conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Archive for the ‘Dialogue Marketing’ Category

Chief Conversation Officer: So 2009

leave a comment »

Still…what if we armed someone with authority and charged them with getting us talking?12202013-tumblr_my0lh6gulW1qe0lqqo1_1280

Not just some C-level social media manager—I mean someone really interested in starting conversations throughout an organization and (especially) outside the organization. A sort of gadfly armed with an attitude and a purpose. That purpose would not be selling (it seems natural to put a garrulous salesperson in that position, doesn’t it?). The purpose would be collaboration. And the attitude? Open.

This chief conversation officer would not deploy monologue with all her contacts. Instead, she would be skilled in the art of the open-ended question. She would be relational and vulnerable.


But those are the building blocks of conversation.

Anyone intent on climbing through an organization will read those words and be repelled—“relational” and “vulnerable” represent the opposite of the power trip and pulling rank. Just think on the best, most productive conversations you’ve had and you’ll see you were free to say anything, you were pulled in by the enthusiasm of your conversation partner and by the crazy fun of participation. You were not worried about how you were coming across—which is the collateral damage of most boss-focused rhetoric.

The Chief Conversation Officer (CCO) will be a fearless talker and an optimist. He’ll be a mindful connector. He doesn’t know where the next terrific idea will come from. But he fearlessly pursues conversation with janitors and CEOs and middle managers and walks along with line workers to hear their concerns and ideas. The CCO is boundary-crosser and synthesizer: processing information from everywhere and spinning it into, well, gold.

Launching people left and right.

Sounds like a fun job.

And this: the Chief Conversation Officer could work effectively from nearly any actual position.

What if 2014 were the year of the Chief Conversation Officer?


Image credit: Ho-yeol Ryu via MPD

Aunt Jo’s Snack Mix Recipe + Mop Mop Mix Footage

with 4 comments

Careful with that marimba!

Make it today so you don’t eat it all before the kids arrive. And don’t try to mix too closely to the crazy marimba tempo:

Aunt Jo’s Snack Mix

  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 6 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups Wheat Chex
  • 3 cups Corn Chex
  • 3 cups Cheerios
  • 1.5 cups pretzels
  • 1 can mixed nuts
  • 1.5 cup Cheese Nips
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Melt margarine in saucepan.
  3. Remove from heat; add salt, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Combine cereals.
  5. Pour margarine mixture over cereal and toss (loosely imitating marimba beat).
  6. Add pretzels, cheese nips and mixed nuts.
  7. Toss until all pieces are coated.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes in large shallow baking pan, stirring occasionally. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
  9. Try to not eat it all the first night.

You’re welcome.


Written by kirkistan

November 26, 2013 at 5:33 am

Ben Kyle: Hey—What if We Did a Living Room Tour?

with 5 comments

The Dog Days of DIY

07082013-tumblr_mpmcl33I561qbmgeto1_500There is no one on the other end of this telephone connection who can help set up my new smartphone. With my last several technology purchases I’ve found myself alone in the final fine-tuning that actually makes the device work. Oh—there is certainly tech support. But my questions seem to send the customer representative to their supervisor (>30 minutes on hold) for answers. Not because I’m so smart, only because I am the chief of my cobbled-together IT system and I seem to always demand awkward things of said system. This is my penance for pushing for non-standard capabilities.

But maybe do it yourself is not such a bad set of expectations.

And maybe do it yourself is the future of, well, everything.

A local artist I find myself listening to again and again—Ben Kyle of Romantica—seems to be doing this very thing. He’s taking his music into the homes of friends and strangers. Right into their living rooms. Pot-luck and BYOB. Sign up here and you’ll see Ben singing from the ottoman. Can this be literally true—have I got this right?

If so, I’m watching for other artists to do the same. Why not run a DIY art gallery (oh, wait, that’s been done for years). Why not bribe neighbors with brats and beer to come to my book reading? Why not summon an interpretive dance-off on my front lawn?

As a nation we’ve always been enamored by fame. Anyone’s definition of “making it” inevitably carries some component of fame. You’re a success when everyone knows your name. If everyone knows your name you are a success. How else to account for the seeming success of the Kardashians who are famous for being famous?

But this DIY future doesn’t look like mass audiences following influential taste-makers. At least not at first. Ben Kyle is on to something that real influencers have known for years, that building an audience is a person-by-person activity. This is the word-of-mouth model: generally slow but immensely effective.

And maybe anything worth doing is worth doing one-on-one, despite what our national psyche longs for. I’m with Mother Teresa on this one:

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.


Image credit: Francesco Romoli via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

July 8, 2013 at 9:31 am

Speak Up: I Can’t See You.

with one comment

We’re Walking Catalysts

tumblr_mf5hvdVRj71qbcporo1_1280-12282012There’s a point at the end of The Sixth Sense where everything suddenly shifted. One piece of information—one realization—and all the characters and their relationships went topsy-turvy. Then the story begged to be retold in this new light and the second time through I was on high alert, noting all the clues I missed the first time.

Our best interactions with our audiences can have this quality: holding attention until the reveal makes perfect sense, so much so that our audience says, “Duh. Of course. How did I miss that?” This is a great way to teach, but also very difficult to achieve. This kind of clever communication front-loads with just the right context and then delivers the missing key ingredient.

Our favorite products fit our lives in this way: how did we ever survive without the iPod or cell phone? Or the car? They make perfect sense in daily use. Well, now they make perfect sense. They didn’t always, that’s because a context grew up around the product that reinforced its use. We saw other people using it. And we found our ways changing in anticipation.

