November 14, 2010

My 20 Truths

I first saw this 20 truths post from Amber Naslund via Twitter. which not surprisingly was inspired by friend and former colleague, CC Chapman. I thought it was a great idea and figured I'd take a stab at what 20 truths were on my mind that day. Here we go:
  1. I have historically not been a good listener, but I’m working on it.
  2. Having kids really does change your life for the better. Whoever came up with all those cheesey sayings about it, they weren’t lying. 
  3. Sometimes adults need babysitting too.
  4. I wish old friends kept in touch better.
  5. You grow fonder of your family as you grow older. I wish I knew that when I was younger.
  6. People too often forget that marketing is all about the customer. If you're not listening to them, get off your high horse.
  7. The world is full of great presenters and great thinkers. Unfortunately, the world has a very limited supply of great doers.
  8. You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family...unless you’re a celebrity visiting an under-devoloped country. I’m still happy with mine.
  9. I must really like both my job and my house because my commute really limits the amount of time spent with my daughter.
  10. You grow much more comfortable with yourself the older you get.
  11. If YOU are lucky, then YOU are involved in that luck. So i guess YOU actually do make your own luck.
  12. Squirrels are an evil animal.This screaming squirrel has to scare you.
  13. When I think about death, it scares me. That’s why I enjoy every day to the fullest and dont sweat the small stuff.
  14. Everyone has secrets.
  15. If you have been there a while and some people you work with don’t feel like family, there’s probably a better fit out there.
  16. Not sure who or where I’d be without ever meeting my wife, but I’d definitely be worse off...and with a horrible wardrobe.
  17. I really like making people laugh. When they don’t laugh, I don't like them.
  18. I still think I had the talent that would have allowed me to play a sport professionally, if I truly had put in the effort and work ethic into the right one. That part is kind of important.
  19. Life would be depressingly different if film and music were never created.
  20. I don’t care if other blog posts inspire me to write a blog post. It’s called inspiration for a reason. 

October 25, 2010

Commitment & Will Power

Commitment is a funny word.  For years as a single male, I feared that word. Or did I pretend to fear that word when in fact I wanted commitment all along? Being in a fun marriage with a beautiful wife and the cutest daugther I could imagine, commitment is certainly not a thing to be scared of.

But what about commitment to work? Or better yet, commitment to working hard? Is that something people fear or are they just not willing to put in the effort?

A recent blog post by Kathy Hanbury discussed content strategy and her steps in how to make the process less difficult. The steps she outlined are the right process and if you actually take out the word content, they can work for any marketing, communications or related initiative.  What really stood out to me though was this quote:

"It's not hard to figure out what needs to be done. The challenge is in mustering the commitment and will power to do it."

This is so right on so many levels. Personally, I think it always comes down to effort.  Whether it's being successful in digital marketing and social media, in sports, in content strategy, in relationships, in  your work or in anything in life. Not everyone puts in the effort and nearly everyone has a lapse in effort at some point. Many times, commitment - an actual, real concerted commitment to make something better - and effort is what puts some people ahead on the depth chart. Are you putting in the effort and commitment?

October 11, 2010

The Structure of Success

About a month back, I caught via Twitter a blog post by a former Twitter employee, Alex Payne. He shared his thoughts about the #newtwitter, the site's role changing in users' lives and that it would be his last post about Twitter. Great read, but what really caught my attention were two quotes about decentralization.

"Twitter needs to decentralize or it will die. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even in a decade, but it was (and, I think, remains) my belief that all communications media will inevitably be decentralized"

"Decentralization isn’t just a better architecture, it’s an architecture that resists censorship and the corrupting influences of capital and marketing."

Both statements may be a little foreboding, but they are grounded in aspects of reality. While Alex was focusing on the decentralization of Twitter as a business versus a medium, the centralization versus decentralization argument has been going on within organizations for decades. In my world, the debate has been within the marketing function of a business.

A centrally shared services group allows for collaboration and consistency. They can streamline messaging and branding. The group can identify and leverage best practices, maximize efficiencies in operations and resources, and minimize any duplication of communication efforts and service purchases.

