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Aaron Howard

Aaron is a leader, technologist, musician and horse person with 25 years experience in starting, growing and monetizing successful businesses. While it would not be unusual to find Aaron in the middle of Montana every October with his wife Marianne riding horses every day and enjoying the "truly big sky", it is always a possibility that he is online. Aaron’s passion for new technologies such as social media is contagious and its been said that after a day with Aaron you will find yourself tweeting, posting, blogging, searching and roaming the web for an opportunity to be part of his vision. His most recent passion focuses on driving growth through the winning combination of leadership and emerging technologies. Learn more about Aaron and growth here at

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When Change is Cosmetic

It is hard to comprehend that with all the incredible effort to more effectively engage employees over the past 25 years, according to Gallup data, we as leaders have failed miserably. The numbers today are hovering around 30 percent engaged, 50 percent disengaged and 20 percent disengaged. And if a…

When Change is Cosmetic.


People Are Terrible Machines

A charming children’s book titled “Children Make Terrible Pets” tells the story of a young bear who came upon a small lost boy in the forest and wanted to take him home as a pet. His mother cautioned the bear warning that children do not make good pets.

People Are Terrible Machines.


Build Backlinks – 14 Easy Ways

Here’s a great article from Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert!

Nicole Sorochan 2010 e1312811650180 Build Backlinks   14 Easy Ways
Guest post by Nicole Sorochan, a multi-media creative vagabond and co-founder of Victoria, BC based One Net Marketing, a direct response digital marketing agency specializing in search, social and display advertising.



Google optimization is based on the premise that the more people that like to your website, the more valuable it must be and the higher ranking it deserves in search results.

And almost two decades since it was devised, beneath the sophisticated mathematics, the hordes of MIT grads swallowed into the research and development department, and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue lies a simple principle: Google optimization works. Popularity is a pretty good indicator of a website’s value.

But what constitutes popularity online? From a search engine’s perspective,backlinks from another site pointing to yours is a meaningful vote of confidence.

off page SEO 300x279 Build Backlinks   14 Easy WaysWe’re not talking here about links you put on your own website, although those “internal links” are indeed important and often underutilized. Let’s focus on how to build backlinks other people use to point attention toward your website via blogs, articles, social media sites, and so on. For example, “Here is my review of the best restaurant in New York (link pointing to your business).” And while tweets, likes, and +1’s are now becomingimportant ranking factors alongside links, having websites link back to you is very much still a basic requirement for getting search engine fueled website traffic.

There are an infinite number of places you could conceivably build backlinks for your website, and the vastness of the task can be paralyzing. But you have to start Google optimization some where. You shouldn’t wait passively for people to finally decide to link to you. So over the last few weeks my agency has dug up this list of easy-to-build backlinks you can get for any website. These will help get the popularity ball rolling, and even if your site has been around a while, you should go back and make sure you have these link sources covered.

14 Easy Places to Build Backlinks

Why haven’t you heard of these link sources before? You have. But you’ve probably been told they are a waste of time by your Web developer, who claims these big, popular sites aren’t useful for Google optimization.

The reason is that most powerhouse social media sites like Facebook and YouTube put a small piece of code called ‘the no follow’ tag into most areas of their site. As the name implies, the ‘no follow’ tells search engines: if someone tries to build backlinks to their site from here, don’t follow it. Instead, ignore it.

This was and is done to prevent spammers. If you didn’t have the ‘no-follow’ tag, spammers would create thousands of Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles, and YouTube accounts just to link those sites back to their website. The ‘no-follow’ breaks the connection you are trying to make between one website and the next, defeating the purpose of a link from the perspective of Google optimization(people can of course still click the link and visit your site directly).

But it’ s a fallacy that all social media sites have no-follows. In fact, many sites provide juicy link opportunities. You just need to find them. And we did.

These are all real links, and are entirely legitimate and approved for optimization by Google.

Google Profiles

We recommend creating profiles for key employees and founders. Be sure to add custom links with anchor text (“anchor text” is the actual words that comprise the link. You want these to be search terms for which you want to be found, not your name or company name. This anchor text helps Google determine what other sites think your site is about) . Your profile link on Google Profiles will be devoid of a no – follow and you can add much additional information along with the link including videos and photos. These profiles are especially important now that Google Plus has launched.

Google Places

Create a local business listing for all of your offices. Use target keywords in the profile and description fields. This is a great source that is devoid of no – follows and has high visibility in the search results. A Powerful, easy, and effective place to build backlinks.

