“People ask, “Why do you work so hard for your students?” There are so many things I could say but the answer must be – because of one child. I swim through seas of papers with colored pens as paddles – seeking to improve without dispiriting, to point a better way without losing their enthusiasm. 

Because of one child I seek my own reserves and provide opportunities which would otherwise be lost.

Because of one child I will spend my time generously – as if I had a lifetime of such days. I will see the whole of the world from a small hill and will believe against convention in “impossible” results.

At the end of the teaching day I leave the classroom but I am still and shall ever be, a teacher. Time ago I was that child for whom such commitment made a difference. I will dedicate my days confident my efforts matter… because of one child.”

-Mary Anne Radmacher (2001)

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John 2:1-11 (Jesus changes water into wine)

“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (v10)

God is a God who does not only give the best; He gives it from the beginning till the end. Best from end to end.

Declare today: I open my heart to God’s best in all 365 days of 2013! And I commit to give my best in everything I do from start to finish!


To the twentysomething who wants to change the world
By Antoinette Jadaone
The best time to change the world is right now. So make mistakes. Cry in your cubicle. You will never be as passionate as your Fresh Grad self, so be sure you never let go of your dreams.

 

Dear Fresh Grad,

I think I saw you yesterday along Makati Avenue, wearing the most smart-casual attire your closet will allow, waiting for the traffic light to change to red. You were clutching a brown envelope — they contained your résumés, right? But you looked a little flustered. Did your job interview not go so well? It’s your fifth interview in six weeks, I hear? Don’t worry, they say “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” to almost everybody. Hindi ka nag-iisa. Oh, your best friend nailed her interview on the first try? And your other ka-barkada, too? Well, good for them. Wag ka lang inggitera.

I know, I know. You’ve imagined yourself to be in your dream job immediately after graduation, getting paid (a lot), and doing what you love to do (so “it doesn’t feel like work at all,”). You saw yourself changing the world, while live posting it on Twitter.

I must say, your imagination’s pretty impressive, and you must’ve been reading a lot of Steve Jobs. Darling, the real world doesn’t work that way, and definitely not that fast. So your two friends who nailed it on their first try? I’ll bet you’ll spend at least one Friday night with them at a karaoke bar, singing your angst away. Alanis’s Hand in My Pocket is a good first song, by the way.

Buying Starbucks

You’ll find a job yourself soon. It won’t be your dream job, but hey, at least it will pay for happy hour. You will be asked to buy Starbucks for your boss’s guests, and while walking out of the office, you’ll tell the universe, “Nag-graduate ako ng cum laude para lang bumili ng kape?” When you return, the boss will be angry to know that you forgot to put Splenda in his coffee, and the universe will tell you, “E kape nga lang hindi mo mabili nang maayos, cum laude ka pa nyan ha.” You will print the wrong report. You will be yelled at for a lousy job someone else did, and you will be yelled at for a job you put your whole heart into. You will be told you’re stupid, and if you’re lucky, the whole office will be there to hear it. You will cry in your cubicle. You will lose the promotion to the boss’s son, or to someone less hardworking than you. You will learn about dirty office politics, and you will be frustrated to know that you can’t do anything about it. You will figure in office tsismis, and you’ll make your Twitter account private. You will see your friends going to Boracay, Bangkok and Europe, having the time of their lives, while you’re left here, living paycheck to paycheck, wishing you were born an Ayala, a Gokongwei, or a Gosling. You will think about quitting. You will lose the sparkle and the passion. You will forget about your ultimate dream when the real world crushes it right before your eyes.

But please don’t.

Make Passion Last

The truth is, you will never be as passionate as your Fresh Grad self ever again. Make that passion last as long as you can. I don’t want to be dramatic, but really, that sparkle? Once it’s gone, you can never take it back. Oo, parang virginity lang.

So while you have it, savor the moment. Go make mistakes, while you’re still expected to be imperfect. Go cry in the cubicle, while your age allows it. Go sing Hand in My Pocket and You Learn at the karaoke bar, while you’re still “young and underpaid.” Go chase your dreams and change the world. The best time to change the world? It’s right after college, when you are f*cking sure you can.

See, you will become 26. Then 28. Then 30. And you will be busy looking for money to pay for the bills, or yelling at your assistant who printed the wr ong report, and you will just forget about the world you badly wanted to change before.

How old are you again? Actually, I don’t really need to know. You were glowing from where I saw you, and that gave away your age. So stand up straight, clutch your résumés, hold on to your dreams, and stay glowing as long as you can. Make the most of your youth. I swear, you’ll miss it when it’s gone, and by that time, you will only be able to write about it.

Best regards,

An Ex-Fresh Grad


Once I was bitter and brokenhearted.
I was stupid and ignorant,
and I treated you as a wild animal would.

But I never really left you,
and you hold my right hand.
Your advice has been my guide,
and later you will welcome me in glory.

In heaven I have only you,
and on this earth you are all I want.
My body and mind may fail,
but you are my strength and my choice forever.

Powerful Lord God,
all who stay far from you will be lost,
and you will destroy those who are unfaithful.

It is good for me to be near you.
I choose you as my protector,
and I will tell about your wonderful deeds.

-Psalms 73:21-28 (CEV)


 

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise


“I’m imagining a day when I get up, and I know that I will not see you, because you’re far away. Okay, I will not see you, no chance, will not.”

“And now, now I’m imagining a day when I get up and I know that I might see you. Okay might, could, maybe… Of those two days, that’s the day I want, that’s the day I choose.”

-Will Donner, Waiting for Forever (2010)


Let the first of September be our goodbye. Here’s to you, my love. Tonight I can write the saddest lines by Pablo Neruda.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voide. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my sould is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.


I chose not to tell you. It won’t make any difference, I thought then. But now what is this feeling. What ifs screaming in my head. My heart telling me I lost yet another game on love. Now that I want to tell you, it’s too late. Too late. Had I told you before, could it have made any difference? Could have my love changed your heart? You don’t know how much I love you. And now you’ll never know.

Come with me my love to the sea

The sea of love

I want to tell you how much I love you


I am here because I choose to love
To step out the boat and walk on water
The days lose hope and cry, but never will I
True love bears all its pain and panic.

In time, you’ll see; your heart will know
Faithful, I’ve been here; never letting go
Because in this land where miracles happen
I don’t mind waiting– no matter how painful, no matter how long.


The past week has been a pretty tough (heartbreaking actually) week for me. And while I am being still, trying to let the truth sink in, embracing all the pain which is the only way to heal, am drawing strength from the following verses. An excerpt from a soulful, beautiful poem by Janette Ikz titled “I Will Wait…for You”

 

I await your revelation, but once again from the genesis, I will wait for you

And I will know you… because when you speak I will be reminded of Solomon’s wisdom,

Your ability to lead will remind me of Moses,

Your faith will remind me of Abraham,

Your confidence in God’s Word will remind me of Daniel,

Your inspiration will remind me of Paul,

Your heart for God will remind me of David,

Your attention to detail will remind me of Noah,

Your integrity will remind me of Joseph,

And your ability to abandon your own will, will remind me of the disciples,

But Your ability to love selflessly & unconditionally will remind me of Christ.

But I won’t need to identify you by any special Matthews or any special Marks,

Cause His word will be tatted all over your heart.

 

And you will know me, and you will find me,

Where… the boldness of Esther meets the warm closeness of Ruth.

Where the hospitality of Lydia is aligned with the submission of Mary,

Which is engulfed in the tears of a praying Hanna.

I will be the one, drenched in Proverbs 31… waiting for you.

 

But to my Father, my Father who has known me before I was birthed into this earth

Only if you should see fit…

I desire Your will above mine,

So even if you call me to a life of singleness,

My heart is content with YOU – the One who was sent.

YOU are the greatest love story ever told,

The greatest story ever known

You are forever my judge & I’m forever Your witness

And I pray that I’m always found on a mission about my Father’s business

Oh, I will always be Yours!

 

And I will always wait for You Lord, more than the watchmen wait for the morning…

More than the watchmen wait for the morning… I WILL WAIT.


Why surprise me this way, Lord? Why show him again to me? You know that I’ve been thinking about him. I miss him. Terribly miss him. But am resolving not to think about him. To surrender him to you. And trust your choice, and your will.

Am trying here, Lord. Although I will admit that at times, I really pray in my heart, you know it, that it is him. But I know that this is something I do not determine. This is something that is lived through faith in you. This is one area in my life where I can glorify you. So what do I say, God? Let it be your choice. Your man. And not he who I desire and want.

But you are making things harder, Lord. Did you hear my heart beat earlier? Did you see what filled my mind? Did you see how I tremble? Am excited Lord, and my heart is ecstatic. And it, too, is afraid. And confused. And burdened. What now? What do I do now Lord? What is it for?

To hear his voice again. To see his eyes. His face. To walk beside him. Even for 30 seconds. It’s hope for me again. Why give me hope, Lord? When in the end, this is not your will?

You know what I am afraid of, God? I am afraid that I’ll desire him again, and pray that it is him again. That I will place him in an unwanted position in my heart. Am afraid of false hopes. Of illusions. Am afraid of pain. Of not having a happy ending.

But I trust you, God. You know what you are doing. Always. And it is your will that this happens. What can I say to you, Lord? I believe you are keeping your promise. That in due time, in your time, you are handing my heart to the man that you ordained. To the ally in life I am praying for. To the husband I will serve, to the one I will be with as we serve you and let your name be glorified here.

Lord, guard my heart and let me keep my promise. Give me strength to resist whatever I am feeling now. Whatever desire I have which is not according to your will. Lord. Lord. Give me the assurance, Lord. That love will come at the appointed time. That faith will take me to your man.

Feb 28, 2012, 8:40p


I know I have been running from you. Running because I feel I do not deserve you or that you do not deserve a useless thing, a traitor like me. Running because I’m afraid you’ll reveal my pretense. That you’ll catch me and hold me to a commitment I cannot live with. I’m running because I do not want to admit that the past years had all just been a play. No real relationship, no serious commitment. Not love and knowledge-based, all hot air and emotions and broken promises.

I am running because I know I have been hurting you badly, nailing you again and again. And it is sin that I choose to nail you. I’m betraying you. I say that I am for you but I show otherwise in my actions. I cannot or am not willing to tell the world about you. To declare whatever little faith is planted in me, to shout and speak of the things you can do. This all appears to be a bluff. I’m not serious when I say you are my God, my Lord, my Master.

I cannot face you so I run away from you. I don’t want confrontation. I don’t want to be exposed of my sins, my lies, my shortcomings. For I do know you do not deserve any of these. And I’m afraid of what you will ask from me in exchange of all the darkness I hold in my heart. I know and am convinced that you will not settle for an imperfect me. That you will prune and cut and stretch me. You’ll break me, drown me, burn me. You’ll change me and won’t stop until you are sure I am spending eternity with you.

