Memories: Mother’s Day

It’s going to be Mother’s Day this weekend here in the U.S. The easy remembrance is flowers, a dinner, a card, etc.

But why stop there? Shared memories are even more important.

What is your most cherished memory of your mother? What impresses you the most (particularly as you’ve gotten older)?

For me – and this won’t sound too flowery or sentimental – it’s her steadiness. I knew only stability growing up. Mom was consistent, steady, and sensible. We knew the boundaries, we knew our place, we knew we were safe. I’m quite sure, with 4 active boys, she and Dad did their share of pulling-their-hair-out behind closed doors, but we were spared displays of emotional fireworks. As I have grown older, I now see how incredibly important this was – and is, for my children, as my wife also has a steady hand on the tiller.

What about you? Share your memories, in the Comments or on Twitter or on your own blog. Let’s create a virtual memory book together in memory of great Moms!

(from my occasionally-updated personal blog, a tribute to my Mom from last year).

Be Prepared – Network NOW!

Perhaps you’ve never been a Boy Scout. Whether you have or not, the Scout motto – Be Prepared – is a good one to consider right now.

You’re read about all the recent layoffs in many industries. You’ve heard about, or been part of, one or more of the many mergers in recent years. There is simply no more certainty in corporate America. Your future is in your hands, and you need to be prepared to take the reins at any time. In fact, even if you are gainfully employed, you need to take the reins right now. Let me suggest one simple word for each of us:


The time to build a network – a professional and social web of contacts who can help out when needs arise – is now. It is very likely that your next career move (horizontally) or advancement (vertically) will come about because of pre-existing relationships. While you can post a resume on-line that the world can (theoretically) see, so can a few billion other people. Doors are opened by people who listen to the recommendations and referrals of other people.

How do you build a wider professional network? Let me suggest a few straightforward steps:

1. Embrace networking as a high priority, and determine to do it. Yep, it starts with an act of the will. Maybe you’re not a native schmoozer (I’m not). Maybe you’re introvert-ish (I am). Maybe you think, “I can never build relationships like so-and-so.” Actually, you can. You might not have the same ease as some, but believe me, you can do it, and even become good at it.

2. Help others. That’s right, don’t start with your immediate or future needs. The best way to build a network marked by mutual help and sympathy is to help others. You may have been schooled in the “me-first” ladder-climbing corporate mentality. Drop that like a bad transmission. When you pro-actively offer to help people, you’ll be shocked at how popular you become.

3. Focus on one drop at a time. You can’t just turn the spigot and gush out a flood of networked contacts. But you can greet one new person a day. You can help out one co-worker today. You can reach out to someone in a similar professional role with a question. Networking should be seen as incremental and cumulative – it becomes a lifestyle, not a one-time act.

4. Attend meetings. Not the kind that clog your daily calendar (well, I guess you should attend those, too)! Go to national conferences, join local chapters of professional societies, expand your network beyond the next few cubicles. New opportunities may open up from unexpected directions.

5. Cultivate healthy vendor relationships. Vendors and consultants often know “what’s going on” outside your four walls, and may be able to facilitate new contacts for you. Weed out the sharks, and find those people who are genuine, service-oriented, and personable (this goes for recruiters as well). If they do good work for you, recommend them to others. That will definitely increase your bank account of good will!

6. Take advantage of the web-based networking platforms. I highly recommend LinkedIn (see graphic) for helping expand your network through electronic means. Facebook is usually for more personal/social contacts but can also be valuable. Create a very robust professional profile and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and new links with others.

7. Cultivate a limited circle of influential, wise, discreet professional colleagues. These are the trusted advisers you can turn to when you see storm clouds on the horizon – your early-warning safety net. These are your serious allies who will go the extra mile for you when the ground starts to shake.

8. Be “findable.” Who will rise to the top these days, when there is information overload? Those who can be quickly found (especially on-line), and who make a professional and interesting self-presentation before the need ever arises. If you have the drive and the ability to write, create a blog around your interests. If you can engage in electronic discussions, jump into Twitter. Put your talent and creativity and accomplishments out there. When people Google you, they should find you, AND be impressed.

The time to network is not just when your job is in danger. Build your safety net now – and be part of the safety net for others. We have to build our own these days – we cannot count on any kind of corporate stability for our professional well-being!

(Image credit)

Share Media vs Tell Media

Of late, I’ve been burning up brain cycles on the branding of social media – that is, how can we simply and accurately present what social media is, and what it offers, to the vast majority of people who are non-users?

