Building Communities, Not Audiences... Just Be Human (with Amy Guth) - Chicago Social
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Building Online Communities with Amy Guth | Chicago Social

Building Communities, Not Audiences… Just Be Human (with Amy Guth)

Building Communities, Not Audiences… Just Be Human

Amy Guth is one of the most loved and well-respected women in the Chicago media market. She talks to us today about how to build an audience online with a human approach. How do you build an audience by just being a real person?

About Amy Guth

Amy Guth on Chicago SocialTo quote Robert Feder, one of the most respected authorities in local media, Amy Guth is “one of the most prominent women in Chicago media.” Amy has done it all when it comes to media. She is an author and a novelist and has hosted both television and radio shows.  Amy served as the President of the Chicago Chapter of the Association for Women Journalists, taught at the University of Chicago Graham School and has served as a mentor/editor at the Op-Ed Project.
Amy worked as the SEO and Social Manager of the Chicago Tribune Media Group – then as the General Manager and Publisher of the RedEye and MetroMix. If you know anything about media in Chicago, you know and probably love Amy Guth!
Amy was named to Chicago Magazine’s list of the “50 Most Beautiful Chicagoans” and “Chicago’s Funniest Media Personality” by the Laugh Factory Chicago.
She has been inspiration to many including several of the staff at Boxless Media.

Words to Live By…

  • Chicago is the biggest small town you will ever find – Amy Guth
  • I absolutely would not hire people without a social media presence – Amy Guth
  • What is a tweet? Do I need to get one? – Amy Guth’s Dad
  • Talk with people not to people. – Amy Guth
  • There’s a human being on the other side of everything. – Amy Guth
  • Being a human being is really important – Amy Guth
  • Switch “What Are you doing” with “What has my attention? – Amy Guth
  • We all have the right to speak our truths – Amy Guth
  • Let’s be human to each other, first – Amy Guth

Videos and Sites to Check Out Online…

Amy’s Rule of Thirds…

  • 1/3 of the time, pimp your stuff
  • 1/3 of the time, share content in your area of expertise
  • 1/3 of the time, be a human and engage.

 


The Podcast, Transcribed…

Jason Baumann:

Hey everybody, welcome to the second episode of the Chicago Social Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. Hopefully you had an opportunity to check out our first episode with Vickie Austin. Vickie talked about some amazing tips in how to build connections both online and off. I think she had some great advice to offer. If you haven’t heard that podcast, go back and check it out sometime. It’s an awesome episode, but today is equally as amazing. We have with us Amy Guth. Amy is really one of the most loved and well-respected women in the Chicago media market. She’s talking to us today about how to build a brand online with a real human approach. How do you build an audience by just being a real person? Wait until you hear today’s episode. It’s awesome.

Before we jump in to that podcast though, I want to talk to you a little bit about Chicago Social Con. This is a conference that we’re building on June 30th in the Chicago market. Really, it’s bringing together some of the best minds in social media marketing. We’ve got Sue B. Zimmerman who is one of the most well-respected Instagram marketer. She is also a super successful entrepreneur who has built eighteen successful businesses. She’s going to talk to us about how you can build a business and keep social media as a very important part of it. She’s got an awesome message, and she’s bringing it to the stage as a keynote speaker.

With us, we also have Rich Brooks, who has, I believe, one of the best podcasts about social media. It’s the only podcast that I really listen to every single day it is released. That’s Rich Brooks. We’ve got Vincenzo Landino. Vincenzo talks about live streaming and he’s got a great message about really bringing live video to audience and how to build an audience on those platforms. Viveka von Rosen is undoubtedly one of the best minds in LinkedIn marketing and she is coming to our stage, and I am so excited just to hear her. Amy Schmittauer is coming. She’s a YouTube expert, which I’m really excited to see, and Amy Guth from our episode today of the podcast is going to be on our stage as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a dynamic conference that’s really bringing together some of the most nationally recognize speakers on social media marketing is coming to Chicago. I’m so excited because I get to go to the conference that I’ve always wanted to go to, in the city that I love most, Chicago. Check it out online, www.ChicagoSocialCon.com. If you’re listening to this episode in February, make sure you use the promo code Early Bird, and you get one hundred dollars off your ticket to the event, but it has to happen in February, so make sure you check that out soon. Once again, it’s www.ChicagoSocialCon.com. Enough of that. We’ve got an amazing episode planned for you today, so stayed tuned. Here we go with Amy Guth.

