Nonprofit volunteers were the focus of a tweet last week from a friend involved in the Social Media Club of Kansas City who works in the nonprofit sector. The tweet was about the challenge of managing an influx of nonprofit volunteers who want to contribute time and expertise to an organization. Handling monetary contributions is relatively easy – send a check, fill out an online credit card form, establish an electronic funds transfer. But with nonprofit volunteers seeking to offer their effort, someone in the nonprofit organization has to allocate time to coordinate, train, and supervise these volunteers. Despite the typical need for help, this can create a real choke point leading to both nonprofit volunteers and staff  becoming frustrated and dissatisfied.

We’ll be addressing this potential issue as an opportunity today as The Brainzooming Group facilitates a communications strategy session today for the Jackson County CASA. Long-time blog reader and former co-worker Terry Kincheloe is heading up the CASA marketing committee, and our session objective is tied to creating stronger messaging strategy and connections with key CASA audiences, including volunteers for the nonprofit organization.

My tweeted suggestion back to my friend, and something we’ll explore in more depth today for CASA, is to create job descriptions for nonprofit volunteer positions.

By taking time upfront to craft job descriptions of roles volunteers can play in a nonprofit organization, they can help match themselves to appropriate roles, identify training needs (and potentially self-train if resources are available), and be more successful with greater self-management of their volunteering effort.

This approach, however, isn’t limited to nonprofits.

When I was directing our company’s NASCAR sponsorship marketing strategy, we both needed broad organizational help to make the program work and had a lot of people (usually big NASCAR fans) who wanted to be involved with the sponsorship marketing effort. The mismatch came from people not understanding what help we needed and being able to determine whether they were still interested. Through finally coming up with several job descriptions, it became easier to let people know what we needed and get them started contributing time with less supervision from our department’s NASCAR sponsorship team.

Look at your own efforts. No matter the size of your organization, are you doing things to help “volunteer” supporters (and in turn yourself) act on their interest in your cause and be more successful at it? If you are doing a great job at this, what strategies are you using to make it happen? – 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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How many pages is your resume? Probably no more than three pages if you’re mid-career with years of experience. So much experience, in fact, all the business social networking platforms available to add depth, breadth, and diversity to your business network didn’t exist when your career started. Heck, online business social networking options probably weren’t available even half-way into your career. While that’s reality, being left out of the advantages business social networking 2.0 can provide when your age is closer to 25 times 2.0 doesn’t have to be.

With opportunities social networks provide in putting your name in front of new people, increasing visibility to your skills, and connecting to others who can help advance your career goals, social media channels shouldn’t be ignored by anyone who suspects they’re not in the last job they expect to have!

This is top of mind because I’m talking on behalf of SMCKC with a group of mid-career professionals this morning on “11 Steps and 11 Weeks to Create a Mid-Career Business Social Network.” This video is a post-presentation review of the flip charts I used for the session (another in those social media-oriented presentations where I couldn’t use a computer).

I’d love to say my business social networking immersion started several years ago with a coordinated plan, but it didn’t. It began with a need to build an identity outside the major corporation where I’d spent all but the first years of my career. That critical career need, a proclivity for creating work-related content over the years, a perfectly-timed presentation from a corporate blogger, and instigation from my career coach, Kathryn Lorenzen, were the vital ingredients in launching a business social networking presence well into my career. The effort included:

The result of this effort has been my two-page resume has effectively grown to tens of thousands of pages, with elements of it seen by more than a hundred thousand people in the past year. It’s comprised of expertise-related content and references widely available on many websites. This impact has come from slow progress over a number of years; progress which, quite frankly, is so slow it regularly stretches my patience level. But that’s what diving in and learning as you go feels like. Plus there’s been so much more learning and progress than if I were still crafting an elegant plan which never got implemented.

If you’re really serious about building greater diversity and depth in your network and letting a bigger audience in the business world know about what you know, I’m hard pressed to come up with a higher yielding approach than adding a social media presence to your career plans!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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Writer’s block is miserable. What situations cause writer’s block?

1.  When you don’t care about a topic.

2.  When you don’t think anybody else cares about the topic either.

3.  When writing feels too much like solving a math formula.

4.  When you’ve had too much to drink.

5.  When you haven’t had enough to drink.

6.  When you’re too tired.

7.  When you’re too frustrated.

8.  When you’re too self-satisfied.

9.  When you’d rather be doing anything else but writing.

10. When someone’s expecting you to write.

11. When someone’s depending on you to write.

12. When you’re distracted.

13. When you’re too focused on another chore.

14. When your inspirations aren’t inspiring you.

15. When you’re too obstinate to force yourself to simply start writing something.

After a week away from writing daily on the blog, when I got to reason 15, I finally started writing this post.

