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During a presentation, I was highlighting the blog post on finding a strategic PITA (pain in the ass), describing how it was originally inspired by a senior person at our ad agency who never fails to dissect our ideas in painful, yet tremendously valuable ways.

A number of the attendees were in advertising and were surprised someone from an agency could get away with taking strong stands with a client. The experience for most of them has been that the agency has to conform to what the client wants to do, with little challenging involved. They wondered how my strategic PITA gets away with what he does.

My reply was he is able to do it because we want him to do it. It’s a waste to engage smart people with diverse perspectives and then expect them to hold their tongues and simply agree with what we want to say or do.

Whether someone has the experience and intellectual horsepower to be strategic is only part of the issue. The important part, particularly in client-vendor relationships, is whether you’ve given another person permission to take on the “pain in the ass” role you need. So, have you given your potential strategic PITA the go ahead yet to be truthful? If not, do it today!


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I downloaded this menu of standard meeting room layouts from a hotel where a strategic thinking session had been scheduled. Quite frankly nearly all of these layouts could be big inhibitors to innovative thinking. Put people in a conventional room arrangement, and you foster conventional thinking.

What can you do? Work with the hotel (ahead of time, ideally) to come up with a room layout that’s anything but standard:

  • Avoid lines of tables & chairs, especially parallel and perpendicular to walls
  • Get round or square tables and arrange them randomly
  • Scatter work areas
  • Get a room that has way more space per person than the hotel recommends

All of these steps create a space for people to think, interact, walk around, and innovate!

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This post ran for Father’s Day on my “Aligning Your Life’s Work” blog. It triggered a number of people reaching out to share stories about their fathers, so I decided to run it here on Brainzooming also:

Many of you know my dad entered the hospital in early April. Three surgeries, four ICU stays, a life flight to Kansas City (followed by an ambulance ride back to Hays), and several weeks in rehab later, he was released Friday after 70 days.

Through the incredible prayers of many people, the indefatigable support of my mom, and his indomitable positive spirit, he’s alive today, with something still to prove.

There were many ups and downs during his hospitalization. One 24 hour period stands out.

On Mother’s Day, I headed to Hays when he returned to ICU with a blood clot in his lung. The ICU doctor pulled me aside and asked if I understood how serious Dad’s condition was. I assured him I did. And even though it was ostensibly her day, I don’t think I wished my mom Happy Mother’s Day until 9 o’clock Sunday night.

Back at home, I laid in bed, making myself cry for the emotional release needed in the days ahead. I thought about what I’d learned from my dad and all the things he’d been and done in his life. And I got the idea for the piece below.

As I’ve told a number of people, I feared the worst when I went back to the hospital the next morning at 8 a.m., and Dad was unconscious and on a ventilator. At the 10 a.m. visit, he was alert and nearly squeezed my hand off; suddenly my tears from the night before turned to tears of joy. By the 8 p.m. visit, he was off the ventilator and watching “Dancing with the Stars.”

That’s my dad, and I’m so glad he’s out of the hospital for Father’s Day to be able to read this post.

I love you Mom and Dad!

My Dad

My dad is my dad.
He’s a son, a husband, and a big brother to many – whether or not he’s older or even a sibling.
He’s a Kansan.
He’s a friend.
He’s a partner with Jesus.
He is loved by so many people.

My dad is a barber. He’s a salesman, broadcaster, TV celebrity, and announcer. He’s a chef and restaurateur. He’s a board member and advisor.

My dad is an electrician, plumber, mechanic, gardener, carpenter, house painter, collector, comedian, impressionist, and artist.

I’ve seen him fix all kinds of things for people.
For those in genuine need, he’s a bank, a financier, and investor.
Hard working and strategic; a solver and critic.
He has a distinctive personality. He’s a learner and advice giver.
My dad is tech savvy, following me into blogging and tweeting.
He’s incredibly proud of his son.

My dad’s a positive thinker and struggling. He’s sweet and rebellious.
A coach and cheerleader, with a cantankerous, opposing voice.
He loves sports; hates athletic ineptitude. That’s why he’s a frustrated golfer and Kansas City sports fan.

He’s demanding and a loving, supportive man; big hearted and skeptical.
He’s a confidant who is inquisitive (at times nosy), and doesn’t take any bullshit from anyone.
He is infirmed, and he looms large.

My dad is a rock, a fighter, and seemingly to me, invincible.
My dad is my dad.


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From the Funny Eye for the Corporate Guy Blog series, Apprehensories.

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Producing social media content for the BMA conference in Chicago came together quickly and was an incredible learning experience. It was also incredibly rewarding to work with a diverse group of writers & video people to create content for the conference.

Amy Lillard was at my right, tweeting, blogging, and sometimes, being snarky, throughout the general sessions. In her own words, Amy “helps smart, talented people find the words to express their smarty-pants-ness. She specializes in marketing writing for agencies, social media campaigns, technical writing, and medical writing. Her new blog on ‘Making It Better,’ which highlights how a turn of phrase and well-chosen word can improve any marketing piece, is coming soon; in the meantime, visit Wayfarer Writing for updates, case studies and contact information.”

I asked Amy to share her take on learnings from the social media experience at BMA09. She’s done so, in addition to using one word that’s never appeared in Brainzooming before….enjoy!

What will social media get you?

In my case, a response to a LinkedIn question and three days of blogging and tweeting got me a seat at the sold-out Business Marketing Association 09 conference, lots of cool leads, a chance to wear some new suits, a guest post on Brainzooming, new friends over margaritas, and free breakfast at the Drake Hotel. Not necessarily in that order.

