Are You a Jobs or a Piketty?

Steve Jobs and Thomas Piketty both achieved rock star status in their respective fields––tech and economics. Although they employed somewhat different approaches to their work, both Jobs and Piketty succeeded in making esoteric subjects accessible to a mainstream audience and revolutionized the global conversation.

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My two favorite books viewed side by side. Capital in the Twenty-First  Century Cover Design by Dean Bornstein. Steve Jobs Cover Photo by Albert Watson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Building Community

Much has been said about the importance of building a community around your brand. But what exactly is a community and how do you go about building one? And even more importantly, how do you serve the people you’ve worked so hard to cultivate?

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Los Angeles City Hall provides a breathtaking focal point and public gathering place.

I recently had a stunning experience that profoundly illustrated how a community can quickly form. I was called for jury duty the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Fully committed to fulfill my service, I went ahead and blocked out the prescribed seven days on my calendar. The day I was to summoned to appear, I put on a nice outfit, drove to the courthouse in Downtown LA, went through the security protocol, and found a seat in the juror’s room.

As the minutes and hours ticked by, I became fascinated by the incredibly random swath of humanity in the room–a rippling ocean of ages, occupations, ethnicities, accents, and attire–all sharing this moment in time for a common purpose.

Periodically, batches of people were called to form jury panels, and the ones not chosen breathed a collective sigh of relief. As the day wore on, the ever-dwindling ones not chosen began chitchatting, sharing stories, talking about their families and plans for the holiday weekend. There was an easy camaraderie to it all–we were forming a community, albeit a temporary one, based on our common circumstance of jury duty.

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Grand Park, a 12-acre park in the Los Angeles Civic Center, is sometimes nicknamed “Jury Duty Park.”

During the lunch break, many of us strolled over to Grand Park. Basking In the balmy midday, we exchanged knowing glances and smiles of recognition, or recommended places to grab a sandwich and coffee. Then abruptly at 1 pm, like a swarm of bees or herd of wildebeest, wordlessly, we all knew it was time to return to the courthouse.

The next few hours were quagmired in the question “will we or won’t we” be selected for a panel. If we survived until 4:30 pm, game over! Then, at precisely 3:20 pm, an officer of the court announced that we were released and our service was complete. She wished us all a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

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Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall and Grand Palais in Paris create communities of interest with people from around the world.

Over the last several years, companies have begun employing Community Managers to oversee and administer communities created through online platforms, such as social networks, blogs, forums, and contests. This form of engagement takes customer service to a new level, by allowing consumers to interact with brands.

A great recent case study is General Mills’ “Hello, Cereal Lovers” a cross platform social media community that invites collaboration, storytelling and creativity. It was all fine and dandy until General Mills laid a big fat egg. In April 2014, General Mills informed consumers that they give up the right to sue the company if they engage in several types of online behavior, such as “joining our sites as a member, joining our online community, subscribing to our email newsletters, downloading or printing a digital coupon, entering a sweepstakes or contest” and more.

The story first broke in the New York Times with the headline When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue. Well this went over like a lead balloon! Consumers  began flooding General Mills’ social media sites with complaints and threats to shift their loyalties to competing brands.

Clearly, you can’t have it both ways. In the end, General Mills capitulated to the voice of their community and rescinded the policy. The lesson: Serve your customers or they will leave you!

How can a community wield such power? On the most basic level, a community is a social unit that shares common values. Like little shreds of metal clustering around a magnet, human communities form organically under a variety of conditions, such as geographic place, beliefs, needs, circumstances, occupation, and interests. Call it human nature or blame it on physics, but this irresistible gravitational pull is strong enough to move the tides, cause mountains to crumble, or change the world.

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Glow Santa Monica is an all-night cultural experience featuring original commissions by artists that re-imagine Santa Monica Beach as a creative playground–and a great example of a successful community event!

The point of my jury duty story was to demonstate how quickly a community can form around a shared situation and common needs. People–even complete strangers–are hard-wired to pull together for survival, and this is good news for marketers.

At the end of the day, as I was leaving the courthouse, I noticed many people stealing one last look at their fellow jurors in a silent goodbye before scurrying back to their homes. Our little community was disbanding, as the common circumstance that brought us together slowly dissolved.