To quote Robert Feder, one of the most respected authorities in local media, “Amy Guth is one of the most prominent women in Chicago media.” Today, I’m excited to have Amy with us on the second episode of Chicago Social. Amy has done it all when it comes to media. Amy is an author and a novelist. She has hosted both television and radio shows, served as the president of the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women Journalists, taught at the University of Chicago Graham School, and served as a mentor-editor at the Op-Ed Project. Amy served as the social media and SEO manager of Chicago Tribune Media Group, and then as the general manage and publisher of RedEye and Metromix. If you know anything about media in Chicago, you know and probably love Amy Guth. Amy was named to Chicago magazine’s list of The 50 Most Beautiful Chicagoans and Chicago’s Funniest Media Personality by Laugh Factory Chicago.

The week before I launched Boxless Media in 2013, I sat in the basement of the Tribune Tower and listened to Amy’s talk about Social Media Week. I was truly inspired. I left that presentation, went home, and knew that walking out of an amazing job to start this new company was going to be completely worth it. She has been an inspiration to both me and others at Boxless Media. For this, I feel eternally grateful, and I’m excited to have Amy as one of my first guest on the Chicago Social Podcast. Amy, welcome to the show.

Amy Guth:

Wow. Thank you so much. That was a wonderful introduction. I appreciate that.

Jason Baumann:

Well, I appreciate you being with us today. We’re really excited about having you at the conference as well. My first question for you, and I don’t know if you know this, but I spent much of my childhood at the Tribune Tower. My father worked there for many, many, many years. I need to ask you that burning question, is that old building haunted?

Amy Guth:

Absolutely, it’s haunted. Absolutely, I’ve had a few encounters, and I have had numerous, as radio guest, I’ve had psychics and mediums and that kind of thing. All of them has said the same thing over and over again. The first experience that I’ve had, I worked in the book section for quite a while and founded what is now Printers Row Journal. One night I was there very late to typeset. I was leaving, and there’s a long hallway, it’s critics’ row, so there’s all these cubicles for all the critics, and Greg Kot and all those guys set up there. At the end of that hallway is a door with glass in it, and so you can see if anyone’s behind you, and I was one of the last ones there.

I typeset. I leave. I’m walking down this long hall, and I see an older man walking right behind me. I walked through the door, and you hold the door for the person behind you and you feel them grab the door and then you let go. Well, no one ever grabbed the door, so I turned around and there was nothing, nobody, and there is nowhere to go, really. There’s one little kitchenette area and I backtracked and looked in there and nobody. There was no on there. When I told people that story later, they were all speculating about who it was, but they didn’t seem surprised. A lot of people had that experience.

Then another time, I was on the radio in the Showcase Studio on Michigan Avenue, and my back is to the studio door, but there’s a small window in the studio door. My guest, were where they could see the door and see the window, and suddenly all three of them just went pale and had this horrible look on their face. They said they all saw this hooded cloaked figure floating, hovering outside the door. Where they indicated it would be, this person would’ve had to be about seven feet tall. It was really creepy, and it was about three in the morning.

I’ve had a few of those, and absolutely, you know what? It’s a old building with a lot of history and high emotions in any way, and then you have the pieces of buildings from all around the world stuck on the outside of it. You’re ghost upon ghost upon ghost, so yes, definitely haunted.

Jason Baumann:

It is definitely those older buildings, and as you walk through the halls and the marble wall, you just feel something is there, so that’s very funny. I did see the YouTube video of you with the paranormal activity people there talking about it, so that’s what provoked that question. I would not have been able deal with that very well.

Amy Guth:

I love that stuff. You know what? My family calls me the ghost whisperer. If there’s a ghost, I will find it or bring it out or whatever. I mean, I feel like I’ve … My current residence is one of the only non-haunted place, I think, I’ve ever lived. I’ve always lived somewhere that once I moved in I go, “Oh crap, it’s spooky here.” I don’t know what it is. I love that kind of stuff. It’s terrifying, but I think it’s really interesting, because none of us really know, right? I mean, it could be nothing. It could be something. We don’t know.

Jason Baumann:

I like seeing those stories on TV, but necessarily experiencing them first hand, there’s a big difference. The other video I saw of you had to be one of the best Ice Water Bucket Challenge, Ice Bucket Challenge, and for those who have not seen that, you need to go online right now and Google it and find it. First of all, the production quality is fantastic, so I got to give you props on that one.

