The Top Outspoken Media Moments of 2009


Okay, folks, it’s the end of the year and we’re ready to have a little fun and maybe some belly laughs.  To help get us ready for 2010 we thought we’d recount the best Outspoken Media moments from the year 2009.  Are you ready for this?

[Note: I asked Rhea and Rae for suggestions, but these are really just my own personal favorites. When they blog regularly they’ll get to have a say. Love you, ladies!]

The Top Outspoken Media Moments are…

The Forming of ‘Outloud Media’

What’s Outloud Media, you ask? Well, Outloud Media is what I called Outspoken Media the first two weeks that we existed. Because I thought that was the name of the company! Rhea likes to tell people I called it this for months. But Rhea has a propensity towards lying. It was two weeks. Unfortunately, those two weeks also included the time period where I was writing an entire Web site about all the wonderful services that the brand new Outloud Media would provide. Luckily I had Rhea and Rae to spot check. Yeah.

Outspoken Media Gets Streko’d

streko’d: To get unintentionally, but often very dumbly, outed. This typically refers to someone opening their big Jersey mouth, but can also include informing people in other ways. Like through analytics data.

Outspoken Media was streko’d twice in 2009. The first time we were streko’d was by its namesake, Michael Streko, himself. Streko was part of a very small inner circle of friends that knew about Outloud Outspoken Media before the general public and was sworn to super secrecy. Naturally, we wanted to control our coming out party. Streko promised to keep our secret. What he didn’t tell us was that he would start clicking on links in our blogroll and alerting people through their analytics that the site existed. [waves to Kim Krause-Berg] Way to keep a secret, Streko!

…And Streko’d Again!

It was the Wall Street Journal that accidentally streko’d us the second time around. Julia Angwin contacted us to let us know that her article A Makeover for Your Google Results featuring Rhea would be publishing two weeks earlier than schedule – and in 24 hours. At that moment we had no Web site up. We didn’t even have a Welcome page. So began the scramble to get up a respectable looking ‘Hey, You Found Us’ page that would let people know that, yes, we were the company just quoted in the WSJ and, [nervous giggle], we’d have a Web site up in 14 days. Come back then. That’s right. We were outed to the world by the Wall Street Journal. Talk about pressure early street cred.

The Dance Heard ‘Round the World

To date (and maybe forever), the most popular post on the Outspoken Media blog has absolutely nothing to do with SEO or Internet marketing. It’s a post called The Power Of The Unexpected and was a video I found on Twitter and posted as a last resort for content. That video, that most people found first through our Web site, ended up becoming one of the biggest Internet sensations of 2009. Our post went hot on Digg, went through the roof on StumbeUpon and exploded in ways that we couldn’t have manipulated, let alone predicted. Now should I be angry that the most popular post on our site was a video of folks dancing around to Chris Brown? Probably. But I’m still giggle-crying too hard at the video to care. That post and the viral explosion around it was proof that sometimes things just happen and take on a life of their own that you never imagined. Kind of like Outspoken Media.

[BTW – Major props to our hosting company NetWisp (formerly Power Storm) for kicking Digg’s ass with only a minor hiccup under all that weight. You guys ROCK!]

Lisa Loses Outspoken A Major Client

The pony I didn't get.

Lots of people wonder if my Twitter account ever gets Outspoken Media in trouble with clients. Well, I can tell you that this year it got me into trouble in a very big way. Here’s what happened: Outspoken Media was about to sign a huge household name client to a very lovely social media contract. We had talked with them quite a bit, things were looking good and we were in the very final negotiation stages of the deal. And then I tweeted something. It was something I meant lightheartedly and as a joke but the company found it to be both inappropriate and offensive. They asked that I go back and delete the tweet. We had a decision to make in that moment – change who we were in order to land the biggest client we’ve ever had or stay true to ourselves. We chose the latter and the tweet still stands. It’s a decision we definitely don’t regret, however, that doesn’t mean I don’t get shit for it every time the three partners are together. But let’s be real: If they found my Twitter account offensive, did we really ever want to leave them alone on a call with Rae? Not likely.

Getting Robbed in Canada

In July Rhea and I road-tripped it up to Canada to visit Rae and get in some quality partner bonding time. We spent time working together around Rae’s dining room table, taking in the sights of Guelph (read: The Tim Horton’s drive-thru) and, you know, getting robbed when someone left the front door wide open overnight. Rae (naturally) went unscathed in the mess, however, Rhea lost her wallet and I suffered a stolen laptop. But, hey, at least we got a good blog post out of it, right? And you know what they say – the company that gets robbed together, STAYS TOGETHER! :)

[RIP Blue Dell. You were the best computer I ever owned. I miss you every day. ]

Introducing Rae To My Conservative Father

While in town for Affiliate Summit East someone got the bright idea to arrange a time for Rae to come out to dinner with my parents and little brother. (I think it was Rae and a sign she hates me.) I’m not even going to give this a description. Just try to imagine it in your head.  Rae hanging out with my ultra conservative dad. When you’re done, go lie down and chew on a Xanax.

