Monday, September 26, 2011

Affinity case study: Brand affinity from teenager to titan

Today we look at Lee Einsidler, philanthropist and CEO of Sidney Frank Importing Company, Inc., a company associated with some of the biggest brands in its industry. I had the privilege of interviewing Einsidler this summer for a magazine and online article. It was fascinating to hear how his affinity for a particular brand that emerged while he was a teenager later developed into an amazing career built on building brand affinity.

One of seven children, Einsidler was a teenager growing up in Long Island in a family of modest means; his father put bread on the table running a liquor store. Working there during his teens, Einsidler got to know the sales representatives coming in, each brand of bottled beverage, and the company image behind it. So it’s little surprise he would continue in the family business. But as a teenager, Einsidler’s vision was bigger than operating a small family-run store. He wanted to work for Seagram’s, which was the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world.

While Einsidler believed in his heart that he had a head for business, his high-school teacher was telling him he’d never amount to anything. So, in spite of his teacher’s judgment, he decided to take a few community college classes in sales and marketing, and then a few more, until he completed a full year of credits. Then, buoyed by that experience, he eventually went on to earn a bachelor’s degree with honors in 1978. He then used one of his father’s contacts to secure an interview at Seagram’s headquarters in New York and landed a job there. He fulfilled his teenage dream; however, no one could anticipate what the future would hold for him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Building affinity via conversation: 'Rapport Talk' and 'Affinity and Beyond'

In my blog post titled "'What is affinity?': Networking event brings affinity to light" I capture a conversation describing how one can identify an affinity. Related to that is a post by Dr. Jeremy Sherman that I recently came across that outlines what he describes as conversation that is 'Shoptalk' vs 'Affinity and Beyond.'

Dr. Sherman provides detailed analysis, along with example conversations, in his Ambigamy blog post titled "The affinity paradox: How does eye-to-eye become eye-for-an-eye in casual conversation?" Dr. Sherman's 'Shoptalk' conversation involves comparing experiences without the need for agreement; however, 'Affinity and Beyond' conversation develops deeper bonds as there is an exchange of information involving shared goals and common vision as if on a journey together.

Reading Dr. Sherman's blog I was reminded of a fascinating book I read years ago by sociolinguist Dr. Deborah Tannen regarding gender differences in conversations, including what she categorizes as 'Report Talk' vs. 'Rapport Talk.' Dr. Tannen's book You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation describes how 'Report Talk' conversation is generally used by men to convey information and establish status, while 'Rapport Talk' conversation is generally used by women to convey information and build connection.

Over the years, Tannen's book has made a world of difference to me in improving the effectiveness of my personal and professional conversation among predominately male affinity groups and predominately female affinity groups, and her book's content continues to remain relevant today. Sherman's blog adds another level of insight into what we may instinctively feel as being 'on the inside' or 'on the outside' following a verbal exchange, and the conversation queues that lead to that feeling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Employee affinity groups can help diversify workplace

While affinity groups form naturally in the work environment, a March 2009 article by Carmen Van Kerckhove explains how employee affinity groups can be aligned around an affinity for diversifying workplaces and charged with helping achieve business goals related to diversity.

Although Van Kerckhove has since moved on to other projects, as explained in her May 2010 farewell post on the blog she founded, continues and Van Kerckhove's article, titled "How Employee Affinity Groups Can Help You Recruit and Retain a Diverse Workforce," is worth a read. The full article is reprinted below.
How Employee Affinity Groups Can Help You Recruit and Retain a Diverse Workforce
By Carmen Van Kerckhove

It isn't surprising that employee affinity groups are a popular diversity tactic. They are easy to set up and inexpensive to run. And when they work well, they can help companies recruit and retain top diverse talent.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Affinity email: Affinity group needs and email services

Technology makes it easier than ever and at the same time complex to communicate with affinity groups. Your affinity contacts are growing increasingly educated and sophisticated and have developed expectations about their user experience as recipients of email messages and email newsletters. With high expectations and spam regulations, just one slip can obliterate a relationship.

When it comes to affinity email, what is the best email service provider for delivering messages and newsletters? Ideally, many community managers would say it is the service that matches the needs, interests, and technology level of a particular affinity group. However, from ongoing technology changes to evolving needs of affinity groups, the choice can be a moving target. Additionally, identifying, researching, and keeping up to date with the various email service providers can be time-consuming or costly. Email options may also be limited by budget, skill and comfort levels with technology, institutional policies, a one-size-fits-all approach by decision-makers, or other factors.

Thanks to Pamela Grow, I discovered Groundwire's 2011 Email Service Providers report that reviews a number of email providers that any individual, organization, or business may find helpful. However, it omits a provider that I've been test driving with one affinity group over the last two weeks. So, to add to that report data, this blog post includes my review of AWeber Communications email services.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Affinity case study: Gaming, gore, fans, and more

People often say: Do what you love and the money will come. James Silva enjoyed computer games but worked as a dishwasher to pay the bills. However, in 2007 after combining his love of gaming with his experience as a dishwasher, he was catapulted to fame as a celebrated independent game developer.