Amy Guth:

That was Sean Ely. He is very, very talented, and he’s also a very talented improviser and actor. He did the video for that, and he did an excellent job. The thing you also have to Google if you’re doing that, if you Google Amy Guth Ice Bucket, and then Goat.

Jason Baumann:

Okay.

Amy Guth:

Goat like the animal. People have spliced in that awful shouting goat with the Taylor Swift song, because I let out a noise in the course of that video, so they spliced it in. There’s a Taylor Swift song then it cuts to me shrieking with ice over my head. The thing about the Ice Bucket Challenge is it was an interesting social media experiment that was very easy to do. Everybody has the ability to make video now because of smart phones, and just about everybody has access to ice water. It was very easy to do, and what I didn’t like about it was that it was the either/or. People were dumping the buckets of water in their head, and I think that was the appeal, but yet that meant you weren’t donating.

What I did is I went to my team at the time at RedEye and I said, “I’ll donate for every bucket you’re willing to dump on me.” Everybody dumped ice water on the boss, so everybody was over that. I think end up with fourteen or fifteen buckets and donated on behalf of all of them. It was fun.

Jason Baumann:

That was interesting to see. I’m proud that you took that challenge on.

Amy Guth:

Well thank you.

Jason Baumann:

Let’s jump on the topic now. I feel good, but … I guess I’m excited that you’re joining us at the Chicago Social Conference. A lot of the speakers are coming from all over the country. We’ve got people from Maine all the way to Denver. You’re the Chicago gal, and I’m really excited that you’re representing Chicago, because I don’t think there’s many people who are as qualified to do that. Tell me what you love most about Chicago and the Chicago media scene.

Amy Guth:

Well, what I love the most about Chicago is that the beautiful sunshiny weather is such a small window, our spring and summer, so small. When I first moved here in 2001, something that really stood out to me, was that as soon as it’s warm, people live like it is their last day on Earth and embrace the outside. They’re out on the lake and they’re doing … Even if they’re in a park, the sun is out and they’re out there. I love that. I’m not particularly wired for cold weather, so I admire that about people. I’ve always loved that, that there’s a carpe diem thing about Chicago.

As far as the media scene, what I love about it is some of that maybe competitiveness and attitude that you might see on the coast isn’t the case here. Chicago is the biggest small town you’ll ever find, and I feel there are people that I have worked with in media in Chicago that I feel like are chosen family members that I’m close to and the members of AWJ. I’m so close to so many members and especially the board members. It’s such a great group of ladies, and I’m so happy and so proud to service their president. I just feel so connected to so many people here in the media world and the way we support each other and look out for each other.

Of course, there are some competition. At the end of the day, we all want to get the scoop, and most of us have an equivalent at another station or in another paper or someone else on a similar beat or something like that. At the end of the day, I think we are all routing for each other and we’re all in it together, and I’ve always loved that a lot.

Jason Baumann:

I’ve grown up in Chicago. I live very close to where I was born, so I love that Chicago atmosphere. You’re right. Everyone knows everyone here, and if you don’t know someone, you can call someone and say, “Hey, I want to meet this person, can you make that introduction?” It really is. As big of a city it is, it’s really a small city. You’ve done it all in media. I mean, I’ve seen on WCIU You & Me This Morning, because I know the WCIU people real well. I’ve seen you all over the place. Of all the different things that you’ve done in media, what really drew you to the world of social media?

Amy Guth:

It was a very logical step for me. Sitting there in the book section and helping with the early stages of what is now Chicago Now. It was just so clear to me, “Hey, you know what? This is coming at us, whether we like it or not, we need to get a handle on it.” I predicted then, I said, “You know what? The days of just filing your story and going home, those are good. We need to be able to shoot video and promote our brand and share our content. We need to be able to do that. We need to learn how to code. We need to learn all these things. We need to be able to be comfortable, as comfortable in front of a keyboard as we are in front of a microphone or a camera.”

A lot of people thought that was not … I don’t know. People thought that was ridiculous, but I think it’s so important. I’ve been clear with people. When I was in a position to hire people, I absolutely would not hire people without a social media presence. To me, if you don’t have that, it’s a signal to me that you’re only so willing to evolve with the job of journalist. I think it’s really important, but the initial part was really …

In about end of 2006 beginning of 2007, when social media was still quite new, I had a book coming out. My first book was coming out. My publicist lost her husband, quit her job and moved out of the country. My release date was really soon, and I was a first time novelist, no one had ever heard of me. I had options from the publisher and that was we can push it back a few months or we can just, “Yeah, screw it, let’s just put it out.” I don’t think they really cared one way or the other because it wasn’t like I’m JK Rowling, right?

