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People still ask if I miss working for a Fortune 500 company. I tell them the only times I do are on the 15th and 31st of the month.

That line always gets a laugh.

When you are in an entrepreneurial venture, the paydays aren’t on a predictable schedule. Yet, since The Brainzooming Group works with many major corporations, it’s not like I don’t retain a sense of the upsides and challenges of working in the corporate world.

For today, at least, it is great to be out of the corporate world.

That sentiment all revolves around our content marketing strategy.

The client we’re onsite with today working on an innovation strategy comes with an intriguing history.

Our primary contact saw me speak in 2014 at Compete Through Service Symposium produced by the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership and subscribed to the Brainzooming blog email. At the company he was at, there was no opportunity to work with us.

He changed jobs early in 2017 and re-subscribed to the blog with his new company’s email address. By mid-year, he completed a Contact Us form on the website, wanting to discuss his brand’s innovation strategy. Coincidentally, we were headed to his city the next Monday to host another client’s annual customer forum. We arranged a meeting and subsequently developed a scope of work. It changed a few times as he worked to sell-in the initiative. Several months later, the deal seemed in question, but we got an opportunity to do a 30-minute phone conference with the company president to address his questions. That led to another spin on the scope of work.

Right after 2018 started, they signed the scope of work to begin. Following an online input survey with both internal team members and external partners, three of us are onsite TODAY for a full-day innovation strategy and new product development workshop.

So, why does this story make me glad I’m not in the corporate world anymore?

It’s because I can’t fathom trying to assign credit for this deal if it unfolded in a Fortune 500 company:

  • The relationship started multiple years ago through a speaking engagement.
  • The only client contact for nearly three years was the blog email and an eBook download.
  • Once we moved into active business development mode, three of us participated in developing the scope of work.
  • I led the call that moved us toward winning the business.
  • Four of us contributed toward creating the Brainzooming experience we’ll deliver today.

In a Fortune 500 company, this could lead to a huge tug-of-war for credit.

In an entrepreneurial venture, we can talk through the best approach to assign credit that equitable for everyone without needing a system to track and allocate effort.

Here’s to a wonderful, productive, and beneficial workshop with our new client, and our hope that it leads to a long relationship. And even better, as we move forward, here’s to nobody even remembering exactly did what to win it. – Mike Brown

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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“What am I missing? What is the insight I’m not seeing that could make our content marketing strategy make sense?”

An attendee at the 2018 Social Media Strategies Summit conference in San Francisco made that comment. She works for a major non-profit organization. She’s trying to manage through three strategic expectations the senior management team and board have regarding a content marketing strategy:

  1. They want to keep everything on one Facebook page.
  2. They have two important audiences that are each interested in different types of content.
  3. She can’t change either of the first two strategic expectations.

She’s beating herself up for her inability to find an amazing branding strategy insight. The one that would allow her to get around the contradictions posed by her senior management team’s decidedly non-social-first content marketing strategy expectations.

As we discussed her organization’s situation, I suggested various ways to target content to the two audiences based on what they are interested in hearing about from the organization. While the ideas were sound strategically, each one directly challenged the expectations in a way she was certain she couldn’t do.

After a few minutes, I assured her that she isn’t missing any big branding strategy insight.

The problem is the management team’s decisions about the content marketing strategy. Their stipulations are all about brand-first, not social-first, content.

She told her management team that she would return from the conference and write the organization’s social media strategy. She didn’t see that happening without the big insight.

I suggested she instead focus on creating a strategic conversation with her management team. Her first step is to address what they want to achieve as an organization with their two audiences. She can then start suggesting how social media contributes to realizing those business objectives. The more they want to push a brand-first content strategy, the less wedging in a few social-first content marketing tactics will successfully fix things.

Maybe THAT is the insight she was seeking: you can’t pursue the smart thing (a social-first content marketing strategy) when management’s every strategic expectation runs counter to doing so.

Not a great situation. As least now, though, she has a pathway to attempt to help them work their way out of it! – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’m delivering a workshop at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco today. It will cover creating a sustainable, social-first content marketing strategy. The three-hour workshop will take participants through typical sticking points brands face in developing effective content marketing strategy plans that start strong, build, and continue to deliver results.

