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Jun 23 2011

What Would 18 Year Old You Have Done?

Guest post by Cam McRae

As the self-righteousness of those decrying the Vancouver riots reaches a fever pitch I find myself asking some uncomfortable questions. Not just of myself but of many of the people who found themselves swept up in the current of destruction and violence.

If I had been there when everything began to melt down – perhaps at the ripe age of 18 and filled with some scary combination of testosterone, adrenaline, alcoholic beverages and/or drugs – would I have found myself carried into the melee beyond the point of curious voyeur? Would I now be facing the wrath of friends, coworker and relatives? Would I have been expelled, lost my job, kicked off a team or perhaps be facing charges? I hope not but I’m afraid I can’t say for sure – because I’ve never found myself in the midst of a riot. I hope my younger self would have left immediately when things went sideways – but it’s a hope that lacks the confidence of experience.

Those who lit the first fires, those who swarmed and beat individuals or those who confronted police because the VPD’s officers were showing tremendous restraint, are not the people I’m talking about. Those who started the literal and figurative fires deserve to be the focus of the city’s rage and I hope they face the consequences of their actions. I’m referring to those like a young high school student who found himself in front of a large chanting audience – with a hockey stick that someone had handed him – faced with a wall of glass, or a young athlete whose buddies encourage him to pose for a photo in front of a burning truck on Georgia St. Or the water polo star that felt compelled to try to set a police car ablaze. That last example is particularly troubling and tragic, but are we really to conclude that this young lad had this planned, that we can explain his behaviour by looking at past examples from his life? If not then how do we explain it?

There’s one common theme I’ve noticed in every video, every photo and every description of the night’s events; everyone involved was human. Of course there are more commonalities; the overwhelming majority are young males, many have had too much to drink, smoke or injest otherwise. I was watching a youtube video http://bb.nsmb.com/showthread.php?t=142703 showing the faces of those cleaning up broken glass and other refuse – and virtually all of those faces – particularly the younger ones – have doppelgangers who caused the mess they were cleaning up.

The fundamental attribution error states that when we see others make mistakes we blame it on their character, their intelligence or perhaps even their race. Driving is a perfect example. That guy who cut you off in traffic is an idiot or asshole – not someone rushing home because his wife is in labour – or late for his first day work because his daughter was up all night vomiting.

On the other side is the actor-observer bias – which leads us to explain our own behaviour because of the situations we find ourselves in. We ran that red light because some cirumstance caused us to be in a hurry. These are mistakes all of us make every day – generally without knowing it.

When we see those who were swept up in the frenzy of chaos and violence we say they are bad people. This may be true in many cases – particularly when we consider those who brought tools of destruction to the party. But in many more cases the psyches of these individuals may have been twisted and diverted by the insanity they saw around them.

It is now virtually impossible for many of us to be aware on a daiy basis that we are animals. We started off as single cell beings and we’ve become increasingly complex over millions of years – but all that DNA, which has kept our species alive and growing, still courses through our veins and influences our actions on a daily basis. Herd behaviour describes how people like you and I – individuals – can act together in unplanned ways when we find ourselves in a group. We do things because we see others doing things – sometimes good and sometimes bad. How and why this happens long after we lived in herds to survive isn’t clear. What is clear though is that the morality of the mob sinks to the lowest common denominator and individuals find themselves doing things they would never normally do. Our reptilian brains take over and we act like imbeciles. I say ‘we’ not because I can remember an example when this has happened to me – but because we are all humans.

Many seem to be delighted by the public shaming facebook and other venues is bringing down on many rioters. I’ve been guilty of it myself. We savour the schadenfreude http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schadenfreude and tell ourselves we are better – that we’d never do anything like that.

For some of us this may be true. Another herd behaviour is the well known ‘Bystander Effect’. This causes normally helpful, caring and productive members of society to fail to offer help to those in distress when there is a group witnessing the situation. The smaller the group the more likely it is that someone will help. There are those who aren’t affected by this tendency and they have been studied and shown to be fundamentally different from most of us. They are consistently more likely to make their own decisions in group situations – but they are a small minority. And there were many examples during the Stanley Cup riot of brave souls who stood up to the rampaging hordes – and sadly many of them paid for it with a shower of fists and feet.