Jason Baumann:

Yeah.

Amy Guth:

I said, “You know what? I’ll do it. I’m going to dive in and just say yes and learn everything I can.” I had a lot of mentors in that regard. Leah Jones at the time was at Edelman, and I look to her because she was so on the forefront of what was happening. I got how it all fit together, and I got how all the mechanics of it work. That really sparked an interest and putting the human and the … How do we use each platform to its highest potential, but then also, how do we make the very human part of it work?

Somewhere in there, I decided to crowdsource the last leg of my book tour. By that point, it was about 2008. I said, “Look, I need to drive to New Orleans, and then drive to Dallas–Fort Worth, and then drive back to Chicago. Twitter, you tell me where I should stop.” That was the most successful leg of my book tour, because at that point, people were taking a lot of ownership in that. If someone had bothered to say, “Oh my gosh, you must stop in this city because my brother-in-law has a book store,” they were going to make sure it didn’t suck.

They would then make sure that there was media coverage. Make sure people showed up by having a tweetup at the bookstore. They would make sure there was an after party. They would make sure that someone would have dinner with me beforehand. They went to great lengths to make sure that it was worth my time to stop, and it was. I made friends that are still good friend on that book tour just by people volunteering and say, “Oh, that would be awesome, sure. I’ll help you get a reading here. I know the bookstore owner or whatever.”

Along that time, my grandfather, who is still with us and quite sharp mentally, he had heard about Twitter and he said, “What is a tweet? Do I need to get that or do it, or what is it?” He asked so earnestly, and I think part of longevity to him is that he’s lifelong learner. I wanted to give him an honest answer because he asked so earnestly. I showed him Sears and Craftsman, the early social media profiles, and he got it. He said, “This is a return to that person-to-person business model when you know you’re a car mechanic and your grocer and your banker and the milkman and all that, and it wasn’t about an eight hundred number and a person who didn’t care whether you got your way or not because they’re going to make however much an hour either way. This was a human being on the other side of that that would help me figure it out even if I didn’t get it resolved. I knew a human being was going to help me.”

That was such a light bulb moment for me. He’s still a North Star to me of how I’ve always addressed social media. Long story, longer, once I was in the book section, I really just started badgering the editor of the Tribune and said, “Look, we need one person at the wheel here.” There was a social media effort at that time, but it was fairly young people. I said, “I think we need someone to really get it and put some strategy behind it and really go here.” It was like that scene in Zero Dark Thirty where she’s bugging her boss every day to … “This many days has gone by since we’ve known where bin Laden is and haven’t gone to get him.” She kept writing on his office door with a marker.

It was kind of that. I kept popping by and, “Hey there, have you got a chance to think about the …” and finally, “Yeah, okay.” I think it was part of like squeaky wheel, “If I give you this job will you shut up?” He created that job, and so I started working with the Tribune newsroom, and I initially trained about eleven hundred journalist in the Tribune newsrooms, the sales teams, marketing, and then the other newsrooms and Tribune Company along the East Coast. Then I realized there was a need for … At that point, I realized there are SEOs and there are social media people, but there’s not one person doing both. As those two forces were coming together and getting more and more entwined, we really had to get on that. Eventually, I was overseeing both and helping out those East Coast newsrooms.

That was a great job. That was really fun. I met a lot of people. At first, people were saying things like, “Why would you give up your journalism career to play with Twitter?” They weren’t realizing that I was in fact helping journalism careers get deeper and more connected to their readers.

Jason Baumann:

I think that’s really interesting because right around that same time, I was across the river from you at Crain’s. I love Crain’s, but I think a lot of different places were really scared of social media. A lot of journalists were definitely scared. Was that going to mean we’re going to lose our circulation or everything?

Amy Guth:

Right.

Jason Baumann:

All these and things are coming into people’s head, and I think it was really smart that you’d jump on it. I think that was what really why many people look at you as, I don’t want to say the word visionary, but really, I mean, at that time, you needed someone with that sense to jump in on and you did that.

Amy Guth:

Well thank you. You know what? I think that we have the gift and that is that our colleagues in the music industry went through all of these a couple of years before we did and in publishing. To me, it was, “Okay, Metallica flipped out and sued everybody and said, ‘We’re not going to change.’ Whereas, a bunch of other band said, ‘Okay, so we’re not going to make money selling CDs now. Okay, we’re going to make money selling merchandise and touring and ticket prices. Cool, the business model has changed.'”

