Could a Water Pipeline from Alaska Save California from Drought?

Walter Hickel, Wally Hickel, Alaska, water, pipeline, Los Angeles, Southern California, drought

Walter Hickel was Alaska’s governor twice. He died in 2010 at age 90.

News about a California drought always reminds me of a man I used to know, long ago and far away.

Walter Hickel was governor of Alaska in the early 1990s, when California was going through a water shortage, as it is now. Hickel, who already had been a wealthy developer in Alaska for decades, proposed back then building a pipeline to move fresh water from his state down south.

As a newspaper reporter there, I covered Hickel and the state Legislature. To most people, his idea sounded crazy – improbably expensive and probably impossible. Hickel always liked to say he was a big thinker; others said he was a reckless dreamer; plenty called him crazy. On many issues before and after this one, he was a lightning rod of WTF controversy long before Alaska ever heaped Sarah Palin on the country. (And, despite his eccentricities and polarizing views, he seemed like Churchill in comparison.)

Alaska, map, Wasilla, Denali, McKinley, wildlife, beautiful scenery, hunting, fishing, salmon, bear, moose, cabin, camera, Facebook, video, family, wolf

My brother-in-law Vince casts his line in one of Alaska’s countless rivers.

The “giant garden hose to California” — thousands of miles of giant pipe on the ocean floor — made an easy punchline. A preliminary study suggested it could cost $150 billion or more. (If you want to know more about it, visit the governorwallyhickel.org.)

Today I saw a headline from California about maybe building a desalination plant to make Pacific Ocean saltwater drinkable. One article from CNBC is headlined Drought of ’15: Desalination won’t save California.

Another headline, from The Alaska Dispatch News in February, asked: With California enduring record-setting drought, is it time to revive Hickel’s water pipeline dream?

From the article:

But it’s not even on an option on the table for the California Department of Resources according to a recent interview between the department and Wired.

Wired calls the idea “still crazy” and said the cost would be too high, as much of the water would go towards agriculture. But it also mentions the possible affect a pipeline could have on Alaska fisheries, and even raises the question of what could happen if our unofficial state bird — the mosquito — makes it into the pipeline.

“What kind of health risks would we face if the larvae from Alaska’s Jurassic-sized mosquito snuck into the pipe?” Wired asked.

Good point. Sorry, California.


RELATED: An op-ed piece on Hickel I wrote in The Seattle Times back when

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How a History of Computers Will Make You a Better Communicator

innovatorsWalter Isaacson tried something different as he was finishing his newest book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

In the acknowledgements, Isaacson says he turned to crowdsourcing for suggestions and corrections on many of the chapters.

“By using the Internet, I could solicit comments and corrections from thousands of people I didn’t know,” Isaacson writes. “This seemed fitting, because facilitating the collaborative process was one reason the Internet was created.”

“The Innovators” offers other key lessons for today’s digital communicators — content marketers, brand journalists and corporate writers, among them.

Walter Isaacson, The Innovators, Atlanta, CNN, Time magazine, computers

Walter Isaacson

Isaacson has been both chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time magazine. His best-selling biographies include “Steve Jobs,” which came out shortly after the Apple genius died in 2011.

“The Innovators” dovetails beautifully with the Jobs bio — and both are beautiful examples of journalistic reporting and writing at its best.

Isaacson says one excerpt was read by 18,200 people the first week he posted it. He received scores of comments and hundreds of emails. And he used them to make changes and additions to his manuscript.

Outsourcing isn’t a new idea, of course, as Isaacson acknowledges. It’s part of the useful fun of social media, and I’ve enjoyed doing it for this blog, for free-lance articles, and on internal communications projects at large corporations. After I spent 20 years in newsrooms, with their constant swirls of collaboration, I still value reaching out to others as part of my communications process.

Ada Lovelace, Turing, Jobs, Gates, Isaacson, Atlanta, CNN

Ada Lovelace, computer pioneer

Validation from a master is nice. And here are seven more great lessons for all communicators from “The Innovators,” which tells the history of how today’s digital innovations came into being, from programming pioneer Ada Lovelace to more familiar names like Alan Turing, Jobs, Bill Gates and more. It’s a fascinating tale, with each chronologically ordered chapter so rich you could write a separate book on individual players (which, of course, many people have, including Isaacson).

