From the Idaho Statesman, July 20, 2010:

RECOGNITION

Martin Johncox has been named a board member of PATH Idaho, a treatment foster-care program.

Children in treatment foster care may have problems with juvenile delinquency, physical or development disability, abuse, neglect, behavioral problems, impulse control or other conditions that make them more challenging to care for than nontreatment foster-care children.

Johncox is a foster parent with PATH Idaho and public relations director of Alexander and Associates Inc., where he assists businesses with news media, social media, strategic communication and crisis/opportunity management.

Some might say the Idaho Republican Party has a small tent, but I disagree. The tent is plenty big. It’s just full of weirdos like anarchists, pro-life Libertarians, big-government conservatives and dope smokers.

For several years, I was a volunteer and a precinct committeeman with the Idaho Republican Party and Ada County Republicans. I managed campaigns for Janet Miller, a District 17 state representative and a model for pragmatic, effective leadership. Between 2002 and 2008 I walked hundreds of miles through Boise neighborhoods for Republican state and federal candidates, passing out brochures, surveying residents and following up as a poll watcher and precinct committeeman. I didn’t necessarily agree with all the positions, but I had faith the party was looking out for the interests of business owners and economic growth.

No more. The 2010 Idaho Republican Party convention was a mean, dumb mashup of posturing. Conventioneers avoided complex issues like education cutbacks, high unemployment, run-down infrastructure and loss of well-paying jobs. Instead of any hard policy work, they indulged themselves in useless, feel-good issues like silver and gold coin collecting, legalizing marijuana, giving the finger to the feds, telling citizens they shouldn’t elect US Senators, demanding elected officials vacate their offices and pushing a tyrannical “loyalty oath” (thankfully, elected officials are not signing it).  While these radicals rail against government, their entire agenda is obsessed with government. Entrepreneurs, small business people, the high-tech sector and anyone else serious about economic growth will find nothing in this self-serving pap.

I’m a by-the-book, traditional conservative, not a tear-down-society-and-overthrow-the-government conservative. I’m conservative about being conservative. I work hard to support my family, keep my business going, meet my obligations and otherwise remain a productive citizen. I want pragmatic  leaders who will work to keep this a land of opportunity, not indulge in persecution fantasies or chest-thumping exercises.

I look forward to the day when I can once again work my butt off volunteering for an Idaho Republican Party that is safe and sane.

“Social Media Minute” gives radio listeners practical tips and advice on communications phenomenon
Idaho public relations company provides affordable pre-recorded segments to stations, which can present them to local advertisers

For more information:
Martin Johncox, Alexander and Associates, 208-658-9100
martin@alexanderandassociates.com
facebook.com/alexandermarketing
twitter.com/alexandermktng
twitter.com/mjohncox

Hundreds of millions of people are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media, yet there are few resources in the traditional media to help them – until now.

Martin Johncox, a public relations and social media consultant, has started the “Social Media Minute,” a tip-of-the-day for radio listeners. The 60-second spots are available for radio stations, which may purchase use of the spots and package them with sponsorship opportunities for local advertisers. Sample segments can be downloaded at www.idahowork.wordpress.com.

“Social media experts are off in their podcast silos, thinking traditional media are irrelevant – even though traditional media are still command enormous audiences,” Johncox said. “Meanwhile, many traditional media people are not sure how to make social media relevant to their listeners. The Social Media Minute can help bridge this gap.”

Each Social Media Minute will focus on a common issue in social media, with an emphasis on personal and small business use and how-to tips. Johncox is considering the potential for a syndicated call-in talk show with guests. Similar talk shows are popular for computers and technical subjects, but Johncox is not aware of any yet that explore social media specifically.

“One national weekend tech show is actually advising people not to use Facebook – good luck with that,” Johncox said. “Social media are fundamentally changing the way people communicate and the public is eager to learn more about them, not ignore them.”

There are about 123 million Facebook users and 17 million Twitter users in the US. About 41 percent of Americans have a Facebook profile and about 7 percent are on Twitter. While Twitter is smaller, it is more influential, as its members are three times more likely to discuss brands (http://www.edisonresearch.com/twitter_usage_2010.php and www.facebakers.com).

Johncox is a former Idaho newspaper journalist and holds a B.A. in Rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oregon. Since 2001, he has been public relations director for Alexander and Associates Inc. in Boise. His social media work has won industry awards and he regularly makes presentations to chambers of commerce and business groups on getting started and moving forward with social media. Current clients include Ted Mason Signature Homes, Clothesline Cleaners, Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., Metro Express Car Wash, Breeze Thru Car Wash, Rail City Car Wash, Express Car Wash, Harrison Dental, YMC Inc. and many others.

