Influence Perception, Rule the World.

Below are a few simple questions. Take a look and remember your answers.

1. How much is a dollar really worth?
2. How much would you pay for happiness?
3. How much is the stock market truly worth?
4. How long would you listen to someone you WANT to listen to, versus someone you NEED to listen to; and is there a difference?

The most exciting thing about marketing and communications is that the industry is faced with crazy questions like the ones above every day. Let’s take the first question for example- the paper the dollar is printed on is only worth a few cents, so how in the world is it worth 20 nickels, or 10 dimes, or four quarters or 100 pennies?

Again, and again and again…it is always about perception. Because we perceive and believe that the dollar is worth that much, it is. That simple.

As communicators, we have to be aware of how our audiences perceive their surroundings, in order for  effective dialogue to take place.  

But once you get to a point where you can influence perception around your messages and activities, you’re going to be one heck of a communicator.

Why Reactive Marketing/Communications is Stupid

First and foremost, I got this blog post idea from Brian’s blog post of True Impact Communications. It is a great read and hopefully this post will complement it well.

Like Brian states in his post, there are many bright business executives that are top-notch in their industry, yet do not put any real emphasis in their marketing activity. Why? The reasons vary, perhaps they believe their target audience is such a niche market that is doesn’t matter. Or WOM and some marketing activity when the business has extra capacity is more than enough.  However in this day and age, relying on reactive marketing is becoming more costly than being pro-active. And here’s why:

-Lacks Sustainability: Writing a press release every blue moon, or creating a marketing campaign once a while hurts the brand more than it helps. Like all communications, working on your activities gradually works better than spending two solid weeks on blitzing your audiences.

-Lacks Credibility:  Ten years ago, if a company didn’t have a website, it wasn’t that big of a deal. In 2009, it is almost expected. Five years ago, bloggers were given little thought. Now, people are weary of business executives that don’t blog. Also, if your competitors are actively marketing their services, are you really willing to simply let your work do the talking? Is it safe to rely on the consumer to research all their options? Please! The brightest star is noticed first, so the one who puts their name out there will be known. If you are not going to market yourself, why should the consumer seek you out? 

-Immediately Playing Catch-Up: In a business world that is saturated in so many industries, being the one left in the dark is not appealing to most businesses. Having a reactionary marketing plan starts you off in the back seat. The forerunner gets to shape how the conversation is going to go, and who is going to start it. Their name goes out first, and then you have to decide whether you respond or don’t respond. No one likes to be forced to make that kind of decision. 

Take the initiative and build your marketing activity on the principle that being proactive is better than the reactive approach. Businesses are usually better off.

Will the Communications Industry Live Up to….Washington?

Who would have thought that phrase would ever be uttered. To think that D.C. accomplished something that our dear communications industry has continually failed to achieve is just mind-boggling. A black President. That is so cool.

Perhaps I am being too cynical about Washington and its progress. Maybe it was ahead of the communications industry all along. But isn’t it interesting to see that the communications industry has less diversity than the U.S. government? Who saw that coming?

Why can’t our industry attract malesfrom different ethnicities?

If the Capitol and the Nation can step it up and welcome and elect someone from a different background and a different skin color, why can’t we?

Neo…Liberalism?

Neo-Conservatism. Ah yes, a phrase the educated, non-partisans, liberals, and Bush Administration haters came to know and love. But with the new tide of change coming to and through America, let us not forget that there is an entire spectrum of thought when it comes to political school.

Disclosure: I am neither a Democrat nor Republican. I have as many liberal views as  I do conservative ones. I, like many professional communicators, tend to look down all sides of the aisle to make sure I’m aware of the ridiculous and interesting things our representatives are doing.

When Bush began to craft the Bush Doctrine (his foreign policy in the Middle East and War on Terrorism/for Oil) the term neo-conservatism began to fill the air due to the uber religious, staunch Israeli-supporting, rich conservatives whom filled the Bush ranks. We have seen how the past eight years have done the country. Now the country wants something different. Totally different. This new, Obama administration will be, as I don it,the birth of the neo-liberalism era.

(Predicted) Characteristics of Neo-Liberalism:
Note: These predicted characteristics describe the ultimate neo-liberal, I am not describing the everyday liberal…if there is such thing. 

-BIG Government: Obvious, due to the fragile economy, poor infrastructure and overall brand image of Washington, the federal government is going to turn its wallet inside and out for the next couple of years.

-Emphasis on Science: Another obvious, but be aware of how far these neo-liberals would want to go. Idon’twant to speculate too much, but there will be messaging coming to American citizens about drastic measures- that I can assure you.

-Increased Separation of Church and State: Watch this development. With a President who is all-in with respect to Pro-Choice, the pro-life supporters could lose a lot of ground. If you want to find a job in lobbying, the pro-life camp will be hiring. This element will be exciting to watch.