My Biggest Blogging Mistake Ever

In April I made what I consider to be my biggest blogging mistake ever. I got scared and turned off comments on a controversial post. The post in question was titled It’s Not The Recession, You Just Suck and I made the decision to turn off comments after it seemed like people were just finding new ways to kick one another. To be honest, it was the first post I had written that hit that strong of a nerve and I think I just wasn’t sure how to handle it. But I shouldn’t have closed comments. I wrote the post the way I saw fit and I should have allowed the people to continue commenting on a post that obviously struck a chord. I’ve been criticized quite a bit in the blogosphere and even in a heated LinkedIn thread for my decision. Last week I was accused of cutting off the comments as a way to silence critics. And while that wasn’t true, it made me feel even more horrible for having done it. I apologize to anyone who wanted to share their two cents on that post and couldn’t. Had I left the comments on, that post likely would have been our most viewed post of the year. Mea culpa.

Getting Dawn

In October, we hired Dawn Wentzell as Outspoken’s new Senior Account Manager and we went from three to four. And it was amazing. Dawn’s exceptional and the value she’s brought to Outspoken in the few months we’ve had her has been incredible. Hiring Dawn also allowed us to take on more clients and to do a bit more with clients we already had. For me, bringing on Dawn also felt a little like we were really *doing this*. We had started a company in January and were thriving enough that we needed to, and could afford, bringing on an additional teammate. The family was getting bigger and feeling more stable. It rocked.

Scoble Throws an Epic Temper Tantrum

I called Robert Scoble silly and he threw the temper tantrum to end all temper tantrums right on our very blog. He puffed up his geeky chest, insinuated I missed the point a few dozen times, called our commenters idiots and acted as though I had kicked his little puppy in the face right in front of him. In the end, Robert Scoble left nearly 20 comments on our post in his quest to defend his honor and achievements as the SEO community took him to task for once again putting his foot in his mouth. And of course, the harder he kicked, the more some decided to play with him. It wasn’t the first time Robert visited our blog to throw things and I don’t imagine it’ll be the last. See you next year, Robert!

Barone vs Godin

You know the story. In September Seth Godin launched Brands in Public, which registered brands’ community pages, threw content on them, and then charged companies $400 a month to control them. We called it brandjacking and the community agreed. The post ignited on Twitter, eventually earning some attention from AdAge, TechCrunch, BusinessWeek and was just labeled one of the Top SEO Smackdowns of 2009 by Gil Reich. In the end, the firestorm proved worth it as Seth Godin decided to change his stance and make his Brands in Public system opt-in rather than opt-out. And I couldn’t help but feel our community helped that to happen. Our part in fixing that situation is without a doubt one of the things I’m most proud of this year.

Making Our Clients Outspoken

I think I speak for Rhea, Rae, Dawn and myself when I say the best moment for Outspoken Media this year has been being able to work with an all-star list of clients. We still hold a 100 percent retention rate after our first year of business and I couldn’t be more proud of everything that we’ve accomplished this year. Rhea and I left our last gig because we wanted more control in how we were doing things. And being able to come in and really do things up to our standards has allowed to us trust that forming Outspoken Media in 2009 really was the absolutely best decision for us. And we have our clients and our community to thank – so thank you.

While 2009 did not go as I expected, professionally it’s been an incredible year and one to definitely take in.  And it’s a result of everyone who has found a home here in our little community – all of the clients, the colleagues, friends and our blog readers. The support that you’ve given Outspoken from day one has been overwhelming, and we thank you for that from the bottom of our hearts.

Here’s to another great year.

Your Comments

  • reese

    My favorite part in all this is your decision to screw the big name company in the name of sticking to your own values.

    It’s a line in the sand–and if you choose to cross it, that decision changes your company henceforth. You end up questioning, time and again, whether what you’re doing will be offensive to the client, and this gets in the way of you growing your business and doing what you do best.

    And, sleeping well at night.

    Love this line:
    “But let’s be real: If they found my Twitter account offensive, did we really ever want to leave them alone on a call with Rae? Not likely.”

    The f bombs would have been flying!

    • Lisa Barone

      It definitely would have changed the culture of Outspoken had we chosen to compromise ourselves and we weren’t ready to go there. Even if that contract would have been awesome. And really? If people find ME to be the offensive one of the bunch…uh, that relationship wouldn’t have lasted long. :)

  • DanielthePoet

    I thoroughly enjoyed this recounting of the first year of Outspoken Media. While I’d love to see a client list just so I can pacify my curiosity, your blogs and tweets have earned enough notoriety to say that you have made the right career choice in starting up Outspoken.

