action is real > great agencies deliver action

Richard_Nixon_campaign_rally_1968 Show and Tell is the basis for the entire media/PR industry.  A great talker or sincere conversationalist can inspire and empathize.  Talk is very important. Talk works.  But even the biggest ad spend or social inspirational effort cannot sell a clearly broken product.

So what's an agency to do when they are tasked with selling a broken product? 

Fix it.

Great agencies and consultants don't operate in a communications silo, they empower and partner with their clients to deliver real solutions.  They join the real marketing discussions, including product, design, distribution and internal/external communications.  They don't just think communications, they bring real marketing strategy to the table. 

Talk without action simply doesn't work.

Don't think social.  Think business.

Inspired by the video below.

setting the record straight: Techcrunch - the community

People on a bridge
Networks Vs Communities

A network is a connection.
A community is built on top of a network.

A network does not require activity.
A community is active, built by and of people.

Where do blogs fit in?

A blog is a publication in a social context.

Communities are built around shared affinities.
Shared affinities are discovered via front-facing social objects that draw like-interested individuals. 

When thousands of active readers converge on a blog, engaging in threaded commenting and lengthy discussion - is this a blog or a community? 

Blogging has evolved.  There are now three categories.  And a fourth is just around the corner.

3 Primary Categories of Blogging

  1. Social Journalism - NY Times blogs - professionally authored and published, the social arm of a traditional media property
  2. Community Blogging - blogging as part of a conversation, a broader community. 
  3. Broadcast Blogging - traditional publishing in a blog setting.

While the technology suggests that TechCrunch is a blog, it is only a matter of time until the next category emerges.

4. Content/Community Blogging - creating social objects as conversation pieces to inspire an active community.

A blog on a community page may currently serve this purpose.  But a community function on a blog (similar to Mashable's Community) changes the blog dynamic.

Disqus and Typepad Connect bring threaded conversations to blog comments.  But I'm waiting for the technology that connects comments and commenters, enabling deep, structured conversational engagement in the comments.  I'm waiting for the community in the comments. 

Blogs are no longer one size fits all.  Comments are no longer one size fits all.  It's time we recognized them as such.

Inspired by a tweet from Andrew Weissman. Kudos to Howard Lindzon for sharing via retweet.

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social yelling - the day after the superbowl

  • Not everybody likes the loud party guy with all the friends and buckets of charisma.  But lots of people do.
  • Nobody likes the wannabe party guy who is just loud.

Brands may not be expected to "participate in a two way dialogue" on broadcast television, or during a 30 second Superbowl spot (though they should be listening and learning).  Because for those 30 seconds the brands are the life of the party, they have purchased the stature of everybody's friend.

But just seconds later, someone else is the focus of attention.  The second your spot ends, you cease to be the center of attention.  Sure, people may speak fondly of you the day after, remembering your great punchline.  But if you don't join the next party, everyone will have forgotten you in just a few weeks time.

The superbowl is great for mass awareness.  But it would be a shame to throw away all that awareness without the most rudimentary digital/social follow up.

The Game is over.  Let The Conversations begin.

Future Visions: Hulu

Hulu's been out for a while.  And while I was at first skeptical, I now regularly enjoy their offering.

But what's next for Hulu? 

  • Will their growth be in a broader library or in added functionality?
  • Will new platforms like Tivo or downloadable content drive increased value?

They've got us watching.  They occasionally have us interacting.  But is this really all they could, or should be doing to grow their business?

  • Isn't there a massive ad opportunity in a Hulu desktop utility with a program guide?
  • Wouldn't a distribution partnership with Microsoft delivering free ad supported downloads drive real equity for a next gen Zune?
  • Wouldn't a section containing all of their advertiser spots, fully embeddable, drive added value to advertisers?  Allowing them to utilize Hulu to launch "viral" video campaigns?

Sure, you need to the content to drive the eyeballs.  But please Hulu, don't forget about breaking the technology mold.  You did it once.  The market will demand that you do it again.  Or someone else will.

powerpoint addiction - thinking differently

Death by pptThere are four typical types of powerpoint presentations -

A) The Installation Manual - if you shrink the font you can fit more words on a page!
B) The Minesweeper - who doesn't understand a simple 30 by 30 grid?
C) The Subway Map - following the flowchart to hell
D) The Image Inspired - MoMA inspired guru creates artistic statements that show his/her brilliance rather than transmitting ideas.

We've all been there.  The colleague who asks for more charts, the manager who asks for more detail and the creative guy who demands that you utilize his icons and images, most likely stock photos we've all seen too many times, or Creative Commons images taken/stolen from Flickr.

But how many of these well intentioned contributors are thinking about powerpoint the platform and how many of thinking about the presentation dynamic?

Learning #1

A presentation is not a series of powerpoint slides.  It is a presentation.  Powerpoint is just a tool to help illustrate a story. 