Areas where we’ll concentrate and spend extended time as participants work through Brainzooming exercises include:

One workshop attendee, Angelo Harms, Digital Marketing Manager at the Curaçao Tourist Board, has seen me present workshops multiple times at SMSSummits. Angelo has also brought us to Curaçao for content marketing strategy workshops the past two years. Because he’s seen SOOOO much of our content, I wanted to come up with something new Angelo hasn’t seen yet.

9 Ways a Brand Can Sustain a Social-First Content Marketing Strategy

Here it is, with a sneak peek for all of you.

It’s a tool to identify starter topic ideas along the customer journey (X-axis) from three different perspectives (Y-axis):

  • What customers are thinking about and facing
  • Industry and product category considerations
  • Brand content that fits social-first needs

Beyond a content calendar, it’s another strategy way to ensure sure you are developing a strong mix of content that is relevant to prospects and customers, no matter where they are along the journey to your brand.

If you would like to go deeper into the topic, download our FREE eBook on Social-First content. It covers many of the exercises and tools we’ll share in the workshop content marketing strategy workshop.

If you’d like help thinking about how a content strategy helps grow and develop your brand, contact us. Let’s grab time to chat about the possibilities for growing your revenue and customer base through social-first content! – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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When it comes to creating incredible social-first content, brands can extend their personalities without compromising their brand characters is they are smart and strategic about it. On fantastic example is from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis. The church got it ALL perfect.

In case you weren’t following the NFL playoffs last weekend, the Minnesota Vikings offed the New Orleans Saints on a very improbable (perhaps, miraculous) touchdown on the last play of the game. The New Orleans Saint safety was described by Monday afternoon commentators as making the worst defensive play in the history of the NFL.


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Nevertheless, the back and forth scoring in the last moments of the game was conducive, one might expect, to desperate-for-a-Super-Bowl Minnesota fans making any number of deals with God IFFFFFFFFF the Vikings could win.

Taking advantage of that sentiment, Our Lady of Lourdes parish offered this Facebook post on Monday morning following the game.

This demonstrates that a brand (i.e., a local Catholic parish) not typically associated with humor can extend its personality into new realms. It is also a fantastic example of managing the right mix of delivering on:

  • Audience Needs and Interests
  • Compelling Content
  • Smart Brand Integration

For its targeted Minnesota audience, the content addressed an over-the-top interest: the Vikings win.

This compelling content was also over-the-top with its simplicity and clear ties to the Vikings. It cleverly walked the line between serious admonishment and a wink of the eye acknowledgement that people make promises to God all the time that they never live up to successfully.

Finally, because the Facebook post fulfilled the first two expectations so marvelously, the church was free to insert its brand directly into the message through including its Sunday mass times.

We love, love, love how smart this post is. You can see how well-rewarded it was based on the shares and reactions it earned.

Want to go deeper into winning social-first content marketing strategy?

Want to immerse yourself in valuable learning from practitioners doing the real work of social media and content marketing strategy?

Do you want to comfortably network with business and marketing professionals across industries in a reasonably sized setting where you don’t have to navigate through 15,000 attendees and a mile of conference rooms?

Then join The Brainzooming Group crew at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco, February 6-8, 2018!

You can even enroll at a 15% discount if you sign up NOW using the promo code, SMSSMB15BTW, I think the MB in that SMSSummit promo code may stand for Mike Brown, but I’m just guessing.

The Social Media Strategies Summit is one conference where we’ve participated multiple times across several years and ALWAYS learn new concepts and ideas!

If you want to go all-in for the Brainzooming experience at the Social Media Strategies Summit, sign up for the pre-conference workshop I’m presenting: Writing an Effective and Sustainable Social Media & Content Marketing Plan. We’ll be talking about developing the components of a social-first content marketing strategy that makes sense for both your brand AND your audience.

Be sure to join us and learn more about creating compelling content that will bring your social and content marketing strategy to life. Register today and save 15% with the SMSSMB15 promo code and join us in San Francisco this February at the Social Media Strategies Summit! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Since The Brainzooming Group launched, we have developed many strategic thinking exercises and models applying our methodology to diverse clients and business situations.

