In the maelstrom

In the maelstrom

: Evelyn Rodriguez is grappling with becoming an accidental media star of the tsunami.

“God, There Must Be A Better Way to Build Blog Traffic,” she jokes in a headline as she tries to explain to the people who came to her because of the tsunami what her blog and life are really about. She really writes about a subject near to my soul: call it citizens’ marketing. Now she finds herself writing about both.

She also blogs about being interviewed by the press, who discovered her and her story because of her blog:

Too much of what I want to say is getting edited out including things like thanking the people of Thailand or my suggestions for the US Embassy. Perhaps I don’t have the proper media training, but all the attention seems to be what it felt like to be in the middle of the tsunami (the thrill part) which seems to me secondary to the larger story as a whole. I knew that going in, but I thought there were be a few seconds to slip in some important issues as well. In general there is not much airtime nor column-inches (although the original interview may take 30-60 minutes) to flesh out the real story behind the story.

The blog seems to be far more powerful way to communicate as I have control what I say.

See what she wanted to say here.

I wanted to talk with Evelyn on MSNBC yesterday — just a blogger talking with a blogger, which I hoped would have allowed her to tell her story the way she wanted to tell it — but that didn’t fit either the format or the holiday resources and logistics. You can’t change media in three minutes. So instead, I quoted her blog a few times. That’s halfway to a conversation — and that’s good. I salute MSNBC for realizing that there are good stories and new perspectives to be told via blogs and trying to find a way to bring them onto the air. I’ll bet they’ll find a way to go to the next step, to get the other half of the conversation (and I want to be there when they do).

For the rest of news media, there is another lesson in what Evelyn says, a lesson about control — and control is the key issue in the press today. What Evelyn says here is that is more important for her to control her message than to get that message out via the big newspapers and local TV stations who interviewed her yesterday. The medium isn’t the message. The message is.

: The message here is about humanity.

What I kept emphasizing on MSNBC yesterday (or I think I did; it’s hard to remember what you blather in three minutes and I don’t have the courage to watch the tapes) is that in this too-huge-to-comprehend tragedy, the weblogs bring the story back to the proper level, the human level. Every one of them has a different perspective and tells a different story. Every one of them reflects a life. Today, Evelyn is beginning to incorporate this experience into her life and, as a result, into her blog. And we witness that, eye-to-eye, at the human level.

“How does it feel to be part of history?” asks the kindly older gentleman from Santa Rosa, California that offers his assistance on my flight home via Tokyo.

If truth be told and I had my choice, I’d prefer not to be part of history. Or at least not in this manner.

She’s wise, this one. She knows that this isn’t about the experience, the moment, which immediately becomes history, past tense. It is about the aftermath, the impact, the future tense. And she recognizes that this experience has an impact on and relevance to the life she had. We all see these experiences through our own prisms and she is looking through the prism of, yes, marketing.

In a lot of ways though, the subject matter isn’t alien to what I typically write about. In an older post entitled “Ripple Effects” I wrote:

While writing my post a month ago on evangelism, I was thinking about what my blog really evangelizes. It probably really comes down to:

People Matter (and What Matters to People Sells). A Corollary: We’re all kindred spirits and there’s a core set of universal values that bond and motivate us.

So discussing the aftershocks of the tsunami isn’t really all that off-base for this blog. And if you are just nodding your head yes-yes, but I’ve got to finish up this annual report or you’re a skeptical marketer, you might want to know that no one hesitated to pick up their child in place of the cool, state-of-the-art camera as they ran for high ground. And no one hesitated to offer their tent to use as a makeshift stretcher for those with broken limbs. In fact, I know no one that cared one iota about where their stuff was seconds after the tsunami subsided and they realized they and their loved ones were really still alive. I lost my favorite (a sentimental pair from a lovely trip to Venice) sunglasses – they were whisked from my face as I’m barreling down with the water. I knew it was only a matter of time anyway before I’d lose them. Big whoop. Practicing Buddhist non-attachment isn’t a bad practice. Actually more importantly is what the Thai Buddhists call metta or, the practice of loving-kindness. Like Hugh says somewhere (ummm, perhaps in the Hughtrain?), molecules (stuff) are secondary….

People ask me what are the lessons I take away from this – it’s just too soon to have integrated all this into my life. Of course nothing will be normal again. There is more of a sense of urgency to do what’s truly important and purposeful and cut through the clutter. If you stick around, you’ll see the lessons weaved into the threads and texture of this blog and other places.

So I apologize to regular readers if this is getting a little old, but if you give it a chance, you will see this is relevant to your day-to-day life – and yes, even to your business life (if you think that’s separate).

I’ll beg your pardon again for viewing this through my own prism, but as I think back over the three years since I survived 9/11, I sometimes often get frustrated that I didn’t change my life and the world in some big way. But then again, Evelyn now makes me realize that perhaps I did: The event got me to blog and blogging allowed me to adapt and incorporate the change that day brought in the context I knew — media and news and populism. It helped me reset some priorities. It allowed me to join with or at least witness the people in this space who really are using it to change the world. Evelyn figured that out on her plane ride home. It took me three years and help from her to figure it out.