Build a company profile, as well as individual profiles for key employees and founders. Select “Other” when setting your first web site link to create custom anchor text. Also take advantage of the two additional links available, but no custom anchor text is allowed.


Digg is great for traffic generation, and while not the powerhouse it once was, is still a large community. Plus, you can submit articles you want to promote, and links to those articles are followed by search engines.


Even if you’re not a check-in maniac, you should set up Foursquare profiles, as the link you associate with your account is followed.


An article submission site in the Digg vein. Very active with highly engaged users. The links you submit will be devoid of the no – follow attribute .


Create as many Squidoo “lenses” as you like, about any topic. A lens typically consists of a blog post-esque article, with links to other recommended sources.


An article discovery site that’s exceedingly busy and popular. Drives significant eyeballs all around the Web. Submitted links are followed.


Even if you don’t know a burger from a baba ganoush, create a profile on Yelp. The link in your profile is followed. Links in comments, however, are no-follow.

This local business portal allows you to create a profile for your business and is devoid of the no – follow attribute. Use target keywords in the profile and description fields, and anchor text if possible.


Create a custom YouTube channel for your company . While comments and any links you include in your description will have the rel=”nofollow” attribute, YouTube gives you a link in your profile that is devoid of no – follow.

Ezine Articles

Article submission is becoming a bit dated in terms of Google optimization and building backlinks. Large content repositories like this and Hubpages (below) may have been devalued somewhat in Google’s most recent “Panda” overhaul of its algorithm. But you can use this site to recycle blog posts that you have published elsewhere, and pick up an additional link.


Write articles on topics of your choosing, with custom links and anchor text . Significant link potential here. Devalued a bit in Google’s new Panda update.


Also in the Digg and Reddit category. You get a link in your profile , and you can submit news stories and articles. All article links are followed.

When You Build Backlinks Be Complete

When it comes to Google Places, Local Listings, LinkedIn and basically all your social pages and profiles, a complete profile is much more powerful than an incomplete one. It’s just more information that search engines can use to figure out what you and your website are about. So fill out all the details and include your main keywords in those profiles (for example, ‘we are a landscape company from Dallas specializing in large commercial and educational institution projects’).

All of this takes a bit of time and grunt work, but if you do it Google will have a richer collection of sites pointing back to yours in a consistent, powerful way.

Got a juicy link opportunity we missed? Put it in the comments.

In the meantime, check out Jay’s comprehensive look at the rise of social SEO and Google Plus.


John Bernard & The Portland Business Journal

Check out John Bernard’s columns in the Portland Business Journal.



Social Media: Have your cupcake and it it too
Potato chip index, an economic indicator
Bring back art of the business review
Start with the basics before adopting Lean or Six Sigma
Successful businesses empower workers
Why management fads disappoint
Three simple ideas to help minimize fear in the workplace
Want more productivity? Teach workers to solve problems
Disengaged workers? Here’s a strategy to fix the problem
After squandering many opportunities, GM deserves to die



Jean Baumann Joins Mass Ingenuity!

We want to welcome Jean Baumann to the Mass Ingenuity Team! Here’s how Jean describes herself:

“I help leaders, teams, and organizations articulate their strategic direction, build leadership capabilities, and implement change initiatives to accelerate business performance.  As an organizational development specialist, I assist others to achieve better results easier and faster by attending to both the people and process sides of managing change and improving organizational effectiveness.  Myspecialty is designing and delivering consulting services within the context of an organization’s mission, vision, and goals to address their complex needs, such as large-scale process improvement initiatives and leadership development programs.

In 1994, I founded a successful consulting firm and worked with organizations across the world after serving for several years as the market strategist at a Fortune 500 corporation for their $300M public sector division.  I have an MBA from Creighton University in Omaha, NE, a Master’s in Applied Behavioral Sciences from the Leadership Institute of Seattle, and certificates in communications, process improvement, and sustainability.

I have lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1988 when I fell in love with its yearlong natural beauty.  I am a ballroom dancer, and enjoy social dancing just as much as competing in a floor-length, bead-speckled gown.”



What Donald Trump Could Teach Government About PR!

Here’s a great article thanks to Brian Solis and  Dr. Mark Drapeau is the Director of U.S. Public Sector Social Engagement at Microsoft, and the editor of SECTOR: PUBLIC. Follow him on Twitter

Donald Trump is a master of public branding and marketing for himself and his eponymous business interests. While government doesn’t usually consider itself in the business of “marketing” itself, in reality, the Open Government movement is to some degree about publicizing data and information in order to get it to people who can find it useful and transform it into knowledge. Here, I discuss what government employees working in public affairs or other public-facing jobs could learn from Donald Trump’s self-promotion tactics.