Products and ideas that demand something different of us don’t just happen. In fact, we resist them. Some kind of context must arise to reinforce the use of the product or adoption of the idea. That context is different for everyone, but usually starts with reason and proof points, but it doesn’t end there. Even the physician who claims to only be swayed by medical journals still has a soft spot for using the product her peers consider cutting edge. Emotion and relationship are big parts of why we use products and adopt ideas.

All this is to say that we constantly influence each other. Our words and our actions serve as catalysts—that missing ingredient that changes everything—often in ways that we never know. Most people don’t come back and say, “When you chose the salad instead of the chicken-fried steak, you changed my eating habits and my life.”

We don’t even realize how little observations add to big change.


Image credit: Jim Kramer via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

December 28, 2012 at 10:19 am

How to Blog Your Company’s Top Voice

leave a comment »

Your Company’s Outside Voice Must Be Personal & Remarkable

I’ve been helping a few clients think about their outside voice. Blogging has its own peculiar set of requirements that set it apart from the tone of a brochure, say. Or from a corporate press release. That recurring blog voice is related to the messaging identity your company has established. That voice is also related to the design and tone of your corporate website, true, but it is not a one-to-one correspondence.

One primary difference: your blog voice must be personal.

A blog is not a scientific, peer-reviewed journal. It must not deteriorate into a selling monologue. And it is not constantly pointing to benefits and features (which quickly gets tiresome). It’s a different animal—a personal voice. It’s got to be a conversation that takes wide and narrow routes on the way to discussing what is remarkable. The best blogs are smart and timely and pull readers in by offering this personal perspective on things of mutual interest.

Just a bit of practice using the public voice helps clients see why their outside voice must be personal and have a personality behind it (not as redundant as it sounds). It doesn’t take many sample posts to show that customers and potential customers are intrigued by an inside track into the mind of that top voice. And that top voice can pull peripheral topics to the center of discussion to show how they relate, for instance. Or to show how certain a practice will move the industry forward.

And remarkable.

Interestingly, outside voice has a way of trimming and freeing and impacting a company’s inside voice. Outside voice and inside voice are related—how could it be otherwise? What is remarkable (and thus worth blogging about) must also be remarkable on the inside of the company. The top voice blogging about what is remarkable in the industry must also pass the believability test for those inside the company. Because folks inside a company tune their BS meters to High the moment they walk in the door. Remaining personal and true is essential.

So…blogging the top voice is not an easy path. But that has always been the way of relationship-building with peers, employees, clients, customers and potential customers and even congregants. And relationship-building is worth the time and effort.


Image Credit: We Made This via thisisnthappiness

Written by kirkistan

October 23, 2012 at 9:59 am

The Decline of Fact in Our National Conversation (and How to Avoid Despair)

leave a comment »

Louder Preaching is Not the Answer

It seems wrong to call it a national conversation when we mostly monologue at each other. And most of our monologues are meant only to reinforce the already-believers listening. Republican Paul Ryan’s recent string of verbal deceptions was a stunningly brazen example of half-facts delivered with full-on force—but both sides are equally guilty. That both Democrats and Republican play loose with facts is neither a surprise nor anything new. So it has always been: we persuade each other by twisting facts in our favor and choosing not to reveal the truths that would balance our cherry-picked facts.

It is natural (though not necessary) to become cynical about our national exchange of monologues. Recognizing that any speaker is likely persuading you with only half the relevant facts is probably not a bad strategy to adopt for the next three months—or the next 30 years. It is also easy to see how this strategy only accelerates skepticism about the official word of any authority. And so “Question Authority” returns as a relevant bumper sticker, several decades later. Or was it ever out of style?

How to Avoid Despair and Reject Cynicism

Remaining skeptical of facts presented as truth is a good starting point. And perhaps seeking a generous spirit that questions facts even while looking behind the facts to ask what broader point the monologist is making. But we must speak up and expect dialogue rather than more indoctrination.

More preaching will not do.


Image Credit: Volkskrant Magazine via coverjunkie/thisisnthappiness

Written by kirkistan

September 12, 2012 at 10:01 am

How do your tools shape you and your customer?

leave a comment »

We work with tools. Tools work back.

Current Tools Train Us to Expect Collaboration

It is not precisely true that our tools train us. More to the point: our tools sometimes wake dormant skills. Our tools help us exercise muscles we’ve not used so much: for instance, my running shoes help me exercise a different set of muscle than my bicycle typically requires. I know this because I have different pains after using each. An axe requires differing coordination skills than a hammer, which is also different from a ratchet.

Current social media tools exercise our collaboration muscles. From Facebook and Twitter we began to see that collaborating is fun. And we start to look forward to working together. It now feels good use those muscles and skills. It feels productive.

So when we require each other to sit silently in a long meeting, well, that doesn’t feel so good anymore. Or when we tell our employees or our congregation to go do this thing without asking for their input and experience—that just won’t fly anymore. And if we expect our customers to buy whatever we sell with no questions, well, that model has been dead for some time (the cult of Apple comes to mind as one exception).

David Straus in his practical and interesting How to Make Collaboration Work (San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler Publishers, 2002) rightly labels this a matter of human dignity:

People who are directly affected by an issue deserve to be able to express their opinions about it and have a hand in formulating a solution. (46)

How are the current tools changing the expectations of your client, customer or congregation?


Image Credit: Inkdrips via thisisnthappiness

%d bloggers like this: