Monthly Archives: November 2008

Staying in the Game

This is an article that I wrote a few years ago for a site I built with my brothers, called, but I feel like its timely considering the ‘Obama effect’, and the complete re-writing of the rules.  Since I have always had ‘Obama swagger’ I am hipping y’all to ish I knew way back when.


Folks here are a few tips for getting ahead in the highly competitive entertainment industry.  This is some good stuff, so take notes!


1. Know the Landscape. This ancient adage from Sun Tzu is super important. The entertainment industry is a business with its own unique set of players, cycles, barriers to and methods of entry, and a distinct formula for success. If you intend to be successful, you’ve got to know not only the present state of the industry, but its history (of successes and failures) as well. If you know the landscape, you can plan accordingly.

2. Kill the Competition. One of the 48 Rules of Power dictate that you do not seek to emulate your competition, rather you should seek to destroy them. Capitalize on your competition’s weaknesses and improve upon their strengths. Undercut their price, give freebies, offer bonuses, do anything to separate yourself from the masses and leave the competition in your dust.

3. Understand the Rules of Engagement. To truly excel in the entertainment industry, you must become well versed and flawlessly execute the rules of engagement, which are identify the goal (what do you want to achieve), focus (see yourself achieving your goal), plan (create a road map to your goal), execute (take the steps necessary to achieve your goal) and document (record the steps you took to achieve your goal). By following the rules of engagement, you will be able to see your steps and missteps.

4. Organize Your Team. No man is an island. More importantly, in the entertainment industry (as with most businesses), its not what you know, but who you know that matters. Your team should be comprised of the most experienced (and connected) people within the respective areas for which you require expertise. Surround yourself with people smarter than you, who are more concerned with achieving the objectives of the group, than individual acclaim or “shine.”

5. Hone Your Craft. Be a consummate professional at all times and exude confidence and knowledge. Learn as much as you can about what it is you are doing, and set yourself apart from the crowd. Seek to absorb as much knowledge as is available to you and never be satisfied with the status quo. With advances in technology and personnel shift occurring constantly, you are only as relevant as your ability to adapt to changing times.

6. Protect Your Neck. In business we say “CYA” (cover your a**). Its a fairly simple but important point. Never accept that things will go as planned, and create contingency plans. Maintain e-mail trails, copies of minutes and notes, and follow up oral commitments with confirmation e-mails. Its always better to rely upon written notes, than your recollection of events to settle your disputes.

7. Prepare to fail. Over 50% of all businesses fail within the first five years of existence. Chances are that your business concept, regardless of how sound and well planned, will fail. But failure should not deter you, because it is (paradoxically) inextricably intertwined with success. Failure gives you the unique ability to see your mistakes and improve upon them.

These tips are for people interested in the entertainment industry, but apply to all areas of life.

Class Dismissed.

The Digital Sniper a/k/a Stephen Chukumba

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Virtual Promotions

So last night I threw a party at this great little spot in Soho called Gallery Bar.  I haven’t thrown a ‘proper’ party for years, and just decided one day, that I wanted to.  So, being a digital person, I determined that the best way to create the event was to only use viral tools to promote the party.  I wanted to see if I could get people to come out to an event ONLY using viral methods (email, text, social network sites, blogs, etc.).

The first thing I did was hit up a few folks via IM, using IMO.  I got my boys Ben Tannenbaum and Richard Burroughs, and my brother, to all agree to promote the party through their networks.  From there, I sent a text on my iPhone to my boy Phil Graci, with TriAgency, to shoot me over some logos for the e-flyer that Ben and I were creating.

One of the online party flyers for ReFLIX courtesy of Ben Tannenbaum

One of the online party flyers for ReFLIX courtesy of Ben Tannenbaum

Richard hit up a bunch of his contacts with clubs in the city to find one suitable for our event, by IMing, texting and placing calls to folks until we landed at Gallery Bar (big ups to Darren and his crew!)  We put our e-flyers on a few select online party destinations, such as Fusicology, Yelp, Metromix, Going, and had over 25 RSVPs within a few moments of those postings.