In the bigger picture, communities can be as enduring as the stars in the sky or as ephemeral as a snowflake in May. The key is to discover the essence of your brand and then create the environment and platform that will attract the right followers, whether it’s for a reason, a season, or beyond.

All photos by Kyrian Corona

A Rose by any other name would smell like a Lemon

The outrageously photogenic Millennium Biltmore Hotel set the stage for the 34th Annual Roses and Lemon Awards presented by the Downtown Breakfast Club.

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One of my favorite things about attending these tony affairs is running into some of LA’s movers and shakers such as Wade Killefer, design principal of Killefer Flammang Architects, who was one of the presenters, and the principals of SRK Architects, Inc.

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For the uninitiated, the fun-filled and sometimes snarky Roses and Lemon Awards have been presented by the Downtown Breakfast Club (DTBC) since 1981 to acknowledge projects that have contributed to the improvement of downtown’s working, living and social environment. A Lemon Award is bestowed on any project, individual or organization which members feel has created a “sour” impact on the quality of life in downtown.

The DTBC told the audience of some 400 real estate influentials that there was no mystery about the positive new ideas and trends emerging to enhance living and working downtown. Winning a Rose was the Grand Park New Years Eve Celebration, which was hailed as a remarkable example of Los Angeles coming together, drawing over 25,000 attendees.

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Merry trumpeters ready to toot triumphantly as Roses winners are announced. The sole Lemon receives a sour wail.

Receiving Roses in the Downtown Rose Garden category were two schools: Ninth Street Elementary School and the new Metro Charter Elementary School, a parent-founded school serving 138 K through second grade students designed for a highly diverse student body. The audience also enthusiastically applauded the Rose presentation to Spring Street Parklets, stylish mini-parks fashioned with planters, benches and exercise bikes between 6th and 7th streets.

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Home Sweet Home Presenters: Left: Melani Smith, President and Principal, Planning and Urban Design at Melendrez; Right: Wade Killefer, Design Principal at Killfer Flammang Architects.

In the Home Sweet Home category, 1111 Wilshire garnered a Rose in the market rate class while Star Apartments took top honors in the affordable sector. Developed by the Holland Partner Group, the 1111 project, designed by Nadel Architects, includes a seven-story building and a wide array of on-site dining and recreational amenities. It is virtually a village unto itself. Inside its modern exterior, the building offers 210 apartments with traditional walls rather than open-space loft interiors. The Star Apartments won their Rose for the unusual utilization of 102 pre-fabricated modular units mounted on a cantilevered podium structure. In addition, the entire15, 000 square-foot second floor is a repurposed automobile parking deck, which serves as a recreational and wellness center for the residents.

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Kathy Faulk and Shirley Spinelli present the Eat, Drink, Repeat category.

Winning a Rose in the Urban Essentials category was Urban Radish, a 8,200 square-foot grocery store with farm, ranch and artisan-supplied foods. The store includes an outdoor patio with picnic tables where visitors can enjoy the deli-prepared specialties. The restaurant category, dubbed Eat, Drink, Repeat, was divided into Destination and Neighborhood designations with Roses, respectively, going to Terroni and The Must.

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The Lemon was awarded to Trader Joe’s for turning down the opportunity for a DTLA location. Presenters: Left: Jim White, Paramount Pictures Right: Hal Bastian, Downtown Center Business Improvement District.

Although The Downtown Breakfast Club was overwhelmingly delighted with the course of new development trends downtown, as usual, it also found something to justify its notorious Lemon Award: the refusal of Trader Joe’s to open a store downtown. “It’s rather baffling,” the Club said, noting “Ralph’s is here, Smart & Final is here, Wal-Mart is here, the Grand Central Market is here–but not TJ’s.

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The Downtown Breakfast Club is an organization of professionals whose main purpose is to recognize, foster and encourage the orderly and planned growth of Downtown Los Angeles. 

According to the event’s co-chairs, public art consultant Michelle Isenberg and technology design consultant June Bardwil, the Awards drew the biggest audience in its 34-year history.

All photos by Kyrian Corona.