Johncox, who voices sponsor spots for Boise State Public Radio and local advertisers, writes and professionally records the social media tips and emails them to purchasers. Pricing for the segments is $10 for radio stations in small markets (up to 199,000), $20 for stations in mid-sized markets (200,000 to 499,000) and $30 for stations in large markets (500,000 and above); see http://www.visionentertainment.com/html/us_radio_markets.html for market sizes).

Purchasing rights for the segment allows unlimited use for 30 days. Segments are purchased on a one-off basis and no long-term buying agreements are required. To purchase spots, email socialmedia@clear.net. Payment may be made in check or via PayPal to mjohcox@cableone.net.

Social Media Minute #1: What kind of social media should I use?

Social Media Minute #2: How do I set up a business page?

Social Media Minute #3: Business and personal issues.

One of our clients, Clothesline Cleaners, recently won an award for its social media campaign from the Methods for Management Conference Success 2010 in Florida. This includes 40 of the top dry cleaning operators from across the US. Alexander and Associates does their social media and we are really honored to have helped our client like this.

Last year, WashTrends magazine honored Metro Express Car Wash for its social media campaign, which we also handle. In all, we administer the social media campaigns of Express Car Wash in Boca Raton, Fla.; Metro and Rail City car washes in Reno, Nev.; and Breeze Thru Car Wash in Fort Collins, Colo. We are also a member of the Western Car Wash Association.

Does anybody see the irony in groups like “I WILL NEVER PAY ONE RED CENT TO USE FACEBOOK, NO MATTER HOW MUCH A PART OF MY LIFE IT HAS BECOME” and “ONE MILLION CLOSELY NETWORKED AGAINST FACEBOOK SHARING ONE IOTA OF INFORMATION.”

Yeah, it’s free and I accept that advertisers foot the bill by mining every word I write. This amazing infrastructure is expensive and they have to pay the bills somehow. Get a clue, people.

I’m not much of a joiner. Aside from Tweetups and occasional business networking meetings, I don’t join many professional or similar organizations. I know I should, but after working for clients, family, music and a bit of volunteering, I just don’t have the time.

Nevertheless, I think people should give back to their profession in some way. Lately, I have been having students shadow me for a few days, or spending a few hours allowing them to interview me about public relations work, mostly from Dr. Mary Frances Casper’s class but also from high schools. A couple of weeks ago, I made a presentation to the Boise State University Public Relations Student Society of America on general PR practice and how social media are radically changing communication work.

So, if you are a student or teacher and need to have someone come talk to your class or mentor a student, give me a call. I’m an easy touch.

Three years is a long time for a PR effort, but sometimes that’s what it takes, especially if the stakes are high. Alexander and Associates’ work for Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. paid off when the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the county modify its comprehensive plan to  allow AEHI to move forward on its plans or a nuclear power plant in that county. I’m pleased to say my term as head of PR for AEHI has produced success for this stage of the project. Dan Hamilton, a former KTRV Fox 12 newscaster, has taken the reins as head of the PR effort, and I know Dan will do a stellar job. I remain on as a consultant and fanatically committed to the project.

I first started helping AEHI in April 2007; the company’s chief goal in Idaho is to develop a nuclear power plant and CEO Don Gillispie has been highly persistent in the face of a difficult investment climate, setbacks and governmental delays. It was very heartening that the Payette P and Z last week voted 9 to 2 in favor, after a lengthy public hearing in November.

One of the two commissioners who voted against AEHI’s request said the company hadn’t submitted enough information to support its plans (several other commissioners correctly pointed out that, at this stage, AEHI had explained its plans sufficiently and it would have to submit highly detailed plans as it sought further approvals). This commissioner said the company appears to have “spent most of its money on public relations.” I take this as a backhanded compliment, but the use of public relations in this context, unfortunately, appears cynical.

In the past three years, I’ve visited close to 1,000 homes and businesses in three counties to pass out information, discuss our project and/or collect petition signatures in a half-dozen towns  – decaying downtowns, strip malls, restaurants, pawn shops, secondhand stores, used car lots, smoky bars, neighborhoods, banks, machine shops, espresso stands, barber shops, corner stores, food assistance lines, subdivisions, trailer parks and office parks. In between this community organizing work, my company sent out news releases, arranged advertising, fielded media interviews, blogged, researched/wrote newsletters, attended local government meetings, recruited people to write letters to the editor and brought AEHI into the new frontiers of social media. AEHI CEO Don Gillispie spoke in front of chambers of commerce, service clubs and anyone else who would listen, while other members of the team did their respective parts. This is honest-to-goodness commitment and community outreach, not merely “public relations.”