Ben set up a Facebook event called ReFLIX, and invited all of our friends to join the group.  We then created the ReFLIX event within Facebook, as well, and once again, invited people to attend.  In total, we sent out invitations to about 300 people, and reminders and alerts thereafter.

One of the options we offered, was the ability to RSVP via text, by simply texting in the word RSVP to our short code.  They received a confirmation message, and another alert on the day of the event, which included directions to the venue.  Of course, people were also able to RSVP via email, but we expressly didn’t let people call to RSVP.

We had a running ticker counting down to the event, presented as status updates on our respective FB or Twitter pages.  Each day, we put up a new flyer, comment or picture on the event page, and kept people informed of new sponsors, films or items of note.

Despite the fact that it was a cold Wednesday (humpday, boo!), by 9:30 p.m., the place was packed.  We hit a technical glitch or two, which I exascerbated with my lateness (note to self: never show up late to a party you’re hosting if an element of the party has to be in place before you arrive).  But all-in-all, it was a nice party.

What made it especially unique was that there was not one paper flyer, no mass street team campaign, no crazy phone calls.  Facebook, texting and a few emails were all it took to put about 100 people in the spot.  The night ended well before the scheduled time, but I had proven my point: virtual promotions work.

In hindsight, it would have served me well not to neglect traditonal methods, like word-of-mouth, because I forgot to invite most of my friends, who (for privacy reasons) remain off the Facebook grid.  I just assumed that everyone uses Facebook, the way I do, and took the simplest and most effective form of communication for granted.

My advice to anyone interested in promoting an event, small or large, make sure you tap into the resources available to you right at your fingertips (oh, and make sure you call your friends!).

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VOTE! VOTE! (did I say VOTE!)

Today is November 4th, and what is without question, the most historic day in my entire life.  ‘Why?’ you ask.  Well because today I was able to cast my vote for the first time in American history, for a Black man (or at least a half-Black man).  While I waited patiently outside my polling station for 2 hours with hundreds of other excited voters, all eager to place their individual stamps on history, you could literally feel our collective excitement.

Vate at MTV rocking his colors.

Vate with MTV rocking his colors at Bay Street Station, Montclair.

I saw many of my neighbors, with their spouses and kids, all lined up, chatting it up with other neighbors and friends.  There were lots of cameras, and it seemed that everyone was intent on capturing the moment on film and video.  There were several people, including myself, who whipped out their phones to snap a few pics.  On my way in to the office, I snapped the picture above of Vate, one of MTV’s IP attorneys in full Obama regalia.  It seemed everyone I encountered was filled with enthusiam about the possibilities for tomorrow.

I’m cautiously optimistic about tomorrow, but that’s as far as I’ll let myself go (for now).  8 years ago, I just KNEW that Al Gore was going to be our next President, and that he would shepherd in a new day for America.  He was America’s choice (at least according to the popular vote), but the day after the election, George W. was our president.  Huh.  How’d that happen?

As such, I know that (while it may be a longshot), McCain and the powers that be, could still bamboozle Americans once again.  Vate (old boy from MTV) said that in order to pull that off, they’d have to steal votes in nearly every state.  I told him that they’d only need to steal them in certain states, because its not the popular vote, its the electoral college vote that counts, so you flip the script in a few key strategic states (Ohio, PA, FL, you get the picture), and that map goes from blue to red.

Just so everyone is clear, I believe in the power of positive thought, so tomorrow Obama will be our 44th President.  Don’t get it twisted.  But today is still here, and we’ve got to push on through to the other side.

I was talking to a reporter from the Star Ledger (as I forced her to interview me and get my opinion) and she asked me why I thought this was such a historic event.  I told her, quite simply, that the use of social networks, the internet and mobile in this election was unprecedented, and it signaled a new day in American politics.  Now I doubt she’ll quote me so eloquently (if I even make the cut into tomorrow’s edition at all), but it’s true.  We are in a new era when it comes to the methodology to employ to reach one’s constituency.  Obama’s political machine knew this inherently, and the proof is in the pudding, come tomorrow.

For now, I’m basking in the magnamity of the day, trying to take it all in.  I’ve got my paper, Obama t-shirt, voter registration card, and other pieces of the day for posterity.  Whatever happens, it will be momentus.  If you haven’t already, take part in this historic day and go vote.

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