That’s really how I looked at it, of, “You know what? There is a level of responsibility that we have now as journalist for branding, for engaging. If you think about even the literary side of publishing even that it used to be the case, you’d write a fan letter to your author, and they may or may not write you back, but now, there is an expectation. If your author is not on social media, something is wrong. They’re lesser. They’re broken.

I got Mary Schmich using social media, because she initially said, “There is nothing for me there. There is no reason for me to be there doing that.” I went to TweetDeck and I typed in her name and quotes, and what she saw was people misquoting her and misattributing quotes to her that were … She was like, “No, I was quoting Eleanor Roosevelt in my column. I didn’t say that. That’s Eleanor Roosevelt.” I was like, “Mary, you got to get out there and correct them. You got to go out there and say, ‘Oh, you misunderstand, that was in fact Eleanor Roosevelt. Things like that.'” That’s really want go her out there, because she realized there was a conversation happening with or without her that had to do with her.

Jason Baumann:

I think one of the cool things about the social media and the media world is that reporters became people.

Amy Guth:

Yeah.

Jason Baumann:

I think people who are really afraid of wires, at least on certain sides, “Are they going to say something bad about me or this or that?” You could now actually just tweet the beat reporter and just talk to them like they’re real people. I think it brought people together, in way, and that engagement started, and that’s what was really important, I think, about that marriage.

Amy Guth:

Yeah, and I think a lot happened. I think two big moments where I saw journalist really shift. One was when Twitter knew Osama bin Laden was dead before the president told us on television. Suddenly, a lot of people who had been blowing me off for a long time were like, “All right Guth, maybe I will take you up on that Twitter lesson. Let’s do this.” The other one was during NATO. When NATO was in Chicago, I had so many screens in front of me. I was sitting on the breaking news desk of the Tribune. Scott Kleinberg and James Janega and I were in these nine-hour shifts. We were loopy and working all hours for several days in a row, but I’ll never forget those days as long as I live because they were hard and challenging but they were fun.

Before NATO, Gerry Kern, the editor, he and I had a conversation about do we as journalist have an obligation to correct misinformation on Twitter, and decided ultimately that we do. Not to necessarily go find it all, but when presented with it, do we have to correct it? Sure. We decided to try that as an experiment during NATO, and within a few hours of me going, “Oh, hey, quick fact check, that actually, we can’t confirm that, FYI. I’ll let you know if we do.” Doing things like that as I saw tweets come across, it only took a few hours before people started coming to us, “Hey, I heard this happened, is that true?”

They knew I was sitting by a police scanner and I could confirm all these things. There was a day in which I was sitting at the desk, and a reporter called The Metro Desk and said to his editor, “I lost the protest I’m supposed to be following.” We all remember there were hundreds of group all represented marching around Chicago at the time, as groups would converge and split and all that, it was easy to get lost. I just remember this editor, I think he was pissed that I was sitting on the breaking news desk and taking up safe, because he thought NATO is serious, social media is a toy.

I turned around to him and … I knew that that reporter was assigned to follow Occupy Chicago people, so I put in a hashtag. I looked at TweetDeck, I found somebody with a Ustream tweet that was using that hashtag, clicked on their Ustream, and realized exactly where they were walking. I was like, “They’re at the corner of State and Lake right now,” so I turned around, I was like, “Hey, tell your reporter they’re at State and Lake.” He was like, “How the hell did you know that?” I brought him over. I showed him, “Look, there’s all these people that are broadcasting live from their event. The game is different.”

Jason Baumann:

Yeah.

Amy Guth:

I think at that point on they realized, “Oh, this can be a tool too.” I think people were resisting because they felt like it was like journalist doing marketing, but at that point, we’re like, “Oh, we can use this for ourselves too.” I think that was an interesting shift. Then I would also say, Ferguson was an interesting moment too in which before any of us could get there, we were able to see what was going on because people pulled out their phones and started streaming it for us. To me, that really changed the role of the bystander. I mean, obviously, there are so much happening. There are so much social change happening in this country right now and so much of it is because human beings are empowered to whip out their phones and show the entire world what they’re seeing. I think that’s huge. That’s a really exciting time to be in, not exciting good but exciting powerful and compelling.