Part of me is wishing and hoping for all of these—or just the result of it—eternity with you. But I’ll admit it now, I don’t want to undergo the process. It’s laborious work. Uncomfortable and painful. It will require me to eat my pride and develop humility. To break laziness and complacency. To leave and burn and destroy the indwelling sin. This relationship will get the things I am enjoying today- enjoying although I know all is temporary and worthless and sinful.

Now what do you want me to do? Please just plant that desire within me. That desire to be sold out for you- to die once and for all, to never get back to the old life, the vomit. To never fall away and pierce nails through you again. To be engulfed totally in you. Own me.

There is this desire in me to be deserving of you. And I know this is part of the eternity you placed in the human heart. But I don’t know how the process works. And I am not sure of what is waiting for me in the end. I doubt the possibility of being holy. Of being loved by a perfect you. Of being forgiven and understood. Of being given the best plans. All too good and glorious to be true.

And I don’t want to start again from scratch. It will require me to throw and abandon everything I believed I was doing right. All the good feelings and memories. All achievement, if I could really call it achievement. You are requiring me to count these things trash for us to start anew and build a serious, love and commitment-based, lasting relationship.

I feel it’s always back to zero and I feel stuck. More than being unproductive, the worse thing is that I am falling away. I’m not just a fruitless branch; I am a rotting branch. And the very things that make me rot away are those which I refuse to surrender to you. But now, I give in. I surrender to you, my pruner and master.


A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’. ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ (Luke 13: 6-8)

The Lord is patient enough with us, bearing with our slow growth, delayed obedience, and easily-shaken faith. But we must not remain as unfruitful fig trees forever. Friends, fruitlessness is sin. You are not doing the good you know you ought to do (James 4:17).

You know what to do to be fruitful in God? Repent. Come back to the Lord–the master gardener, the pruner, the cultivator. Let Him dig around you and cultivate you. Let Him work in you.

Be reminded that this is a tedious process. It entails pain and patience. It requires growing. You will be dug and emptied out. But more importantly, you will be filled in with what you truly need. You will be cultivated. Your life will be enriched.

What if you do not repent? You perish (Luke 13:5). You remain fruitless and die fruitless.

May taning ang Diyos sa’yo. Umayos ka. Ngayon pa lang, magpaalaga ka. Repent now so you can bear fruit and not perish. Just give your consent to undergo the process of pruning, fertilizing, and growing. It is Jesus who is going to work in you. You just have to let Him do it.

Friends, let’s open ourselves to opportunities where He can dig and fertilize our hearts and minds. Let’s trust Him for discipline and provision. Let’s bear fruit.


January 18, 2012

Tonight I attended the dinner celebration of our company’s first year anniversary in Makati. To go home, I had to walk from Quirino to PGH after realizing I don’t have any small bill to pay the jeepney fare. And considering drivers follow “Barya lang po sa gabi” and not only “sa umaga”, am pretty sure they won’t accept the only bill left in my wallet. So a decision was made at that moment—I needed to walk along Taft avenue, past the four to five streets to get home.

As I was walking, I was speaking to the Lord, “Ayos to, Lord. Good exercise, malulusaw yung mga kinain ko kanina.” The walk, for me, was just that. An interesting experience. Useful in a way as I was hoping to burn the calories I had taken in earlier. But God seemed to have a greater purpose for this walk, a better plan this night.

Past Quirino, a man carrying a huge plastic of garbage was walking in front of me. Every lamp post, he had to stop to check the trash bags possibly for food or any material he might find helpful. I got a chance to overtake him the time I crossed Malvar street.

I continued to walk and as I was nearing Pedro Gil, I saw a couple of kids from a distance, about seven or eight years old, both with a plastic of what I assume to be rugby, which they held close to their faces. I tried to stay far from them and took the way which brought me close to the rushing vehicles in the street. But I did not care about the jeeps and buses rapidly driving past through me. What mattered that time is that I don’t come near the kids. Who knows what they might do. They could have easily mistaken me for a kid, too.

Past Pedro Gil, I was more relaxed as I continued walking. I even told myself, “Thank you Lord malayo na ang mga bagets na may rugby.” I thought I won’t be troubled or worried anymore, that I can finally walk home at peace. But no. Near Escoda stood an old man holding two piggy banks in his hands. He looked so tired and hungry and he was just standing there, not moving at all. Hawak nya lang ang binebenta nya. He wasn’t even talking, not even blinking. Just staring nowhere with the two piggy banks in his hands.

Steps away from him is an old woman lying in the street with a plastic cup. Like the old man, she was not talking. She was simply shaking the cup causing the few coins inside to make a sound. But she was looking at the people passing by. She looked at the woman walking before me. She looked at the two students who went past her. She looked at me.

That moment, the real purpose of this night started to sink in me. It’s as if God was unveiling His plan behind the short walk and whispering, “Ayan, kita mo na?” Thoughts came rushing in my mind and inexplicable emotions flooded my heart. I’ve seen kids and women and men in pitiful conditions. They are fatigued and hungry and homeless. Their lives are miserable. They can be named as those which the society brands as “hopeless cases”.    

But these are the same people whom Jesus has compassion for. These are the same people whom I am supposed to care for and love.

In Matthew, Jesus told a story of how when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He welcomes His people in the kingdom and say,

“Come on, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you in the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will ask when they did these things to God, to which Jesus answered,

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The man carrying the plastic of garbage, the kids with the rugby, the old man selling piggy banks, the woman with a cup in her hands are the least of Jesus’ brothers. And what I did tonight to these people I did to God. What I did not do for them, I did not do for Jesus.

But what I realized is this. What I can do for these brothers is what I can do to serve my God. Oo nga Lord, wala akong nagawa para sa kanila kanina. Tiningnan ko lang, nilampasan, kinaawaan. Ni hindi ko nabigyan ng pagkain o ng barya. Hindi ko nabilhan ng paninda. Wala akong nagawa para sa kanila. Right. I wasn’t able to do anything for them. But that’s tonight. Because I know Lord, You’ve shown me these people and You’ve made this walk happen because You are preparing me to do something for them. To serve and bless them. And to serve and glorify You. Alam kong may ilalabas ka sa akin, Panginoon. And You will do that because You love these people. And You want to teach me to have compassion for them and love them and serve them just as You would do if You were here.

In the dinner we had, our CEO was telling us how he had the business in mind ten years ago. He had a dream that time to put up his own advertising agency. Since then, he worked hard to achieve this dream. Everything he did, he did for the purpose of fulfilling what he had in mind. And now, that dream is a reality. Well the company is not exactly an advertising agency, but it is in the same field. The point is, he is where he hoped and worked for to be.

My officemate then asked me what I plan to do in life. I said I am going to study next year. When asked what am I taking up, I said Masters in Social Entrepreneurship. I gave an example of a social enterprise (Rags 2 Riches) to which he commented, “Ah, parang helping the community.” I replied, “Yes, using a business model.” Connection to the walk and the people I met and the story from Matthew?

I believe God planted this dream in me. More than the dream of becoming a social entrepreneur, this is the dream of helping the least of Jesus’ brothers, my brothers. Of loving and serving my God by loving and serving the people around me. Lagi ko ngang sinasabi kapag may nakikita akong bata sa kalye o matandang namamalimos, “Hintayin nyo lang ako. May gagawin si Lord. May gagawin kami.” And I believe in this! Although I won’t deny there are times when doubt seeps in through me. I wonder (and worry) whether I’ll be able to fulfill this dream, whether I can really be useful and productive to do God’s work here on earth. The work seems so huge, the dream so far, so immense to be true. And I must admit that thinking of the immensity of this dream often frightens me. But because of God, I know it can never paralyze me.

One of my favorite Bible stories is the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-42). In this story, a large crowd followed Jesus in a solitary place to listen to Him. There were about five thousand men not to mention the women and children, who gathered in the remote area where Jesus was. As it was getting late, the disciples began to worry and said to Jesus,

“This is a remote place and it is already getting very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding country side and villages and buy themselves something to eat. But he (Jesus) answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat? “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five (loaves) and two fish.”

The disciples gave the five loaves and two fish (which are given by a boy in the crowd) to Jesus. Jesus prayed for the food and asked the disciples to distribute it to the people. A miracle happened that day. Everyone was able to eat to his heart’s content and even had a left over of 12 basketfuls of broken bread and fish.  

Tonight, Jesus showed me five people. Five who are as hungry and needy as the five thousand in the story. And like the disciples, I know something has to be done, even if it is just as thoughtless as “send them away and let them find food for themselves”. I want to help these people because I care about them. And I love them because I know my Lord loves them. And now He challenges and commands me as He did to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.”

What do I have to give? Here is my little heart for compassion, my mind for focusing on the vision. Here are my feet to take me to the least of our brother. Here are my hands to do the work. Here is my dream, Lord. Here are my loaves and fish. And all that I have I give to you as I mightily declare,

“I can do all things through Christ you gives me strength.” –Philippians 4:13


Have to see and understand this revelation from Ecclesiastes 9:11. Only then will I be able to appreciate where I am now and where else I can be in the years to come.

The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.


It is in words left unsaid, in sobs held still

In dreams never spoken of, in hope shut up by fear

It is in melodies kept silent, in confessions tearfully held back

Tell me dear, how can you ever hear an invisible love?

 

It is in smiles kept hidden, in bliss held veiled

In tears left unseen, in pain never quenched

It is in the faith of the soul, in the patience of the heart

Show me beloved, how can you ever see a silent love?


January 12, 2011

Yesterday, I was covered with disgust and guilt for something I chose to do. I knew it would not lead me to anything good but I still did it. I sinned.

I found myself lost that night. I was just staring at the mirror, searching for something in the dark spot at the center of my eyes. It seemed as though I was looking at a stranger. It was not me. It was not the child who calls unto her Father. It was not the servant who lives to please the Master. It was not the one who seeks God.

I went to bed terrified. My body was shuddering. Beside me was my Bible. I did not touch it; I could not even look at it. I closed my eyes as I uttered a prayer.

When I woke up this morning, everything seemed strangely new. I looked at the sun through the small window on the roof and felt an odd sense of peace. Then I remembered what happened last night. I have not yet talked to God about that. I got up and opened my Bible. I found Genesis 3, The Fall of Man. It talks about how Adam and Eve sinned when they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had forbidden. Upon eating the fruit, their eyes were opened and Adam and Eve realized that they were naked. Out of shame, they sewed leaves to cover their bodies. The story continues in the following verses.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called to the man, “Where are you?’’1

I was struck with the last sentence. The Lord called to the man, “Where are you?”

Wasn’t it Adam and Eve who sinned? Who were supposed to be looking for the Lord and calling to Him for forgiveness? But they did not. They kept silent and hid. It was GOD who searched for them. Then when the Lord found Adam and Eve, the fruit of sin was revealed at once.

