Given the significance of this evening’s news about the Osama Bin Laden death, I’m doing this real-time post as the story has been unfolding. I don’t do a lot of news-related posts here, but the late developing nature of the Bin Laden announcement seems to justify a change in strategy. A few thoughts on the Osama Bin Laden news along with the social media and strategic implications of tonight:

Twitter broke the actual news – at least for me and a lot of people.

The first tweet that got me digging about Osama Bin Laden is over to the right. Twitter has become the 1-800-WHO-DEAD that Kansas City radio host Mike Murphy longed for years ago. Crowdsourcing works for breaking news – that’s been proven. A tweeter in Abbottabad, Pakistan even unwittingly live tweeted the US attack, which occurred at 1 a.m. local time. In terms of analysis, well, the pros still have an advantage there (although the level of repetition that takes place to kill time on TV is fairly comparable to the endless RTs on Twitter). Not surprisingly, there’s already a @GhostOsama Twitter account which is definitely worth checking out. At 11:30 pm CDT (May 1, 2011) it already had 5,000 more followers than @Brainzooming!

Do things in the right order – even if it screws up the timeline.

One of my strategic mentors would kick timeline and deadline expectations to the curb to ensure we stepped through things in the right order. The right order always included making sure the proper people knew things ahead of time and were prepared to respond to big news. It drove people (both his peers and his staff) crazy, but his “no surprises” policy always struck me as tremendously sound.  Based on the delays in making the official announcement, I’m glad to see the Obama administration follows the same sound messaging strategy.

News isn’t all about news. News is also about context.

There wasn’t a tremendous amount of news in President Obama’s speech – maybe 10% of the time was news about Osama Bin Laden’s death (and much of it old news thanks to Twitter). But the role of a leader isn’t simply news; it’s placing news in context. Notice that President Obama led with context, finished with context, and wove context throughout his relatively brief statement. The news (and what details will be ultimately be shared) will come out in due time from the proper functionaries. Only the leader can set the right tone. There are loads of lessons in how this was handled from a messaging standpoint.

This isn’t over.

There was a tremendously insightful article in The Atlantic in 1990 about how much we’d miss the Cold War (pdf link). The reason? Instead of a stand-off between two major powers, the article predicted we’d be fighting skirmishes around the world to keep the peace. Sound like what our situation has been like for years? While we’ve portrayed Osama Bin Laden as THE enemy of the United States, he doesn’t have the significance the Soviet Union did. We may have killed the “leader,” but terrorism doesn’t work because of hierarchy.

Temper the celebrations.

Osama Bin Laden represented a force for evil in the world. We hated him because of his role in killing US citizens and wreaking worldwide havoc. But the jubilation we saw at the end of World War II represented, among other things, a sense of relief that people thought a new world situation and a significant change in the world’s safety and horizons would take place. That just doesn’t seem to be the case here; it’s hard to pinpoint what of major significance will change based on Bin Laden’s death. This seems a lot more like John Dillinger than Adolf Hitler. Express your patriotism, stay vigilant, and remain (or get) prayerful – we’ve got a bumpy road ahead of us. Mike Brown

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Author John L. Allen, Jr. has been an influence on me in so many ways. Before becoming a well-known author, reporter, and sought-after expert on the Catholic Church’s inner workings and current trends impacting it during and after Pope John Paul II, John Allen and I were very close friends in high school and college. As a result, my collection of early John Allen memorabilia includes fun things such as:

  • The standard opening paragraph John wrote which works for ANY book report.
  • A hand-written list of his “great sayings.”
  • Many memories of hilarious stories of John’s fearless exploits in student journalism and government, rock music criticism, and the consumption of food and beverages.

It had been at least ten years since I last saw John, right before he was moving to Rome to establish a beat there reporting on the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter. As John told me at the time, he was going to Rome, in essence, to “wait for Pope John Paul II to die.” After arriving at the Vatican however, John, not surprisingly, turned an opportunity other Rome-based reporters viewed as a laid back assignment into a platform to break stories of global impact through building relationships with important figures throughout the Catholic Church hierarchy.

In the decade since, John traveled on 50 trips with Pope John Paul II, and became the go-to Vatican analyst for CNN leading up to and after the death of Pope John Paul II. He’s also authored numerous books, including “The Future Church – How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church.”

Talking about “The Future Church” brought John  to The University of Kansas recently in advance of heading back to Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II this weekend.

