Friday, August 30, 2013

What I Read This Summer

It's here. Labor Day Weekend. Just like that in a blink of an eye another summer has flashed by. With the forecast here in New York looking to include lots of clouds and rain - reading is sure to be on my list of weekend activities. So I thought - as the weekend is about to get into full swing-  I would share what I read this summer that qualifies to make my list of recommended reading.

Consider yourself forewarned. This list includes novels, books on marketing and even one on angels. It is proof positive that I have eclectic interests and reading habits.

That said - in no particular order -

Is This Tomorrow?  This wonderful novel by Caroline Leavitt will make you not care if it pours all weekend. Consider this a must read. 

Control, Alt, Delete - Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life.  I just discovered Mitch Joel this summer and have since become a follower. Marketing Magazine called him the "Rock Star of Digital" so that pretty sums up what he writes about. 

OohLaLa - French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day. I already forewarned you that I mix my daily reading with new and innovative uses of make-up and Vine  - so this one is definitely for women only. It's a delightfully entertaining and inspiring read - true to form for author Jamie Cat Callan. 

Angels In My Hair. You have to believe in a power greater than yourself to enjoy this memoir by Lorna Byrne. One of my most favorite take-a-ways is that people have forgotten to ask the angels for help. The author explains this is resulting in lots of unemployed angels. So asking for help is actually giving someone- somewhere - a job.

The Silent Wife. The saddest thing about finishing this novel was finding out the author, A.S.A Harrison had died just as it was being published and so we will not get to see anymore of her brilliant and riveting writing. Just know - that while it is being marketed as 'like Gone Girl' -it's not. It's much better! This is actually believable. 

The New Rules of Marketing and PR - the new and improved 4th Edition. I've recommended David Meerman Scott before and will continue to do so. If you don't get or don't believe that marketing really has changed - forever - this is the best place to start getting it. In full disclosure it is the book I use with my graduate students. 

Choose Yourself! James Altucher is another new discovery for me this summer. I had been tripping over him but it was a podcast he did with Mitch Joel that provoked me to pick up his book. James is not for the faint heart - but he is funny, entertaining and very smart. He will also catch you off guard with his own special brand of spirituality.

What about you? What did you read this summer that you recommend?  Please add in the comment section. All categories welcome!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Egg Timer Theory - Revisited

I've read two posts on the subject of time in the last two days. I took it as a 'sign' - of something. Just don't ask me what. So I waited - certain a third blog - somewhere - was being written - and was going to show up in my vast array of links on social nets.

Three times and those who believe as I do in the mysterious ways of the Universe and a random occurrence now becomes a 'sign' - after which action must be taken. But again - don't ask me what action. I hadn't thought things through that far. I was hoping when the third post arrived I would know.

So I waited. 

I didn't think about writing my own blog even though I haven't posted since last Wednesday and it was - well- time.  Because quite frankly in the afterglow of my thirty day blogging experiment things got busy. The summer semester at NYU was ending, grades needed to be uploaded and I was preparing for an in-house workshop with a new client. It didn't seem like I really had the time to write as much.

OMG. Did I just write that I didn't have the time? 

Me - who gets obsessed with this subject. Whose written many blogs on the topic.

Me- who managed to write an entire guide/manifesto on how to create time for your life. 

Me - the organized one who has this reputation for getting so much done was flailing. I'd pressed pause to regroup and seem to have gotten stuck. 

And there I was reading other people's words who sounded like something I would have said. And should have - except I had convinced myself the time just wasn't there for me to write. To do what I love. 


So I reread what David Meerman Scott wrote. And Mitch Joel. And I stopped waiting for my 'sign'. 

I set the timer and I started writing.

The 'sign' became crystal clear. The third post on time was supposed to be written - by me - to remind me - that I do have the time and the words to write another blog. I just have to sit down and do it.

I also have to set that timer.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

That First Impression

One thing that has not changed in the age of digital is the importance of a  first impression. It still counts. 

But what has changed is the amount of time we have in which to make one.

Our average attention span is purported to be that of a goldfish - less than nine seconds. That makes the idea of the elevator pitch sound like an eternity of time in which to capture someone's attention.

Photo-shopped pictures. Catchy headlines. Slick video. Podcasts that can come on a walk with me.

All vie for our attention amidst the sea of chatter that washes over our lives each day - feeding our impatience as we all fall victim to systemic ADD.

Don't have what I like and I'm gone. 
Don't make it easy for me to find and I'm gone sooner.

It would be easier for me to snag more than the requisite nine seconds of your time if we happen to meet in person. 

Human connection still rules above all.  

But your first impression - your first clue to my personality or that of my brand or that last item you plunked down your American Express card to buy- most likely happened here.

On line. 
More and more - on your smartphone or tablet.  

The question is does yours match up? 

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Annoying Marketing

Annoying marketing is running rampant.  

And it's not reserved to one type of marketing. Digital, email,  direct, grass roots, traditional radio and television. All are culprits.

Take Tuesday.

