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Archive for April, 2010

I am not going to talk about brand management, social media, digital communications or any of the usual topics today. Instead, let’s talk about time. Your time. And to make things quick, I’ve decided to do it all on video rather than force you to read another BrandBuilder dissertation. If the video doesn’t work, here’s a link: (Click here)

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I was fortunate to spend the better part of 36 hours in Coeur D’Alene, ID this week to talk to a roomful of very enthusiastic folks about Social media, and it got me thinking: With all that yapping some of us do onstage, more often than not, true dialog tends to get lost in shuffle. We talk and talk and talk, and then towards the end of our session, we leave 10 little minutes open for questions, and that’s it. Well, that isn’t enough. As much as I like to speak (and hear myself speak, if the length of my blog posts and presentations weren’t a clue), I much prefer the back and forth of Q&A even to my own incessant droning. Give me dialog. Give me conversation. Give me engagement. Not just on Twitter and the blogosphere, but with a real crowd, flesh and bone, pencils sharpened, phone cams at the ready. Give me a town-hall atmosphere over a lecture any day.

Which is why at the end of today’s 3 hour session on stage and 20 solid minutes of questions, I stuck around for another hour after the event ended to make sure that everyone who had a question for me got an answer. THAT, more than my time on stage, was the highlight of my evening. Why? Because I got to meet people, truly interact with them, get to know them better, solve specific problems for them (hopefully), and become part of their world. There were handshakes involved, pats on the back, stories of ski trips in Savoie and breaking world records and harrowing tales of survival (no, really). And then people started taking pictures for their blogs and facebook walls and whatnot, and that was a lot of fun too.

At 6pm, we were all strangers. At 9pm, everyone knew who I was, but the dynamic was still speaker/audience. At 10pm, I had connected with some wonderful human beings with fascinating stories to tell and made at least a dozen new friends. It was all good, but guess what: That time between 9pm and 10pm, that’s the part I got the most out of.

So speakers, ye of talent, skill and charmed lives, here’s the deal: Don’t limit yourselves to just “speaking.” Stick around. Get to know your audience. Chat with them. Listen to their stories. That’s where the real value of your speaking engagement is. Not the proverbial icing on the cake, as it were, but its warm gooey heart. The lectures, the presentations, the time on stage, eventually it will all blend into one big mess of jumbled memories of spotlights and silhouetted figures lined up in neat little rows, of people nodding and smiling and taking notes, and if you aren’t too awful at it, the wonderful sound of applause too. Always as sweet as it is brief. But the memories that will stick with you, the ones you’ll want to hold on to, the ones that will separate this event from that one will be those of the moments you spent hanging out with the fans. The ones who want their picture taken with you. The ones who want to show you their dog photos and their battle scars and the iphone case their grandson made for them. THAT’s the good stuff.

So someday, when you’ve made it big and you make obscene bank going from event to event on some conference circuit or another, when you feel that the speaking you do makes you some kind of rock star, remember that the fees you command, the VIP treatment you’ve gotten used to, the applause and accolades you enjoy, none of that stuff is owed to you. You’re just lucky to be there, just like you were lucky to be there when you were first asked to speak – for free – at a local business event by a friend who wanted to give you a break. Nobody in that crowd owes you a damn thing. But you, sir, m’am, you owe every single person in that crowd EVERYTHING. Remember that. Always.

So mingle. Shake hands. Hang out. Get to know as many of the people who come listen to you “speak” as you can. They’re the best people you’ll ever meet, and I don’t need an R.O.I. equation to know that.

Have a great Friday, everyone.

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Evidently, some “experts” still refer to Social and Mobile as “emerging” media. Um, no. Stop. Watch this video by Loic Lemeur and pay particular attention to the second half. He catches an interesting semantic flaw in an otherwise interesting report he outlines in his video.

If the link doesn’t open, watch the video here, and check out Loic’s full post here.

Two things:

1) “emerging” is always going to qualify a state of adoption rather than a type of media. It isn’t good terminology. Neither is “new media” for that matter.

2) Neither Social nor Mobile qualify as emerging. Mobile is evolving and scaling, sure, but it isn’t emerging. Facebook’s scale has also long transcended “emergence.”

