A 2014 Update

Greetings all!

I hope you all are well.

Things are steadily rolling along here. The second semester has been stop-and-go due to the wacky cold weather. As I write, CrownTown is projected to get close to 12″ of snow.


Other than that, below are a few things going on.

The Countdown

Yes, it is 60 days until I get married. That’s pretty exciting. We avoided some major pitfalls too, and everything (that we control) has been taken care of. For now.

Next Venture(s)

From spending nearly five years in the startup/entrepreneur space to jumping into the education world, I can not help but keep both doors open. I enjoy being busy. Plus, it keeps me out of trouble. I have several things on my plate I hope to steadily chomp off.

Writing a book– I know…I fell into the marketing strategist pitfall- creating something of my own. For the record, it is not entirely my fault. My future wife thought it would be a great idea, and when I’m given the opportunity for a new challenge, I can’t help it. Details about that soon.

Launching AdLand Heroes– One of the two big ideas I have. The Charlotte Agency will stick around, for the time being. But I picture AdLand Heroes as being an advertising publishing (own my book, probably), consultancy to help freelancers and small (3-10) advertising folks get noticed. I want AdLand Heroes to provide training for those populations that may not be able to receive it, and fill other gaps as needed.

Launching GoMatthewsMintHill– The second of two big ideas I have. These two areas, which are growing- and fast- has no real centralized digital presence so people know what’s going on. With help (programmer, sales people, office manager) I can get it off the ground.

Updating TCA– TheCharlotteAgency.com needs a serious facelift. So yea, that needs to happen too.

Needless to say, I am happy to see that though I am thoroughly enjoying teaching, that my entrepreneurial spirit has not yet withered.


Coming Up-

DECA States- Instead of being a judge, I will be an advisor during the North Carolina DECA Conference. Wild.
Social Media Day Charlotte (June 30th)- If you know people who’d like to be involved, give me a shout (Twitter: @SMdayCLT)

That’s it for now, folks. I hope to come back with updates on progress.

As always, thank you for reading.


2013 is Poppin’

It’s just a little over a month into 2013, and we have been making some serious waves in the ocean.

It’s been exciting.

First, I am happy to say that JDW: The Charlotte Agency picked up two new accounts. The first is the Carolina Knights, a professional summer football team in Charlotte. They will be playing in the Professional Developmental Football League (PDFL) in the National Developmental Conference. I’m serving as the VP of sales, marketing and sponsorships. Good deal.

The second account is We Are Fit to Fight, a fitness/self-defense group based in Charlotte. They are awesome. The agency is devising multiple marketing, public relations and advertising activities for them. We’re really excited about what we will be doing with them.

With that being said, we are looking for 2-3 more sizable accounts and actually begin hiring. Woo! After 4 years of hanging in there, we’re excited that we are near our goal. We are actively searching for interns, and we hope to have 2 (or so) join the team soon.

We are still with the Charlotte Batdogs, and now that spring is upon us, the pitchers and catchers are reporting in less than a week, we can become a little more relevant about baseball in Charlotte, and helping the Charlotte Baseball Clubhouse gain some momentum.

The Charlotte Agency is also in the process of adding more “digital inventory” on the web. Two things: we are re-designing our website, which is super exciting. Also, we’re creating a spec-site for our non-work, musings, and intern projects. We hope to use that space to not only explore our own creative outpours, but to also have it stem into meetups/events, workshops, and the like.

The site only has a splash page. All I can tell you right now is that its super hero oriented. Yes I know, its going to be sweet.

All of this in a little over a month. I love it.

Talent Zoo still isn’t tired of my ramblings, so my advertising “knowledge” is still roaming the interwebs.

Hope you enjoyed the update. Cheers.


Brian Solis Answered My Question

Cover of "Engage: The Complete Guide for ...

Cover via Amazon

As part of an incentive to sign up early for this year’s Pivot Conference, the organizers offered a chance for pre-registrants to ask a question for Brian Solis, the author of “Engage!” to answer.

Naturally, because I love hearing from smart people, I pre-registered and asked a question.

So why am I writing a blog about this?

Because it was a really good answer.

As many of you know, I am quite critical when it comes to the “thought leaders” that be in our society.

They say the same crap. In the same venue. To the same crowd.

It’s insulting, and boring.

So instead of whining about the same-old answers I hear, I really want to highlight the great answers. Below is the question I asked him (in bold), followed by his answer in italics.

With ‘Choice’, comes large amounts of pressure for brands to form a connection with its customers, in order to “rise above the clutter.” When forming the relationship, what is one key element the brand should remember?

Not to sound overly complicated, but because social media is inherently social, people are in control of their own online experiences. Thus, everything must be reverse engineered starting with two things: the people you are trying to reach, and what it is they value. Choice is the key word as you said, you have it, I have it, and in many ways, we are the people we are trying to reach. I recommend ‘a less is more’ approach rooted in user-defined intelligence before engagement. What people want and how you connect the gap between that want and our value proposition is yours to define.

