“Within 12 months you are going to fire me.”

My boss looked up in surprise. I continued, “You will, unless we change things before then.”

It was the first week of January, 2011, and our first meeting of the year. We were both returning from our respective holiday vacations, and I had taken some time to evaluate what I was doing. What I saw was trouble on the horizon.

When I first started at First Orlando, the Media and Communications ministries were separate. A short time after I joined the staff, the Communications Pastor was called to another church, Leaving an opening. About six months and a lot of conversation later, we restructured the Media and Communications Ministry areas. it was loosely configured into three strands: creative, experiential, and informational. Experiential included the parts that dealt with the experience of ministry and extending the ministry experience outside the walls of the church. Informational covered the ways people learned about the various ministry opportunities of the church. Creative was concerned with creative a consistent look and feel for elements needed to service the experiential and informational aspects. Generally, media and tech fell into Experiential while Creative and Informational fell into communications. There was overlap, but generally that was true.

Fast forward 3 years. The structure was still in place, but had been weakened by a few rounds of layoffs. The recession hit central Florida pretty hard. Every ministry across the church was affected. I had lost four full time employees and seen two full time jobs converted to part time. It was apparent that we were not going to return to previous staffing levels. Things were fine for a while, mainly because everyone was reeling from the reductions. The support ministries I was overseeing did not have nearly the amount of workload we had previously seen. But I knew that as the economy rebounded, so would the amount of work required to support new ministry initiatives. In fact, it was already building. I could see the cracks starting to form.

The long and short of it was that the current structure would not withstand the coming onslaught of work. We would either need to shore it up with more staff (Which wasn’t going to happen) or change the structure. So, I began to have very frank discussions with my supervisor and the Strategic Team member over Human Resources and Personnel. These were not comfortable conversations. I have both a BS and an MA in media and communications related fields. I had been doing this work for a decade. I know how to do it, but I was watching myself start to fail in leading these ministries. Most people wouldn’t notice the mistakes and missed items, but I saw them. I figured that if I put in another 15-20 hours of work each week I could keep everything going. But at what cost to my family?

It is very frustrating to be hemmed in by circumstances beyond your control. I did not have the power to change most of those circumstances, but I could change something. So we talked, and prayed, and thought. A few weeks ago I told my boss that I did not want to wait until there was some sort of major failure or mistake. If we thought that the changes we had outlined were strategic for future success, we should initiate them now. A few days later one of the Communications team members took another job. I knew that if the structure were going to shift, the new supervisors should be the ones to fill the vacancy. So this became the catalyst to shift responsibilities.

After seven months of conversations, the shift happened in less than two weeks. Communications shifted to the Support Ministry limb of the staff tree (under Administration), with a couple small parts splitting off. Media and tech remained on the worship limb. I put in for new business cards without the word “Communications” on them. Basically, I’ve gone back to what I was originally hired to do.

It’s weird. I spent the better part of two days giving away significant job responsibilities.

I had to deal with some pride issues. Frankly, any time someone has responsibilities taken away from them, the assumption is that they were removed because the leader could no longer handle the duties. In this case, that is technically true. I was the one pointing that out. The person pushing this was me. Still, I can’t take five minutes to explain why this is a good idea to everyone. So I know that people will be filling in the holes with their own guesses. I had to shove that part of my pride down for the good of the organization.

People don’t understand it. If another person says that we are doing this so I can be in my “sweet spot” I may slap them. While I will have time to do things I have not been able to do for a few years, that wasn’t the primary reason for this. I like a lot of things about the work of communicating effectively.

I still have not completely comprehended the full impact of this change. I keep remembering things I won’t have to do anymore. I experienced much more frustration related to communications than media. For every time I heard a complaint about something tech related, I received 20 related to communications. Most people don’t assume they know how to run a sound board, but those same people communicate every single day. With tech, as long as you provide the microphone, screen or projector for their class, people are happy. In communications you get to explain why their class of 20 people doesn’t get top billing in publicity pieces.

So I should have more time. I can finally fix some things and develop some things in media ministry. I’d like to think I might work less, but things don’t normally go that way. Still, I will have more time to work on my own dreams, to develop my show ideas. I’ve just got to get adjusted to the new reality.