Jason Baumann:

I remember when the Paris attack just happened recently, it was right around when Periscope was just starting to get popular. All of a sudden, you turn on every TV station and they have these very vertical shots of what was going on in the Paris streets, around the Paris streets. You’re like, “Well, that’s not a reporter. That’s a Periscope. That people were there. They pulled out their phones and they were there before any of the media could be there.” It was a way that we’re able to reach new things that wasn’t possible earlier because of social media.

One of the things, Amy, that I’ve been really impressed with you is the way you’ve really been able to build audiences. I hate the word audience, because audience is the word where a speaker speaks to three hundred people or five hundred people and speaks at them. Maybe, you’ve been building communities, I think, is a little better. Whether it’s a huge media giant like the Tribune or yourself, personally, you’ve been really able to build communities. I’m wondering if you just take a few seconds and tell me what the secrets to your success, I think, were in building those, because you’ve really done a really good job in making them strong.

Amy Guth:

Thank you. Well, I think the keyword is … Well, there’s a couple of keys, one of them is replacing to with with, talking to versus talking with. I think that’s really important. I think that’s part of that thing I said about my grandfather, that person-to-person. When the Tribune moved to a registration wall, I said to my team at the time, I said, “We’ve got to answer every single tweet we get today personally. We cannot copy and past the same message. Every tweet has to be a personal answer, and we have to catalog every single thing we say,” and they looked at me like I was out of my damn mind. Nineteen hundred tweets later, we had answered every single person.

A lot of times, people opened with, “Well, screw it Tribune, you lost my business if you want me to pay for content,” and I would, “Hey friend, just so you know, it’s registration. We’re just asking for an email address. Please let me know if you have questions, this is my extension,” very human, very person-to-person. I think that’s really it, that there’s a human being on the other end of everything. People say that, and I don’t know that they really take it in. If you’ve ever run a brand account, you realize people quickly disconnect the human being part of that.

The default language of the internet is snark. That’s tragic, and that’s a problem, and that’s really what’s lead to the documentary film that I’m making right now about online civility, harassment, and abuse. If you put a story live on a website and there’s an extra comma somewhere, instead recognizing a human being wrote that and they’re probably just trying to get it up first and quickly, especially if it’s a matter of public safety or something, you want it accurate but you also want it up quickly. Instead of like, “Hey friend, looks like you got an extra comma on the second graph,” people go, “Hey dumbass, you fired all your copy editors?” I think that human step is really key.

If you look at even the moments where I have been trolled very severely, I never resorted to rudeness or being a shithead or name calling or anything like that. The strongest language I ever said was, “Don’t you dare say that to me,” or “You leave me out of …” At one point, someone was tweeting me pictures on my parent’s home out of state. The harshest thing I said was, “You leave my parents of this.” It was a stranger and it was just to try to unnerve me, but even then, I’m not … Someone else’s behavior is not going to dictate my manners and my behavior. I think that that’s really, really important. I think civility is important.

I also think being a human being is really important. We talk a lot about our curated lives. Of course, we all curate our lives. I’m not necessarily going to share Instagram of how I look when I get up to pee at two in the morning. I’m going to share when I’ve done my hair and things like that. We all have our public self and our private self. I just think it’s important to be human about it and not take yourself too seriously. I think being real and being accessible, and being kind. I think it’s important to answer in kind and kindly. I think that’s really, really important.

I mean, I can’t think of a situation where I would ever just straight up be an ass to somebody In social media. I think that if I wouldn’t say it to someone in person, I would never ever say it online. We forget that just because you have the right to walk up to me on the sidewalk and call me a swear word or something, it doesn’t mean you should. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, even if you think it. I think we forget that online. I’ve always tried to keep that close at hand, and I think that’s just part of who I am. I’m just not a terribly volatile person and manners are a big deal to me. I also, I just think it’s so important to, and maybe that’s just me being a little bit hippy-dippy.

Jason Baumann:

No.

Amy Guth:

I think all of our humanity is bound up together, and I think it’s really important to think of that. Twitter has brought some really beautiful … I mean, I got hired at the Tribune because of Twitter. They recruited off of Twitter. I’ve had wonderful relationships from Twitter and good friendships and amazing connections off of Twitter that I wouldn’t trade for the world. It’s just a matter of just being a damn human being and not trying to be ridiculous.

Jason Baumann:

I remember the first day or the first week that I launched my agency, I launched it right after our Social Media Week when I met you. I joined Twitter for one of my clients, and he said, “I don’t understand this. I don’t understand this.” That week, someone was on Twitter and it was a printing company and they said … Someone was tweeting about how they’re so frustrated at work. They couldn’t get this project done. It had something to do with printing so I responded, I said, “Let me help you. I don’t know what your problem is but let me help you.” That was a twenty-five thousand dollar job.

