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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


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).

Guides to Going Digital

This week Ad Age ran an article that was a guide to going digital for ad agencies. This article reminds me of a famous quote, “Better late than never.” Titus Livius said this in around 2,000 years ago.

When thinking about going digital, remember what these smart people said.

In the digital age that we live in today, it’s interesting that many businesses are still un-digital.  It’s especially interesting for ad agencies for two big reasons. The first is that this is an industry that’s supposed to lead in the areas of culture, commerce, creativity. All of the trends in those areas are digital… and have been digital for years.  The other reason why un-digital ad agencies are interesting is that the advertising, marketing and media industries have suffered terribly since the economy tanked. Across the board, the only sector that has shown growth in the last couple of years (and maybe in the last decade) has been related to the digital side.

So why are there still ad agencies that have yet to jump into the digital pool? It goes back something that Sir Isaac Newton said around 300 years ago. It’s called Newton’s First Law, “A body persists in a state of uniform motion or of rest unless acted upon by an external force.” In other words, some agencies won’t change unless they have to. Change is hard for everyone. But change is here and has been for a while. The external force affecting un-digital ad agencies is profitability. This reminds me of another famous quote. This one is from Claudian (around 400 AD), “Change or die.”

The Ad Age article has real good ideas for taking an agency digital with links to other smart articles on the subject. Check it out here, and don’t forget what Titus, Isaac, and Claudian said.

Can MySpace be cool again?

After being in decline for 20 social-media years, MySpace is finally waking up and doing something about it.  Please note that a social-media year is equal to two dog years, and a dog year is equal to seven people years.

Here’s a little history lesson that goes back a half century (in social media years). MySpace used to have twice the traffic of Facebook. Then Facebook became more relevant while MySpace didn’t. In the middle of 2009, the traffic numbers on Facebook flew past the number of visitors on MySpace, and Facebook continues to grow in popularity. In October 2008, MySpace had over 60% of the social-media market; now it’s only 30% of it. Facebook is now top-dog with over 58% of the social-networking traffic (all according to Hitwise).myspace

The Wall Street Journal reported today that MySpace is trying to “recover its cool by becoming an online hangout that connects friends around entertainment.”  There are many things that I like about this. First is that MySpace is finally doing something to revitalize the brand. It’s about time!  Secondly, this strategy connects with consumers (they love entertainment) and it connects with a core aspect of MySpace — music. MySpace has always been a great place for bands (big and small) to showcase their music. The musical niche is about the only strong suit MySpace has held onto during its free fall.

The article says that MySpace is ramping up its technology initiatives to create new products that let users share entertainment content (music, games, celebrities, videos, and blogs) with friends is an essential part of its strategy. “This is not an all-things-for-everybody portal,” Mr. Hirschhorn says. “This is a social entertainment experience.”

MySpace has hired several key big-time executives to support this effort — a new CEO and a new chief revenue officer (focused on ad sales). They are looking to create opportunities for big brands to create ad sponsorships in the new MySpace. It will be interesting to see if they can invite advertisers to the party without alienating the guests (the MySpace users).

Who will be ahead in the next social-media year? Nobody knows. Social networks have been hit by a fad component that Yahoo, Friendster and AOL can tell you all about. You can also ask Twitter about fads. I’ll put my money on the network that figures out how to seamlessly tie into cell phones (customer convenience) AND make it easy and natural for brands to connect with people (monetization).

Volkswagon makes the world a better place.

Successful brand become bigger than their products. They become ways of life for their loyal fans. VW has a new viral campaign doing a nice job of this. It’s called The Fun Theory. Through the site and the viral videos, VW engages people in wonderful ways — giving the audience a VW brand experience. This also shows that VW is a positive part of our community — socially aware. Check out the videos that have been seen by over 1 million people in just a matter of days.

The website says that it is “dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”

To encourage further interactivity with the site (and with VW by extension), visitors are encouraged to “take part in the competition to find fun ways to change behaviour.”  Winners receive cash prizes for finding fun ways to get people to exercise and to get people “to pick up their dogs doings.”

VW is has a subtle presence with a logo smaller than a dime and the line, “An initiative of Volkswagon.”  Bravo VW!

Dancing and Inspiring Critical Mass

Find the tipping point in this spontaneous dance party at the 2009 Sasquatch! Music Festival (watch the video).