Customer Care Through Twitter: A Delta Story

Friday was a big day for me. For the first time in almost 20 years I was flying First Class. I had cashed in some Skymiles for the upgrade. The first leg of the trip was great. I did not know that I would not only bypass check in lines, but also the security line in DFW at the Delta terminal. It took less than 5 minutes to get through the process. I had time for a sit down meal at a restaurant.

Then I got to board early, and got a soft drink before we took off, and they kept offering me snacks throughout the flight. No hot towel, though. I guess that doesn’t happen anymore.

Just as I landed, and I turned on my phone I got a voicemail. My next flight had been delayed by a couple of hours. I was scheduled to leave about 7:15, now it would be 9:10.

I tweeted:

Oh Delta, what would cause u to delay my connection by 2 hours? Instead of 7PM it’s now 9PM. #stuckinATL”

And asked the gate agent if there was another flight to Orlando. There was one leaving at 6:00. I swung by the gate, no one was there yet. And really, I was OK. I would watch a movie in the terminal while I waited.

I tweeted again:

When I scheduled my @delta flight I had layover with time for dinner. Now I have time for dinner and a movie. Too bad no theater here.

Almost immediately @DeltaAssist replied back and offered to help. I was not planning on do anything but waiting, so I headed to a restaurant. I was seated, and ordered a Coke, when my phone rang again. Delta was now saying my flight would not leave until after 11:00 PM, and I wouldn’t get home until after 1:00 AM. Whoa. That was not so cool. Suddenly I was interested in changing flights. But so was everyone else on my flight. I followed @DeltaAssist on twitter and was waiting for them to follow me. I tweeted:

At least Delta calls you to let u know when they another couple hrs to your layover. What’s 7 hrs between friends?#thinkpositive

The interesting thing here is that I wasn’t throwing a fit. Just commenting on my flight being delayed. But Delta was listening, and responding. I gave them my confirmation number. And we started talking (I’m going to share their DM’s because I think Delta was amazing on this, and I want people to see how it’s done.):

supposed to Leave at about 7:00. Now scheduled for after 11PM! Whoa. What happened? 7 hr layover

I have the 6P flight for you if you want to get on that? ^AK

That gate was in Terminal B, and I was in Terminal A, and it was already after 5:00. I settled up with the restaurant and moved that direction. As I was moving, I was messaging back and forth:

Any chance of 1st class? I spent miles to upgrade. Hate to lose them.

Actually that’s why I can do that for you, so it’s first class and at 6PM. ^AK

So my First Class ticket was going to make this work. I rounded the corner where I could see the gate, and it looked like the entire 7:15 (now delayed to 11:00) flight was there. The plane was boarding and this looked hopeless.

At gate. In line. Now what? Never did this over twittter

Great, sorry for the short notice, but I’m glad I could get you home earlier. ^AK

I’m standing there, watching the line go very slowly. Meanwhile stand-by is being processes, and the plane is on the next to last zone for boarding. I’m getting nervous. I leave the line and go to a Delta “Scan & Go” terminal, to see if things had been processed. If I could get a new boarding pass, I would be golden. After finding one that worked, I got conformation that I was on the 6:00PM flight, but had no seat assignment. I moved back to the line.

I tweet publicly:

Waiting to see Delta work. Minor miracle.

My confidence is low. Is this really going to work? There are dozens of people trying to get on this flight.

Am I confirmed?

Long line. For counter.

I have a supervisor coming to you, but continue to wait in line. We’re having some issues so I apologize. ^AK

I am watching the gate screen, and I see every Business/1st Class seat taken. The number is 26. Then a few minutes later the number drops to 24. Turns out that the kind of plane had changed earlier, but the computer hadn’t updated it. This comes into play later. Still messaging back and forth:

K. Whole other flight trying to get on this one.

Yes they are, but I called a supervisor so they should be there for you since you are confirmed in first class. Sorry for this. ^AK

About to close the flight…

Hang tight, they have you in seat 5D

Sure enough, the flight is almost closed, and they call two more names out of the crowd. Mine is one of them. I couldn’t believe it. Me and another young guy had made it. I was smiling big time. Chatting down the jetway, he explained that he bought the upgrade from coach to 1st Class so he could make the flight. I told him I used twitter.