    I can’t say that I know of a single other company whose beginning year was this entertaining or transparent.

    • Lisa Barone

      Not sure many of our clients would be happy if we offered up a client list. ;)

      Appreciate the words, though. I don’t think we know how to be anything other than way too transparent. We’re just us. It’s been quite a ride though. :)

      • DanielthePoet

        Merely for the sake of argument: would it be a double standard to promote a culture of transparency and then not tell the world who your clients are? Seems like an argument could be made there that transparency is inaccurate.

        And for the record, I’m not going to get huffy based on your response. I’m a debater, and I look for topics like these.

        Actually, I think this would make an excellent blog post, if you’re up for it. “Agency Transparency and Client Privacy: How they fit… or don’t.”

        I’m sure a few of us would chime in on the subject. Ultimately, the inner workings of an agency can be fascinating, but without client disclosure, it’s like a reality show that’s been censored for Prime Time.


  • Scott

    Congratulations on a great roller coaster ride. All the best for 2010!

    No matter what else, the posts are always thought-provoking (and isn’t that the idea?).

  • Kieran Hawe

    One of my favorite posts of all-time from you Lisa – the honesty from both a negative and positive perspective is something most bloggers lack these days.

  • Ross Hudgens

    This website has definitely made my 40 hour work weeks more entertaining. Congrats on the year that was and here’s to another great one to come.

  • Marshall

    Congrats on the 1st year!

    Your posts have been educational, entertaining (edu-taining, perhaps) and inspiring. Great work and I look forward to the posts over the coming years.

  • Streko

    I will say this, granted i streko’d you in the start – but when the WSJ published early it was me who did the landing page and locked down the blog as well as put the images up, etc etc.

    [**pats self on back**]

    • Lisa Barone

      Yes, you did, Streko. I remember the cascading sparkle fairies very well. Those were awesome. <3

      • Streko

        HAHAHA! I forgot I did that! That was hilarious – Rae was so pissed when she saw that.

        Next time I have to do something on your server they are going back up, i don’t care what that Rae says – its simple math.

        Sparkling falling fairies + SEO/SEM company blog = profit

  • Virginia

    I feel like I just got let in on the best secrets of SEO. What an incredible inside look at the first year of a blazing start-up. Congrats to the four of you on an amazing year!

  • Matt Sullivan

    Lisa & Outspoken Team,
    Congrats on the 1st year, especially surviving in Troy.

    Hold onto you values & culture. I currently work at a start-up that is the most energetic and refreshing company I’ve ever worked for, and much of that is due to the culture that is, um, cultured here.


  • Dawn Wentzell

    I was my favourite Outspoken moment of 2009 too! No really, I’m really happy to have been on board the last several months. Quite possibly the most random interview process ever, including Skyping with Streko and test driving my alcohol tolerance the night before you guys were robbed. But I’ve learned a ton and am glad I’ve been a help!

    Looking forward to an awesome 2010 for Outspoken Media!

  • Stuart Foster

    You guys are the shit.

    Really can’t say much else.

  • Rae Hoffman

    My favorite Outspoken moments of 2009? In no particular order…

    – Seeing Lisa, minding her own business at IMSB in the bar having a drink and a chat forcibly carried out of the bar, onto the back patio and thrown, fully clothed into the pool after giving up her death clutch on her BlackBerry because she realized she was going in with or without it. There is a video, but Susan loves Lisa too much to ever publish it.

    – Our first dinner as a company, the three bottles of champagne consumed during it and Lisa clapping like a seal when she found out the third bottle was coming and breaking a champagne flute in a very fancy California restaurant.

    – Dawn, the sink and McDonalds… and that’s all I am gonna say about that.

  • Joe Hall

    My favorite Outspoken moment:

    It was a warm April night, in southern Florida. I think Rae was drinking 2 beers at once, Lisa was swimming in the pool, fully clothed, and Rhea was sitting quietly making awkward comments under her breath. And, I thought to myself…..this company is magical.

  • Jill Whalen

    I’m just happy you chose to link to me at the top of your most popular post, thanks! :)

    And congrats for a well-done 2009 (to all of you). From the name of the company (the real one) and most everything that you guys are publicly doing, you seem to be very much on the right track.

  • Melanie Phung

    Congrats guys! Love the blog, love the ass-kicking you deliver and wishing you even more success in 2010. You work hard, you deserve it!

  • Michael Martin

    This is refreshing for a company to actually publicly post about screw-ups and missteps as it does have the quality people behind it to endure & come out on top.