The result? We are further along and can even more easily customize these strategic thinking exercises to your needs if you face comparable situations. That is a major benefit if you want an outside, strategic perspective and need to start right now!

16 Strategic Thinking Exercises Ready to Go Right Now!

Review this list and identify the business opportunities or challenges that are incorporated in your strategic plans – or not. If any of these are on your agenda for this year, contact us. We can customize the strategic thinking exercises specifically for your organization and start moving even faster than normal!

We are trying to develop new strategies and strengthen our organization’s strategic perspective.

We know we need to use content marketing, but we’re struggling to connect the content to our brand and audience while generating real business returns.

Our focus is on innovation, and we need to bring it to life and create results before we lose interest and move on to the next big strategy.

Any of these opportunities and challenges familiar to you?

Are you under pressure to make one or more of these happen right now?

You owe it to yourself: contact us so we can talk through what you need to accomplish and see if it makes sense to work together.

We can get moving with the strategic thinking exercises and workshop implementation that will deliver results for you faster than you have ever imagined! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Vickie Howell is a broadcast personality, producer, author, designer, and instructor in the DIY world. Her online series, The Knit Show with Vickie Howell (YouTube) is the first studio produced, community funded, internationally accessible knitting and crochet streaming series. With the help of over 1200 individual and company backers, Vickie successfully raised $83k in 30 days on Kickstarter to fund the project. As of December 2017, The Knit Show has had over a quarter of a million views in at least 19 countries.

Photo: Harper Point Photography

For the sake of transparency, I note that Vickie also played bass in the imaginary band that she and I co-founded (I was the singer; the band was called Why Barbie’s Bad) as college theater students in the mid-90s, talking our way into (and out of) any number of ridiculous situations with our over-plucked brows, dark burgundy lipstick, and matching GIRLS KICK ASS t-shirts. Later, we worked for the same film and television production company while living in the same apartment building in West Los Angeles, and briefly had a side business selling light switches lovingly decoupaged by our own hands.

Those were, as Lou Reed sang, different times.

But some things remain constant. Vickie’s drive to strategize, revise, and improvise in the name of extreme creativity and productivity is as fierce and inspiring as ever, making her a natural choice for an interview on the Brainzooming blog.

Now Streaming: Extreme Creativity and Vickie Howell

Emma Alvarez Gibson (EAG): When your show was first available on YouTube, I told Mike about it, and I didn’t think he would watch it. Because he doesn’t watch anything, really. I’m always sending him videos and stuff and he’s like, Oh…yeah…I kind of clicked on it…

Vickie Howell (VH): I mean, but it’s knitting, soooo…

EAG: Exactly!

VH: Seems like it’s a given. Of course, he’s going to watch it. No? That’s not where you were going with this?

EAG: Well, two days later, he says, By the way, I watched most of the episode! I’m like, WHAT?! He says, It was really good! I was so impressed!

VH: Why? Why did he do that?

EAG: I think it’s the fact that when you saw that the market wasn’t doing what it had been doing, you took things into your own hands and found a way to do it anyway. Without getting too precious about it, those qualities in you really kind of embody what Brainzooming is about.

So, maybe tell me about how you got to where you are now and what your thoughts are about moving forward. There was a little period when there was a ton of DIY and craft shows on and that’s where you found your niche.

VH: Do you want a little background on why that went away?

EAG: Yeah.

VH: Ad dollars. There’s no money in crafts. And basically, Home Depot and Lowes are better ad buy-ins for [networks like DIY, the home of Vickie’s first show, Knitty Gritty]. We don’t have that kind of money in crafting, so it was a much more viable model to just move over to home improvement and home decorating.

DIY programming in social media has been easy. Anybody can post videos. People were getting their projects everywhere, all over the interwebs, and then they were getting the education on how to make their projects through sites like Craftsy and CreativeLive, and now Brit + Co., and Creativebug — there’s tons of them. So, the programming industry has had to completely hustle like the rest of us. Time is ticking. Cable stations are going to turn into streaming stations. So, everybody’s going big. They’re not going to go for the “there’s no ad dollars in it” show.

