The Pillars of Awesomeness

Umair Haque has thrown open a unique challenge:

Send me your thoughts on awesomeness. A sentence, a paragraph, an essay. Positive, negative, explanatory, or exploratory. Your own real-world examples, or your vision of awesomeness.

Here are some questions to get you started thinking:

  • What resonated most (or least) with you about the idea of awesomeness?
  • Who do you think is awesome — versus just merely innovative?
  • What are your pillars of awesomeness?

Frankenstein's MonsterI like the concept of awesomeness – at least in the context of the Awesomeness Manifesto. Having worked in the fields of business innovation, process improvement, creativity and advertising for well over a decade now, it certainly feels that the term “innovation” suffers from its industrial age underpinnings. It is not JUST that innovation relies on obsolescence – but more that innovation can occur almost without human agency. This is especially true in business where workflows are automated, connections are streamlined and processes optimised.

“Awesomeness” for me implies that sense of “awe” – as if we are looking into the eye of a newly living beast and not quite knowing whether to cheer or to run. And while I have attempted to systematise creative processes for continuous digital strategy or for digital storytelling (P-L-A-Y), I always aim to leave a little space for the disruption of human creativity. It is, after all, the human dimension that brings awesomeness out of the conceptual realm and introduces it to life.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

5Another week has passed with a brimful of sterling posts from around the world! First stop – in case you missed it – is the US with KD Paine’s excellent measurement blog – but keep reading, there’s more goodness in store for you!

  1. We ALL know it, but sometimes it takes a big brand name or an analyst group to crystalise our thinking. KD Paine points out that it’s PEOPLE not TOOLS that matter when it comes to measurement – and Forrester and Google agree.
  2. Sean Howard then serves up another dose of measurement goodness, exposing the Myth of Social Media Measurement.
  3. Mandi Bateson shares a case study for the 7 Days in Sydney campaign for Tourism NSW. Check it out.
  4. Mark Pollard delivers a massive post and a great read around the way that Google Insights can be used to drive your digital strategy – shedding some light on the efforts of some big brands here in Australia
  5. Ian Lyons – the man who is always ready with a gadget and an idea – has launched his new website – Quick Smarts. Check it out for the kind of tips, tricks and ideas that make your boss gasp!

What’s Your Story? Here’s Part of Mine

Mirror, mirror on the wall - who is the most beautiful in the whole country ?I don’t know about you, but I find it REALLY hard to write about my #1 client (ie me). No matter whether you are looking at my LinkedIn profile, my Twitter profile, the presentations that I have released on Slideshare, or my About page, it feels that nothing quite comes close to capturing my real story. There is always something missing. Some hook left un-baited.

A little while back I created a page where I can keep track of my various online activities. It doesn’t tell a story. At least not in words. It speaks of participation and engagement. It speaks of outcomes – things that I have achieved and am proud of. And, of course, each item, each link, has a story, a drama that could fill a novel. But we are short of time, breath, energy and attention. Our lives are reduced to links on a screen.

But today I am profiled in the Digital Ministry’s Digital People section. Denise Shrivell from MediaScope asked some interesting questions that really got me thinking – and gave me the space to play with the answers. It helped me fill in the gaps between the links – that otherwise makeup our digital careers. I hope you enjoy it.

But what about you? What’s your story – and how do you best tell it?

A Cup of Chaos # 22 – Hey Hey It’s Racism

It has been a veritable smorgasboard of embarrassment this week. How to choose – Cheesybite (what’s to bet someone, somewhere was voting for Cheesybyte!) or the Hey Hey It’s Saturday blackface incident? Both caused a storm!

So I chose Hey, Hey – only because it’s best of both worlds. This segment sponsored by Kraft (Philadelphia cream cheese). Check out Harry Connick Jnr’s response 5 minutes in. It’d be nice to think we have moved beyond this type of humour. Really it would.

Australian Consumer Online Experience: Earned Media Wins

Right about now, most marketers will be starting to set their budgets for next year. We are looking at what worked this year, what didn’t, and thinking about how we can capitalise on the positive momentum and new product/feature launches that are planned for 2010. For some this means buying media. For others it means looking at earned media.

One of the very first things I do is to look at where my customers are playing. And by “playing”, I mean, where do they spend their time. How do they break down their days? I am looking for an understanding of their BEHAVIOUR. I am looking for opportunities to ENGAGE, not chances to interrupt. I’m seeking participation.