    I met all the lovely ladies of Outspoken Media & in my opinion they encompass the best minds & talent in the industry.

    Maybe in 2010 there should be be some exposure to the men behind the scenes that do the programming else this will become Outspoken BlogHer Media ;)

    ,Michael Martin

    • Rae Hoffman

      What men behind the scenes? There are no men behind the scenes of Outspoken LOL. You’re thinking of my other company, MFE Interactive, me thinks. :)

    • Lisa Barone

      I think the men who help out with Outspoken from time to time (namely Michael Streko, Chris Pearson and Michael Gray) get quite a bit of well-deserved love, attention, and whoring from the ladies of Outspoken. Personally, I’m hoping that 2010 brings the first male employee to Outspoken! We need some testosterone to balance out Rae.

      I mean, um, I have to go blog something…

      • Rae Hoffman

        Yes, Michael, Streko and Pearson were awesome and well pimped for their help. :) And bite me Barone… we don’t hire based on gender (my other company is predominately male in employees)… we just hire who “fits”. :)

  • Martin

    Congrats on Outspoken Media’s 1st year!
    All your posts have been insightful, interesting and informative.

    Lisa, you rock!


  • Greg Finn

    Congrats on 2009 guys! It was a pleasure getting to know you all and see you build Outspoken from the ground up. I wish you continued success with Outspoken in 2010!

  • Braden

    Ha! Outload – that’s awesome.

    Didn’t know you had roughed it up with Godin. You moguls, you.

    Congrats on a good year. Champagne!

  • Griffin Granberg

    it has been a pleasure this year to meet (in person) and spend time with outspoken media and their internet famdamly. :)

    I am thoroughly looking forward to more of these times in 2010. :) //g

  • Michelle Robbins

    Congrats on a fantastic year to four truly smart & talented women! I don’t usually have much time to read blogs, but I never miss an Outspoken post. The voice of this blog within the community, and as a representative for it is incredibly valuable. You rock \m/ :)

  • Brian Harnish

    Well, I would have to say that it’s been quite an outrageous year for all of you. Outspoken Media is always one of the top groups of blogs that I check on on a consistent basis to see what’s been written and updated. My favorites of course, were the temper tantrums of one Robert Scoble and outbursts against Seth Godin’s Brandjacking. Both drive home a couple opposing points: you can’t be the village idiot and expect to succeed, and you can’t screw people and expect to succeed either. Well, the latter probably happens more often than not with consequences to follow, but the former is just laughable.

    Congrats Rhea, Rae, and Lisa for an outstanding year of Outspoken Media. I can’t wait to see what 2010 will bring.

  • Kristy

    What a crazy awesome year!! Very happy for all of the success you ladies have seen and most definitely earned! Also, very happy to see the pony in this post :)

  • Gil Reich

    Hey, thanks for the link. As you probably know, I love your writing. Have a great 2010!

  • Andre

    Can’t wait to see what 2010 has in store for Outspoken. It has been fun AND a great learning experience to watch how you all respond to different situations.

  • Thomas M. Schmitz

    The launch and success of Outspoken Media might be THE SEO story of the year. Congratulations to all of you.

  • Simple Llama

    I wonder if Outloud Media would have been a better name for the company? At least it would fit Lisa & Rae pretty well.

    I don’t really care about SEO for the most part… except the basics (I know I’m missing out), but I’ve learned a ton about branding from Lisa. Definitely glad to have stumbled across her twitter profile / this site. Great team, great company, huge future. Congrats on a great year.

  • iggy

    “But Rhea has a propensity towards lying.”
    Hahahah It’s funny because it’s true.

  • Jim Rudnick

    As usual, thanks for sharing all, Lisa….and I learned something here again today…that ethics count more’n cash….but I do wonder, who “did” get that big social contract….now THAT’D be nice to know in a vicarious way….

    Best to the three of you in 2010! And continue to share, would you pls?



  • Curt

    Interesting business you have started here. I think you are on to something. I have a small website business and some of my clients are looking for more support for Internet Marketing. I will be following this blog next year and I expect great things.

  • Rick Glaser

    Hey Lisa, great article. I guess this answered a lot of the questions I was asking you at Flavours the other day :P

    Once again great work on everything, and best of luck in 2010 on all of your continued success!


  • Jim "Genuine" Turner

    Now how to get picked on by Lisa….

  • Data Entry Lady

    I totally enjoy your posts Lisa and look forward to more in 2010. Go girl!

  • visitor


    I’ve been a silent fan of your words for some time. ‘Lisa Loses Outspoken A Major Client’ is truly epic – even more respect for you and your company.

    Looking forward to more non-sugar-coated words in 2010 :)