I was watching this all develop over the course of about eight years. I saw it happening again and again as I was working, as I was pitching, as I was trying different things. And I was still getting these messages almost daily saying that Knitty Gritty was still impactful, still had a space in people’s lives. I wanted to recreate that essence, but for now, meaning the digital aspect, which obviously wasn’t a thing back then, and the social media aspect, which was really the most exciting part for me. I started doing Facebook Live videos the first day they were available for verified users. And I noticed how many people were watching from different countries, like Turkey, Canada, Australia, Brazil–I didn’t expect that kind of community to be out there.

And for me, now, that’s the goal today. Your community is no longer in your own neighborhood, or your own state, or even your own country. As far as you can reach, and anybody can reach that far, from the comfort of their own homes — that reach is the limitation of your community, and community is the very base of marketing.

So, there were those two components, plus a third one. However you’re creative, whether it’s picking up a Fender Strat, or a paintbrush, or knitting needles, that is how you channel your creativity. And creativity is openness, and when you’re open, that allows you to see the world on a broader scope than what you would otherwise. I wanted to encapsulate that essence. It’s about people’s communities, it’s about connection of people, it’s about choosing it for stress reduction or for coping, or because you’re putting something beautiful out in the world, or for socialization, or whatever. So that was really important to me, and the only way that I could do that and make it look cool, without it being watered down heavily, was just to do it myself.

EAG: And from there, the wheels started turning and you started thinking, What would I need to start getting together so that I could produce this myself?

VH: Yeah. So, when I worked on a PBS show, I had co-executive produced it, and also produced it with my friend Karin Strom. We picked the guests, we picked the content, we figured it out. And so that experience gave me that final bit of confidence. And because I’d been in the entertainment industry, as you know, since I was 18 or 19, on and off, I knew a lot of it. But the actual nuts and bolts–that was sort of the final piece, just to see if I was a truly competent producer, and I found out that I was. And I loved it, and I still love it. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. That had been percolating for a couple of years. I worked for about a year’s time with Scripps [Scripps Networks Interactive], which owns the DIY Network, to license the Knitty Gritty name. It got pretty close, but we just couldn’t make it work, which was in hindsight a blessing, because I own The Knit Show, together with ProductionFor, outright. So, we don’t have to get approval for anything. It would have been nice to have that name recognition, but it’s so exciting, when I put on my marketing hat, that I don’t have the limitations that I would if I owed anything to anyone.

EAG: Absolutely.

Photo: Keith Trigaci

VH: I can work with people for sponsorships or partnerships in really interesting and innovative ways. Many companies don’t have the actual capital to invest, but they have the email newslists, or they have some kind of asset that is a viable barter, and so they get to put their name on what they think is a cool and innovative project, and we get whatever asset they have, whether it’s an e-newsblast to 250,000 people, which are eyes that we need, or it’s furniture for the set, or even wardrobe for me to wear to an appearance. And then what happens is that the backer page grows larger and larger and larger, so that when future investors look at it, they can see that a village built this. And there’s a village behind it.

So, I started building that, and then I went to my ex-husband Clint, because he owns a production company, ProductionFor. I went to him with the big piece that I didn’t know anything about, which was how to create a budget for a show. We went back and forth and I told him what amount I felt comfortable raising. As a side note, I’ve never felt comfortable asking for money. I sucked at selling Girl Scout Cookies. It’s just never been my wheelhouse. But because I could sort of see this as a service–people wanted this–I kind of worked it out. We found a number that we could at least try and raise together. We created a partnership with this company that normally produces interstitials, commercials, and the like, but really wanted to get into episodics. And I really needed a production company behind me for the technical side of it. So, we just sort of jumped in together. It was a huge learning curve, and there are a lot of lessons still being learned. But it was a pretty exciting adventure.

EAG: Once you got all the funding you needed, how quickly was the first season completed?

VH: I had my pitch meeting with ProductionFor in February. The Kickstarter began the third week in March and ended in April. I don’t know if you know this, but with Kickstarter, you get 30 days to raise all of it or you get none of it. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And then I had my content producer Karin on a plane within maybe two weeks, and we started planning the grid. So, we went right into it. The actual studio production was the first week of August, it was five days and we shot ten episodes.

EAG: Where are you now in the process? What do you have happening next? If I know you there’s a long, long, long-term strategy.

