Archive for May, 2011

Graduation Moment

Read something the other day I thought would make a great graduation speech.  Too bad so many commencement speakers are so full of themselves that they can’t bear to deliver remarks like this.  So I’ll take a whack at it.  Call it my Speech to the Class of ’11 in Absentia:

Congratulations, graduates.  You now depart campus and enter the world of your chosen profession.  Assuming, of course, you can find a job there.  But, I digress.  These remarks are supposed to give inspiration to you, not indigestion to your parents.

Anyway, there’s some talk today that colleges are failing to instill the attitudes and training necessary for success in the working world.  At least according to an Op-Ed in the New York Times recently.  And we hear this regularly today elsewhere. Nonsense, I say.  This has never been, nor should it be, the purpose of higher education. As far as the attitudes necessary for success in life, I say that they were supposed to have been instilled in you long before you arrived on campus.  Long before you even took your SAT.

This instillation should have happened at home as you were growing up, not during some indoctrination as a young adult. It was the guidance your mother and father gave you at every turn.  Especially mom.  It would have gone something like this:

Share with others.  Yes, mom was probably referring to toys and ice cream, but think about it.  Leadership and success have a lot to do with the sharing of ideas, information, tips, suggestions, and all that creates enthusiasm, positive energy, goodwill and inspiration.  Esprit de corps.  Departments and groups and organizations that share stuff amongst themselves, especially the credit for jobs well done, tend to be more spirited, better focused and more productive.  This is what is meant by the effective organization.

Plan ahead. Most moms I’ve known frowned on procrastination.  They also wanted you to think about the consequences of your actions.  Moms don’t like aimless drifting.  Same thing goes for life as an adult.  Most good things don’t just happen to us by a random act of the universe. They are the result of specific actions we’ve taken to make them happen. We fail to make good things happen to the extent that we fail to plan for them.  “If you fail to plan you’re planning to fail” might sound corny but, boy, is it true.

Remember the Golden Rule. If there is a key to well-being it is this.  Make a habit of being respectful to your customers, friends, employees, colleagues, bosses, clients, retail clerks, roommates, lovers, ticket agents, hotel maids, bus drivers, and everybody else with whom you transact and it will inevitably be returned to you most of the time. It’s good business. In every transaction, no matter how trivial it may seem, ask yourself: How would I like to be treated if I were on the other side of this?

Stay in touch.  Your mom never failed to let you know when too much time had passed between calls or texts. She wants to hear from you.  So, too, never ignore your colleagues, your superiors, your customers, clients and partners. The people who matter in your world. Stay in contact. Reach out.  Connect.  Let your people know you care.

Reserve the right to be smarter tomorrow than you are today.   I’ll bet your mom encouraged you to be open-minded and tolerant of others who may have been different.  In the same way, being open to new ideas and trends is fundamental to creativity, innovation and adaptation in world of perpetual, not to mention accelerating, change.  It’s also the trait that most clearly differentiates the best run organizations from the other kind.

Stay up-to-date with current events.  This is how you stay on top of trends and developments. It’s key to making better decisions, especially ones having to do with planning.  Understanding what’s currently happening in your field will make you a more intelligent practitioner of whatever you do. The better informed you are, the more effective you are as an employee or a citizen.

Tell the truth. Your mom was a stickler here, with zero tolerance. In the business world or anywhere else, even half-truths can be as corrosive as lies themselves.  Whatever misleads and undermines spells ultimate doom, sooner or later, for the deceiver.  Particularly in this increasingly online world, transparency is key to sustained success. In that world, trust is currency.  If you don’t have it, you won’t survive. Untruthful is the essence of uncool.

Admit mistakes.  Above all, don’t cover up. We’ve all heard the truism, “The coverup was worse than the crime”.  Why do you think it became a truism?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. Parents, especially moms, are notorious for encouragement.  It’s right in the job description.  But it’s absolutely, positively, almost mystically true: you will fail.  If you don’t, you haven’t stretched yourself and you will not grow.  Failure is not in failing to succeed.  It’s in failing to try.  And try again.  And again and again.

Good luck.  And congratulations to your parents!

Gold Coin Found With Metal Detector

Prospects shouldn’t need a metal detector to find you.

By now, the importance of creating your own content and publishing it online via all social channels should be pretty obvious, but this finding merits special mention:  HubSpot just reported that nearly two out of every three social-media messages today is a link to published content.