Learning #2

Your presentation should have two purposes -

  1. Convey Information
  2. Inspire Insight and Understanding

If your slide doesn't serve one of these two purposes, rethink it.

Learning #3

Know your environment

Your grids may be brilliant.  Your images may be remarkable.  Your flowcharts may convey details we'd never considered.  And each of them have a place. 

Is that place in:

  • an executive boardroom? 
  • an office-wide lunch and learn? 
  • a printed leave behind?  

Each of these three environments should have their own tone, story and yes, presentation.  Choose your weapons wisely.

My Perspective

Think back to the days before you had powerpoint. Think back to your family get togethers when as a kid you were forced on "stage" to "perform" your latest skill - ballet, gymnastics, karate, piano, singing, dance... you didn't need powerpoint to tell your story.  You conveyed your information differently, creatively.  The boardroom expects powerpoint.  But that doesn't mean you have to be tied to convention either.

Advice From the Twitter Community

  • Heather Rast (@heatherrast) - Instead of staid descriptive slide titles, try conversational and pithy ones: not "5 Steps to Repair Rep" but "Pony Up" - People expect "Agenda" slide & read it as the list it is. But "The Gooey Center" instead is intriguing & says, "U better pay attn!"

  • Katie Konrath - (@katiekonrath) - Less=More, Create focal points, never forget focus should be on you, not the slides. Interesting, not distracting. Hope this helps!

 - - Key Takeaway - -

Don't look at power point as a format or a canvas.  Look at it as supporting media.  Your slides don't tell your story in a live presentation.  You do.  Keep your slide short, strong and punchy.

You cannot tell your story on your own terms in a printed handout.  Your slides may have to do the talking.  Build appropriately.

photo credit here

asking for IT vs. earning IT

  • Asking for it Is it ok for a blogger to ask for votes in a contest?
  • Is it ok for a company to ask/suggest that their employees embed a video, share a clip/widget/app, or digg a piece of "viral" content?
    • Must the employee disclose that they were prompted to share?  Must their friends or family do so?  How do you disclose a digg?  A tweet?
  • Is it ok for an ePR/Social Media "Guru" to use his or her network to promote their clients?
    • It is ok for clients to ask for/expect this?
  • Is it ok for a company to "follow" many people on Twitter without joining the conversation?
  • Is it ok for a Social Media Advocate to "become" your "friend" if they don't really care about friendship?
  • Is it ok to ask someone to recommend you on LinkedIn based on your blogging alone - without any insight into your productivity?

There is something fundamentally different between asking for it, and earning it.
    If you can't earn it on your own, when is it ok to ask? 
        How should one go about asking for it? 

photo credit here
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rethinking "new"

Perspectives Some will run towards it.

    Others will run in the other direction.

Some will stop everything and think about it

    Others will approach it with caution.

But what about you?  How do you approach new?

  • With age and experience often come stagnation and inflexibility.
  • With excitement, passion and freshness often come uncertainty.

Staying in the middle, living with the law of the golden mean, the golden average, is going to deliver average performance. 

Success will not be realized by limiting the excitement of the pink faced pimply new employee or fresh technology, nor will it be found in conducting "business as usual."  Success will be found in creating the right mix of old and new, the right culture of strategic excitement.

In today's agency world, where talent is often a transitional commodity and media is increasingly purchased at auction, success will be defined by the operational dynamic an agency employs rather than it's size alone.  Attracting top talent will always be a priority, and effective partnerships and leadership cannot be commoditized, but these are not what will define excellence.  Excellence will be defined by the dynamic mix of the old and the new, the experienced with the excited, the well worn and the fresh faced.

The business of doing business is changing.  And today, more than ever before, you have to ask yourself, "How do I react to new?"  What am I bringing to the table?  How am I leveraging my experience to strategically activate in a fresh, new way?

photo credit here

clean vs comprehensive data = action vs nuance?

Numbers We've all got that MASSIVE excel file sitting somewhere on our computers.  We meant to do great things with it.  The numbers could have spoken volumes, adding new dimensions to our presentations, to our proposed business plans, to our perspectives and to our proposed strategies. 

However, in the interest of keeping it clean, making the information we were looking to impart both clear and digestible, we dumbed down the data, sacrificing nuance for actionable results.  In an ideal world, we could have both nuance and action.  However, the demands of time-pressed reality occasionally demand that this sacrifice be made.

Consider the topic of web 2.0.  I have presented on the topic dozens of times.  My presentations have ranged anywhere from a single slide, picture or video, to 80 page manifestos on strategy, tactics, implementations, best practices, etc.  And as much I as would like to believe that my presentation skills are strong, it is impossible to impart an entire discipline in a single image.

Is it possible to boil down complexity without losing nuance?

Consider the illustrations below. 

  • Do they say the same thing? 
  • Are they equally accurate, equally nuanced?
Photo 1


Photo 2


(photos credits here, here and here)