In writing this trend-focused book, John went through an extensive process to identify and vet potential trends against specific criteria to ensure the ten trends in his book could legitimately be considered so. After his KU lecture, I asked John to talk about the research and crowdsource-based process he used to settle on the ten trends in “The Future Church,” since the strategy he employed is directly applicable to how one would approach forecasting current trends in any market or organization. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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A client of ours is active in NASCAR racing, so I was watching a race recently to see how the brand was performing in activating its sponsorship strategy. Watching a race with a clear business reason once again, I started thinking about the similarities between NASCAR racing strategy and business strategy. Once you get started, it’s clear there are many points tied to business (beyond sponsorship strategy) you can learn more about from watching NASCAR racing:

  • You may think you know the rules, but they’re always subject to change by higher authorities.
  • The fastest and best competitor may not always win. They need to be smart too.
  • The person on the track gets the attention, but there’s a great team behind any success.
  • A lot of success happens because of good testing, good notes, good practices, good processes, & good prep.
  • Partners are great, but don’t build your whole strategy around partners being there when you need them.
  • It’s always the same people that crash, and it has nothing to do with bad luck.
  • You have to both go hard AND protect your equipment if you hope to be around at the end.
  • Even the “good guys” would do well to show some fire & passion so you know they care.
  • There are multiple generations involved, and each generation has something to learn from the others.
  • Wins are important, but consistent, strong performance turns short-term winners into legends.
  • It may feel like you’re going in circles, but it’ll end at some point & somebody’s gonna win.

How about it NASCAR racing fans? What else would you add to this list? –  Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategy options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

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Last week, I ran a post sharing 28 reasons why I’d written recent Brainzooming blog topics. The post prompted me to go back through my current blogging sketchbook to figure out the reasons why potential ideas for blog posts didn’t ever get written. Amid the blog ideas which made the transition from notebook to blog posts, a whole array of shaky ideas and partially written blog posts are dying on the vine inside the half-filled sketchbook containing my almost daily recording of potential blog ideas. Here are the reasons why particular ideas and topics haven’t become blog posts yet:

  • The topic idea was time-sensitive, and its relevance has passed.
  • The underlying premise refers to something too old, so most people won’t get it.
  • It was an interesting quote, but not interesting enough to support a whole post’s worth of content. (Example – “Be unafraid of your questions.” Craig Ferguson to science author,  Jennifer Ouellette)
  • I suspect too many other people have blogged on the topic, and I don’t really have anything new to say.
  • The topic was too personal or needed too much inside information to be of general interest.
  • It wound up triggering a different post which did get written.
  • I simply forgot about the topic.
  • Despite having a few ideas on the topic, the post requires too much background research.
  • My ideas may be wrong and potentially harmful or hurtful to readers as a result.
  • The topic could be too spiritually-oriented for the Brainzooming blog, so it’s better suited to my “Aligning Your Life’s Work” blog.
  • The idea was for an overall theme week, but it didn’t support 5 blog posts.
  • It’s still a solid topic I just haven’t gotten around to writing.
  • The topic has been kicking around for a long time (like 15 years), and it still hasn’t reached the right time to be written.
  • The topic suited a video post, and I still haven’t gotten completely comfortable with doing video posts.
  • It’s a list post, and the list isn’t complete enough yet.
  • The topic idea was written down just this week, and most of my blog writing happens over the weekend.
  • I haven’t finished “thinking” about the topic yet.
  • The topic was tied to an event I was going to appear at, and the event was postponed.
  • It’s part of a list of brainstormed topic ideas, and I never intended to actually write posts on all the topics.
  • The idea isn’t complete.
  • The idea is heavily graphics-oriented and will require too much time to put together.
  • It’s supposed to be a funny topic, but I suspect it will only be funny to me (and probably Barrett).
  • It’s too proprietary to the business to include in a blog post.
  • The post will be too long so it should really be an ebook.
  • It smacks of promoting something too strongly.
  • The piece would be critical of certain individuals or a specific group, and I haven’t figured out a way to generalize the criticism sufficiently.

Those are some of my reasons for leaving blog topic ideas behind. What reasons do you have for not writing about one of your ideas? Mike Brown


The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help your organization make a successful first step into social media.

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Last week, I was back in event planning and production mode helping a client put together an internal event to launch a new initiative. This event had an interesting twist. While there were fewer than 200 attendees, the event was held inside a major indoor concert and sports venue. The dichotomy of hosting a relatively small group in a venue with thousands of seats (and the associated infrastructure to support them) reconfirmed some long-held event planning lessons and introduced some variations on other event planning practices. Doing my personal recap on the successful event, the lessons seemed worthwhile to share for those of you doing event planning or managing other creatively-oriented projects. Here are my 11 take-aways:

1. When you have a choice, pick the event venue with the greatest capabilities and expertise.

This will give you a big head start toward a successful production. Having just done an event at a venue with a permanent control room and a production team running it every day, the differences versus a hotel and hiring a production company to bring along a temporary setup were dramatic.

2. Insert emotion into the program wherever possible – ideally in every presentation.

Remember – the tougher it is to figure out how to put emotion into a presentation on a particularly dry topic, the more credit you’ll get from the audience for trying it.

3. Push your presenters to use more pictures than words.

It’s easier on both the presenter and the audience. Plus a great image can help inject needed emotion into a boring topic.