In other words, people pointing out to personal friends and business associates the material published by someone else amounts to a substantial majority of the information flow in social media.  The implications for marketers have never been clearer or more urgent: brands, whether B2C or B2B, are as much in the content publishing (and distribution) business today as they are in the business that generates their revenue stream.  Indeed, the publishing element of their business has become central to growing this revenue because it drives the visitors to your site who generate the leads that convert to $ales.

Moreover, whether people are sharing links to your content or embedding it into social networks directly, an overwhelming 96% of the sharing that happens online is of content, not websites.  The take-away: creating fresh content that encourages sharing  amongst your prospects, customers, partners and market influencers, specifically the stuff that addresses issues of keenest interest and urgency to them, multiplies their interest in you.  You’re in the conversation, which is the precursor to being in consideration.

Superior marketers have come to understand that pushing content drives in-bound marketing.  Fresh content — the more frequently published the better — facilitates online “find-ability”.  It’s  not enough to update your site once a quarter and step back to await the deluge of visitors clicking through your multiple calls-to-action.  Plant your content seeds in social media and get it shared among the right people on an ongoing basis.

What is your content strategy today?  What are your content publishing tactics?  How often do you publish the content your prospects and customers can’t resist sharing?

(This post appeared yesterday in The Write Stuff, my blog over at Write Angle.)

To Dispute

Committees produce content that sucks.
In his book “Corner Office”, the New York Times’ Adam Bryant interviews a bunch of CEOs and describes how they got their jobs. One of the traits of a good CEO, he says, is understanding human psychology. Specifically, CEOs who do the best jobs are the ones able to mold stars into teams. First, you have to spot the difference between a star player and team player. Then you ensure that the stars are willing and able to put the team first. The ones who can’t must go.

These team dynamics apply to writing projects, too, especially the bigger ones that cross functional lines. Creating remarkable content for successful marketing and selling involves talented individuals, “stars”, working as a team. In the end, a superior creative product emerges not by committee but by collaboration. It’s tricky to negotiate the fine line that separates the two but this is precisely what needs to happen.

The best marketing content gains and holds attention then compels some form of action by the reader. So an effective piece of content is not unlike a powerful speech. Just as a good presenter visualizes talking to a single individual instead of roomful of them, talented writers imagine they are creating a message, a letter to someone they know, vividly describing something of specific interest to that reader and asking for a response. The typical problem with marketing content is its “committee” feel. Trying to speak to everyone, it addresses no one. How does your team overcome committee-speak? How do you encourage content creation that is collaborative?

(This post appeared today in TheWriteStuff, my blog over at Write Angle Inc.)

Props to the academics at Edit911, the guys who were instrumental in editing our book a few years years ago, for inspiring today’s post. You can read the full Monty here.  If you’re short on time, check out our expurgated version, below:
I. Use shorter sentences. Your readers will not only thank you, they’ll be much more inclined to read your stuff.
II. Read it aloud. If it doesn’t sound right, it’s wrong. If it sounds good, it reads well.

III. Give it to someone else to read. Preferably someone known for their candor. This is the essence of test-marketing.

IV. Outline your thoughts. This ensures a beginning, a middle and an end. It also guards against repetition and rambling.

V. In lengthier pieces, use subheads. Another way to ensure that you follow your outline.

VI. Make your main idea your compass or “true north”. If you need reminding, put it on the corner of each page as you write.

VII. Think of possible objections. If you’ve ever taken a class in debate, this is like the exercise of arguing both sides of an issue. Anticipating objections enable you to build in persuasive counter-arguments. You want your opinion to make a difference in someone’s thinking, not just make your point.

VIII. Know your audience. Never stop asking and reminding yourself exactly who your readers are as you write to them.

IX. Use spell check and grammar check. They are heavenly tools.  And these are, after all, Commandments.

X. If there is one thing worse than underestimating (insulting) your reader’s intelligence, it’s overestimating their knowledge of your subject.
It’s no coincidence that the best writing happens to be the clearest and simplest.

This was first posted earlier today on The Write Stuff, the blog I write for over at Write Angle Inc.

Not Buying It

As a scarred veteran of making the case for bigger marketing budgets in marketing-skeptical companies of all size and stripe, I could empathize with my lunch companions the other day who bemoaned their company’s reluctance to embrace the tools and best practices of social media.  I reminded them that the trend was on their side and that ample data now substantiates the case that more is better when it comes to the content that drives in-bound marketing.

My caveats today, however, are pretty much what they were back in the day — when the word “blogger” would elicit blank stares or quizzical looks.  “Content is king”, in the parlance of the in-bound cult.  If so, bear in mind that ROI is still reigning emperor.  And to the extent you can show returns, you’re a member of the court.