I entered the plane, walked to my seat, to find it filled. Every seat in the 1st Class cabin was full. Uh-oh. Flight attendants start checking passes. There are two for 5D, and two for 4A. I learn that the plane type had changed, which changed the number of seats in 1st Class. The gate agent comes down. I am still messaging my contact:

There’s another person on 5D…?

Tell the flight attendant, the gate agent should be telling them that you are in that seat. ^AK

Meanwhile the Gate Agent is delivering some bad news to people who got upgraded. They are going to have to move back to coach. Not getting kicked off the plane, just moved back to coach. They hadn’t paid for 1st class, so they were being moved. This did not go over well. I thought one guy was going to get taken away by security.

I’m feeling bad, like I’m delaying the plane, but then they announce that we have to wait for two pilots before we can leave. They need a lift and were supposed to be on the later flight. I message some more, and watch the drama unfold. Finally I am taken to a seat.

I am sitting in 6D right now. Hope that’s right. They bumped some guy back.

I would stick with it. I hope they know how patient & understanding you are & to give you a nice drink for all you had to deal with. ^AK

Then they offer me a voucher as well.

Thanks for the quick assist. When will my bags arrive in Orlando?

They will probably be on the 7:15P flight, which is estimate out at 11:20P, so we will deliver it to your house tomorrow. ^AK

You will have to put in a claim for it when you get to MCO at the bag service center. ^AK
17 hours ago


You’re welcome. I’m glad I could help. Have a great weekend. ^AK

I couldn’t believe it. I was on the flight, in 1st Class. I tweeted publicly:

@DeltaAssist just hooked me up! First Class and home before original flight!

I got to MCO, filled out the form for my bags, and they arrived at my house this morning.

From a customer service perspective, this was a great exchange. Look at what they did. I was not irate, but I had publicly mentioned my flight was delayed. They offered help. When my flight was delayed again, I took them up on it. Then they stayed with me through the whole process, even when things got very weird with the seats. It wasn’t get me on the flight and drop me, they stayed with me. They didn’t do the bare minimum.

What did they get? Improved relationship with me. Public thanks for their effort, both on twitter and here. Not to mention the word of mouth advertising I’m going to do as I repeat this story. Just because they had people sitting at computers who knew who to call and how to help.

They did not know that I had pretty much switched over to Southwest as an airline. I was just cashing in miles here, and that’s the only reason I was on Delta. But now… I think I’ll look at rates for Delta, too, next time I need to fly.

EZ Up Sell: Integrity is Worth More

So I’m at a conference this week. I almost never get a rental car, but the hotel is a bit of a drive from the airport in DFW, and the shuttle was $112 one way! For an extra $26 I got a car online through EZ Rental Cars (Or something. Little known company, by me at least.) I arrived at the rental car facility at DFW, approached the desk and presented ID.

In the course of paperwork, the clerk offered me the EZ Toll sensor (Classic up sell), which when placed on the windshield auto pays the tolls around the area. The cost for the rental was about $30, plus the cost of tolls. My route was going to take me east and out of Dallas, so I was not going to be traveling any toll roads. As soon as I declined, the up sell picked up speed. I was told that I needed the device to keep from being charged $50 when I ran a toll booth. Driving around town, there was no way I wouldn’t run onto a toll road, and end up paying more than the cost of the sensor rental.

I am not one to just blindly follow a sales suggestion. I live in Orlando. We have tons of toll roads, and two toll companies to pay (Sunpass and E pass). I know how to get around toll roads. It is not required for people to drive on them. I almost grabbed my cards and went to another rental place, paying more just to not have to deal with a company that would do something this slimy. But, I also don’t like it when sales people try to take advantage of folks from out of town. So I began to probe this assertion, vigorously. I never raised my voice, but I did not let this lie, well, lie. The subjects we covered in the conversation were:

– What roads were toll roads? And weren’t the main highways still free?

– Why could I not pay cash at the tolls booth??

– I used to live in DFW, and never owned a toll sensor, and never got a ticket for running one.

