Guest Post: It’s Not About the Method, It’s About the Message

Over the years, one particular question is starting to become the norm. "What's our message?" Ok, I would expect this question from a small business or a startup selling something like snail-flavoured crackers. They get an idea, they are passionate about the idea, and boom, they think the next step is for us to crank out a logo or website. Unfortunately they aren't the only ones tripping over this error.

Organizations pulling in 20 million in revenue have the same question. When we are brought in, as goal-oriented graphic designers, the goal should be presented. We should be the creative outlet to communicate the message for that goal, but so many times there is no message to communicate. These companies spend their time focusing on the platform they will use to deliver the message, but not the message itself. It's like choosing a method of transportation before knowing your destination. This may have been permissible when bigger marketing budgets meant more ads plastered everywhere and more revenue, but this doesn't fly anymore.

In a new global economy consumers are harder to attract, and naturally suspicious of your motives. In this market place, simply spewing out gorgeous designs won't do; I can pay anyone with Photoshop a few bucks and get that. We need to be more emotionally and culturally sensitive. Simply jumping on Twitter and Facebook, or creating a "viral" video won't do it, these were trendy at first, but they are quickly morphing into simple distribution channels like web sites, email or texting.

Companies need to press their marketing firms, design firms and other ad teams to focus on goals. As a designer, let me caution the Marketing VPs and Communication Directors out there: Your ad campaign message needs to be established independently of the method of communication. The design should be the very last step. It's not about the method, it's about the message.

Justin Brady is the quick-witted founder of Test of Time Design in Des Moines, Iowa.

Write Me a Guest Post

Over the years I have had a few people write guest posts here, but it is not something that I have pushed. Recently I thought it might be an interesting experiment – so I asked some folks on Twitter and received positive feedback.

What got me excited about the idea was sharing in your creativity. Like a zombie, I am interested in your brains.

But then it got me thinking … how do I brief a guest blogger? What do they need to know about and how can they make sure that their writing and interests are a good match?

So – if you ARE interested in writing a guest post, here’s some things you should know:

  1. This is a marketing and branding blog. There’s a lot of information about social media here, but it is in the context of the business of marketing. Don’t send me posts on using social media without a serious business context. My readers are also interested in your brains
  2. About 32% of the web readership is from the USA with a slightly smaller percentage coming from Australia. The UK accounts for about 10% of the traffic, with Canada, India and Germany rounding out the top five. Make sure your topic has an international flavour
  3. In addition to the web traffic, there are about 135,000 subscribers per month – make sure you link back to your own site to benefit from the interest
  4. Much of the content here focuses on thought leadership rather than “how to” information. Challenge me with your ideas or explain a new way of doing the same old thing
  5. Twitter only generates about 5% of my inbound traffic. More than 20% of web traffic is direct and Google delivers about 30% so make sure you write good headlines
  6. No pitching. If you represent a brand or a product etc, write about the problem that you are trying to solve rather than about your “stuff”. And write it like a real person. If you send me a brochure I will ignore it
  7. If you DO have something funky that you’d like to share with my audience, don’t pitch it. Instead, tell me the story of why YOU love it and do what you do. Make it real. Maybe then I’ll take it

Now, if you are still interested in writing a guest post, leave me a comment below, or send me an email to outline your thoughts. I’m keen to feast upon your brains!

Why Social Media is More Popular than Sex

This is a guest post by Dennis Price. He does not profess to know much about social media but does, however, know quite a bit about how businesses get real results at the retail coalface.  He is the CEO of Ganador Management Solutions, and you can find his RetailSmart blog there too.

I watched a fascinating documentary (National Geographic) on Stress. Worth watching if you have an hour, but let me summarise:

Stress has a major physical impact on our bodies in ways we are only beginning to understand:

  • It ossifies your arteries, making it less likely to cope with (physical) pressure caused by expansion etc and this eventually leads to increased risk of heart of attacks.
  • It makes people fatter; in the worst possible place (around your belly) and with the worst kind of fat.
  • It actually leads to the fraying of the end caps on your chromosomes – the medical implications not being clear (to me).
  • It kills your brain cells, making you dumber. (And I am not exaggerating.)