Beyond the topic of “emerging media,” other words, terms and concepts commonly misused in the new world of Social and Digital Communications:

  • R.O.I.
  • Viral
  • Social Media Campaign
  • Social Media Presence
  • Platform
  • Monitoring
  • Influencer
  • Social Media Manager
  • WOM
  • Pull
  • Impressions (By the way, can we please scratch the term “impressions” from the Marketing lexicon once and for all? Thanks. That would be nice. Especially when dealing with Social.)

Look, here’s the deal: True experts know the vocabulary of their respective fields of study/practice. I am not implying that having mastered the Social Media lexicon makes someone an expert in the subject, but rather that no expert will get the basic vocabulary wrong: Plumbers, surgeons, snipers, cobblers, tailors, architects and masons know the vocabulary of their trade. Social Media “professionals” worth their fee (whether analysts, consultants, trainers or practitioners) do too. Simple enough.

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I kind of dig Bette Davis. When you look at her body of work, you notice that she rarely took the safe roles. Her performances were more nuanced than other actresses or her time. Grittier. She went out on a limb every time she stepped in front of the camera, and I dig that about her. But what I dig most about her is that she knew enough about the reality of the world she lived in to do away with the usual sugar-coating many of us sometimes feel pressured to use as a courtesy filter. Like it or not, there’s something refreshing about being around someone who has the huevos to tell it to you like it is, and not feel that they have apologize for… basically just being honest with you.

And though yeah, it would have been a lot more glamorous to be seen having drinks with Lana Turner or Rita Hayworth, an evening of drinking martinis with Bette would have probably been a lot more fun.

Originally, I was going to quote Bette Davis in regards to something she said about choosing your enemies wisely and their importance to your career (something we don’t talk about enough in these so-called “transparent” conversations, we’re having) but in looking at the rest of the brilliant stuff she was quoted saying, I couldn’t resist taking this post in a completely different direction. So without further ado, here are 11 things Bette Davis had to say about the Social Media world, way back in the day… kinduv:

1. “Today everyone is a star. In my day, we earned that recognition.”

2. “In this business, until you’re known as a monster you’re not a star.”

3. “The weak are the most treacherous of us all. They come to the strong and drain them. They are bottomless. They are insatiable. They are always parched and always bitter. They are everyone’s concern and like vampires they suck our life’s blood.”

4. “Psychoanalysis. Almost went three times – almost. Then I decided what was peculiar about me was probably what made me successful.”

5. “There are new words now that excuse everybody. Give me the good old days of heroes and villains, the people you can bravo or hiss. There was a truth to them that all the slick credulity of today cannot touch.”

6. “To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.”

7. “I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work. No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds. It is endless.”

8. “I survived because I was tougher than anybody else.”

9. “The key to life is accepting challenges. Once someone stops doing this, he’s dead.”

10. “My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.”

11. “In this rat-race everybody’s guilty till proved innocent!”

Let those sink in a bit. That whole enemy thing, we’ll get to it some other time. ;)

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I was inspired by my friend Chris Penn’s “11 Little Secrets” post this morning to come up with my own list here and encourage you all to do the same on your own blogs. It’s always interesting to see what makes people tick, especially if their little secrets can be helpful to someone else.

The model is simple. To quote Chris:

We strive desperately to look for the next big thing, the next big secret, the magic wand that will make everything better. What we tend to overlook – or most of us, anyway – are the little secrets, the little hacks and tweaks you can make to your day, your year, your life to help things operate better.

Bingo. So you know what? I gave it some thought, made a list of little things I do that seem to work for me, picked 11 that weren’t too business-specific, and created my very own “11 Little secrets.” Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Cut back on the meat and eat more fish. I know, I know… What the hell am I talking about? This is a Brand management blog, not a nutrition blog. But bear with me here. This actually impacts my work in a big way, and it is one of my little secrets. And as an aside, before the beef lobby jumps on my case like they did Oprah, let me just say I love steak as much as the next guy. In fact, I’m French, dammit: I love lamb chops, rotisserie chicken, smoked ham and foie gras, just for starters. But at the same time, meat has taken a serious back seat from my diet in the last few years, and I have seen some pretty amazing positive health results come out of it. Among them: lower cholesterol, a lot less body fat, less aggression, better sleep and more energy all day long. I still need animal protein to support a pretty active lifestyle, so I eat a lot of fish and seafood. Whenever I can, I go raw, but fish is fish. Cutting back on meat or cutting it out altogether might not work for everyone, but it’s worked VERY well for me. Bonus: Omega 3 fatty acids.