For me, it starts with data. I feed this into my continuous digital strategy process (regardless of whether it is digital or not). I look at the Google Trends data and I cross pollinate it with my own web analytics information. What do I see? I see the phenomenon that Ian Lyons is seeing. On the Datalicious blog, Ian suggests that Australian Brand Sites are Losing to the Social Web:

    1. We are hanging out in social sites where relevant content finds us through our friends rather than searching out brands
    2. Content is being pushed off-site through mechanisms such as RSS Feeds, Twitter, YouTube Channels and Facebook Fan pages

Google Trends for Australian Media Properties

Ian shares a number of graphs to to demonstrate (take a good look at the post for more), but this one above clearly shows a significant fall in the number of daily unique visitors to all Australian online media properties. The most dramatic fall belongs to The important thing to remember with this, is that consumers haven’t suddenly lost half of their time or attention – they are shifting attention (their precious resource) to other places. And clearly consumer behaviour is not shifting to brands or even brand websites – it’s shifting to our friends, connections and family – online.

Google Trends for SNS

Facebook is the big winner. It’s winning because the future of your brand is social. It is winning because the decisions we make are now social. And as consumer behaviour and action continues to shift, as people continue to rely on social judgement as a means of filtering the thousands of advertising and branded messages they encounter each day, brands are going to struggle to remain relevant or even interesting.

It’s time to think about what I call the Auchterlonie Effect. It’s time, as Ian suggests, for brands to think of themselves as (niche) publishers. And it’s time to think about shifting that media budget of yours away from SPENDING and into INVESTMENT. Remember, on the web, content lasts forever. Use that insight to your advantage!

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

There is just so much good quality material flying around this week it is hard to contain my list to just five. But here goes:

  1. Scott Monty serves up Fear and Loathing in Social Media – and steps us through the 5 Stages of Social Media Grief (your brand or your brand manager will need to go through these five steps before realising that yes, social media is here to stay)
  2. I am sure you have seen those ragged, half-alive social zombies – the social microsite that is left to hang in cyberspace long after the campaign finishes. Armando Alves suggests we should clean up the mess we made in the first place!
  3. Angus shares a way to claim your expensive meal even if you lost your receipts.
  4. Sometimes rather than writing more, maybe we should just stop. (Hmmm, could be a problem for me). Amber Naslund takes her time to consider how to take the conversation to a new level.
  5. You were always on my mind – or why David Gillespie thinks, rightly, that good branding is not about being top of mind, but being embedded in culture and behaviour.

Calling all Authors – It’s the Age of Conversation 3

Please come in.Back in 2007 it was a struggle to explain to people what “blogging” was all about. At dinner parties, people would grill me about blogging, about its relevance to business and about the weirdness of writing for a handful of readers. So when Drew McLellan and I decided to try and pull together 100 of the world’s most thoughtful and articulate marketers to share their experiences (both professional and individual) about blogging, we didn’t know what to expect. Could we REALLY turn it into a book?What would the content be like? How many people would actually DELIVER their chapters? How would the book be received?

Well, it’s over two years later. The book that we published, The Age of Conversation, spurned a follow-up edition, The Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It. We grew the author base from 100 to 237. We were mentioned in the press and on blogs around the world, and even made the reading list for undergraduate marketing courses across the US. In the process, we raised well over $20,000 for charity (all proceeds from the first two books were donated to Variety the Children’s Charity).

Age of Conversation 2Much has changed in the last two years. New platforms, tools and approaches have been tried. Some remain, many have fallen by the wayside. Businesses, public and private organisations and Not For Profits of all shapes and sizes are dipping their toes into the conversational water; agencies and independent consultants are wading in (some taking the full body immersion option); and together – often in spite of our best practices and efforts – we are ALL learning that there is much more to “social media” and its impacts than we could have first imagined.

Sure there are some success stories, but we are a long way from consensus.

It is in this landscape that we are launching a call for authors for a NEW collaborative book – The Age of Conversation 3. The approach remains the same as the previous editions. Each author will be able to submit one 400 word article. To make sure the content is varied and to avoid repetition, we've created 10 section topics. Each author will select one topic and then direct the content of their submission accordingly. There will be a maximum of 30 authors per section.

