Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic." Bill Bernbach

"I got a great gimmick. Let's tell the truth." N.M. Ohrbach

"Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything." George Lois

Today's image: Heavenly Cowboy by running horse pictures. Amazing. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you very much

My social media brief has now been presented a bunch of times. It's been a fun experience and a great adventure in learning. The brief has been constantly improved thanks to constructive interaction before, during and after each talk. Preparing, updating, tweaking and giving the talk has introduced me to some gifted folks. These bright individuals have challenged me and in that process made my brief much stronger. The brief has been presented before a wide variety of participants at diverse venues including organized events/conferences (broadcasters, publishers, creative directors, government, private equity capital), corporate in-house training sessions, and senior management retreats. The brief has taken different forms from what is now my standard one-hour brief with Q&A to a four-hour workshop. Each talk was custom made, fine tuned for the occasion. So far, all talks have received excellent reviews.

As a result of the brief it has been my pleasure to meet folks who have invited me in, put me to work providing their teams with counsel on social media. My thought is the next couple of posts will be dedicated to sharing some lessons learned from those experiences. But, first...

A note about the important matter of respect. Setting the tone and the stage for creative success. Hint: It's all about the environment and the attitude.

This is not a dress rehearsal.
We are professionals.
This is the big time.

That was the sign once posted in the control room of WFYR, Chicago. While the origin and author is unknown, my recollection is the sign found me during my watch at WBZ. It was the first thing I posted in WFYR control after arriving from Boston as the new PD. My thanks to network radio star Dick Bartley who recalled the sign during his recent Ten Questions feature on the Joel Denver portal AllAccess.com (Back in the day, Dick was our midday personality)

The sign was part of a bigger creative makeover, one that started with a show of respect for talent. The staff needed to understand...the studio was a stage and not an office. We delivered performances rather than worked shifts. Other stations employed disc jockeys and announcers while ours was a creative home to performers. We came to work everyday to commit great radio. To paraphrase my friend Bobby Rich, the legendary radio icon, our attitude was "We're WFYR, anything else is just a radio station."

The right environment for creativity encourages and allows play.

Keeping things in perspective is key. Another sign. This one we posted in the conference room of our TV operation...

This is not a life saving hospital.
We are not looking for a cure for cancer.
This is only a TV station.

(It's FM radio with pictures)

If you are not able to laugh at yourself, not able to bring a healthy sense of humor to the situation, creativity will be scarce.

As Hugh MacLeod writes in his wonderful little book, Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity (Amzn)

"None of this is rocket science. If I had to condense this entire book into a line or two, it would read something like, 'Work hard. Keep at it. Live simply and quietly. Remain humble. Stay positive. Create your own luck. Be nice. Be polite.'"

Word to the wise: Expecting nothing but the best works! Your expectations of people and their expectations of themselves are critical factors in how well people perform. As readers of this humble blog are aware I have a strong belief in the power of the Pygmalion effect. I do because it works. Embrace the notion and begin to enjoy the incredible effectiveness of servant leadership. Mind the words of the brilliant Dee Hock ... "If you don't understand that you work for your mislabeled 'subordinates,' then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny."

Related: Pygmalion in Management by J. Sterling Livingston, Harvard Business Review, here. Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf, Amzn. One from Many: VISA and the Rise of the Chaordic Organization by Dee Hock, Amzn.

Bonus: Social Media Engagement And Financial Success Are Both Trailing Variables by Tom Webster via brandsavant, here. Highly recommended. Kudos, Tom and thanks for the mention.