Now you may ask me why I thought that was a really good answer. Let’s pick it apart.

First, he didn’t try to throw in a bunch of jargon, faux-scientific words or made up phrases.

Second, he mentioned the act of ‘reverse engineering’, meaning that you are starting with the end in mind. Targeting what people value means that you are focusing on incentive. As a communicator in the social realm, you have to figure out why these consumer should connect with you rather than someone else, or not connect at all.

He did mention ‘less is more approach’, which is a little played out, but I’ll let it slide. Every marketing guy throws at least one out-played phrase.

Third, he said the phrase “user-defined intelligence before engagement“. That phrase, Brian, won me over. What does that phrase mean?

Research, research, research…strategy, then implementation (engagement).

All we hear these days is “it’s all about engagement”, or “joining the conversation“, and “being relevant”.

But all of that doesn’t mean crap if you don’t know your audience or the conversations already being had.

Thank you Brian, for re-newing my faith in marketing “stars”.

Brian will be at the Pivot Conference, October 17-18, in NYC. If you got a few hundred dollars laying around, I’d suggest you go.

List of Five for 2010

Zombies. That'll happen.

As 2010 winds down to a close, the business world slowly closes their books, and prepare to start writing a new chapter for the new year.

And we’re not so different.

This has been Year 2 for JDW: The Charlotte Agency, and year 2 for me being a small busines as owner/partner.

What a year.

Below is my list of five of my thoughts for 2010.

1. It’s Good to Have a Good Partner

Business partner, to be specific. My good friend, co-owner and executive creative director John Dermott has been a fantastic source of energy, creativity, and information. JDW and the city of Charlotte (once it gets its !@#$% together) will soar to seemingly impassable heights because of his artful creative direction. Thank you for buying into my idea of starting something new and exciting. Hopefully you’ll never regret it.

2. It’s Good to Have an Awesome Girlfriend

You think my business partner has it bad enough for putting up with me, try this girl who can’t seem to get rid of me. Trying to make a business work is no easy feat, and it certainly takes a toll on you physically, mentally and emotionally. I thank you, Mackenzie, for sticking with me and all the craziness I tend to bring. You keep me sane and crazy at the same time, and I appreciate that.

3. The Sleeves Are Rolled Up, Queen City. We’re kicking you right in the TEETH

We tried to play nice with the others. We even tried reaching out to those who don’t play with others to see if us “new people” could change their minds. No dice.

So mark 2010 as the final year JDW: The Charlotte Agency paraded in the dark, amongst the freelancers, the fake SEO’ers, the “know-it-alls-who-noone-really-knows”. We’re not going to try to come up with new words for ‘marketing’, or ‘advertising’. I think that’s silly. If you have to come up with a new word for what you’re doing…that says something. I’m not sure what, but I’m sure there’s a word for it.

However, there are negative connotations for words like marketing and advertising. People who have engaged in poor advertising, and unethical marketing practices have demonized the majority of those who do good work.

And instead of forcing these people out of the business, what do we do?

Nothing. At least, nothing that has worked.

Sure, we can all go and join PRSA, IABC, AMA, AAF and the like. But we need champions for our industry who are not afraid to stick their necks out and stand for something.

So that’s what we’re going to do. Charlotte wants to call itself the next New Energy Capital? We like the “South Madison Avenue“. If you’re with us, great! If note, don’t bother us while we work.

4. Education and Mentorship is Key

The Charlotte business sector knows it needs marketing and communications. The small business community is in desperate need of support. As newcomers arrive, the good-ol-boy network will weaken; and those small businesses that depended on it will struggle. The community needs to know about good, effective marketing, and what  that actually means.

As for mentorship, everybody should have one. Whether it is in the form of an advisory board, or a person who’s done this before, their feedback is going to help you think things out. Thank you to all those who’ve helped us along the way.

5. Embracing the Unplanned Continues to Work

But don’t plan on the unplanned, that might not work too well. As a company, The Charlotte Agency has done well in surviving these troubling economic times. And in its brief existence, The Charlotte Agency has already experienced several hills and valleys. Sometimes what seems to good to be true could be real, and what looks terrible might not actually be so bad.

And lastly, a huge thanks to my friends, family, colleagues and random readers for all the support, praise, criticism, love, jokes, and everything in between.

2010 has been a whirlwind. I thought I’d never get out of it. But here we are, looking 2011 right in the face.



What I Want the Marketing Industry to Do

If you are amongst the small crowd of consistent readers, you may know my distaste for much of the professional organizations for the marketing industry. In this post, I aim to give my oh-so-naive vision for the marketing industry, instead of always complaining. Don’t say I never tried.