Stress is truly a killer.

The documentary also drew from some interesting research to identify some of the more unexpected stressors (causal factors) in our lives. The research was impressive, with longitudinal studies on baboon tribes and humans spanning over 30 years.

The insight du jour was:

Your position in the hierarchy is a cause for stress.

The lower you are down the proverbial food chain, the more stressed you are. For humans the obvious hierarchy is our place of work.

Obviously we are part of many hierarchies in our lives and each of those structures is an opportunity to be more or less stressed. (Which is why volunteering to be the soccer coach is a great act of balancing your life; you get to be in charge of running a squad of 10-year olds, which makes a nice change from the cubicle farm.)

The reason your hierarchical position causes stress is because the lower you are down the food chain, the less control you have.

It seems that the old bumper sticker philosopher was right when he mused about the boss:

I don’t get stressed, I give stress.

And that is when I the apple fell on my head.

The popularity of social media platforms, which are usually asynchronous by nature, is a rare instance where relationships are less hierarchical. And where the participants are actually in control of the interaction.

Peter Steine saw it clearly in his (1993) cartoon – On the Internet Nobody Knows You’re a Dog.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Social ME-dia is ostensibly all about relationships.

If you have been around for awhile, you no doubt would have read posts or publications that guide you about the appropriate behaviour and manner in which to engage.

These guidelines seemingly govern the etiquette of these digital relationships and typically exhort participants to: Listen first. Ask many questions. Don’t make it about you. Give freely and good things will come to you.

And a host of other like platitudes. This advice is nothing but common courtesy reinvented for the web.

But this does not hold true for all relationships on the web. Relationships evolve and relationships may belong to different categories. In each instance there is a different context and a different set of rules that apply.

Your browser may not support display of this image. 1. Typically, when someone initially embraces the internet as a social medium, they will start off with a core group op their ‘real’ friends. [With this I mean physical relationships in the sense that it is person to person and not necessarily intimate. I use ‘real’ to describe these relationships simply because you know what I mean, and I don’t mean that digital relationships are not real.] Your first email was probably sent to someone you know. Your first friend on Facebook was probably your wife.

2. Depending on the purpose and the personality of the individual, new digital relationships are formed. Digits link across the ether and new relationships are formed. These ‘digital relationships’ then can (a) remain digital, or (b) evolve into ‘real’ relationships.

3. Digital friends that become real depends on a host of things, not the least being geography. (This may explain the popularity of apps/games like Foursquare – which I may add, was my pick in Jan 2010 as the next big thing. Time will tell.) It is for THIS category of relationship that old those grandfatherly rules apply that bloggers so kindly dish up.

People want to convert these relationships, because that would be only human. Once you find people with a common interest you would consequently want to create/ belong to that tribe.


4. The fourth category of relationship is the own that really interests me. The digital friends that remain so.

What percentage of digital friends become ‘real’ friends? I would suspect, given the constraints and given the numbers, it would be a fraction – certainly less than 1%. (There is a question for you Mr Solis.) It would probably be slightly different for your personal Facebook page, and maybe less so for LinkedIn. But for sites like Foursquare, Twitter, Blogs etc, I would be surprised if many of those relationships become ‘real’.

On Facebook, with the exception of a few early mistakes, I know almost everybody. And then I know about 2 or 3 times that number in the real world (clients, acquaintances) whom are not necessarily friends.

But the numbers on Twitter (600) and the Blog (thousands), for instance, are not much more than avatar.

If my assumption is true, then none of those pesky rules that the bloggers dish out apply.

And more importantly, the latter type types of relationships are the type where I AM IN CONTROL.

