Pitching Tripartisan

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Writing an elevator pitch for a company is undoubtedly a difficult experience. I believe in the practice of writing and employing elevator pitches; in fact as a part of my political science capstone I will have to deliver one on my project in front of all of the professors. The difference, however, is this is a project that I have been developing three years and doing the research on by hand.

While I love the idea of Tripartisan, only one student in our group has taken business related classes and thus learning to build a business in the span of 8 weeks is hard. Knowing the kind of research required or what should be included in a market segment is difficult when your training is sparse. Moreover plenty of people spend years developing their pitches and their products, doing trial runs and pivoting as needed. That means students with only a few class periods to prepare an elevator pitch is about as unprepared as they can be.

Business meeting

Image courtesy of freerangestock.com and Jack Moreh

I think the most difficult part was not being able to get feedback from our classmates before we received a final grade. I’ll be honest I hadn’t prepared as much as I’d have liked and I make no excuses for that, it was poor time management on my part. I was lucky in that Catherine was in class early and we used the time to pitch our speeches back and forth. What I think could have really helped the vast majority of students would have been some time to develop our pitches in our groups. Not to the point that we all had the same pitch, word for word; but so we could distill the core essence of our business plan and build from there. While rehearsing with Catherine, I listened to her speech and refined some of my talking points.

I also believe that having smaller groups would benefit a lot of people. I highly doubt many of us are going to be pitching an idea to 20 college students and their professor with any regularity. In fact, most of the pitches we saw (excluding those done at a competition) were done in front of a small group of venture capitalists. Sometimes the fact that the class – especially a big class – is made of people you know and respect makes it difficult to deliver a speech. You know exactly who is going to laugh when, who is checking their Facebook and who has their fingers and toes crossed praying they don’t screw up their speech. It’s comforting and yet oddly alienating; unlike the big competitions, we can’t walk away from this class and tell ourselves we’ll do better next time. We know we’re going to continue to see everyone; that our “sneaky journalist” mistakes are going to follow us into the next class.

The benefits of elevator pitches are amazing. They can land you jobs. They can score you points with your boss when investors show up unannounced at the doorstep. But they are terrifying. They can’t be under-practiced or over-practiced and the judges will hear your sales department voice a mile away. That’s what makes elevator pitches like Band-Aids, sometimes you just have to rip them off and focus on doing better next time.

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Making entrepreneurship safer

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In his article Why the Lean Start Up Changes Everything, Steve Blank addresses the development of a new business model, in which agile design and iterative development build better businesses in a “safer” way. No business model is inherently safe, in fact the statistics on businesses that fail are staggering. Using the lean start up model, however, allows for adaptation in the face of adversity, for pivoting in the face of failure.

Contrary to the idea set forth by Blank that this is a radical shift in set up, for the millennial generation,  this business model is the typical set up. Maybe it is a generational difference, maybe not, but when I was reading about this model it felt like common sense. Of course you’d want to develop in stages with consistent customer feedback; of course you’d continue to adapt according to the business world’s changing needs.

Jump

Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com. Like the child jumping to kick the ball and score a goal in this photo, beginning a business is a big risk with a potentially large payoff.

Facebook, for example, is a example of how businesses should change as needed. Facebook began as the brainchild of several college students but as the website began to take off Mark Zuckerberg, along with his team, built algorithms to cater to an older population that may not be tech-oriented. This allowed generations of people who weren’t able to use MySpace due to a lack of coding skills to engage in social media.

Furthermore, as millennials, my generation remembers the great housing crisis of 2008 and the ensuing recession through the eyes of children. We saw adults in our lives lose their jobs and houses around us foreclose, something I think most people overlook when attempting to contextualize our behavior. I think this has led to a more gun-shy group of entrepreneurs who are hesitant to go all in without a safety net. This hypothesis may not seem to connect the variables but the majority of students I know worry about money and the stability of their future, which in turn makes them seek jobs and business opportunities that are likely to remain viable despite the changing economic landscape.

The lean start up model is essentially a business example of evolution. As older, less stable business models go extinct, newer models take their place resulting in a better product for the average consumer.

The professional necessity of social media

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Well folks, I survived. Not only did I complete an entire course on a subject I would rather avoid, I learned how to be a more effective consumer of social media. I learned how to build a professional profile for my platforms and how to market not only myself by my skills as a social media manager. I’ll admit there were moments where I felt aggravated but overall I enjoyed the class.

The social media strategy was simultaneously the most frustrating and rewarding part of the class. First I’d like to state that Tina Popson is an amazing woman and I thoroughly applaud her willingness to sit through 19 social media strategies.

Bull horn.jpg

Photo courtesy of freerangstock.com and Jack Moreh

The strategy itself proved difficult because the Creighton Recent Alumni Association doesn’t have the same draw that a typical non-profit has. For example, the Humane Society has kittens and puppies to draw in their target audiences. The RAA, on the other hand, lacks the warm and fuzzy feeling that puppies and kittens bring to the table. My partner and I, therefore, made it our mission to make the messages delineated in our strategy give people the same comforting feelings.