Shameless self promotion dept: If you would like to learn more about my social media brief, new media workshops and their availability please get in touch using the Contact: My email link located in the left column of this page. Thank you.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"I love radio. I have always loved radio. It’s a soundtrack. It’s a heart beat. It is more a part of real life than maybe any other signal written, visual or interactive. It has the best pictures." Gary Koelling

"The market for something to believe in is infinite." Hugh MacLeod

"The great creators - the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors - stood alone against the men of their time." Ayn Rand

Today's image: God by Nemo* Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Bravos: Fresh from the 2009 Conclave: the Gary Koelling presentation. His related prepared remarks may be found here. Well worth your bandwidth. My thanks to Gary for sharing and to Phil Wilson, who made Gary's Conclave appearance happen, for the tip

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Great ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That's why great ideas are initially resisted." Hugh MacLeod

"Every really new idea looks crazy at first." Alfred North Whitehead

"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you only have one idea." Emile-August Chartier

Today's image: Road to heaven by fd. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Jeff Zucker is wrong

The NBCU chief is famously quoted as saying media companies were replacing "analog dollars with digital pennies" (which he later updated to the alliterative "digital dimes"). He's wrong.

Allow me to offer a passage from The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen (Highly recommended, Amzn):

"Established firms' decisions to ignore technologies that do not address their customers' needs become fatal when two distinct trajectories interact. The first denies the performance demanded over time within a given value network, and the second traces the performance that technologists are able to provide within a given technological paradigm. The trajectory of performance improvement that technology is able to provide may have a distinctly different slope from the trajectory of performance improvement demanded in the system-of-use by downstream customers within any given value network. When the slopes of these two trajectories are similar, we expect the technology to remain relatively contained within its initial value network. But when the slopes differ, new technologies that are initially performance-competitive only within emerging or commercially remote value networks may migrate into other networks, providing a vehicle for innovators in new networks to attack established ones."

"Entrant firms have an attacker's advantage over established firms in those innovations - generally new product architectures involving little new technology per se - that disrupt or redefine the level, rate and direction of progress in an established technological trajectory. This is so because such technologies generate no value within the established network. The only way established firms can lead in commercializing such technologies is to enter the value network in which they create value. As Richard Tedlow noted in his history of retailing in America (in which supermarkets and discount retailing play the role of disruptive technologies), 'the most formidable barrier the established firms faced is that they did not want to do this.'"

Broadcasters have been in this movie before. Whether it was the emergence of FM radio or the not on the radar unaffiliated UHF station that suddenly gained shelf space parity when the advent of CATV carriage killed the need for that goofy second antenna. The established, successful value networks of AM radio and VHF TV worked to create and empower management that came to be genetically blind. Taking the wayback machine to 1965 one could fairly say broadcasters were not willing to trade AM dollars for FM pennies, nor were they interested whatsoever in the trade of VHF dollars for UHF pennies. Other examples are within easy reach. The majority of broadcasters passed on early CATV opportunities, finding the front end much too capital intensive and the notion of folks "paying" for TV to be patently ridiculous. Broadcasters are not alone here. It was not that long ago that my fellow cable MSOs generally agreed that PPV was nothing more than a minor niche play limited to the one-off (the occasional major prize fight), accepted VOD as nothing but pie in the sky, and reasoned that customers having their own dish would forever be limited to unwired rural areas never to be a competitive threat within the MSO's franchised territory.

The emerging player is too often discounted by the incumbent mindset, it was ever thus. Modern media history is replete with "overnight" success stories. New markets and competitive space created out of nothing. Ryan Schreiber the multimedia mogul that reinvented music reviews and crushed the music magazine/fanzine incumbents from the basement of his parents' Minneapolis home. TMZ changing the game in the celebrity gossip food chain, starting as an online brand and moving into syndi-TV. Interesting to note, TMZ was the first to flash the death of Michael Jackson.

Zucker's pennies/dimes argument is nothing new, what it represents is the dilemma, the thesis written about in Christensen's very well done writing. Tom Webster, digerati lead-in-residence at Edison Research, writes about social media being a low cost high reward opportunity, in his words it's a "no-brainer" and he's right. (Life Rewards Action - The Infinite Dial).

