October 30, 2008

Anytime After Now

Few among us have mastered the art of consistently making swift decisions and trust our instincts. The important word is "consistently".

You will notice that most successful people make quick decisions. They aren’t always right, but by the time you and I deliberate over moving an inch, they have made a second decision to correct their original one and made it right. Malcolm Gladwell's new book The Outliers discusses the character traits of highly successful people.

I once worked with a guy would spout the “ready shoot aim” approach. You do need to do some aiming before hauling out the guns. But we can all be guilty of the “read aim pause think wonder aim again maybe shoot” approach.

With the boomerang that is now the global economy, people are scared and cautious. I spoke with a colleague yesterday who said that he has lost 40% of his retirement savings in the last two months! That ripples in to businesses and business decisions.

Creativity is needed right now. Decisions are needed right now. Open communication is needed right now. Anytime after now.

Or we can hide and hope and make no decisions. Some brave ones will make them on our behalf and we won't be in the position to complain about the outcome.


October 28, 2008

Mass Media vs. Integration

Have you experienced the raccoon in the headlights yet? You know those times when you are trying to explain that the way things used to be done, can't be done as well anymore?

The story is paramount, what you want to portray in your commercial, show, or website is crucial to success. But simply exposing the message or story solely through traditional channels may not be the wisest strategy anymore.

The price of admission is not simply being in the game – that’s not good enough and it’s dangerous. Some ideas aren’t ready. Plastering your message on a billboard or integrating a storyline in to your product are tactics used once you can realistically manage your expectations.

With television, visual and online productions we find clients are struggling with social media options and smaller but more accurate metrics. With integration and the Internet, it is increasingly more difficult and expensive to reach your potential audience with a wide aimless swath.

I equate it to an independent band. In the early days, the buzz is created by a tiny group of early adopters who shared the music and story with their friends. The influencers keep the story going while the band kept making music and doing shows.

Long gone are the days a when band would release a collection of songs on a piece of plastic and sell it in a retail setting, or sell it at all. That may work for Britney and AC/DC but most bands (and companies) need to look at a new reality. Not even the overexposed are selling like they used to.

Mass media will no longer solve all problems or provide the same solutions as it did in the past. Face it, not everyone is Microsoft or Apple with deep pockets to blanket the new and the old realities. The rest of us need to be careful and make choices.

There are more options for both the content provider and the audience. It takes patience and courage to navigate the minefield. Without the right targeted message or story, you may as well spend your money on something else.

There are no winning lottery tickets here. Formulas and templates are tougher to retrofit these days. This will take some time.

As we discover new options with the integration of entertainment and advertising, we must remember that if you live on the edge, you can’t expect a crowd.


October 27, 2008

Stop Selling. Start Asking.

Every day, I read another article about how the advertising world is changing. The advertising world is always changing. Ad Age published an article today about the broken ad model and what we should do next.

In all my years in media, I have been bombarded with people who say I am in the advertising business. The claim is often that we only care about revenue to the the detriment of the viewer/user/consumer/listener. Any company that tries to execute such a business plan is finished before starting.

Wal-Mart has done a remarkable job promoting their superior price point. Whether they have the best prices on every single item in their stores, is irrelevant. Starbucks provides a warm comfortable home-like atmosphere while you wait for your $4 pumpkin spice latte. And Jiffy Lube gets you in and out of the service bay in fifteen minutes.

Before deciding on stories and mediums and fancy slug lines, we must pay close attention to what you want to say and what you want to sell. Integration of product, client and customer are essential. But what is more important is connecting with people. “They” are not some mass of beings with no souls or faces. They are us and we are them. We are all in advertising, we are all customers, we all want solutions and stories.

In our user-generated world, it’s time for us to stop thinking we have all the answers and start asking a lot more honest questions of each other, and drop the charade that we all know what’s best.


October 26, 2008

Ode to Road Warriors

If you travel for work you may relate. Hotel life loses its luster very quickly. There are wonderful comfortable places to stay all over the world but there is still something missing. The little things become the big things.

If you travel, you become a master of tiny soaps and mini-shampoo bottles. Towels are in abundance and tossed in the tub. You leave for the day and return to a bed made and a fresh supply of towels.

But anyone who lives on the road more than at home should be commended, or perhaps committed? It's not as easy at it seems. I know of many very successful business people and consultants who have chucked it all for a more stable work enviornment.

