FACEBOOK FACE-TO-FACE

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Facebook has often been fertile soil for users with strong beliefs, viewpoints, religious convictions, political persuasions, or any other particular soapbox you want to name. That makes sense. As with all social media, it is a place where people meet online and have the opportunity to express themselves freely—perhaps at times a little too freely for some people.

Some of the ensuing disagreements have led to significant stress for some users. For example, Google executive, Ben Galbraith, has signed off Facebook until next year. He explains why (Jon Swartz, “Election Fallout Hits Social Media: Frayed Facebook Users Take Timeout from Political Posts” USA Today, November 17, 2016, pp. 1A–2A):

‘I’m seeing lots of posts that fill me with anger and require several moments of conscious relaxation to prevent me from writing something that I’ll regret. I’m tired of expending so much mental and emotional energy.’” (p. A2)

His feelings are common to many as Swartz elaborates:

The abrupt decision to turn off the social media spigot of news—62% of U.S. adults get their news from it, the Pew Research Center says—as well as other media that covered the polarizing election resembles reactions people have after a car crash or assault.

This kind of stress and turmoil triggered by social media is saddening, but we definitely understand how and why it happens. With that in mind, one simple countermeasure can mitigate most if not all the pain, and that is simply to treat Facebook as it you were face-to-face with other people. The onus is not confined to the person that chooses to share information. The intended recipient has a responsibility too. Here’s why:

  • In a face-to-face situation, a person of class does not rudely impose his or her ideas upon an unwilling or uninterested person. Why would we think that we are just fine to do so online?
  • In a face-to-face situation, a person of class will gauge the other person’s interest level and position, and adjust what information is shared and how much is shared. Why would we believe that we are free to share what we already know is potentially inappropriate, insulting, or painful?
  • In a face-to-face situation, an uninterested recipient has the ability simply to change the subject of the conversation or walk away. Therefore, as potential recipients of online content, why wouldn’t we simply move on to the next post so that we do not even waste our time being bothered with content in which we already know we have no interest?

These situations are analogous to the customer that says horrific things to a customer service agent on the phone when that customer would never behave that way in person. We must remind ourselves that if civility and etiquette have validity, then they must find application in every context and in every platform. This is especially true for most social media because we lack the benefit of body language and tone.

If we would treat Facebook and all other social media as if we were face-to-face with people, then we would all be much happier and relaxed. Try it today.


TEN FOR FOUR IS A GOOD DEAL

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Although never a guarantee, the numbers reveal that the more formal education you achieve, the less likely you are to be unemployed. You can read the significant evidence published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If that isn’t a good enough reason to earn a degree, the Journal of the American Medical Association published research earlier this year citing that a 25-year-old who earned a college degree will typically live ten years longer than a 25-year-old who never finished high school (Ben Steverman, “Retirement’s Scariest Question: How Long?” Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/7/16–11/13/16, p. 51).

Data can unintentionally be interpreted to say many things. Some of those things might be right and some might be wrong. In this case, I don’t think we are saying that higher education all by itself makes you live longer. However, here are aspects about higher education to consider:

  • People who commit to earning a college degree have an inner sense of drive that carries over to other aspects of their lives, including health and wellness. Perhaps many of these folks that gain that extra decade arrive there partially because of a personal drive for excellence. The cumulative effect of innumerable positive individual choices could be longevity.
  • People who earn a college degree often find their lives enhanced in a variety of ways. Perhaps many of these folks gain that extra decade simply because their quality of life is enhanced, rendering them less prone to debilitating illnesses and ailments.
  • People who earn a college degree enhance their self-worth. Having a positive self-perception is a great inoculation against poor lifestyle choices. Perhaps that enhanced self-worth predisposes those persons to avoiding addictions, risky lifestyles, and criminal activity.

Keep in mind that generalizations do not apply to everyone. I know plenty of college graduates that died very young. However, the fact remains overall, higher education tends to be associated with improved health and longevity. Therefore, wherever you see the opportunity within yourself or others, let’s encourage higher education engagement. Ten for four is a good deal any day.


DON’T MESS WITH THE CHOCOLATE

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Many people take many things very seriously. That is true when it comes to food and it is especially true when that food is chocolate. That is why any chocolate maker must give extremely careful consideration to the customer experience before making changes to the chocolate. Recently Toblerone made that discovery in an unexpected way. The Associated Press reports that Toblerone decided to:

“widen the spaces in some of its triangle-array bars, offering about 10 percent less product for the same price.”

The rationale? You guessed it. As with so many businesses, it was an economic decision. You can only offer the same quantity and quality of a product at a certain price for so long. Without adjusting for the realities of business, you eventually go out of business. Toblerone made the business decision that aligns with staying in business, but the specific solution it enacted was not ideal. It customers were not happy.

