Trap of the Day: Jersey Shore

The New Year is upon us, and with it returns longings for springtime, plans for self-betterment, and a new season of MTV’s infamous reality series, “Jersey Shore.” As each new episode of the Shore airs, the internet surges with yet another wave of hand-wringing articles claiming the ways in which the show dumbs down its viewers, causes much-deserved shame in its audience, and promotes undereducated role models for our children. Though it may not be a popular stance in this culture of irony and irate-ness, I choose to instead profess my earnest affection for both “Jersey Shore” and its cast of fist-pumping, Jersey-turnpiking, constantly tanning characters.

I recognize, of course, the gawking appeal of the Shore and its inhabitants, and I make no attempt to argue against its value as borderline-sideshow entertainment. After all, where else can you watch a grown woman elatedly drink pickle juice straight from the jar, witness someone literally dancing her own underwear off in public, and satisfy your longstanding curiosity as to what Jake Gyllenhaal would look like if he took up competitive bodybuilding (quick answer: Snooki’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Jionni)?

Beyond this, though, my love for “Jersey Shore” and its often alien-seeming inhabitants comes from the quieter, gentler moments, when I find myself relating to the cast as actual people. It is in these scenes where I can see my own goofiness in the Jersey boys’ original song for alerting the house as to what time it is (a habit my roommate and I have since adopted), recognize my best friend and I’s die-hard, sometimes dorky, relationship in the faithful bond between Snooki and JWoww, and even identify my own confusion as to how to deal with feelings of rejection and vulnerability in Ronnie’s tear-filled freak-outs over Sammi. Because as humiliating, humbling and humanizing as it can be to see ourselves in these Others, there’s something equally heartening in the knowledge that even “gorilla juiceheads” have difficult feelings, that even self-proclaimed “guidettes” struggle with our society’s infuriating double-standards, and that even someone who gets as much love from the ladies as Vinny does sometimes feels so lonely for his mom that it sends him into a panic.

For me, it’s not so much about what makes makes me or my life better/worse/different from the action at the “Jersey Shore,” it’s the things that make it all–and us all–surprisingly the same.


Trap of the Day: Heisman Trophy

Tomorrow evening, college football’s most illustrious fraternity will crown its newest inductee. The question is, who will be the next Heisman Trophy king?

The finalists:

Andrew Luck, Stanford Cardinal: Making his second-consecutive appearance at the Heisman Trophy presentation, Luck has been one of the favorites to strike the pose all season long. Although he is the top prospect in the upcoming NFL draft, many voters will question whether Luck is deserving of the prestigious award knowing he couldn’t win the “big one,” unable to lead his Cardinal squad to a Pac12 title. Not to worry for Luck, he’ll be taking home the largest NFL paycheck out of any of the Heisman finalists.

Trent Richardson, Alabama Tide: Playing in the toughest defensive conference in the country, Richardson has been an absolute horse for the Tide’s offensive attack. Any player that rushes for over six yards per carry in the SEC is well deserving of Heisman praise. Although Richardson was a significant factor in Bama reaching this year’s BCS National Championship, his full body of work in 2011 may not be enough to bring home the grand prize. The knock on Richardson: he averaged nearly 11 yards per carry when the Tide already lead by 15+ points and he scored 40% of his touchdowns versus “cupcake” non-conference opponents. In contrast, Richardson scored zero rushing TD’s versus tougher SEC foes LSU, Arkansas and Auburn.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor Bears: The silky smooth quarterback has emerged as the Heisman favorite entering Saturday’s presentation. The dual-threat speedster has been a headache for defensive coordinators all season long with an ability to both throw the deep ball accurately, while being able to tuck it in and scramble for a big gain. RG3 has also been incredibly poised and efficient throwing for a staggering 36 touchdown passes, coupled with only six interceptions. If I had to bet on it, RG3 will be the man taking home the hardware.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin Badgers: Ball is the most underrated finalist heading into the decision tomorrow night. Ball arguably had the hottest finish out of any of the candidates, crossing the goal line 17 times while rushing for nearly 1,000 yards in his final five games as a Badger. As the nation’s leader in total rushing yards and touchdowns, it is a fair assessment that Ball had the best season in college football. Unfortunately, a significant factor in the Heisman decision year-after-year is based on how a team finishes in the win-loss column. Wisconsin finished 2011 with two heartbreaking losses in which they blew a lead in the final minute of the game. Voters shouldn’t hold this against Ball, but they just might.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU Tigers: Nick-named the “honey badger,” Mathieu has been a phenomenal playmaker for the Tigers all season long. As the only defensive player to be selected to the presentation, Mathieu’s statistics don’t jump off the page like some of the other players he’s up against. However, the honey badger’s highlight reel speaks for itself. From clutch punt-returns to timely forced fumbles, Mathieu has been stellar nearly every second he’s been on the field. Unfortunately for Mathieu, voters may be hesitant to select him due to his mid-season suspension in which he tested positive for synthetic marijuana. Not to fear though, as just a sophomore, Mathieu has a great shot to return in 2012.