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The co-winner of Microsoft’s Dream Build Play competition, Silva was awarded a contract to publish his game “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai” on Xbox LIVE® Arcade. That 2007 effort garnered him national recognition as “a one-man game maker” (Barbara Ortutay, Associated Press), “the most buzzed-about indie game developer of the moment” (Jason Killingsworth, Paste Magazine), and “the poster boy of Microsoft’s efforts to ‘democratize game development’” (Chris Kohler,

Silva has since relocated from his small Utica, NY, space to a larger Schenectady, NY, location that accommodates his growing team that’s helped promote his April 2011 follow-up release, “The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile” for Xbox 360®. While this release continues to please fans and critics alike, Silva’s games aren’t for everyone – “Vampire Smile” is rated Mature 17+ for “Blood and Gore” and “Violence” – and that’s the point. His work appeals to a niche market where he has gone deep and narrow, building on his original story line to bring his fans more of what they loved in “Dead Samurai.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Affinity group communications: Facebook posting tips

I administer or co-administer a number of institutional Facebook pages and groups, each targeting a different affinity group. Deciding when to post is always an issue. Ideally, one wants to post the right content at the right time to maximize communication and community-building within each constituent group.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"What is affinity?": Networking event brings affinity to light

"I just have a quick question," said a woman as she slid into the seat next to me at a networking event. "What is affinity?"
    I replied, "Didn't you mention earlier tonight that you had a dog that passed away?"
    "Yes," she said, and began to smile a bit, pleased that I had remembered.
    "What kind of dog was it?" I asked.
    "A chocolate lab," she replied as her shoulders lifted up.
    "Are you a fan of chocolate labs or were you just into this dog?"
    "I love all dogs," she answered emphatically, her smile widening as she leaned toward me in anticipation of my next question.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Affinity groups and QR Codes: A fashion statement

Affinity groups often identify themselves through merchandise, such as a sports fan wearing a team jersey or a Star Wars® fanatic wearing a hat with the words "May the force be with you." When it comes to affinity group fashions, one organization is banking on its creative use of QR (quick response) codes.

According to an blog article written by Andrew Gossen, Senior Director for Social Media Strategy in the Division of Alumni Affairs & Development at Cornell University, the higher education institution is manipulating QR codes to create QR code clothing for purchase by alumni returning for reunion. Reunion represents a tremendous opportunity for Cornell to capitalize on alumni affinity to the institution, as well as on numerous affinity groups within the university, and improve the bottom line with merchandise sales and other purchases related to Reunion weekend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Affinity programs: Breaking out of the hairball

It’s easy to get caught up in formulaic activities of what those in our professions refer to as tried-and-true affinity programs. Some of us even have bosses who are keen on tossing into our inboxes that latest print piece or link or email message of a major competitor's making with the attitude of 'we need to emulate them.' There can always be a place for monitoring what our industries or fields see as best practices; however, we can't have blinders to new ideas that come with risk.

Pitching a new concept for your affinity program is hard enough; however, one must first have a boundary-poking idea to pitch and an environment in which one can do so. At a recent gathering of artists and their supporters, a community in which cutting-edge views and unique perspectives are their mainstays, I spoke about a book that addresses this issue.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie provides concepts that can be applied to any profession. A highly entertaining and quick read, the book is filled with hand drawings on nearly every page and real-life jaw-dropping stories about how the author single-handedly changed his company by coloring outside the lines.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Affinity definition: Tribes will form around ideas, leaders

"I'll know it when I see it." These famous words have often been spoken by a number of us. Professionals and volunteers involved in affinity relations or identifying and working with affinity groups recognize that no magic formula exists to determine every affinity or affinity group. Often times, such individuals simply know it when they see it, or know when they see signs that an affinity or affinity group may possibly exist or be developing.

Yesterday's blog looked at a formal definition of affinity. Today we look at an organic concept or definition of affinity, specifically aspects of the book Tribes by Seth Godin that illustrate "I'll know it when I see it." Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us is filled with numerous real-life examples of individuals with shared affinities coming together in support of people, products, ideas, services, causes, companies, and more.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Definition of Affinity: What you don't know can hurt you

Everyone wants to belong, to feel connected to someone or something, to find a fit that leads to comfort, satisfaction, fulfillment, validation, security, convenience, passion, or more.

For years,
Marketers have sought ways to identify people who are a good fit for their causes, products, and services.
Human resources specialists have sought to attract and retain skilled and committed employees.
Leaders have sought to build-up, retain, and inspire those who follow them or support their cause or beliefs.