Archive for the ‘Brand building’ Category
Leadership is an emotional action story
Most of my clients see themselves as thought-leaders. These clients really are leaders in their industries: their scientists and engineers labor to create new ways of approaching old markets even as they open new markets. A think-piece is an outward-facing story of their leadership in the light of a market problem or need.
Some clients assume their brochures and web copy can be repurposed into a think-piece. One of my tasks is to help them understand that a think-piece takes a position on a problem, spins out a story that shows the problem resolved in an emotionally satisfying way. That is typically a larger frame of reference than their current brochure or web copy.
Other clients want to say something without revealing anything. They worry about competition in their tight market. But they don’t realize how a generous spirit is another kind of selling (especially in this sharing economy), and giving something-not-everything away is a mark of true leadership. But it’s just too big a task (they say) and it will “only distract our scientists and engineers.”
Sharp clients understand that thought-leadership presents a story that is immediately recognizable, universally understood (by their target audience) and easy to digest. They also understand that the best stories carry a useful thought with an emotional element.
My favorite thought-pieces typically have these three elements:
- Story: A story is threaded together with real people doing real things. There is emotion in a story—just like life—and real people talk in human rather than PR speak. Real people with real problems that unlock real emotion both before and after the solution appears.
- Visual: There’s no question that words simply take too long for most of us. We still read, of course, but our short attention spans move us toward images and video. Some say visual is the primary way social media will present in coming years. We can put that visual bias to work today with words that paint pictures. That has always been the novelist’s forte: creating scenes. That ability must find a home in today’s think-pieces. Gone are the days when an interested audience member might happily read your brochure. Now you have to catch them when they are not looking or thinking about your product or industry. This is not an easy task, but the more visual the better. Visual also has the advantage of being immediately understood.
- Speak Human: Every discipline has its own secret words. Every industry uses lingo and code words to show they know their stuff as well as out of sheer laziness. It’s just easier to say the same things as everyone else. Plus it’s a badge of the tribe, so why wouldn’t you? But insider language is inherently toxic for anyone outside. It’s a buzz kill for an outsider looking in. Speaking human means words cleansed of jargon, words that can shine through a clear story.
The best think-pieces don’t appear to be think-pieces at all. They can be read so effortlessly that we take every step with the author to the intended conclusion. And we find ourselves happy to be there, taking action with the hero.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
Cyber Grand Prix at Cannes
Despite the lottery being a complete waste of money and attention, this is a fetching commercial.
But how about that soundtrack? Wow.
From Distraction to Focus
We stare at the problem until we can’t think straight. And when blood runs from our ears, then we have just begun.
This quote from a Minneapolis copywriter describes the creative process that drives his role in the industry. What does it take to come up with a creative solution that is beyond the first 5, 10 or 20 thoughts that pop into anyone’s head? What is creativity, anyway, and why should I care?
- First the bad news: creativity requires deep focus.
- And now the good news: you are capable of deep focus.
In our age of near constant distraction, how does anyone slip into the focus-cave? How does anyone keep distraction at bay, apply sustained attention, and lose track of time in the process? It turns out there are solid answers to those questions. Those answers arrive from a mix of personal experience from people who create regularly, from a bit of theory, and then from experimentation with what works for you.
One thing is certain about focus: it can bring a healing wholeness with it. Just ask any person who regularly creates, and hear them talk about “flow” or the zone or getting into that space of just doing it.
Creating is not for the faint of heart. Because to create is to dwell with ambiguity: could be this. Could be that. If you change this piece—or flip the entire story or image—everything looks different and maybe even makes more sense. Very little is defined when creating and, in fact, you are doing your own defining
A group of students and I have turned a corner this week. We’ve gone from feeding the internet with content that builds communities to feeding creativity that can solve real-world problems. And just like when we work different muscles with cardiovascular versus weight training, this move from rapid creation to deep problem-solving wants a different set of brainwaves. We’re moving from intense listening and rapid creation to sitting with a problem and iterating our way out.
One of our bigger tasks is to train ourselves not be satisfied with the first, easy solution. We’ll learn how to bend time and write fast while you still know nothing, and how to lift and separate and how to map your way around a problem and how to start at the top again and again. And how to grind through to get to a better solution.
But all that needs focus.
And focus means not picking your phone up for 60 minutes.
And that is a struggle.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
Hint: Grow a gray beard and present folding-money
Twice now young women have bought me coffee at the coffee shop on the campus where I teach. Just standing in line like everyone else—minding my own business—I pull out my $2 (cash-money) and the young woman in line behind me says, “Just put it on my card.”
I resist: “No! I wouldn’t hear of it,” I say. “You can’t. You must look after yourself with that—or at least spend it on your friends.”
I went on in that vein, until the cashier reached past my $2 (cash-money) for the woman’s card.
“She’s not going to spend it all anyway,” said the cashier, repeating what the woman said.
So. Free coffee. Thanks profusely offered.
Yesterday: same thing. I pull out my $2 (cash-money) and the young woman behind me says, “Just put it on my card.”
I resisted. This time with less velocity. Free coffee. Thanks profusely offered.
I’ve puzzled over this phenomenon. What I know for certain is that the students here are some of the kindest people you’d ever hope to meet. And earnest. Looking around I also see that I have landed from the planet “old guy.” Though I know even recent grads feel that way when revisiting their alma mater. Still, it’s been a long time since I was an undergrad.
But I think it’s the folding money that triggers the pity. What kind of a person uses cash-money on campus? Clearly someone in need and, frankly a bit out-of-touch. We all use cards.
You must not be from around here.
“Let me help you.”
The other day a student reflected on her community-building work in our social media marketing class:
“It’s also important to create a presence that encourages interaction,” she said.
I can’t get her comment out of my mind, partly because of getting two free coffees and partly because of the riddle of how to write in a slightly-unfinished, slightly-needy way. Like how Columbo conducted investigations: you pity the unkempt, needy fellow until you realize he is canny like a fox.
I’ve long puzzled over the magnetism of a dumb sketch. Stepping up to the white board and drawing something badly as a way of explaining an idea is a sure-fire way to invite others in. And they step up—not to correct, just to collaborate. Because it’s sorta fun to draw badly and without the pressure to create art. And it can be fun to think together. And, like presenting folding-money in debit card economy, you clearly need help.
What are you willing to leave unfinished to draw others in?
Image credit: Kirk Livingston, The-Toast.Net