May 262017

Not only does he have two last names, but this brilliant and inspiring speaker has two titles and is a professor in two departments! Jeff MacKie-Mason is UC Berkeley’s University Librarian and Chief Digital Scholarship Officer, as well as a Professor of the School of Information and Professor of Economics. He came to Berkeley in 2015 from the University of Michigan where he was recognized with the University’s Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award. He has been a pioneering scholar in the economics of the Internet, online behavior, and digital information and been published more than 85 times. In addition to his exceptional academic achievements MacKie-Mason is passionate about the performing arts, serves on the board of Cal Performances, and was an active board member of the University Musical Society at University of Michigan (Cal Performances’ most similar peer organization nationwide.)

In his BC2 talk – Information pollution and how to fight it – Jeff will speak to us campus communicators about why it’s now so challenging to sift through the glut of online information, factual or otherwise, and also provide informed context about what we all need to do in order to make sure our stories stand out as credible amidst all of the noise. Watch him participate in a panel discussion about fake news hosted earlier this year by UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and read the accompanying Berkeley Library News article highlighting his participation. In the article MacKie-Mason describes one of our current day challenges, “The content platform providers now want to lower the barriers for people to bring content to them. They want to make it as easy as possible for people to publish,” said MacKie-Mason. “At the same time, you want to keep out the manipulations, the spam, the disinformation. But telling the difference is very hard. It’s very costly.”

Read the full description of his BC2 talk on the conference agenda page. We look forward to welcoming Jeff MacKie-Mason to the BC2 podium for the third session beginning shortly after 11am on Tuesday, June 13. In addition, he has generously promised to stick around for the lunchtime networking hour from 12:30-1:30pm!

May 202014

In a meeting the oinstagramNYCther day with a (ahem… older) colleague I was asked why anyone would ever want to do an InstaMeet. InstaMeets are events during which Instagram photographers go to the same location, take photographs, and post over the same time period. They represent a unique moment captured from many different perspectives – an intersection of the digital and the physical plane. Or, just a chance for a bunch of people who are photography enthusiast to meet each other and do something they love, together.

It got me thinking about what successful digital marketing is in a world with so much technology aimed at humans – who in essence crave the same things we’ve wanted for thousands of years: connection, communication and community.

We desired to be able to capture and record our thoughts – to connect with other at a later time and place. So, we invented writing (oh yah, and we wanted to tax people… also an age old human need).  Over millennia we went from cuneiform to messages delivered in an instant around the world.  We needed to communicate with each other across vast distances. So carrier pigeons evolved into cell phones and now we can speak any time, to almost anyone – instantaneously. We formed nomadic tribes to fulfill common goals and needs. Eventually these became the virtual communities of today, formed around every interest and passion under the sun. current technological tools answer needs we as a civilization identified thousands of years ago. In millennia, those needs haven’t changed. Understanding the essence of human nature has been and will always be at the heart of marketing.  As we look forward to the next big thing we must also look inward and understand who we are: as humans, as a civilization, as a community, and as a tribe.  InstaMeets work because they combine passion, connection, community and technology.

Finding the intersection of the human soul and that perfect communication tool – new, old or a combination of virtual and physical isn’t easy. It requires truly understanding your business needs, your audience / consumers, and your options. Sometimes it means turning away the bright and shiny to use a technology that seems outdated. Sometimes it means capital investment and taking a risk. It always requires research and soul searching.

Still, for as long as we’ve craved the same, simple things, humans are complex and there isn’t a single simple formula. But with diligence, research and insight, we as marketers can hunt and gather our way to solutions that make sense and truly feed our digital tribes. Oh, and sell stuff.

By Fawn Kazati, Director Content Strategy, Saatchi & Saatchi LA
Twitter: @fawnforce

Hear from Fawn and her colleague Kayla Green during their BC2 session on Bringing Brands to Life Through Digital Marketing. Learn  how you can leverage basic human insights to determine appropriate tools, and then build a narrative across your digital marketing ecosystem (website, mobile, apps, social, search, PR) that creates a meaningful connection between your business, your brand and your audience.