So who will it be? The debate continues inside the Heisman Trophy trap!


Trap of the Day: Greg Oden

It’s official, Greg Oden–with his ceaseless knee injury woes–is the city of Portland’s worst nightmare: Sam Bowie, part II. Before we say one final goodbye to the Trailblazers’ basketball star that never quite scintillated, here’s the Greg Oden Trap!

Just months ago, the Trailblazers received the heart-shattering news that its franchise’s guiding light, NBA All-Star Brandon Roy would be forced to retire due to degenerative knees. Now “Rip City” must also come to grips with the fact that its former number-one draft pick Oden will likely be forced down a similar path after it was announced the center would need his fifth significant knee surgery since 2007.

Imminent retirement? Oden begs to differ. The seven-footer insists he has no plans to throw in the towel despite undergoing a second microfracture procedure on the same left knee that sidelined him indefinitely less than two years ago. As a die-hard Blazer fan myself, I will be rooting for an Oden resurrgence, however the time has finally come to distance myself from any optimism that Oden’s comeback will occur in a Blazer uniform. He’s gone, folks.

With Portland’s recent (tentative) signing of center Joel Pryzbilla, it’s fair to assume that Oden will be the player to get waived from the Blazers’ roster in order to make room for the acquisition of the, “Vanilla Gorilla.” Oden will become free to sign with any team in next season’s loaded free agency pool, although it is highly doubtful he’ll be ready to return to the court when NBA’s opening night tips off near Halloween. The recovery rate for a microfracture surgery typically takes longer than a calendar year, so Oden’s appearance at all next season appears to be in jeopardy. With Oden’s mammoth frame and precarious health issues, the NBA world may have seen the last of the the gentle giant from Ohio State University.

My vibrant red number-52 jersey once hung proudly in my closet. It was a miracle the Blazers even had the chance to draft him in the first place. The miracle that was supposed to be a blessing rapidly turned into a curse. After a myriad of non-contact knee injuries, the jersey was demoted to the bottom shelf of my dresser. Still, the Blazers organization refused to declare regret drafting him. Tomorrow, my Oden jersey will make its way to Goodwill to be donated–I can’t harbor the curse and the ghost of Sam Bowie any longer.


Trap of the Day: Green Cars

In my business experience, I recognize at least one basic truth: If a consumer or business identifies a need, trust that an entrepreneur will quickly recognize the opportunity, and just as quickly figure out how to fulfill that need with a specific product or service. The case for electric cars is not driven by a specific consumer need, but rather by a larger, well organized global initiative to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

As a replacement for actual consumer demand, federal and state governments have stepped up to offer would be buyers – and manufacturers – incentives to make sure electric cars are getting due consideration in the competitive market for automobiles.

Consider the 2012 Nissan Leaf, which has a sticker price of $37,250 but qualifies for a federal taxpayer-funded rebate of $7,500. Meanwhile BIG subsidies are saved for those who manufacture electric vehicles. The Tesla Roaster, for example, has received over $500,000 in federal grants and loans to produce their $120,000+ playthings for the Hollywood rich and frivolous. Meanwhile, GM has received hundreds-of-millions in federal grants to produce the controversial Chevy Volt, an electric-gas hybrid most famous for battery explosions.