Then he (God) said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate it.”2

Look at what sin did to the man and his wife. When asked by the Lord of what happened, Adam pointed to Eve. When asked by God of what she did, Eve pointed to the serpent. It’s as if Adam were reasoning, “It’s that woman’s fault.” As if Eve were claiming, “It’s that serpent’s fault.” Alright, everyone else is to blame. All except you, Adam. All except you, Eve. Is that so?

The most important words were those said last by the man and the woman—and I ate it. This was all what God was waiting to hear. Was it so hard for Adam and for Eve to admit what they did? Was it that hard to say, “Yes, I ate the fruit. Yes, I disobeyed You.”

Was it that hard for me to say last night, “Yes Lord, I did it. I sinned.”

This is what keeps us from the Lord–our pride and unwillingness to admit that we sinned. It’s not because we are not capable to come to God. Neither it is because we are not knowledgeable to confess what we did. It’s because we are not willing to do so. We don’t want to be exposed sinful. We don’t want to be looked at with shame. We don’t want to be blamed despite our fault.

It’s not because of inability or because of ignorance that we do not admit, “I ate it.” It’s because of refusal.

You refuse to tell your mom that you broke the vase. You refuse to admit that you cheated in the exam. You refuse to confess that you watched porn. You refuse to acknowledge that you had been a disrespectful child. I refuse to confess to God that I sinned.

Refusal to come to the Lord paralyzes us. We refuse to accept our weaknesses. We refuse to acknowledge that we gave in to temptation. We refuse to humble ourselves before the Lord, confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness. But as much as we refuse to do these things, our God deeply desires to look for us, listen, and grant us forgiveness.

Think about this. In The Fall of Man, there was no need for God to look for Adam and Eve and hear their explanation. It was not He who did something wrong. It was not He who sinned. Yet it was God who first looked for and approached the guilty. His love for Adam and Eve was so deep that it was He who came to them. God probably thought, “Don’t worry, Adam. It’s alright, Eve. I know what you feel. I understand what happened. If you don’t want to come to me, let me come and look for you. I want to see you and listen to you because I love you.”

Maybe, God thought and felt the same thing last night. “Stop crying, Anne. Stop blaming yourself. Are you afraid? Let me embrace you. I am just here. Tell me what happened and I’ll listen. I am your Father and friend, am I not?”

I may never comprehend the immeasurable love God has for me and for each of us. There is no other love that understands the limits of our minds. No other love that accepts the flaws of our hearts. No other love that already grants us forgiveness even when we have not asked it yet.

Friends, let us not cause God any more pain and longing. Just drop our pride, accept the blame, and say, “God, I did it. Forgive me.” We can be sure that our sins will be forgiven and no longer be remembered. May we always have this desire to come to the Lord and trust His unfailing grace.

Let no sin, no justification, no pride separate us from the Lord and His love. We need not fear. We can have faith that God loves us fully regardless of what we are–whether we are at our best or at our worst.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Romans 8: 38-39 (NIV)

 

1 Genesis 3: 8-9

2 Genesis 3: 11a


GOD is undeniably amazing (and by amazing I mean amaaaaaaaaaazing!) to end 2010 with a challenge which has fuelled my passion to serve, love, and glorify Him all the days of my life.

I am just so blessed to have attended the MEA-wide Christmas Institute (C.I.) of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship held at the Cavite State University on December 26-30, 2010. Being able to take part in God’s event, together with 10 young people from our church, is a huge blessing. I know that without His grace and providence, we couldn’t have made it to C.I. All the praise and honour be to God!

During the five-day institute, God revealed to 2,400 youth from all over the Philippines the importance of SPEAKing. As His children in this generation, God commands and inspires us to SPEAK—to Seek, Pray, Empower, Act, and Keep. The Bible tells us the stories of young Jeremiah, Daniel, and Esther who carried out this commission. At their young age, God called them to be a prophet, a counselor, and a queen. They heeded the call and fulfilled God’s purpose in their generation.

Today, the same God calls on the youth to stand up, speak, and bring this lost world back to Him. We cannot argue with God and say, “But God, I’m still young!” I can imagine God answering back, “Exactly! You are young. And you are strong and bold. Why can’t you set your hands to work in such a time as this?”

There is no age requirement to serve the Lord. I have seen grade schoolers already active in church ministries. I have seen grandparents in their 70s and 80s still deeply devoted to the work of the Lord. These people are at the tails of their lives (either extremely young or old) yet they are giving the whole of themselves to serve God and His people. Why then can’t we, being in the peak season of our lives, have the same passion and offer as much of who we are and what we can do to God?

One can never be too young or too old to take the path of seeking, praying, empowering, acting, and keeping on for the glory of God. I pray that our youth won’t be an excuse, but a reason to do the work God has entrusted us. That we would serve, love, and glorify God and give Him our best NOT despite being young but because we are young.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, life, love, and purity.”                                                                    -1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)


January 8, 2011

 

Lord, right now, I feel like standing at the edge of a cliff. As I stand here, I deeply want to see what’s on the other side. I long to find out what’s out there because I am convinced that there is. But as of the moment, my feet refuse to move. I’m afraid, Lord. Afraid of seven (and many other) things.

First, I fear that I won’t find a way to cross over to the other side. I don’t see a bridge, God. Or that I don’t want to see it?

Second, if this is the case (that there is no or there seems to be no bridge), then I would have to jump. There’s no other way.

Third, if I jump, I don’t know how far I can reach. What if I jump short, God?

Fourth, here comes the high probability of falling. And honestly, I have no idea how deep this cliff is.

Fifth, let’s say You grant that I reach the other side, what shall I see there?

Sixth, will I see what I expect? What I hope for?

Seventh, will I be able to accept what I’ll find there?

These are my seven fears, God. And I still have a lot of them inside me. I’m utterly confused. The view from here is hazy. Nothing’s clear.

But one thing I am certain about, my Lord. I don’t want to stand here long. I won’t be standing here forever. Sooner or later, I have to make a choice. I got to do something. And this is my prayer, Lord. May the decision I’ll be making, may the path I’ll be taking, all be according to Your will. Direct my heart and lead my feet, God. Thy will be done.

 

“When GOD leads you to an edge of a cliff, trust Him fully and let go. Because only one of two things may happen. Either He will catch you when you fall. Or He will teach you to fly.”


November 26, 2010

I could hardly sleep last night because of two things: my thesis and the on-going strike against the 1.39B UP budget cut. I managed to settle the first thing but the latter kept bothering me until this morning. The thought that there were students who slept in the University lobby (and some of them are my friends) because of the strike kept shouting in my mind for hours, refusing to give me rest. ‘I got to stop this’, I told myself. So I got up hoping to seek peace, reached for my Bible, and found this:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men1.

Having read this, I became more troubled. Isn’t this the opposite of what is happening? The exact opposite of what the students on-strike are doing?

The Lord tells us to submit ourselves to EVERY authority instituted among men. Every authority, every leader placed above us. From the king to the governors, from the highest to the lowest, all of our leaders. God does not say Submit yourselves to the good authority or Follow the responsible leaders. He does not tell us to select who we follow. What the Lord asks from us is to submit ourselves to and obey the present authority whether or not they deserve to be followed.

That’s not fair. That’s not right, you may think. Why would we submit to those who do not merit respect? Why would we obey an authority which in itself is not worthy of submission? What’s right and just then? To go up against our leaders? To oppose them by all means we can? By doing so, aren’t we the ones doing injustice to the system that upholds the existing authority? To the nation that recognizes our elected leaders?

Friends, it is OUR DUTY TO FOLLOW OUR LEADERS as it is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD US. It is not our duty to tell them how to lead. It is their responsibility to know that. It is not our duty to impose upon them standards on how we want to be led. It is their responsibility to realize that.

This is where most of us stumble. We can be so passionate telling others what they should be doing when we, in the first place, are not doing what we ought to do. We can see with all clarity the obligations not carried out by those who must do such yet we cannot see our own duties which we have left undone. Don’t we remember what the Bible tells us in Matthew?

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye2.

If we don’t open our eyes to see where we are now and refuse to do what we ought to do, then expect others to think and do the same. Then let’s all be stuck up in this ditch. Let’s think about our rights only, what we need to have and what we must receive. Let’s just care about rights and never about responsibilities. Let’s point our fingers to one another and blame each of us for not doing his duty. Now tell me, shall we all be happy and at peace then?

It seems that not all leaders deserve to be followed. Not every authority appears to be worthy of respect and submission. But friends, there must be a reason, a good reason, why we have them and why they are placed above us. God surely has a reason why He commands us to submit ourselves to every authority the same way He tells slaves to submit to their masters with all respect3 (not only the considerate masters, but also the harsh ones), the same way He asks us to honor our father and mother4 (not only the loving parents, but also the uncaring ones). And He explains everything in Hebrews,

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you5.

By submitting to our leaders and obeying them, we make their work a joy. We give them reason to find fulfillment in their service. By doing so, we also make them realize the responsibility that comes with the authority given to them. We make or leaders understand that they are expected to watch over us. That they are trusted to look after our good and therefore, make decisions and actions that would not harm us. By granting them respect and obedience, we help those in position realize their true duties. By doing our duties first before complaining and opposing those in authority, we inspire and lead our leaders to fulfill their responsibilities as well.

BY FULFILLING RESPONSIBILITIES, WE SATISFY RIGHTS.

BY BEING RESPECTFUL AND SUBMISSIVE FOLLOWERS, WE BUILD TRUE LEADERS.

Now, regarding the strike against the budget cut. Let me ask you UP students who shout aloud and lead marches to Mendiola, have you done your duty first? Have you fulfilled your responsibility as a child to your parents and as a student to your professors? Because if not, then drop those banners down and shut your mouths up. Go home and be an obedient son or daughter. Attend your classes and be a responsible student. Do this first. Do this, please. For heaven’s sake.

You have NO RIGHT to go out the streets, march, and shout at the top of your lungs Iskolar ng Bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban! Ngayon ay lumalaban, Iskolar ng Bayan! NOT UNLESS you have done your duty as good children and students. Believe me, you can NEVER be a responsible citizen unless you are a responsible child and student first. You can NEVER fulfill your duty to your country unless you first carry out your responsibilities to your family and to the University.

I look up to Mac Panganiban, Vice-chair of UP Manila University Student Council. He has been my classmate in our debate class last semester and he has shown real diligence as a student. I know he is also a good son and brother because as a friend, he has shared me stories about his family. Every student knows how dedicated and responsible he is as a leader so I need not talk about that. So what’s my point?

When I saw Mac a while ago at school, on his black shirt, up the stage, holding the mic and passionately talking about the budget cut and the strike, I did not see a foolish follower standing up against authority. I did not see a student leader babbling. I SAW A GOOD SON, AN EXCELLENT STUDENT, AND AN HONORABLE CITIZEN. Mac makes perfect sense of the strike because he knows he is fulfilling his duty as a son and student.

