The 10 commandments of online etiquette


By Gini Dietrich

How many of you love to receive spam email?

How do you like it when you meet someone and he automatically adds you to his newsletter list?

How many of you love to get information that talks all about the sender and tells you nothing valuable?

How often do you unsubscribe from email lists and newsletters?

How many of you know organizations that push their messages via social media, but don’t use it to engage, network, or build a community? I’d venture to guess every one of you.

If you are with me—you hate this stuff—I want to know why you do it to others when you get behind your computer at work.

Some examples

I ask these questions when I speak, particularly when I do three- or four-hour workshops. It allows me to dig deep into why people do this at work, but hate it as a consumer or buyer.

A few weeks ago, I did some research on different customer relationship management programs for a client. I spoke to five different companies. Of the five, three added me to their newsletter list without my permission, simply because I called looking for additional information.

And last week, I received an email from a company telling me it added me to an email distribution list and to let someone know if it wasn’t OK. This is not a company I’ve ever communicated with. Someone just decided I was a good target and went ahead and added me.

But I guess it makes it OK if someone tells me he added me?

I’m sure this is a sales technique of some sort. Maybe it’s to see if I check my email and, if I respond (even if it’s to say it’s not OK they added me to their lists), they know it’s a viable email address.

Or maybe it’s a list-building tactic, which means the organization is focused on the wrong things.

I’ve become afraid to answer emails from strangers at all.

Why is it that all of us hate this, but a good majority of us do it when it comes to online marketing?

The 10 commandments of online etiquette

Perhaps there isn’t a one-size-fits-all equation, and maybe you’re simply focused on numbers instead of conversions, but I’d like to think there is some online etiquette we all should consider.

Therefore, I created the 10 commandments of online etiquette:

1. Thou shalt not add anyone to a newsletter list without his or her consent.

2. Thou shalt not send a LinkedIn invite that says, “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”

3. Thou shalt not post news releases as blog posts.

4. Thou shalt not talk about yourself in communications.

5. Thou shalt not use Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn accounts as news feeds for an organization.

6. Thou shalt not create newsletters that talk about how great you, your leadership, products, or services are without putting them in the context of the buyer.

7. Thou shalt not build lists, fans, followers, connections or circles just for the sake of numbers.

8. Thou shalt not abuse your online power.

9. Thou shalt not email bloggers, journalists, influencers, or target audiences without doing research, building relationships, and giving them something of value.

10. Thou shalt not engage in black hat email marketing.

What else would you add?

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally ran onSpin Sucks.

Millennial reflections on 9/11


By Tom Wood

I am a millennial, a member of Generation Y, a college student and an avid technology user. More often than not, as I sit on my laptop at home, I put myself in the line of fire of my mother’s campaigns against technology. “You spend hours on that thing! Hours! Why don’t you get off and read a book?”

Both my parents are avid readers. They constantly try and guilt trip me out of hours of social networking with cries like, “do you think great men like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln would’ve sat on a computer?!”

Perhaps I’ll tweet that quote to my friends, but nonetheless their tirades give me pause. I begin to doubt the uses of social media. I begin to sympathize with their points of view and think that maybe social media is the reason why my generation can’t read the classics or concentrate in class. I begin to think that maybe I should deactivate my Facebook and Twitter accounts and spend all my hours with my dad’s favorite classic –The Iliad.

But on 9/11 of all days, my faith in the goodness of social media is restored. Today, a day which will live in solemnity for all Americans for as long as this country exists reminds me why social media is so important for my generation.

Let me explain why.

I am a Chicagoan. I hail from the suburbs and go to school in the city. This is the only life I have ever known. While I wouldn’t consider myself sheltered in any way, I know I am relatively unconnected from the rest of the world. I use my Facebook and Twitter mainly to keep in touch with local friends and wish people happy birthday, never to stimulate reflection on world events.

I had never really taken the time to reflect on that until today. Today, I logged into Facebook and saw the momentum of a generation whose obsession with social media has compelled them to action. It happens every year, but as I grow older I am even more impressed by the social media movements that focus around the events of our lives, and today specifically, 9/11.

