Interview questions made easy

There are only three real job interview questions:
1. Can you do the job?
2. Will you love the job?
3. Can we tolerate working with you?
     That’s it. Just learn to answer these, and you’re good.
     In a recent Forbes article, George Bradt shows that all other interview questions are just a derivative of one of these three key questions.
     Another way to look at the three questions is to think about it this way:
1. Do you have the right strengths?
2. Are you motivated for this job?
3. Will you fit in here?
     Learn how to answer these three questions (either set), and you will do well in any interview.  Make sure your resume and cover letter addresses these three questions, and you’ll be invited to more interviews.  Good luck!

The Power of an Artful Pitch

On day as we both pushed our young daughters on the swings in a neighborhook park, Raymond McKinney (a CD at The Martin Agency) told me “Good work that is presented like shit… is shit.” Luckily our daughters were both too young to pick up on the colorful language that gave flavor to that GREAT advice. I often recall those wise words, and I usually flip the quote around 180 degrees. It then takes on a little different meaning:  “Any work that is presented real well… is better work.”

Learn how to present work from the master, Peter Coughter.

Getting people to buy an idea takes two important things:  1) a good idea, and 2) a good presentation. Too often we focus so much on the idea an how the idea looks, that we forget to make sure the work is presented well.

One of the best presenters in the ad business is Peter Coughter, a colleague of mine at VCU. For years he has been inspiring young minds on the art of the presentation in his class called “Persuasion” (MASC-664) at the VCU Brandcenter.

I have never sat in on his classes, but it’s been a wish of mine for years. His work is that good. In January we’re all going to get the opportunity to learn from this master. Buy his book now, and it will make all of your work a lot better.

“The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business”

by Peter Coughter

Release date:  January 3, 2012

VCU Basketball Will Do Remarkable Things Off The Court.

The success of the VCU basketball team has inspired the university.

The success of the VCU basketball team is growing the VCU brand in all areas. This phenomenon is exactly what Seth Godin talks about in his book “Purple Cow.”  Godin says to be successful, a brand must be remarkable. How does “Purple Cow” connect with VCU and the basketball team?

Joey Rodriguez celebrates victory over Kansas. Photo of Richmond Times-Dispatch on 03/28/2011

For those not familiar with VCU, it’s a big university with big university accomplishments and with a community college brand. The alumni are minimally active. The students wear t-shirts and hoodies from other colleges more often than VCU t-shirts and hoodies. But, this week VCU students are wearing yellow and black like never before. And I bet the VCU development directors (fundraisers) are having crazy success.

Shaka Smart (VCU head coach) and the basketball team finally has captured the imagination of the nation. The black-and-yellow VCU Rams are a purple cow. The basketball team is remarkable – something to talk about.

The basketball team is giving VCU a national reputation. In turn… The team is finding jobs for alumni who are out of work. The team is increasing the number of admission applications next year. The team is hiring more faculty. The team is providing more scholarships. The team is funding more research. Purple cows inspire amazing things.

Can the VCU basketball team create a VCU football team?

The success of the VCU basketball team has added more fuel to the argument in favor of a VCU football team. A remarkable basketball team does not mean a remarkable football team. The buzz created by the basketball team comes from their success in the NCAA Tournament. If the university was going to invest in a football team to the extent that the team would be remarkable — competitive at the national level (like Virginia Tech, Florida State, Texas, and Michigan) — then it makes sense to talk about VCU football in the same conversation with VCU basketball (this year).

Unfortunately, VCU will not invest the $50 million – $100 million needed to have a nationally ranked football program. And so the VCU football team will not be remarkable (like VCU basketball this year). While there are many good reasons why VCU should have a football team, using the success of the VCU basketball team to argue for a football team is not a rational argument. However, rational thinking is not why people do things. People (including university officials) do things for emotional reasons. The basketball team has inspired everyone associated with VCU. And so those in favor of bringing football to VCU should capitalize on the moment. Now’s the time to make an all-out blitz to push for Rams football.

Football isn’t the best investment for VCU right now. A smarter investment is put more money into getting the basketball team back into the Final Four. Invest in coaching, facilities, and recruiting for the basketball team. It’s a lot less than starting a football program, and it will be more purple (as in the cow).

Learn more about purple cows in this wonderful TED Talk.

Go Rams.

Resume for an entry-level ad job

Q:  I don’t have any relevant work experience. On my resume could I list some of the courses I took at VCU if they are relevant to the job?