What situations cause writer’s block for you? How do you break your creative blocks? – 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. Mike Brown

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This giant snowman, reported in the Kansas City Star this week, was built in front of a house in Overland Park, KS, just down the street from where I work out at 24 Hour Fitness.

This ginormous snowman is a kick in the ass reminder that when you want to make an impact, think BIG.


THINK LARGER than anyone would ever IMAGINE THINKING!!!

And after you’ve imagined it, go out and accomplish it in a completely HUMONGOUS, NEWSWORTHY WAY!

For a personal creativity boost, download the free Brainzooming ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” as a gift for your creative perspective! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to 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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We’re nearing the end of the #BZBowl recap week of wonderful guest posts offering varied perspectives on lessons learned from 2011 Super Bowl ads. (I say the last, but I may still finish the post started in my sketchbook called, “Why Online Ads Are Killing Good Advertising.”) Beyond today’s post, you can listen to several of the #BZBowl bloggers on today’s “Smart Companies Radio” show on 1510 AM in Kansas City, live streaming at 10 am EST / 9 am EST on February 11. One of the bloggers on the radio show, Chris Reaburn, finishes out the week here on the Brainzooming blog. Chris is a services marketing expert and author of the Services Encounters Onstage blog. Chris took on the daunting task of experiencing as many brands as possible of those who bought Super Bowl ads this year to see how well the ads did at matching the experiences he sampled:

Chris Reaburn on Super Bowl AdsDuring last year’s #BZBowl Twitter chat on Super Bowl ads, participants structured comments around the SUCCES formula from Made To Stick by Chip & Dan Heath.  By those standards, for a message to be memorable, it should possess some combination of Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and Storytelling elements. It’s a good formula for advertisers to follow and worked well as a tool to evaluate Super Bowl ads.

This year’s Chrysler 200 ad scored well measured against SUCCES criteria and has become a critical favorite. The Detroit story, well enough known and felt in lesser measures throughout the country, feels familiar and real. As a product of Detroit hardship, Eminem lent credibility.  Music, imagery and contrasts in the narrative lent high emotion to what was a good story, well told.

More than just good storytelling, good marketing also makes a promise that has value and ultimately sees it fulfilled through the customer’s experience.

The promise–fulfillment connection led me to experience as many Super Bowl-advertised products & services as possible in advance, including purchases or customer experiences with Teleflora, GoDaddy, cars.com, CarMax, HomeAway, Doritos, Pepsi Max, Coke, Bud Light, Volkswagen, and Best Buy.

Of the Super Bowl advertisers, which ones succeeded in making promises, fulfilling them and linking the experience back to the ads?

It was for this last reason that the Chrysler ad didn’t work for me.  It captivatingly reinforced the Detroit brand and the Eminem brand with a credible message.  But did little for the Chrysler brand, and less to make a promise about what prospective buyers of the 200 – a brand new product – might receive in return for investing themselves in it.

In terms of matching the SUCCES criteria with the ability to convey the promise and fulfill it experientially, the NFL was the best advertiser of the night. The use of both NFL films and classic TV footage wove the fabric of the game together with the fabric of American popular culture, giving it instant credibility and emotion. That we saw the ads during their capstone experience reinforced their story in a very concrete way.

You could say that it is unfair to compare the NFL with other advertisers.  After all, the viewing audience for the ads was almost completely within their target market, and they were viewing them during the event when these customers are showing the most emotional investment.  These were ready buyers of what the NFL has to sell.

But the lesson for others advertising in the Super Bowl (like chatter) is that finding the largest concentrations of your audience and engaging them with a relevant message at the time they are most emotionally involved in your experience isn’t playing with a stacked deck – it’s giving your marketing efforts the highest probability to succeed. – Chris Reaburn

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Back in 2009 when I needed to start writing about The Brainzooming Group and what we were going to do, someone introduced me (via email) to Emma Alvarez Gibson, with the recommendation that she was cool enough to help create the messaging for Brainzooming. It was true. Emma challenged me on what I wanted to say and helped us get to a structured way to communicate what The Brainzooming Group offers. Based on her branding experience and her ability to focus and pare down all the things I wanted to say about Brainzooming, Emma is exactly the right person to weigh in on this year’s seemingly disappointing crop of Super Bowl ads, and ask the question,”How does this happen?”:

Emma Alvarez Gibson on the #BZBowl, rating Super Bowl AdsIt’s easy to make the case that the best ad is the one that sells the most product; the purpose of advertising, after all, is to persuade consumers to part with their dollars. Of course, artistry lies in that sweet spot between sending lemmings over the cliff and elevating the consumer along with the brand. That artistry – well, artistry, full stop – was absent from the majority of last Sunday’s Super Bowl ads.