Eleven years later, my newsfeed gleams with red white and blue as many of my hundreds of Facebook friends post about 9/11. I see status’ thanking our armed forces, remembering a lost family member or simply reiterating how great our country is in the face of adversity. How eleven years later we haven’t forgotten the sacrifices of our soldiers, firefighters, policemen, and civilian heroes.

I click on my class Facebook page and see that one girl has posted the simple prompt “Do you guys remember 9/11….? :(“ A couple hours later that post has fifty some comments, each telling an individual story.

There’s a reflection from a Chinese student, who rode to the top of the World Trade Center his first time in America, the summer of 2001.

A girl from Bangladesh tells how in her house “the hours after the attack were spent in trepidation,” fearing for the lives of their relatives in New York.

Most touching was the reflection of a student who was at his dad’s office that day and had a clear view of the event. He recalls how his horrified father whispered to him “we all just witnessed mass murder.”

And finally there are the stories of those who lost loved ones, putting their stories out in public, across all media platforms for support and to tell the world that this wasn’t something to be removed from. This is personal.

Facebook is only the beginning. My Twitter feed yields more. Today I discovered, and chose to follow the 9/11 Memorial Twitter feed. For hours now, I have been receiving updates remembering those who lost their lives or were otherwise affected by the accident. The newsfeed chooses to re-tweet as many stories as possible. In this way, I have heard from complete strangers- from marines and firefighters, to politicians and celebrities, all portraying the same message: we will never forget.

Older generations may judge. They will look at us and say “they are too caught up in their electronics and instant messaging.” But they don’t understand. We are part of something. Generation Y is growing up to be a generation of movers and shakers. Because of our passion for social media, we are connected. My vision of 9/11 has been shaped so much by social media. Facebook gave me the chance to read my classmates’ first hand stories, and Twitter linked me to people I most likely will never meet.

 This is our legacy. We may occasionally waste time on our computers and smartphones but when we want to get our message across, we do it. Whether it is to campaign for our politicians, promote a charity or cry for justice Generation Y will get it done.

And the message we put out there today is one that connects us not only as a nation, but as a generation across the globe. We will never forget. 

Hospital fundraisers a snooze? Not this Chicago gala.


Jessica Levco

Forget those stuffy black- and white-tie hospital galas.

For the past 12 years, the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Board has put on one of Chicago’s most buzz-worthy singles event, Summer Lovin’. But the evening isn’t just about great food and conversation—it raises major money for medical research.

The event started with 300 people as a “beer and brats” party at Northwestern’s law school courtyard downtown. But the following year, after it scored a partnership with Chicago magazine, the event expanded. For the past five years, it has garnered more than 1,000 people and several restaurant sponsorships and is held at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition, the editorial group from Chicago magazine picks the hottest 20 singles for its June/July issue; this year, a doctor and Northwestern board member were highlighted.

The goal for the board is to raise $100,000 in a two-year period. This money is given to a doctor who wants to do specific medical research. The majority of the $100,000 is from Summer Lovin’, but the board does host another event in the fall, along with a few third-party events that might pop up.

More than 40 doctors submit their proposals to the board (a representative from Northwestern Memorial Hospital helps the board sift through the applications and doctor-lingo). The $100,000 from the board is “seed money” for the doctor, and its purpose is to help the doctor generate more money and bigger grants for research.

This year, the board is supporting Dr. Andrew Naidech, who wants to research new therapies for stroke patients. The board gave him $50,000 last November and will give him the additional money this year. He’s been actively applying and receiving other grants for his research.

“For our board, it’s really exciting for us to see how far our dollars can go,” says Laura Beres, board president.

Mixing traditional and social media

The board ranges in age from 24 to 40. To hit its target demographic to market this event, it primarily goes where its audience is: online.

“We’re pretty deliberate about our use of social media,” Beres says. “Social media is the way most people in our age group find out about things. At our board meetings, our PR committee talks to us about how we can help drum up support.”

Here are six ways the board markets the event:

1. Summer Lovin’ has an active Facebook page. “All of our members, with the exception of one, are on Facebook,” Beres says. “They are constantly given mini-updates that they can copy and paste on their own Facebook page, with a link back to ticket purchasing.”