To those who rallied behind Mac this morning but do not respect their parents nor clean their rooms at home, those who shouted at the march but do not honor their professors nor submit class requirements, SHAME ON YOU. Today, you tired yourself out waving the banners and chanting at the strike, appearing to be so zealous about national issues because you yourselves know you are not caring about family and academic matters and you are not doing your duty at home and at school. YOU DO NOT FOCUS ON WHAT YOU OUGHT TO BE THINKING ABOUT AND DOING NOW.

YOU. In case you have intentions of redeeming yourself (Praise the good Lord then), please do so asap. And after you have helped your mom with the dishes and submitted your thesis to your adviser, after you have been a respectful and submissive follower to your leaders, call me up. I’ll gladly be yelling and rallying with you out the streets of Mendiola.

 

1 Peter 2:13-15

Matthew 7:3-5

1 Peter 2:18

Deuteronomy 5:16

Hebrews 13:17


2 October 2010–MANILA–If a contagious passion to make a difference in their communities is what the top finalists of Unilab’s Ideas Positive shared with the judges, the panel of critics gave them a dose of tough love and lessons in return.

Ideas Positive: The Unilab Youth Camp for Change gathered students from different universities to take part in a three-day idea generation camp and competition, September 23-25, which produced the finest social marketing initiatives for selected communities.

Unilab asks the youth "Are you Contagious?"

Five teams competed in the finals with their sustainable proposals with the goal of advancing health and wellness in a chosen barangay or district.

  • The PET Society: “Adopt-a-PET” University of the Philippines
  • SERVE: “Ugnayan ng Nagkakaisang Inisyatibo, Layunin, at Adbokasiyang Pangkalususgan Barangay Sta Mecedes, Maragondon, Cavite” De La Salle University
  • UB and G: “May Papel Ako” University of the Philippines
  • Team BIGGKAS: “Buklod Bukid, Sowing Nutrition Reaping Hope” University of Asia and the Pacific
  • CLPH: “Mamamayang Ayaw sa Dengue” University of Sto Tomas

The panel consisted of the best people from the fields of health, social marketing and entrepreneurship.

  • Dr Oscar Tinio, President of the Philippine Medical Association
  • Dr Nina Gloriani, Dean of UP Manila College of Public Health
  • Dr Ed Morato, President of ABS- CBN Bayan Foundation
  • Mr Mark Ruiz of Hapinoy and Rags to Riches
  • Mr Randy Aquino, Country Head of Ogilvy & Mather
  • Mr Bert Manlapit, Unilab’s Corporate Affairs Director

With the panel’s intense questions and comments during the proposal defense, the finalists said Unilab’s Ideas Positive stage is more dreadful than American Idols’; there seems to be more than one Simon Cowell. Another finalist compared the 30-minute defense to a whole semester, but added that it is one whole semester of learning.

Finalist defends proposal up on the dreaded Unilab stage

The judges, on the other hand, said their job as critics is an expression of love, and according to Mr Morato, tough love. They posed questions and scrutinized the plans because they want to know the extent to which the finalists could defend the project they envision for their communities. Mr Manlapit, the chair of the panel, even stated how they were impressed after realizing how much hard work went behind the research and the writing of the finalists’ proposals.

Mr Ed Morato gives the finalists a dose of tough love

At the end of the competition, University of Asia and the Pacific’s Team BIGGKAS: “Buklod Bukid, Sowing Nutrition Reaping Hope” bagged first place and received P100,000 seed money for the implementation of their social marketing plan. It is a farm-in-the-city project which seeks to grow vegetables using a hydroponics set up, address the problem of malnutrition and add income to the community.

Team Biggkas tops Ideas Positive with “Buklod Bukid: Sowing Nutrition, Reaping Hope”

If this could be the result of tough love—the finest, most innovative and sustainable social marketing initiatives—then a dose of it is prescribed three times a day.

This is tough love put in words

The panel of judges shares a dose of wisdom and tough love with the finalists and the audience at Unilab’s Ideas Positive.

Have firmness, consistency, and unity of purpose in every undertaking.”

Dr Oscar Tinio

Assurance of sustainability is what we are looking for in your social marketing plans.”

Dr Nina Gloriani

Always start with the result in mind to be sure you are clear about the goal. The work backwards to get there.”

Dr Ed Morato

What we need is a rigorous plan of a sustainable community campaign.”

Mr Mark Ruiz

We guide you to succeed to help communities in need.”

Mr Randy Aquino


Today, I was blessed to attend Ideas Positive: The Unilab Youth Camp for Change. Not only did I learn positive ideas, I also gained positive energy and outlook in life (and most importantly, a positively satisfied stomach–Oh you know what I’m saying *grin*)

I would say that I had a thousand realizations but what was deeply instilled in me is the thought shared by Mr Ed Morato, President of ABS-CBN’s Bayan Foundation. He said,

Always start with the end result to be sure that you are clear about the goal. Then work backwards to get there.”

And in the words of Mr Bert Manlapit, Director for Corporate Affairs of Unilab,

As what Stephen Covey mentioned in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, begin with an end in mind. Make sure you know and follow a north star.”

Beginning with an end in mind. Working backwards to get there.

I’m afraid I fail in this aspect not only in the communication plans I design but in life as a whole. Yes, I set goals and define what I want to accomplish. But at the end of the day, I find myself lost in all the things I have done. I know my strategy is followed and all the tactics are completed but I am not where I want to and expect to be. I’m far off my goal and target. I know you, along your life, have encountered the same thing. Well, rejoice. We have a couple of good lessons to learn.

 

Why do we get lost?

In driving our lives and designing communication plans, I think the possibilities of getting lost may be attributed to the following:

 

1. Broad goal, unspecific target

As humans, it seems tied in our beings that we want to accomplish so many things at a time. We are crazy over hitting a dozen birds with a single stone. However, in most cases, this may not be possible. When our eyes are set on several targets, we lose focus. When we have a broad goal, we spread ourselves too thinly to cover almost everything. The answer is to know what we really want. Name a target and specify a goal. We will find ourselves concentrating our time and energy on that single destination.

 

2. Lack of focus

Sometimes, the problem lies not in identifying a goal but rather, in keeping your eyes on it. There are times when we know exactly where we want to be but we take the wrong path. There could be several reasons for this. We may be overwhelmed with the journey itself, our strategies and tactics. Or we may be too paranoid with the threats along the way; we doubt the possibility of achieving the goals we set. Either case, we are bound to fail. When we come to the assessment phase, we are tired but we realize we have not really done what we ought to have done.

 

Endnotes

Friends, in whatever communication plan we design or life path we take, let us not lose sight of the finish line. Know our destination and focus on it. Begin with that end and hold on to it. As Stephen Covey reminds us, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.”


Before you proceed, know that this post is not meant to prohibit and discourage your business from trying out podcasting (of course not). This just serves as an eye-opener and warning to the possible downside of podcasting. Got it? Then proceed, thanks!  

  

Podcasting, the creation of an audio file made available to the public through download to a portable device, is increasingly becoming a buzz word in today’s businesses. It sounds good to the ears because of its features encapsulated in terms such as Easy! Personal! Simple!   

Christian Del Monte, Vice President of Operations for TMA E-Marketing describes podcasting as:   

A new and fast-growing technology that offers businesses a unique reach and gives customers the kind of choice and convenience they are coming to expect” 

A tool that offers a new dimension of information diffusion that can make it easier for your business to establish a deeper connection to its customers than ever before 

Oh jeez. This strongly reminds me of one of our readings: The Gobbledygook Manifesto. (You can relate by now if you had read it)  

Show us your tail, podcast.

But these divine words are not the entirety of podcasting. Let’s be fair and get to know about the perils of this social media tool. 

 

The perils of podcasting  

While podcasting may have its advantages, these are some of its disadvantages when used in business.  

  

Your target must necessarily have an ipod or similar device.  

This now becomes an issue of technology and gadgets. While it may be easy for your company to create a podcast with simply a microphone, a recorder, and a software for audio editing, your target audience may not have the devices needed to download your podcast. No matter how easy and convenient you make your podcast available for downloading, if it requires the public to possess a compatible gadget in the first place, then it won’t work.  
  

You are in a danger of an audience tuning out. 

Remember that you are always only borrowing time and attention from your audience. If you do not present significant content in your podcast in its first seconds, the listener could easily choose to tune out. It’s unfair, you may say. What if your podcast has an actually great and appropriate content? Then suffice it with an equally great and catchy intro! Don’t allow your listeners to get bored. Offer them interesting and relevant content in the first seconds of your podcast.  


You must sustain it and build a following.
  

Once you started your first podcast, you have to make sure there will be a second, a third, an nth podcast. This is why podcasts are usually presented as episodes. There must be a following. Now this becomes a threat if you are not prepared with a sufficient number of topics to talk about in your podcasts. Or perhaps, you do not know where else to take a discussion you started because you have tackled almost everything in your previous episodes. What do you do now?   

 

There are other disadvantages of the use of podcasting. The important thing is to recognize these and think of possible ways for businesses to minimize and reduce their threats.  


We can never really escape from who we are. Though technology and the social media have seemed to ooze into almost every vein of business practice, we still and always get back to the blood and the very essence of communication: its human side.

This is the reason why businesses nowadays are reconfiguring the way they look, behave, and talk online. They peel off their structured and taut side and start to feel and act as natural and as human as possible

 

 

 

Businesses are breathing humans.

 

A simple practice that manifests this effort from companies is the use of video logs or vlog. A vlog is an element of a blog which seeks to converse with the audience through a combination of images and sound. Vlogging is deemed by social media experts as a significant tool in bringing back the human element in the way businesses communicate with the public.

 

On Vlogging

In the article Video Blogging for Business by Gretchen Siegchrist, some video ideas for vlogging are proposed (which I am about to evaluate and critique).

  • Company updates: Video news releases or video messages from executives will keep the world informed about your company’s latest products, projects and achievements.

But be careful not to make your vlog as another advertising tool (for your product, your company, or your CEO) or worse, convert the vlog to a hey-it’s-I-and-my-company platform. The audience would not want that. Bring back the human element in business communication does not mean you’ll literally get a human—specifically as CEO—to talk in a vlog. Though the intention may be to make the consumers feel that the man or woman behind the business actually takes time to converse with them, overdoing such may defeat the purpose and lead to irritating people and raise up a community of CEO and brand haters.

 

  • Industry and world news: There’s no reason to limit the vlog to what’s happening within your company. Add videos on related topics that interest your customers, and you’ll keep drawing audiences to your business.

This is perhaps suggested as a video idea to break the its-all-about-me tendencies of companies. Rightly so, inclusion of stories about the industry where the organization belongs may give an impression of a business that operates beyond its walls and as part of a larger community. But pay importance to the second statement. Make sure the topics and news to be presented in the vlog are relevant and interesting to the public. A vain and irrelevant blog is but a waste of space and time online.

 

  • Instruction: Show customers how to use the products that you sell with handy how-to videos. You can create the videos in-house, contract them out to a video production company, or find online videos that can be embedded into your vlog.