Wired in the way that I am, that always boils down to a terminology issue first and foremost. How to craft the best arrangement of words to express the message? Because I fear that the words we currently use may not give a good “hook” into the minds of those who are not “in the club” as of yet.

And we have to look at the social media revolution in at least 2 dimensions: the personal dimension, and the professional dimension. For the latter, how can people in the corporate world come to appreciate and embrace the business value of these new inter-communications? For the former, how can we simply and compellingly explain social media that it is not discolored by pre-conceived and inaccurate notions shaped only by, say, MySpace?

So, here is today’s thought. Share Media vs. Tell Media.

Traditional media is top-down, them telling us. We (the audience) have little to no input, little to no voice, little to no involvement. Tell Media.

The new web enables Share Media. We share opinions, thoughts, news, pictures, reviews, videos, and just about anything else. We are all publishers; we all have the microphone if we so choose. Communications are now rapid, de-centralized, and potentially viral.

For the personal dimension, this verbiage works. But it also works in the professional realm. We simply say to a Marketing Director: “OK, you have a Tell Media plan with your traditional advertising, PR, etc. Now, what are you doing about a Share Media plan?”

Let’s discuss together how to brand this world of social media. What are your thoughts?

::Matt Dickman explains a key business justification for the new approach here on his Techno//Marketer blog.

Six Things I Don’t Think About Anymore

1. Phone charges by the minute. My grandchildren will ask me about this one day, perplexed by the concept.

2. Geographical barriers. Without a second thought, I’m communicating with people around the world. Effortlessly. Any time. A lot of those barriers were in my mind only, it turns out.

3. Finding information. Any information. About anything. Just Google it. “Search and you shall find” takes on a whole new meaning.

4. Looking for stuff in stores. E-commerce. Enough said.

5. Repairing electronics. In almost every case nowadays, it’s cheaper to throw something out than fix it. And, if it’s over 6 months old, the replacement is already present, better, and cheaper!

6. Handwriting. Digital communication used to be writing using the digits on your hands. Now it’s all bits and bytes. I’m still not sure how I feel about this – it’s a lot easier to read my typing than my writing!

Case Study – how Social Media helped me this week

This has been a week of catch-up work in my home office. And it has provided several opportunities to gain real-life benefit from social media tools. Here’s how:

1. I’ve had an ongoing problem with my iPhone creating static-y noises over my computer speakers. Not the end of the world, but annoying. Out of the blue, on Twitter, I noticed that someone posted a simple fix for this (so I wasn’t the only one with the issue!) – just place the iPhone on a piece of aluminum foil, and voila! – problem solved. Now my kids tell me that the device looks like a half-unwrapped candy bar, but I don’t care – the static is gone.

2. I needed to find a service that could be used to create bound printed handouts for an upcoming conference, in which I’ll be presenting a workshop. I put out a call for recommendations on Twitter; my friend Jane Chin recommended Mimeo. So far I’ve been very impressed – they have a fully on-line system for uploading files and building the print product, and even spend 1/2 hour walking you through the system on the phone for the first run. Bonus – they ship a sample overnight (no charge!) of your first job so you can make sure it’s just what you want. Exactly the kind of service I wanted.

3. I’m planning to start incorporating some video clips into my blogging. Through Jim Kukral’s blog (The Daily Flip) I got to see how the new Flip video camera works, and decided to order one (even using Jim’s Amazon affiliate link, so he gets a little tip for the tip!) Hopefully next week I can give it a test drive.

Now, here’s a little bonus: someone else’s career-changing adventure using MySpace. The 70’s rock group needed a replacement lead singer, and they found a Home Depot employee named Tommy DeCarlo in North Carolina who had posted his vocals of Boston songs (sounds incredibly like the original lead singer, Brad Delp) on MySpace. The story is here; you can hear the amazing samples here.

Brands in 3 Dimensions

Why is your company in business? Let’s consider three drivers that shape any business, and see what they say about your brand.

Every company or individual goes into business with the goal of Doing Well. This is the baseline level of commerce. At the very least, you want your revenue to exceed your expenses, and to make some profit (but hopefully, you can add a ton of value and make a ton of money!). This allows your brand to be available.

Some actually have the additional goal of Doing Good. This implies an additional motivator called caring. Factoring into your decision-making and direction is not only what will create maximum profit, but also, what will help other people. Your brand, with this in place, will be attractive.

At the highest level, you not only seek to do good, and to do well, but you’re committed to Doing Right. That is, you have a conscience. Sometimes, doing right means doing less well, because you value long-term reputation over short-term gain. These rare companies and individuals are actually admired.

