Sunday, December 30, 2012

Starbucks' "Newsjacking" Attempt Falls Off the Cliff

Starbuck's attempt to "newsjack" deficit negotiations has fallen off its own cliff.

Last week, CEO Howard Shultz asked the employees at 125 Washington, DC-area stores to scribble the phrase "Come Together" on the paper cups they hand customers. 

But employees aren't cooperating.

I asked three of them why.

"We're too busy," one said.

"We can't remember to do it," said another.

"It's pretty stupid," said the third.

Lesson learned: There's many a slip between the cup and the lip. 

If you want to newsjack successfully, first get your employees on board.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Teach Your Children

Every year, Washington, DC's public schools spend more per child than any state in the nation ($29,409, to be precise). Yet DC's students continue among the nation's poorest performers in math and reading, and only 60 percent finish high school.

We understand the reason, as  our forebears understood it a century ago, when the following appeared in Gustav Stickley's magazine The Craftsman:

"Before the home can be expected to do its share toward solving this problem of education that now besets the country and puzzles the wisest heads among us, there would have to be some change in the character of the home. But of this we do not despair. The present tendency toward trivial pursuits and artificial living is merely the reaction from the hard and burdensome drudgery of household and farm work a generation or two ago. When the burden was lifted by the introduction of machines and labor-saving devices it was only natural that the pendulum should swing in the opposite direction and that work and education alike should be delegated to the organizations of trained workers outside the home.

“But it is pretty nearly time for the pendulum to swing back, and even now we are beginning to realize that lighter burdens and added leisure mean that we now have time for real life and moral and mental growth on a broader scale than we have ever known before. When we grasp the opportunity and utilize it for the training of our children, there will be no more ground for complaint against the schools.”

You can't change the "character of the home" in DC. 
But you can help increase literacy. Donate now to DC LEARNS.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Write Once. Edit Five Times.

Concerning copy, quintessential adman David Ogilvy once told a fellow writer, "I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor."

To compensate for his lack of skill, Ogilvy would edit his own work.
"After four or five editings," he said, "it looks good enough to show to the client."

Lousy copy is king on the Web, where carelessness takes a back seat to craft.

Nonsense like this is the norm:

Reach all Convention attendees who opt in to receive a Convention Program (approximately 10,000) for the APA Annual Convention, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 31-Aug. 4, 2013. As an advertiser in this highly visible vehicle, you have a unique opportunity to promote your organization’s products or services in the APA Convention Program. Seeing your ad with your booth number ensures you are on each attendee’s “map”—reinforcing your booth objectives for the show.

Had the writer cared, a single edit would have bolstered her effort:

Make sure you're on the map! Promote your exhibit by advertising in the APA Convention Program, a must-read for 10,000 attendees.

Just imagine what five edits might do.

Next time you write, take Ogilvy's advice: Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit.

PS: For more good-writing tips from David Ogilvy, check out Branding Strategy Insider.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Why Your Trigger Happiness isn't Worth Our Harm

I'm troubled when a few Americans put their personal happiness on a pedestal above all others'.

That's what many gun owners are doing.

They stand their ground on the Second Amendment. But private gun ownership is a moral question, not a Constitutional one.

A majority of Americans can change the Constitution (go see the movie Lincoln, if you have any doubt). 

No one can change what's moral.

It's moral to respect another person's life. No Constitutional right invalidates that fact.

Constitutional rights may be curtailed to protect others from harms that can arise from the exercise of those rights.

I have, for example, a Constitutional right to worship freely. But it doesn't permit me to sacrifice humans (although human sacrifice might be central to my religion).

Right now, the burden is on gun owners to prove why unfettered gun ownership isn't causing terrible harm to others.

They can't.

That's because guns cause harmby designand are in too many private hands.

Americans have a moral reason to curtail private gun ownership, just as we curtail the ownership of dynamite, hand grenades and nuclear bombs.

Sorry gun owners: your trigger happiness isn't worth our harm.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

With Web Videos, Short Trumps Long

Short Web videos are more effective than long ones, according to a new study by AOL.

The study found:
  • For brand recall, short beat long by 25 percent
  • For creating purchase intent, short beat long by 42 percent
Although viewers understand that ads are the cost of free Web content, they're adopting the same ad-avoidance habits TV watchers have (changing channels, multitasking, leaving the room, etc.).

To counteract those habits, the study says, you should produce short Web videos that include coupons, contests and links.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Kearny's Castle is a Civil War novel.