The first step in any effective 2009 rehab program for broadcasters is a change in the working vocabulary. From a daily usage of "BUT", the too frequently thrown "OR" to an adoption of and preference for that other more opportunity-laden and richer conjunction "AND"

Mind the counsel of Dr. H.S. Thompson "Buy the ticket, take the ride."

You must choose to play, or not. Wait no longer for the confirmation that comes in the form of diminishing returns. Come to the understanding that money is a trailing variable. Game on.

All that's important is what's coming out of the speakers
and on the screen(s), everything else is a footnote

Bonus: John Furrier is now blogging with contributors at The SiliconANGLE. His title page marked "Computer Science meets Social Science." Bonus 2: Trope is the new Meme.

Random note of interest: Last time the U.S. government requested that broadcast media standby and stand ready to broadcast emergency messages to the public: 1962. Cuban missile crisis. Request made via CONELRAD (Key Station System). Last time the U.S. government requested an online service not go down for scheduled maintenance: 2009. Twitter during the Iran election protests.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." R. Buckminster Fuller

"Good ideas have lonely childhoods." Hugh MacLeod

"When we let go and just realize we really don't know everything, new opportunity presents itself." Doug Zanger

Today's image: Take me to your Herder! by jonbradbury. Great shot. Thanks for sharing.

The amazing power of NEW
(and the advantages of abandonment)

The future success of an organization depends upon its embrace of the new and its courage to abandon that which is no longer effective. What new things are getting attention in your shop? What things are you continuing to do that are, for whatever reason, failing to produce the results of the past or the expectations of the present?

The trap, the path to almost certain failure, is to focus the team and resources on getting better. The solution set will most often be found in getting different.

Stop wasting precious time on the numerator. Change the denominator.

The story of Andy Grove and Intel comes to mind. In 1985 Grove famously said to Gordon Moore “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?”..."Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back, and do it ourselves?" (Read more. The Art of Andy Grove via Harvard Business, here)

If you were kicked out and someone was brought in to replace you, what do you think they would do? Why not get to work and do it.

Bravos: It was wonderful to experience another Conclave last week, if only for one day of the latest run. It's truly an exceptional gathering. Year after year it proves to be the little meeting that could. My sense is, again this year, there are four individuals that have - so far - failed to get even close to the credit or recognition they properly deserve. Tom Kay, the Conclave's executive director and keeper of the flame. Jane Dyson, Conclave's MVP, the tie breaking closer that gets things done on the fly no matter the challenge at hand. Joel Denver, the Conclave's patron saint who cares enough to put to work not only his money but the force of his incredible personality and the unmatched ongoing support of his very respected All Access enterprise. Art Vuolo Jr., Radio's Best Friend, the guy who pulls the Clave TV rabbit out of his hat (with a good thirty seconds or so to spare) year after year. He also continues to serve as the video historian of a largely thankless tribe. Kay, Dyson, Denver, Vuolo. There simply ain't no clave'n without these guys . Take a moment this week and give them a call, send them an email, chat them up and say thanks. Since they will not be expecting this to happen, you're certain to make their day a bit brighter. Go ahead, do it. Please and thank you. [FD: In the previous century I served as chair of the Conclave board and recently made application to again serve that institution as a director]

Congrats & cheers: Steven Goldstein, Saga Communications' EVP, on his well deserved 2009 Rockwell Award. Steve is an exceptionally gifted executive. His straight forward style is as refreshing as it is rare. Kudos to longtime Goldstein friend and collaborator Fred Jacobs who did a simply wonderful job introducing Steve at last week's 2009 Conclave awards luncheon.

Good reads: The Demonization of the Contest Pig. The ever insightful Tom Webster of Edison Research weighs in on station gaming, here. Transparency is the new objectivity. Dr Dave Weinberger makes another interesting argument worth your bandwidth, here. Jay's Media Page is the new blog of cool kid, measurement maven and ROI Media Solutions partner Jay Guyther, here. The Three Hardest Words to Say by Doug Zanger A well done writing on developing and leading the hard work of creativity via Ad Age, here.