The sections you can write for are:  

  1. Conversational Branding
  2. Influence
  3. Getting to Work
  4. Corporate Conversations
  5. Measurement
  6. In the Boardroom
  7. Pitching Social Media
  8. Innovation and Execution
  9. Identities, Friends and Trusted Strangers
  10. Conversation at the Coalface (If you work at the coalface, you deal with the real problems and issues, rather than sitting in a office discussing things in a detached way.)

As you have probably figured out, we are capping participation at a maximum of 300 authors. So if you want to join what has become a global publishing event, you will need to MOVE FAST. You can sign up HERE.

What’s in it for you?

Your contribution to The Age of Conversation places you in esteemed company. Many of our past collaborators are well known authors in their own right, are respected thought leaders in a range of fields (from marketing through NFP, within the enterprise, in education and as business leaders) or distinguish themselves as community leaders in other ways.

Your article will appear in what we think will be one of the must-read books of 2010. If you have not been published before, this is your chance to collaborate on a business book with a global audience. There will be link love (to your blog or website), there will be opportunities to raise your profile via podcast, interviews and even book readings – and you will be raising money for a worthwhile charity.

In return, you will be asked to sign an author release:

  1. The author release will bind you to promoting the book on your blog, Twitter and other social tools. If you cannot commit to helping us promote the book, please don’t ask to participate.
  2. You handover your rights to your article and in return we will donate all proceeds to charity.
  3. This time, we are going to let the authors vote on the charity that will receive the proceeds (with some help from Beth Kanter)
  4. You commit to submitting your entry by November 1, 2009.

Wait! Hasn’t it all been said already?

At the time of the first Age of Conversation, Todd Andrlik’s Power 150 list of social media and marketing blogs really only had 150 entries. These days, now under the auspices of Charlie Moran at Ad Age, the Power 150 boasts over 1000 entries. Not only are MORE blogs being created, more writers are emerging with unique perspectives and new insights. There has never been a better time to be part of this global conversation. What are you waiting for? SIGN UP HERE.

Want My Copy of Trust Agents?

Trust.When I started reading Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book, Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust , I planned to jot notes, tweet summaries and scribble in the margins. But I must admit that I did none of these things. You see, these two write so engagingly that once you are IN the book, you forget about everything else. Normally this only happens to me with novels, but there are some great storytelling elements in Trust Agents – and with every chapter my mind was whirring – in agreement or thinking through how an idea could be put into action.

What I liked about this book is that it focuses on YOU – the person who participates in the world of social networks. It shows you how to begin to build profitable relationships with these “trust agents” – “digitally savvy people who use the Web to humanize businesses using transparency, honesty and genuine relationships”. It also shows you how you too, can become a trust agent.

One of the suggestions in the last chapter was to give your book away. Now, I love collecting books, but I like this idea. There is a great deal of value in this book for anyone interested in the online space. So, while I would encourage you to BUY a copy of the book – you have a small chance to get a copy FREE. It’s in excellent condition – no margin notes, no marks – and it smells like new. If you want it, leave me a comment telling me why YOU should be trusted with this book. You only have until the end of the week.

Oh, and I will mail it to you anywhere in the world.

So tell me, should you be trusted?

Creativity, Education and Revolution

Years ago I taught Postmodern Studies at the University of Western Sydney. It covered a whole lot of basic theory – but also focused on creativity as a discipline. We got a great deal of push-back from the students who felt that the course was not practical enough and not focused on helping them get a job. Yet despite these protestations, many found the course difficult, challenging – and a lot of work. It was. It was meant to be. It wasn’t about training – it was about education. It was designed to enable students to LEARN.

A couple of years later I was working at IBM and hiring a large number of new graduates into my team. I was looking for spark, creativity, imagination and problem solving. I had plenty of jobs open and a willingness to train an eager employee. But I found it hard. Hard to find people who didn’t need to be spoon fed. Hard to find people willing to work hard and learn fast. Hard to find people who could step beyond TALKING and get to the hard task of DOING.

You see, the systems of education were not conducive to the type of employee that I needed. And the user pays system seemed to have bred a sense of entitlement rather than a curiosity for learning. Many graduates find the transition from study to work very confronting – there are professional responsibilities, rock-hard deadlines and a raft of rules, restrictions and expectations that are sometimes unspoken. What we need is to look again at our education systems and think about the type of citizenry we want and NEED into 2050. We need to prepare AND challenge our students, teachers and the systems within which they operate. And we need to do it now. We need what Denise Caron calls an Education Revolution.

Education Revolution

View more documents from Denise Caron.