2. The website went through a major redesign this year. “Any time we send out any communication, we link to our website,” Beres says.

3. The Twitter account is active, with more than 100 followers. Frequently, the PR team tweets information about restaurants that are sponsoring the event, and their reps RT those tweets in response.

4. Grass-roots marketing is not forgotten. For example, board members went to a popular Chicago art fair and passed out “save the date” cards. The board also went on bar crawls to talk about the event. “We put ourselves where our audience is,” Beres says.

5. Traditional media still counts. Even though Chicago wrote a feature article about the event, there was also a full-page ad in the RedEye, an alternative daily tabloid. There will also be stories about the event on radio stations, Windy City Live, and a few other news outlets. “The week before the event gets a lot of press,” Beres says.

6. Partnering with other young organizations has been successful. For example, the team gives away a few tickets to staff at Chicago Sports and Social. In return, this group emails Summer Lovin’ info—twice—to its list of 20,000 recipients. “If two tickets are a $170 value, even if only two people buy from it, we’ll have broken even.”

To track which method works best, people are asked online how they heard about the event when they buy their tickets. Currently, it’s too early to track where people have heard about it this year, but traditionally, the majority of people say they heard about it from another board member or a strategic partnership, Beres says.

Ultimately, what does Beres thinks makes this event so successful?

“It’s for a great cause, most importantly,” Beres says, “but we’re combining the best things about Chicago—our philanthropic community, talented young singles, and our great restaurants.”

Interested in seeing what it’s all about? Purchase your ticket for tomorrow’s event here.

A Millennial’s list of who to follow on Twitter

Lauren Yanow

Recently a couple people have asked me about Twitter. Most of my friends from college use the micro-blogging site, but typically not for networking purposes.

I, however, think Twitter is one of the best ways to meet people.

My friends used to think it was funny that I made friends on Twitter. Now, a few weeks later, many of them are starting to see that I have caught on to something clever.

With many asking for tips on who to follow, I have put together a short list of some of the best people for millennials to follow in the PR and social media industries.

1.  Lauren Gray @laurenkgray

I thought beginning with a fellow millennial would be a good way to start. Lauren and I connected a few months back. I have found her to be probably one of my best resources. A member of the PRSSA National committee, Lauren is always sending out links to fantastic articles and blogging about her experiences as a PR student. She is definitely a student worth following.

2. Mark Ragan @MarkRaganCEO and Samantha Hosenkamp @samhosenkamp

Yes, I do currently work for Ragan Communications – but this is not a plug. I have been following Mark on Twitter for months. His Twitter acts as a news feed that shares stories posted on Ragan sites including and Sam is the brains behind the social media here at Ragan and provides amazing insights into the industry.

3. Arik Hanson @arikhanson

One of the creators of HAPPO (Help a PR Pro Out), Arik has proved himself as a PR industry leader as well as a friend to all PR pros trying to make it in a competitive industry. His website is a fantastic tool. In the time we have spoken via Twitter (and an email or two) he has always offered his advice and support.

4. Valerie Simon @valeriesimon

Valerie is the other creator of HAPPO. A PR pro from the east coast, Valerie always shares great articles and writes a great blog about the PR industry. She participates in tons of tweet chats and always has great advice for up and coming pros.

5. Sarah Evans @prsarahevans

Sarah was one of the first industry leaders I followed. I am amazed at her passion for teaching others about PR. She created the Sevans Network, a great resource for PR pros to share insights, connect, and network.

6. Andrew Worob @worob

Andrew blogs at  PR at Sunrise which happens to be one of my favorite industry blogs. He is always eager to share his experience in the industry. He is extremely insightful. He often rights about topics that are important to new pros and students. He is always networking and interacts on many LinkedIn groups too.

7. Justin Goldsborough @jgoldsborough

I had the opportunity to meet Justin at an event a few months back. I immediately started following him on Twitter and have found him to be one of the most influential people that I follow. He moderates the chat #pr20chat which has been an extremely useful source to many PR pros and students.

8. Heather Whaling @prtini

Heather serves as the other moderator of the #pr20chat. Heather has a great eye for sharing stories about the industry and is always willing to help out a PR student or pro. She is always able to put a clever spin on topics surrounding the industry and offers her opinion as a successful PR and social media pro.