– Won’t do what’s right, but what makes sense: The neo-liberal will be at the top echelon of education. I’m talking serious brain-power. I would not be surprised to hear theories of Utility (the greatest good) come from this administration. Some predicted examples? Hm, a permanent adoption of roe v.wade, nationalization of the U.S. education system, and obviously, universal healthcare. 

In any case, this has truly been an election to remember. But America needs to pay attention, do not get caught in the want for something so different, because you just might get it.

Stop Censoring Ourselves!

There are times where being sensitive and politically correct is the right path.  It feels good to please everyone possible, and to be smooth-edged and polite.

But in the marketing and communications industry, that policy has to change.

Bart Cleveland wrote a great AdAge article about how our industry has gotten so politically correct that PROFESSIONALS are afraid to offend someone.

Let me repeat myself: professional marketers and communicators are afraid to offend someone. How dare you be in this industry and be afraid to go against the grain and speak your mind.

Thank you Bart, and the columnist Bart quoted in his article. The day our entire industry goes totally PC is the day the communications as we know it dies. Not everyone is going to like the messages people and businesses send out to the public, who cares? I would rather apologize after the fact, then to run out the door waving a white flag before even trying. That’s ridiculous. If we didn’t want creative marketing and advertising then why hire creative directors, create marketing departments, or even have communications?

Sheesh.

A Visit from Charlotte Mayor Pat McCory

Tuesday night Charlotte Young Professionals had its monthly meeting and it featured Mayor Pat McCory who talked about his tenure as mayor and gave us young and talented professionals some food for thought. Below are a few quips that really hit home for me:

Be Passionate: Mayor McCory is not successful because he happened to be in the right city at the right time. As I listened to him, he still shined with enthusiasm when he talked about Charlotte, and what the Queen City can become. If every business leader had 3/4 of the passion Mayor McCory has, capitalism as we know it would be on a whole different level.

Be and have a Mentor: No doubt talent, skill and passion will make a good leader, but having and being a mentor will make a great leader. McCory told CYP about his mentor as mayor, and how he was always able to bounce ideas off him and how his mentor grounded him or lifted him up when necessary. Now McCory took his place, this mayor started the Mayor Mentorship Alliance, helping kids who don’t have anyone to lookup to find their way to become productive members of our society.

Step UP: Mayor McCory made it clear that his generation is on the way out, and ours is just picking up speed. It is not wrong to research and learn what the previous generation did, but don’t be afraid to shake up or even destroy that status quo.  Innovation and new schools of thought can only happen when someone decides to “take the road less traveled by.”

Overall, I enjoyed listening to Mayor McCory. One of the few republicans I actually have a deep respect for. What he did to Charlotte in 15 years is amazing, and cannot go without acknowledgement that he set our generation up for success. He set us up, so now we got to step up and knock ’em down.

The Power of Storytelling

So I listened to a program on NPR last Saturday, and I just want to share it. It proved to me that storytelling is still so powerful, and effective, it can influence anyone, anywhere, in anyway. Below are the three paraphrased stories:

1. Afghanistan Love Quest: An Afghan driver falls in love with his sister-in-law’s sister, but his job does not pay him enough to afford a marriage. Their love is so “giddy-pure” with secret kisses, quick glances at the dinner table and so on. The driver told his boss’ new fiance’ and her and the driver’s boss donated money to his cause. The driver presented the money to his lover’s father- and was denied. He was heart-broken. So what happened? His sister arranges a marriage for him, and he marries her before he even meets her. Some second option, right?

2. Kidney Quest- An older Jewish woman made it her goal to match kidney donors to people who needed them. Why? Not only did she care about this, but she was also unmarried. In her community she and other older, unmarried woman were looked down upon and so she needed a “niche” to feel like she belonged.

3. Toy Babies, Racism, and Love: An actress turned “nurse” at F.A.O. Schwartz worked in the toy baby section “nursery” at the toy store. During a popular time, all the white babies sold out, so she and the other nurses made a bet: what would sell first: this really, really, ugly white, red-head baby that they mess around with during their downtime, or all the minority babies. Lo and behold, this apparently racist mom and spoiled kid bought the ugly baby before any of the black babies were sold. Though the nurse was upset that their bet came true, she was reluctant to give the baby to these rotten souls. The nurse fell in love with the baby. What amazing stories! Stories like these reassure me that narrative marketing and other communications methods we talk about and explore can be successful.

Those three stories (which lasted about 40-45 minutes) made me so energized, I wanted more. Brilliant radio and storytellers are still out there people, and it is our job to learn from them and carry their methods over and apply them to the new methods of communications that we are pioneering.