According to GM’s CEO, the average family income of the Chevy Volt buyer is $170,000 – which is a mere pittance compared to the buyer of the taxpayer-subsidized Tesla Motos, whose average family income exceeds $250,000. One may wonder, if EVs are so desirable, why the average working family of four should be contributing hundreds of dollars per year to make sure that billionaire Elon Musk can build hot rods for those that certainly can afford to buy them without help.

James Holman, an economist for The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, claims that when all government subsidies paid to GM and its suppliers to produce the Chevy Volt are considered, each Volt sold in 2011 cost us – the American taxpayer – about $250,000. Now, critics of Holman point out, with merit, that this calculation considers only the Volt’s first year sales – which GM admits were disappointing and far below projections. So I guess we should be happy – if Volt sales take off, our relative tax burden may fall precipitously – perhaps even less than $100,000 per car sold!

But hey, let’s forget about the economics – it’s the Earth that matters, right? According to the 2011 Annual Greenhouse Gas Report, 14% of all emissions originate at the exhaust pipes of vehicles used for transportation. In contrast, 21% of these emissions are belched from power stations, which are still dependent on – you guessed it – fossil fuels. In the US today, there are about 300M cars registered. By 2020, JD Powers and Associates estimates 100,000 of these will be electric, requiring those same fossil-fueled power stations to charge their Lithium Ion batteries. A good trade off for the billions spent in taxpayer money? You do the math.


Trap of the Day: Grammy Awards

I’m going to let you in on a secret: The Grammy Awards will never be hip. But to quote the brilliant New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, the awards “present an entirely reasonable take on the pop landscape.” was also pleasantly surprised at this year’s picks, announced last week and selected from music released October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2011.

Here’s the buzz leading into the awards, airing Feb. 12 on CBS:

The Sweep & The Snub: Kanye West swept with seven Grammy nominations including Song of the Year, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Album for 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but was glaringly absent among the nominees for Album of the Year. Never one to miss an opportunity to tout his own artist prowess, Kanye “blames himself” for releasing two equally-amazing albums in the same year (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne, his joint album with Jay-Z). How could he expect them to choose?

The Next Arcade Fire: Last year, upon the announcement of Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year, Twitter exploded with hilarious questions such as “Who are The Suburbs?” (The Suburbs is the Canadian indie rock band’s third album, which deservedly received the honor). It even spawned a Tumblr account Who Is Arcade Fire?. Indie’s sensitive, singer-songwriter”>Bon Iver is up for four awards. Expect his name to be mispronounced among confused viewers across the country just as Rihanna did while making the announcement. Don’t make the same mistake.

The Dark Horse: It’s been a huge year for 23-year-old dubstep producer and DJ Skrillex, but even he was “surprised” at his five nominations, including Best New Artist.

The Favorite: With six nominations and smash-hits that enjoy airplay on both Top 40 and college radio stations, Adele is favored to take home Album of the Year for her ultimate breakup album, 21.

The Celeb: Dan Radcliffe aka Harry Potter and his co-stars in the Broadway revival How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying are nominated for Best Musical Theater Album, up against Anything Goes and The Book of Mormon.

Read more about all the nominees in advance of the big show and happy listening!


Trap of the Day: Egypt Football Riots

Elegance-craftiness-finesse…Grace-agility-touch…Poise-dexterity-teamwork. The list goes on with words associated with the most popular and beautiful game on planet earth. But even for “soccer” (or “football” depending where you come from) there is a fine line drawn on the game’s beauty. The scary event that unfolded in Egypt Wednesday exemplifies how such a beautiful game can turn ugly, fast. Introducing the Egypt Football Riots Trap:

The madness began with a (3-1) unexpected upset victory, with the home team al-Masry knocking off their rivals Al-Ahly, the top-ranked football club in the country based out of Cairo. In the sports world–especially in American collegiate athletics–it’s traditional to rush the field the very moment the underdog team triumphs over a superior opponent. In a similar fashion that happened in Port Said. Like the sweeping inundation of a flash flood, fans began to pour onto the pitch once the final whistle sounded. What initially appeared to be the spirit of celebratory jubilation quickly changed its course, turning ugly in a hurry.