I've been working on it for several years.

I couldn't send you a fruitcake, so here's Chapter One as a gift.

Download it now.

And have a very Merry Christmas!

Note: The work is Copyright 2012 by Robert F. James

Thursday, December 20, 2012

B2B Execs Socially Unaware

B2B executives don’t get social media, according to marketer Lenna Garibia, writing for MarketingProfs.

Citing new research by Harris Interactive, she notes:
  • 43% say they rarely or never consider the social media reputation of their firms when making key decisions
  • 67% say they could not respond to a hostile social-media post within a day, and
  • 13% say they wouldn’t bother
There’s a weird geographic difference among the execs.

Those who live in the northeast are much more likely to care about the social media reputation of their firms than those who live in the west.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Under Toad

I met Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson at a conference once.

It was 1972. The country was deep in the throes of a Presidential election.

Four months earlier, segregationist and gun-loving Alabama Governor George Wallace had lost his bid for the Presidency thanks to a would-be assassin.

I asked Dr. Thompson whether he thought Wallace might change his stance on gun control after being shot five times in the chest and stomach.

"I don't know," Thompson snarled. "But I do know this. Everyone should carry a gun. We all should carry guns. The streets would be a lot safer. America would be a better place."

Thirty-three years later, depressed and deathly ill, Hunter Thompson blew off the top of his head with a shotgun.

I don't understand the pleasure of gun ownership. I don't understand the thrill of hunting animals. But a lot of people I know and admire enjoy both those things.

As a parent, however, I understand how fear and loathing due to the loss of a child could exceed any imaginable sorrow.

In his novel The World According to Garp, John Irving famously described the brutal workings of the "Under Toad," code-words for "the forces that disrupt human life and sometimes destroy it." The life of a child, in particular.

The Under Toad visited Newtown, Connecticut, last week.

Several parents will never feel sorrow-less again.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Phenomenology of Selling

Journalist Philip Broughton has written The Art of the Sale, far and away the best book on sales I've ever read.

Good old-fashioned reporting is the reason for the book's success.

"There are more lies told about selling than any other aspect of business life," Broughton writes in the introduction. "So I went in search of some truths."

Along the way, Broughton interviews dozens of top-flight sales executivesincluding Tony Sullivan (The Smart Mop), Ted Leonsis (AOL), Jeffrey Gitomer (Little Red Book of Selling), Larry Gagosian (Gagosian Gallery), Augie Turak (MTV), Marc Benioff ( and Howard Anderson (Yankee Group)in hopes of learning what makes a great salesperson tick.

He uncovers a ton of truths and, in the end, learns that, "The traits required to sell (resilience, conviction, persistence, and likability) are not just needed in business, but in life."

Rather than a quilt of Ziglar-esque adages or some impossible-to-grasp system, The Art of the Sale offers a phenomenology of selling.

If you have to drive revenue, the picture Broughton paints will inspire.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Going Broke? Maybe Your Website's Broken.

Research firm Forrester asked 5,200 customers what they do when a Website fails them.

According to the study, Websites That Don’t Support Customers Waste Millions, they:
  • Pick up the phone. 35% call when your Website lets them down.
  • Take their business elsewhere. 17% move to a competitor. 
  • Give up. 17% abandon their purchase.
Forrester also gauged the cost of broken Websites and concluded:
  • Large e-retailers are losing $47 million in direct income every year.
  • Large e-retailers are adding $47 million to their cost of sales every year.
For 14 years, Forrester has been evaluating B2C and B2B Websites. 

It estimates that only 3% aren't broken.

To learn if yours is broken, Forrester recommends you ask. "The only way to know whether a site visit was a success is to ask the customers," the report states. 

Ask visitors three simple questions:
  • What did you come to the site to do today?
  • Were you able to accomplish that goal?
  • If not, why not?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More on Mobile-Friendly Websites

"Is your Website changing with the mobile revolution, or is it remaining stagnant?" asks online marketer Sarah Tharp, writing for Biznology.