The decentralized units hold the knowledge and expertise for their respective business and most understand their audience. They are product experts and market specialists. They truly own the content and marketing programs that can deliver on meeting business goals.

I've been in marketing organizations that have been centralized and in ones that have been decentralized; and in an organization that has been both at different times. You can find success in either, but the ideal organizational structure is a hybrid model. It can provide the benefits of each without many of the cons. This is where I have seen the best of both worlds come together.

It is difficult to deliver on though. Much of it depends on the culture and the people within the organization. Both need to be collaborative. If successful, a hybrid of centralized and decentralized services leads to a coordinated, yet empowered organization. It will be the structure of which most organizations will need to be to succeed in the near future.

August 8, 2010

I Was Thinking About Quitting

Blogging. What were you thinking?

I just have not kept up with it like I had hoped and imagined. Yes, work life is busy. Yes, home life is busy, especially with our beautiful, 7-week baby girl. Despite all that, I had hoped to manage my time efficiently and be able to write...mainly for my own entertainment...but also hoping someone, maybe my mom, would go online and read this.

Then, I read a blog post recently, Mitch Joel's Blogging Still Matters...Now More than Ever, that motivated me to just continue to do what I'm my own pace. Some of the quotes from Seth Godin and Tom Peter really resonated with me on a personal blogging level. In the workplace, I've always been an advocate for how important blogging is to managing a truly effective online presence. For many organizations, blogs are THE source of content creation. But personal blogging? With the ability to share ideas and thoughts via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and comment sections of much better bloggers' blogs, I sometimes wonder how often I'll need this outlet for writing or sharing ideas.

Upon starting it, I really wasn't sure how long I'd be doing this or how frequently I'd want to do it. Even when the posts, like this one, happen infrequently and might not have the impact I intended. All I know is that, even during the few times I do it, I enjoy doing it...and that's all that matters.

June 18, 2010

Is Pending Fatherhood Making Me Sentimental?

Every now and then, I've been known to track some of my commute's set lists as I ride home and tune from radio station to radio station.  I know, I'm strange.

Well, I tracked a commute this week and it was quite different than most. I was listening to songs that I would skip right over in past situations. With brief intervals of sports talk radio, the songs were:
  • Father Figure - George Michael (Tough to pass up a song from this album)
  • Kiss from a Rose - Seal (I have never once listened to this song before)
  • Sometimes When We Touch - Dan Hill (Ditto. I swear)
  • We’re Not Gonna Take It - Twisted Sister
  • Blurry - Puddle of Mudd
  • Pride (In the Name of Love) - U2
  • Halfway Gone - Lifehouse
  • Heaven - Bryan Adams
  • 1901 - Phoenix (I feel like I ended on a good note)
I don't know how to quite explain my music interests as they're all over the map, but I would typically not listen to the majority of these songs during a normal commute. Am I getting softer in my old age? Is pending fatherhood making me become a little more sentimental? Are my music interests changing yet again? After looking at the above list, I'm hoping it was just a full moon 'cuz I don't know if I could listen to that group of songs very often.

June 15, 2010

There's A Reason I'm Not Pregnant

I'm male. And thank god for that. I have truly seen why the female gender is the stronger one. There would be no human race if this monumental task was up to us. I get allergies and I complain.

I've seen many friends, colleagues, relatives and even my sister go through a pregnancy, but you never quite understand its complexity until you see someone go through it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 9/10 months. I owe another congratulations to every single one of you...through a different lens.

This has been quite the ride and we are close, but not quite there yet. Likely just a few days away. You learn SO much during this stage in your life that I can't imagine how much more I could possibly learn in the coming weeks after our daughter's birth...but I know there is still much learning to come.

I like to think that I've always respected women to a high degree, but seeing what they go through has been amazing. I'm already so proud of my wife and I know that will only grow over the next few days, weeks and years ahead.