By tracing the history and innovators, Isaacson shows us:

1. Creativity is a collaborative process. “As brilliant as the many inventors of the Internet and computer were, they achieved most of their advances through teamwork.”

2. Collaboration can go from one generation to the next, and on and on. “The digital age may seem revolutionary, but it was based on expanding the ideas handed down from previous generations.”

3. Physical proximity is beneficial. “There is something special … about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally,” Isaacson writes. He cites Yahoo! CEO Melissa Mayer discouraging the idea of working from home, and others who designed workspaces to encourage random encounters.

Franklin, Isaacson, Innovators

“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”

4. The best leadership teams combine people with complementary styles. Here, Isaacson cites the varying strengths of our country’s Founding Fathers — including Benjamin Franklin, the subject of one of his earlier books.

5. A great team pairs visionaries, who generate ideas, and operating managers, who carry them out. “Visions with execution are hallucinations.” Isaacson cites “lingering historical debate over who most deserves” credit for inventing the electronic digital computer — a lone professor whose machine never fully worked, or a team of three who were able to get their machine operating.

6. Man is a social animal, as Aristotle first noted.

 Almost every digital tool, whether designed for it or not, was commandeered by humans for a social purpose. Even the personal computer, which was originally embraced as a tool for individual creativity, inevitably led to the rise of modems, online services, and eventually Facebook, Flickr, and Foursquare.

7. Creativity matters most. Isaacson opens the book with the story of Lovelace (1815-1852), who wrote the first algorithm meant to be carried out by a machine. He brings it back around to her at the end. “As she pointed out, in our symbiosis with machines we humans have brought one crucial element to the partnership: creativity.”

Isaacson castigates people who might scoff at engineers lacking an appreciation the arts, while blithely admitting they don’t know a mole from a molecule. The next round of innovation will rely on those who can link the two — “beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processors,” Isaacson writes.

It’s good advice and maybe a warning.

9 Proven Ways to Lead a Difficult Interview to Success

Communication-skillsAll professional communicators have faced difficult interview subjects who can’t or won’t give you what you need.

Do you get tough with your questions like a reporter or a prosecutor?

Do you smile and nod and hope that you can somehow make sense of this later?

Do you walk away absolutely frustrated?

Consider, for example, a certain Subject Matter Expert. She’s a genius in her field and is somehow affiliated with your company. You and your team want to craft a multi-channel communications plan for her to use with audiences of, say, employees, media and investors. To do so, you need clarity and proper engagement from the expert, who doesn’t mean to be challenging, of course. She’s just not good at expressing her vision and she doesn’t understand why she frequently has to stop and explain things again.

Successful communicators are often the best listeners. They’re skilled at getting great thinkers to share those great thoughts, even those subjects who don’t want to or don’t know how to.

social-icons-01 Click to Tweet: How to help when interview subjects have trouble communicating.

Here’s how to help. Try these easy tips I’ve gathered from doing countless interviews, first as a news reporter with VIPs of all kinds, and later as a corporate communicator with business leaders, allies and staff members of every rank. If you can master this, you’ll be able to help all kinds of people share all kinds of information. So everybody wins, including you.

tm-pilbox.global.ssl.fastly.net1. Do your homework. Read everything you can about the person you’re interviewing. Read anything with his byline – even if he didn’t write it, he approved it. Watch all his videos. Also, talk to his associates if you can. Their insight can be invaluable.

2. Organize priorities. Get clear with the subject — and also with your boss or your team —  about the priorities for the interview, how much time you’ll have, and if this is a one-off or the first of a series. That way you’ll be sure to know what everyone needs the most and get it.

3. Show respect. Let the person indicate if he wants to chat for a few minutes or get right down to business. Don’t interrupt or contradict, but also don’t kiss up or try to impress.

4. Remind him why you’re talking to him. Chances are, someone has already told him, of course. But he’s busy and might’ve forgotten or confused you with someone else. Be succinct and clear about what you need.

5. Ask for clarity. If the expert or leader seems to contradict himself or something in your notes, ask for a clarification. “I’m sorry … I thought the plan called for X, rather than Y … I must be confused. Can you help me understand?” Remember: If you don’t get it, no one will.

social-icons-01Click to Tweet: Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity. If you don’t understand, no one will.

