Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why Event Planners Should Consider Height

Part 3 of a 5-part series on event design

When planners assign rooms at an event, room length and width get all the attention.

But a room's third dimension should be given equal consideration.

According to neuroscience research, high ceilings promote creative and abstract thinking.

Low ceilings promote detail- and task-oriented thinking.

High ceilings also lure attendees to linger in a room.

Low ceilings do just the opposite.

Thanks to Ron Graham of Freeman for providing this event-design tip.

NOTE: I wrote this post in 2013, not imagining that two years later I'd be employed by Freeman. Wonders never cease. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why Event Planners Should Cut Choices

Part 2 of a 5-part series on event design

Choices have power over us.

Too many can cause us to crumble.

If you're offering attendees too wide an assortmentdozens of hotels, seminars, menu items, networking activities or after-partiesyou're doing them a disservice.

It hardly matters attendees always say they want unlimited options.

According to neuroscience research, vast selection inhibits decisionmaking.

Cutting choices to three or four eliminates attendees' anxiety and helps them decide.

Thanks to Ron Graham of Freeman for providing this event-design tip.

NOTE: I wrote this post in 2013, not imagining that two years later I'd be employed by Freeman. Wonders never cease. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Event Planners Should Be Nature-Lovers

Part 1 of a 5-part series on event design

The trade show decorator Freeman hopes to apply a decade's worth of discoveries in the field of neuroscience to event design. Freeman's Ron Graham shared with me some of the firm's background research.

"We can never have enough of nature," Thoreau wrote in Walden.

According to neuroscience research, environments rich in nature images reduce stress and improve concentration.

By incorporating imagery evocative of nature into events, planners can promote learning.

NOTE: I wrote this post in 2013, not imagining that two years later I'd be employed by Freeman. Wonders never cease. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Too Much Information. Not.

E-com exec Hiroshi Mikitani says you can't get too much info.

“If anything, to be successful, one must embrace all kinds of information, all the time.”

Mikitani cites a passage from the 16th-century Book of Five Rings, by samurai-author Miyamoto Musashi.

Observing a carpenter at work, Musashi sees ways for readers to sharpen their skills:

The carpenter will make it a habit of maintaining his tools sharp so they will cut well. Using these sharp tools masterfully, he can make miniature shrines, writing shelves, tables, paper lanterns, chopping boards and pot-lids. These are the specialties of the carpenter. Things are similar for the soldier. You ought to think deeply about this.

"Answers and ideas are often hidden within completely unrelated things," Mikitani says. 

To spot them, you must approach the world with curiosity.

"There is nothing in the world unrelated to your life. That fire hose of information that douses you constantly is a blessing, not a curse."

The point? 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Blogging is Easy. Just Open a Vein.

Two in three B2B marketers say producing sufficient content is their biggest challenge, according to a new study by the Content Marketing Institute.
But blogging's easy, if you think like a journalist.
Lack of content never fazed famed journalist Kurt Loder, who once said, "News is anything that's interesting, that relates to what's happening in the world, what's happening in areas of the culture that would be of interest to your audience."
News in your industry is anything that's trending around your products and services. 
That means industry-focused content is all around youin mainstream newspapers, television shows, trade magazines, scholarly journals and nichey newslettersjust waiting for your unique spin.
If anything's a challenge, it's the latter effort. 
Spin demands a little sweat.
As another famed journalist, Red Smith, once said, "Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein."

Friday, February 22, 2013

How Did We Get the Word "Target?"

Part 5 in a 5-part series on word histories

The Franks used the word targe to signify an archer's shield.

During breaks from battle, archers would hang their shields on trees and shoot at them to improve their aim.

By the 14th century, the French used targette to denote a light shield.

Two centuries later, English-speakers adopted the word.

By the 18th century, target came to mean something shot at for practice.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Where DId We Get the Word "Salary?"

Part 4 of a 5-part series on word histories

In Ancient Rome, centuries before refrigeration, soldiers received a regular allowance to buy sal, the Latin word for salt.

They used the salt to preserve food.

The allowance was called a salarium.

English-speakers eventually changed the word to salary.

Echoing the word's origin, we still say, "He's worth his salt."

And if an Ancient  Roman soldier went beyond the call of duty he received a bonusthe Latin word for good.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Where Did We Get the Word "Zombie?"

Part 3 of a 5-part series on word histories

During the 18th and 19th centuries, along with thousands of West Africans, voodoo was transported to North America on slave ships.

Voodoo's practitioners brought with them the word zombie, the name for a snake god with the power to reanimate the dead.

When the dead walked, they were called zombies.

Got it? 

Now, run!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where Did We Get the Word "Slogan?"

Part 2 of a 5-part series on word histories

Slogan has a war-loving past.

The Irish word for army is sluagh.

In Irish, sluagh was combined with gairm, the word for shout, to mean war cry.

Sluaghgairm later appeared in Scottish English as slogorn.

By the 17th century, the word was spelled slogan and conveyed the meaning motto

In the early 20th centuryaround the time of World War Islogan became synonymous with a company's or group's goal or position.