Summer read: Ripped. How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music by Greg Kot (Amzn info) Highly recommended.

Bonus: Sign up for Hugh MacLeod's Crazy, Deranged Fools Newsletter, here. Thank me later.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Experiment. Measure. Evolve!" Kipper McGee

The record industry suing file sharers is like the railroad industry trying to shoot down airplanes." Ken Waagner

"Stay ahead of the culture by creating the culture." Hugh MacLeod

Today's image: Minimal Bird House by Fred Winston. Killer capture. Thanks for sharing.

The 2009 Conclave Awards Luncheon, Friday, July 17th. Presentation of the Rockwell Award to Kipper McGee. Following are my prepared remarks.

I come before you today with three things on my mind.

One. Thank you for being here, for supporting the Conclave and the brash, counter-intuitive concepts of learning and sharing. No matter what others might be saying about the attendance here today, you should feel good. The A students, the cool kids, the innovators, the winners in life are always out numbered. You're clearly out numbered by the mediocre and those not here today. Take heart. By being here you are taking control of your destiny, not just running your mouth. Being here today you've shown initiative, taken action and I applaud you.

Two. A message to all the students and young broadcasters here today. Seven words to remember ... Killer career advice from a banjo player ... Be so good they can't ignore you. The words of Steve Martin. Be so good they can't ignore you.

My suggestion is getting that good means having the discipline to pay attention, careful attention. To become known for noticing and acting on the important when the urgent is crushing you.

Kipper McGee always pays attention. He was paying attention when he noticed Gregg Strassel, John Reynolds, Bernie Laur, Mark Potter, Randy Cook, Bill Shannon, Joel McCrae, Tim Fox and, God bless him, Dan Kieley.

Here's the back story on Kipper. Born in the bratwurst capitol of the world, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Kipper first hit the air on Rockin mono WVLC, the carrier current student station of Lakeland College where he started as a jock and went on to become the PD and later GM. Then he was off to his first commercial adventure, jocking at Fun Lovin 15Q in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Then his plans changed. That St. Paul guy, F. Scott Fitzgerald said "You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." Well, Kipper had something to say about management, about being a leader. So he took his first PD job in Waterloo, Iowa at KFMW, FM 108, and what followed, as you know, was a storied career in management including his most recent manager's gig - WLS in Chicago.

Kipper always pays attention to fostering creativity. Ever curious, his is an insatiable appetite for learning. His recent passions include all things digital. Blogging, Twitter, he walks the talk. By the way, he's also received his digital certification from RAB. Let me encourage you to do the same and take advantage of the wealth of RAB online resources. Kipper is always on the creative leading edge. It's a surprise to no one that knows him that he is currently the go-to guy for FM talk radio, a format he has long championed.

As Theodore Levitt taught us - Creativity is thinking new things. Innovation is doing new things. Kipper has a proven track record of both, thinking and doing, and doing both with distinction.

Kipper is known for paying attention to solving the problems at hand. He constantly asks the two most important questions: Why? What needs to be done? Kipper understands...it's not the quality of the idea but the quality of the execution. Effective solutions are to be the most prized.

While some may view Kipper's now famous Big 89 Rewinds of 2007 and 2008 featuring Larry Lujack, Fred Winston, Lyle Dean, John Records Landecker, Tom Kent and others as nothing more than pure nostalgia plays, they would be wrong. A careful analysis reveals these events to be astute brand awareness initiatives. FYI - the Big 89 Rewinds were history making stuff delivering the highest single day ratings on a holiday Monday. A 2.5 rating compared to the previous historical average on holiday Mondays which was a 0.8

Kipper has always paid attention to the value, the important and critical nature, of integrity. The value of doing the right thing even if nobody is watching or nobody cares.

Kipper has always answered the call, whether it was teaching, coaching, mentoring others, serving on the Conclave board, or most recently, serving as the chair for his college's upcoming 150th anniversary celebration. Kipper is known as a person that makes things happen, an effective executive that always makes a positive, lasting difference.