Amy Guth:

Yeah, totally. That happens all the time.

Jason Baumann:

The first week. I’m like, “Man, if I could do this for every client, I would be really successful at this thing.”

Amy Guth:

Score. That happens all the time. I cannot even tell you how many wonderful stories I have heard about things exactly like that, where just being human and being kind and being thoughtful wins a huge client, or wins something, a major coup in some way professionally or personally. There are so many stories like that and I love them. They’re great and it speaks to that person to person business model to me.

Jason Baumann:

The person who I interviewed last week was a lady by the name of Vickie Austin. She talked about networking, and she said, “It’s not about you. It’s not about selling anything. It’s about being able to help someone else out who you meet somewhere.” I think that it’s a very similar message.

Amy Guth:

Yeah, I mean, I’ve long thought when people resist social media they say, “I don’t have anything to say,” or “No one wants to hear what I have to say,” and I say, “You’re probably right. They may not, but my thing I always challenge people to do is instead of filling in the field on Twitter or Facebook or wherever with what are you doing, switch that to what has your attention.” One is navel-gazing and narcissistic. “I am sitting in front of my computer.” Nobody cares. Nobody cares that I’m doing that. That’s what everyone is doing right now, versus, “I’m having a conversation about the human part of social media.” That’s compelling and that’s more interesting. That’s going to have a lot bigger impact. That’s going to encourage people to engage with that. I think that’s really important.

I think too that … I’ve written about this. This idea of the rule of thirds, it think is super important. That is, a third of the time, pimp your stuff. It’s not being a jerk or being braggart. It’s in fact just telling the truth of something that you work hard to accomplish. I wrote this. Here’s my story about blank. Here’s the film I made, whatever. The second third of the time, share content that is in your area of expertise but that doesn’t originate from you. The third third, be a human being. Ask questions. Answer questions. Retweet people. Thank them for retweeting you. That goes a long way. People always forget that part.

The way that breaks down, the vice president of HR, former vice president of HR at the Tribune had e helping her with Twitter, and she was like, “I can’t tweet who’s getting fired and who’s going to rehab and all that.” I’m like, “Sure you can. That’d be awesome.”

Jason Baumann:

You’re the best Twitter feed.

Amy Guth:

The best Twitter for a day before she get escorted out of the building, but the way I broke down it for her was, a third of the time, she was sharing Tribune business stories about the jobs report and when we had a job opening or a job far or whatever. Then the second third of the time, second third of the time, she was tweeting the stories she was already reading as a knowledgeable professional, like from OSHA updates or any kind of employment law or things like that. If she read anything about hiring tips for new grads or whatever, she would share that. Then the third of the time, she was participating in Twitter chats and answering questions about resume paper and things like that.

Suddenly, it was a really compelling account to follow, because people knew, “Here is somebody who, bucket one, is clearly in a position of power at the Tribune, bucket two, knows a lot about her field, and bucket three, is accessible and human.” It works really well for her. I think that’s important. None of it was … It wasn’t about her going, “I won this award. I did this thing. I did this thing.” It was about generosity of spirit and sharing the thing that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about. I think that people that do that can’t help but have people connect with them on social media.

Jason Baumann:

Well, Amy, this has been awesome. I really appreciate your time. I mean, a lot of the things that you said are just ama- … and I wish people would remember all these stuff. I know something that’s important to you is the Op-Ed Project, and we really want to touch on that right before we leave, but tell me about that and tell me why it’s so important to you.

Amy Guth:

The Op-Ed Project is a social enterprise that is all about increasing the diversity of voice in the public dialogue. That manifest in my life in a lot of ways, and one of them is I lead fellowships of people who are public policy people, who are academics, who are some kind of expert but are primarily just dealing with people on their own realm. We help them think about how they talk about their expertise, because a lot of people, we are trained to … We are socialized to downplay our own strengths to the point of hurting ourselves.

We first talk and think about expertise and how you present your expertise to the world and when you pull out certain parts of it. Then we get that in practical terms and look at the elements of persuasion, whether you’re writing an op-ed, you’re on the radio, you’re on TV, you’re pitching a funder, whatever that is. You’re pitching an idea. You want people to get behind a social movement, whatever that is, so we work with them on that and it’s so rewarding.