This may be a good video suggestion as it attempts to inform and help the consumers in handling a product. Instructional vlogs serve a practical use to the public. In fact, this is something that product users would actually seek out online. If as a customer, you do not get help from that text-heavy manual (for the simple reason that you do not see a human hand operating a product and therefore cannot visualize how the process is done), an easier and more interesting option is to watch the company’s instructional vlog.

 

Endnotes

Aside from these vlog ideas, companies may also be interested in trying a vlog that 1) contains testimonials (but make them sound real and be real please), or 2) tips to ensure that the gadget the customer bought would last a lifetime, or perhaps 3) share the story of how your company develops an idea to a full-blown product or service (you could make this one effective through a storytelling approach).

Bottom line of this discussion, see to it that your business vlogs are C C C—content-based, creative, and conversational. If you do this, your vlogs will not only be something that you’ll enjoy doing, it will also be creations that your audience will enjoy watching.

 


(Before anything else, allow me to say that this post is inspired by the walkout yesterday against the P1.39B UP budget cut. I was not able to participate in the rally but it does not make me less of an advocate of state education and justice.)

The new social media seems to have penetrated all fields and practices in the planet. Is there anything which can’t be done online? We talk online. We shop online. We attend burol online. And we unite and rally online. Yes, friends. There is a form of activism which thrives in the new social media. It’s the C word. Cyberactivism.


Greenpeace and cyberactivism

The environment group Greenpeace is one of the many activist organizations which have utilized the power of the new social media in forwarding their advocacies. One of its most known actions online is the Corporate 100 actions against global warming, a campaign to pressure the 100 largest US companies to support the Kyoto Protocol (international agreement on climate change and global warming).

The revolutionized face of activism

Below is a record of Greenepeace’s cyberactivism actions taken from Cyberactivism revolutionizes Greenpeace campaigns.

  • The Cyber Centre is an online effort to build a community of environment advocates to rally behind Greenpeace’s cause. According to Kevin Jardine, the international media campaigner of Greenpeace and developer of Cyber Centre, the centre serves as a venue for people from over 170 countries to get informed, discuss, and participate in the discourses and debates on environmental destruction.
  • At the Cyber Centre, activists can download action kits, send entertaining Flash-animated postcards to friends and play informative games.
  • In 2000, Greenpeace activists installed a webcam at the end of an underwater radioactive discharge pipe operated by the French nuclear agency Cogema, in La Hague, France, to provide live documentation of nuclear waste discharges.
  • Greenpeace then broadcasted the images from the pipe onto the web and onto a large screen at the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR ) in Copenhagen, Denmark, where delegates were discussing the future of nuclear reprocessing.
  • Greenpeace’s Arctic Action site was created in opposition to BP’s oil drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean and its contribution to climate change. The site included multimedia updates uploaded directly from the Arctic Ocean, the opportunity to send electronic letters to BP CEO John Browne and a choice of 1200 institutional BP investors, as well as an animated game where polar bears throw snowballs at BP Arctic drilling rigs.

Indeed, the Internet has revolutionized the way Greenpeace advances its resistance to environmental hazards and crimes. It has built communities of activists online where people get to talk and participate in a discussion of the present issues affecting the environment. Greenpeace has also engaged the public with the various tools and application which can be found in their sites such as Flash-animated postcards and games.

The Information Technology director of Greenpeace, Brian Fitzgerald, shares,

“The Internet will continue to play an important and powerful future role as an ally in the fight for the planet’s future. Whether it’s a zodiac in front of a harpoon, or the story of a tiny sailing ketch daring a government not to test a nuclear weapon, the core message of Greenpeace has always been that individuals can take action against huge destructive forces and win.”


Endnotes

The good thing about cyberactivism is that it utilizes the fullness of the new social media in informing the public and calling them to act. It provides a venue for the practice of communication, collaboration and collective action. In eliminating geographical boundaries and empowering individuals to act, activism has indeed reconfigured itself into a better face.


The new social media is all about relationships. We make friends online by sending and confirming friend requests. We poke our friends and delete enemies from our contacts list. We love to comment and like status updates and follow people. Indeed, we become strongly connected with one another through our interactions online.

Similarly, businesses thrive online by establishing, maintaining, and strengthening relationships with its customers, partners and even competitors. And at the heart of managing all these ties is a significant aspect of communication: engagement. In fact, it is only through engagement that organizations and their products and services meet the target public at a common touch point. When businesses are able to do this, real brand experience and customer satisfaction happen.

Business is about relationships.

But how exactly does a company build and for that matter, sustain audience engagement? According to James Kellway on Engagement Building, there are three ways by which organizations build engagement:

  1. Content – build for focus and deliver on what is promised
  2. Calls to action – give clear choices and ensure relevance
  3. Context – build trust and credibility by using visual hierarchy

Businesses have to be reminded that engagement building is a perfect mix of these three Cs. When we want to establish ties with consumers, we have to offer them content anchored to a central message, something that is positioned in a context relevant to them, and one which gives them freedom for making choices. I believe that these 3 Cs can be made to work more effectively with a three-step strategy in engagement building which I would call The Three Is Model: Initiate. Influence. Involve.

The three Is of engagement

In an initiate-influence-involve strategy, businesses go back to the core of a two-way communication between them and the customers. This speaks of no monologue. This is about conversations. Conversations, which due to the social media, are becoming more dynamic, participative, and essentially human.

An article entitled Connect the Dots captures this idea of engagement building in the Internet Age.

Our conversation with consumers and shoppers before is one way; we send them our advertisements and promotions. But we now live in a conversational culture because of the internet and what it’s allowed people to do. If you want to get to know anybody, you have to have a conversation with them. Shoppers and consumers want to have conversations with brands that are relevant to them. Much of this conversation is happening online. That’s where engagement starts. We’ve got to be able to bring that conversation back into the brand experience and back into the brand idea to refine it in a continuous feedback loop.”

All things said, we revisit two truths on engagement building as practiced by organizations. Relationships are about engagement. Engagement means conversation.


A couple of weeks ago, in a conversation in the University cafeteria, a friend mentioned about how the state educates us to be employees and not entrepreneurs. This struck me that I spent the rest of that day reflecting on what he said. Well, come to think of it, we are taught how to behave in an organizational setting, how to interact with our colleagues, subordinates, or supervisors, or how to craft messages for our future clients. Never are we trained to engage in an actual business or manage a self-started project.

We are not being prepared for something that essentially unfolds before our very eyes: entrepreneurial opportunities. And for that matter, online entrepreneurial opportunities.

Oh yes. I am an entrepreneur.

A survey by Yahoo and Harris Interactive reveals that majority of the US adult population is considering the great potential of online commerce. Results of the survey show that 72% of Americans have thought about engaging in entrepreneurship and 75% acknowledge the significance of the Internet in launching small businesses.

Also, an interesting finding of the study covers the reasons why people want to start business. Unlike what is expected, would-be entrepreneurs do not consider making money as their primary motive. In fact, 28% of the people surveyed ranked ‘to do work I love’ as the main reason for engaging in entrepreneurship. This is followed by ‘to be my own boss’, 25%; ‘to make more money’, 18% and ‘to create something people need’, 11%.


Let’s talk business

In the Philippines, there has also been an increasing number of young people who venture into entrepreneurship especially online. I have friends who have had their online shops in Multiply since high school and believe me, they have been making money from it. Given this, nobody can now deny the fact that the Internet is becoming a strong platform to do business and earn.

There's money online.

So for those who are interested to ‘do the work they love’, ‘be their own boss’, ‘make money, or ‘create something people need’, here are some guides as you take the path to e-commerce. These are taken from a business blog on 77 Business Tips For An Online Entrepreneur.


1. A brilliant idea is worth nothing.

Unless you do something about it. We all have bright ideas but unless we make these work in real practices, we gain nothing. Entrepreneurs are people who don’t waste a single thought. Whenever something puffs in their head, they think business. As a good practice, every time you have an idea, ask “What can be done about this?” You’ll be surprised how you’ll be able to help others and gain big things from this.


2. Build a community.

You would not want to sell something online which no one would purchase. As you plan your business, think about your target, the prospect buyers. Is there an existing need for your product or service? Is the community wanting it large enough to sustain your business? Moreover, anticipate the public’s reaction to your business. Observe and ask. Don’t waste your time and money starting a business that does not cater to or is not supported by a considerably large and loyal community.


3. You sell processes, not products.

Selling is a process in itself. It does not end when you arrange your products in a shelf and place a sign For Sale! Neither is it done when someone expresses intent to buy the product. In business, especially when its online, you have to think about the entire process. How will you position your products online? How will the website look like? What can be the possible links to your site? Where do you get your potential buyers? How do they order the product? How do they pay? How do you receive the payment? How to they receive what they paid for? When you make this whole process easy for your customers, expect a good business.


4. Don’t look for traffic; look for trends.

A website with a thousand visits does not necessarily translate to good business. There may be a lot of people to click the link to your online shop and get to see your product. But that does not mean you have as much number of buyers. Assess your business not in terms of quantity but more of quality. Think of the development in your business, of how fast is your online shop growing and not of how many people just found themselves in your site. Again, it’s trends, not traffic.


5. Measure, measure, measure.

You have to know where your business is and to where it is going. Gauge your performance by using the metrics of profit, partners, and product development. Take time to pause and see whether you are meeting the targets you have set when you started your business. Measure impact and calculate results.

Endnotes

Yes, we are Organizational Communication majors. And rightly so, we are educated to manage communication within an organization. But I believe what is lacking here is the consideration of the fact that it is very possible that we will be not only managers, but more importantly owners of real businesses. This is why it is essential that alongside our communication training, we also get a dose of commerce lessons. Perhaps it’s time to integrate and appreciate an entrepreneurial mindset in the OrCom discipline, don’t you think so?


What is a Social Media Release or SMR?

The traditional press release has reconfigured itself in the digital age. Still retaining the basics of a release such as purpose, content, and style, its Web counterpart only has added techie features, photos, videos, and RSS feeds to name a few. Launched in a new platform, the press release has been extended into another public relations tool, the social media release or SMR.

Since its birth in 2006, the SMR has placed itself along the traditional public relations tools. It has leveraged on the following components which make it of great value in reaching the target public and sustaining its interest.

  • Rich HTML text throughout the release useful for Web site SEO, indexing, cross-linking, etc.
  • The ability to link to or embed photography, audio and video
  • RSS feed capabilities within the SMR to create viral distribution
  • Keyword selection, tagging and moderated comments to enhance user experiences, while creating heightened engagement

Make your SMR S and M and R

SMRs hold great potentials as digital PR tools. If we only know how to craft our messages well and make them meet our target, then we will not only be generating interest on our products and services, we’ll be establishing and strengthening relationship with the public as well. With this in mind, I propose that we make our SMR S and M and R.

