The Hired Hand – Not just another blah-blah-blog

March 27, 2012

The blog that wasn’t

My blog disappeared in cyberspace. One minute it was there, the next it wasn’t.

So I’ve found a new home for my blog, and I’ve been furiously re-creating it as best I could. Thank goodness for the Internet Wayback Machine.

Now that “Mad Men” is back on the air (hooray!), I’m sure I’ll have a few snarky comments from a copywriter’s perspective.

Stay tuned.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

App-lause, app-lause!

Filed under: Branding,Public Relations,Social Media,Technology — The Hired Hand @ 2:11 am
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plug'd logoOriginally posted March 9, 2012

Last night, I had a close-up view of a live concert. – even though our seats were toward the back of the venue – thanks to technology.

At the start of the concert, Idan Raichel (of the Idan Raichel Project) invited audience members with iPhones to download the free app Plug’d. He said it would give us a whole new way of experiencing a concert.

Just as viewers of the Super Bowl relied on their “second screen” to make the event more interactive and personal, I was more than a concert-goer. I was a participant.

With Plug’d, you can view a live feed, complete with information like singer/musician bios and song lyrics. The latter proved quite helpful, since most songs were in Hebrew. You also can upload photos that you take via the app, and post comments on the live feed. And you can view a list of others using the app.

Idan himself took photos of band members from his vantage point on stage and posted them. In the ultimate role reversal, he also took photos of the audience and posted them, too. He also posted comments, like “Nice pic, Darcy!” (Well, I doubt he’d say, “Lousy pic, Darcy!”)

The perfect ending to the virtual portion of the event was when my fiancé opened a lighter app on his smartphone. No fire hazards or security risks allowed in the concert hall? No problem. Simply wave your virtual lighter over your head.

And if you’re wondering whether the group will play just one more song for the crowd, just check the live feed. When I saw “Good night, Philadelphia” posted by the host, I knew the house lights would come on at the end of the number.

My thoughts on the whole Plug’d experience? While I’ll admit it was distracting at times, it definitely was something to text home about.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

Speed dating for brands?

Originally posted in November 2011


Some people talk the talk. And some walk the walk. And some, like entrepreneur Jeff Pulver, do both.

Pulver organized the recent BrandsConf – “Exploring the Humanization of Brands” – in New York. As emcee for the daylong event, Pulver certainly put a human face on the conference. He gave each presenter a big hug as he or she walked onstage, and another hug after the presentation. You could say he Pulver-ized the participants by embracing their ideas – and embracing them literally.

The BrandsConf was part of the #140Conf series, with individual presentations limited to 10 minutes and panels from 10 to 20 minutes. These events are based on the Twitter concept of brevity, where posts are limited to 140 characters. It was like speed dating on steroids for branding; the day featured more than 50 presenters.

Successful brands must know their audience, and Pulver’s format was perfect for this attention-deficit group. A glance around the darkened audience revealed the eerie glow of laptop, tablet and smart phone screens. But were these audience members really engaged?

I can think of several times during the day when the audience was riveted to the stage. As if reinforcing the day’s themes of community and storytelling, all eyes where on the big screen (not laptops, tablets or smart phones) when Tony Heffernan showed a video tribute to his young daughter, who died of Battens Disease. The father from Ireland, whose son also was diagnosed with disease, launched to provide support and information. His story made an emotional connection with others, compelling them to engage.

Greg Corbin also managed to grab the audience’s attention. Corbin, executive director of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement, is passionate about what he does. It shows. And it’s contagious. He shared a poem with the audience, and they listened. There’s a lesson here as well. Sometimes, if we change the manner in which we present our message, it’s more likely to be heard. I’m not saying all our ads need to rhyme like Dr. Seuss, but we need to make our message stand out from all the clutter.

It’s no surprise that Mallika Chopra, CEO of and daughter of physician/spiritual healer Deepak Chopra, asked the audience members to close their eyes for a moment of meditation. It was a brilliant exercise, for it forced the digital addicts to turn their attention inward – away from their devices – if only for a short time.

Gideon Gidori and Leah Albert also managed to capture the attention of the audience. So who are they? The masterminds behind Fortune 500 companies? The next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg? They’re more likely to be the next Neil Armstrong or Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (she’s the president of Libya, BTW, and the only elected female head of state in Africa). You see, Leah and Gideon are 7th-grade students at the Shepherds Junior School in Tanzania. So what where they doing at a brands conference in New York, you ask? Their moving stories illustrated how personal experiences can be used to help garner support for a cause and help shed light on social justice issues. Their tiny yet confident voices resonated with the audience, proving that you don’t have to shout your message in order to be heard.

In a brands conference that focused mainly on social media and online communication, it’s not unusual to hear the term bytes or to discuss cookies and their impact on marketing. However, it was the edible kind of cookie that was mentioned on more than one occasion.

DoubleTree Hotels celebrated the 25th anniversary of its popular chocolate chip cookie last summer with a cross-country Cookie CAREavan. A hotel-sponsored food truck visited major cities, giving out free cookies at every stop. The event was considered a huge success, resulting in more than 2 million media impressions and 35,000 Facebook friends.

Jonathan Kay, ambassador of buzz for, used cookies to thank a blogger. Grasshopper provides virtual phone systems for small businesses. A blogger with a modest following wrote about the Grasshopper service, and Kay said Grasshopper sent him three homemade cookies as a thank-you. It’s another example of how a brand can connect one-on-one with its customers.

If you were to ask organizer Pulver, he’d probably say social media is one big group hug. It’s about reaching out to your audience, listening, and responding in a caring and informative matter.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a group hug.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

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