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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

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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?