Sending Nude Photos? Make Sure You’re Using This App

(Psst. I have a new book coming out. It’s called “The End of Privacy” and you can pre-order it here. As part of the book’s release, I’ll occasionally pop in here with a note or app that you should know about that’s related to protecting your shit online.)

The other day, I was watching TV with my parents. I bought my parents an Apple TV, so that it would be easier for them to access things like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and the odd old movie that only they remember exists and isn’t available anywhere else but digitally.

The Apple TV is hooked up to my account. So as some of you know who have the device, you can set the Apple TV to run photos from your camera roll as a screensaver for when everyone goes on a bathroom or snack break.

Here’s the thing: I totally forgot I had this setting on. And as my pictures started to scroll on the 60″ television, a sense of dread started to form. “Oh shit, did I delete those last few pictures of my dick?”

I did. You’ll be pleased to know. But if I didn’t, and they got saved in my camera roll, then my parents and I would have to have an uncomfortable talk about my anatomy and why I was sending pictures of it in the first place.

Since we all know, and love, sending nude photos to each other, I have some good news. Nude, as reported by The Verge, is a new iOS app that will scan your camera roll for … let’s say inappropriate photos, and move them to a secure digital vault.

That’s great, but that’s not the important thing to know. The important thing is that you can’t, and should NOT, trust companies that store your digital information in the cloud. Some of them have pretty awful security, some of them look through that data as part of their efforts to better target you with advertisements, and some of them store your shit on their servers for an indefinite amount of time.

The important thing to know is that the makers of Nude claim the app doesn’t send anything to their servers, meaning you don’t have to worry about any of the above because they’re not holding, or looking at, your photos.

An Android version of the App is forthcoming (right now on Nude’s website the Android link doesn’t work), but for those of you with an Apple device, I strongly recommend downloading and using this app on the reg to make sure everything is where it should be.

Otherwise, you might get an unpleasant surprise as part of your device’s screensaver.

Nude (iOS app)

 

(Photo Credit: Pezibear/Pixabay)

Don’t Criticize, No Matter How Big Of A Dick They Are

I know this will sound ridiculous coming from someone who routinely attacks multibillion-dollar industries for a living, but no matter how big of an asshole someone is, you shouldn’t criticize them … At least, not in public anyway.

In private? Go to town! I mean, be careful because everyone has a smartphone (re: recording device) and your Amazon Echoes and Google Assistants are all listening to your conversations, but what you do behind closed doors is your business. As long as you’re not hurting another adult (without their consent), I don’t care what you do. It’s your business and no one else’s. But in public, and that could mean at work, on the street where anyone can hear you, on stage, or really anywhere you interact with your fellow humans, you never want to criticize anyone.

Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean you have to be an ass kisser. In fact, I strongly recommend you don’t ever become one because most people are pretty good at detecting flattering bullshit, and honestly doing that sort of thing eats away at your soul. You should always praise what other people do and accomplish because there’s nothing any of us on this planet want more than to be loved and appreciated, but you don’t want to be a dick about it and just aimlessly flatter people. It’s not a good look. So don’t be an ass kisser.

If you have something you want to criticize that someone did, focus on the action and never on the person. (All that happens when you criticize someone or argue with them is make them dig in their heels even more. There’s zero point in arguing with anyone because all too often it accomplishes nothing but pissing everyone off.) And when you do want to criticize an action, don’t start and end with, “That was fucked up.” That’s not productive. It’s hilarious. But it’s not productive. Instead, talk about what happened with a focus on being constructive.

Don’t: “Hey, Joey, I know your thing is to leave a riddle at every crime scene, but that’s been done before, and nobody likes fucking riddles.”

Do: “Hey Joey, the police look like they’re onto us. Neither you and I want to get caught, so I think we should change up our tactics.”

See? Constructive versus Not constructive. Privately, you can plan to kill Joey if you want, but in public, that’s not the thing to go with; Also, you probably shouldn’t kill Joey. Murder is one of those things I have to strongly advise against. Plus the constructive line above focuses on a mutually beneficial outcome. Remember: People are assholes. They think about themselves nine times out of ten, and if something isn’t in their best interest, it’s exceedingly rare that they’ll do it.