With all the worry of the financial crunch we take advantage of technology in the form of teleconferences, PDAs and webinars, the airport is still a snarled mess on any given Monday morning.

Business travel can be a great way to meet new people and share different experiences. But it's not so exciting when you are toiling in your hotel room, eating another chicken sandwich, while the game is on. An activity shared with a lot of the people lined up at the airport that morning.

I’m sure most of us have experienced the unforeseen trip extension. Murphy’s Law #871: This is the trip where you packed ‘just enough’ for the original length of time. It's day five and you have to shop for clothes because you were supposed to be flying home on day three.

Maternal wisdom can prove paramount for the survival of any road warrior. Those immortal words ring true no matter what; “Take care of yourself, eat properly, and get some rest”. And bring some extra clothes just in case, I'm speaking from experience. Recent experience.

This does not solve the worst part of travelling - the travelling part.


October 23, 2008

There’s Always A Line-Up

If you are from or have ever been to Canada, you know of a phenomenon like few others on earth. It is a cultural and business marvel. And it is named after a legendary hockey player who was one its co-founders.

The Tim Horton’s coffee company is one of the most successful franchise models and continues to expand into the U.S.

Years ago when the scientific community was all a flutter about the possibility of former life on Mars, they could have easily saved years of research by simply opening a Tim Horton’s on the Red Planet and waited for the line-up to form at the drive-thru’.

What the company does best is stick to what they do well. It amazes most experts that they can introduce new products all the time and all the while sell hundreds of thousands of gallons of coffee each year.

What is equally amazing is that most of their customers (present company included) have perfectly good coffee makers at home, but prefer to line up with their fellow java junkies for a cup of Tim’s finest.

The future of building relationships and product awareness is through brand experiences customers can share with each other. It is getting increasingly more difficult to rest a sound business plan on financing options and color selection. People want more.

But in the case of Tim Horton’s, it’s not the most exotic coffee on the planet; it’s certainly not the fanciest joint on the block. However, while others try to dress up their customer experience with high back padded arm chairs and CDs featuring acoustic compilations, sometimes the right model is to get your customers in and out of your store with exactly what they want and expect from you.

For that, they will line up.


October 21, 2008

Did You Get My Email?

I had one of those couldn’t sleep nights and decided to clean up the email. It’s great fun if you ever have the time.

If you have a PDA, you may have it set up to get your email on both your device and your account. So when you open your mail on your computer, you are greeted by a yet to be sorted pile of duplicated data. As I tried to file old emails and get a sense of what was left, it reminded me of an often used phrase these days; “Did you get my email?”

We are fairly secure in knowing their server received it and sent it to them. But we feel the passive aggressive vague question works best.

The real questions are; “Did you open and read my email?” and “Do you have a response or any thought about my email?”

Gizmos and gadgets have made us lazy. We hide behind hurried thumbed half-notes between meetings and we count that as follow-up. You may not have discovered yet but your PDA probably also has a phone option. I forget sometimes too.

Does this exchange sound familiar; “Did you send it to me?” “I did, didn’t you get it?” “I didn’t see it.” “Well check when you hang up and call me back”. (callback) “Here it is”.

Electronic correspondence was supposed to speed up our lives, ease the burden, and afford us the ability to communicate quicker and more efficiently. In theory, that sounds pretty good. In theory it doesn’t always work.

According to Newyorker Magazine, we send over a trillion txt messages every year. We may all be busy but with what, no one is sure. Sorry dude, I'm way too busy to answer your email because I'm answering eveyone else's email.

How many emails lie patiently in your in-box awaiting a reply or to be opened? There's a bunch of reasons why we don't get back to people right away. As I looked at a few emails that haven't been returned, I discovered some I hadn't returned. I think perhaps I'll try that phone option today.

This does not include people who are simply trying to avoid you or have no intention of replying to your email. But that rarely happens, of course ;-)


October 16, 2008

Possibilities Predictions and Positivity

With the Canadian election done and the American election three weeks away, trillions of words have been spoken, written and thought about government, the economy, and the future. I don't view myself as a futurist, I am a broadcaster and producer but from my many years of unscientific research – you and I have about as much luck at predicting the future as anyone.

So we have two choices – and not the la la la I can’t hear you approach.

Integration is one of my favorite words and it when it works, it’s magic. And to quote Obama last night, this is the worst economic time since the great depression. I live in Canada, but trust me no one is waltzing around this gorgeous nation thinking we’ve dodged any financial bullet!

