Charlie Fern's Ink

Do what you say. Say it in color.

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Name: Charlie Fern
Location: San Diego-Austin-Washington-London

Charlie Fern is a former White House speechwriter who runs a full-scale communications consulting, PR and speechwriting firm. Ms. Fern is also an adjunct professor who teaches public relations at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On Fast Cars and Double Lives, for the boys from 1985 has done a number on me, almost as bad as Twitter did when I dove in to that social stream a few months ago. For the past couple of days I've been living large in's virtual world, throwing down song titles, inciting tempo-tantrums, and giving props to strangers and DJs in far-away places.

But there was no such joy for Charlie tonight. I navigated over to my new homepage and was shocked to find....nothing. Nary a Fail Whale in sight...only a flat note: " is undergoing maintenance."

By then, the first song on my playlist was thoroughly entrenched in my short-term memory, and it's not the kind of song that you'd want to have wandering around the infinite loop of your hipppocampus. So I went elsewhere and found it on another Web site that, until 20 minutes ago, I'd never heard of. Who knew!

Life is good when you can quench your thirst for The Cars with a couple of keystrokes. The following video is for my brothers and sisters from the world of vinyl and tape...and for my new pals who are out there floating among the 1s and 0s.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

#iloveyou Saturday: How'd it go? See for yourself.

If you want to read the entire article, see The Social Media Philosophy Project (Thank you!).

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One more in the name of love: I've got 3 little words for you on Saturday

This one's for you, Mr. Mitchem. Good luck with your lovely experiment.

I was talking about marriage with some friends the other day. About the ups and downs, and how miserable the downs are. It's remarkable how fast, and how easily, things can go wrong in a relationship, or a household.

Stop paying attention for just an instant, and things start to unwind. It's usually when you're busy looking the other direction, or tending to your own concerns, that your house falls apart. And there's a mighty fine line between feeling good and grounded... and feeling isolated and alone. I feel tired and defeated when my house isn't in order. I get steamrolled when my relationships are on shaky ground.

When I lose that connection to the person I count on the most, I turn to my friends -- a supportive community of peers who will acknowledge the hard work and sacrifices I've made to uphold my end of the commitment. I say, "I've worked hard, damnit." And they say, "We know. You're a good sport. We love you."

Isn't it true, though? When times are tough, people seek the safety and reassurance of community, whether it's friends, or coworkers, or social networks like Twitter.

It is so easy to lose faith in someone you believe in. So easy to question someone's integrity or doubt their motivations, especially when there's a commitment involved. It's good to have friends then. It's good to have community. But there's nothing greater than those remarkable times when life, or relationships, stop careening towards a brick wall and turn, instead, for the better. When someone shows a sign of hope and gives you a reason to believe again.

When you commit to something -- when you put your faith in a person, or a cause, or an organization, regardless of how angry or disillusioned you might be, you want to keep that commitment.

You can lie to me, but you can't lie to yourself: even when you're halfway out the door, there's a part of you that's still inside the place looking around for a sign of hope. I don't care how successful you are, or how tough you are, or how important you feel. You want a reason to believe. You want a reason to stick around. We all do.

So here's a little secret to success for you: It's easier to maintain a house along the way. Putting your life back together after it's fallen apart is a lot of work. Either way it's worth it, because I know I'm at my best and most confident when my house is in order. When my relationships are strong.

Make it easy on yourself. Invest in your most important relationships. Be there for the people who count on you, even if it's inconvenient. Pay it forward every once in a while and pay attention to the results. You'll make someone happy. You'll strengthen a relationship. And you'll feel good, too. You've got to drop a seed of hope along the way. It doesn't take a lot of effort to drop a seed, and it makes a difference.

On Saturday, I'm asking you to drop a seed of hope.

My Twitter accomplice from Smash Communications, Jim Mitchem, wrote a moving blog entry about love this week.

Jim asked us to use the bull-horn of social media to say "I love you" on Saturday, April 4, to everyone in our virtual worlds.
They're real people, you know. Three little words, with no name at the beginning or end. Say, "I love you" to the universe. Drop a seed. What do you have to lose?

On Saturday, I'm going to say "I love you". I might even say it more than once. Won't you join me?

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Another reason why I love Twitter...and Chris Blake

This is what you get when you cross "Secret Tweet" with the tremendous talent of Chris Blake. He's another one of those guys who could sing the names in a phone book and make it sound beautiful. Secret Tweet is a Twitter-like application that people can use to type totally anonymous, secret thoughts. Someone set a hand-full of those secret tweets to Chris's music and wound up with this unforgettable, poignant work of art. Take a look. (P.S. People with heart conditions: side-effects of a dose of this include tears and goose-bumps.)

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

TED video on Twitter...have you seen it?

Twitter on TED:

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

One Tweet leads to another: an experiment with Twitter

A couple months ago I attended a TPRA seminar on social networking and was astonished to learn that I had been asleep for the past 25 years and missed a technological revolution. Apparently that revolution has produced a new social order in which people can communicate with anyone, anywhere across the world instantly -- the opportunities are limitless! -- except for one oddly arbitrary rule. Each communication must be limited to 140 characters or less if you plan to do it by way of a funky new service called Twitter.

I know when I'm beat. I am an old-school communicator who, this spring, will be teaching college students with attention spans likely limited to what happened four score and seven tweets ago. I had no choice but to join the social experiment.