You may be thinking, “Hey pal, I go to church and love Jesus.” And sure, you might, but you go to church because you don’t want to go to hell when you die and because you want your friends and family to see you share the same common beliefs they do, which affirms their decision to make you part of their social group. Nothing against religion at all. I’m an Atheist, but I’ve gone to both church and temple and fully endorse people having faith if that’s what makes them feel happy and fulfilled. But. From an objective point of view, going to church, or temple, or a mosque, serves our self-interest in one way, shape, or form.

I think, out of all the life advice there is to give, “don’t criticize people” is honestly the hardest one to follow. A lot of this advice should seem like common sense, but it’s often not, so it’s worth repeating in the event someone missed it the first time. And a lot of this can be categorized as “Easier said than done,” but out of all of them? This is the piece of advice that’s the hardest. Especially because we’re all irrational people looking out for ourselves.

We make irrational decisions all the time. You can’t convince me otherwise, nor should you because it’s almost impossible to get people to change their minds through an argument. You want them to come to new conclusions on their own by exposing them to new information subtlety.

Here’s a great example of an irrational decision I make all the time. I’m prone to cavities, and yet despite flossing, brushing twice a day, and routinely using mouthwash after lunch and dinner, there is no force in this universe strong enough to stop me from sitting down and hogging a bag of Reeses Peanut Butter cups while watching “Gotham.” “Gotham” sucks, and yet I continue to watch it because I love Batman. The Peanut Butter cups are awful for my teeth, and yet I continue to eat them almost every week that the show is on. I know both of these things are bad for me, and yet I continue to go ahead and do these actions anyway. I’m irrational, and so are you in some way, shape or form.

I think that’s great, by the way. Being perfect (which involves being hyper-rational about everything) is boring. That’s part of the reason I hate this push for machine learning and deep learning algorithms in every aspect of our life. It strips all the fun away. As the villain in The Incredibles said, “When everyone is super, nobody is.” That’s what our algorithm-fueled lives are going to look like. There’s no magic. It’s just here’s the thing you want, when you want it, and you can just fuck off from the world and live in your own little bubble forever with a perfect, but profoundly empty, life.

Refusing to criticize someone in public is different from falling into that trap because you’re still going to address, and hopefully correct, the behavior that’s fueling the criticism in the first place. You just have to be smart and do it differently than how we’ve been told to do it in the past. You focus on the action, not the person, and you focus on the action in a constructive way that appeals to that person’s self-interest. No one wants to be a fuckup. We think we’re legends in our own minds, and we want to continue thinking so. That means we want to correct any behavior which may make us seem less awesome in front of our peers. Never, ever forget that we think we’re the hero in our own story; Even if that’s not always the case.

Here’s one final reason you shouldn’t criticize anyone though. Aside from the often cited Thomas Carlyle quote people read in “How To Win Friends and Influence People” that goes, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.” If it’s true we are irrational and selfish, then the other reason not to criticize or condemn people is that it makes you a more appealing leader in your social group.

I know! I know! Wouldn’t it be great if I just focused on peace, love, happiness, and how we all live together in harmony? Nope. I’m not your guy for that. If my thesis is correct then you don’t want to criticize or condemn people (publicly) because it’s a bad look for you among your peers; Nobody wants to work with a complainer or someone who wants to add to a number of problems they already have in their life to deal with. People want leaders who propose action and offer a kind, or at the very least constructive, word about what happened and what needs to be done next. We want direction, is what I’m saying, and we’re not going to take it from some asshole who wants to tear down people at every turn. That’s a lesson I should have learned back when I sent this guy a picture of my own poop. Hey, he wrote me hate mail and totally deserved it, and it’s a lesson I should have learned with “Social Media is Bullshit” when it first came out. So take it from someone who’s made this mistake more times than I care to admit. Don’t criticize anyone publicly and be the leader people need. And if that doesn’t work … Well, I guess you can send people pictures of your own poop too, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

(Ok. I totally would. The look on that guy’s face was priceless, but we’re all mature adults here, so we’ll pretend this isn’t a funny thing to do to someone you hate.)