– If, as he said toll gates no longer accepted cash, what were the booths at the airport parking/toll gates where people were handing money to toll employees?

– How did tourists who drive into Dallas/Ft Worth without a sensor not get a $50 ticket if this was required to drive around town?

– If there is no way to drive legal without a sensor, why is it even an option? Just roll it into the price of the car.

– And finally, just to be clear, was he telling me there was no way to drive off airport property without getting a $50 ticket for running a toll?

That last one allowed him to back down. During the conversation the sales guy kept saying that I would invariably get a ticket if I didn’t get the sensor. I refused to believe it. His colleague was sitting nearby, with his head in is hands while this went on.

He replied, that no, I could drive off the airport property without getting a ticket for running a toll. I said I must have misunderstood him then, when he had said just the opposite a few minutes before. He then finished the paperwork, checked the car, and off I went.

I know that was uncomfortable for the salesman. He made a statement that was a lie: I would get a $50 fine without his sensor. Instead of backing off when I pushed him, he pressed forward. Yes, if I ran a toll booth I would get a fine. But depending on where I was driving, I may not need the sensor at all. His lie had put him in a bad place. Maybe he was trying to make up the discount I got from using a booking website. Either way, he was trying very hard, and not being truthful

It didn’t have to be that way. He could have tried to sell me the sensor rental, and if I was driving in areas with toll roads, it might have been worth my trouble to get it. As soon as I said no thanks, he could have backed down. But since he started with the lie, he had no where to go. Short of admitting he had told something short of the truth, he was locked into his lie. That kind of life is no fun. He might have lied to me and gotten an extra $30 for his company, but what would he have personally gained?

Living a life of integrity is much easier, and much more fulfilling. The thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to try to remember what lie you told. You just tell the truth. There’s no stress. There’s no worry, and you can sleep at night. Whatever short-term benefit you might gain from lying isn’t worth the cost of losing your integrity.

By the way, I arrived at the hotel and didn’t pass a single toll booth.

Knowing the End Changes Things

I’m in the middle of reading a book again. I’ve read it once before, so I know that a main character is killed toward the end of the book. The entire experience is different. Every conversation has different undertones, and no matter how much I’d prefer to be in the dark, the end I know is coming over shadows the plot.

I was struck again by the fact that I have read Revelation. I know the end. That fact should overshadow the rest of my life.

My Show

Did I mention I have a show idea, finally? One that I haven’t discarded within a week? I do. Plus I have a few characters lined out, and the pilot plot outline, as well as a start on the script. And even themes for the first 13 episodes.

It’s a sitcom, based on a college student. The idea sprung from a conversation with Eric Bramlett at this year’s Exponential conference. This was right after his parody of Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” had come out, and I had lamented the fact that Christians don’t believe in comedy. I know, some do, but the capital “C” church as a whole doesn’t seem to. Aside from kids shows, I can’t name one Christian comedy movie.

So after we chatted over a Coca Cola (That’s what I had anyway) I kept looking for a show idea. I just kept coming back to doing a comedy. I think that a reality show might be easier, not that any show would be easy. But a comedy has all the elements of a drama, but also has to be funny. I need actual actors and sets and scripts that are funny.

That’s the clincher. I can pretty much get people to watch anything, once (given enough advertising muscle). But it has to be good. And since i want non Christians to watch, has to be interesting to them and not cheesy. It has to be funny. So I’m working on it. I had a writer friend of mine look at some ideas. Once I get some more stuff fleshed out I may ask him and his writing partner to help me finish the first script.

Then I need to find some people who can catch the vision, some prayer warrior types. And I need some people with money. I was thinking about using Kickstarter. Of course, I need a budget, and actors, and a crew… and help. But one step at a time.

Target audience of 18-34 year olds who use social media. Delivery through the internet. Funny, compelling comedy that views characters from a biblical perspective. That’s the dream.

“Dear Netflix” – This is a Test

Yesterday Netflix announced new pricing for its content. The reaction was immediate and loud.

Since then “Dear Netflix” has been a top trending topic on twitter and their Facebook page has gotten tens of thousands of negative comments. So as a company that appeals to people who want to stream content online, and has multiple social media accounts, I would have thought they would have been all over this.