As I talk with clients, partners and potentials, we discuss integration more and more. Sure this is about matching content with context and building the community but not just in entertainment where I preside most of the time. This is about (sorry for the centurion cliché) teamwork! But it's about teamwork on a much larger scale.

That sounds simple enough. It’s not. The human mind seems to adopt the negative much swifter than positive. But with open discussion and using how rather than no, when we feel ourselves slip can we should remember that we’re all in this together.


October 15, 2008

Do They Care? Should We Care?

Someone much more cynical than me once coined the phrase “no one cares more about you, than you”. We all have friends and family and close colleagues, but other than that who really cares about us?

I have found some wonderful new friends through social media and those friendships and business connections have grown my personal network of people I care about. I’m sure you have too. The electronic way we all connect has given us the chance to meet people we would have otherwise never met.

But let’s do some rough math. There are approximately 6.7 billion on the planet and if we’re lucky we each have a handful of people who truly care about us and want us to do well. And vice-versa.

This doesn’t mean the rest wish us ill or harm, they simply don’t have that kind of time. People are busy. They are busy worrying about their lives and so are you.

It’s interesting to note how much we as enlightened humans care about what others think of us. That makes us compassionate but it also makes us borderline neurotic. If you have ever lost your job or changed companies, or shifted industries, the cliché is true – you find out who your friends are. Blame proximity, but people move on. And so do you.

This experiment gets even more interesting in business because we have gotten to a point where the degree on your wall or what you did in the past means less and less.

But what we should deem more important is how fast we can think on our feet, how creative we are with our minds, how well we can adapt, communicate and share.

StumbleUpon conducted a behavioral study last year. After gathering the data, they split up the sample of 1,000 people into five categories; Happy-Go-Luckys, Purists, Emotionals, Owners and Destroyers.

The Happy-Go-Luckys were the group that sifted through pages quickly but didn't stop to make negative comments because - as it said in the report; "There is enough negativity sapping the world so there was just no need to add more." This is a group that didn't care what others said about them nor felt it was necessary to make negative comments without reason. Benign behavior not vindictive. Remember that the next time someone fails to return an email - it may not mean anything.

The more we worry about what others think of us and what they think of our ideas, the more we dismiss those ideas and who we are. And hence stifle our growth.

The brilliant Sir Ken Robinson explains it much better than me when he discusses education and creativity. If you haven’t watched this TEDTalk it’s twenty minutes well spent.


October 14, 2008

We Are Cry Babies

First things first, today is the national election in Canada. If you are a proud Canadian - like me - get out and vote!

Well, it hit me over the weekend while I was watching some of the live stream from the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium (thanks @chrispirillo!) that we are simply a bunch of sniveling whiny cry babies. This is not about Microsoft - the event is fantastic! This is about me and you.

I was up this morning working on the newspaper/online column because my editor hasn't seen anything new from me for a while and the world will end if I don't get this done. I am working on an article about luxury and what it means to each of us. Feel free to email with what luxury means to you.

Then it hit me. Could I have eaten more food this weekend? Could I possibly stop thinking about the super car I'd buy or vacations I'd take with more money?

Enough with the what’s next and who is saying what and what software do you use when hooked to your cell phone via download link and the blah blah blah.

We are spoiled rotten.

Yes the markets are volatile. Yes we have too much credit card and mortgage debt. And yes we are greedy.

If you are reading this, I will make the assumption that you are not in Baghdad or Congo where real problems occur. Because if you were, you may be more concerned about whether you will eat today or whether your family is safe. Frivolous things like clothes and shelter may not be taken for granted. And it’s doubtful you would waste any consciousness on the fact that RIM took so long announce the Storm.

So as I work on work today, I will smile because what I do for a living is absolutely ridiculous. And while I check in with the live feed from the Microsoft SCS, perhaps I’ll complain a little less about this excellent chair I’m sitting in whilst sipping my flavored coffee and learning from people all over the world from the comfort of my office. Boo Hoo.


October 11, 2008

WE Are The Network

I woke up this morning, had some coffee, and listened to some tunes. And while The Thievery Corporation filled my office, I caught up on the news and sifted through emails, various blogs and social networking sites. Then it hit me. The comments and updates that were most prevalent were about family and weekends and great weather and sharing pictures of experiences.

After a few tough weeks for all of us, I was looking at pictures shared and comparing music tastes again. Oh yeah, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. It isn’t all about work and having the most friends on Facebook!