KeepCalm6. Keep it simple by asking and maybe even re-asking the basic questions. “I want to be clear for everyone: What problem does this new product solve? I believe it’s this, based on the research I’ve done… Is that correct?”

7. Mix it up. Ask a variety of open-ended questions (“How do you feel about how things are shaping up?”) and direct questions (“Are you satisfied with these results?”)

8. Get a few soundbites. Some experts and advocates know what you need and are happy to help. For the others, though, try a suggestion like this:  “So, would it be correct to say X-Y-Z…? I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but we need this to be short and clear.”

9. Wrap it up. Stick to the time allotted, unless the leader wants to extend. Thank him for his time and share your plans for review.

Now make it matter

Transcribe your notes and share with your supervisor and team. Plan a meeting to go over everything and suggest key nuggets for use – in, say, the annual report or next week’s newsletter. Fact-check anything you’re not sure about, or run it by legal before you distribute. Remember your internal approval process when crafting and executing the communications plan.

Do you need to suggest a follow-up interview? Make it a monthly thing? Should you send a videographer to the person’s next speech, to record some of his new-and-improved presentation for still more content uses?

In some cases, someone might decide to hire an outside expert to provide the person with intense media coaching. Or to assign much of the messaging to someone else.

But with the information and buy-in you’ve retrieved, the comms team will have what it needs — for clarity, relevance and accuracy.

And that’s really saying something.


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What’s His Story: From Atlanta to Uganda in the Fight Against AIDS

Erik Friedly, former spokesman for the Atlanta Opera and the Fulton County district attorney, has taken his communications skills as far from home as possible: to Africa. He moved to Uganda in January 2012 as a health communications specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the fight against AIDS. He’s also openly gay and married to a man from Kenya, in a country known around the globe for its homophobia. The images above are from his social media accounts.

1. Where are we in the story of HIV in Africa?

Erik Friedly, CDC, Uganda, AIDS, HIV, gay, Africa, Kenya, Atlanta, communications, Americans in Africa,

Erik Friedly

The HIV epidemic in Africa is still real and still a terrible burden. But programs like PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, for which I am privileged to work) have made a huge difference. AIDS was once a death sentence for millions here — simple as that. We have turned that tide. There remains much to be done in terms of expanding treatment access and in preventing new infections across this continent, but there is real hope that we could one day see the end of AIDS here.

Almost anyone you speak to in Uganda over a certain age can tell you about someone they lost to AIDS — family or friends or teachers or neighbors. AIDS has been a shared nightmare here, which is a bit different than it has been in other parts of the world.

2. How comfortable are you as a gay man there? What about for your husband?

Erik Friedly, CDC, gay, wedding, Atlanta, San Franicisco, AIDS, HIV, Centers for Disease Control

Erik Friedly with Festus in San Francisco for their wedding last fall.

Uganda prides itself on being a conservative, “traditional” society, yes. Homosexuality is not widely accepted here. But my position is probably not a good barometer, since I am a white man, an American and a diplomat. I do sometimes feel uncomfortable, of course, and one cannot be truly open. But for the most part, on a day-to-day basis, there really are no significant issues.

My husband is Kenyan and so lives with very different family and cultural pressures than I do. But he is remarkably comfortable in his own skin and with his own life, and I think he would agree with my characterization of our life here.

3. It’s a long way from Atlanta to Kampala. Tell me how you got there.

Erik Friedly, CDC, HIV, AIDS, Uganda, Atlanta

CDC fact box. Click to enlarge.

When I first came to CDC in 2006, I joined the communication team within the office of the director. From there, I moved into CDC’s tobacco control office, but then made the jump to CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS. In July 2011, I accepted this assignment to CDC’s Uganda office and deployed here in January 2012. I have at least one more year here.

4. What’s the job about? What kind of communications are you doing?

The job is an interesting hybrid of public affairs, health diplomacy and health communication.  Part of CDC’s work in global HIV is, of course, to encourage and promote risk-reduction behaviors among targeted populations — things like condom use, male circumcision and so on.

But working in the environment of the U.S. Embassy also requires communicating back to U.S. stakeholders about the tremendous investments in health the American people are making, while also promoting that same commitment to the people of Uganda. I can also act as a resource for CDC Headquarters by helping them tell CDC’s global health story better.