April 25, 2010

A Successful Tagline in Higher Education

A recent blog post by Bob Johnson asked if taglines were important in higher ed and whether finding one that resonated internally and externally was an impossible task. I think that you can certainly find one that fits for all of your audiences. It takes a lot of research - primary, secondary, quantitative, qualitative, anecdotal; and it takes a lot of energy. But it can be done.

Making it resonate internally with current students, staff and faculty may in fact be more important than having it resonate externally with prospective audiences. My marketing philosophy tends to lean towards making your current customers happy first. They are in fact your best marketers. If they enjoy, use and approve of your tagline when they are messaging with your audiences, there is your reward.

Our previous tagline, while working for our prospective audiences, was turned into a negative by students and did not have approval by our entire staff. It also was not quite working for a new student experience philosphy, which included shifting programs and initiatives to be more student-led and initiated. Using this feedback from internal audiences, combinining it with branding market research from our prospective families, and understanding the new vision and strategy of a new college president led to the development of a new tagline that has been used for our undergraduate program for the past few years. The tagline and messaging framework are currently being used across the undergraduate school - during the admission cycle, at orientation, by our service departments and through career development programs.

To me, it has been successful. I may be baised.

April 23, 2010


At my institution, we have seen a lot of activity from admitted and deposited students over the past month on our Facebook Fan page. In comparison to past years, the number of unique page views and the number of interactions during these first three weeks in April have doubled.

What I am seeing more of this year are the process and deadline-oriented questions. It has led me to truly expand our customer service efforts and build a model to lean on a variety of departments to help with the responses. During these conversations with my peers, I came to the realization that the credibility pendulum has swung a little bit at this stage of the admission cycle.

Our admitted and deposited students are no longer searching for current student feedback, but appear to be looking for staff or college-sponsored answers to their questions. In prior months, they had been asking students and their peers for their opinions on questions related to campus life, clubs and organizations, dining, etc. Our current students and admits were the credible source. We were just facilitating/hosting that conversation. What is great is that our students are phenomenal advocates and tend to monitor these online platforms on their own. When a post did go unanswered for a little while, I’d simply ask a student to chime in if it was in an area of interest/expertise for them.

At this stage of the game, we need to be more customer-service oriented with our Facebook use and staff need to be their key source of information. Credibility is a powerful marketing tool. Understand who your sources of credibility are and when to properly use them. The prospective student responses and the conversations that have taken place there have been such a great source of public enthusiasm for the incoming class - both when students are leading conversation and when staff and faculty are leading the conversation.

I originally titled this post “authenticity”. It’s a word that is overused when referring to marketing activities and even more so when referencing social media. It wasn’t really what I wasn’t trying to get at either so thank you for being my vocabulary source when my intellect could not come through late on a Friday afternoon.

March 7, 2010

Networking is Conversation

Networking.  At certain stages in one's life, it's a necessary means to progressing to that next stage in your life. Some enjoy it; others despise it.  Some excel at it; others do not.

Well, I'm not really into networking but I do like to talk.  I've learned to really love conversation lately; especially about things I truly enjoy - becoming a dad, sports, higher education, social media, pop culture, entertainment. I guess that brings me back to why I started this blog.  I like to converse and share..even if no one's listening :) - and continue the conversation if someone actually is.

I've been in some situations over the last couple months where a serial networker would have been ecstatic.  Traditionally, I would have hated these opportunities but they've actually been enjoyable! I think I historically have not enjoyed networking more so due to my negative reaction to the word. I've had the word and the necessity of the action drilled into me through my undergraduate and graduate business courses and through then working at a business school for ten years.

It's time to change any networking situations into opportunties for conversation.  It's much more enjoyable. With conversation and engagement, good times will follow.

February 15, 2010

CASE Conference and Social Media

I was lucky enough to speak at last month's CASE Conference.  After being connected through a mutual past colleague, I was even luckier to co-present with Tamsen McMahon of Sametz Blackstone Associates on the Why and Why Nots of Social Media. The presentation was jam-packed as social media was definitely a buzz topic over the two days I was at the conference. There were many questions and much interest and I only wish we had more time for both the presentation and taking more questions.

