The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: How Did They Do That?!

als

How did ALS design a campaign so amazing?

How did they raise $100 million in 30 days?

They didn’t, their community did.

(Including me: My Ice Bucket Challenge with Jaz)

Their community does a lot of amazing things. This particular campaign happened to have caught fire.

Maybe it was tagging friends.

Maybe it was seeing friends and family dump water on themselves.

Maybe it was something refreshing to do during summer.

Maybe we all just needed a little break from the news this summer.

But if you think you’re going to take your marketing team into a Board room and dream up the next ice bucket challenge, then all I can tell you is, you do not understand social media.

 

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by Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing.

These are not my lips, don't get excited.

What’s in a kiss?

A little while back, my name showed up in a viral blog post about huggers. As Tim Sackett (the author and master bro-hugger) had so aptly noted, I am one.

But hugging  is child’s play compared to what happens above the neck.

These are not my lips, don't get excited.

These are not my lips, don’t get excited.

That’s where things get interesting.

Let’s level set: I’m not talking about romantic kisses here. I’m a happily married man, plus this isn’t that kind of blog. What I’m talking about is what happens at conferences, business lunches, and those quasi-business related nights out that bring colleagues together across gender lines and that are the definition of profersonal™, which preceding generations never had to deal with—at least not at the scale that we do. It’s these circumstances that I’m talking about. Ones where a social kiss hello is the norm.

Because when the “norm” is an activity no two people seem to agree on how to do, then someone needs to be talking about it.

As you might imagine, I’ve been party to a variety of kiss-based awkwardness over the years. The simple act of saying hello has brought me face-to-face with:

  • The are-we-or-aren’t-we
  • The dammit-we-bumbed-cheeks-and-that-kinda-hurt
  • The oh-so-now-we-do-it-on-that-side-too-this-is-new-for-me
  • The no-you-did-not-just-air-kiss-me-you-pretentious-shit
  • The dude-but-you’re-a-dude-ah-but-I-forgot-you’re-Italian
  • The you’re-drunk-already-huh
  • The I didn’t-realize-you-started-pulling-away-now-I’m chasing-your-face-this-is-weird
  • The please-close-your-mouth-I’m-just-trying-to-be-polite-here
  • The we-went-the-same-way-but-at-least-we’re-good-nose-dancers
  • The hey-you-missed-your-target-but-I’ll-play-it-cool-for-you
  • The how-on-earth-did-I-end-up-with-a-mouthful-of-hair
  • The oh-no-I-think-I-just-gave-you-the-wrong-idea
  • The you-smell-fantastic-and-now-I-feel-creepy-for-noticing
  • The did-someone-just-trip-because-there’s-no-reason-we-should-have-just-bumped-teeth
  • The hi-it’s-so-nice-to-WOWIDIDNOTSEETHATCOMING

If social hugging is basic math, social kissing is differential calculus. Especially in today’s world where men and women work together professionally and develop friendships beyond work, the rules of the game are… confusing.

It can get to the point where the decision to invite a spouse to a business function feels like inviting them to a high school reunion: “Honey, there’s going to be a bunch of people you don’t know, a ton of inside jokes you won’t understand, and I’m not sure I want my worlds colliding, so maybe you want to go see a movie tonight instead? By yourself?”

And I’m not even dealing with sexual tension here, just the kiss hello between colleagues and platonic friends! The level of complexity added into the mix when one or more people at the event is “available” (with or without quotes) is beyond the scope of this post. I know this because I hear the stories, I see the relationships, and even if I weren’t savvy enough to put two and two together, I’ve seen the photos. You wouldn’t believe the photos I’ve been shown. People, stop taking photos!

I have a hard enough time getting things right with my own wife in the privacy of our own home. She comes home from work and I get a quick peck on the cheek as opposed to a lip kiss: is she still in work mode, or am I in trouble? We’re sitting on the couch and she lifts her head from my shoulder and brushes my ear: is it game on! or is she so tired that she physically failed to lift her head any higher? I rarely know. All I know is that I’m free to guess wrong as often as I’d like, this at least is a safe environment.

But out with professional colleagues in a social setting? Far from safe. More like being out in a rainforest, barefoot, unarmed, and slathered in honey.