Armed with my pages of notes from the PR seminar (thanks to presenters such as Connie Reece, Brooks Bennett, Will Hampton, Robert Quigley and others for the insights), I set out to join the 21st Century and enjoy some of the rights and privileges that the technological revolution might afford me.

Arbitrary rules aside, it's a fascinating thing, this Twitter. Connie Reece describe it well. It's essentially the top line from Facebook - "What are you doing now?" - shared in an open forum.

At first, I was perplexed about the 140-character limit (characters, not words).

But Twitter proves that, with a bit of practice, you can communicate a lot in 140 characters or less. Present a golden opportunity with the catch of a creative challenge, and people will rise to the occasion...with abbreviations, short words, acronyms and a Tiny URL converter.

After my initial investment of time and research, I realized that there's something to Twitter beyond idle chatter -- if you understand its capabilities and use it as much as a tool as you would as a pastime. I've connected with people in Germany, Australia, Canada, Great Britain; coast-to-coast in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. In a matter of weeks.

I've learned things. I posed random questions to complete strangers and received prompt responses from experts in their fields -- in some cases leading professionals and/or company CEOs, entrepreneurs, and peers in my profession.

If you do some research or use Titter's innovative MrTweet, you can find them all here: CEOs. Marketing VPs. Ad executives and professionals like @napril1023. Comedians. Writers who think, like Valeria Malton and (love this one) Canada's "MenwithPens". High-tech entrepreneurs. Neuroscientists! Poets. Free-lance writers, like funny Avenue Z. Government employees. Retired military officers. Musicians. Thought/community leaders like Entregreeneur Bradley Hughes. Journalists. Pundits. Gossip-scientists (?!) like "Cheeky Geeky". Techno-wizards. Moms and dads. Published authors like Cathy Scott. Friends and former colleagues. And they're generally well-behaved people.

I started exploring networks - hopping from one person to the next, following leads down blind alleys to unknown destinations around the world. One person has the potential of leading to a thousand (or more) others. And every person worth following, I've found, has readily available information to scan and determine what's personally relevant. Click on names and see their bios, read their micro-blogs on Twitter, or follow links to their websites and full-on blogs. If you like what you see, you can choose to "follow" them -- which means you receive their micro-blog updates and you can engage them in conversations.


You can follow organizations, as well, for other relevant updates. I follow Starbucks (coffee achiever that I am), and the Times Online (for fantastic headlines and links to stories from the London paper), The Austin American-Statesman, and the Prime Minister of England's office, just for giggles. You can even follow London's Tower Bridge, which Tweets when it opens and closes for boats on the Thames (rather dull, for the most part, but probably handy for captains).

I've read more articles related to my profession in a month than I would have otherwise in six. I've downloaded comics, and pictures, and intriguing quotes, like this one by one Kimberly Bock: "Poetry. Fantasy that drips from the breast of naked thought."

Of course there isn't just one technological answer to life's many questions and pursuits. But, consider this -- although one person cannot be all things to all people, one person can harness the power of Twitter to get a whole lot of value from a whole lot of people in a relatively short amount of time. For free. And with limited advertising. Hallelujah!

Twitter is an experiment with no boundaries, with each participant serving as a catalyst that produces energy and fuels other reactions with an unknown end-product (and lots of interesting by-products). I suspect that many of the people who use Twitter have a shared sense that something beyond the confines of everyday living -- beyond expectations, even -- is unfolding before our eyes.

Through Twitter, people are forming new global societies that rise above our own communities, cultures, values and ideals -- complete with self-generated, make-as-you-go rules of etiquette and human interaction (taught patiently to amateurs by more experienced users). It is, I imagine, what the original founder of the World Wide Web imagined the World Wide Web ought to be. For now, anyway.

Cottage industries are flourishing around it, too. You can find Twitter wikis, widgets, gadgets, decks, bloggers, backgrounds, search engines, instructors, mentors, ranking systems and - oh, so much more on the horizon. It's mind-boggling to think how fast this budding form of communication has moved people and enterprises (and, sadly, the more seedy parasites and troglodytes that we'd like to sluff off the world's underbelly).

In the end -- a brilliant twist, if you ask me -- it seems that Twitter is what you make it. You get out what you put into this nifty tool. That means you have to invest some time and energy if you want the effort to pay off. And, if you want to realize some value, you have to add some value.

As "JKimLosAngeles" Tweeted (said) recently, "I now look forward to checking Twitter more than Facebook everyday. Feel like I am evolving."

He's not the only one. I will say that as useful as Twitter is, it is also rather addictive. Someone may have to write a 12-step program for folks like JKim and me. The other day someone asked how you know you're addicted to Twitter, and I got my answer from a friend (sorry for bringing this up again, dude).

I was on iChat with him, kidding around about getting more information from Twitter that I did from my own friends. He shot back, "We try to tell you stuff, but you say 'Shhh! I'm Twittering with John Cleese now!'" I howled. Seconds later, I was retyping that line in a Tweet. (For the record, I don't Twitter with John Cleese, much as I'd like to.)

Hats off to the guys who dreamed this one up while I was sleeping away the technological revolution. Twitter is not only fun, it's also got a heck of a lot of potential to become something truly meaningful.

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