May 092013
Czech Republic

Little town in the Czech Republic

Everyone should tilt-shift at least once. It’s easy. You see people doing it on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter—and, of course, Instagram, where it’s practically de rigueur for selfies. But don’t be scared off by the weird name; tilt-shift is not another impossible contortion conjured up by your Lululemon-wearing, Ashtanga Yoga instructor. No “Namaste” required here. Rather, it’s a really cool photo technique that will make your already great photos shine, and has the potential to re-make your somewhat lame photos into something memorable.

Simply put, tilt-shift is a post-production technique that defines an area of focus within your photo, while applying blur to other areas of the image. This sort of selective focusing produces interesting—and sometimes surprising—results. In the extreme, it gives photos a miniaturizing effect. This works best if you shoot down at your subject, from high to low. You can see an example of this in the photo I took from an archer’s turret in the castle ramparts above a little town in the Czech Republic. Boosting the saturation, as I did here, adds to the deception.

But you don’t have to shoot from extreme heights to make use of this tool. For images shot on a plane, more or less, level with your subject, tilt-shift adds a dreamy, atmospheric feel to images. In the iPhone shot of my kids running through a sprinkler, I love the way the band of focus that runs through their faces and on the water spray contrasts with the blurry band at the edges of the photo. It was an incredibly hot day, but that didn’t really come through in the original photo. Adding blur caused the trees and fence to shimmer and glow the way things do on a scorching summer day. For me, this gave the shot an idyllic, “endless summer” kind of quality that you wouldn’t get without tilt-shift.

kids and sprinkler

My kids running through a sprinkler

Tilt-shift can also be used to focus directly on a specific person or element within your photo. Applying a circle of focus around a subject in a busy shot, with lots of competing elements, directs attention to the portion you want to highlight. In the shot of the boy in the swim cap (below, also an iPhone shot), the swimmers in the foreground and background are blurred, but the boy is in sharp focus. The image is now about the anticipation he’s experiencing while waiting to be called for his race. It becomes a powerful moment caught in time.

Boy swimmer

Photo of young swimmer by Max Berkowitz

But tilt-shift is not all fun and games. It can add solemnity to an event or location. The shot I snapped at the Vietnam War Memorial in DC of the sky and trees reflected in the wall (see below) was decent but didn’t capture the emotion of being there in person. With the tilt-shift technique applied, the focus is now on a small sampling of names in the center of the wall, which helps to personalize the experience. The wall blurs into the background, as if it goes on forever. So many names… which is precisely how you feel standing at the wall.

So how do you do it? The good news is that this is all ridiculously easy to do. I use the tilt-shift tool in the free Photoshop Express app for iPhone. There are also versions for Android, and for desktop computers (see list below). Some are free; some are .99 cents, or a bit more. Instagram recently added a tilt-shift tool. They all work more or less the same way. Here’s the basic workflow: open your tilt-shift app, select a photo, use a slider or your finger to adjust the degree of blur, maybe increase the saturation, and hit save. That’s it. The better apps let you move and expand the band of focus and the degree of blurriness.

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

Full disclosure: I know there will be some photo geeks—I’m one of them—out there who are saying, “That’s not real tilt-shift.” And that’s true. This is fake tilt-shift. Real tilt-shift can only be accomplished by using an expensive tilt-shift lens. Unless you’re a purist, the fake tilt-shift will do.

Lastly, a word of caution: like any photo technique, overusing tilt-shift will quickly cast it and your photos into cliché status. Avoid that: use it sparingly and only when you want to achieve a specific result. Do that, and I think you’ll find that tilt-shift is a brilliantly easy-to-use tool that can add value to your shots.