Simple and straight forward

Placing a PR tool in a social media (what we do exactly with SMR) is like staging a magic show in a street with a thousand of other circus performances. We compete for time and attention online. If we do not make our SMRs brief and direct to the point, people could easily close our tab and hop to other sites online.

Message-driven

We do not create pointless SMRs; we don’t waste space online. We make sure our SMRs are deliberately rooted to a message we want to convey to the public. And we make every effort to consistently reflect that message all throughout the written release.

Relevant

One of the purposes of creating SMRs is to catch people’s attention and spark their interest. Given this, we must make our SMRs irresistible baits to the public. Raise what’s-in-it-for-them points in the release. Show the public that the product or service we offer is something that would highly benefit them.

Below is a sample SMR for Cafe Amadeo.

Social media release for Cafe Amadeo


MODEL ONE

The forces of the new economy are potently shaping today’s businesses. Given the rise of a social media, a collaborative economy and a new breed of consumers, people, processes, and relationships inside and outside organizations are continuously being reconfigured. The impact of the three forces on organizations is illustrated in the model below (Barrientos, 2010).

Barrientos, 2010

The forces break into the porous walls of the organization and change the way people communicate, complete tasks, and make decisions. People inside the organization are learning new ways of sharing information. They are adopting the art of co-creation and collaboration. As this happens, connections and networks inside the organization are beginning to stand on equality and empowerment and no longer on hierarchies. Likewise, processes are becoming decentralized. The management is fostering more openness and transparency. These changes all equate to a reconfiguration of the organization’s corporate culture.

This model rightly provides a picture of how present organizations are being impacted by the emerging forces of social media, a collaborative economy, and a new breed of customers. Now, let us examine another model that takes into account similar organizational elements.

 

MODEL TWO

In 1965, Leavitt proposed a model that illustrates the relationship among the elements of the organization and the environment. The elements identified by Leavitt are social structure, participants, goals, and technology. Let’s look into each of them.

  • Social structure refers to the patterned or regularized aspects of the relationships existing among participants in an organization (Leavitt, 1965). It may be separated into two components: Normative structure includes values, norms, and role expectations. Behavioural structure includes the recurrent behaviors of the individuals inside the organization (Davis, 1949).
  • Participants are the individuals who, in return for a variety of inducements, make contributions to the organization (Barnard, 1938; Simon, 1976).
  • Goals are conceptions of desired ends that participants attempt to achieve through their performance of task activities (Leavitt, 1965).
  • Technology comprises the machines and mechanical equipments an organization uses as well as the technical knowledge and skills of the participants (Leavitt, 1965).

Leavitt, 1965

The model by Leavitt (1965) shows how the internal elements of the organization exert equal forces upon one other. Likewise, it is depicted how the environment, as an external factor, also influences and shapes what happens within the walls of the organization.

The two models both follow the systems approach in viewing organizations. The study of several organizational elements are contextualized in an open setting which takes into account the influence and impact of forces which lie outside the organization. The similarities between the concepts present in the two models could be summarized in the table below.

In Barrientos' and Leavitt's words

 

FUSION!

Combining the internal elements present in Leavitt’s model and the specific external forces depicted in Barrientos’ model, we could come up with another model to illustrate the connections and interactions among several factors inside and outside the organization’s walls.

A fusion of models

The five elements depicted in the model are drawn from Barrientos’ and Leavitt’s illustrations. The interplay among the people, processes, formal structures, informal networks, and goals inside the organization is shown using interconnected lines which suggest a dynamic and multi-directional influence of each organizational element upon one another. The sum of these interactions is the corporate culture.

The model retains the porous organizational wall of Barrientos and Leavitt and takes in the three forces of the new economy. However, for this model, a two-way impact between the external forces and the organizational elements is portrayed. It is acknowledged that though a social media, a collaborative economy and a new breed of consumers are shaping businesses today, elements inside the walls of the organization are also exerting influence on these outside forces. There is a reciprocated influence and impact exchanged among the internal and external organizational elements.

The changes organizations experience in the middle of the Internet Age are way too complex and multifaceted to be perfectly encapsulated in this model. This is but one way by which the phenomenon could be seen and interpreted. There could be several ways to view the reconfiguration of business operations and corporate culture. How about you? How does the change look like in your lenses?


Chapter five of The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual mentions how today’s businesses adhere to a particular type of togetherness. Sadly, this sense of being together has nothing to do with human connections and relationships.

According to Weinberger (2001), modern business has chosen to define togetherness as a HIERARCHY. It is what they believe links the people in an organization—not the ties and interaction managers and employees share in the workplace but the structured placement in a chart which reminds the people of who is superior and who is subordinate.

As Weinberger further explains, hierarchies have two distinct attributes.

  1. It has a top and a bottom.
  2. The top is narrower than the bottom.

Their definition of togetherness, huh?

These features are best illustrated in organizational charts. Org charts mirror hierarchies. They are structured. Positions and roles are defined. One’s responsibilities are limited inside the box where he is positioned. Likewise, his power is determined by how high his box is from the base of the chart. No two boxes overlap. The only thing that connects them is the lines neatly positioned between their edges. Apart from these, boxes and people inside the boxes share no other connections.

Woooah. Stiff. Harsh. Awful. Org charts are pretty like food chains. Don’t you think so? 

 

Business food chains

We learned in grade school that food chains are representations of relationships between living things in an ecosystem. Recalling this concept, we could actually compare the food chain diagram to organizational charts and hierarchies. How?

  1. Food chains illustrate the relationship between two living beings: predators and preys. Predators feed on their preys. The act of consuming is one-way. It’s always predator-eats-prey. Preys can never consume their predators.
  2. In food chains, there is always a top consumer. The ultimate predator consumes everyone else in the ecosystem. This includes weaker predators and all other preys.

it's the chain

Similarly, the hierarchies described by Weinberger in businesses have these elements. There are preys and predators and a top predator in an org chart. Of course people in the organizations do not literally feed on one another. (Well, our bosses and co-workers do not serve as good food. Some are utterly indigestible.) But the consuming act is in the power play. Business predators whose cages are on the upper part of the org chart munch or gobble up their preys through demands and orders. Do this. I need it today. 12am sharp. What did you do? It’s not good enough. Repeat it. Likewise, there is only one box on top of the org chart. Only one ‘super predator’—the ‘bossest boss’. Ultimate control and power is in his hands.

But we’re sick of this picture of hierarchies. We’re tired of org charts. We challenge business food chains. We are building wider and networked food webs.

 

Organizational food webs

Our grade school lesson on food chains extends to the concept of food webs. A food web is a broader diagram of several food chains illustrating a complex system of life forms in an observed environment. Now, why are food webs better depictions of business relationships than food chains? I would give two reasons, you may add more.

  1. Food webs are not unidirectional. These are overlapping networks of producers and consumers. An organism may be connected to another organism in a variety of ways.  
  2. Food webs, unlike food chains, have no top consumer. Predator and prey roles are not fixed. A predator may become a prey to other predators. And a prey may become a predator.  

here's the web

Likewise, with the impact of Web 2.0 and the Net Gen in a collaborative economy, today’s businesses are putting a premium on interrelatedness. Connections are not limited to vertical or horizontal links as what is depicted in org charts. Organizations are now acknowledging diagonal and even circular lines of communication. It is no longer one-way or two-way exchange of information. It is multi-directional interaction and collaboration. Also, communication roles are no longer fixed but rather fluid. Anybody can create content and give information. Managers do not just give commands and subordinates do not only obey. Under specific circumstances, they share ideas and collaborate.

 

Endnotes

Businesses are adapting to the forces of a new economy. They are reconfiguring stiff organizational charts to a more flexible game play. They leverage on diversity, mobility, and interconnectivity. The business ecosystem is no longer bound to food chains. They are now operating on food webs.


We can’t be all things to all people. It’s way too difficult, if not completely impossible, to meet everybody’s expectations and needs. We just can’t be The Man! or The Woman! capable of delivering everyone’s dreams. No matter how hard we try to ultimately reach people, we still find ourselves bouncing back to our own limitations. The same goes for businesses.

Many organizations are trapped (and enjoy being trapped) in an illusion that they are THE COMPANY offering THE PRODUCT or THE SERVICE to THE WORLD. Oh, THE HELL. They love to claim that this shampoo is best for any type of hair, that this lotion applies well to all skin colors, and that this dietary supplement works for all body types. As a result, they direct their marketing and advertising efforts to virtually anybody (with hair and skin, and who eats). And where do they find themselves in after going through this? There they are—tired and short of resources, lagging behind their competitors.

Failure of these businesses is rooted in their lack of target. In an attempt to reach everybody, they spread themselves too thinly in the market, not establishing a point of contact and impact to any of the consumers. They seem to roam invariably over the field but never find and conquer a territory. They have a jungle, but not a niche.

A jungle but not a niche

 

Find and feed your niche

Niche marketing is a strongly recommended strategy for businesses today. It works by concentrating all marketing efforts on a small but specific and well defined segment of the population (http://www.businessdictionary.com). In niche marketing, organizations equally save time, energy, and money. Finding and feeding a niche not only focuses the company’s advertising and marketing efforts to the identified target, it channels the budget only to relevant and necessary promotions.

This is a pretty cool business tool, right? Nevertheless, ignorance of its proper use cancels out its benefits. So before playing with it, below are some questions to answer and guidelines to consider.  

 

Is the target REAL?

A real (breathing, moving, barking) target

Reachable

You would not want to focus your marketing efforts to an inaccessible market. Before actually setting your target, ask: Are there ways to get our message across them? Is it possible to talk to them? Do they listen?

Enthusiastic

Your business needs a niche that desperately desires something. They must be passionate about possessing a product or enjoying a service. Are they in need of something? What do they want the most? Be it a necessity or just a luxury, as long as the target is dedicated to having it, it’s worth your time and effort.

Able to purchase

It’s not enough that your target is passionate about a product or service. The market must be equally obsessed to the idea and act of buying it. Consider the direct value they can give you. Do they have the power to purchase your products?

Large

You must never settle for a target which can’t sustain your business. The group of people you are eyeing may be reachable, in need of something, and are actually willing to spend, but are they enough to run your company? How many are they? If they are only a handful, you may want to consider targeting other slices of the population.

 

 

Now that you’ve set a REAL target, aim, hold, and hit!

Aim, hold, hit!

Aim

After mapping out the market and identifying your target, it’s time to realign your product or service to their needs. Study your target and identify their necessities and luxuries. Now, review your product line and do the matching game. Which product caters to which desire? Which service best corresponds to which need? Make sure to tailor fit your goods and supplies to the consumers’ demands.

Hold

Before meeting the demands of your target, assess the market for competitors. You may be the one-millionth company to sell products to this group of people. Or you may actually be entering a face-off with a giant in the field. It is wise and practical to do a comparative analysis of your company—your products and services, selling points, marketing tactics and pricing—and the rivals in the business.   

Hit

If you are ultimately sure that you can meet your target’s demands and survive the competition in the business, then hit it! Now that you have identified the right people, get ready to say the right thing at the right time using the right tools and means. Converse with them. Earn their trust. And make sure to deliver what you promise.