This Is Why You Should Blog More

Let me state the obvious. Google Analytics is a great tool. I like it better than other options out there like Chartbeat. Google’s Optimize 360 is better (and way less expensive) than Optimizely. I could go on, but here’s the thing: Most of us don’t need these tools.

We’ve been hooked on page views, and unique visitors, since the ‘90s. Unless your entire business model is based on these metrics, they don’t matter. (And when you consider more than half of all traffic on the Internet is made-up of non-human traffic, I’d argue those metrics are increasingly useless to media companies as well. But then again, I’m a big believer that there are too many online media publications making the ecosystem unsustainable, and the survivors of the coming advertising bubble popping are going to be the media companies that have blended business models involving affiliate sales, e-commerce, live events, subscriptions / donations, and licensing. That’s not to say advertising won’t play a part, but it’s going to be direct and not programmatic. Programmatic is a monstrosity that needs to die. Direct advertising here means that if you’re a media company focused entirely on cats, PetSmart will work with you directly. And guess what? That means more humans, not less, in the advertising and marketing business. Fuck automation.)

Anyway, why am I telling you this? Because my generation and much of my audience (older millennials, Gen X, and the occasional Baby Boomer that doesn’t like my swearing but finds me funny and interesting anyway), grew up in a time where you could make yourself famous by being a blogger. I know you remember those days. I remember them distinctly, especially during the Great Recession because I was reading every book I can on the subject. So a lot of us have it in our head that if your blog is not some huge traffic driver today, you shouldn’t bother with it.

I disagree with that.

It’s 2017, almost ten years since the Recession and the days of “you can be famous by blogging,” and you should be blogging more, not less. You should also not install Google Analytics on your blog, and if you do have it, you should get rid of it immediately. Blog, but don’t bother tracking anything.

Personally, volume and velocity have always been my metrics for success. This goes back to when I was writing viral humor columns in the early ‘00s. I knew a post of mine was successful when I had a high volume of emails coming in from new clients/fans as well as high frequency of those emails coming in. In other words, in the first 24 hours that Fark or College Humor, or Boing Boing would link to a new humor column, I’d see a flood of emails coming in. I never bothered to look at the page views. I knew I had a hit on my hands. That might not work for you, and that’s ok. But my point here is that I didn’t need to look at the traffic to know if I was doing well or not. I didn’t need to obsess over what I was posting and whether or not I was bringing in the right kind of traffic, or bringing in more search traffic. Something to remember about optimizing your site for the search audience: The odds are pretty good that, of the actual humans coming to your site, few of them will stick around, and fewer still will develop any kind of brand loyalty to you and what you’re writing. Optimizing for SEO makes a lot of sense depending on your business goals, but as a person, it doesn’t make much sense. At least, not to me anyway.

Instead, you should look at a blog like a gym. I go to the gym three days a week and exclusively use the cardio equipment because my central nervous system, and my heart, are kind of fucked up, and I need the motion and activity to help keep things under control. Some of you might go to lift weights and get into super hot shape (god damn, do I love fit people that look like they fell out of a comic book), and some of you might go to lose weight. Whatever the reason, most of us go to the gym for maintenance. The blog, especially for those of you who write, is the same sort of deal. You blog because the process of writing is good for you. It lets you work some shit out. It made you feel better and accomplished after you’ve published something. It lets you try out new ideas (ideas that you can later profit from in some way.) Not to mention, blogging is an excellent branding tool. Because although you’re not too concerned about random search traffic coming to your blog, you are very much concerned about the person or company who is going to google you specifically. Whether they want to hire you as an employee, book you as a speaker, potentially buy your book.