Time for that third thing. You remember. I had three things on my mind today.

Please join me now in paying attention, attention earned, attention deserved. Join me please in paying a proper and long over due tribute to a fine broadcaster and a great gentleman. Congrats, kudos, cheers and bravos to Barbara's husband, one of our 2009 Rockwell Award honorees, Kipper McGee.

Friday, July 03, 2009

"Swing for hits, not home runs." Michael Dell

"The secret isn't counting the beans, it's growing more beans." Roberto Goizueta

"To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success." Henry John Heinz

Today's image: Skull Creek by pearson251. Incredible capture. Thank you for sharing.

What we can learn from a ketchup bottle

The Heinz folks are very successful. They've been in business since 1869. So why did it take them so long, over one hundred years, to reach the most obvious ketchup "delivery" solution? We can all relate to that moment of being in the position of having to shake, then tap the bottle side or bottom, to get the ketchup flowing. Let's come back to that.

What about the label? What image has been on the Heinz Ketchup label since the 1890s? Not the obvious, a tomato. The correct answer is - a pickle, the gherkin pickle. It's been retired, replaced, after over 100 years, by the image of a "vine-ripened" tomato on the new label design introduced earlier this year.

Back to the bottle. For decades Heinz invested significant marketing resources in efforts to turn a weakness, their product delivery problem, into a strength, a key positive attribute. From acquiring the rights to the Carly Simon hit song Anticipation to casting popular sitcom celeb Matt Le Blanc to star in the TV creative featured here above, Heinz demonstrated exceptional message discipline. Their economic success in the market bought them the time and luxury to finance these marketing initiatives focused on changing consumer perceptions, attitudes and values. One can imagine the argument supporting this creative approach..."the best gimmick here is to introduce the truth in a fresh, new way." Bottom line, the Heinz team went to work to make the best of what they had. Accepting the "delivery problem" they sought to reframe the issue and sell "slow is best" or in the least slow is better.

Tony, a NNJ/NYC chef, posted this pic and wrote on his blog "...awesomely innovative upside-down bottle. all of the annoying things about ketchup: the crust around the lid, that nasty juice you get before the ketchup actually comes out and of course, the wait... all deleted like a bad term paper thanks to heinz. frankly, i don't know how we ever lived without it."

As we compare the original and new bottles, the most effective delivery solution, the new upside-down bottle, seems obvious. As Hersh Shefrin said "Reality looks much more obvious in hindsight than in foresight. People who experience hindsight bias misapply current hindsight to past foresight. They perceive events that occurred to have been more predictable before the fact than was actually the case."

How difficult is it to see the obvious? Let me suggest it is very difficult.

"It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious," so said Alfred North Whitehead. Too often teams are not focused on the forest or the trees, rather they are preoccupied with the bark of a single tree, they become lost in the detail. Unable to grasp the obvious they fail to grok the fundamental issues at play burning precious bandwidth and resources in construction of the most logical (sometimes even elaborate) "work-around."

"Table-ready lettuce. $1.4 billion. If someone can do this with a vegetable, what the hell is our excuse?" Gary Hamel

One of the most important responsibilities of leadership is to ensure that the team sees "reality" sees things as they are, not as they once were or as the team wishes things to be. In sum, discovering the obvious solution set demands that one first gain perspective, my notion is this requires the hard work of thinking for which there is no substitute.

There is great benefit, advantage and power in being open to the ideas of others. Listening deserves to be among the most prized skill sets in every organization. Doris Willens writes in her wonderful new book, Nobody's Perfect. Bill Bernbach and the Golden Age of Advertising (Amzn) "From Helmut Krone's wastepaper basket, Bernbach fished wads of crumpled papers and beamed upon spreading open a sheet with the words, "We're only Number Two. So we try harder."