In Praise of Mobility

Mobile Devices, Cheap Telecom, and Virtual Currency: Welcome to the Global Workforce

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A majority of U.S technology professionals would welcome being paid in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, according to a survey by event organizer Tech in Motion. The results were reported in the Wall Street Journal. That was before the recent Mt. Gox implosion and the resulting kerfuffle that’s been slogging through the headlines these days.

However, a very compelling discussion of the potential of virtual currency was posted by Marc Andreeson of Andreeson Horowitz, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm with $2.7 billion under management. The article Why Bitcoin Matters makes the case that Bitcoin offers a sweeping vista of opportunity to re-imagine how the financial system can and should work in the Internet era, and a catalyst to reshape that system in ways that are more powerful for individuals and businesses alike. Heck, even the Winklevoss brothers are on board, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, that is. Turns out the dynamic duo has offered to pay for seats on the sub-orbital spacecraft with Bitcoin. Now that’s what I call going global!

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Well, no matter how you feel about Bitcoin, Dogecoin, or even Arscoin, Ars Technica’s cheeky hat throw into the ring, one thing is clear: Forward thinkers are envisioning  a world where barriers to mobility are greatly diminished, opening up more opportunities for people everywhere.

As a writer and PR professional, I am fortunate to be able to work remotely. I have had a home office in Los Angeles for over a decade, working with clients in far-flung locations including New York, Atlanta, Seattle, London, Milan, Berlin and Tokyo. A few years ago, my spouse accepted a lucrative assignment in Paris, and given the nature of our respective work, it was easier for me to travel back and forth. When I took my first extended trip to Paris, I didn’t have a laptop. Instead, I bought the first generation iPad. Armed with VoIP, my Go-To-Meeting app, and a blazing fast French Internet connection, it was business as usual, with a view.

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I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy that outside of family and close friends, it’s really no-one’s business where you are as long as you get the job done. In fact, my clients and colleagues consider it a big plus that I have an international perspective and personal window to another world. And I can bring them back really nice gifts from Paris!

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Throughout the years many people have asked me how I do it, so I put together this list of Tips For Working Remotely.

1. Bring your Mobile Devices. Of course you have them! In addition to my original iPad, I have an iPhone and a MacBook Air. The laptop gives me the full computer experience, which is big improvement over working on the iPad. However, a colleague of mine did manage to work abroad for over a month with just an iPhone.

2. Get VoIP. We all know about Skype and Viber, but if you still use a land line, take your VoIP box with you and no one will ever know you left your local area code. I have been using Lingo for years.

3. Get a good data plan for your US cell phone. I have the T Mobile Simple Choice Plan. For $50 a month, I have unlimited data coverage and free texting in over 100 countries. I believe this is the direction that telecom is going. There are probably other options out there as well.

4. Get a foreign cell phone number. When I arrive in Paris, I switch my T Mobile SIM card from my iPhone to a spare phone and replace it with my SIM from Réglo Mobile, a French mobile provider. So I have a French cell phone number and 500 MB data for around 12 euros per month. When I’m back in the US, I turn off the Regio data plan and go on maintenance for 1.5 euros per month.

5. Bring more tech stuff. US electrical plugs won’t work in Europe, so stock up on plenty of adaptors for all your gear. I keep duplicate USB chargers in Paris, along with adaptors so I’m ready to hit the ground running when I arrive.

6. Open up a foreign bank account. If you are planning on longer or more frequent stays abroad, you might want to opening a local bank account. I found out that BNP Paribas is a sister bank of Bank of America. I keep a supply of euros in my BNP account for routine expenses. Another advantage is that I have a BNP chip-and-PIN debit card, which offers added security.

7. Sign up for mail forwarding. Yes, of course we do most transactions and correspondence online, but there is still a chance that a pesky letter of the utmost importance might land in your mailbox while you’re out of the country. If you don’t want to give your mail key to family or friends, or risk missing a letter about your outstanding parking tickets, have your mail forwarded to your foreign address. Just make sure your name is on the mailbox at your home-away-from-home.

8. Find an expat group. Sometimes you just want to find a plumber who speaks English or a hair salon where you can communicate without a translator. Resources abound. Check out Expats Paris or Angloinfo for starters.