NOTE: Today's post, Number 300, is a milestone. It feels like one, anyway. Stay thirsty, my friends.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where Did We Get the Word "Budget?"

Part 1 of a 5-part series on word histories

Many of the most common words, to borrow a phrase from Nietszche, are "coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins."

Where did we get the word "budget?"

The Ancient Romans called a leather pouch a bulga.

The French, by the 12th century, called it a bougette.

The English borrowed the French word in the 15th century, transforming it into bowgette.

By the 16th century, the English pronounced the word as budget. To them, budget meant the contents of a pouch.

Flash forward to the 18th century and you'll find the English government using budget to mean a statement of our financial position.

By the 19th century, budget was being used to mean the money available for households and businesses, as well the government.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How to Succeed in Business without Really Spying

Ninjas were 16th century James Bonds who were tapped by their samurai masters for the dirty work of spying, sabotage and assassination.

Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, thinks ninjas created the die from which today's business winners are cast.

He draws out that comparison entertainingly in his new 250-page book Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses.

"Ninja innovation is my catch-all phrase for what it takes to succeed," Shapiro writes in the introduction. 

"You have to display the qualities of the ancient Japanese ninja, whose only purpose was to complete the job. He wasn't bound by precedent; he had to invent new ways."

In defining ninja innovation, Shapiro offers a quasi-memoir that might have been titled My Life in Consumer Electronics

The stories are fun and the major charactersincluding Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban and Mark Zuckerbergmostly notable.

From the book we learn that business innovators, though not literally given to spying, like James Bond are particularly single-minded. They don't think twice about breaking the "rules of the game" to win.

Shapiro scatters among the lessons lengthy gripes about US immigration policy, government regulation and unions, leftovers from his first book, The Comeback.

But the fresh material—especially his inside look at lobbying and the history of the Consumer Electronics Show—makes Shapiro's new book worth reading.

In an interview, I asked him whether business success demands that you play the tough guy.

"Absolutely not," Shapiro replied. "In fact, that's a recipe for not being successful. Instead, you have to think like a ninja. You have to be clever, creative, and think outside the box. You have to set a goal and relentlessly pursue it. You have to have a plan and a strategy and you have to be focused."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How to Toot Your Horn at a Tradeshow

You can trumpet your message at a tradeshow if you know what the audience seeks, says exhibit marketing expert Mim Goldberg in an interview with eConnections.

Effective graphics draws the audience into your booth and "creates memorability and validity to follow up after the event," Goldberg says.

But to be effective, booth graphics must be simple and focused on the audience's needs.

"Consequently, knowing and understanding your target audience is necessary," Goldberg says.

Pinpointing solutions is smart. Money-savings. Time-savings. Better productivity.

Illustrating big ideas is not. A booth that tries too hard to will be ignored or forgotten. "You can always tell if an [ad] agency has done the graphics for a show because they look like blown-up ads," Goldberg says.

But booth graphics alone aren't enough. "Verbal messaging and some form of interaction are necessary," Goldberg says.

"For example, if your company’s message is saving money, have graphics, discuss how your company can do this and, if possible, have a product that can demonstrate how this may occur."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Think Billboard

Want to know if a new-product idea is any good?
Create an ad for it. 
Or, better yet, a billboard.
That's how Apple rose "from flame to fame" in the late '90s.
Using journal entries and agency memos, California adman Rob Siltanen constructs an account of the birth of Apple's legendary "Think different" campaign in Branding Strategy Insider.
On a July afternoon in 1997, in a cluttered conference room inside Siltanen's agency, the campaign began life as a series of billboards. 
They looked just like the ads that would eventually appear on TV and in newspapers and magazines nationwide a few months later.
The idea for the campaign paired two sources: an IBM ad campaign running at the time ("Think IBM") and Ralph Waldo Emerson's chestnut, “To be a genius is to be misunderstood."
No sooner had "Think Different" launched than "Apple became the talk of the town," Siltanen recalls. 
The ads pushed consumers "to suddenly think about the brand in a whole new way."
Within 12 months, Apple rolled out the multicolored iMac and the company's stock price shot up 300 percent.
Want an acid test for your new idea?
Think billboard.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Elevator Post

Readers report they enjoy Copy Points because the posts are concise.

That's no accident.

I think of each post as the e-version of an "elevator speech."

And the elevator is in downtown Washington, DC, where no building may be taller than 14 stories (so as not to contravene Jefferson's vision for Our Nation's Capital).

It's mind-boggling that, in the age of Tweets and TED Talks, so many bloggers are windbags.

They've forgotten one of Strunk and White's chief lessons:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Got that?

Make. Every. Word. Tell.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

5 Scary Social Media Trends

Pity the corporation. In an obdurately unfriendly world, it has to maximize shareholder value.

A little thing like a broken guitar can bust millions in market cap. And batter a reputation as well.

Blame it on social media.

"Social media and the technology behind itWeb 2.0has forever changed how corporations 'manage' reputation," writes Ogilvy PR's John H. Bell in Corporate Reputation in the "Social Age."

The danger, Bell says, lies in "the explosion of consumer-generated media found in more than 150 million blogs, social networks, consumer opinion sites, video and picture sharing networks, and worldwide message boards."