I mean, the blog posts and email I got was so full of positive spin on how this was a good thing for me, I expected to see more of that. Instead there hasn’t been an echo from them, as far as I can see. No tweets, no replies, just silence as the social world repeatedly smacks them for raising prices.

Where are the posts about how you just renewed a bunch of the streaming content? How about defending the move? Or acknowledging that the circumstances about this stink for many of us? How about a straightforward admission that it costs a lot of money to get this streaming content, and they needed more revenue? Something?

Netflix is very quiet. How they respond is critical to their reputation online, which really matters for a video streaming company.

Dear Netflix, “Dear Netflix” is a test. Don’t fail it.

Dear Netflix- An Open Letter From a Loyal Subscriber

Dear Netflix,

Today, after a few websites leaked the news, you officially announced a new pricing scheme for your subscriptions.

Before I get into the meat of this, let me acknowledge two things: Netflix (or something like it) is the future of video entertainment. Netflix, as a for profit company offering a non essential service, has the right to charge whatever they want and I can pay it or cancel my subscription.

That being said, what is the deal, Netflix? In less than one year you have almost doubled my monthly subscription cost? I’ve gone from $9 to $10, and now come September I will be paying $16 for the same service I once paid $9 for. Please don’t dress it up by saying:

“Since then we have realized that there is still a very large continuing demand for DVDs both from our existing members as well as non-members. Given the long life we think DVDs by mail will have, treating DVDs as a $2 add on to our unlimited streaming plan neither makes great financial sense nor satisfies people who just want DVDs.”

That is bunk. There is no need to eliminate the Streaming+DVD plans just to create DVD only plans.

To be fair, when I started paying $9 the streaming content was not as robust as it is now. And I did not complain when the modest $1 a month increase hit. I understand that acquiring new content for streaming is expensive, and some studios want a lot of money for the right to let us watch their shows and movies.

I know that’s why you are raising the prices. I think that you hope two things will happen. Either people will choose streaming only options, giving you more leverage with studios about the number of streaming viewers or they will pay more, giving you more money to buy the rights to more shows for streaming.

But there is a third thing that will also happen: people will cancel their subscriptions completely. If the comments on the blog I linked to are any indication, a lot of people are thinking about it. But you already know that don’t you:

“As always, our members can easily choose to change or cancel their unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both…”

Here is my dilemma. I would rather just stream all of my content. I have devices on all of my TVs that can stream from Netflix. I normally maintain over 50 titles in my queue, mostly TV shows. I love it. But, I want the new releases as well. I want to get a new DVD release sometime within a few months of its release date. So we have the single disc plan as well. Now because you have seen fit to split their service, I get to pay twice for those services. No discount. If the streaming content was almost as much as the available DVD content, I would just stop getting the discs, but it’s not.

It’s not nearly as much. Thats why you need to raise money and grow their number of “only-streaming” subscribers, so you can increase the amount of streaming content. But that means making people mad, and you may lose subscribers. Which weakens your position with the studios and lessens the monthly income. People who don’t want to pay $16 are going to be mad that they are losing access to content they have had previously. They are not going to be satisfied with the current streaming catalog, which is why you need to take steps to increase the catalog… by raising revenue, etc… I get the catch 22 you are in.

I would not mind paying a bit more. I like the way the catalog of streaming content has been expanding. But you should offer a discount for people who want to keep both streaming and discs. At least until the streaming content catches up with the available disc content.

Meanwhile I’m going to sit back and hope you bow to the public pressure that’s coming your way. I’m going to console myself with the fact that in reality, even $16 a month is a fraction of what it would cost to go to a local store and rent the same content for viewing that I get from you every month. I’m going to continue to ignore the reoccurring issues with streaming to an Apple TV 2. And I’m going to relish the thought that if you mess this up, someone else will come along and provide the same service you do, better, for less.

Right now you’re leading the pack, today you stumbled.



I received this form email tonight (Not in response to anything, I’m sure everyone got one):

“We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

Your current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:

Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month
Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming) for $7.99 a month

Your price for getting both of these plans will be $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). You don’t need to do anything to continue your memberships for both unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs.