Players, coaches and team personnel from the road team Al-Ahly became targets of aggression. Fortunately, the team was immediately aware of the dangerous environment and rushed to escape to their locker room safe haven relatively unscathed. Fans that made the trip to Port Said to root on their club were not so lucky. Especially those that rushed the field coming to their team’s aid. Thugs entered the pitch wielding knives, stones, chairs, flares and some even carried swords. Blunt force trauma, stab wounds and suffocation ended up killing a reported 74 people, injuring up to a thousand others in the stadium. One of the main causes of death resulted from stampedes as frantic fans attempted to flee the stadium all at once through a narrow tunnel, others falling to their death from terraces above.

The outrage from the Port Said events has spilled onto the streets of Cairo, as citizens continue to demand answers as to how such a tragedy could have been allowed to happen. The overwhelming reaction has been, this is not about football, but politics. Where was the police and security presence in such a heated rivalry? Why were “fans” allowed to enter the stadium gates armed with weapons? What role did Hosni Murabek’s ousting have on the clash that took place after the match concluded? Where can justice be found for the families setting up funeral arrangements as we speak?

This is by far one of the more incredibly sad, but tremendously intriguing Traps that I have ever covered since working for Trapit. There are so many layers covering the truth of the matter, and the plot continues to thicken and develop each time I dive back into the Trap for a better understanding. I highly recommend the Egypt Football Riots Trap. As a people, we owe it to ourselves to comprehend why things like this happen in the world.


Trap of the Day: Colts Reshuffling

As little kids, we are often asked the innocent, yet daunting question, “if you could be one thing when you grow up, what would you be?” Typical answers included astronaut, firefighter, or an undercover detective. For me, it was always a simple answer. I wanted to own a professional sports franchise. That dream never changed…perhaps until now. After witnessing what Jim Irsay–the owner of the Indianapolis Colts–has gone through this past year, it’s become clear that being an owner, with an entire city on your shoulders can be far from a dream job. Allow me to explain with the Colts Reshuffling Trap

Irsay was once on top of the world with his Colts team perennially in the upper echelon of the standings, a lock to be showcased in NFL playoffs. Everything came crashing down when news broke that quarterback legend Peyton Manning would be forced to sit out the entire 2011 season following neck surgery. Without their star, the Colts only won two games all year, the worst in all of football.

Fortunately, stinking it up all season is often a beautiful burden on a franchise, because although they have to endure 16 hopeless games, they were rewarded with drafting the top college player. Enter Stanford standout Andrew Luck into the picture.

This is where I would not have the guts to be an owner! You have an aging Peyton Manning expecting to return as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever take a snap, and you have the youthful stud Andrew Luck, one of the most hyped college prospects to ever be selected via the draft. In the long-term financial future, you can’t have both. Oh, the decisions!

Irsay made his first giant step forward by axing his close friends, the Polians, both Chris and Bill who had served as the Colts’ long-time general manager and chief personnel executive. Manning was speechless, absolutely “stunned.” Allegedly, the Polians didn’t have a clear plan on what to do with the dire QB situation.

Irsay is now a one-man-army with the fate of the Colts’ long-term future resting in the palm of his hands. Should he draft Luck and waive/trade Manning? Should he try and peddle his number-one pick for an astronomical price? Should the Colts keep Manning and risk losing the next generational QB star, or is Luck not even the best QB available (yes people are suggesting this)?

Just pondering the magnitude of these upcoming decisions gives me a headache! Follow along with the shakeup in Indy with the Colts Reshuffling Trap!


Trap of the Day: Coaching Turnover

I hate to admit it, but it’s easy to be a lazy sports fan sometimes. It gets tough to chase around a subject that is operating with too many moving parts.

Perfect example: the coaching carousel going on right now in NCAA college football. There are a ton of ex-coaches right about now looking like this guy, Rick Neuheisel, below:

After “bloody Sunday”–the first Sunday following the final regular season game–a deluge of head football coaches traditionally get axed. On top of that, there are rumors swirling about potential “hot seat” firings soon to come and speculation about which top candidates are likely to fill coaching vacancies, etc. I love trying to follow this type of juicy speculation in real-time (especially when a startling story pops up about MY team), but it can be rather overwhelming trying to keep up.