Five big trends affect how corporations manage their reputations today, Bell believes.

Hypertransparency. With 150 million active social media users, there are "thousands of forensic accountants, social watchdogs and activists watching your company," Bell writes.

Viral crises. When a crisis hits, the word spreads quickly, "often with the accompaniment of YouTube videos."

Demand for dialogue. One-way messagingnews releases, robotic spokesmen, TV ads and customer-service scriptsare out. Conversation is in.

Louder brand detractors and employees. Social media well arms the corporate critic. "It doesn’t take a Goliath to become a formidable adversary for a corporate brand," Bell says.

Uncontrollable brand fans. Even happy customers can blacken your name with their online antics. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Marketers must be authentic and transparent, Bell says, because "conversation is competing and often winning as a communication channel online."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Trust Busters

Without your Website visitors' trust, you're toast.
Writing for CopybloggerBarry Feldman lists these nine ways to void visitors' trust:
You're doing all the talking. You offer visitors no opportunity to comment. "When your brand does all the talking on your Website, you’ve got a recipe for distrust," Feldman says.
You’re anti-social. You ignore social media.
You're writing for robots. "Keyword stuffing is a certain mistrust trigger," Feldman says. Write to motivate people, not to drive SEO.
You’re not helpful. Givers earn trust; the needy don't. "In the online world, the most fervent servants have the most loyal friends."
You're never home. Your Website omits contact information.
You’re never wrong.
This is the cardinal sin of large companies and TV pundits. Don't commit it, too.
You're a mess. If your Website design stinks, "you’ll never even get the chance to develop trust," Feldman says.
You’re using bad words. Feldman doesn't mean profanities, but "spelling mistakes, poor grammar, blatant bastardizations of the language, clumsy sales pitches, clich├ęs, and jargon-laden nonsense."
You're slimy. You're guilty of using the ultimate trust-busters: bait and switch tactics, fine print, aggressive cookies, fabricated testimonials, privacy policy violations, spam and missing unsubscribe protocols.
"You can’t beg, buy or borrow trust. If you want it, you have to build it one article, podcast, tweet, and headline at a time," Feldman says.
Learn more about building trust from my free white paper, Path of Persuasion.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Social Can't Sell

In The New York Times, tech journalist Stephen Baker recently asked, “Can Social Media Sell Soap?”
His short answer: nope.
Precision targeting, which generates ads "so timely and relevant that you welcome them," has "fueled a market frenzy around social networks," Baker writes.
But social networks are heading for a fall, because social can't sell.
As proof, Baker cites a chilly sales statistic (courtesy of IBM) from last year's Christmas season. 
"On the pivotal opening day of the season, Black Friday, a scant 0.68 percent of online purchases came directly from Facebook," Baker writes. "The number from Twitter was undetectable. Could it be that folks aren’t in a buying mood when hanging out digitally with their friends?"
I think Baker is on to something.
Social can't sell.
That's why the oxymoron "social media marketing" would make George Carlin's list.
Social is unlike traditional media.
When you consume traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio and TV), you willingly trade your attention for content. 
That means ads aremore or lesswelcome.
But in social, ads aren't welcome. 
They're like a telemarketer's cold call in the middle of the family dinner.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

CBS Earns a Black Eye

The acerbic well of public trust has been further poisoned.

Last month, CBS executives ordered subsidiary CNET to pull a product from consideration for a "Best of CES" award at the Consumer Electronics Show.

CNET was under contract with the Consumer Electronics Association to judge the competition.

But the executives at CBS didn't like the fact that CNET wanted to give the award to "Hopper," a new product that lets Dish TV subscribers skip commercials. (CBS, in fact, has sued Dish to stop the sale of Hopper.)

“I can never recall any major media company, much less a top-tier First Amendment protector like CBS, publicly mandating an editorial decision based on business interests,” writes Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, in USA Today.

The decision has destroyed CBS' reputation overnight, Shapiro says.

"CBS, once called the Tiffany network, will never be viewed again as pristine," he writes.

The CBS executives have earned a spot on the Wall of Shame alongside Lance Armstrong, Kenneth Lay, Bernie Madoff and Jack Abramoff.

They've also made marketers' jobs a little harder by adding to the "trust deficit" and strengthening customers' skepticism.

To find an antidote, read my free white paper, Path of Persuasion.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why I Blog

Rereading George Orwell's 1946 essay Why I Write led me to wonder why I—or anyone—would blog.
"Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing," Orwell says.
Writers want to boost their egos. Writers "desire to seem clever," Orwell says. They share this desire with "the whole top crust of humanity," including scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers and businessmen.
Writers want to share their enthusiasm. Writers want to share their perceptions of the world and the pleasure they gain from "words and their right arrangement."
Writers want to record history. Writers hope "to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity."
Writers want to change things. Writers "desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples' idea of the kind of society that they should strive after."
In each writer's case, Orwell says, these motives will fluctuate from time to time; but you'll always find at least one of them driving the efforts.

"So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information," Orwell says. "It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself."
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