Search This Blog

You Don't Exist & The Economy Doesn't Either


Yesterday one of my kids said to her friend: ""Excuse me, you interrupted me. I'd like to finish what I was saying."

The friend had been talking over her, around her, up and down ignoring her, for an hour. But she responded as if my kid had no basis for irritation. She said, with a bit of an edge, "So-rry! Like if you want to say something, just go ahead and say it."

Obviously that would be a difficult thing to do if you can't get a word in edgewise.

It was a snippet of a conversation that had been ongoing all day. But when I thought about it a bit, it occurred to me that just in that day alone, both professionally and personally, both in real life and in the worlds of media, politics and pop culture, I could think of about half a dozen other examples of people being edged out of a conversation by skillful manipulators of body language, word tone, and the English language itself.

And it occurred to me that when people are constantly talking past each other, it is very hard to have a meaningful conversation. So the problems that exist are not solved. Because the interchanges don't involve any connection at all. Instead they are like a form of warfare, designed for one party to crush the other while preserving the appearance of a   real battle of ideas.

Is it any wonder that our magical economy, inflated for so long by good fortune rather than actual productivity, is deflating?

And that the effort to shore it up with puffy words is falling flat despite our desperate wishes to the contrary?

I don't believe for one second that Americans can't compete. We absolutely can.

The problem is that we've gotten used to a system where leadership means saying, in effect, "I'm right and not only are they wrong, but they don't even exist...they are crazy and nobody really agrees with them."

This is the definition of a mental and social pathology.

Instead of admitting that our opponents are right - about anything - we pretend that they are nuts. By manipulating words, body language, and communication itself to try and dominate the conversation and edge them out.

I read something from a Jewish mystical point of view (Kabbalah) which said that the current economic crisis is really a crisis of egos stretched to the breaking point.

As long as we puff our egos up and try to put others down, we aren't going to get anywhere.

The real war we face is a war on poverty. We need to resolve it now. In this day and age, with all the technologies available to us and all the knowledge we can harness collectively, nobody should ever go hungry, be homeless, face life on the lawless streets, or be unable to receive basic healthcare.

Until we join forces with our enemies and get our egos out of the way, the stock market is going to continue to bounce around wildly.

When we wake up and get humble - when we realize that the way to advance ourselves is to help somebody else get up - that will be the day that the economy recovers.

I hope that day comes soon.

Have a good weekend everyone, and good luck!


Image source here

19 Tips for Engaging A Geographically Dispersed Workforce (Employee Communications)

I know, I know, it would have been cleaner with 20. Feel free to add the last one...

1. Work within the culture, not against it.

2. Keep your message consistent across channels/platforms.

3. Customize your external message to an internal audience.

4. Use technology to facilitate human interaction, not replace it.

5. Treat technology as a necessity not an option.

6. Use technology strategically—filter information to the right people at the right time.

7. Don’t over-write—short and simple is best online, where people scan and don’t read.

8. Longer documents should be in deeper links that people can print if they need to.

9. Use technology to inform your employees of an issue before the media does.

10. Customize delivery of information according to employee usage habits—email, online, handheld device, etc.

11. Keep print materials available—just use them sparingly.

12. Use multiple and overlapping channels to communicate—not just one.

13. Collaborate extensively to achieve buy-in.

14. Keep technology simple—especially for the communicators who will use it.

15. Evolve strategy and execution continuously—never rest on your laurels.

16. Accept criticism (e.g. via blog) but insist that employees put their name on it.

17. Ask for feedback and take action based on it.

18. Don’t make excuses about metrics—generate them and put them to good use.

19. Test your message before you send it—and check everything, to the smallest detail.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!


Image source here

10 Brands & 5 Ways To Stop Government Squabbling


Right now government has a bit of a brand problem in that people think we're not only lazy, but a bit crazy as well. (Or maybe just dysfunctional.) After all a normal organization, confronted by the threat of collapse, would fight for its own survival. Whereas we seem only to eat our own.

What most people don't understand is that 1) government workers actually work pretty hard and care a lot, too and 2) the dysfunction that you see is caused primarily by passionate ideological differences about how best to help our country prosper.

Perhaps the worst brand problem government has is the perception that we "live off the people." This one has got to go. For again, the reality is that we don't really have an effective metric for social stewardship - or at least not one that is clearly visible and understandable to all. Meaning, we don't really know when we're winning, except that we can talk about what percentage of money goes directly to operations as opposed to overhead (a metric offered by Roy Luebke that makes a lot of sense to me.)