Having a blog setup for the people looking to learn more about you is a no-brainer. You don’t have to be as honest and open as I am. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as privacy anymore, so I just like to own what I am, but having a place for new fans and interested parties to go is nothing but a good thing. So why waste your time posting on Twitter or Facebook or even Instagram when that stuff is so ephemeral? You know what I do with Instagram? I turned it into a blog. Every time I post there I automatically create a post on Tumblr using If This, Then That, and the post is archived as if it was a blog entry. If you do that, cool, but shit, you should be spending way more time than most of you are building up your blog. Getting a domain with your chosen name (if you’re transgender, I know getting a domain can be a tricky thing, so I encourage you to get the name you most want to be associated with), making sure it looks pretty but not going overboard because no one has time for excessively fluffy shit. And then just write.

If you want to be known for writing comic books, write about comic books you’re reading and the comic industry. Right now I am loving Dark Knights: Metal, and I should be blogging about it, but I have other things I have to do like finish “The End of Privacy” book. What’s your excuse? Write about the things you love or that you want to be known for.

Just write. And forget the analytics. That’s not the point anymore for you and a personal blog. The point is to write, preferably every day, and leave something behind for the people who are going to search for you to find.

Get What You Want By Knowing Where You’re Going

Goal setting is important. Duh.

If you don’t have an idea of where you’ll be one year from now, five years from now, and ten years from now, it’s difficult to help you as a consultant.

Obviously, things can and do, often change, so nobody is saying what you write down is then written in stone, and you can’t change things. You totally can. But it helps to have some idea of where you’re going and what you want to do.

This sounds incredibly obvious, and downright cliche, but I can’t even begin to list the number of times I’ve asked clients what their goals are, or where they want to be in a year, and the answer is “I don’t know.”

I’ve said this to the numerous college classes and students I’ve talked to over the years, but “I don’t know” isn’t an acceptable answer anymore. If you don’t know something, google it. There. Now you know.

The thing that pisses me off about all the marketing and consulting types out there is that they don’t practice what they preach. They’ll tell you that you should write down your goals, but then they’ll never mention it again. They won’t (more often than not) even tell you what their own goals are. They’ll just repeat this advice like it’s some deep, profound thing they just thought of, and then move on to the next recycled self-help cliche they want to repeat.

So. Practicing what I preach here. And if I can get one or two of you to do the same and write down what they want and where they see their projects in at least a year from now, then I’ve done my part in making the world suck slightly less.

Project Updates

The End of Privacy: This goes on sale in November!

Ok. So, as some of you know, I wrote a new book. It comes out next month from the fine people at Curious Reads, who help me feel like Bill Hicks. (Popular overseas, toiling away in some form of obscurity here in the States.) The book will be available in print globally and electronically.

I’ll be honest with you. I had no plan for this book, but now that I’ve been re-reading all the privacy books out there that I bought for research, I know what I need to do to promote this thing over the course of the next year.

Usually, there are three things that will move copies of a nonfiction book: Press, in-store events, and speaking engagements. I have a few speaking engagements coming up (more on that some other time), but since the book isn’t in bookstores, it’ll be interesting to see if I can still generate a lot of press for this one.

My goal is to outsell Social Media is Bullshit here in the States. Most books don’t sell more than 300 copies in their first year and more than 3,000 in their lifetime. Social Media Is Bullshit, last time I checked, was hovering around 6,000 copies sold. I don’t know what it sold in Russia, Poland, Australia, Canada, the U.K., and South America because hard numbers are challenging to come by with international markets. I know the book did well in Canada and the U.K. anecdotally because of the number of fans I have from those countries. Plus the U.K. and Canadian media were way, way friendlier to the message of the book than the social media obsessed (at the time) American media.

So, if this book can sell 7,000 copies in 2018, I’ll be thrilled. I also make more money on this release than I do with Social Media is Bullshit too because it’s a better split between the author and publisher regarding who gets what. And that’s great because my overarching goal (three years from now) is to no longer need to do consulting. I want the comics and the books, as well as the speaking, to be self-sustaining.

Vengeance, Nevada: This goes on sale this Fall!