An unfriendly site costs your business dearly, Tharp insists.
"I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I’ve attempted to access a Website online, and because of glaring functionality and usability issues, have gone back to the search results and given my business to a competitor site," Tharp writes.
What's fundamental to a mobile-friendly site?
  • Fast page-loading
  • Navigation with tabs to information most needed by mobile users
  • Pages that require little or no scrolling
  • Large buttons that can be easily pressed
  • An easily accessible search bar
  • A phone number with a “click to call” option
  • An address that can be clicked to automatically present directions
At a minimum, every business should know how its Website appears on mobile devices and how mobile users are experiencing it, Tharp says.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Secrets of Teamwork

Thomas Edison's great grandniece has penned Midnight Lunch, a 300-page book that reveals the inventor's four-faceted approach to teamwork.
  • Edison built teams from diverse disciplines. The team that invented the lightbulb included chemists, mathmeticians and glassblowers.
  • The inventor learned from his mistakes. After state and local governments rejected his electronic vote recorder, Edison decided to focus exclusively on consumer products.
  • Edison's vision kept the teams on track. When team members floundered or disagreed, the boss quickly intervened, deciding the course.
  • Edison changed direction with the market. Other inventors of the day ignored the fact that consumers wanted products powered by electricityand failed.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Want to Write Better Case Sudies? Ask Aristotle.

In Poetics, Aristotle wrote that every tragedy has three stages:

1. An inciting moment

2. A climactic struggle and

3. A resolution

Every case study, when you think about it, has the same structure as well:

1. The opening scene depicts a disturbing incident. Your customer suddenly finds her welfare threatened. Readers feel her pain.

2. A climactic struggle ensues. Your company helps the customer solve her problem. She emerges a hero.

3. A resolution is reached. Things resort to status quo. And readers are compelled to act. Because they, too, can be heroes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How to Win Fans and Influence Equals

In his 2,300-year old book Rhetoric, Aristotle argued, "It is not enough to know what we ought to say; we must also know how to say it."

Aristotle was convinced that rhetoric (the art of persuasion) comprised three elements: facts, language and style.

Although most of us would insist that the only thing that matters in a serious discussion are the facts, Aristotle knew that style "affects the success of a speech greatly."

Or, as in the words of British novelist Joseph Conrad, "He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word."

To succeed in persuading others of your views, according to Aristotle, you should:
  • Rely on plain, everyday language
  • Include a few rhetorical flourishes, to give your message impact
  • Avoid "strange words, compound words and invented words;" and
  • Use metaphors
I wish more marketers would take a look at Aristotle's Rhetoric before attempting to persuade us of their views.

The business world would become a lot more gobbledygook-free.

Consider the following statement, for example, courtesy of Facebook. (The company plans to abolish users' right to vote for or against changes to its privacy policies.)

In the past, your substantive feedback has led to changes to the proposals we made. However, we found that the voting mechanism, which is triggered by a specific number of comments, actually resulted in a system that incentivized the quantity of comments over their quality. Therefore, we’re proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement.

Just imagine, for example, if Facebook's vice president wrote this instead:

Before we change any privacy policy, we always consider your advice. But a handful of users, by repeatedly posting comments, have been gaming the system. We want to prevent that.
Want to learn more about the art of persuasion?
Check out my white paper.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Marketing Lessons from the Three Stooges

For pure marketing genius, contemporary giants like Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz and Tony Hsieh shrink in comparison to the three ur-marketers.

I'm talking about Moe, Larry and Curly.

Sure, attend all the marketing conferences you want. Follow all the blogs. Study all the books. Consume all the CDs.

You won't learn a tenth of what you'll learn by watching any one of The Stooges' shorts.

To save you time, I've boiled their innumerable brand-building insights down to three key lessons:

Make great products. The boys always innovated and never imitated! Want to make a great cupcake? Add pillow feathers. A great microbrew? Add a whole box of alum. A great soup? Add a live oyster.

Keep a laser-focus on your goals. The boys understood the paramount importance of attention to detail and keeping "on task." Which of their competitors would have spent as much time fixing a leaking pipe? Pitching a tent? Eating an artichoke?

Utilize short, snappy content. As content marketers, The Stooges were ahead of their time. They drew millions of fans by keeping their messages brief and on point. And they built a loyal following by perfecting a consistently edgyand authentictone. While you don't want merely to copy the boys, it will help if you break rocks over your head, mistake a skunk for your hat, and rip out clumps of your own hair.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

2013: The Year the Social Networks Make or Break Your Brand

Branding Strategy Insider offers 13 tasty predictions for 2013.

Among them is this morsel: brands wll become increasingly susceptible to the chatter on social networks next year.

"Watch for greater influences of engagement and purchase habits via friends and social networks," Insider says.

"Brands will have to factor in the reality that peer-to-peer communications come in three varieties: good, bad and bland. This makes companies more susceptible to consumer indifference, their conversations and social interactions."

Marketers who want to compete need to understand how social networks actually work, or risk  being marginalized.