You are in control because you:

  • Listen to what you want. Ignore what you want.
  • Friend. Unfriend. Follow. Unfollow.
  • Profile 1. Profile 2.

And that means we have a relationship – human interaction – without any of the associated stress.

Does this go some way towards explaining why social media (ambient intimacy) has exploded as it has – apparently overtaking porn as the number one use of the internet?

Our desire to have relationships without the stress (caused by the hierarchy) is bigger than sex, and it makes evolutionary sense too. Stress was originally a mechanism for survival, which is stronger than the urge to procreate.

If something is more important than sex, then it has to be pretty big – no pun intended.

Ten Questions to Mark 3000

if only you were a little smaller I'd eat you aliveSome time ago I made a deal with myself – that when my blog hit the 3000 comment mark, I would ask the person who contributed comment 3000 to write a blog post. That “lucky person” was Angus.

But rather than do a guest post, Angus suggested that we play battleships and chat. But between client meetings, late nights and general busy-ness, we have not been able to get together -  so the next best thing – this list of questions was sent through. And I am only just now getting around to posting it – sorry Angus! But somehow, I have ended up writing my own guest post (note to self: find other guest bloggers):

1.  What have you learned about people from communicating with them on Twitter?

People share surprisingly intimate details of their lives via Twitter. I don’t know whether this is a genuine desire to connect, a symptom of our culture of self-performance or a confession – but it is definitely fascinating. As a result, I have learned that people are far more generous and more open online than they often allow themselves to be in “real life”.

2.  Why do people try and tell me how to use twitter?  No-one told me how to use Facebook – I could decide to have as many or as few friends as I wanted and share whatever information I wanted.  Why do people seem to think you should use twitter 'their' way? 

I think there are two aspects to this. First, there are people who think they might make some money from providing advice or consultancy (or just drive traffic to their website). Second, it is human nature – we become so caught up in our own lives and interests that we think everyone should think the way we do. This also happens with new babies and with holiday snaps.

3.  Do you think 'ambient intimacy' could breed laziness or complacency, or is it enriching relationships?

I think we are already experience laziness in our relationships anyway. We can blame our work schedules or our commitments or a million other things, but this trend towards personal isolation has been happening since the 50s. Like any relationship we only get out what we put in and online relationships are no different to offline relationships.

4.  Do you think online relationships have made us more or less tolerant offline? 

Because online relationships are traceable (ie you can’t hide), I think this is driving some change in our tolerance levels. If we are horrible to work with, but “nice” online, it eventually catches up with us (and vice versa). Thanks to Google our reputation precedes us.

5.  Do you think the nature of online conversation is ever different in Australia to other parts of the world and why?

People from different cultures experience online identity and conversation in different ways. Australians, for example, participate in ways which are different from Americans, which is different from folks from India, China or Germany. This is not really unexpected – we would scarcely arrive in another country and expect it to be the same as home (why else after all would we travel?).

6.  Name three people who inspire you at the moment.

I have been very fortunate over the last year to fall into a circle of friends who inspire me with their generosity and the simple way that they care for each other. Jye Smith, Julian Cole and Scott Drummond make me optimistic for the future.

7.  What gets your goat the most at the moment?

People who tell others how to use Twitter.

8.  What's the biggest benefit of storytelling in your view?

A good story connects us with the emotion of life. Or as Kafka wrote, it is “the axe for the frozen sea inside us”. When hit with the axe, all pretence falls away. We cannot hide. I love that.

9.  Does Twitter help or hinder with storytelling?

Having access to pens and paper doesn’t make us a great writer – so too with Twitter. In the hands of a great storyteller, Twitter can be a marvel.

10.  When are you going to visit Marcus in Germany and will you help him steal Armano's cowboy hat? 

I was hoping to have visited Marcus by now. I really expected to visit Germany for work last year – but it never happened. And while I don’t mind travelling for work, I also feel guilty about having a carbon footprint the size of a small European country. We may need to maintain our ambient intimacy for the foreseeable future.

