Of Meat and Madden Bowl: How I Messed With Texas

Coke Zero special correspondent Larry Fitzgerald interviewed Chad Ochocinco after his team won EA Sports Madden Bowl XVII Thursday night.

I spent part of last week in Grapevine, Texas to help coordinate media and the Coke Zero black carpet at the EA Sports Madden Bowl. I’d struggle to retell my first Texas experience in any linear fashion, so here’s a few bullets from the gun-happiest state in the union:

  • The state was battered by an ice storm earlier in the week, and while it’s easy to bash people from the south for their inability to drive in wintery conditions, the roads were truly awful. Forget a plow or a salt truck — it was as if the roads had been conditioned by a Zamboni. Never seen anything like it.
  • Texans loves their meat. We ate at a place called Big Racks — imagine Hooters without the dignity — and I chose a plate which included briscuit, smoked turkey, ribs, fried okra and potato salad. This was after I balked at the grand slam platter, included the aforementioned three meats along with ham, chicken breast and steak. That’s livin’.
  • Fifteen degrees. It was 15 degrees by the time NFL players and celebrities made way down the black carpet Thursday night. Everyone attending relied on heat lamps outside, which stood about seven-feet tall and thrust warm air upwards, making them completely ineffective. Add to the fact I was wearing a button-up and a sweater. Indefensible for a guy from Minnesota.
  • At one point, I sidled over to a heat lamp near the media check-in I was monitoring. There stood a short white man with his hooded sweatshirt drawn, worn underneath a weathered canvas jacket. I thought he seemed a bit out of place, until he flipped his hood back revealed he was Drew Rosenhaus. My first instinct? Try to argue with him! Try to win a stand-off with the most powerful agent in football! I did no such thing. I feel I still came away a winner.
  • As fate would have it, we stayed at a Great Wolf Lodge, which is a Wisconsin-based hotel chain. So, unfailingly, GWL declared itself Packer Country starting Thursday by decorating the lobby in green and yellow and blasting the Packers fight song from the PA. Couldn’t wait to leave. Could. Not. Wait.
  • Biggest personal hero spotted: Marshall Faulk. (Named to the NFL Hall of Fame the next day!)
  • Scariest NFL figure at the party: DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association who could take the 2011 season hostage.
  • Most unlikely NFL figure at the party: Former San Francisco 49ers safety Merton Hanks. Or, “funky chicken guy.
  • Most disappointing no-show: Brooklyn Decker. Not that she ever RSVP’ed, but she was in town.
  • Most inaccurate pseudonym: Big Boi. He’s 5-6 on a good day.
  • Debbie Downer tweet(s) of the night: Chad Ochocinco, winner of the Madden Bowl with teammates Patrick Willis and Maria Menounos, tweeted the following:






LinkedIn is a Soulless, Selfish Social Network

Today rounds out three months as a consumer marketing intern. Had I not been offered a three-month extension last week, today would be a sad day. I probably would’ve spent my Friday night sitting here, at my desk, paws wrapped around a whiskey sour, Pandora set to B.B. King, searching hopelessly for my next job opportunity.

Worse yet, I could’ve resorted to badgering every contact in my social network. I could’ve — gasp! — updated my LinkedIn profile.

For all the beauty and wonderment social media has brought to my life, I’ve purposefully steered clear of LinkedIn, the soul-sucking social network which focuses on maintaining and making professional contacts for personal gain. It’s like a Rolodex. A really douchey, self-involved Rolodex. Facebook and Twitter can fulfill the same selfish motives, but they allow deeper interaction with photo albums and TwitPics, pages and links. LinkedIn exists to say, “Scratch my back. I’ll scratch yours.”

Except very little scratching actually takes place — for me, anyways.

I keep a shade over 400 Facebook friends and follow about 350 on Twitter. I have 26 contacts on LinkedIn, several of whom I don’t know and wouldn’t recognize if we were stuck in the same elevator.