5. What’s been the biggest shock, and the biggest joy, of living in Uganda?

Erik Friedly, AJC, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AJC, CDC, Centers for Disease Control, Paul Howard, Fulton County, district attorney, courts, Africa, Uganda, AIDS, HIV

I wrote this article at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when I covered the courts and Erik Friedly was the spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

Prior to being permanently assigned here, I had worked brief assignments in Cameroon, Mali and Haiti, so I had some limited experience in the developing world. But I suppose the biggest shock here is the fact that so many things simply don’t work. Things like electricity. The ability to provide potable water even in the capital city. The roads, which are more pothole than pavement. There is such an overwhelming lack of the basic infrastructure and capacity to provide a basis for people to make the most of their lives.

The biggest joy (in addition to the amazing weather, the beauty of the landscape, etc.) might be the special way people live their lives. I don’t just mean the poverty or basic cultural differences. I mean the things people are prepared to accept, endure and make the most of. The ability to live a full and happy life without all of the things we come to expect are necessary. There is an abiding acceptance of life, which in turn breeds a quiet and abiding strength. There is a southern African concept of Ubuntu: “I am because you are.” It’s a wonderful concept of shared humanness, and it informs the spirit of sub-Saharan Africa.

social-icons-01Click here to tweet: “I am because you are.” — Southern African concept of Ubuntu

6. What are the big challenges of your communications job there?

Education levels tend to be relatively low, so one must try to keep messages simple and straightforward. This isn’t always easy when communicating complex scientific and health information. Ugandan media can sometimes lack professional acumen and that makes delivering a message difficult. Frank and open and fact-based discussions around sexual behaviors and realities can meet with resistance. This is not unlike the American attitude in the past, but in Uganda, with an HIV prevalence of around 7 percent, the stakes are higher and the need for honest discussion even more critical.

7. What are you reading these days? Print or digital?

I love books and magazines, always have. But day-to-day, digital is just easier. Bookshops here tend to be filled with religious or inspirational or self-help titles and magazines are imported and incredibly expensive. I am fortunate to be able to receive mail through the embassy, so I get magazines like The New Yorker and Vanity Fair with consistency — albeit a bit late.


For more on HIV/AIDS in Uganda, visit the Centers for Disease Control.


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6 Content Marketing Conferences to Learn from the Best

I went to Cleveland for a few days last September, and let me tell you, it was one of the best things I did all year.

(Go ahead. Insert Cleveland joke here.)

I decided to attend a conference, Content Marketing World, in a flash of inspiration. I had mulled going earlier, and when a new online friend and industry leader suggested I go, I snagged a cheap flight and a room at the venue hotel, and, before I could say “Get off of my blue suede shoes,” I was in the land of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As a former journalist working in traditional corporate communications, I was jazzed to see so many examples of how to creatively, purposefully blend the two disciplines and others. With top authors, brands and social media represented, the conference has grown in attendance annually.

Business communicators of all kinds have been turning more and more to storytelling techniques, brand journalism and content marketing, and conferences like this are a great chance to learn from the best and mingle with peers. I stole ideas and made connections in Cleveland — with good, smart people in a supportive environment.

Similar events cover some of the same ground, and maybe this year I’ll plan ahead with one or more of these:

  1. Social Media Marketing World. March 25-27, San Diego. “Discover the best social media marketing techniques from the world’s top experts. Join 2,500 fellow marketers at the mega-conference designed to inspire and empower you with social media marketing ideas—brought to you by Social Media Examiner.”
  2. Create an award-winning newsroom: Boost influence, SEO and media coverage. This PR Daily Webinar is set for April 2. From the link: “The press, public and search engines will give your news massive reach — if your online newsroom features frequent updates and multimedia. Is yours up to speed?”

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Supremes, Diana Ross

    No trip to Cleveland is complete without a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and seeing what the original Dreamgirls (Diana, Mary and Flo of the Supremes) wore back in the day.