All the brand-building strategies and tactics in the world cannot infuse heart and soul into your brand. It’s a no-brainer to seek to do well. But are you doing good? And, when no-one else is even looking – are you doing right? You know the answer, and eventually, your customers will too.

A Trip-up at Vanity Fair

I have no girls, and so the whole Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus phenomenon has, up to now, passed me by. However, just last week, I read through a magazine article expressing appreciation for how this young lady has managed to keep a relatively pure image, and avoid the scandals of other tween/teen starlets.

Unfortunately, with fame and attention come a thousand opportunities to stumble.

One ill-advised photo session for Vanity Fair has managed to taint the wholesome image of this budding star and tweener role model. Of course, Vanity Fair and the photographer got what they wanted by smoothing the way for her to push the limits – knowing that in a time when few images or words remain private, she’d pay the price while they sell the scandal.

Frankly, I’m glad I don’t have the pressures that come from the thousand-watt spotlights of stardom. I don’t know how some of these young folks make it unscathed – and, it seems, relatively few do make it with their reputations intact. There is very often the smell of scandal, moral collapse, or bad judgment trailing in their wakes. It’s tough enough just being a teenager, let alone being in the public eye 24/7.

This morning, I picked up one of our cats, who was sprayed MONTHS ago by a friendly neighborhood skunk. Amazingly, I can still catch the faint whiff of the scent, which has never quite left his fur. One moment of bad judgment (getting too close to a purveyor of stench) left him – and us – with many months of repercussions.

A solid brand can recover from a stumble. I hope, in the case of Miley Cyrus, that it is indeed an isolated incident, and that she does not pursue the self-destructive path of some that have come before her. Unfortunately, the odor of even one episode of bad judgment will follow her for a while. For the sake of our own brands, we can all take warning to keep our eyes wide open, and avoid entanglements with any cute-looking creatures with the telltale white stripe…

A Whine about Twine (and other platforms)

I was intrigued by the description of a new social web platform called Twine, so I accepted an invite to the Beta, and started exploring a bit this morning.

Twine is digging into some concepts of the semantic web, and its purported approach mirrors some ruminations I’ve had about Web 3.0/4.0/5.0 whatever-you-want-to-call-it (long post brewing for sometime downstream).

In this particular post, however, I’m going to focus on one thing. Intuitiveness.

I’ve come to increasingly value software apps that are designed with a rapid-uptake user experience in mind. This is one of the hardest tricks of the craft, and having worked in prior years with a software company, and wrestled long and hard with interface issues (from both the development and user point of view), I know it’s not easy. But we’re in an age of information and application overload, and quite frankly, if I’m not seeing the value and the usage flow within a few minutes, I’m going to lose interest.

So, back to Twine. I came, I saw, I felt lost.

I’m a reasonably smart guy, and though I’m not one of the new-generation digital natives, I can figure out my way around software pretty well. When I have to, I can learn new programs in-depth. But the thing is, increasingly, I don’t have to. Or shouldn’t have to.

When I began blogging, I played around with Blogger, settled on WordPress…but in both cases, had no trouble figuring out what was going on. iTunes – same experience. Twitter – even easier. LinkedIn, Flickr, Constant Contact, Pandora, Picnik, etc. – if you make the experience intuitive, I’m a regular user. But if I’m not immediately seeing “the point” of the system, and quickly gaining the WIIFM, then you’re going to lose me.

I sat down with a client of mine recently who had just put his toe in the LinkedIn waters. By showing a few simple functions, and displaying the WIIFM results, in 20 minutes, he was off-and-running.

Google has forever shown how you can marry immensely powerful algorithms to simple and intuitive interfaces. The challenge for architects of the new web will be to create engines that do more than one thing (more than search, more than Twitter), but still maintain the simple, immediate-gratification user experience. On a first-blush level, Twine didn’t pass that test for me.

Is “I get it!” is the ultimate metric of success? What do you think?

Contact Manglement

OK, I’m finally doing it this week.

Recently, I bought an iPhone in order to try to consolidate cell phone, calendar, contacts, music, and whatever into one device. It’s a very cool machine…but I’ve been putting off one very painful task.

I have contacts scattered through at least 3 main applications – my Yahoo mail program, a Palm pilot (and its contact program), and LinkedIn. Add a couple of years and a lot of changes/duplications/incomplete data, and you can imagine what I’ve got. It’s not contact management. It’s contact manglement!

