stephanie Rice, when not being a world class athlete herself, is an engaged (and even by rugby standards a learned) rugby union fan. That’s right, she jumps the fence and becomes a fan: although the rules of the elite professional (according to the corporate media) still apply to her.
Rice’s ‘shout out’ to her ‘Tweeps’, according to the moral crusaders in the media and business worlds is cause enough for vilifying her as a South African hating homophobe.
But is it Rice that said that, or is it our interpretation of Rice’s vernacular that produces the prejudice?
Personally, I didn’t know what faggot meant.
The old PR Manager in me thought it could be a furry maggot and if you’ve ever witnessed a Springbok eye-gouging or rucking then it’s a valid slur usually directed at the instigator by the recipients mother. But even I couldn’t overlook the inference of the well-known 90’s homophobic vernacular.
But because I wasn’t sure, if that meaning still applied in 2010, I referred to the Australian publishing bible the Macquarie Dictionary and discovered that Rice’s tweet doesn’t make sense – literally.
faggot
// (say ‘faguht)
noun 1.a bundle of sticks, twigs, or small branches, etc., bound together, used for fuel, as a fascine for revetment, etc.
2. a bundle of pieces of iron or steel to be welded.
3. a bundle or bunch of anything.
4. a ball of chopped meat, especially pork offal, mixed with herbs, bread, or oats, etc., and eaten fried, or baked.
5. bouquet garni.
6.  Colloquial (derogatory) a male homosexual.
verb (t) 7. to bind or make into a faggot.
8. to ornament with faggoting. Also, US, fagot. [Middle English, from Old French; origin uncertain; 6. [originally US slang, from British slang, prostitute, slattern]
Bibliography: The Macquarie Dictionary Online © Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd.
So what was Rice saying?

1. Suck on that Bundle of sticks, twigs, used for fuel (I get it, de Villiers the Boks’ coach seems to snap like a twig whenever someone says something he doesn’t want to hear)

2. Suck on that Bundle of pieces of iron/ steel to be welded (okay, the Bok’s are reknowned hard men of the pitch so this still works. If anything, some may say it’s a little too nice for a good Wallabies fan sledge!)

3. Suck on that bundle or bunch of anything (Pretty weak, yet again)

4. Suck on that Ball of Chopped meat (I like this one! This one works best)

5. Suck on that bouquet garni (I have NO idea what this one means! Bueller?)

6. Suck on that Male homosexual (Irrelevant – who cares who anyone sleeps with- politically incorrect and highly controversial and therefore considered most plausible by both the 90’s vernacular and those in search of a story.)

7. Suck on that to bind into a fagot (The use of old English does sound a little bit pompous from someone who swims back and forth ‘Dory-style’ for a living, but hey! If the shoe fits…)

8. Suck on that prostitute (Taken out of context I guess this one could be even more controversial but unless the Bok’s are engaging in extra-curricular activities, this one’s probably most like #6).

But seriously, why skip to number six and prejudice the bundle of twigs, pieces of steel, or any bundle for that matter, including: chopped meat, the bouquet garni(!!!) and bless them, the always vilified prostitutes! I tell you why, it’ll sell more newspapers, generate more talkback and just as brilliantly, it will start a conversation about the roles and responsibilities of professional athletes at a time when the sports news isn’t exactly flowing and the advertising revenues are stagnating.
The problem here is predominately two-fold: Stephenie Rice the athlete acted like a typical rugby fan and the mass media of broadcast (which car sponsors still spend LOTS of advertising dollars with) know how to rally business community sentiment in their favour. 
It’s CONTEXT that is the real problem here. A rugby fan’s highly competitive comment, made to friends, exists within which ever context the reader decides to place it.
And given additional oxygen by former Australian rugby league star Ian Roberts who had to defend his sexuality through the prejudiced ignorance of the 90’s in which the term faggot was only meant as a degrading hit on his homosexuality.
Now… I’m not sure about you, but I’d put money on it, that Rice’s Tweet was meant to be derogatory towards South Africans (what Aussie or Kiwi Rugby – and even recently South African – rugby fan doesn’t seize the opportunity to take a verbal stab during the Tri-Nations?).
Did she intend to vilify homosexuals at the same time? I highly doubt it.
So why is this such a disaster? Because Rice is a public person, even when she’s not working and because by playing by the old media rules, Rice keeps feeding the media new angles for the story.
The mass corporate media does not differentiate between private and public sports personas outside of a pub, cafe or sponsor function. Why? Because for the most part, they are still trying to work out the best way to operate within the new media channels of social networking media sites like Facebook.com, Twitter.com and myspace.com.
So when is the athlete just a normal person? Or is normal an illusion and that person is forever held to a higher moral standard than all other members of society and in Rice’s case, most university students her own age!
Why is it that just because she is brilliant at sport and has been tagged with the celebrity label, the antiquated ‘role model’ tag anchors her as a socio-cultural moral compass? I’m guessing it’s because as a result of her athletic achievements she has an earning capacity most of the population can only dream of.
The saddest part of all of this is how the case highlights the futility of sports sponsorship. Jaguar have revealed their corporate fangs in true anti-democratic old-school butt-covering 90’s PR fashion, while Davenport have not only revealed themselves as a sponsor in partnership with the person as well as the athlete, but have showcased a mature and foresighted understanding of both the dialogic (two way) conversation of micro-blogging social networking sites like Twitter (people are going to say and do dumb things!) as well as, the realisation that a corporation no longer CONTROLS a brand, let alone the key messaging of it’s sponsored entities.

So budding sports superstars BEWARE when next out sponsor hunting and remember, as Andrew Keen says in The Cult of the Amateur, ‘the internet is but a mirror of ourselves!’ …and @ItsStephRice good on you for not being afraid to stumble again in the social, global, ubiquitous and very public media channel that is the Twitterverse, time will pay testament to the fact, that you are actually leading by example.

 

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