Things are so dangerous that when it comes to the social kiss, I assume that something bad is about to happen. Either they’ll screw up or I will. And either way, we’re both going to feel awkward. So my policy is to take the kiss in stride, treat whatever happens as if it were exactly what was supposed to happen… and never mention it again.

But despite my sangfroid countenance, on the inside I have all sorts of questions. I’ve had them my entire adult life. Here are a few, along with my answers. I’d be grateful to anyone who has a better suggestion for how to handle these situations.

God knows I making all this shit up.

What am I supposed to do with a friend’s wife?

Lean in for a cheek kiss. I always go to my left, her right, I don’t know why. That could be wrong. Anyway. Sometimes I’ll touch her right elbow with my left hand. I’m not really sure why I do that, I just have my wife here to help me visualize different situations and she noticed it, and now I’ve noticed it, too. Totally subconscious. Maybe it’s to keep everyone steady? Or to keep her arm between us like a barrier? Or maybe I’m just flirting. I honestly have no idea. But I do know what my wife and I will be “discussing” later.

Dammit.

On the other hand, I have also realized that I keep eye contact to the bare minimum here, unless the couple are close friends and it’s hugs and kisses all around.

What if I know the wife better than the husband (or the girlfriend better than the boyfriend)?

Same protocol as above, only with a knowing, wicked little smirk to the wife when no one else is looking. Just kidding. No smirk, that’s evil. But more eye contact. And, when I am introduced to (or am saying hello to) the husband, it’s definitely a firm handshake and clear eye contact. While this is something I try to do this all the time, in this situation, he’s got to know that I see him and respect his relationship with his wife, so I pay particular attention.

My female colleague showed up with a friend and she’s hot. Now what?

Let’s back up. I don’t really care what the friend looks like. Attractive is nice, but I don’t want the social dynamics here determined by how people look, I want them set by how I make them feel. If I’m letting her looks dictate my actions, then I’m not really in control of myself, and that’s a train wreck waiting to happen.

The first thing I watch for is the body language. What is the colleague doing while I say hello to our friend? Let’s assume, based on the theme of this post, that the friend gets a kiss hello.

Then, if the colleague seems outgoing, then she gets a kiss, too. That’s an easy one.

If the colleague is tentative, then I might offer her a handshake or a hug but no kiss. If I get the sense that she’s unsure of where the boundaries are, then I want to signal that I’ll keep her safe if she follows my lead. (It’s just like doing a scene in improv.)

But what if the friend is aloof—not tentative, but cold and distant? In my experience, initial aloofness can mean different things. Me, I’ve never had to dig an emotional moat around me to protect myself from fawning douchebags, but I know a lot of women who have, which is why I never take initial distance personally. Biology is biology, and she’s just doing what she’s learned she needs to do. This person gets a congenial handshake, warm smile, and direct and extended eye contact. I’ll know in 2 minutes if the drawbridge will come down, or if she is indeed a cold fish.

I am reasonably close with 3 of the women at the table but don’t know the 4th at all.

Say hello to the three you know first. When you get to the fourth, continue with whatever the first thee got and if that means she gets a kiss, then go ahead, but call out the fact that she is now party to a level of intimacy usually reserved for better known company. Do it in a friendly and earnest tone to keep it non-creepy. Anything less cries out, “You may as well go home now, I won’t be paying you any attention.” Anything more cries out, “You’ll want to go home now, as my social skills clearly never progressed after 8th grade.”

I just ran into a close friend (or the wife of a close friend) in a place where we’re bound to be recognized by people who don’t know our back story. How do I say hello?

This is one of those situations where I figure everyone else can go fuck themselves. She gets the same hug and kiss hello that she’d get if she and her husband were meeting my wife and I out for dinner. And if other people start talking? Then they talk. What are they going to say that is going to impact my life? Even if someone were to confront me, my defense is the best defense a person can have: the truth. We’re friends. I gave her a kiss hello. And?

There’s a woman at dinner who’s recently divorced and everyone knows it.

I know you want me to say that she gets the 1-armed bro-hug for appearances sake, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t deserve that, and trying to play to the gallery never works anyway. Again, people can go fuck themselves.