As to Dave’s hat, I believe it is under constant security. But given the chance, I will snaffle it!

Stepping into the Spotlight

Plucking up the courage to start a blog or joining a conversation by commenting is not easy. For many of us, it means stepping out of our comfort zones – comments and blogs are, after all, easily found by the all seeing eye of Google; and you never know whether you might face a backlash or become embroiled in a heated discussion. But while it’s easy to sit in the shadows and read a blog – there really are great rewards for those who step into the spotlight.

spotlight_book Some time ago, Todd Andrlik suggested that I read Step into the Spotlight by Tsufit. The book appealed to me because of my background in theatre – so when Tsufit asked me to share a personal story about stepping into the spotlight, I couldn’t resist. In this guest post I share the trepidation I had when first commenting on Russell Davies’ blog.

I am sure you know what it’s like … “am I smart enough”, “is this witty”, “will I get flamed?” … all ran through my head. But in the end, it was the best thing I could have done.

Five in the Morning 012909

Steve Woodruff entertains the marketing blogosphere with a 5am shot of good reading each and every day. Today, to give him a sleep-in, I have volunteered to deliver a 5-shot steaming good blogosphere reading. Enjoy!

1. I care and I think you do too. By Bretienbach and Brown. Social media commentators talk a lot about community. I know I do. But what happens when real life community fails us? What happens when we feel isolated, alone, broken? And can a simple act of caring – a blog post, a picture – change one person’s outlook on life? This is YOUR chance to find out.

2. Trend Blend 2009+. By Jen Stumbles. In case you haven’t seen Richard Watson’s excellent trend map, Jen reminds us where to find it.

3. So Easy, A 7-Year-Old Can Do It. By Mike Wagner. Want to think about your customers in a new way? Mike takes a lesson in customer experience from his seven-year-old grandson.

4. How to be an Exciting Brand without Offending Anyone. By Mike Arauz. Think it’s possible? Mike (another Mike), sets us all straight. Damn straight.

5. My Biggest Fear in Life. By Mark Pollard. Mark shares. Now go back to shot 1 and start again! Thanks for reading.

Party at Todd’s House

Starting Thursday, Todd Andrlik has asked a few of us to do some guest posting. Here is the line-up … so make sure you get along and see what damage/contribution we all make to Todd’s already successful blog.

The line-up is:

// Thu / Leo Bottary of Client Service Insights
// Fri / Kami Huyse of Communication Overtones
// Mon / Gavin Heaton of Servant of Chaos
// Tue / Drew McLellan of Drew’s Marketing Minute
// Wed / Darryl Ohrt of Brand Flakes for Breakfast

From Community to Family

  Capt Drew McLellan
Originally uploaded by servantofchaos

So, Blogger Social 08 is over. It was a blur. A joy. A great assault of emotion and excitement. An amazing experience.

And despite gathering some of the most articulate and creative marketing folks from around the world, the common consensus is that words are not sufficient to explain the impact of this extraordinary meetup on all of us participants. And I think this is as it should be.

But I will ponder one point. I have been writing, reading, commenting, discussing, emailing and collaborating with most of the 80-odd folks who trekked to New York for over two years. In that time much has changed. We fell into a community together. We saw it grow and expand, prosper even. We had fun and we had hard times. The community that grew out of our shared interest was surprisingly strong and extraordinarily supportive. But this has changed for me.

In making a commitment to come together — to share an experience called “blogger social” — we each had to forego something. There was a real cost — be it financial, time or energy (or all three). But in the binding of that experience there was also a transformation. For me, meeting these old friends in person made me realise that our connection goes somewhat deeper than the word “community” allows. It is far more personal and much more expansive — humbling and invigorating. Thanks to you all!