There’s a video. If you go to the Op-Ed Project’s YouTube account and you look for the Ford Fellowship from last year. There’s a video. I’m in it towards the end, but it was all these people that were doing such amazing work in social justice and reproductive health and doing things for women. It was so powerful. Every time I watch that video I cry a little bit. I think, God help me, if I’m ever having a George Bailey moment and I’m there on the bridge and Clarence the angel is trying to convince me that my life mattered, I’m going to watch that video because I realized I helped people do big things. It’s so important to me.

This year, I’m working with a group DePaul faculty and Cornell faculty. In about, let’s see, in less than ten days, I will be on a plane to South Africa to work with a group of people that are working maternal health, food sustainability, water access, health and racial justice from around Africa and Southeast Asia. We’ll be doing that, a mini version of that in three days instead of over the course of a year. It’s so meaningful to me because it is important.

As I’m working on my documentary, one of the things that made me get into this documentary and take on this topic was not only did I have an experience with online harassment that was quite scary but I started seeing these really knowledgeable professionals and experts with a lot of information. Some of it was literally lifesaving information getting trolled online when they spoke, when they spoke their truth, when they challenge people in positions of power, they would get trolled and opt out. I was like, “You know what? If people who literally have lives to save are getting off of Twitter because they’re afraid, then only the meanest and the loudest are going to be left.” That’s not okay. That’s not the majority that I want. That’s certainly not the majority that I want controlling the record of history.

It’s so important to me because I think we all have the right to speak our truth, and we all have the right to speak up and stand up for what we believe in, and we all have the right to do that safely, especially underrepresented voices, I think it’s really important to help in that way and help make sure that everyone feels safe when speaking up. That’s why I work for the Op-Ed Project. It’s one of the many jobs that I have, but it’s one I’m very, very proud of. Everyone that works there is awesome. It’s a powerful group of mostly women from journalism but there are a few men that work there too, and it’s awesome. I love them.

Jason Baumann:

Yeah. I was just reading about it. It’s such a cool mission, so thank you for doing that. Thank you for being here.

Amy Guth:

Gladly.

Jason Baumann:

We’re a little bit over time but that’s okay. Before we leave, how can someone connect with you online. I know that you’ve got books and you’re working on a documentary. How can someone connect with you if they want to reach you?

Amy Guth:

Facebook message or actually a tweet is usually the best, but I do have one request, and that is don’t pitch to me on Twitter. Build a relationship with me on Twitter. If someone out of the blue says, “Hey, here’s my book. Check it out. Let me know what you think.” First of all, I want you to be straight with me and tell me what you actually want, what do you think is not. What you really want to say, “I’d like for you to read my book. I’d like to be on the radio.” Whatever it is, just come and ask. We’re adults. Let’s do this. Let’s help each other, but also don’t come out and say, “Hey, do this, da, da, da, da, da.”

Connect and engage, and make sure I’m the right person for that. I might be totally the wrong journalist for that, and that’s okay, but I’ve befriended some PR people one social media that have become good friends, and I know these person will always send me this kind of guest and this and this and this, and we lean on each other, and, “Hey, someone cancelled on the radio, do you have anybody? I need a last minute fill-in,” and I know I’ll have a quality person. It’s with that caveat.

You can always connect with me on Twitter, usually Facebook, but let’s be human to each other first. Let’s not just be PR machines. Let’s be straight with each other, and practice some radical honesty of, “Hey, I would love to be on the radio. Here’s the thing I’m promoting,” but also, let’s be human about it and build a relationship for the long haul where we know … I’ll know you are an author and this person is this and this person is this, and we know each other’s work and we get behind it and get involved in it, and then it’s a lot more meaningful and a deeper connection.

Jason Baumann:

Sure, so what’s your Twitter handle?

Amy Guth:

I’m @amyguth, G-U-T-H.

Jason Baumann:

Perfect.

Amy Guth:

That’s the best way to find me.

Jason Baumann:

I’m going to say do not contact Amy with pitches, contact her to say hello.

Amy Guth:

Yes.

Jason Baumann:

Thank you for joining us and sharing some amazing knowledge.

Amy Guth:

Thank you.

Jason Baumann:

Thank you so much. I’m excited about the conference. I’m excited to hear even more about building and audience. I love your message of just being human, so instead of saying, “Let’s be social,” at the end of the podcast every time, I’m just going to say, “Let’s be human to each other online.”

Amy Guth:

Yes, definitely.

Jason Baumann:

Amy, once again, thank you.


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