Although difficult, by creating this strategy I have added one more marketable tool to my resume – which in today’s consistently fluctuating job market is never a bad thing. I learned that despite my aversion to the various social media platforms, my best bet is to be flexible and adaptable because my job’s requirements may change with a moments notice.

I am grateful for what this class has taught me because there is a virtual guarantee that I will use this technology in my future job. Similarly, I rediscovered a love of liking innocuous things on Facebook. I may not post often but I believe liking and retweeting things is a step in the right direction.

I found the most fascinating blog to be the public shaming blog, which centered on people who have been targeted by a negative viral movement. This blog assignment encompassed everything I have ever hated about social media – from the furious to the down right violent responses and more. More often than not social media feels like a trap being set and while I have several strategies to avoid the ire of the Internet, I am still hesitant to post anything vaguely controversial.

Simply put this class was a wealth of information and a veritable education for people like me who avoid the constant stream of social media. I am grateful for the skills I have learned and the many exciting projects we developed throughout the class.

Social media: the new public stockade

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I know that I’ve made my opinions on social media clear. I know that I haven’t always given it its due on this blog, but a large part of the reason I hate social media stems from public shaming. In Monica Lewinsky’s Ted Talk she compares the Internet to a public stockade, and she’s right. On the surface social media is a brilliant way to remain connected and for every horror story there are three or four good stories. Unfortunately, those good stories never seem to outshine the lack of compassion and inhumanity of cyber-bullying.

Maybe its because I’ve been told that some of my family members are going to hell, maybe its because I’ve been called the “damn liberal/hippy,” or maybe its because I have a bleeding heart but when I look at social media platforms all I see is a more accessible way to hurt people. I don’t think I was ever bullied, people said and did some hurtful things and I moved on with no lasting effects. But with social media the cruelty doesn’t end after school, it doesn’t end at night; it’s a steady stream of hatred that pours into every hour of every day until a new victim is found.

Megaphone Characters Show Attention Explaining Announce And Bull

Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com and Stuart Miles

While I am less inclined to sympathize with Justine Sacco than I am with John Higgins, Lewinsky and Michelle Ferrier, her stupidity shouldn’t warrant threats on her life. What she tweeted was senseless, racist, and cruel to those suffering with HIV and AIDS and I make no pretense to defend her. But was that tweet worth the total destruction of her life? Some might argue yes, others no. I stand somewhere in the middle. As a P.R. executive she should have known better and I do think firing her was appropriate but I’m reticent to say she deserved to have her life gobbled up by salacious magazines looking for a story.

Similarly Lewinsky, Ferrier and Higgins didn’t deserve to have their lives upended by the Internet’s insatiable need for malice. Humiliation and dehumanization are never the answer.

Imagine for a minute, if instead of making people regret their error by making them relive it, we saw fit to explain why what they did was hurtful. We teach children empathy for this reason, why can’t we use it to teach adults?

As mentioned earlier I avoid social media – it scares me. I’ve watched friends obsess over the latest Instagram post by Kim Kardashian and wondered if people even see her as human. What if we began to see everyone as human, as more than just a screen name? Would we change the way we talk to each other or even about each other? Or have we become so utterly desensitized to the idea of empathy that we now lack the ability to communicate with one another in more than just moral absolutes.

I don’t have the answers and I certainly can’t say I’ve never said a mean thing. I’ve had days where half the things that came out of my mouth were unkind. I just want to know why we stopped treating each other as fallible people and began expecting perfection.

 

Changing

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She’s changing the world with love and compassion. That sounds erroneously self-important doesn’t it? Don’t worry I think so too but I also think it’s the best way to describe who I want to be.

Today I could go on Facebook and see hundreds of posts filled with violence. There may be news reports of a school shooting, someone live-streaming a fight in the parking lot, or pictures of horrifically abused animals and children. And while I believe its critically important to talk about these issues, I think society has become utterly desensitized to the images, so much so that scrolling past them barely phases us.

In a world that swipes through pictures that should disturb us, I want to remain sensitive to these pictures because they show me what needs to be changed in the world. Pictures of suffering peoples should be intolerable to see because they reveal the dire circumstances that exist and need to be fixed. I think in order to change the world you have to remain affected by it.

peace-sign

Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com and Chance Agrella 

I don’t believe I can singlehandedly change the world; create world peace and end hunger. Those are lofty goals that are far beyond what one person can achieve. Instead I believe that remaining sensitive in a world that forces us to be hard is the first step to changing the status quo.

When I feel outraged by the President’s dangerous actions, no longer can I be indifferent; I am motivated to become a better activist. When I see a news report on a school shooting, I ask what can be done to prevent this unnecessary violence.