Government According to Trump #1: Be Ubiquitous

Donald Trump seems to be everywhere at once sometimes, particularly when he’s promoting a new project. He’s cutting a ribbon here, filming a commercial there, playing golf in Florida, at Trump Tower with tourists in New York, appearing on Saturday Night Live in a chicken suit, insulting Rosie O’Donnell, defending Miss USA contestants, speaking at CPAC… whatever. Anything goes. And where he can’t be, it seems like he has a son, daughter, or even wife standing in for his brand.

Trump learned decades ago that people want to see an inspirational leader’s face, to feel their personal energy. To live, even a tiny bit, vicariously through them.

Now in an age of get-popular-quick new media, it’s easy to think that this can be accomplished by having a great blog, a witty Twitter feed, or a popular YouTube channel. And to some degree, that’s true – these new forms of media have allowed a lot of people to broadcast, communicate, and become mini-famous to many different ends (some of them useful, some of them less so). But this is not in itself a complete set of tactics. Everyone who wants to take things to the next level knows what Trump knows – that people want to see and meet you in person, even briefly, if you are any sort of charismatic leader.

As I discussed in my post, “Five Big Questions About Government Social Media in 2011,” it’s often difficult to tell who the “faces” of government agencies are online, and offline. Sure, there are the Cabinet-level Secretaries, who to some degree are the faces of the agencies, and they have their official spokespeople (who in some cases, like Robert Gibbs and P.J. Crowley, are taking advantage of new media). But the people running Twitter accounts, Facebook fan pages, blogs, video channels, and the like are often anonymous, or so unknown/unpopular that they may as well be anonymous. Partly, this is because they rarely make public appearances nor demonstrate charismatic leadership within “the conversation.”

It is puzzling why many government public affairs / new media people hoping to be involved in the conversation around their topics think that tweeting 9-5 is enough. Why are they not prominent fixtures at niche cocktail parties, dinners, panels, and the like? Trump would not only be there, he would be the keynote speaker, the platinum sponsor, and would give a live press conference afterward. And it all would be authentic to who he is and what he stands for.

Authenticity is practically a pillar of social media, but are you truly, 360-degree authentic? Do you participateeverywhere possible? Do you use every medium to communicate with your audience and help to lead the conversation and market your government organization? Do you leverage not only media tools and intellectual knowledge but also things like manner of dress, location of appearance, and (forgive me) sex appeal – which Trump has in his own peculiar way – to deliver messages and lead the conversation?

And conversely, what are the possible consequences of being a young deputy spokesperson with a cable television news presence but no Facebook profile or Twitter account? How does that appear to interested citizens, and how does that limit an organization’s communications?

Government According to Trump #2: Be Strategic

One common complaint I hear about new media and communications both inside and outside government is that so little money is allocated to it; thus, there’s only so much that can be done. There’s the budget, there’s what we can afford, there’s what you’re going to it.

Donald Trump has plenty of money (usually), but he often doesn’t need it. That’s because he trades favors, strategically, with people who can help him, and with people he can help. This puts things closer to reach than they might appear at first sight. Whether it’s writing a book with Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame, or collaborating with NBC on The Apprentice, he’s trading access to audience. He’s leveraging communications. He didn’t pay-to-play.

As I wrote in an earlier SECTOR:PUBLIC article, government public affairs often works in silos around agencies and not issues. An unfortunate consequence of this is that such agencies are paralyzed from doing what Trump and others do so well: strategic partnerships. Of course these happen sometimes, but they are more the exception than the rule.

Part of this is about creating real interest in what you’re actually doing, in the case of public affairs, in the messages you’re communicating or the conversation you’re hoping to lead. Your content is meaningless unless the audience feels involved in “your story,” whatever the strategic message/goals are of your organization. Trump motivates (manipulates?) people to get involved in the story of the Trump brand, like it or hate it.

To the degree that government public affairs can leverage the audiences of unconventional partners, they can expand their influence for little cost. If a public-private partnership can build a highway, why can’t it curate a database of information or run a YouTube channel?