We get caught up on work and issues and problems and technology and what’s next and how each of us contributes. But through honest open moments, people were sharing simple human pleasures. It made me appreciate that stuff too. The coffee was delicious too.

It may sound trite but we tend to forget that the endgame is to be able to enjoy ourselves for the instant we’re here.

We are not on this sphere sharing and comparing and building to keep doing the same without breaking the cycle to breathe. We are here to stop once in a while and enjoy the important element we tend to forget – us.

We are the network. And once in a while, it's okay to share on a much more human level.

As I sat in my backyard with the laptop off and a book in my hand, I let the unusually warm October sun wash over me while I laughed at a wonderfully written and hilarious book a friend gave me three months ago. I had been too busy to give myself the break to enjoy it. By the way, if you want a great belly laugh, check out Bill Bryson’s “In A Sunburned Country”.

Happy Weekend.


October 10, 2008

It's A Jungle Out There!

As the worldwide markets continue to slide, we are all nervous. Most are more cautious, less creative, and frankly unsure how far this will go.

Jeff Pulver has reached out to the community for a helping hand. He is calling it "The Social Media Jungle: Leveraging Social Media for You And Your Business." Click here for more.

Companies are looking for ways to better tell their story. The best way to do that is to reflect life and not wedge their product in somewhere out of context. When you walk in to a grocery store and the first thing you notice is not the Coke on sale for $2.99 but rather the delicious smell coming from the bakery section. You will buy a pie and spend more time and money in the space.

Blogs, podcasts, and social media profiles allow others to see our creations being created instead of being force fed our logos and company slogans.

The key word is "social". We aren't selling drills; we are providing a way for people to put a hole in their wall to hang that picture.

In order to embrace the power of social networking, companies need at least one corporate champion in the space. This is not to market company attributes, but rather to offer more insight into the people involved.

I don't know about you, but I will buy-in to a person long before I buy-in to another empty sales' pitch.

The corporate champion must commit to the social network and be sincere. Many feel it won't lead to making money. If you put money before community, few will buy into you.

And the most important element is that we must admit we need to solve this together. No one person has the answer and we are all feeling the pinch.

Good luck with the event, Jeff!


October 9, 2008

I Got Nuthin'

I am constantly inspired by what I read on a daily basis. There are people writing about media and music and entertainment and integrated content, and the digital space.

The price of admission to this word is to contribute. But c’mon, you have them too – those days when you got nuthin’. My as my mom and millions before her would say “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything”. But I feel the day is incomplete without sharing something.

So I will share one thing about social networking that astounds me. There are people I have met in the last six months who have affected me profoundly. I would have never met them if it was not for this revolutionary connector called social media.

People come in and out of lives and we do the same in theirs for a multitude of reasons. Some people you may have known for years but have never really gotten to know while others you may have known for a short time have become great friends.

The connections we make in this shrunken world can often defy logic. I have been given access to business ideas from people I admire, made great social friends through connecting about business, and I have even had the chance to meet quite a few at conventions, podcamps and meet-ups.

If you do this already, it’s second nature. If you don’t, don’t be scared we’re all just people. Damn, I forgot to quote an article or expound some intricate concept. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.


October 8, 2008

Your Intuition Can Hurt You

It’s often said that things happen for a reason. It’s often said that we adapt to the conclusion with which we’re face with at any given time. This is not a work thing or a social networking thing, it’s a life thing. We create what we want – even when it doesn’t feel like it.

I was speaking with a colleague recently about how he made a plan three years ago to become the top profit making company in his sector. He spent months devising plans, mapping out potential customer pockets, redesigning company org charts, developing intricate financial projections and then sat and waited for it all to fall into place.

Three years later, his company is in about the same place it was when his master plan began. So we talked about the plan and more importantly its execution. It all seemed pretty air tight. Everyone was committed, the dead wood was removed, the team bought in, but still no significant advancement.

Then we examined missed opportunities. The big ones are easy to see; that big contract you bid on that the other company gets, the client that leaves, stuff you can pick off from 30,000ft. We dug deeper into what I call intuitive missed opportunities.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about that feeling you get in your gut when you know you’re right, right out of the gate in his book Blink. It happens to all of us. We sense there’s an opportunity, we feel it’s a good one, and then we explain away all the reasons not to act.

This isn't about hindsight. This is about those times when you utter those three infamous words; "I knew it!"