Apps for iPhone:
Photoshop Express 
TiltShift Generator
Tilt Shift Focus

Apps for Android:
Photoshop Express 
Awesome Miniature

Apps for Desktop:
Photoshop CS6
Tilt Shift Focus App for Mac Desktop

Aug 062012

I revisited my Midwestern roots last month (ah, flyover country) while attending the HigherEds 2010 Huddle at the University of Michigan, and in the process picked up a lot of ideas and inspiration from folks who face the same daily challenges we do.

HigherEds is a loosely affiliated group of North American university communicators who keep in touch with each other throughout the year on an email listserv, and get together each summer for a Huddle, a not-really-a-conference where we spend two days giving and taking in presentations, sharing ideas, asking questions and networking. The past three summers, Huddles were held in Toronto, Rutgers (N.J.) and Michigan. (If you notice a geographic trend here, you’re not alone, which is why there’s chatter on the listserv about a West Coast Huddle in 2013.) While originally focused on internal communications strategy and practice, the group has seen that audience boundary dissolve as the web and other new technologies spread our communications farther and wider.

This year’s Huddle covered a wide variety of topics, from social media and press releases to humanities news and DIY video. Copies of the presentations for many of these topics are available on the group’s website ( But I thought I’d call out a few of the lessons learned that struck me as particularly helpful in a Berkeley context.

 Social Media: Michigan has a vigorous social media operation led by a full-time director recruited from the corporate world, Jordan Miller. She talked about the @UMichStudents account on Twitter, in which a different student each week tweets about his/her activities, thoughts and interests. Jordan vetted the students, all volunteers, by looking at their existing social media presences to get an idea of their style and appropriateness. One of her goals was to pick a broad cross-section of tweeters to represent UMich’s diversity: a rah-rah cheerleader one week, a geek the next, a student politician the third, etc. She says the feed has been immensely popular, and hasn’t caused any blowback despite having the students post without any kind of institutional review or editing. (She acknowledges that the idea “may well be a time bomb,” but the return so far has been great.) Jordan and others also noted that Twitter seems to attract a more thinking, less “ditto that” audience than Facebook, making it a better place to promote more intellectual or important stories.

As for monitoring comments and posts, Jordan said that on the rare occasions she has felt the need to remove something, she has always added a note explaining her actions. And she said the Facebook and Twitter communities themselves have done a fine job of policing the run-of-the-mill “UM sucks!” posts.

At Wisconsin, where there are nearly 500 social media accounts spread around campus, social media and internal communications manager John Lucas says they try to infuse the “inspired goofiness” that is UW’s personality into social media posts, differentiating those channels from the more stodgy, institutional character of the university’s traditional communications outlets. Among other things, that has meant polls and contests to collect reader photos into a Flickr stream, or using Storify to gather faculty tweets in the immediate aftermath of a major news event. Another notable effort was UWRightNow, highlighting 24 hours in the life of the campus with more than 1,000 photos, tweets, stories, blog posts and other items shared in real time from around the globe. As for less-successful ventures, John says, “It’s OK to fail — the web moves on.”

 Blogs: Two intriguing efforts were LabLog, from Michigan’s College of Engineering, and Virginia’s UVaToday News Blog. LabLog focuses not on the end product of research (those dense and daunting peer-reviewed papers) nor on the awards won by researchers, but rather on the process of research, highlighting unusual methods, novel research tools, exotic locations, or serendipitous discoveries. It offers a good chance for storytelling rather than dry recitation of facts, and thus makes for unusually interesting reading, as well as a good media-pitching tool. The UVa News Blog also focuses on the lighter side of campus news, providing a home for odd, offbeat or quirky stories, YouTube embeds, nonvarsity sports, rankings, and a way to trumpet great outside media coverage.