VH: There is. The great thing about having streaming content is that there’s no shelf life for it. So now, I’ll go back and on a granular level, dissect it and see what I can do as far as marketing goes for external pieces. I’ve just received all the transcripts needed to get every episode captioned. Since we have 19 countries’ worth of ownership, I’d like to start experimenting with subtitles. I’m going to start with German and then probably Spanish. What I’d also like to do is investigate: can we sell this to an airline? Are there ways that we can sell pieces of it without it having to be pulled down from YouTube? And I don’t know the answer to that. So that’s something that I really want to investigate right now. And then I’ll break down each individual piece for additional cross-promotional opportunities.

We chose to put the whole season up at once to compete with other binge-worthy series in the digital market. That choice, though, means working harder to keep word circulating so new viewers find us. If I can offer screenshots and direct video links to snippets of the show that give a glimpse of even the smallest of products or locations, then I’ll ask the respective companies to feature us on social. This project is made for and by the community–so I’ll continue to ask that community to pitch in to make it a success.

Photo: Keith Trigaci

EAG: Blue-sky, no-holds-barred, what do you see happening?

VH: Here’s my pie in the sky: I didn’t produce this just to be a one-off. I want to continue producing the show and providing great content for the people in my community. That could be either on my own, through private investors, and just create my own thing, or it could be ultimately selling it to an Amazon or a Netflix or whatever–I think all networks are going to have streaming options soon. I have a feeling that NBC Universal will be one of the first, because they bought Craftsy, and they have Amy Poehler’s Handmade show. It could be any one of those, or it could be something I haven’t even thought of, because everything’s changing. Ultimately, I would like to produce DIY programming in all different craft realms so that I can help other designers and hosts rise. I would executive produce them. Quilting, jewelry, sewing, maybe baking, that type of thing. So that’s sort of the big picture.

EAG: A lot of people at any given point along this journey that you’ve just described would have gone, Well, I guess that’s it. What is it that keeps you pushing?

VH: I mean, but, when do you say that’s it? Like when you make your goal on Kickstarter? Or when you actually get the show produced? Or…?

EAG: I guess I’m talking more about the challenges, you know, the, Well, I have this great show, I was on this other show, but that didn’t

VH: Oh! Because I’m totally unhireable. That’s easy. Sorry, I misunderstood the question. No, I mean, what the hell else am I going to do? I’ve always, always sparkle-fingered my way through life, you know? I’ve always talked my way in and figured it out. And I guess the fear is just having to get a regular job, maybe. And also, I’ve had some really amazing experiences of people coming up to me and sharing really powerful stories involving one of my projects. And there’s something about that that helps propel you forward when you feel like pulling the covers over your head. Knowing that even if it’s just one person, or two people, or a handful of people, that you’re making a difference in someone’s life. And, you know, I’m not curing cancer. But if I can help a mom who’s sitting in a hospital room while her baby has leukemia–this woman just told me this story last week, so it’s fresh in my mind–and my projects, columns I’ve written, whatever, helped her get through something because it gave her purpose? That’s good enough for me, man. That’s good enough for me.

EAG: Thanks, Vickie! We can’t wait to see what you do next.  – Emma Alvarez Gibson

 

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Extreme Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and boost your creative thinking skills! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Ten years into the Brainzooming blog, it seemed right to have someone else tell the story from a fresh perspective. Emma Alvarez Gibson, who helped shaped the Brainzooming brand before it even launched, is exactly the person.

Ten Years Now and Mike Brown Has a Blog – Emma Alvarez Gibson

It’s 2009, and I’ve just gone into business for myself, doing branding and copywriting. Thanks to Twitter, which is at that point still a place to have thoughtful conversations with smart people, a great-sounding gig has fallen into my lap. This guy I’ve never met has just hired me, after a couple of emails and a single phone call, to help launch his company. He’s kind of shockingly sincere, but he lives in Kansas City, and maybe that’s just how they do there. He’s about to leave his job as a strategic planning and marketing VP at a Fortune 500 transportation company and he’s got this whole other direction mapped out for himself—he’s been blogging now for a couple of years in preparation for this move.

“I don’t think I had any clue, at the start, about the impact the blog would have on my life.”