While listening to a sports radio call in show I heard an interesting Vancouverite tell his tale. He was at the 1994 riot and he participated. He was young and perhaps a little drunk – he didn’t say – and carried by the masses to a place he never thought he would find himself. He was as disgusted and ashamed as you or I by what happened on June 15th 2011 – and he still can’t explain what happened to him the last time the Canucks lost a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final.

Before you begin writing another self-righteous and self-congratulatory reply to this (as I have done) let me say that I was and am as disgusted, repulsed and ashamed as anyone by the events of this past Wednesday night. I sat mute disbelief in front of the television while the reputation of our beautiful city – where my parents and I were born and raised – was forever defaced. I also believe that those involved should face penalties for what they have done – particularly those who instigated the meltdown. But if we explain all of this by calling all of those involved idiots, vandals and morons who have nothing in common with the rest of humanity we risk having this scenario repeated again and again– as it has been throughout history.


May 4 2011

Tim Horton’s Environ-mentalism?


I hyphenated environ-mentalism in this post because I was just over on Timmy’s “The Environment” page.

It’s awesome! [sarcasm] They have 5 environmental “events” that they deem worthy of a couple of sentences each. The events are meant to show the website visitor that Tim Horton’s is committed to the environment yet there is no follow up. There are no testimonials. In short, there is nothing to engage anyone. Even the few photos are lame.

After that visit I did a google search for “Tim hortons environmental issues” and BAMB! 21,000 results, most of them NOT in Tim’s favour. Including this blog, on the first page.

One of the posts was written in June 2009, 2 years ago! The post discusses giving kudos to Tim’s for their attempt at encouraging their customers to use recycle cups to receive a 10¢ discount. You can read the entire thing here.

The post also outlines that Tim’s have had no end of environmental activists at the door demanding they clean up their act. I guess that would explain why Tim Horton’s has not yet felt compelled to contact me about my concerns for our environment.

They get this all the time!

The thing is, they’ve obviously thrown so much money at the problem over the last several years. That Sustainability and Responsibility Report must have cost a few pretty pennies. They’re so close to a successful environmental campaign but they just can’t pull the trigger to get it to the store level.

It’s almost like the head office peeps sat around, brain stormed, hired experts, came up with a great strategy, wrote it all out, patted themselves on the back then left. What’s missing? Implementation!!!

I’m sorry about all the !!!!’s but this has been a problem for a long time. A problem that Tim Horton’s has recognized and yet, they do not seem, in all their collective corporate wisdom, to get the message across to Canadians.

I’m all about strategy so I’m going to go one better than suggesting they sort this out. I’m actually going to give Tim Horton’s an idea of how to begin. Yep, I’d do this for Tim’s and for the environment because I love Tim’s coffee (I’m sorry to those of you who are purists but I don’t like my coffee super strong.) Anyway, I want to help this National icon of Canada succeed where they are failing. I want them to be the best they can be!

Ready Timmy’s?

Here it is…..

You need a champion in each and every store with the Tim Horton’s name on it. Yep, it’s really that easy. You don’t even have to hire someone new (maybe in some places you might) It won’t cost much but the rewards will be so epic that you will wonder why the hell you hadn’t done it sooner.

I have some strategies for you too but you have to contact me. I want to help but since you don’t have anyone monitoring your branding online, you will have to find me first. I will continue to do everything in my power to stand out in this crowded internet space but you have to point yourself out to me to turn this into a conversation rather than a rant.


Apr 19 2011

Social Media as Corporate Whistlerblower

Many of my readers know that I also own a business blog that publishes content on the use of Social Media in the corporate, charitable and retail world. I do the research, summarize what I’ve learned and post articles to help anyone who would like to learn more about Social Media and its applications.

This blog is a little more personal. I use this space to offer up opinion and illicit action from my readers. I want people to find out something they don’t know when they come here. Something that may persuade them to take action.

Again, I do the research and share it with you.

In the case of Tim Horton’s lack of social responsibility I have not only done the research offline, at the retail level, but I have also done searches for things like “Tim Hortons Sustainability” and anything else that might lead to a reprieve for Tim’s store-level policy.