Facebook has done a lot for me. Hell, it’s the reason I have an on-going internship. And Twitter? I’ve made some nice connections on there, too, ranging from regional journalists to now avid readers of my blog. ;) I also look at Twitter like a word game with it’s 140-character limit; something akin to a Haiku or crossword puzzle.

But LinkedIn?

Look, I’ve always wanted to be the guy to earn opportunities based on merit, not connections. Who hasn’t? The more time I spend at my internship, the more I realize the business world revolves around relationships; not who you know, but rather why you know them and how you continue to know them. That’s where many PR amateurs go wrong, striving for quantity rather than quality.

I was an English major and briefly dabbled in an MFA program where the dream of being a published author was based, first and foremost, on ability. Relationships would help, but they wouldn’t sell books. The business world — marketing, especially — is dependent on relationship-building, not meritocracy. Unfortunately, many in the biz severely lack tact when it comes to interacting with other professionals. Go to a monthly meeting for any of the trade organizations and most of your interactions will go like this:

You: “Hey, I’m ____.”

Them: “Oh, cool. I’m _____Who do you work for?”

You: “I’m at ____.”

(If you’re from a well-known agency, they’ll hand you their business card and you’ll be talking to this person for 20 minutes. If they’ve never heard of the agency, they’ll ask which clients you work with. If you’re unemployed, they’ll flee the scene. No matter what, the next day on Twitter, they’ll post something to the effect of, “Pleasure to meet @you last night. PR rock star! Love engaging with other young talent!” You’ll know they see you as important if they add you on LinkedIn.)

In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a piece titled Twitter, Facebook, and social activism. I largely disagreed with his overarching sentiment, but he may have been on to something when he wrote, “The platforms of social media are built around weak ties.” LinkedIn fails because it’s main purpose is to help foster and maintain relationships for professional gain. Have people earned employment, found opportunity, created meaningful connections through LinkedIn? Sure. But I doubt the quality of those relationships, where Facebook and Twitter provide a more wholesome environment for communication unrelated to personal gain. LinkedIn is as personal as a job interview — is that really who you are? What you’re like? Do you really rattle off your three biggest weaknesses in casual conversation?

It’s who you know, true, but more importantly, how you know them. Nothing beats meeting in the flesh, and should I ever need to start looking elsewhere for employment, LinkedIn is the last well I’ll tap. I’ve got Facebook friends and Twitter tweeps for that.

How You Made Me a Fast Horse

Well, it’s official — I got the Fast Horse Inc. internship thanks to the 725 people who “Liked” my video on Facebook. For those of you who didn’t get to see it:

I’ll never be able to give each one of those people a proper thanks, but I intend on taking full advantage of this opportunity to prove them right.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a story on the front page of the business section today.  (You can read it here.) The reporter, Molly Young, portrayed the intern search as a popularity contest where he/she with the most Facebook friends was guaranteed victory. I disagree. This was about engaging people and moving them to action. I don’t know everyone who took the time to “Like” my video. In fact, I don’t know the majority of people who voted for me. (See the list of voters below.)

I think I won because 1. I had a more active network and 2. I allowed people who’ve never met me to know me. Let me explain:

  1. There were several people in my network — you know who you are — that sent messages, posted status updates, tweeted, retweeted, made YouTube videos with voting instructions and forwarded e-mails to everyone in their contact list. I assumed I had fewer Facebook friends than my opponents (359 as of last Sunday),  so I relied on involving and engaging friends and colleagues to pass the word on to their much larger networks.
  2. I utilized my blog, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to comment on the search throughout the week. I tried to follow up each Like with a thank-you of some sort, but it wasn’t always possible. From the initial video cover letter to a video I made during halftime of Game 7 Thursday night, the point was to be myself, even to people who’ve never met me. I wanted people to feel invested in the outcome.