1. A National Advertising and Marketing Council.
One word: Consolidation. What I like about communications professionals is that many see the need for industry folks to rub shoulders and talk about the good and bad about the industry. But what is interesting to me, is that to reach all the communicators, one has to be a part of  7 different organizations. For some crazy reason, I feel like being a part of the AMA, IABC, PRSA, BMA, AAF, 4As, ANA, just to talk to 20 people who actually care sounds like nonsense. How can engineers, medical professionals, lawyers, and even accountants, have a single advisory board about their fields, and we ego-loving, loud, wordsmiths can’t seem to pull it together? We talk about message consistency, branding and image control. Why can’t we all get along, and do it for ourselves?

Okay, for the old people who might actually stumble on to this, don’t have a heart attack. I have a way to keep all the egos in check. The organization can be three pronged: Agency-Side, Client-Side, and Academic. If needed, each prong will have a set of officers and the ability to create committees as they see fit. I will give “Big Ups” to the AMA, because I like how it does the Special Interest Groups (research, healthcare, strategy, etc.) so that should stay. And I like how PRSA has the Young Professionals network, so that outline should be copied as well.

And yes, there will be a separate board for awards. But sorry, Association of Communications and Marketing Professionals, you will be no more.

But think of how awesome that organization would be! All communicators, under one roof. That’s a beautiful thing.

2. End of Out-dated Benchmarks
The academic arena has really done a wonderful job catching up to the industry. There are now numerous prestigious degrees for marketing, advertising and public relations. People can now receive PhDs. in communications.

So accreditation programs like the IABC and the maligned APR exam that PRSA “uses” can be permanently deleted.

3. Celebrate Advertising and Marketing Communications
Celebrations are intentional. They show an appreciation for what has been accomplished, and bring attention. New York’s Advertising Week has done a great job doing that for the Ad folks who can make it.

But let’s take it up a notch. Like Mashable’s “Social Media Day”, having a “MarCom Madness Weekend” across the nation would be cool. And unlike SMD, MarCom madness can take the outline of Advertising Week and talk about real issues, like:

-Recruiting male and minority talent
-Code of Ethics and what “transparency” really means
-Retaining quality and creative talent
-Grooming the next young leaders of the industry

And how will we know all this is done? Cities will be strongly encouraged to document, record these conversations, questions, and best practices and post them on a database created for this purpose.

3. Be an Advocate for the Industry
I am not naive enough to believe that the previous two items are going to happen. I wish I was, but the powers-that-be are so outdated, and so comfortable, that real change isn’t going to happen until those people no longer have their invisible veto authority.

But please, be an advocate for the industry. If you don’t like what you’re doing, please leave, or find something else to do. Marketing and advertising is so much fun, and in a monopolistic economy, where differentiation is the deciding factor for businesses surviving or dying, it is very important.

The lovers of communications and the modern day town criers can no longer afford to be silent.



WANTED: Definitions

I have had the pleasure to be a part of several conversations that have focused on definitions. Definitions of words, phrases, ideas, and anything that takes space in our reality. I believe that our society grows when we force ourselves to define new things, and challenge the definitions of old.

Before we dive in, let’s set the foundation:

Define (v):
1a. to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of
1b. to discover and set forth the meaning of

Those two actions outlined above (from Webster’s Dictionary) happen in our everyday lives. Whether we are “defining” a relationship with another human being, to figuring out the color of a certain shirt, we are constantly creating parameters  in our environment.

Why? Because we need those parameters- those definitions we create- to understand.

Society (as we define it) is changing quickly, and the marketing industry is trying to be one step faster. As professional communicators and as citizens, we all are scrambling to apply current definitions to the new trends that are appearing before our eyes and fingertips.

We need to do better.

In previous posts, I have rambled on about bringing creativity back, encouraging playtime, and the like. Now I am challenging all of us to trash many of the definitions we know, and create new ones that fit our 2010 lives, whatever that may mean.

I realize that there are quite a few “thought leaders” who took a shot of doing the job for us, but we can’t let people think for us. That is not good for you. That is not good for me. And quite frankly, it is not good for them. A definition, to me, is like theory. It must be challenged, again and again, from all angles, until it can be accepted.

For example:

1. What exactly do we mean by two-way communications? Is that enough?

2. Does being politically correct mean we cannot offend anyone?

3. What’s the difference between ‘marketing‘, ‘advertising‘, and ‘sales’ ?

4.  Are there really experts anymore? (see Open4 Definition)

5. We are not a free enterprise system. Or are we?

6. What Generally Accepted Ideas in our society are wrong?

Just to start the mind thinking. Maybe those are good questions, maybe not. My overall qualm with our current state of interaction this that we have become too complacent with giving the soapbox to someone, and then not question a single thing that flows from their lips. The term “due diligence” is almost as archaic as good Nickelodeon cartoons (Rugrats, Are You Afraid of the Dark- my heart lies with you).

Definitions are the foundation of the consideration sets we create to form our perception of our environment (consumer behaviorists and psychologists eat your heart out).

The better, newer definitions we create, the better our human community becomes.