Which makes me realize, the truth is only part of the best defense a person can have. The other part is consistency. Which is why I’m consistent in giving either hugs or kisses hello: there’s less opportunity to be misinterpreted when you can point to a friggin’ blog post and say “Seriously, it’s not you, don’t get excited, this is just how I roll, here’s proof.”

Truth + consistency, baby.

I just gave the most humiliating awkward kiss of my life, how do I fix this?

Forget it, stuff happens. (Have you not been reading?!)

If it’s really, really bad, then own it. Maybe immediately, or maybe come back to it later in the night or the next time you see the woman. And for God’s sake, when you own it, do the mea culpa in public. If there’s no one else around, it’s going to sound like you’re asking for a second chance, if you follow my drift. By doing it in public, you keep everything safe and let her know that you know you messed up, while also signaling that all this is is a funny story, and not any type of invitation. Also: make sure your wife knows. Tell the truth.

What if I just got busted trying to lay on a real kiss?

You’re a douche.

The punchline

When it comes to the social kiss, especially in a profersonal™ setting, I have no idea what I’m doing… and neither do you. So we may as well enjoy ourselves, right?

See you out there… and let’s keep it friendly, OK?

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by Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing.

"Let me be clear: modesty is incompatible with either vanity or aging."

Puberty Part 2: Welcome to your 40s

"Let me be clear: modesty is incompatible with either vanity or aging."

“Let me be clear: modesty is incompatible with either vanity or aging.”

My older daughter is at that age when health class happens. We’ve had a blast with that during family dinner.

Well, my wife and I have had a blast—it’s not that awkward for us anymore.

(Note to parents of younger children: having “tampon” and “shove” in the same sentence equals guaranteed laughs. For you.)

One of my observations from these conversations was that grown ups need health class, too. I even went as far as picking up the domain http://isthatnormalorshouldiseeadoctor.com. (Go ahead and click it, it’ll reload my site.)

Aging is every bit as awkward at 40 as it was at 14, yet there is no place for an adult to go for answers to immodest questions like:

  • At what point do I need to see a podiatrist? Because I’ve been brushing that anti-fungal crap on my yellowed toe nail for a year and a half already.
  • Help me plan for this conversation with my wife: “I want to shave my back, will you help me?”
  • Ear hair: is that why I’m going deaf?
  • My hip hurts, should I do more yoga? Or less?
  • I’m feeling a lot of peer pressure from my friends when I ask for a vegetarian option at a restaurant. How do I handle this?
  • My new hair cut person doesn’t trim my eyebrows. Should I still tip her?
  • How much farther do my gums need to recede before my teeth start falling out?
  • I just shit blood. WTF?
  • There’s a bump on my arm. It doesn’t hurt, but sometimes it itches, is this a problem?
  • I’ve had a headache since the day my kids were born, is that normal?

Talking with my friends lately has reinforced my belief that a resource like this is necessary. It appears that there is something going on.

And it’s not just physical, either.

Just as puberty had an emotional and intellectual side, so too does the set of changes my friends and I are going through today. And while the intensity and visibility of our issues differ, the issues themselves seem to be the same ones, over and over and over.

It’s like acne: not every 15 year gets it bad, not everyone gets it on their face, but damn if every 15-year-old doesn’t know what a zit is.

As far as what the issues are today, I’m not sure yet, exactly. They’re not mid-life crises in a classical sense—at 40-ish, we’re not yet grappling with our mortality. It’s more like… all the garbage we left unresolved at 20 is coming home to roost.

We left school, entered the world, and immediately our professional and personal worlds started changing in profound ways, with dating and careers and season after season of weddings and promotions and moves and home buying and home selling and kid having and Whatnot with a capital W, and finally all that has become routine enough that our brains are getting back to the truly personal stuff we left on hold all those years ago: the “who am I” and “who do I want to be when I grow up,” and now also add the “holy fuck I did grow up and is this who I wanted to be” questions that come with age.

And, it’s not just that we have these issues, it’s also that dealing with them is complicated. Like this weekend, I tried working through some of it with my wife. It was going pretty well, too: we were about 20 minutes into it and just past the part where we had told each other to fah (our code for “fuck off”), coming up to that magic turning point when we’d start to listen and understand and empathize, when one of our girls came down with a stomach ache. Instant end of conversation, but not instant end to all those emotions we’d stirred up. We happened to handle this one well, but I can’t promise that I handle every situation like this with the maturity I’d like. And when you see your spouse for like 30 minutes a day, you just don’t want to be risking conversations like this.