This was my first time presenting at CASE and Tamsen certainly set me up for success.  Presenting has always been somewhat of a high for me and this was no exception.  Presenting can be nerve-wracking; and it can be a whole lot of fun.  Going in to every presentation I do, I try to promise myself three things: 1) Be relaxed; 2) Understand that I won't hit every point I prepare; and 3) Try to interject some humor.  Now, not everyone will get every joke you make as that is typicallly the case for me, but it at least keeps you making yourself laugh.  That is my #1 rule for not only every presentation, but every day. :)

Our presentation can be found on Slideshare. I am actually not a client of Tamsen's or Sametz, but it's amazing how similar our approaches and philosophy on digital media are despite being new acquaintances.  At the end of the day, there are variety of organizational structures, policies and strategies that can work, but they've developed a method that will help determine how social media will work in any organization.

When it comes to any space within social media, I feel that you need to be a consumer first. Your plan has three simple steps.
  1. Learn -  Learn your way around the space and discover how other users are utilizing the platform.
  2. Interact - Now that you have a sense of the space, use it more frequently and understand its intricacies. Communicate and be a part of the conversation.
  3. Engage - Now that you've built relationships and have become knowledgeable of the space, share content and conversation that will engage your new connections.
If you follow these three basic steps, I ensure that you will become a more comfortable and engaged user of social media.  And this method works for both personal and corporate use. For any marketer or communications professional, I feel that you should learn, interact and engage as a consumer first to truly understand the space.  You can stagger these steps in parallel for each and learn about your product, service and market while engaging as an individual user.  After all, your audience is your brand and to quote Tamsen from another session during CASE, "social media allows you to understand your brand."

February 13, 2010

Video (and Internet) Did Not Kill the Radio Star

A recent tweet by a friend that runs the barnerblog, a blog about his thoughts on music and more, motivated me to share my love for music.  All kinds of music. Even teen pop.

A one hour commute can lead to many things - catching up on phone calls, car karaoke, marketing ideas, and the horrible habit of texting/blackberrying at stops in traffic or lights (no more carexting is my newest New Year's Resolution as I'm not sure yet how I'm doing with the first one). With a commute an hour long, many have recommended I get satellite radio. 

No thanks, people.  Typically, people are critical of it, but I've always been a fan of good, old-fashioned FM radio. And with the variety of music that I'm interested in, I'm able to continously find what I want.  Mix in a couple sports talk radio stations and a little NPR if I'm really desperate and an hour of commute time goes by in no time. 

Maybe everyone else is just looking in the wrong places or listening to the wrong stations. More likely is the fact that you don't like the wide variety of music I do. When I say I like everything (but country), I mean it.  You hear that phrase all the time, but I'm serious.

Here's your proof. In my commute home one night, these songs were all played on the radio, different stations of course. This legendary commute set list was sung by none other than yours truly. 
  • The Pixies - Here Comes Your Man
  • Pearl Jam - Just Breathe
  • Kings of Leon - Use Somebody
  • Ke$ha - Tik Tok
  • Matisyahu - One Day
  • Taylor Swift - Fifteen
  • Muse - Uprising
  • Aerosmith - Dream On
  • Miley Cyrus - Party in the U.S.A.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
  • Pearl Jam- The Fixer
Now, that is some variety. It was quite a run of songs that I wanted to listen/sing awkwardly to. After the first three, I had to start keeping track. I even tweeted how shocked I was about the first and how this blog post would eventually be forthcoming (2 weeks later).

In my commutes, I've seen this string of "listenable" songs happen a lot. Now, I'm not saying I'd download all of these on iTunes, but I'm pretty sure at least six of them are on my iPod.  Call me out for singing horrible pop songs, but don't tell me that radio is dead.

February 9, 2010

Changing of the Guard

Many times in an organization or a sports team, there comes a time when new leadership is necessary to take your oganization or your team to the next level.  In start-up ventures, you see this moment of transition being even more important.  There comes a point where the business' founder realizes he or she does not have the skillset and expertise to bring the organization to the next level.  Some times, they purposely do not want to pass along the organization.  This could lead to a failed business or one with stagnant growth.