4. Make it clear to everyone when you have to move from a period of creative exploration into finalizing decisions for an event.

There may be additional opportunities to move back into creative time later. Acknowledge that shift with everyone as well. But at certain points, you simply have to decide and move on without introducing any more intriguing possibilities.

5. Work from a solid to-do list of critical items which need to be completed.

Work your list hard, but realize things may not get checked off in the order you’ve listed them or much before when you think they need to be done. Some of them may never get checked off, yet you’ll still have a tremendous event. That’s a signal to continue refining the way you determine what’s really critical.

6. Do whatever you can ahead of time.

While it’s boring to sit around and wait when you’re ahead of schedule, it’s fantastic when you’re in event planning mode. You’ll be really glad you were later when time’s running out.

7. If someone critical to the event is prone to running late, do whatever you can to remove roadblocks which will slow the person down.

That may be getting them food so they don’t have to stop for it, or securing a meeting room so they can make phone calls and keep business going while at the event. Whatever it is, remove the obstacles that could make them unavailable when you need them.

8. Don’t empower five people to direct things.

Identify a clear decision maker who will make the decisions which need to be made – in real time. Have one person (either the same or a different person) who is the sole person to communicate changes to production people. This will make for greater clarity and a better event. It also demonstrates you’re thinking about #9.

9. Be nice to the production team.

This group will make or break you, so treat the team in a way which predisposes them to want to “make” you (and the event) successful. That doesn’t mean you don’t challenge things. It does mean, though, you say “please,” “thank you,” and other words of encouragement at every opportunity.

10. Stay calm, especially during pre-production.

When you’re working with pros, pre-production and rehearsal time is the opportunity to experiment, test, and be creative. While rehearsals and walk-throughs can look and feel like disasters, the final event almost never reflects the gaffes you see the day, morning, or even the hour before the event is live.

11. Always bring some pain relief medication to the event.

Somebody will need it, trust me.  – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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Some Monday quick thinking on priorities, success, and several other frequently touched upon topics on the Brainzooming blog:

Priorities – Don’t be reluctant to over-invest your time where it matters. Run away from even small time investments on the wrong things, though.

Dependability – It’s fine when someone is honest & says they don’t know how to do something. When they wait to tell you until two months into a project, it’s quite another matter.

Support – Be very careful of accepting the hand of someone who is sinking in quicksand.

Opportunity – When asked to share your intellectual capital for free because there is lots of opportunity with the audience, ask what percent of the audience bought from those who went before you.

Success – There are already enough naturally occurring barriers to accomplishing your goals. Don’t erect additional artificial barriers to add to them. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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If you’re blogging, there’s a reason why you write a blog post when you do. The reason you pick a certain topic when you write a blog post may be strategic and linked directly to your audience persona. Many times, though, the reasons aren’t so well-aligned. They may be based on convenience, silliness, frustration, or simply running out of other ideas. Thinking about this got me wondering about why I write a blog post on any given day. Going back through the Brainzooming blog during the last few months, here are 28 reasons that have prompted me to write a blog post:

1.  I have something to say.

2.  Something occurs to me.

3.  I made a commitment to publish every day, and I need to publish a post.

4.  I’m hoping you’ll be interested in the subject matter.

5.  Enough tweets on one topic have built up to fill a blog post.

6.  There aren’t any guest blog posts to run.

7.  I want to share an idea with you.

8.  It’s an attempt to attract new readers.

9.  The topic interests me.

10. I’m trying to improve the blog’s search engine optimization (SEO) strategy performance.

11. To create a new reference piece for you.

12. To create a new reference post for me so I can return to the information later.

13. Sharing what I learned at a conference or event.

14. It’s a way to complain about something.

15. I’m inspired by a topic.

16. I’m uninspired creatively.

17. The topic doesn’t require a long post.

18. The post is easily adapted from something I’ve already written.

19. It allows me to pass along advice to someone without having to say it directly.

20. It’s an experiment.

21. To thank or show appreciation to someone publicly.

22. Because somebody asked me to write about it.

23. It’s all I can come up with at the time.

24. I want to make sure a specific person sees the post because they need its lesson.

25. Somebody did some really cool work that needs to be shared.

26. There hasn’t been a social media-related post for several days.

27. It’s an opportunity to provide additional information related to a presentation I’m doing.

28. To see if I can twist an off-the-wall topic to be about strategy, creativity, or innovation.

So along with the idea that any subject can be a blog post, it’s clear that there are scads of reasons for writing a blog post.

If you’re on the fence about blogging or you write infrequently because you’re not feeling the creative motivation, realize you don’t have to have a single motivation to blog.

For those of you blogging already, what reasons spur you to take on the blog topics you write about? Let me know in the comments! 

And for all the reasons TO WRITE, there are also reasons to NOT WRITE a blog post. One of them is that I don’t run a post on Good Friday, so the next post will be Monday.  –  Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help your organization make a successful first step into social media.

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