So we’ve all got this stuff in our heads, we can’t talk to anyone about it, we’re not even sure who would understand us if we could, there’s no reset button, no time to think, peer pressure to either pretend like none of it’s happening or to use alcohol as a crutch, and sometimes turning to the very people whose help you most crave makes things worse instead of better.

If that’s not Puberty, the Sequel, I don’t know what is.

Hey, that could be a good question for http://isthatnormalorshouldiseeadoctor.com.

What do you think?

 

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by Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing.

High school prom. I'm top left. Matt's top right. The guy next to Matt is a urologist and the guy next to him is now our State Representative.

Matt Lome and the Absolute Truth about Woodpeckers

High school prom. I'm top left. Matt's top right. The guy next to Matt is a urologist and the guy next to him is now our State Representative.

High school prom. I’m top left. Matt’s top right. The guy next to Matt is a urologist and the guy next to him is now our State Representative. Go figure.

I had lunch with an old friend of mine the other day. His name is Matt Lome. Maybe you know him?

He’s an artist. He lives in Seattle. And he recently wrote a children’s book. We got together to talk about it.

We went to Michael’s, a Highland Park institution, and if you had seen us, the only way you’d know time had passed since high school would be from my salt-and-pepper hair.

If you had been able to hear us, you’d’ve picked up on a lot more, of course. Matt lost his sister a few years ago. He was in town to visit a friend who suffered a major stroke about 10 years ago. His parents just sold their house—the house where we all used to hang out, where his parents would throw dinner parties and where it wouldn’t be strange to see a guest’s Ferrari F40 or Bentley on the driveway as you made your way around to the kitchen door and up to Lome’s attic via the back stairs. But being with Matt at Michael’s, thinking of his parents and brother and him and his sister, of everything he was dealing with while he was in town… I was struck by how light the conversation was. Which is when it hit me: it was never the house. The magic was never the house. It was the people. It always is.

I am lucky to have a daughter like Matt. Other than the fact that she’s 30 years younger and a girl, they both present with innocence and light and simplicity, yet demonstrate a will and understanding and empathy of such shocking purity that it never grows any less shocking no matter how many times you experience it.

As I focused on what Matt was telling me about his book, I began to wonder what it was about himself he was trying to figure out. Because to paraphrase Joan Didion, we all write to learn what we’re thinking.

I began reliving moments of our friendship, trying to figure out why he’d picked his theme. One memory that came to me specifically: a Friday afternoon, as a group of us were leaving school. Plans were being made for the weekend and while I was in the group, I wasn’t in the conversation, so whether the plans included me or not was ambiguous. See how the photo above I’m sort of off to the side? I picked that photo for this post because it pretty much tells the same story.

This particular Friday, as the group broke up and I was walking away, Matt called out, “Seiden, you’re coming, right?”

Such a simple thing, but also exactly attuned to what I needed. He knew who I was, and where I’d need help. That ability to let you know he understood you in a way that was never threatening has always been Matt’s hallmark. Still today, when he jokes with you, you laugh because he’s funny and then, a moment later, his words explode in your mind as you realize that he wasn’t just kidding—he was sending you a message that he understood you.

Would he ever understand his own intuition? Would he ever believe how powerful a moment like that one in high school had been, or how such simple words could be worthy of my appreciation after 20 years?

I hope not. I fear that if he cracks the code, he might lose touch with the magic. And selfishly, I don’t want that.

I’ve got his book beside me. It’s called The Absolute Truth about Woodpeckers.

Email him for a copy. It’s really good.

(And, woodpeckers! How can you not love that?! The fact that he also did all the art in it is just icing on the cake.)

I didn’t ask him why he wrote it. That I already knew. I asked him what story was behind the book—the one that he feared to talk about.

It was the first time in my life I can remember seeing him hesitate. And his answer—which I’m not sharing—was every bit as wonderful as I imagined it would be.