Video: Teams from Michigan’s communications office and engineering school conducted a clinic on how to create great video with limited resources. They even shot, edited and posted a video of Huddle participants during the morning presentations. Among their tips:

  • When filming, get in close and get comfortable with your subject
  • Be authentic, not scripted
  • Look for surprises, but sprinkle them throughout the video story
  • Gather lots of ambient sound, and use it throughout the piece
  • Look for emotions and conflict; that’s what will hook viewers
  • Conduct interviews in the field, not the office
  • Avoid inverted pyramid style in videos. Or as Jean-Luc Godard puts it, “A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end … but not necessarily in that order.”

They recommend asking video subjects to summarize their story in one sentence, and then using that condensed summary as a guide to shooting and editing down the final video.

Analytics: Demographics for your social media followers and interactions (age, gender) can help guide you to the best stories for promoting in those channels. On the web, analytics — showing who your audience is, and what they’re interested in — can help you choose what to cover, and then support that decision among higher-ups. They can also give you ideas about when best to post items (e.g. Rutgers found that student videos received the most traffic when posted on Thursdays and Fridays).

Arts reporting: Michigan has a separate portal ( to spotlight stories from the arts and humanities, and an editor whose primary focus is on finding, writing and linking to such stories. They use video whenever possible to bring the stories to life, even short, YouTube-quality video. And they meet monthly with communications folk from the relevant departments and schools to sort through potential story ideas.

Press releases: Rutgers, which launched a NewsCenter-style news site a couple of years ago, has moved away from writing traditional press releases, yet has found that their stories still get carried by traditional media (as links, rewrites, even wholesale verbatim pickups). Now they primarily write directly for the end reader, and pitch stories to the media via emails that include a summary of the story, a link to the online version at Rutgers Today, and sometimes a bulleted list of highlights or key facts to pique a reporter’s interest.

Get a life: A presentation on how to cover the news without burning yourself out included the following recommendations:

  • Telecommute or use flexible scheduling (e.g. four 10-hour days)
  • Use cloud-based systems like Google Docs instead of server-based storage that limits your physical location
  • Hire student interns and work-study staff
  • Take a laptop and head out onto campus to work for a few hours
  • Schedule publication times to match your audience traffic patterns. In particular, if you have a CMS, use it to publish stories around 7 a.m. so visitors have something fresh to read after they fire up their computers.
Jun 122012

people at BerkeleyConsider the facts: Your students, your staff, your alumni, your clients, your competitors, your donors, your advocates and your detractors are all socially engaged. They all have voices.

Some have created a “personal brand.” Others are speaking with association to a company’s or school’s brand. This rise of the unofficial spokesperson has significant potential repercussions.

These voices, in the physical world, are mostly weak. In the social world, they can be powerful and influential. In the social world, there is noise and signal. Noise is retweeted, thoughtless, unconnected 140-character sets. It’s flaky Facebook fans. Signal cuts through. Is on message. Is connected. Signal drives to action.

Effective social marketers have intentionally high signal-to-noise ratios. Effective social marketers listen extremely well. They understand the value of dialogue. They welcome conversation.

This rise of the constituent voice, of many voices, is changing marketing.

With potentially more than half of your employees and faculty online and socially active, there is a need for empowerment guidelines. Most will not have had the media training of traditional company spokespeople. With a desire for your subject matter experts to be engaged, there is a need for either incentives or new job profiles to encourage the behavior sought. With the massive volume of messages to listen to and interpret, there is a need for focus, for direction and connection. This is the new role of network management.

Add to this complexity that it’s likely that close to 100% of your student body is online and social active.

As a result, education is changing. So is customer service.  It’s faster and it’s public. Forget Twelpforce, though this in itself is a powerful outworking of the positive. Think disgruntled customers who are not getting the attention they need or deserve. Think of the opportunity for your competitor or detractor to amplify this dissatisfaction. Or, now thinking Twelpforce, consider the competitor who listens to your customers and embraces them.  Now think about it from the perspective of your student body.

Social is the opportunity to listen. As children, we all heard that we were created with two ears and one mouth, and that meant we should focus on listening first and doing that twice as much. This truism holds for the Age of Many Voices.