We won this round because we put our faith in the majority of the people.

The Snake River Alliance fought us to a near-standstill in Elmore County, but in Payette County, I believe the P and Z was more inclined to listen to the testimony. Shortly before she cast a favorable vote, one Payette P and Z commissioner said testimony was about 81 percent in favor and that was something she had to pay attention to.

The Snake River Alliance’s approach to community organizing, as I have come to see it, is to find a few key people on their side, then work largely behind-the-scenes to assemble a small but influential coalition of opposition. That approach may work well in a community where the political culture gives a disproportionate amount of weight to a small but well-connected group. In such cases, hundreds of voices in support of a proposal may not be enough to overcome those few opposed.

In Payette County last week, we saw officials genuinely consider the wishes of the majority, especially when they themselves identify with those who want a better life for themselves and their neighbors. In that kind of climate, the Snake River Alliance will have to emerge from the shadows to do the grunt work of knocking on doors, networking with local businesses, approaching common people and offering something of value that will help struggling families put food on the table.

Wherever the AEHI proposal goes, I and many other people appreciate that the Payette County Commission gave a small company a fair chance to make something tremendous happen. Thank you and we will do right for your county.

These days, the Boise mayor and council seem deeply uninterested in addressing urban decay problems south of the Boise River. Hundreds of Boiseans are at risk of being evicted from rickety trailer parks and hundreds of school children walk to school in dangerous conditions without sidewalks, yet the city is spending huge amounts of energy (and, possibly, money) on a downtown streetcar.

Boise City should be spending stimulus and other money on finally helping neglected Bench neighborhoods with better housing, reinvestment and life-safety features such as sidewalks. Unlike the downtown streetcar, these are all urgent needs.

In the past two years, at least four mobile home parks have closed in Boise and Garden City. In contrast to the streetcar committee of movers and shakers, trailer park residents are the moved and the shaken. According to a Boise State University study, about 5,400 Boiseans live in manufactured housing. Half are seniors and a quarter, astoundingly, live on $900 a month or less. Most are women and nearly half have a chronic medical condition. One in four live in a park listed for sale or redevelopment.

This issue has receded with the economy, but it will return and what is the city doing now to prepare? Helping these people is complex job that will require imagination and commitment, but it could be done in partnership with local housing agencies, the Capital City Development Corporation and federal stimulus funds.

If that’s not enough of a priority, the city could focus on building sidewalks, the lack of which is a serious safety issue on the Bench. One of the reasons our family and three children moved from the Bench was the severe lack of sidewalks; we just didn’t feel safe letting our kids walk to school. Nowadays sidewalks are required – much like electricity, indoor plumbing and fire codes – but the city decades ago allowed Bench neighborhoods to be built to primitive standards. Now is a good time to go back and fix this and connect these sidewalks with the new schools the Boise School District recently built. (Indeed, the Boise School District has done far more reinvestment in neglected neighborhoods than the city.)

If the city really wants a streetcar for the economic benefits that come with it, I suggest it build a streetcar line between the crumbling strip mall at Orchard/Emerald and the mostly vacant strip mall at Orchard/Overland. Don’t laugh – a streetcar in fact used to run on Orchard Street! A modern line there would spark private-sector urban renewal the city wants and show Bench neighborhoods that they, too, are worth the good stuff. After 40 years, the city has done a great job with downtown. It is a decade overdue for the city to turn its urban renewal efforts to the Bench.

The city will say the federal funds are only for transit projects, not for sidewalks or developing decent housing, but I think that’s just hiding behind process. If there’s a sincere political will to build sidewalks or help people who are about to lose their homes, the city will find a way to do it; the money is out there. In fact, on Dec. 1, The Statesman reported new federal grants for “projects that connect destinations and foster the redevelopment of communities into walkable, mixed use, high-density environments.”

This sounds just like what we need in some places south of the Boise River. I implore the city to stop doting over downtown and get to the real work of improving lives and safety in neglected Bench neighborhoods. Follow your consciences.

As many of you know, I do a fair amount of consulting for clients using social media especially Facebook and Twitter. I’ve helped dozens of businesses set up and maintain Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

More and more, I see businesses using personal profiles to promote their businesses. Bad idea! Facebook will eventually shut down your account, without warning, embarrassing you and erasing all your efforts to build your brand with your customers.

A personal profile page must carry the name of a real person and the legit way to promote your business is with a business page. However, many businesses don’t do this out of ignorance, or intention. Local marketing firms that advise clients on social media (and ought to know better) are misusing profile pages, as well as local media.