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Photo credit: Martin Muntenbruch

Maybe someday we’ll all evolve into holograms, living virtually anywhere, anytime. In the meantime, get out and expand your horizons. There’s a world of possibilities waiting for you.

All other photos: Kyrian Corona

California Economic Outlook for 2014: Prognosis Positive

Millennials rule. At least in Downtown Los Angeles, where the median age of residents is 34 and the median age of visitors tops out at a mere 36 years old.

A prestigious panel of experts took a peek under the hood to unveil the latest economic statistics at the Downtown Breakfast Club Annual Jack Kyser Economic Outlook, held in January at the venerable California Club. Their findings struck a positive note, with long term indicators notably upbeat.

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Established in 1887, the California Club for generations has been the gathering place for business, industry and government leaders.

Dr. Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, stated California’s economy–expressed in Gross State Product in inflation-adjusted terms–should grow as fast or faster than the projection for the nation: 2.8 percent and that the biggest gains in Southern California will come from the leisure and hospitality sectors, supplemented by sizable gains in professional and business services and construction.

Hal Bastian, executive vice president and director of economic development said in a Q & A session, “The Downtown Los Angeles 2013 Year-End Market Report, conducted by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID), indicates positive and sustainable trends.”

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Dramatic view of Downtown LA skyline

The growing Downtown population of 52,400 is highly educated and affluent, with a median household income of $98,700 and a median age of 34. Downtown Los Angeles employs over 500,000 people, with a median income of 98,020 and median age of 39. In addition, over 10 million people visit Los Angeles, with a median income of $90,580 and median age of 36.

Based on nearly 9,000 responses from Downtown residents, workers and visitors, 76% of total respondents have earned a four-year undergraduate or graduate/post-graduate degree. 56% of residents also work in Downtown Los Angeles, with almost 55% in Top Management, 20% in Law, Accounting, Advertising, and 17% in Arts & Entertainment. “This influx will drive the Los Angeles economy in the coming decades,” Bastian noted.

So what does all this mean? Behind the dry data seethes a young, vibrant demogrpahic hungry for the urban experience–restaurants, cultural institutions, nightlife, parks, and public transportation–all the amenities one would expect to find in a major city.

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Central Library park provides relaxing respite

Kleinhenz also cited that home prices will continue to rise, albeit more modestly than in 2013, fueled mainly by steady demand bumping up against low inventories.

Sounds like Los Angeles needs housing–and lots of it.

Steven Marcussen, managing director, Cushman& Wakefield, pointed out that many office buildings are being repurposed for residential and mixed use. Companies are using less office space for a variety of reasons, including new technology which requires fewer workers and the ongoing trend of corporate downsizing. Loft apartments, Live Work units, and creative studios are replacing old school, large footprint office spaces.

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Participants in The Downtown Breakfast Club’s Annual Jack Kyser Economic Outlook Jan. 23 at the California Club included (from left) Dr. Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist, Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation; Steven Marcussen, managing director, Cushman& Wakefield; Christopher Sheldon, chief investment officer, Fidelity Investments’ Private Wealth Services Group; N. Richard Lewis, president, Lewis & Associates, moderator; and Charles Muttillo, president, Morley Construction, and president of The Downtown Breakfast Club.

 

Why Density is a Good Thing for LA

PUBLIC RELATIONS     SOCIAL MEDIA     ONLINE CONTENT     ARTS MANAGEMENT
YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE  If your business needs a boost, you have a new product to launch, or want to expand to new markets, I have many tools to help you achieve your goals. It’s all about telling your story and sharing it with the world!
WHAT’S NEW
Surprise! LA is the nation’s most dense city.

Say what? Ask people what is the most dense city in the United States, and a majority would say New York or Chicago. But if you define density as population per square mile, metropolitan Los Angeles heads the list. L.A. has about 7,000 residents per square mile, with San Francisco/Oakland at 6,266, and New York trailing at a mere, 5,319.

And this is a good thing?