"The brands that make it here will know the 'how' of this consumer-controlled space," Insider concludes.

Friday, November 30, 2012


During a phone call this week, blogger Michelle Bruno complained to me about the unsavory folks who copy the content of her blog, Fork in the Road, and publish it under their own names.

"I see my stuff all over the place," she said.

Michelle spoke with resignation. 

But I'll take a New York minute to call out these plagiarists.

Or, as I prefer, carpetbaggers.

You'll remember from US history classes that carpetbaggers were opportunists who descended on the vanquished South just after the Civil War. They exploited Southerners by stealing their land and businesses.

The term is synonymous with "crook," "charlatan," "plunderer" and "thief."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Time to Quit Facebook?

Copyblogger's Sonia Simone thinks content marketers should quit Facebook.

Because you can't control what social platforms like Facebook do, she says, it's risky to build your business on another company's "virtual land."

"The minute you actually depend on Facebook for your business, they will change their terms of service in a way that causes you pain," Simone writes.

Publishing on social platforms like Facebook benefits the platforms' owners, nothing more.

They goad you to post content so you'll win a bunch of "Likes."

But that's only a ruse.

In reality, according to Simone, your publishing efforts "are helping them build an audience they can show their spammy display ads to."

Worse yet, Facebook isn't about selling.

"People go to Facebook to share duckface selfies, pictures of grandkids, and memes from George Takei," Simone says.

And while it's still possible to engage people with your Facebook posts, "'engagement' does not equal 'customers.'"

You Facebook posts will get Likes that never lead to sales.

"That’s not marketing," Simone says. "It’s an annoying hobby."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Google+ Boosts SEO

Social media maven Courtney Kettmann, writing for Socialmouths, says that Google+, because it's owned by Google, will boost your company's search engine rankings.
"Posts and accounts will appear high in Google search results," she writes. "This is beneficial to a business, as it can help improve the SEO of a company’s Website."
The extra search-engine hits "alone make Google+ essential for a business," according to Kettman.
Google+ posts with images and videos score particularly high among visitors, she notes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

500 Million Twits

Five hundred million. 
That's how many people now use Twitter.
Pew Research Center says that daily use of Twitter has doubled in one year.
Andamong 18-24 year oldsTwitter use has increased four times during the past two years.
The rise of smartphones and mobile apps may account for the growth.
Smartphone users are particularly likely to use Twitter, according to Pew.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Get with YouTube?

Are you hoarding videos on your Website, hoping someone will find them?


Get with YouTube.

YouTube's search engine will deliver new leads, according to Julie Perry, vice president, BLASTmedia. That's because:
  • YouTube includes your video in viewers' searches for related topics, including famous people and products.
  • Like Amazon, YouTube recommends videos whenever viewers log on. So It's easy to get in front of the ones who are interested in your products.
  • YouTube sends weekly emails to viewers who subscribe to your channel. So whenever you upload a new video, they'll find out. 

Many marketers don't realize the power or popularity of YouTube's search engine (second only to Google's), according to Perry.

"There are so many opportunities there for being discovered," she says. "It’s really the way of Web 2.0. You want to be where you can be findable if people want to discover you."

Andbecause Google owns YouTubesearch results on the leading search engine will turn up your videos on YouTube much faster than they will from anyplace else. 

Especially your Website.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

5 Steps to Mobile-friendly Emails

Customers are most likely to read your emails on smartphones and tablets, according to research by Return Path.

Follow these five steps to make your emails mobile-friendly:

1. Use a one-column layout. Vertical scrolling is more natural to mobile users.

2. Use larger fonts, bigger buttons and high-contrast colors. Make it easy for readers to differentiate your email's elements.

3. Include a link in the pre-header. The link should take readers to text-only orbettermobile-optimized version of your email (essential if you want to influence Blackberry users).

4. Keep emails short. Edit ruthlessley and use attention-grabbing calls to action. Your emails will be read during brief intervals of downtime.

5. Link readers only to mobile-friendly Web pages. It's futile to send readers to a Web page that can only be read on a desktop.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Original TED Talk

Teddy Roosevelt delivered "The Right of the People to Rule" in New York's Carnegie Hall on March 20, 1912.

Six days before, The New York Times heralded the speech through an article headlined ROOSEVELT INTENDS TO MAKE THINGS HUM.

Teddy chastised his party for its "ultra-conservatism" and ended on this high note: "In order to succeed we need leaders of inspired idealism; leaders to whom are granted great visions; who dream greatly and strive to make their dreams come true; who can kindle the people with the fire from their own burning souls."


