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Agency Lessons from Mad Men Episode 710 – The Forecast

Image by Michael Yarish from IMDB.com

Image by Michael Yarish from IMDB.com

Mad Men still includes real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. If I wasn’t in this industry, I’m sure I would still be a fan of the show, but for me I get a bonus. I get to watch situations I encounter all the time dealt with by others. Mad Men continues to include real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. Throughout the course of the series I’ve written 25 posts about real world agency lessons from the show and here’s one from one of the last.

There are two junior creatives who had a rough time presenting to a client. The work was not well received and they turned on each other in front of the client.  One of them approaches Don and asks him to go with him to make amends with the client.  Don instead gives examples of how he met with a similar issue and provides guidance on how to deal with the situation.

Well, the attempt at amends didn’t go well and the young creative flipped the words and scenario Don presented him, offending the client.  As an agency leader you want to empower your staff to take command and fix problems on their own.  The problem is that you need to be ready to deal with the consequences if it it doesn’t go according to plan.  In this case, he was fired.  This was a “teachable moment,” for the agency and Don could have moved the person off the account and helped him learn how to deal with situations like this. But he’s Don, he didn’t.

Steve Jobs and Clarity in Communication

Image by Mike Evangelist at writersblocklive.com of SJ prepping for NECC 2001 keynote

I only worked at Apple for a short while, 2001-2004, but while there I learned some incredible lessons in communication.  Many of them were from my direct boss but others I got on the few instances when I was able to work directly with Steve Jobs.

Shortly after I joined Apple I found myself writing a press release to be distributed following a keynote by Jobs at NECC (at the time largest ed tech conference in the US). As it happened I ended up going back and forth a bit with Steve over email on wording in the release.

The paragraph was about Apple’s iBooks and how they had integrated wireless (this was a big deal back then!) and I had written something along the lines of “allows students to learn anywhere.”  Steve responded with “students can always learn anywhere. This frees them from a computer lab”

Thanks Steve.

PS – here’s a link to the release.

What I’m reading in 2015

Throughout the year when I find or hear about a book I might find interesting, I send myself a note with the name of the book.  This is an ongoing email throughout the year that I keep replying to and CC my wife.  Then at Christmas when someone asks my wife what I might like, she sends them the list of books. It works out pretty well and I end up with a nice stack of books to start the year.

Here’s one from 2010, and one from 2011.  Below is the stack I’m diving into for 2015. Most of the below were purchased from our local bookstore, Face In A Book.

Books2015

  • The Forbidden Game by Dan Washburn – How the growth of once forbidden golf in China is a microcosm for how the country works.
  • One Lucky Bastard – Autobiography of Roger Moore. When I was a kid, he was James Bond and the epitome of a movie star.
  • Destiny of the Republic – Fascinating history of James Garfield.  A president taken way too soon, that could have had a huge impact on our country.
  • Goodbye Darkness – I’m a huge fan of William Manchester (see the next book) and I highly recommend A World Lit Only by Fire, but in this book he writes about his own experiences as a US Marine during WWII and the war in the Pacific.
  • The Last Lion – The first book in a trilogy biography of Winston Churchill. I started with the final of this series, and now go back to the beginning.

Communicating the benefits of IT security in higher education

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As part of my job I spend a lot of time on college campuses talking with administrators, faculty and staff. One of the special things about higher education (for good or for ill) is the decentralization of basically everything.  Since many parts of a college or university have control over their own funding they run a lot of their own systems.  Right down to things like email servers.  This decentralization can often lead to exposure for IT breaches.

With an increased focus on data privacy and security (even the President is talking about it) how do administrators get everyone on board?

  • Avoid FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) tactics, but do articulate the risks and costs to both the institution and individuals (faculty, administrators and students) of a data breach. Each group will be impacted differently, from costs to the institution, potential loss of research and compromise of research data for academics and loss of individual privacy for students. The impact must be understood for end users to change current behaviors.
  • Communicate that the provided services meet the academic communities’ needs. Whether it be seamless file sharing or collaboration solutions, end users will gravitate towards the solutions that are easy to use.
  • Involve the campus community in the assessment of needs and deployment of IT solutions. A shared ownership in the end product increases the likelihood that the community will use the central services and encourage others to do the same.

The above is from a post on cybersecurity I wrote for Edelman.com. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Get a “clue” – 15 years later – The Cluetrain is Back

Back in 1999, whoa 15 years ago, my boss Pam Alexander pointed all of us Alexandroids to a site for “The Cluetrain Manifesto.” It was addressed to “the people of Earth,” and like something you may have read about it had 95 Theses, of which the first was, “Markets are conversations.”  Read them all here.

The first homework for the class was to read the theses and identify five that spoke to them and talk about them with the class.

The one I always came back to is , “hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.” Anyone can link to the CEO.  They can tweet to them, subtweet them, tag them on Facebook. There’s no hiding.  I love that.

Image from cluetrain.com/newclues cc by e.re @ flickr

Fifteen years later Doc Searls and David Weinberger have nailed new clues to the door of the web and for that we thank you. I’m going to be spending a lot of time reading these but right now I’m feeling the power of “The Internet has liberated an ancient force — the gravity drawing us together..”

Find your “voice of authority”

Image from NPR.org/Meredith Rizzo

How does your voice sound at work?  Is it a little singsongy?  Is it not as steady as it could be?  If so, you might need to work on your “voice of authority.”  I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and have heard of it referenced in various contexts.  Just last night I was reading “Goodbye Darkness,” by William Manchester that is a memoir of his time in the Pacific theater of WWII and he talked about as a young NCO he didn’t have a “command voice.”  This is described as DLIPS: Distinctness, Loudness, Inflection, Projection, and Snap.  It’s a voice that makes people listen and commands authority.

While in PR we aren’t often barking commands to marching soldiers across a parade ground or battlefield, we often do need to take command of a situation or a room.  Additionally we need to speak with a voice of authority about a topic if we are going to convince people that it’s important or worth their time.

Today on NPR, there was a segment by Nell Greenfield Boyce on a study from Sei Jin Ko at San Diego State University that looked at the “voice of authority,” and voice of power. According to the story, “She says the voice of a person given more power was steadier and less singsongy, but also more dynamic “because it increased in pitch and intensity variability, so they went in and out of loudness more than those in low power.”

Listen to yourself and your colleagues and see if you can strengthen your voice of authority.

Single frame stories

The current buzzword in marketing and communication is storytelling.  Don’t sell to someone. Make them remember and care by telling them a story.  Telling a good story is hard. Telling a good story in a single frame is epic.  Masters of the craft can tell a complete story with no words.

Two of the most powerful examples of this story telling have been born of telling the story of heroism amongst tragedy.  First is from Sacramento’s own late Rex Babin who told the story of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” in graceful lines:

Bruce MacKinnon told the story of the bravery of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who lost his life earlier this year while saving others in Ottawa:

I’d like to add another piece of single frame storytelling to my favorites.  It’s not as much emotional as educational, when we could all use a little more good information.  This one isn’t by a political cartoonist or artist. It’s by a chemist telling the story of how small a portion of Africa is currently under a state of emergency from Ebola.

Thank you Rex. Thank you Bruce. And thank you Anthony for using your talent to tell great stories, simply and effectively.

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