You see, it’s much harder to collect “fans” for a business page than it is to collect “friends” for a profile page. The only way a business can get fans is for existing fans to recommend the business to their own friends. However, a business using a personal profile page can reach out and solicit “friends.” This makes the tough work of social media marketing much easier, but it’s an abuse of the system and degrades the experience for everyone.

Facebook is about people and relationships between them. Commerce is secondary and to prove your business’ worth, you need to get your fans talking about you. From a practical standpoint, Facebook is concerned about businesses overrunning the network with “friend requests” to push products and services.

There’s nothing wrong with using Facebook to push products and services, of course. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

I’d compare it to being at a cocktail party or backyard barbecue. If someone in a business uniform asks you for a moment of your time and starts saying why you should have lunch at their restaurant, you’d get annoyed of course. However, if you were talking to a friend of yours and they said, “Hey, I found this great place for lunch” or “I’m now doing marketing for this great lunch place,” that’s more in keeping with the purpose of the event. If you bug your friends with this too much, you won’t have them for long. This keeps the element of personal accountability very much in play.

Facebook is becoming a backyard barbecue at which businesses are piling out of the van, handing out leaflets and pushing their products. If you are a business, promote yourself the legit way: Set up a fan page. Put your name, or the name of a representative, out there to promote you correctly. Give people a reason to talk about your brand and your product and they will reward you by becoming a fan. And, you will avoid the nasty surprise of finding your Facebook account deactivated – and it will happen when Facebook monitors make it to this corner of the world.

For some reason, local governments in Boise can’t put much value on historic preservation south of the Boise River. In the latest news, the Boise School District has announced it will tear down the Franklin and Cole elementary schools. These schools became obsolete after a 2006 bond election, which built new schools and consolidated the populations of old schools. Cole Elementary, at Cole Road Fairview Ave., was first built in 1888 and is Boise’s oldest-standing school building. Franklin Elementary, at Franklin Road and Orchard Street, was built in 1905.

I’ve lived in Boise since 1990 and over that time, it seems as though neighborhoods south of the Boise river consistently get shortchanged, especially in the areas of historic preservation and urban design. Bench developers are allowed to build new strip malls with little regard to preserving traditional neighborhood values. Zoning rules concern themselves with the caliper diameter of trees, not if the development comes to the street. Meanwhile, decrepit strip malls continue to decay while the city frets over light rail in the largely-completed downtown areas. The remaining Bench historic sites – all the more precious because of their fewness – are cast aside and prepared for the wrecking ball and a new life as a parking lot.

“Cole is the last bastion of early Boise history in a wasteland of nothingness,” Dan Everhardt, president of Preservation Idaho, told The Idaho Statesman. “There is no sense of place to those strip malls.”

To its credit, the city has been getting better about putting public art in Bench neighborhoods and has done well in establishing branch libraries in strip malls. These are the easy targets, however. The Bench really needs reinvestment and urban renewal, similar to what has successfully been undertaken downtown. Failing that, we should at least hold on to the good things we have.

The City of Boise had little interest in preserving the 126-year-old  Trolley, a small neighborhood pub made from a converted trolley car on Morris Hill Street. After a fire destroyed the Trolley,the city sent the owner a letter telling them to move their junk. No, the Historic Preservation Office wasn’t going to help, nor was the city going to use some stimulus money to preserve the Trolley. Just: Move your junk. Now. Likewise, the Boise School District demolished South Junior High School while the city did nothing to preserve it.

I served on a citizens’ committee in 2006 to help the school district pass the bond issue. At the time, school district leaders spoke of the need to improve the “doughnut” of original suburbs around Boise, which were losing middle-class families to the newer suburbs. Dilapidated schools, a lack of sidewalks and few public amenities were making these 1950s-1970s neighborhoods less desirable. The school district’s goal at the time was to not only replace aging schools with new ones, but to improve the neighborhoods and make them more attractive to middle-class families with children.

It was a visionary plan – I plan a suspect no one even remembers anymore. After these historic buildings are demolished, likely parking lots with strip malls will be built in their place; that is hardly the kind of development that endears a neighborhood to people. I hope the city of Boise and the school district can exercise some vision and think of something better.

Here is my suggestion, with a hefty dose of sarcasm: Move the Cole and Franklin schools to some place north of the Boise River. I suspect that suddenly, eyes will light up at City Hall and officials will show the leadership and vision we need now. They will search for federal stimulus money, marshal their historic preservation resources, and pull out all the stops to keep these important parts of our history.

A healthy city is full of places worth caring about.  The city’s and school district’s lack of interest in preserving cultural treasures on the Bench is unfortunate.

(Notes from Boise School District meetings with Borah Neighborhood Association members, May 10, 2006 and  May 17, 2006.)

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