Friday, November 23, 2012

Big Data Hurts Brands

Crossing the Chasm Geoffrey Moore thinks Web ads personalized by Big Data will harm—not helpyour brand.
In a blog post on LinkedIn, Moore says that, while Big Data and predictive analytics boost online advertising response rates a couple points, "they do not deliver a more personal, more relevant, or more one-to-one consumer experience."
"Don’t think that any of these techniques are going to create 'delight' among your target audience any time soon," he writes. "They aren’t. Spam is spam, with or without your maple syrup.  When you spam, you are consuming brand equity—not creating it. That’s what 'personalized' ads do."
If you want to create brand equity, Moore says, you have to engage your fans in a community, so they talk about you. 
Brand equity "is driven by social interactions with others in your target consumer’s community of interest," Moore writes. "By sponsoring such interactions, by facilitating them, and by (selectively) participating in them, you can indeed grow brand equity."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Three Secrets to More Sales

Responsible for B2B sales? Here are three secrets to better results: 
1. Do your prospecting with email. Emails get far better attention than cold telephone calls and are a lot less resented. They're easier to scan and digest. But don't send blasts to big lists. Handpick the people you send emails to and personalize them.

2. Keep your pitch short and relevant. Give every prospect an urgent reason to reach out to you. Use an event in the prospect's life (an internal reorganization, a merger, a downsizing, a change in the law, etc.) to trigger that response. Refer to the event in your subject line.

3. Don't give up 'til you've touched the prospect seven times. Most emails will not get a response. Don't let that deter you. Keep sending at two-week intervals. And be prepared for the phone call from your prospect (that's how more than 90 percent of prospects will reach out to you, if they do). Make that first person-to-person experience irreproachable.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bread and Circuses

Will games become the new social divide?

TIME reports this week that 70 percent of big companies will embrace gamification in 2013.

While most will use gamification to attract customers, many companies40 percent, according to new research from Gartnerwill embrace it as an employee-retention tool.

Endorsing the latter, 20-something gamifier Katherine Heisler recently urged readers of Forbes to gamify the jobs of next-gen workers.

Citing a new workplace survey by MTV, Heisler argues that "Millenials overwhelmingly agree that their jobs should reflect their lifestyle."

The workplace, in short, should be "social and fun."

"Some people think of my generation as lazy, good-for-nothing slackers, feeling entitled to everything and entirely lacking a work ethic," Heisler writes. 

"But that’s wrong: Millennials have an incredible work ethic. We want to work, we want to succeed and want to reshape the world in our image. We are simply motivated in non-traditional ways."

When I was young and struggling alongside my fellow Boomers for a handhold on the slippery corporate ladder, money was a pretty good motivator.

Butexcluding those at the very top of the laddermoney's in short supply today.

Will employers compensate for today's measly paychecks with "social and fun?"

Will circuses take the place of bread?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lincoln Would Have Loved Twitter

FCC chair and part-time historian Tom Wheeler wrote a cool book a few years ago titled Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.

It attributes the North's victory over the South to Lincoln's embrace of the telegraph, the "killer app" of the 1860s.

Lincoln, as history shows, was a super-skilled telegraph user, while his Rebel foes were, well, late adopters. (They were also late adopters of civil rights, but that's another story.) 

Lincoln, Wheeler contends, took advantage of the real-time nature of the telegraph to direct the Yankees on the battlefield, enabling them to run circles around the Johnnies.

When Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails first hit the shelves, Twitter was only three months old, with hardly any users. But, had he foreseen its surge in popularity, I'm sure Wheeler would have agreed: Lincoln would have loved Twitter.

Of course, Lincoln couldn't have Tweeted top secret orders to his generals. But he could have used Twitter to rouse the troops who followed them.

It's easy to imagine some of the momentous microbursts that might have come from our most articulate president:

During the massive Union rout at First Bull Run. "Stop running! The Marine Corps Marathon is next week, you morons."  

After the Union triumph at Gettysburg. "Rebs in full retreat. Stay tuned. Speech to follow."

After Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox. "Mission accomplished. Ulysses, you're doing a heck of a job!"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's All Copy

Nora Ephron once told Vanity Fair that on her deathbed Ephron's writer-mother said, "'No matter what happens, it's all copy."

When troubles beset you, are you able to say the same thing?

