Thoughts on Planet JH's "New Media in the Old West"

David Gonzales of The Snaz gets a photo op in this week's Planet JH.

Planet Jackson Hole, one of our local newspapers here in Jackson, published an article today about the state of blogging and “new media” in the Hole. The timing was quite coincidental, as a group of us local bloggers (two of whom were interviewed for the Planet article) met last night at the South Side for pizza and beer and to discuss, among many other things, blogging in Jackson Hole, the state of this media format, and of course the Planet article.

I had difficulty pinning down the explicit point Ben Cannon was trying to make in his article (I think it had to do with money), but, having some insight into the local blogging community in general and blogging in particular, I thought I’d share what I got out of it.

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Blog Action Day Fights Poverty With Huge Social Media Lever

How can social marketing make an impact on the impoverished? That’s the question I’m asking for Blog Action Day’s topic this year of “Poverty.”. There are millions of places online where you can read about and act to diminish poverty. From Kiva to the Gates Foundation, organizations are harnessing the power of the many online to help their cause. And of course it’s not just for poverty. There are plenty of causes.

So, not to belittle the need to stamp out poverty, but I thought I’d use a local example of an off line “long tail” that I know the Jackson Hole businesses and non-profit (the 200+ of them that there are in our community of just over 20,000 people) community can relate to to help understand how the online long tail can make a difference for their cause, whatever it may be.

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Reflecting On A Lack Of Marketing Talent And The Latest Marketing Executives Networking Group Report

It’s long been the perception that the marketing department is often the first to take a hit when business goes south. But a report from the Marketing Executives Networking Group claims that, in fact, marketing departments are going understaffed not because of layoffs, but because there is a shortage of executive talent. Adding insult to injury, the report states that the situation is expected to worsen as baby-boomers continue to retire and there are fewer executive level marketers available to fill those positions.

What does that have to do with marketing to small businesses and organizations in Jackson Hole? I’m not exactly sure, but I can draw a few parallels. While this isn’t exactly a business community rife with executive level positions, I too have seen a lack of marketing talent within the businesses with which I work. This isn’t a criticism of those businesses; rather, it’s a result of two patterns I see within small businesses and organizations locally. The first is that often times small businesses can’t afford to hire an employee who can be dedicated solely to marketing. (But when they do, that marketing person is often over-worked and overwhelmed by the demands of the job.) And when they do fill a marketing position, it is often with a person who doesn’t have much marketing experience.

The second reason there seems to be a lack of marketing talent here, and the main reason I see a shortage of any professional talent in small communities ( around 20,000 people) is because it’s not a real attractive market for young professionals on a career track. Now, Jackson Hole and other similar mountain towns offer a slight exception to that rule due to the exceptional lifestyle available. But because of the popularity of great lifestyle opportunities, there is another factor that is somewhat related to the retiring baby-boomer issue mentioned in the MENG report. In our case, retiring baby-boomers—albeit those with a lot of money—are retiring to or buying second homes here, adding to the over-inflated real estate market, driving up prices, and making it difficult for many, including young professionals, to be able to afford to live here. That trend isn’t just taking a toll on marketers in particular or young professionals in general; it’s hitting the majority of our working community members at every job level and age.

But back to the issue of marketing talent. Ours is a professional community of what Richard Florida calls the “creative class.” We have a seemingly disproportionate number of artists, graphic designers, software developers, and all-around entrepreneurs. It is a strong business community and one that seems to be weathering the recent economic downturn fairly well. But the lack of marketing talent remains a bit of a mystery to me. It is a niche I never intended to fill when I took my first communications job here, and one that still appears to be relatively empty eight years later now that I’ve started my own marketing firm. I’m not sure how that relates to the Marketing Executives Networking Group report, but there does seem to be a correlation.

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Twist of Lime Is A Marketing & Content Services Agency

Twist of Lime LogoI’m proud to announce the launch of my new business: Twist of Lime is a marketing and content services agency.

I’ve taken the skills I’ve developed as a marketing and communications specialist for several organizations over the better part of the past decade and parlayed them into this new endeavor. It occurred to me some time ago that here in our relatively small community there are a few graphic designers who specialize in Web design and there are a number of developers/programmers (nobody’s really sure what that number is—they keep a pretty low profile) who do Web development and other similar work. There are even a few agencies that bring the two disciplines together in one shop. But nobody seems to offer complete marketing services or content development or upkeep.