We work well together. He says I really get what he’s trying to do. And he pays promptly, as the best clients do. I wish him well, and we follow one another on Twitter. Every now and then we exchange pleasantries and silly jokes, sometimes an email or two. We tweet, we message, we leave comments on one another’s Facebook updates. I sign up for his blog posts, which are astonishing in their frequency as well as their depth.

“The blog paved the way for me to create a brand-new business identity. It allowed me to create a new present and future that built on, but wasn’t beholden to, my experience in the transportation sector.”

And so it goes for the next three years. By 2012 I’m no longer working for myself, as I’ve discovered that I’m terrible at it. I’ve got a capital-J job, and excellent health insurance, and tons of banked vacation time. One afternoon in 2014, I’m in my office with not a lot to do, and a message pops up: the guy from Kansas wants to know if I have a couple of minutes for a phone call. I’m a little weirded out, but say yes. He’ll be in San Diego in a month, he says, and wonders if I’m available to help facilitate a workshop. I am.

The evening before the workshop, I drive down from LA immediately following a Neil Finn show, accompanied by a girlfriend, just on the off chance that it’s all a setup and I’m meeting up with an ax murderer. (Spoiler: I’m not. The guy from Kansas is exactly as he represents himself online.) But despite it being our first time meeting face to face, it feels like we’ve known each other for years. Probably because we have.

“It gave me an identity beyond Mike Brown, which is in the top 5 most nondescript names.”

The workshop goes well. It’s fun, and challenging, and so gratifying to see that we’re giving people tools and resources that will continue to improve their work lives and also have the capacity to improve their personal lives. This work calls to me on a deep level.

Back in LA I keep thinking about how naturally we worked together and how our skills and expertise complemented one another. What if that could be my job? But I can’t really allow myself to venture too far down that path. There are too many variables and it isn’t as though he’s hiring tons of people—particularly not people 1600 miles away. I’ve got a child, a chronic illness, a mortgage, and my husband and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I climb back down into the salt mines, so to speak, and focus on making things go.

“The body of work is a personal one. But it allows us to compete with the biggest consulting firms in the world.”

When the guy from Kansas asks if I’d be interested in the occasional editing gig, I am; soon it’s a weekly thing. I think, often, about what it would be like to do this full-time. One day, the guy from Kansas says, hesitantly, Hey, I don’t know how you’d feel about this, but when I’m in a position to extend the company’s base outside Kansas City, I’d really like to hire you full-time. I’d feel pretty great about that, and tell him so. And then it’s back to the salt mines for me, but now the work I’m doing when I’m not at my day job includes several long-term projects, and we’re presenting workshops and keynotes at conferences in San Francisco and on an island off the coast of Georgia.

Now it’s the fall of 2017. I have a block of time in the middle of my frenzied day that doesn’t belong to anyone else, and I shut my office door and call the guy from Kansas to discuss a couple of the projects we have going. When he answers the phone, I say hello and ask how he is. He says, Wonderful. I’m just finishing up your offer letter. Within fifteen minutes, I’ve given notice.

“The busyness of the business, driven in large part by the blog, has had a tremendous impact across my life.”

This month marks the tenth anniversary of what became the Brainzooming blog. I tease Mike about the sheer volume of content he’s created across these ten years. He must have content running in his veins where we mere mortals have only blood, I say. Oh, no, Mike Brown forgot to write a blog post for tomorrow! Not to worry – just hand him that letter opener! The wound will heal; the content will live on! The truth, of course, is simpler and more complicated than that. The truth involves a different kind of sacrifice, and hell of a lot of hard work.

It’s two months to the day since I joined Brainzooming full-time as Director of Brand Strategy. I can’t quite shake the sense that, at any moment, someone’s going to show up at my door and order me back to the salt mines. Because this kind of work isn’t work: it’s a calling. And that makes all the difference in the world, and to my world. (As do the excellent Beavis and Butt-head impressions Mike and I are prone to when in the same city. Or on the phone. Or, okay, via email.)

We’ve now met in person five times, and next year will bring more opportunities to get together to address problems, create solutions, and bring people together in ways they would not have thought possible. I can’t wait to see where Brainzooming goes next.

Happy blog anniversary, Mike. Happy blog anniversary, Brainzooming. Here’s to the next ten years. Emma Alvarez Gibson

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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