Now I’m sure Matt’s reading this, and finding this all a bit awkward, but Matt, this is the price you pay for being good people: you make an impact and sometimes people share that impact with the world.

And hopefully, I can help you share a copy or two of your book, because it’s you: simple, pure, innocent, and yet from a place of deep understanding and empathy.

As always, you’ve done a fantastic job, my friend.

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by Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing.

20140706-083946-31186274.jpg

Inked

Let’s take it from the top: yes, that’s my arm. I have a tattoo. It’s new.

What does it mean?

Inked.

Inked. (That’s the back of my left forearm.)

Dayenu is a Hebrew prayer. It’s been part of the Passover Seder for over 1,000 years and is an expression of appreciation that means, “It would have been enough for us,” and in the prayer, it’s used to suggest that any one of 15 gifts God bestowed upon the Jews—like delivering us from slavery, parting the Red Sea, or getting us to Israel—would have been enough for us by itself.

What I love most about “dayenu” is that the way it’s used, it turns a series of serious, that-could-have-been-the-end-of-us challenges into an embarrassment of riches. It’s gratitude done right, and a concept we’d all do well to emulate year-round, not just in the spring when recounting our history.

And now it’s part of my personal identity.

As for the images, I could cover my arm in a full sleeve symbolizing all the things I’m grateful for and not come close to getting to everything. But these two images—the rose and the raven—have particular meaning. They are the “why” behind a disproportionate number of major decisions in my life, including, by far, the biggest ones. There is some layering to the symbolism, but beyond the obvious, those other meanings would require significant backstory to make sense. Have you figured out who the rose and raven are yet?

OK… why?!

Because something needed to change and the process of getting the tattoo itself was symbolic of that change.

A few friends have joked that it’s my mid-life crisis. I think y’all know I’m too deliberate for that. Also, I already had the Camaro.

Here’s the short story: Maybe because of society’s response to all the ambiguity in the world today, or maybe as a result of collecting things as I’ve aged, but my world has become a little too crowded with arbitrary rules. I needed to break one. I needed to reestablish who exactly is in charge of my life. I chose to get inked. “No tattoos” has been part of every canon I’ve subscribed to: religious, familial, professional…

And now it’s done.

Here I still am.

Where is it?

Left forearm, running from just under my elbow toward my wrist. If you’re walking behind me or I’ve got my elbows up on the table, you’ll see it.

Aren’t I worried…?

About what? That some people won’t like it? That I won’t be able to work? That my family will disown me? That my religion will give me the boot? I recognize that my ink will pose a challenge for some of the people in my life. It’ll be interesting to see how they react.

To those who are concerned about me professionally, don’t be. Let me point out something simple yet undeniable: the world has changed. Dr. Dre is now an Apple employee. Comedy Central does a better job educating viewers about current events than network news. The concern that ink will hold someone back professionally is an outdated, unnecessary, self-perpetuating myth. So let’s smash the hell out of that worry right now.

If you’re worried about how my family will react, thanks, don’t. I’ve already heard from my wife, my mom, and my wife’s mom. I’ve got powerful fans.

How have people reacted?

So far, amazingly. People have been largely surprised, curious, interested, and supportive. Or have treated it like a non-issue, which I get that for most people beyond my immediate circle, it is. I’m sure some people disapprove. So far, they’ve been respectfully silent.

What’s next?

Healing! This thing still stings a bit.

And then, back to work…

Under a new set of rules.

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by Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing.

My waffle is a taco. #IWinForever

Waffle Tacos and Other Taco Bell Goodness

My waffle is a taco. #IWinForever

My waffle is a taco. #IWinForever

Months ago, my daughter convinced her aunt to take her to Taco Bell for lunch. She fell in love. She posted about the experience online.

She kept that love secret from her nutritarian parents. She assumed we’d judge her. She knew we wouldn’t understand. But most of all, she forgot that her dad follows her on Vine.

What she had no idea about was that her dad has a friend who works at Taco Bell’s corporate office. He tweeted his daughter’s Vine to her. She responded. His daughter was surprised, and happy, and surprised. “I didn’t know companies could do that.”

She continued to have her aunt take her to Taco Bell. And despite her dad’s support, she continued to keep her love affair off her parents’ radars.

Months went by like this.