I fielded two phone calls from candidates. One for Mayor and one for city council. I no longer pick up when the calls from the Power Division solicitors call. Those two went straight to voice mail. On the way to the subway I am intercepted by three people in pink shirts shoving flyers in my precious New York space asking me if I have time to talk.  

I was greeted by huge interstitials on four separate websites asking me to sign up for their newsletter. Only one gave me a choice to never see it again. Another asked me to sign up  not knowing I already subscribed. By then I was so annoyed I considered unsubscribing. Which is what I did in the case of  three other newsletters that have taken to sending me not one, not two, but as many as four emails a day. And every where I go I am being followed by banner ads for Totally Her which by the way - I would never have clicked on if not writing this article.

All this on a day when my Time Warner Internet connection has slowed to that of a snail and I am scheduled to be on HuffPostLive via webcam

Note that I am not as irritated by television marketing for one simple reason. I DVR everything I watch so I can fast forward past any attempts to rankle me further.  

It's getting a bit much - all this annoying behavior. I understand the reasons behind it. Everyone wants to be heard and/or seen. Most are so terrified that they will get lost in the noise that they resort to the antiquated methods of push marketing they are most comfortable with - shouting loudly and as often as possible.

Except for the fact that no longer works. The age of digital means the age of engagement. Tell me a story. Offer me good content. Pull me towards you.  Don't beat me over the head. Don't follow me wherever I go - relentless in your pursuit.

It's annoying. 

It doesn't work. 

If you've got a good product, if you're serving up fresh, engaging, useful content you won't have to remind me every hour. I'll know. I'll be looking for it.

I can't quite figure out why marketers aren't listening. Thirteen year old Ruby Karp who wrote an article this week in Mashable on why none of her friends use Facebook gets it. 
"Teens hate it when people try too hard; it pushes them away." 

The thing is - it's not just teens. Adults don't like it either.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

On Being Brave

I wasn't a brave kid. Take me someplace new and I did not stray far from my mother's side. I was shy. Afraid to open my mouth. Never knowing what to say. Terrified I might be  made fun of.  

I remember how it felt to be like that. When fear would consume my core and render me immobile. Unable to take a step much less even explain what I was feeling. 

To know me today, this might sound hard to believe. But it's true. Just ask my mother. She'll illustrate with the story of what happened when we first moved to Glen Oaks. 

The neighborhood, which sits on the outskirts of Queens, was an idyllic place to raise a family in the sixties. The apartments surrounded big grass courtyards lined with benches and filled with baby boomer kids allowed to play outside without having to schedule a date to do so. The neighbors watched out for each other. It was a safe place.

Apparently I was not convinced. 

One of those first days in the new apartment I was outside. My mother heard me screaming at the top of my lungs and raced to my side to find me standing in the middle of a circle of kids, tears streaming down my face, tiny fists clutched tight to my doll carriage.

I was too busy crying to say a word so she asked the kids what happened. They told her they didn't know.They told her they were just trying to be my friend.

That's how not brave a kid I was. 

I've struggled with being courageous and with speaking my mind for most of my life. I know what's it like when my body reacts, my mouth goes bone dry or my legs feel like they might give way underneath me.

Sometimes I've been clumsy in how I've gone about overcoming my insecurities. Somedays I still am. Somedays that inner child, the little insecure girl afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing wants to come out and play. 

I've learned how to deal with her now. But she has also made me acutely aware of what it takes to be really brave. She knows that even if it looks easy, it never is. And she still reminds me to pause and take note when someone else is stretching into their own courageous acts.

When I see a young woman, like Christina Huffington on the Today Show talking openly about how her addiction to cocaine almost killed her, I am in awe. When I read her articles on the Huffington Post and her story in Glamour, I am struck by her ability to be that articulate and honest about something that - given the option - which she had - most would hide from the public. She chose to be brave. She chose to demonstrate courage. She doesn't need the notoriety. She was born into it. Her mother is Arianna Huffington. She chose brave so that she might help others with her story.

I don't know what it's like to have that kind of substance addiction to anything but chocolate or coffee. 

But I do know what it's like to push past what might otherwise limit us. I know how appealing the choice to run and hide and not say a word can be. I know the risk that comes from putting yourself out there as fair game in a digital world in which there is no topic we will all ever agree on and something called Twitter that invites open discussion which too often includes spewing not so nice comments. 

I still struggle with being brave every day. Each time I hit publish on this blog and expose a little more of who I am and how I think  I get a little braver. But I never stop being scared.

Note: The doodle is an original - created on a very cool new social site called

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How Grown-Ups Act When Negotiating

Negotiation is one of those skills it's wise to get good at. And not just if your chosen profession involves high end deal making.

We all negotiate. Every day. With someone about something. 

I negotiate with my mother trying to get her to remember to drink more water, with myself over how many times this week I want to exercise, with my friend over where we will have dinner and whether we are drinking white or red tonight. Negotiation is not limited to striking a deal over money.

