Category Archives: work

*Personality not included

Rohit Bhargava has come up with a very interesting way to launch his book.

He put out the call to bloggers to email him 5 questions about his book or its topic, and he will personally answer each one, which the bloggers may post – as an exclusive “virtual interview” – on their site.

Pretty clever. I submitted some questions yesterday afternoon, and just received the reply. If he’s doing these in order, he must be nearing the finish now (I was #46 of 55). What a marathon! Here is my interview:

  1. In the course of discovering its personality, a company that serves many different demographics and offers a variety of different products may find itself with a multiple personality disorder. How do you go about distilling the personality down to core attributes that will appeal to a wide spectrum of customers?

    The best way to do this is to focus on passion. What are your employees passionate about? What is your company trying to do that is significant? The experience of personality disorder is one that I have seen at many companies as well, but it tends to come from focusing on SKUS instead of a higher vision. Target is not about all the different departments and range of products they offer, it’s about accessible fashion and style. The best way to distill down is to use the main techniques of smart branding – something that I focus on in Chapter 3 of the book.

  2. Surely, what you do carries more weight than what you say. (The current corporate trend of claiming to be eco-friendly comes to mind.) But just saying you have a personality isn’t enough. What are some good examples of companies doing something effective to communicate their personality?

    There are some great examples of this, because you’re right … actions speak far louder than words in this instance. One example is Zappos accepting customers returns and going the extra mile to please customers (which is their big selling point). Another great example from the book is James Dyson, who says that he is all about invention, but also talks about producing more than 2000 prototypes of his new vacuum that didn’t suck before he found one that did (of course, sucking is what he was going for).

  3. Large corporations often have dozens, even thousands, of employees whose actions directly or indirectly shape the customer experience. For maximum effect, like a chorus, everybody must be “singing the same tune”. How can large companies effectively communicate internally, to get everyone tuned in to the right personality?

    This is a very good question because it focuses on a central problem that many companies struggle with which is the issue of control. If you tell them to let their employees have a voice, this objection typically comes up. The best way to counter it is to first challenge the assumption that they all need to be “singing the same tune.” They don’t. For example the story someone in manufacturing might tell would be far different from the product designer. The point is that they are all targeting different groups of audiences as well. The main idea is that smart companies should arm them with the facts and let them help to spread those. Isn’t that better than your employees talking to others about your brand (which they already are) without knowing what the right message to send is.

  4. Many companies sponsor online communities, in order to provide a social and educational space for customers (and potential customers) to interact. The hope is to create trust and goodwill toward the sponsor company, and support its brand image. Certainly, credibility of the information can be called into question, when representatives of the company provide content. What do you find is a good level of involvement, or important ground rules to set, to ensure that sponsor contributions are perceived as credible?

    First and foremost, there has to be a natural link the goes beyond just self servicing. A great example of that is the social community that Nike build around the Nike Plus partnership with Apple. The site offers great value to runners in planning and tracking their runs and even lets you do competitions. Nike is the provider and clearly the sponsor, but in this case gets great value out of the site because they offer it as an extension of their brand.

  5. You’ve come up with a very interesting way to promote the release of your book, and it is – in itself – a good example of the shift in marketing from one-way communications to two-way conversations. (And we’d like to thank you for this opportunity.) Do you feel it has been a successful experiment so far?

    You’re welcome! It has been tough to keep up with this volume (this is interview # 46 for me today!), but I would absolutely say this has been a great value, and it will likely generate even more value as people start talking about this experiment with others. Thanks for agreeing to be part of it!

On speech preparation

Two days before pitching my marketing campaign for the creative economy, I ran through my talk with a test audience, consisting of my wife and my mother-in-law, and I soon realized that I had focused far too much time and effort on “background” information, while the meat of my presentation was seriously lacking. While it was immediately obvious to an observer that I was not on the right track, I was oblivious to it, having set myself to the task of developing the show from start to finish. I felt the background info was crucial for setting the stage, defining the problem and justifying my proposed solution. But amazingly, without getting an outside opinion, I didn’t realize that 15 slides of background info and about a page of script was way too much for a seven minute presentation. So, I immediately cut out all but the most concise bits of background info and began to focus on the core of the presentation – my marketing campaign.

Other lessons learned:

Know your audience
This is a big one. It can influence every part of the presentation. Questions that need answering: How familiar is the audience with the subject matter? What are their expectations?

Have a plan
Know what you want to say. Seems obvious, but nothing goes without saying…

Develop an outline in order to reveal the big picture
Plan out each step that you’ll need to take in order to make your point. Steps may be modified or removed as the presentation develops, but an outline is a crucial starting point.

Work on the whole, and improve continually
Pay particular attention to your core topics, and move around frequently, developing the whole. When the time runs out, you will have told the whole story – worst case: it’s shallow at some points. If you run out of time while working linearly, on the other hand, you’ll be left with the beginning of a story and no end.

Seek outside opinions and fresh perspectives
Don’t work in isolation. Without input from others who can view your work with fresh eyes it is easy to veer off track. Without being open to outside influences, your work may end up like some mutant, inbred baby.

Each slide should have one point only
Even if there are several concepts which illustrate the point, or facts to back it up, there is only one main point.

Pass the baton smoothly
The slideshow is like a relay race. Each slide has a point to make, but they must work together toward a common goal. Each slide, after making its own point, should build to some sort of question or setup, which the content of the next slide answers. This set up and take away approach makes for very smooth transitions from one slide to the next.

Well, the votes are in…

detail of the Big Idea mural

(in the Create the Campaign: Shape the Creative Economy competition) and the team of 5 seniors from the University of the Arts took the win, and the giant check. (I have not yet conceded, and may demand a recount. Conveniently for them, there is no paper trail with which to audit these electronic voting devices. I smell a fix!)
Anyway, I think my presentation most effectively answered the requirements laid out in the call for entries, was well received by the audience, and just kicked ass in general. :-) I won 1 out of the 3 criteria, and took 2nd in the others. It was a great experience overall — I made a few new contacts, talked to a few interesting people, and free food & beer is always a plus…
Everyone’s presentation (and presentation style) was very different. It was pretty interesting.
Anyway, thanks everyone for the words of encouragement and help along the way!

Update 10/8/2008: A few years have passed, and the link above doesn’t work, but you can still visit Innovation Philadelphia online.
I’ve also uploaded my presentation (minus some animated transitions) via Slideshare.

The artist as translator

Often, I’ll be lining up a shot with my camera, of some mundane urban subject, and passerbys will try to put themselves in a similar point of view to see what it is that I’m photographing. Inevitably, they walk away with no good answers, as if they had been listening to someone speak in a foreign language, surely wondering why I seem to be photographing nothing at all. But behind the camera, I’m thinking about composition and lighting, and a competent photographer would be thinking about the effects of particular film speeds and aperture settings. Presented with the resulting photo, the same passerby would have a completely different understanding, seeing the results of the cropping, the light, the exposure, the ordinary scene translated by the artist into some sort of creative expression. Of course, some photos will be more revealing that others; some may provide no insight at all. After all, what good is a translator if the speaker has nothing to say?

Whoa crap!

I’ve been selected as a finalist in the Create the Campaign: Shape the Creative Economy competition to design a new marketing campaign for Philadelphia’s Creative Economy. I now must give a dynamic 7 minute presentation to an audience of ~200 who, in an “American Idol-like atmosphere… vote by using electronic keypads as each of the finalists presents their unique marketing campaign for the Greater Philadelphia Regional Creative Economy.”

(They snuck the American Idol crap in at the end without warning…sheesh)

I am freaking!

World Domination in Twelve Easy Steps

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