Then, her dad and his Taco Bell friend saw one another at a conference. They reminisced. An idea was hatched. It wasn’t a sales pitch, and there were no expectations. It was just for grins. And the next thing a young girl knew, a package of Taco Bell swag showed up at her doorstep, including an awesome t-shirt that reads MY WAFFLE IS A TACO. (As an aside, it could be the greatest t-shirt ever, and I have owned some epic shirts.)

That night, the daughter ate at Taco Bell. But not with her aunt. With her dad. And he was surprised by the experience: the restaurant was beyond clean. It didn’t smell like fast food. Everything was tasty and fresh and tasty. And fresh. And his daughter was happy, and so was he.

She couldn’t believe dad was living más. She didn’t believe was actually eating this stuff. And enjoying it?! She was sure it was his first time ever having T-Bell. He literally had to phone a friend from the car to convince his daughter that he’d eaten it before. Lots of times, actually, because Taco Bell is how all boys become men.

“Oh,” she said when they hung up. “So the nutritarianism is to undo all the damage?”

But how long had it been, years? A decade or more? Certainly long enough that she couldn’t remember seeing him eat there.

So how are habits broken? How does a brand reclaim a customer? Well, when that t-shirt came, dad did something he hadn’t done in a long, long time. Something that no call to action, no commercial, no promotion ever could have done: he reset his feelings about about the brand.

There is only one force strong enough to be able to get someone to do that, and that’s the voice of someone you trust. In this case, dad trusted his friend. Who worked at Taco Bell. Who knew him, knew the brand, loved the brand, and knew that he would enjoy being a customer once again.

And she was right: dad wasn’t disappointed.

Of course, dad has a wife and another child, as well. And now Taco Bell is on the menu for all of them, even the nutritarians amongst them. Did you know T Bell serves black beans and rice? 

And it’s all because an employee shared her love of the company with a fan who happened to be a friend’s daughter.

That’s some serious power. That’s the power of Workforce Marketing

Now, all you business owners, marketers, and executives, do this: count your employees. How many might become advocates? What if instead of 1 person acting like this woman at Taco Bell, it was 5% of the workforce? 10%? 20%? 50%? 

What an incredible multiplier.

So… what conversations are your employees having with their friends?

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by Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing.

Stop bothering me.

All I did was get your email & I already hate you

So this hit my inbox:

Hi, Jason. I was given your name by JOHN at XYZ COMPANY. I need some help with a program I’m running and would like to pick your brain.  I’m available this Sunday from 8am – 10am, or Tuesday night after 9pm. Let me know which works better.

 

Stop bothering me.

Stop bothering me.

Well then let me just drop everything and talk to you then! Please, I was just waiting for someone I don’t know to make a presumptuous claim on my time. And I definitely love when strangers offer to pull me away from the people I love most in this world because it happens to work better for them.

Or, not.

Here’s some free advice: it’s not just what you say, it’s also how you say it. And the way you’ve said it, I believe that you think very highly of yourself. You’ve either (a) assumed that I’d prefer to talk with you at night or on the weekend rather than at work, or (b) didn’t think about me at all and simply offered times that were good for you. Either way, you felt highly enough about yourself to make a pretty bold claim to my time.

Here’s more free advice: I’m not responding to you. Because if I do, this goes no place good. You think you’re doing me a solid by making a specific request, but you lack the self-awareness to see the bigger picture, which is that that tactic only works if I’m noncommital and you need to pin me down. In a situation where I don’t know you, it makes me hate you.

No, you don’t get my time.

You get the free advice above, plus this little kicker:

When writing an email…

  • Consider your audience. It’s not hard to find out from my digital presence that I’m married with kids, that I travel, and that I run a business. All of which means you should be asking for time with me next month, not next week.
  • Show appreciation. Why the hell are you emailing me, other than John pawned you off to me? What do I have that you want? Butter me up, Biscuit.
  • Take nothing for granted. If you want something from a stranger, ask for it.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, I strongly recommend that you not—repeat not—be yourself. I say this because I just looked you up on line and it’s clear from your email and your profile and your social activity that you’re an ass hole. Lead with something else.

Hugs,
Jason

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by Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing.

This Blog Is Profersonal™

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