Besides being polite, it will help ensure you are on message. Listening is a research opportunity. Done properly, it is an incredible research tool as well as a lead-capturing and -farming opportunity. And, critically, all of this is in real time.

Effective social marketers create intentional systems.

We started with “consider the facts.” Perhaps consider this: Do you know how many of your students are socially engaged?  What about your alumni and faculty? Do you know how many of your prospective students are online? Do you know what your competitors are saying, what your advocates and detractors are saying? Are you socially engaged?

In the Age of Many Voices, are you ready?

George Gallate
Global Chairman, Euro RSCG 4D

Jun 122012


Ram Kapoor

Ram Kapoor

As the Digital Head for the university, I was informed the other day (no tweet, no poke, regular old email) that UC Berkeley has been granted automatic registration to a new social network. One that is solely focused on people with IQ scores of 180 and above. Wow, really? So now they expect me to take my social networking team (person) and spread it (her) even thinner across yet another social network that may or may not take off? No thanks!

We have our hands full managing the social networks we are already committed to – Facebook, Twitter, the water cooler committee, Google Plus (the last one was just to ingratiate myself with Louis Gray from Google, who I hope will show us how to use G+ more effectively.) ‘Pint arrest’? (that was auto correct but it’s kind of cute). I love the interface and the user numbers (Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google Plus, Linkedin and Youtube combined) but feel it is better suited to fashion, design and entertainment. At least that is what my 11 year old messaged me from an alternate universe.

If some of you are wondering what all this is leading up to, don’t worry. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out. In the meantime, here is my 3-point plan for the web. (The world domination plan was 7 points and I didn’t want to waste your time.)

  1. There’s a lot of chaos on the web. It’s our job to bring order to it. At least our share of it. Or as much as possible given our resources and constraints. Whenever we feel up to it….
  2. I believe there are only two kinds of digital plans. Those that engage and those that bore. I believe the latter should be isolated using fluorescent yellow tapes and flashing red lights. The penalty for crossing over should be 12 years in a Siberian gulag prison hut with no Internet access. Or plumbing.
  3. Our audience is one click away from our competitor’s website. That is true. But what do you do when you have a busload of different competitors? What if you compete with Harvard for daily university news, xkcd for comics, Flickr for photo essays, and StumbleUpon for new discoveries? Wouldn’t people go mad click-clicking their way to our competitors’ sites? Or raise their de Quervain syndromes to catastrophic levels? Isn’t it our moral duty to save humanity from death by multiple clicks? That is why our site has to be so good that nobody ever wants to leave it. Even to go to the bathroom. Or to check if that burning smell is really the toaster. We want them 100%. We want puppy-dog obedience and utter devotion. To our website and social media channels. Is that too much to ask for?

Outraged? Engaged? Feel free to respond below or tweet your feelings to #sharebc2.  It will give us a chance to test some funky twitter visualization apps!

Jun 112012

A prescient post by Louis Gray, a noted social media expert who will speak at the Berkeley Communications Conference this Thursday. 

Social media illustrationNow that the world’s information is posted, linked, indexed and searchable, and friends are connecting, sharing, liking, and following, the quest is on to streamline the noise and give the Web another dimension – one not measured by the data, or who led you to the data, but you as an individual. The third wave of the Web, I believe, is going to be about personalization by individual based on that individual’s preferences – explicitly stated or otherwise.

The declaration of the next wave of the Web being personal is not shared universally, of course. Some say the next wave is all about mobile. Others may say the next wave is all about location. But the right approach to ‘personal’ absolutely encompasses each of these things. With our smartphones and tablets being increasingly powerful, they are practically an extension of us, and we are relying on them to discover relevant things, content, places and products for us as individuals. Similarly, our location is an ingredient of who we are – for where we are impacts our decisions, and what tips are relevant, be it for news, for restaurants, lodging, dating or anything else. So “personal” as an individual is both local and mobile.