A:  Relevant work experience is a valuable thing to have.  However, think about it deeper.  Think about the people you know who do their job well.  Did your best teachers have the most teaching experience? Do the best mothers and fathers have several kids before they become good parents?  Are the best 7-11 cashiers the ones that have been cashiers for many years?  In my experience, the people who do their job well have the passion to be good, the creativity to solve problems, and the ability to think on their own.
Change your definition of “relevant work experience.”  An employer wants to see that you are relevant to them.  There are many ways to show that you are relevant: from school projects, from work experiences, from pastimes you’ve enjoyed, from your philosophies, from your passions, and from any stuff you’ve done.  Many jobs (including all types of communications and marketing) need people who are passionate, creative, connected, problem solvers, smart, and willing to work hard. When you demonstrate that you have these qualities, you will have the attention of any employer.
Another important point is that ALL experience is relevant experience.  How you approach your school work is probably similar to how you’ll approach all types of work.
One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'” 

The Passion of Beethoven

When you write your resume, show the passion that Beethoven showed when he wrote his music.

If I was looking to hire someone (for any job), I would seriously consider hiring a street sweeper who approached his/her job like Michelangelo approached his work. This is especially true for any entry-level position.
Sure it’s nice to have relevant work experience (in the traditional sense). Fortunately, you can have a strong job application (and/or resume and cover letter) without any relevant work experience.  You have the ability to apply for many, many jobs with which you have no direct work experience (in the sense of doing that job before).

Advertising is Science!

This afternoon I was speaking to Piete Blikslager about physics and how it is connected to everything. Piete is a smart guy, a wonderful writer, and a fantastic colleague of mine in the VCU ad program.  For me, the conversation solved a huge conundrum:  Advertising is science!

Newton’s first law says, “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”  Change the physics words to marketing words:  Every consumer in a state of uniform behavior tends to remain in that state of behavior unless a new force is applied to him/her. And, what is the “new force” that is applied to consumers to change their behavior? Advertising.
What if we aren’t trying to change a consumer’s behavior, rather we’re trying to get them to begin acting — from a non-acting position… or not in motion? Newton’s law also applies to objects not in motion (or objects in a state of motion with the speed of zero). Some ad theorists say that there are no instances when we are trying to get consumers to go from standing still to moving. Consumers are always moving; they always have inertia.
If you disagree, leave a comment and I’ll talk it over with Piete… he’s smarter than I am.
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Check out this TED video to see more links between science and branding.
Dan Cobley makes an interesting presentation showing the connections between marketing and Newton’s second law, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the scientific method and the second law of thermodynamics. Deep stuff.

Help Wanted: VCU Advertising

VCU is looking for two full-time, undergraduate ad faculty with hire dates in August 09.

One position for someone to teach strategic aspects of the business (account management, account planning, media planning). It is a tenure-track position. The position is listed with a minimum requirement of a master’s with professional experience. I think that as long as the candidate has strong professional experience and shows a deep interest in doing scholarship (research or professional work), the degree requirement isn’t a deal breaker.

The other position is for creative courses. The need is to focus on the writing courses. This is a long-term collateral position. This means that there isn’t a scholarship aspect to the job; the workload is all teaching. The minimum requirement for this position is a bachelor’s degree with extensive professional experience.

We are looking for passionate professors looking to help us build the strongest ad program in the country. We think of advertising as any brand communication that comes in contact with the consumer. We strive for work based on smart insights, strong thinking, fresh creativity, high responsibility, and an impact that creates results for the client.
Check out the job postings for the strategic faculty position and for the creative faculty position.

The new VCU Advertising program

In the Fall ’08 semester, VCU ad majors will no longer take courses like Art Direction, Copywriting, Account Management, and Ad Campaigns. Instead they will be required to take courses called Touch, Empathy, Awareness, and Curiousness.

Before I tell you about those weird course names, let me tell you about the overall curriculum changes and why we needed them.

Why change?  The reason is a simple one:  The ad business has changed. We needed to change to at least catch up to what is happening in the industry:

– the business of brands is less about making ads.

– there’s more collaboration now:

– creatives (writers and designers) are no longer the sole providers of creative ideas.

– media planners must understand more than numbers.

– creatives need to understand the business side.

– there’s that digital thing.

– non-traditional advertising continues to grow.

– and people hate ads more than ever.

But instead of just redesigning the curriculum to catch up to the industry, our goal was to create a program that is positioned for where the leaders in the industry are headed. Smart, forward-thinking ad agencies are removing the titles and tearing down the silos that separated one department from the other (examples include the hottest agencies in the world:  Naked Communications, Mother, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, The Martin Agency).  These companies are not making ads, they are connecting consumers to their clients’ brands and products.

“Art Direction” was an ad course that had been around for as long students studied advertising; it was where students learned to layout an ad. However, consumers are not interested in seeing ads. “Imagination” is the new course where students learn about aesthetics, visualization, and communication that engages consumers.

Why course names that are attributes?  Mark Fenske, one of the designers of the new program, explains it this way: “We want to develop in students the same attributes found in superlative practitioners in the advertising field. By focusing the curriculum toward the development of attributes instead of specific pieces or types of work, students themselves—with direction—will create work not only in the traditional formats long taught in the school, but they will also naturally work in the newer media formats they are familiar with and interested in.”

Another benefit from the interesting course titles is that students will quickly know that these courses are designed to inspire fresh thinking.  This ain’t your grandfather’s ad program.