Opportunity abounds for those willing to do their homework; for those serious about listening, observing, thinking and acting the possible is practically without limits. A bias for action rewards all.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

"Money doesn't talk, it swears." Bob Dylan

"The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." Steven Wright

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." H.L. Mencken

Today's image: Cable Car in the Rain by Thomas Hawk. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Welcome to July. How's your summer so far? By asking that question I revealed my "north of the equator" bias, after all, it is winter in Australia and all countries in the southern hemisphere. With apologies to my readers south of the equator, how's your winter so far?

A bunch of really good books out this season. Here are a few of my suggested reads. Fiction: the English translation by Lucia Graves of Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Angel's Game (Amzn), China Mieville The City & The City (Amzn). Non-Fiction: Stan Greenberg Dispatches from the War Room (Amzn), Sir Ken Robinson The Element (Amzn), Jonah Lehrer How We Decide (Amzn) and the long awaited first dead tree writing of popular blogger, and official N=1 cartoonist, Hugh MacLeod Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity (Amzn). A new stack in the making, stay tuned. Should you be interested in keeping up with my latest reads they may be found in the left column. This list does tend to lag a wee bit.

Upcoming - alot of buzz about the latest Chris Anderson - Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Amzn), it drops this week. Certainly a must read. In fact, I've pre-ordered the dead tree version in appreciation and tribute of an earlier promise made by Chris - the online version will be released FREE. Malcolm Gladwell advance reviewed it for The New Yorker, here. Be sure to also read Seth Godin Malcolm is wrong as Seth weighs in on Gladwell's review and the Anderson thesis here. Got a great summer read to share? Want to bring attention to your best book so far of 2009? Would love to have you leave a comment, please do.

My time away from the blog has been spent on the day job involved a variety of cool projects. The first six months of this year a good deal of my bandwidth was spent developing, writing and presenting a brief on the social media phenomenon. As many of you know our team took the first deep dive years ago researching and advising our clients on the emerging trends in hyper-connective social tools. As part of that "research" our team began learning by actually doing. While it has taken time away from this blog my thought is it has been and continues to be time well spent. Twitter (the little app that could which we tipped here in 2007) recently made the cover of TIME magazine. Clearly, these social media toys have gone mainstream. Our suggestion is your team should gain competitive advantage by using these toys as nascent tools. If you or your team are not yet waist deep in all of this social media stuff, no worries. It's early - only the beginning. My notion is MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, digg, et al, are crude tools on our way to a much more robust and effective portfolio of amazing apps and solution sets. My counsel to you is to mind that old adage still employed in the education process of modern medicine "Learn one, do one, teach one." As of today, the social media brief has been presented twenty-three times with more scheduled in the weeks ahead thanks to all the kind words, good reviews and WOM. Each talk has been a challenge, a pleasure and a privilege. I've met some exceptionally bright folks and learned much that can be shared. If you are on Twitter please let me invite you to follow me so that I may follow you. Not on yet? Sign up today, get into the conversation.

Bonus: Getting Ahead of Change by Tom Webster via Edison's The Infinite Dial, here. The cool kids have The Infinite Dial in their readers along with Tom's personal blog, brandsavant, the A students also follow him on the Twitter where he tweets under Webby2001.

Bonus 2: Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, 2009 Results, here. Related back story and interview with winner: Bad Writing Leads to Literary Award - courtesy ATC/NPR, here.

Don't miss it, if you can. A killer app > Posterous

Congrats & cheers: CBS Radio programming ace Kurt Johnson and his Dallas team blowing out five candles on their Jack's birthday cake today. Quoting PJ seems apt here, "In all of art it's the singer not the song." (Hint: as said here previously, formats don't get stations into success or trouble, managers do.) Penny Baldwin and Landor Associates each hiring on to play a role in the coming makeover of Yahoo!

My sincere thanks to all of you who have been in touch about this blog. Your nudges and continuing support are much appreciated. One person interrupted me during a phone conversation last week to say "You're wasting this on me, one person, why aren't you blogging about this?" Indeed. Back tomorrow with a brand new show. Thank you for stopping by.