I'm peeved that the blogosphere memes and voices are so narrow too. (But I knew that when I started blogging. Eschewing kissing ass, I prefer kicking ass myself.)
Yet if I don't fall prey to A-List thinking myself. My god I have only five weeks before I leave to Thailand! Yikes! And I'm just $800 into the $4500 fundraising goal. This is where all marketers panic and think we need to roll out the big-bang big-buzz immediate-results-illusion-overnight-sales approach. Grassroots is too organic and escargot slow and unpredictable. And my god do you realize we have only five weeks to launch!!!!!
The top-down marketing mentality kicks into high gear. A) I need to have my ducks-in-a-row and tell a remarkable story out of the chute because I only get one shot to be noticed by the A-Listers B) and all I need is to be noticed by a few A-Listers and everything will spread like butter smoothly from crust to crust all over the toasty world of blogs. Now who has reach? What are the top 5% voices?
Ugghhh, Evelyn dearie, that's the same exact thinking as: I need a colossal two-page ad on a big marquee paper to rev up awareness. Or the one-shot waterfall rather than iterative feedback-loop agile development methodology (nod to techies) for the software development process.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong: I do not need 45 friends. (My closest friends & fam are my true patrons: meaning they are loaning me my rent, groceries and gas while I work pro bono.)
Nope, I don't need 45 friends at $100 a pop. I need 4500. Yup, even 45,000 to pitch in.
By and large, the word-of-mouth literature tends to describe our influence and degree of connectedness as something hard-wired. Magic People like [trend-influencer Janet] Onyenucheya are born, not made, is the idea, which is why companies spend so much effort developing psychological profiles to find them. But the BzzAgent experiment largely discards that premise. Its agents are not screened. They are not chosen. They simply sign up. They are all kinds of people, all over the country: a 50-something bookstore owner in suburban Chicago, a young housewife near Mobile, Ala., a college student in Kansas. Many are teenagers, or even younger. At least one is 86 years old. And yet, it seems, they are able to persuade. - "The Hidden (in Plain Sight) Persuaders", New York Times, Dec 5, 2004
Regardless of what you feel about BzzAgent, their recruitment process is blessedly open invite where amateurs get a fair shake. Everyone is a Magic Person. Not just a chosen few. And that aligns with my own philosophy that everyone counts. Everyone has a Rosa Parks in them.
I believe it's the small profound acts that move mountains. My friend will never forget the Thai woman in the Vachira Phuket Hospital whom came back with a new pair of shoes for him. I guess she was spurred to this small act witnessing him hobbling around the lobby with bruised and cut feet the day after the tsunami had sucked the Tevas off his feet. Generosity, graciousness, love, compassion happen from one single person to another person gazing at you eye to eye - rarely via broadcast. (My two cents: Targeting A-listers feels broadcast albeit microbroadcast - reach 5000 readers now! - not person-to-person to me.)
The Lance Armstrong Foundation didn't hand out gold $1000 bracelets solely to Magic People, the elite influentials and mavens and the early adopters and those-in-the-know. Anybody participates for $1. It's tempting to be suspicious: how could a teeny $1 contribution and a rubber bracelet make any dent? Shouldn't we shoot for a cover story in Business Week? Yet one dollar here and one dollar there definitely add up - but only if you believe a single individual is consequential. Plus wearing the distinctive bracelet is a badge announcing your intentioin and spreads the good news person-to-person.
Rare is the product in American culture that can be both good and cool. That can find its way onto the limbs of fiercely trend-conscious youth and cause-driven adults. That can raise money -- $12 million is nothing to sneeze at -- in the fight to reduce the lives lost to a terrible disease. It is a just rubber band, dyed bright, but it has made people feel as if they are doing something helpful just by slipping it onto their wrists. The bracelets would be a bargain at many times the cost. - "Bracelet mania", Sports Illustrated, September 4, 2004
Artisan journalism takes a village. I honestly cannot do this all by myself. From software engineering days I know how to cut scope if need be (sleep on beach, forgo video, cut out Sri Lanka, etc.) but... I like working with people. This is not the age of the lone wolf. What you can do:
- Have a post on grassroots doing-it-ourselves charities like this?: "HoneyCare Africa helps subsistence farmers in Kenya to become beekeepers, paying them fair trade prices for their honey. The idea is brilliant because bees don't need a lot of land, they feed themselves, they pollinate crops, and they gather nectar from the wild blossom, which encourages the farmers to leave the forests intact. Most the farmers manage to double their annual income with their honey production. HoneyCare has joined with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) to assist farmers with financing, training and setup. Co-founder Farouk Jiwa plans to offer HIV/AIDS education to the farmers as the next step." (via Hip and Zen) If so, I'll link to your post & create an ad fund for your charity (a $100 sponsorshop link to TARA Trek and the artisan journalism microfund on my blog through 1/16/06). Donate $5, $10, $20, or any amount and once $100 is pooled together, I'll add Honey Care Africa's link. I'm especially keen on person-to-person charities and microfinance like this although I so wish co-founder filmmaker included video clips & storytelling for context.
- Pick One Thing. I'd love to hear your one idea (creativity challenge: keeping in mine I have zero budget; suggestions involving expenses should include how in-kind help or funds are garnered. For instance, unless you've a small team of citizen marketers / graphic designers chipping in, an innovative community site like TheWorldIsNotFlat.com isn't feasible).
- If you're public relations, what one thing should Tara Trek do?
- If you're a writer or journalist, what one tip, resource or inspiration would you offer an amateur backpack journalist?
- If you're a photographer, what one thing would you chip in for a newbie photographer?
- If you're a trend watcher or innovator, what one story angle would you like to see since I'll be in Asia, a great place to trigger new ideas?
- If you're a therapist, what one thing would you like to learn or what one researcher here should I talk to before I leave?
- If you are a pastor, what one thing would you like to learn about how people did or did not reinforce their particular faith in the face of tragedy?
- Etc. etc. Use your imagination, but focus on one thing you care about. (I'll be scouting out for fresh voices and perspectives rather than the usual suspects to answer this one-thing question.) Leave comments, trackbacks or email too. Suggestions credited (including link to your blog/site).
- Leads to editors and producers I can query for bylined stories in any media format. (Urgent)
- Anyone willing to help me create a Word of Blog banner? (Me = graphic-design-challenged.)
- Leads to sources: grassroots tsunami disaster relief organizations in-country, general story leads, contacts of foreign tourists going back to Thailand for the memorial service, more leads to post-traumatic growth and expressive writing research, etc.
- JotSpot wiki design for probonoeconomy.com. (Initially intended for pitching in to collaborate on marketing our favorite pro bono projects, could expand out.)
- Equipment loans for project duration of two months: OQO, digital camera with video, iRiver (for oral history podcasts) or equivalent
- Homestays in Bangkok, Phuket, Phi Phi in Thailand; Sri Lanka; Tamil Nadu region of India
- Intra-Asia frequent flyer mile donations, or suggestions for inexpensive Thailand-Sri Lanka, Sri-Lanka-India, and India-Bangkok travel (Thai government covering Bangkok to SFO return trip)
- While on the road reporting Kevin has three paid staffers helping out back home in L.A. Anyone up to helping when I'm in-country with online research? Collating and collecting emailed survivor submissions? Stuff like that.
- Other thoughts? Things I missed? Check out these posts and work-in-progress FAQ for additional background. Donations: Tip-jar at site upper right, here, or checks to: Evelyn Rodriguez, PO Box 490, Mountain View, CA 94042 (checks by Dec 1st latest).