Oh, it’s just TV, I can hear you say, and that’s true: it’s just TV. But it’s also a reflection of who we are as a culture. It’s a bit of anthropology, if you like. And I don’t know about you, but I very much resent being shown a bunch of spots that seemed to have been created by bored, cocksure interns with no knowledge of what’s gone on in this vast American life over the last 20 years, under the guise of great advertising.

From the offensive (hello, Groupon!) to the wildly unoriginal (Pepsi Free? Pepsi Light? Clear Pepsi? What was that “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” spot for, anyway?), from the stunningly mediocre (“Get a Chevy that will read you what your date said on Facebook, because you’re a lousy excuse for a real man!”) to the blatantly ripped-off (1984? In a spot featuring a non-Apple product?), Sunday’s offerings ran the gamut in all but the one arena that matters: artistry.

Yes, of course, there were a few bright spots: the love letter to Detroit, gorgeously crafted. The joltingly adorable little Darth Vader. The quiet, simple, sweet Coke ad featuring two border patrol guards on opposite sides of the line. There were other more-light-than-dim spots, too. But where was the boom-boom-pow, to use the parlance of our halftime entertainment? What became of the minds that gave us so many gems just 12 months ago?

Look, it’s easy to beat up on someone’s work from my comfy spot on the couch. You win some, you lose some, as the Steelers can attest. Everyone has an off day, an off season. But there’s a difference between missing the mark and joining the ranks of the lowest common denominator.

We can do better, guys. Let’s raise the bar. We can do so much better. – Emma Alvarez Gibson

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Last week I wrote about the tools for creating innovative ads detailed in the book “Cracking the Ad Code and our #BZBowl strategy to use its model to evaluate Super Bowl ads. The book’s authors maintain that most ads that are judged to be creative by both ad professionals and consumers use one or more techniques from a rather limited toolbox of eight techniques.

My look at the 68 national Super Bowl ads that ran from kickoff to the end of the break following the final whistle showed that 77% of the ads used one or more of the “Cracking the Ad Code”  tools. (This excludes the movie ads in the Super Bowl, where the tools really don’t apply.)

I also looked at how the Super Bowl ads were rated on both the Foxsports.com/ads website and by the USA Today Ad Meters to see if highly rated Super Bowl ads were more or less likely to use the “Cracking the Ad Code” tools. The visitors to the Foxsports.com site gave the average non-movie ad a score of 63 (out of 100). Those that did not use any of the tools got a score of 55, while those that used one tool had an average score of 69. Interestingly those that attempted to use two tools got an average score of only 57. There must be something to be said for simplicity and focus.

USA Today used handheld meters to track the second-by-second scores given to Super Bowl ads by 282 adult volunteers at two locations. On their 1 to 10 scale, the average non-movie ad came in at 6.51. Those ads using no tools scored 6.28, those using one tool scored 6.79 and those using two scored 6.05. Eight out of the top ten Super Bowl ads used at least one tool; the ones that didn’t were the crowdsourced ads for Pepsi Max.

The most frequently used tool from the “Cracking the Ad Code” kit was the one they call Extreme Consequences. It was used in 18 of the non-movie Super Bowl ads. This technique involves the exaggerated or absurd result of using a product. Think of the Doritos spot (another crowdsourced ad) where the chips bring a goldfish, a plant, and somebody’s grandfather back to life.

Eleven spots each used the Extreme Effort and the Inversion “Cracking the Ad Code” tools. The Extreme Effort technique shows the exaggerated lengths to which a consumer will go to get (or protect) a product or that the company will go to bring it to him. The Bud Light Product Placement ad is probably the best example from this year’s Super Bowl.

The Inversion tool shows an extreme version of what your world would be like without the product. The Careerbuilders.com Super Bowl ad showing the chimps hemming the guy in his car is a good example.

If you are assigned to come up with your organization’s next great ad, using the tools won’t ensure that your concepts will be innovative and effective, but they will give you a good benchmark from which to work. – Barrett Sydnor

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