Ok. So VN was (tentatively) accepted into the Comixology store for sale. I’m just working with Gira and Peter to straighten out a compression issue with the finished comic. For those of you who use the Comixology app, the pages need to be larger for Guided View to work properly. Once this is straightened out, the first issue of Vengeance will be on sale for $2.99.

Originally, I was going to price it at 99 cents, but hear me out. This is what it costs to produce an issue of Vengeance, Nevada:

B.J.: I get paid nothing.

Aleberry Creative: ~$500 to make sure the final comics pages are properly formatted and compliant with Comixology’s standards.

Peter: ~$1,400 for 26 pages.

Isidore: ~$200 for Cover

So that’s $2,100 per issue of the comic. And you know me, I will NEVER ask you for money on something like Kickstarter and Patreon. There’s nothing wrong with doing that; I’m just not comfortable with it. So, I pay for the comic completely out of pocket.
By way of comparison, Marvel’s All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #11 sells for $3.99 has 23 pages.

Now, sure, Marvel can charge more because it’s Guardians of the Galaxy (the two best movies they’ve put out thus far) and it’s Marvel, but $4 for 23 pages of comic vs. $3 for 26 pages of comic seems fair to me. Especially because other issues of VN sometimes run longer, with issue #3 hitting 31 pages, for example.

The higher price also means I need to sell fewer copies to break even. VN #2 and #3 are ready to go, formatting for Comixiology aside.

You get 50% from every sale you make on Comixology. So I make $1.49 per copy sold of Vengeance, Nevada. So if I can move 1,500 copies per issue, I made all the money back that it costs to produce an issue.

Since I don’t make my comics to make money, I do it because it’s fun, as long as I don’t lose any money on them I can keep making more. So 1,500 is the magic number for Vengeance, Nevada #1 to hit in 2018 and that’s my goal.

Over the next year, I hope to break even on each issue of VN that comes out. Since the comic comes out quarterly (four issues a year), this shouldn’t be too hard to do given that I don’t need to go out and bang the drum for it every month like I do a book.

This is also a nice test of that 1,000 True Fans thing, which I always thought was bullshit. If 1000 fans buy VN each time a new issue comes out, I’ll have to eat my words on that theory.

Other Stuff

VN and The End of Privacy are my top professional goals for the rest of 2017 and going into 2018. Personally, I don’t have many goals beyond the usual: Find a girlfriend, get an apartment, get three new clients at $3,000 a month. (I should charge more, but I’m trying not to be a general practitioner these days and want to focus entirely on branding and Word of mouth marketing, so the lower price reflects that I’m only working on these two things. Or, I’d prefer to only work on those two things, we’ll see how it goes.)

So my goals for the next year look like this:
-Find a girlfriend
-Get an apartment
-Get three new, regular clients at $3000 a month.
-Sell 1,500 copies of Vengeance, Nevada #1
-Sell 7,000 copies of The End of Privacy.
All those things are, on paper anyway, really easy to do. Sell the book, get the clients, move and get the apartment, maybe meet someone after that, and then sell the comic.

Obviously, luck will play a factor. I’m looking to promote two products that are released by a small publisher (the book) and self-released (the comic), meaning getting press is going to be harder than it would be if the book or comic came out from a larger publisher like a St. Martin’s or a Marvel.

Will I be successful? I’d like to think so, but knowing which direction I’m going in and what I want makes the journey so much easier, and that’s the point.

You have to know what you want and where you’re going.

Don’t Overthink It

I’m a big fan of “Lucifer” on Fox. It’s much better than the DC/Vertigo book that the show is based on, which is pretty funny because the TV version of “American Gods” (both properties conceived by author Neil Gaiman), is awful compared to the book it’s based on.

Anyway, there’s this scene in the second season of Lucifer where he plays the show’s theme song on a bass guitar and sings, “Crime-solving devil / it makes sense, don’t overthink it.” The scene is hilarious, and you can see it here.