That situation suggests two often overlooked perspectives:

  • Whether you know it or not, every business decision eventually affects the customer experience and public relations. Everything about how you choose to do business either works toward keeping you in business or putting you out of business. Customers choose to come and go, directly or indirectly because of your business decisions. Business decisions always translate to the customer experience and public relations.
  • Toblerone could have made a decision that preserves its profitability while simultaneously giving customers what they want. My guess is that Toblerone’s customers (who already love the product) wouldn’t have been the least bit upset if the pricing increased. Customers are smart enough to understand basic economics. Raise the price, keep the shape, and keep your customers! My wife feels violated every time the size of that container of ice cream or any other product decreases with or without a price increase. In her words, “they think I’m that stupid that I won’t notice that? Just increase the price of the container without decreasing its size!”

Let’s give our customers what they want and let’s give our customers more credit. The businesses that know what their customers want and respect their intelligence will keep their customers.


A SATISFYING SAMSUNG SORRY

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When it comes to public relations some aspects are common sense, although sadly not always commonly applied. We can all think of past disasters after which the corporate leadership did very little to handle with finesse and sensitivity. That is why it is refreshing when a company takes ownership for its mistakes and genuinely expresses an apology to its customers. That is exactly what Samsung did recently concerning the unsafe batteries in its Galaxy Note7, and they did it well.

Gregory Lee (president and CEO) published in major newspapers, a full-page apology letter that included all the right components. Lee directly addressed the defective, unsafe batteries in the Galaxy Note7. He clearly apologized for the situation. He reaffirmed the company’s commitment to quality, reliability, and safety, and he explained what was being done to ensure that this kind of a problem does not reoccur.

Yes, I realize that it is easy to be cynical about these sorts of communications. However, what I cannot deny is the way I felt after I read his letter. His letter definitely comes across as genuine. Now anyone can choose to judge the man’s soul. I’m afraid that is above my pay grade. I am willing to take Mr. Lee at his word unless and until someone can prove my trust is misplaced.

In a world in which we are always mentoring the next generation, I offer the thought that Samsung has given us a great example of the right way to manage our mistakes. The more we can demonstrate that individually and corporately, the better off we will all be.


HOW ELECTION DAY LED ME TO THREE THOUGHTS THAT GO FAR DEEPER THAN POLITICS

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We are entering a world to which we’ve never been. As we’ve often observed, our world is constantly changing, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. With the advent of the Internet, new technologies, cultural revisions, and all other active fields of human endeavor, that change is only accelerating. The old adage relentlessly remains true: the only constant is change.

Much of the change we have encountered has been immeasurably beneficial for humanity. On average, the human condition today is orders of magnitude improved from previous centuries. The opportunities afforded today in education, science, art, wellness, healthcare, communications, careers, and many other areas too numerous to mention are immensely better than in the past.

Of course, with these changes not every consequence has been positive. We have faced some negative consequences too. Lately, one prominent area that comes to mind is politics and people’s reactions to politics. Reflecting on the past year of politics, Scott Canon and Dave Helling offer this sad summary (“Is It Over Yet? 2016 Campaign Reflects how Quickly, how Much Society Has Changed” The Kansas City Star, November 6, 2016, pp. 1A, 13A):

The 2016 campaign made the quirks of our era more obvious. A variety of forces—online and otherwise—upend our commerce, our culture, our politics. They make our lives less private and more fractious in large part because of how they put grievance on display.” (p. 1A)

Historian Richard Rhodes opines:

The world, at every level, is getting more transparent. . . . There are just almost no secrets anywhere.

Regardless of your or my political persuasion, all of us have been subjected to one of the most–let’s just say—“interesting” political seasons of all time. It illustrates some of the consequences and trends of our technology and our humanity. Therefore, it also at a more fundamental level reminds us of how we are both its creators and its victims. With that said, here are three thoughts that might help us all:

  • You Are Always On Stage. Like it or not, the Internet has almost destroyed the concept of personal privacy. Never before have we been able to touch one another from around the globe the way we can today. Tragically, never before have we been able to harm one another from around the globe the way we can today. The positives in relationships are even more positive. The negatives in relationships are even more negative. It behooves all of us to live our lives in such a manner that anything and everything we say or do today could potentially be searchable in Google tomorrow. Therefore, let’s think through our words and our behaviors more carefully. Once it is captured in the cyber world, it is there forever. Then again, if we do in fact give such thought to what we say or do, isn’t that genuinely a very good outcome for everyone?
  • Not Everyone Agrees With You. We need to remember the art of respectfully agreeing to disagree. Admittedly, we as people can have intense and passionate convictions. Isn’t that part of what makes the world so interesting? The world would be a pretty boring place if it was you and your 7 billion clones. Perhaps we need to learn afresh the art of conversation?
  • Find Your Peace. When the world offers you no sanctuary, find your own sanctuaries. Family, faith, special places, special times, rest, prayer, and reflection are all opportunities to find peace amidst the storms of life. You don’t always have to be at war. The most successful businesspeople not only work hard, but stop to play hard too. We all need those sanctuaries. Mine might be different than yours, but we must all find them. Without them we would go insane. That is not a good outcome. Where will you find your peace?

Notice I didn’t get political on you. My objective was something much more important. You can decide whether I achieved it.