So…I’ve exported all of them, consolidated all the files into one common Excel format, and now am going through the mind-numbing task of sorting through nearly 3,000 entries (my pharma biz contacts; blogging/marketing/networking contacts; personal contacts). As of this writing, I’m just about to start the “E”s.

Then, when finished, I have to wipe out my Yahoo contact file, and import this new master in, hoping to heck that it all works. Finally, it will sync up with the iPhone, and voila! Nirvana achieved!

Maybe. Fingers crossed….

(Update: it worked!)

Putting the “We” in Social Media

We have a branding challenge.

Those of us involved in social media are breaking new ground, and with that, there’s a certain degree of messiness. As in, a proliferation of terms used to express this new world where there is no barrier to entry for any and all of us to publish and participate.

Social Media. Web 2.0. New marketing. User-generated media. Conversational media. Or, if David Armano had his way, Socialstainable.

And one difficulty that we all face is: how do we explain this…stuff…to people who don’t “get it” yet?

I’m not sure the current set of terms is getting the job done. There are too many of them, and often they sound “techie” instead of providing an easy and intuitive handle for the newbie to grasp.

Whenever I look at a branding challenge like this, I like to stand back and ask, “What’s the point?” What is the core, central message that undergirds this new approach (and its tools)?

One random thought while weed-whacking today (first time this spring!) – it’s all about the We. The old web was THEM talking to ME, or maybe ME to THEM or another ME. But this emerging web is about Us – We are building it, We are participants and contributors and publishers, We are self-organizing at the grassroots.

It’s not the Web. It’s the Web (or WEb if you don’t have access to bolding) [note: the point gets made by the formatting, not by pronouncing it "weeb"!]

We have Web tools. We create Web media. And when we try to explain to newbies, we simply say – the new web, the new marketing, is the Web – We are feeding it and evolving it and tapping into the collective wisdom as we go along. A little formatting trick like Web implies both 2.0 and social media, without introducing yet another neologism.

So, there’s my off-the-cuff idea. What are your thoughts? Can we tap into the collective wisdom and come up – together – with an effective way to brand this thing we’re all using?? Add a comment!

300 and counting!

I just noticed on my WordPress dashboard that THIS is my 300th post on the Stickyfigure blog!

And what is foremost on my mind when I think about that milestone?

How thankful I am to be so much richer, as part of this marketing/blogging/Twittering/socializing community.

I never anticipated what would happen following my first missive (How to Waste 100,000 Billboards) way back in October 2006.

Thanks to everyone who has shared, in ways small and large. The fun has just started!

(Image credit)

Consider it…Solved?

While browsing through Forbes magazine, I came across a series of 3 full-page ads, taken out by Emerson (tagline: Consider it Solved).

Boy, do they have a marketing challenge to solve.

Emerson, like conglomerates such as United Technologies, Siemens, and GE, are into just about everything. The three Emerson ads I viewed talked about wireless plant operation, worldwide internet traffic, and food waste disposal. They had a common design theme and certainly weren’t bad on execution. But at the bottom of the ads is “the list” of what Emerson is involved in: Network Power. Process Management. Climate Technologies. Storage Solutions. Industrial Automation. Motor Technologies. Appliance Solutions. Professional Tools.

Wow. How do you message that?

I’ll give them points for trying. Consider it Solved at least makes a stab at a cohesive message that might span all those disparate offerings, but heck…it’s tough enough coming up with a great message for a company that does just one thing. I think GE has done pretty well (“We bring good things to life” – or, currently, “Imagination at work”). Emerson doesn’t have the same long track record and brand recognition as GE, so it’s an uphill climb getting any kind of identity established when you’re so many things to so many people.

Their website design and execution ( is pretty good, given the complexity of their offerings.

What do you think? Should mega-conglomerates pour a lot of time and effort into creating an overarching corporate identity? Or is it better to try to establish identity sector-by-sector?

Social Media – Where Are We Going?

For a moment, I was going to write “Where is it going?” But after a weekend of intensive interaction with 80+ bloggers at Blogger Social ’08, “Where are we going?” seemed far better.

Why? Because it’s not about a technology movement. It’s about people using technology to be…more complete people.

Now I freely confess that I am a big-picture strategy guy. An idea architect. I knew, however, when I started my own business almost 2 years ago, that I could only have a plan that was about 80% mapped out. The rest would simply have to evolve over time. I finally was OK with that; even excited by it. It’s liberating not to be bound to perfection.

As I started to heavily use LinkedIn, then began blogging, then began collaborating with other bloggers, then began meeting other bloggers and Twittering and exploring the new tools that bring the world closer together, my well-ordered manner of thinking continued to get rocked even more. The fact is, we’re making it up as we go along. There is no master plan here. We’re “grassrooting” this build-your-own-community thing and, to my surprise, it’s downright fun.