Why does this matter? Go back a few sentences: “less aggression, better sleep and more energy all day long.” Aside from having more energy and sleeping better, I don’t know if it’s because my system isn’t flooded with growth hormone anymore or what, but rarely being angry about anything does wonders for a guy who loves to argue as much as I do. Has being less aggressive made me less argumentative? Nope. But has it helped me keep a cool head in the middle of heated debates? You bet. And there’s a lot to be said for the advantage of a calm and controlled mind when trying to argue a point.

Negatives: No more bacon, and the prospect of dying of mercury poisoning.

2. Spend at least 30 minutes every day reading something that doesn’t touch on your line of work. It doesn’t matter if it’s the latest editorial in GQ or a work of historical fiction. Just do it. A) Your mind needs a break from Twitter, blogs and business white papers. B) Your brain needs cross-training. Me, I call it active recovery. It’s nice to completely unplug (even thematically) and I can definitely tell the difference between weeks when I read and weeks when I don’t in my ability to think critically and find quick, creative solutions to complex problems.

Personally, I’ve recently gotten into Conn Iggulden’s novels about Genghis Kahn and Julius Caesar, and that isn’t bad brain candy as far as I’m concerned. On one hand, it’s nice to unplug without necessarily surrendering your brain to American Idol or Tool Academy, but on the other, reading about military campaigns and political strife helps me visualize business problems from a completely different perspective, without even realizing that my brain is making those types of connections.

Reading engages different parts of the brain that, in turn, contribute to the processing of information. Cross training for the brain is absolutely one of the most valuable benefits of reading about things that have nothing to do with work. So read your business books, but also remember to read other things, just for fun. Bonus: It doesn’t suck to have things to talk about that don’t involve Marketing and Social Media. For extra credit: Read in more than one language.

Negative: Missing out on really great infomercials, I’m sure.

3. Be an athlete (even if you don’t necessarily think of yourself as one). The human body wasn’t meant to spend all day at a desk, in front of a computer, eating packaged food products. Spend an hour walking, running, cycling, swimming, pushing weights, throwing truck tires, punching bags, getting thrown on a tatami, riding bulls… something. Put it in the schedule. It isn’t something you do “when you find the time.” Sound body, sound mind. It relieves stress, oxygenates the brain, gives you a break from the grind, lets you work out your frustrations, makes you feel empowered, and it’s good for you. Tell your boss this is important to you, and they’ll make sure they don’t call you during that extra special hour of “active meditation.” That time belongs to you. It’s yours and yours alone. Plant your flag in your daily schedule and protect that hour with your life. (It may return the favor someday. Literally.)

I’m a triathlete with a propensity for martial arts and boxing, so you can imagine that hardly a day goes by without some kind of activity. The way it works for me is, my gym workouts help me stay strong and limber, while the racing helps keep me swift and lean. If you aren’t into intense or prolonged athletic activity, find one that requires a good deal of learning and skill that will help you keep your mind engaged without tearing you a new lung.

Some examples: Aikido and Judo are relatively “soft” but rewarding martial arts. No kicking, punching or breaking boards required, but full bodymind workouts you’ll learn to enjoy. Scuba diving is also a pretty fun activity you can tie into most vacations that doesn’t require you to run ten miles every day. There are sports out there for every personality type and budget, so do some research and try a bunch until you find something that works for you. And don’t be afraid to mix it up. variety is good for the mind and the body. Bonus: The extra confidence you will gain from your athletic practice. Extra bonus: You get to wear designer clothes right off the rack.

Negatives: Often being surrounded by old naked dudes hanging out naked in locker rooms, naked.

4. Cook. I don’t just cook because I’m French. I cook because it’s easier to play with my food in the kitchen than at the dinner table. Remember that kid who used to blow up the chemistry lab every other week because of his “experiments?” Yeah, that was me. Now, I get my kicks mixing yellow peppers with raisins with sour cream to make a sauce for my mahi-mahi.

  • A) It’s fun.
  • B) It brings you closer to your food, which is important.  When you actually touch it, prepare it, cook it, you respect it more. You understand the relationship between the food you eat and the way it affects your body a lot better.
  • C) You’ll ingest a lot less hydrogenated oils, corn starch, sodium and high fructose corn syrup, which will make your doctor very happy.
  • D) You’ll find yourself buying and eating a lot more fresh vegetables.
  • E) The amount of packaging you won’t be throwing away every year will be impressive. No need to recycle a whole lot when most of what you’re throwing away is biodegradable.

Who has time to cook, you ask? I’ve never made a meal that took more than 15 minutes from start to finish. Make time. PS: By cooking, I don’t mean boiling noodles and heating up a jar of pasta sauce. I mean wash produce, cut stuff, mix ingredients together, blow off the cookbook, and try new combinations of foods just to see what happens.

Aside from the above benefits, why is this important to you as a professional? First, if cooking become a relaxing activity (a fun one, even) it ceases to be “work.” Un-chore yourself. Second, it gives you a lab in which you can conduct experiments and be creative every day. That kind of stress-free experimentation is a healthy exercise for professionals with lots of tight deadlines and high stakes jobs.

Negatives: More dishes, and the occasional really horrible meal.

5. Write. Yes, with a writing instrument like a pen or pencil. Keep a journal, write short stories, take notes… whatever. It doesn’t matter. I dig typing up blogs as much as the next guy, but I also walk around with a Moleskine everywhere I go. When I’m on a plane, in a waiting room, on the subway or in a coffee shop, I pop that puppy open and write stuff down. If writing letters is a lost art, then journal. Put pen to paper, literally. It’s good to practice the lost art of writing (Post-it notes don’t count), and you’ll be glad you did a few years from now when your personal archive is volumes-thick. More importantly, your kids will thank you someday for having left behind so much of yourself for them to discover.

Writing is important. As old-school as it may seem, it matters. Bonus: Writing helps you think. Don’t just consume information and opinions, create your own. And man, write an actual letter to someone by hand, and see how much they’ll instantly like you more.

By the way, for some clever Moleskine hacks, check this out.

Negatives: Always losing your favorite pens in airports, cabs, restaurants, hotels and conference rooms (unless you have a clever hack).

6. Sleep. Going on 4 hours of sleep per night isn’t enough. It isn’t healthy. Sleep and rest are as important, if not more, than anything else you can do for yourself. Treat your body with respect: Sleep. Sure, sometimes I get caught grabbing the red-eye from hell after three weeks of bouncing from time zone to time zone (a GMT watch helps, by the way), but as soon as you can, get that A-type sleep deprivation thing under control and give your body (and your brain) time to adequately recover. Your body can go without food or water longer than it can go withouts sleep. That’s pretty telling.

I look at my own immune system, and I can tell almost within 48 hours whether lack of sleep is affecting my health. I know there aren’t enough hours in the day. Believe me. I’m there. Guess what: You can’t cheat biology. Get your sleep on. Consider it part of your job. (Just don’t do it… on the job.)

Negatives: Looking younger than your actual age may slow down your advancement. (The C-suite tends to take you less seriously when you look young.)

7. Eat breakfast every day. Scientists and nutritionists aren’t wrong about this. Make yourself a bowl of cereal, bite into an apple, eat a tub of yogurt… whatever. Some people dig a croissant and latte. Others prefer a fruit salad and a shot of kefir. It’s all good. Don’t skip it. My usual when I am not traveling is a 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal with a cup of milk (nuked for 2 minutes) with a small handful of raisins thrown in. I follow that with a banana, a protein shake, a few scrambled egg whites and a huge glass of water. When I travel, I go with the croissant and coffee/tea thing. It doesn’t matter what you have for breakfast as long as you eat (and drink) something.

Negatives: The food dispensing machine down the hall will sell you less potato chips and candy bars.

8. Allow yourself at least one guilty pleasure. Being 100% efficient and serious doesn’t cut it. You can’t take yourself too seriously all the time. Learn to unwind and allow yourself some guilty pleasures. How guilty the pleasure is entirely up to you, but here’s a list of mine recently:

TV: Spartacus: Blood & Sand, Real Time with Bill Maher, LOST, Bully Beatdown, Funny Or Die Presents, Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares (UK edition), Top Gear.

Reading: GQ, Esquire, Conn Iggulden novels, the B&H catalog.