But there’s also a great lesson to be found here too. (Isn’t there always? Aren’t you tired of marketing people teaching you lessons and abusing words like “value” until they have no meaning left in their cold, dead corpse? )

For people who have never seen the show, I can describe “Lucifer” on Fox by simply saying “crime solving devil.” That’s it. That’s all you need to know about the show. After hearing that, you’re either sold on seeing it, or you’re not interested. It’s a simple concept. All the other stuff the show entails is just window dressing to keep you hooked. (Kind of like a brand, when you think about it.)

The same is true for marketing and advertising in the 21st Century. It’s simple: “Good brand. Great product. Excellent service.”

That’s all you need to know. If you have a great product that people like, enjoy, and helps them save time/money / or solves some other REAL problem, they’ll do the marketing for you. Especially if your customer service and their experience in getting your product are of the best possible quality, you can make it. And the brand? Well, the brand is just what you use to draw keep people around for as long as you can.

Remember: There is NO such thing as brand loyalty. So even though you should try to keep your customers around for as long as you can, don’t think for a second someone loves you more than they love their dog. Or porn. Everyone loves porn, even if they say they don’t.

How do you promote your product?

By doing what I mentioned above (great product, great customer service, good brand) first. Once that’s all straightened out, online you focus on SEO+, word of mouth marketing, and email marketing. Offline you focus on great advertising and public relations.

Note: When I say SEO+, I use that as a catchall term. So I include voice-activated assistants like Alexa and their results, search results you get on your mobile device, and what is usually referred to as content marketing to boost your results.

I also include paid search advertising in here as well. I just don’t think SEM, search engine marketing, is a good enough term because it generally only refers to paid SEO tactics, and content marketing is this vague and amorphous thing. We don’t need vague and amorphous. We need clear, simple, and direct. So, SEO+.

The problem is that we tend to overthink all of this stuff. But it’s not hard. I promise. The challenge is that doing all of this takes time, patience, and in more than a few instances, a lot of luck. But no one wants to hear that. We’re all super ADD and obsessed with dumb metrics that don’t mean anything.

The only metrics that should ever matter is whether or not you’re making more money than you did before you started the tactics I mentioned above, and whether or not you’re attracting new customers. Everything else is bullshit.

I’m going to repeat that, because although this all sounds nice and simple, what I’m saying is really controversial: Everything else is bullshit.

Don’t overthink it. When you do, you waste time, money, and other resources you’re never going to get back.

Flat Iron Building, Mid-Day, photo by B.J. Mendelson

More. More. More.

I’ve had this theory for a while. It goes something like this: Most advertising and marketing efforts on Internet-enabled platforms is a waste of time. Most advertising and marketing efforts done offline are a waste of time too.

So, what do you do?

And so the theory goes: You focus on the basics, and the basics are not sexy. GREAT product. Good branding. Excellent customer service and experience. Good PR. Good SEO. Good Email marketing.

So, as you can imagine from that absolutely shocking list of things that work, it’s tough to get people excited about that. You’ll notice I made zero mention of content and social media, although you can make a substantial argument that content marketing is email marketing. Which … it totally is, but fuck you, because “content” is a meaningless term that is used to describe everything. I rather be specific. Good email marketing is much more clear than good content. Good SEO is much more apparent to people than good content. You get the point.

There’s a lot of stuff involving Internet-enabled devices I’m excited about as a marketer. So don’t get me wrong here. This is not an anti-technology stance I’m taking. It’s an anti-crappy advertising and marketing stance.

For example, I think augmented reality is going to be huge for retail, assuming we properly take the time to train customers and provide them with something that’s fun, saves them money, and gives them a positive experience while visiting the store. That’s the kind of thing that gets people excited. Especially the media, marketing, and advertising industries. Everyone likes the shiny new thing because everyone can profit off the shiny new thing.

But here’s the hilarious part. At least, I find it funny. Let’s say we get customers (that would be, all of you reading this) to use augmented reality when they went to their local Macy’s or Target. If the AR experience sucks, if the store itself sucks, if the product the augmented reality app suggested you buy sucks then … Well, you’re shit out of luck. That customer isn’t likely to try to use an AR app again, and you better believe they’re going to tell all their friends about their shitty experience with your expensive app and in-store rollout.

