Christina’s Coffee Talk with Danny Brown

dannybrownThis week I sat down with Danny Brown, social media strategist for Maritz Canada, founder of 12for12k, and friend. Danny get’s his daily fix from little coffee shops like, Second Cup or Muddy Waters but says he really starts his day with PRBC’s e-mail updates. (Note: I quickly learned he’s a charmer).  He boasts about being a geek and says his favorite pastimes are messing in WordPess or playing video games (sorry PS3 lovers, he plays on Xbox 360 or Wii).  In addition to his Recommended Reading, you can catch Danny laughing to off-the-cuff humor blogs like F*ck You Penguin and his wife’s Just Kickin’ It.  It was a real pleasure picking Danny’s brain for a little bit, and I hope this chat inspires you just as much as it did for me.

According to your blog, you provide business branding and emerging media services to consumer and commercial markets of all different sizes for over 15 years. You’re the Social Media Strategist for Maritz Canada, but what exactly is it that you do? Is it mainly PR, social media, content development, community engagement etc?

It’s a mish-mash of everything. Despite what some “gurus” might try and tell you, social media is simply an extension of existing practices, much like the social news release is an extension of the press release, and a social newsroom is just an extension of a media kit. You deploy social if, when and how you need it. So, it could be from a community manager role; it could be a strategy for a year-long campaign; it could be educating internally and externally; it could be overseeing live events that have social angles (live Twitter feeds and video blogging, for example). So really, there’s no specific way to work on any given day; it’s defined by what’s needed as opposed to making it needed.

A little birdie told me you went solo fairly young, what was the process like? What factors did you consider before the decision?

It started with some freelance work in my late twenties and then I broke out on my own in my thirties. The main ones were “Can I afford this?” and “Is the market right for another approach?” I knew that the first year would be tough so that had to be taken into the equation, and I knew my ideas weren’t aligned with what many others were advising. So, would I be viewed as a kook, or taken seriously. Thankfully it seems to have worked out!

What advice would you give to someone that was thinking about going solo?

Plan, plan, and then plan a little more! Seriously, there’s nothing better than seeing your hard work pay off, especially when it’s for you. Plan to get through at least six months without a paycheck; plan how you’re going to work long hours around family and friends; plan how you’re going to separate yourself from the countless others in your niche (many quite possibly more experienced than you); and plan on how you’re going to go to market. Start small, becoming recognized and build from there.

Do you think all businesses can benefit from social media?

Yes they can all benefit, but they might not need to. For example, would a gravedigger benefit from social media? Perhaps, but more than likely not. Then again, a funeral parlour could start a blog advising families on how to prepare for a loved one’s passing, and what’s involved, and offer a grievance community, etc. So even though the gravedigger may not be suited, the profession as a whole might be. It all comes back to who and what’s needed, and more importantly if it’s needed at all. Social media is not Flash Gordon – it’s not the saviour of the universe, but it does make a good Han Solo.

In last week’s PRSA Webinar, Kasey Skala discussed the pros/cons of using SM to handle a crisis. Have you had experience with this?

Many times. Twitter, for example, offers a fantastic way to react immediately and offer a response at the exact time of need. I’ve helped clients respond to video blog untruths via YouTube and Viddler, and then upload that as a video response via the blog or site in question as well as via Facebook for a combined response. Social news releases are also ideal, as you can update if required (a breaking story about a product can have the facts added to answer any concerns). And of course, the faithful blogosphere is a powerful media outlet – just don’t misuse it.

In the chat, Kasey, also brought up how Gen Y professionals could contribute to the handling of a crisis. Have you worked with Gen Y during a crisis before?

Yes, Gen Y is just like any other generation – you have brilliant folk, you have good folk, and you have okay folk. This isn’t any different from Gen X, Boomers and other age groups. If the need called for it, I included Gen Y team members. Even when the need didn’t immediately call out for a “younger perspective”, I’d still ask their advice to see how we could reach more than just audience we were responding to in that crisis. After all, parents still talk to their kids, right? Make sure all bases are covered so even if parents are happy at a crisis response, you’re not missing out on the potential backlash from another age group.

During a recent #u3opro chat, you said “Jobs come and go – a career is what you want. Don’t settle for second best if you don’t have to guys” Explain what you mean by “have to”?

If you’re fortunate enough that you can leave for a lower paid job that is one that you love, don’t stay in the crappy one just for a few bucks more. Obviously this is dependent on family and loved ones support, but if you can make the break then why stay in the job you don’t have to be in? Often our circumstances dictate that for that moment in time, we suck up the jobs we hate, and that’s understandable and part of life. But the minute you don’t need to…

Can the recession generation afford to be choosy right now? Why, why not?

The thing with recessions is that they affect everyone. No job is safe. So that job you’re in now may not be the job you’re in tomorrow. Loyalty due to economic needs is one thing, but unnecessary loyalty through thinking that you can’t leave because jobs are hard to come by is another. No-one can afford to be choosy – we all have bills to pay, homes to keep, mouths to feed. But we can still be micro-choosy if you like; don’t stay in a crap job through fear of losing it – there’s a good chance you will anyway. Instead, at least have the fear of losing a job at one you like. And, if the walls do come tumbling down, there is always a job out there – all that’s stopping you is your pride, at times.

Any additional advice for the readers?

Advice-wise, I’d simply say stay true to yourself in everything you do. Think of the person that means the most to you in your life, and ask if they’d be proud of what you’re about to do or say. If not, you know you need to take another approach. And don’t always listen to the “experts”, “gurus” or “A-listers” – these are just titles. It’s the proof of real-life experience that brings the real success, for you and your clients. Anybody can make a model airplane; not everyone can fly an actual jet. Be a pilot.

Feel free to ask any additional questions or leave some comments for Danny below and we’ll see if she can spare a few more minutes for some answers.

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