Showing posts from March, 2012

Be A Passionate Advocate For Yourself

At the root of the productivity problem in America are three mistaken beliefs:

1."Busy-ness" and "productivity" are positively correlated.

2. Misery and productivity are positively correlated.

3. Being unhappy, uncomfortable, displeased, or angry is always bad for you.

A lot of stuff got done when we all believed the first two and rejected the third.

- We built factories and railroads and buildings under unsafe conditions for little pay.

- We bore children with no medicine to kill the pain. No shelter, no vaccines, meager food.

- We got into rickety ships with no plumbing and stood there in desperation and squalor. We prayed only to be allowed a chance at greater freedom and opportunity.

For most of human history, misery was the rule and constant toiling its natural companion.

A few people seemed to escape it. So we came to believe that the blessed classes were destined by G-d for exemption.

Calvinism told us - the saved are chosen in advance. ("The Protestant Ethic …

The New Demographic: People Who Can't Keep Up

Photo by Sasha Wolff via Flickr

So yesterday I was on Evernote writing down a "work/life balance list." The list quickly got so long that I ran out of time to finish writing it. And I realized that not only is it difficult to keep up to the old standard, but that the bar keeps getting raised. For example:
Income - the median income in this country isn't remotely close to covering what we see on TV as the ideal lifestyle, and the bar keeps being raised. Education - your career-related skills constantly require updating, new certification, literacy with best practices, etc.Professional advancement - educational degree; people skills; cultural savvy; collaboration skills; work/life balance; personal never stops evolving.Life organization - from tracking the oil change on the car to home maintenance, it all has to be done, tracked and accounted for. Housecleaning - laundry. It has to get done!Technology tools - no matter how fast or how much you learn, it's…

The Wrong People Are In Charge Of Marketing

Photo by Brad Montgomery via Flickr

Today I walked by a homeless lady on the street. She was leaning over a notebook, writing something. She had a shopping cart covered in plastic next to her. She was young like me and she was a writer like me.
How is it that we tolerate homelessness as a rampant social phenomenon? Basically, nobody has sold the masses on the idea that people living on the street is wrong.
This leads me to believe that the wrong people are in charge of marketing. We ought to be selling ideas that make people’s lives better. Not things they don’t need, don’t want, that just make them sicker and fatter and progressively more addicted to legal but unhealthy things.
I work for the government, where traditionally the words “let’s try some marketing techniques” go over just about as well as “let’s join a Satanic devil-worshiping ring and learn the techniques of occult magic.”
I can understand the resistance. Too often marketing is done by dirty people to make a dirty dollar. A…

Sell Your Heart, Not Your Product

Photo by Tim Regan via Flickr

The first thing people forget when starting a business is that people flock to brands, while only reluctantly do they buy products.

Instead they sell products and forget about the brand.

For example I have a friend who is starting a line of branded clothing. The line comes from her heart. It evokes a certain time in history, it brings up a piece of her heritage. And a lot of people understand this slice of time - it's much bigger and broader than any one piece of cotton.

But the first thing she said when I asked what she was selling was "T-shirts."

Another person started what seemed like a straightforward commodity business. The business is not about supplies, although on the surface it seems like it is. When you look more closely it becomes clear that it's about a certain mindset toward life. About living an alternative lifestyle, off the grid, and putting together esoteric products all by yourself that normally others would need to build f…

Communication, Marketing, Branding: The Difference?

This may seem pretty basic but it's always worthwhile to define basic terms. Otherwise they get murky fast:

1. Communication

This is the capacity to convey accurately an idea, argument, concept, fact, opinion, belief, etc.

It is accomplished through language (words), tone of voice, body language, and symbols (pictures).

It can take place face-to-face or remotely, one-on-one or in groups.

Communication can be direct or indirect, reality-based or mediated through culture.

It varies based on your gender, culture, ethnicity, geography, occupation, and more.

Communication varies so much it is sometimes amazing we understand each other at all.

2. Marketing

Marketing is the art and science of creating a customer. It is the same thing as owning and running a business.

Whenever you are creating demand, you are marketing. There are tons of tools with which to do this.

3. Branding

Branding is the art and science of keeping a customer, and getting them to prefer (and pay more for) your offering vs. equa…

Ignorance vs. Incompetence: Mastering The Leadership Learning Curve

Photo by Adan Garcia via Flickr

It takes about 10 weeks for my students to develop a marketing plan. And 1 second for industry news to make it nearly worthless, unless they respond in time.

It takes 9 months to bring a child into the world. And 1 second for you to realize, you haven't a clue as to how to raise it.

You keep on graduating from grade school to high school and hopefully college and beyond. Every successive phase is new. What came before isn't enough to prepare you for now.

Where did we get the idea that great leaders are like G-d - that they magically know it all?

One need only look at the news to see that leaders (of any kind) can be the smartest, most experienced people in the world. But every situation presents its own unique challenges. To pretend that we walk in with the answers is foolish.

Not knowing is actually the perpetual state of a leader. What distinguishes the competent from the incompetent is what they do with that ignorance.

Great leaders start with adm…

Harness Hallway Chatter The Right Way

We spend a lot of time writing emails to our employees don't we?

Which they promptly ignore.

We also slave over brochures, newsletters, and web copy.