These prices will start for charges on or after September 1, 2011.

You can easily change or cancel your unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both, by going to the Plan Change page in Your Account.

We realize you have many choices for home entertainment, and we thank you for your business. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to call us at 1-888-357-1516.

–The Netflix Team”

At least this one sounds little more accurate: “separate plans to better reflect the costs of each.” Of course it would be probably more accurate if they just said, “To pay for buying more streaming licenses.”

Why I’m Not a Successful Blogger

I break all the rules in blogging.

I don’t focus on one thing. I write about anything and everything. If I want to be a successful blogger I should pick a subject: tech, ministry, or something. And write about that. I could say that I am focused on writing for other media minister types which would encompass many of the things I write about, but then I would just go write about something off the wall and blow that theory apart.

I don’t write in a consistent voice. I change up my style of writing too much. One post I’m sarcastic, another serious, another dry and technical. People never know what to expect.

I don’t post enough content. Let’s face it, a year ago I was posting four times a week, but now I’m lucky to post more than once a week. I’m not driving a lot of repeat traffic.

I don’t promote myself well. I let WordPress auto post my title to twitter, but that’s about it. I changed blog themes so that the RSS feed was more visible. I put relevant tags in the post, so search engines can find it, but I don’t always post the links to every post to Facebook, and I almost never re post them anywhere, even though I know that most people are following or are friends with a lot of people so there is a good chance my blog post got missed in their news feed. These are a few simple things, but they can really work.

If you want to be a successful blogger, do the opposite of me. Pick a topic area, write about it often, in a consistent way and then promote the fire out of what you have written. I know that as long as I break these rules, I won’t get above an average of 100 hits a day (Mostly on the tech posts). But you don’t have to follow my example.

Trusting in the Dark: Current Frustrations can Lead to Future Benefits

Last night I was reminded of an event in my life, which at the time was so very frustrating, but ultimately became a pivotal moment for me. I was frustrated because my desires were thwarted. But if I had gotten my way I would be a different person.

You see, I was trying to get back into college. I had left school as a Recording Industry Management major at MTSU, quitting to work in a recording studio. I felt God calling me to a different role in ministry. I had thought I was in my dream job, but after a couple of years I was not satisfied with just facilitating other’s ministry. The limit of my creativity was deciding which EQ setting I dialed in, and which compressor setting was used. It was important work, but I felt God had something more in mind.

So I quit and went back to school with a goal to finish as quickly as possible, and go on to seminary. I thought I was going to be a youth pastor. I had n idea what lay ahead of me, except that I needed to get out of college fast so I could move on to seminary. My plan was to go back to MTSU and finish my recording degree.

The RIM program at MTSU was very structured. You had a specific schedule of classes you needed to take each semester to graduate on time. Each class built on the previous one. I had stopped in the middle of that process, so I had one particular studio class I needed to take in order to stay on track to graduate. MTSU did phone registration at that time, and you had to call in during your specific time, or you might find your class filled. Some only had 16 spots.

I knew that the registration date was approaching, but I had not gotten my information. So I called the school, and found out that my time for registration had been the day before. It was a clerical error on their part, but no amount of reasoning could get them to kick another student out of a full class. I was stuck. If I continued on the RIM degree plan I would graduate a semester later than I had hoped. That was not going to do. I didn’t care what degree I got, I just wanted out so I could go be a youth pastor, or whatever God wanted.

So I talked with a counselor at the school, she showed me that I could switch to the Radio/TV program and get out on time. I graduated, on time, with a Radio/TV emphasis from MTSU. While in school I got a part time job as a youth minister, and 9 months later I was glad God showed me that was not what I would be doing with my life.

Instead, one of the most frustrating things I had ever faced in my young life turned out to be God’s hand at work. I can’t imagine what I would be doing if I had not switched majors. Both the experiences and education in audio and video have been invaluable in my carer and ministry. Yet if I had my way back then, I would never have learned about video. I was completely in the dark about my future, and why God was letting this horrible event slow me down and change my path.

But God knew all along.

What event or delay in your life is frustrating you? You may have no control of the situation, may not be able to see ahead, but God can.