The horrendous financial crisis in the U.S. – which is rippling around the world – has people scared. I had a client tell me today that they are tightening things because of the latest financial crunch. My idea was irrelevant, it had been dismissed simply because pennies had begun to be pinched. The ripple will long surpass the banking and mortgage industries.

I felt it the other day when I was discussing some development projects with a colleague at another company. We were excited about the ideas and hashing out the “how’s” rather than the “no’s”. We then hoped neither of us would back out at some point for fear they were suddenly bad ideas. We seem to build in failure at the design stage then work toward fulfilling that prescribed inevitability. It's lunacy.

Often we think of something that could be a good idea and then hope we aren’t proven wrong. Food for thought for the next time you get that nagging urge to act, then pause.


October 7, 2008

The C Word

I have come to the realization that the monetization of content is akin to a category six hurricane. And it has just begun. We are all trying to figure it out.

We all want control of our environment. We all want to eventually make some money to pay our bills while we create content for each other. And all the while, the back alley is full of thieves whose sole purpose is to steal any content we create without paying for it. Yes, I do agree with sharing and the community, but this is about how we can all thrive together.

Content is as difficult to define as religion. I subscribe to three key elements with regards to content – it must be good, it must be interesting, it must be worthy of my time. The problem is that the beauty of content is in the ears and eyes of the beholder. We all want different things.

Scott Kirsner is the author of an excellent blog entitled Cinema Tech, a columnist with The Boston Globe, and a writer with Variety. Scott is passionate about technology, the entertainment industry and digital media which are a passions of mine as well. I am riveted to this stuff!

Scott recently spoke with Todd Dagres who is founder and general partner at Spark Capital which is a venture capital company in the digital media realm.

They discuss the entertainment industry and the c-word. This is an excellent conversation with two guys who tell it straight.

Click Here


October 3, 2008

The Principle of Peter

If you have ever said you were going to do something and didn’t do it, welcome aboard. If you have always done what you said you were going to do, the Smithsonian needs to speak with you.

As much as we mean well, we simply don’t do some of the things we say we’re going to do. I’m not the best sales guy in the world, but part of my job as an executive producer is sales. No wait, all of my job is sales. I sell ideas, I sell people’s attributes, and I even sell potential clients and partners on joining our ventures.

But I’m not good at SELLING so I don’t do as much as I should.

Even if you have the best job on earth, there are things you won’t like about the gig. Okay, maybe the second best job… ;-)

As we all watched the train wreck of syntax blunders and mispronounced words last night, the endless stream of unanswered questions and badly rehearsed sound bites, does it scare you that Sarah Palin could be a heartbeat away from the Vice President’s office?

I know I will never operate on a brain or deliver a speech to the graduating class at NASA but to think that someone that dangerously unqualified could be the #2 person in the U.S. is downright frightening. I know the VP is not #2 with everything but check the history books on how many VPs became President during their term. Johnny Mac is 72.

But we must praise the Gov for being honest when she said “I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or (Biden) want to hear, but I’m gonna talk straight to the American people.”

I’ll let “gonna” slide but there is simply too much wrong with that passage to think it was uttered by someone who wants an office down the hall from the Prez. Then again she’s “only been at this for five weeks”.

Others brighter than me can pontificate and blog about Palin’s countless O’Biden guffaws last night. I’ll get back to the phones.


October 1, 2008

Six Degrees? Try Two or Three

As you know, it is not a theory but a fact that every person on the face of planet earth can be linked to every other person in six steps or less. If you can disprove it, you’ll be up for a Pulitzer.

Proximity is probably the biggest factor in how we know who we know. But with electronic social networking, we can make true connections a lot faster. We can pinpoint specific regions and industries to reach.

We often forget that we are all just people. I have sent direct messages to complete strangers who may share similar interests and the responses have been surprising and wonderful. If you haven’t tried it, do so.

I have connected directly with people I have been introduced to by my growing network via Twitter. I have met wonderful people all over the world - people I would never have met any other way. The naysayers dismiss sites like this as merely another chat room for people to sprout off their incoherent musings. If you follow me, perhaps that theory is strengthened?

I've often wondered if hieroglyphics were ancient Egypt's version of Facebook.

Jeff Pulver wrote an excellent blog post the other day about how to more efficiently network your business via social media. It’s worth the read.

In 2008, I think we all need to be connectors, mavens and salesmen. I look forward to more.


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