While there are of course more than 8 amazing people on twitter to follow, this is a great start. The best way to find people is to start small. Follow these industry leaders and see who they interact with. If I see that one of these people has retweeted something from someone else it usually leads to another great person to follow. And be sure to follow me at @lyanow!

No two millennials are exactly the same

Lauren Yanow

Like snowflakes, each millennial is different

Here are the top five types we’ve encountered in our office. Do you have any more to add?

The olympic texter

An unlimited texting plan might be enough for this one. With the ability to text dozens of people at a time and send a page-long text in nanoseconds, sign this millennial up for a speed texting tournament. Or give them an Excedrin—for their thumbs.

The poking warrior

This kind of millennial knows how to navigate a good ‘ole fashion “poke.” And they constantly stalk friends and family, with a variety of wall postings and messages. Their relationship status is always in the flux, depending on what happened at the bar on Friday night.

The over-tweeter

These millennials use their Twitter accounts to share every thought that goes through their mind. And what they ate for lunch. Yes, we know, we know—calzones are good, but please, we really don’t care.

The TMI Blogger

Blogging has become a big part of the millennial culture. That’s too bad. Sometimes, we just think things are better left unsaid—or written down in a diary.

The anti-millennial

To be considered a millennial, you need to be born between 1980 and 2000. But not every millennial has jumped on the social media bandwagon. These millennial-types own cell phones that are only capable of making phone calls. How quaint.


7 sites that have nothing to do with social media

Sandy Jackiewicz

I have nothing against social media.

But I’m getting sick of Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.

Are you looking to branch out, too? Here are seven sights worth bookmarking:

  1. GOOD: If adulthood is making you feel cynical and exasperated, head over to GOOD for an idealism boost. It’s all about doing good and living well.
  2. Fast Company: There’s more to Fast Company than business stories. I still haven’t figured out what they mean by “Ethonomics,” but where else can you find articles about $95,000 lab rats?
  3. The Sartorialist: Vogue scares me. Seriously. But thanks to The Sartorialist, I’ve gotten over my fear for fashion and have actually developed some appreciation for it. Plus, I no longer flinch when I hear the word,  “accessorize.”
  4. Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed: Since graduating in 2008, my political science textbooks have sat on a bookshelf, untouched.   Thanks to Paul Kedrosky’s blog, I’ve been able to re-charge my brain cells.
  5. Dezeen: One word: pretty.
  6. The Daily Beast: If you combined TMZ with The New York Times, you’d get something resembling The Daily Beast. Viral videos, breaking stories and gossipy articles–you’re covered.
  7. Smitten Kitchen: If you’re ready to tackle something more complicated than Ramen Noodles, it’s time to visit Smitten Kitchen. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen, I’ve made pretzels, potato pancakes and a two-layered cake.

Living Off the Grid: 5 Surprising Benefits

By Jenny Fukumoto

I lost my iPhone for the first time last weekend. I don’t expect that to come as a shock, since many millennials I know are currently on phone No. 3…or No. 30.

I was “disconnected” for five and a half days. I resorted to involuntary seclusion, as I didn’t want to miss a possible email or tweet from the hotel I left my phone at. I even considered skipping my weekly trek to Jewel Osco, but finally got tired of eating leftovers.

So for five and a half days there was a monkey wrench thrown into my smart phone-infused life. But as I reflect, I realize there were 5 surprising benefits of living “off the grid”:

1. I did not check my work email during non-work hours. And it felt sooooo good!

2. I lived in the moment. While waiting for the bus, I didn’t check my email or text someone back. I instead waited and really looked at my surroundings. I might even go so far as to write I smelled the roses — and the other various scents of Chicago.

3. There was no need to tell people where I was or what I was doing. Without Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter, I didn’t have the impulse to check-in, or share information about my day.

4. I paid more attention to my boyfriend. On our date night, I didn’t have the phone on the table; I didn’t need to text or call anyone back.

5. I had one less battery to worry about charging. How many times have you forgotten to charge your phone, only to have it die when you’re out and about?

Though it was a very humbling experience, I will not be sad if I never have to go through disconnection again!

Can you add to my list? Let us know!