This isn't the place to offer branding techniques to the government. It's all pretty obvious stuff, it's findable anywhere, and so I'm not going to waste time on it other than to emphasize: Your brand is the impression that OTHER PEOPLE have of you, not what you tell them, and in a social media society all you can do is try to participate influentially in the conversation.

Moving on to a more direct solution that could not only help government recover its credibility, but actually help solve the problems we face concerning the economy and realize the President's vision of a more broadly participatory democracy: Get great brands, themselves, involved.

Here are 10 such brands - there are of course many more - that can be instrumental in helping government recover, and some specific and simple ways they can do so. What's critical in each case, though, is that the brands remain nonpartisan facilitators of a conversation rather than quietly taking sides:

1. Facebook: Similar to group pages, set up "issue" pages, where people have an opportunity to "like" an issue (deem it important) and contribute their thoughts via wall posts. 

2. Google: The possibilities are really endless when it comes to Google because this brand takes searchability and collaboration to a whole new level. Just a few ideas here: Use a shared Google Doc for brainstorming. Use a shared Google Projects site to show the steps toward accomplishing a specific policy goal. Have leaders share items or whole reading lists via Google Reader so that the public can follow their thinking. Set up a Google Voice number where the public can leave messages with their viewpoints on specific issues. Etc.

3. Starbucks/Dunkin' Donuts/Panera: Use those long wooden tables where people study to host community conversations about important topics. When times get tough, those conversations can lead to self-help groups where people help each other through tough economic times by helping each other out. For example, community potluck dinners can be scheduled; babysitting groups that enable mothers who can't otherwise afford childcare to go to work; action planning around public transportation; etc.

4. How about a promotion where an important book is made available at a discount price to encourage the nation to read about critical topics of interest? Or they could organize food drives in which people send or donate food items to a central distribution warehouse, and then they ship food to those in need?

5. Microsoft/McDonald's/Coca-Cola: Bill Gates is pioneering the science of technology for developing countries, primarily by helping them fight disease. McDonald's knows how to feed people cheaply. Coca-Cola understands how to reach anyone, anytime, anywhere with an appealing global brand. What if these three brands teamed up to develop mass-market solutions to pressing public problems that can be delivered more cheaply than government would? Three prime examples: preventive healthcare by machine (e.g. automated blood pressure check); food, shelter, and safe public restrooms for the homeless.

Great mass-market brands have the ability to unite people, organize them, and serve them efficiently - bringing them joy. If government were to think like a brand, and team up with great brands, all of us would reap the profits - empowering citizens and making this country happier, healthier, wealthier and wiser overall. Using difficult times as an inspiration point to think bigger and go beyond. Truly there are no limits, except in the mind.

Have a great day everyone, and good luck!


Image source here

5 Personal Branding Tips for a Stock Market Crash


Now obviously isn't the time for niceties so I'll just jump in here with some simple advice. Avoiding the cliches in favor of fresh thinking.

1. Divide & conquer on price: In a price-sensitive economy you can't ignore the price wars completely. So establish a value-level brand, a midlevel brand, and a premium brand. Let's say you're a consultant: There are things you do that cost a ton of money, and others you basically give away. If Think Banana Republic, Gap (needs fixing, I know), and Old Navy.

2. Convert from "Mechanical Turk" to "Angie's List": If what you do can be automated, get out of it. Quickly, elevate yourself from a worker to a service provider like no other. Do you answer the phones? Add something to that job that makes an executive's life easier. Run a plumbing business? Walk the dog as a freebie and now you are a "home life support specialist." Wake up and brand yourself differently now.

3. Find a second job or create one. Even if you work full-time, you can do something on a freelance basis. Cook for a busy parent, or a block of busy parents. Write. Teach. Babysit. Diversification of your income stream helps you achieve financial balance in an unstable marketplace.

4. Learn a new, hyper-technical skill that you can master. If you are far enough ahead of the curve, your skill makes you valuable and not a Mechanical Turk. I won't list any here - because you'll tell me that they're obsolete already - but in your industry, you know what they are. Even a commonplace skill can be difficult and esoteric enough to fit here if others need it, they can't figure it out, but you can. Example: decorating cupcakes. 

5. Pick up the gold laying free on the street: People haven't figured out how to monetize good content because so many others are giving it away for free. That means opportunity for you. Whatever your line of work, read avidly the tips available about how to optimize your business. Then use them. Because most people are too busy to pay attention.

It's a difficult time, but we can pull through it. In the meanwhile, keep your wits about you, and good luck!


Image source here