Foodstuffs: Nutella, Apple slices with peanut butter, Cadbury eggs, Starbucks lattes.

Digital: Call of Duty- Modern Warfare (X-Box Live), Left 4 Dead II.

See, it isn’t all R.O.I., is it.

Negatives: Having to defend the awesomeness of shows like Spartacus: Blood & Sand.

9.  Collaborate on projects with people you admire. If you’re lucky, you get to do this all day long. If not, jump on any opportunity that affords you the privilege of working with someone whose work you really respect. Someone you’ve been dreaming of working with for weeks or months or years. When I still worked for the man, this was difficult to do. I was pulling 60 hour weeks with project teams that were more assigned than chosen, so I rarely got to enjoy the pleasure of working with a true soul-brother/soul-sister on projects I could really get excited about. Now that I have a little more power over who I get to work with, I get to be a little picky about who gets my time and who doesn’t. I can pick and choose my projects and collaborators, and let me tell you: It makes a HUGE difference on the quality of my work and the quality of my life.

A few examples, right off the bat: Keith Burtis and I collaborate on our weekly “More Ideas Than Time” podcast. It takes up about two hours of my time every week, and let me tell you: Well worth it. I also work regularly with folks like Scott Gould, Trey Pennington, Kristi Colvin, Kim Brater and Alicia Kan, and again: It’s nice to be surrounded by such talented professionals who help you raise your own bar on a regular basis.

Negatives: Often being the dumbest guy in the room.

Positives: Often being the dumbest guy in the room.

10. Take risks every day. Playing it safe doesn’t help you grow. It doesn’t teach you about yourself. And frankly, it’s boring. Look, I am not advocating that you base jump from the roof of your office building or gamble the family fortune away on internet poker sites. Not at all. But do push the envelope just a little with something every day. Be wise, be responsible, be smart about it, but don’t shy away from a little risk on a regular basis. Sometimes, I push a corner a little hard when I come down Paris Mountain on a bike ride (cycling, not vroom-vroom). Other times, I gamble on a client whose credit isn’t stellar. I occasionally take on a project that is a bit outside of my comfort zone. I try hotels and restaurants off the beaten path. I’ve gambled my bonus on double-or-nothing odds if I could hit a target my boss thought was a longshot. I’ve lost some, but I’ve won some too.

The equation is simple: It’s all about risk vs. reward. Every risk has to be worth the reward. Every risk has to be calculated. And if you lose, it has to hurt, but not necessarily too much. Another rule: Never gamble with someone else’s well-being. You can put your own neck on the line, but that’s it. (Unless you ask permission first.) Push, learn, adjust. Push, learn, adjust. Repeat. You never win without risking something. Whether it’s embarrassment, a bloody lip, your monthly bonus, it doesn’t matter. Victory and success won’t find you waiting patiently at your cubicle. If you want to win, you have to put some skin in the game.

Negatives: Frequent run-ins with either the law, pavement, ambulances, knuckles, or the boss’ office. The occasional foot-in-ass. Mouthfuls of dirt or crow.

Positives: Winning often, in spite of the occasional negative.

11. Find your own voice and let it out at least a little every day. You aren’t the next Chris Brogan, Jack Welch or Steve Jobs. You can’t be, because those jobs are already taken. And frankly, we don’t need another Chris Brogan, Jack Welch or Steve Jobs. They’re doing fine all on their own. These folks are unique because their contributions to the world are unique. President Obama, Clint Eastwood, Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar, Anne Frank, Gandhi, all  people with individual contributions to the world. Where pioneers go, no one has gone before. That’s the trick. That’s the ticket. You want to be an icon, you have to make your own way, and that starts with finding your own voice.

If what matters to you is that next promotion to VP Marketing, then don’t worry about any of this. Do your job, hit your targets, kiss the right rings, and you’ll make it. But if you truly want to be a force in the world, an influencer, a star in some way shape or form, you have to listen to Robert Frost and chose the path less taken. Heck, you have to take it a step further and take the path not taken yet: The path that still hasn’t been carved out by anyone. Go where no one has gone yet, and once you’ve made some headway, call out “hey, this way!” If people follow, you’ll know you’re on the right track. That path starts with finding your own voice.

Negatives: None. Life’s too short.

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