Susan Bird Tim Brunelle Katie Chatfield Matt Dickman Luc Debaisieux Gianandrea Facchini Mark Goren Gavin Heaton Sean Howard CK Valeria Maltoni Drew McLellan Doug Meacham Marilyn Pratt Steve Roesler Greg Verdino CB Whittemore Steve Woodruff Paul McEnany Ann Handley David Reich Tangerine Toad Kristin Gorski Mack Collier David Armano Ryan Barrett Lori Magno Tim McHale Gene DeWitt Mario Vellandi Arun Rajagopal Joseph Jaffe Rohit Bhargava Anna Farmery Marianne Richmond Thomas Clifford Lewis Green Geoff Livingston Kris Hoet Connie Reece CeCe Lee Toby Bloomberg Seni Thomas Darryl Ohrt Joe Kutchera Paul Dunay Marshall Sponder Chris Kieff Tara Anderson Jason Falls Paul Soldera Roberta Rosenberg Saul Colt Todd Andrlik Nathan Snell Ryan Karpeles Mike Sansone Jennifer Laycock Neil Vineberg Cam Beck Mike Arauz Matthew Bailey Heather Gorringe John Rosen Cathleen Rittereiser Tamar Weinberg Rita Perea Linda Sherman Matthew McDonald Kaitlyn Wilkins Terry Starbucker
Jennifer Berk
Jane Quigley John Wall Scott Monty Kevin Horne Virginia Miracle Amanda Gravel Susan Reynolds David Polinchock Shashi Bellamkonda David Berkowitz Vahe Habeshian

Scared to Blog? Here’s Your Chance

Peeking through fingers
Originally uploaded by Mazin melanie

I have been thinking over the experiment that John Moore at Brand Autopsy has been running. While he was away, John left a masked marketer at the helm — Skyon, the master marketing pick-up artist. And while Skyons posts were great … he kept his mask firmly intact.

So, here’s what I am thinking. There must be some readers of this blog who would like to write some stuff. Maybe you just haven’t had the time to put together your own blog. Maybe you don’t want to … or maybe you just haven’t made it public yet.

What if you could post here … say once a week for a month. That’s right … four posts over a month. You can choose your name/identity or you can come out of the shadows completely. Up to you. If you are interested, send me an email and let me know. I can only take one at the moment … but if this works, I may do it again.

Go on, what have you got to lose?

Personal Branding Has Bred a New Culture of Extroverts

GuestdanGuest post by Dan Schawbel.  Dan is the lead personal branding expert for Generation Y.  He commands the world famous Personal Branding Blog, publishes Personal Branding Magazine, directs Personal Branding TV, and is the head judge for the 2008 Personal Brand Awards.

Never before has the web been such a friendly place.   Web 2.0 has opened a gateway for individuals to come together, in unison and speak to each other using platforms such as blogs, Facebook and even Google talk.  Those that used to be introverted, now have a safe place to express themselves and their point of view.  They even have the privilege of networking with others who share similar insight, demographic or geographic. 

Personal branding has paved the way for people to gain confidence in themselves and their abilities to deliver value, whether by expertise or content.  Why take a job that you aren’t interested in and doesn’t fit who you are as a person?  There’s no point, especially when you have tools ready and available to you to convey your passions, goals and subject matter knowledge. 

A lot of this new direction comes from people’s comfort and freedom to express their appearance, competencies and personality.  Personality can be clearly communicated through podcasting, either using YouTube, Google Video or hosting it on your own website.  Either way, you can attract others to your brand by displaying the person behind the brand.  The great part about the web now is that everyone has a voice, but still not everyone is treated equally.  Those that have superior brand names, will get their email read faster, their articles published quicker and larger scale opportunities.

The good news is that anyone can achieve success by developing their brand.  The bad news is that if you fail to bask in the greatness of web 2.0, you will lose your personal freedom and the ability to connect and reach hundreds of millions of people around the world.  Whether you are 18 or 56, or black or white, you can all be a part of this growing community and develop your skills to match new job requirements that are spawning as we speak.  Step out of your comfort zone and into a world where you can be recognized for YOU!