When Gary Slack, Chair of the Business Marketing Association, posted a LinkedIn call for bloggers, tweeters and videographers to attend the Unlearn conference, I jumped at the chance. Through luck (and minimal stalking) I joined Mike Brown and eight other folks on the social media team at the jam-packed conference. After three days of non-stop blogging and tweeting, my brain hurt, my fingers ached, and I needed (several) drinks, but I was exhilarated and educated.

What exactly did I learn from the experience?

  • Think you know how to multi-task? Yeah, I did too. I can listen and take notes with the best of them, and I pride myself as a writer at getting to the meat of what’s being said. But keeping it up over three days? Tweeting main points, responding to questions, retweeting, and taking notes for blog posts, all while paying attention to the nice gentleman/lady and their nifty slides on the podium? Good gravy, my head was mush. I’m lucky I didn’t resort to “Picture’s r pretty, man has beard” as a tweet summation.
  • When people know what you’re doing, you’re seen as an expert. We’re talking palm fronds and lots of bowing and scraping. (Wait – that may have been a dream.) Gary Slack was kind enough to call attention to our row of computer junkies at the beginning and in the midst of each day, and as a result attendees visited our section for social media questions and technology support. It led to some great discussions and tutorials.
  • When people don’t know what you’re doing, dirty looks will abound. For most of the conference we were in the main room, and our team was seated in a fixed location. During breakout sessions, however, we weren’t as easily identifiable. As I typed away (on an older Dell that sounds like a typewriter or drum kit), I’d often get the pursed lips, the creased eyebrows, the stern librarian shush, and some eye daggers of death. Next time perhaps I’ll wear a tablet: “I’m not a rude prick. I’m part of the social media team.”
  • DMs are like the new version of passing notes during class. Full disclosure – I stole this line from Mike. But my theft does not diminish the truth of the statement. During one egregiously bad presentation that had slides and examples from 1982 (all B2C, no less), direct messaging on Twitter] allowed some team members to vent and practice their comedy routines – without the chance of a teacher picking up the note mid transit and reading it to the class.
  • Social media and conferences: a match made in geeky heaven. No matter the hard work (or because of it), my experience at the conference was deeply enriched. I was able to increase my understanding of presentations, meet fellow attendees and tweeters in instantly-bonding fashion, generate new leads for my writing business, and expand my social media skills. All good things.

It was a tremendous experience and rockin’ good time. And it was a clear demonstration of the conference theme – Unlearn. Rethink what you know about conference attendance. Reconsider what you think about presenting information and gleaning insight. Unlearn, and embrace social media to do it. - Amy Lillard


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The Business Marketing Association national conference was a tremendous learning opportunity, and not only because of its presentations. A small group of us were afforded the opportunity to live tweet, blog, and video the conference to produce content for the BMA website during the conference. It’s worth taking a look at the posts written by the social media team for overview of the range of content.

In the interim, here are tweets from three of the stand out presentations:

David Meerman Scott

  • amylillard: Old rules – beg, buy, bug for attention. New rule – earn attention by publishing your way in. Power to the people!
  • PaladinStaff: “on the web you are what you publish”
  • BlueSilverInc: Great example of viral video. Happy Birthday Sarbanes Oxley. YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/4xwkeq
  • EvaEKeiser: Be cool in social media… Don’t do anything your mom wouldn’t like.
  • johndigles: :The web, social media isn’t about tech or products, it’s about people. Why fear it? Play fair. “Word of mouse” marketing.
  • simasays: Stock photos = Visual gobbledygook. Those sleek multicultural peeps are so not your customers.
  • BzoomingLive: Learn to get comfortable w/ losing control of ur content. Challenging for marketers! Grateful Dead did it!
  • BzoomingLive: German B2B Marketing Company: CWS – Example frm @dmscott Created World Wide Rave http://bit.ly/11QZoY
  • BzoomingLive: Web very efficient for reaching targeted group – allows you to reach tiny audience, no matter where, if understand them.

Scott Davis

  • glenslens: I’m thinking CMO stands for Chief Masochist Officer…tenure is shorter than some Euro vacations.
  • Brainzooming: “Horizontal POV” – Key for marketers to see across business. Have to have P&L mindset, even if don’t own P&L
  • Brainzooming: If u haven’t had P&L responsibility, then spend 1st 6 months as CMO in the field, making sales calls, ringing cash registers. Scott Davis.
  • Brainzooming “Brand dropping” – Defn: Mentioning the well-known brands that u’ve consulted with in the last month.

Andy Sernovitz

  • amylillard: “Now is the time to build an army of fans who will advertise you for free” @sernovitz
  • Brainzooming: Point at dinner last night – key is to integrate social media activities w/ underlying strategy to drive sales.
  • glenslens: Marketing is what you do, not say, says Andy. Well said. @sernovitz
  • johndigles: :Word-of-Mouth topics are portable, repeatable, emotional. If it works in a news release, it probably won’t be WOM. @sernovitz
  • amylillard: Your customers are not necessarily your talkers. Think about who influences them, and focus there. (Ex – taxi drivers for Wynn)
    glenslens: Advertising is the cost of being boring. (Being remarkable is more than page deep.) @sernovitz
  • tkincolorado: Quite simply, happy customers are your best ads. – @sernovitz
  • amylillard: Final thought @sernovitz – Better companies that are nice to people make more money.


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