Gladwell (the author of The Tipping Point) is right:  little things can make a big difference. Who inspired this dance party?  Most people will credit the first guy dancing (the guy without the shirt). However, if it weren’t for the 2nd and 3rd guys, the small group of five people would not have joined in. And the small group is what inspired the huge group of people to get up and dance. This is a wonderful example of critical mass – a threshold in social behavior that triggers a larger event or a new action.  This video reveals fantastic insights into inspiration and what it takes to inspire others into action.  Brands and ad campaigns seek to inspire critical mass. Most fall short.

A few takeaways from this video:

– Everyone is a leader if he/she leads.

– Don’t try to change everyone. Change a few and everyone will follow.

– Be uncool. Cool dudes aren’t cool; they’re fearful. They limit themselves and those around them. The first 20 dancers weren’t trying to be cool; they didn’t fear being singled out. In fact, they sought the attention of being different. And the last 20 dancers joined the crowd because they were following the lead of the mass.

– Live passionately.

– If you see a good thing going on, join in.

– Allow change to take over.

– Don’t be afraid to dance your face off even if you “can’t dance.”

– Enjoy!

By the way, the song is “Unstoppable” by Santigold.

Getting People To Your Website

Getting web visitors is what every website owner wants (including me!). Many people call it driving traffic. I refer to it as creating gravity because many of the best actions will pull visitors to a website as opposed to pushing them there from other places.CreatingGravity

When the discussion of creating gravity or driving traffic comes up (with me at least), it usually involves a small budget. People often think that it’s easy for any website to get a million hits. It’s because of the stories like the YouTube video of a cat dancing to an old disco song… and getting 7 million hits in one month. A dancing cat getting 7 million hits is impressive, but a website for a local insurance agency won’t get that much attention… no matter what. Unless a salesman puts on some tight polyester bell-bottom pants and danced like a cat to a Bee Gee’s tune. But would we want to buy insurance from that guy?  Not me.  I digress…

Like anything in business, creating gravity takes all resources:  time, money, expertise, creativity, and luck. If you want to skimp on any one of these elements, you need to make it up in the others.  As I mentioned earlier, most discussions of creating website gravity involve a small budget, so here are my top ten ways to create gravity to your website without using high-tech or high-dollar anything.

1. Create Controversy.  Stir the pot.  Tap into people’s passions. Take a tip from the conservative talk radio shows like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.  Leverage other media (the editorial section of a newspaper and re-print online) and other websites (make strong comments on other websites).

2. Build a Network. Create a community of like-minded sites; the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. Brainstorm ways the community can grow beyond your community. Consider reciprocal banner ads.

3. Cover Events. Being the first to report is huge. Exclusive and underground coverage is great.  Time is of the essence!  Be the first to post some interesting news and people will flock to your site. Keep in mind, the word “news” is used liberally. Think “Entertainment Tonight” not Walter Cronkite. It can be photos from an industry event or a POV of an industry trend or just some good old scuttlebutt.

4. Make Top-Ten Lists – they make it onto Digg, Slashdot and even into the mainstream press.  Case studies:  Letterman’s Top Ten might be the most famous, but on the web, Nielsen’s Top Ten Web Design Mistakes and the recent Top 10 Unintentionally Worst Company URLs (that made both del.icio.us/popular and Digg) are good examples. Heck, you’re reading a top-ten list right now!

5. Graphic & Web Design — using design portals to drive traffic to your well-designed site. Examples include CSSThesis and CSSBeauty.

6. Leverage Social Networks.  Of course there’s the popular ones:  Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, AOL, etc.  Also consider using Ekstreme’s Socializer Tool. Using Digg, Slashdot’s, Reddit, Furl, Shadows and StumbleUpon. The list is endless and ever changing.

7. Blog and Blog Comments.  Regular content generation is required. Requires passion and expertise on the subject.  Case studies:  thousands of great blogs including Better Living through Design, Montreal Food, Re-Imagineering and Creating Passionate Users.

8. Buy Some Google Adwords. They can be cheap, and you get what you pay for, but it’s quick, easy, and worth a go.

9. Offering Something Incredible.  Build-it-and-they-will-come product.  Case studies:  Zillow, Flickr, Craigslist, Kayak, Web2.0Awards.

10. Don’t Forget the Simple Things: Use an email address from the URL. Build an email list and e-newsletters. Case Study:  Yoe.com

Bonus tips:

• Sell something on eBay or Craigslist as a way to drive traffic to your site.

• Use your business’ primary client contact point to drive traffic to your site. To encourage people to go to your website, what signature could you add to every email that is sent from your company? What could you print on the back of everyone’s business cards that would get people to go to your site? What could you print on your packaging that would entice website visits?

What ideas do you have for creating gravity (or driving traffic) to a website?  Please add a comment.