Like the other BS’08 attendees, Iooked forward with increasing excitement to the anticipated “preunion” of so many people that I had gotten to know (virtually) over the blogosphere. Some of us had collaborated extensively without ever meeting face-to-face. And for those of us who spend a joyous and near-sleepless weekend socializing, it was not a disappointment – this community of marketing bloggers is smart, creative, driven, kind, fun, and full of energy. Pretty geeky too, but there is a certain amount of charm seeing people Twitter each other on iPhones across the same table…

After it was over, I found myself – the strategist – thinking, “what’s the next step?” How do we build on this? But this is not something to be systematized. The best thing we can do is what we’ve been doing all along – creatively collaborate, care for those in need, welcome newcomers, share ideas, and enjoy each other’s company. The “message” of new/social/relationship-driven media will spread of its own, because we now have the tools to billboard ourselves, our ideas, our collaborations – on an open stage.

Some people won’t understand, not right away, but that’s all right. We don’t have to force it. This social media thing is in toddlerhood still. We’re just feeling our way around. And look what’s already happening!

So what will the future bring? This, to me, was the most stirring thought of the weekend. I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I foresee people helping people getting new jobs, launching new endeavors, making crucial connections, supporting those in need…it’s already happening. I see the blogging community providing a powerful safety net(work) and opportunity pool for many in a world of professional turmoil. I see a bunch of…us…going forward, not quite sure where, but forward, and as long we resist power trips and centralized command-and-control, we’ll do it as friends and colleagues learning and exploring together.

Where are we going? I don’t really know – but I’m sure enjoying the ride and the company!

Photo credit: Amanda Gravel, who is indeed the future with thought-provoking posts like this.

Pictures from Blogger Social: I’ve uploaded a bunch of pix on Flickr here. (Here’s the huge and growing group BS08 Flickr photo pool). Also, posts with some “bootleg” shots from Friday here and from Saturday here.

Blogger Social BBQ is on!

For those Blogger Social attendees still socializing today, the Boonton BBQ is ON no matter what the cool, cloudy weather. We’re an indoor/outdoor environment here!

The ribs are smokin'; the burgers and chicken are waiting for the grill; fruit, vegetables (and vegetarian) are all lined up, and American micro-brews (along with Australian wine) is chilling.

Anytime after 1:00 pm for you Blogger Socialites. Grab the 12:30 or 1:30 Lakeland Bus out of Port Authority for Boonton (Post Office). All the instructions/directions are on the forum.

If the weather holds out, we can make a nice blaze in the outdoor fireplace…

Blogger Social ’08 Friday Night – Fresh Pix

It was a rockin’ night at The Perfect Pint for the Blogger Social ’08 Kickoff. CK did a fabulous job organizing the event, with a huge assist from Lori Magno and many others. For many of us, it was the first time actually meeting after many on-line interactions, and how easy and natural it was interacting with so many stranger-friends from around the world! Here’s a batch of pictures from the first night:

Registration and Goodie bags

CK, Lori Magno, and special guest

Dr. Ann Handley consults

Joe Kutchera, visiting from Mexico

“Will you look at the time!”

Doug Meacham and Greg Verdino debate Prom King and Queen choices

Matt Dickman HD

Mario Vellandi threatens the mascot

Get Shouty shows off nearly-lethal paper cut

Italian bloggers show disdain for camera toters

9,496 Days and Counting

That includes six February 29ths (leap years). 1,352 Monday mornings. 227,904 hourly trips out of the cuckoo clock.

Today, my bride and I have been married for exactly 26 years. This July will be my first blogging anniversary – a wonderful milestone! But it pales in comparison to knowing and loving my best friend for over a quarter century.

Sandy has put up with an awful lot, at times wondering whether the clock or something else was cuckoo! The jury’s still out, but my guess is both…

So, what’s the “secret” to a long-lasting marriage? Well, there isn’t just one. However, Drew McLellan’s post on Be a Drip certainly taps into one main theme. Businesses, and marriages, grow by the slow and steady drip of regular, consistent communication. Most nights (now that the weather is good!), we still take a walk, hold hands, and talk. Marital blog posting and comments, if you will…

I hope to write/blog/communicate/promote for the rest of my life. And if I’m able to pull that off, one major reason is a wonderful woman who sticks by me. For the rest of our lives.

(image credit: Flickr)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 153 other followers