I can honestly say that some days I wish I could turn the sadness off. There are days when closing my eyes and saying lalalala as loud as I possibly can are appealing, but on those days it’s more important than ever to act lovingly and compassionately.

My philosophy class has been discussing the Dalai Lama’s Ethics of a New Millennium, in which his holiness describes why the world is in need of a spiritual revolution. He argues that we have become self absorbed, too focused on our own troubles to be in solidarity with others. His statement is not meant as a rebuke of society, especially western society, but rather as a wake up call; a call for our actions to be made with the good of others in mind.

I am not perfect nor would I ever claim to be. To follow the Dalai Lama’s indictment is to radically shift my thought process so that I am consistently thinking about others before myself, which is – and surely will continue to be – a long process. But if I have to contain myself within a sentence, she’s changing the world with love and compassion, is what I strive for it to be.

The Journalistic Tango

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Journalism is a tango of sorts. Beautiful when danced to perfection, painful to look at when danced out of sync. In this analogy the writer pulls the reader in like dancers pull the judges into the story told by their movements.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com) I understand that these are not people doing the tango but I’ve got limited options on a free stock photo website. 

Like any well-performed tango the communication between reader and writer is often subliminal, dependent upon the journalists ability to appeal to reader’s interests and stay true to their ethics as a writer. Each reader has specific passions that a journalist has an obligation to report on. But that doesn’t mean that journalists have to ignore their own passions. For every journalist’s fascination there are thousands of readers willing and able to voraciously eat up every word. A journalist who writes fairly and produces good work will always have an audience full of hungry readers. However, when a reader discovers their source for news has been feeding them false information, that their trust has been abused; their confidence in any news source is brutally shredded. The bond between reader and writer is just that delicate.

In keeping with the analogy of the tango, there are those who spew false or intentionally misleading information and when the judges (in this case the public) criticize these “news” organizations, they proceed to throw temper tantrums about the ridiculousness of the criticism. In a sense these news organizations are the couple backstage at a dance competition crying and whining about how unfair the judges were rather than owning up to their errors and attempting to rectify them. News isn’t credible because of how loud it’s proclaimed or by how many people its bias appeals to. News is only credible when the audience is presented with the facts, and only the facts, in such a way that they are able to make up their own mind, anything else is brainwashing plain and simple. Unfortunately many people now associate the once shining reputation of journalism with the Bill O’Reillys of the world because they have a platform from which they can scream hate and inaccuracy without suffering the consequences a normal journalist would.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com) Fair warning this is also someone not doing the tango.

That being said, there are times, like in any good dance, where a single misstep can ruin an otherwise perfect execution. Sources act as the partner in the journalistic tango and sometimes their error can destroy the entire story, even though the journalist had no intention of deceiving his or her audience. Famous cases of journalistic error due to source error run roughshod over the otherwise flawless history of journalism. Sources of information are sometimes inaccurate, they almost always deviate from one another and opponents can easily manipulate their credibility if their past is not flawless. This is why journalists have a duty to continuously pursue the truth. A journalist, like any dancer, must err on the side of caution, always expecting their partner’s error, preparing for it in hopes of rectifying it before it ruins the dance.

Modern Friendship: The Reality of Media in Our Relationships

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The Greeks distinguish four separate types of love: agape, philia, eros, and storge. All four are defined differently but they all are based on the love felt in a certain type of relationship. Agapic love is the love between god and person. Philic love is considered that which is between friends and often demonstrated in affection. Erotic love is passionate and sexual. Storgic love is between parent and child. I mention these different types of love because love grows out of relationship but in today’s media obsessed culture where it’s possible to have a thousand “friends”, have our relationships lost their meaning? We can talk to our friends across oceans and mountains but has this level of contact really brought us closer or has it conditioned us to believe a like on Facebook is a fair trade for friendship?

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

To give some perspective one of my best friends lives in Thailand. We’ve known each other for close to 7 years and I can say with absolute surety that we would not be as close as we are today if we weren’t able to stay connected through Facebook. On the other hand, we keep in contact because our friendship is based on more than the occasional Facebook like. In fact we often joke that our friendship is centered on food but that’s a story for another post. Intuitively I can read the sarcasm in his messages and he can read my mood, but I’d argue that if our relationship were based purely in media we wouldn’t know how to read the subtext that reveals our friendship. We are close because we know each other on a cellular level and that’s something that media established relationships simply can’t compete with.

My best friend Key and I, all dressed up with no where to go.

My best friend Key and I. All dressed up with no where to go.

I’m not so arrogant to say that media denigrates the word relationship but it does change it. If everyone on my Facebook page or Twitter feed is my friend then I have to seriously consider my definition of friend. Is it a relationship grounded and grown in love or is it merely a way to show off when I’m having fun and garner sympathy when I’m down and out. I can’t answer this question empirically, therefore, I can’t say whether or not my relationships are made more complex or are deepened by media. What I can say is media helps me to maintain relationships I have already established in the “real world” and for that I am grateful.