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Density was the topic for a recent Downtown Breakfast Club symposium held at the eminent California Club in Downtown Los Angeles. Dick Lewis, CEO of Lewis & Associates, was the mastermind behind the provocative panel, which included such luminaries as (from left) architect Wade Killefer, Killefer Flammang Architects; planner Simon Pastucha; Carolyn Ramsay, chief of staff for Councilman Tom La Bonge; developer Wayne Ratkovich; and Bill Roschen, past president of Los Angeles Planning Commission.

“Key to L.A.’s leadership is that it has denser suburbs than any other city, not because our downtown has more people,” architect Wade Killefer explained.

LA has denser suburbs. Interesting. This revelation about LA’s density surfaced in a government press release issued in early 2012, citing figures from the 2010 US Census. The topic received quite a bit of media coverage and raised questions about where LA is heading.

It turns out that LA has high density, just the wrong kind. What LA needs is strategically-planned density to support a vibrant urban infrastructure. And because LA historically has been a decentralized region with no defined center, the vision of Los Angeles as a collection of flourishing “urban villages” connected by public transportation, bike lanes, and green spaces could very well become a reality.  So we’re not talking suffocating density like London or Tokyo.

The panel concluded that even greater density is needed, but confined to where density is desired and where it works, with quality of life being the major goal. Apparently the city has already planned for increased population by shaping new development with urban design, such as activating under-utilized buildings, addressing the need for more hotels and expanding the Convention Center. A key component is public transportation and linkages between development and train stations so that people can live where they work.

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Courtyard of Musée de Montmartre. Paris is the quintessential walking city.

No need to convince me this is a good thing! I’m already living the life. I have a home office in leafy Studio City, just blocks from bustling Ventura Blvd. and the Metro Red Line. I recently turned in my leased Audi and bought a Fiat 500, the perfect vehicle for a lifestyle that is more urban hopper than autobahn commuter. Oh, and I also live part time in Paris, where we don’t even have a car. Voilà!

Outing Klout

PUBLIC RELATIONS     SOCIAL MEDIA     ONLINE CONTENT     ARTS MANAGEMENT
YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE  If your business needs a boost, you have a new product to launch, or want to expand to new markets, I have many tools to help you achieve your goals. It’s all about telling your story and sharing it with the world!

 

WHAT’S NEW

Klout has bugs.

Out Damn Klout. That was my original title for this post. I am performing in the Independent Opera Company production of Verdi’s Macbeth this month, so I have the Bard on my brain. But given the whimsies of SEO, who knows what this might conjure up?

I like Klout. It’s a cool idea that might actually have some merit. But like most everything on the Internet, I approach Klout with a healthy dose of skepticism and double triple check my profile on a regular basis. Case in point. I joined Klout earlier this year and connected Linkedin, Twitter and my personal Facebook profile. Klout immediately generated my score of 48.80. (40 is average). Good! Too my horror, I also discovered that Klout had listed McDonalds as one of my topics of influence. Not So Good!

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My photo from Centre Pompidou. Klout listed Paris as one of my Topics.

With all due respect to this multinational giant of a corporate success story (I do like their Fish Sandwich), I am no expert on McDonalds. In fact, as a health-conscious Pilates-practicing hiker and runner, I was not only puzzled and embarrassed, but suspected some corporate product placement/partnership was going on behind the scenes. I immediately emailed Klout’s PR person requesting the removal of McDonalds from my profile. She graciously responded explaining that Klout was improving their Profile Topics management feature in the next few weeks. I managed to expunge McDonald’s but was not able to add Public Relations to my profile. Hmmm.

Heirloom Tomato Salad.

My Klout score went down. My recent Facebook post Heirloom Tomato Salad received 19 Likes and 5 comments, but Klout only listed 5 engagements.  I also noticed that Klout had disconnected my Facebook page without my permission in May. I had to manually reconnect and hope that my score wasn’t affected. When I emailed my complaint to contact@klout.com, I received a canned reply.

Update: Since this post was published, I received a reply from a Klout engineer who admitted that their connection to my Facebook account was interrupted. He said to allow a few days for their systems to catch up and my score to backfill.

The grand takeaway is that our online life is ephemeral. Yes, Social Media is important. Yes, we need to put ourselves and our products out there. But we don’t live and die by our Scores, Likes and Retweets.

Have fun.  Create and share content to delight your audience. The rest will fall into place.