Scan - note what's critical - forget the rest.

Where are people communicating with each other, and more importantly, paying attention?

You got it: In person there's the hallway, the bathroom (check the stall), before and after meetings, behind closed doors, whispering in cubes. The food court.

Where are they going online? LinkedIn Facebook, discussion groups, maybe Twitter. That's externally.

Online within the organization there is email. But email is old school. It's slow, it's cumbersome, details get lost, it's hard to collaborate in real time.

We need to collaborate and have good information while doing so, if we are to get anything done.

In my personal opinion the way to get employees engaged and productive at the SAME time (this is key - engaged in the work you want them to be doing) is:

Start with one-way communic…

10+ Words To Use Besides "Branding"

In my experience, most people like and appreciate branding, but they themselves don't want to be branded.

So when you promote the concept of branding within an organization, talk directly about the benefits that most appeal to your audience and avoid the word:

1. Professionalism

2. Standardization (or consistency - if you can throw in cost savings that's good)

3. Self-service (or templates, efficiency)

4. Integration (or unity, organizational culture, internal communication)

5. Corporate communication

6. Marketing

7. Outreach (or education)

8. Reputation (or customer preference, or price premium - indicate that the brand adds value to the organization)

9. Identity (or image)

10. Relationship-building, customer relationship management, community

What brand-substitute words do you use? Post a comment.

Good luck!

To Build A Brand, Ask "Where's The Party?"

Photo by The Next Web via Flickr

Seriously, yes. If you want to build a great brand, it's all about connecting people - in a way that's engaging and fun. Hopefully it's also meaningful - the Woodstock of its generation.

The Relationship-Based Enterprise by Roy McKenzie explains in a methodical way how to do this, although McKenzie thinks in terms of "CRM" - customer relationship management. He explains that businesses add value internally and externally by finding and serving customers in a disciplined way. This is the exact same thing as marketing.

Note that CRM is not about providing goods or services. Which is usually what people think of as the point of a business. I am here to tell you that anyone can do that.

According to McKenzie you build a relationship-based enterprise in three steps:
Find the customers.Engage them in a relationship.Manage the relationship consistently.
Integrate what McKenzie says with the advice of Art Kleiner, who tells you that the unit …

Learning to Succeed In A New Job


Thanks to everyone who gave me advice on this. What follows is a combination of their tips and some things that I have observed. Hope it's helpful to you as well:
I. Personality HumbleNicePositiveTeam playerAuthenticDiplomaticTalk judiciouslyCuriousII. Community
Commit to adding more value than you subtractUse Myers-Briggs to understand how people and groups think/operatePretend you’re an anthropologistDon’t hesitate to use astrology to better understand personality typeLearn the unwritten rules - remember, little things are bigReach out to introduce yourself; meet someone new each dayLearn about the communities that exist, not just the individualsStudy how people communicate with one anotherLearn the rituals and traditionsLearn the acronyms, history, and subject matterShared office food, coffee breaks, and lunches are icebreakers

Does Your Brand Leave People Asking, "So What?"

Photo by John Morgan via Flickr

If you want to know what the #1 mistake people make in communication is, I will tell you right now.

They tell you the WHAT instead of the WHY.

I can pay a writer $50 an hour to write something about what a business does, sells, etc. What its goals and objectives are. Do you know what?

Nobody is going to read it unless they have to.

This is because (and what I am telling you is not original) the human brain works like a picture frame. If you give me a collection of WHAT, I need a frame around it to tell me WHY? Why? In what context are you telling me this? Why should I care?

In short if you want people to pay attention to you, let alone value your vision, you need to provide a vision. You need to answer the question, why? Or put another way,

"So what?"

Without fail, there is always a "so what?" Otherwise the people running the organization would be out doing something else. The employees would not be engaged in it, Blackberrying in on the wee…

Is Academic Thinking Blocking Your Brand?

Image by WoodleyWonderworks via Flickr

In grade school the teacher tells you how many words should be in the essay.

In college they give you a syllabus for the class listing showing required and recommended reading. Tons.
In grad school you do the master’s thesis or dissertation. The more academic references the better it looks.
The real world doesn’t operate by word count, unless you are a writer being paid by the word.
You may disagree vehemently because you have been trained to think in terms of process not progress. This is especially true if you work for an organization – particularly in government - rather than as an entrepreneur.

H&M and the Ethics of "Disposable Marketing"

Image via eMarketing Association Network Group
On the eternal quest for the perfect pair of long-legged black flared pants, it seems I never have enough.
I have gone through hundreds of pairs of pants so far and yet still - dissatisfied.
Black pants are the first thing I look for in any clothing store.
One time in 1989 I worked as a temp for a female executive at a bank in New York. She said to me (noting my penchant for disposable fashion):
"Better to have three good outfits than three hundred that are not good enough."
Wincing at her cold-eyed, frank assessment I wondered, "Is she right?"
And then I thought, "She can't be. No!" Because then I would have no reason to go to the mall. Or (in later years) to H&M, or Zara, or any of the countless stores that sell disposable fashion.
The same rule goes for makeup, at least with me. How many tubes of red lipstick can you buy? And yet every time I walk into CVS, there go my eyeballs. Straight to the makeup di…

Pearl Perry Reich Doesn’t Speak For Me

Image via Wikipedia