  3. Marketing United. April 29-May 1, Nashville. “The must-attend conference for modern marketers” features authors Ann Handley and Jay Baer, along with many more in Music City, home to the Country Music Hall of Fame. (Take that, Cleveland!)
  4. Creativity, Technology and the Future of Storytelling. “How do you tell amazing stories that are not just good, but inspire your audience, make life more interesting, and turn passive consumers into brand advocates?” May 14 in New York.
  5. Digital Summit Atlanta. May 19-20. “Join Digital Summit Atlanta for two days of leading-edge digital media and marketing content, mixed alongside top-flight networking with Internet execs, online marketers, entrepreneurs and digital strategists.”
  6. Content Marketing World 2015. Sept. 8-11. Cleveland. Yes, I might go back to see Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose and the rest from the Content Marketing Institute. And not just because I had to race through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to make my flight back home…

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‘Midnight in the Garden’ Goes Multimedia — Now there’s an App for That

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, book, Savannah, Atlanta, Georgia, Margaret Mitchell House, meatball

John Berendt signs a copy of “Midnight in the Garden of Evil” at an event to promote the new “metabook” version. Photo by Lindsey Wright

A good story will always find new ways to be told, and here’s proof featuring one of the most popular tales of the last 20 years.

First, back in 1994, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” was a book. And not just a book, but a publishing sensation, selling millions of copies and pushing Savannah into the tourism stratosphere.

Then came an audiobook, a lifeless movie by Clint Eastwood, and plans for a Broadway musical.

Now, 21 years after John Berendt insisted on publishing it with no photos of its real-life cast and locations, “Midnight” is the first title of a multimedia iPhone/iPhad app called Metabook. The app is loaded with photos, text, audio clips – even an audio dramatization of the book with Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black” voicing The Lady Chablis.

John Berendt, metabook, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah, Atlanta, Georgia, murder

The new version is for iPad and iPhone.

Berendt spoke Thursday night at the Margaret Mitchell House about the new version of his book, probably the second most-popular Georgia title after Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind.”

He was joined on a panel by audio director Robin Miles and creative director Benjamin Alfonsi. They plan to produce a second non-fiction Metabook soon, augmented again with a tremendous volume of authentic source material. And Alfonsi promised a new novel by a famous American author will follow.

The digital book app includes the “Midnight” text, a 3D rendering of the Bird Girl statue, bios and updates on the characters, and a panoramic view of Bonaventure Cemetery. It also has crime scene photos with Berendt’s commentary and audio recordings of central figure Jim Williams (played, not to Berendt’s pleasure, by Kevin Spacey in the movie).

‘It Will Be a Wholly Different Shape’

Will Metabooks catch on as a way to appeal to younger readers used to more interactive experiences than print or plain e-books? “Midnight” seems a good place to test the waters, given its enduring popularity and the wealth of extras that flesh out the story. It might bring in new readers and please fans who crave even more details about Savannah, Williams and his multiple trials for killing his young lover.

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 2015

Berendt at the Margaret Mitchell House. Photo by Lindsey Wright

For Berendt, it now makes sense to add multimedia material (including those photos he objected to originally) because readers today can easily find the real thing online. That wasn’t an option when he wrote the original narrative, and he wanted them to rely solely on his prose for their mental images, rather than on snapshots in the middle of the print copy.

“Midnight” spent 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sold some 5 million copies. Even the awful movie had an upshot: It paid for Berendt’s New York City townhouse.

Could a publishing phenomenon like that happen today, Berendt was asked by moderator Richard Eldredge of Atlanta magazine.

“It will be a wholly different shape,” Berendt replied. “It will never occur in the way it happened back then because bookstores were at the heart of it, and that’s not the case anymore. So I don’t know what the scenario will be, but there will be publishing phenomenon.

“It’ll be much harder for a very small book to break out. On the other hand, there is this incredible digital revolution and the Internet, so something could go break out, something could go viral very quickly from small to big.

“It’ll have to be viral , and I didn’t have any viruses going for me back then, so I can’t tell you.”

Relax, Atlanta: Manuel’s Tavern Isn’t Going Anywhere

In the video, spokesman Angelo Fuster clears up the confusion about Manuel’s. 

Manuel's Tavern, Atlanta, bar, institution

Manuel’s Tavern on the corner of North and Highland is an institution. People ask me where I live, and I say, “Near Manuel’s,” and they say, “Oh, yeah, I love that place.”