 

Endnotes

It’s a tough start to map out the dense jungle and locate a possible niche. It’s even tougher to decisively evaluate and test if this really is your place. But the toughest part is to take your first step, enter, and eventually conquer that territory.


Porn (and granny porn- nice one, Tam!). Viruses. Spams. Scams. Account hacking. Cybercrimes. No one could possibly deny the existence and proliferation of these evil things in the Internet. At the very least, we may have been victimized by any of these Net horrors (the all-too-common spams and viruses). OR we may have actually tried and indulged into these sinful cyber pleasures (oh you know what I’m talking about).

For these awful things, I may be the first to curse the Net. But I have to say there are much more reasons for loving the Web, even enough to cover for all its evil.

For where there is evil and hatred, there is also LOVE. That’s right. If there is one thing positively cultivated by Web 2.0 and the new social media among its users, it’s love. Now let me put that term in context. I am not exactly referring to a couple’s love (though the Net has proven itself to be a promising venue to meet future partners). And of course, never would I have interest in talking about erotic love (though this one may be most famous online given porn and granny porn). When I say love, I mean genuine and pure love— love that is meant to be shared, seeks to serve, and is selfless. And this love is found in no other place, but the new social media.

Yes, it's love.

Shared love

The new social media is best in breaking barriers. Businesses that optimize the NSM deliberately tear down their walls and open themselves up to the world. As they do this, they dismiss solitary operations and start functioning through collaboration. They expand their horizons and work within a bigger field with more players.

One way of doing this is through the practice of mass collaboration. Companies seek to build communities and engage consumers in product development. Many companies start a dialogue online and empower its brand users to sustain the conversation. They talk about ways to improve a product, or resolve and revamp a failing brand practice. By doing so, businesses are democratizing control of the product or the service. They are sharing the brand with its actual users and advocates.

Serving love

Organizations and individuals alike take part in a collaborative operation to do service to the brand. They willingly contribute ideas to uphold and even improve the quality of the product or service they equally love. Because the company shares the brand with the consumers through opening the product development process, the people take time to offer real suggestions for brand improvement. This working relationship benefits both parties. The brand advocates are guaranteed with a premium product and service quality. The organization is assured of the trust, support, and participation of its consumers in the company’s future.     

Selfless love

Mass collaboration and peer production could be said to work on the principle of selflessness. When organizations take part in Wikinomics, they adopt less of themselves and welcome more of others.

In product development for instance, businesses take time to look out of their own practices and the capacities of their employees, and start to consider the rich potentials of the people. With the new social media, companies could easily open their doors for the public’ ideas and be amazed that the consumers and product users have brilliant things to say—be it a suggestion to include another flavor in the line of existing products or an advice to improve the packaging. In this process of co-creation, organizations live to bring out the best in others.

Shared, serving, and selfless love

 

Web 2.0 love in practice

My Starbucks Idea (MSI) was launched by Starbucks in 2008 as an effort to open the company to the greater community and start interacting with its customers through product co-creation. MSI has four components:

  1. Share: Community members post their Starbucks Idea.
  2. Vote: The community sees what other members have suggested and may vote to support the idea or not.
  3. Discuss: Comment streams allow the community to discuss, question, and comment on the ideas posted.
  4. See: The community members are informed on the actions taken by the company regarding the discussed ideas.

the beloved coffee

The site consolidated more than 75, 000 ideas with thousands of votes and comments in 2009. This attempt by Starbucks to engage consumers and encourage them to talk about their ideas and suggestions works in line with the Web 2.0 love of being selfless, sharing, and serving. It does not limit planning and idea generation to the Starbucks employees but share the work with the brand fans. The result? A collaborative Starbucks community that peer-produces and co-creates the loved brand.


We had gone past the ‘We tell you’ and the ‘Tell us what you think of what we tell you’period. Today, we are in the ‘Tell each other’ days.

The social media model of communication sets the stage for a collaborative creation and sharing of knowledge. Everyone who has access to the Internet is capable of contributing to the pool of information online—be it on science and technology, engineering, mathematics, communication studies, or the arts. Also, the NSM democratizes content and influence. We are no longer under the orders of the media or business organizations. As the tables have now turned, we have gained much power and authority in communication and commerce. Now, it’s the businesses that listen to us. We tell them what we want and do not want. And we tell and influence one another on what to want and not to want.

The Marketing Hybrid

This shift in power and influence has in fact become prevalent in the field of marketing. At present, the most dominant marketing tool which grabs the attention of corporations is the hybrid of the word of mouth and viral marketing. Viral word of mouth. Exactly! It is word of mouth proliferating in the Web. It’s the online sharing of opinions about a product or service among consumers and brand advocates.

Dave Balter, founder and president of BzzAgent, a word of mouth marketing and research firm located in Boston described word of mouth as the holy grail of marketers, CEOs and entrepreneurs. It is considered the most powerful medium in the planet as itdictates what product succeeds and what fails. Balter enumerated several features of the word of mouth:

1. Mutual dialogue

2. Storytelling

3. Pass-along effect

4. Knowledge diffusion

The triple EXs of the viral word of mouth

These characteristics may be translated to the Triple EXs of the word of mouth-viral marketing hybrid.

EXperience

Viral word of mouth is as natural as storytelling. It’s how consumers make sense of their own product or service experiences and share these stories through the social media. The stories can only be driven by satisfaction from a full experience of the brand. Every effective word of mouth can only start with an honest and real consumer experience. Nothing else.

EXchange

When a full experience of the product or service has been handed to consumers, the next thing they could do is to talk about these stories. See how they start conversations through their blogs, SNS, through online fora and conferences. Let them communicate the stories online, engage other brand fans and draw in potential consumers.

EXponential

Thanks to the Internet, honest stories of satisfied consumers and conversations on real brand experience spread exponentially. It’s viral. Whether it’s an email, a twit, a status message or a video, it’s 10x faster.

Endnotes

The EXponential EXchange of EXperience in a viral word of mouth even functions to strengthen the power of consumers and Web users. It is no longer the publishers or media owners who determine what’s latest and important. It is the people—the audience and consumers—who tell what is worth talking about and what is worth sharing.

The agenda setting power of the media seems not at all applicable and effective in the Internet Age. The communication process has been transformed into a big collaborative system of ideas, information and opinions. The audience is no longer seen as passive receivers of messages. They are now co-creators of content and co- proprietors of influence and power. They get involved and are conversing openly more than ever. To some extent, the Web has been an arena of their stories and stands. A world of their mouths.



Let’s do a little survey here. How did you come to know of cool flip flops of Sanuk? Unless you surf the Net every two minutes or has the hobby of checking corporate websites (which I don’t think you do), you’ll probably have an answer close to this: “Well, I have heard it from my orgmate whose friend was tagged by a classmate in a note in Facebook directing her to a twit of a crush whose brother is following his aunt’s neighbour who, one lazy afternoon, accidentally came across a blog entry of one of Sanuk’s brand fans”. A lengthy, messy story, yes. But that’s how many of us become aware of most news. That’s how information—be it a scandal, a joke, a fact, or an assumption—reach people offline and most especially, online.

This only enforces the reality that we are living in a world of ties and connection, and in cyber terms, a space of networks and links. Given that we are not omnipresent online, we strongly rely on networks both to send and receive messages. That’s what ‘friends’, ‘contacts’, and ‘followers’ are for. To a certain extent, the amount and type of information we receive depend on who we are connected to and to where they are linked in the Net.

 

Working with our networks

According to a survey, many people seek and find most job referrals from acquaintances than from close friends. It’s logical—our close friends more or less know the same people we know in our group, whereas acquaintances often have larger circles of friends and people we do not know. That’s why it is but wise and practical to value the people in our periphery. Who knows? They just might be leading us to future jobs, and perhaps, a potential partner. (Anyway, I’m not going to talk about love life. Now, back to the topic.)

If we equate this with our online networks, we need to realize the importance of 1) expanding our pool of contacts and acquaintances and 2) keeping them intact. The vastness of social networking sites definitely helps us meet the first goal. Hello Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, Naymz, Twitter, Friendster. These are only some of the big cyber hubs where we need to be present and establish connections. Once we’re there, information is within an easier and better reach. For the second goal, it is more of a personal technique to do it. You keep your online networks either by frequently checking on them or better, by establishing stronger and authentic connections. It’s what we humans call friendship. And I believe that is the best way to keep and value our ‘friends’, ‘contacts’, and ‘followers’—by establishing genuine relationships on and off line. Yes PR. (Hello Sir Ed :)).

This brings us to how this principle of networks applies in a business setting. Two applicable lessons here are the Two-step flow hypothesis by Paul Lazarsfeld and the concept of opinion leaders (which we learned from Madame Inton in 104 :)). Let’s see how these work online.

 

Two Step-flow Hypothesis and Opinion Leaders

The importance of opinion leaders in relaying information, influencing the public, and changing perceptions has been recognized in the field of mass communications. These individuals exert a certain level of power over businesses and people alike. The public usually sees opinion leaders as icons whose beliefs are considered as facts. Their views matter such that when taken by the public, it can sway their opinion or at the extreme, manipulate mindsets and perceptions. This is why organizations practically take time to reach opinion leaders and have them as allies. On the grounds of the two-step flow hypothesis, the company has a greater chance of reaching the public with the identified icons on their side. More than the assurance that their messages see its way to the market, organizations could further invest on opinion leaders as potential brand ambassadors. Not only will these influential people be delivering messages; they’ll also be sending positive remarks about the company’s products and/or services, which in the long run, will benefit the organization’s image.

Identifying, reaching and capitalizing on the influence of opinion leaders using traditional media have been a challenge to all organizations. Today, given the emergence of the new social media, these tasks become even harder and more complicated.     

 

Fluidity of Influence

For one, influence through the position and role of an opinion leader has now become fluid because of the digital media. The Internet is a powerful equalizer. It has the capacity to level all web users in a digital playing field with no boundaries. No one is favoured online. An opinion leader two or three decades ago is just the same as an ordinary customer who uses the Internet today. As long as you have the access to the Net, you have power. Knowledge on maximizing its tool and application is another. Now here’s the catch. With almost 20 million Filipinos present online (Take note: Filipinos. How much more around the globe?), it is like having 20 million players possessing power over opinion, over your products and services, over your company. Twenty million Filipinos are all capable of sending information to whomever whenever they want. Twenty million Filipinos are potential influencers, allies—and even enemies. What will your company do now?

 

The 360o Digital Influence

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide has developed a three-step plan called the 360o Digital Influence1 to understand how influence flows online and help organizations find their way in the new digital battle ground.