That’s why the basics matter so much. Advertising and marketing are essential. You have to do it, but it’s no different than the water you add to the plant. If the plant itself is sick, then the advertising and marketing you do around it won’t matter.

Most of you know that.

The twist though is that good marketing, and good advertising can often be hard to quantify, and that drives the MBAs, shareholders, and the stats geeks crazy. I think it’s high time we get these people out of the marketing and advertising world before it’s too late. It’s their fault we had mass corporate consolidation of media companies, crappy and creepy online advertising that tracks and annoys you, and billions wasted on dumb social media campaigns because all these things provided “quantifiable” results like page views, shares, and retweets.

The bottom line is this: Marketing and advertising, when done right, takes a long time and can be expensive. If you spend a lot of money, you can get quick results. If you don’t, you’ll need to be patient, and the people I just mentioned are not patient.

So I’m not talking to those people. I’m talking to you. You have to be patient. You also can’t do this stupid thing the people I mentioned do where they try to micro-target their audience to death. You need to go wide. The person, brand, and company with the most customers wins. Remember that. You want more, more more. You don’t want to waste your time trying to find “loyal” customers because there’s nowhere near as much of them as you think there are. You should absolutely reward the few of them that DO exist, but don’t believe for a second that, push comes to shove, they’ll push you over a cliff to get something that’s better, faster, and less expensive. That’s why you always want more customers. To replace the ones you WILL lose over time.

And you will lose them; Especially if you churn out bland shit to please the MBAs, shareholders, and stats geeks.

Reputation Design is Bullshit

Back in February of this year, I coined a bullshit term: Reputation Design.

You’re free to use it as much as you’d like. I’m going to be using it quite a bit over the next year or so to prove a point. Here’s how I came up with the term.

Earlier this year I was writing marketing collateral for a startup in Chicago. They offered SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and DRM (Digital Reputation Management) services.

I’m going to assume, if you’re reading this, you know what SEO is. Basically, it’s making sure your stuff appears in the first two search results on Google for whatever term you’re building your business or brand around. Although, and I agree with this, I like populating the entire first page for Google and not just the first two positions, even though the majority of the traffic goes to the first position under the advertisements. For me, it’s a good branding exercise. If you’re going to search for “B.J. Mendelson”, I want to be the only B.J. Mendelson on that page. I don’t want my competition to get anywhere close to me.

DRM is a bit trickier to explain. It’s a more extreme form of SEO where you try to kill or bury anything even remotely negative that might come up concerning you or your brand. For example, I once worked on a campaign involving a video game company executive who was sensitive about their image, and it was my job to bury any negative comments or search results there were about that person. DRM is not just search engine optimization though, it includes a lot of social media work, and if you’re smart (or if the people you’re paying to do it are good at what they do), they’ll also include a lot of public relations and content marketing within the overall DRM campaign.

The thing is, there’s no good way to explain a service that includes ALL of that. (All of that being DRM, SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Public Relations, all the things you’d need to do in order to show people how cool you are and own those search results, while also suppressing any bad shit you might have done in the past that you don’t want people to see.) So instead of writing DRM + SEO over and over again on the company’s collateral, I decided to just call that work “Reputation Design.”

It’s a bullshit term. It’s just a new way to describe an old thing, which is something marketers are good at doing. But I realized that it’s one thing to call out marketers for doing stuff like this, and it’s another to prove the point by doing it yourself. So if you see me identified in the years to come as a “Reputation Design” expert — and you see guest posts appearing by me or others about the benefits of “Reputation Design” — I want you to know this is an active, deliberate campaign to spread the term. I want to demonstrate how easy it is to rebrand old crap in a new way and show how people cash in on doing things like that.

If you want to help the cause, feel free to use the term as much as you’d like. I just wanted to put something here to explain what the term meant and why I’m going to be using it. I thought it’d be kind of hilarious to do a presentation and Powerpoint on how I spread this bullshit term around the world when all is said and done, so if things go well, you can expect me to do that in the not too distant future.