Facebook and Twitter were all abuzz this morning over news about beloved Manuel’s Tavern being closed to make room for a new development on the corner of Highland and North avenues.

I was confused by the articles (from Creative Loafing, the Business Chronicle and the AJC) as well as the response from people on social media. I saw responses slamming the “news” as just one more example of how we don’t value anything here in Atlanta, how we toss aside our institutions for something new and shiny.

Those reactions didn’t jibe with how I took it, as a reasonable approach to improving and preserving an old spot that’s on a prime corner of real estate — especially after reading owner Brian Maloof‘s Facebook statement.

So I walked the two blocks down to Manuel’s for chili and a grilled cheese, and to get it clear for myself.

“This building is going to be here. This place is going to be here just as you see it now,” spokesman and longtime Maloof family friend Angelo Fuster told me. “This bar is gonna be here. These booths are gonna be here. Those walls are gonna be here.”

Seems this is just another example of people reacting on social media to headlines, assuming the worst, and popping off emotional responses. (Scroll down this Twitter feed to see some examples. There were plenty more on Facebook — “sad,” “end of an era,” etc…)

Manuel's Tavern, Atlanta, bar, institution

Where everybody knows your name…

The business remains with Maloof, son of the late founder Manuel Maloof, Fuster said. The property was sold, from Manuel’s Properties to Green Street Properties. The plan allows for a four-story development on the 1.6 acres but doesn’t mandate one, Fuster said. The new buildings will go where the large parking lots are now.

In his statement, Maloof said,

The land sale is part of a partnership deal with Green Street Properties to renovate our building on North Ave. and North Highland Ave., refurbish the tavern and also develop a neighborhood-scale, mixed-use development on the immediately surrounding property.

Under the agreement, I will continue to be the sole owner of Manuel’s, Green Street will become our landlord, and the tavern will have a long-term lease at its present site.

The sale will allow much-needed structural updates to the building, which is about 100 years old and has been home to Manuel’s since 1956. The bar will be closed during renovations for about three months next year.


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15 Reasons We Love Dishing on the Oscars

Host Neil Patrick Harris is set.

Host Neil Patrick Harris is set.

We love talking and reading about the Oscars as much as we love going to the movies, it seems. And as Oscar Night has morphed into Awards Season, there’s more to read about the Academy Awards than ever.

Here’s a list of 15 fun or smart pieces I’ve come upon recently, broken up into categories – from storytelling to fashion, from diversity to travel and parties.

DIVERSITY

All 20 acting nominees are white, and many observers complain that “Selma” was the victim of the mostly white Academy’s tendency to ignore achievements by African-Americans.

1. Oscar spotlight draws attention to movie industry’s failure to reflect a diverse America, from The Associated Press.

The lack of nominations for “Selma” director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo were a particular flashpoint, viewed by many as unjust oversights not only because they merited honoring, but because their absences furthered an ignoble Oscar history.

2. Martyred genius Alan Turing of “The Imitation Game” spawned this piece: Why do gay characters have to die in order for actors to get Oscar nominations?

BRUTAL HONESTY FROM VOTERS

th-13. The Hollywood Reporter talked to a voter about “Selma,” who said, “There’s no art to it.”

4. And another who didn’t ‘get’ the movie “Birdman” and found  “Whiplash” offensive

MARKETING/STORYTELLING

5. How content marketers can learn from Hollywood’s menu of offerings, from the Spin Sucks column for marketing and PR pros.

Profits from big summer blockbusters and popcorn thrillers can help to offset smaller returns on indie films and niche documentaries.

Each type of movie content has its place in the overall scheme.

Just as production companies need to produce different types of movies, your content strategy needs to include different types of content.

6. How Marketers can win the Oscars.

No award show is bigger than the Oscars. Last year, 43 million people tuned in, earning it the largest nonsporting television audience since the finale of Friends. But the event isn’t just about a few hours on a TV screen. Through digital, audiences are engaging with the Academy Awards well before, during, and after the actual event. On Google alone, there were tens of millions of Oscar-related searches last year. It would likely take decades to watch the variety of Oscar-related content on YouTube. This all adds up to many new opportunities for brands to participate in these massive cultural moments beyond the telecast.