That’s where the beauty of Trapit comes into play. Rather than having to comb the web ’round-the-clock trying to predict if and when a hiring/firing is going to happen, I simply allow a trap to do the work for me. Using a few basic keywords like “NCAA coach fired,” a convenient bucket begins filling up with the content I desire.

Allow me to introduce to you my “Coaching Turnover” trap:

I wanted the trap to be as perfectly refined as possible. Inevitably, a keyword as vague as “NCAA” might initially rope in a story about a volleyball or cross-country coach getting the heave-ho. This might be your thing, but not necessarily my cup of tea. Using the “thumbs-down” button, I can train my trap to avoid content on these particular sports in the future. Content that hit the nail on the head, give it a “thumbs-up.”

Soon, the trap will be able to comprehend my personalized wishes, and discover the ideal mixed bag of stories I’m looking for. Once I feel satisfied on what’s pouring in, all there is left to do is browse and kick my feet up. Here’s a little snapshot example of a few ideal stories the trap has discovered so far!

Frankly, I am sick and tired of reading about the Penn State Sex Scandal. I already have a separate trap on that if I want to delve into the latest on Jerry Sandusky and company. But what’s cool is my Coaching Turnover trap still picked up stories on Penn State, but instead with an emphasis on who their next head coach might be.

Also, you can see there is an article in the bottom left corner about Northwestern State hiring a newbie to run its team. I had never even heard of this team’s existence a few moments ago, yet now I can name their mascot!

The monumental coaching story as of late is undoubtedly Urban Meyer heading to Thee Ohio State University. I had heard enough of this story as is via ESPN or sports talk radio. However, without the Coaching Turnover trap, some of the more minor stories like Northwestern State buzz likely would’ve slipped right past me. Here are a few examples of headlines that may have been moving too fast for you to catch:

If you fear being that guy left in the dust on the latest college football coverage, it’s simple–get your trap on!


To Curate or Not to Curate

Image via

I know the rest of you won’t believe this, but the answer to the question is staring us all in the face. It is simply one word – but what an important one: marketing. No adjective required. What is all the hype about the need for categorization? It is confusing at best. So, as we continue to read about content marketing I am tempted to ask, “Isn’t this just marketing after all?” Really, what is marketing without content? Granted, the fact that the Internet has opened up a new world of data, information, and content adds some level of complexity to what marketers should do to create compelling stories for their audiences. Oh, but what a promise…a promise that there is more than enough – a true abundance – of really wonderful “stuff” out there, allowing a marketer to now become a marketing mixologist, creating great “cocktails” for their readers to consume.

I have been attending different events and listening to the arguments about what kind of content should be leveraged. The debate revolves around these questions: do I create? Or do I curate? I am truly curious as to why certain marketing leaders feel that the only way to preserve their brand, their values, and their voice is through what they control and content they create. My curiosity continues when the discussion leads then to “to curate or not to curate?” And those same leaders are quick to argue that if they curate, they are no longer original, creative, or controlled.

My argument goes something like this: For goodness sake, with social networks, who can control anything anyway? People are going to read what they want and take away what they believe to be good, bad, or indifferent. So my belief is that the real marketing leaders will take hold of a balanced approach to getting their messages to their audience. They will curate, and they will create. They will leverage different channels to get their story told. They will understand who is at the other end of those channels, and make sure that what they say is compelling and making an impact on the reader. The best will tell fun, exciting, enduring stories and they will be the first to engage with something that is different. Their new cocktail is one that is intoxicating, memorable, and engaging enough to keep the audience drinking more. The perfect balance of one shot of created mixed with 2 shots of curated.

I love marketing because it allows us to be creative. I love the Internet because it brings us new and interesting stories. I love to create content because I have a story to tell. And there’s no reason why those can’t all combine in perfect harmony.