You know who needs a change in leadership?  The Celtics.  No, I'm not asking for Doc Rivers or Danny Ainge to get fired or to look for a new owner.  I'm talking about the entire team - ownership, general manger, coach and players - finally realizing that the true leader on this team is Rajon Rondo. 

When this team loses, it's not only because they look old, but they typically don't have one individual this year that rises above the others in terms of taking charge.  On many occasions, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have all been that guy on this team and on others.  This year, that's not true.  Ray, while he's been the only healthy one this year, has not been shooting as years past.  With their injuries, Kevin and Paul are not the same players.  Rajon, despite hitting the floor more than anyone in the league, can easily take control of games and he's done so many, many times this year. His penetration, his defense and his passing are all-nba.  His shooting is certainly improving and that cannot be debated when you look at his field goal percentage this year of 53%. But it's time for his own organization to truly realize this is his team.  Don't just say he's the glue to the team.  Act like it.

He's been a quiet floor leader in the past, but he needs to be even more now with this particular team.  And what shows that he is becoming more comfortable as a leader is his willingess to call the team out with his words now.  I have no idea if he was referring to one individual or to many, but the fact alone that he said it shows his growing leadership skills. 

Yes, he plays with three future Hall of Famers.  But they are not at the top of their game at this stage of their careers. Rondo is by far their most imporant player. This entire organization, and even more so the New Big Three, needs to follow him and let him lead them to the finals. It is his team now. That is the only way this team goes anywhere this year...and likely the next couple years while all or some of the New Big Three are still in Boston.

January 17, 2010

A Golden Globe Nominee

Now, as everyone does, I see a lot of movies. The disclaimer is that I don't often dislike the movies that I see as 99% of them do what I hope they do. I watch a movie hoping it will take me out of my current element and provide me the opportunity to live in a different world for 90 or 120 minutes...or sometimes even longer if you're talking about Avatar. I'm easily entertained but films are truly a great form of entertainment.  Sadly, movie dialogue and quotes serve up about 90% of my humor so the entertainment never ends...for me.

Let's briefly talk about a movie that not enough people are talking about. I recently saw Golden Globe nominee (500) Days of Summer. I'll try not to ruin it if you haven't seen it, but skip to my really important question in the last paragraph if you're feeling a spoiler.

Overall, I thought it was a really good film and would definitely recommend it...unless you don't like storylines that bounce around and don't want the ending up front. I actually enjoy that type of storytelling. I think it mirrors how I think, how I write and how I tell stories. It being a dark comedy didn't hurt for me either as I tend to enjoy them. I was drawn in from the beginning. I didn't believe the narrator during the opening when he said "This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story." I guess it isn't a love story but it also kind of is. The closing scenes (park bench convo and interview waiting area) had me thinking of how I met my wife and how so many random things had to go right for that actual meeting to take place. All in all, I really liked the movie, but I'm happy The Hangover just won the Golden Globe as I type this. It's a hysterical movie that I can't wait to watch a second time...which is likely going to occur tomorrow.

Finally, someone needs to figure out why I feel like I've seen Zooey Deschanel before. I looked through her filmography and it's not any of the TV or film she's been in.  Does she look like someone I know?  Or another famous person?  This is killing me.

January 14, 2010

Two Recent Car Commute Set Lists

I am always amazed by the vareity of songs from the radio that I tend to listen to.  The two set lists below were from some recent commutes, of which I have a long one. Many days I end up listening to sports talk radio, but there are others where I lean on the radio to pump out some good songs.  Both of these rides were at the end of the work day, when it is even more appreciative to wind down to some good music.