I've offered negotiation tips here before. I'm not alone. If you Google Negotiation Skills there are 11,700,000 results. Negotiation Strategies - 6,070,000. Negotiation Tactics - 6,210,00. A virtual wealth of information - for free.

Not everyone takes advantage of free. Not everyone looks to improve their negotiation skills. Congress reminds us every day of that. And now we have as David Carr in The New York Times so aptly put it "the self serving war of words by 2 giants in television." That would be CBS and Time Warner Cable.

So what happens when companies become too big to remember how to negotiate ?  

They forget to act like grown-ups.

1- Grown-ups don't go stomping their feet, slamming the door in your face and then refuse to sit at the same table and work things out.
2- Grown-ups don't try to enlist other people to come to their rescue by running accusatory ads about each other and begging customers to make phone calls on their behalf. 
3- Grown-ups don't underestimate the intelligence of the public. They know no one is going to feel more sorry for the company who reported $476 million in second quarter earnings than the one who reported $481 million.
4- Grown-ups know no matter how popular a show is, it no longer constitutes the leverage it used to. Nor ever will again. Those days are long behind us. They wouldn't run ridiculous ads implying our lives might end if we have to do without.  (So I missed Ray Donovan last night. I'll marathon watch when these two settle their school yard fight.)
5- Grown-ups don't pretend to be doing something for the greater good of the consumer and then go so low as to detect my ISP connection and block me so I can't watch on my iPad either. 
6-Grown-ups know the world is in disruption. They work on improving and building today's already fickle customer relationships. They don't consciously and deliberately add more smear to the ones already tarnished. They know there are other options - other shows to watch on other networks and other providers to get their connections through. And there is more on the way.
7- Grown-ups know everyone is on to the high drama. We've seen this act before. Eventually they will come to some sort of resolution. They need each other as much as they need the customer.
8-Grown-ups know when they are acting like a bunch of children.  And they get over it - fast - no matter how big their paycheck is or how much power they think they wield. 

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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Lesson Anthony Weiner Missed

OnLine Reputation Management was a topic this week in the graduate class I teach at NYU. It can be a complex subject in a world where the first touch points when encountering a brand, a business or a person are the results of a Google search. I didn't plan on the topic coinciding with a real life example of a brand gone astray - but then I didn't plan on being back blogging after just one day of rest from my 30-day blogging marathon. 

You see - I just couldn't help myself! Watching the Anthony Weiner for Mayor debacle provides such a great illustration for a lesson in managing reputations online.

We'll start with the Google search.

You'll notice 656 MILLION results at this writing and that is just for Anthony Weiner. Google also suggests these similar combinations :

Odd to see mayor and penis separated only by twitter - but somehow poetic.

The idea behind managing an online reputation is to try and take control of what one finds when searching you or your brand. If done right you can exert influence over that nice piece of real estate Google offers - for FREE - in the side bar. 

What shows up in the search results is based on those mysterious Google algorithms used as the famous Googlebot  trolls the web in search of treasure. This means that managing an online reputation can be a really difficult job when you are posting pictures of your bare chest (among other body parts) on highly used social networks.

Most experts on the topic of online reputation management  will suggest a brand have two teams working this.

Team One is ongoing - actively monitoring what is being said about you, engaging in social media, and working to create content that accurately depicts the message you want the brand to send. This is the group that has the opportunity to control what those first links are that will appear when a search is performed. Part of their job is to minimize anything unsavory that has the potential to go viral.

Here are the first links that appear when Anthony Weiner is typed in on July 31.

Mmm. Someone is not doing their job. 

Enter Team Two.

Team Two is the crisis team. A crisis team ideally should represent these four areas:
-Public Relations
-Human Resources
-Executive Management

This is the group that has brainstormed all the possible scenarios of what can and could go wrong and created a plan - ready to go - if needed. Collectively this group works to minimize any damages that are the result of a misinterpretation of a message sent or an unseen and unaccounted meteor from outer space landing in your office that you now have to deal with- like reports of sexting pictures of yourself under a pseudonym.  

Team Two should be your top notch people, the ones entrusted to make it all go away as quickly and with as little mess as possible. No one in this group would think to add fuel to the fire much less think to call interns "sluts" and then issue an apology via a twitter pic to ease the damage.

Or would they?  The above tweet is from Weiner's communications director after her expletive filled rant.

Managing a reputation - online - can be an overwhelming job in a 24/7 digital world where there are lots of things that are beyond our control. 

Which leaves us only to work with the things we can control. 

-Like thinking things through.
-Using our common sense.
-Communicating internally. 
-Having a sense of right and wrong.  
-Understanding that sometimes the mess can get so big, there is no recourse but to take the brand off the market, out of sight and rethink what direction you want to go in the future. (Anthony Weiner - I really hope you are reading this)

It might sound like managing it all is a monumental task. 

But it's really not. 

Not if you start with this suggestion from online reputation management expert and author Lori Randall Stradtman -
"... only post things you wouldn't mind seeing on a billboard."

Because you never know when you might see it there. 

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