Last evening I appeared on a short segment on the NBC national news. The story was rebroadcast on this morning’s Today Show. After these brief TV appearances I received a bunch of phone calls, emails and messages asking how this came about. In fact, it was just an odd random event in my patchwork schedule yesterday with no pre-planning or intent. This TV appearance is not related to my other past and planned future media engagements that are intended to promote small business tax planning services and the community of Money Island New Jersey. It was squeezed between a morning of tax work for small business and nonprofit clients, phone calls about regional economic development and my ongoing efforts to buy affordable hardware supplies for the marina. But this TV appearance did spring directly as a result of my blogging activity, so that’s what this post is about: Does blogging work?
I publish editorials and short informational pieces on many consumer/small business advocacy topics including evolving scams. I’ve been doing this for 30+ years even before the term ‘blog’ was invented. By now I have over 3,000 pieces published on topics ranging from health care to taxes to technology. Many of these, about 1,800, are published on www.tonynovak.com. Others are published on a range of other sites.
Yesterday afternoon a producer at NBC News in Washington DC called after reading some of my blog posts at Tonynovak.com and contacted me for more information on my experience with robocalls. The he surprised me by asking to send a film van down from Philadelphia to my rural home office in Money Island, New Jersey. It’s interesting that I often receive requests for interviews and filming about Money Island environmental sustainability and economic development issues but have never had a reporter here to ask about other issues.
When the producer called round 3:00 yesterday, I was dome my desk work for the day and forgot that I promised a friend, our head waterman at the marina, that I would go with him to a local farm auction that afternoon. The cameraman drove down from Philadelphia and hour to the north met me at the farm auction. They had hoped to tape me at my desk but they made this work. We took about 30 minutes in the parking lot at 5:30 to record the piece that they then trimmed down to about 10 seconds of published video on the 6:30 national evening news broadcast.
Notice that my involvement is peripheral to this NBC News story and even my own personal experience has little to do with the lead story. I actually think of my TV appearance as silly and almost without relevance to me or my business. The more interesting issue to consider here is whether blogging that produces a result like this is worth the effort. Here are a few observations:
News Interviews – Blogging has resulted in requests for interviews for The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Money and others. Clips from some of those interviews were published but more often I am simply a source of background for the writer. It can be frustrating when I take time to give interviews and then later find information incorporated into articles but no actual citation offered. That’s just a risk I take when offering these interviews. It can be useful to say “as cited in The Wall Street Journal” as part of another business communication. This NBC News spot was my first national TV broadcast.
Political involvement – I have a history of indications that a surprising number of high level people in government do read my blog posts. Our US Senator and State Senator’s office occasionally message me directly and my web visitors log even occasionally recorded the official ISP of the White House during the Obama years. (I had a fantasy that President Obama surfed the web to get an idea of what ordinary people think but that is totally without factual basis. It could have been anyone in the White House on my web site and was more likely a staff person). Many years ago around 1983 my blogging on small business health plans triggered an invitation to testify before Congress but then that invitation was cancelled when I published a piece critical of the Republican approach under Newt Gingrich.
Negative publicity – My blog posts on the local economic impact of sea level rise (falling property values, declining industry and eroding tax base) triggered angry reactions among local politicians. The twisted story led to death threats, an assault, and allegations of a planned ‘hit’ attempt to ‘take me out’. More recently I’ve angered people in the seafood industry with publication of business details and advocacy points. This triggered assorted new threats. I don’t mean to make light of the crimes but there is little point in dwelling on these things now. Beacon House will publish a book soon that will likely get into the details of these local issues in more detail. I get the same ignorant and rude comments on social media as many other people in response to some blog posts. I just ignore those; it doesn’t bother me.
Advocacy – Bogging has made a difference in changing business and social policy. Im 2003 I was the primary whistleblower in an illegal scheme for an International 500 company that has since changed its business model. That blogging saved thousands of insurance agents millions of dollars in business income. Similarly, I have some weaker indications that my blogging has influenced tax policy over the years – particularly on niche issues that few other people care to write about. But has it done anything to help me or my business? Not that I can see.
Business development – I have very little indication that any of this results in helping to bring in new business within my target market – the presumed business intent of my blogging. Over the past few years I would guess that about a dozen people called to say that they found me on the internet. My point i that it is not as effective in this regard as anyone might expect. I am working with a sales process consultant, Sebastian Meine of ‘Be a Wealthy Expert‘ to improve my performance in this area. Sebastian is fantastic but I still have a lot of work ahead before I see real results in converting online exposure from blogging to new business development within the Philadelphia legal community where I generate a livelihood. The most basic strategies of using blogging for business development – 1) stick to one topic, 3) focus on one market and 3) avoid controversial and political topics – is all principles that I routinely ignore. My blogging strategy came up in discussion after a seminar at last year’s NJCPA convention in Atlantic City. I was surprised by the level of interest in this topic (and the questions about my unusual approach to blogging) by CPA peers.
Security – From the early days of the online era, I’ve opted to be ‘wide open’. This wasn’t so unusual 30 years ago but it is today. Almost all of my personal information is online. My cell phone and business licenses (that used to incorporate social security numbers years ago before states changed their professional licensing systems) are all easily available through past blog posts. I’ve written about everything from my health and financial details, a decade of recovery from traumatic head injury, to my sex life (like past local TV support of couples clubs that cost me a coaching position in a private school) to the legal details about my occasional disagreements with powerful government regulatory agencies. Then in early 2o17 I made a choice to take stronger positions on controversial political issues that affect my business: issues like immigration, ethics in office and government fraud. I am at risk of a range of consequences as a result of these published positions. This I know. I’m not afraid of possible future attacks, whether physical or virtual. I have no secrets. This is a deliberate personal choice but I have taken precautions to insulate and protect my family.
So, in the end, does blogging work? he results are mixed and sometimes surprising. I’m not certain that I can answer that summary question for anyone except me. Blogging fills a purpose for me that is partly business, partly personal and mostly an outlet for self-expression and integrity.