This week I found a site called 3BL Media. Quoting directly from their website: “We are the experts in corporate social responsibility, sustainability and cause marketing communications. Our experienced team of professionals has helped leading organizations, both large and small, from all corners of the globe get their message out. We are dedicated to helping businesses have a positive influence on society and the environment through information sharing that leverages technology and social media.”

When I read that I thought “great, a company that insists on social responsibility when iterating, or re-iterating, about the policies employed by organizations.”

What I learned was that they are, instead, a portal for companies to push their initiatives to a larger audience. Specifically an audience that actively looks for socially responsible corporations to support.

Ok, so that wouldn’t be a bad thing except that the experts at 3BL Media don’t actually screen or comment on the material they post. In fact, if you have a company that you’d like to promote on their site you can write the press release yourself (they don’t seem to offer that service) then submit it. I have not been able to determine if there is a fee for this service.

Essentially sites like 3BL Media are used for distributing media but I don’t see where the “responsibility” part comes in if companies like Tim Hortons can simply post their material and automatically have a degree of credibility simply by being featured on the site.

This didn’t sit very well with me. I wrote to the CEO of the company, Greg Schneider, and he had his Online Media Director get back to me. I was quite distressed to read several parts of John Howell’s email but this line was particularly confusing to me. “3BL Media is dedicated to corporate social responsibitiy-, sustainability-, and ESG -related missions, practices, initiatives, and events. Environmental issues are part of our focus, but we are not dedicated to the environment, per se.”

Huh?

So you promote companies that “claim” to be socially responsible and sustainable but you don’t place much focus on environmental issues? Ummm, did I miss something?

Here’s the bottom line; Tim Hortons cannot get their corporate initiatives out of the boardroom and into the restaurants. Rather than spend the money and time to do so, they prefer to spread endless corporate doublespeak around the net and hope that it will be sufficient to quiet their detractors.

Perhaps the fact that no one from Tims has tried to contact me is an indication that their corporate policy on online branding is to ignore complaints. Seems so.

While I am deeply ashamed of Tims I am equally distressed that an American company like 3BL Media (located in Mass.) seems to just take the word of companies promoting themselves as “responsible” on their site.

Who’s next? BP?

If Social Media can affect change we can start by showing Tims (and 3BL Media) that’s it’s not OK to say you’re going to do it. We need to insist they live up to their policies. We need to be vocal and loud and engaged. We need to share!

Please share this article with anyone you feel might be interested in TRUE CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY.


Mar 21 2011

Can Social Media Buy Me, Us, You a House? Part 3

So a few things have happened since my last post about Social Media having the power to buy one a house (one being any”one” not just me)

The first thing that happened is I put an ad on Craigslist. I said that I am the mom of 2 cool kids and that I want to move to the area. I didn’t really expect anyone to come back with an offer to buy me a house but I did hope that someone who was looking to rent their place would find my ad and ring me up.

A really cool thing happened! A woman, in the right part of town, answered my ad! Now, her home is big, really big and it’s beautiful, really beautiful and, well, it’s just too expensive. That said, we had a great chat and found out we have similar business interests. Who knows, it might end up that we become great friends and business associates.

So while the CL ad did not find me a house…yet, it may very well have found my a great new business contact and friend.

WIN!

The thing about the house offer got me thinking though. At the moment I pay about $1300/month in rent. I expect that, in the new part of town which is more expensive, I’ll have to pay somewhere in the area of $2,000/month for something a wee bit nicer than where we’re at.

My business is going very well and I don’t expect that the added expense will be a lot to contend with. What burns me up though is that I would be more than happy to up that if it meant some sort of equity share.

There must be people out there who are in a situation where they cannot sell their home for what they want or who are downsizing and want to enable someone else to own their own home. I am pretty confident that these people exist, we just have to find them.

This week is going to be about networking. I’m going to a major networking conference in Vancouver on Thursday called Twestival and am hoping to make the kind of contacts that will propel my business to the next level.

I’ll add them to the myriad of very cool people I know already and I will work all of them for a solution to solve my housing expectations.

I can do this because I am always, without fail, ready to help anyone who asks. To me that’s what social networking is all about. Provide value, provide value, provide value….and don’t expect anything in return.

If you show people that you want to help them just for the sake of helping you’ll get it back in droves in ways you never considered. That’s what I love about what I do. I see random acts of kindness every day and it empowers me to pay it forward.