Strategic alliances are what separates the elite from the good. Are you leveraging strategic alliances to help others inside or outside the government, and fill in gaps in your repertoire? Are you willing to risk to gain reward? Does your public affairs strategy revolve around pay-for-play and having staffers grind it out in cubicles, or does it incorporate unconventional partnerships, appearances, and other engagements?

Government According to Trump #3: Exceed Expectations

It’s easy to hate Trump. But it’s hard to disagree with the sheer quality of most of what he does. It is hard to not be overwhelmed from the outside or the inside of his properties. By his staff. By all the… gold. And let’s face it, when The Apprentice debuted, you were glued to that TV set. It was the most exciting reality show to come out in that timeframe.

With your government public affairs, are you checking the box, meeting your scorecard, following orders… or are you “shocking” your audience by exceeding their expectations, committing to providing a great service, overwhelming them with attitude, expertise, or other factors?

Let’s face it – a lot of citizens don’t think highly of their government, fair or not. Or, they are themselves confused about what they actually want out of government. The good news for hard-working, well-meaning government employees is that the bar has been set so low by the audience that their expectations are not hard to exceed.

Yet it rarely seems to happen.

The table has been set by the Open Government movement and other factors. Government agencies are poised to have people emerge who are for their public faces what Robert Scoble was to Microsoft years ago. This may or may not be “good” in specific cases, and there is a legitimate debate over that, but it is neverless ready to occur. There is little to stop someone from being the unofficial yet extraordinarily popular “Donald Trump of Agency X” at this time. (And we have seen primordial versions of this already, for example, Jared Cohen of the State Department.)

If you are making videos, tweeting, blogging, or even occassionally speaking on a conference panel or doing a trade press interview on-the-record, are you exceeding the expectations of the audience? Are your comments or content roughly what people expect, or do you throw in a meaningful yet unexpected twist that keeps people interested and wanting more? Do people outside your niche that you don’t know rave about your work and spread valuable word-of-mouth for you and your agency?

Government According to Trump #4: You’re Hired

The most important and trusted source of information about “Trump” is Trump. Are you the most trusted source of information about your agency? Is that your goal?

A modest prediction. Even if it is “outside the box” and not the most obvious career path, there will be increasing opportunities for people who become the trusted, authentic voices of their agencies to meaningful niche audiences. Jared Cohen is now the Director of Google Ideas, for example… and there will be more where he came from.

The only questions about this in my mind are: Who? Where? How?

Further, public affairs employees who put themselves “out there” in real life, after hours, and not just digitally from their cubicles during government/business hours will – very simply – be far better at networking with influential people who can help them in various ways. Meaningful exposure to influential people can start online, to be sure, but meeting in person at conferences, cocktail hours, and private meetings in the proverbial back-room allows elites and aspiring elites to size each other up and decide whether things go to the next level.

Online tools can reinforce these real-life encounters, too, but they are not a crutch. Many influential people are more than aware of social media, and have accounts on various platforms, yet do not use them enough to be highly influenced by them. Others mainly read but don’t interact. They also may read but don’t necessarily fully trust mainstream media. They trust what their personal networks tell them. Thus, real-life encounters must be a part of a government public affairs “influencer’s” routine.

All of this helps with “Trump rules” 1-3 above: it adds exposure that makes one seem ubiquitous, it generates ideas for strategic partnerships, and it creates unique opportunities for continuously exceeding audience expectations. This is the recipe for advanced government public affairs “according to Trump.”

This post originally published on SECTOR:PUBLIC. Photos of Trump artTrump chickenTrump Tower, andTrump ”The Apprentice” used under Creative Commons.


Are These Social Media Trends of 2011 Part of Your Strategy?

Here’s an article we just had to repost from Marina Arnaout. Marina comes from a marketing communications background with expertise in variety of mediums ranging from TV to out-of-home advertising. Finding her niche in the digital realm, she is a frequent contributor to industry publications often covering social marketing and media trends. For more, follow Marina on Twitter @marinarn.

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”– Erik Qualman.

So, how well do you do it? It’s important to keep tabs on emerging social media technologies to make sure you are investing in the right areas even if some areas are not relevant immediately.

Here are some trends for 2011 that will help keep your business ahead.

1. Online video. Everywhere.

Online video is not a new phenomenon; however, what’s new about this avenue is that it is increasingly everywhere. The bar has been set high for the level of consumer interaction and this must include valuable interactive video. Video engagement is continuously increasing and in October alone, 5.4 billion videos were viewed –  2 billion of which were on Facebook. Brands and consumers rely on video to provide information that is not present elsewhere in social media, making it a critical component in shaping people’s perception about companies and each other.