Anyone worth their salt works with their client to develop a good site outline, but often the creation and collection of that content is left up to the client. Some even offer a content management system so the client can update their own content, but if they don’t stay familiar with how the CMS works or have time to deal with updates, it becomes more of a burden and more often than not their site goes stale.

As for marketing, there are a couple of more traditional ad agencies offering media buying in addition to their other services, but not usually of the online variety, and no one comes close to offering comprehensive strategic marketing planning.

Enter Twist of Lime.
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Marketing To Addicts

Chris Hansen skiing some Teton powderThe best kind of marketing is the kind that you don’t have to do for a product your customers want and believe they can’t live without. There are a handful of products and services that fall into this category. Many are illicit and illegal. Often times they are addictive—be they physically or psychologically. But there are a few things that, while (psychologically) addictive, aren’t necessarily bad for you. In some cases they are even good for you.

In this case I’m talking about skiing. Now, I refer to this activity generically as “skiing” because that’s what I grew up doing. But “skiing” for me often means any form of disciplined snow sliding. Sledding, inner tubing and the like don’t count ’cause any idiot can do that. I’m talking about snowboarding and alpine and telemark skiing. Preferably involving gravity, but I’ll occassionally include skiing of the Nordic variety because, while arguably not as fun, those are definitely “disciplines.”
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Should We Even Be Here At All?

I made a push to build traffic yesterday by sending the MarketGreener link out to a small batch of friends, family and acquaintances, and I’m quite pleased with the results. Traffic definitely picked up a bit and I got some great feedback. Some folks really spent time on the site and gave constructive criticism and suggestions for topics. I’ll definitely try to get to all of them in the short term.

One comment I got seems to cut right to the heart of the matter, and it became a topic of discussion over beers with a friend last night. (The commenter and the beer-drinking partner will remain anonymous…for now.)

JH [Jackson Hole] is totally not sustainable. We talk about it a lot here and we care about it, but we live in the middle of nowhere, everything has to be trucked/flown in, and it sort of makes no sense to have a community in this high alpine valley.

It’s an excellent point, and one that comes up from time to time. While my gut reaction is to say, “Great, why don’t you lead the way and move out,” there are two reasons why this simply is not going to work.

First, as my beer-drinking compatriot pointed out, this is an age-old problem that began the moment we humans made the switch from hunting, gathering nomads to settled agrarians. Once that happened, we needed to begin moving the food around to those who began to depend on what was produced in that fixed location. We began to have a permanent impact on that place and it’s been downhill ever since.

Granted, this settlement process has evolved (devolved?) with the implementation of modern transportation, making it possible to live in remote places like Jackson Hole. But I don’t see this practice declining any time soon. In fact, small communities in the West are seeing some of the greatest population explosions in the country. Here are some interesting, if grim, stories about population growth from the Sierra Club and Truthout. And while more population in small communities leads to sprawl and other unfortunate impacts, I do take a little consolation in the fact that the amount of driving I do living in a small community is much less than it would be if I were still living in a city (even if that city is Portland, Oregon, known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country).

The best we can do is be conscious of the impact we are having on this place and try to reduce it as much as we can, which brings me to my second point. If my friend who made the comment did lead the way and move out, not only would there be someone moving in right behind her to negate whatever miniscule impact her departure might have had, but our community would be that much worse off without her positive contributions to it.

Yes, our combined impact here can be likened to mold on cheese, but I hold on to the perhaps idealized view that Jackson Hole is a unique community of impassioned individuals that, as a whole, can lead by setting positive examples of how to reduce our impact on both the local and global ecosystem.

This Just In: Step It Up, Jackson!

stepitup.jpg

Not exactly business or marketing related, but this just landed in the in-box this morning so I thought I’d give a little plug. Step It Up has enlisted communities around the country to host November 3 Climate Actions. One will be hosted here in Jackson Hole at the Teton County Recreation Center by the Jackson Hole Middle School Global Warming Heroes League.

You can learn more and get involved here in Jackson or (hopefully) near where you live by going to Step It Up and searching for November events in your area.