1. Listening

Create Conversation Snapshots by consistently monitoring social media. Make sure to cover blogs, search engine results, SNS, and video, photo, and bookmark sharing. Familiarize yourself with the influencers and the other characters in the digital field. Know also what is being said about your brand and your company. Ogilvy’s PR Tool called the Influence Quotient (IQ) helps you do this. Sample IQ questions are: How visible is this issue in digital media? Relative to other shareholders, what share of voice has this person had on this issue in the past year?

Measuring Influence Quotient (IQ)

2. Planning

Using the Influencer Audit (IA), you may now asses the influencers, the channels and tools they use and the amount of power they wield over the E-community. The Influencer Audit allows you to categorize the influencers you have previously monitored and identified and design a plan of engagement for these. The IA divides the influencers into four categories depending on opinion and power.

The challenge for companies is to expand the quadrant of high opinion (positive opinion) and high power. To do this, all included in the quadrant of low opinion (negative opinion) and high power, the biggest threat to your brand and company, must be handled well. Devise a plan to hear and understand why they have a negative opinion of your brand and work on this. Those in the quadrant of the high opinion and low power, on the other hand, must be given attention. They are your allies because they view your brand positively. However, they must be mobilized as to gain influence and serve as your ambassadors. Lastly, be cautious also of those in the low opinion and low power. They are harmless only as long as they have no access to influence and power. Make sure they remain in the low influence zone. 

3. Engaging     

The end product of the 360o Digital Influence is to design an engagement plan that would effectively manage digital influencers and utilize the new breed of opinion leaders to a company’s advantage. To do this, a company has to meet the influencers at all Web points where they are present. According to Ogilvy, engagement phase covers improving blogging relations, boosting brand fans, and drawing Net users to content creation and opinion sharing. At the end of the day, all these efforts will go back to a PR basic—that engagement is about understanding perceptions, enabling conversations, and establishing genuine connections.

 

Endnotes

Perhaps, there is a reason why the Internet is called the World Wide Web. As much as its vastness is global, it is also a woven world of networks and connections. Its users are interrelated; its functions are interdependent. The Internet is no place for exclusivity. It is a state of freedom and equality. It lays down its tools and applications equally for everybody. Once online, differences are levelled off. We are all on the same playing field.

As much as it equalizes its users, it also renders influence fluid. Now that the globe is one big field of digital networks, virtually anybody can create content, speak opinions and more importantly, share these across links and connections. We are a new generation of influencers businesses today have to catch. If they don’t, they simply lose the game.


At this very moment, millions of pairs of eyes and ears, of hands and minds are simultaneously working, learning, and living online. Someone may be finishing the last pages of an e-book. Another may have just completed downloading a song, a video, or a movie. Still another may be updating his status in one of his three social networking sites while his friends in France are continuously commenting on his other posts. Family relatives may have just checked on each other thru chat. There may also be those in the middle of their DoTa tournament.

Perhaps, a recent graduate has just emailed his resume to one of the several organizations he wants to work in. On the other hand, an HR personnel may have been checking the job applications in the company’s Website. There are also managers of a multinational company having their meeting via a video conference. Meanwhile, a corporation has just launched its online campaign to promote its new product. And its competitor is already monitoring the response of the public online.

We may not know but someone may have been on the process of hacking one of the accounts of a company. Another may have just installed the new monitoring system and anti-virus software in an organization’s computer networks. There may be a few immersing themselves in pornographic or violent contents of a Website. And the members of a task force are tracking one of the murder suspects online.

And there is a bunch of students finishing (or cramming) the first comm blog requirement for a communication trends and style class.

All these things can possibly be happening at this exact moment. The Internet has incredibly more than enough applications, contents, and facilities to cater to the various needs of millions of its users—be it individuals, students, business corporations, government offices, or even criminals. With the Internet, almost everything is possible for every person in any place at any time. The word “impossible” is just so obsolete and unfit in the Internet Age. 

Nuclear threats, Galactic networks, and the Internet Age

It was in 1962 when the threat of Soviet  nuclear attacks alarmed members of the US Defense Department. To this problem, one researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) proposed a counter strategy in the form of communication networks. J. Licklider affirmed how salient a link of computer terminals would be in the US military. Grounded on his concept of Galactic Networks, Licklider recommended the development of a world-wide communication structure capable of sending and accessing private information using computers.

Having considered Licklider’s proposal of building Galactic Networks, the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency  (ARPA) started developing a system of communication computer terminals. Engineer Paul Baran and colleagues designed a distributed communications model which allows the transfer of information from a source down to several recipient nodes. Given the multiple networks of computers programmed to receive data, information transfer would be more secured.  In the case of a nuclear attack, destruction of one recipient node would not hinder the sending of information to other computer terminals. In 1964, this strategic communication network and effective nuclear attack counter was completed and named ARPANET.

The birth of the ARPANET signalled the world’s entry into the Internet Age. Who would have thought that a nuclear attack and a geeky concept of Galactic Networks would give way to the development of the Internet we love today? Admit it. We owe the Soviet nuclear threat and the US Military a lot. Just imagine—without the threat of nuclear war which compelled the APRA to work on the proposal of developing the fantabulous Galactic Networks, we would not be able to say hello to Facebook or Twitter. That simple.

The Global Cyber Revolution

The emergence of the Internet from the ARPANET is indeed one giant leap in human capability and the world’s history. It opened a new era in the fields of business, government, and technology. In fact, what Bill Gates had written ten years ago about the Internet being a global phenomenon is already unfolding before our very eyes today. For that matter, I would even say that the Internet has not only become a global phenomenon. It has unimaginably become the most potent global economic, technological, and cultural revolution overlapping in the last quarter of the 20th century and the first of the 21st.

Bill Gates attributed the world-wide acceptance and growth of the Internet to its ability to break barriers. He described how the World Wide Web has collapsed geographical, cultural, and logistical barriers and founded the pillars of a smaller, closer, and simpler world. I need not elaborate on how the Internet has done this. These are avowed by what we have, what we experience, and what we can do in the point in time we call “present”. What I would like to talk about are three of the entities born in the Age of the Internet.

1. True-blooded Communicators

A majority of the global population is online. According to the Pew Internet Survey, the present  E- population is not only comprised of users of Web applications and subscribers of social networking sites. In fact, there is a significant number of content creators online. Results of the Survey reveal that 64% on online teenagers engage in creation of Web-based contents. About 39% of them share their artistic creations such as photo stories, videos and artwork online, 33% do blogging, and 27% actually maintain their own Webpages. But more than posting and creating outputs online, the Survey reveals that Internet teen users also participate actively in conversations generated by the posted works. 

These findings just show how the Internet raises a breed of communicators who value not only content creation and message delivery but feedback as well. With its Web applications, the Internet serves as a venue for the practice of the speech communication transaction model. It is worth recognizing how internet users, especially the teens, become message senders through making Web contents, how they convey these messages and works via multiple channels and sites available online, and how they gather and participate in giving feedback to the created contents and messages. It is a full E-communication flow. Amazing. Professor Adeva would be delighted to see how the communication models she is discussing in Comm3 actually works online.

I am proud of those who value and practice delivering messages and giving feedbacks online. Now these people are a breed of true-blooded communicators emerging right here.   

2. Dotcom Companies

The Internet Age may also be described as the time of the dotcom companies. I am referring to members of the business sector that maximize the potential of the Web to improve an organizational practice, reach and hit the market and generate profit. Many corporations nowadays are engaging in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media distribution services. We have encountered SEO in our Public Relations class last semester and Sir Ed cannot overemphasize how businesses today compete just to gain first spot in online search engines. In the Internet age, effective management and optimization of search engines can provide a company a big advantage over its competitor.  

Also, with most of the market going online, business organizations have to place their effort in reaching the E-public. More than the traditional market strategies namely printed campaigns, publications, etc, companies have to explore the new social media as to competently and effectively advertise, market, and build reputation online.  

3. E-Politics

The Obama-style of campaign is one proof of how the Internet is changing the face of politics and election campaigns. In the United States, some 23% of the population admit they actively use the Web for political purposes, whether to read political news, engage in political commentaries and even create online political campaigns during elections like written articles and videos.

According to John Horrigan, Associate Director for Research of Pew Internets, among Internet users in the US, 20% say they get political news and information from blogs especially during elections while 24% say they visited issue-oriented Websites. They state the availability of additional information and variety of view points presented in campaign Websites, political fora and commentaries as reasons why they engage in E-politics.      

In fact, the number of Americans subscribing to the Internet to monitor and take part in political issues doubled in 2006 compared to the statistic in 2002. It would be no surprise if the numbers back in 2006 will have also doubled this year.

The Price we Pay by being Online

The possibilities offered by the Internet to individuals, businesses and governments come at a costly price. The bad news is that online problems often outweigh the benefits of the using the Web.  In the Internet Age, security and privacy are usually sacrificed for interconnectivity and accessibility.

In terms of individual consumption of the Internet, one of the drawbacks of being online, of being able to share more of yourself in your blogs, in social networking sites, etc, is the lost of privacy. Just consider how much personal data Facebook collects from each of its user—information about your sex, birth date, address, political views, religion, interests, education and work history. These data obviously benefit anybody with access to them. Remember that disclosing personal information online equates to a certain level of transparency. And transparency equates to vulnerability. Given this, it would be wise to examine what we post online and what information we actually made available to the rest of the E-community. 

Regarding businesses, two online threats identified by John Bell of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide are hypertransparency and the spread of viral crises. Bell stated how the presence of over a 150 million bloggers online translates to a huge number of social watchdogs monitoring and probably spying on your company. This is the precise reason why business organizations have to be careful and critical regarding the information they post in their websites or they release in the various channels of the new social media. Another problem encountered by most companies is the faster spread of viral crises. The speed of the Internet applies to the spread of crises which can potentially damage an organization. The management has to have prepared plans to counter the anomalous news or information and respond within hours.

Endnotes

The vastness, power, and prevalence of the Internet are equally amazing and frightening. The idea of a global digital network that allows interconnectivity and accessibility used to belong in the realm of the impossible several decades ago. But as we experience the Web today, as we live right in the middle of the Internet Age, we cannot help but be astonished by its million tools, contents, and applications.

Along with the awe for the power of the Internet is fear of what it currently does and what is capable of doing further. As we sink deeply into the comfort of the Web and technology, we consequently lose much of ourselves, our being human. Behind the avatars in our Facebook accounts, we have lost the ability to empathize and genuinely communicate with other people. We have reduced people to profiles and have redefined friends as merely members of a list. We have practiced instant and over-gratification. We have mislaid patience, contentment and real happiness. We have almost lost our identity and humanity in the unregulated and undisciplined use of technology specifically the Internet.

Neither can we change nor deny the fact that we are in the Internet Age. That we are part of the Cyber Generation. But there are also other realities to remember. No matter how powerful the Internet is, it is still a product of human mind and hands.

And the most important thing we can do today is to constantly remind ourselves of one truth and trust that it will keep us aware of where we stand in a world of humans and technology— Never will a creation surpass and be master over its creator.

 

Links

http://www.newmedia.org.

Pew Internet & American Life Project