7. Do you trust your audience? Storytelling lessons from a great movie

JUST FOR FUN

Here's hoping for a bumpy night. (Notable loser: Bette Davis did not win for her greatest role, in "All About Eve.")

Here’s hoping for a bumpy night. (Notable loser: Bette Davis did not win for her greatest role, in “All About Eve.”)

8. How to throw an Oscar party — my piece on Coca-Cola’s Journey site.

9. From The New York Times, 8 trips inspired by Oscar-nominated films – including a visit to The Martin Luther king, Jr., National Historic Site in Atlanta.

10. How movie fans are voting on Twitter.

11. A look inside the swag bags worth $167,000 that even the losers get.

12. Download the nominated scripts for free.

13. From Groot to Godzilla, Visual Effects Oscar Hopefuls Reveal Their CG Secrets.

LOOKING BACK

14. Harper’s Bazaar has pictures of all the Best Actress dresses through the decades.

15. Oscar has had his regrets, particularly about ‘Crash’ — Academy members reassess past Oscar decisions.


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Oscars Get Personal with Sweet Support from the Academy

Jim Farmer, gay film festival, Out on Film, Atlanta, Oscars

Jim Farmer’s passion for movies drives Atlanta’s Out on Film.

Like millions of movie fans, Jim Farmer will be glued to the tube for Sunday’s Academy Awards.

But this year, Farmer — a lifelong Oscar fanatic — has an extra reason to be excited. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave his Out on Film festival its first-ever national grant for its most recent event. And more than just the money came the acknowledgement and exposure that only Hollywood’s biggest guns can provide.

Out on Film is Atlanta’s annual gay film festival, which Farmer has programmed since 2008. It’s grown every year since then, to a record attendance of 8,000 in 2014. Over the course of a week right before the annual gay Pride celebration, Out on Film presents more than 100 movies at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema.

Farmer’s focus from the start was on branding Out on Film as a vital, independent celebration — with consistent scheduling (year-round events, but with the festival always the first week in October) and high-quality programming.

“When it comes to marketing and putting butts in seats, you could get a ‘naked guy’ movie and sell out every time,” says Farmer, who has worked in theater marketing and entertainment journalism.  “But we focus on quality films that otherwise might not make it to Atlanta, and also on the diversity within the LGBT community.”

The Oscar grant helped secure last fall’s opening night, with a red carpet and appearances by the makers and some cast members of “Blackbird,” which stars Mo’Nique and will be released widely in April.

“We try to focus on our festival as an event,” Farmer says. “It’s not just seeing a movie. You can watch a movie on your iPhone these days. But there’s nothing quite like seeing a film that is a story about us, for us, told by our filmmakers and experienced together.”

Alec Mapa, Out on Film, Atlanta, gay film festival, Oscars, Jim Farmer

Guests have included actors like Alec Mapa, on the right.

Grants don’t come easy, of course. At the same time the Academy shared its gift, the state of Georgia declined to support the festival, although it had for two previous years.

“It gives us a lot of momentum,” Farmer says about the Oscar grant. “We reached a lot of people last year that we had never reached. The Academy put us on their website. The Academy issued a press release… It was tremendous in terms of the exposure and awareness that we got.”

And more personally, it was a shot of confidence for Farmer, who grew up watching the Oscars and hangs on every development of awards season.

He’ll be at home with his partner Sunday night, not at a party where people might talk over the broadcast. “I don’t care if it lasts four hours. I don’t care if the speeches are long and rambling. I want to see every moment and hear every word.”

And maybe offer up his own version of “I’d like to thank the Academy…”

Jim Farmer’s Oscar predictions

Farmer says it’s easier to call many top categories nowadays, with so many pre-Oscar awards.

But he agrees that three top categories are a lock for Julianne Moore (Best Actress in “Still Alice”), Patricia Arquette (Best Supporting Actress for “Boyhood”) and J.K. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor for “Whiplash”).

After that, thing’s get a little more exciting He sees tight races between “Boyhood” and “Birdman” for Best Picture and Best Director, and expects “Birdman” star Michael Keaton to edge out Eddie Redmayne from “The Theory of Everything” for Best Actor.


 

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Leonard Cohen Says It All for Valentine’s Day: ‘I’m Your Man’

If you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner
Take my hand
Or if you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I’m your man (READ THE REST…)