There were a couple songs in both, Blur's Song 2 and the G6 song. The first is a blast from the past and the second is just so damn catchy, but both were and will be overplayed, respectively. Otherwise, the sets had some great songs from the alternative 90s (Soundgarden, Jane's, Pumpkins, Melon, R.E.M. ,Sublime) and some great new music (Bells, Yeahs, Killers, Weane, Florence, Death Cab). A few randoms sprinkled in there and we have ourselves two sets of 10.

Car Commute Set List #1
  • Far East Movement, The Cataracs and DEV - Like a G6
  • Taio Cruz - Dynamite
  • REM - It's The End of the World As We Know It
  • Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn of Blur on stage...
    Image via Wikipedia
    Blur - Song 2
  • Broken Bells - The Ghost Inside
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll
  • Jane’s Addiction - Been Caught Stealing
  • Sublime - Santeria
  • Blind Melon - No Rain
  • The Killers - Mr. Brightside

Car Commute Set List #2
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Soul Meets Body
  • Blur - Song 2
  • Keane - Somewhere Only We Know
  • Soundgarden - Pretty Noose
  • Taylor Swift - Mine
  • Far East Movement, The Cataracs and DEV - Like a G6
  • Black Eyed Peas - The Time (Dirty Bit)
  • The Fray - How to Save a Life
  • Florence and The Machine - Dog Days Are Over
  • Smashing Pumpkins - Cherub Rock
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January 3, 2010

It's All About Current Customers

I have had a lot of marketing conversations lately that have led me back to sharing my foundamental marketing belief - it's all about your current customers.

I don't care what industry you are in.  The core of your business are your current customers and they always need to be an audience of focus. They are your brand. They know your value proposition better than you do. They are your best marketing strategy.  Their referrals, their word of mouth, and even their bad reviews can make or break your year. 

In thinking of my current industry, this has been a weakness in many higher ed institutions for many, many years.  The focus has always been on the prospective student, the alumni base, recruiters, the foundation, etc. At the end of the day, what are each of those audiences looking at? The current student experience. It all comes back to the current students. Are they happy? Are they thriving? Are they valuing their investment? Are they worth an investment?

So why do so many businesses and institutions ignore this important audience? Why do they refuse to focus any marketing efforts on the service provided to and the experience of their current customers?

It's understandable to want to move forward and look for that next big sale and grow your customer base. At the end of the day, it obviously needs to grow.  It just cannot be at the sacrifice of your current customers.  Losing one current customer with that bad experience can have a far more negative impact than the benefit of gaining one new customer.

January 2, 2010

The Male Baby Announcement

I've recently been sharing the great news that my wife and I will be expecting a baby in 2010.  While I have not been shouting it off the rooftops of every social network, the news is pretty public at this point.  For some reason, I just have not been comfortable spreading the initial news through a status update or tweet.

A couple weeks back, we hit the stage where I was comfortable with sharing the news at work. Our families and really close friends knew, but I wanted to share it with the people I see every single day.  My wife had shared the news at her work for a while at that point as she had unfortunately been so sick and needed to let some colleagues know. But when does a male share this great news at work?  And how do you do it? I'm not gagging; I'm not starting to show; I'm not puking in the bathroom nor am I eating saltines at my desk.  There are obvoiusly no male signs that ease co-workers into the possibility of pregnancy!  I've been excited about the news for months at this point, but I have had to hide my excitement.

I was also struggling with whom to share it with.  I work with many different offices on campus and consider myself friendly with all of them. I figured news would travel fast and didn't really want to develop a hierarchy of awareness!  But how do you do it? Do you walk around from office to office sharing the news? Do you wear a sandwich board announcing the news and just wait for people to react? (to the news and the sandwich board) Do you send a mass email, maybe even mail-merged to disguise it as personalization? This bit of advice is not shared in mantown.

While sharing the news with a female co-worker who I just found out was pregnant, I asked this same question and joked about some ways to do it.  One of the jokes spawned an idea. Knowing that I wanted to add a comedic twist to it, I went to for some inspiration. I didn't want to go as obscene as some of those tend to be so I created my own. And then I distributed it out via e-mail at nearly the same time to many different groups of co-workers and friends who had not known yet. It seemed to go over well.