2. Mobile Marketing.

In 2010 infrastructure, technology and design finally intersected in the mobile world and for the first time smartphone sales overpowered the sales of desktops and laptops. Companies need an iphone application to keep up with their consumers and to be available when consumers need them. In 2010, iPhone and iPad applications were downloaded more than 7 billion times and that serves as a great indicator that consumers are willing to engage.  In 2011, mobile users will interact with content, companies and the Web more on their phones and iPads than on their computers. From shopping on the go, to paperless transactions, to watching (and creating) videos – mobile media is instant, portable and personalized.

3. Location.

Although location falls into the mobile marketing avenue, it deserves its own mention. Advertisers are able to take advantage of mobile platforms that let them reach consumers at critical points (eg. moments just before they make an in-store purchase). Being able to reach a customer on the go or near the point of sale can be a very powerful mechanism for brands looking to connect with potential audience. Location will increase in popularity as people get more comfortable checking in to a business and when brands offer more enticing offers. Again, you must offer value to your consumers so that they feel comfortable enough to associate themselves with your brand through their social media profiles. This includes in depth analysis of market trends, monitoring behavior and coming up with creative ways in establishing that connection. This “mobile meets loyalty” approach enhances the social experiences, and inspires new audiences.

4. Deal Hunting

As consumer expectations rise, you must be able to offer them something different while still making a profit. Services like Groupon provide an instant ability to share deals. Expect this to continue over the next couple of years with copy cat services and the big players rolling in to more territories and rolling out better and more extensive deals. This yet again serves as an opportunity to both reward your most loyal customers as well as attract new clientele who may discover you through a daily deal. Expect to see special sales, tickets, and discounts as well as combinations of promotions with similar services (dinner and a movie anyone?). However, if you do decide to go down the deal hunting avenue, make sure you don’t over exhaust the consumer.

5. Monitoring conversations

The internet breaks barriers between brands and people, as well as people and people. It is a fact that 78% of consumers trust peer reviews and only 14% trust advertisements this is why it’s crucial to be involved in your community and have a good reputation. What are people saying about your brand? About 25% of search results for the top 20 brands linked to user generated content – the control you have over what people say saying is limited so it is up to you to nourish these relationships. The number one way to get people saying positive things is through over delivering on your product or service. However, you must also encourage the conversation through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, industry publications and media. Monitor the conversation, join in on the conversation, help and show your customers that you care. In return, this will only increase loyalty.

The social media trends that arise are unlimited and we as people influence their success and failures. So while everyone is waiting for Twitter to monetize, Google to fail with another platform, or for an explanation of what augmented reality really does – we need to ask ourselves what enables our success, jeopardizes our performance and how we want to shape the years to come.


Some Early Holiday Fun From JibJab!

Thank you Kendall and Bellevue Technology Partners for this cool holiday video! Let’s all JibJab.


Where do ideas come from? via Seth Godin

Here’s a great blog from Seth Godin. It’s all about ideas. What cool ideas are in your mind today?







  1. Ideas don’t come from watching television
  2. Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture
  3. Ideas often come while reading a book
  4. Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them
  5. Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom
  6. Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
  7. Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
  8. Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner’s mind. A little awareness is a good thing
  9. Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week
  10. Ideas come from trouble
  11. Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they’re generous and selfless
  12. Ideas come from nature
  13. Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence
  14. Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice
  15. Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we’re asleep and too numb to be afraid
  16. Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we’re not trying
  17. Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute
  18. Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones
  19. Ideas don’t need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity
  20. An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn’t join us here, it’s hidden. And hidden ideas don’t ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.

How can you do it?! (via Seth Godin)

Here’s why we start new businesses, via Seth Godin’s Blog.

JK asks,

“It’s like, how does anyone start their own business? How is it even possible? How do they deal with the crippling fear and harsh economic realities?”

Some people believe that if you have a good job, you shouldn’t start your own gig, because it’s foolish to give up a job you can’t easily replace.

And some people believe that if you don’t have a great job, it’s foolish to waste time (and the money you can ill afford to lose) starting something when you’d be a lot better off getting a great job or going to school until you do.

And both groups are missing the point.

The people who successfully start independent businesses (franchises, I think are a different thing) do it because we have no real choice in the matter. The voice in our heads won’t shut up until we discover if we’re right, if we can do it, if we can make something happen. This is an art, our art, and to leave it bottled up is a crime.

I guess the real question, JK, is, “How can you not do it?”