I raved about the process in my interview with Ms. Young. Unfortunately, the quote she plucked was in response to the exhaustion I felt on Friday with just a few hours remaining. The result:

Prior to the NFL Draft, hundreds of the best players in the country go to Indianapolis for what’s known as “the combine.” There, they are tested for strength and ability through a series of rigorous testing as coaches and general managers decide whether a player is right for their team. In a way, this past week was like a social media combine. If I didn’t have a grip on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or blogging, I never stood a chance.

The truth is I enjoyed every part of this process. That’s easy to say because I won, sure, but even if I had lost, I could have accepted it knowing someone else outwitted me, one way or another.

Continue reading

If I Win the Fast Horse Inc. Intern Search

If history has taught me anything, it's this: It ain't over until it's over.

With just about eight hours to go in the Fast Horse Inc. summer intern search, I’m holding a sizable lead of 703-395-310. It’s too early for any victory celebration, but I wanted to take a second to talk about what this internship would mean to me.

When my girlfriend and I moved to Portland last summer, I was unemployed for three months. All the while, I was interviewing with the company I’m currently working for, but those three months really put things in perspective. Luckily, I’d saved enough money before moving to pay for necessities. Also, my girlfriend found work right away, so she paid for the few nights out we enjoyed living in a new city. But really — it was a rude awakening.

We decided we needed to move back to Minnesota when we went home for Christmas. The distance from friends and family was too much to bear. Our first cross-country move really informed this one, and rather than worry about finding the perfect apartment, I was more concerned about finding a job. I didn’t want to spend significant time unemployed again.

My mentor, Ellen Mrja, an associate professor of mass communications at my alma mater, brought the FHI internship to my attention. At first, it seemed daunting: Cut a three-minute video cover letter showing creativity, initiative, personality and je ne sais quoi. I’ve got a face for radio and a voice for print, so this opportunity seemed dead on arrival.

Fast Horse liked my video and this earned me an interview via Skype. That went well, too, apparently. When I found out I was a finalist, I was more excited by the opportunity to use social media and campaign. I thought it would be … fun? And it has been, albeit exhausting. I’ve had a nice lead the whole week, but never once feel safe. Even writing this, I’m still concerned.

If I earn this opportunity, it means I was able to find employment 1,700 miles away … without an unemployment gap … in an unsavory job market … with an English degree.

If. It’s not over. I can’t wait until it is. Check back tonight. If I win, I’m posting a video before any celebration. I’ve got many, many people to thank!

The Saga Continues…

Win, lose or draw, the most impressive thing about the Fast Horse Inc. summer intern search is the fact it inspired my grandmother and dad to join Facebook. Bonkers.

Today’s a big day and I expect my competitors to either give up or go for broke. Most likely, the latter. That means I need every last vote I can get. The steps to vote are simple (below) and I feel like 1,000 Likes is still in range. Check back later on tonight for another video where I’m laying down the plan for the final 20 hours of the competition.

If you haven’t voted yet, it’s simple. Just:

  1. Go to The Fast Horse Experience fan page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FastHorseExperience
  2. Like the page.
  3. Click on the Video tab.
  4. Find my video. (“Intern Candidate #1: Andrew Miller from Portland”)
  5. Like the video.

On ChatRoulette, the Intern Search, 2002

It’s my theory disenfranchised programmers at YouTube have it set so that the least flattering millisecond of any given moment is turned into the thumbnail. Such is the case with my video above. Thanks, guys.

Just hit 500 Likes! The lead is holding steady at 236, compared to about 150 when we started yesterday. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping with my e-mail campaign. You can e-mail me at atmiller14@gmail.com.

The voting process is even simpler now:
  1. Go to The Fast Horse Experience fan page:http://www.facebook.com/FastHorseExperience
  2. Like the page.
  3. Click on the Video tab.
  4. Find my video. (“Intern Candidate #1: Andrew Miller from Portland”)
  5. Like the video.