Historians Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni recently told readers of
Forbes the world is ready for a return to Stoicism, the philosophy practiced by ancient Romans.

"Stoicism tells us that no happiness can be secure if it's rooted in changeable, destructible things," the historians wrote.

"Our bank accounts can grow or shrink, our careers can prosper or falter, even our loved ones can be taken from us. There is only one place the world can't touch: our inner selves."

While the world might rob us of everything, the Stoic calmly says, "It's all copy."

"Stoicism teaches us that, before we try to control events, we have to control ourselves first. Our attempts to exert influence on the world are subject to chance, disappointment, and failure—but control of the self is the only kind that can succeed 100 percent of the time."

Got Stoicism?

It's. All. Copy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Skipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell made intelligible the "social epidemic" in his best-seller The Tipping Point.

He explained why word-of-mouth advertising could elevate a product like Hush Puppies to international stardom overnight.

A lot of marketers, hoping for a Tipping Point, rely instead on a Skipping Point.

No one's talking about their products. But they believe they can convince you otherwise by using hackneyed attributes such as "industry leading" and "best of breed."

No matter how hard you try, you can't skip to the head of the class.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Perfect B2B Posts

Inc. offers these tips for publishing perfect B2B posts:

On LinkedIn, you should:
  • Use 16-25 words
  • End posts with exclamation marks
  • Avoid ending posts with question marks
  • Post between 9 am and 1 pm
  • Post at the top and bottom of the hour 
  • Post on Sundays

On Twitter, you should:
  • Use 11-15 words
  • Use numbers and numerals
  • Use hashtags
  • Avoid ending posts with exclamation marks (unlike LinkedIn!)
  • Avoid ending posts with question marks
  • Tweet between 10 am and noon
  • Tweet at the top and bottom of the hour
  • Tweet on Wednesdays

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Burned Out?

Too busy to perform your job well?

Join the crowd.
New research by Towers Watson reveals that, thanks to workforce cutbacks during the past five years, "employees feel overwhelmed by seemingly impossible workloads and endless demands on their time."
That stress is driving four in every ten employees to "disengage" from their jobs.
Towers Watson suggests that employers need to stop trying to squeeze more out of people and start concentrating on their fundamental need for down-time.
What should employers do?
Towers Watson says they should allow flexible work-schedules, encourage telecommuting, and permit workers to curtail the length of meetings and the hours during which they'll answer emails.
Ironically, while many employers promote wellness programs that offer incentives to employees who exercise, diet or manage chronic illnesses, the same employers are harming their employees with overwork, Towers Watson says.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thumb Like It Hot

Marketing agency owner Dave Kerpen has followed his first book, Likeable Social Media, with a readable companion, Likeable Business.

The 200-page book sets out to prove Kerpen's thesis that, to run a successful business in chatty times, "businesspeople must be obsessed with their customers and prospects, and always do right by them." The book draws out eleven "principles for a likeable business" that if followed "together make for more likeable leaders and better, more customer-centric organizations."

None of the principles Kerpen sets forth are new (in fact, they've been covered ad nauseam by scores of other writers). But true to his second principle ("Tell great stories"), he includes hundreds of present-day examples that more than justify the time spent reading the book.

Typical of these is the tale of an "authentic" CEO who handed an employee $25,000 after the worker stole that amount in goods from the company, saying, "I must not have given you enough of a bonus last year if you had to steal from us" (the CEO grew up poor and understood the motives for theft). Or the "transparent" CEO who keeps open her firm's financials for every employee and supplier to see, to ensure that "the team maintains its democratic culture."

However, some of Kerpen's storiesnamely the ones about himselfmake you wonder why his clients trust him with their reputations. The author has committed some real boners. Those stories are another reason to pick up Likeable Business.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Want to Be More Productive? Sit Around.

Meditation makes you more productive, says consultant Peter Bregman in Harvard Business Review.

Meditation increases your ability to resist counterproductive urges, such as the urge to interrupt other speakers; to procrastinate; or to play office politics.

"If you can resist your urges, you can make better, more thoughtful decisions," Bregman says. "You can be more intentional about what you say and how you say it. You can think about the outcome of your actions before following through on them."

While not every urge is counterproductive, many are. Meditation helps you distinguish valuable urges from futile ones.

"Urges hold useful information," Bregman writes. "If you're hungry, it may be a good indication that you need to eat. But it also may be an indication that you're bored or struggling with a difficult piece of work. Meditation gives you practice having power over your urges so you can make intentional choices about which to follow and which to let pass."
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