To Be a Social Leader, You Need to Be a Change Leader – Part 2

In our last blog post, we discussed four key components of a change management plan for a social selling program. You need:

  • Purpose
  • Executive Sponsorship and Engagement
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Alignment
  • Governance

Today, we’ll take a look at the remaining four components.

Enabling the Organization

When looking to drive and sustain any organizational change, you want to focus on the people who are adopting the change and adapting to a new way of working. For a social selling program, this is key. You need to enable your sales reps with vision, strategy, training, and the tools to be successful. Social selling cannot be mandated. As Peter O’Neill of Forrester highlights, “Enablement — Not A Mandate — Is The Key To Success.”

Here are some key steps:

Gain buy-in: Help your sales reps understand the importance of social selling and how it can help them do their jobs better. You want a vision that aligns to the sales team’s goals and motivations. This will be key to getting their engagement early in program.

Training: Recognize that all sales reps will not have the same level of understanding of social media, and even the socially savvy reps may not have a clear understanding of best practices for using social for selling. A good training program should integrate “How to” and “Best Practices” in the context of sales activities. For example, how does social listening help you with researching prospects?

You also want to ensure you don’t just focus on the tools. Focus also on driving the the right behavior change. As Mary Shea of Forrester argues, sales rep need to “reboot” and shift their focus in the “Age of the Customer.” They need to stop spewing product features and assume a consultative approach that demonstrates their understanding of the customers’ business problems. That means building relationships with the buyers (we know there is more than one these days), educating them, sharing insights with them, and telling the customers something new. In short, they need to add value.

Content: Content is key to supporting great social sellers. Content that helps sales reps build their social presences and engage with buyers and customers – as experts and trusted advisors. Content that helps sales reps educate, share insights, and add value. You can enable your sales reps by building a content strategy, as well as creating and curating content for them, which makes it easy for them to share with their buyers and customers.

The right technology platform: The right tools are key to enablement. To drive the right change for social sellers, you want to make social selling ridiculously simple. That means finding a tool that is easy to use, supports adoption, enables social selling best practices, integrates with your existing sales tools, and provides the data you need to optimize your program.

Engaging the Organization

Engaging your stakeholders and most importantly your sales reps is such an important element of change management. In many change initiatives and social selling programs, you may see an initial uptake, but often adoption wanes with time. Here are some tips to keep everyone engaged.

  • Find your early adopters, and make them your change agents. Other sales reps will listen, learn, and be motivated by their peers.
  • Find and celebrate early success stories. Share them with other sales reps as well as the program sponsors and stakeholders.
  • Capture learnings, address any challenges, adapt, and optimize.
  • Provide ongoing support. Share best practices. Continue to build training and support materials based on input from the sales reps.
  • Measure what makes sense at the start. You want to set your program up for success. Early measurement should be based on adopting and adapting to social selling. For example, your early measurement can be: number of social profiles optimized for social selling, number of reps trained, amount of content shared, etc. As you evolve and gain momentum with the program, you can then start to tie your measurement to business metrics such as number of leads.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is the foundation for a successful change management plan. In the context of a social selling program, here are some important considerations:

  • Communicate the purpose and value of the program.
  • Ensure you have the right person delivering the messages. For your sales teams, don’t leave the communications to the program team. Have them come from sales leadership.
  • Provide stakeholders with ongoing communications that are focused on what is important to each group. For example, the legal department will want an update on governance.
  • Communicate early wins and success stories. These will help drive engagement and adoption of the change.
  • Create opportunities for two-way communications. As mentioned above, this is critical with sales teams to drive engagement and adoption.

Managing and Sustaining the Change: A Programmatic Approach

In order to sustain the change and achieve the desired outcomes from social selling, you want to make sure you are taking a programmatic approach. Don’t approach it like a project. A project will launch a new tool or develop and implement training. A program is more expansive. It brings all of the critical elements together, and it is grounded in the fundamentals of change management.

We have covered a lot of this including executive buy-in, clear policies and governance and committing to ongoing training. You also want to ensure you have the right resources in place working together to communicate progress, capture learnings and continue to optimize and grow the program. Thinking like a change leader and taking a programmatic approach will ensure you are able to continue to drive the change and achieve your goals.

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